Archive for January, 2010

What a difference a year makes!

Holy crap. I actually just wrote that. Yes, that JUST happened!

As a writer, I secretly yearn to read laughable clichés such as that first sentence. It’s just so horrendous and unoriginal. Yet, go ahead, do a Google search and see what you find.  It’s everywhere! Heck, the New York Daily News did it just two weeks ago. Fantastic stuff!

Not quite sure what I’m getting at? Well, in the great words of the legendary reporter Dickie Dunn from the movie Slapshot.

“I was just trying to capture the spirit of the thing, Reg.”

What the heck does all of this have to do with running, you ask? Well, I am fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the first race I ever competed in — the Chattahoochee Challenge 10K. Wow, has it already been a year? Sure enough, I flash back in time and find my post on that first race. It was a great start and a HUGE learning experience. I’m psyched to see how far I have come. I have run that “course” so many times on training runs now that I feel I might even have a “home field” advantage when this year’s race rolls around. Or maybe not… we shall see.

Since that first race, I have run a couple official half marathons, the NYC Marathon, a bunch of 10ks and a handful of 5ks.  In each race I have learned a little bit more about myself and what it takes to be a “runner”… not somebody who jogs, but somebody who RUNS. To me, as a competitive person, there’s a definite difference.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a jogger, so to speak, but that’s just not my style. I like to challenge myself and see where I can stack up. I certainly don’t get upset when I fail to win my age division (I have finished 2nd twice, and 7th overall in another race — not that I’m keeping track, of course!), but I do have a clear knowledge of when I have “failed” in a race or during a particular run.  When that happens, it never makes me want to quit running, it just makes we want to work harder and learn a little more.

As a quick example… This recent run was incredible on so many levels.

Most notably, I felt like I could have gone the full 26.2 on this day. I only stopped because I didn’t have another hour or so to spare. That’s it… THAT is why I stopped? Really? That’s still unbelievable to me. I also felt stronger during the 19th mile than I did during Mile 1. I credit this to all the things I have learned over the past year, especially pace and stride.

Of course, it has taken me a few days longer to fully recover than I had expected, but for the most part I felt great after the run.

With all of this said, I’m anxious to run in my “one-year anniversary” race in early February. I’m curious to know exactly how much of a difference a year actually does make!


Truth be told, I was pressured into it. It seems that all the “cool people” go trail running. And because I always want to be one of the cool people, I recently gave into the peer pressure and decided to hit the trails.

One morning about three weeks ago, I came across a group of runners in a parking lot as the sun was rising. I was headed out on a 15-mile run on a long, flat running path. The temp was in the teens and I was feeling very proud of myself for getting out of bed and tackling the road for such a long run under such extreme conditions. And then I asked the others were they were headed.

“Across the street, there’s a great section of trails,” one of the runners said.

My interest was peaked but not enough to join them. They strapped on their headlights and headed into the woods. I instead headed down the boring, flat trail. But the entire time during my run I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of fun the others were having on the trail in the woods. I was boring. They were cool! Could it be true?

So… this past weekend, I headed back to the park. It was still dark at 7 am, so I did a quick 5-mile run on the flat path to kill some time as I waited for the sun to reach the inside of the woods. When it did, I ducked into the wilderness known as Vickery Creek. WOW! What have I been missing?!

I once hiked in this area with my family, but running through here was a much different experience. I didn’t have much of a plan other than running a total of  about six miles. I kept taking one trail after another until I had reached my distance goal. Having no plan, no idea where I was going and no asphalt to deal with, kept me smiling for almost the entire run.

Some of the sections of the trail were pretty technical and required me to be very careful with my footing. The last thing I wanted to do was twist my ankle in the middle of the woods. But for the most part, I would classify the level of difficulty at about 5 on a scale of 1-10. (Other than an early section where I made a wrong turn and found myself rock climbing up a cliff above the river! Note to self: Don’t make that wrong turn again.)

When I got down to a section along the creek, I crossed the water by walking across a huge water pipe. I thought there would be an easy way back across after, but instead I found myself needing to exit the woods and head back to the roads for a brief section of neighborhood running before circling back to get on the trails.

I can see myself making these trails a common part of my running routine.

Here are a few pics. They are all iPhone photos, so the quality is not the best but you can get the idea.

This is right at the start of the trail as you head down along the river before heading up to the main sections of the trail.

This is a view from the middle of Vickery Creek. I’m standing on a big water pipe.

Her’s a covered bridge that crosses the creek over the the Old Roswell Mill.

And here’s a shot of what’s left of the Old Mill.

This was a GREAT run. I am definitely headed back there again. Now I know what all the cool people have been talking about!

Like most of the world, the weather in the Southeast U.S. has been especially cold over the past few weeks. This has been a true test of my new running habit.

Is it just a habit? Do I do it to stay in shape? Is it a chore to motivate myself to run 4-5 days a week? Basically, why do I run? That’s a question a lot of people close to me have probably been asking themselves for the past year.

Yes, I have only been “a runner” for slightly more than a year. Yet, I have run a couple half marathons, a handful of 5ks, a few 10ks and the NYC Marathon.  To me, it has become clear… I crave it.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what “it” is though.

I do know this much, when it’s 17 degrees…

…and the ground looks like this in ATLANTA,

…at 6:45 am as I head out for a 15-mile run, it hits me… I’m insane!

In truth, I’m beginning to realize that  my new obsession with running is much more involved than simple exercise. I’m beginning to realize that I yearn for the solitude, the time alone with my thoughts, the buzz of a good controlled, rhythmic run. You know, the kind when the strides seem effortless and you feel like you can run for as long as you want. It’s not a chore, it’s a rush.

Plenty of people have told me that they just can’t get “into” running. I suspect they view it as a chore, more than anything. They feel it’s something that they “should” do or “have” to do in order to get/stay in shape. I have a much different view I guess. I embrace the feeling I get from a good run. It’s a mental high almost as much as it is a physical high.

My head is never as clear as it seems to be after a good run.

A few other random thoughts about running in cold weather: These glove/mittens are beyond awesome.

They might be the warmest gloves I have ever owned. The glove/mitten feature allows me to control the buttons on my iPhone, shuffle songs and drink out of my water bottles mush easier than normal gloves.

These are the gloves I normally wear. When the temps get into the teens, they are WAY too cold. Mittens seem to keep your hands much warmer, simply due to the body heat generated by your fingers.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve almost finished reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. It’s a fascinating book, to say the least. I’m sure anybody who has read it, experienced the same sort of thing I am going through now… why do I wear these expensive running shoes? Are they the real reason behind my leg pain?

With that being said, I’ve decided that on my next few runs, I am going to go back to wearing an old pair of Nike Free shoes.

They are pretty darn close to wearing Vibram Five Fingers but with a little more cushion. Compared with my Asics Gel Nimbus 10s, they are a very minimal style shoe.

I’m very curious to see how my legs feel after my first run in them. Because such a  sudden, dramatic shoe change could cause other issues, I plan to take it nice and slow.

2009 NYC Marathon Certificate

Posted: January 9, 2010 in Marathon

NYC certificate

Originally uploaded by mikebuteau

In a total surprise, I received this in the mail the other day. Cool!

RunMeter App, Santa and more

Posted: January 2, 2010 in Marathon

So… we all know that Santa is pretty generous, jolly fat man. But in order to get what you want from him, you have to be on his nice list. Well, I must have been on his naughty list this year. Or, more likely, Santa’s budget didn’t match my budget this year.

I was selfishly hoping that Santa would bring me a Garmin Forerunner 305 watch. It costs about $200, but considering Santa’s first priority is making sure he brings all the toys for the girls and boys, dad will just have to make do with what he has.

Therefore, I took the other route and did some research on running apps for my iPhone. I usually never run with my phone, but if I could find a worthy app, I would make an exception. After reading many reviews and downloading a variety of free apps, including Runkeeper and rubiTrack, I decided to go with Runmeter . It costs $4.99, which is the most expensive app I have ever bought, but that sure is a lot cheaper than a $200 watch.

As you can see from this comparison, Runmeter has many more options. (Keep in mind, this comparison was done by the makers of Runmeter. Read into that what you will.) The biggest thing I liked about it was that it is battery friendly and can run when in sleep mode. Those who have an iPhone, know how important those two features can be. It also allows you to control it using Apple’s earphones with remote and mic. You can pause the stopwatch, answer a call, or skip from one song to another without taking the phone out of its holder, simply by using the headphone remote. It’s a very slick app.

Oh, and it also has a Twitter function that “translates” Tweets from text-to-voice. Essentially, you can select whose Tweets you want to receive while running — if you have a coach, for instance — and you will hear what he/she writes to you. This might be a bit over the top, but it’s an option.

The best feature I have found is the audio pace updates while running. Every mile, the app cuts into the music you are listening to and tells you the following things: 1.) What the pace of your most recent mile was. 2.)  Your average pace. 3.) your overall run time, and 4.) your overall mileage. I never used to know what my pace was (I just ran on “feel”), so this is a much-welcomed feature.

Here is a screen grab from the 6-mile mark of a recent 12-mile run.

And here is a map of my run at the 6-mile mark. The start of the run was a 3-mile out-and-back.

You can also export the route and all of its stats to a Google map and share it online. This is my favorite feature because you can see all of your splits.

In the cold months, such as now, I simply keep the iPhone in the back zipper pocket on my running tights. When the weather warms up I plan to get a running belt with a small pocket to keep the phone in. If you have an iPhone, I highly recommend this app.

As I said, it was a bit chilly at 7:11 this morning at the start of my run.

The other good part of running with your phone is that you can take pictures of various things along the route to keep yourself from getting too bored. Here are a few examples:

A historical marker in Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta.

Oh look, Mariah Carey is coming to the Fox Theater!

Oh look, Rudolph is suffering from an unfortunate medical condition! Where’s Vixen to help relieve him of his pain when he needs her?

And on that note… happy running!