Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why would anybody want to run an ultramarathon?

This Saturday I ran my first Ultramarathon, the Lt. JC Stone 50K Ultramarathon. I did it mostly out of curiosity. I had ran 2 marathons before and I wanted to see if I could run a longer distance. I chose the JC Stone ultra because it is one of the shorter distances for an ultramarathon (50K) and because it is 6 laps around the North Park lake in Wexford, PA, a course I'm very familiar with. This was a very low ceremonial race compared to your typical city marathon. The park is not closed to the public, so you run along with walkers, runners and bikers that regularly visit the park. Other than the bibs, it was very hard to tell apart the 85 runners in the race. There were 77 finishers this year. It was incredibly difficult for me, specially the last 2 laps.

Most people think running a Marathon is crazy, running anything longer is insane. The reaction I got from some friends is that I was nuts. Why would anybody want to run such a distance? That got me thinking... and my answer to them is: because I can. Because I am blessed with 2 healthy legs. Why wouldn't I? More importantly... why wouldn't you? It is definitely a daunting and challenging task. I could say it took me over 3 years of training. I had been running 5k and 10k races for years. However I had not run anything longer than 10K until less than 3 years ago. I ran my first half marathon in 2011, followed by first marathon in 2012 and my second in 2013. It does take training, dedication, persistence and a lot of will, but I'm convinced that if you have 2 healthy legs, you can do it too.

The 1st place Ben, finished in 3:17 and arrived almost a full lap before the 2nd place. Hats off to them! I do think they are in a gifted group of elite runners that has a unique talent that not anybody can develop. But when it comes to ordinary people, average runners like you and me, I am convinced that you can do it too. This race had a very unique set of runners, probably more so than any other race I have been to. To give you a sample of such average runners I'd like to share, what in my record book are the winners of this race:

3rd Place: Gerald with a finish time of 6:29. Gerald is only 71 years young! Enough said! Who wouldn't want to grow old like him? Of course, you may argue he has probably done this all his life. I do not know his background, but that is partially true, he actually finish this same race in 2013, 2012 and in 2011!

2nd place: Anthony with a finish time of 5:59. Anthony is only 17 years old! He finished right behind me, I didn't even see him closing in, otherwise I would have gladly conceded my finishing spot. You may argue that's easy for him because he is young and full life. But consider the irony in this, unless he is turning 18 by May 4th he is not allowed to participate in the Pittsburgh Marathon or most any other city Marathon! The minimum required age to participate is 18, how ironic. Congrats Anthony on a great race!

1st place: Tom with a finish time of 6:49. Tom proves my point that anybody can run this distance. Tom did not even run with what one would call "proper" running clothes. He was wearing a cotton shirt, regular shorts and his shoes don't even look like running shoes to me. I saw him running around the park, but I did not see his bib and I had no idea he was running this race. He also gets bonus points for being overweight. I have been overweight most of my life. I once got injured when I tried to run 10K while I was "severely obese" based on my BMI. I gave up running that distance for about 5 years and my advice to anyone with BMI over 30 points would be to stick to shorter distances (e.g. 5K). I have no idea what Tom's BMI is, but he has prove that I was completely wrong. Being overweight may be a deterrent to run long distances, but it's clearly possible to do it. Kudos to Tom for finishing this race!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where to donate used cooking oil in Pittsburgh

UPDATE 01/2016: GTech Strategies/ReFuel Pgh no longer has drop off bins at either of the locations below, including WholeFoods Market. Fossil Free Fuel takes donations, but I'm trying to confirm from them if they accept used cooking oil. I will post more when I hear back from them.

There are 2 collection bins provided by ReFuel Pgh. One is located in Whole Foods Market on Shadyside. I have been taking my used oil to this bin for the past 2+ years. However I recently (Feb 2014) stopped by and the bin was no longer located outside the store. I had to ask 3 employees and the 3rd one was the only one that knew that it had been relocated near the garage, i.e. on the Starbucks Cofee side, but on the end next to railroad.

The second bin which I just recently learned about is in South Oakland, by the Dan Marino field which is in the corner of Dawson St & Frazier St. You'll see a red fence with a sign that reads "Frazier Farms":

My wife takes the credit for collecting the oil, I'm just in charge of dropping it off. You can put it in any clean plastic (e.g. gallon of milk, water bottle) container. You just need to let it cool off after cooking and put it in the container and then just drop it off once you fill up your container. GTECH turns this into an alternative diesel that funds education programs: