Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fail Trail

I've christened today's run "The Fail on the Trail". It wasn't a bad run, it was just kind of a meltdown of preparation and mental sharpness on my part.

Like I've said in most of my recent entries, I'm not really starting my marathon training yet, since I'm shaving the first few weeks of Higdon's Novice II because I'm already ahead of the mileage, but I was still hoping to get a longer long run in this morning. 14 was my goal. I thought I'd run on the rail trail, because it would give me a change of scenery and, if I started at Brillhart, the opportunity to stop and refill my bottles at the turnaround point at Hanover Junction. Brilliant! Since I wanted to beat the heat and be on the trail around 6am, I laid all my clothes and paraphernalia out the night before. That's not just preparation, that's extraordinary preparation!

I checked the always reliable (please consider the italics to be the sarcasm font in this case), and noted that today's low was predicted to be 67 degrees. Awesome! Anything under 70 is a gift I'll gladly accept. But, when I scrolled through the hourly forecasts, none of them showed lower than 74. D'oh! That's not terrible, but a little warmer than most of my summer early morning runs. With that in mind, I considered lowering my distance goals a bit, but instead decided that the shade of the rail trail and the built-in refilling stop would be too much of an advantage to give up.

Alarm went off at 4:30, and I'm ready to be out the door at 5:20. Clockwork. Except for one little thing...I saw that I hadn't put the plug from the charger into my Garmin fully, and it had less than an hour of charge.


I like to have Garmin, despite its inaccuracy, since it lets me monitor my pace without having to resort to math, but this wasn't a critical error -- I still have my trusty Timex Ironman Triathlon (no sarcasm here, I seriously love this watch). No problem, everything was still going smoothly. I got to Brillhart station at 6:00am, and headed southward on the trail. I was running along, everything was going fine, and I don't need Garmin when I have an awesome and reliable stopwatch... that I forgot to start.


A bit discouraged, I started my watch. I'm estimating I was only 3-4 minutes into my run before starting it. Not the end of the world, but I bet Meb Keflezighi never forgets to start his watch.

I quickly noticed that the humidity was humiditating rather heavily, but luckily the trail has a great amount of shade and it was mostly overcast, anyway. Of course, I'd opted for the visor, even though under these conditions it's unnecessary and even a minor detriment.


Within the first mile, I was already sweating profusely. In fact, people following me on the trail probably had to swim for it. My route turned out to be not as well-thought as I'd planned. You see, Chris and I had biked this same section of the trail on Tuesday night. This had the unfortunate effect of making it seem like it was taking forever to get anywhere while running. On a bike, the Howard Tunnel seems just a few minutes past Brillhart Station. Today, it seemed light years away (Really, it's about 2 miles from where I started/finished.)


(Isn't it pretty? Doesn't it look humid?)

Once past the tunnel, things seemed to take a turn for the better. Using my now-running chronometer and the mile markers on the trail, I could tell I was running about a 10-minute mile pace, and I started feeling better, or at least getting used to how gross I felt. There was one close call where I thought I saw a snake coiled on the trail ahead of me (EPIC FAIL), but fortunately it turned out to just be a branch with some leaves.

I reached Hanover Junction in approximately an hour. It turned out to be between and six and seven miles away from Brillhart. I took a short break to drink some water and refill both of my bottles, and then headed north (to FREEDOM!)

The way back didn't seem to take as long as the way down (In reality, it took the same time or a few minutes longer.) I was still laying down between 9 and 10 minute miles and, since the trail is picturesque but really just running in a straight line, was bored out of my mind. All I could focus on was watching for the next mile marker, just wanting to get this one over with. Finally, it seemed, I reached the cool relief of the tunnel, which was just a cooler but more humid spot on this humid run.

(Crap. Is it "Come into the light, Brian." or "Don't come into the light, Brian"?)

From there, though, it was easy. Just two miles to go. As I reached Brillhart Station, my watch read 2:03:10, so I'm estimating my full run at 2:07. It turned out, according to the distance reading from Tuesday's bike ride, to be 12.76 miles.

Good enough.

Also, People are Jerks
As I ran, I said "hi" to everyone who passed. Maybe 1 in 10 returned my hello. I don't expect to become best friends with people I meet on the trail, but I'm running, they're running, isn't the bond of shared suffering enough to warrant a friendly greeting?

Several people have told me that they've noticed that solo female runners usually won't say hi to a lone male runner. Do I look like a creepy stalker? I've never stalked anyone, and I really don't think I'm that creepy looking. So thank you to the two ladies who did return my hello, you reassured me a bit that perhaps I don't look like an axe murderer. And even if I were, where I would hide an axe while I'm running?

There was one guy in particular that I thought was a jerk. He was definitely a better runner than me, catching up to and passing me after starting at Brillhart a few minutes after me and then pulling way ahead of me. I said hello as he passed, and was greeted by a stony silence. At what I believe to be the 5-mile mark (based on a previous bike ride along this course), he turned and passed me going the other way. I said hello again, and this time was glared at for my troubles.

Well Mr. Cool, I'll have you know that while you may be (much) faster than me, I continued on to Hanover Junction and back again, and I believe that makes me the better man.

So, that's the end of today's rant. Am I off-base here? What's proper running etiquette in this situation -- hello or no?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Haiku Volume IX, The NFL Edition

Fleecing time is here.
I'll trade this verse to Cardinals.
For a high draft pick.

I'm very excited that the NFL players and owners finally came to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I look forward to football all summer, and a strike-shortened season would be worth nothing to me. How could the championship of such a season be considered legitimate?

This is not a football blog, and for my own sanity's sake I dare not ever create one, but I couldn't resist poking a bit of fun at the Arizona Cardinals today. I think the Cardinals probably gave up too much for Kevin Kolb, a player who I do think will be an ok QB, but who doesn't have the track record to rate a pro-bowler and a 2nd round pick in trade.

I'm also excited about the week of running that I had -- the extreme heat warning was lifted, and I got 10 miles in on Tuesday and 10 miles in on Thursday. I'm not sure yet when I'll start my training plan, but if the weather is nice on Saturday I may try for a longer run either here at home or on the rail trail.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Life and Times of the Adidas Supernova Sequence II -- A Product Review

When we first met the Adidas Supernova Sequence II, I was in the throes of IT Band Syndrome, barely able to run 5 miles due to knee pain. Now, almost 7 months, 7 races, and almost 600 miles later, it's well past time to retire them. Since I may run Saturday's long run on the rail trail, which would be new to me, I'll probably hold off on breaking out a new pair of shoes until I'm back in my usual environment.

Saying goodbye is never easy, especially to the shoes that have carried me through my first marathon, my 10K PR, and my mile PR, and helped me recover from injury. So I won't. I'll bump them down to being my casual-wear sneakers, and I'll remember their glory days as I'm walking around the York Galleria. Or not. They're just shoes. I'm sentimental but not that sentimental.

At any rate, I've put more than enough miles on the Sequence IIs to owe them an attempt at a product review. I must warn any readers right away that all my other running shoes have also been Adidas, so I can't adequately compare other brands.

I've never had a great first impression of any Adidas shoe that I've tried on. So, why do I keep buying Adidas? Because I trust that once they're broken in a bit and I'm used to them that I'll like them, and since I've had mostly good luck with them, I'm reluctant to switch. My experience has always been that when I try Adidas running shoes on at the store and compare to other brands, they just don't feel as soft and cushion-y. I can't evaluate how well the sole is providing cushioning while I run compared to others, but I just don't think the interior padding of the shoes are as soft.

That said, I've always felt like they fit the best. When I bought the Sequence IIs,
I tried shoes from several manufacturers including Brooks, Saucony, and Asics. I tried the Adidas on first, and wasn't impressed. The other pairs all felt like they had more cushion both as I stood and when I jogged on the treadmill. It wasn't until I tried again, with a different shoe on each foot, that I realized that the Sequence felt the most comfortable to run in. Again, I admit that familiarity (similarity to the Glide, my previous shoe) probably played a role in my selection.

While running, I would again describe the feel of the Sequence II as firm and supportive. would also describe them as feeling heavy compared to the Glide.

I am not as cognizant of having proper form as some runners, but I feel the change in footwear from the more neutral-cushioned Supernova Glide to the more stability-focused Sequence changed me from more of a heel-striker to more of a midfoot striker. A look at the soles of the Sequences shows that this may not be as accurate as I'd thought, but they also have at least 100 more miles on them than is recommended.

(Maybe I AM heel-striking a bit.)

My orthopedist, PT, and the people at the specialty running store didn't really come to a consensus on how much I was over-pronating, so I don't have strong feeling one way or another as to how well they addressed that issue. I will mention that it was my orthopedist who recommended that I move to a shoe with more stability, and since the inflammation of my IT band subsided around the end of February, I haven't had any more problems with it. It's impossible to say how much the Sequence had to do with that. I suspect the shoes played a role, but that stretching and foam rolling made most of the difference.

I set my 10K and mile PRs in them, but I wouldn't say I feel faster or slower in them compared to any other shoe I've ever owned. Perhaps something lighter would make me feel faster on race day, but I can't deny that the Sequence seems to have been a good all-purpose running shoe for me.

Excellent. The outside of the shoe, the insole, and the interior cushioning have held up very well over the past 590-odd miles. I can't say as much for the soles, but in their defense I put well over the recommended mileage on them.

I do most of my running on roads and sidewalks, and left the Sequences behind for my Mud Chasers misadventure, so I can't really say how they'd hold up on rougher terrain.

(Adidas Supernova Sequence II: 0 miles)

(Adidas Supernova Sequence II: 592 miles)

(Not looking too bad, almost 600 miles in.)

(Still a little bit of tread on the tires -- if you ignore that heel.)

I would absolutely consider buying another pair of Adidas Supernova Sequence. Perhaps I already did.

I'd show you more, but that would give me one less thing to blog about next week.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

42nd and Pine

I complain about the heat. A lot. I admit that. But the past few days have been ridiculous. We're talking highs of 105 on Friday, 100 on Saturday, and about 97 yesterday. I would suggest that on Friday and Saturday it felt even hotter due to the bright sunshine and high humidity.

We weathered, sometimes with good cheer even, the heat and had a great, busy, sweltering weekend in Philadelphia with friends from Wisconsin, and while I was there I was hoping to get a run in. After all, Philadelphia is where I lived for a year starting in June 1999 and where I made my first attempt to become a runner. It wasn't a very good attempt. I recall on my first or second evening in my apartment going for a run in 95-degree heat. I made it about 2 blocks.

More often, when I went somewhere in my car, I would park at the garage at 36th and Chestnut where I kept my car and attempt to run from there to my apartment at 42nd & Pine. I never made it the whole way -- I specifically recall a freezing night where I made it about 2 minutes before my lungs were just in terrible pain from the bitter cold air and my ankles in complete agony from running in what were probably worn-out, extremely cheap sneakers. I never would have imagined that this would become my favorite weather to run in!

Returning to the present, we sweated out a crazy 18-10 Camden Riversharks game on Friday night, and since it was still 95 degrees at 11:00 at night when the game ended, I decided that there was no way I was going to try to run on Saturday morning.

According to the forecasts on display in our hotel lobby, Sunday looked like it would be a little cooler, but I would still guess it was approximately 80 degrees when I stepped out of our hotel at 5:15am yesterday morning. Still, I took off westward from 15th & Locust, the site of the job that had lured me to Philly, but choosing to turn and run up Chestnut Street since I was familiar with it from some adventures in the Philadelphia Half Marathon (except that it was about 40 degrees cooler then!) and I knew it had a bridge.

(30th St. Station as seen from the Chestnut St. bridge)

I ran up Chestnut Street and turned onto Locust Walk when I got into the University of Pennsylvania Campus, which I was somewhat familiar with since my sister attended Penn while I lived at 42nd and Pine. Once through the campus, I turned left and then made a right on Spruce, passing Allegro, my old favorite pizza place.

(No, I didn't stop for a cheesesteak. Maybe that would have helped)

I made it the few blocks down to 42nd Street and turned left. At the corner of 42nd and Pine, a familiar building:

I took a few extra steps on Pine Street to scope out the rear of the building, where my apartment is visible on the first floor (the window you see directly above the two garbage cans was my kitchen):

It never looked like much from the outside, and seems a little worse for wear 12 years later, but I had once felt at home in my little studio apartment. It was a weird feeling to be back on this corner. I wasn't really sentimental about it. There were no roots put down, no neighbors that I'd ever said much more than "hello" to, no sign that I'd ever lived here, and my memories are mostly just of playing video games and cooking turkey burgers and my indoor counter-top grill (Not the one endorsed by the boxer). It was just an odd, deja-vu type feeling, it all looked and felt so familiar, as if it had been much less than the 12 years since I'd walked down this street.

Still, when it's 80 degrees before 6am, there's no time for reminiscing. I'd reached my old apartment about 30 minutes into my run, and I was definitely feeling the heat. I headed back up Spruce Street in the direction of my hotel. After a two-block climb back to 40th Street, it was all downhill to the Schuylkill River, at which point i made a right onto Walnut Street since there's no bridge on Spruce. I took Walnut back toward the downtown and after passing Rittenhouse Square, turned around at Broad Street, a few blocks past my destination, in hopes of stretching this run to an hour.

Here's map of my route. I was out for an hour and two minutes, and during that time only got about 5 and a half miles, which was about all I could take in those conditions. Except for the weather, it was a nice trip down Memory Lane for me. Not counting my failed attempts at running in 1999 and 2000, I'd only run a few times in Philadelphia, and it had been either in races (2 half marathons and 1 Broad Street Run) or boring laps around Rittenhouse Square while training for my first 5K.

For someone who hadn't lived in this neighborhood and didn't need to revisit old, yet boring memories, I would suggest running the other direction, toward the Delaware and the historic sights of Old City instead or perhaps the jogging/biking path along the Schuykill. Philadelphia's downtown is very flat, so it seems like it could be a nice place to run. Just not during a record-breaking heat wave.

As predicted, last week was the lowest mileage week I've had in months. Of course, I rested on Monday and Tuesday for a one-mile race on Wednesday, and then the heat crushed me on Thursday and Sunday morning. I ended up with less than 13 miles, a weekly total less than my best individual run the previous week. The forecast for this week looks a bit cooler, with overnight lows in the 70s or even high 60s, so I hope I can come back strong.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Haiku, Volume VIII

Summer, you have won.
All my resolve melts away.
This week I yielded.

I surrender.

We've had 100 degree temperatures over the past few days and predicted to continue through the weekend. It was 78 degrees at 5:00am yesterday morning. I kept a slow pace but cut my run short by 4 miles (6 mile run, down from a plan of 10). I've acclimated to the heat quite a bit compared to where I was a month ago, but I'll never get used to that that.

Last Friday, I ran 14 miles. I won't total that this whole week.

It's a setback, but not as bad as it sounds. I still had my great run last Friday, 10 on Sunday (which I count as part of last week), a one-mile PR (that I am very sore from) and six in some of the worst conditions I've ever run in. I'm anticipating another heat-shortened run tomorrow morning as PA continues to get pounded by an extreme heat advisory lasting through the weekend, I might even skip that.

There's a time for maximum effort, but this isn't it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Miller's Mutual Harrisburg Mile

Last night was the Harrisburg Mile, a summer race that's become something of a tradition for us. Chris and I started running it in 2007, my first year of racing, and we've run it every year since except for 2009, when a scheduling conflict prevented us from racing.

The Harrisburg Mile course runs straight down Front Street along the Susquehanna River, beginning at Maclay Street and ending at Boas Street. It's really very scenic, but I always fail to appreciate it until after the race because A.) I'm running as fast as I can and B.) It's usually ungodly hot.

This year would be no exception. With temperatures in the high 90s yesterday and a heat index (again, according to of 98 remaining at 7pm, I think this was my hottest Harrisburg Mile yet. (2007 gives it a run for its money, 2008 was a little less hot but oppressively humid, and last year we got a little bit of relief). We were already hot by the time we'd walked from our car to the starting area. I'd set a fairly aggressive goal for myself of a sub six-minute mile, but conditions were not favorable. I kept telling myself "It's only a mile. It's only a mile."

My heat went off at 7:15. About five minutes prior, the starter called people up to the start line. With heats going off every 10 minutes (or less in the case of the Corporate Challenge heats), there's no time for screwing around. With a faster goal than years past, I debated where to start. There is chip timing, but I knew that a six-minute mile was at the extreme edge of what I could do, and so I didn't want to get caught behind too many people, nor did I want the people that were shooting for a faster finishing time to trip over me. I overheard a few other people say there trying to run sixes, so I stood near them in the third or fourth row, only about 10 feet -- if that -- back from the starting line.

The starter called time remaining till start until only a few seconds remained..."Hold...hold...GO!" And so I went. To meet my goal, I needed a pace of 10mph. Looking down at Garmin, I saw that I was right on pace, far, far outside my comfort zone. I hit the quarter mile sign right at about 1:30, but I couldn't quite hold the 10mph pace and so I hit the half mile sign at 3:10. I don't remember seeing the 3/4 mile marker, honestly the race is really a blur. I was giving it everything I had and it was as hot as hell, my only comfort was that it would be over quickly. As I saw the finish line, I knew my 5:59 or better was not going to happen, but a pretty significant PR was still well within reach. I tried to increase speed at the end, but there wasn't anything left for a sprint to the finish -- the whole race was my sprint to the finish.


That's a PR by 23 seconds, but 22 seconds short of my goal. My average speed was 9.45 miles per hour (compared to 8.9 last year). I'm happy with that, especially considering that it was run during a heat and air quality advisory -- more Brian-unfriendly running conditions could scarcely be found. But on the other hand, this just reinforces a lesson that I need to learn or a choice that I need to make: If I am going to care about PRs and finishing times in shorter races, I need speedwork. I've clearly reached the limits of how far I can go with a strategy (or lack thereof) that's exclusively focused on running distance and then "run as fast as I can" during the shorter races.

I think I can improve my marathon time with more long runs in advance of race day and smarter pacing on race day (slower throughout the race so I don't hit the wall as hard), but if I'm going to beat this time next year or keep lowering my 5K PRs then I need to hit the track. I might be able to gut out a slightly faster 5K PR with my current approach, but I don't think I can beat a 6:21 mile without speedwork. I'm so close being under six. I can do it. Do I want it badly enough?

As I've talked about here before, I'm not sure of the answer to that. I care about my performance, but I also need to keep running enjoyable for me or I won't do it. Still, I think a finishing time under six minutes is worth some track work.

You win this year, Harrisburg Mile. But I'll be back.

5:59 or bust.

The Mile is unique among all my races -- the only one that really feels like a sprint -- and that's what makes it fun. That's not it's only redeeming quality, however. The scenery is nice , though like I said I had such tunnel vision that I hardly noticed it. Crowd support is also good, the Mile has been going on since 1982, so it really is a strong tradition in the Harrisburg community with lots of spectators.

Another positive, of course, is that there's "free" beer at the end. That's always appreciated on a 90+ degree evening. This year the race was part of the Michelob "Race to the Ultra" series, which meant that there was Michelob Ultra signage EVERYWHERE and that this was the beer of choice at the beer tent. I always think Michelob Ultra's marketing is funny -- it's the beer that tries to pass
itself off as a sports drink. Unlike past years the post-race party area was very well set-up and the line moved very quickly.

(Yes, I raced to the Ultra. There, I said it. Can I get my corporate sponsorship check now, please?)

Race organizers also rose to the challenge of the extreme heat by having cold water at the starting area, which in my case likely made a huge difference as I realize I probably didn't hydrate well enough during the day yesterday, and ample water at t he finish, which was not the case when my heat finished last year. Running out of water at a race in July? That's a huge error that was thankfully corrected this year.

The swag for the race was also excellent, which is typical of the Mile. In the past we've gotten a drawstring backpack (I know they're super cheap, but this one has a zipper pocket and has come in handy on my occasions), a fairly bland but ok t-shirt, and a sleeveless shirt that's one of my favorite beach or pool shirts. This year, another t-shirt, but at least it's different from the previous years' designs, and it's colored. Not bad.

But, the star of the giveaways, the thing that takes this from good to awesome are re-usable cups from Dunkin Donuts that can be refilled with iced coffee for 99-cents per refill for the rest of the year. We get Dunkin iced coffee almost every week, so this is a good perk.

The only area for improvement that I would mention are that the clocks get re-set very quickly between heats. If someone runs a 10-minute mile pace or above, it seemed as if they didn't see their time when they crossed the finish line. This wasn't the case in any previous year that we've been there.

Oh -- and the heat. Any chance of it moving the Mile to April? No...I didn't think so, but it was worth a try.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Gun Show is Canceled

Remember that post a few months ago where I decided I was going to start lifting again? No. That's ok. Anyway, the point was that after lifting pretty regularly for the past six years (though the title of this post and my "Welcome to the Gun Show" shirt are both meant ironically) and on and off for the past 14, I'd completely stopped after January of this year, but as of that post on May 9 I was going to start again. Nope. I lifted all of three times that week but then not again until this week, over two months later, and I noticed a loss of strength just since May. D'oh.

I'm not sure why I can't get back into the routine. It's not the most fun thing in the world, though neither is running the same neighborhood course over and over again. A gym membership, where at least I would have to get up and walk around to different stations would break up the monotony a bit, but in the past the extra time needed to go to and from the gym has been enough to prevent me from going.

(This shirt was always meant as a joke.
But I don't think I can even wear it in jest, now.)

Busy schedule? I find time to run and bike and watch reruns of "Futurama." I usually give the cat his medicine at 7:00am, that's plenty of time to work out before work. Too tired? I manage to get myself up much earlier than that on running days. Every excuse I can come up with is invalid. I just need to shut up and do it. (I lifted this morning, so this blog entry isn't taking away from lifting time.)

Maybe there's just not enough motivation. I sign up for running events all the time, but it will be the proverbial cold day in Hell before I would be entered in any feats of strength competition. But, I am going on a beach vacation later in the year. So even though I might not have motivation now, I know I will by then, at which point it would be too late. Thus, I'm going to try to start lifting again at least two times a week for the next month (long enough to create a habit).

So consider the Gun Show not canceled, just postponed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Up All Night

I'm not planning on running again until Wednesday night, so I'm going way off-topic here.

(Up All Night digital single artwork by David Choe -- from the Blink-182 facebook page.)

Blink-182 has been part of my life since May 1999. I still remember the day I walked into the record store at the West Manchester Mall with a $20 in my pocket, likely a graduation gift, and not only no idea what to buy, but no idea of where I what I was doing in life. "What's My Age Again?" was playing in the store, and it just seemed right.

Let's flash back. Job prospects were looking sketchy, to see the least. I hadn't been offered either of the jobs that I thought were my best chances coming out of college and other than a single interview the Monday after graduation, I wasn't getting any bites.

I spent a lot of time on AOL on the computer in the spare bedroom of my parents' house, looking for jobs on this new Internet thingy and instant messaging with my other equally unlucky friends.

It wasn't all bad. When I wasn't looking for gainful employment, I had plenty of time to spend my days sleeping till noon and shooting hoops at a court near my house in the afternoon, and spending my nights going out to the dive bars of York and Harrisburg with said friends. When I did find a job, in Philadelphia, I was an underutilized (paid) intern with lots of free time to sit in my basement cubicle and chat with my underutilized intern colleagues about the Eagles, the glory days of college, and where he'd go for lunch or happy hour.

Enema of the State was the soundtrack of that Summer, and "What's My Age Again?" was its anthem. For me, it was the beginning of a shift in my musical tastes that continues to this day...not that I don't still love Van Halen and occasionally blast the Crue, Poison, and their big haired ilk.

Since then, I've purchased a previous Blink-182 album, Dude Ranch, as well as the two follow-ups to Enema, the cleverly-named Take off Your Pants and Jacket and the last record before rising tensions in the band led them to go on "indefinite hiatus" in 2005, the self-titled Blink-182. They've all been on heavy rotation on my CD players and later MP3 players since and have been a gateway drug to other punk rock bands for me. (I'm not going to get into any arguments about what's punk and what isn't. I really don't care. It's all opinion. Nor am I claiming any expertise whatsoever of that subject matter.)

In the meantime, it seemed like we'd heard the last new music from Blink-182. I enjoyed Tom DeLonge's new band, "Angels & Airwaves", and Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker in "+44", but it just wasn't the same. Two friends and I did a very strong air-guitar rendition of "What's My Age Again?", complete with inflatable guitars at one of the friend's weddings, but we were no substitute for the real thing.

Unfortunately, it took the near-death of drummer Travis Barker in a 2008 plane crash to get the three arguing band members back together, but once the three of them were back in a room together, it seemed that they quickly decided to put aside their differences and get the band back together. They made their announcement as they presented at the 2009 Emmys, when they appeared in public together for the first time in four years, and quickly confirmed it on the band's website:

Hi. We're Blink-182. This past week there've been a lot of questions about the current status of the band, and we wanted you to hear it straight from us. To put it simply, We're back. We mean, really back. Picking up where we left off and then some. In the studio writing and recording a new album. Preparing to tour the world yet again. Friendships reformed. 17 years deep in our legacy. Summer 2009. Thanks and get ready.
After their bitter breakup, would it last? So far, yes. The reunited Blink-182 indeed went on tour in Summer 2009; I had a great time seeing them live for the first time on a rainy August night at Hersheypark Stadium, and now they've finally put out their first new material since 2003.

You can listen to their new single, "Up All Night" here (from the band's official YouTube site):

I like it. It took a few listens, but I really, really like it.

The main criticism of it that I've read is that it sounds more like Angels & Airwaves than Blink-182. At first listen, I agreed. However, while it's never going to be mistaken for "What's My Age Again?" or "Dammit", or even the more serious "Adam's Song" or the more positive "All the Small Things", I do think it's the continuing evolution of what they sounded like on the last Blink-182 album. The seamless back-and-forth between the two singers is what makes it sound like Blink-182 to me, and Travis Barker is excellent on drums, as always. It grew on me as I listened to it a few times; the same was true of Blink-182.

As Blink-182 got older, their sound changed and their lyrics matured as well. Sophomoric humor and lyrics about high-school parties, breaking up with girlfriends, or the lack of such, and even an infatuation with Princess Leia comprise Dude Ranch and Enema of the State. The band was in their 20s and their listeners were high-school and college students. These themes are less common on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (except for, of course, the album title) and largely absent from Blink-182. But even so, this is pretty dark stuff for Blink:

Everyone wants to call it all around our life with a better name.
Everyone falls and spins and gets up again with a friend who does the same.
Everyone lies and cheats their wants and needs and still believes their heart.
And everyone gets the chills, the kind that kills when the pain begins to start.

Let me get this straight, do you want me here?
As I struggle through each and every year.
And all these demons, they keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.

Everyone's cross to bears the crown they wear on endless holiday.
Everyone raises kids in a world that changes life to a bitter game.
Everyone works and fights, stays up all night to celebrate the day.
And everyone lives to tell the tale of how we die alone some day.

Let me get this straight, do you want me here?
As I struggle through each and every year.
And all these demons, they keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.
They keep me up all night.

They're older. Their listeners are older. The world seems more serious than it did in May of 1999. This isn't quite the Blink-182 of old. But 12 years later, it just seems right.

We now return to our regularly-scheduled program. If Van Halen ever puts out a new album, I'll review it. Please don't hold your breath.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Low Mileage Week & Harrisburg Mile

After a pretty good-mileage week, with 34 miles of running and a 15-mile bike ride for good measure, this is going to be a very light week. I ran 14 miles on Friday; we rode 15 yesterday, and I ran a very hilly 10 today. This week, I'll be taking Monday and Tuesday off from running, and running only a single mile on Wednesday.

However, that mile will likely be the fastest mile I run all year. That's the plan, anyway. Wednesday evening is the Miller's Mutual Harrisburg Mile, which this year is part of the Michelob Race to the Ultra series, which means we're going to get athletes' favorite watered-down low-cal beer at the beer tent.

Last year I ran a 6:44. This year, my goal was to run finish in 6:00 or under. However, I'm not really sure how feasible that is. Not only did I not do any speed training (I'm sorry, I just hate it.), but I realized a 6 minute mile means that I would be running 10mph. I usually keep my Garmin set to mph rather than minutes per mile, and my speed is usually between 5.5 and 6.5, occasionally getting up into the low 7s or dropping into the 4s when I climb a hill.

6:44 is 8.9 mph, which is honestly faster than I thought it would be before I looked it up on this handy mph to minutes per mile chart. On Wednesday, I want to see if I can crank it up a little more than 1 mph faster and shave 44 seconds off my time, and I'm hoping fresh legs will help.

If I don't make it in under 6 minutes, I can't be too disappointed. After all, I didn't train at all. My backup goal is to get a new PR for the mile. Next year, I'd like to focus more on beating my 5K and mile PRs, but I'm sure I'll still dislike track work just much next year. I do have little bit of hope, though: hills.
"Hills are speedwork in disguise", says Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold medalist who helped popularize distance running in the U.S. I've run up a ****load of hills this summer. Wednesday night can't come soon enough.

If you're thinking of running the Harrisburg Mile but haven't signed up yet, you can register online until noon tomorrow (Monday, 7/18). After that, though, you can still register in person. It's a fun race. It's hot, but at least it's over quickly and there's beer at the end.

As for low-mileage week, I'll probably run on Thursday and Saturday, taking it a little easy because of soreness (Thursday) and heat (Saturday) -- after a few gorgeous running/biking days, it sounds like summer will return with a vengeance this week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Haiku, Volume VII: 9 Innings and 14 Miles

Perfection can be achieved
On a Summer night.

Today the Friday Haiku has nothing to do with running. This week, I wanted to tip a cap (a gross white running visor in this case) to the local independent league baseball team, the York Revolution. Chris and I have been Revs partial season ticket plan holders since the team's inception. We enjoy and it plan to continue attending as long as we can.

It will never be mistaken for the major leagues. That's not an insult -- it just is what it is and going to a Revolution game is quite a bit more fun than going to an Orioles game these days. But, the gap between an Atlantic League game and a "big league" game seems greater the gap between my other favorite local minor league team, the AHL's Hershey Bears (farm team of the Washington Capitals), which I've always felt stacks up very well to an NHL game. (To be fair, though, the Bears are a higher "level" of minor league, have been around forever, are the most storied and successful team in their league and play in a stadium that seats over 10,000.)

But on Wednesday night, the defending Atlantic League Champion Revolution hit the big time, hosting an All-Star Game experience far beyond our expectations. From the first pitch by the Revs' own Corey Thurman to the time we walked out the gate it was perfect. The stadium packed with a record crowd; in-game entertainment by the ZOOperstars, hilarious and somewhat crude inflatable mascots (it's much funnier than it sounds -- "Bear Bonds" has huge inflated muscles and "Centi-Pete Rose" has $'s in his eyes), and the Washington Nationals' racing presidents; the quick, extremely well-played (albeit lopsided) game itself; and the amazing fireworks display afterward all contributed to an evening at the ballpark that in my opinion could not have gone any better.

The Revolution have come a long way since the inaugural season, when construction delayed the opening of Sovereign Bank Stadium by over a month and the Revs were forced to play the whole season in an unfinished ballpark. On Wednesday night, they arrived.

(See! It does have to do with running!
Photo by Christina Stetler Photography)

I've mentioned on here a few times that "some days I've got it and some days I don't", and that one of my favorite things in running is when a great one seems to come out of nowhere. While I was pleasantly surprised by the Revs' awesome All-Star game, today's run was in the works all week. With the heat index in the 100s earlier in the week and temps around 75 with 90% humidity at six in the morning, running was complete drudgery. I obsessively check, and when I saw lower heat and humidity (lows in the low-to-mid 60s and highs "only" around 90) later in the week, I knew it might be my best chance to get a longer run in. So, I had this morning's run circled on my calendar all week.

It was a gorgeous morning with lower-than-usual humidity and a cool breeze at times. The bright sunshine kicked my butt, but I got in 14 miles in 2:20:54, holding a 10-minute mile pace for 12 miles but fading just a little bit at the end. It's the longest I've run since March, so I'm pretty happy with it, especially in the middle of July when I hate running. In celebration, I leave you with Bonus Haiku:

Marathon, you say?
Fourteen miles is a good start.
Bring it on Philly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Favorite Races, 2007-2011

Today's run was 10 miles (again) on my usual route (again) at about my usual pace (again). It was 75 degrees at 6:30am, a little warmer than usual, and very sunny, so I took it a bit easy on the pace but then tried speed up on the last two miles to keep myself under 1:40 (10minute/mile pace). I made it by 18 seconds. The thermometer at Northeastern High said it was 89F when I finished at about 8:10. It was hot out there, but even I don't believe that.


Since that took five lines and most of my running is exactly that boring, I've been trying to think of some other things I could write about here. A few weeks ago, I thought I'd put a top ten list of my favorite races, and use it as an excuse to tell some stories.
My plan was to write a recap post for each one of them that I hadn't already written about here, but it seems pointless to write a bunch of race reviews for events that were in some cases years ago and in several cases not being run anymore. Then, I found I couldn't keep it to just 10. So, without further ado, here's my Top 15:

15-13. 2008 CSY 5K Series -- I ran these 3 races in June, July, and August of 2008. The first was amazingly foggy and oppressively hot, and the third at 24:43, was my PR at the time. The site of the races is what makes them meaningful to me, because I could barely manage the one mile runs we were occasionally put through in high school gym class.

The high school version of me could absolutely destroy the 2011 me at hoops, though.

2010 Harrisburg Jingle Bell 5K - This race is just two boring loops through a corporate park in Harrisburg, but I love it. Because it's in mid-December, I can count on the freezing temperatures that give me my best chance at fast times. I've PR'd twice here, including my current PR, 23:43, which is one of only 2 sub-24 minute 5Ks I've run. (Currently, my fastest and third-fastest 5Ks are at this race in 2010 and 2009.)

11. MCVET 10K -- This was my first 10K. I finished just under an hour, and this distance turned out to be the perfect level of challenge at the perfect time. It was also my gateway drug to longer distances. This was a really nice event for a good cause. The course was a typical Inner Harbor course, except that went all the way to Fort McHenry,
rather than just turning around on Key Highway like almost every other Baltimore race I've run.

10. 2010 Harrisburg Mile -- This one-mile race along the Susquehanna always seems to be on the hottest and/or most humid night in July. It's the only one-mile race on my schedule, so it's a unique and interesting challenge, and free beer at the end of a race never hurts.
This was my third running of the mile, and I ran a 6:44, smashing an 8-minute mile PR that had stood unchallenged since Presidential Physical Fitness award testing during my junior year of high school.

9. 2011 Dreaded Druid Hills 10K
-- I didn't want to put all my recent races in this list, but I felt like this deserved a place here. I've become a little jaded. Gone are the days when I went into every race with doubts that I could finish. In my first summer of racing (2007), every 5K was terrifying. I was nervous about my first 10K, Half, and Marathon in their turns. I'll never again have the fear of going into a race that's farther than I've ever run before, but I was scared of this race, and that made it exciting. The hills didn't live up to their online reputation. I PR'd by two minutes due to my small sample size of 10Ks (only 2), but it was a challenging course in a beautiful setting and could be the summer race that I return to every year.

8. 2008 Orioles Advocates Home Run 5K -- Since I was five years old I have been a huge fan of the Baltimore Orioles. When I saw that the Orioles were hosting a 5K beginning and ending at Camden Yards -- in one week -- I signed up for it. It was my first race of the season, and I'd slacked off over the winter and not run more than 2 miles at a time in several months. On race day it was overcast and only about 50 degrees, which was much colder than I'd run outside in previously. (I laugh at this now.)

I was worried about the cold, and between my undertraining and weather, I took it easy to make sure I could finish the race. Not counting the Kelly Shamrock 5K this March, which was during my taper, the Orioles race still stands as my personal worst. Still, running onto the field at Camden Yards and crashing into the padded wall at the finish line was one of the most fun moments of my running "career" (am I allowed to call it that?).

I have had the opportunity to run on the Preakness track, a brand-new turnpike bridge, and one of Interstate 95's tunnels under the Inner Harbor, but this is still my favorite of all the "fun location" races I've been in. Sadly, this race hasn't been run since. It was canceled in 2009 and not scheduled in 2010 or 2011. Much like I root for the resurgence of the chronically inept Orioles, I would love to see this race resurrected.

(No, this isn't during a game.)

7. 2010 Broad St. Run -- A 10-mile race on an 80+ degree morning, much hotter than I was prepared for. A miserable race, but one of the ones I'm most proud of.

6. 2010 Baltimore Marathon Relay -- I didn't fell well during my 7-mile leg of the relay, but still had a great time with my teammates Chris, Ada, and Emily as "Earn Your Donuts" ran 26.2 in 4:58:12 (just a little bit better than my individual marathon!). It was also during this race, as I limped along among people who were finishing their marathons, that the idea of running a marathon really started to gain some traction for me.

(The original "Earn Your Donuts.")

5. 2010 Philadelphia Half Marathon -- This was my second time running the Philly Half, and I had low expectations going into this race because I had not trained as consistently as I had the previous year. It didn't seem as exciting since I knew I could finish the distance, was anticipating a slower time, and was contemplating a full marathon at this point. It ended up (along with #4 on this list) being one of my best races in terms of effort and pacing. I finished strong and shaved over three minutes off my PR to come in under two hours.

4. 2009 Briggs & Al's 8K -- Chris and I this 8K in Milwaukee with two friends from Wisconsin. It was my perfect morning for racing with temps in the 30's. For hanging out at the post-race party, it was not so perfect. Not only was this race a unique way to see some of downtown and lakefront Milwaukee, it was one of my best races ever. I was well over 10 minutes at the first mile of crowded race, but recovered to finish in 42:42.

3. The 2009 Philadelphia Half Marathon -- I would be faster the next year, but finishing my first half marathon was one of the proudest moments of my life. I really enjoyed the race and came in faster than I expected with a 2:03.
Along the way I got high fives from the mayor of Philadelphia, the GEICO Gecko, a guy dressed as Ben Franklin, and a giant cookie.

(And this was mile one. Just kidding -- I think.)

2. 2007 Once & Done Turnpike Run 5K -- This was my first-ever 5K. It took place on a gorgeous May morning on a newly-constructed, not-yet-open-to-traffic bridge over the Susquehanna River. I think this one does rate its own post at a future date.

1. 2011 Shamrock Marathon -- It had to be first on this list. It's my first and to date only marathon, already described on this blog in great detail. The race itself didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but I would say that I enjoyed the experience and learned some lessons for next time. Crossing the finish line was a moment that I count among the best of my life and the post-race party, on-course support, and setting (Virginia Beach) of this race were all top-notch.
I'm looking forward to the return trip in March 2012.

So, there you have my top 15.
It was harder to make this list than I thought, as I tried to consider both the races as events and my own performances.

What were your favorite races, and why?

Monday, July 11, 2011

22 Miles

So, this is supposed to be a running blog.

Not a haiku blog. Not a cat-pictures blog. Not a pictures-of-food blog. And not a cranky guy complaining about the weather all the time blog.

So then. Running. Yeah...ok. Usual route (10 miles through Manchester and Mt. Wolf), usual pace (1:39ish), usual amount of sweating (gallons). And we're done. Carry on. Nothing more to see here.

Easiest. Post. Ever.

What? We're not done. But it's really &^%$ hot out there! Oh, fine.

12 miles ridden on the rail trail at 3:00pm in the afternoon in 90+ degree weather then.

Now I'm done, right? Ok, someone please lift these donuts into my mouth.

Therein lies the dilemma of the running blogger, at least this running blogger. On one hand, yesterday's 22 miles was my second-highest mileage day ever (even if 12 of it was achieved through cheating), and that seems worthy of blogging. But on the other hand, it's pretty boring reading -- I've already posted lots of pictures from biking on the rail trail, wrote
about my normal running route (a pretty boring one, I admit). There's not a lot of race reports, which I admit are my favorite thing to write, over the dog days of July and August, since I don't race as much during these months, so it could get even more boring around here. I'll probably resort to a post of my favorite races, best swag, worst races. You know, exciting stuff like that.

But, anyway, here's the longer version:

My run on Sunday morning was complete drudgery, so the above summary pretty much suffices. It wasn't quite as slow as Friday's version, but still definitely on the upper end of my range. It was a better day for testing the new Reebok Playdry visor, since it was sunnier. The visor still seems ok. It covers my forehead and keeps sun out of my eyes, but is cooler than a regular hat or even (in my case) sunglasses. The visor itself gets soaked, and I think it will be fun to post a picture of how gross it is by the end of the summer, or at least until I can't stand it anymore and need to try to wash it.

When I picked up some other stuff at the running store last week, I noticed that Brooks and Nike had visors that were a thinner material on the non-brim parts of the visor than the Reebok. Maybe they would stay dryer? At any rate, my new piece of gear seems adequate, at least, but other than that it was usual pace and usual route -- NOW with even more humidity!

I knew that Chris and I were planning on biking later, but I was in a hurry to run some errands and then get to PetSmart for my cat adoption center volunteer gig, so I failed at breakfast. Usually after a long run I'll have waffles or bread with lots of Nutella or peanut butter (or waffles with Nutella and maple syrup on them -- delicious!), but since I was in a hurry I chugged a bottle of gatorade, quickly ate a bowl of cereal, cleaned up and headed out.

As I was driving on my first errand, I realized this wasn't going to cut it -- I could hardly stay awake. So my first errand was to eat a the King Size Payday bar. 440 delicious, peanutty calories later, I felt MUCH better.


After refueling, I went to help adorable homeless cats find homes. Well, that's the intent. There weren't any applications, but at least I got to play with kittens (Sorry! I know, not a cat blog.) before heading off to the rail trail.

(This is Chester. Want to adopt him? Trust me, you do.

We began our ride at the northern end of the rail trail at the old courthouse in York. The temperature was in the mid-90s, significantly hotter than our other rides on the trail. Usually as we ride, I feel cooler. However, this time as we rode southward, the heat kept its intensity. I briefly took my helmet off to try to cool down, with little effect. Luckily for us, once we started to get out of the city, the trail became shadier and cooler, and we paused for water at 4 miles, 6 miles (our turnaroudn point just past Howard Tunnel), and at 9 miles. Overall, we rode 12 miles in 1:20,going faster on the return trip.

The total for the day was 22 miles in 2 hours and 59 minutes. Two Maple Donuts were earned by the day's adventures. (The Payday was lunch!)

One day later, my legs are very tired. Luckily, today was a day off. I was going to run tomorrow morning, but it's supposed to be 75 at 6am. Since, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, have lows predicted to be in the low 60s, I may wait an extra day and run Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Haiku, Volume VI

Hot humid weather
Turns running into a chore

That pays off in Fall

At least I hope it pays off in the fall, especially on the morning of Sunday, November 20.

There was nothing at all fun about running on this muggy morning, but at least I got 10 miles in compared to 7 on Wednesday. And it's Friday (as Friday Haiku implies). That's awesome, too.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Everybody Deserves a Second Chance

Signed up for this again:

I'm going to try to improve on my 4:58 in the Marathon, and Chris is going to take on the Dolphin Challenge -- an 8K on Saturday followed by the Half Marathon on Sunday.

As I said at the time, everything about this event was great except for my own performance. If I can stay healthy I think I can do better.

(I think it's about time for this thing to be over.)

I've got a whole marathon between now and Shamrock, so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. However, while I plan to use Hal Higdon's Novice II training for Philly, I think I'll go with one of the Intermediate plans for Shamrock, since training in the winter gives me more opportunities for running within my temperature comfort zone. In the summer, I'm pretty much "first thing in the morning or not at all", while in winter I can more easily get myself out for a run in at lunch or at night (if it's dry -- black ice is scary).

I'm looking forward to making the trip to Virginia Beach again, this time with more endurance and smarter pacing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Hunt for Cold November

I've had many a summer run, and if you're bothering to read this you probably have, too. You know, those days when the humidity is crushing and it just feels hard to breathe out there. I'm fond of saying that on days like that it feels like I should be running in scuba gear.


That just wasn't going to cut it today. Today was more like this:

I've had (by my modest standards) a great summer of running so far. I had eight 10-mile runs in June and 3 of 10 or more in July in just this first week of July. I had zero runs of 10 or more miles between the first week of May last year (Broad Street Run) and October. But, this is the first summer where I'm training for the Philly Marathon rather than the half, so for the first time in my "career" I'll need to get longer runs than that in July, August, and September. (My total mileage might not increase much, since I'm going try to follow the mileage plan a little more strictly than I followed my last one, where I on average ran one fewer time per week than called for but lengthened all my midweek runs.) 10 miles won't cut it.

I never felt like I had it, whatever it is, today and crashed after 7 miles out of an intended 10. I'm not too worried. said there's an air quality warning today, and I did feel like my breathing was as good as usual. Also, I was long overdue for a bad run. I do think I need to try something new to make these summer runs more enjoyable. I really like running at night, but the volume of bugs in the air at night makes that seem gross in the summer, and it's not that much cooler or less humid than it is in the morning, so it's probably not worth it to eat a pound of bugs.

I'm already pushing my limits of getting up early, but perhaps getting up a little earlier and doing at least my long runs on the rail trail, where there's some shade and maybe more of a breeze (maybe?) will make these summer runs a little more bearable. Maybe bringing the Shuffle back will at least distract me from how gross I am.

Or, I'll just have to grin and bear it and hope it pays off in November.

After getting several recommendations to try a visor for sun protection w/o the heat of running in a hat, I bought a white Reebok Playdry visor from Dick's Sporting goods, where it was labeled as being on sale for $7.49 and then rung up as costing less than $4.00. (Original price: $16.00) I believe it was so heavily discounted because it was the 2010 model. It seemed to be identical to a 2011-labeled visor, which was also discounted but not as deeply. They had Reebok visors available in black and reflective yellow, although I think only the one I grabbed was marked down as much. I love baseball caps, but visors aren't a good look for me, so I wasn't too worried about aesthetics. Lightweight, light-colored, supposedly moisture-wicking, and not too expensive were my selection criteria. That said, I own many pieces of goofy-looking running gear, and I don't think my new visor is among them.

I wore it on my run today and it didn't make things worse. That may not sound like a glowing endorsement, but from someone who hates running in the heat as much as I do and (sorry to be gross) sweats as much as I do from my head, that is pretty high praise for headwear. It certainly didn't make me feel less disgusting, but it was definitely an improvement over running with sunglasses, which always make my face feel much hotter. Hopefully the visor will let me get my face and eyes some sun protection without making me feel hotter. We'll see how it does on a less hazy day with brighter sunshine.

I've been meaning to occasionally do some product reviews here in hopes that I'll eventually get some free gear to test (at least I'm honest, right?), so if the visor performs especially well or turns out to be a cheap piece of crap that doesn't last a week, I'll be sure note that here. If it helps, it's one of the best bargains I've ever gotten and probably would have been worthwhile at $16. If it doesn't, at least I didn't pay full price!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back on the Trail

(York County. We put the "rail" in Rail Trail.)

We hit the York County Heritage Rail Trail again on Monday morning. This time, we started at Brillhart Station, south of York and headed southward to Hanover Junction, which is south of Seven Valleys and back. (I know these names mean nothing to anyone outside York County -- and I admit I'd never heard of Hanover Junction and I've lived in York most of my life!)

(Oh, THAT Hanover Junction.)

Our ride totaled just over 14 miles in an hour and a half, so we improved on Saturday's ride in both pace and distance. It was a very warm, humid day -- it didn't feel bad on the bike but it would have been murder to run in. Thus, I felt kind of like I was cheating. Did the few runners few runners on the trail look at us and think "What a bunch of wimps?" Probably. Were other bikers laughing at our 20-year old Huffys? Probably.

Who cares?

(You won't find any carbon fiber on this bike!)

(This IS my "powering through the mountain stages" face.)

It was a nice way to spend the morning. I'm looking forward to more rides on the trail this summer and also doing some running there in the fall when cooler temperatures arrive. The trail offers more shade than the neighborhoods where I run in the mornings now, but since the closest access point is 20 minutes from my house, it's not a good option for trying to get out early and beat the heat on weekday mornings.

(No one knows how the ancient peoples of Seven Valleys erected these bicycle statues
2000 years before the time of Christ.)

(A good time was had by all.)

I'm taking Tuesday off, and then resuming running on Wednesday, so this will be a lighter week than last week, but like I said last post, I don't think that really matters. Right now my legs aren't sore, but they are tired. I'm hoping that mixing in some biking this summer will eventually make me feel stronger when I get into my deadly-serious, intense, Novice marathon training. Maybe cross-training can be right up there with packet pickup and carb-loading in the parts of the marathon that I'm good at.