Seebo's Run

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

My Photo
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Road Goes on Forever

and the party never ends.

Saw Joe Ely last night, and he did that song. Yesterday was Cindy and my New Year's Eve, as we went to the Stockyards, Fort Worth's touristy western district, and had Margaritas, a big steak dinner, and then saw Joe Ely at Billy Bob's (the world's largest honky tonk). The Lubbock legend was on top of his music, with an incredibly tight band (including Lloyd Mains) whose jams resembled a locomotive thundering across the Texas panhandle.

Our night out last night is the first reason I took it easy today. The second reason is the mileage I did last night (and have accumulated all week). The third reason is that I'm racing tomorrow morning, a 5 miler at Dallas' White Rock Lake. Headed out to East Arlington almost to 360, went north to Mitchell, back west on Mitchell to Center St., and then back. Total was about 6.5 miles in 52:57.

That run used to be my bread and butter run when I lived in East Arlington. A shorter version of that used to seem far, now its an easy run.

That closes the book on 2005. With today's run I will have accumulated 2715 miles. Most annual mileage I've ever collected by a long stretch. To put it in perspective, I called up Mapquest and found the distances from Philadelphia to:

Key West Florida: 1360 miles (plus another 150 or so to Havana);
Arlington Texas: 1508 miles (could have saved me some plane fare);
Roswell, NM: 1857 miles (and then I can beam up anywhere into the universe)
Las Vegas, NV: 2495 miles
San Bernardino CA: 2672 miles (and a few miles leftover on the way to LA).

Next year my goal is to make it to the Pacific. I also want to map my daily progress. Its been a great year, and with that on to 06!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Lonesome Prairie Wind

We rolled into Arlington yesterday evening. Not only that, but Cindy scammed an introductory AOL hookup (that she will cancel as soon as we return to Philly) so that we have internet access here, albeit dialup access. So once again I can keep blogging.

I went out long this morning, heading south on Daniel St. in East Arlington (for those of you who know this town) and then New York Ave. down past I-20, Tarrant Co. College, Highway 360 and all the way down into Grand Prairie into Loyd Park and down to Joe Pool Lake and back along a somewhat different way. 1:12:30 going out and 1:17:30 coming back a somewhat different way. This hookup is too slow to measure the route online, so I'm conservatively estimating it to be 17 miles.

This was the opposite of a negative split run. I had a tailwind going down that led me to feel like I was running really strong, and I didn't know how hard the wind was blowing until I turned around and the wind hit me full force. SE Arlington is open and flat, and there is nothing to break this wind, so it was all I could do to just slog into it for what seemed like endless miles.

I used to live in Arlington, for about four years, in the early 90s. I still make it back here once or twice a year, mainly to visit Cindy's parents, and coming back is like time lapse photography. The pace of change around here is so fast and so etched into the built environment. The SE area of Arlington is like Sim City, every time I go there are new parcels of residential and commercial development popping up and pushing back the undeveloped land.

Tarrant County College, which has been there for a few years now, was once all alone, now it is increasingly surrounding by various stuff. The campus is interesting in how it is all contained in one building, high school style. From the outside it seems like post-high school instead of college.

Then there is a mega church, forgot the name, non-denominational of course, whose grounds I cut through on the way back to avoid having to backtrack on Ragland and Arlington-Webb Streets. The church was Texas sized, in a vague mall architecture only built upwards to bring forth the loftiness and grandeur of Jesus, I suppose. What struck me was not the architecture, however, but how the building was surrounded by parking lots, which were numbered, mall style, with placards on the light poles so that the faithful could remember where they parked their car. I thought the lots should have been named after bible characters, Disney style, instead of letters. My church doesn't have those kinds of parking lots. Then, as I headed out of the south exit, I passed a sign telling me I was now "reentering mission country." That got me thinking for awhile.

Lots of little things like that kept my mind busy on the run, but it was nonetheless a long run. My legs are weary but it was my brain, more than my legs, that seemed to get the workout. 2.5 hours is a long time to be out alone on the prairie. Gotta go, as I promised Tony we'd see Narnia in a half an hour.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

10 More Laps

We had everything packed into the rental car and ready to go up to Arlington to Cindy's parents yesterday and at the last minute decided to stay down here another day. I'm glad we did, mostly for the kids' sakes, but it did mean that I had to do laps around the pond one more time.

This morning I left the watch home, as I wanted to make sure I went easy. I also took the iPod along one more time and caught up on some more of the music I'd been meaning to listen to. This morning it was Hayes Carll, a Texas music guy who's most recent cd, Little Rock, has gotten some attention. I had his first cd, Flowers & Liquor, which was good, but not running music. I also had Los Super Seven, a Tex-Mex music supergroup fronted by David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos and which came to my attention through Joe Ely's involvement with them. Much better running music and also left me nostalgic for my San Antonio days. I write all this about the music because the run was, well, boring. Ran out to the park and did 10+ laps. 8.5 miles, not timed.

Me and Cindy went to Taco Sabroso again, fourth day in a row. I'm glad to see that Ian posted a comment taking objection to my slam on Mexican food joints in Philly. Yes, I was hyperbolizing a bit, as there are now a few decent Mexican places in addition to Tacqueria Veracruzana. But I still haven't found a place that has the dark stringy barbacoa that you get down here, nor any place that serves Menudo.

Again, this may be my last post of the year on the blog. One of the things that kept me busy on this mornings run was coming up with my top ten running moments of 2005. They are:

10. Sept. 27. Track workout. A good track workout evokes both love and hate and a peek into the abyss of my soul. This was one of my better such workouts.

9. July 29th. A run through Mount Moriah cemetary. Not necessarily a memorable run in and of itself, but more one that represents the paradigm shift that overtook my training runs this year - where internet mapping software and adventurous running partners led me to all sorts of new Philadelphia nooks and crannies.

8. 5000m event at the first Wissahickon Wanderers summer track meet. A contest between me, Chuck, Kevin F. and Ian. Laughed all the way to last place.

7. Virginia Beach Half Marathon. Mediocre finishing time but most excellent road trip.

6. Boston Marathon. I must be getting jaded to place Boston at #6.

5. Black Eye Pea 5k. Great way to start the New Year, with the whole family racing.

4. The Parkway Run 5k. Both the race and the spoils generated from the race were amazing.

3. Broad Street Run. Best race I never ran this year. Tony's First Communion, and the family that visited for the occasion, made this event one of only few reasons I can imagine where I would gladly pass on one of my favorite races.

2. 2:42 at Philly Marathon. Took me four tries to get here, this is the prize I had my eyes on all year.

1. Guiding Jambal through the NYC marathon. If I had to choose between this and #2, I would forsake #2, without question.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Childish Things

Strapped on my iPod this morning despite swearing to forsake it for the winter. But the prospect of doing another 14 laps around Mary Lou Peckam park led me to look for something, anything, to keep my mind occupied.

It worked out well. I had downloaded some music before I left Philly to listen to while I was down here, and among this music was James McMurtry's latest, Childish Things. McMurtry is the son of Larry McMurtry, of Lonesome Dove and Last Picture Show fame, and I've followed his career for awhile. Listening to this cd this morning blew me away, however. His depictions of ordinary folks set amidst a backdrop of social and economic change are, at their best, right up there with some of my other working class heroes such as Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, and Eric Burden. Listening to "Holiday" brought tears to my eyes at marathon pace. This cd vaults up to my #1 pick of the 2005 crop. Get it or email me and I'll send you some cuts (I haven't figured out how to set up the mp3-download-from-the-blog yet).

Back to the run. This is the third straight day I've run those three-quarter mile laps around the pond. C came out with me again so I started at the park at a slow pace, and timed the splits for each lap. At first the progressively faster splits come naturally as I warm up, then at some point this innocent progression turns sinister and it becomes a challenge I cannot draw away from -- keep those negative splits coming. I got sucked into this game again today, going from 8:30 pace right down to marathon pace (just sub 6) for laps 11-13. Laps 14 & most of 15 were recovery laps so that all totaled I ran 11 in 79:19. The MP laps got me going very anaerobic, esp. the extra 13th lap, which I took because I liked how the mental torture of it simulated racing conditions. This also gives me a hard workout so that I won't have to worry about being tempted to go to the track when we are in Arlington.

Just like yesterday, any fitness gained from this mornings run was promptly worked off thanks to hearty helpings of breakfast tacos and grapefruit soda from El Taco Sabroso. I could live off this stuff.

This afternoon its up to Arlington to visit C's parents on the last leg of the holiday tour. They don't have internet access so this may be my last blog post of 2005. If so, then best wishes for the new year and I'm sure I'll have plenty to yap about when I come back online again on the other side of '06.

PS - I just checked in on IC's blog (which he prefers to keep discrete), where he had a link to this, which I think needs to get passed on. It takes a perspective like the authors to underscore how bizarre our obsession with obesity is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don't Encourage Criminals

by taking your kids to the park.

Okay, there was no sign that said that, but I spent the first lap or so weighing whether such a sign would be logically consistent with the sign (see mini rant in yesterdays blog entry) that is actually at the city park in which I ran this morning. You can decide.

C's sister and brother in law came last night, upping the craziness in the house. C and her sister came out to the park with me, where I ran 14 laps around the pond as they walked. I took it easier today, starting slow and gradually getting my pace down to 7 flat at lap 12 before slowing it up a bit for the last 2 laps. Total was 10.5 in 80:28. Once again a run I'm happy with.

After that it was off to Taco Sabroso (the tasty taco) where I snarfed down 2 bacon/egg and 2 chorizo/egg tacos, as well as a couple of free ones that got thrown into our order. In addition, I washed it down with a healthy fix of Jarritos toronja (grapefruit) soda, with its lovely neon green color. Yum yum! The Mexican food does suck north of here (and in turn the pizza sucks south of Philadelphia).

Its supposed to go up to 80 today. The air conditioner is running. Not really because it has to, but C's family doesn't open windows.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Come Back to Texas

Come back to Texas
Its just not the same since you went away
I bet you missed your exit
and drove right on thru the Lone Star State
There's a seat for you at the rodeo
and I've got every slow dance saved
Besides the Mexican food sucks north of here anyway

Made it into Houston last night. We get our rental car and the first thing M does is pops a Bowling For Soup cd into the deck and puts it on track number 5: Ohio (Come Back to Texas) and cranked the volume to 11. Perfect song for our arrival here.

Christmas, despite my misgivings about the running around we were to do, went very nicely. We opened most of our presents with my mom and sister on Christmas Eve, opened a few from Santa on Christmas morning, and flew down here to the Houston exurbs that evening. The only cousins our kids got that are their age live here, and the energy level in the house immediately torqued up as we got to the house. As for me, we weren't in the house long when A and I got in the car and drove a few miles out to the nearest convenience store (how far away does a convenience store have to be before it is no longer convenient) and picked up some Shiner Bock. Ah, Texas.

This morning C took the kids for donuts and presents. She figured that since we got here late anyway, she might as well take advantage of the after Christmas sales and just let the kids have their run of Toys R Us and pick out whatever they want. They were very excited, and I was too, as I could then lace up my new NB 856's that Santa got me (the elves made them just right - size 10.5EE) and take off to run in the meantime.

Katy is a tough town to run in (or to drive around drunk). While there are many country roads, instead of shoulders most of them are flanked by fairly deep ditches, which means there is not much room to spare for oncoming traffic. So when I'm here I run about 1.75 miles down to the town park, which has a three quarter mile loop around a pond. The plan was to warmup out to the park, run 12 laps around the pond, and cool down back for 12 miles. The 12 laps would be run progression style, each faster than the last.

Weather was cool and sunny starting out, and I noticed the park had become more fortified since I last ran there last Easter, with a heavy fence separating the parking lot from the loop path. A big sign read "Don't encourage criminals by keeping your valuables in your car." I chewed on this for the first few laps around. I don't want to sound like an arrogant blue state guy, because the sentiment on that sign is everywhere, perhaps it got me by how openly the sentiment was expressed. One of the consequences of locking so many people up is that criminals then are lurking everywhere. I know this sign is a little thing but its a good illustration of how we all are affected by our incarceration nation (and I'm in the heart of IN here).

But enough liberal whining. The laps progressed in fits and starts, but except for one hiccup they progressed downwards (5:57, 33, 28, 32, 30, 17, 12, 00, 4:51, 50, 39, 26) from just under 8 minute pace to right around marathon pace. I felt so good that I did two more laps for cool down and then jogged back. 14 miles, 1:46:51 total. There is really nothing I can complain about regarding this workout. I feel like I'm picking up where I left off. I also felt no time pressure to get my race done today, which is what I call vacation.

Right now I'm just running by feel. I put a 5-mile race at Dallas' White Rock Lake on the calendar for New Year's Day, so I'll try to get mileage in early in the week and taper a bit for the race.

Its good to be back in Texas, where, in the words of the Southwest Airlines flight attendent, "We love you AND we love your money." Or, in the words of Bowling for Soup:

Troy Aikman wants you back
Willie Nelson wants you back
NASA wants you back
and the Bush twins want you back
and Pantera wants you back
and Blue Bell wants you back

Besides the Mexican food sucks north of here anyway!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Enhancing Performance

What a loaded title. In this case it is quite innocuous, as I'll explain in a minute.

I left this morning without eating on a 10.5 mile loop that follows my old Acme loop up to 54th St. and then keeps going north up to Wynnefield Ave, then couple of turns, west on Woodbine across 63rd and now I'm in Scott's neck of the hood. Then its south on 66th to Cobb's Creek and back home on Cedar.

So I leave hungry and as an experiment I grabbed a Goo from the stash I got at Philadelphia Runner last week. If there were a run to see if they gave a kick, this would be a good one. At about three miles (Belmont & Parkside) I downed it and, although I never felt a distinct kick, my pace did speed up as the loop progressed. Early on my legs were sore from yesterday's run, but little by little I found myself kicking it up. This is similar to the experience I had with Goo on a long run in the fall, so maybe there is something to this stuff. Thus one of my little sidebars during training in 06 will be getting more familiar and comfortable with these cake frosting-like concoctions.

Otherwise a quiet run. Weather is mild, more traffic on the roads than usual, and folks seem in a good mood on Christmas Eve. My sister and my mom are coming over today for dinner, presents and then Christmas morning, should be fun. Tomorrow (I'm taking the day off from running) we leave for Texas in the afternoon, and that's where I'll be blogging from next, provided I score an internet connection.

In the meantime, good Christmas tidings to you and your kin!

Oh yeah, and 76:07 for 10.5 miles.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not a Bang but a Whimper

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a whimper. ~TS Eliot

This oft flogged quote popped into my head during the run.

I somehow decided that today was to be the day that training resumed. I mapped out a 14.5 mile course to do this morning. Came within a hair of doing it when one thing led to another and C offered to drop me off at Kelly Drive and I'd meet her at Starbucks afterwards where she'd be finishing her Christmas cards.

All sounded good until, on the way there, we got into a, um, spirited discussion about holiday logistics that took about the time I set aside for the workout for both of us to feel it was resolved. Looking back, it was a conversation we needed to have, and I wasn't so much upset as disappointed that it came at the cost of my run. Both of us had the day off and we went ahead with various and typical pre-Christmas errands that we had left, and we actually got them done so that, when we picked up T from school at 3:15. C noted that there was a window before it got dark to get in a workout. Just goes to show that there are second acts in American lives (I'm just full of literary cliches today).

I put on my shoes and headed west on Pine out to Cobbs Creek. Plan was to run south on the bike trail until the sun dipped under the horizon. This got me to 67th and Chester. Here I ran back east, hopping over to Kingsessing, all the way home. This was a 7.5 mile loop - not the big debut I had envisioned. Thus my training cycle started, like Eliot's world ended, with a whimper.

My run had an edge on it today. Can't describe it much better than that. An undercurrent of anger kept the legs stoking. During runs like these I become aware of the trash, decaying buildings and feral cats along the route. There are now white concrete barriers (like they have in front of the White House) set up to keep the cars from driving on the bike path, and the burnt out car carcass that's been sitting in a remote part of the path has finally been towed up and out and left on the side of Baltimore Ave
for everyone to see. Seems like I was a magnet for catcalls and bluster today from the kids on the corners. I passed three guys on the sidewalk: one of them feinted at me as if he were going to attack. I saw this coming and did not break stride, didn't even bring on an adrenaline rush.

The way I was running today if someone actually would have gone after me they wouldn't have had a chance to catch me.

And its days like today when I look at SW Philly and think, what a shithole. Thats an academic term, by the way.

So that's where my head was at. Either my surroundings reflected my mood, or vice versa, but definitely incongruent with the spirit of the season. The bright side was that I took it out on the street. The 7.5 went by in 50:44, or about a 6:45 pace. If I hang onto this edge I'll break 2:40 this Spring for sure.

For some reason I finished on 46th rather than on 47th, like I usually do, which led me to run into JS, a neighborhood fixture, and we discussed holiday plans. He's got exactly the quirky, laid back attitude about the craziness that goes on this time of year that I needed to hear, and I walked the block back to the house feeling better both mentally and physically. Then, in my post-run recovery on the throne I read the Phila Catholic Worker newsletter, which eulogized the passing of Sister Peter Claver.

Reading of her life I feel good again; I'll pray for you Sr. Peter Claver and please, pray for us.

I'm back.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Day Late

I ran yesterday and didn't get to blog. I didn't run today and now am getting to blog. It keeps the stack of finals I've promised myself I'd grade tonight at bay for a few more minutes.

First of all yesterday's run. Meant to get out of the house at 6:30, made it by 7:10. Had to get back by 8 to get ready for church. This meant a quick 6.5 mile Art Museum loop. Quick(er than usual) was at about 47 minutes. Sunday morning is the quietest time of the week, and I had Penn's campus, then the Schuylkill path, and all of Powelton Village to myself. I shared it with Deb Davies on the iPod but it was cold enough so that the earphone chord got stiff and wouldn't stay in my ear, and Deb left me when the iPod stopped at about mile 5. So for the rest of the season the iPod has been banished to treadmill workouts.

I'm one run short of 2640 miles on the year. Thats an average of 220 miles per month. To some folks that will seem like alot, others will wonder how I can admit to such a paltry amount. To me its like putting one foot in hot water and the other in cold and saying that on the average I feel warm. For this includes months like this month, where I've got maybe 60 miles logged, as well as a few 300+ mile months that I'm proud of (although others would be less than impressed). Its been a long year.

Next year I'm going to take a trip with my miles. I'll start from home and use mapping software to plot my mileage to some destination somewhere in the US. I'm thinking 2600 miles this year would have got me out to Vegas or Salt Lake City. Maybe next year I'll shoot to get to the Pacific. 5 or 10 or 20 miles at a time.

This is the time of year where we all think alot about whats going to be different next year. Runningwise, I'm going to shoot for more mileage and to run with faster people. Last year at this time I said I would go all out for a good fall marathon time. I'm not sure I went as all out as I envisioned I would, but I did get me a better marathon time. And more important, I got me to a place where I will make that same resolution again about the marathon time. For this year I want to make things hurt more - make the aching to go faster hurt more, as well as bringing on the pain involved in getting there. Treat life like an interval workout.

And finally, I'm thinking of things to do with this blog. No radical things yet but some exploratory things. What makes a good blog? What makes a blog that people read? Do I want a blog that people read? Stuff like that which will help keep my mind distracted on those endless miles I plan to run.

And in closing, my self imposed vacation from running ends on Friday. I have the day off and will kick off a base period of just logging miles. From Friday to when we get back from Texas I'll just try to fit a run into the nooks and crannies of every day, after that and full of New Years determination I will set forth and march on Wilmington, on Paris, and on whatever other runs lay before me in 06.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Weekend Warrior

People use this term derisively. But now I'm getting second thoughts. For a few weeks I've spent weekdays devoid of obsessively planning how and where I am going to work in my daily fix, I mean runs. Its nice to have my running consist solely of heading out on weekend mornings to run a few miles and clear out the cobwebs. And I'm only three pounds over my Philly Marathon weight. Maybe this will become my new routine.

Fat chance. I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride. This ride will last probably for one more week, after which I'll ramp it up again when we're in Texas for the holidays. That also means I'll kick start this blog again.

C & I went to the Art Museum this morning to meet up w/the Philly Runners crowd; C walking while I ran. There were about 15 people out there. I started off slowly to chat w/ English Mike and B, and then moseyed up to the lead "pack" consisting of CS and two guys I didn't know. Upon joining these folks, me and the shorter of the guys I didn't know pulled away and, after we each individually ascertained that we'd be running together for the rest of the loop, started talking. DD runs for the newly formed Temple University cross country team and is mentored by RL, a friend of mine who appears to now be coaching for Temple. We got up to Falls River Bridge (4.2 miles) in 30:24 and we picked things up a bit on the Kelly Dr. leg to finish the back 4.3 miles in 27:31. Total was 8.5 in 57.55; felt good.

C met me, with the car, almost right after we finished the loop and we worked off any fitness we might have gained with breakfast at some coffee shop on 20th south of Pine where we also wrote Christmas cards. Then we went shopping. I won't bore you with those details other than, as we were in Center City I looked if I could use the gift certificate to Philadelphia Runner that I won awhile back, although I didn't have it with me.

At Philadelphia Runner, RM and JB, guys I've run with and had shoes fitted by up in Bryn Mawr, were both there and were most accommodating. Its fun to have to spend $100 on stuff I can use but really don't need. I walked out of the store with two nice winter running shirts of the kind I would never otherwise spend money on and, upon hearing I pr'd at the Philly marathon, RM threw in a congratulatory coolmax Philadelphia Runner singlet and I grabbed a bunch of PowerGels to get me up almost to my spending limit. So after grubbing all that stuff I still got a buck and something back in change.

Thus I'm all decked out for winter now, which, if you're familiar with my winter running attire (or lack thereof) you are probably smiling right now in an ironic kind of way.

In saying this I want to put in a plug for Philadelphia Runner. Although I've yet to be able to get the shoes I want there, they're staff is excellent, they do alot to support the local running community, and I always get treated very well whenever I have gone there.

Lets see if I can get out tomorrow and make it, gasp, two in a row.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Busy Sunday

Action packed day today.

Started off with the Jingle Bell 5k. This is a fundraiser put on by the Arthritis Foundation in many cities, Philadelphia being one of them. It has traditionally been the closing race for the fall racing season. It starts in Manayunk, right on the Schuylkill River, and in the first year I ran it it went up and down the hills that Manayunk (a section of Philadelphia) is famous for, but this year it was simply an out and back along the river down the gentrified main drag (which Manayunk is also famous for).

The weather was perfect for racing: sunny and in the 40s. The race, however, seemed past its prime as it felt like the organizers were cutting corners, despite charging an outrageous $40 for a walk on registration. This was doubled as T also ran today, despite having a cold. For $40 I'm gonna expect a bit more in terms of amenities than your run of the mill local yokel 5k, and thus I will complain loudly about screw ups like their only having 6 porta potties for 800+ entrants, and only having tent-size t-shirts available by the time I registered.

Having got squawking out, the race was uneventful. I started out in the lead and it was me and another guy I didn't know out in front, neck and neck, for the first two miles (5:16 & 5:37, but the pace did not feel this uneven). However, the other guy did not seem to be working nearly as hard as I was, and after the 2 mile mark he pulled away to eventually win by about 5-10 seconds, and I finished the bridesmaid in 16:45, my best 5k showing of 2005. That's really all there was to it.

I jogged back upstream and met T at the 2 mile marker, and ran the last mile in with him. He alternated between jogging and walking, but with about .1 to go I asked him if he thought he could catch up to a woman who was about 100 feet ahead of us. He responds with a kick that easily reels in the unsuspecting woman and then some, and finished in just over 39 minutes. Someday, probably not soon, I'd like to work with him on evening this pace out, but in the meantime he gets alot of enjoyment and pride out of running these 5k's. And so do I.

The picture here is me and T, SC - a Central Park Track Club guy who has become a regular fixture on the Philly running circuit and his kid, the race organizer, and several other kids who somehow got in the picture, posing at the awards ceremony.

That's how the day started, and the day ended with me and C meeting my other four teamates from "Easy on the Eyes" and their partners at a dinner at the Fountain Restaurant for a dinner for 10 we won at the Parkway Run in September. This was the best thing I've ever won running, with amazing food, awesome wine, and most entertaining company stretching from shrimp hors d'oevres at 6 pm to chocolate souffle and double expresso four hours later. I love that we could spend this time together, and also that I could treat C and through this thank her for the great support she's given me all year. I also love that we are not a particularly fast team, but have nonetheless won this prize, at a major local race, for the second year in a row because our slowest member, RW, is also the savviest when it comes to negotiating race bureaucracy and a particularly arcane sign up procedure that befuddled a Philadelphia Track Club team that would have handed us our butts on a platter. So it was a true team effort. Below is a picture that is curious in how different we look from how I perceive us in real life - somehow more like we all belong at a place like The Fountain.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Airing It Out

Three miles on the hamster wheel yesterday, late in the afternoon. Snuck out of the office while I was running a computer program. The program is taking a little bit longer to run than I thought, as a matter of fact it is still running. I on the other hand, got impatient with the treadmill so I maxed it to 10 for 2 of the three miles and finished the whole thing in 19:27 (the year my dad was born).

Ran with IC around the Drives this morning. Always a pleasure running with him, even when we don't have a blind guy between us. A slushy snow came down yesterday morning (which is why I ran inside) and after melting yesterday afternoon and refreezing overnight, the loop today was a bit treacherous. So was the humor we had, but I won't go into detail. Other than the ice, it was beautiful - sunny and in the high 30s with a sparkly touch all around. 8.5 miles went by in 65:14, woulda been slower if we hadn't torched the last mile.

Tomorrow, against my better judgment but at the behest of the missus and with the promise of junior running as well (and perhaps coming up with another race report), I'm running the Jingle Bell 5k in Manayunk. Its a fast race if for no other reason than you want to get away from all of those charity runners who put bells on their sneakers. As always, you'll hear about it here first.

Tomorrow evening is also our dinner at the Fountain Restaurant that we won at the Parkway Run. This is easily the best prize I ever won running, as we get dinner for 10 (check out the menu) at what is consistently rated the best restaurant in Philadelphia. I'll be gloating over that as well the next time I post.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Deep blue sky, hard ground, ice on the sidewalks - a real winter run. I'm guessing that temps must be in the 20s and there is a respectable wind.

Ran out the door to take T to school and kept going. Was going to go 8 but cut it short to a long 6.5 (in 54.06), mainly because I could. The weather felt great, if anything I felt overdressed, but I finished where I stashed my bike last night on Penn campus, and was afraid I'd be cold on the bikeride home. But I stayed up late doing class prep stuff (last week of classes!) and felt sluggish as a result, and in addition there was a deep dull soreness in my legs of the sort I'd expect a week or two out from a marathon. Come to think of it, its been not even three weeks since the marathon, so that would not be surprising. So instead of going up to 40th St. I just went up to 34th St.

I saw a brochure yesterday with plans for extending the trail along the Schuylkill from Locust St., the current end of the trail where I'll typically pick it up to run up to the Art Museum, south to where, by 2010, it will extend all the way to Fort Mifflin. This will make Philly an even better running city than it already is, and will expand my running options into SW Philly as it gets developed. There is a website where presumably this is all laid out, but it requires plugins that my browser currently doesn't have and I'm not in the mood to get right now.

Finally, I'm adding a picture here from the 2004 NYC marathon. WHatever photo shooting company took pictures at NYC last year emailed that they had a clearance sale on old photos. I checked them out and by a strange serendipity they had one of me crossing the Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx just after I passed the guy on the prosthetics with the springy feet. To see this guy running like that after 20 miles, taller, as if he were on stilts. when my legs (which were connected to real feet) were dying made a profound impression upon me. The impact Simon had on me can be gauged by my surprise at seeing that, in the photo, he appears to be normal height; in my mind I remember him as much taller, as if he were on stilts. This encounter was the catalyst for me stepping up to run with ATC at this years NYC. And since we're on that topic, on the right is another photo that I ripped from their website, from this year's NYC, showing me and Jambal. I don't know where IC was when this pic was taken.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tony's First Race Report

Nothing new to write about here, I've been busy being a slug since Sunday.

Tony's teacher sent home a folder of work that he's done sofar this year. Included was a composition about the 5k we all ran back in October. My report on it was here, and here is his report:

I felt really great and nervous. On Sunday October 2, 2005 me, my dad and my dad's friend Kevin were going to run a 5k race! My mom and sister were going to walk one mile. We drove to where we registered at a different school with a basketball court inside! When we got there we got a little strip to put on our legs so when we cross the finish line the computer would put our time on a paper. First, was the one mile race where my mom and sister would walk. Now it was my turn to race. I got in the back of the line and my dad and Kevin went to the front. 1,2,3 GO!! The race started first, I started to walk then, I started to jog finally, I started to run, but not fast. I started to run to a hill then I walked up the hill and ran when I got to the top. I ran really fast down a hill and past some people. Next, I saw my dad and Kevin run to me. (They usually do that when they finish a race.) We ran to the finish line and I ran really fast from the little energy and ran past the finish line. In conclusion, I felt sore and good. Truly, I was the first 8 year old that finished the race.

That's my boy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Brian's Run

Woke up this morning to a slushy inch or so of snow outside. Not optimal for racing but decided to go for it anyway. C & I decided that it wasn't a good idea for T to run the 5k, so we didn't have to be at Brian's Run until a little before the 1:00 start time for the 10k. KF dropped by at about 10:00, so that meant that we had plenty of time to sit around the kitchen counter and shoot the poop while eating C's killer french toast (w/ bread machine bread and real maple syrup) and drinking my thick as mud black Zapatista coffee before leaving at about 11:15 for the hour ride to West Chester.

No precipitation in the air once we got to West Chester, and with the overcast skies and temps in the 40s, it was near perfect running conditions. KF and I did the usual prerace stuff and scouted the first half mile or so of the course to warm up, noting the hills starting right from the start. It did not look to be a PR race, but I told KF I'd take my inspiration from him and start out fast to see how long I could hold it. WTF?! Last race of the year and if I die at least I'll die trying.

Brian's Run is one of the bigger runs in the area, and the biggest one held out in what I think of as Route 202-land, the far-flung suburbs past the Philadelphia Main Line. There are several contingents of Africans and other foreign nationals who train in these parts, as well as some very good local runners. The prize money ($1,000 1st place, with cash going 10 deep and first three masters deep) generous enough to bring these folks out and (short of the BSR, PDR and PM) the field is easily the most competitive of any race in the area. West Chester is also far enough from Philly to where it's a different running scene, and I only recognize a few folks including my old coach and mentor KK who's from this area, local standout RM, and CB from my BMRC days.

Gun goes off and there are about thirty guys, myself and KF included, in a big lead pack (clump?) for the first half mile or so. I feel like I'm playing 12th wildebeest in the stampede scene in the Lion King until we make the first turn onto Rosemont Ave and the pack thins out a bit. A clock comes up at what would appear to be the 1 mile split until I see it read 4:35 and I don't even pretend to believe that's accurate. At this point we've been up and down several hills and I'm more in 5k than in 10k mode. See how long it lasts, I think, and don't be afraid to risk having to walking in.

Rounding another corner onto High St. and I'm with a short African-looking guy and together we pass by about ten people. This guy is about a foot shorter than me with disproportionately long spindly legs and a unusually round midsection for a runner. We remain abreast of each other as we go through West Chester University campus, where the frat boys considerately have set up a beer and donuts stand for the runners. Two miles passes in 10:59, and this feels accurate and about where I want to be. People have now pretty much fallen into order, and I see KK three places ahead of me, and figure if I still have him in my sights I'm not doing too bad. Meanwhile short guy and I trade leads, and I note how I fall back on the downhills (although I consider myself a good downhill runner) and can surge ahead on the uphills (which I don't consider myself particularly strong on). Short guy is very obviously racing against me, and comes charging back everytime I pick up some yards. Short guy seems to be running my race, a questionable strategy, and the company helps me maintain my focus at a pace that I'm fearing is increasingly over my head.

I miss the 3 mile marker and tell myself to just focus on tactics. At about this time short guy charges by me and jostles me to the side like we're in the inside track lane running a 1600. "Watch out" I yell and get no response. This kicks up my adrenaline and I again question short guy's intelligence, as I'm now prepared to shove him into the weeds in response to another move like that. The race now becomes personal.

Mile 4 passes by and my mile 3/4 split is 11:09; still even effort as the uphills exceeded the downhills over these miles. The next stretch includes two screaming downhills, and short guy and I blow by one of the runners ahead of us. Mile 5 split is 5:10 giving me a 27:18 cumulative time, which would be a five-mile PR. Please let me hang on.

In keeping this 5k level of intensity, I was both dying and euphoric. I note that regardless of how I do, this is exactly the manner in which I'm going to need to push myself next season for my times to go down. A big uphill that I'd been warned about comes up and I'm still game after we top it. Here I start to pull away from short guy but not for long. We're are now in back of WCU stadium, neck and neck as we come around to the front and onto the track. We enter the stadium and its a lap around to the finish. I pull out the pathetic little kick I have left and short guy fails to respond. I run like I'm being chased and at the far turn I hear C, not yelling encouragement but loudly warning "coming up behind you" (smart girl!) and I reflexively kick it up a notch higher. But there won't be any real challenge from behind. The challenge is now up ahead, where I see the clock at 34:10 and watch it tick off the seconds until I'm in at 34:23 and a new PR.

34:23!!!! PR by 11-seconds! I am ecstatic. Tough course, two weeks post-marathon, and likely last race of the season. Goes to show what lets see what happens will bring. It's like "and if you order now, as an added bonus you can apply your marathon training towards a free 10k PR!" Operators are indeed standing by, and will be as I'll now enter the new year with my sights set on, among other things, a sub 34 10k and a sub 2:40 marathon.

We all hang around for the schwag. I place 14th overall, which gets me a nice black longsleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt - exactly the kind I don't wear in my winter training. I also place as third master, which gets me a $50 payday. KF snags third in our age-group with a 35:37. I'm proud of us, as you can look at the results to see the caliber of the competition that was out there today.

And short guy? Well, it turns out that short guy was actually short gal - as in Jackline Okemwa, the first female finisher. Surprised the hell out of me, and I'm so relieved that I didn't use my elbows out there. Googling her name on the web brings up:

Jackline has primarily raced cross-country events and recently placed 4th in the Kenyan 8K national championships. She has run a 1:15:01 half marathon but has been mainly focused on cross-country events. Jackline is married and has one child. She also enjoys music and dancing. (link)


Jackline Okemwa from Kenya ensured that the women's race was not as close. Okemwa (22) and third in 33:00 at the Sallie Mae 10K one week earlier, won easily at Pike's Peek [10k] in 33:11. (link)

This means she obviously had an off day and should have kicked my ass all over West Chester. This doesn't surprise me as much as that she can do what she does with such an apparently non-runner's body. And to that I say "you go girl" as I'm all too aware that, at 6'1" and (all I can do to stay under) 180 lbs, my body is hardly a prototype either for a runner.

We blew my hard earned cash at a diner on Market St. in West Chester (open 25 hours), where I had a most delicious plate of liver and onions and T had two milk shakes with dinner. By the time we dropped off KF and got home ourselves, it was already well past dark. A most excellent afternoon!

PS - Memphis Marathon was today, which was my initial target race for this marathon cycle. The results show that, if I had run my Philly Marathon time out there, I would have finished 12th and picked up $500 for second male master. Oh well, John Noblin of Jackson MS is celebrating and thanking me for not showing up and, as for me, it goes to show that some of my best races are those I never ran.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Jammin' Doggies!

Got out this morning in 27 degree temps according to I loved it. First good chilly day of winter running. Those who know me know that I much prefer running in the cold.

Ran an Art Museum loop and in celebration I stepped up the pace to see how much I still got. It was easy going out but a little tougher going back as I was then running into the wind. Coming back inside, my thighs are all red, my nose is running, and nary a drop of sweat is on me. I love winter running.

I sueandpaulled the course here and it came out right at 6.5 miles in 45.15, which is right at a 7 minute pace. This portends a respectable performance at Brians Run tomorrow.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I got up at 6 this morning and made it to the bathroom.

Usually I keep going at this point and know that later I will be glad I did. But after the marathon I vowed that, if I did run this month, it would only be with joy. And West Philly was Mudville this morning, with no joy present in the prospect of running in the cold and dark. So, with all the self-discipline forged from years of training, I went back to bed.

You think I'm being ironic here. It took me a good five minutes to make this decision. What does it mean when one has reached a point where the default becomes to go run, and there comes a need to talk oneself into not running? When its more difficult to go to a warm bed than to go outside into the freezing cold?

What iced my decision this morning was the realization of how rare this opportunity was to go back to bed without having to bring any guilt with me. And so I did, and now, in retrospect, am glad about my choice.

Took Wednesday off, as planned. Missed yesterday's run because I had to go to NYC. Picked up another pound since I last posted. Will maybe run tomorrow and still plan to run Brian's Run on Sunday.

Folks are still asking me about my marathon. Somehow they're able to sense that this was a big deal for me, and, more surprisingly, seem to truly share in the joy around this accomplishment. Thank you all for this, as I continue to be touched. The latest was this morning when I was doing my usual stint of writing at Green Line Cafe. LC, an old friend who I don't see much anymore, came up to me and said how she couldn't stop thinking of me two Sunday's ago, and was really happy to hear how well things went. I told her I tapped into this energy, and indeed I can still feel the good karma that comes from the many folks who ask and congratulate.

So the home field advantage continues, even after the race ends. And the rigors of not training continue to challenge me, but I feel up to the task.