Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 revisited

Let's start off by revisiting my running goals and resolutions for 2014:

1. Run 2,014 miles: Uncompleted.  I derailed at the end of August when Neale was born.  I was upset for a bit but I just joined a formal challenge to attempt 2,015 miles in 2015, so I'm just excited to have another go at it, but this time with a whole online community for support.

2. Make more running friends: Completed.  I joined both the South Jersey Athletic Club and a more informal Wednesday night running/beer group called Who's Up.  I love the guys in the latter group and look forward to seeing them each week.

3. Run a Tough Mudder with friends: Uncompleted.  Hope to do a Spartan Race this year, with or without friends.

4. Run a spring marathon: Uncompleted.  Almost ran the Providence Marathon but couldn't get my act together in time to organize hotel/transportation.

5. Run my first ultra: Completed.  Ran the Dirty German Endurance Fest 50k on May 18th. Was really a wonderful race and nice introduction into the world of ultras.  Hope to do more in the coming years.

6. Run across the state of NJ: Uncompleted.  This one has been on the list for years, but I still didn't get to it this year.

7. Run a sub 3:00 marathon: Uncompleted.  This was my goal before I knew Stevie was pregnant and was due in August, but I still included it on the list.  Why not dream big, right?

8. Run a beer mile: Completed.  Ran one on June 21st with Stevie in attendance.

9. Complete my first triathlon: Completed.  Completed the Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon on August 10th.

10. PR my half marathon time: Uncompleted.  I might have stood a chance at this one if I had been able to run the Rock n' Roll Half in September like I do every year, but this year I had a wedding to go to that weekend.

11. Streak 2014: Completed.  I ran 6 miles this morning, and with that, I have officially run every single day of the year.

That makes me 5 out of 11 for my goals this year.  Most of the goals I missed this year I'm just going to put onto my list of goals for 2015, and I'll add a few more to the list.  I'll post about that soon.

In terms of running, 2014 was a great year.  After running my 10th marathon in 2013 and my second BQ, I was looking forward to expanding my running horizons in 2014, and I definitely managed that. I streaked the entire year.  I joined two running clubs and connected more with the running community in my area.  I ran my first ultra, my first triathlon, and my first beer mile. I went to a whole running festival and ran a half marathon with the editors of Runner's World. Despite missing several goals, it was still an amazing year, and I'm looking forward to getting even better in 2015.

Outside of running, I traveled all over New England with Stevie, to Minnesota to visit my sister, to Florida to visit in-laws.  I started my 4th year of teaching high school German and gained tenure at the start of this school year.  Stevie and I moved into a new place over the summer.

But honestly, when talking about 2014, it's hard to mention anything other than the birth of my son.  Between Stevie's pregnancy, and the birth itself and the subsequent months of parenthood, it is easy to say that Neale utterly dominated 2014.  I have learned so much about myself, about what it means to be a father, a husband, and a person since he was born.

2014 really was a great year, and here's hoping 2015 is even better.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas in the Keys

Being married to a woman from Florida has its advantages, including but not limited to getting to spend Christmas in the Florida Keys.

I'm not one of those annoying New Jerseyans who bitches and moans about the cold weather all winter, but damned if it isn't nice coming down to the tropics in December.  I was too busy drinking cocktails by the water and swimming and running on the beach and eating amazing seafood to miss Christmas up north.

Here are a few more pictures to make you more jealous:

Neale and Stevie at dusk.

Sunrise on our final morning.
My mother-in-law thinks of everything, including bringing an inflatable Christmas tree to the Keys.

My second time in the Keys, and the second time we failed to make it to Key West, or to get my picture in front of the Marathon sign.  At least I found this in a gift shop.

This is now the picture that comes up on my phone when my father-in-law calls.

Dinner on our final night in the Keys.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The importance of stretching (?)

Suze came over tonight so I could help her with a homework assignment.  She's currently getting her MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and had to test someone in different areas of speed, flexibility and agility.  That's how I ended up doing sprinting drills in my driveway tonight:

I had to start in the middle, then sprint to the right, sprint to the left, then sprint back across the middle.

You know, the usual Monday night activities.

This assessment is actually meant for baseball players, not marathoners.  Suze told me they haven't gotten to the point in her class where she can assess marathoners, so baseball speedwork it is.

We then went inside where Suze had me do all sorts of stretches to measure my flexibility, and she learned just how ridiculously unflexible I am.  I can't touch my feet when I bend over and keep my legs straight.  Not even close.  I've always been like this, despite being both a gymnast and a diver  in my youth.  This all led to a debate on the importance of stretching for distance runners.

When I first started running in high school, I stretched religously before each run.  I never enjoyed it, but just saw it as a necessary part of training, because that's what everyone believed.  In recent years, however, research has told us that cold, static stretching not only doesn't help us as much as we thought, but can actually be damaging.  If any stretching should be done, it should be dynamic stretching after a brief warm up.

But I actually don't stretch at all.  Before a big race I might do some sort of warmup routine, but that has more to do with calming nerves than preventing injury.  I've obviously been successful enough without it, but Suze believes I could go even faster if I stretched properly.  I believe that stretching will make more flexible, but not necessarily faster.

The tightness in my muscles seems relegated to my hamstrings, which Suze believes may be due to an imbalance between my hamstrings (the back of my thigh) and my quadriceps (the front of my thigh).  They may not even be tight, just overpowered by the quads.  An orthopedist once told me I had overdeveloped quads, so this seems like a possibility.

We'll see how training goes over the next few months, and if I want to add in a stretching routine or not.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 Boston Marathon training plan

It's December 20, 2014.  This puts us at exactly four months away from the 2015 Boston Marathon, and four months is typically when I begin a marathon training plan.

I'll mention first that I'm not planning to PR at Boston.  The goal is to train hard this winter and arrive at the starting line fit, healthy and confident, and to enjoy race day and its atmosphere. Training intensely through a dark and cold winter with a baby at home, and racing on a more difficult course than Philly, all add up to more stress than I'd like over the coming months.

Here is the plan for the next four months, which will be pretty similar to my usual marathon routine:
  • I will continue the streak for as long as I am healthy and able.
  • Sundays will be my long run day, and Mondays will be my rest day in which I will only run a mile.
  • I used to do sprint work on the track every Thursday, but because I am not attempting a PR, I may not do this as much.  I hate sprinting.
  • I will definitely scale back on the alcohol, but probably not cut it out completely.  Can't give up on my Wednesday night running buddies, can I?
  • I am toying with the idea of running a 100 mile week.  This was one of my goals while training for the Philly Marathon last year, but I only made it to 73 before I developed shin splints in one leg.  This time I'll build up to it a lot more slowly.
  • I'm going to do my best to become a morning runner.  This is something I've typically struggled with over the years.  I've just never been good at getting up earlier than I have to.
  • As usual, I will concentrate on refining my diet and reigning in my appetite.
It's been over a year since my last marathon (though I did do a 50k last May), and I'm looking forward to having a physical goal to work towards again.  It helps that it's the Boston Freaking Marathon that I'm working towards.  So much of my time and energy over the past several years have gone into this one goal, so all the pain and misery of marathon training become secondary in the mind to the thought of race day glory (<-- new band name).  This makes it so much easier to get out the door on a cold morning, or to do that extra lap of sprinting on the track, or to avoid the extra donuts in the teachers' lounge, or to get to sleep early when I want to stay out later.

All told, it's going to be an excellent few months around these parts.

Take us off, Shalane.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Instant Gratification Run

The racing scene in America just got its newest addition, and where else but right across the river in the City of Brotherly Love.

Introducing the newest gimmick in racing:

It's called the Philly 0.0 Instant Gratification Run, and it's a race that involves no running whatsoever. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional race: participants receive race shirts, they're timed, and age group awards are given out.  But once participants pin the bib on their shirt and line up at the starting line, they simply cross the line and head straight for the after party.

As it says on their website: "All the fun, none of the committment!"  


More like: "All the gimmicks, none of the glory."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who's Up Christmas party

7 miles last night at the Haddonfield Running Company, then on to the Who's Up Christmas party at the Irish Mile.

Most of us wore our club T-shirts for the outing, and we took over a corner of the bar where we quaffed beers and discussed the need for a second printing of shirts, upcoming 2015 races, and of course beer.

From the Who's Up crew to you, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 Nuun Ambassador

I'm pleased to be able to share a recent development from the headquarters of I Thought They Said Rum: I just found out today I was selected to be a member of Nuun Hydration's 2015 Ambassador Program.

For the uninitiated, Nuun is a Seattle-based company that produces drink tabs that add both flavor and electrolytes to plain water.

Every year Nuun partners with bloggers/athletes around the country.  These blogger/athletes are asked to share Nuun on their social media outlets, and in return they are given the opportunity to race with Nuun at select races, as well as free and discounted Nuun gear.

So what does this mean for the blog?  It means I'll be sharing the occasional post about Nuun or the occasional picture of me drinking it/wearing Nuun gear.  Now, if you're a long time reader, you'll know I'm a bit wary of product placement on the blog.  But I don't mind writing about products I believe in when the opportunity arises.  Nuun makes a solid product, and from everything I've read about the company itself, it is a fun and innovative company that I am now happy to work with.

One of my goals in 2014 was to make more running friends, and I am planning to expand upon that goal in 2015.  I want to put myself out there more in the running community, both in my immediate area and online.  I'm hoping to revamp the blog, start a Twitter dedicated to running, and reach out to both runners around the country as well as unique running-related companies.  

Stay hydrated, friends, and here's to an incredible 2015.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cold weather running

Last Wednesday a reporter and photographer showed up to our weekly run to do a story on cold weather running.

The article was published today in the Courier Post.

It's all about why running in the winter is actually ideal, why you should favor the outdoors over a treadmill, and how to suit up for harsher conditions.

The photographer got several shots of us standing outside of the store, and then made us start the run twice so he could get the shot from two different angles.

"Hurry up!  We've got beer waiting for us!"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 Beer Mile World Championships

Someone finally took notice of the growing popularity of beer miles and decided to make it legit.

While most beer miles are run under the cover of darkness to avoid open container laws (or if you're like me, in the middle of the afternoon with kids around), and without much fanfare, the Austin-based company Flotrack decided to add a little pomp and circumstance to the event.

Flotrack recruited the best beer milers in the world and added professional timing, media coverage, prize money, and lots of screaming fans to the event.  To run in the main event, one had to qualify, but fortunately they allowed an open heat in order for the general public to join in on the debauchery.

The Beer Mile World Championships was held last night in Austin, TX, and Corey Gallagher of Canada won the men's race in 5:00.23, just a few seconds off the world record.  Elizabeth Herndon of USA set a world record and won the women's race in 6:17.76.

Now I can't wait to do another beer mile.  In the meantime, here's the video of the men's race:

Watch more videos on Flotrack

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tis the season for Christmas beers

Amazing night of running and beer down at the Haddonfield Running Company tonight.

A reporter and photographer from the Courier Post came out for a story on cold weather running.  The photographer had a giant camera and two separate flashes set up on tripods outside of the store.  He was a bit dismayed at how relatively warm it was and how most of us were wearing shorts and T-shirts and was trying to position those of us with hats and gloves towards the front.  We joked that he should just photoshop heavier clothes on us and cover up our bare legs with three feet of snow.  The story is supposed to run next week on Monday.

My mileage and motivation have dipped to the point of seven miles becoming a struggle, but I handled tonight well enough.  Normally I run alone for the majority of the seven miles, but tonight a large group of us stuck together for awhile and we joked about being just like the lead pack of elite runners in a marathon.

It was my turn to bring the beer this week.  I decided to ring in the Christmas season with a round of Christmas beers (and the odd pack of Miller for those unadventurous folk):

The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  Just when I was getting sick of pumpkin beers, in come these wonderful spice soaked ABV bombs to remind me just how much I love Christmas beers.

We have a Texas transplant in the group who was overjoyed that I brought Shiner. Meanwhile, the Great Lakes and Southern Tier were the greatest things I've tasted since... No.  Nothing tastes as good as these beers.

Happy running to you, friends, and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November mileage

The year, so far, in miles run:

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170
August: 144.2
September: 100
October: 131.5


Ooph.  So many ones this month.  Realizing that I wasn't going to hit 2,014 miles this year, and that I wasn't going to run the Philly Marathon, and the encroaching darkness/cold all left me with a distinct lack of motivation to get in the miles beyond the requisite daily mile.

Only 75.1 miles this month.  My shortest total since January.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 Haddon Twp. Turkey Trot

Over 900 participants showed up this morning for Haddon Township's 8th annual Turkey Trot, including a few of my students and some guys from my Wednesday night running club.

The chance to show up all of my teenage students and get a free breakfast afterwards?!  It doesn't get better than that.

It was 28 degrees when I got to the Pour House around 8:30am to meet my dad, and after much deliberation decided to wear just a long sleeved shirt for the race.  Only my hands suffered; the rest of my body was ok.

This was only my second race of the fall season and my first 5k in almost four months, so I told myself I would be happy just breaking 20 minutes.  I didn't bring my Garmin, and there weren't any clocks on the course, so I had no idea what my pace was throughout.  I was just trying to run hard and pick off runners ahead of me, which is usually my strategy for shorter races.

Around mile 2, I heard someone approaching over my left shoulder.  As he sidled up next me, I glanced over and made eye contact with a 12-year-old boy.  His breathing was erratic and heavy, and I inwardly grinned.  Time to make him really hurt, I thought.  I picked up the pace, which he matched, but it wasn't long until he fell behind again.  I took out a few more runners in the homestretch, and finished gasping for breath.

Final stats:

28th overall
5/30 in my age group

I inhaled a bottle of water, a breakfast sandwich and a donut and then stood by the finish waiting for my dad.  He finished in roughly 41 minutes after a recurring injury in his lower leg forced him to walk the majority of the course.

With my dad after the race.

After the race I headed back home to resume fatherhood duties.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving

One mile run this morning.  Year 2 of the run streak begins...

Thanksgiving, like most of our family holidays, was celebrated over in Pennsylvania at my step-sister's place where she puts on an amazing spread.  So amazing I forgot to take a picture of my plate this year.  My contribution was a homemade loaf of pumpkin bread (yes I like to bake), and a cooler full of fall beers.

Everyone made a fuss over Neale, Neale did his best to make sense of it all, we stuffed ourselves with  turkey and numerous side dishes (and I somehow convinced myself to avoid taking seconds), we talked and laughed and bonded.

From my family to yours, happy Thanksgiving.

And bring on the Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It was a cold and miserable day today.  Rain, sleet and snow pelted South Jersey all day, but I still hauled myself outside for a run, just like I've done every day since November 26, 2013. Yes, today marks the one year anniversary of my run streak.

I was just coming off an amazing race this time last year when I thought I needed a new challenge.  Enter Runner's World's holiday run streak.  Run at least a mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.  I started two days before Thanksgiving and never stopped, and don't plan to anytime soon.

I don't know the exact number of miles, but I estimate it to be around 1,500.  Every single one of those miles was outside.  I ran in temperatures as low as 0 degrees.  I ran in a foot of snow. I ran every day leading up to my first ultra.  I ran the day my son was born after getting only a half hour of sleep the night before.  I ran barefoot on the beach.  I ran in the woods.  I ran mostly on streets and sidewalks.

And here I am completing a year of running, with many more to come:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Movie Monday: 2014 NYC Marathon

Want to know what it's like to run the biggest marathon in the world?  Here's a great ground-eye view of the 2014 New York City Marathon shot from the middle of the pack:

2014 TCS NYC Marathon from Eric R on Vimeo.

I just found Eric Rayvid's blog "Dirty Old Sneakers" the other day by way of a race report he wrote on last year's Philadelphia Marathon.  He's based in New York City and offers a great perspective on the running (and cycling) scene up there.

And he just had a son too.

Go check him out here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday 8 miler

I only have so many beautiful Sunday afternoons left in which to knock out a decent run, so I wanted to take advantage of it today.  Soon I'll be breaking out the wool hat, the running pants, the layers and layers of long sleeved shirts, and even the old ski goggles.  But for now I managed to get in 8 miles in pretty perfect conditions.

Training for the 2015 Boston Marathon is slated to start in about a month, and I want to go into it with a solid base.  My run streak is helping me keep up the habit, and going semi-long on Sundays is helping keep up the base.

I'll write a more specific post about what my Boston training will look like, but for now I can assume it will mimic training plans of the past: running six days a week, long runs on Sunday and rest day Monday (though I will still run a mile to maintain the streak), no alcohol, etc.

I know it will be tough training over the winter, but it's also been over a year since I've trained hard for something (I don't even feel like I trained that hard for the ultra last spring), so I'm looking forward to a training lifestyle again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One year ago...

... I crushed it at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.

November 17, 2013

Months of hard work culminated in a PR of 3:03:05.  All for one goal: Boston.

A year later, both the confirmation e-mail and postcard have arrived, and we are currently 154 days out from the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Made the cut.

But it's kind of weird, if you think about it.  All that hard work really only earned me... more hard work.  Because the race is in the middle of April, the bulk of my training will be during the long, cold winter months here in New Jersey.

Was running Philly last year merely the prologue, with Boston as the main event?  Or was Philly the journey, with Boston as the proverbial icing on the cake, a sweet victory lap?

Yes, I'm excited for Boston, but as the temperature drops and the days get shorter, I can't help but think of the long road ahead of me.  One most likely filled with a lot of snow and ice.

I hope y'all follow along, because I know the next few months are going to be interesting.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Does the Philadelphia Marathon need fixing?

Excellent piece yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer by high school friend Jen Miller:

It should be noted that I love the Philly Marathon.  I've run it five times and set a PR every time.  It was my first marathon back in 2005, and my most recent.  I love it for the memories I have, I love it because it is my hometown race, and I love it for its size - big enough to feel special but without the insanity and logistics of races like in New York and Chicago.  So I was unaware that it needed fixing.

But Jen makes some excellent points.  The half and full should be separated and run on separate days. The half was only introduced in 2009 and has since begun to dilute the experience of the full, so it's time to return to the basics and give the full the attention it needs.

Jen also mentions that the race is run out of the Mayor's office, and there is no reason what should be the premiere event of Philly's racing season should not have its own staff and race director.  There is no reason this race should not be selling out well in advance after years of doing so, and when so many marathons around the country continue to do so.

So how can it return to "sell-out shape"?  Concentrate on the runners.

If you want to attract more runners, start with the elites.  The winner of the Philadelphia Marathon receives a mere $3,500.  For comparison, the Houston Marathon, mentioned in the article, doles out $40,000 to its winner.  Money talks, and the more prize money offered, the better the elite field.  With a more varied elite field of high profile runners, including speaking and signing engagements at the expo, it's possible this will energize the middle and back-of-the-packers.

The course could definitely use an upgrade.  There is a little nub around mile 17 that detours across the Falls Bridge, down a hill, hangs a complete 180 in the middle of the street, then back up the hill and across the bridge again.  Completely unnecessary.  And the stretches up and down the Kelly Drive do get pretty lonely (though without the twists and turns of downtown, it does let runners settle into a consistent pace and essentially run on cruise control for a bit).  In order to increase crowd support, they should keep the course in the city's residential areas allowing for easier access to the course.

Finally, runners need better amenities.  I hate finishing the marathon and finding nothing more than a green banana, some pretzels and chicken broth.  Make the finish line a celebration of the marathon itself and give me a reason to stick around.  Provide a post race beer and/or a concert, and I'll hang out around all afternoon.

At the end of the day, I've never run a big city, world class marathon, so it'll be interesting to gain some comparison once I run Boston this spring.

Have you run Philly?  What would you change?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My first marathon

Another 7 miles with Who's Up? over at the Haddonfield Running Company tonight.  Within the beer selection afterwards was this gem:

It's a coconut caramel chocolate brown ale, and it is everything you hoped for and more.

Afterwards I went to the monthly meeting for the South Jersey Athletic Club.  Normally they have some kind of guest speaker at every meeting, but because the Philly Marathon is coming up, and a lot of club members are running it as their first marathon, the club president thought it would be fun to have other members talk about their first marathon.  I volunteered to be one of the speakers and brought along this picture for show and tell:

My first marathon was at the 2005 Philly Marathon.  I'd always wanted to run a marathon after hearing about my dad's seven marathons in his day, and I finally bit the bullet after hearing about a friend who had just run her first a few months prior.

I had no idea what I was doing and didn't train very well for it.  My legs started cramping as early as mile 16, and I walked long stretches afterwards.  I finished in 4:29 and was immensely proud of myself, and spent something like $80 on this special frame.  I'm really glad I have this souvenir, especially since I've now run 10 marathons.  It's a nice way to commemorate my first.

It started as a bucket list item, but after finishing I knew I could do better.  So I signed up the next year and ran 4:12.  All told I've now run Philly five times and PR'd every time.  I'm hoping to run it next year and break the three hour mark.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

5 miles at the Cooper

It's been a long time since Suze has put in an appearance on the blog.  We met through blogging back in 2011 and were running/racing buddies for awhile, but she has since developed chronic ailments in her hips and legs and has had to back off running.

It finally occurred to me that if she was comfortable riding a bike, we could still do our usual jaunt around the Cooper River, just a little modified.  So I rode my bike to the Cooper this morning, about a mile away, at 8am, and gave my bike to Suze who then rode 5 miles with me while I ran.  It was the coldest morning yet this fall, and we finished in about 39 minutes.

To show my gratitude for waking up so early to work out with me, I made her pose for a picture.  But then we went back to my place for a giant breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon.

Suze: (Seeing how fast I eat) You should get into competitive eating.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The meaning of running

Running is a simple sport, so I've often wondered about the tendency of runners to assign so much meaning to it in comparison to other sports.  Maybe I just don't read enough Sports Illustrated or ESPN Magazine, but it seems like there is an incessant amount of YouTube videos, articles and blog posts equating a Sunday morning long run to the meaning of life.

I am guilty of this myself.  Take the time I wrote about passion, or the time I compared my current self to my 16-year-old self.  Or the entire videos page of this blog.  And just a few months ago I wrote, "But when I push myself to my breaking point to see what I am made of, I experience a visceral connection to my natural surroundings, to the athletic world, and to my own being."  It seems there is always some life lesson to be learned on the road, no matter how tangentially related to running, and more than enough people willing to write about them.

When I qualified for Boston for the first time at the age of 29, there was the temptation to describe this event as The Most Meaningful Event of My Life, which made not getting to run Boston all the more heartbreaking.  The sequel came last year when I replicated this feat while bringing my PR down by 6 minutes.  The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part II.

In short, running has meant a lot to me over the years.  It has given me strength, both literal and figurative, and at no other time do I feel as spiritual as when I am running in nature.  

All this to say I've been coming to a slow realization this fall: running doesn't matter like I thought it once did.  My runs have been slow and forced, my mileage has drooped, and I haven't learned a single life lesson in months.  This is all related to becoming a father at the end of August.  Because when you witness the miracle of birth and all of the raw emotion that surrounds it, nothing else seems to matter.

You want to talk about pride?  Pride is no longer running some distance faster than I ever have before.  Pride is making my son smile for the first time.  It's rocking him to sleep when he's been crying.  It's standing next to my wife, looking down at him as he sleeps, and thinking, "we made that."

You want to talk about heartbreaking?  Heartbreaking is no longer not getting to run some race.  It's looking into the confused, teary eyes of my son when he's been crying for an hour, and this time not being able to do anything to comfort him.

Maybe I'm simply in a rut caused by fatigue, the frustrations of parenthood and giving up the Philly Marathon this fall.  Maybe things will pick up with training in the winter and Boston will be The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part III.  But right now in this moment, this face is more meaningful than any race I have ever done, and any I am likely to do:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Running distilled

Pictures from the Runner's World Half are in, and there's one that I really like:

This was in the homestretch of the race, that part of a race when the crowd gets bigger and the finish line finally comes into view, when you feel a surge of emotion and pride and enjoy it all even more for the hard work it took to get here.

In the case of this race and photo, the hard work didn't result in a PR.  But the hard work over the past few months was not limited to only running.  This was my first race since becoming a father, and that finish line after a tough race and a tough few months came to symbolize all the hard times I've overcome.

I love this picture because it so perfectly sums up everything I feel about running.  I'm what you might describe as a serious runner.  I do it all: hill work, speed work, tempo runs, cross training, you name it.  I put in extraordinary effort to achieve rather arbitrary goals with only intrinsic rewards.   With only the number on the clock as a reward, sometimes it's nice to have a reminder that there is more to it.

I wasn't even mugging for the cameras in this photo.  I was simply caught up in the moment and leaving it all out on the course.  And if I can't run a PR, I will take this as a close second.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Mileage

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170
August: 144.2
September: 100

And October:

131.5 miles this month.

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:

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