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.


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.


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.”


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

28 of 52: Running in the Future

Who Moved My Cheese?

One of my favorite books ever is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard. I didn’t read it until I was out of college but I know a copy of it appeared in my house when I was still in high school. My foggy and clumsy summary of the book is this:

Shit is going to happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. The faster you can accept what the actual reality of the situation is, the more successful and happy you will be. The end.

Now – as a child I was always looking forward to the next thing and was never really satisfied with where I was or what I was doing in the moment. Maybe this is why I identified so much with Luke Skywalker as a kid.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”

Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back

I know – my nerd is showing…

In my defense – being a kid kind of sucked. I moved a fair amount and I was constantly having to make friends and learn local “kid customs” and social structures. Present me is grateful for the experience of learning how to adapt and while while it sucked for younger me – it was also kind of exciting. In a way I kind of grew up inside of that book and over time I came to understand that the sooner I got out exploring my new situation the happier I would be.

If you aren’t focused on mourning the loss of what was, you’ll be able to see what an amazing opportunity a fresh start really is.

So that’s what I did on this particular run. I had been looking for a new place to live and finally found one. I was set to sign the lease a couple days later so I couldn’t resist going out to run in my future neighborhood.

The Run

The good news is that I was only moving about a mile and a half from my other place and I really wanted to run every nook and cranny of the new place. I’ve been there before – when I was in college a friend of mine owned a place in there and then after college another friend bought his first family home there. I had even run through there a couple of times in more recent years after I moved to the Annapolis area and as recently as this past year a couple times but I didn’t pay too much attention to anything other than trying to pick out where my friends had lived.

This time I wanted to explore every road, every trail (there are a couple), every little detail so that I could imagine myself there and how living there would be.

That squiggly bit at the bottom is the new neighborhood.

So a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back meant I would need to run 10 miles in the new place. As it turns out there are just about 5 miles of running in the new place so I just ran every road in there twice. Worked out pretty well.

Running it twice gave me a chance to look at everything a second time. Yes – I know how that sounds but hear me out. There’s a great Marvin Minsky phrase I love to use in the context of teaching and learning and that is

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way”

Marvin Minsky

So looking at everything a second time I tried to see it in another way.

Not The Run

Honestly I need to start using this approach more when I’m trying to figure out how I want things to be when it comes to running and playing trumpet and writing music. I use it all the time with stuff like “my life” – where I want to live, what I want to do, what I want to have.

It feels a little bit like obsessing over something, but what I believe is that if you focus long enough and hard enough on some end state, your brain will fill in the gaps as long as it has the information it needs in order to so.

“I can’t stop thinking about Five Guys burgers. “

  • You know where it is
  • You can drive
  • You have cash
  • You know how long it will take and the amount of effort it will require to get there
  • You also know what it’s like to succeed

It’s so easy because you have all the information and resources you need at your fingertips. Even if you were missing some of the information in this case, it’s easy information to come by.

“I really want to run a 5 minute mile.”

  • Can I? Like physically is this even possible?
  • How much will I have to train? How often? How long? How Hard?
  • Will it be worth it?

It’s not as easy as grabbing a burger because not only are there more unknowns – but finding the answers to these questions is harder than finding the answers to the burger thing. Like – where do you even start?

Finding as many people who are as much like me as I can find and who have already done what I want to do and asking them how they did it has always worked for me. They can help break most of it down for me so I have the information I need to answer the unknowns as they apply to my situation.

I think we all do this naturally when life gets really shitty and we just need to make it better because we *have* to. Like that time my car got hit, the kitchen ceiling collapsed, and we lost a household income all in the same month with two kids under 5 in the house. You can’t ignore that shit. You can’t focus on *anything* else until the pressing needs are met, until you figure out a way to make it happen.

But what if I could get ahead of things and apply the same focus on creating what I desire rather than fixing what I can’t live with? When things are “fine” I tend to coast and leave things as they are – rather than pursue what’s in my heart. Looking back, when I did stay motivated there were a lot of times where I made the mistake of continuing to go after more of what I already had instead of asking what really mattered to me as an individual.

But I also succeeded a lot. I know this works. I know that consistently looking into your future and understanding what you want to accomplish with as much detail and in more that one way – works. But unlike my childhood self, I’ll just be a little more mindful to appreciate the present while I’m doing it.

Next Week: The King’s Dominion Half Marathon

27 of 52: Cherry Pit

The First Race I Ever Ran

When I first started running I did a lot of training on my own. I mean – I did *all* of my training on my own up until my first 14 mile run. After that I started looking for people to run with and found the Annapolis Striders and before you know it I had signed up for my first race – the Cherry Pit 10 miler.

In DC there is a rather large 10 mile race called the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run. Run through Washington DC among the Cherry Blossoms with 20,000 of your closest friends. I’ve never run that race because I’m not a huge fan of big crowds (although someone was talking about the Chicago Marathon the other dat and to my surprise I was oddly interested – maybe next year.)

The OTHER reason I’ve never run it is because is usually falls on the same day as the Cherry PIT 10 mile race and being the sentimental guy that I am I’m guess I’m loyal to this race. It was my first and while it’s a small local race, the course is not easy, the field is challenging, my friends are here and it’s part of the Champ series so it costs like 10 bucks!

I remember showing up the first year and seeing people running before the race – warming up. I thought they were crazy. I was worried about covering the miles and these people were running extra! WTH

It think temps were in the 50’s so of course I was layered up. Shorts and pants on the bottom, shirt and long sleeved shirt on top – oh and lets not forget the HAT! Not a running hat – A WINTER hat! (I used to get sick quite easily if my head got cold.) I was definitely new at this.

My first year of racing.

The plan was to find some peeps and run a few miles before the race started – but as it happened I walked into the cafeteria where check in was happening and Susan Noble and one other person (who I can’t remember) were trying their hardest to get everyone checked in – but they were quickly falling behind and the line…. grew.

Susan. Coach Susan. Race Director Susan. Founder of Hero Boys Susan. My Friend Susan… asked a few of us nearby (who were oblivious to the situation) if we could lend a hand so we did. It was a blur so I can’t remember exactly who jumped in except for Kim – but I know there were more of us.

Anyways – after registration/check-in was under control I found myself outside thinking “man, there’s no way I have time for three miles before the race. I’ll have to do some after.”

I wandered outside and ran into Jimmy, Kim, Dave, Henry and Kit (and Susan – she’s everywhere) and we ran until just before the race was set to start. I think we got a mile and change. As it happened, there was a significant delay to start of the race (something to do with waiting for folks to set up traffic cones) so we were actually able to go back out and finish 3.1 miles prior to the race which is nice. I was now that person I thought was crazy for running before a race. It was raining a bit so after warming up we waited under some cover in front of the school until the start.

L to R: Dave, Henry, Susan, me, Kit, and Jimmy.

The Run

We ran 10 miles. The end. Just kidding – some stuff happened.

I remember running with Kim… for about a minute before she disappeared off into the race and after that I was on my own. I was still riding a little high from my PR at the B&A but I did not want to push too hard. Though I did want to try that “focus on the moment” thing to see if I could get it to work again.

The race starts with a little twisty turny bit to get out of the high school campus and onto the main road and then you’re on a hill for … awhile. It’s not like really steep , some might call it “rolling” but by and large you’re going up and to me it always seems long. By the numbers it turns out to be 122 ft of climbing over almost 3 miles.

I think it’s no secret that I’m as exactly as tough as I need to be for the task at hand (maybe a little less). This is great – because I can do stuff. Also this sucks because everything I do seems hard. This three mile “hill” then… not steep, but sucky.

Somewhere between mile 6.5 and 7 of the race I gave up on the focus trick. It was raining I was tired and I PR’d a couple weeks ago I didn’t need to prove anything, right? So I decided to walk a bit on the other long-ass “hill” that is Muddy Creek road. After being passed by a few folks I decided to give the old running thing a try again – at least until I saw Susan under an umbrella directing runners to make the left turn at the top of the hill.

I decided this would be a good opportunity to take a little break so I hung out with Susan and cheered on some of the other runners until I spotted Mitch coming up the hill.

I met Mitch during my first year of Marathon training. He taught me a lot about the ups and downs of running – how physically, mentally and emotionally you should expect peaks and valleys on any given run. He taught me to never assume any run was going to be easy – or hard for that matter.

Mitch yelled (at) to me to “c’mon and get on the train!”

So I did. And I hung on for as long as I could – which was almost to the end. Mitch will always be faster than me in the same way that a son will never think that they can “take” their dad. This day he was faster than me in the old fashioned way and left me alone for the last quarter mile or so to finish squarely in the middle of the pack.

Not the Run

It’s neat to look back on the first time I ran this race and how far I’ve come as a runner and how fortunate I am to be a part of this amazing community of people.

When I ran this race the first time, I underestimated my pace. I didn’t know that on race day some weird shit happens and it’s possible to run faster than you usually do. Anyways – I told my family what time I thought I would finish. They were on time – but I was early. And it was one of the loneliest moments in my recent memory. I had done this new thing and done well but I had no one to share it with. I didn’t know *anyone* else at the race and the fam-a-lam wasn’t there to see me finish.

Of all the good things I remember about running this race over the years I will try to always include that lonely feeling also – because it brings the value of the friendships and community I’ve since become a part of into sharp relief.

Next Week: Running into the Future