Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

There's nothing like a change of scene to help those of us immersed in the hecticness of modern American life recharge our batteries and brighten our disposition. I am lucky enough to have found a special place to which I get to return every summer for a week of disconnecting from my overcharged existence. During that week, I somehow survive without a television, computer or - mostly - mobile phone. I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, staring at the ocean, listening to birds, playing with my kids and - yes - running.

That week was August 9-16 this year, and - as usual - it went by way too quickly. Still, we all managed to have a wonderful time.

I started the vacation with a nasty head cold and sore throat, which I "ran through" on Friday and Saturday before we hit the road. I was feeling lousy and run down, and ended up seeing little point to trying to do a long run on Sunday, especially in light of our needing to get to the vacation house, unpack, set up, get groceries, etc. So, for the 4th time in 2009, I did no formal exercise that day. I decided I would ease back into running as the week went on, so here's how the week played out:


  • Monday - 6 miles easy

  • Tuesday - 8 miles (awful run; I was reminded that donuts do not make a good pre-run breakfast for me)

  • Wednesday - 6+ miles, with 3 x 12 second hill sprints

  • Thursday - 10.5 miles, with the last 2.5 "hard" (7:28/7:15/6:30 paces)

  • Friday - 6 miles easy

  • Saturday - 14 miles (hot & hilly, with an interesting water stop which I'll describe below)

  • Sunday - 5 miles on the trails after we got home (still blazing hot)

Total for the week was 57 and I felt pretty good at the end of it. I took Monday as a non-running day, and - thanks to an Outside magazine article about overall fitness - did heavier weights than usual. I'm finishing this post on Thursday, and my chest and shoulders are still a bit sore.

The story on Saturday's run is that I left at around 8:30 am, and the temperatures were already rising quickly. Any semblance of a cooling ocean breeze is gone within a half-mile of leaving our place, and I left with my 4 8-ounce Fuel Belt bottles full (2 with Gatorade, 2 with water). I also brought a gel with me for the first time in ages. I didn't think that 32 ounces would be enough, but I counted on seeing someone somewhere along the route who would let me refill off their garden hose.

From the point on where we stay, there are two main roads, and all runs are "out-&-back" runs. I chose to head up on Route 97, then turn right towards an historic home known as the Olson House, famous for serving as the background in one of Andrew Wyeth's most notable works, "Christina's World".


The run went fine, but it was even hotter than I had expected, and the hills kept coming and coming. I started rationing my water, but at about the 6.5 mile mark, I noticed a man setting up for some sort of gathering in the barn behind a local historical society building. I passed by and ran along one of Maine's millions of coastal roads until I passed the 7-mile mark, and I headed back from whence I came. I got back to the barn, walked up and said hello, asking if they had any water which they could spare. An attractive woman in an electric turquoise tank top and white Capri pants - who could have been anywhere from 8 or so years younger to older than I am - greeted me very warmly. I stood outside, as we were separated by the mosquito netting draped across the barn's opening. There was an art exhibit set up inside, and this woman brought me a pitcher of water to refill my bottles. I was shirtless, completely and totally soaking with sweat, to the point that the brim of my hat had a rhythmic drip coming from it. The woman insisted that I come in, told me she'd seen me go by earlier and hoped that I'd pop in. To borrow a recurring phrase from a book I'm currently reading: "Flirtatious" may not be the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind. Of course, I was sure that I had dried snot and spittle on my face, and was more than a tad self-conscious about my low-culture appearance at this higher-culture event.

When I asked what the show was about, the woman said, "These are my paintings." The works were mostly New England images done in extremely vibrant colors. I'm hardly an art expert, but it was like viewing quaint coastal scenes painted by LeRoy Neiman. We even got to talking about a particular work which was a bit more subtle than the others. She explained to me that it was about her husband being at a crossroads in his life. At this point, it seemed that the conversation was on the brink of getting overly personal, and I was just a guy out for a long run, looking for some extra water. The painter all-but-forced me to promise to consider coming back later. There was one painting I would have considered buying, but opted instead to allocate that money to replacing my cracked flat-screen television. Talk about low-brow.

It's been quite hot (finally!) for the past week or so, but I've managed to stick to my improvised schedule despite the weather. Here's how this week looks:

  • Monday - elliptical, lifting, stretching & core
  • Tuesday - 8 miles at "moderate" effort (8:25/mile average pace) at noon on the hottest day of the year so far, but staying well-hydrated made it bearable
  • Wednesday - early AM track session, with 2x800m (3:08/3:03), 4x400m (1:27/1:28/1:30/1:27) and 3x200m (0:39/:42/:40) for just under 7 miles total (my HR monitor strap died mid-run, which beats the alternative, I suppose)
  • Thursday - 7 miles easy, with 1 mile of barefoot running on grass and track
  • Friday - 10 or so miles easy, possibly with an online running friend who'll be in town
  • Saturday - 6+ miles on trails
  • Sunday - 12+ miles, depending on whether and how my legs feel

I'm planning to do an off-road 5K on Tuesday, where I ran 23:38 last year, having just come back from injury. Given the nature of the course, anything around 21:00 would be very good, and could net me an age-group placing.

The other event I have my eye on is the Wapack Trail Race on September 6th, a challenging 17.5 mile out and back climbing and descending over 4 mountains. I'm not in any kind of shape to "race" it and don't have any real experience with that kind of running, which is what makes it liberating. I would assume I could cover the distance in about 3:30, power-hiking the uphills and running moderately hard wherever the terrain and slopes allow. We'll see if it fits into the family schedule and take it from there.

Thanks for reading. Happy running. -ESG

1 comment:

Pace Runner said...

I enjoyed reading about you meeting the artist, almost felt for a moment I was reading a novel...LOL

LeRoy Neiman--great artist, paintings very vibrant in colors which I like...:)

I also think, you can have that 'moment' of peace to yourself everyday when not posting on a daily basis, it doesn't have to JUST limit to vacations you know, it's called self restrain...;)

Sorry, I like to comment on non-running stuff too!

Good post!

Nice read!