Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maintenance Miles

I am stressed.

I've finished the course at LaSalle and have moved on to a new course at Rutgers Camden.  I've taken both the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) and Praxis II; I passed the former and am waiting on my score for the latter.  I have a mountain of paperwork to turn into HR tomorrow, and I have to start setting up my classroom and designing the first few weeks of school.

In the meantime, I am trying to fit in runs here and there of around four miles or so, maintenance miles they call them, so as to keep up some semblance of fitness and make it that much easier to slip back into full on training when I decide on the next race.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Devil's Drawers

Good God.

Let's take a moment to appreciate the number you see above.  I've been to both the Australian Outback and the American Southwest, and I expect to see this number in those locations.  But here in South Jersey?

Cely over at Running off the Reese's, who lives in Texas, a part of the country that could be described as hotter than the devil's drawers, has an interesting take on how to run in the heat: don't.  Moving to a new latitude or giving up running for the summer seem to be the best options.

I seem to have subconsciously taken her advice and, between class at LaSalle this week and the intense heat wave New Jersey is experiencing, have done very little running lately.

I'm not particularly worried given that I'm not actively training for anything at the moment, but it can still be disheartening to realize how quickly fitness levels can deteriorate if training isn't kept up.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer School

I'm at LaSalle University for the week, attending the Advanced Placement Summer Institute, a workshop to ensure AP teachers are properly prepared to teach AP courses next year.

Among the many activities, our teacher gave us each a "Facebook Wall" in the hallway and encouraged us to write status updates, then comment on each others' walls.

My status started out about food and, not surprisingly, eventually veered towards marathons in the ensuing comments.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Monday XXIII

If you're thinking of running a marathon, you should watch this movie.  If you're signed up for your first marathon and not sure what to expect, you should watch this movie.  If you've already run twenty marathons, you should watch this movie.  If you've already seen this movie, you should watch this movie.  It's that simple.

This is the trailer for a documentary that follows five runners as they prepare for and run the 2005 Chicago Marathon.  It's one of my favorites, and I watch it before every marathon for inspiration. As Dick Beardsley says, "when you cross that finish line... it will change your life forever."


Sunday, July 17, 2011


Running in New Jersey in the middle of the day in the middle of summer.  It could be worse.  But sweet bastard could it be better.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On conflict

"People can't understand why a man runs.  They don't see any sport in it; argue that it lacks the sight and thrill of body contact.  Yet, the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man versus man competition.  For in running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents.  The other runners are not the real enemies.  His adversary lies within him, in his ability, with brain and heart to master himself and his emotions."

-Glenn Cunningham, two-time U.S. Olympian

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flashback Friday II

August 2008, somewhere in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia

The best part of the Mongol Rally is not having to think about a response when asked, "what is the craziest thing you've ever done?"  In short: three years ago I bought a 17-year-old Nissan Micra in England on Ebay for $340 and drove it from London to Mongolia.  For charity.

My friend Paul and I took part in an event called the Mongol Rally, an event designed by the London-based League of Adventurists in order to make the world a less boring place.  The rules are simple:
  1. Teams are on their own.  If the shit hits the fan, find a way out of it.
  2. No GPS.
  3. Car must be bought for less than $1,000.
  4. Car must have less than a liter of engine power.
  5. All teams must raise $2,000 for two of five designated Mongolian charities
Paul and I spent eight months fundraising, securing visas and plane tickets, scouring Ebay for a suitable car, and researching routes.  Once we got to England, we spent three weeks picking up the car and getting it checked out, buying supplies, researching insurance options, and getting mentally prepared for an intercontinental rally.  Once underway, we spent four weeks traversing Europe and Asia, negotiating border crossings, bribing Ukrainian and Russian cops, getting the car repaired, making friends with the locals, and landing triumphantly on the other side of the world in the capital of Mongolia.

I've had the chance to relive this mighty adventure a lot over the past few weeks.  When I recently found over an hour of raw footage from the trip in my dad's basement, I finally had the chance to make the highlights reel I always wanted to.  When I posted it to Facebook, a friend who writes for the local paper decided to run the story on the paper's website.

And without further ado, I present you with that very highlights reel.  But before you watch it, answer the question for yourself: what is the craziest thing you have ever done?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


     I sometimes meet my 16-year-old self for long runs - and long conversations - in what amounts to a metaphysical showdown between the self and the former self.  I badger him about his future, asking if he has any inkling of what is in store for him, and he stonewalls me with that insouciant, devil-may-care manner of teenagers that in fact masks a deep fear of the world and their place in it.  We share an identical past, and with each second eclipsed, he steps closer to me, and I further away from him.
     I leave my front door, and a few minutes later I meet him down by the river.
     "I finally beat your 5k PR," is the first thing I say to him.  "It was in a race two months ago."
     My 16-year-old self considers this for a moment and then says, "I never get any faster?"
     "Well, you did, obviously, but not before you turned into me."
     "That's cool."
     We continue along the outline of the river, dodging geese and the occasional stray child.  He starts to lag behind.
     "This sucks," he declares.  "How much longer?"
     "You've improved a lot since last summer."
     "I know, but this still sucks.  Let's just take a break for a minute."
     "If we stop to rest now, we'll never get started again."
     "You know us too well."
     After 5 miles my stride is still strong and my breathing steady, but he makes a turn towards the erratic.  We are in uncharted territory for him, and I sense his discomfort.  There is the physical discomfort, something he is not accustomed to, but there is also the mental discomfort of not knowing how much worse it will get.  I experienced something similar while running my first marathon.
     "I started running like, three months ago.  You've been doing it for years."
     "Stop saying 'like' all the time.  You sound ridiculous."
     "I'm a teenager, what do you expect?"
     "Don't use that as a catch-all excuse for your behavior."  I hated being scolded for anything at his age.  I can sense the counteroffensive before it even happens.
     "So what if you beat my PR 14 years later?  It's just a race."
     I take a long time to think of an appropriate answer, something I may not have done at his age. "Well... it is and it isn't.  Do you know what it feels like to take down a 14-year-old record?  Of course not.  14 years ago you were two.  You probably spent all of your time falling down on the carpet in the living room.  Or annoying Kirsten."
     "So enlighten me," he says in that insufferable way of teenagers that indicates he may or may not be listening.
     "Ok look.  Nothing in your life is going to go the way you expect it, and for the most part that's a good thing.  At some point you'll find it hard to truly test yourself; both your mental and physical strength.  Both of these things will become important to you, and running will be a way of showing just how much strength you possess.  Sometimes it will feel like the world is getting away from you, but you can always go for a run.  Running is the constant throughout your life."  I check to make sure he is still listening.  He appears to be deep in thought but still with me.  "Last week you ran a 5k in 18:29 with barely a second thought.  14 years later you will set your sights on that record and take it down.  It's not the actual race that you'll remember, but the work that led up to it.  Beating an old PR vindicates the hard work and is proof of the strength I'm always after.  Does any of this make sense?"
     A thought occurs to me, one that I keep to myself: when you go for a run with the teenage version of yourself, do you want to be jealous of this youthful specter of your past, or do you want it the other way around?
     "Does it ever go away?"
     "Does what ever go away?"
     He looks at me with a sincerity I'd forgotten I possessed as a teenager.  "The fear of your - our - place in the world?"
     "Not entirely, I'm afraid.  But it does get better, in ways you'll never expect."
     At six miles his stamina finally gives out, and he slows to a stop.  I can feel him watching me as I leave him behind, my legs strong, my breathing steady.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Movie Monday XXII

One of the most popular marathon videos on YouTube, this one documents one woman's debut marathon back in 2005.  Shortly after the race, she compiled her thoughts into a coherent piece, which she uses to narrate the video.  It's a well-made video from the perspective of a novice marathoner.

Perhaps even more interesting is the debate found in the comments section that rages on to this day.  Because she finished in over five and a half hours, the debate mirrors this entry from a few months ago about slow runners.  As she says, "it's not about time or place.  Like life, it's about the journey."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cooper River Sunday

Another run along the Cooper River with Suze today, this one without the Armageddon thunderstorm going on around us.  We went five miles at it.

Suze is signed up for the Philly Rock n' Roll Half Marathon this September, along with a bunch of other South Jersey/Philly bloggers, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to join them.  While I may not have time to train for a full marathon this fall, I'm pretty sure I could easily knock out a half marathon a few months from now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On my own

My roommate moved out at the end of last month and took almost all of the furniture with him. He also painted all of the walls white, so now it feels like I'm living in a mental ward.  Before he left, I told him he could leave anything he didn't need or want and I would take care of it.  While looking through the freezer today, I came across not one, not five, but TEN packages of chicken.  If I've learned nothing else from the A&E channel, and I haven't, it's that this could be the beginning stages of hoarding.

I had a particularly rough day today, including but not limited to my bike being stolen.  My roommate also left behind one of his stupid paintings, so to make myself feel better I stuck my head through it.  It worked wonders.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your spelling homework

Can you help Runner's World and the Muddy Buddy Series find the mistake in the following ad? Good luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Movie Monday XXI

At 90 years old, my grandmother is still as sharp as a tack.  She can talk shop regarding her favorite subjects (the Phillies, grammar and spelling, or anything Michael Smerconish approves of), and she's  already been online sending me e-mails for years.

But as she grows older, she reminds us of her physical limitations.  She has trouble writing handwritten notes, and gets tired when playing with her great grandson Oliver.  She still takes the stairs and goes to her exercise classes, but the general impression is that getting old is hard.

One of the reasons I like to run marathons and climb mountains and do backflips on the beach and other random physical feats is because I know I won't always be able to.  At some point my body is going to fail me, so why not take advantage of all that it can do right now?

My dad's marathon days are long in the past, and he now likes to say he feels lucky if he can complete a 5k, so it makes me wonder just how long I'll keep running marathons.  But the guy in this week's video certainly offers encouragement.  He's 101 years old (or at least he was at the time this video was shot) and looks and sounds like the wacky crime boss in an English gangster movie, and he is still out there running marathons.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wedding in Maine

Congratulations Saida.  May your new life with Aaron be long and filled with excitement.


your fellow Bates Alumni

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Swimming in Maine

Went for a shorter run by myself today, then followed it with a swim in the lake a mere 50 yards from our cabin.  I'm not a strong swimmer by any stretch of the imagination, but when the scenery is this gorgeous, I don't mind looking like I'm having an epileptic fit in the water.

And following up a run/swim workout with a beer?  It can't get any better.  Is this heaven?  No, it's just Maine.

Opening my beer on the dock (I'm Mr. Resourceful when cold beer is at stake).

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reconnecting in Maine

I've come up to Maine for the wedding of an old college friend, and have been able to reconnect with several other old friends in the process.  I genuinely love meeting new people, but nothing beats hanging out with the select few you share a history with, people who understand your personality and quirks and still want to be friends with you anyway.

Mike, Tahsin and I were theater and drinking buddies in college, and after we finished our hour long run today, we couldn't stop marveling at how fit we've become since then.  The last time we saw each other - 7 years ago on a trip to Daytona Beach - we wouldn't have been able to run even 5 minutes together.  Tahsin shares an avid interest in racing (particularly triathlons), so it was nice to not have to dial back my obsession around him.

The run, incidentally, along rural roads in Maine, was the longest I've run since Grandma's Marathon two weeks ago, and the best I've felt during a run in ages.

Mike, Tahsin, me, post run in Belgrade Lakes, Maine
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