Tag Archives: Pro HDR

Race to Stop the Silence 8K: Race Recap

26 Apr

Lace them up for another race

Anyone who has seen Drunk History’s take on the Edison-Tesla rivalry knows the best line from the spoof outside of “I’m inventing electricity… and you look like an asshole” is the following:

“This is hell. I’m in hell.”

This was the line I kept thinking about while shattering my 8K PR on Saturday morning in the Race to Stop the Silence 8K in downtown DC.

Positive thinking?  I’ll leave that for the yogis and New Ageists.

I’m Jewish.  I thrive on complaining.

So as my legs burned and my lungs heaved as I ran to break the 40-minute mark, that line was the only thing I thought about.  This is hell.  I’m in hell.

Because holy fuck balls, people.  It was hell.

Am I running a race in the 1920s?

I signed up for the race specifically because I love the 8K distance.  You run faster than you would at a 10K but without the lactic acid-burning horror show of a 5K.

My goal was break my previous PR — 41:32.  My secret goal, though, was to break 40 minutes, a lofty target I came up with shortly after running a 48:54 in the Marine Corps 10K in 2009, when I piggybacked my friend Heather’s jackrabbit pace and smashed a PR I still consider unbreakable.

But over the past few months, with knee injuries slowing me down and speed becoming a rarer and rarer feature of my running, the idea of ever breaking any PR started to creep in.  Maybe, I wondered, my fastest races were behind me.

Forget my opinion.  Let’s consider the facts:

Through the end of 2009, when running a race in which I had an opportunity to PR, I did so 9 out of 16 times.  This means I PR’d in more than 56% of the races I ran.

Since then, though, I have PR’d in only 2 out of 12 races I have run, good for a 16.7% PR rate.

In addition, I hadn’t PR’d at any major race distance since my last 8K, which was in May 2010.

Now I know that the law of diminishing returns dictates that of course I would PR less often over time.  Still, I didn’t think I had hit my ceiling so soon.

Race photographers could learn a thing or two from Epod

I woke up Saturday morning feeling good.  Epod and I biked down to Freedom Plaza with plenty of time for me to pick up my bib and packet.

With only about 600 people running the 8K, the race had a “small town feel” to it, which was great.  I was able to line up close to the starting line and only took me 12 seconds to go through after the proverbial gun went off.

Now, the course was a bit of a clusterfuck.  Though we were running southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue from 13th Street, we veered down and back up three streets before even getting to the 3rd Street turn.  If you had seen us from above, we resembled a saw.

This caused some groaning due to so many tight turns.  Still, I found myself running the first mile in the 7:30s and though I told myself I was going too fast and I might blow up, I felt strong so I allowed myself to keep going.

My usual game plan in any race is simple:  negative splits.  But as this race went on and I realized I was going faster than planned and the loop back would be slightly uphill, I threw the original plan out the window and came up with a new one, the Steve Prefontaine plan:  run like hell and hang on for dear life.  Which is what I did.

I tried to break the race into manageable thirds, starting out fast for the first third, cruising and conserving energy for the middle third, and then throwing caution out the window for the final third.  By the time I was in the final third, though, I was in serious pain.

But it wasn’t unmanageable pain.  It was all-out effort pain, which is what you need to go through sometimes when racing for a PR.  I kept chugging and chugging and was so happy to see Epod in the final stretch yelling my name but was too tired to even muster a head nod.

In fact, I didn’t even look at my watch to see if the elusive under-40 goal was in sight.  I just…ran.

When I crossed the finish line, I caught my breath and looked at my Garmin.  I couldn’t believe it.

This is hell. I'm in hell.

Epod came running over, knowing I had beat my PR.  She threw her arms around me and told me how proud she was of me.  I couldn’t even spare one second, I told her, trying to explain the situation while panting.

My splits looked like this:

Mile 1:  7:27

Mile 2:  7:59

Mile 3:  8:14

Mile 4:  8:10

Mile 5:  7:55

And the final 0.04 mile sprint to the finish line:  13 seconds, a 5:25 pace.

Now I know I still can break PRs once in a while.  Even if it means going through hell.

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Running like a tourist

21 Apr

Great DC memorial? Or greatest DC memorial?

There is a school of thought that scoffs at the notion that we can ever photograph a moment as it really was. We crop, frame, eliminate, and choose what we decide to photograph, in a way robbing the viewer of what we were truly experiencing.

I think about this whenever I see them.  You know…tourists.  They descend on Washington, DC — my city — pretty much all the time, but especially in beautiful weather.  Clamoring around the White House gate, standing on the left of Metro escalators (DC’s most tired cliche, FYI), and practically camping on my favorite site — the Lincoln Memorial.

Most people try to photograph DC’s monuments and memorials as if other people weren’t there.  We search futily for that unobstructed view, wishing people would just. fucking. move.

I know I do this.

South side of Lincoln Memorial

But tourists are part of the scenery.  Whether I’m running on the Mall or photographing what I see or doing both — like I did on Tuesday, a perfect evening for running — they are unavoidable.

Of course, there are still ways to find new viewpoints of the same old shots.

After coming up on Lincoln, I battled past tourists for a while before deciding to take some detailed shots of the columns and the shadows on the walls.  It forced me to find a new perspective of the memorial, perspectives that I don’t usually try to notice.

Meanwhile, I was having a great run, just one of those perfect spring runs where you feel like you can go longer than you had planned.

So I did.

I ran 7.1 miles in total, running to the Mall and then around Lincoln and then back up Rock Creek Parkway.  I ran at what felt like a comfortable pace but everytime I looked down at my Garmin, I was pacing in the 8:50s, much faster than an easy or long run should be for me.

But I went with it.  By the time I got home, I had clocked 1:04:44, a blistering (for a long run) 9:08 pace.

I guess I should visit Lincoln and his admirers more often.

Friday night race, Shmiday night race

18 Apr

I was supposed to race a 5K last Friday evening with Epod and MJ.  The Crystal Run 5K Friday series, where they host 5 consecutive races on 5 consecutive Fridays.

Unfortunately, the traffic gods (none of which are benevolent) saw fit to keep me from the event.  Even though I left work at 4pm, I was stuck on the highways and streets for 2.5 hours, unable to get to Arlington for the race.

Listening to This American Life podcasts calmed me down enough (mostly) and helped me not yell (too much) at the other drivers.  But after crawling along at a snail’s pace for miles and miles, I realized I wouldn’t make the race and called Epod to break the news.

Still, I had to run.

Running east on the Calvert Street Bridge

When I got home, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and headed out on a run.  I wanted to do something different, run somewhere new.  In a city where I feel I have seen nearly every inch of running terrain, this can prove difficult sometimes.

So I headed down to Rock Creek but veered off the beaten path and into the woods.  I ran along the dirt path, behind Oak Hill Cemetery, up hills I had never been on and jumping over ground I had never seen.  I ran up to Wisconsin Avenue and then down Reservoir Road, skipping along new streets and sidewalks.

It was exactly what I needed.

Rock Creek Park

I also decided to take a new photo app for a spin:  Pro HDR.

Camera+ — my replacement camera app — has a really good HDR filter.  But I wanted to see the difference using an app designed exclusively to capture high-dynamic photos.

The app works by taking one shot in low light and one in high light and then merging the two images together.  This requires the photographer to be absolutely still for a few seconds, a difficult prospect for runography since I’m usually moving when I take photos.

This requirement, though, was a blessing in disguise since it forced me to look for good shots.  It took away the spontaneity of shooting from the hip and made me really keep an eye out for attractive scenes.  Throughout my run, I was wholly conscious of everything I looked at, which made me enjoy the run actively rather than passively.

Rock Creek

The results were surprisingly outstanding.  The photos were vivid and full of light.

After taking the shots, I processed them through Camera+ anyway, but only to take advantage of the app’s new Clarity feature, which renders HDR shots even more dramatically.

I ran a little more than 4 miles on Friday, with a lot of stops to take some shots.  And while I still wish I had raced Crystal City, I at least remembered the benefits of stopping once in a while to take it all in.

Dumbarton Bridge overlooking Rock Creek Parkway

Rock Creek Parkway seen from Calvert Street Bridge