Archive for November, 2009


I’d say that went pretty well.

I managed to finish with an average pace just under eight minutes a mile. I was hoping to run a little faster, but I feel pretty satisfied all the same.

My pacing was pretty good, I think. At the very least, I managed not to run too fast at the start. I maintained a comfortable pace at the beginning, averaging about 7:40 a mile for the first five miles, and I felt pretty good. That part of the course was also generally level, so they were pretty easy miles. I was hoping to pick up the pace a little over the next five miles, but that was easier said than done. The worst uphill section of the race was right before mile 7. It was basically a one-block steep uphill section, then a level intersection before another long but somewhat less incline. It was a tough hill, but I think the big hill I’ve been running on all my training runs is worse. The hill I’ve been running is probably at least as long as the one on the race course, but it’s also a continuous ascent without any respite, whereas the race course was flat for the couple of hundred feet through an intersection, which was a nice break after the steepest portion.

Of course, a couple of people had told me that there was a “brutal” hill that they recalled being around mile 10, only it turned out to be the one just past the midpoint. So, I kept expecting the other shoe to drop and probably held off from going faster, since I thought I’d need to leave more in reserve.

Once I got past the ten-mile mark and only saw a gradual incline, I started pushing my pace a bit more. I figured I’d try to give it what I could over the last portion of the course, and I started to pass some of the people I had been using as informal pacers. I overtook a lot of runners on the downhill segments, since I usually find it easy to use gravity to my advantage. But what I was expecting was to have a couple of short but steep uphill sections near the finish. It was brutal to hit that so close to the end, especially because I wasn’t really expecting it.

And really, that’s the one thing I think would help me the most if I ran this race again next year. Just having the familiarity with the course and knowing where the toughest sections are would allow me to plan accordingly and run faster.

Still, I can’t really complain. This was my first half-marathon, and I managed to beat my time and finish in the top 15 percent or so of the field. I’m feeling pretty good, not just in terms of my mood (though the runner’s high is pretty sweet), but also physically. My calves are a little achy and my feet would probably appreciate me investing in some socks made of technical fabric. I might be sore or achy tomorrow, but it’s not awful.

And, it’s a lot better than when I started running in August. I still remember the first time I ran a long distance, deciding in the middle of a run I initially expected to last maybe six miles or so that I would instead go for a complete 13.5-mile loop. I managed to run the entire half-marathon distance, but it wasn’t pretty. I think it took me about 2:27:00 to run 13.5 miles, and my legs ached so much that it hurt to descend stairs for two or three days.

So, considering I began running regularly and seriously only in August, I think it’s a fair accomplishment to shave essentially forty minutes off my half-marathon time in about three months. It took a couple of hundred miles or so to get to that point, and I still have plenty of room for improvement. But it feels good.

Also, as a final note. I wore my iPod (sans headphones) to see how the Nike plus did in terms of recording my distance. I knew this was a well-measured distance, and that I’d probably actually run more than 13.1 miles (since that’s the minimum distance and runners often tack on a few tenths of a mile over the course of the race), especially since I started recording my data when the horn sounded and I was several yards behind the start line, and I stopped somewhere beyond the finish line. And the Nike plus estimated that I only ran 12.77 miles. At least I know I’m not crazy when I think it’s shorting my distance by a fair amount.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 13.1 miles
  • Time: 1:44:04 (unofficial); 1:44:20 (official)
  • Average speed: 7.6 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:57/mi (unofficial)
  • Calories burned: 1975

Finishing stats:

  • Overall finish (men’s half-marathon): 491/3037
  • Division finish (age 25-29): 91/484
  • Split time 1 (first 6.2 miles): 51:19
  • Split time 2 (last 6.9 miles): 53:01

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Half-marathon eve

It’s now about eleven and a half hours until the race. I picked up my bib and timing chip this afternoon, got my free long-sleeved technical shirt (it’s a nice shade of green) and bought a nifty pair of gloves to wear (my hands have started to chap, I think from standing outside frying a turkey on Thursday).

At the moment the forecast says it shouldn’t rain and should be about 47 degrees throughout the race. And there isn’t supposed to be much wind. Those conditions should be pretty comfortable. I wouldn’t mind it being five to ten degrees warmer, especially for the half-hour or so when we’ll be standing at the start waiting for the race to begin. But considering the forecast just a couple of days ago was calling for rain during the race, I’ll settle for cool and dry.

Physically, I feel pretty good. I resisted the temptation to stray from my program and only walked two miles on the treadmill yesterday (part of me wanted to run). I also resisted the temptation to do any walking or running today. Instead, I did some strength training (no leg work) and very gently peddled an exercise bike for twenty minutes.

I’d still feel better and more confident if I hadn’t gotten the flu and missed a week of training, but I can’t really control that. I also wish this race wasn’t at the end of the holiday weekend, since it’s hard to avoid eating indulgently over the holidays. I’m really understanding the appeal of a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning, even though it can be a bit of a pain having to sacrifice a couple of hours of time that could be better spent prepping for dinner.

In any event, I think I’ll be OK tomorrow. I took a couple of pills after dinner to help drowse me in the hope of falling asleep fairly early so I get plenty of rest before getting up before dawn tomorrow.

I still think I have a good chance of achieving my goal of beating eight minutes a mile, which would mean 1:44:48. If I finish somewhere in the 1:40-1:44 range, I’ll be satisfied. I thought I had a shot at breaking 1:40 right before I got ill, but I think that might be out of reach, no thanks to the flu. Regardless, it’ll be good to get out there and start running tomorrow morning.

Here goes something.

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Week 10, Run 2

I was a bit of a wimp today. Even though it was only raining lightly, I decided to stay indoors and run on the treadmill. I justified it by telling myself it’d be slightly faster, but also because I want to keep my shoes dry in advance of Sunday, and even if it hadn’t been raining during my run, there’s a good chance I’d step in a puddle or do something to get my shoes damp.

Of course, I also wimped out a little on my distance. I ran three miles, which was my scheduled distance. But I was feeling like I should perhaps do an extra mile or two, since I ate a large, rich dinner last night and knew I’d be overindulging today. I set the treadmill for thirty minutes, knowing I should be able to run four miles in that time. But once I started, my legs disagreed. I’ve been reversing my motion on the elliptical trainer the past couple of days, which seems to work my legs more intensely, especially the muscles I use on hills. And evidently my legs could feel that when I started running today.

So, I ran relatively hard, but decided to stop after three miles. It wasn’t bad, but a little boring. I’ll have to force myself not to run tomorrow, since I’m scheduled to walk two miles, instead of a usual Friday short run. I do need to let my legs rest and recover so I feel fresh bright and early Sunday morning.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.00 miles
  • Time: 22:29
  • Average speed: 8.0 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:29/mi
  • Calories burned: 549

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Week 10, Run 1

That went much better. Granted, it was a short run, since I only did three miles. But I felt faster and ran quicker than I did on Sunday, even if my pace was still well short of where I had gotten right before getting sick.

My legs felt a bit sore, but at least the weather was drier and warmer than it was on Sunday, so I was able to shed all the extra gear (except the iPod and Nike plus) while still feeling quite comfortable. My splits were more on par with pre-illness runs. I was at 5:15 for about three-quarters of a mile, 12:03 at a mile and a half and 16:28 for roughly 2.1 miles.

I also picked a more apposite playlist, a little punk rock with plenty of uptempo songs, which definitely made me go faster without thinking about it. That came in hand on the hills.

Overall, I was pleased with my progress. There’s still a discrepancy in the mileage between what I’ve mapped online and what the Nike plus recorded. But I’m fairly confident I just need to calibrate the Nike plus. Maybe it’s shorting my mileage on the hills?

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.06 miles
  • Time: 23:25
  • Average speed: 7.8 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:42/mi
  • Calories burned: 442

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Perusing the headlines on Sme, I ran across a report about how McDonald’s is rebranding itself as “green” in its German restaurants.

No, they’re literally rebranding the chain as green. As in, the red in the classic red-and-white Mickey D’s color scheme is being changed to green. Those golden arches will now stand before a green background.

From the report, and the little bit of German I parsed in the story from Financial Times Deutschland, there isn’t much substance to the rebranding campaign. The McDonald’s vice president for Germany simply said it’s a matter of “respect for the environment.” But it’d probably be more respectful if the fast food chain took steps more concrete than simply adding a new coat of paint.

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A big part of the reason I stopped watching the History Channel eons ago was that I grew tired of the constant assault of programming fixated on the Second World War. It seemed like there was always some documentary or special touting some minor campaign in the Pacific, or cheering the heroes of D-Day, or (somewhat less frequently) pointing out the horrors of the Holocaust.

Of course, as I began training to become a professional historian and read more widely, I found the American perspective on the war tiresome and wanting. To watch the History Channel or, I’m guessing, to ask most Americans, the history of the Second World War went something as follows:

Hitler and the Nazis did some bad stuff, and there were evil deeds afoot in Japan, then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the war began, and it was a slog until D-Day, which turned the tide of the war and it was only a matter of time before the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and then Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima to end the war in Japan.

Certainly that version captures some of the general contours of the war. And it definitely covers the major American participation. But as tantalizing as it is to think that “our boys” single-handedly won the war, such a view just doesn’t do justice to what actually happened.

Then again, it’s convenient to forget that a bunch of Commies did a lot of the heavy lifting and bore the biggest human toll. Even if we occasionally remember that Stalin was an ally: remember “Uncle Joe”?

Anyway, I saw a headline for a story in the NYT op-ed section that piqued my interest: “How World War II Wasn’t Won.”

It seemed promising. I wasn’t offhand what occasioned such an audaciously headlined piece, but I thought it might be an attempted corrective on the narrative so entrenched in the American popular consciousness.

Naturally, I was wrong. Wrong to think this was going to challenge American perspectives. Wrong to think it would deflate the deification of D-Day, if only a little bit. And certainly wrong to think it might be something so simple as a think piece to say, “Actually, the turning point of the war in Europe came on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army did the real heavy lifting.”

Nope. None of that. In fact, there was no mention at all of “Soviet” (or “Russian,” which was and remains synonymous with “Soviet” in the American lexicon) or “Red Army” or “Eastern Front.” Nope. Nothing.

Instead, the piece focuses on a counter-factual about a possible “second D-Day” along the Western Front. Chance to end the war a few months earlier. Potential glory for the Americans. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


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Week 9, Run 2

As scheduled, I managed to get in my last pre-race long run today, completing eight miles on my regular route. It was the first time I had run outside in about a week and a half, which also made it the first time I had gotten in any real hill work in the past week.

And, since it was raining and I’m still recovering from the flu, I was also bundled up in more gear than normal. Along with gloves, I wore ear muffs and a waterproof zip-up top and pants. If nothing else, I managed to stay warm and immune to the rain. Except for my feet, which got wet when I failed to duck a puddle early in my run.

Additionally, I was also sporting my new iPod nano with the Nike plus kit, all strapped into an armband. It’s the first time I’ve tried running with music, mostly because the battery in my six-year-old iPod finally died in the summer, before I started running outside. But it was one more piece of equipment to test out.

In terms of health, I’m feeling a lot better, and have been since about Wednesday or Thursday. But my legs seem to be feeling the effects of a sudden layoff in training. I definitely didn’t feel so fast as I did before I got the flu, and my times suffered. Some of that might be a product of being less than 100 percent overall, and some of it is certainly a product of getting my legs back after the layoff and getting the rust off. Plus, I’m not sure how the extra clothing and fussing with the iPod affected my performance, but I imagine it didn’t help my pace.

Of course, it probably didn’t help either that when choosing musical accompaniment, I selected a Moby album, thinking the electronica genre would be appropriately uptempo. Naturally, I picked first and thought about it later, not giving much consideration to the fact that the album, “I Like to Score,” had a lot of mellow tracks that wouldn’t be that conducive to pumping myself up and going faster.

But, in general, I was just a little slow as I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things. My body and legs felt pretty fresh physically, which is what I would expect having not managed much running for a week. But I was still a bit sluggish, and I could feel my hamstrings straining, and I was really slow on the hills.

At the same time, I kept fumbling with the Nike plus. Mostly I think it was the combination of trying to press the controls through a plastic sleeve with a finger in a thick glove. But I had a hard time getting the control to activate the spoken feedback for my usual splits.

Then there was the matter of using the Nike plus out of the box without trying to calibrate it. The documentation led me to think it’d probably work fine. But by about my second lap, it became clear that there’s a significant discrepancy between the mileage according to what I mapped online and the mileage the Nike plus was recording. By the time I finished my route, which was 8.09 miles according to the online map, the Nike plus said I had only run 7.61 miles. I figured there might be some variance between the two, but I didn’t think it’d be nearly half a mile. That’s a 6 percent discrepancy.

I wound up running laps around my building until the Nike plus said I had logged something close to my intended mileage, but obviously I need to solve the mystery of the missing mileage. I figure I’ll try recalibrating the Nike plus to see if it harmonizes more. I suppose it’s possible the Nike plus is fairly accurate, and that I’m just losing that much mileage to running on the sidewalk as opposed to the road itself. But I also know the time I ran in a 10K, which was in line with my times for other runs at distances estimated by mapping them online. So, I’ll just hope that the Nike plus is askew, because I prefer not to think I’ve been shorting myself significantly on my workouts these past two months.

Anyway, here are the stats. The first is logged using MapMyRun, the second via Nike plus (and includes the extra laps of my apartment tacked on to the end of my run).

Today’s stats (MapMyRun computation):

  • Distance run: 8.09 miles
  • Time: 1:05:47
  • Average speed: 7.4 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:05/mi
  • Calories burned: 1145

Today’s stats (Nike plus computation):

  • Distance run: 8.08 miles
  • Time: 1:10:04
  • Average speed: 6.92 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:40/mi
  • Calories burned: 1158

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