Thursday, June 23, 2011

Running Nowhere

Running in Circles

Recently, I've written about destination runs both near and far. Today's entry comes around full circle literally.

My wife just had a successful medical procedure. However, the recovery timing stretches in the months range. During the first few weeks of healing, leaving her without help in the house is not what the doctor has ordered. Fortunately, we have some great people helping her and me during this period of being house-bound.

Yet what is a serial runner like me to do when it comes to my various long distance training runs? Of course, Rebecca's safety and support takes priority, and I would not run if that was what I had to do. Yet, I decided to find a solution that works for both of us.

Normally on a weekend, I will disappear from 2-4 hours on long jaunts. I do huge loops around Santa Monica, Brentwood, Venice and the Marina. Sometimes I go into the Santa Monica mountains onto the fire roads. Regardless of the destination, my goals are about miles covered, the fresh air and a complete change from my normal computer-based life style. All of these paths take me miles - sometimes up to 13 miles - away from home.

So, I've come up with a variety of routes right in my neighborhood. Fortunately, we live in an area that has a lot of smaller sections attached to one another as the homes weave around the bluffs of Pacific Palisades. I have a 5 mile route that basically is a figure-8 with our house at the center. This course never leads me more than 1.5 miles from my front door. As I have a nice belt clip case for my iPhone, I can be summoned and am always within 12 minutes of getting home - and on average less than 8 minutes. I can run to my hearts content and not shirk my responsibilities at home. I don't get anywhere but at least I'm still running.
Here are some tips and tricks I've developed:

5 miles can easily be repeated. The course is long enough to not get too boring. Sometimes I'll go out clockwise and then go counterclockwise on the next loop. Or I can go one way on the lower half of the figure-8 loop and the other on the upper half. What if I want to put in 12 miles? Well, that's 2 full rotations and then just one portion of the figure-8. Because I pass home 3 times, many combinations exist for variety. My course has about 150 feet of elevation change, so I can also do hill repeats mid-way through. The key is to find a nice few mile circuit and loop it back and forth around your front door.

If you live near a running track, that is another great way to get in good runs without venturing too far. (If you do use a high school track, be sure to check their hours for public use. Also, most tracks prefer you to run on the outer lanes to preserve the inner (faster) lane surfaces. Some tracks alternate directions of running on various days as well. Again, check local signs and websites or ask the usually present security staff.)

But what if you need to stay even closer - you don't feel that 12 minutes is an acceptable response time? Even a couple long blocks can form a nice circuit. You could be home in a walk in less than 5 minutes. I would try to map out at least a quarter mile circle; anything shorter will quickly wear thin. This highly repetitive course sometimes require one to listen to music, podcasts (I recommend the IndyCast since I contribute to that) or audiobooks to break up the boredom. Since you have your phone with you (so you can get called in an emergency), you can use that as a player and still hear the phone ring. And again, switching directions can spice the cycle a bit.

Back in April, I prepared for an Ultra by running 28 miles over about a four mile course in Santa Monica. That day I didn't need to be close to home, but it rained all day and I wanted to practice on grass and dirt. So, between the grass median on San Vincente and the dirt Palisades Park path, I found my solution. Without the rain, I probably would have gone in the Santa Monica mountains.

Take advantage of continually passing your home base. You can stash water and snacks for those long runs, and of course a toilet is easy to get to.

Lastly, work on your stride and form. The home circuit will get tiring as you know the scenery already. So, use the run for other parts of your training. has a lot of running exercises you can try. You could even add in push ups and sit ups every lap.

Oh yeah, don't worry about those odd stares from your neighbors. They already know you are crazy. Running in circles will just add another confirmation data point.