Blogging Hack

I have a Microsoft Office Key­board and Wire­less Explor­er Mouse on my home desktop(s). I love the extra func­tion­al­i­ty of these devices due to the forward/back brows­er but­tons (among oth­er but­tons). I’ve even bought a sec­ond Office key­board for my office desk­top because I found the copy/cut/paste and the appli­ca­tion switch but­tons to be so handy in data post-pro­cess­ing (I’ll spare you the gory details on that one…).

How­ev­er, one of the real­ly frus­trat­ing things about web-form blog­ging (as in my Word­Press blog you’re read­ing now) is that I occa­sion­al­ly hit the back but­ton on one of these devices by acci­dent. This sends me back to the pre­vi­ous admin page, of course, and com­plete­ly emp­ties the web form in which I was typ­ing my post. Hope­ful­ly, I’ve saved often, but usu­al­ly even los­ing a para­graph is very annoy­ing. Since I real­ly don’t want to give up my fan­cy-pants key­board and mouse, I’ve had to come up with a way to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing.

Essen­tial­ly, I open the Write Post link in a new Fire­Fox brows­er tab, which then does­n’t have any page his­to­ry of its own. I can then acci­den­tal­ly hit those back but­tons to my heart’s con­tent, know­ing that I won’t loose any­thing. You can accom­plish the same thing by mak­ing use of the Press It book­marklet fea­ture in Word­Press, which essen­tial­ly just opens up a Write dia­log in a new brows­er win­dow, but that’s not how I gen­er­al­ly work while blog­ging. The new tab seems to be the most straight­for­ward method for me.

Hope this helps some oth­er fat-fin­gered blog­ger.

Running The Marathon

My mind, in a mat­ter of sec­onds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

Last Sat­ur­day morn­ing was the 2005 Rich­mond Marathon, which was the first marathon for both Angela (my wife) and myself. We could­n’t have pos­si­bly asked for a bet­ter day to run a marathon, or for that mat­ter, bet­ter con­di­tions in which to have pre­pared for the marathon over the past six months. We’ve been mem­bers of the Sports­back­ers Marathon Train­ing Team, which is an out­stand­ing orga­ni­za­tion here in Rich­mond which has become one of the largest of its kind in the coun­try. I thought, since I’ve spent so much of the past six months post­ing updates on the blog, I’d write a final recap of the event, includ­ing what I was think­ing at the time and what I’ve learned in doing this.

Pre-Race

I had a good night’s sleep on Fri­day, save for the three times to get up to use the bath­room (I’ve nev­er been so well hydrat­ed in my life was already look­ing for­ward to dry­ing out). I’d been told I’d be lucky if I slept at all, but any ner­vous­ness I was feel­ing was­n’t real­ly keep­ing me up. I was forc­ing myself to only con­cen­trate in get­ting to the start line in order to pre­vent the over­whelm­ing thought of hav­ing to run for hours on end. I’d wor­ry about the imme­di­ate step and just wait for the next one to come.

Angela at the pre-race get together - courtesy of Angela Robinson

Angela bun­dled up in the cold as we take some pho­tographs of the train­ing team groups (pho­to cour­tesy of Angela Robin­son).

Angela and I left to meet with the train­ing group before hand for some large group pho­tos. She was able to locate her run­ning bud­dy but I kept los­ing her all morn­ing. The last time I saw her that morn­ing was as we were find­ing the UPS trucks serv­ing as bag checks to hand over every­thing we weren’t run­ning with. I tried hunt­ing around for my wife right up until the mass of run­ners began surg­ing for­ward as I want­ed to give her some last words of encour­age­ment. It turns out she did­n’t real­ly need it, but I had the next four-and-a-half hours to feel bad about it.

The First Half

The course rep­re­sents most every part of the city (save the East side) and is real­ly very great scenery. Since I had lost my usu­al run­ning part­ners (the ones who made the race, at least) while look­ing for Angela, I was on my own for most of the whole race. That was okay with me, since run­ning has always been my “me time.” I am usu­al­ly per­fect­ly con­tent to just enjoy the views along the way. I end­ed up see­ing a few famil­iar faces along the way, both run­ners and bystanders alike, which was good enough for me.

Mile 17 - Main Street (courtesy of Brightroom photography)

While run­ning in a tank-top and high-step­pers seemed like a good idea, it result­ed in an uncom­fort­able run (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

The tem­per­a­ture had warmed up so much in the sun­shine that I ditched my jack­et and gloves after only a mile or so, while still on Broad Street, just in front of the Sci­ence Muse­um. I had been wear­ing one of those throw-away Tyvek jack­ets and a pair of cheap cloth gloves which I would­n’t feel bad about not return­ing home with. My race dress con­sist­ed of just a team sin­glet and high-cut shorts for the entire race. Since these are essen­tial­ly what the elite run­ners wear, I felt good about wear­ing these. As it turns out, that was my biggest mis­take of the race. Look­ing back over my train­ing, I think that cor­rect­ing for that was quite obvi­ous. How­ev­er, I had con­vinced myself that if that’s what the fast, elite run­ners wore then it must be ben­e­fi­cial.

My body chem­istry is such that my sweat leaves behind an extra­or­di­nary amount of salt crys­tals. You remem­ber that steamy Heart Shaped World video for Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game; the one where they rolled around in the beach sand? Well, I look just like that, once you’ve removed all the sexy and cool. That being the case, I had brought along a small stick of Body Glide to help ward off the skin fric­tion. I stopped just past the half-way point, and even again at 18 miles, but to no good. Drag­ging a waxy stick across grit­ty, raw flesh just only makes the prob­lem worse. Also, run­ning and sweat­ing only makes the prob­lem worse, but that’s just what I had to do for anoth­er 13.1 miles. I fig­ure wear­ing a pair of tight, span­dex shorts and a t‑shirt would have pre­vent most, if not all, of these prob­lems. It was far too late to do any­thing about that now, though.


Running By The Crowds (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

The crowds cheer­ing for me and all the fin­ish­ers near the end of the race felt incred­i­bly great (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

A sim­ple lit­tle run­ning hack I learned from oth­er mem­bers of the train­ing group who had been through the pro­gram before is that many run­ners in the “rest” of the pack write their names across their rac­ing shirts. It is real­ly hard to describe just how great it feels to have strangers in the side­lines cheer­ing you on by name. There’s that small drip of adren­a­line that comes from hav­ing your named called out that lifts your chin up and makes you run tall. Run­ning through a large crowd with peo­ple stand­ing rows deep on each side can shave miles off of the run already behind you. Of every­thing that I did just before the race, tak­ing ten min­utes and a Sharpie had the high­est div­i­dend. I can’t imag­ine real­ly doing this on just a 10k, but I hon­est­ly don’t know how I’d fin­ish a marathon with­out doing it. It real­ly is that encour­ag­ing to have so many peo­ple out there cheer­ing you on in the cold and treat­ing you like the hero of the, if only for just a split sec­ond.

The Twenty

Angela runs along Riverside Drive (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela enjoys the views and the sun­shine along River­side Dri­ve, just before reach­ing mile nine (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

Some­where around mile 15 (I think), I saw one of the coach­es for the train­ing group who worked with Ange­la’s group (her name is also Angela). She rec­og­nized me and told me she had talked to Angela just a short while ago and that she was look­ing great. That was a great boost. Just think­ing about my wife’s smil­ing face when she’s around peo­ple always cheers me up. Of course, I’d soon find that think­ing about my wife too much was going to bring up too many emo­tions.


Lee Bridge - Mile 15

I stopped just before run­ning onto the Lee Bridge at about mile 15 to take a snap­shot of the run­ners spread out ahead of me.

I car­ried my cam­era-phone with me to take a few snap­shots of the race course along the way. I stopped at either end of the Lee Bridge and took some pho­tos. I did­n’t need the break too much at that point, but to see all those peo­ple run­ning across that bridge was kind of an awe­some sight. I don’t think my lit­tle cam­era quite cap­tured the moment, but then again, there’s a lot of things that are hard to even describe about the race. I did real­ize, though, that I was­n’t there as a jour­nal­ist but as a run­ner. Of course, there were oth­er peo­ple snap­ping pho­tos all along the way and I can under­stand why. This is a huge deal for most of us, and we want to remem­ber it and share it with oth­ers. One thing that amazed me was the fact that so many peo­ple were talk­ing on their cell phones dur­ing the race. While it’s easy to dis­miss this as cell phone addic­tion, I can appre­ci­ate the idea of hear­ing from some dis­tant fam­i­ly or friends to bring some encour­age­ment dur­ing the course. My broth­er, Dave, even tried call­ing me but I did­n’t hear the phone ring since it was buried down in my Camel­bak.

I had essen­tial­ly been walk­ing at every water stop along the course, just long enough to get down a cup of water and then run on. Stop­ping for a pot­ty break at mile ten had added some more time as well, but none of those had real­ly been because I need­ed a break from the run. After about mile 16, though, I began need­ing walk about a block dur­ing the water stops, which were about every two miles. I kept telling myself to just run a lit­tle bit fur­ther; just to the next water stop and then take a break. Then, I had to fall back to tak­ing a break every mile. This was becom­ing sort of a men­tal chal­lenge now, and I need­ed to pre­vent myself from hav­ing to take any more breaks than nec­es­sary.

The Last 10K

I had reached the 20 mile split at just under 3:30 min­utes, which was faster than I had run any of the three 20 mil­ers dur­ing train­ing. That was a great feel­ing that picked me up for just a bit. I had man­aged to main­tain a fair­ly even pace for the first 20 to keep on track for fin­ish­ing in my goal time of 4:30. How­ev­er, I still had 6.2 miles to fin­ish. While I had run fur­ther on my own, pri­or to this train­ing a 10k was the longest race I had ever run. I knew I was going to fin­ish, the only ques­tion was how many walk­ing breaks. I would need for between here and then end.

One of the things I real­ly had­n’t expect was the emo­tion com­po­nent of the run. A friend had told me how he irra­tional­ly sobbed for near­ly a mile while run­ning past the 22 mile mark on his sec­ond marathon. I imag­ine when a per­son­’s body starts reach­ing this lev­el of exhaus­tion, it can be expect­ed that their nerves start to become a lit­tle raw. It effects every­one dif­fer­ent­ly, some peo­ple not all, I’m sure. I found myself suf­fer­ing from a next-day soup of emo­tions any time I though about Angela. From hav­ing a over­whelm­ing sense of pride in what she was doing, con­cern for her since she’d had some prob­lems with shins and cramps ear­li­er, as well as regret for not see­ing her imme­di­ate­ly before the start; it was all start­ing to wear on me. I was hav­ing to force myself to con­cen­trate on oth­er things, name­ly the task at hand, and not on her. How­ev­er, mak­ing one force their wife out of their mind can be equal­ly emo­tion­al­ly trou­bling. So much so, in fact, that my eyes began welling up sev­er­al times uncon­trol­lably. I did my best to refo­cus and in fact, run­ning by sev­er­al crowds helped to take my mind off of it long enough to calm down.

Oth­er than the emo­tion­al trou­bles, there was also the fact that the flesh on my legs and and under my right arm was look­ing increas­ing­ly like raw meat. The cold, wet hand tow­els being passed out at mile 23 were like a sog­gy piece of heav­en. I was able to clean off the Mar­gari­ta rim like salt crust off of my fore­head as well as try and wipe off the salt crys­tals in some of the more dam­aged areas caus­ing trou­ble. Then, I ran out of sports drink in my Camel­bak just before mile 24. Not too much of a prob­lem, in real­i­ty, but there’s noth­ing like suck­ing on an emp­ty water hose to fill you full of that “you’re done for now” feel­ing. I was drink­ing two cups of red sports drink at the mile 24 water stop to reas­sure myself when one of my coach friends from the train­ing team came run­ning up beside me. He asked if I was doing some sort of run/walk thing, which was no doubt a sin­cere ques­tion and he was sim­ply check­ing in with me. My raw nerves took this as a accu­sa­tion (of what, I don’t know) and I answered that yes I was walk­ing the water stops to give my body some short breaks. How­ev­er, it jolt­ed me into the real­iza­tion that with just over two miles to go, now was not the time to be walk­ing. He also asked if I had had any mus­cle prob­lems dur­ing the run. I had been extreme­ly for­tu­nate in the fact that I had not had any sort of mus­cle cramps for over four hours, but I was begin­ning to notice some in my calves. I took one last moment away from run­ning on the Belvedere bridge over I‑95 to stretch both legs and then ran the remain­der of the race.

Crossing the finish line (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Cross­ing the fin­ish line in just under 4:40. My final chip time was 4:36, just a few min­utes more than my goal (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

The last half-mile of the race (maybe more, actu­al­ly) is all down­hill into a fun­nel of cheer­ing fans and blar­ing com­men­ta­tors. Hear­ing those peo­ple shout­ing and then the announc­er call my name and num­ber as I came up to the fin­ish line was like hav­ing blind­ers tak­en off. Had I real­ly just done all that? My mind, in a mat­ter of sec­onds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

After The Race

Finish Line - Mile 26.2

Run­ner’s receive medals and are cov­ered in foil blan­kets after cross­ing the fin­ish line. They’re also hand­ed a bot­tle of water and have their tim­ing chips removed from their shoes before head­ing out of the cor­ral.

Upon cross­ing the fin­ish line, you’re giv­en a foil blan­ket, a bot­tle of water, and a fin­ish­er’s medal. The medal is the sort of thing that nor­mal­ly would feel some­what cheesy to me. I did­n’t exact­ly come in for bronze, let alone first place. How­ev­er, hav­ing some 20 year old kid put that chintzy piece of steel around my neck felt spe­cial. If a per­son can actu­al­ly have a huge smile at the same time they’re cring­ing in pain, then that’s exact­ly what I was doing. The achieve­ment pales in com­par­i­son to what so many peo­ple ran that day, includ­ing a win­ner with a new course record. How­ev­er, the achieve­ment was mine. I just need­ed one last reminder of that.

Just as I was leav­ing the chip removal cor­ral, I saw the own­er of one of the local run­ning stores. This guy has treat­ed my wife and I like crap every time we’ve gone in his shop (and most friends tell sim­i­lar sto­ries). I felt like telling him “You know, I just ran a f^@*ing 26.2 mile race, so next time I come in, why don’t you at least treat me like a cus­tomer, huh?” But why? I did­n’t run it for him, or any­one one else. I did this to prove to myself I could do it. I had to know, and now I did know. I was capa­ble of going fur­ther than I had ever before. I just walked on past him. He will prob­a­bly nev­er con­sid­er a guy like me an ath­lete. How­ev­er, I don’t have shop at his place and frankly, I don’t con­sid­er myself an ath­lete, either. I’m just a guy who enjoys run­ning and just learned his lim­its are way beyond where he ever thought they were.

I walked down to the UPS trucks which had held onto my bag for the past few hours. I found a small side­walk edge near an alley to sit down and put on some pants and a long sleeve t‑shirt. I put all my things away, but kept out the medal and my race num­ber. I want­ed peo­ple around to know that I belonged. More than that, I real­ly want­ed to enter the run­ner’s food tent for some­thing sol­id and not sug­ary. Luck­i­ly, they had piz­za and bagels. I sat down for a while eat­ing my slice of piz­za and drink­ing some more sports drink. After all the sug­ar I’d had all day, I real­ly did­n’t want any­more, but at least this was a dif­fer­ent fla­vor. I found myself obsess­ing about brush­ing my teeth.

Angela smiling as she approaches the finish line! (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela is just beam­ing smiles as she runs towards the fin­ish line. You did it, baby! (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy)

After a while, I got up to walk back uphill to the fin­ish line. There was no way I was going to miss Angela com­ing across that gate. I cheered for the run­ners who were still flow­ing down the hill. They had all been out strug­gling just as much as I had with the same course and and been endur­ing it for even longer. They deserved to have peo­ple cheer­ing for them, too. After a while, I saw Angela run­ning down the hill. Her coach had said she looked great, and she did. She looked so cool and col­lect­ed; as if she’d just been out for a casu­al jog and not the six hour ordeal she’d just been through. Her run­ning pal, Heather, was run­ning along the far side line cheer­ing her on and we both met Angela down out­side the cor­ral.

After hav­ing some time to col­lect myself ear­li­er, I was much more sta­ble emo­tion­al­ly than I had expect­ed to be. Angela checked back in with the train­ing team tent and found some food to eat. We walked back to the fin­ish line to cheer on some of the last run­ners and then head­ed home. We’d both suc­cess­ful­ly run the race and had one anoth­er togeth­er again to con­grat­u­late our­selves. It was a long jour­ney, which real­ly last­ed six months, not just six hours. The feel­ing of know­ing a lit­tle more about what we car­ry inside of us is going to last a lot longer.