Ramblings From The Road

The ramblings of a rambling runner rambling about running and rambling.

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Now What?

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And then, in a slow, sauntering flash-bang, it was two thousand and thirteen. Damn.

Now what?

I’ve got no plan.  I’m not training for anything.  I’ve got no goals.  I have absolutely nothing specific I want to accomplish.  I don’t even know where this post is going to end up, but it’s starting here.

Last year I focused on my goal of doing the best I can on one race; it cost a lot, it is a Big Deal to many people, and, technically, it was the first race I booked travel to run.  The New York City Marathon.  But, the fates sent Hurricane Sandy instead, so I spent some quality time in the dark with my parents in New Jersey and ran the Sandy Relief Marathon instead.  Be it interrupted training, lack of focus, lack of pacers, or just my own limitations, I fell short of my goals.  Way short.  But I didn’t care.  I cared at the time – I think – but within a week or so I had power back, my wife back, and all my thoughts were focused on the holidays.  Our epic plan was to fly east for the marathon, stay in New Jersey with my parents through Thanksgiving, visit my wife’s parents in New Hampshire through Christmas, and then return to Oregon shortly after New Year’s.  I kept running – actually wearing the bright orange NYC Marathon shirt many days1 – but didn’t have any particular goal.  I just ran what seemed like a nice loop for the day based on how much time I had available.  So now what?

Somewhere in the last couple of weeks of travel I got the e-mail from NYRR indicating that they’d actually recouped enough costs from insurance to offer refunds of entry fees – something that was assumed to be Not An Option2  throughout all of the post-cancellation shenanigans.  I was expecting to be all ‘oh-woe-is-me-what-should-I-do-pray-tell,’ but when the time came to decide between a refund, a spot the 2013 NYC Half or in the 2013, 2014, or 2015′s marathon, I didn’t really hesitate to get the refund3.  Apparently the answer to last year’s “To New York or not to New York” was not to New York.  I still don’t regret the decision.  But now what?

When we got back to Oregon we discovered that our car had apparently leaked while in storage and taken in quite a bit of water.  It wouldn’t start.  There was mold on the seats, dashboard, and console.  And it smelled quite unpleasant.  It’s been over a week and we still don’t have an answer from our insurance company on whether it’s even covered.  And thus, we have no car.  But somehow, I don’t care.  We had no plans for 2013 after “get the rig out of storage, drive to Gold Beach, chill.”  So now the “chill” part is a bit more enforced, but otherwise I’m liking life without a car4.  But . . . now what?

I’ve been contemplating this question since the New Year.  The days of travel (driving NH-NJ, flying EWR-PDX, driving PDX to Gold Beach) forced a few days off from running, so I rolled with it.  Every article you read about rest days being a part of training makes at least cursory mention of the value of taking a week or two every year completely off from running – or any sport for that matter.  So I took my week – give or take a few days and depending on if you count running errands on a bike.  And it’s been really nice.  I was worried I’d get all stir crazy and anxious, but with dealing with the car and the mess that travel (and rescued car contents) dumps in the middle of one’s living room has probably helped.  The RV site with a private hot rub helps too.  But now what?

Today I went for my first run since . . . January 4th.  (I had to check.)  No goal for time or distance – just exploring the area to see what roads are accessible and what roads aren’t.  It was comfortable, relaxing, and . . . freeing?  Not in an escape-the-woes-of-the-world way either – just in an ahhhhh-running kind of way.  There’s a subtle but distinct difference.  (Can you hear that as a happy sigh?)  Nothing is bothering me lately.  I think the most annoying thing is that I feel like I should be planning something5.  Maybe running related.  Maybe not.  Just something.  I guess I’m totally ready for whatever 2013 has in store.  Or maybe I’m not ready at all and something is going to really suck really soon.

So I guess I’ll just keep running.  And rambling.  Because that’s what I do.  Maybe I’ll try to ride my bike as a “workout” more often.  Maybe I’ll try to cross train more6.  But that really doesn’t feel like it’s answering the question.

Show 6 footnotes

  1. I didn’t unpack most of the running gear I brought until a couple of chillier days in NH demanded an extra layer.
  2. If nothing else, NYRR has always had a very clear and succinct “no refund” policy.
  3. Well, I hesitated briefly, because I couldn’t find my wallet to give them a credit card to put the refund on, but that wasn’t so much a decision making hesitation as a OH CRAP WHERE’S MY WALLET hesitation.
  4. Okay, I wouldn’t want to do too many bike rides to the grocery store with a fifty pound rucksack on the return trip, but now that we’re stocked up lighter loads are no worry.
  5. Okay – the insurance guy not calling is getting a little tiring, but … eh.
  6. Facebook’s ad engine seems to think I should be.

My mind is still kind of spinning after the chaos of hurricane Sandy, the devastation it caused on the east coast, particularly in New York City1 and New Jersey2, the confirmation that the New York City Marathon was still very much on in an effort to boost morale in the city, the public sentiment against said decision, last minute reversal of said decision, and the huge pile of “what do I do now?” it all left behind.

I’m pretty sure my pre-race post was a chaotic mess of the competing thoughts going on in my head, but I think they made the right decision.  Not because of any legitimate logistical conflicts with recovery efforts, but because the emotional juxtaposition was too much for too many people and holding the race would amplify that rather than boost morale as they thought it would.  It only takes one person doing something stupid to trigger mob mentality and turn crowds against runners and get police and volunteers stuck in the middle of it all.  And a point I had not previously considered that I read Sunday night; the police out on the course, while not actively needed elsewhere for recovery, would in all likelihood have been exhausted from working extra hours in likely very dangerous and emotionally draining conditions earlier in the week.  Not a good scenario for anyone.

So my NYC entry fee is apparently a donation to NYRR, but they donated what I’m guessing is a majority of – if not all of – their profit to the relief effort3, redistributed the course port-a-johns to areas where they would hopefully be of use to displaced people staying in shelters, and, though I haven’t read this anywhere to confirm, hopefully donated the food, water, and finish line ponchos to those who could benefit from it.  (If you still want to help and don’t know where to begin, NYRR has more recently created a consolidated page for out-of-towners to find ways to help.)

So I hemmed and I hawed and I’m still not sure I made the right decision, but here’s how it went down.  My options:

  1. Get up wicked early on Sunday, take the train in to the city, and meet a bunch of folks in Manhattan to run four laps around Central Park and then go volunteer out on Staten Island.
  2. Spend Saturday on a train from NJ to Boston, catch a bus up to Concord, NH, and spend time moping with my wife instead of moping separately4.
  3. Stay in NJ, volunteer, mope, and shop for another marathon in the next few weeks to go for that PR5.
  4. Run a benefit race that a group in Huntington County put together since Thursday night when a member got back from the Expo feeling like running the city would just be wrong.
  5. Give up running all together.

I hemmed and hawed some more, just to build up the level of doubt in my decision, but eventually settled on option 4, in part due to proximity, in part due to concerns for my own safety running Central Park6, in part due to the entry cost of the Bucks County Marathon this late in the game, and in part due to  the fact that it is purely a charity event with no pretense.

Which brings us up to  . . .

The Race Report

Photo Credit: Maria Winter (my mom!)
The Crowd: Ready to Start

The Sandy Relief Marathon was put together by a group called BaseCamp31, which is the non-profit arm of a physical therapy, nutrition, wellness, and training center called Pro-Activity7.  From my understanding, they decided to put this race together on Thursday night, it got some news coverage on Friday, and then between the NYC marathon cancellation and local folks coming out to support the fundraising effort, they ended up with a much larger event than they imagined.

I went in prepared to give the event a lot of slack.  Their web site prepared us for an unsupported but well marked route with minimal provisions at start and finish.  We got much more and I felt no need to cut any slack, because frankly, I’ve seen less support on races with far more than three days to plan.  They managed to get the mayor’s approval and police support for the one major road crossing we had and things were off!

Photo Credit: Diane Myers
Just two of the awesome volunteers out on the course on a cold and windy day!

The race director, Mike Eisenhart, put his kids to work creating tons of brightly colored arrows which he tacked up all along the course, recycling old yard signs from an event they did earlier in the year when there wasn’t something he could tack the signs to.  They planned the route past places where they knew port-a-potties were available, as there was nothing available for rent since everything within hundreds of miles was where it belonged; down the shore where people most needed them. They gathered up a bevvy of awesome volunteers of all ages who jumped right in to whatever was needed with a smile on a very cold day.  A few neighbors were sweet talked in to volunteering an aid station at the end of their driveway and an additional one was set up at the entrance to the trail portion of the race.  A volunteer rode the course on his bike to keep an eye out for anyone in need of medical assistance.

People came out to cheer!

I amused myself by thanking them based on what borough I would be in given the mileage.  ”Thank you Brooklyn!”  ”Am I in Manhatten yet?”  ”Hey, you folks from the Bronx look just like some people I saw in Brooklyn!”  ”Wooohooo!  Harlem water stations rule!”  I broke form in “Central Park” and tried to trade hats with a kid in a Pats hat.  He was having none of it. No timing chips, of course, as aside from the short time frame I don’t think there was any power in the park and, well, generators have more important jobs right now.  ”Bib” numbers were written on our hands in black marker.  Someone owned a big timing clock!  The front bumper of my father’s truck was used as an impromptu start line podium for the Mike and his wife (who’s idea it was in the first place and was brought to tears by the awesome turnout).  And when people wouldn’t quiet down enough for Mike to be heard with his consumer grade megaphone, some guys threw up the Sign of Akela and a hush fell like Epic Suburban Magic.

Photo Credit: Maria Winter (still my mom!)
Race Directory Mike Eisenhart making the essential pre-race announcements. (Additional photos by John O’Boyle, photographer with the Star Ledger to the right of the frame, are included in this gallery of New Jersey “aftermath” and recovery images.)

The course was beautiful.  The first sevenish miles were through the towns of Lebanon and Clinton8, mostly on quiet rural suburban neighborhood roads.  We passed a guy selling eggs from his own chicken coop out of a cooler at the base of his driveway.  We passed two deer hanging out in the road contemplating whether or not to join the race9.  We passed what I’m guessing was Julie Culley‘s house, but maybe someone else in town has the 25 mile marker from the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (I couldn’t make out the year) pinned to their fence – they did happen to be fairly close to the 25 mile marker, which of course was also the 0.8 mile marker.

The middle twelveish miles were out and back along the beautiful wooded Columbia Trail which is clearly popular with runners.  And creepy trolls.  Literally.  There were little wooden houses and cars and such all over the sides of the trail, most with a doll or status of some sort in it.  Everything from lawn gnomes to Norfins to what may have been a Bratz in its first life.  I really ought to dig up the story on that.  But yeah; runners.  Since we didn’t have bibs on and were pretty spread out by mile 8 it may not have been obvious at first, but eventually other runners on the trail figured out that there was an Event happening.  At least one guy extended his run all the way back to the park so he could chip in to the donation fund.

The only bad part about the trail was that although all the downed trees had been cleared, there were still plenty of small pieces of branches – those evil 1″ or so diameter guys that are just big enough to turn an ankle – all over the place, often covered with leaves.  So it was tricky footing.  I came close to twisting out once, but caught myself in time to avoid injury – just a little discomfort.  But I also managed to catch a toe on the end of a long branch that almost tripped me up, which was a scary moment.  The perils of trail running, I suppose – just not something I was prepared for, especially as my body fatigued (see below).

Turn around at the downed tree by giving a fist bump to the volunteer manning the checkpoint, and do it all again in reverse.  Bundt Park, unlike Central Park, is apparently the high point in town and has no wind blocking trees, so it was getting pretty chilly by the time I finished and everyone who’d done the shorter distances plus most of the spectators were long gone.  Thank goodness for parents!  My folks, the race director, a photographer (and I think friend of the RD and his wife), and one or two die hard volunteers cheered me in to the chute.  Such as it was.  While I was out on the course a participant had gone to the local Shop Rite and talked the manager in to donating some finish line treats, which was an unexpected but welcome bonus.  (And it looked like they’d have plenty left to donate to hurricane victims, too.)

When the reports came out the next day, they apparently raised just over $10,000, which they’re splitting evenly four ways between aid to local residents affected by the storm, aid to the Jersey shore areas, aid to Staten Island, and to establishing a new fund to keep the momentum going and continue volunteer efforts to get clothing and food out to the people still without power or housing.  They’ve already gathered up warm coats and are mobilizing the first delivery tomorrow (or maybe that’s today now?).

Let me make sure you caught all that: this was an awesome course, with awesome volunteers, and a well organized race that raised TEN GRAND IN THREE DAYS.  I can not give these guys enough props.  Maybe small potatoes compared to the million dollars and additional resources that NYRR put up, but keep in mind that there were more than 40,000 people registered for NYC and maybe 300 here, so it’s more than proportional.  And they’re not done.  (In fact, if you want to chip in, you can do so right here.

My Race

Not quite so awesome over in Keath’s legs land.  I was still mentally unsure of my plan – or even my decision to participate – on Sunday morning, but made a start line decision that I would be going for the PR I’d been training for since May.  So I set my watch for a 3:15 pace and when the gun went off I went for it.

And very quickly found myself in the front of the pack.  The lead.  Of a marathon.  This did not cause a thrilling feeling of success, but rather was very disconcerting.  Very, very disconcerting.  I panicked.  I should never be in the front of a race this long.  I’m Not That Fast.  I became overwhelmingly worried that without someone ahead of me to “spur me on” I’d slow to a training pace and miss my goal by a mile.  So I focused on turnover.  And keeping track of the arrows.  And often looked back to make sure the rest of the pack was following – if I went off course at least everyone else would.

And then my first mile split beeped and I saw that this pace was Way Too Fast.  This was not a small local crowd where I just happened to be the fastest guy.  This was Keath who cannot pace totally screwing himself over due to lack of a pace group or ability to pace myself.  D’oh!  I tried slowing it up and eventually the guys behind me who could pace well caught up.

Photo Credit: Erika Crowl
Maybe the half mile mark. The pack of four blurs behind my hip there are the folks that should have been leading!

Ironically, the first guy to catch me was a member of Clif Bar’s Pace Team.  He had just paced the Marine Corps Marathon and was scheduled to pace the 3:30 group in New York.  He asked if that start was a normal pace for me.  ”Yeah, no.  That was Way Too Fast.”  We were both then passed by two guys who were targeting a 2:50 for NYC (and came damn close on what I think is a far more challenging and technical course).  No time for chit chat – they were there to rip up the miles!  Next I was caught by Daniel Minzner, the president of the local running club, Hill Runners of Hunterdon.  He was wearing his three digit green NYCM bib, which meant he qualified for the “local competitive” division, and would have gotten to start immediately after the elites.  I am not “local competitive.”  I should not be up there.  I should certainly not be running with him for several miles, chatting about the area, my life, his life, where we’ve run, and the hurricane.

I fell back from him when it became clear that three weeks of illness during the height of my training plan certainly had an effect on my speed over distance.  Shortly thereafter, once I’d hit the trail and the first guy who caught me caught me again after a necessary break, I stopped counting who’d passed me or attempting to converse with them beyond a “Good job!  Keep it up!” as the Way Too Fast starting pace caught up with me and made me pay dearly for my enthusiasm.  I was able to push through it for a while, keeping up a decent pace that was at least faster than a typical training run, but my form suffered and that’s when I caught that stick shortly after the turnaround.  I threw my hip just enough in the muscle clenching lurch that instinctively kept me from going heels over head10 that it didn’t injure me in an “oh my god I must drop out now” but it added enough discomfort to legs that were already cross about the whole three weeks of illness and starting Way Too Fast to slow me down some more (and knock a significant jolt of confidence out of me).

So the return was significantly slower, included some walk breaks, and had a whole lot of “grumble grumble god damn it stupid stupid stupid,” but I kept it up and adjusted my goal from 3:15 to “just a PR” to “maybe sub-3:30″ to “at least sub-4?” as the time slipped away.  I don’t have m splits yet because, of course, I left my ANT+ stick in Oregon for two months, but hopefully I can analyze the details when this Nor’easterclears and my wife (and her ANT+ stick) can safely join me in NJ.  I certainly know it wasn’t a negative split, but I’m curious if I made up any speed once I returned to pavement.  I don’t really have a good concept of the difference between my road pace and trail pace.

Thus far, they still haven’t posted full results, but the first two guys – those guys who were targeting 2:50 – finished sub-3, somewhere around 2:54 I think.  Daniel finished third, around 3:11:30.  One of the volunteers in the final miles told me that I was still top 10, so I guess “fewer than 10 folks” passed me.  My time, according to my watch, was . . .

3:44:14

… which according to my calculations ranks as my 9th fastest11.  Also, since the 50 States Club and 50-Sub-4 Club don’t have the “one month advance advertising” rule that Marathon Maniacsdo, I’ve now got New Jersey checked off in my casual paced quest for 50.  (Tally: 15 marathons, 12 states, 9 sub-4)  Incidentally, while I was out running, my parents decided to stay, cheer, and chat with the organizers, volunteers, and other spectators (instead of finding a place to charge their phones).  Once it was somehow communicated that they were the parents of the guy in the Maniacs singlet, my father was told something along the lines of “oh, no!  Tell him to get out now.  Doesn’t he know that’s a cult?”  Isn’t that the point?

One of us.  One of us.

So, yeah.  Of course, now that I’ve recovered more quickly than I would have had I stayed on target I’m dying to try again.  Not this weekend.  But soon.  Hopefully.  Maybe.  Stupid budgets12.

Post-Script

Yes.  I’m well aware that I made a half dozen excuses for not hitting my goal13 but this has apparently been scientifically proven as a good thing!  Even though the marathon was canceled, the Expo and the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project pep-talk with Jack Daniels that I’d signed up for were still on.  So my mother and I managed to get in to the city (Manhattan at least) for the talk (now a Q&A) and to see what was left of the Expo.  Jack had some wise words that were imparted to him by a psychologist friend who studied the minds of athletes the way Jack studies the bodies.  I’m paraphrasing hard core here, but essentially “You need to take the credit for your successes and make excuses for failures.  If a race goes well, internalize it.  Take credit.  I did that.  If it doesn’t go so well, externalize it.  Oh, it was the weather.  Or, it just wasn’t my day.  Successful athletes do this.  Unsuccessful athletes do the opposite.  They do well and it’s oh, I just got lucky.  They fail and it’s I’m just no good at this.  I can’t do it.”  Apparently, blame is important for the brain.

In closing: I blame the stick.

Photo Credit: Maria Winter (have I mentioned she’s my mom?)
I guess this is my “New York City Marathon Day Finish Line Photo.” I kind of wish I had let brightroom sucker me in to pre-purchasing a custom race photo frame of some sort – I’d totally put this and my still-sealed bib in it. Looks just like Central Park, right? 14

Show 14 footnotes

  1. Where the aptly named New York City Marathon has been held for the past 41 years…
  2. Where my parents live and I have been staying since I flew out here.
  3. They’d actually pledged to do this regardless, three days prior to the cancellation.
  4. Fortunately, the cancellation was called about 7 minutes before the Manchester City Marathon registration closed, so that was off the table.
  5. For anyone else in this boat, if you aren’t aware already, the Pensacola Marathon and Marhsall University Marathon in Huntington, WV both opened up additional bibs at discounted rates for displaced NYC runners who can make it to their races this coming Sunday!
  6. Apparently unwarranted, not that I could know that at the time, but it looks like it was a very positive mood from the photos that some charity groups have posted.
  7. My apologies for grossly over-simplifying your business scope!
  8. I’m not really clear where one ends and the other begins – Bundt Park where we began is technically in Lebanon but operated by the Clinton Department of Parks and Recreation…
  9. Well, I saw two.  There may have been more.  One person actually caught some photos of a deer on the footbridge, squirming it’s way through the railing and swimming off up the creek.
  10. Because, you know, you’re supposed to be “head over heels” when you’re running.  More or less.
  11. Sounds much better than 6th slowest, eh?
  12. Anyone want to be my marathon benefactor?  You pay me twice the entry fee for every race I run and I donate half that to charity.  Deal?
  13. Okay, a third of a dozen; illness, starting too fast, turning my ankle, and janking my hip.
  14. If anyone has a nice photo of the 2012 finish line they’d be willing to share, I might get my photo editing skills on…

Dear New York, I hope you’re doing well
I know a lot’s happen and you’ve been through hell
   -   An Open Letter to NYC, Beastie Boys

Yeah.  I’m going to run it.  There’s no need to preface this post with an explanation of what happened this past week and I’m not going to make any apologies for not posting in months1, so we’ll just get on to the point of things.

I don’t want to dwell on the “should they have canceled it?” question too long, because frankly most people who have an opinion on the matter don’t have enough facts to have an informed decision, but I will share my thought process on deciding to run it.  There are tons of arguments (including a half dozen separate groups on Facebook and at least one petition on change.org) against it, but I think the only valid one is summarized well by my friend Kiran over at Masala Chica.

When the storm was first forecast I was assuming that it wouldn’t affect things at all, but when friends in the tri-state area started reporting on how bad things were I figured we’d hear pretty soon if they canceled.  I know New York City well enough to have assumed on Sunday that all the precautions they were taking (suspending service and boarding up the subways, etc) were probably overkill and that they’d have some power outages, flooding, and wind damage but overall bounce back pretty quickly.  NYRR’s initial wait-and-see approach was, in my mind, validating this presumption, but it soon became clear that my vision of the level of damage was far removed from reality.

My parents and many friends in the area still have no power, many areas are still flooded, and there is tons of damage that needs to be repaired.  So I went back to assuming they’d cancel, only to be told otherwise by the Mayor in subsequently more definite press conferences.  And I still don’t know how I feel about that, but I’m not traveling here just for the marathon, but also for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukah with my and my wife’s families.  So if my flight was delayed, oh well; if the race was canceled, oh well; if I was stranded in Chicago for several days, oh well and bring on the deep dish pizza.

My father may have put it best when he described New Yorkers2 as a people who simply don’t quit.  Something was planned and scheduled and thus will happen, quite literally, come hell or high water.

Southwest confirmed that my flight was not canceled and EWR was scheduled to reopen at 9am EDT on Thursday3.  The NYRR extended the deferment date to the last possible minute.  So off we went; home in to storage (and hopefully all leaks sealed4), train to PDX, and across the country without a hitch.  We spent Wednesday night in an airport hotel5, which is when I read the update on the definitive “Marathon will go on – as a tribute to the city and it’s recovery” announcement.  Definitely spin, but I can see the point.

So now I have pre-race nerves.  Not because I’m actually worried about being prepared for it.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I was sick for three weeks and probably won’t be setting a PR, but will adjust my plan and run the best race I can.  I’m nervous because I big part of me is torn over the “is this right?” question.  There are tons of arguments on both sides and as the general public I’m only privy to a handful of them, but it really comes down to one valid argument: is the benefit of bringing business and a sense of normalcy back to the city more important than the apparent callousness to hold such an event in the front yards6 those most affected by the storm?

I can’t answer that absolutely.  I’m not deferring because I’m here anyway and I don’t want to have to make the decision as to whether or not I want to do it again next year7.  The show is on, so I’m doing it.  Ready or not.  Here I come.  But I’m still not confident it’s the right thing.  It still feels like a big middle finger to the people who have lost loved ones or shelter to the storm.  But is it?

Argh.

I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
   -   The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett

The Best of a City

I am actually quite impressed with the city’s efforts.  It is now Friday and all but two subway lines are running again to varying extents, most bridges and tunnels are open with fairly minor limitations in place until midnight tonight, and while NJ Transit is not running most lines due to lack of power at their rail control facility, but both NJT and Amtrak Northeast Corridor service is unaffected and rolling from DC to Boston and Trenton to Manhatten, respectively, provided you buy your ticket online before you get to the (powerless) station.  And all the MTA and NJT buses are running extended service to try and make up for the shortcomings as best they can.

Also, regardless of whether or not it was the right choice in the end, I’m impressed with NYRR’s communication and the changes they are putting in place.  If a storm like this had hit in the days pre-popular internet I shudder to think what sort of chaos would have ensued.  (Granted, the race was less popular in 1980, but still by no means a small event.)  They had updates on both social media and their official site before the storm even hit and have been sending out updates via e-mail to all registered participants.  Aside from a fairly poorly timed “ZOMG!  Buy your photo memories in advance!” message from BrightRoom8 with the tip “Have Fun and enjoy this special marathon moment in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.”9 they we all very respectful and trying to balance the commitment they’ve already made to the event with the social commitment to not kick the city while its down.

I do not envy the situation they’re in – they are no doubt getting tons of complaints and petitions to cancel the race and would certainly be getting tons of complaints and petitions for refunds10 from runners around the world.  In the end though, it’s not just the economy of NYC, but the advertising investors who have the strongest pull.  Well, second strongest.  The final “it’s still on” message claimed that they’ll be making changes as necessary to avoid impacting recovery efforts and I truly hope that they are honestly doing that, but if the power of advertisers steamrolled police and fire chiefs then that is one disgusting state of affairs.  I like to think that everything is truly as it appears and the demand for first responders is past – and, let’s be honest – it’s NYC and there’d be a fire chief on the street corner holding a press conference if the Mayor or NYRR tried to bully his resources around – but even with conditions stabilizing how can anyone be certain that closing Fifth Avenue instead of Fourth Avenue11 isn’t going to block some essential traffic or ConEd access point that they don’t know they need to get at?  There’s only so many ways to get 26.2 miles from point A to point B and no matter how you route it you’re going to block certain things.  So, yeah, here’s to hoping the course isn’t in the way?

My connecting flight from Chicago to Newark was at about 75% capacity, despite being sold out.  Obviously lots of folks canceled their vacation plans.  I think most of my fellow passengers were delayed New Yorkers or Jerseykin returning home, yet nobody was angry, disgruntled, or just generally unpleasant12.  A fairly large portion of the passengers were FEMA employees or volunteers coming to help out, or employees of companies with the tools and expertise to continue the recovery effort.  The guy across from me, for example, worked for a Huminification Technologies company.  Which he translated to mean he will be pumping out, drying, and sanitizing flooded buildings.

And that’s when it hit me.  Not only are New Yorkers resilient.  And stubborn.  And refuse to quit.  But people, in general, step up when they need to.  And more importantly for the situation at hand, there are no resources that the marathon is taking from recovery efforts13; the need for first responders is past.  The need now is for people with specialized skills, tools, and safety measures appropriate to the work that needs to be done.  The cop stopping traffic in Queens is not being taken away from a more important task; someone trained in repairing traffic lights or dredging basements or repairing roofs and elevators is doing that.

When I landed yesterday, I got an e-mail from Finish Line Physical Therapy, which is holding a pre-race pep talk with Jack Daniels, who wrote the training plan I followed (save for being sick for three weeks) for this race.  It seemed appropriate that I sign up, but I’d kind of assumed that even if the race went on that they’d cancel this purely promotional event with no cost to participants and no benefit to Finish Line or Run S.M.A.R.T. Project save for good will.  But no, the pep talk is also still on, free snacks and t-shirts and photos and autographs and everything.  Finish Line does not yet have power, but “hopes to” by tomorrow.  And it doesn’t sound like they’ll cancel even if they have no power.

So really, all in all, I’m impressed with how this was handled.  Assuming all is as it appears.  I feel for the victims.  I really do.  I want to help, and hope I can find a way to volunteer in the coming days, but need to figure out a way to let go of the guilt and focus on the race.

The NYRR have rebranded the race The Race To Recover14 and launched a page to promote donations to the Mayor’s Fund and various local charities.  And they’ve committed at least $1,000,000 of their own funds to the cause.  Which is something.  A fairly significant something, I think.  From what I understand from locals who have been listening to radio updates, they will also be bringing food vendors along the course (or maybe just near the finish in Central Park, where we’re disrupting the city the most?) not for runners but for people – spectators and the displaced as well – who are in need of a hot meal.  Again, something.

It’s tough to juggle competing priorities and balance respect with actual practical aid.  But I think they’ve done what’s reasonable.  There are still lots of people in need as the city recovers.  But NYRR is not the organization to answer that need.  And from what we know there’s no clear benefit to them in canceling the race.  It’s simply the awkwardness of the juxtaposition.  Which is purely emotional, but no less real.

So we’ll make some donations in the hopes that it will help.  And the city will move on.  And it will suck.  And eventually it will not.

UPDATED: 6:00 pm Friday, 02Nov2012

We have decided to cancel the NYC marathon. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in the days ahead for participants.
   -   @NYCMayorsOffice 5:21 pm EDT 02Nov2012

So, uh, yeah. Strike all that. And suddenly I’m wondering how much I was kidding myself. How much information could have been withheld that this took until the last minute to cancel? Can I get to New Hampshire in time to join my wife at a Halloween party tomorrow? Should I bring pants? Should I just delete this post before too many friends from New York read it? Should I register for Bucks County?

Show 14 footnotes

  1. Though I am sorry.  Damn it.  Now I’ve apologized.  There are drafts awaiting coherent thinking/typing time, though!
  2. My father very much at heart still being the New Yorker he was for most of his life.
  3. They actually ended up reopening midday Wednesday.
  4. We’re not allowed to worry about our rig again until January!
  5. And got to watch Arrow while nomming on Halloween candy in bed!
  6. No, not literally.
  7. Deferring, if you’re not familiar, means I’d be guaranteed a slot for next year but would need to pay again and work out the logistics – and commitment – of being in the area again.
  8. The world’s worst and yet most popular race photography company.
  9. Yes, literally, word for word.  They put that exact phrase in a bulk e-mail.
  10. There is absolutely no way you could have registered for this race and not seen the painstakingly clear zero-exception refund policy.
  11. They haven’t, as far as I know, changed the course at all yet – this is just a hypothetical!
  12. Actually, people were, as a whole, far more pleasant than my average flight to the NYC area!
  13. Save for my whole “blocking traffic for three hours” concern, above
  14. All rhymey with the cancelled Race to the Finish and charity Race to Deliver.

Yup, I’ve been slacking a bit on the ol’ blog updating front, but a speed test race seemed like a good time to jump start the habit again. I started my new training plan for New York City back on May 21, following Jack Daniels’ Marathon Training Plan A from his Daniels’ Running Formula. For those unfamiliar with his approach, he splits a training season in to four phases, the first of which is Foundation and Injury Prevention – essentially just logging on the miles with no “quality” workouts. In the second phase, Early Quality, you start bringing in those quality workouts, where determining your training pace for Easy, Marathon, Threshold, Interval, and Repetition pace workouts becomes very important. And thus far I’d been trying to decide on basing these paces off a year old 5k PR or a six month old Marathon PR. Neither of which is a really good basis for a quality training effort.

Enter Davis, California. Just about 45 minutes west of our current home of Auburn (the self proclaimed Endurance Capital of the World, but I’m not about to use a hundred miler to get a training pace for a marathon!), and home to an awesome little race company that does a series of ten races during the year, with their midsummer MOOnlight Races coinciding with the end of week eight of my training, so an all out effort on a half marathon would have to be my base point for training.

But my training plan is a story for another day.  Today, we’re talking about the race…

The Race

As one might imagine by the name “Moonlight,” this event starts at dusk.  Until a couple of days prior, I actually thought it was a Friday night run, but as the date drew near and the math reduced itself from a third grade level to a first grade level, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about getting out of work on time or anything of that sort.  Just watch what I put in my stomach on Saturday and get a parking spot on time1.  Done.

And as one might imagine by the capital “MOO” in “moonlight,” there was a bit of a cow theme going.  Thus, we knew we were at the right spot when we saw a group of runners with cow ears, cowprint skirts, and cowprint kneesocks stretching out on the hills around the Kaiser Permanente campus in Davis.  Volunteers were still cutting watermelons and bananas while vendors and sponsors were setting up their tents and such, but the bib distribution team was ready to rock – well in excess of the runner load at the time2 – so I was back at the car getting changed much faster than expected.

The kids’ mile race is first, which was very will organized as an out and back along the first half mile of the course.  From the kids out in front running all out the whole way – to the point where the lead cyclists had to hustle to not get caught – to the blind bringing up the rear it was one of the coolest kids races I’ve ever witnessed.  The crowd was enthusiastic the whole time, cheering every kid across the line.  Very well done and very cool crowd.

Next up was the 10k and 5k start.  At the time I3 didn’t really get the idea of starting the shorter distances first – I kind of assumed the best practice is to start the longest distance first and work your way down so the shorter distance finishers aren’t sitting around waiting for the longer distances for awards, friends, etc.  But having my wife play spectator yielded a fascinating observation; starting the shorter distances first gives the crowd nonstop action.  With a ten minute lag between starts, by the time the last of the half marathon walkers cleared the first corner there was only a couple of minutes before the fastest 5k runners started coming in.  Thus, constant stream of action either starting or finishing.  And constant cacophony of cheers.  Pretty clever, Change of Pace. Pret-ty cleverrrrrr.

The race course was surprisingly awesome.  First off, it was pancake flat.  The race website didn’t have a course profile, but I managed to trace it out fairly decently on mapmyrun based on the course map.  There were some lines that seemed to not follow any roads, but I did my best job estimating and realized that barring an unmapped volcano sticking out of suburban NorCal it was wicked flat.  Davis is apparently 30 feet above sea level and the course’s high and low points varied by less than 20 feet.  A fellow Maniac that spotted me4 before the race warned me not to be overconfident as there are four steep inclines up and over the highway – twice over each overpass.  All the same, that couldn’t have added more than maybe ten more feet to the overall profile.  This was a delightfully flat ass course.

Secondly, while I certainly didn’t choose this race for the scenery5, it turned out to be a very scenic course.  I was expecting a fairly bland road race through a residential section of a mid-sized city.  But lo!  The reason why the course map was so hard to follow was because most of it was along pedestrian paths in greenways.  Davis apparently has each suburban block spread apart a bit so they can fit a city park in between people’s back yards.  Couple that with a coupe of city parks and sports fields and kabowpalooma! – you’ve got maybe a mile of the half actually on “roads.”  Have I mentioned that these race organizers are pretty clever?  Pret-ty cleverrrrrr.

Aaaaand, when they say that the Golden Valley Harriers will be providing pace group leaders, they don’t mean at ten or fifteen minute finish time intervals.  They mean that there will be a friendly, chatty, experienced pacer at five minute intervals starting at the 1:30 finish time target.  So, hell, my PR is just about 8 seconds shy of 1:30 – I might as well push and see if I’m able to stick with my new friend, Steve Andrews, for the duration.  If I fall back, or if I get to the 10 mile mark and feel like pushing harder, then I know where to adjust my training to.  We’ll get to details on how I faired later on, but suffice it to say that not only Steve, but all the pacers that my wife witnessed (before we managed to find one another) were within a minute ahead of their target pace.  Mad props to the the Golden Valley Harriers.  Awesome job, ladies and gentlemen.

What else is there to say?  The race was flat.  It was well organized.  It was well marked, with arrows6 every quarter mile, if not more often, as well as at every turn or potential intersection.  There were volunteers at every turn or intersection, save one, with a smile, an encouraging word, and wild and accurate hand gestures.  There were water stations at every other mile, if not more often.  There were small children around mile 10 with glow sticks, prelooped for easy hooking with an outstretched arm.  There was accurate chip timing, ample parking, and plentiful food, drink7, and entertainment at the finish line.  There were glow in the dark tech shirts and finisher medals.

The post-race festivities seemed fun, but we needed to get my wife’s injured foot to safety, so we didn’t stick around that long.  Rumor has it that the post-race beer was just Miller Lite, so no loss on skipping that.  I don’t really understand why races bother with post-race beer if they’re not going to have something decent, but, well, to each their own.

My Race

Then there was my race.  I started off a little fast, maybe 20 seconds ahead of the pace group, chatting with another runner who has a sub-3:10 PR and has qualified for Boston multiple times.  I was a bit concerned about being ahead of “my” pace group, but I figured if this guy8 ran steady then he could be my pace group.  A couple of miles in, though, the pace group caught us, we picked up the pace a bit, but then fell back with the group.  I think at some point he actually dropped back behind the group, as I lost track of him before I had to drop back from the pack myself, somewhere around mile 9.

Completely random side note: Steve, the pace leader, is from Bucks County, PA, about an hour from my parents’ place in New Jersey.  I may have sold him on the Bucks County Marathon, something I’m hoping to run some year on a visit home during the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Yes, I do all my own stunts

After mile 9 I just couldn’t hold the pace.  My lungs and mind were ready and willing but the legs weren’t quite there.  A spectator actually tried to cheer me on to “catch the damn sign,” but I slowly watched him pull ahead of me a little further on each turn.  Getting the glow sticks were fun and spurred me on a little bit, but I ended up losing about 10-20 seconds each mile, finishing almost three minutes off the 1:30 target.  My pace group became one guy ahead of me, who was wearing a white shirt through which I could see a huge tattoo that appeared to read “DAVILA”9 – it took all I could to catch up with and eventually pass him, and at the finish he let me know that I was all that kept him up to pace through the finish.  Sometimes all you need is one well matched running partner.

The final official results clocked me at 1:32:14.  Not too far off my target, but not quite what I thought I had in me.  What mattered to me was that it was an accurate assessment of where I’m at right now in my training.  In Jack Daniels’ terms, that’s a VDOT of between 49 and 50, which is only two points off of the 52ish VDOT I was using based on a way-too-old 5k pace, but those two to three points can make all the difference.

In the weeks between running this race (it was held on July 14; my bad!) and writing this report I’ve found that the VDOT of 49 pace targets appear to be the right place for me right now.  The Interval and Threshold workouts are difficult but possible10 just as they should be.  Which is far more reassuring than the VDOT of 52 targets which had me mostly saying “really?!” to myself over and over as I put together my plan back in May.

BOOM! Flash in your eyes with 10 yards to go.

So that’s that.  A successful assessment race and good time had by all.  I might sneak something else in during Phase III of the plan if there’s something nearby and reasonably priced, but with Ragnar Napa Valley coming up in September, that’s pretty unlikely11.

The exciting bonus?  When we checked the results at the finish line I was listed as “4 of 0″ in my age group.  The timing company guy explained the zero by saying that they had a lot of people switch from half to 10k at the last minute, so final numbers weren’t adjusted yet.  He also suggested that I check the results online after a couple of days in case my position was adjusted.  After said couple of days I took a look and learned I had jumped from 4 to 1 in my age group (and 29 to 23 overall).  Well that’s quite a bit of correction!  (It turns out that said folks many of said folks who switched from half to 10k didn’t actually tell the timing company until after they ran the race.)  Bonus!

Especially because said age group position scored me a second glow in the dark medal.  Hot damn, I’m a sucker for novelty medals.

I swear the finisher medal glows; just not as brightly….

Score.  I’m going to go ahead and give two enthusiastic thumbs up to anything Change of Pace organizes.

Show 11 footnotes

  1. Since my wife has severe tendonitis in two toes from losing a kicking fight with a submerged rock, a reasonable parking spot and prime seated spectating position were key!
  2. I managed to carry on four conversations at once as the people on either side of the “L-M” line helped out with making sure I had sufficient safety pins, checking on where it was that I ran a Skirt Chaser (I was wearing the shirt at the time), and asking how I was doing carrying on three (now four) conversations at once.  Dizzying, yet somehow awesome.
  3. …and the folks around me later on in the start corral
  4. Yeah, I wore a Marathon Maniacs singlet to a half marathon.  Is that gauche?
  5. I chose it primarily for where it fell in the intersection of my training schedule and travel schedule, with a second consideration to fairly reasonable price for registering four days prior to the gun.  Or, rather, having my wife register me so as to stop my hemming and hawing.  She’s good like that.
  6. Some chalk, some paint, some tape, and some flour.
  7. Okay, they kind of hid the water, but there was plenty once I found the guys bearing it.
  8. Never got his name…
  9. Apparently his last name, not just a bizarrely dedicated fan of Desi Davila.
  10. My routes in Auburn are insanely hilly, but I’m usually not too far off target and have confidence that flatter routes will yield more consistent training.
  11. Both from a training and financial standpoint.  But, again, that’s another story.

Man, I haven’t posted a thing since I moved to the new site.  Said migration coincided with a series of unfortunate events, which isn’t to say I couldn’t have sat on the couch and written something brilliant, or at least moderately amusing, but it really put me in a bad mood for weeks on end and I didn’t want to smear that attitude all over the interwebs.  Aaaand… now I’ve got Attitude stuck in my head.  Damn it.



 Not Suitable for Most Workplaces
(And yeah, that’s actually the closest thing to a listenable copy up on YouTube.  Somebody should fix that.)

Injury

February started off so grand.  I had been reading (Jack) Daniels’ Running Formula and building myself a short “pre-season” based on his methods and best practices to lead up to an attempt at a 5k PR this month.  To give a super-simplified overview, Daniels splits his training plans/seasons in to four parts, the first of which is all base building and injury prevention.  In short, nothing but easy running, focusing on form, base miles, and figuring out where your fitness is at.  After my late 2011 marathonarama1 I tacked on Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll in January2 I was all gung ho for an awesome year.

So I built this short season to transition off of a few weeks of recovery miles in to the easy phase, with a brilliant plan to time my “step back” week with the first week of Phase 2: the week starting February 20.  Quality speed workouts, but less overall miles.  Brilliant, right?  It was looking pretty good on paper; maybe not enough training to make a significant impact on my speed, but enough to get a feel for how Daniels’ methods and theories worked for me.

But as luck would have it, during that last week of injury prevention focused base building, I managed to injure myself.  It went from an “awareness” of some discomfort in my right ankle to periodic severe pain in said ankle.  One day I slowed my pace.  The next I cut my run short and walked a bunch.  Then I3 did some research – and a bit of prodding at my person – to come to the conclusion that I most likely had EDL (Extensor Digitrorum Longus) Tendinitis.

Which is not only a whole lot of Not Fun, but is also – in most people – completely avoidable.  Just like the only other injury I’ve sustained that could be attributed to running.  In January 2008, in between my July 2007 discovery of running as Something I Enjoy and my February 2008 debut marathon, I messed with Texas, and waaaay out on the unpopulated side of Town Lake4 and pulled my IT band, resulting in a very feeble hobble back to where my wife could drive to in a car.

The root cause of both injuries?  Say it with me now, kids.  NOT STRETCHING.

Damn it.  Stretch.  After every run.  And don’t just stand there with one leg slightly bent pretending like you’re holding up that tree.  Real stretches.  Of the real muscles that you overexert while running.  Not just the ones that hurt, or were recently injured, but the ones that don’t hurt.  So they don’t get injured.  Seriously.

After.

Every.

Run.

After I pulled my IT band I was religious about stretching.  For about six months.  Maybe seven.  Then it sort of tapered off to occasional stretching and eventually the mindset that taking the three steps up in to the house and then getting in the shower before sitting on my butt at work all day somehow covered all my bases.  Guess I was lucky for the past four years, but now it’s got me again.  Bastard karma.

So, I spent most of February hobbling around, walking as much as I could, fixing up my bike and riding a bit more than I had, but not nearly as much as I’d like, and generally scowling as I got to the “Dealing with Injuries” chapter of Daniels’ Running Formula.

Fast forward to the first weekend in March, where my wife and I had a backcountry permit for two nights at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  We hiked in via the South Kaibab Trail on Friday, hit about 13 miles of the Clear Creek and North Kaibab Trails on Saturday, then hiked out via the Bright Angel Trail on Sunday.  I wore an ankle brace for the first few miles on Friday, but whipped it off as soon as it was warm enough to stop and take my shoe off.  The brace hurt more than the tendinitis.

View of the Columbia River from somewhere on the Clear Creek Trail

There is truly nothing like hiking up and down relatively steep trails with 45 pounds on your back for three days to really stretch out an injured tendon.  By the time we got back to civilization I had all but forgotten that I’d ever injured myself.  The NPS should run a physical therapy program for idiot runners who don’t stretch.

Over the following week I ran just a couple of days, gently picking up the mileage and never straying far from home.  And what else?  I stretched (not just my EDL) after every run.  The second week of March I had to travel to Reston, VA for work.  Fortunately, my hotel was right on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, so every morning I was able to run on nice flat trails before walking to the office.  And I stretched after every run.  Feel free to pat me on the head like a puppy who learned how to fetch your slippers.  Go me!

Illness

Oh, right, but I managed to find myself some influenza in Virginia.  Not only did that make for a miserable flight home, but a gross and rainy St. Patrick’s Day had us bail on our 10k and parade plans and hang out in closed quarters so I could get my wife sick too.

I’m all for running through illness, but when it comes right after an injury, there are few things more disheartening.  Another five or so days off my feet before inching those miles up again in the final days of March.

Only now, this week, the first week of April, do I feel like I’ve gotten close to where I was in that last week before injury set in.  And a whole week to go before that 5k.  So much for “training.”

The important thing is that running is fun again.  I’m able to get up in the morning (at least for a couple of days now) and even make stupid decisions to go way further than my body is ready for at this time.  I guess we put a few days of speedwork on the calendar and see how things go, then dig in to the final third of Daniels’ Running Formula and start building up a solid marathon plan for November.

Insult

There really wasn’t any insult, save for some dirty looks from the coots and ducks in the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve where we’re staying.  But it just seemed appropriate to add insult to injury5, albeit with some illness in between.

That is all.  You may carry on now.  Don’t forget to stretch.  And take your vitamins.  Lest we forget…

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Layton, Mesquite “Tri-States”, Valley of Fire, and Las Vegas R’n'R
  2. Taking advantage of their “sorry for the mess we made of Vegas, will you still love us for $50″ coupon and earning the “Desert Double” bonus medal
  3. After the appropriate stoic voice of reason from my wife reminded me not to be a jackass, of course
  4. Or Lake Austin, or Lady Bird Lake, or whatever the hip kids are calling it these days.
  5. Rimshot!

I’ve Moved!

1 comment

In so many ways.

First, my wife and I, who had originally planned to stay in Arizona through April, when she’s taking a trip to Europe with her mom and brother, decided last week that it was time to change that plan1, and rolled a few hundred miles west to Santee, California.  We got settled on Saturday, explored our surroundings a bit on Sunday before watching the Patriots lose the Super Bowl2, eating too much, and planning some running routes for the week.

Santee is an awesome place to run.  Aside from the beautiful weather and the fact that our RV park is also a city park3 right in the midst of town with a bunch of lakes to run around, there are a half dozen other parks within running range, bike lanes and sidewalks a go-go, and a population that yields at the slightest hint that a runner might want to cross the street.  I ought to stop picking on Californians for a while.  I think I’m going to like it here.

Secondly, Ramblings From the Road has moved!  I’ve been meaning to ditch GoDaddy for a while, because, well, they are really just an unpleasant organization.  So I moved hosting over to bluehost (as you may have noted from the new favicon).  Thus far, things seem to be going well.  I learned the hard way that WordPress does not keep it’s images in the database, so the “easy migration” wasn’t actually easy – after attempting WP native migration and a full mySQL import migration, I realized that I’d have to manually download all the images from the old server and upload them here.  I think I got everything, but if you notice anything amiss, please leave me a comment or pop me on twitter to let me know.

Shazam!

 

Show 3 footnotes

  1. to avoid allergies that we thought we’d be safely clear of in the middle of the desert.
  2. Make no mistake.  The Giants didn’t win that game.  The Patriots lost it.  And it wasn’t a “good game” either.  Both playoff games were good.  But the Super Bowl was a crap game where both teams played poorly.  The Giants just screwed up less.  And Manning wasn’t MVP – the only reason the Giants won was that  Pierre-Paul guy.  And most of all, I hate that I care this much.  I don’t even like football.  I just like watching my wife watch the Pats.
  3. run by the local hydro dam authority

Happy New Year!

No, I’m not Chinese, or even a true Western Buddhist or anything of the like, but I’ve always had a bit of a thing for the Chinese Zodiac.  Maybe because I’m the only sign that doesn’t have clear signs of life1.  I am a dragon.  龍.  (One of the few Han characters where I can really see the etymological roots of the design.)  Specifically, I am a Yang Fire Dragon.

And as of today, we’re in the fourth year of the dragon2 since the one I was born in.  To that effect, my wife made a sign for me that she waved while cheering me in along the final chute of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon which read simply “THIS IS YOUR YEAR!!” and “GO KEATH!!!!!” – multiple exclamation points bring me great joy, as does the P.F. Chang’s logo with his little running shoes.

I have since taken this sign, pinned it up over my desk, and taken it as a manifesto for this year.  The plan is to focus on quality rather than quantity and really score some serious PRs.  The best laid plans, but I’m hoping the constant reminder over my head while working will help keep it fresh and active.

To this extent, I am spending a lot of time this week with Jack Daniels, trying to digest the academic sports science marvel that is Daniels’ Running Formula so that I can build a solid plan for the year.  I’ve got the New York City Marathon scheduled for November, and now that RnR Arizona is past, I think I’m going to go mostly marathon-free until that point, focusing on shorter distances.  Having gotten a little out of control last year, both body wear-and-tear-wise and budget-wise, my wife and I are trying out a $100 per month race budget3, so I’m trying to narrow my racing to specific target races rather than anything that might be convenient or fun.  Fortunately, my wife is a little light on her spending thus far, so she might “sponsor” me in a fun run or two before my NYC debt is paid.  Otherwise, my first target is to build a solid 5k training plan for something mid-April.

Beyond April, we’ve got no idea where we’ll be yet4, but I’m hoping to find an early summer 10k and a late summer half marathon before starting a solid training plan for NYC, using my legs of Ragnar Napa Valley as a tuneup5, seven weeks out from race day.

Other than that, I don’t know the specifics of what my training plan will be here, but I’ve got a group of folks who’ve committed to a sort of virtual training team to help support one another in our goals this year, plus an awesome wife who keeps a better eye on my well being and capabilities than I do.  I know I need to do more cross training, especially cycling and strength training, and will hopefully get more regular swimming in.

I’m laying this all out on the table now, rather than after I have a plan, because it would just be too easy to let the plan building fall by the wayside and go in to another season of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants training, grumbling about how I only improved by 30 seconds due to the total lack of plan or poorly executed last minute plan.  So, in the spirit of accountability, here’s to a plan.

Year of the dragon baby.  MY year.

Stole this from a friend on Facebook. Possibly not her work either, but too cute not to share. Happy birthday, Samirah!

Legend

Until recently, I’d never thought of the odd selection of animals that are included in the Chinese Zodiac.  There’s many different versions, but the most common backstory seems to be that the Emperor, or possibly Buddha, decided to have a race to determine which animals would get to be part of the Zodiac.  The key part of the race was a water crossing and, in short, this challenge illustrated the behaviors of the animals and indirectly dictated their finish order.  (e.g. Rat was first because he tricked Ox in to carrying him across the water, then scampered off ahead of Ox to finish before him.  Tiger was next due to being the second strongest runner/swimmer after Ox.  Rabbit was fourth, having hopped across rocks and logs in the river, while Dragon, whom you’d think could have flown, apparently was so late due to taking time out to make it rain (up in here!) to help all the people of Earth and then help Rabbit, who had slipped on his way across the river, make it safely to shore.  Ain’t we dragons all self-sacrificing?

Other Things

What could it be?!

Also adding to my excitement of getting proper plan planning started is the recent arrival of my refurbished Garmin.  It started acting all loopy early last year, but I limped along with it until late summer when it started driving me bonkers.  Once it got the point of dying within the first three miles of every run, I finally opened a ticket with them in October and shipped it off for warranty service, using myTracks to track my workouts instead.  It took a while, but when I finally asked why the status had read “awaiting shipment” for over two months, they were very apologetic (for what was essentially a bookkeeping glitch) and shipped it out immediately, second day air.

It lives again!

Since I don’t have a consistent address, there was one more delay involved, as we only get our mail forwarded once per month.  So late last week when the January shipment arrived, I was like a kid at Christmas!  In addition to my Lazarus Watch, there were also a pair of packages from Planet Ultra6, our “bonus prizes” for doing both events back to back.  They kept the gift a mystery, but with an organization that gives out rock arch statues to overall winners and cow bells to age group winners, we knew it would be awesome.  Mugs!  Okay, yeah, we don’t really need more mugs, but now we have more mugs, with both race logos, and a “Back 2 Back” in between with the dates underneath.  I’m a definite fan of race bling that can be used.  I ought to make some hot cocoa.

This was all very exciting for me, especially considering the let down of the prior week’s arrival of a package from the Layton Marathon, a race that I thought was very well organized, even though I crashed and burned on my own efforts.  My “great race director” comments are partially rescinded.  My impressions of the event remain positive, but I’m a bit frustrated in some of the aftermath.  First, they did age groups by your age at the end of the year instead of race day, which is weird and confusing to say the least, but that may be the fault of the timing company and not the race director.  Second, because although I was listed fourth in my age group on race day (and no, nobody in my age group – or the age group the timing company put me in – was an overall winner), when the results were posted online, I was bumped to third.  Since the race had some pretty snazzy etched Lucite statue things as age group awards, I figured I’d ask the RD if there was any way to get it post-race.  I was expecting a no, as the FAQ clearly stated that there would be no post-race awards shipped, but he said yes – they were available for pickup at a bike shop Bountiful.  It took a few weeks, but when my wife and I headed up to Provo for the Halloween Half, we swung by Bountiful to grab my award.  Only it wasn’t there.  And the bike shop had no record of what went where or who took what or really any clue about why they were put in charge of these awards.  They suggested I e-mail the RD, which I did, and he said he’d ship it to me.  Cool!

Weeks later, I’ve gotten nothing, so I ask for an ETA.  No reply.  A few weeks later, again, no reply.  Finally, as the year came to a close and my wife and I were planning on leaving Mesquite, I tried once more, since the address I had given him was no longer any good.  Nothing.  I posted a quick note to their Facebook wall asking if there was a new address I should be using or something.  It was promptly deleted, but I got a reply moments later asking for a new address because the award was ready to ship “today.”  A few weeks later, I get an envelope, postmarked January 11, clearly too small for Lucite statuary.  Inside I find a generic “Layton Marathon 2011″ medal, wrapped in port-a-potty toilet paper7.  I don’t know if this is an alternate finishers’ medal they ended up not using or just something quick and cheap he sent me to shut me up, but it was quite a disappointment.  I honestly think a simple “hey, dude, someone stole your award and we don’t have any more” or “we gave it to someone else at the post-race award ceremony” or some other form of “no” would have been less disappointing than this.

Yes, the back is blank

It was clearly a pain in the ass for them, because the “No age group medals will be mailed after the race.” has been amended to read:

Though we only give awards for the top 3 we suggest that if you are one of the top 4 you stay around for the Awards Ceremony in case a racer is disqualified or has been pulled to the overall finisher. Last year we had two 4th Place Finishers that actually came in 3rd when the results were finalized.

Yeah.  Lesson learned.  Or rather, known lesson reinforced.  Ah well.

Don’t want to end this post on a downer though.  While I’m disappointed in my lack of shiny things, or moreso on the way the RD handled it, it was still a well run race, and I’m mostly excited to get back in to proper training, using old toys come new again, dig in to some hard core runner geek science, and slaughter some PRs and serve them for supper.

Show 7 footnotes

  1. Come to think of it, the same thing holds true in the western Zodiac; I’m a Libra, the only inanimate sign…
  2. Which is a Yang Water Dragon year, which I’m hoping doesn’t mean anything bad with the whole fire/water thing, but, well, the whole heavenly stem and earthly branch concept gets a bit beyond my comprehension.  Side goal for this year: read up on the Chinese Zodiac.
  3. Which I’ve already spent through March thanks to NYC.
  4. Though omens and portents are pointing to SoCal…
  5. Yeah, I’m probably doing a relay this year.  I thought I thought relays were stupid?
  6. You remember them, right?  My new ROBFFs that put on the Mesquite Tri-States Marathon and Valley of Fire Marathon back in November.
  7. Fresh, at least.

To be honest, yes, this Rock ‘n’ Roll event was significantly better organized and enjoyable than Las Vegas was.  Neither was an absolute disaster, and neither was perfect, but they were both enjoyable races and of course I can’t help but draw comparisons.  That said, I think I’m done with the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand1 unless it’s wicked convenient and I have a $50 discount code again.  Mostly because at heart I am a Country Mouse and prefer the more scenic rural courses and smaller crowds, but also because I’m underwhelmed with the “Rock” hype and would much rather support a race that puts more effort and less logoeering in supporting bands along their race course.

Anyway, that’s me.  Onwards to the race!

Event

Overall, this was well run.  There were a few minor disappointments, but nothing that I personally felt soiled my experience.  The expo was the usual labyrinth of vendors giving out coupons and junk, but had a few unique vendors I haven’t crossed paths with before.  Okay, one.  EONI (Earth’s Own Natural Ingredients).  And they make wicked tasty cakes and granola cookies that they pretend are healthy for you.  I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the low-cal and full-cal cinnamon cakes.  They don’t seem to have much of a web presence yet, but I’m nagging them for more info and might just buy some treats next time I’m at Sprout’s2.  I was hoping for some sort of cool giveaway from P.F. Chang’s sporting the cute running dragon logo they came up with, but it was not to be.  They were giving out fortune cookies, paceTats, and samples of a delicious cocktail involving Sriracha, melon vodka, and Singha, but no dragons.

Post-expo, we killed some time wandering around, getting a feel for where the Friday night concert was, determining how best to avoid Suns3 crowds, ate dinner we’d brought with us, then caught some of the opening band and explored the “CitiScape” plaza that is only marginally better than the shell of a city downtown Phoenix was a few years ago.  After wasting some money on a round at the Tilted Kilt4 event bars, we discovered a cafe/grocer on the house right where we could buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it on the patio.  Deal.  We settled in and enjoyed the opening act and random promotional DJ rambling during the set change, then mozied on down to the main floor for Fitz and the Tantrums, which, simply put, are an amazingly awesome band, even more so live.  Though I suspect that race organizers had nothing to do with booking them other than saying “yeah, sure” when CitiScape asked if they could promote the show through the race, it was an excellent choice and a great Friday night.  Meaning plenty of type to recover and rehydrate on Saturday before the playoffs.

Race morning, my wife agreed to drop me off at the start line and meet me at the finish line after a non-race run of her own somewhere near Tempe Town Lake.  It’s amazing what a little Kate Pierson can do.  I met up with some Marathon Maniacs for a quick group picture, joined the port-a-potty lines, then headed over to the corrals to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And then run!

The course isn’t exactly a scenic one, but it was a perfect day for running.  The course starts in downtown Phoenix, near where the Expo and concert was, so probably very convenient for folks who were visiting and staying in downtown hotels.  The course quickly turns up 7th Avenue, which is essentially office and industrial parks mixed with some apartments and stores, but was somewhat more enjoyable than my arbitrarily chosen long run a couple of weeks ago that started by heading up 19th Avenue5.  Most of the spectators along this part seemed to be people who discovered they were locked in to their parking lot for a few hours, so they figured they’d watch the fools run by.  Plus a few folks who looks like they were waiting for the bus.

Around mile 5, we turned right on to Missouri, where things turned more residential.  There were still people watching from their front yards, but also clusters of spectators looking for specific friends.  We meandered from neighborhood to neighborhood before joining up with the Arizona Canal around the half way point.  When I went on my long run January 2, I actually ran along a big portion of the footpath6 which, as far as I know, runs the full length of the valley.  The marathon course stayed on Indian School Road alongside it, though, as there were plenty of locals out for their regular, Saturday morning, non-marathon run or bike ride.

This section of the course was apparently changed from last year.  In the past, I’m told we would have blown through Scottsdale and south, coming to to the finish line in Tempe from the east.  This year, however, they made miles 13ish-19ish an out and back, looping around the center square of Scottsdale, which I think is a good thing for big races to do.  Normally, I think I’m pretty anti-out-and-back.  I like one big ol’ loop or point to point.  But when you’ve got a race big enough to draw elites and sub-elites, it’s pretty awesome to see how fast they’re roaring down the road in the opposite lane.

Once we cut down south in to Scottsdale, the course links back up with the half marathon.  But unlike Vegas where we shared one side of the road for 13 miles, here we paralleled for just the final two miles, but in separate lanes.  We actually came in on an overpass that the half runners were running under, then while they had the southbound side of Mill Ave, we had one or two lanes of the northbound side, allowing vehicular traffic to use the remainder.  I don’t know how this worked out for the half, but the section I saw seemed to be managing pretty well, and for the full it was more than enough room.  Missing, however, was the 24 mile marker and the clock for the 25 mile marker, which may or may not have had an impact on my mental well being.

Also much better than Vegas, all the water stations seemed to have relatively happy, intelligent, and friendly volunteers who stuck to their posts.  Because the desert can be a sneaky bitch and I didn’t carry my own hydration, I grabbed water at every stop but the first one.  No collisions, no soaking of any volunteers, and no soaking of me!

In addition to the bands, it seems that every high school we came anywhere near sent their cheerleaders or pep squad out to add support.  Some where just there with signs, some in uniforms or with pom-poms, but three went above and beyond – and I wish I could remember what schools did this so I could tell them specifically how much they rocked.

  • One school is apparently the Cougars7, and I don’t know if they tried to get cougar costumes and came up short or just decided from the get go that they should dress up as assorted animals, but there were three or four girls in tiger costumes, one as a penguin, one as an elephant, and I think maybe a lion and a few others.  Full costumes.  Head to toe.  I high fived (or high pawed?) them all and let them know how confused but appreciative I was.
  • Another was out there with one of those big banners that football players jump through as they enter the field at the top of the game, but the girls were all decked out in vaguely “metal” looking outfits in their school colors (black and purple) sporting Paul Stanley Starchild makeup.
  • My third favorite was a school that decided to forgo the cheerleading and put some disco on the PA, got decked out in tacky disco outfits, and hung a disco ball over the road via a giant helium balloon arch.  While not particularly rockin’, they were one of the more enthusiastic groups, which is always fun.  Also, the disco reminded me of my wife’s realization as to why punk happened.  Which in turn reminded me to go faster.  Funny how the brain works.

Post-race was very well executed.  We looped in to Arizona State’s parking lot, where the half and the full each had their own finish line and separate post-finish corrals.  Both of which were bigger than the single corral we shared in Vegas, where there were about 10,000 additional people.  It was so smooth that the volunteers handling the food tables were grabbing handfuls and bringing them out to hobbling runners.  Concierge banana service!  Your choice of flavors from the nice Jamba Juice man over here.  Fancy!  I actually even stopped and let them take my photo in front of the silly logoed backdrop holding up my medal and grinning like an idiot.  Which I never do.  There was room for me to talk to a Maniac who finished ahead of me by about three minutes without getting in anyone else’s way.  There was room for roaming photographers to stop people and get extra photos (of me holding up my medal and grinning like an idiot).  Huzzah!

What there was not was a clear indication that there were two points of no return.  It was clear when we left the “finisher’s only” corral, though there was no automated announcement as there was in Vegas.  But I was chatting with Dana, a guy I’d met in the start corral who had the same target pace as me (but came a few minutes closer than I did) and we both breezed right by the line for the Desert Double Down medals, assuming we could come back later when the line was shorter, only to learn that the family meet-up area was past another point of no return and we’d have to loop all the way around ASU stadium to return to the finish area.  At least we could get back in.

On the other hand, the family meet-up area was the ASU track, which was where the awards and post-race concert stage was, so family (i.e. my wife), could enjoy the show while waiting for their loved ones to finish.  I managed to finish before the show started, and even caught some of the awards as I looped around to get my Double Down medal.  There was plenty of room on the infield of the track for everyone to stretch, relax, stand, sit, etc, and still have a pretty good view of the show.  Plus, the B-52s are a hellabetter band than Cheap Trick, so it’s the kind of show you actually want to stick around for.

As we left, my wife spied a likely explanation of how the post-finish experience could be so well executed here and such a mess in Vegas; outsourcing.  All over the place we saw employees of Pro-EM, a local (and appropriately named), Professional Event Management company.  I don’t know if ASU required Competitor to hire Pro-EM in order to use ASU facilities, if it was a last minute change after the problems in Vegas, or if it’s just a random decision, but it was a very good thing and should be standard operating procedure for any race series of this magnitude.

Overall, awesomeness.  My minor disappointments, however, are easy to sum up:

  • “Discount” Fitz tickets – When I registered, runners are offered the chance to buy “discount” tickets to the pre-race Fitz and the Tantrums concert for $13.10 (so clever) instead of $19.  Which is fine, cool; a great price for a great band8 either way.  But there was no information about where to pick up the tickets until well after the “final info” e-mail.  And when we got to the Expo, the map conflicted with the information provided, which led us to an unattended table, and then finally to the info booth, who were not only unapologetic for the wild goose chase, but offered us as many tickets as we wanted.  Um, yeah, if the show is free I want my $26.20 back, punk.  And at the show itself, the “runners at the door” price was lowered from $15 to $5.  While I’m all for trying to get encourage more people to get to the show, that’s just a series of slaps in the face to those who paid “early.”  Maybe promoting the “rock” aspect of the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series would be a better approach?
  • Delayed start due to traffic – Once again, while the organizers and volunteers may be able to handle the volume of people they want to lure to these events, that does not mean the physical area they’re having them can handle it.  We lucked out by choosing the marathon start line as a drop-off point, as when my wife passed the half/finish drop-off exit, there were cars backed up on the freeway at least two miles in each direction.  Which not only delayed the half start, but delayed the marathon start because these people needed to park and get to the light rail to get to the marathon start.  To their credit, they communicated this fairly well at the marathon start line, and had the planning to know that they needed to delay an extra nine minutes to avoid having the race collide with the light rail9, so kudos for that!
  • Lack of pace groups – Apparently, the fastest pace group was 3:30, and that guy happened to get injured and had to drop out with a few miles to go.  I really hate the “I paid $so-and-so for this event and I expect X, Y, and Z” attitude, but I think I have it a bit on this issue.  One of the perks of a large race is, in my opinion, pace group leaders who know what they’re doing and cover all finishing times from course sweep to open men BQ.  In fact, in my first two marathons (or maybe first and third?), pace groups had two leaders, just in case someone had to hit the port-a-potty or got hurt, and I assumed this was standard practice.  This is not so.  Definitely need to read my FAQs more closely next time I have a specific time target!
  • Lack of corral segregation and/or enforcement – I was a little worried that I was in Corral 1.  I’m never in Corral 1.  But even people who had entered slower estimated times were in Corral 1.  The 3:30 pacer was in Corral 1.  And I think the 4:00 pacer may have been as well.  That’s a big corral.  Plus, once again, nobody was checking whether people were in the right corral.  There were people that were beside me in the corral that I didn’t see the whole race – even on the other side of the road during the out and back.  That’s some crazy mis-corraling.  The purpose of a corral isn’t to put X number of people together, but to help people get in the right order before the start.  Without pace group leaders or even pace estimate signs along side, we were all grouped together, thinking we were within maybe 15-20 minute finish times of one another, but in reality there were over 90 minutes of discrepancy all within one corral.  Sloppy.
  • Lack of “rock” bands – Not to dis the bands, but there were only maybe two rock bands on this course.  The rest were blues, motown, and jam bands.  And they get tiny little 8.5×11″ signs taped to one post of their tent to promote them10, but that’s it.  Unlike Vegas, I did find a full list of the bands on their website11, but that’s all the promotion these guys get.  Maybe if there was more focus on the bands and less on the brands they might be able to pull in bands that match the genre label on the event.  After all, Miami is apparently Latin Music and Nashville is apparently Country Music, so they’re clearly willing to bend genres as appropriate.  If Phoenix is Blues, that’s fine.  Call it that.  The tow truck company with a PA near the start bustin’ out Michael Jackson rocked more than most of the bands.
  • Lack of communication – From the lack of info on the Fitz tickets, to the lack of info on the pace groups, to lack of info on the Desert Double Down there was a whole lot of lack of communication.  Of information that was certainly known internally or at least in the process of being decided with a specific date of decision/communication that could be shared.  Competitor group sends a lot of e-mails with a lot of info, but most of this is also on their web site.  It’s the holes in this info that are infuriating.  They’re pretty responsive to intelligent questions on their event Facebook pages, but usually via links to the web site or mentions of forthcoming e-mails that don’t really answer the questions.  And the info people at the expo don’t have any answers either.  I don’t know if they’re volunteers or employees, but they need to know every detail of what’s happening or how to find it out if they’re going to be put in charge of answering questions.  Argh.

Anyway, that’s enough griping.  Despite my ramblings, they were very minor disappointments.

My Race

Short version: I still suck at pacing.

When I learned that there were no pace groups faster than 3:30, I was very happy I grabbed the paceTats at the expo.  I generally think of paceTats as a rather stupid product, but as I didn’t make a pace band ahead of time, I slapped 3:10 on one arm and 3:20 on the other and went with the plan of trying to stay between them in order to hit my 3:15 target.  I also bumped in to one other guy near me in the giant corral, Dana, who was targeting a 3:15, whom in hindsight I should have stuck closer to at the beginning.

But no, I settled in to pace that turned out to be too fast, burning up those first two miles (I couldn’t see the clock on the one mile sign) in less than 14 minutes.  Awesome if I was targeting a 3:03 marathon, but I don’t think I’m at that level of training yet12.  Lacking a watch with an instant estimate of my current pace, I tried to adjust pace at the end of each mile, checking the race clock and listening for the splits from my phone that were more off than usual due to the start line amidst big shiny buildings downtowm.

All day Saturday, for reasons unknown, I was unusually anxious about this race.  Not nervous or worried; just randomly anxious.  This resulted in less than stellar sleep and, apparently, some poor choices at the get go.  Which were only multiplied due to the half hour delayed start.

Eventually, around mile 8, I slowed closer to my target 7:20 pace and held it steady for a few miles.  By then, the field had thinned considerably, but because I had started so fast, people who were running steady paces in between my initial pace and intended pace were now passing me left and right.  I tried not to let it get the better of me, but apparently got a bit too chill.  I was still in my happy zone around the 12-and-a-bit mile mark (right after the previously mentioned KISSesque cheerleaders) when a spectator who was counting runners told me that I was 194th.  All things considered, that was pretty awesome.  I was spurred on to try and hold that sub-200 position, thinking I was “among my own” by then, more or less running with people in the right pace range.

Shortly after the half, as we cheered the elites on in the oncoming lane, the paceTats on my arms 13 and mile marker clocks informed me that I was losing about 15 seconds per mile.  My overzealous start had built me a solid buffer, but I was eating away at it.  I tried to block out the urge to do the math as to how long it would take me to fall below my goal finish time and just focus on picking up the pace.  I had some faster miles and I had some slower miles, but I never got back under my target pace after mile 15 or so.  In those last miles the excessive start pace really hit me and I clocked those last three miles at 8+ minutes each.

Just when I needed it, there was no mile 24 marker.  And mile 25 had no clock.  cool.  I had tried picking up the pace as much as I could as I saw the half marathoners pass below us, but I didn’t know exactly where on the course that was.  As usual, the crowd gets bigger and louder the closer you get to the finish, and even though this particular course had a series of turns where you think the finish might be right around the next corner, they did have a mile 26 marker, which was awesome.

But, alas, it was also confirmation: I had blown my 3:15 plan big time, but there might still be hope for a PR.  My wife got a nice high-viz spot right near the start of the corrals and was waving a sign she made using the P.F. Chang’s dragon I adore so much.  Seeing her, hearing her14, and knowing that the finish line had to be close I gave it everything I had left, which was apparently more than expected, as I’d sort of been in recovery mode for the last few miles.  I picked off a couple of other runners in that final push, and managed to finish just after the clock clicked in to the 3:20 range.

One of the finish line photographers even caught the look of anguish on my face as that happened.  I both love and hate that person.

When the final numbers came back later that night, it turns out I did manage not only a 33 second PR, but my chip time was just under the 3:20 mark.

03:19:51

Not what I set out to do, but considering how much I’d sabotaged myself, a very satisfying finish.  I frankly signed up for this race to give the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand a second chance and squeeze in one more marathon before building myself a “real” training plan for a solid goal at New York City in November15, focusing on speed and PRs at shorter distances in the meantime.  The sign my wife made, by the way, said “This is your year!!”, tying in with the P.F. Chang running dragon for the Chinese Year of the Dragon (which starts on January 23) and referencing that I was born in 1976 and thus am “a dragon” . . . so that’s my motto for this year.  This is my year.  Apparently, in Chinese, I’m now four.

So, yeah, as to today, I could have prepared better and likely performed better, but I had a good time, set a PR, and really enjoyed the day.  Especially the B-52s and lunch with my wife at Rúla Búla16 afterwards.

That aforementioned 3:19:51, by the way, was good enough for placing 222 overall (out of 3863), 34 out of 376 in my age group (35-39), and 186 out of 2215 guys.  Which, as a friend on dailymile pointed out to me, is top 10% in all three.  So, pretty snazzy.  I can live with that.

And the moral of the story, boys and girls?

 

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas + Rock 'n' Roll Arizona = Desert Double Down

Postscript; My wife seems to think I’d look good with forearm tattoos.  Maybe I should get my target pace permanently tattooed?  But then what happens if and when I reach that goal?  Something I must ponder.

Show 16 footnotes

  1. …unless I find myself in Portugal at the right time of year…
  2. Once I’m back in training mode, of course.
  3. Did you know Phoenix has a basketball team?  Did you know that people outside of Los Angeles, New York, and Boston actually go to basketball games?  Crazy talk.
  4. The same idea as Hooters and Twin Peaks, but vaguely Celticer.
  5. Though the Mexican, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants on 19th made that run smell a lot better!  The lack of metal recycling centers on 7th wins out for “scenery.”
  6. Maybe it was a bike path?  It looked multi-use and there were both runners and cyclists.
  7. According to the chalk writing on the course I tried to read without tripping.
  8. Especially a national act.
  9. Which was just enough time for a last minute pre-race pee break!
  10. Some had brought their own extra sign, others had a girlfriend or roadie wave the little sign at runners.
  11. And once finding this, I did track down the Vegas list, so mea culpa on that critique from last time.
  12. Despite Greg McMillan telling me I’m capable of a 3:05:14 based on my 5k PR, I’m not there yet.
  13. The paceTats held up remarkably well considering I wore arm warmers over them for the first several miles.  I may just need to break my promise to not do product reviews on this site…
  14. For once; usually I just see her mouth move and wave back.
  15. Yeah, that’s right.  I bit the bullet and gave NYRR three month’s worth of my race budget.  I’m doing another big city marathon.  And I’m going to run the largest marathon in the United States.  With the intent of setting a PR and specific goal.  What am I thinking?
  16. The post-race Irish Pub tradition we’ve come to enjoy is harder to follow through on after small, rural marathons than these big city races I poo-poo so much.  Conundrums abound.

This probably isn’t going to be the greatest reflection on my 2011 goals, but let’s just get down to it.  The year is over.  And then some.  And I haven’t made any “resolutions” save for a resolution not to make any year-based goals for 2012.  So, before we get to far in to 2012, I’m taking a final look at 2011, in part to clear my mind and see what I want to focus on after tomorrow’s marathon – likely my last until New York City1.

  1. Mileage –   117, 104, 117, 115, 116, 151, 139, 195, 154, 95, 153, and 132.  So, total, 1585 miles or just over 2550 kilometers.  Cleared the 2011 kilometer challenge with no problem, but lost that sense of consistency about half way through the year.  However, overall this is a far more consistent chart than last year, with a lower max mileage and higher min mileage for overall less discrepancy.
    I’m not too disappointed with the inconsistency, though, because what’s happened over the year is that my sense of “high” mileage has changed drastically.  A “short run” is now at least a 10k.  Doing less feels like I’m cheating or something.  And while I haven’t had any really long training runs since my late-year marathon spree, I’ve been running more days per week and I’m feeling more confident about building mileage in 2012.  Exactly how that is going to go I’m not sure of yet, but I’m thinking easing in to some two-run days.
  2. Race Weight – Yeah, totally dropped the ball on this at the end of the year.  Instead of putting on ten pounds between Halloween and New Year’s, I put on almost 10 between Halloween and Thanksgiving, then worked some of it off.  Still, I managed to stay at or below the 150 mark for most of the second half of the year.  I’m continuing to work on this, and have set myself reminders to try and be more consistent about weighing in, but I’m going to put it out of my mind a bit and focus on the overall fitness thing instead of just weight.
  3. Cross Training – I’m getting a little bit better at making this a habit, but it’s not 100% ingrained yet.  I was hit or miss for the last couple of months of the year, but need to move to more hits in 2012.  My wife has helped me build some good varied strength and conditioning workouts that don’t take a lot of time, but I need to be better disciplined about making the time to do these sessions.
  4. Water With bells on, bitches.
  5. Workouts, not just runs – I squeezed in a few speedwork days in the final weeks of 2011, but overall let this effort slide.  It’s definitely a focus for 2012.
  6. 19:00 5k – Didn’t have another chance to go for this in 2011, but my only goal for 2012 is to focus on breaking some PRs, 5k included.  CRUSH!!!!
  7. 1:32 half marathon (Tacoma City Marathon, May 1, 1:29:56)
  8. Another sub-3:30 Marathon (Mesquite Tri-State Marathon, November 19, 3:20:24, and Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll, December 4, 3:26:38)
  9. Sub-40:00 10k – Ibid item 6.  Including the CRUSH!!!!
  10. Blog about something other than my training – Ehhh….

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, I decided on shelling out the mad ducats and registered for NYC2012.

Random Thoughts

3 comments

Sometimes I think.  Sometimes those thoughts get too unwieldy to finish.  Even for a blog of self-professed rambling.  So I will sum up.

  1. Latkes are yummy.  Especially when you swap up ingredients based on what you have on hand.  I followed my friend Deb’s recipe but swapped out red potatoes 1 and shallots instead of onions.  Wicked awesome, even though canola oil can’t get hot enough to cook them in three minutes.
  2. I believe in second chances.  Based on my experience at Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas I am unimpressed by Competitor Group.  But, things went wrong there and they admitted it.  (Time will tell if they make corrections.)  And I believe in bribery, too.  So I took their $50 coupon code and registered for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona for an almost reasonable price.  Less shared course, much better band2, and a reputation for being “a well run” race.  Plus, the whole Desert Double Down medal is a fun promo.  This ought to be interesting.
  3. I’m moving to Buckeye!  The heavy winds across the desert have brought on our desire to move on from Mesquite earlier than the normal wanderlust would push us on, so after much hemming and hawing between San Diego, Needles, Blythe, and somewhere in the valley of the sun, we settled on the latter, specifically Buckeye, for New Year’s Eve onwards for a couple of months.  The difference between Mesquite and Buckeye as far as running communities is like night and day.  The challenge will be to not get carried away with our race budget!  Then, maybe SoCal in Marchish?
  4. I’m contemplating a “real” training plan.  I’ve been following Coach Patrick over on Marathon Nation since he started it up, but haven’t actually subscribed to the premium stuff.  My logic is that there’s soooo much info available for free and I’m pretty comfortable building my own plan that it’s just not worth the crazy price3.  He’s knocking $10/month off for the holidays, so it’s got me thinking again about scheduling a proper training cycle.  There’s no chance in following a proper plan for Arizona, but, you know, maybe something later in the year.
  5. I’ll start with books.  Gabrielle over at gabsatrucker.com was clearing out her bookshelf and offering up some free running books.  She was kind enough to ship me Jack DanielsDaniels’ Running Formula and Joe Henderson’s Run Right Now.  (Thank you Gabrielle!)  As of this post, I think she still has six books left, so if you’re interested, head on over and shoot her an e-mail.  If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t read Born To Run, grab that one; contrary to what the internet may claim, it’s not a barefoot running manifesto – it’s a really well told story of McDougall’s journey to Mexico, the people he met there, and the American runners he lured there.  Entertaining read, even for the non runner.  Digression. Point: I’m going to give Misters Daniels and Henderson a read and see what sort of plan I can build off that.
  6. I’ve gotten a little carried away with the virtual races and challenges.  I’d sworn off the dailymile “Challenges” feature for a while, because I don’t like being so mileage-centric in my training.  It makes me skip rest days, run further than I should, or just not do a “workout” but instead log “just miles” because that’s where my head is.  But as the holiday neared, I found myself signing up for a bunch of them.  I’m registered for the Boxing Day Half Marathon and the far less serious Exercise with a Santa Hat On challenges.  The “100 miles by Christmas” seems to have vanished, which is good I think, as I was not likely to completed that without a whole slew of junk miles.  I even tried creating my own challenge; חֲנֻכָּה חֲלֵנז׳ (rough transliteration of “Channukah Challenge”) to run one mile per night of Channukah4 as a way to limit my mileage this week.  But I clearly did it wrong.  Or my plan is incompatible with the site’s functionality.  But what I’m most excited about is the Home For The Holidays Virtual 10k, put together by Robin from Westford Mommy, Ashley from Happy Healthier Bear, and Stephanie from Run for Fun.  They even got sponsors!  Neat.  My 10k course here in Mesquite ain’t exactly “flat and fast,” but it’s something to keep me going through the weekend that I’d normally take off completely.  A kid could get used to these sort of things.
  7. I Can Haz RSS?  Although I have an “RSS Feeds” folder right on my browser toolbar, once I uninstalled the memory-and-bandwidth-vampires that are feed scrollers earlier this year, I got way out of the habit of reading things regularly.  So I finally got on the bandwagon and popped all the ones that are still active in to Google Reader so I can get little notifications on my phone and keep what I’ve read in sync between devices.  Neat-o-batito!  I’ve even set myself up a little goal to get all the vaguely running-centric ones linked in a blogroll here on Ramblings From The Road to share these awesome people with you.  And now that I’ve shared this goal with you, I need to stick to it, eh?
  8. Crazy People intrigue me.  One of the first days I went running along Mesquite Boulevard in this fine town I came up on a guy walking along, wearing a flannel shirt that could have been anywhere from a month to half a century old, work boots, and a striped wool hat.  He has scraggly salt and pepper hair down to his shoulders and a borderline santa beard and whiskers.  In most parts of the country, he could be anyone’s zany uncle.  Here, walking with his arms arched out to his sides like he’s mozying through the OK Corral, he puts off a slight air of crazy.  As I got closer, I realized that he was shouting fairly angrily, which concerned me at first, until I realized that it was the same few choice phrases over and over.  I was a bit hesitant to come up too close to him from behind, so I swung a bit wide as I passed.  And slowly forgot all about him.  And then yesterday – well, technically two days ago now – I came upon him again.  Same outfit, same pose, and, I believe, the same phrases.  I wish I had the mental capacity to remember things like this with jock brain, but they were along the lines of “I’ll shove your hippy up your ass, you longhair!” and “Don’t you fucking think that way at me!” . . . whatever the case, clearly not “with the rest of us.”  Which totally shifts my initial fear to one of concern.  What happened to the poor guy?  Why is he wandering the streets like the love child of Clint Eastwood and Kurt Cobain?  Can I help?  Should I just stay clear?  Does he even know I’m behind him?  Does he have somewhere to go at night or does he just wander the streets of Mesquite 24/7?  And yet, still, I hesitate, do nothing, and move on.  I don’t like that I do this.  But I do.

Look at that.  Eight random thoughts.  Eight nights of Hanukkah.  Eight tiny reindeer.  Who knew?

Playlist: Ocho Kandelikas

Bonus thought5; I made a Hanukkah playlist on Spotify.  I hate Spotify more and more each day, mostly because they SUCK at streaming, but also a bit because of the limited selection.  But they did pretty good on the Hanukkah songs I sought.  The only one they lacked was the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert duet.  But, if you’re in the mood for a proper festival of lights, get your dancin’ shoes on for a mix of klezmer, dippy-trippy-hippy-jew folk, silly Christmas-esque Hanukkah carols6, and a random hour long kabbalist lecture on the tzadikim nistarim.  Without further ado: The Hanukkah MegaMix Ocho Kandelikas.  Enjoy!

 

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Because the white ones are apparently reserved for Christmas mashed potatoes…
  2. B-52s instead of Cheap Trick!
  3. $30 per month?!  Is that crazy?
  4. 1 mile on the 25th, 2 on the 26th, 3 on the 27th, etc
  5. Think of it as the Shamus.  Or Rudolph.
  6. But dear god, no, no “Twas the Night Before Hanukkah”!