Marathon training – week 1 (of 12) – Race #5

Last year I signed up for the Big Sur Marathon lottery, and I got in.  So even though I have already run California, I decided that I’m going to train for this race.  From all accounts, it’s a bucket list run, and I’m on this new(ish) kick to do those things as much as I can, because nothing in life is guaranteed.


So I’m going to enjoy the hell out of training and running.  Number 5 on the way!



I ran three times this week, for a total of 22.12 miles.  I did go on my longest run of 2018 to date–a 11 mile run on Sunday.  I was feeling a bit sick this week.  Mini has been sick, and we’re in this perpetual cycle of sick, recovery, repeat.  Jess encouraged me to do the 11 miler, which was intended to be 13, and I’m glad I did.  I feel like if I didn’t, I would have decided not to train for the race.


I’m trying to incorporate more hill workouts into my running, because Big Sur is a freaking beast.  I think the total elevation gain is 2182 feet, including a brutal 600 foot climb from miles 10-12.  So I need to train hills like crazy.  Unfortunately, DC isn’t terribly hilly, but there are some opportunities to get some hill work, especially down Mass Ave towards the Embassies.  That’s where I did my 11 mile run.  Looking at the chart, it looks like there’s a 300 foot elevation climb for about one mile.  Which doesn’t compare to the monster climb, but it’s a start.  Maybe I’ll try repeats on that?




So yes, 22.12 miles this week.




Most of our week was spent taking care of Mini since she had a minor cold.   She’s better now, though, and we’re glad for that.  Neither Jess nor I have been sleeping much, but that’s ok, we’re in the weeds of it right now.  Mini sure is on the move though.  She started crawling just a few weeks ago, and now she’s cruising all over the place, standing up, falling down, rolling over, laughing the whole time.  In one of the most heartwarming moments of my life, on Saturday, Jess came home from the gym and Mini pushed her toys out of the way to crawl over to her as fast as she could.


Saturday was a good day.  It was cloudy and rainy, and so we spent the day inside watching TV, playing with Mini, and relaxing as a family.  We got some amazing BBQ food.  Pretty much a perfect day.  Sunday was great too, saw some friends, and then I went on my long run.




Training stats – San Francisco Marathon

I figure that before every marathon, it will be helpful to see a few training stats.  Namely, the following:  total miles, total runs, miles per week, runs per week, longest run.  Maybe I’ll add more later.


I started training back on the week of May 1st, and followed a rough 12 week training plan.  Here’s how it played out:



Total Miles 258.93 miles
Total Workouts 43 runs
Miles per week 21.57 miles per week
Workouts per week 3.58 runs per week
Longest run 17.31 miles


Initial impressions–damn, 21.57 MPW is really low.  But I’m fine with it.  I started training before Mini turned 2 months old, and now she’s 4 months old, so I’m glad I was able to do even that much!



Marathon training – week 12 (of 12) – Race #4



This week, Jess and I took our trip to San Francisco with Mini!  As I wrote this, I was on the fence about running the full marathon.  My training had slipped significantly, and the two long-ish runs I went for did not go so well.  And based on my experience from prior marathons, if I pushed hard during one that I didn’t train for, I’d be wrecked for the rest of the day, which would not be very much fun.  I guess, when it came down to it, I wanted to really figure out what I wanted out of the San Francisco trip.  Did I want to run the marathon as fast as I could, and take the accompanying sacrifices (social and physical) that came with it?  Or did I want to either opt for the half or just run it very leisurely?  At this point during the week, I kind of had decided that I was going to run the full, but very conservatively.  I think I just wanted to prove to myself (and some doubters) that I could train for and run a marathon after having a newborn, that I can maintain an identity in addition to the new love I have for Mini.  Of course, the reality is that without Jess and Mini’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all, so the credit really goes to them.


Anyway, so my runs over the course of the week, excluding the marathon, were two runs for 10.26 miles.  Both runs were in San Francisco–the first was in Golden Gate Park and the second was from our AirBnB in Sunset to Burma Superstar.  Over the course of that second run, I ran up this huge hill in the Presidio part of town.  Note, San Francisco is really fucking hilly.






There is just so much to say here.  I’ll try to hit the highlights because it’ll be way too time  consuming to summarize such an amazing vacation.  But man, we had a great time.  Here are the highlights, and hopefully it jogs some memories.  I told folks at work about the new position on Monday, and then we flew out on Tuesday.  Got some sushi Tuesday night and just crashed.  Wednesday, I went into work for part of the day, and then after work, we met up with a friend from college for a pre-dinner coffee and then another friend from college (who let us stay at his place the weekend since he was out of town) for a nice dinner.  It was such a great evening, catching up with old friends.  On Thursday, Jess and I went to brunch a Korean place in the Marina neighborhood and then the Muir Woods.  In the evening, we met up with good friends from DC who moved out there for dinner and drinks.  Oh, all the while, we brought Mini with us, who was just such a wonderful baby the whole trip.  Friday, we met up with our same DC friends for lunch at Burma Superstar, and then went on a hike to Lands End.  In the evening, we combined groups with them and our friends who moved from NYC and we hit up Off the Grid.  Saturday was spent at the Farmer’s Market at the Embarcadero followed by a picnic in Dolores Park.  On Sunday, I ran the marathon, met up with our DC and NYC friends again, and then had dinner with my cousin.  And, Monday morning was our flight back.  It was a whirlwind, but just such a great trip.


Some pictures, but I’ll update with more, I am sure.




Marathon training – week 11 (of 12) – Race #4


Full confession here, I’m writing this post and a few more that follow after already having run the San Francisco Marathon.  So I’m going to summarize what was most memorable for me during these weeks.  A lot going on in these last two weeks, so here we go.


From the week between July 10 to July 16, I ran twice for 11.6 miles.  It was a low running week, but I had a pretty big life event going on that limited my running for a bit.  I received a new job offer, and I spent the week mulling it over.  It’s a step up in my career, which is both simultaneously exciting and also scary.  I went through the pros and cons with excruciating rigor, and I decided that I’d make my final decision as I thought it over one last time on a very early Friday morning run.  I got up at around 4:45am and drove down to the National Mall and ran around the monuments in solitude.  Ultimately, I sat down at the FDR Memorial, for a very long time, and decided that I would take the new position.


There is so much that I thought about during this run–what I wanted from my career, for my family, for my life beyond the typical job ambitions and responsibilities.  I tried to break them down in my head, first while I was at the Lincoln, then at the MLK and finally at the FDR, taking inspiration from leaders who faced challenges far greater in impact and uncertainty than I will likely face in my life.


At the end, I decided that in order to make any decision in life that’s scary or new or uncertain, you have to separate your fears and figure out which fears to listen to and which ones to ignore.  Fears of risk and uncertainty and opportunity costs, yes are worth evaluating, but also fears of failures and insecurity too, those are the ones to acknowledge and to separate when possible.


Anyway, the second of the two runs came after an intense gym workout on Saturday.  So, two slow runs this week for 11.6 miles.






This week was a big week for me, personally, as I decided to accept a new position in my career.  As I mention above, that Friday morning run on the National Mall played a huge part in me making my final decision, and I am thankful for that.  I also came to an important realization–that as Jess and I experience big milestones in Mini’s life, she too is experiencing big milestones in our lives, things that we will work towards, which we will celebrate, or have doubts, or fears, or sorrows, or any other human emotions.  We are growing together as a family, all three of us experiencing new phases of life with each other together.


Also, some beautiful pictures:



Marathon training – week 10 (of 12) – Race #4



I’ve taken so long to write the summary for this week that I’m struggling to remember what happened.  Looking back at my run log, it looks like I put in 24.04 miles over three runs, include a longish run of 16.35 miles.


My first run of the week was on July 4th, which was a weird run because I couldn’t really go anywhere due to the security closures.  I usually drive down to Potomac Park, and run around the monuments, but there were so many closures in place that I could really figure out a path.  In an annoying story, I was running towards the Lincoln, which had not been closed off and where there were about 100 people sitting on the steps, and a cop came over to me and told me that I had to turn around.  Two additional people went by me in the direction I was headed, but he didn’t stop them, only me.  I’m not saying there was any bias there–these guys have tough jobs to do.  But it was annoying to hear that I wasn’t allowed to run towards the Lincoln Memorial when (1) there were all those people there already and (2) people had just passed this guy on their way there while he was scolding me.  I asked him about that, and he got even more agitated.  I figured, whatever, not worth the argument and I don’t really care anyway, so I ran over to GW and Georgetown and back around.


My second run of the week was with Mini.  I took her on a Saturday evening run that was filled with starts and stops.  For the first half of it, I had to stop pretty much every block because she was getting (understandably) annoyed at the sun in her face.  After that though, we hit our stride, and as we went down to MLK and the Jefferson, she fell asleep.  Until we got home, then she screamed just in time to hand her over to Jess.


On Sunday, I attempted another long run.  The plan was to try another 20 miler, but to run for about 3 hours and see where I ended up.  I was able to run through 16ish miles, and was actually feeling pretty good until I got hit with the early stages of a calf cramp.  Having experience this before, both after the Marine Corps Marathon and during (and after) the Baltimore Marathon.  I immediately stopped, but the crappy thing was that I was in a difficult place to call an Uber.  I was on the GW path on the other side of the Potomac, where no car could really stop, so I had to walk an additional mile over the 14th street bridge to the Jefferson Memorial before I could call a car to get me home.  The funny part about it was that it was about 9:20pm, and as I was walking across the bridge, I was frantically searching YouTube on how to stretch out a cramped calf in an emergency.  The weird memories you have from your runs.  Otherwise, the run felt great.


But due to the cramp situation, I’ve really been thinking hard to drop to the half.  I might see how I’m feeling during my planned 12 miler this weekend, it’ll probably be a game time decision.   At the end of the 16 mile run, I swore that I wouldn’t be doing the full, mainly because I felt pretty terrible and couldn’t imagine going for ten more miles.  I also believe that I planned properly with nutrition and hydration, though I could have taken a salt tablet or two during the run.  So right now, we’ll see what happens.




Technically, I’m most of the way through the “next week,” but the goals there are to taper.  I think the plan calls for a long run of 12 miles.  I might try and do a bit more, but not much.




I mentioned this before, but this part of my writing has been incredibly useful to just catalog what’s been going on in Mini’s life.  We got back from Shenandoah on Monday, and enjoyed the 4th on Tuesday.  We took Mini down to the National Mall and had her participate in this family tradition that Jess has where the youngest baby sits on a watermelon on the 4th of July.  Not sure why, but sounded fun!




Afterwards, we took her to the National Art Gallery to finish the back half of a really great before and after shot:





Otherwise, the fourth was pretty laid back.  We didn’t go see the fireworks because it was really hot and also we didn’t want to get back home at like 10pm.  Also, we had no idea how Mini would react to them.  Apparently, though, she isn’t fazed by loud noises.  It’s an unofficial DC tradition for all the neighborhoods to set off their own fireworks after the National Mall one is finished, which makes for a very loud night.  She slept right through all of that.


Mini is going through a cool phase, where she’s starting to giggle and “talk” a whole lot.  She’s so interactive, and when you call her name or say something nearby, she stops and turns at you.  Sometimes I can’t figure out if she’s giving me this STFU look or just happy to see me, or oscillating between the two.  But it’s cute as hell.  She’s starting to show early signs of crawling too.  In her latest tummy time adventures she’s kicking her legs in a way that seems like she understands that her legs will propel her forward if she can just figure out how to do it.  Other cute milestones:  when I grab her hand or arm, she pulls it towards me and starts to put my finger or hand in her mouth; when I put the pacifier near her mouth, she stops whatever it is she’s doing and grabs it with both hands and adjusts it; she kicks so furiously whenever she gets excited.  It’s just so amazing to watch her advance so much, and it truly does feel like it’s flying by.


On Friday, we had some good friends in town and went to house dinner party involving crabs, drinks and good times.  We brought Mini, way past her bed time, but she was chill and was stealing people’s hearts right and left.  The party weekend continued, albeit in a different context, as on Saturday and Sunday we went to two different two-year-old parties.  So it was a good weekend for all three of us, Mini got to see a lot of friends and so did we.


Sunday was the long 16 mile run.  Oh man, and then we saw this documentary called Searching for Sugar Man.  I know this sounds hyperbolic, but it has to be one of the coolest stories I have heard in a while.  It’s a story of a Detroit musician, Sixto Rodriguez, who makes this amazing album that flops in the US but makes a huge cultural impact in South Africa, particularly influential in the cultural anti-Apartheid movement.  Rodriguez accepts the failure of his album and works for decades in manual labor jobs throughout Detroit, completely unaware that a world away, his art has sown the seeds of something profound.  And when he finds all this out, at least in the perspective shown in the documentary, as shocked as he is, he also shows a level of both enlightenment and understanding of his music’s reach and also an acceptance in the path his life took in spite of that.  He dismisses notions that he should be bitter that he wasn’t discovered in the US or that royalties from his South African record sales did not reach him.  Instead, he accepts it.


There is something about the story that speaks to me.  I guess when I think about it, it’s the demonstration of one man’s art having a ripple impact across the globe in ways that he was completely unaware of for decades.  The idea that the meaning and importance of what you put out there and why you put it out there, and the impact it has, may never be revealed to you, but it can change the life of one person who it reaches, or a hundred, thousand, million.  That art and culture can short circuit our biological evolutionary drives and can push societies along a more progressive path, and that can happen from an unknown singer from Detroit, who after giving such a gift to the world, is unfamiliar to it’s impact and moves on with his life, laying bricks and building houses.  It’s an amazing documentary.


Anyway, to round this out, here are some more pictures I took during the week:



Marathon training – week 9 (of 12) – Race #4



I spent a good part of the early week recovering from my long 17 mile run from the week before.  Not sure how that bodes for my marathon, but we’ll see.  I ran twice, once for 1.3 miles, the other time for 10.02 miles.  I took Mini on the first run, so it wasn’t too fast, just enjoyed being out with her.




Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 7.51.54 AM


So, total was 11.32 miles this week.  Pretty low, and that was mainly due to the fact that Jess and I took a trip to Shenandoah this weekend.  I have thought about dropping to the half marathon in SF, and I’m not sure if I will stick with the full yet or not.  It’s been pretty tough to train with a new born baby at home, and Jess really has been a trooper supporting my goal try and do this.




I’m going to try and decide whether or not the full will be possible for me this week.  I’m going to run through the week’s plan and see how I feel.




The big event this week was our trip to Shenandoah National Park.  We rented an Airbnb cabin, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  We both kind of just needed some time away to detach and reenergize.  I also had some things to think about, related to upcoming transitions in life.  We were there for two nights, and planned every meal, so we really didn’t leave the cabin except for a hike with Mini.  Some pictures:





The latest updates with Mini–man is she talking a lot.  Not really talking, but “talking.”  It’s one of the best parts of my day, when I come see her and have a conversation with her in her own language.  Also, she’s taken to blowing spit bubbles at me, which is the cutest thing in the world.  But what really gets me is that now I’ve learned how to make her laugh.  I guess when I kiss her cheek, my beard must tickle her face, and she lets out this giggle that melts me away.


When I was away at Shenandoah, I tried to take a lesson from my last post, from the article about Amy Fronhmayer Winn, to try and be present deliberately in at least a moment, every single day.  I did that a lot this weekend.  A few things I remember–watching a hawk fly over the mountains and finding a new beauty in how the leaves of a tree look against a dusky sky.  At the risk of sounding incredibly douchey, I’m starting to realize, there’s just so much to see when you pay attention in those moments.


Marathon training – week 8 (of 12) – Race #4



I went through my longest run of the year this week.  The plan was to attempt the 20 mile run on Sunday, which I set out to do, but I got through about 17 and change before stopping.  Surprisingly, and foolishly, it is the longest run that I’ve ever done while training for a marathon.  During my first marathon, I did a 16 mile run and for the second, I think my longest run was about 13 or 14 miles.  So though I did not make the full 20, I was proud of that accomplishment.


During the 17 miler, I decided to try for two goals:  1. To practice my marathon pacing plan and 2. To practice my nutrition and hydration.  I felt like I got enough data to refine both.  For the marathon pacing, I’ve decided to go for a PR, which would be faster than 4:32:04.  So, my goal time for this race is 4:30:00 or under.  For now, I’m thinking that my pacing plan will be as follows:


Mile Pace (min/mile) Project finish (hours)
1 10.75 4.35
2 10.75
3 10.75
4 10.75
5 10.75
6 10.25
7 10.25
8 10.25
9 10.25
10 10.25
11 9.75
12 9.75
13 9.75
14 9.75
15 9.75
16 9.75
17 9.75
18 9.75
19 9.75
20 9.75
21 9.5
22 9.5
23 9.5
24 9.5
25 9.5
26 9.5
0.2 1.9


I might tweak this, but basically, the plan is to get through 20 miles in about 3 hours and 20 minutes and then just go at as fast a pace as possible for the last 6.


For the nutrition and hydration, I took gels every 45 minutes and a salt tab on the hour, every hour.  The problem was on the hydration piece, which I guess will be resolved at the marathon with the water and Gatorade stations.  My running water bottle isn’t big enough to hold more than 16 ounces, so I had to stop at about mile 13 to buy some more.  When I finally threw in the towel at mile 17, I was near a concession stand at the Jefferson Memorial, and I bought some Gatorade and quickly downed it.  So I’d rate my nutrition plan at a 5 out of 7, hydration at a 3 out of 7.


Other than the long 17 mile run, I had two other medium-ish runs.  A seven and a half mile run in Baltimore after work one day, and a 8+ mile run the morning before the long run.  Both runs were fun, since I kind of didn’t know where I was going.  At least not entirely.  In Baltimore, I ran down to the Inner Harbor and then looked for a path to run to loop the 7ish miles.  For the 8 mile run in DC, I decided to detour from my typical Monument-to-Jefferson-to-FDR-to-MLK-to-Lincoln route and ran down to Nats Stadium and back along the SW waterfront.  Cool to see the construction.  I took these pictures:






So all together 32.99 miles over three runs.






Next week includes the last long run before tapering.  The schedule calls for 20, and I’m going to attempt that again.  Let’s see how it goes.  Man, it’d feel good psychologically to get one of those in.  Jess and I are taking a mini vacation with Mini, trip to a cabin in the mountains, so I’ll either have to find time to run there, or do it when I get back to DC.


TWIR (This Week In Running)


I’ve found that I’m relying more and more on this section to try and catalog big milestones for Mini.  Over the past week, she’s become so much more interactive.  It’s like a huge jump from how she was engaging with us before to how she is now.  She’s in full on cute-mode.  She smiles so big every time she sees me.  It’s the best part of my day for sure.  When I come home from work, I go straight to her, and she looks at me, pauses for a second or two, and then gives me the cutest, most bashful smile in the world.  It really just captures my heart, seeing her like that every day.  She’s even starting to laugh more.  There’s this zebra above her changing table (“Mr. Zebra”) and man, she loves that guy.  She can go from zero to sixty when she sees it, from a full on crying meltdown to nonstop giggle, as soon as she sees that zebra.


Mini is firmly in her “fourth leap” according to this wonder weeks app that I have on my phone.  She’s going to start recognizing and adapting to sequences and events a lot more, where all five of her senses analyze the world around her more coherently.  It’s really cool to watch her grow into that.


In other news, I’ve been taking the train into and out of work more often, and doing so, I have more reading time on my hands.  I’m wrapping up a biography on William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States.


Much more interesting, however, was an article I read in Runner’s World magazine.  Here is the article, and hopefully the link works long after I post it.  It’s about this woman, Amy Frohnmayer Winn who had this affliction called Fanconi anemia (FA), which is a very rare inherited anemia occuring in about 1 in 350,000 births.  People with FA develop low blood counts and their chance of getting leukemia is very high.  Amy was born with FA, as were two of her sisters.  The median age of survival is 33 years old.  I won’t give away all the details of the article, because it is incredibly well written and, fully recognizing the hyperbole of the following statements, it really is probably one of the most inspiring things I have ever read.  Both of Amy’s sisters died of FA, and she was born with it, and would eventually die from it.  The article is about Amy’s acceptance of who she was, her fate in this world, and her ability to overcome all of that and live this life with presence.  The article is written through the lens of her running, which serves as the vehicle to tell the story of this courageous young woman, who probably lived more meaningful days in her short life than most people do through old age.  At one point, the article mentions how when Amy was a student at Stanford, she stopped in between classes to observe a cloud formation overhead, and then wrote home to her father about it, acknowledging that there was this beauty in the world that so many people just idly passed by.  I’m going to copy and paste the end of this article, because it resonates so strongly with me:


In the annals of distance running, of people struggling with cancer and other fatal diseases, and of distance runners engaged with those maladies, the case of Amy Frohnmayer Winn would likely rank well down the all-time lists.

She never set a record, never won a race, never qualified for Boston, and never made a grand heroic gesture in the manner of Terry Fox, who in 1980, while dying from cancer, ran more than halfway across Canada on a prosthetic leg to raise money for cancer research.

Rather than the marathon, ultramarathon, or transcontinental consciousness-and fund-raising trek, Amy’s metier was the humble daily run. She raced but didn’t worry where she finished, and many of her best and truest runs were logged solo. But Amy ran no less passionately than Terry Fox, and her contribution, as an inspiration, is just as significant.

No matter how long or faithfully we run, there inevitably comes a moment of doubt, a spasm of existential worry that all the time out on the road, or running around a track, or laboring to whittle a PR, or busting to get from Point A to Point B in front of the next person—all of that is meaningless, a reassuring fiction we tell ourselves, precious moments of life packed down the rathole, just another one of the infinite ways that human beings have concocted to deny the fact of our mortality.

The moment soon passes and out of self-preserving habit and denial—I am going to live forever—we keep running. But that nagging wiggle of doubt will inexorably return, and when it does the doubt can be faced down by recalling the Promethean example of a Terry Fox or some other titan.

Or our footsteps can be settled by recalling a young woman who placed running near the center of her life but never grew obsessed by it; who nonetheless covered each mile, each step, as if it were her last. We can remember Amy Frohnmayer Winn, who never enjoyed—or never was blinded by—the luxury of denying her death; who knew from the earliest possible age that she possessed a meted stock of moments on this planet.

Amy decided to live inside her moments. Amy chose to run.”

What a beautiful story.


I happened to finish the article right as I got to my train stop at BWI Airport.  Fresh off the perspective in the article, I walked by a young family, a mom with her daughter sitting on a bench waiting for a taxi or a bus.  The daughter, who must have been 3 or 4 years old had her mom’s phone in her hand, with a calculator app opened up.  She exclaimed with such joy:  “mom, when you add 6 to 20, it becomes 26!  6 plus 20 is 26!”


I don’t know if I was channeling Amy’s spirit there, but for some reason, I thought that was such a beautiful moment.  Something I would have passed by before, and possibly have passed by since, but just hearing that excitement in that young girl’s voice, about discovering a mundane operation of math and marveling that it was something that was true, genuinely and verifiably true, that 6 + 20 = 26, that’s the beauty in the world that we should try to see every single day.  That’s the kind of impact that Amy’s life will have on me, someone who she never met, but is inspired by her example to live in the moments.