Friday, March 26, 2010

Who Dat?

Yesterday’s weather was spring-like, at least in the morning. To celebrate the fair conditions, I headed out for a seven mile trail run in the nature preserve. This was my longest run since the Philadelphia Marathon back in November and I’m happy to say the legs held up fine despite the fact that I did the whole thing in my minimalist Nike Free shoes. Many of the paths in the preserve are multi-use, the second use being horseback riding, so the run involved leaping over a not inconsiderable number of foreign objects on the trails, if you know what I mean.

I was going to skip my customary spring ½ marathon this year, but I felt so good yesterday that I’m reconsidering an invitation I got from some ex-coworkers to run the Long Branch ½ down on the Jersey Shore the first week-end in May. I think I can pull it off if I can squeeze in a couple of 10 milers between now and then.

Sunday the family and I leave for a trip to New Orleans so maybe I can get in a longish run in the Garden District in-between stuffing my face with beignets and gumbo. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I’m pretty excited to be going back to the City with the most original cuisine in the States. It’s hard to get a bad meal in that City. I printed up a lot of suggestions from the message boards on and I have a couple of local favorites I want to re-visit (e.g. Mr. Bs). Hopefully I can balance the eating with the running so I don’t gain too much weight, but hey, it’s vacation and shit happens.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trouble Down Under

Ok, I guess the type of danger one confronts while running depends on where you live. New York, it's traffic. Alaska, it's wolves. Australia? Apparently kangaroos.

I always wondered whether Australia’s  "Boxing Kangaroo" mascot was for real or whether it was a bit of hyperbolic anthropomorphism. At least one unlucky runner from down under, 25 year-old David Striegl (pic at left), found out first-hand. Striegl was out running when he was attacked by a rogue kangaroo last Thursday. During his run he was knocked cold after the 'roo sucker-punched him in the face. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he remembers little about the unprovoked attack.

Striegl, who works in a corporate real estate office, was found by a passing motorist who took the dazed and bloody victim to a hospital.  His only injury seemed to be some cuts and bruises, a black eye and a wounded ego. The latter no doubt due to his colleagues at work making fun of his misfortune by giving him a new nickname – “Skippy”. Those crazy Aussies!

Skippy said he wouldn’t have thrown a punch back even if he had the chance because of the ‘roo’s status as a national symbol, and he has no hard feelings against kangaroos. Aww.

Like the Alaska wolf attack,  it appears that the act of running set off the animal. Australian vet Michael Archinald says that is not surprising:

"They get very territorial at certain times of the year as well, they're protecting their flock," he said. "They get very antsy and of course this guy would have been running and that's quite a threatening thing to a roo and the roo is like, fight or flight, so in it goes."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring in my Step

Ah, springtime. Yesterday I hit the trails in the nature preserve near my house and had a wonderful time romping through muddy bogs and leaping over twisted tree roots. I’ve been waiting to do that run since the fall, but yesterday was the first time the weather cooperated. Running on trails with no marked distances is no trouble if you have a wrist-mounted GPS, as I do. My Garmin 305 faithfully marked off the miles as I picked trails at random and ran through fields of blooming Crocus. Of all the technology I’ve purchased over the years that little Garmin has given me the most bang for the buck. I take it every time I have to travel for work, which is to say, quite often. It takes all the guesswork out of measuring the distance of a run and has allowed me to explore new cities without worrying about staying glued to a marked trail. If only they’d make one a little more stylish.

The weather is supposed to stay warm and dry through the week-end and I’m looking forward to a few more trail miles. Happy Spring everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Tales From the WTF Files

Currently on my short-list of places not to go running without a large caliber handgun is the seemingly peaceful town of Chignik Lake Alaska, population 105. While getting hit in the back of the head by a silent airplane is a crappy and completely unexpected way to be killed while running, it cannot compare with the horror of being torn apart by wild animals, a fate that met poor Candice Berner this past Monday. Berner went out for a run on a footpath near her home in Chignik on Monday, and was apparently attacked and partially eaten by wolves. 

Berner, a remedial teacher who had moved to Alaska from Pennsylvania last August, (I wonder if she ever ran the Philadelphia Marathon…), was killed as she was running on a deserted road near town. An autopsy confirmed that she had been stalked and taken down by a pack of wolves, which dragged her off the road. Her partially eaten body was discovered by snowmobilers who followed a trail of blood in the snow.

“The damage to the throat was severe,” said Colonel Audie Holloway of the Alaska state troopers. “Wolves, just like big cats, usually attack the windpipe area and try to control the victim that way.”

Unfortunately, it seems that it was running itself which actually triggered the attack. “The whole running thing is something that can elicit a predatory attack,” said Mark McNay, a retired wildlife biologist. “It suggests vulnerability.”

For those of you doing the “running thing” in remote areas known to be frequented by hungry wildlife, please be careful. I remember trail running in California a few years back, in an area known for Mountain Lion activity, and the entire time I was out there I had a terrible feeling that I was being watched. In fact, I was so nervous that when a grey squirrel burst out of the bushes and ran onto the trail in front of me I almost crapped in my shorts.

My deepest condolences to Berner's family and friends. Here in the congested metropolitan area we have to deal with many inconveniences while running, but at least we can be reasonable sure that an animal attack isn’t one of them. Anyway, I hope this is the last entry from the WTF files for a while.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From the WTF Files

Running can be a dangerous sport. Runners generally do their work-outs faithfully, in all kinds of weather, on the roads and trails, in the pitch black of night and in the subdued light of dusk and dawn. Traffic is our worst enemy, with most drivers so intent on texting and talking on the phone that they never even notice the poor little runner toiling away in the breakdown lane until he ends up as roadkill, stuck to the rear wheel of their Cadillac Escalades.

I don’t know about you, but when I go on vacation to somewhere warm, one of my favorite activities is to head to the beach and run on the hard, packed sand right near the water’s edge. With the sound of the ocean and the light sea breezes I feel like I can run forever. Sometimes when I feel like a little music, I’ll plug in my ipod and head out for an hour or two. I can let my mind wander, because, after all, there isn’t any traffic on the beach. The worst thing that could happen by not paying attention is getting my Saucony’s drenched by a rogue wave, right? Apparently wrong.

I came across this on the AP wire today: “A 38-year-old father of two was jogging and listening to his iPod when he was hit from behind and killed by a small plane making an emergency landing on the beach, officials said Tuesday.

Robert Gary Jones of Woodstock, Ga., died instantly Monday evening when he was hit by the single-engine plane, which had lost its propeller, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen. The pilot's vision was blocked by oil on the windshield.

Jones apparently did not see or hear the plane, which was "basically gliding," the coroner said.”
Runners beware. Rogue planes are the latest in a long list of challenges we have to confront when engaging in our sport. I really don’t know what to say about this. What incredibly bad luck.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update II

Man, I’ve been down and out lately. Last week-end I was struck by a stomach flu that had me off the roads for a few days. Moreover, due to a nagging shoulder injury I’ve been compelled to cut out the weight lifting. This past week I finally feel back on my game and have been getting in some good runs on the treadmill and even a few outside in the slush. Despite the fact that the recent storm left Long Island with over a foot of fresh snow, I can tell that Spring is in the air. My walk to the train station in the morning is now much safer, owing to the benefit of ever increasing natural light, and I even hear some very confused birds chirping away in their igloo nests high in the fir pines. I’m hoping to get the seeds planted this week-end. I think once the snow melts, which it hasn’t since December, the reality of warmer weather’s incremental approach will start to sink in.