Cake or pie?

Friday, October 30, 2009


I just saw on Facebook that some of my middle school classmates were proposing a middle school reunion! It sounds good in theory. Maybe I can draft a letter to feel out my fellow classmates from the early 90s. It would go something like this:

"Dear Middle School Classes of '93-'95,

I hope you are all well! Now more than ever it is time to reconnect with our former fellow students, and reminisce about all the wonderful memories we shared together in the early 90s. Some of the wonderful things we got to experience include:

  • annual measurement and marvel of Mr. H's ear and nose hair growth, one of the few truly old school 70 year old gym teachers who could still hack it with prepubescent 12-15 year olds! Remember how it seemed like his moustache grew out of his nose?
  • we all developed body odor together! Some of us figured out how to use deodorant, some of us did not, but I hope most of us have now for this reunion, because hey, it could end up in a crowded, hot bar, and no one wants to remember the smell of gym clothes.
  • speaking of gym clothes, if you can still wear your gym clothes, you are entitled to free drinks all night. Don't try to squeeze into them if you are grossly overweight or just way bigger than you were in middle school, no one wants to see muffin-top action.
  • making ambrosia in home ec? That shit was delicious! Much respect to Mrs. D., she looked like she stepped out of "Leave it to Beaver" but homegirl was on point with her 50s curls. She probably got up at 5 a.m. every morning to maintain it - see the sacrifices teachers made for us??
  • the gangly girl with the braces and bad hair? Remember her? Yeah, she's a model now... and a successful businesswoman. She remembers you, and if you were nice to her before she "got all hot." Hope you were nice, if you're a guy or girl. Rumor is, she plays for both teams.
  • the field trips! How fun was it to go to Philadelphia! How fun was it to go the Air & Space Museum for the 10th time? Am I right or am I right?

These, and many more memories are available for strolls down memory lane. Let's make this reunion happen, it will be sweet sweet nice! We will have drink specials, but in keeping with our middle school roots and remembrance, we will have a somewhat unorthodox system of ordering drinks. You must tell a friend that you think the drink is cute, and the bartenders will try to determine from your friend's description what drink you want and who you are. If the drink feels the same way, congratulations! Enjoy your time together, and don't worry about what other people say about you two - you were made for each other.

Come on down, details will be forthcoming, we are shooting for a reunion at the Four Seasons, but we may have to settle for Del Taco. I hope that will not be a problem for anyone. Do you want to come:

____ YES ____ NO



P.S. To sweeten the pot, some of our former teachers, some of whom still work at the school, will be attending if at least 50 people sign up. Has it been your lifelong dream to grind on Mrs. Y, the hot Spanish teacher? She's still hot. We can make it happen."

I smell success.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MCM Recap - 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon

Today was the 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. You could not have asked for a more perfect day to run on, humidity was relatively low, at the starting howitzer. Yeah, by the way they use a howitzer at the Marine Corps Marathon, not some lame starter’s pistol. Sen. Patrick Leahy from Vermont was there to say a few words before the start, which was the wheelchairs/handbikes at 7:50, with the rest of the field starting at 8:00.

I do not have a lot of gripes about the MCM. The organizational skills of the Marine Corps are second to none. It is marketed as the “People’s Marathon” and as such there are a lot of novice first-timers in the marathon. That is fine, everyone has to start somewhere; I started here in 2007. In fact, I’ve only run Marine Corps Marathons, in 2007, 2008, and today in 2009, so I don’t have a lot of basis to compare it against, outside of reading race reports from other races.

My main gripe, which is about something that I have noticed this year and last year, is a lot of people place themselves and start in improper corrals. I think one way around this is a wave start, and maybe that is something they should consider in the future. I like the openness of the corrals, and that you pick the one you feel is best for your pace, but either a) a lot of people have no clue how fast, or more likely how slow, they run or b) people try to run with friends when they have significant divergences in their training and ability. I am by no means a gazelle, I’m pretty much a standard middle of the pack runner, but it kind of sucks having to bob and weave around people after the first few miles because they started too fast. Everyone knows the first few miles kind of suck, and it takes some distance to get some separation in this massive chain of humanity that seems to collectively ebb and flow, speed up and slow down, in discrete segments at a time.

I think one of the biggest clues that someone is a first time marathoner is they do not check behind them before they dart over to the water tables, which happened more than a few times today, even once when someone went from the far left in the road to the far right to get Powerade or water. I thought the commonly accepted practice/etiquette is look behind you, and if necessary speed up or slow down to find an opening if you need to cross over.

I am not going to recap every mile of the race. I ran as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. I packed some Sport Jellybeans into my shorts, a gel, and some Endurolytes.

Speaking of the Endurolytes, I had them in a ziplock bag in my shorts’ pocket, and over the course of running, the flimsy capsules seems to slip apart somewhat and release some of the powder. That wasn’t a big deal. What was funny though is that I was taking them every 45 minutes or so, and cramping was not an issue for me as much this year as it had been in the past. I still had some relatively minor cramps, and I realized that trying to walk it off did not work. It only seemed to make it worse. Continuing to run seemed to be a better option in alleviating the minor cramps that I had encountered today. Getting back to the Endurolytes, I was taking them every 45ish minutes, conveniently whenever there was a water stop, and the ziplock bag became more and more coated in the powder that was leaking out of the capsules. I wondered what I looked like to someone who did not know what they were – I realize most people focus on their body and their race, but if you see a guy pull a white baggie out that looks to be full of white powder, what do you think? Does he use blow as a pick-me-up instead of gels and the like? Hmmm…

The Awesome:

  • The Marines were awesome. Lots of 2LT, 1LT along the course along with an occasional captain that I noticed. I think it was mainly lieutenants handing out finisher medals.
  • Some of the participants are truly inspiring. Especially amputees/double amputees, some of whom are service members who were wounded in action, and they have the ability to get out and run 26.2 just like the rest of us. It goes to show you that life is really what you make of it, and you shouldn't let setbacks or obstacles, even as serious as losing a limb, hinder you in planning to meet your goals.
  • The day was beautiful, the scenery was and continues to be inspiring, the spectator support was incredible. Caveat - SEE: Hains Point, below.
  • One of the bands along the route began playing Everlong as I was running by, which happens to only be my favorite song ever! It’s not a particularly hard song to play on drums, once you get the hang of the constant 16th notes on a closed hi-hat.
  • Early on, I was running with the FLASH! Yes, the Scarlet Speedster ran the Marine Corps Marathon. If the “real” Flash ran the Marine Corps Marathon (if there were a “real” Flash), and if his top speed was the speed of light in a vacuum, or 299,792,458 m/s, we can convert that easily to figure out how long he would take to finish the MCM. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and 1 mile is roughly 1.609 km. 26.2 miles/marathon * 1.609 meters/mile (cancel out miles in nominator/denominator for meters/marathon) is approximately equal to 42 km, 42.16 km if we want to be a little more accurate. 42.16 km x 1000 m / km (cancel out km’s) is 42160 m. 42160 m / 299,792,458 m/s is 0.00014 s. Alternatively, the average blink takes about 0.3 or 0.4 s. So literally the Flash would be done before you could blink. Yay, science! And sorry, I’m taking physics. So anyway, what was the Flash doing with me in the middle of the pack at the 4 mile mark-ish, instead of kicking his feet up in Rosslyn at the Finish Festival with a cold one?
  • I think some spectator was dressed up as a Pokemon in Crystal City. WTF?
  • I know some spectators were dressed up as a bee and something else. Ehh?
  • I don’t feel that sore. I was walking normally after the marathon after getting my finisher’s photo and I definitely saw some people that were genuinely hurting and probably sore in places they didn’t know they had. I’ve been there.

Not so Awesome:

  • People in wrong corrals. See above.
  • Got a hot spot posterior to my big toe, anterior to the ball of my foot. Hot spot means you’re getting a blister. So I basically ran with a blister from miles 14-15 onward, and I think it slowed me down considerably. I just could not get comfortable with it.
  • Hains Point, as per usual, sucks. If ever there were a place to conserve energy this is it. Very few spectators, and even though it is nice and flat, the lack of spectators and lack of scenery, other than grass, an occasional public restroom hut, and planes taking off and landing at Reagan is dismal and depressing. People running this year and last were blessed in that Hains Point has been earlier than in the past – it used to be around miles 17/18 and is now around 13/14. Yay?
  • Got a PR, but was disappointed with my time – 4:41. Like I said, I’m a middle of the pack runner, but I think once everything comes together, i.e. my nutrition improves and I can get more quality miles and workouts, especially some speed work, I will do much better. So maybe that’s awesome, since I know I haven’t nearly reached my potential. I remember I’m hard on myself and I’ve only run three marathons and was never a runner growing up outside of conditioning for teams or being punished, i.e. more conditioning. I played baseball, I wrestled, I played football, and I was a cheerleader, not a runner.
  • I think my lips are sunburned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Too Awesome Not to Share

Behold. If there weren't enough reasons to think Africa and South America are cool (especially if you're going to go there--preferably Africa--and do volunteer work before you cure cancer so you're a shoe-in to get into medical school), what makes them ever cooler is they combine to form a T-REX! Awesome.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I am trying to finish my lab report for tomorrow, it's about infrared spectroscopy. The lab report itself isn't hard, I have the rubric in front of me, so I know what is expected, and that isn't what's irritating me. I have gotten two calls within the past week from strangers.

Normally, I like interacting with strangers and meeting new people. However, both of these strangers were calling about a part-time "business opportunity" and asking if I wanted to make a little extra money. They both got my contact info through people I'm friends with on Facebook that I know from high school. Maybe I'm stupid for putting my cell-phone number on my profile, but I felt like with my privacy settings, only my friends can see my info, so it was no big deal.

Buuut, I guess my "friends" are giving out my info for other purposes. I'm more than a little leery of friends who do this without asking first. It is probably the type of "business opportunity" that means they get more money for referring people into the business. I don't have the time or interest in anything that sounds remotely pyramid scheme-ish, so I politely told the callers I was not interested, they thanked me for my time, and I removed one of the friends and blocked them. Why do people do this?? I think it's similar to not asking someone to be a reference for you and having them be blindsided with a phone call later. It's one thing if they mention it to me, but both didn't beforehand, so I didn't know it was coming. WTF?

Maybe I am getting all bent out of shape over nothing? It probably doesn't help that I am a little sore from my last long run this week before the marathon, mainly in my calves, and that I am actually doing schoolwork when this last guy called about fifteen minutes ago. I'm definitely going to ask the friend I haven't blocked what the deal is, or maybe I should just take all contact info off my FB. Ehhh... exhale.

Oh yeah, donate if you can. The marathon is in SIX short days and I'm still short of my fundraising goal!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Injuries happen with marathon training. It's a fact of life for some people. Luckily, and let me knock on wood here for a second, I have been fortunate to dodge most of the common runner ailments. I think the biggest reason I haven't been affected is that I'm a biomechanically efficient runner. I do not supinate or overpronate, my pronation is normal so my gait is neutral. That definitely helps avoid injury, but that isn't exactly the best advice since everyone's anatomy and gait vary. The most frequent runner injuries I have heard of or seen are:

1) plantar fasciitis - inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs from the heel to the forefoot, and a common overuse injury. I think I've had a mild case of it, but it hasn't bothered me lately, when it did bother me at first, I did some exercises like scrunching up a towel with my toes, and running the arch/sole of my foot over a tennis ball. The pain I had wasn't excruciating, and more directly posterior to the ball of my foot on the medial side, not under/around my heel like it commonly presents (or so I've heard).

2) shin splints - no experience with these. I guess I have tibialis anteriors of steel. You can see how they could be prone to be injured though since they can bear a pretty big load during dorsiflexion, and some people are more predisposed to these as well, but I haven't read up on why.

3) patellar tendinitis - I see and know a bunch of people that run with the bands around the knees to help with this. Again, I feel lucky to have avoided it. It's an inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) with the tibia (shinbone). It's more common in activities that involve jumping, and is sometimes called jumper's knee - basketball, volleyball, some track events, but happens a lot in runners as well.

4) iliotibial band syndrome - I have no experience with this either, but it caused my brother-in-law a lot of pain when he had it a few years ago prior to the first Marine Corps Marathon I ran in 2007. He was going to run it as well, but the pain was too much and made running too difficult. The iliotibial band stabilizes the knee during movement, for example as the knee is flexed and extended repeatedly during running. It runs from the outside of the hip to the inside and just below of the knee, and commonly causes lateral knee pain in runners, but can cause pain throughout the tract wherever it is inflamed.

Muscle strain/fatigue is about the worst "injury" I have had over the past three years that I've been running, but that happens with any weight-bearing activity, especially distance running. The worst is quad fatigue after long runs when you have to go down stairs sideways, unless you feel like crumbling/buckling your knees sounds like an awesome idea, because you're wearing Bad Idea Jeans™­­. This week someone told me, "Running marathons is the worst thing you can do to your body."

I said, "I'm pretty sure smoking is worse for you than running."

Bottom line: my advice regarding injuries is to listen to your body. If you tweak something, you know yourself best. If it's something you can deal with and continue your workouts without it worsening, then try to keep moving forward. If it's something you can't deal with, get it checked out and hopefully have a speedy recovery.

My last bit of advice: it's fine to take a day off from time to time. You won't sabotage your training by missing a day if you aren't feeling it--physically or psychologically.

I'm crossing my fingers, cutting back my mileage and enjoying my taper. There's only 12 days until the Marine Corps Marathon! I'm still accepting donations but additionally will take any moral support or encouragement as well!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

34th Marine Corps Marathon!

Believe in me.

I promised some big news, here it is: I'm running a marathon, and not just any marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, for the third time. The first two times, I ran for charity - for the American Cancer Society both years. I've blogged about running occasionally, and here is some nutshelling: I was never a runner, I played baseball, I cheered, running was for conditioning or punishment. Is it odd I've never run a 5K but I have run two marathons now? I guess I would just rather be a marathon man. (rimshot goes here). The main thing you need to run is a good pair of shoes, and you just need to replace them every 300-500 miles. Your mileage may vary, literally, depending on the surface you run on, your biomechanics, and your build.

I took up running after my mom passed due to breast cancer. I wanted to do something to change my life for the better, and I didn't want to succumb to the effects of the typical office drone lifestyle of a ballooning waistline and the associated medical issues that go along with it. So I thought, "Well, I could ride a bike." Bikes are expensive. You need a helmet. More importantly, you need a bike. You may end up wearing spandex. You probably need to switch out the stock saddle that comes on the bike, because they're usually pretty stiff. Some of them are so stiff I think the model name is the "Violator."

Anyway, I decided I would run. I heard about the concept of Charity Running and decided to look into being a charity runner. My mom passed in March 2007, and sometime around early May after my birthday, after some introspection, I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon, as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. The MCM had a lot of things going for it: I'm a Northern Virginia native, so it was local, starting in Arlington and taking a scenic route through Washington, D.C., including the Palisades, Hains Point and the National Mall, it is relatively flat, and it is pretty newbie-friendly, having the nickname "the People's Marathon." Plus, it's run and supported by the Marine Corps. You think they're going to drop the ball on running a great race? I don't think so. On top of that, the finish is up a slight hill (okay, it isn't slight, but after running 26 miles and change you aren't going to stop because of it), but the vista is inspiring - the Iwo Jima Memorial is at the finish, formally known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, seen below.

When you finish, a Marine places a finisher's medal around your neck, congratulates you and hands you a space blanket (the silvery mylar blanket to keep warm), and directs you to where the water and massages are going down. You can also get a coin, which is a big military tradition (as seen here: Challenge Coin).

I've enjoyed my experiences as a charity runner. I am looking for donations. The following is a link to donate, and I will update more in the very near future. In the interest of full disclosure, I am obligated to raise $1000 by November 25, which gives me a month after race day, which is October 25, aka 18 days from now, or I am on the hook for the remainder of the amount. It is a worthwhile cause - you can read my participant page, I wrote the top part but once you start seeing bold text, it's straight template from the American Cancer Society. I think it is when you see "can make a difference" like twice - I wrote the first one, then somewhat to my chagrin, noticed they use the same phrase directly after that, in boldface no less. Maybe I subconsciously wrote it, who knows? So please, help me out if you can - every dollar makes a difference.

If you don't, I'm going to pull a Matt Damon. Just kidding. That's probably funny only if you saw the season finale of Entourage. I appreciate your support, as cancer is very personal to me and it is to a lot of people. Thanks!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Results Are In!

We got the results of the first organic chemistry exam on Thursday. The exam was 20-ish questions, as I said earlier. The professor waited until the end of the class to announce the exams had been graded, which, in hindsight, is a really smart move on his part, because if you hand them out at the beginning of class, then a lot of people will want to:

A) leave lecture since OMG it's Thursday and the weather's nice OR
B) go over the exam with a fine-tooth comb and not pay attention to the lecture.

I was fine with him withholding until the end, but I know some people can't wait to see how they did. I used to be a pretty impatient person, but I guess I have just mellowed out as I'm in the downward slope of the back end of my 20's. The class average was a 60%. That was far better than I had expected. Everyone has heard the stories about how it's a weed out class, the exams are so difficult, the class average on exams can be in the 40s/50s and everything gets scaled to make the class average a 75, and funny enough only about 2/3 of the section showed up for class.

The professor noticed it too, as usually in our lecture hall when everyone shows up we're seated shoulder to shoulder in the auditorium, and aside from the first 3-5 rows packed with the gunners, there were a lot of empty seats. He said, "It looks like 1/3 of us have already given up hope!" I don't sit with the gunners by the way, I don't think I will ever have that mentality. I obviously want to do well, but I sit in the middle 1/3 of the auditorium with the other people who are not high-strung.

So long story short, class average is 60, meaning 60=75. He explained there was a number on the second page of the exam that would have our raw score, meaning, how many we answered correctly out of the 20-ish questions. With the class average being 60, that worked out to 12 or 13 right. I got 18 right, for an 87 (without the curve). With the curve, I guess my grade for the exam is 102. Yippee! Exhale.