Today's Mighty Oak

Working through Decompression from my Burn was longer and rougher than I anticipated. Due to work and some family commitments, I didn’t have much time to myself, so I felt a bit rushed coming back to Default.

But, life continues on and here I am at the second to last week of my plan.

Taper crazies are real, and I feel like everything is broken and I’ll never be able to run again. I keep reminding myself that I’ve already run a 50K, so I’ll be good the day of. I just need to trust my training and hope the weather cooperates as much as it can.

  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: Rest.
  • Wednesday: 7 miles, including 6 x 400.
  • Thursday: 5 miles.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: 12 miles.
  • Sunday: Rest.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

Alright, let’s see what we have today. Couple Game of Thrones things now that it’s ended. Did you, like everyone, want to see a buddy comedy spin off of Arya and the Hound (as well as Tormund and Jon Snow), here’s the 80’s sitcom opening.

And here’s the haunting rendition (By Florence + The Machine, in the show, it was Podrick that sang it) of Jenny of Oldstone from Game of Thrones:

And if you need some semblance of hope after a certain death, here’s the couple during happier times.

And finally in Game of Thrones, here’s one second from every episode.

A sloth, very slowly of course, thanks a human who helped him out.

The new trailer for the Downton Abbey movie looks awesome (although mostly just fan service, but I’m okay with that):

Good news: Philadelphia can exclude foster care agencies who don’t work with queer families.

Very bad news: The administration has unveiled their policy to allow medical providers to discriminate against queer patients.

And finally today, someone did some fancy refilming and editing of the lightsaber duel in Episode 4. Generally I like it!

This week included my yearly regional Burning Man event, but as I start my taper for the race. Being outside and on my feet, in the heat, for so long was actually good training for the Ultra, at least I think so.

Looking back at my Fitbit data, I was shocked by how much I was walking each day. The event itself isn’t on that big of a piece of land, so the fact that I was covering that much distance was a bit of a shock to me!

  • Monday: 7 miles, 8 x 400.
  • Tuesday: Rest. (was downtown to see “Dear Evan Hansen”)
  • Wednesday: Rest.
  • Thursday: 2K – 2019 Moose League: Moosefontaine Classic: 10:37
  • Friday: Rest/time on feet/heat
  • Saturday: Rest/time on feet/heat
  • Sunday: Rest/time on feet/heat
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

The Moose League is a series of unannounced events, run as a virtual track meet. My ultra team, PRorER, decided to create a division, so I’ll be racing against the other members of my team (as well as us competing against the other divisions for points). It’s all in good fun, and a good way for me to get more involved with the ARTC crew.

The Moosefontaine Classic was a 2K, so just under a mile and a quarter. I had time to run it before I left for the Burn, and ran just a bit over the distance on the sidewalk loop in my neighborhood (my car was packed to the gills and I figured that was better than going to a school track for the circumstances and timing).

It was a blast to run that hard and that fast. I’ve never raced a mile, so I also had no idea how to approach this, but I’m happy with it and I’m looking forward to more crazy events this summer!

Setting up and Exodus from the Burn certainly did afford some strength work, albeit, moving heavy pieces of art and camp infrastructure, nothing like a structured workout.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

34 miles, six loops, here’s what I used:

First up, liquids. Started with Nuun energy, since I actually kind of liked it. Used that for four loops. I was having trouble eating as much as I knew I should be after a while, so my last two loops I switched to tailwind, and that was great!

I also made sure to have some regular water each loop, especially after I noticed how dehydrated I was, the weather was shit, and the heat and humidity were getting to me. Had a tiny can of Diet Coke after loop 4 for the extra sugar and caffeine.

Here’s what I ate after each loop:

Loop one: Half a Bobo’s Bar

Loop two: Half a Bobo’s Bar. Still one of my favorites for a reason.

Loop three: No Cow chocolate mint bar. Not bad, a little dry, wouldn’t have again (would sub in a chocolate mint complete cookie to scratch this flavor itch)

Loop four: Can’t make out the brand but a dairy-free chocolate peanut butter bar thing. Very similar to an RX bar in terms of consistency, so not bad. I’ve only seen these at the Vitamin Shoppe, and RX Bars are easier to find.

Loop five: Jelly beans. Nothing sounded good, but I knew I could grab a handful of these and go with it, so they were just right for me for this loop.

After loop 6, had some more jelly beans as I waited for the train to pass so I could leave the parking lot, but otherwise, wasn’t really interested in eating. Forced myself to eat the rest of the day, but in very small increments.

Overall, I’m really happy with what I’ve found works the best for me: Tailwind after mile 20, Bobo’s Bars, jelly beans, mint chocolate complete cookie and something every now and then for caffeine. I’ll be stocking up for Eagle Up!

I’ve noticed I tend to not go for anything salty. I take a salt tab every five miles, and this helps me a ton, so I think that tends to work for me, but I’m always cautious of keeping an eye on that.

My training plan, from Relentless Forward Progress, called for a 50K in training. The jail loop in Pittsburgh is 5.5 miles, so I figured I’d just do six of those and make it an even 33 (of course since I didn’t run tangents and what not, it came out to 33.9 miles, so I’m calling it 34 for simplicity’s sake).

To keep myself on point, I made a chart of things to do/examine after each loop, and that was really beneficial, kind of like being my own crew ahead of time for myself.

I had the new season of Zombies Run ready to go, hit the trail early, and started on my way. It was humid, but wasn’t too terrible yet since the sun was behind the clouds. First loop was good and after a few missteps at my car, got into a rhythym moving forward.

On the other side of the river on the second loop, I ran into Elizabeth and Steve, and we ran together for a while, which really helped. We chit chatted, admired the new chalk art done outside the jail and generally had a decent time.

They dropped off when they needed to for their mileage, and I was left alone for the last two and a half loops. Halfway through loop 5, the sun came out. I ended up adding extra walk breaks when I was in direct sunlight, otherwise I wasn’t going to make it, and that was the right decision.

For the final loop I threw on some sunscreen, which helped, although I still got more sun than I hoped.

I did discover, my patience runs out somewhere around mile 29. I shoulder-checked a woman who was walking in a group four across, taking up the sidewalk. I was as far over as I could be, and she didn’t move, and I just didn’t care.

I did also call two cyclists assholes. One, who swerved to look like he was aiming right at me before correcting himself, and another who was riding on the (very narrow at that point) sidewalk, even though there was a bike lane (which means in the city, what he was doing was illegal).

Overall, I’m really proud of myself. My pace was good, and pretty consistent (aside from the sun walking breaks), and I stuck to my run/walk strategy. I was able to run the next day, and walking around and packing the rest of the day after my run was a little sore, but nothing out of the ordinary; much better than after the marathon two weeks ago.

Did I do a 50K quickly? No. Was it even as fast as I could go? No. But I’m still super happy with what I accomplished. It was a great confidence boost for Eagle Up, and now I’m seriously ready for my taper!

Things I learned:

  • I’m good about not waiting around at the aid station/my car. I was pretty quick to get in and get back out onto the trail. My biggest hangup was when I was eating something sticky, I didn’t want to deal with sticky fingers or the wrapper, so I’d finish eating before I left. But even with that, I was surprised how efficient I was.
  • Having planned walk breaks helped me a lot mentally, and physically.
  • Direct sunlight is a killer. I knew this already, but it was really hit home for me. The extra walk breaks when the sun was hottest was key for me.
  • I had to work really hard to keep myself from going too fast, even on the last lap.

  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: 7 miles.
  • Wednesday: 5 miles. Was hoping the weather would be hotter to help better acclimate, but it was very pleasant. Ran the training mission for the new Lewis and Clark race from Zombies Run and learned a ton!
  • Thursday: 3 miles. Was finally a bit hotter outside, which while it sucked, I know helped.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: 34 miles. Will have a separate write up about this.
  • Sunday: 5 miles.
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: Rest. Took an extra day of rest (added the miles in later in the week), which was needed. Raced the marathon harder than I planned, so I didn’t feel bad needing the extra day.
  • Wednesday: 6 miles.
  • Thursday: 6 miles with speedwork: 4 x 400. Finally ran on the Schenley Oval, which was pretty neat. It’s nice to see a public track get so much use!
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: 9 miles.
  • Sunday: 14 miles.
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

Race week! I love Marathon weekend in Pittsburgh, it’s always such a fun time. The atmosphere and energy in the air, from the athletes and all the spectators is just amazing!

It was a bit bittersweet, since I really do love the course and the city, but the marathon organizer has chosen to partner with Chick-fil-A for the next three years, so I’ll be bowing out of both running and volunteering (multiple events throughout the year) until that contract is up. They already had my money for this year, but next year I’m looking at either Cincinnati or Toledo.

After my impromptu Stupid Week the week before, I took this week a bit easier to ease into the marathon

  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: Rest.
  • Wednesday: 3 miles. Was supposed to run more, but the heat and the pollen stopped me two miles early. Glad I did it though, was good acclimation.
  • Thursday: 7 miles with speedwork: 4 x hill repeat. A big showing from the Frontrunners, I think we all had a lot of nervous energy going into race weekend.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: Marathon 5K (and pasta party).
  • Sunday: Marathon.
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

Race information

  • What? Pittsburgh Marathon (and 5K: Steel Challenge)
  • When? May 5, 2019 (and May 4)
  • How far? 26.2 miles
  • Where? Pittsburgh, Pa.


Mandatory ADon’t get injuredYes
Mandatory BThank the volunteersYes
Mandatory CGet some sweet high fivesYes
DPR the marathonYes
EStretch goal: PR the 5KYes

Marathon Pace Splits



I’m training for my first ultra in June, but still wanted to run the Pittsburgh full, so I swapped two weeks in my plan without too much trouble. I had a few weeks off due to some IT Band and then other knee issues, but ended up rallying back and having my biggest weekly mileage ever the week before this race week, so no taper for the marathon.

Pre-race: 5K

This was my first race ever, and always a good time and benchmark. Headed down to the North Shore, met up with some friends and headed over to the start line. Like last year, the DJ was decent, so that was a plus.


I didn’t have much of a goal for this, but a stretch was to PR, while still not pushing myself. Lots of jostling of crowds at the beginning, but it spread out after the first mile or so. Enjoyed the run through the North Shore, although it was super muggy. Tackled the hill on the bridge, through downtown and down to the finish line for the first time that weekend, shaving about a minute off my 5K!

Post-race: 5K

As is custom, met friends at ‘Lost Child’ and regrouped to head to the Toddler Trot where my friend’s 2-year old was running. I’ve never watched the Toddler Trot, but it was a great time. At least one child per heat would just sit down on the ground and refuse to move, but there were lots of cute moments and the crowd support was a lot of fun for this.

That evening, the Frontrunners did a pasta party, where we all gathered at one of our member’s home for a big potluck. Caught up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while and enjoyed the company.

Pre-race: Marathon

Woke up early, after a good night of sleep and went to the busway to catch a ride downtown. Local bus authority added “extra service” which meant a bus at 4 a.m. and a bus at 4:10 a.m., then regular service starting at 6 a.m. This is not what was publicized, but ended up making it downtown with plenty of time, despite the issues. Upon exiting the busway, everyone headed left. My friend and I turned right to go to an entire bank of unused portos!

Dropped off my bag at gear check (took a picture of which truck number for easy retrieval) and we headed towards the corrals. Ran into another friend, took a quick selfie, then she was off to the faster runners. Made friends in the start corral with a mother and daughter both running their first half to commemorate their recently dead mother/grandmother, which was sweet. We answered questions they had about the city and the race process, and wished them luck. We moved up as the corals were released, running through the drizzle.

Miles [0] to [11]

My race partner and I chatted for a while, entertaining ourselves and other random runners on the course. I got so excited that I missed the mile markers for 5 and 6, so I adjusted my nutrition a bit to get back on track. Was feeling good, although we stopped to use a porto around mile 4, but otherwise, just clicking off miles. The area around Allegheny Commons is always great, so enjoyed the crowd support through there.

After the first relay exchange, we picked up two more runners, one of which was his first race as part of a relay team, and he joined our conversation (we were talking about the importance of science) and stuck with us. As we came near the end of the West end Bridge, we could hear the polka band, and it did not disappoint. Turning onto Carson, we made our way towards Station Square where our relay friend left us.

Up on Carson Street proper in the South Side is always a big crowd, and I encouraged those walking to go grab a drink, most of he bars were open anyway. We approached the split, and I said goodbye to my friend who was running the half, leaving me alone to make new friends by myself as I ran the extra block then up and across the Birmingham Bridge.

Miles [11] to [26.2]

Running up the bridge, I fell quickly in with two other runners, both of which running their first fulls (despite one having finished a half Ironman already). I gave them some encouragement (which included cursing at the bridge beneath our feet), and we got across before making our way up The Monster into Oakland. I ran up with no problems, although the top of the hill is always a bit sad, as the schools of Oakland have already graduated and the neighborhood is a bit empty. However, as I was running near the museums, a spectator handed out icepops, and I ended up stopping with two guys who remembered me and my silly antics from the year before!

The part of the course down fifth (with a short diversion onto Walnut) can be brutal mentally, but I got some orange slices from spectators, so it was decent. On said detour, a friend of mine was out on his porch, so I looked out for him and got some cheers. Hit the next relay station at Mellon Park and we headed to the next mentally grueling part, Penn Avenue; this just seems to go forever. Grabbed a beer and more orange slices, made a few jokes; wasn’t too bad.

Around this time was when I found spotted some really good eye candy, so I just tucked in behind them and tried to keep up whenever I was falling behind. Left turn onto Braddock brings you to Homewood, which was rocking this year! The crowd support was amazing and a great boost.

At this point, I hadn’t seen a pacer in a while. I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to knock 20 minutes off my PR to break 5 hours. I looked up and saw the 4:45 pacer and couldn’t believe it. I caught up with her small group, and we chatted a bit. My mind told me to stay with them, to reign myself in a bit and and just finish strong, I remembered I had at least three decent rolling hills to get past still. My hearts said I had more in the tank, so I took off.

Ran through Larimer and Highland Park before hitting the last relay exchange. I passed the two guys and told them how much I appreciated running behind them and off I went. Clicking off miles, finally hitting my favorite crowd support section near Church Brew Works. The wall of crowd support is great, but as I grabbed a beer from the Hashers, noticed that an ex-coworker of mine was there on the sidewalk. The man is a giant, bigoted asshole and made my life a living hell for two years. Had I not been running I would have stopped to tell him off, but I let that anger power me as I ran down to the Strip and back to downtown.

The return trip down Liberty is also mentally grueling, but I was ready for it, I just keyed into my music, tried to find some zen and take a bit of time for some catharsis and reflecting on the fact that I don’t have to work with that waste of a human anymore.

Saw team members right as I was heading into downtown, and I got some quick updates on how everyone was doing/did, which was a great boost! Made the second to last turn and was trucking along, counting off the lights before I could turn onto the Boulevard of the Allies. Quick chat with someone else who was also in the Pain Cave, and I told her, once we hit that McDonalds, if you have it, that’s when you start to really kick. Sure enough, we get there, and we both kick it up another notch. I felt my chest burning, so held back just a bit for a quarter mile more, then rounded the corner and kicked for the finish line.

My goal was to cut 20 minutes off and break 5 hours. Chip time: 4:33:12.

Post-race: Marathon

It rained most of the second half of this race, and I just wanted to be dry; the temperature had been a bit lower than the 5K the day before, and the steady rain helped to at least make it feel like the humidity wasn’t as much an issue, but it was still less than ideal. Went through the chute, which is a feat unto itself (I have implored the marathon the last two years to give us the bag to collect water, chips, fruit, bananas, bagels and cookies after the medals and heat-sheets, not at the very end, but I have been ignored) and headed out towards the finish line festival. Ran into two team mates, congratulated them and then collected my Steel Challenge medal before doing a bit of stretching and meeting up with some of the Frontrunners.

I had to pee since about mile 19, but ignored it. Finally, about half an hour after finishing, remembered I needed to, but it was brown. Pretty sure it was just dehydration, but I stopped at the medical tent just to double check. Doubled up my water the rest of the day and was fine, but the combination of the humidity and Nuun Sport (instead of Gatorade) was just a weird mix for me, even though I had trained with the Nuun.

Grabbed the T (subway) back to my bus station, and was lucky enough to get on the bus just before it left, saving me about half an hour. I did some stretching on the bus, and wound up exiting the same stop as a volunteer. I thanked her for doing it, it was the first year she did, so I told her I oped she would do it again next year.

What’s next, mental health and lessons learned

My goal race is coming up in five weeks! Have a down week this week then one more big push before I head off to tackle my first ultra. I’m glad this race helped me to better remember to go in and accept the weather with everyone else, as well as teaching me a bit about how to stay better hydrated, although I’ll be happy to return to the world of real food for fueling instead of gels.

I had two weeks off, followed by one week on, and then another two weeks off, due to injury. During those times, I really had a tough time mentally, not only because exercise helps me keep better control of my emotions and mental health, but also because I put far too much stock on the number my scale says. Yes, I still have a bit to go and need to continue working on being healthy (with a holistic approach, not just a number), but after losing a significant chunk of weight, I’m realizing I have a more complicated and messed up relationship with my body than I care to admit, and I need to work on those things.

Recognizing these problems is a good first step, so hopefully, with some help, I can put together some sort of plan to explore these issues and find some resolution.

I basically repeated what I tried before, but with a small change. I had half a Bobo’s Bar the first two loops, and while I liked it, I was not drinking quite enough, so it was a bit tougher to swallow.

But generally, I still love the Bobo’s Bars, I’m glad they’re a normal part of my fuel now.

This was paired with Nuun sport, which I’m actually liking more and more. I think it’s a bit expensive, and I’m still unsure why the marathon switched from Gatorade, but it’s a good alternative, and I’m enjoying the mango flavor.

My last loop, I had another complete cookie (I found that they do a small version, so each cookie is 200 calories), this time, the birthday cake flavor. I liked the mint a lot better: for whatever reason, the birthday cake one was more solid and I liked the chocolate mint one being soft and basically melting in my mouth.

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