Saturday, April 28, 2012

Boulder Dash 5K

Today I raced one of the races I'd been really looking forward to. The Boulder Dash 5K is run through the rock quarry here in town and provided some cool views and a neat course that's different than what I usually run. Short version, I finished in 33:56 on my Garmin, a new PR for me.  I started near the back of 1000 runners so my official time is probably going to be a few seconds longer, but I"m not counting the slow walk to the line while everyone started. (edit: Official Results 34:03 491/1209 OA 35/53 AG)

Now onto the long version. The race started at Northside Forsyth hospital at 9am. I got there just after 8, parked the car and walked around with the family for a bit, looking at the big cement mixers parked at the start.   Parking and registration were pretty well organized and there were a lot of people milling around. About 30 minutes before the start I did a half mile warm up. After warming up I said good bye to the family who got on busses to go to the finish and I joined the mass at the start line. I think I may have warmed up a little too early, but I don't think it was detrimental.

I lined up about 2/3's of the way back at the start and watched the mass start to run from front to back. I clicked the Garmin when I started running and off I went. The first part of the race was downhill so I let gravity help me along, feeling a good pace without pushing too hard. Of course, it was pretty fast but I wasn't pushing so I let it go. We hit the road between the hospital and the quarry and went up hill.  I didn't push too hard but tried to keep comfortable on the uphill. I was passing people and being passed a bit too. We turned into the quarry and headed downhill into the quarry. I passed the 1 mile mark just as the Garmin beeped and I noted I ran the first mile in 10:45 A bit faster than I should have been, but I was feeling good.

The quarry road was gravel and I was trying to be careful not to hit any ruts. My ankles are kind of weak and I didn't want to hit any awkward footing. The hills were rolling and I tried to use the momentum to move downhill and not push too hard going up. I picked out a few people to try to pace off of and kept pushing. It was tough, especially going up hill but I was still feeling pretty well. I concentrated on form, midfoot striking and keeping moving. It was just past the halfway point that the leaders streaked by in the opposite direction. I walked for a few steps at the water table to throw down a few sips and dumped the rest on my back. I was still feeling strong but I knew I was at my limit and the last mile was going to be a struggle.  I finished mile 2 in 10:53.

We hit the turnaround just before the last mile. It was a loop around some of the quarry equipment. I took a quick walk break up the steepest part of two hills during mile 3. Neither one was more than 20 seconds or so, but just enough to keep me under my limit. A couple of people passed me while I walked, but I caught most of them during my run. I was pacing with a few other people now, passing some folks I had seen earlier in the race. Plenty of walk breaks around me but I kept pushing through. I was at my limit but knew the end was near.  The second walk break was about 2.6 miles in, and then I focused on getting through the last half mile. Up the hill and then down again to where I could see the finish. I didn't really care so much about the time, but I was pushing as hard as I could. I tried to smile at the camera and then finish hard to the line. I stopped the Garmin a couple of steps past the line and it froze on 33:56. Knowing that my previous 5K PR was 34:44, I was pretty happy.

As organized as the start was, the finish area was a bit of a disappointment. There was a big backup in the finishing chute where everyone was ripping of their tags to hand to the volunteers. One guy even jumped the line in front of me so when I see the official results I'll know I really finished in front of that guy! Then, once we were through that, they had placed the tents with water another 200 yards up the gravel path. I was hurting pretty bad at that point and just frustrated that I couldn't get a drink right away. My wife, daughters and my mother were there and giving me high fives, so I wasn't too mad.

All in all it was a fun time. I really wasn't expecting such a good time, but I think the work I've been doing lately has been paying off. I definitely need to do more hill work before the Peachtree, but I'm glad that I was able to do a 5K that averaged less that 11 minutes a mile.

Moments that stand out in my memory

  • A mother and her 17 yo daughter at the start struggling to break open a package with a new pair of ear buds for mom to listen to her iphone on the course.  They got it open about 30 seconds before the start.
  • A guy in a Fred Flintstone outfit, complete with a bone club. He passed me after the first mile. 
  • Lots of high school runners really going well as the leaders passed. I also noticed the woman who won the last race I did go by near the head of the pack.  Turns out she won again. She's the running partner of a good friend, so that was cool
  • A kid wearing a storm trooper outfit. I came up to him in the last mile and he was walking. As I passed, I turned to him and said "This is not the walk you are looking for." He took off again saying "Thanks for the Jedi Mind Trick."  Apparently my force isn't very strong, because he was walking again about 100 yards later and I finished well ahead of him
  • A lot of parent child combinations out there running together.  I really do hope that I get the chance to run with one or both of my girls as they grow up.
  • It would be nice to see Weight Class results.  I'd be willing to bet I'm near the top of the over 250 lbs weight class.  The volunteer at the tent handing out XXL shirts said I was the first person to pick one up. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Razor Sharp

For a long time I've looked for a better way to shave. Like most guys I dreaded doing it, but I was never one of those lucky ones who could grow out a good looking beard, so it became a necessary evil. Its not like I really dreaded the act, its just that I could never get results that I was happy with. Then about 5 years ago I discovered traditional wet shaving. I bought a badger brush, a safety razor with double edge blades and some nice smelling soaps and creams. I began to really enjoy it and after a little learning curve I was getting better shaves than I'd ever had in my life. I joined a couple of shaving forums on the web (yes, there are communities of people who are really into shaving). I learned a lot, tried some different soaps, creams and aftershaves and started reading about guys who use a straight razor instead of a safety razor. These guys talked about the smoothest, closest shaves that anyone can imagine and though the idea of using a "cutthroat" scared me a bit, I was mighty curious.

About 2 years ago, I figured I'd learned enough about technique to buy one and give it a try. I ended up buying 2 different straight razors and a cheap leather strop. The learning curve for a straight razor is very steep, and as you can imagine the mistakes you make tend to hurt. Over the next couple of years I tried them on and off, maybe giving a shave or two at a time but never really committing to it, as I still wasn't good enough to get a good result. I'd put them down for a couple of months and then pick them up on an odd sunday night when I had some time to play. In the meantime, I'd gotten a little lazy with my safety razor and didn't want to put in the effort to do the 4 pass shave that was required to get the ideal shave that I was looking for.

Last month I picked up my straight razor again, sharpened it and this time I got a great shave. I did two passes with the straight razor and finished the tough parts (my chin and upper lip) with the safety razor. The results were fantastic. I decided that it was time to commit to the straight razor, and since then I haven't shaved with anything else. I bought a few new aftershaves and creams. I refined my routine and my technique and now I am getting great shaves almost every day. I still have some bad days where I get a few nicks, but I haven't cut myself really badly in a few weeks and there are no scars! And even though my wife likes to tease me about my "hobby" of shaving, I'm pretty sure she enjoys both the smooth face and the nice scents I've been wearing. 

Occasionally I'm going to post my reviews of some of the products I use in case any of my readers are interested. If anything, it'll break the monotony of my running and dieting posts.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I know a lot of bloggers come back from a "hiatus" with excuses and promises, and I'm not going to do either. For me, there are only so many things that I can focus on at one time and this hasn't been one of them. But really, I think its because I felt like what I wanted to write about was pretty negative. My running has been going pretty well, but I've been struggling with my eating and I've added a few pounds since I hit my low weight. Further, I've been struggling with refocusing on eating right and continuing along that path of weight loss. I know what I've accomplished was difficult and that I should be proud, and I am.  But there is still more to go. A baseball team can be proud of having an 8 game lead at the all star break, but if they don't keep winning, then they won't reach their goal of winning the division.

So I think the real reason I haven't been writing is that I haven't been real proud of my direction in my weight loss so I'd rather not write than broadcast that to the world. I started getting a lot of readers after my cruise review series, and it sort of paralyzed me.  All in my head, I know, but it is what it is. So now I'm refocused and getting back on the path to my goals.  I'm going to take each day as it comes and do what I need to do to accomplish my goals for the year.

On the running side, I've been doing very well. Those of you who follow my twitter or dailymile have seen that I've been consistently getting at least 3 and sometimes 4 days a week in. My mileage has increased too,  averaging 12 per week in the last 5 weeks. Last Sunday I did my first 6 mile run, and yesterday I made the full 10K (which is 6.2 miles). I'm still not moving very quickly, but I feel much stronger.

I'm registered for 3 races in the next few months. The Boulder Dash 5K here in Cumming next week. Its been in my mind from the beginning because it runs through the local quarry and I think that'll be pretty neat. I don't have high expectations for my time, as I think it'll be pretty hilly and I've only really done one day of hills this year. Then I'm registered for two 10K's. One is the Peachtree, which I also don't have high expectations for as I hear the crowds are thick, but its an event and I'm really looking forward to it. Because I don't think it'll be a good test of my fitness, I signed up for a 10K the month before in Buford. The Buford Run the Rails 10K will be in June and I look forward to seeing how I can do there. I hope to be able to break 1:15 there.

A long term goal is beginning to gel out of the mist as well. I've mentioned before that I'm thinking about a half marathon in the fall. Ideally I'd love to run at the Philly marathon, but I don't think that's going to work out for me logistically, so I'm looking at the Savannah Rock n Roll on Nov. 3. Its fairly flat and not too far away. I know people who ran it last year and they all said they really enjoyed it, though there were transportation problems at the start. I haven't registered yet, as I want to see how the next few weeks go, how I make it through the increased distance, but I have booked a hotel in Savannah for the weekend, and one that's near the start in case they mess up the shuttles again. I know that in order to be successful in getting through that distance, I'm going to need to continue to lose weight. So I'll use that as motivation to make the right decisions for each meal and continue to focus on making my runs.

Of course, I couldn't finish without saying that I do want to push myself to continue writing, good or bad. I must force myself to write about the bad times as well as the good. None of us are perfect and I'm learning to accept that bad days, bad decisions are going to happen but if I can minimize their impact by not letting them pile up then I can keep on going. One day at a time is pretty cliche, but cliche's become cliche's because they are pretty apt. So, I'll take it one day, one meal at a time. I have long term vision and long term goals, but as any runner knows you get to the finish line one step at a time.