Saturday, October 25, 2014

Earn it to buy it: the BQ singlet

Apparently there is a company in New England that is making waves in the running world. Amongst Tracksmith's retro-style offerings is a racing singlet that you are only allowed to buy if you are running the Boston Marathon this spring.  Sorry charity runners, but as the prominently displayed letters "BQ" suggest, this one is only for the qualifiers.

I absolutely love the retro look to it, and since I only own one other singlet, this seems right up my alley.  Two things are stopping me, though.  First of all, it costs $70, and I am loath to pay that much for just a shirt, regardless of how cool it looks or its association with Boston. Second, I would feel eternally douchey for wearing such a shirt.  Bragging rights are one thing, and I won't mind wearing official Boston Marathon gear after I've run the race, but I feel like this shirt takes the bragging to a new level.  

I also don't like that they limit it to qualifiers who are actually running this spring.  This leaves out over a thousand runners who technically qualified for the 2015 race, but weren't able to register due to the 1:02 cutoff this year.

So what do you think?  If you're a qualifier, would you buy it?  And if you're not, does it offend you at all?

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Being of German descent with ties to the magical land of Bavaria, I like to honor my heritage when I can.  Normally this means drinking German beer, but sometimes I'll bring my German enthusiasm to the kitchen.  I decided to make Käsespätzle for dinner tonight, a dish which I usually describe as German macaroni and cheese.

It's a surprisingly simple yet labor-intensive dish, so I don't make it all the time.  When I do make it, Stevie gets excited because out of all of my signature dishes, this is her favorite.

Start by dicing an entire onion and putting them in a frying pan.  Then grate a hunk of cheese. You're supposed to use Bergkäse or Alpenkäse, but this style of cheese is hard to come by.  I find that Asiago is a good substitute.  Set a pot of water on the stove to boil, then make your dough.

You'll need some sort of contraption to add the dough to the water.  I bought this one in Bavaria in the 90's, but they're easy to get online nowadays.

The dough gets squeezed through the holes, drops into the boiling water, and once it returns to the surface (literally in seconds), it's ready to be scooped out.

Layer the dough and cheese, add the fried onions on top and sprinkle generously with pepper, and serve with a side salad.

Add your favorite Munich beer, play some Blasmusik, and have yourself a knee-slapping good night.

Viel Spaß!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back at it

I missed my beer/running club two weeks ago due to parent-teacher conferences that night.  I missed it last week when life got a little overwhelming and I decided I couldn't spare the 2-3 hours to get out of the house.  So I was happy to return to the Haddonfield Running Company tonight for 7 miles and some post run beers.

The Wednesday night run has been going on for longer than I can remember, but the informal beer club only started a little over a year ago.  Back then people brought a six-pack and called it a night, but now with roughly 20 members, people are bringing an entire cooler and it's still not enough.  We've joked that we'll have to start bringing a keg every night.

In rotation tonight was one of my favorite breweries, and the most local:

It was a chilly night with gusts of wind and a light rain.  Despite the conditions, I guess I was feeling good because I went hard tonight.  In the first half mile I realized how good I was feeling, and I just went with it.  I love it when I'm able to push myself that hard on an average Wednesday night run, especially when I'm not even training for a goal race.

I wasn't wearing a watch, so unfortunately I don't know my time or pace.  I do remember, however, looking at my watch while drinking my first beer and realizing it was only 7:45.  I felt like I'd been finished for ages at this point so I was surprised to see it was still early in the night.

One of the guys in the group has said his batch of homemade beer is almost ready, so I'm looking forward to that.  And for now, I'm just happy to be back in the club.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Monday: Liz Miele

Last Saturday the runners at the Runner's World Half Festival were treated to a comedy set by New York comedian Liz Miele.  Not only is she a comedian, but she's a runner as well.

In this video, she parodies the "I'm a Runner" videos that Runner's World posts every month.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Runner's World Half Marathon: Race Report

I woke up at 6am this morning and immediately took a shower.  I usually shower before a full or half marathon, not to get clean necessarily, but to loosen myself up and wake up a little.

I had no idea what the parking situation would be like, so I arrived around 7am and found parking easily about halfway between the start and finish lines.  I spent the next hour huddled with the masses inside the ArtsQuest building to avoid the cold.  It was 48 degrees this morning, and somehow I didn't think it necessary to bring a long-sleeved shirt.  I had no choice but to run in just a short-sleeved shirt.

The starting line was about a half mile from the finish line where everyone was gathered, so about 15 minutes before the start we all walked over together.  David Willey, Runner's World's editor-in-chief, addressed the crowd, we heard an amazing rendition of the National Anthem on the violin, and we were off.

I started the race right by Mark Remy and thought I might try to run with him for a bit, but before long I decided to speed up a little and he ended up finishing a few minutes behind me.

This was probably the toughest half marathon I've ever done due to all of the hills (and the biting cold and wind didn't help either).  I knew the hills were coming after reading race reports from previous years, not to mention the biking I did yesterday, but I told myself I would be ok because I train a lot on hills.  But training on a few hills once or twice a week does not compare to the rollercoaster that was the course today.

The course took us down Bethlehem's main street, out by a golf course and beautiful houses where we were cheered on by marching bands and cheerleaders in addition to the random spectators.  For a small-town race, the spectators were amazing.

The hills calmed down a bit in the latter miles, and when we crossed the bridge and I could see the steel stacks in the distance, I started my kick with a few miles still to go.  Just beyond mile 12, the course came within a hundred yards of the finish line, only to veer away for the last mile.  This was a bit of a tease.  I pushed hard and headed into the homestretch with the usual feeling of euphoria I can only experience through physical exertion.

My time was six minutes off of my PR, but I was happy with it due to the tough course. Around this time last year I ran a 1:30 half, and last June I ran a 1:33, and now a 1:35.  It's tough to think about just how easy it is to lose fitness after painstakingly building it up.

But it was a gorgeous day, and Bethlehem really is a beautiful town, and the spectators were amazing, and the aid stations plentiful.  At the end of the day, Runner's World puts on a hell of a festival and race, and I'm happy I finally got to come out and participate this year.  I'm sure I'll be back next year.

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.
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