The ways to PR (or PB)

One of the many problems of aging is that it becomes harder and harder to run a PR (or PB if you aren’t from the US or you just like thinking of peanut butter all the time (or both)).  The most typical way to set a personal best (see, I WAS thinking of peanut butter) is to just run faster than you ever have before in a race of that distance.  This plan of attack requires hard work, hours training, and if you are me at my age, isn’t likely to happen.  However, since tossing away dreaming of records can be a demotivator, I have figured out a way to set PRs even though I am WAY past my prime.

1.  The yearly PR

This way of setting a PR is basically a “This is my best 5K of this year”.  This works best as a motivator if you run a lot of a certain type of race.  The nice benefit of this way of looking at PRs is that every year is a new set of PRs that can be set.  A variation of this theme is “this my best 10K since 2004″.

2. The Distance PR

The first time you ever run a race distance you get a PR (and maybe eat PB afterwards).  The problem is after a while you have competed most race distances.  Fear not, it is a odd world out there and there are two distance measurement systems to help you out.  1775K anyone?  Are you a Canadian with the same problem?  Well, here in the DC area we have a ton of 10 milers (The Cherry Blossom 10 miler being one).  30K anyone? Then there are timed races that can be as short as 6 Hours (and as an added bonus you get the same finishing time as the winner of the race (yes I will keep telling this joke)).  So there are a lot of options to come up with a distance PR.  Just don’t be like me and do them all in one year.

Pack Your Bags for a Locality PR

This one takes some planning and a little bit of luck.  You are reading the blog of the Illinois state champion at the Decker’s Creek Half Marathon in 2004.  OK, I was the only person from Illinois running the race, but even so, I was the champion. In my recent Army Run half Marathon I was the top placed male from Virginia (and yes a woman from Virginia blew my doors off to take the mythical Virginia title).  For this type of PR is it best to travel away from your home town and look through the past race results to determine if anyone who lives in your state/city/country has run this race in the past.

From the National Gallery Of Canada.  Doesn't really have anything to do with running.  It is pretty though and doesn't the world need more pretty?

From the National Gallery Of Canada. Doesn’t really have anything to do with running. It is pretty though and doesn’t the world need more pretty?

Race PRs

If you run one race often enough, you can also see what your PR for that particular race is.  This helps to motivate you to run courses that are hilly where you might not otherwise get a PR.  It also gives you a reason to start a tradition and run some races every year (which in my case mostly just reminds me of how old I am).

PR By Turning Your Garmin on during an Airplane flight

Wow, this lowered my 1 miler PR down to almost nothing.



@Halfmarathonmel and Full Marathon Training

Well @halfmarathmel was in town this week and I was fortunate enough to be able to provide her a tour of the National Mall on Thursday evening.  She is just as nice and funny a person in real life as on-line (which is to say pretty darn nice and funny).   She has a goal to run 50 half marathons by the time she turns 50 and has completed 31 so far (which gives her 21 years to complete the next 19 in my estimation).  I enjoyed just walking around DC and talking to her about various topics (like where the heck did they hide Florida at the WWII Memorial (we did find it (OK, she found it)).  All in all it was an enjoyable Thursday evening.  If you are wondering why no selfie of the two us, WordPress informed me that having my picture twice in my last post exceeded my quota and I was in selfie jail for one post.  Sorry, it maybe next time.
During the tour I found odd that I have been to the Lincoln Memorial many times and don’t remember ever looking up at the ceiling. Well you don’t have to wait 4 score or seven years for that picture:

I try to force myself to look up at least once a day.  I know this isn't a particularly humorous observation.  If you need a good laugh, imaging the Pig flying through the picture.

I try to force myself to look up at least once a day. I know this isn’t a particularly humorous observation. If you need a good laugh, imaging the Pig flying through the picture.

After a Metro ride (pass on that pic) it was dinner at Galae Thai (where fortunately the food is MUCH better than their website). Here is what was left over from my Panang Curry (not much as it was really good).




For those keeping score at home I am up to 3 followers met in person. This also equal to the number of half marathons I have run this year. At this rate I should meet all my Twitter followers in ~400 hundred years. Reserve your place in line now.

So last we left my running plans, I was in a hotel bar working on my Marine Corps plan and what my target pace is. Yes this should typically be ironed out more than a month before the race, but you already knew I wasn’t the fastest person in the world.

I had talked previously about needing a magic wand to get me from last week’s half marathon to MCM in October. Well basically I am going to add a couple of miles a week to my long run for the next 2 weeks and make my mid-week tempo runs in the 8-9 mile category and hope somehow that carries the day (or at least drags the day kicking and screaming).

For a goal finishing time I looked at some race predictors based on half marathon time and in theory I could turn in a 4:15 but those calculators assume you like have actually trained for a marathon and not barely survived a half after starting the half WAY too fast. Also, my long run didn’t go as planned this weekend.  I think I am still recovering from my race last week (I can hear the chorus of “duh”).  My current thinking for MCM target is 4:30-4:22, but we all know my plans have about much permanence as a stick drawing on the beach at high tide.  Although my long run wasn’t great this weekend, at least I got some nice pictures out of it:

Potomac River actually looks nice with no one around.  Feel free to imagine the pig in the picture too.

Potomac River actually looks nice with no one around. Feel free to imagine the pig in this picture too.




Running Lonely Goes to Ottawa

So last weekend I went to Ottawa Canada to run the Army Run (a half marathon) and to visit my good friend Jane of 50statecanuck.  I have been planning this trip for a while, so it seemed somewhat unreal when last Friday rolled around and the Pig I made the hike out to Dulles airport (OK, we didn’t hike, I drove).  We got to airport in plenty of time to get my bag checked and for the pig to get some caffeine.

Somehow TSA let the Pig through.  Please note he did not share with me.

Somehow TSA let the Pig through. Please note he did not share with me.  Not sure how they fit 30 shots in that cup.

After an hour and a half flight I landed in the Great White North.  When I went through Canadian customs I had two thoughts 1. Please don’t be a reader of this blog.  2. Please don’t ask about the Pig.  The customs official asked me why I was in the country, and I said I was in town for the  Army Run.  She asked if I had run it before, and I said no.  She then asked if I was an avid runner.  This made me feel comfortable she had never had read the blog and I lied and said “yes”. She then waived me on to grab my bag and head into Ottawa.

As I came in from the airport I saw the new football stadium (Go Redblacks!) and the canal with a kick butt running path and arrived at the hotel.  It was too early for check-in, but they did hold my bags while I went to explore the city.

First on my list was the Canadian National Gallery (read this for more about my artwork they had online). En route I went by the Canadian War Memorial

Canadian War Memorial

National War Memorial as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

After this, there was the hotel, Fairmont Château Laurier which honestly looks like a fairy tale castle.

No princesses to be found so I was toad #pun

No princesses to be found so I was toad #pun

Next to the Laurier were some of Ottawa’s famous locks.  Being a mechanical engineer I am fascinated by such things (I even picked up the tourist brochure on how locks work, but I will spare you that photo). Even the pig got in on the action.

The Pig with locks in the background (Laurier is on the right).

The Pig with locks in the background (Laurier is on the right).

Another picture of locks because it is my blog so I can post whatever pictures I want (except selfies, those are just random events).

Another picture of locks because it is my blog so I can post whatever pictures I want (except selfies, those are just random events).  People in the background are wondering about the silly American with a toy pig.

So it was on to the Canadian National Gallery. The architecture of the building is gorgeous both inside and out and I enjoyed the various types of artwork they displayed (including a particularly interesting collection of Monet paintings).

This doesn't do the building justice, but there is a giant spider sculpture in front of the building and some of my readers are sensitive to spiders

This doesn’t do the building justice, but there is a giant spider sculpture in front of the building and some of my readers are sensitive to spiders

I love angles

I love angles and shadows.  This looks down on a garden they have in the museum

Entrance way to the gallery

Entrance way to the gallery.  It was a beautiful day outside as well.

Now in front of the museum there is a giant spider sculpture that the pig decided he wanted to rumble with. I know some of my readers are sensitive to spiders, so I will just show the initial encounter:

PIG VS SPIDER OK that sounded better in my head than it looks on paper.  In the end the battle was a draw.

OK that sounded better in my head than it looks on paper. In the end the battle was a draw.

After a quick lunch, it was off Supreme Court of Canada.  On the way I did see the grandeur  of the Parliament building:


Grandeur and Parliament (that and very green grass)

Here is the front of the Supreme Court:

I already told you what this is, pay attention next time.

I already told you what this is, pay attention next time.

And inside:

Doors to the Supreme Court

Doors to the Supreme Court

And of course the Pig causes a scene

I don't think this is good for the Canadian Justice system

I don’t think this is good for the Canadian Justice system

I went by the Canadian Archive building.  They were having a book sale (no, not of their collection) but it didn’t look that exciting so I left. There was a creepy statue in front of the building and I have no idea what it has to do with the Archive.

The Pig is just trying to get me arrested by this point

The Pig is just trying to get me arrested by this point.  This is one creepy statue in my opinion.

Next it was off to the National War Museum which has an interesting collection of military hardware.  No, I didn’t let the pig near any of it.

No way was I taking one of these home

No way was I going to be allowed to take one of these home

Then it was back to the hotel, check-in, unpack (all 6 running shirts and every non-running long sleeve shirt I own that fits (3 if you are curious)).

So I get a text from Jane that she is about at the hotel. I sometimes forget that not all my readers read Jane’s blog (but you should!), so here is a little about Jane. Jane is a wicked fast runner who has a goal of running a marathon or half marathon in all 50 states. She’s completed 8 states so far (with two more scheduled for this year)and has run the Boston Marathon twice. She has a job as a pediatric exercise specialist at a local hospital and work she does these children is simultaneously heartwarming and heart wrenching.  Also, I learned that she know pretty much every last resident of Ottawa.

One of the interesting things about the running community is people who would normally never talk to each other end up being friends. Jane is smart, athletic, compassionate, outgoing, takes no crap and is a fast runner. Me? Well I’m a seriously introverted person who takes a pig to the Canadian Supreme Court and coined the term “slow sloth Sunday”.  Yet quickly we became friends on Twitter and I consider her to be a good friend of mine. Heck her dog and my pig even share a Twitter account (and I dare you to try to explain that to anyone).

Jane wrote up a far better description of the weekends activities than I can provide (here is the link to her post), although there were a couple of minor details she left out that I will try to fill in the gaps.

We left the hotel grabbed our race packet and grabbed a beer (she must have read my blog post where I mentioned I was far more tolerable after one beer). We then went off to a Thai restaurant for dinner. The food was great and we even took a selfie. Obviously I was on beer number two.

This is the first time the male readers of this blog have been jealous of me.

This is the first time the male readers of this blog have been jealous of me (OK, any readers really)

We talked and I tried to impress her by explaining the solution to a kindergarten math problem we had seen the week before (and failed since I was on beer number two). She took a picture of the Pig trying to eat her Panang curry and we had a conversation about it on Twitter even though we were right across the table from each other (I told you I am introverted) . We finished dinner and Jane dropped the Pig and I off at the hotel.

Saturday after I had wondered the streets of downtown a bit, did some lap swim in the hotel pool and got a pumpkin scone at Starbucks for breakfast (along with some water to keep hydrated since I was racing the next day). Jane arrived at bit later and we were going to walk over to over to Parliament to take the tour. First though we had to stop off at a Canadian tradition that is mandatory for all foreign visitors.

You are required to go here at least once.  They won't let you leave the country without a receipt.

You are required to go here at least once. They won’t let you leave the country without a receipt.

Then it was off to parliament where of course we ran into a group of people Jane knew. The guide gave a great tour and the Pig tried to see if he could be a member of Parliament (fortunately for Canada the answer was no).

You could guess what would happen with all bills being stuffed with pork

You could guess what would happen with all bills being stuffed with pork

Architecturally the highlight was the library and we were fortunate that since it was the weekend they allowed pictures.

Books Books Books Books Books Books and cool Architecture

Books Books Books Books Books Books and cool Architecture

After the tour it was lunch at subway (guess after the previous night’s dinner there was a limit to where she would be seen in public with the Pig and I).

After lunch was a trip out to the countryside to visit the Diefenbunker. This had been an emergency bunker for the Canadian government to function in case of nuclear attack. The name came from a play on words from the Prime Minster who approve the construction of the bunker, John Diefenbaker(see those Canadians have a sense of humor). The site is now a museum was a stark reminder of the Cold War era and what it would be like to live in an underground bunker after a nuclear blast.

Home sweet home

Operating room.  If this doesn’t look like the interior of a government building, I don’t know what does

Pig and a radiation detector.  The radiation would be checked every 30 days to see if were safe to exit.

Pig and a radiation detector. The radiation would be checked every 30 days to see if were safe to exit.

Although I jest in the pictures, it was a very powerful and thought provoking place to visit.

So after the Diefenbunker it was off to the Dollar Store and Wal-mart. Since this was the same parking lot that a bird had crapped on her car the week before, I could tell that Jane was considering leaving me on bird watch duty, but I think the thought of having the pig basically unsupervised was enough to allow us to tag along.

Then it was the moment we were all waiting for, Abby meets Pig.

Abby demonstrates the throwdown to the Pig

Abby demonstrates the throwdown to the Pig

Abby tried to convince me she never gets petted.  No luck with that.

Abby tried to convince me she never gets petted. No luck with that.

While taking Abby for a walk (and finding Jane knew everyone on the street for a half mile radius) it started to rain hard (good prep for Sunday’s race).  Jane started to run and urged Abby to run faster and the rain cascaded down.  I looked at Abby and silently pleaded for her to keep the pace as is because I couldn’t keep up with Jane while running to save my life.  Fortunately Abby got the message because I didn’t die of a heart attack.

For dinner went to an Italian restaurant where Jane of course knew just about everyone.  Even though he wasn’t racing, the Pig wanted to carb load too.

Who doesn't like to carb load

Who doesn’t like to carb load

Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest before the race.  Sunday I set a PR in the half.  You can read my account of my stupidity working out OK in the end here.

Later in the day, Jane and I met up to go to the Canadian Mint (after another beer stop).

Why did we tour here?  Because that is where the money is.

Why did we tour here? Because that is where the money is.

Being a mechanical engineer I loved looking at the machinery and Jane impressed everyone by knowing all the answers to the tour questions.  She didn’t know the tour guide, so I assume she is not from Ottawa.

After a quick walk of Abby, Jane took me to a great burger place.  Since I ordered the War Pig, it was probably just as well the pig didn’t come along.  Jane of course knew the people at the table next to us.  After dinner, Jane dropped me back at the hotel and we bid adieu.  If you ever go to Ottawa Jane provides is the best tour guide and she knows EVERYONE in Ottawa.

But I wasn’t finished with my trip yet.  Monday I got up at o’dark hundred and headed out to get some breakfast.  On the saw a statue of jazz musician Oscar Peterson that was set up on motion detection to play jazz piano music when you walked by.

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Then I had to fill the one major gap in my Canadian experience.  I had to have poutine. Poutine is french fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds.  The version I ordered also had bacon and sausage.  I think I am the first person ever to have this for breakfast while sober.

Breakfast of Champions (or at least of Running Lonely)

Breakfast of Champions (or at least of Running Lonely).  The picture is blurry because it is what my brain felt like at that time of morning.

Then it was on to the residence of the Governor General.  Unfortunately the residence was closed because the South Korean delegation was in town.  However, since I had walked the 1 1/2 miles to get there, I wondered around the grounds (and being nice they didn’t throw me out even though I was there before the grounds officially opened).  One interesting tidbit I learned was there was a ceremonial tree planting that several famous leaders have participated it (including President Kennedy).  On the way back I enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Ottawa.

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Fall!!! Well start of it anyway.

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I went back to Parliament to see if I could get to see the Peace Tower since it had been closed due to an elevator problem.  Unfortunately it was closed because of the South Koreans.  So it was back to the hotel to pack, check out, and go to the Aviation Museum.  This required a taxi ride out since it is about 4 1/2 miles out-of-town.  It was a fascinating collection of early era plane and they even offer bi-plane ride (which I might have done if the weather was nicer).

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Yes, two pictures of me in one post.  Don't get used to it.

Yes, two pictures of me in one post. Don’t get used to it.

On the way to my pub lunch, I walked by the ByWard market (part market, part drinking spot).  Unfortunately I could not take any of the produce home.

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Is anyone still reading this post?  Yes, Jane, I know you are, but anyone else?



My last tourist stop of the home of two former Prime Ministers, Wilfrid Laurier and Mackenzie King.  I was the only person there and the park service was very gracious in giving me a tour.  When King passed on, his will gave the house to the Canadian government with all of its contents including his toothbrush.  They still have the toothbrush on display.  Let me know if you want a pic of that.

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The guide demonstrated the player piano and let me know that they could play Puff the Magic Dragon and Hey Jude on it as well.

OK, here's the toothbrush

OK, here’s the toothbrush

Then it was time to end my Ottawa adventure.  I took one last look at the canals and then headed to the airport for my flight back to the US.

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It was a trip I will not soon forget.  I highly recommend both the Army run and traveling to Ottawa!



Army Run (Ottawa Canada 2014)

I will be splitting my Ottawa weekend into two posts. This post will cover the Army Run itself and then I will post about my trip to Ottawa and how the Pig and I took the city by storm (or at least by a gentle mist).

One of the things I look for in a destination race is for a hotel close to the start line. At the recommendation of Jane at 50statecanuck I stayed at The Lord Elgin in downtown Ottawa.  Below is the distance from my hotel room to the start line.  Fortunately Jane knows someone at the Lord Elgin who upgraded my room to such a great view. (actually after this visit I am convinced she knows every single person in Ottawa).

8 floors and a few feet to the start.  Note the pig was already getting ready to cheer

8 floors and a few feet to the start. Note the pig was already getting ready to cheer


I picked up my race packet on Friday with Jane.  Here is a picture of the shirt they give out (and the dog tags I got at the finish):

The Army Run Shirt and dog tags.  Note if you are an American running this race, go a size up on your shirt (or at least I am glad I did)

The Army Run Shirt and dog tags. Note if you are an American running this race, go a size up on your shirt (or at least I am glad I did).  Definitely a unique shirt.  I don’t typically keep my race shirts, but this one will be an exception.

The half marathon start was 9:30 AM, and I was up just before 6 AM.  Usually I don’t eat much before races, but a couple of hours before the race I had a peanut butter sandwich (Canadians get a Kraft brand of peanut butter that we don’t in the US, so there is your Canadian trivia for this post). There is a 13,000 runner 5K before the half and one thing I noticed is that 5K runners are FAR more enthusiastic than half marathon runners.  When the announcer attempted to get the crowd going for the half he was met with a tomb like silence, but the 5K crowd was yelling and clapping.  Since my hotel room was right on the start line and I could hear everything, I started getting pumped with the 5K crowd and started running my pre-race strides in the hallway of the hotel (being an American, they expect stupid things, little do they realize I am in a category of stupid all on my own).  So after scurrying around stretching and foam rollering I made my way downstairs for the start.

I was originally part of the Orange Wave(1:30 to 2:00), but since I didn’t think I was going to run a 2 sub hour race(thank you bum knee), I parked myself in the corral behind the orange. Of course right front of me was the two hour pace bunny (complete with bunny ears) and I thought for a moment that maybe I could catch up the 2 hour group as a race strategy. Fortunately I thought better of it.

So the race started with a howitzer blast (Army indeed) and I went absolutely no where.  We were warned by a race official pre-race that there would be a 5 minute pause between our wave and the one before (a really good idea to cut down on congestion).  We waited, and then they decided to let some buses through and we waited a bit more. Finally they took us up to the start line and I was on the second row.  After about a total of 10 minute wait, they unleashed us on the course.

The race starts on an uphill toward the National War Memorial and I charged up that hill BIG TIME.  I was the third person up the hill and the crowd was cheering and I was going full throttle.  It was like leading a race (OK, what I imagine it would be like to be at the front of a race) with no runners around you and the crowd being enthusiastic.  It gave me a serious boost of adrenaline.  At the top of the hill I thought to check my Garmin and noticed the instantaneous pace was 7:30 min/mile.  This is faster than my 5K pace.  I wasn’t acting like I was running a half marathon, I acting like I was doing hill repeats.  My brain did kick in a bit, and I slowed down to something like 8:30 pace.

You may or may not remember in my last post that I decided I wasn’t going to try for PR pace in this race because it was going to be warm (and it was for me at 68F) and humid (it started to rain midway through the race).  Did I pay attention to last week me? I SO ignored last week me.  I was zipping along like I was holding a torch  and I was going to set the world on fire.  The first three miles went 8:17 (oops) ,9:00, 8:59.

Over 500 ft of climbing and not a lot of flat.

Over 500 ft of climbing and not a lot of flat.

The race has a lot of uphill/downhill combos where you run up one side of the road and down the other side (see elevation profile above).  This allowed you to see more of the other runners and gave you the opportunity to cheer the military runners who were running the race (and everyone did cheer which was nice to see).

I decided to keep my Garmin on miles even though the course was marked in KM (and they had markers each KM as a FYI).  I had done all my training in mile/min and I knew that I could figure out how off the Garmin was by checking it at 5/10/15K (since I know the conversions for those distances and runner math in the middle of a race is not my forte).  So of course I forgot to check at the 5K mark until I was way past it, so I still wasn’t sure if I was going as fast I thought I was.  To protect against being overly stupid (OK, too late for that) I went to monitoring my heart rate and tried to keep at 90 percent of max for most of the time with allowances to go slightly above in the uphill sections.  This seemed to work fairly well for the next few miles.

My next 3 miles were 9:09,9:06,9:08.  At this point the rains came.  At first it was a trickle and then it was a flat out downpour.  It created a lot of puddles which caused runners to swerve to miss them.  There were a couple of runners who were very lucky I didn’t plow them over. At the 10 K point I did notice what the distance was to help calibrate my Garmin.  I thought it was .1 mile off, so I started adding 10 seconds in my mind to all the split times.  At this point though I knew I was moving along pretty well, sub 2 hour was probably not an option, but breaking my PR (sorry, PB still makes me think of peanut butter) was within my grasp.

After the 10K mark there was another hill which went up by the National Gallery (home of my artwork (or as Jane calls it, her artwork)) and I noticed for the first time the effort the hills was taking it out of me.  Next we hit a construction zone and the road narrowed and I started to having to expend effort to weave in and out of traffic (people traffic, not car, this is Canada, they wouldn’t do that).

Next we came to the grounds of the Governor General’s mansion. This was a new part of the course for 2014.  For those who unfamiliar with the Governor General’s job (and that would be most of you) the Governor General is appointed by the Queen of Canada (who the same Queen as England) to execute monarch’s federal constitutional duties.  Technically he has to approve all laws that are passed, but as I learned in my tour of Parliament, he can’t really say no.  He has other duties as well, and I would describe them, but I’m running a race here.

It was fun seeing the formal guards at the entrance to the grounds.  Supposedly the Governor General himself was there, but I was too focused to notice.  The grounds were really nice (and really wet since it was raining).  Here is a picture from the next day sans rain.


We were not running on the grass which was just as well

We were not running on the grass which was just as well.  They do let you have a picnic here.  I did not stop at mile 9 to do so in the rain.  Guess I carried that picnic basket 9 miles for nothing.

My hips were really starting to feel the effort at this point of the race.  I hit miles 8 and 9 at 9:10  and 9:11. Then what motivated me was that I realized I could beat my 10 miler PR from 1775K (and Cherry Blossom 10 miler).  Yes I was confused about what distance race I was running.  This goal kept the motivation and pace up a bit higher since my pace started to drag as the heavens opened and it really started to pour.  Well I pushed and at mile 10 and I beat my 10 miler PR from this Spring by over 5 minutes.  You know how they say a half marathon is a 10 mile run followed by a 5K race (I don’t know what you km only people say).  Well, I did the opposite because I did a 10 mile race with a 5K run.  The air went out of the tires and my instantaneous pace soared to above 10 min/mile for first time and the race started to be a struggle.  I knew sub 2 was not possible, but I still thought a PR was, so I tried to dig a bit deeper.   Miles 11 and 12 were 9:15 and 9:16.  My heart rate monitor gave out around mile 9 and I wish I had an idea of what my heart rate was at this time of the race (trying to escape my chest I suspect).

It was a really long final km (and uphill just to add to the fun).  I pushed on the gas one last time and for my efforts I started to dry heave and choke.  That should make for some great race finish line photos.  Well at least I knew I had given it my all when I hit the line at 2:00:21.  This was a PR by more than 2 minutes.  Take that 2004 me (when I set my previous PR).  I have been warned by one of my readers that I am not to under any circumstances complain about not being under 2 hours.

This is me not complaining.

After the race a member of the Canadian military hands you your dog tag.  I thanked him for his service as he gave it to me.

So I managed to PR in my 11th half marathon (and 32 years after my first one (yes I am prehistoric)).  I still won’t mention missing 2 hours by 21 seconds. I also set a 10 miler PR (knocking 5+ minutes off that) and had my best 10K since 1982 (though 14 minutes from that PR).  For the record my 5K was not even a record for this year, so at least I paced myself that well.  OK, only that well.

The joy of the race lasted about 8 hours (pretty good for me, but sad in absolute terms).  By the evening I was sitting in the hotel bar thinking about Marine Corps Marathon and how I might modify training and my goal pace to take into account how I did in this race.  Still thinking about if any modifications should be done this close to the race (1 Month out).

The Army Run a good race and one I would recommend highly as a destination race. The course isn’t easy or flat, but it is definitely a fun race and generally well run.  Even if you don’t do this race, Ottawa is a great city to visit and run in.

Run Ottawa!

Run Ottawa!

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Next post I will talk more about the wondrous  city of Ottawa and seeing it with my wondrous tour guide @50statecanuck.



I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane–I’ll be back Monday night

So Friday dark and early the pig and I will leave for Ottawa to run The Army Run on Sunday (I’m doing the half marathon, the pig will be ordering room service).  Great time to rob my place if you ever wanted (but trust me, you don’t want to). This of course assumes that the Canadian customs officials are not readers of this blog (if they are then it will be a very short trip to a very dark holding cell).

Somebody needs to learn about how to pack lightly (and yes, I know one of you is laughing at this)

Somebody needs to learn about how to pack lightly (and yes, I know @50statecanuck is laughing at this given my own packing skills) Yes, my luggage is from the TWA era. I am about as fast in keeping up with luggage trends as I am at running.

I did decide to taper this week, but not quite as much as I normally would.  On Tuesday I cranked out the fastest 10K for me in the last 9 years (yes, I am unclear on the whole tapering concept).  It almost was enough to give me visions of taking a stab at my PR (2:02:32 if you are curious (set in 2004)).  However the weather is screaming sleep in and come up with some lame excuse of why you didn’t run the race (or lie and say I ran the race and join the pig in a nice breakfast).  It is not PR weather for someone like me who like 45 deg F and cloudy.

Unapproved weather

Unapproved weather. Oh and the wind gusts are going to be 25 MPH just to make it a little more fun.  I am actually traveling for this.

Of course I say I won’t go full-out, but given the race day adrenaline and the fact I my standard race strategy is to run like an idiot, I will probably go out too fast .  Then I will blow up around mile 7 (or whatever that translates into km) and hang on the rest of the race (for those who are thinking about trying mental visualization, don’t do what I just did).  Hopefully I can come in with a time that is somewhere in between the two half marathons I have done this year.

Win-Lose-or-Draw I am looking forward to my visit to Ottawa and meeting the denizens thereof. Also looking forward to touring Ottawa with @50statecanuck as well as the @AbbyAndThePig meeting.  The local Ottawa police are probably not looking forward to Abby and the Pig meeting quite so much.

Canadian Trivia

The US and Canada (or Britain to more precise) almost went to war over a pig.  The Oregon treaty was supposed to clarify the border between the US and Canada, but there was still some question about the San Juan Island.  In June of 1859  Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer who had moved on San Juan Island found a  pig eating his potatoes. Cutlar  shot the pig, killing it. Well the pig was owned by Charles Griffin, who was employed by the Hudson Bay Company.  Cutlar said he would pay 10 bucks to Griffin to pay for the pig but Griffin wanted 100 (remember this is 1859).  Cutlar said, “screw that– the pig was on my property eating my potatoes” (or the 1859 equivalent).  Griffin went to the British authorities who promptly threatened to arrest Cutlar. American settlers then requested the US military to get involved and about 70 soldiers were sent to the island.  The British countered with three warships and eventually there were over 2500 soldiers and 5 warships involved between the two sides.  The Governor of Vancouver ordered the British Rear Admiral leading the British troops to attack the Americans.  Rear Admiral Baynes was smart enough not to engage the US in a 3rd war over the shooting of a pig (“Remember The Pig”, really is not much of a war rally cry). After some negotiation, the both sides to joint occupation of the island, and eventually in 1872 an international commission awarded the island to the US (once again irking the Canadian population about how Britain screwed them).

Now it is time to go make my own Canadian history (and hope my pig does not start another international incident).   Wish me luck on both fronts as I remind myself to live in the moment at least for one weekend.



Running Lonely In Black and White

The internet is a strange and occasionally wonderful place (I like to think I contribute to both).  About a month and a half ago I was doing research on places to visit in Ottawa while I was in town for the Army Run.  High on my list was the National Gallery of Canada.  On their website they were having a contest  for black and white illustrations of the Bluebeard story. I semi jokingly tweeted about entering the contest.  I actually received a couple of “you should totally do that” responses (note I could say that I was planning on trying out for the Yankees and I might receive a similar response). I responded to the tweets with “I’d think about it”. Then I promptly didn’t do anything for about a month  I busily planned my artwork. Labor Day rolled around and I had plenty of time to kill because I have no social life I knew my window of opportunity had arrived. I put together 4 pieces but only one really spoke to me.  Then I had the idea of doing a close-up of one of the paintings I didn’t like as much instead of showing the full piece.

The famed number 2

The famed number 2 @50statecanuck would like you to know she considers this to be her painting

This is the full piece.  Looks better as a close up

This is the full piece. Looks better as a close up

The funny thing about #2 was that I almost didn’t paint it.  I had a black paint version of #2 and I was thinking that white would have a nice negative image quality to it.  Luckily the art store was open on Labor day.  I wrote about my art in a blog piece and in the original published version I expressed my thought that #4 was the best of the lot.

This is probably the one I am going with


Well, @50statecanuck informed me that I shouldn’t share my preferences with the audience lest I taint the results (and really who wants tainted results).  Not realizing my egregious violation of on-line voting rules in a blog, I took out the part about my preference before I was tossed in blog-jail.  OK, that’s BS.  I figured it didn’t matter since I was the one who was doing the submitting to the contest, I could choose whatever I wanted (or rig the vote since I am that type of person in real life). The voting was intense (@goobermonkey78 voted over 850 times for #4 and if I still lived in Chicago or Texas that might have won the day).   In the end number 2 squeaked out a 6-5 victory over number 4.  I received more comments on that blog posting than any of my running ones (oh hush, I know what you are thinking).

I then realized I had a problem (and not just because the voting didn’t go my way).  Given the deadline of the contest, and how long it could take for the National Gallery of Canada to get back to me on if the accepted the piece, (IE didn’t care that I didn’t follow the rules) I would not have time to turn in a real illustration and would be screwed if they rejected my original piece.   Illustrations aren’t really my forte, but a local friend of my urged me to put something together to submit that would actually not break any of the rules. I did think that #2 (the painting, not the pencil) could make a decent drawing (unlike #4 which was  3-dimensional).  A another trip to the art store and 75 bucks later and I had various black paper, and oil pastels and pencils to try to recreate #2.  I used the oil pastels on a plain black paper and the texture of the paper somewhat recreated the texture I had created in the acrylic paint.  I used the same trick to zoom in on a few strands of hair and here is what I submitted:

My submission (not the MMA kind)

My submission (not the MMA kind).

Monday I found the piece was actually accepted and can be found at their on-line gallery. A couple of notes (other than I have no clue if they actually rejected any piece.  I would think that if a major art museum says, “hey put something in our collection” I wouldn’t be one of 60 people to take them up on the offer, but who knows).

1. Thanks for indulging my blog posts on art.  I know this isn’t a running related post (other than showing where running can lead you) so thanks for reading.

2. Thanks for your feedback and voting on the pieces (even though on some level I ignored the vote entirely). Your encouragement pushed me to try this and in the end I had a piece of art accepted by a big league art museum.  I have to admit it is cool to be part of even the on-line National Gallery of Canada.  Now I can be part of Canadian trivia.



This One is For the Guys

This post is for the guys.

Hey, it’s just us guys, so feel free grab a beer, to kick back in the recliner, and curse at sports teams all you want.  Since it is just us guys here, I want to talk about breast cancer.


I know, I know–next month is the pink month and you will be bombarded with everything pink including the NFL.  Many males will look at the statistics of getting breast cancer (1.3 in 100,000) and completely tune it out.  Well, I’m here to tell you not to. Although rare in men, overall breast cancer is more fatal in men than in women.  Why?  Because men don’t think it happen to them so by the time they do anything about it, it is too late.

I become surprising close to being one of those stats

It was one year ago when I was in bed and I turned on my right side and felt a big lump in my breast. “What the hell” I thought.  I’m a dude.  This can’t happen to a dude–even a total wimpy dude like me.  It was the Friday before Labor Day and in a panic I set an appointment with my Doctor for the following Tuesday.  Needless to say it was not the most fun I have ever had over a three-day weekend.

When I went to the doctor and he didn’t seem overly concerned, but to be cautious sent me to get an ultrasound.  So two days later I went to a place that specialized in breast ultrasounds and when I got there they asked me when my wife was coming.  *sigh*

They started the ultrasound and I knew something was wrong when the tech felt the need to let the senior tech look at the ultrasound.  The senior tech took one look and rushed out to get the doctor to look at it.  I really started to worry when the doctor looked at the ultrasound, flinched, and calmly said she if it was OK with me, she was going to contact my primary physician to see if we could do a biopsy.  Next thing I know I am in a room with 5 women staring at me like I am exhibit A while they performed the biopsy.  I was stupid enough to watch the monitor while they jammed the biopsy needle in me to get samples.

Don't do this at home.

Don’t do this at home.  Pretend most of the picture is solid muscle.

After the biopsy the doctor said she was recommending a mammogram.


All I will say is that if there are any women who have had a mammogram still reading this, I now understand why “And don’t breathe” isn’t funny.  At the end of it all the doctor said not to worry, they would let me know the results.

So I went home and did what I do best–I worried.  It turns out it isn’t easy to get interpretations of breast ultrasounds on the web, but I found a Canadian web site that showed ultrasounds of various types of tumors (thank you Canada).  I narrowed it down to two options.  Given the size of my lump (later described as lemon sized (I don’t look at lemons the same way again)) one option was benign, the other was near fatal.  Both were incredibility rare (literally 1 in a million (and why did I have to use those odds for something like a tumor as opposed to something like putting together a decent blog post)).

I made the decision not to tell my parents or brother and waited for the biopsy results (and you think I about bad about sharing stuff with my blog readers).  After about a week, I worked myself into a sufficient frenzy and called to ask WTF what was taking so long for my results.  After being put on hold for a while, they finally came back and told me that the results were being sent out to Johns Hopkins for a second opinion. For those not in the US, Johns Hopkins is one of the leading hospitals in US for cancer treatment.

It did not make me feel better to hear this information

I’ll spare you the details of the next 5 days, but eventually the news came and it was good news– I had myofibroblastoma and I would get to have surgery to remove it.

Funny what qualifies as good news

When I met with the surgeon to discuss my surgery, I remember asking how soon I could run after the surgery.  It struck me as odd thing that I would wonder about that since I was only running 5-8 miles a week and it really wasn’t a big part of my life.  I started to run a bit more after the surgery.

Then I got hit by a car, but you know about that(Why the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler)

Which somehow led to me wanting to run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler which now is leading me up to Marine Corps Marathon and maybe even a 24 HR race.  I can say so far this year is an improvement over last.

So what is the point of all of this?

OK guys, breast cancer isn’t the most likely of things to happen to you, but take the 10 seconds or so to do a self exam every so often.  Or ask your significant other to feel your massive pecs.  Ask them to be super handsies about it.  Hopefully it leads somewhere a lot more fun than an operating table.




10 things Friday

I was tagged on Twitter a couple of weeks back for a 10 things about you list. I was just going to ignore it, but since Friday is my day to share, why not go ahead and throw out a few more facts about myself. As usual I am ignoring the rules, so if you are the law-abiding sort, you probably don’t read this blog in the first place.  So here we go:

10. Because I am basically blind without my contacts or glasses. I travel with a spare pair of contacts for even an overnight trip.
4. Generally speaking I prefer milk to dark chocolate.
7. Everyone, in my opinion should go for broke in a race at least once in a while. It doesn’t work out most of the time, but it always shows you your limits.
3. My introvert alarm bells are going off now that I am going to meet a bunch of followers in the coming weeks. I need to find the snooze button for that particular alarm.
5. I lost a ping-pong game to NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon when he played college basketball at University of Houston.
9. I met both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. It was not a giant leap for either man.
2. I feel little to no sense of accomplishment about anything I get done. I am either on to the next thing or beating myself up over the last thing.
6. I don’t tolerate bullies well and have been known to assist Karma even when I am not the person involved.
8. My T-ball team went undefeated 2 years in a row.
1. I have 5 scars on my body (knee, elbow, thigh, lower lip, chest)

The expo for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.  Has nothing to do with this post, but has that stopped me before?

The expo for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. Has nothing to do with this post, but has that stopped me before?



Inspiration and Other Thoughts


As part of Active Life DC “Ask the Blogger” series, I have been fortunate enough to be one of the DC area bloggers asked to take part.  One of the questions was “where do you look for inspiration to run” My answer is the paragraph below.

My blog readers and Twitter followers help push me through the hard times.  When I was unmotivated after I hurt myself during a half marathon in June, they provided encouragement while I couldn’t run, and celebrated when I finally was able to run again.”

I know this isn’t the world’s easiest blog to read (and not just because of the typos).  I can be moody, somewhat hard on myself (yes, I sense some of you are screaming “SOMEWHAT??!!!?!” Don’t scream, your neighbors will think you are disturbed) and then I turn around and toss off a light humor line (and I provided examples twice in one paragraph).  This blog can be a roller coaster complete with ridiculous pictures in the middle.

Solar Powered Pig is Practicing Throwdowns for @AbbyAndThePig meeting next week

Solar Powered Pig is practicing throwdowns for @AbbyAndThePig meeting next week.  Yes the sidewalk needs weeding. Feel free to come by and take care of it.

But I do thank you for sticking with my blog (and especially those you who actually read this for the blog and not the pig pics).  Although I claim I only do this blog for my amusement, I do find the support here and on Twitter inspiring. I have said this before, but it bears repeating– thanks.

In other news, my prep for the Army Run is going well, but the long-term forecast  for the race (high of 78 deg F ) is less than amusing.  I don’t do well in warm weather races (see my Philly half if you need an example) and picked this race at partially because I thought it would be cooler than DC area races.  I am reminding myself that I wasn’t going to PR in the first place and I still should be able to do better than Philly (and if I don’t, run for it because this blog will be dripping in self loathing).  The weather might not be so bad if it was a 7:00 AM start, but the race starts at 9:30 AM and with 10K people racing it will take me a while to even get to the start line. This makes a noon finish certainly possible (note to self, put sunscreen on packing list even though it makes you look like an ill ghost (which I guess all ghosts are ill since being ghosts they are dead)). I just sidetracked myself again didn’t I? Oh, yeah the weather. Let’s hope the long-term forecast is crap and the high is something like 55 F.  Yes, I know some of you are worried about another blogger, @50statecanuck  who will be running the race who doesn’t like cooler temps.  Her race will be over in an instant and she can go inside some warm building.  I am going to be out in the elements for 2 1/2 hours so worry about me (or if you are going to worry about her, do it on her blog (and once you go to her blog you will see her dog Abby and end up forgetting about the weather for either of us)).

Canadian Trivia:

Parliament Hill in Ottawa brings in approximately 3 million visitors each year.  This is about the same as the US Capitol attracts.




Are you are real runner? My 2nd Definative Quiz

There is some controversy in the running community about who is or isn’t a real runner.  After hours of intensive study, I distilled years of research, years of personal experience, and years of making stuff up into the definitive quiz to determine if you are a real runner or not.  So after a few months, I thought I would do the 2nd definitive quiz.  Honestly some of you tried to cheat last time, so after your summer training, I am giving you a 2nd chance.

The quiz is a combination of multiple choice questions.  Keep track of your answers, hold your breath, and hope for the best.  No cheating– so don’t go checking the scoring at the bottom to put yourself in the real runner category.


1. When someone passes you on a run you think…

A. We all have different abilities and I am just running at my own pace.

B. I am going to speed up and catch them.

C. If wasn’t on the slower part of my fartlek I would so smoke them.

D. I’m too busy looking at my Garmin to notice if anyone passes me.

2. My favorite place to run is

A. On the trail

B. On the road

C. On the beach

D. Earth

3. I have missed the following events for running a race.

A. My cousin’s graduation, but come on, I have other cousins.

B. OK, I didn’t pick up my daughter from school, but she should have been smart enough to go to the track where I was doing speed work.

C. If my former finance really knew me, she would not have picked my fall goal race day for a wedding.

D. There are no events other than running.

4. Would you consider having your family crew for you at Badwater?

A. No, I would let them vacation somewhere else.

B. Sure, what teenage girl doesn’t want to hang out in Death Valley?

C. Hell, yes and the dog too!

D. Why do you think I had a family in the first place?

Give yourself 1 point for each A, 2 points for each B, 3 points for each C and 4 points for each D.

No cheating or this guy will come after you

No cheating or this guy will come after you

0-3 You didn’t answer all the questions.  This is because you thought the entire quiz was dumb or you have serious test anxiety.  In any case, you are a real runner.

4-7 Be proud of yourself.  You are a real runner.

8-11 Be proud of yourself.  You are a real runner.  The friends you have left might think you are a tad scary at times, but what do they know?

12-16 You are a real runner.  However I would recommend that you take the piece of paper you wrote down all the answers and burn it in case it comes up in a court case.

17 and above- You better be a real runner because you cheated on this test and you are going to have some speed work inducing tridents thrown at you.

Hope you enjoyed the quiz.

Canadian Trivia

In 1982 the British Parliament  passed the Canada Act which finally (in concert with the Constitution Act passed by Canada’s Parliament and approval by the Queen of England) made it so Canada could officially change its own Constitution without the OK by the British Parliament.