Wednesday, April 13, 2011


     Inhale...  Reach through your right leg by pushing the ball of your right foot against the force of the strap...  Be sure your entire left leg is moving into the ground...  Activate your quads to keep both legs straight...  Push the front of each leg towards the back of each leg...  You should also be reaching through the ball of your left foot...

As I opened my eyes to check my form, the words of my yoga instructor continued drifting through my consciousness.

     Extend through the top of your head...  Let the energy flow outwards in every direction that your body is extended...  Be firm...  But don't be rigid or tense...

I realized that my teeth were clenched, so I let my lower jaw drop.  With a little help from gravity, I allowed my facial muscles and skin to droop slowly towards the floor.

     Ask your body to trust the floor...  It's OK...  Let go...

Again, I inhaled.

     As you inhale, feel the stretch move from the belly of your right hamstring outwards, in both directions...  up and down the back of your leg...  Hold the stretch as you complete inhalation...  As you exhale, ask your body to relax into the stretch even further...

I ran through a quick, mental checklist.  Face and jaw...  relaxed.  Belly...  relaxed.  Left arm...  extending out to the left, reaching through fingertips...  relaxed.  Quads...  engaged.  Knees...  straight.  Left leg...  pushing towards ground.  Right leg...  reaching towards ceiling.

     Ask your hamstring to settle even further into the stretch...  with each exhalation...

I always wondered if it was truly possible to clear your mind of all distracting thoughts, while trying to focus.  Now that I've been practicing yoga for three years, I understand that there's very little opportunity for outside voices to invade your mind when you're focusing on breathing, activating certain muscles, relaxing other muscles, and extending the energy lines of your body outward, in multiple directions.

     Be sure to ground your femur into your right hip socket...  while extending your right leg outward...  from your knee through the ball of your foot...

Right hamstring...  stretching gently from the belly outward...  in either direction.  Left foot...  Left foot...  Whoops.  Left foot was pointing inward a bit too much.  I re-established the line of energy from the ball of my left foot...  up the inside of my left leg.

     Ask your body to relax even further with each exhalation...  Feel free to hang out here as long as you want...  Dave...  Are you almost done?  Feel free to hang out as long as you want...  Dave...  Honey...  Feel free...  Are you almost done?  Dave...

Right hamstring...  What?  Who said that?

     "Dave, are you almost done?  Honey...  "


     "Honey, are you almost done.  Dinner's just about ready."

     "Um...  Yeah."  I brought my right leg to the ground and started looping the strap around the ball of my other foot.  "Let me just stretch my left hamstring, and I'll go up and shower."

     "Dave, you told me you'd be ready to eat by six-thirty," my wife said, entering the front hallway where I was spread out on my yoga mat.  "It's almost quarter of seven."

I love me some barefoot shoes. 
     "Yeah, I know, and I'm sorry," I offered up in a guilty tone.  "But I felt really good and...  I decided to run a few extra miles."

     "Yeah?  How far did you go?"

     "Um, eight miles...  I think?"

     "You know how I hate eating late," she called out, as she headed back into the kitchen.  "You said you were just doing five tonight."

     "I can always shower after dinner," I said.  "I'm all dried out, so I can change shirts."

     "No, I can still smell you from here."

That was a bold statement coming from somebody standing in front of a hot wok full of garlic, onions, and balsamic vinegar...  among other odoriferous ingredients.

     "Alright, alright," I said, as I forced myself through a quick stretch of my left hamstring.  "I'll take a three-minute shower.  I'll be quick...  I promise."

The sound of my wife's agitated muttering continued to emanate from the kitchen, nearly drowning out the crackling, spattering, and sizzling that was emerging from the piping hot wok.  Whenever I detect muttering, I know I've crossed the line.

I don't intentionally try to push back our dinnertime.  I always insist that I'll be ready by six-thirty at the latest.  But any serious runner knows that the time can easily slip away when planning all of the necessary elements of a good workout...  from a short warm-up, to the run, to a warm-down, stretching, icing any sore spots...  and finally, the all-important shower.

During the warmer months, I actually prefer to run in the morning before I go to work.  But there are some days when I just prefer to sleep in for an extra hour or two, and then run when I get home from work.

That's a backpack.
No, really.  That's a backpack. 
By the time I'm ready to eat, it could be as late as quarter of seven.  I don't mind eating this late, but my wife would rather eat earlier.  I know that I need to do a better job showing up at the dinner table on time, wearing clean, dry clothes that don't smell like locker room and feet.

This discussion always comes up every spring when the weather warms up and I start running more.  I'm always trying to think of new ways to squeeze in my workouts to maximize time-management.

Then, just about a month ago, I had one of my crazy ideas.

Wouldn't it be great if I could just run home from work?  If I logged off my computer at 4:30, changed into my running gear, and left the office around 4:40, I could probably make it home just after 5:30.  After stretching and showering, I could be ready to eat by 6:00.  That would work out perfectly.

That left the question of how I was actually going to get to work.  I thought about it for a few days and came up with the solution.

I'd walk to work.

Crazy?  Far-fetched?  Mabye a bit.  We're not talking one or two blocks, or even one or two miles.  After mapping out several different routes on Google Maps, the shortest route that I could find was just under seven miles.

But was it an unreasonable idea?  I certainly didn't think so.

I told you that was a backpack. 
I could bring in an extra change of work clothes the day before and leave my dress shoes under my desk.  If I averaged 15-minute miles, I could make the trip in about an hour and forty-five minutes.  I'd have to leave the house at 7:15 to get to my cubicle by 8:45.  I'd need some extra time to change into my work clothes.  Hmmm...  Maybe leaving at 7:00 would be a better idea.

I could carry my running shoes in a small backpack, along with my wallet, house keys, and cell phone.  And I'd want to bring along my older digital camera, just in case I ran across a herd of deer and wanted to get some pictures.  Early morning is often the best time to stumble across undisturbed wildlife.

Now that I'd come up with a plan, I just had two minor details to work out.

First of all, I needed to find a lightweight, compact backpack.  My current backpack was good for walking and hiking, but it would probably be a bit too bulky to wear while running.  My first stop was L.L. Bean's website.  After browsing their extensive collection, the Stowaway Pack piqued my interest, weighing in at a mere 16 oz, for only $29.99.

I went to our local L.L. Bean store that evening to see if they had any in stock.  After trying it out and finding it to my liking, I bought one in cayenne.  The backpack is so compact that it can fold up inside of itself within its front zipper pocket, for easy storage and transport.  This would also serve as a reliable second backpack during our annual camping trips to Acadia National Park, up on Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Indy kinda likes the backpack.
Looks like a nice place to nap. 
Finally, I just needed to wait for some morning sunshine to show up in the five-day forecast.  It wouldn't be the end of the world if my run home was interrupted by rain.  I'd be showering before dinner regardless of the weather, so trotting through a monsoon wouldn't be a problem.  But dry weather for my walk to the office was especially critical.  I wouldn't want to be all wet and muddy when I got to the office.

On Sunday evening, I checked out the 5-day forecast.  Monday was out of the question, with rain scheduled all day.  Tuesday looked better, but I have yoga every Tuesday morning at seven.

Wednesday actually looked promising.  The temperature was only predicted to be twenty-eight degrees around 6:00 in the morning, but the sun was supposed to be out all day long.  I'll go out for a six-mile run when it's as cold as twenty, so the lower temperature wasn't a big deal.  I could just add a few extra layers, since I'd be walking.

The temperature looked a bit warmer on Thursday and Friday, but both days were scheduled to be mostly cloudy.  I immediately ruled out Friday.  After working a forty-hour week, I didn't want to spend my first ninety minutes of freedom on my feet, delaying dinner and happy hour.  While Thursday was scheduled to be warmer, I finally settled on Wednesday since the sun was supposed to be shining all day long.  That would guarantee me a dry trip to and from the office.

On Tuesday, I brought an extra shirt, pair of pants, and tie with me to work and hung them up in my cubicle.  I also brought along extra fruit and snacks so I wouldn't have to over-stuff my backpack the next morning.  Just as I was about to leave the office on Tuesday afternoon, an email popped up in my Inbox, which was addressed to 'All Team Members'.  I opened it up and read it:

Don't forget that we have an all-team meeting tomorrow morning at 8:30 in the board room.  Breakfast treats, both healthy and unhealthy, will be served.

I had forgotten about our meeting.   Not a problem.  I'd just have to make sure I left the house at 6:30 instead of 7:00.

They're really comfortable.
But for some reason, my supervisor
won't let me wear them at the office.
Before I went to bed that night, I laid out all of the clothes I'd need for both trips.  The temperature was supposed to be about twenty-eight degrees at my targeted departure time.  I gathered my long-sleeve polyester thermal, my trusty green fleece that I bought for a climb up Mt. Katahdin back in 1997, and my bright yellow windbreaker from last year's edition of the Mt. Desert Island Marathon.  For my legs, I'd layer up in my cheap polyester warm-up pants and my dark blue wind pants.

I packed my regular running shoes in a Wegmans bag and stuffed them in the backpack, along with my belt.  As for my walking shoes, I'd be making the seven-mile trek in my new pair of Vibram Bikila LS barefoot running shoes.  While I've been mixing them into my running routine very gradually, I've been trying to wear them as much as possible while I'm out and about on my feet.  They're really comfortable, and I like being able to spread out my toes whenever I want. 

The next morning, I'd make 16 oz of coffee and bring it along in my stainless steel thermos.  I'd also take along a few granola bars for some energy during the journey.

At 10:55, I set my alarm for 5:00 the next morning, and I turned out the lights.

Stay tuned for the commute...

Mookie would let the backpack bare his children, if he could. 

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