Bosworth and the cows

Stepping out of the truck, the thick air weighed heavy beneath the threatening clouds.

Another long run. With a steady diet of hills and humidity.

We settled into a comfortable pace in a place that has become a staple for marathon training. These rolling hills provide a solid testing ground for fitness on race day.

Within a few miles, we met a woman walking on the gravel road. In her hand, she held the leash for Bosworth, but she didn’t need to. Lazily, he took strides to keep up with her.

Some dogs seem to have a natural smile. Bosworth is one of those dogs.

A 96-pound Golden retriever, the woman explained he was a rescue dog. He sat at my feet and leaned against me, just like my own. Now he lives the good life at the lake and frequently enjoyed Saturday morning walks with is adopted family.

A few miles later, after climbing more hills, we reached the cows. They always have a curious look on their face. Unlike this time, though, they didn’t scamper away. These cows were too intent on grazing.

Adventures like these are well worth the drive. And the effort to grind through 18 miles on a humid day, luckily ahead of the thunderstorms.

The best part about running are the adventures — some solo, others with groups. Earlier this month, a group of us traveled to a rural Minnesota farm. Our first-ever beer mile was on tap, followed by a grill out with hamburgers, hot dogs, sweet corn and homemade treats.

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The mile went better than expected. Earlier in the day, I continued my consecutive running streak with an 8-miler in mid-day.

Those group adventures make the sport worthwhile. Other times, I need solo journeys to clear my head.

Earlier this month, I received word from a close friend that his dad had fallen more ill. It’s been hard to wrap my head around as the family has a special place in my heart. Through my days playing high school baseball and into college, we had grown close. They had always invited me into their home — even for holidays there was a placesetting for me.

LaRue Cook served as a father figure to me. His laugh, smile and wit always kept me on my toes. He and his family’s kindness made me feel comfortable and welcome, sometimes when I needed it most.

So many of the miles this month have been run with a heavy heart. Most of them spent remembering him and being grateful for the impact he had on me.

His death, 10 years to the day my grandmother passed, came as a somber reminder of other great losses, all which seem to be packed into this month.

There are still two more reminders left on the calendar.

But not all is somber. Somehow I’ve kept my running streak together.

A friend surprised me by finding an elusive pair of my marathon shoes for St. George, now just more than 5 weeks away.

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Also, today marks National Dog Day, and I am reminded each time I come home how lucky I’m to have found Coby.

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The big burn

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier, author

Meetings, deadlines and duties filled the week to make the looming task come with plenty of anxiety.

Interruptions to normal sleep and eating routines present challenges to successful training. But this summer, these interruptions have become opportunities for adaptation. No two weeks have been the same with changes to distance and types of workouts. Some weeks include two-a-day workouts, usually on Wednesdays, but the pattern has changed.

During this training cycle, even the timing of workouts has changed.

For years, early morning runs were a staple — leaving me energized for the day and unaffected by the day’s events. Somewhere along the way this June, July and August, running has become an evening activity.

And that means running plenty of miles in the heat.

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This past weekend, I headed south to meet a friend for our long run on the gravel roads near Rollag, Minn.

Twenty miles of rolling hills provided a daunting challenge after a grueling week, lack of sleep and less-than-ideal meal planning. The marathon, though, won’t wait for perfect conditions.

An early morning departure allowed us to beat the day’s high temperatures. Cloudy skies also offered some relief. Good conversation helped the time go by quick, even though the terrain provided constant inclines and descents.

IMG_2838 IMG_2840Runs like the one this past Sunday are confidence boosters.

Marathon training isn’t supposed to be easy. It takes work — a lot of hard work — if you want race day to go well. And there are no guarantees that race day will go well.

But I’ve never been one that wanted to show up at the starting line and question whether I could have done more to prepare. There are uncontrollable factors — like the weather — and there are many more that will be determined by preparation, attitude and training.

And that’s one big reason why running well requires consistency. Runners who devote themselves to consistently training reap the greatest rewards in whatever improvements they’re seeking.

This week, the big burn — temperatures soaring into the 90s — provide another physical challenge. It won’t be easy, but the miles come easier after a summer full of consistent training.

Embracing the heat and hills are part of the ingredients for race day preparation for the St. George Marathon, now less than 8 weeks away.