Tag Archives: trail running

Paine to Pain 2017 Race Report

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Nearly two weeks ago I completed the Paine to Pain trail half-marathon, my second official half-marathon. It wasn’t that much different from last year except that I didn’t juggle this time and it was warmer and it rained a little. Obviously, not juggling is part of the reason I completed the race in 1:50, 11 minutes faster than last year. However, I did juggle while training, and even did a little joggling while warming up before the race. It seems not juggling during this race disappointed some spectators who had expected me to juggle.

I really love this race. It’s so steeped in history and celebrates Thomas Paine, one of the few Founding Fathers strongly opposed to slavery, among other progressive stances. This was the 10th anniversary of the race, it has become something of a New Rochelle tradition.

So why didn’t I juggle this time? I was concerned about having a mishap on the narrow, rocky trail, but I also wanted to see how much faster I would be without juggling. Though I didn’t fall last year, I did drop the balls 4 times and came close to spraining my ankle. This year I did trip a few times but didn’t fall to the ground since I quickly regained my footing.

The race started at 9, but since most of this race takes place on a rocky, narrow trail there are different waves that start at different times. I was in wave 3. Much of mile 1 was on the street, but once you’re on the trail it is wickedly rocky and hilly. I took it easy for the first few miles, but after this started passing a lot of runners whenever the trail allowed for it.

Even when I’m not joggling, I’m joggling: My arms still automatically make a juggling motion while running because they’re so used to juggling while running. This is hardly a problem and fortunately nothing trains you to have perfect running form more than joggling. For this reason, adding joggling to your training regimen may prove beneficial even if you don’t plan on doing it at races. I’m not sure if all the unicycling I do helps with form or balance while running, but it probably helps push my cardiovascular fitness to the max without having to worry about a running overuse injury.

Several miles in, the crowd of runners thins out and I started picking up the pace. This big, rocky hill in Saxon woods slowed me down a little, but I continued to pass more runners. In some parts of the woods the summer greenery is holding out, but in others the dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn are working their magic.

Midway in I felt terrific. I was wet both from my sweat and from the drizzle, and I was still getting faster. Approaching Twin Lakes I was in very familiar territory, I could almost run it blindfolded. Then next thing we know, the finish line is only 2 miles away, and I grab my last cup of water from the aid station. I went all out until the end. My fastest mile was mile 12, a 6:56/mile pace; although my legs felt strong and I felt great otherwise, I felt a little nauseous running so fast. Average pace for the entire race was 8:13/mile.

It felt a little awkward crossing that finish line without juggling but what a glorious feeling it was. My recovery is going well so far. Representing Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

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Running and the Environment

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This terrific article, Roger on Running: Running for the Environment, from Runner’s World perfectly encapsulates my thinking about how runners tend to have an intimate connection with the natural environment, and this is why we generally tend to be more supportive of environmentalism. Indeed, if running can be said to be our “religion”, our favorite forest is like our “church”. According to the article:

In the original story of Pheidippides, the big moment comes when the running messenger meets Pan, the goat-footed Nature god, who asks him to tell the city people of Greece that they have been negligent in their worship. So it was a runner who made contact between wild nature and human civilisation, a runner who reminded humans of their responsibilities toward the natural environment. I want to celebrate some 21st century running events that do the same.

It isn’t just the beauty, and quiet of the forest that draws us in. We relish fresh air, and no one needs this more than endurance athletes. This is why deforestation pains us so; trees are natural air purifiers, taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen, besides providing food and shelter for animals.

To me, running through a forest is one of the best ways to commune with and experience nature. The sound and feel of the wind, the sweet music of a stream, birds chirping, animals scurrying off as you run by, and last but not least, the pungent aroma of life and decay in the forest. And let’s not forget the thousands upon thousands of hues of green, brown, yellow, red, purple, and everything in between! Nothing beats running through the woods, nothing is more invigorating, even when I get lost.

To lose it all to greed is a disgrace. It isn’t just runners or hikers who benefit from forests and the natural world. Air pollution is said to kill about 7 million people a year around the world(it’s too bad no one records how many animals it kills). Rapid industrial development, overpopulation, destruction of forests, and above all, over-dependence on automobiles are the main causes of outdoor air pollution.

Realizing that one of the main drivers of deforestation is agriculture, especially for growing animal feed to produce meat is one of the main reasons I went vegan. A vegan diet uses land and resources much more efficiently – How your diet could change the world.

I don’t know about you, but I feel reborn after a day in the wilderness. If you are interested in doing more for the environment: Ways Runners Can Be More Green and Protect the Environment

Stick to outdoor exercise to stay in shape

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As much as I love staying in shape, I have little use for gyms. In fact, I have never been a member of a gym. I am even trying to think of the last time I set foot in one with a friend or relative who was a member. I can’t remember.

While gyms can be useful for some people, especially if you need a lot of help and encouragement from a qualified fitness trainer, or like to accurately keep track of how you’re doing with machines, my idea of fitness has always been about outdoor adventure. Very long hikes, running through the woods, climbing steep hills or trees is my idea of fitness. I just don’t think I would be as fit if I were to use treadmills or most other fitness machines.

Without the fresh air, the sun, the elements, the mud, the animals, the unexpected, it just doesn’t feel right to me. Hence, the “wild” in “Wild Juggler”. One of the main purposes of this site is to encourage people to get fit by going into the wild. I hope my blog has been a valuable resource in this regard. Another excellent resource on outdoor fitness is the Outsidehealthandfitness site, run by Steve Stearns. When it comes to outdoor fitness, he does it all!

Whether it is hiking, cycling, skiing, or trail running, his site has some great advice for newbies and seasoned outdoor athletes. His approach to fitness is so similar to my own, though it doesn’t emphasize juggling(it doesn’t exclude it either). I highly recommend his site. He often does product reviews and has an interesting podcast.

It may not just be me, or Steve Stearns, who think outdoor exercise is better; science itself has shown some preliminary support for this idea. According to PenCLAHRC, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, in the study Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review:

This review has shown some promising effects on self-reported mental wellbeing immediately following exercise in nature which are not seen following the same exercise indoors.

This is so not surprising to me. So when in doubt, get out! You don’t need a gym membership to stay in shape. And if you don’t have a park or woods near you, go out anyway, practice Parkour if you can.

If you are in the northern northern hemisphere, the weather is no longer an excuse(not that it ever was a good excuse).

Joggling through the snow and the mind

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Snow is endlessly tricky for joggling. Every few feet its texture changes. It occasionally conceals ice or puddles underneath. How many times my feet have gotten wet and cold as a result!

How the snow cloaks the earth, how it masterfully conceals. You try to master it, yet in the end it always wins, balls get dropped, feet get wet, or a body part is injured. As tricky as a snowy forest is, it still pales in comparison to the cloaks all humans wear. As tricky as joggling in the snow is, figuring out humans is far more challenging. Snowy terrain is easy. Navigating the icy terrain of the human mind is something else entirely.

What is real and what is illusion? Our senses aren’t always reliable. We are so easy to fool, and we fool ourselves better than anyone else can. Who can we trust, when we sometimes can’t even trust ourselves?

Wait, so that is a small tree ahead and not a person? I thought that was a shrub in the distance, and not a dog. How was I to know this snow concealed a small pond? If only it were always so easy.

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