Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thoughts on the term "self-coached"

I have always considered myself self-coached.  Indeed, I used this very term in my post from last week explaining my approach to this fall's marathon training regimen.  I've even taken pride in the term given that I have achieved some lofty running goals (namely qualifying twice for the Boston Marathon) while relying on nothing more than my own will power and experience.

But last month I saw this tweet from Scott Fishman:

Scott Fishman has been a coach since 2000 and just celebrated his 9th anniversary as founder and leader of Team All-American, an online coaching service for athletes worldwide. When someone with a B.S. in Exercise Sports Science and certifications in running coaching and personal training says something like this, it genuinely makes me think.

Because he's right.  I don't have any sort of certification in training or coaching.  I have no professional or academic credits to my name in the athletic world, yet I insist over and over on this blog that I am self-coached.  It causes the self-doubt to rear its ugly head, making me second guess my decision to constantly train alone rather than putting my training and consequent race results in the hands of professionals.

But does it really matter what I call myself?  You can't argue with the results, can you?

Scott expounds on his views in his blog post from last month in which he calls out people like me:

And tonight's tweet:

I get it.  He's running a business and must relentlessly promote his expertise to sign up new customers.  But in doing so I think he's forgetting - or ignoring - the element of experience. Do I need to sit in a classroom to learn about how to train properly, or listen to a coach who has sat in a classroom to learn how to train properly, or can I simply learn by doing?  The learning curve is steep, but I've come away with a training plan tailored to me and only me.

In the end it probably comes down to semantics.  By Scott's logic, I should call people out who refer to themselves as self-taught in a given skill or subject because they don't have the proper teacher certifications like I do.  But I don't because that's ridiculous.  If someone wants to teach himself German by watching YouTube videos and studying grammar charts and call himself self-taught, go for it.  Will he learn more or better by studying with me?  Who's to say? Everyone learns differently.

Once again, like in this post, I'm not trying to knock coaches trying to make a living or those who hire them.  If you have the means and a coach will help you achieve your goals, then go for it.  But I strenuously deny that working with a coach is the only way to train smart and avoid injury.

Now here's hoping I'm not strenuously humbled come November when I put this all to the test. Until then, keep training smart folks, however you interpret that.

Monday, August 24, 2015

14 mile Monday

To make room for yesterday's shenanigans, I had to push my long run to this morning. Thankfully because I'm a teacher and still on summer break, I can swing a schedule shift like this.

14 miles on tap for this morning.  Pleasantly cool but still a fair bit of humidity left in the air. Overall it took me an even 2 hours to finish it, including one bathroom break and one water/gel break.  The pace wasn't exactly blazing but I was pleased to note how good I felt throughout the run.  Gone was that death march feeling running in August usually elicits.

I felt strong today, despite being drenched in sweat like so many previous runs this summer. It was rewarding to watch the work I've put in so far already start to pay off.

In a marathon training cycle, it's normal to experience ups and downs.  One only feels as confident as the last workout, and in the wake of a poor workout it's easy to succumb to the feeling that all is lost.  The feeling after a workout that went well, then, is an extraordinary confidence booster, and in the long run, confidence and mental fortitude can sometimes count more than physical capability.

Not only was it a solid training run, but I also crossed over the 1,400 mile mark on my journey to run 2,015 miles this year.  I also found an unopened can of Bud Light at mile 13.  Wins all around today.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wiggle Jiggle Giggle 5k Race Report

This morning I straight up won a 5k.

This is a very rare event in my running life, last occurring in 2011, so pardon me while I celebrate a little.

But this wasn't just any old 5k.  This one was extra special, because I won the entire thing wearing nothing but shoes and socks.

Say what you will about me, but don't ever try to call me boring.

It was always on my running bucket list to try out a clothing optional race, so when I found a flier for this race at the Haddonfield Running Company, I figured why not give it a shot?  So I drove an hour and a half out to the Sunny Rest Resort in Palmerton, Pennsylvania this morning to check this one off the list.

Sunny Rest Resort is a sprawling complex amidst rolling farmland just off of Rt. 476.  The main hub of the resort centers around the swimming pool close to the entrance, but campgrounds and connecting roads snake out across the 190 acre property.  It was on these roads that the 5k was run.

Going into the race I thought I might have a chance at winning, because I doubted there were many nudists who were also serious runners, and few serious runners who would dare to bare it all, as they say.  But at the starting line I saw a number of men, young and old, who looked fairly serious.  They were checking their Garmins and discussing the course and race strategies, just like any other race, yet all were standing there completely in the buff.  The competition, as it turns out was, uh, pretty stiff.

Thanks, folks, I'll be here all week.  Try the veal and always tip your waiter.

"It's my birthday today," one guy told another.  "What better way to celebrate my birthday than in my birthday suit?"

We started a little past 10am, and I quickly fell in just behind the lead pack.  You haven't lived until you've run a race with nothing to chase but several naked male butts in front of you.

The only spectators were nudists who live at the camp through the summer and have set up elaborate campgrounds with their RV's.  Some cheered for us while others went about their Sunday morning routine in the nude.  We had to complete the course loop twice to make it 3.1 miles.  One by one the other guys fell behind until I took the lead with about a half mile to go, and charged through the finish line in 19:52.  I was the only one to break 20 minutes from the field of 129.

This really was a well done race and a lot of fun overall, and I can easily recommend it.  My one complaint, though, is that there was no water on the course.  There were two giant jugs (no not those kind) at the finish area which doubled as the halfway point, but no cups in sight. I was parched early in the race and as soon as I crossed the finish line I mentioned the lack of water to the race director.

Me: There was no water on the course!
Race Director: Yup!  No need for it in a 5k.  By the time the water has any effect on you, you're already finished.

Um, I don't know that I buy the science behind that.  I don't care what the distance is, when you host a race in August with a start time of 10am, especially on a day like today when there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it is borderline negligent to not offer water on the course.

At round 12 we all met down by the pool for the awards ceremony.  The place was packed with the pool side bar "Streakers" doing a brisk trade.  For my win I received a trophy as well as a $25 gift certificate for the professional body painter they had at the resort that day.  I didn't have time to get painted as I had to get home to the wife and baby.

Taking pictures is generally taboo at nudist resorts, and the last thing the internet (or my students) need is a picture of me having a flapping good time, shall we say, so I'll just share a picture of the shirt and trophy and call it a day.

Suffice it to say this was a wonderfully strange morning, and one I won't soon forget.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ode to the Haddonfield Running Company

I'm part of a running group on Facebook, and recently one of the members asked everyone for shoe recommendations.  One person suggested going to a local running store to try on different shoes, and then buy the pair online for much cheaper.

Which brings me to my daily PSA: don't do that.

Look, I'm one of the cheapest guys on the planet.  I work hard for my money and try not to be frivolous with it.  But even I don't mind paying more money at a specialty running store than I would online for the same products.


Because I am all about supporting not just my local community, but the local running community as well.  The money I pay at the running store goes right back into the community in which I participate in the form of races and other special events.

It's no secret how much I love my local running store - the Haddonfield Running Company - and it looks like that love has finally spilled over into this blog post.

It should be noted that I am in no way affiliated with the Haddonfield Running Company.  This post was not sponsored; in fact, they don't even know I'm writing it (though I'll provide a link afterwards). I'm just a major fan in need of some gushing.

Without further adieu...


Top 10 Reasons Why I Love the Haddonfield Running Company

10. They always have water for passing runners.  Once when I stopped in during a run and there were no cups available, an employee gave me a full bottle of water, free of charge.

9. Speaking of employees, they are the nicest people on the planet (no surprise here - most runners fit this mold).  They greet me enthusiastically when I come in and frequently ask about past or upcoming races.

8. When the bombings happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon, owner Dave Welsh jumped into action and organized a run at a local high school track the very next night.  Candles were placed around the track, and hundreds came out to run a mile in honor of the marathon and the victims.

7. Group runs every Wednesday night.  6.6 miles week in and week out with much of the same folk every week.  They let us hang out in the store afterwards and drink beer, thereby combining two of my favorite things in this world.

6.  They constantly connect with races and running-related companies so that it seems every week there is a different shoe company letting us try on their shoes or people promoting a different race.  Every week feels like a running party.

5. They connect with the local high school track and cross country teams, most recently hosting a "spike night" with deals for high school students looking to get fitted in new pairs of spikes.

4. They run one of the best and most competitive 5k's in New Jersey, the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k.  A thousand people show up in March, including the best of local elites who compete for hundreds of dollars in prize money.

3. Owner Dave Welsh is constantly brokering food and drink deals with the Irish Mile, a bar down the road, for patrons of his store on special events.

2. Not just one location, but a total of four - Haddonfield, Moorestown, Medford and Mullica Hill.

1. A few times a year they host sidewalk sales in which insane deals on shoes can be found.


If you live in the South Jersey area, you need to check out one of these stores and get involved in the running scene.  Don't live around here?  Find your closest running store and find your own reasons to love it!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Possibility Days

Here we go again...

Exactly two years ago today, I formally announced that I intended to train for the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon with the intention of qualifying for Boston.  I achieved both goals with a PR that still stands to this day.

And now I'd like to make a similar announcement: I intend to run the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon (my 6th) in a time below 3 hours.  My first ever sub 3 marathon.  And most likely my last.

My PR is 3:03:05, just over 3 minutes from the coveted sub 3 title, yet I feel I'm already operating at the outer limits of my abilities and patience.  Can I run a sub 3?  I feel confident I can.  But the required training involves time that, as a husband, father and full time public high school teacher, I'm already stretching as is.  I would love to give it my all one last time before running marathons just for fun in the future (inasmuch as marathons can be considered "fun").

Here's what will remain the same as last time:
  • I will once again be self coached, drawing on my own experience and information culled from articles, books and other runners.
  • I'll train 6 days a week, long runs on Sundays, rest days on Mondays, and keeping mileage around 60-70 miles per week.
  • I'll cross train and strength train as much as possible but will focus mainly on the running.
  • Speedwork once a week.
  • Increased focus on nutrition while cutting out all alcohol two months out.
  • Cutting about 10 pounds to get to race weight of 130.

Here's what will be different this time around:
  • More progression runs and runs ending in goal pace.  I really want to practice negative splitting, which has always been one of my weaknesses.  My MO in longer distance races is to go out at what I consider  a sustainable pace, and then hold on for dear life towards the end.
  • Run the Baltimore Marathon as a training run.  Technically this was the plan last time around, but I started to suffer from shin splints and had to cancel that plan.
  • Focus more on quality of runs, not the quantity of miles.  I simply don't have the same amount of time to train like I did last time, and I need to make each workout count.  Each workout should have a plan and a goal rather than just the goal of adding more mileage.
  • Run the bulk of my runs early in the morning before work.  Becoming a morning runner is one of my life's goals, but sleep always wins out.
  • Make a stronger effort to keep my wife and son as a priority in my life.  Remind myself that I don't need the marathon like I need a positive and healthy relationship with my family.

I've been cycling through periods of intense excitement ("LET'S DO THIS!!!") to periods of self doubt ("Ugh... what's the point of doing yet another marathon and training so much just to lower my time by three minutes?").  I'm worried I'm not as committed as I should be, but for now I am going to stick to the plan of just going for it.

The good news is that I will be in a new age group for the 2017 Boston Marathon, meaning my qualifying time will be 3:10.  If my goal is to run a sub 3 but I miss it by a few minutes, I still attain my B goal of making it back to Boston with plenty of time to spare.

I do hope you'll follow along on this journey.  I'm not trying to be some sort of coach or marathon expert, but let's just say this ain't my first rodeo and I've learned a thing or two over the years.  If you want to leave me encouragement or even constructive criticism about my training, I'd be more grateful than you know.

You can also follow me on twitter: @Spartenheimer

Enjoy the ride, folks.  It's going to get intense in these parts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Raven Run of Miami

Have you ever wondered about your running bucket list?

What kind of running experiences do you want out of life before you ascend to the great trail in the sky?  Ever since a reader brought it to my attention a few years ago, I've wanted to do the "Raven Run" down in Miami, Florida.

In short, Robert "Raven" Kraft is a man who has lived in Miami almost his entire life, and has been running 8 miles on the sands of South Beach every single day since January 1, 1975. Let me repeat that.  8 miles, on the same beach, every single day.  For the mathematically challenged, that's over 40 years and 100,000 miles.  He is currently #9 on the USRSA's active running streak list, but he is the only known person in the world to streak the distance he does.

8 miles.  On the beach.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Robert "Raven" Kraft
From Spirit Magazine

A man like this naturally acquires an aura about him, with terms like "legend" and "rockstar" bandied about casually.  Much like Forrest Gump, Raven has inspired a cult following of runners that join him on his early evening runs (I was the 2,403rd runner to do so).  At the end of each run, Raven bestows nicknames upon the newbie runners.  Runners going by names such as "Taxman," "Dizzy," and "Chapter 11" head up the list of those who have logged the most runs with him.

A few more links to articles about Raven:

"Raven's Way" from Trail Runner
"The Long Run" from Spirit Magazine
"Miami Beach Man Celebrates 40 Years of Daily Run" from The Miami Herald
Documentary trailer on YouTube.

Every time Stevie and I visit her family in South Florida, I think about the Raven Run, and I finally got my chance to join last night.  Stevie agreed to take care of Neale's bedtime routine, and her grandmother agreed to let me borrow her car and drive the hour south, all so I could run with a man I'd never met before.

Getting there was no small task.  The highways approaching Miami are challenging in their complexities at the best of times  ("I only go to Miami at gunpoint" as my father-in-law tells me), but last night I also had torrential downpours and horrible traffic to contend with.  By the time I pulled up to South Beach just before 5pm, my knuckles were whiter than snow and my nerves were just about shot.  I hustled over to the 5th Street lifeguard stand with minutes to spare, expecting to see a shirtless gentleman in black shorts holding court with a knot of runners.

I found nothing.

The beach was full of frolickers enjoying the sun, but no runners.  I paced up and down the sand, scanning for any sign of a slowly moving running herd, assuming I must have missed the group, but still nothing.  Finally at 5:15, feeling a little dejected, I decided to run a mile to take care of my own running streak.  I didn't have it in me to run 8 miles alone.  When I got back to the lifeguard stand, I thought I would take a picture before packing it in and heading back to the car.

Seconds after taking the picture, the man, the myth, the legend shuffled over to the lifeguard stand.  As it turns out, while the website gives the starting time as 5pm, the actual time is 5:30.

Normally 10 or so runners join Raven's run, but I was the only person to start with him last night (we were later joined by a few other runners here and there throughout the run).

"You saved my streak," he tells me while locking up his things at the lifeguard stand.  Raven hasn't run alone since 2005.  As we begin, Raven bellows in his deep, Johnny Cash-like voice: "Roll call!  We've got Scott from Collingswood, NJ joining us tonight!"  Raven's is a life deep seated in traditions of his own making, one of which is to announce each runner, new and old, as the run begins.  Even if we're the only two running.

The sun is alone in the sky and beats down steadily.  Despite the pace being slower than I'm used to, the sweating begins immediately.  On an average day, 8 miles will take me just over an hour.  If I'm pushing myself I can dip a few minutes below that.  But tonight, as with most nights, Raven takes almost two and a half hours to complete his run.  He's in a lot of pain, you see.  Pain that he might be able to mitigate with surgery, but he's afraid the recovery required will break his streak.  Right now running is the only thing that makes the pain feel better, even if it is slow and he often needs to stop to stretch.

Two and a half hours of running is a long time to get to know someone.  We talk about how he used to run in the soft sand in the middle of the beach, but abandoned this for the harder packed sand at the back of the beach sometime in the 90's as the aches increased.

"But I've never run in snow," he tells me, which leads to an involuntary chuckle from me and a brief recounting of the madness that was Boston Marathon training last winter.

We talk about streaking, and I tell him about my own streak, paltry in its newness compared to his, but he encourages me to sign up with USRSA since my streak is longer than a year.  We talk about the days when it seems impossible to get that run in.  Just last week he suffered food poisoning, but still kept the streak alive.

We talk about running, how he's never been into races, how 8 miles is the perfect distance. He tells me about the six runners who have been banned from the Raven Run over the years. He lists his accolades, such as the mayor of Miami awarding him the key to the city, the various articles and films about him, including a recent documentary that he was sad didn't truly capture the pain he is in.  I must stress that none of this comes off as bragging, but instead simple facts in a casual conversation between two runners.  He really is that nice and genuine of a man.

As other runners that Raven knows join us for a mile or two - one of the lifeguards, an insanely fit 53-year-old man from the Dominican Republic, two men in the restaurant business - Raven introduces me and keeps me in the conversation.  If another runner passes us, he repeats a line he often uses: "She may look great, but she ain't doing 8."

My life as a German teacher in a public high school comes up, which somehow leads to me sharing my favorite word in the German language with him.  The word for "sex" in German is just der Sex, but the word for "intercourse" is der Geschlechtsverkehr.  When literally translated, this actually means "gender traffic."  Raven gets a kick out of this and decides this will be my nickname.

"But only if you're ok with it."

It might be the most absurd nickname I've ever been given, by none other than the running legend of South Beach.  Yes, I am totally ok with it.  Gender Traffic it is.

On and on we trot, up and down the beach, making three trips to the pier at the south end. He touches the southern most point every time before turning around, and on our third trip out there, I run ahead and touch it first.

"He's looking like a veteran runner already!" Raven calls out.  I, like most runners, like Raven, like accuracy.  If Raven says that's the southern most point, then that's what I want to touch to know I went as far as I could.

At around 7:30, we finish the run just as we started: just the two of us.  By now the sun is close to setting and obscured by thick layers of clouds, the crowds on the beach thinned but still a presence.

Raven used to complete a 1/3 mile swim in the ocean after each run, but the motion hurts too much now.  He encourages me to complete the swim, but I decide that I need to head back to the Mrs.  I leave all of my running clothes on and take a dunk in the warm ocean while Raven watches my things, and just before I leave he gives me a copy of Spirit Magazine, the one in which he is featured.  We shake hands, he gamely obliges my request for a selfie, and I tell him I hope to run with him again someday, perhaps when I return this December for Christmas.

I walk back to the car and change out of my clothes and drive an hour north, this time along empty highways under the gleaming stars.

I loved running with Raven.  I loved that he was one of the nicest men I've ever met, so open with his story even though I'm a complete stranger and he's told it a thousand times before.  I loved feeling the camaraderie not just with Raven, but with the South Beach running community.

I could never imagine such an unwavering routine, running the same 8 miles on the same stretch of beach every day, crippling myself in the process while paradoxically saving myself from the pain at the same time.  It might seem odd that I find in Raven a kindred spirit, but it's precisely the temptation of calling him crazy, the disbelief at how he chooses to live his life, that cements the feeling.

I think the true badge of honor in being a runner is to be called crazy.  How many times have I laced up on a particularly heinous winter day and received side eye from friends and family? How many times have I described my running streak or the final miles of a marathon and the listener looks like he wants to shake me out of my senses?

While there are certain aspects of Raven's lifestyle I wouldn't want to emulate, I have nothing but respect for this man who found something that works for him, something he is passionate about, and did it.  One man's "crazy" is another man's "dedicated," and Raven is the most dedicated man I have ever met.

Raven lives in a condo he bought in 1988 just two blocks from the 5th Street lifeguard stand. One of the runners tonight joked that Raven will have to sell him his condo someday, but Raven told him he plans to have it turned into a museum about his life and runstreak after he dies.  This is the legacy he has chosen to live and wants to leave behind.

My experience with Raven begs the question: what will my legacy be?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

If you can't take the heat...

... get the hell out of Florida.

I love visiting Florida.  I love the palm trees, and the sun, and the beaches, and spending time with Stevie's family where there is never a shortage of laughter, not to mention good food and booze.

But man do I hate running down here.  Especially when I come visit in August.  The humidity is so overwhelmingly oppressive that it's a miracle I get in any miles at all.

The suffocating humidity makes the running torturous, while the absence of hills or trails just make it boring.  Add the vexing nature of Stevie's neighborhood and it becomes confusing and frustrating.

When I first started visiting here in 2012, I was confronted with a neighborhood so complicated that an out-of-town runner was almost guaranteed to get lost.  My first few runs back then were a nightmare and only lasted 20 - 30 minutes.

While her overall town is situated on a grid, the individual neighborhoods are anything but. Streets twist and curve like the varicose veins of the elderly residents, with each new curve completely renaming the street, following a pattern known only to the original cartographer. This is a neighborhood that names four different streets, all within a quarter mile of each other, the names NW 19th Manor, NW 19th Pl, NW 19th Str, and NW 19th Dr.

Not confusing enough?  Let's name two main streets a mile away from each other Coral Ridge Drive and Coral Springs Drive.

And there are canals.  Canals everywhere.  It's hard to remember which canal each one is and which side of it you're on.

Through all this nonsense I ran 12 miles today.  I methodically ran laps around the area while stopping back at Stevie's dad's place for water every few miles.  I didn't leave until about 8:30am, and I'd set out to do 10, but surprisingly I felt ok enough in the heat and humidity to knock out 2 more miles.  Dare I say I am acclimating to Stevie's insane neighborhood and the ridiculous humidity?

When I finished I was of course soaked from head to toe in my own sweat and enlisted Stevie's dad to take some pictures:

I figured since my clothes were already soaked, I may as well jump in the pool with all of them on.  So that's what I did:

Nothing better than finishing a long run with a dip in the pool.

I guess Florida ain't all that bad after all.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 Miami Marathon Kick-Off 5k

I'm down in Florida for the umpteenth time of my life visiting the in-laws, and Stevie decided to continue her 5k kick by signing us up for another one this morning.  The Miami Marathon is held every January, and every August they hold a 5k to kick off training season.  Because nothing is better in life than training for a marathon in Florida in August.

We left Neale with his grandfather and left around 6am for Hollywood, FL, just outside of Miami.  The race started on a pathway right next to a tiny waterpark/playground area with indoor bathrooms.  The race field was about 200, but we didn't have to deal with port potties or absurdly long lines either.

On the other side of the playground was the beach.  Because the race started at 7am, we were just in time for the sunrise:

Sunrise in Florida

I agreed to run with Stevie so as to pace her to a PR.  She set her PR (34:06) just last month at a 5k in which she pushed the stroller for the majority of the race, so she was pretty confident she could pull it off today.

Stevie's high school friend and her husband were also there:

Pre-race game faces

The course was a simple out and back with the first and last mile along the beach, and the middle mile practically in a tunnel of mangrove trees.  Needless to say, it was pancake flat.

We started out at an 8 minute pace in the excitement of the race, but quickly settled into a pace just under 10 minutes.  As I continued to check the watch and continued to note we were staying under a 10 minute pace, we thought we might be able to go sub 30.

In the last half mile we tried to pick up the pace, but unfortunately fell just short of sub 30 by running 30:07.  But still a 4 minute PR for Stevie.  On a chilly, fall morning with zero humidity, I have no doubt that Stevie will crush the 30 minute mark in a 5k.

Post race sweaty selfie

Every runner received a tech shirt that indicated he or she is training for the Miami Marathon, so I joked with Stevie that we're just going to have to come back in January to run it.  Every finisher received a medal, and I learned that the winner of my age group finished in 19:44.  If I had gone at my own pace I might have been able to win a giant palm tree shaped medal, but I don't regret "coaching" Stevie one bit.  It was great to run as a couple and see her accomplish a goal and set new ones with her for the future.

Another great race in the books.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

2015 SJAC No Frills Just Thrills Race #5

This morning I ran 10 miles with the last mile at a 6:30 pace.  It felt great to push the effort on a hot August morning.

Then I developed stomach issues this afternoon, but because I'm a glutton for punishment (aren't all marathoners?), I still headed over to the Cooper River tonight for the 5th race in the South Jersey Athletic Club's "No Frills Just Thrills" race series.  Amy came with me and acted as my official race photographer.

She took more pictures of her dog than me, though.

This week's race was a staggered start race, with ten different heats offered.  Runners consulted a chart with predicted paces and finishing times next to the ten heats, then signed up for the appropriate one.  The idea is that the slowest runners get to start first, with each heat separated by 3 minutes.

Out of ten heats, no one signed up for the tenth, four runners signed up for the ninth, and I mistakenly signed up for the eighth.  I was tired from the start and everyone in my heat quickly flew ahead of me.  I caught up with a few high school girls from the seventh heat about halfway through the race, and shortly before the end most of the guys from the heat behind me passed me.

Final stats:

Gun time: 45:55
Actual time: 24:55
Overall place: 71st (out of 92)

 Summer is winding down, and only one race to go in this series.  How's your summer running going?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Running in Ocean City, NJ

Ocean City Boardwalk

I pity those that don't live near the ocean.  Then again, there are those who might pity me for living in New Jersey, so we'll just call it even.

But seriously, I love running on the boardwalk and along the ocean and look forward to it every summer in spite of the accompanying heat and humidity.

My family has been coming to Ocean City in particular since the forties when my great grandfather owned a place by 13th and Wesley.  The house and lot were eventually divided up upon his death in the seventies, and the lot was sold off before I was born, but the family tradition of going to Ocean City continued.  I'm now passing that tradition onto my own son this summer.

Stevie's dad came up from Florida for the weekend, and we all spent Friday and Saturday night at a hotel a block from the beach.  Yesterday morning I ran eight miles on the beach and boardwalk.  Now, if you're able to get up and run at sunrise, I imagine the boardwalk to be a desolate and quiet place.  Calming, even.  But leave at 7:30, like I did, and you'll encounter nothing short of controlled chaos.  The boardwalk is divided in the morning amongst runners, ambling pedestrians, bikes and entire families packed into bell-ringing surreys, each with its own designated lane.  The dizzying movement in both directions makes running anything but boring, thankfully.

This morning I decided to tackle the 9th Street Bridge, the two mile bridge connecting Ocean City (technically a barrier island) to the mainland.  About 10 years ago they completely reconstructed the bridge to make room for passing boats underneath, resulting in the only "hill" available in the area.  This makes it popular with runners and cyclists alike trying to get in some hill training.  I only had time for five miles, but five miles in no shade next to the constant whoosh of traffic was more than enough.  Next time I'll stick with the beach and boardwalk.

And absolutely nothing beats jumping in the ocean after a long, hot run.

Friday, July 31, 2015

July mileage

January: 197
February: 231
March: 281
April: 121.2
May: 159.1
June: 112.3

And July:

145.4 for the month, for a total of 1,247 miles for the year so far.

It was a slow month for running, with just two races (one 3.65 mile prediction race and one 5k).  The heat and humidity got pretty extreme for much of the month, so relaxing with a beer by the grill was more my style than sprinting down the sidewalk every damn day.

I hope to pick up the pace some in August and grit my way through the last of summer weather, which will make running in cooler fall temps all the more glorious.

I hope your summer running is going well, dear reader.  Let's finish the season with a bang.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Mighty Scott Jurek

If you're reading this blog, chances are you know something about running.  And if you know something about running, chances are you've at least heard of Scott Jurek.


In short, he is one of the most accomplished ultramarathoners of all time, collecting wins at such grueling races as the Western States Endurance Run (seven consecutive times), the Badwater Ultramarathon (twice) and many others.  He has accomplished all of this while maintaining a vegan diet, proving that, contrary to popular opinion, you can be a serious athlete while abstaining from all animal products.

Most recently, he capped off his illustrious career at 41 by setting the record for fastest assisted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  On July 12th, fans following the hashtag #SJAT15 eagerly awaited updates from Mt. Katahdin in Maine where Jurek ultimately finished his quest, 46 days after starting on Springer Mountain over 2,000 miles away in Georgia.  It was an amazing moment for veganism, for ultra running, for AT lovers, and of course for Jurek and his fans.


By all accounts, Jurek seems to be one of the nicest guys on the planet, one who cares passionately and lives humbly despite his success and fame in his growing sport.  One didn't have to be an ardent fan of his to cheer him on earlier this month as he closed in on the AT record, for no one seemed more deserving.

It was surprising, then, when a few days later Baxter State Park officials posted a brief Facebook diatribe entitled "Ultramarathoning in Baxter Park - another perspective."  Park officials took umbrage at Jurek bringing corporate interests to this pristine wilderness, among other gripes, and pointed out that he had also been given three summons on top of Katahdin. One for littering, one for hiking with a group of more than 12, and one for drinking alcohol in public.  The picture they deliberately painted was of a raucous frat party filled with illicit activity that deflowered the picturesque mountain peak and its surroundings.

Jurek, and many fellow hikers who were present on the summit that day, tell a different story. Jurek maintains that his specific group was no more than the allowed 12 hikers.  The alcohol charge stems from the bottle of champagne seen in the above picture.  This was procured by a friend who had checked with a ranger before the hike and was told to just keep it away from families and children.  The littering referred to the champagne that sprayed onto the ground, which may or may not seem like a ridiculous charge depending on how much you subscribe to Leave No Trace ethics.

It seems that Baxter State Park is getting fed up with the uptick in hikers attempting the Appalachian Trail and the subsequent commercialism that has crept in with them.  It also laments its role in hosting the northern terminus of the trail.  Many people, Jurek included, believe they are making an example of him due to his celebrity, piggybacking off the media coverage they oppose just to further their cause.

It's a shame that Jurek's amazing achievement had to be capped by ridiculous "controversy," but ever the class act, I'm sure he will rise above it and easily put it behind him on the way to the next summit of his career.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

2015 Hot Run in the Summertime 5k Race Report

Ran the Roadrunners Club of Woodbury's 4th annual Hot Run in the Summertime 5k this morning.  I ran it for the first time last year when it was only 70 degrees on race morning. Check out the race report here.

My wife and son came out with me this morning, but I didn't run with them because my Wednesday night beer/run club was entered in the team competition, and I wanted to run at my own pace today.

Going anywhere with a baby is challenging, and we had to time Neale's morning nap to the 10am start time.  We arrived with just enough time to pick up our bibs and use the bathroom, but no time to warm up.  It was truly going to be a hot run this year, with clear skies and temps well into the 80's.

Last year the afterparty happened at Charlie Brown's, but this year was moved to the Woodbury Station Cafe and the course was changed slightly to accommodate the move.

Outside of the Woodbury Station Cafe
Photo by RRCW

At 10am we took off through the streets of Woodbury.  There were mile markers posted this year, and I also wore my Garmin just in case, so I was able to keep track of my pace.  I still ended up running my fastest mile at the start.  One of these days I'll learn how to negative split a race.

Mile 1: 6:11
Mile 2: 6:15
Mile 3: 6:12

Photo by RRCW

In the final sprint to the finish, I tried to reel in one of the guys from my running club, but he was just too far ahead of me.  There was no one near me, in front of or behind me, though I wish there had been because it might have encouraged me to push even harder.

Photo by RRCW

Final stats:

9th overall
3rd in my age group

I was kind of surprised to have run so close to 19 minutes.  I've only broken 19 three times in my life.  Imagine what I could do if I buckled down and trained hard for the 5k.  Is there a new 5k PR in my future?

After finishing I grabbed a bottle of water and walked back through the course looking for Stevie.  I found her just after the 2 mile mark and pushed the stroller for her while she ran the rest of the way in to a 34:06.  New PR!

Photo by RRCW
When they announced the winners after the race, I got a medal for placing in my age group.

And Team Who's Up? took 2nd place in the team competition.  Our team included Dave Welsh, owner of the Haddonfield Running Company, who won the overall race.

Team Who's Up?
Photo by RRCW
There was a post race buffet set up inside the cafe, including a keg of beer and plenty of grilled hotdogs and hamburgers.  A group of us sat outside in the shade talking about all things beer and running.

Photo by RRCW

It was a great morning not only hanging out with running friends, but sharing it all with my wife and son as well.  Stevie is getting more into 5k's and wants to do more with me in the future. Twist my arm, eh?

Huge thanks to Ron Riskie and the Road Runners Club of Woodbury for hosting such a great event.  Everything associated with a race was perfectly executed: sign up (only $30 for the whole event), parking, marked course, awards, post race food, etc.  Great job, RRCW, and I hope to make it out next year.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

1,200 miles

July has been a slow month for running, but this morning I went out for 8 miles.  It was my longest run in weeks, and I was forced to welcome back nipple chafing into my life.

After completing 8 miles, I walked into the kitchen and saw my wife in workout clothes.

Stevie: Oh good, I just caught you!  Want to go run 3 miles?
Me: You had me at hello.

Before heading out I tallied up my mileage for the year and realized I only needed 3.4 to reach 1,200. So we brought Neale out in the stroller and knocked out a slow and steady 3.4 miles around the neighborhood.  Then I had Stevie record this milestone in which it also looks like I could be naked.  With a hat that says "Dirty German" on it.

Only 815 miles to go in this challenge!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 SJAC No Frills Just Thrills Race #4

Race #2 never happened due to an epic 20 minute storm knocking out trees and electricity all over South Jersey a few weeks ago, and I missed race #3 because Stevie had rehearsal that night, but was able to make it over to the Cooper River last night for race #4 in the summer series.

Last night was a prediction race of one loop around the Cooper (3.65 miles).  At registration, runners had to write down their predicted finish time, and then whoever came closest to their prediction would win the race.  This means two things: you don't have to run fast to win the race, and older runners with more experience pacing themselves stand a better chance at winning.

Last year I predicted 32 minutes, roughly a 9 minute pace, but ended up finishing in 29:39, an 8:07 pace.  So this year I wrote down 29 minutes.  I had to leave shortly afterwards, so I had no idea how I did until today when the results were posted.

I was only 20 seconds off my predicted time and took 2nd in my age group.  This means I get another pint glass which I'll be able to pick up at the next race.  Side note: my running hobby means I have an absurdly large pint glass collection.  It's starting to become a problem.

The overall winner was 65 years old and came within one second of his predicted time.

As always, thanks to the South Jersey Athletic Club for putting on a great race series.  I'll see y'all at the next race.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Monday: comparing running to other hobbies

If you're a runner and you participate in social media on any level, you've probably seen this video over the last week.  It perfectly captures the absurdity that is my chosen hobby and just how ridiculous and hardcore people treat it.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

South Jersey beer night

Whenever it's my turn to be up for our Wednesday night beer/run club, I like to bring beer according to a theme.  My first time up I brought all German beers because I'm a German teacher.  Another time, in December, I brought all Christmas beers.  And tonight I decided to go local and highlight as many South Jersey beers as I could.  Then I printed up a menu to accompany the cooler.

The official selection included Flying Fish, Spellbound, Pinelands Brewing Company, Village Idiot Brewing Company, and Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Company.  I love Cape May Brewing Company and wanted to include it, but had a devil of a time securing any of their beer and wasn't able to make the 90 minute drive down there just to pick some up.

The beer from Pinelands Brewing proved to be the most popular.  Their operation is a glorified storage shed just minutes from the Jersey Shore, and while there last week Stevie and I picked up a growler of their blueberry ale.  Perfect for summer.  Forgotten Boardwalk's Funnel Cake Ale was also a popular choice.

At the end of the day, it's safe to say that one of the greatest pleasures in my life is running hard, followed by drinking great local beer with great local people.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June mileage

January: 197
February: 231
March: 281
April: 121.2
May: 159.1

And June:

112.3 miles this month.  1,101.6 miles for the year.

This means I'm still on track to complete 2,015 miles this year, but just barely.  Keeping up my motivation for this challenge is going to be tough.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Stroller running

I love the Haddonfield Running Company for many reasons, one of which is that they offer group stroller runs on Thursday mornings for stay-at-home moms and dads.  Now that I'm off for the summer, I had the chance to join them this morning.

It was me and several moms and their toddlers (and one dad) this morning.  We met outside the store and ran 3 miles, roughly the same 3 miles that starts the usual Wednesday night run that I do.  Afterwards we hung out in the store before it opened so the parents could drink water and chat while the kids ran around.  I let Neale crawl around for a bit and just hoped the older kids wouldn't trample him before scooping him up for the group shot.

I often wonder what goes through Neale's little baby brain when we run (or any time he sticks something in his mouth, for that matter).  He seems to enjoy it, I guess, at least the wind and the ever-changing scenery.  I've only actually run with him a handful of times, and I don't know if I should feel guilty about that.  I like getting him into the outdoors and modeling a running lifestyle, even if he won't remember any of this, but I also like going out on my own and negotiating curbs and trails without the heavy bulk of a stroller in front of me.

Neale still naps frequently, and trying to match up his nap schedule with the weather and my eating schedule is like trying to get the planets to align correctly.

At any rate, I can't wait for the day when he first joins me for a run without the stroller.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My first Father's Day

Three generations of Partenheimers

Father's Day was today, and it was a special one for me because it was my first as a father. Stevie made me waffles for breakfast, I took myself to the movies to see Jurassic World, and then we all headed to my dad's place to grill in the backyard.  Grilling, beer, and family - is there any better way to celebrate Father's Day?

It should go without saying that fatherhood is hard.  There have been some incredible highs over the past ten months, but some equally paralyzing lows in which I truly struggled.  But I feel good that I can sit here today and honestly say that I love being a father.  I am addicted to my son's laughter.  I am inspired by his curious explorations.  And I love the tiny nuances of his nascent personality.

While on Christmas break, Stevie and I hung out with friends who had a two-and-a-half year old boy.  The father told me how, as his son grows older, so too does the fun, and that has stuck with me ever since.  It's true; the fun grows exponentially, but so does the happiness. Each day brings some new found skill, obsession or joy that my son discovers, and with each new day, I discover happiness anew.
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