Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Cursed Shirt

I'm borrowing an idea for a post, here.*

Most races give away some sort of "schwag" to attract runners. Usually it's a t-shirt, and hence my closet is overflowing with shirts with the names of various 5Ks on them. More recently, it seems, race directors have upped the ante and are offering technical shirts, shirts made from supposedly moisture-wicking material designed for running, which can be pretty expensive. At a bigger race, you can also purchase souvenir items at the expo. I've bought a Shamrock Marathon t-shirt; a Broad Street Run hoodie and tech shirt; a Baltimore Running Festival Hat; and plenty of stuff at the last two Philadelphia Marathon expos including 2 half marathon hats, a long-sleeve half marathon shirt, a mug, and the unfortunate Cursed Shirt referred to in the title of this post.

Race T-shirt Etiquette and Superstition
Whether from tradition or actual superstition, there's a couple of unwritten "rules" of race etiquette about wearing your race shirts. The first is "Don't wear the race shirt to the race," meaning, for example, that if you're running the 2011 Higgy and Pooka Race for the Cat Food 5K, don't wear your 2011 Higgy and Pooka Race for the Cat Food 5K t-shirt during the race. I've always felt that the main reason behind this is the perception that doing so labeled someone as a noob, rather than the savvy, veteran road warrior we all want to pretend we are.

Personally, I don't care what people wear to the race. I was very strongly advised by a friend, who is a savvy veteran road warrior, not to wear the race shirt to my first 5K, but I see this "rule" broken all the time. Many people ran the Shamrock Marathon in the very nice long-sleeve tech shirts we got in our schwag bags, and when I watched the Disney Princess Half Marathon, the race shirt was a very popular choice among runners on race day. I've got my two favorite sleeveless shirts that are my usual race attire, but I wouldn't look down on a noob anyone who runs in the race shirt, and I think anyone who does is kind of a jerk.

Another commonly-held superstition or point of race ettiquette is "don't wear the shirt of a race you haven't run." (Or, "don't wear the shirt of a race you didn't finish.")

If you ran in a race but didn't finish, in my opinion it's ok to wear the shirt. You signed up, you gave your best effort, and you were in the race. If the shirt was clearly intended as a "finisher's shirt", you probably wouldn't have gotten it unless you crossed the finish line, just like you wouldn't have gotten a medal if that race had them. But if it's a race you weren't in, it becomes a bit more questionable. By wearing it, aren't you bragging about something you didn't do?

The Part Where I get to the Point
Here's where my Cursed Shirt comes in. The 2009 Philly Half Marathon was my first of two half marathons (I also ran it in 2010). It remains one of my all-time favorite races and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a cool-weather 13.1 with interesting scenery and a fun location. I was pretty confident that I could complete the race, and in addition to the shirt I got at packet pickup, I bought a ton of crap at the expo. I have, as mentioned above, a 2009 half marathon hat that I wear all the time and a long-sleeve t-shirt that I really like, too.

The problem is that the event is really branded like it's "The Philadelphia Marathon and oh, yeah, also there's maybe also a Half Marathon". There's much more "marathon" stuff than "half", and that's one of my pet peeves. Finishing a half marathon is a great accomplishment and it's a more popular and faster-growing distance than the full, so don't make half marathoners feel like second-class citizens.

The Philly Marathon attempts to get around this by emblazoning most of the merchandise with "Philadelphia Marathon 26.2 13.1 and 8K". Alternately, the Baltimore Marathon (ack! now I'm doing it!) is branded as the "Baltimore Running Festival" (but also has "Baltimore Marathon" stuff), and most Shamrock Marathon merchandise says "Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, Anthem Half Marathon, and Townebank 8K Run" or at least "Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8K Run".

So, anyway, back to Philadelphia. I ran the 2009 half marathon and have great memories of it. I don't feel bad at all drinking
from this mug.

Yeah, kick asphalt! Note the prominently displayed 13.1. As proud finisher of the Philly half, I would have zero compunction at all about using or wearing something with that design. But how can I ever wear this shirt?

It doesn't say "13.1" on it anywhere. I wasn't signed up for that marathon and I had never run any marathon. I bought it because I thought it was cool, and there wasn't nearly as much stuff that said "half marathon" on it. It's a nice shirt, but I feel bad about wearing it. If I'd previously run a marathon, I don't think I'd be quite so conflicted. I've run many a 5K. I know I can run a 5K. If I somehow got a 5K shirt from a race I hadn't run, I wouldn't feel so bad, but this was a distance I'd never even attempted, and at the time had no intention of ever attempting.

Can the Cursed Shirt Ever be Redeemed?
I've now run a marathon, or at least most of a marathon. I've finished a marathon, and let's just leave it at that. Can I this shirt without shame now, even though it wasn't the Philly Marathon?

I am signed up for the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. If I finish that, then can wear the cursed shirt in public? Or, should must it languish out of the public eye forever, or at least until I steal a TARDIS and travel back to 2009.

Like most things on this blog, this post shouldn't be taken too seriously. I'm not really superstitious, although I have pre-race traditions (Hooray for the night-before-the-race beer!), I don't think wearing or not wearing the Cursed Shirt will actually have any impact on how much or little my knees hurt, etc. I know, "It's just a shirt, Brian." But, I thought it made for an interesting question, since race shirt etiquette/superstition is pretty commonly held in the running community.

I also don't think any runner should look down what any other runner chooses to wear to a race, even though we've probably all seen and hopefully laughed a little (on the inside) at people that we thought were trying to show off a little too much.

Further reading:

1. *I stole the idea for this post from "The Running Moron", who recently picked up his packet, including a technical shirt, from a race he didn't run due to an injury. In his case, I thought he should wear the shirt without any hesitation, since it was from a race he'd run several times before, a distance that he he'd run many times before, and the shirt didn't have the year on.

2. This is an entry from a blog called "f my injury" that I found when searching for race shirt etiquette. I thought it was interesting and had some good links in it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I woke up this morning to an almost 70-degree, cloudless morning, and also a flat tire (the only one I haven't replaced recently, of course) on my venerable Neon.

I knew if I changed my tire now, I wouldn't get my run in, and since I work from home I wouldn't need the car, anyway. With no transportation over to the high school, I decided my best option was to run my "Pain Lies on the Riverside" route, which runs five miles each way from York Haven to Goldsboro along the Susquehanna River. Not only does it start at the park within a 5-minute walk from my house, it's the only one of my usual routes that offers even the tiniest bit of shade.

It's the toughest and hilliest of my local routes, too, and I didn't run it last summer or this summer so far, since it potentially places me much farther from home or car if I bonk and have to trudge home. There was a cool breeze blowing, though, and when I got to the turning point at two miles at which I can turn right and head down the steep hill toward Goldsboro and the river or turn around and loop back toward York Haven (which I could turn into a 6 or 7 mile run with a few extra turns), I turned right and headed for the river.

Wow. This route kicked my ass. It's the most scenic of my routes, with great views of the river and the best chance for me to see adorable cats as I run. It's also the best chance for me to get chased by angry pit pulls, but that's another story. More importantly as I get closer to marathon training, it's the only place I run around here that doesn't just seem like complete garbage miles, since I'm actually going somewhere

On negative side, though It's also way hillier than I remembered. There's a big hill at mile 2 and an even bigger, steeper one at mile 8, but even the flat parts are hillier than my usual course in Manchester, and I don't think of that one as flat. Dreaded Druid Hills has nothing on this nightmare run!

Hills aren't the only danger, though. While Goldsboro is a very pretty little town that seems to belong in another era, it lies directly across the river from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history.

(Is it blurry because of my unsteady hands, or radiation? Ok, probably just a bad photo.
I'll take better ones when I run here again -- in October!)

So if I appear to glow a little today, without the benefit of my dumb night-running attire, don't be surprised.

I'm exhausted, but it was a good run: 10 miles in 1:38, just a minute or two slower than my usual "Manchester" time.

Hats Off!
I'm going to take the opportunity to ask for some gear advice. Not to be gross, but I sweat a lot. No matter how sweatproof sunscreen claims to be, it's no match for my face in the summer. Therefore, I think I've got to look into running in hat. Don't get me wrong, I love hats, but I dislike running in them because I feel like wearing a hat, no matter how moisture wicking or reflective it is, is always going to be hotter than not wearing one. But if I'm going to go on runs this long or longer through July and August, I think sunburn is going to be just as much of a problem as overheating.

Anyone have a brand of running hat you particularly like or would recommend for its well-ventilated-ness? (ventalatalty?) I've got two Brooks running hats, and while they're cooler than normal hats, I have gotten very hot when I wear them to actually run.

(In Brooks' defense -- most of my running stuff is Brooks and I love it -- they're dark colors, which I know isn't the best choice. I got them more with the idea of keeping rain out of my eyes.)


Monday, June 27, 2011

Virtual Race Report: 2011 Sweat Your Thorns off Virtual 5K (And other stuff)

In addition to the Druid Hills 10K, which I've already gone on at great enough length about, I also ran in a virtual 5K hosted by Adam at The Boring Runner. He organized a real 5K, which took place in AZ, but invited non-locals to run it wherever they were and send in their times, since many parts of the country are starved for races as temperatures become unbearably hot.

Even though Central PA/Maryland is not one (two, I guess) of those places, I thought it would be fun, and decided that I could count my mileage total as 9.3. Since I was running during another race at the same time, I passed on the virtual 5K bib, even though it was more fun than the Druid Hills bib.

I picked the first half of the 10K to count as my 5K. It was allegedly easier (that turned out to be true), and I thought it would be easier to figure out my time. That would have been the case, except Garmin got awful reception on the hilly, heavily forested course and seemed to lose accuracy at about mile two. It told me I finished the 3.1 mile course in 26:27, which is coincidentally the time of my first-ever 5K, but I actually crossed the 3-mile mark of the 10K at just under 28 minutes. So, I'm counting it as a 28:00 -- which would be good for my second-worst 5K ever (not counting the one I tapered). So, you can add Druid Lake to the list of bodies of water that I considered tossing Garmy into.

Looking on the bright side, it just shows the difference in strategy between a 5K and a 10K. I can race a (real) 5K, but the 10K is I'd halfway between my race pace and my long, slow, distance pace. (I consider most of my runs to be long, slow, distance -- or LSD -- runs). Looking on the even brighter side, I could probably say that I was the regional champion. (Adam, if you read this and I'm not the regional champion, just don't tell me.)

In any case, thanks Boring Runner, adding the virtual race made a fun day of racing even more exciting, and made me even madder at GPS technology than I normally am.


In other news, or lack thereof, the next race on the schedule is the Harrisburg Mile (note to self: sign up for the Harrisburg Mile). This is one of my favorite summer racing events, a one mile dash down Front Street along the Susquehanna River. Last year, I annihilated my one-mile PR, the 8:00-minute mile I ran during Presidential Physical Fitness Award testing in high school, with a 6:44.

This year, I wanted to get under 6:00. I've utterly failed at adding speedwork to my routine, however, and it's probably too late. I'll try to squeeze some track work or mile sprints in, but even though I'm overall having my best-ever summer of running, I just lack the discipline to add variety to my running plan. I go out in the morning and run 6-10 miles every other day. Repeat.

Still, I've put a lot of miles in during the last year. I think I've at least got a 6:43 or better in me. If I can bring that in, I'll have PR'd in every distance since my last half-marathon in 2010. If I can't, I won't have another chance to hit for that cycle for awhile, since this is the only one-mile race I run each year and I won't be racing a 13.1 this year. (No big deal, I just thought of this now, anyway.)


After running Druid Hills, I turned spectator for the rest of the weekend. I headed home from Baltimore; and then my wife and I headed back to Baltimore (cat medical logistics and schedule made this make sense). We stopped at Charm City Run, where she picked up her Baltimore Women's Classic packet and I ordered my next pair of shoes; we had a very nice afternoon watching dragon boat racing, organized by our friend and marathon relay teammate Ada, at Tide Point; and had a great dinner at our favorite downtown Baltimore Restaurant, the (bar menu at the) B&O Brassiere. Chris had a great race Sunday morning, shaving 2 minutes off her time from last year, despite a more hilly course this year.


After the awesome weekend, I got back in the routine today with a good, hilly 10 miles through Manchester & Mt. Wolf. Mmm...miles.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Dreaded Druid Hills 10K, Baltimore MD

This was my first time at the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K, and I wasn't really sure what to expect. Internet chatter about this one had led me to believe that this would be hilly well beyond any race I'd run before, but I do normally run a hilly route and had done pretty well on what I thought would be a decent simulation of it.

I wasn't sure what to expect as far as a finishing time, either. My 10K PR was screaming to be broken, since I've run only one 10K in my life, the 2009 MCVET 10K. I'd never run six or more miles, so I paced myself very conservatively and came in at 59:40. I generally come in at six miles at about 55 minutes on my normal runs more recently. Still, based on all the reports I'd been reading, I did not expect to beat my PR at this race.

Races in Baltimore are tough for me. I'm a morning person -- I try to be out running by about 6:15 during the summer, but since I like to get to races early, a 7:30 start time in the middle of Baltimore means I try to leave my house not long after 5:00am, and since I need to do all my IT band exercises before leaving, this means I was up at 4:00 and going on 4 hours of sleep.

I left my house at 5:20 and was at Druid Hill Park at 6:29 -- right before they opened the lake gate
for race day parking. I went in at what I guess is a main gate and easily found parking, but since there was nothing to indicate which way to go from there for packet pickup, I wandered in the general direction of where I thought it would be (near the pool and tennis courts).

Druid Lake Park (home of the Baltimore Zoo), is really very pretty. The first glimpse you get of the park from 83 South is The Moorish Tower, a tower at the corner of the park on one end of Druid Lake. As I got out of my car and wandered, I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise over the lake.

(Yeah, I recycle pictures a lot.)

I still didn't see packet pickup, though, so I headed in the general direction of the tower, since I knew that was the finish line. Luckily for me, I turned off the lakeside path and ran right into a pavilion where I saw people walking up and getting their packets. I picked up my race bib and giveaway, a very nice Orioles orange Asics sleeveless technical shirt with the race logo on it, and headed back to my car to drop off the new shirt and grab my Garmin and hydration belt.

(Druid Lake. The tower seen in the distance was the site of the finish line.)

Nothing I saw or overheard before the race made me feel more ready for it.

am not one to run t before the race. I stretch, and I'll walk around to loosen up, but I've always figured that I have a limited number of miles I can run each day and that each mile I run prior the race is one less I'll be able to run during it. I've NEVER seen as high a percentage of racers jogging prior to the race start.

As I was stretching, I overheard one gentleman tell a friend that "whatever your 10K PR is, you should add five to 10 minutes to it." I also heard, while in line for the port-o-potties, a woman tell a friend about the time she was at a Muddy Buddy run dressed as a rhinoceros and neglected to properly lock the port-o-potty door. I, though not dressed as a rhino, made extra sure that mine was properly latched.

I lined up about 3/4 of the way in the back of the pack at about 7:25. A few minutes after 7:30, we heard bagpipes, and a piper, followed by the race organizer, parted the crowd and walked to the front of the pack. I never heard an air horn, gun, or any signal, but shortly thereafter everyone in front of me started running and so I headed for the hills. too.

The Race
The first two miles of the course were rolling hills. If the whole race had been that hilly, I still would have said it was probably the hilliest race I'd run to date, but it was nothing terrible. After mile 2, the route started to get windier and the hills became much steeper and longer. Miles 2 through 3.5 were all uphill, very steeply at times, and then a steep decline, followed by a steeper, not as lengthy a climb and then a gradual downhill toward the finish line starting at a little past 5 miles (sorry for the guesses at mileage, Garmin didn't get a signal for large portions of this race) and flat 1/3 of a mile around the lake to the finish at the Moorish Tower.

I'd heard that the first half the race was easier than the 2nd, which was true, though as above I think the real distinction was that the this was a moderately hilly two-mile race followed by an extremely hilly four-miler.

My strategy was to try to keep an easy pace to save strengths for the hills. Early in the race, my legs just felt like lead. However, within a half mile they'd loosened up and I started to feel very good. The field was still very bunched at that point, and in the quiet park it was really net to hear nothing but the sound of thousands of footfalls. I hit mile 1 at about 9 minutes, a little faster than I wanted that early in the race. The second mile, mostly downhill, was probably the easiest mile of the whole course. At mile 3, the hills began in earnest. I also lost time to remove a stone from my shoe, but I reached the halfway point in great shape at about 28 minutes.

The hills were quite steep, but we had several things going in our favor -- it was an overcast day for most of the race, with a nice breeze, and even after the sun emerged there is a TON of shade on the course. I've never run a race that was mostly in the shade and it was gorgeous! At one point after the sun came out, the course went outside the park and onto the streets of Baltimore for a few blocks, and it was sweltering. Even though a turn back into the park meant a return to hills, the shade was welcome. Just past the fifth mile marker, the course emerges from the woods. "No more hills", the volunteers told us, just a short, not-steep incline followed by a shallow decline and a mostly flat finish. Warming up quickly in the sun, I dumped a cup of water on my head and charged for the Moorish Tower.

(The aforementioned Moorish Tower)

I knew as I reached the last water stop that I had a shot at a PR, and I wanted to pick that admittedly low-hanging fruit! I'd paced myself as well as I had any race, I feel, and I had enough left for a great finishing kick to round the lack and finish in 57:37 (unofficial watch time, no chips in this race), a PR by over two minutes!

I had a lot more fun at this race than I thought I would, and it was also much-better organized than I thought it would be. The race didn't really have a website, and we didn't receive ay e-mail communication at from race officials until this week, and when we did it included a note that's ordering function had malfunctioned and my size shirt might not be available.

Instead, it ended up being both a nice event and very enjoyable race. I talked a little trash in my last post and on facebook, but I won't lie, it's hilly as hell. I know I only PR'd because of small sample size when it comes to 10Ks. That said, I think if you either pace yourself convservatively, like I did, or walk some of the uphills, that this race isn't as bad as people say. I mean, some of the quotes about this race make it sound like you're going to die if you're not some extreme hill runner. The uphills are bad, but the downhills are just as long and make up for them.

The location made it more enjoyable than an average race in York or even Baltimore (run up Key Highway and turn around!). Like I said before, Druid Park is very pretty. The lake (Druid Lake reservoir) is picturesque, there are some nice old buildings that I believe are admin buildings for the Zoo, and the finish at the Moorish Tower is a great exclamation point to the race.

(Druid Lake as seen from in front of the Moorish Tower)

The post-race spread was great, too. I don't mean to complain about the weather, because I really couldn't have asked for a nicer day at the end of June, but it was a warm day. Finishers were greeted with strawberries, grapes, bananas, apples, and best of all, in my opinion, ice-cold slices of watermelon.

(I will run hills any day for fresh strawberries.)

I should also mention the schwag. For $30, I got a very nice Asics sleeveless technical shirt. The shirt was optional -- you could omit it for a lower price -- but since I'd heard such horror stories about this race I wanted to have one. The excellent thing about this giveaway is that it's something that's actually useful. I have no need for more cotton t-shirts, and even technical t-shirts are of limited use for me, since the range of temperature at which I wear them is very narrow. I'll get a lot of use out of this shirt as a running shirt, and I chose orange over grunge green so that it could double as Orioles gameday wear for super-hot summer day games.

(Every finisher also got a free Moorish Tower.)

The only area for improvement, in my opinion, is communication. A website with more information about the course would be a bonus (I think a new is under construction) and some signs directing people to packet pickup would have made things a bit easier. Overall, though, this race was great. Challenging, unique course; very nice schwag; excellent food after the race; beautiful location.

A tip of the cap to the Falls Road Running Store -- this one might have to be the summer running tradition that I've been looking for.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Hills?

Dreaded Druid Hills 10K? Don't believe the hype. The course is flat and fast. :-)

Not really, but I scored a new 10K PR. At 57:38, this probably is due more to the fact that it's only my 2nd 10K than me being fast.

I enjoyed this race MUCH more than I thought it would. Full race report coming tomorrow or Monday.

Right now? Can't type...eating

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Haiku, Volume IV

Do not fear the hills.
The hills do not stop the wind.
Just be like the wind.

As you can see, after my pessimism earlier in the week, I'm trending a bit toward overconfidence now.

I've only run one 10K, so I don't feel like I have a good strategy for them. My plan for tomorrow's Dreaded Druid Hills 10K is to just keep a slow, steady pace, conserving energy for the hills and hopefully a final sprint. That's basically the approach I took to my only other 10K. I know this will be a tougher course, but at the time of the '09 MCVET 10K (great race, by the way!) that was the longest I'd ever run.

We've got a busy weekend ahead of us in the Earn Your Donuts household. In addition to the 10K, I'll simultaneously be running a virtual 5K, the "Sweat Your Thorns Off" (what does that even mean?) 5K, hosted by one of my favorite running blogs, A couple of logistical questions: Even though they overlap, I get to count that as running 9.3 miles, right? Also, do virtual races count as PRs? (Or in this case, more likely to be a personal worst?) Back in the world of reality, my wife will return to familiar territory, her third Baltimore Women's Classic 5K. I'm sure the cats will also occasionally be running around the house as they do whatever it is that cats do.

Happy Friday. (Finish work if necessary and) Go earn donuts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm probably just a little too addicted to facebook. If a race has a facebook page, I'm going to leave comments on it. So when I signed up for the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K, I posted a question on the event's facebook page, trying to learn a little more about it (by which I mean "how bad is it?"). I pulled some of the "it's really bad" quotes from a few posts ago from there.

Anyway, here's the "conversation."

I don't know why, but the last comment ("You gonna get raped. By hills.") bothered me in a way that the "beyond bad..." and "torturous" comments didn't. I readily admit that I'm probably reading way more nastiness into the comment than this than this guy intended or than most other people would read into it, but it seems more mean-spirited than the other comments did, and so I'm taking it a bit personally.

When I race, I really only consider myself to be competing against myself. But to be honest, even though I know I'm taking offense where none was likely meant, that comment makes me want to kick the guy's ass. I mean in the race, of course. If middle school taught me one thing, it's that violence almost never solves anything.

Now, I looked up his time from last year, and I think he's faster than me. I'd love to finish to ahead of him, but failing that I'll still be happy if I feel that I've run a good enough race, that I was so ready for this that I can say as I cross the finish line "I thought there were supposed to be hills."

Bring it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weather or Not

Today was another hill workout along my new course. It was supposed to be another 6.3-ish miles to simulate Saturday's 10K, but I was getting rained on for most of the run. Of course, I figured I could only get so wet, so I decided to continue, but then just as I was finishing the second loop, I heard thunder and decided to head back to my car. I ended up with a 4.3-mile hill workout and some extra time to play video games before work.

I had a little more fun with elevation charts yesterday, too. This claims to be the map and elevation chart for the 2009 Dreaded Druid Hills 10K. So, if the course remains the same, here's our elevation profile:

Here, again, is the elevation profile from my route on Monday: If I hadn't made it a little too small (or if you clicked on it to see a full-size version), you'd be able to see that the steepest hill, which I run up 3 times going back toward Manchester, is a climb from 357 feet to 474, feet over a little under 0.4 miles. Going up the other side of the "half pipe" into Mt. Wolf is 369 feet to 432 feet, over just a bit over half a mile.

At Druid Hills, the two toughest climbs appear to be a long uphill from 227 feet to 291 feet over 1.5 miles and 231 feet to 279 feet over 0.7 miles.

In looking at this, I'm feeling a little more prepared for this race. I think the hills on Saturday will seem longer, but I don't think it will feel like I'm climbing mountains compared to what I'm used to. I probably won't PR, but I don't think I'll embarrass myself either.

Either way, I'll have a race report to write, so you won't have to sit through more cat stories.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Beat Up a Kitty

I enjoy checking my blog traffic on the Blogger Dashboard. Don't judge me!

Are people reading this?

Where are they coming from?

People are actually reading this?

I enjoy looking at traffic sources, the websites people came from and the search terms that lead people here. In general, if Google leads you here, I hope you find what you're looking for.

However, today, I noticed that "Earn Your Donuts" was found through a search for "How to beat up a kitty". In fact, if you search (without quotes), it's the number one search result for how to beat up a kitty.

I'm sure I'll lose that title once launches (at which point we're probably nearing the Singularity -- the inevitable future point at which every possible domain name is taken), but in the meantime I don't think that's a distinction that I want.

After all, if you're reading this blog, you probably have noticed that one of the few things I love more than typing rambling blog posts is soft, adorable cats.

Big, fluffy rug cats.

Skinny, whiny, psychotabbies:

Adorable little blog-commenting kittens who get stuck in walls.

Sure, cats can be destructive, huggable nuisances, but with love and attention they can also become some of our best friends.

So whomever found this blog searching for "how to beat up a kitty", I implore you to remember that violence almost never solves anything. As much as I'd sometimes loooooooooove to launch Higgy the Cat out of a cannon (into a big net! It would be adorable!), beating up a kitty is nothing but a deplorable act of cruelty.

I'm not sure I've got anything for the person who found this site for "bad half marathon experience", either. I mean, I've only run two half marathons and have gotten to high-five the mayor of Philly, the GEICO gekko, a giant cookie, people in colonial garb, and the Drexel Dragon. How does it get better than that...except for winning?

And I certainly can't really help you with that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

10K Hill Practice Run

Today, I ran hills.

Six miles up and down the two steepest hills of my regular route (which are normally miles 7.75-10) as a test run, however imperfect it may be, for the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K on Saturday. I think today's route as "The Half Pipe", since it starts at the top of the hill in Manchester, heads down a steep hill toward Mt. Wolf, and then up another include to its end at the corner of 5th and Main in Mt. Wolf, and then back again. I ran three loops, plus the few relatively flat blocks at the beginning and end of the run to get to and from my car.

It went surprisingly well, and if these hills are comparable to the ones at the park, then a PR may not be out of the question, despite race directors' insistence that this is not a PR course, since I got through 6.3 miles in 59:50, and was under my 10K PR at 6.2. (As I said before, my 10K PR should go down pretty easily.)

I did the elevation map on dailymile, and here's what it looked like:

I admit that I don't really know how to read these things, but seeing that there's really only about 100ft elevation change each time up and down each hill, if I'm reading this right, makes me think that this route probably isn't up to the standard of the Dreaded Druid Hills 10k. After all, these are some quotes I've seen about the race, either on its site or on facebook in response to my questions about what the course is like:
  • "Beyond bad... surpasses sick... the ultimate 'what the hell am I doing here?' And then, there's the downside.... LOL!"
  • "Torturous and totally worth it!"
  • "I love running hills, but that was mean and totally uncalled for."
  • "A torturous race by runners for runners through Baltimore's famed Druid Hill Park, beginning and ending at the Moorish Tower and traversing the most wicked hills to be found in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area."
Maybe people are just having some fun with the new guy or exaggerating (Baltimore's got some hilly sections, as "Earn Your Donuts" found out during the marathon relay, but it's THAT hilly?), but I have a feeling I'm going to get my ass kicked.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beer and Running: Perfect Together

It's going to be hard to get the miles in this week, since I'm now a cardboard nobleman.

(That's Lord Chesterfield to you.)

For all my joking about carb-loading in my last post, it seems as if (as common sense suggests) that abstaining from the hooch before a race is probably a good idea.

Beer and Running from Runner's World

A friend who has run multiple marathons (and PR'd this weekend at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth Minnesota!) advised me to have a beer the night before my first half marathon to take the edge off, and so that's been my tradition before any of my big races: A microbrew from the Philadelphia Brewing Company before that first half; a Lager draft before Broad St; and a bottle of Peroni the nights before my 2nd shot at the Philly Half and the Shamrock Marathon. It's one of my favorite parts of race weekend, and one of the parts that I'm really good at. I've never spilled my pre-race drink and I've always taken care to be properly hydrated, too.
I'm sure I'll have a brew the night before the Philadelphia Marathon,too. I just hope it's not a five-and-a-half foot Lord Chesterfield Ale.

After the race, on the other hand, all bets are off.

And always, as O's announcer Gary Thorne would say, "Please drink.........................responsibly."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mixed Messages

I got up this morning and ran 10 miles.

Now it's time to get ready to go to a beer festival.

I just think of it as carb loading.

"Brian, your marathon is in November."

"Shut up! It's still carb loading!"

(This isn't from beerfest. This is my first post-race beer from Shamrock Marathon,
as well-earned a brew as I've ever partaken of.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Haiku, Volume III

You should run away.
This creepy little kitten
Is staring at you.

Since my legs are demanding a rest day today, I'll no doubt be murdered by this terrifying creature, which in an ancient Japanese legend (that I just made up) is a demon said to gobble up slothful runners who rest on Friday.

In reality, this is our huggable, cheerful little friend, Elizabeth the Kitten, who spends most of her time napping peaceably on people's laps or her favorite chair. She does stare in menacing fashion quite often, but she's likely as not to purring loudly while doing so, hoping for attention and/or kitten food.

She certainly wouldn't hurt anyone.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


I ran 10 miles this morning, just like I did on Tuesday, the previous Sunday, the previous Friday, and the previous Monday. All of my times were between 1:34 and 1:37, and I'm very happy with the mileage and the consistency of pace, especially since the weather on those runs included "August" type heat, rainforest-caliber humidity, and a couple gorgeous, perfect mornings mixed in as well. The difference was that today, even more so than on some of days that were worse in terms of weather, I felt like a lumbering, somewhat bipedal dinosaur trying to awkwardly shuffle through the tar pits of the Mesozoic Era.

While scientists have debating for years about the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs and
their cretaceous cohorts, I think I can solve the riddle of my dead legs a bit more easily: poor planning and overtraining. I'm running the Philadelphia Marathon in late November. I have absolutely zero interest in long runs during the hottest part of the summer, but I've been trying to build my base up by increasing the length of my regular runs to improve my overall weekly mileage.

I've succeeded; my 38 miles last week was my 2nd best ever, eclipsed only by the week in late February where I did my 18-miler as a last-ditch attempt to "catch up" as much as possible on my long runs in my ITBS-hampered Shamrock marathon training.
I'd only had one other week since March where I'd been over 30 miles, a week in April where we had beautiful weather and I got 2 10-milers in (and another the following week).

Those had been my only 10-mile runs since the marathon; I have 5 in the last two weeks. And, on the last three of those I'd adjusted my route to add some steep hills at the end, in hopes of being more prepared for the supposedly very tough Dreaded Druid Hills 10k on June 25, my thoughts being that since I normally run a hilly route, but probably not as hilly as the race course, I'd run a long enough distance, and add some rougher terrain to be as ready as possible.

My plan was to do today's route again on Saturday, and then next week (probably Monday and Wednesday), run two shorter routes consisting of just running up and down the two steepest hills over and over again. (This route would be like going up and down a half-pipe for several repitions.)

Given that I feel like my legs are fossilized, I think I'll re-evaluate. I'm going to take tomorrow off, run 6ish miles on these two hills on Saturday, and then do a mini taper for the rest of next week
. I've also got fairly low expectations. If this course is as tough as I've heard, I don't think I'll really be racing it. Ok, I mean, it's a race and I'll be in it, but there's no thoughts of a PR here.

My 10K PR is 59:32, and it should be my easiest PR to break. I've only run one 10K race, in which I paced myself conservatively having never run six miles, and I routinely come in 2-5 minutes under that on my regular runs, and occasionally hit the 10k mark in the 52-minute range. At Druid Hills, though, I'm just going to have fun, keep a slow and steady pace that I can maintain up the inclines, and try to not get caught by the T-Rex.

(What asteroid? Studies show that either running or cats killed the dinosaurs.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brian vs. A Cat

I have an arch-enemy, a nemesis, a thorn in my side. While this could be seen as a negative, it's really not. Superman's super-ness springs from not just his powers but his prowess in thwarting the evil plans of Lex Luthor. Batman's life would be pretty boring without the Joker. Being an Eagles fan is just a little more exciting when it's Cowboys week.

My nemesis isn't a supervillain, a neighbor I have to "keep up with", another runner, or a coworker gunning for the same promotions. He's a cuddly eight-pound brown tabby named Higgy the Cat. (Actually, his name is Higgenbaffum, but that's another story.)

Higgy's a nice cat, a friendly, affectionate 13-year old who still in many ways acts like a kitten. He's a genius at getting into things, is very athletic for his age (There's no such thing as "cat years", but a chart at the vet's office says that 13 for a cat is the equivalent of the early 70s for a human), and loves to play and start fights with his brother Pooka and his adopted little sister Elizabeth, who is often terrified of him.

The problem is that Higgy is evil has a different weight-loss strategy than I do. I often strike out at the diet part of diet and exercise, but I make up for it on the exercise. Higgy, on the other hand, has hyperthyroidism, which means that he has a nuclear metabolism that has caused him to lose over half of his body weight over the past three years. (He used to be 18 pounds.) So, he's insatiably hungry very, very often, and when he's not eating he's howling and knocking things over, making it a challenge to work from home. Pooka has the same condition, but since Pooka spends most of his time doing his impression of a throw rug, he's a little more manageable.

I'm happy to report that Higgy is on thyroid medication and is responding very well. But his medication has made him very finicky, and the only cat food he likes is Elizabeth's, which consists of huge, crunchy kibbles that take Higgy forever to eat. Thus, it's hard for him to eat enough to maintain even his reduced weight. To correct this, our vet recommended that we give him baby food and that occasional table scraps are ok, as long as they don't have chocolate, since caffeine is deadly to cats.

So, Higgy gets cake. And cheese. And crackers. And once you give him a crumb, begging turns into all-out frontal assault. But when I made a spinach salad for lunch, I did not expect it to be attacked by the tabby. Since when have cats liked spinach salad? Since when have I liked spinach salad?

(Blurry photo by me)

I fought him off this time. I won the battle, but the war's outcome is still very much in doubt.

Oh yeah, running. I ran 10 miles this morning 1:34:20. Awesome. I'll probably go for a shorter run tomorrow, 8-10 on Friday, and probably take the weekend off.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


You may have noticed that I dislike running in hot weather. Therefore, over the last few days when I saw 58 degrees as today's low, I made it my plan to get out for a run this morning. I got ready to go, and checked weather one last time only to find that it already was supposedly 68 degrees. Oops, the low is supposedly tonight.

But, I was up and ready to get out there, so out there I went. I arrived at my starting point at Northeastern High School and found a cloud cover that would not be out of place on Venus, humidity that I suspect was well above 90%, and according to the digital sign at the school, a temperature of 66 degrees. With the sun a distant memory, the heat alone wouldn't have been as bad, but the Amazon-jungle strength humidity made the run unpleasant by about the time I hit mile 2. I pressed on, though, since I had eaten quite heartily the day before and had a big diner breakfast in the near future.

The roads and sidewalks of Manchester were deserted, as other humans had wisely elected to stay in their beds. But I was not alone.

I see slugs on almost all my summer morning runs. I try not to step on them, but they seem pretty innocuous most of the time. But I've NEVER seen a slug like this:

(10oz. hydration bottle for scale)

Anyone who has seen the 1988 horror classic "Slugs" knows that slugs are terrifying predators who can decimate a whole town. So, a few of my high school friends and I are probably safe at least. Since I have seen the film, I took off running. I mean, I was already running, but I started running faster and went farther just to get away my pursuer. In hindsight, I probably needn't have worried. My route crossed the path of Giant Mutant Slug twice, and in the time it took me to run two miles, my slimy nemesis had moved about six inches.

In my escape, I went 10 miles in 1:36:35, bringing me to 38 miles this week, my second highest mileage week ever. I got three 30-milers in in pretty warm, humid conditions, so I think I can work my way up to some 15-16 mile long runs by the end of August, especially if I can find somewhere flatter and shadier than my usual courses.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Haiku, Part Deux!

Run slowly today
But fear not the Summer heat

It cannot stop you

It's Friday and I don't have any other post ideas, so here we go again. I wish there was a formula for converting the 10 hot, humid summer miles that I ran this morning into (hopefully) cool, dry Philadelphia Marathon miles. Get right on that, mathematicians. But I'd bet it equals at least 26.3.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Makes a Good Race?

I admit, I'm having a bit of writer's block. With no races to write about, no real training plan being followed right now, no dorky new gear to review, I'm edging ever closer to being stuck in an endless boring loop of "I ran X miles in Manchester yesterday and it was really, really disgustingly humid" posts. You may have heard rumors that I dislike running in hot weather.

One of my favorite things to write on this blog is the race reports, so in order to keep some post ideas coming to get me through the Summer Doldrums, I thought I'd look back at some of my favorites over the four years I've been racing and put together a Top Ten List, and then a post, about once a week till I'm finished them, about each of the ones that haven't already been reviewed here.

Before I started compiling my list of races, I wanted to think for a little while (Not too long, this is "Earn Your Donuts" after all.) about what are the criteria of a good race. Personal performance is part of it, to me, but while there are races that are only memorable to me because I had a good run, there's a few others that are among my favorites even though I ran pretty badly. I don't think I even needed to enjoy a race to put it in my Top Ten. The 2010 Broad Street Run was miserable, but it's one of the races I'm most proud of.

Likewise, some races are memorable for their unique settings, conditions of the race, or the pre- or post-race festivities...or even schwag. I chose Shamrock as my first marathon primarily because I thought it would be flat and cold, but I will admit that I love hats and so a finisher's hat was pretty cool giveaway.

In summary, I would say some criteria to consider would be:
  • Personal performance (is it a PR, first of its distance, or a good race in adverse conditions)
  • Unique setting (did I get to run somewhere interesting that I wouldn't have gotten the chance to otherwise?)
  • Race conditions (was it memorable because of gale force winds, torrential rains, or extreme heat, or was it the most beautiful day ever?)
  • Overall event (was it memorable because of the post-race party, expo, or even schwag. Was the event so well-organized that it stands out, or hilariously disorganized?)
Some of these, like personal performance, conditions, and setting, might be very tied together in some cases, so this is meant to be just a loose, informal set of criteria that I'll consider as do some recaps of my favorite old races.

But what about you, readers? If you're out there, tell me what makes a race stand out as a good one in your mind.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brick House

I've had a lot of dumb ideas lately. Running a marathon, Mud Chasers, running 9+ miles on the hottest morning of the year (until this week, when it's going to be hotter), and on Saturday I had another bad one: Trying out the duathlon training workout my wife was doing in preparation for the Keystone Warrior Memorial Duathlon next Saturday.

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I ran a very hilly 8.5 miles before work. While this was just a wonderful run, it probably set me up for a tougher time on Saturday, when the plan was to run two miles, bike 10 miles, and run two more miles. My wife told me recently recently that a run then bike or bike then run workout is known as a brick, so hence the title of this post.

I got up Saturday morning with legs still tired from Friday, and with bright sunshine for the first two miles, I quickly felt tired and overheated, but finished the two miles in 17:46, not bad. After the run, the bike ride felt like bliss, since the wind from riding keeps me cooler and drier. My plan was ten miles, but I cut it a mile short due to a little soreness in the right outside of the knee,. I was worried that my IT bands might be acting up again, since I'd read in the Runner's World "Injury Issue" that biking could aggravate ITBS. I finished the 9-mile ride in about 53 minutes. (I had forgotten to reset Garmin)

As I started heading back toward our base camp (my wife's) car, I passed her riding in the other direction, and she warned me to walk a bit before I started running. I found that after my ride, my legs felt so rubbery that I didn't think I could run 10 feet, much less 2 miles. However, after about a two minute walk, my legs felt well enough to try. For the first quarter mile, my legs felt very wobbly, but then seemed to regain their strength. My pace was good, and there was a nice breeze, making it feel more comfortable than the first run...until the last half mile, when I hit the wall. I finished the two miles in 19 minutes.

I'm really happy with how this first brick workout went, so I'm leaning toward signing up for the Catfish Sprint Duathlon on July 10. My challenge will be to squeeze biking in during a very busy June schedule. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep my base mileage up. I ran 10 miles today, which is farther than I ran at any point last year between May and October, but with the hot weather come back, likely to stay this time, it might be my last double digits for awhile.

In other "news" I signed up for the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K on June 25. This race is supposed to be devastatingly hilly. Between this race, a duathlon, and at some point in June some speed training in preparation for the Harrisburg Mile, it seems like the summer will be filled with some interesting challenges.

Note: I just noticed that this was the 100th post here at EYD. Sorry it's such a boring one. Thanks everybody for reading and hopefully post #200 can be a little more fun.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Haiku

Perfect June Friday
Go out and earn your donuts

It's time to kick ass

I never said it would be a good haiku. But it's Friday; it's National Donut Day (I wonder who invented that?); I can only hope the weather in your part of the world is as gorgeous as it is in mine today; and I needed a post idea that wouldn't take much time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

National Running In the Middle of the Night Night

Apparently, yesterday was National Running Day. No, I'd never heard of it either. And this is confusing to me since May was apparently National Runner's Month. (Maybe that's the point...a month of revelry leading up to National Running Day?) National Runner's Month seems to have been concocted by Dick's Sporting Goods, which certainly has a financial interest in encouraging people to run, while National Running Day seems to have been started by the New York Road Runners three years ago.

This is only the third year of the holiday, so don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it yet. I'm sure as it grows in popularity Running Day tv specials, celebrations, and sales will start earlier each year, and every mall in America will have a guy in a Bart Yasso or Jeff Galloway suit so that kids can line up to get their picture with him and tell him what they want for National Running Day. Or not.

At any rate, I missed National Running Day. A crazy day at work + legs still feeling extremely worn out from Monday's Insane Humidity Adventure=no running.

Except then I went outside to take the trash out, and realized that for the first time all week the oppressive humidity and heat had abated just a bit. It was still warm, and it was still humid, but it was neither scorchingly hot nor did I feel I needed scuba gear and flippers. After the not so Brian-friendly running weather we've had this week, it felt heavenly.

So at about midnight, I laced up the Supernova Sequences, put on my dorky reflective gear, and headed over to the high school, starting point of my favorite night running route. National Running Middle of the Night Night, a holiday holinight for insomniacs who work from home and are desperate to avoid the heat, was born.

It turned out to be a good idea, but the execution left a little to be desired.

(Light up headgear? Check.)
(Stylish reflective clothing? Check.)

(Charged Garmin batteries? Charged Garmin Batties?)

I know that I went 7 miles, since I ran one of my usual routes. I have no idea of my pace, since poor, neglected Garmy died after about a mile. It felt fast, though, which is all I have to go on, and it was a bit liberating to run without obsessively checking my pace, time, and distance every two seconds.

Despite my technical difficulties, it was a nice run and I think that if I'm going to be doing any long runs in July and August, the middle of the night is probably the best time for them from a weather and temperature perspective. I could probably do this once a week. Sacrificing more sleep than that would probably make it a challenge to function as a contributing member of society. (No jokes, please.)