Running Out of 2013

Happy New Year! 

This is likely the last post of the 2013. So, I wanted to leave you all with my thanks for a great couple of months here at this blog. At the very least, I appreciate your attentiveness while I yammer on about myself, but I also appreciate the effect you have by listening. I feel like I have to keep your attention, so I feel like I have to keep running. Thanks for that.

In this year, I have gone from someone who got winded running for 30 seconds to catch the T, to someone who now pushes himself to keep going past 35 minutes. I finished a Couch to 5k program. In the process, I have lost about 25 pounds, and gained a bunch of self-esteem. Using an app called EveryMove, I managed to raise $5 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the process.

Despite that, 2013 has been a hell of a year for my family and myself. We are looking forward to 2014, and hoping it will be a vast improvement. Regardless of how your 2013 was, I genuinely hope 2014 makes it pale in comparison.

For those inclined to make a resolution, I would suggest this: Call yourself on your own bullshit. I think running is a fantastic thing to do, and weight loss is an admirable and wonderful thing, but if you accomplish nothing else this year, learn to distinguish the actual obstacles from your own excuses.

I leave you with the song from whence the title of yesterday’s post comes. The Dismemberment Plan knows exactly how I want to end this year.

The Ice of Boston

SKRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTT

My foot stops sliding about 8 to 12 inches from where I put it down. I make what I think is a nice recovery, express a sarcastic, “Fantastic,” and keep running down the hill.

I am noticing that the black ice seems to be mostly on the crosswalks, and not on the painted white lines of them. It’s

Black Ice

Black Ice (Photo credit: oldmanbim)

living up to its name on the dark surface of the roads that meet Commonwealth. The frost on the sidewalks between patches of black ice, equally worrying, even if the sun has largely melted the ice that was there the other day.

The narrow miss has me off attempting math in my head. A dangerous place for an English major such as your humble narrator. I am about 6-feet tall, which is around 1.5 maybe 2 meters. A slip on the ice could bring my head down against the ground, at a rate of… Something something meters per second.

That’s as far as I get with the numbers before passing the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, where I glimpse the running track through the trees, stretching off around the corners and curves like the Yellow Brick road. The gold painted on by the sun, and the bricks in a more proto form. It looks beautiful–and at the least clearer than the roads I have been running on so far today. I turn down the embankment that leads there, past a woman with a small dog, and hit the track.

At about my usual starting point, my legs are already burning. Which, makes me want to give up, but I am determined to at least meet the 2.5 miles from the past few runs. I smile and wave at a couple of folks out for their runs in the other direction, and power through until I get to my warm-up point. Warm-up stretches now something I forget to do before I leave my house. In a way, I’m sure that connects me to more runners than it should.

The Zombies, Run mission comes to a close. This one hits you in the feels, as you hear one doctor’s tearful farewell to her girlfriend. I am rounding the corner by the larger second pumphouse when the girlfriend goes in for a second listen and the mission ends. Eyeing the slope down to the sidewalk, which has been icy in the past, I decide instead to head up the path behind the ice rink (which, I don’t want to point fingers, but I believe may factor into the icy path below) and out to the street.

I check my shoulder-mounted phone as I crest another hill, which tells me I’ve hit 2.65 miles already. I start to slow down, and then realize that the downhill is my reward for making it past the top of the hill. I run down to the bottom, past my local packie (liquor store, for non-New Englanders), and turn the corner.

As I head back up the hill to my apartment, walking this time, it occurs to me that I’m not exactly certain where I had my near miss with the pavement earlier. I should probably have that in mind. That would be wise. Maybe I will avoid it, this time.

SPLAT.

Nope. As I pick myself up, rubbing my aching shoulder, letting my ass fend for itself, and nursing my damaged pride, I remember exactly where that patch of black ice was. The hard way.

Shirt of the Day: Spanakopita! (from the Venture Bros. episode of the same name)
Odd Pickup Today: A Sports Bra. Not the kind of thing I’d pick up for myself, obviously, although someone at the camp could have use it.

And apparently this.

 

Running Home

In the zombie world, I was preparing for a run out to a nearby university for medical supplies. In reality, I was going to try and drop a package in a UPS drop box: a slim piece of cardboard containing a DVD with a broken case. I had mapped out two possible drop boxes, one in a building two blocks from my house, the other in a courtyard about a mile away.

I’d tried to send the damn package the night before, and took it out to the Reservoir MBTA stop by foot, to try and bump up my Fitbit‘s step count for the day. The building was already closed and locked, and the box nowhere to be found, so I brought it home and hoped for the best. Thus, the backup location.

The drop was smooth, I was in and out, and on the road again. Heading back to the same hills of Commonwealth Avenue I had run last week. Of course, with my new starting point, I soon found myself taking the steepest angle of the hill on which my block rests. I took some solace in the fact that I was getting it over with early, at the very least.

The MBTA Green Line C Branch station at Clevel...

The MBTA Green Line C Branch station at Cleveland Circle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I kept on with the mission, learning more about the university and the two characters on my radio, I was noting that I was slowing down some. A few blocks from the graveyard by Boston College, I just put on a burst of speed and kept going. I felt good, in fact, I felt a little like going slow was dragging me down some.

I rounded the corner on the far side of the graveyard–glad the zombie apocalypse was more in my head than in reality–and decided to cut through the BC campus and head back from there. I wanted to keep going, but also to explore a little, I decided.

Past some only vaguely familiar buildings, I have got a rough notion of the campus, from my stint as a local journalist. Another quarter mile or so, and I was starting to recognize my surroundings. I was coming up on the far side of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. It was dark, and I could see the street lights of Beacon Street reflecting off the water in the pond. It was pretty, and it was nice to be coming back to a place I felt at home.

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir is located in the ...

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir is located in the Brighton neighborhood. (Boston College can be seen in the background). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The walking path was covered in a similar thin sheet of ice to many of the un-shoveled sidewalks. As I had passed some houses on Comm Ave which had not cleared their paths (which, I believe, is a finable offense under some kind of bylaw), I had been flipping those houses bird and feeling justified–I was not looking forward to slipping on an icy hill and falling. However, on the Reservoir, with no one to specifically, I was zen; it was more about being back in my running home.

And, about my energy running out. I was starting to feel tired, and starting to feel a small cramp forming in my left leg. I made it to the sidewalk by the Metro Waterworks Museum, and started walking. That, according to the app’s counter, was about 2.5 miles. My legs felt again like each kneecap had been replaced with Slinky. I was more tired than I had been on the treadmill–which I later realized was likely due to going up and down some hills early on.

I felt good, accomplished, and like I was stepping up my game–slowly–from when I had started running at the reservoir a few months ago.

Shirt of the Day: BARCC Walk for Change 2013. (Not a nerdy shirt, but a cause I strongly support).
Today’s Odd Pickup: Nothing strange. Although I am wondering who left behind a pair of trousers for me to find…

Running in Place, Getting Somewhere

As my family bustled about, preparing the Christmas dinner–turkey and ham, this year–I snuck off to the finished basement apartment, where our family friend/tenant had parked the old treadmill. She was out visiting family in Maine, so I had her place to myself. I plugged the dead man’s key into the console, started the machine at a fairly slow clip, switched the Zombies, Run app to accelerometer mode, and started running.

The cliffhanger from the previous mission–I was being chased by an enemy human camp after an ambush–I was out in the wilderness, in the dark. There was a red beacon on the city to guide me home. One of the ornaments on the small tree in the basement glistened, and became that beacon. The room itself was fairly well lit.

It wasn’t until a few minutes in that I remembered something about our family friend: She is always cold. The corollary of this, which I was realizing quickly, is that the basement is always hot. I started to sweat through my T-shirt, fast, and really wanted to cool down before I fell down.

After fiddling with my headphones, and missing half of a song from the Surfer Blood album I was enjoying, I finally pried my shirt off, and tossed it into a damp heap on the floor.

English: a Treadmill

English: a Treadmill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the first time I have ever run without a shirt on. I definitely understand why people do it, but am both self-conscious, and always thought it was a bit like showing off. Here, in the windowless basement, on a treadmill, I was hot and alone enough to go for it.

I caught sight of myself in the mirror, a tall bedside cabinet with a mirror had been placed alongside the machine. Looking at my shoulders, arms, torso: not bad. Recently, I’d been starting to feel my ribcage. The weight loss coming with the running was definitely inspiring. That’s when I looked a bit lower, and saw the gut. Bouncing, a little, rolling. But, along with that, there wasn’t the shame I usually associated with my body.

I definitely didn’t feel like my whole torso was shaking–as I did a little when I hard started running–it all felt fairly together. It looked worse than it felt, which I know is to be expected, considering I was then bounding up and down on a moving band of rubber. But, the shame I felt was more “let’s work on this thing. Let’s get rid of it,” and less “Look at that. It’s hideous.”

Then, I stopped looking at myself in the mirror and started focusing on the running. The incline control on the treadmill was broken. This was fine, I was missing the flat track around Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I completed the mission, at almost exactly 30 minutes on the treadmill, but wanted to keep going to round the distance traveled up to a nice, round number. 2.5 miles, I was close.

Finally, passing that, I slowed and stopped the treadmill. As I stepped down, my knees almost gave way. They felt like rubber, and I thought I was going to end up face-down in, or next to, that sweaty shirt I had discarded. I managed instead to make it to the elliptical, where I’d planned to cool down for a few minutes.

The small problem is that the ceiling in this part of the basement was about 8 feet high, and the elliptical’s highest point puts me around 2 feet above the ground. I am 6 feet tall. As I used it, my head was brushing against the ceiling. I was the hunched, lurching, sweating thing in the basement, listening to music and vignettes from a zombie radio show over his headphones, feeling good at what I had done–and how far I had come.

Shirt of the Day: Venture Bros. Council of 13.
Odd Pickup of the Day: A Toolbox. Useful, I’m sure, just not practical to grab and run with…

An Unsure Wish

MurrayXmas

 

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and/or an excellent holiday of your choice. My Christmas present to myself was a half-hour run on a treadmill. More on that later.

In the meantime, more sitting and watching crappy TV with my family. A true Christmas tradition.

Feels Good to Be on a Road Again

The rain beating down on the windshield, and the heated seat running at its highest setting made getting out of the car nearly impossible. It was 38 degrees outside, according to my car’s dashboard. I parked outside of my building, ended my call to my sister, gathered my things and went outside.

 

I had announced to her I was going to go for a run. She told me I was crazy.

 

With conditions at the Reservoir track still questionable (as far as I knew, although I would confirm my suspicions later on), I needed a new route. My improvised route from the Friday before would probably work. So, I strapped on my phone and shoes, and headed out.

Commonwealth Avenue, Boston Deutsch: Typischer...

Commonwealth Avenue, Boston Deutsch: Typischer Straßenzug in Boston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within a couple of minutes, I regretted not bringing gloves. The temperature didn’t account for windchill, and my fingers were starting to feel the brunt of the cold. I hoped for the best as I plunged my hands into my pockets and continued running. It was no more than five minutes later that I missed the level course of the track, too, as I dragged myself up the hills that make up Commonwealth Avenue. The downhill slopes were pleasant, the uphills were a bit of a drag. Although I was glad I had put this part of the run at the beginning, when I had more energy.

 

Then, I hit an intersection, and became someone I kind of hated: the run-on-the-spot pedestrian. I understand it, and I definitely don’t want to just stop running because traffic is in the way, but there was always something I found kind of annoying about it–at least when I was walking. People who run on the spot while waiting for a pedestrian light always seemed impatient. Of course, as I stood there and waited for a couple of minutes for road to clear up, I got it: We kind of are. Running in place is boring, it’s unproductive in a metaphorical sense, and it makes time drag on. What was, in reality, no more than 90 seconds, felt like 9 minutes.

 

Approaching the graveyard I passed the other night, I saw a massive puddle of rain. I could just about foresee myself getting soaked as a passing car hit the puddle at speed, with no regard for my presence. At least on the first pass, I could see a car and take evasive action, if needed. On the way back, I would be largely blind to the approach of the tsunami. I was preparing the appropriate combination of obscenities and gestures for the way back.

 

Which, of course, I didn’t need. Peering over my shoulder as I ran past the long pool of standing water–at least 10 yards long, if I had to guess, and perhaps three inches deep–there were no cars. Timing was my ally, and I was passing it for the 30-second break between lights. To be fair, cars I had seen on my approach up were also slowing up as they neared it, and taking care not to aquaplane.

 

I passed the Reservoir track again, catching sight of a sloppy, damp, and icy surface. Would I never go back? Was I now a road runner? Probably not. Once the weather improved, I could foresee myself heading back there and reveling in its smoothness.

 

But, I would likely head out from my apartment at a run. I had been a little afraid to try running on the sidewalk in the past. While running at the track, I had several instances where I could feel my right leg starting to struggle with the hard-packed ground. Several times, I sought soft grass for respite. There would be no rest on the sidewalk, I told myself.

 

Yet, here I was, as I neared my closest T stop, closing in on 3 miles on pavement. I hadn’t needed the soft earth–although I could feel a tiny cramp starting to form in my right calf.

 

As the Zombies, Run mission ended on a cliffhanger, and the two DJs from its “Radio Mode” traded barbs and survival stories, I allowed myself to stop running. On more than a few occasions, after a few beers, I had run this area–figuring the warmth from exertion would make up for forgetting my gloves or scarf. It’s different after a few miles, instead of a few beers.

I ran, at my fastest available speed (i.e., not very quickly) for the last block as I turned onto my street. Thinking about some of my late-night, booze-fueled jogs triggered something in me. It hit me, the reason I run: Because, I like beer.

 

 

The Unsure Walker, Less Sure Runner

Cracking sounds skitter out beneath the sheet of ice as my feet step tentatively across the crust over the sidewalk. On this particular day, Wednesday, I’m not running out at the Chestnut Hill Avenue, I’m walking home from one of my jobs. After a pit stop to pick up an Adventure Time comic (“Candy Capers” is wonderful, by the way), and running into a friend, I’ve elected to walk home while the sidewalks remain iffy.

The coat keeps my body heat inside, which would be more useful if it were colder. My bag weighs heavily on my shoulders. Realized in the morning that I left my headphones at home, so I am not listening to any music. I have been walking for about a half-hour when my shoes start taking in water. After looking at my Fitbit watch, and realizing that I’m only 1000 steps away from my 10,000 goal, I decide I’ve had enough and want to go home.

Boston - Boston University - Green Line

Boston – Boston University – Green Line (Photo credit: wallyg)

The watch buzzes as I am getting on the train. I take it home, and give a slightly befuddled gentleman directions as I leave. All in all, feeling at peace, despite not having an opportunity to run.

Back on Track

My other job lets me out an hour early, and I have a few hours before the party we’re hosting. The combination of a friend’s report, and my cursory glance while driving to work, suggest tonight might be a good night for running down at the track.

Which, of course, means I instead putter around my apartment until it’s almost too late, then saddle up and head out. Headlamp to fend off the dark, and a T-shirt to end off the high 40s (F) weather.

The sidewalks along the way to the track are mostly passable, and mostly dry. I only start to worry when I arrive at the track and see the same crust of ice and slush that I’d encountered before. A few steps into the Zombie mission–tracking down a traitor–and I am already debating giving up. Wet feet, slick conditions, and an unsure runner lead me to head off my regular track and up to the streets.

At the top of the hill, inspiration strikes. Or, more accurately, I realize the obvious: I don’t have to run on a track.

Instead of walking home, which would be to the right, I take a left, and try to run the loop of sidewalk that surrounds the track. Which, after a few seconds, proves to be as slick and worrisome as the track I just left. I turn around before I hit the downhill stretch where I had first finished my 25-minute jaunts. Another runner is heading in the opposite direction, a braver man than I.

Getting back to the crossroads, I go left again, and start heading up Commonwealth Avenue toward Boston College–Home of the Eagles. A couple of years ago, I attended a party at a home nestled between apartment blocks, a whimsical concrete building which always served as a landmark. In my mind, it was halfway between BC and the Reservoir. So, I figure I’ll run out to that point, and come back. Should give me plenty of distance.

A few blocks later, and I suspect I’ve already passed the house. An old AT&T commercial pops into my mind, as a runner realizes he’s traveled far further than expected. I am starting to pass a graveyard, situated right by BC–much further from my house than I thought I was. I will skip the jokes about running in circles on a track.

As I reach the far edge of the graveyard’s property, and the College is in sight, I turn around. I will pass the cute girl who smiled at me not two minutes ago, although I will be going the other direction. I finish the mission as I get back to the Reservoir entrance, keep running on Zombies, Run’s “radio mode” briefly, and ultimately walk home.

A party guest has arrived, early, as I am getting back to my place–sweaty, but still triumphant. Feeling good that I have completed my first run off the track, even more so that it was far less painful than I expected.

Shirt of the Day: Venture Bros. S.P.H.I.N.X. logo
Weird Item of the Day: The ChipotleLabs App, again.

Unsure-Footed Runner

“Okay. I’m going to go outside and be really cold for a while,” I call to my roommate as I pull the door closed.

Tugging on a pair of gloves, and tugging a scarf around my neck, I step out into the weekend’s snowfall. Roughly four inches of powder, slush and ice cover the sidewalk, street, yards and cars on my street. One of the piles of snow contains my car, but I am determined to make it out to the track.

It isn’t until I make it two or three blocks away, and am skidding across a sheet of ice, that it occurs to me: the track is probably not clear. Considering the condition of the track after the last snowfall, I was starting to have concerns about my actual run. To cut a long story short, I didn’t run.

English: Ice floes in River Dee Emerging from ...

English: Ice floes in River Dee Emerging from under the Bridge of Dee, Banchory, in the last hours of 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The track itself was covered in the same hard-packed crust that made up most of the well-walked, but not cleared, sidewalks. Simply walking up the hill to the track, I slipped and skittered in more than a few places. I took one wary look at the ice floes forming on the surface of the reservoir, and decided today was not a day for running.

My goal was to get through the C25k program before the snows made it impossible to run, and in that respect, I succeeded. However, I didn’t want to make the trip out to the track in vain. I was there, I was wearing gloves and a scarf, and had even worn my headlamp all the way from my apartment (I got it at Target for $5, in the “Men’s Gifts” section. I feel like I look silly, but it does the job, doesn’t slip or bounce, and was inexpensive). I didn’t want to tromp home without doing something.

So, I walked.

About halfway around the track, as I approached False Corner Cover, my Fitbit watch buzzed to let me know I had made my 10,000 step goal for the day. Over my headphones, my phone switched from playing Death Cab for Cutie to Minus the Bear. The reservoir was serene, silent, and empty.

I passed one person perched on a bench in the cold, and nodded a greeting. There were no zombies today, there were no missions, there was no running. Just a quiet, dark night, and the promise of a hot tea when I got home.

So, I feel like I will be taking a break from running–at least until the track is clear, or I find a better location in he meantime–but I will still go out there. I don’t want to break the habit of exercise, but I don’t want to break my neck. Even slowed down, heading out is better than doing nothing.

Winter Comes to Boston

The city was blanketed last night in a thick layer of the white stuff. In the week leading up to the storm, temperatures have been dropping.For better or worse, I have gone out to run despite the cold: 23 and 13 degrees F, on Wednesday and Saturday. No Tauntauns in sight.

For those playing along without a working knowledge of the Fahrenheit temperature scale, I will remind you that water freezes at 32 degrees.

Celsius Fahrenheit Interval Conversion.jpg

Celsius Fahrenheit Interval Conversion.jpg (Photo credit: hmcotterill)

My legs, on the other hand, freeze a little sooner than that. I find the runs more of a struggle in the colder weather, although that could still be all in my head–while running is rewarding, it is also cold. 

I  still aim to challenge myself. I haven’t quite managed the full 3.1 mile course–twice around the reservoir–again, but am working my way back up to that. A handful of distractions, the weather, and other factors are making the walk to and from, as well as the longer run, difficult to keep up with. I’m determined to keep at it as long as I can. I’m hoping the weather will work with me.

That all said, the spring can’t come soon enough.

For the last few weeks, I have been using the Zombies, Run app, an augmented reality game that puts me in the shoes of a post-Zombie apocalypse supply runner. When I loaded up the app the other day, it informed me that the makers have released a new game called The Walk. Similar notion, but for people who prefer walking. I haven’t tried it myself, but the Running game gives me high hopes.

Shirt of the Day: “I’ve Got Skills,” featuring a cartoon man multi-tasking.
Weird Item of the Day:  A scrap of paper (because, unless it has information on it, I don’t think I’d stop for a sheet of paper in a zombie wasteland).

Snow Pun Intended

There was a thin layer of slush over Boston when I woke up yesterday. It looked pretty from the window, inside, as I woke from sleeping in (had a late shift, and time to kill). But, I wasn’t looking forward to leaving. The air carried the dullness of sound that seems to come with falling snow, as if the world is taking a moment to appreciate how pretty the stuff looks before acknowledging the inconvenience.

After talking myself into heading out for a run, I immediately had second thoughts. Slush splashed into my shoes. My toes started to freeze, and the thin sleet set about into my hair. I gritted my teeth, and headed out toward the Chestnut Hill Reservoir once again.

The mission for today, according to my radio operator, was to head out into the No Man’s Land and rescue a child. As I rounded the Boston College shoreline, another character was coming up on my tail fast–the girl’s father, I later learned. Together, we rescued her and brought them back to Abel.

Boston College

Boston College (Photo credit: Patricia Drury)

Meanwhile, each footstep sent a wave of water, ice, and cold radiating outward. I tried hard to keep from splashing the people I passed–even if, in my head, they were zombies I was outrunning–and even harder to keep from splashing my own feet. I think I succeeded at the former, but I know I failed at the latter. Each time my toes started to feel warm once more, they were splashed anew with the freezing mix of discomfort and added weight.

It wasn’t a pleasant run, and a concern of frostbite started to take over. I wasn’t thrilled with the decision, but ultimately cut the run short. One circuit of the reservoir, instead of the two I have been aiming for. Part of me felt like it was a cop-out, but the fact that I still have 10 toes where they’re supposed to be makes me feel like it wasn’t a terrible notion.

We’ll see how the weather holds in the coming days. I want to keep at it, but a couple of low-speed ass-to-ground collisions in the past has made me cautious of this type of weather.

Shirt of the Day: Villainous Victorian Velociraptor by Woot!
Strange Item of the Day: Empty rocket launcher. (it’s a plot item…)