T Keyes picTRANSCRIPT – ARBITRATION HEARING, JUNE 2014

ARBITRATOR: I’d like to thank the three of you for agreeing to meet. When Jo first suggested the idea, I wasn’t sure we could make it happen; after all, there’s a long history of tension among your three clans.
CY: Yeah, whatever. Can we get started? I’m in a bit of a rush …
JO: Of course you are! You always are! That’s why we’re here!
MO: Oh, please! I’d rather be running behind him than you, with your sightseeing, flower-sniffing, rock-collecting brood …
ARBITRATOR: Whoa, slow down! That’s what I’m talking about. If we’re going to make any progress, we need to hear each other out. Let’s try again. Cy, you first.
CY: Fine. I’ve been riding my bike since Breaking Away. I follow the rules of the road — riding with traffic, passing on the right, using hand signals …
MO: Yeah, I’ve seen some of your hand signals, Buddy.
CY: Dude, I’m going 35 miles an hour! How about making room for me?
MO: Glad to! How about ringing your legally required bell to warn me you’re barreling up my …
CY: Fine! How about taking out your earbuds, or at least dropping the volume? I’m sure Shakira will understand.
MO: I keep my music loud to drown out the sound of Carol Brady here and her six-pack of rugrats.
JO: So families don’t have the right to walk along the canal?
MO: Can you do it without lining up like the Rockettes? I feel like I’m in some intergenerational game of Red Rover.
CY: He’s got a point. Also, your stroller’s the size of the Death Star.
JO: Tell you what: If both of you would just give a friendly, G-rated warning that you’re coming up from behind, I’ll gladly make room.
CY: Fine with me. Just remember that faster traffic always passes on the left.
MO: Say there’s a runner coming up behind a walker while a biker is coming in the other direction. What then?
CY: Fastest one wins. Please don’t make us swerve. Isn’t my life worth more than your personal record?
MO: Ummm …
JO: Awkward. Moving on. Let’s talk about spitting.
CY: What about it?
JO: Stop it. Just stop it. Both of you. It’s not Camp Hockaloogie. You’re not 12.
CY: She’s got a point. It’s pretty gross.
MO: Fine. Excess fluids go off the trail, away from humans, as discretely as possible. Anything else?
JO: Eye contact. What’s with that?  Why can’t we at least acknowledge each other’s presence? Unless we’re Olympic demigods, there’s no need to avert our eyes.
MO: No argument here. It would be nice to get a smile, or at least a nod, from other trail users.
CY: True. But if I’m in the zone, I might be too focused. No offense.
JO: None taken. It’s all good.
ARBITRATOR: Wow! We’ve made a lot of progress today! See what we can accomplish when we’re willing to listen to each other? Now that the three of you know how to behave, I’ll enjoy my trail time so much more!
MO: That’s right! Wait … what?
ARBITRATOR: Oh, please! Misty and I have been cantering down those trails for years! You people don’t have a clue how to act when you’re around equines! They’re not big dogs, for the love of God! Seriously, get a clue …
END OF TRANSCRIPT

West Bloomfield resident Teresa Benoit Keyes invites runners, walkers and strollers to participate in the July 18 Patrick Parrish Memorial 5k, sponsored by the Bloomfield Class of 2015 IB CAS students. Details at http://www.bloomfieldcsd.org

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by Chris Compson

With the end of the school year upon us, we welcome summer and all the glorious running opportunities that the next ten weeks bring with them. After all, living in upstate New York, we have to make the most of these few opportunities to enjoy running in the weather that short shorts and racing singlets were made for. And there are certainly plenty of opportunities to enjoy these moments. This is the season where a single weekend offers fifteen possible 5k races, and we lay the plans for great fall running accomplishments. Whether they be running a fall marathon or setting a personal best in the 10K, the summer is the season of endless training and great racing, where goals are set, measured, and achieved. This is the season that always reminds me of my seventh-grade history teacher, Mr. Jones.

In my mind, Mr. Jones was roughly 106 years old when he led my class through early American history. More a part of the textbook than a person holding it. But as a teacher myself, I know now that the perception of age is greatly skewed by the slouched vision of the back row of room 209. Mr. Jones is one of the few teachers I remember vividly from my “school-boy” years. Perhaps it was his antics that would likely result in a call into the Principal’s office today that lodged deeply in my long term memory, like putting metal trash cans over students’ heads and banging them with a meter stick to replicate the experience of the first ironclad ship battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack during the Civil War, or reenacting the charge of Bunker Hill with a great snowball fight during fourth period in February. But when I think of Mr. Jones at this time of year, it is usually in relation to a cheesy motivational poster that hung on his wall.

It was a simple picture of a black night sky littered with glowing stars. There were no people, trees, mountains, or cute anthropomorphic animals. Just a stark black sky interrupted by celestial glow. At the bottom of the image, written in large, white block letters read, “Better to shoot for the stars and miss, than aim for manure and hit it.” In seventh-grade, the simple utterance of the word manure was enough to make me chuckle. But for some reason beyond juvenile hilarity, the phrase has stuck with me through all these years.

As runners, we often make our first mistake before we ever lace up our shoes. Countless experts tell us that we must establish “reasonable” goals or “achievable” expectations. These are comforting suggestions that allow us to lower the sights of our athletic telescope from the stars to something far more organic and “realistic.” However, when breathless Olympic gold medalists are interviewed after crossing the finish line, they never respond with “I knew this was entirely reasonable,” or “This was a genuinely realistic expectation.” They have achieved one of the most improbable accomplishments in athletics and they respond accordingly. Almost universally they state, “I can’t believe this.”

During this season of goal setting, I am reminded of Mr. Jones’s poster (which I suspect he created himself). To achieve something great, we must be willing to risk disappointment, to shoot for the absurd, to vocalize a dream of the impossible. Certainly, I will never win an Olympic gold medal, or perhaps even ever set a personal best again in the 5k. But by risking to dream the improbable, to set my sights on the stars, I avoid accepting the ordinary and the unsatisfying victory of the easily achievable and worse yet, landing among the manure.

IMG_1460I started physical therapy this week for a hamstring injury. It is silly. Lie down on your back. Bend your leg up toward your chest. Ooooh. Feel the burn.

Sorry, but I don’t really feel much of anything. I don’t experience a strain, a hard tug, a twinge of pain. And that’s the point, says my physical therapist. I’m retraining my body after an injury, not punishing it for getting injured in the first place. I wouldn’t go to a mental health therapist who treats my fear of clowns by wearing a rainbow wig and facepaint; I shouldn’t expect my physical therapist to contort my limbs like Auntie Anne’s pretzels.

It’s those expectations that get me into trouble. When I was training last summer, I expected my body to run like a well-oiled machine, despite my lack of attention to strength training, adequate sleep or proper hydration. Once injured, I expected my body to heal quickly, defying all the laws of physiology, anatomy and gravity. Upon receiving the death sentence (“no more running”), I expected my family and friends to grieve with me, keening for my loss and offering sympathy bouquets, back rubs and Kit Kats. None of this happened.

A friend once told me that expectations are simply premeditated resentments. I get irritated when the world doesn’t follow my script or adhere to my schedule. I want what I want when I want it, whether it’s in my best interest or not, apparently.

It reminds me my first pet, Pytheas the Gerbil. My sister Barb named him after the Greek explorer, and much like his namesake, he spent most of his days attempting to explore the world outside his little cage. Unfortunately for him, his cage was a glass aquarium set on a high bookshelf, so he wasted hours diligently scratching at the corners, certain that someday, as Gerbil-God was his witness, he was going to break free and traverse the carpeted hinterlands. Unbeknownst to Pytheas, directly below his cage and just out of sight, sat our obese tomcat, Cree. Every day, that gerbil would digdigdig, begging Gerbil-God to set him free. And every day, Cree would watchwatchwatch, begging Cat-God to do the same.

I don’t want to find out what predator lies in wait for me as I slowly regain my strength. This time, I am paying attention to all the signals my body — and the world — are sending me. Case in point: A few weeks ago I was determined to start biking, even though I did not have clearance from my medical team. But heck, since I always know what’s best for me … right? I went to remove my bike from its rack in the garage and discovered a robin’s nest, complete with four perfect blue eggs, perched atop my wheel. Removing the nest would get me what I wanted, but it most certainly would have meant disaster to those tiny birds. Perhaps the universe was reminding me that I need to trust its timing. Perhaps Bird-God heard Mama robin’s prayers. Whatever the reason, I left my bike and its tenants intact.

Silly or not, I’m following my physical therapist’s every instruction. She’s ready to help me hit the road again, as long as I’m ready to let go of my expectations and slowly work my way back into my running shoes. I hope to run a 5k in late summer, but we’ll see what Runner-God has planned.

Teresa Keyes began running in 2006. She and her husband, Corey, have two kids, one dog, two cats, four baby birds and one slightly nervous mother robin. She can be reached via Facebook. Birds on my Bike

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by Chris Compson

Runners have strange prerace nightmares. We wake fitfully to quadruple check that we packed our shoes. We toss and turn over thoughts of body-chaffing in unmentionable areas. We avoid fiber for weeks to quell the fever-inducing thought of race-day incontinence. We spend our taper weeks of relaxation wound tighter than the Gordian Knot imagining the million ways our race goals could become unraveled. It is the stuff of great psychological thrillers.

So what if? What if all those nightmares came to fruition on race day? What do you do? How do you respond to your running-world collapsing around you? These are questions every runner must answer at some point, because I guarantee you will have a race where “the wheels fall off.”

For me, this race could not have come at a worse time, the 2014 Boston Marathon. Motivated to participate as part of the response to the tragedy of the 2013 marathon and to redeem myself from a poor showing in the record-setting heat of the 2012 marathon, I put together my best season of marathon preparation and felt primed to set a personal best time at the world’s greatest marathon. Pouring over the data from my training, including a personal best half-marathon time and stellar long runs, I felt confident my 2:45 goal was all but certain. All I had to do now was run the race.

Through the first 13.1 miles, I felt great, fantastic, marvelous. Visions of the finishing clock danced in my head like pre-Christmas sugarplums. I “may” even have sacrificed a few seconds as I ran through the famous female scream-tunnel of Wellesley College and their clever and persuasive “kiss me” signs. I was running light, fast, and on perfect pace.

Then it happened. A small twinge just below my left rib cage; a warning shot fired at my bow. The first tremor announcing an oncoming earthquake. At the next aid station, I doubled-up on the fluids trying to stave off disaster. I alternated my breathing pattern and focused on dropping my shoulders. I cursed the running gods and tried to ignore the growing knot away. For a few miles, it worked, until it didn’t.

After climbing the first of Newton’s famous hills, the entire abdominal wall revolted. Crushed with cramps, the fluidity of the first half of my race became a staggering, halting, bent-over stumbled onward. With each passing mile, my goal time drifted further away until it became certain I would not run a personal best, but a personal worst on running’s biggest stage.

So what do you do when “the wheels fall off”? I am no Buddhist monk, nor peaceful saint. As I staggered through Heartbreak Hill, I wallowed in my own personal pity parade and sulked through my steps. But sulking for six miles grows tiresome. With my time irrelevant and my plans left scattered somewhere behind me, I slowed to a jog and looked around me. They reported that over 1 million people lined the streets of Boston this year. How could I drown out all that joy with my own despair?

When the wheels fall off, we have a choice to make, swim along the surface of the experience or drown. As my teammates, athletes, and family will attest, setting my competitive spirit on the back-burner was a break from character. But it was the best decision I have ever made in a race. I slowed to take pictures with spectators, high-five kids cheering and jumping on the street corners. I danced with a brass band and happily accepted a freeze-pop from a ringlet-headed five year-old who could not have been happier to share. I lost over twenty-minutes from my goal time when my wheels fell off, but those twenty minutes have become some of my fondest running memories.

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching high school runners. You can follow his posts about running and other pursuits at soulitarypursuits.blogspot.com and twitter @clcruns, or contact him via email at clcruns@gmail.com

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There are some activities at the Keyes homestead that require us to keep our pets safely inside – weed whacking or archery practice, for instance. Junie, our faithful cocker spaniel, takes great offense to this.  With her chicken-nugget-sized brain, she cannot comprehend the danger and will thrust herself against the glass door, wailing like a banshee, certain that we are HAVING FUN WITHOUT HER.

That pretty much describes me these days, minus the snot streaks across the window.  I’m watching happy athletes jog past my window and I can’t join them.  I know how much they’re enjoying themselves. I’d give my life’s savings to be out there with them.  But it is neither wise nor safe for me right now, thanks to an injury, or more accurately, a re-injury.

Back in July, I fell after a training session and strained my hamstring. For months, I dutifully followed all the advice of trainers, doctors, massage therapists, Runner’s World editors, WebMD ghostwriters and yoga instructors.  It wasn’t getting better.  In desperation, I went to the charming Dr. Grimm who, in addition to having the most awesome Hogwarts-worthy name, is an expert in orthopedics.  X-rays revealed that a quarter-sized piece of bone had detached from my pelvis.  Apparently this happened when I was a child. It lay dormant until the July fall, when, like Smaug, it awoke and began gnawing on my tendon.

The past few months have been filled with consultations, MRIs, cortisone shots and plenty of tears.  I want to run. I live to run. It shapes my social life. It keeps my weight and blood pressure down. It relieves stress and clears the mental fog.  It feeds my ego and helps me set goals. Not running these past months has been hellacious, not only for me, but for my family, especially during this terminal winter. They’ve been living with a feminine version of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining.  All work and no play makes Teresa a dull girl, indeed.

Bottom line: Hamstring injuries are bad. They can end a running career. At my age (oh, how I HATE that expression), I don’t heal quickly. Surgery comes with risks and no guarantees.  Running right now would be the equivalent of Junie playing fetch with the Lawn Jarts.  The enjoyment would be fleeting and followed by lingering regret.

I’m not sure what comes next for me, but today, it’s not a run. To everything, there is a season. For many lucky people, this spring is the season for running.  I truly am so happy for you! Be safe, set goals and have fun.  Enjoy the journey. I’m with you all in spirit. And who knows? I just might catch up with you someday.

 

Greece native Teresa Benoit Keyes began running in 2006 and completed her first marathon at age 50. She lives in West Bloomfield with her family.

 

 

 

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by Chris Compson

For the past twenty years, I have marked spring’s arrival with one event. It is not the calendar date of the spring equinox. It is not the first day the thermometer reads above 40 degrees. It is not even the day that the last pile of dirty, brown, snow-ice-slush finally melts from the corner of my driveway. Since I was in seventh-grade in 1994, I have marked every spring’s arrival with the first track practice of the year.

Track season, like its spring placement, is a season of rebirth and growth. It is a season where we shake off the long miles of winter’s doldrums and adjust our eyes to again soak in natural light. Track is a season of camaraderie, challenge, and t-shirts!

Track t-shirts have become something of legend over the last two decades. What once were simple short-sleeved symbols representing your high school allegiance, have become a battle of wit and whimsy. Shirts emblazoned with the current team’s motto are chances to inspire, intimidate, or simply illustrate a great sense of humor. Two of my personal favorites are “Looks can be deceiving; our workouts are a lot longer than our shorts,” and from the ranks of cross-country t-shirts, “Cross-country…finally a good use for golf courses.” While these whimsical sentiments make us chuckle, there are some shirts slogans that manage to remind us of some key aspects of running. A former team of mine coined one of these, “Don’t think. Just run.”

Those four simple words have offered more training, racing, and life advice over the past several years than any article, seminar, or running book I can recall. “Don’t think. Just run.” As runners living in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Wi-Fi, and 4G, we have immediate access to any information we can imagine, and just like the dystopian novels we read in high school warned us, too much information may just be a bad thing.

A recent trend I’ve noticed in running articles has been the “How to handle” phenomenon. Over the past five months, I’ve seen articles covering “How to handle racing in the heat,” “How to handle racing in the cold,” “How to handle racing in the rain,” “How to handle racing in the wind,” “How to handle racing on trails“ and “How to handle racing on a Friday after a long week of work when the kids have been an absolute terror and you have a deadline looming that you probably wont meet.” Ok, so I made the last one up. But you get the point.

Invariably, all these articles begin with the same sage advice, “adjust your expectations.” As we comb through the corn maze of information available to us as runners, we are confronted with thousands of data points that offer us thousands of reasons to “adjust our expectations.” If race day dawns hot and humid, we have a verifiable fact upon which to “adjust our expectations.” In other words, thanks to this treasure trove of data, we have a built-in excuse system just waiting to be tapped, before we even step foot on the starting line.

I’m not often one for nostalgia, but I certainly cannot remember ever calculating the agreed upon impact percentage one can attribute to temperatures below 40 degrees when racing a distance longer the 10k. At least not until the invention of the smart phone.

So the next time you lace up your shoes for a race consider returning to a simple, four-word slogan on a high school t-shirt, “Don’t think. Just run.” Indeed, it appears that there may just be bliss in ignorance, and perhaps a personal best time as well

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching high school runners. You can follow his posts about running and other pursuits at soulitarypursuits.blogspot.com and twitter @clcruns, or contact him via email at clcruns@gmail.com

“Me” Time vs. “We” Time

By Nicole LeClair Jones
 
Over the years I’ve ran with a few different friends, and for the most part we’ve ran at a similar pace. Some days a little faster, some days a little slower, our pace never really varied because we’d usually always try and stay together. Which was fine, because we’d chat. Some days we’d laugh and some days we’d cry. We weren’t out to break any records, just to enjoy the company.
 
But over the years, job transfers, busy schedules and most of all kids, have claimed a lot of my running partners.
 
Which is why about two years ago I started running by myself. It took a while to adjust to the silence. Listening to music instead of the drama unfolding in my friends lives. 
 
To be honest, it’s been pretty peaceful. 
 
My times have improved and I’ve became a little more competitive. And by competitive, I mean, competitive with myself. (Don’t worry, I’m not winning any races). I run, and run and run. I zone out, and running has really become “me” time. No one to talk to, no one to be concerned with. The only thing I’ve been concerned with was one foot in front of the other – entirely focused on me.
 
Until the other day. 
 
You see, I’ve convinced a close friend to run in the Seneca 7, which is a 77.7 mile relay race around Seneca Lake at the end of this month. And the Fly by Night Duathlon in May, and a few other races, which I should probably mention (Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Mendon Fire Hall contact me for details).
 
So what’s the issue? What’s the big deal about running with someone again? 
 
Well, right out of the gate he’s running as fast as me, and with little or no effort. My years of commitment and dedication have seemingly been squashed by his God-given ability to run with zero training. Plus, he wants to talk and talk, and talk. Which is great, I’m NOT complaining.  I’m thrilled to have someone interested in running, and interested in running with me. It’s a wonderful thing! 
 
But a couple things need to happen, and happen rather quickly, because these races are rapidly approaching.
 
I need to get over it. Some people can just run, and he’s one of them. It’s like the kid in French class that didnt’ struggle conjugating verbs. C’est des conneries! I won’t feel bad about all the time I’ve trained to get this far, it’s been fabulous. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I need to enjoy this “we” time while it’s here. But I also need to keep the “me” time.
 
“But there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you want to do, once you find them.” Jim Croce must have known how I felt. 
 
In the meantime, I’ll work on finding a balance that works for both of us, or at least close, probably 60/40.  I’ll keep you posted and let you know how the races go. 
 
Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer.  She’s the mother of two young children and an avid runner. She serves as the race director for the Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days. Contact her at reporternick@gmail.com if you’ve got a story idea.
 

 

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