Monthly Archives: March 2015

Did that really just happen ?! | Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon

Standing in the driving rain after the race, barely able to control my shivering, I was completely unable to stop myself from smiling. I’d just broken my half marathon PR without really trying, and I still couldn’t figure out how. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.


I signed up for the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon a veritable eternity ago, when my running priorities were rather different.  In the intervening months, after a rough 2014 race season, I had resolved not to “race” any events until I thought I could perform to my own expectations.  With that in mind, I had no intention of running this race hard.  It was just going to be my long tempo run for the week, so I maintained my normal training schedule.  This week, that meant 10 miles with a series of 800m intervals on Thursday, and a hill ride on my bike the day before the race. In fact, I was undecided about actually running until race morning, and I almost bailed on account of the weather. I mention all this not to make my result seem impressive (it’s really not), but rather to provide some insight into my mindset going into the event.

It was cold and raining lightly on race morning. With the start and finish lines nearly four miles apart, there was no perfect way of getting to and from the race. In the interest of frugality (and out of loathing for Uber surge pricing), I drove and parked at Georgetown Law, which was free and reasonably close to both locations.

As I jogged the mile or so to the start, the rain seemed to increase, almost literally dampening my spirits. I’d already gotten hypothermia in a cold, wet race (2010 Tokyo Marathon), and it weighed heavily on my mind. Doing my best to ignore my past and the notion of sunk costs, I resolved that I was already committed, so I found the gear check, stowed my stuff, and went to huddle in the starting corral in search of warmth. Thankfully, I’d timed everything reasonably well, so I didn’t have too long to wait–I got into the crowd just as the national anthem began.

A few minutes later, we were off.  The time I’d spent training regularly with Capital Area Runners had drilled into me the rule of “start slow, finish fast,” so I took the first mile easy, clocking 7:22.  I actually thought I was going slower, a positive sign of things to come, but running by feel was the order of the day, so I just kept at it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 6.23.37 PM

My second mile came at 7:05, which I attributed to it being net downhill, but then I clocked the third at 6:51, despite going both ways over the Memorial Bridge. Had I gotten caught up in the energy of the event and picked up the pace too soon? I felt great, but I was still a bit nervous. Even (especially?) if this wasn’t a race for me, I didn’t want to blow up, particularly if doing so would have left me stuck in the rain. With that in mind, I decided to dial it back just a bit, and my pace gradually dropped each mile as I made the slight climb up Rock Creek Parkway – 6:56, 7:01, 7:07

Elevation Profile

And then I hit the hill up to Calvert St.  It’s that thing above that looks like a wall.  I’ve run worse hills before, but this felt longer, steeper, and nastier than I was prepared for. Even trudging up the road at slower than 9:00 pace, I could feel my heart rate rising steadily. “Just keep running,” I told myself between breaths. “When it levels off, ease back into things.” One of the worst mistakes you can make in racing is accelerating quickly after a difficult section. You’ve already been working hard, so you need to build gradually back to your desired pace.

After the giant hill, the course continues to climb gradually toward Columbia Heights.  As I went across the bridge over Rock Creek, I saw a teammate cheering from the side of the road and shouting words of encouragement. Bill was a most welcome sight, although his “Looking strong, Edward!” didn’t ring true with how I felt at the time. That said, when the next mile ticked over, I was surprised to see I’d lost only about 30 seconds. Maybe Bill knew something I didn’t.

The next few miles were largely unremarkable. Aside from two sizable hills about which I’d somehow forgotten, the course was net downhill, and my splits showed it: 7:02, 6:42, 6:38. I was cruising, and I felt fantastic.

It was during this time that my brain kicked into gear. I started doing math, and it dawned on me that, assuming my sums were correct, I was ahead of my then-PR pace. When I hit 10 miles, the clock showed 1:11:12, and I knew my math was right. So long as I didn’t fall apart, I was going to PR at a decidedly-below-racing effort!

This realization left me with a difficult choice. My Type A side kept saying I could push my effort, take a few chances, and see just how much more time I could shave off. My conservative side (yes, I have one!) told me to rein it in and save any heroics for the last mile or so. With nothing to prove, and with zero expectations for the race, I decided to go with the latter.

So on I trucked, down North Capitol, through NoMa, and onto H Street, where I was careful to avoid the streetcar tracks. I kept getting passed by and re-passing another runner, and I kept having to keep the Type A side in check, if only for a little longer. Two more miles ticked off: 6:43, 6:55.

When I hit the 12 mile sign, I opened the throttle a bit and left my competitor behind. The course headed downhill again, and I continued to gain time. When I saw the blue inflatable arch ahead of the finish line, it was time to go for it.

I’m not a particularly fast runner, but I am a strong finisher. With the throttle fully open, I ran the last 1/4 mile in 82 seconds, about 5:30/mile pace. As I ran, I picked off one runner after another, ultimately passing a dozen or more by the time I crossed the line.

Finish line friends

Pretty much as soon as I’d finished, I ran into one of my teammates, the always smiling Judy Chen. To my delight, Judy also a had good race, finishing in 1:28:xx. We chatted as we went to get our respective bags from gear check, but then I lost track of her. I hope her trip home was smoother than mine. Metro was such a mess that I ended up jogging another 2+ miles back to my car.

I’m still dumbfounded by the result. When I woke up the following day, I didn’t even feel like I ran a race, let alone set a new PR. If nothing else, it proves (to me, any way) that I’m not lying to myself about how hard I ran. This result was also a huge, much-needed confidence booster. My last three races were crap, and even my irrational exuberance was beginning to suffer. Not any more.

Final time: 1:32:10 (PR by 01:25)

RNR USA Finisher

Review: Happy Hour @ the pig

As the name suggests, the pig is a pork-centric establishment with a whiskey-forward beverage program. That, for me, is a match made in heaven. When I heard that they offer solid food and drink specials during happy hour seven days a week, I had to check it out. I’ve now been twice, and this review aggregates those visits.

the pig’s happy hour menu includes selected house cocktails, wines, beers (draft and bottled), and, the piece de resistance, bourbon flights that change weekly. Also available are a variety of food items suitable for all ranges of appetites.

Whiskey flight

I started (predictably) with a bourbon* flight, a selection a four half-shots complete with tasting notes for $8. On offer during my first visit were: Defiant Single Malt, Bernheim Wheat Whiskey, Tin Cup American Whiskey, and Dad’s Hat Rye. To my delight, these were all whiskeys I had not previously tried, so this made for a great opportunity to taste new whiskeys on the cheap. The selection was well balanced, and the inclusion of a mild single malt was a unexpected yet entirely enjoyable.  The flight that I tried on our next visit was equally well assembled.

*If one chooses to be pedantic, and I often do, these should technically be described as whiskey flights, but I’ll forgive the nomenclature in light of the value. 

Hazard County Iced Tea

To my astonishment, the missus went with a bourbon-based drink, the Hazard County Iced Tea ($8). Given that her palate typically favors things fruity, sweet, and made with Malibu, I was even more astonished when she said she exclaimed that the tea was “amazing!” A brief sip of my own confirmed her assessment. It’s an almost dangerously smooth beverage, the sort that could really catch you off guard if you fail to pay attention.

The Squealer | Photo credit: Yelp user Jillian B.

On our second visit, the missus tried The Squealer, made with mint-infused vodka and house-made lemon cordial. It was, by her account, delightful and refreshing, perfect for one of the first warm days of the year.

With drinks ordered, it was time to move onto the food.

The Little Pig

“The Little Pig” ($22) is a delightful selection of charcuterie, pickled vegetables, toasted and spiced nuts, and assorted other goodness. Nearly everything on the plate is prepared in-house, and the precise combination of meats and vegetables changes regularly.
Don’t let the name fool you or the price scare you away: it’s a substantial amount of delicious food, and it’s beautifully presented, to boot. We especially enjoyed the bleu cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers and the duck liver pate, and the mortadella paired wonderfully with the house-made spicy mustard.

The burger | Photo credit: the pig

The burger ($10 w/o fries) does not escape the pork-centric theme, with ground pork comprising 20% of the patty and a large piece of face bacon topping it. The addition of habanero mayo and red onion marmalade balance out what might be an otherwise overwhelmingly savory experience, and the tender, buttery roll holds it all together perfectly. It was delectable. I want another just writing this.

Pulled pork sandwich | Photo credit: @fullerrunsfar

Up next, the pulled pork sandwich ($8, mac & cheese not included). Served on the same delicious bun as the burger, the pulled pork was good but not great. It was tender and juicy, but something was lacking. Others may disagree here, but I’ve been spoiled by some truly wonderful pulled pork over the years, a distinct benefit of having “the BBQ Jew from Philly” as an acquaintance. That said, I’d give the pig’s rendition another try–maybe our scoop was just missing out on a good amount of spicy bark.

Overall Rating: A (Excellent)

the pig offers happy hour (at the bar only) Monday-Thursday from 4-7 and Friday-Sunday from 3-7.

Welcome to Booze | Food | Fitness

Hello, currently non-existent readers.  Welcome to my new blog.  As the title suggests, I will be writing about three loosely related subjects: distilled spirits, food, and (to offset the others), fitness-related activities.  More specifically, I hope to write frequently about and review bourbons and other spirits, post my recipes and food experiments, and occasionally document my more interesting physical endeavors.  

I have been bothering Facebook friends and Twitter & Instagram followers with these ramblings for some time, but the time has come to subject the wider world to my nonsense.  Apologies in advance.