Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Doylestown 'Red, White & Blue' 5k Race Report

(Above: The elevation chart for the Doylestown 'Red, White & Blue' 5k race on May 24, 2008.)

I woke up at 5:00am on Saturday morning. You see, besides my running, I am also the assistant to the Head Dog Groomer when our show dog has a match. So, even before I could think about the race that day, I had to help get our dog ready for his show. He was washed and dried and looked handsome as my wife and he went out the door around 8a. My race wasn't until 10a but it was only a 20 minute drive to get there and I had registered the day before so I didn't have to hurry.

I can't say I was excited about this race. I'm not really sure why I even signed up. It was one of the few races in the Bucks 5k series that I haven't run before. So, I didn't know the course that well. It was a beautiful day, though. Temps were in the low 60's (F) with low humidity. But, I was up early in the morning and I was tired. Let's get it over with so I can go home and take a nap. Looking down the street at the start, I could see the first quarter mile or so was a slight uphill. Great. Wonderful. As if I'm not tired enough, now I have to start this race going uphill.

The gun went off a little after 10a. I was about 20 deep from the front and started my Garmin when we crossed the official start line. Chief was on my left and I usually like to pace myself with him. But, he's had hamstring problems of late so better for me to get in front of him this time. After a quick hello with Chief, I pushed ahead.

I got up the hill with little problem and started on the descent that was the rest of the first mile. I have to say it was steeper than I anticipated. I had quite a few people passing me, but, that would make sense since I was so tired to begin with. After the hill, I rounded the corner and saw the first mile split. I had just done a 7:30 mile.

But, after that hill, I expected that. If you drop a rock off the side of a building, it will fall fast too. The second mile will slow me down. I had to go uphill for a .5 mile to the race turnaround. At the turnaround, you follow the same road that got you there and then, at mile 2, you begin the ascent of the mile 1 hill. Usually, at this point, I'm doing an 8:15-8:30 pace, that I'm not thinking of a PR. But, at mile 2, I was in at 15:10, a 7:40 second mile.

On any other course, I would be celebrating as it would give me a legitimate shot at my 5k PR! But, I had that hill in front of me. Surely, that would do me in. I struggled to get up it. And, so did everyone else. I was feeling sick to my stomach. Sick, as in, I was going to stop on the side of the road and lose my breakfast. But, there was no side of the road. This was a driveway of a school. I had to stop thinking about it and slowed down enough for the feeling to pass. At the top, I began to plod to catch myself. And noticed the course was flattening out.

Even plodding along, I was starting to pass people. Maybe I wasn't as tired as I thought I was? This is the point I usually give up. But, I didn't want to this time. I wanted to keep trying. I wanted to beat Chief. I wanted, at least, a 25 minute race. So, I picked it up a bit.

I was in at 24 minutes after 3 miles. Well, that's it. I can't do a PR only a 25 minute race. I mean, it will take me a minute to do .1 mile, right? Umm. That's a 10 minute mile. You're doing faster than that, Joe. If you hurry, you can PR. I saw the finish clock up ahead. After a few steps into the last 1/10 of a mile, I began to sprint.

I think at this point of any race, the polite thing to do is to finish where you are relative to the people around you. But, I bolted. The guy next to me thought I was nuts but I didn't care. I had a shot at doing something I've been trying to do for the past 5 years.

Everything around me was getting fuzzy. I was concentrating on that finish line. I didn't care who was in front of me. It was me and the finish line at that point.

Finally, I crossed. I was relieved. I knew I had just set a PR on a day that I was too tired, and didn't care at the start of the race. Did I blow my time away? Or did I just barely break it? It didn't matter. I just....

Back in my high school days, when I was playing basketball in CYO, I remember having discussions with my teammates on the worse way to lose. Was it worse to get blown out of a game or lose at the buzzer? My contention was that it was far worse to lose at the buzzer. You knew you were just as good as the other team, but, maybe for a small error in judgement, did you lose the game.

Well, I thought of that moment, when I looked down at my watch. It read 24:44:22. I had missed tying my PR by 23 hundreths of a second, missed breaking it by 1:23 seconds. I stood there not knowing what to feel.

Officially, I ran it in 24:52. But, I don't start upfront. I don't want to. That wouldn't be fair. Besides, I would get trampled. So, I start my watch when I cross the start and take my PR from there.

Don't get me wrong. I know it was the second fastest 5k I ever ran! I was happy as, on a day I didn't expect anything from me, I came out and surprised myself. But, for a small error in judgement on my part, I could have easily lowered my 5k PR. There was no point in thinking about where I could have made up that second. It could have been any place. The turnaround, the crest of the hill, the 3 mile mark, any place. I was disappointed.

For me, the spring racing season is over. I had a good spring. I did well. I have no qualms. There is even a lesson about how I do better when I don't know the course. But, dope, why didn't you sprint that last 1/10 of a mile?????????

(Note: Next week I will re-visit and talk about where it all began for me and running. After that, I will be taking a few weeks for vacation and hope to start blogging again the week of June 22.
Lastly a small homage to one of my favorite shows growing up. Goodnight Dick! Rest in Peace!)

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Three Month Status Report (Two Months late)

On January 8, 2008, I made a list of the goals I wanted to achieve for the new year. At the end of that edition of my blog, I made a commitment to go back once in awhile (ok, I said three months and it's now five. Details! Details!) and do a status update (boy, if that's not project management-speak, I don't know what is). Here is a look at that list again, five months later:

Eat healthier--I made steps toward this. In my January 8th blog, I mentioned that I discovered Quaker Oats Whole Grain Cereal and that I would try eating that a few times a week to start. I am happy to say that I have kept up with that and continue to eat this cereal about two or three times each week. I also discovered something about myself that I didn't know until someone pointed it out to me (and became a 'theme' for me in regards to the goals).

In March and April, I was under a lot of stress from work. I was walking back to my office one day, with candy in my hand, when someone who sits outside my office said,' you've been hitting a lot of the junk food lately.' I stopped dead in my tracks. First, I know this person well enough that I didn't take offensive to the statement, but, I was more surprised that someone noticed. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that I was a stress-eater and didn't know. And when the pressure was off, I did notice that my craving for chocolate, chips, etc. subsided.

Now my next big thing to tackle is to start making home-made smoothies. I've read that, as long as you don't add protein, this is a great subsitute for a snack. Looking for some good recipes if anyone has ideas.

Smarter exercise--Again, something that fell victim to my stressful March/April. I was on a weekly program up until March and then it fell by the wayside. And, I noticed it right away. Back in January/February, when I was doing more core training, running hills was a lot easier. Since then, I'm back to struggling up hills. I also, typically, stop playing racquetball for the summer. Having said that, when I was doing the core training, results were pretty fast. So, realistically, maybe I can do core training for specific events and not all year round?

Beat my 5k PR--. Do you realize that my 5k PR actually comes from last year's Broad Street Run? I ran the first 3.1 miles of the 2007 Broad Street Run in under 24:30. My official PR for a 5k race is 24:43. And, each 5k I have run this year I have set a course PR with a time around 25 minutes for each race. So, why don't I go back to the course where I set the PR? Because that race doesn't exist anymore.

Realistically, I'm running out of chances for this spring. I plan on doing the Doylestown 'Red, White and Blue' 5k this Saturday, which will be my last 5k this spring. But, I've never run this course. I need to find a flat, fast course in the fall to get this monkey off my back.

Concentrate on Falmouth--Broad Street is over. This is what I'll be thinking about all summer. Steve better be ready this year.

A better blog--I played a little with the poll. It's a fun thing to do from time to time. I can do a little more on the right side of the blog. I like to see what others do in their running blogs and try to get ideas to incorporate into mine. The best thing, that I think I did, was the purchase of my $20 mini-camera and incorporate some of the pictures in my reports, entries, etc. It is fun to take pictures during the races. And, the looks I get from people who are running next to me, trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing. That, in and of itself, is too funny. Anyone else have ideas, please let me know.

Continue to have fun with running--There is a great series of commercials (I think its New Balance) on the love/hate relationship with running. Truer words have not been spoken. During my stressful March/April, running was a PIA (pain in the a**). Not that I didn't want to do it, but, it was getting in the way. Now, I have to start developing my routine again. I'm hoping to be able to take my gear into work and stop and do some 3 mile runs on my way home from time to time. I have to get back into run-think.

Get new running shoes--This is the year I need to replace my series of Brooks GTS 5s as I can't find them on the internet anymore. So, I went to the Broad Street expo, thinking that I would replace them with the Brooks GTS 8s. Not so fast. The 8s would rub against the arch on my left foot. Errrrr. There was no way I can wear those.

Then, one day, I went into TZ Sports, in New Britain, PA (http://www.tzsports.com/index.htm) and explained my situation. They had a pair of Brooks GTS 7s that I bought, and, so far, seem to be the replacement I've been looking for. I'll run in them for the next few weeks. If they still feel comfortable, then I might have to look in stocking up for the next few years.

Follow through--I still need a lot of work on this. My journal entries in my running diary have been inconsistent. I don't put things a way at home that I should. I try to make sure I follow up with people after they've contacted me. I'm trying to get better at this. Just to need to keep reminding myself about this one.

Well, there you have it. The three month report as reported two months later. I'll check on this in September.

(Note: In mid-June, I am off to Hawaii to celebrate my 2oth wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife. It's in Hawaii that we spent our honeymoon and we've been planning for the past 10 years to go back there again. I was hoping that I would be able to do a race while I was there (that is why I call her 'my wonderful wife' as she understands) but on the wrong islands when the races are happening. I saw a blog on SteveRunner's website called 'Frayed Laces' (http://frayedlaces.blogspot.com/) which talks about a 'graduate student (from Hawaii)with a running problem as she endures the physical, mental and emotional ups and downs of training and racing'. I want to thank Laura, author of the blog, on the information she provided me on some of her favorite places she runs in the Honolulu area. Can't say I'll be running every day, but I don't think I'll miss the opportunity to get a run in once in awhile in this beautiful part of our country. Thanks Laura. I also want to thank the people who made suggestions on Steve's Forum-Board-Thingy on where to run in Hawaii. I appreciate all the help.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happiness is a warm puppy...

I will be the first to admit, I wasn't looking forward to having 'her' around when 'her' was just an idea and not an actual, living, breathing lifeform. We had puppies in the past. We used to foster greyhounds. And, they would all cry during the night. And, I don't do well with little sleep.
But my wife wanted another dog so she could continue to show. And, has wanted one for the past year or so. We have had 'discussions' about it. She found the breeder. We decided on the date to bring her home. And, last Saturday was the date. So, I braced myself for a trying time.
Now, my wife knows I am all bluster. I will hem and haw about having the dog and tell her that she, not me, will need to take care of her. But, in the end, she knows I will love this dog as I do our other dogs. And, when you don't have children, the paternal instincts are still there to take care of the ones under your roof.
Her name is Ellie Mae. She is a Havanese. And, she is a good little girl. She is bold. She has no problems with stealing the toys from the 'boys' right from under their noses. She jumps in the pile when they are wrestling. She sleeps through the night. And, her and I get up together around 5a, when she starts crying, to play so as not to disturb my wife and her 'brothers' while they sleep.
Ellie Mae is only 14 weeks old. She will shown for the first time in August. Her father won 'Best of Breed' at the National Show that was seen on television last Thanksgiving.
Running is an important part of my life. But, Eric from the blog, 'Running for my life' (http://ruralrunnere.blogspot.com/) reminded me, it's not everything. The more things you do outside of running, the more fun running will be. And, though, I didn't want Ellie Mae to begin with when she was just 'another dog', she has been a lot of fun since we've had her in our lives.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blue Dawgs Did Broad Street (A Report)

Pictured above are the members of the Blue Dawgs that did Broad Street (Eric, me, Kelly, Melissa). The second picture on the right is my vantage point looking at the starting line. The picture on the second row is my vantage of the people behind me at the start of the race. The gear buses are on the right.)
I made the offer to drive the Wednesday night running group down to the Broad Street run. Little did they know, the last time I made such an offer, I was late to the start of the race by 10 minutes. I had to feign my confidence that I knew what I was doing. Afterall, it had been 2 years since that incident and I had learned my lesson. Once you do these races year after year, you build up a routine.
So, Kelly was to meet at my house at 5:30a. Sure enough, at 5:30 sharp, she was there. Off to pick up Melissa and Eric at Melissa's house. We got there by 5:45a with Eric and Melissa in the driveway, anxiously waiting for our arrival. Eric asked me if I knew 'the way' to I-95 from Warrington. After my brief explanation of the route I was thinking of taking, Eric agreed with the plan. We were all packed in, raring to go.
We made the Wachovia Center parking lot by 6:30a. Plenty of time still. Afterall, the race didn't start until 8:30a. You have to take the subway up Broad Street to the start. It's when you are on the subway for awhile do you start to realize that 'geez, this is far'.
We get off the subway and Kelly and Melissa are looking for the buses to drop off their bags. Kelly's was easy enough. Just follow the numbers on the bus and, viola, there it is. Melissa, the same thing. Just follow the numbers and... wait a minute. 22000 doesn't follow 19500. Where's 21007?
Now at this part of the story, I feel sorry for the girl who was assigned to take the gear for race numbers 22000-22500. Because there were a lot of angry runners asking her where the &%$# is the bus for numbers 19500-22000? Her first answer was 'right next to me'. Um, no. She didn't know. But, that didn't stop people asking her, where the $%$^ is the bus for numbers 19500-22000? Finally, there was an official type of person who pulls out a map and says the buses are around the corner on Somerville. OK, this was planned? I mean there is a map and everything that states the buses were going to be out of order? At that point, I wished I was at the meeting that decided this to find out the logic behind it. I mean, there was logic there, right?
After our laps through the potty line, we were ready. I hadn't changed my strategy at all for the race. Anything under 1:30 for the day would be good. The weather had held out. It was cloud-cover with temps in the 50s (F). It was a little humid, but nothing we couldn't handle. You couldn't see City Hall, which was 6 miles away, because of the fog, but that was a good thing. It can psyche you out. I was set to go.
I started fast to test myself. The first mile was 7:45/mile. The second mile, I was trying to test my comfort level. Last year, I felt great and began to push harder. This year, I wasn't as comfortable. I backed down a bit but still had an approximate 25:00 for the first 5k.
Picture below is not a great picture of the people in front of me at about 3 miles into the race, around Temple University.

At around the 3 mile mark, I felt my legs started to cramp up. Not bad but again, I knew there wasn't going to be a PR that day either. Still, I was doing 8:30-8:45 miles so I was still on target.
If you do the same race enough times, you begin to learn the nuances of the course. I made the mistake last year of taking my one gel too late and looking for Gatorade to wash it down. Except I was passed the Gatorade station and had to run with this goo in my mouth. This year, I knew there was a Gatorade station around mile 6. So, I got my gel out and dropped it. For a split second, you think of the past trash and rats and germs that crossed that spot you dropped your gel. But, I NEED that gel and I'm running a race, so whatever illness I get from picking up my gel off Broad Street would have to wait. Then, I couldn't tear with my teeth! I stopped for a moment, tore the top off my gel, took a sip of Gatorade, looked up and, in front of me, stood the Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. We high-fived. And, he began to cheer me on.
At mile 7, my leg cramps were getting a bit worse. I was at 59:00 for the race, so I knew I could do 10:00/miles and still reach my time. So, I backed off or fear that I would have to walk at the end. And, I didn't want to do that. With a mile to go, Kelly goes by me. We grunted hello to each other but didn't have time to chat as she sailed by me. I wanted to run in with her but she kept on getting further and further away from me.
The last half mile of the race is deceptive. You know the finish is at the Naval Yards. And, when you crest the last hill of the course, you see the entrance to the Naval Yards. The entrance looks like the finish. But you still have a quarter mile to go after the entrance. And, you still can't see the finish because its around the corner.
I knew I had the time I wanted. There was no need to sprint. I wanted to enjoy the moment. I wanted to take pictures of my vantage point as I approach the finish. Below is the best picture (hey, at least I got the finish line this time). I crossed at 1:26:21. Over 22,000 people signed up for the race. 19,000 finished. I came in 5386th place.

Kelly was waiting for me at the end. Eric and Melissa met us at our designated meeting point after the race. We sat there for awhile discussing our individual races. Melissa was a 'virgin' for the race, never running it before. It's always interesting to hear about what one thinks of a race like this after the first time.
We went back to my car, tired from our efforts but satisified that we made it. We ran into our friend, Chief, in the Wachovia Center parking lot, and wished he was with us in the beginning. No matter.
Usually, I run this race alone and don't have a chance to share my experiences with anyone. It was nice to able to share them this time with my friends.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Blue Dawgs do Broad Street

This will be short as it is Friday and I usually post Tuesday. Ok, so I'm a little late.

I go to pick up my number today down at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Philadelphia Eagles) for Broad Street Run on Sunday. My training for this was good up until the beginning of April. Since then, my training has mostly been the 5k races I've done and the 20k race I did two weeks ago with a smattering of 5-6 mile runs with the Blue Dawgs on Wednesdays. This past weekend I was in Florida visiting my parents (my father's 80th birthday was on Monday) and ran a little on the beach and at Dunes Park on the north side of New Smyrna Beach.

Expectations for the race? Not a whole lot, unfortunately. I have been spoiled over the four times I've run this race as I have been able to lower my PR each time. But, with the sporadic training I've done in the past month, I can't say I feel ready. Granted, I don't think I ever feel 'ready' three days before any race, but, judging from my 20k race results, I have a reason to feel this doubt. Plus, the forecast for Sunday is for rain, which is even more reason.

So, I decided I want to have fun in this race. Knowing me, I will push myself at the beginning to see 'what I feel.' But, if it's not there, it's not there, therefore, I should enjoy the parade and the supporters that are out there.

Plus, the Blue Dawgs are going down as a group. Melissa, Eric, Kelly and I are all driving down together for the race. We are meeting at 5:30a to get to the stadium parking lot by 6:30a. Broad Street Run is somewhat unique as you are encouraged to park at the finish line and take a free subway ride to the start. The biggest challenge is meeting up after the race. I will make sure I am the Marines in this mission and leave no soldier behind in getting home that day.

After Broad Street, I can set my sights for the rest of the summer and look to choose a marathon for the fall.

(Quick note: Falmouth Road Race entries are now available on their website http://www.falmouthroadrace.com/. Steve is already whining about his ankle and how this is going to affect his training for the race. He gave me no sympathy for my sinus infection leading up to last year's race. Expect none from me this year for his ankle. :-) My wife and I are getting a female Havanese puppy next weekend but we are still looking for a name. Please submit a name for the puppy in the comments section. I would love to hear the suggestions. Expect pictures to be posted. )