Evolution

January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

I try not to view a new year as a new beginning, because I don’t quite believe in new beginnings.  Well, I believe in them in the sense that every moment is a new beginning.  Still, it is difficult to not pour over the past and look toward a positive future when January 1st rolls around.

This past year has been rather chaotic for me.  In many ways it has perhaps been one of the best ever.  I am in the best shape of my entire life and with that I also look better than ever, I actually made some great friends, I ran more miles than I ever though were possible and ended my first year of races by completing a full marathon, and so on.  However, I guess that is what has made it so odd.  I am not accustomed to social interaction, to getting attention from guys I actually want attention from, to having such big goals and desires.  This all leads to a lot of frustration.  All of these feelings come up and I don’t know what to do with them.  All of these situations come up and I don’t know how to react to them.  In many ways I am just lost.

But I also know that there is nothing to search for, because I also don’t really believe in “finding yourself”.  I guess I just want to keep trying to stay on a path of self-discovery and keep up the attempt to regain normalcy.  The problem with that is that things in my life, at least as an adult, have never really been normal.  And I know many will claim that there is no “normal”, but eh.  Basically, I am just striving for the opposite of insane chaos.

Balance is key for me right now.  As is focus.  I know I need to be far more proactive in creating change in my life.  Nothing external can do that for me and I truly believe that the only way to create change is from within.  Being said, that is of course a daily struggle.  Fear is still a big factor for me, as is anxiety.  I lost so much of my life in my 20’s that I have entered my 30’s feeling like I am just not on the same level as all of my peers.  Sure I have life experiences, but they are vastly different from the life experiences of the majority.   Instead of spending my 20’s trying to build a career, dating, having sex, making friends, and so on I spend them wishing I were dead.  Not exactly something that is a great conversation starter or something that makes me relatable to a majority of others.  And while I have done a good job in shedding many of the past insecurities that held me down, this has become the main insecurity of my present.

So while I have many health, fitness, social, and emotional goals for 2013, my main goal is to just evolve.  I hope that this year will be far better than the last.  That some of the pieces will finally start coming together.  That I can finally balance all of my needs, and wants, and desires.  In the end I just want to keep striving to be my best self.

And yes one of my goals is to post here more (and perhaps actually use this space to connect rather than just talk to myself), but of course it took me until January 16th to even publish my first post of the year (though I started it on January 4th, so that is…something).  And I’m still uncertain of what to even do with this space.  Oh well.  I’ll keep trying…

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2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, I certainly let this blogging thing fall to the wayside (shocker).  But on Sunday November 18th I ran (well, mostly ran) in the 19th annual Philadelphia Marathon and would feel terrible if I didn’t write a race recap to at least have some sort of document of the day.

As noted here, I had been training for this race since the summer – sort of.  Life and admittedly poor prioritizing got in the way a bit toward the end and my mileage in the last several weeks were nowhere near what they should have been.  Therefore I wasn’t nearly as excited for the marathon as I had thought I would be, in fact I was somewhat dreading it.  While I was confident I could finish the race based on my 20-miler I had fears that it wouldn’t be so pretty.

But marathon weekend came. I attended the expo on Friday and of course I suddenly got into the spirit of things again!  I was going to be a marathoner!  I had a bib with my name on it and all!   This was really happening!

Sunday morning I woke up on the early side, had a lunch of some Van’s waffles, blueberry syrup, and a banana since that was about all I could scrounge up at home that would be ok for my stomach (the bread I had planned on eating had spots of mold, which gives you a small glimpse of my lack of preparation), got myself ready, and took the trolley down near the start.  It was neat to see other runners walking down there before dawn in the cold.  Gave me a chance to think about how crazy (in a good way) we all are.  I checked my bag and made my way into the porta potty line, where I stood until after the race actually started.  While this made me a bit anxious, I knew I was ok since my corral would have some time before it was sent off.

My A goal when I initially signed up was to come in under 4:45 and my B goal was to come in under 5 hours.  But as time went by I was becoming a faster and more efficient runner and my times for previous races/runs and my slight obsession with the McMillan Running Calculator indicated that a sub 4:30 marathon was a total possibility.  Of course the McMillan Calculator works on the notion that you do all of the training in a best case scenario.  While deep down I knew that a sub 4:30 was unlikely, I still wanted it.  So I started off with that in mind.  Probably not the greatest idea.

Miles 1-7: These were pretty great.  I was excited, keeping my pace, and crowd support is great during these miles.  You basically run into Old City, down into a bit of South Philly (didn’t realize we’d be so close to Beer Heaven at mile 3!) and then back west through parts of South Street and Chestnut Street.  I saw my friend Jenn around mile 6 which was a pleasant surprise during such a big race.

Miles 8-13: I had to pee urgently so I stopped at a porta-potty somewhere during mile 8, which takes you into West Philly.  Took forever.  Next time I’m just going to be more brazen because I lost at least 4 minutes there and thus it seemed like I was now a bit off the 4:30 pace.  I actually saw the 4:30 pace team a few feet ahead of me when I began running again, but I had no idea if their start time was before or after mine.  I had hoped maybe I could pick some of that up, but it never happened.  I enjoyed running these miles because I was still feeling rather strong, though my legs were honestly already starting to show a bit of fatigue.  Around mile 10 there is a hill in the otherwise fairly flat course, though it really didn’t bother me much.  I just slowed down slightly and it was fine.  I also must admit that I didn’t even know this hill was there until about a week before the race.  I saw another friend Greg around this time, which again was nice.  The Philadelphia Marathon has a half marathon component which mentally can be a good or bad thing if you are running the full marathon.  Since I knew this wouldn’t be my greatest effort I had initially feared that the split where the half marathoners were sent off would mess with my head.  I had figured that a big part of me would have wished I were headed their way.  However, my viewpoint totally changed during the marathon, possibly because it was my first, and suddenly I was excited to split.  “This is where the real race begins” I thought to myself.  When we split near the Philadelphia Museum of Art there were many cheers as it was now a course full of marathoners and there is a certain camaraderie to be had there.

Miles 14-16: I was feeling better than I had anticipated, though my legs were definitely fading.  My pace wasn’t too horrible, but a sub 4:30 was not in sight at this point.  A sub 4:45 or even something in the 4:30’s still was however and I felt ok with that.  I made another porta-potty as my stomach was rumbling and to be honest I’m not sure if I 100% needed this one or not.  My stomach kept rumbling on and off and everything is such a blur at this point.  I think I might have been more afraid to risk it than anything.  But again I lost about 4 minutes.  However, part of me relished the break instead of being angered over it like I was during mile 8.

Mile 17: This is THE WORST PART OF THE COURSE.  Ok, I obviously figured I knew the entire course being that I live here and therefore run here so I didn’t really analyze the course map much.  I knew that we went up Kelly Drive and into Manayunk, which I was looking forward to due to what I have heard about the crowds up there.  What I did not realize was that we do a goofy out-and-back loop down Falls Bridge and part of West River Drive before heading into Manayunk.  For some reason I thought we just ran past the bridge.  So initially I was confused, but figured it was just out over the bridge and back.  When I realized we had to go out down West River Drive I was all up in my head.  This really affected me mentally.   I had no idea where the turn-around was.  I knew it couldn’t be far, but I hated not knowing.  I was so angry at whoever designed this course.  This was really the last thing I needed while struggling.

Miles 18-21: These are mostly in Manayunk, which is rather good in terms of support.  And I have actually never been to Manayunk before so the scenery was brand new.  At this point in my life there are few parts of Philadelphia I have not seen already, even a few of the worst.  I knew my friend Dev would be up here handing out small cups of beer, as is apparently tradition, so I also looked forward to seeing at least one familiar face.  The beer stops (which are of course unofficial and illegal) are at miles 18 and 21 which are across from each other and Dev was at 21 which is the one I wanted to stop at anyway.  At the turn around during mile 20 there was a man with the best smelling brownies who I wanted to stab because there is no way my stomach could have handled that.  I got to mile 21, got my beer and a few words of encouragement, took a couple sips, and ran off into the homestretch down Kelly Drive again.

Miles 22-24:  These were brutal.  I tried hard to keep telling myself that I was almost there, but really I was just in a horrible mood.  My legs hurt, I was not going to get a time anywhere near the 4:30’s, and thus just felt like I let myself down.  I hated myself for not making race training a priority.  I wanted a great first marathon experience and this was just not it.  I saw my friend Jenn again somewhere along here and she was struggling but determined as well.  We parted ways after a little bit and I sort of did a walk/run to the end (I walked some in Manayunk too).  None of my walking periods were long at all because stopping to walk and then trying to run was painful just too painful for me.  So basically, I think I waddled my way to the finish area.

Miles 25-26.2:  Once I finally hit mile 25 (that marker seemed to take FOREVER to come) I tried to pull it together, though I think this was actually my slowest mile excluding the miles where I stopped for the porta-potties.  As I mentioned earlier the Philadelphia Marathon issues personalized race bibs and I couldn’t appreciate them more for doing this than during the last mile.  Crowds of course finally start to pick up again and random strangers will start cheering for all of the marathoners by name.  This definitely raised my spirits somewhat and made me feel a bit less disappointed in myself.  While approaching the finish line I saw my friend Jess cheering for me, which was a great surprise.  As we crossed the announcer called out our names and I got my first ever space blanket!  Also, to my surprise my sister was to the side right after I crossed.  It turns out she went all the way up into Manayunk to surprise me and must have been right past the beer stop at mile 21.  Since I didn’t know to look for her I didn’t see her.  Admittedly I’m not the most observant runner, but yeah.  My final time was 4:47:39 which gave my an average pace of just under 11 minutes.

I didn’t really feel much emotion after the race.  I was happy to be done running, but that is about it.  In retrospect I wish I weren’t so hard in myself and actually spent some time in the moment.  But the finish didn’t feel triumphant.  Instead I just felt lucky to have made it through.  I am not even sure that I fully comprehend the fact that I ran 26.2 miles over a week later.  I was so down about not following my training plan well enough that I didn’t really care about much else.  I read an article recently that said training for a marathon was the real accomplishment, not simply finishing one, and I hate that I let myself down in that area.  I know the experience would have been much more enjoyable had I been better trained.   Lesson obviously learned.

Afterward I eventually made my way to Johnny Brenda’s for some brunch and drinks with some friends who were a mix of both participants and spectators.  It was a great time and I started feeling a bit better about things.  After a couple of hours there a few of us headed over to Fette Sau for another drink and a bit more food.  I mean why not?  Even though I wasn’t all that hungry I figured I might as well get as much in as I could while it was acceptable.  Though really I’m not even sure I even consumed close to the calories I burned.   I saved that for the next day (hello Federal Donuts!).

I felt sore after the race, but after a day I was pretty much back to normal.  Or at least close to it.  I still have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have before, but I am surprised that my body actually recovered as well as it did considering how inactive I felt I was the month before.

So now that I have my first marathon experience behind me, I get to decide what to do next.  I am 95% sure I am going to sign up for the 2013 Key Bank Vermont City Marathon before the year is over.  I absolutely love Vermont and have had my sights set on this being my spring marathon for 2013 not long after I began training for Philly and read about the race (representatives were also at the Philly Expo).  This would mean that training for marathon #2 begins in the second-to-last week in January with the marathon taking place Memorial Day Weekend in Burlington.  I am very determined to make this marathon experience enjoyable and I would also love to get that sub 4:30 marathon while doing so.  I am also determined to actually document the process and everything else along the way.  Stay tuned…

Dogfish Dash 10K Race Recap

October 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

On September 30th I participated in the Dogfish Dash 10K held at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware (and I am just recapping it now because I am a very lazy blogger).  I signed up for this race, which sold out in a few short hours, back in April not really having any plans on how I would actually get down there or anything because I just selfishly really wanted to run it.  It seemed like the ultimate combination of beer and running, at least within my local area.  This race also has a 5K option for anyone interested in years to come. By the time September came I was very excited for it, especially since it would break up my marathon training for a more ‘fun’ race.  When I signed up I had no intention of doing a full marathon this fall so it is interesting to see how far my running has come.  On Saturday I headed down to Rehoboth Beach, DE where the Dogfish Head Brewpub is located and where the race packet pickup took place.

Oddly, it was my first time visiting Rehoboth Beach and it is definitely a great beach town!  Reminds me of Ocean City, NJ but with the huge added plus of having bars and actual adult things to do.  It was also my only trip to the beach this year (well aside from Puerto Rico in April).  Nice way to close out September.  The Dogfish Head Brewpub is right off the boardwalk and wait for a table actually wasn’t too bad, about 40 minutes.  I made sure to try to the two brewpub exclusive beers available, Wet Hop American Summer which is a wet hopped dark wheat ale and Beard de Garde which is, you guessed it, a biére de garde (made to honor James Beard apparently).  I also had a bit of Bitches Brew because why not?  The food was good classic pub fare with a bit of a twist.  Highly enjoyable, but if this race were any more than a 10K I don’t think it would have been wise to have eaten anything I ordered less than 24 hours beforehand.  Fries, fried pickles, short ribs, bread pudding, cheesecake, and who knows what else from other plates.  Looking back it is a miracle I made it 6.2 miles.  One thing I loved about the menu at Dogfish Head is that many of the items are made with their beers.  Makes sense of course, but still fun to try as I enjoy cooking with beer.

Anyway, after the meal I headed to the hotel and I believe I was actually asleep by 10PM.  Never happens, but felt good.  In the morning we drove to Milton, DE where the actual Dogfish Head Brewery is located.  The 10K race was two loops through what is probably the majority of Milton.  Cute town, but made me realize how much of a city runner I really am.  The first mile was of course very congested and we also had to cross a small, narrow wooden bridge which put a halt on things rather quickly.  After that however it was pretty smooth sailing.  I did get envious of the 5K runners when they were sent in the direction of the brewery.  Mostly because they would be getting beer sooner than I would.  I have never actually run a 10K race so as mentioned in an earlier post my only goal was to finish under 60 minutes.  I am very pleased to say that I finished in 56:39!  Imagine how I would have done if I didn’t insist on fried pickles, cheesecake, and Bitches Brew the night before (probably the same).

Very excited to be firmly middle of the pack.  Feels nice to feel like I’m actually ‘racing’ since when it comes down to it, I’m oddly competitive.  This tends to mean that if I am not super good at something I won’t do it at all, which is of course not a great attitude to have.  Obviously I am not a competitive runner and like with most runners the competitive joy I find in racing is improving on myself.  However it is nice to see that with consistency I have come so far in such a short time.

After the race I enjoyed some 60 Minute IPA and Shelter Pale Ale on the grounds of the brewery and took an abbreviated tour of the inside.  Any day when you have 3 beers before noon has to be a good one, right?  This race is great fun if you are a beer lover and Southern Delaware is quite nice this time of year as well.  I definitely plan on registering for this race in 2013!

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #9

September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Weekly recap of activity:

  • Monday – None
  • Tuesday – None
  • Wednesday – 3 mile run
  • Thursday – 7 mile run
  • Friday – None
  • Saturday – None
  • Sunday – 10 mile run

So this is obviously one of the least active weeks I have had in a while.  No yoga at all and I skipped a 4 mile run.  In part I think it was a bit difficult to motivate myself after last Sunday’s half-marathon, though it was also a super busy week for me.  I had to be in New Jersey on Friday and Saturday to prepare for and attend the bridal shower of my brother’s fiancée, Nicole.  Here I was asked questions like “How long is a marathon?” more times than you can imagine.  I guess I should not assume this is common knowledge.

I was glad that this week’s long run was only 10 miles (so weird to use the word ‘only’ followed by ’10 miles’).  I had an event to attend on Sunday so I decided to run down to Kelly Drive to eliminate the time it would take to get public transportation.  I left around 7:30AM and I felt horrible during the first couple of miles.  I really was questioning how far I would even make it.  My shorter 3 mile and 7 mile runs earlier in the week felt great, so this was rather upsetting.  However, once I got onto the loop I was feeling pretty good.  I decided to just go out as far as I needed to and back on the loop vs. going out and back and then running home to complete the run.  For some reason running home as part of the run made it seem far less appealing mentally.  My stomach was really bothering me about halfway through and this had to be because of how poorly I ate and hydrated while I was in New Jersey.  I luckily did not have this issue during the half marathon, but of course I treated my body far better the week before.  I stopped at mile when I had the chance 7 and felt fine after that.  So in the end the run was a pretty good one.   I clocked in at 1:39:12 including the times I had to stop for lights/cars on the way there and back and the bathroom stop.  My pace was pretty even as well.  It has been a lot of fun to see myself become a better runner throughout all of this training.  Makes me excited for what is yet to come!

Plans for this week include a long run of 15 miles on Friday and the Dogfish Dash 10K at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE on Sunday.  I am super excited for the Dogfish Dash for the obvious beer-related reasons, but it will also be my first official 10K so I am eager to see how I will do.  My goal is just to finish under 60 minutes.  Then of course I’d like to drink some 60 Minute IPA…or whatever I can get my hands on.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Recap

September 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

On Sunday I ran in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.  This was my first half marathon race and I am very pleased with my run and the overall experience!

I woke up around 5AM for this race, which seems a bit early.  However it gave me enough time to eat (blueberry bagel with jam), drink a cup of coffee, and prepare.  The race began at the Parkway, which meant I just had to take the 15 trolley down to the area and walk a bit to the start.  I probably arrived there around 7:15 when all was said and done.  It was so exciting to see all of the other runners along with the volunteers and spectators gathering and preparing.  I checked my bag, walked around for a bit, and headed to my corral around 7:50.  The waiting was the worst part of course as I was way back in corral 17.  We actually saw the elite runners loop back around before we even started (the course begins with about a 4.5 mile loop through Center/Old City and back up to the starting area).

Finally we were let out at around 8:25.  I felt like I was doing my best to start off slower, but I realized after about a mile that I was actually moving at a more fast pace for me so I kept trying to slow down a bit during the initial loop around the city.  The course is pretty standard with that first loop and then the last 2/3 or so being the loop along the river.  Mentally this was both good and bad.  Part of me was thinking “Ugh I still have to run the entire loop!” once we got back into the Art Museum area and the other part of me was thinking “Ok I only have to run the loop and then I’m done!”.  I tried to pay more attention to the latter part.

I brought my handheld Nathan water bottle with me (filled with only water) so I didn’t have to get caught up in the chaos of the stands and only stopped twice for Gatorade.  I also brought 3 margarita and 3 black cherry Shot Bloks with me and had two each around miles 4, 8, and 10.5.  I felt really great for almost the entire race and in the end I seemed to really kick it up.  I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what, but I was surprised when I looked at my splits later.

My last 4 miles were all well under 10 minute miles!  I knew I felt fast and strong and during that last stretch I kept wondering if I had been underestimating myself all along (which of course transferred into a deep “running as metaphor” tangent).  However since I was trying not to really pay too much attention to my Garmin I really didn’t know exactly how fast I was going.  I just wanted to go by feel and finish as well as I could.

In the end my official time was 2:10:53 which is an average pace of 9:59 (my Garmin obviously disagrees with the total distance, but I don’t know what happened there)!  Crossing the finish line felt great (except when some jerk sprinted and nearly pushed me over to get in front of the photographer – lame), especially since I wasn’t really struggling to do so at all.  I exceeded my goal of sub-2:15 by more than expected and I am even pretty pleased with how I finished compared to the rest of the field as well.  I know running is all about improving upon your own bests, but it is nice to see that I can hold my own in something that is both so physical and mental when not so long ago neither would have really been possible.

After the race I met up with some runner friends and eventually went out to brunch.  Then I eventually had way too many beers to make up for the ones I didn’t drink the week before the half.  My first beer post-race was a Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, which is perfection any time, but especially after running 13.1 miles!

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #7

September 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

Weekly recap of activity:

  • Monday – None
  • Tuesday – 3 mile run
  • Wednesday – 6 mile run
  • Thursday – 4 mile run
  • Friday – None
  • Saturday – 90 minute vinyasa flow yoga class
  • Sunday – 12 mile run

Fall race season is here!  I mostly had a pretty decent week of training though I must say that some of the runs earlier in the week were a bit of a struggle, particularly Wednesday’s 6 miler.  I did that run in the morning and the humidity was still insane.  But luckily a storm blew through on Saturday and suddenly it actually feels a bit like fall!

I didn’t get out to do my long run until about 5:30PM on Sunday night.  Friday night I went out and had a great time, which also means I was in no shape to run on Saturday morning.  Given that Saturday morning was also terribly humid I didn’t really mind this and went to yoga instead.  Let’s just say I’m becoming a pro at hungover yoga and it helped me feel a bit more human again.  Later in the afternoon I went to a party of a friend from a group I run with which lasted into the evening  and then turned into going out to a couple other places.  I did abstain from drinking hoping my body would forgive me some and rehydrate, but my food consumption was rather terrible as there was so much great food to be had.

Anyway, standing (with a bit of late night dancing thrown in) almost all day/night on Saturday made for some very tired legs.  When I woke up early on Sunday morning I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and run.  I felt like my legs would just be way too tired and that it would be a bust.  Which was a shame because the weather seemed absolutely perfect.  I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get this run in on Sunday at all.  Part of me was leaning toward just resting on Sunday and heading out Monday morning.  But I knew that it was in my best interest to just get out there and go, so that is what I did.

I had 12 miles on the agenda, my longest distance run to-date as I had previously only run 10 miles on a couple of occasions.  So naturally the new territory made me a bit nervous.  I planned on running the entire Kelly Drive loop and then up and back a bit more.  I brought some watered-down Gatorade, Clif Shot Bloks, and Sport Beans with me and had two of the Shot Bloks and about 4 Sport Beans around both mile 4 and mile 8.  They especially seemed to help this time around and I felt more energized and able after eating them on both occasions.  While I started the run off with doubts, by the 4th or 5th mile I started to feel really strong and 12 miles were soon complete.

I steadily and consistently the entire way and felt pretty strong, with one exception – my stomach.  I am not sure I could have made it much further at all without stopping.  It pretty much hit ’emergency’ status toward the end and I made sure that I would finish up right near the ever-so-nasty public restrooms by the start of the loop.  Not that it mattered how nasty they were…

So at this point I am 100% confident that I can do well at the half-marathon and achieve my goal of a time under 2:15 if I don’t have any kind of major digestive system issues that cause me to have to stop.  Which means I really need to begin to focus on what I am eating and drinking this weekend as I still don’t know what the main culprit is.  This is because I have put not effort into even trying to figure that out.  And if I want to run strong I need to figure this out.  While I know it won’t happen before Sunday’s race, I hope that by upping my water intake, lowering my beer intake (insert sad face) and eating a more low-fat, low-fiber, higher carb diet with perhaps some emphasis on limiting dairy almost completely that I can offset some of this.

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #6

September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Weekly recap of activity:

  • Monday – 1.25 mile run
  • Tuesday – 3 mile run
  • Wednesday – None
  • Thursday – 4.4 mile run
  • Friday – 2.68 mile run
  • Saturday – 90 minute vinyasa flow yoga class
  • Sunday – 7 mile run

Well this is late.  Seems like I’m moving rather slowly with everything lately.  I have been in a bit of an odd state of mind lately and Labor Day weekend was filled with socializing and activity that was perhaps done in an attempt to escape from that for a bit.  I got in all 18 miles that were a part of my training plan last week, though a bit more split up than I would have liked (I also ran a few more additional miles that weren’t tracked when taking part in a few volunteer activities).  I was just not really into the idea of running last week (seems as if eating and drinking everything was a bigger part of the agenda), but it did make me feel good to know I at least squeezed everything in.  Even if that meant my weekend long run (as I mentioned last week it was a “stepback” week) took place at 7:30PM on a Sunday night.

Hopefully with September the humidity here will finally die, but as of now it is just as bad as it has been all summer.  I have my 12 mile long run this weekend, which I am both nervous and excited about.  Then the weekend after is the half marathon!  So of course I am now coming to realize that I really need to start preparing my body and mind better, especially once the half is over and I start focusing on 26.2 miles.