46 of 52: Summer Dash Half Marathon

A Better World Running

This is the name of the group that put on the Huntington Beach Summer Dash. From their web site:

“We are offering a friendly, fun racing atmosphere in Southern California.  There are no hidden motives, everything is straight forward.  We offer the pure essentials of racing. “

And that they did. Imagine any race you’ve ever done – but scaled way back. There were racers – but like 100 of us. 27 doing the half marathon. There was water and nutrition at the turn around – but like a six pack of water and a box of GU. There were start and finish flags – but small ones – like just a hair taller than me. There was an entry fee – but a very modest one.

And it was perfect.

If it sounds like I’m making fun of this race it’s just because I’m doing a bad job of expressing how I felt that everything was in perfect alignment with their mission.

The pre race communication was good. Directions were good. Check in was fast and easy (although here – even with a small race they could have benefited from signs or matching t-shirts for the volunteers.)

Why Huntington Beach? I was in town to drive my oldest, Mikey to College and I just searched online for any Half Marathon happening within driving distance during the time I would be there. And this one came up. I wasn’t super thrilled with the web site (but I rarely am) as it’s a little dated and I was looking at it on my phone – but I liked the name and I liked the mission so I signed up.

“We believe in keeping costs low so everyone can enjoy the experience of participating in a race, achieving personal goals, and making new friends in the process! “

I had a 630 am flight to CA on Thursday which mean no sleep for me on Wednesday since I didn’t want to risk missing the flight. My Sister Sherry (who lives there with my grandmother) and Mikey (who was crashing there for a couple weeks before college) came to get me from the airport on the way to Sherry’s coaching session. (professional singers have coaches too!) . We had time for breakfast but once Sherry went into her session Mikey and I found a shady tree and took a nap. For an hour.

After the coaching session/nap we headed to Gram’s house where I was gonna be crashing over the weekend. I had a couple more 1 hour snoozes during the day and then a few solid hours from 10-2am when we got up to get ready and load up the car. Wheels up at 3AM. We were driving from La Mirada to San Luis Obispo. It was supposed to take 4.5 hours – it took 3.5. I guess we could have left on Thursday and got a couple hotel rooms in SLO – but where’s the fun in that? Also this was low key a road trip for me and my siblings on the way back.

So we were a little early for breakfast – but that was fine my me. We had time for an extra cup of coffee before dropping Mikey at school. We ate at a tiny diner type restaurant in SLO called Louisa’s place. Service was pleasant and the food was good. Will go again.

I blinked and then we had dropped Mikey off and were on our way back home – though here is photographic evidence of me napping and also getting one last hug.

Then we drove back – which did not go as quickly as the trip up. I mean – my brother and sister and I had planned to take our time coming home so it took about 5.5 hours all together. We stopped to drive my brothers new Jeep on Pismo Beach, then we hit Solvang and grabbed a bowl of Andersen’s split pea soup. I prefer my mom’s soup but we had been here a bunch with my grandparents growing up and wanted to get a little nostalgic so we all got the soup – even though none of us were really all that hungry.

I write all this – well because it happened and I wanted to share – but also to say I was really frickin’ tired for this race! We rolled in around 930 or so and I had to be up at 530 to get the the race in Huntington Beach on time.

The Run

The race was held right on the Huntington Beach bike trail and started at Bolsa Chica State Beach. I had pictured running next to the water under a blue sky listening to the waves crash – like the opening to any TV show that takes place on the beach – but that’s not really how it went down. It was hazy and the beach is huge so you cant really see the water all that well from the trail.

Still it was pleasant and there was plenty of iconic beach culture and scenery to take in along the trail. VW bugs, countless people surfing, a veritable neighborhood of RVs camped out along the trail with people cooking eggs and bacon on the grill. There were also numerous groups camped out on the beach including birthday parties, class reunions, and what looked like a volunteer group picking up trash.

A Better World Running boasts taking a ton of pictures during the race and again they delivered – by way of a facebook gallery. No fancy web site or expensive prints. Just “hey man, I took some pictures of the race and posted them on Facebook. I hope you like it.” There are way too many of me but a couple turned out OK.

The race itself was preceded by some really quick pre race announcements and a review of the course – run to the cones, turn around, come back. Unless you’re running the half marathon – then keep running till you hit the other cones, turn around and come back – three times. Each out and back for me was 4.4 miles.

The first lap I swear I was asleep for. I sheepishly ran out, mentally taking notes of some things that might make good pictures… later. I wondered if the sky would clear up. It did not – but that sun in CA is no joke so I was actually a little happy about that. The California sun brings heat like the Maryland humidity brings suffering. I may try running in a completely new state to avoid them both. Alaska is looking good.

The second lap I started to feel a bit more alive. I had tried to count how many of us half marathoners were out there so I could explain away all the faster people as running shorter distances. It’s funny – I know I’m not a super fast runner but I still like to joke to myself “oh – they’re only running 5 miles” or “yeah I remember my 20’s” just to take the edge off how I feel about my pace during a run. It’s easier than track work I guess.

When I came in from my second lap the guy at the turn around joked that the gal in front of me told him I would never catch up to her. He was pulling my leg, trying to wake me up and have a good time. It worked and I replied – “I bet she’s right!” I *did* catch up to her but mostly because I was just running how I felt and that’s the way it happened. It also happened that at the final turn around she dropped me again. I was running out of steam so I decided to make some intervals out of the last two miles to pass the time.

It was a nice simple race and as much as I loved running in the woods of the mountains last week, I loved running next to the ocean this week. I bet if I lived in the area I would do a lot of their races. I had planned on sticking around to meed the Better World people but I wanted to get back home.

Not The Run

I just dropped Mikey off at college. First kid. First year. I joined a couple Facebook groups for their school so I could get details about check-ins and paperwork deadlines for parents and stuff like that. I did get that info – but what I also got was a lot of parents posting about how hard it was for them to let go of their child.

I get that I guess but some of them were really over the top (for me) and look – if you’re having a feeling, you’re having a feeling. Who am I to say it’s wrong? No one – that’s who. But I WILL say I could not relate in the least. It’s not because I don’t love my kid – because I do. It’s not because I won’t miss hearing their voice – because I will. It’s because I am *way* more excited for them than I am sad for me.

This is true of both my kids… Being their father is just one of the many things I *am*. Yes, it’s a HUGE part – but in the way that being their father has influenced (and improved) every other part of me not in the way that diminishes all of the things I was before. (I don’t believe in that sort of thing.)

So I was feeling pride. This kid has been amazing me and challenging me in ways I never could imagine along the way. They’ve been preparing for this for a long time and – as their dad – so have I. Looking at where we are I’d say we did a damn good job. Nothing left for me to feel but really really excited for them. There good times and shitty times, huge wins and dumb mistakes waiting for us in the future but that-is-what-it-is-all-about.

Is my apartment quieter? Yes. Is the group dynamic here different now? Yes, of course. But you know how I love to embrace change – so embrace it I will.

Next Week: A Run Out of the Darkness

45 of 52: Odessey Trail Running Rampage Half

I Like Running in the Woods

I’ve had this race on the books for a long time – just about a year actually. Dan recommended this race to me. – I know. Shocker. He was planning to do the 40 miler as he has off and on (mostly on) for the last 10 years or so and I planned to run with him on the final lap.

“OK”, I said. I really enjoyed running the Rosaryville 50k and other trail runs so I thought this would be a great way to get out of town and see something new (which I’m also a fan of). So… yes. I’m IN.

I am not a “trail runner” – historically. Though I think I find it a lot more enjoyable than running on the street. Or the track. (Obviously I don’t like the track – look at my pace!). Except bugs – I don’t like running in bugs. Ticks and spiders specifically. So I don’t get out as much as I should.

I do love nature though. I love being in it. It makes me imagine a world where, instead of making meat out of plants we would just, you know, eat less meat. Or a world where instead of always trying to do more with less – we just do less and enjoy what is. Where what we expect out of the planet is more in line with what we actually need rather than… what we think we need.

I could really let my inner hippie out right now but I won’t – I mean I started to but then I deleted it. Right here – in this spot where these pixels are, I rambled on about living off the land, etc. – but maybe I’ll save it for “Not the Run”. Or I won’t – because like probably a lot of people I’m more hypocritical that I’d like to think I am.

Before the Run

You: Oh. It’s one of those posts. Where he just adds new heading willy nilly. Ignoring the arbitrary three part formula he usually uses.

Me: Damn right. This was a good time and it spanned the weekend so I want to share more of my experience than I usually do in case anyone is interested in doing the race themselves.

The race is set on Saturday in Douthat State Park, in Bath County, Virginia which is a four hour drive from Annapolis (without traffic) but before I roll straight into logistics and what not, let me back up and try to wrap some context around this…

This was a family affair. One of the things I really enjoy about Dan is his family – and his commitment to it, his wife Katie and her commitment to the family and Dan. They are often out of town, camping, exploring, racing, visiting…living. All of them. Two young boys, one dog and a puppy. That’s right – not “two dogs”. One dog and a puppy. It’s different. Not only that – Katie’s parents arrive at the park a day early, secure the campsite and then help with the kids and the dogs (plus their dog makes two and a puppy…)

OK – so back to logistics… With traffic it takes about 5 hours to get to the park from Annapolis give or take and since we were getting up early the next morning to run we didn’t want to be rolling into the park at night. So the move was to leave Annapolis around noon. The boys have school so waiting to put the whole gang in the van would put us dangerously close to missing the packet pickup window between 8pm and 9 pm.

Dan: Katie says we can leave before rush hour and she’ll follow with the boys after school – but we’ll need to take Highland.
Me: Silence. (Highland is the puppy.)
Dan: We can cover up the back seat. I know you love that car.
Me: Right…Well we can just take Mikey’s car! (I said as if I had just solved world hunger. Mikey just left for college and left their Ford Focus hatchback with me.)
Dan: Oh that’s better than taking your car.
Me: What? Is my car in the woods a little like putting on makeup before a run?
Dan: Kind of – also, there’s more room in the Ford.

I worked a half day from home and then met Dan at his place to pack up the car and hit the road. It’s just like commuting – but longer, and with a puppy. I half expected Highland to be up the entire trip. Bouncing from one window to the next. Back and forth. Back and forth. And he did that – a little bit. Every once in awhile he’d poke his nose up front – “Hey guys. What’s up. I’m Highland and I’m super cute. I’ll just be back here in case anyone wants to pet me.” But for the most part he just chilled out in the back seat.

Glamping

Before I knew it we had made our way the four hours plus one stop for essentials and were pulling in to Douthat State Park. We pulled into the visitors center and Dan went in to get a parking permit for the car while I held on to Highland.

When people see you standing with a puppy they want to talk to you – about the puppy. Everybody wanted to know how old he is – I had no idea. “He’s my my buddy’s puppy – I don’t know” was my clumsy answer. He’s 6 months give or take. I know this now – because it’s the first thing I asked dan when he emerged from the visitors center.

Parking permit in hand, we made our way to the camp site.

My parents were active Girl Scout leaders so I camped what felt like a lot when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because I was much younger then but it felt a LOT more like roughing it than this. I can remember hiking for MILES (at least 100 miles, probably more) from the car to the camp site when I was a kid. It was probably 100 yards but you know how it is when you’re a kid. Everything is bigger and you feel so much smaller. I think that’s why kids are so amazed at and excited by everything.

Here, we just pulled right onto the camp site. Very convenient. Bathrooms? Why yes – a 50 yard walk to the bathrooms (and separate showers) complete with hot water and electricity free from the influence of the elements – which is my fancy way of saying that the walls and doors were floor to ceiling keeping out the weather and the bugs.

It wasn’t long before we had the tent up and the car unloaded. Katie’s parents were there so we set off for some dinner.

The Run

The Odyssey Trail Running Rampage includes a 40 miler, Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 6 Miler. You can read all about it and Oddessey Adventure Racing here but here’s the excerpt from the web site that caught my eye…

The loop will have a total elevation gain of 2700 feet over 13 miles, the majority of which will be gained in the first four miles.

The first four miles?! Yikes – that’s a little bit of climbing! I ran the half with Dan (one loop) and he ran the 6 miler with Katie afterwards.

I’ve only got a couple of longer trail races under my belt but from what I’ve read and in my limited experience they tend to be small laid back affairs. This is not to say that they aren’t well organized or that we’re kind of on our own out there in the woods just that I guess everyone knows that they’re going to be out there for a long time so no one seems to be in a hurry. (That’s race irony in case you missed it.)

Safety and planning were evident during the race briefing. The race director was super nice and was sure to explain the course, course marking and some of the hazards – including a fallen tree on the way up the mountain. He also warned us that since the trail was dry that there were a lot of downhill sections where the ground was loose.

“You’ll want to be real careful on your third lap ‘cus you’re gonna cramp up when you try to go under that thing…” (the tree) He wasn’t kidding – I only did one lap but that tree was a pain in the ass the first time – I can only imagine trying to get by it after running 26 miles…

Pre-race briefing

This run provided a variety of terrain and beautiful views. I tried to capture as much as I could but nothing is quite like being there especially in hurried moments with a cell phone camera. True to the description there was a LOT of climbing in the first few miles. We were eased into it with a fairly wide but rocky trail. There was a slight incline but the loose rocks really helped to set the tone of the race and remind me what level of focus would be required. The field separated pretty quickly with the faster folks out for time getting out ahead of folks who were there to admire the woods.

Then things got really steep really fast. If there were people still running – and I’m sure there were – they were ahead of me and Dan. I didn’t take a picture of it because – safety first – but this is the part of the trail where that tree had fallen.

The climb felt like it went on for forever. I tried to imagine doing all three laps and I quickly realized that I would need to train very differently than I would for a road race. I’d need more time on the trails and more time building strength. As I approach 50 the reality is that I have to work harder to maintain my muscle mass and strength. Not impossible but certainly a challenge. I mean – 40 miles to start. Then throw in this climb…

After the initial rocky section there were switchbacks to help us up. I started to catch a glimpse of the view through the trees.

The single track turned from a rocky mix to almost sandy at times. Dan had struck up a conversation with a couple folks in front of us who had run some of the same races he has in the past. I stared at the ground and tried to listen in so the time passed easily for me until finally we reached the high point. This wasn’t the scenic overlook at aid station 1 but I had to snap a picture.

After this the trail got VERY narrow and thank goodness the ground was firm otherwise I would have just slipped off the side of the mountain! We emerged from the tree cover and the vegetation changed as we ran along the ridge line. It looked very steep but Dan assured me that I wouldn’t fall *all* the way down – but I might roll my ankle so I should stay to the right. I did. I did not roll my ankle. (yay)

After some time we started a gentle descent and re entered the woods. People started passing us going the other direction as we approached the first aid station of the loop. We were about 4 miles in at this point. The station was at the end of a little out and back lined with a tall grass of sorts and the trees had thinned out again. After no time we came to the end of the the trail where there sat a small log cabin and a handful of volunteers with water and runners taking in the view. I took a few pictures of the runners that had been in front of us and they reciprocated and took a picture of Dan and I. Everyone was really nice.

There is no easy way up to this cabin but the volunteers had CARRIED water up so that we would have some hydration. Carried. Water. Up. A. Mountain. I’m not sure how many gallons of it but enough for all of us. It had to be a lot. I had a cup and thanked them for being there. After a minute or so of admiring the view we went yet again into the woods to begin the descent. This is the part of the trail we had been warned to be careful of the loose rocks. The rocks here were large enough to look solid but none of them were. Every step moved beneath my feet. My mind and my ankles were taking a beating – but it was FUN!

Coming down the mountain felt almost like dancing – no two steps being the same, falling at different times and in different ways created a complex never repeating rhythm. The variety and focus helped the time pass. I only wish I could have spent more time looking into the woods and not at Dans feet! The trail changed again from those large loose rocks to a smaller packed trail and we descended long easy switchbacks picking up the pace a bit. Nearing the bottom we came to these beautiful tunnels formed by rotodendrons.

The next several miles were pretty uneventful. The rotodendrons gave way to sparse woods and the fast descent was replaced with some nice rolling trail covered in a mix of sand and rock.

We left the trail and were delivered onto a fire road that took us right past the camp site! In another couple hundred yards we arrived at the second aid station – manned by a local boy scout troop – where we were greeted by Katie and one of the boys. This stop was NOT at the top of a mountain so they had the usual assortment of food. Potatoes, candy, cola, etc. I had some potatoes and cola – completely unnecessary for a half marathon – refilled my water bottle and we took off.

I hardly ever drink soda these days – but when you’re on the trail… it just tastes so good!

At this point we had about 4 miles and change to go. We ran for a really short time on the road and past the visitor center before turning back into the wilderness. I was just starting to think how nice it was to be on flat course and then, as if on cue, a shortish but VERY steep hill appeared. We walked a little. To avoid walking the whole time, we started picking landmarks to run to. I’m certain that if we were doing the 40 miler we would have walked more but we agreed that since we were doing the one loop we shouldn’t be as easy on ourselves.

After a couple miles we found ourselves on the road again running through campgrounds set up for folks with horses. I have never seen such a thing. Aid station number three was at the end of this campsite, manned by more boy scouts. I had some more cola and immediately regretted it. Maybe if I had put in a few more miles in between it would have been a better decision. Dan asked to pet one of the horses and they said sure!

And then into the woods we went – this time being careful not to step in any of the “road apples” left by those pretty horses.

The last few miles passed quickly. Well – in my head anyways. We followed the trail around a small lake and aside from me tripping on a foot bridge and almost falling into the water it was pretty uneventful. Before I knew it we were done. 13.4 miles in the books.

We didn’t stick around too long after we finished since we needed to get back to the camp site. Dan and Katie had an hour or so before the 6 miler would kick off and I… needed a shower before I hit the road.

Not the Run

I dropped Katie and Dan at the 6 miler and after the race started went back to the camp site to pack my things and get on the road back to Annapolis. As I was loading up I noticed people running past the camp site. It was the six milers! I did some quick math and realized if I waited a couple minutes I would catch Dan and Katie coming out of the woods – so I did.

Just a few weeks before this race I took a road trip in California with my kids and saw the Giant Redwoods and Half Dome and I told them that being there made me want to just take three months and do nothing but wander around in the wilderness.

I couldn’t help but wonder – Am I trying to escape from something or return to something?

Looking back on this race report and these pictures I think it’s neither. I think I’m just realizing how big the world is and how little I’ve seen of it. I want to see taller mountains and bigger canyons. Different cultures and ages of architecture. I know I probably won’t have time to spend truly learning any of it enough to do it justice but I think being exposed to it is important. I want to be in that state of wonder, of felling small in a big place – or a new place, to remind me to approach people with understanding. To be better. We’re all small in a big place but we have this tendency to forget that when we spend every day in the same place, doing the same things. We don’t grow living that way.

I’m lucky enough to have the first few couple of Maslow’s needs met, I have the time and energy to spare on being better. That’s how I want to spend it.

Next year I’m doing the 40 miler.

33 of 52: Centennial Park

We Meet Again

It’s been 2 and a half months since I set out – unprepared – to find my way on foot from Katie’s house to Centennial park. I failed miserably the first time.

Spoiler – this time I made it.

I’m not sure why this was a goal for me. I guess I’m just trying to find these surface level reasons to run in order to keep things interesting. Trying to make my own bright shiny objects to keep me focused so the other ones don’t distract me from doing this thing.

Centennial Park was the site of my first ever Olympic distance triathlon – and it was HARD. The swim was okay, but the bike was BRUTAL with a ton of hills and the run was the same.

I remember heading out of the park for the portion of the run that went through a nearby neighborhood and seeing Kevin M FLYING up a very steep hill on the way back *into* the park. Steep enough and long enough so it had those motivational sidewalk chalk phrases all over it.

“You got this AMY!”

“What Hill???”

He was almost done and I had 3 or 4 miles to go. I remember thinking…

“That guy is a badass…”

The Run

Unlike my prior attempt to run to this park, I decided to map out my run ahead of time so I could see if the distance was even going to be near 13.1. It was. I hadn’t even considered that part of it before. I think I just licked my thumb and stuck it up into the air as if this was going to allow me to measure distance using the earth’s magnetic field. Everyone knows that saliva is very sensitive to magnetic waves.

Don’t hate – it’s science.

The route that actually got me to Centennial Park

The run was really pleasant. The temperature was rising and there was a bit more elevation than I usually seek out but it was nice. I found the variety in scenery, a specific destination and well marked trails came together to take the whole “burden” of the run off my shoulders.

My first Point of Interest was Blandair Regional Park which I have been seeing from my car from Rt. 175 since it was first being built. This is the first time I got to see it up close – and it is nice.

From there I focused on making my way to Lake Kittamaqundi which I hadn’t been around since my first Out of the Darkness community walk back in 2014 (2013?). Getting there took me on a pedestrian bridge over Rt. 29 which was really cool.

After crossing Rt. 29 I took a chance and went around the “back side” of the lake and sniffed my way up to Running Brook Road – which I learned from the map would take me most of the rest of the way to the park.

Lake Kittamaqundi

But what I did not learn from the map is that Running Brook Road is kinda hilly. I had been going downhill for most of this run and it was while I was climbing up part of this road that I realized of course – there would be a lot more of this on the way home.

Fine.

I was *just* about to the entrance to the park when my watch ticked 6.55 miles – halfway. I thought about turning around for the sole purpose of making this a three part “epic” quest but then I realized that the third installment would be so lame…

“This time I would run the extra .00234 miles to the entrance of the park…”

So I kept on running into the park. Took a picture and made my way back the way I came.

Proof! As if I were discovering something…

The uphills weren’t as awful as I had thought they would be and was otherwise uneventful – aside from a close encounter with a deer on the way back. Yeah – that happened. I stopped at a light, checked my watch and as I was looking around (safety first) I looked to my right and maybe 15 feet away standing behind a branch was a deer. Staring at me. Giving me the side eye the way deer will do. I think we both saw each other at the same time and we were both like “Oh. hello there.” It stopped mid-chew…

My pal – the deer.

Deer: Don’t say it…
Me: Oh.. deer. (I’m so funny)
Deer: Fucking humans.
Me: Hey there…what are you doing?
Deer: Hey. Just having some lunch. You look like crap and you smell funny.
Me: I know. I’ll be outta your way in a minute.
Deer: Cool. See ya ’round … maybe.
Me: See ya.

The light turned in my favor and I crossed the road and ran the last half mile back to Katie’s place.

Not the Run

On the way back I noticed this sign outside of this orchard/produce stand/snoball place.

What a weird sign I thought.

I mean it’s funny and interesting enough that I took a picture of it… but it’s weird. I read it and I was like “did you just threaten me?” Like – I didn’t do anything and yet your sign – makes me not want to visit you. You don’t even know me and you are threatening me… sort of.

It’s worded as if the owner could say “oh that just means I have a fast dog.” but really we all know it means “if you steal one of my peaches this dog will eat you.” And to me this makes it unwelcoming.

I’m over analyzing, sure. I know its a clever sign designed to make you think twice about trespassing without being overtly aggressive but I think that – while I am a big fan of subtlety and the creative use of language – when it comes to warnings and threats I prefer the direct approach. Using vague language feels like cowardice – like “I reserve the right to re-explain myself in a better light if I get scared.” and so since I have been hearing this kind of talk from politicians of all types lately – this sign made me grumpy.

It reminded me that there is still a lot of hate in the world based on absolutely nothing.

It reminded me that, while I am ignorant of literally every person I don’t know, I would much rather spend my time getting to know them than hating them. I want to say that the haters don’t deserve that kind of effort – but of course they do, or else I am them.

The Deer is right… Fucking Humans

Next Week: A Run Into Everyone

32 of 52: The Bagel Run

I’ll Have a Plain Bagel Please

Because there is no story for this run other than when Dan and I were almost done he was like “hey – do you mind if I stop at Navel Bagels?”

I must have looked at him funny because he went on to say that the Midshipmen he was sponsoring had spent the night and so did two of his buddies. Bagels would be a quick way to feed all of us.

I love a Navel Bagel so who was I to say no?

Also I decided – out loud – at that moment that this post would be called “The Bagel Run” – and so it is.

The Run

We opted for a simple run up to the B&A trail and back.

The plainest of plain runs.

There’s not much to say about this run other than that there was a rather lengthy pit stop at McDonalds – and NOBODY wants to read *that* report.

Not the Run

I’ve always joked that one day I will write a report that just says- “we ran 13.1 miles. The end.” and I actually started a couple of times but then some random thought jumped into my head and said (rather loudly) “write me down!” and so I did.

Today my brain must be tired or at least too quiet or crowded to present me with a coherent thought. I guess that’s how it is sometimes. So rather than try to get the last tiny bit of toothpaste out of the sad, spent, tube that is my head I’m going to just say thanks – if you got this far – for reading.

Next Week: Running to Centennial Park – Again-ish.

31 of 52: Rock Hall International Triathlon

I Love Triathlon

It’s true – although I do love just swimming, and I do love just cycling, and I do love to just run. All for different reasons and all at varying degrees and at different times. Anyone with more than one kid will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Speaking of kids. A pic of me and my mom before the race.
(Photo credit to my dad.)

I love to swim because I can work my ass off in the water for 90 minutes, get out and feel completely spent – but not beat up. The downside is that I need a pool to do it in. Also – minus a “social kick set” there’s not much talking to your lane mates during training.

I love to bike because I seem to be pretty okay at it naturally. Of course I suffer less on the run when I train, but my bike time is usually the same regardless. The downside is that riding outside on the roads is dangerous – no matter how careful you are. Also talking to your buddies on the ride is … a source of distraction.

I love to run because all I need are a pair of shoes and a little bit of time. If you can run with friends it can be some awesome quality time. Conversations after the 10 mile distance get interesting. The downside to running (for me) is that (apparently) I need to do it regularly in order to be any good at it.

So I love them all differently – but when you mix them all together into one event it’s like taking the fam-a-lam to Disney.

  • It’s gonna cost some money
  • It takes some planning
  • It takes lots of logistics
  • You gotta stay hydrated and pace yourself
  • It’s gonna be a long day
  • Not everyone is going to have a good time the whole time
  • It’s magical anyways
Pre race nutrition.
(Photo Credit goes to my dad.)
Making sure my helmet was oriented correctly – you wanna minimize the time and thinking in transition. Dad said it looked like I was doing some sort of ritual prayer. (Photo credit to my dad.)
Wow – I look really worried. lol – This is me mentally going through transitions to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything – like running shoes…
(Photo credit to my dad.)

The (Swim, Bike and) Run

Love Triathlon. My times and pace for the day.

The Rock Hall International Triathlon is my go to Tri. This was my fifth time in 5 years if you count the 2017 Waterman’s triathlon (it’s the same course but held in the fall). It’s close enough to drive to, it’s an easy course (not a lot of hills) and the swag is excellent.

Another huge draw for me is that this is one of the races that the Annapolis Triathlon Club (ATC) supports. This means a couple things – more than a handful of other “crabs” (as we call ourselves in the club) will be there racing and also – we’ll have a tent there. Ahhhh membership…

The tent is where you find the other crabs, talk shit before the race, leave all the post race gear you brought, find a chair to sit in (and talk more shit) after the race – and FOOD. I’ve had the privilege of volunteering at the tent on a few occasions over the years and I can’t appreciate or thank the volunteers enough for this support. It makes the race so much sweeter. You know how I feel about community and the human connection by now – the tent is where it’s at when the race is over.

This year Jeff (who is almost ALWAYS race support – and BTW has finished more full Ironman triathlons than I can count) was there along with Virginia who is often race support and plans the clubs social events.

My Mom at the ATC tent.
(Photo credit to my dad.)

The “international” refers to the distances in the race:

  • A swim of 0.93 miles (1.5 kilometers),
  • A bicycle route of 24.8 miles (40 kilometers) and
  • A run of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).

I was a little concerned because the last triathlon I did prior to this was about 18 months prior and I hadn’t trained much at all since. Like – I had only been swimming 6 times and on my bike 8 times in the prior 12 months.

Oops.

I shared my concerns with my kids and woke up to this note of encouragement. BTW – GR9 is better than GR8.

When I signed up for it I had this idea that Rock Hall would be a great “ultra” for me this year in that I would finish the tri and then knock out another 7 miles afterwards to complete my weekly 13.1. Seeing as how I did not train for this and also as my parents were out to see me race AND that this was graduation weekend for my oldest – I didn’t think this was the day to flirt with injury and also keep my folks out in the sun for an extra 90 minutes while I “powered” through the extra 7 miles with all the athletic grace of a hippo trying to make his way down a ski slope on while balancing a stack of turtles on his back.

So… I decided that the Triathlon would be enough to “count” for this weeks. 13.1

Fight me.

Since swimming the bay I feel like as long as there’s no current in the water I’ll be okay. I wasn’t worried about finishing the swim and just figured that I’d be more tired when I got out of the water and that I’d pay some extra the next day. I was a little slower than my best pace but overall had a good time.

I did get hit in the head once – which happens in triathlon but it was weird because we were well into the swim and usually by this time the water is little less crowded and you don’t have to worry as much about contact as you do at the start. I took this as a signal to hurry up already and get out of the water. I had been a little conservative given my (lack of) training but I needed some personal space.

Heading into T1 to grab my bike after the swim.
(Photo credit to my dad.)

The bike was… surprising. I averaged 18.9 MPH on my 9 year old store brand road bike for the almost 25 miles. WTAF? I haven’t been on the bike more than 8 times in the last year and I’m basically the same speed I was on the same course when I trained (19.2 MPH). It’s funny/not funny. I should get a coach and train hard. Maybe a new tri bike. I think I’m leaving a lot of untapped potential.

The run went as expected. 6.2 miles of running in the sun and walking in the shade… and some walking in the sun. The plan was actually to walk the first minute of every mile and also walk the water stops and it worked out pretty well bu man I was tired. This is where the lack of bike training hits me but I was overall happy about it and finished the run 2 minutes slower than my “trained” pace.

Noreen caught me on a walk break and yelled at me to get a move on. So I did.

This is another beautiful part of running this race and being in the club. The run is a 2 loop course and since there are other crabs on the course I feel extra motivated when I see another crab or… like when Noreen yells at me.

It was a great day to race and I felt extra happy that my parents were there to experience triathlon.

Not the Run

My folks have always been there for me growing up. All the rehearsals and practices (and staying on me to practice), concerts and games, even as an adult coming out from CA to see me run my first marathon. I thought to myself during this race how incredibly lucky I am to know how much my parents support me. Not everybody gets parents like that in life. Not everyone still has their parents with them and so I am grateful for every moment they chose to spend with me.

It’s not as if I’m still a kid under their care who needed a ride and permission to do the race. They got up with me at the ass crack of dawn and drove two hours to see me “do my thing”. They didn’t have to – they CHOSE to.

I see sacrifice and parenting mentioned a lot together – but I was thinking about this while I ran and I think really parents weigh the options and do what’s best for the people they love and then act accordingly. For some this means working long hours or multiple jobs so that their kids can have opportunities they never did. In some cases they do this so their kids can have the same opportunities they did. For others still, it may mean passing on professional or social opportunities so that the kids feel safe in this world.

I have my own share of regrets in this area but I think we all do what we think is best at the time and certainly some situations feel impossible. Still other times I knew I was doing the wrong thing – but here we are.

Years ago, my girlfriend Katie (before she was my girlfriend) said to me – “I love the way you spend time with your kids even when there’s other stuff you want to be doing.” and I really liked that. I mean – they’re really cool people. Why wouldn’t I want to spend time with them?

In the end, I just hope the kids feel about me the way I feel about my parents.

Next Week: The Bagel Run

30 of 52: That Time I Ran on a Monday

Friends Don’t Let Friends Miss Leg Day

Saturday May 25th, 2019 – was leg day.

I moved to a third story walk up (read: stairs) on Memorial day weekend. I had considered hiring movers because I’m tired of moving my own crap around and three flights. Yuck. I got a couple estimates which basically just helped to realign my idea of my financial position with reality.

Doable? Yes. But really it felt like I’d be spending a lot of money for something I could do myself. Or with the help of friends. I opted to make it an event and call it – “Leg Day”. Cus you know – carrying a bunch of stuff up three flights of stairs…

This thing was HEAVY.

Alright so the long and short of it is this – I was really busy packing and moving little things and with truck rentals and “leg day” I had to move the run to Monday.

I know – the rules say I have to run at some point between Friday night at 5pm and Sunday night at 10. Well – if you read the last post you know how I like to ignore my own rules when I need to.

On this occasion I gave myself another day to get this run in. I make another change to the rules next week…but that’s for the next report.

The Run

Dan wasn’t able to make it to leg day but I wanted him to see the new place so I suggested we start from my place. He had a full house and plans later that morning so we had to get a little creative with the run.

We started with a running tour of the new neighborhood and then made our way back to wards his place. When we got there we were at just about 9 miles and decided to stop for some water. Given the time and his to-do list, he called it a day on the run – but since he was going to be out running a few quick errands and he needed to get back to my place to pick up his car he jokingly said he’d race me back to my place.

I knew better to try and improvise my return route from my run a few weeks ago and just came back along West Street and Riva road. No sooner had I climbed the stairs to my place and poured some cold water did Dan knock on the door. I opened to door to see his usual big grin – wanting to know how long I had been home.

We laughed at how perfect the timing was, he grabbed the keys to his car and left me his pickup so I could move any stragglers from the old place.

Not the Run

If you know me well then you know I have mixed feelings about ignoring my own rules.

On the one hand – I believe that for the most part we make our own way in this world. From wherever we happen to be to where we wish to go – the work is ours to do. Sometimes we need to make adjustments in order to get things done. The upside to being flexible in this way is that it allows you to come up with some creative solutions (check out last weeks run). I don’t think that beating yourself up over the small stuff is worth it.

The flip side is that I feel like discipline is important and I fear that if I make small exceptions for myself then what’s to keep me from making more and larger exceptions later on? If I get to change the rules whenever I want then what happens to my integrity? Can I say that I am a person who can be relied on? That I behave consistently? That I make decisions based on a set of beliefs that don’t change?

How can I ever be sure what’s right and wrong if I get to change my mind about stuff whenever I want?

It’s obvious to see the results of this in my running or training for triathlon or with my playing trumpet. When you make small exceptions for yourself your performance suffers. But in life… with yourself. I feel like it’s harder to see right away. We don’t often recognize the moments when we’re looking at the result of our behavior.

Yeah – I may be over thinking it. I know I’m just talking about running here but I’m deeply concerned about my quality as a human being so this is likely the kind of thing I’m thinking about if you see me just staring into space. I feel like just the fact that it’s a concern to me is a good thing. I also feel like I’m the guy I want to be.

Just sometimes it might be nice to have something concrete to fall back on or refer to, you know? I never was one for letting other people do my thinking for me. (I don’t want to wind up like Chidi on “The Good Place”.)

Anyhow – Leg day was a blast. A lot of people showed up and I absolutely could not have done it without everyone’s help. I feel like this was a moment that showed me the result of my behavior.

It’s like life. It’s a lot of hard work, but if you’re a decent person and ask nicely people will help you get through it.

So basically:

Life is like leg day.
Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.
Friends don’t let friends skip life.

Next Week: Rock Hall International Triathlon

29 of 52: The Kings Dominion Half Marathon

The Longest Half Marathon Ever

First off – this isn’t the real thing. King’s Dominion has a half marathon called the “Run n Ride”. It’s actually a festival with four distances including… a Quarter Marathon – because a 10k is just so overdone these days. This was not that…

See, what happened was I had a lot of stuff going on this particular weekend. Saturday was the spring band trip for my daughter – and not just any band trip – but the *last* spring band trip. Not only her last, but my last. I have been a chaperone on this trip for the last 6 years – though I missed last year which is all the more reason why I could not miss this one under any circumstances.

Here’s the thing about this trip. You have to be at the school around 4 in the morning – drive down to King’s Dominion (or Hershey or Bush Gardens…) perform, walk around the park and then you don’t get home until midnight or so. It’s a very long day.

Now you may be thinking – “c’mon Chris. You could just run the next day. You’ve done weirder stuff than this.” And you’re right. Normally this would not be a big deal but I had already committed to volunteering at the Hero Boys 5k the next morning and had a concert immediately following.

So looking back on my calendar I had planned to run Friday night from 5 – 7:30 but… I do have a day job and well, it was getting busy.

Good News – I was writing music and doing voiceover.

Bad News – If I didn’t finish what was on my plate before Saturday I was going to hold up production for the rest of the weekend.

It took longer than expected to finish. It was Friday night at 7 and I was beat. The whole week or two leading up to this had been the same. I didn’t know it at the time but I would remain this busy for the next 5 weeks.

Needless to say – I did not feel like lacing up and running 13.1. I was beat already and had to be up at 3:00 AM to get to that filed trip. My girlfriend Katie – ever the problem solver – says: “You know what you *could* do… log your miles while you’re walking around King’s Dominion. I bet you get almost 13 miles just from that.”

Ding!

The “Run”

Obviously – I didn’t run while I was in the park chaperoning. At first I was a little apprehensive about just walking around in circles to “get my steps”. I mean – it’s a little weird, right? “Who’s that guy walking around the ride over and over?”

It looked weird. It felt weird. At first. After awhile I just forgot about it and fell into a rhythm. I guess it’s not unlike running in the snow. People look at you crazy, you feel a little crazy but after awhile it just doesn’t matter.

I underestimated how difficult this would be. I figured that I’d need to run a little when I got home but I wanted to minimize that as much as possible so I was really keeping an eye on the clock. Every time the kids were in line for a ride I would just walk as much as possible without getting too far away from where they were – but the miles did not come easily.

That took forever – and I’m not even done.

I was moving about 1 mile per hour and by the end of the day I had only strung together 8.5 miles. By the time we got home it was nearly midnight and I had 4.6 miles to go. I decided on a short route close to home, on sidewalks and under street lights.

At the time, I lived at the end of a street that is home to several hotels and there was a lot more traffic – pedestrian and auto – than I had anticipated. I was actually glad for it. Running in the middle of the night when you’re completely alone is seriously creepy.

Talk about a negative split!

Not the Run

I suppose there will be folks who would read this and say – “well this one doesn’t count” – and I guess they’d be right on some level. I didn’t run a consecutive 13.1 but aside from a few races I think I always do *some* walking so – who cares. I covered 13.1 miles in a day. Racking up 8.5 miles while chaperoning took some doing – it took an extra effort – and I had to run 4.5 miles when I got home in the middle of the night so… for me – it counts.

I have two thoughts happening right now.

  • I love a good solution. I love when things are put together – things that “don’t belong” together – to make something happen. And by “belong together” I mean like – it’s not the way you would normally do it. When you do something a lot you can easily constrain yourself simply because the act of invention needed to achieve your goal hasn’t been necessary for awhile. Invention and creation bring me joy. Whether or not I’m the inventor is irrelevant.
  • The point here is to consistently make an effort to cover 13.1 miles. If it’s something I would do naturally I wouldn’t bother writing about it. It probably wouldn’t make me think a whole lot. It would be like writing about every time I parked my car. “Parked the car again today. Got that sucker right between the lines… again.”

A special thanks to Katie for recognizing that I had constrained myself out of a solution and supporting me by coming up with something I never would have thought of on my own.

Next Week: That Time I Ran on a Monday