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.

18 of 52: Team L8Runner vs Team HyberNation

It’s Groundhog Day Again 

Another Saturday where my desire to rest wins. I didn’t sleep in like a teenager who literally needs 16 hours of sleep per day but only gets 4. No, this was your run of the mill “old man missed his nap yesterday” kind of sleep.

As I sat in my coffee/reading/comfy chair I thought – “Hey, text Susan and see what she’s up to. You can probably get a few miles together on the trail.” Some time later I realized I was doing my best imitation of my brother getting ready in the morning in high school – staring out the window with one sock beginning to make its way over the tips of my toes. I would find him like this a lot in the mornings. We’d make up for lost time with creative navigation and other bad decisions.

My trance was broken by the buzzing of my phone – Susan texting. The universe had spoken. Of course it was speaking a different plan than the one I had in my head – which was “run up to the trail, meet Susan around mile marker 1 and then do a few miles with her before she headed for home. Nope – the text read:

“Team L8Runner is meeting DTA at 9:45. There will be coffee post run.”

Team L8Runner is comprised of anyone who knows what it’s like to get up ass early on the weekend to run long because you told 150 strangers you would be there and they literally could not do it without you. Or it could be anyone who used to have to get up ass early to run long on the weekend because the kids will be up by 7 and I need to run 18 miles before they take over the house. If this used to be you but it is no longer you and you sleep in and run later – then you are on this team. You get the idea.

It was 9:08 and I still had one sock hanging off of my foot and I am a 4 mile run from DTA – I could drive over and then run with them the whole time – but it seemed like I would be better off if I ran there. You know – cus I’d have to run back. My reply:

“Team HyberNation will def join Team L8Runner in DTA”

Team HyberNation is comprised of anyone who planned on getting up earlier but is mostly bear so you slept in. Me.

I asked roughly what route they would follow since I knew I’d be chasing them – no way I would get that second sock on my foot and make it downtown before they were long gone.

The Run

So I did get a move on after making plans with Susan. I left my place and started my usual 4 mile route to DTA. I glanced into the Starbucks window just in case they decided to wait for me – but no such luck. I now started the runners math…

“If a man leaves his place at 9:25 running a 10 minute per mile pace…” You get the idea. Long math short, I figured I was about 20 minutes behind them when I got to DTA and that I’d need another few miles and a significant shortcut to catch them. I am shocked to say that it worked out even with a little construction detour on the way.

Me: Pointing to a pathway lined by construction fences… “Hey (to a guy who just came out from where I was pointing) – does this go all the way through?”

That guy: (Looks at me one second too long) – “Yeah”.

It did not go all the way through – so I turned around and came back around another way. I did snap this cool picture though:

We were running at the US Naval Academy at this point and the usual route is along the outside perimeter of Forrest Sherman Field and then up “Hospital Hill” – I just skipped the perimeter all together, headed up to the top of the hill to get a better vantage point and who should be coming up the hill but Team L8Runner.

The whole perfectly rectangular perimeter – I skipped it.

I was really glad to see them – not just because it meant that I could slow down and stop chasing them but because I had just seen two figures halfway up the Naval Academy Bridge and I did NOT want to have to chase them up that hill – though we did wind up going over the bridge together.

When we got to the other side Susan suggested that I continue on to Boulter’s way and then meet them back at Starbucks. I did not like the idea of continuing on alone. Going over the bridge had made me cold and I was looking forward to a hot coffee.

Me: “Why don’t I just head back with you guys and then I’ll run home after coffee. That will get me 13.1.”

Susan: “That’s sounds awful! I’ll drive you home from Starbucks.”

She was right of course. Who wants to be cold and wet, then get warm again just to have to head back out into the cold to run some more. I mean – people do it – but I wasn’t in the middle of some ultra. I’m not training for a 50 miler (or longer) so it would just be unnecessary and foolish really.

So on I went. I was alone so of course the wind “picked up” and the temperature “dropped” but I did feel strong so I went after the rolling hills that lead from the bridge to Boulter’s with some gusto. When I reached the mileage I needed to turn around I was just a couple hundred yards short of Boulters.

Me: “Well I can’t just turn around *here*. *Here* isn’t anywhere in particular so that can’t be right.

Also Me: “You do it all the time.”

Me: “Yeah – but I feel good. Besides, Susan said to run to *Boulters* not *no place in particular* so I’m going to keep going.”

And so I did. It was just a little bit but I’m glad I did it. I made my way back over the bridge and back into town to the Starbucks where Susan and Gloria were enjoying a hot beverage. I ordered a coffee and oatmeal for myself and then joined them.

My face was cold. I warmed it up with my coffee cup. Gloria and Susan both agreed that I should stop. It’s good to have friends.

Not a particularly speedy run, but that ain’t the point now is it?

Not the Run

I recently attended an awards ceremony where my oldest child was being recognized for their outstanding achievements in the STEM program. The keynote speaker talked about things that successful people do. One was “practice, practice, practice”. You know I could not agree more with that. He also mentioned this gem: “Get a Coach. The minute you aren’t learning from someone else who’s further down the road than you are then you’re stuck!”

I immediately thought – “who is my coach?” And in some areas of my life I could identify my coach right away. For running it has always been Susan. She was my first running coach. I was training for my first marathon and she was the coach. She’s *my* coach. I know I’m not alone when I say that.

I was surprised though that I couldn’t name my coaches in other areas of my life – most notably my professional life. I need to get on that ASAP because I can tell you that even with all the uncertainty that comes with significant change – one thing that has become clear is that I need a career coach. I need someone to tell me not to run when I’m cold and wet and to stop rolling my coffee cup on my face – but for work stuff.

I’d write more but as it turns out I need to go Google “how to find a career coach”.

Next Week: Pacing the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

17 of 52: RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge 2019

Where the Hills Are

Not like – giGANtic hills, but the annoying, never ending up and downy ones that seem to appear only after you’ve made a turn. Again and again. Turn after turn. Mile after mile. Oh – and there was rain… but I’m getting ahead of myself. This is not “the run” and it’s also not “not the run”.

So this is a race I’ve never done before. Hosted by the Howard County Striders, the RRCA Ten Mile Club challenge is a cross country scored club race which means I guess that everybody from your club who finishes somehow contributes points towards your club.

I was pretty stoked because FINALLY I would be joined by my friend Dennis who always gives so much support to all those around him. We’ve been trying to connect on one of these runs and have never quite been able to link up. It’s been too long since Dennis and I have run together and I was looking forward to catching up.

The Run

I thought I would be able to get to the race in time to make the club group photo, but I did not. I shed my Bear-like sleeping tendencies to get out of bed on time, ignored the cold, ignored the rain and got my show on the road. That’s a lie – I grimaced at the cold AND the rain but it did not get armer and the rain did not stop so off I went.

There was a fair amount of backup getting into the parking lot at the race, but I was early enough that no one was losing their mind over it. I parked and made a bee line to the gym for packet pickup. It took me a moment to figure out that instead of arranging the pick up lines by alpha or by bib number, the lines were sorted by Running Club. Whoa – I hope no one cares that I’ll be having a leisurely run with a friend during this race! I suddenly imagined that everyone in the room was basically an olympic athlete out to win for their home team. As usual, my imagination was far from reality.

Dennis and I quickly agreed to a pace for the race and decided it would be better to run the additional 3.1 miles after the race when we were already warm rather than before the race and risk having to wait around and get cold. Also – we like to sleep…

The race was well supported with water and gatorade about every two miles and plenty of course monitors to keep you on track. One surprising tidbit – there were ZERO porta-pots along the route. To be fair this information was in the pre-race materials so if you did your homework it was not a surprise.

By the time we were “encouraged” to go line up to start, the rain had passed. We joined the rest of the crowd and made our way. Knowing this was a competition race we picked a spot pretty far back in the pack and tried not to get pulled into the faster paces ahead of us. This was a little challenging due to the downhill start and “herd effect” but I think after the first mile we settled in nicely.

I may have mentioned the hills. Many folks mentioned the hills to me prior to the race. They were mentioned enough times by enough people that I had properly prepared for them. And by “prepared” I mean “woke several times the night before wondering if I should have done some hill work in the weeks prior”.

Look – it’s not like the run at Lake Placid but if you look carefully there’s just up after down after up after down…

For someone who trains on hills this race is not a big deal. I am *not* a person who trains on hills… The upside is that it kept us honest on the pace and for me personally added an additional challenge and much needed change from my usual approach to hill work – which is to approach a hill, and then turn around before beginning the incline.

But enough about the hills! Let’s talk about the rain. “What about the rain? You said the rain stopped before the race started.” You’re right. I did say that – but what I did *not* say is that a couple miles into the run the rain came back. At first it was a nice gentle mist, a sprinkle of good luck from Mother Nature – but around mile 6ish I realized – “holy crap it’s really raining.” If you’re reading this and thinking “geez I don’t remember rain at mile 6” that means you are fast and were already inside, enjoying a warm beverage and trying on your new gloves (race swag) when the rain hit.

At any rate – my pants started getting heavy and my warm hat – which is not optimized for rain (no bill) – was basically capturing all of the water that hit my head and guiding it to my face so that it could run the entire way from my rapidly disappearing hairline to my chin. But you know what? It was a good time. Dennis and I talked about kids and family and careers. We talked about our goals and our training. We talked about our troubles and our triumphs. It was an excellent hang from beginning to end.

After we crossed the finish line we made our way down to the track and began putting in the extra 3.1 miles. (Does it count as track work if you just run slow on the track?) In retrospect we probably should have hit the gym for a pit stop. Dennis was having some pain in his foot and smartly decided to call it a day so we parted ways and I ventured off of the track to finish the mileage. I knew that going another 2.5 miles on the track by myself would be pure misery and since I used to work right around this area I decided to run to my old office. It turned out to be exactly half of the mileage I needed so after a long pause to look at my old office I turned around and headed back to the warm gym. I was cold and tired and fighting stomach issues and ready to be done.

Not the Run

I’m behind on this report. This run happened almost two full weeks ago. With another run from last weekend to write about and my next run happening in about 10 hours, I’m really feeling the pressure of writers debt at the moment. It’s funny because I started this post the day of the race – but then a funny thing happened. I got very lucky and was referred to play trumpet in a local high school production of Chicago. Is it Broadway? No. Is it even Toby’s Dinner Theater? No. But that’s OK – I’m not ready for that yet. (Well – maybe Toby’s…)

I had a 5 hour rehearsal after this race, two 3 hour rehearsal during the week and then 4 shows in a row – Thursday through Sunday. I got busy. I got busy with something I really love to do so the running posts (which I also enjoy) took a back seat and it has me thinking. What is the relationship of this new love of running to my old love of music? What if I had a shot to play and teach and it could support me – but I had to give up running (and triathlon etc). Would I do it?

It’s one of those ridiculous questions because my reality brain immediately breaks into the conversation and says “you work full time now and you figured out how to do grad school and train for a marathon at the same time – you can do music and stay healthy at the same time.” So much for making a mountain out of a molehill. Thanks reality brain. I knew I could count on you. Now about those hills…

Next Week: Team RunL8ter vs Team HyberNation

16 of 52: The Pretty Okay Outdoors

What’s so great about the outdoors anyways?

I can say – that after last weeks slog on the treadmill – that the outdoors are pretty damn great. Whether you’re staring at the face of El Capitan (which is on my list of things to do) or just walking to the market to grab some butter and Saladitos – being outside is a pretty neat thing to be.

With this in mind, I thought I would get up early and run with the Striders half marathon training group again and maybe catch up with some friends. As it turns out I am 98.7% bear and this is still winter so – I overslept.

Me: Crap – it’s 8. I missed the training run…

Also Me: You did this to yourself.

Me: No I didn’t. I’m not built to wake up before 8 am – unless there’s a fire or something.

Also Me: Whatever. You still missed the run. Now what?

Me: I don’t know – but I will be OUTSIDE!!

It’s funny right? Shelter is considered to be one of those basic needs. Right up there with food and waaaay before movie popcorn (which is technically food but you know what I mean). And yet… when it comes to running I would definitely prefer to be outside. I guess “shelter” means protection from the elements – and when running “proper attire” counts. SO what I’m really trying to say here with all of this is that I don’t like the treadmill for long runs anymore.

There. I said it.

I’m breaking up with you treadmill. For long runs. (You can still call me for short runs. Shhhhhhh)

I have done several 20 mile runs on a treadmill over the past 10 years and many many more runs in the teens. I guess there some upsides. It can be okay if you’re watching a movie (or two). The bathroom is nearby. The food is nearby. You have the benefit of having precise control over your pace and form. But as we should all know by now – upsides inherently come with downsides. The scenery never changes and every foot fall is the same as the last.

Funny how that works. Contained within something good – is something equally as undesirable. Except for movie popcorn. Nope – nothing bad about movie popcorn at. all. (Not… a thing… at… alllll.)

WHAT?! IT’s a whole grain!!!

The Run

SO I did manage to get up and going pretty soon after that first realization that I had missed a group run. The weather was cold but hardly Winter (with a capital W) so I figured I would run from my place towards DTA and then maybe head back.

Problem #1 – I live a lot closer to downtown Annapolis than I thought I did. About 4 miles. Turning around at this point would obviously not get me 13.1

Problem #2 – I did not feel like running up and over the Naval Academy bridge and then on to Boulters Way (more hills). Yes – that would have been excellent for my fitness and training and I think with a friend I would most certainly would have taken it on, but I was still grumpy about the whole heart rate debacle and feeling sorry for myself about a host of other stuff so I decided to meander my way around some more hospitable (read: FLAT) parts of Annapolis – including some neighborhoods that I’ve been thinking about moving into when my lease is up. I figure that if I like running through a place I won’t mind living there.

I really enjoyed the feeling of being outside. The miles pass faster. My legs feel stronger. My mind feels free to wander – and not just repeat the same tired thoughts. The variety of inputs – sights and smells and sounds – really impact what happens inside me.

I did go a little bit over this week but I could do worse on a nice sunny 40 degree day in the middle of winter.

Not The Run

16 weeks into this I feel a little like I’m losing touch with how I felt in the beginning of it. I get this way in triathlon a lot. Waiting to get in the water I’m just a bundle of nerves and excitement and worry all rolled into one – but by the time I’m halfway through the bike I’m all “what should I have for lunch this week?” – which might just mean I need to eat more on the bike but it also might mean that even on short time scales I have trouble reminding myself what I’m “here” for let alone on a project that will take all year.

This is not to say that it’s getting harder to show up for – maybe even the contrary. It may be that since it’s so regular or common, I’m losing sight of what makes it beautiful. The very basic thing I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Why is that so hard to keep my eyes on? What else do I lose sight of?

I’m reading “Running with the mind of Meditation” (thanks to Dan for the Christmas gift) and in it, the author talks about – when you first learn to meditate – having to repeatedly bring your focus back to your breath. I feel it’s the same and comes back to that word – Practice.

Next Week: RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge 2019

15 of 52: The One that (Almost) Got Away

The Weekend Started So Good

My girlfriend Katie and I had tickets to Jim Gaffigan for Friday night and then planned to drive directly from the show to Fenwick Island (which I don’t think is an actual island – but that’s what they call it). The plan was to just unplug and chill for a couple days then drive back home in time to take care of Sunday business. For me “Sunday Business” included the run because I made a deliberate choice to leave my running gear at home. I did not want even the chance of sneaking off to run 13.1 miles to enter into my mind as a possibility.

I knew this one would be hard to fit in with the schedule as it was. I did not know it would be hard to run. It wasn’t hard like physically like “I ran hard the whole way and it was tough.” It was hard like “I just got back from the beach and I’m tired and I need to start running before 7 but I just need a little nap first.” Which is exactly what happened. I laid down at 6, got up at 6:45 and started running at 7 so I could comfortably meet the 10pm Sunday deadline for this weeks run.

I mean – sometimes you gotta get away from the normal sights and sounds of your life, right? So that’s what we did – Katie and I. The uncertainty at work combined with *this bastard winter sun* really tipped it for me so off we went. To Mexico? No. I wanted to be somewhere where the Winter sun could still enter my eyelids from God knows where at any given moment regardless of where I turned my face.

Folks, I should really be living ON the equator and waking up at 8:30 every day, but for now I will just have to continue on in Maryland where the weather patterns match the design pattern of our flag and my sleep patterns follow. It’s pretty convoluted. Even if I didn’t wake up precisely 2 hours and 14.5 minutes after falling asleep *every* night, my inconsistent morning schedule would never let me get the same amount of sleep every day so I find myself in this crazy “rhythm”. Think of it like a yo-yo diet – but for sleep!

The Run

First, can I say something about heart rate training? I cannot get my body to play by the rules. I get it – there are 5 heart rate zones.

Zone 1 – This is your heart rate when you’re just hanging out, sitting on the couch watching season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – but not the really funny parts – then you’re probably edging into Zone 2…

Zone 2 – Basically zone 1 plus some vigorous laughter (or if you’re into watching sports then maybe the fourth quarter and your football team can’t seem to get their puck in the other guys basket.) IDK

Zone 3 – Exercise – but take it easy sparky – we don’t want to actually sweat but we do want to be able to have a conversation with our workout buddy.

Zone 4 – Doin’ Work. Maybe. We. Can. Talk… A . Few . Words at a … time.

Zone 5 – I have no oxygen to spare. I can only keep this up if my child is trapped under a car or being chased by a pack of wolves.

Based on a test I ran a few weeks ago, here’s where my HR Zones are *supposed* to fall out:

  • Zone 1 – 0-142 bpm
  • Zone 2 – 143-154 bpm
  • Zone 3 – 155-163 bpm
  • Zone 4 – 164-174 bpm
  • Zone 5 – 175-184 bpm

Here’s my issue. I pop into zone 4 before I’m breathing heavy. Before I start sweating. Before I’m even aware that I am in fact no longer in bed dreaming about – well never mind you that – but anyways. I just think that 165 bpm is where my HR lives during easy exercise. I can stay there all day – well for a long while at least.

Here I am23 minutes in, running a moderately easy pace for me and I’m well into Zone 4? I don’t think so. Now mind you – I was also at 168bpm 10 minutes prior to this when I was running 10 m/mi pace. WTAF?!

I asked a friend about this awhile back and he said – look, as long as your heart rate settles down after a couple minutes don’t worry about it. And it does. If I walk for 60 seconds my HR drops down to 140 bpm (see above: Zone 1). I don’t get it. And it’s distracting. Especially when the treadmill is displaying a message every 30 seconds (the magic interval to absolve everyone but me from liability) that says : “Attention: Heart Rate is high!”

So I did what any reasonable person would do – I took off my heart rate strap and unpaired it from the treadmill.

As far as I can figure maybe one or two things are happening (or any gray combination of the two)

  1. I didn’t work nearly hard enough on the initial fitness test. (If you’ve been following me, you know how I am about really pushing myself.)
  2. My heart tops out closer to 250 than 190. I’m kidding. I have no clue what’s happening.

Maybe I can take one of those tests in a lab where you run your ass off and then they draw blood to see if you’re dying or not…

That big gap in my heart rate graph is not me dying and then coming back to life – it’s when I disconnected my HR strap and then I guess it started tracking the HR monitor on my watch.

Not the Run

IDK what to say here – I was consumed by the heart rate debacle for nearly my entire run so I’m a little short on reflection. I don’t like it. I mean that’s one of the reasons I run – so I can tap into the noisy space between my ears and pull out a coherent thought. Maybe next week.

Next Week: A coherent Thought?

14 of 52: Frozen with Friends

Just for the record – the cold has *always* bothered me.

And this Saturday was no exception. When I showed up to Dan’s at 7:20 it was 16 degrees with a real feel of “more than one”. I was wearing 2 pair of socks, 2 pair of gloves, lined cycling tights under running pants (in addition to a third base layer), a long sleeved lined mock turtle base layer, a second long sleeved heavy running shirt, a third (but looser fitting) long sleeved shirt (which is usually my last layer), and finally a light weight running jacket. Oh – and a balaclava covered by a windproof hat.

I hate the cold and today it was 16 degrees with a real feel of “more than one”.

I really don’t like leaving the warmth of my bed to go out into the cold – but once I get to running (especially if I’m properly dressed) I prefer it to running in the heat. I also take the cold weather as seriously as I take the heat in terms of potential for danger.

Everyone has their own threshold for comfort. Dan and Kari I think prefer to get by with fewer layers – even in this weather. Dan’s head ‘is a volcano’ – so – no need for a hat there. I heard once that if you’re too cold to run then you just aren’t dressed properly. (or something like that). I think that’s true and I also think “properly” is different for everyone.

The Run

The only plan was this – run so that we arrived at the Pip Moyer Rec Center at precisely 9AM. We arrived at 8:59:29. I’m not sure how we worked that out. Our actual pace was not what we used when considering different plans. We just sort of set out on our way, checking in with the time of day every few miles and adjusting our course to suit. It was a really nice low stress run and I was really glad we made it right on time.

We meandered our way around the Naval Academy Stadium, through West Annapolis and headed downtown where we took a second to admire the frozen water. As I looked across the water I could see the radio towers on Greenbury point – where I ran the Eternal Winter 6 hour run the week before. I love looking out at a place, seeing the size of it all at once and thinking “I ran there. I was there with my feet on the ground moving through it. I saw the whole place under my own power.”

We were soon underway and I was really struck by the unique sound of our feet crunching in the snow on the wooden dock. It was an amazing resonant variation of just – feet crunching in the snow. It sounds silly to read that back but really – it’s recognizing and enjoying that type of little detail that reminds me how much there is to enjoy and discover in life.

Kari – “I’m no good at selfies.” Also Kari: Nails it.

Dan just had the time of day goal – to meet his family for a morning activity, Kari did not have a mileage goal – just looking for some base miles with friends and I – well you know what I’m up to. So when Kari and I left Dan at the rec center we had run just about 9 miles. Since we had both parked at Dan’s we decided to run back to his place and then see where we stood. Where we stood was just about 10 miles. 3.1 to go for me.

Fortunately for me, Kari was in the mood to tag along for the last 3.1. Though I had met Kari volunteering at the Sailors Tri and also volunteering at the Iron Man Maryland water stop – I knew I was in good company even though I didn’t know her well. (Volunteers are the best people.) Plus running is one of the best ways I know of to get to know people.

We improvised a short loop back out to West Street, back towards DTA (Downtown Annapolis) and then back to Dan’s. Luck was with us again as we arrived at exactly 13.1 miles.

Not the Run

Sometimes I have to remind myself that a thing isn’t nearly as bad as my mind is telling me it is. I have to practice separating the memory of a thing from the objective facts that surround it.

My Mind: “I hate running in the cold”
The Truth: “I was warm after the first mile and had a really good time”.

In my case we’re just talking about being uncomfortable in the cold. Or we’re talking about job uncertainty. Or we’re talking about losing a loved one. Or finding out you have cancer. (Or finding out you don’t anymore). Or that your relationship with someone is changing. Or ending. Or – just name it. I forget to practice taking account of all of the thing’s I’ve experienced and realizing that that experience is valuable to me moving forward.

And sometimes the truth of an experience is worse than what your mind tells you. I don’t know how it works, if the mind tries to protect us from pain or what, but I do know that recognizing your truth (while a lot like staring into the sun) can be very powerful indeed. This practice helps when it comes time to understand that just because someone else’s truth doesn’t line up with yours doesn’t make either of you a bad person – or wrong.

I was telling Kari that one aspiration I had as a kid was to score movies. Did I go to school in LA? Where they make movies? Where I would meet people who would know people who knew a person who’s cousins uncles brothers mother also – wrote music for movies? No I did not.

I didn’t even apply to any schools in California. “I was such a dumbass.”

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile – or at least since I started that last paragraph – and it occurs to me I did not apply for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t understand the impact that my surroundings outside of school would have on my experiences and on the path I would take in my career.
  2. I had already been to California.

Now – I know that second one sounds silly but really. Here’s the truth about me: I have and always will be in search of something new. Some new place or experience. Something that makes me understand what it is to be a living learning loving human being. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or tragic or life changing. We can see those things as sure as they will come to us wether we want them to or not. It’s the little things that add up for me, that life offers in abundance.

The feel of my keyboard, or the design of my laptop. A long moment of silence with my daughter in the car – I look over and see her struggle and my heart breaks and overflows all at the same time. The way a soccer ball feels coming off of my foot – decades after ever kicking one. Watching a plane take off – or land. Hearing the wind in the trees. Watching two people talk. I could go on probably all day and I bet so could you. It only takes a second to see something beautiful or hear something new. Like a new sound. Like the sound of crunching snow on a dock.

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.

Alan Ball – American Beauty

Next Week: Running on a Sunday Evening

13 of 52: Eternal Winter 6 Hour Run

Does this race make my butt look big?

This week I ran the Eternal Winter 6 Hour Run – twin race to the Endless Summer 6-Hour Run, held to benefit the Annapolis Light House Shelter and Pantry of Maryland. It’s what’s known as a Fat Ass style race. No – I did not run all 6 hours. That would be irresponsible seeing as I’ve only been running about 2 hours give or take. More give than take. Enough about me – let me tell you about me. Running this race…

…but first let me rewind to that big butt/fat ass thing. A Fat Ass race (as I learned myself this past weekend) is a laid back ultra race type of thing. No winners, no prizes, super low key, small field. When I went online to find out exactly what it meant I found that these type of races have been around long enough that there are some varying opinions about what is and isn’t a Fat Ass race. As with anything like this there are purists and progressives. I don’t know where this race fell on the continuum but it was a good time. Will run again.

Here’s a couple of links if you’re interested in reading more:



The Run

This race was probably somewhere in the middle of the Fat Ass spectrum. It was a small group. There were no winners. No time clock. No pomp or circumstance. There was a minimal entry fee – which would be returned (if you chose) as long as you showed up to the race with at least 5(?) food items to donate to the Annapolis Light House Shelter and Pantry of Maryland.

There *was* race support by way of a small heated tent full of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. After doing a few larger marathons as well as the smaller 50ks and races like this one – it seems as though the smaller scale of the race allows the support to be more personal. A reflection on the people helping.

Yeah – delicious.

The run was a figure-eight-ish loop in and around Greenbury Point, starting at the Nature Center. I don’t know what they do there, but they were nice enough to have the bathrooms open for us. Big move. One loop was about 3.5 miles around.

There were picnic tables where folks staged their gear and nutrition. Very low key. Jimmy and Brian and Kim and I had all parked near a spot we ran past on the loop so we just left our stuff in our cars and made quick pit stops as needed. For me that meant every loop I would stop for a drink and to make sure I had something to nibble on (cliff blocks).

The run went right on that sidewalk past the picnic tables – both directions.

You may recall that over the past couple weeks I’ve been putting some “speed” work into my 13.1 runs – and by speed I mean running faster than I would normally on a long run. On a long run (if you’re also doing speed work and tempo work during the week) you’re supposed to run uncomfortably slow in order to convince your body to make changes to it’s mitochondria. Don’t roll your eyes at me – I didn’t make it up. It’s SCIENCE! Anyways…

The plan this week was to run a solid effort for 13.1 (faster than my declining times) and then roll easy for another – hour? So not really a plan per se, but a rough outline. Fortunately for me Brian was down with the plan and willing to run my pace. He was on a mission to see how long he could keep moving which meant he would be running a bit slower than he usually does – perfect for me. (cus he’s fast)

There were a few small trees down on the trail which made for a good time – do we go over or under? I went under on the second loop – that was enough for my uni-directional knees for one day. You know what else was on the trail? PUPPIES! You know who loves puppies? BRIAN! This guy is seriously upbeat and friendly – he really helped me focus on running a steady pace for the first 13.1. We hit 13.1 right around 2:04 – which is right where I wanted to be.

I decided during this race that I’m going to try to PR the B&A Half Marathon. I have 8 weeks to train. My PR for that race is 1:55:33. Maybe I could lose a few pounds between now and then. That usually helps.

The perimeter trail. It has a name and everything – It’s actually a road… W Road. Not much of a name really.

After finishing 13.1 I took a break and Brian went on in search of more puppies. I took it easy, trying to keep my heart rate low(er) but once you’re in the bag it’s really hard to get out so I found myself walking to keep it down. A half lap later I decided to call it a day and get some soup and a grilled cheese. So good. 15.9 miles for the day.

Not the Run

I could feel the depression creeping back in this week. I will say this. Since I have been working out during the weeks more regularly (and this past week even more so as I start a new program) I am much better equipped to fight it off. I still feel it – but it isn’t debilitating. I have to believe that all of the musical exercise has helped as well. Now – If I could just get that spark of joy between 9 and 5 I’ll really be on my way.

Next Week: Freezing with Friends

12 of 52: Treadmill Time Machine

It’s not that kind of time machine

I did not travel to the past and warn my younger self about all the mistakes I would make. I’m mostly fond of them and they do serve a purpose. After all – without them I would not be me. Besides – the treadmill isn’t that kind of time machine anyways.

I call it a time machine because strange things happen to my sense of time when I’m on it. It’s random. Sometimes time will fly by. Other times I swear that I’m four dream levels down every hour in real life takes two and a half years! (That’s an Inception reference just in case not everyone loves that movie as much as I do.)

Last week, I worked in some moderate speed towards the end of the run to fight some boredom and after thinking about it I thought I would try a more structured approach with longer intervals this week.

The Run

The PLAN was basically 3 groups of 3 mile ladders, where the groups themselves looked like a ladder. See this dream within a dream thing actually related to my run. Well – it related to my plan anyways

  • Warm up – 2miles. LSD (Long Slow Distance) pace.
  • Ladder 1 – Faster ladder (3 miles) –
    • I knew this group would feel easy (so early in the run) but make the rest of the run more challenging.
  • Ladder 2 – Slower ladder (3 miles)
    • This was supposed to be an active recovery from the first ladder dropping right back into LSD paces.
  • Ladder 3 – Faster ladder (3 miles)
    • This is where I really expected to suffer – especially mile 10 but I figured it would be doable especially since I would have just come from three miles of LSD pace.
  • Cool down (2.1 miles)
Scrawled out a few minutes before getting on the treadmill. Seemed reasonable at the time.

No plan survives contact with the enemy

What Actually happened was completely different. I don’t exactly remember what (this is what happens when you wait two weeks to write the report) but I do know two things:

  1. I am not in good enough shape (this week) to follow that plan.
  2. My foot pod and watch suck at figuring out how fast I’m going on a treadmill. I need to investigate how to pull data directly from the treadmill.

So at the end of mile 5 (the first ‘faster ladder’) I was a lot more winded than I thought I would be so I started to modify from there, sticking as close to the shape of my plan as possible – but with slower paces and some walking. I walked for almost a quarter of a mile after mile 7 thinking it would help me reset and run the last faster ladder as planned. I did help me pick things up, but I continued to run out of gas more quickly so my faster intervals got shorter and shorter.

Now – it may sound like this was a disaster, but here’s how I feel about it:

  • My real goal was to work hard for as long as I could, spread out over a long distance. I did that.
  • Even though it didn’t go to plan I feel like the experience improved my fitness overall.
  • Also – I didn’t hurt myself. I haven’t been running enough during the week or doing enough cross training to really have any expectations.
  • I’ve only been running 13.1 every week so realistically, that’s what I can expect – to be able to run 13.1.

Given all of that, I have been watching my 13.1 time get slower and slower while I work the same or harder and I’m not really anxious to find out what my “natural” 13.1 time will be after a year of no training so – I’m starting to focus my energies more on more intentional training. Especially now that my life and my schedule are starting to look more like a deliberate life and less like an episode of Pigs in Space. (Think carefully before clicking that…)

BONUS – I can now go back to this workout in a few weeks to see if I’ve made any improvements. I’m starting a new virtual training program tomorrow that includes core/strength training, cycling, and running workouts. I have no doubt that this will help me.

This was by far my slowest half of the 52 so far but it was still a good run.

Next Week: Eternal Winter Six Hour Run

11 of 52: Half Marathon Training

Wait. What?

Why on earth would I run half marathon training? Am I not already running half marathon distance every week? Yes. Am I not crazy enough? Yes, of course (but not as crazy as Jimmy who ‘accidentally’ ran a 50k!). Well if you know me you know I did it for the company. To see my friends. To take a moment to look around and make sure I’m not the only fool running on a Saturday morning when the bed is warm and the eylids are… well, closed.

Striders Half Marathon Training

The Annapolis Striders offer to their members a variety of training programs for a variety of distances. These programs offer training plans, online support (email and Facebook groups) and of course a supported (water and some supervision provided) long run on the weekends.

If you’re going after a longer distance or trying to improve your time, I highly recommend falling into one of these. If you aren’t in the Annapolis area a quick online search should reveal a similar running club near you. There really is no substitute for knowing you are not alone in your efforts.

Besides – where else will you find about 100 other runners on a cold Saturday morning in January?

The Run

It was – COLD. Relatively speaking. This was the coldest run I’ve been on in awhile but even at a brisk 29 degreesI have to admit it really wasn’t that bad after the first couple miles.

I don’t know which is more concerning. The temperature or the time!

Although I warmed up – my nutrition did not. I thought I was being pretty slick by pre opening my Clif shots – and it did save me the hassle of trying to open them before the tips of my fingers froze off however cutting the top off of the package does NOT prevent them from turning into very chewy ice blocks!

Cutting the top off saved me from trying to open it with cold fingers, but it didn’t keep these from freezing!

The group was running 6 miles (the first week of 12) so I would need to add on another 7. I decided to run the first 6 with the group and then just do it again (plus a little) on my own. I didn’t make any plans to run long with anyone so I would just take my chances.

I saw a bunch of people at the start including coaches Michael and Kelly, the friendliest man on the trail – Bruce! – and some Tri Club friends Chris and Virginia. After dragging my feet to get started I eventually caught up to Butch (which took some doing!) and since he was by himself I invited myself to run with him. Come to think of it – I really never did ask if it was OK. That’s how it is sometimes – you just find a friend running a similar pace and next thing you know you’re talking about music and composition and arranging and – oh wait. 6 miles are done already?! Thanks for the run Butch!

I missed my chance to run with Kim and Dave at around mile 10. They were running much further south than I needed to go and I did not put it together that I could have just turned around when it was time. I blame the early hour and temperature.

I hit the 3/4 mark and found myself a little bored on my own. Since this is my 11th straight week running this distance I thought – “let’s work some faster intervals into the last 3 miles”. What could possibly go wrong?

The trail is lined with telephone poles so I decided to run from pole 1 to pole 2 at race pace, then the next two a little faster than the one before and so on – up to the fourth pole. Then walk to the next one (or two) before repeating the cycle. Looks like I did that 7 times before settling back into my easy pace until the finish.

All those little intervals at the end.

It was fine actually and I will continue to work in some speed on these runs here and there as it makes sense. More on this in next week’s report.

At the finish I got to catch up a little bit with Dan who had just finished his own 12 mile run.

Not the Run

During the run with Butch I was talking about how I just cannot seem to fully develop my musical ideas and he said something that is just so obvious and (of course) applicable to so many things. It just takes practice.

So this past week I let go of the “shame” around not “finishing” the music I start. It has kept me from just sitting down to engage the process for awhile. I’ll go through fits and spurts without any consistency or deliberate practice. In the past week I’ve put down 7 new musical ideas and posted 4 of them to SoundCloud.

I’m not concerned about the quality per se or how good I think they are – I’m just showing up every day to practice. I’m already noticing a lot more competence in the software as well as remembering more and more long lost music theory. Looking forward to seeing what lies ahead. Follow me on sound cloud if you’re interested.

Next Week: Treadmill Time Machine