Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cliff Walk in Newport, RI

My school is on spring break this week.  Technically we have school this Monday and Tuesday to make up for having so many snow days this winter, but I was able to use two of my personal days and keep my full spring break intact.  So Stevie and I are roadtripping around New England this week.

First stop: Newport, RI, a.k.a. the place where I experienced one of the best runs of my life. When you run every single day, the boring, lousy runs tend to outweigh the rave runs, so a day like today is an exciting one.

Our bed and breakfast is just a few blocks from the start of the Cliff Walk.

The 3.5 mile long Cliff Walk, as you can see on the sign, was developed during Newport's Gilded Age, when America's millionaires lined the coast with their incredible mansions.  The path was restored in the 1970's and designated a national historic walking trail in 1976.

The majority of the first part looks like this:

The start of the Cliff Walk from Memorial Avenue

Paved and tame with sweeping ocean views on one side, with quick snatches of views through the fences of the famous mansions on the other.

If you're just a hapless runner without any local knowledge, out for an 8 mile morning jaunt, what you'll quickly discover is that portions of the Cliff Walk are closed for repair due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

When I came to a fence blocking the path, I paused briefly to decide what to do.  In that moment's hesitation, a German tourist looked at my predicament and said, "end of the line!"  I started my watch again, hopped onto the jagged rocks to bypass the fence, and called over my shoulder, "Mal schauen, wie weit ich noch kommen kann!"

The path was rather treacherous at points, sometimes disappearing altogether in the rocks and boulders lining the shore.  There was mud, there were puddles, there were feeble attempts at restoration, there were tunnels, and there was an awful lot of loose and uneven footing.  There were points when I wasn't so much running as I was leaping from boulder to boulder.  But the trail tested my agility and kept me alert in ways I rarely experience as a runner - just enough to keep me engaged but not so bad I was hating it.  It really was a perfect run.  I was kind of sad when the trail ended and I found myself on stately Bellevue Avenue headed back towards town.

8 miles total this morning.  The weather was perfect, the majority of the run was challenging and rewarding, the views were grand, and it was all followed immediately by an elaborate breakfast.  Like I said, one of the best runs of my life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spartan Race Giveaway Results!

Entry to the Spartan Race giveaway is now closed.  I had a whopping four people leave comments, and Stevie and I did a drawing from a hat for the winner:


Congrats to Jennifer for winning!  Jennifer, I'll e-mail you soon with the code.  And as I say in the video, thank you to everyone for reading and commenting.

Best of luck out there in your future races!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Movie Monday: Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is just two weeks away, and this year's edition seems to be the most important in the already storied marathon's history.

I'm sad I won't be able to join the masses in their tribute to last year's tragedy.  But I'll be there in spirit, eagerly awaiting my own turn come 2015.

In the meantime, here is a video about runners and what this year means to them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free Spartan Race entry!

Fact: e-mail addresses at my school begin with the teacher's first initial, and then his or her last name.  My work address therefore begins with "spartenheimer."

Fact: a sizeable faction of my students find this hilarious and have begun lobbying me to dress as a spartan for Halloween next year.

Fact: I love mudruns and obstacle races and am particularly good at them.  

All this to say I was recently contacted by Dan the PR man over at Spartan Race to see if I would be willing to write about it on my blog.  Clearly this was fate.

So here we go:

Spartan Race started in 2005 and was voted #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine in 2012. It's now offered all over the world in three different forms:

  • Spartan Sprint (3+ miles/15+ obstacles)
  • Super Spartan (8+ miles/20+ obstacles)
  • Spartan Beast (12+ miles/25+ obstacles)

In addition to all the racing madness, they've just unleashed the Reebok All-Terrain Spartan Race shoe to help you train for and conquer the obstacles.

While I have never done a Spartan Race myself, they clearly seem awesome.  The next one to hit the Philadelphia area is on April 12th at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  I'll be away that day, but am planning to sign up for a race this summer.  I'll write a full race report then.

Oh, you want to sign up too?  Well Dan the PR man hooked me up with a link to 15% off any Spartan Race.  Click here.

Wait, you mean you're a cheap bastard and don't want to pay at all?  Well Dan the PR man also sent along a code good for one free entry to any open heat (non-confirmed start time) in any 2014 Spartan Race in the continental US.  Want to win?  Just leave me a comment telling me why you want to do the Spartan Race and a way I can contact you.  I'll wait a week and then randomly select a comment and send the code along to that lucky reader.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dan and the good people of Spartan Race for making the world a little less boring.  Good luck everybody, and I'll see you on the course.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March mileage

January mileage: 65
February mileage: 131

Aaaaaaaand March:

I hit 174 miles this month, and finally met my monthly quota in my quest to run 2,104 miles this year.  Pretty impressive considering I missed two Sunday long runs.

My mileage will undoubtedly increase in April and May as the weather improves and I do more races, but will probably taper off again once summer and the brutal humidity return.

As you can see, my streak remains intact.  I've run every single day since November 26th.

Keep running, friends, and let's hope the hard work pays off.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The worst run of my life

11 miles yesterday in the cold, rain and wind.  Just for a change of pace today, I went for a run in the cold, rain and wind.  16 miles.  Maybe not the worst run of my life, but it was up there. Just another time in a runner's life when I'm wondering what I'm doing outside for 2 hours on a rainy Sunday when I should be wearing  my sweats, sitting on the couch and watching a bad action movie.

So I had Stevie commemorate the occasion with a picture:

After running, while reading some short stories by Vladimir Nabokov, I came across the following passage from his story "Gods":

Kind of put the lousy run in perspective.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Out on the town and trying to make new athlete friends...

My friend Tahsin is an old hat at triathlons, and together with his tri club (T3), he's coaching a program aimed at rookie triathletes.  He invited me out to their meet-and-greet at a bar in Philly tonight, so Stevie and I took the train in to meet everyone and get to know the club a little.

Stevie and Tahsin at T3's meet-and-greet

T3's welcome letter

The goal of the program is to get everyone ready for a triathlon in Philly on June 21st.  The bad news is the swimming portion is held in the Schuylkill River.  The good news is the club is sponsored by the bar where we met tonight.

Now I have to decide if I want to spend the money on all the crap associated with triathlons, or if I want to just keep being cheap and running the odd race every so often.

Decisions decisions...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

11 miles

Last fall Jacob, a former camper/student of mine, contacted me with questions about the marathon and half marathon distances.  He'd wanted to do a marathon, but I cautioned him that a beginner should allow at least a full year to build up to the distance.  He then settled his sights on a half marathon next month, and has been training diligently all winter to complete it. I've been periodically fielding questions along the way.

This morning we agreed to meet and run 11 miles together, which was the longest distance he's ever run.

We ran mostly through my old stomping grounds in Haddonfield, a town popular with runners because of the proliferation of hills, something that is hard to come by in South Jersey.  Jacob hasn't trained much on hills but handled them like a champ.

He's decided to put off the marathon distance for awhile and concentrate on the half for now. At 19, he has an entire lifetime of distance running in his future.  I ran my first half at 20 and my first full at 24, but didn't really get serious about either until many years later.

I'm kind of jealous of the future he has in distance running.  He's starting early, and has a lot more information at his disposal than I did when I started out.  But it's also nice to look back and reflect on my own running journey and think that my experiences may be helping someone new to the sport.

After coming back we both got chocolate milk and posed in the kitchen with it:

Jacob and me in the kitchen with some delicious chocolate milk.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The sweat smell of success

8 miles after school today.

Stevie: (sees me standing in the kitchen in my running clothes): Pre run or post run?  (sniffs)  Ooh, post run.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

14 miles

Run 14 miles, inexplicably sit on the hood of my car to pose for a photo.  Why not?

I missed my long run last weekend due to stomach issues.  Nothing serious enough to make me miss work, but enough to disrupt my running.  Together with the brutal winter we've had, and I'm behind in my training this spring.  But seeing as I don't have any time goals in mind, I'm not stressing too much.

The run today was near perfect for once.  As I've been saying a lot, I've just felt tired and slow lately.  So it was a nice change of pace to feel light and strong for most of the run today.  It was sunny and chilly - in the 40's - so nice conditions helped as well.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k: Race Report

9th annual Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k this morning.  My 4th or 5th time running it.  

This is probably the most intense race in South Jersey.  They cap it at 1,000 and offer cash prizes to the top five finishers, so the race is action packed with runners that can knock out a sub 15:00 5k in their sleep.

I rode my bike to Haddonfield Memorial High School where the finish and start lines were, and shortly after arriving the race started.

Surprise surprise, I was not feeling 100% at the start.  I am very familiar with the course and just tried to concentrate on upcoming hills and turns, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to break 20 minutes, which is usually my goal.

I saw a few of my students on the course, and before I knew it we were on the homestretch.  I had to really crank up the intensity in the homestretch to break 20 minutes, and made it with 5 seconds to spare.

I wasn't particularly excited to run this morning.  It was cold and rainy when I woke up, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.  But once I finished the race, I was glad I did it.  I won't have nearly as much fun or be as successful in all of these spring races I plan to do if I don't keep putting in the work now.  Being around all of these fellow runners this morning really inspired me to keep at it.

And now time to sing the praises of the Haddonfield Running Company.  They put on a hell of a race.

Exhibit A:

The medal was in the shape of New Jersey, and the top was a bottle opener.  If you're not from New Jersey, you may not understand how completely and utterly different North and South Jersey are.  And how much better South Jersey is.

Exhibit B:

There was a party at the store directly following the race, complete with free breakfast, and this cake/brownie display cut into the shape of New Jersey.  The store is celebrating its 17th anniversary, and the store owner wanted to thank his customers.

Thanks for a great morning, guys, and I'll see you next year.  Or tonight at the Irish Mile, whichever comes first.

Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 HTHS dodgeball tournament

Dodgeball tournament tonight at the school.

A group of students from the crew team asked me to join their team.  They decided to name the team "The Hitmen," and came up with the brilliant team uniform of dress shirts and ties.

It was mayhem out on the courts, though not in our favor.  Like last year, we did not draw any easy teams.  They were all made up of spry student athletes with cannons for arms.  We barely eeked out a win in the first game, and then were promptly dispatched in the next two games.

I played like crap, and as an athlete that bothers me more than I would like it to, considering this was just a fun charity dodgeball event.  I just felt sluggish and slow the whole night, two words that have described nearly every workout I've done over the last month.  Didn't feel like I was contributing to the team at all.

There were no consolation games either, so after our third game we were done for the night.

On the plus side, dodgeball tournaments inspire the best team names:

  • The Dodgefathers
  • Hold my Balls
  • Girls with Balls
  • The Ballhawks
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers
  • The Traffic Dodgers
  • I'd Hit That
  • Spheres to the Ears
  • Vicious and Delicious
  • All Dodge and No Balls
  • All Work and No Balls Makes Johnny a Dull Boy

I may have made up that last one.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Running, beer, and pizza

Just another average Wednesday night.

I joined the group run at the Haddonfield Running Company again tonight.  Some of the guys who have been running regularly for awhile have started an informal beer club that meets in the store afterwards.  Tonight one of them brought some beer from the Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont, which has been ranked as the world's best beer.  They let me try a sip of the IPA, and maybe it was the fact that I'd just run 7 miles, but it really was otherworldly.  I think I've found my incentive to keep coming back Wednesday nights.

After the run, I walked down the street to the church where the South Jersey Athletic Club holds its monthly meetings.  They have pizza and beer and usually a guest speaker of some sort, and tonight Brandon Hamilton delivered a lecture on a marathon training program designed for masters runners.

Brandon Hamilton delivering a lecture on masters marathoning

While I still have a few years until I become a masters runner myself, one of the slides struck a chord with me.

The idea is that, according to statistics, a runner will lose 4 seconds per mile in the last 10k for every 1 second faster he starts.  This is incredibly true for most of my marathon performances. I always tell myself to start slowly and then ease into race pace, but I never managed to practice this race strategy.  I always go out too fast and then hang on for dear life towards the end.

In my most recent marathon, Philly 2013, I ran the first mile in 6:40.  In my last few miles it was more like 7:20.  Imagine the potential if I could save some gas for the end and finish with negative splits.  My goal of a sub 3:00 might be attainable.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie Monday: Run with us

This video popped up on Facebook last week; made by a friend of a friend in NYC about how everyone is turning into a runner these days.

Obviously no one involved in the project is a runner, or the line "bagels aren't good for you" wouldn't have been included.  Carbs tend to be much maligned in our culture, but amongst distance runners, well, not so much.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The winter blues

Stevie and I live in an apartment above a shop on the main street of our town.  Above us is another apartment whose tenants have recently taken up refrigerator wrestling.  Either that or they're teaching themselves how to juggle bowling balls.  Or they're making an audition video for the theatrical show "Stomp."  

In any case, over the past week, it has sounded like they may come crashing through our ceiling and land on our bed at any given moment.

All this to say I haven't been sleeping well and it's making me, oh, highly irritable.  You would think going for a run might help, but I think tonight was the first time I've ever finished a run feeling worse than when I started.  I ran five miles tonight and when I finished I only felt hungrier, colder, wetter and more tired.

I guess it's just that time of the year when the winter blues start draining me and I want nothing to do with anyone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Partying runner style

Haddonfield Running Company hosts a 6.6 mile run every Wednesday night all year round, which they've been doing for as long as I can remember.  I try to join them when I can, usually for the novel sensation of running with other people.

Tonight the South Jersey Athletic Club hosted an open house inside the store after the run, and Brooks was there as well promoting their stuff.  It was like a big after-hours party with beer and pizza and all things Brooks related.

Friday, February 28, 2014

February mileage

In January I only managed to run 65 miles.

This month I managed to more than double it.  Just barely.  131 miles for February.

In January I was forced to scale back on the mileage due to all of the snow and severe cold. This was probably a good thing because it forced me to take a break and start building mileage slowly for the spring instead of going out too hard too soon.

This month I've been trying to build up the mileage slowly.  I'm aiming to do my first ultra - a 50 miler - on May 18th, so it's important I keep it up.  I have to do it smartly, though, especially since I'm still running every single day.

Here's to March, folks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Running in Central Park

Stevie and I spent last night with a friend of hers who lives near Central Park in NYC.

Notes from a Central Park 7 miler:

  • Still a lot of slush on the paths, but clear roads.
  • There was a marathon/half marathon going on in the park today.  If I had known about it I would have definitely signed up for the half.
  • This is the second time I've come to NYC on the weekend of a half marathon and not known about it.  
  • It was an utterly glorious day to be out running.  Temps in the low 50's, not a cloud in the sky, runners everywhere, all in one of the greatest cities in the world.
  • There were runners everywhere, not just from the race.  The sense of camaraderie was nice.
  • Despite the great conditions, I never quite hit that runner's high I was hoping for.  I've felt a little tired, sluggish and just out of it lately.  I was happy to finish the run.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

On the rum with Cockspur

Not only do we bloggers enjoy giving out tips on any random topic that flits through our brains, but we also enjoy doing product reviews.  We'll shill anything, especially if it's free for us, and doubly so if we get to run a contest on our blogs.

Imagine my delight, then, to receive the following e-mail from Steven Shaw, the PR rep at Cockspur Rum, after he found my blog:

As much as I wanted those samples, for the benefit of my readers, naturally, I felt it prudent to inform him first that my blog actually has little to do with rum, despite the misleading title.  After a brief e-mail exchange revealed that I am but a humble distance runner and not some rum magnate, he politely rescinded the original offer.  English wordplay is not his forté, it would seem.

So I'm left to do my product review without the benefit of actually having tried the product myself.

Cockspur Rum: if it does its job as well as its PR rep, plan on bringing some backup to the party.

Drink Cockspur Rum responsibly, and rum wild, friends.