Recorded music for the live music capitol of the world

One of Austin's claims to fame is that it is "The Live Music Capital of the World."  I have no idea how they validate that or who even came up with it.  I can say that it felt like every bar and restaurant we went to while in Austin was promoting some band/musician/performer that was going to be playing their place in the upcoming week.

However, during the Half-Marathon I would not be able to enjoy this live music, so, per usual, I prepared a playlist of recorded music.

While the process was pretty much the same (spent more time making the playlist than running the race), I did break one long-standing tradition: for the first time in my 6+ years of running I did not start a long-distance race (Marathon or Half) by listening to Tina Turner's "Proud Mary."  It was part of the overriding theme to my training for Austin: I had gotten into a running funk so I needed to change up everything.  For my first Half-Marathon I like this song because it started off slow and then half-way through turns into a super-funk high energy.  It was a nice mix between pacing myself and racing.  It was good for then, and it was nice to have the tradition, but it was time to change.  (Of course, I changed it to a song that has a very similar structure.)

One last thing before going onto the actual music: while I have never run out of music during a race I have the fear that I will.  Despite knowing that I will pause the music several times in order to check my breathing I still pad the playlist by about six minutes.  The end result is that I usually only listen to two-thirds of any given playlist during a race.

  • Jacqueline; Franz Ferdinand  (it even looks weird starting the playlist with a song that isn't "Proud Mary," it feels like I skipped the first song)
  • Garbage Day; Brendan Benson
  • It’s Not the Fall That Hurts (US Mix); Caesars
  • Let’s Go Dancing; The Fashion
  • Supermassive Black Hole; Muse
  • I’m Not Over; Carolina Liar (odd song to put at the beginning, but it worked to kick up the pace)
  • Don’t Stop Believin’; Journey (don't judge, I'm a sucker for catchiness)
  • All of My Loving; Valley Lodge (piece of sRod trivia: this is the only band or artist in my music collection that I actually know in person--the drummer is one of my vendors)
  • Soulchaser (US Mix); Caesars
  • Long Road to Ruin; Foo Fighters
  • Renegade; Styx
  • That Girl; Plain White T’s
  • Kids; MGMT
  • Sins of My Youth; Neon Trees
  • Sea Lion Woman; Feist
  • A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix); Elvis Presley
  • Love Today; Mika
  • That’s Not My Name; The Ting Tings
  • Not New In N.Y.; The Fashion
  • 1983; Neon Trees
  • Feel Like Taking You Home; Brendan Benson
  • Wake Up; Arcade Fire (Or as everyone called them after the Grammys: “Arcade Who?”)
  • Home; Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  • Shout; The Isley Brothers (yeah, it’s cliché and I try to avoid clichés [please ignore "Don't Stop Believin'" above], but I put it on here anyway—oddly enough, I never ended up hearing it during the race)
  • Poised and Ready; Brendan Benson
  • Percussion Gun; White Rabbits (awesome song for late in the race)
  • The Pretender; Foo Fighters
  • Let’s Dance to Joy Division; The Wombats
  • Move Along; The All-American Rejects (although I changed my starting song, the finishing set of songs didn’t really change that much)


The two people that live inside me

Sometimes I like to get all philosophical and deep about running.  How I use it as a metaphor for life, how I deal with it psychologically.  I've probably tried to write this post 50 times over the past couple years, but something clicked this morning after reading this post over The Laminator's blog and it all just came together.

As a runner, there are two people that live inside of me: the fat kid and the fast runner.

The fat kid is a hydra: a multi-headed beast that is some ancient relic of my childhood.  Every time I think I've defeated him he reemerges, stronger for the defeat.  I hate the fat kid for two exact reasons: 1) his omnipresence and 2) his power to belittle.  Even acknowledging him here feels awkward, almost shameful.  Like I don't have the right to recognize having been fat as a kid and teenager.  The memory hurts.  And the repercussions that I have seen unfold from an obese childhood reinforce the hurt.

The fat kid is the one who says at the start of a run: "this is all a bad idea, let's wait until tomorrow to do it."

The fast runner wakes me up at 525a, five minutes before the alarm for the gym is supposed to go off even on days that I'm not going running.  The fast runner wants to qualify for Boston, run a sub-1:30 Half-Marathon, run seven days a week, crank the treadmill up to 12.0 just to make people at the gym stare.  The fast runner is the one who gets off on passing slower runners.  The fast runner loves to be active and sweating and prove himself.

The fast runner is the one who says after a run: "I just did that and I think next time I can do it even better."

The fat kid, I know, I will never outrun.  He weighs me down.  He points out flaws in the mirror.  He is self-aware and insecure.  He wants nothing good for me.  He is content being a sloth and watching life from a non-participatory vantage.  My relationship with him is marked by shortcomings.

The fast runner, I know, I will never outrun.  He is always pacing a bit faster than I am.  He never slouches.  His confidence is unshakable.  He likes to buy things that make me look good.  He loves the spotlight and at the same time he is my biggest cheerleader and will never, ever, lose faith in my ability to conquer anything.

Every run these two people check each other.  One wants to take it easy.  The other wants to go balls out.  It is a careful negotiation between the two, who gives, who takes.

During races they become caricatures.  The fat kid gets desperate, screams for an end, wants to find the finish line, be coddled, just to make it all stop and be safe.  Conversely, the fast runner is in his element, sticks out his chest, soars in with an infallible confidence; all things are under his control.

I would ultimately, one day, like to swash the fat kid.  Eradicate him from existence.  But I know he is a part of me forever.  I can't just forget where I have progressed from.  You cannot realize all the great mountains you have climbed if you forget the valley you started in.  It is necessary to have the fat kid villain to victory over, just like it is necessary to have the fast runner to be the hero.  You need a hero to push you, to build goals toward.  Accomplishing those goals feeds ambitions and the creation of higher goals.  Knowing that, it would be impossible to fulfill everyone of my running, and life, desires.  But that said, I would still ultimately, one day, like to be the fast runner.


Gym Carnie-vale

I heart my new gym.  I really do.

It's a ten minute walk from home, it has lots of space (a big deal in NY!), there always a treadmill open that isn't adjacent to someone already on a treadmill, it has a great range of machines, there is a huge stretching area, and it's about $30 less then I was paying at my old gym (and that's including the couple discount we had).  But the one thing I love most is that it is full with gym carnies.

I've been going to this gym now for less than three month, but geez, I had no idea--if I had, I would have signed up sooner.  A morning doesn't go by that I don't laugh to myself at the cast of characters that parade through the place.  I can't wait to share them all.


Speeding in Austin

In an uncharacteristic move I’m going to do the big reveal up front: I finished in 1:41:47!!  That’s a 7:44 pace and happens to be a new Half-Marathon PR by almost seven minutes!  Other milestones for this race:

·         First long distance race (i.e., Half for full Marathon) that I’ve run at sub-8:00 pace
·         First time I’ve ever sustained this pace for more than six miles
·         First net downhill race (there were still hills mind you)
·         First race that I showed up early for
·         First race I ran with heart burn

While I missed my goal time by 48 seconds, I will gladly take it.  Having run this race so well, having shaven off seven minutes from my PR, and proving that I have a faster runner inside of me—that makes all the effort worth it.  To keep things moving, let start with the splits:


Mile 1: 7:34
Mile 2: 6:43*
Mile 3: 9:20 (registered as 1.21 miles, pace: 7:43)
Mile 4: 7:42
Mile 5: 7:14
Mile 6: 8:10
Mile 7: 8:00
Mile 8: 7:52
Mile 9: 7:48
Mile 10: 7:56
Mile 11: 7:54
Mile 12: 7:28
Mile 13.1: 8:00 (7:14 pace)

Final Stats:
Distance: 13.1
Net Time: 1:41:47
Pace: 7:44
Overall Place: 544/4515 (top 12%)
Gender Place: 408/1915 (top 21%)
Age Place: 60/170 (top 35%)

*It was dark and I’ve kinda gotten out of the habit of wearing Fenny (my Garmin), so I accidentally stopped Fenny at Mile 2 instead of lapping.  This number is the difference between Fenny’s time and my chip time and reflects .82 miles that I had my watch turned off.


It’s getting harder and harder to remember what happens out there on the course.  I’ll scratch part of it up to not being as excited for Half-Marathons as I used to be, so I’m less attentive on the course.  Then this course wasn't scenic or particularly memorable—the real hallmark is the 300 meter net drop.  On top of that I was running with a much, much faster group this time around.  The 1:40 group is very different from the 1:50 crowd I’m used to.  There is little frivolity here: it’s a more hard-core-I’ve-got-pavement-to-kick-I-will-run-you-over atmosphere.  As the first time experiencing this it’s a bit frightening.

I ended up getting to the starting line way earlier than usual.  This wasn’t the best race in terms of pushing information out to runners—we ended up arriving for a 6:15a start, when the race really started at 6:45a.  But it all worked to my advantage.  First off, all the stress of getting there were off because there was no traffic and plenty of parking.  Second, there were no lines at the port-o-potties: I had my pick of clean, unused plastic out houses.

Over the next 45 minutes, runners arrived by the truckload.  Soon enough I was eating an apple (final food/sugar intake) and heading over to the starting corral with Wifey and our friend C.  I kissed Wifey goodbye and gave a hug/thanks-for-driving-this-early to C and then wiggled my way halfway between the 1:40 and 1:45 pace groups.  While standing there I felt the first few drops of rain—I was in complete denial because rain was not in the forecast and we were in central Texas (it just doesn’t rain here during the winter).  I had a flashback to the Portland Marathon that was all rain and then quickly shut that down—no negative thoughts before a race.

The gun fired and the corral swept me away—there was no false start or casual walk to the start line, these Texans go immediately from zero to run.

The first couple of miles were a negotiation.  I didn’t want to go out too fast, but I couldn’t go out too slow.  Heart burn appeared pretty early in the race and subsided for a brief time if I managed to burp—odd, no?  It wasn’t until the 1:45 pacer appeared over my left shoulder somewhere between Mile markers 3 and 4 that I told myself to stop dicking around and kick up the pace—if the 1:45 group was getting ready to pass me I was definitely slacking.

After a mile or so I got the 1:45 group behind me and out of ear shot, thanks to some long downhill stretches.

By the halfway point I saw that I was tracking pretty well on my time.   Probably because of that I eased up a bit and that’s why there are those random 8:00 splits at Mile 6 and 7.  But after Mile 7 I locked onto one guy wearing a San Antonio RnR Marathon shirt who seemed to be running at my goal pace.  I tacked onto him and let him do the driving.  (Look at me borrowing strategies from the elites!)

By Mile 9 I was in a full groove—I wasn’t necessarily hitting my goal pace, but I was cranking out as hard as I could.  I hit a series of songs on Liam (my iPod) that I could sing along to and I was that annoying guy singing loudly to music only he could hear.  My apologies to the more disciplined runners.

The last three miles went by incredibly fast.  There were no turns and it was all downhill.  I knew the PR was waiting for me, but because I had turned off Fenny for Mile 2 I had no idea what I was actually going to finish at, so I started throwing it all out there.   At the Mile 12 marker I went into free for all mode and must have passed at least a dozen runners.  After spurring off onto Trinity St there was a clear downhill view of the finish line five blocks away.  I didn’t get the tremendous kick that I normally get at the end of races (probably because I spent everything on the course) but I got a nice kick regardless and I was over the finish line faster than I thought possible.

I scoured for milk immediately after crossing the finish line—the heartburn was still killing me.  But no luck.  Wifey and C’s mom found me within a couple minutes of crossing the finish line.  After eating a banana and getting a few stretches in, I fought my way to the results board and scanned for a while to find my name.  I passed the 1:43s and the 1:42s.  I found my name finally—holy crap, those numbers are mine?  That blew me away.  I trained for a harder pace and I actually (more or less) did it, and in the process brought my PR down by seven minutes.  Insane.  A goofy smile spread across my face that I couldn’t wipe off.

We celebrated with a huge breakfast at Kerbey Lane Café where I was finally able to down about a quart of milk, followed by fried eggs over sweet potato hash, home fries, sausage, and Texas toast.  We napped until 3p as a delicious post-race food coma set in.


Why hello there

I didn’t intend to take two months off from blogging.  It kinda just happened.  One day I was wrapping up the last of my race report for Portland Marathon and saying that I had kicked off training for the 3M Austin Marathon (for a second time).  The next thing I know I’m crossing the finish line in Austin.
As always, life got in the way.  A busy October and November lead to an even busier December with Christmas shopping, personal travel, business travel, and houseguests being driven to the emergency room.

But now, a month into 2011, I can say that everything is going well and starting to look normal.  And I am very happy to say that my running has only seemed to improve lately.

First off, I bit the bullet and joined a gym.  After running outside straight through winter 2009-2010 I can say I have the wherewithal—and flat out balls—to train and run outside through a New York winter.  However, now that I’ve proven that I don’t feel compelled to prove it again and have signed up for the other gym in my neighborhood (i.e., not my old gym, which thinks I moved back in with my parents in Florida two years ago).

I have to say, I really like the new gym.  From the initial tour I really liked how spacious it was, how it didn’t feel pretentious, and the assortment of machines.  It falls weak in classes (apparently only housewives take classes at this gym) and is a good 10-15 minute walk from my apartment, but those are really the only drawbacks. 

Perhaps it was nostalgia for the treadmill after taking a two year break, but while training for Austin I really enjoyed being back on the treadmill—far more than I expected to and perhaps more than any runner probably should.  I missed the creature comforts of having a towel handy and bathrooms within reach at any time.  I also liked catching the news and sports reports in closed caption.  I found myself enjoying my runs so much more than when I was running outside.

Also for Austin I took an aggressive stance on my training for several reasons.  First, I believed that a faster runner lived inside of me, but that I had become too comfortable with my paces and training plans and that he was never going to come out unless I pushed him forward.  Second, I was tired of seeing tiny improvements in my race times although I swore that I was increasing the work in my training.  Third, I really, really wanted to get to another running milestone—in this case, a 1:40 Half-Marathon.

Instead of tweaking around with past plans and Frankenstein-ing my own training plan, I went back to the Ultimate Half-Marathon training plan and followed the advanced plan to a T.  I didn’t switch around days like I normally do, I didn’t add workouts I liked or take out ones that I didn’t—I just stuck to the plan.  And from the get go I based everything off a 7:40 race pace, which would translate into a 1:40 finish.  This part was the most freighting when I was putting the plan together (and harkens back to how comfortable I had become): my current HM race pace range was in the 8:12-8:20 range and I was planning on pushing that down by over 30 seconds.  However, I forced myself to go through with it—despite those mornings when I had a hard time maintaining that pace for even three miles. 

Actually, what forced me to keep up the pace during training what an short, unexpected conversation while Wifey and I were in Florida for thanksgiving.  The weekend before Thanksgiving my aunt had a “for the hell of it” party with friends and family.  One of my aunt’s friends whom I hadn’t seen in years but she has known me most of my life was there.  She’s one of my friends on Facebook so she knew I was a runner and asked what race I had coming up next.  I told her about Austin and my 1:40 goal and how I was scared of trying to get that time.  She simply responded “you just have to push yourself.”  There was something about the simple truth of those words—and the realization that I had forgotten to push myself during training.  And most days when I was looking at a particularly hard run at 6am after trudging through the snow I remembered these words and the sudden wave of energy that possessed me carried me through that run.

The race report will come shortly, but I will say that all the training paid off.