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.