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Joseph E Bird

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fitness

rock and roll

overall

This, my friends, is Tucker Boulder Park in Davis, West Virginia. It’s a modest little park. Just a bunch of rocks, you might say.  The smaller boulders are natural stones found in the area. The larger ones within the rubber mulched area are manufactured climbing boulders made by a company called Entre Prises in Oregon. Their purpose is to provide recreational opportunities for people in the area.

Now if you know the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia at all, you know there a lots of places for serious climbers to climb real rocks. Seneca Rocks, for example, is about an hour away.

So you might think Tucker Boulder Park is just a little playground. Well, it is, sort of. I was there a couple of weeks ago and there were several serious climbers attempting to climb the large boulder. I asked why they were there and not on a real rock.

“It’s a playground for climbers,” one of them told me. “And it’s a good way to get a workout and practice climbing.”

How good a workout?  Here’s some perspective.  The smaller boulder is eight feet tall. The larger boulder is twelve feet, which doesn’t sound that bad. The different colored knobby things on the boulders are handholds.  They can be moved and adjusted, creating different routes.

view from bottom

For example, if you follow the pink handholds, you’re on an easy route. The pink ones are easy to grip and stand on, and the route up is pretty much vertical.

easy

Then there are routes that are not so easy.  Like this:

hard

Notice that the wall is no longer vertical. To even attempt this takes tremendous upper body strength.

I was at the park yesterday and spent about an hour climbing.

First I went up the easy route on the large boulder. Not too bad, though it takes some agility. Then I went up the small boulder.  About the same.

Then I thought I’d try to circumnavigate the small boulder. It took me a couple of tries but I was able to do it. That’s when my arms and legs started feeling it, which surprised me because I work hard to stay in shape. At the end of my second trip around I was sweating and breathing hard.

I tried the same thing on the large boulder. On the vertical stretches, I was fine, but as the boulder leaned out over my head, I was useless. I managed to climb a little bit, but I fell several times. Thank goodness for the rubber mulch. And when I finished, I was pretty well whipped.

I have some friends who do real climbing. I already had great respect for those who have the nerve to climb up the side of a cliff without manufactured handholds. There’s no way I’m going to try that. Now I have even more respect, knowing the physical effort the sport requires. I left with raw fingers and scraped knees.

And I can’t wait to do it again.

 

 

 

 

Run slow to run fast.

Runner athlete running on forest trail.

If you’re a runner, and you want to shave a few minutes off your 5k time, slow down. I know this is counterintuitive, but if you want to run fast on race day, slow down on your training runs. Take it easy. And those long runs you’ve been putting in on Sunday mornings don’t do you any good either. Sleep in. Save your energy. Then on race day, you’ll be fresh and run faster than you ever have before.

Train smart, not hard.

No, not really. I’m lying.

If you want to run fast, you have to train fast. Not everyday, but you’re going to have to run fartleks or intervals or speedwork at the track. And yes, you still have to get up early on weekends and put in the extra miles. That’s the truth, kiddos. It’s hard work to run fast. It’s no walk in the park. More like torture in 90 degree heat, lungs about to burst. Or slogging through the rain or fighting the wind. Aching legs that keep you up at night. Is it worth it all just to run fast?  That’s for you decide.

But if you want to be good at something, you have to train hard. There ain’t no shortcuts. And you have to want it pretty bad.


Photo credit: iStock Photography

First Place

Of the top five finishers in the 5K this morning, one had run 8 miles before the race. Another had run 13 miles.

I was doing well to get out of bed and drive to the race just a half mile from my house.

The winners’ times were fast, these young men in their man-buns and the sleek bodies of youth, who are not even bothering with water as they stroll easily along the sidewalk, not even out of breath, because they finished 6 minutes before I did and have already cooled down, as I labor to the finish line, feeling like a runner, but knowing that I’m just another old guy, old being anyone over 25, because anyone over 25 is just a pretender and not even an afterthought to those who run in the fast lane of youth.

So I won my age group.  First place, the little trophy cup says. So what. Who cares.

I care a little. Because I made myself get out of bed. I made myself run those 4 miles on Wednesday when I didn’t really feel like it.  And the speed work on Monday, which is ridiculous and serves no purpose other than to satisfy my ego. And the 7 1/2 miles last Sunday that I don’t have to do.  But there’s something gratifying about being out on the road in the early morning by yourself, and wanting to quit after a couple of miles while you still feel good, but enjoying the morning so much that you just keep pushing until your legs become weak and a little wobbly but you have to push on because you just can’t quit because you have to push on.  Because you have to push on.

And because of all of that, there’s a little cup that says First Place that means nothing to anybody but me.

More miles to go.

shoes 1 for web

Looks like my running days are over.

I first said that probably twenty-five years ago. I was struggling to finish the Charleston Distance Run, a grueling 15-miler. I had run the race several times before and done fairly well for an amateur runner. Not this time. At about the 12 mile mark I was so beat, I questioned why I was putting myself through it. Being as competitive (prideful?) as I am, I didn’t want to run if I couldn’t be constantly improving.

Looks like my running days are over.

I haven’t run the Distance Run since, but I shelved my pride and kept running.

Then about 15 years ago my orthopedist said I had a condition called spondylolisthesis. Bad back. He told me to quit running.

Looks like my running days are over, for real.

I started sleeping in on Saturdays, but I wanted to stay in shape.  I found an old video from the 80s and started doing step aerobics. Then Tae Bo with Billy Blanks.  I did this for maybe three years. But I missed running.

I started out slowly. Not even a mile on my first run. Kept adding a little bit each time. I was soon running about three miles every other day. I wasn’t running like I used to, but I was running. And no back pain.

So of course I kept adding miles. Then hills. Then speed work. I ran a few races and actually won my age division a couple of times, which, really, is nothing to brag about. At my age, just showing up for the race almost assures you of a trophy. And if I can manage to knock out the guy with the walker ahead of me, then I win.

So I kept running. Then came the knee pain. I tried running through it but it only got worse. I laid off for a couple of days. When I tried again, the pain was almost unbearable. I did what you’re supposed to do. Ice and pain relievers. Nothing helped.

Looks like my running days are over.

I went back to step aerobics. After a couple of weeks, I tried the treadmill. The pain was still there.

More aerobics.

After about four weeks, I tried the treadmill again.  No pain for a quarter mile.

More aerobics. Treadmill. Half mile.

Aerobics. Treadmill. One mile.

And then I was out on the road again.

That was a year ago. Yesterday I did about four miles of hills and speed work.

I’m sure some other ailments will pop up. I’ve had hamstring problems. Foot problems. But I take it easy for a few days and then I’m back at it.

Here’s what I’ve learned from running:

The body is very resilient.  Sure, there may be a time when my running days are really over. But it won’t be for lack of trying.

Be patient. Be positive. Be persistent.

 

Gliding over the miles.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
Her strides are even
Her pace is steady
She is young, in her prime,
and I envy her energy.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
Her hair bundled together
bounces from one side to the other.
Of course she catches my eye.
She’s a confident athlete.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
She dodges a pothole with a stutter step
and then she’s running again.
She’s so relaxed
And makes it all seem effortless.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
She’s a runner, not a jogger.
She’ll get taunts and catcalls
But she’ll keep running.
Because it’s all about the running.

My prime is a memory as I run
along the road, on the shoulder.
yet there are those days when my
strides are long
and my pace is quick
and time is a myth
and I run as she runs
gliding over the miles
as if
I could run
forever.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

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