A run in wild, untamed wilderness

In a previous post, I wrote how I converted my front yard from a lawn into a natural landscape with many types of native plants, and how trails I’d constructed made it possible to run in a natural area yet never leave my front yard.animal expert4

When I go for a run in my yard, it’ so nice with the fragrant plants, the scenery and the wild, untamed, 100 ft x 120 ft wilderness. However, I’ve realized something’s missing.Jim's fronyard run2

If you go running in a natural area, sometimes you catch a glimpse of a wild animal. It’s a bit of a thrill, and I’d like to experience the same thing in my front yard. I’ve decided to mimic a wild, natural area by releasing a few species of native wildlife in my yard.

Of course, I want everything to go smoothly, so I hired a consultant. In a previous post, I wrote how I met a woman, Ruby Redpepper, who owned a company called AFS (Animal Fulfillment Specialists), at a coffee shop. She flew into Spokane and when we met, she gave me information I never would have considered.animal expert1

I so much wanted a bear to live in my front yard, but she said it just wouldn’t work. She advised that my habitat is suitable for a pair of coyotes, at most, to occupy the top of the food chain. So, that’s what I’ve decided on.

In the below photo, a small, catlike animal native to South Africa is instantly attracted to my natural landscape. Ms. Redpepper uses this animal to as an indicator of the quality of habitat. It was a very good sign.animal expert3

In addition to coyotes, I’ll have marmots, a badger, rabbits, ground squirrels and plenty of smaller rodents. Though it doesn’t seem like it’d work, Ms. Redpepper says I should have a small colony of bats, a medium-sized owl and a red-tailed hawk. She assures me they will stay in my preserve because of its concentrated diversity.

I’m so very especially looking forward to this ecological development. Ms. Redpepper tells me if the populations thrive, I can eventually add a moose, two deer and a bobcat.

I like animals. I dream of an animal kingdom right outside my front door.animal expert7

Run in sand, win an Oscar

In the movie Chariots of Fire, British runners in white shorts and shirts run en masse along a sandy beach in bare feet. It’s a pretty cool opening scene, and the music really adds depth and intrigue. Since it won four Oscars including best picture, I like to say it’s because it was about running, specifically, running in sand.Chariots of Fire

Okay, a shot of guys running in sand wasn’t the reason it won an Oscar. I use this as an example of using soft running surfaces to prevent injury. Foot strike is about as soft as can be in sand, and if you do it day in and day out, barefoot, you’ll also save a ton of money because there’s no need to buy running shoes anymore. The downside is that it wouldn’t take long to get real tired of sand running.

When I lived in California, my apartment was very close to a beach. I ran there from time to time, and occasionally I’d remove my shoes. But it was more a novelty, and I didn’t put in lots of miles training in sand. In the photo below, the only painting I own hangs over my bed. I like it because it’s so similar to a section of beach called Oxnard Shores that I used to run along.surface sand

When I went through a period of recurring stress fractures, my legs were particularly sensitive to running surfaces. I discovered that a hard-packed dirt surface that looked about as springy as concrete was noticeably easier on my injured leg than a sidewalk.

Because of my many injuries, I try to run on the softest surface possible. I no longer have a beach nearby, and since I live in the city, this means the best running surface I’m going to find is grass. Many of my routes involve running from one park to another, and I tread on the edge of lawns to get to them.

I often run on those grass strips between the sidewalk and the street. I appreciate the homeowner keeping the grass short because running in deep, thick grass can rival running in sand.surface grass

And with Spokane’s biggest race of the year, Bloomsday, coming up, I’m re-familiarizing myself with another surface that brings back memories of tough, punishing workouts.

surface at Shadle

Flowers and bees, coffee and dessert, running and vomiting

Though running and vomiting isn’t a strong pairing like flowers and bees, it used to be a problem for me. Maybe some readers have similar experiences.

Have you pushed yourself so hard that it caused you to throw up? It used to happen to me, and it lead to a personal policy I still hold onto – I don’t eat inside of three hours before I run. If I know I’m going to run hard, four or five hours is better.

When I was in high school, I once won our track team’s weekly athlete of the meet award because I qualified in the mile for the district competition at the all-city meet, threw up my school lunch in the upper corner of the grandstand, then qualified in the two-mile an hour later.

One summer while on a fast, early morning eight-miler, a buddy and I were pushing hard over the last half mile when I stopped and doubled over. Though I hadn’t eaten since dinner the day before, I had a serious case of the dry heaves.

It has been a long time since I’ve thrown up though. Perhaps my stomach is showing some maturity by not showing displeasure with a little physical distress.

My most regretful vomiting moment happened when I was a high school senior. The morning of the state cross-country championship meet, coach urged everyone to eat breakfast even though the race started at 10 am. I balked, but he told me to have something, suggesting some dry toast and orange juice. I didn’t want anything, but I followed his direction.

After finishing the race, I could tell the food was coming up, but I was in the finish chute, and you couldn’t leave. I was right in front of the packed grandstand, so I turned away. Standing next to the chute was our school’s cheerleading squad. I blew my cookies right in front of them.


Running dreams

Originally I wanted to title this post, Running Fantasies, but if you read the two previous posts, you know that the word fantasies sidetracked me, and the topic turned into sexual fantasies. I pledge that I’ll stay on track and keep smut off my blog.

There can be two types of running dreams – ones that you have while asleep, or thoughts of great accomplishments while awake.

I don’t have running dreams so much these days, but earlier in my career there was an unpleasant one I had repeatedly. In it, I was trying to run faster in a race, but the harder I tried, the more resistance I encountered. It was like running underwater. I felt very frustrated in the dream, and if I really made an effort to increase my pace, the opposite happened, and I slowed even more, as if the water changed into a fluid that was way thicker. This dream was real enough that in the middle of it, I was trying to discern whether I was dreaming or this was really happening.

Sometimes while on a run, I’ll fantasize that I’m in a race, and I’m at the front of the lead pack, or pulling away to win. I usually do this when I want to push a sustained fast pace or finish a training run hard. It seems to help and I like the small, but noticeable thrill of excitement I get thinking this way.

Here’s another fantasy that might make you chuckle:  When I was in high school, my early, minor successes at running made my head swell to the point that I thought I could accomplish anything. I told my mother that I would win the gold medal in the 800 meters at the Montreal Olympics. Of course, this fantasy didn’t come close to materializing, and fortunately I mentioned it to no one but my mother.

What dreams or fantasies of running have you had?

Running Fantasies (2nd try)

In my previous post, I tried to quell the misconception that the title inferred I’d be delving into sexual fantasies. Running fantasies and sexual fantasies are two completely different things.

However, my attempt to use an example to illustrate why it’d be a bad idea backfired. I got carried away and much of the post dealt with my fantasy about being in a room filled with pretty women and not having the forethought to wear even a stitch of clothing.

This writing strategy was a bad move on my part, and I apologize. I hope no reader got bent out of shape by this sick and disgusting account.

I’m determined not to repeat this mistake. This post is about running fantasies, and I won’t be delving into sexual abominations and smut.

I’m just glad I didn’t use an even worse example – a fantasy I have about living in an apartment complex and accidentally being caught getting dressed in the morning by a very attractive model, whose apartment has an unique viewing angle into my apartment.

Rather than being disgusted or offended, she seems delighted. And over the next few days, I catch her glancing in with an expression that asks if I’m going to do a repeat performance.

I oblige, and soon it becomes a morning ritual. I pretend she’s not looking, and she sits in just the right spot at her table, nonchalantly sipping coffee. I appreciate that she seems to enjoy the whole thing, and oh, what a thrill it is for me.

Then one morning a girlfriend of hers arrives just before the starting time and the following week two more show up. They squeeze in at the table in order to see and I can tell that they’re quite giddy. I’m thinking, whoo-hoo, oh boy, this thing is starting to grow. What a way to start the day! Thank-you neighbor for encouraging me and showing such divine attention.

Whoops. What have I done here? Not another egregious violation of my personal code? Well, at least you have a good example of what can’t be written on this blog.

Running Fantasies

Sexuality has become so linked with the word fantasies, that you probably thought this post was going to delve into sexual things.

Not so. Sexual fantasies are not an appropriate topic for this blog. Though I’m sure runners have sexual fantasies, this is not the place to explore them. It can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, shocking, and probably x-rated. Besides, I don’t have the skill set to deliver sexually-oriented material in a fun, delightful, and wholesome way.

And another thing – as you may have noticed in previous posts about the somewhat revelatory nature of my writing, I’d be writing about my sexual fantasies which would be inappropriate, and you probably wouldn’t take it well either. And it would take a long time because of the sheer number and the many important details.

For instance, there’s this one where I’m the only guy in a room full of pretty women. One thing leads to another and then boom, next thing you know….now, that’s as far as I can go. Even though the word boom covers up many important and exciting details, I’ve already gone too far. Also, there’s a fear of exposing yourself that leaves you vulnerable to ridicule or unpleasant consequences. That’s why I have to go with boom instead of writing that I’m the only non-clothed person in the room and things start happening from there. Wait….forget you just read that.

Let’s talk about kittens. They’re so cute. I could watch a litter of playful kittens all day long.

Gerry Lindgren’s making me rich

I was in the back seat of a car one day, and I saw a runner on the shoulder of Bigelow Gulch Road just outside Spokane. “Is that Gerry Lindgren?” I asked.

“Yes,” my parents replied. “That’s Gerry Lindgren.”

Gerry Lindgren, in the WSU uniform, leading an indoor race

Gerry Lindgren, in the WSU uniform, leading an indoor race

Though I remember the incident well, I was an elementary school student with no great interest in distance running, and I have no idea how I knew about Gerry Lindgren. Perhaps it’s what he did when he was an 18-year old high school senior.

The country’s top runners gathered at a meet to decide who’d be on the U.S. national track team. The top two runners in each running event would face Russia in the summer of 1964. Gerry finished ahead of more experienced, accomplished runners and was entered in the 10,000 meters.

In the midst of the Cold War and the on-going communism vs. capitalism rivalry, the annual US-USSR track meet occupied a big stage. It was the most important track and field event for the US other than the Olympics, and in the five previous years of the meet, no American had won the 10,000 meters. Of course, you can guess who won the race, and I imagine the resulting media coverage from that meet, and Gerry running in the Olympics a few months later reached a young boy who was just learning to read and watched black and white TV.

Gerry Lindgren winning the US vs. USSR 10,000 meters in the Los Angeles Coliseum

Gerry Lindgren winning the US vs. USSR 10,000 meters in the Los Angeles Coliseum

Though I’ve never met Gerry, I went to the same high school, graduating 11 years after him. His coach, Tracy Walters, was still on the faculty at Rogers High School and occasionally told us about the teams from that era and how many miles they ran. At one point Gerry ran 25 to 35 miles a day, seven days a week. I’ve read that he once put in 380 miles in one week.

In my early teens, before I took up running, I occasionally saw Gerry run past my house at the corner of Cincinnati and Central in Spokane. I yelled out, “Hi, Gerry”, because, you know, he was famous. My brother and I talked about how Gerry replied “Good morning” when it was always the afternoon when he ran past. I’ve since figured out why – with all the miles he ran, he likely had started his run at the crack of dawn.

Another time when I was in my mid-teens, I was watching the local news and the newscaster announced that a big-name celebrity had appeared at a fund-raiser. It was a local, small-time thing, and I knew there was no way someone from Hollywood had been enticed to come to Spokane. The only person it could be was Gerry Lindgren. Sure enough, it was him, but apparently to cast an aura of mystery, he was wearing a brown paper bag over his head. It didn’t seem odd at the time, but later I thought what a strange thing for the organizers to ask of their benevolent celebrity.

Is this Gerry Lindgren or me trying to recreate a long ago news broadcast?

Is this Gerry Lindgren or me trying to recreate a long ago news broadcast?

When I was in high school, I purchased a Runners World booklet about Gerry that has sat in my closet for many years. I decided to re-read it before writing this post.gerry booklet

Inside, I found Gerry’s autograph, and I have no idea how I got it. I’m completely mystified. As I mentioned before, I’ve never met Gerry, though we are Facebook friends.gerry autographI’m not an autograph collector, so I’ve decided to sell it to benefit charity. You’ll find it at a-bay.com. That’s a-bay, not eBay, which stands for autograph bay. All the other Gerry Lindgren autographs start in the five figures, but I’ve listed mine for the very attractive opening bid of $3000. All proceeds from the sale will benefit running programs on Spokane’s north side, generally located near Franklin Park with an emphasis on cape-wearing and runners whose first and last name begin with J.

Thank-you in advance for getting into a bidding war that will benefit this very deserving charity.

T-shirt super store

If you’re a runner, and you enter races regularly, you probably have a pile of t-shirts. I did an inventory count today, and I have 31 shirts.

Whenever I bring out my valuable collection, I have my attack cat, Gloopy, on guard.

Whenever I bring out my valuable collection, I have my attack cat, Gloopy, on guard.

Pictured below is my favorite one right now. I really like the long sleeve tees. Also, I’m working on a career change, hoping to break into the field of male modeling. Beside a nice-looking shirt, hopefully you’ll find my pose professional and fashion mag-worthy.tshirt favorite

I have a hard time getting rid of my shirts. I’ve thrown away a bunch that wore out, but with a sizeable inventory, they last a long time. My oldest one, pictured below, dates from high school. I won it because I ran lots of miles the summer before my senior year.tshirt rogers

I taught English in Japan in the late 80′s and early ’90′s and have one surviving shirt, shown below. Back then, the standard way to enter a race here in the U.S. was to send the entry form by mail with a check enclosed. In Japan, I was told only executives and the very rich had checking accounts. To enter a race you had to buy a money order-like thing at the post office that took a long time to processtshirt japan

After graduating from Washington State University, I got a job offer in southern California and did a bunch of road races. The below shirt is the only one left from that era. Many years later my daughter found it and wore it frequently when she was in high school. tshirt ventura

It’s a treat to get a sweatshirt for finishing a race, and I really got my money’s worth with the below one. It was my cool weather top for several years. I’ve been in a running outfit rut several times, but this one takes the cake.tshirt sweatshirt

I’m hoping the misprint on the below shirt will make it a valuable collector’s item in the future, and I’ll be able to retire on the money I get selling it to a museum. They kept the same design from the previous year’s race, but failed to attach the correct suffix to the 23.tshirt misprint

Even though I often take the no-shirt option when I sign up for races, sometimes there isn’t a no-shirt option. Other races have such nicely designed shirts that I can’t pass them up. Therefore, my collection continues to grow.

Choo-choo trains and snow bombs

College distance runners usually do as their coach says and work hard at team practices, except sometimes. Mischief happens now and then, especially in the off-season when there’s no meet coming up.

On a snowy, winter afternoon when I was on the track and cross-country team at Spokane Falls Community College, I talked my teammates into leaving the road we were running along to drop snow bombs on passing cars from a railroad bridge, pictured below, which passes over Greenwood Road, just off Government Way in Spokane. If you work in security or are an executive for Burlington Northern Railway, please stop reading this now.

RR bridge below

The snow was pretty fluffy, and we didn’t roll giant snowballs or pack it tightly- we dropped slightly larger than throwing size which we were confident wouldn’t cause any damage.

It was quite a drop from the bridge to the road below, so releasing our snow bombs at the right moment wasn’t as easy as it seemed. In addition, the road below wasn’t a busy one, so our opportunities were limited.

I studied so hard and long before practice that my eyesight was blurry and I couldn't make out the sign posted on the railing. If I had read, it I would've immediately abandoned my plan.

I studied so hard and long before practice that my eyesight was blurry, and I couldn’t make out the sign posted on the railing. If I had read it, I would’ve immediately abandoned my plan.

After several attempts, we started honing our skills and had a couple near-hits. Then, we got interrupted.

Because the bridge and the approach to it is on a curve with steep embankments, and our attention was firmly focused on dropping snow bombs, we failed to notice the train.

You’d think we’d hear the rumble and the loud drone of the diesel engines, but it wasn’t until it was nearly onto the bridge that we noticed it.

It was a very good thing that all of us just happened to be runners. We sprinted off the bridge and watched the train rumble past.

We failed to score a single hit with our snow bombs, and after the train moment, we no longer had an appetite for more tries. We made our way down to the road and resumed our run.

My first race

I started a running career at John Rogers High School in Spokane, pictured below. I was a baseball player before that, but in my freshman season, I tore up league pitching with a batting average of just over .200. I had a goal of getting a college athletic scholarship, and it wasn’t looking like baseball would do it for me.Rogers hs2

Photo by Colin Mulvany, Spokesman-Review

The few times I was in a distance race in P.E. or racing other kids informally, I did pretty well. So I decided to give distance running a shot by turning out for track my sophomore year.

After two or three weeks of track practices, coach entered me in the mile in our first match, a practice meet against East Valley High School. At the starting line were two experienced EV runners, our team’s top runner – a senior, and myself. A newbie in a field of four left me scared and nervous enough that if anyone tried talking to me, my quivering lips would’ve reduced whatever words I could utter to gibberish.

At the last moment I got a gift of company. A fellow sophomore teammate got put into the race. Normally a quarter-miler, I knew he was no threat to win. I’d have someone to run with.

The race started fast and I stayed with the pack. However, the quarter-miler dropped out before finishing the first lap. I instantly felt dread.

I finished last, however I stayed close most of the race. My senior teammate eventually pulled away, finishing in first, twelve seconds ahead of me. I ran a 5:01, and my times got faster with each race.

Because of our team’s schedule, I only ran three days a week, and my weekly mileage totals were very low. But our interval training was tough, and to this day, I have unpleasant memories of workouts that were especially painful.