Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cold, snowy fun run

This run, through cold and snow, was an adventure. This is why I run. This is fun.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Temperature at start: 21
Inches of snow overnight: 3
Miles run: 8
Time running:  1 hour, 28.44 minutes
Times fell: 1
Clothes ripped: 2
Body scrapes: 2
Shoelaces untied: 3 (see times fell above)
Yaktrax slipped off: 1
Caught Yaktrax before slipping off: 1
Approximate time spent picking myself up and fixing equipment: 5 minutes
Splashed by cars: 2
Puddles stepped in: 3
Telephone poles jumped over: 1
First footsteps in fresh snow: too many to count.

And you know, that last one cancels out any of the previous negative ones: The cold, the snow, the trips. Indeed, it’s almost like being a kid again when you can be the first person to crunch your feet into the snow and leave your marks. I started this run with a smile, looking forward to it. I ended the run with a smile because it was a great adventure.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Product review: Yaktrax:

I tested my new Yaktrax today, and found they are wonderful. They're kind of like snow tires -- or more accurately, chains -- for your running shoes.
So I put them on, and headed out. The first stretch of asphalt I hit was dry and clear -- I was still in the street, after all -- so they made little difference. But when I turned onto the wet, snowy and icy sidewalk, they worked to perfection. I was initially hesitant about stepping onto the ice, and did so cautiously. But I soon realized I had no chance of slipping or sliding, and the chains kept me solidly on my feet. So I became more confident about my run.
But the Yaktrax were needed, because the sidewalks were covered in mounds of snow and ice. (Why are streets cleared quickly, but no one gives a damn about clearing sidewalks?) It made the run almost like a trail run -- landing on an uneven ground instead of a flat surface, forcing you to use watch your steps and take care where you are landing.
While they work great as intended, I do have a minor complaint. They are difficult to actually put on your shoes. You have to stretch them around the shoes, and use a velcro tab system to strap them in. With no instructions on or inside the box, it took a little thought to figure out exactly how to do it.
But otherwise, I highly recommend them.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: The Submission, by Amy Waldman

After the World Trade Center is blown up in New Your, the city commissions a jury to select the anonymous designer of a memorial. It turns out the designer is a non-practicing Muslim.

And thus begins Amy Waldman's novel about prejudice, suspicion, fear-mongering, and events spiraling out-of-control.

The book starts slowly, and struggles to find its way as it introduces a plethora of characters. And for a book that tries to show the dangers of prejudice, it has an amazing number of stereotypes and beyond wealthy characters. For instance, the family member on the jury, the character whom the book revolves around, is described as being set for life after marrying a wealthy man, who leaves her everything after he dies in the terrorist act. The novel is chock-a-block with investment bankers and other scions of industry. But other characters -- the Irish-Catholic family with a fireman-son who died, a cold-hearted mother, and a second son who has, you guessed it, a drinking problem; the tabloid reporter who cares about nothing but getting a sensationalist story; and the governor whose political ambitions weigh above all else -- never come to life. Indeed, the most well-drawn character, a Bengladeshi widow, becomes relevant only near the end of the book.

But still, the tale is well written, even as it rushes toward its obvious climax.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Race Review: MidHudson Road Runners Turkey Trot 5 mile

Posting a bit late on this one, but hey, I’m in the holiday fervor.
This may have been the worst race I've ever entered and run. And by worst, I mean the hardest, most difficult, most hilly and most exhaustive race yet.
But, on the bright side, because it was the first five-mile road race I've ever been in, it was an automatic PR. So there's that.
It started out badly. I was visiting family in New York, and chose this race because it was convenient to where I was staying, and the whole family could participate. We left my brother's house on Thanksgiving morning about 7:45, giving us plenty of time to get gas and make it for the 9 a.m. start. Or so I thought.
But the gas station was closed. I got lost heading to the highway. After finally finding it, I thought I wouldn't make it to the race in time. I thought I would run out of gas. I really had to pee. I was prepared to run back.
But my eldest daughter, another runner, persuaded me to continue on. My nieces, who arrived on time in separate cars, agreed to pick up our bibs and tags for us. I made it there with eight minutes to spare, peed, and got my bib on straight. I made it to the starting line with a minute or two to go – fortunately, the race started a bit late.
Now, I knew the course started out uphill. I didn't realize how much uphill, but after about a half-mile, there it was. So that hill, stretching about three-quarters of a mile, was hard. But after that, I had thought, the course was pretty level, with some rolling hills. It wasn't. It had a number of steep hills and declines – and because it was an out-and-back course – it was as hilly on the way back.
And, of course, the official race photographers decided that three-quarters of the way up the hill was the perfect place for race pictures. You should look at them: No one – I repeat, no one – in those pictures looked happy. They looked like they either wanted to collapse, shoot the photographer – or both.
I knew after the first big hill topped off – and I saw the next hill not too far in the distance – that my goal of 45 minutes was shot. So I must admit I walked a hill more than once. At the turn-around, my daughter was slightly ahead of me. As we passed each other, she muttered, “This sucks.” My response? “Yup.”
I stopped caring about my time – and for Mile 4, hit a miserable 10:44 pace. I even thought of giving it up.
But not really. As the last mile approached, I decided to give it all I had – it was mostly downhill now. So I kicked it into gear, and ran the last mile (actually last .9 of a mile; it was a short course) in 7:28 – a pace of 8:17. So there was that.
I finished 317 of 564, 23 of 37 in my age group.
As for the race management, let me make it clear it was nicely done – it was the course, not the organization, that I hated. We didn’t have any water stops on the course, but then, I didn't think any was needed. The timing was OK – it had an equal start for all, with a timing chip only at the end. So if you started late, you were screwed. The food was meh –
water and bananas and cookies, which no one seemed to enjoy eating. I asked one woman what kind they were, and she said, “Chocolate” with a questionable look on her face. I asked, “Chocolate, or chocolaty?” She said, “chocolaty."
But all in all, despite the bad start and the super hilly course, I had fun.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Race review: Boone County 5K

A great race for me. Not only a PR -- cutting a minute off my previous best -- but 1st place in my age group.
However, as a point of honesty, I must admit that I think it was a short course. My watch showed it was 3.03 miles. A friend who also ran said her watch showed 3.05 miles. But with that out of the way, I am still taking it.
It was a nice run through England-Idlewild Park in Boone County, along a paved trail that wound through the park and around some soccer and baseball fields. It was a little hilly -- more a rolling path, though, than any steep hills -- but clean and fast. I've done a race here before, but that was on a cold and snowy day last year. Today, it was chilly, but the sun was out and it was a pleasant day to run.
I ran fast throughout, maintaining a nice steady pace. My first mile (8:24) was the quickest, and while miles 2 & 3 were a bit slower (8:48, 8:47), they were consistent.
I thought I did well enough to at least place in my age group. As they were announcing the awards, I realized I had actually ran fast enough to beat most of those winning in the 30s and 40s age groups. But the old men in the 50-54 group all had times below 23 minutes -- go old guys! -- and I worried whether my own group (55-59) would be as competitive.
Obviously not. But I'll take it.
And the medal looks really cool.
The after-race spread was OK. Apples and bananas and plenty of water. But because this was put on by a government agency – and the proceeds went to buy AED defibrillators for the parks. So I’m OK with the minimal spread. I mean, how much does one need after a 5K?
But the free sweatshirt was cool. Nice and heavy and comfortable. Perfect for this time of year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Misery Bay

Misery Bay, by Steve Hamilton

A good read. A nice mystery, well plotted and well written.  Some great dialogue, and many nice descriptions of life and the towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I liked the story, and the many twists throughout.

It's nice to see Hamilton is writing again about Alex McKnight, the depressed former Detroit cop now living in Paradise, Mich.  In this book, McKnight gets drawn in by an old nemesis, Sault Ste.  Marie Police Chief Roy Maven, to help investigate a string of questionable suicides and outright murders.

It's fast moving, with drives across the UP and down into Michigan.  It's much more mind games than action-adventure, a split that I like.  But really, does McKnight have to have the tar knocked out of him in every book? Just once, could he avoid getting into a life and death struggle with the bad guy?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Race review: Turkeyfoot Trot 5K

This was a pre-Thanksgiving, turkey-themed race along – of course – Turkeyfoot Road in the Erlanger/Independence area. It was sponsored by St. Barbara Church, which did a fine job organizing the event, and the Tri-State Running Company.
I’m still waiting for the official results, but according to my timing, this is a PR. Finally. My old record in the 5K had stood for more than a year. I’m glad to see it fall.
My time was 27:14, just seven seconds faster than my previous record.
I did it on a warm day, on a hilly course, in a more crowded race than I had expected. But I went out fast, conquered the hill on the backstretch, and had enough left at the end to sprint the final tenth of a mile.
I like this race. It's a challenging course, up and down Turkeyfoot Road. The first mile, which I completed in 8:11, is mostly downhill. But it was crowded at the start, and I had to fight my way around a number of slower runners, and the odd walker who started out of place.
Mile 2 – which I ran at an 8:34 pace – is mostly flat to rolling up and down. But Mile 3, because it's an out-an-back course, is almost all uphill. Sometimes it's a mild upgrade; sometimes it's pretty damn steep – according to my calculations, it rises some 75 feet over the mile. It took me 9:31 to run that mile – sometimes at a walking pace, I must admit.
But I had enough left over to sprint to the finish at an 8:04 pace. At one point, I swear I saw a "7" in the minute spot on the pace calculator.
The after-race was fun. Little kids handed out water at the finish line. Inside the church, a real nice spread was laid out – apples and bananas, a veggie tray, a cheese-and-pepperoni tray, pizza, fresh bagels, and other tasty food items.