Saturday, November 29, 2008

Over-ambitious race plans for 2009?

If I want to complete a marathon next November, I am going to have to push myself in training like never before. That involves longer runs, more intense runs, and more intense cross-training than this year, a time I pushed myself harder than I had in a very long time. Today was a 9 mile run, nothing real intense but a good run with friends. That's still a good thing, but I will be cranking up some workouts, with a very ambitious spring on tap.

If I actually go through with these plans for 2009, in an eight to eleven week period next spring, ranging from March 2 to May 17, I will be running five of the six of the following races pending being able to afford the entry fees:

March 1 - Half Marathon north of Annapolis

March 21 - National Half Marathon in DC

April 5 - Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

April 18 - Charlottesville Half Marathon

GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler, I did the 5K this year and my chip time was never recorded

May 18 - Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg

The National (cost) or Annapolis (lodging cost because I'd be going solo for this one) will be the race I drop. After these races, I plan to continue long training runs all summer and fall to get ready for Richmond in November. Can I do it? I'll find out next year.

I found a new way to cross train yesterday. At the Gold's Gym that I most frequent, I found the Expresso Bike. Basically, it's one of the new bikes were you ride along a simulated course, complete with grade, calorie, and mileage statistics, which are kept for 90 days on a free account. I rode the Challenging Stormy Hollow course. The next step is to ride a new course and figure out how to use the audio component. This will be a great compliment to my spin classes, or an option should I get out of work late and miss class.

Feel free to tell me I'm going overboard. The journey is to see how far I can go with this, I feel much better physically than I have in a long time. Can I get better? I hope so.


Old Rag Mountain scores a takedown over Jeff

While watching some college football, I decided I needed to post about my trip to Old Rag Mountain on Thursday. I was expecting somewhat of a challenge but this trip really kicked my butt. 8.8 miles round trip because I parked in the lower lot, even if at 10 am I was only the fourth car in said lot. The walk up Something Route 600 (I have no idea how VA designates county roads, there are three 622s on the way to Mount Marshall) was easy, so I begun the hike up the Ridge Trail.

First 1.9-2 miles, one hour at a fairly casual pace, no problems, an east, relaxing hike. Remaining .9 miles to the summit, okay I knew there would be some scrambling and rock-hopping, but not any scary rock hops, drop your pack into an eight foot crevase so you can pick it up after sliding down a rock, none of that. This was a lot tougher than I thought. A family reached a tough rock pattern I described at the same as me. A big thank you to the ten year old who took my pack after I tossed it over a rock and tossed it out of the way so everyone could climb the rock. I returned the favor for other members of the same family.

I ran into a half hour delay at the toughest of the rock climbs because my left foot could not grip the small foothold because it was too slick, even with a great pair of REI boots with Vibram soles helped me. There were very few hikers on this Thanksgiving morning so there was no hiker pileup at the rocks where hundreds of people are waiting for their turn at the rocks. This was a pile up because we were either too short to reach a spot where we could simply pull ourselves over the rock to safety, couldn't get the aforementioned foothold, or a bit apprehensive about wiping out. I admit I'm a strong hiker but not a rock climber so I was a bit worried too, not to mention more tired than I figured I would be after hiking less than three miles.

This turned into a dozen or more strangers helping each other through the narrow passage. I ended up using someone else's leg/knee as a anchor, someone of top of the passage pulled me the one foot I needed to get through and pull myself the rest of the way, someone just sprinted down the hall in my apartment complex (sorry about that), I returned the favor by helping people up the passageway and moving packs out of the way, the family who helped me the first time caught up to us. That was a very uplifting feeling knowing that people who didn't even know each other pulled together as one hiking team so everyone could get through the rocks and enjoy their trip to the summit.

I got to the summit just before 2 pm, considering I started hiking after 10 am, ate the second half of my lunch, and scrapped plans to add Robertson Mountain and Corbin Hollow Trails to the itinerary. I have the gear to hike after sunset if need be, but never deliberately plan a hike at that hour after hiking all day, so I'll have to wait for that and this loop. No big deal, I can always go back, especially since I plan on buying a Shenandoah National Park Pass next year, if not a full national park pass. For just Shenanadoah it's $30, $20 for Great Falls, which I have for this year, $80 for all passes. But those are the only two I plan on going to a lot, so getting the two separate passes may be the best deal for me. Damn, I didn't know Maryland QB Chris Turner's dad was the drummer for Ratt, that explains the 80s hair band do. Back to GA Tech - Georgia as they get back from commercial.

Passes will be ordered around January 1, or maybe in time for my first hike or trail run in the spring. I'll hike in winter but am a bit apprehensive about icy conditions so I may wait until March. The Old Rag hike kicked my butt, I was super tired when I was done, but if that's the last hike of the year, I ended the hiking season with a great one.

Today's adventure was a nine mile run around Burke Lake Park, two laps for the nine miles. Not a fast pace, but a solid cold weather run. Had it been closer to a long race, I would have taken a third lap, which one of my friends did anyway. But I'm not going to over do it right now, I do not have any long races until late March so it's all about maintaining fitness right now. After we waiting for everyone to finish to make sure everyone was okay, we went to the same Starbucks we went to this summer after trail running in Fountainhead Park! I didn't know the parks were so close to each other! We ended up there for at least an hour, closer to one and a half hours. I hadn't just hung out with friends with no real purpose other than a post-run chill out in ages! It was great! The only thing I'd do differently next time is wear trail running shoes to Burke Lake.

More college football time! There are tons of great endinngs to games today.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy MonFriday everyone!

It's not Black Friday, it's not I'm scared of Mall Traffic and getting trampled by three fourths of suburbia to get a sale price that isn't really all that much lower than you'll get next week this year Friday, it's not the college football games aren't gonna really get footbal fans fired up Friday, it's not everyone but us contractors and those who want to get stuff done on a quiet day Friday either.

Then what is it? Well since yesterday, the Thanksgiving Holiday, was a no-work day followed by a work day, it was Sunday in my twisted world of something. Since is a work day after a no work day, it's Monday. But it's also Friday because that's what the calendar says, hence the new name for the Friday after Thanksgiving that I present to the world....

Happy MonFriday! It's the one day of the year, well except for Christmas this year for those who take part in that, that is both Monday and Friday at the same time! Enjoy MonFriday! I know I enjoyed the EMPTY Metro, and look forward to hitting the gym after work.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Richmond Half Marathon - I'm pleased with the journey but it's only beginning

I ran in the first ever McDonalds Half Marathon over the weekend in Richmond. I must say that when I went to my first fun run outside of Pacers Running Stores in December 2006 that if you told me I would even run 13 miles at once, I never would have believed you. So to complete a half marathon, 13.1 miles, in under two hours, I still almost can't believe it. I tend to be self-deprecating, but I have always have a very bad habit of not believing what I am capable of doing, and not just athletically. Not believing in myself is something I may always struggle with. But, from a confidence standpoint, finishing this half marathon made me feel like, hey, I can actually do this stuff! And acheive great results if I stick with something through thick and thin! I'll never break any speed records, but get lots of internal pride when I think about how far I've come as a runner in just two years. And I'm close to 35 pounds lost this year.

Now that I've told you about the increased confidence, I'll tell you about the weekend. Drive down to Richmond Friday afternoon, uneventful. Like 950,000,950 drivers before me, I got stuck in traffic when the lanes switch between one side or the other depending on the day and time, around Dumfries, a town that I have no need to go back to. I get to Richmond, pick up my race packet, buy a couple lights that will make me more visible as a runner at the Expo, a souvenir running shirt, then go eat at Piccolo's in the Fan, a great Richmond neighboorhood. The Falfella Salmon gave me a great night before meal.

I went to bed around 9:30 to get a great night's sleep before the race. Well, the loudest boom of thunder I've heard in years, and perhaps ever, woke me up at 2:15 am. For a second I wasn't sure it was thunder to be honest. It was enough of a boom to set off my car alarm, I kid you not. Why couldn't it happen at 5:15 so I'd just stay up and get ready for my race.

I woke up, ate breakfast, found my parking spot, then walked up the steep hill near the State Capitol to get the race start at 7th Avenue and Broad Street. That served as my "warm up" since it didn't want to run a mile or more, as I like to before a race, since this a new distance for me. I wanted to save every bit of energy that I had. And I needed just about all of it, as it was in the 60s when the race started, and very humid. I joked that I thought it was July again, and removed my outer layer after one half of a mile. Yeah it was gonna be tougher than I thought. First mile, 9:23. That's good considering the crowd that everyone had to run through.

I settled into a nice, steady pace, with good form. Went down to the Boulevard from Broad Street, the opposite of my driving route to go eat the night before. I'm running at a good clip, taking advantage of all the water stops, checking my watch at each mile post. My pace soon went below 9:00 / mile and pushed 8:30 by mile 8. The mile between 8 and 9 was my best mile, I counted 7 something. I did stop looking at my watch between miles 4 and 7 and just enjoyed running through the residential neighboorhood.

I ran into my buddy Brian at Mile 10. I was running at 1:23 or 1:24 when I hit this milestone. Right then and there I knew I would be running this race in under two hours unless I suffered an injury. This fired me up beyond belief. My goal was under two hours and I was going to reach my goal! I started thinking about how many goals I have reached this year in my races, and how these races have made a positive collective contribution to my overall outlook on life, and it all made me smile inside.

The last few miles featured a run through the outside parts of the Virginia Union University Campus (Charles Oakley!), then the run back into the Center City. I thought about really pushing for a time of under 1:50:00, which would have been ciing on the cake, but blustery winds around mile 11.5 and again at 12.5 killed the chances of that happening. I wanted to finish strong and with good running form. I did that all the way down towards the final downhill on Cary Street. The cheering crowd picked me up quite a bit as I finished the race. Final Time - 1 hour 50 minutes 39 seconds. It placed me in the top 25 percent of male runners in my age group, which thrilled me. Half marathon: conquered!

My first half marathon went better than I ever could have expected. After re-hydrating and getting something to eat, I was able to see the marathon winner break the tape as he run down the hill to a wildly cheering crowd. I ended up congratulating him 20 minutes afterwards when people were randomly milling around. It's just something runners do. It was all in all a fantastic experience that I probably will not repeat.

You ask why wouldn't I want to repeat that great experience?

You get an answer.....

Because next November I plan to run the ENITRE MARATHON!!!! 26.2 or bust! I start training for it tomorrow night at Fun Run. I'm all jacked up for the newest challenge. My goal, one year out, at that distance, is to finish. I can't wait to take the journey to find out if I can do it.

Final note, on the way home Sunday afternoon I went to the National Museum Of The Marine Corps. This was another fantastic experience that topped off the weekend in grand fashion. I recommend that anyone and everyone pay a visit, it's worth it. I learned a ton about what the Marine Corps have contributed to our country that I may not have known before. I respect them more than ever now. The Korean War exhibit was particularly impressive to me, I learned a lot about history, not just the USMC.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last run before Richmond

Okay, after running at a casual pace on Tuesday, I decided to run pretty hard tonight as a final tuneup before Saturday's Half Marathon. My best run yet! I somehow managed to keep up with the 7:15-7:30 a minute pace group, or at least that's what their watches said. But we didn't start until almost 7:10, I finished a 5.1 mile run that I swear is more than that before 7:49, and that includes getting stuck at some traffic lights. I'm fired up for Thursday, am feeling very confident now, and don't even care all that much that the Patriots are getting smoked by their arch rivals. I guess I care more about running, staying healthy, and getting to bed by 11 pm or earlier.

I'll post when I get back from Richmond.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another weekend, another hike, another personal record, great!

Another weekend of great weather, hiking, running, and a Patriots win. Life was grand this weekend. Saturday was a hike to Little Devils Stairs, Keyser Run, and Hogback Mountain. Little Devils Stairs is a challenging hike up a canyon at the Shenandoah National Park Boundary. Wet leaves and some bouldering, added to a steep climb? Yeah I was quite tired after that. The other half of the climb saw me go up to Hogback Mountain, which when leafless like it was isn't much to look at but I wanted more vertical so I went to the radio tower nonetheless. Looking down from the tower area where the phone line went, if only the area got frequent snow it would make for a killer ski trail. The climb down was uneventful except for when I thought I walked past Boles Cemetery on the Keyser Run Fire Road.

Today I set another personal record for a 10K Race at the Veterans Day 10K. The course is rather non-descript, the cause is definitely important. I was actually a bit late for the race because of the portable restroom line. My friend wanted to start the race so I said I'd meet up with her at the end of the race. I started about 2 1/2 minutes after the start gun, which actually helped me build a good pace. I did start passing a bunch of people, but with proper etiquette. Onward I went.

To make a long story short, I ran at a good pace, figuring I'd break 50 minutes but not threaten my record, but it was a great day to run and I'd also prove to myself that my 47:55 record was not a fluke. When I got to Mile 5, I felt stronger than I did at Mile 1. I guess I picked up my pace a bit, because I swear I pushed my 7:05 first mile from last week up until Mile 6 because my finish time kept getting lower and lower. With a slight pickup of pace but definitely not an all-out sprint, I ran through the finish line at 47:13, 42 seconds off of my previous record!

I'm competitive but mostly within myself, I know I'll never beat the top runners in a race. But I am pleasantly surprised to be doing as well as I am with these races. This is still a new process for me but I strive to get leaner, fitter, and become a better runner. I didn't really try for a personal record today until the end of the race, to be honest. All I was trying for is a good pace and verify my last 10K result.

The afternoon saw me venture to Murphy's Pub to watch the Pats beat the Bills 20-10. Good game with the biggest crowd of Pats fans of the season. And I got to improve my promotional skills by passing out the paper and pens for the patrons to write their names for the jersey giveaway. This weekend was good.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Do Over! 8K, Great Hike, and Northwest Yuppie Torture Chamber Run, and oh yeah a burger

Lots went down this weekend. A Do Over! Race? Yup, unexpected changes to a construction zone caused the lead runners in the INOVA StarKid 8K to take a wrong turn. The race was re-started after everyone returned behind the start line. It was pretty cool to take part in a Do Over! race. Remember when you played kickball was a kid, something unexpected happens, and someone yells Do Over for the 14th time? That's kind of what it felt like, but it was for a good reason, not someone who made an out and wanted a re-do.

I got off to maybe my best start in a race yet. I felt light on my feet, strong, and ready to run quite fast, at least for me. 7:05 first mile, which is my best known 1 mile split ever. After struggling a bit up one hill, rolling my ankle at the 4 mile mark, and stopping for a second to make sure I got water down and didn't cough (I have not mastered the art of chugging a cup on water in running stride yet), I beat my previous record in an 8K race by 3 minutes, 37 seconds. 54 out of 356 runners, 6th in my division, only 1:54 behind 2nd place in my age group! I was psyched, but the day got better.

I met up with fellow blogger Charlotte for a six mile or so jaunt near Sky Meadows State park, she described it better than I could. Good times, very nice meeting up with Charlotte, I made it home in plenty of time to go to a party at friends' house to celebrate those who ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Lots of conversation, good food, while I didn't drink there was good beer, and a Texas Tech-Texas football game that was totally surreal. Great Saturday.

Normally I'm very sad when daylight savings time ends, but not today. I needed the extra sleep. I got going quite late, but after taking a eight mile detour because I forgot you can't get to Roosevelt Island by car from Rossyln, I began my task: Complete what I call the Northwest Yuppie Torture Chamber.

This involves:
- Running across Key Bridge
- 12 "laps" up the Exorcist Steps, after running 2 by 2 by 2 blocks
- Running to Wisconsin Avenue
- Running all the way up Wisconsin Avenue to the MD border at Chevy Chase Pavillion

It was tough, especially since Wisconsin Avenue is a very long hill with the steepest part just after leaving M Street, but I got through it okay. A challenging run, but not quite a killer. I called it the torture chamber simply because I expected it to be a physically punishing, draining run. Oh I was quite tired by the time I got to Tenleytown, but next time I'm going to add more distance to the run. Not sure if I'm going further to Bethesda because I don't recall sidewalks being real prevalent past the shopping center, so maybe I'll go around Fort Reno Park or add more mileage elsewhere. I've got time to think about that. Now it's just time to relax and watch the Patriots play the Colts.

Oops, forgot the burger I got at Z Burger in Tenleytown after the run. Very acceptable, but it would have been better if I passed on the jalapeno topping. That didn't sit well with my stomach but the rest of the burger was pretty good. No picture though, just take my word that it was good.