Monday, February 29, 2016

February mileage

It's the last day of the month, and you know what that means: time for a round up of the month's miles and a picture of my extremely high tech method of tracking it all.

January: 59


70 miles for the month of February.  Another month of low mileage while maintaining the streak.  It's been nice laying low for awhile, but I'm starting to get the itch to bump up the mileage again soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Embrace the pain

Last night my wife and I went salsa dancing, which seems like a normal enough statement until I tell you how awful I am at dancing, regardless of the style.  Picture one of those wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men outside of car dealerships.  Now put him at a wedding with an open bar.  That's me.  The upshot is that salsa dancing is not high on my list of things to do on a Saturday night, but I went because I know my wife likes it.

The night started with a half hour lesson on basic salsa moves, which was kind of fun until the instructor barked into the mic, "Ladies, rotate!"  My wife had failed to warn me that I would be dancing with about twenty other women during the lesson, the first of which was a foot taller than I am.  My face was directly level with her chest as we clumsily attempted the latest move. Nearby, a man in a tight black T-shirt and gold chain swung my wife around like a pitbull with a chewtoy.

Awkward does not begin to describe how I felt.

Which quickly brought to mind something my wife had told me about her time when she first moved to New Jersey.  Her living situation - five strangers as roommates in a Camden neighborhood vastly different from her native Florida - made every day an exercise in awkwardness.  Eventually they came to embrace the awkwardness, and it's something of a mantra that my wife has lived by ever since.  By embracing the awkwardness, they were able to rise above it.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  We're at the end of February, and a lot of people who are training for big spring races are starting to put in those long, hard miles to achieve their goals.  I am not training for a big race at the moment, but my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with posts by those who are, and my message to you is this:  Embrace the pain.

Even if you train with others or with a coach, running is ultimately a solitary sport.  Your performance is the only one that matters, and so it's easy to pack it in when things get tough, because no one else is relying on you.  Another runner's success is not dependent on your own success like in the all-or-nothing world of team sports.  But I encourage you again to embrace the pain.

Embrace the cumulative pain.  That exhaustion that you feel after a 70 mile week with a full time job and tending to a family at home.  The mental strain of trying to balance it all appropriately.  The incessant aches of a body being put through the ringer.

Embrace the existential pain.  The crisis of faith that comes with such a ludicrous hobby.  The self doubt and the worry that your time could be better spent.

Embrace the possibility of future pain.  The idea that all you are doing may still not be enough to achieve your goal, and race day may leave you immensely disappointed, should not be enough to deter you from trying in the first place.

Embrace the pain in the small moments.  Every time your alarm clock goes off in the darkest hours of the morning.  Every time you gasp for breath at the end of a 400 meter repeat.  Every time your thighs burn in anguish from a steep hill climb.  Every time you push through the final mile of a long run.  In the heat and humidity.  In the rain.  In the howling wind.  In the ice and snow.

Embrace it.

Because it's easy to forget in the moment that the pain is only temporary, and that it serves a purpose. Invite it in and let it give you strength.  Let it fuel your passion.  You will know that you earned the pain and its subsequent rewards, that even in the absence of a goal achieved, you have built character and strength that will carry you forward in the future and bring you to the next level where all your goals lie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

25 random facts about me

Let's time travel back to 2005 when MySpace was king of the internet and complete this list of overly personal and completely unnecessary facts about me.

1. The only bone I have ever broken is my nose.  I smashed it to pieces in a soccer game when I was 12.  I went up for a head ball but hit the other guy in the back of the head instead, and was screaming before I hit the ground.  I had to get plastic surgery to repair the damage.

2. I didn't buy my first car until I was 22, and I still own it to this day.  Its name is Black Betty and I  plan to drive it until it falls apart.

3. I have a scar on my left forearm from a mishap in 10th grade gym class. I was checked into a bulletin board during a soccer game, and the metal edge of the board sliced open my skin.  I had to get seven stitches.  It's the only time in my life I've ever gotten stitches.

4. I once met Bill Bryson in Perth, Australia of all places.  He is one of my favorite writers of all time, and I was saddened to find out his talk at the Perth Opera Hall was sold out.  I went anyway and managed to buy a ticket off of a family whose dad couldn't attend.  Afterwards I got to shake his hand and have him sign my book.

5. I freaking love sushi and Indian food, but wonder how I would like the food if I actually went to Japan or India.

6. I speak fluent German, which shouldn't come as a surprise as I'm a German teacher, but I also speak a little Spanish.  I took four years in high school and one semester in college and try to practice it any time I'm in a Spanish-speaking country.

7. I can't grow a satisfactory beard.  It comes in too patchy.  This is one of the great tragedies of my life.

8. I don't drink coffee.  Ever.  I just never cared for the taste of it.  This is also true for every member of my immediate family.

9. I'm a closet Harry Potter nerd.  I have Stevie to blame for this who got me into the series a few years ago and now we nerd out at festivals and trivia nights together.  Gryffindor for life.

10. I describe myself as a beer enthusiast rather than a beer snob.  The difference is that I'm just as happy with a locally crafted porter or a Belgian wit as I am with a Miller Lite or Bud Light Lime, depending on the situation, of course.

11. I once hit a game-winning homerun in a Little League game when I was 12.  It was easily the highlight of my career in baseball, and I still have the game ball to this day.

12. Whenever I go out to a bar or brewery, I try to grab a coaster and have anyone at the table with me sign it.  I've been doing this since I was 17 and have a giant bag full of such coasters that eventually I plan to display should I ever have my own man cave.

13. I also have sizable beer glass and beer bottle cap collections.  I plan to make a German flag on the wall out of bottle caps.  My man cave is going to be awesome.

14. One of the great pleasures I find in life is to sit in my car and catch the opening chords of George Thorogood's "One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer" on the radio, then crank it as high as my eardrums will tolerate while driving with the windows down.

15. I know every word to "Ice Ice Baby."  It's my go-to song at karaoke.

16. I used to be really into theater, performing in community theater productions like "Grease," "Death of a Salesman," "Showboat," and "Biloxi Blues," to name a few.  This is how Stevie and I met, during a production of "All in the Timing."

17. I have a tattoo of a blue feather on my right arm.  The blue feather is the symbol of the camp where I used to work, and was awarded to one camper per village at the end of each session at the Blue Feather Ceremony.

18. I've been to 43 states so far.  Stevie has been to thirty-something.  Once we hit 49, we are going to book a trip to Hawaii to celebrate hitting 50.

19. Soda is a major vice of mine.  I would drink Mountain Dew all day every day if I didn't know any better.

20. The only Star Wars movie I've ever seen is Episode IV, which I saw in the theater when George Lucas monkeyed with the original and re-released it in 1997.  In an effort to be more culturally literate, I've borrowed the entire set from a friend and plan to work my way through it in the coming weeks.

21. I never learned how to type properly.  When I type, I just kind of stab at the keys with my two middle fingers as quickly as possible until words appear.

22. I wear my watch on my right wrist, despite being right-handed.

23. I keep my iPad, laptop, Twitter, Facebook, etc. all set to German.  This makes it super annoying for anyone who tries to borrow one of my devices or needs to help me with something.

24. I was named Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.  So were you, incidentally.

25. I was raised in the Quaker faith.  This would explain my leaning towards simplicity in living and the comfort I feel being in my own head for long periods of time.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Still out there

Not a lot of running has happened over the last few months.  After a pretty epic 2015 (with over 2,100 miles run) I started scaling back on the intensity in December and have yet to pick it up again.

But I'm still out there.

I don't have any big distance races planned for the near future.  There are no major time goals I am chasing.  My next race is over a month away (Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k), but I'm not really training much for it.

But I'm still out there.

Most days I'm only out there for a mile, mostly in service of my runstreak.  We had a major snowstorm last month, and more snow today, and a few days here and there in the single digits.

But I'm still out there.

With little running going on, it's hard to find things to write about other than the fact that I'm still getting out there for the simple love of running.  My dedication to the sport may ebb and flow, but it will never die.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

2016 Olympic Trials Marathon

It was a great afternoon to be a runner in South Jersey.

Local running celebrities Jen Miller (prolific author and running columnist), Dave Welsh (owner of Haddonfield Running Company) and Erin Donahue (2008 U.S. Olympian) put together a spectacular event today in honor of the first ever live televised coverage of the Olympic Trials Marathon.

About 15 of us met at the bar at 12pm and took off into a blustery snowstorm for 2.62 miles. Aside from my usual Wednesday night 7 miles, this was the longest run I've done in a month, and probably the coldest this season.

When we returned from the run, the first round was on the house, and an epic buffet had been set up for us.

The bar quickly filled up with people - runners on the left side, and random day drinkers on the right.  It was definitely a novelty to see so many people at a bar in the middle of the day to watch a marathon.

I was ecstatic to see Meb and Galen place in the top three, and as for the women, I was sad that Kara didn't make the cut but happy Shalane gutted it out to finish third.

Stevie eventually joined us and brought Neale, and the highlight of the afternoon came when Jen raffled off a copy of her book and I won.

Bonus photobomb from Stevie and Neale.

I've been following Jen's progress on the book for months now and have been looking forward to its release, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive a free copy today over a month ahead of its scheduled release.

I'll be sure to read it and write a review here soon.

All told, it was a great afternoon of running and beer.  Big thanks to The Irish Mile for hosting the event and for the beer and food.  Can't wait to watch the Olympic Marathon this summer!
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