Race volunteer

Today was my first time volunteering at a race.

I had to be there by 7:30 and decided to cycle there because this was the time I would normally do my longest workout of the week. It was cold, around freezing at home, but slightly colder at the race location (Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ – Colonial Park Turkey Trot, 1 mile and 5k).

I was wrapped up warm enough, except for my feet (which are always difficult to deal with, unless I’m riding in my winter cycling shoes – and, of course, as this wasn’t just a ride, I needed more practical shoes). When I got there my toes were frozen, but luckily there was a toilet block with a hand dryer, so I lifted my feet to get blasted by the warm air from that.

Volunteering meant a lot of standing around in the cold, and then putting out some cones on the course. There were more volunteers than were really needed, but it was all good fun as we cheered on the runners as they ran the course, while also trying to keep them on the left hand side of the road (the course was entirely within the park, and was basically up and down the full length of the park twice) – this part was pretty easy as the majority managed this without a problem, but there was one guy who seemed completely oblivious to everyone shouting for him to keep to the left.

On a side note, it always amazes me how many Brits I bump into our here (one of the other 20 odd volunteers was a Brit too), and I met an older guy who was originally from Bethnal Green while he was warming up.

After the majority had finished I cycled home along the Delaware and Raritan Canal path, making a round trip of just over 20 miles on my single speed hybrid (I would have stayed longer, but had to get back for various things including a family trip to the Cirque Chinois at the State Theatre this afternoon – the kids loved that).

Next year, when Rebecca is 6, I think she may be ready to run the 1 mile at this event.

I knew it couldn’t last

If you’ve read any of my other posts, or my Past Races page, you will know that this year has seen my race calendar explode (from a couple of 5k races in my two prior years of running, to all sorts of distances this year).

This is also my first year as a USATF and Running Club member, and what I had no idea about early in the year was the USATF NJ NBGP Series. I only really found out about it when someone pointed out at the end of May that I was second in the Men 35 – 39 Age Group. Now, I knew from looking down the results that it was mainly because I had completed more races than some clearly faster guys, but who knew – maybe those guys wouldn’t complete them all. Points are gained from running 3 races in each category. Most races would give a maximum of 500 points to the winner, but championship races give 700 points, and you’re allowed two of those races in each category to count towards your score.

    • CATEGORY I           3K TO 4 MILES

Somehow I crawled into first place in early September by virtue of actually completing enough races in all categories when nobody else in my age category had. Still only a matter of time until I slipped down.

By October I had managed to gain more points simply by running the Newport Liberty Half and others started to fill in their races, but I was hanging in there and maybe, just maybe, with some luck, I could finish in the top 3 in the age group.

I planned ahead and looked at what races were coming up that could give me a few more points, and the only one is coming up on Thanksgiving – the Ashenfelter 8k (all other races were unlikely to give me extra points).

The latest standings however show that 3rd place is now out of my reach, and I’m likely to lose 4th too. I knew it would happen, and I can’t really be disappointed given that I’m still proud of what I’ve done this year.

Right now I’m not sure what next year will bring in this competition (I’ll be in the next age group as I will turn 40 during 2013, but then so will 2 out of the 3 currently ahead of me this year). My focus is going to be very different (see http://runninginnj.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-day-i-became-a-runner/), so even though I may do the races, I don’t think I’ll be so obsessed with checking the status of the NBGP.

New shoes

I finally ran again (first time since Saturday) despite the fact my cold is lingering and it was only 34 degrees out. I decided to take some new shoes for a test run.

Before I get into today’s run, let me give you some background on my shoe (and running) history.

I’m not sure what made me do it, but in May 2010 I decided to run my local 5k (http://www.mainstreethp.org/hp5k.cfm) – this time not having run for years (not even a little bit). I had been cycling again for a few years (after a pretty long gap), but always had the problem of finding enough time to ride. I filled the gaps with short visits to the gym, which didn’t seem to be doing much good, so after I ran this race and realized I could enjoy running, I decided that this might actually do me more good than ineffective gym visits (usually where I spent 40 minutes on a bike and/or a rowing machine).

What worried me more than anything was all the stories of running injuries, so I did what seemed to be the right thing and found a running store that would analyze my run and find me the best pair of shoes. I ended up with a pair of Mizuno wave inspire 6 shoes.

For the next couple of months I ran about 6 miles a week, and entered another 5k that September where I improved my previous time by 2 minutes (but my legs did really ache for a couple of days after).

That’s about the time I discovered through a friend the theory of barefoot running and the possibility that this may be the most effective way to reduce injury. I bought myself a pair of Fivefingers and really, really, really slowly eased into running in them. By December I was running a mile in them 3 times a week (it should be noted I did no other running in this time, and I started out at less than a third of a mile – and I’d had to go back and start again after having some issues from increasing distance too quickly); by January I was regularly running 2 miles, and by May I was ready for the local 5k again. I’d got faster again, and the best thing was I felt great at the end of the run.

I don’t want this to be a barefoot running blog as there are plenty of those around, and also, I don’t feel I’m qualified to tell anyone it’s better than anything else – I had very limited experience running prior to running in barefoot shoes, and the pains I had could have easily been attributed to the fact that I was just a new runner. Anyway, I have stuck with it, it appears to be working for me (the only injuries I have had were caused by significantly increasing my running over last winter – ramping up too quickly from only 5k races and runs of no more than 4 miles, to preparing for a half marathon that coming April). For the record, every pair of shoes I own from my running shoes to my work shoes are barefoot shoes as I don’t find regular shoes at all comfortable any more and I’m happy there are so many other shoe options now.

Currently my favorite shoes are the New Balance Minimus Road Zero. My first ever run in these was a 5 mile race and since then I have used them in every single race (except a half marathon, but only because I had never run more than a 10k in those shoes and didn’t want to take a chance). I also own a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves and a couple of pairs of Vibram Bikila’s.

Today I ran in the least minimal shoes I own – a pair of New Balance Minimus 10 shoes that I picked up cheap. My theory for buying them (other than the price which was worth it alone) was that they would help on hilly runs (in a hilly race earlier in the year I found my heel hurt a little a the end of the race and I believe it was because some of the steeper downhill sections had forced an occasional heel strike).

I’m not quite sure how I feel about these shoes. I ran just under 4 miles and there was definitely some rubbing on the bottom of my feet but perhaps I didn’t have them on tight enough (they are the same size as the Zero’s and I’ve never had that problem with those). On the biggest downhill I decided to allow myself to go faster than usual and they felt pretty good there, but not quite as stable when I got to the turn at the bottom although perhaps that was just because of the extra speed. Finally, they felt heavier – not much, but enough that it felt a bit odd – and although I was forefoot striking it seemed like I could feel how close to the ground my heel was. I wouldn’t have expected to feel the weight at all given there’s only a couple of ounces between these and my other shoes. Perhaps it was psychological.


No running

I haven’t run since Saturday. I’m desperate to get out to run and I thought today would be the day, after all, it’s club run night (which starts just a couple of blocks away from here), and I’m guaranteed to be there on time as I’m working from home. However, I still have a pretty bad cough, and it’s snowing, so it’s probably not a good idea.

I actually had the cold on Saturday too when I ran, however it was in the fairly early stages. Despite that, the run seemed to clear things up a bit – my cough appeared to not be so bad after the run (although I did cough a bit during).

My sinuses were so blocked on Sunday it was painful to even move; then Monday was delayed trick or treat so no run for me then. I have no excuse for yesterday – I really should have run.

What do people do when they can’t get out for a run? I suppose if I had a treadmill that might be an answer (although that’s not a favorite for me). I will probably use my rowing machine, but I really want to run. Perhaps tomorrow.

Why we run.

This morning I saw this question asked: http://fitfor365.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/to-be-with-each-other/ – do you agree with Christopher McDougall’s quote:

The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other but to be with each other.

While I think there is some truth to this, I do also have friends who maintain they run solely to be alone. Now, the question is, do these same people take part in races with the same frame of mind? I suppose it’s possible; after all, a race is a guide to how you are progressing as a runner in many respects.

For me, I started running solely on the basis of joining in with a local 5k, where I knew several other people taking part (I hadn’t run for years but I was reasonably fit from cycling). I suppose that puts me firmly in the category of  “to be with each other”. What happened next didn’t fit that pattern so much. I started running, alone. I worked towards another 5k later in the year and ran it solely to see how much I could improve. Admittedly, the atmosphere at the race was one of camaraderie, but that wasn’t the reason I was there.

A year later I joined a running club, and I love my solitary runs as much as the group runs, but I have to admit, the most enjoyable races are definitely the ones where I am with other club members, and as I race more, the other people you see time and time again.