Tag Archives: runography

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

Shake it up

12 Apr

While walking around the palatial grounds of IKEA on Sunday, my legs buckled and I almost fell to the ground.  Twice.

No, it wasn’t IKEA’s naming conventions that startled me — what the hell is an Ektorp Tullsta, anyway?  A forgotten Jedi master?

It was my legs.  My dogs were barking.  And they were telling me to get some rest.

So I took a couple of days off.  Until yesterday. I hit the streets last night and did my White House tour.

The White House tour is a pretty typical weeknight run for me.  I start by heading south on 16th Street or Connecticut Avenue, run in front or behind the White House depending on how much distance I’m in the mood for, and then head back up to Adams Morgan, a solid 4 to 5-miler.

It’s a fun route, too, because of the sheer number of goofy tourists you see, especially on a warm evening like last night.

While I use Camera+ as my default iPhone camera, I decided to challenge myself by only shooting with the Shake It Photo app.  This would require me to be more alert of my surroundings and look for good scenes to photograph rather than rely on editing tricks after the run.

I like Shake It Photo as a photography app; it’s actually one of my favorites.  It creates square, even frames and produces a fairly vivid image without distorting lighting or colors.

For this reason, I think Shake It Photo makes for an ideal portrait photo app.  I never thought to use it for landscapes or snapshots.  Which is why it was fun last night to do something completely different and see if I could create non-portrait photos, to use it in a different way.

The results were encouraging.  So was my run.  Despite doing my first “hot” run of the season, I busted out 4.38 miles at 40:04 (a surprising  — for me — 9:09 pace).

I guess I’m ready to go back to IKEA.


Kayaks and shadows on the Canal

8 Apr

Scott and me running on the C&O canal towpath

I run this planet

7 Apr

Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico

Groundhog Day at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

4 Apr

When I first ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in 2009, I posted a time of 1:29:47.

That race was a pivotal moment for me since, at the time, it was the longest distance I had ever run and the first time I had ever run under a 9-minute pace.

History, it seems, has a way of repeating itself.

After not running it last year, I raced Cherry Blossom again yesterday and posted — yes, you guessed it —  exactly 1:29:47.

What are the odds?

Not one second off from my previous time.  What are the odds that that could happen?  I don’t think I could have hit that if I had tried to match the same time.

I didn’t go into the race thinking I would beat my course PR.  In fact, I had the same attitude I carried into the SunTrust Half last week and just wanted to enjoy myself and not have any ITBS pain.

Epod and I woke up at 5:30 AM and took the Metro down to the Mall.  I felt very excited to run the race again after missing last year’s to go to my best friend’s bachelor party (I gave my bib to a buddy) and had memories of my 2009 race, the run that changed the way I even thought about running.

Epod putting on her bib while we wait for the Metro

Ready to go

That was the race that made me feel like a real runner.  I had such a tremendous runner’s high that lasted days if not weeks that it probably led to my original ITB pain from overuse.  For days, I couldn’t not run.  I was out on the roads every day, pushing too hard, not being smart, and chasing that elusive high.  After a couple of weeks of increased workload, I felt pain in my left knee and realized I had aggravated my IT band.

Many miles later, I learned my lesson.  And yesterday was my reward.

I ran the beginning of the race extra slow, pacing the first 2 miles in a very easy 20:15.  Epod and I ran together for the most part, chatting and doing some fun people-watching.

Outta my way!


But after crossing back into DC on the Memorial Bridge, I felt great and pushed my speed into the low 8:20s and 8:30s over the next 7 miles.

As each mile came and went, I knew I had a shot at beating my course PR and decided if I was pain-free and felt good, I would go for it.

View of Memorial Bridge and Lincoln Memorial from Arlington

Cherry Blossoms at Hains Point

At mile 9, I looked at my Garmin and realized I would have to run exactly an 8-minute mile to match 1:29:47.  I knew I had the energy to try but if there was anything that would stop me, it would be the packed course.  I had been dodging runners left and right throughout the entire race and in the last stretch, it wasn’t showing any signs of thinning.Still, I buckled down and got to work.  My side was hurting and my legs were sore from the faster-than-expected turnover, but I told myself that if I didn’t try as hard as I could, I would be pissed at myself.  Just try, I told myself, and who cares what the clock says.

Chasing shadows

The last mile of the Cherry Blossom race course is lined with thousands of supporters, many with great signs (“You think this is hard, try dating ME”) and doling out high-fives and words of encouragement.  I busted ass up the hill and when I saw the finish line banner, I sprinted with everything I had.

I barreled that last mile in 8:05, plus the final .11 on my Garmin at a 6:40 pace.  I literally could not have run any faster.

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and gasped for breath.  I walked a few steps after steadying myself and looked down at my watch.  1:29:49.  Two seconds? I thought.  I missed it by two seconds?

I would find out later, obviously, that my Garmin was off by those two seconds in my favor.  But at the time, all I could do was smile and shake my head.  I tried the hardest I could and made it close, so I was satisfied.

CB race medal

I picked up some water, a banana, a muffin, and my medal and met Epod by the Washington Monument.  We took some photos and shared stories of our respective race experiences (she also killed it, beating her course PR) before getting cold and going home.

Starting to freeze our asses off

After realizing I had matched my 2009 time, I thought about how I could have beat my course PR if I had just run one second faster.  By the same token, though, I also realized I could have missed my course PR if I had run one second slower.

Maybe next year, I’ll go for three in a row.

Long run and a Double-Double with fries

11 Mar

Even though I took two calls during the run from my parents (hey, someone’s got to play point man to my cousin’s wedding), Epod and I had a great run along a “jogging trail” while in Santa Clara this morning.  Had some knee pain at the end, but knocked out a nice-and-easy 8.62 miles in 1:29:24.

Look at my hair!

This was followed, of course, by a Double-Double with fries at In-n-Out!


Spartacus Fartacus

7 Mar

When my friend Ryan invited me to try a new cardio/lifting routine called Spartacus, I took one look at the 40-seconds-on/20-seconds-off program and scoffed at him, “I don’t need cardio, I run.”

But after he further explained how it worked and I looked at some of the actual exercises (“stations”), I decided to give it a try.  Ryan even offered to do the circuits with me so we met tonight at his gym for what I expected would be an easy workout day.

To complement this “easy” day, I decided to run a few miles, just to make sure I got a decent workout.  I went for a recovery run (after Saturday’s 11-miler) through Rock Creek Park and around Woodley Park, which had more hills than expected.

I got to Ryan’s place and we went to the gym to start.  He demonstrated each station and told me there wouldn’t be time to explain it while we were doing them.  Whatever. We would do two circuits with four run-throughs of five stations each, he explained.  Forty seconds per station, followed by 20 seconds of rest.  Mentally, I broke it down to a sports analogy, visualizing it as a double-header with four quarters each game.

Piece of cake.

We finally started Spartacus Fartacus, as I kept calling it with mild disdain, and I felt it was pretty easy.  I barely felt anything, really.

After a few stations, though, I started to work up a bit of a sweat.  Still, I credited it to my pre-workout run.

But after a few more stations, I wanted to vomit.

Each exercise felt more and more brutal and Ryan’s enthusiasm and encouragement just felt like sinister mocking.  He’s pure evil, I thought.  I kept sweating, cursing, and counting down the minutes until I could stop.

But no matter how hard it got, I thought, THIS is what I needed.  A good, solid workout.

Forty-five minutes later, we completed Sparatcus, sweatier than ever and panting like I had just run a 5K.

You can bet I’ll be doing it again.  Only this time, with a bit more humility.

This run goes up to 11

5 Mar

I woke up naturally at the obscene time of 7am today.  Who does that?

The good news was that I had plenty of time this morning to eat breakfast — scrambled eggs and waffles with peanut butter — and get some quality putzing-around time.

By 10am, though, I was out the door, emboldened by a foam roller that did NOT shred my leg off my pelvic bone, for a planned 10 miles.

NOT scary...but brutal

I ran down Florida Ave. to Georgetown, where I hit the Exorcist steps (which are not scary at ALL in the daytime, by the way) and Georgetown Running Company for some water.  The day was much warmer than expected and my winter cap and gloves felt superfluous as I sweat through the first few miles.

After crossing on Key Bridge and running up the Mount Vernon trail, I started to feel better and settled in to a good pace.  I was running much faster than I should have been for a long run, but I felt great so I figured I’d keep going at a pace that sometimes hit sub-9:00s.

I crossed back into DC and ran around Lincoln Memorial, where I discovered that the Reflecting Pool was, well, not.  Instead, it was a dry strip of mud, presumably under construction so more tourists could enact that scene from Forest Gump and get arrested by Park Police. I ran under the canopy of trees and took a few photos of runners and tourists. I ended up taking this shot of a guy with an awesome mustache who was shuffling toward me.

I slapped California and DC at the WWII Memorial (of course) and ran to the Capitol. I realized I was running more distance than I had mapped out but I felt pretty good, and after around 6.5 miles I felt great.  So weird that it takes me an hour to get that feeling now.

I saw some cameras mounted on a presidential-looking limo action on Penn Ave and asked someone what they were filming.  He said they were working on a new HBO show called Veep with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.  Being the ultra-cool LA biy that I am, I was totally ok and did NOT stick around for 15 minutes hoping to see her.  No, wait, I did.

I slogged back up 16th, pretty tired but happy to go that distance without any ITB pain. I got home at exactly 11 miles, iced my knee, drank a chocolate milk, and ate two microwave burritos.  What?  Don’t judge me, they’re de-fucking-licious.