Running My Own Race

I had a good 9 mile run today. It’s hardly worth commenting on except to note its pace. Pfitzinger prescribes a lot of general aerobic runs, especially in the first few weeks of his program, where he focuses on endurance. That’s fine. They’re meant to be run a good bit off of marathon pace. Fine.

However, it was a gorgeous day. After two days of cold, it was around 60 degrees when I took off on the run and the sun felt glorious. Because of this, every single runner in Williamsburg was out. In the woods, on the streets, down back alleys. It was an infestation! I think the local Chamber of Commerce may have even imported some runners from neighboring locales.

Now, I’m a pretty laid-back person. I’m not particularly competitive in most parts of my life. I make sure I only beat children at Monopoly by very small margins. (Suckers!)

However, in sports it’s all different. I want to win. Always. 

This can be useful. I love when my brother runs with me on fast days. He pushes me further than I could ever push myself. And he’s a cool dude. But when the purpose of the run is to put in miles but save your legs for an upcoming hard workout? As I did my 9 miles, swarms of runners passed by. I wanted to call out to them: I’m normally much faster than this! It took so much self-control to focus on the goal of the run and not take off and try to keep up with them.

It’s childish, I know. Several years ago, I was three or four miles into a long run on the track when someone else strolled up and started his workout. The guy was definitely in ok shape but he began running right after I went by and passed me right away. My heartbeat quickened. I could take him. He didn’t look that fast. I sped up a little. Around he came again. Panic. Was I really a runner? Logging all these miles just to get passed by some Joe Shmoe so easily? I dug in and quickened my stride. But he was still getting away. I was pushing. I wouldn’t want him to think I couldn’t run. Faster. Faster!

And then he stopped. 

He ran about a mile. Tops. He did it at a quick pace but he ran a mile. And here I was, maybe 4 miles into a long run and going way above marathon pace. Different paces for different races. My focus should have been on my goal. I felt like I was in a children’s book where the kid finally learns that he or she should focus on what they’re doing rather looking over their shoulder and comparing themselves to their friends. Everybody’s doing their own run – it’s not a competition. I swear I don’t usually have to learn the same life lessons as a five year old.

Since then I’ve been a lot better about staying focused and running my own workout. The killer instinct is stlll there, though. At 26.1 miles I’m sure I’ll be quite happy with my competitive spirit as I try to finish strong. But 9 slow miles today are so much better than 9 fast miles that leave me unable to finish this week properly. So I did it! I conquered my competitiveness for today at least. I’ll have to check-in with you all again next week. And the week thereafter.

(Also, to be clear, I was joking about not letting small children win at board games.)


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Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder!

The title is a Swedish proverb, which means “There isn’t bad weather, just bad clothes!” I had an 8 mile run yesterday. When I left the house at noon it was a shade over 50 degrees. I thought I could get by with shorts and a long-sleeve shirt. Oops.

Almost immediately, a wind came up and the temperature began dropping. There was some soft drizzle two miles in. At four miles I swore I saw a flake or two of snow, though that may have been the hypothermia setting in. By the time I finished, it had dropped to 40 degrees or so, with a wicked wind that made it feel far closer to freezing.

If you’re trail running things are a bit harder – you don’t want to freeze but you don’t want to be tossing unnecessary layers into the underbrush. This run, though, was a series of loops through Colonial Williamsburg. I should have at least had a sweatshirt or gloves in my car in case I (hypothetically) misjudged the weather.

In the end, it was ok. The first few miles were miserable but my desire to be done, dry, and warm helped me push the pace faster than I would have otherwise. Another silver lining: the weather kept most of the tourists away so I had one of my favorite areas almost all to myself.


(CW on a sunnier day.)

In running news, I did 27 miles last week and the 8 mile run was the first run of Pfitzinger’s 18/55 plan. All my runs thus far were preparation for this! Now to stay healthy and focused…

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Running and Road Trips

I just returned from a rather impromptu road trip down to New Orleans. My friend and I were both suffering from a severe case of wanderlust at breakfast one morning and we hit the road for the Big Easy the next day, stopping off in Nashville, Memphis, Mobile, and Atlanta as well.

The only thing was that we both needed to sneak in some runs while on the road. My marathon training’s about to kick in and my friend is midway through her training for a half marathon in December. We managed four runs over our week of travel, which was awesome. We had a great time AND stayed on course with our training.  If you’ve got upcoming travel plans (the holidays and all) and are reticent about packing the running shoes, here are 5 tips and observations. (The internet still loves arbitrarily numbered lists, right?)

1. Running is a great way to see a new (or old) city!

Running on vacation doesn’t have to be a trade-off between meeting your goals and exploring the city. On a run, you’re not speeding past blurred streets as in a car and you can also see a much larger area than if you were walking. We had two runs in New Orleans and did a couple different loops around the CBD, the French Quarter, and Faubourg Marigny. We ran along the Mississippi, past cemeteries, and through residential areas that most tourists wouldn’t see. We even managed to stumble across a real Banksy on Rampart St! The first run allowed us to get oriented in the city, which was great later when we set off to explore the French Quarter. The second run was right before we split town and gave us one last look at the place.

2. Timing is key!

We set off for our first run of the trip without really noting the time. We did a good four mile run surrounded by the Appalachian mountains and I headed back to the hotel with visions of cheap Belgian waffles slathered with butter-like product dancing in my head. However, by the time we made it back the free breakfast was already put away. The only thing I hate more than missing out on free stuff is being hungry. From then on, I refused to run until I’d managed a nice, leisurely (and free) breakfast. This had an added bonus, however, as it had us leaving for our runs after the morning hustle and bustle but before most other tourists were out and about.

3. Check with locals!

A lot of times we looked up local running routes listed on the interwebs but hotel/hostel/motel staff also proved useful. In the Shenandoah Valley we actually managed to find a great track that didn’t show up in any of our google searches after asking the front desk. I was looking for somewhere flat to run (IT band issues) and was afraid I’d be stuck running hills or not running at all. This is probably a no brainer for most people but I’m that (stereotypical) guy who never asks for directions, so it was quite the eye-opening experience for me. Admitting to strangers that there’s something you don’t know can be beneficial? Who knew?

4. Don’t forget a plastic bag (and a million pairs of socks)!

I don’t care what you think; those clothes stink. You’d better hide them away shamefully. And there is nothing in the world more satisfying than the feeling of clean socks. Except maybe the taste of Nashville hot chicken. Speaking of which…

5. Free Calories!

This isn’t really a tip. I just love food. I had Nashville hot chicken, memphis bbq, red beans and rice with andouille, even more bbq, fried okra, pecan pie, and boiled peanuts, not to mention the mint juleps and local brews. Despite that I didn’t gain a pound. If you’re as big of a food tourist as I am, this is a huge bonus.

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So It Begins

This isn’t actually the beginning, of course. My first marathon attempt actually started over two years ago. Halloween 2011. Brooklyn, NY. I’m not sure if it was the alcohol or the viking costume that made me feel invincible but when my friend suggested registering for the 2012 Berlin Marathon, I jumped at the idea. Not that that was the start of my running life either. I ran cross-country all 4 years of high school. I loved it but when I was diagnosed with asthma in college, I thought my running days were behind me.

Perhaps it was the guilt of my third pumpkin whoopee pie at that Halloween party. Or the plastic war-hammer in my hand. Or the realization that my asthma was never going away. Regardless, I finally felt ready to get back into running. So I registered for the 2012 Berlin Marathon the next morning. There were struggles in training but despite them I lost an embarrassingly large amount of weight, rediscovered my love of running, and (most importantly) managed to add a lot more form-fitting, neon-colored nylon shirts to my wardrobe.

In the end, though, my race didn’t go as I’d hoped. Berlin was gorgeous, sunny — surprisingly warm for the end of September. But a knee injury suffered several months prior reappeared during Mile 13. I pushed on, though I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I ran until I couldn’t take another step, then began walking a ways before trying to get my race restarted. In vain.

It may have been the pair of hefty runners in Asterix and Obelix costumes passing me or the fact that my “runs” were reduced to three steps before I had to walk, but eventually I had to admit that my race was over. It was Mile 20. I hopped off the course and took the U-Bahn home.

Now to the present. I’ve just registered for The 2014 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. I’m excited. Nervous. Ready. I’ve been running since that sunny day in Berlin but not with the same regularity, the same drive, or the same joy. I’m hoping the next 19 weeks rectify that. So now it begins. Again.

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