Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Sometimes I wish that I could write blog posts while I'm running, because I always come up with great ideas out there but they slip away when I'm sitting at the keyboard. Some of these ideas have been percolating around my head for a while now. I was recently asked in a survey to provide my favorite running tip. I thought about this for a while, about all the things that I've heard that help me keep going, warming up and pacing and getting the right shoes. But I came back to the one idea that really helps me to run and more importantly, helps me to keep running. Whenever I run I try to stay positive, to force all negative thoughts from my mind and to keep moving, one step at a time. I have a few silly mantras that I play in my head sometimes, but the common theme among all of them is positivity. I think this is a big reason why I tend to really be able to work up good ideas while I'm running. I'm flooding my brain with positive thoughts, with encouragement to work hard.

I contrast this to the world we live in and the culture that surrounds us. There is so much negative influence, so many messages that are born of fear and hatred. I believe in positive messages, and I don't agree with anyone who is "Anti" anything. Of course, in the world of marketing and appearance, there are no "anti" positions. All of these are magnified in an election year. There are those who spout out about "losing our freedoms" who in the next breath argue that two people in love don't deserve the same rights as two different people in love. At the same time they tell you to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated and tell you they are "pro-marriage." Where is the threat to freedom there?

After I started writing this post, I came across this article on the Huffington Post about some statements that Congressman Ryan made about rape and abortion. Setting aside the writers complaints about defining rape as a "method of conception," I think a logical follow up question would be, "what if a loving gay couple wanted to adopt that baby?"

In my mind, if your message is about taking rights, freedoms, money or safety away from anyone else, then your message is negative. I am trying to teach my children to be accepting of others, to understand that every person has the right to live and be happy, that sometimes people need some help and just because someone needs help once doesn't make them a bad person. Unfortunately, I also have to teach them that there are bad people, and because of that we must listen critically to any statement. All those who look like us aren't right, and all those who look different aren't wrong. Judge a person by their content. Love is better than hate. Friendship is better than opposition.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Running Slow

I got a very interesting reaction from people when I described myself recently as a "slow runner." There is a twice monthly event on Twitter called #runchat, which is a sort of moderated discussion where the organizers ask 5 questions and then people give their answers. Its a great way to interact with other runners on Twitter and find some interesting and passionate people who are out there running. There are ultra marathoners and noobs, fast and slow even a famous coach like Bart Yasso joins on occasion. The chat starts with people tweeting an introduction. Last night's chat I introduced myself as a "slow runner," because, well, I am.

I am slow and I am ok with that. Those of you who have read my blog know that I'm typically much closer to the back of the pack than I am to the front. Now, I'm certainly not the slowest person out there most of the time, but it would be stretching the meaning of the word to call me quick. I understand this and I have no problems with it. I realize that for me, improvement is my race. Getting stronger, running farther and yes, running faster are my goals. But I don't ever expect to be winning any prizes. I am slow and will likely always be slow.

Now, when I said this, I got several encouraging replies that were meant to reaffirm my confidence, but admonishing me for calling myself slow. The gist of most of them were "a runner is a runner and it speed doesn't matter. you're out there and doing it, that's what matters." What struck me is that describing myself as slow seemed to trigger to people that I needed this reinforcement. I doubt that if someone described themselves as a fast runner, that the same people would jump in and say "its ok, you're still a runner to us!"

Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate the words of encouragement. One of the things that I really enjoy about the #runchat's and the running community in general is the supportiveness of a guy like me. I get a lot of cheers at races, even when I'm finishing at the back of the pack. The fact is, though, that I am at the back of the pack. When we run races, there is a clock for a reason... to measure our speed. My speed is a lot lower than most, so I'm slow. I love being slow. I joke with the volunteers along the route. I try to make those around me smile as I go by. Will I get faster someday?  I certainly hope so, but for now, that's who I am. A slow runner, trying to enjoy every moment of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My First Week with a Mac

One of the (many) cool benefits of working for Citrix is the BYOC program, in which the company will give you a stipend to purchase your own computer that you can then use for work and own yourself. It allows us to use any device we like rather than being stuck with a standard corporate issue device. For the last 6 years I've had a couple of corporate issued Lenovo ThinkPads and I'd been very happy with them. They were reliable and well built but somewhat bulky. As my warranty was coming to an end last quarter, I had the option to enter the BYOC program, so I started looking around for a machine that I might like to own.

I knew I wanted something small but I didn't want to give up power to get it. There are a number of ultrabooks out there these days that could give me what I wanted, but one stood out, the MacBook Air. I had the opportunity to try one out around the office and I really liked the way the trackpad made navigation intuitive, liked the feel of the keyboard and of course the size of the machine. Its lightweight without feeling flimsy and its quite good looking. Of course, the one thing that held me back was the obvious ... the OS. I'd been a Windows user since 3.1 and I was very comfortable with it. I rationalized that I could always dual boot it with Windows or even install Windows on its own on the Mac hardware, so I took the plunge.

While I was waiting for it to arrive (which was excruciating even if it was only a couple of weeks) I started playing with the team's Air more and got used to using OSX. By the time I got the laptop, I'd decided that I'd give OSX a try without Windows to see how I'd get along.

So its been 8 days now and I have no regrets. I absolutely love using the multi touch track pad on this thing. I don't even miss using a mouse. I can scroll easily, quickly move between workspaces and navigate webpages super quick. With the Citrix Receiver, I'm able to access any Windows apps for work that I need with relative ease. I have yet to find a task that I performed on Windows that I cant do on this thing. There are a few frustrations though. Its a little more difficult to navigate between multiple windows of the same application and its taking me some time to get used to some of the different keyboard shortcuts, but all in all I'm pretty pleased.

I'm lucky enough to have a few helpful Mac users on my team who are helping me find cool and productive apps, but if anyone has any suggestions, I'm open to trying most anything. Next up for me, learning to use iMovie so that I can put together some cool videos that I've taken of the kids in the last couple of months.

Edit: OK, one thing I noticed just now is that the first two posts I did from this Mac were formatted all screwy, but I just fixed that.  Sorry to anyone who struggled through the big block of text in the last post, it should be better now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peachtree Road Race

I guess its about time that I wrote up a race report for the Peachtree Road Race. This race had been the main goal of my first half of the year. The race itself is an Atlanta tradition and is the largest 10K road race in the world with 65000 entrants. I'd geared my spring to build up the mileage to be able to survive the day and had a couple of 10K races under my belt so I felt confident that I'd finish without a problem.

I'd been stressing a bit for the days before the race because I wasn't sure of the best plan to get my family down to the course and meet up with them after. We decided to take the Marta together to the start, then my family continued to the art museum area where they'd watch the race at about mile 5. Then afterwards I'd come back up the course to meet them and take the train home. So with that plan worked out, there was nothing left but to do it.

I was a little frantic getting the family up and out in the morning. The race start was at 7:30, but my wave didn't go off until 8:09. I'd gotten train tickets the day before so we skipped that line and I kissed the family and got off the train near the start right at 7:30. The energy from the train platform on was amazing. It was a short walk from the train to the start area and the organization of this race was amazing. Volunteers at every corner directing people to the proper place. With 20 start waves and 65000 runners, its one heck of a job, but they do it well.

I found my wave and as a group we creeped forward to the start. There was music and announcements playing through the PA and each wave started of with loud cheers. Finally wave J made it to the front, heard the countdown and took off.

It was pretty warm, but not unbearably so, probably around 73 when I started. The sun was low enough in the sky that for most of the route, there was plenty of shade. The first half of the race is mostly downhill. I settled into a comfortable pace that was probably too fast, but the energy was irresistible. There were spectators lining the road everywhere and music playing on almost every block. Bands were set up, DJs from the radio stations, DJs from the bars and lots of cowbells.

I was feeling pretty good, pacing some runners, watching others fly by me, but the pace that I kept was too high and as we started hitting the hills of the second half, I was struggling. I went through waves where I felt great and moved along, and other parts where I could barely push myself to keep going. I walked about half way up the famous "cardiac hill" and then kept moving. There was plenty of water on the course and they had hydrants open spraying the runners. I was pouring water on myself and ran through one of those sprays, but I think that was a mistake. I felt a bit waterlogged near the end of the route.

After cardiac hill you could tell who was hurting and who was strong and i wasn't one of the strong ones. But I kept moving because I had my family to look forward to. I knew about where they would be, though not exactly, so I kept looking ahead for where the art museum would appear. I knew the train station was on the right side of the road, so I was staying to the right, assuming that they wouldn't have crossed the street. But they had. Fortunately, I looked over to that side and caught sight of them. I cut across the entire road and snuck up on them. Time for a quick hug, a picture and some kisses and I was off again.

At this time I was hurting, and then when the road turned left to the park and the shade went away my energy drained. I was in the last mile and I had to walk for a bit. Then I saw the "fake finish" they set up for pictures and I started running, waved to the cameras and continued on to the real finish. I came across the line and stopped my watch, 1:17:30. I was disappointed because I know I can go faster, but this race wasnt about time for me. I grabbed my t-shirt, took a picture and went to meet up with my group from work for our group picture. There were 6 runners from my office out there and we found each other and shared our stories.

I made a few mistakes today, for sure. Not the least of which was after the race, where all I grabbed to eat was a banana. I felt lousy for the rest of the morning and I should have tried to get more protein to help recover. The finish area was a bit overwhelming, everything was so spread out and I didn't want to end up walking 300 yards across a field in the wrong direction. Because of this, I felt pretty lousy for the rest of the morning, to the point where I was dizzy standing on the train home. But once we made it home and had some Cracker Barrel, I felt much better.

The race was a lot of fun and I do look forward to running it again and again.

Some observations:

- On the way to the start I saw a woman with the following written across the back of her shirt "Does this shirt make my butt look fast?"

- Lots of costumes, including two guys in my start wave wearing nothing but their captain america underwear.

- A man wearing a shirt that said "I'm 93 years old, what's your excuse?"

Monday, August 13, 2012


So the summer has flown by and the kids have started school again.  I have a ton of things that I've been thinking about, but haven't taken much time to get any of them down in the blog. Why?  who knows. When I left off, I'd just finished my first 10K and it was quite an experience. I'm happy to say that even though I wasn't very consistent with my blogging, I did keep the running up through the Peachtree.

I continued to work hard after that first 10K. I made my longest run of over 7 miles later that month, and on June 2 I ran my second 10K. The weather was perfect, about 55 and sunny at the start and I felt great for the first 5 miles. The last mile was a struggle as it started in a headwind and had a couple of short steep hills, but I powered through and finished in 1:12:49, which cut almost 5 minutes off my previous time. I felt pretty good about that and tried to just maintain my level of fitness for the next month up until the Peachtree.

July 4th came and it was fantastic. I struggled a little bit the week before the race but I did alright. My finish time was 1:17:28, which wasn't great but I felt good. It was definitely a difficult run, with heat and humidity, but the atmosphere was unbelievable. I don't remember a single part of the course that wasn't lined with spectators. There was music on every block, from bands, DJ's and people singing, plenty of cowbells and cheering. I'll try to write a post dedicated to that race, but suffice it to say I was very happy that I did it, and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

After the Peachtree came time to decide whether I intended to continue pushing my limits and commit to a half marathon in the fall, or to push that for another year. I quickly realized that I risked burning out if I continued with the constant increase that I'd need to be comfortable to try a half, so I decided that I'd give that a shot next year and try to maintain through the end of this year. Then we had some houseguests for a few weeks in July and without a concrete short term goal, I let my running slip. After the Peachtree through the end of July I only ran two times.

Now its time for a reset. This past Saturday I went out for a light 3 miles, not pushing myself at all and just making sure I was moving. Today I did three more and I'm planning one more three mile workout this week, before we travel for a wedding this weekend. I'm going to target some 5K's for the rest of the year, maybe 2 or 3 and not try to push myself too hard, but maintain consistency. Build a base, as it were. Ideally, I'd like focus on one long distance race in the spring, maybe the Broad Street Run in Philly, and then attempt a half next fall. More importantly, though, I want to develop a consistent habit of fitness.  Continue to work on my diet, focus on doing the right things right each and every day and remain motivated without any particular goal, but with the journey in mind.