Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowstorm, what snowstorm?

Like it has been all December, Christmas Eve morning is chock full of snow.

The fluffy white stuff has been falling all night, accumulating enough to keep snow plows busy and holiday travelers driving cautiously.

Undoubtedly, the holidays can be a stressful time of year. There's presents to buy, decorations to hang, and family gatherings to plan. For the already-stressed-out holiday consumer, bad weather only adds to the stress like snow piling up on a sidewalk.

But I've always felt that the holiday season, and life in general, are better enjoyed when you don't let the stress get to you. Sometimes, that means taking a break from your routine to collect yourself. Other times, it means making the best out of a tough situation.

For me, on Christmas Eve morning, it meant taking a break from packing for my holiday travels, lacing up my running shoes and going for a run.

Some people think it's crazy that I enjoy running outside in the winter so much. But during a holiday season snowstorm, it really doesn't get any better.

The freshly fallen snow gives the landscape a picturesque look and Christmas decorations dot the scenery in residential areas. You have to deal with the occasional unshoveled sidewalk and inconsiderate motorist. But hey, it beats worrying about the weather, doesn't it?

I wasn't the only one making the most out the weather. Several other runners could be seen out and about (met with a hearty "Merry Christmas!" from myself) and the Sibley Park hill was littered with anxious sledders. The occasional snowman/snow fort construction could also be spotted.

Overall, the run was a fairly nominal part of my day. Just 40 minutes of light jogging that could've (and probably should've) been spent packing or driving up to my parents house. But it was 40 minutes well-spent. The stresses of the holiday fell by the wayside and weather some would view as ominous became enjoyable.

Happy holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wintertime biking: It's not for me

As much as I love biking, I've never been big on it during the wintertime months.

I know plenty of people that do it year-round. I can also recall a story in the Free Press last year about a man who biked to work everyday, even when conditions outside drifted into sub-Arctic range. There's nothing I enjoy more than craziness on a bike, but when it comes to winter, I'd rather fall back on my car.

It's not so much a product of laziness as it is a fear for safety. My bike is a vintage (aka old) road bike with thin tires that handle bumpy, icy roads about as well as a dilapidated pair of rollerblades. Add in the fact that bike trails aren't plowed often, and that motorists have a slower reaction time to cyclists due to ice, and wintertime biking sounds more dangerous than it does fun.

I was reminded of this notion just last night, when a desire to get to the YMCA for a quick workout prompted me to take a chance on two wheels. My car was being used at the time by my girlfriend (her's is currently out of commission thanks to an icy road and an unforgiving curb) and I thought walking the eight blocks or so to the gym would take too long.

I barely even get out of my apartment's parking lot before being reminded of why I hate biking in the winter: My bike hit an unseen patch of ice on the sidewalk, swerved sharply and sent me toppling over into a snow bank. "This was a bad idea," I told myself as I picked my bike up off the curb.

The rest of the ride didn't feature any more embarrassing falls, but it was nerve-racking nonetheless. My tires spun out on numerous occasions, I biked at a deliberate pace to avoid ice and I had to bike in the middle of the road for most of the way because most sidewalks weren't shoveled. I kept yelling "Sorry!" at every car that had to swerve around me, even though they probably had less-than-kind words to say about me.

By the time I got to the Y, my hands were frozen, my feet were wet from snow and my desire to work out was replaced by a longing for my car. I probably got there faster than I would have walking, but it wasn't THAT much faster. Not surprisingly, the bike rack at the Y was bare beyond my two-wheeled companion. "Yeah, everyone else was smart and drove here," I told myself.

When I got back to my apartment, I chained my bike up and vowed not to take it out until the snow started to melt. More power to the people that can brace the winter elements on their bike, but it's not for me.

Blog update: I now have my personal best racing times listed on the right-hand side of my blog. This isn't because I think the times are impressive (believe me, I'm nothing special), but rather because it gives other avid runners a basis for comparison.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some exercise for the mind

Quick entry this time. Here is a link that was e-mailed to me by a reader. The title of the page is "40 Exhilarating Reads for Runners," so it's pretty much a guarantee that I would check it out for ideas.

The website certainly doesn't discriminate for book suggestions. They vary from how-to training guides to personal biographies to general novels about running. In other words, there's something for all running junkies to get absorbed in this winter.

Since I've only read a couple of the books on the website (actually kind of embarrassed about that), I can't really give a short synopsis of each book. However, since I'm a fan of renting books over buying them, here's a list of the books on the website that are available at the libraries in Mankato/North Mankato (includes checked-out books):

1. "Born to run : the hidden tribe, the ultra-runners, and the greatest race the world has never seen" by Christopher McDougall (available at Blue Earth County Library)

2. "Duel in the sun : Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's greatest marathon" by John Brant (available at Taylor Library)

3. "The perfect mile : three athletes, one goal, and less than four minutes to achieve it" by Neal Bascomb (available at Taylor Library)

4. "Once a runner" by John Parker (available at both Taylor and BEC)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A website for all those race results junkies out there

Here is a like to a website called that I found during a Google search frenzy one night. I wish I could explain more indepthly as to how I came across it, but trust me, it was a completely random find.

It's basically a website where you can search the results of more than 180,000 races worldwide. The site has road races, trail runs, triathlons and duathlons dating back to the 1980's on it, including last month's inaugural Mankaot Marathon.

The unique aspect of Athlinks over other result websites like Apple Raceberry Jam and Pickle Events? Instead of searching by races, you can search by names.

By looking up your name on Athlinks, you can see the results of every race you've ever ran and have them all on one page. Instead of having to search countless websites to refresh your memory on how you did on that one 5k race way back when, you can find it on Athlinks (and just about every other race you've ran, for that matter).

Athlinks visitors also have the option of becoming a "member" of the site for free. With the membership comes the freedom to create an online profile, communicate with other members and submit race results that aren't already posted on the website. However, this is not required in order to search for names and results.

The website is not without its flaws. If you search for a common name, you may come up with a bunch of race results that don't belong to that person. There's also the possibility that it simply doesn't have the race results you're looking for (it's definitely missing a few of mine).

Despite its drawbacks, Athlinks is still a pretty cool find for people who spend more time on results websites than they care to admit. Considering I still remember regatta results from my collegiate rowing days, I definitely fit into that category.