Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Review Post

It's December 30, and I may get in a short run before work tomorrow, but any way you slice it Running Year 2010 is pretty much done, and we (I) thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of my favorite running highlights of the past year.

January -- January was a pretty nondescript month of running. I tested out my new Garmin watch for the first time, which I still owe a product review on, but other than that, not much to say.

February -- We got completely blasted by the Double-Barrel Blizzard of 2010, two 2+ feet of snow-dropping Nor'easters within three days of one another. I think from the time the first one fell I didn't run outside again until March. I reluctantly hopped on our treadmill, which I really can't stand, a few times.

March -- My wife and I ran our first race of the year, the Kelly's St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K in downtown Baltimore. The best part of this race was running down Charles St. and seeing the entire green-clad crowd of runners out ahead of me. Oh, and there was free beer at the end. I ran a 26:14, not my best, but not bad.

I also had the opportunity go for a very enjoyable run in downtown Minneapolis while on a business trip there. While the weather was chilly and rainy, I ran a meandering six miles that took me around the Twins' beautiful new park, Target Field, around picturesque Nicollette Island, and parks on both sides of the Mississippi. It definitely seemed like a great city for running. I love running in flat parts of the Midwest.

I also got myself back into some long runs in March, getting in some 10 mile runs as I trained for the Broad Street Run, a 10 mile race in Philadelphia.

April -- In April, I continued my training for the Broad Street Run, but we didn't run in any races or in any locations of note.

May -- In May, I completed the 2010 Broad Street Run on May 5. Devastatingly hot at the 8:00am start time, this is one of my least enjoyable races ever, but also one of the ones I'm most proud of. It was approximately 85 during most of the race, whereas 3 days before on my last training run I was wearing long sleeves. I salute the city of Philadelphia for doing a good job with the water stations and for having the foresight to open the fire hydrants. I wouldn't have made it if it weren't for that. I finished in 1:37:54, well off my goal time of 1:30, which I'd hit in my training runs, but quite satisfactory considering the conditions.

Because my wife and I had the good fortune to take an amazing European vacation in May (I highly, highly recommend Contiki as a fun and cost-effective way to travel. Traveling by bus tour eliminated so many headaches and we made many great friends), I was able to run along the Arno River in Florence; up to the front of L'Hotel des Invalides, where Napolean's tomb resides in Paris; and through and around Hyde Park in London. I was glad I packed my running shoes on this great vacation. My Garmin was a bit confused, though, and completely useless in most cases.

June -- Two 5Ks, the Colon Cancer Prevention 5K in Harrisburg, where I ran a very good (for me) 24:38 and a race at Gettysburg Battlefield a week later where I came in just over 25 on a very hot morning. My wife ran in her 2nd Baltimore Women's Classic 5K the following day, which was even hotter and more humid. I was happy to be a spectator for that one. Two 5Ks in one weekend, that's just crazy!

July -- New PR, 6:44, at the Harrisburg Mile. This always ends up being on the hottest night in July.

August -- August is really hot. I don't run any races in August unless I can help it.

September -- Two good 5Ks in September. On September 11, I ran in the inaugural Firefighter 5K in Manchester and Mt Wolf. This great race was set up by Eagle Fire Company in Mt Wolf to raise money for a new fire engine and for the Fallen Firefighter Foundation. The event began at Northeastern Middle School with a very touching ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11. The race began a bit late, but once we were underway the course took us down Board Road to Wago Road, ending outside the fire hall in Mt. Wolf. I finished 19th out of 124 runners with a respectable 24:38. You can learn more about this great event and see photos taken by my wife, who volunteered as the official photographer, here.

My wife and I ran the Fort McHenry Tunnel Run in Baltimore on September 19. As the name implies, it runs through one of the bores of the Fort McHenry Tunnel on Interstate 95. The course is a simple down and back loop through the tunnel, but it makes for a tricky race. The start is very crowded and steeply downhill, and the finish is a steep uphill. I ran a 25:11, which I was very happy with in this unique race.

I also had two nice evening runs while on a business trip in Schaumburg, IL, which was very flat and a nice run, and in Madison Wisconsin, which was not so flat. During the Madison run, I was chased off the grounds of my client's corporate headquarters by security.

October -- In October, my wife, my sister, a friend from college, and I ran in the Baltimore Marathon Relay. Our team name, Earn Your Donuts, inspired this blog. We had a great time, though I have to say that running the fourth leg was rather depressing. There's no joy in passing someone who's in the last quarter of a marathon while I'm only on mile two or three of seven. The finish goes down Eutaw Street, right through Camden Yards. I slapped the "8" statue for luck as I raced to the finish, and was very happy to collect our medals. My struggle with these seven miles was a wake-up call to me that I had a lot of work to do before the Philadelphia Half Marathon.

November -- In November, I focused on training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which I'd first run in 2009, when it was my first half and my only one at that point. To train, I mapped out a 13-mile course, the York Haven Half Marathon, that I ran the two weeks before the race. The race itself went very well, as detailed in a previous blog post. I broke the 2-hour mark, once considered impossible (for me), and had fun doing it. I see myself running in Philadelphia in late November again next year.

December -- I ended the year with a strong month of running. I ran my two longest distances ever, 15 and 16 miles, and set a personal record of 23:43, my only sub-24 minute 5K ever, in our only December race.

It's been a fun year of running. Coming up early in the new year I'll take a look at the races that I hope to take on in 2011. Until then, good luck and good miles in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

9 Years.

I ran 6 miles last night and have a sprained ankle to show for it. There, now that that's out of the way, I can talk about my anniversary.

Nine years ago from tomorrow I married the woman of my dreams. We've had a lot of great times in the last nine years, and have overcome challenges as well. I don't claim to know exactly what the future holds, but because she's in it, I know it'll be great! Thank you for the last nine wonderful years and I look forward to many more.

I'd better stop, since I'm starting to sound like a Guns & Roses slow song. Here are pictures.

Devil horns don't ruin a wedding picture. Devil horns enhance a wedding picture.

5-year anniversary vow renewal in Jamaica.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


First of all, a belated "Happy Holidays" from the staff here at Earn Your Donuts. We've gotten a little behind here, but later this evening or tomorrow as people here in Pennsylvania dig out from Snowstorms of Varying Sizes, we'll take the opportunity to share one of our favorite Christmas stories, a tale of magic and wonder that people of all ages can enjoy.

On the running front, we've taken two trips from York Haven to Goldsboro this morning and this past Thursday going 10 miles in 1:46 on Thursday and 12 miles in 2 hours today. Both days have featured a strong wind blowing in my face on the way out, which slowed me down by about five minutes on Thursday, and thankfully pushes me back toward home on the way back. Thursday was windier; I felt like I was going to be blown backwards at times as I ran into the wind, and when the wind was at my back I really felt like I was just lifting my feet up and the wind was doing all the work. Today was no picnic either -- you'll note that I ran 1.3 miles less than my half marathon in just about the same amount of time. In my defense, it is quite hillier here. Don't judge me!

At the end of my route in Goldsboro, at my typical turn-around point, I have noticed this sign. I'm not sure what it really means, but I imagine it's a warning to me and anyone else foolish enough to do most of their runs in this hilly section of Newberry Township.

Well, the concerned sign makers needn't have worried about me. With gale-force winds in my face and icicles forming in my beard, "fast" is not on the agenda.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Unpossible* is Possible

Date: December 19 2010
Time: 14 seconds
Location: Meadowlands, NJ
Cats spotted: 0

Giants chased by: 11

I'm going to be completely honest here. When the Eagles were down 24-3 at halftime and then 31-10 in the fourth quarter, I think only two people believed they could pull off the win. There's comebacks, after all, and there's statistical impossibility.

One of them was my wife, who after a big Vick run but with the game very much in the favor of NJ, urged a friend and I to sit back down as we prepared to leave for a minor league hockey game that we had tickets for. Even though at that point in the game I felt the Eagles were back in it, I'm glad I got to see football history and not drive my car into the Susquehanna as Merrill Reese and Mike Quick went nuts.

The other one was Michael Vick, who decided in the fourth quarter that he was going to win the game by himself. I've seen a lot of amazing things happen on a football field, and the Eagles have been on the losing end of many of them, but his performance was one of the greatest, gutsiest things I've ever seen in sports.

I didn't want to like Mike Vick. I was rooting for Kolb to to keep the job and keep the notorious felon off the field. But over the course of the season, it's been easy to enjoy Vick's exploits on the field, and I've unexpectedly found that he seems likeable, too. He seems like he's humbled, he's clearly a leader on the team, and rumored to be a hard worker on the practice field in the film room, things he never was in Atlanta. It's a shame that took being convicted of a felony -- and I don't mean to downplay the awfulness of his crimes -- for him to change his life, but from everything we can see, there's evidence that he has.

By the time the game was tied, the Eagles had all the momentum and perhaps it was merciful that DeSean Jackson ended the game in regulation. It's amazing to watch the replay and see how he just expected to run it back. No one will accuse DeSean of lacking confidence. The emotional roller coaster of that single play is equaled by only handful of plays that I recall, some positive (4th & 26) and some negative (Ronde f***ing Barber). "DeSean's back to return!" "They kick it to him!" "Oh no he fumbled!" "hE'S GOT A BLOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "ALKFJAOEISURUASFJASKDFJASOEIRUTOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm not going to turn this into an Eagles blog, I promise. I'd drive myself crazy and I can't compete with some of the great ones out there. But this is a running blog, and I figured Vick's fourth-quarter scrambles and DeSean punt return certainly qualify.

I'm a pessimist; I'm not going to go spouting off about the Superbowl, and for now I just want to savor this one for a few more days. But maybe, just maybe I can use this as a reminder not to be so pessimistic, be it the outcome of a sporting event or any of the other life events for which my outlook is typically gloomy.

As the often bumbling Eagles proved yesterday, and as DeSean would say*, nothing is "unpossible".

My run:
Date: December 20 2010
Distance: about 5 miles (I forgot Garmin)
Time: About 46 minutes (I forgot to stop my watch at the end of my run)
Location: York PA
Cats Spotted: 0

Giants fans chased by: none yet

*yes, I know it's not a real word.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Location, New Gear


Today's Run:
Date: December 18 2010
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, 50 seconds
Location: Timonium, MD
Cats Spotted: 0

Dogs chased by: 0

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fortune and Glory, Kid. Fortune and Glory.

In one of my recent posts, I questioned whether I really enjoy running or not. I'm still not sure I can conclusively answer that. Races are fun, to varying extents, but I'm not so sure about my "regular" runs. I'll admit that sometimes it's a nice chance to sort of turn my brain off and think of nothing other than "left foot-right foot-left foot-right foot" or "ouch, this is a stupid hobby", but more and more often the things into my head during a run are implementation plans and conference call agendas and bills. Basically, the exact stuff I'd prefer not to think about while I run. Maybe I can solve that by going back to a location where I don't feel unsafe running with my trusty Shuffle, or maybe not.

I am sure that I like being a runner. I like that I (feel like I) can justify some extra snacking because "hey, I ran 10 miles this morning" and I like that I can tell people that I'm a runner. And I guess I'm healthier now? (My lungs say yes, my legs would probably say no.) I like that, too.

But I'm not sure that overall I would say that I generally actually enjoy the act of running. When I took a scenic run around downtown Minneapolis in March while on a business trip, that was fun. When I ran around Hobart, Indiana, the ancestral home of one side of my family and the location of so many great memories, that was fun. Running in Florence, Paris, and London? Amazing. My regular route from York Haven to Goldsboro and back that I've ran 100 times? Not so fun, although it's definitely more enjoyable on a cool, or even cold, day than a hot, humid one.

My wife and I have a friend who is much more accomplished than either of us as a runner. She's finished multiple marathons. Name a distance, and she's been there, done that -- and quickly, too. She truly loves running; I don't think I'm there, and I'm not sure I'll ever get there.

Me? I'm just in it for the hardware.

(I won this silver-colored medal for coming in 2nd in my age group at the 2008 Newberry Township D.A.R.E. to Care 5K. Of course, there were only two participants in my age group.)

Yes, of course I realize these are basically the equivalent of "Participant" ribbons from elementary school Track & Field Day (and believe me, I had plenty of those!). Don't judge me!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot that I did go for a run this morning. It was very cold, but not as windy as Tuesday and I had a much better run this time around:

Date: December 16, 2010

Distance: 10.10 miles

Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes, 45 seconds

Location: York Haven to Goldsboro and back

Cats Spotted: 1 adorable black cat.

Dogs chased by: None. Too cold.

Song stuck in my head: "Love Walks In" by Van Halen. Awesome.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Really Cold and My Legs Hurt

That pretty much says it all. Today was supposedly 25 degrees out and felt like 10 with the wind chill.

I stepped out for a run at lunch, with the stated intent of going 6 or 7 miles, but hoping/planning to go for my usual 10. The cold was miserable as expected, but that wasn't what stopped me. Instead, my calves hurt so badly at three miles that even after stopping to try to stretch my legs out more, I realized I had to turn around or I was going to get myself stranded out there.

No donuts were awarded for this disappointing run. Frustration level is high.

Date: December 14, 2010

Distance: 5.39 miles

Time: 51 minutes, 42 seconds

Location: York Haven Road

Cats Spotted: 0

Dogs chased by: 0

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Race Report: Jingle Bell 5K

For the second year in a row, my wife and I ran the Jingle Bell 5K in Harrisburg, and for the second year in a row, I recorded my personal 5K record there. I had a bit of technical support this year; I used the Virtual Training Partner on my Garmin to try to keep myself under a 24 minutes. It's a neat feature. It basically is like running against another runner, a tireless, mechanized foe who is impervious to cold and hills.

(Don't want to get deleted? Outrun the robot.)

The two-lap course was quite a bit hillier than I remembered it, and it was interesting to see exactly which points I fell behind the pace I'd hoped to set, measured in terms of how far I was behind the Virtual Training Partner, and at which points I made up ground. (Basically, I found that if I could keep pace on the steep hills, I could open up a lead on the flat and downhill stretches). I ran hard the whole way, and came in at 23:42:71, beating my previous record by 28 seconds and finishing ahead of the Virtual Training Partner.

Take that, Garmin! I kicked your butt. I know, I're a wristwatch. Of course you don't literally have a butt.

(After the race, we were attacked by a creepy Hershey Bar creature.)

(C. finished with her 2nd-fastest time ever. This has been a good race for us two years in a row. Studies show that it's because we have to run fast to keep from freezing.)

(Earn your....well, you know.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Motivation, or the Lack Thereof

When we last read this blog, we saw that our humble author had cut a nighttime run short due to an upset stomach.

Ok, ok, that's enough third person for now.

I took off from running Tuesday and yesterday because I just didn't feel all the way better, but planned to go for a run this morning. I woke up, feeling mostly better, but all I could think of were reasons not to run.

  • "It's REALLY cold out."

  • "Maybe I don't feel all the way better."

  • "Bed is so comfy."

  • "Aww...I don't want to get up and disturb the kitten."

  • "I stayed up too late last night."

  • "I'm too hungry to run."
The bottom line behind all these excuses was just that I had absolutely no desire to run today. The thought of going for a run appealed to me about as much as the thought of chugging a Grande Lima Bean Frappuccino.

(Higgy also lacks willpower at times.)

Later in the day, I did drag myself out for a run, and it was a pretty good bounce-back from Monday's debacle-run. Still, my lack of motivation and enthusiasm was enough for me to ask myself, "Do I actually enjoy this?"

I'm not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it's worth milking into a future post.

Date: December 9, 2010

Distance: 10.13 miles

Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes, 39 seconds

Location: York Haven to Goldsboro (and back, thankfully)

Cats Spotted: None :-(

Dogs chased by: Again, it's only a matter of time before one of the local pit bull jumps over his/her fence. But that day was not today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Run to Forget

Having a running blog is awesome when the two weeks in which I've been blogging have coincided with the two best weeks of my running "career": I've had a half marathon that exceeded my personal record and my own expectations; my two longest runs ever, 15 and 16 miles; completed a couple of solid "regular" runs; and tested out some cool new gear.

It sucks on nights like this, when I'd hoped for a 10-mile evening run and then quit with stomach problems after just 3 miles, leaving me with a freezing mile-and-a half walk back to my starting my point, during which I thoroughly convinced myself that running was a stupid sport for stupid idiots.

And stupid I was. Scheduled to run this morning, I bailed because my stomach didn't feel so hot. Though it felt better this afternoon/evening, it wasn't quite back to normal, and that was quite evident quite early in a run that I would consider probably my worst of the year.

So, while I'd like to forget this one, I think that instead I can take a few lessons from it:

1. Pay attention to how I feel -- I've never followed any organized training plan, I just do "what I've always done or what's always worked for me". Tonight, though, I ignored what my body was trying to tell me, to my own chagrin. My digestive system was telling me loud and clear "DON'T RUN TONIGHT!"

2. Never get too high, or too low. As much as Andy Reid generally infuriates me as he coaches my favorite sports team to a lot of wins but not THE win, he's probably right about this. I'm not as awesome a runner as I thought I was on Saturday afternoon, but I'm not as bad as I was tonight. As much as I'd like to forget it, this is a run I should keep in mind next time I get too proud of myself.

My next run is scheduled for Wednesday morning, and I can't wait to put this one behind me.

Date: December 6, 2010

Distance: 3.03 miles

Time: 29 minutes, 51 seconds

Location: Detwiler Road, York PA

Cats Spotted: Luckily I avoided the judging eyes of adorable cats.

Dogs chased by: None, and that's good thing; I wasn't going to outrun anything tonight.

(Pooka reminds us that stomach problems aren't so bad when your tummy looks like it has a smiley face on it.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nevermind. The Last 16 Miles are the Hardest


Longest run ever, by a mile.

I set out to run 15 or 16 miles, and felt well enough to go for the 16, but also kind of had to because I planned my route poorly and got myself stuck out on the far end of Detwiler Rd at 13.5 miles.
Overall, I'm really happy with this run, and since I probably won't get a chance to attempt another run of this distance until the end of December if not early January, my legs will get a little bit of a break.

I saw but one adorable fluffy kitty on today, a majestic white cat sitting in the middle of a driveway and looking like he owned the place. I could almost picture him saying to me as I ran by, "You're stupid for doing this." I agree, Mr. Kitty.

I tried out a new product today -- Sport Beans from Jelly Belly, which are protein and carb loaded (surprise) jellybeans. I started drinking orange Gatorade (Nectar of the Gods!) at about mile 7, and started popping the Sport Beans at mile 11. They did seem to give me energy back, but there was only one problem. They taste like lime Gatorade. If orange Gatorade is like drinking happiness and sunshine and everything that's good about the world, lime Gatorade is like drinking pessimism and sadness.

That said -- the beans seemed to do their job and they were easy to eat while running, so I'll probably buy more of them. Hopefully they make orange flavored ones.

Date: December 4, 2010

Distance: 16.02 miles

Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, 26 seconds

Location: Detwiler Road, York PA

Cats Spotted: the aforementioned white one

Dogs chased by: 0 -- thank goodness for invisible fences.

Post-run meal: Egg, Sausage, and Cheese Croissant and a filled donut from Maple Donuts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Move it along, nothing to see here!

Date: December 2, 2010

Distance: approximately 10.3 miles (I forgot Garmin)

Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, 21 seconds

Location: York Haven to Goldsboro, via York Haven Road and Cly Road


Cats Spotted: Three. The adorable gray one that I've been seeing a lot lately and a brown and white tabby were on a porch in Goldsboro. They looked very cold and sad. They declined my offer to join me on the run home and come live indoors with me. The other was in a window in a house set back from the street. I didn't get a good look at it, so it may have been a stuffed cat, a dog, or a small child.

Dogs chased by: Technically, zero. All I can say is that I owe whoever invented the fence my eternal gratitude, or I would have had about 10 dogs, including three pit bulls, on my tail. Let me just add that I'm not opposed to pit bulls, but these do not seem to be nice pit bulls like Spuds McKenzie. They seem to be more the "Bad Newz Kennels" type.

(I don't like Bud Light. But that's no reason to release the hounds, is it?)

Not much else to say about this one. I ran the same route as I posted about on Monday, and other than seeing more cats this time, nothing really interesting happened.

Hmm...maybe this is why a running blog wasn't such a hot idea after all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Kitten Can Beat Up Your Kitten

Since running started becoming more of a time-consuming hobby for me, I've slacked off on weight training. But with bad weather keeping me indoors and the little annoying "you should lift more often" voice inside my head nagging me, I decided to hit the weight room this morning.

Don't you hate when you get to the gym and find that all the equipment is being used?

In reality, Elizabeth the Kitten won't be beating up anything. She's terrified of almost everything. She can take down cats twice her size in a purring contest, though. (The first rule of purring contest is you do not purr about purring contest. The second rule of purring contest is you DO NOT purr about purring contest.)

And isn't she adorable?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pain Lies on the Riverside

Somewhere between York Haven and Goldsboro, to be exact. I know this because my regular approximately 10-mile training route runs from Shelly Park adjacent to York Haven Elementary to "downtown" Goldsboro, a picturesque little town along the Susquehanna -- directly across the river from Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant, site of the worst nuclear mishap in U.S. history. While the nuclear mishap at TMI apparently wasn't all that terrible, according to a report I wrote in high school that contrasted it with the meltdown at Chrenobyl, this route is excruciatingly grueling.

It begins with a loop through Shelly Park, mostly downhill, and out of the park into York Haven. The first mile is completed just northwest of York Haven on York Haven Road, and the route continues another mile on York Haven Road, which features a steep hill from about 1.5 miles in until just before the 2-mile point. Shortly afterward, the route makes a right on Cly Road and heads down a steep hill. From here, it's a relatively flat 2.5 miles to Goldsboro.

As I approach the square in Goldsboro, there's a house with two huge pit bulls that usually come out of nowhere and scare the living bejeebus out of me. Just past the square are some houses where I usually spot some adorable cats. Today, I saw a big fluffy gray kitty sitting on a porch, which happily ended a streak over a week where I hadn't seen any cats, adorable or otherwise, on my runs.

Past the square in Goldsboro, I turn and head for home. Since it's relatively flat, it's fairly easy until the 8-mile point where I must run up a long, steep hill back to Cly Road. Last Fall, I took a walking break on this hill, but this year I've forced myself to run up it. Once I get to York Haven Road, I have long mostly downhill break until the final turn back into Shelly Park and a short, steep hill in the park itself.

It's been a good training route for me. It's almost exactly 10 miles, but I can vary the distance by turning back early, or running around the streets of Goldsboro if I'm looking to add more distance.

And if the radiation doesn't kill me, the hills probably won't.

Today's run was barely over 10 miles. With my legs still tired from Saturday's long run, my run along the river was more of a challenge than usual.

Date: November 29, 2010

Distance: 10.16 miles

Time: 1 hours, 40 minutes, 38 seconds

Location: York Haven to Goldsboro, via York Haven Road and Cly Road


Cats Spotted: 1 adorable gray one.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The First 15 Miles are the Hardest

Date: November 27, 2010

Distance: 15.01 miles

Time: 2 hours, 31 minutes, 58 seconds

Location: Detwiler Rd again

Cats Spotted: 0 :-(

Dogs Chased By: Two. One was a pit pull and scared the hell out of me because I didn't see him coming until he was right next to me barking, and one was a little tiny shitzu that any of our three cats could have taken easily.

Stuck in my head: For some reason around mile 9, "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles was briefly stuck in my head.

Post race food: Breakfast sandwich and a donut, Dunkin Donuts

My goal today was 15 miles and, as you can see above, I made it. I set off from my parents' house as a starting point since down to the far end of Detwiler Road and back is 5 miles, which would give me two convenient bio breaks and stopping points, since this would be the longest run I'd attempted to date.

I ran the first loop in about 51 minutes, during which it snowed. I HATE SNOW. THERE ARE NO WORDS IN ENGLISH ADEQUATE TO DESCRIBE MY LOATHING OF IT. As I was about halfway down my second loop of Detwiler Road, with a bit over 6 miles under my belt, I realized that if I got back to the parents' house, I'd never be able to convince myself to head back out for the third lap. So I improvised my route and added distance by running side streets which would loop me back on Detwiler. I wasn't quite at 10 miles when I got to the end of it the second time, so I headed right up Millcreek, into uncharted territory, until my not-so-trusty Garmin (stay tuned for a future product review) said 10, and then I headed back.

Around 12 miles my legs emphatically were telling me that I'd probably been a bit over-ambitious, but since I had at least a mile to go if I headed straight back, I decided that I was going to loop around a bit more so I could meet my goal. I ate some pineapple Dole Fruit Bites, and I'd been drinking orange Gatorade (I love orange Gatorade) in addition to water throughout the run, so I had definitely consumed more calories than I ever had during a run, and it probably made the difference between 15 miles and 12 or 13. I'll have to experiment with other snacks, but for a run of this distance the Fruit Bites seemed like a good option since I could easily eat them as I kept jogging.

As I got back to my parents' driveway, I raised my arms in victory and probably looked pretty silly.

This was one of my best runs in my four year "career". (I feel like I'm bragging too much, but I assure you I'll be blogging some runs that I'm disappointed in, too.) It was the farthest distance I've run by nearly two miles, and my pace seemed consistent with my 13 mile training runs.
One the negative side, the lack of adorable fluffy cats along this route was quite the downer. I'll probably try this route again in a week or two, and will probably go a bit light on my midweek runs to help recovery.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm Thankful For...

I'm a day late. Sue me.

What I'm thankful for...

My wife & best friend...


Old friends...

(except the person 2nd from left...we don't know her.)

(We don't know the horse guy, either, but I'm thankful for this classic moment in B2 Bowl History.)

New friends...

Furry friends...


Strong finishes...

and second chances...

(and not just for #7)

and much, much more.

Thanks for reading, and happy belated Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Attack of the Glow-in-the-Dark Ninja Commandos!

Date: November 21, 2010

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes, 3 seconds

Location: I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you. Ok, ok. It was Detwiler Rd and environs in York, PA

Cats Spotted: 0 (It was night!)

Dogs Chased By: None (One barked at me, but he was chained to the front porch. HA HA!)

Stuck in my head: "Please don't run me over," "I'm too young to die.", etc.

Post race food: Pizza.

As the days grow shorter, one of my challenges as a runner is to get my distance in before work in the morning. Even though I work from home, there's just not enough daylight to safely run 7-10 miles before work, since most of the roads I run on have questionable visibility for drivers even in daylight, and narrow to nonexistent shoulders. I can head down to my parents' neighborhood, a more typical suburban area with wider streets and some sidewalks, but getting up even earlier is not high on my list of priorities. Of course, there's even less daylight after work, since it's pitch black by 5:00 these days.

Thankfully, evil genius scientists have solved the problem for me. At the Philadelphia Marathon (and Half Marathon) Expo, I purchased two new products that I used for the first time on a run last night.

1. Petzl Tikka XP2 60 lumen headlamp ($40): As the name implies, it's a small light that attaches to my forehead via an adjustable strap. Yes, it's just as dorky as it sounds. On the plus side, if any miners ever need rescued in the York area, you know who to call. Through a combination of two lights and an adjustable wide angle lens, the lamp has several settings:
  • Maximum (white light) -- a very bright setting that undoubtedly made me visible to drivers and allowed me to see ahead for (estimating) about 100ft.
  • Economy (white light) -- this setting is used to increase battery life and reduce user life. It didn't provide much illumination at all.
  • Flashing -- This setting is meant to make the runner most visible to drivers. I found it very annoying.
  • Red (steady and flashing) -- Another setting to increase my visibility to drivers, it didn't provide sufficient illumination beyond the ambient light from houses and the moon. It would have been much cooler if this were a laser.

    Despite my unfavorable comments on some of the settings, I really like this device. Between its multiple settings, adjustable wide-angle lens, and ability to tilt the light forward or toward the ground, it gives the user a lot of options. I found that maximum brightness, wide angle on, and lens pointed downward so I could see my path directly in front of me made me feel safest. It was fairly comfortable. I found it to be a minor source of heat, which would be a greater annoyance on warmer nights and less of an issue in the dead of winter. I compensated by putting the device a little higher up on my forehead than it seems like it's meant to be worn.
2. Reflective Bright Yellow/Green Running Shirt from RuSeen (the name of the vendor stand where I bought both products) ($20) -- a very brightly colored shirt with a reflective strip that runs up one side of the front and back. It's completely cool and stylishly trendy, and it was comfortable and seemed to wick away moisture as well as any other technical shirt.

Did they work? Yes. I didn't get run over.

Dorkiness factor: Headlamp (10/10) Shirt (0/10 -- Completely, irrevocably awesome. Coming soon to a nightclub near you.)

The run itself was a fairly pedestrian affair. My legs were still tired from the half marathon, so I think 10 miles might have been a bit ambitious. However, I'd run 10 miles two days after one of my fake half marathons two weeks ago, so I think it was at least a defensible idea.

Running at night will take some getting used to. My previous nighttime runs were at well-lighted corporate parks while on a business trip, and running in the dark in a residential neighborhood was quite a bit different. Even with my headlamp, I need to be a lot more careful. If I'm going to run in the evening or night more often, I also need to learn how far in advance to eat. A pre-run slice of pizza, 3 hours before starting, was a bad idea.

The best thing about running at night -- other than no longer being a slave to the circadian rhythms of the human race, of course -- was that, with my headlamp pointed 5-10 feet in front of me, I barely noticed the hills.

Day? Night? When you're cool, the sun shines on you 24 hours a day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Philadelphia Half Marathon

Date: November 21, 2010

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes, 34 seconds (chip time)

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Cats Spotted: 0

Dogs Chased By: None

Stuck in my head: Motivational and surly self-talk

Post race food: Too much to mention here

I started running races in April 2007 when I ran my first 5K, but I didn't start trying to tackle longer distances until last year, when I ran a 10K over Memorial Day Weekend, pushed myself to 8 miles by June, and, after a lot of indecision, signed up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I finished in 2:03 and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the best feelings I ever had.

I signed up again in July, and after a hot, tough summer of running in which my frequency of runs and consistency of distance were both not up to last year's standard, I started training in earnest in mid-October. I trained using my regular route, which runs between York Haven and Goldsboro, and also invented a new half marathon for myself, the York Haven Half Marathon, which I ran the two weekends prior to the Philly Half.

Both times, I came in around 2:10-2:15, which was a bit disappointing but not surprising since A) my training route is much hillier than the Philly Half Marathon, and B) last year I really pushed myself for speed on my regular runs and kept track of times and records. This year, I just put in the miles, and so while I was sure I could finish the half, I was expecting to be a bit slower than my time from last year.

My amazing wife and I headed to Philly on Saturday morning, picked my packet up, and wandered the expo. I purchased some night running gear and a half marathon souvenir hat, scouted out future races, and also had the fortune to run into a friend (and former RA) from college, who was running the full marathon.

We then headed to Reading Terminal Market to grab a snack. We stopped at the "Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company", because nothing says, "I'm running a half marathon tomorrow" like delicious chocolate chip cookies. We then walked a bit before checking into our hotel.

For pre-race dinner we headed one of my favorite carb-loading stations, Pietro's Coal Oven Pizza, where I enjoyed some delicious ravioli.

The evening was far from over. We wandered the Rittenhouse Square area in search of Capogiro, a gelato shop with several locations in Philadelphia. After finally finding it, I went with a scoop of Coconut Milk and a scoop of "Chocolate Insanity" (I don't recall it's real name)

Amazing. And at this point, I had to run 13.1 miles just to make a dent in everything I'd eaten.

After a short photo-taking excursion around City Hall, we returned to our room around 8:30, to find that we had noisy neighbors and no hot water. The hotel promptly sent engineering to fix our problem, and I was able to fall asleep around 11.

Race Day Morning
I woke up up at 4:00, appropriately psyched. I can only hope that our annoying neighbors enjoyed my Blink-182 concert.

Copying my routine from last year, we headed out to the starting line at 5:45. It was still very dark, and cold.

The starting area seemed crowded and chaotic compared to last year. After some confusion, I found the Purple Corral, where my wave would wait for its start. This wait, in my opinion, is one of the toughest parts of the race. The corral is very crowded, making it hard to stay stretched and loose, and since I dress for Mile 13 rather than Mile 1, I was freezing in my running shorts and a sleeveless shirt. (I did have gloves!!) The race began at 7:00 with the National Anthem, and then Michael Nutter, the Mayor of Philadelphia, and Bart Yasso, the "Mayor of Running", started each wave. One can only listen to "Eye of the Tiger" so many times before wanting to get on the road.

Finally, a bit before 7:30, the horn sounded to let the Purple wave out of its gate.

Race Summary

Miles 1-2: The race begins on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and makes a gentle left turn onto Arch Street at about the half-mile point. It continues down Arch before making another left on Fourth, and right on Race, with the two mile maker coming right before turning right (south) onto Columbus Boulevard.

The first two miles were slow because the course was very crowded, but this also provided a nice warm-up after standing and freezing at the starting line. I got to the first mile marker at about 10:00, and the second at about 20:00, putting me I believe a little behind last year's pace, where I was able to make up time in Mile 2. I felt great, but this point at the race is a bit depressing: I can't help but notice that I've run the entire length of what I would consider downtown Philly -- and it's only been two miles.

Miles 3-4: After the two mile marker, the course makes a right onto Columbus Boulevard, which runs south along the Delaware River. This stretch of course is one of my least favorite. I feel it's just one of the least visually interesting parts of the course, and since I'm just running parallel to the river, I just don't feel like I'm going ANYWHERE until the course makes the turn westbound onto Washington Ave for 1 block (at about the 3.5 mile mark) before turning northbound on Front Street. Now, I'm back in a neighborhood, and a local running club had hung some signs for our motivation/amusement ("You paid to do THIS?").

Mile 5: Soon after the Mile 4 marker, the course makes the turn onto South Street, a well-known area for shops, restaurants, and bars. This is a nice, interesting, change of scenery compared to Columbus Boulevard, though unfortunately it made me start thinking about food. I could have used a slice of pizza at about this point. A half mile later, the route turns right (north) onto 6th Street, where I passed Independence Hall and scored my first high-five of the day -- a gentleman in Colonial garb. I hit the 5-mile marker at about 47 minutes, about two minutes below my usual 5-mile pace. I hadn't made up time from my first two miles, but I hadn't lost any more either.

Miles 6-7: Almost immediately after beginning Mile 6 the course turns left (west) onto Chestnut Street. This is my favorite part of the course: a flat straightaway that lasts for over two blissful miles through a part of the city that I'm very familiar with.

It was also during this stretch that I discovered that I had a rival: a guy in an Eli Manning jersey. My beloved Eagles were scheduled take on the Giants that night in a battle for first place in the NFC East, and I was not going to let Eli finish ahead ahead of me. I overtook him at about 20th street and did not see him again the rest of the race. And while I did boo or yell "Giants suck!" to some spectators that I saw wearing Giants gear, let me assure you that my rivalry with "Eli" was only in my head -- I would never talk trash to another runner during a race.

I finished Mile 7 at about 1:05 -- 2-4 minutes ahead of my usual 7-mile pace. I'd made up considerable time chasing Eli Manning down Chestnut Street, but at what cost?

Mile 8: After the 7-mile mark, the course continues down Chestnut for a few more blocks before turning right (north) onto 34th street, which features the longest and steepest hill on the course. I'm tired from my charge down Chestnut, and am muttering things like "I hate this &^% hill" alternated with "This hill is NOTHING!!!" and "I run hills steeper than this in my sleep!" Other runners probably rightly questioned my sanity.

Mile 9: Mile 9 goes by the Philadelphia Zoo, where a lot of guys stopped to urinate. DON'T PEE ON THE ZOO!!!

Miles 10-13: The course continues past the zoo through Fairmount Park. This stretch features some steep uphill and downhill sections, before flattening out for good before the 11-mile marker, where the course turns back toward downtown and its terminus at the Art Museum. I hit the 10-mile marker around 1:32, and realized that a sub 2-hour finish was not outside the realm of possibilities: I typically run a 5K in about 25 minutes. However, that's in a 5K race, not three miles of a long run, where I'm usually around 28 minutes, and definitely not the last three miles of a long run.

I grabbed a few sips of Gatorade, and BOOKED the last three miles...or what passes for "BOOKED" when my legs are running out of gas. I hit the 11-mile mark at about 1:41, my new goal still reachable but no sure thing. I don't remember what time I hit 12 mile marker, but as the Art Museum drew closer, it seemed like I was going to make it. The last 1/3 to quarter mile crosses over the Schuylkill River and under an overpass before going uphill to the final straightaway, and I sprinted it. I felt like Usain Bolt, but to observers I was probably actually moving quite slow and appearing to be in terrible, terrible pain. (I can't wait to see what horrible grimacing face I'm making in the photos).

I crossed the finish line at what I believed to be under 2:00, but failed to stop my watch promptly. At worst, however, I'd shaved just over 3 minutes off my time from last year and I'd run my hardest in a race that in which I didn't think I could top last year. (Chip time turned out to be 1:59:34)

Post Race
Met up with my wife and some friends from college (one of whom had finished in 1:41 -- awesome!) and she and I headed to get my favorite post-race snack: donuts. I sampled Dunkin Donuts' new Sausage Pancake Bites (Good, but I missed out on dipping them in Syrup) and 2 hours later headed to a great brunch at Little Pete, my favorite downtown diner, with one of our best friends.

After brunch, we headed home, where I rested up for Sunday Night Football by taking a nap with two of my best friends.

The Eagles followed my example, and put a great exclamation point on the day by taking down Eli Manning and the Giants to lead the division, but the Half Marathon was the centerpiece of a spectacular weekend.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my wife for all her support and good humor in accompanying me and being dragged outside at 5:45. This would not have been possible without her.

Thanks for reading. I promise most entries will be MUCH shorter.

Welcome to "Earn Your Donuts"

Hello. I'm Brian and welcome to "Earn Your Donuts", an insignificant backwater of the Web that I just started. Why? Because I just finished my second Philadelphia Half Marathon and as I train for my next race, which I'm not quite decided on, I wanted to have a place to share my progress, vent my frustrations, and talk about adorable cats that I see on my runs.

Why "Earn Your Donuts?" Because I really love donuts, and after a race or a good long run, I like to reward myself with iced coffee, donuts, and maybe a breakfast sandwich from Dunkin Donuts or Maple Donuts. It was also the name of an excellent marathon relay team, consisting of my wife, my sister, our friend Ada, and myself, that competed in the Baltimore Marathon Relay.

What will you see here? Every day that I run, I'll post where I ran, how far and how "fast" I ran, what songs or phrases were stuck in my head during the run, whether I was chased by any dogs, how many soft, cuddly kitties I saw on my route, and whether any interesting and/or delicious post-run snacks were consumed.

In between running days, I'll talk about some of my favorite and not-so-favorite races (starting later today with my race report from the very enjoyable 2010 Philadelphia Half Marathon), share bad advice about running and life, pass along good advice others have given me, and probably some other things too that I can't think of right now.

So enjoy it. But if you don't, don't blame me. I just write it.