Thursday, October 30, 2008

Signed up for the Northern Central Trail Marathon!

I just took the plunge and signed up for the Northern Central Trail Marathon.  It's a 26.2 mile trail marathon (duh) that runs on 29 November 2008, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I've been wanting to do a longer trail race, either a half or a full marathon, in anticipation of going longer.  If this goes well, my next long race would be the HAT run 50K 21 March 2009.

But that's thinking pretty far ahead.  Right now I'm thinking about the immensity of just having signed up for a marathon for the coming month.  I mean, I am pretty sure I'm in good enough shape to do this (my long run is 22 miles now), but I feel like there should have been more... ceremony about this.  Like I would have decided a year ago that I was going to do this marathon.  On the other hand, my real goal is to be in good enough shape that I could run a marathon with little or no preparation.

One of the things I liked on the race webpage was the warning that bow hunting season will be in full swing when the run starts up, so we should wear bright colors.  Yowzah!
Anyway, I'll probably be getting sized for crutches pretty soon at this rate...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Give Dean Karnazes his due - 13 miles

Sònia was teaching tonight so I had a couple extra hours after work.  I ran from FEMA Headquarters to our house in Woodley Park via the Capital Crescent Trail and Mass Ave, right at 13 miles (  Hmm, I'm going to have to start mixing up my routes just so I'll have different stuff to blog about.

I felt really strong, which is weird considering that I ran 22 miles just day before yesterday.  I guess this is becoming a less and less big deal with so much interest in Ultras.  I have to say, the existence of ultras has kind of cracked my mind open on the idea of how far I could possibly run.  When I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 1990, I swore I'd never do another Marathon.  I had one friend, Fuzzy, who ran ultras, and we all thought he was insane.

This month's TrailRunner magazine has an article about the ultra boom and how it is changing ultras.  Oddly enough (or perhaps typically), the article does not mention Dean Karnazes.  That pisses me off.  I realize that Dean is controversial, as he is in the press a lot, self-promotes, etc.  But the fact is that I never would have considered training for an ultra if I had not read his book, Ultramarathon Man.  I am pretty sure that of the zillions of folks training for ultras now a good proportion got interested in the same way.  Arguably the readership of TrailRunner magazine has expanded a lot because of the interest in the sport that he raised.  But there exists some sort of taboo about mentioning Karnazes as a serious athlete in the ultra press.  I read a blog in which the author was gleeful because Dean didn't break a record he had set out to break.  That's messed up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

National Novel Writing Month starts in five days!

Last year I participated in (and won!) National Novel Writing Month for the first time.  I wrote a 50,000 word manuscript called Awake-- a coming of age story set at the Naval Academy.  It wasn't about me (okay, yeah it was).

So in four days I'm going to start writing my second manuscript.  I don't know what the book will be about.  I don't know where I will set it.  I do know that I can't write another coming-of-age-at-Canoe-U book (nor would I want to).  It might be about running....

The fact is that I won't know what I'm writing about until I sit down to write it.  That's how I did it last year-- in fact, I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to write about and it changed as I started writing.

You may be wondering if you could do this.  You can.  You are not too busy to write the page and a half a day required to complete 50,000 words in one month.  Believe me: I'm a father, I'm a runner, I go to those meetings a lot... I'm a busy guy.  But like they say, if you're already doing a million things, the million and first won't make that much of a difference.  So I encourage you to join me on the sordid corpse-strewn highway that is novelling.  Go to to get started.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

22 Miles - Help me hear your work

I decided to try and incorporate a really long run on Sundays. So this morning I rolled out of bed at 5 am and finally hit trail at 5:30. It was really dark out when I took off down Rock Creek Parkway from Woodley Park. When I got to Water Street in Georgetown I ran into a bunch of Marines who were preparing the route for the Marine Corps Marathon. I greeted them loudly and then promptly hit an uneven patch of pavement and went down hard. I could feel I had banged my left knee a bit but didn't think it was too bad. It turns out I was wrong, I took a pretty good patch of skin off of my knee.

I hit the trailhead for the Capital Crescent Trail and ran all the way to Mass Ave before the sun came up. I was very happy I had a tail light and a flashlight. Even before the sun comes up the Crescent is pretty busy.

I was carrying gel for the first time. I opted for Clif Shots because they had non-caffeinated chocolate. I'm trying to avoid caffeine. I have to say that they really helped a lot. I ate a Clif Shot at about one an hour, and the first one left me amazed. I was starting to go into a little decline at the hour mark, but after the gel, I felt really great.I continued on the Capital Crescent until it met up with the Rock Creek Parkway again and followed the RCP all the way home. Rock Creek was stunning today, so achingly beautiful that I was running along and laughing. When I run I really try to concentrate on my surroundings and it was terrific to do so today. The only trouble I had was that I kept thinking of music. I know this sounds innocuous, but I have a spiritual belief that I owe it to my higher power to try to appreciate whatever surroundings he/she/it has prepared for me. So I found myself running along, thinking, "help me to hear your work". It helped. The creek has a lovely murmur and I was able to concentrate on that.

The route ended up being right at 22 miles ( I forgot to track about a half-mile detour I took when I got lost finding the RCP from the Crescent. I finished right at 3:31, which works out to 9:35 miles, which I was very happy with. I finished feeling pretty strong, and it occurred to me that I only had to run four more miles to run a marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon was today, so I could have signed up. Next year, I guess.

I did my fifth step yesterday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lighter week running (so far)/Look out for overtraining!

This week has been a little lighter running, so far.  I was ready to run 21 miles on Tuesday night-- it would have been from FEMA on to the entire Capital Crescent Trail, then back down Connecticut Ave to home in Woodley Park.  But Sonia called just as I was getting to Bethesda and she wasn't feeling well.  So I hopped on the metro at Friendship Heights and hurried home.  I fixed dinner and put her in bed and the next morning she was doing a lot better.

So that night was just 13 miles.  Today I hit the gym and lifted, nothing crazy.  I'm thinking about trying to alternate long and short weeks and fill in in the gym on my shorter weeks anyway.  Like I said to Sonia, it's likely that I'll just end up doing long weeks and going to the gym anyway.  No, seriously, I just read a great article in this month's TrailRunner Magazine about overtraining.  Pretty scary stuff-- if you really ignore it, you can get great things like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome!  So get your sleep and eat enough.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vamos 5K: 22:25 - How I got low cholesterol!

This was a race for my kid's school. I was pretty happy with the time-- there was a killer hill right at the beginning of the course that really made me wish I had been training hills. But good. 7:13 miles.

One nice thing-- they did a health fair after the run and I got my cholesterol checked. Six months ago I had it checked and it was at 225. The nurse practitioner told me she would have to put me on medication to reduce my cholesterol if I couldn't get it down. Today I tested it and it was at 150. Really very good.

Here's how I did it:

  1. Oatmeal and fruit every morning
  2. Metamucil twice a day
  3. 1000 mgs of Flax Oil a day
  4. No eggs (I now eat egg beaters or eggs with no yolks)
  5. I read the label on everything and tried to keep my cholesterol and saturated fat as low as possible.
  6. I ran and lifted a lot. My mileage is between 25-40 miles a week and I was lifting vigorously a couple times a week.
It probably had no direct effect, but I also started to avoid sugary foods and caffeine. They don't contribute directly to my cholesterol, but when my sugar levels get off I tend to eat garbage, i.e. cholesterol.

Disclaimer: this is what worked for me, your results may vary, I'm a computer programmer, not a doctor, please don't sue me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two hours trying to concentrate (trying, trying...)

I ran from FEMA to our house tonight via the Capital Crescent trail.  The change of seasons is so much closer to you when you run.  I ran the same basic route just a week ago and it was much lighter out.  By the time I turned off onto Massachusetts, it was pitch black out.  A biker passed me on trail and griped me out for not having a light.  I deserved it.

When I run I try to stop thinking.  I have an unruly mind.  It's not that I have so many important things to think about, I just roll along, thinking, worrying, thinking of music (I'm listening to the guitar solo from Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way right now).  I never give it a rest.  So I'm never fully present in the moment I'm in.

I try to get away from that when I run.  I listen to the sounds around me and try to hear the sounds, and not my impression of the sounds.  I'm very seldom successful at this venture.  I'm horrible at sitting meditation for just this reason.  In a two hour run, I probably manage about five really good minutes when I'm not worrying about something.  When running, only running.  Yep, I'll get right on that (as soon as I'm done worrying about....)

Monday, October 13, 2008

43.7 Mile Week!

I just tallied up my mileage for the week:

2008.10.0218.5 Miles
2008.10.084.5 Miles
2008.10.0912.3 Miles
2008.10.106.3 Miles
2008.10.117 Miles
2008.10.126.3 Miles
2008.10.137.3 Miles
Total:43.7 Miles!

As far as I can remember, I've never put in that kind of mileage.

Two thoughts occurred to me when I tallied up my mileage:
1) Next week I'll be blogging about some new injury I've provoked by ramping up too fast (KIDS: Don't try this at home. Tim is being foolish.), and
2) That 7 miler I did this morning really wasn't a big deal at all.

On point two, I finished off my run this morning and realized that running six or seven miles just isn't all that big of a deal to me now. I was setting up my schedule a couple years ago and the thought of a six miler was always kind of a grind. Now it's just another run, and I'm pretty sure I could do that again tomorrow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Do you remember... Jodies?

TBS, July 1986
I probably was the least likely candidate to be a Marine Officer.  I mean, I'm really glad I did it now.  I'm proud I was a Marine.  I'm proud I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and that I worked for Oracle and that I lived in Barcelona five years... but being a Marine was in a different class.  My memories of the Marine Corps get fonder the older I get.  I loved my Marines, I remember every Marine who worked for me.  Trouble is, I think war is a bad way to solve problems-- in the words of the Dalai Lama, war has become old fashioned.  I'm with him.

I ran the route from FEMA to my house today.  It's about six miles home.  I had to take some stuff home with me so I filled up my backpack and started out.  So I was running along with my backpack and some guy I passed yelled out "OORAH".  I thought-- yep, I'm a guy with a crewcut running with a backpack-- guess I fit the description.  It reminded me of jodies.

Jodies are the Marine equivalent to Gregorian Chants.  They're the rhythms that Marines march and run to.  They start out with, "C-130 rollin' down the strip...", "A yellow bird with a yellow bill...", "Around her neck she wore a yellow ribbon..."  Man, I started getting homesick for the Marines, which pretty much never happens to me.

Just then I passed a bunch of tourists.  They all had white shoes and visors and cameras around their necks.  DC is a big deal to them.  I guess it was for me, too, when I got here the first time in 1989.  Anyway, they all got in line and started to march off-- and one of them started calling out a call-and-response jodie.  Weird.

Running with a backpack was good.  I hadn't done it for a long time.  It screwed up my stride and made me feel the run in different parts of my legs than normal.  In TBS we ran 12 miles every day with fifty pound packs and our weapons.  How the hell did we do that?  One of the other things I forget about the Marines-- it taught me what the limits of my capabilities were.  And those limits are generally further out than you think.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I don't do anything halfway!

I went out for a two hour run yesterday. I ran for about an hour on the mall and out to Rock Creek Parkway up to Dupont Circle, then made my way back to the mall at the State Department, ran very fast with my friends Mike and Kevin for about 40 minutes, and then ran back home to Woodley Park.

Sonia asked me last night if it was healthy for me to run that far. She suggested that I take a more moderate approach. I thought about it for a moment and laughed, "but I just don't do things that way!" It's true. I don't just learn Spanish and decide to order in Spanish in Mexican restaurants-- I move to Spain for five years and marry a Spanish woman. I don't just decide to take a weekend bike trip-- I out of the blue decide I'm going to ride from Natchez, Mississippi to Washington, DC.

I just seem to have a history of spontaneously doing crazy, over-the-top stuff. This probably qualifies me for some kind of weird mental disorder.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A little medical story

Predictably, I didn't get away with my three and a half hour run without injury. My lower back can be a little iffy, and running that much makes little imbalances really turn into big deals. So I limped over to the chiropractor.

As usual, they required a medical history. They asked about previous injuries and operations. I thought a while and wrote:

  • snakebite (11 y/o)
  • trauma to base of neck from a failed somersault (no fracture)
  • 75% rupture to knee ligament (ACL) from Tae Kwon Do accident
  • shoulder injury (pickup football)
  • elbow injuries (both elbows; fell down stairs)
  • strangled (fist fight while in Peace Corps)
  • nostril pimples (just kidding)
Two things occurred to me: 1) The doctor was going to think that I make my living as a (small) Ultimate Fighting Championship guy and, 2) It's pretty much a miracle that I'm alive.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

18.5 mile run: 3:36

I took the day off from work today-- I'm a little burnt out after this hurricane season.  I goofed off, read about a hundred pages of John M. Barry's excellent Rising Tide about the Mississippi flood of 1927, and generally didn't do much.  After lunch with Sònia I was pretty set that I was going to take a nice long nap.

But something odd happened.  I remembered I meant to run with some friends from the State Department at 6:30 pm.  It was 2:30.  I thought, I could go for a really long run and meet up with them after.

Before I knew what I was doing I had headed out the door.  I wasn't sure how long I would go out, but I had just under four hours before I met up with my friends.  I headed out to the Rock Creek Park trail and entered the old Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown.  I was feeling good then, just enjoying being outdoors.  It rained a little-- I always have loved running in the rain.

I turned off on Massachusetts Avenue and hit the first hills of the run right at about an hour and a half.  I was unhappy about this.  I started to question the wisdom of my decision to run this far, my own sanity, and whether I was a good person or not.  About then I saw a CVS, where I stopped and had a Clif bar and some Gatorade.  Suddenly everything seemed brighter.  Hunger is bad, real bad.

I basically looped around through Georgetown until I finally ended up at State where I met up with my friends, Kevin, Mother, and Richard.  Kevin and Mother were feeling fast, and Richard wanted to take it easy, so I hung with him.  We chugged along for about a half an hour.  After that we went for a huge plate of burritos at Santa Fe in Rosslyn.

In the end I had run about three and a half hours.  Had I gone for about 15 minutes more I would have been out as long as I was for the Marine Corps Marathon in 1990.  I'm stiff-- but nowhere near as destroyed as I was after the Marathon.  I wonder why that is.  Probably be sore tomorrow, though.