Saturday, May 31, 2014

Running in Florida

Down in Florida for the weekend.  Stevie's family lives down here, and so I find myself in the Sunshine State every once in awhile.

I ran 10 miles this morning in what proved to be a teaser for the type of running I'm going to experience this summer.  I was very quickly drenched in my own sweat and had to survive by running into people's front yards and sticking my head in their sprinklers.

Luckily, Stevie's mother has a pool in the backyard.  And a dog.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The streak - day 182

Runner's World has once again issued their challenge for a summer holiday streak starting today, Memorial Day, and lasting until Independence Day.

Only thing is, I never stopped the last holiday streak.  Last fall I started the Runner's World winter holiday streak between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, and just kept going (I technically started on November 26th for a total of 182 days so far).

Let's take a moment to reflect on the idea of streaking, shall we?

  • I love challenges, and this is a relatively simple one.  Minimum one mile of running a day and perhaps an obsessive personality.  That's all it takes to join.  Streaks can be as long or as short as you want them to be.  According to, there is a guy out there who has been streaking since 1969.
  • If I streak for a year, I can get an official certificate from the above website.
  • Every run of the streak so far has been outdoors, even through a particularly heinous winter.  I'm aiming to keep it that way for as long as possible.
  • I never tracked my mileage before this, and only started on January 1st.  I don't know how many miles I've put in during the entire streak, but since Jan. 1st I have logged 781 miles.  I'm aiming to finish 2014 with 2,014 miles under my belt.
  • My original goal was just to streak 2014, but I have a feeling I am going to just keep going into 2015 and beyond.
  • I've heard stories of guys running around airports in business attire just to get their mile in.  I haven't gotten that desperate yet, but there have been a few nights when I've waited until bedtime to run a mile, and it was a real struggle to get outside and get it done.  Also, running after a large dinner and/or several adult beverages make for an interesting running experience.
  • My big race this spring was my first ultra - a 50k - and I managed to get in the training while maintaining the streak and staying injury free.  I think with streaking, flexibility with your schedule and listening to your body are incredibly important. Moving around runs and shortening runs has allowed me to prevent aches and pains becoming something much worse.
  • I have yet to mix streaking with training for a real goal race - one in which I aim for a PR - so I'll be interested to see how that works.
  • If you make certain things a priority in your life, you will always find you have more time than you think you do.
  • Streaking has encouraged me to think ahead.  It actually becomes easier to schedule runs when thinking of other plans, because I don't have to think, "shoot, am I running that day?"  The answer is yes.  Always yes.
  • One of the obvious benefits of streaking is that running becomes a habit that you no longer have to think about.  "Should I run today?"  See above bullet point.  It's just something that you get done every day whether you want to our not.  Kind of like putting on clothes.
  • Should you streak?  Sure.  Get out there and see what you're made of, and let's compare notes in 45 years.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Lazy Sunday today.  8 miles in the morning which puts me at 200 miles for the month already. Then grapefruit-strawberry margaritas on the roof at sunset and conversation with Stevie. Starting off summer right with a nice close to the day.

Margaritas inspired by thugkitchen.  Silver tequila and triple sec mixed with fresh lime, strawberry and grapefruit juices made just before mixing.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Boston - overrated?

Over three years later and I still get comments on the YouTube video I posted of my first BQ.

Not all of them are super positive.

Yes, my YouTube name is buffster85.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Dirty German Endurance Fest 50k: Race Report

Ran my first ultra this morning at the Dirty German Endurance Fest.  By day I am but a mild-mannered high school German teacher, so this race was right up my alley.  There were 3 races on offer today: a 25k, a 50k, and a 50 miler.  I had wanted to go with the 50 miler since last December, but eventually dropped to the 50k because I didn't get in as many miles as I wanted to this winter.  Next year, perhaps...

Located in beautiful Pennypack Park in Philadelphia, the race begins and ends at a small pavillion and is comprised primarily of a 15.5 mile loop through the park.  The majority of the run is in the shade and is gorgeous.  My God, how I love trail running.

Stevie accompanied me to the start.  We arrived at 7am for an 8am start.  It was still a little chilly that early in the morning.

We parked ourselves right by the finish area and pavilion where poor Stevie had to contend with over five hours of German folk music and a man with an accordion.

I decided because the weather was supposed to be cool that I would run without a hydration pack or a handheld bottle.  The aid stations were spaced out perfectly so that this was not a problem.

And let's just talk about aid stations, shall we?  As a marathoner, I'm used to water and Gatorade and the occasional Gu, but at every aid station along this course I was greeted by a veritable smorgasbord of options: cookies, crackers, chips, M&M's, PB&J sandwiches, boiled potatoes, trail mix, and Mountain Dew!  If being an ultrarunner means I never have to see another Gu or Powergel again, then sign me up.

The race itself felt more like just another long run.  There were no spectators at all on the course, and there were long stretches in which I ran completely by myself.  I guess this is par for the course in ultras.

Never having run an ultra before, it's hard to tell what is normal and what is not.  I walked up most of the hills, and wanted to run faster on the straightaways, but was too tired and too sore on the second loop.  Did I not taper enough?  Did I not train enough for the distance involved? Did I not fuel properly?  I managed to save enough gas for the end and was moving pretty quickly in the final few miles, and finished the race at a dead sprint.  My unofficial time was 5:11:32:

You might notice that, according to my Garming, I didn't run a full 50 kilometers.  The loop was supposed to be 15.5 miles, which the 50k people would just run twice.  When I finished the first lap, I noticed my watch only read 14.68.  I was paranoid that I had somehow cut off a section of the course and asked a few others about it during the second half of the race.  I talked to a guy at one of the aid stations who said he made and marked the course himself and guaranteed me it was 50k.  He also let me know that sometimes Garmins can get a little wonky on the course under all the trees and bridges.  I guess I'll take his word for it and claim I ran a full 50k.

I had brought a chair with me and a cooler full of beer to dump into my beer boot, but as soon as I finished it started to cloud over and cool down, and I was too cold to sit in a park drinking beer.  So I went home and had some there.

Here's to a great day of racing, and enjoying the benefits of running long.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Best Race

After running my usual Wednesday night 7 with Who's Up? last night, I walked down the street to Grace Church to attend the South Jersey Running Club's last meeting before the summer break.  Local author Chris Cooper, author of My Best Race: 50 Runners and the Finish Line They''ll Never Forget, was invited to speak about his book.

After the meeting, I downloaded the book to my Kindle (the book is only available in e-book format) and started reading.  It features stories from famous runners like Jeff Galloway and Kara Goucher, as well as average runners, all about what they consider their best race.  The majority of the stories focus not on a PR or a first place finish, but on other, more poignant details that make the race indelible.

It's impossible to read a book like this and not ask myself the same question posed to these 50 runners: what was my best race?

My mind considers dozens of possibilities from over the years.  Was it the 800 I ran in high school track when I pushed myself to the breaking point and collapsed just short of the finish? Was it the 2011 5k in which I broke a 14-year-old PR and won the entire race?  Was it the first race that Stevie ever watched me run in which I set a half PR without even trying?

This might be the easy answer here because it is the most recent, but I think my best race would have to be Philly 2013. Sure, the PR and BQ were great and certainly help make it memorable, but it goes so much more beyond that.  The blood, sweat and tears I put into training make it a proud accomplishment.  The difficulties I overcame while training make it unforgettable.  But it's my wife Stevie that elevates this race to my best ever.

I will never forget the support she showed me, especially in the week leading up to the race. She left me notes of encouragement every day in that week.  She listened to my incessant stream of consciousness of self doubt and complaining.  She abstained from alcohol with me. She made signs and T-shirts for friends and family during race day.  She was with me during the race every time I pressed my fingers together and felt my wedding ring.  And after the race, when we found each other in the crowd, the others held back to give us a moment together. The majority of that race is a blur of excitement and screaming fans and fatigue and mental split calculations, but this is the moment that stands out for me:  wrapped in her arms, crying and mumbling, so happy to have someone to share in my triumph.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Movie Monday: Ginger Runner

In honor of my first 50k coming up this Sunday, here is an amazing video of a 50k over on the west coast:

Shot by a guy who calls himself the Ginger Runner, he carries a camera on a pole the entire race and ends up with some spectacular footage of the Pacific Northwest.  He also composes the music used in the video himself.

My favorite moment in the video is his reaction to one of the biggest waterfalls on the trail at 4:39.  He pauses to take in the beauty and the grandeur of the scene around him, then keeps on chugging though the race.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shortened long run

I was aiming for 25 miles today.  Only made it 17.5.  Around mile 14 I developed sharp pain in my right hip, which then subsided towards the end of the lap at 16.5, but returned in force once I started on what was to be my final lap.  So I made the call to end the run short and finished with 17.5.

I hate that feeling of having to run less than I wanted to on a particular day.  It makes me feel like I'm making mistakes in my training.  Like all the running I've been doing this winter and spring has still failed to strengthen me and toughen me enough to get through a simple 25 mile run.  Because I crave the idea of pushing myself and finding out what I'm capable of, and consequently labeling a 25 mile run "simple."

On the other hand, I have to remind myself that mistakes are inevitable, even with the experience I have accumulated over the years, and gentle fluctuations in weather, diet, sleep patterns, and even moods can all affect training for better or worse.

I've been icing and stretching my hip all day today in the hopes of being ready for my first ultra next weekend.  I'm not going for any time goals, but neither do I want to limp painfully through any portion of the race.  All I want is to finish feeling strong and get myself a beer as quickly as possible.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My local taxidermist

The town where I live was formerly a blue collar town with shops like hardware stores, laundromats, five and dimes, diners, etc.

About 15 years ago the town started to reinvent itself as a hip destination for dining out.  The posh restaurants on the main street have proliferated in recent years, in addition to the little boutiques, yoga studios and thrift stores.

Still, there are some holdouts from the town's past.  Follow the main street long enough, and just before the businesses drop off, you'll find our very own taxidermist.

Just a block away from our apartment: our own local taxidermist

It's always a little startling to be reminded of this shop's existence when Stevie and I walk to get icecream at night.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

A Day of Food.  Teacher Appreciation Week style.

Today, in the high school, parents from the PTA hosted an enormous breakfast for the teachers.  The homec room was filled with decadent egg casseroles and sumptuous french toast, fruit arrangements and rainbows of bagels and accompanying cream cheese.

I filled my plate twice with as much as it would hold and laughed off my co-workers' disbelieving stares.

Because I teach one 8th grade class, I was also invited to the teacher appreciation lunch over at the middle school.  This time I piled my plate with sandwiches and chips and veggies and meats and cheeses.  Also, my 8th graders made me thank you cards.  One of them drew me with a German hat and German flag cape:

After school I staggered to the nearest bar for a happy hour to send off a student teacher we had this semester.  I drank four beers and annihilated half a plate of pizza fries the others unwittingly left too close to me.

Stevie and I live above a Thai restaurant, so tonight we ordered take-out.  I had a full plate of curried chicken and rice and finished it faster than a nun leaving a whorehouse.  Or a whore leaving a nunnery.

I don't typically eat this much in one day, mind you, but it just shows you how hungry I've gotten lately, and just how much food I can put away if I buckle down and believe in myself.

My elbows are still hungry.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday night tempo

Joined the guys over at the Haddonfield Running Company again tonight.  The run is supposed to be 6.6 but I usually bump it up to 7 because apparently I'm OCD about my mileage and don't like decimals.

From the first few seconds of the run tonight I knew I was feeling good, so I decided to kick it up a notch.  Ran the 7 miles - on an intentionally hilly course - in 48:39.

6:57 pace.  Not bad on such a hilly course, and considering I ran 30 miles just three days ago.  If I ever want to break 3 hours in the marathon, I will have to run a 6:50 pace.

After running there was more beer and pizza to be had courtesy of the Woodbury Running Club.  Could definitely get used to this every Wednesday.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

30 miles

This is what I look like after running 30 miles:

The longest run of my life so far.

When I wrote up my 2014 running goals, I decided I wanted to run my first ultra this year.  I'd run 10 marathons, BQ'd twice, and run countless other races, and was looking for a new high challenge.  So I set my sights on the Dirty German Endurance Fest because it's in Philly and I am a German teacher.  

They offer a 25K, a 50K, and a 50 miler all in one day, and I had planned to do the 50 miler. Unfortunately, though, I just didn't get in the miles I needed to due to a rough winter.  So today was supposed to be a test run.  I set my sights on 30 miles, and if I could finish still feeling strong, then I knew I would stand a chance at 50 miles two weeks from now.

Well... It didn't quite go that way.  I made it through the 30 miles, but just barely, and two weeks just isn't enough time to make up the difference.  I took that as a sign and downgraded to the 50K, but it'll still be my first ultra and should still be a fun day.

And a quote from this month's Runner's World:

"Hunger.  That tremendous feeling that makes you simultaneously crave yellow potatoes, apple pie and craft beer vanishes.  When running stops, you're never truly hungry anymore.  You just want to eat.  You don't need to fuel anything.  You just want to taste stuff.  The nonrunner feels hunger in his stomach.  The runner feels hunger in his whole body - the runner's elbows are hungry.  Dinnertime is a lot more exciting with hungry elbows."        - Marc Parent

At mile 16 I asked Stevie to make me an egg sandwich because I was already tired of Gu.  At mile 24 I devoured it in 2 bites.  The hunger is real.

Now it's time for bed.
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