Long distance runner? Yes, I am.

Update (10/3/2008): The official race results were posted yesterday. Even more surprising is the time below of 1:58:30 was my “gun time” not my finish time. Gun time is the time from the point the gun fires to start the race until I cross the finish. I am a rookie. Veteran runners know what matters is “chip time” or the amount of time from the point I cross the start until I cross the finish. Gun time and chip time are the same for those runners who start the race at the very front of the pack. I was near the back. This is a long-winded way of saying, as incredible as it seems, I ran faster than 1:58:30. My chip time was 1:56:56! That means I ran a sub nine minute mile pace. Sweet!

A picture is worth a thousand words and, in this instance, 13.1 miles.

Keith's first half-marathon time

I had 3 goals when I set out to run my first half-marathon. In priority order they were:

  1. Have fun
  2. Finish
  3. Finish under 2 hours

Goals one and two were required. Why subject myself to the hours of training, a $55 entry fee and pricey running supplies if I wasn’t going to have fun or finish once I started? I didn’t take finishing for granted. In fact, goal three was a pipe dream as far as I was concerned since I planned to run the first six miles at 10’00” per to warm up and average 9’30” per for the last seven and change to make sure I could finish. That would put me at one hour for the first six miles and 1:07:27 for the remainder, meaning I would finish in 2:07:27—perfectly respectable for my first race.

So, what happened? I received a package from BALCO on Friday. Just playing. 😀

Actually, I felt great, the weather was great, I was surrounded by faster runners and I had TB there cheering me along at the start, 7.5 mile mark, 9.5 mile mark and finish. Everything came together better than I imagined and I surprised myself with how fast I ran both halves of the race.

I ran the first four miles at 10’00” per mile, as planned, but demolished miles 5 through 7 which were either downhill or flat and in the shade. Just before the 7.5 mile mark there was a brutally steep hill, but once I made it to the top I saw my girl cheering which made everything better. Miles 7 through 10 I ran like a man on fire compared to my normal pace. There were hills but nothing terrible. I think all the runners around me kicked it up a notch and I felt good enough to stay with them. Miles 10-12 were tough, I can’t lie. One thing that saved me was jettisoning my CamelBak at the 9.5 mile mark by passing it to TB. That probably cut 2 pounds (including the liquid inside) which is very noticeable when you’ve been running 90 minutes.

The mile points weren’t posted clearly over the course and my Nike+ sensor was way off (for example, it thinks I only ran 11.22 miles instead of 13.2) and I started regretting my “man on fire” moment when I began sucking wind somewhere around the 11.5 mile point. I knew I had enough in the tank to finish but I wondered if I could push myself to finish under 2 hours. There was a guy about 15 feet in front of me who seemed to be running a flat 2:00:00 pace so I figured I would just make sure he didn’t get too far ahead and rely on my Lagat-esque kick at the end. (Ha!)

Then something magical happened. I saw a sign that indicated we had reached the 12 mile mark. What!? For real? It was on.

I turned on the afterburners and began pumping my arms hell-bent on finishing strong. I quickly overtook my unofficial pacesetter thinking to myself, “You’re almost there. You’re almost there.” I turned a corner and saw the finish about 1/4 mile in the distance. I was running hard but not in an all-out sprint…maybe I was sprinting since it’s doubtful I could have run much faster. I saw TB there cheering as I approached the finish chute and almost passed out when I saw the time posted on the official clock flashed 1:58:30. I had done it.

It’s always fun to see different perspectives of the same event. So, as a special treat, I convinced TB to write about her experience as a first-time spectator for my first-time race. Continue reading below.

Continue reading “Long distance runner? Yes, I am.”

Yikes, my first race is tomorrow!

Bellingham Bay Half Marathon Well damas y caballeros, the time is near. In about 18 hours I will start my very first official, long-distance race by running the Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon. I started training back in June and put in a ton of miles despite taking two weeks off in the middle after injuring my hamstring. These last two weeks I have been tapering down my mileage ending with a short and fast 3 mile run yesterday morning. I’ve trained hard, I feel great and now it’s game time.

TB, our resident long-distance runner par excellence, has helped get my gear and game plan together since she’s done all this several times before. I’ve been in charge of the spectator plan based on my start/end paces so she can cheer me on at different points and still have time to get to the finish—I’ve done it several times before in preparation for her races. It’s funny how the responsibilities are the same although our roles are different.

Bellingham is a 90 minute drive from our home. We’re driving up tomorrow, the day of the race, for the 7:30 AM start. I am supposed to finish breakfast 2 hours before I start running. I also need to pick up my race packet by 6:30 which means we will leave at the insane hour of 4:30 and eat breakfast in the car about an hour into the trip. This is starting to sound a lot like my Nike+ Human Race 10K experience. Here is how I see the day going:

  • For breakfast I will have a serving of Kashi cereal with soy milk and 12 ounces of sports drink. I use Accelerade before and during the race because it has protein and other brands do not.
  • Fifteen minutes before the race starts I will eat a GU energy gel to give my body a quick shot of glucose that it can put to immediate use. Remember, I will finish breakfast 2 hours before the race.
  • During the race I will suck down a GU energy gel every 45 minutes and consume 30 ounces of Accelerade over the first 10 miles from my CamelBak.
  • TB will meet me between miles 10 and 11 to swap my hat for a visor and take the empty CamelBak. For the last 3.1 miles I will drink water provided on the course.
  • Immediately after the race I will consume 12 ounces of Endurox R4, a recovery drink with both electrolytes and protein. I will also eat an apple and a bagel.
  • I will ice my knees, calves and ankles to prevent swelling.
  • With all that done and the race behind me I will change into dry clothes and head back home with TB as a new inductee into the long-distance runners club.

The weather is supposed to be great for running with a high of 70 and no rain (yes!)

Wish me luck…

Keith’s Amusing Musings now iPhone Friendly

I made some upgrades to this site to improve viewing and navigating for visitors using the iPhone or iPod touch. You will only see the custom look if you are reading the site on the iPhone. Otherwise, you will see the blog normally. Below are the before-and-after pictures of this site being viewed on the iPhone.

Amusing Musings - iPhone (Before) Amusing Musings - iPhone (After)

I am relying on the WPTouch plug-in which is about as simple to install and configure as it gets. I wish more software was as easy to install, configure and get working the first time. Separate but related, I also added a custom icon for bookmarking the site on your iPhone Home Screen. To see it, click the ‘+’ while viewing the site on the iPhone and choose “Add to Home Screen.”

Now you may be wondering two things:

  1. Why did I customize my site for the iPhone?
  2. How did I get those before-and-after pictures?

The answer to both is simple: I bought an iPhone 3G. 😯

‘Tis true. TB made me do it so she could get one too. Ok, ok, maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, I sold out and retired my Motorola Q (aka Mobile ENIAC) and ended my cheap Sprint SERO plan. I have no regrets—other than the price differential between my former Sprint SERO plan ($30/month) and our joint AT&T FamilyTalk plan ($149.99/month).

The iPhone 3G is an amazing little device, far from perfect, but amazing nonetheless. TB uses hers more than I have seen her use any mobile phone.

I finished first in the Nike+ Human Race 10K

OK, not really FIRST first.

Petanque boules On August 31, before heading to Belgium, I completed The Human Race 10K. For this global 10K running event my time was 57’14” (or about 9:32 per mile) which means I finished first…in the second group of 13,900 runners. Ha! The top finisher overall finished in 27’38”. You know nothing crushes a guy’s ego like the reality that someone not only runs faster but over twice as fast. I have to take solace knowing I can probably bench more than mjjensen80. If that fails, I will destroy him in a game of Pétanque.

Seattle wasn’t cool enough to make the list as one of 25 official host cities so I registered and ran as a “public runner.” For public runners to get credit for running, we had to run on August 31 and upload our results by September 2.

When I registered for the race over a month ago, I had my mind set on finishing in 54 minutes flat but two things conspired against me. First, my recent hamstring injury forced me to focus less on speed and more on endurance. Second, we decided to go to Belgium and our flight was at 7:15 AM the day of the race. I had to wake at 3 AM to have enough time to run, shower, eat and make it to the airport for an international flight. We wouldn’t arrive in Belgium until September 1 so it was either do the run before our trip or not at all. Let me tell you, running a 10K solo at 3 in the morning on 4 hours of sleep was brutal.

I was not used to running in the dark and I carried a flashlight so I could see more than three feet in front of me. It was difficult to relax since I worried I would encounter a pack of rabid coyotes and have to unleash a devastating fists of fury combo. Afterwards, TB told me coyotes don’t attack people. I was like, “Yeah, right!” and quickly reminded her of bouts like Buck vs. Christopher Reeve, Montecore vs. Roy Horn and Stingray vs. Steve Irwin. Sometimes, like humans, animals forget what they are and are not supposed to do. I want to get on Wikipedia eventually but not like that.

Three weeks from tomorrow is the big event: My first half marathon. Considering I have yet to run more than 10 miles, I feel caught between wanting to give my leg proper time to heal and wanting to tack on the miles to build endurance at the longer distances. I’m not running for time but I am running to finish.

Nike+ - Human Race 10K - August 31 2008

Back from Belgium

Bruges, Belgium TB and I spent six days in Belgium. We flew from Seattle to D.C. (Dulles) to Brussels on United. We stayed at the Sofitel Europe located in the outskirts of Brussels and did a couple day trips to the center of the city and to the Flemish town of Bruges. French is the primary language followed by Flemish/Dutch and German. Most of the people we encountered spoke enough English to communicate with us and a couple times my semester’s worth of high school French paid off. For example, TB was all amazed when I was able to request two 3-day train passes from the agent who spoke no English. (Shout out to Madame Duffy who taught us to écouter et répétez. 🙂 )

Brussels, BelgiumWith the significant French and Italian influences, Belgian dining was sublime. Of course the chocolate and waffles were top notch but so too were the frites, pizza, sandwiches and smoked salmon. The most memorable heavenly dining experience was the scoop of Belgian chocolate ice cream from a shop that was literally a Häagen-Dazs combined with a Godiva.

I took a couple dozen pictures during our trip a few of which have been scattered throughout this post. The black-and-white image is of a Brandenberg-esque monument located in a colossal public park a few blocks from the Sofitel in Brussels. The park is over 1 1/2 miles around its perimeter which made it a perfect spot for doing a six mile run. There were a few moments of showers while we were in Belgium but it never rained long or a large amount. The temperature ranged between mid-60s to upper 70s and we were fine with light jackets.

Bruges, Belgium

Overall, Belgium is a fine place with fine dining, mild weather and friendly people. I would go back as part of an extended trip that includes a couple of its neighbors (France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands).