Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Marathons & the Meaning of Life

I'm back from Houston. Did some consulting for a conference called the Homeless Policy Academy. One of those trips where you go from airport to hotel and then back to the airport, and get no sense of what city you are really in. The hotel had a fitness center and I got in 3-mile workouts on the hamster wheel (25:10 and 23:40) both days I was there. I feel more or less recovered. I'll take it easy for the next few days, including today because I want to and tomorrow because I'll be in NYC all day as M is playing a gig there.

Doing all this traveling since Monday has given me a chance to do a lot of thinking on Mondays race. Thinking while staring out into space and trying to make some sense out of training all winter for a race that takes place on a hot, windy day which practically guarantees a subpar performance. I wish I could share some wisdom that I've brought down from the mountain but there isn't any. Its just taken me to a very existential place, where fairness is irrelevant and any meaning lies in the training and not in the race. So why am I racing at all?

And why am I already thinking about a fall marathon? On a course thats flat and in a place and date that almost guarantees cool weather. Ideal conditions (like I haven't had in my last six marathons) that will give me a good shot at one more big pr before I get too old to be going for the bloody things. So I'm thinking either Europe or Canada: Berlin, Amsterdam, Toronto or some place like that. I'm moonlighting in July teaching a class at Penn and I'm thinking that would get me the trip money. But right now its still in the dreaming stages.

Its time to move forward, and to put closure on last weekend I'll post some pictures and add some narrative. Even if I hadn't raced, it was a great weekend. The family and KF, who became an honorary family member (somewhere in between kid and adult), left on Saturday morning early enough for us to stop over at my Mom's in upstate NY for lunch (awesome lentil soup and a platter of cold cuts) and a birthday present of a pair of binoculars. Pic 1 is a family shot:

As soon as we got to Boston KF and I got down to business, as we dropped the kids off at the hotel and headed back up I-90 to Newton, where we drove the course from mile 15 to mile 21 several times to get a good mental picture of the hills. In my prior two races I had never figured out where exactly Heartbreak Hill was until I was done with it, and so we scoped each of the four hills in turn, as well as "Hell's Alley," the uphill part that takes you from Lower Newton Falls to the firehouse. The hardest part of doing this was looking for the John Kelley statue, which we finally found, thanks to C's excellent spotting, behind some shrubs across Comm Ave from City Hall. John Kelley's presence still looms large over Boston in spite (or because) of his recent passing, and here KF and I pay our respects:

The next day started with the 2.6 mile "Freedom Run" which we decided would be our family run for April. This is a fun run through the Commons/Downtown area put on by the BAA I think in most part to keep the runners from clogging the streets over the course of the day. M got a pass because she had been sick and still wasn't feeling too good, but here are the rest of us:

From there it was off to the expo and then back to the hotel to get the kids and go to Fenway. We had seats in the right field bleachers for the game against the Devil Rays (the Sawks won 3-0). My new binoculars came in very handy. Lunch was hotdogs, soda and peanuts (none of which was on Greg's day-before-the-marathon list of lunch foods) and we baked lazily under a strong hot sun like a bunch of raisins. Its funny how I never even thought of this as an ominous sign for race day.

Then back to the hotel where T thought he could vedge and watch Cartoon Network, but we promptly turned around and went to dinner at Strega's, a little Italian place in the North End. M and C were into the pictures of various celebrities who have eaten there (Soprano's cast members, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, etc), T's eyes kept drifting to the banks of TVs they had showing scenes from various mafia movies, and I really got into the Casarecci di Marina, with some kind of spiral homemade pasta and eggplant in it. Excellent food and just the right size portions to get me and KF feeling appropriately carbed up.

The next morning we were off on the bus that Bryn Mawr Running Club chartered to go up to Hopkinton, a little perq that alone is well worth the club membership. When we got to Hopkinton around 9am it was already sunny and breezy. KF and I hung out in the bus for awhile, walked around the athlete's village a bit, and then went to the home of some folks who have a prerace party for the Shawmont Running Club to which I got invited through SD, who I know from USP. The hospitality was excellent as was hanging out in their kitchen, chatting with SRC folks, watching prerace TV coverage and having the luxury of indoor plumbing close at hand. This is a group photo of all of us:

Then it was off to the corrals. I met IC in the first corral, where in the midst of a tribute to John Kelley, the national anthem, and the fighter jet flyby the reality set in that it will be hot and windy on the course. I went into the details of my race in my last blog entry so I won't repeat myself. The one consolation was that bad conditions for running made ideal spectating conditions and the fan support, always legendary, was the best that I'd seen in my three Boston runs.

I got the next two photos off of a website where some guy took literally hundreds of race shots and posted them as a public service (with all the karma that should rightfully go his way). The first shot is at mile 1 and the second shot is at 30k:

I amused myself earlier by finding out the finishing times for the race numbers of the guys around me in the first shot. I got to the one mile mark in about 6:10 and most of the folks would get faster 5k times than I did (mine was about 19:20) although many of them then ended up with slower finishing times. IC showed me how the elites all ran several minutes slower than their running times, and Kevin Beck estimated that the conditions added about 5 minutes to the times of the people he was following who finished. That would be about right for my eventual finishing time.

The 30k mark (second picture) was at about mile 18.5, or right before the third Newton hill as best as I could figure. Although I felt stronger than I thought I would feel (in Wellesley I was sure I'd be deathmarching it by this point) the picture testifies to how beat up I was by this point and my form (note the arms flailing, fingers spread out, flat footstrike and the "help me Jesus" look) is a mess.

I don't want to flash back on that too long. I did make it through, not as fast as I wanted but in better shape than most. There were folks however, who had a good enough days to lead me to second guess my performance and I saw I was the second Pennsylvanian to finish, and the first (a Phila Track Club guy whom I don't know) only finished 45 seconds or so ahead of me. Again leading me to thoughts of whether I could have trimmed a bit more off of my 2:47. But there will always be people ahead of you, and had I finished a minute or two faster I would still be second-guessing myself. Its the nature of this beast to do so.

The final picture is one I'm putting up largely because IC begged me not to. Its of me and him and KF after we reunited at the finish. My memories of the crowd after the finish was that they moved me almost to tears in how people continued to be lined up and cheering loudly well past the finish line on the way to picking up our gear. Here the applause wasn't for encouragement, but for what was achieved and it amazes me that people would enthusiastically do this at a point where all the action was out of us. We come out looking pretty ugly in this picture (uglier than usual) and in that, at that moment, lies beauty.

I'll wrap up as it is getting late. The hot tub at the hotel was, as always, a godsend, and T was happy that I was too exhausted to do anything but join him in watching Cartoon Network.

Writing this took longer than I thought but there still seems much I haven't written about. But that gives some idea, with illustrations, on how the weekend went. I also hope that doing this will help me move on from the race and settle down once again into normal life. As I move ahead I'll continue to blog on my running, even though through next week the entries may be spotty as I will continue to take it easy (meaning I'll run when and how far I want to).


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