Sunday, August 31, 2014

August mileage

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170

And August:

144.2 miles for August.  In light of recent events, I've only kept the streak alive by the skin of my teeth. In other news, I'm completely derailing in my attempt to run 2,014 miles this year.

Spoiler alert: fatherhood is hard.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Young Neale

At 11:39am on Tuesday August 26, 2014, Stevie gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Elmer, NJ. His name is Neale Scotticus Partenheimer, and at birth he weighed 6 lbs. 11 oz. and was 20 inches long.

Watching Stevie give birth to our first child was one of the most exhilarating and humbling experiences of my life.  I cried moments after he appeared, and again about ten minutes later when someone put him in my arms and I got my first proper look at him.  My life will never again be the same, and that's ok.

Stevie is recovering slowly but surely.  Neale just came home last night and is adjusting to the world.  And me?  I continue to be humbled by fatherhood, and exhausted.  Life is amazing, and I'm just happy to be along for the ride.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On pregnancy and marathoning

Last month while visiting my sister in Minnesota, we were talking about Stevie's pregnancy, and pregnancy in general, when I said, "It's also hard for men..."  My sister's face lit up with indignation at how hopelessly ignorant her little brother can be before I hastily interrupted her. "Let me finish!  It's also hard for men to truly understand what women go through during pregnancy."

I won't say I have no idea what pregnant women go through.  Having just spent the last nine months living with one, I've been privy to all sorts of (completely justified) emotions, complaints, descriptions of bodily functions, and random food cravings that the average person is spared.  But let's be honest, I still have very little idea what it is like to grow a human inside my stomach for nine months.

I think it's natural for people to want to empathize, especially with those they love.  I want to understand what is happening with Stevie's body and connect with her on an emotional level. That's how I ended up grasping at the only thing, at least in my own experience, that compares to pregnancy: the marathon.

Sorry if you just rolled your eyes, but it's the only thing I've got.

But think about it: with both the marathon and pregnancy, a person spends months preparing for one event on a single day.  It's a months long process that slowly builds in intensity.  Both the athlete and the pregnant woman need to be conscious of nutrition and be careful of what they put in their bodies.  Both spend months changing their bodies physically, and readying their minds emotionally in preparation for the big day.  The preparation is taxing and often requires doctor's visits and massages.  Emotions run high and an occasional mental breakdown is not uncommon.

The big day itself will bring a lot of stress and physical pain.  There will be people there to help cheer and coach the pregnant woman and marathoner through it.  It will most likely be long and difficult, but all that preparation and pain become worth it for the end result.  The marathoner perhaps gains a new PR, while the pregnant woman gets to meet the child she has carried within her for so long.  One can bask in the glory of achievement, but after giving birth or the marathon, depression is also not uncommon.  So much effort goes into one day, and things don't always go according to plan.  Even if things go perfectly, it's a large physcial and mental adjustment after the big day, and that can mess with emotions.

A big difference between marathoning and pregnancy, among many I'm sure, is that pregnant women generally don't know when the big day is going to be.  Imagine if I entered a marathon a few months ago and the race director called me to say, "look, we're actually not sure when the race will be.  Do us a favor and just stay ready for the entire month of August, ok?"  Then I suddenly get a call in the middle of the month at 3am and he says, "ok, the race is starting in 30 minutes.  Lace up and get out here!"

That's kind of where we're at right now, and the anxiety is killing me.  Stevie, of course, is rather frustrated and uncomfortable and more than ready to be done with pregnancy.  The hard work is far from over, of course, but at least sooner rather than later we'll both be on the same page about what that hard work is like.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An announcement...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but let's add a few to this one:

Christmas Day 2013

I love this photo.  It's actually a still shot from a video I took during a Skype call last Christmas. We're in my dad's office (my old bedroom) at his house here in South Jersey, and my sister is with her family in Minnesota.  That's my dad to the left, and Stevie's head and my grandmother's hands.  My uncle is out of frame.

My sister believed we were simply doing the traditional Christmas Day Skype call, and her expression shows just how unexpected our news was.  You see, Stevie has just told her she is going to become an aunt, and for perhaps the first time in her life, my sister is literally speechless.

December 2013 in our old kitchen.

Fast forward to the present, and Stevie and I are now days away from becoming first-time parents.

August 2014 in our new backyard.

This is why we moved this summer, this is why Stevie's family is in town from Florida, and this is why I'm not attempting a sub 3:00 marathon this fall.  I have no idea what training with a newborn baby at home will be like, but I have a feeling I won't be able to manage the intensity I did last year.  I may still attempt a fall marathon, but it will be considerably slower than I'd like.

So why am I just now sharing all of this on the blog?  We shared the news with close friends and family in December, but decided not to mention anything online.  Why did I choose not to share the exhilarating ride of pregnancy over the past nine months?  Don't bloggers love to share, well, everything?

It's no secret that I like to document things.  I've counted photography as a hobby since I was a kid, and lately I've gotten into filming and editing documentaries.  And this blog speaks for itself.  But I've decided that I don't want to document every last moment of the baby's life (online, at least).  As someone who can remember what life was like without the internet, the notion of growing up with it, without the power to consent to endless documenting, is strangely unsettling to me.  I'm sure I'll share the occasional photo or video, but let's just say I'm not planning to turn this into a daddy blog.

In regards to the pregnancy itself, there are the usual emotions: the excitement over getting to meet my kid after only being able to feel him or her through Stevie's stomach.  The anxiety over just how profoundly my life is going to change, and how that change, after months of waiting, is nearly upon me.  The confidence that I have no idea just what I'm getting myself into, but the equal confidence that I will adapt.

It's going to be a scary yet beautiful ride.

Any running dads out there have advice for me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer 2014 No Frills Just Thrills Race #6

Last race of the South Jersey Athletic Club's "No Frills Just Thrills" race series tonight. Tonight's race was another choose-your-own adventure with runners doing one, two, or three loops of the Cooper.

Stevie's parents and sister are in town from Florida/New York, so they came out to spectate, and because I didn't want to make them sit around for an hour and a half, I only did the one loop.  Also interesting to note, I completely forgot about this race earlier today and ran 10 miles because I hadn't run long in awhile.  It didn't make racing much easier tonight.

Stevie's mom offered to pin my bib on for me:

It wasn't awkward at all.

The race started at 6:30 right around sunset:

It was hard to gauge my competition because I didn't know who was running the one loop with me.  Maybe they should make people write a one, two, or a three on their calves.  So I just ran as hard as I could but still finished slower than race #1 last June.  It's hard getting old.

I finished 4th overall in the one loop race but still only second in my age group.  We didn't stick around for awards so not sure if I'll get another pint glass.

If you're in the South Jersey area, I highly recommend this race series.  It's absurdly cheap (free for students, $3 for SJAC members, and $5 for everyone else), and gets creative with the different types of races offered, especially the prediction race.  I like that the focus is on the friendly competition and not on any of the perks or gimmicks that races employ these days.

I'll see y'all next summer.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are you working harder than a high schooler?

I use the track at the high school where I teach to do speed work.  I usually end up sharing the space with the cross country teams, the field hockey team, and the football team.

The football team is out there five days a week all summer, as far as I can tell.  Several of my students are on the team, and today one of them noticed me and started enthusiastically waving and calling to me.

The football coach was not pleased.

"Hey Michael!  Would you rather practice with the team or go join Mr. Partenheimer in his workout?  I don't think you'd like that though 'cause it looks like he's working a lot harder than you."


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Boston 2015 field size

We're less than a month away from registration for the 2015 Boston Marathon, and news on the field size was released yesterday morning.

Runner's World reported that the BAA will likely cap the 2015 Boston Marathon at 30,000 runners.  A typical year sees 27,000, while this year's race held 36,000.

In addition, the ratio of qualifiers to charity runners will change as well.  Whereas this year 70 percent of the field was made up of qualifiers, next year will be 80.

Registration opens September 8th, but due to the system implemented in 2011 which favors faster runners, I have to wait a full week until September 15th to get my turn.  If the race hasn't sold out by then.

I am what you might call a "squeaker," a term coined by Runner's World's Tish Hamilton.  A squeaker is someone who qualifies with less than 5 minutes to spare, is happy just to have made it, and always wonders if this will be his or her last Boston.

But due to the new registration process, not all squeakers make it to Boston anymore.  This has already happened to me once.  I'm sitting on a BQ-1:55, meaning I beat my age and gender's qualifying time by 1:55.  Last year the cutoff was 1:38.  The cutoff will fluctuate from year to year depending on field size and interest.  Interest in Boston most likely peaked this year after the 2013 bombings, so most tell me that BQ-1:55 should be enough.  Still, it might be close.

If you hear me shouting from New Jersey in September, you'll know that I made it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hoka One One

Tonight's run at the Haddonfield Running Company featured Hoka One One, a shoe company founded in 2010 in France.  They're on the cover of this month's Competitor Magazine which informs me that maximalist shoes are "all the rage."

They let me try on a pair for the run tonight, but I should probably stop doing so when shoe companies stop by.  Every time, the company representative asks me eagerly afterwards how I liked the shoe.  I always end up responding with a shrug and an unenthusiastic "they were ok."

I just never notice much of a difference over my normal Nikes, yet I keep trying them out in hopes that I will find a shoe that truly blows me away.

If you've been reading here for awhile, you know I don't put much stock into different kinds of running shoes.  I try to be a frugal guy and hate how much good running shoes cost.  I also believe that a damn shoe is not going to make me a better runner, but instead hard work will. This is why I hate it when other runners try to engage me in shoe talk.

But the Hoka company representative also brought beer and pizza, which is always appreciated.  This was on top of the beer we already had, and the chocolate chip muffins someone made.  Our club shirts describe us as a "running and drinking club," and someone joked tonight that we'll have to add "eating" to the description.  Every week we seem to have pizza and all kinds of other food.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Post triathlon thoughts

A few thoughts after finishing yesterday's Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon:

What went well:
  • Parking and registration.  I have a habit of showing up to races late and rushing registration and getting ready.  Since this was my first tri, I wanted to get there super early not just to register and set up, but to mentally prepare.
  • Transition set up.  This wasn't too hard as I just looked at how others set up and copied them.
  • Running.  Obviously.  This is my comfort zone.

What I will change for next time:
  • Fix my damn bike.  Or borrow a better one.
  • Remember my damn goggles.
  • Fueling.  I didn't bring any fuel with me.  I figured it would take me no more than an hour and a half to finish and I probably wouldn't need it.  I felt ok without any fuel, but next time I will probably bring at least one gel to take in the bike portion.
  • Hydration.  My bike doesn't have a water bottle holder, so I just did without.  As a result, I was getting dangerously parched during the bike section.  In my next tri, I hope to have either a better bike, or just jury rig some sort of setup with my current bike.
  • Transition: bring a small container with water to wash off my feet, a second towel to stand on, and a bucket to sit on.

So did I enjoy the triathlon yesterday?  Absolutely.  I enjoyed trying something new and pushing myself hard, and the sense of accomplishment upon completing it.

Will I do another one?  Absolutely.  I really want to make improvements in swimming and biking, make small changes to my gear and slowly improve my time.

So how do I improve my time?  Instead of joining a triathlon group (like I almost did last spring), instead of reading lots of tips online, instead of even training that hard for it, my plan was to establish a baseline for future races.  I knew my level of fitness would allow me to finish it, albeit rather slowly, so I just wanted to get through it so that I would have something to compare to.  Now that I know what a sprint tri is like, I can make small adjustments as I go and figure out what works for me and what doesn't.

This is pretty much the same technique that allowed me to knock off an hour and 26 minutes from my original marathon time and run a BQ last fall.  It's a slow process, and involves a fair bit of trial and error, but I believe that my own experience will count for a lot more.  Mentally understanding an event and drawing from personal experience will mean more than something a coach or training plan is simply telling me to do.

This is not to say that I wouldn't love to join a training group, at least for the camaraderie. Unfortunately, it's always going to come down to money.  I try to be as frugal as possible, and even I sometimes have a hard time justifying the amount of races I do.  It's no secret just how expensive triathlons are.  Race registration alone is astronomical compared to plain foot races. For reference: yesterday's sprint tri, the shortest tri distance offered, cost me $85, whereas entry into next summer's Ironman Lake Placid, the closest one to where I live, is $725.

Obviously I proved that you can do a tri without breaking the bank.  My only expenses yesterday were gas money to get to and from, and registration.  But if I want to get better and get into longer distances, it's going to start costing me.  I might need to join a gym to have someplace to swim.  I would need annual membership in USA Triathlon to compete in sanctioned events.  Depending on the weather, I might need a wetsuit for a given race.  I would love a sweet road bike and a tri suit and and and... But it adds up.  If I were truly passionate about the triathlon, maybe I could justify it.  But it's just not where my passion lies.

In the end, I will definitely return to the triathlon, but let's just say this blog will remain a running blog for the time being.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon: Race Recap

Finally managed to knock out my first triathlon this morning.  Grind in the Pines is a race sponsored by DQ Events and actually offers several different races in one day: sprint tri, olympic tri, olympic duathlon, and olympic aquabike.  10 years ago I might have considered signing up for just the sprint to be wimping out, but luckily I've grown sensible in my old age and realize there's nothing wrong with starting small when you're a rookie like me.  Sprint tri it is.

.25 mile swim.
11 mile bike.
3.1 mile run.

Left the house this morning at 5:30am and drove 45 minutes out to Pemberton in the Pine Barrens.  It was a gorgeous morning for a race - blue skies, cool temps and a water temperature of 75 degrees.

I can't believe how out of my element I felt watching so many fit triathletes unload their bikes in the transition area.  I had a regular bathing suit, no goggles, a pair of running shoes, a shirt, and a clunky old mountain bike from my town's bike share that I soon learned doesn't shift gears anymore.  Meanwhile, men and women were walking around me with bikes that probably cost more than my car, spandex suits, wet suits and all manner of accoutrements stacked neatly by their bikes.

A man rolled his bike up next to mine and asked me if I knew where bike out was.  I wanted to respond, "do I look like I know what I'm doing here?"  But instead I guessed it was somewhere behind me.

I teach high school German, and I spend a lot of time talking with my students about strategies for speaking and understanding a foreign language.  Having spent two and a half years living in Germany, as well as plenty of time in countries where I don't speak the language, I'm used to not knowing what's going on.  One of the strategies I tell my students is to simply look around and see what others are doing.  So I set up my transition area as best I could after watching everyone else around me.

Saw a lot of athletes spraying themselves down with cooking spray.  Maybe to make it easier to put on/take off clothing?  Seems I left my cooking spray at home, so I couldn't copy this.

I now have a better appreciation for what some runners go through with their first race.  It was one thing to feel so out of my element, but I was genuinely feeling nervous about the race itself.  I'm not a strong swimmer, and it's one thing to train in a clear pool, but it's quite another to be in a dark lake with a hundred other competitors.  I didn't know how my body would handle the unknown.  I was just itching to get to the run portion where I would feel more in my element.

The olympic tri set off in three waves, and we had to wait until 8am for the sprint tri to start.  We all had to wear red swimcaps.

I breaststroked nearly the entirety of the swim, trying to keep up with an elderly couple and a handicapped man swimming with a guide.  I genuinely wondered if I might come in last in the swim.  After nearly 12 minutes of swimming I finally hauled myself out of the lake, covered in lake muck, and into transition.  Spent an eternity in T1 (4:58) before heading out onto the bike.

As mentioned, I quickly discovered that my bike was stuck in one gear and would not shift at all.  As a result, I looked like some weird cartoon character as I pedaled like mad but made little forward progress.  It was a little frustrating.  We ended up on the same bike course as the olympic triathletes, and the constant drone of "on your left" as others passed me got old real quick.  I think I only passed one other person the entire time.

And after 43 minutes on the bike, it was finally time for my specialty: running.  Finally released from the constraints of my own physical limitations and shit equipment, I charged out of transition like I meant business, ready to take out as many runners as I could.  For some comparison: out of 85 total finishers, I came in 69th in the swim, 73rd in the bike, and 7th in the run.  The run was great.  Just a nice out and back, partly on a lonely dirt road deep in the woods.  It took me a minute or so to readjust to the mechanics of running after swimming and biking, but I was very quickly back in my element.

I finished strong and immediately helped myself to hoagies and donuts and fruit, then washed the lake muck off of me at the fire truck they'd brought in.

Some final stats:

Overall time: 1:23:10
Overall place: 52nd (out of 85)
Age group place: 6th (out of 6)
Swim: 11:43
Swim place: 69th
T1: 4:58
Bike: 43:37
Bike place: 73rd
T2: 0:54
Run: 22:00
Run place: 7th

I have a strong desire to improve my time, so I would love to do another someday, but that probably won't be for awhile.

I've been meaning to do a tri for years now, and so glad I finally took the plunge.  It really was a great event and a great morning of exerting myself in the outdoors, something I truly love. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Backyard grilling and shenanigans with George and Lee, two camp friends visiting from England:

Cannonballs at the community pool:

Sigh... Compared to summers in the past, this one hasn't been incredibly exciting, but it sure has been nice.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Down the shore

Half day down the shore today.  Started in the afternoon with Stevie's first visit to Lucy the Elephant.

Lucy the Elephant

Little known curiosity of the Jersey shore: just south of Atlantic City in Margate lies this six story wood and tin elephant.  It was first built in 1881 as a roadside attraction, and was designated a national historic landmark in 1976.  Today you can pay $8 for a guided tour through the interior and up onto the howdah.

Now you know what to do when you're in New Jersey and you know what that thing on top of elephants is called.  Don't say I never taught you anything.

We then headed to Ocean City where I ran three barefoot miles along the beach.

Hide yo kids.

Stevie: Oh, did you already go in the water?
Me: Nope, this is just sweat.

A dip in the water and then a lovely evening promenade along the boardwalk complete with a mummers band and divebombing seagulls.  Pizza, birchbeer and icecream for dinner.

Summer sure is nice when I'm not in the throes of an intense marathon training plan.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My running playlist

There are a lot of ways in which I am not your typical runner: I don't follow a training plan.  I don't care about different makes and models of running shoes.  I don't foam roll.

And I don't run with music.  Never have, and probably never will.  I find it a distraction, and I like being in tune with my body and my surroundings and all of that zen kind of crap.  Plus I'm a cheap bastard and have never owned an iPod, so I just got used to running without music and being stuck inside my own head.

But I do love music.  I was a radio DJ in college and would meticulously craft my playlists before each show.  I did the same thing for my wedding a year and a half ago.  While driving home the other night, Led Zeppelin came on the radio, and I sat in my driveway for a good ten minutes waiting for the song to finish.  It didn't matter that I could go inside and listen to the same song on my laptop all night if I wanted to.  A found song on the radio will always trump one you play yourself.

If I ran with music, though, I might enjoy running a bit more, but I would also spend more time air drumming and scaring small children (i.e. singing) instead of concentrating on pace.

But let's pretend I just got back from a crazy intense run in which I laid waste to the space-time continuum, fueled by the greatest playlist of all time.  You're dying to know what gave me my edge.  Well, here is what I might be listening to while pounding the pavement:

  1. The Rolling Stones - Start Me Up
  2. Queen - Hammer to Fall
  3. Queen - Don't Stop Me Now
  4. AWOLNATION - Kill Your Heroes
  5. Billy Idol - Mony Mony
  6. Foster the People - Houdini
  7. Ryan Bingham - Bread and Water
  8. Led Zeppelin - Trampled Underfoot
  9. Jan Plewka - Ein Jahr
  10. Cro - Intro
  11. Cro - Die Welt Gehört Dir
  12. B.o.B. - Airplanes (w/ Eminem)
  13. Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
  14. Bill Conti - Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme)
  15. Die Atzen - Party (Ich will abgehn)
  16. R.E.M - What's the Frequency Kenneth?
  17. The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love
  18. The Stone Coyotes - Shake
  19. Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running
  20. The Bouncing Souls - True Believers
  21. The Animals - Boom Boom
  22. Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance
It's heavy on classic rock and heavy guitars and drums, and a few random German/indie/oldie/rap songs thrown in.  I'm too lazy to link to any of this stuff, but I'm sure you can find it all on YouTube if you want.

And now the obvious question: what's on your running playlist?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hot Run in the Summertime 5k

One of the guys in my Wednesday night beer/running group also belongs to the Road Runners Club of Woodbury, and encouraged us to come out to his club's 3rd annual 5k this morning.  I decided to take him up on it.

Post race awards
The race started just off the main street in Woodbury on a pleasantly cool morning.  Just over a hundred runners tore down Hunter Street and into the surrounding side streets.

The start
From RRCW's Facebook page

That's me on the far right, next to the Fonz.
Original photo from RRCW's Facebook page

Lately, especially with smaller races, I've stopped focusing on running a certain time and started focusing on racing the other runners.  I don't really care what my time is in a 5k or 10k these days.  All I care about is taking out as many other runners as I can.  This is why I didn't wear a watch today.  Unfortunately, the race organizers didn't feel the need to mark the miles on their course, and as a result, I had no idea how far along I was on the course.  Normally I try to save some energy for a kick in the last half mile.  Unfortunately I waited too long today. There were two runners ahead of me, one of whom I figured was in my age group, and I knew I had a chance to outkick them.  But suddenly we made a left turn and there was the finish line a tenth of a mile away.  I didn't have a chance.

Final stats:

8th overall (out of 111)
2nd in age group

I heard some other runners mention they thought the course was short, which I can believe.  I know I was running hard, like I always do in 5k's, but I just don't think my summer training has been good enough to run a sub 20:00 so easily.  There were also a few decent hills on the course, which is unusual for South Jersey races.

After the race we all headed across the street to Charlie Brown's where all runners received a pint of beer and a ticket to a large buffet.

After that, we headed out to the parking lot where they handed out awards.

I got a ton of swag for such a small race: medal for 2nd in my age group, plus a beer glass/bottle opener/sunglasses for coming in the top 100, plus the usual race T-shirt.  I already owned the headband and decided to race in it to hold back my increasingly long flowing locks.

Happy racing, friends.  Hope your summer racing is going well.
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