Friday, January 31, 2014

January mileage

My first month of the year is in the books, and it isn't pretty:

I set a goal to run 2,104 miles this year.  To do so, I will have to average 167.8 miles a month.  I only hit 65 this month.

This past week was particularly rough.  End of second marking period + midterms = lots of grading and little running.

I'm trying not to stress too much.  2,014 miles is a pretty arbitrary goal, and it's not like I get anything for it if I succeed, so I don't think I'll beat myself up over it if I don't make it.

Also, I'm planning some big races this spring, so once warmer weather returns, and training picks up again, I should be hitting 200 miles a month easily.  And in the meantime, my running streak will keep me in the habit.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Movie Monday: Somm

Take a moment to review everything you know about wine.

All set?  Good.  Now watch this movie and realize you actually know next to nothing:

I don't know much about wine, myself.  There's a reason this blog isn't called "I Thought They Said Wine."  Other than the obvious fact that it doesn't rhyme with "run."

I know wine comes in red and white and is made from grapes.  I also know that planes fly and yellow snow is not to be eaten.  The truth is, the true scope of wine's dizzying varieties is beyond my grasp, much like wielding the full power of the English language is beyond the grasp of a toddler.

But I loved this movie.

It details the efforts of four young men as they study for and take the exam to become a Master Sommelier, the highest possible ranking in the world of wine.  The exam is given once a year, takes three days, and covers everything under the sun related to wine: history, regions, languages, food pairings, service, theory, etc.  As they say in the film, it's the hardest test you've never heard of.  Since the first exam in 1969, only 214 people have ever passed.

It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I started to draw comparisons to Boston. The worlds of recreational distance running and extreme wine tasting are about as similar as Justin Bieber and Queen Elizabeth, mind you.  But that drive that causes people to see a challenge and be instantly drawn to it is what makes this documentary so relatable. Everyone's Boston is different, but the dedication, sacrifice and hard work it takes to get there are always the same.

What is your Boston?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter running

5 miles in the snow at dusk tonight.  My longest run since the marathon in November.

We got a few more inches of snow today, so the majority of the run was in loose, unpacked snow on top of the snow we already had earlier this week.  I was sliding all over the place the whole run.

And yet I will still take a run in tonight's conditions over running in the miserable humidity from last summer.  Running every day has really forced me to acclimate to winter running in a way I was never able to in the past.  I don't allow myself to not run because it's too cold or there's too much snow.  I just have to suck it up and get out there every single day, regardless of the conditions.

Though I fear being stoned by my fellow NJ citizens for having this view, I will say that I am absolutely loving the intense winter we've been having and hope it continues for many months to come.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I hate running

One of my 8th graders wears this shirt to school sometimes, and I usually pretend to give her a hard time about it when she does.

Today I finally asked her if I could take a picture and put it on my blog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow running

I don't belong to a gym and I don't own a treadmill.  So when I set a goal to run every single day of the year, it is no joke.  I have been streaking since November 26th, and every one of those runs has been outside.

Only one mile today, but one long, hard mile in 4 degrees and a foot of snow.  Running 2,014 miles in 2014 is not going to be easy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day #3

We've been nearly socked in by the level of snow we had today.  It started at around 10 o'clock this morning, so we had a half day today, and I just got the call that school is cancelled tomorrow.  That makes one two-hour delay, one half day, and now three snow days.  After tomorrow, we're all out of snow days for the year and will have to start making them up.

Stevie is now doing an uncanny impression of me from earlier this year when I was complaining how we hadn't had a good snow day in awhile, because now that we keep getting them they keep coming at terrible times (our marking period ends Friday and midterms are next week).

Now she's noticing how I keep track of my years by school year instead of calendar year. Stevie stop reading while I type.

Now she's laughing.

At any rate, the snow has not kept me from running.  I still made it out today for a very cold and windy mile.

It was like Tokyo Drift out there, both in the car and out.

Stay warm my friends.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekend in New York

I've just come back from an amazing weekend in New York City.  The Goethe Institute hosted a weekend seminar for new and newer German teachers all across the country, with a focus on using technology to incorporate authentic resources in the classroom.  I'll spare you the details of the seminar itself, but let's just say they paid for everything as well, including transportation, hotel, dinner at a nice restaurant on Friday night, and a food stipend for Saturday.  As a public high school teacher, I'm not used to feeling so wined and dined.

I brought Stevie along with me for the trip, and we arrived in New York on Friday morning. The hotel was in Lower Manhattan in Soho, and after checking in we had lunch in Chinatown where we were the only white people in the restaurant.  We then headed to the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, which I had never seen before.

On Saturday night we went to see "Matilda" on Broadway, my birthday present to Stevie a few weeks ago.  I am not much of a musical person, but overall I enjoyed this show and can highly recommend it.  Having wanted to see it for months now, Stevie was beside herself the whole show.

After the seminar's conclusion today, I spent the afternoon walking all over Manhattan. Among the highlights: someone had dragged a piano out to Washington Square Park where I enjoyed a concert for a spell.

I had grand plans of going for long runs while in New York, along the river and in Central Park, but both days I woke up too late to run anything longer than two miles.  My route mostly followed Lafayette Street where the hotel was located:

As always, I come home from New York chastising myself for not making it up there more often.  I live so close to one of the greatest cities in the world and I only manage to make it there once or twice a year.

And here is a picture of the crowd.  Someone suggested we pose looking stern and sufficiently German, though a few missed the memo:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flashback Friday: High School Romance

From my junior year scrapbook

When I was a junior in high school, I dated a girl whose idea of romance was me walking her to her class after lunch every day.  I did my best to lovingly oblige, knowing she looked at it as a sweet gesture, but in fact the whole enterprise was just a tad inconvenient.  My class after lunch, you see, was on the other side of the building from hers. With only three minutes between classes, I was somewhat strapped for time as it was.

My next class also happened to be AP German.  Add the fact that I didn't want to let my favorite teacher down, to a teutonic inspired neuroses about being late, and you have a daily battle to get to that class on time.

The solution was to set my watch to the school bell, and through trial and error, I determined exactly how much time I needed to make it from her classroom to the German room.  And so my girlfriend and I would walk leisurely after lunch towards the choir room, then linger outside whispering sweet nothings as teenage couples are wont to do.  But she only ever had half my attention, for my eye constantly darted between my young paramour, and the seconds on my wrist ticking away...

At the appointed time, and with an explosion she came to accept, I took off in a madcap dash through the school.  Leaping down flights of stairs, careening blindly around tight corners, scaring the wits out of stragglers in the hallways, I burst through the door of the German room with a ferocity that never failed to startle my classmates.  My German teacher remained unfazed.  Teenagers, it would seem, could no longer surprise him.

It started as an answer to a question - how can I make the most of every last second afforded me? - and it soon morphed into something more.  A daily challenge, a test of my physical limits.  How close could I cut it and still beat that bell?  While the romance of that spring didn't last, that spirit never left me, and the memory of those runs through school never died.

Some habits die hard.  While I don't sprint wildly around the school anymore - I don't think the administrators would look kindly on that sort of thing - to this day I still time my watch to the bell.  To the consternation of my students, I am able to teach to the last possible second before the bell rings.

And in my races, I still try to retain that same spirit, the one that pushes me to see what I am made of, as if that bell is only seconds away from ringing, and I am still moments away from my classroom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hansons Marathon Method

Last night I went to my first meeting of the South Jersey Athletic Club.  The club had invited Jen Miller, local freelance journalist and high school friend of mine, to speak about her experience training with the Hansons Marathon Method.  Jen also wrote an article for the New York Times last spring on the same topic.

I was only passingly familiar with this training plan, having heard about it through other bloggers and a few articles here and there.  The method was developed by the brothers Hanson several years ago:


Nailed it.

Turns out there are some striking similarities between the Hansons Method and my own, which I've stitched together over the course of 10 marathons.  

  • Running six days a week.  I've done this for just about every marathon and had no idea it wasn't normal.
  • No crosstraining.  In the Hansons Method, they stress that the only way to get better at running is to run.  Screw all the other stuff.  In my plan, this wasn't exactly by design.  I was just usually too tired and lacked the resources to train another way.
  • Running while tired.  The Hansons Method specifically wants you to run tired.  Again, this wasn't by design in my plan.  I usually ran after work after I'd been on my feet most of the day, and was running six days a week anyway so there was little time for recovery.

The biggest differences are the long run, and the amount of speedwork done.  Hansons has you topping out at 16 miles (I topped out at 22), but the miles you do put in are frequently done at race pace.  There's a reason nearly everyone I've known who has done Hansons has used the word "grueling" to describe it.

The reason why I'll continue to stick to my own plan, even as I strive for a sub 3:00 marathon, is because I believe that experience counts for a lot.  After having covered 26.2 ten times over the years, my mind and body have come to understand what that distance requires in terms of strength and tenacity.

The club members, incidentally, were very nice and welcoming, though I was by far the youngest person there.  I plan to keep going to events in the future and become a dues-paying member and hopefully make some new running friends along the way.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Enhanced race security at future marathons

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a writer from Runner's World, asking if she could interview me for an article about the current and future state of marathon security.

That article was published the other day on Runner's World's website.

I had a lot to say, but she could naturally only fit a few quotes into the article, so I thought I would post the entire e-mail interview here.

Age: 32 (I'll be 33 in September)
State: NJ
Number of marathons: 10
Number of Philadelphia Marathons: 5

What did you notice security-wise at the Philadelphia Marathon this year that you hadn't noticed at marathons you've run in the past?

Just a lot more fences.  They were everywhere around the starting area and made getting around very difficult.

And if you'd run Philly before, can you compare 2013 to your past experience there?

This was my 5th time running Philly, previously in '05, '06, '09 and '10.  In the past my dad used to drive me in from NJ and was able to get me just a few blocks from the starting line.  I would usually shoot for a 6:30 arrival for a 7:00 start. This year the race organizers urged everyone to arrive by 5:00 due to the enhanced security.  My wife and I took PATCO in and arrived at the starting area a little after 5.  When we got to the closest security checkpoint, we saw that it was only for runners, and spectators were being directed elsewhere.  But then there were spectators coming back saying they weren't allowed in the checkpoint they had been directed to.  So organization was pretty bad.  And what was the point of dividing runners and spectators in the first place if we were all headed back to the same place anyway?

Eventually I gave my wife my bag and went in through the runners' entrance, then we walked along either sides of the fence to the spectators' entrance a few blocks away.  She could have easily handed me my bag over the fence.  We had read that only liquids in factory-sealed plastic bottles would be allowed in, but she got in with her large coffee cup with no problem. Also, the security people at the spectators' entrance looked like they were in high school, and barely glanced at most peoples' bags.

We then headed for what looked like another checkpoint because there was a super long line, but it turned out there was no security here - the only reason for the long line was due to the fences narrowing and creating a bottleneck.  Finally my wife and I made it to my corral and sat on the curb for 40 minutes waiting for the race to start.

To sum up, enhanced security this year did not make me feel any safer.  It was an absolute joke and was nothing more than a giant inconvenience to runners and spectators.

Did you think that the security measures there were appropriate, or did you think there should be more/less?

Does an event like the Philadelphia Marathon warrant the level of "security" that was present? I don't have a background in law enforcement or counterterrorism, so it's hard to say.  I wasn't privy to all the details, so I don't know the exact statistics.  All I know is it only seemed like there were more fences yet no increase in police officers at the starting area.  I think in the end, the enhanced security there was more to give people peace of mind.  That said, however, the marathon is such a different kind of public sporting event than just about everything else out there.  It is not an environment that can be controlled, with surveillance cameras, locked doors, and specific points of exit and entry that we see in stadiums and arenas.  It is 26.2 miles of outdoor unpredictability.

Did you feel safe at Philly? Was feeling safe a concern of yours?

Yes, I did feel safe at Philly, but not necessarily due to the enhanced security.  The thought did cross my mind that something could happen, but only in the same sense that I sometimes sit on a plane and think it could crash.  Yes, it is a possibility, but ultimately a statistically improbable one, and I can't live my life fearing every single thing out there just because it could happen.

Has security factored into the decisions you've made about which marathons to run?

No, it hasn't.  Most marathons I have my eye on are likely too small anyway to attract the attention of any would-be bomber/assassins/wackos out there anyway.

How likely is it to factor into your decisions about the marathons you will run in the future? For example, could you imagine not wanting to run a given marathon because the logistics, due to security measures in place, become too much of a hassle?

Again, I compare it to flying.  We live in a changed world after 9/11, and now if you want to get from point A to point B in a hurry, you just have to accept that airport security is what it is now, and just put yourself through the many annoyances of it and hope for the best.  I just qualified for Boston, and also hope to run other big city marathons like Berlin, Chicago and New York someday, and the additional inconveniences of security will just have to be a part of those overall experiences.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to enjoy cold weather

Stevie and I spent last night at the Skytop Lodge, an old school resort out of Dirty Dancing in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.  The night's stay had been a present from Stevie's father for her birthday yesterday.

We stayed in one of the stream-side cottages next to the main building, and at the end of the night, I came up with the brilliant idea to roll around in the snow in my boxers.  You, know, because what better way to deal with 3 degree weather, right?

Then I sprinted back to the room to get into the hot shower.

Me: This is what they do in Scandanavia!  Back and forth between the sauna and the snow!
Stevie: Yeah but we're not in Scandanavia!

What can I say, I'm a man of extremes.

This morning we woke up to a temperature of 0 degrees.

While not the coldest temperature I've ever experienced, (that would be -22 in 2004 when I was a ski instructor in Maine), it was certainly the coldest temperature I've ever experienced while running.

I did 1.5 miles and could have gone longer, but had to get back and change before the breakfast buffet was put away.  Heaven forbid.

We rounded out the day with a walk around the lake and some reading in the main lodge.

Don't tell Stevie, but I hope summer never comes.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow day!

A snow storm rolled in last night and school was called off today.  The announcement came about 9:30 last night, so it was nice going to bed knowing I had a three day weekend, even if we did just have nearly two weeks of vacation for Christmas.

Woke up this morning to a winter wonderland and ran 1.5 miles, then took a picture on the roof for good measure.

Snow day!
Most people in New Jersey will bitch to the end of days about the cold, preferring the hot days of summer and the Jersey Shore.

Me?  I live for weather like this.  I spent a winter in the Bavarian Alps.  I went to college in Maine.  I spent the winter after graduating as a ski instructor at Sugarloaf where temps regularly went below 0.  I will run all day long in weather like this.

It's also Stevie's birthday today.  We're headed to a swanky mountain resort tonight up in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

Also, the giveaway ends today.  A grand total of two people left comments on that post, and the winner is Kim, who in 2014 wants to run a half and full with her daughter, as well as set PR's in various distances.  Kim, send an e-mail with your address to spartenheimer [at], and I'll send the book out to you sometime next week.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holiday Streak: Done

Winter break in a nutshell:

Lots of sitting on the couch and reading during the day, watching movies at night.  Tomorrow it's back to the grind.

Today I finished the Runner's World Holiday Streak with a simple 1.5 mile run.

Of course, I'm planning to just keep going and streak all of 2014.  I'm also planning to hit 2,014 miles, and will keep track of each day's total on a calendar.  

Only 2,012.5 to go.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...