Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall

Who wants a totally FREE copy of "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall? The first person to e-mail gets the book. GO!

We have a winner! Congrats to Maddy of! Woo hoo!

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Bedford Half Marathon


It's a day after Nik's & my impromptu run of the 33rd New Bedford Half Marathon, and we're feeling fine and mellow. Our plan to execute a half-marathon course as a fun run together and not giving a crap worked beautifully, and Nik and I got to meet some people, spend several hours running together in warm sunshine, and I got a PR out of it: 2:44:08, an improvement of just over 7 minutes from my old time. (Nik, of course, missed a PR by 45 minutes plus because she chose to jog the course alongside my chubby ass.)

We put together a short video podcast from bits we filmed before, during, and after the race. Check it out above (it's also on the 4 Feet Running iTunes feed). If you really want to know more about the experience, keep reading.

Improvements: Nik's a veteran of three previous NB halfs, and I'm a veteran of holding purses through three halfs myself. The NB Half made some changes this year that were huge improvements. All previous years, you had to tromp uphill from New Bedford's downtown, past a broken-down McDonald's and a sketchy palm-reading place, to the Carney Academy to pick up your bib number. That's where they had the bathrooms too. It's a good half-mile away from the start line. This year, they switched the packet pickup and bathroom area to the YMCA, just a few blocks away -- and in NB's historic district, the nicest area of town. Free tip: If you run the race in 2011, pick up your bib the day before, if you can. It was a flipping madhouse there in the morning.

Second nice improvement we noticed: At the start line, they had pace zones this year. It's getting to be a fairly decent-sized race (2,400 racers this year, the announcer said), with a wide range of runners, so that helped when lining up to start.

Third, and possibly best improvement: They gave out T-shirts this year. Yeah, I know -- all previous years, they didn't give away T-shirts. What a rip! This year, somebody got on the ball and had some damn T-shirts made. If you're going to run all that way, the least they can do is give you a cheesy cotton memento. Nik gave hers away to her Gramma.

Friends: A slew of people we know ran the race: Dena from Twitter and the Daily Mile; @johnvaughn, aka John From The Poi; his neighbor Jack, who we've run with before, doing his first half; another friend Jocelyn, running her first half; Scott from Twitter and his brother; and @cyktrussell, aka Chris Russell from Run Run Live. We met everyone except Scott, his brother, and Chris. Always nice to meet online-friends in person, so you know you're not insane.

Weather: Nik and I lucked out and raced on possibly the nicest day of the year so far. The temperature was in the mid-50s, sunny, clear, a gentle breeze by the ocean.

Clothes and gear: Since we're in the Brooks ID program, we were naturally decked out head-to-toe in Brooks stuff. Nik wore her Launches -- she's loving them for long slower distances like this. I had on a pair of nicely broken-in Addictions with a little over 100 miles on them. I also tried out tight compression-type underwear. It worked great, but the less said about this the better.

Running the course: Nik and I had a strategy for this race: Since it's fairly hilly at points and I wasn't looking to race it, we'd take it purposely slow to start with. When we came to steep hills, we'd walk most of the way up and make up time on the downhills. That worked fine, except for the first 4.5 miles or so, when we were stalked constantly by an ambulance and a truck looking to pick up the injured and tired. It pushed my average pace up a little higher than I'd wanted, but not to the point where it was uncomfortable. It's always a great feeling to start a race watching the entire pack of runners leave you in the dust while an ambulance creeps impatiently behind you.

The strategy paid off, though -- I have a problem with being able to sustain an even speed for more than 11 miles or thereabouts, so my plan was to run conservatively so I'd have enough gas for the whole trip. I did, mostly. The middle miles and second half of the run, where I tend to flame out, I cruised nicely. I even horsed around a little bit -- I jogged backward for a few feet so Nik could get a picture of me (a cop nearby: "Aww, now he's just showing off"), which is actually not a bad idea. Nik tried it for a bit too and noticed that it almost gave her legs a little break, because you're using your muscles differently. It wasn't until about mile 9 that I started to flag a bit. The course gets monotonously flat and long there, which makes it tiresome to keep moving when you're using to running on the rolling inclines and declines of Fall River. After that, around mile 11, we started to encounter more hills, including a long, steep one at mile 12 that Nik had been telling stories about for years.

When we finally crossed, I knew even without checking my Garmin that I'd PR'd, which is a nice feeling, even nicer because I didn't expect it. I've got to run more races like this, where I genuinely don't give a shit about doing anything except having fun with friends in good weather. Nik's in this frame of mind, too. She didn't regret not racing this half -- she's more interested in having a good time these days.

Miscellaneous: The crowd support was excellent. Part of it was probably because of the gorgeous weather. But I can't remember giving so many high-fives to kids watching a race before.

Early on, we spotted some guy hanging out of a second-floor window to watch the race. He was wearing what looked like a bear suit, or possibly a Doctor Zhivago-style fur coat.

The smell of fish and garbage wasn't exactly as bad as it had been in previous years. It only lasted from about mile 9 to mile 11.

Mile 11 or 12 is about where you enter the really crummy part of town. As far as the eye can see, it's dives with barflies hanging outside with paper cups watching the route.

Kids in only their underwear spotted: 1

Housing projects we ran past: stopped counting at 5

I think Nik actually prefers to run in the back of the pack with me. She says it's much more fun, because people talk to each other more and we're all more friendly, instead of concentrating on breaking that 2-hour mark. The cops and crowd take pity on us more, too. While we were trudging up a hill early on, some lady said, "I know how hard it is! I used to be there too!"

Some gray-haired lady with a bandaged shin kept beating us for a while. I leaned in to Nik and said, "If the old lady with the bum leg beats me, I'll be livid." We ended up overtaking her fair and square. Take that!

At one water stop, a kid held out paper cups yelling, "GATORADE! GATORADE!" I didn't want Gatorade, so I said, "You got just water?" He said, "This is water." I checked his cup. It was water. All the other people at this refueling stop had water, too. So I don't know what was going on there.

View NB half in a larger map

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Bedford, prepare to be knocked out


Dan here:

I'm running a half-marathon tomorrow. The New Bedford Half-Marathon. So is Nik. This wasn't on our plan until yesterday.

For months, Nik's been refusing to run the New Bedford Half-Marathon because she's already run it three times. It's not a pretty course and she wasn't ready to race. She's coming off a bout of bronchitis, bruised ribs, and a shaky ankle. For months, I've been refusing to run the New Bedford half-marathon because I felt I wouldn't be ready to run 13.1 miles until the New Jersey race in May -- and besides, races make me extremely nervous. In fact, I just told Nik the other day that I didn't want to run half-marathon races anymore at all. I wanted to stick to training and short fun runs. You can't screw up a fun run. You can screw up a big race. I have one bad run in training and I'm ready to flush weeks of running down the toilet. So if you'd asked us on Thursday, no, definitely not -- we're not running the New Bedford Half Marathon. Uh-uh. No way. We're not. But you go on! Have fun!

So how'd we both end up with bib numbers for that race?

Listen: last week, I had a simple 4-miler on my schedule. Easy. I go out, take a loop around the neighborhood, back home in 50 minutes flat. Except Nik had a 10-miler on her schedule and needed some company. She said, half-joking, "Come on. Don'tcha wanna run 10 miles instead?" I thought about it a second and thought, "Why not? What's stopping me?"

I usually have to screw my head on properly for these distances. It's a whole process. I have to worry about what I'm going to drink and eat when I'm out there. I have to worry about what I'm going to eat and drink the day before. I have to consider the idea that I might go 5 or 6 or 8 miles and suddenly run out of gas, or get an unexpectedly full bladder, or get so fed up of running that I have to call someone for a ride home, even though this has never once happened or come close to happening. I have to check the weather multiple times. Double-digit runs are still a big mental hurdle for me. I like having done double-digit runs. I don't like doing double-digit runs. It's a tense problem.

But for some reason, this time I thought about it for a second and said, "Yeah, sure. Let's knock out 10 miles." And Nik and I went out, knocked out 10 miles. I felt great. I probably could've knocked out another 3 if I'd brought more water.

That's been sticking with me for a while. I wanted to go for 10, so I just knocked it out. Boom. It took a while, but I got it done and it wasn't a big deal. It occurred to me: When you don't give as much of a shit, amazing things happen. Put that slogan on a coffee mug.

This week, I had a 10-mile long run scheduled for Sunday. Nik had a 12-miler scheduled tomorrow too. She decided to pull the same stunt: "You gonna knock out 12 with me?" I considered it and said, "Sure, I'll just knock out another 12." Just like that. Don't worry about it -- just go knock that out and be done with it.

Except Sunday is the New Bedford Half. I asked Nik why I was going to do just a 12-mile training run. "If I'm going that far, I could just knock out another 1.1 miles and get a medal for it," I said.

"If you want to sign up for the New Bedford Half, I'll run it with you," she said. "We can go slow and make fun of things."

I don't know if she thought I was serious or not. Either way, this morning Nik and I came to be in a line at the New Bedford YMCA laying out $40 each for a bib number to a race we swore several times we weren't going to run. The promise that there will be things to be made fun of, and I can make fun of them, is too good to pass up.

Neither of us is going to race it. I don't expect a PR, and if she's running with me Nik definitely won't get anywhere near one. We'll be the two hanging out in back, taking it easy -- especially at the beginning, so I don't flame out early -- and talking about what a craphole New Bedford is. Except for that part by the water where you can almost see the ocean if there wasn't that concrete wall in the way.

This whole "knocking it out" thing is fun -- a trick I'm definitely going to use elsewhere in life. But I'm curious about this situation specifically: Either I'm not respecting the 13.1-mile distance right now, or I've respected it too much in the past. I'll find out the answer tomorrow.

4 Feet Running Book Club: "Born to Run"

Hey, Dan here. Remember the 4 Feet Running Book Club? We're still keeping it going! This time around, we're giving away the book that everyone's talking about: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Nik and I both read it, enjoyed it, and now, thanks to 4FR Superfan Sweet Daddy D, we're giving away a hardcover copy for free.

Curious about the Tarahumara, the "hidden tribe" of mysterious super-runners that no one knows anything about, except these people here, here, here, here, and here? Want to see if the book lives up to all the chatter? Or this chatter? And who the hell's this guy? Find out by winning Born to Run.

The rules of the book club are simple: Sometime just after 10 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, March 27, you will see a new post here saying we're giving away the book. You'll see the same message if you're following the 4 Feet Running Facebook group, following us on Twitter (Nik or Dan), or on the DailyMile (Nik or Dan). Once you see that message, the first person to email us at saying they want the book gets it. We'll mail it to you for free. That's it.

You'll have to be alert and quick -- our books generally are won within seconds of us posting the notice, and this one should be especially hot.

Got it? We're giving you a week to make it fair, because some people don't check their blog subscriptions every day. Any questions, leave us a comment or email us!

Thanks, and see you sometime shortly after 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, March 27.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's sunny -- finally

It was actually sunny today -- the first warm, bright day of the year. So Nik and I celebrated by heading over to the East Bay Bike Path for a run. Nik was going for a 12-miler, and I was doing a 9. We lucked out because both of those should take about 2 hours -- so we could run separately but in the same place, if you follow me.

The path runs from Bristol, R.I., to Providence, but we usually pick it up in Warren. Here's the map of where we went. This is my map -- just imagine Nik's going further north another 1.5 miles.

We left the dogs at home so we could practice running on a flat, fast path. Stanley and Myrna took it out on us later by knocking over a trash can and spreading garbage all over the back yard. No photos of that.

This has nothing to do with running: On the way there, we started talking about cassette tapes, which veered off into a random conversation wondering what people who break up with each other do, now that record collections and books are digital. I.e., didn't people get cardboard boxes and split up their stuff? "These Sheena Easton tapes are mine." "No, those three are yours. These two are mine." "Like hell they are!" "Stop trying to keep my stuff!" Et cetera. What do people do now that there are iPods? You don't even need to have that conversation. Same thing with books now too. "Take your Kindle and your thumb drive and get the hell out of here." Is that it? If you've been through this, let us know.

Nik stretched a little after her 12-mile run. It's been a long running week for her, and she's trying to keep her ankle healthy.

Run happy? Yes indeed.

I'm not quite sure what that bright yellow thing in the sky was, but it made my eyes hurt. Warm, though.
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