I did 5.5 solo miles on my third training Saturday in 46:40, which comes out somewhere around the eight-and-a-half-minutes-per-mile mark. My pace slows a little when I’m running alone, and this came after three good short weekday runs (3 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles) in which my brother and I managed a sub-eight run, an eight-flat, and an 8:20. The 8-minute mark is what I was aiming for (and just missed) in last year’s Hall of Fame 5-Mile, and it’s been my general benchmark for awhile.
Considering it’s only been two summers since I fought hard to run a two-miler in 15 minutes, I feel good about where I am, particularly when it comes to recovery time.
I really needed this Saturday’s run from a mind-clearing and focusing standpoint, but of course, wanting it makes it that much harder to lose myself. The first mile and a half or so, all I could think about was the running itself, and how I wasn’t finding “the zone,” and how my knees were already sore and I was breathing harder than I wanted to and how in the world was I going to do three-and-a-half more feeling like this?
It’s not the first time I’ve started a run in that state, and afterward, I realized that I think it’s just my way of getting warmed up, mentally and physically, every time I go out.
The second mile had a couple long hills – not steep at all, but grinding in their length.
I got a bit of a second wind in mile three. I’ve heard, of course, about the “runner’s high,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt it – or at least, I don’t know that I’d describe it that way. The best place I reach is when my mind leaves the running track and explores other things for awhile, and then I’ll sort of mentally blink and realize I’ve put another mile behind me.
Mile four of this particular loop always seems to be the toughest, because it’s got a really short and steep climb in the middle preceded by a long straightaway so you can see it waiting up ahead like a wall.
I surprised myself during the final mile by maintaining a decent pace, even managing to keep my knees up and my strides longish up the last big hill of the route.
Something else I noticed over the last week about the hills at either end of the stretch of road that connects to our dead-end street: They’re feeling a little smaller. I’m not blasting up these things by any means, but because they’re close to home, one or the other – often both – land on my routes regularly, and I think the familiarity has really cut down the mental impact they have. I used to force myself to keep my eyes down and stare at the white line at the road’s edge, telling myself I wouldn’t look up until I could feel myself over the crest. Or I’d really cut back my pace in the lead-up, knowing I’d want the extra energy to face the climb.
Recently, though, my brother and I carried on a conversation during one of these climbs: The one that used to mark the beginning of the second half of what we used as our two-mile training route. We weren’t vigorously debating or anything, but I had enough wind to speak without straining, and again, that’s a small victory I’m willing to take.
And I’m finding that my “kick” at the end of each run is becoming less of a huff-and-puff spittle-flying sprint the last couple hundred yards, and more of a slightly faster breathing pace coupled with an effort to make sure I’m taking really long strides and pushing hard with each one. I feel like I’m able to start these finishes a little earlier than I used to, and I don’t feel nearly as wiped out afterward.
So that’s three weeks’ worth of ballpoint Xs on my paper calendar/chart: 12 running days, 46 miles. Tomorrow’s scheduled three-miler would put me at 49 “official” miles for the month, and while that’s easily a personal milestone, I find myself thinking it would be nice to hit that half-century mark. And here’s where all those extra tenths I’ve built into most of my runs make me happy: Adding them up, I find that I’m at 50.25 miles already. And that means with tomorrow’s run pushing me past 53 miles, I will have covered the distance of two marathons in June.
The steps, they add up.
I compiled all our baby robin images into a Flickr gallery and did a write-up for GeekDad which posted today.The timing couldn’t have been better: As I went out the front door for this morning’s run, I was dive-bombed by several birds being protective of the fledglings which had apparently just left the nest.
The new “Collect All 21!” front and back covers have finally replaced the outdated versions that were hanging around on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, despite the fact that they’ve been shipping the revised edition for almost a couple months now. It took a little prodding – and a couple frustrating days where there were no cover images at all except the customer-submitted pics I posted out of desperation – but it’s fixed now, and that makes me happy. (Not as happy as say, if a few dozen orders were to be placed tomorrow – but happy nonetheless.)
And don’t forget: I’ll be at the Akron-Canton Comic Con this weekend with a nice supply of books on-hand, and they’ll be cheaper than ordering online!
Speaking of Star Wars, I got a nice surprise in the mail today: My friend Samantha who works at Positively Cleveland sent me a Fanboys DVD. I finally saw the movie earlier this month since it never made it to a Northeast Ohio theatre (funny, of course, since, oh, it’s about a bunch of guys from Ohio and, oh, the writer is from Ohio and grew up here, and oh, the town’s name, “Shandal,” is a none-too-subtle anagram of Ashland, which is all of an hour from here). I enjoyed the movie more than I was prepared to: It really never reached its full potential for either greatness or suckitude, but being a first-generation fan, I was probably a little more forgiving of its flaws, and I’m looking forward to watching the extras and listening to the commentary track.
Finally, here’s your daily baby robin update – and looking at their development, I fully expect to find the nest empty any day now:
Today’s photo was apparently taken near dinnertime:
Hard to believe it’s only been a week since these little creatures were all tiny and pink and squirmy.
Today’s had an odd sort of wandering air to it. I suddenly find it’s 5:18 p.m. and I’ve been in this chair most of the day, except for the 3.64-mile run with my brother this morning. (We did it in 28 minutes flat, which works out to about 7:42 per mile, which is good for me. It’s close to my old two-mile race average and slower than the 8:12 I ran in my first five-miler last summer. And it felt really good, actually.)
I have a nice assignment to work on this week, so I made some progress on that in the late morning, but after lunch, things kind of fell into a meandering: nitpicky installation of software required to work on that assignment; ironing out the final wrinkles of a project turned in last week and wrestling with government website data in the process. But damn, I feel like I really should have gotten a lot more done today.
At any rate, here’s today’s Baby Robin Update, which I shot from a slightly different angle just because:
We spent the weekend camping at Salt Fork State Park, so I did the second of my 17 long-run Saturdays on unfamiliar roads. As usual, I plotted my course on Gmaps Pedometer, figuring in a little cushion and surpassing this week’s seven-mile requirement by about three-quarters of a mile.
What I didn’t do was take a look at the elevation chart for the run, engaged by a subtle toggle over on the left hand side of the Pedometer page. I rarely do anyway, and I doubt it would have actually changed my planning, since I know Salt Fork’s roads wind and roll, and I don’t mind climbing too much.
Of course, when I got home and re-checked the route for accuracy, this time turning on the elevation chart, I was surprised at what I’d managed to inadvertently achieve:
So not only is there a fair climb in there, but it’s right at the heart of the route: The lowest point, by pure chance, happened to be almost exactly at my turnaround spot. None of the climbs were steep, but I think they may have been the longest hills I’ve ever run.
This was actually a really good run for me – I’d even almost call it ‘fun,’ except that just sounds crazy. I didn’t time myself, but I also never fell below a jog or found myself in danger of grinding to a halt, and that’s something, considering the last time I ran seven miles was eight months ago. (That shocked me a little bit just now when I flipped through my journal to look it up.) It was October 26th, when I did eight miles with my brother Adam on the last long run of his first marathon training program – his Seventeenth Saturday.
I started my Salt Fork run after sunup –- around 6:15, I think – and it was breezy enough to keep the sky constantly changing, though it never got gusty on the ground. Things shifted from sunny to overcast to “Dammit-I’m-going-to-get-caught-in-the-rain” (which never materialized) to sunny again.
Along the way, I saw:
- Two deer standing at the roadside, about a half-mile or so into the run. They let me get within about 150 feet of them before heading off into the woods. When I got to the spot where they’d been, I looked into the trees and had to search hard to see them again.
- The rising, yellow sun sending shafts of light into a hollow below the roadside, the air thick and wet and still. The previous night’s rains had left things damp and slightly humid, and the sunbeams were sharply defined against the dark leaves and trees.
- A vulture in the middle of the road, head bowed. When I spotted it, my first thought was, “Uh-oh. Something dead. Something nasty.” It flew off, and it turned out to have been drinking from a puddle in a pothole.
- A pocket of haze or smoke clinging to a wooded hillside across the lake.
- Fingernail-sized snails crossing the road.
- A sky-spanning cloud formation that moved swiftly and took on the shape and motion of ripples spreading on a pond. (On a similar note: Nearing the peak of the run, far beyond the crest of the incline I was climbing, the distant surrounding hills rose into view, hazy and purplish. It took me a minute to realize they were actually a far-off cloudbank on the horizon.)
A lot went through my mind on this run including some ideas I can hopefully turn into realities and writing projects. This is another reason I prefer running without the distraction of headphones, although it can be tough sometimes to keep track of everything that I want to write down when I finish the run. When I got back to our campsite on Saturday, I immediately grabbed a cup of water and my notebook and pen so I could scribble notes before they faded.
Happy Father’s Day: There’s still a fair amount of daylight left.
We went camping this weekend, so I missed a day documenting my semi-adopted trio‘s development. Because we were in a rush Friday morning (June 19), I managed only this lousy picture, forgetting to switch the camera to close-up mode:
I’m including it here for the sake of completeness and because even as blurry as it is, you can still definitely see more of the dark areas where the wing feathers are developing and along their little backbones too. They almost look like, you know, birds.
So we got back today and their mom is clearly sitting higher up in the nest, and I remembered to set the camera in the correct mode, and I got this shot, which is easily my favorite so far:
I was ecstatic at how well this one came out, and honestly, even the largest Flickr version is far smaller than the original and doesn’t quite reveal the level of detail. Here’s a cropped close-up:
The little toe peeking out there; the developing feather tips just emerging – honestly, this is just amazing to me. Less than a week ago, this bird was curled up in a space about the size of the tip joint of my index finger.
It’s now 8:35 p.m. EST on June 21, 2009 and I can still see the sun just over the top of the neighbors’ garage. it will be light for awhile yet, and though I’ve seen a lot of summers pass on this street, right this second, the air smells like grass and lightning bugs and suspended time.