Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Market to Market Relay- Iowa: The Speedy Streakers Have More Fun Than You

Tradition is a powerful motivator, much like friendship. It’s been a strange, transitional year filled with more changes, opportunities, adjustments, educational moments, challenges, and triumphs than I’ve experienced in quite some time. In fact, I’m pretty sure my life hasn’t been this topsy-turvy since I graduated from college. I’ve done my best to stay positive about everything being thrown at me, but the reality is that there have been good days and bad. Without a doubt the hardest part of leaving Iowa was leaving such an amazing group of friends. My running journey began with Team Vardo and our paths will forever be linked. So, I was understandably quite excited to make the trip back during the first weekend in May so see so many amazing people, and run a relay event that I’ve been able to participate in for the last 4 years.

Welcome back to Iowa!

Welcome back to Iowa!

My flight was much too early on Friday morning, but the Philadelphia Airport was of course already a buzz when I arrived around 6AM. After the requisite waiting, I did my time in a steel tube and landed in Des Moines mid-morning. Several friends were there to greet me, and it was wonderful to see their smiling faces when I got off the escalator! We hopped in the car, and it was go time. Friday afternoon was all about relay prep and we managed to stop for lunch in Des Moines as well before heading back to Ames. Ironically, it was in the low 80’s when I got there, which was much warmer weather than Delaware had seen to that point. My body wasn’t necessarily acclimated, but it felt great to feel the sun beating down on me.

We met up with some other friends around 3pm for a short run. I had to keep my streak going:) It felt strange to be “visiting” as we ran through campus and along roads I have logged so many miles on in the past. It was still great to be back and most of my sense of direction returned as we marked out our route. After about 5 miles, we headed back to the gym to shower, then grabbed a drink at a nearby restaurant before heading to dinner to meet up with a larger group of Vardos. It was fantastic catching up with so many people, and the caring and thoughtfulness that made me fall in love with this crazy group came out instantly and it was as if no time had passed. Of course a year had passed so there was plenty of catching up to do, and the time went by far too quickly.

Visiting The Pig again this year!

Visiting The Pig again this year!

After dinner, the Speedy Streakers piled into the van (minus one teammate benched by family obligations) and down to Jefferson. We stopped at The Pig (bar) for our customary drink and dollar signing, and the bartender greeted us with smiles and sarcasm, just has she has every year! I was pretty tired at this point, and it was probably for the best that we made our way back to Nicole’s parents’ house and got settled for a few hours of sleep. Our starting time of 8:30 the next morning was later than we’d started in the past (I think we may have overestimated our speed!) but it did mean sleeping in a bit longer so nobody was complaining.

The Speedy Streakers run again!

The Speedy Streakers run again!

Everyone got ready, pulled out their costumes, and had some light breakfast before we piled back into our moving base for the day and made the 5 minute drive to the starting line. We didn’t end up with an overall costume theme, although the ladies (and Ben) did manage some spectacular sock monkey costumes! Our goal this year, as every year, is to have fun first, and to run second. I wanted to run as many legs with as many people as possible this year, and I certainly had the chance to make that happen. I ran the first leg, as I’ve done every year, along with several others, and we traded off and Eric and I kept running for the second leg as well.

Are you sure you're ready for us?!

Are you sure you’re ready for us?!

The weather had cooled a decent amount, and storms were threatening during the morning but nothing much came of them, aside from a short delay for lightning in the area. The legs ticked off pretty effortlessly, as we were all really familiar with the route at this point, and we made sure that numerous folks were running each leg so everyone always had company. The overall mood was perhaps a bit more mellow than in previous years, but the pudding and Jell-O shots were still flowing freely. It felt really comfortable to be back there, in that place, with such an amazing group of friends, during that event. In many ways, it almost felt like home in a way. I suppose that’s the result of being so completely comfortable with a group of people and an area, eh?

Ticking off the miles!

Ticking off the miles!

I ended up running 5 of the first 8 legs, and the morning hours flew by quickly. I was determined not to push as hard as I had in previous years so I still had some juice for the late stages, and I finally succeeded this year. I ended up running 8 of the 17 legs in all, including the hilly detour leg at the end, which didn’t seem nearly as bad as I had remembered it from a few years back. Thank you, Delaware hills! We made our way to the finish area and waited for Carla to come in on the anchor leg so we could all join her and cross the finish line together. She looked strong coming in, and we all made the final push through the finish line as they announced our names, and we picked up our finishers pint glasses. Another M2M Relay was in the books!

Miles of smiles :)

Miles of smiles:)

The evening ended up being pretty low-key as well, as we made our way back to our hotel room to shower and head out for dinner and drinks. We ate at a new pub/restaurant with enough beers on tap to make my head spin, and it was a perfect way to close out the night! Everyone slept soundly, which made getting up at 6AM all the more difficult. I got dressed quietly, along with Lani and Steve. I was able to say goodbye to everyone, even if they don’t remember it, and we headed to the airport so I could catch my 9AM flight. Leaving was bittersweet as I said my final goodbyes and began my journey back to Delaware. Leaving a place you called home for so long, as a visitor, for a new home, is a strange feeling, and it left me with plenty of mixed emotions. This trip was a much-needed means of connecting with many people most important to me, and at the same time a difficult reminder of just how much has changed, even if the people haven’t. The Speedy Streakers, and the Vardos as a whole will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’m now more committed than ever to making sure I maintain those connections and those friendships for the long haul! The Delaware Chapter of Team Vardo is stronger than ever, and waiting to welcome others to the world of East Coast running:)

Finishing strong!

Finishing strong!

 

Tradition, family, and running are interconnected for me. You simply need to return to some races…they mean more than simply a medal or a finish time. Times and logs never tell the full story. The power of running rests between the miles, in the conversations, the smiles, the trust, and the memories. Remembering that is as important to #chasing42 as any race will ever be!

Daily Chase: Vol. 48

Has your race schedule begun yet? Have you been contemplating adding a few more events to your calendar? Are you thinking about tackling a new distance you’ve never raced before? What sorts of challenges do you have in store for yourself this summer? These are all great questions to ask, and I’ve been asking them of myself lately. Now that we’ve been in Delaware for a full year, I’m truly beginning to appreciate the running opportunities around me. I’ve thought a lot about just how much I’ve learned about myself, running, and life in the last year, and I’m truly grateful for the experience. The epicurean and I took a bit of a gamble when we left a comfortable life in Iowa, and although I certainly still miss our friends dearly, the gamble seems to be paying off and paving the way for a happy future together. So, how will you be challenging yourself? Keep #chasing42!

Chasing42 Log: 20160517-20160525

Run: After the Dirty German 50, I figured I should probably let my body truly recover a bit. I’ve been hitting the mileage pretty hard this year, and haven’t always been the best about recovery. Thus, my mileage over the past week plus has been lower, and at a more comfortable pace. I’ve kept my #runstreak going with a few days of running around the block tossed in, and have had a bit more flexibility in my schedule with the end of the semester last week. I’ve been hard at work reading and grading student papers, however, so taking a break to head outside for some miles has been a nice break from the work. I was able to hit the local trails with the group this past weekend as well, which was a wonderfully rejuvenating treat, and the rain actually held off just long enough for me to stay mostly dry along the way!

Three weeks of consistent rain has Brandywine Creek flowing vigorously!

Three weeks of consistent rain has Brandywine Creek flowing vigorously!

Thought: Participation ribbons and grade inflation. These two seemingly disparate concepts are more and more becoming intertwined in my mind. I’ve long bemoaned the current societal norms that celebrate participation while downplaying overall achievement for fear of hurting a child’s feelings. Commercials and editorials have echoed this belief as more and more school activities have stopped keeping score and started handing out “awards” to everyone. The current generation of college students are perhaps one of the first cohorts of young people to have fully grown up with this mentality. Parents and other guardians have invested immense amounts of time shielding young people from failure, and taking an overly involved interest in every aspect of their lives. Helicopter parents have become the norm as parents no longer encourage good work but ensure it, whether that be by confronting teachers or simply doing the work for their kids to make sure they get the grades that will guarantee entrance into a top-tier college. College, you see, is simply a ticket necessary for entry into the mythical middle-class. Now, I’m certainly not saying that a college education isn’t a valuable experience. I’ve spent my entire adult life dedicated to higher education so I am clearly committed to the work. However, I can’t help but feel that it continues to be less about learning, and more about the grade.

Grade inflation is not a new phenomenon and has been documented for many years. However, what might have started at the collegiate level has slowly trickled down into the K-12 system, further exacerbating the discrepancies in educational access that exist around the country. The result is a group of college students who expect hard work to automatically mean getting an A. We’ve invested so much time indoctrinating young people in the myth of meritocracy that they often believe that if they work hard, they’ll receive an A in any course. Now, this is certainly the case sometimes and you shouldn’t be able to receive a high mark without working hard (if you do, the instructor most likely failed in some way). However, the reality that sometimes hard work doesn’t result in an A (or a ribbon or a trophy) has been lost. The fact remains that not everyone’s hard work is of the same caliber, and sometimes working hard just isn’t enough. I can train harder this summer than I’ve ever trained in my life, but I’m probably not going to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be proud of the work I did, but it might mean I simply need to adjust my goals a bit. In a higher education culture where nothing but grades matter, participation ribbons and grade inflation may very well have irrevocably harmed today’s students. They simply don’t have a grasp on #chasing42 anymore. Thus, my job as an educator is not simply to deliver content and discuss concepts, but also to help students question why they are in the classroom in the first place, establish realistic goals, and celebrate their accomplishments. This is the same job I have as a coach, a runner, a partner, and a friend. All of these pieces of our life are connected, and we shouldn’t need a ribbon to prove our worth…unless, of course, you come in first:)

Race Report: Delaware Trail Marathon

I truly enjoy the travel that accompanies many races. I’ve had the opportunity to visit parts of the country that I would have never sought out without a race, and I am certain that these experiences bolster my quality of life. However, there’s something to be said for a race in your backyard that requires minimal planning, very little travel, and being able to sleep in your own bed the night before. I’ve had that scenario play out for shorter races in the past, but this was the first time I’ve ever lived this close to a full marathon, and it ended up being a great opportunity to cross Delaware off my list and spend more time on trails I am quite comfortable running.

The April 30th Delaware Trail Marathon is put on by the Trail Dawgs, a local trail running group that hosts events throughout the year, and doesn’t take itself too seriously in the process. The laid back approach works well, and represents everything I love about the trail and ultra community. This particular race is held in conjunction with the Triple Crown, which challenges runners to tackle a half marathon, 10K, and 5K back-to-back-to-back. It also happens to be the only trail marathon in this tiny little state, and is held at White Clay State Park, which is a mere 15 minutes down the road from me. For all of these reasons, I was eager to race and hang out with some great folks along the way!

Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern

Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern

As I indicated, I was able to wake up around 6AM, throw on my clothes, have a light breakfast, and be at the park in plenty of time to pick up my packet and be ready for the 7:40 start. The course itself is two loops of the half marathon course, which meanders through White Clay Creek State Park. Although there are no significant climbs, the rolling hills still mean a decent amount of elevation gain, which I would be reminded of after the first loop. The half marathoners were sent on their way at 7:30, and the small group of marathoners (36 in total) lined up quickly and we were unceremoniously sent on our way.

And we're off! (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

And we’re off! (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

I’ve run these trails several times in the past, but didn’t necessarily grasp the overall layout of the terrain. So, when I looked at last year’s results and saw the 4 hour winning time, it briefly crossed my mind that I could podium this year. Needless to say, this is not a possibility I’ve ever considered when lining up for a marathon. Thus, I went out with the lead pack and actually led the race for a good half mile before reality set in, and I slowed to a more comfortable pace on the rolling hills. The trails were in great shape, and the cool weather made for a perfect morning of running. I knew I shouldn’t be pushing it all that much, but I still managed to go out too fast, and the pace definitely caught up to me by the end of the first loop.

Did someone say creek crossing? (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

Did someone say creek crossing? (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

My favorite element of the winding course was the opportunity to cross White Clay Creek itself on 4 separate occasions. As you know, we’ve been getting plenty of rain lately, so the water levels were relatively high. This meant knee-deep water as we waded across the creek. My Lone Peaks drained really well so my feet dried out pretty quickly, and the cold water was a nice shot of adrenaline each time I jumped in!

Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern

Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern

I completed the first half in around 2 hours, and knew I had to pull up significantly, as my legs were feeling the burn. This had as much to do with a lack of recovery and sleep as anything else, and I had to remind myself that I was using the race as a long training run. I matched paces with another runner for the second loop, and we spent the next 13 miles running and chatting about all sorts of topics, which made the miles fly by that much quicker. More than that, it was a perfect reminder of why I love trail running so much. Smaller fields, and more shared experiences means you are always much more likely to end up meeting new people and having great conversations!

Beautiful single track! (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

Beautiful single track! (Photo Credit: Tom Davis & Jim Kniskern)

My running was itself pretty uneventful, and I was able to maintain a pretty even pace. The trails aren’t terribly technical so footing was rarely an issue, and it was simply a matter of relentless forward progress. The two of us came into the final stretch and ended up crossing the finish line at the same time for 10th and 11th place finishes. We received a coffee mug and a small medal, and made our way to the park pavilion for some food and drink. I hung out for a few minutes, and then hopped in my car, which was parked right at the start, and drove home to tackle the rest of the days chores.

It was beautiful in its simplicity, and I certainly won’t argue with an 11th place marathon finish, even if there were only 36 runners. There are many ways to keep #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 47

It’s that time of the year when the snow shovel has been replaced by the garden shovel and lawn mower. The buzz of mowers, trimmers, and edgers is a consistent sound as I meander through neighborhood streets while out on my daily run. In a way, it makes me yearn for the wooded single-track that much more, and not only because my allergies are beginning to flare up yet again!

Chasing42 Log: 20160510-20160516

Run: This past week was the final full week of classes at the University of Delaware, so there was quite a bit of energy as final assignments were turned in, studying for exams began, and students realized they should have been concerned about their grades a bit earlier in the semester. It also meant more work for me as I began to wrap up my classes and look ahead. I still managed to knock out my runs each day, and luckily do so in between the rain that seemed to be a constant fixture on the landscape. I dropped the epicurean off at the airport very early on Saturday morning, and still squeezed in a short final tune-up run before heading into work. Yesterday, I headed down to Philly to run the Dirty German 50-Mile Race, and it proved to be a beautiful day out on the trails! Did you race this weekend? I’d love to hear about your own #chasing42 experiences!:)

Thought: Have you ever found yourself thinking about yard work as cross-training? Lately, as the rain has continued to fall and the greening of everything has transpired, I’ve done my best to convince myself that my constant mowing is simply another way to get outside, move around, and get some sort of workout in the process. It doesn’t work. I truly and deeply hate mowing the grass. More than that, I simply don’t get the whole idea. Why do we go to the effort of tearing up native vegetation just so we can build a house and then plant grass in its place? We then create work for ourselves because we are expected to mow said grass or risk becoming a neighborhood pariah. I understand planting flowers and other native plants with an element of aesthetic beauty, or better yet, a garden that produces actual food, but grass baffles me. It’s as if someone invented the idea of the lawn just to create an industry around it. We spend millions (billions?) on lawn care products and services, and literally pour perfectly good water into the ground to keep it alive, even in habitats where it wouldn’t naturally grow. Think about how many hours you’ve spent over the course of your life worrying about the grass. You could have been exploring, hiking, or running! Just some food for thought:)

Daily Chase: Vol. 46

This past week marked a second week of gloomy, overcast, rainy weather in the Delaware valley, and I found myself in need of some vitamin D. Ironically, it took a much-needed trip back to Iowa over the weekend to find the sun, and that element of travel made the week even busier. Today marks one year since my arrival in Delaware, and it certainly has flown by. It’s been a year of significant change in pretty much every aspect of my life, and running has been one of the few constants throughout this process. If there was ever any doubt about the meditative and psychological benefits of running, this past year has removed it and made me even more committed to lifetime of lacing up my shoes!

Chasing42 Log: 20160502- 20160509

Run: My legs needed a bit of recovery time after pushing it during the Delaware Trail Marathon, so I took things relatively easy this week. I tossed in some tempo work, but ultimately wanted to make sure I was in good shape for a trip to Iowa for the Market to Market Relay and a reunion with an amazing group of friends! After a gloomy week, I arrived in Iowa on Friday and was greeted by 80 degree weather and sunshine. My run on Friday was the warmest yet this year, but it felt great to be running with friends I hadn’t seen since leaving, and to be hitting familiar roads I have run more times than I can count. On Saturday, the relay itself far exceeded my expectations and made for an amazing weekend of reconnecting with old friends and making new friends. I ended up running 8 of the 17 legs of the relay, for around 35 miles of total distance (full report coming up!). I’ve kept it simple the last two days, giving my legs some time to recover…and rest up for the Dirty German 50 miler this coming weekend!

Thought: The topic of time has been on my mind as of late. More specifically, the importance of finding the time to do something you love every day. Our lives get busy for all sorts of reasons, and at many different times throughout the week and year. All of us, at one point or another, feel as though we don’t have time for one more thing, and the to do list simply won’t get any smaller no matter how much work we do. This often leaves us feeling the pressure to work longer hours, answer just one more email, or read one more article/paper/memo, etc. I’ve never entirely bought into the “work-life balance” mantra that became popular several years ago in many professional circles, in part because I don’t think it was ever viewed over the longterm. The implication always seemed to be that you needed to leave your job at closing time, and go home to enjoy something you love. To me, this always begged the question- “what happens if you love your job and it doesn’t feel like work”? Obviously, this is not the case for many, and as a society, we’ve bought into the idea that you should do whatever makes you the most money and allows you to have fun on the weekends…could this be any more backwards? Work hard doing something you hate for 5 days so you have 2 days to do the things you love? Good luck with that! I’d much rather enjoy what I’m doing, but still remember that there will be hard days, and I need to remember to get out and do something else I love on those days especially. For me, that something is obviously running, and whether I’ve had a long, hard day where I need to work longer, or a wonderful, rewarding day where I want to work longer, I’ll always make time for the run! Don’t forget to always make time for #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 45

It was a busy and hectic week as the semester is winding down and the work is piling up, but I thrive on being busy so the week flew by quickly. Nonetheless, I stuck to my training schedule and my #runstreak and kept things moving along on all cylinders. I even tossed in a marathon at the end of the week to cross another state off my 50 States quest!

Chasing42 Log: 20160426-20160501

Run: What a gloomy week! By the end of the week, my vitamin D levels were suffering, but I was out there all week putting in the miles. I squeezed in a little speed work, and kept things nice and straight forward leading up to the Delaware Trail Marathon on Saturday. The trails were in great shape for the race, and it was the only day during the week that it didn’t rain so I was a happy camper (review forthcoming). My legs have been feeling good, and I’m looking forward to traveling to Iowa next weekend for Market to Market Iowa!

Thought: I’ve been thinking more about mindfulness and intentionality while out on the run. We spend a lot of time thinking about the physical and technical aspects of our runs- foot strike, body placement, arm swing, turnover, shoes, apparel, etc. However, we don’t often think as much about the mental aspect of running. This certainly includes keeping ourselves in a good place mentally and learning how to dig deep when things get hard or don’t go as planned. However, I would like to think that this also encompasses using my time wisely while out on the run. I often use the time to process the day, plan for the next day, or think through any challenges I might be facing. It’s hard to give ourselves the time during the day to sit and think, and running provides a convenient alternative motivator for mindfulness. You can’t respond to emails while you are out on the run, you can’t work on that project looming over your head, and you can’t return phone calls while out on the run (and if you are, then you may want to reflect on that as well), so why not use the time to think more deeply about the topics that you don’t have time for otherwise. Chasing42 is all about the mind and body experience and running provides an amazing opportunity for both!

Daily Chase: Vol. 44

It’s officially race season! There have certainly been some exciting early season races, including the GDR, but there’s no doubt that things have kicked into high gear. My social media feeds are jam-packed with race pictures and reports every weekend, and I love seeing the energy that comes out of each and every event. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5K or a 100-miler. The smiles are genuine, the sweat is real, and the hard work shows on people’s’ faces. The commitment folks have put in over the winter months are beginning to manifest in PRs, new distances, and the added sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing the finish line. Any finish line. So, to those of you that just finished a race, and those of you getting ready to race, I raise a pint to you!

Chasing42 Log: 20160420- 20160425

Run: I’ve been feeling a bit sluggish at times during the day, and that has carried over into my runs off and on, so I’ve been doing my best to pay attention to my body, hit the rolling hard, stretch out, and make a good faith effort at enough sleep (such a good idea in theory!). The weather has been quite nice, so I’ve been able to get in some comfortable runs over the past few days. I’ve been playing around with my heart rate, my cadence, and my power output in an effort to better assess each effort and create some baseline metrics that I can use to better pace myself during races. Who knew that keeping my heart rate below 125 or my cadence @ 180 would be such a challenge, eh? These are only a few of the numbers I’m gunning for when I’m #chasing42!

Thought: While my running has remained consistent and my #runstreak has kept moving forward, I haven’t necessarily zeroed in on my race schedule for the year yet. I’ve obviously tackled a few events and have a few more on the schedule, but I added two exciting opportunities in the last week. I’ll be running the Delaware Trail Marathon on 4/30, which will give me a chance to spend some more time on local trails, and cross Delaware off my 50 States quest. Then, on June 4th, I’ll be heading up to Ithaca, NY for the Cayuga Trails 50, which doubles as the USATF 50-Mile Championships. We’ll get a chance to camp for a couple of nights and I’ll get to explore some amazing trails. I’m wicked excited about both additions to my calendar!

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