Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September mileage

January: 198
February: 231
March: 281
April: 121.2
May: 159.1
June: 112.3
July: 145.4
August: 210.1

And September:

218 miles, barely more than August.  A lot of solid morning runs.  Not enough speedwork.  Not a single race.

I'm now at 1675.1 miles for the year, officially more than I accomplished last year.  I'm now looking forward to the medal I'll get for this challenge just as much as the marathon in November.

Still looking forward to the marathon, less than two months away now, but October will have to be an outstanding month of training.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Movie Monday: Would you still do it?

I ran my first half marathon in 2001 when the only way to brag about such an event was to write a mass e-mail to friends and family.  I ran my first marathon in 2005 during the age of MySpace, but still well before what we currently associate with the term "social media."

10 years later, I continue to run half marathons and marathons, yet I now tell everyone about it on Facebook, Twitter and this blog.  I have yet to get into Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, or whatever else is out there, and I honestly hope I never do.

Which is why I love this commercial from running apparel company Pearl Izumi.  It asks the question, who do you run for?  Is it to impress countless faceless strangers on the internet, or is it for your own health and well-being?  If social media didn't exist, would you still do it?

Would you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What it's like to run in Popeadelphia

I don't know about the cities of New York and Washington, DC, but if you live in the Philadelphia area, all anybody has talked about for the last few months has been the Pope.


The talk has revolved less around the honor of a Papal visit, or the World Meeting of Families, or potentially going to see him in the city, and more around the disruption his visit would cause, particularly with traffic.


Most people decided to treat it like a blizzard and hole up in their houses for the weekend. Some even escaped for the weekend, heading out of town until the dust settled.  Me?  I decided I couldn't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I had 18 miles scheduled for today, and rather than run my usual boring routes, I decided to run right from my house into Philly and back.  So I grabbed a bottle of water, threw some gels in my pocket, and headed west out of my front door.

It should be noted that I am the world's worst running blogger in that I hate running with my phone, so I have no pictures of myself from today's jaunt.  You'll have to settle for random pictures I found in Google Images.

The first few miles were business as usual, but as I neared the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, the main artery leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge, it became completely deserted.  It was like running through my own episode of The Walking Dead (minus the hordes of zombies).

As I rounded a bend and approached the bridge, there was a large blockade of police cars.  A Homeland Security officer stepped out of one and directed me to tolls ahead that were admitting pedestrians.  The Red Cross was there handing out free bottles of water, and more officers were checking bags.

When he saw I didn't have a bag with me, one of the officers yelled, "keep going, man!  Don't slow down!"

"Yes sir, officer!"

Half of the bridge was shut down to allow for emergency and police vehicles, while the other half was open to foot and bicycle traffic.  There were thousands of people on the bridge this afternoon.


At mile 6.5 I reached the end of the bridge and began meandering around Center City.  The entire area was like some weird militarized pedestrian playground.  People walked around in matching Pope shirts.  Others stood in the middle of the street to take selfies.  Bikers, runners and walkers all shared the space with police officers, Homeland Security Officers, the National Guard, Humvees, vans and police cars.  Temporary chain link fences, steel guard rails and concrete road barriers were erected everywhere.

I ran around the streets with no particular plan, just wanting to soak in the atmosphere of pope enthusiasts and the novelty of car-free streets everywhere I turned.  At about mile 11, I finally headed back towards the bridge and over to Jersey.

It was without a doubt one of the most unique long runs I've ever had.

Also, I didn't see the Pope.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On naked racing and positive body image

Fans of this blog (all three of you) may recall a little race that I won last month... in the buff.  It was something I did on a lark, partly for the story and partly for a new and novel racing experience.  The need to reinforce positive body image never really entered into it.  I have my share of body hangups just like anyone else, but the thought that naked racing could cure any of them never occured to me.

But last week a running friend and freelance journalist interviewed me for an article on just that: naked racing and positive body image.

The article appeared today, and Liz writes, "that public nudity is one of America's most profound, collective nightmares has always fascinated me.  We attach the utmost value to certain clandestine body parts.  We seem to believe skin is more sacred for never having seen the light of day."  I couldn't agree more.

The Germans have a healthy take on social nudism known as Frei K├Ârper Kultur, which literally translates to "free body culture."  Having lived in Germany in high school and college and traveled throughout Europe, I'm no stranger to nude spas and beaches.  It's left a sense of confidence in me and refusal to feel embarrassed or ashamed of my body to the point that doing a naked race wasn't the earth shattering event it might be for others.

I love Liz's angle on it.  I definitely agree that naked racing and social nudism in general could contribute to healthier self esteem and acceptance of one's body, though I don't know that a naked 5k will be gracing Philadelphia's streets anytime soon.

Anyway, as usual when I'm interviewed for an article, I had a lot to say, but only a few quotes made it into the piece, so I thought I would share the full interview here:

Name: Scott
Occupation: high school teacher
Location: Collingswood
Naked Race: Wiggle Jiggle Giggle 5-K at Sunny Rest Resort in PA.
Running since: off and on since high school, consistently since 2005.

What motivated you to try a naked race in the first place?
I love running and enjoy doing all different kinds of races, and it was always on my bucket list to try a clothing optional race. Partly for the story but mostly just to try something different.

What was the most surprising/unexpected aspect of naked racing?

I guess the most surprising thing was how easy it was to forget about the nudity and focus on the racing. It was just like any other race I've ever done: sizing up potential competition at the starting line, setting off with a lead pack of runners, trying to find the right time to make the kick, doubt and worry over whether I can hold the pace, giving it all I have in the final tenth of a mile... just with a whole lot of nudity.

How did naked racing change your relationship with your body?

I don't think that naked racing changed my relationship with my body so much as it reinforced how I already feel. Clothed or not, my body is what I have to work with and it is capable of amazing things, and there is no need to feel ashamed of it. I'm extremely proud of winning that race, even if it was just a goofy run with a bunch of nudists hidden away in the Pocono Mountains.
There were about 130 runners of all shapes, ages, sizes, and running abilities. It was a clothing optional race, but very few people opted for clothing.

How many people have you told about your naked racing experience? What has been the general reaction from your family and friends? What's the most supportive response you received? The most critical?
I wrote a blog post about the race and tweeted a few times about it, and told everyone in the Wednesday night running crew, but that's it. The people in the running group generally thought it was hilarious. There were dozens of questions, and some have even expressed interest in running next year with me. I guess that would be the most supportive response. There really hasn't been a critical response.
I never brought it up with my family. My dad and grandmother read my blog but neither have mentioned the race. My wife would have done it with me but we couldn't work out the logistics with our baby.

Do you think naked racing will continue to grow in popularity or remain a niche event?
I would love to see more people try naked racing, but it will probably remain a niche event. For one thing, you pretty much have to offer races like this at nudist resorts and only in warm weather, so you're limited in the times of year and the places you can offer them. I had to drive an hour and a half to get to this race, which I normally don't do for a 5k. Also, depending on your body type, it's hard to run hard for 3 straight miles without some sort of support. So there may be some people who want to try it but it would be distinctly uncomfortable.

What kind of person should try naked racing? What kind of person should avoid it?
What kind of person should try it? Anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone. I would definitely recommend it for someone trying to overcome body issues. All of those insecurities that we cover up with clothing - a bulging stomach, stretch marks, saggy skin, whatever - are thrust into the open. You quickly see that everyone has some sort of imperfection and no one is judging anyone. This is even more true when racing. You stop focusing on your imperfections and remember how strong your body is and what it is capable of. It's all about joy of running and racing and the nudity quickly becomes secondary.
What people shouldn't try it? Again, the support issue might preclude certain body types from naked racing, but not from social nudism as a whole.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why I give up alcohol before a goal race

When I train for a goal race, I usually give up alcohol about two months out.  This is never easy, mind you.  I don't want to paint myself as a drunk, but a cold craft beer is one of the great pleasures in life, in my opinion.  So why deny myself the joy of an oat soda or two after a long day's work?

I do it for a few reasons:

  1. It helps me cut weight.  I am not overweight by any means, but when training for a goal race I can always stand to drop a few lbs.  Not drinking saves me a lot of calories over the long haul, in addition to the temptation of eating greasy bar food when I'm out.
  2. It helps me stay focused.  I may still go out during marathon training, but the temptation to stay up till 3am is gone when I'm drinking water all night.  This makes it much easier to get up early to run.
  3. It saves me a lot of money, which I can then spend on races and other race-related things.
  4. So much of marathon training is about sacrifice, and I like the idea of sacrificing something I love to help me keep my eye on the prize.

Tomorrow marks two months until the Philadelphia Marathon, so tomorrow I start my self enforced sobriety.  I'm saying goodbye to the boozy life tonight by enjoying one of the best fall beers I've ever had, which my dad picked out for me.  I'm pairing it with a dram of Woodford Reserve's double oaked bourbon.  The bitter hops pair brilliantly with the slight sweetness of the bourbon, and I'm in heaven.

It's going to be a long two months.  I'll catch you on the other side.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Notes from a morning runner

In any marathon training cycle, especially for a goal race, it's easy to become hyper focused on training and let everything else fall by the wayside.  Success requires dedication, which can easily morph into obsession if I let it.

In an effort to keep Stevie and Neale a priority, I've been attempting, for the hundredth time in my life, to become a morning runner.  By running when they're both still asleep, I will then have time for them in the afternoons/evenings.

I normally get up at 6am for work, so this means if I want to get in any kind of meaningful workout, I have to get up as early as 4am.  My new normal has become to wake up at 4am, drink tea and read on the couch while I slowly wake up, then head out the door around 5am, depending on the day's workout.

Some notes:

  • Getting out of bed is the struggle of my life.  Once over that hurdle, it isn't so bad.
  • But then I get so comfortable on the couch with a good book that I don't want to leave that either.
  • I leave so much time between waking up and getting out the door to give myself time to digest the previous night's dinner.  I have to use the bathroom at least a few times before every morning run.
  • Nothing is better than coming home from work in the afternoon knowing I've already taken care of that day's run.
  • I have definitely felt a surge of energy in my morning classes, but feel pretty exhausted by the time my last class of the day rolls around.
  • I hate running in the dark.  It is doable, but it makes it significantly more difficult to get up to "cruising speed" when I can't see the terrain as well and don't want to trip.
  • Spiderwebs and sprinklers: the bane of a morning runner's existence.

Are you a morning runner?  Leave me some advice or encouragement!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Back to School

Welcome to my classroom.

Recently started my 5th year of teaching high school German.  The teachers started work on September 1st with two days of professional development, and the students returned on the 8th.

I teach six classes over five levels (1-4 and AP) in grades 8th through 12th.  I'm a one man show, as I like to say, with over a hundred students as my captive audience.  If you thought some of the jokes on this blog were bad, you should try spending time in the classroom with me.

As with every training cycle for a fall marathon, one of my biggest hurdles becomes adjusting to the new school year. Training starts in July when I have a lot of free time and can pretty much run any time I want to.  Once back in school, though, I have a very strict schedule I have to adhere to.  I try to arrive at school every day at 7am with first period starting at 7:45. The school day ends at 2:30, but we have to stay until 3.  My life is ruled by the school bell.

Strangely enough, I found the last time I went through this (in 2013) that the tighter schedule actually helped my training.  It forced me to be more disciplined and focused and not waste a second of the day, whereas summer training and the accompanying heat made for a more laissez faire attitude.

Not only do I have to find time to cram in training runs, but I also have to keep nutrition in mind.  Our school cafeteria is like most other American public schools in that "beige" seems to be the only item on the menu.  During the school year I have to work extra hard to make time for breakfast and then pack a healthy lunch for the day.

The marathon isn't until November 22nd, so until then, German rap and long runs, grammar charts and pushups, vocab games and sore legs must all coexist peacefully.  But once the marathon is over...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

They say it's my birthday

Just two weeks after my son's birthday, I get to celebrate my own.  He celebrated his 1st, and now I celebrate my 34th.

A couple of girls in my German IV class wrote all over the whiteboard in my classroom, including this part by my desk:

I was certainly flattered but couldn't help correct their spelling.  Once a teacher always a teacher.

Stevie surprised me with a Team Spartenheimer sweatsuit in the morning and then brought me lunch from my favorite sandwich shop during the day.  The final surprise came when she told me she'd lined up a babysitter for tonight and was going to join me at beer/run club.  It was her first time there and she only did 3 miles as opposed to the whole 6.6 mile loop.

In the store after the run she brought out a cookie cake to share with everyone.  She wanted everyone to sing me happy birthday, but I wouldn't let her and she settled on "three cheers for the birthday boy."

The humidity was absolutely horrendous today and I had to work all day in a room without A/C, but this really was an amazing birthday.  Beer, running and several thoughtful surprises from the love of my life... what could possibly be better?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Movie Monday: Ginger Runner and the NYC Marathon

I love the Ginger Runner and I love his videos even more.  They're incredibly well-polished; the editing and sound are leaps and bounds above the average YouTube content, yet they never lose the amateur feel of just an average guy talking into a small camera.

I've posted one of his videos before; his running of the 2014 Gorge Waterfalls 50k.

In this particular video, he chronicles his journey to and subsequent running of the 2014 New York City Marathon, the one with nasty wind and temperatures throughout the day.  I love his sentiment as he approaches the finish: "Got my ass handed to me today, and loved every second of it.  Let's finish strong."


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Keeping things in perspective

Counting marathoning as a hobby is a bit of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it keeps me healthy, gives me a great sense of accomplishment, helps me meet new people, and takes my mind off of the stresses of life.  It accomplishes what every hobby should.


It takes a lot to run marathons.  Sacrifice.  Patience.  Time.  It's one thing to dream big and set big goals, but it's difficult to not feel like the world is crashing down when those goals aren't met.  It starts to feel like more than a hobby when it just shouldn't.  Hobbies shouldn't consume an entire life at the expense of other areas, nor should so much self-worth be based on an arbitrary time goal.

Keeping perspective during a marathon training cycle is difficult but something I need to consistently work on.

Yesterday Stevie, Neale and I went to Wildwood, NJ.  We spent some time on the beach and then spent the night with a friend before heading out this morning.  I had saved my 8 mile run to do on the beach, reasoning that the change of scenery and running on the beach would be preferable to running my same old boring running routes at home.


It didn't quite go according to plan.  It was much hotter than I anticipated in the afternoon, and when you run at the beach you pretty much run in direct sunlight the entire time.  The humidity soaked through my shoes within 3 miles so that they squelched with every step thereafter.  I barreled into a headwind for much of the run.  It was slow and monotonous and not at all the kind of run I had envisioned.

But afterwards we all went to the beach where Neale went into the water for the first time of his life (he'd been to the beach before, but only ever stood at the water's edge).  We took turns holding his hands while the waves approached him, and the look of sheer joy on his face is one I hope I never forget.  The shrieks, the laughter, the giant grin, the splashing and the pulling of his mother's arms as he struggled to go farther... It made my heart swell to see him take to the ocean the way he did.

Greater men than I have tried and failed to put words to their feelings of love, so I will leave it at this: Good runs or bad, I will always love my son more.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ode to grilling

The summer season is winding down, and with it goes one of my favorite aspects of warmer weather: backyard grilling.

Ever since we moved to a place with a backyard last summer, I've fancied myself the lord of the grill. We don't have air conditioning downstairs, so if I cook in the kitchen, I may as well climb into the oven while I'm at it because that's how hot it gets.  Which leads to one of the great pleasures in life: the smell of sizzling meat over charcoal while sipping an ice cold summer beer.

I grill anything and everything on my tiny, humble charcoal grill.  If it can fit and needs to be cooked, I'll throw it on there.  Here's a selection of the things I've grilled this past summer:

  • Burgers
  • Dogs
  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Corn
  • Assorted vegetables
  • Shrimp skewers
  • Chicken breasts
  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Bratwurst
  • Steak

Salmon on cedar planks

Shrimp skewers, swordfish, veggies, eggplant

Don't forget the appetizers:

Homemade guacamole, fresh fruit with yoghurt dip.

The whole ensemble is only complete with a summer beer, good friends and family, the soft sound of crickets and the occasional airplane flying through Philadelphia airspace.  Summer in a nutshell.

I'll be sad to say goodbye to grilling, but still looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and moving onto the next season.

Here's to eating well!
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