Short Strides and Odd Thoughts: Micro-Adventure!

For those that know, and have wasted precious moments reading the drivel which spills from my mind, you have a shot at understanding the title of both the column and the post.  The column gets its name from what age is doing to my stride length and the porous nature of my thought process.  The post gets its name from my Beau Miles-esque reinvention of what adventure in my running means to me now.

About ten years back, as my speed began to decrease and my injury rate began to increase, I lamented about the fact that it was difficult to train when the injury cycle simply kept repeating every couple months.  Just as I would rehab and get over one injury, I’d start into training mode and sure enough I’d get another injury that would lay me up.  After about three years of this, I finally came to terms with the fact I no longer train, I just run.

This was a hard concept to get at first because for the better part of forty years, I would build my mileage through the spring and summer, get into really good shape, and focus on running fast or jump into a marathon or something.  I loved it being midsummer, hopping onto the track, ripping some repeats that hinted at a potential PR. Getting after a long run, holding onto a quick last mile felt fantastic.  I liked the burn in the workout which told you that you were working hard. It was addictive actually.

But that came to an end.  I no longer could handle the regret which would inevitably hit when another unanticipated injury derailed the plan.  Eventually the pain of not getting back “to it” was just too much.  I resigned myself to running, not training.

Once I accepted that, it wasn’t too bad.  Sure I’d miss it, but not as much as just getting in my daily run.  Nothing said I couldn’t run fast.  It just wasn’t part of the plan.

So over these past few years, I’ve adjusted my focus from training, to making my goal in running more about adventure, less about speed. I’ve taken some fantastic trips which have led to mind blowing experiences that I might not have had if I’d been focused on training.  Running five miles down into the Grand Canyon, then back up, losing 3000 feet and then gaining it back, decimates your quads.  Running the wet fire roads in Escalante/Grand Staircase National monument in Utah, adding an inch of clay per mile to the bottom of your shoes as the sun sets over the sandstone bluffs.  Running a mile through millions of years of geologic history as the sun rises on the canyon walls of Zion are all adventures that shape some of the most important running memories I have.

I plan to continue with those types of adventures as well.  I do have an early summer trip to the Pacific Northwest with some runs in the alpine zone, lakeside, and deep into the temperate rainforest.  However, these adventures happen here and there.  While I’d love to have more of them, there’s still lots of time in between them, plenty for micro-adventures.

“Micro-Adventures” as I call them are opportunities to get out and explore places that tend to be right under our noses yet we tend to look past them for bigger challenges. Over the last six months as I’ve settled into my new job, I’ve been running less.  Partially due to the newness of the job and the time requirements as well as sickness and injury, but mostly because I’m not familiar with my surroundings at the office.  I now work in East Concord, surrounded by interstate and strip malls.  The concrete jungle with very little noticeable running friendly routes.  This has not encouraged me to investigate my new digs.

But I generally use the end of the year to reflect on what my last year of running has looked like and take the opportunity to change that if I feel it’s lacking.  This past year I find it was. So I’m forcing myself to venture out in my surroundings.  To find spots worthy of exploring.  Just last week I ventured into the Broken Ground trails located off the powerlines off Route 393.  Not a vast network of trails but perfect to get me out during my lunch break or on my way home before it gets dark.  

Or today when I ran on the trails below the Society for the Protection of NH Forests Conservation Center labeled as the Les Clark Nature trails along the Merrimack River.  At one point I stopped at the river’s edge, listening to the frazil ice crack and splinter as it flowed downstream, crashing into other frazil ice and the ice along the banking.  While not loud, it was distinct enough to drown out the buzz of vehicles along Route 93.  These small underappreciated respites from the rat race just down the road are ripe for some micro-adventuring.

A running kit now sits in the back of my car so I can bust out an adventure run on a moment’s notice.  Complete with running pants, gloves and a winter hat, I’m not letting an early setting sun force me to log a zero in the log book.  As I traverse the state in the coming months I hope to explore many of these micro-adventures.  Like the Spaulding Woods trails I hit up last summer.  Or the Winnipesaukee River trail in Northfield.  Or the Northern rail trail from Boscawen to Lebanon.  Because adventure is what you make of it.  It doesn’t have to be grand, it just has to be real.

I’ll see you out there.

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