Running and living in Baltimore

For once I’m doing something productive during a flight. I’m still madly in love with my new laptop and it’s so nice to have it with me while traveling. (Although it wasn’t so nice lugging two laptops – personal and work – around the airport and through security.) My visit to Baltimore overall was productive too, but I’m definitely happy to be heading back to the warmth of Phoenix, at least for another month and a half or so.

I guess I’ll start first with the running news. On Monday night, I decided to check out a group run that I found online. The Federal Hill Runners meet every week not too far from where I’ll be working and living. I was a little hesitant because I’ve never run with a group before, but the website says they have runners of all types and abilities. Right now my life is all about change and moving forward, so I figured why not embrace the change and try something new.

When I arrived outside the fitness center where the group meets, I felt intimidated because all the guys standing there looked tall and fast. As more and more people arrived I kept hoping to see someone who seemed like a potential running buddy. Everyone seemed nice and I chatted with a guy who was very welcoming, but I was getting very worried that I was out of my league here.

Besides me, there was one other first-timer there so the group did really quick introductions, each person announcing their name and pace. Now I was really intimidated because the slowest pace was a 9:30. Somehow I was the last one to introduce myself and putting on a brave face I said that I’m more like a 10, but I’d try to keep up with the 9:30 runners. Luckily a woman named Christine spoke up and said that she’d run with me.

Christine and I chatted for a bit and I told her my story about getting ready to move to Baltimore. About a mile or so in, another woman named Regina joined us. The course we took was partly through city streets, and partly along the Baltimore Inner Harbor. We even went right past my company’s office where I’ll be working. Most of my attention during the run was focused on just trying to keep up, but I look forward to running through there again in the spring when I’m better able to take in the surroundings.

We ended up doing 4.39 miles total at an average 10:13 pace. I was tired but pleased with myself for surviving the run. A bunch of people asked if I’d be back next week and I responded that they’d probably see me again in March after I move. I hope that I wasn’t lying. I’d really like to go back, but I hate the idea of being the slowest person there. Not that anyone in the group ever made me feel bad, it’s just my own insecurities that are making me worry. I think I’ll make an effort to go back at least one more time. I’m hoping that either I’ll get faster, or that some slower runners will join the group again once the weather in Baltimore warms up.

After the run, the fitness center holds a free group class for the runners. Keeping with the trying new things theme, I went to check out the class too. It was quite an experience, to say the least. For some reason I had in my mind that it was a stretching class. But it was actually an abs and stretching class, with an emphasis on the abs part. I was so out of my element. The instructor was up front shouting things out and I had no idea what all the terms meant. I just did my best to mimic what everyone else was doing. Add to that the fact that I have no ab muscles at all and I was only managing to do about half the exercises. Again, I put on my brave face and just bluffed my way through the class. All I could really do was laugh at myself for getting into such a crazy situation.

So now that I’m done reporting about all this running stuff, let’s move on to my main reason for visiting Baltimore… finding a place to live. After looking at a bunch of places, I finally settled on renting a nice rowhouse only about a mile away from my office. (When the weather is nice, I’m thinking about walking or biking to work.) It wasn’t my number one choice, but it’s still got everything I need and the rent was $250/month cheaper, which adds up to a lot over a year’s lease.

This is a photo of the street the rowhouse is on.

And here’s the exterior of the building.

On the first floor is a living room, dining room, kitchen, and half bath. Apparently “exposed brick” is a very desirable feature in Baltimore rentals because it’s included on pretty much every Craig’s List posting.

The second floor has two bedrooms and a full bath.

There’s also a basement for laundry and storage. It sounds like a lot of space for one person, but all the rooms are really small. I’m pretty sure all my furniture will fit, but I’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, I’m happy to cross finding a place to live off my moving checklist, and it will be fun to actually move in and start making the place my own.

Race Report

BRCC Frozen Finger 5 Miler

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m up in Baltimore for a week to do some house hunting. Once I figured out the dates of my trip, I looked around online for any local races and found a small one being held by the Baltimore Road Runners Club called the Frozen Finger 5 Miler.

Out of all the seasonally named races I’ve done recently, this was the one that most closely lived up to the name. (It was warm and sunny for Frosty’s Run and the Winter Misery One Miler was definitely not miserable.) After it snowed here in Baltimore on Thursday night, I thought about skipping the race and just sleeping in this morning. But in the end I decided to suck it up and brave the cold weather. I really layered on the clothing… two pairs of pants, two long sleeve shirts and a jacket, and two pairs of gloves. Here’s a photo of everything I wore for the race, minus one glove that accidentally got left behind in the rental car.

The registration fee for the race was only $8 (for non-club members) and included these nice cozy gloves which I wore on top of my cheap Target gloves. I was glad to have this second pair because I probably would have really had frozen fingers without them.

The race was at Druid Hill Park. Maybe after I’ve lived in Baltimore for awhile I’ll stop being so fascinated by snow. But right now I just think the snow makes everything so much prettier. I took these photos after the race.

Originally, the first mile of the course was supposed to go all the way around the lake that’s sort of visible behind the fence in the first photo, but I think it got changed at the last minute because of the snow. I’ve never run in snow before! But most of the roads were clear and I only had to slow down slightly in a couple spots where I was afraid of slipping on the ice. I’m happy to report that 1) I ran the entire five miles… even up some nasty hills, and 2) I didn’t fall!

Before the race I was a little worried because 3.1 miles is the farthest I’ve run since being sick. I figured that I’d just stop and speed walk if I started getting tired. But it turned out that I felt good through the entire five miles. It wasn’t easy, especially on the hills, but I never felt like I wouldn’t be able to finish. In a way, I think the cold actually helped because it numbed some of the usual aches and pains. On the other hand, the cold prevented me from fueling up because it felt like too much effort to reach into my iFitness belt with all the layers I had on.

I took a GU Roctane before the race. (I’ve decided that I really dislike the blueberry pomegranate flavor, although I’ll still keep using it since that’s what they give out at Rock ‘n’ Roll races. But one of these days I’ll have to try the vanilla orange to see if it’s any better.) That probably contributed to how good I felt while running. I try not to use fuel products too much on a regular basis so that I get an extra boost from them on race days. I had another GU gel and some chomps with me, but like I said above I never got around to taking anything else. It probably didn’t matter anyway because 5 miles is a relatively short race. And my last mile was actually my fastest according to my Garmin.

  • Mile 1 – 10:07
  • Mile 2 – 10:17
  • Mile 3 – 10:34
  • Mile 4 – 10:42
  • Mile 5 – 9:42

The last mile was also predominantly downhill. 🙂

No official results yet, but my Garmin shows an average 10:18 pace for 5.06 miles. That’s probably pretty close to the official results because even though the distance is long, I forgot to stop the timer right away after finishing. I had a blueberry bagel afterwards that was really tasty, but a bit hard from sitting out in the cold. My jaw actually started to hurt after awhile from all the effort it took to chew.

I’m encouraged and excited by how easily I’ve been able to ramp up my running again. I hope I’m not taking it too fast, but so far I’ve been relatively injury free which is a good sign. I do have a slight ache in the ball of my right foot, but I think that’s more due to old shoes and insoles than anything else. Last weekend I splurged on custom insoles from Road Runner Sports that are working out well so far. I also ordered a new pair of Saucony ProGrid Hurricane 10s that should be waiting for me in the mail when I get back to Phoenix.

Half Fanatics, Training

Half Fanatic #259!

Look what came in the mail today… my new Half Fanatics shirt!

For the last month or so, I’ve been hearing/reading about the Half Fanatics from a bunch of different sources. Initially I wasn’t that interested, but then I realized that I already met the criteria to join with my eight halves in 2009. What finally pushed me to become a member though was actually the shirt. I want to wear short sleeves for RnR AZ, but don’t really like any of the short sleeve shirts that I currently have. (Well, I have a couple I like from races, but I don’t like wearing race shirts to other races.) So I figured why not join and wear the Half Fanatics shirt for RnR AZ.

It’s so much fun getting “real” mail (as opposed to junk mail and bills). At first I wondered what was in the package because I had forgotten the shirt was on its way. Normally I don’t buy clothes online because it’s so hard to know whether the fit will be right. Luckily the shirt fits pretty well. I went with a small and my only gripe is that the shoulders are a bit narrow. But a medium probably would have been too long for me.

I promptly took the shirt out for a run and did three miles tonight in just under 32 minutes. I don’t have the exact time because my Garmin is already packed. I leave for Baltimore tomorrow and don’t return until next Wednesday. The next couple weeks are going to be busy!

The main purpose of the trip to Baltimore is to look for a place to live. But while I’m there, I’m thinking about doing a 5 mile race held by the Baltimore Road Runners Club on Saturday. I also found a running group near where I’m planning to live that does group runs on Monday nights so I might check that out too. Then when I get back, RnR AZ will be just a few days away!


Self reflections

My day started off bright and early this morning. I drove down to Road Runner Sports in Tempe for a mock race for Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ. It was a free event and they had GU and Cytomax (the same products that’ll be available on race day) set up at three locations along the eight mile course around Tempe Town Lake. I’ve tried a few sips of Cytomax before, but usually I stick to water during races. Today I did just Cytomax and while it’s good to know that it doesn’t disagree with me, there wasn’t really any noticeable benefit either. I think we had the cool citrus flavor, which I did find refreshing. I’ll probably continue to just stick with my GU gels and chomps, accompanied with water, for the race.

Since I was speed walking, there weren’t many other participants around and I think I took a wrong turn at the end getting back to the store. Based on my Garmin, I walked 8.57 miles in 1:56:44… a 13:37 pace. This is the last long distance walk I’m going to do before RnR AZ. I’m still hoping to finish the race in under 3 hours as my goal, but I’m not sure I can keep up the pace for another five miles. I’ll just do my best and see what happens.

When I got home, I had some fun trying out the camera on my laptop to take a quick pic of my outfit.

At the 5k a couple days ago, I was too warm in a long-sleeved shirt. But today the “race” started early at 7:30am and I was glad to have my new Champion jacket that I picked up at Target for only $17.48. My running wardrobe used to be almost all from Road Runner Sports, but now I’ve got a lot more Champion stuff in the mix.

I was just browsing the Target weekly ad and if you’ve ever thought about trying a Champion sports bra, now’s the time to go pick one up. From now until January 9, they’re on sale for $12. I’m definitely going to go grab a couple more colors.

After lunch I took my mom out to the airport. It was an hour drive each way and on the way home I decided to stop and treat myself with some bubble tea (aka boba tea). I love bubble tea but there’s no place to get it close to my house, which is probably a good thing. Here I am enjoying what’s left of my taro milk tea. If you’re not familiar with bubble tea, those are tapioca pearls at the bottom of the cup.

Then I spent the rest of the day doing laundry, cleaning up the spare closet in preparation for moving, and starting to pack for my upcoming trip to Baltimore. Overall I think I had a very productive day. Now if only I didn’t have to go to work again in the morning…

Race Report

New Year’s Day 5k

To get the year started off on the right foot, I ran in a New Year’s Day 5k this morning at Papago Park. I took it fairly easy and just treated it like a training run. The race didn’t have chip timing so my official time was 33:24 (10:45 pace), but my Garmin time was 32:57 (10:24 pace).

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about the race itself. It was just a low-key, local event with about 300 people. The weather was cool and sunny, and the course was an almost flat, out-and-back mainly along the canal.

Afterwards I had a fun meet up with RunningLaur and her puppy so I could hand off the box of goodies from the giveaway. I may be joining her for the Sedona Half Marathon, but don’t know for sure yet because I’m waiting to see how things go during my trip to Baltimore and getting ready to move.

It was nice to get my workout done early because I spent the rest of the day playing Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and finally finished it to 100% completion. All weapons, gold bolts, skill points, everything. I know that probably doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but trust me, it’s a pretty darn good achievement.

So for now, 2010 is off to a great start!

Medals, Running

A look back at 2009

A lot has happened in my life in 2009. In January I ran my first half marathon. In April I set my half marathon PR that still stands even after five more races. In June I did my first duathlon at the happiest place on earth. In September I returned for the second Expedition Everest Challenge and while I didn’t do so well defending my title, I still had an awesome time. Then in December, I finished my eighth half marathon which qualified me for membership to the Half Fanatics. (More on that to come in another post.)

And of course in non-running related news, the last quarter of the year has been full of change. From getting sick, to being single again, to preparing for a major move.

But coming back to running, to me this photo really sums up how amazing a year 2009 has been.

(Okay, so there are two medals from 2008. But it’s still pretty darn impressive.)


Fuel Up With Chocolate Giveaway Winner

Sorry it’s taken a few days to announce the winner. The random number generator came up with 3, which means the winner is RunnngLaur!

Welcome to the new readers, and thanks to everyone for entering. I’ve got a couple more ideas for giveaways (not fuel products this time) so I hope you’ll continue to stick around. 2010 is already looking like it’s going to be an exciting year with my big move to Baltimore, and of course lots of fun races both in AZ and on the East Coast (and maybe one or two somewhere in between).

Training, Travel


I haven’t mentioned it yet on the blog, but it’s official… I’m moving to Baltimore in February. I’m sad to be leaving Phoenix because I really love it here, but I’m starting to get excited about checking out a new city and I’m ready to embrace the change. Anyway, with my time in Arizona starting to come to an end, my mom and I decided to take advantage of my four-day holiday from work and drive up to the Grand Canyon.

The post title comes from a Ranger Program that we went to about the geology of the Grand Canyon. DUDE is an acronym for how the Grand Canyon was formed… Deposition, Uplifiting, Downcutting, and Erosion. Another fun fact from the talk was that if you take the entire life of the earth and stuff it into a year, with the earth being “born” on January 1, humans have only been around for the last 10 seconds of December 31.

The Grand Canyon was cold, but beautiful. We lucked out with the gorgeous, sunny weather. This was my first visit so I have nothing to compare it to, but I think the snow really enhanced the view. Plus, it was just fun to see snow again. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip:

In training news, I did a 2 mile run at the track a few days ago at 10:33 pace, and a 9 mile speed walk yesterday at 13:28 pace. For the walk I set my Garmin to alert me when I was slower than a 14:00 pace. At times it was annoying because it would beep even though I didn’t think my pace had changed at all. But overall it helped push me to keep moving quickly. I’m going to do one more long walk next weekend, then I’m headed up to Baltimore for a week which fits in nicely with tapering before RnR AZ.

I’ll be back to post again tonight or tomorrow to announce the winner of the giveaway.

Race Report, Running

Winter Misery One Miler – aka My Return to Running

Last night I did my one mile for RunningLaur’s Winter Misery One Miler virtual race. It was also my first time running in over two months! (The last time I ran was at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose on October 4.) At first I started off slow, almost at like a shuffle. It felt very strange to be running again and I could tell that I was using muscles that hadn’t been used in awhile. As I got more comfortable, I picked up the pace a little as you can see by the neat chart below. (Have I mentioned how much I’m loving Garmin Connect?) Despite all the spikiness, there’s a definite downward trend.

I’m not a natural runner, and I’ve never run just for the fun of it or felt the need to just go out for a run. I run as a form of fitness and because my ultimate end goal is to participate in a race (and hopefully earn a medal) and in order to achieve that I have to train properly. I’ve never experienced the “runner’s high” that people talk about…

But yesterday, I think I came pretty darn close. I was happy to actually be running again and I enjoyed the feeling of my feet carrying me along down the street. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it was because I knew I was just doing one mile, but there was something about the run that just felt good. There were no “why am I out here again?” or “how much farther do I have to go?” thoughts in my head. In fact, I even thought about doing another mile, but didn’t want to push myself too far too soon.

So thank you RunningLaur for providing the perfect opportunity for me to start running again!

I also did a 1 mile walk before and after the run. Here are my times:

  • Mile 1 walk: 13:53
  • Mile 2 run: 11:28
  • Mile 3 walk: 15:42

I realized it’s really hard to speed walk when I’m by myself. There’s something about the race atmosphere (probably the fact that I don’t want to be dead last) that brings out my competitive spirit and makes me go faster.

The virtual race may have been called the Winter Misery One Miler, but there wasn’t anything miserable about it for me. It was a nice, clear night and about 60°. However, I did bring in the winter aspect by taking some photos of my neighborhood during my walk…

It seems like everyone has these reindeer. My next-door neighbor is the only one who also included Santa though.

I liked this little nativity scene.

I thought this was a creative way to decorate what’s typically just an ugly looking box. I’ve never figured out what these boxes in some people’s front yards are for. Something to do with utility services maybe?

Here’s something you’ll only see in the desert. Are those supposed to be upside-down stockings? Mittens?

And finally, one way to describe how I felt about having a successful return to running.

Race Report

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas – Part 3

(Go to Part 2)

When I left off, I mentioned that my wake-up call for Sunday morning was set for 4am. Why so early? Well, MGM Grand wouldn’t confirm until that morning whether or not I could have a late check-out so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time just in case I had to pack up and check-out before leaving for the race. Luckily when I called down to the front desk they said I could extend my check-0ut to noon instead of 11am. I did a slight bit of packing anyway, then got ready for the race and headed out around 5:15am. It was crazy how quiet it was outside with no cars at all on The Strip.

I walked the one mile from MGM Grand down to Mandalay Bay, stopped by the port-a-potty (the lines actually weren’t too bad), grabbed a bottle of water, then headed to my corral. For once I didn’t leave it until the last minute to jump in. Now, I guess I’ll have to let you in on my dirty little secret. As you know, when I registered I was planning to run and I got assigned to corral 7. I know I should have moved back with the walkers, but I really, really didn’t want to wait 45 minutes to cross the start line, especially seeing as how I wouldn’t have that much time after the race to get back to the hotel and check-out. So I went ahead and stayed with corral 7. (Actually, it might have been 8… I can never tell whether you’re supposed to line up in front of or behind the big number signs.)

Here I am waiting in the corral with my lovely bright orange throwaway fleece still on. I was definitely glad to have it (and my earwarmers and gloves) because it was cold!

I read afterwards that Celine Dion sang the National Anthem, but from where I was I completely missed it. However, I did get to enjoy the fireworks that went on for a good 15 minutes or so as we all shuffled up to the start line.

I also read that there were showgirls and tigers at the start line, but I missed seeing them too. One thing that was definitely impossible to miss though were the huge screens everywhere along the course. The race was being broadcast live on the local news and a lot of the casinos were playing the broadcast up on their screens. You’ll see it as a recurring theme in my photos just because I thought it was really neat to be able to see the race as I was participating in it. I loved how much support there was from the casinos for the race. I guess with The Strip being closed down and taken over by runners for the morning, there’s no way to avoid being part of the excitement of the event.

The gun went off at 6:15 and it took about 15 minutes before I finally crossed the start line. It was very awkward at first because everyone else took off running, and there I was strolling along by myself past all the spectators. Not that I was actually walking slow. I probably started off at a 14/15 minute pace, but it sure felt slow. To try and alleviate the awkwardness, I took off my throwaway fleece just to give me something to do. Now that the sun was coming out and I was moving, it wasn’t quite as cold. Although in reality I probably could have kept the fleece with me the entire race and not been too warm either.

Anyway, after a few minutes I was glad to see three women walking not too far ahead of me so I hurried to catch up to them. We chatted for a bit but eventually I pulled away because I wanted to go at a slightly faster pace. By now more waves of runners were out on the course and I didn’t mind walking along on my own. I just stuck to the edge of the road as close to the curb as I could to try and stay out of the way. The whole course was very flat with no real noticable camber (unlike in San Jose) which was good.

The course started off heading south, then there was a u-turn within the first mile.

Right around the mile 1 point we passed the airport.

Shortly after that was the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. There were a couple girls who had stopped to take photos and were nice enough to take mine too.

Then I noticed some people going around the fence for photos, so I did that too.

Now we’re heading back up the fun part of The Strip past all the casinos.

There were tons of spectators out during the first part of the race, lining the streets and up on the bridges.

I was about 2 1/2 miles in when the leader of the half marathon went past on his way back to the finish line with about 1 mile to go.

Lots more photos of the casinos we went past…

And a couple “official” photos…

This sign at The Venetian says Team Members: We’re Proud of You – See You at the Finish Line.”

I love the look of the Wynn and Encore hotels.

This water station just after mile 4 was staffed by “Wynn Racing” volunteers.

My fueling plan for the race was to have either a GU gel or Chomps every three miles (about every 45 minutes). With the cool weather I didn’t take water at every stop, but I did want water to wash down the fuel. It was a little scary to come across this station around mile 6 and see the empty tables.

Thank goodness there was still water and Cytomax available across the street. That continued to be the theme through the rest of the race, where at first it looked like they ran out of drinks, but there was always more a little further down.

Then we headed into a more strip mall-ish part of The Strip. (I was tempted to write the seedier part of The Strip, but it really wasn’t that bad, at least not at 9am in the morning.)

Well, I think that’s enough for now. If you’ve stuck with me through this far, then this final photo of the post is very appropriate. Stay tuned for part 4!

(Go to Part 4)