Saturday, December 31, 2011

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

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

Let's see how I did:

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

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

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

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

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 This resolution was a complete and utter failure, but that's a blog post that I thought better left unpublished.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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Cheer (or Not)

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

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

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

Either way, I hope your holidays are happy!

My Very Gross Veins

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: The Running Year in Review

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

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

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

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

(Look at all that cartilage!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Celtic Solstice 5-Mile

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Yasso 800s (Sort Of)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Fire

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

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

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

(Speaking of "not productive"...)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Shadow of the Past

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catching Up from Down South

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real problem, though, is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, without further ado, the cuteness:

(Higgy is "venting")

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Safety First! (And Second!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

This afternoon, this arrived in the mail:

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