Short story: The Runner part 2

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of this story. You can read part 1 here if you haven’t already.

Short Story: The Runner
Photo courtesy of Cassandra Braman.

II.

As runners go Jeff was nothing special. He could break off a 6-minute mile if he really pushed it, but there was no sustaining it for any length of time. Every time speed was involved he usually suffered one of two fates. One outcome meant a lower leg injury that would have put Achilles to shame. The alternative meant he just ran out of gas well before the race was up. The two had never combined to make the worst day ever, but that’s mostly because of his choice in races.

Jeff’s secret superpower when it came to running was distance. Ever since he heard about crazy people who ran ultramarathons a few years back he knew it was for him. Jeff could run for miles and miles, plodding along like a high-torque locomotive dragging a 1,000-ton payload of daily necessities and hobos back and forth across the country. The longest ultramarathon races didn’t include speed as a prerequisite for winning. In the last couple years he finished in the top 10 in some of the world’s most prestigious 100-mile races. Now he was looking to get his training up to the next level. A level where he would have a chance to win.

“Good morning!” a cheerful ponytailed man with an orange bandana said as he passed Jeff on the trail.

Jeff barely registered the presence of another human on the path. He was deep inside a flow state, one that he normally only reached after at least 60 miles of running in the mountains. There was something about pushing his body to the absolute limit that put Jeff into a state of bliss. It was during these moments he felt like he could peek over the edge of the galaxy and see the universe for what it truly was, without the incessant chatter inside his head.

Despite the flow state, something in Jeff’s mind realized he was about to pass the trailhead leading up to the parking lot on his second loop. Each loop was 10 miles, so he was pushing halfway through his run. Twenty miles also meant it was time to climb up the trailhead to the car for more fuel.

Performance in super long distance running came down to three key characteristics: A strong mind, an excellent eating strategy, and an exacting control of hydration. Most people never run long enough to think about how they are going to eat during the run to replenish their energy stores. For Jeff and the ultramarathoners like him it was a necessity.

“Bonking, huh? That’s the worst,” a friendly face had said to him at his first long trail race. He was in a deep crater, so dark it had become apparent to his fellow racers that he needed help. “Here’s some gummy bears. Get those down with some water and you’ll be feeling better in no time.”

Jeff choked down the sickly sweet gelatinous globs with the help of almost all the water in his bottle. He could feel his throat imitating an accordion, but this one was stupidly trying to push the offending food back up his craw instead of air from the bellows.

It took a few miles before the sugar hit him. It was like adding jet fuel to a souped up dragster. The terrible feeling of his body shutting down faded into the distant past, even though it had only been a few minutes earlier. It took two more bonks before Jeff realized that eating was just as important as anything else when running extra long.

Since then Jeff made it a point to meticulously plan and schedule his caloric intake. He knew exactly how much he needed and when, so the only thing that could throw him off was an upset stomach or some other unexpected trail malady. He glanced down at his watch as he made his way to the car and the cooler stuffed with cold drinks and trail mix. After many trials he preferred the mixture of sugar and fat that trail mix provided in the middle of a long training run.

That can’t be right, he thought. There was no way he had covered 20 miles in just over two and a half hours. That would mean a 7:30 pace or better, which was about a minute faster than he ever went on long runs. Normally it was just a matter of settling into what he knew was a comfortable training pace. The watch was just there as a way to track miles and accumulate data for future analysis.

Jeff slowed as he reached over his chest to switch the watch into pace mode. He almost tripped on the trail when he realized he was in fact running at a 7:30 pace. Apparently all it takes is a random Saturday to have one of the best runs of my life, he thought. Why couldn’t this happen during a race?

He downshifted and slowly cut back the pace as the trailhead came closer to his right. Jeff didn’t mind walking, but on principle he tried to keep most of his runs true to their descriptive name. Over the years he had learned just how slow he had to go to make the hairpin turn back up to the parking lot and the waiting fuel. It was important to pay attention here, because the rocky Texas trails forgave no lapses in concentration. There were no loamy, lush trails here — only sharp edges to cut skin and hidden holes to break ankles.

Jeff downshifted again and glanced down at the pitted stretch just before the trailhead. Out of nowhere his mind was thrown into chaos as a high-pitched keening entered the space between his ears. It was louder than anything Jeff had imagined and threatened to pop his eyeballs right out of their sockets. The scene in front of his eyes was even worse. At first he thought he had broken his ankle, but it was nothing that simple.

Jeff could see the ground through his legs, and not in the normal way he expected when he was looking out for hazards on the trail. No, the space where his leg was supposed to be was somehow pixelated. It reminded Jeff of a corrupt photo file with blank spots on the pixels where the data was missing. Each step he took shook off more pieces of himself. The destruction was worse on his left calf. Jeff could see a gaping slice forming around the area where the mugger scratched him last week.

The next moments of panic trebled Jeff’s pulse to the point where it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest with each stroke. His well-tuned body responded to the increased blood flow in the only way it knew how as he sped past the trailhead. Jeff felt better immediately after he inadvertently increased the pace in his panic.

He looked down at his fully intact legs, his mind free from the klaxon heralding the end of the world. How was everything OK after that cloud of madness he just ran through? His goddamn leg was disappearing in front of his eyes just seconds ago!

He slowed again and started to make the turn back to the trailhead. Within a few steps the white-hot pain was back in his head and bits of his legs were floating through the air like shards of grass thrown up from a hungry lawnmower blade. This time Jeff kept slowing down, and the closer he got to standing still the faster everything fell apart.

“What the FUCK is going on?!” Jeff said.

He piled on a burst of speed and everything snapped back to normal. The transition between the earth shattering decimation of his mind and body and complete normalcy happened immediately. As soon as he sped up something clicked and the world was as right as he could expect it to be. Jeff looked up to a withered old woman with a miniature schnauzer and a small child in tow, weaving her way down the trail toward him with a reproachful look on her face.

“Keep that language to yourself young man,” she said as Jeff passed her by.

Why wasn’t she screaming in terror, exclaiming to the gods about the impending apocalypse instead of chastising a grown man for a bit of language? Didn’t she see the cataclysmic scene just a few seconds ago? There was no way all three of them could have missed it on this part of the trail, which was straight as an arrow for hundreds of feet on each side of the trailhead. One of the humans should have been flat on the ground in shock. If nothing else the dog should have been barking like crazy to ward off the impending attack from the shapeshifting runner ahead of them.

No, it was something else. Jeff was close to a fate worse than death and he had no idea why. The clock portion of his GPS watch ticked over to 9:20 AM as he careened away from his fuel for the rest of the run.

See you next Tuesday for more!

Movie review: Argo directed by Ben Affleck

Argo

I have a confession. I’ve heard from multiple people and sources that Argo is a great film and I just now got around to watching it. I was actively avoiding it because of a preconceived notion about Ben Affleck as a director (and and actor, if I’m honest). Turns out I was wrong.

The film is Affleck’s second as director, following The Town. I can’t comment on his first film either, although that might change in the near future. I’ve always been somewhat put off by Affleck as an actor, so I just assumed the same would be true for his entire vision for a film.

Argo is based on the 1980 U.S. hostage crisis in Iran. Six Americans fled from the American embassy after it was taken over by Iranian revolutionaries. They ended up in the Canadian Ambassador’s house after their escape, and were forced to stay there for months. The U.S. government was very keen on getting them back, but didn’t have a great plan for how to do so. They cycled through several terrible ideas, including one where everything hinged on a 300-mile unsupported bike ride in the middle of winter.

Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, makes his way to a meeting and subsequently shoots down every terrible idea. It takes a while, but eventually he devises a plan to remove the Americans from the country by helping them pose as a film crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie called Argo. The plot includes some interesting digressions into the particulars of filmmaking before making its way back to the hostage issue at hand.

I was impressed with many aspects of the film, but the one that stood out the most had to be the suspense building. I was not expecting to get so emotionally involved in the situation, especially since I pretty much knew how it would turn out in the end. Nevertheless I found myself truly worried about whether everyone was going to die. The crescendo of tension came at the perfect time, when Mendez and the rest of his “crew” were trying to fake their way through the airport that was the last obstacle in the way.

Argo unexpectedly swept me away in its glory, despite the few stylistic quibbles I had. I recommend it if you’re looking for great film to watch. Even if you don’t really like Ben Affleck.

Argo rates 8 out of 10 stars. You can buy Argo on Amazon if you’re interested in seeing the film and supporting my movie watching and blogging habits.

Other movies I saw this week:

  • Z | 7 out of 10 stars | Buy Z on Amazon
  • Crafted (short film) | 6 out of 10 stars | Buy Crafted on Amazon
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation | 7 out of 10 stars
  • Ant-Man | 6 out of 10 stars

Running from 7/27/2015 through 8/2/2015

I enjoyed my week of running. It’s continuing to heat up ever so slowly in Austin and I’m actually digging the heat training. My runs during the week were all in the thick of it after work, but my weekend runs were in the morning. I had some cross training in the form of hiking at McKinney Falls State Park on Saturday as well.

Here’s what my week of running looked like:

  • Monday: No run
  • Tuesday: 30-minute run around the neighborhood after work.
  • Wednesday: 32-minute run on Town Lake after work.
  • Thursday: 31-minute run around the neighborhood after work.
  • Friday: No run
  • Saturday: 60-minute run around the neighborhood in the morning. I woke up at 5 AM so I could run for an hour before we went to McKinney Falls with the dogs and our friends Adam and Abby. I really enjoyed the early run because I got to see the sunrise, and it was great to follow up the run with a nice hike.
  • Sunday: 137-minute run on Town Lake in the morning. I woke up at 5 AM again to run and it was much better than previous long runs later in the day. I really enjoyed running for 2+ hours because running long and slow is my favorite type of run.
  • Total run time of 290 minutes with an average heart rate of 141.6 BPM

Next week the plan is to run for 307 minutes. See you out there!

Book review: Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go There You Are

Wherever You Go There You Are is my first foray into a nonfiction book review on the blog. I received the book as a gift from my father after he read my post about running as meditation. The book is about “mindfulness meditation in everyday life.”

Kabat-Zinn wrote the book in three parts. The first section of the book gives a great overview of mindfulness meditation, and it’s the portion of the book I found most interesting and helpful. Some chapters included a “Try” section that gave me tips and pointers for different things I could do to be mindful and try to meditate.

I haven’t put any of the recommendations to work in my life yet, but not because of the quality of the book. One of the main complaints I had about the book came up in this first section of the book and had to do with the “Try” sections. The book’s format isn’t quite how-to, but it also isn’t all narrative. As a result I found myself reading it more like I would any other nonfiction book, instead of taking each “Try” section step-by-step. This is probably an issue that many meditation books wrestle with, because I’m sure it is difficult to write a useful book about the practice with an interesting narrative.

The second section was more explicitly how-to and dealt with some of the particulars of meditating. I enjoyed the chapters that dealt with questions like “How long should I meditate?” the most for their useful information. That’s not to say that other chapters in the section weren’t fun, like “The Mountain Meditation” and “The Lake Meditation.” These sections were less how-to and more extended metaphor.

The last section was the weakest of the book for me. It dealt with some of the practical and spiritual implications of meditation, such as how parenting could affect your practice. I found much of the content to be either too narrow or mostly outdated. Many of the examples came from the Kabat-Zinn’s own life, which was somewhat difficult for me to relate to as I am neither a parent nor a professor of medicine. There is also no discussion of more modern technology, although TV and movies are well represented and poorly portrayed.

The way the author described movies in relation to everyday life was probably the most incongruous part of the book for me. I find film to be very pleasurable and intellectually stimulating. The author dismissed movies as a waste of time or escape from reality multiple times in the book.

There wasn’t a single mention of the internet or cell phones, which probably has more to do with the time when Kabat-Zinn was writing than anything else. That said, the 10th anniversary edition I read was released in 2014 so there was definitely time for updating the book.

Wherever You Go There You Are was a great introduction to mindful meditation. If you cut out the last third of the book it would have rated another star. As is I think it will give me a strong base for my meditation practice — if I ever start one — and for that I’m glad.

Wherever You Go There You Are rates 3 out of 5 stars. You can buy Wherever You Go There You Are on Amazon if you’re interested in starting your own meditative journey. Every purchase made from an Amazon link on my blog helps to support my reading and film-watching habits, so thanks in advance if you decide to read Wherever You Go There You Are.

Other books I read this week:

Thoughtful email newsletters

This is a nontraditional Thoughtful Thursday post (does one post count as a tradition?). Normally I’ll write about a topic I’ve put some deep thought into, but today we’re going with a different meaning of the word.

Based on feedback from one of you lovely readers (thanks Adam, that’s two days in a row your name is on the blog) I’m going to start sending out a weekly newsletter instead of posting everything I write to Twitter, Facebook, etc. I don’t want to be that guy who only posts about his writing constantly.

You can sign up for my newsletter here:

The newsletter will be a meta look behind the scenes of my writing and life as it relates to words on a page. I’ll also include a digest of my weekly posts.

See you at the inbox!

My favorite podcasts

I listen to podcasts on my work commute. I find it is the best use of my time when I’m doing low-value tasks like driving.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite podcasts in alphabetical order:

  • 99% Invisible is about “design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis Podcast is an interview podcast with heavy doses of perspective from the author.
  • Criminal is about crime.
  • Design Details is “a show about the people who design our favorite products.”
  • Freakonomics Radio is the audio version of the Freakonomics books.
  • Invisibilia is “about the invisible forces that control human behavior.”
  • Mystery Show is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts. It’s like a real-life detective novel every show.
  • Nerdist is an interview podcast from Chris Hardwick.
  • Radiolab is the greatest podcast ever. If you only listen to one podcast make it this one.
  • Reply All is “a show about the internet.”
  • Serial is a mega-hit podcast that serializes a story across an entire season. If you haven’t heard of it I’m surprised.
  • StartUp Podcast is a show about startups.
  • Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project is a podcast from the guys at Tested.
  • Strangers is “true stories about people we meet, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that we aren’t even who we thought we were.”
  • This American Life is the prototypical podcast. I am also surprised if you haven’t heard of this show because it has been on the radio for years.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show is an interview show where the host “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics and tricks you can use.” Thanks to Adam for this suggestion because I never would have listen to it otherwise. Now I’m hooked.

I also listen to a few random podcasts on occasion, but these are the shows that are always in the rotation. As you can see there are a lot of great shows out there. Get listening!

Short story: The Runner part 1

Editor’s note: This is the first edition of Typewriter Tuesday. Each week I will publish a short story in part or whole. You can read this post for more about my daily writing schedule.

Short Story: The Runner
Photo courtesy of Cassandra Braman.

I.

Jeff Maurice woke up for the last time at 5:12 AM on Saturday, July 11.

His normal routine included several awakenings, the last of which was always perpetuated by one of the dogs. Some days it was the reverberations of Aubrey the 86-pound chocolate lab’s bounding leap onto the bed that brought him all the way into the walking world. Today it was Max the border collie’s fervent, almost fretful licking on his face and neck that brought him up into reality for the last time.

Jeff plunged out of bed and stretched his 6-foot frame to dislodge the final grips of sleep. He hated getting up this early. The Texan dawn, before the grass leans away from the heat of the sun, was the only time to run in the summer.

Jeff ran every day. It began when he was a lanky teenager preparing for the cross country season that would lay waste to his body if he came unprepared. After each season he kept running and after a time the habit took hold. The reasons for running changed every few years in the intervening decade. He ran to compete, explore, or burn off enough energy for a good night’s sleep. In his 29th year the running was mostly about keeping his head on straight as he wove his way through yet another unexpected stage in life.

Jeff shambled to the bathroom and sidled up to the vanity. Would today be the day? Would he find another ashen strand of hair invading his short-cropped scalp? Would he even be able to see his hairline with the failing eyesight that seemed to add new and confounding layers of fuzz to everything these days? Maybe Camie was right to put forth his frantic schedule as the scapegoat for so many of his life’s maladies.

“Did you sleep well? You threw off the sheets at least a half dozen times,” Camie said as she herded Aubrey and Max into the living room for breakfast.

“I had a terrible dream. It was one of those nightmares where there isn’t even a decent boogeyman, just an impending sense of doom,” Jeff said. “The neighbors were pouring concrete for a new driveway and somehow I ended up stuck up to my shins in the stuff, just waiting for some three-headed flying goat or something to come out of the shadows.”

“If you just stopped pushing everything so hard maybe your little brain wouldn’t have to come up with ridiculous dreams to tell you your legs are too tired from overtraining,” she said. “You know the running is only good for you if you keep it to a reasonable level right?”

Jeff raised his head and tracked her progress through the morning dog routine. As he pulled on his running outfit the sun was still nudging itself over the horizon at the same methodical pace it had for eons. There was just enough light to see the tentative rays reflecting off her strawberry blonde hair. Her locks swung back and forth just above her hips on her slight five-foot-five-inch frame, making her stunning hair seem even longer.

“Be careful what you say or I won’t stay around to help you reach the top shelves anymore,” Jeff said. Their relationship was an unusually strong one, especially so after the events of the past year. It felt like they might never be the same after the terrible attack that Camie didn’t want to talk about.

“Don’t go too far today. I’m heading out for Alicia’s baby shower while you’re gone,” Camie said. “You finally get that bachelor weekend you’ve always wanted.”

“I think you mean half of what I’ve always wanted. Are you sure you don’t need to stay at Mom and Pop’s for another day?”

“You know I can’t stand my family for that long,” she said. “I should get one of those awards they’re always giving you at the office for going above and beyond, but just for showing up to see my family. Plus you know the dogs love romping around at the ranch with Boomer.”

Boomer was a larger version of Aubrey in every way, except for the brains department. What he lacked in smarts he enthusiastically made up for in love, so it was good that Camie would be showered with affection from both canine and human family. She could joke about her loved ones with all the bravado of a lion tamer about to go into the ring with a known maneater. Jeff knew the truth. She needed the time with her family after the mugging.

It happened downtown just the week before. They were walking down the street after dinner with friends, picking their way through the construction detritus covering the sidewalk in front of one of the dozens of soon-to-be completed condominium projects in the city. A shape broke away from the shadows of a half-built facade and blocked their path. The twinkle of the revolver in the man’s hand propelled Jeff’s body into action before the would-be thief could utter a demand.

The street faded into the background as Jeff brushed aside the weapon. He winced as a seismic wave of sound undulated down the street. It was so loud you could almost see the vibrations bouncing off the buildings, like a snake slithering deeper into an underground tunnel. The gun clattered to the ground and Jeff was on his feet chasing down the guy like it was the last quarter-mile sprint of his daily run. Something deep in the corner of his mind told him he shouldn’t be doing this, that he should go back to Camie and call it a night. But he was slowly gaining on the guy as he dipped and dodged around the obstacles in his path.

Suddenly the would-be assailant spun to his left and jumped on top of a two-foot high decorative planter. He was faster than Jeff imagined possible. The mugger was either on some kind of new street drug that transformed you into a superhuman criminal, or he had a serious athletic habit in his free time away from breaking laws and skulls. Jeff skidded to a stop a few feet beyond the mugger.

He turned around and prepared to launch himself after the man’s new direction. Jeff stumbled in surprise as his opponent jumped directly toward him. He looked up and saw the man’s arm slicing down toward his head, an angry face pulled into a rictus of fury in the background. Jeff immediately dropped to his knees and felt a sharp prick of fire on his left temple. He scrambled to his side and felt another line of molten lava spread across the back of his left calf.

By the time he struggled up on to his elbows the mugger was a block down the street. Jeff was trying to find the extent of the damage when Camie wrapped her arms around his shoulders and started sobbing.

“Are you OK? I can’t believe you ran after him, what the hell were you thinking?”

“It’s OK baby, I’m fine. Does it look like I have any blood on me?” Jeff said.

Camie confirmed that no one was bleeding to death. She only managed to find a few shallow scratches on his head and leg. They waited under the brightest street lamp they could find until the cops came to take statements. It was all very professional. Jeff got the feeling that this was low on the priority list for the cops. They probably thought they had better criminals to chase down than failed muggers, no matter how much iron they were packing.

“Don’t ever go running after someone dangerous like that again,” Camie said. “What if he had another gun? What if he had something bigger and sharper to scratch you with?”

Jeff felt a warm body winding through his legs. Max brought him back from his memories. He was normally the more standoffish of the two dogs, something Camie attributed to herding genetics. Of course Max couldn’t get too close to his family herd, his job was to protect it — not love it! Ever since they got home last night Max had been unusually snuggly and vocal with Jeff, even to the point of whining and yelping like someone accidentally stepped on his tail when nothing of the sort had happened.

“It’s OK buddy, we’ll go running soon. You wouldn’t want to go on this extra long run anyway,” Jeff said as he nuzzled Max on the head. “You get to go play at the ranch with Boomer today, I should be the jealous one!”

“I heard that. You know we’re going to miss you,” Camie said. “Are you sure you don’t want to come to the baby shower? I’m sure no one would mind.”

“No, you know how your mother gets with tradition and superstition. I don’t want to give her any cause to blame me for the first bout of colic the little guy comes down with,” he said. “You probably need time away from me anyway, especially after the scare I gave you last week.”

The look she gave him would have sent the dogs scurrying to their crates had it been directed at them, tails tucked far under like a turtle preparing for a full retreat into his shell. The mugging set off something deep inside Camie, so all she could do was pretend it never happened. She definitely didn’t want to hear about the strange burning sensation still lingering on his temple and calf. The pain washed over him in waves at random intervals throughout the day.

“I love you Camie Maurice,” he said. “I’m just going to go for a run and see you when you get back tomorrow.”

They embraced as the sun crept over the horizon. Jeff was out the door and running his first mile by 6:42 AM.

See you next Tuesday for more! Update: Read part 2 here

Movie review: The Gold Rush directed by Charlie Chaplin

Editor’s note: This is the first post in Motion Picture Monday. Check out this post for more about my daily writing schedule.

Before we get to the review, I think it would be helpful to explain a bit about the films I see and how I’m thinking about this weekly post.

I recently started making my way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I’ve seen 118 of the movies on the list, and I hope to see all of them eventually. I also have MoviePass so I see 1 to 2 movies in theaters every week.

The main part of my weekly Motion Picture Monday post will review the best movie I watched in the previous week. I will also include a list of the other movies I watched during the week with a rating for each, similar to what I do for Fiction Friday. So now that we’ve got all that out of the way, on to the review!

The Gold Rush Directed by Charlie Chaplin

I watched The Gold Rush on Hulu. The version I watched is from the Criterion Collection, and seems to be the most true to the 1925 original. The beginning of the movie explains how the movie was saved from a 35mm version of the film after every copy of the original film was thought to be destroyed, which explains why some of the scenes are much better quality than others.

I’m a pretty big film buff, but I’ve restricted my viewing to mid-century pieces and newer for the most part. This was my first foray into a silent film, and into Charlie Chaplin’s work. I came to the table with some knowledge of the Tramp character, mostly from pop culture references and a few YouTube clips.

I regret not seeing Chaplin’s work sooner because it was masterful. I’m not a huge fan of most comedy, and I certainly didn’t go into the movie thinking I was going to laugh as much as I did. The story of a bumbling gold prospector and his path to success in love and business seemed like an unlikely backdrop for hilarity, but I was also proven wrong on that point.

My favorite part of the film, and perhaps the entire silent film era if it is embodied by films similar to Chaplin’s work in The Gold Rush, came from the interplay between clever miming and title cards. I followed the somewhat complex story with no problem, and as a result I could focus on the acting.

Chaplin is certainly a master when it comes to getting across emotion, thoughts, feeling, and anything else he wants without the crutch of dialogue. I’ll likely never prefer my films without dialogue (who knows?) but if I did it would be because of visionaries like Chaplin.

If you consider yourself a fan of the art of film even a tiny bit then it’s worth going back into time to see what led us to the place we are now. Whether you use something like the 1001 Movies book or any other way, I highly recommend going back to pieces like The Gold Rush.

The Gold Rush rates 9 out of 10 stars. You can buy The Gold Rush on Amazon if you’re interested in seeing the film and supporting my movie watching and blogging habits.

Other movies I saw this week:

Running from 7/20/2015 through 7/26/2015

Editor’s note: Welcome to the blog! This is the first edition of Stride Sunday. Check out this post for more about my daily writing schedule.

As you may know, I run. I’m going to write about my running every Sunday from here on out, as my running week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.

I have four goals for my running (in order of importance and future chronology):

  • Run regularly to reap the emotional and physical benefits it brings to my life
  • Slowly work my way up to 8 hours of running a week without injury
  • Complete a 50-mile ultra marathon
  • Complete a 100-mile ultra marathon

Right now I’m actively working on the first two goals, the first of which is fairly simple because it only requires regular running. For my second goal of running 8 hours a week without getting injured I’m following a 2-week-on and 1-week-off schedule and running by time instead of distance. By way of example, this week I was on an “off” week where I focus mostly on cross training and/or running easy the entire week. Next week I will pick up where I left off from last week (254 minutes of running) plus 10% for a total of 280 minutes.

I’m also monitoring my heart rate and using the 180 Formula from Phil Maffetone to determine my maximum average heart rate for any run. Right now I’m at 145 after just getting back into training. If everything goes well I should be able to get more efficient and run faster at this heart rate, but it’s been fairly slow going in the beginning. I’m hoping this is another great way to avoid injury.

So I’ll be running slow, adding no more than 10% of time per week when I’m increasing time, and resting every two weeks. Based on my prior experience this should work well for me. Right now I’m planning to run 5 days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday) on my “on” weeks. I’m also toying with the idea of only running 2 hours during the work week, likely 30 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday with an hour-long run on Wednesday. This will help me get into some long runs on the weekend family quickly. We’ll see how it goes.

Here’s what my “off” week of cross training and slow running looked like this week:

  • Monday: Walked the dogs in the morning for 31 minutes. It was more humid than expected. I had fun to geting them out and around the neighborhood for a while. I’m also happy to give Cassandra a break from her normal walking schedule!
  • Tuesday: No activity other than celebrating my birthday :)
  • Wednesday: 34-minute run on Town Lake after work.
  • Thursday: No activity
  • Friday: 58-minute morning run on Town Lake with Travis at a nice and easy pace
  • Saturday: Raked the lawn and did other yard work for 95 minutes. It was harder work than I expected, mostly because it involved my upper body.
  • Sunday: Took an amazing trip to McKinney Falls State Park to hike with Cassandra and the dogs for 101 minutes. It was tons of fun and we’ll definitely be going back again soon.
  • Total cross training time of 319 minutes with an average heart rate of 120 BPM

See you on the trails!