Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Resolutions...How'd I do?

2011 is coming to a close, and so it's time to hold myself accountable for my New Year's Resolutions.

Let's see how I did:

1. Run five 5Ks. seems like I ran a lot of races this year, but I only did run in five 5Ks and I ran them all before the end of May. Kelly Shamrock, Honor Bus, Preakness, Bob Potts, HACC Dash.

2. Sub 23-minute 5K. Not even close. 23:55 at HACC Dash was my best of the year, and my 23:43 at the 2010 Jingle Bell in Harrisburg is still my PR.

3. Run an under 6-minute mile. Nope. New PR at 6:21, a 23 second improvement over my previous best, but no cigar.

4. Finish a marathon. Alright! I got this one. Two, in fact.

All of these running resolutions were part of the larger resolution to "kick ass", by which I mean to
"be more positive, more assertive, and more confident than I was in 2010". This resolution was a complete and utter failure, but that's a blog post that I thought better left unpublished. (If I have any readers left on December 31, 2599, though, you can read it then.)

I'll put up my 2012 resolutions in the next couple of days, and you'll probably see a few of these again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Cheer (or Not)

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or the most stressful and crazy, depending on who you ask and/or when you ask them.

If you need to relax for a few moments, I've got some holiday cheer from Elizabeth the Kitten and her Snowman Friends. Sit back with your favorite festive beverage and enjoy the cuteness:

Or if you've had enough holiday cheer already or just aren't feelin' it this year, this might be more your cup of eggnog:

Either way, I hope your holidays are happy!

My Very Gross Veins

I went out for what was supposed to be a Saturday long run, but things did not go well. Legs were just feeling very weak early in the run. With the exception of the Celtic Solstice 5K, that's been the norm. On my last long run, 12.something miles 2 weeks ago, I made it to my desired distance, but my legs were feeling weak very early in the run. On Tuesday, I went for what was supposed to be a 7-miler, but cut it short at 5 because I just was feeling dead. I blamed my cold/bronchitis, whatever, but really it seemed more like the problem was my legs. Today, I was resolved that I was going to get 10 miles. That was before I looked down at my leg at about mile 3 and saw this:

None of my cel phone pictures came out very well, but kind of looked like I had another ankle bone growing out of the out of the wrong part of my leg. Of course, I thought it was probably a blood clot, compound fracture, or high-ankle sprain. Of course, I also know I'm a hypochondriac.

But, the doctor's office doesn't have appointments on Saturdays (walk-in only), and I thought I might be able to get it looked at quickly since it was right at 9:00am when the office opened.

I ran back to my car and was seeing the doctor within 15 minutes. Her diagnosis: Varicose veins.

So, compression socks, here I come. yay. Hopefully though, with some improved circulation and some more leg exercises, I can get rid of the power outage feeling I've been having lately (since Philly, really.) To clarify, varicose veins having nothing to do with not enough blood getting to the legs...but some of the symptoms are pain, heaviness, and the inability to stand for long periods. I've got the pain and feeling of heaviness in the legs, so the diagnosis seems to fit what I'm experiencing. I didn't go to med school, but I can wikipedia with the best of them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: The Running Year in Review

Last December, I did a "Year in Review" post. Since it was one of the first posts on this blog, it didn't really have a lot of context, but it was fun for me to look back on an exciting year of running. While 2011 isn't quite ready to bite the dust, Running Year 2011 came to an end, for all practical purposes, upon completion of the Celtic Solstice 5-Mile on Saturday.

I didn't race at all in January, but it was still a good month of running for me. I was in the thick of training for my first marathon, racking up the base miles at lunch or after work, surviving the long runs through the hills of Timonium, Maryland, and ignoring track workouts. I ran a beautiful 16 miles at Loch Raven and a personal-best 17.5 on a brutally freezing morning, even by my cold-loving standards, in Timonium. Everything was going fine -- I knew I was one of the slower people in the Charm City Run training group but I ground out the miles and looked to be right on track in my training.

Until January 30, when I experienced my first real running injury...

For me, February was spent in an often-frustrating recovery from a knee injury, which on January 30 had stopped me 13-miles into an 18-miler with sharp pain in my left knee. I've never torn any knee ligaments (knock on wood) or had a serious knee injury, so of course I panicked and went to the walk-in orthopedic clinic the next day. Diagnosis: IT Band Syndrome.

(Look at all that cartilage!)

The treatment was heavy doses of ibuprofen to knock the swelling down, a regimen of PT exercises, and stretching before and after every run. It was a setback, for those first two weeks I needed two full days of recovery after every run. At the end of two weeks, I seemed to turn a corner, I was able to run 12 miles, but I was frustrated and behind schedule.

In hindsight, I think my recovery was actually very quick, which I credit to Dr. Bucks at Wellspan Orthopedics and my PTs, Nicole and Laura, at Wellspan Rehab. I am glad I went to the doctor's office right away rather than trying to tough it out, but because my recovery went pretty quickly, I suspect that despite being in so much pain that I thought I may have torn something, that my ITBS wasn't actually the worst case ever.

I did well in the 2nd-half of February, with lunchtime 8-milers and gradually increasing long runs, including a 14-miler around Inner Harbor on the windiest day ever. I felt like the knee was starting to be strong enough, I just had to run more often to get my conditioning back.

The month ended on a great running notes for both Chris and I. She completed her first half marathon, the Disney Princes Half:

On our last morning in Florida, I ran a personal best 18 miles around the Coronado Springs and All-Star Resorts. Maybe I had a chance at this marathon thing after all...

March was my first experience with tapering, shortening runs to help rest for the marathon. I also ran my first races of the year in March, a nice & easy 5K at Kelly Shamrock at Inner Harbor, followed by some post-race partying with our friend Ada and her crewmates in the Baltimore Dragon Boat Racing Club.

A week later, I ran my first marathon, the 2011 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, which I've gone on about at such great length here, here, and here, that I'll not spend much time on it in this post. It was 4:58, a little slower than I hoped, but I still consider it to have been a good experience.

I spent April recovering, running without goals or putting much pressure on myself. I ran two races, putting down a fast time at the inaugural Northeastern Honor Bus 5K just a few minutes from home in Mt. Wolf, and participating in my first obstacle race, Mud Chasers, in Sparks, Maryland. It was fun, but I'm happy to stick to road races.

I also got back on my bike for the first time in a decade. Nice!

May was a fun month of racing. I ran in four races in May, including a tough weekend where I ran the Preakness 5K and the Bob Potts 5K on back-to-back days, making the tactical mistake of trying for (and failing to get) a PR in the tougher Preakness race, which included a lap around the sand of the racetrack.

Later in the month, on a day when I really didn't feel like I had a good race in me, I took my only legit age-group medal to date, placing third at the inaugural HACC Dash 5K (a race I found out about the day before) with my second-best 5K time ever. Derek, a friend from college, won our age group and placed 7th overall.

I felt like I was kind of stuck in a 7-8 mile rut at the end of May, so to try to get myself back on track with longer runs, I signed up for a 9-mile "Tour de Memorials" run on Memorial Day. It turned out to be one of the hottest, most humid, and unenjoyable runs of the year. (Not because of the event, it was just such Brian-unfriendly weather)

June, July, and August were my best mileage months of the year, but as the weather got hotter, my races became less frequent.

In June, my only race was the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K in Baltimore, which proved to be very enjoyable and challenging, but not quite up to its terrifying reputation.

Another good month of base miles, and it would have been even better if the heat and humidity hadn't crossed the line from oppressive to truly dangerous in the second half of the month and if I hadn't run the Harrisburg Mile. Not only was the race mileage itself short, I tapered a bit for it because I'd set an aggressive goal for myself. I didn't meet my sub six-minute mile goal, but it was still the fastest, hottest mile I've ever run.

August I didn't run any races in August, but I started to get back to into a pattern of 13-14 mile long runs in preparation for the Philly Marathon. I also went on a very scenic run around Montreal while on vacation.

September & October
September was a tough month of running, as the heat and humidity refused to abate. A 17-miler in deathly humidity was my best run, but I also had my second-fastest 13.1 ever on one of the rare cold days of the month. In October, I continued to hit my long runs, with 18, 19, and 20-milers, but as work got busier and busier, my mid-week base miles were harder to come by, which I'm sure came back to haunt me on race day.

Philadelphia Marathon. My second marathon, beaten to bloody death on this blog.

Just trying to hang in there in one of the busiest work months ever, in addition to the holidays. Our last race of the year was the Celtic Solstice 5-Mile, which went very well. Overall, it seems like I'm kind of dragging through December. I'm getting my runs in, but having some trouble with my shins and calves on many of my runs and with a few exceptions (luckily one of them was Celtic Solstice) I'm just feeling like my energy level is kind of low. I'm feeling like a little R&R is in order, and luckily, that's just what's in store for week between Christmas and New Years, during which I'll get a few runs in but probably nothing over three miles and definitely nothing fast...except for maybe a set of 800s :-)

In conclusion, this was probably my best year of racing ever. I achieved new PRs in the 10K and mile, ran several good 5Ks, and completed my first-two marathons. I also earned over 870 donuts. I've eaten quite a few donuts this year, but nowhere close to 877. This is going to be a fun end of December for the donut industry. I'd like to thank Chris, my running friends both new and old, and all my readers, for the encouragement and advice they've given me over the past year. Thanks for reading!

Here's hoping 2012 is even better. Let the PRs fall!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Celtic Solstice 5-Mile

Today was the Celtic Solstice 5-Mile, the last race of the year, and one that I'd been both looking forward to but also dreading. I'd heard form many people that this was one of the best races of the year, but a Baltimore race at 8:30 means leaving at 6:15, and parking looked like a huge mess, with four or five e-mails with instructions and multiple facebook posts going out with parking and shuttle instructions. Stressed out by work and holiday stuff, I just wasn't sure that I was feelin' it, either. I figured I'd show up, collect my premium, and put down a time that I'd be secretly disappointed with, and go home.

As we drove down to Baltimore I was just feeling less and less up for it. We easily got a parking space, and walked approximately a mile to the starting area, where chaos reigned. The starting area is in a big tent, and it just seemed like it wasn't big enough for the masses of people that were picking up packets, tying chips on their shoes, and trying to stay warm. Luckily, the only giveaway item was the premium Brooks long-sleeve racing shirt. We'd not been aware that there was a bag check and had no bag, so Chris tied her premium around her waist and I attached mine to my hydration belt.

We headed for the starting area. The temperature was around 40, and I was freezing in my shorts, long-sleeve technical shirt, and cheap-o gloves. I dress for the middle of the run, not the beginning, and I love these temperatures, but my equipment strategy breaks down on race day when I have to wait around before the start. I'm not one for running before the race...every mile I run prior to the gun is one less I can run after! There were about 3000 people in the race, and with anticipation of an about 50-minute finish time, I started about 2/3 of the way back.

After a procession featuring bagpipes, Irish wolfhounds, and the race director, the race started...and the next five miles passed in a blur. I'm not sure where in those first moments my attitude toward the race changed, but the course started on an incline and I know that I charged up it.
I used the stress and frustration I am feeling and I ran this race as aggressively as I've ever run one. Druid Hill Park is very scenic, but I might as well have been running in a tunnel. All I noticed through most of the race was the other runners I was weaving through. I hit mile 1 at right around 9-minutes, mile 2 at 18, at which point I recall making a conscious decision that I was going to run this as fast as I possibly could. I hit mile 3 just under 24, and I don't recall mile 4 but I believe it was in the 32s. I felt like I was running out of gas at mile 4, but at that point the remainder of the course was the flat path around Druid Lake and a downhill back to the starting line. I held my pace around the lack, picked up speed down the hill, and kicked as hard as I could across the bridge that was the final approach to the finish line.


Is it a PR? I'm not sure. This is the only 5-mile race I've ever run. My official chip time for the Briggs & Al's 8K in Milwaukee was 42:42, and I consider that to be one of two best races I've ever run. I'm not sure whether my official time for this race was 42:44 or 42.43, but I assume that since 5-miles is three-hundredths of a mile more than an 8k, and the course much hillier than Al's Run, that it's fair to say that I ran a better race today. What I am sure of is that more than any race I've ever run, I left it all out on the course today.

Event Review
I was in a bad mood on Saturday morning and completely prepared to not enjoy this race and to rip this event, but I think the only problem where I might have a legitimate complaint is the chaos of the registration tent. There just wasn't enough room for all the people who were trying to collect their bibs and put on their chips. I'm not sure there's an easy answer to it, and I also suspect that I'm probably making too much out of something small because I was so ill-tempered at the time.

I also think pace signs would have been a good idea. 3000 people ran this race and the course was very crowded. It probably wouldn't have helped me today, since I ran this about 7 minutes faster than I expected I would, but in general I think pace signs are helpful for a race of this size that is large enough to get crowded but not big enough for waves. That said, I definitely don't think I approached this race in the spirit of fun which it seems to have been meant.

There is a lot to like about this race. While I can't say I appreciated it enough, the setting is beautiful, the course challenging, and the post-race party excellent. There were christmas cookies, soup (I didn't have any), and heated wine from Boordy Vineyards. Crowd support along the course was good (and I'm very thankful to our friend Ada, 1/4 of the original Earn Your Donuts marathon relay team, who showed up to cheer us on!). I also think that the Falls Road Running Store really did do a good job in letting people know exactly what to expect. It's a race that's very crowded for its setting, and they sent out plenty of e-mails and facebook posts with detailed parking maps and instructions. The premium is a very nice Brooks Equilibrium long-sleeve tech shirt. It's quite heavy, the equivalent of a light jacket in my opinion, so for me this is a piece of gear that's going to be saved for days when it's 20 degrees or less.

The bottom line is that I've run two Falls Road events this year (Druid Hills being the other) and they both exceeded expectations. While the logistics of a Baltimore race vs. a York race may send us back to one of the local Jingle Bell 5Ks next year, I would highly recommend this race for anyone in the Baltimore area.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Yasso 800s (Sort Of)

"Yes Brian, there is a Bart Yasso. He exists surely as running and shoes and sweating exist."

As I trained for the Shamrock Marathon last winter, I did well with my base miles, but my long runs were insufficient. When I trained for Philly this summer and and fall, I nailed my long runs but didn't put in the base mileage I needed during the most important month of my training. I'm trying to excel in both this time around, but one other thing was missing both times: speedwork.

I don't really care about running a fast marathon. Sure, I'd like to get down to 4:45 or into the 4:30s, which would be a pretty significant PR, and I'd be thrilled with less than that, but overall, I just care about finishing the marathon with as little walking as possible. I'd love to not die at mile 18 or 21.5. I'm also pretty sure that if I can over come (or at least push back) the wall, I'd naturally finish the marathon a little faster even if my actual running pace doesn't increase.

But, I've been advised by several of my readers, and even by my Shamrock training program coach that speedwork was helpful for building endurance, not just getting faster. I just didn't make enough of an effort to get to the speedwork sessions in January because they were in Maryland and I was crushing everything else, and then after I got hurt I was afraid to put my knee through that pounding. (I'd gone to one of them prior to my knee injury and was really sore the next day.) For Philly, I happily chose a training program with no track workouts.

So as I train for my second assault on Virginia Beach, I want to make speedwork a part of my training. I've decided to do a Yasso 800 program, which I first read about in Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run, because your minute & second lap pace has been shown to predict your marathon pace.

(I really enjoyed this book. I owe it a longer review in another post.)

To run Yasso 800s, you run 800 meters (as the name implies) with a rest (slow running) break equal in time to your 800 meter time. You (a beginner like me, anyway) are supposed to start with four sets when beginning the program, adding a set each week until you get to 10. So the program will get progressively more challenging, but hopefully I'll get a little stronger each week, too.

I ran my first Yasso 800s last night -- sort of. Since the local high school locks its track, and I didn't have time to go down to Springettsbury, which has a quarter-mile oval path where I've previously trained, I used the "interval training" function on the Garmin to approximate Yasso 800s. I ran a one-mile warm up, and set Garmin for half-mile (a few hundredths of a mile over 800 meters) intervals with two-minute rest breaks and did four "laps" through the suburban development that is my main running course these days.

Wow. That hurt. But it was also fun. It definitely broke up the monotony of another night run in my usual spot. Since it was the first time and I was definitely fudging things a bit, I didn't rigorously keep time, but I came in at 4:02 for my fourth lap. I'd be ecstatic with a 4:02 marathon time. In caution though, I will admit that I felt like I was sprinting these and each one got progressively harder. I only did four, so when I'm doing the full 10 I'll start to have a better feel for what I'm in for. I also feel that it shows I've gotten slower since the summer, when I ran a 6:20-something mile, since my two-miles worth "laps" not counting the rest was timed at 16:22. (8:11 pace).

I didn't speed train over the spring and summer, but I did race a lot of 5Ks so I had that extra gear I just don't feel like I've got right now. But that's ok -- If speedwork helps my endurance for the marathon, then it's accomplished my primary goal for it, but I also really think it will help me go after my 5K and mile PRs, which are going to be two of my main running goals for 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Fire

On Thursday, I got an early Christmas present from my mother-in-law: a Kindle Fire. She had gotten one for Chris, who mentioned that if she she still needed an idea for me that I had gotten addicted to playing Stupid Zombies and would probably like my own.

I've recently read some poor reviews, and I feel the need to come to the defense of my new little electronic friend.

To put it simply, the Kindle Fire is a procrastinator's dream. On this small device, I can easily read books, surf the web, and play a variety of casual video games, but not really do anything productive.

(Speaking of "not productive"...)

I'd never really wanted an e-reader before. I love books, and I really didn't think I would like reading on the Kindle, but it's better than I expected. The Fire won't replace books for me, though. Instead, I think it will fill a niche: travel. I read a lot, so if I'm going on a trip, I sometimes have to bring 2 or 3 books with me, especially if there's long plane rides. In this case, the Kindle Fire saves space in my carry-on. With many games available, and there are some fun ones available for free, like Stupid Zombies and Blackjack, it's perfect for entertaining oneself on a plane. I spent a good deal of the plane rides to and from Dallas playing Solitaire and Parachutes on my iPod, so the Fire would have been a considerable upgrade.

It's good for surfing the web. Scrolling through web pages is generally easy and I thought, despite complaints about speed, fast. Video generally seems to play well on it, depending on the quality of the video on the website, of course. I watched part of an episode of South Park at, and it was fine, but when I watched some Eagles highlights on the team's website, the video was rather blurry. However, keep in mind that full-screen on the Kindle Fire is larger than the video would be if you watched it on a window on a website, so it only gets more distorted.

The Kindle comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, which includes free streaming of a selection of movies and TV shows. I watched part of an X-files episode that was available, and the video quality was excellent. I haven't decided if I'll keep Amazon Prime or not, but the subscription does give access to more video content and make a wider range of books free to either "borrow" (meaning you have it for only a limited amount of time) or "buy".

The Kindle is good for surfing the web, but what it (and most tablets, I suspect) is less good for is adding anything to the web. Typing on its touchscreen is slow. It took me several tries to update my dailymile log for last night's run, an interaction that would have taken under a minute on the computer. I have skinny fingers, and I find that clicking on things on the web works ok, but a stylus for pointing and clicking may be helpful.

The Kindle Fire is my first tablet device. I couldn't be happier with it, but I suspect it's all a matter of perspective. I've been drooling over an iPad since they came out, but just couldn't really justify spending the money on it. For me, the Kindle Fire fills the niche quite well. If you've had an iPad, or really had expectations for the Fire based on a more detailed knowledge of what an iPad is capable, you're probably going to be disappointed. The iPad's ability to video chat is the only feature missing that I know of that I would miss.

Remember, though, that the Fire is less than half the price of an iPad! Of course it's going to do less. For what you, or in this case my mother-in-law pay for it, I think the Fire is worthwhile. Of course, Amazon's strategy seems to be sell the devices at a loss and make up for it in content sales. I'm sure I will purchase books and games eventually, but right now between free books and games, I'm well-entertained enough without having spent an additional dime.

I wasn't compensated any way for this review, though I would gladly accept some of Amazon's sweet, sweet money. I also didn't write this review on my Kindle Fire, because it would have taken days to write.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Shadow of the Past

It seems that I'm running out of blogging steam a bit here at the end of the year. Usually, that means I don't have anything to write about. This week, I feel like I have a lot to write about (even if none of it is really super interesting or funny), I just haven't found the time. So, this ends up being kind of a catch-all post for the last week.

Messing with Texas
My last entry was about (among other things) enduring 40 blisteringly hot minutes on the hotel treadmill in Dallas. Unfortunately, despite my grand plans to get two runs and a weight workout in while on my business trip, that treadmill run on Monday night would be the end of my Texas exercising (Texercising?).

I had not, however, seen the last of In-n-Out Burger. I'll leave it to my readers to decide if that's a good or bad thing, but it was just what my colleague and I were in the mood for again after a long day on Tuesday. I planned to work for while and then hit the gym. I hooked up my laptop, sat down on the bed...and woke up four hours later at 12:00am.

Wednesday morning's breakfast was probably the highlight of the whole trip. "Don't mess with Texas?" Well, what about covering the whole state with syrup and eating it? I really didn't think a big waffle was the best breakfast choice before a long day of meetings, but when I saw they were shaped like the state of Texas I knew I had to have one.


I had one last chance to get a workout in on my business trip on Wednesday evening, but I chose the path of laziness. These three days had been the culmination of two months of very hard work, late nights, and a lot of stress. To see it come to fruition was very rewarding, and now that I had reached a key milestone in the project, I wanted nothing more than a relaxing dinner and a cold beer. And therein was the problem...

My colleague had departed for another meeting while my flight home was not till the next morning. The hotel didn't have a bar, and so I set the GPS to find restaurants. The trouble is that I was staying in a suburban/business-park type part of Dallas, so I couldn't just walk outside and find a place, so I couldn't really see what I was getting into. The first place looked much fancier than I was prepared to deal with, and the second turned out to be an oyster house. Yes, in Texas. I lost my resolve to sit by myself at a chain-restaurant type place, which did abound, and ended up with Jack-in-the-Box take-out. I stopped at a convenience store to see if I could get a beer, and they (predictably) had only six-packs or 40s, either of which would have been a terrible since I was leaving for the airport at 5:00am. At least my sandwich was really good.

On the Road Again
It was great to be home, but it seems like the trip has taken its toll and that I'm still recovering. I went to the rail trail on Saturday for the first time since my last 20-miler in November. I didn't really have a strict mileage or time goal -- I was just going to run from Hanover Junction to Brillhart Station and back, which is between 12 and 13 miles. I started feeling really, really tired at mile 3, and thought about heading back. I bargained with myself that I would turn around at 5 miles, since 10 would have equaled the previous week's run. Unfortunately, I got a second wind just before the 5-mile point that made me decide to press on to Brillhart. When I stopped there for a stretch break, I had sharp pains in the muscles on the fronts of my shins, which I've now had a few times since the marathon. Stretching my ankles in different directions seemed to relieve the discomfort.

Though I felt a little wobbly as I started back, some Sports Beans and Gatorade seemed to help. I made it back to Hanover Junction for a total of 12.75 miles in 2:03, which is good enough, but I just felt like I was dragging for most of this run. It's ok. For once, I"m not going to overreact to a crummy long run. This is almost exactly where I was at this point last year, and once I get back into my routine after the holidays, I'll be fine. While I didn't do well in Texas, it does seem like in general that motivation to get out and run during the week is back, which bodes well for Virginia Beach.

(I'm a shadow of the runner I was just a few weeks ago.)

That theme continued on Sunday. On the plus side, I lifted in the morning, and seem to be getting back in the habit. Unfortunately, my back has been bothering me a little this week and it flared up yesterday. I woke up on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning with stiffness in my lower back, but would loosen through the morning and really didn't bother me much. However, as I was lifting, while on my last set it just felt like all the muscles in my lower back were cramping up, and it still is aching today. Hopefully this isn't the beginning of something nagging.

Since it was a rare Sunday without plans, Chris and I decided to go for a bike ride, which would be our first since August. It was kind of a disaster. I found that the bike tires needed air, but I'd read that you shoudn't use a pump meant for cars to pump up bike tires. I had a foot pump, and grabbed it to take with us to our starting point at York. Well, first, it wouldn't inflate the tires and then the hose broke off, anyway. Off to Dick's to buy a new pump, and then off to Hanover Junction since Dick's is midway between it and York.

Finally, we were able to get underway, only to find that neither of us had any energy at all. It's totally understandable in light of the long biking layoff and tiring runs the day before, but was still frustrating. I will also say that while I like cold weather while running, cold weather for biking was not fun! It made it seem 20 degrees colder than it really was. I'll definitely be using the cold compression gear next time out.

Up Next
My plan this week was to do "regular" runs on Monday night and Thursday, my first speedwork session tomorrow, lift on Wednesday and Friday, and then run in the Celtic Solstice 5-Miler in Baltimore on Saturday. I'll see how my back feels, but I suspect either tonight or Tuesday will get skipped. I'm also not sure how much I'll race the 5-miler. In 2009, I ran the Al's Run 8K in Milwaukee in 42:45. That's probably not achievable these days, since I pushed myself on pace in all my long runs back then and I really haven't done that since spring of 2010. I'd be very surprised if I could come in under 45 minutes and I think somewhere around 50 is probably a more realistic goal. I suspect the course will be crowded, and I know it's at a very scenic location, so I think the best strategy is to just enjoy myself, run a comfortable pace, and worry about smashing some PRs in 2012.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catching Up from Down South

Sorry everyone, another boring running-type post. Feel free to scroll ahead for adorable cat pictures.

I'm back. Not all the way back. Not that I was ever really "there", anyway. But, whatever. I'm back. I felt like it really took two weeks after the Philly Marathon-related Debacle before I really felt normal again. But after two well-paced runs, a 7-miler last Thursday and 10 on Saturday, I feel like I'm exactly where I need to be at this point to start training for Shamrock.

Of course, this week is a total mess. Willpower is not the problem, it's just a matter of logistics...which means I guess it is kind of a matter of willpower. I'm on a business trip to lovely Dallas, TX. And let me tell you this, all my sports-related antipathy to Dallas is not just hype -- it really does suck...well, at least the parts I've seen, which have been pretty much limited to the airport, highways and access roads.

The rental car facility was so far from the airport that there really should have been a connecting flight. There's a toll road that I was just magically on with no warning and supposedly drivers are somehow charged automatically and since I told the rental car people that I didn't think I'd be on toll roads now I'm probably going to wind up in a Texas jail. To get anywhere, you have to make these big loops since all the roads are divided. And where is the Jerrydome? I thought you were supposed to be able see it from space.

Anyway...back to my point. I brought all my running gear, and they're having the cold weather that I love, but since my hotel is nestled right off a highway access ramp and without sidewalks anywhere around, I settled on 40 minutes in the treadmill.

Don't get me wrong, it's a very nice treadmill, but it was also 75 degrees in hotel gym! That is why I wanted to run outside! Like I said, it really is a matter of willpower. I could have found a park or residential area, but at 9:30 at night in a completely unfamiliar city, I'll take my 40 treadmill minutes and be content with it.

The real problem, though, is this:

Not just In-n-Out Burger, which is awesome and which we don't have in Pennsylvania, but eating in general. To put it kindly, eating is one of my favorite things. Some people run to lose weight. Some people run because they really, truly intrinsically love it. I run so I can eat more stuff and continue to look relatively the same. But, when I'm on a business trip, I'm less restrained than usual.

It doesn't help that my client, which I'm not going to name, really took excellent care of the people attending the meeting that I'm here for. The attendees at the meeting are provided with a per diem allowance for meals, but when the client provides meals to attendees, it counts them against their allowance at a rate that's more costly than most conference-type food. Because of this, the people in charge wanted to make sure attendees got their money's worth. So, I had an egg sandwich and some fruit for breakfast. Not bad. Lunch? Bad. I mean, good. Delicious chicken in mushroom sauce. I was starving, so I had two lunches. I have no idea why I was so much hungrier than usual, but I still had room for some cookies (and conference cookies are always great!) at mid-afternoon break.

Later in the day, my colleague and I were lured by In-n-Out Burger's neon sign and promise of delicious burgers and fries. It was very good, even though I ordered a cheeseburger and got what I believe to be "Animal Style" by mistake.

I did hit the treadmill tonight, and probably will again on Wednesday. I hope to get to use the hotel's one set of weights tomorrow. But, I probably won't be able to keep myself away from the food.

After my workout, I rewarded myself with chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, which my wife made me to take along. Did I mention I have the best wife ever?

(There were a lot more cookies...but I stress-ate a lot of them after getting to the hotel.)

She helped me out a little, though, replacing the butter with applesauce. Mmm...applesauce.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to getting home to my family and back out on the peaceful roads of Central PA.

And, without further ado, the cuteness:

(Higgy is "venting")

(There's no time like the present to lay under a Christmas tree.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Safety First! (And Second!)

I've accumulated a lot of running gear over the past 5 years. One of my favorite and potentially one of the most important pieces was one that I hoped I'd never really need, the RoadID ("Wrist ID Sport" model to be exact) that Chris bought me last Christmas.

RoadID, and may similar products, keep your identification, emergency contact info, and brief medical information if necessary, available to EMTs should something happen to you while you're on the run. Potentially life saving, but also convenient; my Wrist ID Sport has kept me from feeling the need to carry my drivers' license with me on my runs, which meant my license stayed in my wallet rather than forgotten in my hydration belt while I drove around without a license for days. And it looked cool, too.

Well, as you may have gathered from all the past tense, I lost it. When I didn't find it for over a month, I started to worry that either it had fallen out of my car as I de-geared after a long run or that I had accidentally thrown it out with empty sports beans packets, or lost it in some other stupid fashion. I held off of ordering a new one though, still assuming that it was somewhere in the house or car and that it would turn up.

Two weeks ago, I ran in the Philadelphia Marathon, in which two people tragically passed away. One was a college student who collapsed just after finishing the half, and another was a 40 year-old multiple Ironman finisher who fell within sight of the finish line. For both, the cause of death was listed as a heart attack, and both would have had emergency contact and ID info on their race bibs. But while ID likely wouldn't have made a difference in these cases, it made me think about how stupid it was to be out there on the roads without taking this small but easy and potentially important precaution -- disaster really can strike at any time.

So, I broke down and ordered myself a new RoadID on Monday. I liked the old one, so I got the same model.

Today, while getting ready for my run, I found this:

This afternoon, this arrived in the mail:

Well, at least if my body is somehow bisected vertically in some bizarre marathon accident, authorities will be able to identify either half.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Post Marathon Blues & Running Through the Holidays

I had a plan all mapped out. Well, sort of. I hadn't plugged in all the mileages, but I had decided on how I'd set up my weeks to train for Shamrock (base miles on Monday and Thursday, Speedwork on Tuesdays, lifting on the "off" days of Sunday and Wednesday, and long runs on Saturday).

I need to bounce back quickly -- March 18 is not that far away! -- but I'm feeling like I'm already a bit behind schedule. I missed my run last night because of working late, and so I went out this morning instead of doing speedwork tonight. I'm ok with that, and from my uninspiring runs the past two weeks, it seems like waiting another week before hitting the track for the first time in almost a year is probably a good thing.

I've now run three time since the marathon: 3 miles on wobbly legs on Thanksgiving, a 6-miler on Saturday where everything below the knees really hurt, and today I felt really exhausted after 5 miles. In my defense, it was 60F with 90% humidity. That's definitely not my best running weather, but I weathered (ha!) a lot worse in the summer and I ran most of a marathon two weeks ago. I can't have lost that much conditioning in two weeks, right?

I'm not sure if the problem is in my head, my lungs, or my legs (or all of above!). I am very committed to running a better marathon and even doing a better job sticking to the parts of training that I hate (hello, speedwork!), so it seems like my head's in the right place, but I've also had probably the most stressful month of work that I've ever had, and that's definitely taken it's toll both physically and with my level of focus. My legs feel like they're still tired. We'll see what happens on Saturday, but the good news/bad news is that I'll probably take some extra days off from running due to a business trip. Lungs? I can't tell. I'm not breathing as badly as I was earlier in the week before the marathon, but I don't seem quite all there. Of course, it was warm and humid today, and I never feel like my lung capacity is at its best then. If Saturday is dry and cool, it'll be a much better indicator of my respiratory health.

I bounced from Shamrock pretty quickly, I think, but then didn't have push myself. The marathon was a Sunday, and the following Thursday I ran a slow 7 miles, and then for about a month I didn't run longer than 7 or 8 miles. In April and May, while I still had cool weather, I started getting back into the double digits and then pushed myself to my best-ever months in June, July, and August. I don't have the luxury of a month off now, especially when it will be extremely challenging to get the miles in around the holidays.

Last year, I kept increasing my distance in the weeks after the Philly Half. On the next two Saturdays I ran 14 and 16 miles, my two longest-ever runs at the time. I don't think I hit double-digits again until I ran 13.1 on January 1, but I feel like those long early December runs helped me get caught back up quickly in January. Our weekends in December are packed, mostly with fun holiday stuff, but it means I have to get good long runs in when I can. If I can get back into the double digits this Saturday and on next week's long run, I'll feel like I'm at least starting from the same place I was last year. The weekend after that, I have the Celtic Solstice 5-miler, which several people have told me is a great race. Depending on how much I actually "race" the five-miler, I may do a longer run on Sunday to supplement it or I may just be content with it.

Either way, I think a nice long run is on my "nice" list for Christmas Eve.

Sorry for the boring post, but this IS my running blog, not my creepy cat ornament picture blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Evil

This post has nothing to with running, or marathons, or food, and everything to do with rampant holiday cheer.

Most of the time, I love cats. My wife and I have three cats, Higgy, Pooka, and Elizabeth. I volunteer at the cat adoption center at the local Petsmart, from whence Elizabeth the Kitten came. One small thing that we do each year to help homeless animals is to purchase the annual "Luv-a-Pet" ornaments from PetSmart charities each year.

I'm glad to try to help, but you have to admit that some of these things are pretty creepy:

(Ok, this guy looks a little evil, but no more evil than cats actually are.)

(A cute snow kitty. How whimsical! Not evil at all!)

(Again, not evil at all.)

(A cat playing hockey? This is the Stanley Cup of cute.)

(What could be cuter than a tobogganing cat? Two tobogganing cats!)

(Well, alright. A little creepy I admit, but Siamese are untrustworthy. No pattern. Nothing to worry about.)

(Oh no! Why does this cat want to kill me? They can't get more evil looking than this one, can they?)


(Phew. This one's cute again -- oh no! Those eyes! Those terrible, demented eyes!)

(The 2010 and 2011 models are cute again. I guess you could say there's a lack of originality,
but I'll take a different-colored "Lucky" every year after those creepy 2007-2009 ornaments.)

You can buy Lucky the Cat, Chance the Dog, or an assortment of more real-looking dog ornaments to help PetSmart Charities here. I've had a nice laugh at some of their ornaments but I do believe it's a worthy cause.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back on the Roads

Have you seen my legs?

Apparently, they're still somewhere out there between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Manyunk.

If you happen to see them, tell them that they must return to Manchester, because their services are required ASAP. I had seven months between Shamrock and Philly, giving me some time to take it easy and time to run base miles over the summer without really worrying too much about my long run distances for several months.

There's no such luxury this time, with Shamrock looming on March 18. I don't want to rush back, but there's definitely times over the holidays in which the miles are going to be tough to get in so I want to start getting my long runs back in and get started on some speedwork, even if I probably won't get much consistency till January.

This is the weekly plan that I hope to follow (mileages will vary):

Monday: 5-7 mile "regular" run

Yasso 800s (track workout) -- I'm hoping to start this week, but will probably still be taking it a little easy with a slow pace and only 3 sets, adding a set each time until I get up to 10. Supposedly the pace at which you run the 800s predicts your marathon time. I have to do a little more research on them since I haven't really done speedwork (for example, do I run them at a fast but comfortable pace or do I just run them as fast as I possibly can?)


5-7 mile "regular" run


: Long run

Cross training (biking or NordicTrack)

I think speedwork and strength training (and I need to figure out exactly what this routine will be) will help give me more strength and endurance to help this marathon hurt less and hopefully go more quickly. I'd love to get down into the 4:30s. I'm not planning a fall marathon next year at this point, so I'd like have a better one so I don't become obsessed with revenge.

(If the mall can put up Christmas decorations in October,
I can start thinking about St. Patrick's Day before Christmas.)

I have to do a better job recognizing though, that things aren't going to always go according to plan, and that 30min on the treadmill is better than nothing.

Though I'm going to push myself more than I have in the past, the time for that was not this week. I ran 3.1 miles on Thursday morning, and it felt like I was still out at the end of the marathon course. If my legs could talk, they'd have been asking for some walk breaks. Today went a little better -- I ran 6 miles in about an hour (I forgot to re-start Garmin) but it was definitely all I had in the tank. I bounced back more quickly from Shamrock, so maybe I wasn't quite as beaten up. I'd like be back in double-digits by next Saturday, but I know it's most important this point to just be flexible and see how I feel as I recover.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'm Still Thankful For...

I've been writing this stupid blog for just over a year now, and one of my first posts was a belated Thanksgiving post. All that stuff still applies, so let's take this year's a little less seriously.

I'm thankful for:

Walk Breaks


Finish Lines

And Starting Lines


and much, much more.

It's been quite a year, and I am thankful for all its ups and downs. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks again for reading!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Losing Seasons

From my mostly-defunct Orioles blog:
For years, Red Sox fans have shown up in Baltimore with their "Fenway South" signs and their "Let's go Red Sox chants" and their arrogance. Last night, they were sent home packing.

The 2011 Orioles weren't especially good at baseball by major-league standards. But they played hard for 162 games and they didn't quit.

Hmm...I'm not very good at the marathon, but I didn't quit. This kind of makes me the Baltimore Orioles of marathon runners, doesn't it?

That's cool. I love the Orioles.

(Note: This post is meant much more in the spirit of "making fun of myself" and was just something stupid that I thought of yesterday, not actually serious criticism nor rampant negativity.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Report, Part II: Philadelphia Marathon Event Review

Since I did such a long race report that included pre-race, my race report, lessons learned, and post-race adventuring, I wasn't planning on doing another multi-part race report.

But, two days removed from the event, I realized that I wanted to talk a little more about the event itself, as independently as I could from my own race experience, for someone that might be thinking of the Philadelphia Marathon.

My advice: Do it!

Either the half or full marathon is a good tour of Philadelphia (to be more clear than I was yesterday, the half course is the first half of the full marathon course), but first half is the more interesting: downtown, along the Delaware, South Street, Old City, University City, Fairmount Park.

The second of the course is generally a very pretty run along the Schuylkill River, but generally lacks the varied scenery of the first half. It's interesting to see street side of Boathouse Row, and Manyunk is like a fun little town nestled within city limits of Philadelphia.

I can't decide which part of the course is tougher. For me, obviously, the second half. But if I ran them independently of each other the first definitely has the bigger hills. Whether you run the half or full, the finish at the Art Museum is spectacular.

Between the scenery, very good crowd support and interesting things or people to see along the course, it's at least a visually stimulating journey. My favorites were the Sixers Dance Team, Eagles Drumline, and the goofy costumed entertainers at mile 11. After three years, I still can't figure out what the hell they are but they always make me laugh.

I can think of just a handful negatives about the course. I can think portions of it are very crowded (the start and Chestnut Street namely). A few more port-o-potties at some of the stops would have been helpful, and later in the race the aid stations were running out of cups. The volunteers continued to fill water bottles, trying to save cups for those who didn't have bottles, and I have no complaint at all with the aid station volunteers who numerous and friendly. There were aid stations approximately every two miles, which seemed adequate to me. (I did have my hydration belt.)

There's a lot of history and a lot of interesting sights along the course. For a lot of runners, that's probably reason enough. For all you other shallow folks like me, let's talk about the expo and swag

The expo at Philly is a little bigger than the one at Shamrock, but also more crowded -- the seemed to make not the best use of the available space in the convention hall, but at least it was crowded with cool stuff: Whatever supplies you were looking for, whether last-minute stuff for the race or just some new gear, you could probably find it here.

While I didn't like the race merchandise as much as I did in previous years (the main logo stays the same, but the designs change a bit each year), there's a good selection of race logo merchandise. I went with two hats (a white one to try as a running hat and a black one that I just thought was cool) and a fleece jacket.

I've run the Philly Half or Marathon each of the past three years, and the main giveaway has always been a long-sleeve Endurafit tech shirt with the race slogan on the front and course map on the back. I like the shirts, especially since the maps are on them, but the sizing is a little funny. I have three "mediums". 2009's is on the small side, tight in the arms; 2010's is perfect; and 2011's is probably really a "large". The course maps, cool. The slogans, another matter. 2009: "Running Means..." (Signs all over the city filled in cheesy slogans "Running Means Independence", "Running Means a Rhino is Chasing You", etc.). 2010: "Push Through". 2011: "Best Time of Your Life." I already mocked that one yesterday. Still, it's a good giveaway.

The ubiquitous drawstring goodie bag also has a bottle(?) of coconut milk, some chocolate-covered berries, a therapeutic wrap, and a voucher for Sixers tickets. This will be seriously cool if the NBA ever resumes play.

Overall Impression
Two days after my race, I'm not feeling nearly as negative about myself (more on both that and on the tragic deaths of two participants on Thursday), and I think I can say I'll remember the experience with a good amount of pride, even though I still want to use this race as motivation to do better next time.

But, all that aside, I think this is a good event. The post-race party and swag don't stack up to Shamrock, which seems to just have a more "fun" atmosphere. Philly doesn't really have any post-race celebration at all. (As Nancy clarified below.)

However, there's a lot to do in Philadelphia, but it's manageable to see a lot during the weekend and if nothing else you see a good portion of the city during the race to at least be able to orient yourself later (I know downtown very well from having worked there years ago). It's a visually interesting course -- it has Shamrock beaten in that regard -- that with good support, a good expo, and good swag (if you care about swag). I thought the course was challenging, and positively mountainous compared to my only other marathon, but I've heard that among marathons Philly is still considered "flat and fast."

Train better than I did, and you might even have "The Best Time of Your Life."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Philadelphia Marathon (or "Best Time of Your Life, My A**")

I never hit the wall, because the whole race was the wall.

When I look back on the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, I'm not sure how I'll remember it. I failed by all but the very minimum standard (just finish) that I'd set for myself, but I still feel like I did accomplish something. Right now, though, I'll say that it was miserable. I hit the wall at Shamrock, but I would say that I mostly enjoyed the race. Yesterday, I hit the wall earlier in the race, and I would count the 2nd half of the marathon as the most miserable, joyless 13 miles I've ever run, with the exception of one hell of a rush at the finish.

It sucked. I knew I wasn't as ready as I should have been and that it would suck, and I was prepared to accept the consequences, but I underestimated the level of pain I would be in. I don't remember much pain from Shamrock. (Though I think the pain was there and I just chose not to remember it because I am overall very happy with it. Chris is right -- i could barely walk after Shamrock, too.)I mostly remember that I "just" got to a point where my legs just wouldn't go anymore. Yesterday? Very painful.

I finished in 5:07:17, about nine minutes slower than Shamrock. Let's get that unpleasantness out of the way. I have to consider this a setback, a failure, a bad race, but I do not do think my failure was quite complete.

Chris, who was running the half (her second), and I got to the Expo at the Philadelphia Convention Center at around 2pm on Saturday. Packet pickup went smoothly. The expo seemed to take up about half of a very large convention room, and it was tightly packed and crowded. I bought a hefty load of Philadelphia Marathon-logo apparel, and we met up with a few other runner-bloggers who were running the race. (Thanks to Amanda from for organizing the meetup!). It was while we were hanging around chatting that I noticed my legs were feeling very tired (more from an overall exhausting week, I suspect, rather than a tough week of running) which turned out to indeed be a harbinger of doom.

(Oh, that doesn't look so bad. As you can see, this isn't my first rodeo.)

We looked around the expo for a little while, grabbing our Shamrock Marathon cups at the J&A booth, when I remembered that I wanted to buy a book, because I had forgotten to bring anything to read at the hotel. I was looking for something that would mostly be entertaining stories rather than serious training tips, so my choices seemed to be My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso and Run! by Dean Karnazes. Since Bart Yasso was sitting there at the Runner's World table, I picked up his book, got it signed, and chatted for a minute.

Having accomplished everything we could at the expo, we headed over to Reading Terminal Market, next to the Convention Center, to each have a cookie from the Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company. Let me just say that they are famous for a reason, and leave it at that.

We had dinner (and my pre-race beer) at Sotto Varalli on Broad Street. It certainly was adequate carb loading. With the long day ahead, we were in bed by 10:00.

(Ready to run.)

The Race
The Dream
I got up at 3:30am for a peanut-butter sandwich and some water, and went back to bed. I got up "for real" at 4:15 to do my IT band stretching and foam rolling, apply sunscreen, put BodyGlide everywhere, and try to psych myself up with some pre-race Van Halen. We left the hotel around 6am, accompanied by our friend Maryrose, who came to watch us and some of her other friends.

We were in our corrals a little before the 7am start, and I chatted with a friend of Maryrose's who was running the half and also starting from the super-elite orange corral. It was great to have some company, because it made the interminable wait for the wave start a little less, well...interminable.

The race started, eventually, and while I didn't feel great (in terms of overall energy level), I felt "ok" and I hoped that would be enough. I'm not going to be do a mile-by-mile recap like I did for the half marathon last year, because it would make me too angry to type, but over the first several sections of the course, eastbound through downtown Philly, south on Columbus Boulevard, and northwest on Front St./South Street/Sixth St., I was exactly where I thought I needed to be in terms of pace. I saw the Eagles Drumline, which made sense because my beloved Birds were in NY for their game that night against the Giants, and the Sixers dance team, which didn't make any sense at all since the Sixers don't exist in any meaningful sense right now, although I welcomed the distraction. (We did get Sixers ticket vouchers in our packet and the new owner of the Sixers ran the marathon.)

On the next phase of the course, the long flat westbound stretch down Chestnut Street, I continued to hold back. This is the part of the course where I usually make up time because it's flat and straight with great crowd support. I hit the six-mile mark at midway point of Chestnut at just over an hour. Perfection.

After Chestnut Street, things got a bit more difficult: The long hill on 34th Street, the steep up and down hills of the zoo and Fairmount Park. At least I didn't see people peeing on the zoo this year. Miles 7-11 is the hilliest part of the course. I wonder if I should have eased up more here, though it likely wouldn't have made much difference on this day.

The farthest west point on the half marathon course is just around mile 11. From there, it's a mostly downhill or flat two-mile charge back to Eakins Oval. At this point last year, I pushed myself toward a great half marathon finish. This year, I held back, knowing there were many miles left to run. I felt tired, and as I saw the signs throughout mile 12 directing half marathon finishers to the right and marathoners to the left and a turn back to the west, the wiser part of me contemplated packing it in at 13.1. Instead, I kept to the left and descended into Hell.

(You have chosen...unwisely.)

In hindsight, I believe that my familiarity with the half marathon course was part of my undoing. Though I paced myself well, I think my mindset was to think "I'm almost done" as I progressed through the first half of the course. It was very disheartening to reach the place that had always been the finish for me, where I've had two of the happiest moments of my running career, and turn back out for another 13.1 that I was beginning to suspect that I didn't have in the tank.

The Nightmare
I finished the first half of the marathon in 2:15:02, which was almost exactly where I wanted to be. But I felt weak. Not only was I under-trained (however, I had reason to believe I wasn't that under-trained), it was a warm day compared to the last two Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon race days, and I think for me it was just "one of those days", because things started to go wrong soon after I made the turn out toward Manyunk. Still, at some point in the race, and I don't remember exactly where but it was definitely rather early, I decided that the moment I crossed the finish would be amazing, and I wasn't going let anything -- be it fatigue, pain, the (relative) heat, or dissatisfaction with myself -- take that moment away from me.

I think the pain began to creep into my quads at around mile 15, and I had to start taking walk breaks at mile 18 instead of the 21 that I made it to at Shamrock. Pain soon became agony. I got to Manyunk, and it seemed like the turnaround point would never come. I gratefully accepted a cup of beer at the very welcome unsanctioned beer table at mile 19 and some bacon that was being handed out outside a restaurant.

I tried to run as much as I could, knowing that the more I ran, the more quickly I could end this ordeal. I could still have my moment, even if the race sucked. Even if I sucked.
(I don't mean to be overly negative here on the blog, but my thought process at this point in the race was very pessimistic. I was so mad at myself.) I tried to split the race into 10-minute segments with three minutes of walking and seven minutes of running, but seldom could I maintain that. I had visions of a 6-hour finish, or no finish at all.

I rallied a bit over the last three miles, and when the 5:00 pace group passed me, I tried in vain to keep up. Still, it seemed that things maybe were not quite as bad as they seemed, and the last three miles of the race really did pass more quickly than I thought they would. It was a disaster, but not as big as a disaster as it seemed at mile 18. Since the second half of the marathon is an out and back, I'd been able to see what was waiting for me, and my impression was that I had a pretty hefty uphill ahead at mile 24 or 25, but it never seemed to come.

I hit Boathouse Row (mile 25) and was overcome with joy -- I knew that my trial would soon be over. I would guess I ran the first half the last mile, trying to decide if I should take one last walk break. I did so as I went by the art museum, not wanting to get "caught" walking by the cameras at the finish line. As I rounded the art museum, the course went downhill and I charged. I knew the finish line was ahead, but with a curve in the road I couldn't tell how far. Luckily, it was right around the bend, and I was almost in tears with relief as I crossed. There will be better days than this, I hope, but my moment was not taken from me. I'm not happy with how I did, but I endured for the medal and so it means something to me.

(After breakfast, we finally felt well-enough to pose.)

I also admit that I really wanted to finish because I didn't want to not be able to wear all the Philly Marathon crap I'd bought the day before. Whatever it takes, right?

Lessons Learned
After Shamrock, I had a whole litany of things I wanted to do differently. Some of them I did: more long runs, better pacing through the first half of the race, and a better job eating throughout the whole marathon. Some of them I did not do as well on, namely speedwork and strength training. Those are a must. I really don't care how fast I am, but I want to do everything I can to make sure no marathon is this un-enjoyable again. My quads need to get stronger. I felt like my cardiovascular endurance was sufficient yesterday despite my need for multiple inhalers to help fight off cold symptoms earlier in the week; it was my legs that were not strong enough.

There's really only lesson from this one. It's hard to accept that I didn't work hard enough, but it's the truth. I could blame the warmer-than-usual weather, since I get stronger when the temperature gets lower, say that Philly was hillier than I expected (I don't think it's considered a bad one, but compared to Shamrock, OMG.) and accept that "some days you've got it; some days you don't" is probably a part of most runners' experiences, but the lesson I want to take from this day, this miserable but still somewhat triumphant day is "Just shut up and work harder."

Virginia Beach, I am coming for you. I will not waste another chance. I'm going to take a few recovery days and then I'm going to make sure I go down to the Shamrock Marathon a better runner and stronger person than I am now.

Congratulations are in order to Chris, who finished her second half-marathon and scored a new PR! Though there aren't Disney characters to distract runners, I think Philly is a tougher course. Also congratulations to Derek, who, after laying waste to our age group at HACC Dash, ran a PR 1:36 in the half, and Nick, who ran the half after recovering from the Baltimore Marathon, and had cheesesteak eggrolls before the race and still finished. Trust me, no small feat!

After running 26.2 miles, ok, ok, after running most of 26.2 miles, the celebration began. Brunch was at Little Pete's, my favorite diner-type restaurant.

(Our server said they'd had a steady stream of race customers. I figure the Kenyans went through at around 9:15)

I declared my intention to drink 26.2 beers to numb my aching quads. Though I only made it through 4 (post-brunch, 2 at dinner, and 1 during the Eagles game), I will say that I enjoyed them all!

Dinner was spectacular. Cheesesteak eggrolls from the Continental Mid-town.

I slept through 90% of the Eagles game, but a win's a win. We wrapped our weekend in Philly up with an amazing breakfast at Molly Malloy's at Reading Terminal Market.

Now, the race is over. The feasting is done. I have four months to Shamrock and it's time get serious. The climb up the wall begins now.