Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fore! Working On My Technique

My golf swing is awesome. And totally random. There are days I can swing sweet and pure, striking the ball with crisp precision. Then there are days where I'm lucky to make contact at all. Days when I feel like my arms aren't really controlled by, or even connected to, my brain. Random muscle contractions and spasms send the little ball sailing in random and dangerous directions, and send my blood pressure to new PRs on both the systolic and diastolic ends of the spectrum. Lately, my running technique has seen similar misfortune.

Perhaps it's a matter of over thinking things. Running form, like a golf swing, is full of nuance and odd mechanics. Like my golf swing, the more I think about my running form, the worse it seems to get.

"Keep your head still"

Great advice for both a golf swing and running form, but also a recipe for disaster when  you consciously attempt to follow through. Anchoring my head in the running space time continuum makes controlling the rest of my body akin to wrestling greased boa constrictors while dancing the samba on ice skates. It's ugly, dangerous and fascinating all at the same time.

"Bend slightly at the knees"

For a former heel striker, this feels both unnatural and slightly painful. Is a slight bend ok, or do I need to go into full Groucho Marx mode? What about downhill running? If my knees hurt, does that mean I'm doing it right, or wrong? Or maybe I only have arthritis? It's all very confusing. To quote Groucho - "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."

"Weight on the balls of your feet"

As a former snowboarder with trashed ankles, running on the balls of my feet feels like what I imagine riding two pogo sticks simultaneously would feel like - Awesome! Until I pile drive the ground with my head that is. Really, my right ankle is about as stable as a whisky drunk clown on a teeter totter, and nearly as entertaining. So, screw this rule! My heel comes down and bears some of the load during my stride. Anything that keeps me from leaving face prints on the ground is a good thing in my opinion.


Yeah, right. How the Hell am I supposed to relax if I'm thinking about head position, knee extension and foot strike every second of the run? Not to mention all the other good form rules that I ignore, like tilting your pelvis, aligning your spine, holding your head upright and level, not bending at the waist, and keeping your arms at 90 degrees with a compact swing across the chest. You might as well ask me to relax while I juggle those boa constrictors, while dancing the samba on pogo sticks strapped to ice skates! Even Groucho would be amused.

Running is indeed golf.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Running with the Devil(ishly Sexy Wife) - Running of the Bulls 8K

Normally, I sign up for the races, and then drag along my wife, Sherri, to some of the shorter, harder events (I'm cruel like that). For the Running of the Bulls 8K the situation was reversed. Sherri suggested that we run our hometown race and even signed us up. I've always had some conflict and/or injury in the past couple of years that kept me from running this race. This year would have been the same since I was still recovering from the brutal beating at the hands of the sexy chocolatier. But I was determined to run, even in my broken down state, to keep my wife happy. If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Picking up our bibs on race morning, I can' tell  you how jealous I was of Sherri's number - 666. Sometimes I actually need the threat of a possible attack by a mythical creature to run well. Or to simply have something interesting to think about during the slow slog that I call "racing".

Thanks to Shannon for this picture!

Geek aside: Shouldn't the base-10 number of Satan, 666, actually be converted to base-6 notation for maximum evilness? If so, wouldn't that make the true number of the beast 3030 in base-6?

The Race - The Devil Gets His Due

I love running through Durham. It's been my home town for the past 17 years and it seems to get better and better. Great restaurants, great breweries,  and great trails. What more could you want? Oh yeah, a great minor league baseball team, a top-tier university, and being ranked the most tolerant city in the US. That's nice too. Ok, enough Bull City cheerleading. On to the race.

I had no intention of running quickly, which is good because I am unable to muster any real speed on my bruised foot and gimpy ankle. Sherri was fine with running a slow pace. We were there just for fun after all. So, off we trotted in the middle of the back of the pack, enjoying the atmosphere and generally having a good time.

If only we had known that Old Scratch wanted his bib and was willing to sacrifice a calf (Sherri's) to get it, we might have run a little faster. In the last half mile of the race, with nothing but one big downhill left to the finish, I smelled sulphur. I hadn't eaten eggs for breakfast that morning, so I knew it wasn't me. The sulfurous, hissing rapidly approaching from the rear should have been a clue. By the time I heard Sherri yelp in pain, Beelzebub had sacrificed her calf and scampered off to the finish line.

Sherri tried to walk it off, but this was the mother of all evil calf cramps. I helped her limp along for about a block before we abandoned the race, in sight of the finish.

Sherri wanted to finish in style and since that wasn't going to happen, we simply headed home. But that's not so bad. We live in Durham after all.