Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Kansas City Royals

I thought it was unfair that the KC Royals, after surviving a 1-game wildcard playoff game in extra innings, got to play only a five game series next with the team with the best record in the majors, the Angels, whom they swept 3-0.  A hot team on a roll ousted the best team coming out of a 162-game grind in a short series where anything can happen.  (KC is where "Bird Lives.")

But maybe not so unfair as it seemed.  The Royals then went on to sweep the Orioles, who won the AL East and hit the most home runs in baseball, in a 7-game series.  They swept them 4-0.  (Great black baseball teams were in KC before integration in the big leagues, and there is a Negro Leagues Museum there now.)

Break up the Royals!  8-0 in the playoffs, already in the World Series, waiting for the survivor of the Giants-Cardinals series.  (KC barbecue is unparalleled.)

I saw a game at Kauffman Stadium in 2010.  They have a great view of I-70 traffic endlessly rolling by, the vehicles' presence just beyond the outfield fences made known by reverberating backfires, the chatter of compression releases going off, and the general whine of high speed ceaseless traffic.  (If you like to watch trucks as a major league baseball game unfolds, KC is for you.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Running Buddies

Running buddies make running, and running is life, although sometimes life intrudes.  Bex, Lia, Ashley, David, Markus, John and the rest, all of my my running buddies, I love 'em all.  (Markus.)

I remember the minus-degrees 20-mile run with Bex in February 2007 which led to her sub-four hour marathon in April, and the plus-90 degrees 11-mile run with Lia in August 2014 which led to her, and my own, sub-two hour HM in September.  I treasure those runs absolutely, always, as they are enshrined in my memories.  (Bex.)

I remember Ashley finding me at MP 23 in the 2007 Chicago Marathon and bringing me home to the finish line before the officials closed the course due to the 90-degree high-humidity heat coupled with the fact that they had run out of water on the course.  I remember chasing David, a better runner than me, to finer times than I would have otherwise achieved in races as disparate as the 2006 Rileys Rumble HM and the 2007 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  (Ashley brought me home during the impossible, and infamous, 2007 Chicago Marathon.)

Run on, running is life, although life sometimes intrudes.  Running buddies, however, are forever and I love all of my running buddies.  (Lia.)


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cover

I changed my cover picture from a view of Crater Lake (OR) in 2012 to one of the highway bridge over the New River (WV) in 2013.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Takeaways

Last month I finished my longest race since 2008, the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in DC.  It was an excellent race, in so many ways.  It was well presented and professionally put on, and I recommend it unstintingly to anyone.  It runs from the Washington Memorial out over the Memorial Bridge and back to the District, passing by or within sight of the Holocaust, John Paul Jones, WWII, MLK, WWI, Korean, Ericsson, National Cemetery and Lincoln Memorials in that span.  Then it goes up Rock Creek Park 3 miles, turns back upon itself and runs all the way down and around Haines Point before returning to the Washington Monument, passing more monuments along the way such as the Air Mail, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason tributes.  After the crowded first 2 miles the race loosens up and there's plenty of room to run.  (The course is outlined in red.)

The longest race I have done since the 2009 Army 10-Miler, where I acquired a chronic ankle injury which caused me to drop out of running for two years and has limited my running since then, was a hilly 5-Mile Trail Run in 50:04 (10:00) last year.  So this HM was a real test of where my running is at currently.  (As seen below running with a trainee, my current weekend running buddy, John, also ran in the 2009 ATM as a pace leader just as I did (I led the nine-minute mile pace group) after coaching in the training program I organized for that race when I was president of the DCRRC.)

My last HM, the National HM in DC in 2008 when I directed and coached my former running club's 16-week HM training program, was 1:45:35 (8:02), my 2d best HM.  But 8-minute miles are a distant memory for me now and I feared I wouldn't break 2 hours this time around (9:09 pace).  My last official race was a 5K in March in 28:30 (9:10 pace).  (My friend S, below, was a coach in the training program I created for my former running club for that HM.  In the race she caught up with me in the twelfth mile, said hello and went on to break 1:45.)

The bottom line this time around:  1:54:53 (8:47), 758/1857 M, 16/52 AG, 1112/3714 overall.  We started over 4 minutes late so some of those placements, which use gun time, might be better.  The official time uses net time.  My running is in a happy place right now.  (Happy with my race.)

I believe in training.  I believe in a certain amount of running discipline, which in my life translates to running 4 or 5 times a week every week, no matter what the distance (it has to be at least a mile to count).  (I did a mile, very carefully, on this day back in March.)

I believe in running buddies, to help motivate you and make the miles go by more easily.  I believe in running with friends.  Running buddies invariably turn into good friends and sometimes become training partners.  Depending, I would do just about anything for a good friend.  (My first running buddy, Bex, with whom I ran in the heyday of my running and who I helped achieve a sub-four hour marathon by running 20-milers with her on bitterly cold days, moved to California and is now an accomplished pianist.)

My running buddy, training and race partner and friend Lia ran a 1:50:50 (8:28), 245/2052 F, 65/406 AG, 854/3714 overall.  I ran step-for-step with her for the first half of the race and then she threw down a wicked negative split, besting 2-hours for the first time, while I managed the rest of my race as best I could, slowing down but never stopping.  She has been cross-training and is now a better runner than me although I am more experienced and the race went down just like we planned.  Actually, better than either of us dreamed it would.  (Two days before the race, ready!)

Lia's 10-mile mark was 1:24:41 (8:28) while mine was 1:26:44 (8:40).  Her last 5K was 26:19 (8:28) while mine was 28:09 (9:04).  When I tired and dropped back at MP 7, our time was 1:00:12 (8:36).  Our slow first mile, due to the crowded conditions at the start, was 10:04 so up to that point we made up a lot of time.  I couldn't have broken 1:55 without her pulling me along the first half of the race.  (Hardware.)

We had trained since the spring when we both signed up for the race, running 4-6 miles at noon from work 2-4 times a week.  In June each person started adding weekend distance runs.  In July I was running up the mileage scale on weekends, running 6 then 7 then 8 miles when I got injured and developed bursitis in my left knee, a real setback because I had to lay off running for awhile with the race coming up.  Starting three weeks out we ran ten miles, then eleven, then seven as a taper, and then bellied up to the start line.  (Another notable running buddy, Ashley, got me through the dreadful Chicago 26-mile Fun Run in 2007 in 90 degree high humidity heat (the officials suspended the marathon shortly after the elites crossed the finish line because the race ran out of water) and when I acquired my first digital camera late last year, she taught me how to take selfies.)

We purposefully held back the first mile, so as not to burn up all our excess energy in our early-race excitement, then gradually picked up the pace to where we were running 8:30s or high 8:20s.  At the turnaround in Rock Creek Park, Lia started attacking the race on the downhill and started cranking off low 8:20s or better.  I held on for two miles with her and then, feeling used up, dropped back after wishing her well.  My miles progressively dropped--8:43 eighth mile, 8:49 ninth then 8:57, 9:05, 9:08, 9:10 and then I made a concerted effort the last tenth of a mile and ran that little downhill stretch at a 7:50 pace with the finish line in sight.  That obviously made the difference for me in breaking 1:55, bringing it home at the end.  (I ran in May with my first running buddy at work, Markus, who now runs barefoot.  For many years I led a weekly running group from work and people jokingly called it the Peter and Markus Show because often we were the only partakers.)

The one variable that we couldn't control was the weather.  It was perfect for running and that enabled us to have excellent races.  The temperature was cool yet temperate, it was dry with no humidity, the sky was semi-cloudy affording some shade and there was little wind.  You either have good weather or you don't, and bad weather can affect your race time drastically.  Still, by dressing carefully for the weather conditions, you can largely overcome adverse weather conditions.  (Once Ashley taught me how to take selfies, I was relentless in practicing it until I mastered the technique.  In this early effort I didn't set the shot up right because the dome of the Capitol is hidden behind Lia's head.)

During our training runs Lia and I practiced running the last 500 feet hard and extending our sprint a few feet past the imaginary finish line.  I have seen Lia's official race finishing photos and she is running hard over and through the finish line without easing up at the tape and that is what gave her bragging rights to a 1:50 half (1:50:59) instead of an equally nice but not-quite-the-same 1:51 half (1:51:00).  (The nasty little hill the last half-mile, but its downhill beyond the crest allowed for a sprint to the finish line.)

I was also pleased to see that in her final sprint, she was still carrying her own half-litre bottle of water, as we do every run.  It seems a pain at first, to carry something that weighs a pound five or six miles, but you get used to it.  I believe hydration during runs is important, and Lia says I taught her to carry water always.  Although in a 13.1 mile race, you could discard the bottle in the last half-mile.  (In March I ran on the W&OD Trail with D, a former coach and running buddy of mine from our salad days of running.  I chased him in many a race, finishing in 1:51 to his 1:48 at a Riley's Rumble HM last decade, a difficult July race which was notable that year because a deer ran over a competitor and put the runner in the hospital.)

I carried a half-litre bottle of water, as I do every run or race.  I also carried one gu in my fanny pack, and it rejuvenated me somewhat at MP 9.  I consumed a gu pack late on my last few long runs to make sure that I could accommodate eating it without bad aftereffects.  Do not try anything new during a long race.  (The race passed by the George Mason statue in the shadow of the Jefferson Memorial at the top of Haines Point.)

Afterwards we ate brunch nearby with Lia's family and some friends and showed off our gaudy finisher's medals.  I could see how proud Lia was at her breakthrough race, smashing her PR by twenty minutes or more, and for the first time ever throwing down sub-nine minute miles in a race(with 8:28s!  Seriously?).  She's already talking about running a sub-four hour marathon.  (At Teaism afterwards.)

As for me, since the race I've been savoring my return to near my old pre-injury abilities in running.  Did I already say my running was in a happy place right now?  (Post-race brunch.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Finish

At the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon last month in DC, which I'd signed up for in the spring and trained for all summer with two training partners, one of whom had been unable to compete, I met my goal of running a sub-two hour HM by hanging ontl the fast pace of the other training partner Lia the first half of the race and then, when I could no longer keep up with her due to weariness, I hung on alone the second half of the race as best I could while Lia ran a negative split and smashed her PR by throwing down a 1:50:59 (8:28 pace).  Proud to know ya, Lia!  (Done!)

The last part of the race was looming and I felt like I was merely shuffling along as I headed towards Haines Point and the race's last four miles on its interminable loop.  Obviously I had a six-mile base, which I already knew, and could extend a run past that point (the rule of thumb is that you should be able to go two and a half times past your base in a race, perhaps not prettily), and I suspected I could finish without stopping to walk, even through a water stop, but it was getting ugly.  (The last little uphill as seen on my first post-race run.)

I had brought one gu pack with me, a wonderful 1.1 ounce pasty elixir of mocha chocolate infused with double caffein and I distracted myself for a mile or so by deciding upon MP nine as being the best place to consume it and then being in the throes of anticipation as I looked out for said milepost and contemplated the fuel pack's magical restorative powers.  I ran by milepost nine as the Jefferson Memorial came into view with George Mason's bigger-than-life seated statue standing nearby and had my gu.  Revived a little, now it was a slog to the finish as I plunged down Haines Point counter clockwise and passed MP 10, having slowed to a 8:54 pace for the last two miles with my overall race-pace being 8:40 at that point, still well within the necessary requirement of running a 9:09 pace to break two hours.  (Done!)

My last 5K from there was a slow 28:09 (9:04 pace) which was still faster than the last 5K I did on a snowy day in the spring (28:30) but I felt as if the wheels were coming off as I left Haines Point to labor up the little uphill past the Bureau of Engraving building in the last half-mile, trying to quicken my pace for the finish.  Thankfully the finish line was on a little downhill in the shadow of the Washington Monument and I crossed it in a time of 1:54:53 (8:47), mightily pleased to have broken 1:55 as well as two hours.  I owe my satisfactory time to my training partner who put in those long training hours with me and who ran a perfect first half of the race with me to put my objectives for the race before me for me to fulfill.  (Lia's husband came to cheer us on.)




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Steady Pace

The first three miles of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon last month in DC had taken my training partner Lia and myself from the Washington Monument across the Potomac and back and up Rock Creek Park getting the two of us free of the constricting masses at the start of the race, to where we had more room to run.  We settled into a quickening pace where Lia was now leading the two of us in picking off runner after runner instead of me leading us in gliding from tiny open space to open space.  (We passed by the Lincoln Memorial, pictured during a summertime training run, twice in the first three miles, with one more passage by it coming up in the latter part of the race as we headed for the dreaded Haines Point.)

Going the next three miles up Rock Creek Park we noticeably got under a nine-minute per mile pace, which boded well for breaking two hours in the 13.1 mile race, which requires a 9:09 pace or better, to where we had a two or three minute cushion already in our quest.  Lia made me smile when upon seeing the turn-around cone up ahead she said, "Now our work really begins because we'll be going uphill on the way back."  (I had practiced running around the desolate Haines Point, pictured during a training run in May, but I always hated it because of its length and the wind blowing in unpredictably off the water.)

I assured her we would now be going downhill, or downstream, as soon as we rounded the cone and she immediately started attacking the race at that point, taking advantage of the downhill aggressively, a superior tactic that I would not have done on my own because I was getting tired by then and starting to flag.  I hung on following six feet behind her for the next couple of miles as she barreled past runner after runner, always looking for someone else to pass.  (Lia running strongly during a training run in April.)

By the seventh mile I was used up though and I caught up with her one last time and told her to go for it and leave me behind, to make the race her own now and break two hours if she could sustain the pace.  She somehow increased her pace further and soon she was out of sight ahead of me, and I settled into getting through the grueling middle part of the race, slowing down necessarily due to fatigue but hoping I could hang on to break two hours myself, watching runner after runner pass me, and I passed the ten-mile marker at 1:26:44, an 8:40 pace, formerly a common mark for me but one that was now undreamed of by me ever since suffering my injured ankle, a chronic injury, five years earlier at the 2009 ATM.  (As the race crossed by the Lincoln Monument the third time beyond the eight-mile mark, I was trying to hold onto a sub-two hour pace while my training partner was long gone enroute to smashing her PR by a staggering amount.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Going Out

At the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in DC last month, my training partner Lia and I were four minutes late in getting to the starting line which meant we got in among the plodders and walkers.  We passed the starting gate at just under five minutes into the official race time, which wouldn't affect our official (net) time but it would affect our placement in the race and our age groups because those measures use official (gun) time. (It was a beautiful day in DC on race day.)

We were late because we had to use the facilities and the lines were long but that gave me an opportunity to see how Lia fueled up for 13.1 miles and it was a revelation.  I had consumed two 6-ounce cups of diced fruit in heavy syrup earlier but Lia ate a baggie of dry cheerios as her meal of choice, although I suspected she had forgotten food in leaving her house and found a leftover bag of cereal in her car that she had meant to feed to her toddler at some point.  (Hustling to the start line.)

Once underway on the race course, we were immediately jammed up behind walkers four abreast and slow runners two abreast.  We swiftly quickened our pace and started doing what I call sideways running, darting from open space to open space and utilizing the grassy strip next to the curb to get around groups of slower runners, never venturing into the middle of the roadway where passing opportunities are almost non-existent unless we were of the sort to rudely elbow our way through the slow-moving pack.  (We had put in plenty of miles getting ready for this race.  Here is the start of our 11-mile run two weeks earlier.)

Lia followed me from spot to spot at this point because I am better at this type of work early in a race due to my being much more experienced in racing than her.  This was a good warm-up so early in the race because we had to start moving quickly to get through spaces but we weren't yet pushing the pace, and at one point I even called Lia back and told her to slow down a bit, to save her push for awhile to conserve her energy because it was too early to go out hard yet.  The first mile was a slow 10:04 because of the crowd, but then our time started dropping as we passed the 2-mile point at 18:22 (9:11 pace) and 3 miles at 25:59 (8:40 pace), now ahead of our necessary pace to break two hours.  (Our training runs had taken us around Nats Stadium.)