Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #2, JFK Runway Run

(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it.  I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date.  This was my second 5K, in Queens, New York.  This report was written in April, 2013.)


JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2

Summary: I’ll take it.
The JFK Runway Run is one of (if not the) oldest runway runs around – they’ve been doing it continuously since 1972. They shut down the main runway at JFK Airport in Queens and the race happens right there. From the starting line, you run about 200 yards, then take a hard right and it is a perfectly straight, perfectly flat shot down to a turnaround into a (duh) perfectly straight, perfectly flat 2nd half.

After packet pickup at an administration building, they loaded us onto a bus for a 15 minute shuttle out to the runway, including a pretty serious looking security stop. We sat out there waiting in the wind (and, holy crap the wind) for all of the runners to be delivered for a 9am start – which they are supposedly pretty strict about, because any delay could screw up the airport for the rest of the day. The biggest problem was wind – about 5 minutes before the scheduled start time, a gust of wind blew the entire start / finish line setup down … the clocks, the pace signs, everything. We wound up starting 15 minutes late.

I was concerned about this race because I’ve done very little real training since my last race three weeks ago. It turns out that the injury to my ankle that I sustained at the finish line of that one was more severe than expected – even my toes turned purple. So between that and travel for work (and I got lazy – there, I said it – I got lazy) I wound up doing less than half of my planned miles over that time period, and many of those were not quality miles. Knowing how my mind works, the worst possible thing for me would have been to beat my previous time … that kind of positive reinforcement encourages my laziness. I finished about 45 seconds slower than my previous race, which is still significantly farther along than I expected to be at this point when I started running. Also, I’m pissed off that I let myself get lazy and go backwards on a perfectly flat course. All in all, though, given how poorly I’ve trained over the last three weeks – I’ll take it.

Quick notes:

1. Several people in this one didn’t follow the board’s collective wisdom. There was a pink tutu, a guy running with boxing gloves on, race t-shirts everywhere, etc. Plus, this is Queens – you can imagine the humanity. Lots to see.

2. Which is a good thing, because … perfectly flat and perfectly straight is not all it is cracked up to be. I’m used to running on hills and mixing up muscles. And scenery that changes. It was tougher than expected.

3. Because it was an out and back, I got to see the leaders coming the other way – holy crap, I cannot imagine ever running that fast. Holy crap.

4. The FAQ on the website said something like “it tends to be windy – don’t wear loose fitting caps”. Biggest understatement ever. I have no idea how they land airplanes in that kind of wind. Also – in an out-and-back, tailwinds will eventually be headwinds. Yeah.

5. Wings and beer on race day are AWESOME.

Next race: Phillips 10k Trail Race, June 9th

First run since the Ragnar…

And it went fairly well.  An easy 3 miles, just to make sure everybody remembers how we do this.

I’m currently working on the Ragnar race report – hopefully it’ll go up this weekend.  Another Throwback Thursday race report tomorrow, too.


Preview of the Ragnar RR?


Following Through


If I’ve figured out the “Schedule” feature on this blog, this is going to go up Friday morning as the vans begin the trek from Chattanooga to Nashville for Ragnar Tennessee.    So, quick story:


When I decided to get it together, I started with only food – no exercise.  And that worked famously for the first few months – I dropped 35 pounds in roughly 3 months without what I’d think of as a ton of effort.  And then I had the summer from hell – just a summer full of hospitals and funeral homes and yucky jobs and exhaustion and etc. and etc.

Now, anybody that has ever tried to lose weight will confirm that doing so takes a certain level of energy.  You have to be able to focus, to shoo away the food demons (blerches), to control the hunger and not let it control you.  And my energy bottomed out, and the weight started piling back on.  I’d gone from 327 to about 293, and then all of a sudden I was back up to 315.  Just like that.  And it bummed me out.  I was in a serious funk, and wasn’t even trying to eat better anymore.  I needed something, but I had no idea what that was.

Then I got an email that, looking back, is going to have been an email that changed my life.

A good friend had just completed this crazy relay race across Tennessee.  Ragnar, he said – google that shit.  So I googled it.  And when I said “wow – that looks pretty amazing,” I got the kick in the ass I needed (however gentle) … he said that even if I didn’t want to run it, some teams had dedicated drivers and that would be awesome.

One of the things I always said about my weight is that it wasn’t a problem until it started ruling out doing things that I otherwise wanted to do.   Limiting choices was a red line that I wouldn’t let myself cross.  Of course, now I was faced with a moment – I wanted to do this, but didn’t think I could.

Because of my weight.

I asked him, my friend, if he thought I could do it.  He responded immediately – 100% yes.  And not only that, but when I did it I’d be one of the very few people that got to say they followed through.

Two days later I bought a pair of shoes and penciled in the date.

I’ve run nearly 600 miles since then.  And this weekend (holy crap right now) I’m running that Ragnar.

I’m following through.

And it feels good.

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #1, St. Bartholomew Academy 5K Run / Walk

(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it.  I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date.  This was my first ever 5K, in Scotch Plains, NJ.  I was nervous as hell going into it … this report was written in March, 2013.)

Summary: First 5K = automatic PR!

So – I left my tu-tu, rainbow wig, & fuel belt at home. I did not wear the shirt after I picked it up. I was pointing in the right direction when they said go. And if I did any farting I wasn’t paying enough attention to really notice.

This morning was upper 30s and sunshine, and a beautiful day for a run. We got there early, picked up my packet, and got my bib and chip in their appropriate places. The pre-race ceremony was all you would expect from a small-ish town race run out of a religious academy – city mayor, city police chief, long prayer, etc. Then they sang the national anthem and we lined up (me at the back) and took off.

The course was basically flat with only one decent sized hill right at the 2-mile marker, and things felt decently good throughout. Because I was ahead of the pace I expected to be at I did a bit of walking around that hill, but otherwise maintained what seemed to be a pretty consistent pace. As we neared the end, it turns out my wife and son were able to get set up about 200 – 300 yards from the finish line to cheer, which was awesome. Even the guy running next to me said “wow – that’s a real shot in the arm, isn’t it?” So I began my kick, and was shocked when I saw the clock at the finish line – I finished a solid 4 minutes faster than I expected to, and nearly 2 minutes faster than what I felt was my “hope to get” goal. It was great.


Apparently I got over-zealous at the finish line and extended my stride on the last step over the chip mat. When that foot landed it immediately buckled and rolled, and I wound up hobbling out of the chute. My ankle is currently fairly swollen, but no discoloration – and ibuprofen, ice, and elevation have helped quite a lot. I was frustrated with my lack of gracefulness at first, but that has worn off – I don’t think I hurt myself too bad.

Observations from someone who hadn’t done this before:

1. People of all stripes all over the place. Though I felt like I had a neon sign over my head that said “newbie!”, in actuality I stood out not at all. So that’s good.

2. Clocks at mile markers are cool. I currently don’t run with a specific running GPS – I use an app on my phone to track my runs. One thing that doesn’t do is give real-time feedback. So when I saw the clock at the first mile marker I was able to gauge how I felt versus how I was doing (much better pace than anticipated) and adjust accordingly. Which means, as I told my wife on the way home, that I’ll shortly be buying a Garmin.

3. I had underestimated how much difference having people around you affects your pace. There was one guy that I marked early on in the race (the one that remarked about the “shot in the arm”) and then one lady that I was around most of the race that I just mentally marked as people I wanted to finish in front of. Because of that I couldn’t let them get away, so I wasn’t able to let up like I might have on a training run. I really think that contributed to my faster-than-expected time.

4. Even cheap swag is cool to get. My race t-shirt was one size too small, but they were giving out a different round of donated shirts when you turned your chip in – so I got two shirts for the price of one. And the cheap little bag with the cheap little cup and cheap little coupons – those are cool.

5. Burger and beer for lunch on race day tastes AWESOME.

They haven’t posted official times yet, but I’ve already started plotting my goal for the next race. In the meantime, I’m going to ice my ankle and drink beer tonight.

Next race, the JFK Runway Run 5K, April 14th.

A Tale of Two Finish Lines

Back in January, I did what everybody (correctly) says to do when you decide to start running and signed up for a race.  That first race that I signed up for wound up not being the first race I ran – it was April 14th, and I realized pretty quickly that was too long to wait – but it was the first race I signed up for.

The race was the JFK Runway Run, which is exactly what it sounds like.  They run the race on one of the runways at JFK airport in Queens, New York.  I picked it because it seemed unique and is perfectly flat, which seemed important at the time.  And probably was.

I have no idea what the problem was, but they stopped uploading pictures after the first 600, and it turns out that my finishing place wound up putting me in the 700s.  That was in April – I had given up.  And then, out of nowhere, they update their Facebook page yesterday that the rest of the pictures had been uploaded.

Yay!  Time to wade through a bunch of random pictures!

Now – I’ve gotten accustomed to my new self.  Some of my running pictures are actually … flattering.  Which is not something I have said about pictures of myself in a long time.  So imagine my double take when I come upon my finish line pictures and see these:

JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #1
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #1
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2
JFK Runway Run, 4/14/13, Finish Line #2

Holy crap.

For reference, three weeks ago, I ran my 5K PR (which was like 7 or 8 minutes faster than the one I ran back in April), and this is my finish line picture:

Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line
Celtic Classic 5K, 9/28/13, Finish Line

(Yes, I know, I should look at the camera and not my damn watch.)

Those finish lines were less than six months apart.

When we have a long way to go, we sometimes forget to pause and look at how far we’ve come.  I still have what feels like an impossibly long way to go.  But I was hit over the head this weekend with how far I’ve come.  I’m proud of these pictures.

They make me want to go run.

Saturday Weigh In / Long Run

First, the line:

Weight – 275.2 pounds

Weekly Gain / (Loss) – 2.4 pounds

Total Gain / (Loss) – (52.2 pounds)

So … rough week.  I kind of knew this was coming, and in fact that knowledge was one of the things that finally kicked this blog loose.   The running has been going very well for me, but I’ve legitimately been struggling with food lately.  Not sure if that’s the weather, or maybe increasing weekly mileage again, but the constant drone of hunger has lately been harder to ignore.   Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to get that under control.

On a positive note, my run this morning was incredible.  5 miles, and I hit a groove in a way I haven’t been able to do in quite awhile.   The run wound up being the fastest per mile pace I’ve ever run outside of a race.  My “long” run was only 5 miles this time because I’m officially tapering for the Ragnar – only two more runs scheduled (5 miles total) until my first leg.

The crazy thing about the weight is that I’ve run 40 miles over the last two weeks.  And it isn’t like I’ve been eating bags of Oreos, which wasn’t all that uncommon before.

Otherwise fantastic day – pumpkin picking.  Fall is awesome.

The Problem With the Do Life Method … or why I decided to start a blog

So … I am one of those people that finds Ben Davis inspirational.  I didn’t start because of him – I found him after I was well along – but his story motivated me.  I bought his book and sent him the receipt so I could get the signed bookplate.   I rooted for him, and root for him still – he’s done impressive things, and is an example of what is possible.

But possible is not the same thing as practical, or even realistic.

See, Ben had a laundry list of built in advantages for starting something like this.  He was young, in college, and had a very flexible schedule.  His living expenses were covered, and he had the freedom to drop everything and do what he felt like doing.  At any time.  Pretty much ever.

When I decided it was time to get it together for myself, I had almost none of those things.

I have a wife and a six month old son at home that expect (and deserve) for me to be present.  I have a career, with a boss that expects me to show up on time, every time, prepared to earn my pay and not merely survive the day.  And I have employees that need to see me model a good schedule, and a good work ethic.  I have a mortgage … which comes with a yard that needs mowing, snow that needs shoveling, and a thousand little (and big) things that need fixing.   I’ve got a 45 minute commute … an hour and a half, every day, sacrificed to the automobile gods.

In short, I’ve got every built in excuse you can think of to not, ahem, “Do It”.

And the inspiration I need is not about saying “screw it” and going for an impromptu 4-miler at midnight.   No, what I need is a real, practical model for how it is possible to go from 327 pounds and not able to run 100 yards to healthy and active.  What the hell does “healthy” even mean?  How do you get up at 5am, day after day, until you don’t even need the alarm clock anymore, until you get it done?

Ben says “All you have to do it do it” … and I agree.  But “I’m going to do it” is the big easy choice.  The hard choices are the hundreds and thousands of little choices you have to make every day.  Going for this run or skipping it.  Eating the cookie or not eating the cookie.   Doing it – and I mean by-God-in-the-trenches-grinding-it-out doing it – or not doing it.

Overcoming a constant state of hunger.

And Ben didn’t help me with that.

Go and read Ben’s blog.  Buy his book.  Be inspired – I’m not a hater.  In this space we’re going to try our hand at some of that inspirational stuff, too.  But I also want to talk about the grind.  The hard little choices.  If we get to an Ironman on the way, then it’ll be by way of an epic string of really early mornings.

Next stop, Ragnar Tennessee.  And then on to the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA marathon, March 15, 2014.

The ides of March better beware of me…

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