Monday, February 27, 2012

A Magical Weekend

Man, what a great weekend. This weekend was even better than last weekend when I ate a delicious homemade raw soy coconut burrito and hung out with friends as we watched the sun set over the mountaintop. Ross and Oliver came up for the Lake Effect Half Marathon--Ross to run it and Oliver to watch us run as he stood motionless in the wind and snow and cold.

After a delightful evening out on the town Friday night that included a Restaurant Week trip to Pastabilities, we woke up on Saturday morning to find that winter had decided to give it one more go here in Syracuse.

The ground was covered with at least three inches of freshly fallen snow, which showed no signs of abating. The wind whirled ferociously like some crazy nutty super wind.

We quickly decided to run the race together and make it a workout. Thinking it was one big out and back (out being into the headwind), my plan was to run the out part with Ross and push it on the way back. I should have realized that it was actually a two-loop course, though, based on the fact that the lake trail is only so long. Ross and I ran together for the first out segment before I picked it up slightly.

Really, it was two different races out there. Running into the wind was horrible, and there were huge snow flakes hitting you in the eyes every few steps. Running back was a piece of cake, though, and it made you want to throw your hat and gloves to the side of the trail. (Thankfully, I didn't do this, as I was glad to have them for the third quarter of the race.)

After the race, we went downtown for the Margarita Mixoff and Sandwich Stroll. Saturday night involved catching up with Cornell alumni at Heps, and Sunday was basically a full day of quality track and field at the Heps in Barton Hall. Cornell ended up getting second on both the men's and women's sides, but it was a great meet nonetheless.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cornellians in Houston

I'd like to propose an informal prediction contest for our blog readership. I probably should have posted this earlier given the irregularity with which most people check the site, but we'll see what turns up. Better late than never.

As you all know, Max King (2:15:34 in B'more), Sage Canaday (2:16:52 in San Diego), and Zac Hine (2:16:54 in Boston) are running the Trials tomorrow. Your job is to pick their finish order and times. Here's how the ultra-complicated scoring will work:

5 points if you pick their respective finishes correctly (e.g. Max then Sage then Zac; you don't need to say how they'll measure up against the rest of the field.

1 point for each time guessed within a minute of the actual time run.

2 points for each time guessed within 30 seconds of the actual time run.

3 points for each time guessed within 10 seconds of the actual time run.

10 points if you predict a time to the second.

Time-related points are not additive, so the maximum number of points you can get is 35.

The winner will get something cool. Most likely, I'll send you a free racing singlet once I get around to designing and ordering them. Everyone else who wants one will have to pay for it, but you'll have a free one. Look at you. You in your free jersey. Hey, how'd you get that? You won it; that's how.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January Racing

Four years ago I was working and teaching in Philadelphia. I was in my second year of Teach For America (and also my second year out of college). The (fucking) Heps, in this particular year, were going to be held at Cornell on the Barton Hall track. As many of you know, I was really excited about it because almost everyone I had known at Cornell was going to be back in town for this meet.
I remember that I'd had to leave late, and on the road up to Ithaca, true to Ithaca form, it had started snowing heavily. I had to stay in the tire tracks of the truck that was ahead of me to keep from swerving off the road. Anyway, when I got back to Cornell and watched the meet I was struck by two things. First, I was envious of the fitness of the guy's that were currently on the team. Watching them made me want to race again. Second, every person I met up with made the same shocked exclamation upon seeing me again: "Oh my god! You've lost so much weight! It's like your wasting away!"

So, I went back to Philly motivated (and shamed) to get back into shape. I emailed Will, told him what I wanted to do, and he gave me some ideas for workouts. I, also, contacted the Central Park Track Club and joined their team (I was moving to NYC at the end of that June). All through that spring I kept a log of my training. After school, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would jog from my apartment on 13th and Pine, across the river, to Penn's campus and to Franklin Field where I would do workouts.

At some point, Will said I needed to race. I was not enthusiastic about the idea because I didn't want to run when I was not in tip-top shape, but I could understand the logic. It's been over a year and a half. I need to practice racing again. So, I signed up for a race in NYC. To take the pressure off the race I signed up for the 400 meters.

There was a lot that I had forgotten about: nerves, how the timing of the meet can get pushed around (my race started a half hour late), racing from a gun, etc. I think I ran 52 point something. I remember I lost to a guy from Ithaca College (before the race I saw him warming up and thought to myself, at least I know I'll beat that guy). I wasn't distraught by the result, but I certainly wasn't encouraged.

I ended up not racing again on a track for four years. I think I held off on writing this post because I was afraid that I would somehow end up not racing this past Friday night. I am very glad that I was able to get back out on a track and race.

As for results, they are encouraging. I ran the meet a little bit like a workout. I raced in the 3000 and the 500. Sam and Steve were running the 3000 and I wanted to be able to run with them, and I wanted to run some speed so I entered the 500. The week before the race the meet was not really on my mind. I had labeled it as a workout in my head. The night before the race I got a little bit of nerves, and on the day of the race all of my racing nerves were sending off big jolts of adrenaline and fear. Once I got to Barton Hall and warmed up with Sam and Steve things felt a little better.

After we went out, I settled down a bit. I had no idea how the 3k was going to feel (not having run one ever before). I knew that I wasn't going to stay with Sam and Steve, but I was surprised when they bounded away from me in the first lap. I settled into pace (and got pacing advice from John and Robert, which was really helpful). I lost count of the laps, and the person who was switching the "Laps To Go" sign messed up and left up "5 laps to go" for two laps in a row. So, I wasn't sure what I was doing. I heard Robert yell something like (you've got to get a 70), and guessed that I had two laps left. So, I picked it up and finished for a 9:25, which felt great. I assume that 9:25 is not a great 3000 time, but I was very happy with it being that it was my first 3k and I don't count myself to be a great distance runner.

After the 3k I was feeling good for about 30 minutes before I got nervous again for the 500. I asked myself again why I ever signed myself up for these things. The 500 came and at the gun I tried to get out, but had a hard time accelerating. I was in last after the crash, and I tried to pass guys the entire way, but only managed to catch two of them in the final straight away. I was beating myself up the entire run because I was in last, but down the last straight I saw the clock and knew we were going to hit a good time. The time ended up being a 67.1.

I had gone into the meet hoping for a 9:30 and a 68. I hit 9:25 and 67.1. So, all in all, I'm very pleased with how it went. I'm excited to get to the next meet.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Reflections, Resolutions, and Goals

We're three days into the New Year, and I've been meaning to take a moment to write down some thoughts. I've never been good about keeping a journal, so it's probably unrealistic to expect that to happen in any conventional sense. I do, however, think it's beneficial to reflect on whatever's going on in your life from time to time. Running blogs are a great forum for this sort of thing.

So here goes. I'm going to try to do this "free-form" with minimal editing, so please bear with me. I'll throw in my goals at the end of each topic.

Meat. Last night, I ate filet mignon. Most of you know I've been vegetarian since March. I've tried not to make it a high-horse issue, but it always seems to come up in conversation, especially when I'm eating with a group of people. Natalie and I have, for the past month, been eating meat on Mondays--only super high quality meat, though--none of the crap they sell in the grocery store. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to Scheffler Farms near my mom's house and stocked up on free-range, grass-fed beef of different varieties. I highly recommend it. It was delicious.

The nice thing about eating meat on an occasional basis is that when you do eat it, you really enjoy it more and can justify buying the primo stuff. I pan-seared last night's filet for five minutes a side in minced garlic, sage, black pepper, and salt, then cooked it in the oven for another ten or so minutes. It was damn good. Shout out to the local CSA for making the transition to vegetarianism so easy. That is definitely something we'll continue this coming year with Dave and Erica taking Andrew and Elizabeth's place as "co-shareholders" or whatever it's called.

Food goals: Status quo meat-wise, reinstate the one beer -or- one dessert per night rule for six out of seven nights of the week.

Running. This theme has obviously been a big one for the last year and promises to continue to hold an important role in my life in 2012. I really enjoyed the first go-round of Marathon a Trois. (No, I'm not going to insert the accent over the 'a'; This is free-form, remember?) It was nice to have some substrate for motivation, and Ross and Gordon provided that. I didn't initially expect Pittsburgh to be a lead-in for Boston, but I'd be lying if I expected the "project" to end with one race. It's unfortunate that Gordon blew up so badly, but, being the fleetest of foot of the three of us (Ross and I could never run a sub-50 quarter), I think his sub-1:50 800 goal makes a lot more sense than racing another marathon.

The main problem with Pittsburgh was that it's in May, which meant that I had my highest mileage weeks in February and March (not super-high mileage, though, as I've recently eclipsed my highest pre-Pittsburgh week two or three times) and down-time in May and June. Pittsburgh took more out of me than I expected. I thought 2:49 would have left me more OK than I was, but I guess running it at 6 minute pace for the first half and 7 minute pace for the second, is far from ideal.

Late in the year, Steve had the idea of trying to break 15 minutes in the 5k in 2012. As someone who has run a few pathetic 5k's on the track in his time, I thought that was a great goal. Certainly, it makes a lot more sense than my nebulous 2:30-something marathon goal, considering that I'm 175 pounds and my 4:08 mile PR. On the other hand, sub-15 requires some serious effort track-wise. Holding 4:48 pace for 12.5 laps is no easy task, and I've never had a great gas tank in the aerobic sense.

Reflecting on the sub-15 project today, I'd say that I'm about as optimistic as I was when we started out: I think there's about a 50-50 chance that we do it. The video blogging has been fun when there's time to do it, but we've really started to hate taking footage. We'll see how much more annoying it gets as we get through the winter (which apparently decided to start today). It's also going to be tricky making Boston work with the 5k goal. The fact that the marathon is in April helps, though. Hopefully I'll come back around by late May to make my first attempt.

Running goals: 2:30-something at Boston, sub-15 5k, daily core work.

Work. As a grad student, I use the term loosely, though these days, it pretty much is a 9-5 (6) thing for me. 2011 was a great year for me career-wise, as I published paper early in the year and got an NIH fellowship in July. On the down-side grant funding for my project and a few others expired at the end of the year, and a few great people had to look elsewhere for jobs.

Still, I think 2012 will be at least as good as 2011 on the work front. I'm hoping to get another paper out by the end of February and then crank out a review by the summer. I'm also exploring two potential collaborations that look to be interesting. Put it all together, and I should be in good shape for an April defense in 2013.

I suppose AMA stuff falls under the work heading as well. This past year, I went to two national conferences in Chicago and New Orleans. While I've had problems with specific elements of the organization at times, I think the overall concept of organized medicine is good. Generally speaking, physicians need to take responsibility for what happens with health care policy and not simply complain when the system presents inequities. In New Orleans, I termed out as a delegate to the HOD, but I'm looking for ways to stay involved.

Finally, a reflection on the project that never was but some day may still be. I've been very interested in the healthcare cost & quality dilemma for the past few years. This past year, I started drafting a grant to be submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that allowed me to flesh out my thoughts in project form. MaT contributor Ross helped, as a recent grad of the CMU applied statistics program. Without going too far into it, suffice it to say that I'll be exploring more avenues to see this entrepreneurial spark come to fruition.

Work goals: Publish two papers, devote one day a week to clinical work or reading.

Family/House. This was a great year for the family. Natalie and I are still very much in love a year and a half in to being married. Stuffy Pierre is somewhat less curmudgeonly than when we got him, and Charley has really developed into an awesome dog.

We got a lot done on the house this year, too, including doors connecting the deck and dining room (all the way back in January '11), a new laundry room, ongoing kitchen remodeling, and a toasty gas fireplace insert. It's been fun doing projects with my dad when he makes trips up to Syracuse.

Family/House goals: Visit Becky in Salem, be more of a tight-wad when it comes to home improvement.

That pretty much satisfies my writing itch. I guess I should state that I do have a few other resolutions for the year, including reading more (thanks for the Christmas Kindle, Natalie), and watching less TV (this is usually more a function of getting Natalie to not turn it on as background entertainment, though I am guilty of the occasional Hulu binge).

I also hope that contributors new and old re-up on the blog posting. No one really reads it except us, anyway, so more than anything else, it's just a good way to stay in touch.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Test the Waters

I'm signed up for the 3000 at the January 6th Cornell meet. What are the chances you guys (Gordon, more likely) would be up for a race there?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


So, I am putting sub-1:50 out there as a goal, but not necessarily the goal. At this stage, I want to see what I am still capable of. That being said I have certainly had that number on my mind for a long time, and I can empathize with Steve(Sam)'s sub-15 blog (in fact, I think about it every time I open that website).

As for the video from the Nittany Half, I will be posting that after finals week has ended (this week) when I can load the video and figure out how to edit it/post it.

So, I won't go into great detail about the past few months. My first month I was consistent in running 60 minutes every day and 90 minutes on Sundays, but I had to scale that back after I started doing workouts because I was getting really bad tightness in my knees. I put a post on Letsrun to see if there was anyone to workout with here, and I got a response from the PSU Track Club and recent PSU graduate Ryan Foster. I ended up not having the time slot for the track club available, but I have run a few long runs with Foster, which has worked out much more to my advantage since I am much slower/older and less driven than him (he's in the process of qualifying for the Australian Olympic team).

Anyway, so skip ahead a few months of workouts. After trying to think of things to do to make myself fast I went ahead and got Will Seidel to put together a workout calendar for me, and thus far, things to seem to be going smoothly.

Last week:
S: 90 minutes
M: 60 Minutes
T: 45 minutes + 10 short hill sprints
W: 2 x 8 x 200 (36/35 for the first set and 34 for the second set) with 100 meter jog in between and 4 minutes between sets) --> The first set should have been faster but I had to run it on an outdoor track in the snow and the track got pretty slippery. So, I went based on effort.
R: 60 minutes
F: 45 minutes
S: 600 meter TT - 1:26 (200 splits: 28, 28, 30) again solo on outdoor track with some wind - I think I could have gone faster if but for the wind, but I'm happy with the time.

So, that's last week. As for things to look forward to, right now it looks like I'll either be running at Bucknell on January 7 or at Cornell on January 5. Either way, I'll be running a 500/3000 double.

Monday, December 12, 2011

le Trois - Sam

About a week ago Ross and I ran the Nittany Valley Half as a tuneup. For Ross, this would be a tuneup for the Boston marathon this coming April, and for me, this would be a tempo run of sorts as I train for some kind of track season this spring.

I am no longer a teacher, and this means that I have a lot more time on my hands. I would say that I am still busy, but my time is not as structured as it was, and I am nowhere near the level of busy-ness that I kept while I was living in NYC. Over the summer I ran a bit (40-50 mile weeks), but I wasn't sure what I was training for. Sometime around August I started thinking about running another marathon or trying something new like a triathlon or tough mudder. So, I got in touch with Ross and Sam, but, unbeknownst to me, Ross and Sam had both decided to take advantage of their Boston qualifying times and race another marathon this April (as they, admittedly, should).
I am sad to say that I was disappointed to hear this. I should have been happy for my friends, but, owing to the fact that I flamed out at the Pittsburgh marathon like a communist rocket, I would not be racing in Boston alongside them. So, come April, I will head up to Boston to watch, but not to run. Maybe another year.
Now, I had a decision to make - what was I going to be training for. I suddenly had time to train, but I wasn't sure what the goal should be. I had always said that I wanted to run sub 1:50 for the 800, but I had not done so in college. So, I decided that I'd see what I could do on the track as a 27-28 year old, and that's the plan right now.

Anyway, this is a long explanation of why I was calling the Nittany Valley Half a tempo while Ross was tuning up for Boston. We were both hoping to improve on our times from last March's Race For Life Half where Ross ran (I think) 1:25 flat and I ran about 1:26:30. We were both hoping for about 1:22.

We ended up with Ross at 1:23:22 and myself at 1:25:00 placing 18th and 28th respectively. I think our initial reaction was to feel disappointed, but, after having given it some thought, it was a pretty good showing. The course was very hilly, there were few stretches that were not on some sort of incline/decline, and the inclines and declines were very steep.
Ross and I got through the first 2-3 miles in 6:30 pace before we began dropping it down to 6:15ish. We had heard that the there was a big downhill around mile 8 and that the last 1.5 miles of the course were all uphill. Our plan was to use the big downhill to relax and save up for the last 1.5 miles, but the downhill (which seemed like it was 1.5 miles straight downhill, like we were descending into the Earth) ended up being more taxing than we anticipated. The next hill at around mile 9.5 was straight up for about 400 meters, and I had to say goodbye to Ross or risk not finishing. So, I slowed. From there the rest of the run was all about maintaining dignity while trying to catch my breath. I was by myself - there was no one else behind me or ahead of me, and I think this aided in me slowing down because there was little to gauge myself on. The last uphill was horrendous, but satisfying when I finished.

I think my effort on a flat course would have been worth about 1:23:30, and I'll bet Ross's would have been 1:22. The last 3 miles of the course made all the difference.