Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ringing in Hope- Brambleton (Ashburn, VA) 12/31

I decided to sign up for the Ringing in Hope 5K in Brambleton on New Year’s Eve,  I’ve got to do some schedule fenagling with work, but I felt like adding a race close to home before 2012.  I need things on the immediate timeline or I get sidetracked, especially during the holidays.  Tossing another short term goal/progress marker before I get super serious about training for my first half-marathon in Frederick, MD on May 6th, 2012 seemed like both the logical and fun thing to do.

A half-marathon shouldn’t be hard…thats only like 6.55 miles right?  Oh, wait….13?  13.1?!!!  I still suck at fractions.  The thought of a 13.1 mile race seemed like a distant if not laughable goal five months ago, but my base is building and on days I run long, I feel like I can keep going.  I just don’t want to up the mileage to fast in order to avoid injury and burnout. 

My biggest concern during the holidays is losing the fitness level I’ve built since I began (restarted) this journey back in July.  When I was in college, in the weight room, there were the typical motivational quotes on the wall.  One said, “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”  Truer words have never been posted on a musty gym wall.

The holidays offer a different set of challenges.  Travel, being on an inconsistent schedule, and the obvious celebratory foods and beverages will all play a roll in tearing a person down if steps aren’t taken to combat the urge to be gluttonous and lazy at the same time.  With that in mind, along with my goal to run a mile a day through the holidays, I figured adding one more race right down the road from home would be a nice year end capper and half-marathon training kickoff.

It should be noted that I loathe Northern, Virginia (most of it anyway…South and East of Leesburg) and my guess is this race is going to be in a giant, boring, subdivision of townhomes where no one knows their neighbors seeing as how packet pickup is at a homeowners association.  Let me tell you something:  If my neighbors ever think they’ll get me to join an HOA, they better be prepared for a purple house with neon green pintstripes, accented with hubcaps, and a rock concert on the front porch every Wednesday night.  BOOOO TO BORING NEIGHBORHOODS!

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The Boonsboro Burn

That soreness that I predicted would settle in within 36 hours from yesterday’s mini-mountain run had already made itself at home this morning.  The long downhill descent, something I’ve not done in this four+ months of training really gave it to my glutes and quads.  This is good pain though and I know the muscles will recover stronger.  I headed up to Boonsboro Baptist parking lot (bless them for letting a Calvinist like me use their lot) across from Yellow House Tavern (so tempting), and took off East back towards downtown Boonsboro.

I felt tight and slow.  My legs really burned early on.  When I hit the two-mile mark the legs had managed to get past the initial burn.  I’ve found that if I can get past this initial burn, I usually don’t have to deal with it later in the run aside from on really steep hills.  Unfortunately, this early burn is also what keeps most people from exercising effectively.  Once you’ve trained your mind to push through the pain of the burn, it gets easier.

I ran to Thompson gas and back, about 5.7 miles, and enjoyed looking at the old buildings in downtown Boonsboro.

Tomorrow I plan to hit the weight room and put in a LIGHT mile on the treadmill.  While I am committed to a mile a day through the holidays (see last post), the whole idea was to make up for those weeks when real training isn’t an option.  You know, the  party on the 16th that turns into laying in bed all day on the 17th which turns into catching up on chores on the 18th, which turns into going to work, coming home, and going right to bed on the 18th.  Partying is a vicious cycle.  A mile a day will keep me honest, but I won’t ignore my need for rest as long as I’m able to hit double digits for the week.  When I can’t, the mile a day is a good fall back.

I definitely feel like my core is breaking down a bit, something someone told me would happen as I bumped up the mileage.  That is why I plan to hit the gym tomorrow morning.  I need to add some core work to keep things strong.

Time to go enjoy the rest of the weekend!  Take time for exercise, you’ll feel BETTER!


Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The War Correspondents Memorial Loop

Left the shop around 2 today and got home with plenty of daylight to spare.  60 degrees at the end of November?  Yeah, I’ll take it.  It won’t be long and the shorts and t-shirts will have to get put away.

Took a short ride up to the Courier/Messenger Monument up in Gapland State Park and started from there.  I have never started a run with a steep down hill, but it felt good to work some different muscles.  Soreness in my quads should set in within the next 36 hours or so.  I then hopped on 67 before turning up Townsend Road heading back towards the monument.  Reversing this route would be BRUTAL given the steep hill, but Townsend Road is no joke with gradual inclines back up to the top of the mountain.  Long and gradual can be just as hard as REALLY FREAKIN’ STEEP.   I try to shorten my strides and move my foot strike forward, and use my arms more on hills.  It seems to help.

I had to stop at about 3.0 miles, but after a short walk, I was able to finish up nicely at the top for a total of 3.2.  I need to find some flatter courses to get some distance work in.  Not that I am looking for ease, but to add the distance and learn my pacing, the hills around here burn me out to fast.  Despite burning them up on the backstretch hills, my legs feel really good and my lungs are gaining capacity and endurance.  My hope is to find a flat route tomorrow and put in 6 or 7 miles before an easy day on Monday.

Now, get out and do something while this beautiful weather lasts!

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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


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A beautiful afternoon: Lets enjoy them while they last!

I left work about an hour and half early today (don’t ask me why I even went in) because it was 60 some degrees outside, the radiant floor heat in our building, though nice when it is cold cooks a person out when it suddenly hits 60, and my boss won’t turn it off.  Even if he did, the radiant heat stays in the floor and the building long after the fact.  At 3:30 I had had enough.  I work in B2B so it wasn’t like I had lines of eager Black Friday shoppers looking for a consultation (or any deals to offer them anyway 🙂 ).

I jumped in my truck and headed home, within twenty minutes I was parking my truck in Brownsville, hoping to put a couple miles on my legs before dark.  While I have done most of my recent training in the dark, even before the time change, running at night limits where I can go and quite frankly, scenery around here is far to nice to run in the dark all the time.

Brownsville, a little village off of route 67, has a nice little picnic park that hardly anyone uses outside of fishing season.  It has ample parking.  Route 67 heading Northwest towards Boonsboro offers some great views of the Gapland/ Gathland park areas and the mountains.   Add to this the fact that the road shoulders are ample, traffic is light even during the rush hours, and if you had to fall down for any reason, the shoulders all run into nice grassy areas.  The route itself is rolling with some long inclines, but nothing terribly steep heading towards Boonsboro.  Coming back, it is mostly down hill.  I like this stretch, plus I don’t feel like I have to worry about parking my truck and leaving it.  If you ran all the way to route 40 and back to the park, you would have cleared about 16 miles I think.  While I don’t normally urge out of towners to visit where I live, I guess I will be nice and tell you this route won’t let you down!  If you feel even more adventurous, turn right off onto one of the side roads and see how you fare on some of the hills, just be forewarned, the shoulders decrease to nothing.

I knocked out a quick 2.2 miles at a fast pace.  I desperately need to get a Garmin so I can track these things easier, but that will just have to wait.  I got back to my truck, cooled down, and stretched just as dusk was descending.  Running was a pleasant and much needed cap to an otherwise dull day.

Finally, I have committed to Runners World’s “Running Streak 2011” aka “Streaking Through the Holidays”.  You can read more here,,7120,s6-238-267-589-14125-0,00.html   but basically, it is committing to a minimum of one mile per day between now and New Years.  This time of year between holiday parties, travel, and schedule changes we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.  I would encourage anyone who is planning on making a hapless New Year’s fitness resolution to commit to this first.  This is a short to mid-term goal that will help you gain a basic level of fitness during a time when we all eat, drink, and be merry far more than we should.   Imagine going into New Years with a nice fitness base underneath you instead of waiting until New Years, making the same dumb resolution, and then fizzling out within three months.  If you can’t do a mile commit to a 1/4 mile a day this week, a 1/2 next week, 3/4 the following week, so on and so forth until you get built up.  Short term, mid term, and long term goals are so critical.  In fact, most folks should just forget New Years resolutions all together and focus on smaller, measurable, and attainable goals.  It works for me!

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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Frederick Waystation Turkey Trot (more like a gallop)(updated with official time)

Got up bright and early and headed 15 miles up the road to the lovely Baker Park section of Frederick for the Waystation 5K Turkey Trot.   I don’t know what it was, the fact that I didn’t sleep well last night, the terrible weather we’ve had up until this morning, my lack of a good diet plan, but I felt off this morning.  It could be the fact that I typically run at night, but regardless, I got to the race site and loosened up.  My round goal coming into this race was to break 28 minutes, a little over a month after my 31:47 in Baltimore.  The Frederick course is fairly easy by Frederick County standards.  The only inclines are very mild and not very long, so I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with the burn of steep hills like we have here in Brunswick.

After the 1K started, a bunch of folks started meandering over to the start/finish line to get lined up.  First, I must say, the “turkey hat” is so 1998.  I must however give major props to the young Asian fellow and his girlfriend who came dressed to run in Indian brave outfits complete with war paint and tomahawks.  As I’ve said before, the running crowd is very “white”, very cheesy, and very diverse….but seriously, no turkey hats next year.  We get it, it is Thanksgiving.

I picked a spot a little closer to the front than I did in my last race and waited…..and waited….and waited.   Finally a giant turkey gave the go signal and off we went.  While my legs were very fresh from taking it easy this week, I started out of the gate WAY to fast.  When we hit the first mile marker, my breaths to strides were way out of whack.  I pared my speed back a little bit but never hit that sweet spot where I know I can just keep going  without any trouble.  I seriously had to push myself.  My goal went from “sub 28” to “just finish this damn thing without stopping.”  I need to focus on pacing early and I need to learn to tune out the runners around me as they entice me to go faster than I should too soon.

As we came past Park School, I could see the park’s band shell and the balloon gated finish line.  At that point, I knew I would finish, but how hard could I push?  As I rounded the last turn, an elite runner who had come to the corner to cheer said, “27!” to someone.  Suddenly I realized my goal might still be in reach.  I pushed.  When I crossed, the clock showed “28” and some change and my stop watch had me 28:34 after about 20 seconds of fumbling for it in my pocket while trying to catch my breath.  I will post my chip time when it is made official.  Needless to say, I had mixed feelings.  Yes, I was very close to my goal, but not quite where I wanted to be, BUT, I learned a few things about starts, pacing, and running on cold mornings that I will have to take into consideration for the future.  I have made good strides since I started running again and I am happy with my progress.  I am NOT anxious to see the law of diminishing returns start kicking in, but I know it will, but hey, when you hit that peak, find another gear!

Race Review:  The course was very nice.  Not much for elite runners to get excited about, but plenty fun and safe for runners at all levels.  Baker Park makes for a nice backdrop and the folks in the neighborhoods are very gracious in giving up some parking, not being able to use their street for a few hours, and coming out to spectate for this event.

Two criticisms:  One, get a REAL public address system.  I don’t understand why everyone that promotes events doesn’t own one.  My band had a NICE PA that cost Tony like $1200 back in 2005.  Yes, that is a lot of money, but we played rooms no bigger than my kitchen all the way up to roller rinks and STILL had volume to spare.  We also played plenty of outdoor gigs with it and everyone could hear us just fine.  Megaphones and piddly little PA’s don’t cut it for outdoor events with thousands of people.  If you’re a promoter, a charity, or an event organizer, make this investment, you will not be disappointed.

Second, all of Baker Park was available yet they crammed everything on the landing up between the band shell and the old armory building.  It just made for a crowded mess at the finish in regards to finding water and space to cool down.

Other than that, great event for a good cause.

Chip times came in just a few minutes ago:  28:08 for old Hankdawg!  About 12 to 15 seconds better than what I had estimated.  Very pleased, but anxious to see a 27 or better in the minute column.  This put me 44th out of 90 men in my division, and 454 out of 986 men.  I like that I am hanging with or near the 50 percentile in both my age bracket and overall given the fact that I’ve only been training for a little over four months.  

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The Tools of Ignorance

Growing up and into college, I played baseball.  By the time I was 13 or 14 baseball, or something related to baseball training, was a daily thing for me.  Even when I was playing other sports, I was doing it because I wanted to be better at baseball.  As a youngster, I was slow, had a below average throwing arm, but I was tall, could field a groundball, and my head was a large enough target for other kids with better arms to aim at from across the field.  That made me PERFECT for first base.  I played that position from the age of 8 all the way to the middle of my 14 year old Senior Little League season. 

Then it happened.  Justin Wyatt, the catcher on my team, an uncoordinated but bullheaded 15 year old with absolutely no real athletic ability aside from being able to get smacked by baseballs without crying broke his leg on a play at the plate.

I don’t remember why, but I volunteered to take over the catching duties for the remainder of the season.  Catcher became my primary position from that point forward until the day I stopped playing.  Something about being involved on every pitch was a big part of why I wanted to catch, but my main reason was probably because I thought wearing the gear, also known as “the tools of ignorance”, was cool.   

Not long after I began catching, I saw an old acquaintance of my grandfather’s who had played semi-pro baseball like 200 years ago.  We chatted, he said,

“So I hear you’re a ballplayer?”

“Yes sir.”

“I hear you play first base.  Right?” he said

“Yeah, but I think I want to be a catcher now.” I said

“Heh, first basemen last longer.”

Those words rolled off of my 14 or 15 year old back.  I caught hundreds of games after that day, but somehow that old man’s words stayed with me.

“First basemen last longer.”

When you’re a kid, pain is something you feel occasionally, like when you fall off of your bike, get stung by a bee, hit with a ball, or you inadvertently touch something hot.  When you are a kid, pain isn’t generally something you wake up with everyday.  Squatting behind the plate for hours on end in 100 degree heat never phased me back then, but I don’t pop up out of a crouch as fast as I did back then.  On rainy days my right shoulder reminds me of all those throws down to second base.  When I run, my feet and ankles remind me for the first half mile or so of all the foul balls and plays at the plate along with hours of holding me up that they took in my baseball days.

Some pain is a good reminder.  I’ve learned to listen to my body.  I didn’t have the patience for such things just five years ago, but now, I listen and I adjust accordingly. Right now, as I’ve bumped up my mileage I’ve noticed a few different aches and pains that weren’t there before I started running.  I call this “good pain”.  This pain reminds me not to go to fast and to allow for rest and recovery.  It also reaffirms that I did something besides sitting yesterday or the day before.  While I may be a newbie runner, I’m not a newbie athlete, so I won’t let a little pain here and there freak me out.  I bask in it, just so long as I can manage it.

That said, if your kid wants to be a baseball player, be sure to remind them time and time again that, “First baseman last longer” as do punters, point guards, people that don’t play hockey, and public address announcers.


Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Training for the Turkey Trot and what not

After enjoying a gorgeous day at the Baltimore Running Festival, I found it hard to get settled at home that evening.  When I signed up for my first 5K, I figured it would be a one and done type of thing for me.  My training had been fairly passive but more focused than anything else I had done fitness-related in recent years.  After actually being in a race though, a switch flipped inside of me.  I think it may have been the fact that I am an extremely competive person and that I smashed my own (albeit modest) goal of 40 minutes in my first race ever (yes long time experienced runners, I realize this IS NOT FAST, but I’m not racing you (yet), I’m racing ME).  Immediately I realized that I could do this on a higher level. 

I took the week following the Baltimore Running Festival off and immediately began training for my next race, The Frederick Maryland Waystation Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day (11/24/11).

I jumped into Hal Higdon’s intermediate program which adds some speed and distance work, feeling that my level of fitness had increased enough since July to make that jump.  I quickly eclipsed the five mile mark and could literally feel my lungs getting stronger.  For me, throughout my life and athletic “career”, my lungs were always my weakest link.  As a kid I had problems with wheezing and even used an inhaler for a time.  I eventually outgrew it for the most part, but I am convinced part of outgrowing it included my middle school and high school wrestling participation.  That said, for years when running passively, I’ve always felt my legs could go pretty far, but my lungs wouldn’t keep up.  Now, four months and a few days after I began training for my first race, I feel as though my lung capacity has increased, like they’ve stretched and it feels awesome.

On Saturday I did a six mile run on a rolling stretch of rural highway near my house.  I had planned to go five, but I pushed it to six. My pace averaged 11 minutes per mile and I could not be happier with my progress seeing as how I was at 10 minutes for shorter runs just a few months ago.  As a teenager, I could pull six minute miles and eights in my early twenties without a ton of effort, so I know with a focused training effort, I can get my current times down significantly.   

This week, I have shut down all training until the run on Thursday morning.  It is a cold, rainy week here, but Thursday’s forecast looks crisp and clear.  The goal I set for this race, which is on a very flat course by local standards, is to finish in 28 minutes or better.  I am confident that I can do this. 

In lieu of running this week, I have taken to some home improvement projects while the other half is away visiting her family.  I hung a cabinet on the kitchen wall last night that I salvaged from a cleanout job I am doing.  It looks good, though I get nervous about EVERYTHING I hang on walls, not because I don’t know how to hang things, but because I lack x-ray vision to see if the screws hit the stud.  Needless to say, I wouldn’t trust my grandma’s fine china or the Dale Earnhardt collectors plates in this cabinet, but it feels secure (part of me wants to try to do a pullup on it which would give it a 213 pound test rating, but I don’t feel like redoing the drywall) and our tupperware collection should be safe in there.  Time will tell!

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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