Medals of races past

Borrowing an idea from Jess and posting pictures of where I keep my medals and which are my favorites.

I won't hide that one of my silent reasons for running is that I get big medal as a reward.  Sure there is an army of other more honorable and immaterial reasons to run, but let's face it, sometimes you just want the pony.  There is something special in getting a medal placed around your neck: it links your small accomplishment to the long line of human athletic achievements throughout the ages and well into the future.  It's arguably my favorite moment of racing (regardless that it coincides with the end of the race).

The first time I ran a race and didn't get a medal I was upset.  Really upset.  Since then I've vainly made sure the races I sign up for have a medal waiting for me at the end--especially since I now tend to travel long distances to races, I need to come back with a souvenir.

With all this talk of medals you would think that I had a dark room set aside for them outfitted like the Museum of Natural History with custom spotlights on each medal and an adjacent engraved plague with a description of the race .  But I live in New York, there's no such thing as a spare room.  I actually--and slightly ironically--store them in a green cardboard box on top of a bookshelf:

Opening up the box you see a salad of ribbons.  Underneath the medals is every bib number I've ever worn.  Since not every race yields a medal I've made it a habit to hold onto every bib number I've worn over the past six years.  But I digress.  This post is about medals.

My favorite medals based on looks are (below, going clockwise from the pink ribbon): Flying Pig Marathon, National Half-Marathon, Maple Leaf Half-Marathon, NYCM, and Disney World Half-Marathon.  The Pig and National medals are high quality medals and cool custom ribbons.  The Pig has the added benefit of having a flying pig on it, which gives it +10 style points.  The Maple Leaf medal is my only non-metallic medal.  It's blown glass, hand made and stamped by an artisan in Manchester, VT, where the race was held.  I can't pinpoint what makes the NYCM so badass it, I think it's because it the only race I've run with built in prestige and wow factor (therefore prestige + wow = badass?  I agree with that algebra).  It might also be the simple refined look of the medal: it doesn't have a four-color logo or a custom ribbon.  It's just a good size, well-crafted, brassy medal that has a subdued ruggedness about it. Finally, the Disney medal is my "big boy" medal.  It probably weighs a pound, is a real quality medal, and just reeks of "yeah, I just did that."

In going through the medals I realized that I have another kind of favorite.  These are the sentimental favorites (too lazy to rotate the picture below, so you'll have to rotate your screen).  Going clockwise from the top right: Breakers Marathon, NYCM, Baltimore Marathon, Delaware Marathon, Great Bay Half-Marathon, and Boston Half-Marathon. 

The Breakers medal is cheesy, I will readily admit to that, but I still fantasize about that race: how perfect the day was, how well I ran that race, how stunning the scenery was, how over-the-top incredible it was to see 20 minutes disappear from my Marathon PR.  I know I will probably never get to run "that race" again. 

The NYCM was the hardest race I've run physically and mentally.  It was a rough couple of months leading up to the race and I clung onto my running in order to keep some sanity.  I had built that race as the end all be all and it did not fail.  On the physical side it wasn't the worst course imaginable, but crowd management played a much bigger role than I expected (or prepared for).

Baltimore wasn't my best showing: I stopped and walked good long portions of that race.  The race wasn't itself wasn't particularly memorable: if you've been to Baltimore you'll know what I mean.  But it was my first, and there are way too many attachments to/lessons from MY FIRST MARATHON EVER for me to deny it a special place.

Delaware represents my current Marathon PR.  Great Bay represents my current Half-Marathon PR.  My two fastest efforts to date.  While both were good races, they will one day be replaced by medals from new PRs.

The last one here is Boston.  This is my number one dime (it's a Duck Tales reference, look it up).  It's a humble medal, nothing particularly cool about it.  The race itself was your archetype New England race with rolling hills and autumn foliage.  But it was my first athletic event, ever.  Before this medal you did not see sRod run, after it, you did.  This medal is more than metal and fabric, it is a symbol of a change in my life.

Those are the highlights of my collection.  They are now safely tucked back inside their box, with the bib numbers, eagerly awaiting new members to the fold.


A pox upon my house

Wifey got a bike.  And I just get the heebie jeebies knowing that my household is in possession of--as a runner--my mortal enemy.  Here is a camera phone shot of Wifey walking home that abomination from the bike shop, conveniently located four blocks down the street.


The stupidest (running related) thing I've ever done

I threw away a perfected good pair of shoes.  I don't even have a good story for it:

I grabbed a bunch of clothes to donate to charity and my sneakers that had 500+ miles on them.  I dropped them off at the clothes bin in a shopping plaza nearby.  The following morning I woke up and while getting dressed to go running I realize that I donated the wrong shoes.  I had grabbed the pair that only had 280 miles on them--only half way through their life!  And I still had the 500+ mile pair.  I ran over to the bin to see if any any chance the shoes where still there (I dropped them off at 11p and it was only 8a), but everything I had dropped off was gone.

To make matters worse, I think I left Liam's charger in those shoes.  Double runner fail.


The Death of Speed

While in southern Texas over Fourth of July weekend, just missing a hurricane and eating more BBQ than I thought possible, I had an epiphany: speed is not my thing.

We were visiting a close friend in McAllen, TX July 1-6. I had full intentions of keeping up my Summer of Speed training while on vacation, but one night in central AC and I couldn't wake myself up before 9am.  It was great and horrible at the same time.  For all the luxuries that New York City has for some reason central AC still hasn't caught on--even in my current apartment building which is only three years old.  If you have been to southern Texas, you know that you need to get out there at dawn if you're going to do any kind of physical activity, so 9am was not an option.

For a couple nights we stayed on South Padre Island and being across the street from the beach was too much to ignore.  Our first morning there I fought off the siren song of central AC and forced myself out the door by 7:30...barefoot.  That's right.  Not only was I going to run on the beach--which I've never done--I was also going to do it barefoot.  I figured when else would I have a chance to do this?

I stashed my flip-flops under the boardwalk in hopes that no one would find them.  The sun was bright and pretty high already, but the strong breeze and reduced temps left over from the hurricane made it downright tolerable.  I set off going south for three miles and then returning, for a total of six miles.  I didn't set any speed requirement since I've never run barefoot or on sand before.

The sand was fine, compact, and mostly free of shells/debris; ideal for running.  I noticed immediately that my heels had to go further down during each stride and that my calves were stretching out.  But after the first half-mile I was totally down with the form and stride adjustments.

By the turnaround I could feel something on the bottom of my feet, but I figured that I hadn't stepped on anything.  At mile four I stopped and finally checked my feet.  Sure enough I hadn't stepped on anything, but I had managed to form three blisters on my feet.  I took a bit of a walking break and then managed to run for the last 1.25 miles.

After that run I felt great, better than any of my runs in the past month.  It was a long, sweaty, sustained effort.  While I didn't do any sexy speediness, I felt like I got a real workout.

That night I mentioned to Wifey that I wasn't really feeling the whole Summer of Speed thing.  I wasn't digging the workouts.  I couldn't find races.  I missed the long runs.  And I had a nagging fear that I wouldn't be ready for an October Marathon if I was running 5Ks all summer.  Now, don't get me wrong.  During Marathon training I love speed workouts.  Track repeats, tempo runs, hill repeats--I love doing them all when they offer a break from the long slow runs that are also baked into Marathon training.  Doing them exclusively turns out to not be so much fun.

In talking to Wifey I realized that I should just drop the Summer of Speed and focus instead on a Fall Marathon.  It would getting me doing the runs I want to do and get me back on the 50 State track.  It sounded like a plan (once again, I don't see the most obvious answer).

Now, you might remember/recall that I was planning on running the Virginia Beach RnR Half on Labor Day and then the Mount Desert Island Marathon in October.  Well, over the past couple of months both of those have fallen through.  We were going to go to Virginia Beach with the family for a weeklong vacation, but scheduling and costs prevented that from happening.  So I was going to save this race for another year.  But then I realized that Virginia and Maine were basically the only remaining states within driving distance.  All other states are pretty much fly only.  So I planted the bug in my mind (and Wifey's) to do a "destination" Marathon.

A couple cities came to mind--someone even suggested Denver--but once Wifey said Portland, Oregon, my ears perked up.  I looked up the race and started getting excited.  We've wanted to go to Portland for a while now and a Marathon near our Anniversary would be a perfect excuse to go.  On reading further it looked like a great race that wasn't too big plus there is a big wine region next door, the ocean an hour away, Mt. St. Helen across the state line, and a slew of quirky hotels--I was sold.

So my next race will be the Portland Marathon on Oct, 10 (that's 10/10/10) after which we're going to enjoy a week's worth of vacation involving lots of drinking and an active volcano.  Hurray!