Fridays are weigh-in days. Except today. Vacation has been good, though the last couple of days have tested my Weight Watchers point limits.
BUT – today and tomorrow (Saturday) are travel days, headed back to Florida. At my normal weigh-in time I’ll (hopefully) be a few hours into a several hour drive. Overnight in Florence, South Carolina, and then back to Celebration on Saturday. I will do a makeup weigh-in on Sunday.
This event was my 4th, in June of 2013. If anybody is counting, that would make it race report #4. However, I never did a race report on this event – some of which was laziness, some of which was politeness, some of which was dissatisfaction with my performance – and continued to number the rest of them – numerically. So I had run 18 events, but only had 17 race reports, numbered 1 – 17. This can be confusing, and it is just frankly time to true this up. So this report is delayed by over 2 years, but without further delay…
I signed up for the Phillips 10K Trail Run without, frankly, knowing what I was doing. This was the second year for the organizers of this event, and a new course for them in Lewis Morris Park near Morristown, New Jersey.
I did two things wrong going into this. First, I randomly bought a pair of low-drop trail running shoes online, thinking that they’d be magical. And second, I didn’t really do a lot of training on trails. There was some of that, sure, but they were relatively short runs on relatively well maintained trails. My achilles tendons hurt like mad whenever I wore those shoes, but I tried to ignore it and headed into this race – my first 10K – thinking I was ready.
Turns out, I was not.
I made the hour drive out to Morristown, and about the time I got there I got a call from my wife saying they had decided to come along, too, and would be there when I finished the race. That was exciting, because this was the first time they were able to come and cheer for me since that first race in March.
Head into the parking lot, park the car, open the door, and step into a very strange sound landscape – a low level drone that never ended – a constant buzz with no direction at all. It turned out to be cicadas – this was during the big cicada takeover in the summer of 2013, and they were EVERYWHERE. Flying around, on trees and tables and benches, and just generally making a nuisance of themselves. My son, as you might imagine, was fascinated.
They lined us up and off we went – the 5K runners (200 – 300 people) went one way, the 10K runners (all 30 or so of us) went the other. The course itself was a hiking / biking single-track through this big park, and was generally pretty. There were a couple of stream crossings and several good hills, and in general it would have been a pleasant hike. There were four things, though, that wound up making it a fairly unpleasant run for me, and then one other really big thing that made it a very unpleasant run for everybody else.
1. I had not anticipated that about 300 – 400 yards into the race the course would drop to single track on a hill – meaning nobody could pass me. I wound up running entirely too fast in the first mile just to try and get out of everybody’s way. That was a mistake.
2. There were proper, 500 – 600 foot elevation gain hills. I hadn’t prepared enough for that, and coupled with a fast start, they wore me down quickly.
3. The course was not closed, and the trail turns out to be popular among mountain bikers. And they, to a man (all men), refused to yield. Dodging the cyclists sucked.
4. About 4 miles in, I had hit a groove and was feeling really good when I stepped on a root and turned my ankle very badly. It was the same ankle that I had injured at the close of my first race, back in March of 2013, and though I was able to eventually walk it off, that mile was more of a stumble than a walk, and certainly not a run.
The course came close to the finish line about half a mile before the actual finish line, so I was able to see my wife and son, and she told me about the bigger issue before I looped around and finished.
The biggest issue on the course was signage. Because the overall course was a network of hiking trails, there were a lot of intersections and they weren’t always signed very well. But there was a particularly bad one at roughly the 3.5 mile mark. The ground was flat and a trail T-ed off to the right of the direction we were running … and there was a tree right across from that intersection with a sign that could be interpreted as either “Turn Right” or “Go Straight”. What they actually wanted us to do was turn right. I wound up going straight, but not very far before I second guessed it and doubled back. A few yards down the correct path you could see another sign, but only if you looked. Fortunately, I looked, so I didn’t get lost.
Others were not so fortunate. One lady apparently had a sizable lead and was going to win the race but missed that turn and tacked on another mile. Several others had the same issue. The crowd at the award ceremony after was not … friendly. After it was all over we got an email from the organizers offering to refund our money, but I don’t think anybody took them up on it.
This was the only race I’ve ever run where I came in functionally last (as opposed to DFL). Not technically last – there were two walkers, each of which finished 30 – 45 minutes behind me – but for those of us trying to run it, I came in last by about a minute. The award ceremony was almost over when I crossed the finish line. I was limping, exhausted, and muddy. But my family was there, and I felt prouder to have done that than I think I would have if it were easier – I conquered that sucker, you know?
My time was a robust 1 hour, 26 minutes, and 17 seconds, for a 13.55 / mile pace that stands as the worst official performance of my running “career”.
– One upside to doing this as my first 10K was that it was extraordinarily easy to PR in the next 10K.
– That was the last time I ran in those shoes. I was so sore for the next three days that I needed a scapegoat. They were thrown in the garbage with something like 30 miles on them.
– I’m also not convinced that the course was a full 6.1 miles – my watch only said about 5.5 miles, and the mile marker signs never seemed to align with what my watch was saying. But, if they are calling it a 10K, I’m going with it.
– This did not sour me on the idea of trail races – in fact, I think I could really enjoy them – but it made me painfully aware that the preparation for trail races is different than the preparation for road races. Especially now that I’m in Florida, that could be challenging.
– Decent SWAG – I obviously don’t remember everything in the bag, but they did have a branded refrigerator magnet, and the shirt became one of my favorites – I wore it a lot, as you can see in the picture below.
– The next race after this one was the CHK 4K, which I enjoyed a rather lot.
On vacation to Delaware this week, and on the way up we stopped to have a picnic lunch at the Visitor Center for the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. Nice place – cool little small museum, and pretty scenery.
Also, these guys. I’m waiting on a positive identification, but this is some kind of swallowtail – Eastern swallowtail, two-tailed swallowtail, something.
Happy with how these pictures turned out – in particular (technical photography speak here – don’t worry, I don’t know what I’m talking about), the bokeh is something I’m really happy with from this lens.
This has nothing to do with fitness or running or eating right. Cool pictures, though.
This has been confirmed as an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – and this is a female. Fun!
In case you missed it, you should take the next 17 minutes or so and watch John Oliver talk about food waste.
Two quick takes on this:
I’ve spent a good portion of my life in the food industry – in a grocery store through high school, in restaurants through college, and manufacturing as part of my career. And I personally have thrown away a shocking amount of food. I worked produce in the grocery store, and we really did cull anything that wasn’t pristine in appearance. Edible, but not pretty. In the restaurant we did a better job of managing the raw food, but the amount of food people don’t eat is … material. And in the manufacturing world we work hard to eliminate waste, but it just isn’t possible. We give spoilage allowances to our customers (the retailers), and lets just say that millions and millions of dollars worth of food is lost in the supply chain every single year.
A shocking amount of food.
The other thing to talk about is how this relates to my personal food consumption … and particularly how I handle meat and seafood. I am not a vegetarian, and likely won’t ever be, for a variety of reasons. I do, however, have an awful lot of respect for what meat represents – something died in order for me to have that food. A quick side story:
My grandfather was an avid outdoorsman – he hunted and he fished, and he, more than anybody else, introduced me to the world we live in. We fished out of the same boat for hours and hours and hours, and the relationship I had with him is very special to me. After we’d spend a day fishing, the next step was to take the fish back to the cleaning station and filet them. Catfish, when you take them out of the water, do more than just flop around – they make a grunting sound that is very much like a rooting pig. Like they want this to not be happening. And my grandfather, the farmer and hunter and tough man that I knew, would talk to them. He’d tell them he was sorry, and that he would do his best to get it over with quickly – he didn’t know any other way, and so if they’d just help he would do his best.
That really struck a nerve with me, and has helped inform my approach to animals … and food … ever since.
How does this relate to the topic? I’ve become more and more squeamish over time about the idea of throwing anything away that had caused an animal to die. This relates to meat, of course – there is very little that bothers me more than letting a piece of meat go rancid, and I’ll do most anything to keep from throwing away leftover meat – but it goes beyond just the meat. I’ve begun to believe that I need to minimize all of the other waste, as well. Chicken carcasses need to be boiled to make stock. The giblets should be saved for the same reason (or to make pate out of the liver). If I get a pork shoulder with the skin on it, I make pork rinds out of the skin. I save almost any bone from anything, mostly for stock. Shells from shrimp, crab, and lobster also needs to be saved and made into stock.
Something died so I could eat it. The least I can do is actually eat it.
We all have to get our own consumption and waste under control, that’s true. But this is an awfully large issue for, frankly, the whole world. We need to figure it out.
To summarize – things like motivation and willpower are finite, and not enough to get you and keep you fit. Instead, think of fitness as a skill that must be developed, which includes a lot of underlying skills – things like knowledge, going easy on yourself, etc. The small underlying skills build to the broader skill of “being and staying fit” in the same way that the small underlying skills inherent in playing guitar (right hand technique, left hand technique, chord knowledge, etc.) build to the broader skill of “playing the guitar”.
I find this to be quite inspiring.
When we are acquiring a skill, we fail. Generally a lot. But, over time and with practice, we can improve our skills. And that’s what is so inspiring – I can get better at this, not because I somehow got stronger as a person, or found some motivation lying out on the road, but because I grew my skill base and helped make it second nature.
Beginning in early 2013, I spent two years eating well and exercising well and generally building that skill. In the end, the whole “getting and staying fit” picture failed, but I still built on the underlying inherent skills, and I can still build on those. I can still get better at this, if only I will.
Family vacation time! We are on our way to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and first stop – Cracker Barrel. And I am still gonna stay in my points today. All week, too – if it kills me. Next stop – North Carolina!
Good morning to the one or two of you that might actually see this!
Friday mornings are my weigh in mornings – and this morning, I weighed in at 317.8 pounds, which is a 4.2 pound loss from last week and a total of 5.2 pounds.
Which is outstanding. I needed to see a week work to keep up the motivation – and this week worked. I had a very good week in terms of my food consumption and exercise. In particular, I have been for 5 runs since last Friday, which is the best extended stretch of getting out there I have had in over a year.
Quick note on weigh in timing: I chose Friday very deliberately, and that is a Weight Watchers thing. If you aren’t familiar, Weight Watchers works on points – they assign a point value to everything you eat and drink, and you are given a daily allotment of points that you are supposed to stay within. You can eat whatever you want, but you have to stay within those points. On top of that, you are given a weekly allotment of “cheat” points – best I can tell, this is 49 points for everybody, regardless of what your daily allotment is. That 49 points can be used any way you want – you can go over your daily allotment by a little bit every day, or you can save it up and blow it out on one big meal. The rule is that you can’t save up your daily points – use ’em or lose ’em – and when you run out of those extra points you’re pretty constrained. Crucially, your points reset on your weigh-in day.
I find it much more difficult to stay within my daily point total on the weekends, for a lot of reasons that are probably obvious enough I don’t need to discuss. So most of my 49 points winds up getting used between Friday dinner and Sunday dinner, with Friday dinner and, believe it or not, Sunday breakfast being the two huge weak spots. When I first started WW, I was using a calendar week and weighing in on Sunday morning. The problem with that is that all of that my perception of weigh-ins was that they were being skewed. And so I was depriving myself needlessly or feeling very guilty about things even when I stayed within my points. Also, if I had a slip up during the week and was very low on points, I was finding it hard to keep it reined in on the weekends.
By weighing in on Friday I get rid of almost all of that psychological crap. And, for the record, I know that is all psychological. Over time, this comes out in the wash. However, managing my energy is a big part of this process, and this way I just don’t have to spend any energy worrying about tonight’s perfectly legal dinner unduly impacting tomorrow morning’s weigh in.
Progress is good! I feel great, and this is just the kick in the ass I needed.
I suppose we could call this one a Throwback Thursday, couldn’t we? Because this happened almost exactly one year ago, though I never did a race report. I’m a bit out of practice, but here goes nothing.
The morning dawned bright and muggy.
Nope – too much.
Each year for over 10 years now, my wife’s parents rent a beach house at some very nice location for their vacation. What has always happened is that they would rent a house big enough for all of their kids and their families, and then they would invite everyone. Come, don’t come, that doesn’t matter – you are all invited. July of 2015 will be the 8th year I’ve been in the family for this, and it was a long-established tradition before I got there.
They started in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Virginia. That’s where my first year was. But my first year in Sandbridge was the family’s last year in Sandbridge – the drive from northern New Jersey was proving too much. So we gradually began migrating up the coast. The following year was in Cape May, New Jersey. The year after that began a two-year run in Mantaloking, New Jersey. And then there were three years in Southampton, New York, on Long Island.
By this point in the summer of 2014, I was basically not running anymore but had not yet given up on the idea of me running. And one of my sisters-in-law is very athletic and saw this 5k and sent out a blast to the family – I want to run it, lets have a bunch of us do that. So I signed up.
There was some confusion at the bib pickup, and I knew there would be – when I signed up online, there was never an option to pay. So when I showed up at the race, they said “You’re the guy that didn’t pay!” But, because I was expecting that I was prepared with cash and we didn’t have a problem. It turned out that the only family members that actually were running the race were the aforementioned sister-in-law, my niece who is in high school and runs cross country, and me. I made it clear very early on that my feelings would not be hurt when they left me in the dust.
We got there pretty early, so we spent 30 minutes warming up by jogging around the little park where the start line was. And then we lined up and were off. We ran down about 200 yards, turned left and climbed the only real hill of the race, and then ran a big square in a neighborhood area full of $1million+ homes in the Hamptons. We then came back down the hill and headed back to the finish line.
So, yeah, I was unprepared for this race. Things went OK until I got maybe a quarter mile past the top of the hill, and then my right shin seized up and that was it. I run / walked the rest of the way in pain, wondering what in the hell my shins had against me.
My wife’s family is the cheering type, and since there were three of us running, they came out and sat near the finish line. As I come through, this is what I’m greeted with:
Seriously – that’s worth your time. That’s my son on the left – I love it when he gets to come out and see me doing this.
My time was horrible – 38 minutes and 23 seconds. That is slower than my first ever 5K. I was so discouraged that this performance basically ended my running for the next six months – my last run was on August 3rd, with a little attempt in February 2015 and then a couple of fits and starts in May / June.
– Hard to say it more strongly – that really really sucked.
– Having a cheering section like that, though, is amazing. Seriously, amazing.
– Running in the Hamptons is a bit surreal, if you want to know the truth. The houses we were running past were protected by huge hedges, so mostly we were running through a big green tunnel. And then when you did see a house, it was a freaking mansion. Weird.
– My sister-in-law and my niece both did run away from me – they had a decent race. I was happy for them, even if I was disappointed in myself.
– I don’t remember much about the SWAG. The t-shirt was a cotton job that my wife wears all of the time around the house. And the bib was a unique one that said Southampton Rotary Club, which I love. The spread at the end was bagels and bananas, and there were plenty left when a back-of-the-packer like me made it to the table.
– That race was the 17th and last race of my streak. In January of 2013, I weighed about 315 pounds. In March of 2014, I ran my first 5K, and then ran at least one event in 16 straight months, losing 50 pounds in the process and feeling amazing. During the streak I ran a Ragnar, two half marathons, a 15k, two 10ks, a 5-miler, ten 5ks, and a 4k. I ran events in 6 states and the District of Columbia. I ran through three pairs of shoes, and just basically felt like a million damn dollars.
– I want that back. I want it back badly.
– Next Race: The Great American Bacon Race, 5K, Tampa, Florida, October 3rd, 2015