Thoughts on a 3 mile run …

ImageI took special care this afternoon to pay attention to the thoughts going through my mind during my run. Mainly because a co-worker asked me “What do you think about when you run? I get so bored on long runs.” I told her the truth – not much. I’m very aware of what’s going on around me and I have quick observational thoughts about that, but mostly I’m just trying to focus on a spot on the horizon and go and I repeat my mantra: focus … breathe … glide.

This is more or less what a 30 minute run looks like … for context, this route starts in a parking lot and then follows a 3 mile paved trail. At the beginning of the trail there is a pond, then the trail does a loop through the woods, comes back to the pond and feeds me back into the parking lot. The first half of the loop is pretty much uphill. The last half is mostly downhill.

Go! … back straight … breathe … glide … head up. Ugh … next song. I forgot to update my playlist again. No pain. Wait … pain. Injury? No. Old. Feel tired today. Relax. Nice car. Geese. Move geese. Move geese! GOSLINGS!! Ugly and cute. Ew. Goose grease. Fly fisherman. So much fun. Miss that. He’s not paying attention to what’s behind him. I’m gonna lose an eye. Jackass. Focus … breathe … glide. Pick a spot in the distance. Focus. Focus … breathe … glide. Love this song. First hill, lean into it. Tired. Pace myself. What is my pace? Whoa! Slow down. Easy day dummy. Focus … breathe … glide.

That’s about the first 5 minutes. It’s the busiest time of the run because I’m navigating my way to the woods where there are far less people. After that first hill, I’ll see maybe 6 people over the next half hour. I don’t have many thoughts. I’m just running. When I do have a thought, it’s usually in response to something nearby. I’m not pondering life’s mysteries. I’m just in the moment. I’m just trying to be. I’m more or less meditating.

People. Is he smoking? On a fitness trail? Doing it wrong! Jackass. Smoke going to make me puke. Focus … breathe … glide. Pace? Good. Form? Back, feet slapping. Bad. Focus … breathe … glide. Smells like rotting fish. Cool flower. Focus … breathe … glide. Don’t bounce … glide. Lungs getting tight. Feeling asthmatic. Distance? 1.5 miles. Typical. Inhaler? Pocket. Relax. Focus … breathe … glide. Why can’t shuffle only pick songs that it hasn’t already played!? Bike. Expensive hobby. Bike. Helmet. Gear. Just run. Focus … breathe … glide. Cruising. Love this hill. Flying. 2.5. Finish strong. Focus … breathe … glide.

I then more or less repeated focus … breathe … glide to myself for the next 1/2 mile. That’s almost always the fastest part of my run.

When I’m finished I usually feel balanced, calm, and clear-headed. Lately, the asthma from allergies has been having a pretty serious negative impact on that though. I joke that running is what keeps me from killing folks. It helps me work out my stress. It is meditation.

… and then I couldn’t breathe.

20130524-090220.jpgYesterday, I was really looking forward to my run. It was a short run day and nothing was hurting … not even stiff calf muscles. It was cool and not humid. The only thing working against me was that the pollen count was high and my allergies have been really bad this season.

I made it through my work day, finishing up right on time and MamaAcorn and I loaded up the troops and headed to the old Army base near our home for some track time. I love track days. Sure, going round and round in a circle is monotonous, but I like that I can monitor my pace on each lap and that there are no hills. I really can’t stand hills.

I watched the baby while the other 4 kids and Mama ran. With the exception of the oldest, the kids were all in flip-flops – which they quickly dropped, opting to run barefoot. The kids were constantly bothering Mama, but I didn’t realize it at the time. They kept trying to talk to her while she ran and it was understandably driving her crazy – she’d been a little on edge, and I was hoping the run would help – but she finished near a state of rage and I felt horrible for not catching on and intervening. Truthfully, I was too busy playing with the baby and marveling at my two boys running.

My 12 year old’s form is atrocious, his arms are rock stiff and he’s hunched over most of the time, but he does distance running like it’s not even a challenge. He barely even breathes hard and I have yet to see him build up any serious sweat. I’ve got him working a 5k training plan on my phone and he seems to be enjoying it. It makes me proud to see how he doesn’t quit when he’s tired.

My 8 year old looks like he was born to run. He said he was going to do 3 miles and I laughed and suggested that he start a bit smaller. He did 3 miles. He walked some, but he never really stopped. We always joke around here that his volume level is either silent or screaming, there is no middle ground. He runs the same way. He would walk 50 feet or so, then take off at a sprint for 3/4 of a lap. without much of a complaint. Barefoot. On a hard black-top running track. The boy is a marvel.

The girls each ran about a mile as well, but they took a lot of shortcuts and stopped to do things along the way.

Then it was my turn to run and I hit the track feeling great. I did my first lap at a pace that would have given me a sub-6 minute mile and felt great. I was only supposed to go for two miles yesterday, so I had intended to go fast – but that was a bit too fast for me so I dropped the pace a bit and settled into about a 7:30. I finished my first mile around 7:15 and then things started going south. Halfway through my 5th lap, I started noticing stars. Not in the sky. Everywhere. Then the edges of my vision started to go black. I was worried I was going to black out so I stopped at the end of the lap … and then I couldn’t breathe.

I’d always imagined an asthma attack would feel like I couldn’t take in enough air. It was the exact opposite. It felt like I couldn’t push enough air out to allow me to get air in. I was gasping like a fish out of water and the muscles in my neck started to cramp from the effort. The stars weren’t going away, I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a bit – there is no memory there – and I. could. not. breathe. That is a really unsettling feeling.

I’ve always had a couple of post-run wheezing fits a year – usually the first run of the season. I think of it as spring cleaning for my lungs – getting rid of the cobwebs. But that usually passes in 5 minutes or so and I can run the next day with no problem. This was far worse.

10 minutes. No better. 20 minutes. No better. At 30 minutes, we decided to go to urgent care. An hour later, I could breathe again following a nebulizer treatment and had a prescription for two inhalers and my very own nebulizer.

So yeah … apparently I have exercise induced asthma … and I think that sucks.

Lessons learned:

  1. Cool days with high pollen counts are terrible days for people with asthma and allergies to run according to WebMD.
  2. You can develop asthma at any age for any of several reasons.
  3. My kids, especially the 8 year old, need running shoes.
  4. When you’re going to run or exercise, you should have your ID and Medical Insurance card on you.
  5. There is an urgent care clinic right down the street from my house.
  6. Breathing is highly underrated.

A View during a Run

This was the view during the last 2 miles of my run today.  Amazing storm rolling in.  Picture doesn’t and cannot do it justice – but it’s dark because it was dark in real life.

My New Running Shoes

These are my new running shoes.  Same concept as the Vibram Five-Fingers, but literally half the price.  They’re called Skeletoes by Fila.

Only problem I’ve had so far is that there is a seam on the inner arch just behind the ball of the foot that causes a blister if you’re not wearing these.  So wear those.

Book Review – Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen

I first heard about this book when the Author, Christopher McDougall, was interviewed on NPR a few years back.  Shortly thereafter, I heard him on Howard Stern.  Then I saw him on The Daily Show.  Each of those times I found his story fascinating – but I wasn’t a runner, so I didn’t care.

When I started running again, I was almost immediately halted by injury because I tried to do too much too soon.  So, as I waited to heal, I picked up this book and it changed everything for me.

If you’re a runner – you need to read this book.

If you’re interested in primitive skills – you need to read this book, if for nothing else, for it’s explanation of primitive hunting.