Ashburn Farm 10k Race Report

My first attempt at a race report. This was a relatively minor race so will use this as a learning experience.
I signed up a week prior for a Thanksgiving Day race in Ashburn, VA aptly named Ashburn Farm 10k/5k. This was actually my first ever 10k race which is fun since anytime I finish in actually becomes my PR.

Did not do much specific race “prep” for this particular race. I did run a relatively short long run the Saturday prior of 7 miles at about a 9 min pace (slightly faster than my typical long run pace).

I had my typical pre-race meal: bagel with peanut butter, cup of coffee, and 2 cups of water. It was COLD that morning (~25 degrees) and I wore for the first time Running Tights.  I bought Sugoi MidZero Tights as recommended by DC Rainmaker and I will admit that they were perfect. Fit was great and they kept my legs very warm. I was at my parents house for thanksgiving and I forgot my running gloves which I thought wouldnt be a big deal (MISTAKE!). Anyways hopped into the car with the family (sisters and mom were running 5k).

ashburnfarm 10k

Me with my mom and sisters prior to race

The starting line was well organized and there was only 1 wave for the 10k (~800 runners). We started a bit late (8:18am vs 8:15am planned) but otherwise we were off. Course was very flat and generally straight with a couple of switch backs. Switch backs are a bit demoralizing to me for a couple reasons…1. you see the runners WAY faster than you as they come back  2. Once you see runners coming back after a switchback my mind tends to anticipate the turnaround point even if I cant see it. This inevitably leads me to the “am I there yet” poor mental state which is demoralizing when running any distance. Not having my running gloves came back to haunt me as my hands were FREEZING! There was a bit of a wind at time which made breathing tough with the cold air but otherwise I was comfortable in my running tights and 2 long sleeve technical t-shirts plus running skull cap.

I successfully finished! I had set a goal of under 50 mins which I achieved by 10 seconds. Official time: 00:49:50 which comes to right around 8 min miles. Not too shabby for me. I probably could have pushed it a bit more but being my first 10k I pretty much ran steady state for first 5 miles and then cranked it up the last 1.2 miles.

1 Mile – 7:57
2 Mile – 8:16
3 Mile – 8:12
4 Mile – 8:04
5 Mile – 8:13
6 Mile – 7:25
Last 0.2 Mile – 6:51 pace

So a pretty clear steady-state miles 1-5 with a ramp up during mile 6 through finish.

Post Race:Overall I was very happy with my first 10k performance. Obviously I have a ton of room to improve which is part of the fun with running. I think getting my steady state to under 8 min/mile with a slightly faster Mile 1 and Mile 6 would easily knock a couple minutes off my time. I think a sub 48 min 10k is not far off in my future.


No Equipment Workouts

Ran across this amazing website detailing tons of no equipment workouts.

I especially like the 30 day challenges. I just finished the 50 pushup one. Gonna start the new December one called “Ottermode“.

I like bodyweight exercise as they promote lean muscle over bulky which is better for triathlon training. The lower weight promotes the high reps you need for muscular endurance (as opposed to just power from low rep high weight workouts)


Systems Vs. Goals

I have always considered myself a goal oriented person. Being an engineer I love to measure progress and achieve objective results. I use spreadsheets and tracking apps for nearly every aspect of my life. I have goals for career, hobbies, fitness, etc. It’s a constant goal setting and goal achieving cycle.

Sample of Current Goals:
1. Read 52 books a year
2. Learn 1 new programming language a year
3. Race Eagleman Half Ironman June 8th, 2014 in 6 hours or less
4. Complete 100 pushup Challenge
5. Side Project – Auto Drip Coffee Maker with Raspberry Pi

how to fail boo cover

This perspective recently changed for me upon reading Scott Adam’s latest book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big“. One of the core tenets of the book highlights creating systems over goals. As Scott puts it, when you have goals you are essentially in a perpetual state of failing to achieve those goals. This attitude may be a bit over the top but I liked his comparisons to systems. Systems are more general guidelines on how to live and when you successfully act within the system, you are winning.

Goals re-written as systems:
1. Read every day
2. Always be coding in a new programming language every week
3. Workout on a regular basis (swim bike and run 2 days per week)
4. Do pushups everyday
5. Work on side project at least 1 hour per week

It took me a few days to let this concept of systems vs. goals to sink in so don’t worry if it seems like I just re-wrote my goals. Take reading 52 books for example. I set that goal for myself a couple years back and I will admit have “failed” it some years where failing means reading less than 52 discrete books. Despite the “failure” I still read a tremendous number of books (reading 50 in a year isn’t too shabby especially since some are huge technical books like Code Complete). By restating my goal as a system of constantly reading I am constantly in a state of success and keeping my eye on my true goal — learning.

Bottom Line: Rephrasing your goals as systems orients your life in the same direction but also puts you in a constant state of success. This boosts your mental attitude and increases the positive feedback loop to continue to successfully execute.

My Coffee Setup

I am obsessed with coffee as nearly everyone who knows me can attest. This post will be a primer of my coffee preferences and setup to achieve coffee perfection.

I typically make 2 cups of coffee at home before work while I read. Since my coffee setup is — intense — I cannot bring it with me to work so I may suffer through a Kuerig during the day. I have been trying to cut back my coffee consumption anyways so mostly it’s just 2 cups a day


Not my home setup exactly — but close enough

The fundamentals of quality coffee are simple: brewing temp, grind size, fresh coffee.

The advanced techniques are really not that complicated but come down to timing, a bit of pour technique, and weighing your coffee/water for consistent ratios.


Variable Temperature Electric Swan Neck Kettle – Necessary for control of both temperature to brew and precise pouring technique

Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder – Simply the best home grinder on the market. 440 distinct grind settings. Ceramic burrs for low heat transfer and long life. Produces a consistent grind every time with minimal coffee leftover in the chute (stale coffee grinds == bad)

Hario V60 Ceramic Drip Cone – Quality drip cone for 1-2 cup pours (I find the larger ones tend to over extract) Ceramic is nice to hold heat and have some weight for stability.

Hario V60 Coffee Filters – Natural (vs white bleached) is crucial here. Perfect fit for V60 drip cone helps make for smooth brew process.

Hario Coffee Drip Scale/Timer – 2 for 1 product for the technically savvy coffee enthusiast. Measuring your ratio of coffee to water as well as timing the water contact puts you in the coffee fanatic camp. This product feels a bit cheap but has lasted me ~2 years now with no signs of failing soon so I’ve been happy.

My coffee of choice comes from Intelligentsia – a roaster out of Chicago.

Really fantastic coffee with decently quick standard shipping. If you’re going to buy a nice setup like the one above you need quality beans. That said I have augmented with a bag of beans from the grocery store in a pinch. You can make a pretty incredible cup of coffee with Dunkin Donuts Whole Bean Original. But compared to fresh roasted Intelligentsia — it’s still an order of magnitude off. I really like their House Blend as my standard and usually order a smaller amount of their seasonal blend and a single origin (these change frequently so I dont want to recommend here). House Blend goes for $18 a pound.

OK so yes this is quite the setup for coffee. I will address the common criticisms I hear:

1. Time to brew – once you have the process down it takes me ~5 mins to brew including boiling water. 3 mins to boil with electric kettle (during which I measure and stage the coffee). ~2 mins to brew via the pour over drip method (video below). Sure it’s not Keurig fast but really not that time consuming.

2. Price – Yes the initial costs are expensive. If you total the price of the equipment I listed you get: ~$725. Intelligentsia House Blend costs 18 bucks per pound (pound yields 26 cups at 17grams per 10 ounce cup) The per unit cost of the filters is ~7 cents. So material costs are ~0.77 cents per 10 ounce cup. For my daily 2 cups thats $1.54. The grande (16oz) at Starbucks costs ~2 dollars. So a 46 cent differential per day yields approximately a 4 year break even point on my initial investment assuming no breakages (I am 2 years in currently). This does not take into account coffee quality and gas to drive to Starbucks and convenience of brewing at home and reading in bed whenever I want with an incredible cup of coffee.

3. Are you OCD? — Probably

Technique Video: Easy than explaining it via text


Russian Translation: Как я делаю кофе»

Как я делаю кофе translated by Coffee health benefits

The World Does Not Need Your Idea

I really liked this quote by Alan Webber on his blog today. It embodies the spirit of what truly separates a good idea from a bad one…getting people to use your product/service/website. It bears some resemblance to Paul Graham’s famous quip to “make something people want” but with more impact. It gives me more of a sense of purpose and drive behind what the idea will eventually become.

Clearly a new startup idea is going to provide value in some way, shape or form. Recognizing that the world does not need your innovation is a good way to humble you before you change the world.

Challenging Work

There is a large difference between important work and challenging work. I work for a large company and there is a plethora of work that is absolutely critical to get the job done. This in turn generates revenue for the company and typically makes the customers happy since it is work they contracted to get done. The problem is that this work is often easy and mundane. Simply requiring the employee to show up and be conscious to get done.

After reading, Seth Godin’s blog post, Why makers should think more like managers (and vice versa), it enlightened me to the point that more time should be put towards figuring out how to do challenging work.

Challenging work could be thinking about how to turn those critical tasks into completely automatic ones. Or get them done quicker and waste less time. In other words, disrupt the business as usual path. Often times this doesn’t even occur to people because of the “that’s just how things are done around here” mentality.

The benefits of this are plentiful but two good ones are the increased feeling of making a difference and the increase in value for customers (and the company).

Go and challenge yourself.