Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Mile Too Far

Ran the Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop, taking MLK all the way up to Falls Bridge and then left back to Fairmount Park to pick up the loop again. Started out strong (to MLK in 30:00 and 4 mile MLK stretch in 31:02) but faded from there, especially going up the nasty hill on Conshohocken Ave. In hindsight, should have just done 12 or even 11. But I'm not going to get to run tomorrow as I have to go to DC and then have various evening things here, so I will be able to rest up a little.

Damn geese are all over MLK with their young ones. I steer clear of them whenever I can but it isn't always possible. I've learned a goose is agitated when s/he bobs the head up and down and then starts to hiss.

Ran with an iPod for the first time in awhile. I need new music. In the meantime, had on Uncle Tupelo, Junior Kimbrough and Kenny Brown.

13 miles in 1:44:01.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Seashore Run

More running at the shore today. The place where we are staying is right off of Route 1, the road that strings together all of the Delaware coastal towns. So I made a right on Route 1 and in no time was running through the Delaware Seashore State Park. I went 5 miles south and then turned around. All straightaway - no hills, no traffic lights, just a seemingly constant headwind. I also dusted off my Garmin Forerunner, which I rarely use because it does a poor job of picking up GPS signals in Philly. But here on the shore, with nothing to interfere, it worked great and I knew my mile splits exactly for this run, and even calibrated the watch with the highway mile markers, which proved very consistent with each other. Went out easy and still averaged 8 minute miles, went back a bit quicker and averaged 7:30s. All in all exactly 10 in 77:42.<>

I enjoyed today’s run but would not want to do it on a regular basis. Its just cranking out mile after mile. The same feel as a treadmill, though much more preferable for obvious reasons. There was a good bit of wildlife on the way, including an Osprey that was circling low over my head. The consistency of the scenery and the pace also allows for deep thinking, though I can’t say I came up with anything profound today. I did think some about the Clydesdale competitions in races these days. Anything that gets folks out running, I suppose. Then I thought of the dilemma that must face successful Clydesdales, as the more you train the harder it will be to keep that weight on. So do you actively try to maintain your spare tire, do you go into bodybuilding to replace fat with muscle (or are the successful Clydesdales all super-ripped?), or do you just happily “thin out” of such competition?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Masser 5-Miler

Greetings from the Delaware shore. The whole family is spending the Memorial Day weekend in Dewey Beach. As part of this weekend I ran the Masser 5-miler today, put on by the local running club, the Seashore Striders, in the neighboring town of Lewes.

<>C and I got to the staging area, a local high school, at a little after 8. She chose to cheer instead of participate today. The morning, even at 9 am, was sunny and warm for the 200 or 300 race participants who lined up at the start on the school’s smurf-blue colored track. Knowing nobody, I checked out the folks around me to see who looked fast. Only one guy impressed me as such, he was doing wind sprints from the starting line and had on a lifeguard shirt. I also caught an older guy squinting at my race bib, no doubt checking my age.

When the gun sounded I tucked in behind the lifeguard to draft against the wind. We ran about halfway around the track and then out and around the school parking lot and onto the road to Lewes, a small coastal town. I hung with lifeguard, and by the mile mark we were both overtaken by the older guy. Mile 1 went by in 5:17, which felt like the mile marker might have been short. Regardless, I had to decide whether or not to speed up with older guy. I played it conservatively and focused on keeping pace with lifeguard. I pulled ahead of him and he drafted off me for the second mile, which passed in 5:36. Soon after the second mile lifeguard started to fall back and older guy, while still in sight, was a good 30 seconds ahead of me. Mile 3 went through “downtown” Lewes and passed in 5:43. I tried to pick up the pace and get closer to older guy, but I wasn’t gaining on him. Lifeguard was no longer a threat. Meanwhile we were back out on rural roads, running into what seemed a perpetual headwind on a wide shoulder with a series of cones separating us from the traffic on the road. Second place was by now more or less preordained, and I made a half-hearted attempt to pick up the pace which resulted in a 5:35 split for mile 4 and then, after retracing our steps through the high school parking lot and back onto the ugly track, I sprinted all out at the end to finish in just under 28 minutes: 27:58 (5:42 split).

Top 6 reasons I was happy with this time. 6) I am not currently in any kind of racing shape since Boston; 5) it was 15 seconds off my (admittedly soft) 5-mile PR; 4) it came in the wake of a hard 16 mile run yesterday; 3) the sun and headwind provided conditions remarkably similar to Boston; 2) the winner was, indeed, 44, suggesting I have at least three more years in which to get faster; 1) it prompted C to take me out for oyster shooters afterwards.

Notes: I got interviewed by a guy from the local newspaper, who judging from his questions, probably provides more intelligent race coverage than the Inquirer usually does. The race registration featured a weigh-in to determine eligibility for the Clydesdale and Filly divisions, a race within the race for the, ahem, larger race participants (190+ for guys, didn’t catch the female minimum weight). They also had a passel of trophies for them, which were like regular running trophies but also had large horses on the base (Budweiser should sponsor this). A series of kids races on the track followed the 5-miler (my kids both stayed in our rental), from the 25-yard “diaper dash” all the way to a mile for 11-12 year olds. The future of US running will emerge from such races.

At the start, coming off the world's ugliest track

Clydesdale awards

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Solar Powered

Ran out to the Art Museum to see who (if anybody) would be out there at 8:15. I blew by my usual checkpoints (curiously enough, each one in about 8:00 flat) and made it to the museum steps in 28 minutes (anytime I make it out there under 30 I'm happy). However nobody showed, so once again I was the 8:15 run.

This proved to be a dangerous thing. I set out to do the MLK/Kelly loop by myself. The first mile passed in 7:03, second in 6:55, third in 6:53 and the fourth in 6:36. I made no conscious effort to speed up the fourth mile, it was just one of those mornings when the pace came naturally. Now I wanted to see if I could keep up these negative splits. Over the bridge and back down Kelly, mile 5 went in another 6:36, then 6:32, then 6:24 and, now pushing the last mile, a 6:06. Negative splits all around the drives. First time I've ever done that.

This brought me back to the Art Museum steps, and I hung around and bullshitted a bit with the 9:30 folks. Ran a mile with IC, RD and a new guy before turning off and following the ass end of the Sweetbriar loop back home. Last mile felt tough, like it all caught up with me.

Hot and sunny today, and no fluid replenishment. Not usually optimum conditions for me, but today was one of those days where I wish I could bottle whatever it is that let me take my pace up a level. Its weird, on Tuesday I'm humping it to average 7:30s, and today 7 minutes feels like cruising pace. Gotta check my biorhythms again.

As a result of some spur of the moment turn of events, we're heading out to Rehoboth Beach in a few hours. I hate it when that happens. This means I'll miss the 5k I'd been writing about, but there is a 5 miler in Lewes tomorrow that I might run (although I probably blew my wad this morning). Either way, it looks like I should have no problem getting past 70 for the week.

When I write next time I should be a bit darker. 16+ miles in 1:55:03.

Friday, May 27, 2005

So Rave Run

There is a column of that name in Runner's World.

The times I've seen it, the featured runs have been across mountains and through flowering fields and with other landscapes that look like they came from a National Geographic spread.

My rave run today was through West Philly. I had the day off and E was out of town, which let me leave the house with T as he biked to school. After I dropped him off I took off on the Acme Loop that I've been doing. Instead of going around the distribution center, however, I went straight up 54th St. and through the Wynnefield and Overbrook neighborhoods before circling back onto more familiar West Philly streets.

So what made this run so rave? In contrast to recent days it was gloriously sunny out, which added an almost technicolor perspective to the run. Leaving two and a half hours later not only brightened things, but it also livened them up. At 6 am the neighborhoods are physical, at 9 am they are ecological, with people and bustle and teeming with life.

The run also had a pioneering aspect to it. Wynnefield and Overbrook lie in the far northwest part of West Philly (not to be confused with the NW section of Phila) that I've never been through. Going up 54th Street was entering terra incognita. The neighborhood changed from working class to middle class to distinctly upper middle class, and by the time I hit Wynnefield Road the streets had become curvier and greener with solid, detached, grey-stone houses and big yards. From the looks of it this is the neighborhood of Philadelphia's black bourgeoisie (to borrow Frazier's term). Then crossing 63rd Street (on Woodbine) the houses again became smaller and spaced closer together, and by the time I turned onto 64th Street and headed back south, I was back in the land of 2-story rowhouses with corner bars, grocery stores, and the odd tattoo parlor and Chinese takeout here and there. It still amazes me how much area there is to explore so close to my house. After running down streets for several years, I can just go straight where I otherwise would have turned left and its like being in a different world.

I'll need to bring a camera with me to make my next Rave Run complete.

And finally, I count this as the first run of the summer. Warm sunny day and I'm out there for the joy of putting in miles. Summertime and the running is indeed easy. May there be many more of these in the upcoming months.

10 miles in 78:13.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Running in Europe

from out my front door. That's what it feels like with day after day of cloudy, cool conditions and intermittent rain the last few days.

But I'm not complaining, at least not when I run. I ran the Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop again, at a much more brisk overall clip. I ran the first four miles at about the same sluggish pace I had been going, but once I hit MLK I picked it up to 7:20 and then dropped the pace a bit for each of the next three miles I spent along the Schuylkill. When I got up into Fairmount Park it was harder to tell the pace, but I made a point to keep going at a faster clip. So, bottom line, without doing anything hard or anaerobic, I sliced almost seven minutes off of the time I ran on Tuesday.

I also saw two deer this morning in Fairmount Park. While I'm not surprised to see them, I don't recall having seen deer in the park before. With my urban mindset, I initially thought the first one was a dog. But its a good omen, running like a deer. I'll take that with me to the 5k on Saturday.

12 miles in 92:45.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Carnival of the Runners

I don't usually post twice in a day, but if I don't do it now I won't get around to it.

As I knew I would, I've been looking around the web more and more to see what other folks are blogging about. Sofar I've been pretty successful in limiting this to running related sites, and will share the blogs I follow someday soon.

In the meantime, Derek Rose, who mixes blog entries on running with entries on other passions in his life, has put together a "Carnival of the Runners." Its a weekly feature, each one put together by a "guest editor", that reviews and links to running-related submissions from various bloggers. The permanent link for this feature is here, and this week's installment is there (this also has motivated me to update my sidebar). Its a good sampler on whats out there on running and should grow steadily as it gains momentum. I am scheduled to edit an installment in early June.


Can you hear me
that when it rains and shines
it's just a state of mind. - Lennon & McCartney

I was putting on my running shoes this morning when I heard pitter patter against the window. I have a phobia about running in rain, and will avoid doing so when possible. I know its irrational, but we all have our irrationalities. This however, went against one of my other irrational points, as I knew if I didn't run I would be hard pressed to make it up today and would mess up my mileage goals for the week.

What to do, what to do?

I bargained with myself. I'd run to Franklin Field and if the rain was unbearable I'd turn around. To my surprise when I dropped by E's house she was waiting there (she knows I'll usually blow off a wet run) although she had her head phones on. By then I knew I'd be okay and we ran the Acme loop. Rain was steady but not heavy and, as you may suspect, I didn't melt.

Its just a state of mind. 8 miles in 65:34.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

To Be a Rock and Not to Roll

Rolled the rock up the hill again this morning (see yesterdays post). I had a real tough time getting up this morning, and sat on the edge of my bed for what felt like five minutes trying to talk myself out of running. No dice.

Strawberry Mansion Bridge Loop. There is still construction on the Schuylkill bike path, forcing a detour. Once on MLK I ran 12 x 30 second strides (5k pace) with one minute recoveries. Running fast like this was harder mentally than it was physically, as I can't picture myself in racing or "go-fast" shape (I will, however, likely run a little rinky-dink 5k in Fairmount Park this Saturday, courtesy of some prodding by KF). The rest of the run was somewhat leisurely, and the last few miles consisted of fighting through weariness.

On the bright side, the weather continues to be cloudy and cool. Also, Mr. John is now the official porta-potty distributor of Seebo's Run, as he maintains the p-p's along MLK and they have been incredibly clean both times I've used them over the past few weeks.

When I start singing the praises of porta-potties you know its a slow day. Slow and likely to be long, as I go back to Graterford this evening.

12 miles in 99:43.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Pondering Sisyphus

"The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor." - Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Sisyphus and Camus popped into my head this morning as E and I were yet one more time laboring up the Jefferson St. hill by the Acme distribution center. In going up that hill several times a week, the only difference between us and Sisyphus is that we've dispensed with the rock.

I don't throw this out to raise the "why do I run" question. Instead, if I remember correctly, there was more than a hint of absurdity to Camus' essay on Sisyphus, and the absurdity of huffing and puffing up the same hill, only to do it yet again the next time around,
resonates this morning. Today I just want to carry the absurdity of running around with me for a bit. Not like a rock, but like a small stone in my pocket.

I think this heightened sense of absurdity is a product of my legs feeling de-energized and sore again, and after not running for three out of the last four days. Perhaps I overdid it resting so much.

I better sign off before I hurt myself. Sluggish Acme Loop this morning, 8 in 65:12.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Just came home from spending the weekend up at a scout camp near Harleysville, about 40 miles north of Phila, with T's cub scout pack. It was a really nice trip which, frankly, I wasn't overjoyed to go on but now am very glad I did.

Now for running. Rain on Friday led to another dnr.

On Saturday I snuck away from the camp early in the morning and ran 8 or so, a 66:53 (35:00 out; 31:52 back) 8-miler along Upper Ridge Road, a small road that lay along the scout camp. I figured go out and back and I wouldn't get lost, and I also see upon coming back how much stuff I miss going out. Upper Ridge Road must have been literally on a ridge, as there were only modest hills for the first part of the run and then the road turned right and there was an extended downhill to Finland, PA, a creek crossing, and then the road went back uphill. Suffice to say I'd be much more proficient at hills if I lived out there.

I passed by the Finland Methodist Church, which had a sign reading "dusty bibles lead to dirty people." Also saw an interesting building which led me to stop and check it out. An old 3-story brick building with a fire escape running down the side, with "Red Men Hall" written in big faded letters across the front. The political incorrectness of this intrigued me. The display windows showed a gun store on the left half and an historical museum on the right, both with windows full of clutter. The cornerstone read "1909 I.O.R.M." and I figured it must be something masonic. Sure enough, googling "Red Men" and "IORM" revealed that this was indeed a building once owned by an apparently defunct chapter of the "Improved Order of Red Men", a fraternal organization dating back to the Revolutionary War and who had elaborate rituals that to me amount to grown white men playing Indian. They are still around and count Richard Nixon among its former members.

Today I took another dnr. Couldn't get out in the morning and I suppose I could have squoze a run in this afternoon, but my heart wasn't into it and I'm not in a place in my training where I have to make myself run.

We'll call this a recovery week and will go for 70 next week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Long Day #2

Didn't make it up to run this morning and took a DNR.

I've been cutting my sleep short all week and I had a conference in the morning on City Line Ave, USP's Commencement ceremonies in Center City in the afternoon, and back to West Philly to teach in the evening. I was afraid I'd fall asleep during any or all those events if I got up early to run.

Another reason I DNR'd was because I knew I would connect these geographical dots with my bicycle. Beautiful day for a little cross training, probably about 15-20 miles worth.

Now I'm done teaching and its getting late again. But I've got tomorrow off, as in the summer USP goes to a 4-day work week. One of the perqs of academia.

Long Day

Just got home a few minutes ago.

Started my day as I do most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with a 6am run. Ran w/ E on the same Acme loop we've been doing the last few times out, but added a little twist north on 46th and then east on Brown so we could run on the 800 block of Lex Street.

This is a haunted block. Every native Philadelphians should instantly recognize the name of this block. Back in the days before the blocks around Lex were rebuilt suburban style, the block was on the edge of the highrise Mill Creek housing projects and in the middle of an open air drug market. Lex Street itself was a block of decaying two-story rowhouses when, in late 2000, four guys went into #816, which was used as a crack house. They forced 9 people to lie on the floor and shot them execution style, killing 7 in what would be known as the Lex Street Massacre. I remember I was in Texas when this happened, and even the papers down there carried the story.

Today this block is flanked by overgrown weeds and trash, as the rowhouses were torn down in 2002 during the course of demolishing the projects. However, no new suburby-type houses were built on Lex, and overgrown weeds and trash flank both sides of the street. I'm not sure why nothing was ever developed there, but I guess not too many people (myself included) would want to live in a house on a block with that kind of history.

This all happened before I ran in the area. As I've alluded to, the area has changed, mostly through wholesale physical and social upheaval. Lex Street becomes a good metaphor here. Will the Mill Creek area experience a new beginning, a revival, if you will, engineered largely by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the City's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative? Or will it, like so many things in Philadelphia, be haunted by its past. . . by ghosts that emanate from these weeds? Running offers a unique perspective into this as a series of time lapse photographs. I wrote about this when I first started running around the Mill Creek area and now I realize that these "snapshots" don't just mark the passing of time, they become more and more filled with details from the neighborhood.

8 miles in 62:53. That's how my day started.

The day ended with my first trip to a prison.

SCI Graterford. Part of a program called "Inside Out" which I am getting involved with. I won't say much about it because I try to keep this blog focused on running, except that the most tangible impressions I brought back from this evening were the details from the physical surroundings the place. I keep coming around to when I walked down one of the hallways, looked out the window into the yard, and there, circumscribed around the yard, was a track.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I felt strong running today, which mystifies me because my running felt so feckless last week and I've been upping my mileage nonetheless. I ran the Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop with an extra mile tacked onto MLK, with the middle miles passing easy in around a 7:45 pace. I didn't look to go faster, but felt I could have effortlessly. As though my mind could just order up a quicker pace and my legs would deliver. The way life should be.

But because I am the curious sort I tried figuring out why I felt good today. The best answer I can come up with are biorhythms. Biorhythms, from what I remembered, were a fad in the 70's and, given that mood rings and Puma sneakers are back in style, I'm surprised biorhythms haven't made a comeback as well. Its based on the premise that you have physical intellectual and emotional cycles that fluctuate very predictably in cycles of about 3 weeks or so. I figured my physical biorhythmic cycle must be on high, and maybe it was low last week.

One of the problems with biorhythms in the 70s was that they were very hard to figure out, as you had to calculate the number of days you've been alive and divide by the number of days in a cycle. I should have known, but when I googled "biorhythms" a few minutes ago the first site listed had a function where all you had to do was enter your birthday and it would tell you your biorhythm status. Turns out my physical cycle is at about its lowest point. On the bright side, my emotional cycle is peaking, so hang out with me, as my "contact with other people will be positive." My mental curve is at the midpoint, which is defined as "critical" and they suggest I should "postpone activities that demand alot of concentration." Does that mean I shouldn't go into work today?

One other rhythm is not "bio" but "enviro" as in the conditions you run in. The weather was fine today, but the traffic conditions were definitely low, and must have added a good 4-5 minutes to my run. Seems like every traffic light I hit was yellow just before I approached it; if I only hadn't read the ball scores before I left and gone out a minute earlier all those lights could have been green. And since I left an hour later this morning rush hour was well on its way and weaving through traffic was not a good idea. That envirorhythm made it hard to get a steady running rhythm, especially in the last four miles.

12 miles in 99:14. A better run than the time suggests.

Monday, May 16, 2005

National Defense

Mondays are the days that are the toughest to get up and run. The urge to take a day off is great, and often justified after good weekend mileage. I resisted that urge this morning and made it out the door. The weather continues to be pleasingly cool, the daylight is now strong at 6am, and E and I went out again on the Acme loop. We have a pattern of good conversation until we get to the Acme distribution center (sounds like a Roadrunner prop), at which point there is a hill where the grade is steep enough to quiet down our jabbering and the conversation never really recovers. However at that point the pace speeds up, aided by a long downhill after Overbrook High, and we cruise the rest of the way.

Todays run was strong, and I was surprised at how good I felt given yesterday's run. I think ultimately there is no figuring this stuff out. 8 miles in 63:35.

The piece of conversation that sticks in my mind, after talking about nuclear armageddon movies and passing by crumbling churches, is the proposition we came up with that the Feds should provide money for renovating these old churches (hopefully before they crumble) in the name of national defense. Particularly for the Christian right, what better investment in national security can there be than a placated, satisfied deity?!

Christ Episcopal Church on 43rd and Chestnut after its tower collapsed.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In Praise of the Wissahickon

Ran from church to Taney Park this afternoon, where T had a little league game. T was The Man at the game, hitting a 3-run homer to give the Tigers their margin of victory, 7-4.

My run started with that same weary, achy I've been feeling in my legs, but after a few miles it went away and by the time I hit MLK Dr. I felt stronger than I have in awhile, and nailed the 4 marked miles progressively faster from 7:10 to 6:50. The last mile in particular felt good as I effortlessly picked up the pace (did not sprint) to get sub 7. This is how I want to feel in the last miles of a marathon.

Otherwise the weather was pleasantly cloudy and cool, and running from Germantown always means running on a trail along the Wissahickon. Along with this babbling river and the lush greenery surrounding it, the wildlife was out today, including a beautiful pair of Orioles.

This feeling of bliss provides a stark contrast to an article I subsequently saw in today's NY Times on a "marathon" in Pakistan that was disrupted because protesters objected to having women participate alongside men. I posted the full text of the article on the Philly Runners message board.

8.5 miles in 64:36. This boosts me over 60 for the week.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Dad Vail Regatta

Ran down to the Art Museum to meet Philly Runners at 8:15. Turns out I was it. So I chugged around the Drives cranking out steady 7:30s until the last mile, when some guy passed me and I was feeling competitive enough to up my pace to keep up with him. Not bad for my legs continuing to feel like I'm logging 80+ mile weeks (I should have around 60 this week) and the Kelly Dr. path being heavily congested due to the Dad Vail Regatta.

Ended up with 8 miles of the 8.5 mile length of the Drives loop going by in 59:40. Ended up back at the Art Museum in time to chat with folks out for the 9:30 run. That's what happens when you run with mostly single 20-somethings - they been partying the night before and don't have kids. If I wait till 9:30 I don't get out to run.

Total loop, more a figure 8, was 15 miles in 1:55:43. I spent some time running this morning thinking about the days I'd first run this loop and it was an extremely daunting workout. These days were back not so long ago (say 1997-2000) when running 26.2 miles was hard to visualize and this run seemed to take forever and left me beset with blisters, bowel movements, boredom and more stuff that isn't so alliterative. Looking back, I suppose it represents a crucible of sorts, where I had to persevere through those runs and they eventually got more manageable. I suppose it helps to have people to run with, but, JG notwithstanding, most of my long runs were solo efforts and I only started to expand my social running circle after I had a few marathons under my belt.

Now running this loop (and farther) is more palatable on some days than on others, but that foreboding isn't there. That only comes nowadays before the track workouts!

I surfed a bit and found some pictures of the Drives loop, and the last one of the Dad Vail Regatta which shows the traffic I had to navigate through this morning. I lifted these pics off the web, I forgot two of the sites but the third one was off of a blog that was entertaining, and even more so because it is local and has all sorts of arcane Philly stuff. So I bookmarked it and added it to the three other blogs I check in on. One is somewhat discreet, and the others I'll work into these entries at some point.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Acme Loop Again

Ran the same loop this morning (with the same person) as I did on Wednesday, up to the northwest part of Fairmount Park past the Acme Distribution Center and home through West Philly. 8 miles passed in 66:44, several seconds faster than what we ran it on Friday. This must have been because we cut diagonally through Carroll Park this morning instead of running around it.

I just spent about 10 minutes surfing for a picture of Carroll Park. CP is a square block park that has the usual benches, playground, green space, etc. and has obviously been renovated recently, as it looks very inviting and well maintained. The diagonal path through it is somewhat convenient for our loop as it lets us cut from 59th St. to 58th street, the former which is a one-way were traffic comes up from behind us and 58th being a one-way where we face traffic.

No pics of Carroll Park, but I did come up with several profiles of the surrounding neighborhood. This demonstrates my ignorance of large swaths of West Philly that I ostensibly live very near to as I had not known that this was even a neighborhood. Anyway, for my (and now your) education on W. Philly geography, Carroll Park is:

densely populated with high rates of homeownership. There is significant stability and strength, but the housing stock is aging. Homes need to be preserved and younger families need to be attracted to move into this area. Pockets of blight exist in certain sections: examples are Market Street and the 60th & Girard intersection. Providing adequate neighborhood shopping is an important goal for this neighborhood.

according to the City of Phila. Planning Dept. and, for a somewhat more upbeat view, Penn Partners Org writes:

The high quality of the housing is a primary strength of the community west of 52nd Street. The two-story rowhouse is the predominant housing type here. Two story rowhouses sell at more affordable prices and are easier to maintain than the larger rowhouses and semi-detached homes found elsewhere in West Philadelphia. Consequently, housing is well-maintained and the percentage of owner-occupied homes ranges from 60% to 80% in the four neighborhoods west of 52nd Street. In addition, two-story rowhouses are far less likely to be converted into multi-family housing, a factor which contributes to neighborhood stability.

Strong community participation in neighborhood improvement programs is another strength of the neighborhoods west of 52nd Street. Block organizations have been resourceful in using neighborhood improvement programs such as Philadelphia Green, Philadelphia More Beautiful and Town Watch. Just as importantly, residents have been able to sustain the improvements they achieved through the various neighborhood improvement programs. Refurbished homes, clean sidewalks and streets, lawn lamps, sidewalk planters, and street trees remain the hallmark of blocks with active block associations.

There is also a map which got pasted on here as well. We run down 59th/58th from across Lancaster Ave at the top of the map to a little before Baltimore Ave, where we turn and go down off the right side of the map to 47th.

At one point I imagined my runs being sort of a big geography lesson where I could get to know the city. An example I draw from is Mike Davis, who writes alot about LA and got an extensive knowledge of that city from years of being a truck driver.

This is one step in that direction, brought on by really having nothing else to say this morning beyond further whining about how my legs still continue to ache. Put in that perspective, I think this is the preferable way to go.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Legs Like Phillies

My legs had about as much offense in them this morning as the Phillies of late.

I drove these punchless wonders 11 miles around the Strawberry Mansion Bridge Loop. On the 3 MLK Drive miles I pushed a little faster each mile, hitting 7:45, then 7:15 and then 7:00, more for the mental aspect of the pushing than giving my legs much of an extra workout. And it was hard to find the traction to want to accelerate, when the world begged for some sort of justification for this apparently pointless ploy. But I plodded along, with each mile a bit faster than the last, and then sank back to mediocrity for the jaunt back home.

If you haven't picked it up already, I'm just glad to have this one done. 11 in 93:04.

But one bit of good news, the porta potties are back up along the drives. I don't ask much in return for my municipal tax money, but this is one exception.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

New Loop

Ran an 8 mile loop w/ E this morning that I want to put in the regular repetoire. 43rd down to Powelton down to 40th over to Parkside up to 53rd/Jefferson/Upland (past the Acme Distribution Center) to 59th (across Lancaster and past Overbrook High) to Cedar and home. 8+ miles actually, ran it in 66:51. First half was conversational and then we kicked it up a gear once we hit 59th St.

If anybody is interested in the kind of stuff E & I talk about, check this site out. I won't tell you our position on "Operation Coffee Cup".

The course has got some nice hills, both up and down, in that they are not too steep but long enough so they will get you in an anaerobic zone. The course feels like there is much more uphill than downhill, leading us to compare it to the Escher drawing of the continuously ascending stairs. Another thing I like about this course is that there is a wooded area at the end of Parkside, just about at the point farthest from home, that accommodates those calls of nature that may come up on slightly irregular mornings.

God I sound old.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Audible Run

I stayed up late Sunday night grading papers and then got up again early Monday morning to finish them, so I took a DNR yesterday. Grades were due in yesterday. It's reassuring that I'm willing to forego a workout to keep my job.

I planned to follow up my 8k on the track from last Tuesday this morning. When I got to the track, however, it was unrunnable due to Penn's setting up for graduation. Seems like every year I miss a track workout due to this. Some year I'll remember.

So I had to call an audible and keep going on the Art Museum loop, which I rarely run anymore, and up MLK to Montgomery Ave (no theme here, just coincidence). Took Mont straight when it became Georges Hill, then took the left fork (instead of the right) so I came out on State Road by a cool naval monument I'd never seen before in front of the Mann Center and then picked up 52nd Street around there and took that wee wee wee all the way home.

10 miles in 83:46. Beautiful morning. The streets department is resurfacing alot of streets, which is a hassle because they take the top layer off, leaving a surface that is about the texture of cobblestone. But then when they resurface it and you have that first week or so when the asphalt is still soft and its my second favorite running surface, next to boardwalk.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hey White Boy, What You Doin' Uptown?

As planned, I ran the Central Park loop this morning, the whole thing, which pretty much goes parallel to the perimeter of the park, up to 110th St. or so and then back to Columbus Circle. I realized, which I should have known before, that most if not all of the east-side part of the loop is the last part of the NYC marathon course, so I had run much more of it before than I had realized. However todays run felt, not surprisingly, much different.

Today I was just happy to be out there. Central Park is beautiful, especially around this time of the year. There are landmarks all over the place hidden amongst the green, there are enough hills to make the course interesting, and lots of people. Add to that the NY Junior League races - a 5k and women only half-marathon - that were going clockwise on the loop while I was running counterclockwise, and the loop was hoppin'.

Although I don't want to compare the two and not taking anything away from Central Park, I also gained a new appreciation for the Schuylkill River loop. As a running course it holds its own against CP, and is better than any other urban running I can think of.

We're back in Philly. I won't bore y'all with all we did, but suffice to say my mother-in-law got a good slice of NYC and both her and C appeared to enjoy Mother's Day. I did a fair amount of logistical support for the weekend and realized that my CP run was the only self-absorbed thing in NYC that I did for myself.

Last thing, not running related, I'll put up here was pointed out on a college radio station show in the heart of Jersey that I picked up driving home. Blues songs very rarely mention mothers, and if they do it is only in double entendres and metaphors. Country songs, on the other hand, the "white man's blues", mention "Momma" all the time. David Allen Coe said it best, when he describes telling Steve Goodman you can't have the perfect country western song without singing about Momma, trains, prison, pickup trucks, and getting drunk. Why such a difference in genres?

Anyway, I should again say Happy Mothers day to my Mom, who I know reads this blog and should see it.

Oh yeah, the whole run was 6.5 miles in 51.56. This gives me exactly 50 miles for the week.

Live from New York. . .

it's Saturday night.

Greetings from NYC on, yes, a Saturday night. Me and M just got back from St. Mark's Place, which she loves and I'll just go and kill time in the music and comic book shops. My legs are surprisingly sore, as hanging out in the city always turns into alot of walking and time spent on my feet.

We all came up here because my mother-in-law, who came from Texas last week for T's communion and has stayed on until this Wednesday, wanted to see NYC. Coincidentally, we are staying at the same hotel, a Sheraton on 53rd and 7th Ave, that we stayed at when I ran NYC marathon last fall. There's a bit of deja vu involved with that.

We walked down 7th Ave to get to the subway station and right there in the prime commercial real estate zone was a New Balance superstore and in their display window was a mannekin wearing the same model shoe I train in, 856's.

We took my M-i-L on the Circle Line boat ride around Manhattan. Saw the Verrezano Bridge when the boat passed by the Statue of Liberty and then the Queensboro Bridge, where I first started to crash during the marathon.

Tomorrow I'm going to run the Central Park loop, all 6 miles of it. I've never done this mythical run, which I believe, run 4 times, comprised the original NYC marathon course. The hotel is a couple of blocks from Columbus Circle, where this loop starts, and just before I complete this loop I'll run across the same finish area (but in reverse direction) that I did last November. The details of this are a blur, but I'll know that I'm there after I pass Tavern on the Green. We return to Philly again tomorrow evening.

I ran in Philadelphia this morning. I wanted to meet up with the 8:15 Philly Runners group at the Art Museum although I'd have to cut the usual 8-10 mile loop they do short so I could make it back to Taney Park at 9, where T had a baseball game. So I extended my run to the Art Museum by running my Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop backwards for the first seven-plus miles, taking me through Fairmount Park and plopping me on MLK.

I left a bit late so had to boogie to make it to the Art Museum by 8:25, but the only other guy there was SK. SK is referred to as Steve #37. I recently found out the guy I had been calling S#37 is a guy everyone else calls JesuSteve for reasons I'm not sure about. There are not quite 37 Steves in Philly Runners but pretty close to it. One goal of ours is to get an all Steve team registered in some upcoming run. Anyway, SK and I got caught up and exchanged notes on our Boston experiences last month while running an Ianesque route up Lemon Hill over the river on Girard and through Fairmount to Montgomery to MLK and back to just before the Art Museum, where I turned off onto the trail to run the extra mile to Taney Park. In my rush to get to T's game (I was late as well) I forgot to turn off my watch so I don't have a time, but the total was easily 13 miles.

So after this long, rambling post I will go to bed so I can be fresh for Central Park tomorrow.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Figure 8

or 2 for the price of one.

Ran the four mile loop out to Brown St. and 51st w/ E, the same loop we ran on Wednesday. My legs felt better and the split for this loop, 35:20, is a bit faster than what I ran on then.

E went home to rest her hip and I ran the top half of the figure 8, going up Warrington to 57th, and back down on Thomas and then Cedar.

West Philly streets feel like a checkerboard but they are actually several checkerboard arrangements juxtaposed on each other at somewhat different angles. As a result you get large spaces between streets that you think are closer together, and all sorts of space to explore between these streets. Thomas St. is one of those interstitial streets that I didn't know existed until I started running it. This morning I was heading east on Thomas and the headwind brought a wonderful bakery scent to me. I couldn't figure out where that smell could have come from until I went around a bend and there was a little bakery - still shuttered up but apparently someone was at work.

Reminded me of spending summers in Germany as a boy, where one of the errands I used to have was to pick up bread from the bakery before breakfast. I'd enter around the back because the store part wouldn't be open yet.

I'll have to retrace my steps and check the place out some time when its open.

Here is a question for any historians who might be reading. How did Philadelphia streets get wide enough for two way traffic and parking on each side (i.e., four lanes) when most of them were built in a time when the automobile traffic of today could not have been anticipated.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I May Be Going to Hell in a Bucket. . .

but at least I'm enjoying the ride.

A Grateful Dead song that popped into my head on this morning's run. Long strange trip would apply too, but that's become too trite.

I'm still running in second gear after Tuesday's ill advised track workout, so I just went long and slow. Made the trek a little longer after realizing, at half a mile out, that I forgot my housekey and returning before the rest of the family left the house. From there I went through Penn to the Art Museum up MLK Drive and up the Lansdowne Hill and, for the first time, up Parkside Ave to where I caught Jefferson/Upland around the Acme food dist. center and popping back out on Lancaster by Overbrook High and then taking 59th St. home.

The marked mile on MLK was in 8:30, and that was roughly the pace I maintained. Total time was 94:13, conservatively call it 10.5 miles in all.

A bit warmer than yesterday and beautiful out. I left an hour later than usual (I teach tonight) and MLK was jammed with cars for a mile from the Art Museum. I took a reverse windshield survey for 1/4 of a mile and counted all but 14 of the cars as having only the drivers in them. All but about two of the multi person cars either had an opposite sex couple or kids in them. I also saw one guy running with a backpack, I assume he was commuting to work.

There are some beautiful houses along Parkside. The best ones are more Brooklyn Style than West Philly rowhouse style, with big front steps and five stories. One apartment management company has got the best of these houses, and from the outside has done a really nice job maintaing them.

Otherwise a beautiful day to be in no hurry to get anywhere.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Long Distance Information Get Me. . .

Memphis Tennessee. That's where I want to run my next marathon. Its on an apparently flat, fast course; the average temperature on December 3rd is 46 degrees, and the awesomeness of the mix tape I could make in preparation for running it defies the imagination. Its the latter that is the main reason for going. And Graceland, and Beale Street, and Sun Studios, and maybe even a road trip down the Mississippi Delta. This will be cool.

Unless my legs feel like they do today. I whupped on them something bad yesterday. Its strange, as running that stupid 8k track workout has made them more sore than any 8k race I've run. Maybe subconsciously I wanted to partake in Broad St, and now I could at least feel like I've done BSR. My walk has always been a bit odd, culminating with a lift off the toes, and that was excruciatingly difficult to do last night, when I walked to Green Line to have coffee with MCL.

This morning my woes continued, as I the fastest I could get it into was second gear. Thanks to E. for putting up with my slowness, but she is also on the mend from BSR and a pain in her hip. It got to the point where we had to beat a yellow light to get through an intersection and I just couldn't speed up. But I anticipated that and designed a 7-mile loop that took us close to home after 4 miles in case I wanted to cut it short. So I did. 44th to Brown to 51st and back down Larchwood. 4+ miles in 36:58. Ouch.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Living in My Own Private Penn Relays

For today's run I had something to prove to myself. I wanted to do a 10k time trial, with 5:30 pace 1600's. I wanted to nail these and feel on top of my game doing so.

So I headed down to Franklin Field on my lunch hour. This is the same FF which just last week was hallowed ground. But now the gods have ceded back the track to us mortals, with only worn out lane markings and maintenance guys taking down electrical wiring as evidence of their descent from Olympus.

And so the first 1600 went by in 5:34. A little slow but its the first "mile". 2nd 1600 (these are splits, not intervals) goes by in 5:48, I'll have to pick things up a bit at the end now. 3rd 1600 in 5:47 and I know there ain't going to be no picking up. 4th in 5:55 and 5th in 5:57. I stopped it here, at 8k, before things got even uglier. Thats about a 29:03 8k time. I know its apples and oranges, but doubling that means I would have been dueling it out at the end w/ KF & IC at the Broad Street Run.

I have to laugh at the hubris of it all, thinking I could just pop out 5:30s today. Then I thought I oughta be able to learn something from this. So if what Greg says, about starting slow and progressively getting faster, is correct I should be able to reverse these splits and, if I start out running, say, 5:50s for the first two miles then I should finish up stronger than I started today. This experiment intrigues me, and this will be my workout next Tuesday.

But larger questions also loom. Subconsciously, one of the reasons I likely "had" to run this workout was an attempt to exorcise some Boston demons and race my own little BSR to reassure myself that I was still as competitive as I'd like to see myself. For the last 3 marathons my times have been slower than I wanted, and each time I get the distinct feeling of coming up against limits. There is something about this feeling, that I've seen my best and it's not going to get any better, that is disconcerting and the impulse is to fight against it. But along with that, there is this need I have to mull it over, to keep coming back to it, and ultimately to search for a way over, under or around it.

Its hard to explain. Sometimes I feel I have Boston behind me, and then comes a workout like this and it all seems to tie in together. Several metaphors come to mind, the most compelling one comes from my days doing drug counseling, when crack addicts would describe how the first time they smoked crack gave them a high that was as intense and ecstatic as anything they ever experienced. After that all the smoking they did was an attempt to recreate that first high. Chasing the ghost. Obviously the parallel shouldn't be taken too far, but there is an element of trying to regain a lost experience.

And maybe it isn't lost. Seriously. I'm going to try one more marathon for time to find out. Go all out and if it doesn't work I'll scale back. I'm 95% sure of the marathon I want to run, and I'll write about it tomorrow.

Monday, May 02, 2005

My 2 Religions

I haven't run in the last 3 days, and thus haven't posted anything either. No reason really except for the weather and other things going on. Greg has me recovering for another couple of weeks still, but I know myself well enough to know I am recovered already. I have no immediate race goals so there isn't any reason to feel like I'm losing fitness. I am, however, conscious of not logging miles and falling behind in comparison to where I was in 04 at this time. I know thinking this way is silly, I just need to convince myself of this.

Yesterday was both T's First Communion and the Broad Street Run. While my priorities were clear and I have no regrets, not running BSR was harder than I thought. For the rest of this entry I'm pasting part of an email I sent IC on this topic, and tomorrow I hope will be the start of putting together some base mileage while I wait for Greg to give me some real workouts again.


Congrats on the run. I did indeed get news from [KF] after I left you the voicemail, but at that time I was jonesing for some kind of news. [KF] was on cloud 9 w/ his PR.

The communion went well. When these things go right its always an affirmation and a celebration of community - both church and family, and in this case thats exactly how I felt - that [T] got to this milestone surrounded by family and friends in a supportive, joyous environment.

I also get much of that from running as well, however, and when we got to the church at 8:30 I couldn't help noticing that the rain had stopped and how perfect the cloudy chilly conditions were. When mass started at noon I pictured y'all right around City Hall and then just blocked it from my mind.

I see the whole LMW A team did well, esp. [S]#37 who will provide us some good competition if he keeps running. [VR] edged out [AN], which is a nice accomplishment and must have gotten her a nice payday. [EM] also ran yesterday and despite asthma problems she's been having she finished in around 71 minutes. After a year of running with me, I think her inner competitive self is starting to come out.

And as I looked at the results I thought of how some of my best races are those that I never ran. In this instance I see myself as easily having beaten the fifth Master (56:20 time) and would have given [JK] (4th master) a run for 4th place (54:52). Instead of cashing the check, however, I would have just have framed it.