First Date, Part 1

Admittedly I am no pro at first dates. In fact, where it matters, I’ve really only had one ūüôā In other contexts, there have been a few here and there, like a “first date” playing racquetball or a “first date” with destiny. Anyway, Tuesday I had a rendezvous with a fellow DC runner, we’ll call him “Ben”. I put out a “Anyone need a running buddy?” on MapMyRun.com like 11 months ago, and he responded last Thursday. Fashionably late, I guess. We ultimately decided to meet Tuesday morning at 6:45am at a mutually known water fountain. I had two concerns from the outset: Snow and Pace.

For the snow, I wasn’t

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sure how clear the paths would be after the snowpocalypse snOMGasm snowmaggedon winter weather we’ve had over the last 2 weeks. As I set out for the 2 mile journey to get to the water fountain, I opted for the road more traveled, fearing that my usual path would be under 18 inches of packed ice. It was a good choice, though it involved more traffic lights and slow-moving pedestrians (read: walkers). Made it to the water fountain only 2 or 3 minutes late, but Ben was there waiting. Feeling bad, I didn’t want to make him wait around any longer, so we shook hands and immediately discussed where to go. Quick agreement about most paths probably not being passable, we decided to go up.

From the outset, it was uphill seemingly forever. Having only run once on a treadmill for 2 miles since the Miami Marathon (which didn’t require much hill training itself), it would not have been my first choice. But hills ranked higher than uncleared ice shelfs similar to what sank the Titanic. Between dodging patches of ice and climbing hills, there wasn’t a lot of small talk. I learned he graduated high school the same year I graduated college (yikes!) and that he pulled an all-nighter writing a paper the night before and came straight from the library to meet me for a run (hardcore!). We followed the roads, letting the amount of snow dictate where we turned. Seemed like a good idea until we got a little lost… so my 5-6 mile run turned into almost 8.

As for my concern about

pace, well that’ll have wait for another post.

It was fun to have someone to run with, and it definitely motivated me to get out the door in the first place. I think we’ll be meeting up again, though not sure when yet though, so stay tuned!

Distance: 7.77 miles
Time: 1:05:38
Pace: 8:27 min/mile
Average HR: 162 bpm

Welcome to Miami

The ING Miami Marathon was Sunday in hell Miami. ¬†It was hot and humid, which I would expect for Florida, though I was hopeful for some sort of mercy. ¬†Well, mercy came in the form of 93% humidity, 72 degrees at the start, and cloudy. Thanks for the clouds? ¬†Anyway, Colin and Barrett woke up at 3:30am with me, and we all got into the car by 4am to head down to Miami. ¬†They were troopers, considering Colin and I picked Barrett up at the airport at 3:30am the night before. ¬†They picked up some sign making materials at the Expo on Saturday, but wouldn’t let me know what they’d say. ¬†The suspense!

A few pre-race observations:

  1. People in Miami wear less clothing than the average race participants
  2. Starting a race at 6am means that you see many people still out from the night before. Very drunk.
  3. Homeless people in Miami are much scarier than homeless people in DC
  4. Slow people line up in front of fast people no matter what state the race is in

After parting ways with Colin and Barrett I found myself next to some old lady (see #4 above). ¬†The race started on time and surprisingly smoothly. ¬†For the uninitiated, trying to get 14,000 people moving from a standstill can be difficult. ¬†It’s kind of like bumper-to-bumper traffic, where you start going, get excited that you’re making progress, and then slam on the brakes to avoid a fender bender. ¬†Well I didn’t have to worry about bending any fenders on this day. ¬†I did, however, have to take a pit stop about 0.4 miles into the race, which hurt the first mile split, but you can’t argue with nature. ¬†Pretty quickly my energy began to drain, blamed on the humidity, because what’s a race report without blaming something on the elements. ¬†I made it through the first 10 miles pretty smoothly, running down South Beach (where more people were still out from Saturday night, see #2 above), though there was another stop. ¬†Around mile 10 I heard my name (though “Mike” isn’t really the same as if my name were “Cosmo”) so I looked over my shoulder and saw someone I went to high school with (also named Mike.. see what I mean? Cosmo.) ¬†We briefly chatted before the race, just saying that we should meet up, but it never happened. ¬†We caught up on life as much as you can while running through a rain forest and knowing you still have to run 16 miles. ¬†I continued on after about a 1/2 mile back on pace, but it was so just so random that it had to be told.

I planned to see Colin and Barrett a little after Mile 12 and then a little after Mile 13. ¬†This was what I was waiting for, getting to see the clandestine (SAT word) signs. ¬†I saw Colin and then Barrett about the same time they saw me, about 100 yards away holding signs over their heads. ¬†Both are pretty much just inside jokes, so after all this hype, you won’t give a “lol” or even a courteous “ha”. ¬†Anyway, Colin’s said “3:27:28 Or I’m Still Faster”, referring to how he beat me in Chicago by 34 seconds. ¬†That got him a nice little spray from my water bottle. ¬†Barrett’s was less of a jab saying “Mikey: 8 | Barrett: 0”, as this was my 8th marathon and he’s run none (yet). ¬†I rounded a few corners and the Half Marathon course split off to finish, leaving far fewer runners on the course with me, and far fewer fans on the sidelines.

From there I headed south for what seemed like 100 miles through very pretty neighborhoods. ¬†I caught a bit of a runner’s high from about mile 14 through mile 18 at which point I said hello to every police officer directing traffic and every spectator out watching the race. ¬†At one point pair of runners pulled over to answer their phone.. Nature was calling.. but rather than a porta-potty they found nothing. They pretty much stopped next to a wall and became friends with that wall very quickly. ¬†About 50 yards away was a couple families watching the race, and two young girls (12 years old?) saw what was happening, whispered to each other, and laughed while turning away. ¬†I called them out on it and shouted “You don’t need to look!”, resulting in immediate embarrassment as their faces turned red as an embarrassed twelve year old girl.

As I was nearing the finish, around Mile 23, there’s a little out-and-back onto a bridge where we went half way across the bridge and then turned around. ¬†As you turn onto the bridge, it begins to curve and the only thing you focus on is the 90 degree incline. ¬†The bridge just goes straight up about 200 feet. ¬†Well, it would seem that the race director has a sense of humor. ¬†As you approach the rockclimbing wall of a bridge, you start to see there’s an underpass that loops around under the incline, flat as a pancake. ¬†I didn’t find it amusing, though I was grateful for the turn of events. ¬†I saw Colin and Barrett one more time right at Mile 26 as I approached the finish and picked up the pace as much as I could. ¬†Though I probably lost 14 pounds of sweat during this steam room marathon, I finished strong and got the medal. ¬†And let’s face it, that’s what matters. ¬†I had to take 3 pictures of this one, because it might be the coolest one ever. ¬†It spins! ¬†Twice! My finishing time was 3:35:45, about 7 minutes slower than Chicago, but the conditions were much tougher. ¬†I did run the second half 5 minutes faster than the first, which impressed me, and should impress you too!

The Details:

2010 Miami Marathon:

Course

Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 3:35:45
Pace: 8:14 min/mile
Finishing Position 273 out of 2913 (top 9.4%)

Miami Medal Front

Miami Medal Double Spin

Miami Medal Single Spin

Colin Watch, Day 2

Well boys and girls, things are looking bleak. Most recently Colin tried out some sort of tape contraption that was going to help his IT

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Band issue. Alas, it was worthless. Some deep tissue massage is next on the regimen. Hopefully that will show promising results. We’re 11 days from Race Day, so we’ll see what happens.

<

p>Fingers crossed, or like I said yesterday, I’ll be running (solo).

Colin-oscopy

It’s officially Day 1 of Colin-watch. ¬†Over the last week or two, his knee has been giving some trouble. ¬†The worst part, it only hurts when he runs. ¬†Now, for the 99.5% of people who are not going to run a marathon this year, that shouldn’t be a problem. ¬†I mean, like any logical person would think “if it hurts only when you run, then don’t run”. ¬†It’s not so easy for someone who is pushing 200 miles every month to just shut it down, especially with less than 2 weeks until the race.

If he doesn’t run the marathon, I’ll be doing it solo… so he better get over this knee business.

20 Fingers

It’s been pretty cold here recently. ¬†Not like North Dakota (reporting -19 feels like -39 today), but pretty brisk (upper 20s feels like upper teens). ¬†I usually struggle to figure out the right combination of clothes for any given run. ¬†I definitely wouldn’t be¬†this guy. ¬†I digress.

I start easy: socks, check.  Shoes, yes.  Ok, now it gets more difficult.  Tights?  Yes, but regular or insulated?  (and yes, tights, but not any tights.  They are awesome and make me look fast and like a badass.  See below).

Mike without Tights Mike with Tights

Anyway, I pick a shirt (or 2) to wear, a hat, some shorts to put over the tights, and then… gloves. ¬†Gloves, sounds easy enough. ¬†Try saying it: gloves. ¬†The issue is not if I should wear gloves, but actually how many pairs of gloves. ¬†And that’s what gets me all in a tizzy. ¬†To wear one pair, I run the risk (no pun intended, but it works) of having freezing hands for anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. ¬†Two pair leaves me in a situation with overheating hands, which can be remedied by taking off the outer layer, but then I’m stuck carrying 10 extra fingers with me. ¬†And so I struggle.

I finally resolved the issue by buying a heavier pair of gloves. ¬†Duh. ¬†I now only have to decide which pair of gloves to wear, rather than how many. ¬†It makes the situation more comfortable, but it’s still a situation. ¬†Anywho, that’s all I have… thanks for stopping by.

The Details

Regular 11 Mile Run:

Distance: 11.01 miles
Time: 1:32:57
Pace: 8:25 min/mile
Average HR: 153 bpm

Who Let the Dogs Out, Part 2

I guess there are two sides to every coin. ¬†I went for a short run yesterday and at the fervent demand polite request of my sister, took her dog along for the ride. ¬†He’s a coiled spring of energy, always looking to do something but usually denied and relegated to small spaces. ¬†I was actually excited about taking him out, mainly because a) the dog’s name is Diesel; and b) Diesel looks like a badass. ¬†My concern, having not really run with dogs, was how far could he go? ¬†Like I had no clue on order of magnitude… 1 mile, 10 miles, 100 miles? ¬†I assume that dogs would need to “train” to be able to run longer, but what’s their starting point? ¬†To be safe, I decided to run around the neighborhood a few times so that I could drop him off half way through if he was struggling.

To my pleasant surprise, though not really surprising if you look at him, he did fine. ¬†I picked him up about 1/2 mile into the run, and we just cruised for 4.5 miles, no problems at all. ¬†Most impressive was how focused he was on moving forward, and less concerned with other dogs and small distractions. ¬†At first he was excitedly looking around because, well, he’s usually relegated to small spaces, but he soon got the hang of it. ¬†It actually made me feel bad that he was effortlessly trotting along while I was going through my normal routine. ¬†Only when I took off into a full sprint did he need to try, and even then it was just to placate me.

Here’s a picture of Diesel himself, doing what he does best: looking awesome. ¬†Definitely looking forward to my next run with him, especially because he’d be able to handle any miscreants who might bother me. ¬†Thanks Diesel! ¬†And for those of you who thought I was talking about Tuna, or just want to laugh, here is a side-by-side of both of my sister’s dogs.

The Details

Recovery Run with Diesel:

Distance: 6.00 miles
Time: 50:01
Pace: 8:20 min/mile
Average HR: 153 bpm

The Dreadmill

I can’t take credit for the clever term “dreadmill”, but it rings so true that I can’t think of something better. This morning I was faced with a dilemma: run inside or run outside. Normally this never crosses my mind. Wake up, brush teeth, bundle up, run. No muss no fuss. But today, it was a “short” run, a “recovery” run…something I just wasn’t geared up for. I stood by the window, peered out into the dark abyss of DC at 6am, and contemplated. I know, not really a deep reflection of existentialism or the meaning of life, but only so many synapses are firing at that time of the morning.

Anyway, the “Inside” vote won primarily based on not wanting to layer up or go out in the cold. I relished in the fact that I only needed a shirt and some shorts, and not two shirts, tights, shorts, gloves, and a hat. I gleefully stepped out of my apartment, got in the elevator, and walked to the gym on the ground floor of my building, cozy the whole way. Until…

…I realized I still had to run on the treadmill. I was almost hopeful that all 3 machines would have been taken, taking the guilt off of me if I couldn’t run today. As I peeked around the corner, the first treadmill in view was taken… #2: also taken. And the third?? Available. ::sigh:: Oh well, it’s what I came to do, so I shouldn’t be disappointed.

I hopped on, stuck it on 6.5mph, 1.0% incline, and just went. Boredom set in quickly. Time moves exceptionally slowly on a treadmill. I think it’s the “watched pot” analogy, where staring at the timer counting up 4:12, 4:13, 4:14, 4:15… knowing that it’s going to take almost an hour. Endless. Well, eventually it ended, and it was fine. Certainly not the end of the world like I built it up to be. But not enjoyable either.

It certainly wasn't this treadmill!

Needless to say, I’ll remember this day before I

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hop back onto another treadmill!

The Details

Treadmill Recovery Run:

Distance: 6.05 miles
Time: 55:30
Pace: 9:10 min/mile
Average HR: 142 bpm

Who Let the Dogs Out?

On a spur-of-the-moment decision, Ev and I decided to take our friend up on his offer and head down to North Carolina for Thanksgiving. 10 hours after deciding, we commandeered my brother Vince’s car and were on the road. Despite some traffic we made it down to the small town of Lexington, NC with plenty of time to help get things ready. A delicious meal ensued.

As with all my weekend adventures, I look forward to running in new places. Lexington would offer its own beauty and uniqueness that sets it apart from the usual DC paths… and so much more. Allow me to paint the picture for you: it was 8am on a clear Saturday morning. The grass had frosted slightly overnight and the air was refreshing in my lungs. A great day for a run! As is customary, I mapped out my route the night before in a simple out-n-back fashion so not to get too lost.

Was that a left or a right?

Turned out to only be 5 turns out, and 5 turns back. Pretty good. Nothing like that garbage above. As I began down the first of what would be many, many (oh-so-many) hills, I took note of how fresh the air smelled and how peaceful it was. That is, until I met… ::insert ominous music:: …Charlie. I’m sure Charlie is very nice once you get to know him, but he was a bit too friendly. This is a better representation of Charlie, but picture him without the boat anchor and hear him roaring at me.

Good Grief

I should mention that the dog-leash business in North Carolina must be in the tank, because maybe one in five was kept off my heels. So anyway, Charlie was the toughest of my battles. His prison warden old lady owner stepped out onto her porch and yelled “Charlie, git over he’ya RIGHT NOW!” Charlie wasn’t having it at first, but then backed down and returned to his den home.

Really he caught me terrified out of my mind off-guard. I kept an eye out for more encounters. The next “friend” greeted me around mile 4 right after a tough uphill. I took a page out of Cesar’s book and intimidated the IAMS out of her. As I continued, feeling good as I cruised through hill after hill and narrowly escaping fending off a few more canines, I felt the ground shake. SHAKE. It was a cataclysmic bark from a massive rottweiler. For a second I thought my long run was going to turn into a speed workout until I realized this behemoth was the one-in-five who was restrained. Although, I think he was only “restrained” because he chose to be. He could have torn the tree he was tied to along with him after me if he wanted.

G Zuss, he is huge...

Well, the rest of the run was smooth. I considered finding another route back so to avoid any more encounters but decided to brave it. Fortunately all my good friends headed in for lunch (or found another unsuspecting runner.) Maybe that’s why I didn’t see anyone else…Monster

The Details:

Lexington, NC Chase Run:

Route

Distance: 16 miles
Time: 2:08:27
Pace: 8:01 min/mile
Average HR: 164 bpm (183 max)

 

The Hills!

 

Brutal Hills, perfect for training for the Miami Marathon...

 

 

The “Why Not?” Marathon

“Hmm, should I run the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday?”

That’s what I was thinking starting Thursday of last week, three days prior to the race. Before Thursday, I

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didn’t consider it for a second, having just completed Chicago less than 2 weeks before. Well, after Chicago went so well and my legs feeling solid, the thought of running it crossed my mind.

Thursday came along, I got off the metro on my way to work, and I was greeted with a 14-foot tall Marine Corps Marathon tower used for marking off part of the course. Well that got all kinds of thoughts walking jogging running through my head. “Can I actually run another marathon so soon?” “Should I run another marathon so soon?” “Where is Carmen San Diego?”.

So the idea found a comfy spot in my head and stayed there all day and night and then into early Friday morning. At this point a coworker (we’ll call her Beth) mentioned that she knew someone (we’ll call him George) who had signed up for the race but might not run it. Fate! I then annoyingly dutifully asked “Beth” to check with “George” if he was going to run every hour on the hour. She patiently annoyingly responded to each of my queries with “no, I haven’t asked yet” or “he hasn’t decided yet”. The day wore on and I never did get an answer about “George”.

Well the idea that made a nice little home for itself in a cozy duplex in a nice part of town in my brain made it clear that it wasn’t going anywhere. I told myself it was still up in the air if I wanted to run it, but that was just denial. No one who is on the fence would then scour Craigslist every 10 minutes hitting [refresh] to see if someone was offering up a bib number. In the meantime I had some other pro/con discussions with a few people I trust more than my own judgment. We decided that the pros amounted to: fun and the medal. The cons came down to: injury. There were other thoughts like “am I recovered enough from Chicago?” and “if so, am I in marathon-race shape?”.

Sound the horn! We found a potential bib on Craigslist! I emailed back and forth a few times, hemmed and hawed if I really wanted to run, got the last “go for it” from Ev (Thank you!!) and set up a time to get the race number from him. I picked it up Saturday, about 20 hours before the race mind you, and headed back home.

The last decision to make was one I attribute to Colin and a forum posting that he read, and something I hadn’t considered. Should I wear the timing chip? The Marine Corps Marathon allows bib transfers, but that day was well passed. It could be a bit sketchy for me to register and then have a faster friend (ha! None of my friends are faster than me!) wear my chip to get me to qualify for Boston. For the record, I decided not to wear the timing chip.

As for the race itself, I got there bright dark and early, met up with “Beth” and team (“George” included) for a bit, and then was off to the races (pun? I think so). I felt fine for the first 8 miles through Georgetown and started to tighten up around the halfway point. I was able to run through 20 miles and then hit the wall. I would have only been able to run until 19, but a glorious spectator was giving out fun-sized Snickers. I did some research and can only tell that not enough work has been done on the study of Snickers being a superfood, but it boosted me to run for another mile.

MCM 09

The marines were awesome as always, and the course and weather were beautiful. As tired as I felt late in the race, I’m very happy I ran it. While living in DC, this has felt like “my” race and I didn’t want to regret letting it pass by. Next on the plate is Miami on January 31st, for which training begins in about 10 days. Gotta keep a race on the calendar to stay motivated! ūüôā

The Details:

2009 Marine Corps Marathon:

Course (PDF)

Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 3:57:42
Pace: 9:03 min/mile
Average HR: Didn’t wear HR Monitor