Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Taper Time

Two tough workouts and now I can finally relax a bit.

Yesterday did 21.5 or so w/ E, JW & SK. E laid out a loop taking us out to the far NW end of West Philly, doing circles in Morris Park and going down the Cobbs Creek bikepath to Woodland. At this point I left this good company and I hammered the last 2.75 in a 6:25 pace. 21.5 went in a little over 2:57.

Today I ran the Schulkill Loop Race, the longest ongoing race in Philadelphia. It was a more or less spur of the moment decision to run this. It was a beautiful day, sunny and in the 60s to run this course, which was basically a loop around the Drives. Its 8.4 miles, and its the fourth year I've raced this. I have a soft spot for this race as five years ago, when I first ran this race, I got my first sub 6 mile split and realized how far I could take my running. Each time I've done it since I'd lowered my previous time.

This time around I'm out of the chute in a comfortable pace and, after riding out the usual initial wave of anxiety I get on starting a race, feel relaxed and find myself at the front of the pack. We pass in front of the Art Museum and over the bridge (under Spring Garden St) into a strong headwind and I realize that my lead puts me at a tactical disadvantage, with two guys drafting close behind me. But I'm still loose and for once not worried about winning, and at some point find that the shadows lurking behind me are no longer there. Next thing I know JJ, who I hadn't seen in ages and was biking the Drives, bikes past me and says I've got a 100 yard lead. By this time the splits tell me I'm cranking out steady 5:40s and I know as long as I can keep this up I'll win. The rest of the race was lonely, but without the usual hunted feeling I get when I'm in the lead. Several folks out running on the Drives recognize me and cheer me on. I know exactly where I am at all times and I'm amazed at how strong I feel. And I cruise to my first victory in a long time. Final time was 47:25, 16 seconds faster than my previous course best. This gets me an oversized trophy and a $100 gift certificate to Philadelphia Runner, which is a nice prize.

I've got alot more thoughts on today, yesterday, and what is to come, but I don't have the time to write. I celebrate the start of my taper tomorrow with a day off, and I feel like my training has ended climactically, with two solid runs. I'll put in one challenging workout and some maintenance runs this week and head up to NYC on Friday to guide a blind Mongolian. I'll write more on that in the week to come. But not tomorrow.

Also, as was pointed out in a comment, there will actually be more, and not less daylight now that Daylight Saving Time has arrived. Don't know what I was thinking in the last blog entry, I'll call it poetic license as the prospect of shorter days fit my mood that day. Instead of stolen time, the extra daylight we get is but borrowed, as darkness will re-envelop the morning runs soon enough.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Into the Light

Took the 34th St. version of the Acme loop again this morning, same as Wednesday. Time for this 9.5 mile loop, at 77:11, was a bit faster although it didn't feel that way. Weather was delightfully chilly.

Daylight Saving time is this weekend. E said it will be even darker next week; I said it couldn't get any darker, it'll just be darker longer. Either way, its a drag for morning runners.

It also means that just as we got into a time space continuum so that we catch the sunrise as we go east on Haverford Ave, it will be snatched away again after today. Horizontal skeins of purplish pink backlighting the Center City skyline. Next time we see that on a morning run we'll be celebrating the coming of Spring.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Combination Plate

Did I mention how tired I was of running?

As planned, I hit the track this morning. Warmed up with T. as he biked to school and continued my jog to Franklin Field. I couldn’t decide on a distance so I worked in a bunch of different distance. “Ladder reps” in the running patois. This means repeats of 400, 800, 1200 & 1600 meters up the ladder, and then 1600, 1200, 800 & 400 meters back down the ladder. The shorter ones are a bit faster than the longer ones, and there are 400 meter recovery laps between each of them.

I’ll just give you the numbers. Reps were hit in 1:17, 2:39; 4:06; 5:28; 5:29; 4:04; 2:40 & 1:15. The most important of these times are the last two – the 2:40 was the only rep I hit slower than target (by one second) and the last 1:15 was two seconds faster than target. So I had a good day.

When I’m on the track and hitting my target times I always learn a lot. Little things like today where several times I got that feeling that I was just on a threshold of oxygen debt that I could maintain before going into serious huffing and puffing. I found I could hold that until I came around the last turn and then really hammer it to where I was dying as I finished. Or to discover I had faster gears left when I went back down the ladder to the last reps, which I had to do at a faster speed. And then, when the last rep came with less effort and less dying than it should have, the inevitable question of how much lower could I have set the target times.

But those questions, and a lot of others, will have to wait until some other day, as this is the last really hard track workout probably of the year. There will be some others in the next few weeks, but they will be more to “rev the engine” than they will be to push it to the edge. My achilles tendons are also more sore than I’d like them to be, but after this week I’m not really saving them for anything. One last long run on the weekend and then I can wind things down.

Did I say I was looking forward to this?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Guiding Mongolians

Got a call yesterday from the Achilles Track Club. If you've been reading here you'll remember that I was supposed to guide a visually impaired Polish 3:10 marathoner in the NYC marathon which is a week and a half away, but Mariusz had to drop out because of an injury. So yesterday ATC said they had two Mongolian runners who were predicting themselves to run a 3:00 marathon. Against my better judgment I said, again, that I was in.

My running buddy/archrival IC is signed up to take the other guy, so we'll be double dating.

Got hooked up through Craig's List with an East Village apartment someone is subletting for the entire weekend for $250, so I'm looking forward to the weekend. Also give a shout out to PB, who ran w/ me and E for awhile when he was in the US this summer and will also run NYC. From his emails it sounds like his training has been going well.

E wanted to go out 15 minutes earlier this morning because she had to leave early for jury duty. Turns out we ran farther instead and got back at about the same time we usually do. Did a modified Acme loop, going down through Penn to 34th Street and running up marathon hill to Parkside, where we resumed the regular route. E had meant to turn early, but auto pilot kicked in and we went the usual way. Caught a nice, though not spectacular, sunrise running back down Haverford Ave. Conservatively call it 9.5 in 78:38.

I'm getting very tired of running.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Keys to the Highway

I got the keys to the highway,
And I'm about to go.
I'm gonna leave here running,
'cause walking's much too slow.

If anyone reading this is thinking about someday running a marathon, be aware that there will be weeks like this one where the only reason for possibly training is that you have to. If you don't go out and run you will piss your training away, and so you go out and run, not because there is anything joyous, wondrous or anything like that about running, but only because you hope it will be done sooner than you think and that it won't be as tortuous as it threatens to be. If you think you can avoid training days like that, good luck. If you don't think you can handle such days, may I suggest some other sport, or perhaps being an Eagles fan, which involves plenty of pain, but at least you can sit on the couch on a day like this.

Cold miserable rainy morning. Was supposed to go to the track this morning but decided to go tempo today and leave the track for Thursday when hopefully it will be drier. Having made that choice, I went back and forth - outside or treadmill. Back and forth, paralyzed with indecision. Each one had more reasons not to do it than the other. I finally decided on the hamster wheel because 1) the shoes I keep here are too worn to run outside; 2) I can listen to the iPod; and 3) it'll be over quicker.

Ugh. 11 miles on the hamster wheel. 6 at 6 minute pace, the fastest that damn thing would go. If it had a 3 minute pace setting I'd turn it to that just to get it done faster. Listened to Muddy Waters, Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos, and Clapton & King. It was the music that kept me going and from losing my mind. As I knew I would, I finished the whole 11 way too fast in 73:06.

So one workout closer to taper time. This is a key week, I want to get these workouts in and then I can ease up. I take my inspiration from KF, who has been running 2 to 3 twenty-plus milers a week for the last several weeks now in preparation for the Athens marathon in less than two weeks hence, and he's still talking about getting another 22 miler in this week. He runs them alone and after work. Compared to that, what right do I have to complain about this rinky dink 11 miler.

Monday, October 24, 2005

NERR 25k Marathon Tuneup - The Forgotten Finisher

They left me off of the finisher list at the Northeast Roadrunner 25k Marathon Tuneup held yesterday, and I'll explain why shortly.

A gut check weekend in terms of training. I went w/ T and his Cub Scout troop to go camping at a Scout camp way up in the northernmost reaches of Bucks County. If any of you are not local, it was raining in buckets for most of Saturday. This made for trying times when you have 16 city kids to look after, but that is another story.

Anyway, I remembered a quote from meteorologist, triathlete and all-around goddess Cecily Tynan, who says that if you are ready and alert, you can often find time to squeeze in a workout. My time came on Saturday while the kids were doing arts and crafts activities supervised by camp staff. I snuck off, put on my shorts and took off for a soggy ten down country roads with very narrow shoulders. I guess I am a city kid as well, as I have no problems mixing things up in traffic in Philly, but get me on a narrow shoulder on a windy road and I definitely feel out of my element. The run otherwise went okay and I changed and got back in time for the "Haunted Trail," for which I got soaked all over again. 10 miles went by in 80:18.

Yesterday we got home from Camp Hart around 2, and T had a birthday party to go to at 3 which must have been arranged by the running gods. I dropped off T and put on my running stuff and headed down to Lloyd Hall. That morning, while I was still curled up in my sleeping bag, the Northeast Roadrunners had their annual 25k Marathon Tuneup on the drives. Its a course that is almost a loop around, but then reverses direction and goes back the way it came. I got there about 7 hours late and planned to run the course as if I were in the race, and see how my "chip time" would place.

Well, the best I can say about it is at least I didn't have to pay the race fee. I started off just fine doing around a 6:00 pace that eventually went down to a steady 6:10 pace, about where I wanted things, but after about mile 8 it started dipping to 6:15 pace and then by mile 11.5, when I hit a 6:25 pace, I just slowed down and did 8's for the rest of the way back. Didn't have the mojo working. Dunno if the competition would have kept me going any faster or longer, but my time (which I don't have handy) would still have put me in the top 10 in the race results (it wasn't a very competitive race, and most people run it for the tuneup, not as a target race). Total of 17 miles with a pre-race warmup.

So I was the last place finisher, and it was better that my time was omitted from the results. Looking back, I wouldn't have started as fast and should have appreciated more all that the weekend took out of me. It has also humbled me a bit, as I felt I could pull out 15.5 miles at a 6:10 pace as a matter of course. In this it was probably a valuable run.

The run also gave me a maddening craving for food which I satisfied with a Fiesta Pizza sausage stromboli and a pint and a half of Ben & Jerry's. Much as I hate to say this, it really hit the spot and got me thinking if the diet of camp food I had this weekend didn't contribute to my running difficulties. It has also reminded me of women I've known who have had this same exercise/binge pattern, but I should be okay.

I'm taking it easy today, but might get a few miles in on the treadmill if the schedule permits.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rainy Friday

Ran the Warrington version of the Cobbs Creek loop, along with a little extra at the end to make it a full 7 miles. Typical Friday run, E & I nursing legs battered by the week and trying to save a little for the weekend. As is usual in those kind of runs, when the pace lags the conversation picks up. We didn’t come up with any ways to change the world, but did get new insights into how bizarre it is.

The Polish guy I’m supposed to guide in the NYC Marathon emailed me yesterday and said that a “contusion in his calf’s muscle” has forced him to sit out the race. I’m really disappointed about that, as yesterday was also the day I scored a great place to stay in NYC for the weekend off Craig’s List and I was looking forward to just running the marathon and taking in its full splendor and energy. I emailed Achilles Track Club and maybe they’ll have some person on some waiting list who I can guide, and I can do all these things after all.

As a target marathon approaches, the geekier I get, and as a sign of that I dusted off my old logs and started comparing workouts between this cycle and the glory days. To my surprise I find that my current regimen compares favorably with any of my previous training cycles. An especially direct comparison was between my 800 meter track rep workouts. So I’m not training any faster, but should be in at least as good a shape as when I ran Chicago in 03 and pr’d at 2:45 on what I felt was an off day.

So more reinforcement on my feeling ready for Philly. I’m already telling people that 2:45 is going down!

It started raining just as the loop was winding down. Streetlamps and headlights reflecting off wet streets in a darkness just starting to lift gave the sensation of running in an oil painting. 7 miles today in 59:01.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Feels like I’m losin’ time at a breakneck pace

SRV, may he rest in peace. Tightrope was going through my head as I ran what's now become my Thursday loop.

But Thursday Loop is breaking. Its taken me about a month, but I'm finally getting to be his daddy. 1st tempo stretch on marathon hill went down in 11:47; 2nd tempo stretch up MLK went in 11:39. YES! Finally getting these stretches down close to where I can call it tempo pace. Rest of the course went faster as well, 12 miles total in 91:42, about a minute faster than last week. And that is including a stop and go first mile when I was running alongside T as he biked to school.

My gloating gets dampened, however, by the persistent ache of my achilles heels. I took yesterday off to give them a break, and they were appreciative but not fully placated. Immediately after the tempo stretches on Thursday Loop comes the Bloody Nipple hill, and cresting that brings on an achy feeling that feels like the last stretch of a 20 miler. This is good pain, as it is the pain a marathoner must learn to embrace if s/he wants to go the distance. However it then devolves into a burning above the heels, a tightness on both sides of the heels, and a pulling sensation at the base of my calves. Not debilitating, not particularly painful - just there and on the threshold of getting worse. Always on the threshold.

And that is where I'm running the tightrope. Just got to keep my balance for another week and a half and then its taper time. Hold out till then and I can take anything in the marathon. And after that it'll be time for a long break from this craziness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Yet Still More Yasso's

Today was track day. As I did last week, I resolved to plan a workout that would scare me. I decided upon Yasso 800’s in a 2:35-2:40 range – ten of them.

I ran with T. to school and kept going from there to the track. Lots of little things didn’t feel right – my butt muscles were sore, and I can’t figure out why; that smoothie I drank for breakfast was sloshing around my stomach; last night’s rain made the polyurethane on the track just a little slick and gave off a wicked glare when the sun came out (I didn’t bring sunglasses); etc., etc., whine, whine.

You can see where this is heading. First 800 goes by in 2:45. That normally puts a damper on the whole set of intervals, but today it just got me to say “let’s see what you got.” The second rep was in 2:39, giving me hope, but then the next two were in 2:41 and the fifth was in 2:40 and I know that I’d unwittingly got myself into a groove/rut a little slower than I wanted. Another 2:41 and then a 2:45, meaning I’m going to have to push on the last three. Push I did and managed to get 2:43, 2:45; and 2:43 for the last one, in which I really had to squeeze out on the last lap. I felt sick to my stomach afterwards, which was a strangely gratifying way of telling myself I couldn’t have done any better today.

So I reached a little too far with my goal today but I knew pretty quickly that goal was not going to work. It’s just a feeling I got, and came through both mentally and physically. So I shifted down to 2:40-2:45 range, which, if these Yasso’s predict marathon times, is probably where I should be. I’m also seeing that this is about where I was last time I did the Yasso’s, on September 27 (3 weeks ago).

11.5 miles total, counting the warm-ups and recoveries. I’m glad they’re over and I can now go on with my day.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Moon over West Philly

Pitch black when I ventured outside this morning, to the point where the stars were bright and the moon hung low over the horizon in the west.

E & I ran the Acme loop. It was something we both kind of fell into doing without discussing what course to run. I had wanted to go shorter but went along with this. Weather was chillier, the wind made my arms cold as it blew against us.

Only striking thing about this morning's run was how several buildings, regular fixtures (literally) on this route were in various stages of getting torn down. This included a building that had been a corner bar, where the door was perpetually open and I remember peeking in on the run on several occasions. Another was a house on 4900 block of Larchwood, a perfectly good house on a well lived in block until it was gutted by fire. Now there is an unsightly gap in the row.

This is the next step of urban decay (the maturation phase?) where the old abandoned (and sometimes not) buildings finally start collapsing and are helped along by efforts to clear them out. Sofar, at least in West Philly, its one here and one there, not more than a trickle and not enough to do anything but leave ever increasing numbers of small lots. But I suspect at some point this will gain a momentum to where swaths of buildings will have been cleared and whole blocks will be empty lots. Then, somewhere down the line, they get rebuilt. I hear Detroit is in the flattened block stage, and some say it is being reclaimed by prairie. Then of course there is New Orleans, where this process has been sharply accelerated, to the point where its wait and see what emerges from the flattened neighborhoods.

And now I better cut off these musings and get ready for work. Oh yeah, 8 in 65:34.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

20 Miler #4

Joined up with the Bryn Mawr Running Club folks at their group long run on Northwestern Ave at the far end of Forbidden Trail. I don't get to run with these folks alot anymore, so it was good to see them.

There was about 20-30 folks there and I went out with the fast group. There were 7 of us, including BS, RM, JK and EK, as well as two other guys I didn't know. All are very good runners and I was hoping I could keep up for 20. We headed toward the Schuylkill via Harts Lane, which has hills that I remember really wiped me out the few times I ran with the Phila Track Club, but this loop had us running them the other way, so that was better. We ran along the Schuylkill through Manayunk and onto Kelly Drive for about 2 miles and then turned around.

The AIDS Walk was today, 20000 people walking the Drives. The good part about that was that Kelly Drive was closed off, so we ran on the road and we did that part before the real hordes descended on it. It felt like running the Phila Marathon, as the final miles are on Kelly and you see the tail end of the race heading up to Manayunk as you head down to finish.

BS stashed some water and Power Gel on Kelly Drive past the Falls River Bridge. I tried a Power Gel as various people were swearing by them, to see if the purported miraculous effects would indeed occur. I had never felt much benefit from them in the past. I didn't get any noticeable kick this morning, but did surprise myself how, once we got on Forbidden Drive, I was able to power up those hills. We maintained about a 6:30 pace, and it felt fine. At just before Valley Green EK motored past the group into marathon pace, and since we have about the same target time (although for her that is Olympic Qualifying time) I thought I'd better see if I could hang. Turns out it was more than MP, as we got down to 5:30 at times. She pulled ahead a bit at the end and I brought it back down to 6. When I finished I was happy: happy to be done, happy to have run that strong, and happy for the Gatorade, donut holes, and M&Ms that BMRC had at their post race spread.

20 milers don't get much better than this. Fast company w/ BS keeping the banter going most of the way, beautiful sunny day, closed off roads, and a post run spread. And most of all, I felt strong and thinking I gotta run more with faster folks. 2:13:53 for the 20.

I had a great training week this week. 72 miles with four workouts I was happy with.

C picked me up and then arranged for a picnic at Rittenhouse Square for me, her and T after we dropped M off at her rehearsal. Perfect way to spend an afternoon with fried legs.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Hill Medley

Apollo has returned from his weeklong bender. We're too happy to see him back to ask where the party was.

Just me and SK today. All the people who wanted to run long decided to go tomorrow. SK was looking to do 10 at about a 6:50 pace, that sounded fine to me. We met up at the Art Museum and negotiated a course that looked like this. I've run a variation of it before, its a tough little course that incorporates most of the major hills in the area.

Problem was that neither of us had much perspective on what a 6:50 pace was. So we chugged up the marathon course part and that 2 miles clocked in at 12:40 - a tad fast. We slowed it down some and the next timed part, the last of MLK and then into the hills, came in at exactly 13:40. We then freewheeled it across the SMB bridge and through the eastern side of Fairmount Park until we decided this was much more than 10 miles and we went into cooldown mode.

Total time was 91:03 and the total mileage on sueandpaul said 13.1 miles (6:57 overall pace). A half-marathon. It was a perfect Saturday workout in that it was challenging and fast, but not to the point where I felt it was too hard or beyond my control. Put those two things together and I get the feeling that I'm on top of my stuff. Illusion? I don't know but I'll enjoy it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mellow Friday

Woke up this morning feeling unusually alert. Probably because I got a good night sleep. I was watching the baseball playoffs and don't remember anything past the sixth inning.

Today was the fourth or fifth straight cloudy drizzly morning. If the pattern repeats itself it will then get rainy again for most of the day. I guess some parts of the world have weather like this most days.

E & I went west today to Cobbs Creek. We ran into W, who is a friend of J's who we used to run with us occasionally ages ago, and W ran with us long enough for us to show her the Cobbs Creek track (and future home of a W. Philly track dynasty). But today it was just a rutted gravelly track and was especially treacherous due to its being littered with acorns and mined with large puddles.

W turned back at Cedar Ave and E & I went down to Warrington and headed back. I'm taking care not to overdo it on my easy days, and I was in no danger of doing so today. Sueandpaul says that this route is not quite 7, we ran it (with several stops where the watch was running) in 63:21.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Better Time on the Killing Floor

The loop did not thrash me this morning. I stand tall and that, in itself, is a victory.

I describe the loop in last Tuesday's and the Thursday before that's posts. This time around I didn't quite nail the marathon course part, but in 12:03 I got pretty damn close. The second timed part I hit in 11:59, right where I wanted it. But more importantly, things seemed more controlled this morning, like 6:00 pace was more in the middle of my range rather than where I felt I was racing it. The hill and the remainder of the course came much easier as well. I could let myself go and fly down the long downhill on top of Belmont Plateau, where last week just jogging down it was painful. I could speed up to make the yellow lights on 44th Street instead of slowing as I watched them turn red. All in all 12 miles in 92:39. Despite some early delays, this is 5 minutes faster than last week.

Got an email from the race director at Philly Marathon. My application for elite entry was approved, which really means nothing save three things: 1) I get the $60 race fee comped; 2) I get access to the elite amenities pre and post race; and 3) I get a two digit race number (#54) and thus become a target for everyone around me. Oh yeah, and then there is the concomitant ego boost, but we'll let C complain about that one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Over Easy

E emailed around a proposed course for this morning that went 11.5 miles. KJ politely suggested it be whittled down a little. I less politely suggested that they could go as far as they wanted, I was bowing out after about 8 or so. I did not want to fry my legs on an easy day as I did last week.

But one of the best things about friends is tolerance of ideosyncracies. Young children have a remarkable ability to do this and somehow we lose this as we get older.

After missing the hookup with KJ, E & I ran an Art Museum loop and bumped into KJ a little past Taney Park. By this time nobody wanted to do 10 and followed me when I cut off the course at 47th for a long 7 (time was 64:28). E proceeded to go home and KJ headed west to 52nd St (or so he said). So in the end I got my wish for a course that let me pack it in when my legs started getting sore. Hopefully that will get me through tomorrow.

I found out last night I'm adding another marathon to my fall calendar. I'd been in touch with the Achilles Track Club, a club for disabled runners in NYC who coordinate setting up guides for NYC marathon runners who need them - visually impaired and similar handicaps. I figured this might send good karma my way and would let me run NYC as a final long run in a nice leisurely manner so that I could, among other things, take in the full greatness of the NYC marathon. Besides, I'm thinking I know at least four folks who are running it, and I could probably tie in a visit with my mom.

Anyway, ATC emailed me yesterday and gave me the name and email address of a Polish runner to guide. A little poking around shows this guy is 41 and ran NYC last year in 3:10. A little faster than I had planned to run a few weeks before running Philly, but I could live with that if the guy speaks English. I emailed him a few minutes ago so I guess I'll find out. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Lunch with an Old Nemesis

Woke up at 5 to the sound of pouring rain and promptly rolled over and fell back asleep.

So I rescheduled a lunch I had planned with a buddy of mine to meet up with an old nemesis: the track.

The object of today's track session was to set up a target workout that scared me. I promptly obliged myself by coming up with 4-5 x 1600m in under 5:30 with a 400m recovery.

The real scare, however, was in how easy it was to nail these reps: 5:28; 5:26; 5:28; 5:29 & 5:28. These reps were works of art - nice steady pace without either starting out too fast or having to bust my rear over the last lap to make up for a laggard pace. And I probably could have nailed another one. Poetry in motion.

So in this somewhat bipolar training cycle, I'm back on an up. We'll see if this lasts past Thursday, when I'm planning to run the same 12 mile loop that soundly thrashed me last Tuesday and the Thursday before that.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Overslept this morning, so about an hour and a half later than I normally would have gone out I put on my shoes, went out the door and pretended I was a normal jogger instead of a miles-addicted road junkie.

This meant going about 4 miles at nice 8 minute pace (34:28 total) on the Franklin Field loop while being pleasantly distracted by Little Axe on the iPod. Achilles heels felt like they were still asleep, I tiptoed so as not to wake them up.

At some point going up Locust Walk I felt a rush of positive emotion, which I feel reasonably certain did not not come from breathing in too much bacon grease wafting up from the food trucks preparing breakfast on 38th Street.

At the risk of jinxing myself, I'm going to do well running the Phila Marathon. You heard it here first.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Delaware Distance Classic

During my warm-up run down in Wilmington, a Bald Eagle flew low overhead. Beautiful adult bird with the telltale white head and tail, flapping his wings like he was shaking out some oversized blanket.

Figured that had to be a good omen. For something.

One guy I was talking to remarked how its the same people that run this race each year. I weighed that comment against the difference of my running this last year, when I knew nobody running the race, to this year, where I knew enough folks to flit about like the social butterfly that I am not. I also knew enough folks to recognize that, as expected, the two masters guys (both GC) who would give me competition both showed.

At the gun four of us went ahead into the lead pack. This pack included RW, a Bryn Mawr store runner; KL, whom I also knew to be a bit faster than me; and GC#1 (the one I dueled last year). I knew I was in over my head, and if GC#1 kept up this pace it wouldn't be a race. To confirm my suspicions, mile 1 passed in 5:21. I backed off a bit on mile 2, mostly mild uphill, to the tune of a 5:45 split, and in doing so lost the other three and gained a guy behind me to form a chase pack. In mile 3 I dropped him and the miles started coming easy as the course took us along the Christiana riverfront. Miles 3,4 & 5 went in 5:37; 5:35, & 5:45 respectively. After mile 5 there was a slight detour around a flooded part of the course, contributing to a slower 5:56 split. After mile 6 came a turnaround and we retraced our steps; miles 7 & 8 (I missed the mile #7 marker) went by in 11:44. I thus figure that conservatively (holding a 5:45 pace) the detour added about 10 seconds each way to my time. All this time I stayed in 4th place, with GC#1 a good distance ahead of me and #5 a good bit behind me. GC#2 was not in the picture.

From mile 8 it was time to hammer it home, but a sidestitch made this difficult. Ultimately I was able to keep pace to hit a 5:47 mile 9, although #5 was now close enough behind me to where I could hear his footsteps. I fended off his finishing kick, however, and finished fourth in 53:17. This was 5 seconds faster than last year's time over a slightly longer course. Gotta be happy with that.

Notes. The race was well organized, as despite the many twists and turns there were plenty of volunteers to keep us on course. You also gotta love a race that has Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, Dr. Pepper and beer as part of their post race buffet. I came up short on the prize money as the race director decided to allow GC#1 to "double dip" and win both the masters and the 3rd place cash. This is not usually how its done, but its his race and he can give away his money in any manner he wants. Weather was overcast and cool, good for racing despite the soggy course. KF finished 11th overall and DB was second female despite (or perhaps due to) having to stop for about a minute and a half during mile 2.

Lessons learned. 1) Looking at McMillans pace calculator, this brings me down to a predicted 2:41 marathon time. While I'm not that sold on the prediction, it does show that, after controlling for the differences in distance, my times have been going progressively downward. If I play this right I can peak for Philadelphia. This is encouraging. 2) For the umpteenth race, I got blisters, and this time of the dark red variety. This would have messed me up big time if it were a marathon, and serves as fair warning to get another pair of racers before the marathon. 3) My legs tightened up quickly after the race and my achilles were not happy during the 2.5 mile cooldown, but they are now feeling fine. Managing this will be tricky, as I have three weeks until I taper and would like to train as hard as possible over the course of these weeks.

Climbing out of my post race self-absorbtion, both Chicago Marathon and Steamtown were today. The results of the former are in real time, and three guys I know who ran it were IC, who came in just under 2:51, SM with a 4:23 after a very promising first half split, and JS who went just under a 3:39 to pr! Congratulations to all. Steamtown results are not up yet.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Rainy Day

It's been raining all day long, a rarity in Philadelphia.

I couldn't bring myself out of bed this morning. Partly because of my particular aversion to running in the rain, partly because of the comfortable feeling of lying in with the rain pounding against the windows. It was followed by that rarity, spending a Saturday morning home with the kids. T and I made crepes together and clowned around in the kitchen while doing so.

Nonetheless, the call of the streets beckoned. I cobbled together plan B at 11:30 - run out to USP and get a treadmill workout until 12:35, when I had to go back to do the obigatory Saturday parental driving. The USP Rec Center is supposed to open at 11, but because it was Columbus Day weekend they stealthily delayed opening until noon. So I got there 20 minutes early. After weighing my limited options I figured I'd sit and wait at the front door until it opened. In doing this, I realized how thoroughly unaccustomed I've become to waiting doing nothing for even 20 minutes. I felt like one of the people who, in college, would wait first in line for the dining hall to open and whom I always considered to be among the larger losers among the student population. And to top it off, I thought about the miles I could be running while I was inert.

The doors did open at noon, and I got in 4 miles (in 31:26) on the hamster wheel. Listening to the North Mississippi AllStars on the iPod (after a few listens it has become really good music to run to) until the power drained out, and then letting my mind riff on why its so damn hard not to stare at the odometer that creeps along oh so slowly. I deliberately kept the pace mellow, and hope that in doing so my achilles at least got some opportunity to recover.

Tomorrow is the Delaware Distance Classic, in which I will undo the resting I did over the last few days. I scouted out the guy I beat by a nose for the Masters title last year, and he's been running way better than I have, and if the 51 yo SJAC runner shows, I may be lucky to get an age group placing. At least I know who these guys are, so I'll go out with them and try to hang on. Maybe I got more in the tank than I think, and maybe the rain (which my middle school gym teacher and xc coach used to call the "great equalizer") will be to my advantage.

Did I say rain to my advantage? I must be really dreaming!

Friday, October 07, 2005


E wanted to go "short" today, so we did an Art Museum loop. Overcast, balmy, spent most of the time talking about various things. Can't think of much else to write about running a loop that we've run many a time earlier but rarely run anymore. We stopped running it because we got bored with it, both consciously and subconsciously, and some of that must have seeped through again.

Took a DNR yesterday, which I hate to do to one of my major workout days but the calves/achilles were still far from feeling right. They felt better today. PhillyRunner folks are looking to go 20 tomorrow, but I think I'll restrain myself and only do 10. Then Sunday is the 15k Del. Distance Classic, and hopefully this cycle of soreness won't start all over again.

Totals were 6.5 miles in 56:56; slowed some by the flaw in intelligent design again manifesting itself and forcing a stop at HUP.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

An Argument Against Intelligent Design

Although I'm reluctant to speak of such issues, I was 5 minutes late to meet E because I was sitting, fruitlessly, on the toilet and then, less than a half a mile into the run, I gotta go. You'd figure if an intelligent being designed the universe she'd have provided us enough control over our bowel functions to be able to go before a 10 mile run.

Did I say 10 miles? More like 11+ today. KJ laid out the course, which took us up to 54th St (an interesting street I've never before run down) up to Lancaster, and then 52nd to St. Georges Hill behind the Mann Center. That hill was a rude awakening from a previously sleepy run discussing the 10th anniversary of the OJ verdict. We were rewarded by scenes of mist wafting over beautifully verdant meadows (really) and a deer contentedly (at least he looked that way) grazing under a tree. But then we got back into familiar territory I realized we were headed for Strawberry Mansion Bridge and a bit more mileage than I had planned on.

Leaving MLK to head up Lansdowne was the point at which my legs again got that nagging soreness I described yesterday. We still made it in at a good pace, but my heart wasn't into the run from then on. It wasn't so much the course, which would have been fine and even enjoyable on most other days, but it just didn't suit where my legs were at today.

And I'm supposed to put in a track workout tomorrow. I don't know how I will do that given the state of my legs, a busy day, and the Distance Classic on Sunday. But I'll figure it out.

11-plus miles in 90:44.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Chasing the Ghost

I've been blogging long enough to where I'm now recycling metaphors. I was about to write this entry when it struck me that I'd probably used it before. A search of the archives found it here in the middle of the post.

A professor of mine when I was an undergrad used to say that an original idea is the product of a bad memory.

The ghost I was chasing this morning resides on the 2 mile stretch of 34th St/Lansdowne Ave that I will just call Philly Marathon Course Hill (PMHC). The first time I ran it was in 11:50 or so and since then I've not been able to break 12 minutes. This morning was no different, it took me 12:14. I started out a bit slower to see if I would speed up later, but I didn't. I ran one other stretch - the two MLK miles just before the Falls Bridge - at marathon/tempo (I don't know which is which anymore) pace and try as I might couldn't get under a 12:03. Not a speedy morning.

Thankfully I didn't try to hammer it up the Bloody Nipple this morning, but after the second fast part that was my recovery. Then, for the second time in as many times as I've run this loop, my calves were just really really sore. This time it wasn't a burning achilles type of soreness, it was a base-building-my-calf muscles-aren't-used-to- this kind of soreness. I've done much longer workouts fine, but this loop jacks me up. Go figure.

I also made the mistake of taking my sunglasses along this morning. Mornings are now pitch black when I leave the house and I couldn't tell what the sky looked like. Usually these glasses (scroll down to see them in last pic) stay put on my forehead when I'm not using them, but I've never tried that under fast conditions. It didn't work well, and I had to carry them, which (minor though it was) threw off my rhythm during the MP parts. And to add insult to injury, daylight broke to a fully overcast sky.

So it was one of those days when nothing quite went right. All I can do is not let it get me down. But I'm thankful to get in 12, albeit in 98:03, which was actually a little slower even than last weeks death march on the same course.

Pacing this morning came courtesy of a Simon & Garfunkel song stuck in my head from M, of all people, who put it on one of her mix cd's, inexplicably sandwiched between Devo and Coldplay:

Tom, get your plane right on time.
I know you've been eager to fly now.
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York,
The only living boy in New York.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Another Acme Loop

Nothing out of the ordinary about this run. Met up w/ E and without saying anything to each other we went down 43rd and into the Acme loop. I think my brain was subconsciously aware of the need to keep things easy today and thus engaged my mouth more than usual. E obliged - so the conversation was good and the running was easy. The morning was crisp and, once the sun came up, sunny, and it promises to be another beautiful fall day.

8 miles in 67:33.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Snake Oil & Viagra

Best blog comment I ever got was from Scott yesterday:

You have an awesome blog! Keep it up! I have snake oil and viagra here, guaranteed to put you in the money in Rosemont.

Had I seen the comment earlier, I may have taken him up on the performance enhancers. I could have used just a little boost.

Before I get to my self-absorbed little world lemme just say that Scott must have taken some performance enhancers for his writing yesterday. His (Oct. 1) blog entry left my mouth hanging and my soul colored with more than just a tinge of jealousy, as he uses his running to write about Philadelphia in dimensions I've pursued to in numerous blog entries, but have yet to capture as well as he does here.

So I take small comfort in that I can still run faster than he can :-). Which brings us to Rosemont. Fun little race, put on by a Catholic school in an old leafy suburb on a campus where you just want to say "and you're holding a fundraiser 'cause you need money for what?" The whole family, plus KF (who's becoming a part-time family member on race days) trekked out there, M & C doing the 1-mile fun run at 8:30 and KF, T and myself lining up for the 5k.

The more I write these reports the more they all sound the same, so I'll just stick to the basics. The race quickly pared down to four of us: two old farts (me and KF) and two college cross country boys; three of us who would get a payday. The course was all up and downhill and mile 1 passed in 5:19 with me worrying about further screwing up my achilles and really not feeling like competing. It didn't help that I was in fourth place at the time. However I downshifted on an uphill, lumbered past KF and one of the boys, and suddenly the other boy was about 100 yards ahead of me and I heard no sign of anyone behind me.

That was basically the race. The next miles went by in 5:26 and 5:29, and somehow the last 0.1 went by in 50 seconds (either a long course, although USATF certified, or the mile markers were short). Final time was 17:06. Time was slower than it could have been as at about mile 2.9 a cop who was supposed to clear a major intersection for runners stood by and watched the cars pass, forcing me to stop for a second or two and lose my rhythm. Collecting triple time for that. . . WTF? But the delay didn't make a difference in the finishing order as I got second, sandwiched between the two XC boys.

My favorite part of racing with T is then cooling down and retracing the route backwards until I meet up with him. This occurred a little before the 2-mile mark and KF and I ran him in. He was looking strong although he had a hard time on the hills, but fooled me with a big kick to finish in 37:30 (again I'm jealous). I was going to take the opportunity to take a bite out of the cops ass on the way back but he was out in the intersection stopping traffic and a car just blows by him (if it were a cartoon he would have been spun around and left in his underwear). So I figured probably not the best time to mention the previous incident.

I got a $75 payday for my finish, most of which I subsequently blew on breakfast for everybody. Why is it impossible to find a diner on the Main Line? Legs feel great, maybe because a 5k and a few mile warm up/cool down amount to an easy day these days. How sad is that?

KF and I then spent most of the afternoon watching the last weekend of baseball. I'm disappointed, but nonetheless proud of the Phillies. They did what they had to do and almost got some help as the Cubs took Houston to the final out of the season.

There's an integral part of Philadelphia that Scott didn't mention: how our sports teams constantly take us to the altar and jilt us, and each season we come back for more.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

20 Miler #3

I have now satisfied the minimum marathon training requirements for long runs.

I did it with another good group. The morning started out cool and crisp, beautifully sunny but it warmed up in a hurry. Six of us started out from the Art Museum, SG and BikeMike only went up to Falls Bridge, then me, ES, English Mike and KJ continued up to Forbidden Trail, past Valley Green, and to the 1 1/2 mile marker before turning back. The latter two planned to turn back earlier, but the evils of peer pressure did them in and they stayed with us. We were quite chatty on the way up, and then after the turnaround we spontaneously got serious, quieting down and really working as a group. It got to be that one of the three would set the pace and I stayed up there with him/her, and the other two staid back. This went like clockwork, and totally unspoken, as we cruised down Forbidden Trail, in beautiful green (about to turn colors) shade dappled with sunlight. The spell was broken after we hit the trailhead and ES twisted her foot. She continued along but slowed down some and KJ hung back as well.

There was the dragon boat festival on the Schuylkill, which meant Kelly Drive was a zoo and we returned down MLK. Me and English Mike picked things up towards the end, getting down to a 7-minute pace (sub 5k speed for EM) and racing a gaggle of dragon boats as they were in one of their heats. We started out behind them and then caught up to all but the last one before they finished. I was still mindful of my calf pain from yesterday, which I figure has got to be an inflamed achilles tendon. It wasn't bad when running (i.e., no more than the usual tenderness that went away after awhile) but was definitely inflamed after the run, but then cooled down quickly and it hasn't bothered me again for the rest of the day. I didn't push it by doing any marathon pace miles like I would have like to have done. Total mileage was 20 and running time was 2:44:50.

We finished about the same time that the walkers were coming in from a local 5k. KF raced the race and came in 3rd, but must have been on a cool down run when I came in, as he wasn't around. I mooched some vile Snapple punch and some yogurts from the refreshments and met C at a Starbucks in the Art Museum neighborhood, where she waited after walking for awhile.

Went to Belmont Plateau later that afternoon to watch USP in a cross country meet. The women did well, with JA winning outright again and two other women taking 10 & 11. I'm not sure how the team placed overall. The men did not do so well, either as a team or by individual performances, which were mostly a bit slower than last week. But by then it was also a bit hotter with a stronger sun.

And lastly, C has us going out to Rosemont tomorrow to run a 5k. I figure my legs seem in okay shape to race 5k, and T said he wants to run as well. I'm telling folks that C is pimping me in running this race, as there is prize money 3 deep and the winning time last year was 19 minutes. But it always depends on who shows up, as I'm sure I'm not the only one that's noticed the prospect of easy money and there are Kenyan's who train not far from there. KF will run it as well, and that'll keep me honest. There are also various kids fall activities after the run, so a splendid time should be guaranteed for all!