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What's worse than 26.2? How about 31.1?

After running a marathon, I wanted to try something a little different.  This year, I signed up for a 50km trail run.  (That's 31.1mi for those metrically challenged.)  I thought what's so hard about doing another 5miles.  Plus I get to run on trails and see more of nature compared to the hot pavement of city streets and highways.  

After several weeks of training, I know see the difference.  I took it for granted that my feet should  know how high to step to avoid things in their path.  In a marathon, you spend most of the time looking up at the horizon to take your mind off your feet.  But during trail runs, not looking at your feet and what's in front of you can stop you in your tracks, literally.  

I came back from my first run, with sore ankles, cuts and lots of mud.  Muscles that never get involved in running were suddenly complaining about what I had put them through.  Now I know it's not so much all about the cardio or breathing, but equal amounts core training and hill work. Thankfully, I've always been running on hilly streets.  Now I'm just getting use to the rocks, roots, and other surprises waiting to put a damper on increasingly sore feet.  

Fortunately, I'm up to running 15-16 mi over trails.  I think by next week I'll be able to do another long run up to 20mi.  During the week, I stick with shorter 10mi runs with multiple hills, stairs, and stretches of trail.

My biggest concern is not getting tired but getting sore.  It's like the ground is rising up to try and slow you down. It's taken some time to get use to my new trail shoes as well.  Their heaviness can be disconcerning but I appreciate the grip of their treads and the sole's thicker protection.

If my first 50km goes well, I'll be back for more.  If not.... I'll probably still be back.


My first marathon came and went last week.  I'm excited to say I completed it without injury, other than calves that felt like lava pools and feet that felt like cinder blocks.  B was my one person support team and had a marathon of her own, trying to intercept me along the 26 mile route.  But she did a great job and really helped keep me motivated.  I don't think I would have felt the excitement as much if I'd done it by myself.

The weather was perfect for the race. The crowds cheered runners almost every foot of the way.  It was only eerily silent on some stretches (bridges, hwy 110).  But before long it was drowned out again by onlookers crowding the exit ramps.

The starting shot marked the start of the race, but for me it didn't begin until after 6 minutes of slow walking up to the starting line.  There were 31,000 people running and I was in the middle somewhere looking for my pacer's flag showing 4:15.  I gave up looking and watched for the 4:30 pacer flag instead.  But I never saw that one either.

The first mile went by quickly and I thought 25.2 more miles to go.  The second mile went by faster than the first as we poured through Rosslyn, VA.  I told myself to ease up, but by the third mile I was still running under 10min/mile.  It wasn't until mile 4, as we made our way through Georgetown, that I finally recognized I was going way to fast.  As the crowd thinned I dropped down in speed.  I missed meeting B at our first check point on the Key Bridge, so we called each other and agreeded to check in at mile 9.  I still had on running pants and a wicking hat and needed to ditch them since the sun was coming up.  By mile 5 I was starting to feel warm enough to lose them, but I would have to wait until I saw B.  And that was going to be the first food station around 9mi.

After leaving Georgetown, the course took us into Rock Creek Parkway.  I use to jog there when I lived in DC.  I was looking forward to it again.  The course did it's first and only loop back in the Parkway.  So as runners ran into the Rock Creek we saw all the runners in front of us coming back on the opposite street.  I was still feeling good as I came out of the Parkway.  Even better when I got to see all the runners that were still behind me.  I met up with B shortly before the orange stand and was able to drop off my extra clothes, grab a drink, give her an update/hug/kiss and take off again.

The course ran down the Potomac River after that.  I started thinking about how much I had left to run when I hit the 10mi mark.  I wasn't even halfway done yet and my mind was starting to act up. The scenic view of the waterfront reminded me that there was a long way to go before we reached Hain's Point and could loop back.  By the half way mark, B was already in position for our next meet up at mile 17.  I told her I was just at 14mi and she had some time to kill before I'd be there.  

It was at this point, I started noticing some runners were not as chipper as others.  One couple had to pull off the road suddenly when one of them made a mad dash for a tree.  I lost sight of them shortly after that.

After Hain's Point, we ran around the National Mall and headed for the Capital.  I vaguely remember some of the buildings but spent most my time looking at the crowds cheering everyone on.  I met up with B again to recharge and grab some Chai seeds.  I had half my power gels left and didn't want to carry more.  I grabbed a couple Mocha flavored ones earlier, when runners hit the second food station near Hain's point.

After meeting with B at mile 17, I was off again to finish the circuit around the Capital.  I was glad to put 17 behind me since traffic would reopen again at that marker after a certain time.  If you don't make it by 4 hours or so, you're shuttled to somewhere else to continue the race.  At that point, you're no longer considered an official finisher.  

Our next meet up was only a few blocks for B, but I had to do 3 miles the long way round to mile 20. She picked a meeting spot next to what looked like an all female drum band.  I remember rows of drums thundering us all on as we ran by.  I gave her another quick hug/kiss before heading over the bridge.  This is the point where the race had its second deadline for runners to "beat the bridge" or risk having to take a shuttle due to the bridge reopening to traffic.  I was ahead of time but starting to loss my steam at this point.

Mile 21 was a blur of concrete bridge.

Mile 22 was more concrete and Crystal City, (yay, even more concrete).  It was along this stretch I started to feel my calves start to twitch involuntarily.  I had to slow my run down to a trot for fear of pulling something.  Looking back, I was really lucky nothing gave out.  I've done short runs before and had a calf muscle suddenly spasm and hurt like hell.  After that, there's no way you can run for at least a couple days while you let it heal up again.  (Looking back I know I should have been drinking and eating more.)

I ran into B again just as I was getting ready to head out of Crystal City.  It was an unplanned meet up.  But I'm glad she surprised me.  She helped me load up on Gatorade and water along with some last minute bananas she found.  I took another gel shot for good measure and headed out again after a kiss.  She later told me I looked pretty bad at that point.  I felt bad, but I didn't even considering stopping.  Must. go. on.

Mile 23 was daunting, as we saw hwy 110 again.  That was where the starting line had once been just 4 hours before.  I jogged past the Pentagon parking lots once again and back on to hwy 110 to finish out the last few miles.  

I remember Mile 24 having a massive water station and took several more cups to reload.  I didn't want to mess up at this point.

Mile 25 felt like a mirage.  I knew the finish was just up the road and around a bend but it was still over a mile from the finish.  B caught up to me one more time before the finish, cheering me on and even running a bit with me for support.

Mile 26, I saw the mile marker and considered stopping to get my picture taken with the sign.  But dismissed it quickly thinking I might not be able to keep my legs moving if I stop for too long.

.2 miles to go.  All of it up hill.  The race organizers thought it would be more fulfilling to put the last fifth of a mile up a hill.  They were right.  But it didn't make me feel any better at the time.

I remember trudging up that last hill, with my last reserves, towards the Iwo Jima Memorial and finish line.  Crowds were cheering everyone on.  The last 100 feet were stacked with fans on bleachers, waiting to celebrate all those who could now be called Marathoners.

Crossing the finish was surreal.  I don't remember actually telling myself to stop.  All the runners crossing the line, were immediately congratulated by Marines stacked curb-to-curb.  A short walk later, and Finishers were met by more Marines and issued our finisher medals and a salute.  

It was the end to an amazing journey.  I felt like every run I had done earlier this year was just a small link in the chain of progress that made this race possible.  Even though my legs felt like noodles and my feet could barely drag themselves off the ground, I knew I wanted to do this again.

I called B to tell her I had made it and we picked a spot in the runner's village to meet.  Within minutes we were celebrating and swapping stories on what had happened to each throughout the day.   


Is it safe?

MarathonmanI'll be finding out if it's safe this weekend when I run the 38th Marine Corps Marathon.  Fortunately the forecast calls for sunny skies and no chance of diamond smuggling germans spoiling the day.

I was hoping to blog more about preparing for the marathon, but in hindsight every running has their own methods.  It's all about the physical preparations that I've been doing for the last 4-5 months and the mental readiness you gear up for in the final days before the race.

I've run 1/2 marathons and can knock out 10 milers with no problem.  But the thought of 26.2 miles stirs up thoughts of what if my muscles start to tire out even though my mind is ready to go.  I've seen injuries pop up just from the constant demand made on the knees, ankles, feet, etc.  But I'll see what happens. I have my support crew of one ready to meet me along the way. 

In any event, I'm looking forward to the race and seeing all participants on Sunday.  I've cheered previous runners on before during the MCM, now I'll be the one needing some cheering.  Get out and see the race even if you don't run, it's worth seeing everyone.

Govt goes back to work but I never left.

Like many other State Department workers during the govt shut down, I continued working with no break in service.  It was odd after a while, because every other federally employed friend I knew was furloughed.  I was starting to feel like the State Department was the only federal agency that was still burning the midnight oil.

So I'm thankful both parties finally came to an agreement but there is so much to be said on how this end result could have been reached without causing the shutdown in the first place. 

Work has consumed most of my time so the last thing I've wanted to do was spend more time sitting in front of a computer when I'm at home.  But now that I'm getting settled in my new assignment and the pace is under more of my control, I'm slowing getting back into blogging again.

So here's to the govt monolith's gears starting their slow grind once again and the production of red tape once again in full swing.  I can't wait till Feb 2014 when they once again begin anew!


Jazz drummer phenom Dave Weckl

Last weekend, I learned Dave Weckl was playing with Mike Stern at Blue Alley in Georgetown.  The venue is smallish so it seemed like a good chance to see Dave play up close.  While jazz isn't my first choice for music, I still knew it would be a good show.  And I wasn't disappointed.  

Upon arriving, I saw a line was already forming and the doors wouldn't open for another 45 minutes. B and I braved the cold while we waited.  Seating filled up quick but we were able to get a table for two with a nice view of the stage.  

There's a mandatory $12/person order so be prepared to get something to eat/drink.  Servers do a great job getting everything taken care of with minimal disruptions during the first part of the night.

I could have done without some of the vocal stylings but all in all the band played very well together. The bass player and drummer were pretty tight and fun to watch.  There was plenty of opportunities for everyone, including Dave to solo without anyone overreaching and losing the audience.

The venue is another great place if you looking for something a little more secluded to take a date or hang out with friends.