Friday, March 30, 2012

We Put the Train in Training

Since I had a day off today, and neither of my usual local routes are great for morning runs right now, I headed down to the rail trail for the first time since mid-December. It was a cold, clear, beautiful morning for a run. Did I mention cold? said it was in the 40s, which for me means short sleeves or sleeveless. (I never said I was smart.) It was fine, except for my hands. It took about 3 miles before my hands warmed up. I was sure I was going to lose some fingers. I still might. Except, I'm typing; so probably not. I've got to remember to keep a pair of running gloves in my car for mornings like this.

At any rate, it was a very nice run. 3.5 miles north toward York from Brillhart Station, and then back for a total of 7 miles in 1:04:19. Good pace, and I felt great...except for my frostbitten fingers. I really feel like I've got my strength back these last two weeks. I can't yet run the mileage I was running last year, but I'm feeling confident that I can get back to it.

I also saw for the first time, and was briefly impeded by, a train using the tracks along the rail trail. That train stops in York, but this train (I know you can't see me because it's a blog post, but pretend I'm pointing at myself) isn't stopping until it crosses the finish line in Virginia Beach.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hillbilly Hills Hell

This morning, I headed for the hills. Not to escape the long arm of the law, or anything like that, but to try my hand (er...feet) at the hills between Manchester and Mt. Wolf again, in an attempt to get a better idea of how much of my strength is back. Last Friday's run was very good, and I had a 9:03 pace at 10K distance on Monday night. I'm starting to feel fast again, and I wanted to test myself on the hills.

I ran a 3.8 mile course that started in an unfinished development in Manchester, ran past the middle school, and down Chestnut Street toward Mt Wolf. The climb into Mt. Wolf never seemed that bad to me, but I definitely noticed it more than I remembered. As I started back toward Manchester I was dreading the longer, steeper ascent going in that direction, but that climb actually didn't go as badly as I thought.

(The elevation chart doesn't do it justice.
It's not Mt. Washington or anything, but the hill going up into Manchester is really steep!)

I don't think I could run the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K right now, or do the 2 or 3 out and back loops over this hilly section of Chestnut Street that I was running in preparation for the Dreaded Druid Hills. I'm still a long way from where I was during the summer when this hilly section was the last two miles of my normal 10 mile route, but I thought it was a promising (uphill) step in the right direction.

In fact, the worst part of my run wasn't the hills at all, it was that I had forgotten the iPod and had "Redneck Yacht Club" stuck in my head almost the entire time.

(Redneck Yacht Club!)

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Fogged Up, Rambling Sort of Blog Post

I've not been the best at getting my morning runs in over the last two months. However, I'm determined to do better, especially with summer's warm temperatures already here, meaning that if I don't get my miles in in the morning, I'm unlikely to at all. I've done a good job this week at getting up early on Monday morning for a run in Virginia Beach and then out for two morning runs on Wednesday and today.

Unfortunately on both Wednesday morning and today, I've woken up, checked, and found a Fog Alert. My York Haven route, with it's curvy, hilly, no-shoulder stretch of York Haven Road, can be scary in perfect weather. My other route, in Manchester, is annoying for morning runs during the school year. There's a lot of school traffic, and there's lots of pedestrians and kids waiting for the bus, which makes me feel like people are watching me. I know. Get over it.

So, on a day where visibility is a concern, my best option becomes loops around Cousler Park, just north of York. In the summer of 2008, I did most of my running around a 1.5 mile loop at the park, trying every day to run my two laps as fast as I could in training for 5Ks. Later that year, I started slowing the pace down a bit and gradually adding distance. As my runs more consistently were going 4-5 miles and taking longer, it became easier to run at a park closer to our house, even though it's hillier and doesn't have as many paths.

Aside from it being 20 minutes from home, I just don't like running anything longer than 3 miles at Cousler. It's not the park. It's me. I don't like running the same loop over and over again. At about 1.5 miles, it's short enough that I need several laps to get a good long run in, making it boring, but long enough that the laps seem to pass slowly. I'd much rather run a long out-and-back or 2 laps of a 3-mile loop than 4 boring laps around Cousler.

(In summary: If you're reading this and are from the York, PA area, Cousler Park is a really nice place to run -- it's just a bad fit for me and my picky route preferences.)

But anyway, I returned twice this week to my old stomping grounds. Wednesday's fog warning proved to be much ado about nothing. It was warm and very humid and gross, and between that and a little bit of a late start it was a struggle to just get 3 miles in.

Today's fog warning was the real deal, but it was a little cooler and I was a little more resolved to have a good run, and in doing so I discovered the exact combination of distance (5.5 miles) and humidity (100%) that renders a normally reliable iPod Shuffle almost completely nonfunctional*.

According to Garmin, this run, at 6.3 miles, was my longest run, since the comeback tour began and according to me, it's a good ending to my best week of running since a mid-December week when I logged 17 miles (13 of which was on my last real long run of the year).


*It would randomly stop playing every few seconds. It seems to be working again now that it's out of the fog. Phew!

**I guess my Garmin knows that I'm just looking for an excuse to throw it in some body of water -- it functioned perfectly in the fog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Running Gods Will Punish Me

I've already blogged about the cursed shirt, a t-shirt from the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon that I really don't feel comfortable or honest wearing since I didn't run the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon. I ran the half, and it was one of the most enjoyable races of my career, but unlike most of the race-logo merchandise they sell at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo, this particular shirt doesn't say "26.2 13.1 8K" on it. It seems like it's ONLY a shirt for the marathon. I tempted the fates by purchasing it, and was punished for my transgressions with a miserable time at the Philadelphia Marathon when I did run it last year. Seriously, that's the ONLY explanation for my 5:07 marathon, right?

I didn't get to run the Shamrock Marathon this year, but I bought something at the expo that makes me a bit nervous:

I wanted to buy one of last years' finisher hats so that I would have a duplicate one to actually use as a running hat (It was $3, awesome!), since I don't to ruin one of my favorite mementos, but I had reservations about buying any other Shamrock Marathon merchandise this year. This post, and the Cursed Shirt post, are mostly tongue in cheek -- I don't think people should wear shirts from races they didn't run (essentially bragging about that race), but I don't think I'm really superstitious. I was just feeling a little down about being at Shamrock packet pickup but not being able to run the marathon.

On the other hand, we were at the expo a day earlier this year and the merchandise selection was better. This was the type of jacket I was hoping to get last year. I'd wanted a jacket, but had to settle for an obnoxiously day-glow green Brooks Podium 1/4 zip that is comfortable but is really styled more for not getting hit by a car at night than for casual wear.

Though I leaned against buying the jacket, I changed my mind after thinking about for a few minutes (Chris encouraged me to buy it, too, for which I'm thankful.). In my defense:

1. The jacket doesn't have a year on it. If it had a year on it, I definitely wouldn't have bought it.
2. It does say "Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8K Run". I ran the 8K this year and did quite well.
3. I'm already signed up (courtesy of shinsplints) for the 2013 marathon.

Still, I'm afraid the running gods are going to punish me for this. Then again, today, March 21, was 60 degrees with 92% humidity. It's going to get into the 80s this week, and I seem to be missing out on my favorite running weather this year (cool spring mornings and cold nights). It seems they already are punishing me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running and Other Adventures in Virginia Beach

My 8K PR was just the beginning of a very successful and fun long weekend in Virginia Beach. A few minutes after I crossed the finish line, Chris, who wasn't even going all-out because she was in the Half the next day, cruised to a new 8K PR of her own. Train in the hills of Manchester and Mt. Wolf; PR on the Boardwalk.

Now, not only am I thrilled with my 8K PR and the race I ran, more importantly it allowed me to feel like -- and actually be -- a participant in Shamrock Sportsfest and not just a spectator. The post-race party is what really distinguishes the Shamrock races, and we got down to business! It was a warm morning for running, but a perfect for a post-run party that spilled out of the giant tent and onto the beach. My work was done, my only remaining responsibility was to help make sure the beer didn't get skunked.

After cleaning up, we made our way to Abbey Road, a Beatles-themed Belgian beer bar. That combo is awesome, but I admit I was a little beered-out from the post-race party, so I stuck with water and, "The Beatles Burrito", THE BEST BREAKFAST SANDWICH I'VE EVER HAD.

After brunch (it was really lunchtime, we just both got breakfast foods), we drove back over to the Expo. We'd gotten our packets and some Shamrock merch the night before, but hadn't really had time to look around before the expo closed. It was a nice expo, but you've seen one expo, you've seen 'em all. I'm glad we looked around, but neither of us saw anything we had to get.

On Saturday evening, we carb loaded. Chris because she was running the Half, me because I love carbs. We returned to Il Giardino, our Saturday night dinner spot from last year, and had the exact some thing: 1 Peroni each, penne ala vodka, and for dessert chocolate gelato for me and napoleon.

We were tried from our 8K, post-race party, and carb loarding, and Chris needed to be up at 5:30 the next day for a 7:00am race start, so we spent our St. Patrick's Day evening in bed by 8:00, watching March Madness followed by an episode of "Too Cute", an Animal Planet show about adorable kittens.

On Sunday, we headed over to the Half Marathon start at 6:15, and arrived at around 6:45. I said goodbye to Chris as she headed to her corral and got a vantage point just past the start. It was fun to watch the elites go by, and amazingly, I did see Chris as her wave went by. I started my stopwatch and walked back to our hotel to get breakfast.

Because I wanted to avoid the feelings of regret that I'm sure walking by the marathon starting area would foster, I walked mostly on the boardwalk and took pictures of the sunrise over the beach and the famous Neptune statue. Here's the one that I think turned out the best:

Breakfast was amazing. The coffee was amazing for how bad it was -- I should get a finisher medal for drinking it all, but I'd been up since 5:15 so it was much needed. The positive amazing part of breakfast was the advanced technology deployed by the hotel's breakfast buffet: A pancake machine! It was like a copier that shot out pancakes. Awesome! (The pancakes were pretty good, too, though not as good as I'd have the next day...foreshadowing!)

I killed a bit of time reading in our room, watching the clock to see when I should head down to watch Chris finish. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get a good spot. A little while after I'd grabbed a spot along the railing at the 13 mile mark, Chris ran by sooner than I expected to see her!

I know she'll blog about her her race and share the pictures she wants to share, but I want to just say that as cool as our PRs in the 8K were, she annihilated her half marathon PR by an amount that was ridiculous! A very emphatic highlight to our trip to Virginia Beach, and we celebrated accordingly again in the party tent.

This was the highlight of our trip, but our fun hadn't quite ended yet. After a walk around Atlantic Avenue and the boardwalk and some rest, we headed to CP Shucker's, another favorite from last year, for dinner. Unfortunately, we don't have pictures, but Bay Chips=awesomeness.

It turned out my work wasn't quite done, after all, either. I'd hoped to take a run on Monday morning, and I did get myself up early and head out for 6 miles. I'd planned to run loops along the boardwalk, but as I headed out I realized that I wanted to try to recapture a little of the feeling of my marathon finish one more time and finish my run heading south on the boardwalk past the statue. So, I headed about 2.5 miles north on the boardwalk and Atlantic, ran about a half mile into and out of a nature preserve past the entrance to the Cape Henry Trail (I didn't want to do any trail running, since it had rained overnight). I ended up finishing my six miles just past the statue. It was a good run, especially given the humidity. Though hopefully next time I run by Neptune, it'll be the end of a much better run!

We finished our visit to Virginia Beach with delicious breakfast at Maple Tree Pancake House, and then headed north. At the advice of a friend, I chose to take the Bay Bridge Tunnel and head up the Delmarva Peninsula rather than brave 95 again. I think it was wise; we slid in the home stretch just ahead of Baltimore rush hour traffic. A great trip all around.


Now I feel like I have a little bit of closure on my marathon DNS, too. I'd been afraid that being down there without running in the marathon would just make me feel sorry for myself, but except for a little while at the expo (which you'll see in a separate post) and while I was walking up the boardwalk on Sunday morning on my way to breakfast, it never really hit me. Instead, I just had too much fun running, post-race partying, eating, exploring Virginia Beach, and watching Chris destroy her half marathon PR. I'd debated whether to sign up for the 8K, and I'm so glad that I did.

All that said, though, being down there motivated me even more. The hotel reservations are made already. The race entry is a done deal (deferred from this year). The running itself seems like it's starting to go well again. I hope to be in Virginia Beach again in a year, picking up a new marathon PR to go with my 8K.

(I'll be back!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Race Report: TowneBank Shamrock 8K

This was a strange race for me. It definitely wasn't the race I wanted to be running this weekend, as I mentioned previously, but it was the only one I was in, and I so really wanted to run the best race I possibly could. I didn't care about my time, as long as the effort was there.

The odds did not seem to be in my favor. Our trip down to Virginia Beach had been a long and stressful one. We sat for hours in traffic on 95 south before wisely forsaking it for US 1 (we probably should have much earlier) and made it to the expo at around 8pm (it closed at 9). On the way down, the scenario of not getting there for packet pickup for the 8K ran through both our heads. Such a situation would have eliminated Chris from the Dolphin Challenge (the 8K and the Half) and completely washed out my racing schedule. As we were stuck in traffic, a friend's advice re-routed us to route 17, which would bypass Richmond and take us more directly toward Virginia Beach.

Unfortunately, I missed the turnoff for 17 South, and we headed toward Richmond on 1. At least traffic moved, and it became apparent that we make it just in time. We picked up our packets at 8:00, bought some merchandise (Great selection this year, as I'll discuss in a future post), checked into our hotel, and at dinner around 10:00pm, making for a short night. As we left for dinner, our hotel fire alarms were going off, too, and we saw fire trucks heading toward it. Luckily, it didn't burn down.

I lined up in Corral 3, near the back, since I didn't know what to expect. My 8K PR was 42:42 at Al's Run in Milwaukee in 2009. I didn't really expect to touch that. I was tired, and my stomach didn't feel great, but my legs felt good.

And when my corral charged forth from the start, I gave it everything I had. It was strange to be running southward down Atlantic Avenue again, but with a bigger crowd and a faster speed. I think of the course as a highlight reel from the marathon course, the boardwalk and downtown portions of the course, and the finish southbound on the boardwalk just past the Neptune statue. But I didn't even notice the scenery for the most part, just the people I was passing. Complete focus was on weaving through the crowd. I did almost run over a middle-school age kid who cut from all the way over on the right to get to a water stop on the left. No problem, he probably should have looked, but I probably should have been a little more aware of my surroundings, knowing I was passing the water stop, and not calculating pace in my head and looking for the next opportunity to pass.

I didn't have my Garmin, and I missed the mile 1 and mile 2 markers, but I passed by mile 3 at 25:07, which would have been a very solid 5K time time for me. I continued to push myself as hard as I could, and I hit mile 4 at about 33:30. I knew at that point that a PR was in reach, but I'd run this 8K race as if it were a 5K, and I wasn't sure I could hold pace.

The journey up Atlantic seemed interminable, but I finally turned onto the boardwalk for the homestretch. My trainer had warned me last year during the marathon training to not sprint when I saw Neptune -- he's farther away than he looks -- but my whole race had been a sprint this time. Halfway up the boardwalk I tried to drop the hammer, but there was no hammer left to drop. But I'd done enough.

41:40 -- a new PR by over a minute, and I was fired up. It should probably come with an asterisk, as this course has a completely flat elevation profile. I still think I ran a better race at Celtic Solstice, which is pretty hilly, but fast course or not, I gave it everything I had and I'm thrilled to come home Virginia Beach with a PR.

I was very emotional during this race, especially for the boardwalk stretch at the end. The 8K was a flashback the end of my first marathon, except I was moving much faster and in much less pain at the end; a preview, I hope, to the end of my next attempt at the Shamrock Marathon in 2013; and a substitute for the marathon I was supposed to be running the next day. During most of the race, my brain was turned off, but I think other racers probably heard me reciting my new mantra to myself at times throughout the race. Unfortunately, my mantra is "Revenge!" I lost it a little as I crossed the finish line, because I felt like this race allowed me to feel like I accomplished something at the Shamrock Sportsfest this year, even though I couldn't run the race I was originally registered for. A small measure of revenge, perhaps?

While it's hard for me to talk about this race without its personal context for me, I want to be very clear that the TowneBank Shamrock 8K is an excellent event in its own right. The course is scenic and fast, the participant shirt was an very nice long-sleeve green t-shirt, absolutely one of the best race shirts I've ever received, all finishers get medals (I know they're just glorified participant ribbons, but I love 'em), and the post-race party is awesome. Just like the post-race party for the marathon and half marathon the next day, the party features a huge tent with beer from Yuengling, stew from Murphy's Irish Pub (I didn't have any this year, since it was 9am), and live music from Borderline Crazy, a fun cover band that Chris and I could both enjoy, due to their mixture of rock and country covers.

The unmatched post-race party, three distances, swag that's in my opinion as good as you're going to find w/o earning that "Boston" windbreaker, and a fun, scenic destination make me enthusiastically recommend the Shamrock races to any runner.

I focused on just my experience in the 8K here, but it was just part of a great long weekend in Virginia Beach, and I'll detail the rest of our Shamrock 2012 adventures in some other posts this week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TowneBank 8K

This was not the race that I wanted to be running in Virginia Beach this weekend, but I ran the **** out of it. New 8k PR -- 41:40.

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Chasing the Leprechaun in Virginia Beach

Ready for the TowneBank Shamrock 8K.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First Miles: Adidas adiZero Tempo 4

I tried out the new shoes tonight. I'm not sure yet if I like them.

(They're so purty with their sparkly laces.)

They feel comfortable on my feet, and they're noticeably lighter than the Supernova Sequence, though that didn't translate into a faster pace.

On the negative side, they're noticeably less cushioned. I definitely feel the road more than I do in the Sequence 4's. It's been so long since I ran in anything besides a heavier stability shoe (the Sequence 2 or 4), that I can't really tell if that's a good thing or a bad's just different. At a few points during my run, I felt some twinges in my knee, but it's too early to tell if these things are inviting my ITBS back into my life or if it was nothing. My knees feel fine now.

It's hard to evaluate shoes right now, because my calves are just a mess. I had tightness and soreness in both of them, although neither one is as sore as the right one was on Tuesday. The Tempos aren't the magic elixir that is going to swiftly revive my running career, it seems, but I'm going to use them in the 8k and then try to put another 3-5 miles on them on the boardwalk on Monday morning. If I hate them after that, or feel that they're going to shred my IT band or ruin my calves (even worse) I'll probably return them.

I do have a known option, though. It turns out Charm City Run had ordered a a pair Sequences for me (I misunderstood and was under the impression they'd call if they could place the order), and they arrived at the store today. I could exchange the Tempos if I don't like them, or I could keep both pairs and do most training the stability shoes and save the lighter shoes for shorter training runs and races. Hopefully I'll have a better idea by Monday morning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This (Post-purchase Shoe Research)

I've only been tracking miles on my last two pairs of shoes, so I suspect that I've probably gone over-mileage pretty significantly on all of them, with varying results. My last pair of Glides definitely felt dead to me. I have no idea how many miles I had on them, but I was running in them from April 2010 to the end of January 2011, with one half marathon and the beginning of marathon training in there. I'm sure they were way over their limit when I retired them after my ITBS flare-up. (I do still bike in them and use them as my main gym shoes because they're so comfortable).

Conversely, the Supernova Sequence 2's that replaced them still seemed pretty supportive when I retired them, ahem, 604 miles on them. And I've heard everything from "OMG you should replace your shoes every 200 miles!" to "Relax guy, you can put way more miles on them than that. Of course the shoe company and shoe store are going to recommend you buy new shoes all the time."

I put the Sequence 2's out to pasture because I was worried about how high the mileage was, but these Sequence 4's really seem like they're toast. I don't think it's "trail running" in the tradional sense of jumping over roots and running through mountain streams, but perhaps running a lot of miles on the gravel rail trail vs. the roads and sidewalks of suburbia shortened their lifespan. At any rate -- I would have been glad to just get another pair of Supernova Sequences, except the store I shop at didn't have them, and since it is carrying less Adidas stuff, didn't seem like they'd be getting any in.

Now, I should probably really start buying shoes elsewhere, just because this store is really far from my house and there's a perfectly excellent running store here in York. But, I'd bought my last several pairs there, was there for a packet pickup, and needed shoes NOW! (Of course, since I'm an idiot, I forgot to wear them on last night's sucky six-miler!)

So anyway, here's some further research on the Supernova Sequence and the two options I was shown by the Sales Associate. The reviews are from brought to you by the power of Earn Your Donuts' proprietary HindSight Technology.

First, the Supernova Sequence 4, my current shoe:

Now, the Brooks Adrenaline:

And lastly, the adiZero Tempo:

Neither of these shoes seems to have tested very similarly to the Sequence 4 at all. I'm not sure whether this means I should have looked harder for a pair Sequence 4's, or whether I'm about to embark on a magical new journey filled with PRs. The light weight of the adiZero tempo appeals to me, and is in fact why I picked it, but seeing the lack of stability even compared to the Sequence worries me a bit. It is recommended for distance racing and everyday runners, and I suspect that stretching and foam rolling has done more to control my ITBS than the shoes, but I'm probably about to find out how much I actually need a stability shoe.

At any rate, if my calf feels better tomorrow night (still a little sore today), I'll run 2-3 miles in the adiZero Tempos and then I'm planning on wearing them in the 8K on Saturday. I hope I like them, they're really light and comfortable.

(I'm not trying to be negative with the title. Any time I can make a Star Wars reference, I'm going to.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunrise or Sunset?

I snapped this photo at mile 5 of a 6-mile run, and I was reminded of a story about Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention n Philadelphia in 1787. George Washington, who presided over the convention, sat at the front of the room in a chair that depicted half of a golden sun. Throughout the convention, Franklin, one of the elder statesmen of the the fledgling nation, pondered whether the sun was rising or setting (on the new nation). He concluded that the sun was rising, and 235 years later, it seems as if he was correct.

I feel like my running "career" is at a turning point. It's frustrating that distances that were easy for me a few months ago are now a struggle, and the six miles I ran tonight -- my second run of this distance -- seems in hindsight to be too much too soon. On weak-feeling legs, I ran a very well-paced 10K training run two weeks ago, and felt very good about it. Tonight, I ran the same distance, a little slower, and with less creakiness during the run, but lots of problems with my left calf afterwards. Though I've been stretching and foam rolling, it feels like it's cramping every time I sit. The cramps don't seem severe -- I don't have pain while sitting, but feel the soreness when I stand.

I'm wondering if I have an injury, though I'm starting to lean toward dehydration. It was a very warm day (for March), in the mid 60s as I ran tonight, and I probably haven't drank enough water over the last several days. Still, even if that's all it is, it was frustrating to feel this bad right after the Kelly 5K, in which I felt better and stronger than I have for any run since the Celtic Solstice 5-mile in December.

Of course, I was also stupid and forgot to wear my new shoes.

Motivation is also lacking a bit lately. While I do want to be a marathoner again and I am committed to getting back to Virginia Beach for the 41st running of the Shamrock Marathon in 2013, I admit it's been really nice to only have to squeeze in a 30 or 40-minute run, or find time for 50 or 60-minute long run, instead of 2-3 hours on Saturday morning.

But even without pressure for really time-consuming runs, I've taken every lame excuse I can find to not get enough runs in. I actually got myself up this morning for a change for a 3-miler (what I had time for before work), but there was some construction at the end of the path that leads down into York Haven. I'm sure I could have just gone around it, but instead I put my run off until after work (when I can run in Manchester w/o all the school traffic and pedestrians), when it was quite a bit warmer. Today, at least, I got out there! Last week, I ran on Tuesday, but found lame-o excuses to skip on Thursday or Friday.

Between last Tuesday's frustrating 3-miles and Saturday's frustrating 5, I just didn't care. It almost felt like when I "took a break" from lifting -- for a whole year. Luckily, I was signed up for the 5K, and wanted to get some miles in (on Saturday) before that or I was probably a couple days away from "I'm taking a break" from running. That's just how it felt. I'd been more frustrated, more disappointed at times over the past five years, but I just felt like I was closer to just giving it up than I'd ever been. The good 5K got me fired back up, and then this one just frustrated me again.

I need to re-establish consistency. Go back to the basics. Embrace the short distances that are in my wheelhouse right now, and like I said in one of last week's whiny blog entries, not get too high or too low.

I think, as long as my calf isn't really injured, that I can get through the TowneBank 8K on Saturday. I'm going to try for a good race, but I know even on that flat course it would be foolish to try for a PR right now. I'll then have a little more than a month until the Sole of the City 10K. I probably need to just take the first couple weeks of that month to get back into an every-other-day running routine and see if I can get myself back to being really comfortable with 3-4 miles. There's not time to build as gradually to 6 miles as I did the first time around (over months!) in 2009, but right now it just seems like I'm biting off a little more than I can chew at that distance.

I have to realize and accept that this year's best-case scenario for me is to mirror 2009, when I built my long run distance from 4 miles to 13.1, and I have to learn to be happy with the little victories: a good effort in a 5K (even if the times don't necessary match last years'), hopefully a great Harrisburg Mile, and slowly building my base mileage and long runs back up. I didn't run 6 miles until Memorial Day that year, and by fall I'd trained up to run a first half marathon that I'm still very happy with. If I slow things down a bit and try to match that schedule, I think I can stay healthy and get myself to where I need to be to start marathon training at the end of the year.

I want the sun to be rising, but I'm not certain yet that it is...

Here's a crappy cell phone pic of George Washington's Rising Sun chair at the front of the room in Independence Hall. To see better pictures and learn more, you can go here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

VOTE NOW for the the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest Winner

After a month of not running and scrounging the dusty corners of my brain for blog post ideas, I launched the blog's first contest & giveaway: The First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to You by Road ID). As the name implied, Road ID contributed a $35 gift card for the winner, and I'm offering a $10.00 Dunkin Donuts gift card for the runner up.

Though readers said the idea was funny, participation was a bit lower than I'd hoped, leading me to believe that the idea was not as hilarious as I'd thought. Two brave souls participated, and it's now time to choose our winner.

Photos appear in the order in which they were submitted.

Danny, who blogs at "The Quest for Running Perfection" sent us this entry:

XLMIC who blogs at "Taking it On", shared this entry:

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below. Voting is open through the end of March.

Who has the best (worst) bad race photo?

Thanks again to both of our contestants for participating and to Road ID and Outside PR for their help!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K

I kicked off the 2012 racing season with a third attempt at the Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. This is now just one of three races that I have three or more attempts at. (The other two are the Harrisburg Mile and the Chocolate Miracle 5K in Hershey, where I haven't toed the line since '09.) In 2010, I ran a disappointing at the time 26:14 that looks much better with the benefit of hindsight, and last year, while tapering for the marathon, I cruised to a 30:15.

This year, I'd been undecided what my strategy for this race would be. I'm not in PR shape yet, and that's the bottom line. Even on my comeback runs in which I don't feel like crap, I just haven't had the speed over 3.1 miles that I had in 2010 and 2011. And this week, I've mostly felt like crap.

Even though I ran 5 miles yesterday, during which my legs felt like lead and I was sucking wind like a guy who'd never run before, I woke up this morning feeling excellent, Spring Forward be damned. There's no marathon for me next week, as anyone who has read this blog over the past two months is well-aware by now, so there was no reason not go for broke.

Our party of six walked from the Inner Harbor to the starting point at the intersection of Charles & Mulberry, and after a few minutes of chatting, we lined up. This 5K has about 4,000 participants, and the block is packed. I lined up a little over half of the way back.

My starting position proved to haunt me, as I was unable to really take advantage of the downhill start. Throughout the whole race I was weaving through the crowded feel, max effort the whole way. I hit the holes like Brian Westbrook, and on an unseasonably warm day, gorgeous for any purpose except running a 5K at max effort (and it wasn't that it was actually HOT -- it was in the low 60s -- just 30 degrees warmer than my run yesterday) I ran to a 26:49. Over my whole career of 5Ks, that's rather unimpressive, but after the way 2012 has gone so far, OMG!, I will take it.

It was over a minute faster than the 3.1 I ran last week at max effort, and I honestly think it was actually a better run than that. This field is so crowded, and I did so much weaving among other runners that I probably actually ran 3.5 (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration) and it was by far the warmest day I've run on since the comeback began. I don't think I could have PR'd today, but I think if I'd started myself further ahead in the pack, I could have been in the low 25s or the high 24s, which I would have been unabashedly thrilled with. I mean, it wasn't as good as Chris's race, in which she smashed her PR by over 2 minutes(!), but I'll take it and take it gladly. It was a worthy last race for the Supernova Sequence 4s and promising beginning to racing year 2012.

Event Review
This race is it what it is, and I accept that. It's supposedly a fast course, and I suspect it is for the elites, but for a middle-of-the-packer like me, the crowded field means I won't ever PR here. Hopefully, next year I'll be tapering at this time, but if I run this "for the money" again I'll really try to move up more in the crowd and see how much time I can shave off. But, it's a race with a fun atmosphere that has a scenic course (Yeah, of course you run out Key Highway and turn around, though!) that's an enjoyable way to kick off race season even though it's a race I'll probably never have one of my best times in.

The giveaway is really nice -- a Brooks long-sleeve technical shirt in neon green. It'll be a great shirt for running in the dark on cool spring and fall nights. I was just happy that they'd changed the design after identical shirt designs for the 2010 and 2011 race shirts.

After our experience last year, in which we waited in line for 15 minutes for our postrace beer and didn't move at all, we completely bailed on the official postrace party and headed straight for the James Joyce, where we toasted the start of what will hopefully be a fun and fast year of racing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Supernova Burns Out

It's the end of an era. It's time for new shoes. After another run in which there was just no spring at all in my step right now, and while I don't think my shoes, with 526 miles on them, are the main problem, but every little bit helps, right? (I did run approximately 5 miles today in approximately 48 minutes -- I'd forgotten to charge the Garmin and didn't have my watch.

After two marathons, 5K, 10K, 1-mile, and 5-mile PRs, the age of the Supernova Sequence has passed. According to our salesperson at Charm City Run, where we were picking up our packets for the Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K, Adidas has discontinued the model, but there were other shoes I could try with similar stability/cushioning.

(I've had a pretty good run with the Adidas Supernova Sequence.)

After initially saying that I'd try to order a pair of Supernova Sequences, I reversed course and said I would try some similar models. Our salesperson brought out two models, the Brooks Adrenaline and the Adidas AdiZero Tempo, and said that both should have cushioning and stability to the Sequence. The Tempo felt very light and looked very well ventilated, but the insole was very flat, which I'm used to as a longtime Adidas user. The overall design and the flatness of the sole reminded me of my Sequence 2's. (They actually very much resemble a pair of Glides I bought but returned without wearing when I was first diagnosed with ITBS.)

The Adrenaline actually seemed more similar to my current pairs of Supernova Sequence 4's, but felt like it had more cushioning in the heel and toe than any pair of running shoe I've ever owned.

I'm reluctant to change since I feel that I've had good luck with Adidas (which perhaps is not so true), and so I went with the AdiZero Tempo, since the sole felt so much like what I'm used to. I also thought the ventilation of it would make it a bit cooler in the summer -- which might help offset the extra warmth from the knee-length compression socks that I now have to wear.

(The winner.)

That said, I am a huge fan of Brooks. My favorite running shorts, shirts, and jacket are all Brooks. If I have bad luck with the AdiZero Tempo, I'll probably give the Adrenalines a try next.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Trouble With Never: Another Post About the Return of Van Halen

They've still got it.

I've now seen Van Halen four times, and between age, all of the lead singer changes, the contentious history of the band with whomever is their singer at the time, and Eddie Van Halen's health scares, I'm always afraid each tour will be their last and also a little worried about how they'll sound live.

No reason to worry. I went to the Van Halen concert* on Monday at the
CoreStates FirstUnion Wachovia Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and from the opening chords of "Unchained", one of my favorites, to final notes of "Jump" two hours later, when David Lee Roth signaled the end of the show by waving a giant checkered flag as massive amounts of ticker tape rained down on the stage, they sounded awesome.

I'd last seen Van Halen on their 2007 reunion tour. Five years later, time has taken a bit of a toll on Roth. He doesn't look as youthful, and maybe has last a just a bit of his vocal range. Most of the time he still sounds fine, like himself, and more importantly, he just is himself. I became a Van Halen fan during the Sammy Hagar years. I like Sammy; I've seen the band with Sammy; I would just as gladly go see them again with Sammy -- but David Lee Roth is a better performer and I just think a VH concert is more fun with him in the lineup. His energy level and stage presence are just unmatched. It sounds like Dave's antics are quite a bit restrained compared to his 1970s and early 80s heyday with Van Halen, but he still puts on a great show.

I'm not even sure what needs to be said about the Van Halen brothers that others haven't said much better than I. They've been great in every show in which I've seen them, but I think Eddie's guitar solo, a 10-minute mix of "Eruption" and "Cathedral", was the longest and best I've ever heard from him in those four concerts. His "jump", after a hip replacement, is just a little hop now, but he looks healthy and sounds great. Eddie's solos are the best thing about seeing the band live, the thing you miss by not seeing them, and he gets most of the attention, but Alex never disappoints, either.

The most obvious difference between the 2007 and 2012 tours is the growth of Wolfgang Van Van Halen. He was technically excellent in 2007, but he didn't yet seem comfortable in his role. He stood in one place, played his part, very softly sang his background vocals. Now, he's a rock star in his own right He's the most mobile of the Van Halens, being 20 years old, and he understandably moved around the stage much more than Eddie. It's a bit funny to see, three aging 1970s rock stars and a normal-looking 20-year old, but it like Wolfgang was having fun out there.

The only bad thing you can say about Wolfgang is only that he's not Michael Anthony -- it's just odd to hear a different voice singing the background vocals on songs I've listened to thousands of times.

I reconnected with an old friend, the person who got me hooked on Van Halen many years ago, to go to the show, and we both felt like interaction between Roth and Wolfgang was interesting. They share a mic quite often, and DLR seems like he's trying to make Wolf laugh, while the young bassist endures Dave's antics with mild amusement. It's easy to speculate that Dave likes Wolf more than the other members of the band -- he's the only Van Halen who hasn't kicked Dave out of Van Halen...yet.

The set list was mostly 1970s and 80s -- Roth (or the band with Roth) refused to play any Hagar-era stuff. They opened with "Unchained", closed with "Jump", and hit the highlights of the era in between, with some selections that I didn't hear on the last Roth tour. I am a fan of the new album, and so I was glad to hear some of the new stuff: "Tattoo", "She's the Woman", "Chinatown", and "The Trouble With Never". Eddie and Alex both had solos, and Dave's solo was to narrate some video about his sheep and cattle-herding dogs. It's a funny story, if only to picture as Dave says, "a bunch of famers and him" -- normal guys and sequenced-pant wearing David Lee Roth -- sitting behind their pickups watching whose dog can herd the best. He then takes his acoustic guitar and sings the beginning of "Ice Cream Man" before the Van Halens return and Dave's guitar is a decoration again.

Here's the setlist:

My only criticism, as a fan of both eras of Van Halen, is that a DLR show ignores a big portion of the band's history, where a lot of hits were made. I understand why Dave doesn't want to sing Hagar stuff, and I've read that Sammy didn't want to sing Roth stuff, but couldn't not sing some of the band's pre-Hagar hits. I wish somehow everyone could get along well enough that they could tour with both Sammy and Dave and we'd get to hear the hits from both eras performed by the original singers. That will never happen and I'm grateful to have gotten the chance to see them with both Dave and Sammy**.

Of course, on several different occasions I never thought I'd see another Van Halen tour, either.

(Van Halen as seen from low Earth orbit. I'd unfortunately forgotten to bring a real camera. Rats.)


*I also wanted to mention that the opening act, Kool and the Gang, was a lot of fun, but it seemed to not fit anywhere above and I didn't want to rewrite the whole blog post. Our plan was to stop and get some food before the concert, and we knew our timing might not get us there in time for the opening act and were fine with that. I'm glad we saw most of their set. They got everyone in a good, retro mood that was perfect for seeing Van Halen. Kool and the Gang would probably be more fun in a small venue than from the very top row of the CoreStates
FirstUnion Wachovia Wells Fargo Center, but it was still an inspired choice for an opening act.

I've also seen them with Gary Cherone in 1998. Honestly, while Van Halen III, the album they put out with Gary, just doesn't sound like Van Halen to me, I thought he did a good job performing in concert with the band.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lacking Perspective

I'm trying to explain and thus move toward changing my negative mindset, not just be excessively pessimistic or whiny here. You've been warned.

I was coming off a very good 10K training run on Saturday, wishing I'd signed up for Broad Street, thinking perhaps a fall marathon was a good idea after all. Tired, sore, but feeling like I was ready to chase some PRs at my upcoming 5K, 8K, and 10K.

Just a few days later, it's hit me in the face what a shadow of my former running self I am right now. I had easily the worst run of the comeback tour, a 28-minute 3 mile where you name it, it probably hurt. Sore calves, like I was having before my layoff, trouble breathing, creaky knees, aching lower back and even a hitch in my stride (dragging the left foot on the ground too much) that I don't think is usually there.

I'm prone to excessive self-doubt and criticism after a bad run, which really doesn't make sense with my rather casual approach to training. So even as one side of my brain is thinking "You couldn't have gotten 5 miles tonight, you're in trouble" another part knows "you always do this after a bad run, it's never as bad as you think it is (you dummy)." As much as I am critical of Andy Reid in his coaching of my favorite football team, one of his mantras that I need to re-appropriate in my running is to "never let yourself get too high after a win or too low after a loss."

I had a bad run; but the Garmin gets set back to zero and I have a clean slate either way when I hit the road on Thursday or Friday. Knowing something is nothing to worry about is easy for me; making the transition to actually not worrying about it has always been a challenge. The easy workaround is to probably avoid the night running -- in which I don't use a music player -- until I'm feeling consistently stronger and more comfortable at 5-6 mile distances. Let Van Halen drown out the negative thoughts.

I think it's going to be a challenge for me to main perspective this year. Last year was far and away the best year of my career: first two marathons, a very good season of 5Ks, a significant mile PR within striking distance of 6:00; and one of 2 or 3 best races I've ever run to cap the year. I'll achieve much less this year it looks like, and even though I'm pretty sure I don't love the marathon, I don't think I'll feel like I'm all the way back until I finish another one.

But I can't let myself think like this -- and there's no reason to. Throwing out for a second that I'm missing Shamrock, I'll probably finish March at about the same place that I did last year, 6-7 mile training runs and no long races on the immediate horizon. With that in mind, this really is a minor setback and I just need to be more positive. My goal, totally unquantifiable of course, for the rest of March is to just try to enjoy each and every run for its own sake, without any concern for where it fits into a larger training plan or how they compare to each other or to last year.

Rediscover the fun.

I know...this post definitely requires at least one adorable kitty picture.

(Higgy, back in his chubbier days, was obsessed with climbing in the dryer and staring demonically at us.)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Comeback Tour 10k

I guess I should have signed up for Broad Street, after all.

This was a good run, but my quads are going to hurt tomorrow. I had a good mileage increase this week, but I think the schedule is going to make me step it back over the next two weeks.

Looking good for the Sole of the City 10K on April 21. Maybe I can even go PR hunting.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Bullet Points...Again

Friday bullet points seems like it might be the new norm around here until things get a little more interesting.
  • I ran 5 miles yesterday in 48:31. I guess I'm a real runner again, now. (That's just a little joke based on the previous post.) Given that I was usually hitting six miles in 57 or 58 minutes, this probably isn't that far off normal pace. My 42:something 8K and 5-mile PRs feel light years away, though.

  • It's been an ok week of running. In addition to yesterday's 5, I ran 3.1 on Monday night at what I would consider "max effort". This is where the lack of speed is really showing: 27:59. It's frustrating, but I'm not going to worry about it too much for now. I don't want to start speedwork again until I feel like my legs are stronger, but I am going to run one of my midweek runs (which I'll probably keep at no more than 3-4 miles for a few months) as fast as I can to give myself a measurement of how I'm doing.

  • I've slipped off the wagon a bit this week in both strength training and dieting. We had our "anniversary" dinner on Tuesday night and a vet appointment last night, so it was difficult to stay in routine. (Or get in one, in the case of new leg program.)

  • Unfortunately, this is going to get worse. Next week, culminating in the St. Patrick's 5K on March 11, is fairly normal, but the following week is insane. I'll be traveling Monday through Thursday for work and will be lucky to get any running in at all. (I'm going to try for a few miles on Tuesday night in Tucson and a few in Philly on Thursday morning). This probably means the best option for the TowneBank Shamrock 8K in Virginia Beach is to just take it nice and easy, which is a shame. If I could get some consistency in the next two weeks I think I could challenge my PR on that flat course, even in my weakened state.

  • Submissions are closed for the Bad Photo contest. I will post them before the aforementioned business trip and allow two weeks for voting from the time they're up.

  • Because you're all wondering, this is what I ate on Tuesday night at TJ Rockwell's. Believe me, it was worth every ounce I gained or second per mile I lost:

(These are called "Rhino Fries".
I say with confidence that there are no better cheese fries on the planet.)

This creation features our 8 oz. black angus burger topped with a creamy cheese, ranch, bacon sauce. finished with bacon slices and golden onion straws. served on a pretzel bun

(I wish I had a picture of this. It was just as good as it sounds.)