"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I took a morning off of running with the GRC guys to sleep in...and sleep in I did- to 11:30. I clearly needed it. It was too late for Alex, and he had already left by the time I was ready to go, so I headed out, planning to do at least 16, hoping I was up for 18. It had been quite a while since I had eaten a meal, so I wasn't sure of how I would fare, but I turned out to be just fine.
I left on what I am dubbing the Chesterbrook loop, a more confident permutation of the run up Kirby on which I got lost in January.
My left patella was pained for a bit in the first mile, but by the time I reached the short stretch of the W&OD trail, I was loose and ready to go. I blasted Virginia Lane, just because I always do, and from then on generally pushed the pace. I wasn't timing it exactly, because I left my damned watch at work, but I feel as though I was running 6:30 pace most of the first half, which was mostly downhill until the nine mile mark.
At that point, near the Chain Bridge, I turned and ran up a pretty darn steep hill- 203 feet of climbing in a half mile. The difference between this and my last trip up this hill was that in January, I basically crawled up- this time, my form naturally got as efficient as possible. It happened automatically- my knees lifted the optimal hight, I leaned just enough and my feet climbed the hill faster than I expected- I scaled the hill like a lemur scrambling up a tree. My body just naturally found the most efficient way to move, I liked that. When I got to level ground on Old Glebe, I just started rolling. I mowed down another runner and spit him out. When I hit Chesterbrook, I continued to roll, and appreciated the ease with which I was moving ahead, more than 11 miles into my run. I felt as though I had hacked my way down to 6:00 pace or below, and I wasn't straining to do it. This feeling- motion without effort- the climate - low 40s with intermittent winds, no rain- and the scenery - Virginia light suburban with little traffic- reminded me why I love running.
When I turned onto Westmoreland, I was thrilled to see almost no traffic, so I was able to move onto the actual road and started to feel like I was in a road race. When I passed Haycock Road on Westmoreland, I slowed slightly, and once I hit the end of Lincoln Avenue, I shut things down a little more for my run up Grove and around the Metro loop.
Then I fell asleep watching the Olympic hockey final and woke up eight seconds before the tying goal in the third period.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's all uphill from here

The weekend was pretty productive in terms of getting some work on hills, something I felt was lacking in my routine during my cooldown Wednesday.
Saturday I ran from the GRC store in Chevy Chase with Klim, Murphy, Max, Ernst and Mike. We went about five miles south almost to Dupont, then turned around. I initially wanted to do a five-mile tempo in the middle, but leaving my watch at the office on Friday complicated that. Murphy also wanted to get some up-tempo work in, so we decided to do a shorter tempo on the way back to the store. That, unfortunately, meant spending most of the workout running uphill. I handled the first 5:30 pretty well, then suddenly faded. Once I had some grass to run on, I was able to catch back up. The second interval, at six minutes, was bound to be easier and less uphill, but I still faded at 5:30. The third- three minutes, was bad enough until I let two cars make turns in front of me, effectively seperating myself from Murph and Mike. Even if I wasn't thrilled with how it turned out, I was still glad to get 19 minutes of hard running that I wasn't otherwise planning. I ended up with 75 miles for the week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Favorite Pittsburgh Runs #7

I ran this loop in early April 1998. One Saturday morning, all of the juniors on the track team were taking the SAT, so our road groups were fundamentally shuffled. I wound up with Doug Mitarotona, one of the hardest working all-around people I have yet met. I was a little worried, because without a meet that weekend, Doug was going to want to hammer, because he didn't waste a second that he could be working. We left with a few others in tow, and I asked him where we were going.
"It's a secret," he told me.
I knew I was entering a world of suffering when we ran up the path to Washington Road that I had previously only walked. This guy wasn't messing around! We started running a triple loop, which is hard enough when you aren't being pulled along by an achievement-driven maniac. Down onto Mt. Lebanon Boulevard and up Hoodridge. This lunatic who maintained a hyper-competitive schedule his junior year while playing soccer and running cross country and working part time. Clearly, he was a man who had no need for leisure.
He hammered himself into a top-flight runner his senior year, who outdistanced the first finisher from our arch-rival, North Allegheny's team at the WPIAL championships. I had been spared running with him throughout my first two years until now, and I was about to find out why he improved so quickly.
At some point, Doug decided to try to break me. I, being a precocious youngster of 15, didn't want to relent. I hung on as long as I could, as he took me down hills, seemingly only because we would have to go back up. Up Connor Road, down to the Galleria, then along the path through the park to the bottom of Sunnyhill. I think at this point, the rest of the group was far enough back that we had lost them, but I just kept trying to hang. Finally, I succumbed. I started to slow to a walk, but Doug rejected my surrender. He ran back down the hill and started jogging very slowly.
"Run as slowly as you have to, but don't switch over to walking," he said. "The second you switch, you've broken your stride."
So I started running again. I wish I could say I instantly felt a surge of pride and strength return to my legs. I didn't. It was worse than before. Oh God, why? I crawled along, each step of Sunnyhill getting a little steeper. I wish I could remember the relief I felt when I got to the top of the hill, but I was just too tired at that point. We turned down Beadling and I couldn't even enjoy that, because it felt like my body was still tied up inside. I think at that point I gave up all hopes of feeling good again and just pushed to stay with Doug (#133 at right) as he accelerated up Cedar Boulevard back to the track.
When we got back to school, we checked in with Coach A, who took one look at what remained of me- a sweaty, probably bleeding mess that breathed heavily enough to terrify an infant, he chuckled. He knew the medicine that I took. I don't think he gave a thought to the other runners in our group not making it back. The rest of the day was a blur, but the message stayed in my mind, my quads and my back to this day- If you hammer, you deaden the inconvenient pains that get in the way of seeing what you are truly capable of doing. After this, how could I not be confident enough to take on some of the best runners around?
It took me a few years to put everything together so that I could make the best use of what I learned from Doug that day, but the hammering run remains a staple of my training. I subjected a few underclassmen to it in my last two years at Mt. Lebanon, but it rarely took, even if they made it up Sunnyhill. I think something was lost in the retelling when I took the lesson into my hands. Doug had no such troubles.


Friday's typically an easy day with a shorter run, but today was anything but easy. I tried to run to the Smithsonian metro station to meet Melissa for a trot around the mall, but eastward winds made my progress very slow. It was more like a jog. We didn't last long. I went back to work and pretty much felt like I had suffered a stroke.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Towpath left some encouraging words following my perceived-as-terrible workout that, in that context, weren't very effective, yet when viewed in relation to Thursday's run were quite prescient. He said I had improved since November.
As I have every Thursday for the last two years when I am running a solid mileage, I ran 12 miles, on my Pimmit-Idylwood loop, planning to neither push the pace or take it easy. I wasn't quite sure where the mile markers were, so I took splits at varying points to check later. At the point that I found out to be 3.1 miles in, I was at 18:36. By comparison, at the Candy Cane City 5k in early November, I ran 18:31 for 5k. Thursday, I kept going for nine more miles. So, Towpath was right, I had improved.
Despite having to stop three times at traffic lights for a while, which made me cool down quite a bit, I ran the 12 miles at 6:08 pace. The only times I felt discomfort were about 7.5 miles in, when I climbed a steep hill after standing at the corner of Idylwood and Leesburg Pike for a minute or two, and the last three miles, when my stomach started to act up. Stopping for traffic was a pain, but I really enjoyed rolling on Venice toward the end. I hit 9.75 miles exactly in an hour.
So, I am feeling a bit better about myself after that display.
I could use a swift five-mile tempo on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feels like failure

Ever since my last mile workout more than a month ago, I have been anxious to get back on the track and keep pushing. My previous workout was interrupted by some stomach pains, so I was left with a desire to see where I could go with a longer stretch of mile repeats.
I had my chance tonight, with 5xmile on the schedule at American's track. I finally met the elusive Matias who boasted the impressive (to me) resume of running with Scott Sehon, Greg Costello and Aaron Hanlon at Bucknell. Letting Karl, Jake and Dirk go ahead for their speedy miles, Matias and Andy and I held back and I led miles at 5:14, 5:12 and 5:10, with a 400 m jog between them, which I invariably took too fast. I had planned to run 5:16, 5:12 and 5:08, and admittedly, seeing 5:10 for the third interval was deflating. Matias led the fourth mile, but after 200 meters I was toast- I wasn't breathing quite right. I jogged the rest of the lap and put a long-sleeved shirt on (extra tight) and planned to run a few 5:20s to relax and still get some work in, but judging from my 43 at the 200 mark, I was done.
I keep in mind that I was still cutting time each mile and doing them under control, but regardless, I was awash in frustration and wondered aloud if I would ever break 16:00 for 5k again. I tried to run around a bit while everyone else finished their workouts, but I didn't even want to do that- I felt frail. Things picked up when we went for a cooldown run, but then I was cut from a Russian ballet troupe and sunk into a deep depression.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just 10 miles

Since my plan to double today was quashed by my continuing inability to wake up early, I instead just did 10 miles after work at 6:50 pace, out to Hollywood and back. Boring.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Despite the loss of feeling in my extremities, I still prefer rain to snow

I didn't wake up before work to run, so my hopes of doubling were squashed. Then Melissa canceled our evening trot because it was supposed to rain, so I set out from my office after work to get in 10 miles around the Mall and Hains Point. The drizzle didn't seem so bad as I worked my way counterclockwise around the mall, but once I got to Hains Point, the deluge was constant. I rushed the run, having little shelter from trees, no long pants and no gloves. I had a pretty solid pace for a while until I hit a red light at 14th street and had to wait for a minute to cross. I ended up averaging 6:15 for 10 miles which made sense, given the flat loop and my haste to get in from the rain.
If nothing else, the rain helped expedite the snow melting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Favorite Pittsburgh Runs #8

When I first started working at the Valley News Dispatch in 2006, I tended to run in Schenley Park and then drive out to the office. I didn't think there was any way the Alle-Kiski Valley could be more interesting.
For a while, I was right, but just because I wasn't creative. When I would work evenings, I would have to head out there before rush hour, but I'd wind up with at least 45 minutes extra to kill, so I started running from the office, along First Avenue into Brackenridge and then Harrison, where I discovered the wonder that is Natrona.

Natrona once housed most of the workforce for the Allegheny Ludlum steel mill in adjacent Brackenridge. It had so many Catholics that at least three churches thrived. Now....not so much. Population has plummeted, houses have fallen into disrepair, crime, for a time, ran rampant, though it had since cooled. I knew, despite the slightly lower-quality air around the remaining steel mill, that I wanted to make Natrona the centerpiece of any run I did around the area. For some reason, decay fascinates me, because you never know what is left over. I'd almost rather scavenge the irregular and slightly-singed merchandise at Gabriel Brothers than shop somewhere that I know I can find what I want. In addition to the historical treasures, the spectacle is just as fun. For instance, the photo at left. I befriended three young gents one day in 2007 while writing a story about Natrona. Mike, in the middle, has a Blackberry, despite his employ as a cook at the three friends' barbecue stand. Also, why isn't that guy in the background wearing a shirt?
I start in Natrona Heights at Pennsylvania Avenue and run along Broadview Boulevard to Penn St, down to Vermont and back up to Argonne Drive. The approach to Natrona down Arragone Drive is marvelous. You can see the tightly clustered houses surrounding the ornate church, St Ladislaus.

The route travels several mostly-empty streets that get barely any traffic. Federal Street features several Civil War-era houses, though recent fires have claimed several.
Moving onto Karns Road transitions the run from slum to a more rural, rolling setting. Slum might be harsh, but it's close. Karns Road might be my favorite segment of the run. Each step brings you closer to the northeastern edge of Allegheny County and its nexus with Armstrong County.

The turn up Oak Manor Drive, however, is a quick blow to anyone who wasn't expecting to have to climb back up the hill they descended via Argonne Drive. At the top of Oak Manor, you turn onto Freeport Road, which isn't great for pedestrians, but soon enough you can turn off into neighborhoods in Natrona Heights as you approach Heights Plaza and the end of the run.

The timing of this post happened to coincide with Oscar and Beth Shutt running up Oak Manor Drive today. Wacky!

Remarkably unremarkable long run

After Saturday's overdistance run, I had a bad feeling about 15 miles on the rolling hills of Poolesville, MD, or thereabouts. A stupid reunion with Papa Johns' garlic dipping sauce the night before with dinner made my attempts to sleep well an exercise in frustration. Luckily for me, Dave Burnham picked me up on the way to the run, sparing me an earlier wakeup to ride the metro into town for a carpool.
The grave sensation followed me through the early stretch of the run, two loops based around River Road. I didn't help myself by wearing a long-sleeved shirt over another shirt, but we would be making a trip back to the cars after the first nine miles, so I could drop it off. We eventually picked up the pace, and my spirits lifted. As soon as I knew it, we reached the 12-mile mark and Pat Murphy and I headed back. Jake Marren and Karl kept going, so Dave and I drove by them a few times- Jake was going for 24, and his form remained remarkably composed for having run that much.
Oh, there was a dead goose, too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let's go BACK to the Mall!

My second week of 75 miles went deceptively easy, considering I worked four of the days, whereas I only worked one day of my first 75 mile week. Not that the extra five miles is terribly hard, only about 33 minutes more throughout the week, but the whole effort is worthy of pause. I went to the store looking forward to a nine-mile jaunt through Northwest, but ended up getting much more. We ended up running around the Mall and Hains Point, but despite running some of the same route the day before, it was great to have a big group Saturday morning.
In honor of the Spiders, I wore my Richmond singlet under my t-shirt, but less than a mile into the run realized I had to be more public with my support, so I put it on over my shirt. To note, Matt Llano ran 14:37 to win the 5k with splits of 457, 442, 423, and Tim Quinn nearly PRed with a similar first-mile split. Unreal. Here's an interview with Llano on my coach's blog. To think, Hannay's 15:07 outdoors was noteworthy in 2002... It was also a homage to pretty much every running movie I have ever seen- the athletes seem to train in their uniforms. Why is Mac Wilkins, a thrower, running around campus with his Oregon singlet on in Prefontaine? Karl brought up a good point- it's good marketing for the program. It reminded me that Hampden-Sydney never gave us any paraphernalia with the the team or school name on it. It was just as well, because we were kind of embarrassing and it matched the way the school felt about us. I do have a t-shirt from the Parents and Friends 5k, which was odd to have a shirt for that but not for the team in general.
Karl also gave me another idea- charging to the front at the end of the run, to be the first one back to the store and represent my school well. I was in. What I didn't realize was how far we would end up running.
After a loop around the Mall, we headed down the west side of Hains Point, and kept going to the tip, despite being at 56 minutes at the cross road. For some reason I pushed ahead with Karl, not that it was a problem. The east side was now clear, so we returned up that side, and I kept pushing into the wind. Heading back on Ohio, the pack turned left when I was headed right, so I fell back a little there, but picked up ground. Once we hit the rock creek trails and I made the unfortunate decision to end up running through a lot of snow, I was much farther behind and soon would relent and forget about the finish, until Karl reminded me to go for it. I put on about a mile-long surge to the front, took the long way around an interchange under Whitehurst Parkway and kind of overcompensated for the extra distance. It felt good to be able to put on a burst, no matter how silly, after nearly an hour and a half of running. Jake Klim sprinted to catch up to me and I eased up, but again Karl's encouragement propelled me up the icy steps and across M street to the GRC.
We ended up doing a little over 14, so I would up with 80 miles this week. Oh well.
I'm liking the shorts-worthy weather...
In other news, I am into the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, and I'm pretty pumped about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let's go to the Mall!

After building up a little extra a few days, I was able to cut my run on Friday to seven miles. I did in during my lunch break around the mall and averaged 6:28. It got me thinking about an amusing This American Life that coincidentally, Jake Marren and I referenced the next day while waiting to start and a man with a large beard drove by.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dry roads

Thanks to a lot of sun and a high above 40 during the day, a lot of the ice and snow melted and my 12-mile loop was pretty clear. After my tempo the night before, I had no need to push too hard, but I liked the chance to go out and run without having to worry so much about my footing.
It was 39 degrees when I got home, so I took the opportunity to wear shorts and man, it was worth it. I was pretty tired so the run wasn't a chucklefest, but I menadered between 6:40 and 6:49 pace.
I thought ahead to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, and I'll admit I am getting pretty excited about it. I feel like that could be my optimal distance to race, and the opportunity to try it for the first time on a course I am familiar with is enticing. A favorable baseball schedule this year means the course can return to the north shore. We'll have a lot of flat stretches and get away from that boring out and back on Chateau and Manchester streets that the larger crowd at the race last year necessitated. I have about two and a half months to prepare for it, and given the way I feel right now, I need all of it. I'll have plenty of races along the way at which to evaluate my fitness, chief among them being Cherry Blossom in April. If I can run under 55 there, I'll feel like I'm in pretty good shape. But right now, running 5:40 pace for two three-mile tempos is a long way from 5:30 pace for 10 miles.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Slipping on my hubris

I tried my first track workout in about a month Wednesday night. It wasn't terribly taxing, a seven-mile tempo at the American University track with Jake Marren, but it was significant that I hadn't run anything much faster than six minute pace for a long time, mainly because of the condition of the ground.
The track was mostly clear, by my mind was not when I arrived. I fancied myself a young WASPy Amerigo Vespucci in trying to navigate a shortcut to the American track from the Tenleytown Metro stop. Given my lack of familiarity with the area, this was ill advised. I ended up taking a street I thought to be parallel to Nebraska, which would take me to the east end of the campus, but this proved to be incorrect- the street was actually perpendicular. As I applied my geometry skills practically, I noticed my bag smelled rather sweet. Upon opening one of the end compartments, I found my travel shampoo bottle had opened and deposited its contents into the bag, ruining a plethora of matchboxes I can ganked from the eponymous restaurant the night before and failed to remove. Suffice to say, I was flustered when I finally showed up at the track.
After a warmup when we were joined by Dirk De Heer, Jake and I switched into road flats and started on our run. Most of the track was clear, except for some snow encroaching on the inside lane on one turn. Smatterings of ice decorated the surface, but the beauty of running laps on a track is how quickly you familiarize with the landscape and adapt. We planned to start off slow, but I naturally brought myself to ruin with a 5:31 second mile, after which I lost my composure and tried to recover from a speed I had not approached in a month, with five miles left. Around the second lap, two young man walked out to the track and up into the bleachers and smoked marijuana like cigarettes. I'm not sure why they chose the track for their doobie smoking, nor did it feel like we had spectators for the workout. Dirk had talked about hearing in his head the last song he heard on the radio, but after smelling that cheeba, I kept hearing Rick James' Mary Jane while I ran.
When I realized the remaining miles were destined for disaster, I cut off the tempo at three miles- 16:56- a shade under 5:39 pace. I immediately recovered for a mile and went back into a second three mile interval, hoping to maintain an even 5:40 pace. I did so, with some company from Chuck Kacsur in the second mile. I finished with an 81- the fastest lap of the 24 I ran harder, and ran 16:55, a second faster than the first, fresh interval.
The large piles of snow on the edges of the soccer field gave the track an odd feel, similar to the cinderblock walls on the insides of the turns on indoor tracks. It did not make me wistful for Pitt's indoor track, though.
After my cooldown, I was pretty lightheaded and ravenous. I demolished an apple and wandered to Dirk's car with the other guys. Stopping for snacks, Jake said I looked pretty "sad," mainly because the line at Subway was way too long and I couldn't seem to read the menu.
In one regard, I am disappointed that I let one mile ruin my workout, and that I let that mile happen because of my unbridled enthusiasm. I was feeling great through two miles, but I hadn't been running that fast for a while and my rust caught up with me as I got in over my head. I am happy, however, that I salvaged the workout and managed to run an even-paced second three miles with just a short recovery. It's a little step, and even though my mileage is "up there," for me, I feel like I am behind my usual fitness in Pittsburgh. I haven't done any other tempos and have done limited speedwork, but at the same time I am not racing the Spring Thaw this year, in fact I won't be racing until the Monument Ave 10k in late March, so I need not compare the two schedules. I am also building a sturdier base. Either that, or I'm old, fat and over the hill (See photo, right).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing to read here, folks

I planned to do the same two loops around the Mall that I did Snow Day Saturday for 10.5 miles, but the sidewalk along the reflecting pool and Constitution were ridiculously icy, so I cut that section out of my second loop and did another loop around the capitol reflecting pool for 9.5.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Favorite Defunct Races #4

Panhandle Trail 5k/10k- Yeah, believe it or not I am wistful for a Kevin Smith race. Shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh from Richmond, I was terribly bored and took to exploring new locales around the city and suburbs. I began wandering into the west, and hoped to find a race out there. It just so happened that a 5k/10k double was scheduled for mid-October on the Panhandle Trail, a frequent training ground over the previous few years. I usually started from Walker's Mill, on the eastern end of the trail, and these races started at McDonald, so it was a nice change of scenery.
I convinced my mom to come along, and on the drive to the race I saw something starling - a smoldering hole in the middle of a pedestrian mall in Carnegie. Not just any smoldering hole- the site of the former Red Hots, a wing joint frequented by my high school cross country team. It had recently become Red Onions, and even more recently -- like, a few hours before -- burned down. That's a shame.

The drive to McDonald was scenic and pleasant, and the weather, in the low 50s, was good for a race. The course wasn't a great race course, it's somewhere I'd run for free all the time, but since the fundraiser directly supported trail improvements, it gets a pass.

Unfortunately, my body at the time was not. I didn't warm up terribly well, since I had nine miles of racing ahead of me, and I basically pulled away in the last mile to beat some high school freshman in just over 17 minutes. After a quick jog, I met Hounds Leslie McIntire and Eric Wilkins at the starting line for the 10k, which simply traveled 1.5 miles farther than the 5k out-and-back course.

Warmed up, and more likely frustrated at my middling 5k time, I took the first half of the race out pretty hard, 16:40, a good 30 seconds faster than the shorter event. After hitting the four mile mark in 21:30, I started to tire and told Leslie to go for it. Wilkins finished third and the Hounds swept the race. Not that it was a terribly deep race, but it was just a nice event to have. It was cheap, raised money for the trail, and brought some active people out for a scenic run in autumn. Though Pittsburgh's weather is typically pretty cloudy, I think that city does gray better than any other. I love running in the fall no matter what the climate, even rain, though that least of all. When door prizes remained after the drawing, Smith simply threw the remainders in the air.

That was the last, and as far as I can tell, only, time this race has been run, though the annual Trot for Tots 5k/10k is run on the same or close to the same course.

I did see this notice in the Collier Township bulletin: Watch for a spring “Friends 10K/5K Run on the Panhandle Trail”. Contact Bruce Linner: 412-279-2210, linner4@verizon.net.

So maybe this race isn't defunct after all...

Saying goodbye to the old normal

Tuesday I go back to a regular work schedule, which I haven't had in 12 days. I planned to try to emulate a normal schedule, but once I woke up and saw it was 14 degrees at 7:30, I decided to embrace the freedom that a day off gave me and skip my plans to run from the Line. I slept in until 9:30 and later went off on a 6.1 mile loop, mainly a Pimmit 6, with a few modifications, at about 6:45 pace. More ice, in fact, most of the northward trip through Pimmit Hills was icy.
I took a nap and at 5 went out with Alex for a classic Park 6, though it was a little shorter today, 5.9. Alex said on the way back we were inching close to six minute pace, which I was happy with. Not much ice on that loop, except for the trail and stretch through Falls Church Park.
Back to work tomorrow, but I have 27 miles is so far this week.
No more naps...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday with Ciccone

Matt Ciccone visited and is advancing in his marathon training, so I met up with him for a run Sunday. I started from his girlfriend, Amy's, place in Logan Circle, ran west on P to the Rock Creek Parkway then went an intersection too far, adding an extra .9 onto my run. With almost 6 (at 6:30 pace) in the bag when I picked Matt, who wanted to start his run with a shot of espresso (he trains like an Italian),I figured I would wind up with some extra distance. We planned for 10 miles, which would be his longest run to date, with a loop from Amy's to Hains Point and back. We headed down the west side, and upon reaching the end, we saw the road was not plowed. We turned around and headed back and only wound up getting him a little more than 9.1, but it was okay because his run scheduled for the week before was supposed to be 9 miles but he kind of fell apart at 7 and didn't finish, so, baby steps...
We grabbed some chocolate milk, met up with Amy and had brunch at First Farmers, which was a wonderful experience all around. I had fried chicken, eggs and waffles, exactly the combination I craved when we were running into the wind north on Hains Point. We averaged 8:50 the time I ran with him, and he seemed pretty happy. Considering all the ice we dealt with on the way to Ohio St, it was good. Obviously 26 miles is different than a mostly flat 9, but I have confidence in him. He is a devotee of road biking for exercise, so he has a fitness base, and he's an athletic fellow. Of course, biking and running are different, as illustrated in this video:

That video is compliments of Pat McGuire, Ragged Mountain Running, Charlottesville, Va.

Anyway, I wound up with just over 15, and with another week at 75 on the schedule, it has given me a good head start on the week- certainly better than the 12 I ran last week and gave up simply because I was so tired after running through the snow. Only four days of work, and I am definitely trying to get some morning runs in, if only three or four miles.
My left IT band was a little tight, but it eased up once I slowed down with Matt. My right hip was sore after we finished, but I attributed that to a lot of awkward running on the ice. Most of my slight maladies have fixed themselves within a day or so, and I feel pretty good. I just want to get back to running fast and confidently on dry ground. This ice, though I haven't fallen, remains a deterrent.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

75 and feeling alive or something stupid along those lines

I ran a lot later than I had planned. Coming home from Patrick Murphy's excellent Olympic opening ceremonies party, I missed an orange line train by about 15 seconds. Luckily it wasn't the last train of the night, but I still had to wait 18 minutes for one. Once on the train, we got to Metro Center and proceeded to sit there for about 28 minutes, so the other last trains of the night could converge. I appreciated the forethought, but seeing as how I was exhausted from jerking my sleeping schedule out of whack for one day of work that week, I got a little irate, though I kept it to myself. Then a middle aged gentleman who wreaked of cigarettes sat next to me. Just splendid. Anyway, by the time I got home- 1:15, I had a feeling waking up for the Haiti charity run in Chevy Chase was unlikely. When I woke up at 7:45 and knew it was decision time, I was positive. I slept until 11:30, then just kind of lied around for a few more hours, had some food, and finally got going around 5. The Presidents' Loop, named for the several streets named after American presidents, was an icy mess in several places and and snowy where it wasn't icy, so what was a good pace was frequently interrupted by having to jog to enhance safety. I ended up running 6:30 for 9.8 miles, so it wasn't too bad, but I was hoping for something a little closer to 6:00 pace. Granted, I slowed down considerably in the hazardous stretches so I very well may have managed close to six minutes the rest of the time. Anyway, I made it to 75 miles this week, mostly on top of and through snow and ice, so I am pretty happy. I just can't wait to train on solid ground consistently.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to work

The federal government finally reopened and with it, my office, which follows the feds. We ended up getting a two-hour delay Friday, which is just as well because in addition to dealing with waking up three hours earlier than I had been, I had to run to an underground metro station, deal with various delays once I got on a train, buy a towel and shampoo at Bed, Bath and Beyond's "beyond" section and shower before I started work. I am not good at morning runs at this point. Every Saturday morning run has pretty much been a disaster, so I have to start working on that. today's was no different. I managed 6:30 pace for most of the eight miles to the Rosslyn station, but I felt awful. Maybe it is all the training- I'm up to 75 miles this week. I generally feel really good but I am just trashed today. It's probably the lack of sleep, which sounds dubious, given my surperfluous napping this week, but I kind of got my days and nights mixed up. Oh well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day 4

Relatively boring. I ran 6:40 pace for 5.5 out and back on Park and Columbia in the morning, took a three hour nap then ran a 5.7 mile loop with Alex in the evening. It was mostly on dry roads, and after being cautious all week with my footing I was excited to let loose and Alex was kind enough to indulge me. I had a great time climbing some hills and forgot I was surrounded by snow, until I crossed the bridge over I-66 and stepped in a pothole full of water. That shook me out of my pleasant cocoon and reminded me, rather violently, that I was running part of my first 75 mile week in almost six months. Then I got really tired. Then a guy forced me into a snowbank with his car, so I punched the rear window. A few seconds later, he emerged from his car to chase me. For a few seconds, I sped up, wondering if I could keep him out of his car long enough for the light to turn green and for him to mess up the flow of traffic. Then I decided to have some fun, and abruptly turned around and ran right at him. That changed his attitude, and we both went back on our ways. Luckily for me, he didn't know I have never been in a fight.

Favorite Defunct Races #5

McCandless Rotary 5k This race made me enjoy road racing. After having a thorough beating the week before at Brentwood in 2000, I was understandably concerned that running in college was not a wise idea. Before giving up, I figured it was worthwhile to take a shot at another race, one that was a little less competitive on the high end, with less pressure. I found the McCandless Rotary 5k on the Runners High Web site and made a trip to Wexford to run it. I wore my blue West Penn Relays t-shirt from 1997, the asics blue and yellow harrier flats and a gigantic pair of white shorts I had wound up with after gym in high school. I looked like, as a former Richmond coach would put it, like some "goon from the dorms."

Knowing the race was a lot less competitive than Brentwood, I had no fear hanging with the lead group. I wasn't sure if perhaps I could break any of these guys, and I certainly didn't have the confidence from my short road racing experience to try. I just kind of ran along with them until I tired out at 2.5 miles. Then I lagged around in no-man's land until Matt Manfred, a Hampton alumnus, caught up with me and I outkicked him to the finish, winning my age group for the first time.

It wasn't a terribly interesting course- around a movie theater parking lot, then a short loop on Ingomar Road, run twice. It was flat, pleasant and low key enough for me to get excited about racing again. The weather was mild, despite the mid-July timing. I ran it again in 2001, but in 2002 it was off the schedule, replaced, I assume, by the North Allegheny 5k XC race. I couldn't justify helping those clowns.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day 3

After two days of doubles, I held out for one run today- a fartlek in the Metro parking garage. Alex and I went over there are around 7 and planned to do 10 x 3 minutes hard, but upon arriving, we saw the savage winds had turned what should have been a clear 1200 meters or so of dry land into an inch or so of snow with ice here and there. We scrapped the workout and just took care of some distance going and up and down the garage, noticing each time we passed that the wind had caused our footprints to fill with snow, rendering our previous trips a less-empirical memory. After a few miles of that, we hit the road for a loop in the snow, only passing a few cars but not really facing awful headwinds until the last stretch. I guessed it at 9.5, Alex told me later it was 9.55. I guess I'm not as bad at estimation as I thought.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day 2

More of the same, two runs, the same loop, no more fulfilling than before. In the morning, I tried to do a multiple loop of Park- two laps through the trail, but after one, I was tired enough of running through the snow that I just ran back and forth on Columbia, and wound up doing eight miles.

After doing some work, I went back out around 9 or so and ran out to Van Buren on Columbia and back for five.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day 1

Upon hearing Sunday night that I would not have work Monday, I decided to sleep without an alarm, which was marvelous. I woke up, alerted Alex and we went out on a six-mile Park loop. It was mostly clear, except for the uphill on Mt. Daniel Road and the obvious trail section in Falls Church Park. I was so happy to be on solid ground that I ran a little faster than I should have if I wanted to truly run with Alex, so I felt a bit dickish, but it was hard to bridle my enthusiasm for being able to touch the ground.
I had some pancakes and cream of wheat and took a nap, then went out planning for another 6, but found Pinecastle hopelessly snowy and after one loop headed back and ran around the plowed but vacant road from the metro station to route 7. I did happen to run into a block of ice sticking out of the snow and bruise my shin miserably, but I cut the run at about 5.5 miles.
I liked the double, but I wish I had kept going in the morning, maybe eight miles. The poor conditions in the afternoon were a real pisser.
Another snow day tomorrow- I'm shooting for six more in the morning, probably another loop on Park- because it's reliable- and then a fartlek in the metro parking garage, though now that above-ground service is back there might be cars in there. With the federal government shut down again, maybe it will be relatively empty... Yeah, this will be a disaster...

Sunday, February 7, 2010


After a day or so, I began to tire of the snow, mostly because I continued to be "stranded" in the city because the Metro wasn't working above ground and I hadn't been home for a while. I spent Saturday night at Sarah and Melissa's, after going to a party for Sarah's coworker and to Bohemian Caverns. I don't care much for dancing, and after my run in the snow, I tired out pretty quickly. Also, the amount of physical contact in that club, though some people may welcome it, wore on me very quickly. I fell asleep watching highlights and lowlights from the past two Super Bowls, the exhilarating Steelers win last year and the gutwrenching Patriots loss in 2008. Melissa's boyfriend wandered by on his way to church in the morning and I tried to say hi, but my words weren't working. When I woke up and everyone came downstairs, we enjoyed a few hours of laziness and tricks from Melissa's cat Shira before I decided it was time to go home.

Rather than take the Metro to Ballston and finish the journey on foot, I chose to run the route between my office and home that I frequently planned to run in better conditions. As I left, I started to feel a weird pain in my left hip, but after shortening my stride and running on as much cleared sidewalk as I could find, I wamred it up and it was fine.
When I reached Rosslyn, I debated between running on the cleared roads of Route 29 or braving the off-road Custis trail. Still wearing the sweatpants Rob lent me, I found Route 29 too slushy to bear, given the cotton. I opted for the trail and started one of the hardest portions of a run. Over the next 5.5 miles, which took me about an hour, I struggled through two feet of snow. Some parts were driven by walkers and skiers, but none were packed down enough to support 170 pounds coming down one foot at a time, so every step meant plummeting about a foot down into the snow. I came across a few people on the trail, but most of the time was faced with a lot of snow- white almost everywhere I looked. For the most part, I looked down to try to find the best path, but around an hour in, I began climbing a long hill into the gradually setting sun. It was a transfixing experience, and I started to drift away from the conscious act of running and exist more in the state of movement and survival. I was getting tired from the aggregate vertical motion I was putting into my form to step over the snow, and I was hungry. I just wanted to end the run. More than four miles into the trail, when I turned onto the W&OD trail, I began to wander off the trail, instinctively looking for some plowed residential streets so I could have some traction and resume my normal form. I found a street but it was worse off than the trail and I started to run aground emotionally. I realized I had no idea how the streets connected in that part of Arlington, so I got back on the trail and continued on my way. I thought more about how much easier and more fun running will be when the streets are clear, and I stopped minding. I also knew I was close to the end.
When I reached eastern Falls Church, I scrapped the rest of the route on the trail and found the second half of the Park loop plowed. Overjoyed, I picked up speed, making the slogging on the trail that much more dramatically slow. I felt pretty good at that point, and had time not been running out until the Super Bowl started, I would have extended the 12.25 mile run to hit 15 and do a true long run. As I saw my stopwatch inch closer to two hours, I realized I had probably put my body through enough, and that running more after I was exhausted was an invitation for injury and burnout, I decided to finish up when I got home. I stopped at a 7-11 to buy chocolate milk and reached home, my shoelaces too frozen to untie and extract my keys.
The game ended up being a good one, with the game turning on the Saints outplaying Peyton Manning, which I enjoyed. Alex had cooked red beans and rice, which instantly warmed my stomach. The shower, my first with warm water since Friday, felt amazing, and I guzzled the chocolate milk with flourish. The federal government is closed on Monday, which means my office is too. I shall sleep without an alarm and run twice, planning for some sore hips when I wake up. With 75 miles on the schedule for this week, I am starting at a deficit because I planned for 15 on Sunday, but with 12.25 already and 12 in two runs on Monday, I'll be able to average 10 most of the rest of the week. I am mentally enjoying the longer runs, so I don't worry about burnout at this point. In fact, I am looking forward to being able to explore more when my runs are longer and the sun is out later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It has been brought

Well, how about that snow? Comparatively, my part of northern Virginia and DC didn't get as much over Friday night and Saturday, just about 16 and 17 inches, respectively. Some parts of Maryland toward Baltimore had 30 inches. Anyway...
My friends Mary and Rob persuaded me to come to a party in Clarendon Friday night, with the promise of a place to stay that night when the metro stopped operating above ground. I don't know why I didn't pack running clothes with me when I left, but I didn't. In the morning, the reality of having to somehow get in 10 miles struck. Luckily, Rob lent me sweatpants and a shirt, and I remembered I had a pair of shoes in my office. As it turns out, I also had a short sleeved shirt. I bought some cheap shorts and socks at City Sports and walked to north Capitol Hill and got into my office, then ran two loops around the Mall for 10.5 miles at 7:20 pace. I stuck to the quasi-plowed streets, and while running along Constitution caught up to and passed a group of five plows. When I finished and got back to the office, the showers in the gym did not manage to produce any hot water, which was a problem.
Despite the lengths I took to run, it never seemed silly to me to spend my time like that. In following through, I had my first 70 mile week since August, and I am pretty happy to be back there. I'm feeling fitter and if I keep adapting to the workload, I can see myself making some big gains.
I'll get a taste of 75 miles next week before I come back down to 70, though it's going to be hard to get 15 tomorrow, what, with all of this snow all over the place...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bring it on

I'm fine with the snow now. I'm up for the challenge and relish the chance to get tougher in awful running conditions.
The federal government let employees out at 1, so my office followed suit and I welcomed the chance to go home and have a mid-afternoon nap. It turned out to last 3.5 hours and I had an eerily prescient dream about trying to get home from somewhere far away, perhaps Prince George's County.
I woke up and ran another Park 6, returning Extract to the Giant. Decent enough movie, but not great. The snow, which had been falling for about 6 hours by the time I started out at 7:30, was pretty significant, and I only passed a few cars. Park St was pretty clear, as were the back roads I hit.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Putting my foot down, on my ears

I've started getting weak, and I became the kind of runner I always abhorred. I have been listening to music and podcasts too much, and it's starting to affect my preparation. This was evident to me on Sunday, when I was alone for the last three miles in Rock Creek Park and I started to lose my focus. I couldn't handle three miles without getting bored? Come on!

So I have instituted a new rule- no mp3 player (I never use an iPod) for runs longer than five miles. I don't really do many five mile runs yet, but when my mileage starts getting up there and I do morning runs, I might need it then, just because I don't wake up well and will need someone, like the hosts of Morning Edition, to talk me through it.

I started listening to an mp3 player when I resumed running in October and I was struggling aerobically to even keep the pace up and I needed something to distract me from the frustration. I just kind of kept them on as I adjusted to the workload and grew dependent on them. I don't want that anymore. I used to be great on my own because I tempered my mental fitness with long, cold, snowy runs in 2007. I was probably better running on my own than I was in a crowd.
Sure it will be boring, but I didn't think so when I would run in Pittsburgh. I remember, often coming down long hills, just opening my eyes as wide as I could to aid getting the full sensory experience wherever I was running. I got more out of each run than just a workout, and I wouldn't mind doing that again.

As for Thursday, I ran 6:30 pace around the Mall and Hains Point for 9.75 miles.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I finished revising the Pimmit-Idylwood loop and am pretty pleased with it. Alex joined me for the first 5 or so, and we took it pretty easy because he had done a pretty hard bike trainer ride earlier in the day, but once we parted I pushed a litle bit more for the rest. A few stretches remained snowy and icy, but for the most part the roads were clear and I built up some speed. I didn't take intermediate splits, so I am not sure how slowly we started, but I averaged 6:40 for the 11.6 or so.

Running Pseudonyms

Part of my slow comeback has to involve racing, either as an honest indicator of my fitness or because of peer pressure. More often, the latter. I don't bandit, though. Only scumbags bandit. Some runners might want to disguise their identities out of concern for their egos- they don't want their names attached to substandard times. Although I give that as the typical excuse if I don't want to explain my more twisted motivations, this gradual fitness buildup gives me an opportunity to give fictitious runners who already exist a chance to run. It's good for a laugh, and to pay homage to

Candy Cane City 5k
Aaron Gemmill
Erin Gemmill is one of my best friends with whom I commiserate daily about our fading speed and expanding BMI. In 2008 she had an unfortunate haircut that rendered her looking like a boy. Also, her voice has a low tambre that sounds like Barry White. I frequently call her "sir." At times, I came across a guy's name in race results, Eric Gemmill, which I thought was funny. Then I realized Aaron Gemmill was so obvious I had to go with it.

YMCA Turkey Trot 5k
Steve Keck
Steve Strelick is my training partner in Pittsburgh who, despite marrying his wife, Christina Keck, twice (long story), she has refused to take his last name. She has registered with teh last names Keck, Keck-Strelick, and Strelick, but legally remains Keck. When Steve went to have his hair cut, Christina made the appointment for him, and the barber (or stylist, I know how much attention Steve likes to give his hair) assumed they shared a last name. At the Turkey Trot, they did...

Gutbuster 4 Mile
Gary Kline (seen below with Michelle Corkum)
Steve Garand joined the Hounds in 2007, eager to find a competitive team with which he could improve. His quirky personality made him a lot of friends, but his secondary e-mail address made him a legend.
I got an e-mail from him one day, but the "From" section said "Gary Kline." No idea.... anyway, I asked him, and this was his response:

"That is my buy stuff with and expect spam account. I try to make it as untraceable as I can. I didn't realize the bogus name shows up in e-mail sent to others."

Ryan Jobes 5k
Eli Shaub
Lauren Elizabeth Shaub registered for the Pittsburgh Great Race under her full name. In the results, her middle name was truncated, so she appeared as "Lauren Eli Shaub." I thought that was hilarious. She did for a while, too.
She doesn't seem to think it's too funny now. That's why there's no photo.
I was fourth, so this actually wound up in a newspaper article.

Names for the future: Michael Conteam = Michelle Corkum (From the Brookline Breeze)
Brandon Gillyhans = Brandon Gillingham(From the BLAZIN 5k)
Charlie Sullivan = Andrew Sutherland (From Hack totally messing up his Carnegie Mellon Invitational entry in 2006)

Also, at the 2007 Steelers 5k, despite registering electronically, I was called "Charlie Banyas," most likely because there were two other runners named Banyas and the clerk just messed up.

Who knows where these runners will show up...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Ran 6 miles on the Park loop, stopping at Giant to return a video. about 6:40 pace.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Surprise! You ran kind of fast!

I planned to run a 10 mile progression to bounce back from the last few miles of the long run.
I was amending a Woodley 8 to become a Woodley 10, but somewhere in the presdiential streets, I lost my way. I wound up on Arlington Highway and had to adjust. I noticed my right quad was rather sore, and I was pretty bummed to find most of the roads still slippery with loose snow. This is where I ended up going.
When I calculated my pace for the run, it turned out I wasn't as slow as I expected- rather, I ran 6:30 pace for 11.2. Not bad, even though it wasn't what I had planned.