Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Don't Get It

Running isn't fun.  That's an inarguable fact.  I mean, let's compare running to something that is fun:  watching TV.

Running:  left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  Repeat hundreds or thousands of times.  


TV:  "Oh!  The king has chickened out and now little Tyrion Lannister must defend King's Landing by himself!" "Hahaha, how did Peter Griffin not know that bringing a horse to live in the house was a terrible idea?"  "OMG, the TARDIS really is bigger on the inside!"  "They're celebrities! And they're dancing!"


Because running is inherently boring, race directors have to use a variety of tricks and gimmicks to attract participants:

Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8K:  "If you suffer through one of our races, we at least give you a couple beers and you get to watch bands in a big tent on the beach."

Spartan Race:  "You will either die during our race or your life will be ruined because of grievous injuries.  Think of how badass your coworkers will think you are."

The Now-Defunct Orioles Advocates 5K and the Not-Defunct Phillies 5K, and other sports-themed races:  "You love sports!  Now you get to run out on the same field that other people who play those sports run out on even though you don't get to actually play those sports and you paid for the 'privilege' rather than being paid an exorbitant sum.

Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon:  "Thousands of other people will be around so no one will be chasing you with a knife even though you're in Philadelphia."

Just kidding, Philadelphia.  You know I love you.

New York City Marathon:  "Admit it. You've always wanted to pee off of the Verrazano Bridge."

Boston Marathon:  "Do you know lots of other people who pretend to like running?  Now you'll have bragging rights over them, too!"

Run for Your Lives:  "Practice for the inevitable real zombie apocalypse."

Turkey Trot:  "Feel less guilty for how much you're going to eat later today!"

Now, I'm not a race-directing guru, but these gimmicks work.  I suspect that you signed up for a couple of these races while reading this blog post.

But there's one very popular race series that's really popular right now, the Color Run, with a gimmick that I just don't see the appeal of.

The Color Run is a 5K, during which color run staff or volunteers throw or shoot colored powder at you at various points in the race and you are given packets of colored powder that you can throw up in the air or at other runners if you finish without having been blinded by colored powder or choked by colored powder clogging your airways.

It advertises itself as being an event that's great for runners of all experience levels and speeds (that's good!) and one that a lot of people choose as their first race (that's bad!  See diagram.).  Look, I don't give a crap how fast someone is.  If they're faster than me, that's awesome.  Stop my Garmin as you run by my corpse, please. If they're not, that's awesome too.   But why would you pick this as you're first race?

My first 5K was the "Once and Done Turnpike Run"  on a newly-constructed bridge on the PA Turnpike ("The only time you'll ever be able to go accross this bridge for free!").  If I had been grossly undertrained and collapsed by the side of the road, the only risk is that other runners would run by and point and laugh at me as lay on the shoulder, crying.

But at the Color Run?

 This is fun?  Really?

What are your favorite race gimmicks?  I'm really just in it for the "free" booze.

Disclaimer:  If you love Color Run, no offense is intended.  Feel free to comment about why you think it's fun.  If you don't like it, you can comment on how right I am.  If you're a Color Run race director, this post is meant to be humorous and even though it probably fails miserably at that, please don't sue me. If you're offended by me insulting one of your other favorite races, just remember that you're probably faster and/or better-looking than me. If you're from Philadelphia, please don't chase after and stab me.  Just kidding again, Philly.  I think there are a lot of neat places to run there, and many wonderful things to do and an excellent selection of restaurants and bars.  Go Eagles! Go Flyers!  Go Sixers!  

Disclaimer #2:  I should also credit John at "Daddy Runs a Lot" (see link on the right side of this site) who ran a Color Run recently and also one of my coworkers who is running a Color Run in Philly as his first race, for giving me the idea of this post. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


In my last post, I detailed some of the things I'm trying to do fix my shinsplints.  But, I also think it's time I accept the fact that I'm out of shape and I've got to address that as a bigger issue than just getting my shins and calves stronger.

Let's put it this way:

In November 2011, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon.  I weighed between 135 and 140. (I'm about 5'6.)

In  March 2011, I ran Shamrock Marathon.  I weighed between 135 and 140.  I was kind of blurry back then, too.

 March 2013:  I weigh 160 and I cannot even consistently run two miles.  

I have two extra chins that I didn't have back my glory days.

Yeah, it's a proof, alright.  Proof that I need to lose weight.

Granted, I probably wouldn't have gained this much weight if I hadn't gotten hurt, but I think now the extra poundage is probably one of the things keeping me from piling the mileage back on.

And since most of the time my shins are bothering me, I won't be able to run the weight off.  I'll have to hit the boring elliptical and exercise bike, sweat it off, and then hope that maybe being lighter takes some of the pressure off my shins.  I'm not a scientist, but I think there's reason to hope.

I have three cats.  Trust me, this is relevant.

This is the soft, cuddly Pooka.  He weighs about 16 pounds.

This is his cute, demented brother, Higgy.  Higgy only weighs about 8 pounds.  (Poor guy.)

This is Elizabeth the Kitten.  She also weighs about 8 pounds.  (She's much smaller-framed than Higgy and Pooka, so she looks like a cute little puffball at 8 pounds, while Higgy looks like a fluffy, huggable, skeleton.)

 Aren't they adorable?  Of course they are, but that's not the point.

The point is that that's a total of about 32 pounds of cat.  And I've gained approximately 30 pounds since November 2011.  Right now, it's as if I'm carrying around three adorable cats every time I go for a run.

That sounds like a stupid idea.  Who wants to run a marathon carrying three cats, no matter how cute they are?

Well, maybe this guy.

But I think it's time to put the cats down. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shinsplints are Stupid. I Don't Recommend Them.

I know I'm a wimp.  I was a wimp in elementary school, when even the younger kids beat me up, and I'm a wimp now.

One of my friends is running a marathon in a couple weeks with four big metal screws in her hip.  Granted, she loves running WAY more than I do.   (By which I mean, she actually likes the running part, whereas I like the finishing the race part and the celebrating afterward part)

Still, it sucks when after one mile it feels like your calves are going to burst, as they did on Tuesday, when I did the walk of shame back to my car, or when after my 3 prescription-strength anti-inflammatory assisted miles on Saturday I didn't have full range of motion in my left foot.

I'm trying to pull my left foot back like my right one.  
It won't go any farther than this. D'oh.

I'm trying, though.  

I realized after the fact that prescription-strength anti-inflammatories, indomethacin, to be specific, were probably the secret to my "success" in both the Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K and the Shamrock 8K.  I have the occasional flare-up of gout, and I take indomethacin to reduce the painful swelling in my big toe, but it also fights inflammation in general, even if gout's not the cause. (I also take colchicine, which treats the gout itself.)  I was having a minor gout flare-up on and off in the week between the two races, and so I realize that I took my gout meds before both of these races.  I'm still confused, though.  I was having good runs (well, except for the fact that I'm still not in good shape!) at the end of February without the aid of any drugs. I'm going to the orthopedist on April 2, but in the meantime I'll probably try to get a few runs in with the help of my meds.

I also put some new insoles in the Brooks Adrenaline.  Between the insoles and the indomethacin, I got 3 miles yesterday, considerable improvement over the 1 on Tuesday.  I'm also doing a ton of calf raises and trying to use weights to strengthen the muscles around my shin, too.   I've now lost 3 big races to shin & calf problems.  This needs to end.

                           If nothing else, the purple insoles make the Brooks Adrenaline much more stylish.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Race Report: 2013 TowneBank 8K

I probably won't look back at this race, the 2013 TowneBank 8K in Virginia Beach, as one of my best, but I'm thrilled with it nonetheless.  Last year, after taking January off to heal from my first bout of shinsplints, I annihilated this race, running a revenge-fueled 41:40.  But, last year, I was coming off a fall marathon and even during my month off I worked really hard to not lose my conditioning.

Then I stopped running in late September 2012 when my shins got too bad, felt sorry for myself and didn't do jack shit for a month and a half, and have been really inconsistent in my ability and will to run every since starting up again in December.  

In February, it seems like I'd turned a corner, and was I going to be able to run without pain again, but for most of March my shins and calves have just been awful.  I did make it through the Kelly St. Patrick's 5K in Baltimore the week before, but the next time I went out I wasn't even able to make it two miles before they flared up.

Basically, I didn't see any way that I was going to be able to run approximately 5 miles.  I was somehow in Corral 2, which I don't understand.  I moved to the back of the corral, which probably helped me pace myself as we set out southward.  "Nice and easy" was the word of the day.  I felt ok at the end of mile 1, and was surprised at how good I felt at mile 2, as we made the turn off of Atlantic Avenue onto the boardwalk.  

 The great thing about running on the boardwalk -- and the 8K course in general, really -- is that it's perfectly flat.  I continued to take it easy, and I kept feeling good at mile 3.  However, now how out of shape I am was starting to come into play and I was breathing heavily.  When I was still running at mile 4, though, I knew I would make it.  One. More. Mile.

Last year, I was very sentimental as I ran up the boardwalk past the Neptune statue.  I couldn't help but think of finishing the marathon two years prior.  This year, I was a combination of relieved -- I'd expected to have to walk the last two miles -- and pissed at myself.  Yes, I'm injured.  That's not my fault.  But it is my fault that I lost so much conditioning over the last six months.

I crossed the finish line in 52:00 even, and then watched for Chris.  When she crossed the line, we headed to the distinguishing feature of all the Shamrock races:  the kick-ass party tent.  

J&A racing does a GREAT job with these races, and making the whole weekend a fun experience.  Once again, I'm glad that I ran the 8K, because it allowed me to be a participant in the weekend even though I'd had to defer from the full or half.  

And the TowneBank 8K is especially fun:  It's totally flat, the t-shirt and medal are cool and the beer-per-mile ratio is the highest of any race I've ever run.  You get 4 beers at the finisher's tent (I only had 3...Chris had a half-marathon the next day, and I hadn't run 5 miles since September so brunch was sounded better than a fourth Yuengling).   You get the same four beers the next day for running the half or full marathons the following day.  Why would you run either one?

Seriously, let's do the math:

TowneBank 8K:  0.8 beers per mile

Anthem Half Marathon: 0.31 beers per mile

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon: 0.15 beers per mile

The numbers don't lie.  The 8K is BY FAR the most fun.

You also get a cookie!!  OMG!!!

You do not get a Chris.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

TowneBank 8k

Townebank Shamrock 8k: 52:00. Much slower than last year but I ran the whole thing. I can build on that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Down and Out (Again) in Manchester, PA

It seems like just a few weeks ago that things were looking up.  I had to overcome my own lack of motivation (and I did get out and run again the next day from the "Inertia" entry), but my shins were feeling a lot better.  In my previous blog entry, I described running, slower than usual, but still running, the Shamrock 5K in Baltimore.

Unfortunately, things are really not so good.  Two weekends ago, I went out for a run and had the full-on shinsplint/ankle-swelling/lack-of-motion problem that caused me to shut myself down in October.  I gave myself a few days of rest, and limped through two miles on Thursday before giving up due to calf soreness.  I was suprised, honestly, how well I held up in the 5K.

I tried again tonight, and got through only about a mile and a half.  The ankle and shin seem ok, but my calves were really in a lot of pain.  I felt like I would only do more damage if I pressed on, so I dejectedly walked back to my car as I passed by.  My goal had been four miles.  Part of me thinks that I quit too early -- but I don't think there was any way I was getting 4 miles or even three this evening.

Problem:  I'm signed up for an 8K on Saturday.  

I'm hoping that because it's flat as a board and because it's a reminder of my glory days, going past the same Neptune statue that I ran by to finish my first marathon (and one of just two that I've run), that I can drag my carcass through the 8K.  I know it's walker friendly if it comes to that and I know Chris won't let me DNF,'s just hard to accept that what seems like relatively minor, lingering injuries are setting me back for so long and that I'm going to bomb at a race that I kicked butt at last year.

So, here's the plan, as such:

1. Continue to try to strengthen the ankle and shin muscles, and work on core.  I'd been doing well at this, but we have not had our weekly personal training sessions the past few weeks due to schedule.  That could be a factor, but I have to do more on my own.

2. Lose some goddamn weight.  I was 20 pounds, at least, lighter when I ran my last marathon.  I have to:
 a. get to the gym more and not rely on running as my sole source of cardio.
 b. EAT LESS  -- No dessert for me until I can run 5 miles.  (I will allow myself dessert on Saturday night if I finish the 8K)

3. Cut back on the race schedule.  When I outlined my race schedule for the year, regular commenter Danny opined that I'd signed up for too many races.  So, revised:


  • 10 - Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K, Baltimore, MD. (Done)
  • 17- Townebank 8K, Virginia Beach, VA (Too late to do anything about this.)
  • 13 - Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5k. Pottsville, PA
  •  20 - Sole of the City 10K, Baltimore MD
May -- None.  

  • 1- Manheim Downtown Development Group: Rock-N-Glow 5K Race, Manheim, PA (Chris is running a half that morning.  I think I can hang at this one.  Plus, it's a crazy one that I can more easily write off as "just for fun".
  • 22 - Dreaded Druid Hills 10K, Baltimore, MD. This is 3 whole months away.  While a lot can happen in three months, this is a tough race and I'm glad I didn't sign up for this one yet.

By doing this, it gives me over two months to try get back in shape and decide if I want to tackle Dreaded Druid Hills or not. I'm not signed up for it, so at least I haven't wasted money if I end up skipping it. 

I should, in theory, be able to do some of the Movie Madness 5K in Manchester on April 6, and two now-missing 5Ks, HACC Dash and Armed Forces Day 5K in Harrisburg in May if things are going well -- they are all small races that won't fill up.  I had put a half marathon in June in Philadelphia as a possibility, but I don't think that's even worth considering.  
I probably would have been better off, and more motivated/less frustrated, if I'd just started completely over from "Couch-to-5K" back in January.  That still might be my best option, but it would probably rule out Sole of the City. 

In summary, I know there are a lot worse running injuries and a lot of people who are tougher and more dedicate than me out there.  But still, **** you, shins.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K

Every year, I say how much I dislike this race. And every year, I run it again.   Yesterday, as Chris and I were running down a very crowded Charles Street at the beginning of the race, I told her "I hate this race" and as I was coming back from the turnaround on Key Highway I was thinking, "Maybe next year I'll just skip the race and show up for the after-party."

Because it's really the after-party that keeps bringing me back to this one.  The race is what it is:  a big, crowded, chaotic, and vaguely Irish-themed race with beer at the end.  The positives are the incredible view of a sea of green-clad runners going downhill on Charles Street following the start and the pints of Guiness that I have at the James Joyce after the race.  In between is a hot, crowded, chaotic mess.

It's hot, because the 1:15pm start time leaves me running in temperatures 20+ degrees warmer than I'm used to and it's crowded and chaotic because there's 5,000 participants and no pace signs or corrals whatsoever.  There's a ton of people who take very sudden walk breaks in the middle of the road or run or walk it in a group 3 or 4 people wide, requiring me to cut and weave like Brian Westbrook. I admit, I'm probably being way too much of an overcompetitive asshole here.  Everyone else just has fun with this race; I should too.

Especially since I'm way too out of shape to be an overcompetitive asshole.  In 2012, my first crack at this race, I ran a 26:14 and was slightly disappointed in it. Oh, how jaded I was. In 2011, I was tapering for the Shamrock Marathon the following week and took it nice and easy on my way to a 30:15.  26:42 last year, which I was pretty happy with as I recovered.  This year, 31:24, my PW.  Even at the York Jingle Bell in December, when I needed a few walk breaks to make it around the hilly course, I finished in 31:10.

But, I survived.  I ran the whole thing.  I've just got to get my calf and shin problems straightened out or the Sole of the City 10K in April is going to be the death of me.