Monday, January 4, 2016

A new year, a new resolution

Last year, or maybe it was two years ago, my new year's resolution was to cross train each week. Since it was concrete (you either do it or you don't), reasonable, and something I like doing, I picked it up easily, and it is now a part of my routine. This year, my big running resolution is to do yoga once a week.

I have had mixed experiences with yoga in the past. In theory, I want to like it, however, in reality, I never do. The numerous benefits of yoga are everywhere, and I want to experience all of them, however, usually I either get bored or impatient and leave the studio unsatisfied and vow never to go back. Hopefully, this year will be different.

In addition to yoga, I plan to use my foam roller regularly (not just when my knee hurts) and do push ups and planks regularly. Finally, I will be running the C and O Canal 100 Mile race again, and my goal is to run it in under 24 hours.

As with any resolution, I am starting with an optimistic attitude and positive thoughts. Stay tuned in 2016 to see how these resolutions go and experience many other running adventures with me!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

NFL Teams as types of runners

Since football season is in full swing, I thought it would be fun to compare NFL teams, and their qualities, to types of runners you may come across. It's my first attempt at humor, so give me a break, please. 

New York Giants - Old guy who's faster than everyone.

Philadelphia Eagles - Looks like a hardcore runner; twists ankle on a curb every year. 

Dallas Cowboys- Leads a group of aerobics and stretching before the race; doesn't run.

Seattle Seahawks - Wears a perfectly coordinated outfit of a neon green tank top and cropped running tights. Can’t stop twitching with nervous energy.

San Francisco 49ers - Barefoot runner.

St. Louis Rams - Despite the race being in St. Louis, they show up in Los Angeles without telling anyone.  

Green Bay Packers - Wears a really sweet pair of old school Nikes and is fast and smooth.

New Orleans Saints - The life of the race. They have a three-deep fan section with a band and full bar. 

Cleveland Browns - Misses the race because they were out partying.

New York Jets - New York Giants younger brother. Less old and less fast. 

New England Patriots - Wins the race, a feel good story, but later a video shows he blatantly cut off part of the course and is disqualified. Then the runner complains to the race director, and they are given the title back. Sound familiar?

Miami Dolphins - Bullies other runners and gets themselves into the elite corral. Then throughout the race, they are a pushy, tailgating runner. 

Buffalo Bills - Always in the lead for the final stretch but misses the finish line (wide right). 

Washington Redskins - Guy in a Trump t shirt.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In(to) the buff

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means. Every running publication seems to have some kind of list of gifts a runner needs. These are filled with mostly things runners don’t need, many of which are expensive. Some brief background on me is that I have a decent amount of running gear, acquired in a variety of ways, that sits in a basket in my room and never gets used. I have a few shirts, shorts and sweatshirts that I wear regularly, and it is tough to make that starting line up. If I find a product I like, I develop a strong allegiance to it. Despite attempts to switch things up, I’ve been wearing the same shoe model for at least five years.


The one item that I am intrigued by is a Buff. A buff is basically a tubular piece of fabric that can be worn any number of ways. I am attracted to them because, as happened this morning, I went running with a winter hat on, and after a few miles, it became too hot for the hat. My choices were to wear a hat that made me uncomfortably hot, or carry it. The buff could have helped here, because it can do all these things:





I can wear a buff year round, and it even provides some UV protection, which I need on the dome. If anyone reading this has any experience with the buff, please comment with your thoughts and any insight you may have.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Look to my left and I see the Hollywood sign

Running in Griffith Park


Party in the USA was on a loop through my mind as I ran up to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles over the Thanksgiving Break. This is my favorite run in the world. My sister and her family live about a mile from Griffith Park, so the run began on relatively flat city streets. I played a game of counting the priuses that I saw parked on these streets. Not surprisingly, the count was much higher than what we see on the east coast. 

The view from the base of the east trail.
Every morning that we were in LA, we woke up early and ran over to Griffith Park. There are two trails that go to the top, both about the same length and difficulty. At the trailhead, there is a wonderful little coffee shop/wagon that provided caffeine after each of these runs. I could go on about how good the coffee and pastries were, but just trust me - they were awesome. The west (left) trail presented a couple challenging switchbacks early on, but then flattens out briefly before meeting up with the east trail for the final climb to the observatory. The east (right) trail challenges a runner with non-stop elevation. Both surfaces are packed dirt, easy on the legs but not the dusty kind that gets kicked up into your lungs. 

View of LA from the observatory


The views from both trails (especially the west) were fantastic. Looking out, was the skyline of downtown LA, followed by the ocean out in the distance. Looking west, the Hollywood sign was right there. The elevation did not let up, providing a solid challenge for legs and lungs. There was even a water fountain at the top. Every time I visit LA, I will take advantage of this great run. There is nothing quite like it around here.
View of the mountains from the observatory

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: My Year of Running Dangerously

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to read the book, My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan, by Tom Foreman. I was attracted to this book because it was written by a local CNN reporter and runner about one of my favorite local races, the Stone Mill 50 Miler. 



The first section of the book captured the feeling of being a new runner and starting out, as Foreman began training with his daughter to run her first marathon, and his first in many years. He accurately described the landscape of running, from people who have run a marathon once (have a “been there, run that” sticker on their car), to crowd runners (have sweaty running photos on facebook), to running animals (“they inhale the fumes of moldy, fungus-filled shoes the same way wine connoisseurs sniff merlots”). His writing here was a funny and accurate commentary about the world of running.

As the book moved on, there was some insight into his relationship with his daughter, through their experiences training together both in person and hours away from each other. A major theme were the differences between his 18-year old daughter and himself. It was interesting for me as the reader because there were elements of both youth and aging presented in the book that I could relate to. It was hard not to get swept up in the story of her first marathon, and his first marathon in twenty years. In fact, during these pages, I forgot that the book was about more than this. 

In the second half, the book detailed his experience up to and during his 50 mile run (the Stone Mill). Foreman describes both the terrain and a runner’s interactions with it. I found myself experiencing his race with him and rooting for him. In this part of the book he formalized many things I have experienced, such as the pain cave, a place a runner winds up late in races when literally everything hurts (Foreman’s description is a lot more vivid than mine), and the cat and mouse games we play as runners during races by passing and getting passed by various runners. 

Foreman articulated the power of running and the role it can play in our lives. For him, it was his mind wandering off during a show with his wife at the Kennedy Center thinking about his next run, but I'm sure any runner can recall a time when their mind was somewhere else thinking about training or rehearsing a race in their mind. On an even deeper level, Foreman shared how running has magnified the good things in his life. This part of the book was special to read because I feel the same way. This weekend, Andrea and I were able to spend some time each morning exercising around where my sister lives in Los Angeles. We had the family together for the first time in awhile, and having that time to run each day made it even more special. More about that in another post. 

The book could serve as a guidebook for any aspiring ultramarathoner, or a runner at any level. However, I would also recommend this to anyone interested in reading an inspiring story about relationships, determination and pushing your limits. I enjoyed reading this book. It made me reflect, think, and laugh out loud (apologies to the people on my flight).







Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Things I am thankful for (running edition)

I am thankful for a good pair of running shoes. The kind you keep wearing even though you know they’re busted. The kind that you take off before you wade through a stream. And socks - that new woolish material that they seem to be making everything out of these days.


I am thankful for PR, DNF, GOTR, DNS, LSD, XT and BQ*. These wonky acronyms enable strangers to interact like they’ve known each other for years and give people something to talk about in the nervous, early morning moments of a race.

*personal record, did not finish, Girls on the Run, did not start, long slow distance, cross training, Boston qualifier.


I am thankful for post-run food and drinks. Somehow it’s ok to have a cheeseburger and a couple of beers before even getting home from a race (at least I think it is), and I am thankful for that. I am even thankful for unripe bananas, stale bagels and ridiculously strong gatorade at the end of the race. It’s all part of the experience.


I am thankful for races. Small, large, long, shorter races, each one brings a new experience and is the result of a ton of behind-the-scenes work by a lot of people. For the volunteers who have offered encouragement, support, and sometimes, legitimate medical help, enabling us to finish races, thanks. And for our family members who have staked out locations at 11:00 PM or 5:00 AM, dropped us off, picked us up, done our laundry, and braved rainstorms just to see us for a minute or two, thanks, and see you at the next race!


I am thankful for running’s ability to be bigger than what it is. For the organizations that have made differences in the communities I live and work. And for the participants who have taken a risk by doing something that they may not be comfortable doing, because someone, at some point made a connection with them.




I am thankful for a good playlist that pulls you through a run. Sometimes you want to hear Pitbull when you’re tired, or Adele when you’re not. Sure, it’s awful when you run out of batteries, or your phone crashes onto the street, but when the Rocky theme song comes on at just the right time, well, that’s pretty sweet.


I am thankful for the Tuesday afternoon running group at work. We started running before we even really knew each other, and now, not only are we friends, but we are much stronger runners.


I am thankful for pace groups. I have been on both sides of this one as a leader and as a participant. Thanks for the leaders who have helped myself and fellow runners reach their goals. And for those who have been a part of our group in Baltimore - I continue to be jealous every year of that feeling you have as you finish your first marathon. Not crossing the finish line, but the point in the race where you realize you will finish. Don’t forget that - you will only experience it once.


I am thankful for the fundraising aspect of running. I offer both thanks and apologies for anyone who donated to support BCAN or Livestrong over the past couple years in support of my dad's battle with cancer. If you politely declined, I am thankful for you too. Thanks for still being my friend after I pestered you.



I am thankful for Thanksgiving running traditions. My family has had Thanksgiving in different places recently, so it has been hard to establish one. Two years ago, I ran from my parents’ new house to my childhood house and back. It was bittersweet. Last year, we ran a 4 mile race in Florida, where we were celebrating the holiday. My dad and I ran together for the first time. He was the first runner I knew, and I vividly remember running with him once as a kid. I followed hundreds of feet behind, huffing and puffing. As a kid, I would routinely open the front door, and dad would be lying down on the front stoop, reading the paper and recovering from a run. It didn’t make sense at the time. Now it does. Later, when dad got sick I used running as an outlet. Anyway, at the end of race, the first 1,000 finishers got a free pie. We didn’t get a pie and we didn’t care. We went home, stuffed our faces, turned on the football game, and took a nap. After a couple rocky years, my Dad is up and running again. I am thankful for that.

(In the comments, write anything related to running that you are thankful for.)