Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New shoes

I figured there must be someone out there who actually cares what shoes I run in, so here you go:

So this is what passes for content on a running blog, eh?

I recently won a $50 gift certificate (redeemable with $100 purchase) to the Haddonfield Running Company, and I needed a new pair of shoes for the marathon next month anyway, so that's where I headed today.

A man asked what I currently run in, and I told him Nike.  It looked like he was waiting for me to finish, like I was going to tell him the name of the shoe, the "Nike Matrix G3 11's," or whatever passes for running shoe names nowadays.  But as I've said elsewhere on this blog, I know my shoes are Nike and that's about it, because I don't particularly care what I run in.  I don't believe in fancy running equipment of any kind.  In the end, hard work will make me a faster runner, not an expensive, high tech pair of running shoes, so just give me something that's cheap and comfortable and let's move on.

The man was already helping another customer, a woman he chastised for buying her last pair of running shoes at Target.  According to him, "never buy running shoes for less than $100, because they won't be running shoes."  I found this sad, because I think it's similar to selling people weight-loss pills; it's just more false hope.  People shouldn't be led to believe expensive shoes will make them faster, and people shouldn't have to shell out $100 or more just to be allowed to call themselves runners.

At any rate, the woman who helped me had me walk around the store to check my pronation, and then offered me three pairs of shoes to try on: Adidas, Asics, and Saucony.  I chose the Sauconys.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Movie Monday XVII

It's schadenfreude at its best: four Japanese marathoners battling it out in the homestretch of a marathon.  Just as one of them pulls ahead to certain victory, he unfortunately follows the lead of the pacecar which turns down a sidestreet at the last minute, and the resulting video becomes a YouTube hit.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Revenge of the 20 miler

Marathon training schedules generally don't care if you're having a relaxing weekend in the woods. They don't care if you'd rather spend your morning sitting by the lake.  No matter where you are, you have to stick to the schedule.  So my peaceful weekend was briefly disturbed by another raging 20 miler this morning.

I'm at Camp Ockanickon for the weekend, running in the same places in which I trained for my first marathon when I worked here years ago.  The good thing is that camp owns 565 acres on the western tip of the Pine Barrens, which means trails - lots and lots of trails: blissfully uncrowded, devoid of cars and their exhaust, shady, soft trails.  I would estimate 80% of my run this morning was on dirt roads and trails.  It was a nice change of pace from running on concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads all the time.

But a 20 mile run is still a 20 mile run, and I was hurting in the homestretch, especially as the morning temperature crept into the upper 80's.  The only thing that got me through was the thought of jumping in the lake to cool off when I finished.  I didn't even stop to take off my shoes.  I grabbed my Gatorade and ran with it into the waterfront, then to the end of the dock and jumped. I stopped my watch in midair and landed in a cannonball, much to the confusion of those around me.

Truly the only proper way to end a 20 miler

My legs felt better afterwards than they ever have after a 20 miler.  If only I could always end a long run this way.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back on the trails

To an Old Camper
By Mary S. Edgar

You may think my dear, when you grow quite old
You have left camp days behind,
But I know the scent of wood smoke
Will always call to mind
Little fires at twilight
And trails you used to find.

You may think someday you have quite grown up
And feel so worldly wise,
But suddenly from out of the past
A vision will arise
Of merry folk with brown bare knees
And laughter in their eyes.

You may live in a house built to your tastes
In the nicest part of town,
But someday for your old camp togs
You'd change your latest gown
And trade it for a balsam bed
Where stars all night look down.

You may find yourself grown wealthy
Have all that gold can buy,
But you'd toss aside a fortune
For days 'neath an open sky
With sunlight and blue water
And white clouds sailing by.

For once you have been a camper
Then something has come to stay
Deep in your heart forever
Which nothing can take away,
And heaven can only be heaven,
With a camp in which to play.

At camp for Memorial Day weekend, and couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No jerks allowed

You know one aspect of running that I really enjoy?  It's how friendly everyone is.  Most runners will remark, with pride, that running breeds far fewer jerks than other sports.  Running is a non-contact sport, and most runners compete against no one other than themselves, and many also run for charity.  It's only natural that running would be made up of friendly people.

One place where I see this trait exemplified again and again is in the finishing chute of local 5k's.

Finishing chute of the Run for Hope 5k: April 16, 2011

Last weekend at the Run for ALD 5k, I spent almost the entire race neck and neck with a guy my age.  We were pushing each other hard, and in the last half mile we both surged ahead of each other several times.  Finally, in the last tenth of a mile, he pulled ahead, and I had no energy left to match his pace.  I called out, "it's all you, finish strong!"

We were both doubled over and out of breath in the finishing chute when he turned around and wordlessly, sincerely, shook my hand.  He was in my age group and had edged me out of the top three with his final push, but who cares?  We had a mutual respect for each other as athletes - as runners - and that is what I take away from that race, and running in general, instead of some age group prize.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sub 3:00 marathon?

According to the Runner's World online training calculator, there is a chance I could run a sub 3:00 marathon next month in Minnesota.  This is based solely on my recent PR of 18:01 in the 5k. Running a sub 3:00 marathon would be fantastic, seeing as it is one of my running goals to conquer, but I don't think I buy it.

As I've mentioned before, I just don't think my training has been sufficient this spring to run a PR, let alone a PR that is under 3 hours.  In addition, there are so many factors that go into race day that are beyond my control.  It could be extremely hot out.  It could rain the whole day.  I could simply have an inexplicably bad day.  The problem with a marathon is that so much preparation goes into it, and you only get one shot.  I could run 5k's every weekend and maybe even get my time below 18 minutes.  I could probably run a marathon every weekend like some people, but if I am really going to lop 10 minutes or more off my marathon PR, that is not the best way to do it.  I would need sufficient rest and recovery time after that kind of effort.  There is a reason the elites only run 2 or 3 marathons a year, afterall.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Movie Monday XVI

Here's another video about the Boston Marathon.  This one is professionally shot and edited and produced by the Boston Globe, and focuses on this year's race.  It offers the sights and sounds of that day, including numerous shots of runners crossing the finish line, including one guy doing cartwheels and another doing several pushups.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Run for ALD 5k

Last night was closing night of All in the Timing, and after the show I ate half my bodyweight in food while filling in the cracks with a bottle or three of suds.  My head didn't hit the pillow until four in the morning, but I somehow forced myself to toe the line six hours later for the 9th annual Run for ALD 5k over at the Cooper River.  Nothing like standing at a starting line and thinking, "this is going to hurt."

This 5k is organized by the Kane Family.  I had the pleasure of working with Taylor Kane in a show a year and a half ago, whose father passed away from ALD 8 years ago.  The race honors his memory while also raising funds to find a cure for ALD (Adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare, genetic disease).

I ran this race last year in over 21 minutes, and was fully expecting to run a similar time today, despite having run a 5k PR yesterday.  Instead, I dug deep and pulled out an 18:37, only the third time in my life that I've beaten 19 minutes in a 5k.  I finished in 4th place in my age group and 10th overall.

I felt lousy afterwards, naturally, but was happy that I had forced myself out of bed to support Taylor and her family.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elizabeth Haddon 5k

And now for something... slightly familiar:

I won a race today!  And this one had more than two dozen people in it!

This was my fourth year in a row running this race, and I was gunning for the "dynasty."  That is, I won my age group in this race the last three years in a row, and I was aiming to make it four. Needless to say, I surpassed my expectations.

This is a fantastic race.  It's held at a small neighborhood school and benefits the PTA, so it attracts hundreds of kids and families from the area.  Somehow the weather is always perfect, there is a bouncy castle for the little ones, a DJ, and countless raffle prizes.  And instead of trophies or medals that will just collect dust over the years, winners are given gift certificates to local businesses.

There were about 600 kids all at the very front of the starting line which made the first ten seconds a little chaotic, but soon I was hanging with the lead pack just behind the police car that acted as the pacer.  Before I hit the first mile marker I had taken the lead and never looked back.  Following the police car was a godsend, because it gave me something moving at a fast, steady pace to chase. Somewhere in the second mile, however, a woman started to back out of her driveway.  The police car raced ahead with its siren and lights on to stop her.  She was freaking out that she had to get to work and the police officer was yelling at her to stay in her driveway, and in the meantime I ran right past.  I had outrun the pacecar.

When I rounded the final corner and saw the clock still on 17 minutes, I fell into a dead sprint to break 18 minutes.  I fell short and finished in 18:01, but good enough for first place overall and to break a PR that has stood since 1997 by 28 seconds.  I am now officially faster than my 16-year-old self.

My prize?  A $50 gift certificate to the Haddonfield Running Company... that can only be redeemed with a $100 purchase.  I've never heard of a prize that forces me to spend money to redeem, but hey, it can't take away the pleasure of winning another race!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grandma's Marathon

Only one month until marathon #8.  While not nearly as intense as my training last fall, training this spring has been going well, and I'm looking forward to raising some hell in this race.

Slightly less than one month until I visit my pregnant sister, see my nephew again, and take part in the Meeting of the Uncles, where Oliver's other uncle and I will undoubtedly discuss what we should let him get away with when he's with us and not his parents.  It's going to be an awesome trip.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New ad campaign

You never know where a photo will end up once it's on the internet.

I'll bet the one on the right becomes a runner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Monday XV

Another video from the team behind this one.  This video captures the Triple Lakes Trail Race in Greenboro, NC, set to the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

20 miles and a show

I spent all weekend at the theater, between performing in shows and then just hanging around afterwards with people.  This cast has taken a particular liking to karaoke, so I can finally check "Sing 'Baby Got Back' in public" off my bucket list.

My marathon is in June, so the heaviest mileage is at the same exact time that I'm doing nine shows over three weekends.  It's been tough mixing a social life in the theater with a full blown marathon training cycle.  First there's the obvious temptation to stay out all night after every show to drink beer with the cast instead of going to sleep early so I can run in the morning.

Only the best parties have goofy hats and fake cigarettes.  And Ed Doyle.

Then there's the fact that theater and sports don't typically mix.  I'm the only one in the cast that I know of that exercises on a regular basis.  Because of this, I tend to suffer through a lot of silly questions and comments while constantly feeling like I have to explain the urge to run for hours on end.  I ran another 20 miler this morning before the show this afternoon and never thought I'd hear the end of it.

"20 miles?  Who or what was chasing you?"

"I don't think I've run a total of 20 miles in my life."

"I'm getting tired just thinking about running that far."

"When's the marathon?  Next month?  If I start now I might finish with everyone else."

"The name of the marathon is 'Grandma's Marathon?!'  Guess you won't have much competition if it's just you and a bunch of old ladies!"

I was worried about my level of energy going into the show, because I felt like I was about to crash. Instead, I summoned the necessary fifteen minutes of energy and pulled off a nice performance. After my show I ran backstage where the other actors were playing Apples to Apples, slammed my water bottle on the floor and yelled, "What 20 miles?!"  It was a sudden burst of adrenaline that I just had to let out, and I do believe I scared the pants off a few people.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Afternoon delight

No, not that kind, jerk.

Now that warm weather is back for good, I like to sit on the front step of my apartment after a run and watch life on my town's main drag pass by.

Can't beat a lazy Friday afternoon after a long week of work and running.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's for breakfast?

There was a time when I never ate breakfast.  But read enough about food and nutrition, and certain maxims stand out; in this case, it's the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Eat breakfast and you'll be able to function more properly throughout the day.  You'll be less likely to overeat at subsequent meals.  At some point I started taking this to heart.

On the menu today: scrambled eggs with avocado, cheese, spinach and tomatoes.  Buttered toast. Kiwi.  Banana.  Washed down with OJ.

Breakfast of champions.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Movie Monday XIV

Narrated over a series of pictures from marathons around the U.S., this plays out as an ode to the marathon.  It's incredibly inspirational and makes me anticipate the drama and human emotions of my 8th marathon next month.

"A marathon race is a complete and efficient production of life.  It runs like a highlight reel where human emotions, physical challenges and spiritual feelings take center stage."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The show must go on

The first weekend of All in the Timing is in the books.  The review is already in, and despite poor writing and grammar, some wishy-washy opinions and not liking the one-act I directed, it's a positive review overall.  The reviewer also noted that I "was amazing to watch as he bounced on table and floor several times."  So there's that.  Here's the link.

As Trotsky in "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," with Michael Post as my Spanish Communist assassin and Jaime Geddes as Mrs. Trotsky.

I love good slapstick, and given my athleticism, I gravitate towards injecting my performances with as much physicality as I can get away with.  In this particular play, I die eight dimes, each time in spectacular fashion, each time silently marveling at just how much my body is able to put up with. When I launch myself into the air and land flat on my back on the desk, I barely flinch.  When I fall from a standing position and catch myself with my hands at the last moment, my hands and wrists absorb the shock without complaint.  I wouldn't be able to do any of this if I didn't stay in the shape I do.

Fellow actor: Doesn't that hurt when you fall like that?
Me: If it hurt, do you think I would keep doing it every show?  I do know what I'm doing, believe it or not.
Fellow actor: Don't marathons hurt?  And yet you keep doing those over and over.
Me: Touché.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

All in the Timing

This blog might suggest otherwise, but I do have other interests than just running.  One of them is theater.  Over the last few months I've been working on a show called All in the Timing, a collection of one-act plays by David Ives.  The plays are rather intellectual and heavy on wordplay and general absurdist comedy, and I believe our rendition will offer a very entertaining evening.

I'm directing one of the plays and acting in another.  The play I'm directing is called Words Words Words, which is about three monkeys locked in a room and forced to type on typewriters until they produce Hamlet.  It's a literal interpretation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem, a real mathematical theory that is meant to demonstrate the randomness of the universe.  The Hamlet references can be dense, but I've got my actors swinging from tire swings, sword fighting with bananas, and other monkey-themed tomfoolery to keep the average theater-goer entertained.

The play I'm acting in is called Variations on the Death of Trotsky, which offers eight takes on the final day in the life of Leon Trotsky, leader of the Russian Revolution.  Trotsky was struck in the head with a mountain climber's ax in 1940, yet lived on for another day before succumbing to his injuries.  David Ives explores what might have gone through his head in those final hours (besides the ax, naturally).

If you live in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area and want to support community theater, check out www.haddonfieldplayers.com for all of the details.  We open tonight and close on Saturday the 21st.  Come on out!

The poster I made for the show I'm directing

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life

When I was a kid and wanted to get my granddad a present, it usually had something to do with golf.  Being the age I was, I failed to grasp the nuances of his entire personality, and my gift giving skills were therefor somewhat limited.  But I knew he liked golf, so chocolate golfballs it was, then.

In much the same way, people who don't know every aspect of my personality at least understand that I like running, and I tend to accumulate a lot of running-related presents.  Over the years, my students have given me all manner of T-shirts, "26.2" emblazoned coffee mugs, running store gift certificates, etc.  One such gift was the following book:

It's a relatively short book that can be read in one sitting, and offers interesting viewpoints from an American running legend, as well as book recommendations and inspirational quotes.  In addition, Burfoot, current editor of Runner's World and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon, describes what makes the sport of running transcend itself as a simple activity and become so much more to millions around the world.

I like to take it out when I'm in a rut, because its inspiring pages remind me of why I run in the first place.  If you have a few extra hours, find this book and read it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Attack of the 20 miler

What are my long runs like, you ask?

Picture a young man, full of energy, leaving the front door with confidence and a sprightly step. Now take that same man, add three hours and a little sunburn, give him the confused stare and wandering gait of a 90-year-old Alzheimer's patient, and that about sums up my long runs.

It's official.  20 milers are now back in my life.  Ran 20 miles yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day trying to recover.  I usually never ice my legs unless I have a specific pain I'm trying to address, but I'm trying to be more proactive in this training cycle, so more ice it is.

As I've said, long runs are never glamorous.  There are no spectators to cheer you on and buoy your spirits, there are no water stations, no fellow runners to offer camaraderie and support (unless you run with a group, which I don't).  You just have to grit your teeth and get through it as best you can, because these awful runs are what give you the physical and mental strength to get through the actual marathon when it finally arrives.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Movie Monday XIII

Here's another video about the Chicago Marathon, this one shot by an average runner who brings a camera the whole way with him.  His enthusiasm is incredible,  and he does a great job of capturing the sights and sounds of a big city marathon.  This one is definitely a lot of fun to watch.

John: Hey Matt, you're running the Chicago Marathon!
Matt: Crap.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A D.C. wedding

Spent the night in D.C. last night for an old college friend's wedding.  Old friends, great beer, nutty dancing, and late night subway rides in full wedding attire make for some great new memories.

The wedding was held in a contemporary art gallery, and one room was given to Joshua Wade Smith and his "Face-Plant" series, which amounted to pictures of him falling face first onto a blue padded mat.  The same picture was reproduced in various sizes and distributed liberally around the room.  At the end of the night, I couldn't resist imitating the pictures.

Nothing like wacky contemporary art for when you need a good laugh, or at least a good photo op.

And congratulations to Mandy and Joe.  May your married life bring you continued happiness, and may you find more success than Mr. Joshua Smith will find in his art career, because you deserve it more.
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