RR# 14 – JFK Runway Run

You are not having déjà vu, and there is nothing wrong with your television set.  This 5k14-0002morning, for the first time in my running “career”, I ran in a race that I had competed in previously.   Last year’s JFK Runway Run was my second ever race, and I was coming off of an ankle injury that I’d sustained three weeks earlier at my first race.  All of which means that it was slow.  This year I was, barring injury or something weird, a lock to better last year’s time by several minutes, be competitive as hell with my PR, and hopefully even take a shot at a 30 minute race.

This is a rather unique race because of the setting – they actually shut down one of the runways at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens for the runners.  Both times I’ve run it we ran from the same place:  you run out about 200 yards and then hang a right, run for a bit less than a mile and a half in a straight line, and then turn around and run back.  There is no scenery at all (it is a huge airfield), though airplanes are landing over your head throughout the race, which is pretty neat.   The course is also perfectly flat and generally pretty windy – though this year the wind was not as bad as last year.

JFK Runway Run Course
JFK Runway Run Course

Because of the perfect flatness I decided to push hard and see what I could do, and that strategy worked out.  Other than the congestion in the first couple hundred yards my pace was remarkably consistent throughout the race – +/- 10 seconds at any given time.  This is a course where you can hit a groove and just go with it, and that’s what I was able to do.  My finishing time was 30:39, which is a 9:53/mile pace and a new 5K PR for me by 36 seconds!  For awhile I had hopes that I could seriously threaten an under-30 finish, but that was not meant to be … which does not do one thing to take away from my excitement at a new PR.

I consider this to be the first race of the season (as opposed to the last race of winter, which is what the USA Half was), and I’m ecstatic with how things have started.  I currently don’t have another 5K on my calendar for the year, so this PR will stand for several months – and I’m good with that.  The next time I take a crack at the distance it will be under-30 minutes or bust.

Start / Finish Line - I actually took this last year, but the setting was identical
Start / Finish Line – I actually took this last year, but the setting was identical

Notes:

– As cool as the setting is for this race, the logistics are a bit inconvenient.  They obviously can’t let people just randomly show up out on the airport runway, so all of the race infrastructure (check-in, prize stage, etc.) happens at an office building and they bus the runners out to the runway.  In order to make sure you get out there with plenty of time, though, you wind up killing quite a lot of time out on the runway with no shade or windbreak.  And this also discourages spectators, so the wife and child didn’t make the trip.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run it if you’re in the area … just know that there are challenges.

– The other thing about this one is that the organizers are kind of at the mercy of the TSA and Port Authority police.  The runners actually wait behind a barricade a few yards from the starting line, and then when we’re released we go line up under our pacing signs.  We wound up starting nearly a half-an-hour late, but I’m convinced by the way they acted that this had nothing to do with the organizers.  That stunk – it was chilly and windy –but comes with the territory for the cool setting.

– This race is an absolutely fascinating slice of humanity.  There were all ages from little kids up to elderly runners.  There was an ethnic mix that would actually be hard to put together outside of Queens.  Several teams run this race – a local martial arts dojo, corporate teams for airlines at the airport, that kind of thing – and that brings with it a bunch of people that clearly don’t run many races.  Many people there, in fact, weren’t there to run at all but to walk the course and get a look at the airport.  Several people were wearing jeans, and one walker was wearing a shirt that said “Airplane Spotting is NOT a Crime”, which gives away his motivation, doesn’t it?  There were half a dozen guys that ran the race at a sub-6:00 pace and many people that took well over an hour.  There was a guy in a wheelchair and two girls in full-on ballet tights with tutus.  Just a fascinating group of people.

Somebody tell these two girls they're officially blogged...
Somebody tell these two girls they’re officially blogged…

– All of that, of course, means that many people had NO idea how to line up even though there were pace signs.  When I line up at the back of 9:00 group and spend the first half mile passing people that are walking it takes all I can do to not scream “why did you line up so far up in line?!?!”

– One of my favorite things in these out-and-back (or loop) courses is watching to see when I see the leaders.  In this case the leader came by me at just past the mile mark for me and just past the 2 mile mark for him – just over 11 minutes into the race.  This same guy won the race last year, too, and he absolutely crushed it.   I couldn’t even see second place when he came through and he wound up winning by nearly a minute and a half.  Just impressive to watch.

– Basic swag – a cotton t-shirt, a bib that is unique to this race (which I love) and that’s about it.  There was water right past the finish lines, and bananas when we got off the buses back at race central.  They also had a raffle, which I didn’t stay for.  Photographers were at the start/finish line, and I’ll add pictures when they get them posted.

– That was April’s race, which means my streak of running at least one race or event per month has now been extended to 14 months.  I am registered for races in May & June, have targeted races in July, August, & September, and am registered for two events in October.   That would get me to 20.

– Next race:  Superhero Half Marathon, Morris Township, New Jersey, May 18th.  I’m debating buying Batman stuff – we’ll see.

Random people as we approach the finish line...
Random people as we approach the finish line…

Let’s talk about March

In the month of March, I went for a run 15 times for a total of 73.22 miles.  For the year, I’m at 154.69 miles, which is a piss-poor start if I ever saw one.  My non-resolution resolution was to get to 1,000 miles run this year … at this point I’m through 25% of the time but only 15% of the mileage.

You know … behind.

But let us try and be more positive, shall we?  Last year in March I ran 32.11 miles and felt like one-million-damn-dollars for having done it.  This year’s mileage represents a 228% increase over last year’s which is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lot.  So even though this month feels light by new standards, the year-over-year growth is happening, and that is encouraging.

March also included my second half marathon, and it was a blast.  That race – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half in Washington DC – now stands as my official 10K, 10M, and half marathon PR.  I’m hoping the 10K and half PRs fall before the end of the summer, but that 10-miler might stick around for awhile unless one of the upcoming halfs (as opposed to halves) does an official 10-mile split.

Capitol picture that came with my Rock 'n' Roll USA picture package...
Capitol picture that came with my Rock ‘n’ Roll USA picture package…

Also encouraging is that I seem to be getting faster.  On March 30th I ran 6 miles at an overall pace that was only 45 seconds per mile slower than my 5K PR pace … and I felt strong at the end.  I think that the improving weather and the lower stress load (my next half isn’t for several weeks) has really relaxed things and helped out.

And April is off to a good start – on April 2nd I’ve already run twice, and I’ve got a 5K this weekend I’m going to use to try and crush my PR.  Assuming everything goes well with the calendar, I’ll run around 90 miles in April and start getting some of that lost mileage back.  I’m encouraged.

Lets go running…

RR#13 – Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon

So … I was a bit nervous about this race.

My original registration for Rock ‘n’ Roll USA was for the full marathon – it was to be my first.  And then I learned why people that live as far north as I do don’t often register for early spring marathons.  As I got further and further behind in my training, I realized that I was not going to make it … and so I switched over to the half and took a deep breath.  And my training was not really great even then – just too many distractions excuses and such.  And I even entertained the thought of backing out altogether.

And then I realized that was crazy talk.  Even if I had to walk it, I could do it – and even with relatively poor training I’m in better shape than I was last September when I did the half in 90 degree heat.   So I committed to making it happen, and I am so glad I did.  This was an awesome race.

Got to the expo on Friday afternoon and was confronted with a line out the door.  That wasn’t the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks, though – because the expo was in the DC Armory we were being screened by security.  That went quickly enough, and then I had no wait at all to pick up my number and get to the shopping.   My wife and 2-year old were with me on this one, so that got interesting – and a great big THANK YOU to the folks at the Williamsburg Marathon booth that gave him the Chik-Fil-A stuffed cow.  Anything to distract him at that point.

We were staying at my brother-in-law’s house in Alexandria, which is on the metro.  My morning nutrition was not optimal:  granola bars at their house and a banana at the race.  Not enough, but that turned out OK.  WMATA opened up the metro two hours early, and getting to the start could not have been easier.  It was so easy that I’d left myself entirely too much time and wound up needing to kill an hour.

Starting Line - I'm way back in Corral 27
Starting Line – I’m way back in Corral 27

This was easily the biggest race I’ve ever been a part of – I was in corral 27 and there were an awful lot of people behind me.  If you’ve ever done a Rock ‘n’ Roll race you know there is a ton of energy at the start line, which is nice … because it took 45 minutes for me to get to the start line.  And we were off.

The course itself was absolutely great, and we got nearly perfect weather.  We started on Constitution Avenue – my corral was directly in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History – and headed down the mall.  In the first mile we ran past the Washington Monument and the White House headed toward the Lincoln Memorial.  Mile 2 was an out-and-back on the Arlington Memorial Bridge with a gorgeous view of the cemetery.  Miles 3-6 were up the Potomac Parkway, so relatively quiet but very pretty.

Somewhere between mile 4 & mile 6
Somewhere between mile 4 & mile 6

 

Mile 7 had The Hill, which, um, sucked.  Once we topped out on the hill we ran near the National Zoo and then were in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.  From there on, the course was distinctly urban with GREAT crowd support.  That area is full of row houses and people were out on their stoops and porches and lining the streets cheering and holding signs.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll folks always have bands along the course … roughly one per mile.  I bring that up here because the absolute best was the Batala Drummers All-Women Percussion Band.  They were set up at the bottom of a big hill just as we turned to run through Howard University.   Hard to describe how very cool this was…

 

Another very interesting thing happened at roughly mile 9, just before we turned south on North Capitol Street and had that gorgeous view of the US Capitol.  I’ve been in races where somebody random sets up a table with “Free Beer!” or “Mixed Drinks!”  These are awesome, but not for me.  And so I almost ran by one of these tables until I realized the sign continued.  “Free Beer” was followed by “Free Brisket!”  And, yeah, I couldn’t not check that out.  And while a big ol’ slice of brisket is non-traditional mid-race fuel … it was incredible.

Incredible.

After we turned off of Capitol Street we wound through different neighborhoods for the last 4 miles or so for a finish at RFK Stadium.  The marathoners and half-marathoners split up just before mile 13, and the thought at that time of taking for another 13 miles made me cringe.  That’s going to happen, but not soon.

My family missed my finish by about 10 minutes, which legitimately sucked, but I was very very happy with my race.  My pacing was remarkably consistent – the fastest mile was mile 4 at 11.15 (because that’s always my best mile) and my slowest was mile 7 at 12.37 (because hill – 271 feet of elevation gain in that mile).  My overall time was 2:36.0, for a total pace of 11.54 / mile.  That takes nearly 19 (19!) minutes off of my previous half marathon time.  I also set PRs with my official 10K (1:13.04, nearly a 2 minute PR) and 10 mile (1:58.34) splits.

Here’s where I think I am – this is the race I had expected hoped to run in Virginia Beach last summer.  The conditions forced a much different race, though.  But I’ve been able to maintain that level of fitness through this winter even though I don’t feel great about my training.  The huge PR is a great validation of where I’ve gotten to – and I am feeling very motivated to blow right past here.  I’ve got another half scheduled for late spring, and I hope to blow that one away.

In the meantime – I LOVED this race.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll people did a great job with everything as far as I could tell.  And the overall vibe from the competitors, spectators, and city was just some of the most fun I’ve had running.   Thanks for everybody that worked on it and came out to cheer – you made it an awesome experience!

Approaching the finish line...
Approaching the finish line…

Notes:

–  Apparently the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks had some troubles at this race last year, especially with port-a-potties and the gear check.  They made a lot of noise about listening to the complaints and changing things, and by all accounts they got it right.  While there were lines at the port-a-potties throughout the race, the start and finish seemed to be fine.  And I didn’t check a gear bag because my family was coming, but the feedback is that they fixed that, too.  Kudos to the organizers for making it happen.

–  Speaking of port-a-potties, I had to make a pit stop just past mile 9 and lets just say that glad I’m a guy and move on.

–  I struggled with my fuel belt, strictly due to lack of practice.  I started the race with it on my back, but the way it bounced and pushed on my shorts was not comfortable.  So I turned it around like you see in the pictures up there … which blocked the pockets I usually keep my iPod in in that pullover.  So I wound up carrying the iPod in my hand for most of the race. The two times I tried to put it in the pocket interfered with the water bottle in the belt and made it fall out.  So … in the hand it was.  That’s what I get for using something I hadn’t used in 6 weeks.

–  Favorite signs:

  • Series:  “Harder Faster Stronger Better” followed by “That’s What She Said”
  • “Where Are All You Guys Going?”
  • “Its Not a Hill, Its a Beastmaker”
  • “Free High Fives” followed by two little kids, probably 6ish and 4ish

–  For whatever reason the nutrition didn’t hurt me.  I started fueling with gel relatively early and I think that helped.

–  It turns out that I’ve become a bit of a snob about walkers.  Not that I mind the walking, mind you – I do some of that myself.  But, for the love of Joe Pesci, when you are going to stop and walk move over to the side of the crowd.  Especially in the first mile or two when there is still a lot of congestion.

–  At around mile 25 for them the full marathoners came around the back of the parking lot where the finish line festival was.  My son and I walked over to cheer them on for a bit.  I’ve just got a ton of respect for those folks … they’d been running for 4 hours or so and just looked beaten down.  I can only imagine how they felt when they finished.  I want to feel that some day.

–  Not really any SWAG at this one, which is interesting.  The shirt is a Brooks technical that I like but caused some bitching because it is black.  People will complain about anything, I guess.  We got that and our gear bag and a couple of random little medical things (basically icy hot) … but that’s OK.  I did pick up my pint glass and 13.1 sticker, and then we did a little damage at the expo.  I intended to get my medal engraved like I did at Virginia Beach, but the wait was too long.  That does not take away from the medal, though, which is pretty awesome.

–  That was March’s race, which means I’ve now run in a race or an event in 13 consecutive months.  I am registered for a 5K in April, another half marathon in May, and a 5-miler (automatic PR!) in June.  Targeting an 8-miler (another automatic PR!) in July and a 10K in August.  And then Ragnar Tennessee in October.  So when I get September figured out that gets me to 20 months.  Who’d have thunk it?

–  Next Race:  JFK Runway Run, Queens, New York City, NY … April 6th

Another medal on the wall...
Another medal on the wall…

Shoe Retirement

That time has come again – when there are little aches and pains after runs that hadn’t been there.  When that mileage number creeps up into big numbers.  And when the heels of your shoes look like this:

Retired Beasts

A quick obituary – I bought this particular pair of Brooks Beasts on August 25th at the Westchester Road Runner in White Plains, New York.  They are being retired with 396.34 miles on them – miles that include a half marathon and a Ragnar Relay among seven total races.  My current 5K, 10K, 15K, 10 mile, and half marathon PRs were run in these shoes. And they are stylish and comfortable, to boot.  Thank you, Beasts – you’ve been a great pair of shoes.

While it could be easy to go a bit overboard here – these are, after all, just shoes – I found the poem below a couple of years ago and I think it does a really good job of summing up these feelings.  We don’t take our shoes lightly, do we?  How do you retire your shoes?

The following poem can be found in the original blog post here.

Retiring Shoes

By: Stephanie Schultz

The Shoe Retiring Ceremony is held for runners
once every five-hundred miles,
on a Saturday afternoon after a final race
in an old casket factory on the Northeast end of town.

The ceremony begins with the shoes—
bald, wrinkled and tired—
and their moment to say thanks
for the ability to do the job they were made to do,
the miles they were meant to run.

The runner then gets to remember
her ten minute improvement in the half marathon,
crossing the finish line of her first full marathon,
kicking up red dust in the Arches of Utah,
taking an unexpected dip in the Mississippi River.

These memories are then inscribed onto the box
in which the shoes came
and in which they will finally rest—
a box to be displayed on a mantel or bedside table
like a photo of a loved one or a gold trophy

where they can whisper to a new pair of shoes:
Take these feet, these legs
to further distances, to new places.
They are ready for you.

RR #12: Freezer Fives 5K

Turns out, February is similar to January in terms of trying to find races … they’re relatively few and far between.  And since my planned race was cancelled, there was a bit of a scramble hoping to find something that worked.  Fortunately, the Taconic Road Runners have two (count ‘em!) options – a 5K and a 5-miler that they use to kick off their season and call the Freezer Fives.  The races are held two weeks apart in FDR State Park in New York … I chose the 5K on 2/2.

So … this hasn’t exactly been the strongest lead-up to a race I’ve ever had.  This winter running thing, frankly, is kicking my ass and I’m starting to get frustrated about it.  But, given that January was such a slow month, I decided that my race strategy this time was to not really have a strategy – just go have a good time with it.

Until.

A couple of things about this race were different than recent races and also the last month in general.  First, because I guess they are worried about the weather, the race didn’t start until 10am.  And second, the high on Sunday was in the upper 40s and sunshiney.  Seriously perfect weather for a 5K.  And these two things led directly to something else unique about this one – my wife and son got to come with me, for the first time since my very first race last March.  Having a cheering section is … awesome.

The start line was down the road a bit from the finish line, and that wasn’t all that clearly communicated – after I got my number and shirt I just kind of followed the herd and got there.  There were no formalities at all – no national anthem, no “5-4-3-2-1”, nothing.  One minute we were standing there, and the next thing I knew all the people in front of me were running.  And so off we went.

The only picture of me taken during the race...
The only picture of me taken during the race…

I decided to go ahead and run it hard – no expectations for a PR, but given the conditions it felt good.  The course was another loop with an out-and-back spur, and because it was within the state park we had the whole road with no traffic anywhere … making for a quite pleasant run.  The little out-and-back spur started within the first mile, and featured a big hill.  Up and over, get to the bottom, turn around, and then up and over again.  Yay.  I met the leaders on their way back just about the time I topped out and started back down, which was a harbinger of things to come.

So, after that up-down-up-down, there was a short straight stretch into another decent hill that looped around to yet another decent hill … and then past the start line with half a mile or so to go.  My winter training struggles bit me on the ass on that last hill, and (spoiler alert!) kept me from a PR … but I’m not broken up about it.  Overall, this course certainly lived up to its billing as “challenging”.

Freezer Fives 5K Course Map
Freezer Fives 5K Course Map

My official finish time was 31:31, which is only 16 seconds off of my PR.  I’m thrilled with that time given all of the apparent weaknesses coming into this race.  One of these days I want to progress to being in the top half of finishers, but this one was only good enough for 218 / 284.  I’ll absolutely take it.

Notes:

– After all of that polar vortex crap last week, we seriously got a perfect day – warm and clear and perfect.  And then got a foot of snow overnight that night, and two days later another 6 inches plus sleet and freezing rain.  Winter training is killing me, and I’m officially fielding job offers for warmer climates.

–  Having the family there makes it better, officially.  Because this was just a big park, my son was way distracted … and apparently wasn’t too happy about his Mommy making him stop long enough to cheer as I ran by.  But it was great, all the same.  Hopefully they’ll get to come to a few more of these this year than they did last year.

– This is my first Taconic Road Runners race, which is something I’ve been looking forward to.  To the extent that there is a running club around here that would be my local club, the TRRC is it.  And I was overall impressed – everybody was friendly, bib pickup seemed efficient, and it really was a very good small race.  No chip timing, which is fine, but in general a very well run race.

– Speaking of timing, an interesting thing happened in terms of my official time.  When I crossed the finish line, the clock said 31:28, and my watch said 31:12 … so I thought I actually had a shot at the PR depending on how much time they gave me to get across the start line.  I’m not sure how it works that they added 3 seconds to the time I saw … but whatever.  I’m certainly not bitching, just find this curious.

– Another thing about the TRR – they keep costs way down.  $18 for me, a non-member, and I think the member cost was $12.  Of course, for that you don’t really get swag – just the t-shirt.  It is, however, a nice long-sleeved cotton shirt with a neat graphic and no sponsor logos, so pretty cool.  Also, the bibs are TRR bibs – they say Taconic Road Runners and have the orange and green color scheme.  Bibs like that are just so dramatically better than the generic RoadID ones.

– So, that was February’s race, which brings the streak to 12 months.  Last March I ran my first ever 5K.  Since then, I’ve run an official event each month for a full year.  I find that almost hard to believe.  And I’m registered for March, April, May, and June races … plus the Ragnar in October.

– Next race:  Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon, Washington, DC, March 15th

Weigh-in / Long Run – 2/2/14

Disappointing weigh-in, but I was expecting it … this has been a challenging couple of weeks.

Weight: 278lbs

2 Week Gain / (Loss):  4.6lbs

Total Gain / (Loss):  (49.4lbs)

Weekly Mileage:  13.38

First quick thing – I HATE dropping back under the “50 total pounds lost” threshold.  Hate it.  And will get it under control.

I’m not going to spend the time here in this post talking about why the last two weeks have been challenging.  I could trot out a whole list of reasons excuses that I haven’t been running and eating well, and whine about how hard it is.  And, lets face it … it IS hard.  Which is totally what she said.

But instead, I want to focus here on the very encouraging things that happened in the last two weeks:

  1.  After allowing myself the sad about not running the full marathon, I finally embraced the idea of PRing the hell out of the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon in March.  Many many minutes will come off of my half marathon PR, and this makes me excited.
  2. I went a week and a half without doing a single run … and then put together 4 straight days at the end of that stretch saying “eff it” and doing runs way outside my comfort zone.  Including a 3-miler in 3 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.
  3. My 5-mile long run on Saturday morning was very strong.  Not only did I feel good, but the run was a strong negative split – I got stronger as the run went along.  Also, a 5-mile “long run”, after I’ve been doing 15 and 16 mile long runs, was just the thing to get me mentally enjoying this again.
  4. Today I ran a 5K that was also MUCH stronger than anticipated – only 16 seconds off of my PR on a very hilly course.  I’ll have a race report up later this week, but I could not have been more pleased with how today went.
  5. This weekend had two straight days with highs in the 40s.  I know the groundhog saw his shadow today, so I don’t want to get too excited – but come on, spring!

For giggles, I went and looked at my running log for February 2nd of last year, 2013.  It turns out that I ran 3.1 miles (I won’t call it 5K unless it is an official race – which is a comment that will have my non-American readers rolling their eyes … but, hey, what’re you going do?), and I did it in a 13 minute and 42 second per mile pace.  Which right now seems glacial.  But, in my notes, I put the following quote:  “Did not seem that fast.”   THAT fast.

Amazing how far you can come in a year.  And I’m feeling that momentum building again.

Lets go have a great week.

Just like I drew it up…

As I mentioned yesterday, I intended to go for a run today.  And I did – no reason to build suspense needlessly.  But…

You know that feeling when you open your eyes in the morning … and it wasn’t because the alarm went off … and it is daylight outside … and things go from peaceful dreamy sleepy to OHMYGODHOLYSHITWHATTIMEISIT panic?

Yeah, that’s how I woke up this morning.  No idea what happened to my alarm clock.  Fortunately, it wasn’t so late that I was late for work, but there was no getting a run in.  And so I was unhappy about that.

But when I left the office tonight … it seemed warm.  And it is a mark of how much I’ve acclimated to being in the not-South that I think 35 degrees is warm.  So, after bedtime for the little guy and dinner with my wife, I put on my running clothes (just shorts!) and headed out.  I almost never run in the evenings, but it felt like I needed to keep the momentum.

Man, that felt good to go do that.  Short run again, but the idea is keep moving right now.  And with relatively warm weather coming up for the weekend, there is going to be a little streak.  Scheduled to do 5 miles in the morning, and then I’ve got a 5K to do on Sunday.  That’s just going to be a “have fun” race – I’m not even going to try and PR.

I’m feeling the momentum cranking up … which is exciting …

7 Things to Remember When Traveling

This week I had a quick trip down to Atlanta for a business meeting.  Left on Tuesday afternoon, came back on Wednesday afternoon.  Traveling tends to completely hose up my weekly food and running routine, though I’m starting to notice some patterns. Without further ado, here are seven things that it is important to remember when traveling:

#1 – Calories consumed in an airport count. So one of the associations that I’ve always had with traveling is an all-bets-are-off mentality about food (though, to be fair, that was a common mentality whether I was traveling or not).   This was both about quantity (hey – gotta fuel up so I can sit on this airplane or in this car!) and quality (immediate access to beef jerky and Dr. Pepper and cheese danishes?  Umm, OK!).  I’m not sure where that association came from, but as far back as I can remember it has been there.  It is as though travel food magically is different than “regular” food. So, yeah … it is not.  Crappy food is still crappy food.  And too much of it is still too much of it.  Walk away from the fried chicken.

This is still fried chicken.  Tasty, glorious fried chicken.
This is still fried chicken. Tasty, glorious fried chicken.

#2 – Water is your friend. We hear that airplanes dehydrate us all the time.  We hear it so much that we might be tempted to ignore it, or block the message. Yeah – don’t do that. Because dehydration on airplanes is real.  That little thing that you twist to get the cool air blowing on top of your head?  That thing is blowing almost perfectly dry air that is nearly guaranteed to make your skin itchy, chap your lips on the spot, and drive you to extreme thirst.  And ginger ale, while great on airplanes, doesn’t do the rehydration thing enough. Drink your water.

#3 – Bring your running shoes.  They are a pain in the ass to pack.  And you might wind up not using them while you are there because of unforeseen timing pressures.   But if you don’t bring them, you are guaranteed to miss a workout.  Guaranteed.  Just knowing that I’d have to justify having brought the damn things is sometimes enough to get me to get up and go for a run.  Take your shoes – you’ll be better for it.

#4 – Plan accordingly for treadmill access. Whichever hotel you’re at almost certainly has a fitness center.  Most of them that I’ve seen have a large stability ball, a weight-machine-system thing, an elliptical or two, and at most 4 or 5 treadmills.  Some only have 2 or 3 treadmills.  Now, because you were traveling and didn’t want to pack anything more than shoes, socks, shorts, & shirt, you aren’t geared up to run outside.  You’re also in unfamiliar territory and may not want to risk getting lost.  So you plan on getting up and hitting the treadmill for those morning miles. You … and everybody else in the hotel. Rush hour (roughly 6am to 8am) at the hotel fitness center is almost certainly going to be busy.  And unless you are OK with the elliptical or something different, you may be disappointed by treadmill access.  If possible, plan to go during a strange time (evening, middle of the day, etc.) or get there earlier than you normally would. Also – treadmills suck.

Soul crushing, isn't it?  I hurt just looking at it...
Soul crushing, isn’t it? I hurt just looking at it…

#5 – There will be doughnuts. When people are hosting a meeting that includes out-of-town guests, they naturally want to be seen as hospitable and accommodating.  They want to be good friendly hosts.  And for whatever reason, that usually means doughnuts.  Plates and plates of doughnuts. They’re going to look yummy.  And let’s face it – they’re going to BE yummy.  There are several ways to deal with this – politely eat half of one, or even a whole one that you considered in your broader day’s meal plan, or claim you’re diabetic or whatever.  But you’d better have a plan for how you’re going to deal with that glorious plate of doughnuts, or it is going to deal with you.

Doesn't it look yummy?
Doesn’t it look yummy?

#6 – Shit happens. So on my trip this week, the travel gods were not with me.  They chose yesterday to get the pound of flesh they were owed for a largely uneventful travel season for me.  And that meant, for a large list of reasons, I was stuck looking for dinner in suburban Atlanta at roughly 11pm on Tuesday night.  And I was unable to resist the siren call of the black letters in the yellow boxes.

Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia.  True story.
Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia. True story.

Yep – Waffle House. And I’m just going to straight-up tell you like it is … my triple order of hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered) was glorious. Glorious. And I don’t feel guilty. However…

#7 – If you know that kind of thing is likely to happen, plan accordingly the rest of the week. Yeah – I knew that was likely to happen.  So I’ve mostly planned accordingly.  But you DO have to plan accordingly, because otherwise the whole thing will come off the rails.   How do you stay on plan and strategy when you travel?

Adventures in Marathon Training – Calendar Edition

So … the monthly streak has reached its first real challenge.

My next race, which is also the February race, was scheduled to be the Run for the End Zone 6K in Montclair, New Jersey, on February 1.  This was going to have several good things going for it – it didn’t start until 10am, so my family could come out, it was a 6K so an automatic PR, and the finish line was the end zone line in the football stadium at a college there in Montclair.  Just overall goodness there, right?

Alas, ‘twas not to be.  They cancelled the race.

Turns out, one of the roads we were intended to run on for a short distance was a county road, and they couldn’t get the local government to agree to shut it down (or even move everybody over) for the duration of the race.  Therefore, safety issues.  Therefore, no race.

Nope.  Nope-itty nope nope nope.
Nope. Nope-itty nope nope nope.

At least they did it with enough advanced notice to let us find other options.

Now, I want to be frustrated at them.  I want to be indignant and talk about getting you stuff together and how inconvenient and … and … and.  And I don’t for two reasons:

  1.  They wanted to run the race, too.  I’m certain that they are extremely disappointed – they’re people doing their thing, just like I am.   Cut them some slack.
  2. This made me take a hard look at my training calendar.

And it turns out, my training calendar had a problem.  Of course, I’m in the midst of marathon training (10 weeks out now!), and the weekly long runs have reached the point where I’m likely running farther than I ever have before on any given weekend.  That all builds up to and culminates in a 20 mile training run that happens, in theory, 2 – 3 weeks out from the marathon.

In practice, I had it scheduled for 3 weeks out from the marathon.  On the same day that I’m going to be at a wedding.  In Colorado.  In February.

There is no chance I’m running 20 miles in Colorado in February.  Zero percent chance.

Nope.  Nope itty nope nope nope.
Nope. Nope itty nope nope nope.

So we can make the argument that the race cancellation saved my bacon – and I therefore cannot be frustrated with them.  I still haven’t chosen the exact replacement race for February (thankfully there are options), but I have moved the calendar around and will now be doing a 2-week taper out of necessity.

Do these kinds of things come up for you, or was this just me screwing up?

%d bloggers like this: