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Archive for August, 2009

Illinois

I spent last weekend with my in-laws in Illinois. Needless to say, I was ready to get out there and log a few miles.

Being a city fella, I’m used to stop lights and motor cars when I run. I’m no Joel Fleishman. I’ve seen the wilds of rural America before. I even spent a week at my cousin’s dairy farm when I was eight. So, I know a thing or two about a thing or two. Here’s another situation where I’d benefit greatly from an as-yet-to-be-invented “sarcastic font.”

Despite my urban dependencies, my foray into Midwestern corn country was beyond pleasant. First of all, it was flat — really flat. It was mid-August, and I barely broke a sweat. Here’s how I’d describe the view. Forgive the purple prose: miles and miles of gold-flecked viridian carpet, long dirt roads bisecting corn and soybean fields, braying beasts-of-burden, and straight horizons cut by the the skeletal silence of never-ending power lines.corn

Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

One morning in particular left me with quite a story. I started out on a six-miler. It would eventually be a cloudless day. But the sky was still holding on to a few clouds at that point (7:30 or so). The smell of hay and durable earth rode on the breeze.

I passed one of the region’s century-old farmhouses with its peeling paint its and acres-big hayloft. And something caught my eye. A single-engine plane banking across a soybean field just beyond the dirt road I was on — its motor barely audible — the cockpit way back along the fuselage. It tipped its wing and headed back in my direction.

A mist of fungicide trailed behind it as it descended and skimmed the crops: a crop duster — my first encounter with a crop duster.

It buzzed me on one pass in particular, which prompted a, “seriously, did you get pesticide on you?” from my wife. A question I never thought someone would ask me. Great stuff. I loved every stride.

It seems grain silos and wheel loaders are good for the soul.

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Figured I’d throw a little playlist-must your way. You just can’t go wrong with Eric B. and Rakim.

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Journalist Christopher McDougall was a man mired by running injuries. Doctors essentially told him, That’s what you get. McDougall just wasn’t buying it, though — not after hearing about Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians, those flip-flop wearing, natural-born marathoners of modern lore. He dug in, learning all he could about the Tarahumara.

He was at for years. He finally came up with: “persistence hunting — a combination of tracking and endurance running over many miles at a time.” He believes persistence hunting is humanity’s first and best exercise.

The ironically named Terra Humera

The ironically named Terra Humera

He reached some other conclusions about the Tarahumara, also the name of a Nike running shoe, and their footwear… or lack thereof:

We’re being fleeced. It’s a pure marketing and product thing. Modern running shoes let people run with their foot in front of their hips, picking up two feet of stride. You can’t do that with the naked foot—it hurts. One of the mysteries out there is that if any shoe in existence really helped prevent injuries, you’d see that in an ad. But you don’t. Over and over again, you’re told you must go to a specialty running store. They’ll say if you’re doing something wrong, you need to buy something to fix it.

After I wrote this book I had heel pain. I couldn’t shake it for a year and a half. I went to a barefoot running coach, and within 15 minutes the problem was solved. What had happened is that I’d started running with a neutral shoe and had regressed back to my old form—leaning back, landing on my mid-foot. That’s what was causing the pain. I’ve been literally afraid to put on running shoes since then.

You go with your crazy a**, McDougall.

Check him out tonight on The Daily Show.

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The art of…

The Art of War: Still a good title despite it’s 6th century BC origins. It’s no Tuesdays with Morrie, but it has staying power. And given some of the titles floating around back then — Aesop wrote… well Aesop’s Fables and Confucious had the… ahem, Wisdom of Confucious — Sun Tzu was a certifiable wordsmith. Or at least Lionel Giles, the guy who translated it 1910, was.

It seems the 3000-year-old text is making a comeback, though… and that troubles me.

A little background — War‘s had a strangle hold on white-collar types in this country since the 80s — thanks to Gordon Gecko’s reverence for the ancient bamboo scroll in Wall Street. Here’s the other reason: Sun Tzu taught the importance of strategy. His focus was on positioning and the effects competition has on one’s position. He said planning was not a series of tasks, but rather an appropriate response to changing conditions.

War explains how one should maneuver around or within these unexpected situations.

The Art of WarJust click the iTunes icon on your desktop, and take a gander at the top audio books. The Art of War is way up there… every week. And it’s been there for over a year now. Call it a sign of the times — a direct response to widespread layoffs and general financial turmoil. I will not use the words “economy” or “recession” as I’m sure you find them as cringe worthy as I do.

Do these ancient combat tactics really apply, though? I’m thinking no. I’m thinking, it’s this “all’s fair in love and blah, blah, blah” stuff that got us in trouble in the first place. Sure, Sun talked about honor, but Mike in accounting isn’t paying that chapter much mind.

These guys need something new to listen to during that long commute to the city. Something with a modern application. Something
uplifting. I’m recommending Judy Blume’s Deenie — the controversial 70s canon of teenage awkwardness. It’s a salacious read. At least it was when I was ten. My elementary school library refused to carry it.

“What does Judy Blume know about climbing that tricky corporate ladder,” you say?

Probably more than a possibly-amalgamated “learned Chinese gentleman and general” born 500 years before Christ did.

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Obsessed

I probably run too much. There, I said it. I spend way too much time in my Asics.

Ever seen A&E’s Obsessed— the true-life docuseries that examines the lives of everyday people with unmanageable, repetitive behaviors?

Now, what follows is not meant in any way to downplay the seriousness of these conditions. I’ve just played this thing out in my head a few times, and I had to get it down on paper… figuratively. Here’s how my episode would go:

    First segment: three-cord acoustic montage of me running too much and talking about running too much in awkwardly lit, testimonial, staring-at-the-lens interviews.

    Break: inappropriate Schick Quattro for Women commercial followed by a string of A&E promos.

    Second segment: interviews with those concerned about my behavior. Sample excerpt: “He runs too much.” followed by professional analysis of the damage I’m doing to my knees, hips, skin, etc.

    Break: fast-forward through second block of ads with convenient DVR fast-forward button

    Third segment: quasi-sadistic psychiatrist Shana Doronn utilizes “cognitive behavior therapy with an emphasis on exposure and response prevention” to curtail my running issues — meaning we sit around and don’t run, then I give Dr. Donnon my anxiety level on a scale of one to ten… four.

You get the idea.

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