Saturday, October 18, 2014

Runner's World Half Marathon Festival: Day 1

I'm in Bethlehem, PA for the weekend to geek out on running at Runner's World's Half Marathon Festival.  Located in the Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem was once home to an enormous steel plant, the second largest producer of steel in America at one point.  In 2011 part of the industrial complex was renovated into a modern convention hall, and the decaying blast furnaces now serve as a backdrop to various concerts and festivals.  This is precisely where Runner's World hosts its annual running festival.

I made the trip north this morning, checked into my hotel, and headed over to the convention center.  Saturday is given over to a 5k and a 10k in the morning, then seminars all afternoon, and a pasta dinner at night.

I spent an hour with Mark Remy of Remy's World and learned that he is even funnier in person than he is in his column.

Then I spent an hour with Bart Yasso and was reminded just how badass he is for all of the traveling and amazing races he's done over the years.

I read his book, My Life on the Run a few years ago, but figured now was as good a time as any to buy it and have him autograph it.  And get a picture for good measure.

I also brought my bike and spent time riding around Bethlehem today (and God help me tomorrow because it is ridiculously hilly here), then returned at night to watch the comedic stylings of Liz Miele.  And now I'm sitting in my hotel room, ready to turn in.

The race starts at 8am tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On control

On Chapel Island at Camp Ockanickon

People run for so many different reasons.  They run to lose weight.  To connect with someone. To push themselves.  To overcome a difficulty.  To inspire.  To win.

Me?  Out of the many reasons I run, one is to exert a sense of control over my life at times when things seem to be spiraling out of control.  Because I can control running.  I can control when I run, where I run, how fast and how long, with whom I run, and how often.  The sense of control may be only an illusion, but it's a welcome one.

But I've been feeling that control slip away this fall.   I will most likely not run the Philadelphia Marathon next month.  I will most likely not finish the year with 2,014 miles.  I had planned to run 14 miles today, but I didn't make it out the door until late in the day, and by then I only had time for 10.

As life changes and priorities shift, I am doing my best to be ok with all of this.  Stevie, Neale and I went to a local farm to pick pumpkins today, and then to Camp Ockanickon, where we were married, for a fall festival there.  I knew I wanted to do 14 miles, and we could have easily come home earlier to give me time to do so, but I decided I was more interested in spending a beautiful fall day in the woods with the family I am building than logging the "correct" number of miles on my calendar.

It's still difficult trying to give up the sense of control running makes me feel, and I'm genuinely sad about missing out on so many of my running goals this year.  But I'm also starting to realize how worth it all is:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday running

Running on Friday afternoons is always difficult.  Even before Neale came along, I was always pretty exhausted by Friday afternoon after a long week at work.  I always hated making plans for Friday nights because all I wanted to do was drink a beer and go to bed at 8 o'clock.

We had parent-teacher conferences on Wednesday night this week (forcing me to miss my beloved running/beer group), and SGO's were due today (Student Growth Objectives... boring teacher stuff).  It's been a particularly tough week, so to have to go for a run after school, even a short five miler like today, feels torturous.

I can't believe I would regularly run 10 miles on Friday afternoons this time last year.  I generally look back at all of last fall and can't believe I kept up that intensity for so long. Sometimes I'm capable of amazing myself.  Maybe next year I'll think, "I can't believe I kept up the streak with a newborn at home."

And now that the miles for today are in the book, it's time for that beer.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

12 miles

12 miles this morning on a gorgeous fall day here in South Jersey.  Slowly building myself up for the Philly Marathon next month while I make a final push to hit 2,014 miles this year. September was a challenge with the start of school and the birth of my son falling within a week of each other.  But as I head into October, and Neale gets older, I'm slowly starting to feel more like myself and eager to run longer.

As far as food goes, because we can't go out to eat for the time being, we've been eating a lot of homecooked meals, with the occasional takeout.  People from our church have been bringing us a lot of meals, and when they don't I usually try to make something.  I do the majority of the cooking in our household and try to make a variety of things.  Tonight I made homemade pizza fries with a salad to go with it.

Now Stevie is watching Once Upon a Time and I'm getting ready for another long week of teaching.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shilling for your thoughts?

My blog is by no means widely read, but I nevertheless receive the occasional e-mail from companies looking to "partner" with me in some way so I can promote their products.  This is actually quite common in the blogging world.  The bigger bloggers will shill just about anything, usually from companies you've never heard of, and the smaller bloggers are even worse in their quest to become bigger bloggers themselves.

Some of the e-mails I receive don't make any sense, like the time a New York rum company failed to grasp the meaning of a pun and contacted me.  Some make more sense, like when I wrote about the Spartan Race after being contacted by Dan the PR Man.  And there have been many more inbetween.

I don't mind using my staggering influence to promote something I believe in, and let it be known I will do just about anything in exchange for being part of Runner's World's blogging team at their next running festival.  But mostly I politely turn these companies down.

The other day I received an e-mail from someone over at Oscar Insurance.  Apparently October is Health Literacy Month, and she wanted me to write about my personal health hero.

We know firsthand the importance of having the proper tools, motivation and support to make healthy choices, so we're asking a group of influential bloggers like yourself to tell us about a person in your life that helps you do just that. For this campaign, we'd like to know who your Health Hero is. Whether it's your running partner who keeps you going, your mom who still reminds you to eat your veggies, or even your dog, Tommy, who's always there to put a smile on your face. We want to hear about the people (or pets!) in your life that help keep you healthy and happy. 

Like the others, I politely turned her down.  But here we are on a rainy Saturday morning, and now I think, what the hell?

So who is my personal health hero?  Me.

That naturally comes across as wildly narcissistic.  But I'm serious.  The only running partners I have are the dudes I run with on Wednesday night.  While they certainly inspire me to get the miles in once a week, that hardly qualifies them for heroship.  I don't need reminding from anyone to eat my veggies because I do so of my own volition.  And I don't understand how a dog putting a smile on my face qualifies him for heroship either (maybe mental health?).

There are many in my life who inspire me.  There are certain teachers at my school who inspire me to step up my own game in the classroom.  There are students who inspire me to go the extra mile because I see just how much they love German.  My wife inspires me with her loving nature and endless patience as she has transitioned into motherhood over the last five weeks.  There are countless writers, actors, and runners out there whom I have never met but truly admire.

But health?  I am my own hero.  I know of no one else who works out as much as I do, or strives to eat as healthy as I do.  I have my vices and indulgences, but overall I take my health seriously.  Especially as a husband and now a father, I have to take care of myself if I am expected to take care of others.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own health.  Don't sit around waiting for someone to inspire you to get healthy or stay healthy.  Let your past accomplishments fuel your future ones, and become your own inspiration.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September mileage

One of my biggest goals of 2014 is to run 2,014 miles.  I've never kept track of my mileage before other than weekly mileage during peak marathon season.  This year I've been writing down my totals on a simple wall calendar.

My other monthly mileage totals:

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170
August: 144.2

And September:

An even 100 for September.

That puts me at 1,367.2 miles for the year so far with only three months to go.  That's 215.6 miles per month.

I once said that 2,014 miles was a totally arbitrary goal and I wouldn't be upset if I didn't make it.  But now I think I might be.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another record day in Berlin

The men's world record has fallen yet again, and again in Berlin.  Wilson Kipsang's world record time of 2:03:23 last year was broken this morning by his countryman Dennis Kimetto. Kimetto ran a time of 2:02:57, the first man to go under 2:03.

This is the 7th time a world record has been set at Berlin (and the 6th since 2003), which only makes me want to run the Berlin Marathon even more.  To be so close to such greatness must be so inspirational.  That and the fact that I used to live in Berlin and love that city more than any other.

I'm sure I'll run it someday.  For now, though, I'll settle for Boston first.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm going to Boston!

I've been waiting a week and a half for this beauty to arrive in my inbox.  The BAA made us wait until damn near the last second today, but it was all worth it in the end.

The cut-off this year was 1:02, so I made it with 53 seconds to spare.

10 months of uncertainty came to an end today.  It's official.  I'm Boston-bound.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Monday: Race the Tube

Here's a video in which a guy races the London Tube between stops in the ultimate man vs. machine throwdown.

1 minute 20 seconds to make it to the next stop.  380 meters, 2 ticket barriers and 75 steps.

Guess who wins.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk like a pirate day

Apparently today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, for all you pirate fans out there.

For those in the know, Krispy Kreme spent all day rewarding people for walking into their stores by giving them free donuts if they talked like a pirate.  If you dressed like one, you could have taken home an entire box for free.

I live a half mile from the nearest Krispy Kreme, so I planned to finish my five mile run tonight there and then walk home.  I walked into the store a sweaty mess and said, "Arrrr, I hear I be gettin' a free donut if I talk like this."

The guy who gave me my free donut, bless him, looked amused rather than wanting to hang himself from listening to bad pirate talk all day.

A match made in heaven.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back to school

I've been back at work for the past two weeks.

The teachers started on September 2nd, and the students returned on the 4th.  

Our building does not have any air conditioning outside of offices and computer rooms, and we've had some pretty heinous days of humidity so far in which people could talk of little else. Funnily enough, I'm pretty sure my marathon experience prepares me well for such days. When I've put myself through the masochism that is marathon training, being trapped in a room with smelly teenagers with sweat rolling down my back doesn't bother me too much.  I'm also the only teacher in the building who hasn't brought in a fan from home since the school won't provide them.

While we aren't provided fans, it turns out that every teacher in the district is receiving a brand new iPad this year.

I'm pretty excited since I've never owned one (seems kind of silly when I already own an iPhone and MacBook), and there are a lot of interesting German-related apps I can use in the classroom.  But while I'm ready to embrace the change, there are teachers in my building who have been teaching since the seventies, and I don't think they quite know what to make of this shift.

Then, in October, every student in the district, from 3rd to 12th grade, is going to receive an iPad as well.  I've seen how my students take care of their smartphones, so I'm a bit dubious as to what will become of the majority of these iPads.  But I'm in a district that wholeheartedly believes in technology as the wave of the future, so fad or not, it looks like they're here to stay.

Looks like it's going to be a long year with a steep learning curve.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A new hope

Here we go again.

After waiting a full week for registration to open to all qualifiers, I was finally able to throw my own hat into the ring for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

In the first six days of registration, 16,000 runners registered, leaving 8,000 spots for those who register this week.  It's looking possible that there will be a cutoff time again this year, but obviously it remains to be seen just what that time will be.

It'll probably be another week before I find out if I made the cut.  It's going to be a very tense week...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rainy run

5 miles in the rain today.  I don't mind running in the rain when it's warm out as it's a nice change of pace from running in the blazing heat.  And anything beats the treadmill.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to most, but running with a newborn at home is hard.  I expected this, but nothing could have adequately prepared me for the exhaustion I feel.  I haven't felt like myself for weeks now, and consequently I fight for every mile I run these days.

Also, I finally took a chainsaw to my face shaved off the summer beard.  When I found a family of birds living in it, I knew it was time.

Hope everyone's fall is off to a good start.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Movie Monday: Boston registration

Registration for the 2015 Boston Marathon opened today.  Unfortunately I didn't qualify by 20 minutes or more, so I can't register yet.  Assuming the race doesn't sell out this week, I'll get my chance one week from today.

I ran a BQ-1:55 (to use the parlance of our times) last fall, and from everything the Runner's World message boards tell me, it sounds likely I'll get in.  But I won't believe it until that confirmation e-mail is sitting in my inbox and I can finally let out a a sigh of relief.  After all, I know all too well the pain of qualifying only to not get in later on.  This Boston dream is now coming up on five years...

Here's a video explaining the registration process:

2015 Boston Marathon Registration Process from Boston Athletic Association on Vimeo.

I find the whole idea of putting this video together endlessly amusing.  Let's face it: the faster folk won't have anything to worry about anyway and can register whenever they damn well please.  Meanwhile, the slower qualifiers will have been obsessing over this crap for months now and don't need a video to explain the whole process to us.  We've had the registration date and time circled on our calendars since March.

Here's hoping things work out this time.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August mileage

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170

And August:

144.2 miles for August.  In light of recent events, I've only kept the streak alive by the skin of my teeth. In other news, I'm completely derailing in my attempt to run 2,014 miles this year.

Spoiler alert: fatherhood is hard.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Young Neale

At 11:39am on Tuesday August 26, 2014, Stevie gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Elmer, NJ. His name is Neale Scotticus Partenheimer, and at birth he weighed 6 lbs. 11 oz. and was 20 inches long.

Watching Stevie give birth to our first child was one of the most exhilarating and humbling experiences of my life.  I cried moments after he appeared, and again about ten minutes later when someone put him in my arms and I got my first proper look at him.  My life will never again be the same, and that's ok.

Stevie is recovering slowly but surely.  Neale just came home last night and is adjusting to the world.  And me?  I continue to be humbled by fatherhood, and exhausted.  Life is amazing, and I'm just happy to be along for the ride.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On pregnancy and marathoning

Last month while visiting my sister in Minnesota, we were talking about Stevie's pregnancy, and pregnancy in general, when I said, "It's also hard for men..."  My sister's face lit up with indignation at how hopelessly ignorant her little brother can be before I hastily interrupted her. "Let me finish!  It's also hard for men to truly understand what women go through during pregnancy."

I won't say I have no idea what pregnant women go through.  Having just spent the last nine months living with one, I've been privy to all sorts of (completely justified) emotions, complaints, descriptions of bodily functions, and random food cravings that the average person is spared.  But let's be honest, I still have very little idea what it is like to grow a human inside my stomach for nine months.

I think it's natural for people to want to empathize, especially with those they love.  I want to understand what is happening with Stevie's body and connect with her on an emotional level. That's how I ended up grasping at the only thing, at least in my own experience, that compares to pregnancy: the marathon.

Sorry if you just rolled your eyes, but it's the only thing I've got.

But think about it: with both the marathon and pregnancy, a person spends months preparing for one event on a single day.  It's a months long process that slowly builds in intensity.  Both the athlete and the pregnant woman need to be conscious of nutrition and be careful of what they put in their bodies.  Both spend months changing their bodies physically, and readying their minds emotionally in preparation for the big day.  The preparation is taxing and often requires doctor's visits and massages.  Emotions run high and an occasional mental breakdown is not uncommon.

The big day itself will bring a lot of stress and physical pain.  There will be people there to help cheer and coach the pregnant woman and marathoner through it.  It will most likely be long and difficult, but all that preparation and pain become worth it for the end result.  The marathoner perhaps gains a new PR, while the pregnant woman gets to meet the child she has carried within her for so long.  One can bask in the glory of achievement, but after giving birth or the marathon, depression is also not uncommon.  So much effort goes into one day, and things don't always go according to plan.  Even if things go perfectly, it's a large physcial and mental adjustment after the big day, and that can mess with emotions.

A big difference between marathoning and pregnancy, among many I'm sure, is that pregnant women generally don't know when the big day is going to be.  Imagine if I entered a marathon a few months ago and the race director called me to say, "look, we're actually not sure when the race will be.  Do us a favor and just stay ready for the entire month of August, ok?"  Then I suddenly get a call in the middle of the month at 3am and he says, "ok, the race is starting in 30 minutes.  Lace up and get out here!"

That's kind of where we're at right now, and the anxiety is killing me.  Stevie, of course, is rather frustrated and uncomfortable and more than ready to be done with pregnancy.  The hard work is far from over, of course, but at least sooner rather than later we'll both be on the same page about what that hard work is like.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An announcement...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but let's add a few to this one:

Christmas Day 2013

I love this photo.  It's actually a still shot from a video I took during a Skype call last Christmas. We're in my dad's office (my old bedroom) at his house here in South Jersey, and my sister is with her family in Minnesota.  That's my dad to the left, and Stevie's head and my grandmother's hands.  My uncle is out of frame.

My sister believed we were simply doing the traditional Christmas Day Skype call, and her expression shows just how unexpected our news was.  You see, Stevie has just told her she is going to become an aunt, and for perhaps the first time in her life, my sister is literally speechless.

December 2013 in our old kitchen.

Fast forward to the present, and Stevie and I are now days away from becoming first-time parents.

August 2014 in our new backyard.

This is why we moved this summer, this is why Stevie's family is in town from Florida, and this is why I'm not attempting a sub 3:00 marathon this fall.  I have no idea what training with a newborn baby at home will be like, but I have a feeling I won't be able to manage the intensity I did last year.  I may still attempt a fall marathon, but it will be considerably slower than I'd like.

So why am I just now sharing all of this on the blog?  We shared the news with close friends and family in December, but decided not to mention anything online.  Why did I choose not to share the exhilarating ride of pregnancy over the past nine months?  Don't bloggers love to share, well, everything?

It's no secret that I like to document things.  I've counted photography as a hobby since I was a kid, and lately I've gotten into filming and editing documentaries.  And this blog speaks for itself.  But I've decided that I don't want to document every last moment of the baby's life (online, at least).  As someone who can remember what life was like without the internet, the notion of growing up with it, without the power to consent to endless documenting, is strangely unsettling to me.  I'm sure I'll share the occasional photo or video, but let's just say I'm not planning to turn this into a daddy blog.

In regards to the pregnancy itself, there are the usual emotions: the excitement over getting to meet my kid after only being able to feel him or her through Stevie's stomach.  The anxiety over just how profoundly my life is going to change, and how that change, after months of waiting, is nearly upon me.  The confidence that I have no idea just what I'm getting myself into, but the equal confidence that I will adapt.

It's going to be a scary yet beautiful ride.

Any running dads out there have advice for me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer 2014 No Frills Just Thrills Race #6

Last race of the South Jersey Athletic Club's "No Frills Just Thrills" race series tonight. Tonight's race was another choose-your-own adventure with runners doing one, two, or three loops of the Cooper.

Stevie's parents and sister are in town from Florida/New York, so they came out to spectate, and because I didn't want to make them sit around for an hour and a half, I only did the one loop.  Also interesting to note, I completely forgot about this race earlier today and ran 10 miles because I hadn't run long in awhile.  It didn't make racing much easier tonight.

Stevie's mom offered to pin my bib on for me:

It wasn't awkward at all.

The race started at 6:30 right around sunset:

It was hard to gauge my competition because I didn't know who was running the one loop with me.  Maybe they should make people write a one, two, or a three on their calves.  So I just ran as hard as I could but still finished slower than race #1 last June.  It's hard getting old.

I finished 4th overall in the one loop race but still only second in my age group.  We didn't stick around for awards so not sure if I'll get another pint glass.

If you're in the South Jersey area, I highly recommend this race series.  It's absurdly cheap (free for students, $3 for SJAC members, and $5 for everyone else), and gets creative with the different types of races offered, especially the prediction race.  I like that the focus is on the friendly competition and not on any of the perks or gimmicks that races employ these days.

I'll see y'all next summer.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are you working harder than a high schooler?

I use the track at the high school where I teach to do speed work.  I usually end up sharing the space with the cross country teams, the field hockey team, and the football team.

The football team is out there five days a week all summer, as far as I can tell.  Several of my students are on the team, and today one of them noticed me and started enthusiastically waving and calling to me.

The football coach was not pleased.

"Hey Michael!  Would you rather practice with the team or go join Mr. Partenheimer in his workout?  I don't think you'd like that though 'cause it looks like he's working a lot harder than you."

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