Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 Turkey Bowl

After running the 5k this morning, I drove out to Medford to Camp Ockanickon where I've been playing a camp alumni football game every year for the better part of a decade.

We played old guys (of which I was the oldest) vs. young guys while the girls stood on the sidelines chatting.   We used to play full-on tackle, but camp has gotten worried about the possibility of injuries and makes us play touch now.  Football is obviously not my forte, so I'm happy to catch the ball a few times and score a touchdown or two.

The real reason for spending the day playing a sport I'm not good at is to head out for beer and wings afterwards.  We usually go to a small Piney bar where they serve enormous bowls of wings and cheap beers.

Today we sat right by the giant TV screen playing the Auburn - Alabama game and proceeded to gorge ourselves on meat and pitchers of PBR.  It doesn't get much better than that in my book.

2013 Haddon Twp Turkey Trot Race Report

Thanksgiving is now the most popular race day in the United States, but I had to wait until today for my local turkey trot.  The town where I teach hosts an annual 5k that starts and finishes at a bar with free breakfast afterwards.  It doesn't get better than that.

It was cold this morning - in the 20's - but little wind on a flat course.  This was my first 5k since last August, and I'm in distinctly better shape than I was then, so I was hoping to break 20 minutes today.  I ran the first mile in 5:55, and I thought I might even have a shot at a PR, but my second mile slowed to 6:15.  I thought I might still break 19 minutes, but instead finished the race in 19:19.    I was trying to keep pace with the first female, a girl I know from the local running store, but came up short there as well as she passed me in the final mile.  I came in 25th place out of more than 600 runners, and 3rd in my age group.  My dad ran the race as well and finished in 35:29, faster than his time from last year.  My stepmother Debbie walked the one mile race.

After the race I got a free breakfast sandwich and donut, but passed on a drink from the bar (which was open and doing a brisk trade amongst the other runners).  If I'm going to drink in the morning, I want to feel like I earned it, which means I would need a half marathon or at least a new 5k PR to start imbibing. 

When I came home, a large holiday parade was going on right outside my window.

I saw the Philly Phanatic go by, as well as a hundred high school marching bands.  

Not a bad morning, all in all.

Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 Holiday Streak

Frank the Tank tells it like it is.

Runner's World has once again issued the challenge to run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day in what they call the Holiday Streak.  Minimum distance is 1 mile.  That's about all there is to it.

I actually started two days before Thanksgiving.  I've never streaked before.  Well, I've never done a running streak at least.  We'll see how long I can last.

You in?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Started the holiday streak this morning with a brisk 3 mile run around town.  I'm going to try to keep the mileage low over the next few weeks to force myself to rest.  As much as I want to keep knocking out marathons now that I've built up my fitness, I don't want to risk burning myself out.  I have a pretty intense set of running goals for 2014, so taking a bit of an off season while still maintaining a base is going to be important.

After running, I baked a loaf of pumpkin bread, then loaded up a small cooler full of Magic Hat beers, then headed out to my step sister's place in West Chester, PA.

Food, family, football, beer... what more could I want or need from life?

While Stevie played Life with Zack and Allison, I noticed the gamemakers had updated the boardgame so that you can now win a marathon and collect $10,000.

On this day of thanks, I'll include a brief list of all the things I'm thankful for:
  • Good health.
  • A job that is challenging and rewarding in which I get to share one of my main interests in life with students.
  • A hobby that I am passionate about.
  • My family, especially my wife Stevie who has to put up with more than the rest.
  • The few people that take the time to read my blog.  Thanks, guys.

From my family to yours, happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Back to running

First run today since the marathon last week after a pleasant week off.  Was greeted by the following weather:


Looked at my time from the marathon and noticed I ran really good tangents:

3 easy miles in the cold and wind, then I went to my dad's house to help set up the Christmas lights, which has become a Christmas tradition over the last few years.

To help with the process this year, my dad drew a diagram of last year's set up.

Dad: No one would know I'm not a skilled, union electrician.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Crazy Olympics

Well, so much for taking it easy on the couch all week.

My school's spirit week started today, and to kick it off we hosted the crazy olympics last night in the gym. Each grade had its own team, and the staff all came together to form a team as well.  Dizzy bat relays, blindfolded football tosses, tug-o'-war... you name it.

The teachers were more competitive than the kids.  I think I set my recovery back a few days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Post marathon thoughts

Welcome to my living room

I've taken up residence on the couch this week, eaten foods I haven't touched in months, and haven't given running a second thought.  It's been amazing.

The day after the marathon I showed up at school wearing my marathon shirt and limping severely.  I got a lot of congratulations, and had the following conversation with a coworker who has also run 10 marathons:

Coworker: Did you BQ?
Me: Yeah, I ran 3:03:05.
Coworker: There's only one bad thing about that time.
Me: Now I want to break 3 hours.
Coworker: Exactly.

Three years ago I qualified for Boston under the rules in place at the time of my marathon.  Just three months after I qualified, the BAA changed the registration process and lowered the qualifying times, and I never got to run Boston.  I was heartbroken.  I sulked for a bit, but then decided to just suck it up and qualify all over again.  It took three years, but I'm proud that I kept at it and never gave up on the dream.

For three years I got used to saying 3:09 when asked my marathon PR.  That race had felt like such a Herculean task, and I'd never been more proud of myself for achieving what I did that day.  So it's an odd feeling to have lowered my PR by more than six minutes, especially when I'd expressed so much doubt that it was even possible.  

The marathon is a fickle beast.  You train for months and get exactly one chance to make good on your goals.  Anything could happen on race day: extremely hot or cold weather, rain, wind... I could have gotten sick or injured.  I could have gotten to the starting line healthy and just had a bad day.  It's remarkable the factors that go in to performing well.  I consider myself incredibly lucky that things worked out the way they did.

But the idea of a sub 3:00 marathon begs one question: do I feel fulfilled?  Am I content?  For now I have Boston to look forward to (assuming BQ-1:55 is enough to get in), but what happens then?  What happens when we set insurmountable goals for ourselves and then actually achieve them?  At what point can we be satisfied with what we have?

For now I am driven by one burning question: what am I made of?  Boston is only the tip of the iceberg, my friends.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Triumph and handstands

One minute after finishing Sunday's Philadelphia Marathon, I was kneeling on the pavement, eyes tightly shut, gasping for breath.

Three minutes after finishing, I was hobbling through the line for my paltry post marathon rations.

Five minutes after finishing, the thought occurred to me that I'd actually done it.  I'd qualified for Boston after being denied three years ago under the old rules.

Ten minutes after finishing, I was crying and babbling incoherently, wrapped in my wife's arms.

Fifteen minutes after finishing, my mood swung violently as I became surrounded by friends and family and saw the signs and T-shirts they had made for me.  Pictures were taken, hugs were given.  And hell, why not?  A triumphant handstand was performed on the side of Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia, not thirty minutes after completing a marathon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to train for a Boston Qualfier

In case anyone is curious about what my training looked like over the past few months, here's a recap:

(This will be very boring to non-runners)

Returned from my honeymoon in July weighing 146 pounds.  I'd spent a month on the road first in Germany with students and then in Alaska with my wife.  I started training earnestly on July 20th.

I spent many weeks battling heat and humidity.  Stevie and I don't have air conditioning, which probably helped my body acclimate better, but there were some pretty rough days and nights last summer.  I also spent a lot of time doing laps at our community pool down the street.  My long runs topped out at 15 miles.

In September I started school again, so I had to adjust my training schedule to meet work demands.  During the school year I get up at 6am, am at school by 7am, and leave at the earliest by 3pm.  I started bringing my workout clothes to school with me and running right after work.

I ran the Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in 1:31:33.  By the end of September I'd started doing two-a-days; I'd get up at 5am and run 5 miles, then run between 8 and 12 miles after school.  I was up to 73 miles a week when I developed shin splints and had to take a week and a half off and abandon plans to run the Baltimore Marathon.

Once back on track, I kept the mileage between 60 and 65 miles per week and abandoned two-a-days.  I did speed work on the track every Thursday with some pretty serious sprinting, but hardly did any tempo runs.  I did three 20 milers and one 22 miler.  I did incorporate hills whenever I could, and ran the steps at my school's stadium the same days I did sprints.

I ran six days a week, with long runs on Sundays and rest days on Mondays.

I finally started using a Garmin regularly for the first time, but I still never used music on my runs.

In terms of cross training, I rode my bike the four mile round trip to school and home almost every day. I never set foot in a gym, but did lots of pushups, situps, pullups and arm work involving bricks at home.

My taper was two weeks long.

I'd spent a lot of time over the summer debating whether or not to follow an established training plan.  I even considered shelling out the 100 bucks for a special training program from Runner's World.  I wondered if I would be foolish not to follow professional advice when I had such a lofty goal in mind.  Eventually I did what I always do, which is to make it up as I go along, using experience and listening to my body as guidance.  I was entirely self coached throughout this process, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little proud of that.

For my diet I reserved almost as much effort as I did for the physical training.  I cooked and juiced a lot and relied on lots of chicken, pasta, homemade pizza and egg dishes.  I ate a ton of vegetables and fruit, and drank a lot of skim milk.  In the last two weeks before the marathon, I didn't set foot in a restaurant.  By race day I'd managed to shed almost 15 pounds.

It wasn't always an easy process, naturally, but it is certainly nice to look back now and be able to erase the self doubt and worry.  Obviously I ended up making enough smart choices because it all paid off in the end.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

What a day.  What a day.

Ran the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon this morning in a personal record of 3:03:05.  So there's that.

I made my barbecue pizza last night and was in bed by 8:00pm.  Woke up at 4:00am and out the door by 4:30.  Due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon last spring, security had been enhanced and runners were advised to arrive at the course by 5am.  To be honest, security was an absolute joke.  There were multiple security checkpoints, some for runners and some for spectators - why the arbitrary divide when we were all headed right back to the same place?  Once past the checkpoint I could have easily had someone pass me something over the fence.  If someone wanted to do some harm today, the security measures in place wouldn't have stopped them.  While they may have made people feel safer, in truth they were nothing but an inconvenience.

Once close to my corral we sat around for 40 minutes waiting for the race to start.  I took the time to apply bodyglide, tape, and stretch.

Applying Bodyglide at 6:45am.

It was a bit warmer than what I'm used to this morning.  This was my first time opting for just a short sleeved shirt during the race.  It was a cool, slightly humid morning with light breezes, but shortly after I finished the sun came out and the temps picked up.

I started in the maroon corral, right behind the elites.  My plan was to mimic my training in which I started off slow and then built myself up to race pace after a few miles.  Instead, I got caught up in the excitement of the crowd and the pace of the runners around me and ran the first mile in 6:40.  I had the 3:00 pace group in view and rather than back off on the pace, I decided to just go with it as long as I felt ok.

The first half went like this, and I passed the halfway point in 1:29:22 - a half marathon PR - still feeling ok.  I saw Stevie and my dad at the beginning, and Alicia and Brian around mile 6, but missed everyone at mile 13.

I really started to struggle at the 18 mile mark.  The 3:00 pace group started to pull away, and the strain was too much to keep up.  I had gone up to then thinking I was capable of running a BQ, maybe even sub 3, but I started to lose faith at this point.  I picked the pace back up around mile 21.  My friend Tahsin was supposed to meet me at mile 24 to run the rest of the way in, and that's really what carried me that far. Unfortunately Tahsin wasn't there and I knew I had to finish on my own.

Around mile 26 I vaguely heard Stevie and friends call my name as I passed, but I was completely in the zone and could barely acknowledge them.  The finish line never appears when you think it should, and I started to fear I wouldn't make it in time.  Instead I dug deep and managed to finish almost 2 full minutes below the BQ time for my age and gender.

Team Sparteheimer post race.

I openly cried in Stevie's arms when I saw her after hobbling to our meeting point.  I drank some chicken broth, Gatotrade and water and started to feel better, and got a few pictures with everyone.That's where I saw that in addition to signs, she'd made T-shirts for everyone.

Some of the mile splits I drew on my arms.

The shirts Stevie made for everyone.

Stevie and me post race.
One of my favorite signs from the course said: "No Mud.  No Color.  ALL Heart."

Regarding the course, Philly loves to boast that it is a great place to PR due to its flat and fast course (I have now run Philly 5 times and set a PR every time), but others like to complain that it isn't quite as flat as advertised.  Indeed, the hills got to me quite a bit this year.  In other years I barely noticed them, but this year they were a large mental struggle.

I'm lucky in that I never had to stop for the bathroom, nor did I hit the wall in any way.  In past marathons I've felt spasms shoot through my calves or quads, but nothing like that today.  Just overall fatigue.

We stood around the finishing area for awhile taking pictures and swapping stories, laughs, and hugs. Before long some of us headed back to our place where we drank celebratory J├Ągerbombs, then drank beer and ate pizza all afternoon.

Celebratory drinks.

20th anniversary medal.

I'm naturally sore as hell right now, and will be sad when the day comes to an end and I have to take off my medal.  For now I am in incredibly high spirits.

Thanks to everyone.  The support means more than you know.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A dedication

The race is tomorrow morning.  Months of planning and training are going to culminate in one performance.  I could write pages and pages about what is going through my head right now, but there's really only one thing I want to say.

This race is dedicated to my wife Stevie.

I can't imagine it being easy to be married to a marathoner, and I can't thank her enough for all the support she's shown me during this process.

Thank you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Expo

Went to the Expo directly after school today and got to see legendary US marathoner Bill Rodgers speak.  He showed up 15 minutes late, didn't have any notes or a powerpoint or anything, and his speech kind of rambled from anecdote to anecdote, but I still enjoyed hearing him talk.  He obviously has a ton of experience, and his stories were really interesting.

I got a ton of free swag while there, and also had my picture taken for good measure:

I'm wearing my 2005 Philadelphia Marathon shirt.  I got a lot of compliments on it.

2 days until race day!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marathon thoughts

I qualified for the Boston Marathon three years ago in a time of 3:09:45.  In three days I'm attempting another BQ under the new time standard of 3:05.

I have my doubts, just like I did back then.  I struggled over the summer with the humidity, and just when I caught my stride, I had to take a week and a half off in October due to shin splints.  It's weird, this mentality I've had over the past few weeks.  It's like I've been setting myself up to accept not qualifying.  I've already been thinking about what I can do better next year.  I'm pretty sure I'm capable of qualifying, I just don't know that it will happen this year.

I'm not even sure where this obsession with Boston came from, and I'm wondering how I will feel if I actually do make it there someday.  Will it be enough to quell whatever it is that drives me in the first place?

Stevie is coming with me into the city on Sunday morning.  My dad, stepmother, and friends Amy, Brian and Alicia are going to be on the course.  Tahsin is going to meet me at mile 24 and pace me to the finish.  I've got a tremendous amount of crowd support coming, and I'm worried I may not live up to the hype.

On a lighter note, a conversation I had with one of my students today:

Student: Are you going to win the marathon?
Me: No.
Student: Why not?
Me: Because I'm not Kenyan.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A little love

I'm less than a week away from the big day, with anything and everything running through my head. Stevie has been leaving me notes all week - in my jacket pocket, on my laptop - each one noting the days left before the race and offering praise and encouragement.

The note today quoted Corinthians:

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

These notes are touching in a way I can't put to words.  They assuage the inevitable doubts that accompany such an endeavor, reminding me I'm not alone in not just this journey, but in every journey I take in life.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One week

7 easy miles today.  The marathon is exactly one week away.

Then I made beef stew from scratch for dinner.  The recipe called for one can of beer.  I was practically drunk when I finished eating.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

For the birds

Thanks to my lovely wife, I flew a plane today.

Years ago while writing my bucket list, inspired by two of my grandparents who had their pilot's licenses, I added the same goal to the list.  Two months ago Stevie decided to make an introductory flying lesson my birthday present.

So we spent the afternoon at Crosswinds Flight School today.  Stevie sat in the back of the tiny four seater while I sat up front and learned what all the dials and gadgets did.  We cruised at roughly 1,800 feet and the flight instructor had me make several turns.  I found that adding an extra dimension made it very challenging on top of keeping track of all the dials.  I was practically death gripping the controls before handing them over for the descent.

Sadly, I found out that getting a pilot's license would take roughly a year and cost roughly $9,000.  While I enjoyed the experience today, I'd have to be extremely passionate about it to keep at it.

For the time being, I'll just keep spending my hard earned cash on running.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Last track session

I might do another track session next week, but it probably won't be as intense as this afternoon's.

  • 2 mile bike to school track.
  • 5 laps with stadium stairs each lap.
  • 5 minutes jump roping.
  • 5x400 with 400 recovery inbetween each one.
  • 5 minutes jump roping.
  • 5x100 full out sprint.
  • 75 pushups.
  • 100 situps.
  • 10 tricep dips.
  • 10 pullups.
  • 2 mile bike home.

Normally I share the track and field area with the football team, both cross country teams, and the field hockey team, but since we were off school today, there were no practices and I was completely alone out there.

It was cold, in the 40's, with nasty gusts of wind down the backstretch throughout the workout.  I was feeling awfully woozy on the ride home, but also good that I put all I had into each segment of the workout.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Last double digit run

Last double digit run of this training cycle today:

The miles are winding down, and I have to be conscious of winding down on my food consumption as well.

As I've mentioned, I haven't had any alcohol in almost two months.  Stevie also decided to join me in cutting out alcohol out of solidarity.  Even our friends have joined in now.  They came over tonight and we had some good old fashioned sober fun: playing games in the living room while eating chocolate fondue with strawberries and bananas.

At some point we talked about camp, and I mentioned the "Indian" names we all adopted for ceremonies.

Me: I was Chief Runs With Deer.
Alicia: Why was that your name?
Me: Because I spent a lot of time running in the woods where there were a lot of deer.
Brian: I would have been Chief Naps With Cat.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Running quotes

"Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible."

-William Shakespeare
Julius Ceasar

"We are different, in essence, from other men.  If you want to win something, run 100 meters.  If you want to experience something, run a marathon."

-Emil Zapotek

"People can't understand why a man runs.  They don't see any sport in it.  Argue 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

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."

-George Sheehan

Got a favorite running quote?  Let me know.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The taper begins...

Another 20 miler today.

It's gotten to the point where 20 miles doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore.  I think this is how drug addicts feel.

So I've decided I'm going to run my first ultra in 2014.  There's one right in Philadelphia called the "Dirty German Endurance Fest."  It doesn't get better than German-themed racing.

Here's a picture from a portion of today's run:

I love running in the woods, and sadly this picture doesn't quite do it justice.  It was like running in a tunnel of fall.

At any rate, I decided I couldn't do a three week taper and instead will do a two week one.  I'm going to be one of those idiot runners who has trouble trusting the taper instead of embracing the chance to finally relax.

Two weeks until race day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pump it

This is Bryon Pumphrey, alias Pump:

I've been following his blog for several months now.  He's been using the Hanson's Marathon training plan and has been killing it, all in the hopes of earning a BQ.  Just a few days ago, though, he got some pain in his leg checked out and was dealt a hard blow when given the diagnosis of tendonitis and severe shin splints.

His marathon, the Indy Monumental Marathon, was today.  After being told he wasn't at risk of doing any further damage, he decided to run anyway and manage the pain as best he could.

Today he ran the marathon in a personal record of 3:03:50.

His dedication and hard work over the past several months have been nothing short of inspirational, and I'll definitely be thinking of him when I need some inspiration in two weeks.

Well done, Bryon.  I hope you're enjoying your well-deserved rest.
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