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, February 28, 2005

Another Stormy Monday

Just got into work and snow is again hanging in the air.

Did get a run in this morning, 8 on the Art Museum loop extended to 54th St. E & J both made it out as well. Pace felt respectable, we all seemed to subconsciously take turns keeping things reasonably fast. We did get overtaken, however, by a guy who appeared a bit more competitive. As he was ahead of us, he looked a few times, which prompted J to threaten (out of earshot) to overtake him and have him "get passed by a girl." Also, in response to Penn digging up something on Hill Field, E & myself, who have been on Penn's campus in one fashion or another for way too long, reminisced on various changes to Penn's landscape over the past decade and the self-immolation of Kathy Chang in 96. E commented about Penn's need to build over any land upon which an informal use had flourished. Very true. Run time was 66.11.

Also ran yesterday, although I never got around to posting. Long and slow 15 up to Falls Bridge, back through Fairmount Park, and then, to follow up on the Mill Creek lecture I wrote about a few days ago, I went west a bit on Westminster and through blocks I hadn't been on. Much of this took me through delapidated low areas, but there was also one block of beautiful, slightly beaten up 3-story rowhouses that would seem ripe for gentrification if they weren't just a bit too far into the hood. There were also a number of lots with wood fencing around them that I now know is the signature of Philadelphia Green. Time was around 1:50.

And finally, that closes the book on February. Looking back, it was a very successful month. In my Feb 1 post I said my reach goal was 260 miles and my final mileage tally is 284. It was also the first month ever in which I ran every single day. But mostly, I'm glad the months are behind me as Jan and Feb are always the toughest running months of the year.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Road to the Super Bowl 5k

After ten years living here I must finally be getting to be at least somewhat Philadelphian. Why else would I be going to a pre Super Bowl race (rescheduled from mid January) after the Iggles let us down yet once again. From where comes the need to relive that? Then again, I can also blame my participation on my wife, as she wants to run one 5k per month this year and the race pickins are slim in February.

So C., T. and I packed up for Wilmington to run the Road to the Super Bowl (that already was). Fortunately it started at 11 a.m. so we could sleep in a bit and I could eat a big bowl of Cream of Wheat for breakfast. The weather, sunny and in the high 30’s, was ideal for racing. In a nod to the start of Spring Training, I looked at this race as my preseason, coming out of the January-February doldrums to test how my mojo was coming along.

The alert reader will have already picked up several disclaimers upon which I could write off this race, should I do badly. In this spirit, I was also aware of a knot that had settled itself into my right calf from the “speedwork” I did yesterday on the USP indoor track. Looking back, I think there is some sadness to the fact that I need to spend so much self-talk to convince myself that this is just a race to see how I’m doing, that there is nothing at stake here.

Last year’s results showed this race was won in about 17:45. It was clear upon getting to the race that this would not be the case this year. The staging area was in a sports bar, offering a roomy, heated area for doing the usual pre-race stuff. Immediately to the right upon coming in there was a group of young guys with UDXC on their sweats, and then I recognized Greg Cauller, a guy I had dueled with in last Fall’s Delaware Distance Classic 15k. After all my playing this race down, now it suddenly became interesting.

I was also looking forward to this race because it would be the second one that my boy T. would be running. One of the fun parts of being a dad was showing him the right ways to do all the pre-race stuff that you gotta do. He was excited and liked that you got a shirt for racing. He also liked the awards, which were bobble-head football player trophies. According to the race director, they were recognized by Runners World as being among the nation’s most unique road racing trophies.

The race started on a downhill and two UDXC types took off in front and stayed there. I held third for about a half mile and then got absorbed by a pack of about five, including Cauller. I slowly fell behind this pack as mile 1 came in at 5:17. After mile 1 the course hooks up with an uphill piece that I recognized as part of the infamous 3-mile uphill stretch of the Cesar Rodney course and at about three-fourths through the second mile the course turned around and the uphill became a downhill. On the turnaround I counted myself tenth, just behind two guys dressed all in black. Right after the turnaround I made my move screaming downhill past Agents J & K. Mile 2 went by in 5:34 and, while nobody was coming up behind me, Cauller remained about 50 feet ahead of me. Mile 3 was in 5:28 and I finished in 16:53, good for 8th overall and a bobbing head trophy for first male in the 40-44 group.

I then took a cooldown run by retracing the course to meet up with C & T. I had seen them after the turnaround heading up the course a little past mile 1. After that T left C in the dust and was running alone when I met up with him at about mile 2. He was pretty tired but managed a strong kick for the final .1 mile to finish in a little over 36 minutes, almost a five minute improvement over his last race. Not bad for an 8 year old. We both then cheered C when she came in at about 3 minutes behind him.

And I was happy with my 16:53 as well. A sub 17 showing, without having done any speed work over the winter, tells me I got my mojo working just fine at this point in the preseason and gives me a head of steam for my second pre-season run next Sunday at the NE Roadrunners Winter 10k.

T at about mile 2
T right after finishing
C right after finishing
Me and T

Friday, February 25, 2005

Tri Training

Yesterday's snow left conditions too slippery to run outside this morning. The only time I could get in a workout was this afternoon at 5. Running on a late Friday afternoon, with nothing in my stomach, indoors at USP, is not my idea of an ideal workout.

Apparently this is a popular time for students, however, as the treadmills were all taken and I was left to go around the 1/10 mile-long track. Running that makes me dizzywith that constant going around and around. In part to relieve the boredom I did my second mile as a mini time trial to see if I could go sub-six on that wretched oval. I did a 5:30 effortlessly, but paid for it with a cramp in my right calf at lap 8 that still feels knotted. Those turns, which are sharp and almost constant, also put alot of strain on my left leg as the track is not banked. I cooled down for another half mile and then did a very lackluster 1.5 more miles on a treadmill that had opened. I did the latter miles because, as elitist as it might sound, if its under 4 miles these days I have a hard time counting it as a workout.

I also did this little time trial in preparation for the "triathlon" USP is holding in the ARC next week. Its a 2-mile run (either on the track or the treadmill), swim 300 yards in the pool (12 laps) and ride 5 miles on the stationary bike. I got talked into it by M., the asst. director there, who overcame my protests by appealing to my ego. I figured the prospect of beating a bunch of kids half my age couldn't but ease any midlife pains I might have. I've never ridden the stationary bikes there, but don't think I'll have a problem with that. However its the pool (I've also never swam for time, let alone competitively) which will give me the biggest challenge. But how hard can 300 yards be?

I'll let you how things go next Friday. I also will probably run that 5k tomorrow in Wilmington, so I'll probably have an LBRR (long boring race report) for tomorrow's entry.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Junk Miles?

Did the same workout for the third consecutive Thursday. A slow 4 mile loop in the early morning and a moderate paced 8 mile loop with JH during lunch. Former run was around 36 minutes, latter run was in 64:25.

Since I am taking it easy this week I went back and forth with myself over the point of doing the morning workout. What finally got me to go was, in light of the snow in today's forecast, if I work out some this morning that would be less miles stuck on the hamster wheel this afternoon. But then during my run I could not come up with a satisfactory answer for why I was running, besides padding my weekly mileage. Paradoxically, however, I enjoyed the run. My legs felt very fresh and I felt happy to be outside, perhaps because there was no reason to be out there. So I'll call it a mental health run.

The weather forecasters were correct and it did start snowing at around 11. JH emailed me saying he was going to bag it but changed his mind when I said I'd go anyway. The conditions were fine, as the snow wasn't sticking yet to the asphalt and was not deep so that the few areas where we ran over unpaved surfaces felt soft and springy. We talked a while for the first half of the run and then just ran for most of the second part. Finishing felt good (my legs felt great today) as I imagined I did something heroic in braving the snow to get my run in. We're supposed to get up to eight inches, and the is snow falling outside my window as I write. Now I can say let it snow!

Lots of thoughts popped into my head over the last 24 hours that I contemplated including here.

I went to a seminar on the Mill Creek neighborhood and the interaction of environmental and socioeconomic forces on this neighborhood. The Mill Creek is a stream that was put underground about 100 years ago but still makes its presence felt on the neighborhood named after it, which is a physically and economically run down low-lying area in the northern part of West Philly. The neighborhood moniker isn't too well known, so I was a bit surprised when I recognized much of the landscape in the slides from parts of several of my loops. Suddenly I was putting pieces together and the repetitive traipsing across this terrain let me recognize details that were crucial to the points being made. This synergy between running and urban ecology really excited me, and on the way home I figured that with some minor variations in these routes I can cover much more of this area and maybe it will lead somewhere. Stay tuned.

The other thought I want to put down is that I spent a good chunk of time writing this morning, working on a paper I'm writing on the "geography" of mental illness and spending time untangling various ideas I have on how to frame my results. The whole process felt like a workout, setting up my workspace (I stayed home and worked in the kitchen), fixing a pot of coffee and then immersing myself in it, and then coming out about an hour and a half later. Mentally it really felt like a workout and excited me to the possiblities of applying this paradigm to my writing on a regular basis (this blogging doesn't count, its just for fun).

If I could write like I run, I could do amazing things.

I should paste that last line somewhere prominent where it could alternately either inspire & haunt/taunt me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Art Museum Loop

6.5 miles on this bread and butter loop in 55.34. Ran with E. & J., they kept my butt from dragging too much. My calves were tight, my legs felt beat up, and I really didn't want to be out there this morning. Conditions were ideal, with weather in high 30's and dark giving way to bright sunshine.

Another one of those mornings where I don't have any creative energy to put into this blog, and wonder if I'll ever have any again. Even the thought of extending this run this morning was not taken seriously, and I can really see the need to cut back mileage for a week every couple of weeks. I guess I'm in the middle of that.

And I just heard about Hunter S. Thompson. RIP.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Matter over Mind

Strawberry Mansion Bridge Loop, 11.5 mile version (tacked on the extra .5 so that I could run three marked miles on MLK). 91:42.

Ran early today as I had to accompany C. to dental surgery. Felt at the outset that I didn’t have much today, but I consoled myself by thinking that at least it was not oral surgery. Usual checkpoints at Hamilton/38th, Lombard & 23rd, and the south end of MLK all took a few minutes longer to get to than I would have liked, and I was already looking for excuses not to do the three tempo miles I had planned. But I let it rip and to my surprise cranked out three strong miles: 5:45; 5:43 & 5:42. About five minutes in I noticed how grimaced my face was and my left arm was all twisted up like it was palsied, so I spoke relaxing things to myself and talked myself into a rhythm, although a tough, very anaerobic one. Nonetheless, the results speak for themselves, and it was a good thing my legs didn’t listen to my mind telling them how shitty they supposedly felt. The remaining four miles home reverted to trudging pace, and I basically ran 11.5 miles to do a good 3.

Race alert. As part of C’s resolution to have the family run a 5k a month, the family will run some local 5k in Wilmington on Saturday. This goes against my normal rule of avoiding any 5k’s where required travel time exceeds the time spent running, but its slim pickings this time of year and I know better than to get in the way of one of her resolutions. That means T will race his second 5k. C. bought him a pair of running shoes for the occasion. His sneakers have zippers instead of laces which kept coming unzipped in his previous race. M. has guitar lessons on Sat. and was hardly bummed to have to miss the run. Huffing and puffing to run 5:45’s this morning, I can’t see how I’ll get a sub 17 time on Saturday, but I know better than to compare workouts to races. Nonetheless, I will hedge on my performance by calling this (and the NE Roadrunner’s Winter 10k on Kelly Dr. on March 6) my pre-season races. The Cesar Rodney Half Marathon, on March 13 in Wilmington, will kick off the Spring season. The only other race I plan to run before Boston is the Bancroft 5k (the family March 5k), one of those races where a sub-17 time will fail to win any hardware for anyone under 70, on March 19.

So now I got to update my little “Upcoming Races” links in the left column. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Driven Indoors

We did indeed get some snow last night. Nasty slushy stuff that led me to forgo running outside. So I paid bills in the early morning and got a run in after my lunch appt. on the hamster wheel. Six miles in 43:11, nothing fancy, just brought it up to a 7:05 cruising altitude and held it. The sad thing is this is about the closest I get these days to an "easy" run. In that spirit, I resisted all urges to either a) further speed up the pace; and b) up the mileage to 8.

Did get to plug into the iPod, first time in awhile. The usual old alt-country mix that gets me going. Some soreness in my lower calves that should get me to drink more water this afternoon. Other than that, this run is just filler for the log book.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

20 Miler #1

Did 20 miles yesterday. Ran the same route as I ran last Saturday and, near the end, ran down Pine St. all the way out to Cobbs Creek and then back home on Cedar Ave. It was long but really not bad. Like last Saturday, I did the 4 miles on Kelly at marathon pace (24:06) and then ran 3 miles on MLK in just over MP (18:20). I ran into SK during the latter leg, going the other way, and he turned and ran with me for about 30 seconds. This only slowed me down about 6 secs and I made it back into the range in mile 2 but then I slowed on mile 3 and shut it down, figuring it was still a long way home. Like last week, the rest of the miles went at about an 7:45/8-minute pace. Next time I do a long run I need to shift any MP miles I do to the back of the run.

This gives me exactly 80 miles for the week. Only the second time in my life that I've gotten into the 80's. Its snowing now, so I don't know how tomorrow is going to go. I should bring it down a bit this week.

Had James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" in my head for the first part of the run:

"Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go"

I'm getting ready for you, Boston.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Banana Pudding Powered

A container of banana pudding (from Baltimore Crab & Seafood, the best BP makers in the world) was sitting on the kitchen counter this morning. I figured this was a gift from a benevolent god leaving me a quick energy source. I don't know how much extra energy I got, but it sure tastes good.

Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop this morning. 11 in 84:48. Maybe that BP did give me a little kick. Nothing too fast, but I averaged about a 7:20 pace on the 3 miles that are marked on MLK. Weather was the same as yesterday, I wore a cap this morning and it made all the difference. Since I had to be at an all day training at 9 (more on that in a minute), I had to leave by 6:30 am, only a half hour later than I leave on weekdays. Some Saturday. However, that half hour makes a difference between leaving in the dark and running into the dawn's early light.

Spent the day at a training for persons volunteering with a program called Students Run Philly Style, that is just starting up and that looks to work with "disadvantaged" kids towards having them run or walk a marathon. I figure, if I'm going to do some good, this would be the type of program to do it in. Phillyrunners RW and TK were also there. The training was well organized in that the presenters all did a good job, and I hope it works out although logistics might be difficult as most of the training happens on weekday afternoons and I have the misfortune of being employed full time. But they say they want support for the weekends and the like, so I'm going forward with it and seeing if there is any room for me. Stay tuned and I'll write more on what happens.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Still Code Orange

My soul waits for the lord,
More than watchmen wait for the morning,
More than watchmen wait for the morning.

This, from the 130th Psalm, stuck in my head from this morning’s scripture readings. The imagery fits nicely with that feeling of leaving the house in the early morning darkness and running toward a dawn that is not yet there.

The sunrise emerged this morning as an orangish glow on a cloudless horizon, with the center city buildings outlined in black. In winter the absence of clouds generally accompanies a drop in the mercury. This bore true today as temps felt like the 20's, cold enough that brain-freeze enveloped my forehead and left me longing for a hat. The highlight of the run was a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on a lamppost on MLK Dr. that let me get within about twenty yards before flying off.

Sweetbriar loop this morning took me 66:18. Energy level was high but I held back in deference to my Achilles soreness. Looping by E’s (lights were out this morning) and having to stop thrice along the way (w/o stopping the watch) all added to the time. The overhydration that led to these stops is my response to the Achilles soreness from the last two days. It may have worked; the heels felt much better this morning, so much so that I plan to stick to my plan to do 11 tomorrow and go long on Sunday.

I'm still, however, keeping the alert level at code Orange. This means I will still do my miles, but will continue to forego speed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Speed Kills

Ran a double session today. This is becoming regular for Thursdays.

This morning I was going to do 6.5, but scaled it back to a 4-mile Franklin Field loop after my Achilles in both heels started making their presence felt about ten minutes into the run. The sensation is hard to distinguish from just soreness, but the onset definitely sets it apart. So this raises the alert level to Orange (like the Dept. of Homeland Security, I don't actually know what that means except get more worried). The silver lining to that is that the loop takes me past the old Furness Library on Penn's campus when the morning sun lights up those red bricks. I didn't concentrate much on pace, and finished in a time I don't care to make public.

I also ran a Sweetbriar loop w/ JH a little while ago. Ran it in 63:56 (a little faster than last week) at a conversational pace. My heels felt much better on this run than they did this morning. The sky started really overcast and raw and by the time we hit the river it was sunny. I also ran on for the first time on Martin Luther King Dr., which is what the Parks Commission officially renamed West River Dr. yesterday. Running on MLK Dr. may not make me any faster, but it should increase my humility.

My heels should also increase my humility. For now I'll keep running, but without as much speed. I'm sure my increase in tempo and marathon pace mileage over the last few weeks were instrumental in what I'm now looking at. Building base must remain my priority, and if it takes sacrificing speed, well so be it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Sweetbriar loop this morning. Eight miles, straight up and no frills. Steady “recovery” pace and didn’t look at my watch until I finished. E. wasn’t out this morning, perhaps she had left as I was about 5 minutes late. Thus I ran alone. 66:11. Both Achilles tendons were sore for the last two miles, will monitor this.

The sun is rising early enough now to where I can catch the sunrise over Center City as I cross the South Street Bridge. There was a mist hanging over the skyline and the sunrise was very bluesy-greysy with wisps of cloud streaking against what promised to become a blue sky. As it got lighter the morning evolved into a palette of what a girlfriend in college once explained to me as “earth tones” – browns, greys, navy blues and maroonish reds. Temps were already comfortable in the 40’s, with all the makings of another beautiful day.

The beauty of the daybreak continued into Mantua as I cruised home down 42nd Street. If I had a camera with me I’d still be out there shooting pictures. Scenes all around me this morning that presented themselves as if the neighborhood were revealing secrets. A vacant house with the front wall partially knocked in to make visible a living room that looked eerily like my own, complete with a stairway going up the side and moldings around the edges of the ceiling; the sun lit up a row of house facades anchored on the far end by a church, and left them shining in a way they must have in their prime fifty years ago. On the next block a set of bright newly renovated rowhouses looked ready for move-in. Further along, at 48th and Haverford, the sun was a red ball rising behind a large field that hinted how the area looked before the advent of the streetcar suburbs. On the other end of the field loomed ghostlike hulks of two public housing high-rises and a grand 1920’s era insurance building, crowned with a cupola.

I 'm wondering what in my day is now going to top all that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Baker's Dozen

Got in 13 over lunch by extending the Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop by going up to Falls River Bridge and going left and around and into Fairmount Park (see 2/12 blog entry). First time I have run this loop. I did the first two West River Dr. miles @ tempo pace (11:27) and then downshifted to marathon pace for the next two miles (11:50). First tempo miles of the year, they were tough (as they should be), but they made marathon pace seem like a breeze. This is good psychology, slowing down to marathon pace, as after the two tempo miles the mp miles felt like they could have gone on forever. That is the feeling that I want to get. The rest of the run was easy but steady, with my legs starting to feel beat up with about 2 miles to go. Again, right about what I wanted. Total run time was 95:21.

Weather was perfect today, sunny and mid 50's. One less day of winter to slog through.

Still doing those daily scripture readings. Theme today was forgiveness. I like to think of myself as a pretty forgiving guy. I did get a chance to exercise that however when, in the middle of my tempo miles, some guy sticks his head out of the passenger window of a passing car and yells "FAGGOT!". My reactions, in quick succession, were surprise, anger, and then focus on not losing my pace. For whatever reason, its rare that people yell things at me while I run; I've never for example had anyone yell "Run, Forrest, Run" at me. Poor schmuck, I'm curious as to what goes through his head but instead I just repeat, like a mantra, "forgive".

Monday, February 14, 2005

Stormy Monday Blues

Got in a mellow 8 this morning with E. Conversational pace. Art Museum loop up to 54th St. in 71:34. Weather was raw but still dry, about an hour later it started as freezing rain and has been a steady rain for the rest of the day. This has more or less set the mood; nothing has really turned out well all day long.

I'm staring out of the window at the rain and feeling creatively empty. Just like there are runs where I just go through the motions and am happy just to mark the miles in the log, this post is one where I'm just happy to get something down and have it down as an entry. Out of respect for everyone involved, I'll keep it at that and sign off until tomorrow, when I hope more of my right-brained neurons will be functioning and the grey outside won't bear down so hard upon my inner being.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Great Sunday Run

Took off today around noon intending to do a Sweetbriar loop to push me over 70. It was one of those days when I just cruised effortlessly. Its a feeling a wish I could just bottle and save up for a day that mattered. . . a shame in a way that it had to occur on a recovery run. Nonetheless, although it was cold and windy the bright sun made conditions pleasant and I was capping off a good week, feeling relaxed while cranking out effortless 7 minute miles the day after a workout that kicked my ass. This filled my head with pleasant dreams about what I could do at Cesar Rodney and Boston.

Felt so good that I ran all the way out to 56th St., tacking on an extra mile and a half to give me 9.5 in 69:21, which is about four minutes faster than Friday's run, which was the same route but only out to 54th St. In the words of Bruce, "tearin' up that highway like a big ol' dinosaur." This gives me 74 miles for the week. Most excellent!

Interesting to speculate why I felt so strong today after yesterdays long hard workout. Possible candidates include sleeping and eating a helluva lot yesterday, the gallon of Gatorade I drank yesterday, the later start today, positive biorhythms, or the 7 Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies I ate just before starting the run.

So I'll enjoy feeling good today. Tomorrow it all starts over again with a brand new week.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Long & Hard

This morning Tony made his first confession. Everything went very well on this key step toward his making his first communion, save that Saturday morning is usually the time of the week I run long. So I improvised by plotting a long route that left St. Vincent's after the ceremony and would get me home 17 miles later.

For the record, in this 17-mile course the first 3.5 went from Germantown to Falls River Bridge, down Kelly Drive and up West River Drive (to the other side of Falls River Bridge) got me to about 12, then I veered left on the same roads I took last Saturday with I. to make it to Ford Road and Chamounix (in Fairmount Park) for about 13.5, and then the last 3.5 miles home covered the last part of my Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop.

The first part of the run felt like low 7's down to high 6 pace and I used the downhill from Falls Bridge on Kelly to ramp up to marathon pace by the time I hit the first 1/4 mile hash on the bike path. Averaged marathon pace over the next four miles (24:14), recovered for about a 1/4 mile, and again did the next four miles up WRD at marathon pace (24:04). Then I hit the hills and had to make an emergency stop at a Path Mark that was providentially placed on the course, after which I fell into a steady recovery pace, maybe 8:00 pace or so, for the rest of the way home.

A really hard run, but now that I'm done I'm very encouraged by it. I did the MP miles mainly to see if I could. I know that it is more effective to put these miles at the back end of a long run, but I'm not there yet. My reason for doing these is to mentally get more comfortable with the pace. This is the first run where 6/6:05 did not feel like a tempo pace to me. This means that I could sustain the pace without constantly pushing and, dare I say it, I actually felt comfortable for stretches at this pace. This is my main goal at this point. To get better acquainted with the pace, more at home in it, more like its a friend instead of some grim and foreboding creature. Here the volume of miles helped alot. When you do three at MP they seem like something exotic, when you do eight its a different feel. I especially liked that I was able to do a brief recovery by the front of the Art Museum as I was crossing to West River Drive and then was able to immediately pick up marathon pace again.

After this stretch, going uphill in strange territory while out of breath and having to shit was the low point of the run, filling me with the despair of being a long way from home. But to my pleasant surprise I had enough left in me after re-emerging out of the Path Mark to keep a steady pace home, and the run did not devolve into the death march I feared it would. This is the second encouraging point of today's run. While I probably overdid it today, I nonetheless made it home in good shape.

I spent the rest of the day like an elite runner, mainly eating and sleeping. My legs feel like I've just raced, and I've probably put more effort into this run than I have into some races. Hopefully there is no long term fallout, but you can be sure I'll whine all about it in future posts if there is.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Running Fast

Turned the Sweetbriar loop into 9 miles by going up to 54th St. Weather was seasonably cold with a nasty wind along the river, but otherwise I can't complain. E. emailed me from work at 10:30 last night saying she didn't anticipate being able to get up in time, so I ran solo. Time was 73:05.

Before I went out I again took a few minutes to go over the day's scripture readings. This is a new way to read, as I don't have the time to ponder what I read. Instead I pull out what I get to be the main theme and take it with me on the run. This morning it was fasting.

Fasting presents problems when one is in training. But training is also a handy excuse not to fast. So how to tell the difference. While I was pondering this I was also pondering whether to go 9 this morning. Both processes ended up being very similar. First, in a kind of parallel back and forth fashion I decided in principle that I was going to both fast today and go 9.

Then the question became one of logistics. For the latter, I quickly figured out a course extension that would give me the extra mile. For the former, figuring out how to stay hungry while adequately nourished was a bit more complicated. I finally settled on what could either alternately be called the anti-Atkins diet for a day or the prison fast - basically bread and water. The only exception I feel okay making is the cup of coffee I just had, not so much because I'm a caffeine addict but because of its role as a de facto cover charge for letting me sit at Green Line Cafe and read over stuff on spatial data analysis (in the spirit of the fast, however, I replaced my regular latte with straight, black coffee). I also picked up my lunch there - two raw bagels.

The rest of the run was spent rendering both of these intentions into faits accomplis. Again, convincing myself that I was going to fast was tougher than accepting the extra mile. But doing it did pay off, as when I got in the house I went to the pantry and had the Cream of Wheat in my hand before snapping to the fact that this wasn't gonna happen this morning.

A little victory, a little exercise in pairing running and faith. For today, that'll work.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Running into the Desert

Another double session today. A 4-mile Franklin Field loop (32:41) at 6:30 am and an 8-mile Sweetbriar loop from USP (65:28) at noontime. In both runs I felt better than I ran, not slow but not fast, so that makes it half-fast. Ran the latter loop with JH. It was mild for the first run and the temperature really dropped by noon. Suddenly the snow they're predicting for this afternoon doesn't seem so unlikely.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and for the occasion I made another powerful running-faith connection. I won't pound you over the head with religion. I've said before how I'd like my faith to be more like my running - some time carved out every day for a spiritual "workout" that sets the foundation for bigger and more ambitious things.

The homily for the Ash Wednesday mass is typically one stressing renunciation as a means not towards asceticism but towards spiritual growth. Father Z. yesterday stressed the desert metaphor, that like the Israelites and like Jesus, Lent is a time where we, metaphorically, should go into the desert and come back stripped down in the worldly sense and closer to God for doing so.

It struck me that, in terms of running, that is exactly what January and February are - trips into the desert. Here is a place to endure the elements and forego the glamor of the races, where we are compelled to embrace the miles and the hills and the track, in all of their ugliness, with the promise that if we get out into the cold and persevere through our workouts we will reap the benefits in the racing season to come. To make this theology of running even more bizarre, the Boston Marathon (or Broad St. or whatever target race) then becomes a sort of Easter. Two years ago Boston & Easter even fell on the same weekend, but I didn't make the connection then.

But I'm not looking to start the Church of St. Spiridon, just to borrow a few things from something that I do half-fast and apply them to something in which I'd like to do better. So I took five minutes before I left the house this morning to read the daily scripture readings and then meditated on them for a good part of the morning run. The emphasis in these readings was on the choice to go God's way or to go the worldly way. During the run I held on to the readings just like that - keeping this fork in front of me and taking comfort in that it is there. Got my spiritual groove aligned with my physical groove, so to speak.

And got thinking if only that fork were literal - and that if I took the God prong it would add some miles to the morning run or perhaps make it hillier. I'd be an enlightened man by now.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Slow Time

E. and I ran the usual 6.5 mile Art Museum loop. We literally talked start to finish, first about an 0possum that snuck up on her and that progressed to last night's episode of "House" to evidence based practice and several other topics until the run was finished. While it seemed fast, the watch told a different story, reading 61:01.

That's fine, although I'm starting to think that these "easy" days obviate the need to take "off" days. That sounds like something from "you know you are addicted to running when. . ."

Another reason for the slow time is that when I run by E's house that actually extends the run by about a quarter mile. Due to the geometry of the neighborhood, which I won't go into, I thought that incorporating her house into the route would not change the distance significantly. However, I. has turned me on to Keyhole, some really cool mapping software (this is not a paid endorsement although it might as well be) that is available over the web, that lets you plot running routes and it computes the distances. Plugging the route variations into the map shows a differential of about a quarter mile, which is consistent with the slower times I get when I run with E. However, even after taking into account that this morning's run was a "long" 6.5, it was still slow.

I have spent a few sessions geeking over the Keyhole software, but will probably not buy it for two reasons. First, and to my satisfaction, the distances I estimate for my routes are surprisingly consistent with what Keyhole says, and second, I think that Keyhole tends to underestimate distances because you can only connect points on the map by straight line and a fair amount of my running is done off of traditional roads where you have to somewhat improvise the route on the map. However, the software is way cool and definitely worth checking out for a free trial.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Early 12, Long Day Coming

I was driving home last night down Belmont from City Line Ave and remarked to my daughter that tomorrow morning I'd be running down this same way again. While it was still dark, I added to myself. That was depressing.

Sure enough, I got up a bit earlier and out the door to run my Tuesday 12 before work. I've got a meeting until 12 and another starting at 1, so it was run early or not at all. I did get up, it was indeed dark, and the run went fine. Ran 3 1/2 on W River Dr in 20:57, right at marathon pace, and then the last 4 miles after that, no matter how hard I tried, never really got beyond recovery pace. I'll take it. I'll also take the weather, about mid 30s with a decent sunrise.

Now comes the hard part. I've been up since 5:15 and I've got a 3 hour meeting this morning, another 2 hour meeting this afternoon, and I teach a 3 hour class this evening. Feels like a marathon of a different sort. If I stay awake through all that it will be a good day.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Another Monday 8

8-mile Sweetbriar loop this morning, reflecting a course change in mid-run so as to be able to hit a portapotty on West River Dr. This call of nature was an aftereffect of last nights Super Bowl activities, and the sad thing is I only had three beers. I ain't as young as I used to be. Another after effect from last night was that I hit the scales at 187 this morning. Thats about the weight I started with when I started this blog on the new year.

Sitting in a porta potty in the cold and dark reminds me of camping. This was followed, however, by a glorious sunrise upon the river, so in that sense the course change was fortuitous. This loop was run in 73:46, reflecting in part a mellow pace and also some course variations so that E., who was running with me, could get home quicker. Still call it 8.

It's reassuring how normal things are this morning after the frenzy Philadelphia was in with the Super Bowl last night. We were wondering if there would be many folks who would keep partying through Mardi Gras. Better, in some ways, than reading the headlines and starting a long off season. I'm not too bummed, and reassured that Phillies' opening day, which I care more about, is but two months away.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Easy Sunday

My reward, I guess, for running 18 yesterday is that I get to call it a day today with an easy 4.

I looped past USP around Franklin Field and back up to 49th St. This gave me 32:57. Basked a bit in the midday sun and took in the surreal atmosphere of anticipation and, I suspect, anxiety that has hit this city with the Super Bowl later today.

I now have 70 miles for this week, just as planned. Next week I'd like to be in the 70s again.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Long Run

Got the neighbors to watch Tony and made it out to the Art Museum to see who would show up at 8:15. I., SG, and R came, so we were four, soon to become two (the other two ran a shorter loop) as me and I went on a meandering run into Fairmount Park, back to W. River Drive, out into the Park again, across the river and around until we ended up at the Art Museum again. I. says he measured it out to 12 miles. That part came to be 90 minutes, which would be about right. It was good to run with I., to have good conversation on the run and to run somewhere different. The weather was sunny and in the 40s, in short, gorgeous. 18 total in 2:21.

I'm at peace with my running, which is a good feeling but leads to boring blogging. Furthermore, all I need is an easy four tomorrow and I'll have 70 for the week.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Slushy Run

My legs felt dead today, so I took it easy. It probably didn't help that I couldn't find my A shoes so, in a hurry, I put on a pair of old racers. And then, there must have been freezing rain overnight as there was a film of slush on the roads that made traction just a bit slick. So today was just one of those maintenance runs that, as we Catholics like to say, "fulfilled the obligation."

Ran w/ E. and the weather is getting up into the 40s. I'm psyched that there is less and less snow on the ground every day. Also glad that today's Friday. Ran the Art Museum loop with the 51st St. add on (7.5ish miles) in 67:08.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Deja Vu

Got in two workouts today, as my schedule would not have let me get in a 12-miler during the course of the day.

First run was before work this morning. Got out of the house late, part by design and part through dawdling, and inadvertantly got the timing right to where I was running east toward the Center City skyline with a beautiful sunrise as a backdrop. I also made a point to put on gloves and a hat. I got that right as well, as my run was downright comfortable without sweating profusely. In fact it was so comfortable that I got uncomfortable with how comfortable I was. Sounds weird, but I'm like that. Again, the pace felt fast and easy, to the point where I'm wondering (i.e., hoping) that 7 minutes or so may be becoming my regular training pace. Ran the(8ish mile) Sweetbriar loop in just under 60 (59:55).

I got in another 42 minutes, easy (call it 5), over my lunch hour. About half of the course was the same as I ran this morning. I ran it with J., probably the best runner on USP's XC team (this makes two new running partners in 2 days, a new PR). The workout was also remarkable in that I got it all in in 60 minutes, and I made it on time for a 1:00 meeting.

That makes 13 miles for the day. Now if the rest of my life would go as well as my running has been going.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Groundhog Day

I got this postcard from Boston today. I'm officially in. All too appropriate that today is Groundhog Day. This ain't no groundhog but it's a sure sign of spring.

Spring may still be a ways off, but I've got my sights on it.


Hands Still Frozen

Its amazing how much easier it is to get up at 5:30 when you go to bed at 10:30. I ought to try this more often. Three of us this morning, me, E. and J., who I had run with a few weeks back and turns out she lives in the neighborhood. She fit in well with me and E., given that she runs our pace and is overeducated. We'll see whether being forced to climb over the freight train coupling to get on to the Schuylkill trail scared her off or not to joining us for future runs.

"Is the Super Bowl this Sunday?" was my favorite line of the run. One (of several) reasons I like running with E. Otherwise, I underdressed this morning when I decided I didn't need gloves or a hat. I wasn't in pain, but I had a hard time gripping things when I got back home. This meant that it took me about a minute and both hands to turn my key in the front door, and then after I was getting the Cream of Wheat box out of the pantry it slipped out of my hands and onto the floor. Its 2 hours after that and my fingers still don't want to type fast. I think I'll wear gloves tomorrow.

I got in 7.5, doing the usual Art Museum loop and then going up to 51st St. Time was 65:37.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Happy February!

That is how I greet my kids in the morning on the first of a month (when I remember it is the first of a month). Runningwise, I also get to look ahead at my goals for the upcoming month. I'll do it like at a race, where I'll set a baseline, a realistic, and a reach goal. My baseline is 200 miles; my realistic goal is to beat January's mileage (232); and my reach goal is to beat last February's mileage (260).

I logged 12 today at lunch time, running the Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop and tacking on an extra half mile in two places. It was ideal conditions for running, sunny and temps in the mid 30s. The snow is slowly starting to melt. I started out feeling high energy so I thought I would run a bit of the mid course at marathon pace (6 min flat). Just to see if I had it in me yet and how I would feel.

As I resolved this an ominous dread came over me. Part fear, part nerves, part resistance and part I don't know what, I was really scrambling for excuses not to run this bit. I bargained with myself that there was no pressure, this was a trial run to get the lead out, etc. and there was no failing involved. But that didn't help. I really didn't want to run fast. I did it anyway, and had no problem with it, running three miles on West River Dr in 17:45. Not effortless and not to the point where I can yet picture myself running 26 of these, but not anaerobic effort by any stretch either. For this early in the training cycle I'll definitely take it. My right knee is sore again, back to where it was about a month ago. I'll see if it lingers tomorrow.

So what's up with this dread I was feeling? It was odd, as though all of a sudden something was at stake, something I could lose. It was almost like the butterflies I get at the beginning of a race, right after the starting gun when we are all scrambling for pace and position. Its like I want marathon pace to be effortless. Something I could just ratchet up to and float through the miles, where I dont want to work. I don't mind putting in the miles, I just don't want to run them fast. Its not like on the treadmill, where running 6's is survival, the speed of the tread doesn't leave a choice. Here its pushing, and pushing harder to keep from slowing down, and concentrating so that when I slow down I can push. Its the mental shit that I feel afraid of more than the physical. Something about pushing, I feel it now again, that leaves me not wanting to.

Embrace the anxiety. That's what I was told when I was younger and what I try to do in a situation like this. And if I'm to embrace it than this blog becomes my arms, and while I'm embracing all that anxiety I'll just reach around a little farther and include the rest of me in the hug. I don't know if I deserve it but I can sure use it.

I gotta get to bed, as its up and running at 6 again tmrw morning with Erin.