The Burdo Zone


Friday, March 4, 2011

Elephants In The Rain

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My favorite city running loop is called the "Zoo-Q" and circumnavigates the Woodland Park Zoo for much of it's four-mile course. Today it was a brisk, chilly drizzle as I wound through the narrow South Section and the Call Of Nature dictated a halt. I stopped and put my head on a swivel as this song played on my mp3 player:

As I was about to let fly I spied a strange movement above and to my left. I struggled to assemble the image: the top 1/3 of an elephant moving backwards along the other side of it's enclosure wall 40 meters away. an INDIAN elephant! I hope the *backwards* part of this apparition is clear. It followed this course for perhaps 25 meters before leaving my view. I've heard from those who have traveled there that India is a rich and strange land with jolting imagery everywhere. A backwards elephant in the cold Seattle drizzle with a Hindi music soundtrack may be the closest I may ever get, but it was a gift, albeit a strange and charming one.

I finished a loop, and as I passed the elephant house I looked up again. This time I beheld an African Elephant, female, apparently dining at a feeding station and positioned facing me directly. I stopped and met her gaze. Soon she paused from her feeding, then raised her trunk to vertical (her head fixed in place) as if in greeting, and exhaled a poof of breathy mist. I did my best mime with my arm as she resumed her meal, and I plip-plopped back down the trail, blessed not once but twice with mythic influence.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Getting Away With It

The two most basic training variables are power/speed (fast-twitch) and endurance (slow-twitch). Most of us dwell in the area in-between most of the time, with some combination of the two being employed for races of 2-60 min. duration, or of climbs that are more than 10 moves but are somewhat challenging. In order to avoid stagnation and to keep tabs on your current fitness status, it is good to have "go to" sessions for both elements. For instance, while I am working longer routes, I try to get in a bouldering session at least once a week on a standard circuit. This does little more than maintain a base level of power, but in the fall, when days are short and cool, I will have some framework on which to build fitness for 5.12 and 5.13 projects.

As far as the "Yin for the Yang" for my running fitness, this summer, I have been doing many longer approaches of hiking and scrambling, which keeps me aerobically fit (car-to-summit of South Early Winter Spire in 92 min. with a 35-lb pack... woot), but translates maybe 60% to my running. Consequently, I do a maintenance session of short speed work each week (see "Ghost Running") to keep the leg turnover in some kind of trim for more serious running this fall/winter.

It is testament to the decent climbing weather in Mazama this summer that my endurance running session, a long run, has been seriously neglected, since I typically need 2-3 days of recovery from hiking to make it happen. So yesterday, after a solid day of rain and several days "off" from serious hiking while shooting photos and sport climbing, I made the running trek up to Deadhorse Point on the Hart's Pass road, a round trip of almost two hours and 14 miles. For perspective, I haven't run longer than 6 miles at a time for over two months. So my challenge was to see if all that grunting of gear up to the Spires has been sufficient to allow me a decent, if slow, overdistance run. Ideally, I should be doing a run of at least 80-90 min. at least once a month, just for maintenance. Otherwise, I will have to make a longer transition back to a full running schedule when the time comes, not always a fun process, and one which can carry a heightened risk of injury.

The verdict: yes, I haven't COMPLETELY morphed into a pack mule, though I am far from impala-like. Combining several hours/day of hiking and scrambling with weekly running speed sessions has been enough to keep the running animal decently together.

A key element in making this a reasonably fun run was the following tune coming on to my Shuffle player at 90 minutes:

The Take Away: if you are training two or more sports in the course of the year, tag the power/speed component of your "off" season sport at least once every 1-2 weeks, and the endurance component at least every 2-4 weeks depending on what other cross-training you are doing. I was able to stretch the latter quite a bit this season, but after a few decades of doing this I can break the "rules" *very* carefully, like a chef can substitute spices and keep the overall flavor.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ghost Running

A deeply enveloping gauze of dampness has taken the night, and only a glimmer of moonlight reflects off the road, the bridge and the river as I run my sprint repeats. Where a week ago the bright sun and tiny bugs above the bridge collided with my body, tonight there is a sense of no sense, a deprivation chamber in which my strides are suspended, my body ethereal and the effort pure. I stop and massage out a glitch in my left hamstring, and the resulting smoothed rhythm within my legs flows near effortlessly, driven by the audio accompaniment of Creedence, Hilltop Hoods and The Chemical Brothers.

At one point a trick of the light creates a mass in front of me. I veer for the apparition, but don't break stride. When a car rounds the bend, it's headlights pop the surface of the pavement into sharp focus, and I nearly stumble with the disorienting input. Back into the dark ether, and I am ecstatic, the final hill receding under the reborn power of my legs. My reward is a bathing flood of internal chemicals, familiar yet fresh, telling me that everything is healthy and right, and I turn to jog the easy 1/2 mile back to the tiny light of the front porch.