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?