Monday, August 31, 2015

Home, DC, MD - Aug 24-30

Back home for a work week.  After doing the geocaching / walking / running hybrid of a 8.9 miler over the weekend, I wanted to get in something solid.

Monday, Aug 24:
7.0 in 54:12, 7:45 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 7:27 effort.  I had done somewhat of an intervals session the previous week, so I decided to try a tempo run.  I did 2 miles of warmup in 8:29 and 8:11, followed by 4 miles at 7:30 pace (8mph), with the 2 degrees of incline.  It wasn't too hard, which was nice.  It was especially good considering I had arrived back from NYC at 3am after flight delays, and had done this without needing a nap after work.

Wednesday, Aug 26:
60 min strength session

Thursday, Aug 27:
Went to the park for an easy run.  I needed to grab a geocache to log some miles for some Travel Bugs that I was taking care of, and the temperatures were pretty good, so it was a good day for a park run.  I didn't get started until late, though, so I only managed 4.6 in 38:02, 8:13 ave.  Wasn't in the mood for speedwork, so I didn't do Zombies.

Saturday morning, flew out to DC, for a weekend wedding.

Saturday, Aug 29:

I debated between doing a run at a park near DC, to take advantage of shade and potential water stops.  I decided to brave the sun and do geocaching for the first time in DC.  DC is virtual-cache-heavy, since hiding stuff in DC could cause some concerns.  I did a running course similar to what I've run once before and walked once before.  Lots of stop-and-go again, for the second weekend in a row.  I hit highlights like the Capitol, Botanical Gardens, Museums, White House, Washington Memorial, War Memorials, and the Lincoln Memorial.  I was thankful for the water fountains along the way.

I had originally planned on parking at a metro parking lot, which is free on weekends, and riding in.  I ended up overshooting it and found myself in a park, but it ended up being within running distance of downtown, and I didn't have to buy any metro tickets - win!  On my way back, through the mall, my heart was pounding really heavy.  Don't know if it was the heat or what.  In the last mile or so, a mantra that I seem to remember seeing on Sesame Street years ago kept me going.  In that clip, they had squiggly lines saying "ee - oh - exercise".  I don't know what the point of it was, but I kept playing it in my head, and it helped.

That night, there was a nice meet-and-greet, a reunion of college friends, at a super cute boutique library.  There were fun childrens' book-themed decorations everywhere, and it was like something from a fairy tale.

I was tired... I had been tired after the run and had taken a short nap before the meet-and-greet, so I was happy to sleep in the next morning.  It turned out that there was a 10 miler in town that morning, but it was good that I didn't know about it before, and that I was already tired from the 12, since it would've been tempting, and it would've costed like $90 to run it - that's a lot for a 10er!

The next morning, I went to the wedding venue a bit early, since there was a geocache there, and other geocachers said that the area was pretty and a nice spot for a wedding.  I went along the trails and admired the water front.

It was wonderful seeing even more old friends before, during, and after the ceremony.  Lots of people to catch up with.  Lots of cute kids running around.  It was a nice, laid-back time to just enjoy being around each other again.  The reception ended with the bridge and groom going off on a getaway boat... reminds me of LOTR... epic.

NYC with PB

My sister has lived in Manhattan for a year now, and this was my first time visiting her there.  I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but my dad and sister are running the Disney Marathon with me in January.  They had wanted to do the Half, but it sold out in just a couple of hours, so they ended up relenting and going for the full.  They’ve been training since May.  My sister was scheduled to do her first 9 mile training run this weekend, so we would get a chance to train together!  

Since my dad got me into Geocaching (although I ended up trying it before he did, and we went together for his first time), I was excited to introduce my sister to it, too.  We decided to make the run a geocaching run, so I found good caches along the way.  The run ended up being a lot of stop-and-go because of the cache finds, so we were out twice as long as the time we actually spent running.  The first few miles breezed by, with the stops.  After several caching stops, we kind of wanted to just run, so we cared less about grabbing caches in the later half. 

The first cache was in a natural rock wall, and it took quite a while, but the hiding place ended up being way easier than either of us had imagined. I had climbed on some steep stuff for nothing.  I tended to find the caches first, since it was her first time.  I tried to let her find it after I spotted it, but I have a bad poker face.  She did end up finding one on her own.  There was also a virtual cache that we had passed while running, that we went back to look for, and she had recalled seeing this thing while running, not knowing it was a geocache, so that didn’t really count as her first find, but it was funny.  

In the geocaches, there's a paper log that people sign.  Usually, there's only enough space to write your geocaching ID and the date.  Sometimes, there's space to write more, but people don't really do that.  In one cache, we were surprised to discover this sweetest note.  One day, I hope to find love like this.

Both of our knees did get a bit wonky in the last mile or two, but we made it.  Even though the training effect of a stop-and-go 9 miler isn’t as big as going for 9 miles straight, I think there was still some special benefit in having that time on my feet.  It’s probably a bit more tiring to be out for 2.5 hrs, than to just get a 9 mile run over with in half the time.  In total, I'm counting 8.9 mi in 1:32:32, 10:24 average.

After the run, we went out to the Highline, an elevated metro that they’ve turned into a garden and walking trail, which is actually quite long.  We found more geocaches, met her boyfriend at a food court, went to a skyscraper rooftop bar, went into a pop-up art gallery, and stopped by Whole Foods to get some groceries and local beers.

The next morning, we went to see the Hunger Games Exhibition, and spent twice as long as people normally spend there, since we wanted to make the most of the $30/person entry fee, and we wanted to read every written word and take pictures of all the cool things.  I had actually seen an ad for it months ago and had considered a special trip just to see it, so it was nice that it was still there when I finally did visit.  We stopped by Times Square for an obligatory picture with Paddington Bear, then we went back to the apartment.  She made almond flour + honey + coconut oil & flakes + chocolate chip cookies, while we watched Mockingjay Part 1.  Flew out that night.  A nice, quick trip.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Oh, Canada! – Niagara Falls

Canada trip #3 this year.  I was flying in on Sunday, and originally, I was going to spend the afternoon and early evening in Toronto again.  I had hit most of what I wanted to see during my previous trip, though.  As I leafed through my Frommer’s Day-by-day Toronto guidebook, it reminded me that Niagara Falls was just an hour away.  Since I last visited when I was 10 years old or something, it has been my dream to go back, so Niagara it was!  

Unfortunately, my flight was delayed by 1.5 hours due to a bird impact incident on the previous flight, along with some un-specified issue with the plane.  When we finally made it into Toronto, there were no GPS’s to rent, either.  Fortunately, the road to Niagara from the airport is straightforward.  Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible, so I got there about 3.5 hours later than I had originally planned.  Still a good amount of daylight left, though, so time for adventures, and hopefully, a few geocaches, too, on both sides of the border.

I started driving through the uber-touristy (ridiculously touristy) Cliffton Hills, then parked way upstream.  Since it was the middle of summer, it was very crowded.  The falls were as big and cool as I remembered.  I gradually made my way downstream, towards Rainbow Bridge.  I attempted 2 geocaches along the way, but found neither, even though one of them had a hint that seemed to point to the very spot I was looking.  It was supposed to be the most visited cache in Canada, I guess with all the Canadians and Americans passing through, along with all the other visitors from around the world.

The lines to go on the boat rides were really long.  I wasn’t planning on doing that, since I had done it years ago, and I had also done it at Iguazu Falls in Argentina.  I did want to do the Cave of Winds boardwalk attraction, though, where you get to walk within 10 feet of the falls.  We had elected to do the boat ride, rather than that, so it has always made me wonder what it was like.  I feared that the lines may be equally ridiculous once I got to the NY side and made the hike over, but I had seen enough of the CA side and was ok with taking the gamble.  

Crossing the bridge was cool.  There’s a plaque that marks the boundary between the two countries.  It’s also a unique view that requires a 25 cent (either currency) toll (I used Canadian 25 cents, since the dollar is a long stronger), and the ability to get into one country from another and to get back.  I have a colleague who has a great story about getting stuck on the bridge, not being able to get back into either country.

Once I got to NY, I decided to go on a bit of a jog with my second personal geocaching Travel Bug ever, since it is a race bib whose goal is to run with Geocachers from around the world.  After putting it on, I started making my way to Goat Island, where the Cave of Winds attraction is.

The line ended up being very reasonable.  We were given mandatory souvenir sandals and a poncho.  Under the poncho, I put on a compact rain jacket, for extra protection.  I had my Gopro hero with me, along with Paddington bear, so I was ready for some great pics.  

There used to be an actual cave called Cave of Winds, which tourists could go under long ago.  It got messed up and doesn’t really exist anymore, though, so now, it’s just a boardwalk attraction.  At first, we were all very close to the roaring waters but very dry.  It was exciting just to be able to reach over and touch water flowing off of rocks.  As we walked onward, there started to be a bit of spray at a photo op, and water was flooding over the board walk a bit.  That was even cooler, and I took a picture.

Then, at the top, it’s all craziness, with a section called the Hurricane Deck, where people can get within 10 feet of the falls and feel heavy sprays beat down on their backs…. It’s hard to look into the falls, since the spray hits your eyes.  This is where I got soaked, despite the poncho and the light hooded rain jacket.  The water would hit my hands and flow down my arms, which is why. 
I heard that there were fireworks on that night (a special thing for holidays and Sundays), and I recalled that they lit up the falls in different colors at night.  I made an attempt at a geocache in NY, to get both sides in one day, but that failed, so I scampered back across the bridge (with the Travel Bug race bib, which I was still wearing), to try to make it back to the Canadian side for the fireworks.

Fortunately, you’re able to get US phone and LTE even in the Canadian side of the falls.  I saw in the geocache comments that others after me had found it, so I checked the site again.  It was right there, actually out in the open and not hidden like it was supposed to be, so someone must’ve just had it while I was looking.  Logged it, traded 3 of the TBs in my possession (including the bib) for 3 TBs in the cache, then ran to the fireworks location.  

Since it was very close to fireworks time, there were no open spaces along the railing by the falls.  There was a pavilion, though, and I climbed up a pillar and was able to get a good view.  I hugged that thing for about 15 minutes as I watched the fireworks.  Nothing huge, and the subsequent smoke clouded the view of the falls a bit, but it was a nice finish to the night.

I was very hungry, having not eaten much that day, but there was a great place overlooking the falls, and I enjoyed an awesome shrimp salad.  I found another very cool geocache, then started the 2 hr drive to my hotel.

Tuesday, August 18:
The city where I stay for work is smaller, but it has a lot of charm, and I did a bit more adventuring than I did last time.  I went for a run in a park at Westminster Ponds, where the ponds were formed by glaciers.   It had very runnable dirt trails that you could wander in.  4.5 in 45:50, 10:00 ave (distance/pace estimated, based on the elapsed time and the fact that I was carrying a pack and wasn’t going very fast).  I found two geocaches there… one earth cache and one that had been archived (but the cache was still there).

Thursday, August 20:
The treadmill at the gym was taken, so I did an easy 60 min bike session while reading a magazine, at 5:30am.

Friday, August 21:
Flying back to the US that day, but I wanted to get in a run while I could… this is supposed to be the first week of training for my next marathon, anyway.  I wanted to have a solid interval session, since I hadn’t done any serious workouts that week, and my legs were fresh, even at 5am.  However, the run was extremely difficult, cardiovascularly, for some odd reason, so I did less than I normally would’ve done.  Oh well… I’m at least building a foundation for the rest of the cycle… hopefully, I’ll be stronger next time and better able to handle the workout.
Workout: (at 2 degrees of incline) 1 mi warmup in 8:23, 2 x [0.4 mi in 2:40 @ 9mph, 0.2 mi in 1:37 @ 7.5mph], 0.3 mi recovery in 2:33 @ 7mph because I was struggling so much even after the first two reps and was even struggling with the 7.5mph recovery, 1 x [x [0.4 mi in 2:40 @ 9mph, 0.2 mi in 1:37 @ 7.5mph].  Called it after 3.1 mi, total, in 23:45, 7:40 ave = 7:23 effort with the incline.   The treadmill was in mph (not kph like I expected in Canada, so at first, it was starting to get really fast before I realized it)… the distance was in 0.1 mi increments, though, so I had to adjust my usual interval lengths.  Did some arm weights with 15lb weights afterwards… yes, 15 lb, not kg.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

RACE REPORT: Xterra Table Rock 15K Trail Race 2015

Another race that I don’t realize that I have on my calendar until the week of. 


Sunday, Aug 9th:
Day after the 5K XC race.  My feet were too shot to safely run, after doing the race in spikes, and then running around Spartanburg to find geocaches, in the slipper-like Hattoris.  Did a 55 min strength session, instead.

Work this week was crazy: worked 8:30am-10:30pm on Monday.  Had a sandwhich from Firehouse subs.  Put 2 level 9 or 10 sauces on the sub.  One tasted hot… the other was fire.  Even the air around my sub burned my eyes.  It didn’t start hurting my tummy til after I ate it (half of it), though.  Walking was hard.

The next day, I only worked til 7, so that I could try to get in a run.   The sandwich was so good that I ate it again, knowing well what it could do to me.  I tried to dilute it with extra Tomato, but even tons of water hadn’t helped the burn in my stomach the previous day.  I tried to run on the treadmill about an hour and a half later, but I only made it 1-2 minutes.  When not running, my tummy was feeling better by then, but once I started running, it seemed to re-activate the heat-producing compounds in my tummy.  Oh well… hope for tomorrow.

Wednesday, Aug 12:
Ran before work at my apartment complex’s fitness room, for the first time ever.  I should’ve tried taking advantage of this before.  They open at 6, supposedly, so if I get everything for work ready before that, I can do the run and get to work when I need to.  Did 5.0 in 41:34, 8:19 average, 2 degrees of incline = 7:59 effort.  Legs woke up fresh, even t his early, thankfully.  Hungrier today during work, as a result of the run.  Worked til 8pm tonight.
Was rushing through lunch and not eating as much each day this week, with the crazy meetings.  An 11 hr workday feels short, after going through this week.  Had green smoothies this week, too… felt healthy.


15K is not much.  I did 10 miles in 1:14.  This was a trail race, though, so I checked last year’s winning times.  I’m glad I did, because I realized that the winner took more than 2 hrs, so I brought food and 7oz of water accordingly. There was only 1 waterstop, which we’d pass twice. 
The race started with about 1.5 miles of road, which thankfully gave the field a chance to spread out before we hit the trailhead.  Learning from the last race, I tried to pace better on the uphill.  The race went up the mountain (2000 ft up), then down, with the extra up and down due to elevation changes on the trail on top of that.  I did a wee bit of passing.  Power walked on most of the ups.  All about managing effort.  Breathing heavy, even walking.  Kept going up and up.  Glad to have my 7oz of water in a soft flask in my Salamon S Lab shorts, to take on the way up. 

The view at the top was breathtaking, with a sheer drop… way above the forested mountains below.  Turned my head to try to take in a few seconds of the view as I ran ahead.  The first part of the return trip had technical down, with what looked like loose gravel.  Took it conservatively.  Then, runnable downhill.  About 2/5 of the way through, caught up to the 3rd place girl, and seconds later, the 2nd place girl appeared.  We  were all in a tight row.  With single-track, there wasn’t any passing, and the 2nd place girl was taking it easy, but knowing that there was open road for the last 1.5 miles, I knew I could save it and pass then.  I had a good kick.  I took it easy, biding my time.  Passed the 3rd place girl when there was a chance, and she let us go.  Kept right on 2nd place girl, and she was able to keep pushing.  Kept on her heels for like a mile.  Then, I kind of ran out of gas and she pulled away.  She was able to cover it all.  Finally, road again, which still involved some big uphills.  The now 4th place girl was not far behind, I saw in the last 500 or so meters, so I sprinted to the finish.  It took me a while to catch my breath.  Water tasted so good.  

Great race organization.  Well-flagged.  Good food at the bottom.  Nice trail.  Good setup with the road-based start and finish.  Good care from park rangers.  A+++.  Got 3rd.  9.3 mi in 2:06:24.

RACE REPORT: Ready for Fall 5K 2015

After the Toronto trip, it was catching up on workouts, again.  I had run around in Toronto, just to efficiently get from place to place, but I did no real intentional runs.  I went a record 5 days (not post-marathon) of no intentional run sessions.

Wednesday, July 29th:
50 min strength session.  Would've run, but slept through gym closing time, so did strength at night, instead.  Low on sleep, after all that travel.

Thursday, July 30th:
Ended the running drought with a 6.0 in 49:52, 8:19 ave, 3 degrees of incline = 7:41 effort.  Forced myself out of a nap to do this.  Body didn't want intensity, but a steady pace was fine.  Nose-breathed the whole time.  Not hard, although afterwards, my head hurt a bit from the oxy deprivation.

Saturday, Aug 1st:
Zombies at the park.  6.2 in 51:27, 8:14 average.  Legs slow and not zippy at all.  Hard to run fast.  Odd.  Before breakfast, but had stayed up late and had been eating only hours before, so didn't miss the fuel.  Run was mentally/physically hard to get through.

Sunday, Aug 2nd:
Tried zombies again.  6.2 in 51:37, 8:17 average.  Tons of dogs out, some unleashed (even though they're not supposed to be, at this park), so many detours.  Was going to do an easy run, but legs felt ok enough to try the Zombies.  Legs weren't fresh, but they made it.  Did some catching up on sleep today.  Left foot has felt a bit stress fracturey, especially in the morning, but they were ok during the run.  Not worried.

Monday, Aug 3rd:
Truly catching up on runs.  A rare 3rd day in a row.  Easy run at the park with no zombies.  Wanted to just zone out, so I listened to a Geocaching podcast.  Left butt was oddly sore.  6.2 in 55:24, 8:49 average.

Maybe could've forced a 4th day of running on Tuesday, but decided it was better to rest.

Thursday, realized that I was signed up for a 5K XC race on Saturday, so didn't run... ended up with a 4-day taper.

I love the rare annual chance to run in spikes on the Miliken Arboretum.  Lots of HSers and MSers, as usual.  At the start, they all raced out (as prompted by coaches and parents), and I was behind 80% of the field.  It was crowded, with the short distance of the race and the number of people closer to my speed than adult-based races, but I passed people the whole way.  This race doubled as the Southern Regional Road Racing Association of America Championship.  I ended up with a nice 4th.  Unfortunately, there was an issue with my timing chip, and they didn't realize til after the awards were given out, that I had gotten forth.  That's fine, though.  The place and knowing that I did well was what mattered.  Pacing was pretty good.  Splits> 7:06, 6:58, 6:57, 0:38 for 0.1.

Geocached in Spartanburg, afterwards.  They have a special challenge to get a set of caches all over the city, to earn a geocoin.  Encountered some cool ones along the way.

Storming TORONTO & the Pan-Am Games (Jul 24-28)

During the week at home, I had squeezed in runs while I could, since I was going to Toronto that weekend.  I flew in Friday night and checked in just before 1pm, at a hostel-like place that I got in Chinatown.  I hadn’t been able to find my GPS with the Canadian maps the previous night, but fortunately, the rental car that I had, had a built-in one.  The place was a city dwelling, where each room (in my case, walk-in closet-like) was converted into a place for someone to stay, with shared bathrooms.  All I needed was a bed and a bathroom.

I didn’t sleep until 2 or 3pm, but I woke up at 5am, to get ready for a big day of taking in Toronto.  It happened to be the closing weekend of the Pan-Am games, which I didn’t realize until I was at the airport on the way there.  I had been furiously researching opportunities to see events, and the mens’ marathon happened to be Saturday morning.  I took the subway to the park, looked around a bit, then waited on course.  The men (a small field) came by 8x (in pairs of close viewings, since I was close to the turnaround), with about 30 minutes in between each pair.  Great setup.  

 It was cool to see them.  In between the viewings, I ran down to a nice zoo, with animals that I don’t see often/ever, like mountain goats, a peacock with its feathers all out, buffalo, and moose.  Great zoo!

Next, I went up to Yorkville, the University of Toronto, took a nicely led tour of Parliament (which gave me lots of hope in government and politics, the way they described the ideals that should guide leaders).  Went down to the Distillery district for a Mill Street brewery tour and big flight.  A weeks-long cultural festival coincided with the Pan-Am games, so there were performance pavilions all over the city, with different art/music related events.  I grabbed/attempted some geocaches along the way.  I was on a 31-day streak attempt, so I had to keep it going.  I had scouted out the caches at home.  Without LTE data, I’d have to rely on a combination of the notes I had taken, plus googlemaps saved points, and the phone’s internal GPS.  It worked out ok.  I stopped by a market to get day-end discount baguette, plus a specialty cheese.  This would cover several meals.  I took it over to City Hall, where there would be fireworks later that night, for a picnic and music.

The next morning, I headed towards the Toronto Islands, which offer the best view of the city skyline.  I grabbed some geocaches while there, and found particularly cool one close to a lighthouse, so I chose that spot to leave my first personal Travel Bug, along with the first Travel bug that I had ever found.

I visited another pavilion after that.   The Harborfront pavillion had sports-related things to try, like wheelchair racing, and a photo op with this guy.

Next, , I started making my way towards the Closing Ceremony area.  I had booked tickets online in the US, after debating whether or not to put down the dough for it.  In the end, I went with it, since I was already going to be there, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, if I don’t ever get to see an Olympics one.  While waiting for opening time, I walked around an old rail yard that was not in the tour book, which was a nice surprise.

While waiting some more, I came across the main news channel's broadcasting stations, where I saw live broadcasts (with separate ones for English and French, of course) and ran across 2 Canadian boxing medal-winners.

The Pan-Am games are associated with the Olympics, so it was like a mini-version.   It was fun to see the athletes come in.  There were nice folk dance performances and light effects.  The Canadian fans and athletes have all been very enthusiastic and fun to interact with.  Pitbull and Kanye also performed, although Kanye, the closing act, either intentionally or unintentionally (it was debated in the news) encountered mic difficulties at the very end and stormed off stage, throwing the mic way into the air, causing the organizers to start the finale abruptly.  It was weird, but a memorable story.

Foot traffic getting out was kind of crazy as everyone got let out at once, but the metro system was efficient, and I made it back to my car, and made the 2-hr drive to the city where I was working for the first part of that week, stopping for a nap somewhere along the way.  Crazy weekend.
I didn’t end up running for the rest of the trip, since all that walking action in minimalist shoes left my feet pretty used.  I was able to continue keeping up my geocaching streak.