Monday, June 30, 2014

June mileage

January: 65
February: 131
March: 174
April: 201
May: 237

146 miles for June.  I had planned to scale back a bit to accommodate the end of the school year, the onslaught of summer heat, and to rest after an intense spring.

Here's hoping I can adjust to the heat enough to pick up the mileage again in July.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

At the drive-in

The drive-in was first invented in Camden, NJ in 1933, just down the road from where I live now.  Though the drive-in flourished in the 1950's with America's new addiction to the car and its first taste of disposable income, it has been in decline ever since the 1970's.  There remains but one drive-in in the entire state of New Jersey, The Delsea Drive-In down in Vineland, about a 45 minute drive away.

I try to make it there at least once every summer.  As I've mentioned before, I love movies, and love the drive-in even more.  When I drove across America in 2007, I went to as many as I could, and wrote about my experience at the Getty Drive-In in Michigan.

I love the atmosphere of kids playing in the waning light, the smell of the snackbar wafting over everything, watching a movie from the comfort of my own car, and just getting to experience a slice of Americana... I generally don't care what the drive-in is playing.  I'm in no matter what.

But last night was a special night:

The chance to see such a classic of American cinema, the original summer blockbuster, at a drive-in?!  It doesn't get better than that.

Oh wait, you mean the Delsea Drive-In does a double feature every night, and the second movie was Transformers: Age of Extinction?!

I was in heaven last night.

Brian, Alicia, Stevie and I arrived around 7:30, over an hour before sunset, and had dinner at the snackbar which has a surprisingly good selection.  We then played cards in the back of our car while waiting for the sun to set.

I had never actually seen Jaws in its entirety, and seeing it at a drive-in lived up to all my expectations.  One of the highlights of my summer so far.

Transformers... not so much.  I love big dumb explosion movies, but this one was pushing it even for me.  Save yourself the time and money and see something else.

Want to experience the drive-in yourself?  Check out the website for a list of active drive-ins in your state.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pineland Striders Independence 10k Race Recap

10k out at my old stomping grounds in Medford, NJ this morning.

I had debated signing up for a long time because I'm trying to take it easy this summer and not burn myself out from running.  But the desire to compete pulled me out of bed and out to the Pine Barrens for one last hurrah.  The race consisted of a 5k and a 10k and a few hundred runners showed up.

Less than a half mile into the race, a giant moving truck started to back into the lead pack of runners.  It was pandemonium as they pounded on the back of the truck and yelled at the driver while the driver just laughed his head off at all of us.

The race ran by the camp where I used to work, into the neighborhoods of million dollar homes owned by Philadelphia professional athletes, and back into the Pine covered yards of more average-sized homes.

At the halfway point, one of the volunteers yelled at me that I was one place away from the top ten.  It awakened in me a sense of competition that, despite the sunburn from the previous day's surfing and the near burnout from running too much in the heat and humidity of the past few weeks, convinced me to pick up the pace.  I started to catch up with a few of the runners ahead of me.

The final half mile crossed open fields on the campus of Shawnee High School and finished on the track.  On the track I found one more runner and gave everything I had left to pass him in the homestretch.

Running fast hurts.  This is nothing new to most people.  Taking it slow today and telling myself that it's just a small local race would have been easy, but it's the feeling at the end of the race that I am addicted to.  Getting up super early for races is not fun.  Paying for races is not fun.  The pain of trying to keep up an uncomfortable pace is not fun.  But when I've just crossed the finish line, and I'm keeled over sucking in air like I just might die, knowing I raced as best I could, well, that is why I do these races.

I must have passed 5 guys in the second half of the race, and finished in 9th place overall. Either that volunteer couldn't count, or he was simply trying to motivate me by flat out lying to me.  My cross country coach in high school used to do the same thing.


9th overall (out of 99)
1st in age group

Met up with Elizabeth at the race, a woman I'd met a few years ago when we both won the Collingswood Book Festival 5k and received absurdly large trophies for such a small race:

2011 Collingswood Book Festival 5k winners

Elizabeth won the 5k, and though I won my age group today, we joked that I was slacking this year by only winning my age group and not the whole race.  Came so close to replicating the photo from 3 years ago!

I got a medal and a $35 gift certificate to the Haddonfield Running Company (redeemable with $70 purchase).

Overall a great race today, and one I can recommend!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Surfin' bird

Stevie and I went down the shore for the first time of the season today, and I finally managed to try surfing for the first time in my life.  Ocean City, NJ is not known for monster waves, so it's a nice place for beginners.

Took a lesson with 7th Street Surf Shop for an hour, then had the board for another half hour to myself.

When I was a ski instructor years ago, during my downtime I taught myself how to snowboard. I only ever got good enough to slowly make my way down blue trails.  Well... surfing was just as difficult.  Standing up and balancing were easy enough, but knowing how to read the waves and when to paddle and stand up were what made it so challenging.

There were brief moments when I could really see the appeal of surfing, when I felt so in tune with the water and my board, but it would probably take me an entire summer of practicing before I would start to enjoy it on a regular basis.

I'll probably try it again this summer, but for now, I'll just stick to running.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer 2014 No Frills Just Thrills Race #2

Second race in the South Jersey Athletic Club's "No Frills Just Thrills" Series tonight.  Last time was one lap around the Cooper at 3.65 miles.  Tonight was just under 2 laps for an even 10k.

Over one hundred runners started the race, but it ended up feeling a bit lonely on the course.  I only passed one or two runners throughout the race, and only one or two passed me.  I held my position almost the full race.

It was a tough race given the heat and humidity.  I don't normally race a lot in the summer, so being truly competitive at these races is proving challenging.


13th overall.
2nd in my age group.

I once again won a pint glass.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Movie Monday: Beer Mile

In honor of my first beer mile the other day, here is a video of another beer mile.

Spoiler alert: he did considerably better than I did.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

USA vs. Portugal

Stevie and I have been living at the Irish Mile lately, a bar down the road from us that we have deemed our home for the World Cup.  We don't have cable at home, you see, and need some place to watch the games.

We've been going to as many games as we can, and once again met Brian and Alicia there for the USA game tonight.  It was once again a high energy crowd, especially once we tied the game, and even more so once we scored again to make it 2-1.

Genuine reaction over the second goal:

We got so into it that Brian knocked my beer over.  One of these games we'll learn to not waste our drinks.

But in the last thirty seconds of the game Portugal tied it with a brilliant header, taking away our automatic entry into the round of 16.  The entire bar deflated at once.  I may have seen some people crying.

This is why I'm not a regular sports fan.  Sure, I'll go to the occasional Phillies game, but I generally don't follow any professional teams.  Tonight was stressful/heartbreaking enough; I seriously couldn't take this crap every single year.

Here's hoping we fare better on Thursday...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My first beer mile

One of my 2014 running goals was to complete a beer mile.  I decided to do one today in order to celebrate the end of the school year.  You know, because nothing says celebration like running and beer and the possibility of hurling.

I tried to rope some people in to join me, but either I don't have cool enough friends, or the friends that I do have just don't share my idea of a good celebration.  I was by myself, then.

Stevie came along with me to document the absurdity that is a beer mile.



The stats:

Location: Cooper River track, 4:30pm
Beer of choice: Budweiser
Time: 10:45

Some notes:

I had eaten a big breakfast to minimize the slosh effect that one encounters when imbibing 48oz of liquid, but may have overdone it.  I was still relatively full by this afternoon, and the carbonation just about killed me.  Thankfully I never puked, otherwise I would have incurred a penalty lap.

There were a lot of other people out on the track, including kids, and I felt a little weird blatantly chugging beer in front of them.  I guess the Cooper has seen worse.

10:45 is a horrible time in the world of the beer mile, but I was never very good at chugging beer.  I went to a college without a Greek system and hung out with radio and theater nerds the whole time.  Let's just say the need to learn how never arose.

And here's a video I made in order to give my readers the full experience:

Would I recommend a beer mile?  Hell yes.  Any readers out there want to race me?  Let me know!

Friday, June 20, 2014

School's out for summer

Last day of school today.  The last two weeks have been extremely painful.  The last two weeks always are.  4th marking period projects and tests need grading, grades need to be finalized, final exams need preparing and then grading, end-of-year paperwork needs filling out, and a lot of loose ends need tying up.  Throw in a few issues with parents, and suddenly committing myself to a nuthouse seems like a good idea.  There wouldn't be any beer there, so I soldier on instead.

But the other teachers and I prevailed and made it to the final day.  Exams are over, classes are over, and all that separates both the teachers and students from freedom is one half day in which students roam the building at will, clutching their yearbooks, spastically doling out hugs while the teachers make small talk of summer plans.

I had a small crew of regulars who hung out with me all day.  I have a white board with a rainbow of dry erase markers in my classroom, and any teacher knows that shit is like catnip to students with free time, especially excitable 15-year-old girls.  Among the things drawn/written on my board today:

Stevie was mad she didn't make the list.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle

Miller Lite, Modelo, and Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy down at the Haddonfield Running Company tonight.  

Usually I have one beer after the run and then head out because I have to get up so early the next day.  But it was damn near a two beer kind of night tonight.  Easily the hottest day of the year so far, reaching the mid 90's.  I wouldn't have survived the run were it not for the cooler of water set up at the 5 mile mark and the thought of beer awaiting me at the finish.  When it gets this hot, I can't imagine wearing a shirt while running.

Apparently only one other guy shares that feeling.

A lot of talk tonight revolved around my upcoming beer mile.  It's one of my 2014 running goals, and I decided to run it this Saturday to celebrate the end of the school year.  I had posted on our Facebook group seeing if anyone wanted to join me, but while many seemed intrigued, no one committed.  Ah well, should still be fun.

Monday, June 16, 2014

USA vs. Ghana

Monday night beer with Brian and Alicia and the Mrs. down at the Irish Mile tonight.  Ghana vs. USA in our national team's first game of the tournament.

Reenactment of joy over USA's second goal

We barely had time to react to USA's first goal, seeing as it was 35 seconds into the match. Ghana tied it up in the second half, and when USA scored the game winning goal late in the game, the entire bar erupted into chants of "USA!  USA!"  I was pounding the table so hard I knocked half of our drinks over.

When the game ended, the bar then began singing "God Bless America" before someone put Springsteen's "Born in the USA" on the jukebox.  USA may not fair so well against Portugal or Germany, so I may not get another experience like this for the rest of the World Cup.  Glad I got a chance to tonight.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Do PR's expire?

One of my favorite running writers is Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and frequent contributor to Runner's World.  One of my favorite pieces of his is an article that appeared two years ago detailing his attempt, at the age of 46, to run a marathon PR.

He achieved that PR with a 3:09, and the resulting piece is a wonderful meditation on the inevitability of aging and the hard work required to reach one's goals.  
"The stars continue to wheel overhead, not caring much whether or not a 46-year-old man managed to run a marathon faster than he ever had before. But the only story we get to tell is our own, and my narrative will say: He was a runner, and as he got older, he got faster. He learned something about running, and about himself, and what was within his capabilities, and what wasn't; and about what was inevitable, and about what was not. In the end, I set my PR not because I trained this way or that, or drank soy milk rather than sports drink, but because I chose to do it.

You can, too."
It also helps that his goal race was the Philadelphia Marathon, a race that has grown near and dear to my heart since the first time I ran it in 2005.  I can see the curves in the roads he describes, those spectators, that art museum, and even my own future.  14 years from now I will also be a 46-year-old, short, stocky runner, probably running the Philly Marathon, probably chasing increasingly elusive PR's.

In subsequent bylines, Sagal was described as a 3:09 marathoner.  Until recently.  If you check his byline in more recent issues of Runner's World, it seems he has been downgraded to a 3:20 marathoner.  Did he downgrade himself, or was that Runner's World's doing?

Meanwhile, try to find any piece of writing that doesn't mention Amby Burfoot and his 1968 win at the Boston Marathon in the same breath.  It won't happen.  It could be an article on foot fungus or an obscure marathon in the Gobi Desert or a new type of sports drink, and if a soundbite from Burfoot appears, "winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon," or some variation thereof, is automatically appended to his name.

For the record, I have nothing against this.  Winning a major marathon, even before East African dominance, is something to be proud of.  Burfoot has definitely won bragging rights for life in my opinion, and certainly seems to exercise those rights.

But what about Sagal?  What about me?  What about every Joe Schmo who will never win a marathon but who busts his ass to achieve his own equivalent of Burfoot's Boston win?  Have we not also won bragging rights for life?

Mark Remy, author of the Runner's Rulebook, would have us believe that PR's do indeed expire, or at the very least require an asterisk.
"A PR has a shelf life of two years.  After that, it's still a PR - just with an asterisk.  That asterisk means adding a disclaimer, such as 'My PR is 3:05, but that was at Yonkers in 1980' or '... I ran that at Big Sur in 2003.'  Two years is an arbitrary cutoff, obviously, but the larger point remains: It's disingenuous to imply that you're still capable of running that PR, or something close to it, if you are clearly not."
I disagree.  My PR is a 3:03:05 from 7 months ago in Philly, but if I ran a marathon tomorrow, I wouldn't come close to that time.  Perhaps with 6 months of hard training I could surpass that mark, or I might never come close to it again.  Does that matter?  Is it really such a running faux pas if I fall into conversation with someone at a race or at my local running store and mention my PR, and he is the one to assume I could do so again?  Why should it matter whether my PR was 20 days ago or 20 years?  Who cares if I can never run a 3:03 again?  The point remains that I once ran a 3:03, and can therefore speak knowledgeably on the subject.

Like Burfoot, I worked hard for my marathon PR and should be able to mention it at will without regard for some ninny who may get confused as to my true current abilities.  Like Burfoot, Sagal should be able to slap that 3:09 on just about everything he owns, including his own articles.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Who's up?

7 miles tonight over at the Haddonfield Running Co.  Tonight Brooks made an appearance to promote their new Glycerin shoe, and I tried on a pair for the run.  They were nice.  What can I say?  I am clearly not destined to review running gear for a living.

Afterwards there was a cooler with a variety of beers, but the only one that appealed to me was a Coors.

Let it be known that I am not a beer snob.  There's a time and place for just about every beer out there, and an ice cold Coors Light after 7 miles in the jungle humidity sounds just about perfect to me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer 2014 No Frills Just Thrills Race #1

Every summer the South Jersey Athletic Club sponsors a race series at the Cooper River that it calls the "No Frills Just Thrills" Race Series.  Entry is only $5, $3 for club members, and gets you a bib and not much else.

Each race in the series is a little different, and tonight kicked off the series with a simple one 3.65 mile loop around the river.

It rained heavily all afternoon leading up to the race, then ended just a few minutes before the race started.  We may as well have run in the rain, though, because the humidity soaked us through long before the race ended.

Not sure of my exact splits, but I feel like I held a strong, steady pace throughout, and even ran faster as the race progressed.  The simple act of pushing myself and trying to outkick strangers at the end was indeed thrilling.  I love the marathon, but I'm never really racing against anyone other than myself.  Tonight was the perfect reminder that you don't always need expos and announcers and music and race shirts and everything else we've come to associate with the racing experience.  A start line, a finish line, and a love of the race are all one truly needs, and I love the thrill of competition that smaller, shorter races like this inspire.

I finished in 23:06.  6th place out of 75 runners, 2nd in my age group.

I was surprised to learn that there were prizes, and I won yet another pint glass for my efforts tonight.  Stevie is thrilled as we will never have to buy glasses again.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

2014 Oddyssey Half Marathon Race Report

Two races in one weekend.  Overkill?  Not when the races are this good.  Wissahickon Trail Classic yesterday, and 5th annual Oddyssey Half Marathon today.

I ran this race spontaneously last year when a free race bib came my way.  I didn't worry about time and stopped at most of the carnival games along the way, and the great course through Fairmount and the post race atmosphere all brought me back for more this year. 

I will probably be coming back for many years to come, and here is why:
  • It started back in April when the race director, Carl Ewald, took the time to cross the bridge and make an appearance at my local running store to promote his race.  It helps that he brought his race day beer provider, Sly Fox with him, and offered discounts for in-store sign up.  I think I only paid $60 to register that night.
  • It's easy to drive to and park relatively close to the starting line (located outside of the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park).
  • The course is gorgeous, taking in both Fairmount Park and the Skuylkill River.  It is mostly flat but still includes some wicked hills, including one in the last quarter mile.
  • The post race atmosphere is amazing.  They set up a beer garden with free beers and pint glasses for runners, along with free massages and live music.
I didn't run a PR today, given the heat and my lack of speed training lately, but still finished in a respectable 1:33:22, good for 48th place out of close to 3,000 finishers.

But PR's just weren't important today.  It was the sheer amount of fun I had on the course.  It felt so good to be out on a course, running relatively hard, and I just had such a positive racing experience for it.  

During the race I was trying hard to photobomb other runners whenever possible (sadly I can't find any of the pictures, perhaps because I was behind them and my bib was obscured). When that failed I tried to strike a pose on my own.

Serious race photo
Penn Images

Not-so-serious race photo
Penn Images

When a group of spectators clapped for me as I ran past, I bowed while yelling, "thank you, thank you... and for my next trick..."

When a spectator yelled, "go runners!" I yelled back "go spectators!"

And when I crossed the finish line, there were no runners up to 20 seconds behind me and 20 seconds in front of me.  For the first time in a somewhat large race, I had the finish line completely to myself.  The crowd gathered there cheered solely for me, and the announcer called out my name and my hometown.  It was one of the greatest race finishes I've ever had.

Penn Images
The medals aren't too shabby either.

It was a hot and humid day today, and after the race I drank two bottles of water one after the other.  I then made a beeline for the beer garden where I was one of the first people to get a beer.  Ice cold beer from Sly Fox Brewery in a brand new Oddyssey pint glass while sitting in the shade watching the finish and shooting the breeze with other runners.  At 8:45 in the morning.  It doesn't get much better than that.  It made me thankful to be able to finish early in races, because by the time I left the beer garden, the line for beer was obscene.

Thanks for a great race guys, and see you next year.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wissahickon Trail Classic: Race Report

9th annual Wissahickon Trail Classic this morning.  Ran this race for the first time last year and decided to come back for more today.  Here's me running it last year:

Photo by Clay Wells

It's organized by Pretzel City Sports and takes place in the Wissahickon Valley Park of Philadelphia.  The 10k trail wanders back and forth across the Wissahickon Creek while dragging runners up and down nervous looking switchbacks strewn with a healthy amount of rocks.  It also includes a giant red covered bridge.  It's a challenging trail, to be sure, but over 600 runners showed up today to give it a go.

"How many of you are running the race for the first time today?" the race director asked over a megaphone before the race started.  A few raised their hands.  "Hope you like suffering," he said with a wry smile.

The first half mile of the race is on a wide gravel path, and then crosses a road and abruptly shoves the runners up a half mile incline before petering out into sunny single track in a large meadow.  By this point, the race director told us, crowding will dissipate as the race will have sorted itself out.

Trail racing can be a pain, because on single track the people in front of you dictate your pace until you can safely pass.  This is probably a good thing, though, because it forced me to keep my pace in check. As I've written before, I tend to go out too fast in races and hang on for dear life by the end.

In the second half of the race, I was feeling amazing.  I felt like a mountain goat as I bounded on top of and over large rocks to pick off one runner after another.  Could I truly be suited for trail racing in a way I'm not for road racing?  Might just have to do more trail races to find out.

It helps knowing a course because I knew when to kick today.  In the last half mile I fell into a manic sprint that threatened to send me careening off the trail at each turn.  In the final tenth of a mile the course leveled out and I gave all I had left just to take out one more runner.  I could barely breathe after crossing the finish line.  Last year I finished in 55:25 and 85th place.  Today I improved my time by almost two full minutes and finished in 66th place.

Blue Steel

If you're in the Philadelphia area and want to experience a proper trail race, then I can't recommend this race enough.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Running Day

Happy National Running Day, folks.  How did I celebrate?  Usual Wednesday night 7, hot and humid edition, with the crew from Who's Up?.  

7 miles around Haddonfield, then beer at the running store afterwards.

These guys have been doing this for almost a year.  I joined up a month or two ago.  Every week someone brings a pack of beer.  Two weeks ago I was up, and because I am a German teacher, I figured I should bring some German beer.  The guys seemed to love it.

As our Facebook group page says, it's a club for drinkers with a running problem.

I have clearly found my people.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May mileage

January: 65
February: 131
March: 174
April: 201

And now my biggest month of the year so far:

237 miles for the month of May.  Was hoping to get a lot closer to 300, but just wasn't in the cards this month.

I'll probably cut back on mileage in June for a bit, especially since it's getting hotter and I have no big races on the horizon.  I still want to run across the state of New Jersey this summer.  Anyone want to join me?
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