Seebo's Run

A running commentary on my training and whatever else emerges from that.

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, January 31, 2005

Good Start

Ran Sweetbriar Loop, my 8-mile loop, this morning alone after E. apparently overslept. Temps were in hi 20's and I had basically the same stuff on as yesterday and was, for the most part, comfortable. These temps are nice to run in. Now all I have to complain about is the snow, which makes running a bit hazardous when it encroaches on the street and narrows the distances between me and cars. Also, there is one point on this loop where I have to cut through a field to get out of Fairmount Park and onto Parkside Ave. and there were no paths or even footprints I could follow so I had to do it snowshoe style.

8 miles in for the first run of the week is always a good start. Gets me on the weekly quota and effectively cuts my running week to 6 days. Its not unusual to miss a Monday run for either scheduling or recovery reasons, and that gives less wiggle room for rearranging the schedule later in the week. I made an effort not to look at my watch during the run and the final time was 66:24.

This also closes the books on January, giving me 232 miles. I had said that I'd be happy with 200+ miles for the month, so by that light it was a success. My reach goal was to beat last year's January total, which was 244 miles, so I came up a bit short in that respect. But I'll look on the bright side and call it a solid month. I've also been blogging this for a month now. That is something to feel good about as well.

So now its Monday. My fingers are typing slower due to the residual cold that lingers in them. My mind must have some of that coldness in it as well as I'm not thinking too deeply this morning. Nothing ponderous this morning. NY Times says that the Iraqi election went well. While I have major problems with us being over there I am glad the elections went well and I've got to admire people who risk their lives to vote. Who's teaching who about democracy?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Running Home

Lots of things going through my head today, so this may be a long post.

I can start off with the line I blurted during yesterday's post, where I said (paraphrased) that I wished I could apply the discipline that I have with running to other parts of my life. In church this morning the readings were the Beatitudes, and after the readings Father John introduced a woman who is a church member but whom I don't know who delivered a very good homily on applying the Beatitudes to our lives. I won't go into detail, but one phrase that summarizes it nicely is that, taken correctly, the Beatitudes should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted."

I ran the ten miles from St. Vincent's to home for my workout today, so I had a chance to digest all this while it was still fresh in my mind. If my running was like my church attendence I'd be one of those folks who makes it out to a group run about once a week or so, and wishes that he would do it more often because he'd really like to get into shape (there are running blogs with that general theme to it). The comparison fits nicely, as at the core of building up one's faith/spirituality (or whatever you want to call it) are daily "workouts" otherwise known as prayer, meditation, reflection, reading etc. and it all builds from there. Just like running there then is a social scene which reinforces all that, and there are outlets to practice this "spiritual fitness."

So why don't I do this? That was one of the questions I was thinking about during my run. As part of the answer I think back to a comment I once made to a friend of mine, David, who is very into gardening. After duly admiring his green thumb (sorry for the cliche) I told him, "I've always wanted to garden but I guess that's the same thing that alot of people say about running." With questions of faith, however, more is at stake. I don't know if this will lead anywhere or if it is just a hit from a well told homilly that will wear off soon. But there have been little pieces like that in various parts of my life lately, and I hope they fit together into something bigger. But I have to make them do so.

So, that's where my head was at during the run. My body was happy as it looks like this prolonged cold snap we've been having has finally snapped and temps are back to a more normal hi-20's/lo 30's. I am surprised what a huge difference this made, as I ran in shorts and a sweatshirt (w/o gloves or hat) and felt overdressed. There was a dusting of snow (about 1") that fell last night, and while it made things slick (esp. on 2 or so miles of the run that are on a trail along the Wissahickon) it also covered up the old snow and made everything wintry white again. The snow on the ground also gave me an excuse to slow it down (as if I should need one) although the 4 miles that were marked on Kelly Drive went by in 30:04.

Total run time for 10 or so miles was 81:36. This gives me 50 miles for the week, which I'm okay with given the circumstances.

I spent some time reading running blogs yesterday and sticking my big toe into the world of html earlier this afternoon. I looked through a bunch of blogs to look for ones I'd like to follow on a regular basis and, related to this, what elements I liked or disliked in the blogs I read. In response, I started a little links list on the sidebar that I need to learn how to adjust the font for, but which I've put the Complete Running URL and which I promise to populate more as I get more into this. Learning this promises to be a series of baby steps. If you noticed in a previous sentence I also learned how to link in the text today.

I also found out that I'm not writing in a total vacuum as apparently someone liked my term "urban fartlek" enough to put it on his website, "Double-Tongued Word Wrester," which catalogues neologisms and new words that appear. I'm amazed that he found this site, but apparently he has a system for sifting through the detritus on the web.

And the last thing I want to add is two things that I think make a good running blog. I will probably add to this list occasionally and maybe even eventually make it into a "top ten" list or something like that. Anyway, number 1 is that the blog should build up to something, give it some sort of thread that tie together the individual entries. The most logical tie is a goal race, where the reader can follow the preparations and get progressively more "hooked" as the race day nears, and the account of the race becomes the climactic piece. Then it starts again. I'll hopefully incorporate this into my blog this week. The second thing that I found is that there are alot of running blogs out there that are not much more than training logs. Training logs are not very interesting to read, by and large, unless it is Paula Radcliffe's or KK's or someone of that caliber, who generally don't blog. I want that info, but I want to be able to place it with a person - his or her struggles, quirks, goals, triumphs, insights, etc. I hope that is what I am doing here.

That is more than enough for today.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cold Day - Hot Run

I must be getting used to the cold. I cycled into Old City yesterday, about 6 miles one way, after work in the dark and the temperatures didn't bother me at all. This morning the temps were in the teens and with essentially the same gear I had on yesterday, minus the thermal shirt, I felt very comfortable through the whole 15 miler I did. It probably also helped that I left an hour later and because of that was able to run in the sun.

Another kick-ass workout. The loop was essentially the same one I've done over the last two Saturdays. Four miles, roughly, to the Art Museum, then 8.5 miles on the Drives. This latter part is marked off by quarter miles. I ran the 4 miles on the West River Drive in 28.26 and the 4 miles on Kelly Drive in 27.16. A nice negative split. As I said last week, it feels real good to be running long runs where this pace feels very comfortable. Next week I wanna extend the distance, perhaps to 17 or 18 miles, and see what kind of pace I can keep. Either this week or next week I also want to start putting tempo work into my Tues/Thurs runs. One of my goals for my fall marathon (I don't know if I'll make this goal for Boston) is to be very comfortable running long at 6 minute pace.

So despite my difficulties getting in workouts this week my overall training picture continues to look good. I feel roughly the same today as I did writing last Saturday's blog, so maybe I shouldn't flip out so much in between. That's an interesting split, the day to day emotions vs. the emotions associated with the big picture. I suppose one practical benefit of this blog is I can gauge these emotions by seeing what I write about.

Speaking of that, I finally found a website that seems to be a central node for running-related blogs ( I knew such a site had to exist, and that there must be a network of running bloggers somewhere, I was surprised it took me this long to find it. I'll spend some time after I finish this entry to see what other running blogs look like.

I see this blog like my running, in that it slowly will evolve. When I started running seriously again in 1996 it took me several years to move out of my self-contained little running world to make connections with the local running community. Looking back I'm surprised how long it took me, and now I consider myself fairly well plugged in (I haven't written about that much as January is still typically a lonely month to run). I see blogs as akin to this. I'll get plugged in, but on my own time. One thing that running has taught me is patience. One reason I write this running blog is because I'd like to have the self-discipline in writing that I do in running. Hopefully the latter will rub off on the former.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Wind Chill?

Seems like I've been complaining about this cold for going on two weeks now. It won't let up and should go on through the weekend. This morning the temps were in the single digits, with a little wind along the Schuylkill that made the run a little tougher. The only stuff I have for cold is cotton, so I put an extra thermal shirt under my hooded sweatshirt and an extra pair of sox in my pocket in case my hands got too cold with just gloves. But I was relatively comfortable once we got started.

Did the usual 6.5 loop with E. The topic of conversation for much of the run was the wind chill, specifically, is there any instrumental way to measure wind chill and, assuming there isn't, how does one measure wind chill? Yes I know there is some formula that calculates it based on the wind speed and temp but how do you validate this? Is wind chill anything more than subjective? Once we got started on this it became a slippery slope, with one unanswerable question leading to another. At the same time, the headwind along the river definitely made me realize that wind chill exists, especially on an exposed area around my trachea that really got raw.

But once we hit Powelton Village and the wind died down the run became much more bearable and by the time we hit Locust Walk we had us a good pace going, so much so that we stayed on Locust up to 51st St., extending the loop to 7.5 miles. Time was 68.27.

I need all the extra miles I can get this week. After my Tuesday blog entry I missed my Wednesday workout. Yesterday I couldn't get my ass out of bed in the morning; I had been up until 1:30 working the night before, but I managed to get in 12 miles at lunch - 11 on the treadmill and 1 cooldown mile on the indoor track. I started the tm at about 7:30 and took it down to 6:30 before maxing out the pace at 6:00 for the last mile to ensure that the total run would go under 7 minute pace. Total time for the first 11 was 76:45. I didn't time the last mile.

So I am hanging on this week. If I get 15 in tomorrow and 10 on Sunday then I'll eke 50 out of this wretched week, which will make the week less than a total write off. But, given the snow and the cold, I am currently in survival mode. Just see about getting miles in and ride it out until the conditions improve. Nothing more ambitious than that. And it seems hard to believe, but the conditions will improve. . . someday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Got my first workout in today in three days. Took Sunday off because of the snow . . . no big deal there. Monday was a victim of circumstances: one “must do” thing led to another and my first free time was at 4 pm and I had to be home by 5. Today looked to be going the same way. I wanted to get in 11 miles today. The streets and sidewalks were still too snowy to run on. At work one task kept leading to another. I got breathing time at 3:30 and had to teach a class at 5. If I were going to get a workout in this was the only time. By this point 11 miles got plea bargained down to getting in as many miles as I could and still be ready to teach at 5. The sentence ended up being a beat-the-clock six-miles treadmill run in 38:18. This allowed me to make it to class with 5 minutes to spare. Could have got in another half-mile.

On the Philly Runners discussion board ( someone posted a message about what motivates us to run in this, the darkest, coldest time of the year. This question swam around in my mind during my run and since then. However, the more I think about it the more the question doesn’t fit right. There is no answer to this question. It’s not any answer that keeps me going, it’s the process. The tension between what I’d like to do and the mileage I actually get done. I struggle with this everyday. Some days (like last Saturday) I think I get a bead on it and next thing I know its Tuesday and I’m staring at the prospect of three days off.

Today I got in the best workout I could, but I wanted more. I got some consolation by making up for lost distance with added intensity. But now I’ll be scrambling for opportunities to make up mileage over the rest of the week. It’s hard when it snows but it helps to have options, and I am making my peace with the treadmill (and will write about that someday). It helps to be flexible, and although my job keeps me busy it also allows me opportunities for midday workouts. And it helps to realize, to paraphrase an old Rolling Stones song, that while I can’t always get what I want generally I get what I need. But I think the biggest motivator for me to run is taking on that tension, to where it feels like a running partner that I sometimes get a lead on but never can shake, never can get so far ahead of that I can’t hear the breathing behind me.

And so I write this tonight with part of my mind plotting tomorrow’s workout. The snow is still there, making it too slushy and slippery to be tramping around in the pre-morning darkness. But I’ll wake up at my running time and work, and then take those hours and trade them for some treadmill time in the morning. First thing, 8 a.m. Before the rest of the day can snatch that from me.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

And now. . . it's snowing

Well the forecasters got it right for once, they predicted snow to start at 10a.m. At 10 I was about 2 miles short of wrapping up my Saturday 15, and sure enough the first flurries started coming down. Now its coming down quite heavily and the same forecasters promise 12+ inches.

Let it snow; I got my workout in. For my run I went to Center City this morning to hook up with folks running from the Philadelphia Runner store ( PR opened a few months ago and I hadn't been there yet, and I wanted to what their Saturday morning runs were like. Their store, near Rittenhouse Square in Center City, looks big and elegant from the outside, and its alot smaller once you get inside but it keeps the elegance (as much as a running store can). It struck me, while I looked around as we waited for the rest of the group to assemble, that there is not a heck of alot of "stuff" you can sell runners. Besides shoes, there is a limited amount of clothing apparel and gear, especially when you compare it to a sport like cycling. I like it that way, especially seeing the rattiness of my attire for my cold runs. That also means that, if there is a limited amount of stuff you can do with merchandise, its a store's relationship with the local running community that determines how well it will do. I wonder how PR will make out, and how it will affect a nearby store, Rittenhouse Sports, which probably has a similar (albeit more cramped) selection of stuff but does little to promote local running.

Anyway, this probably was not the best Saturday to hook up with a new group. Temperatures were, yet again, in the teens and the day was grey with the feeling of imminent snow. About seven people showed, including E. (who I had forgotten runs with these folks). Me, E., and another woman whose name escapes me took off as the "fast" group and ran up the Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum and ran up the Drives. They got me into a good 7:15 groove and after about two miles they turned to go off into the hills east of Kelly Dr. and I kept going up Kelly. Soon after, I passed I. and S. on their way down and thought, shit, I could have hooked up with them this morning. They are two of the regulars that meet at 8:15 in front of the Art Museum with whom I will usually run when I'm looking to go social on the weekend.

While the social aspect of my run didn't work out as I would have liked I was very happy with my workout. After about a 4 mile warmup to the store, and about two miles running with company, I timed the next 7 miles and brought my pace down from 7:15 to about a 6:50 and then recovered at about 7:30 or so for the last 2 or 3 miles home. This is the level where I want to be right now, where I can comfortably air it out at a sustained sub 7 pace, but not yet ready to take it into the low sixes or high fives for serious tempo work. That'll come.

I'm calling the workout 15.5 miles total in just under 2 hours: 1:59.50.

Lots of small birds out today. Sparrows and juncoes and cardinals and the like. Birds I remember from the bird feeder our family had when I was a kid. Seeing them sitting in a bunch on the ground filling up on whatever they were eating was a nostalgic winter scene for me, not only from the feeder but also from pictures, cards, stamps and the like.

Getting a workout in tomorrow will be a challenge with the snow, and it may be a good day to DNR.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Still Cold

Still cold. Probably the coldest run of them all. Ran the usual 6am 6.5 mile Art Museum loop with E. The run was slow (63.34) although probably not as slow as dividing the miles into the times would let on, as the loop distances are generally conservative (I'm very anal about not overstating my mileage). But the slow pace was probably beneficial to my legs, even though it did force me to stay out in the cold a few minutes more.

That being said, even with the abbreviated run yesterday I'm still logging more mileage this week than I did at this point last week. I had some knee pain, of the old, familiar variety, last night and early this morning but that did not hamper my run this morning.

I'm thinking that maybe it is not such a bad thing to skip a few days on this blog and then summarize, as this is turning into what I wanted to avoid, just a glorified and slightly expanded upon running log. I wanted to use running as a takeoff point to explore ideas and thoughts that pop into my mind as I run. That is of course harder to do than to just report mileage and complain how cold it is, but it also takes more time. Time is tough to find and I've been looking to sandwich these blog entries in when I have ten or fifteen minutes free time, such as I do now.

But I'll keep slogging, er blogging, on for now, with the idea that any writing is better than no writing. Here, as in many things pertaining to self-discipline, I take a lesson from my running. Just go out there and do it, day in and day out. Some days will feel like I can take on the Kenyans (okay, the slower Kenyans), but most days I feel like I'm putting in mileage and have to keep the faith that all this will work together for a greater good. So if this blog entry were a run, it would definitely be an early morning one in the dark. Not necessarily a cold run, but one where the split time at 38th and Baltimore (which I use as a checkpoint) reads at close to twelve minutes which means that the pace has started slow and the rest of the run is likely to be a sluggish, especially if my brain is going at that pace as well. But there is something about running where the individual workout performances don't matter as much as the sum of the training over the long haul.

A synergistic approach, I guess, and, on mornings like these, one I desperately have to believe applies to writing as well.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Driven Indoors

I'll do a double (blogging) today and get caught up. I'll also post while the adrenaline is still flowing. As I wrote, the snow made running outdoors a bit too slick for my taste this morning, so I stopped by the athletic center for a treadmill run before going to the office.

As my time was limited, I could only do six this morning. But the monkey was still gonna be hungry. So I compromised by keeping the run at six but jacking up the speed to whatever I wanted. By five miles I had the hamster wheel maxed out at a six-minute pace and I started screwing with the incline, getting it up to 3% before I spent the last quarter mile gulping air, going anaerobic and counting down the hundredths of a mile. It felt like a race in that I really pushed. I finished the six miles in 40:40.

So that gives me some indication of the shape I'm currently in. I've also dropped down to about 180 now, which means I'm slowly but surely losing those December pounds. And sofar I'm getting my workouts in despite the snow.

Cold & Colder

It's gotten to be a full blown cold snap here, with temperatures in the teens and a few inches of snow yesterday afternoon. That's about as cold as it gets in these parts.

The streets were still full of snow, making things a bit too treacherous to run outside this morning. So I will get in a treadmill workout later today, although it won't be for 11 miles as planned. And in my downtime this morning I will again play catch-up.

I ran the same 8-mile loop yesterday that I ran on Monday, in the morning dark in about the same time I ran it on Monday, around an 8 minute pace. That run wasn't as hard as the 11-miler on Tuesday, which I again ran in 87 minutes and which, while it went well physically, was tough mentally. One of those runs where I just stared at a point down the road and it just never seemed to come and when it did come I was reminded of how much farther I had to go. Mentally I felt trapped, like I was running but standing still. Or another way to put it, I wanted to escape but couldn't get out. Ironic, as like I said physically the run went fine and my pace was about a 7:30/7:45. One of those days.

Its that time of the year. Just hang on and get my workouts in and, as difficult as it is to imagine, the weather will get better.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Catching Up

Missed a few days in my blog, but its good to be back.

Friday I did not run. It was pouring rain in the morning and my schedule was too cluttered to get a workout in during the rest of the day. This is why I usually won't schedule DNR's, as they will pop up on their own. The key here is flexibility, as I enjoyed my day off and planned to run longer on Sunday to get my weekly mileage goal of 60 in. I also can't think of a sweeter sound than rain banging against the windowpane after the alarm goes off at 5:30 am.

Saturday I ran a 15 miler, a figure 8 that incorporated my usual 6.5 mile loop and the 8.5 mile loop on West River and Kelly Drives. On Saturday mornings I'll usually meet some folks in front of the Art Museum, but no one was there this morning so it was me and my iPod. It was cold enough so that the headphone wires became stiff and ill-fitting in my ears, but otherwise Randy Garibay, my alt country mix, and James McMurtry kept me company. The Drives have every quarter mile marked and I averaged about a 7:10 pace going around the loop. Felt great.

Sunday I ran home after church in Germantown with M. We both agreed to consciously keep the pace mellow, and held about an 8 minute pace. The run is 10 miles, point to point along the Wissahickon, Kelly Dr. and thru West Philly. If nothing else, M's gotten to see a good slice of Philadelphia by running.

Today I went out on my own at 6am and stretched my 6.5 mile Art Museum loop to an 8 mile Sweetbriar loop. It was cold enough today (hi teens, lo 20s) that I donned tights and my bulky U of Penn hooded sweatshirt with sleeves long enough for my hands to retreat into so I don't need gloves. Except for the lack of a hat, this is about as warm as I'll dress and I probably could have done ok with less today. This goes against all orthodoxy, but my main strategy for keeping warm on a very cold day is with a loose fitting sweatshirt that creates a layer of body-warmed air around my torso. If my trunk is warm then the rest of my body tends to feel fine. On less cold days I freeze a little at first and then am comfortable in shorts and a tee right down to 30 degrees.

So you have my winter dress philosophy. No wicking or special variants of artificial fibers and the like. I like it because its simple. Its also, for better or worse, given me a reputation as somewhat odd. But I'll take that over tying jackets and shirts around my waist mid run.

I logged 60 miles last week, exactly where I want to be. I'm running the distances and the pace I want, and my knee pain is, for the moment, non-existent. In short, my training is going extremely well at the moment. Shoot for about 65 this week.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Through the Fog

Ran the 11-mile Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop solo this morning. The weather continues to be mild and the run was made interesting by a shroud of fog. The first five or so miles, in the dark, felt like a terminal foray into the unknown as each turn led into an opaque wall of gray. Lights cast their feeble parabolas into a surreal mist. I couldn't help thinking how weather imitated life this morning - leaving me to stumble forward blindly into the unknown.

The dawn was different as well. Instead of the usual light breaking upon the horizon, today it rose from the ground, with daylight slowly oozing upward and seeping into the surroundings.

Was plugged into my iPod this morning. First up was a studio session of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, starting off slowly with Stormy Monday Blues, with both guitar gods trading off long, painful guitar licks that eased me out of my predawn funk and into my run. Their chemistry, both in their guitar playing and in their banter between songs, is some of the best I've heard on cd and their songs drive home a rhythm like a slow-cruising locomotive. That took me through about mile 8 whereupon I took a shot of Kenny Brown's cd "Stingray." This picked up my dragging ass like a shot of GU. This is mean driving blues; push-up-the-tempo bring-it-on-home blues.

"Well I'm going to the racetrack gonna see my pony run,
Now if I win some money baby you know I'll bring you some,
Say now you don't know, you don't know my mind,
You see me laughin', Lord, I'm laughing just to keep from crying."

Finished the run in 87:06; I'm happy with anything under 90 on that course.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Run of the Mill

Very uneventful run today, so I'll keep it short. E., M. and I again did the 6.5 mile Art Museum loop, in the dark, in 54.02. Weather was cool and comfortable and none of us were feeling all too talkative. The only item of note I can think of is that I coined the term "urban fartlek" to describe our sudden speeding up to make it through a stale green light and cross Market Street.

I am less reflective when running with people and thus less material brews in my head to base a blog entry on. I'm also running around (metaphorically) all day so I can't spend much time on an entry today. And finally, and perhaps most challenging, is that writing this blog will require new or at least interesting angles on what will soon become a repetitive process - running largely the same routes week in and week out.

Yet I think I can do it. . . just not today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

11 Mile Loop

Did the 11 mile loop that I did last Saturday, another one of my bread and butter runs. When my training gets in a groove I'll do this loop on Tuesdays and Thursdays (when I'm not on the track). As I'm trying to get in the groove, running this on a Tuesday morning was a step in that direction.

M. ran with me again this morning. College wasn't that long ago to where I can remember how difficult it was to get out of the house by 6 a.m., but he's game. We ratcheted up the pace in what wasn't so much a pissing contest as it was (at least on my end) a "this is a bit faster than I usually run but I'm not going to be the one to slow it down" situation. By the time we got onto West River Drive, which has markers at every quarter mile, we settled into a steady 7:15 pace. Once we got into the hills west of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge I was huffing more than he was, but settled down for the rest of the run and pointed out things of interest as we cruised through the 'hood. M. listens attentively to my ramblings (although maybe he's being polite) and he should get a view of Philadelphia through his runs that is unique from that of his classmates.

Final time was 84:24, about ten minutes faster than on Saturday when I did this run on my own. This should be my cruising pace. My knee pain was extremely low level, but still there. I iced it during breakfast as a precaution, but it doesn't seem to be getting worse. I'm also up to 188. I'll start worrying if/when I hit 190.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Another Art Museum Loop

The title says it. The usual on a Monday morning. M. came out with me again and I ran with E., my 3-time-a-week running partner, for the first time this year, so it was three of us. Other than it was dark, a bit warmer than usual, and interesting conversation topics such as feral cats and how to best wipe one's nose on the run with a short sleeve shirt, it was a pretty ordinary run. Time was 53.08, about the same as yesterday considering that running by E.'s adds a little to the loop.

Well, I emailed D. at the Bryn Mawr club to reserve a room for Boston so I've committed myself. Got a target now for all of this training. Put "Roadrunner" on and have it on a repeating loop to get me psyched.

"Going a 1000 miles an hour. . . With the radio on.
I'm in love with modern moonlight, 128 when its dark outside.
I'm in love with Massachusetts, I'm in love with the radio on. . ."

Tomorrow morning its 11 miles. Ugh. The reality of training. I was really tired today, and tomorrow its likely to be more of the same. Running in the dark early in the morning and not getting enough sleep to boot. Yup, must be training for Boston. Better listen to some more Modern Lovers. The thing about this training is its just relentless. Relentless. I love that word, describes exactly what its like to get up into the cold dark at 5:30 a.m. and know that after I do it today I'm just gonna have to do it again tomorrow, and next week, and next month and. . . well. . . its relentless.

But I'm going to Boston. I got the radio on.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

End of Week 1

Today, Sunday, wraps up the first full week of the new year. It also means that the new year is no longer so new anymore. The novelty of all the things we pledged to start in the new year is going away, and the hard work of keeping these up is starting.

Ran my 6.5 mile Art Museum loop this morning. Had to run it in the dark or else it wouldn't have gotten run. This means that I didn't get a full night's sleep at all this weekend. But it also means I logged 52 miles this week. Not great but decent for where I am in my training and it puts me on course to run over 200 miles this month. I'll be happy if I get there. The scale, however, is not budging from 187. This means I'm still lugging at least 10 unnecessary pounds with me on each run.

Ran the loop this morning with M., who is a student at a small central Pennsylvania college who is staying with us for a week and a half while he's taking an intensive course here in Philly. He runs cross country and pushed me to run the loop in 52.27, a few minutes faster than I've been running it. I like showing people the loop for the first time, as it makes running it new again as I try to imagine the familiar through other people's eyes.

And finally, today was the Disney marathon. One of the things that has led me to blogging was guiding some folks who were training to run marathons under the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program. This consisted mainly of meeting whoever wanted to come out to a group run on Saturday mornings, keeping in touch by email, and being available for advice etc. if people needed it. As is typical with groups of people, some took advantage of me as a resource, others I only got acquainted with, and still a third group I never got to know past their names. Three folks finished Disney. One, S., worked hard at her training and made it to her first marathon despite a number of injuries. She finished in 4:38 and I'm very happy for her. Two others I was only acquainted with, J. and N., also both finished the marathon in walking times. Again, I'm glad they finished. I only have finishing times off of the web for each of them however so I look forward to hearing details about how their races went. This was the last of three marathons that people in JIM were training for, so it puts closure on this program for the season. I don't know if I will continue my involvement with this. But right now I'm enjoy the rewarding feeling that comes from seeing folks finishing a marathon after watching their training for some months.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

First 11 Mile Loop of 2005

Even though I hate running in rain, I got myself out of the house at 7 am in a steady rain to do my first extended (I hesitate to say long) run of the year. I ran my regular 11 mile (give or take) loop that takes me down to Taney Park, along the bikepath to West River Drive and up to the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, where I turn left and go through Fairmount Park on Belmont and keep going through Mantua where Belmont becomes 44th St. Running time was 94:34 in what felt like an 8:15-8:30 pace. The rain stopped when I was on WRD, and after that the conditions were primo.

This is the first time I've run this far since the Philly Marathon in November, and everything felt good. Running an old familiar loop after being away for awhile is like catching up with an old friend.

The biggest change I saw in this "friend" was on the last third of the loop, which takes me through Mantua, one of Philadelphia's more "economically depressed" neighborhoods. Running on Belmont south of Girard, I was surprised to see at least three or four rowhouses being gut rehabbed, with construction guys in and around the houses. This is a neighborhood in which blocks that were once solid rows of two-story rowhouses are now pockmarked with abandoned houses and gaps where houses once stood and either collapsed or were torn down. For decades the economics of the area held that the investment to fix these houses vastly exceeded the price that could be gained by selling the refurbished homes. Those economics seem to have changed, and although it is but the beginning of a process that still has a ways to go, it is a very encouraging sign.

Further on, past where Belmont crosses Lancaster, there were at least five or six houses that were torn down in my absence. These are in addition to at least ten that were torn down over the fall and the wholesale demolition of the Mill Creek public housing project. Much of this is part of Mayor Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, and the Mill Creek demolition is paid for with Federal money. With the latter the replacement housing is starting to take shape as a substantial platte of low-rise housing, and the rest of the demolition has spawned vacant lots that are now merging into each other to produce larger parcels of land. I'm a bit more ambivalent about these latter changes, as on one hand I still feel that realistically much of this housing (near the site of the infamous Lex St. Massacre a few years back) won't ever be renovated and is in such shape that it will be torn down sooner or later. On the other hand, its a shame to see this housing go, and one is left to wonder what will take its place. Will it be open lots overgrown with weeds, in the style of Detroit? Big box stores as in Harlem? Or something leading to a revitalized neighborhood? We will have to wait and see, probably a few years before any conclusions can be drawn.

So there's a little sociology on the run. Running these same routes over a period of years is like time lapse photography. Running day after day at a speed slow enough to permit detailed observation lets daily observations grow into deeper understandings. Its hard to explain, but after awhile I feel like I become a part of my familiar routes.

Friday, January 07, 2005

New Brunswick

I spent the day in New Brunswick NJ, the home of Rutgers University. Got in last night and found out that the place I was staying did not have a fitness center. I laugh at myself now, but I just took it for granted that all hotels have fitness centers.

So as an alternative I grabbed a map, plotted a course for Bucchleuch Park ( and the Raritan River, with the plan to retrace my steps after 35 minutes. The course took me through part of Rutgers campus, into and out of downtown (including the "theater district"), and through some residential neighborhoods to the park whose name I can't pronounce and then a little further across the Raritan, which was brown and swollen with the recent rain. I hit the turnaround right at the 35 minute mark and it took me 25 minutes to get back to the hotel.

It was only on the way back that I got a rhythm, as I spent the leg out focusing too much on reading the map and getting the course right. I've never run with a map before, and ordinarily would not have been so particular about getting the course right but I had to be back on time. New Brunswick seems like a town that is doing well, as downtown has a good assortment of stores and a fair amount of construction going on. There seems to be a mix of town and gown, of races/ethnicities, and of big and small houses. I broke a PR for most cop cars seen on a run behind pulled over cars (3), so be careful if you ever drive through NB.

Conservatively, I called the run 5.5 miles. Definitely a mellow workout but also one which reinforces that there is more to running than the workout. Following the run I got ready for my day and then spent the next 7 hours in a meeting discussing the intersection between criminal justice and mental health services. While this amounts to great fun for wonks like me, had I not run I would have spent the whole day in NB with little sense of where I was at.

Seebo 1; Treadmill 0.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

More Rain

More or less the same weather as yesterday. Wet and dreary. I slept in this morning and just ran 8 miles on the hamster wheel. I got to the six mile mark about a minute faster than I ran six yesterday (and felt better doing so) and finished the eight in 60:58. I was huffing and puffing a bit more at the end, but was very disciplined about NOT upping the pace past 7:30, although its really tempting on a long run like that. Knee pain was minimal. I guess the even surface and give of the treadmill is good for recovering from IT band. Need to keep that in mind.

I had Chris Knight's "A Pretty Nice Guy" on the iPod. Great CD. I just got it and one of the things about running the treadmill is that it really gives you time to listen to music. Most of the time I listen to music these days its on in the background and my mind is on other things. Running on the tm requires very little concentration, so its one of the few times that I can lose myself in music. Knight plays a style of hard country (for lack of a better classification) and lots of songs about desperate characters in situations that force them to go beyond their everyday selves. In his ability to create such characters he is right up there with Springsteen, but in a rural context. My favorite Knight song is still "The Jealous Kind" (off the cd of the same name) but song for song this CD is better. Not ideal running music in that its a bit hard to get a rhythm off some of the songs, but today I just played the music to listen. Some day I'll figure out how to upload audio on this blog and post some of the music I listen to.

Lots of persons at the ARC (USP's athletic center, this afternoon, mostly walking but also on the machines. It must be the new year. I hope they keep it up. Shit, I hope I keep it up.

Going to New Brunswick tonight and all day tomorrow for a meeting, so I guess I'll be running on the treadmill again tomorrow, probably do six. Don't know if I'll get to post.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Rainy Day

Got out of bed at 5:30 this morning to the sound of pouring rain. Thus I stayed in and resisted the temptation to crawl back into bed. Among other things I finished up my 2004 running log and set up my 2005 log.

For the first time in the five years I've been keeping logs, my total 2004 mileage failed to exceed my previous years' mileages. I ran a total of just over 2500 miles in 04, about 50 miles less than 03. This was mostly due to the cutbacks I made in the fall due to the IT band problems.

But in the spirit of new beginnings, my new, empty log (a primitive Excel spreadsheet) inspired me to pencil in a treadmill workout over my lunch hour. I'm an academic so my lunch hour is somewhat flexible. Surprisingly, the existence of this blog also motivated me to run as I needed material for it.

So I did 6 miles in 47:10 on the "hamster wheel" in USP's athletic center. The good news is that I felt virtually no knee pain, the bad news is that this was perhaps due to the pain from my right calf (which cramped up on yesterdays run) blotted this out. Anyway I won't complain.

Couple of quick observations:

This workout would normally represent a modest effort for me, but I again had to expend more energy that I'm accustomed to to crank this one out. After writing yesterday it occurred to me that this was like a ball player coming into spring training - overweight and out of practice - and the first order of the day is getting into shape for the oncoming season. That's me, as this is about the time to start training for the spring season.

My run was much facilitated by music from my iPod - a mix I made of what can be loosely described as alt-country tunes. Almost all of these songs get me up - providing 1) a rhythm that I can set my pace to and 2) vocals, guitar, pedal steel or something that pumps me emotionally.

The prospect of having to write something in this blog transforms my workout. First, the specter of having to write in it pushes me to workout on a day like today where I could have easily taken a day off. Second, while I run my mind is buzzing about what to write. The closest I can come to describing it is the feeling I get when I have a camcorder (and why I hate them). You simultaneously are in the event and are outside of the event looking in. I'm not sure how I'm going to like this reflexivity, but for now I'll continue to track it.

I'm sure I'll spend more time on each of these issues as the blog continues. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Back Home

Well, back in Philly after spending the holidays in Texas.

As I said in my previous post, I got some work to do to get my a-game back. I got on the scale this morning and weighed in at 186, 11 pounds over my usual weight. No wonder I was plodding along last Saturday.

Ran 6 yesterday and 8 today, at about 8 or 8:20 pace. I'm not so worried about my pace at this point as I want to get in miles. Yesterday went okay but today was a struggle. I've got a low grade but persistent IT band soreness on my left knee and, as usual, it was not painful but it was there. I've been fighting this for most of the fall, and had drastically cut back running after the Philly marathon in mid-November in an effort to shake it, to no avail. So now my strategy is to run with it until it either clears up (hey, I've had injuries go away) or gets to the point where its too painful to run.

I ran my usual 8 mile route, down through U of Pennsylvania, across the river into Center City, along the bike path to the Art Museum and then up W. River Drive just past the zoo, where I cut back through Fairmount Park and Mantua to return home. Leaving at 6 a.m. these days means most of the run is in the dark, and it was drizzly today as well. Thus there was no sun, but light came through a bluish filter that cast the Schuylkill, about the time I passed the Girard Bridge, to look like a painting right out of Picasso's blue period. This blue bore down on me metaphysically as well, as I they matched the tint of my thoughts, mostly about the work I'm wrestling with. About this time a cramp started up in my right calf that bugged me for the rest of the way home. Bananas and water today.

So not the best of runs but it is now a done run. Its a weird situation, where I'm telling myself to feel good about humping through runs that are shorter and less intense than what I'm used to logging. But I don't want to think about that, I just want to get back into the rhythm. The rest, I'm hoping, will take care of itself.

Me and Tony - Black Eye Pea 5k

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Black-Eye Pea New Year’s 5k

<>For once it was not my idea to run a race. <>

On New Year’s Eve Cindy decides that she wants to walk in the morning, and finds a little 5k race in Fort Worth on the internet. I groan that I’m in no shape to race and she retorts that the race isn’t for me. Cris, Cindy’s niece, agrees to walk with Cindy. My son, Tony, pipes in that this is something the whole family should do. The next morning eight of us: me, Cindy, and our two kids and Cris, her husband Aaron and their two kids, are on our way to the race.

The Black-Eye Pea New Year’s 5k plays on the southern tradition of eating a bowl of black-eye peas on New Year’s Day as a way of appropriating luck for the upcoming year. The course is out and back along the Trinity River; along paths that are Fort Worth’s equivalent of the West River and Kelly Drives. For the first time, my whole family will participate in a race; I help them with the usual pre-race routines such as filling out registration forms, safety pinning race numbers on, and herding everyone for water and a porta potty stop.

<>They all line up in the back and I line up in front. As with many things in Texas, the race director’s pre-race comments are a bit folksier than one finds up north, and I take the time to look around. About 200 participants line up; clearly not a major race. Hard to tell who, if anybody, might be competition here beyond a group of young males, either high school or college age. The gun goes off and, as is age appropriate, they all take off like jackrabbits. I, on the other hand, take a more conservative start, necessitated by shortness of breath and a slight lightheadedness. I ain’t close to being in any racing form. <>

Mile 1 passes in 5:49, dispelling any hopes that perhaps I’m running faster than I think. One by one, however, I reel in the boys now wilting ahead of me and move into second place, with the first place runner about 100 yards ahead. My attention quickly shifts from the unlikely prospect of overtaking the lead runner, another youngster, to the sound of footsteps and breathing behind me. At the turnaround I see three guys about five yards behind me. It was now a fox hunt, and if any of these hounds have any finishing kick I will be dead.

In the mix of runners still heading the other way, I first see Aaron and then see Tony jogging along. The shock on my face is answered by his beaming face. I let out a whoop and high five him as he passes. I hope that my outburst has the hounds thinking that I am coasting, because I am struggling. Mile 2 passes in 5:35, a bit better. But time is irrelevant now as the race has become purely tactical. My strategy is simple – don’t let the hounds overtake me. A minute later footsteps move closer and I too amp it up and wait until this surge abates. I hate the intensity of these damn 5k races. My mind ponders the I-30 overpass now in sight, which I know is just before the finish. That moment is punctured by a shout from one of my pursuers. I realize I have gone straight where the course has veered left. A curse and a correction later I am trailing the lead hound by ten yards. Now I’m in pursuit but quickly overtake him again. A quarter mile left, but the race is over. Mile 3 goes by in 5:50 and the finishing time is a very so-so 17:48. I start the New Year knowing I have work to do.

<>I finish, catch my breath, and double back on the course to look for Tony. I fall in with him a little past mile 2. Sweat has soaked through his long-sleeved t-shirt and his hair is pasted to his forehead, but he smiles when I ask him how he is doing. He is a tough kid, but also a very cautious kid, so I’m surprised that he has ventured ahead on his own. I talk him through the rest of the race, and with about a half mile to go we alternate between running and walking until the finish line is in sight. I tell him that at this point runners gather whatever they have left to finish strong. In response he takes off with more energy than I thought he had left and runs the last quarter mile to finish in 40:58. I don’t know who is happier, me or him.

I leave Tony with Aaron (finished in about 31:00), and double back one more time. After about half a mile I run into Cindy, Cris and the girls. Upon seeing me, Cindy and Cris take off and jog in the rest of the way. Maricela looks very fresh but tells me to forget any notion of her doing any more than walking through the race, whereupon she returns to planet iPod. My attention turns to Cris’ kids, Victoria (10) and Erica (5). They complain of cramps but are in good spirits and horse around as we walk into the finish. The usual post-race spread is supplemented with black-eye peas and Coors, and my finish is good enough for the prize, as first masters runner, of a large mason jar full of (what else?) black-eye peas. Tony, to his delight, gets an age group prize of a small mason jar of the same (as does Erica). We are both very proud to pose for a post-race picture with our jars and both agree we will do this again soon.