Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Easy run again today. Art Museum loop with Tarika on the iPod. It's some of the best motivational music I have right now, and I used it to help visualize my race on Sunday. Specifically,

1) I will take it easy on the first few miles and then run an 11 mile race.
2) I will pay close attention to how I'm feeling in the race. I won't get lured into picking things up too early, if I don't feel right I'll keep it conservative, and if I feel good after mile 5 then I'll be burning up that course like an oil-slick fire! I will use how I felt at Stone Harbor as my reference point for this. Again, I will play it by feel.
3) I will have enough left to go balls to the wall on the final promenade.
4) I won't run for time as much as run smart. It is unlikely that conditions will be conducive to pr'ing, so I won't come in with that expectation. Instead I will go in there looking to place well. I'll take a page out of Kevin's book and go for the shwag. If I get an age group trinket I will have met my goal. Judging by last year, going sub 1:17 should get me there, and that is very doable.
5) I am in the best shape of my life, and everything points to my running a great race.
6) Shake and bake!

Calves felt tight running this morning. Call it the lingering effects of Tuesday's run. But if I didn't have something to worry about I'd have to make something up.

Old Ernesto is making a run up the East Coast this weekend, but as he goes out we'll be going back. Forecast is for showers in Virginia Beach this weekend, in other words it looks alot better down there than in Philly.

Other than that, its packing, an early sleep, and 3 or 4 miles easy tomorrow and Saturday, preferably on the course.

6.5 miles this morning in 54:44. Enough miles to get me to 300 for the month. The first time ever that I've logged back to back 300 mile months.

To yet again quote Ricky Bobby, this time quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: "America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed." Catch you again after its over.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Break in the Clouds

Every time that I see your face
It's like cool, cool water running down my back
~ Jayhawks

Cool drizzle and, after last nights rain, it looks like West Philly got a good scrubbing down. What was a good Baptist deluge last night tapered into a Catholic sprinkling this morning as it washed away the city's sins.

Ran out to Cobbs Creek and down the bike path to Warrington and around. Legs were still sore this morning, deep down sore as in a) I pushed too far yesterday, and b) muscles are growing. This isn't the time for either of that, so today I just cruised and hope that the legs will enjoy the r&r they'll get from my sitting behind a desk the rest of the day.

Running down Warrington I saw a black cat lying dead in middle of the road.

Easy 6 miles in 45:07.

I've been writing so much at work lately so I will keep my writing to a minimum here. In doing so I will return to an occasional theme that I've been thinking about this fall - cross country. I contacted one of the guys I know on USP's cross country team and it looks like I'll be running a bit with them again this fall. Also, like I mentioned before, I'll run some meets with the PACTC folks, including Masters Nationals. I'm looking forward to all that, but it also seems like I'm chasing something that I won't get, like a runner ahead of me in the distance.

Mike, who I mention occasionally here as a friend and running mentor, has been sending me some great emails riffing off of stuff that I write on this blog. One of these emails was some thoughts he had on my writing about cross country. I'd like to post some of it here, not only to share but also to keep it for the record, as I'm bad about hanging onto old emails. He writes:

Most serious runners that I have met that started young, started in cross-country. Partly because there were no limits on how big a team you could have, some schools had as many as 100 runners. Except for championship meets (seven runners per race) everyone could run. It also takes care immediately of whether you are tough enough physically and mentally to be a distance runner in the first place. Plus, cross-country kicks off the school year, track ends it.

. . .

One thing to remember is that it is all about position, especially when running as a team member. Time is meaningless. Scoring is simple, your place is your points, add up points from first five finishers on each team, low score wins. A perfect score is 15 points. In championships, sixth and seventh men do not count in computing their team's score, but their places count to displace runners on other teams behind them that are in those teams' top five runners.

Lots of strategies unique to cross-country that road racing cannot quite replicate. Going up a hill, you try to take off after the hill is cleared. When you make a sharp turn where there is not much room visible behind you, you "check out," i.e., try to open up some distance on runners behind you while they momentarily cannot see you. You try to save something for a kick at the end of the race if you are a kicker, if not, you have to run away from the kickers so that you are too far ahead when they start kicking.

Very often you have to get out of the start quick, may be a wide start that narrows quite a bit and stays narrow for awhile. There, you have to get position before the course narrows. Van Cortlandt Park (located in the Bronx) is famous for this kind of start.

VCP is sort of akin to the Yankee Stadium/Fenway Park of cross-country courses. Belmont Plateau is also well-known, featuring Flagpole Hill, Parachute Hill and "Sure-Kill" Hill, though Sure-Kill is not part of the recent versions, and that was the hardest hill of all. . . .

I think what makes cross-country special is the fact that it is yourself and at least six others, and you are all trying to do the same thing as well as you can, yet you know that your top three can run great, and if your next four flop, you can lose the meet (at least a meet with three teams or more). So you are concerned about the welfare of all your teammates. You also have this incredible desire not to let down your teammates by letting up. I was always a better runner as a member of a team than I ever was on my own.

I think the most distress I have been in after races has been cross-country races. Yet the feeling after running one well is equally satisfying.

I like this alot; in explaining the sport he also captures what I imagine to be the spirit and the attraction of it. Thanks Mike.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dress Rehearsal

"I wanted a mission, and for my sins, [I] gave me one." (paraphrase from Apocalypse Now)

I wanted one last hard workout before my taper. I settled on a run around the Drives, with seven miles at half-marathon pace (5:45-5:50). Give myself a taste of what Sunday might feel like. The course is flat and the weather seemed cool when I first got out there but my cotton t-shirt was quickly drenched in sweat from the humidity. For once I wanted this, as it should be pretty close to conditions in VB. After cycling out to Chestnut and 33rd (cut out some of the junk miles), I warmed up to the 7 mile hash on MLK and let it rip. First mile was 5:50, which would prove to be my fastest mile. Mile 2 was in 5:53, and then it was 5:51; 5:54; 5:54; 5:59. One mile to go, and when the half mile split was 3:03 I called off the hunt. No sense in continuing to flog my legs if they clearly had enough.

Not as fast as I wanted, and clearly I'm not as recovered as I thought from the weekend. But when I don't get what I want I get some lessons learned. Specifically:

1) I need to go out conservative on Sunday. I'm not good at this but take it at a 6 flat pace through the first couple of miles and then make it an 11 mile race. This also gives me time to gauge the conditions and how hard I can realistically go.

2) Listen to my legs. In Sunday's race at the one mile mark my legs felt very strong, and I knew it would be okay to pull away from the group that I was working with. Today I knew at the one mile mark that I'd be hard pressed to keep up even the 5:50 pace, but I decided to try anyway and sure enough I slowed down. That's okay for a workout, if I feel that way on Sunday I need to take it down a notch.

3) Accommodate, don't fight the weather. If I do this I'll be reeling in folks till the cows come home at the end.

4) I'm gonna do well on Sunday.

For the rest of the week my running will just amount to farting around. One less thing I have to stress over. September will be a tough month, as I have some major deadlines at work and I'll be moving out of the house. But a friend responded rather presciently to this: "The deadlines in September could only be a piece of cake after running a 4:55 mile..."

Gotta remember that, gotta hang on to that.

11 miles in 75:11.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stone Harbor Lions 10K

Woke up to pouring rain at 5am this morning and, undaunted, Kevin, Tony and I took off at 5:30 for the 85 mile trip to the Jersey Shore, stopping only at Dunkin Donuts for those tried and true performance enhancers of caffeine and sugar. Weather continued nasty on down the Atlantic City Expressway, where I went into a nasty hydroplane at one point, and the Garden State Parkway, but let up as we approached Stone Harbor and as we parked the car in the beachside parking lot the rain had, amazingly enough, stopped.

We were deep in the territory of the Evil Empire - the South Jersey Athletic Club who, due largely to my own club's (PAC Track Club) lack of a competitive woman (hear that Deirdre?!) is sitting way ahead of us in the Mid Atlantic USATF's Grand Prix standings. The fact that this was a Grand Prix race attracted various club types, and the fact that there was prize money 3 deep - $500; $250 and $100 - attracted some African-looking runners and some PTC folks. This race was different from last year's version in that they added on a 5k race to the traditional 10k and redid the course so that everyone started together and ran a 5k loop. At this point the 5k racers finished and the 10k racers turned around and redid the original loop backwards. This is a bit like playing high-low in poker, as you don't know for sure who's racing what until the finish/turnaround. It also let me run the 10k and Tony run the 5k.

I started out working with PACTC teammate Chuck and the second female, Kenyan Naomi Wangui, listed at 5'3" and 100 lbs. I fell in behind her going into a headwind and thought this is ridiculous, I'm getting nothing by drafting off her. So I moved out ahead of her hoping she'd figure out that she could save a little energy by tucking in behind me. Either she didn't get it or didn't want a part of it, as she proceeded to pass me again. Renee Gunning, who runs for PTC, was about 50 feet ahead of us and looked like she was getting paced by Rob Hewitt, another PTC runner. Mile 1 goes by in 5:30 and I'm feeling strong, so I take off past Chuck and Wangui and started gunning for Renee and Rob. Patience I tell myself as mile 2 goes by in 5:31 and I'm in no-mans land, odd man out between the two couples. Hewitt starts to slow right about at the 5k finish, and runs into the 5k finish chute. I hit the 5k mark in 17:20 and on the turnaround see that the only males ahead of me are the eventual winner, Kenneth Korir (31:16) and Brian Skelly, another PTC runner. So I'm third male; if I keep this up I'd get a payday.

All of a sudden the race gets more stressful. Chuck is the next guy behind me, and though I have a good lead I know he has come back to outkick me at the finish several times in past races. All about hanging on to this lead. The combined mile 3 & 4 split was 11:13 - slowing a little; and mile 5 split was 5:37. Holding steady. A left on 111th St. and I can peek behind me to see I have a comfortable lead on Chuck and that I should be okay. On the other hand, I was not going to reel in Renee either. The last 1.2 miles clocked in at 6:57 (5:48 pace) and my final time was 34:50. 3rd male and payday!

After the race I ran to the end of the 5k course just in time to catch Tony hammering it in. He finished in 36:20, a new PR! He told me it was a tough race but he kept going because he didn't want to get behind this Coast Guard contingent who were doing the race marching double time. I told him I was very proud, and I am!

I'm very happy with my time, and always feel gratified at winning money in one of these things. I am unabashed about being satisfied with running sub 35 minutes after logging 22 miles yesterday, and running a full minute and a half faster than my time last year. However I don't want to get too hyped about my place, as my payday had as much to do with Ryan Walsh choosing to run the 5k, where his sub 16 minute time got him no better than fourth, than it did with my performance. But the evolutionary anthropologists may have a point - there is very much a primal caveman-like feeling that comes after running hard and returning home with the bacon.

Now to show you the contrast in running clubs that I'm affiliated with. Not including me and Kevin, I counted 12 people on the Philly Runner message board who committed to running this race and spending the day on the beach. Out of all of them, only Craig and English Mike showed up to run, and Tim and Biz came out to cheer. Apparently the rest were cowed by the spectre of a little rain, which ironically never appeared. On the other hand, PAC Track Club was out in force, and out of the guys we accounted for 7 out of the top 20 finishers - 3rd (me), 5th (Chuck Shields), 6th (Jeff Hayes), 7th (Andy Cherry), 12th (Neill Clark), 14th (Kevin Forde) and 20th (Adam Prince). However, this was business for PACTC crowd (most of whom are in the first picture), as they were uninterested in spending the afternoon on the beach.

So we had breakfast with the remnants of the Philly Runners (second picture) and then Kevin, Tony, English Mike, Tim, Craig and I spent the afternoon on the beach, where the conditions were great although you are forbidden to go farther than waist deep into the water. On the way home we stopped at Pat's Famous Cheese Steak and Clam Chowder shack, an apparent Stone Harbor institution and a story in and of itself, on the way back.

Plan is to take it easy this week and see what I can do rested in Virginia Beach next week. To paraphrase a great Talladega Nights line, "I'm gonna come at [them] like a spider monkey" on Sunday.

You probably had to see the movie to appreciate that one.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cloud Hidden Whereabouts Unknown

Today's title is borrowed from an old Alan Watts book that came to mind during todays run. It is now a little after 10 pm and I'm turning in early so as not to be too wiped out when I get up at 5am tomorrow morning to trek down to Stone Harbor to run the 10k. But this mornings run was the most mystical I've ever had, so I want to get it on the record.

The kids and I went to my mom's last night and returned this evening. This morning I had a 20 miler mapped out that took me through Harriman State Park (Rockland County NY) in a big loop. I took off as planned around 7:30 and took in the cool, overcast morning. Harriman State Park, at over 46,000 acres, takes in a large swath of the Ramapo mountains and is mostly wooded area with alot of lakes. Running to HSP from my mom's is basically 5 or 6 miles of steady uphill, and on the way up I saw the tops of the mountains shrouded by low-hanging clouds. By the time I got to the park and was running by Lake Welch I had hit cloud level and was surrounded in fog. Mile 7 had me going by St. Johns in the Wilderness, an old stone church, and there was a steady drizzle. From there is was a left on to Lake Welch Drive and about a mile and a half down that road to where I was supposed to turn left on a cutoff that would take me back down to Call Hollow Road and more familiar terrain.

By this time it was total solitude on a road flanked by lush forest. A quiet world of greens and greys where I saw hawks, wild turkey, deer, woodchuck, and the occasional car and cyclist. Kept running farther down the road until my state of wet serenity was interrupted by the realization that I had come up on Lake Sebago. There are numerous lakes throughout HSP, and while my geography of the park is very rusty, I knew that if this were Lake Sebago then I was on the road to Sloatsburg, which as a kid we had always viewed as the beginning of West Virginia. I had clearly missed my connecting road.

The drizzle was now rain, and the pastoral woods were now a long expanse of trees that were standing between me and home. There were two options, plod ahead through the unknown or turn around. Neither was particularly appealing but the only real choice was the latter, which would cut my losses. Now I felt wet and miserable as I started to slowly come back into progressively more familiar terrain. As I again passed Lake Welch and headed back downhill the fog again lifted. By now I had run about 16 miles and the long descent proceeded to pound my legs into jelly. I told myself to just let it go. "Let it go" I repeated, first as self talk, then audibly, and then louder until it got to the volume of a primal scream. My legs responded, on their own, to where I was running 5k pace. Not an uncontrolled down the hill charge but in racing form, with a cathartic feeling pulsing through my upper body.

As the road leveled off so did my pace. There was a strange peace over the last few miles back into the "lowlands," with subdivisions and dry pavement and a warm breeze gently blowing in my face. I felt flush with the exuberence of having been to the mountaintop in a Mosaic or Kerouacian fashion. For the second time in a week I used a run to jettison a whole lot of junk I'd been carrying with me.

I saw no need to take a watch with me when I left at around 7:45. It was almost 11 when I returned. I don't feel like gmapping it so conservatively I'll call it 22 miles. Little longer than I wanted to go, but an experience like I've never had running before.

A breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, etc. was waiting. A little cold due to my delayed return but delicious in a way you need to run 22 miles in order to appreciate. Yay Mom!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Functional Run

Typical Friday, neither my legs nor my brain were functioning particularly well after the beatings they've been taking all week. The highlight of the run was that Deidre made her return. Haven't run with her in a few months now. KJ/Silas were there as well. Deirdre was her usual model of effervescence and perked up the pace as well. Ran out to Cobbs Creek and came back through the cemetery and down Kingsessing. KJ turned back at 43rd St., Deirdre and I took it down to 33rd St. and parted ways. 10 miles in 75:33.

Another one of those entries which serve mainly to document the run. If this entry were a workout it would be pretty similar to the one we did today - no frills, mainly run to maintain training, rather than building much additional fitness. And (other than the company) not particularly interesting to either watch or participate in.

But, like life, its a whole lot of workouts like this that are necessary for the few fleeting moments of glory we may be fortunate enough to come by.

I'll be up at my mom's tomorrow and probably wont write again until after Stone Harbor. Hopefully that will go down as one of those fleeting moments.

Or, in the words of Ricky Bobby, "Shake and Bake!"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Something Wild

I hear voices in the hall
I wake up and it's nothing at all
An angry wolf or a hungry child
Or something wild. . .
~ John Hiatt

BN loop day today.

Turned that wild thing loose on MLK and continued to drive those times down. 22:48 (vs. 23:04) for four miles (5:47; 5:43; 5:39; 5:39) and then the climb up BN to Ford Rd. was a little slower (8:50 vs. 8:43) but then made up time and the whole stretch to Belmont Plateau went down in 16:07 (vs. 16:24). "Vs." refers to last week's times. Something wild!

Nothing much else going on. I'm going to go ahead and run long on Saturday and train through Sunday's Stone Harbor race. Then its a mini-taper next week to Virginia Beach.

I've got this empty spot in my mind where my thoughts are supposed to be. Must have dropped them somewhere on the road. Maybe that's why I had that little extra this morning. I think I'll just put the bookmark in about here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Took a dnr today as I had a "retreat" (not in the "go out into some pastoral setting" sense, but in the "spend a good part of the day in a conference room" sense) that started too early to be able to fit a workout in without risking a major case of the nods.

So I need to find something else to write about.

I committed to running the USA Masters 5 km Cross Country Championships (mid October in Saratoga Springs) as part of the PACTC team. This came last night thanks to Chuck putting the squeeze on me to run this just as I was flush from exuberence after last night's 5000m run.

I never ran cross country in high school, as I went to a small prep school (my graduating class numbered 15) that had no team. I ran for half a season freshman year in college, but quit after a miserable bout with shin splints. I am old enough now to look back on life and identify regrets, and fortunate enough to only have a few sofar. However not getting the chance to run cross country is one of them.

So perhaps its in the spirit of better late than never that I'll fit some cross country events into the fall schedule this year. I'm fortunate to have a good team - in the sense of both speed and cameraderie - to run with, but also realistic enough to know that it will be a different experience than the one I missed back in the day.

And that makes for a long segue into riffing a little on a book I just read called Harriers. Acquiring this book, in the interests of full disclosure, has been the first and only material gain of any kind I’ve ever gotten from this blog. Lora, a publisher’s rep, emailed me a few weeks ago about the book:

"[Harriers was written by] a couple of high school seniors about their quest for a state cross country championship.

While the book was originally written for the young adult market, it is getting positive reviews from adult runners. One customer mentioned it brought back all the memories of being on the cross country team in high school. One small newspaper said that the book captures the essence of running. The book is getting good reviews from running coaches at Amazon.

Since this is a high school project with limited funds, the authors are hoping to generate some buzz in the blogosphere about the book. If you think that you have time to read the book and then offer a review in your blog, I would be happy to send you a free review copy of the book.

I said sure, wondering if she knew that, on a good day, maybe ten people read my blog. But, on the other hand, except for my mother, everyone else who reads this blog is geeky enough about running to where this book is the sort of thing they might read.

I’ve got to admire anytime two high school students collaborate to write a book, and the book is not badly written. On the other hand, it is about, well, high school, and it makes me realize (and appreciate) how far removed I am from that scene. What is striking about the account is the ordinariness of the story. There are no larger than life characters in this book or any efforts at generating profundities. Save for their march to the state championship, which provides the narrative structure for the book, the cross country team could have been any of a thousand high school teams around the country, with more or less typical boys facing typical high school pressures and issues in addition to their participation on the cross country team. The authors go out of their way to explain many details specific to the place and setting that don’t go much beyond being descriptive of stuff that seems strikingly mundane. I quickly learned to skim these parts, along with most of the stuff that didn’t pertain to things directly related to running and cross country.

But the running and cross country stuff was engaging. I’m not sure how the authors got their information, but their narrative profiled each of the boys on the team and explored, in depth, their intentions, motivations, and frustrations related to running and running on the cross country team, in the context of the progression of the two seasons. Here the themes get more universal for us runners – things like how to keep up training intensity, decisions over how much priority to give running, and coming to terms with bumping up against one’s limitations. Another central theme is what it means to the boys to be on a team, and to be working together as a team for something as palpable as a state championship. This is captured well and, to the authors’ credit and my relief, with an absence of the corniness that usually accompanies such forays into the meaning of teamwork. Finally, for running geeks like us, the racing accounts are generally well done.

The price listed on the book is $5.95 (I think I was in high school the last time you could get a new paperback for that price). Both the publishers, who seem to be doing this on a shoestring, and the guys who wrote it are certainly worth supporting. If you’re not into running, this book won’t be for you. But if reading about cross country is something you’re into, this book is worth checking out. The book has a webpage here, and the Amazon link is here.

Kinda made me wish all over again that I had run X-C. But stay tuned here this fall and you can see how my belated foray into running over hill and over dale goes. Hey, its better than being out looking for a sports car.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Wissahickon Wanderers Track Meet

Tonight I ran track at Roxborough High at the meet the Wissahickon Wanderers put on every August. Its usually a series of two meets but this year for some reason its down to one. The only track meet I know of where there is all the brisket and pulled pork that you can eat. But eat it at your own risk, for to quote Ian, "there's a good reason why pulled pork is not on the USATF list of performance enhancing substances." The races are low key events that are as much social as they are athletic. The meet is also a good barometer for in gauging the fitness gained by a summer of training.

Before I get to that I just want to write down, for the record, that I ran a Franklin Field loop with 6 track laps this morning for 5 miles in 43:55. Mellow run.

eds. note - for those of you wanting a more balanced and less long-winded account of the meet, go to the Wissahickon Wanderers site. They also got a bunch of pictures.

First event I ran this evening was the mile. I am not a miler - I have little idea of how to run this race and don't have the footspeed to do well at this short a distance. But that's why this meet is fun, I can do it for shits and giggles. I line up on the inside lane behind KJ, who somehow got the post position, and immediately get boxed in and almost knock over Kevin F. I feel like an idiot, take a deep breath, and wait for the crowd to thin and go outside and around. When the dust settles I'm in third place, with Kevin F and another guy I don't know ahead of me. First lap in 1:12, on pace to break 5 minutes, which I've never done before. Can I hang on?

Second lap and its 2:26. Still on pace. Now #2 is fading and I overtake him. I give a little burst when I pass him to discourage any thoughts he may have of keeping up with me, and take note that I feel okay. Lap 3 in 3:44 and I'm gratified to find a kick. I seem to gain a little on Kevin, who is a good bit ahead of me, but he finds a kick of his own and I just concentrate on finishing under 5. My mind drifts a bit on the backstretch and I then hammer it home. 4:55! I am now, for what its worth, a sub 5 miler. Kevin also pr'd at 4:45. He says he pulled me along with him, I say that my footsteps pushed him to finish strong.

5000 meters was the other event I ran. A bunch of other Philly Runners ran this - Stevus, Craig, KJ, & John W - as well as 2 others and Tony. I hung with this pack for the first lap, which came in at 1:28, and slowly picked up the pace in the second lap, continuing to accelerate and opening a wider and wider lead. From here on out it became a track workout. Mile 1 in 5:22, mile 2 in 5:19, and the last 1.1 miles in 5:58 (5:25 pace). 16:41 total time. This is a solid performance.

So I'm ready. So ready. Ready for Sunday. Lots of other little things to fill in, as the meet is really a fun event. Tony got a cramp/stomach ache during the 5000 and ended up walking for four laps. Thanks to Kevin G. for walking with him, and kudos to Kevin for his own mile pr. KJ I know pr'd in the 5000 and I suspect a few more folks did as well. The only disappointment was that Chuck opted to run the 3000, as I was looking forward to going up against him in the 5000.

All total it was 10.5 miles for the day. If you've made it this far your reward are some pics that I took. They might help fill in some of the stuff that got exerpted due to my self-absorbed blathering about my racing. But hey, that's what blogs are all about.

The formatting here will likely not be pretty

pic 1 - the Philly Runners contingent - Kevin G, Craig, John Dubs, me, Stevus & KJ

pic 2 - the blurriness of this pic is because I'm just going so damn fast!

pic 3 - Kevin F. in the homestretch

pic 4 - Tony in the bleachers

pic 5 - Jeff facing stiff competition (actually he's lapping the girl)

pic 6 - Tony, Silas, Christine and another woman I don't know.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Three Men & a Baby

KJ, Jody & I, with Silas in the stroller. Plan was to go to Lloyd Hall but we got sidetracked and made an Acme loop out of it, running 36th St. but then going up Paul's hill rather than the steeper and farther Lebanon hill. I'm getting more used to our running style, we are alot less chatty when the women aren't running with us - instead we talk in spurts and mix in periods of silence. The weather is also cooler today. All this made for a nice run. I tacked on a 39th St. loop to bring the morning's mileage up to 11 or so, in 98:28. Easy run.

I went up to Connecticut for the weekend to visit a friend and his family. Took the kids but forgot my running shoes, so that made yesterdays workout a no-brainer with a DNR.

On Saturday morning I wanted to get on the road north by 8:00. That forced a compromise with my long run, as I only had time for 11 miles, but took 7.5 of them at marathon pace. As best I could tell I kept up a 6 minute pace through those 7.5, and hit 3 river miles in 18-flat, and the next 3.5 (including the Greenland Rd. hill) in 20:51. All in all it was 11 miles in 75:55. Good run, and got on the road by 8:30.

That catches me up, and now I gotta go.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Existential Track

Greetings from Northern Virginia. Pulled in late yesterday evening and will take off again in about an hour with my "new" 97 VW Golf.

Usually when I'm staying at my sister's and I'm looking to get something other than a long run in, I'll head out to the track that's about 3 blocks from her place. Today was no exception. I really felt no reason to put in miles this morning other than to give my body something to do while I listened to music. Had on Hayes Carll, whom I've been overplaying lately. Don't know why, just a primal need to hear it.

Strange days will leave you wondering,
And good times they don't always stay.
And true love, it'll shake you like thunder.
And old friends just fade away.

Can't explain exactly why lines like those strike a chord (if I did it wouldn't be "primal"), and here I'll leave myself open for psychoanalysis.

Seven miles on the track. First mile was in 9:15 and I walked down the ladder, making each subsequent mile a bit faster until I hit the seventh in 5:56. But I was just doing this to amuse myself, to pass the time. Ironically, the first miles were harder than the last.

Seven miles in 54:09.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mister the Day the Lottery I Win. . .

I won't ever buy a used car again

Bruce Springsteen. The song strikes a chord as I head down to DC this evening to pick up a car I'm buying from my sister, and then driving it back up to Philly tomorrow morning. Nowadays the hand me downs are going the other way. But its another step in getting my life back together.

As is my custom these days at the end of the week, I ran the BN loop. 4 river miles went in 23:04 (5:50; 5:47; 5:43; 5:44) - well within tempo range. Then the Falls Bridge - Belmont Plateau piece went down in 16:24 (passing the BN summit in 8:43). All these are the fastest recorded times I've run to date. Each time I do this loop I just spank it a little harder. Yeah!

Total with warm up/cool down is 13.5 miles in 99:06.
Everyday is a winding road
I get a little bit closer
Everyday is a faded sign
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine
[Sheryl Crow. I love you!]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Am Club West Philly

At least this morning I was. KJ and Jody both took dnr's today, it looks like we've lost Erin at least through the fall, and I don't have a clue on what's up with Deirdre. So it was just me this morning. To make things more lonesome, I took the club's signature Acme loop, past the zoo and up the Lebanon hill. I never realized what a difference other people make, as that is one long-ass loop to run on my own. To make things worse, four beers last night amounted to a headache this morning (how sad is that?) that only went away after Overbrook High.

9.5 miles in 75:52.

"If a man keeps on running he'll run right into himself." A line from a Dave Alvin song I was listening to in the absence of company this morning. Stupidly profound or profoundly stupid?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Its good to be back. I'm looking here and its been almost a week since I've updated this thing. The good news is that I've been running, the bad news is that its a sign of how disordered my life currently is that I've let this thing lapse - probably for the longest spell since I've been keeping it.

I spent this morning taking care of various things, mostly little things, that are the most proximate things that make my existence currently feel chaotic. I got my bike fixed, I unpacked and did laundry, I sorted my new and old keys (Tony found my keys under one of the living room chair cushions), etc. Doesn't really touch some of the big things weighing on my mind, but I do feel better. And now I'm taking care of this.

I'll just give quick rundowns of the last few workouts, each of which have been good.

Sunday I ran again with the Philly Track Club guys. The big difference from last week to this week is that I felt alot more confident that I could hang with the pace, and I went out alot calmer. The pace was actually quicker, but the temps were a bit cooler as well. Course was about the same. Ran with Ross and a guy Pat who I didn't know. Brian joined us towards the end of the run and at about 1:45 in on Forbidden Drive he and Ross took off at what was easily sub tempo pace for me. I said what the hell and took off with them, and actually lasted about 3/4 miles before I fell back. They held it for about another quarter mile and then turned around to do it again. I begged off and headed on my own back up to Manayunk. 2:20:42, call it 19 again.

Overslept yesterday and did a regular run over lunch. Course was out to the McLeary-Nike track, into Delaware County and then the normal Cobbs Creek route to Woodland and back around via 43rd St. Midday was hot. Started out strong, started wilting on the Cobbs Creek path past Thomas Ave and then really got a second wind on Woodland to where I tore it up all the way home. Course is gmapped here and is exactly 10, in 71:19.

Today I went out to the track. I'm working late today (teaching class) so I put in some late hours last night, slept in, and did the stuff I talked about earlier before I set out to go. Decided to do 400's - qwooders if you're from Philadelphia - with 200 meter recovery. This always seemed like a real runners workout, maybe because it was short enough to where you actually need speed. Maybe because the distance is so short that to get a good workout you have to do what seems like endless numbers of repetitions. Maybe because this was the distance that Zatopek made famous with his superhuman workouts. Whatever, I figured today was a good day to be a man.

That being said, I rarely run this distance. I was unsure of how many and how fast, and settled on 16 and shoot for running them in under 75 seconds. I also gave myself the option of taking a 1000 meter recovery at halftime, breaking them up into two sets of eight.

Gate was locked at Franklin Field, but as I suspected the side entrance was open. A big crane with a hook was on the far side setting up a goal post and on my warmup lap I was relieved to see it wasn't blocking the track. I laughed to see my relief that my workout could go on unimpeded. There once was a time when I would not have been disappointed to have the track closed and me be unable to do a workout like this.

First 8 reps went in 77; 74; 75; 75; 74; 75; 76 & 77. The last rep was slower in part because I had to swerve around the crane as it was driving down the track to the other goalpost. This proved to be a good time to do my halftime recovery.

Second 8 went 80; 77; 77; 75; 76; 77; 76 & 75. The numbers speak for themselves. I'd like them to have been a second or two faster but I had a really hard time starting up again and then managed to get my splits down again. This is unusual for me, if I don't start well that usually b0des poorly for the rest of the workout. But I fought back, and really clawed to get those last reps in the times shown. At the end of the last one I had that rare confluence where my legs were buckling at the same time my lungs were bursting. I'll often get one or the other, but rarely both at the same time.

And, folks, that is why I come out to the track. For the first time this training cycle I felt that I took it to the edge and hung at the limit of where my fitness was. To get such a rush out of a process so mundane as running around fast in ovals always amazes me, but there it is. And like I hoped, it has cleared much of the bullshit out of my mind, purged it like so much sweat evaporating into the midday heat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


eds. note - I wrote this while I was in Montreal but was unable to upload it, and its been sitting in my computer for a few days. I'm posting and backdating it. ~sm


Greetings from Montreal

Writing this from Montreal, but won’t get to post it until I get home. I’m here for work related reasons, but have plenty of downtime to enjoy a city that I like a lot.

I promised myself to take it easy here with respect to running. I don’t want to stress about getting in quality workouts, and I’m due for an easy week. I stuck by my resolution yesterday [Thursday], as I ran for 35:09 – call it 4 miles. For those of you who might know Montreal, I started from the bed & breakfast I’m staying at, right on St. Louis Square and on the top end of the Latin Quarter, went up Rue Prince Arthur, through McGill University Campus, west on Sherbrooke, past Parc la Fontaine and back to the B&B.

Today [Friday] I was a little more ambitious, and ran Mont Royal Park. I did a similar run when I was here last summer. This park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (also designed NYC's Central Park and San Fran's Golden Gate Park) and consists of a wooded area around the largest elevation in the city (about 780 feet). At the summit is a large cross that is visible from much of the city. Running to the cross involves taking a wide dirt path through the woods that has a very similar feel to Forbidden Drive, only it’s all uphill. Took me 26 and a half minutes to get to the point where the road started downhill again (last year it took me 28+ minutes). I love this sustained uphill workout, where the grade is steady up but rarely steep. There are also a steady stream of runners, cyclists and walkers, which makes for some interesting people-watching.

Is it because I like this city that the women seem good-looking, or is it because the women are good-looking that I like this city?

But I digress. The nice thing about going 3+ miles uphill is that you get to run down it afterwards, and then back to the B&B. Aimed for 90 minutes and had to run around St. Louis Square three times to make that quota (actually 89:42). Call it 11 miles.

Blues tonight, hot damn!

[Saturday I didn't run]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Allons a Montreal

Me, Jody & KJ/Silas did essentially the same route today as we did last Wednesday, save we did a little detour past Erin's house on the off chance that she'd be running this morning. The weather was much cooler today, the run felt stronger, and conversation was a bit more lively. KJ even scoped out the article he will write for Runners World on the perfect training plan.

So why did this loop go by 3 1/2 minutes more slowly? Maybe the time-space continuum is a bit off today.

Called it 10 last week, but I'm thinking its a bit more this time around. So I gmapped it and the loop came out just shy of 11. 96:12.

Going to Montreal this afternoon for the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Coincidentally, the Festiblues is there this weekend as well. I spent a weekend in Montreal last summer during happier times and enjoyed the place alot. So I look forward to more of the same. I'll get in my runs as I can, I'm not pushing things this week. Sofar I've been getting my mileage in but not putting in any speed. I'm about due for an easier week.

Be back on Sunday. Don't know if I'll have internet access up there so I'll see you when I see you.


I forgot to write, I passed by this scene described by the Inquirer, must have been two hours after it occurred. Cop car on the sidewalk all accordioned and lying on its back like a big turtle, and at least two other cars just smashed up. From what I saw, its a miracle that the injuries were this light. Here is the Inquirer writeup:

Police car overturns, 2 injured in morning accident

Lloylita Prout
Inquirer Staff Writer

A police officer and a woman were injured in West Philadelphia this morning in an accident that overturned a police vehicle and damaged three other cars, authorities said.

At about 5:30 a.m., an officer traveling southbound on 48th Street collided with a silver Chevy Malibu traveling eastbound on Locust Street, police said. The police car flipped and hit two parked cars.

The police officer was taken to the the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was treated and was expected to be released.

A 58-year-old female passenger in the other car was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in stable condition.

The accident, which did not seem to involve a chase, will be investigated.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I had to be in NYC at 9am, which pretty much blew my morning run. But I did get to make it out to the Philly Runners Tuesday evening run, a rare happenstance for me.

Basically a run in 3 acts. Act 1 was the run to the Art Museum, run to the rhythm of Mike Morgan and Jim Suhler, two old Texas guitar hands who play it Austin style. At the end of this act I ran into Ryan, who played it smart this summer and just stopped running when it got too hot. However he's looking to do a half ironman at the end of this month, so I wish him luck.

Lots of folks at the Art Museum. In Act 2, I ended up running with the same folks I usually do. Bike Mike, who turned around after the John Kelly statue; KJ, who turned around a little later; and John Dubs, with whom I ran up and over the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and back down to Sweetbriar where I went right to go home and he went straight to get back to the Art Museum. Its rare that when John and I run together that its anything less than 16 miles, so it felt just like we were getting a groove going and then we parted ways. We did catch up on the important stuff - training and music.

Act 3 took me through Fairmount Park and through Mantua and into West Philly via 41st St and then Haverford Ave. More Morgan & Suhler. Nothing much to write about. I'm too lazy to gmap this loop, which means I cut myself short distance wise but I'll call it 11 miles in 88:16.


First shoutout goes to my homies at the Philadelphia Athletic Charities TC. Kevin F., Chuck, Scott and Russ won the 4x800 at the USATF National Masters Track Championships. Won as in they are now national champs. Combined time was 8:30.42. Awesome guys, and congratulations.

Second shoutout goes to Tina, who, influenced the weekend before last by one too many mojitos, decided to pick up running and has been plugging along at it despite some misadventures. Unfortunately she now also wastes her time reading this blog - so hopefully this will encourage her to keep it up!

Monday, August 07, 2006

There's Fever in the Funkhouse Now

Great line from which Rolling Stones song (no googling now)?

Was listening at work this afternoon to a House of Blues collection of blues artists doing Stones covers, and that phrase caught in my head. Rolling Stones were my favorite band all through high school. This song was covered by Johnny Copeland, but it must have been near his end days, as his voice already sounded like death.

Anyway, interesting set of bookends today. Yesterday's run wiped me out. I slept away most of yesterday afternoon, fell asleep early reading with Tony that evening, and still overslept the 6am Club West Philly run this morning. Good thing too, for even though I got my act together to make it out for a run this morning, the fever was definitely lacking. Franklin Field loop and 6 laps on the track. Pace solidly in the 9's. Even Tarika on the iPod couldn't jumpstart me. 5 in a very slow time.

Then I did a second workout when I got home this evening. I went with Fela Kuti again on the iPod and things immediately clicked. I just rolled through an Art Museum loop. Felt a smooth gliding stride that tore up the ground in front of me. Nice feeling. 6.5 in 48:07, and that distance is short because I know I ran faster than that.

There's fever in the funkhouse now!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Running with PTC

Went up to Manayunk this morning to run long with the Philadelphia Track Club guys. Going up there always gives me a sense of dread, cuz these guys are out of my league. I got up there a bit early to run 20 extra minutes with guys that wanted more than the 2 hours that comprises the usual Sunday morning run. So far so good. We get back and then about 15 or so of us take off for the regular run. Five guys start pulling ahead, I let them go, and I get into the second group with Ross and Tim. Never did find out what happened to everyone else, but different folks do different runs, depending on what they're training for.

What's long and slow for Ross and Tim amounts to long and hanging on for me, and hang on I did. They were gracious about having me with them, but if I slowed them down from what they wanted to do I couldn't tell it. As usual, we ran Forbidden Trail all the way up to the horse stables by Northwest Ave and then took a long hill up Germantown Ave toward Chestnut Hill. A right, a left, and a few more turns and I was hopelessly lost and turned around in leafy green and shady Chestnut Hill/Mount Airy. Now if I didn't hang on I wouldn't know how to get home. A powerful incentive to push it. To make a long run short, we ended up back on Forbidden Trail, took it north again to Valley Green Inn, got water, and ran the last half hour back down Forbidden Trail, across the Wissahickon trail, and then the homestretch up Ridge Ave, on a brutal and sun baked hill, back to the PTC house. On the last stretch, esp. on FT, I got a second wind and really felt good as we got the pace down well into the sub 7 zone.

As I probably say whenever I run with these guys, this is exactly what I need to be doing more of. Not just for the physical conditioning but to get in the mindset that I can train faster and, ergo, run faster.

Call it, conservatively, 19 miles in 2:19:13.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Evening Run

Spent all day at Graterford helping out in a training for Inside Out instructors. Left the house at 7 am and didn't return until 8 pm. Long day.

Something about spending all day behind those walls made me put on my running shoes as soon as I got home and just take off. Had Fela Kuti on the iPod. Nigerian jazz. Jazz with an African beat that was just gritty and chaotic enough to fit into an urban twilight. The sun was going down over Philadelphia as I hit the Schuylkill River bike path and if I imagined it right the lit-up, low-arching stone bridges could have been Paris along the Seine. It was dark already as I hit MLK, and the signature lights on Boathouse Row twinkled across the river. Then it was up Montgomery and into West Philly, where there were lights of a different kind. Parkside and Mantua have a much different feel to them on a Saturday night than they do on a Tuesday morning. Something big must have been going down, as a half dozen squad cars, lights flashing, came whizzing by me a some point or another, apparently heading toward a common destination. As I was on Belmont crossing Lancaster another cop car was stopped roadblock style at a 60 degree angle in front of an older model big old American car and the cop was frisking the driver - black male in his early 20s - who had assumed the position. And later one more cop car came up from behind, his siren blending in with Fela's sax solo.

9 miles in 70:42. I love this city.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Enhanced Performance

I was thinking more about ozone issues this morning and figured I'd fish around the internet to see what the air quality actually was. I didn't have to fish far, as Weather Underground has an "air quality forecast" as part of its local weather forecasts. Turns out the air hasn't been that unhealthy lately - it was moderate to good today and "only" rated "unhealthy for sensitive groups" yesterday.

But then, where Lombard turns into South St., I snapped to a new health hazard as a woman makes a right turn just in front of me as I'm in the middle of the crosswalk and, amazingly, the guy behind her follows her, only stopping just short of knocking into me (he probably didn't want to get his grill all bloody). The only defense I have in situations like that is a primal yell, laced with expletives and thereby throwing as much energy as I can at their steel and glass sarcophogi, but, in classic Philadelphia style, they merely repel this with a vacuous look-straight-ahead-as-if-nothing-is-going-on stare.

That (and unleashed dogs) always gets my adrenaline going. I wanted to bottle it up until I hit the Art Museum and started my tempo run, but still warm temps and a headwind conspired against me. The first river mile was in 6:02, way too slow for this workout. The second one was a bit faster in 5:55, and then the momentum hit - mile 3 in 5:49 and mile 4 in 5:44. Negative split each successive mile to get the average pace for all 4 (23:28) good enough to hit the slow side of my tempo run range. It's the fastest I've taken these river miles since Paris. The follow up stretch to this, from Falls Bridge to the Belmont Plateau end of Chamounix also went by at the fastest pace to date - 16:46, and I hit the BN summit during this stretch in 9:06. This probably don't mean much to whoever is reading this, but its how I'm gauging my progress in what amounts to my hardest workout of the week, and this is the best I've taken it. And given the residual warm temps and the headwind, this bodes well for future efforts.

So I'm saying that I'm satisfied with today's workout, something I don't say often. Especially how I took a crappy start to the river miles and turned it around.

Instead of running home I ran to the swim club and cooled down doing laps. 13.5 miles total in 1:42:09.

I had lunch at Marathon Grill with buddy and mentor Mike M. on Tuesday, something we don't do often enough. He sent me a follow up email yesterday saying that Marion Jones was at the restaurant not 24 hours after we were. Maybe the tuna steak I had was meant for her, accounting for my faster workout today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


In a modest concession to the heat, I postponed my usual Thursday BN workout until tomorrow, and instead did an 11 mile Strawberry Mansion loop. 92:46.

Again, nothing but the usual to say. The heat probably peaked yesterday afternoon, so the aftereffects lingered this morning but the expectation is that tomorrow will be cooler. I woke up at about 3 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, which I'll blame on the heat. Then my mind this morning was like a wet towel was draped over it. All I could do to crank out 8:15s. In a nod to Clifton Chenier, who was on my iPod this morning, I ran at the pace of a zydeco waltz with the accordian and saxophone slow dancing in three-four time.

And a thought to ponder. When people ask me about my running, I will often tell them that its not about the fitness but for something more primal (don't worry, this won't be a "why do I run" navelgazing exercise). To underscore this, I say that if studies came out tomorrow showing that running causes cancer, I'd probably still be out there the next morning, getting in my ten miles.

Of course this was always nice and metaphorical. Now I was talking to my mom last night and, as she is prone to doing, expressed her worries about some aspect or other of my running. These days it is, not surprisingly, running in the heat. That doesn't worry me but then she mentioned the air quality (or lack thereof) that accompanies these muggy dog days and I had to concede that she had a point. An hour and a half of breathing in this air, especially in Philadelphia, probably negates any fitness gained from the endeavor and leads me to wonder what damage breathing this shit in, in Sam's Club-sized quantities, does to me in the long run.

But come tomorrow, I'll be out there doing my ten miles.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Matter of Faith

Jody, KJ/Silas, the heat and me this morning. We did an Art Museum loop and, as we went over the South Street Bridge, Center City was in a haze with the sun as an orange fireball between the Liberty Place buildings.

Once we got to the end of the bike path Jody suggested we go the extra quarter mile to Lloyd Hall to hit the water fountain. Good idea, and a new wrinkle to an old loop was born.

As we cut through Hill Field at Penn, we saw Veena running down Walnut St. looking in fine form. This was in stark contrast to our slog, and led to a discussion on mileage, which led me to make a comment to the effect that if we were looking just to do quality miles, this run would be axed really quick. After KJ and Jody bailed at 47th St., I continued down Locust to Cobbs Creek and back home on Cedar. But that question, the "why do I run on a day like today" stuck in my head.

Don't really have an answer for it. Maybe its a matter of faith. Like daily mass, you just go.

Call it a long 10 in 92:40.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Training Partner

The U. of Pennsylvania sent out an email alert to faculty yesterday, in conjunction with this week's heat advisory. Among the suggested precautions, it stated:

- Eliminate strenuous activities such as running, biking, lawn care, or other physical exertion

Notice how it lumps running in with lawn care. WTF? Anyway, in spite of (or perhaps because of) this I went down to Franklin Field this morning to see what kind of a track workout I could get in. The sun was indeed beating down, but it was early enough so that half the track was still in the shadows. I didn't get too imaginative - 800s (400 rec) in as close to 2:40 as I could get for as long as I could do it. I would try to get a good workout in but I wasn't going to fight the heat.

I got in six reps - 2:37; 2:39; 2:39; 2:39, 2:42; 2:45. At this point I improvised - taking an 800m recovery, running a sub 6 minute 1600 (5:57), another 800 recovery, and, satisfied that I spent long enough in the heat and got a requisite amount of miles, I headed home. Altogether I ran ten miles.

Not what I would call a quality workout but then again the main quality of this workout was that it happened at all. I'm making my peace with the heat. Learning how to work with it, probing it and seeing that it has secrets and virtues and, given that its sticking around for awhile, making it a training partner. In return hopefully it will lend me some support at Stone Harbor and in Virginia Beach. If nothing else, the heat is starting to focus me for the latter, and each day it stays hot the more my eyes focus on this prize.

I finished my laps and made to leave Franklin Field, only to see that maintenance had closed the gate again. Maybe this was in response to the heat advisory (I wonder if Penn suspended all lawn care as well). I pondered my situation - me and the women's field hockey team locked in Franklin Field! But unfortunately I knew the place too well and quickly found a side exit.