Tag Archives: Pacers

Finding a sense of community

I’ve always embraced the solo nature of running. I love being able to head out for a long run to clear my head, loosen my muscles and enjoy some peace and quiet. I’ve never understood runners who do it for the sense of community — until now.

After a fun, chatty run with two Pacers friends last night, we all headed to Eggspectation in downtown Silver Spring for a late-night happy hour. The restaurant gave us happy-hour prices on drinks, and let a group of almost 20 sweaty, red-faced runners occupy its back room for a couple hours.

It was SO much fun. I talked to a 5-minute miler training for the Boston Marathon; a 10-minute miler who ran 5 miles to work yesterday; and a group of runners planning to do one of those crazy all-night, 178-mile running relays from Upstate New York to the Bronx (click here to check out the Ragnar Relay series); a former college runner who had a pulmonary embolism last fall who’s planning to run the National Marathon March 21 (you KNOW I’ll be thinking of her when I get tired in the half). I also saw a running friend who’s been injured, who came just to enjoy the feeling of being in a community of runners. Which now, I TOTALLY get.

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A fast, cold run provides an ego boost

I had a fabulous run last night with Pacers. We did the hill route that haunted me in my first weeks in Maryland, and it was hard in the best way possible.

Only a handful of runners showed up on account of the blistering cold. It was chilly — something like 20 degrees when we left —but nowhere nearly as bad as I expected. Since there were so few of us, we decided to all go out in the same amorphous pace group. I knew ahead of time I was one of the slower runners in attendance, but all the speedsters in the group seemed content to just chat and take it easy.

About a third of the way through the run, it occurred to me that the majority of the runners had fallen back behind me and two fast dudes I had no business running with. Then, one of the fast dudes fell behind, leaving me and my new friend, Marco, who seemed to barely be out of breath as we chugged up the rolling hills.

As it turns out, Marco is also training for the race on March 21. He’s doing the full marathon, and is attempting to beat his previous time of 3:30. Despite being clearly out of my league, he waited patiently as my gasping, expectorating self caught up to him, and carried me through what proved to be a few very fast miles for me. We finished the 5.39-mile route in 43 minutes — about 8-minute miles (and did I mention it was hilly?). I left Pacers feeling like I’d just won the Boston Marathon.

In other news: My fear of commitment has led me to miss yet another race opportunity. I’d hoped to run the Run to Register 10K to get my spot in the Marine Corps Marathon a couple days early. Registration for the Run to Register 10K is closed, leaving me stuck duking it out with the writhing masses online the morning of April 1. (Sigh). But I took it as a lesson and officially threw my hat in the ring for the George Washington Parkway 10-miler in April.

Finally, just wanted to pass along a tool suggested by my friend Kaveh. It’s the McMillan Running pace calculator, and you can use it to figure out a goal time for a new distance based on your time for a past race. I’ve used a less comprehensive version (see the link on the right side of this page) to set unrealistic goal times and to waste hours online. I’ve also used it to stretch my brain to accommodate exciting new goals after a good race — say, to set a more ambitious half-marathon goal after a solid 10K performance.

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Floridiots on the run

Anyone who’s run road races on a regular basis and seen the same names weekend after weekend knows the running community is very small indeed.

Tonight, I was struck by just what a small world it is while running with a few new friends at Pacers.

Steve and I headed out in our own pace group (regular blog readers will know that this might be for the best), but ended up running with a nice dude named Pete who claimed to be just as bad at pacing as we are and a girl who wore headphones. I chatted with Pete for a while before realizing we’d both recently moved back to the area. He’d spent time in Colorado (so did we!), and in Florida (no … freaking … way!), so we spent a good portion of the run touting the benefits of living in a cultural mecca that has seasons after a few years in the tropics. We talked about how nice it is to be living in what feels like the center of the world these days, and about how crappy it is readjusting to winter weather (though it was a downright balmy 40-odd degrees today … how quickly we Floridiots forget what real winter weather is like!).

Our headphoned friend got into the conversation near the end of the run. She was relatively new to Pacers, she said, and just moved back to the area.

“Where from?” Pete asked.

“Fort Myers,” she said. “How about you?”

A small world indeed.

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Yes we can run to the inauguration!

For weeks, Washington officials have warned residents that roads and bridges into the city would be closed and Metro trains and buses would be packed. They said those wanting to travel into the city to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States should be prepared for gridlock, long security lines and a lot of hassle.

But we only live about seven miles from the Capitol, giving us no excuse not to find SOME way to get downtown.

Our preferred mode of transportation? Running, of course.

We met our group from Pacers, which usually gathers at 7 p.m. for a Tuesday night run, at 10 a.m. in Silver Spring for the 7.1-run to the Capitol. Inaugural excitement was palpable before our group of ten even left Silver Spring. Throngs of people wearing Obama buttons, hats and T-shirts filed into the Silver Spring Metro station. American flags fluttered from front porches. On Georgia Avenue, we saw a dude dressed like Uncle Sam.

The fun continued after we crossed the Maryland-D.C. line on 16th Street. Inaugural banners hung from homes and businesses (including the puzzling “Labradoodles for Obama.” Really?). We started to see others walking and biking into the city, and we exchanged waves. We ran up and down some rolling hills on 16th Street, yapping as usual about work, the weather and similarly momentous topics.

Suddenly, it seemed, we were at K Street, and the real fun began. Streets were closed to all vehicles but buses and taxis. Armed guards in camouflage uniforms guarded street corners, and armed military vehicles rolled by from time to time. Streetside vendors hawked all manner of Obama souveniers, from hats to framed photos.

Thousands of people flooded toward the Capitol, where security lines were exactly as long as predicted. We saw mothers pushing babies in carriages covered in fleece blankets (Washington saw a high of 30 degrees today). We saw members of a local church offering freezing visitors free hot coffee, and a spot indoors to warm up and watch the ceremonies. We saw a high-school marching band in bright blue jogging suits carrying signs that said “HOPE FOR PEACE.”

Our goal in running to the Capitol wasn’t to see the speech firsthand, or even to get close to it. With 1 to 3 million people expected to crowd the Mall, we had no expectation of being front-and-center. We were like tailgaters without tickets to the game, who set up shop outside a college football stadium to soak in the cheers, the team colors and the festive atmosphere. We wanted to be part of the community of runners trekking downtown, of Washington residents celebrating their city, of Americans celebrating their new president — and their country.

Our running group broke up when we got to the security checkpoints near the White House. Some stayed to try to get closer, while Steve and I headed home on the Metro to watch the ceremonies on TV back home. As the train zoomed by, we saw familiar buildings adorned with new graffiti — images of the new president’s face.

How did you celebrate the inauguration? Let me know by posting a comment below.

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Pacing (or failing to pace) with Pacers

As promised yesterday, last night’s workout was a 5.1-miler with our running group at Pacers, the super-cool running store near our house. Typically, the party gets started around 7 p.m. by a store employee breaking people up into pace groups. The 6-to-7-minute milers head out the door, then the 8-minute milers, then the 9-minute milers, and so on, with several intervals in between.

Week after week, we watch runners of all speeds declare a pace, then proceed to run exactly that pace. To me, it’s like watching people correctly predict tomorrow’s lottery numbers.

See, I can’t pace correctly for my life. My husband and current running buddy, Steve, isn’t much better. We’re great at “pacing ourselves” — i.e., running at a level of difficulty that we can sustain for however long we’re planning to run. It’s not that we’re sprinting out the door and crapping out a mile later. What mystifies us is how people can casually say, “I’m going to do 8:15-minute miles tonight,” then proceed to do exactly that. I set time goals for races, but if I’m being honest, when I see the big digital clocks at the mile markers, my time is always kind of a surprise.

When we first started running with Pacers, a store employee asked what pace we typically run. Steve and I were both silent, waiting for the other person to talk. “Somewhere in the 9-ish range,” I said. “Nine or, you know, 10-ish.” I looked at Steve. “Right?” I said. “Yeah,” he said. “Nine-ish, or 8-ish. Or 10-ish. More like 9-ish.” It took us a few runs in a row of making people sprint through what they’d hoped would be easy workouts, or slowing down people who were banking on hard workouts, before we found our people. As it turns out, the definition of “our people” is each other, and anyone else willing to put up with our crazy, sporadic asses.We usually end up tailing people a bit faster than us and hanging on for dear life (yet another motivator: Running with someone faster than you, then having to stick with them because you don’t know the way home).

We got to Pacers a couple minutes late last night, taking the pace declaration out of the equation. It was a great run, though. We did a new route, and it was pretty fabulous. The goes from Pacers in downtown Silver Spring, down quiet, residential Seminary Road and then past the looming craziness of the National Park Seminary, a complex that includes a Japanese pagoda, an English castle and the remains of a resort hotel. It’s being refurbished and turned into apartments and condos. For now, it’s a nice, if bizarre, diversion at the halfway point of the run. The run also provides a glimpse of the Mormon Temple, my friend from my Rock Creek Trail adventure last week.

Hopefully, Laura Cloher, who devises the Pacers fun-run routes, won’t mind me sharing the Seminary Road route here. Enjoy it — it’s a great run at any pace.

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Partners in crime, part deux

According to the National Weather Service, tonight will be 20 degrees and “blustery.” I feel silly bitching about this since I spent four years bitching about running in the sticky, swampy heat in Florida (in the summer, it’s like trying to breathe through a hot, wet washcloth), but this is NOT my preferred running weather. I have a few resources to help me cope, and I’ll share them here.

First, check out an awesome compilation of Runner’s World stories and tips for cold weather running here. The stories have all been incredibly helpful. The best tip I’ve culled so far: Draw a hot bath before you leave for a short run. It provides double motivation: You’ll look forward to the hot, steamy bath waiting for you at home, and you’ll wanna run quickly to avoid that hot, steamy bath turning lukewarm.

Another tip: Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves, made from some fancy material that actually heats up when you sweat. If you’re a sweaty little dude like me, the effect is truly magical. Our friends at Pacers, our local running store, recommended them a month or so ago, and I’ve been borderline obsessed with them ever since.

Which brings me to my third secret weapon in fighting the cold: Pacers’ “fun runs” on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I get an e-mail with a brand-new running route in the Silver Spring area. We then meet half a dozen (or more in warmer weather) or so runners at the Pacers in downtown Silver Spring, and head out for a great big group run.

In the past, I’ve talked myself out of running with partners because I’m afraid I’ll either slow down my training buddy or vice versa. This is partially because I’m totally spoiled from running with my best friend, Jen, in high school. We were almost exactly the same pace, which was awesome. More importantly, we had run together for so long, we could communicate solely by grunting and spitting (we try to only do this when we run — it can really make things awkward at the dinner table). My only real running partner since then has been my husband. He’s faster than me, which makes even casual runs kind of like tempo runs for me. The key is, I can make him slow down without guilt or shame on account of the fact of us being married.

Pacers has been great in breaking me of my fear of running with new people. We break up into pace groups ranging from the insane 6-7-ish minute miles all the way to 10-11 minute miles. Steve and I usually fall somewhere in between. We’ve met some great people doing it, and it takes SO much of the guesswork out of running. Where should I run? When? With whom? These questions are all answered for me. And since it’s in the evening, I have something to look forward to all day long.

What’s motivating you to get out and train in the cold? Share your tips by posting a comment below.

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