Running with the Bunnies

I dedicated my running in May to the Love in Action Challenge, honoring the memory of Jack Grubbs by raising money for his favorite charity, SHADE, to build a new cafeteria for their school. If you’d like to contribute, please visit my donations page. In today’s post, I’ll share some highlights from the month.

If you’re looking for life lessons from this post, I offer two:

  1. Enjoy life in all its mystery. There are gifts everywhere you look.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take some risks. We learn and grow when we choose the difficult path, not the easy one.

Running with the Bunnies

The title of this post is a nod to one of the many running books on my shelves, Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear. That title makes me think of the movie Dances with Wolves, but it’s actually about the University of Colorado men’s cross country team, whose mascot is the buffalo. Regardless, it’s a catchy title that sticks in my head.

During May, I ran with the bunnies daily. I believe I saw at least one bunny on every single run (usually several). Because I was moving faster than most humans they encountered, I caused some alarm. They would hop off ahead of me and realize I was keeping pace with them, which then caused zig-zagging and much consternation. Eventually, the bunny would finally peel off to the side. I was able to steer them away from the street in each instance. No bunnies were harmed in the May Love in Action Challenge.

It became so common I began greeting the bunnies out loud and saying “Running with the Bunnies” every time I encountered one. The neighbors probably think I’m crazy… but they probably already thought that. On my final run on May 31, I encountered nine bunnies.

World Turtle Day

Snapping turtles

I spotted a box turtle crossing a 45-mph road on one run early in May. My wife and daughter have saved multiple turtles, and I knew I should do the same. I hopped into the road, stuck up my arms, and prayed the cars would stop. Thankfully, they did. I scooped the little guy up and placed him on the side of the road facing away from traffic. Later that day, I learned I had not done this turtle any favors. Since it was just getting started, I brought it back to the side it started from. When a turtle crosses the road, it will keep trying until they get to the other side. So public service announcement – if you want to help a turtle crossing the road, be sure to get it to the other side.

Did you know that May 23rd is World Turtle Day? I did not, but the universe did. On May 23rd, I encountered a much larger turtle on the shoulder of another 45-mph road, getting ready to cross. Thanks to the iNaturalist app, I confirmed that this turtle was a snapping turtle. I had heard they were dangerous. Thanks to Google and YouTube, I learned how to pick one up safely. And so, after three attempts, I successfully lifted the snapping turtle and ran it across the road. It was pretty scary. The turtle was thrashing around and not happy with me, and later I realized I had cuts on two of my knuckles from its legs scraping against me. On that same run, I saw a second snapping turtle. Thankfully, this one was not crossing a road.

I thought it interesting that my only encounters with snapping turtles in May were the two on World Turtle Day and one on my final celebratory run on the 31st. That had a magical quality to it.

Beaverdam Reservoir

Deer, lichen, geese and turtle

On Sundays, I took to the trails, completing multiple loops around Beaverdam Reservoir. These were always “no headphone” runs and were my favorite runs of the month. One highlight was a family of geese. The parents and two goslings walked along the trail like any regular hikers. I followed at a respectful distance until they finally decided to break off to one side. I also encountered some very large fish swimming in the reeds next to the bank. If I was quick, I could have reached down and grabbed one. A loop around the reservoir is about 7.5 miles (less if you know the shortcut). It’s peaceful and pretty but very muddy this time of year.

The Data

VO2 max graph

My stated (conservative) goal was to break my record for the most miles logged in a month, 212 miles. My stretch goal was a bit more ambitious – to run ten miles a day every day in May. I’m proud to share my legs cooperated, and I finished with 313 miles total for the month.

I kept each run at an “easy” pace, although I tried to keep my heart rate in Zone 2, which was faster than my prior “easy” pace. In May, my fitness improved more than it did for any previous marathon training plan I had executed. My VO2 max rose from 60 to 62, the highest it has ever been. That was a pleasant surprise.

Garmin showing Rest and Recovery

Selecting the “Run” option on my Garmin device gives me a suggested workout. Beginning on May 4th, the suggested workout was “Rest,” and that suggestion continued each day after that. That unhelpful suggestion got old fast. I thought I’d be stuck with it until June, but on May 28th, my Garmin gave up. Rather than suggesting a rest day, it suggested a “Recovery” run. Any Garmin owner who has suffered the indignity of having a run labeled “Unproductive” or, even worse, “Detraining” can appreciate the joy I felt for breaking my Garmin’s will and getting it to upgrade me to “recovery run” status. Naturally, I took that as permission to run my fastest ten-miler of the month.

Rest Day?

Josh and Meb

I looked forward to June 1st being my first rest day in a month. Ironically, June 1st is Global Running Day. I needed a compelling reason to skip my rest day in favor of a run, and once again, the universe took care of me. Our local running store, Potomac River Running, hosted a fun run with American running legend Meb Keflezighi, which provided unparalleled inspiration to get out for a run. Meb’s the second American running legend I’ve run with this year, as I ran the Reston 10-Miler with Keira D’Amato. If you’re on Strava, use that link to follow her. Her posts are very entertaining.

What’s Next

Next, I turn my attention to the Chicago Marathon in October. Running 70 miles a week for the past month has emboldened me. Before last month, my highest weekly mileage was 62 miles. When I debriefed on Boston with my chiropractor and running friend Dr. Aleck Wong, he dangled an aggressive 12-week marathon training plan in front of me. When I saw the numbers, I felt chills of excitement run through me. I told him I’d think about it, but I knew at that moment that this was my plan. If I hadn’t pushed myself as hard as I did in May, I would not have even considered it. Now I’m looking forward to it!

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me last month and those who contributed to SHADE in Jack’s memory. If you’d like to contribute, please visit my donations page.

Schedule time with Josh.

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