Run around the Square, 2008
(23 Aug 2008 at 11:59)
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED Official 5K time under 20:00
Phew. This race was a lot hillier (meaning up-hillier) than I thought it was going to be, but I did it, finishing in 19m54s, which is a pace of 6m24.3s per mile. Lots of people were telling me it should be easy for me to break 20 minutes, but it wasn't. I think I'm just not built for middle-distance.
Mistakes: Well, I didn't prepare for this as well as the marathon. I didn't eat as well the last couple of weeks, and I ate way too much pasta last night (anyway carbo-loading doesn't really do anything for this kind of race; it should have been about eating something that wouldn't upset my stomach) and drank too much coffee and not enough water in the morning. The biggest mistake was probably rushing off at the beginning of the race with the front of the pack. These people were running like a 5m15s/mile pace, which is way faster than I need to crack 20 minutes, and that tired me out. After finishing the first mile in 5m41s, the race started to get uphill. I was surprised because I naively thought that since it started up in Regent Square and ended down in the park, it would be all downhill. So on mile 2 I was feeling really crappy, like I needed to give up. (Thinking about giving up is a sure-fire way to crapify your race. Every time it happens you might as well knock 10 seconds off the final time.) And then I started feeling like I should conserve my energy because there was this relentless uphill, and I didn't want to die later. (Recall I was thinking that my first mile was stupidly fast, by this point already.) That second mile was a pace of 7m14s, which is pants. The third mistake is that the third mile is almost all downhill, especially the tail end, and I should have flat-out booked it in that section. Instead I was still worried about conserving my energy. Really all of these big mistakes can be traced back to not knowing the course before running it. Dumb. At least I won't have that problem in the Great Race. Of course all of that stuff accounts for maybe 10–15 seconds at most, so no big deal. I'd certainly be kicking myself more if I had come in just over 20 instead of just under.
Correct: Red Laces are still rocking it, but that was sort of an obvious choice because this race is mostly on gravel and not long so feet/knee shock is not an issue. The parts that were on Pittsburgh/Swissvale's brick and cobblestone roads I wisely ran up on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is treacherous too, but not as bad as the stones. I wore only shorts and shoes, GPS watch and car key. No water stops. The biggest victory was a mental one. Even though I was mentally giving up a few times, even in essence composing the alternative version of this blog post where I am talking mostly about mistakes and excuses for why I didn't meet my goal, in the last year or so I've learned a super important race principle. This will sound obvious. I often go into these races thinking, okay Tom, today is the day and this race I am going to really push myself and try to do X (where X is e.g. break 20 minutes). Then some distance into the race I am feeling garbagey and this makes me think, drat, today is not the day. I'm not up to it today. I made some kind of mistake. And the principle is just: The reason I feel garbagey is that I am pushing hard, and that's what it feels like, and to try hard is to feel this way, no matter the day. (This incidentally is how I know I didn't push hard enough in the marathon, which is that I didn't feel that way until mile 25 or something at which point it was basically over anyway.) So the success is the several times I felt like I should slow down because I'm not going to make my goal anyway, not slowing down, or not slowing down as much as I'm prone to at least. Also then there was beer and friends at the end and that was nice.
Next goal is to break 40 minutes in the Pittsburgh Great Race, which is twice the distance, but I think the course is easier. I am more serious about that, but that just means the personal stakes are higher. Think how many Gamer Points I'll have before year's end??
I thought probably nobody cares about my old band Spastic Moose (web page is literally 10 years old) but then two different people this summer have tracked me down and asked, out of the blue, for old Spastic Moose MP3s that they had found floating around the internet or had from mix CDs (!) but then lost. Both were asking about the same song, actually, Sultry Pantry. It is a favorite, it's true.
So anyway I got off my lazy ass and organized the MP3s I have on my computer, scanned the album art and booklet inserts, and uploaded them to my server where I will try to keep them available forever. This magic directory is the Spastic Moose magic directory. What, you say, only two albums? Well, those are the best ones that I have digital versions of, and are probably the only ones that even these internet weirdos want to listen to. Actually I like both of those albums a lot. I have MP3s for the first two albums too, which I will try to organize, but when we first handed out tapes of the first album in high school for $3 or whatever cheap price it was, and then people listened to those tapes that they had spent actual money on, we got some intense reactions. Basically nobody bought the second album. In my opinion this was mainly because people were not expecting our precocious Art Brut aesthetic. Hamden High School was not ready for that shit. And I like those albums and the middle times albums (which I only have on cassette tape somewhere with no way to play), but there's so much other music to be organized and uploaded so I will wait for the internet crazies to ask for it.
VECTOBOT does have a nice watercolor cover, doesn't it?
PS. I want to be able to play guitar music live more easily, so I am thinking of getting some kind of pluggable mic/pickup thing for my acoustic guitar. Maybe today. Does anybody know anything and wish to express opinion about these? I think they sorta sound bad. I'd like something that doesn't sound bad, but I'm willing to take the best bad-sounding thing for the convenience and ability to move around a little bit when rocking out. I'd like to not have to drill the guitar, or even take the strings off to add/remove hardware. I doubt it matters, but in case it does: I have a Martin DX1 and play with heavy bright strings and often play really hard. (But sometimes crybaby sensitive finger-picking stuff too.) I would consider getting a new guitar but really I'm waiting for the auto-tuning robot guitar system to make its way to the acoustic world first.
PS #2. I'm uncharacteristically up at 7:00am on Saturday so as to run in the Regent Square "Run Around The Square" 5K. It's at 9. I haven't been taking this nearly as seriously as the marathon, but my publicly stated goal is to run this thing under 20 minutes, even if I puke. You may ridicule me if I do not succeed.
Okay, time for our bi-monthly Pac Tom project update. This summer has been very productive for pac-running, mainly because of the long daylight hours, free weekends, and need for introspective time. That's even given the marathon training and now the Great Race training, which mostly consists of running the same course over and over every day. (The upshot is that being in good shape means that on those weekends I can go a lot farther, and since my Pac-efficiency is dominated by the amount of the graph that I can cover once I get out to some distant neighborhood, being able to run twice as far in one go means much more than a 2x improvement in Pac-coverage. I mean if six of my ten miles are just getting to the neighborhood and back, then if I add another ten miles, all ten of those can be used to cover the streets in that 'hood.) Progress update below but first some recent running tales.
Last weekend when I got back from California I must have still smelled like San Francisco or something because I was offered the opportunity to buy drugs by this not-drug-dealer-looking middle-aged woman. I think it is pretty weird, because she was just sitting at a bus stop and then I run by and I don't think I'm like exuding "hey, sell me some pills," and also if her biz is based on waiting for people to jog by this bus stop with cash, she is probably going to not be doing a lot of volume because I would not be surprised if I'm the only person to have run that particular street in 50 years. Anyway she's like, "Excuse me," in a whisper, "Do you know anybody that needs some Vicodins®?" Vicodins® plural, which is not how I'd say it. Normally I like to answer solicitations in very genuinely polite but confusing ways, to decline in a totally new style with no easy retort on the person's solicitation flowchart (to use a Chess metaphor, I like to get "out of book" as quickly as possible) because that is more or less pleasant for both of us and funny to me. For example, when the other lady on the phone is trying to sell me the Caller ID feature, I tell her as genuinely as I can, "I like the uncertainty of not knowing who's calling," and how can she argue with that? I'd like to have provided a similarly confusing answer but really, she had me out of book on the first move, so I was just like, "Uhhh, sorry!". And this wouldn't even be that remarkable (even though it's the first time I was ever offered drugs by a stranger in Pittsburgh) except that less than an hour later on the same trip but in a different neighborhood some kids ask me when I run past, "Do you have any marijuana?" And I'm like whaaa? To be truthful I think these kids were just making fun of me, which is pretty common when I am running in places where I am out of context and I am totally okay with that, but I don't really know why that would occur to them or in what sense that was making fun of me. Some cut-elimination or market-optimization part of me thinks I should have pointed the kids in the direction of the Vicodins® lady to solve two problems. (Once I saw a funny thing in the classifieds section, which might have even been some weird art-joke, which was two adjacent ads, one being a Want-To-Buy ad and the other being a For-Sale ad, both for the same object, described in an unusually and apparently fortuitously similar way. I wish I had saved that.) But I don't really believe in the free market or getting drugs in the hands of kids. Also I feel compelled for some reason to remind readers that I do not do drugs unless you count beer and coffee, which maybe you should count, but I would not use the word "do" for those. Once Percocets® by prescription for the wisdom teeth.
Yesterday I ran 18 miles in Homewood to try to finish it off, with a carefully prepared map and everything. It (the temperature) was hot. When I was finishing up I was super thirsty and I remembered that my favorite Pittsburgh beer-brewery, East End Brewing Co. was having its "Growler hours" at that very time, which hours are a way of selling their beer in jugs in an atmosphere that is almost pub-like without requiring a liquor license or drink-tax liability. And that brewery happens to be in Homewood. So even though I was sweaty-gross and only had three emergency dollars, I figured I'd never be running through this neck again especially during 'hours and boy was I thirsty, so I'd pop in and see if they'd be willing to sell me a non-jug-sized "sample" for those three bucks. I told them my deal and the dudes were like, sorry, but you cannot buy samples because they are free. But it was explicitly cool with them to get several samples even though I was very clear that I was not buying a growler just then (though I drink these dudes's beer all the time so I don't know why I felt like I was scamming them or something and I left my three emergency dollars as a tip), so that was awesome of them and man does cold beer taste good after one runs 16 miles in the sun. The two miles after that are a little bit jostly in the stomach though, I mean because of the CO2. I don't know how the Hash House Harriers people do it. So but when I got back I checked my work and I was happy that I had found all the little side streets and dead ends and had covered them, and as I was about to mark this neighborhood off as done, I saw this gaping, glaring section missing from one of the main thoroughfares through the neighborhood, which I guess I missed because Google Earth colors such majorer roads in as yellow instead of white. Whatever. That sucks, so today I made another ten mile trip out there to get that segment, and also to finish up Point Breeze North while I was at it because it sucks to make a long trip for just three blocks, even if I'm kinda beat.
The name of the game these days is making a serious concerted effort to finish off neighborhoods for good. I can typically finish off one or two neighborhoods each trip. You can see from the blackened areas which neighborhoods I've finished completely; relative to last time this number is greatly increased. 19 neighborhoods remain in the target area, so probably no more than 19 long trips left. I'm a little sad to be done with some of these places and to probably not have occasion to go back, but oh well. Exploring new places is better. Numerology:
Since the beginning of time, 476 distinct running events. (This includes everything, races, training, Pac Tomfoolery) Total time running: 11 days, 14h53m13s. Total distance run: 2020.096. Finally broke the 2 kilomile barrier!
I wrote it over the course of several evenings. I almost never spend more than a continuous stretch of an hour or two on one song, especially not these piano roll ditties. This one took many hours. I made myself continue. It's not my favorite way to make music, because I inevitably end up getting sick of the song in the process of working on it—which I think can't help but manifest itself in the music—but sometimes it's still a good idea.
I concentrated more than usual on texture, almost sacrificing melody at its expense. You can see from the screenshot that there is a craplot of stuff going on. IMO the best compromise of texture and tune I ever got was with Theme from jlw, but this one has more complexity with layers of phase-interfering square waves and noise-shaped drums, etc.
It's over five minutes long! Maybe that's not weird for most music, but the vast majority of T7ES songs comprise a single idea in the 0:30–1:30 range. If you graph the length of the most recent T7ES tunes, being Theme from The Goog at 2:41, Conditional Independence Day at 3:21, and this rt2i at 5:25, it suggests a kind of disturbing trend. It's true that the song repeats once (important to demonstrate its incessancy and therefore qualify it as video game music), but that is weirdly long for me. I really like best the idea of short songs, but it is also an interesting challenge to try to make several ideas work in the same song, and to exercise some kind of compositional pace.
I learned some new tricks. One is the truncated measure. You can hear this at the very beginning of the song: It's like, surprise! I do this three times in the loop, where I suggest continuance but then abruptly change to some other big noise. Another trick: I copy a few lines from various places in the song into other parts even if the character is different, then manipulate them to make them fit. This is a good way to make the song feel like a single song, especially if there are abrupt surprise changes. Other trick: There's a natural tendency for really thick shit to just keep getting thicker; the only cure for this really is an abrupt sucking emptiness, where the raw lack of notes creates itself a kind of intensity.
Only time will tell what I really think, but for the time being I'm pretty happy with it. Times span 4/4, 25/4 10/4, and 15/4. Of course I know that 25/4 isn't really 25/4 in the music sense; that's just the macro-level periodicity. That phrase is really something like 4/4 4/4 4/4 3/4 6/4 4/4.
So, this morning I got up at 4:30, made coffee, and biked 3 miles to downtown on a funny folding bike (courtesy Jake) to run the San Francisco marathon. This was my first marathon. I've been "training" for it for about 2 months, which for me means running a hard 4 hilly miles every day, or a semi-gentle longer (10–15-ish) one on the weekend. I was also trying to watch my calorie intake, which is much harder than running every day, it turns out. Anyway training is boring and over. Let's not talk about that. I was a little worried about running in this race because I had never run that far before (the previous farthest was a very painful 22 miles with a number of pain-increasing circumstances), and I was worried that it would be really physically hard (particulary as respects "The Wall"). I was even more worried about injury, particularly to my right knee which has a chronic pain issue at distance and had been acting up this past week. (I think that I get these pains psychosomatically to some degree when I know I'm about to do something intense, like I actually think my body is inventing pain to try to discourage me from doing it because it usually goes away after I tell it Shut Up and run for a few miles.) Even though I did a half-marathon in like 1:40 or so, and I'm much better than I was then, I had my expectations set pretty low (it turns out, stupidly low) for this race: I said to myself and those who asked that I would be happy with 3h45m and disappointed if I didn't come in under 4 hours. My sights were stupidly low because I finished in 3h23m04s, which is approximately the 90–95th percentile (depending who you count)! And I definitely could have done better. Here's what happened. I was a little late to the start line because the biking was slower than I thought and the chaining of the bike was a more complex knotting and folding problem than I thought, and the lines for the porto-potties were a lot longer and slower than I thought, so I ended up starting with the 4h–4h15m wave, which is even a slower pace than I thought I wanted, and is definitely a lot slower than I now know I want. And that's fine because it's actually pretty fun and encouraging to be passing people the whole time, and you get better cheering when you do so, as long as there is enough room to be passing people safely and non-obnoxiously. And so I was carefully running a 7:55/mi pace which felt sluggish but I thought it was the right thing because I didn't want to feel shitty later when I got to the last 10 miles. Then we got to the Golden Gate Bridge. This is almost certainly the most beautiful part of the course. They blocked off two traffic lanes for us; one out and one back. But the lanes are pretty narrow and there was no out-of-band sidewalk option, so I kept getting stuck behind some people who were running side-by-side and I couldn't get around them, not even if I was signaling and dashing to the other side of the lane, because over there were some other more people bunched up. I can't even blame them because they were all moseying along at the same pace that was appropriate for the wave they started in because they are more punctual than me. But this was really fucking annoying because 7:55 felt slow already and 9:15 or whatever was really slow. So when I finally finished this bridge part, which is about mile 11, and I was not feeling basically any fatigue and I was feeling this annoyance of not having been able to go as fast as I had wanted, and finally there was room to run around people, I really opened it up and that felt great. My knee was hurting and then later my foot, but I ignored it and it eventually went away. I ran the rest of the race at what I would guess was an average pace of 7:00 or so. I could have pushed harder there, but it didn't feel sluggish at least and I was still a bit worried about body changes at mile 20ish, so I was content to continue and get a much better time than I had thought. I'm honestly a little disappointed that it wasn't harder. It didn't feel bad or hard at all until mile 22, even, and then I only had to check my watch to push a little to keep up the 7:00 pace. Only at mile 24.5 did I turn to someone else and go, "This sucks!" and at that point you can hardly complain. So I am certainly happy with my time and I'm definitely happy with being able to run continuously (ok, with one bathroom break) for that long although I feel a bit like a chump for underestimating myself. If I had just pushed a smidge harder from the beginning I could have almost certainly qualified for Boston (3h10m), which I had previously thought was like a life-long goal of mine but now I think I should just do the next time I make marathon.
Here are some things that worked out well:
The bike was a good way to get down there. At 5:20 there is nobody on the road. I didn't have to deal with any parking nonsense.
Arriving in SF yesterday with EDT jet lag made it much easier to get up at 4:30.
I "carbo loaded" on Friday and Saturday and this seems to have worked? On Saturday with dinner I had 3 beers of light strength. This is a personal racing trick. They contain carbs too, and make it easier to relax and get a good night's sleep, as long as you don't get dehydrated. I think I did the right thing drinking at the water stations and having power-gel at mile 18 because I didn't have any wall problems that I could detect.
Red Laces worked out great. Thank you blog-readers for putting me at ease about this choice. I was scared at mile 8 when the knee pain came, but it went away. I also have this chronic under-nail blister that I think is going to result in one of my toenails falling off (gross) but I don't think that is a shoe issue but a weird toe angles issue.
The clothes were right. This was a concern for me because San Francisco has such weirdo temperatures and micro-climates. I wore shorts, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat. In the early morning and on the bridge the long-sleeves were good. Then I ditched that layer and ran the next 8 miles with the t-shirt, then I ditched the t-shirt and ran the rest in just the shorts. I held onto the hat, because it is light and it's something to wipe up sweat with. Not carrying stuff (including clothes on your body) does make a noticeable difference. I could have ditched earlier, but I'm glad I had the long sleeves for the bridge.
I ran hard on the downhills. This is a good place to make up time, and it is especially fun because you get good cheers when you are conspicuously pushing hard. I think the concern is acute injury, but I have a lot of practice from Pittsburgh hills.
Here are some mistakes:
As mentioned, the worst thing was being super wrong about the pace I'd be able to keep up. Embarrassing. Even if I had known the actual time to qualify for Boston (I thought it was 3h30m) I could have pushed harder in the second half and probably gotten it, once I realized. Well, there are lots of marathons. I will try again.
In training, I should have started calorie restriction later, since I was at my minimum weight last weekend, not this one. And that process is not fun.
I wrote a crazy-long and boring blog post about it. Seriously, a lot of people have been telling me that they want to hear "all about it", etc., so I hope those people are happy, and regular readers who like to read about interesting things and projects are simply not reading this far.
I knew that I was planning on ditching both shirts, so I definitely should have left a backup shirt with the bike. That was dumb. It is cold when you are not running. They had these mylar blankets that they were giving out as some kind of weird robot/superhero swag, so what I did was to tie that around my naked upper body and then punch holes through it for my arms, which looked absolutely ridiculous. Biking down was a great warmup, but the bike trip back uphill in the cold and looking ridiculous after running that far actually rather sucked. It was a little disturbing how few comments/looks I got, which I guess speaks to San Francisco's level of weird-tolerance in general.
Finally, some observations:
San Francisco is famously hilly, of course (though not as hilly as Pittsburgh, in my opinion). The marathon route is amusingly flat, however. The biggest hill is the one going up to the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn't really that bad. Like when I was running in Portland, I definitely noticed the locals (at least I assume they were predominantly locals) suffering substantially on hills. I just thought this was funny in Portland, but I was disappointed with the San Franciscans, who I feel should be representin' the local terrain. The Pittsburgh marathon, which is coming back in 2009 and does not go out of its way to be flat despite the naturally hilly terrain, will be interesting for this reason. In my opinion we should actually craft the course to be maximally brutal, which, coupled with Pittsburgh's unpredictable weather and poor air quality, could help us get a reputation as one of the most abusive US marathons. Because we ought to excel along at least one dimension, right?
I like trains a lot.
It is weird and I don't understand why I saw so many people running on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the marathon. What are they doing?
It is weird and scary when I see someone running like this:
Scary not just because I don't have my regular drawing tools with me and so I have to draw this awkward animation on this crappy mac trackpad, but scary because I think if I ran 400m with this kicking the heels out to the side style—let alone 26.2 miles!—I would ruin my knees forever. I saw at least 4 women running this way. I think that they have bad friends.
OK: I apologize for this post. Do not unsubscribe. I promise the next will either be short, or be about an interesting project, or written in an amusing style. Right now I am too wiped out to do any of those.