A Year in Running 2013

Once again, I chronicle my year in running. I ran in 7 events this year, some repeats, some new. This was a fast year with lots of good new personal records (PR’s).

2012 Go! St. Louis Halloween 10K

Date: 10/14/2012
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 10K
Time: 1:03:23
Pace: 10:12
This was a good 10K PR. The last 10K I ran was over a year ago. I was in the middle of training for the Rock’n’Roll, so I was pretty well conditioned.

2012 Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

Date: 10/21/2012
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:15:11
Pace: 10:19
This was a great run. I was so pleased with the half marathon PR. I trained hard and it paid off.

2013 Kirkwood-Webster Turkey Day Run

Date: 11/22/2012
Location: Kirkwood and Webster Groves, MO
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 57:46
Pace: 9:38
The only race this year that I did not PR. I was still recovering from the half marathon, so I was just having a fun time burning some calories before Thanksgiving dinner.

2013 Tuffle Shuffle

Date: 2/9/2013
Location: Cottleville, MO
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 35:53
Pace: 8:59
I don’t have a previous 4 mile PR to compare against, but this was my fastest distance pace in a long, long time! It was so cold. And there was a challenge. Runners who finished in front of Cupid would get a bottle of wine. So I was trying to keep up with him. Although I did not beat him, I attribute that challenge and the really cold weather to my fast running.

2013 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run

Date: 3/16/2013
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 46:06
Pace: 9:13
Yes, another PR!

2013 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon

Date: 4/7/2013
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:15:06
Pace: 10:18
OK, not as fast as I’d hoped for, but still a PR by by 13 seconds. My goal was to beat 2:10. The coarse included a “Holy Hill” segment, a 1 mile incline in the middle of the race. I was keeping a good 10 min/mi pace, but that segment just took the wind out of me. So I’m still thrilled that even after that challenge I still beat my PR from October.

2013 Benton Park Reclaiming the 80’s 5K

Date: 6/1/2013
Location: Benton Park, St. Louis, MO
Distance: 5K
Time: 28:18
Pace: 9:07
Not a pace PR, but a 5K PR for me.

October: A Pops Concert, Two Races, and Three Weddings

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything. Been real busy and in a slump all at the same time. I ended a 15 month relationship last month. I am not going to talk about that here. But that is where I’ve been. In the meantime, there were some really great things to write about that I just haven’t gotten to until now.

The afternoon of my breakup, I played a wedding. Not sure if that is technically irony in the Alanis Morissette way, but it was tough nonetheless. It was a beautiful wedding at a resort at St. Albans. We played outside with a gorgeous view of the Meramec River valley at the height of the fall leaf colors.

The next week, the St. Louis Philharmonic had a great concert on October 19 starring Mario Frangoulis, tenor from Greece. We performed at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL with guest artists artists Deborah Myers, soprano from London, and George Perris, tenor from New York. I do enjoy pops concerts. But we are ready to do Brahms and we are in full rehearsal now for our concert on Friday, November 19. We are doing Brahms Symphony #4, Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet, and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Are you going to be there?

October also included two races. First the 2012 Go! Halloween 10K on October 14th. This was downtown and went through Soulard. I ran this run with my friend Audra and completed it in 63:23 minutes, a full 10 minutes off my 10K PR from a year ago.
The 10K was a good pacing run for the race I did the next week, the 2012 St. Louis Rock & Roll Half Marathon on October 21. This is my third half marathon and the second time running this particular race. It was so awesome, really. We started running at around 7:30. The sun was just starting to come up behind the arch. I finished this one in 2:15:11 – a full 18 minutes off my half marathon PR. All I can say is that all the running and speed work really paid off. I am really proud of myself for that accomplishment.

The half marathon weekend was pretty crazy for me. It started with the Philharmonic concert on Friday, two wedding gigs on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday. The weddings were in Sunset Hills and the City Museum. I ended up driving downtown three separate times that weekend. By the time I got home Sunday, I was ready to just sit down and Netflix. My recovery included two grilled pork steaks, some beer, and a Walking Dead bender. It was a great time.

Breaking up was hard. But at least I had lots of activities to keep me busy. Plus, I lost 10 pounds from all the running! Oh, my other accomplishment for October was that I finally replaced my garage door opener which has been broken for 4 1/2 years.

Next up: Kirkwood/Webster Turkey Day Run 6 Mile on Thanksgiving morning.

St. Louis Philharmonic Day At The Fox Theatre

St. Louis Philharmonic Edward Jones Concert at the FoxHere’s a slight diversion from my running articles. Last Sunday, I spent the entire day backstage and on stage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Each year, the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra puts on a couple shows at the Fox. The shows are sponsored by Edward Jones who pays for the hall and contributes a sizable donation to the Philharmonic which helps us out tremendously with our operating costs for the season.

We began rehearsal at 10:00 a.m. and then had performances at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. An estimate going around claims that we had over 3,000 in attendance for each show – and we were well received.

We were served a catered lunch in the Fox Club between performances. It is really fun to hang out with friends backstage and see all the history of the theater listening to the live music from the giant four-manual Wurlitzer organ, one of only five of its type ever built1. I’m regretting now not taking more pictures from the theatre. There’s always next year.

This year’s theme was “It’s Showtime”. The performances were opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” and a color guard from the five branches of the military. Along with the patriotic standards, we played various songs and arias from opera to Broadway. Verdi, Puccini, Webber, Ellington, Bernstein, Rodgers, etc. By the end of the day, my bow arm shoulder was all cramped up and I had tunes from musicals ringing in my head for the next couple of days. But let’s face it, I’m kind of a sucker for the “pops” concerts and I had a really great time. My only regret was missing the awesome weather and an opportunity for a long trail run!

(Come to think of it now, I don’t think I’ve ever entered the Fox from the front. I guess I will get that chance when I see Louie C.K. next month.)

Fall Weather Running

Fall RunningThis is the time of year that gets exciting for me. The weather has finally broken and it’s actually comfortable to run outdoors. Indoors is another story. I’m never comfortable running indoors on a treadmill. It’s also that time of year where I start to build up my mileage to support a half marathon in October.

So I’m running  a lot. Which brings up a more somber note. I may be tucking in my bike for the winter. Since I am focusing on running, I won’t have time to do any riding until after October 21. And by then, the time changes, gets darker earlier, and colder. I might be able to sneak one in on the weekends. We’ll see.

With the exception of increased joint point, running in cold is awesome. However, cycling in cold is awful.

My Sunday long run was 9 1/2 miles. When I got back to my car, I felt like I could keep going. Which is good because in a month I will need to go 4 miles farther! However, my shorter, 6 mile run last night was a little tough. The knees didn’t get warmed up until after about 30 minutes.

Oh, and I love my foam roller! My iliotibial band gets really tight and I need to watch that because I’ve had trouble with I.T. band syndrome in the past. I use the foam roller after my runs and on my non-run days. I highly recommend the practice, along with stretching.

So what does the fall season have in store for you?

St. Louis Philharmonic 2012/2013 Season

The temperatures and humidity levels in St. Louis have finally broken and we’re seeing our first sub-80’s days in a long while. The season is changing, and you know what that means? Time to get back in the flow of St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsals and concerts!
It’s going to be a good season, too. I am especially excited to be performing some symphonies by Brahms (#4) and Sibelius (#2) as well as Prokovief’s Romeo and Juliet and Strauss’s Don Quixote as well as so much more excellent works. Our first concert is Friday night, October 19th, at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL featuring Mario Frangoulis.
Be sure to check out the event calendar at the Philharmonic’s web site. I will keep you all posted as the season progresses. Hope to see you there.

Either Do It, Or Don't – No Excuses, No Labels

I was struck by a conversation I had with a friend today. We were discussing the merits of using heart rate monitors during aerobic exercise. I expressed my opinion that I thought heart rate monitors were overrated. That is, we should instead use our own perceived exertion level to gauge how hard we are working out. His response was that his perceived exertion level is passing out and dying because, as he put it, “I am not a runner.”
How often to we limit ourselves with labels? My response to that is we are who we are based not on what we say we are, but by what we do or do not. I not a runner simply because I put on a 5K t-shirt and declare that I am a runner. I started out slowly – very slowly – about four years ago. I think I was doing a 13 to 14 minute mile for 20 to 30 minutes with walk breaks every 2 minutes. Now I can keep a 10 minute mile pace for 45 minutes with walk breaks every 12 minutes. I’m still slow – but I’m consistent.
This makes me think of Yoda. Yes, Yoda. In Empire Strikes Back, Luke crashes his x-wing in the marshes of Degobah. An x-wing is a big spacecraft. About as big as modern day jet fighter. Yoda encourages Luke to lift the x-wing out of the marsh using only the Force. Luke says, in a rather self-defeating tone, “I’ll try.” But Yoda rebukes him by saying, “There is no try. Only do or do not.” So Luke gives it a go, but fails. Feeling like a failure, and giving up on himself, Luke slumps on the ground, completely resigned to stay on Degobah for the rest of his mortal life. Exasperated, Yoda uses the Force and lifts the spacecraft out using only his mind. Amazed, Luke says, “I don’t believe it.” And Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”
Every time I see this scene, I am so moved that I get goose bumps. Because how often in life, when we fail to accomplish an amazing thing, it’s because we never believed we could do it in the first place? And conversely, how often is that we overcome great adversity to accomplish something that required much faith in ourselves?
You see, running, biking, swimming – none of this came easy to me. When I ruptured my Achilles tendon back in 2002, I gave up on myself, started smoking to deal with anxiety, and gained over 20 pounds. I realized in 2009 that that had to change. So I started to make it happen. It was slow and fraught with failure. I didn’t completely quit smoking until 2010. And I didn’t run my first 5K until 2011.

  • If I never believed that I could finally quit smoking, it never would have happened.
  • If I never believed that I could once again run after rupturing my Achilles tendon, it never would have happened.
  • And, if I never believed that I could finish a 13.1 mile race, it never would have happened.

I didn’t just one day declare, “Today, I am a runner!” I had to make it happen. Running a half marathon is grueling and takes a great deal of self motivation. The strength has to come from within. If you don’t believe you can do it, you will quit.
So what are your aspirations? Do you want to be a runner? Or is there something else that you have talked yourself out of because you don’t believe it will ever happen? It’s up to you.

New Year, New Theme, New Commitments

So I spent my birthday today on the couch watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on Netflix and updating my personal web site. This activity was spurred on when I renewed by stevewamsley.com domain name at GoDaddy and I realized that my site had kind of stagnated over the last couple years.
As I was updating the WordPress software and plugins and refreshing the theme, I was thinking about commitments. This little quote came up on the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Facebook page:

“Commitment is doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you” – Darren Hardy

I had to Google to get the actual attribution. It can be sourced at his blog article: 10 Year Plan. I can’t vouch for Darren Hardy, but I appreciate the sentiment of that statement.
I commit to many things. Probably too many things. I commit to Wednesday night rehearsals, weekend chamber music, and training for two half marathons a year.
Is it possible for me to commit to my blog? Meh?
So here goes. I will commit to at least one blog post per week. Most of the time, I imagine I will be just musing on random things that come to mind. Or I might be reporting training progress. Whatever the case, I will make my best efforts to make it entertaining and worth your while. I will avoid political rants and other such depressing stuff.
Sound like a good deal? What do you think? Do you blog regularly? Want me to link to you? Let’s see how this goes…

A Year In Running 2012

It’s that time of year again when I reflect over my fitness accomplishments. This year was a busy year with two half marathons!
2011 Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon
Date: 10/23/2011
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:33:10
Pace: 11:41
My first half marathon. And the longest distance I ever ran. I ran without walk breaks and felt really great. Had a strong finish. I felt so good, I scheduled my next half marathon within a week!
2012 Run for the Chocolate
Date: 02/12/2012
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 5K
Time: 29:22
Pace: 9:28
It was so cold! So cold, that I ran so fast! This race was new PR for me.
2012 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run
Date: 03/17/2012
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 47:55
Pace: 9:35
I was happy with the time/pace. It was pretty close to my 5K PR pace. And considering it was a longer distance, I did pretty well.
2012 Maryville Race Against Violence 5K
Date: 04/01/2012
Location: Maryville University, St. Louis, MO
Distance: 5K
Time: 31:15
Pace: 10:05
It was hot, windy, and hilly. A better time than last year.
2012 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon
Date: 04/15/2012
Location: Downtown St. Louis
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:38:58
Pace: 12:14
Bleh. Slower than last October. It was warmer and had some long uphill stretches.
2012 Benton Park Totally 80’s 5K
Date: 05/19/2012
Location: Benton Park, St. Louis, MO
Distance: 5K
Time: 29:04
Pace: 9:22
New PR! I really pushed myself on this one and really kicked it in in the end.
2012 Go! St. Louis All American 5K
Date: 06/17/2012
Location: Kirkwood/Webster Groves, MO
Distance: 5K
Time: 29:09
Pace: 9:24
This race was billed as the fastest 5K in St. Louis because it was “all downhill”. Well, that was a lie. They also failed to record my finish time. So this time/pace was based on my watch time. Nonetheless, I pretty much matched my PR from the month before by a couple of seconds.
So that is my year in running. New PR’s. Longer distances. Can’t wait to see what this next year will bring. My training paces are already getting faster. So we’ll see how I do at the Rock’n’Roll half marathon in October.

A Year In Running 2011

Each year on my birthday I like to take stock of my fitness achievements over the last 12 months. Here are the results of the events that I have taken part in over the last year.
2011 Maryville Race Against Violence 5K
Date: 03/27/2011
Location: Maryville University, St. Louis, MO
Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)
Time: 38:21
Pace: 12:22
This one was rough: it was my first race back after a 9 year hiatus due to a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2002.
2011 Pound the Pavement for Parks 10K
Date: 08/27/2011
Location: Wentzville, MO
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
Time: 1:13:42
Pace: 11:52
This was my first 10K ever. I felt really good about it. Had some friends at the finish line who took me out for breakfast at IHOP.
That’s it! Only two events this year. But I got the bug now and look forward to my first half marathon in October.

Using PHP/cURL to grok your public IP address

I had the occasion to create a PHP page that displays the server’s current public IP address. Not necessarily a good thing to display. But, I have several internal web sites on a development server where the host names are not available on a public DNS server. Displaying the server’s current public IP address is handy to prevent needing to nslookup my dyndns host name when altering my host file.
So, here is how I did it:

$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, "www.checkip.org");
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
$output = curl_exec($ch);
$pattern = '/Your IP:  ([d]{1,3}.[d]{1,3}.[d]{1,3}.[d]{1,3})</span>/';
$matches = array();
preg_match($pattern, $output, $matches);
$yourIP = 'N/A';
if (count($matches) > 1) {
  $yourIP = $matches[1];

What I’m doing here is using cURL to get the page at checkip.org and then using a regular expressing to get the IP address returned in that page.
Albeit not completely fault-tolerant, as the web site can change it’s structure, but this type of quick’n’dirty screen scraping was what I needed at the time.