The Scribble Run

“Have you ever considered the FIRST training plan?” asked Dena. “I think you would really do well with it.”

We were eating Rice Krispy treats and drinking rummed-up eggnog, chit-chatting after the First Annual Inaugural Barefoot Josh Elevational Invitational. Me and three friends ran up and down a big hill a bunch of times. In other words, it was a huge success!

The FIRST marathon training program is, to the best of my understanding, basically this: three runs a week, two days of cross-training, all done at high-effort. That means no easy runs, or “junk miles.” It’s how Dena has been training for marathons for years, and has enjoyed great success. It’s very different from what I do, which is try to run as much as I can, mostly slow, sometimes fast. Would training a-la FIRST take me TOO THE NEXT LEVEL (Gruaaaarrrgh!)? Maybe. While that’s an interesting topic, one that can be discussed in the comments, it’s not what I’m writing about. So why bring it up? Because it got me thinking about the easy runs, and why I like them and think they’re important. To illustrate my perspective, I’m going to use art (see what I did there?).

Art, for me, works best when there’s no pressure. I need to feel throughout the process that I could mess the whole thing up and it wouldn’t be a big deal. If I think, okay, let’s draw a picture of this dog and do it well enough so that his person might want to purchase it, I freeze. Commission work is worse. However, if I just scribble, just sorta look at the blobs of dark and light scribble in what I see, not trying to draw a nose or ear or anything, just shapes and spacial relationships, not only will the picture turn out pretty nicely (most of the time), but the experience itself of drawing is very rewarding (most of the time).

Speedwork fills me with a little bit of dread (most of the time). Most of my running is very early in the morning, and it can be hard to know when I step out the door what I’ve got in the ol’ pins. I tell myself as I disembark like a ship deprived of a broken champagne bottle on a journey into the depths of my lungs (!!) that it’s alright if I need to take it easy instead. Running slowly to warm up, after about a half mile I’m convinced I don’t have any fast stuff in me. A mile in, I’m ready to fly (say it with me: most of the time).

Running easy is like scribbling. It creates an association of joy and ease with an experience that can, and will, at times also cause frustration, doubt, and agony. It strengthens the sense of self as a verb, where I am what I do, and I can’t stop doing unless I stop being. FIRST might get me at my fittest physically, but my cowardly brain needs to scribble.

The Universe is Random

- Slight change of plans, should we ever sell this house: although we really enjoyed Port Angeles, there was something missing. We were out on the North Olympic Discovery Trail on a beautiful Saturday morning, and we had the whole thing to ourselves. Where were the runners? The race calender for the vicinity is pretty empty, too. We’d rather live in a place with a thriving running community already in place, than to try to get all Pied Piper/Music Man/Jim Jones and build one ourselves. So unless anyone out there convinces us otherwise, we will instead be moving to rainier (ha! a geography pun) but runnier Olympia WA. Assuming we ever sell this house.

- But, that could be eons away so life goes on here contentedly enough, especially now that summer is over and the bugs have finally(?) stopped biting. I’m continuing the gradual process of getting myself back in shape to start a consistent base. I feel slow, but good. Tentative goal is to focus on the Umstead Marathon in March, hoping to beat ac on his home turf.

- I’ve been volunteering at races a lot lately and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I got to start the marathoners and forty-milers at Triple Lakes. Instead of saying “go” like a normal person I yelled “KICK IT” as if I were a Beastie Boy. It was all I could do not to continue with “you wake up late for school, man, you don’t want to go.” I don’t know what came over me. The mic was in my hand, I had an attentive audience, and something just happened. What I’m trying to say is, you should volunteer at races every once in a while, if you don’t already. Obviously.

Iris has found the perfect hydration system: The Josh-Held.

- Next weekend I’ll be volunteering at the New River 50K. I look forward to meeting the race director and ultra champ Annette Bednosky!

- Speaking of ultras, that is, if one were to bring them (and my full-effort participation in one) up in conversation, I would respond with a totally sincere “who knows?” By “totally sincere” I mean not mysterious or coy in any way. There is no wink-wink involved, a practice I do not condone under any circumstances. I mean I really don’t know. And by “really don’t know” I mean possibly maybe. If I were to do a distance ultra, wouldn’t it be neat to return to the state of my upbringing and run the Ice Age 50? That might be neat. Possibly. I mean, who knows.

- Which reminds me, congrats to all the finishers of Grindstone. You’re all nuts. You too, Jason Robillard.

- Bob Neinast continues to make sense with his recent post, A “Perfect Storm” Of Myths. It’s a rundown of the main myths about bare feet. A conversation developed on the book of faces (where I had linked it) with an old friend that veered off to the subject of the where/how/who of anti-barefoot bias. I’d like to add one possibility to the pile that includes hippies, Victorian society, Kellogg’s, association with poverty, and the obnoxiousness of gravel: useful feet conjures up the image of monkeys holding bananas with their toes, and most people are uncomfortable with the notion they’re relatives. Feet remind us of our animal nature, so covering them up makes us feel less animal. Just thought of that one up, while eating a banana with my feet.

- There. a post in under 600 words.

Benjamin Franklin = More Shoes?

Once upon a time, Benjamin Franklin had a rival of some sort who was calling him out. Rather than fight the guy (intellectually, not fisticuffedly), Benji Boy instead asked to borrow a book. “You are well known as a learned man with an impressive library,” said Benaroo, “and I have need of one of your books to study this thing I’m studying.” Not the actual quote. The rival, now an ally, was flattered and sent Benjamina the book. He became an ally not because he was flattered; rather, the human brain cannot handle the dissonance of hating someone you were just nice to. Slicker than Willie Pep, BF won the fight without throwing a single punch.

Have running shoe companies employed The Benjamin Franklin Effect on barefoot runners? Could this be why barefoot runners don’t run barefoot all that often?

For the record, I still run barefoot most of the time, but don’t think any less of barefooters who have gotten more shoey. It does baffle me a bit, though. I would have thought that once a runner (ha!) figures it out, they wouldn’t want to go back.

Having said that, I’ll be wearing a new pair of Merrell (I was Franklinized!) Trail Gloves for The Scream. I actually bought them. Well, Iris did, but money is fungible, and so on and so forth. Any of the shoes I own would have done the trick on that dirt road with rocks spread out at just the right density level to be a real pain education, but I’m going to wear what ac is going to wear to even up the playing field. I might even shave and give myself a goofy haircut.