That is the magic number of days a runner can go without running. Yesterday was the ninth day. I went for a super easy treadmill run/really fast-walk two Thursdays ago, but nothing since then.

And why is this the threshold?
  1. It's difficult to tell people you're a marathoner when you haven't run a thing in past 1.5 weeks. One week is fine--you have emergencies, you work late, life happens. But 1.5 is excessive.
  2. It's harder to sleep at night. For the past few days I've noticed that I don't sleep as well as I did during training (not that I got a lot of sleep during training, but it was higher quality sleep).
  3. It gets harder to breathe (yes, a tip to Maroon 5 for that one). My nose has been getting stuffier and I've been finding it more difficult, overall, to breathe.
  4. You read all these running blogs and start to lose your solidarity with them.
  5. You can't find your peanut butter because it has retreated to back of the pantry--rather it has been pushed there by all the other food you've been eating while you haven't had to whip it out before a run.
  6. You have to start passing up desserts. Anyone who knows me knows that I have never met dessert/baked good/sugar encrusted concoction that I didn't like. But since I'm not burning 3000+ calories a week any more, I'm feeling really bad about that scoop of ice cream after dinner.

But I'm getting back on the wagon TODAY. It is an absolutely perfect day:

  • It'll be in the high 50s for the whole run
  • There is beautifully sunny
  • The only race in Central park today will be over by the time I start running
  • I don't have to run at a specific pace
  • I didn't have to wake up at 7am this morning to run

Its going to be a great day.


More thoughts on MY FIRST MARA----you get the idea

Really quick turn around on race pictures from MY FIRST MARATHON EVER. I actually got the pictures on Tuesday of last week, but given my struggle to even get the race recap up, I wasn't going to bother with pictures until that was written and posted. So here they are, in all their well-coordinated-running-outfit glory:

Morning of the race, sporting the cool kids' sticker (yeah, it flew off about Mile 16)

Like a friggin' gazelle!! Little did I know there was a cheetah on my tail--a cheetah called "stitch"

In the words of my wife: "no wonder you got stitches, your arms were always in the air." Apparently do I not only get cocky during races, but I also get vertical arm disease.
Caught by the cheetah.

I swear I was sprinting during this part--look, I even have the gazelle smile.

The money shot.

Now from behind--in the orange on the left.

So those are the pictures. Looking back at them I feel proud about what I've accomplished, even if it wasn't how I wanted to accomplish it--almost like it was a starter marathon.

But fortunately, this race has only made me want to run more: I can't wait to finally run Central Park this weekend. I haven't looked forward to a run this much in a long time. There is no set distance or pace for me to worry about. That's probably the most taxing part of marathon training: the fact that no matter how hard or long the run is this week, next week's will be even worse. But not now--and not for a long time. It'll just be good times out there on Sunday. I'm really excited about it.

That kinda brings me to my next point. Or rather, everyone else's next point: what race am I going to run next? What has slipped past everyone is that I picked my next race a long time ago and it's been posted over there on the left for about five months now: the 3M Austin Half-Marathon. It only says tentative because I haven't booked the flight yet. Yup, going down to the Lone Star state and run a little race, hear a little indie music, and meet up with a little friend. OK, our friend is actually normal size but I had to finish the triad. I'm really excited about this race because it's a Half-Mary (woo hoo!) and mostly downhill (double woo hoo!).

I've also told myself that since I'll be bringing down the running intensity (yea!) that I will focus on my overall fitness while prepping for this race. That means actually doing cross-training and always doing pre- and post- work-out stretches and watching what I eat. My goal for this race is to become healthier (and a little bit faster) by the time I cross the finish line--I won't be running just to run, but running to become healthier.

That said, I've also had San Francisco up for the past five months as the marathon I'll be tackling next year. But after Baltimore I'm rethinking that decision. San Francisco is a much, MUCH hillier course than Baltimore--so I'm thinking that it might be better as my third or fourth marathon. In that case I have to change my plans around for the rest of 2008. Thoughts?

Also--and this is for you, Marcy--my feet are still handsome devils. They came out of that race without a single blister, black nail, or callus between them. Fortunately I wear sneakers all the time, otherwise the ladies would be all over my feet--and wife will have none of that.



Apologies for the delay folks...apparently running MY FIRST MARATHON EVER has zapped my sense of timeliness. But here is the post-race report; a week late, but still a nice long read. I'm not ging to lie: the process of writing this has been a little bit like giving birth--long and painful.

I did it. I went up against the juggernaut and I won.

It was not the run I had hoped for, not by a long shot. There were things I should have been prepared for that I wasn't, and things that I was prepared for, but never encountered. But here I am a week later--fully convinced I have achieved something super human--having run MY FIRST MARATHON EVER.

Ah, it feels so good to refer to it in the past tense.

I don't know where to begin with a race recap. I guess the beginning is the best place to start. I got to the starting corrals two minutes before the gun (poor planning on my part), so I had 120 seconds to find the 4-hour group and untangle my headphones before 2500 runners started pushing me forward. I didn't have a second to gauge my surroundings or get into the mood or give myself the pre-race pep talk. You know, that time when you go over the course in your head 1000 times, try to feebly develop a game plan, and stand there, like a horse at the gate, pumping your legs and feeding off the other people's energy. None of that, the second I plugged in my headphones I was crossing the starting line.

The course started on an incline, but I didn't even notice. The first seven miles I was on air. According to my splits I was doing an 8:34 pace for the first quarter of the race--that's my tempo pace. Yeah, I really should have taken that as a sign to slow down. We were passing by lakes and parks and quaint neighborhoods, and I taking in as much as I could, not realizing that I was setting myself up for a fall.

Then I got the stitch. Mile eight was the mile of damnation. It hit me like a screwdriver lodged in my right side. I slowed down, I concentrated on my breathing, but this stitch was coming on strong. Two miles later, after perhaps the most painful run anyone has ever done around Ft. McHenry, the stitch weakened. Unfortunately, the stitch would hang around for the rest of the race.

Although I was feeling good stomach-wise I decided to made a potty break at mile 12. I figured it would be better to do this now then have to scramble for a bathroom later. It was a two-minute break, but it probably prevented a longer break down the road. Gold star for me for running smart.

Despite the stitch from hell, I was still going strong through the half way point. I past the 13.1 mile marker at just under 2 hours (gun time). There were big crowds at this point because the half-marathon started here, relay exchange #2 was here, and the marathon passed through the point twice. The crowds gave me a big swell of energy going through mile 13. But then I turned the corner and they were gone. And then came something that I was not prepared for: the loneliness.

With only 2,500 marathoners, by mile 13 the pack had thinned out significantly. This was the point where I could only see maybe 20 runners in the block ahead of me. And I thought, holy crap, I have only done half of this race and I feel like I am the only one out here. This was the part I wasn't prepared for. In NYC it's impossible to be by yourself while you're running--there is always someone else out there. But at this point in the race I felt isolated and weak. This compounded with the eternal stitch in my side was not good for morale until...

At mile 16, a geyser of half-marathoners joined with the marathon course and the field quadrupled in size. It was like two rivers mixing. Fortunately, the fine people at the Baltimore Marathon fenced off the marathon route through this section. Otherwise, this would have been a messy area.

Mile 16 also began a six-mile incline section. Yes, six miles. When were they going to tell us about that? I've done plenty of hills in training...but they were Central Park hills, they go up and down, not up and up. With the stitch going off and on I pretty much gave up goal #1 for the race (finish in 3:55 or less), but chugged along.

Then I got stung by a bee.

Yes, a honey-making, stinger-yielding, yellow and black bumble bee stung my leg while I was running the marathon. Who gets stung by a bee while they're running a marathon? I do...apparently. I still can't believe it. The fellow runner who saw this happen also could not believe it. At first it felt like someone had stuck a needle in my thigh. I slapped my leg and something fall out of my shorts. It was small and yellow and bug like. I just didn't know what to do--I've never been stung by a bee before, what if I was allergic? That would be spectacular:

Person: "How was your marathon?!"
sRod: "I didn't finish."
Person: "What happened? Did you tear a ligament? Did you collapse from fatigue? Were you attacked by a pack of wild boars?"
sRod: "No, I was stung by a bee"
Person: blinks
sRod: "No, really, I got stung by a bee and had to stop"

Yeah, that story wouldn't do. So I just kept on running, stopping every now and then to make sure there wasn't any massive swelling or other allergic reaction.

As the six-mile hill continued I caved into the stitch and started inserting walking breaks. I tried to only walk through the water stations, but that wasn't cutting it. Every time I would start running after a walking break the stitch would flare up within a few minutes. Damn it. With every walking break I got a little more disappointed with myself. I had the energy to keep going, my feet felt fine, I was well hydrated, my stomach was cooperating--but I had just run too hard in the first third of the race, and now I was paying for it.

Miles 20-25 are a bit hazy: at this point I had just plain lost track of where I was on the course. Then I came upon one of the little pockets of Baltimorians that went all out in support of the marathon. There were small pockets of people throughout the course, many of them had gummy bears (yum) or tootsie rolls (yuck), some had posters (one of which read: "how do stickers stick to non-stick pans?"), and some dressed up (there were two pirates, two women dressed in neon robes and boas, and one guy in a foam muscle suit)--all of them were great.

However, at this point in the race (mile 22.5?), the entire block, mostly John Hopkins students, had come out in full force. They were on a hill and knew that it was a difficult hill to climb. They were handing out all sorts of candy and water. They were also blasting music from somewhere. It was so loud that it overpowered the music in my earphones. They started to play "Cha Cha Slide" and someone came on the speakers and said "Good morning runners! We're gonna help you get over this hill!" So, seeing that I had nothing to lose and that these people were here supporting us, I started to dance along to the song while I was running up hill. I felt my calves cramp a little while I was trying to criss-cross--which, by the way, is a very difficult move when you're running, never mind running up a hill--but I made it through the hill and had a nice little burst of energy.

The last stretch of race was supposed to be all downhill, but let me tell you, there was nothing downhill about it. At this point I was trying to get my second (well, probably more like my 15th) wind, but once I would gather up momentum we'd run into a bridge or a tunnel. But I knew the end was near, so I would try to distract myself by looking at the scenery (of which there was none at this point) or talking to other runners. I came across someone else who was stuffing from a stitch--her hand in the tell-tale position against her left side--and offered her some encouragement.

During mile 25 I saw my #2 goal (finish under four hours) slip away. I looked down at my watch as we entered the downtown area that preceded the finish line. I saw the watch tick from 3:59:59 to 4:00:00. Instead of hurting, it inspired me to keep going. I knew I only had one goal left (finish in 4:12 or less) and that was fully within my reach.

We hit the baseball museum and I knew it was the final half mile. There were lots of crowds here and lots of energy. I reached down to my iPod and forwarded onto the last song: "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects. Something about that song always gets me. Maybe its the opening drums, maybe it's the uber-positive message, but when I hear this song I just want to run forever. And being so, I've permanently assigned it the last song position.

The song starts and suddenly, as if music was loaded with caffeine, I get an tremendous surge of energy and break out into sprint. As we turn the corner I see a runner that is walking, and for me, there is no such thing as walking during the final stretch of the race. If my hazy memory serves me correctly, I shouted something like "come on, you're almost there" and gave him a slight tap on the shoulder. Of course, I had runner's brain and didn't realize that he might be injured, but I turned around and saw him running behind me. So I think that was encouragement well spent.

At this point the course goes through Camden Yards (not the field, but the concession area next to it) and suddenly all the crowds disappear for about .1 miles since no one except the runners is allowed in the stadium. On the other side of the fence, however, I could see thick crowds.

I came out of Camden Yards flying into crowds that were probably three or four people deep (or maybe one person deep, damn runner's brain). I started singing and yelling...only .3 miles to go. I could see the finish line...only .2 miles to go. Since I had been running for four hours any change in movement--including sprinting--came as a relief...only .1 miles to go. I tried looking for my wife and mom in crowd, knowing that I've never had luck finding them...100 feet to go. Then, through the music, I heard my name called crystal clear through crowd. Twenty feet from the finish line I turned my head around mid-stride and in the one spot I can focus on I see my wife's blue hoodie and my mom's beige blazer.

I crossed the finish line in 4:09:39.

I grabbed a Mylar blanket and wrapped myself up and let out a few sobs of happiness. Then I realized that now I had to fight through a mess of very sweaty runners to get water, Gatorade, and food. This was probably the worst part of the race: the whole finish line area was squished into a parking lot no larger than your standard Macaroni Grill parking lot. I'm usually fine in tight spaces, but this was really uncomfortable, since I figured at any minute someone could barf on me. And since I wasn't moving anywhere I started to feel queasy and just needed a place to sit--although with so many people, clear space was rare real estate.

I made it out of the runner's area and couldn't find the family meet-up area (although apparently it was right next to me--remember, severe runner's brain). And tried to make it to the back-up location: the gigantic fiberglass cow in the staging area. I couldn't even make it to this spot without having to sit-down and take the weight off my feet for a minute. I got up again, plowed through the crowd to the cow, set my Mylar on the ground and finally got to lay down. Eventually my wife and mom found me by the cow udder. They were all happy for me and I was just all smiles (except for the bee sting).

And that's pretty much it. We went back to the hotel, washed up, and had lunch at P.F. Chang's. I ate my plate plus the left overs of everyone else's. We walked around the downtown area a bit before going back to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening in the hotel room. Around 8pm I got hungry again--OK, well, I was hungry all day--and we did a Chipotle run to get delicious Mexican food (not the healthiest but I figured I could eat whatever I wanted).

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the BP across the street to get water. As we were paying for the water a guy comes up to us and asks: "Are you guys the POlice?" My wife and I laugh it off and tell him we're not. Then a second later he asks: "Have you ever tried ecstasy?" My wife and I get an even bigger laugh from that and then bolted out of there and hopped in the car. We drove across the street back to the hotel and parked in the gated parking lot--sans drugs.

So that was my experience in Baltimore. I got the marathon under my belt and can now call myself a marathoner (vs. a half-marathoner). The funny thing is that I'm not more excited about it. Maybe it's because it's been lost among the hours of work and tons of other things going on this month. Or maybe its because I didn't run the race I wanted to and my previous race (NJ) was such a great run. I am happy I did it, even though it wasn't the race I had hoped and dreamed for, but then again, they rarely are.


I'm ok

I know, I know: leave a cliffhanger like "I'm gonna go run MY FIRST MARATHON EVER" and then disappear for a few days.

I've been pulling 12 hour days in the office this week and planning the wife's birthday party. But I am alive and well, and I am working on a post-race recap.

For now, here are some teasers:
- I almost missed the start!
- I was stung by a bee!
- I was offered ecstacy!

All that and more in the post-race recap.


One weekend down, three more to go

So this past weekend was FANTASTIC!!! We flew down on Saturday morning to North Carolina to revisit the place where we got married. Now this trip was a surprise for my wife, but I had to tell her on our 11 month anniversary about the trip because 1) I was afraid that she might book a trip for us and 2) hell knows no wrath as a woman who has not been given ample time to shop for dressy clothes.

There were lots of surprises for her (lots of stress for me getting this done behind her back). I'm at work right now, so I don't have time to go into major detail, but some highlights were:

  • On Saturday night, a bottle of wine we bought on our honeymoon "magically appeared" at dinner. We met the winemaker and toured his facility on our honeymoon, when we bought this wine he told us that the wine would be good no matter when we opened it, but that it would be absolutely prefect if we waited until October 2007. Wife forgot about this bottle...I did not. She knew it was this bottle of wine because you can't get this wine any where in the states (the winemaker only makes a few 100 bottles a year).

  • On Sunday night (anniversary night), we had dinner at the same place that catered our wedding. I was able to arrange for the chef to recreate part of the custom menu from our wedding. She was super surprised with that, but was floored when the waitress came out carrying the top tier of our wedding cake (something wife had also forgotten about).

There was also a run with a Segway and horse poop, but that's another story for another time.

It's been a busy week in the world of running. On almost the same day the Chicago Marathon melts down and Marion Jones admits using steroids to get her Olympic medals. My heart goes out to all the Chicago runners out there. So much careful preparation, so many weeks of diligent and persistent training and then a heavy handed reminder that you're still human. My friend was hoping to qualify for Boston and ended up adding 2 minutes to his time. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him yet, but I know he feels slapped in the face.

I've done my rounds and it seems like Tom, Nitmos, and Jess are alright--and I'm so glad to hear that. Hot runs are hard...I can't finish them. Hot races...well...I'm sure it's like running straight into Hell. Recover well guys.

I've been working like nuts this week, so I might not get to post pre-race. If you don't hear from me by Friday night, then wish me luck for MY FIRST MARATHON EVER!


Super Month

So October (aka, "Super Month") came out of no where. Why call it Super Month? Well, consider the following:
  • This weekend: escaping to North Carolina for the anniversary
  • Next weekend: MY FIRST MARATHON EVER
  • Weekend after that: wife's birthday
  • Last weekend of the month: Halloween festivities
  • During this month at work: two MAJOR projects due before the end of the month

No idea how I ever expected to get through this month.

But alas, Super Month is not the purpose of this post. I'm writing tonight to let everyone out there who is running Chicago this weekend that while I have my last long run this Sunday morning, I will be rooting for all of you...and hoping that you watch your step at the finish line. Good luck guys! You're all Kenyans this weekend.


The Best 13 Miles Ever...well, almost

Quick recap of yesterday's run.

It was 13-miles through the hills of Central Park: more classic you can't get. I told myself I was going to run those 13 miles in 1:50 or less, so as to set a PR for the Half-Marathon distance (ok, I would have been .1 miles off).

Weather was in my favor--which I've learned is about 50% of the battle during long runs--clear skies, a breeze, mid-60s. I set off running and wouldn't you know that the NY Road Runners are having a marathon tune-up run in the park. Excellent! I get a race atmosphere and race amenities (i.e., water stations and Gatorade) without having to sign up for the race. **A note on etiqutte: yes, it is wrong to take water and gatorade from those who pay for it, but have you seen the mountains of cups left on the table at the end of a race? No one goes thristy on a race course. I used to feel bad, but now I don't.** So I'm crusing, doing fantastic time, until mile 10.

At mile 10 I got a massive stitch. My first thought was that I got a sudden kidney infection and my right kidney was turning brown a shriviling up. I had to walk. I had tons of energy, I was making great time, I didn't even need the gazillion packs of GU I had--but I could not take the pain while I was running.

So I walk-ran the last 3 miles. I hated every step I took walking. And when I did run, I couldn't muster speed without flaring up the 2x4 in my side. There went my PR.

Sigh. No glory for me this weekend. I guess God is saving it for October 13.