Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Ode to Rabbits*

DISCLAIMER: this is another blog post that centers on running.  I'm going to have to work much harder at balancing my running-related posts with more references to squat toilets.

I've blogged before about my running proclivities, including my preference for running on routes that minimize running circuits or repeating any part of a route on a single run.  Living where we do for the last year has been mentally taxing because I have very little choice but to run circuits, and it leads to random and otherwise odd thoughts (more so than I had when running in the United States, at least as far as I remember).

There is one advantage I've found to running loops around the Nichada lake, however, and that is the availability of unsuspecting rabbits.  If you are somewhat familiar with greyhound racing then you will understand my use of the term "rabbit."  In that particular form of "entertainment" (I use the term loosely, as I'm pretty sure those graceful dogs would actually rather do something else, like water a tree), the muzzled greyhounds race around a track chasing what in the sport is called a "lure," which traditionally is some form of rabbit.

Because I run alone I have to find ways to push myself to run harder/faster, and one way I do that is by tagging someone as a "rabbit."  Around here that is usually someone running the opposite direction as I am who passes me somewhere near--but not too near--my turnaround point (I will run all the way around the lake, then turn around and retrace my steps in the opposite direction).  My goal is then to catch up with and pass the rabbit who doesn't know they are a rabbit before our paths diverge (either they get to their home or I go left to head home and they head right for another lap around the lake).  This works on the supposition that said rabbit is running laps around the lake and they don't live in one of the housing complexes on the route and will get home before I catch them.

I have found this method to be quite effective in pushing me to run faster, particularly on the final stretches of my runs where it is often easiest to start coasting ("I've already been running for xx minutes, I can slack a little here at the end!").  Because I am something of a geek, a couple of years ago I created a spreadsheet to help track my runs; it's allowed me to plot my progression, see where I'm stronger/weaker, when I'm feeling good, when I'm feeling really slow, etc.  Because of this tool I have proof that I am on average significantly faster on sections where I'm chasing a rabbit.  I'm still not getting to the ridiculous kind of splits I had when I first started running distance with my BYU roommate Rob back in 1995-95, but I'm getting much faster than I was even two years ago.  Not that it's anything to brag about, I'm still a horrendously slow white fella.

But the best rabbit I've ever chased, hands down, is Mali.  It's only happened once, because I can only think of two times where she's been out exercising at the same time that I've been out for a run (I typically run later in the evening, she tends to go out with her girlfriends earlier).  There was just something about chasing that woman down that was so, so...well, this is a family blog and I think I better not say anymore.

*Please don't confuse my reference to rabbits with the Lao/Thai phrase ໄປຍິງກະຕ່າຍ/ไปยิงกระต่าย, which literally translated is "go shoot a rabbit."  It's a quasi-polite/silly way to say that a man is going to urinate.  Women cannot shoot rabbits.  They get to ไปเก็บดอกไม้ or "go pick daisies."  There's your language lesson for the day.  Don't say I never taught you anything.

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