Monday, November 18, 2013

2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Social Media Runner

I was stoked when I learned that I was selected to be one of two social media runners for the upcoming Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in April! I, along with my new friend and fellow social runner, Fran, are looking forward to connect with everyone! The lottery for the race opens in 12 short days! Be sure to follow the official race twitter account (@CUCB) as well as myself and Fran (@Flash_Fran) to get all race-related updates. We hope to see you on race day! Also, I'm planning to host a course preview run(s) at some point, so be on the lookout for that!

Preparations for the 2014 race are already well under way. On Friday, Fran and I attended the Cherry Blossom Fall Kickoff party in DC and we had a blast! There was a wine pull, silent auction, and the race t-shirt design was revealed. Thanks to all that attended! I recently learned three thousand dollars was raise from the wine pull and silent auction, all which will benefit the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! Thank you everyone for your generosity.

The fun is just getting started here in DC! Talk to you all again soon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My thoughts on a WSJ article about running

I enjoyed Mark Remy's article on Runner's World so much in response to a Wall Street Journal article on running, I decided to do one in a similar format. Recently, in case you missed it, a Wall Street Journal opinion article written by Mr. Chad Stafko, was published. The first word that popped into my head when I read it was, "Ignorant." Chad, an apparent non-lover of the running community, decided he had enough of runners bragging out their running feats and took to the reputable fitness journal, Wall Street, to share his thoughts on how self-centered and silly us "runners" are. Below is his article with my thoughts in bold.
Ok, So You're a Runner. Get Over It.  By: Chad Stafko
There is one kind of bumper sticker I see almost daily here in my small Midwestern town: a small oval printed with "26.2" or "13.1." In case you're lucky enough not to know what these numbers represent, let me explain: They indicate that the driver or someone in the car has run a marathon (26.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles).
First off, my 26.2 bumper sticker is a magnet.
There is only one reason running aficionados display the stickers. They want the rest of us to know about their long-distance feats. So let me be the first to offer my hearty congratulations. I'd even offer to give them a pat on the back—once they're done doing it themselves.
Thanks, Chad. For the record, I've only patted myself on the back a couple times. It's difficult to do.
What's with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?Almost every day I see people running: in the city, through subdivisions or out on country roads. They're everywhere and at all times, from dawn until dark, their reflective gear flickering along the road.
Sorry our reflective gear annoys you. It's to protect us from getting hit by people like, well, you.
I thought I was imagining this spike in running's popularity, but that's not the case. According to the group Running USA, there were some 15.5 million people who finished running events in 2012, compared with approximately 13 million in 2010. These 15.5 million are hoofing it through marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, fun runs, night runs, charity runs and what can only be labeled as insane ultramarathon runs of 50 miles or more.
Incredible, isn't it? Our inactive country is becoming active.
When they're not out there sweating through the miles, they can relax with a running magazine. There is Runners World, with its 660,000 subscribers, but also Running Times, Trail Runner, Runner's Gazette and several others. Reading. About running.
You're probably a subscriber to NASCAR Illustrated. A magazine. About racing.
Or these runners, when they're not running, can go shopping—at a running store. There's one such store less than 15 miles, or better said, just a bit over a half-marathon, from my house. It sells only running equipment and apparel. The store has been in business several years, so apparently it is making money.
specialty retail store? I've never heard of such a thing.
This "equipment," of course, is nothing but shoes and clothes. You can buy these same shoes at a sporting-goods store or online, probably for much less.
Actually, I find much better deals at my local running store. Friendlier/more knowledgeable staff, too.
But the clothes—well, that's a different story. Many of the shirts on the racks have running logos, motivational slogans and images of stick people running.
Of course they do. Why would I go to a running store to buy an "I'm with stupid" shirt?
Like the 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers, this apparel serves a clear purpose: We can look at them and immediately know that the person wearing it is a runner—perhaps even an accomplished one.
Yup, that's exactly why we wear them. In fact, I'm going to put a call into all the major sport leagues to inform their respective commissioners that no championship winning player is allowed to wear a "Champions" shirt or hat after winning a title.
I have several friends who are runners, or at least I did before writing this. Some have completed marathons in Nashville and Washington, D.C. One even ran the Boston Marathon.
Yep, they are not your friends anymore.
A few days ago, one of these running friends said, after describing a recent run: "Why do I keep doing this?" I have no idea.
Every runner says this. It's a rhetorical question. I can tell you that we DO know why we run and sadly, it's something you'll never understand. Unless, you start running.
Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey?
Dedication, my friend. Also, why would I go for a 10 mile joyride over a run?
I have a theory. There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. When runners are dashing down a street in the middle of town or through a subdivision, they know that every driver, every pedestrian, every leaf-raker and every person idly staring out a window can see them.
If you really think that's why we run, you're dumber than I thought.
These days, people want more than ever to be seen. This is the age of taking a photo selfie and posting it on Facebook with the announcement that you're bored—in the hope that someone will "like" that information. People want attention and crave appreciation. If you're actually doing something like running—covering ground, staying healthy, almost even having fun—what better way to fulfill the look-at-me desire? The lone runner is a one-person parade. Yay.

Hey now, I post my pictures on Twitter and Instagram, too.

OK, I know, this isn't the case for all runners. Many of my friends who regularly run have done so for years, decades before there was a thing called social media to put humanity's self-absorption in overdrive. These folks also tend to be infatuated with fitness anyway. If they're not out on the streets showing the sedentary world how it's done, they're at the gym or in a spinning class.
Just so we are clear, I enjoy using social media to share my running accomplishments with my fellow runners because they GET IT! If a family member or close friend happens to read my post and it inspires them to get out the door, awesome, but that's not my goal. Most importantly, my post are never written in a way to demean those that are not active, EVER!
But what about the others? You can spot them, wandering through the mall or killing time at Starbucks proudly wearing their "[Fill in the blank] 5K Run" T-shirts. They're getting what they want, without losing a drop of sweat.
I prefer Dunkin' Dounts coffee.
I saw a great new bumper sticker the other day. It read 0.0. I'll take one of those, please.
Haha, that's awesome! Where can I get one?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Race Recap: Rosaryville 50K

There's something to be said about small, local races. As I continue to evolve as a runner, I've grown more fond of the small, no-frills races as opposed to the huge, big city runs sponsored by some financial or consulting firm I've never heard of. Logistically, small races are so much easier and a heck of a lot less stressful. No long lines at an expo. Pick up your bib minutes before the race starts. No race t-shirts handed out to add to my piles at home (I really need to stop by a Goodwill). Most importantly, no stampede of runners you find yourself in at the start of a big race. Don't get me wrong, I still run in my fair share of big city races (in fact, one of my favorites is Chicago), I just prefer smaller races.

All this to say that the Rosaryville 50K was exactly the kind of race I needed this past weekend. Hosted by Annapolis Striders, the race consisted of running three 10 mile loops around the Perimeter Trail of the Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The race accepted 200 entries and while it did sell out, only 150 runners or so turned out.

It was cold and frosty on race morning, but the sun was shining and runner enthusiasm was high. When the race director asked how many were running their first ultra, quite a few hands popped up. I loved it! Nothing beats running a race knowing many are about to get their first taste of ultra running. In my opinion, the 50K is the 101 of ultra running. It's a great way to break into the ultra world and you can easily train and prepare for one by following a marathon training program.

Anyway, my goal for Rosaryville was to use it as a training run in preparation for my 50 miler next month in San Francisco. After coming off my PR marathon last weekend, there was no need to run this hard. I was happy to run easy, take in the sights and enjoy a morning on the trails.

The race got underway without a hitch. However, when I went to start my Garmin, a message popped up saying my keys were locked. Hmmm? You can lock your keys on a Garmin? Since I didn't know how I locked them in the first place, I couldn't figure out how to unlock them. After messing with it for about 5 minutes, I gave up. Running by feel it is!

The trail was a flat, non-technical single track. The only difficultly I and other runners faced was trying to spot the roots that the fallen leaves had covered up. And if you're wondering, yes, I fell. Twice. The course had two aid stations, spaced about 5 miles apart. The first aid station had your drop bag, if you chose to leave one. I was definitely glad to have one because as race wore on, the temperatures climbed and a wardrobe change was needed.

The first two laps were uneventful for me. But, even running at an easy pace, my post-marathon legs were starting to fire up on my final lap. I didn't mind, though. I like to train on tried legs. It's good practice for how my legs are gonna feel in my 50 miler. However, it was my tired legs that led to my graceful Superman of a fall on the last lap. One second, I'm shuffling along, the next, I'm flat on my back staring at the canopy of trees above. I even had a small audience of runners to show off my impressive Superman skills to.

As the finish line came into view, I decided I wanted to roll across the finish. Why? Why not? You can't take running too seriously or you'll begin to hate it. After my graceful roll across the line and a quick pose for the cameraman, I hopped up and was greeted by a smiling volunteer placing a finishers medal around my neck. My time was 5:13:47, which was actually a new 50K PR for me. But, if you compare the difficulty of this course to my previous 50K PR, you'd see why I able shave off some time. Nonetheless, it was a PR run, so I'll take it! My thanks to Annapolis Striders for a fun race!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Race Recap: Monumental Marathon

Finally, I got the chance to pound out 26.2 miles in my home state of Indiana! The Monumental Marathon, situated in Indiana's capitol of Indianapolis, was a great race to be a part of. The weather was perfect, the course was flat, and speedy times were up for grabs.
Riding a lion outside the expo

I had circled this race on my calendar as one where I wanted to try and break my PR, but in the weeks leading up to the race, my runs were pretty sluggish. I just didn't seem to have much energy. Because of this, my confidence level going into the race weekend was certainly not were I would of liked it to be. It was going to be an in-race decision as to whether I was gonna go for a PR or not. If I felt strong, game on. If my legs were still feeling blah, I would run it easy.

The marathon was on Saturday, which I prefer. I arrived in Indy on Friday and my sister, Katie, who lives in the area, picked me up at the airport. From the airport, we headed straight to the expo so I could grab my bib.

It's always nice to run a race in the same town where you know someone, especially when it's family. My mom even drove up from southern Indiana, which made the weekend even sweeter. I've grown accustom to traveling to many of my races alone (not that I mind), so it was nice to have some family with me.

M4M medal collection table at the expo
The marathon had a generous start time of 8:00am, so I was able to get some decent sleep the night before. Katie dropped me off around 7, which gave me plenty of time to check my bag, hit the porta pots, and roam around near the start and soak in the marathon environment that I love so much. The charity I volunteer for, Medals4Mettle, is based out of Indy and was a partner for the event. I was able to meet up with the founder, Steve Isenberg, before the race started. We chatted for a few minutes, wished each other well in the race, and headed to our respective corrals.

Start Line
The race got underway and I immediately settled into an 8:40 pace. The first few miles of the course gave you a great tour of downtown Indy before it turned you north and sent you into the suburbs. For the first 7 miles or so, the course was shared with the half marathon runners. Once the course split, it thinned out and let me focus more on my pace and less on finding gaps among the runners around me.

Right before the halfway point I ran past a woman who had a bib attached to her back that read, "1st timer". I looked over at her as I ran by and said, "Careful, these things are addicting." She smiled and said she was feeling great. She looked great too, so I'm sure she ended up having a great first marathon!

I crossed the 13.1 timing mats in 1:52:21 and my legs were still feeling fresh. I began to realize that breaking my PR was a real possibility.

The next 10 miles were great. The course wound around a lot of different neighborhoods, past the campus of Butler University and through the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Crowd support was sparse, but I didn't mind. Hats off to the Indy Police; they did a great job keeping the course clear and safe for the runners.

Nearing the finish
When I hit mile 23, my legs started to remind me that I was running a marathon. I was beginning to hit a wall, but it was a very soft one. My pace fell to about an 8:45 for the final stretch. Thankfully, I had enough time in hand and was still on track for a PR. I put my head down and kept moving. The finish was near, but those last 3 miles seemed to last forever (as they always do).

As the mile 26 came into view, I picked up my pace. As I rounded the last corner that led to finish line, I spotted my mom and sister off to the side. I ran towards them to give them high fives, but at the last moment I decided to stop and give my mom a kiss on the cheek. Yea, I'm a momma's boy. My mom has always been so supportive of my running goals. Words will never be able express my gratitude towards her (but hopefully a sweaty kiss does).

I crossed the line and looked skyward, thanking my dad for keeping me safe. After catching my breath, I glanced at my watch and saw a time I'd never seen next to 26.2 miles, 3:42:48! A new PR by almost 3 minutes!

Family + Marathon in Indiana + New PR = Best marathon weekend ever!

Garmin Upload

Indiana spinner! HOOSIER PRIDE!