Sunday, February 6, 2011


This morning I ran for the first time in 4 weeks. A short run dodging ice and cars. On December 26, after dropping my brother off at the airport in Philly, I spent 8 hours driving home in the worst driving conditions I've ever experienced. I can normally bust that drive out in about two and a half hours. Little did I know that Christmas morning would be the last trail run I did for god knows how long. At the same time I was hit with a nasty sinus infection that dropped down to my lungs. Walking up stairs made me short of breath so running was out. The end result is that I had to drop from the HAT Run 50k because there was no way I was going to get in the miles that I needed to finish the race. It was a bummer and a relief.

When I switched my training over to dirt roads I started to have all kinds of issues with my legs that I hadn't experienced since I left the road for trails. Even with a looong warm up I still had shin splints and sore knees. That, coupled with the absolutely mind numbing boredom of running on the road turned my training from something I looked forward to into another miserable commitment I had to keep. The discomfort I felt on the roads made me doubt that I could finish any trail run that had more flat and runnable sections than the more technical terrain I'm used to running these days. I guess the tech trails call upon so many different muscle groups that I don't experience the repetitive pounding that I do on smooth surfaces. It's counterintuitive but I guess that's the bizarre world I inhabit.

So I spent the last month reading endless Ultra blogs (IrunFar, Ellie Greenwood, Geoff Roes, Wilderness Running Company, Mountain Peak Fitness, etc.) and feeling guilty about having all this nice new running gear I got for Christmas and still sitting on my stupid ass.

I went from this:

To this:

And this:


This was written on December 18, 2010, far before a 3 week long sinus infection and 64 inches of snow completely fucked up my training schedule. Here it is:

I've walked through some of the sketchiest neighborhoods in the South Bronx, had guns pointed at me on two separate occasions, and lived a life that should have killed me, but nothing is as unsettling to me as running through the woods in the dark with a headlamp. The world shrinks to the tight circumference of the light strapped to your head and beyond that light is nothing but smothering darkness. The uneasy feeling builds as you leave the parking lot behind you and that same feeling waits for a moments of undisciplined distraction to attach itself to you. There are only two end results when focus becomes obscured by the chatter in the nightmare factory.

The first end result is a physical one. The actual motion of running with a headlamp is not terribly hard until you have one of those "undisciplined moments". That's when the gravity hammer swats you back to earth. It's a brisk and cold reminder of what happens when the mind wanders.

The other result is the more dangerous and frightening of the two and it's an attack on the psyche. It takes more discipline to run at night. Discipline to make sure that you remain upright and discipline to keep your mind from wandering into some very bad places. It's a slow process but I have a feeling that I'll learn more about myself in those nighttime miles than I will under the heat of the sun.

Honestly, running in the dark kind of scares the shit out of me. It feeds on the paranoia and wild imagination that I have going on inside my Nightmare Factory. I think about everything from bears and coyotes attacking me to bashing my head in on a rock, Then there are the hunters. The trail is supposed to be closed at sunset to hunters. And runners. I keep my fingers crossed that they see me coming and don't run me through with an arrow and I also hope that the police don't think I'm in the woods hunting deer with a spotlight. A 2.8 mile run seems to take an eternity but with a change in my work hours, I'm going to be doing a fair amount of miles with the headlamp. I'll get used to it but really, running in the dark scares the shit out of me.