Tag Archives: Humor

Beach Running

Yes, you read that post title right. Tonight’s edition of largely pointless and meandering thoughts will indeed be dedicated to running on the beach. And yes, I am posting this in the dead of winter.

Ok, I realize that a more intelligent or macro thinking “blogger” would in all likelihood pen such a themed post in the summer time, or at the very least in the spring when anticipating the arrival of summer (such a post would probably be seen as “timely”). Well, not this guy! I ran on the beach today, and thus the topic is on my mind. Plus as an added bonus, I hope that such a post about running on the beach (which is inherently thought of as a warm weather activity)  can bring some hope and spiritual warmth to any readers that are stuck in more Arctic like conditions currently. Conversely, this post may also fuel hatred and scorn in those readers for yours truly. Let us see, shall we?

While out for my beach run this afternoon, I was thinking about the pros and cons (at least in my mind) of using the sand and the ocean as your running backdrop. As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy running on either the beach, road, greenways, or really any surface that wasn’t my beloved trails upon first moving to the Lowcountry. Luckily, I’ve gotten less stubborn with time and now definitely enjoy running on the beach when I get the opportunity. Sure, it can get monotonous like any other running route you utilize often (that’s why you have to mix it up!), but I find myself saying to myself more and more while running the beach, “Dude, you are out on a beach. How bad can things be? Seriously. Just get over it”. Such self scolding (or mindfulness to put it in gentler terms) helps me keep things in perspective.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on beach running broken down into “pros” and “cons” (as one should analyze all aspects of life).

Let’s start with the “pros” as we strive to be optimists here…

Pros:

  1. Excellent for Barefoot Running                                                                                    I know that there are a lot of people out there that barefoot run on all terrains (trails, streets, treadmills, volcanic ash), but I am definitely not one of those people! In fact, I do not do any barefoot running at this point in time. However, after getting a little beach running under my belt and having heard the benefits of barefoot running for years now (and having just finally read “Born to Run” which further touts the benefits), I’m seriously considering working in some barefoot running on the beach once the weather warms up. Now unless you’re running on the Jersey shore and thus may very well risk running over broken glass or used syringes (I can say that since I’m from Jersey!), I can’t think of a better introductory terrain for barefoot running than the beach!
  2.  No Stoplights, No Street Crossings, No Fuss!                                                 Though the beach may offer some other obstacles (as discussed in the Cons section below), it is generally a great spot to get in a run without worrying about needing to stop every 50 yards for traffic or a street crossing. This fact in and of itself  has been a strong motivator for me to hit up the beach on many days!
  3. Decreased Stress on Joints/Utilizing Different Muscles                As one would expect, running on the sand is generally less impactful and punishing than pounding away on the pavement while road running. Concurrently, you are working muscles in the knees, ankles, and feet that you do not typically target while running on other terrains. While both of these facts are most likely good things, one has to always be wary of increasing mileage or pace on a new terrain too quickly or transitioning to training solely on one type of terrain as either can increase your risk of injury (again, mixing up running terrain/routes/habits is good for your body and mind!).
  4. The Scenery                                                                                                                          This is probably the biggest selling point for me. Even on the worst weather day, it is still an amazingly beautiful experience to throw down some miles on the beach. Simply put, nothing compares to running with the ocean as your backdrop and the sunrises and sunsets are all that more crisp and vibrant when seen from the vantage point of a beach run. The only downside to this is you may want to spend more of your time snapping photos than you do running!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!

 

The Cons:

  1. Crowds                                                                                                                                        Due to the fact that the beach is so innately and unquestioningly amazing, people tend to flock to it. Crazy, right? Thus, you can sometimes find it difficult to even spot the sand under the throngs of people, let alone run on it. In addition, you may also find yourself dodging run away toddlers, unleashed dogs, frisbees, bocce balls, and drunk undergrads as you weave your way along the beach in a twisted version of “Frogger”. My advice: Hit the beach early or later in the day for your run so as to avoid the masses.
    "Excuse me please, runner coming through..."
    “Excuse me please, runner coming through…”

     

  2. Not Much Variability                                                                                                 There isn’t any elevation gain, pretty much all piers look alike, and the terrain can become monotonous to a degree overall. In the end, beaches are amazing and awesome but kinda look the same after a while. Though it is pretty neat seeing dolphins, crabs, and huge jellyfish during your runs at times…
  3. Gosh Darn Tarnation Overpronation                                                Apparently in contrast to the overall positive benefits beach running can have for your joints and muscles, there are also some papers and studies out there that suggest beach running (especially when barefoot) can increase the odds of overpronation. I’m not a sports med/ortho doc or PT dude, but I’m guessing that such terrain would thus not be ideal for you if you tend to overpronate at baseline. However, I also believe that variability in terms of your training regimen can nullify this risk at least a bit.
  4. A Tale of Two Runs                                                                                                              As I chronicled in a prior post, the wind is a fickle mistress while joining you on beach runs. For half the run, she’s supportive and making you feel invincible, while she berates you and tries to hold you back on the other half of the run. This fact could be flipped into a pro if you like significant resistance training built into half of your run. However, it could also be seen as a significant con when you tend to do as I do and run with the wind for the first half of your run and into the wind for the second half. When will I learn?
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin'!
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin’!

 

Enough random rambling from me, how do you feel about beach running? What have your experiences out there on the sand been like? 

Dirt Is Good For Your Soul

I had my long run scheduled for today, though it was a taper run of 12 miles given the fact that I am now less than two weeks out from running my first ever full marathon (yikes!). Speaking of taper runs, let me just say I am definitely not one of those people who experiences any sort of phenomena even remotely resembling “taper tantrums“.  When I see that both my scheduled weekly mileage and my long run distance for the week are significantly less than the week prior, I breathe a sigh of relief rather than becoming riddled with anxiety or overcome with an irresistible urge to cram in a few more miles. Does that not make me a “real runner”?

Regardless, I had initially planned to complete my 12 miler out on the Wannamaker North Trail. Mother Nature and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission had different plans for me, however. I checked the trail website last night (as it has a tendency to be shut down when there’s been significant rain in the recent past), and sure enough the trail was closed. Boo! Though as of right now, I see that the trail has re-opened. The Parks Commission probably reopened it as soon as I set off for my back-up running destination this morning. Yup, the whole world is against me. Is that paranoid?

That back-up destination was the West Ashley Greenway. This is a spot that I ran pretty frequently when I first moved to the area roughly seven months ago, and have just re-discovered recently. Essentially, it’s an 8.25 or so mile trail/greenway with one terminus in West Ashley over by the Windermere Shopping Center (where Earth Fare is) and the other end on Johns Island. Strangely, numerous websites list the trail as being 10.5 miles in length, though my own experiences and examination of Google maps leads me to believe that it is indeed only 8.25 miles (unless I’m missing a little over two miles somehow?). Thus, if you were hypothetically planning on running a 19 miler on this greenway, you may end up running along a train track on the Johns Island end of things. Though that is illegal and thus cannot be recommended. Hypothetically.

Back in the day, I essentially abandoned running the greenway due to the fact that the first four miles from the West Ashley end is all paved greenway and at the time the county was doing construction on a good portion of the trail. It was my fear at that time that they were opting to replace all the non-paved trail with new pavement, and that was part of the reason I decided to take my running business elsewhere. “I can run on roads anywhere I want, why would I come to your “greenway” just to do that?!”, I exclaimed to no one in particular.

However, as the fates would have it, the powers that be did not pave the dirt portions of the trail, but rather cleaned the trail up overall and brought in some hard packed dirt to smooth out the trail. Hooray! I discovered all this a few weeks ago when I came out to the greenway to do a long run and mix up my running terrain a bit. I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised. I also learned that the “far” end of the trail (the Johns Island end) offers some great views of waterways, runs along a big ol’ organic farm at one point, and does not have nearly as much stops for street crossings. Plus this end tends to be less crowded (although I fear that may be changing). Needless to say, I now always park and start off from the “awesome” end (read: Johns Island end) of the greenway nowadays.

Intense clouds during the run!
Intense clouds during the run!

Views like the one above made the run much more enjoyable. The clouds were threatening rain for most of my time on the greenway, but luckily they were all just bluffing in the end. As for the run itself, I actually felt pretty solid. Prior to the run and early on during the first couple miles, I think I made the mental mistake of thinking that I could knock out 12 miles easy as though that number of miles was “nothing”. Hey, after all I am running a marathon in a couple of weeks, right?

Well, I learned (or rather re-learned) that thinking in such a way is foolish. I am clearly nowhere near the level of running excellence where 12 miles is something to laugh at. Luckily, I remembered that early enough that I didn’t fall apart or bonk or cry (what?) during the run.  At the end of the run, I was happy with my overall pace and the fact that I felt pretty good all things considered. Could I have run 26.2 miles today if I had to? No, I honestly don’t think that I could, and that’s a semi scary thought with my marathon approaching so quickly. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to throw down 26.2 right now since I’m just coming off my highest mileage week? Maybe I really could run that distance, and rather it’s just that my mindset was to run 12 today and that’s how my body responded? I don’t know.

Look, it’s the sky and water again!

My doubts and uncertainties aside, I did observe an interesting phenomena out on the greenway today. As a bit of a backdrop, you have to know that I belong to the breed of runner guys (and gals) that will always shoot you a nod or a wave or a smile when I pass you. Why? Well, I guess because I think it’s the polite thing to do and also because I’ve always felt a strong sense of community and camaraderie with fellow runners. Hey, we’re all out here sweating, breathing the same air, and pounding the same pavement, right? Totally, dude…

In any case, as I ran into the more populated and less awesome portion of the greenway (read: the West Ashley side), I noticed that the runners I passed were becoming increasingly antisocial. Either they would fail to make any sort of eye contact (ok, that’s somewhat understandable) or they would blatantly ignore the wave I shot their way (now, that’s not cool!). Were all these other people having the worst day of their collective lives? Did I look like a serial killer? What is the deal here?

Thus, after I made the turn to head back to the awesome end of the trail where my car was parked, I continued to think about anything and everything (as you do on a long run) which appropriately included this blog. At that point in time, I had landed on “Running With Jerks” as an apt title for this entry. However, this title was thrown in the mental trash bin a few miles down the road when the strangest thing happened. Other runners started to wave and smile towards me as I passed them. Some even initiated these basic social gestures before I did. A dog even ran with me for a short bit (after I had chatted with his owner for a second, and thus knew it would be ok). What was happening here? Had I entered a twilight zone of happiness?

I found my answer as I looked towards my feet. I was back on the beautiful, hard pressed dirt and off the unforgiving and punishing blacktop that lines the trail near the non-awesome side.

And thus, I concluded that dirt is good for your soul.

Curious Pete, Unamused Alicia
Curious Pete, Unamused Alicia

 

I Had To Wear Pants

That’s how cold it was today during my run. I know. It was brutal.

Come on, Mother Nature, what’s the deal here? It’s only early January and I live near the beach so I’m thinking it should be tropical all the time.

Yes, I know the thermometer is hitting southward of the 0 degree Fahrenheit mark and there is a significant amount of that white stuff on the ground up at home in Northern Jersey. I also know that Winter Storm Ion (not really an intimidating name, eh?) is about to unleash some chilly wrath upon the Rockies and the Midwest.

But guys, I had to wear pants. Outside. While running.

Not exactly what the beach looked like, but it felt this way...
Not exactly what the beach looked like, but it felt this way…

 

Ha! Now assuming I haven’t offended everyone reading this, let’s talk about what today’s run was actually like, shall we?

First thing first, it honestly was a bit chilly. Remember we’re talking South Carolina chilly, though. The fact of the matter is that it was in the mid-30s (not all that horrible for early January when you grew up becoming acclimated  to Jersey winters), but the wind is what was truly intense!

That wind was whipping around with gusts over 20mph and throwing sand every which way. Considering that the ol’ wind is usually a bit more significant along the coast line, one might ask why I would have chosen the beach as the backdrop for today’s run in the first place. I would reply by affirming that your question is indeed a valid one, and then point out that I have never made any claim as to being smart when it comes to my running (or to any other arena of my life for that matter). I would, however, further appeal that at least I was not attempting to fly a kite on the beach today. Seriously, everyone seemingly dusted off their old rickety kites today and attempted to have them take to the sky. Most ended the morning with new-found knowledge that a little bit of steady wind is good for kite flying, but a lot of swirly and strong wind is not.

For me, today was supposed to be a 4 mile pace run, though I decided to turn it into a 5 miler as I’ve been semi-slacking as of late. With the aforementioned frigid temps and kite dodging already setting up as obstacles for the day, the outlook was less than ideal. Throw in the fact that it was “leg day” yesterday at the gym and my lower limbs were certainly feeling it this morning and you’ve got yourself a possible disaster on your hands.

Even my shadow was cold...and wearing pants
Even my shadow was cold…and wearing pants

With that in mind, I set off on my run, trying to keep my tight quads and achy hamstrings off my mind and instead quietly singing along (in my head) with Brian Fallon (who wasn’t running with me but who was singing his heart out in my ear buds). For the first 2.5 miles, I felt great. After I wove my way through the kite death chamber and the beach gloriously opened up before me, my pace quickened, my breathing evened out, and I felt as though I was gliding oh so lightly just above the sand. I passed a couple strolling the beach right before the turnaround point, and I’m pretty sure they looked at me with admiration and a bit of awe as one asked the other if they thought I was an Olympian. I hit 2.5 miles on my Garmin and made an about-face to dominate the second half of my run.

Well, the thing about wind is that it doesn’t change direction when you do. Thus, when running in windy conditions, you have a friendly wind at your back going in one direction and an evil wind in your face when running in the opposite direction. Guess which way the wind was blowing on the first leg of my run. You got it! It was at my back and essentially pushing me down the beach for the first half of my jaunt on the beach. I’m not sure if I was more runner or kite for that first half of the run…

In any case, the once friendly wind had an abrupt mood change and slapped me in the face as soon as I made my U-turn. Immediately it felt as though I was running through some sort of quick sand and my once even breathing was now jagged and forced. That couple that had been planning on snagging my autograph on my return trip? Oh, they were now conferring with one another as to whether they should call for an ambulance.

Still, once I got my breathing down and perfected an optimal squint of my eyes that allowed me to see just enough while minimizing sand trauma and wind annoyance, I opted to treat the second half of the run as an exercise in “resistance training”. I forgot about my pace and the fact that the wind was preventing me from running in a straight line, and I just ran.

And you know what? I made it back to my car and felt pretty darn good when all was said and done.

I can take the wind, but I’ve only got so many pairs of running pants so let’s calm down on the dipping temps, huh? I’d hate to think about needing to break out my running tights…

Epic Hiking Fails!

This morning, the lovely Alicia and I set out with the pups for some hiking action at the always interesting Dungannon Heritage Preserve. As I’ve documented in this blog before, the “interesting” aspect of this particular spot largely comes in the form of either poorly marked trails or marked trails that seemingly measure 5-7 feet in total distance. Despite prior misadventures, this is a spot that always leaves you coming back for more with its serene setting, intermittent “Hills Have Eyes” backdrop, and general lack of foot traffic.

Perfect weather for a hike
Perfect weather for a hike
Fungus Among Us
Fungus Among Us

 

You know, just your typical nature preserve tombstone...
You know, just your typical nature preserve tombstone…

 

That last point–the general lack of foot traffic–is a big selling point for myself and the lady when it comes to this spot and to hiking spots in general. Why? Well, one of our dogs is an asshole.

That one dog is Achilles, and more specifically he’s dog aggressive. Not to the point of trying to tear the flesh off any unsuspecting pooch, but rather to the tune of engaging in such behaviors as barking ferociously at any dog within 250 feet, attempting to lunge at fellow canines that come near him, and generally just being a pain in the butt for his owners and any other humans should he come near any other versions of man’s best friend (with the one exception, of course, being his little brother, Pete, whom he has largely learned to bear being around…mostly). Who would have thought so much hate for his fellow canine could come from such a fluffy and seemingly innocent pup?

In any case, Achilles’ hatred of his own species serves as a useful backdrop for Epic Hiking Fail #1. Fail Numero dos is more self-explanatory and universally understood…

Epic Hiking Fail #1:

Remember how I mentioned that good ol’ Dungannon Heritage Preserve is partially so great because no one else goes there? Well, that was far from the case today!

As soon as we had meandered but a mere 50 yards onto the trail, two pups came bounding towards us unleashed and seemingly unsupervised. As anticipated, this sent “A-hole Achilles” into a frenzy–barking like a madman, pulling against his leash every which way, whining, etc. As Alicia corralled Achilles and Pete back towards the car, I cut off the two approaching pups and spoke to them telepathically using my BeastMaster skills. Ok, not really. I actually just kneeled down and pet them, but that was effective enough at distracting them to give Alicia enough time to retreat.

However, all the time in the world couldn’t prevent another four dogs from coming up the trail behind the initial two pup brigade! These guys were also all unleashed and bounding free as they were led by a man that could best be described as an aging, borderline homeless Santa Claus on an old cruiser bicycle.

Luckily, ol’ Saint Nick really was a saint of a guy and was understanding of Achilles’ asshole tendencies. I took young Pete and let him sniff and be sniffed by a few of Santa’s reindogs while Alicia kept the problem child off to the side and out of any bad mojo. Our new friend even told me of a gentleman who often hikes in Dungannon with a “pit mix that would be a great playmate for Pete”. I guess I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for this other mystery man…

Selfie with Trail Pete
Selfie with Trail Pete

With a “Ho, Ho, Ho”, ol’ Whitebeard rounded up all his faithful helpers into the bed of his flatbed truck (the sleigh is clearly too conspicuous), and off they sped to deliver further smiles and cheer. While Alicia, Achilles, Pete, and myself headed back onto the trail and towards…

Epic Hiking Fail #2:

What transpired next can best be described as a very unfortunate and extreme case of “user error”. Achilles, having gotten his GI tract all worked up during a near run in with a pack of his furry mortal enemies, soon had to take care of business upon getting back on the trail. Thus, he popped a squat and dropped a deuce (fitting since this is the second fail of the day). Ok, nothing unusual about this scenario yet.

Next, Alicia (with her history of very questionable dexterity) opted to move the now delivered “package” far off the trail rather than sacrificing a doggie poop bag (which have been in limited supply at our household as of late) out in the middle of the woods. She attempted to do so using a stick she broke off of a larger branch (which also seemed to be a bit of an adventure and perhaps a harbinger of things to come) and a “fling” method.

Now I did not witness what happened next but it seems to have transpired via a combination of fate and perhaps defiance of the laws of physics (a la the “Magic Loogie”).

In Alicia’s official statement, she stated that she “went to fling the poop and it went the wrong way”. Per her account, the fecal missile became airborne, struck her on her winter hat, and then rolled down the hat and into her hair!

This last part I was able to verify as an eyewitness: Poop in the hair!

That's a fact.
That’s a fact.

 

Achilles looking proud after degrading his human mom
Achilles looking proud after degrading his human mom

 

So all in all, it was quite the epic day out on the trails.

If this is a glimpse into what 2014 has in store for us, it’s gonna be quite a year!