Am I Just A Runner?

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I didn’t like running when I was in the Army. When I got out, I tried running once in the next year. It sucked so much. I was so out of breathe, my lungs were on fire. I was sure my heart was going to crack a rib or three.

I didn’t run again for over a year. One day I was walking up some stairs, and I was breathing heavily after just a flight or two. I thought I should get back into shape, but it didn’t go beyond that. Then a while later, I was looking in the mirror after a shower. I’ve always been a skinny guy, but I was starting to get the skinny guy gut. That tipped the scales on my motivation to start running again.

In the 7 years since then, I’ve dabbled with other exercises a couple times. They never stuck. I’ve never enjoyed lifting weights or other strength training. I’ve sort of considered myself just a runner and didn’t need anything else. I’m starting to reconsider a little.

As I’m increasing my mileage with three 50k races scheduled this year so far — two down, one in a few days — and looking to run a 50 mi race after that, I’m noticing a few little things here and there. When I go over 15 miles or so or do some significant uphill, I have some tightness in my hips, some minor muscle imbalances and some breakdown in form when tired. I’ve had some lower back pain a couple times so far this year, and I’m not sure the culprit. And I’ve also had muscle spasms in my trapezius muscles since 2004 in the Army. They’re not constant, but certainly get pretty intense on some long runs.

I think I can suffer my way through a 50 mi race with my current plan involving just running. I’d like to do more in the future and potentially a 100 mi race as well. In order to minimize my suffering, I should probably introduce exercises for my core, hips and back. I’ve recently started stretching some, but could use more. I’ve done minimal stretching since I started running. Never before a run, and rarely after.

On that note, the one exercise other than running that I enjoyed when I tried it was yoga. I took a class at Shoreline Community College in 2008. I’m considering giving yoga a shot again. I’m not sure whether I want to attend classes or try practicing on my own. Even having taken a class, I’m definitely still a beginner, so I would probably get more out of and keep up with it more regularly taking a class.

I kind of live in the boonies, so finding a class within a reasonable drive is a little tough. There is a gym in the closest “city” about 15 mi or a little over 20 min drive that has classes, but I’d have to join the gym. The next closest classes I’ve found are almost twice as far away. It would probably be beneficial to do some strength training once or twice a week as well, so I’m considering the gym. If the time it took for me to start running after “considering it” is any indication, it might be a while, though.

Part of why I started writing this blog is to keep myself accountable and motivated, so maybe this will tip the scales to action. I think I’ll check their class schedule for something after my 50k race this weekend.

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I Love Water

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Other than smoothies, I drink almost exclusively water. On rare occasions I’ll have some organic juice or use my home juicer.

Most people don’t drink enough water. I think water in place of other beverages, and more water in general would probably benefit the health of many people. Hydration is important. Water helps expel toxins and waste from the body more quickly. Water helps with blood flow. Water is amazing.

I started drinking more water after coming to the conclusion that dehydration was one trigger for my liver condition, primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), flared up, causing me abdominal pain and general malaise for a day up to a week. It make sense. If the body is dehydrated, fluids in the body will tend to become thicker. In a condition that can lead to bile turning sort of sludge-like potentially blocking the bile ducts, anything that thickens the bile isn’t good. Dehydration isn’t the only thing I have to worry about. Eating a lot of fat promotes bile production and flow, which exacerbates any thickening and blockages.

When I first figured the link out, I tried to just drink more water throughout the day. Without anything specific to remind me, I’d occasionally get wrapped up in something and forget. A couple minor PSC flares later and I made a more specific hydration plan.

I start every day with a 1 quart glass of water shortly after waking. I’ll usually mix something in it. I’ve done 1 tsp raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. I currently add 1 tsp rosehip powder, which is an excellent vitamin C source. It doesn’t dissolve, so requires mixing and swirling to keep in suspension. I’ve also previously added bee pollen, which is one of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet.

Almost immediately after drinking my big glass of water I can feel it start to wash over my system. I don’t always feel so great when I wake up, but I always feel better after drinking my water.

After my morning quart of water, I usually have another quart of plain water over the rest of the day. I also have several cups of water in a smoothie during the day, and a lot of high water content fruit.

On days that I run, my water intake can reach 1-2 gal total per day, depending on distance, elevation gain and temperature.

One quart of water may seem like a lot, but it’s really not. You’ve just been sleeping, hopefully around 8 hours or more, without taking in any liquids. You still sweat in your sleep. If you got up to pee in the night or went first thing after waking, that’s more liquid lost from your system. You need to replenish the liquids your body goes through.

If you’re not used to drinking that much water at one time, you may need to work up to it. Try using a 1 quart glass, jar or other container, so you can get used to the amount. If you have trouble drinking the whole thing, just have as much as you can comfortably drink in a short period of time. If that’s only 8 of 32 ounces, that’s fine. Try to drink the rest over the next hour if possible.

You will probably have to pee afterwards, likely within an hour. So, if you won’t have access to a restroom when needed, such as during a commute, try just 8 oz right after waking and then the rest once you have better access to facilities.

Pee is great for checking your hydration too. Urine color can tell you whether you’re drinking enough water. Light yellow to nearly clear is well hydrated, dark orange is very dehydrated. There can be other things that change urine color, so it’s not a perfect test. Things like medications, certain medical conditions and some foods might affect urine color.

I pee fairly often since I’ve increased my water intake. It was kind of annoying at first, but I’m OK with it now. In general, I feel better when I stay hydrated, so it’s an easy trade off to make.

You can drink too much water, though. A condition called hyponatremia is caused by an electrolyte imbalance, low sodium levels, often from drinking too much water. In serious cases, it can be fatal. Over-hydration cause hyponatremia is more common in endurance sports. To avoid it during a marathon, ultra or Ironman, stay on top of electrolyte replacement. As for day to day, hyponatremia is probably not something to worry too much about.

Drink more water!

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Raw Vegan Hot Sauce Recipe

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Last year, I decided to try my hand at making my own hot sauce. I was tired of added sugar, salt or chemicals in hot sauce I’d buy at the grocery store.

I don’t really do exact recipes. What I make generally relies on the ingredients I have on hand, or grab at the grocery store. That being said, I don’t really plan ahead for shopping trips either.

Anyway, here is my general recipe for raw vegan hot sauce. I like it pretty hot, so adjust or swap peppers as you like.

*10 habanero peppers
*3-4 serrano peppers
*1/2 beet
*2 carrot
*1 apple or mango or banana
*3-4 cloves garlic
*raw apple cider vinegar
*Water
*Salt to taste (optional)

Wash all produce. Cut stem end off peppers and put in bender. Add 1/2 beet, carrot and garlic to blender. Remove seeds/pits/peels from apple, mango or banana and add to blender. Add raw apple cider vinegar and water at about 2:1 ratio. Start to blend. Add enough vinegar/water to reach your desired consistency.

I pour my hot sauce into an old Bragg’s vinegar bottle, using a funnel. Store in the fridge. I couldn’t tell you how long it will keep, though. I usually make just shy of a quart per batch, and it only lasts me 1-2 weeks. Shake well before using.

Experiment with other flavors you might like.

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My Practice Blog: a Little About Me

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Hello there. I’m Brian. Thanks for checking out my blog. First and foremost, I started this blog for myself, partially because I’ve gotten a little out of practice writing and wanted to get back into it. I find that writing about things can sometimes be helpful as well, much like talking things through.

While this blog is intended mostly for myself, I learn a lot from reading what others have written. So I’ll share, and perhaps you’ll find something worthwhile.

Me
Briefly, I was born in Seattle in 1981. We moved around a bit until settling in a small western Washington town in the foothills of the Cascades. I joined the Army in 2001, went to Iraq March-October 2003 and October 2004-April 2005. I got out of the Army in November 2005 and moved to Seattle. I went back to school with my MGIB benefits in 2008 at a local community college, transferred to the University of Washington in 2009 and graduated December 2011. I have two dogs, male and female german shorthair pointer mix from the same litter, Sigurd and Vida. I’ll elaborate on some of these things in future posts.

What’s on My Mind?
I love running. I hated it during my 4 years in the Army, and it took me several years after I got out to get back into it. I prefer running long to fast. I like ultra distance races, but I’m still just staring out. As of June 13, 2014, I’ve done four 50k races with another 50k on the 22nd, and looking at my first 50mi race in late July. There will be plenty of posts about running and other outdoor activities.

I have a couple medical conditions that have shaped several of my habits over the last few years. I have ulcerative colitis (UC), diagnosed after I got out of the Army, but symptoms began in summer 2003, during my first deployment to Iraq. I also have primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an auto-immune disease of the liver that can cause inflammation in the bile ducts leading to strictures. The PSC was diagnosed after I ended up in the emergency room in early 2008. After further issues from both conditions and a whole variety of medications, I finally decided I’d go off my meds and try treating myself with food. I’ve told my doctor what I’m doing, and she hesitantly agreed as long as I remain asymptomatic. I will definitely be posting about food and health.

In the last year or two, I’ve also gotten into personal development. And until the last few years, especially as a teen and my first few adult years, I considered self-help and personal development a bit of a joke. However, trying to improve one’s life in any facet is to be commended. To be honest, I was pretty miserable back then. For 2014, I made a goal to read 24 books and listen to 24 audiobooks as well. I mostly read non-fiction. Some will be personal development, but there will also be business, biography, memoir, and possibly a couple fiction if I need a break and find something interesting. I’ve also gotten drawn into several podcasts by athletes, authors, and entrepreneurs whom I respect. Periodically, I’ll throw up a post about a topic that got me thinking from a book, podcast or some other source.

I also love music. I started playing guitar at age 15 or so, started bass about a year later. I picked up a bit of ukulele in the Army in the early 2000s. I write a little, sing a little, and very occasionally record a little. I’d like to do more of all of it, so perhaps this will give me a little incentive.

Practice Makes Me
Do I practice? I use practice in both senses of the word. I try to improve, no matter how incremental or monumental, while creating new habits.

While I agree that practice of some sort is important to improving most skills, I’m not sure I believe in perfect performance. Technology, for example, always seems to bump up to some barrier that is said to be impossible to breach just before someone comes along and breaks it. Computers were only supposed to get so fast, data storage was only supposed to have so much capacity, travel was only possible up to a certain speed. As long as there is some small amount of disorder in the universe, there is room for improvement.

The tradition or method of practice is just as important in my life as rehearsing to improve, and can be part of the later. I used hold onto the notion that I didn’t want to plan anything. I’ve found that I don’t get as much done and lack a sense of purpose without systems, habits, rituals, processes or whatever you prefer to call them. For instance, I figured out that most of my PSC problems came when I was dehydrated. Now I start everyday by drinking 1 quart of water. It’s helped solve a problem. Another example involves this blog. I was getting restless with a bunch of ideas for things to write, a couple books, some articles, and even a scifi story. I finally decided to make it a habit of writing for about an hour a night minimum. Sometimes I don’t quite make it an hour, and sometimes I write longer. I’m still building the habit, so it’s important that I make the effort.

To Be or to Become
Be(com)ing comes from an idea I had in a college class. It was my junior colloquium at UW in Comparative History of Ideas. I ended up writing a paper on the topic as well. In the context of this blog, we can either choose to be or to become.

In my college paper, I argued that it was virtually impossible for anything in the universe to just be. It was always changing in some way, becoming something greater, lesser or just other; more ordered or more chaotic and so on. (*If I can find the paper, I might post it.)

To live a life of pure becoming, though, is to put so much power in and value on the future that the present is just a stepping stone to be passed over as quickly as possible. So there is a balance between being in and of the present and becoming toward my future self. Of course it’s complicated a bit by the evolving ideal of my goals. There’s not always a path to follow. Sometimes I just have to wander around a bit. And I’m OK with that. I love wandering. You see and experience a lot of interesting things that you might have otherwise missed.

So here’s to my first wandering step on a new adventure.

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Run to Shaw Lake May 20, 2014

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After an aborted attempt to run to Shaw Lake last week, I made another attempt. Shaw Lake is the source of the North Fork Wallace River. It’s entirely logging roads up to the lake. But some have been abandoned, blocked off and become overgrown, so it’s now single track. Up until several years ago, it was still open as a 4×4 trail. Motorized vehicles are supposed to be prohibited, but some people still find their way around the gates. And many people ignore the no shooting signs in the area as well.

I parked at the gate at 6:30pm. A few minutes of getting everything situated, and we were off. I let the dogs, Sigurd and Vida, go off leash, since there were no other cars, and I rarely see other people in that area in that case.

Just a minute or so in, I had to turn back around. I forgot to put out my parking pass, and I didn’t want to chance a ticket. So, I added an extra 0.3 mi to my run.

The logging road forks about 0.2 mi in, and the left goes towards the lake. Shortly after the turn, there is an older bridge over a small creek, then the road starts to climb. It’s not really steep, but keeps a pretty steady grade for the most part. There were several streams coming down the mountain and passing through culverts under the road. On warmer days, Sigurd and Vida make use of several of the streams. Even if they don’t stop for a drink, Vida loves to run splashing through the water and mud.

The next fork in the road, about 1 mi from the gate, is where I made a wrong turn last time, going straight, which eventually lead to me turning around. Instead, you turn right, continuing up the mountain. This next section of road has a number of shallow mini tank traps in the road. At the next switch back, there is a trail that is usually hidden by overgrowth leading to the end of another logging road that comes in from another gate. However, keep heading up the road.

Turnoff  onto abandoned overgrown logging road
Turnoff onto abandoned overgrown logging road

Not much further, there is a large log on the right side of the road blocking what appears to be an abandoned logging road. There is a trail around the road block on the left side of this log. It’s a little boggy in a couple spots just after this log. This road has become very overgrown with alders, salmon berries, coltsfoot, and some blackberry. It’s just about single track for a while. There are also several tank traps cut into the road, deeper than the earlier ones, that can have water flowing through them after rains.

Trail up abandoned logging road. More overgrown later in the spring and summer
Trail up abandoned logging road. More overgrown later in the spring and summer

The road will eventually open back up after a little while as it heads back into a little older regrowth forest. There are several blowdowns in this section, but they are easily passable. As the road continues up over the crest into a small basin, it runs into a small pond. The road splits going both directions around the pond. Continue left towards Shaw Lake.

Beaver pond just over the saddle
Beaver pond just over the saddle
Continue left at the beaver pond
Continue left at the beaver pond

The road is level around the pond then starts to descend a little to about 0.3 mi past the pond where it reaches the upper part of the North Fork Wallace River. This was where I turned around the first time. I wasn’t sure how much farther and was already going to be over my planned distance. It’s easy enough to cross, but rainfall and time of year will dictate. I was able to cross without getting wet feet. The road then starts a short, gentle climb.

Headwaters of the mighty North Fork Wallace River. Can dry up later in the year.
Headwaters of the mighty North Fork Wallace River. Can dry up later in the year.

About 0.1 mi farther, you come into view of Shaw Lake. There are beaver in the lake, and they have a dam at the south end. If you’re going to use the water, make sure to treat it. The road continues around to about halfway up the lake where there is an old campsite and trail down to a small beach. There are other spots to go down to the water, but a lot of the shoreline has logs in the water.

Beaver dam at the south end of Shaw Lake
Beaver dam at the south end of Shaw Lake
Old camp site above the lake.
Old camp site above the lake.
Trail down to a small beach.
Trail down to a small beach.

The bugs were starting to come out in force when I was there, but still tolerable. Sigurd and Vida loved splashing, swimming and playing fetch. Sigurd likes to just go out and swim around, going nowhere in particular. I have to be careful about throwing rocks and things. They will try to go after it, even if it’s just a rock and thrown way out in the middle of the lake. I saw fish feeding on the bugs and heard a beaver’s tail slap a couple times. Unfortunately, there is some trash around the lake, which is probably part of why they closed it to vehicles.

Sigurd and Vida love water.
Sigurd and Vida love water.

It’s a little shy of 7 mi round trip with approximately 1800 ft of elevation gain.

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A Wandering & Wondering Life