Second Wind: The Shamrock Shuffle

Most of this blog is a reflection of my history of running. I mean if you don’t know history, you don’t know anything, right? (I think I lifted that thought from somewhere besides my brain.)

Let me try a French chronology for the structure of this blog: I’ll start in the near-present and relay the story backwards. This should be short.

A while ago, I came up with the idea that I wanted to run the R2R Grand Canyon run. I had entertained the idea for a year and then gave up on it; and then I resurrected the plan last December. I have no idea why I  want to do such a run, but I vaguely remember standing on the South Rim forty years ago and wondering if one could hike the trail from the South Rim to the North Rim. The R2R plan is still in place, for now.

Flash forward to my preparation in December and part of January: I thought I could train for the R2R by running Matanuska Peak (5,000′) every couple of days, or running Pioneer Ridge (5,900′) every couple of days until I had run one, or the other, collectively, 100 times. I was pretty sure that would be an excellent preparation for the R2R run; actually, it would have been great preparation for an eighteen-year-old: for me it would have been an arduous route to the grave.

Somewhere along the line, the mountain-running quest evaporated into dream-to-be tabled. R2R was still on, but the plan, and the training regime devolved into a “fast walk,” or a “run/walk/run” preparation. I especially like the walking part of the plan because walking is something I do well, and something that I like to do.

So where does the running come in? Well, about the middle of January, the Labs and I were returning home from a thirteen mile walk around a very long neighborhood loop.  I had, as they say, an epiphany that I should be able to still run a ten-minute mile. I started my stopwatch and started my legs. At the end of a mile, I had an encouraging margin of seconds left. Wow! I did not expect to run a mile in ten minutes comfortably when the last time I ran a mile, or any distance, was thirty-five years ago.

The last time I can remember running at all was in August of 1982. Eva, my wife, and I had just flow back from Anchorage, Alaska, to Casper, Wyoming. Well, we were near Casper: at the Natrona County International Airport, ten miles west of Casper, at eleven o’clock at night, with no taxis, no courtesy vans, and no other form of transportation in sight. My ride, as it turned out, got drunk that night and forgot Eva and me, and neglected to answer his phone when I called him for a ride. These were the rip-roaring days of the end-of-the-80s oilfield boom: anything could happen and would make for a good story at a later time.

What to do? Well, of course, I would run the six miles to where my company vehicle was parked. That was my solution. Six miles? Fifty, or sixty minutes? No problem. The first flaw  in the plan that I ignored was that I hadn’t run six miles in six years. The second flaw: I was wearing dress shoes, dress pants, a blazer and a tie. The third flaw: I wasn’t eighteen.

I started out at an eight-minute mile clip. For about a half mile. Allen Edmond dress shoes are not made for running, even to catch a cab. I would have been better off in cowboy boots; at least they would have had some decent arch support. The next mile was a fast walk. I would like to point out that this was early enough in the history of the modern running world. I could have claimed to have invented Jeff Galloway’s “Run/Walk/Run” technique for training for a marathon. I will spare you the brutal mile-by-mile account of the rest of the “run/limp/walk/limp on both legs” ordeal. Suffice it to say, I arrived two hours later, limping, cursing, feeling sorry for myself, and feeling a slight panic that my Eva, my wife, had been hanging out at an airport now closed because it is long past the midnight closing hour. The temperature had dropped to 45 degrees that August night. The good news? I had remembered the keys to my truck. The truck started: more good news.

This story is not about how that experience gave me a jaundice attitude towards running: it did not. I just conveniently found other pursuits in my new home in Alaska: snowshoeing, mountain biking, hiking, and walking, to fill the next thirty-five years. I forgot about how much I liked running.

Until recently. Somewhere I came up with the idea that I wanted to run the 2016 Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage. That idea dictated a bit of training, some yoga-balancing, and a lot of discipline. Along the way, sometime in February, I thought I would jump into the Shamrock Shuffle 5K fun run, which is about ten hours away from when I am writing this blog.

I started training with some really good runs two weeks ago. I ran/walked the Point Woronzof title flats and the Coastal Trail for a week. Twice, I ran five miles in fifty minutes. Actually, I made those two runs a day apart. Then I developed IT band issues, and hamstring issues, and…wow! This stuff is not supposed to be happening to me! At any rate, I got in some really good preparation for the Shamrock Shuffle this week: I had a one-hour massage on Tuesday, a two-hour massage on Thursday, and a great one-hour massage today. My hamstrings are tuned up! My IT band issues are subclinical (I love using that term; it’s probably meaningless, but it sounds authoritative!) Total training for the week: four miles walking, three miles running at a ten minute/mile pace, one mile walk…all on the same run. Okay, I forgot, I rode my bike to CTHS every day to pick up my friend Mike Smith. Does bike riding even count as training for a 5K?

Shamrock Shuffle, here I come.  Henry David Thoreau admonishing me, in my head: “It’s a fine art to saunter.”


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