The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘running’

Race Recap

This past weekend I did my second trail race, and it was not terribly fun. I’m glad I did it, and it was educational, but boy was it painful.

Here are a few moments/thoughts from the run:

  • On Trails vs Roads

Until moving to Colorado I only did road runs. These are very different, and I feel like I still haven’t fully appreciated how different. With roads I could get away with some bad habits: if I started too fast, some days I got away with it because I was just in a groove and I could end up faster than anticipated the whole time (see: every time I have PR’d), AND I could get away with not eating or drinking enough to replenish myself because I wasn’t out there that long …

For trails, neither of those work out well. My last training run that was good was 15 miles, and the last few miles of that my stomach felt very off. But, it was short enough and I had enough to eat and drink during the run that I got away with it. 15+ led to uncomfortable woes.

At the run on Saturday, a 25 miler, I hit my usual woes at mile 11 or 12, but this time I was in the middle of a 2 or 3 mile uphill climb. I should have sat down at the aid station at mile 6 and eaten more, and ditto the aid station at mile 10. But instead, I left 10 feeling good only to quickly go to: NOT GOOD status.

Thankfully the run boasted beautiful views, challenge galore, and friendly fellow runners. A woman asked me how I was doing, so I told her, and she and I walked together for a while and she informed me I wasn’t eating enough. She gave me a packet of goo (sounds weird, huh?) which was 100 calories of goodness. The trouble was, I think I had jumped on the eating enough bandwagon pretty late in the game and it was a struggle every time I tried to eat.

Lesson learned? Eat more, eat more sooner, eat more.

  • On Emotions

I ran a half marathon one time which was tough because it was very cold, raining, and I had been injured so I hadn’t trained up very well. The weekend prior I had flown to Arizona because my grandfather had passed away.

I crossed the finish line and immediately had to fight back tears. I was very confused by this, but then the fact that I was about to start crying and I was so cold my lips were blue and I was surrounded by strangers made me laugh at the absurd situation – it was odd. But, I realized later, the running probably took a lot out of me so I was more emotional.

Videos of dogs and soldiers make me want to cry, sappy things like that, but ordinarily it’s pretty rare that things will inspire tears. At the run, around mile 12 when I was feeling quite bad, I wondered if I would need to drop from the race … I thought about having 13 miles to go and it made me want to cry. I thought, “THE HELL? Who is this emotional demon who has invaded my body!?”

At around mile 23.5 I had already seen the finish in the distance. It was all downhill from where I was … not like, getting worse … but as in literally going down a hill. Anywho, I heard the crowd go nuts over someone finishing and again those pesky weakened body state inspired emotions popped up and I thought to myself, “wow, they’re cheering for some random person like every person is the winner.” And boom, the desire to cry was there.

(P.S. There was another group of true insano-s running FIFTY miles. They started 2.5 hours earlier than us 25 mile plebes, and it could be that the crowd WAS actually cheering for the first place 50 mile female finisher. That is one fast person.)

  • On Aid Station Snacks

Here are some things I had while jogging: pretzel bites, m&ms, some salted caramel goo (thank you again kind stranger), granola bar, lots of water with powdered stuff in it, grapes, and coke.

Ordinarily the menu of a coder (minus the workout goo) … but looking at that now, yeah, I definitely didn’t have enough calories. I was out there a bit over 7 hours, which meant I should’ve had lets say 1400 calories, I maybe got half that.

Mistakes were made.

  • On Friendly People

You know what was awesome throughout? How friendly everyone was, almost everyone there is not competing, they’re just wanting to finish. But even the fastest people were probably friendly too, I just never saw them.

The 50 milers went 25 one way, then 25 going the other way so us 25ers saw them rush past us. With almost every one of them I exchanged a pleasant, “good job” or “looking good” or when tired it was shortened to just “job.” The first place guy I just stared at because HOW ARE YOU GOING THIS FAST?

I ended up jogging/walking for a good while around the same people. One girl, graduating today (Sunday), who walked by a sign indicating we had 3.5 miles or so to go and she looked back at me and said the saddest ‘yay’ I’ve ever heard. It was hysterical.

Another girl I talked with after the run, she was friendly, smart, and I noticed she does not believe in shaving arm pits.

One guy, with about one mile to go, was going back and forth with me (passing each other) then we stopped and walked and he said, “we’ll finish together.” I said ok, cool. But then a half mile or so later he said, “ok, I need to stop, I don’t feel good.” He finished a few minutes after me, and we chit chatted after the run.

The volunteers at the aid stations were all friendly, weird, encouraging, helpful, and with an energy that my then tired brain could not comprehend. Plus, the snacks they had made were (presumably) amazing … snacks that, again, I should’ve eaten.

Let Me Get My Special Racing Shoes!

When I was very young, let’s say four years old, I had a pair of sneakers that I believed in. They were my Special Racing Shoes. If I was wearing regular shoes and we raced, you may very well beat me. That’s fine. It happens. But if I was wearing my Special Racing Shoes – I COULD NOT LOSE.

This was perhaps a theory developed by racing against my mom, or dad, or sister, and beating them while wearing my Special Racing Shoes.

Or, equally possible, I had bestowed this quality of speed improvement abilities based solely on how cool they look.

One day my brother (who is seven years older) and I were talking or maybe I just interrupted a conversation he was having with others – I have no memory of the conversation – I just know the outcome was him saying “let’s race” and me saying “let me get my Special Racing Shoes” because, ipso facto, I was going to win. I was excited. I knew I was about to win and this was a thrilling thought to beat my 11 year old brother.

Shoes on, laced up (Velcro-d?), ready to rock. And your mark. Get set. DREAMS CRUSHED.

My brother did not slow down one iota. My Special Racing Shoes became … sneakers.

Fast forward twenty-five-ish years. I’m running regularly and trying harder than I did even while in high school cross-country and track. I’m actually placing at running events (in my age bracket that is). And what do I owe it all to? My Special Racing Shoes!

When I go for a regular jog I wear a pair of New Balance shoes (I pretty much always stick with New Balance for jogging) and la de da I trot my merry self along until I become tired and not that merry and then questioning of my sanity and angry and then I near the finish and I’m pumped and I can do this! and then I’m burnt out and I’m tired again and just. want. to. finish. and then there I am, done. And I am a-ok with the idea of another jog. But on race days … oh, on race days I wear a different pair of New Balance. A pair with practically 0 drop and very little support (I reserve these for 5ks and 10ks). With these puppies on I’m not unbeatable, but honest to goodness, I tend to run faster.

A newer version of my race day shoes.

Why? Well, with the different shoe design my body has a good reason to strike the ground differently (more a mid or fore-foot strike).

Normally I might hit heel-toe-spring off to the next step. With my minimum support shoes I strike mid-foot-spring to the next step. You see that? That’s hit-go instead of hit-hit-go.

A necessary caveat: I have read various articles about running and rearfoot vs mid-foot strike and the conclusion is … inconclusive. Some articles say one is better, others say the other. In my opinion, it’s whatever works best for you. For me, I think when I focus on striking with mid-foot (vs my usual which I feel leans slightly rearfoot) I am faster because I’m focused on hitting the ground and getting my foot into the air quickly. The difference may purely be a result of higher cadence. Here’s one example article that says I’m dead wrong in saying midfoot is better.

Whatever it is, my dear friends, it is the magic of the Special Racing Shoes.

Was That You?

The area where my work is located is also great for jogging. It’s a suburb of Houston that has a lot of sidewalks and you can map out a bunch of different routes for different mileage. Plus, since I lived near work for so long, jogging around that area makes perfect sense.


Except for the occasional honk from a co-worker driving by. But wait, you might think, isn’t that nice? A little cheer from a co-worker? Yes, you’re right, it is nice.


But what if at that moment I’m doing something I’d rather a co-worker didn’t see?

  1. Getting angry at a car waiting for a light to turn green that has pulled up onto the walkway. (Darn you.)
  2. Getting angry at a car inching forward to turn right on red while only looking left (meanwhile I am to the driver’s right hoping he/she sees me and trying to determine what to do).
  3. Musical butt (sorry … but it’s true)
  4. The runner’s nose blow (where you use a finger to plug one nostril, then just BLOW from the other nostril and whala, nasal passage re-enabled!)
  5. That time I grew out my Abraham Lincoln/Amish facial hair and ran shirtless during the summer (6’3 of skinny whiteness with a thick tuft of neck beard … blech) (Thankfully this is not a current scene that can be witnessed, but I do can still easily look like a nut while running – as seen here)


Thank you for supporting your local jogging enthusiasts while they are out doing their thing, just please wipe the memory from your mind if I look crazy/mean/smelly.

Typical January 1 Post

Last year my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I wrote down our resolutions or goals for 2014 on pieces of paper that we then put up on one of the walls of her apartment. I can only remember three of my goals and they were ones I felt confident I would meet. The rest served as reminders for all that I did not accomplish. What stunning wall art!

This year the question is … do I tap in to my most ambitious self for the goals of 2015? Or do I put things I feel confident I’ll meet. Why not both?


Confident I’ll Meet

  • Read at least 18 books
  • Find a way to reduce how much trash I generate
    • One example of something I did in this category before: I went from using two paper towels in public restrooms to just one, also if air dryers are available I tend to use those
    • I don’t know what I’ll be doing this year to address this … so, brain, get to work
  • Cook more (since I’ll be a married man starting at the end of January I will be putting the fancy new dishes and cookware to use)
  • Get back to reading other blogs more


Goals I’ll Have to Work For

  • Beat my 5k and 10k PRs (and stretch more and better!)
  • Finish the first draft of the book I started during the 2013 NaNoWriMo (good thing documents on a computer don’t gather dust …) OR some other book project I have started and not finished
  • Experiment with a new dish AT LEAST once every 3 weeks!
    • This might not sound hard, but do you know how EASY it is for me to make the same 6 or so dishes over and over?
  • Less soda (hopefully this will go hand in hand with cooking more since I usually only get soda if I eat out)


There you go public, and future self for my own reference, the goals/resolutions for 2015!

Running Thoughts

Are flying bugs actually a bunch of daredevils? When people are out exercising with their mouths hanging open, gasping for air, do bugs gather, dare each other, and then go for it? The goal of course being to fly in to the Sarlac Pit, the Pit of Despair, and then to fly out again.

For the true daredevils, those who have survived a trip into the Pit and come out alive, they go for the next challenge: a quick punch to the uvula (aka The Wrecking Ball), and then out again. This is why so many of us seem to choke on bugs while out and about, they weren’t absent-minded, they were the bravest and dumbest of the bug world’s daredevils.


I saw a guy wearing a Clippers jersey the morning after they had lost a game (a playoffs game for those of you who are not very basketball savvy). Is this man a dedicated Clippers fan, showing his support for his team despite a loss? OR, is he a very clever and mean Oklahoma City Thunder fan, walking around and delighting whenever an actual Clippers fan sees him and says, “tough loss last night, huh?”


If I was very passionate about a politician, here’s what I would do. Starting around four days before the election I would get a bumper sticker (or lots) for the main opposing candidate and I would drive like an absolute a-hole. The WORST. I would cut someone off, then switch lanes, slow down and flip the bird, then cut them off again. Why? No reason. People would see me, think “I hate this guy …” and maybe, JUST maybe, if this was an undecided voter I would have swayed them to vote against the candidate I am representing. Or, more likely, they will not vote.

You Win This Round, Marathon

(This is probably not an exciting read … But I want to get it down for myself.)

This past weekend I ran my first ever marathon. I don’t know how interesting it will be to read about this because really it all boils down to one basic idea: it was tiring.

On the actual race day my girlfriend and I were parked and at the race area 30 minutes before the start of the race. We jumped in the very long bathroom line and did not finish (and all we did was pee!) until 4 minutes before the start of the race. From there we rushed to the starting area for our respective races (her the half, me the full) only to realize that we had read the maps wrong and that the two races did not start together.

Without my glasses I looked for fellow marathoners by squinting at any chest that walked by me, where most runners place their bib, and this felt as awkward as it sounds. The marathon bib was a greenish color, the half was purple-ish. Eventually I spotted a fellow marathoner who knew where to go. This unfortunately involved crossing the road that the half-marathoners were currently running on (a real life game of Frogger but instead of the risk of getting run over I just ticked off a lot of runners).

Finally I was at the marathon area, which had already started. I was with the 6 hour pace people so I ran much too hard the first three miles to catch up to the 3:45 group (my goal was at least 3:43, which would allow me to beat my dad’s time of 3:44).

The starting gate frustrations allow me to feel a bit better about not meeting my goal because it offers an excuse. In the end it is my own fault that I did not meet my goal.

Sometimes I feel like the key to exercising is the removal of readily available excuses. If you plan to work out at 5:30 pm but work keeps you til 6 pm, it is very easy to push off the work out to the next day. Likewise, if the start of a race is thrown off it can be liberating for me because it gives me an excuse to not meet my goal … This is good because I tend to stress myself out too much, and sometimes I don’t run naturally like I would on a training day (I have to brag about this – my furthest training run was 20 miles and I did that at an 8:03 pace).

In the end I finished in 3:53:33 according to my phone, but I think 3:59 for the official time. The reason my phone time and official time are off is because I did not run the most efficient route (the way you see real marathoners run), so I had extra mileage and my chip started before I crossed the starting line (due probably to me running through the half-marathon area).

I know it is good that I was able to run a marathon, but when you train for months to do something and in the end you fail to meet your goal you can’t help but feel disappointed.

If I could go back and do this run again, or if someone is reading this and training for a race with a goal in mind, I would suggest that you don’t dwell on the goal too much. I think it ended up hampering me. I started to think my dad’s time was unrealistic around mile 15 which only made the last 11 miles much tougher because I felt defeated. Starting at around mile 18 I ended up stopping and walking frequently, which I had not done in any of my training runs (generally I stop and walk to snack or drink during a run and that’s it). I think the fact that I felt so defeated led me to doing this, because the run lost a lot of meaning for me when I felt like my goal was no longer in sight. (The bad part is, in looking back at my splits after the fact, it was definitely still in sight I just can’t do math when I’m dog tired. It reminds me of that scene in The Right Stuff where the training astronauts struggle to perform simple things when deprived of oxygen.)

I had one or two training runs where I felt defeated by the run itself, but this was by far the worst. My bad attitude certainly hampered my effort, and made stopping and walking only too accessible. I didn’t feel like I gave it a good effort for those last 8 miles, which is at this point the most frustrating thing to me. In the end I ended up picking up my pace just so I could make sure to be under 4 hours.

One thing that is nice is how many runners around me would say nice things. I can be pretty fickle about that during a run, you have to have the right touch to say something and it be encouraging rather than annoying (in my opinion). “Hang in there buddy!” or “you got this!” can be encouraging or irritating. Don’t ask me for tips on how to do this, because I never say anything out of the fear that I’d be one of the annoying ones.

I know at some point I will be more pleased that I was able to run this. It gives me a kind of odd sense of pride to know that I was able to do something that killed a man. (Although who knows how accurate the story of the first marathon really was, and also apparently he had just finished fighting a battle so he’s got that on me, and I had Gatorade to boot …)

Pheidippides Luc-Olivier Merson painting

Unlike Pheidippides, the supposed first marathoner, I did not finish the race by having sex with the ground.

My girlfriend asked me about my favorite part of a run – for her it is the starting gate. Being surrounded by all of those people with so much energy is energizing and she feeds off that feeling. For me it is the finish. I try to really push myself when I run so it’s like I’m hurling my body against a wall. Sometimes I can break the wall and while it hurts a lot, it’s worth it because I overcame this huge obstacle. Other times the wall is too strong and I end up slamming against it to no avail, coming away bruised from the attempt. The positive part from the failures is that I can learn from them.

I did manage to learn one thing from this marathon: if I am running a race (normally they are not so long that I have time to think this much) and I realize I’m not going to hit my goal, I need to focus on the math and form a new goal that is realistic but still keeps me pushing myself. During the run I lost sight of my goal and ended up dwelling on having lost that. In the future I need to stabilize the situation (this next mile at X time) which might allow me to regain some confidence and get back into fighting form.

If you read this and feel like you should say some positive affirmation type things to me, it’s ok. My mind will recover just like my body, and maybe one day I’ll run another marathon. But if not, that’s ok too, because you know what? That was really freaking tiring.

Quotes of the Day!

The following quotes come from the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. The author is a a novelist who likes to run, and has run in 25 or more marathons. (I’m saying that because it’ll help make one or two quotes make more sense.)

If you like to run, I would definitely recommend this book. I think he talks about life using running as a way to illustrate things, and I liked a lot of what he had to say and how he said it. If you don’t like to run … This one is probably a pass.


The Quotes

When I’m criticized unjustly (from my viewpoint at least), or when someone I’m sure will understand me doesn’t, I go running for a little longer than usual. By running longer it’s like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent.


I sit at a cafe in the village and gulp down cold Amstel beer. It tastes fantastic, but not nearly as great as the beer I’d been imagining as I ran. Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.


If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, for writing as well.


All I have to go on are experience and instinct. Experience has taught me this: You’ve done everything you needed to do, and there’s no sense in rehashing it. All you can do now is wait for the race. And what instinct has taught me is one thing only: Use your imagination. So I close my eyes and see it all.


I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself – that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I’ve carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I’m not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I’ve carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.

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