3M Half Marathon – Registered

While I’m not training particularly hard for the Austin Marathon on February 20, I have decided to sign up for a pre-race race at the end of January.  It will be a good check to see how I’m doing in preparation for Austin, though at only three weeks before, I’m not sure how much corrective action there can be.  Anyway, it was a no-brainer considering the starting line is between my apartment and my place of workship*.

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The Hottest Half – Yay or Nay?

As all you long-time readers of this highly-touted, world-class, well-distinguished, generic running blog well know, I have a vendetta against running in the heat.  Sure, if it’s hot out and I’m supposed to run, then I’ll run.  But I do everything in my power to complain avoid the heat.  Anyway, it’s high time I have another poll to see if I should run an upcoming race.

In 2 weeks Dallas is holding its self-proclaimed “Hottest Half Marathon“.  The race starts at 7:30am in the middle of August in Texas.  Sounds like a pretty good recipe for pain.  I’m slated to run 16 miles that day anyway though, so it fits pretty well into my schedule.

Acting as a bit of an enabler, I’ve been slowly adopting a “why not?” attitude again, as in why not sign up for it?  Because it’s a change from my normal routine?  That excuse is holding less and less water in my book, water that I’ll need should I run this race.  It’s not terribly expensive, it’s 3.5 hours away in Dallas, and there’s a finisher’s medal.  If you couldn’t tell, I’m leaning towards running it.  Let me know what you think!

This poll is brought to you courtesy of ex-coworker and current friend Brent, who goaded me into creating a poll for him to ruin.  I fully expect him to vote at least a dozen times.  Probably some hidden agenda of his or something.  Now VOTE!

Burgers and Hotdogs and Pizza, Oh My!

New Haven – A beacon of traditional cuisine crossed with a lovely touch of bizarre twists that makes it a fun place to try some really different versions of our favorite classics.  During the half marathon weekend Colin and I set out to tackle as many famous (and not-so-famous) New Haven eateries in preparation and recovery for the Fairfield Half Marathon.

Saturday began at Louis’ Lunch.  It lays claim to inventing the hamburger and does things today the same as when they started.  First off, it’s a tiny place.  We got there at noon, right when they open, and there was a line of about 20 people waiting for a hamburger.  It’s not a fast line because everything is made to order.  The only confusing part is they only serve hamburgers, so they should be able to see how many people are in line, and at least have a few extra going.  Anyway, we finally get up to order and there’s no menu, so trying not to look like a noob, I say “I’ll have a hamburger” and she looks at me, gives an exasperated sigh, and asks “tomato, onion, cheese?  Anything to drink?  Here or to go?”  Blast!  She saw right through me.  “Just tomato.  To go.” and I step to the side to pay.  She writes down the order on a sheet of paper with a Sharpie and makes it visible for the chef (this is a 3-person operation: order, pay, cook).  The burgers are cooked in super old-fashioned vertical broilers about 12 at a time.  About 30 minutes after first getting in line I’m holding the paper sack with my burger and we’re off to Colin’s to eat.

The burgers are served on white sandwich bread, just the meat, and in my case, with a single slice of tomato.  And they are thick!  Very juicy and delicious, if not a tad underseasoned.  Colin also got potato salad, which he reported to be a great partner to his “CW” (short for Cheeseburger with the works: cheese (actually a cheese spread), tomato, onion).  The final verdict is it was very good but nothing outrageous.  It was fun to go to such an old place with a different way of doing things.

The rest of the day included grabbing some bananas and bagels for the morning of the race and picked up a bagel sandwich before dinner.  We had a pretty uneventful pasta dinner to get ready for the race.

Then we ran.

To refuel we went to Super Duper Weenie.  It was only 2 miles from the race, but there’s no way you could find it without knowing exactly where it is.  It’s on a back access road near the highway, adding to its allure.  Anyway, we walked in just after 11am to a small counter next to the 9-seat bar.  The menu actually had non-hotdog items, but that would be for the weak.  I got the New Yorker: Sauerkraut, Onion Sauce, Mustard, & Hot Relish.  The hotdogs are split down the middle and cooked on the griddle (while the chef will twiddle his thumbs.  My poetry bone started flaring up there).  Then put into a perfect bun and topped with all the aforementioned garnishes.  Really top notch!  Perfect refuel following the race.  Colin got the New Englander: Sauerkraut, Bacon, Mustard, Sweet Relish & Raw Onion, because who doesn’t need bacon on a hotdog?  We also split some fresh cut fries, you know, to replenish the carbs and potassium.  If you’re ever near exit 24 on I-95 in Connecticut, stop by the Super Duper Weenie.

We then changed up the plan a bit.  As a midafternoon snack we agreed on a fantastically amazing idea to get ice cream.  We walked down to Ashley’s Ice Cream Cafe and I had no choice but to get the coffee oreo ice cream.  There are few things I enjoy more than ice cream, and this reaffirmed everything.  Smooth coffee ice cream laced with large and small bits of real Oreos.  Great idea Brittany!

We wrapped up the weekend of over-the-top eating at Modern Apizza.  As I mentioned in the preview, the site is worth visiting for the music alone.  We sat down without any wait (though it was 5pm and the average age of everyone in there was 70) and scoped out the menu.  Upon a recommendation by a native New Havenite, I went for the plain mozzerella.  The real decision was what size.  It wasn’t much of a decision at all though.  LARGE.  I got through about a third of it and boxed up the rest to go.  The dough was thin but not too crisp, a good chewiness.  It was just a really good cheese pizza.

Looking forward to the leftovers 🙂


The weather was moderate; the runners were ready; the course was brutal.  For a late June race, the temperature never got over 75 while we were running.  The clouds helped keep the heat monster at bay, as did the abundant tree coverage.  The small-time race invited mainly locals to run (1871 of the 2597 finishers were from the unnecessary small state of Connecticut).  It was all set up to be a quaint fun-run to contrast the behemoth races like in Nashville, Orlando, and DC.  All but for one small detail.  The gremlins hills.

Not like “wheelchair-accessible-ramp” hills.  More like “get-out-your-rock-climbing-gear” hills.  Let’s take a step back.  Going into this race neither Colin nor I were expecting fast times.  We knew it was a difficult course from last year (where I imploded and luckily didn’t have a blog to record it for all five of you to read).  As such, we had no real finish time goal.  Finally, upon Colin’s insistance, we agreed on a 7:30 min/mile pace.  For the record, I thought it would be a little too fast.  The race started off smoothly, mainly because the first two miles were completely flat.

Mile 1: 7: 39 min/mile
Mile 2: 7:19 min/mile

The course (aka Course) does you no favors by starting flat.  It lulls you into a deceiving comfort zone and slowly builds your confidence.  Where once you felt apprehensive of what laid ahead, by the two-mile marker you’re feeling confident. Nay!  Arrogant.  You say “I can beat you, Course.  You are but a series of roads and I am a runner!”  HA!  How quickly the tables turn.  The enigmatic great Jason Statham said it best in Revolver “in every game and con there’s always an opponent, and there’s always a victim. The trick is to know when you’re the latter, so you can become the former”.  Well, I was the victim and the course was the opponent.  Before I knew it, I was climbing a treacherously vertical cliff steep incline.  I know, that doesn’t sound like a big deal.  The problem is that it was only the first of many, each one longer and steeper than the last.  The real tragedy is that the downhill offered zero relief.  After reaching the summit with legs burning and breathing labored,  you were out of luck if you forgot your parachute.  The descent seemed to be twice as steep as the uphill, virtually ripping my quads right out of my legs.  It was not as fun as it sounds.  Such hills led to mile splits all over the map.  Only twice (at the very end) did two consecutive miles fall within 16 seconds of one another.

Mile 3: 7:53 min/mile
Mile 4: 7:05 min/mile

When we finally reached Mile 4 I thought that the race was taking awhile… not good when there’s still 9 miles to go.  After tackling more rolling hills Colin mentioned that the worst of the hills would be during this stretch and end around Mile 6.  At this point I was beginning to worry that Colin would pull away and leave me to implode again like last year.  Mile 5 was by far the slowest thanks to Mount Runnerhater.  We struggled up the best we could, but after a quick 7:05 fourth mile, we added over a minute to the fifth.  That’s unheard of (unless you’re reading this for a second time).

Mile 5: 8:10 min/mile
Mile 6: 7:22 min/mile

After finishing the “hardest stretch” of miles 4 thru 6 I rewarded myself with a Roctane (for the uninitiated, it’s an energy gel).  We faced some resistance from Mile 7, but we could tell the course was beginning to succumb to our foolhardy spectacular determination.  To lay the proverbial smack down on the course, we unleashed a sub-seven minute mile.  Don’t bring that weak sauce up in here, Course!  Course did not like this and had a final treat for us at the end of the race.

Mile 7: 7:45 min/mile
Mile 8: 6:58 min/mile

Coming off a speedy downhill Mile 8 we cruised through Mile 9.  The remainder of the race focused on counting down the distance and time until the finish.  The brain isn’t running on all cylinders when the body is exhausted and dehydrated.  I found myself rationalizing the rest of the race in terms of random, unrelated comparisons, like TV shows (try to follow this:  I would think “OK, 4 miles to go, that should take about 30 minutes.  I could watch an episode of 30 Rock in 30 minutes.  But on Tivo I could watch it in like 20 minutes.  That’s 1.5 episodes of 30 Rock until I finish the race!”)  Apparently I thought it would help… Maybe I need help.  Mile 10 was the last real hilly part of the course (as it backtracked over the beginning part of the race when Mile 3 presented the beginning of steepery).

Mile 9: 7:24 min/mile
Mile 10: 7:40 min/mile

Finally reaching the end of the hills we coasted Mile 11 trying to regain some energy for the last push.  At this point it was still a race between Colin and me.  Neither wanted to lose, but neither could gather enough reserve energy to muster a final push.  It was here that we agreed on finishing together, becoming allies in a battle against Course.  We pushed on into Mile 12, expending as much energy as possible without falling apart.  It’s a funny thing that Mile 12 is.  Once you complete it, there’s only a smidge more than a mile to go.  You can taste the finish, and yet there’s still a mile to go.  More hallucinations rationalizations creep in, like “only 10 more minutes, that’s how long a whale can hold its breath.  Certainly I can keep this up for 10 more minutes”.  It doesn’t cross my mind that there is absolutely no correlation between a whale’s lung capacity and my voluntary discomfort.

Mile 11: 7:41 min/mile
Mile 12: 7:21 min/mile

The final mile-&-change required that we dig deep and turn this into a mind over body affair.  Well, that didn’t bode well considering my state of mind.  The pain in my legs matched the pain of imagining W reading the Russian National Soccer team line-up, followed with his little smirk after each one.  Well, as mentioned above, Course had one more surprise in store for us.  With the finish line in sight, we were directed over a 50 yard stretch of gravel.  Running on gravel is like running while pulling a cinder block through tar.  You work twice as hard to go half as fast.  We crossed that boobytrap and finished in a world of pain in the exact same time: 1:38:40.  I came in 228th out of 2597 – top 9%!

Mile 13: 7:18 min/mile

I am pleased to report (much in the theme of this blog (race medals, not stream-of-consciousness rambling, jerk.)) that we received medals!  They’re not bad either!  We refueled with some watermelon on the beach and stretched our drained and victorious muscles for a bit.  As a reward (other than the medal, of course.. duh) we headed out for some real recovery food.

For the full food report (definitely not as long as this), check it out over here.

The details:

Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:38:40
Pace: 7:31 min/mile
Average HR: 173 bpm (184 bpm max)