Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Race Calendar

Still practicing yoga, still running, and planning on doing even more of it in 2010 while bringing in a Project Management Class into the mix (8 of 9 Saturdays from January 23 to March 20). I'm going to cut down on the number of races, I think. I've run 20-30 each of the last two years. This year I'm going to concentrate on the ten mile, half marathon and marathon distances. I find them to be the most gratifying from a challenge, distance, endurance, you name it standpoint. I want to get under 4 hours in one of the three marathons I am planning next year. There will be lots of different training involved in 2010. More hill repeats and some track work are in the cards. More of that in future posts.

But this is really about the 2010 Race Calendar. Thinking about all the bad eating habits I picked up while in Dracut, MA for the holiday (everything else was great!) and how I can run them off, got me fired up about racing. Even though racing is at least 10 days off, I want to get motivated to become fitter than ever.

Here are my planned 2010 Races:

1. January through March: Races 3,4,6,7,8 in the Dc Roadrunners Snowball Series. These are free races for club members so the financial commitment is minimal (just annual dues). These fit my schedule too, as races 6,7,8 are on Sunday, which for a lot of the winter is my long run day due to class.

2. April 11, Cherry Pit run in Annapolis. A maybe, no more Cherry Blossom run for me.

3. April 18, Mountain Maryland Half Marathon in Cumberland, maybe. If travel $$ works out, I really liked this race last year.

4. April 25, GW Parkway Classic: classic ten miler, a yearly tradition. It helps that the running store I am most loyal to runs the event.

5. May 2, Frederick Half Marathon. The first half of the Maryland Double, this gets the nod over Pittsburgh and Flying Pig (Cincinnati) for ease of travel. A recent Running Times article recommended racing a half marathon four weeks out from a marathon, so there you have it. I really want to go back to Pittsburgh since I loved the race last year. But the travel costs thing. Flying Pig is ou because I don't have the leave to use on Monday.

6. May 30, Vermont Marathon. Boo yeah! Vermont! Hell Yeah! Green Mountains! Hell Yeah! Burlington! Hell YeaH! Family may be there! Hell Yeah! Marathon #2, I'm in training for it now, using a March 20 marathon training schedule until March 13, when I go on the May 30 schedule. They overlap nicely. Cannot wait for this one!

7. June 27, Boston 13.1. My hometown city! Yeah! I don't have to qualify! Yeah! The day after my 36th birthday, and since I can't party like I could in my 20s, so I'll run instead! Hell Yeah!

8. August 29, Annapolis Ten Miler Run. Should be mandatory for fall half marathoners and marathoners. Perfect race to gauge where you're at for: hills, bridges, unusually hot and humid temps (this race is run in an oven), and a competitive field. I've gotten faster, but I'm still surprised at the leader last year approaching mile 9 on his second run over the Navy Bridge while I has at mile 4.5 on my first run. GD! Dude finished in under 50 minutes, in that race. Unreal! Ordinary runners like me, use this as a gauge, peeps. Do not expect to approach your PR, this course would be harsh in perfect racing conditions.

9. September 12? Parks Half Marathon, if I do not go to Colorado for my annual trip.

10. October 2, Twin Cities Marathon. My first ever trip to Minnesota, and I'll be runnign a marathon. #3. Friends tried to talk me into going last year, but I wanted marathon #1 to be close to home and I didn't have $$$ in the travel budget. This year, I will have money, with help from a free flight possibility. Southwest, hook me up!

11. October 16, Baltimore Half, second part of the Maryland Double.

12. October 24, Army Ten Miler. I am kicking myself for selling my bib last year. This race is a lot of fun and draws good crowds.

13. November 14, Richmond Marathon. #4. Special meaning for me, they've had the half for two years, I ran both. One was my first half, the second was my 1:33:23 a few weeks ago. Next year, the whole marathon.

I'll also take part in the Crystal City 5K series on Fridays in April. Half my friends run in them, there's almost always post-race fun to be had, and I can use them as extra training. Tempo run or extended intervals, I'm thinking.

What races are you running? Any sort of hill repeats to recommend to me? Other kinds of training runs? Holler.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cross Country Skiing...near home...yeah!

On this, the shortest day of the year, I have decided to write a not really short blog entry. The last few weeks have seen me basically abandon any racing of a half marathon at mile 8, enter my 10th month of practicing yoga, have a Holiday party postponed for two weeks, and finally got to use my cross country skis, right here in Metro DC!!!!

The half marathon I recently ran was held on a dirt/rock path due to a forced last minute location change. It was cold and rainy at the start, snowy at the end. To make a long story short, I was feeling nothing from the get go so I took the race in as experience racing in crap conditions. Until about mile 8 when I abandoned any real effort to race and just wanted to get back to the finish line, and to my dry clothes, without breaking my ankle. 1:56:something, my slowest half marathon ever, or was it a sort of fast training run? I've moved on and said hey at least I've completed 8 of these 13.1 mile races now.

Last Saturday it was 9 months to the day that I went to my first yoga class. Although I am still far away from being a kick-ass yogi, I have already reaped many benefits from these 9 months. It has really helped my running, I feel a lot looser when I run, it doesn't take me 2-3 miles to really get going anymore. I feel more flexible and as relaxed as I'm going to get. Another benefit comes from knowing what I need to work on to keep myself in better shape. I know yoga is supposed to be towards whatever you can go on a given day, that's where you're at, relax, breathe. But when I leave class, while I almost always feel better than I did going in, I do say to myself "man, I really need work on upper body strength" if I struggled with extended downward dog or its variations. This is odd to me because I college and early post-college, I was too concerned with building my upper body and almost ignored the rest of my body or even cardio work. Now, it's the other way around. Time to hit the push up bars almost nightly and weights twice a week Jeff.

I am getting better, albeit slowly, at doing the best I can in yoga and seeing where it takes me. One good thing on the fitness note, I may not lose 15 pounds in the first three months of 2010. I may not have to this year. I'd like to think I avoided most of the holiday 10-15, although I gained 5 in the 10 days after Thanksgiving (3-4 went right back off the next week). I won't lie, one thing I'm really working forward to when I land back at BWI next Sunday is an easier path to maintaining diet and exercise.

This past weekend, incase you haven't heard, DC had a vicious, nasty snowstorm. Woooohoooo! The forecasts kept going up as Thursday night turned into Friday. I started going away from my cynical "yeah, we won't get crap" mannerisms to "we may actually get real snow for once". Yeah, we got about 18-20 inches of real snow. I couldn't believe it but it happened!

Not only did it happen, but my Fun Run group continued the streak of never cancelling a run due to weather! Even if only two of us showed up because the snow was coming down more seriously than before, and 90 percent of the group was scheduled to go to the Celtic Solstice run in Baltimore anyways......we didn't cancel! What a way to make a debut as guest run host, huh! I only ran 4 plus miles since I wanted to get my last errand done and get home before it got really windy and hard to see. Everything accomplished.

I even took the cross country skis out late Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday! I was beyond thrilled to ski around the Mount Vernon bike trail on what was relatively light, fluffy snow for the east coast. Felt like Colorado again, at least for 24 hours! Great memories, great exercise, and a once in a lifetime experience, or at least once every 4-5 years. Yeah, I blew off the Pats game to take advantage of this rare opportunity to play in the snow. I'm de-emphasizing sports anyway so it works for me. In many cases I'd rather be outside doing something, and given the rare heavy snowfall (7th worst storm ever in DC), I would have taken a playoff game to keep me inside. I hope we get another storm this winter, even if it took me 90 minutes to clear out a path to the "driveway" for my car should I need it.

In short, I wish I had another day to play in the snow with Metro open so I could ski in the parks in DC itself. But the memories of this weekend will linger for a very long time. On a final note, after tonight, each day gets a minute or two longer of daylight until June 21. Cheers!

Friday, December 04, 2009

My thoughts on the World Cup Draw

I admit I am no expert here, and there will be plenty of teams in the World Cup that I do not possess much knowledge about. Nor did I even watch the draw: I went to lunch with some co-workers just after it began, and besides, I watched the draw in 2005 only to see the USA get placed in what ended up being the Group of Death (toughest group to advance out of, the top two of four go onto to the knockout, or single game elimination, rounds). I often joke that my teams do better when I don't watch, so I used this to justify my not using my lunch hour to watch the draw.

Here's who the World Cup Draw worked, there were eight seeded teams, seven of which can be said to be the strongest teams in the world. The eighth, South Africa, is a seeded because they are the host nation. But they are said to be in bad form right now, so I really wanted the US to be drawn in their group instead of with the other powerhouse seeds. Borrowed from The Guardian, here are the details:

The 32 teams are split into eight groups of four, but - unsurprisingly - it won't be as simple as Ms Charlize Theron drawing a team from each pot. Some groups may need to be skipped in order to avoid confederation clashes within them. This will be achieved specifically by placing the first two African teams drawn from pot three into the groups containing Brazil and Argentina.

Pot 1: South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Holland, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England.
Pot 2: Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Mexico, Honduras.
Pot 3: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay.
Pot 4: France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia.

I feared the worst, remembering my initial reaction after the '05 draw which was essentially "We're f****d, I hope no one has tickets past the first round." But, the reverse psychology by not watching worked because here are the Groups!

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Group E: Holland, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Group G: Brazil, Korea DPR, Ivory Coast, Portugal
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

In my mind, the Group of Death is G. Brazil is my pick to win it all. Portugal is a very talented squad, but historically have been their own worst enemy, losing their form and discipline at the worst possible times. If the "good Portugal" shows up, they're very formidable, and reached the semi-finals in '06. Ivory Coast, or Cote d'Ivorie, is an inspiring story. A nation that has had more than its share of turmoil fields a very talented team that many feel can go deep into this tournament. A deep run would be truly moving and healing, as anyone who remembers the commercials with "City of Blinding Lights" playing in the background will attest. The fourth team, let's just say I hope Kim Jong Il is on meds tonight. I would love to see one of the three opponents drop double digits on North Korea in June.

Group of Death Jr. is either D or E. Germany is a football machine, you know they are a contender. Ghana is strong, and Australia will look to prove that '06's run where they almost beat Italy before they could get rolling, was no fluke. See ya, Serbia. E is tough too, it wouldn't surprise me to see any combination of two teams advance, save for Holland not going through.

USA's Group, they got a gift from someone. Soccer Gods, whatever. England (June 12) will be very difficult but I like the idea of having the toughest (on paper) match first. Worked in '02, no time for nerves or "we'll warm up as things move forward." Slovenia (June 18) impressed by beating Russia in the two-leg playoff last month but are hardly contenders to get close to the Jules Rimet Trophy. Algeria (June 23) are a good candidate to pull a US '98 France and finish DFL should North Korea be able to bunk its way into 2 1-0 and 1 2-0 loss. (32nd after various tiebreakers for teams with zero points are figured in).

Bottom Line: The USA should advance to the knockout round, and I think they will, barring any more nasty injuries between now and then. How much further into the knockout rounds will they get? I project a second place finish in Group C, then ahard-fought second round defeat against Germany, the Group D first place team. An upset there could see the US play Argentina or Mexico (my projected first place team in Group B and second place team in A) in the quarterfinals. But first things first. Not advancing out of the group stages would be big-time FAIL. But I think Bradley's Boys are up to the challenge. Thoughts? Post 'em.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Letter to the Snow Lords in advance of Saturday's Half Marathon

Dear Snow Lords,

I want to share a concern with you, even if I am not very religious. You see this Saturday I am supposed to take part in a half marathon running race. The race is fine, I've been there, done that, and enjoy any race where I finish, do not get sick, or do not get injured. However, this long range weather forecast is troubling. I know that I live on the East Coast now and therefore cannot expect Senor Powderdump to visit me, but if it's going to be that damn cold and wet, please make it snow so I can enjoy my race instead of praying that it gets cancelled.

Thank you,

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Anyone else exercise in the morning?

I am really bad at trying to squeeze in every last second of sleep in the morning, and have never been great at waking up willingly to begin with. Therefore, I've never exercised very often in the morning, preferring to work out after the work day to work off the stress et al of the day. Seeing friends at my running group also keeps me running at night.

I bring this up because with the recent changing of the clocks, I thought about starting running a couple mornings a week. Get the run in before work, I know every time I see people running on the National Mall when I walk to work, I wish I was running with them. An additional problem besides waking up got in the way, the commute to work. Getting up, eating something (I NEVER run on an empty stomach), getting the five miles in, stretching, showering, eating an actual breakfast, and making sure I get on a 7:15 metro train to be at work by 8? Too many variables that would stress me out more than I already am in the morning, rendering the workout counter-productive. Nope.

In September I committed myself do waking up 20 minutes early and doing a 20 minute basic yoga workout each work day. I am getting very close to doing this every workday, and really enjoy it. I bought a few DVDs earlier this year when I started practicing yoga. I use two in particular, one by a guy name Rodney Yee that came with my beginner kit. The second is a yoga for weight loss DVD by Suzanne Deason, which is the longer of the two so I use it when I get up earlier than normal. I find that I feel a little looser and ready to get on with the day after a little basic yoga. If only I practiced on my own more often with the other videos that I have. :)

Do any of you have morning workout rituals that you follow? Does working out in the morning help you get ready for the day? Are you lucky enough to bike commute and get your workout in that way? If you have any suggestions for me, post away.