Friday, October 04, 2013

Good luck, bad luck, switching things up

Running wise 2013 has been a strange year.  At first, early in the year, I felt all the luck in the world was on my side with an incredible line up of summer racing to train for- Western, Hardrock, UTMB.  Then I got sick- blah, blah, blah- and *boom* all of a sudden I was 0-3 on list of planned 100 mile races.  Fast forward to now and Grindstone was my plan.  I'm fired up and ready to run and *pow* Grindstone is postponed, thanks to the Government shutdown.  If our elected officials somehow manage to come together and re-open Government by next Wednesday evening we will still have a Grindstone event next weekend.  (Fingers crossed!)  Otherwise, it's bye-bye Grindstone for 2013, and I'll be 0-4.  Fast forward to November and as it turns out Pinhoti is a no-go for me this year unfortunately.  0-5.

What luck...  Come this time next month I won't even have a qualifier under my belt for the Western States lottery.  What to do... What to do...

If Grindstone doesn't happen next weekend there is always Hot TWOT.  One loop, two loops, three loops, four.  Pick your poison.  27 miles, 54, 81 or 108.  For me, it would be either all or next to nothing.  So, either one really fast loop or four not-so-fast loops.  The silver lining on the year is that Gaby and I are both registered for The North Face 50 in San Francisco in December so getting the legs turning over this fall is a must.  The opportunity to run Grindstone next weekend would still trump everything, of course.  In lieu of that, should it be four TWOT loops or only one?  One loop is an easy recovery, then it would be off to the road and track to find some speed.  Four loops might help solidify my name in the annals of [crazy] Virginia ultra running lore, but it would definitely require a bit of recovery, taking much needed time away from speed work.  What to do... What to do...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Tying up loose ends

When returning to running a few months back my two primary goals were to run care and worry free as much as possible- free from life, from work, from CMV- and get my ass back in 100 mile condition as quickly and as smartly as possible.  Thus far I have succeeded in reaching these goals I’m proud to say.  Each day I feel stronger and lighter.  Each day my legs feel ready to run.  Each day I run free and without worry.  Better still, each day the weather is turning cooler now that we’re into September and the final days are counting down to what seems like my first race in pretty much a year where I will show up with enthusiasm and a high confidence level in both my physical and mental fitness.  Grindstone is less than four weeks away.

There are a few loose ends still I intend to tighten up prior to Grindstone, in terms of my training.  A long night run being one of them.  Some really fast, long, downhill running being another.  One loose end that has been on my mind for a while has been clocking a decent time at running The Wild Oak Trail (TWOT) in western Virginia in Augusta County, near the West Virginia border.  TWOT, a rocky, technical, rugged, partially over-grown-in-the-summer 27 mile, 7,500 ft-ish loop located west of Charlottesville, on the other side of the Shenandoah Valley, a 70 minute drive from home.

TWOT is one of the local trails made famous for running by Dennis Herr and the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) and the many events and training runs that the Club hosts on the trail and in the general area throughout the year.  TWOT also happens to take up a portion of the Grindstone course, including the notorious climb up Little Bald at mile 37, as well as the quad-trashing decent down Little Bald at mile 59.
This past week was my birthday.  On September 5th I turned 37 years old.  As a present to myself and to celebrate the occasion I awoke at 0’dark-thrity and drove to the TWOT trailhead.  The plan was to run the loop hard, surrender myself to the dirt, the rocks, the climbs, the overgrowth, run with no cares and let the mountains tell me if I were in shape or not and ready for Grindstone.  I ended up running the loop in an elapsed time of 4:21:19.

For those who know the trail and who might care here is a link to my GPS data and below are my splits:

-1:13:17 – from the TWOT parking lot trailhead sign, counterclockwise on TWOT, up Little Bald to the summit sign post at the trail intersection.
-23:28 - the road crossing at Camp Todd on other side of the North River.  I waded the river, by the way.  No bridge crossing for me.
-1:00:20 - FDR96 road crossing after Big Bald descent and before Hankey Mountain ascent.
-23:18 – Hankey summit sign at the trail intersection.
-1:20:45 - Finish at TWOT parking lot trailhead board.
The climb up Little Bald is a classic.  6.7 miles of rock-strewn, single track ribbon coursing a ridgeline 3,200 feet up (with 550 feet down) to the summit.  It’s not that the climb is so big, it’s just that on the ascent one is rewarded with endless mountain views of one of the largest wilderness tracts on the east coast sans roads.  Basically, it’s a good place to run in the wild with big climbs if that’s your thing.
1:13 to the summit sign from the parking lot trailhead board is strong not but it’s not great.  Great would be sub 1:10.  But I’ve never known anyone to run under 1:10.  Then again, I don’t know of anyone who has run under 1:13 either.  Though I’m sure some have.  Sub 1:05 would be sick.  Sub 1:00 is never going to happen.  Not because it isn’t humanly possibly but because anyone who I think could actually do it has no reason to come and give it a go.  They’re too busy getting paid for their running.
The summit of Big Bald was overgrown as I expected.  I didn’t get too beat up fortunately even though I ran shirtless but my left eye did get poked by a branch.  While attempting to bomb the descent my eye teared up like crazy.  I could barely see out of it as I constantly whipped away a river of tears.
I ran with one bottle and filled up first at the stream at the base of Big Bald after crossing North River and the dirt road.  The second and only other time I filled up was on the backside of Big Bald at the stream located by the trail next to the two car-sized earth water traps.  At the second fill up I guzzled nearly two bottles since I had 11 miles to go several of which would be exposed under a warm sun atop Hankey Mountain.  The last few miles of trail after turning off the jeep road on Hankey Mountain were make or break for me.  I kept my foot on the gas while descending the last section of rocks mixed in with trail before crossing the North River for the second and final time, this time on a suspension bridge.  Along this section I hammered so hard my vision went a bit blurry.  The 4:22 FKT cut off time was just oh so tight.  As I crossed the bridge I looked at my watch and it read 4:17:xx.  Damn it!  I was terrified that I wouldn’t make it under 4:22- Dave Frazier’s TWOT FKT from two years back.  I’d run hard and was disappointed (to say the least...) that my effort might not be good enough.  Still, I continued running hard.  Believing.  I banged the final right-hand turn off the trail and pounded the 200 hundred yards of pavement.  That’s when I realized I would actually finish under 4:22 after all.  I sprinted into the parking lot, tapped the trailhead sign board and stopped my watch.
As mentioned, Dave Frazier’s TWOT FKT was 4:22:xx. Mike Morton’s previous FKT from several years prior to that was 4:23:xx.  Both very fast times indeed.  Funny thing, Dave would lower Mike’s time by a minute, then I would come along and lower Dave's time by only a minute as well.
I admit, I envied Dave’s time ever since I learned of it and thought that I might like to get to know TWOT.  Perhaps Dave felt the same way of Mike’s previous time which must be the reason why he decided to run a fast loop in the first place.  Well, that plus Dennis Herr pushing him.  Perhaps Dave or someone else will be inspired by my recent run and work to lower the TWOT standard all over again.  In fact, to Dave or anyone who might consider it I envy you as well.  It is exciting to have energizing running goals to work towards.  However big or small they can be life changing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

NY Times article: Doping in Track & Field

In case you missed it:

Alarming article.  The percentage of suspected elite Track and Field dopers is staggering.

I am sad to say it is likely only a matter of time before we read articles like this about trail/ultra running.  Seems no sport is immune to the pressure of getting ahead (or keeping up) by the use of PEDs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back in action

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog.  I’ve missed communicating little bits and pieces of running adventures, thoughts and news with readers.  Now that I’ve been running consistently again for a while and feeling like my old self it’s time to bang on the keyboard and open my mind to this blog once more.

Regarding my objectionable experience with CMV, for which I take full responsibility in bringing down upon myself by not getting enough rest, I would like to say how awful, awkward and confusing it was being a victim of this virus.  The mysterious, inconsistent symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, apathy, anxiety, fluctuations in motivation, etc., shook my confidence and made me wonder if I might ever again return to a high level of fitness or even if I wanted to put in the work once I was healthy to get back to such a level.   It was as if the loss of motivation somehow converted to apathy and the apathy made me question future desire.  Mostly I attempted to tune the whole thing out and instead focus on my family, work and sleeping more each night.  Even though deep down I was anxious to get back into the swing of things running wise.

A CMV diagnosis can only be confirmed with blood results.  Once diagnosed complete rest is the only prescription for healthy adults.  Cross training or much physical activity of any sort is a definite no-no.  Nor with having CMV are there any follow-the-pain guidelines back to health once the symptoms begin to dissipate.  Follow up blood work is the only way for one to know if they are cleared from the virus manifestation.

Fortunately in my case I decided to seek a diagnosis in the first place, to find out what on earth was going on with me (before I ever knew that CMV existed) and not train through the symptoms so I could toe the line at Western States, Hardrock and UTMB.  Who knows how deep that rabbit hole would have lead had I continued training?  If I didn’t eventually begin to suffer from additional symptoms or cause potential harm to myself then certainly in the very least my head game for competition and possibly running in general might have all but vanished.  I would like to think not but I suppose it could have happened.
It was a happy day in late May when I found out from Dr. Wilder in Charlottesville that my liver functions and white blood cell count were back to normal (a sign of a healthy immune system) and I had no more signs of CMV infection.  In June I began running but more or less sputtered along slowly and inconsistently and at times worried that I might be relapsing with CMV, which turned out to be nothing more than an anxiety hangover about getting back to running in the first place.  Towards the end of June I tripped on a road run and banged my knee; causing a (self-diagnosed) contusion.  The pain was a bit too much to run on so I took even more time off.  In the end I decided the additional time off was probably a good thing.  The big three races were out anyway at that point and figured I may as return to running when I felt good and I knew my health was 100%.  So instead of focusing on running I spent several weeks gardening and planting trees in our yard.   It was good cross training anyway and the results (I hope) will satisfy my family and neighbors for years to come.
It wasn’t until the second week of July when I truly felt ready to come back and began running every day.  Day by day my runs grew longer and my body began to feel stronger.  Since then I’ve been feeling like my old self: motivated, energetic, optimistic, hungry.  Two-a-days a few times per week became my staple, including a few barefoot runs per week on the track under a vanishing sun in the warm evening hours.  I began nailing a few fast-paced workouts as well.  Eventually I found my down hills legs during a few VHTRC fast ass runs in the mountains in Virginia.  And now, now that we’re in Vail, Colorado enjoying the remaining blissful, cool-temperature, sunshine-filled weeks of summer high in the Rockies, I’m finding my climbing legs (and lungs).  Things are coming together.  I couldn’t be happier.
As bizarre as it was coming down with CMV and dealing with all of that it is just as interesting coming back into fitness and relocating and recalibrating my identity as a runner.  As I regain form and confidence I try not to compare my current self to how I was, in terms of fitness, last year or years prior.  The first half of last year I was in good form- probably the best ever for me in general terms.  Currently, I’m still getting there.  It’s not fair or wise to expect that fitness will simply come back quickly now that I’m healthy.  I realize even with a good base, the years of miles my legs have under them, I still must put in the work.  Fortunately, training and working is something I enjoy; for being able to work is a privilege.
The fact is I’m not the same runner as last year.  I’m not a slower or weaker or more cautious runner.  I’d like to think I’m a smarter, more proud runner, and I believe my best running days have yet to come.  Bouncing back from CMV feeling motivated, hungry and as strong and light as I do has taught me many things.  So has being a Dad.  My little boy, Trail, turns one year old in a few weeks and in addition to my renewed status as a happy-go-lucky, carefree runner I’m a proud papa.
My racing calendar for the remainder of 2013 will basically be a replay of last fall and include running Grindstone and Pinhoti.  I would like to run Hellgate as well in December.  Sure, it stinks to have missed out on Western and UTMB but deep down low-key, mom-and-pop races like these, where I know people who I look up to, are truly what inspire me.  Hopefully in November at Pinhoti I’ll punch another ticket back to Western in 2014.  That's the plan.
At the Leadville finish.  BIG M, little m, what begins with M?  Mountain Man in the Making.  M...m...M.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Running with Cytomegalovirus

The obsessive side of my personality construct is something I consider a strength.  When I want something or feel like I need something I work towards getting it.  It doesn’t matter much what it is, if I want it badly enough generally I’ll do whatever I can within my power to make it happen.  Work, work, work.  That’s usually all it takes.  For me, putting in the work is not a problem.  Often the fallout for my obsessive, workaholic tendencies comes in the form of getting less sleep or missing out on social events with family or friends, but such is life.  We all choose to make sacrifices in one form or another.  My Mom, one who is no stranger to keeping herself busy, says she will sleep when she is dead.  As her progeny, I’ve mostly adopted this motto as my own, for better or worse.
Something else I consider a strength which dovetails with my restless nature and seeming inability to relax- a definite weakness- is the bottomless energy well from which I draw to complete tasks.  Go, go, go.  That’s what I do.  I like it that way.  I don’t know where this energy comes from, it’s just there.  It always has been.  Now, at 36 years of age I’m wondering how much in reserves my energy well contains and for how many more years from it I will be able to make liberal withdrawals.  Decades I hope.  What actually got me thinking of this is my recent bout with injury.  I have Cytomegalovirus (CMV).  For some having CMV might be a condition.  For me CMV is an injury because it has kept me on the sideline.
Last winter there were many wonderful things going on in the Gorman household.  Our son, Trail, the most wonderful, who is a beam of light shinning upon my life in an area that I never realized before was shrouded in complete darkness, had yet to begin sleeping through the night on his own.  During the winter months is when Gaby and I began “sleep training” him.  For the uninitiated, sleep training is what new parents attempt by coaching their little ones to sleep through the night, on their own, without Mommy nearby and usually unswaddled.  The process can often be tough on parents, possibly even tougher on the parents than on the little ones, as the sleep training parent(s) is awake much of the nights.  Sleep training Trail this past winter was my job.  Gaby did enough.  During the training, which in reality didn’t take that long, when Trail was up so was I but even when he wasn’t up I often was anyway.  I’m not a nap taker either.  I couldn’t take a nap if I tried.  The cumulative nights of lacking in sleep added up.
Santa was good to me in December also and over the winter I began sleeping in a Hypoxico altitude tent.  When sleeping in an altitude tent it is better to up the altitude bit by bit over a few weeks or months because the quality in one’s sleep is lacking during the initial stages.  However, each night, late, I crawled into our tent set straight away at 6,000 feet.  Looking back, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do.  At least for me.  Compound the sleep training and altitude tent with the myriad house projects I tasked myself with, a busy work schedule and about 60 to 75 mile base building weekly miles I was running at the time- sometimes at night- and a perfect storm developed where my immune system became severely compromised.  Only I didn’t realize it at the time.
All I knew is that some time towards the end of January and very beginning of February my energy levels began to fall off.  It was tough getting out of bed in the morning.  My motivation was way off.  I was tired during the day.  At times I experienced “brain fog” where my memory failed.  And my runs were so very spotty.  At first week to week I felt good, then bad, then good again while running.  Then it became run to run where I felt good during one run then bad on another.  Then my symptoms became much more acute where during the first 10 minutes of my runs I felt awful, the second 10 minutes felt good, then five minutes felt awful again, then 10 minutes would feel good, until finally the remainder of the run would feel terrible.  This went on for about two months.  Other than complaining to Gaby and threatening to seek blood testing I kept these issues to myself because I was scared to tell anyone and admit that there was something wrong with me.  I knew there was something wrong but I had no idea what it could be.  Over training?  I didn’t think so- in fact, I knew so- because I hadn’t been training that much and I took a full month off completely after Pinhoti in November.  What then?
Anxiety crept in.  Prior to every run I worried whether I should even go out because I would probably either feel terrible, that I might be hurting myself, or that I might actually have a good run and give myself false hope to continue on.  Western States, Hardrock, UTMB loomed on the horizon after all.  An epic summer if there ever was one.  I faked my way through TWOT in February.  I bailed on trying to bang out a hard half-marathon effort in DC in March.  I had zero desire to sign up for additional races leading up to Western States.  By the time Terrapin rolled around, the only other race I was registered for, I was at a very low point.  Moments before the start at Terrapin I confessed to Dave Hryvniak, eventual race winner, that I felt only half there.  A few days prior to Terrapin I confessed to my friend Drew that I had never felt so underprepared for a race.  That should have been a huge red flag and I should have come clean then and there but I was in denial and did not want my Terrapin registration funds to go to waste.  Seems silly to think about now.  From the gun I suffered at Terrapin.  At mile 20 at an aid station I ran up to Horton’s truck, grimacing “DNF”, and before I could even muster the words and ask for a ride Horty said with a smile “No rides.  No rides.”  Ugh.  I continued on to the finish.  Terrapin was a sufferfest.  At that point I decided to schedule an appointment with Dr. Robert Wilder, distinguished sports med and rehab doctor at the University of Virginia, hoping to get to the bottom of my issues.  This was on March 23rd.  Fast forward to April 12th, with three more weeks of mostly questionable running under my belt, two appointments with Dr. Wilder and two rounds of blood tests, the diagnosis was in.  I had CMV.  No running for three weeks.  No cross training.  Complete rest is what my body required.  “Wait…Cytomega-what?” is all I could think of.  I had never even heard of it.
What I now know of CMV is that it is a respiratory virus claiming between 50 to 80 percent of American adults by 40 years of age.  Says many medical publications I’ve read, most people don’t even realize they have CMV.  CMV is opportunistic and its symptoms might only surface when a host’s immune system becomes severely compromised, like mine was.
Three dreadful weeks crept by where I didn’t run a step or do much else other than work, eat, play with Trail and purposefully try to sleep a lot.  This was hard on me.  Sure, knowing I had CMV and coming to grips with the fact that my summer running dreams were becoming less likely with each passing day was no walk in the park but for an obsessive, over-energized guy like myself, who always follows doctors orders, to be prescribed complete rest was hell.  After the third week I ran a few times before my follow appointment with Dr. Wilder.  Additional blood analysis revealed my liver function levels had come down 50 percent but they were still elevated; a signal that I still had CMV.  Dr. Wilder prescribed two more weeks of zero activity.  This was on May 8th.  He also said to forget about running Western States and Hardrock.  Attempting to race 100 mountainous miles at altitude, back to back, soon after recovering from CMV was too risky.  Calling Craig and Dale to withdraw from the events was a regretful experience.  Like most individuals in their positions, both of these race directors care deeply about their events and the athletes who participate in them and the least I could do was call and pay my respects, rather than write to them an impersonal withdrawal (DNS) email.
For the past four weeks I’ve been getting back to running nice and slow.  For four days for 15 minutes per day during the first week that I ran I felt strong and light on my feet.  Five days for 20 minutes per day during the second week I ran and I continued to feel good but I also began to realize how out of shape my body felt.  Six days for 30 minutes per day last week is what I was prescribed to run but I cut out two of the days because I was worried that I might be relapsing with CMV.  My breathing felt labored.  I no longer think that is the case, I am not relapsing, and anxiety and my body simply reacting to being out of shape is more likely what I felt.  Today I finished a complete week by running for 40 minutes every day.  Plus, I’ve been busting my ass with work over the past several weeks, working long hours, and working in the yard quite a bit, getting flower beds ready for several trees I would like to plant soon.  Despite having experienced a few off days last week I’m feeling good overall and confident that I am getting back to normal.  Energy wise, I feel like my old self.  My motivation is back.  My confidence is coming back too and my body no longer feels like it needs sleep constantly like it did while I was in the throes of having CMV.  Mornings now I can’t wait to get out of bed.  On June 25th I have another appointment with Wilder and I suspect he will want to perform another round of blood work to determine for sure if my CMV (and elevated liver functions) has abated.  Hopefully I will get good news and the green light to begin ramping things up.  It will be interesting to train with a mind towards peaking in the fall.  For the past several years my goal races have taken place in the spring and summer.  There are  so many good events to choose from in the fall.
This summer my primary goal is to return to full health and get back to enjoying carefree running with no worries or anxiety.  I have also decided that whatever comes this summer weather wise- heat, humidity, derechos or whatever- I will use as the block to hone my training edge and just enjoy it for what it is.  More than anything, healthy running is a state of mind; a free place in one’s head and in one’s heart that does not feel pain, or pressure, or anxiety brought on by outside circumstances.  This is the place where I want to be.  Therefore, even small stuff, like not complaining about the heat is how I want to roll.  As soon as I get a clean bill of health on my CMV issues I intend to ramp up smartly and make the most of summer.  Moving forward I will be more mindful of protecting the health and strength of my immune system which of course starts by getting proper rest because once an individual has CMV it stays with them for life and I want my fight with CMV to go only one round.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Rivanna Trail Time Trials that wasn’t

Don’t let the title fool you.  Sunday's Rivanna Trail Time Trials produced a quality turn out of runners. 15 runners in total showed up to bang out a full loop of the Rivanna Trail (RT), and run in the counter-clockwise direction around Charlottesville starting and ending at Riverview Park.  The conditions- cool, mostly dry and overcast- made for a good day for fast times though only a few out of 15 actually came to the Trials with the intention of busting out a true personal best effort.  Not wanting to overdo it on a tender knee, at the last minute I bailed opting instead to work the Trials and not run it after all.  In lieu off huffing and puffing my way around town on muddy trails I recorded the day in photos and set up two water stops with Clif bloks and gels.  Though in reality, mostly I just sat around, waiting on runners while enjoying coffee and a warm spiced apple brioche from Albemarle Baking Company.  10 runners started in the 7:00am wave, one at 7:20am and four more started at 8:00am.
Part of the beauty and mystery of the RT is that sections of it often change, mostly due to construction projects or private property easement issues.  A new trail section is re-routed or improved here, a road section is added there, yet somehow the Rivanna Trails Foundation and its army of volunteers always find a way to keep the loop intact.  Thank goodness for that.  In its current formation the Trail is slightly different than when I ran it hard one year ago this month.  There is a little more pavement for starters but it is all hills.  There are a few new sections of trail as well, some of which are only new due to construction and the path more or less remains the same.  All in all, mileage wise, the entire loop is probably about the same as last year but I wonder if it is slightly harder now due to the changes.
Drew was the only runner to bust out a true loop in a personal best effort style finishing in a blistering 2:22.  Eric gave chase, in route to a final marathon countdown training run but instead of following all Green RT signage he added bonus miles for himself on the Willoughby section.  Andy Head-Not-In-The-Game Jones-Wilkins- AHNITGJW for short- was one of the favorites for the day but it was reported that he took a minimum of four wrong turns and added at least three bonus miles to his Trials run.  Same with Barry.  Not knowing the Trail, it is easy to take a wrong turn.  Know the Trail, Gents.  Everyone else came out mostly to have fun and socialize.  That they did.  The 7:00am crew started and finished together, minus a few runners coming in moments later.  There was only one DNF, reportedly due to old-age-syndrome.  Sophie was a DNS; it was reported that she stayed out too late the night prior at her sister’s concert.
So what does all of this say about the CAT crew?  Are we lions or are we just a bunch of kittens?  Aside from Drew, we may have to hold a makeup exam after all.
Most of the 7am starters.

Drew crushing it through Barracks.

Same with Eric.

Stephen at Moores Creek.
A clip of the mostly intact 7am crew at the creek:

Usually more graceful, here is a funny clip of Drew at the creek:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When not running

The evolution of this blog has varied somewhat from its birth yet one thing has remained fairly constant: the emphases of writing in it lop sides more generously towards trails versus tales.  Therefore, in the spirit of fairness the following is a slightly different tale.

As much as I enjoy slipping on running shoes, roping my wrist in GPS and hitting the trails (and roads), I’ll fill you in on a little secret, from time to time I rather enjoy not running.  In addition to a passion for running which life has generously afforded me there are other hobbies I enjoy pursuing almost equally that in some ways seem to come to me just as naturally.  Woodworking is one of these hobbies.  Specifically, designing and building furniture.
Similar to running, to develop one’s craft as a woodworker time is the most necessary investment.  Working with wood for only a few hours per week generally in the evening hours or on weekends, one or two projects at a time, it can takes years to master even the most basic skills.  And for me, like running, to pursue woodworking as a true passion and something more than mere a hobby is the only way, where much of the satisfaction comes through self-improvement.  It is important to develop my skills not just on the trails but in the workshop too; therefore, it is necessary that I devote time- a lot of it- to woodworking.  When not running I can do this.  And like the journey of running, a purposeful approach to woodworking, which follows the path of self-improvement both in style and in technique, both as a practitioner and as a human being, is an endless path of self-discovery.
When not running, or working in my career to produce ends meet, or spending time with family, I am often doing something construction-like with my hands.  Woodworking is just the tip of the iceberg, really; I am no stranger to working with tools in general, whether they come from the workshop, the garage or the garden.  Still, within the working-with-tools genre, woodworking is my favorite.  There exists a primal satisfaction in me that is resurrected with each incarnation from wood I create.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are working on projects in my parent’s basement workshop.  I remember rushing home from the kindergarten school bus and using a coping saw to cut names and patterns out of scrap wood clamped to a vice on my grandfather’s tool bench.  This while shaking my hips to the raspy sounds of Joan Jett signing “...put another dime in the jukebox, Baby,” crackling from the small, one-speaker alarm clock radio sitting at the far end of the bench with an antenna fashioned from a metal coat hanger, the manual FM dial set to Richmond’s “Q94”.  What I do not remember, though, is anyone ever really teaching me how to work with wood.  There was a workshop in my parent’s basement.  In the workshop there was wood and there were tools.  I sort just picked it up and ran with it.  I was always down in the workshop, banging away on this or that.
As time went by I got away from woodworking during my teen years.  To this day I’m not really sure why.  While on winter break during junior year in college I built a dresser to take back with me to school.  That was one of the few, pure woodworking projects I had worked on in several years and it would be the last for a few years more.  Then, roughly nine years ago the well from which I’ve received the vast majority of positive encouragement in life, my Mom, suggested I pick back up woodworking.  Anyone who knows my mother knows she’s a crafty one, and that she can be very persuasive.  She immediately registered the two of us for an adult education course in woodworking through the local county school system.  At the time I was in Richmond anyway a few days per week for work and the weekday evening schedule worked out perfectly.  In class, it was very laid back and though lacking entirely in any sort of teaching curriculum, we basically had carte blanche to planers, joiners, table saws, drill presses, mortis and tenon jigs, lathes, and all sorts of other goodies.  For my project I chose to build a queen-sized cherry bed frame.  During each of the fall and spring semesters since my Mom and I have continued attending woodworking class on Thursday nights.
Getting a hand recently applying linseed oil on a full-size bed frame for my Mom.  The second bed making project of my woodworking career.  This one also out of cherry.
The finished product.  My Mom and I worked on this puppy together.  Goes nicely with the matching end tables we made last year, the lamp she turned (on the left) a few years ago and the quilt one of my sisters made, spread over the mattress.  We're a crafty bunch.
Another angle.
End table drawer joinery on display.
Tapered inner faces of the head/footboard columns- to match the end tables- required slightly more complicated joinery.
Recently, when not running that much, in addition to finishing up a few existing woodworing projects I’ve taken on a handful of home-improvement projects as well at our new home in Charlottesville.  (Home improvement: another hobby).  A remodeled bedroom here, a remodeled bathroom there and our house is really coming together for our taste and style.  One particular room in our basement I’ve taken on as a project recently reveals the dichotomous relationship my running and my woodworking often tango over for my attention.  The room, an old workshop with a photography dark room off the side, I am near complete in renovating into a home gym with a half bath.  Strange, I know, me, a woodworker, converting a basement workshop into a home gym.  (Is it ironic?  I'm not even sure.)  And involved is a hell of a lot of carpentry, electrical, plumbing and painting to make it happen.  Just so we can work out.  I guess it makes sense if you’ve seen the treadmill that we purchased recently.  It is sweet.  Now with a baby, a treadmill proves a useful tool as a runner.  And I love tools.  Plus, if you’ve seen our treadmill then I probably would have showed you our garage- my man cave- which is where I will eventually house a proper woodworking space.  One fit for making furniture of all shapes and sizes.  So, though choosing to get rid of the old basement workshop was not an easy decision to make all things considered I'm pretty sure it was the right call. 
It is difficult sometimes to juggle competing passions outside of daily life responsibilities.  I am a person who loves the idea of going all in on something and I truly believe one’s best can only be achieved by focusing whole heartedly on one thing at a time.  If true, lasting greatness is the goal, either as a runner, a craftsman or whatever, then sacrificing all things in life for the greater good of focusing on a singular mission and squeezing every drop of blood, nectar and marrow out of it and holding on for as long as it lasts is the only way.  After all, what is the fastest way to get from one location to another if not in a straight line?  Returning home from a 30 mile mountain run and retiring to the garage or basement to work on a project until late into the evening is fun and perfect for the obsessive minded like myself but it does not always lead to the best results with the project at hand.  Nor does is do justice to the run.  But that’s the rub when you have competing passions.  There is only so much time and pulling doubles on weekends is often the only mechanism for getting things done.
Running TWOT recently I took a hard fall at mile eight of 27 while descending Little Bald.  I was hauling ass down the mountain over the rocks, content with the morning thus far, despite my general lack of fitness, frigid temperatures and slow going snow on top of Little Bald.  That week, not having run much recently, I still thought I might be able to show up at TWOT and run the way I knew I could run and how I wanted to run on that day, which was no holds barred.  I was mistaken.  Suddenly my big right toe clipped a rock and my body folded instantly to the ground at full speed.  First my knees struck the ground.  Crash.  Then my chest.  Bam!  There was no time whatsoever to tuck and roll.  Once my chest hit the ground my body slid across the frozen rocks and dirt.  I came to a halt in complete shock, stood up and screamed at the forest all around me looking up towards the tops of the trees in terror.  I figured for sure I had just inflicted a lasting injury upon myself; a broken bone or two in the very least.  A moment or two of self-diagnosis later and aside from bloody knees, scrapped thighs and abdomen my body seemed to still be working.  After another moment or two of standing around, deciding whether or not it was safe to continue on, I began limping down to Camp Todd where Dennis Herr, TWOT director, was waiting with food and water.  At Camp Todd Drew Krueger pulled up behind me as I struggled to open my hand held thanks to the frozen water inside of it.  Turns out Drew took a bad fall on Little Bald as well.  We limped out of Camp Todd together and I eventually pulled away on the way up Big Bald and finished TWOT solo.  I’m happy to have successfully completed a hard effort of a single loop of TWOT and definitely enjoyed the camaraderie and hospitality of the mostly-Harrisonburg crew in the parking lot post-run.  Unfortunately I missed Keith Knipling’s beastly return from his fourth loop but I needed to get home.
Looking back, I probably should have stopped running TWOT at Camp Todd.  My body was so numb from the cold that I didn’t realize at the time how badly my knees, particularly my right knee, hit the ground.  After taking the Sunday off after TWOT in the six following days I ran for a total of 75 miles.  Day by day the swelling in my right knee continued.  There is some edema surrounding the knee still.  I’m pretty sure I have a contusion just above the knee cap from banging the hell out of it when I crashed.  To say I'm not feeling 100% is an understatement.  I’m not feeling down and out, at least not yet, but I admit my mood is starting to sour with each passing day that I do not run.  Because now, as the season builds I want to be running more.  I want to devote more time to running, the time it requires and get back in shape for this summer's big events.  A few more days I hope and I will be back at it- I'm still planning to run the Rivanna Trail trials Saturday.  In the meantime, not running means I can get the gym room complete.  Rubber floor goes down this weekend.  Then it’s on to the next project.  Trail needs a bookshelf for his toys and books.
If interested, here is a solid SNL version of Thinkin Bout You by Frank Ocean.