Back to the Races

Yesterday, I finally got back on the horse, so to speak. With having missed the Philadelphia Marathon in November due to illness, this was my first double-digit mileage race in a year. As a result, I won’t lie—I was more than a little worried, doubly so since I’ve been training entirely on my own for both this and the Potomac River Run Marathon in May.

To make matters slightly tougher, even though I’ve run the National Half Marathon all four years, now, starting last year they changed the course for the half marathon option. In past years, it was an almost entirely flat course. 2008 and 2009’s course, though, has a long slow climb for miles 5-8 (followed by a swift drop for miles 9-10), and then one more hill at mile 12. When I ran this course in 2008, I ended up several minutes slower than my previous year’s time, thanks to burning out on the hills and choking at the end.

This year, happily, that ended up not being the case. I ended up with a much more consistent pace, and an overall much better feeling about the race in general. I never felt beaten down like I had last year, and while I now look back and think that there are spots that I could have pushed a little harder, it’s ultimately a big victory. With that in mind, though, there were some things I feel like I need to remember in what I did right and what I did wrong.

Things I Did Right

  • This year, I successfully found one of the official pace groups to start the race with. I’d used the 4:00 (full marathon) group  in 2007 and it worked out really well. Having found the 3:55 group (which is an 8:58min/mile pace), I figured they would be good to run with. Aside from a slightly slow first mile due to crowding, miles 2-4 were good, with the second mile even making up the lost time from the first. That said, when the hill started at mile 5? They took off, so to speak. They were about a block ahead of mile by the time I hit marker 5 (and I was all of 11 seconds off of the pace, so I hadn’t slowed down that much), and were completely out of sight by marker 6. Yeesh. I never caught them, either, and my finish time was only 30 seconds off of their projected finish. Oh well. Still, I felt like I was smart to stick with them, but also didn’t get pulled into the craziness. That said, I now wish I’d latched onto the 3:50 group, who knows how that would have worked?
  • This year, I also had the good sense to really think about how I was going to handle the course. I told myself that if I picked up a little bit of time on the uphill that I would just make it up on the way back, and because I had the plan in place that’s exactly what happened. As it was, only mile 7 was where I gained any significant time (33 seconds) and I burnt that all back off the next few miles.

Things I Did Wrong

  • I ended up seriously dehydrated this race, and it’s my own fault. Towards the end of last year I started running with Gatorade in my water bottle instead of water. It certainly seems like a smart idea, but the reality is that I don’t actually find Gatorade terribly refreshing. So unless I’m really, really thirsty… I don’t drink it. I ended up drinking less than half of my water bottle the entire race, and at the very end (with about a tenth of a mile to go) it was definitely starting to catch up with me, feeling a little crampy. Then, as soon as I was handled some bottled water, I drank the entire thing in about 5 seconds flat. So from now on, I’ll stick to grabbing a cup of Gatorade at water stops and using that to get the electrolytes back into my body, and carry water. Sure, it was a cool day out, but I sweat a lot and dehydrate easily. Not smart in the slightest.
  • Also, on a similar note, I really need to wait until closer to the start to get into the entrance corrals. I spent the entire race needing to use the bathroom, but (unlike last year) ended up just gritting my teeth and bearing it the whole way through, since every available stop along the way had a huge line. Not smart.
  • I also really need to drop 5-10 pounds. There is no way around it. I’d gotten rid of a few earlier this year but they mysteriously came back in the past couple of weeks, just in time for the race. Hmph.

Overall, I’m really happy with this year’s finish. I think I could have done better had I really pushed it, but I have a full marathon in six weeks, so this was the way to handle it. And, should I run the race again next year, I feel like this new course is no longer my nemesis. Yay!

(9:15, 8:43, 8:58, 9:00, 9:09, 9:00, 9:33, 8:52, 8:52, 8:40, 8:57, 9:16, 8:50, 0:50)

The Way It Used To Be

2009 = Music explosion!

Generally speaking, 2008 was kind of a dud year for new music. Not many new albums I was really excited about, per se, and even artists that I like who did release albums had some real middling end results. But this year? Well, we’ve got Bruce Springsteen, U2, Kelly Clarkson, Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, Pet Shop Boys… lots of new music for me to be listening to for the rest of the year, quite frankly.

As it is I’ve been listening to the Pet Shop Boys album preview (thanks Trevor!) today and there are a couple songs (“The Way It Used To Be,” “Pandemonium,” “Love etc.”) which have just instantly clicked—that great sort of feeling of, “Yes, yes, more like that” coupled with having a deja vu flashback to earlier albums and thinking how much you loved them as well.

I’m not saying that artists need to be like what they’ve already done (that gets old quite frankly) but there’s something great about a song that puts you in mind of an earlier project. Almost like you see how they’re connecting the dots from one to the next. Anyway, good stuff! Can’t wait for the actual release so I don’t have to keep clicking on a song title on the web site to listen to specific tracks over and over again.

Hurry Up, Spring

This morning I was really tired and it took me a while to figure out why—it’s because I’ve been using my psychic powers at full-blast to try and make spring arrive ahead of schedule.

Well, perhaps not, but it’s a nice idea, isn’t it? I’m so sick of it still being dark when I wake up to hit the gym on Monday mornings, or perhaps to do some before-work running on Tuesdays or Thursdays. If it’s still dark out, it just drags me back into slumberland. At least we’re at the point now where it’s not pitch-black when I leave work so I can get the running in then, but still… not a fan. I don’t know how people live up near the Arctic Circle during the cold months; not even so much for the brutal temperatures but the lack of sunlight.

On the other hand, I’ve been having taking three virtual trips into Japan as of late to get through my desire of being somewhere else. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Animal Crossing: City Folk on the Wii is still intensely a funny, an adorable and low-key simulation game where my biggest worry is trying to eventually catch all 64 fish for the local museum’s aquariums. Also in the game realm, though, is Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Justice For All, which I finally started playing on the NintendoDS. It’s a fun cross between an adventure game and a novel, as you navigate the twists and turns of Phoenix Wright’s latest cases before coming to the inevitable conclusion. In many ways it’s like reading a mystery/investigation novel where you have to solve the crime before the author point-blank tells you. I enjoyed the first of these games, and it’s fun checking out the second one.

Last night I also started reading the 856-page comics autobiography A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I’ve really enjoyed reading Tatsumi’s comic short story collections as they’re translated into English; they’re always slightly twisted and depressing little vignettes of life in Japan by slightly pathetic people, with something just off-beat enough to attract as a reader. What’s great about A Drifting Life so far (although to be fair I’m only on page 80!) is that Tatsumi is able to really plunge the reader into a different place and time without ever overtly doing so. There’s no huge info dumps or exposition, but it really gives me a strong feel for 1949 Japan.

In many ways, A Drifting Life is just the kind of autobiography that I really like, because it lets me “travel” to not only a different place but a different time as well; it’s a much less expensive way of visiting somewhere that would otherwise be inaccessable. Really good stuff, and once it’s officially released (next month?) I think it’s going to knock people’s socks off. I hope so, because I love the Tatsumi short story collections and want there to be many, many more down the line.

(And, with no exercise scheduled for tomorrow morning—my spinning class is in the evening—that means I can stay up a little later and read some more of the book. Yay!)

A month later…

…and my life is still boring.

Housework [365portraits: 067]All right, perhaps a slight exaggeration. I have been doing more than just vacuuming, honest. In all honesty, I’ve actually been very busy this past month. It wasn’t so much that I had a lot of extra things on my plate, but rather that I went on vacation for almost a week in mid-Feburary to see some friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but ever since then I’ve felt like I’ve been catching up on, well, everything else all at once.

When that happens, I find that all sorts of communications slowly shut down or off entirely. My e-mail inbox is normally in the single digits, and ever since mid-February it’s been about four-times as full of things still waiting to reply to. (Cringingly, there’s an e-mail or two in there from right before my mid-December surgery, the remnants of being behind back then too.) I’ve ignored a lot of website updates that I normally read religiously. And needless to say, well, it’s now been over a month since I updated here.

On the bright side, a lot of the “no news is good news” adage applies here. Work is going well. Running has started to finally click back into place (although I am never, ever, ever training for a spring marathon again). Hopefully the friends who are starting to think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth haven’t written me off. Reviews are still being written. Perhaps more importantly, I have an idea (finally) for this year’s Artomatic; it will (like last year) be photography-based, and I think I’ve got about half to two-thirds of an exhibit already taken care of. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I can finish taking the appropriate photos and get that rolling. And last week I started carving out some time from my schedule to start some fiction writing again. We’ll see how that goes, but at least for now there are four pages of something that I think don’t entirely suck. Oh, and I have a monstrously large television now because the old one was on death’s door.

Mind you, things are still busy. Tonight and Thursday involve things after work with someone from out of town. Then Friday through Sunday with different people in from out of town. The following weekend is a half marathon. The weekend after that is possibly some birthday stuff, although at the rate everything else is piling up I’m half-tempted to just skip trying to make plans entirely and just celebrate it by doing nothing.

But hey, I’ve got my health, I’m happy, I’m still gainfully employed. There are certainly worse things in life than “I have too many things going on all at once” in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully now that the dangling sword of not-updating-ocles is no longer over my head, it’ll be a little more frequent, right?