Rands He was trying to say something

Chaz The Deer

I ran cross country for many years in jr. high and highschool. A daily longish run became part of the regular routine. I was unable to sleep well unless I’d chewed up some nearby trail.

Upon arrival at UC Santa Cruz, I found a gorgeous loop trail near the East Field House that I’d hit once a day. UCSC has tons of very friendly deer that casually grazed next to the trail. They seemed to always be in the same location each night that I ran, so I began to give them names: Frank, Phyllis, Fran, Frannie, and Chaz.

One night, I was in my second loop getting that familiar slight ache under my left lung that I ALWAYS got during my second mile of running when Chaz showed up solo in one of the familiar eating spots.

‘Hi Chaz’. Second loop.

On the third loop, Chaz was staring at me. It wasn’t one of those deer-eating-and-staring-at-me looks. He wasn’t eating. He was staring right at me. He wasn’t scared, he was trying to say something.

‘Hi Chaz?’. Third loop.

Fourth loop. Chaz is still not eating, Chaz is still trying to speak and it’s really hard to speak English when you’re a deer, so I stopped to give him time although I expected him to bolt.

‘Sup Chaz?’ Last loop.

He didn’t budge. Just continued staring at me. Saying… something. He was saying, he was thinking, “Dude, why are you running in a loop? There’s nothing chasing you.”

In that moment I realized that, ‘I hated running’. I hated the monotony. I hated the ache under my left lung and I hated that the deer thought I looked silly.

I walked back to my dorm and didn’t run again until this last weekend. That’s 10+ years.

As I’m become reacquainted with running, I remember the aspects that I like:

  • Unlike hockey, which is the sport I replaced running with, the constant exertion results in a longer endorphin rush. This means that if I run in the morning, by the time I get my cup of coffee in Los Gatos, I have an endorphin and caffeine high. Total boon to drive-to-work productivity.
  • I’ve been running the same route in the redwoods for a week. The N.A.D.D. portion of brain really believes I should vary the route, but I’d forgotten that running is about the details. Finding subtle hills and valleys in what looks like a flat road and adjusting your pace. Running on the inside corner of the road versus the outside. The same run is different every time I’m not a detail guy and this is a good detail practice.
  • Most important, running is quiet processing time. It’s a part of the day where I am not sitting in front of the computer or a group of people and needing to either consume a flood of information or tap dance.

I hate tap dancing.

10 Responses

  1. Adam Spooner 18 years ago

    I quit running about 3 months ago. I was tired of the stitch I always got on my left side… no matter how long the run was.

    Thanks for the inspiration to run again. I’ll break out the Nike+iPod tomorrow morning and have a go. Maybe that feel-good endorphin rush will be a productivity booster.

  2. I ran cross country in 8th and 9th grade and didn’t like it. I ran track through high school, but never really liked running distances, until about a month ago. I bought the Nike+ for my iPod and I really enjoy running for the first time in my life. I think it’s one of those things you either like or you don’t and it can change (for better or worse) as you grow older.

  3. The stitch in your side that you mentioned generally has to do with the timing of your breathing and steps…

    from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/running-faq/part4/

    1) Stitches are a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. The cause of the spasm is that the organs below it are jouncing up and down and pulling down as it wants to pull up. The liver being the largest organ is the biggest culprit which is why most stitches are on the right side. A stomach full of food may also contribute to the problem for the same reason. Stitches also occur more often when running downhill or in cold weather.

    2) The cure seems almost too simple. Breathe out when your left foot strikes the ground instead of when the right foot strikes so that the organs on the right side of the abdomen are jouncing up when the diaphragm is going up. The organs attached to the bottom of the diaphragm on the left aren’t as big, so exert less downward pulling strain. If this is not enough to get rid of it, stop and raise you arms above your head until the pain goes away and when you resume, be a left foot breather. (Conversely, if your stitch occurs on the left side, switch your breathing to exhale on the right foot.)

    3) Do not eat anything for an hour before running if you are prone to stitches, BUT PLEASE DO DRINK WATER. Water empties from the stomach faster than solids and the risk of complications from dehydration far exceed the problems one may have with a stitch.

    4) In the long term, exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles will help prevent stitches because tighter abs will allow less movement of those internal organs. Practice belly breathing instead of chest breathing as recommended by Noakes. For the most part, stitches diminish over time. While they are not strictly a novice runner’s problem (about 1/3 of all runners get them from time to time) they usually will go away after a few weeks of conditioning.

  4. “Breathe out when your left foot strikes the ground instead of when the right foot strikes so that the organs on the right side of the abdomen are jouncing up when the diaphragm is going up.”

    Just so you know, this thought is totally going to screw my pacing up.

    Right foot left foot right foot NO LEFT FOOT crap.

  5. Additionally for the stitch prone, you may want to simply slow down. The vast majority of recreational runners have no use for higher levels of exertion which tend to cause stitches.

    Remember, running faster == higher physical stress == higher injury risk. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to “feel like you’ve gotten a workout” by running your body into the ground.

  6. John Muir 18 years ago

    Phew. All this is why I just cycle. I need more imagery and the longer distance you can fit into the same time really suits me. Plus hills are a real challenge.

    Last time I ever ran any distance was back in high school and I was completely useless at it. No ability to pace myself, hugely thirsty and more sweaty than I’d ever anticipated. Sore ankles too. Riding just seems to work better for me. The bike seems a good interface for pacing myself right and overall I’m quite pleased to back face to face with excercise. Oh and gears are golden, simple as that.

    Kudos to all the runners out there, I seem to mix it with a hundred of them no matter what time I go out, but I’m much more at home on wheels.

  7. Konrad 18 years ago

    I think there really is something to the idea of running giving you time to reflect and think. And it’s not just the time alone; the “runner’s high” and just being in motion seems to help. Even driving does it to some extent.

    Read The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and you might be surprised to note how many of the great scientific insights of the last century happened like a flash out of nowhere to someone who was walking, riding on a tram, or just somehow *moving*…

    Humans are born runners. We literally are born to run on the African savannah. We’re not sprinters like lions, but long-distance, run-down-the-prey-till-it-collapses type hunters like dogs.

  8. But pole dancing?


    Have you seen those Nike+ shoes with the iPod Nano support? They look very appealing for anyone who gets addicted to stats.

  9. I used to like running. I ran quite a bit in high school, mostly cross-training for swimming, but one season of track also. Every time I’ve tried to pick it up since, it’s just hurt way too much. Probably some of it is psychosomatic, but I think I have problems with the high-impact nature of the activity.

    For me, skating beats running hands down. It’s much lower-impact and more efficient than running, and on downhills you can carve out turns either ski- or snowboard-style. (Going up hills kinda sucks, though.) Biking is also great, but I don’t have good luck keeping my bikes out of the hands of thieves.

    suthsc’s comment notwithstanding, I really like to “kick it in” during the last ten percent or so of my skate/ride/whatever. I just push as hard as I can (which might not be all that hard if I’ve been out for a long time) for a substantial distance. It just gives a little extra edge to the joy of exertion.

  10. Rands, I’d be curious where you run. One of the open space preserves? My wife and I often run at Rancho San Antonio, but we’re always looking for new places 🙂