Berry Smoothie

I real­ly dis­like bananas.

I’m not brag­ging or any­thing; just stat­ing a fact. I tru­ly dis­like bananas. I always have. I know they’re very good for me and I wish I could eat one. I hon­est­ly don’t think I have ever man­aged to eat an entire banana by itself (that is, not in some oth­er food).

The 2006 Rich­mond Marathon was the third (and last) marathon I ran. It was excep­tion­al­ly hot that day, with temps around 80° in Novem­ber. The last 10k was real­ly rough on me and I knew I was in des­per­ate need of some nutri­tion after the race. I sat down on a curb in Shock­oe Bot­tom with a banana and a bagel, think­ing that the banana was exact­ly what I need­ed. I man­aged to get about half way through it, forc­ing every bite.

Then it occurred to me: I’d rather risk seri­ous injury or death rather than eat an entire banana.

Like I said, I real­ly dis­like bananas. Always have.

Berry Smoothie

None of this changes the fact that bananas are excel­lent to eat after stren­u­ous work­outs or runs. I still know this and I’m quite pleased that I final­ly found an easy recipe that I enjoy to have after work­ing out. It does have quite a lot of sug­ar, but you can sub­sti­tute water/ice for the juice to reduce that by about half.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Apple Juice (sub­sti­tute with same of ice water or ice or oth­er juice to taste)
  • Medi­um Banana, frozen
  • 1 cup Mixed Berries, frozen
  • 1/2 cup Vanil­la Yogurt

Steps

  1. Pour the juice, berries, and yogurt in your blender cup.
  2. Use a but­ter knife to slice the skin off a cou­ple of sides of the frozen banana. It comes off very eas­i­ly, even when frozen & you can just cut off slices into the blender while hold­ing the two remain­ing sides.
  3. Pulse the blender 5–6 times to chop up the frozen bits.
  4. Blend on high for 40 sec­onds.

Serves 2 (who am I kid­ding, I drink the whole thing. So should you).

The best part: The frozen banana is almost unde­tectable in terms of fla­vor, smell, and tex­ture. I mean if you get nose right down into the cup, you’ll detect banana; but that’s what straws are for. For peo­ple who real­ly hate bananas.

Defensive Running

Today I joined peo­ple from all over the world in going out for a run in ded­i­ca­tion to Meg Men­zies, the woman in Hanover Coun­ty, VA who was tradg­i­cal­ly struck and killed by a drunk dri­ver on Mon­day while out for a morn­ing run with her hus­band. My heart­felt sym­phathies to her hus­band, three chil­dren, her fam­i­ly, and all her friends.

As I went out on my run, I start­ed think­ing about some of the ways run­ners can try be more defen­sive in avoid­ing traf­fic inci­dents. Some­times, cau­tion is just not enough. By all accounts, Men­zies was an expe­ri­enced run­ner and doing every­thing ‘right’ in order to try to min­i­mize her chances of being in an acci­dent. Cer­tain­ly, encour­ang­ing every­one to have the decen­cy to not dri­ve while intox­i­cat­ed and to not text while dri­ving helps us all. But there are some defen­sive steps run­ners can take to be safer. Most of these are pret­ty obvi­ous, but if you’re new to run­ning or have just always done your own thing (as I did for years), then maybe you might get some­thing out of these.

  • When pos­si­ble, keep to the side­walks. I know a lot of run­ners who com­plain that con­crete gives them worse pain (often shin splints) than run­ning on more flex­i­ble asphalt. How­ev­er, I strong­ly believe that dis­com­fort from run­ning on con­crete can be large­ly off­set by prop­er­ly fit shoes and adopt­ing good form run­ning tech­niques.

    If you must run on the road, be sure to keep aware of the traf­fic. Sounds sim­ple, but it’s easy to get lost in a song or a con­ver­sa­tion and not hear a car until it’s too late.

    Inci­den­tal­ly, dur­ing my run ear­li­er today, I had to go off the side­walk an onto the road (in the direc­tion of traf­fic, even) as there was a small flock of turkey vul­tures devour­ing a opos­sum in my way and I deemed it best to not try to hur­dle them. How­ev­er, after about 50 yards and as I heard a car approach­ing from behind, I jumped back in the grass.

  • I’ve been part of run­ning clubs in the past, but the large major­i­ty of my runs are alone. How­ev­er, run­ning in groups has its own kind of safe­ty. The more ears and eyes, the more like­ly to notice a car.

    Just try to avoid run­ning down a road two- or three- (or, in the case of Grove Avenue in Rich­mond, VA, up to four-) abreast. Leav­ing a run­ner out in the mid­dle of a lane leaves them —as well as a vehi­cle— no where to go.

  • As I run by myself a lot and as I’ve start­ed run­ning with a smart­phone, I tend to lis­ten to music or audio­books while on a run. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to not lis­ten to music too loud­ly or use head­phones that restrict your abil­i­ty to hear your envi­ron­ment. Con­sid­er lis­ten­ing to audio­books or pod­casts instead of loud music, as these tend to present less of a wall of sound and you can often make out sounds around you much eas­i­er.

  • Con­sid­er get­ting a Roa­d­ID or at least keep­ing your dri­ver’s license with you while you run. In the event of an acci­dent, you want peo­ple to know who you are and who to con­tact some­one on your behalf if nec­es­sary.

    I men­tioned run­ning with my smart­phone, on which I use a GPS app to track my runs. How­ev­er, that GPS can also be used to help locate me and make sure I’m safe. My wife can user our shared iTunes account and a Find My iPhone app to make sure I’m still up & mov­ing at any time. In oth­er words, it’s like I’m LoJacked on my runs (and that’s a good thing).

  • Be aware of your own self, as well. As you run, you get tired and/or get into the zone. Both can tend to put blind­ers on you, restrict­ing your aware­ness to the path imme­di­ate­ly ahead of you. This is also where hav­ing oth­ers can be of help, but it’s still impor­tant to acknowl­edge that just because you’re deep into the zen of your run, the world around you has­n’t real­ly stopped.

  • Last­ly, but sure most impor­tant­ly, please obey all laws and reg­u­la­tions regard­ing traf­fic and pedes­tri­ans. As frus­trat­ing as wait­ing on a light to change can be, traf­fic laws are there to keep you safe. Let’s face it, run­ning out in a urban area isn’t the best place to set a PR. Save that for a race, where the course is closed to traf­fic and you can real­ly focus on your run and only your run.

    If it helps you, a lot of cur­rent run­ning apps have an auto pause fea­ture which paus­es record­ing if you stand (rel­a­tive­ly) still for more than 30 sec­onds or so. I use this fea­ture on the Nike Plus app on my iPhone and it alle­vi­ates that sense of urgency I might oth­er­wise feel to dash out in between cars at a red light.

If you want to read even more about stay­ing safe while run­ning, Run­ner’s World has a great long-form arti­cle titled Col­li­sion Course.

And, please, whether your out for a run, on your bike, or behind the wheel, please be safe and aware.

My FitBit and Me

In ear­ly Jan­u­ary, Angela and I got match­ing his-and-hers Fit­Bit One’s to start track­ing our activ­i­ty. Ange­la’s actu­al­ly been wear­ing a pedome­ter for years now. But the Fit­Bit does a lot more data track­ing than a sim­ple pedome­ter. I’ve been wear­ing it every­day since then.

There a few tech­nolo­gies I’ve adopt­ed that I would con­sid­er life-chang­ing. Maybe not the sort that change the entire course of my life, but cer­tain­ly that have had a dra­mat­ic impact on my day-to-day behav­ior. DVR (TiVo), smart­phone (iPhone), and a per­son­al activ­i­ty track­er (Fit­Bit). As a pro­fes­sion­al, I’ve always been at a desk for a lot of my time. But when I prac­ticed engi­neer­ing, I was often going on site vis­its and mov­ing around through­out the day. Now that I’ve been work­ing remote­ly for a soft­ware com­pa­ny, that’s not the case. My activ­i­ty lev­el can vary dra­mat­i­cal­ly from day-to-day. I had no idea just how much until I start­ed wear­ing the Fit­Bit.

Pocket Location

I keep my Fit­Bit one clipped to the watch pock­et in my Jeans.

One day I’d break 10,000 steps short­ly before lunch (if I went run­ning, typ­i­cal­ly). On anoth­er day, I might be lucky to approach 2,000 steps. What’s more, is my eat­ing var­ied just as much. And my activ­i­ty (i.e., caloric expense) had absolute­ly no cor­re­la­tion with my eat­ing (i.e., caloric intake). So my body would one day get twice as many calo­ries as it real­ly need­ed and anoth­er not enough. I was essen­tial­ly train­ing my cave­man-era/lizard-brained body to hold on to every scrap of calo­ries it got because who knew what tomor­row would bring.

Daily Achievement Unlocked!

Meet­ing your dai­ly goals comes with bonus endor­phins!

Wear­ing the Fit­Bit and care­ful­ly track­ing my calo­ries eat­en has help to change that behav­ior. I now track my calo­rie intake using LoseIt1. Hav­ing a num­ber of activ­i­ty goals —steps, active min­utes, stairs, and miles— all of which gam­i­fy my phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. Of course, I don’t meet the tar­gets all (most?) of the time, but just hav­ing the goals points me in the right direc­tion rather than stum­bling around in the dark.

Of course, just track­ing the data is one thing. It would be all too easy to just pile it all togeth­er in some use­less place. Fit­Bit’s web site and iPhone app are real­ly excep­tion­al. In fact, I sort of use my Fit­Bit as just a recorder (and occa­sion­al time­piece) and rarely take it out of my pock­et. I sim­ply use the iPhone app. On an iPhone 4S or new­er, the smart­phone syncs direct­ly to the Fit­Bit via Blue­tooth 4.

Power Walker

I must have got­ten lost that day.

I also use the Fit­Bit to track my sleep, although that’s more to make sure I’m get­ting enough rather than judg­ing the qual­i­ty of it. Appar­ent­ly, I’m gen­er­al­ly 98% effi­cient at sleep­ing, what­ev­er that means. The vel­cro wrist strap is a pain and tends to come off my arm. I’m on my sec­ond wrist strap, as well as sec­ond sil­i­cone clip. As a result, I’m con­sid­er­ing upgrad­ing to a Force next year. The One has been great so far.

  1. LoseIt has a great iPhone app and syncs both ways with a Fit­Bit account. []

Mommys Representing in NY

I real­ly enjoyed this bit from the cov­er­age of yes­ter­day’s NY City Marathon, where Brit Paula Rad­cliffe won the wom­en’s race:

…there was some­thing sem­i­nal about the way Gary Lough emerged from the crowd at the fin­ish line at the New York Marathon yes­ter­day in order to hand his 10-month-old daugh­ter, Isla, to her moth­er, Paula Rad­cliffe, moments after she won the New York City Marathon. And that is because Isla is among the first gen­er­a­tion of daugh­ters who will grow up watch­ing their moth­ers com­pete as pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes.

Things like this make me very glad our daugh­ter gets to grow up in this time.

PA Is For Pennsylvania and Pain

In this post, Jason and Angela spend Moth­er’s day in Penn­syl­va­nia with friends and Jason con­firms yet again that he can snooze in adverse con­di­tions.

Oxford, PA

We spent more time hang­ing out and not so much time tak­ing pho­tos this week­end. How­ev­er, I did like this clock I noticed in a small town on the dri­ve through rur­al PA.

Angela and I drove up to PA over the week­end to vis­it our friends Sal­ly, Chris, and Mason, whom we had­n’t seen since the last time they came to vis­it Rich­mond. Our only oth­er trip up to see them was spent sight-see­ing around Philadel­phia, so this was a much more relaxed vis­it. By relaxed, I mean that we ran a 5k footrace on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. Rather than just any old 5k, this was a one-time event being held on a yet-to-be-opened-to-traf­fic new bridge on the Penn­syl­va­nia Turn­pike. Even bet­ter, this par­tic­u­lar bridge was designed by the com­pa­ny Chris works for, Figg Engi­neer­ing Group (of the Natchez Trace Park­way Arch Bridge, among many oth­er high-pro­file bridges). The new Susque­han­na Riv­er Bridge isn’t exact­ly Fig­g’s most spec­tac­u­lar design (this is the com­pa­ny whose mot­to is “Bridges as Art,” mind you) but it is still a large and attrac­tive struc­ture and the view for the entire race was great. Okay, it was a pret­ty sun­ny day on large riv­er so even if the view was of Three Mile Island, you could still do a lot worse.

We cel­e­brat­ed moth­er’s day by all going out to a nice Ital­ian lunch yes­ter­day. Ange­la’s 3/5 of the way to being a mom, so we fig­ured this was her first un-offi­cial hol­i­day for which she could cel­e­brate.

For the past cou­ple of months, I’ve had a pain devel­op­ing in my right ham­string. Angela and I fig­ured it was due to some unevent­ful run­ning injury but stretch­ing and yoga did­n’t real­ly seem to be doing a lot for it. I final­ly got around to see­ing a sports med­i­cine doc­tor this morn­ing and as it turns out, it may have noth­ing to do with my leg at all. I may have some sort of spinal disc issue which is sim­ply send­ing incor­rect sig­nals of leg pain up to my brain (stu­pid ner­vous sys­tem). Any­way, I had a cou­ple of x‑ray images made this morn­ing of my low­er spine which did­n’t real­ly answer much. How­ev­er, the doc­tor did point out that I have an odd sixth bone/lower ver­te­bra at the base of my spine, at my sacrum (I’m haz­ard­ing a guess that you only have five lum­bar ver­te­brae). This appar­ent­ly is not a health con­cern, just a real­ly odd thing.

MRI Sheets

This is prob­a­bly going to take a while for the doc­tor to go through. My spine feels very well doc­u­ment­ed now.

Any­way, since the x‑rays did­n’t explain much regard­ing the soft disc tis­sue, I went for an MRI this after­noon. MRI’s take longer than an x‑ray (a lot longer, as in about 30 min­utes), if you did­n’t know. Of course, this results in about 100 images as opposed to just a cou­ple. Frankly, I could see how some­one who was claus­tro­pho­bic might get very upset at being in a sim­i­lar machine. Frankly, I did­n’t mind all that much being wrapped tight­ly in left­over parts form an jet-lin­er’s inte­ri­or for that long. It’s loud and cramped, but I end­ed up falling asleep for almost the whole thing.

I sus­pect that will remain the most expen­sive nap of my life for a long time to come.

I feel just fine oth­er than some mild pain in my leg. It’s not like I broke my wrist or have debil­i­tat­ing migraines. I came home this after­noon and mowed the lawn as well as ran a cou­ple of miles on the tread­mill (the doc­tor did ask me to lim­it run­ning to soft­er sur­faces for now). This is all just so he can get down to the bot­tom of where pain is com­ing from and then rec­om­mend what to do about it.

A Nice Spring Weekend

Angela and I had a relax­ing few days (most­ly) at home over the past week­end.

We spent most of the week­end at home, although Fri­day night we went to pick up our race num­bers for the fol­low­ing morn­ing’s 10k as well as hit the gro­cery store for the first time in weeks. We cleaned up the kitchen that evening as friends were com­ing over the next day.

I guess most peo­ple don’t con­sid­er run­ning 6.2 miles ear­ly on Sat­ur­day morn­ing relax­ing, but it real­ly did feel that way. This week­end was the Mon­u­ment Ave 10k, Rich­mond’s largest race, with about 25,000 entrants. Run­ning the big races in Rich­mond is a lot of fun, as I’ve said many times before, because of all the crowds that come out. Sat­ur­day, with near­ly per­fect run­ning weath­er, was no excep­tion. Angela and I rode with our neigh­bor, Teri, down to the race, along with friends Meredi­z­zle and Jess (who I dubbed “wing-nut” this week­end for no real­ly good rea­son). We were run­ning a lit­tle late, which end­ed up work­ing out just per­fect­ly. After rush­ing to get my bag checked in, I made it to the start line just about a minute before my coral start­ed. I had a good race. Even though I was about five min­utes over my best 10k time, I felt great after cross­ing the fin­ish line. Prob­a­bly a sign I could have pushed hard­er but also a sign I’m not that bad out of shape, either.

That after­noon, a bunch of friends came over for lunch off the grill (ham­burg­ers, most­ly) as well as play­ing the Wii. We sat around talk­ing and get­ting to know one anoth­er for quite a while (we have a num­ber of friends who don’t yet know our oth­er friends, like most every­one does). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this meant that not every­one got to play the Wii as much as we would have liked. Also, it meant that I did­n’t get embar­rass­ing pho­tos of peo­ple play­ing Wario Ware.

Sun­day after­noon, we went to a baby show­er for one of Ange­la’s co-work­ers held at yet anoth­er of her co-work­er’s home. I have to say, if more baby show­ers were like this, I bet folks would­n’t dread them so much, espe­cial­ly males. There was a keg of local micro-brew, great music, and good food. I had met the cou­ple before and enjoyed get­ting to talk to them (well, actu­al­ly, most­ly him) more. The host, his girl­friend, and the rest of the guests (again, a lot of Ange­la’s new co-work­ers) were all lots of fun to talk with, as well. We love the peo­ple at Ange­la’s old job and miss them. How­ev­er, it was great to know she’s again work­ing with a bunch of nice folks who are fun to spend time with.

Inci­den­tal­ly, hav­ing co-ed baby show­ers is prob­a­bly much more com­mon now. Not that dads-to-be did­n’t have any inter­est in their chil­dren before, it’s just that now we don’t feel this need to hide it1. Read­ing some great sites online writ­ten by dads as well as talk­ing with oth­er cur­rent and soon-to-be dads has real­ly done a lot for me, both in encour­age­ment and in excite­ment. Any­way, Angela and I have agreed that hav­ing a dads-are-wel­come baby show­er is real­ly the way to go. Of course, there was at least one mom­my at the baby show­er who seemed to be upset.

“Why is he open­ing the presents?”

Well, maybe because he has an inter­est in his daugh­ter, too, just like she does.

  1. I’ll write more about it after I’m done with Preg­nan­cy Sucks – For Men, but the book I’m read­ing right now kind of falls into this. It was the only preg­nan­cy book for men I could find and it plays up the whole dads-are-too-man­ly-to-care-about-preg­nan­cy thing. I’m not just try­ing to do stuff because that gets my nag­ging wife off my back. She’s not nag­ging, actu­al­ly, and I gen­uine­ly am excit­ed about being a dad. []

Moving Pictures

I’m going to a post-marathon par­ty at some friends’ house tonight so we can all cel­e­brate not dying last Sat­ur­day morn­ing. Angela took some great pho­tos of them, so I’ll Flickr ’em1 and have Tar­get print them for me. At ¢20 for a 4“x6” 2, com­bined with the fact that Tar­get is only about 3/4″ of a mile from our house, it real­ly beats try­ing to print them our­selves. For com­par­i­son, 4“x6” pho­to paper goes for about ¢9 – ¢21 per sheet at Sta­ples (which is, inci­den­tal­ly, just about six blocks from our house). Essen­tial­ly, we use Web 2.0 to out­source our print­ing. How cool is it that we can do that?

Any­way, here’s a cou­ple of non-Angela shots from last Sat­ur­day. Just about every race with over a few hun­dred peo­ple (and some even that small) have pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers at them now who hope to sell you a pho­to of you run­ning. I’ve bought a few, but they tend to be very expen­sive. That, plus, who does­n’t look like total crap when run­ning that far? Oh yeah.

Somewhere In NorthsideSprinting Down The Hill

  1. How­ev­er, don’t both­er going to look for them. I usu­al­ly just send those to a pri­vate set and delete them lat­er. []
  2. It’s actu­al­ly just ¢15 each if you have them mailed to you, but I don’t know how much ship­ping is. []

Going For The Duece

If you don’t have the time or desire to read a fair­ly long post from me, let me give you the short & sweet: don’t try and run two marathons in two weeks time. More impor­tant­ly, the next time you hear me talk­ing about doing some­thing like that, slap me and then make me read this first para­graph.

Okay, on to the rest of this entry…

So, I felt that I was able to recov­er from the MCM fair­ly quick­ly. I had a sports mas­sage the day after­wards and with­in just three days of run­ning, vir­tu­al­ly all the sore­ness was gone. A week ago (Sun­day evening), I went out and ran a fast five-mil­er and my legs felt good (oth­er than chaf­ing from the cold wind, but that’s easy to cor­rect for). That evening, I made the deci­sion to go ahead and run Rich­mond this year. Thurs­day evening, Angela and I went down to the James Cen­ter to pick up my race pack­et and our t‑shirts1. I also got my Sports­back­ers Train­ing Team race sin­glet, which although I’d have pre­ferred a t‑shirt to pre­vent some of that nasty chaf­ing I had dur­ing last year’s marathon, I fig­ured I’d just put it over a thin t‑shirt. The next day I picked up an iPod arm-band and sport head­phones, both for cheap, so I could have that dur­ing the race if I felt like I need­ed some extra boost. I ate well and got to bed ear­ly that night, although I’d been a space-case at work all day and was glad just to be able to get ally things in order for the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

Angela dropped me off near the James Cen­ter (where the race fin­ish­es) so I could make it to get in the group pho­to for my team. I found a few friend­ly faces I had­n’t seen in over a month (since my train­ing sched­ule had to be altered for an ear­li­er race). I head­ed up to the start area and got my bag all checked in. That morn­ing was great weath­er for a race, but we all knew it was going to get a lot warmer (the pre­vi­ous year we had to start in jack­ets and wear­ing gloves). I saw some more famil­iar faces in between the 4:00 and 4:30 pace2 groups that I decid­ed to begin in and hav­ing some peo­ple to talk to always makes the race go by faster.

The Richmond Marathon Course

The course of the Rich­mond Marathon as record­ed on my wrist­watch GPS unit.

Before long, we were all head­ing across the start line and down Broad Street. The first few miles of a race like this are so filled with antic­i­pa­tion and adren­a­line that they go by very quick­ly. I remem­ber look­ing at my Garmin every few sec­onds to force myself to a 10:00/mile pace. After a few miles, my pace becomes steady enough I don’t have to check so often, but in the excite­ment at the begin­ning, it’s too easy to run fast and burn out too ear­ly (not that it was going to make a lot of dif­fer­ence today). At around mile four, I came up on Angela who was tak­ing pho­tos with the D50 and cheer­ing every­one on. I felt real­ly good at that point and was so glad to see her. She was wav­ing her “Go Jason” sign and rat­tling a noise mak­er, both of which she’d got­ten at the expo. I stopped for just a few sec­onds to dis­cuss where she’d be next on the course (Main and Boule­vard). I head­ed on down the street, pass­ing our friend Karen (who was act­ing as a course mar­shal). Karen’s the one who con­vinced Angela and me to sign up a cou­ple of years ago for the train­ing team, so it was good to see here out there as well. The train­ing team coach­es, many of whom had been act­ing as pac­ers for us, dropped off at mile five. That’s right about where my right foot start­ed hav­ing some pain, just under my shoe laces. It’d hap­pened at the MCM, just three miles lat­er into that race. I decid­ed I’d take some ibupro­fen after the mile six water stop to deal with it, hop­ing my first ener­gy gel would help to off­set any nau­sea asso­ci­at­ed with ibupro­fen on an emp­ty stom­ach.

Down­hill on Riv­er Road to the first ‘par­ty stop’ at the Star­bucks and the first real­ly large crowd since the start­ing line. It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing for your neigh­bors to come out and cheer for you like some sort of rock star. While the crowds seemed a lit­tle thin­ner than last year, I appre­ci­at­ed all the peo­ple call­ing my name out. A lit­tle lat­er in the race, one fel­low run­ner asked me if I was the may­or or some­thing because so many peo­ple kept shout­ing my name. I just point­ed out that it was writ­ten in large let­ters across my (bright­ly col­ored) shirt. I caught up with some fel­low team mates on River­side Dri­ve and kept up with them for quite a ways, until I stopped to stretch out my calf mus­cles on For­rest Hill Road. I was hop­ing to avoid the nasty mus­cle cramps I had got­ten at the very end of last year’s marathon and that had plagued me dur­ing the last 10k of the MCM. Around the 14 mile mark, on Semmes Boule­vard is where I (and appar­ent­ly many oth­ers) began to feel the day get­ting warmer. I had put on my head­phones at this point and could even notice the heat around my ears. I had made the deci­sion before the race to up my intake of ener­gy gels to one every 30 min­utes, but by the begin­ning of the Lee Bridge, just past mile 15, I could bare­ly even get half of one down. Hav­ing the pain killers along with extra dos­es of ener­gy gel (which is like cake frost­ing with the con­sis­ten­cy of hon­ey, if you’ve nev­er had one) was begin­ning to make my stom­ach turn and the heat only made it worse. There’s almost no shade for near­ly two miles while head­ing back north to Main Street, and that’s when I began to feel the sense of exhaus­tion that would beat me down for the next two-and-a-half hours.

Cruising Around The Corner

The smile’s not fake, but the look of run­ning hard sure is. Glad to be able to ditch that t‑shirt with Angela, I tried to recov­er from fatigue at mile 18, but it was short lived.

I was hav­ing to stop and walk a block or so at every mile at 17, and Angela bust­ed me in a cou­ple of pho­tos com­ing around on to the Boule­vard. I was able to jog a few steps to fake it, but it was more of a joke on me than any­thing else. I was look­ing beat and I felt it. How­ev­er, after run­ning that far, you sure can’t just give up just because you see a pret­ty face cheer­ing just for you. I stopped and stripped my t‑shirt, stretched, and got a pep talk from Angela. We cheered some fel­low run­ners togeth­er before I got back on the road up the Boule­vard. I luck­i­ly grabbed a hand­ful of pret­zels from a guy on the side­lines a cou­ple of blocks away and shoved them in my pock­et. After all the sweet stuff all morn­ing long, some salty pret­zels were a per­fect source of ener­gy. I trudged on for a cou­ple of more miles, final­ly catch­ing up with one of the fel­low team­mates I’d ran with for three miles ear­li­er that morn­ing.

“I had a plan.” Ruben quipped, “But that got dashed today. So I’m just going to walk for a bit here and there. I’ll still get my same medal.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just walk some with you.”

…and that’s just what Ruben and I, along with some oth­er train­ing team mem­bers we caught up to along the way, did for the last 10k of the race. Many of the team coach­es were there along the last cou­ple of miles, run­ning along side peo­ple and cheer­ing them on (and cheer­ing them up, in many run­ners cas­es). As tired and lousy as I felt, the last half mile in Rich­mond is real­ly awe­some. You can see the fin­ish line from quite a ways back and it is down Cary Street, which for those who don’t know, is quite a steep hill. I did my best to pick up some speed and fin­ish as best as I could muster (hav­ing long since blown away my hopes of fin­ish­ing under 4:30).

My final time was 4:52:16.

Heading For The Finish Line

Head­ing to the fin­ish line, and home.

I could bare­ly even keep stand­ing after cross­ing the fin­ish line. I found some­one to remove my tim­ing chip, hop­ing I would­n’t ruin their day by vom­it­ing on them. The vol­un­teers at these events are like­ly to be bliss­ful­ly unaware just how quick­ly they could regret their deci­sion to help out. I got my medal placed around my neck and, while very proud of what I had just done, it real­ly hit me all of a sud­den just how dif­fer­ent I felt from the pre­vi­ous two marathons. Rather, how I did­n’t real­ly feel near­ly as much. The first race was filled with a sense of pride of accom­plish­ment that I had real­ly ful­filled a life goal. The sec­ond was a sense of awe and respect for my sur­round­ings, fel­low run­ners, and the Marines putting on the whole affair. I sim­ply did­n’t have the emo­tion­al invest­ment in this race as much as I had pre­vi­ous ones, and that sim­ply can­not be dis­count­ed. You’ll hear it time and time again: run­ning a marathon is a men­tal effort as much as a phys­i­cal one. I sim­ply did­n’t have the desire which gives me those lit­tle adren­a­line rush­es through­out a race that keeps me push­ing on this time. Maybe just as much as the heat affect­ed me, my heart just was­n’t into this one.

Angela found me at the exit area for run­ners and walked me to get signed out (the train­ing team keeps track of all their run­ners on every run). I grabbed a slice of piz­za and once I got my bag back, changed shirts and shoes. After­wards, it was home for a show­er and a nap with the dogs. Angela took me to get a sports mas­sage that evening and then out for a reward din­ner at a local seafood and steak place. I can’t say that real­ly did any­thing to earn any of that, oth­er than just being bull-head­ed. How­ev­er, it sure did make me feel nice. Hav­ing peo­ple in the city come out and cheer me on was great, but hav­ing Angela around dur­ing and after the race was even bet­ter.

  1. Part of sign­ing up for the Sports­back­ers Marathon Train­ing Team is the entry fee to the Rich­mond Marathon, even if you plan on run­ning a dif­fer­ent race. Lot’s of peo­ple here use the train­ing team to get ready for Chica­go, New York, Marine Corps, and even races as ear­ly in the Fall as San Fran­cis­co. So, even if you don’t run Rich­mond, you can still get a nice, long sleeve t‑shirt, so Angela got hers even though she did­n’t run this one. That smart girl. []
  2. That’s total time for the entire race, or four-and-a-half hours for the entire marathon. That boils down to about a 10:15 minute mile on aver­age. Hope­ful­ly that will give some back­ground on the two dif­fer­ent “pace” mean­ings I use often. []

Marine Corps Marathon

Well, the big day kind of snuck-up on us. Angela had been get­ting over a ham­string injury pret­ty much all of Octo­ber and we had gone on vaca­tion ear­li­er last month. There­fore, when the end of the month came out of no where, we almost felt sur­prised that an entire month had gone by with­out either of us run­ning all that much. I had run my sec­ond twen­ty-mil­er before our Alas­ka vaca­tion and real­ly had­n’t run much since dur­ing my taper peri­od. Poor Angela had­n’t run any dis­tance since her fif­teen-mil­er back in late Sep­tem­ber. We both went out and ran a six-mil­er the Sun­day one week pri­or to the MCM and Angela deter­mined that her leg felt good enough to run on, though. Hav­ing Dave in town the day before the race real­ly helped dis­tract us though, which was prob­a­bly a good thing.

We had reserved a room at the Sher­a­ton very near the start of the race, a cou­ple of blocks from the new Air Force Memo­r­i­al. This would prove to be great the morn­ing of the race, but dis­as­trous after­wards. We parked at Pen­ta­gon City and took the Metro to the Armory to get our chips and bib num­bers. There was actu­al­ly a line out the door of the Armory and down the block, which was sort of alarm­ing. Peo­ple were stream­ing in from every­where to get in before 7:00pm (some peo­ple had come straight from the air­port via taxi, with lug­gage in tow) when the race expo shut down. We made it in and picked up our stuff and pro­ceed­ed to wan­der around the expo for a lit­tle while. We bought a cou­ple of those throw-away Tyvek jack­ets since it would be cool and very windy the next morn­ing. We loaded up on free ener­gy snacks and oth­er swag1. Clif was doing some pace-groups and hand­ed out pace bands, which proved to be pret­ty handy. I enjoy using my Garmin GPS (a lot), but hav­ing the mile splits writ­ten out helps on over-all pac­ing a great deal and reduces the amount I have to keep check­ing my watch2 We final­ly decid­ed we’d filled up our tote bags (mine actu­al­ly start­ed rip­ping), so we head­ed back out to the Metro to go find some din­ner.

We had bro­ken out our D.C. trav­el guide books in hopes of find­ing some great Ital­ian restau­rant for our pre-race calo­rie-fest. How­ev­er, there did­n’t seem to be any that real­ly stood out to us, although D.C. has some of the great­est places to eat and I’m sure the ones we read about are fan­tas­tic. How­ev­er, being tired and real­ly just want­i­ng to get checked into the hotel, we opt­ed to just eat at Cal­i­for­nia Piz­za Kitchen. We enjoyed our rel­a­tive­ly soul-less, chain restau­rant food well enough before dri­ving past the Pen­ta­gon to our hotel. I would rec­om­mend the Sher­a­ton Nation­al for any­one trav­el­ing to D.C. since it is very nice and the bed was insane­ly com­fort­able (we decid­ed we want­ed that very bed for our home), except for one thing: it’s no where near any Metro stops! The near­est is the Pen­ta­gon, and that is still near­ly a mile away. We regret­ted that most of our time in the hotel was spent look­ing at the backs of eye­lids, since it was pret­ty nice. We did­n’t get to par­take in break­fast, either, since that’s a bad idea before run­ning a marathon.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we got dressed and prepped for the race, and then head­ed out into the cold to walk to the start­ing line. It was a very chilly hike down­hill around the ceme­tery and past the Pen­ta­gon to the bag check, at the Pen­tagon’s north park­ing lot. We met up with about 32,000+ oth­er run­ners there and head­ed into the mass­es to find our spots in the queue. Angela got in near the 6:00 pace group and I kissed her good­bye after we wished one anoth­er a good race. I found my way into the 4:30 pace group and wait­ed. Even though we had got­ten there just as the first of two waves was to start, there was an admin­is­tra­tive delay which had pushed that back 15 min­utes or so. I should have tak­en advan­tage of the time I had to stretch my legs out some, but did­n’t and I regret­ted that lat­er on. Before too long, Ver­mont Sen. Patrick Leahy made an short state­ment just pri­or to the begin­ning of the race. He men­tioned the MCM For­ward in Iraq [.pdf], where 600+ men and women of the armed forces there would be run­ning a marathon along with us (obvi­ous­ly not at the exact same time, since it would be the mid­dle of the night there). That kind of got both my mind and my heart rac­ing, and it was clear I was­n’t the only one. It was excit­ing to know that those men and women would be doing some­thing ‘fun’ and ‘nor­mal’ along side us in spir­it. Some­time lat­er, the sec­ond wave final­ly got mov­ing for­ward and before I knew it, I was run­ning in my sec­ond ever marathon.

2006 MCM GPS Plot

A plot I made using the data from my Garmin Fore­run­ner 201 and USAPho­toMaps.

The first part of the course, through Ross­lyn, was some­what dull although at one point a incred­i­bly large Amer­i­can flag was hang­ing between two large build­ings. It was just the first of many, many reminders of where we run­ning this race: in the nation’s capi­tol. The crowd was so thick, it became dif­fi­cult to get any­where near my goal pace of 10:18 per mile. How­ev­er, after three miles or so, run­ning down­hill to the George Wash­ing­ton park­way, I heard shouts from behind me: pace group, com­ing through! I real­ized this was the 4:30 pace group behind me (I had start­ed off just behind them) and was deter­mined to try and stick with them. I let them blaze a trail through on the way into George­town, where the path widened some and I was able to pick up pace to where I want­ed to be. Over the course of the next few miles, we ran fast. So fast, in fact, I went from about two min­utes behind pace to over four min­utes ahead of pace. At some point, I lost the pace group, but fig­ured I could just stick to about a ten minute mile and keep my four min­utes in my back pock­et until lat­er. Around mile ten, the course comes into the mall area, near the end of the Arling­ton Memo­r­i­al Bridge. If there is a ‘prop­er’ way for one to enter D.C., I’d say that L’En­fant had to have intend­ed this to be it. The mall was absolute­ly stun­ning. I just want­ed to keep run­ning up and down it over and over, to tell the truth. Usu­al­ly, I enjoy look­ing around while run­ning but I was in awe the whole time. Not only had it become a beau­ti­ful day, but here I was part of the cen­ter attrac­tion in D.C. It was as if the mall was all ours to enjoy. I think I near­ly strained my neck look­ing at all the build­ings and mon­u­ments as I ran by. It was­n’t as though I had­n’t seen all of them before, but this was just some­thing so much more spe­cial. Today, these all belonged to me in a whole new way. It remind­ed me why I enjoy run­ning crazy things like marathons: it’s a huge ego trip to be in such an amaz­ing city among the most incred­i­ble build­ings and stat­ues while all the peo­ple are cheer­ing for you. I’ll nev­er know what it feels like to win the World Series, an Oscar, or a Nobel Prize. How­ev­er, when run­ning through a city that has opened up for you, it feels just as good.

Well, if all good things must come to an end, mine did some­where around mile sev­en­teen. I was away from the mall now, run­ning along side of the Potomac (inside Potomac Park) head­ing towards Haines Point . I noticed I was slip­ping off my pace quite a lot all of a sud­den and need­ed some extra ener­gy. I had just done an ener­gy gel, and it was going to have to be some­thing else. I decid­ed I’d stop to pull out my iPod Shuf­fle and give music a chance to pick me up. It seemed to the do the job quite well for the next three+ miles, until the bat­tery died! I had­n’t charged the USB stick up enough to have it play very long at all (30 min­utes or so). Much to my dis­ap­point­ment, this hap­pened right around mile 21, when I real­ly began to hit the wall. My upper calves, which had been twing­ing for the past few miles had now begun to cramp up. Near­ing mile 22, sud­den ‘char­lie-horse’ cramps forced me over to the bridge guard rail to stretch out my calf mus­cles. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it was about this point when I had slowed down so much that I had already eat­en up my four min­utes (part of which was spent mess­ing with the iPod, though). I had lit­tle hope of regain­ing that time since the cramps in my calves weren’t going any­where (there still there, actu­al­ly, near­ly a week lat­er). Any hope I had of keep­ing my 4:30 was gone.

I made it through Crys­tal City and around the Pen­ta­gon, but I was hav­ing to stop more and more often to stretch out my calves. The cramps were get­ting so bad near the end, near mile 26 actu­al­ly, I could bare­ly stand. My foot was being pull down by the intense spasms in my calf mus­cles, to the point that even walk­ing was get­ting dif­fi­cult. At the turn uphill to the Iwo Jima Memo­r­i­al, right at mile 26, I near­ly cried when I saw just how steep a climb that last lit­tle leg was going to be. I tried to keep my head up and just plod up the hill, main­tain­ing what I was now call­ing a run. How­ev­er, I sim­ply could­n’t main­tain even that pathet­ic shuf­fle and was reduced to walk­ing the last 50 feet of the hill until it lev­eled out, right in front of the bleach­er seats. It was humil­i­at­ing, but I picked up pace for the last 200 yards to the fin­ish.

I came in at 4:42:05.

I sup­pose after almost five hours of exer­tion, I was a lit­tle weary, but I thanked the Marine who placed a fin­ish­er’s medal over my head when he told me con­grat­u­la­tions. I mum­bled out that we all ought to be giv­ing them medals and he just laughed a bit. The Marines cer­tain­ly always had my respect, but the way they put on this event (yes, it is most­ly staffed by Marines), cheer­ing us on and con­grat­u­lat­ing us was fan­tas­tic.

I hob­bled for­ward with the crowd, gath­er­ing up some food and such on my way to get my checked bag. After final­ly mak­ing it through what seemed like a mile of crowd, I found a spot of curb to sit down on and eat. I changed to a dry shirt, as is my cus­tom after a long run, only to notice I was­n’t real­ly all that sweaty. Fun­ny, did­n’t I just run a marathon? Why am I not drip­ping with sweat? It had been so windy, it had kept me dry. How­ev­er, I was cov­ered in a thick lay­er of white pow­der; salt crys­tals, actu­al­ly. It was almost as if I had been rolling in salt all morn­ing. I sat and wait­ed for Angela for a while, and even­tu­al­ly got up to move around. I made great use of the lit­tle alu­minum foil blan­ket a Marine had thrown around my shoul­ders (which was done for every­one as they passed the fin­ish line) while hob­bling back to the bag check, and then on to the Nether­lands Car­il­lon near the memo­r­i­al, our agreed upon meet­ing place. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I had just missed Angela and while head­ing back towards the bag check, I hap­pened to catch up with her. She had fin­ished about 20 min­utes ear­li­er and had been wait­ing on me. How­ev­er, both of us were too tired and too glad to see one anoth­er to be real­ly upset.

Angela had run a heck of a race for the first 20 miles, in order to ‘beat the bridge.‘3 Giv­en the fact that this was 30% fur­ther than she had run at any time since last year’s Rich­mond marathon, that alone was quite a feat. She had promised her­self she would­n’t have to push her­self so hard beyond that point, and once you’ve made that kind of bar­gain with your­self, you’d bet­ter damn well keep it if you plan on your legs car­ry­ing you for anoth­er 10k. She walked and ran on and off the remain­der of the race and fin­ished in 6:43:42. A respectable time for some­one who was­n’t even sure she could run six miles the week before. Angela real­ly put forth a hero­ic effort on her own part to just attempt this race and I was real­ly proud that she toughed it out and fin­ished. I know she is proud, too.

We caught the Metro at Ross­lyn down to Arling­ton Ceme­tery, hop­ing we could walk back to the hotel. How­ev­er, traf­fic was now on the Jef­fer­son Davis High­way and it was get­ting dark (and cold­er). We walked over to the entrance gate of the Ceme­tery to ask a secu­ri­ty guard if there was any­way to cut through the ceme­tery. There isn’t, but the gen­tle­man stand­ing next to the secu­ri­ty guard offered us a ride, say­ing it was on his way and he was about ready to leave. It turns out, this fel­low is a trum­pet play­er for the Army Band Cer­e­mo­ni­al Band. Angela enjoyed not only the short dri­ve back to the hotel cour­tesy of our new friend, but also get­ting to ask about play­ing music with one of the coun­tries most pres­ti­gious bands.

We had checked out that morn­ing, but were still parked in the hotel garage. We ‘bor­rowed’ the lob­by restrooms to change into some warmer street clothes before leav­ing. We agreed a nice din­ner would be great, but did­n’t real­ly have the ener­gy to find some place nice. This meant that we agreed to just stop in Fredricks­burg and eat at Out­back (yet anoth­er chain restau­rant, but oh well, we did­n’t go to D.C. for the food this trip).

That night, nei­ther of us slept a wink, even after load­ing up on ibupro­fen and Tylenol. Some mus­cles are just that sore. My calf mus­cles are still killing me. How­ev­er, Rich­mond is in one week and I’m think­ing: what the hell?

Note: Although I brought my cam­era, I did­n’t take any pho­tos the entire two day trip. Although Angela and I agreed it was some of the most amaz­ing sites we’d ever seen, we did­n’t have the abil­i­ty to pho­to­graph it. We may post up a few race pho­tos we’ve ordered, though.

  1. Did you know? Swag is actu­al­ly an acronym; short for stuff we all get. Oh, sure, some peo­ple spell it schwag, but does that real­ly make any sense to any­one? []
  2. It did­n’t make too much dif­fer­ence in the end, but I think wear­ing a pace bracelet is some­thing I’ll do for now in races. I also cir­cled the times when I would take an ener­gy gel (it just so hap­pens, I like Vanil­la and Orange Cream Clif Shots), which reduced the amount of think­ing and made sure I did­n’t miss one. I don’t take quite as many as Clif rec­om­mends, appar­ent­ly, though and had to make my own marks. []
  3. The 14th street bridge is re-opened to traf­fic five hours after the start of the race. A pair of bus­es are dri­ven along the course and any­one who has­n’t made it past the bridge at that point, is put on board and dri­ven on to the fin­ish. []

A Chilly Twenty

Today was the final twen­ty mile run of this sea­son for me. I was sched­uled to run it yes­ter­day, but we had rain all day and the tem­per­a­ture stayed around 50°F. The run got can­celled to pre­vent any­one from get­ting hypother­mia (four hours in that weath­er wear­ing noth­ing but a t‑shirt and shorts can eas­i­ly lead to hypother­mia, so it was kind of a no-brain­er). Now, most of you prob­a­bly don’t real­ize just how big the Rich­mond Marathon train­ing team is, but it’s around 700 peo­ple (± – we’ve had some matri­tion since May as you can imag­ine). Usu­al­ly, this is divid­ed up over four dif­fer­ent start times, three on Sat­ur­day morn­ings and one on Sun­day morn­ing. To have a major­i­ty all those groups show up on one day and take off at the same time was the equiv­e­lant of run­ning a pret­ty good sized road race. The main dif­fer­ence: we would­n’t be out to win any­thing or get a t‑shrirt. It was just me run­ning with hun­dreds of oth­er real­ly crazy peo­ple with noth­ing bet­ter to do on a cold, gray Sun­day morn­ing1

The first twen­ty I ran this year, a cou­ple of weeks ago, was what I call a P: it’s basi­cal­ly an in-and-out with a loop at the end. It had one pret­ty bad hill, but it was at about the half-way point, so not too bad. Today’s run, on the oth­er hand, was a large loop (about a mile was retrac­ing our steps, but that’s not uncom­mon). the back third of the run was along River­side Dri­ve, which is known to us run­ners here in Rich­mond as being a tor­tur­ous series of hills. Put that from mile nine to mile 16 and you’ve got your­self a pun­ish­ing run. I had some bad calf cramps in my right leg a cou­ple of weeks ago and real­ly did a lot of stretch­ing througout today’s run. I was able to stave off the cramps, but both calves were moo­ing bad­ly with sore­ness for the last five or six miles. Speak­ing of that por­tion of the run, we passed over the Lee Bridge to cross back over the James. Now, I’ve been hear­ing com­plain about that bridge (which is near­ly a mile long) for the past cou­ple of years and I nev­er under­stood why. I mean, I love bridges and enjoy get­ting look at Rich­mond’s biggest and newest in the down­town area. There are great views of the city sky­line from there, as well as Hol­ly­wood rapids, the cemetary, and Belle Isle. Today, there was also a cold head­wind in my face that made run­ning a 12 minute mile seem impos­si­ble. I know under­stand why so many run­ners here real­ly hate that bridge. I guess I’ll just have to look for­ward to warm, breezy days when going over it in the future.

Today's running route plotted onto a satellite image from Google Maps

Today’s run­ning route plot­ted onto a satel­lite image from Google Maps. Thanks to Coach Ron from the Sports­back­ers Marathon Train­ing Team for plot­ting this for us (Note: This isn’t an active map, just a .png image.)

My run took me three hours and 36 min­utes, which isn’t too bad con­sid­er­ing how much my legs were hurt­ing towards the end. There’s a point at which you begin to see the light at the end of the tun­nel, so to speak, and that always helps me to pick up at the end. I was able to change into some pants, a dry t‑shirt, and my run­ning jack­et at the end, but I’ve still been chilled to the bones since end­ing the run. That’s why I’m cur­rent­ly in my fleece jack­et, under a down com­forter, and typ­ing with Ange­la’s very toasty iBook on my lap. Ange­la’s sit­ting here with me, also help­ing to warm me up a bit. I think I’ll get a cup of cof­fee in a bit and see about just let­ting my legs rest for a while. Here’s hop­ing that the Marine Corps Marathon (three weeks from today) sees some bet­ter weath­er. At least our vaca­tion in Alas­ka this week will help pre­pare me in the event it isn’t.

  1. Actu­al­ly, that’s not true. I want­ed to go to my adult church class this morn­ing and then attend wor­ship ser­vice with Angela, but that got all messed up. For the record, though, I did­n’t cause the cold rain yes­ter­day. Just remem­ber that, okay? []