Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007--A Year in Review

At right: Our 2007 family Christmas tree which was cut down by me and brought down from upstate Pennsylvania.
I love the Christmas season. Not just for the presents but the opportunity to get together with friends and family that seems to only happen this time of year. It is also a time of reflection--of the things I've done this year, of the things I've done thus far in my life, and for things I still want to do before I leave this earth. I celebrate the life that was given to me and hope I have taken advantage of any opportunities I've had. I prepare for the future and hope I'm strong enough to handle anything thrown my way. And be aware of the present because that is truly the moment I live in.
It is cliche to say this but I truly hope there is some way to take the feeling of the season and spread it out the rest of the year. I hope mostly that we can find a way to understand our differences so we may have peace on earth.
Below are some of my highlights for 2007. I will be taking next week off and will begin blogging again the week of January 7. It gives me a few weeks to think about my goals for 2008. I wish everyone Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a joyous and prosperous 2008!
Overall: A very good year for me. Of the six PRs I measure, three of them came this year! And those three came at the longer distances. I didn't achieve my stated goal of lowering my 5k PR but missed a lot of races this year due to personal committments or being sick through the start of the summer.
Best race: It had to be the Broad Street Run on my birthday. Since I started running this race, I have lowered by PR by almost 20 minutes. I could have set a PR in a 5k with my time at the beginning of the race. I didn't start out too fast and then struggle at the end. I ran a complete race, probably the race of my life.
Worse race: It has to be a toss up between the Chalfont Challenge 5k or the Ocean City, MD Half-marathon. Both of them were due to the weather but for different reasons. The Chalfont race was too hot and the Ocean City race was too cold. I felt I could have done better in the Chalfont 5k. Ocean City, with its three inches of snow falling during the race and wind gusts up to 30-40 mph, was the worse conditions.
Biggest surprise: Besides keeping up with this blog for the year, I would say winning my division in the ALS Out and Back 4-miler in April. Granted my division was the Clydesdale, over 40 (commonly referred to as the fat, old men division) but I still beat out 8 other runners. I was so surprised that I didn't even stick around for the award ceremony and was given it the day after.
Proudest moment: Watching my wife in the last .1 mile of the Chalfont Challenge 5k. She trained hard for this race. It was a tough day on a tough course and she did well. She never gave up. She injured her ankle over the summer and is only coming back now. But, she is getting herself ready to come back in 2008.
Biggest disappointment: Not having a chance to lower my 5k PR that I set out to do this year. I was on course to do so but got sick over the summer. It knocked out my whole summer series. On top of that, I didn't have a chance to participate in any 5ks in the fall. I've had this PR for the past 4 years. I want to see if it's possible to get under 24 minutes.
Biggest thrill: Seeing the actual Olympic medals of Frank Shorter, Joan Samuelson and others at the Falmouth Road Race. Not just seeing them but picking them up and hold them as well. I couldn't believe I had the opportunity to do that.
Scariest moment: The day before the Philadelphia marathon, Steve and I started to drive the course. Knowing the area so well, I actually was intimidated thinking about the points on the course. Twenty-six miles is twenty-six miles but not if you know where you are going! I hardly slept the night before the race.
What I will remember most from this year: I will never forget this year's Ocean City Half-marathon. It's one of those 'you think the weather in your race was bad, wait until I tell...' kind of stories. The other thing was my Philadelphia Distance Run. I felt different after finishing a half-marathon under 2 hours. It gave me a little boost of confidence of 'hey, I really can do this.'
To all of you who read this blog, I thank you. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it for these past 9 months. I look forward discussing my adventures with you in the new year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Short History of the Blue Dawgs

A busy week this week as I have to go down to North Carolina twice for work. The flight down there from Philadelphia is not that long (about 1 hour, 15 minutes) but getting to and from the airport is time-consuming. I am starting to get the itch again to run and did 6 miles around Lake Galena on Sunday (thanks Melisssa!) I got the treadmill delivered yesterday and did a whole mile on it! (Just to try it out). The Blue Dawg running group is meeting tonight, and, if the weather cooperates, I'll be able to do another 5-6 miles.

Throughout this blog, I have referenced various people who I run with and referenced this Blue Dawg running group. I've never stopped and explained the history of this group and how it came to be. It's not a long history. In fact, we just celebrated our 2nd year anniversary! But, here's the story:

TZ Sports (http://www.tzsports.com/) in New Britain, PA, would host a running get-together on Wednesday nights in the spring/summer (basically Eastern Daylight Time period). They did this for years in their old location in Doylestown and their new location. But, after we set our clocks back, the people who would show up would scatter for the winter doing their own thing. I certainly was one of them and took a break from running until the spring. I thought playing racquetball over this time would be enough to keep me in condition but I was proved wrong every year.

Two years ago, as the days of the Wednesday runs for the summer were winding down, there were discussions of keeping this group together for the winter. I was somewhat hesitant as, afterall, it does get cold outside in the winter. Who the heck wants to run in the cold? But, I agreed to stay around for the fall and see where it goes as it gets colder. We all agreed to meet in the Genuardi's parking lot in New Britain and continue the Wednesday night run through the neighborhoods.

The reason we agreed to meet in the Genuardi's parking lot and run around that particular neighborhood are twofold (a) there was enough lighting in the streets that we should be seen by passing cars and (b) our 'scout' team to look at potential courses thought this would be flat enough that everyone would enjoy. We noticed a little problem after that first run. There were hills. As a matter of fact, the only flat piece of ground is the area we start in. We've since come to realize that if you send out a scout team they really shouldn't be riding bikes to evaluate a course to run on. (won't mention your name here, Kel) (Note: we have since moved our starting spot to Philadelphia Sports Club, once known as Highpoint. And, yes, there is a reason it was called Highpoint as we now go down the hills and climb back up to get back to our cars!)

As time went by, we thought it would be nice to hang around after the run for an adult beverage or two. Luckily for us, there happened to be a watering station in the same parking lot as Genuardi's called 'The Blue Dog Tavern'. As the night went on, it was established that this little Wednesday night running group do hereby proclaim to be 'the Blue Dawgs runners' (had to change the spelling of dog to make sure we don't infringe on any trademarks).

After awhile, we established a Blue Dawg government with Blue Dawg rules. I was elected Vice President, not because of any platform I stood for but because I didn't go out with them the night of elections! It's all a bit silly. But, it's all about laughing and having a good time.

I look forward to the first e-mail of the week announcing plans for the upcoming Wednesday run. Where are we going to meet? Who can make it? Who can't make it? Who's doing the lake instead? Everyone has their individual training needs for upcoming races but that doesn't mean we aren't there cheering each other on virtually. And, it is nice to see each other at the local races as well.

The past two years have meant a lot to me to bond with this group. We all have had our share of high times but we have been there for each other when we've had low moments as well. We've gotten to know each other for who we are. We felt each other's pain and pulled for each other along the way. And most of this wasn't about the highs and lows of running. It was about our lives. Running just brought us together.

I want to thank Eric, Kel, Diski, Joeski, Mitch, Mark, Melissa, Mike, Boyd, and sometimes Chief, :-) for running with me on Wednesdays, Sundays and local races. And thank you for making, not just running, but life in general, more enjoyable.

I encourage everyone to try to join a running group. The miles will go by that much faster.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Random Thoughts in December

I started this blog back in April. At the time, it was easy to think about the upcoming topics I would be writing back in the coming weeks. But, I knew, one day, and one day soon, when the marathons are over and the winter chill rolls in, I would rack my brain to continue to come up with something that is unique from other blogs, funny, interesting, and in general, a mind-blowing experience that you would be talking around the water cooler for days to come. Well, today is the day. I couldn't come up with a specific topic to write about today.

So, I'm going to write of random thoughts on various topics and hope that something sticks with you.

  • I know I'm getting old because I'm starting to not understand technology anymore. I understand the basics but new technology makes my head spin. I'm afraid to buy anything new because I don't know how to set it up. I know what BlueTooth is, I know what DVRs do, but, I don't know enough about iPods and what they are compatible to make me go out and purchase one (I mean they're an Apple, right?) By the time I am confident to go out and buy something, what I was looking at has changed and now I'm back to square one. Seriously, doesn't this sound like your parents? Maybe its not fear. I'm just getting too impatient to figure things out anymore.

  • I hate the fact they keep on changing styles of running shoes. After many years, I bought a pair of Brooks that I really liked. Once I wore them out, I went to the neighborhood running store to order another pair. Nah! They didn't have that style anymore and now they have the new and improved! Well, the new and improved didn't fit me properly! (WHY????!!!!!) So, I had to go out on the internet and find my old style. I had three years worth of shoes but now I'm running out and can't find them anymore. There may be some hope as the new and improved of the original new and improved did fit me when I quickly tried them on at an expo. I'm sure version 83 (you know, the one that is made of material that will run for you) will be out by then and I'll have to start the process over again.

  • I am very excited because we have purchased a new treadmill. For some reason, the cold this year has affected me to the point I haven't run for awhile. I have been playing racquetball but I've learned that's not enough to sustain me in training for the winter. I'm so hoping that having a treadmill in the house will help me be fitter for the spring.

  • I saw this in USA today about a month ago and found it intriguing. There is a website called Location Nation that lets 'runners upload and display on Google maps data captured with GPS gadgets' (USA Today, October 22, 2007). 'The data, such as distance traveled, are stored on the company's site, where users can then meet others with similar interests--as on social-networking sites Facebook and MySpace.' 'The second service, let's subscribers track, for example, a runner's marathon progress in real time on Location Nation's site.' Kind of interesting if you ask me.

  • Runner's World came to my home last week and I'm looking at the upcoming marathon schedule for next year. In reality, I'm more interested in looking at marathons in 2009 as that will be the year of my 50th anniversary of my life on this planet. So, there are two things I'm planning that year. First, is a marathon at a location that I would probably never visit in my life unless I ran a marathon (Fargo? Chickamauga? Newfoundland?) I'm scouting. The other thing I plan on doing is taking a trip for a week with Steve where we attend a baseball game every night at a different stadium. Not necessarily major league games. In fact, it might be more fun to do the minor league games. My first thought is California as we could start in San Diego, probably catch either the Dodgers or Angels in town, work our way up and find some minor league teams on the way and finish at either the Giants or A's game in the Bay Area.

That's all the random thoughts I have for today. Keep warm out there! Hope to be back on the road soon