Friday, December 31, 2010

No Stopping (or, How I Got From Here to There.)

Yesterday I started here:

Facing south, at the very end of PR 701, on the Carribean coast at the Marina de Salinas in Playa de Salinas, Puerto Rico. People come here by boat.

I looked north to San Juan:

And left Playa de Salinas on foot at 7AM local time. I entered San Juan at 7:28PM and was in a beachside hotel and off my feet by 9.

What an amazing run.

(@ mile 13, looking south)

(@ mile 13, looking north.)

After 5 miles of flat I started climbing the mountains that run across Puerto Rico from East to West. The pass I crossed was at about 2,400 feet. As I climbed the weather went from about 85 and humid on the plain (@ 8AM!) to about 65, very windy and raining at the summit. From the summit to SJ it became hot and humid again.

I left Salinas before shops opened so I was running on little food and no pain killers, both of which slowed me down considerably and had me wondering if I could make it all the way to San Juan. Puerto Rico is close to the equator and night falls fast here. By 6PM local time the sky is black. I knew I'd be running in the dark and was very worried about being on twisty two-lane roads in the forest at night. I figured I needed to get to Aguas Buenas (thought to be 13 miles from SJ, but in fact 18) by 5PM to have a chance of getting to Route 1 - a straight, presumably lit, divided 4-lane surface street before nightfall.

The town of Cayey was not the expected 16 miles from Salinas and it wasn't until mile 18 that I passed a sign welcoming me to "Everyone's Favorite City in the Americas". (Downtown turned out to be @ mile 23.)

I was slow, tired, hungry, in pain, and running very, very late.

On the bright side, and temporarily putting an end to my irritation with Google,
I finally figured out why it kept telling me distances that were miles short of reality. The towns in Puerto Rico are deceptively large - they seem small but city limits are miles from the center of town, even when the town seems to have a population of 10 dogs and 20 people. Sometimes city-limits are nothing more than a sign on the road on the middle of the forest.

Google thinks when you see a sign welcoming you someplace you've arrived. Very binary. And wrong.

I'd been running thirsty, hot and sore in Cayey for miles before I saw the first house and finally @ mile 20 a groceria where I bought candy bars and cold drinks.

I was sitting on a concrete wall drinking Gatorade and eating peanut-butter bars (i.e. satisfying my addiction) exhausted by and icing down my sharply throbbing knee with another bottle of Gatorade (knowing it wouldn't help, but it did feel good) and considering that I had miles more pain to deal with when I found what I'd come looking for in Puerto Rico.

At mile 214 on this trip I could stop, hitch-hike, find a bus or a cab to San Juan and be okay with it. After 214 miles running, 33 of them on a painfully injured leg, I had nothing to be ashamed of and felt fine with the idea of quitting.

And that's when I found it - or it found me, I don't know which - but I knew this was it because of the emotion it provoked:

"Don't stop."


The voice in my head reminded me that the past two years I've been telling myself I am never going back to how I was - to who I was - before.

Don't stop.


I started to cry as I recognized I would get to San Juan that day on my feet unless something I could neither foresee nor control stopped me.

I was crying as I admitted to myself that throughout my life I had stopped when it mattered and that two years ago I wanted to stop with finality (yes, you read that right). The decision I made to go on meant I could never again allow myself to stop when it mattered.

This mattered.

In the past when I didn't want to do what was needed or make the investments or sacrifices that come with realizing my human potential I'd stop trying and rationalize that what felt like failure was only the consequence of living in an imperfect world.

When frustrated by not attaining not getting or not having what I thought mattered most I'd stop believing in my responsibility and ability to create happiness and fulfillment in my life.

When in the throes of pain from losing relationships with people I loved I'd stop believing in the goodness of my character and upbringing to learn from the loss, put it behind me, love myself, move forward and bravely go on alone.

And - most painful of all - because of always stopping when it mattered I felt weak and ashamed that the people in my life - the people who loved me - believed in me more than I believed in myself.

I sat on a concrete wall somewhere in the thousand-or-so square miles of metropolitan Cayey, eyed by a mangy dog waiting for something to chase and ignored by three locals unimpressed by a grown man in tights and bright orange shirt crying, and I thought about how often in my life I have stopped for one reason or another, accepted less than I wanted, less than my dreams, less than I'm capable of, less than I am responsible for and less than I know I have it in me to do for myself and others.

And I realized I have everything I need within me to never stop myself again. Things will happen in life as they do to set me back or off my plan but I'll no longer let the opportunities that come with life - or the hardships they include - pass me by because I'm afraid or lazy or doubtful.

I don't stop.

As I came to terms with who I aspire to be - with who I now admit I am - there was no decision to make. Not anymore because I don't stop anymore. Not when it matters. On the way something could happen that would make me stop running and I would have to quit before San Juan, but I was not going to be that something.

Having found that I have within myself all I need to to keep going in the face of adversity matters more than anything else because being willing to stop means I can not be the father, son, husband, lover, partner or friend I want and am able to be.

And you can't live happily that way.

So. There is no decision to make. Not anymore. I don't stop anymore. Not when it matters.

But what did stop was my tears.

In the end I didn't make it out of the forest before nightfall.

In the end Rt.1 was not well lit when I got to it and because of construction there was neither sidewalk nor break-down lane. This run very nearly ended then and there, but I found a solution and gingerly walked on the top of a concrete retaining wall for about a mile before reaching sidewalk. (I guess people liked the orange shirt look 'cause I got a lot of honks and yells.)

I kept running all the way to San Juan.

Wilfredo, the counter clerk at the hotel in San Juan thought I was joking when I told him I didn't have a car. I walked behind the counter and showed him my legs. He laughed, "You ran from Playa Salinas?! Sorry, but we haven't got an elevator and your room is on the third floor."

I smiled and said, "Perfect."

Yesterday I ran 53.26 miles. I covered 250 miles over the last 9 days - far enough to reach what I came here to find.

It is something I've always known is in me but never counted on to overcome doubt, uncertainty or adversity the way this trip insisted I do. Now I know I will do what I am here to do.

I'm never stopping again - don't you either.

Happy New Year. :).

Condado Beach, San Juan, PR.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:San Juan, PR.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Everyone please stop worrying! (No, don't. ;)

I made it, am safely in a hotel in San Juan and need to be hosed down.

I'll share the incredible day that was today tomorrow, but for tonight "Toes Down and Go!" belongs to my good friend Cindy Springford, without whom the story I have to tell would be very different.

I called her last night to talk about my injury.

Cindy is a certified Coach and knew just what to tell me to do so I could run and how to tell me so I didn't have to worry about the incessant pain I "enjoyed" with every other step during 12+ hours and 53.26 miles today.

It felt great to run. It hurt like paying taxes, getting a tooth pulled and getting waxed - all at the same time. But I got to run farther than I ever have before today. Farther than I thought I could.

She's good. The proof: I'm here, and feeling pretty good about taxes, dentists, and wax.

Thanks, my friend! :).

Location:San Juan, PR.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Determination. Discipline. Patience.

One day after the best run ever, today was the most painful run ever. Something went wrong with my left Quad at mile 8, and while I didn't quit I walked 16 of the 24 miles traveled today, wondering the whole way how I'd make it - if I'd make it - to San Juan tomorrow.

The walk was long and hot across terrain that was open, flat, and inviting a fast run:

... and I really wanted to take up the invitation but I knew I risked aggravating whatever was wrong if I did. It wasn't the pain that stopped me, it was the uncertainty of knowing if the pain was a passing cramp or something worse.

A quick word about pain and running - the two are inseparable. Runners get injured when they can't tell when pain is part of the run and when it is something broken. Figuring that out takes time and distance - sometimes miles - and sometimes by the time you figure it out the damage has been done so, employing a technical term, you're screwed.

I didn't want to be screwed. The run tomorrow is a real opportunity for something great to happen. It is the last one of the trip, traversing the mountains of Puerto Rico from Carribean to Atlantic coast, and the longest run I've attempted. Maybe it's more than I can do, but the whole point of me coming to Puerto Rico was to run to fail - to know my limits by reaching them and not because I thought I couldn't reach them.

After 197 miles tomorrow is the day.

If I fail tomorrow I'll be okay - happy even - but I don't want to fail because I was stupid today. I want to fail because I can't go any farther.

So I refused the invitation to run. I walked. And I hated it. And to keep myself from running I practiced determination, discipline and patience.

Determination can be defined several ways. I like the French way: "determination" means to identify what or where something is. I was injured and no amount of American style determination to push through regardless was going to change that.

Accepting the injury - and what was at stake if I ignored the reality of the situation - I had to discipline myself not to run.

It is easy to apply discipline to doing something, not so easy to apply it to not doing something, and it took real intention not to run. I'd wavered and tried just a few running steps several times. Just to test, just to see. It hurt, but walking hurt almost as much, so I was tempted to try again.


I had to remind myself (several times - I'm stubborn) that no amount of rationalizing the situation was going to help. (If I run I'll have more time to rest; if I run the pain will be slightly more intense, but for less time; I came here to run, not walk!, etc.) The only rational thing to do was to be disciplined and walk. And walk. And walk some more.

Which required patience.

Ah, patience: the ability to be happy with what you have now, to embrace its imperfection and forget just how imperfect it is as compared to what you want.

I'm not sure runners are patient people - after all they're always trying to get faster. It was a struggle for me, but I amused myself by noticing how fast I can walk.

I'm here tonight:

... elevating and icing my leg and resting up for tomorrow.

Because tomorrow - run or walk -I'm going to San Juan.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Playa de Salinas, PR.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Demons, Dogs, and Bees

This was the best run ever.*

36 miles, 17 of them in pouring rain, chased by a demon, 3 dogs and an undetermined number of bees - and I outran them all.

Yesterday not running set-up the Best Run Ever (BRE) today: giving my body enough time to heal and grow stronger. (As my friend Cindy says, "Days off are your friend.") I ran 36 miles in just over 6 hours today with no strain and no pain.

But the break from running, which is what I am here to do, was too long for my mind. Mind got bored so it decided to pick on my soul. I turned in early to get an early start and that's when the trouble began...

Grand-ma told me, "idle hands are the devil's workshop.". (Doesn't everybody's g-ma say that at least once?)

Well let me tell you, an idle mind is the devil's trampoline.

We've all got demons, and it's in the nature of demons that they never go away for good. The best we can do is civilize them so they stop dropping in uninvited all the time. Those of you who know me well know that I've been doing battle with a She-demon for the better part of the past two years. Those of you who don't - welcome to another part of my life.

Well last night - I assume for it's amusement - mind invited the She-demon in, and she accepted with pleasure.

Soul was not happy to have the company.

(BTW - this is the only part of tonight's blog with out pictures. Pictures would be in bad taste.;)

The only constructive response I could find as She went at me was to toss and turn and I felt a powerful urge to start my run to Ponce then and there at 2AM. I held myself back and opted for toss 'n turn. (Wisely in view of what was waiting for me on the road.)

The day started promisingly - I was up early and ready to run (surprise, surprise) and the light was gorgeous:

A few miles out of Paraguera the run cut through a nature preserve. I loved it: almost no traffic and no need for Google 'cause there was only one road.

But as you can see the sky was threatening. (At the time I was happy about it: it was already brutally hot at 8AM and I was worried how I'd hold up for 30+ miles.)

The landscape was very dry with lots of Mesquite trees to my left and salt-flats to my right. I noticed huge mud nests in many of the trees which turned out to be hives. I figured this out when a bunch of bees started swarming around my orange shirt. I sped up and they hung with me for a while before something else happened of importance to bees and they went away.

Chased by bees. Very bumbling. Humbling.

Adding further insult (but not injury as I got away sting free), one over-achieving or daft bee chased longer than the others and went for the top of my head. (I didn't know bees like bright shiny objects.)

Here is a hive:

And here I am after I got away:

("I outran a bee!")

A few miles later I entered a small town and was immediately set upon by dogs. Maybe the residents of this town consider it sport because as I passed from one house to the next the dog chasing me would pass the relay to the next one. Every gate was open. Smart and lazy damned dogs! I didn't notice any other sources of amusement in this one-road town, but maybe I missed something: I was running fast and barking.

This went on for a mile.

(No pictures, but no bites. Score another point for the guy who runs faster than bees.)

More beautiful nature:

But the sky is not happy.

A few minutes after I took this picture the rain started but I kept running. I'd outrun bees and dogs but She-demon was still with me. I could feel she was tiring while I was not, and this run started to become the BRE.

The rain grew heavier. I was soaked. Waterproof shoes with water in them don't let the water out. The secondary road I was running unexpectedly ended (Google...) so I had to run the break-down lane of a bigger road and was showered in grimy spray for 15 miles. I didn't care - I was consistently 2 to 5 tenths of a MPH faster on the flats and more than 1 MPH faster on the uphills then on the previous runs - and I felt great physically. Veryveryveryveryvery wet - and great.

(Me at mile 20 - notice that I am veryveryveryveryvery wet.

And alone.)

I pushed on through and didn't get washed away - but She did.

Once again running had done it's magic, putting things into perspective and transforming my struggles into fuel that gets me on down the road.

This is Ponce:

It's a nice place to be.

Now off to a peaceful night of sleep.

* - Cheers to my TMIRCE friends: Looking forward to our next BRE together.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Ponce, PR.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wherever you are, there you are.

("Toes Up.")

What else would a runner say on a day of no running? ;).

Now more than halfway through this run and while the terrain, weather, my condition and the distance left to run change constantly, the constant of this trip has been awareness of where I am. My mind is always focused on where I've come from, where I'm going, and how I'm going to get there from right here and now - whenever and wherever that might be. Today I've got nowhere to be but off my feet which my mind has got under control with no arm-twisting, so it's doing its own business too and thus about half of it is figuratively tied behind my back. (Still with me?)

In other words, it doesn't take much presence of mind to stay off my feet.

So what's my mind doing today since it doesn't have to devise ways of getting the crazy-ass body it's attached to from arbitrarily chosen "point a" to desperately anticipated "point b" when said body is somewhere between two said points?

Two things (in addition to chiding aforementioned feet to, "sit down, it's your frickin' day off!").

1. Wandering. ("Hey!" my feet are complaining, "why does mind get to move around?")

On a day of staying put awareness of "right here and now" gets to shift from the physical to the less tangible. I'm thinking of friends and family and how fortunate I am to have these people in my life. I'm not remembering the past ("Gee, I wish I'd done things differently.") or imagining the future ("Gee, this is how I'll do things when I get the chance."). My mind is here and now enjoying the feelings of love and kinship with the people that accompany me wherever I go and wherever I am, and it feels great.

Life provides us with many opportunities to realize what makes it so sweet but insists that we be in the here and now to do it, which is easy to do on a day when you are right where you ought to be. So, thank-you to all the people in my life for joining me on this adventure and for hanging out with me when my toes are up too, and let's all try to stay in the here and now even on the challenging days.

Now don't worry about me getting all mushy and all because - like any obsessed person - the other thing my mind is thinking about is my obsession. ("Feet! Get off you right now!")

(Maybe you should worry about me.)

Well, no matter! On to:

2. Surprise, surprise, I've planned out the rest of the run and am so excited my feet are twitching! (Whether with anticipation or fear is to be determined.)

Tuesday I run about 30 miles mostly along the coast to Ponce. On Wednesday I run to Salinas, about 23 miles, still on the coast.
Ten miles into Thursday's run I have a big decision to make:

My original plan was to run from Salinas to San Juan in two days: Salinas to Caguas, Caguas to San Juan - covering about 53 miles - but if I run a 45 mile route, by-passing Caguas through Agua Buena, I'll have all of 12/31 to explore San Juan. Agua Buena is more direct but there is no possibility of stopping before San Juan as there are no hotels on this route.

Which route will I choose? (I suspect we all already know.)

Planning the future of this trip was fun, but the real pleasure is in appreciating where I am right now, and that's where I'm going to stay.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Paraguera, PR.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Much Better.

Everything was much better today than yesterday.

There were hills:

... that kept giving...

And there was lots of wide open space:

... with nary a bottle of Gatorade or roast chicken to be found:

And yet everything was much better.

My legs held up well, and I know 16 hours off was not enough time to repair all the hurt done to them yesterday, but my mind was focused and my heart was at peace.

Today felt like the calm after the storm (thinking of all my friends in the Northeast), and so-what that today's run was longer than yesterday's (AND longer than I planned for. Google! Grr!!) And so-what that my hips and feet were still (respectively) sore and angry. And so-what that fuel and water was hard to come by on what was the hottest and driest day I've run since I got here - everything was still much better.

Everything was better today because getting through yesterday - not giving in, nor giving up - I created the opportunity to say "so-what" to all of today's problems. Not, "Bring it on", nor, "It's always something", but, "So-what. I've got someplace I want to be."

Of course, it didn't hurt that today's run ended here:

(That's not my boat. I'm on foot.)

(I've traveled 137 miles and burned 20,549 calories running since Tuesday with one day off. Mayaguez was the farthest point west I'll be on this trip. Paraguera is the farthest south. Tomorrow is a day off. Tuesday I run 30 miles (or so, or maybe not - Google will decide) to Ponce - the largest city on the south side of the island.)

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Paraguera, PR.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No Service, adversity, and then...

This was the hardest run by far - so far.

Soon after climbing out of the valley where San Sebastian is situated I entered tropical forest - few habitations and spotty cell service, so intermittent navigational help from Google.

Beautiful scenery but the pictures are deceptive: they don't show the difficulties I encountered today.

As I said - today's run was the hardest.

Harder than the first day in Puerto Rico when I got off the plane from Boston and ran across San Juan blurry-eyed, got lost several times, was stopped three times by weather and had problems with my pack.

Harder than the second day when I ran 44 miles, again in the rain, learned I couldn't rely on Google (my only friend here ;), had no choice but to run on in the dark and ran into a mud-filled drainage ditch before finally finding my hotel.

Today's run was the hardest.

Comparatively not so long at just under 19 miles. Comparatively not so uncomfortable nor nerve-wracking as I got rained on only once and traffic was light. (Yet not non-existent - on Xmas day. In the middle of nowhere - where are these people going?)

Today's run was the hardest physically because of the peaks and valleys and no flats in between.

It was the hardest mentally because it wasn't the first, nor the longest, but it was complicated. I knew stores would be closed so I'd have to be mindful with food and water, and this run was another one I had to get through to get on to the next one.

It was the hardest emotionally because after ten-miles of churning up steep twisty roads and struggling not to outrun my feet on the hair-pin curves on the way back down running hurt - and I still had more run to do.

Today's route was up and down and up and down - no flats -
from the very beginning to the very end. Every mile long down-hill stretch led to an immediate uphill section, and curiously - I started to pay attention and measure - the uphills were longer.

The downhills were too steep and too twisty to run at speed - so I felt I was losing time - and they took so much energy and strength to control that I pushed on the inevitable uphills to try and hold my time. At the end of the day I was sore from hips to feet and demoralized. (I wonder how my body will do tomorrow running 20 miles to Paraguera. I know I'll have to steel my mind. Happily the route is mostly on the flat and the destination is a beautiful beach and a day off from running on Monday.)

This run tested my will and made me make the choice to be glad I made this trip.

Yes, I chose to do this: today I had to decide it was worth it. I had to choose to be happy about it - and I did.

Running is like life (hackneyed phrase, but true), and I run to know I can be my best when challenged, and to know what the best I have in me is when under duress.

At the ten-mile mark, legs chewed up and looking at another long uphill climb, this run challenged me.

I was sitting in a shelter that was a bus-stop at the bottom of a hill, eating my lunch - an energy bar and water, watching clouds gather for the next downpour, and contemplating my sore feet. The idea of getting on a bus was tempting. My resolve was challenged and thinking about it (and this is why I am in love with running) I thought about why quitting was pointless.

It is because, as in life, I - we all - have nowhere to go but forward. The arrow of time allows no other outcome.

A friend reminded me that in life when challenged we can choose to mill about awhile before finally moving with the flow of time and overcoming our obstacles. When running milling about is not an option - it wastes energy, making the obstacles that much harder to beat. When running the only options are stop or go. Running teaches that the only way to overcome obstacles is to admit the pain, uncertainty and fear, to move in the direction of time - now - right now - and to not stop until you get to the end.

So I stood up noticed my feet and legs hurt and I kept moving, struggling up every interminable hill, and hurting down every steep descent. I kept going and knew I would not stop. Then at mile 14 (unbelievably) I had to fight off two dogs that actually nipped at my heels - and then had to face them again: I'd taken a wrong turn down a dead-end street. When I came back down the road they backed-off immediately. I didn't feel strong, and I didn't feel brave. I felt determined, and was determined I'd keep running.

I finally got to the end of the run - I made it to Mayaguez! I cleaned myself up and went for a stroll. It's Christmas night. Restaurants are closed - the only food for sale are sweets: pastry and ice-cream, and the town square is a big party.

This is why I run.

Mayaguez, PR, 12/25/10.

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Location:Mayaguez, PR.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On the Up and Up.

So long Atlantic:

And hello hills:

Today's run was 4+ hours of sunny fun. (No rain! Not a drop! Yay!) Google again toyed with me: first telling me running - well, walking - from Hatillo to San Sebastian was 20 miles, then - to Google's credit - navigating me through a complicated short-cut that shaved several miles off the route. Total distance: 24.5 miles. Confused? Me too...)

Leaving the north coast the terrain was more varied, and not all tropical:

I did run through tropical forest but the road was too sketchy to stop for a photo - bringing me to make an observation: there is a lot of traffic on this island - even on the day before Xmas. Where are all these people going?

Inland/upland is more temperate and more Latin than the Atlantic coast - and it looks to be wealthier, too - houses are bigger, the cars I shared the road with are newer and shinier (again w/the cars) and everything looked fresher.

The run ended fast on a two+ mile windy down hill (through that tropical forest) into the San Sebastian valley. Cruising @ 7+ mph I was somewhere between awesome runner running and controlled fall - it felt great!

Of course I'll be climbing out of it tomorrow on the route to Mayaguez - so Xmas day is looking up too ;).

Happy holidays!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

America Not America

A friend asked why Puerto Rico isn't a state (as if I can do something about it).

I've run across 74 miles of this island - which is a lot since PR measures 115x35 miles. I've run across San Juan (for hours), across farm fields (for miles) on a nature reserve (soooo many palm trees!), through isolated towns (that feel european) and suburban sprawl (that feels South African). (Which, believe me, is one of the most Californian places I've ever been - outside of Las Vegas, that is.) I've run past about 2 million cars in a place where 4 million people live (very American) and been passed by three horses on Route 2 (not very American). I've popped into CVS for Gatorade and eaten grilled mystery meat from road-side stands and been warned off drinking the water.

Everyplace - every place - accepts American Express.

America? Not America? I don't know.

I'm confused:

Speed limits are in mph, distance in km. Temperature is in fahrenheit, wave height in meters.


Not America?


Maybe I just haven't seen enough to form an opinion. Tomorrow I run inland to San Sebastian - coffee plantation territory - eager for the miles of confusion to continue and excited to find a good cup of Joe - err, "Jose?"

Somebody - help, please! ;).

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wait for it :).

Hi, honey - I'm home.
(In a manner of speaking.)

What a long day at the office.

44 miles: 8:30 running time, 10:00 clock time.

I was pushed hard the whole day long, and even ran in the rain (which I hate!) because I didn't want to run in the dark.

I paid attention and got lost only once, realized it within a half-mile and asked a cop who just happened to be on the right place at the right time (for me) blocking passage onto a road at an intersection which way to go.

He sent me up the closed road.

I took sit-down break for lunch that lasted about 30 minutes and was looking pretty good on time.

Until 3PM - when the rain got too heavy to see through. I was running on a divided highway, traffic was fast and spray was flying everywhere. It seemed wisest to wait out the deluge and found a utility building with a tiny eaves that kept me mostly dry. 45 minutes later the rain slowed enough for me to continue the run. Yes, 45 minutes.

(I have a lot I want to say about climate and Global Warming, and why I chose to run in Puerto Rico and not California in December, but let's keep this blog decent - and on track.)

Night fell 'cause that's what it does (Global Warming or not.) I wasn't happy about it, but at least the rain had stopped.

And then I found out that Google had been lying to me.

An open letter to my dear (and I thought RELIABLE) friend:

Dear and gentle Google,

Why do you toy with me? All day long you assured me I had but 40 miles to run, and then - while, as the last light of day was beating its all too fast retreat - at mile 33 as I studied the route you'd been showing all day and mentioned how I was looking forward to a hot bath you suddenly announced not 7 miles to go but 11. Yes, I know you will claim your right to a 10% margin of error just after reminding me with real hurt in your voice that you offer your service for free, but still: those extra 4 miles were a b*tch.

Anyway - no harm done 'cause I made it to the hotel before the kitchen (and bar) closed.

44 miles. I don't plan on doing that again.

For at least another week. ;).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Between Dorado and Hatillo

Day Two: Advantage Running (but must not get lost).

I saved $7.50 at the hotel: no car = no parking charge. During the 5 minutes it took to convince the hotel computer I really did get there from San Juan on foot I reflected on today's run - 40 miles, from Dorado to Hatillo - the longest (planned;) run of the trip.

Other than some chaffing from the backpack I feel good, but I really must not make the kinds of stupid navigational errors I made yesterday or I'll end today running into the night.

Weather still overcast with a chance of rain. It rained several hours overnight. Although they aren't the most light-weight, opting for water-proof running shoes was the right choice.

Time to run!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Cll Kennedy,Dorado,Puerto Rico

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Umm. Heh-heh. What was I thinking?!

This is Dorado.

I finally made it.

On the way I ran the wrong way through a toll-booth (running against traffic whenever possible), was rain delayed four times, and still got rained on, had two beers, ate two tacos and two energy bars and drank about six liters of water and a quart of Gatorade.

I got lost several times - including running around the same block twice in San Juan to the amusement of a woman sitting in her car and the aggravation of a poodle who chased me both times. I managed to avoid running into cul-de-sacs, so my pride is intact (also the Poodle didn't catch me).

Several people honked their horns at me and gave me shout outs, one guy laughed in my face when I told him I was running to Dorado today (he did ask) but the Concierge at tonight's hotel acted as if people run to here from the airport all the time. (Google says the run I did today is 24.5 miles long. I clocked in at 28 miles, even. Must work on not getting lost!)

Running in SJ was much harder than I'd expected and for a while it felt as if I'd never get out of there - what an enormous city! (Maybe someone will post the population - I'm too Googled to beat it).
(Wikipedia says 395,326 in 2010.)

West of Levittown the scenery turned beautiful. I ran on the coast which is in a flood zone and undeveloped. The contrast with San Juan was remarkable.

Traveling at a trot is tremendous fun - it is easy to notice details yet nobody seems to notice you noticing them. I feel I know San Juan a lot better than I ought to given how little time I was there, but running across a city really opens it up.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Found @ mile 1.98:

Heads up, which means feet down. A good omen.

Thanks, Universe. :).

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7:05 Local Time

Munoz Int'l Airport, San Juan, PR

Stage 1: San Juan to Dorado.

Toes down and go!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Snowy Toes Up in Boston

Waiting to board the flight to San Juan. Current conditions in Boston: 26 degrees and snowing. This is the first snowfall of the season and a cool way to start the trip. (Daily low-temp in Puerto Rico is about 75, high in the mid-upper 80s.)

I'm traveling without a jacket, wallet, keys, or extra pair of pants. My backpack weighed in @ 12lbs and it feels like being nekked traveling so light and with no carry-on bag. (No baggage - yay! This trip is already a success!;) Also got me feeling I'm on my way to a great and crazy experience!

Thanks for following, friends! And no worries - next stop San Juan!

from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Obsessed? Who, me?

Am I obsessed?  You tell me...

On FB the word I most frequently use to describe my status is "run", followed by "miles", "running", "marathon", and "ran".  "Lesbian", "Bisexual", and "Gay" are also high on the list, so maybe I'm confused about what obsesses me.  (Please help me figure out how sexual orientation is related to running!  I think these status posts must be about work.  I have a really cool job and I really haven't got free time to do anything other than... run.)

I'm happy to report that the word "happy" also appears all over my status posts.  I must be referring to running or work, but in any event I'm happy about it.

Obsessed or not, I sure have run, grown as a runner and simply grown a lot this year, and I'll never have a year like 2010 as a runner again.  Last January I ran a 16 mile race – and could barely walk the next two days.  Now I'm ready to run about 250 miles in ten (eleven if I'm lazy) days alone in a part of the world I barely know.  This year I've raced five marathons, qualified for the Boston Marathon on the first try, set PRs in the 5k, 10k, 20k, and 30k, 1/2 Marathon and Marathon, and run on average 200 miles per month.

I've run here and there (but not yet everywhere – though I am thinking about it), and – of greatest value – made true friends and gotten to know myself better from the experience.

As obsessions go this one's pretty healthy – it hasn't gotten me arrested, it has gotten me healthier in body, spirit, and mind, and the biggest problem it's caused is baggy pants – so I think I'll keep it, and I recommend it to all my friends.  Like a true pusher (err, fanatic)(err, err, runner) I'll run with you to get you hooked:  Name the time and place you want to drink the kool-aide and I'll be there. ;).

Running alone across Puerto Rico scares and excites me the same way standing on the line at the start of a race does.  I never know how I'm going to do in a race, and I always aim to run to fail – flat out, pushing myself as hard as I can to know just how far I can go.  In Puerto Rico the challenge is different – I'm going to have to be much more disciplined and pace myself to make it all the way.  My running friends know just how hard this is for me, politely observing that it's kinda stupid to start a Marathon at 5K pace and that I'd probably get a lot faster if I could just learn to slow down once in a while.   (Hey, its real stupid and after 5 Marathons it is classic me, but I gotta let my freak flag fly!)

I haven't been able to slow down yet – every time I start slow (i.e.: running smart) I end up faster than I ought to (i.e.: running without restraint), gasping and out of breath at the end.  What it comes down to is that I'm passionate about running.  It has changed my life, and every time I head out to run my heart beats faster and my gaze goes to the horizon.  I'm eager to see where else running will take me that I've never been before.  Yes, I run too fast but there is a lot left to discover.  Puerto Rico will be tough, and I'm going to focus on slowing down to enjoy it.

Status:  Obsessed, running, and happy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

7 days and counting...

On December 20 I'll take an overnight flight to San Juan from Boston for an eleven-day running trip across Puerto Rico. I've never done something like this before, but given how my running career has taken off this year it is no surprise I'm going for it. Making the final preparations I'm surprised by how the trip is shaping up – and a little worried about how its going to go. When I first looked into running across Puerto Rico it seemed reasonable to expect to run an average of fifteen miles per day, however it turns out that hotels in PR aren't so evenly distributed and I'll have to run an average of twenty-five miles a day if I want to sleep in a bed that night. It also turns out the roads aren't as straight as they looked on Google maps. I'm wondering how my body and mind will do...

The run starts upon arrival at the airport in San Juan. I'll run west before turning south and later east, covering much of the island in a series of point-to-point runs. (I will not be running across the more heavily populated east coast.) My itinerary has me running just under 250 miles over ten stages. The longest leg is forty miles, but if I hold up to the end (and am not disgusted by running) I'll try to combine the last two runs (of 32 and 19 miles), and cross from the south coast of the island to the north and arrive in San Juan a day early, tour the city on December 31, and find a great News Year's party to celebrate the end of a remarkable year of running "firsts".

7 days and counting to Toes Down time!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

8 Days to the Unknown*

What is Toes Down and Go!?

"Toes Down and Go!" is what I say to myself just before a race as a reminder and rallying cry that what I am racing for isn't a time on a clock but to know my limits of speed, endurance, heart, and focus.

"Toes Down and Go!" is the title of my memoir and travel guide I'm writing about my experience as a runner and travel running. The full title of the book is:

"Toes Down and Go: Traveling the World at 7MPH,
Voyages of personal and geographic discovery."

Volume one is about my running trip to Puerto Rico, which begins on December 20, 2010.(* This trip is shaping up to be far more challenging than I'd expected and I'm little more worried and a little scared about what might happen while I'm there. In the next TD&G! entry I'll tell you why.)

"Toes Down and Go!" is derived from an observation in Christopher McDougall's book, "Born To Run". He writes that one key to developing a mid-sole strike (generally considered to be less punishing to the joints than heel-striking) is to point your toes down when running. (We naturally lift our toes when running and that enhances the heel-strike.) I tried toes-down running three days after struggling through what was at the time the longest distance I'd ever raced or run: The Boston Prep 16 Miler. (I had to wait three days to try because Monday and Tuesday after the race I could barely walk.) The first time I ran toes-down I was faster and ran farther than on any training run I'd done before. At the end of it I didn't feel any pain but I did feel elated. The mid-sole strike transformed my running – so I'm a believer who tells everybody (including you!): point yer toes down when you run!

Toes Down and Go! is for us all to run fast and far, to run the things that trouble us into submission and resolve them, to run our dreams into action and make them real, and to live happier more successful lives.

So, Toes Down and Go!, everybody!, and thanks for letting me share!