Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Requiem for NB 833s

This morning before I walked out the door I (shall we say) "disposed of" my old New Balance 833s. I ran my last two marathons, both in PR times, in them, as well as a few PRs at lesser distances and recently I've been using them as trainers. The outer part of the heel in both shoes were completely worn down to where I was running on the midsole. Their time had come, but somehow it wasn't proper to just get rid of them. Given the condition of the sole, their dirty appearance and their fragrance, I wouldn't donate them anywhere, but short of getting them bronzed, what to do?

The magnitude of this passing becomes greater as NB discontinued the 833 line, so now I'm running in 825s. I first wore this pair at Broad Street and did alright there, and now they are relegated to training shoes because there is no point in my currently having designated racers as I've got no races lined up in the near future. If I'm happy with the 825s, I'll get another pair
in in a month or so that I'll reserve for racing.

Aren't you glad you know all this about my shoes?!

Ran the 13.5 mile BN loop this morning in what is now my 8th consecutive double digit mileage day. Temps are forecast to go into the 90s today, and it felt it. Nonetheless it was a solid run. Dropped my time on the four river miles to 27:15; and on the BN stretch to 9:05. I find myself taking this loop more strategically - warm up the first 3.5 miles to the Art Museum, go the next 4 hard but aerobic - monitoring my breathing and each time a little faster than last; do the hill hard and again monitor breathing; and take the last 4.5 as cooldown miles. For the warmup and the cooldown I try to up the pace a bit so as to get comfortable at a progressively incrementally faster pace, but I find that when I cut my time down, most of it comes from doing the hard middle distance a bit harder. However it comes, I did the whole 13.5 in 99:06 - always satisfied to break 100 minutes on this loop. And I'm intrigued by the new approach I'm developing for taking this course.

So now you also have the minutiae of my morning run. What's left?

On Friday I said that several folks were running marathons over the weekend. I don't think anyone finished as fast as they had hoped, although judging by their times they certainly did more than respectably. I talked with both Allan and Ian after their races, running a 2:41 and 2:51 respectively. Again, very good but I knew both of them were going for faster times. In talking with them both I felt at a loss for words of what to say. Didn't want to give them platitudes nor did I want to intimate they ran badly.

Looking back, I should have just said, "Good run; too bad conditions were so difficult this weekend." And then, the next time I talk to folks after a marathon, I'd just like to listen. I can listen all day to people talk about their marathons, regardless of time completed. But such talk doesn't come out so well over the phone, it comes out better on a long easy run, perhaps after a week or two when the experience settles and the legs and head are both up for running a longer distance again. Side by side, looking straight ahead, and alot of time to fill so there is no need to skimp on details. So after getting the nuts and bolts, giving my congratulations, I'll just say, "lets get together for a run soon and I'd like to hear all about it." Now that I think of it, Ian closed the phone call saying just that - we'd have to get together for a run soon.

Good idea.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Riverfront Running

Hooked up with Kevin F. this morning. We race alot together but don't get to train much in tandem. So as we both had the day off and neither of us were racing, I made the trip up to Port Richmond and we ran in his neck of the hood.

The run was along the Delaware, from about Allegheny Ave. all the way down to the Walt Whitman Bridge and back. Its a good course for a morning like this, as there is a breeze from off of the river that keeps things a bit cooler. On a day like today, probably a bit hotter and humider than yesterday, you don't mind a bit of a headwind. The scenery was post-industrial shipping and manufacturing detritus along the river side of Columbus Ave and new economy Ikea-Best Buy-etc. boxes on the land side of the ave. The latter is overtaking the former, as it is one of the few areas in the city with abundant cheap space. The area to the north of the Ben Franklin bridge is lying fallow, but that is where the casino development (if it ever gets off of the ground) is projected to go. If the ground were as hot as the speculation on that real estate, our shoes would have melted.

Once again, it was nice to plod through some new pastures. Also got to hear all about yesterday's "Teal Ribbon 5K Race Against Time" which apparently was totally mismeasured (about 2-3 minutes too long) which seems inexcusable, got updated on the upcoming World Cup and spent most of the run just bullshitting about running. The run was 12 miles, run like a training run should be, slow and conversational going down to the Walt Whitman and then slowly picking things up on the way back so that we were doing sub 7 pace over the last mile or two. Brisk but but not difficult, just a natural feeling progression so that we finished and I felt I could have done five more. Time was 96:20 - 49.47 out and 46.33 coming back.

Makes me feel like going out for a second run this afternoon, but I doubt I will.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hot & Hazy

Quick entry today as me and the kids are getting set to road trip it up to NYC to hang out in Central Park and then go see the Broadway play Mamma Mia. ABBA is a guilty little pleasure that all three of us share.

Made it out a bit later than planned and paid for it in sweat. Sun was hot and beating down with a good chunk of humidity in the air. Went out to Cobbs Creek and crossed over into Delaware County for a bit. Running through subdivisions and a guy goes "You'll never make it up that hill." I shout back, "watch me" and the guy erupts laughing. The only other memorable Yeadon moment was seeing the Center City skyline from Baltimore Pike, through the haze a set of dark gray rectangles outlined a lighter gray background.

About this time I got a good clip working that I carried through the rest of the run (course map here). 11 in 77:10. Sub 8 pace on tired legs. Sixth straight double digit mileage day and a weekly total of 76 miles, most I've logged in a week since the beginning of March. Furthermore, this heat feels like a changeover to where I can now visualize training for the Virginia Beach half. Despite presidential regrets I'll say it anyway, "Bring it on!".

Saturday, May 27, 2006


This morning's run grew out of a conversation that me and Erin had on yesterday's run, in our perpetual search of greener running pastures. We decided that we, with KJ, would drive over to Lloyd Hall and then run up into North Philly to explore.

I came up with a route that heads up through Philadelphia through what has been known as the "Badlands" since a spate of bad publicity in the mid 1990's. The origin of this moniker is unclear - its alternately attributed to Ted Koppel, the TV show Cold Case, and to law enforcement, but its clear that in being so named it looked to evoke images of the wild west, much in the manner that "Fort Apache" was used to refer to a Bronx neighborhood back in the 1980s. The lawlessness and heroin infestation was duly noted in former Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez's novel Third and Indiana (the unofficial ground zero intersection of the Badlands) and is also mentioned on this Department of Justice website.

I had never been there, although the jury I sat on a few months back heard a case involving a drug dealing operation on Indiana, and so painstaking was the DA's rendition of the corner in pictures that I felt like I knew it. So I figured a jog down Indiana was in order as a culmination of a gawking tour through North Philly. Erin and KJ were down for this, and we exerted some gentle peer pressure to get John W. to come with us as well.

The morning was already hot and humid as we wound our way up Girard, Master, 10th, and Germantown Aves. to get to Indiana St. First impression was how invisible the area is, tucked away from G'town Ave. behind a large old cemetary and separated from Kensington and other points east and north by railroad tracks. We ran Indiana for about 9 blocks to Mascher, giving us a full cross section (including the intersection I instantly recognized from the trial) of the Badlands.

My impression of it was of a poor Hispanic neighborhood, vaguely similar to colonna neighborhoods I'd run through when I lived in Brownsville (TX) - quiet, green, and with folks hanging out who could have been working. I think it was the roosters crowing that brought on the Brownville flashback. I realize that, while I am sounding big and bad describing how we ran through the Badlands, admittedly it was at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, not exactly prime business hours. I don't doubt that sordid things go on there, but as a runner you usually get left alone in neighborhoods like these (people don't quite know what to make of you), giving the feeling like you're running through a parallel universe.

Then it was off to K&A, the intersection of Kensington and Allegheny which is a well-known dividing point of neighborhoods in North Philly, and for a few miles we ran under the relative coolness of the Frankford line El tracks. Then it was Dauphin St. back over to Fairmount Park, where I cut across Edgely Field and over Strawberry Mountain Bridge to take a well-worn Fairmount Park loop home. All in all it was a long 15.5 miles, run in 2:11:23.

Back to the Badlands. Its amazing how little information there is on this on the web. There are no clear boundaries to this area (although everyone agrees Indiana is the center of it) and the proper name for this neighborhood is Hartranft. Neighborhood activists decry the overblown nature of the heroin connection, while news stories still feature this connection as the front and center feature.

All in all I can't help thinking that the Badlands are a "neighborhood" borne of the War on Drugs and just like there are areas that people try to give positive associations to (see yesterday's entry on the "Devil's Pocket" neighborhood fading from collective memory) there are also of necessity neighborhoods where you, speaking as a street-wise city dweller, warn your out-of-town friends not to go near and that you regale your running friends with stories about how you've braved these areas on your longer runs. Most folks don't know much more about them than what they've learned from Ted Koppel or Steve Lopez (alot of times second or thirdhand) and the locals who might know better keep their silence.

I think if they had a guy dealing sugar there I would have copped. After the run I took Tony to baseball practice and after practice we headed, to Tony's delight, right to our dealers - Ben & Jerry. Here we had large ice creams and a Dr. Pepper to wash it down. It was not a pretty sight, as by the time we got there I had a serious Jones.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Be Strong, Runner. Be Strong.

The crowd support this morning was much better than usual. Several positive comments along the way from folks who are generally too bleary eyed to say much.

The comments helped, too. Typical Friday where the weight of the week slows me down. Its back to me and Erin to carry the banner of Club West Philly, as Deirdre is out west for awhile and KJ is adjusting to parenthood. We took the Acme Loop (40th St. and Lebanon version) which gave us 8.5 slow miles (68:40) and I went home, had breakfast, took Tony to school, and then did a little coda run of 3.5 miles (Cobbs Creek loop - Pine and Cedar version) in 29:18. I pushed upon myself to pick things up a little bit on this last leg, but today was definitely an easy day. Also the first day of the year where it feels hot and humid.

Getting myself up to do another 3.5 miles was hard. But it is alot more satisfying to write 12 miles in my log than 8.5. Its also good exercise to run when your brain is beseeching you not to. I like the feeling of having pushed through that (at least for this morning), and the need to do that, at some level, in order to get better results is one thing I picked up from Once a Runner.

Several folks I know got marathons this weekend. Ian, Ryan and Duncan are all doing the Vermont City Marathon, and Allan is running a marathon in Buffalo (don't know the exact name). Weather conditions, at least for Vermont, are forecast to be warm and windy, so my wishes of good luck will hopefully work, if nothing else, to mitigate that, and in case it doesn't I will also exhort you all to run smart.

Also best wishes to Jim, who I almost forgot is running a leg of a relay at VCM.

I am a Phillies fan, and regularly curse their haplessness as I hear it on the radio (I don't have cable) or at the occasional game, but following them is nothing like following friends and people I know as they run, especially marathons. So much more investment goes into following folks I actually know, have seen train and prepare, and whose ups and downs I can actually identify with and at times share. So it is with much more anticipation that I'll be running to the race websites and then be looking for details on how the race went.

I suppose an appropriate sendoff to them would be "Godspeed". . . or alternately "be strong, runner, be strong!"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Back on the Bicycle

Metaphorically, not triathlonically, speaking.

I hope what few readers lurk here have not given up on me, as its been awhile. In case you're wondering, things have been going well though that, paradoxically, does not necessarily make running any easier. But even here, things aren't as bad as they may seem.

When I last checked in I was getting set to go camping with Tony. Camping I did go, but my running shoes did not come with me. That shut me down for the weekend and an all day trip to Harrisburg followed by Commencement activities at USP continued the slump into Monday. This makes things hard, as with each day turning around this inertia gets more difficult.

But I did turn things around on Tuesday, with a 13.5 mile BN loop (1:43:58); in the absence of anyone to run with yesterday I did an 11-mile SMB (Strawberry Mansion Bridge) loop in 92:04; and today I did another BN loop, a bit faster in 1:41:42. These last few days represent nothing but miles, and today, faced with my third straight double digit day going over basically the same ground, I feel like I'm finally coming to embrace that relentless in-your-face, day-in day-out get your miles in feeling that is crucial to getting back into the 80-mile range like I want to. I can't get the numbers up there quite yet, and won't at least until the surgery I got scheduled for next week is done, but when I do run at least I can get used to the feeling that its going to be long.

The mileage is also nothing fast. I speed things up a little on the river miles, this morning I did these four miles in just under 28, but this is more to mentally push than to get anywhere near anaerobic. I'm also starting to clock the stretch immediately following the river miles, from Falls Bridge to the five-point Conshohocken Ave-Ford Rd-Monument Rd intersection (i.e. the BN, about 1.33 mostly uphill miles) and hit it in 9:30 today. I've noticed that whenever I hit that stretch in under 10 then I'm working. But I'm not doing any track, MP, tempo, etc. until after surgery. Right now its just miles.

Camping was relaxing, esp. with the knowledge that I couldn't get a run in even if I wanted to, but I did make the mistake of bringing along, and plowing through, the book Once a Runner. My advice is not to read this book while you're not able to run. The book is to a runner what Glamour magazine is to the teenage girl. You look at yourself in the mirror and compare yourself to the image in it and, although you know its a nice fiction, all your inadequacies come glaring back at you. I'm enough of a runner to be able to identify with what goes on in the protagonists' heads, but not enough of one to ever be able to get there. So what is left is to make peace with it.

Also want to shout out to Scott, who responded to my dig from one of last weeks' posts and dared me to go head to head with him on naming obscure Phila. neighborhoods. That is one pissing contest I won't be foolish enough to get myself into. Excellent post, however, on his meandering through what Carlo Rotella, a friend I haven't talked to in ages, has written about as the "city of feeling".

And finally, as a postscript, while we're talking about Devil's Pocket, did you know that legend has it the neighborhood got its name because the kids there were thought so delinquent that they'd steal a watch right out of the Devil's Pocket. My alternative take was always that it was yet another hapless attempt by Philadelphia to match NYC, where DP was named in an effort to keep up with Hell's Kitchen.

Now the toughest part of the neighborhood is for the new residents to find space to park their SUVs. The name "Devil's Pocket" will continue to fade from the city's consciousness as it is not good for property values. Better to have it called "South Rittenhouse" or something like that.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In Between the Rains

I did make it out of the house at 6 this morning. More like 6:05 but in time to meet Erin and Jody, a new guy Erin recruited from her job. Everything was wet from apparent rainfall last night. We headed west and our Cobbs Creek loop became a little fresher as we showed it to Jody for the first time. As we hit the Cobbs Creek bike trail it started thundering and we cut the run short and returned down Warrington. I wasn't complaining, and sure enough the rain started to fall just about when we hit 47th and Baltimore. I fought back to urge to add another mile and instead sat on the porch swing with the NY Times, feeling smug and cozy as the rain proceeded to come down in buckets.

Jody looked like he was having a tough time finishing up. I wonder if he'll come back around. I was having a tough time as well. Really tired and my body aches. Can't figure out if its just been a long week or I'm coming down with something.

This weekend is another round of camping with Tony's cub scout troop. I always look at these weekends as a chore - a paternal obligation of sorts - although they usually are more enjoyable than I expect. It also means I'll be grabbing miles where I can get them (again) this weekend.

Oh yeah, 6 miles in a pedestrian 52:47.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Interstitial Mileage

Mileage that occurs amongst the cracks, in the void, pulled from the in between spaces.

Yesterday started at 5:30 am with a run and ended when I came home at 10 pm from Graterford. Today started at 5:00 am when I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. Just couldn't get my mojo up. So I did another run wrapped around Tony's little league game. Snuck out of work a little early, put on my running shoes and ran across town to the Shot Tower field, making a detour down to Snyder Ave to get in 6 miles (49:47) and get there in time to help warm up the Dolphins. After winning (Tony: "baseball's fun but its alot more fun if you win") I went back down Christian Street and up the Schuylkill (with a nice sunset) to Spring Garden and back home to get in another seven miles (57:51) and get home just in time to have the kids shush me so I wouldn't interrupt the CSI season finale. Ex-cuuuuse me!

This is my season for exploring South Philly and tuning in to its ecology little by little. Its a bit more in your face than West Philly - more comments (including the first "run, Forrest, run" I've ever gotten in my life), folks running up behind you to see if you'll bolt, narrower streets, etc. Stumbled upon 2nd Street where its known as "Mummer's Row" for all the string band practice halls that are on this street. On the way back I saw the Devil's Pocket Market on 25th and Christian, a reference to a old neighborhood name I'd only heard of previously in a Pete Dexter novel. Ever been there, Scott?

Total time for the entire 13 was 1:07:38. Not the greatest run (Tuesday's 14 miler was about 5 minutes faster) but, like Janis says, sometimes you just gotta "get it while you can."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

To the Mountaintop. . . Almost

Turns out I did get a run in yesterday. I met up with the Tuesday 6:30 Art Museum crowd yesterday evening and got John W. and Stevus to take it a bit farther than the John Kelly Statue that is the turnaround for most folks. They're good guys to run with, easy conversation and 7:20ish pace, and they kept me company up Kelly Drive, over the BN and then through Fairmount Park until we parted ways at Belmont Plateau. Total run for me was 14 miles in 1:42:06.

I'm not an afternoon runner for various reasons, but perhaps the hardest thing about an occsasional afternoon run is that I have to turn around and run again the next morning. I made sure to get a good night sleep, but my legs were still not rested from last evening's run. Deirdre was the only one that showed and we ran the usual Acme loop. Neither Deirdre nor I were particularly up for running this morning. I said that thanks to her I ran about 5 minutes faster than I otherwise would have, she said that thanks to me she ran about 5 minutes slower than she otherwise would have.

I noticed this morning how running affects my conversation. I'm generally don't talk that much because I don't feel I have that much interesting to say. With running not only is there a captive audience but you also have ample opportunity to pad conversation and pass time. I took advantage of that this morning and yapped away, including much about last weekend's trip.

The highlight of the weekend was the run/hike. I outlined the details in yesterday's post on my trek to Snowmass Lake. I did it as a bit of trailrunning, as then I didn't have to get a separate run in and I could go farther than I otherwise could hiking. I felt like a complete novice, however, as I didn't know what to expect and had many anxieties - altitude sickness, sunburn, dehydration, sudden showers and temperature drops - to name a few. So i took a day pack and overpacked it and still left feeling unprepared. I have very little experience with trail running and realized how different it was from regular running, the running cadence is much different and must adapt to the surroundings, and you have to be alot more focused on the environment to avoid falling and getting hurt. The trail to Snowmass Lake was alternately described as 8 or 10 miles and, not surprisingly was steady uphill. I kept a mellow pace interrupted by frequent little walking intervals when the path got particularly rocky or filled with other obstacles. I also walked some when the scenery was particularly spectacular - in trailrunning you're more aware of your immediate surroundings but you also lose much of the bigger picture because your eyes are peeled on the ground. At about 50 minutes into the trail leaves the side of a stream that its been following and I hit the first snowbank that I have to climb over, and then the trail starts swiching back and gets rocky. After that comes an evergreen forest where the snow starts getting heavier and I gingerly try to walk on top of it. This works most of the time but once every seven steps or so I sink into snow up to my knees. I keep thinking the snow will clear up around the bend but after about 1:15 into the run, I'd guess between five or six miles into it, I realize that the snow is with me and its pointless to continue. So I turn around and head back. Curiously the way back was not much quicker than the way up, as going downhill on a trail demands more caution than going up. I also stop more and am amazed at the scenery. In addition to the evergreen forests and going through the trees creekside, the terrain also goes through meadows and rock fields in places, and offers in-your-face views of immense nearby snowcapped peaks. I'm also amazed at the bright colors in the landscapes, especially the countless different shades of green.

Ever conservative, I called the whole trip 10 miles of gallowalking at about 2.5 hours. Afterwards I thought of Kerouac's Dharma Bums:

...mountain is a Buddha. Think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there being perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waiting for us to stop all our frettin and foolin. And, at least while you are there, there is no frettin and foolin or you are silenced by your awe of the mountain.

Good to put a bookmark here for today.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More on Colorado

I promise I won't make a habit of this, but I'm again recycling an email I sent to Pat, a guy I'm working with who gave me the framework for last weekend's Rocky Mountain trip. Doing this lets me archive this email, which has some good memories to it that are only now starting to sink in. I'd like to take some time and concentrate on the running angle of it, and will probably do so in a day or two when I get some more time.

In the meantime:

Just wanted to follow up with you on what was a very fun weekend. I took your advice and drove out to Glenwood Springs on Friday afternoon, taking my time to get out there. Stopped in Georgetown for something to eat and picked up two books, one on hiking/4-wheeling at above 10000 feet, the other on history around I-70. The last one gave me some context to what I was driving through, the latter gave me a target for Saturday.

Before that I got into Glenwood Springs in time to make it to the pool an hour before it closed (and for half-price) where I hung out in the chilly evening air and in the very warm water, with just a touch of rotten egg smell. It was a good hour for getting my head of homelessness mindset and into the mountains. I got up early Saturday and drove toward Aspen and finding the trailhead to Snowmass Lake (see for a better description than I can give). I took the path as a run, but took it slow when rocky footing or beautiful scenery demanded it. It was just what I was looking for – solitude and majesty – but I had to turn back about six miles in when the snow got deep enough so that I was falling through the crust and sinking up to my knees. You had warned me but the extent of the snow still surprised me.

After the hike I headed out to Aspen and did some Mother’s Day shopping, and wanted to head back over Independence Pass but it was still closed for the “winter”. So I backtracked back to 70 and crossed the Divide on Route 24 which took me to Leadville, where I had dinner at the Golden Burro and got to read about Horace Tabor, among other local lore. I really liked Leadville, at 10,000+ feet up it retains the hastily built up, run down look of a mining town set against enormous peaks that seem to loom just spitting distance away.

From there I took 91 back to 70 and made it into the La Quinta at the airport, exhausted, at about 10. Then up and out of the airport by 7 am so I could make it back for little league and Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Thanks for pointing me into that direction. I was amazed at how much I picked up about the area from the time I spent there, even though I know I only scratched the surface. I’ll have to schedule another site visit soon!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Back Home

Back from Colorado, and looking at a ton of stuff to do. And then I spent this morning at Jefferson Hospital in Center City doing various stuff in preparation for some surgery I have scheduled for removal of a salivary gland. Turned out those problems I'd had in mid-March (check the archives for more info) were not lymph node problems but came from a "stone" the size of a grape that is stuck in one of my salivary glands. Though its not giving me any problems now it can flare up and again give me grief at any time, so the ENT specialist recommended, and I took him up on it, the removal of the gland. Supposedly routine surgery although it is under general anaesthesia and will likely require an overnight stay at the hospital. Today I did all the prep work and then the surgery will be on Friday, June 2. The day after that is the Moorestown 8k, which is on the Grand Prix circuit and which I suppose I will have to miss. You get to miss two races on the year-long circuit, I suppose for surgeries and the like.

Colorado was great, and I spent more time doing stuff than writing about it. I spent Friday afternoon and all day Saturday driving around the mountains and could talk alot about it, but writing this has already cut into my work time. So I'm going to take a shortcut and paste an email I sent to someone out of state who I'm doing some work with and who sent a really nice email recounting her experience at the Flying Pig half marathon. The email has some further thoughts on Broad St. and a quick recap of what was a highlight of my past week and one which I hope I'll be able to spend more time writing about in future posts. But these "wanna writeabouts" are starting to backlog.

I'll do what I can. This best describes my last week, when I logged 69 miles, and this week as well, when I already missed this morning's run due to heavy rain and will have a hard time getting mileage in this weekend.


Hey [B.],

Very much enjoyed reading your recap. Thanks.

My favorite races also have connections with particular places on the course. I ran one of these races two weekends ago (same weekend as the Pig?). The Broad St. Run, here in Philadelphia, is a 10-miler which starts close to the northernmost part of Phila and goes straight down Broad St. (supposedly the longest straight urban thoroughfare in the US) through Center City and to the bottom of South Philly. The race literally offers a cross-section of the city - North Philly ghettoes become Center City high-rises become South Philly working class neighborhoods and then past the sports arenas and mothballed battleships into what once was the naval shipyards.

Like you described, each time I run the race I make or renew connections with different features on the course and, being a local race, see various persons I know cheering on the sidelines. One of the most touching this year was from a receptionist in a neighboring office from the Center at Penn where [D.] and I work out of. When she saw me she boisterously yelled encouragement while waving a big sign for Penn runners and shouting encouragement.

And this weekend, for something completely different, I took a day after being in Denver for conferences and went up to the Rockies, where I spent the morning trail-running up (very much up) a beautiful, solitary path that led to Snowmass Lake (I love that name) right up at the treeline. Unfortunately I didn't make it to the lake as the higher I got the deeper the snow got until I was sinking into drifts up to my knees.

Anyway, back to work!


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Greetings from Denver

Its 9:35 pm and finally made it back to my hotel room. Today was a confluence of three different things - a meeting put on by the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, a smaller meeting by a group focused on chronic homelessness, and meetings with some folks I'm working with in the City of Denver. What that means is that my day started at 7 this morning and is just now over.

Meetings all day. In order to get a run in I did something I rarely do - pass on a free lunch. There was a 2 1/2 hour lunch session that also included an awards ceremony. Despite the food this promised to be a deadly event, so I snuck back to my room and put on my running shoes.

Having been here about two months ago, I knew to head to Cherry Creek. Cherry Creek is just that, a creek with a paved bike/running trail alongside it. For the most part it is about ten feet lower than street level, so you can go under the street crossings and run uninterruptedly. I had also got a second, four mile workout in yesterday (33:17) which reoriented me to how to get there.

In light of the limited time I had and my desire to get in a hard workout, I made todays run short and fast. I ran from the hotel to the creek, somewhere around three-quarters mile, then hammered it to a point which gmapped in at 4.5 miles and turned around. Object was to run hard going out and even harder going back. I indeed got back one minute faster than I went out, and guess that I hit about a 6:00/6:10 pace at my fastest. With the warmup/cooldown, I ran the total nine miles in 62:48.

Folks say the air is thinner out here but I don't notice it. Todays run was not incredibly anaerobic (though I was breathing hard by the end) as much as it was practice running fast on tired legs. Especially after the turnaround I tried to focus on upping the pace just a bit and sustaining it there, although I really didn't want to do that. Very much a mental thing - keeping up the intensity when the feeling in my legs gives me the perfect excuse to slow down. The air was very dry, and I wasn't aware I was sweating until I felt sweat dripping on the back of my calves from the bill (turned backwards) on my cap. Also got a post-run sore throat but that's now gone.

One thing about being in meetings all day is that interesting thoughts pop into my mind, some of which today had to do with running and that I wanted to regurgitate here but I'm just too damn tired to do so now. Tomorrow the meetings wrap up here and then I'm getting a rental car and road tripping it into the Rockies until Sunday. Hopefully I can send out another postcard.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Changing Bedtimes

I'm off to take a nap. I read Asterix and the Normans with Tony before he went to bed last night and promptly fell asleep in his bed. When I woke up it was 2 am and I just got up and did all the things I had meant to do last night - pack, prep for the trip, and get my grades in from last semester - early this morning. Got all that done just as it was time to run.

Once outside I realized that we're back to having beautiful weather. Ran w/ Deirdre and Erin on the usual Acme loop. Legs felt much more settled. Conversation was varied, one of the topics that interested me the most started with Erin's newfound realization that "good" runners run in pain every bit as much as their slower counterparts. I said if anything faster runners tend to have more of a threshold for pain - the kind that comes from pushing one's body to and beyond its physical limits. Deirdre chimed in by paraphrasing Bob Kennedy's saying that when he hit the international circuit he realized that every race would hurt from start to finish. This seems to be a theme I'm encountering alot lately and one I'm interested in exploring further in this training cycle. Beyond getting out to the track more, I'm not sure how I'll do it yet.

9.5 miles in 1:15:29.

I'm heading out to Denver this afternoon for another round of altitude training. For appearances, there are also some work obligations involved. I will probably have internet access there so time permitting I'll write some postcards. I'm going to look to get another run in this afternoon and get back into fitting some double sessions days into my training. Tomorrow it will be a challenge to get a run in at all, as my day is scheduled to start with a 7:00 breakfast and keep going through that evening.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Sing Ta na na Ta na na na
She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes

This was playing at the start of BSR on Sunday and I thought what a great metaphor. I can't exactly explain the metaphor other than the meaning I give it must very different from what Paul Simon has in mind for it. But that underscores two things about the metaphors: the better metaphors are more than a little obtuse; and, metaphors, like kids (to use a metaphor), are beyond your control as soon as you put them into the world.

Anyway, when I hit the streets this morning at 5:45 I visualized diamonds on the soles of my shoes. Hard, glinting, and propelling me forward.

But even diamonds didn't move me too fast this morning. If yesterday was still the high, today was the hangover. If yesterday was the Yellow Brick Road, today was the March from Bataan. Need I use more metaphors?

I set out to go longer this morning. To initiate my base training. Legs were still sore, but there was nothing delicious about it. Took the longer version of the BN loop. Slogged it out to MLK, did 4 miles in just sub-8 along the river, went up ample, curvacious BN and noticed a fork stuck in my back (metaphorically) when I got to Ford Road. The last five miles really sucked, and now I'm clinging to the railing as I pull myself up the stairs. Needless to say, I overextended myself a bit today. 13 miles in 1:51:48.

Welcome to base training. Be prepared for much more of this. And oh yeah, it will get hotter.

Incidentally (and I shouldn't be surprised), there is a "Bataan Memorial Death March" held in Arizona. It is 26.2 miles long.

But that's all shove be'ind me -- long ago an' fur away,
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay . . .
- Rudyard Kipling

Monday, May 08, 2006


Our seemingly endless streak of beautiful spring days came to an end today, as today was an overcast chilly day. Disappointing but not surprising, they brought back warm thoughts of my grandmother. She'd speak of (as does my Mom) the "Eisheiligen" or Ice Saints, a German tradition marking three cold days that regularly appear in mid May on the feast days of specific saints. I don't remember the details, but its been ingrained in me that winter isn't done until the Eis-heiligen have passed.

Looking at the Goethe Institute's webpage provides more info on the Eisheiligen:

Originally these days commemorated three saints - St. Pankraz, St. Servaz and St. Bonifaz. Today they are known as the "Ice Saints" days as they often coincide with a cold weather period. In southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland May 15th is added to the 'Ice Saints' Days and commemorates St. Sophie who is colloquially known as the 'Cold Sophie' (Die Kalte Sophie). In the old days farmers and wine growers burned wet wood, green twigs and soil, which rose to form a thick smoky fog over the valleys. This fog helped to protect any new growth and blossoms from the frost. The 'Ice Saints' are still widely observed today in the sense that many gardeners and farmers wait until mid May has passed before planting seedlings.

I seem to remember my grandmother, Puppe I called her, make mention of the specific saints which included "die Kalte Sophie" but I'm not sure. Even in the US, however, this cold snap is pretty dependable, though apparently a bit early this year.

Anyway, I ran today solely because I wanted to. Four miles on the Cemetary Ave. loop - up Woodland, across on Cemetary Ave, and back down Kingsessing to finish up at the ARC. Joie de courir - hanging on to a piece of yesterday's ghost that I'll be chasing all summer. Legs felt deliciously sore. 29:59 was the time.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Broad Street Run

Well, let me get this out of my system so I can take a nap.

First good feeling I get today was right after the alarm goes off and the room is permeated by a deep chill. Meet up with Allen at the house, Erin and KJ at Erin's, and we all cycle into Center City to catch the Orange Line up to the start. We get the 6:30 subway, which means we are early enough to get seats in the subway and, once we get to the start, first crack at the banks of porta potties lined up around the track at Girls High.

"Take a good look at 'em," Allen says, "'cause they're not gonna look [or smell] that good again today."

If you think about it, neither will we.

There are two things I love about this race. The first (I'll get to the second later) is the course. Starts on a downhill and becomes pancake flat - a Boston start without the Boston hills. I take off like an idiot, miss the first mile split, and realize I'm in over my head when I fall in with a group that includes Bryn Mawr Running Co. owner Bob Schwelm and Chester Co. Running Store owner (and erstwhile coach of mine) Kevin Kelly. Both are runners who are out of my league.

Mile 2 whooshes by and the clock reads 10:27 - more of a 5k pace than a 10 mile pace. I figure I'll hang as long as I can, but start losing Bob and most of the group after about another half mile. Nonetheless, mile 3 goes by in 5:17, which means that I passed the 5k point in something like 16:20 (a 5k pr). I slow a little, but by mile 5 the clock reads 26:28 - 90 seconds faster than I've ever run 5-miles. By this time I'm flying so high over my head that I can barely make out my bald spot glistening in the bright sun of this glorious morning.

And then reality sets in. Q.: what do I do now? A.: hang on for the ride. 56 minutes is my pr, at this point I want to, no need to, lower this or die trying. My mind is still nimble enough to do the math. 29:30 will get me there, that means I need to keep up a 5:54 pace and the faster the next miles come the more I'll put in the bank. But I'm slowing, mile 6 split, around City Hall, is 5:39; mile 7 split is 5:41; mile 8 split is 5:53. . .

And somewhere along there the second good thing about this race kicks in. The competition here is intense, and there are people passing me regularly to whom I can latch onto and let them pull me for a little while. Little life preservers, so to speak. Among others, Duncan comes blowing by me and tows me for about a quarter mile, Emily chugs by to become the eventual third place female finisher and I speed up a bit to stay with her. By now I've bottomed out and recover a bit to hit mile 9 in 5:41 and mile 10 in 5:45. Clock at the finish reads 55:09 - pr by 45 seconds!

The mood at the finish line is festive. The near-perfect conditions lead to tons of good times among friends - Allen pr's in just over 51 minutes; Duncan's in at under 54 - also a pr (I think, check with him); Ian's in at sub 56 (pr); Chemistry Steve in 57 (pr); Kevin F squeaks across in 57:59 (pr); Chuck S. in 58-sumthin (10 m is the new marathon for Chuck); Craig S and John W both in 61 (big pr for John, dunno about Craig); KJ in 63 (everythings a pr for him); Erin (running for 2) in 72; Ryan W with a first time under 90 minutes and Katy, who promised to start training seriously everytime we'd ride up to Graterford together, finished in 107 and saying how she could run faster next time if she trained better. And I know you can. Hell we all can!

Giving all these shoutouts means I know I left several folks out that I'm likely to kick myself for, apologies in advance. Although I didn't see them at the race, I see from the online results that Scott finished in 98, a hell of alot better than he raced last week, and Mike M ran 63 minutes (how'd that go for you, Mike?).

Another omission I can think of offhand is Maricela's social studies teacher, who I see from the online results ran a very respectable 80 minutes. But it was a good thing he didn't bet.

And lastly, the post race analysis. I ran like an idiot, and fortunately the course is very forgiving (i.e., easy) and I avoided a blow up. I'm happy I pr'd, and I don't care that my splits read 26:28 and 28:40. But it is the first half of the race that I will carry with me. It reminds me of the time I ran the Schuylkill River Loop race in November 2001, which I ran the first mile in 5:58 - the first time I ever ran a sub 6-minute split. I slowed down considerably after that, but that first mile changed me - I saw I was capable of running at a higher level and proceeded to shave 19 minutes of my marathon time the next spring in Boston. Coming back to this race, that I could run 5k and 5mile pr paces (yeah, I know that the course here was straight with a net downhill, but that's not the point) on my way to a 10 mile pr again tells me that, at 42, I can again torque this insane little avocation of mine up a notch.

So that wraps up my Spring season. Now its back to base mileage and preparing for the fall. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Easy day today, given its the day before Broad St. Met up with Allen and we ran through West and South Philly till we got to Broad and Christian, and I showed him the course from there to the finish, including the arch that signals you are entering into the former Navy Shipyards and which looks deceptively like the finish (which is actually about 1/4 mile further down). After that we went to the Linc for the expo. Easy 7 miles, didn't time it. Took SEPTA back home.

All set for tomorrow now. Based on last years results and depending on who shows up, I got a shot at some masters money.

Here's a good story. Maricela finds out that her Social Studies teacher is running Broad St. So she goes up to him and mentions that her father is running BSR as well. This gets his interest and she suggests that they should bet, and if I win then she would be excused from doing the next current events assignment. He asks her what kind of times I run and she mumbles she doesn't know but that I run a few miles every morning. He says sure, what the heck, its a deal. After he assigns the class some seatwork, he (obviously being a runner) goes online and checks the past results on the BSR webpage. So as they are working Maricela says the class hears an expletive followed by Mr. B. blurting out: "he's half an hour faster than I am, deal's off!"

Getting used by my daughter for a hustle.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Walt Whitman Bridge

Got two shoelaces and two shoes
I should toss ‘em on the telephone wire as a monument to my blues
I think that I'm coming out of my funk.

Maricela was my role model this morning. She is into music in a big way, as in even if its just going down the stairs she plugs into something and listens. Like she looks up to John Cusack's character in the movie High Fidelity. Like we hold our breath waiting for the RIAA to subpeona our harddrive. Etc. etc.

So in that spirit I downloaded some new music today, like I hadn't done in awhile. New as in it came out in this century. After some noodling around on the web, I downloaded the latests from Marah, the Decembrists, and the New Pornographers. Maricela and me had an argument over whether you could call Marah "new", but I was gratified that she approved of my other two choices.

On my run this morning I slapped on my iPod and got about to digesting this music. I'm amazed that I haven't gotten my grubby little hands on this Marah cd earlier. I used to be a big fan and then lost touch as, in an effort to hit bigtime they seemed to dePhillyfy their music and lost more than that in the process. They seem to get that back in If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry. I nearly did cry when I got to the song "Walt Whitman Bridge"; there it was - everything I love about Marah. I put it on repeat and listened to it again and again. The lines at the start of this post are from there.

Perfect music to run through West Philly with on yet another beautiful morning. I actually recycled an old gmap which mapped a route to Cobbs Creek and back home down Warrington, and then called an audible and added a stretch that took me around the future McLeary-Nike Track (or is that the other way around) and down some trails to the horse stables. Legs were a bit worn but quickly fell into line with the strains of Marah. Respecting my plans for a mini taper, the total loop was 6 miles in 46:39.

Faraway from these winter streets
On a cloudless day
Your memory, your memory. . .
Blows away

Thursday, May 04, 2006

This morning I was looking for a workout to clear out some cobwebs. I know it is a bit too close to Broad Street for such a workout, and I know I'm not in training mode yet so anything I did would be ad hoc. But my life feels out of balance right now and for an hour or so all I wanted to do was lose myself in running.

So I went out to the track.

Last night at Graterford we had a good discussion on a book called Prison Masculinities, an edited book about "doing" or "negotiating" masculinity in a prison setting. I was not impressed with the book, as in many cases the authors unnecessarily impose masculinity on topics that stand fine on their own. One of those topics was sports and the various meanings associated with participating in sports both in and out of prison, but while the book was mediocre, it did lead to a conversation that was anything but, one which brought out alot of insights from the inside guys in the group about keeping a sense of manhood in an environment constructed to obliterate it in many ways.

Taking a little piece of this to something I know a bit more about, running on the track is one of the more conventionally "masculine" aspects of training. There is a fixed amount of distance to dominate in a fixed amount of time. Its the runner against these temporal and linear constraints, but it quickly becomes the runner against his/her internal constraints. If done right, the runner comes right up to the precipice of his/her abilities, looks into the chasm beyond, and keeps pushing forward.

I saw this last week at Penn Relays, at the finish of the distance heats, where runners would finish and drop to the ground from exhaustion. I turned to Kevin and said, that's what I want to do after my next 5k - cross the finish line and no longer be able to stand. Mike sent me the cult classic book Once a Future Runner, which I'm reading few a few chapters at a time before bed, in which there is a famous passage that comes after one of the main characters finished a cross country race:

Cassidy could not speak; his eyes bulged insanely, breaths came in greedy rasps and his face was a splotchy violet color. "Yack!" he said, trying to straighten up. It was too soon; back to the hands-on-knees death grap, fetal rest of the totally blown-out runner. The white haze had thickened into a heavy fog; he felt faint but knew his conditioning held all horrors at bay except in extreme heat. These were the worst few seconds and he understood better than anything ellse that like the tail fin, the Nehru jacket and the republic itself, they too would pass. The drained elation, special property and reward of those who have been to the edge and back, would come later. But for now he had a while longer to hurt. . .

Copying this passage brings insights that I don't get while I read this, but I can't say I was there yet on the track this morning. I decided to do four 1600 meter repeats (with an option to do a fifth) and shoot for doing them in 5:20, a time I deliberately set below what I knew I could realistically sustain. First rep in 5:19 and I was sucking air in a major way, second rep I didn't know if I was going to make it (i.e., finish). Legs felt okay, its the sucking for oxygen combined with intense anxiety and a sudden overwhelming tiredness that I had to blow through to get a 5:20. I was as close to being totally blown out as I ever was, I looked down into the chasm and then retreated. Couldn't push it for the third rep, mentally I lapsed repeatedly and fell to 5:28. By the fourth rep the edge was no longer in sight and the urgency to keep my time down had faded. It was somewhat consoling to pull out a kick in the last 200 meters, but this only kept me at 5:40. Given that I exercised my option not to do the fifth rep and cooled down on the run home.

I think the mistake I make when I do these workouts is thinking that running "speed" on the track will somehow make me faster in a race. Tougher yes, faster maybe but that's not so important. The point is that the track is mostly mental conditioning. Zatopec running endless 400 meter reps is the prototype here. And maybe there are other types of workouts that can simulate this extreme mental exertion, but I haven't come up with one yet. Either way, I'd like to incorporate more of this into my workouts.

For as much as I hate doing the workouts, there is something alluring in the "drained elation"that I'm full of right now. Especially on a day like today.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spring Eternal

Another in what seems like a series of joyously endless perfect days. I again had a really hard time getting out of bed and once I was out running didn't want the run ever to end. Me and Deirdre this morning, running the 9.5-mile version of the Acme loop in 71:03.

I realized this morning that lately my waking life has consisted of working, running, and trying to get some time in with the family. This has been reflected in my blog entries, and will continue like this at least for another week. Its a busy time. Work-wise, its like ice cream - I like what I'm working on but right now there is gallons of it.

I brought it home with me this morning so I'll spread it all out over the kitchen counter when I'm done writing this and start mucking through it. This morning its managing and analyzing data on homeless services use in Massachusetts. At least I can blare music and brew my own coffee instead of paying 3 bucks a cup.

Cindy and Tony leave for Texas tomorrow, so this weekend will be more of the same. Work punctuated by the Broad Street Run and fitting something in between that Maricela and I can have fun at.

Whatever that something will be, hopefully it will be out doors.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bons Temps Encore!

Today the difference between going long with some speed, and sleeping in and heading out to the track later was a full schedule. I really wanted to sleep in.

A usual Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop, 11 miles with the middle 3.5 run in sub-6:45 pace. Didn't feel like pushing it farther and didn't see any reason to do so. I did run most of the loop a bit faster than my usual slacker pace (maybe 7:45 instead of 8's), so the loop went quicker at 84:12.

Weather continues to be nicer than it has a right to be.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Own Private Relays

Read over my last few posts and they read more like running logs - details of runs that may be of interest only to me, rather than blog entries which are different in that I'd like to put a bit more thought into them. But this one will likely be another log entry as I don't feel like I have the time it takes to do the other.

Today was a throwaway run anyway, 4 miles to Franklin Field and back, including three laps on the resanctified track. The litter was blowing around more than usual and various detritus from the weekend relays were still lying about, but the stands were again empty and the track was again all mine as I did some slow laps to boost a 3.5 mile loop to over four. In so doing I imagined I was the Monday installment of the Relays, the session where I was the legend. But it was in my own mind, as all three times I passed the Wall of Fame I failed to see any plaque with my name on it.

The only reason I ran today was that I kept repeating that it was better to get a few miles in than to take a DNR.

Yesterday I ran 12 around Fairmount and MLK Drive. Parts were fast, parts were slow and the weather was again beautiful. Ran past Memorial Hall just as the Inglis House 5-miler started. I kept running my own route and later heard about it from Kevin F., who won the race and $100 in prize money. Congrats.

Will take it easy this week as I count down to Broad Street.