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.

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