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.”


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

26 of 52: Midway

Jimmy is Fast

More to the point – Jimmy is faster than me. A lot faster. But he ran with me this day anyways. Kind of fitting when I think about it. He was with me on the first run after the Downs Park 5 mile run. I imagine he’ll be at the last one also if I ask with enough lead time. (Is *now* too early?)

Even though Jimmy is much faster than I am he ran with me for this 13.1 miles and at a pace that did not hurt me. Fortunately he did most of the talking while I interjected a “mhmm” and a “right?” every now and again.

We have a bit in common and I picked his brain about his professional story (which I can never seem to remember) and when it comes to Jimmy in work and in life (to include running) he says “I’m just a simple guy.” And he is. I mean this in the best possible way. He is full of gratitude, appreciates what is and does not sweat the small stuff. It was nice to get to know him better over the 13.1 miles on this run.

I figure since this is the halfway point it would be OK to look back for a sec on all the other runs.

  1. 2:03:41
  2. 6:22:58 (50k PR!)
  3. 1:59:40
  4. 2:04:54
  5. 2:11:19
  6. 2:09:28
  7. 2:10:53
  8. 2:01:04
  9. 2:12:45
  10. 2:06:19
  11. 2:08:22
  12. 2:14:19
  13. 2:35:52 (15.9 miles)
  14. 2:17:00
  15. 2:07:30
  16. 2:08:11
  17. 2:08:33
  18. 2:21:24
  19. 2:44:35 (pacer)
  20. 2:00:46
  21. 2:18:33
  22. 1:53:46 (PR!)
  23. 2:21:54
  24. 2:38:16
  25. 2:18:05
  26. 2:12:38

If I take out the outliers and odd/longer distances these runs have a range of almost 40 minutes! Also – on the whole I am slowing down a bit. I don’t know for sure but I think it may be because I hardly do anything other than these 13.1 mile runs anymore!

I would like to get back to working out multiple times a day a couple times a week and then once a day a couple times a week. I can’t tell if I felt like I had more purpose because I worked out more or if working out more was my purpose. Does it matter? I liked it and I miss it.

Oh – look at me slipping into “not the run” before I even write about the run…

The Run

We started at Jimmy’s place. I’m starting to form this “rule” that if I ask someone to run with me I should go to them. Seems only right. Jimmy had a sketch of a plan for the run for which I am also grateful – not only for the fresh course but also for not having to sort it out ahead of time.

We made our way over to the stadium and crossed over into West Annapolis. These were all familiar roads – but then Jimmy’s plan had us turn left onto Ridgely Road – a road I had only ever driven on. Two thumbs up for the new scenery as we ran across Weems Creek. We continued on up over Rt 50 and then made our way around to Rowe to run back into downtown Annapolis (DTA).

All routes lead back to DTA – but sometimes you run over the Naval Academy bridge for good measure – which we did.

We passed straight through DTA and crossed back over into Eastport, running the perimeter before heading back up the road to his place. The miles flew by on this one no doubt because of the conversation.

Not the Run

Over the past 15 years or so I have been coming back to this idea of simplicity over and over.

First it was in my work – code to be specific. I stumbled onto the idea of “elegance” in code while looking for ways to get better at it. At first I though this was all about how to get the job done with the fewest lines of code – but as it turns out, elegance in code is also about how thoughtful you are about how your solution might function beyond its current need. Will it be able to grow and change without compromising its core function? Can it do that and yet remain simple enough for others to understand?

This idea spread to other areas of my life I think probably in an attempt to establish a sense of order in what was still new world for me – sobriety. I suppose that every aspect of me had become cluttered in some way and now it was time to clean house.

Can I be elegant as a person? Can I adapt to my changing circumstances and remain simple? It may just be that being simple is the best way to adapt to change. That by appreciating the honest truth of “what is” – rather than trying to change “what is” into “what I expected…” is the quickest way to being happy…

…and maybe running faster – like Jimmy.

Next Week: Cherry Pit 10 Miler

25 of 52: Easter Run Club – Half Marathon Edition

Traditions Are Important

Traditions have a way of marking time, cementing the idea of an era or the idea that something is important. They give us something to remember, or to pass on so that others can be remembered. They are a way of letting people come together to celebrate one another and to demonstrate our commitment to one another or an event or place.

It sounds heavy but the tradition itself doesn’t need to be. It could be as simple as touching the head of Testudo before a football game or – making it more of a ritual. You might also make it complicated and secretive giving it more of a ceremonial feel.

You may wonder why I’m rambling on about this so I will tell you. I’m trying to figure out why this annual event is important to me. Maybe it’s just cus I enjoy it and the people I share it with – maybe its more than that. Heck, I honestly can’t remember when it started! I guess it really doesn’t matter as long as I can keep doing it for as long as I can. What I DO remember is that Coach Susan started it and I’m so very glad that she did.

What the heck am I talking about? Easter Run Club.

Every year on Easter Sunday a few of us (rarely the same group) get together and run a few miles (or more) and then afterward (and this is key) sometimes we split a pastry and enjoy a caffeinated beverage from a SECRET place that I can’t tell you the name of. (But I can tell you that it rhymes with “Marbucks”).

I know – “how is this different from any other run?” I’ll tell you. It is not because we run with easter baskets picking up hidden eggs (because we don’t). It’s also not because we put on purple gowns and light candles and chant in Latin while we run – because we also don’t do those things either.

Running with fire is dangerous.

I guess it’s different because it happens the same day every year and while “run club” or running together with friends could happen any time – Easter Run Club is one that almost always does happen. Back to the idea of tradition – you make an extra effort to make it happen because there’s something there that you’re trying to honor – and I like to think that something is each other.

The Run

Easter Run club started from DTA at the leisurely hour of 9:37 this year. Lara was marathon training – so she showed up with some miles already run – 6 ish I think and another 7 or 8 to go. (I need to start either writing these sooner or taking notes!) Susan and Gloria were *not* marathon training. SO that left me running 13.1. We were going to have to get creative about how to make that happen and all finish somewhat at the same place at the same time.

Me n’ Susan and Lara and Gloria with the Naval Academy Bridge in the background. Photo Credit goes to a nice yet anonymous Mid just trying to live their life.

It basically turned out to be a lot of little out and back’s to add extra mileage and then taking the long way back from the Naval Academy bridge and a couple of trips over into Eastport at the end to really tack on some extra miles. The cool part for me was that by the time I finished, the coffee was already in hand and mine had had plenty of time to cool off to a drinkable temperature.

Why is your coffee so hot Marbucks? Why???

Not the Run

I can’t remember much else about the run specifically, but I can tell you this – at the end of the run – where there was coffee and conversation there was also (for me) the sense of history from having done this for going on 8 or so years now – and makes me feel good thinking back on it as I write this.

My parents and family made sure to celebrate our traditions and one very important thing I learned growing up is that you can make your own traditions and you can even make old traditions new by adding your own twist. What’s important is that you celebrate the people, places and events that having meaning to you and your life.

Easter Run Club is not a grand tradition steeped in ceremony nor is it a small personal ritual – and like so many traditions this is one just because we keep doing it – but I like it and I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can.

Next Week: Midway

24 of 52: That Time I Ran on the Freeway

I Don’t Recommend It

I was not supposed to be running on the freeway, but I was tirrred and the sugar in the gatorade I drank was having a crazy impact on my ability to make decisions.

Me: Oh crap. I missed my turn. When did that happen?

Sugar Rush Me: What? I can’t feel my face.

Me: Damn. I have a conference call in 30 minutes. I don’t have time to backtrack.

Gatorface Me: I should have bought the sugar free Gatorade.

Also Me: I guess we’ll just run up this exit ramp…

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. This happened on April 14th and I’m writing this on June 12th so a little rewind might be in order…

The Run

Two weeks prior I set a personal best at the B&A half. One week prior I ran alone in Columbia and got lost. THIS particular week I planned on running a new route just to shake things up a little. I didn’t want to run alone really but as it turns out I need to work on making plans in advance so – there I was.

It started just fine with a familiar 5 miles to start but then I decided to make my way towards Downtown Annapolis ‘the back way’ (around the mall) instead of my usual route down West Street.

Not a super scenic run but I had never done it so that had some value in and of itself. About 7.5 miles in I ran out of water so I decided to stop at Wawa for some Gatorade. I got two small ones – fully loaded. All. Of. The. Sugar.

Flavor: Greenish.

I have been drinking the same hydration mix (Beachbody Hydrate) for the past two years almost. It agrees with me, low in sugar and does a good job keeping me functional. It’s not that I didn’t think that chugging a bottle of Gatorade was a good idea – I simply didn’t think about it at all. It was so cold and there was something about it that just wouldn’t let me put it down. I nearly gave myself brain freeze.

Anywho – one bottle in me. One bottle in my running bottle. Off I went.

By the time I made my way to the the Navy Memorial Stadium I knew I needed to start making my way home. “I’ll just run by Dan’s place and see what he’s up to.” I ran up the driveway just as the fam was pulling out.

They were headed across the street to check out a basketball setup to put in their driveway. I decided to follow them over and check it out. As it turned out they decided to take it home – so I offered to help Dan carry it back while Katie Q drove the boys home. This whole episode took about 12 minutes. It was nice to catch up but I had a conference call to make and about 3 miles left to run.

And this is kinda where the GatorSugar kicked in and started messing with my head. Or maybe it was because I took a 12 minuted break from running to carry a basketball hoop back to Dan’s place. I’ll probably never know cus I checked all the stats on Garmin and that info is NOwhere to be found.

I should have run back to Riva road and then back the way I came, but I knew that would be a mile and change too far so I figured I would make and early left onto Chinquapin Round Road and cut through a side street or two to make my way back. By the time I hit 665 it was too late.

Me: Oh crap. I missed my turn. When did that happen?

You know the rest. Well some of it. 665 isn’t really a freeway as much as it is the quiet death of one. The part where 50 peels off onto an expressway/exit that eventually peters out into a two lane thoroughfare with some traffic lights. Well I was at the first light and I had to make my way back… upstream.

“I’ll just run on the shoulder. Oh – look. There’s no shoulder. I’ll just run on this tiny strip of “grass” nestled between these cars and that really tall sound barrier. At the least the ground is super uneven and covered with unfamiliar foliage…”

High stepping to avoid tripping in the foliage was not super easy 12 miles into the run and it got old in a hurry. I started walking when cars came by and running when there was a break thanks to the red light I was running away from. There was about 90 seconds of good running between light cycles so it worked out okay. On one of the walking breaks I happened to realize that I could cross over and run against traffic.

Running against traffic is the norm for road running. When you are on surface streets. It’s scary as crap on a freeway-type road like this one. It wasn’t long before I made my way up the on ramp and found myself basically right across the (6 lane) street from my apartment. No – there’s no crosswalk there.

I made my way across and directly into the building, into the shower, and made it to my call right on time. I don’t think I was 100% lucid for the call but well – at least I made it back alive. 13.26 miles.

Not The Run

It’s weird writing about this so long after it happened. It’s been almost two months but I guess that’s still recent enough for the important stuff to stick with me. Not bad for a guy that can’t always remember why he walked from one room to another.

Yes – I know that’s not how memory works and yeah, I heard about the doorway effect, but this is my blog and I write for rhythm sometimes – not so much for rhyme.

Work has been forcing itself back into my work life balance after having been neglected for too long so while it’s been great for me on a number of levels I’ve had to scale back on the writing – from moderately slacking to “not at all.” I’m sure Garmin has a stat for that but dang – I can’t find it in my run data either.

Next Week: Easter Run Club – Half Marathon Edition

23 of 52: Lost in Columbia

The Plan was Simple

Run to Centennial Park, around the lake and back home. It’s just a shame that I had no clue where I was going. Coming of last weeks PR I wanted more of the “exploring” slow kind of run. I was alone and did not care in the least how much or often I walked.

A good thing too – I had no idea how far off the mark I would be.

The Run

You see those two little red lines at the top bouncing off of rt 29? Yeah – that’s me thinking that Centennial park was just on the other side. Al I had to do was find a way across, right? Nope – I was a full major thoroughfare away from where I thought I was. Explore I wanted – Explore I got.

The first few miles of the run were actually kind of hilly – more than I wanted. I didn’t work out AT ALL the week prior and I was just feeling slow all over.

I had a good sense of what direction I wanted to go but dang if I just had no clue about what would be in my way – like this on ramp. Off ramp? I’ll just call it NOPE. There was zero shoulder and a ton of traffic so I turned around.

About the 6.5 mile mark I ran into a nice lady out walking and asked if she knew the way to the park. Based on her reaction and the directions I got I knew I should just pack it in and head home. I was halfway. I’d have to make up some distance at the end because I was just not in the mood to retrace my mis steps and all those hills. I took the direct route back to more familiar territory.

Not The Run

I am cramming. I am cramming at work. I am cramming on these posts. I am cramming on training for an Olympic distance triathlon I have in about 4 weeks. I don’t like it much.

The work I don’t mind so much – I’ve been missing some spark in that area for some time so it’s nice to be reminded that I have skills – but this other stuff. It’s supposed to be fun – not a grind. SO what can I do?

I figure I can either let off the gas, lower my expectations for myself OR I could try to engage with the work in front of me. To do as much as I possibly can. Take the grind out of it and try to make it a challenge. I’m a little tired of being so-so.

Next Week: A loop, a hoop and a bad decision I will not make a gain.

22 of 52: B & A Half Marathon

Everyone’s Driving a Different Machine

It’s been a few weeks since I ran this race and I swear I have only a passing recollection of who said this. Was it me or Dan? It was probably me, responding to one of Dan’s insights about running – or runners. That’s usually how it goes. Dan shares a thought that he’s been having about runners or running – more like an ongoing observation – one he’s been working on for years. And then in a moment of un sophisticated word salad, I attempt to summarize what he says in four words or less.

OH! Now I remember – we were headed south on the B&A – probably around mile 4 into the race which means he had already stopped to pee and then caught up to me. I’ll never understand how he does this… Kari had dropped us long ago. We were at that point in the race where the leaders were starting their return run from the turn around so we could see them – and they were working HARD.

Dan said something to the effect that he thought it was interesting that no matter where you are in the race – front, middle, or back – there were people working just as hard. And it’s true. No matter what combination of training, ability, physical characteristics, age, experience, motivations and whatever else you’d like to throw in the mix – if each individual person was working with the same effort as everyone else we would all be traveling at a different speed. At the moment the reason seemed obvious to me:

“Everyone’s Driving a Different Machine” – the word salad fell out of my mouth.

The Run

This was my 4th time running the B&A Half. When I looked that up I was surprised – I could have sworn I’ve run it at least a few times more but nope. Athlinks doesn’t lie. I mentioned many weeks ago that I might try to PR this race, but honestly my training hasn’t been all that it should have been to make that happen. My half marathon PR was 1:55:33 @ 8:49/mile. None of my other 21 half marathon distance runs have come close to that pace. What was I thinking? And then this happened…

I PR’d by 1:47.

What?? How? I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with what I was writing about last week. About shortening the scope of my attention from “all the miles” to “this mile” and at times “this moment”. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first 5 miles went by without a hitch – I mean aside from the mile markers being off by about .34 miles. Well – the markers weren’t off exactly. We noticed that they were right on the marks on the street that indicated where they were supposed to be. So what the heck? Did we miss part of the course? We wondered about it for awhile and joked about our sub six opening mile. At some point we gave up trying to figure it out or we got distracted. I was thinking – “dang, I’m gonna have to keep running after we finish to make 13.1.” I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

Dan and I headed South on the B&A. I’m in the grey shirt and white hat. Dan is in the blue shirt and orange hat.

I was feeling good. The extra push I get from running a race surrounded by a bunch of other runners was in full effect. I have been getting more weekday runs in and some strength training. The winter sun was gone and I was enjoying the cool temps.

We had talked about running 9:30 but the first several miles were right on 9 minute pace. A short while after Dan caught up to me from his unscheduled/scheduled pit stop, he started feeling some pain in his calf. With a full marathon two weeks in his future he decided to stop and work it out rather than keep running on it. I fully expected him to catch up to me again in a mile or so.

But then Dana Dobbs ran past me. Who is that? He’s a local triathlete. I’ve never met him or run with him but a lot of folks in the tri club know him which is how I know who he is. Anyways – he’s fast as hell – and as he passed me I took note of how wide open his stride was.

I usually run with a conservative stride – a pretty consistent .95 m. I don’t want to over extend myself because I feel like the longer my stride is the more I put my knee at risk but after seeing him run I decided to open it up a little bit – but not try any harder. Turns out I opened .15 m per step to 1.1 m – that’s about 6 more inches. Per step. Apparently that adds up.

I ran down boulters to the turn-around and then back up the hills to the trail head. I still felt strong so I decided to keep doing what I was doing. About a mile later I saw Susan and Angus at Arnold station and I said to Susan – “I think I might PR?!”

I had just looked at my average pace and realized I was on track to do it. But could I? Surely the math was wrong – I had made a mistake – and so I proceeded to think about this for the next mile and try to do the math. I am not good at runner math and so this took all of my mental focus so the mile disappeared…

And THAT is the moment that I realized I shouldn’t think about running the rest of the race – I should only think about “right now”. Which is hard to do for me.

I had just seen Susan at Arnold Station – at this point I’m trying really hard to do math.

I’ve known for awhile now that I don’t like to suffer for long periods of time. I can suffer through short track intervals or in the pool – but the idea of suffering for MILES – I don’t have what it takes mentally. If staying in the moment really works (and I have been trying it out on shorter tempo runs and it seems to) then I may have found a loophole in my “no suffering” clause.

I probably still don’t like to suffer for long periods – who does? But maybe now I have a way to cheat time a little bit – to make me feel as though no time has passed at all.

I don’t know what happened in mile 6 – but I like it.

Long story short – every time I would start thinking about “how much further” or if it was hard – I just tried to bring my thoughts back to the moment. I have to give some credit to the book Dan got me for Christmas – “Running with the Mind of Meditation”. The author talks about focusing on the breath and when the mind wanders – and that it WILL wander – to just refocus on the breath. Simple.

This went on for awhile – and then I was done.

Mind games or not – I’m pretty sure I was suffering at this point.

If the race had been about a half mile longer – Dan would have caught me. He finished about a minute later. I have no idea how long he stopped to work out his calf but HOW DOES HE DO THAT? It doesn’t really mater – I’m just happy to have such a consistent and well matched running buddy.

I almost forgot! The mile markers sorted themselves out somehow and by the end the finish was right on 13.1. I don’t know how Josh Harriman made it happen but thank goodness he did. Another .35 miles would have sucked.

Not the Run

It was a great day. I think I really learned something new about how to think while I run and I’m pretty sure I’m going to figure out how to apply this to work and trumpet and pretty much every other part of my life. It’s nice to know that while I may just be driving “my” machine – it’s possible to mod that machine from time to time and keep getting better.

Next Week: Where the Hell is Centennial Lake?

21 of 52: I Ran with Dan

The Plan

The plan was to write this in the style of Dr. Seuss. You know…

I Ran with Dan
We ran and ran
and ran and ran and ran

But as it turns out Dr. Seuss makes something that is very hard to do – look very easy. So for now I’m going to keep writing in the style of Chris Kaplan which should be pretty easy for me.

The Run

So there it is. With the B&A Half Marathon coming up I wanted to make sure we ran to the head of the trail in order to get some more time on Boulter’s way which is funny because I’ve run up those hills probably hundreds of times already – just not so much in recent times. Dan and I agreed to just get that (and the bridge) out of the way first.

BUT FIRST we ran past a townhouse I was thinking about renting. Of course I forgot to start my watch so let’s just say we got some bonus mileage prior to the “start”.

It was coldish with the threat of rain so we had light jackets on but by the time we hit the far side of the Naval Academy bridge we decided to ditch them. We rolled them up and placed them in a small tree off the ground and joked about wether or not we’d even remember to pick them up by the time we were finished.

We made our way to the trail head and then ran back down, over the bridge and onto the Naval Academy. We have a lot of really neat places to run here in Annapolis, but the Academy has got to be one of the most iconic (along with the downtown area). It was late enough in the morning that there were quite a few midshipmen out doing what midshipmen do… we wondered at what an amazing experience it must be for them. I wonder now in retrospect if they’re aware of the uniqueness of the experience. I imagine some do – most don’t. I hope I’m wrong.

The thing that always catches me off guard is how these young people *always* defer to us as we run through *their* campus. They immediately and with extreme courtesy make way for us and say hello. It’s remarkable. Maybe they just think we might be an admiral they haven’t met yet ( you never know who you’re talking to) – or maybe that type of courtesy (be nice) is one of the things they’re taught at the academy. Either one is a good life lesson in my book.

We enjoyed the academy, running as extreme a version of the perimeter as we could, ran downtown and then made our way back to Dan’s place by way of West Street. 13.1 and done.

Not The Run

We got to talking about how many weeks I’m up to. And I said how I felt like after all this time (21 weeks) it feels like I should be more than halfway. Some weeks I feel like I’ve been doing this forEVer. Then other times it’s just another run. Mostly when I’m in the middle of one I don’t think about how many more I have to go because being in that moment none of the other runs matter. I don’t have to worry about them.

I think this is also how it goes with the miles of a long run. Say you set out for 20 miles. Usually for me it goes like this…

  • Miles 1-5 – “YAAAYYYY”
  • Miles 6-10: “How far are we going again? I mean I can run all day but I just wanted to double check. For a friend.”
  • Miles 10-15: “Keep on running. Keep on running.”
  • Mile 16: “I hate my life.”
  • Miles 17-19: “The cold dark space in my heart is dragging me forward.”
  • Mile 20: “I am a machine. I just ran 20 miles. Bring me all of the tacos.”

In truth I can bounce back and forth between feeling all of these things regardless of the mile I’m in but the thing is – in a single run I am almost ALWAYS concerned with the other miles of that run. The opposite is true if you think about each week of this as one mile of a long run – where I have little regard for any of the runs ahead of me. I tried this attitude out in the future (week 22) when I ran the B&A half and had a surprising result.

Spoiler – I PR’d – but more about that…

Next Week: The B&A Half Marathon.

ALSO: We remembered the jackets. Did you?

20 of 52: Ghosts on the B&A

I See Running People

It was a very busy weekend you see. At least it was supposed to be or I remember it that way, but when I look back at my calendar there isn’t much on it. Friday night was busy with the kids – so no time for a run outside. Saturday I had a morning sound check and late morning concert and Sunday was complicated so I figured that Saturday after the concert was the best time to run.

This run was four weeks ago so I’m having a hard time remembering where my head was. But what I do remember is although there were people on the trail I felt like Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense” – like no one could see me – and it made me think back to people I used to run with regularly but haven’t seen in awhile. Ghosts from my running past. It’s not a sad thing – more like my running history laid out before me. It made me smile.

The Run

Being that I wanted to run outside, I was alone, and I didn’t want to put much thought into where to run, I went straight to the B&A trail. It was around 3 in the afternoon so the usual traffic of runners and cyclists had given way to the families and more leisurely patrons of the trail giving me an added sense of detachment.

I didn’t have any expectations. I had just run the Rock n’ Roll half the week before at a very slow pace and I hadn’t run at all the entire week in between – but I felt strong immediately. I decided right away that I would run the first half faster than normal and just suffer slowly on the way back.

I started at mile marker 1 and went north with a skip in my step and a song in my…. ear. Seriously I could not shake it. We played it earlier that afternoon at the concert and it stuck with me for ALL 13.1 miles. What song is that you ask?

Falling in Love with Love

What? Yeah – it’s a catchy tune but it’s not my favorite. It’s in a weird key for me and I always struggle with it when I play this particular arrangement. But here it was, in my ear, driving the pace of my run. We had played it a little fast at the concert and maybe that’s why it was stuck in my head. Who knows. I kept expecting it to to go away but it never did. I kept expecting to slow down – but I never did. Not that I was going crazy fast – just faster than I had expected.

Maybe it was the easy pace the week before, or the week off in between, or being distracted by memories or the uptempo tune in my ear but I did not feel like slowing down. So I didn’t.

Not the Run

Oh what to say. What to say? I’m not feeling poetic or particularly insightful four weeks after the fact. I’m feeling like I still have three more reports to write after this.

Work is busy which I’m enjoying. I’ve been feeling very out of balance on the whole work life spectrum – with very little energy going into work and most of it going into “life”. And it’s funny because normally this means I’d be killing it in the life department – but all it really means is that it’s been taking a lot of energy just to keep on moving. You maybe read about this a couple weeks ago – job uncertainty and needing a career coach and all. I’m still working on that project – but in the meantime, my minimal energy at work has had me feeling guilty.

It used to be (in another life) that I’d get this way – lower energy at work – after having put in a couple years of solid over achieving and professional development – but not this time. I have no excuse other than “I cannot stop staring at these crossroads in my career. I’m not sure exactly how to proceed.” So the busy time at work has been a nice distraction from that. At the very least I don’t feel guilty on payday. I guess if all else fails and I start to lose my pace, I can just put the headphones on listen to a little “Falling in love with love.”

19 of 52: DC Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon

Look Ma – I’m a Pacer!!

Just what is a pacer you ask? No – I am not a sleek orb of a disaster that AMC put on the road in the 70’s and while I’ve admitted on this blog that I sometimes wander in circles around my apartment – this is not what I’m talking about.

This pacer had a tendency to blow up. Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:CZmarlin

A pacer is someone who helps other people finish a race in a specific time. Or – at all. Faster runners may have a friend or two help them along the way. I’m not a faster runner so I can’t really fill you in on that but the last couple paragraphs of this article sum it up.

I was part of a pacer team helping runners finish their half marathon in 2 hours and 45 minutes and it was pretty awesome. I would have been nervous about it BUT I was pacing with Lara Mish – who I’m pretty sure has paced more half marathons than I have run – which is a LOT. So with that kind of experience – what could go wrong?

Nothing. Nothing went wrong. I know that’s like a writing device for “well let me now tell you all of the things that went CRAzy during the race!” – but nothing did. It all went to plan. It was a great day and I got to help some really nice people achieve their goal.

A huge thank you to Lara Mish for organizing all the pacers (all of them – for the half marathon and the full marathon) and for inviting me along for the ride!

The 2:45 pacer team means business!!
Ok – we were actually fun and cool pacers. Not mean and grumpy.

What’s in a Name?

You: “What’s with the extra heading Chris?? I come here for a max of THREE headings. What am I supposed to do with this?!”

Me: “I don’t know. There was a lot to say about what Rock n’ Roll is and I didn’t want people who skip only to The Run to have to wade through it all.”

The Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series is a pretty well known, successful series of races put on by … Rock n’ Roll? That doesn’t make any sense. Oh wait – they’re owned by the IRONMAN group… more here if you’re interested but basically these folks are good at organizing large scale races. They encourage many many charities and build and maintain relationships with cities (you need permits and police support and medical support for these things) and the merchants in those cities (to help with travel and accommodations and tourism.) They put on good well supported races and that is something that isn’t easy to do.

Make no mistake – it’s a business but I think that’s ok. What some folks have been critical of in the past is that they will buy up smaller races (and organizers) only to eliminate the race a year or two later or even if the race does survive – it becomes this massive thing and the small local race and organizer are no more.

Also – Rock n’ Roll races feature LIVE MUSIC which I am all for. They may not be bands that you have ever heard of but they are good and they are playing songs you know.

Known for live music and massive inflatable rock n’ roll dudes.

The Run Before the Run

You: “Kaplan – you re KILLING me with he extra headings today. What the actual hell dude?”

Me: “Shhhhhhhh”

I met Lara at Starbucks near my place. I ordered a coffee ahead of time and was just coming out of the store when she pulled up. I have only recently started drinking coffee on race day. I had stayed away from it knowing that it will cause problems with my stomach during the race howEVer I recently discovered that if I have it long enough before the race starts then I’ll have time to take care of it. Of course this means waking up earlier – and we all know how I feel about that.

On this day I would be up plenty early because of the ride in and also Lara needed to get a few additional miles in before the race for her marathon training.

We met a handful of Striders at the New Carrolton Metro station who were also pacing. Michelle (a long time running bud and absolute positivity machine), and a few new (to me) faces – Leslie, Sarah, and Jessica.

A handful of pacers… I’m the one on the right lol

After a pretty short metro ride we emerged to some pretty decent running weather – though a little on the cold side. Lara almost immediately ran into her friend John Young who is running 12 marathons this year. You can read more about him here and here.

After the photo op we started a short run around the mall and guess what we found? BATHROOMS – not port-a-pots my friends – BATHROOMS. No lines and fully protected from the elements. We took advantage knowing that the lines near the start would be pretty long.

About two miles later we took our place in the starting corral. Pretty soon we were making conversation and listening to the stories of those people around us. Some were curious about what a pacer does – “what’s the 2:45 sign for…?” other folks were nervous about either running their first half or maybe this was their first big race since having children. One woman was running with her mom who was running *her* first half-marathon.

For me this was a really neat part of the day because it brought back a ton of feelings from when I ran my first half marathon back in 2010. I was nervous about wether or not I would be able to run the distance but my friend Eric (who is actually the person who got me into running in the first place!) ran with me the whole way and also ran with me in my first three marathons – but that’s a story for another time…I digress.

The Run

Ok NOW we can talk about the run… and listen – just because there have been extra sections and you’ve been reading all this extra stuff I can tell you “The Run” is not going to be all spectacular and interesting so I’m hoping at this point that you’ll just keep reading because you’ve put in the time and “I’m gonna finish this thing dammit!”

…and You – are halfway to the end of this post. Thank you random stranger for providing me with a useful sign.

The thing that struck me as being so different about this race than any other I have run was that I felt almost like I wasn’t really running in it. I mean – I was there… I was running… but I was paying so much attention to the folks following us and my watch and mileage and pace. It’s not like I couldn’t focus on the here and now so much as the here and now did not belong to me. It belonged to the people who were following us. Those folks trusted us to get them to the finish and do it on time.

The 2:45 group.

The race was not as crowded as I thought it would be. Maybe it was because of where we were in the pack, but even before the race started though the lines to the port-a-pots were long the place didn’t seem like wall to wall people. I liked this. Large crowded races are not my thing.

We made our way down Constitution Ave. where I tried to be a good tour guide. I learned that just because you work in a place does not mean that you know that place. I’ve even done a handful of runs downtown but I found myself drawing a blank on building after building. I was particularly drawn to the American Pharmacists Association building. First of all – what the heck? Second – why is it on the National Mall? Third – why does it look like the nondescript entrance to a massive underground operation? It’s super plain and super cool at the same time.

American Pharmacists Association – Who knew?

I did properly recognize the Lincoln memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Watergate Hotel, Georgetown and Rosslyn. It wasn’t after 6 miles or so of pointing these things out that I turned around and asked if anyone was from out of town. Thankfully – we had a handful of folks who had never seen the city so that worked out. If they had all been locals my plan was to then pretend like I was from Nebraska or Canada.

I don’t know why, but running on a freeway is always exciting – particularly a short tunnel like this.

The later miles of the race had us running through parts of DC I had either never been in, or had only driven through. If nothing else I was left with a sense that this city was one that I wanted to know better. I don’t have a plan for that but hey – I start with an idea – *then* make a plan.

It wasn’t until the last mile or so of the run that any of our group started to express any concerns which I was very grateful for. My biggest fear as a pacer:



(everyone yells during a race BTW – at least in my head there’s dramatic music and sound effects – stay with me…)

Runner: Does not *actually* finish.

Yikes – what happens if I can’t motivate the runners enough to finish? What happens if I fail as a pacer?!?! Fortunately for me Lara is a coach – and also a coach of pacers and she told me this: “Your job is to finish the race in 2 hours and 45 minutes. That’s it.” I quoted her here but I think now I’m paraphrasing – in in the movie version in my head that exactly what she said to me, bombs going off in the background, music playing – you get the picture.

Not the Run

Lara was right though – even though as pacers we literally set the pace and do what we can to distract and motivate the runners – actually finishing is up to each individual. It sounds simple and obvious but I like that. Actually finishing is up to you.