An Anniversary

One year ago today I went for my first run.  I set the alarm for 5am, laced up my brand new pair of shoes, and hit the door.  And walked right into a light ice-fall – basically a misty rain with some frozen stuff in it.

But I went ahead and did my thing.  And I started a log, one that I’ve kept for every run since.  Here’s what I wrote after that first run:

19m/mile pace!

“First Run!” was all I could think to say, really.  In later notes, I talk about how I felt and what the struggles were – or I let the runner’s high get involved and write things like “Great run!”

After this one, though, there wasn’t much to say.  I mostly walked.  And I walked over to a parking lot near my house and ran around the building a couple of times … because I was embarrassed for anybody to actually see me.  Several runs went by before I was able to run within eyesight of people.  For that first half dozen runs, I ran in the service lane behind the shopping centers near my house.

Nobody uses those service lanes.

Especially at 5am.

If I’d wanted to use more space in that note, I would have said “That sucked!”  And probably “Holy crap, my shins hurt!” And maybe even “What the hell am I doing this for again?”  But I wanted to be positive, so I just wrote “First Run!”

For the record – after the second run, I wrote “Second Run!”

The ball started very slowly – in terms of frequency and volume AND speed.  Look at that entry again – I got a mile and a half done in 30 minutes.  In my last 5K I did 3.1 in 31.  At the time I’d run for 30 seconds and walk until I could breathe again.  The walking time was embarrassing.   But I went for run #2, and then run #3.  And eventually the frequency started improving.  And the volume.  And the speed.

In the last 365 days, I’ve gone running 181 times.  What started with a mile and a half on a rainy icy morning turned into a year in which I ran 600 miles.  600!  That number feels almost unbelievable now, but it is true.  I’ve run 5Ks & 10Ks, a Ragnar and a Half Marathon.  Zero to runner – that’s what it has been.

And it has been amazing.

I’ve been in a real funk lately – and then I’ve had my toe injury for the past week.  But today I ran 2.5 miles.  Tomorrow I’ll run my scheduled 4.  This year I’m going to run a marathon, and no telling what else.  And next year I’ll be as far away from today’s run as this run is from that very first one.

See you next year.

Ragnar Pictures!

OK – so I got the finish line pictures back from the Ragnar folks – and also got some pictures in from my teammates (hi, Sarah!) … so we gots pictures.

I’ve put a few back in the race report, but there are a few others that turned out pretty good, as well.  So I’m putting all of these in one gallery here, to have them in one spot.

Ragnar!

Minor Surgery

So … I’ve decided not to post a picture of this one.

You’re welcome.  Trust me.

I had to travel for work this week, and only skipped one of my treadmill workouts (because treadmill).  And then, on the way home, getting myself worked up for getting the running going again, I do a boneheaded thing.

After I got through security at the airport, but before I put my shoes back on, I decided to untangle the shoulder strap on my briefcase.  This entailed pulling and bouncing and generally acting like I was trying to empty the contents of the briefcase.  Which would have been fine, except that I hadn’t zipped it back up when I put the laptop back in it on the other side of security.

It was all I could do not to scream loud curse words when the laptop hit my big toe.

Direct shot, right in the middle of my big toe, on my sock-covered foot.  It hurt like hell.

Of course the nail turned black immediately and I’ve been limping around for a couple of days now.  Running would have been awful.  Tonight I decided to take fate into my own hands and started working the nail over.  Pretty much immediately I broke the pressure and got a lot of blood … and also pretty much immediately it started feeling better.  After a bit more work I was able to completely remove the nail – while my wife fretted in the background that I’m going to get an infection and lose the whole foot.  Which could still happen.

The nail has been gone an hour, and the swelling is way down and my toe feels pretty much normal again.  It looks gross, but feels normal.  So there is that.

Depending on how it feels in the morning … I’m going to go for a run.

(Edit:  much more sore this morning than I anticipated after last night.  It needs another day to heal up.  <sigh>)

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #5, Florida Family Run Fest 10K

(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 road 10K, in Flor…well, you should read the post as to location.  This report was written in August, 2013.)

First, let us get this out of the way. There is a town in New York state that is called Florida. Florida, New York. Bills itself as The Onion Capital of the World (which is not a throwaway comment -see the notes below). This race did not take place in the state of Florida – it took place in Florida, New York.

OK – now that we’ve got that straight.

This race was very well done – turns out the race director is the track coach for the local high school, and lives along the route. This is also an established race in a small community, and it felt like half the town showed up to help administer the thing. Just very well done.

Some confusion at the pre-registered table, but I got my bib and we got lined up. After thanking what seemed like the whole town and the recorded national anthem, off we went. Now, I’d looked at the course online, so I was mostly prepared for the hills. The race director, in his pre-race remarks, even said, “the race is what it is” in reference to the hills. But, yikes, the hills never stopped. Very little flat ground over the course of the six miles – we were always either going up or going down.

No flatness ... just no flatness
No flatness … just no flatness

Overall I’m pretty happy with my time here – I wound up coming in just under a minute slower than my goal time. The half marathon in three weeks will be very flat relative to this course, and I still felt pretty strong at the end of this one. As a tune up goes, we’ll take it.

Notes:

• This was my first road 10K, so an automatic PR – though I did this quite a lot faster than the trail 10K, so it was a PR no matter what. PR!

• Somehow they didn’t have my name on their list at the pre-registered table, and had to get one of the race directors over. When I offered to go get my phone and try to find the receipt for proof, she told me that nobody ever says they’re registered when they didn’t do it, so they got me signed up without me having to pay. I began to doubt myself, and I was completely prepared to send in a check if I couldn’t convince myself that I’d actually paid for it … but I found the receipt pretty quickly. This is one of the reasons we get to races early, and I’ll likely start taking printed receipts to future races just to ease my mind.

• Beginning to develop and practice my half marathon strategy – this is now the second run that I’ve taken an energy gel during the run. Both times I’ve noticed markedly less crappy bonks at the end, so THAT’S good. And people say that these can upset your stomach, but I’ve apparently got an iron constitution because I feel nothing. Except all that glorious energy.

• Good swag bags – standard cotton shirt, nice technical shirts leftover from a NYRR race in June (these were just randomly put into the bags, and mine is an Adult Small – I lol’ed), many brochures, coupons, & samples, a jar opener, pens and pencils, cookies, and onions. Like a bag with three onions in it. As I’m walking away I get “don’t forget your onions!” This is why I know that Florida, New York, is The Onion Capital of the World.

• This race was put on as part of a town festival, and did a great job showcasing the town. I was impressed by Florida, New York.

• Six consecutive months running an event, with events scheduled for the next two. I’m going to struggle to get one in in November – my calendar is packed, and the running calendar around here seems to go dark on just the weekends I have available. This little streak may yet wind up being a false start.

• Next race: Rock & Roll Half Marathon, Virginia Beach <gulp>

A First

I’m skipping my long run tomorrow.  For the first time in nearly a year.

The sickness … this time … it is real.  My run on Thursday was awful, and I wound up walking half of it.  Skipped this morning because there was just no way.  And the way I feel right now means that I need to sleep more than I need to run.

They say listen to your body.  Well I think my body is telling me to knock it off for a few days.  So I shall knock it off.

I’m not looking forward to the first couple of runs back.

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #4, Children’s Home of Kingston 4K

(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 a random 4K, in Kingston, NY.  This report was written in July, 2013.)

No numbers!
No numbers!

So, I’m ramping up mileage in preparation for the R&R Half on Labor Day, and the calendar I’m using says that this was a good week to target a race, probably a 5K. No close race was appealing, so I decided to go with the 4K that I found that was a little over an hour drive away. Since pretty much every one of my training runs anymore is longer than this distance, my stated goal was to go out entirely too fast and see if I could hold it.

 

Bit of a disorganized registration table, but they got us signed up (all 60 or so of us) and eventually herded out to the start. The first 3/4 mile was straight uphill, and then we went straight back down … and then another loop of that, and then a flat out and back along the Hudson River for the rest. My goal had two parts, and the first was easy – I went out entirely too fast. A couple of times on that first hill I thought “oh, boy – this is going to suck at the end.” And the second part wasn’t so bad – overall, I held out. My pace in the last half mile degraded more than I would have liked, but my overall pace for this one was significantly faster than pretty much anything I’ve done yet – so … yay!

Notes:

1. First race I’ve run that wasn’t chip timed. In fact, we didn’t even get bibs. And when they handed me a number at the end of the finisher’s chute, I didn’t know what to do with it. I HATE feeling like an idiot, but the people helped and my time got logged.

2. The swag bag was just a t-shirt, coupon, and three raffle tickets. Pretty bare bones. I usually don’t stick around after races for raffles, but the table was full of stuff and since the field was pretty small I thought the odds warranted enjoying my post-race doughnut a little more slowly. They fired it up, and wouldn’t you know the first number called was one of mine. So my swag bag was a t-shirt, coupon, two losing raffle tickets, and a brand new Yahtzee! board game. Plus, you know, self-esteem and a PR and stuff. Which reminds me:

3. Weird distance = automatic PR! Yay!

4. I didn’t write up a race report for the trail 10K I did in June. One word report: Brutal.

5. This is 5 months in a row running a race, with races scheduled for the next 3. Exactly zero people are looking over their shoulder.

6. Next up: Florida (New York) Family Fun Fest 10K

RR #9 – G.I. Joe Bootcamp Pier-to-Pier Run/Walk

At some point in the last 8 months, the monthly streak got hold of me and now it is my mission to keep it going.  Finding races had not been an issue – until November.   I’m traveling for work and we’re traveling for the holidays … and the races just weren’t lining up.  So I decided to start looking for potential events at the places we were traveling to.

This weekend we’re in Southern California for a wedding – and when I started looking at the itinerary I realized that I had an almost completely free Saturday morning while everybody was getting ready for an evening wedding.   A quick search for a 25 mile radius around the wedding venue and the next thing I know I’m registered for the G.I. Joe Bootcamp Pier-to-Pier Run/Walk.

We started here - ran in front of the volleyball nets...
We started here – ran in front of the volleyball nets…

The idea here is that we started at the Hermosa Beach pier and did an out-and-back up to the Manhattan Beach pier.  The length was roughly a 5K, but it was rough enough that they didn’t call it that. And this all seemed great – Southern California weather, flat course, exciting because it feels exotic to me, etc.

I missed the part where we were running it in the sand.  When I realized this, my enthusiasm waned.

Anyway – registration was a disorganized mess.  G.I. Joe Bootcamp is a local fitness program run by Joe Charles, an ex-MMA fighter turned personal fitness guru in Manhattan Beach.  It is a personality driven outfit – and that works, as long as it works.  In this case, it only kinda worked.  They said get there early – I got there at 6am for a 7am start and had to wait a full 20 minutes for the check-in tables to be ready.   Mass confusion about how the shirts were handed out, and the timing was “whenever my National Anthem girl gets here.”  However – we got it registered, so that’s what counts.

G.I. Joe - click picture for story
G.I. Joe – click picture for story

So the way the course worked is that we started out on the pavement, immediately hit what I will call the heavy sand, and headed toward the water.  Maybe 200 yards later we made a right-hand turn and headed down the beach.  Now, the heavy sand was awful – nearly impossible to run in.  The stuff down by the water, though, was nice.  It was solid yet soft, and the biggest problem was the fact that the beach is banked headed down toward the water.  So we ran down to the other pier, touched it, and turned around and headed back.  No course marshals or anything like that – we were told to touch the Manhattan Beach pier and come back.  And it worked.  The final 200 yards back across the heavy sand was horrible, but we got it done.

Manhattan Beach Pier - touch the support and head back...
Manhattan Beach Pier – touch the support and head back…

The run felt really good for me.  Once I was able to hit a groove down near the water, I started ticking off a really good pace – nothing near 5K PR pace, but that was out the instant I realized the sand was in play.  I almost exclusively passed people on this one, and for the last mile or so I was trying to reel in the guy in front of me and just couldn’t do it.  But that pushed me to a happy pace.

Good run.

(EDIT:  The official results were posted, and if we’re calling this a “race” then I am way happy with my finish – I finished 32nd out of 106 overall, but finished 3rd out of 9 in my division (M:30-39).  I left before the finish ceremony, though it looks like they only called people up for 1st and 2nd place.  But I’ll take it!)

Notes:

– Just a beautiful run – surfers and stand-up paddleboarders and fishermen and seagulls and … and … and.   I made the last minute decision to leave my iPod in the car, and I’m glad I did.  The crashing waves made a great soundtrack, and there was certainly plenty to see.

– One of the things I’m learning about this coastal thing is that distances are very deceiving.  Islands that look close are many, many miles away.  And piers that appear to be just right down the beach turn out to be nearly two miles away.  It was strange to be able to see my mark so clearly from that far away

–  I grew up fishing … but fishing in the surf like that seems crazy.  I wonder how much they actually catch.

–  SWAG – nice cotton shirt (olive drab color, understated logos – nice relative to a lot you get) and a big bag full of stuff.  I guess it is because a bootcamp outfit was doing this, but most of the stuff was either medicine samples (anti-fungal, Tiger Balm, that sort of thing) or food (protein shake, Vitamin C mix, etc.)  And lots of opportunity to sign up for an upcoming bootcamp.

– Did I mention that running in heavy sand is nearly impossible?

– That’s November’s race, which puts me at 9 months.

–  Next race:  Ted Corbitt Classic 15K in Central Park, December 14th

Thoughts on this morning’s run…

A little story about one of those not-so-little things that makes me think this running thing is sticking.

The running path you can't see along the bluff?  I ran that one...
The running path you can’t see along the bluff? I ran that one…

 

We’re in California this weekend for a wedding, and the bride and groom chose Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes as a sort of “command central” – and this place is unbelievable.  Just gorgeous.

So yesterday when we got here, we did some walking around and exploring, and all I could keep thinking was “this is going to be a spectacular run – wow, how cool is that running path – man, this is perfect for running.”

And then this morning, even after jet lag and late-night drinks and vacation and all of the reasons why I could have blown off a run … I got up and went for a run.  And was excited to do it.

And it was glorious.  I read somewhere that running cleans in places that soap can’t reach.

I feel clean this morning.

Throwback Thursday Race Report – RR #3, St. Vincent’s Spring Sprint 5K

(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 third 5K, in Harrison, NY.  This report was written in May, 2013.)

As of my last RR, my next scheduled race was the 10K in June. However, I got to reading old posts on the board and came across the discussion of prime13’s streak of running in an event every month for 10 years. Now, I’ve got no crazy illusions that I’ll ever have a streak like that – but if I didn’t run something in May then I’d have removed the option, which was bad. So I looked, and this 5k was about 15 minutes from the house. Done and done.

Pardon the negativity here. It rained this morning, so that sucked. The course was more difficult than I expected – an out-and-back with a loop at the end, and it sure seemed like we spent more time going uphill than downhill for an out-and-back. So that sucked. My training runs had been going very well – almost smooth – but, alas, ‘twas not to be today. My legs felt dead all morning. So that sucked. And the visual clock wasn’t working at the finish line, so I had no idea how I did until I got home and was able to look online. So that sucked. In general, this one sucked more than the others.

BUT … I PR’d by right at 40 seconds, so THAT’S good. I’m happy with progress, that’s for sure. I’m scheduled for my long run tomorrow on the ramp up to the 10K, and I imagine I’ll be doing it pretty slow based on the way I feel right now. And it was cool to get my mileage in on a rainy Saturday in a race, not just slogging through a soggy solo run. So, I’m happy with it, and I’ll be putting all of that negativity behind me.

I've gotten better at looking up...
I’ve gotten better at looking up…

Notes:

1. Really good SWAG for a local $20 5k. Technical shirt, nice water bottle, actually useful coupons – was happy with that. And nice food spread, too – oranges, bananas, yogurt, pastries, bagels, muffins, danishes … good stuff.

2. A lot of the runners were employees at the hospital that was putting on the race, and they had made the race packet pickup available starting Wednesday of this week – so there were a lot of people wearing the race shirt. Which wouldn’t have stood out so much except that these shirts are probably the brightest fluorescent orange I’ve seen in a long time. Just stunningly orange. There was no missing people ahead of us making turns.

3. Designated people at the finish line to yell and “whoo” and say “great job” are awesome. They help.

4. I’m already signed up for races for June, August, September, and October – and I’ve got my eye on a 4K (automatic PR!) in July – so my streak should get to at least 8 straight months. So it begins.

Next up, for real this time: Phillips 10K Trail Run / Walk.

RR# 8 – Ragnar Tennessee

I talked about the bigger picture significance of this event for me here.

First, let’s talk about Ragnar.  The easy description is that it is a relay – 12 people run roughly 200 miles in 36 legs.  6 people “live” in one van, and they run the first six legs.  The 6 people “living” in van # 2 then take over and run the next six legs.  And the vans leapfrog each other like that until the finish line.  In this particular Ragnar, our team started in Chattanooga at 9am on Friday and crossed the finish line in Nashville at roughly 3pm on Saturday.   They build the legs so that teams can be formed with various levels of experience and speed – each leg is rated “easy” through “very hard”, and there are always one or two runners that have a relatively light load and two or three that have an exceptionally difficult load.

But describing a Ragnar by talking about the logistics is a bit like describing a song or poem by discussing its cadence or rhyme structure.  That’s accurate, but doesn’t quite get at the thing.

Ragnar is camping and running and “living” for 30 hours in a small van with people you just met yesterday (or maybe even this morning).  Ragnar is cowbells and encouragement and airhorns and pulling over every chance you get – and not just for your team, but for all the teams.

Ragnar is a shooting star during your 3.5 miler at 3am.

Ragnar is running and logistics and craziness – but Ragnar is also an experience and a memory.   And what an experience.

At Exchange #6, waiting on Van #1
At Exchange #6, waiting on Van #1

So … when I committed to do this I had run about zero miles.  Pretty much exactly zero miles.  So I got the “newbie runner” position – I’d been working towards a total of about 10.5 miles in three legs measuring roughly 4.5, 1.5, & 4.5 miles.  And I was very comfortable with that.  But about three weeks before the race kicked off, our team (Pants Optional) lost a runner.  Since the best options for last minute replacements probably needed to be in that “newbie runner” slot, I agreed to move.  And I’m glad I did … but.

My mileage increased to more like 17.5.  My first leg was 8.1 miles, and was a total downhill bomb over the first half.  In the first 4 miles, I lost about 900 feet in elevation.  And while the downhill itself is tough, the bank of the road on the curves was worse.  I had to hold back to not just fly down that mountain.  And then at the bottom I had another 4 miles through the Tennessee countryside, ending in a town called Cowan.  I was runner number 12, so this leg happened during sunset and it was totally dark when I got to the exchange point.  And I was ready to be done running.

Comin' down the mountain on Leg #12
Comin’ down the mountain on Leg #12

Our van was then off-duty … we then went and ate some dinner at a little Italian place in Cowan, and it was GOOD.  And then we drove up to the next major exchange in Tullahoma to wait on the other van.  I wound up being “on duty” for a lot of this one, so got pretty much no sleep.

The second leg for me was a 3.5 miler that happened at about 3am.  The night was very cold and clear, but the race bible lied.  Well, not lied exactly.  But misled.  See – there is an elevation profile for every leg, and this one was no different.  But the Ragnar organization puts on races all over the country, in very rugged territory, and they apparently have standardized their scale – which was 0 to 2000 feet.  On this leg, with a total elevation change in a 100 foot range, that meant it looked very flat.  It wasn’t, however, flat.  Much of this one was one of those long, gradual uphill climbs that aren’t steep enough to slow down but never let you coast for a minute.  And I just wasn’t prepared for it.  Overall, my time was fine – but I was not happy with how this leg went.

Back in the van – I changed out of my clothes, laid down, and don’t remember anything for the next 3 hours or so.  The next major exchange was in Franklin, a suburb of Nashville.

When we got rolling again, there was a surprising amount of overall energy in our van.  At this point nobody had gotten more than 2 or 3 hours of total sleep – and I’d run nearly 12 miles in the most recent 12 hour period.   But, daylight makes things better and we were off again.

I'm not sure where this energy came from...
I’m not sure where this energy came from…

Leg # 3 for me was also the final leg for the team – and they did a spectacular job of showing off the city of Nashville.  We ran the first mile or so near the Belmont campus, and then ran the entire length of Music Row.  We then looped around to Bicentennial State Park, ran into Printer’s Alley downtown, and then through the crowds outside the bars and the nightclubs.  By this time all of the runners were very spread out, so those people were surely … surely … wondering what the sweaty fat guy was doing trying to run through all of that humanity.  And by then I was done – this was a 6 mile leg, and I started alternating runs and walks with a hill at about mile 4.  The idea was just to survive, and I survived.

About 200 yards from the finish line the teams all line up and wait for their runners – and then fall in behind them and the whole team crosses the finish line together.  It was both cool to see my team, and also a shot in the arm to have all of those other teams there cheering.  We crossed the finish line, had our team picture taken, and went straight to the beer tent and the pizza tent.  The beer was too hoppy and the pizza was awful.

But it was glorious.  I can’t wait until my next Ragnar.

Finish Line - Pants Optional

Notes:

–  The biggest thing I’ll do differently next time is organize my bag better.  I spent just entirely too much time rooting around in my stuff trying to find the right shirt or shorts or socks, or panicking because I couldn’t locate my headlamp or my iPod or my race number.  That will need to tighten up.

–  Cowbells.  Seriously.  Cowbells are basically mandatory.

–  Three of us staggered to our hotel in Nashville after it was over and got takeout barbeque.  After eating until we couldn’t take another bite, we passed out at about 7pm.  I don’t remember anything else until 7am the next morning.  That was one of the most glorious sleeps that has ever been slept.

–  Really cool technical shirt in the SWAG, and the medals are big bottle openers.  My medal has already acquired magnets and been permanently placed on the refrigerator.   Our team captain had GREAT team shirts printed up, and we also got a stainless steel pint glass with a coozie emblazoned with the Pants Optional logo.  Plus I made a stop at the merchandise tent.  I LOVE all the stuff I came back with

–  Actually gave an “interview” (I put that in quotes because it was more like a recorded conversation) while I was in Chattanooga about taking up running and losing weight.  THAT was a pretty awesome experience, about which I’ll have more if and when that ever gets published.  That could also come with a big announcement.  Fun!

–  October event, which means the streak is now up to 8 months.   I’ve got races scheduled in November, December, January, February, & March.  That will get me to 13.  This is still no 10 years, but I’m starting to get attached to this streak.

–  Next race – Fall Pier-to-Pier Run/Walk, from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier, Los Angeles, California … November 9th.

Photo Taken by Runner # 11 as I was running my first leg...
Photo Taken by Runner # 11 as I was running my first leg…
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