Monday, October 20, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon goals - Why Five, not Four, is a magic number this year

Last year, I didn't waste any time announcing my support of the Marine Corps Marathon organizers' new entry lottery system.  I'm sure the Marines were thrilled that I supported the idea over the old "race to register" method, and that I'd blogged about it that very day.

Anyway, I raged on an on about why the lottery was a good idea starting in 2014.  So of COURSE I entered it.  And, sure enough, didn't get in.

Wow, and I didn't even know I OWNED a petard . . .
But, I was later contacted by the BAMF Rose Runs On, who HAD gotten into the MCM.  It turns out she was unable to race due to injury.  A few text messages later, we used the MCM website, and she transferred me her bib, resulting in this oh-so-happy e-mail: 

Note:  Rose recovered from injury far smarter than I did, so I suspect we'll finish together a different year!
Now comes the question -- what do I do about a goal?  I made no secret last year of my desire to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and the (800 meter) lengths I went to reach that goal.  

Spoiler alert:  I did it in 3:59, with a rather dramatic ending.  But, I'll say it right now:

I have zero -- none -- nada ability to break 4 hours again.

Totes serious.  I'm not even kidding.


I am heavier than last year, and I haven't focused on speedwork the way I did last year.  Please know this -- I do not have any pace bands, goal bands, or whatever.  Because, as you might recall, there's a larger race I have less than one month after THIS one:  

So really, despite all the silly GIFs, my penchant for dick jokes, and generally downplaying my ability to do anything well (except fail), I really have to focus on the important things this year, and breaking the 4-hour mark for a marathon again isn't one of them.

What I care about this year, as far as the MCM is concerned, is this little number:


Why is the number 5 important?

For the Marine Corps Marathon, if you've finished FIVE of them, you're forever exempt from the lottery.  That's it.  You can just register and run it.  No matter where I am in life, no matter where I'm living, I will know that I can point to DC in late October and say, if I wish, "I've got the MCM as a race option this year.  I can go there and run it."

Plus, you get PATCHES!

No, not him.
You actually get PATCHES.  You become part of the Marine Corps Marathon Runner's Club, and you get a cool little patch every 5 finishes.

How freaking cool is that?!
Very freaking cool, just so we're clear.
I have been more focused on JFK, not MCM.  I just really wanted to "check the box" and reach MCM #5.  I want to be a "member of the club."

The point is that I have to, this year, focus on what's important.  And this year, it's about checking a box, and checking my ego at the start line.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Humpback Whales in HD -- Maui Whale Watch

Everybody loves whales, right?  Well, except for the Japanese:

That's kind of a quote, not hyperbole (see the below video!)

Whales are majestic peaceful creatures, amazing to see up close.  I mean, let's face it, one of the BEST Star Trek Movies involved Humpback Whales.  Just LOOK at those two old beasts (and the whales behind them):

Looks otherworldly, right?  (Talking about Shatner's hairpiece, not the whales)

While visiting Maui last winter, I had a pretty epic Whale Watch.  During previous trips to Maui, my whale watch trips usually involve a boat just slightly larger than a Coast Guard cutter, which means we are nowhere NEAR any whales we see, and people jockey like crazy to get just the right angle. 

This past trip, however, I was was lucky enough to go out on a VERY small craft, with less than a dozen people on it.  Here's a pic (I think the craft's name, "Great White," is Pidgin Hawaiian meaning "easily punctured.").

After the pre-launch safety briefing ("don't fall off") was done, it was time to go.  I was VERY self-conscious about being By-Himself-Guy, so I did what I do best:  Blather.  On, and on.  Fortunately, I blathered to just the right people, each of whom, like me, had checked into the dock/boat on FourSquare, so we "met" each other.

The people I met turned out to be a fantastic couple. The guy reminded me a lot of Matthew Lillard; he was tall, had a great laugh, and was both very sharp and friendly.  I don't have a specific celebrity for his wife, but she was kind, friendly, yet had this badass aura to her, which for some reason really reminded me of Liz Phair.  I'm a Liz Phan, so that's a good thing, even if she and Liz don't necessarily resemble each other.  They were both athletic, and very enthusiastic about this trip.  It was almost like they WEREN'T expecting to get upended and reduced to chum (SHUT UP IT COULD HAPPEN).

They had GoPro cameras with them, and made some amazing videos of the "whale fight" (I'll get to what I mean by that) going on underneath/around our little raft, and uploaded the videos.  While I was making sure at all times I had one entire LEG attached to the benches of the craft, they were hanging off the sides at times, getting shot after shot, and epic video footage, seemingly oblivious that we were in the middle of the ocean without a tiki bar in walkable reach.

Now, with their permission, two of their videos in this blog are here for you to watch, along with some photos we all took.  But first, let me tell you what you're going to see:

Cast of Characters:

1.  Some fatass in a Washington Nationals shirt (um, hi)
2.  Our friendly Denver Couple
3.  A very vocal couple at the front of the boat, who'd been out a day or two earlier
4.  Our Captain Leanne, a fantastically fun lady who knew exactly where to take us
5.  Her deckhand, who was also a marine biologist (Dr. Fred Sharpe of the Alaska Whale Foundation) who was absolutely losing his shit over what we were seeing.

6.  A nice lady named Melissa, who somehow got a hold of a plastic model of a humpback whale, and tended to just lean over the side while the whales fought, holding it in the water (note: you can see her do this below in the "long" video around the 5:40 mark).  I'm not sure if Melissa (the lady) thought the whales were going to spot it, and swim over to it.  (I mean, if they DID, they might think we'd shellacked some whale embryo with a coating of plastic, which could SERIOUSLY piss them off)

That's it.  8 (eight!) people on a little boat.  When we got out there, there were literally more whales around us than there were people on the dingy boat.


Runners don't look like krill, right?
What happened:

It's fair to say that when I woke up that morning, I'd never used, much less heard the term, "Whale Menstruation."  It was discussed a LOT on this trip (well, it was mentioned at least 2-3 times), after which I think I blacked out, or just kind of went numb to the discussion of whale vaginas and the Things They Do.  Dr. Fred was particularly interested in any of us spotting (ha!) "Menstrual Plume," which sounds like the WORST Yellowstone Park visit EVER.

Anyway, there was a female whale, whom we later named "Melissa," (after our fearless embryo-wielder) and she was, according Dr. Fred, possibly experiencing a visit from the equivalent of Whale Aunt Flo.  Whatever was going on, this brought many MANY male whales around.  What do male whales do when a female whale is, um, (metaphorically) craving chocolate and crying a lot?  They fight.

Dr. Fred called this "a cage match."  The whales would bump into each other, do something called "jaw claps" (where they bring their head out of the water and vigorously open/close their mouths, but also blow bubbles while they're in/out of the water.  I have some of this on a couple of Instagram videos, but the males were being ROUGH with each other, at least as far as whales go.  In this video I shot, at roughly the halfway point, you see one of them with his head out of the water, clapping his jaws and blowing bubbles.

Hint -- you can see more of videos and pics at my Instagram account -- I promise if you follow me, there will be no sephia-filtered pictures of food!

So, what did Melissa (the whale) do?  Easy.  She found a shield.


As in, she went and hung out UNDER our inflatable raft boat.

This prompted the males to circle our raft and fight.  Generally, they bumped, slapped, and otherwise just made a lot of noise towards each other, doing the WORST peacock imitations ever (or the best they could do, considering their lack of feathers, and weighing 8,000 times more than the colorful birdies).

How close were they?


That's part of our raft in the lower right corner.

(Not pictured:  Tai absolutely crapping himself)
Periodically, Melissa (still talking about the whale, not the lady) would poke her head above the water, performing what is called a "Spy Hop," or just "blow" her whale snot spray at us.  The misty water (this is true) often caused a rainbow to form in her exhaled water spray.  Because, as we decided, NOBODY WOULD BELIEVE THIS WAS HAPPENING.  Then she would dive back under our raft:

Anyway, the producers of these videos, our Denver pair of "Matthew and Liz" were EXTREMELY adept at getting shots.  Matthew would lean into the water, plunging his arm/camera into the warm Hawaiian water to get some of these shots, while Liz was standing HOLY SHIT UP ON THE THING OR WHATEVER THAT THING IS GET DOWN FROM THERE HOLY SHIT.  Meanwhile, I'm holding my iPhone up like a dork, proud of myself for shooting video in Landscape instead of Portrait mode.

Ok, let's get to their HD videos.  They made two.  The first is their "best of" portion of the whale watch trip:

This next video, if you REALLY love you some humpback whales, is the full version of the whale watch trip until their battery died.  I'm (surprise!) wearing my red Washington Nationals shirt, and wearing my Road ID in case we capsized and I had to swim back to Maui (or Molokai if it seemed closer): 

An epic fun day.  

People would almost never believe it happened, but thanks to these two videos, we have a leg (fin?) up on proving what happened out there on a low-populated winter afternoon off the coast of Maui.  And now we've all had the opportunity to discuss whale menstruation.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

2014 Race Report Table of Contents

I uploaded a LOT of race reports all at once.  Why the delay?  Because it seemed EACH race had something that was a callback to an earlier one, or it was a harbinger of a future race development.  I realized, as I did each race, that there was something connecting them, so it would prompt me to go back and revise the reports to incorporate points.  Meanwhile, time ticked by, and I wanted to upload the reports.

It's going to be too spammy and/or cumbersome to upload each report, so this post is a quick Table of Contents to them.  If you want to read them all, I'd love that.  But, in case you don't, I've included a short link and synopsis of each race, so you can see what's what.

I'm cool like that.  But each race report has some cute pictures, so maybe peek at them?

George Washington Parkway Classic 10-miler:  My first race since the 2013 Richmond Marathon. I was slower, fatter, less trained, and generally ran it not-too-smart.  But I hung out with friends post-race, and actually enjoyed myself.

Spring Backyard Burn ("BYB") 4-mile trail:  My first trail race, something I'd signed up for with an eye towards prepping for the JFK 50 miler, before I'd thought about the terrain.  Much concern about tree roots, rocks, and basically anything alive on the trail that wasn't another runner.  Ran it very cautiously, but had a good enough time out there. See pics of me fat.

Public Service Employees 5K:  I don't know what prompted me to sign up for this one, because I was ALREADY over-racing this year, and was still PLENTY overweight compared to last year.  I ran it well enough, but didn't push it as hard as I could towards the end, only to discover that I'd missed a PR by less than 10 seconds.  I did get a great finish photo though . . . .

Herndon 5K:  My daughter is an alumni of a school in Herndon, and asked if I was going to run it like I had previously.  I told her I wasn't sure.  A last-minute reading of a re-tweet of a Mark Twain quote inspired me to drive out and run it.  I ran it hard for the first mile, then settled into last year's pace for the remainder of the race, and earned a 5K PR.

Lawyers Have Heart 10K:  A rare, "trash the race organizers" report.  Pre-race, a complete disaster.  Like, a fucking train wreck of logistics.  Awful and unprofessionally run pre-race by the organizers.  For the race, I stuck to my pre-determined pacing plan, and came out with another longtime quest conquered, a sub-50 minute 10K.  Then there was more logistical train wrecking, quickly followed by (many) mimosas at brunch in Georgetown.

Potomac River Running Twilight 4-Miler:  Almost the total opposite of Lawyers Have Heart.  Incredibly well-run pre/post race, and then I basically crapped the bed DURING the run (I hate Twilight races, and had a bad one here years ago).  I missed a pacing mark towards the end, and once again ran with tons of energy left in the tank.  I had no plan, and just ran, making up strategy on the fly.  Big fat Fail, but I had beer post-race, and it was delicious.

Annapolis 10-Miler:  Lots of "throbbing groin" jokes.  An incredibly difficult course, but it resulted in a PR. Oh, whatever, like you're even reading after "throbbing groin."  Screw it.  Meepzorp banana beach ball fartknocker.  See? You're not even reading this part.

Reston Perfect 10-MilerA more difficult course than Cherry Blossom, but easier than the dreaded Annapolis EKG course.  And, as it turns out, my second fastest time for a 10-miler ever.  Running is a weird sport.

Ok, there you go, the links to my Spring & Summer race reports.  Why work?  Have fun and take a few minutes to read my drivel instead. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reston Perfect 10-Miler Race Report

My fastest 10-Mile race time came last year, at the Army 10-Miler.  It was crowded, but I managed to get a 1:23:xx time.  Normally, my "speed" 10-milers are done at the Cherry Blossom 10-MIler.  My record there, out of all my years running the course, is (roughly) 85 minutes and change.  Cherry Blossom is FLAT.  It is FAST.  It is also crowded, but, if you've raced enough, you can start to get better at taking tangents.

This race has a much tougher course profile.  It is hilly. It narrows in places. But, it's not crowded, as 10 miler finishers accounted for only about 550 people.

Reston Perfect 10 Miler course elevation

I arrived fairly ridiculously early, got a parking spot at South Lakes High School, and walked over in the cold to get my bib and shirt.  After relaxing in my car and doing the of-course-necessary last second port-a-potty visit, I made my way over to the start line, which looked more like a bunch of people milling about.  I --kind of-- saw where the start line was, and I --kind of-- saw a sign saying "8-9 minute pace," but I just kind of . . . stood.  There we 10K runners who were going to start with us, and then peel off just prior to the 10K mark as we did the course.

Oh, the course.  It's a strange form of concentric circles, first moving outwards, and then back.  I wish I'd paid more attention to the finish, however.  Because there should have been a sign at mile 9.7 saying "HAHA MIND FUK LOL OWNED" (but I'll get to that).

There was no real sound at the start.  Everyone was standing around, and then people just started running.  I really hoped someone had turned on the timer.

Bang!  Off we . . . went?

GO . . . ?
Note:  I'm only doing half splits for this race, because my two halves were fairly steady.

Miles 0-5:

43 minutes.  The hills forced me into wild pace swings, which I tried my best to keep steady.  Meanwhile, if I was struggling to stay steady, a lot of folks were NOT.  They would hit the downhills and run like they were . . . well . . .

I had at LEAST couple of people, I'd say at least 3-4, who I'd watch fly past me on the downhills, and then, sure enough, as we hit each uphill, they were almost trudging/walking or at least significantly slowed (depending on where we were in the race).  I saw them enough times that I'd say to myself, "Yup, it's him/her again," and would at least assure myself that as long as we kept seeing each other, it wasn't like I was in anybody's dust.

Miles 5-10:

Just under 42 minutes and a half minutes, so once again I'd managed some negative splits.  As we got closer to the finish, I picked up speed.  I actually started to, you know, run DOWN the hills, instead of holding myself back.

Probably what I looked like at the time.
I didn't see any of the usual passers again . . . until after I was done, and I watched them finish.  I was finishing up this race in a damn good mood.  I didn't smell a PR, but I could tell things were going well.

I once ran a race THIS BIG!

But then things turned slightly annoying.  Not a lot.  But enough.

Look, while I'm proud of the negative split, it would have been a bigger difference in times had I not been utterly crestfallen towards the end.  This is because, just as you approach the finish, you turn AWAY from the track (you finish actually on the High School's track).

Um, wait.  No -- hello?  The finish line is RIGHT THE HELL OVER THERE.  RIGHT THERE.

Nope.  Not time yet.

Instead, we're going to run down, ALMOST to the school property's exit point, and then turn AROUND and run back to the finish.  So yeah, a little out/back in your last point 3 tenths of a mile.

Basically said this for the entire last quarter mile or so.
All my speed from the last mile (which was about 8 flat-ish) was gone.  I'd moved into trudge mode myself.  But, I'd finished. My Garmin time looked familiar to me.  VERY familiar.  It turns out I'd run this race in a little under 85 and a half minutes.  In fact, I'd run it ONE SECOND faster than my best Cherry Blossom time.  This course was now my second fastest 10-mile time ever.  My PR was minutes faster, but . . . wow.  On a hilly course, with a suspect groin and zero motivation, I'd cranked out a time that made me almost feel happy about waking up at 5am.  Did I mention the course was difficult?  Oh.

Race by the numbers:
Overall:  Top 26%
Men:  Top 41%
AG:  Top 44%

This was about what I'm used to seeing, results-wise.  I'm usually in the top quarter of a lot of races, and in the top third or so for everything else.  It skewed slower for this race, but it's also skewed higher in others, so within the margin I'm familiar.  No biggie.  I was trying to test out myself, and to see if I could hold something for more than a short distance.  It was a nice race, and I was glad I got out there.  I have to give Potomac River Running lots of credit -- they run a tight, well-oiled ship when it comes to races, compared to one organization/race I won't mention.  Hmm, actually, I will.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Francis Marion Memorial Statute

Warning.  This is a rant.  No dick jokes today.

Update:  See below for what happened at the commission meeting.

Here's the thing about dogma, and spotting people ruled by it:  it's easy to detect, it's fun to tweak, and you are NEVER wrong for calling it out.

Sometimes, I get greater pleasure calling out liberals on their own dogma, compared to conservatives, because liberals (typically) get WAY more angry over it (as if it were nonsense that they could EVER commit the same mistakes conservatives make every day).  The South Park guys have often said that liberals always get madder when they're the butt of jokes compared to conservatives, but I think it's not a guarantee.  Because, you know, nuance.

Anyway, along South Carolina Avenue on Capitol Hill DC is a little National Park called "Marion Park."  It's named after Francis Marion, a revolutionary war hero who confounded the British using hit-and-run, guerrilla tactics.  The US Army credits him as one of the reasons the Army Rangers exist today.  His nickname was "The Swamp Fox."  He's particularly venerated in South Carolina, but also in the South, as a revolutionary war hero, and is credited as much by the Smithsonian.  Early in his life, he fought a brutal war against the Cherokee, and learned a lot from their use of terrain, and natural cover.  He took those lessons with him later against the British.

I'm actually happy that people in South Carolina celebrate this guy, because (1) it's not Civil War related, and therefore we can all agree that the US winning over the British was a good thing, (2) it's not NASCAR-related, and (3) it's not some idiot opposing the teaching of evolution as some sort of Obama-plot.  American heroes came from all corners during the revolution.  They did so at great personal risk.

So, some guy in South Carolina visited the park in DC, and saw there was no statue to him, just a sign noting that it was "Marion Park."  He worked up funds to create a "Swamp Fox Memorial," in the park.  It was undertaken, and got various approvals, including a signed Executive Order from the President, as well as other administrative steps.

But wait!  Didn't ANYONE think to ask the residents of Capitol Hill?  I mean, it's a NATIONAL park, but we really ought to go check with some local folks to make sure it's ok with them first.  Sorry, what I mean is:  Barf.

Anyway, they're pissed.  Marion, a person born nearly 300 years ago, did not live his life as we enlightened folks here in the 21st Century would like for him to have lived it.  He owned slaves.  His war against the Cherokee was brutal.  And, he was, by all accounts, good at war.

That's enough for some Capitol Hill residents to ABSOLUTELY LOSE THEIR SHIT.

The opposition to this is insipid, and tries to apply 21st century morals to someone who was born in the 1700s. This is the worst kind of hyper-hysterical political correctness. George Washington owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson not only owned them, he did far . . . more with them. The Marines on Iwo Jima were no angels as they retook that island. Shall we investigate the service records of the men represented on the Marine Corps War Memorial? They were, after all, white men born in the 1920s, and I doubt they spent their spare time working at soup kitchens, snuggling puppies, or marching for equal rights for minorities. All of these individuals undoubtedly held some beliefs, and engaged in some actions that people would describe as “brutal,” and 21st century people would find abhorrent. Yet we justifiably honor them all.

That a NATIONAL park is named after Francis Marion, someone whose bona fides in helping the United States gain its independence cannot seriously be questioned. And yet now, in modern times, people have decided that it is disgraceful to even remember him, or that you're only permitted to remember him negatively.  Absurd.

This is the nanny-state thought that many "intellectuals" engage in.  If we build a statue to someone, then EVERYONE will think that person must be perfect, except for "us," the enlightened few who know better.  Barf.  My favorite memorial is to Thomas Jefferson, and yet people of COURSE discuss his slaveownership, Sally Hemmings, and that he held some racist views (he believed blacks were inferior to whites).  That's just ONE of the founders whom we celebrate.  So shove your "but if we build a statue to someone then nobody will think of him in context" crap.  Believe it or not, some people without a Master's Degree in Political Science can actually think for themselves.

First, to the people carping over the "incursion" onto Capitol Hill — Marion Park is a NATIONAL park, and therefore any resident of this country should be able to have a say over what should or shouldn’t be in the park. Being located on Capitol Hill doesn’t give local residents any special veto. It’s on South Carolina Ave, in a NATIONAL park, and therefore the person pushing for the statute is entirely justified in seeking to place it there. Many aspects of this city carry a NATIONAL identity, and a National Park is surely one of them.  Your supposed "greater" status by living on Capitol Hill doesn't impress anyone outside of the beltway, and only impresses people INSIDE the beltway when it comes to commuting time.  YOU DON'T GET SUPERIOR INPUT OVER A NATIONAL PARK BY VIRTUE OF YOUR PROXIMITY TO IT.

Next, there is a person who smugly suggested that because Hollywood softened the (awful) Mel Gibson biopic, "The Patriot," it must have given more consideration than Congress, the President, or the NPS, realizing how horrible Marion was.  To those types of folks, I say:  It must be SO cool to live in your simple world.  It might surprise you to learn that Hollywood is not about promoting morals so much as it is about promoting MONEY. They’re not all stupid. Obviously, putting out a movie in the 21st century depicting some of Marion’s actions in an 18th century WAR would have been a turn-off to enough folks, and caused enough controversy, that it would NOT MAKE MONEY. Don’t try and glom onto Hollywood as some sort of moral arbiter. They care about the bottom line.

Another person pointed out that freedmen built a nearby church, and that putting a statue of Francis Marion there would be insulting.  Again, hypocrisy and selective outrage. 
Did it occur to anyone that in DC, you have black men and women who guard, work in, and otherwise tend to memorials of people who held slaves?

Of course, many of the MOTH-posting, Eastern Market browsing crowd, will sniff and decide that I must be a Tea Partier because I’m not toeing the politically correct line. I’m sure I’ll get called racist, because that’s the best means for someone to shut down argument, if they lack a counter. But that is because they are directed by dogma, not a devotion to facts. I think I’m in good company: the U.S. District Court Judge who prevented anti-evolution “intelligent design,” advocates from pushing their anti-science was called an “activist liberal judge.” However, he was a Dubya appointee, and was plenty conservative. He just recognized dogma, irrational thought, and misplaced outrage, so he called it out, angering many people with whom he agreed on likely many other topics. So be it here.

The Smithsonian itself has declared Marion a “hero of the revolution.”

(it notes that Marion was “no saint” by modern standards and yet still credits him as a hero — go cancel your Smithsonian membership, all you Outrage Junkies!).

The US Army even credits Francis Marion as leading to the development of the US Army Rangers. But because some local residents want to complain about a NATIONAL park, the NPS should stop all efforts. I’m surprised the name/sign hasn’t been defaced yet.

Here's the thing:  It’s WORTH teaching children that the founders of this country, the people who helped bring it into being, were not perfect. But we honor those who helped found this country, despite their flaws, because this country allows those who are flawed to still flourish. We learn, we grow, and we continue. We don’t try to pretend the past didn’t happen, or that people whose actions wouldn’t pass muster NOW never did anything positive when they were alive.

Some residents of Capitol Hill want to apply modern morals to a man born almost 300 years ago. If the statue is placed, I’d be proud to explain to generations that we honor a man who helped found this country, but was no angel. Nuance is important, no matter the issue.  If you can't see that, it's because your dogma is in the way.

Update:  I went to the commission meeting.  Not a single commissioner objected to the statue, and only one, a representative of the Mayor (gently) pointed out to the statue's advocates that it might seem weird if someone tried to put a statue of Frederick Douglass in Charleston, SC (which, by the way, isn't a fair analogy, unless there was a PARK in Charleston called "Frederick Douglass Park."  Otherwise, not a single person who rose up against the park raised the modern moral canard; they just stuck to a lack of "notice."  One commissioner actually mentioned that there was an aspect of NIMBYism to their objections.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Annapolis 10-Miler Race Report

Disclaimer:  There will be, at times in this report, references to "my throbbing groin."

Go on, get it over with.  

But -- seriously, my groin has been tight, and I can't seem to find the answer.  Rest, stretching, foam rolling, "The Stick"(tm) all aren't really helping as much, or as quickly as I would like.  

But but -- I took a week off, which helped some.  But I can't afford to take a month or something off.  So it isn't really stopping me from running, but it IS stopping me from running fast. 

Follow me? 

Fine, screw you people, doing this race report for ME at this point (which wouldn't surprise me if that's how many readers this blog even has).

Seven years ago, when I would often "Race to Train," instead of "Training to Race," I did this course.  It's VERY hilly, and, because it's in late August, it's often quite hot.  I struggled, and finished with just about my worst 10-mile time of about 1:40, call it 100 minutes.

Out of the blue, I just kind of noticed that this race was there, and was the same day as the Quantico Sprint Tri.  I chose the A-10, for reasons I can't really explain.  Maybe this year is just about getting rid of demons.  But I signed up for it.

This race has a lot of good going for it:

1.  It's cheap for a 10-mile race, $65 if you register early on.

2.  They give GREAT premiums, like a race jacket.  One year I think they gave out watches.

3.  Parking is spacious and easy to reach.

4.  This course is in Annapolis MD, starting out at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium, and winding through Annapolis' bars/restaurant area, as well as some really lovely residential sections, all with residents sitting out to cheer you on, or even spray you with a garden hose (in a kind way, not a "get dafuq outta here" way).

The "bad," isn't much, but again, it's AUGUST in Annapolis, and this is the hill profile:

Those are some SERIOUS climbs.  You go up and over the Naval Academy Bridge TWICE, and also engage in some serious ups and down as you run this thing.  They warn you on the registration page that this is NOT the course where you're going to PR.

I learned the hard way seven years ago.  No need to convince me today!  The hills, along with the sun, aren't to be taken lightly.

Plus, with my training for Fall races, I'd already run 10 miles the day before the race.  So I was determined just to get this thing over with.  The problem was, as with so many things, my groin was tight and I couldn't seem to stretch it out and/or loosen it.

Asking for maturity here . . . .

It's been tight on one side for about a month, and the stuff I mentioned before isn't fixing it as quickly as I'd like.  Still, I'd been forced to miss the MD HEAT race for work, and now this race was looking dicey.  So I made myself a promise -- just finishing this thing would be cause for celebration, and if ANYTHING hurt, I would walk.  I just didn't want to pull out of this race.

Anyway, I woke up at FOUR EFFING O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING to go to this race, so I was damn well going to be careful about how I did it.

I grabbed my stuff, drove to Annapolis, snapped this shot of the sunrise at the stadium, and waited for the start.

HOONK!  The air horn sounded, and off we went.

Miles 0-3:
Herman Cain would love this stretch.  

Each one of these miles took 9 minutes flat:  So:  9, 9, 9.

Ordinarily, I'd expect to go faster for a 10 mile run, but I was seriously-not-kidding doing my best to run without taxing myself very much.  I was actually kinda pleased that my groin wasn't throbbing, so much as just needing a good stretc-SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

Mile 3-4:  (9:50)
This was slow, but I walked through a water stop, took a Gu, swallowed a salt tablet, and then (for part of this), we began to approach The Bridge.

This is the Naval Academy Bridge, and, from all appearances if you're a runner, it goes STRAIGHT UP TO THE SKY SERIOUSLY WHERE IS THE TOP OF THIS THING?


This was not fun.  The good news was that I made a little time as I . . . went down.

Mile 4-5:  (9:25)
Not as much time gained as I had lost, but I was still happy -- I hadn't hit 10 minutes per mile yet.  Unfortunately, you never make up the full amount of time that you lost going up.  No biggie.  We headed into some really nice, pretty residential areas of Annapolis.  Many residents stood on their lawns, cheering us on, some even had set up sprinklers for the runners to go through.

Yes, wearing a Washington Nationals shirt in the heart of Maryland.  Sorry, O's fans.

 Miles 5-7: (9:46, 9:47)
These miles were slow, but we were really doing some roller coaster hills, and I wasn't going to worry too much about it.  There was a funny stretch where, starting at mile "late 5" until ALMOST mile 7, we wound our way down a loooooooong gentle downhill, while the whole time faster people climbed up the other way.  

It was the worst preview of things that were going to suck I'd seen since the new Ninja Turtles trailer.  I halfway hoped those people over there were running a different race than us ("Oh hi, A-10 runners!  We're not doing your race, ours is called the half-mile-uphill-suicide-scramble!  Have fun going downhill more!").

Finally, after an excruciatingly long amble down the gentle hill, we turned Up, where I felt every one of my increasing-years.

Uphills give me gas.  Well, so do downhills.  And popcorn.

 It was Not Cool.  My groin was at its Most Annoyed part of the day.

What, my blog?  No argument there.  But the hill did too.
Miles 7-9: (9:35, 9:30)
I looked down at my Garmin as I began mile 7, and realized that if I held a sub-10 minute pace, child's play on any non-throbbing-groin run, I could get a course PR.  Here I was, SEVEN years older, and potentially able to run this thing faster.  My groin was tight, but not painful.  I knew that if I started to open up any amount of speed, I'd (re?)injure myself.  So I just focused on keeping a steady, not fast pace.  Miles 7-8 and 8-9 came in seconds apart.

Note:  This section covered that Naval Academy bridge again, and I had a blast this time.  I kept my stride short, my lean forward, and my mind on beating 10 minutes.

Mile 9-10:  (9:00)

Just like that, my last mile was the same speed as the first three miles.  

The Red Shoes of Doom(tm) still carrying me along!
 I'd done it!  I'd PR'd this monstrosity of a course by less than 5 minutes (which isn't anything to sneeze at for a 10-mile race), and I was walking (mostly) normally.  One of the members of the Annapolis Striders handed me a cold wet towel, and I happily went and got race jacket finishers premium.

I hate you all.  So much.

Sometimes you have a race plan, and the plan is this:

Don't race, just run.  Have fun.  And sometimes, that's enough.  It was today.

Race by the numbers:

Blah.  At last check I was in the top 51% of my AG (ouch, as in, bottom half).  I need to wait for more official numbers when it comes to OA (edit:  looks like I was only in the top 41% of all finishers).  I have to say -- this is a freaking FAST field of runners.  I saw very few people who liked like, well, me.  Damn.  So many thin, fast people.  Meh.  More post-race bagels for me. 

I had about a 70-second positive split (boo!), but considering the hills loaded onto the second half of this course, it really shouldn't be that surprising.

Things I learned:
 1.   I need to massage my groin more often and otherwise take better care of it if I'm going to feel better.  BLOG OVER I'M NOT EVEN LISTENING NOW GO FOR IT.

I'm so not even going to dignify this with a caption.  Besides this one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ashburn Twilight 4-miler Race Report

This one is going to be a short entry, because (1) I'm behind, and (2) this race was done to memorialize Jamie Rowley, a mom of two killed by an SUV as she was out running, so I don't want to make too many fart or poop jokes.

Years ago, I'd done this race, and I'd done it poorly.  What was worse was that my ex-wife and daughter had come out to watch me, and I'd basically shat the bed.  I was tired, fatter, and generally not feeling it on a hot June afternoon.  I ran it, but it wasn't anything special.

Because I'd purchased a Potomac River Running Race Pass, I really needed to start USING my codes for races, and this seemed like a good choice.  I went and did mile repeats at a track earlier in the day, and then took my daughter out to Ashburn, to drop her off with her mom.  The course was right there in the evening.  Here we go.

The most pressing things I had to decide were these:

1.  Do I wear the sweaty shirt from the track earlier in the day?
2.  Do I wear the race t-shirt I'd just gotten from packet pickup?

Luckily, the answer was 3(!) -- I found an old "Team Justice" shirt from my 2013 Lawyers Have Heart race and just threw that on.  It's fairly bling-y.  It's got my Division and Section on the sleeve, along with a "Boston Strong" decal on the back, and the DOJ Eagle on the front/back.  Pretty noticeable.  I certainly noticed people noticing IT, which weirded me out a little.

I also had to do a couple of things:

1.  Come up with a race plan, and 

Sorry, I mean, SCRABBLE!

I'm a word game/scrabble FREAK.  I love them.  So instead of doing some VERY simple math about what kind of pace I needed, or even what I had in MIND to do, I just played Scrabble, answered some tweets, and then left my phone in the car to go run.  If only I'd noticed that I could hit sub-31 minutes with a 7:45 pace . . . .


No delay for this entry.  Packet Pickup was smooth.  People friendly.  All good.  Blew away the clusterfuck of the LHH race from a week ago.

BANG!  And we're off.

Mile 0-1:  7:38

I was definitely cooking here, but not breathing super hard.  I noticed a couple of people pass me.  One was a woman who had some sort of diagonal bottle along the small of her back, and the other was a guy wearing a distinctive t-shirt I recognized.  They'd pass me, then seem to slow down, then pass me again.  Ah well.  My Garmin showed me relatively steady.

Note:  If I'd bothered to race plan, I'd have realized I had a few seconds of cushion from my 7:45 goal pace.  Idiot.

Mile 1-2:   8:05

Hit the halfway point here, not knowing that I was less that 15 seconds off my overall pace at the halfway.  Looking back, this was the mile that did me in.  I just was racked with blahs, and we hit two minor climbs that made me even LESS interested in running.

Mile 2-3:   7:59
Somewhere during this mile, I started to say, "Enough is enough.  Screw this pity party and TOUGHEN THE HELL UP.  I started to do some math, and realized that, just maybe, I might come through with a sub-8 minute pace if I could just dig deep.  So I dug.  And I kicked.

Trust your kick.  Trust your kick.  Just KICK THE HELL NOW YOU HAVE ONE MILE TO GO.

Mile 3-4:   7:24

I passed the guy in the t-shirt I recognized.  I passed the lady with the bottle along her back.  I passed two more people I recognized from the start line, some of whom had eyed my shirt with curiosity.  I pushed.  I pressed.  I realized I had WAY more in the tank than I thought and OH SHIT THERE'S THE DAMN FINISH.

I watched 31:00 tick by on my watch, JUST as it struck me that, "Hey, I bet 7:45 per mile over 4 miles would equal 31 minutes.  Ooops.  Dork."

I'd missed 31 minutes by under 10 seconds.

I'll say this -- I wasn't even upset.  I'd run mile repeats earlier that day.  I'd had three people approach me (none of the ones I'd mentioned) to tell me that they saw me pass them towards the end, and couldn't stay with me.  So yay for negative splits!  

Also, I wasn't upset because, as I'd learned earlier this year at the GW Parkway classic, post-race beers are AMAZING.  I'd even found a way to ensure the precariously-hanging beer voucher would stay attached:  


My beer and food tags are hanging precariously from my race bib no more. #ProblemSolver #BeerHero

View on Instagram

I drank a beer, ate food, cheered runners coming in to the finish.  Finally, I chatted with some of the folks from the Run For Jamie support group, and of course thanked them for their efforts.  With that, it was time to go.

I stunk.

Race by the numbers:

Top 16% overall

Top 30% Men

Top 28% AG

Course elevation, FWIW:

Ashburn Twilight 4-Miler Course Elevation