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, October 31, 2006

Legs Running the Show

Time to get back to business today. Got up early and set out to do the dreaded Bloody Nipple loop.

Ran into KJ/Silas on Spruce Street and we ran down to the Art Museum together, speaking of racing and training regimens. With the daylight saving time, it now gets light just as I leave the house, and there was a beautiful pinkish/purplish sunrise over Center City.

Once we parted, I shifted it into high gear but couldn't quite get there speedwise. The MLK miles went in 5:53, 5:52, 5:49 (I think I'm gaining here), and 5:53 for 4 miles in 23:27. Not quite tempo pace but I swear my legs just set the pace and promptly ignored any messages my brain was sending it. Anaerobically I felt fine, but when the legs speak I have little choice but to listen.

But for the next segment I got that Radnor feeling back and cruised up the BN, hitting the summit in 8:41 and just hammering it over to Belmont Plateau for a total time of 16:10. Both of these are up there with the fastest times I have recorded for these checkpoints. So who knows what my legs were thinking.

So a mixed bag this morning, but it goes a long way toward my feeling back in the groove again. I really like hitting this loop hard, but only after I've done it and got it in the logbook.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tail Wagging the Dog

Was out late on Sunday and, while definitely no regrets, did not make it up to run in the a.m. So I had to squeeze the run in between life.

But it seems like my running has taken on a life of its own, and I am currently not in control of it. Just two more weeks of hard training before the marathon taper, so I think I can hang on till then. I ran a mile with Tony around a loop through the neighborhood we have set up and try to run together at least a few times a week. We got a new course record today, 9:21. I then tacked on a Franklin Field loop with two laps around the track, 4 miles in 28:13. Felt like I had a little of that stride I had yesterday leftover, and just seemed to glide through the whole run.

After the kids were in bed I ran down to the ARC and did another 4 (28:34) on the hamster wheel, finishing with five minutes to spare before closing time. With the out and back it was another five miles.

This gives me ten miles for the day, and puts me over 300 for the month.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Radnor Run

If you had a sadistic nature to you and had to design a race course, you would probably put the start at the highest point in the area and make it a loop so that the finish would be there as well. Welcome to the Radnor Run.

It was a beautiful fall morning, with sun shining and bright fall colors adorning huge Main Line houses. Kevin Forde, Tony & I headed up. . . and up and up to Willow Park and the staging area, which looked to have once been a mansion looking over an impressive property that is now a park. Immediately upon the start the course drops, but I hold back and hang with two Bryn Mawr store guys - Jason Bull and another I didn't recognize, who I figure are the ones who will provide competition. The downhill start means about 25 people jumped out ahead of us, but I stay patient and by the time we are out of the park and onto the roads it's the three of us and another guy I don't know, with a Delaware Running Co. singlet on, in the lead pack. Pace feels easy but its a hilly course, and I feel relaxed and, for once, like I am not in over my head. Jason drops off and the rest of us continue to work together through mile 1 (5:41) and mile 2 (5:14). The pace did not feel that different between the two miles, and I suspect these markers were not accurate, but I'm happy with how relaxed I continue to feel despite the ups and downs.

After mile 2 Bryn Mawr store guy falls back and its me and Delaware Store guy. Over hill and over dale, beautiful countryside but exhausting. We continue to work together for another half mile or so and he pulls out to a 50 or so meter lead. And for the rest of the race I'm staring at his back, unable to close the lead. In the meantime, there is nobody threatening my back, so miles 3, 4 & 5 cruise by in 5:31, 5:27 & 5:14 and I huff it up the homestretch, now uphill, for an easy second place finish in 27:09. Needless to say, I would easily have broken 27 had this course been a little more sane.

Believe it or not, this is a big PR. Five miles was never my best distance, and my previous best time, in 2003 at the Rockland Road Runners Turkey Trot, was an admittedly very soft 27:52 that should have fallen a long time ago. But for another comparision, there were two 5 mile races over tough courses that I ran this year - the Revolution Run in Valley Forge Park, right at 28 minutes; and the Media 5 miler, at 28:12. So another telling sign on how much my times have dropped. Dropped to the point where I'm waiting for someone to link my name with Balco labs. And this was a training through race, I did not go anything near Prefontaine here.

The main reason I ran this was because it was a Mid Atlantic USATF Grand Prix race, and as best I can tell (its complicated to tell exactly) I am in second place in the overall Grand Prix standings, which tally your times, adjusted for age, over a series of nine of eleven races going on throughout the year in the mid-Atlantic region. I am on the heels of David James, a 50 something year old Delaware guy whom I don't know. Before today, I needed to get at least 1.5 points more than he for each of the three remaining races on the GP circuit (including this one) to pass him. By my (unofficial) calculations I gained 3+ points on him today. So there are two more races - next weeks Ben Franklin Bridge run and the Rothman/Phila Marathon (you can choose your race) - left and my chances look pretty good for overtaking him. Mr. James must be watching his back rather nervously.

Tony ran the one-mile and, though it wasn't timed, he finished in the top 100 and got a medal for his efforts.

Somewhat eerily, given my indecision about what to do with my PDR check (frame it or cash it; see last Wednesday's blog entry), along with my second place finish I won a $75 gift certificate for the Frame Station Gallery, an art framing place.

Kevin, KJ and I teamed up with Elizabeth S. (w/ capital initials) and her friend Kristy in a team of convenience to get a team discount on the entry fee, and we won the team competition. This got us each a medal and a team plaque, which we gave to Elizabeth for her organizing the team.

I almost got my entry fees worth back in leftover Penn Maid yogurts that I took home with me.

And some photos:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

100 Minute Man

Headed down to the Art Museum this morning to see who was there for the 9:30 run. I was in luck, as I got to hook up with Ian and Craig and we headed up MLK to make up our route as we went along. I haven't seen Ian in months, so it was good to catch up. The pace was about 7/7:15, and went far to jolt me out of the easy 8 rut I've been going at all week. We seemed to glide along, and the conversation was as relaxed as the running.

At Montgomery Ave we headed up to Belmont Plateau and took the fire road. This gravelly road took us through the woods, which are about at their peak of color. I like these colors much better against a grey sky, and the weather this morning was obliging. From there we popped up at Strawberry Mansion Bridge, crossed it and went around the reservoir, and then Ian took us on some paths around Brewerytown where I had never been. Just as I was cursing him for leading us on a set of ever narrowing trails, we popped up on top of the rock just north of the Girard Ave bridge which you drive through, tunnel-like on Kelly Drive. Pretty cool vantage point.

I took my leave of Ian and Craig when we got to Girard Ave and headed home. I went on 42nd Street, which is a through street again now that they've finished refurbishing the railroad bridge. And a nice bridge it is, although I miss the potholes in which you can look down through and see the tracks 100 feet below.

Radnor Run 5 miler is tomorrow. Yeah, I know, I'm racing way too much this fall, but I'm looking at it more as a "hard workout" (yeah that's it!) and its on the Grand Prix circuit and Tony will run the one mile run they have with it and my "coach" will be there and I'll have something to write about tomorrow. What more excuses do I need?

Impossible to gmap this course, so I'll conservatively say 13 in exactly 100 minutes, well, 1:40:01 to be exact.

Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, Oh Glory, I'll fly away, in the morning.
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

- traditional

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lansdowne Sycamore

Got up at 4:15 am yesterday to get on the road at 5:15 am so as to get to Harrisburg for a conference. Got back to Philly to teach class and then went out afterwards to catch some music at the Mill Creek Tavern. Thus blogging and running didn't happen.

This morning I gave myself a mental health day. The first step towards recovery was to sleep in (relatively speaking) to about 8, the second step was to go for a long run and clear out the cobwebs. I underestimated the distance of this loop considerably, and this should teach me to measure out loops BEFORE instead of after I run them.

The run was long and slow. It was noteworthy in three respects. First, it took me through three different counties (Phila, Montgomery & Delaware), only time I ever did more was when I ran the NYC marathon. Second, despite the overcast skies it was a gorgeous fall day awash with oranges, reds, browns and yellows. And third, I made it a point to again go up to Lansdowne and this time properly introduce myself to a 300 year old tree.

The Lansdowne sycamore sits in a postage stamp park in "downtown" Lansdowne. Its trunk is as thick as a redwood and, while redwoods go straight up, this tree is nearly as wide as it is tall. By the time I made it to the tree I had already been running for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and I stopped for a few minutes to fully take in its majesty. As I approached its girth felt more formidable, not just in its trunk but also in its lower branches, a few of which spread out low and horizontal in various directions. 300+ years old, and by the looks of it will still outlive anyone reading this. A peace and an energy emanated from this tree, and in celebration I jumped up to swing from one of its low branches, kicking my feet around. I had already done 20+ miles, more than I should have, but as I started up again and headed down Baltimore Pike for the 3 or so miles left in this homestretch, I felt a new spring in my step that was a product of either the tree's life force, the Gallobreak of walking around the tree, or the GU I took about 15 minutes before I got there. You decide.

Thanks to Rebecca for suggesting that I run by this tree. We met a few weeks ago at the Delaware Distance Classic and have built a really nice friendship since then (complete with little insinuations amidst these blog entries). She's smart, beautiful, she runs, and emails me running routes with little detours like this. To paraphrase a Robbie Robertson lyric: "A [runner's] dream if I ever did see one."

24 miles in 3:13:48. The most non-marathon miles I've run in one shot since 1997.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday Morning

Met KJ/Silas and Deirdre this morning at 6:30, a little later than usual and we went north to do a slightly twisted version of the Acme loop. Deirdre is now unofficially Dr. Deirdre, as she successfully defended her dissertation last week. As Deirdre is the best marathoner I know, I'm sure she is well aware of the parallels between what it takes to do a marathon and what it takes to do a dissertation. But fortunately for all of us except the most masochistic, you only write a dissertation once.

Speaking of marathons, part of the Acme loop was up "Paul's Hill", named after the same Paul who ran a 3:10 Chicago Marathon over the weekend (because he charged up that damn hill like an idiot every morning we ran with him). He emailed me with a report of the race which I'm tempted to repost here but its a little long. John, who ran a 3:05 last weekend, posted his full report on his blog. I mention both of them together because they are very similar. In many respects they have been racing Chicago for the last few months, as they each took a solid training base with them, as well as the self-discipline to set a realistic goal pace and to stick with it. Each of their accounts read like clockwork, banging out steady mile splits with the absence of any drama and resisting the urge to go faster although they felt fine and the pace felt slow. The main difference was that at the end John still had enough gas to where he could pick up the pace and negative split, where Paul started to fade toward the end but still had enough of a cushion to hold on. If earlier he did not keep what he thought at the time was a slow pace, he likely would have blown up over the last miles. Textbook accounts of how to run a marathon. As a result both are going to Boston, and I'm seriously considering going up as well.

In the blog entry before this one you'll see that I scanned a check I got in the mail yesterday. $250 for third place masters finish at PDR. I don't know whether I should cash it or frame it. I'm not big on keeping trophies and medals and the like, but this one is different. PDR is a world class half marathon, and I ran my first one, in 1997, with a respectable but somewhat pedestrian time of 1:28:30. Never did I imagine then that I could be running this for prize money someday. And I think that's what this check means. If I could do this, what other things can I take on, in spite of my limited vision, and get similar results? That's why I'd like to have that check hanging on a wall and staring at me.

In John's aforementioned blog entry he gives me a quick mention as helping him to keep going. Thanks John, that means alot to me. If I have any influence on you or the other three g. or so people who read this, then think of the places you can take your running, or any other parts of your lives, and think big. And I hope I can live by that. It brings to mind a Nelson Mandela line I heard quoted in a speech a few weeks back: "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than one you are capable of living."

There, now I made myself cry. I think that is one of the differences in this training cycle from previous ones - at any given time lately there have been about five different things that can make me cry. Now I better go before I give in to the temptation to write something cynical and sabotage all this.

Ten miles in 84:14.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Homework Pass

In Tony’s fourth grade class, if over a period of time you hand in all of your assignments and do well in them, then Ms. Jones will give you a homework pass. You can keep it and hand it in in place of an assignment. Kind of like a get out of jail free card.

I figure I must have earned a homework pass or two in training over these last few months, and this morning I cashed one in. My usual BN tempo run was up for today. But once again I got to bed too late, and had to drag myself up. When I got on the road I could not imagine myself up for doing any tempo pace, but that is not unusual; by now I can plan on that feeling dissipating as I warm up. But this morning it didn’t. Nonetheless, when I got to MLK I gave it a whirl, and actually thought I was going around marathon pace when the first quarter mile hash clocks in at 96. At that point I decided it would be homework pass time. My legs just didn’t have it this morning, and I’m officially overtrained.

I think I’m overtrained because I can be. This newfound speed I’ve got is a hell of a lot of fun, and I just want to use it. But now it’s a little like Phaethon driving his daddy Apollo’s chariot – it may be a little more power than I know yet how to handle. I need to take care of what I got, nurture it. And this week seems like the time to start. So I’m going to extend this homework pass and scale it back until the weekend.

From MLK I turned left on Sweetbriar to cut back a planned 13.5 mile loop to 8 miles. This let me run past the Civil War Memorial, with Meade and Hancock and their colleagues sitting mounted on top of its grand columns, silhouetted in the morning light against a dark blue sky. Then it was across Girard and into Mantua via 41st St.

My runs down these streets are infrequent enough these days to become snapshots, and like time lapse photography I can see the changes from one run to the other. The 42nd St. bridge over the railroad tracks by Girard Ave is now completely rebuilt, and looks brand new. Infill housing is popping up in the gaps between rowhouses like wildflowers, and little signs of pride in homeownership – fall flowers blooming, new paint jobs, etc. are apparent. The neighborhood still has a ways to go, but seems on the upturn.

Little signs of life amidst what can appear to be a deathlike expanse. A spring metaphor for this most autumn of mornings. 8 miles in 72:12.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sixty Minute Man

60:16 to be precise. Only problem was that it was over the Art Museum loop, 6.5 miles.

This really wasn't a problem at all. Just a nice laid back run, where I shouldn't have even taken a watch. Legs felt weary, but I felt fine from the waist up. Just took in the chilly late October morning with Dave Alvin on the iPod. Just enjoyed being out there.

As I was heading up 32nd St. from the Spring Garden Bridge there was a beautiful sunrise providing a backlight to the Center City skyscrapers with the 30th St. Station trainyard in the foreground.

Fall does seem here. Two things brought this home this morning. First was the silhouetted sight of a homeless looking guy squatting over a steam grate smoking a cigarette. Second was the multidirectional wind kicking up leaves and whatnot around the Hamilton Village high rise dorms on Penn campus.

I think that'll be it for today. An laid back entry to accompany a laid back run.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NERR 25K Marathon Tune Up

Early Chicago results are in. John finishes in 3:04 and Paul finishes in 3:10. This means both of them are now eligible for Boston (for their age, anything under 3:11 and their in). Looking at the clock, both of them really ran nice even races. John's first 13.1 miles were run in 1:32:44, meaning that he actually ran a faster second half (always impressive), and Paul came into the halfway mark at 1:34:30, meaning that there was only about a 1:30 difference between halves. That's what good training and smart strategy does - just lets you crank out those seemingly endless miles and make it look easy.

Now I may have to take a road trip to Boston this Spring.

Zeke also seems to have done well, just under 2:59 (I don't know what his goal time was) and Ryan who hung tough to finish in 4:48. Congrats to both.

As for me, I'll say again that it takes a village to train for a marathon. Was looking to go long (20+ miles) today, and figured I could find some company at the NE Roadrunners 25k (15.5 mile) Marathon Tune Up. This "tune up" starts at Lloyd Hall and unimaginatively takes you up Kelly Dr. and back down West River until you almost do a full loop, and then you turn around and retrace your steps. So its like a big out and back horseshoe. So running out there and back, with this 15.5, would give me about 21 or 22.

Its run like a race, but nobody really runs it at race pace. Most folks running it are using it to prep for their fall marathon. I was pretty much in that boat too. I met up with Duncan at the start and we agreed to run together at a 5:48 pace, which is on course for a 2:33 marathon time. Art Dicola takes off way ahead of us from the start, and Duncan and I work together to crank out steady 5:48s through about the first 10.5 miles. Its not so hard for us that we don't get some conversation in, but the effort definitely increases as the race goes on. After about 8 miles my stomach starts heading south and when a portapotty comes up at about 10.5 I took my leave of Duncan. I resume my running just as Rick McGarry, the fourth place runner, goes by and I hook up with him. I'd done some running with him when I was going up to Bryn Mawr, and we worked together at a more or less steady 5:55 pace. This was a much better pace for me for this race, but my stomach problems were making me feel queasy for my whole time with him. But I just tied a rope around him and hung on. In that position, and in a race like this, it would have been rude to hammer it at the end (and I don't know if I would have got him), so I finished a second behind him for fourth place. My "shit time" (not counting time spent in the porta potty) was 90:38, I missed my official time which will be posted here.

I really felt miserable afterwards, to the point where Kevin Matthews was nice enough to drive me back home and save me from running another three miles. Thanks Kevin, that made a huge difference. I just endured some teasing and had some chicken soup and think I'm feeling a bit better.


Pace for the 25k averaged to 5:51. This is a bit fast to go out for the marathon, and reinforces my plan to go out at a 6 minute pace. This in itself is a valuable realization.

Find people to work with in the marathon. That made a big difference today as I could not have maintained a sub 6 pace if Rick weren't around.

I've almost definitely overtrained this week. I ran alot of miles hard this week and finished at 76 total miles, which is a bit less than what I was shooting for. But its more a drained feeling, an aching in the lower calves and achilles, and now these GI problems that are warning signs.

I'm not sure what to make of these GI "issues". Could be a problem or could be a non-issue. The three years I've run this I've had to stop each time. Looking back to yesterday and Friday, I pretty much grazed steady for a day and a half while at the conference on a variety of food and lots of M&Ms. Not the best pre-race diet. So watch what I eat in the days before CIM and have faith that my body will step up when the race comes. It always has.

I think the "tune up" today was mostly mental, running those last 5 or 6 miles while feeling miserable has got to help get ready for the marathon, where I will be guaranteed to feel miserable for one reason or another for the last miles. It is also, however, a depressing thought as this really wasn't a fun race. And maybe that is something to focus on as well. My training of late has been hard and intense, but it has not been fun. And I'm looking at 3 more weeks of this before I start winding things down.

But I'll figure that out some other time. Kevin Forde (who, for those of you who don't know, is my roomate now) got us hooked up with Direct TV and, although I can now no longer be an anti cable snob, we can waste perfectly good Sunday afternoons watching British Premiership soccer league games. The kids are over as well.

Yes it takes a village. Complete with a friend who teases when the running doesn't stop with the workout, but who I'm betting also realizes this weekend how villages help get you through all kinds of situations. Hang in there.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Crossing Cobbs Creek

Got home from Baltimore this afternoon from a conference I spent yesterday and part of today at. Wanted to get two easy runs in yesterday but did not go out in the morning rain and then must have stayed at the only business type hotel that has a fitness center without a treadmill in it? WTF? Harbor Suites - if you're ever in Baltimore, be warned. Then again, maybe it was the act of a benevolent higher power who knew I needed a rest day.

So when I got home I decided to map a route into a heretofore unexplored vector. On the few occasions I've gone over Cobbs Creek into Delaware County I've stayed pretty close to the county line. This time I plotted a course deeper in. This had me go into Yeadon, Lansdowne (with a little detour to see the sights), and Darby. Deep enough in to where I got lost as I missed my intended turn off of Lansdowne Ave. and, for what I think is a first, I actually cut a mile off my planned course by going astray. Then it was back across the Creek and home on Chester & Kingsessing Aves.

10.5 miles in 79:47.

Tomorrow's the Chicago Marathon. Want to give a shout out to my peeps that are running it - John "JohnDubs" Wesner, Ryan Ward, and, all the way from England, Paul Burton. Root for John and Paul to run 3:10 or under, their ticket to Boston. Zeke, whom I know virtually, will be running Chicago as well. Of course I wish them all the best.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


First, slept in a bit this morning (intentionally) and did a 4-mile Franklin Field loop up to 49th St. It was a reconnaissance run to let me check out how my legs were doing (a little stiff but fine). Anson and the Rockets (featuring the late Sam Myers) on the iPod. 34:46.

The picture was taken before the run.

And I went out again at lunchtime. Mike knows me too well, and pointed out that I'd done two hard workouts in the last 48 hours, and he said go easy. But he also reminded me, unintentionally I think, that CIM was 6 weeks away. That gives me about 3 more quality training weeks. Eek. So Seebo followed the gravitational pull of the track.

Here Seebo was like an alcoholic going to a bar. First it was: I'll just poke my head inside, maybe take a few laps, but only to air it out a bit. Then it was: Let me try to get one 800 meter rep in under 2:35, see how that feels. Then one led to another and all of a sudden he had six 800's (w/ 400m recovery) under his belt. 2:34, 2:33, 2:34, 2:33, 2:34, 2:33. Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock. Set 'em up and slam 'em down. For each one of 'em, the 400m split was either 77 or 78. Although they (of course) got progressively harder, there was a feeling of complete control. And being unsure of how many reps he was going to do, Seebo had that "run each rep as though it were your last" approach.

And then I did a seventh rep and the magic seemed to be gone. My legs felt like they were breaking down and that I was slowing up. I was prepared to call off the chase after 400 but saw my split was, again, 78. Damn, I can do this. And with that I entered that zone, just over the edge of my abilities and into the unknown, that characterizes a good track workout. The last lap felt faster, but the watch said 2:36. An expletive reverberated throughout the empty Franklin Field. And then Steve, the bartender, stepped in and cut Seebo off. You've had enough for today, Buddy. Seebo whirled around and wanted one more crack, an even eight, but it wasn't going to happen. Then slowly he resigned himself to being done. Spent. Depleted.

These workouts are getting too intense. 8 more miles, giving me 12 for the day.

And as I fall apart, I learn to fly.
A dirty bird like me will learn to fly.

PS - Some person has a website with a bunch of Saratoga photos including an action shot of me when I still had a pretty good sized lead (before the hounds caught up to me at mile 1). You can check it (and alot of other pics) out here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Beat the Clock

Couldn't get up this morning, couldn't fit in a run today. No matter how hard I tried life kept popping up and closing potential workout windows. I make it a point to warn my kids that there will days like these.

Finally dispensed all of my obligations and got out the door at 9pm. It was 9:05 when I got on the hamster wheel at USP. The gym closes at 10. If I get in 9 miles then that, with the half mile each back and forth to home, will give me 10 and redeem the day. I wasted no time setting the wheel on 10 - 6 minute pace and the fastest it will go, and just kept it up until Marc the ARC manager told me I had two minutes left. I only needed a minute and a half of that to finish up my nine.

Total time was 54:07, and another mile warmup/ cooldown.

I had BB King and Eric Clapton on the iPod. Amazing blues. By mile 6 the only pain more intense than what was coming out of my lungs was the pain being pumped into my ears.

Get on a TWA to the promised land.
Every woman, child and man
Gets a Cadillac and a great big diamond ring.
Don't you know you're riding with the king?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Altering Egos

I didn’t get many miles in this weekend so I figured I’d get up a little earlier this morning and get in a long run. Longish, anyway, as I settled on the Falls River Bridge loop, which is actually a figure 8 comprising of a Schuylkill Drives loop set on top of an Art Museum loop. 15 miles. Once at the Art Museum, I took the 8 river miles at sub 2:40 marathon pace (47:51). But that wasn’t the half of it. The four MLK miles just wouldn’t get under six, and Falls Bridge clocked in at 24:33. This means that I got the Kelly 4 down in 23:18. Just dropped it down into tempo gear after five and took care of business. Not the recommended way to get in MP miles, but it worked this morning. A good workout is like a drug, it just pulses good feelings through your veins and then the next day you want another one.

Other notes. It was dark well past the time I got to Falls River Bridge. Also warm and overcast. I outlasted my iPod. It was freshly charged overnight and pooped out a half mile before I did. This means its time to get another one. Up till then it was all Carbon Leaf, all the time. Getting set/psyched for checking out the Carbon Leaf & Matt Nathanson concert tonight.

I was asked yesterday whether Seebo represented my alter ego. Thought about this question a bit this morning. It fits. Seebo, especially on a day like this morning, is very driven, focused, and intense. Beating the clock, getting under the goal time, becomes all consuming, as does beating the competition at a race. This past weekend he was even heard (gasp) trash talking before the race about how he was going to kick ass. Steve is way too laid back for all that. He rolls his eyes and comes along for the ride. It is he who chronicles all this stuff and keeps this blog. Fits all this running stuff into a bigger picture and makes Seebo slow down to check out the sunrise. Gets a bit too full of himself at times. Steve realizes that this right now is Seebo’s heyday, but someday it will be Steve who gets in the last word.

A shout to Jim for his comment yesterday that pointed out King Britt and his song “Cobbs Creek.” Any song (save the Fresh Prince of BelAir theme) putting West Philly front and center gets my attention. I liked the song, although I’m not a hiphop guy and the Cobbs Creek that Britt sings about is a different place, not geographically but in that the Cobbs Creek I know is that of the early morning where Britt’s is the late night. We miss each other by a few hours, but that makes all the difference.

Results from Saratoga are up here. Two things I want to point out. I screwed up our finish order, Jeff actually finished just behind me and ahead of Chuck and Scott, so give him credit where it is due. And, true to what I said about XC, it was our number 5 guy - Jim Cuono - who was key to our finishing ahead of Chester County (he accounted for 7 points of the 8 point margin), but also finished three places behind Genessee Valley's #5 guy, which proved to be the margin for second place. I’m proud of our team, and wanted to take this opportunity to crow a little bit more.

15 miles in 1:40:03.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Distance over Time

Just me and KJ/Silas this morning in the chilly darkness. We headed down Spruce/South St. to the bike path and the Art Museum, debriefing on our racing over the weekend. KJ placed second in the Eastern State Penitentiary Great Breakout 5k, pr’d (18-twenty something?) and scored some good shwag in the form of some restaurant certificates. What more can one want? The course went through Girard College campus, which I’ve never been on the inside of though on several occasions I’ve run along the walls on its perimeter. It would have been worth the race fee alone to see that. I heard that some guy spouting Foucault won the race.

Silas chimed in at about the Art Museum, looking to get out of the stroller. He calmed down again but we picked up the pace to get home, and almost made it before he started up again. The two then went home and I went into stage 2, slapping Carbon Leaf on the iPod and throwing it down a gear. I took it out to Cobbs Creek and went back down Cedar Ave to get another 3.5 miles and make the morning workout an even 10. Did not time this run but I would guess it averaged 7/7.5 minute pace.

I thought this morning of the mileage I lost this weekend, and remember another thing I learned: how little mileage track guys seem to do. The track guys on the Philly AC team marveled that I’ve been logging 80 mile weeks, I was surprised that they didn’t. The guys I try to emulate get up to 100 or 110 miles a week, I only think that I’m starting to get serious when I hit 90. But I guess you don’t need that many miles to go around the track twice. That’s also been the reason why Kevin F. has been disappointed with his recent road race times. He’s turned to the dark side (i.e., track racing) this year and, at 30 or 40 miles a week, he just can’t build enough endurance to run 13.1 miles fast. And I guess that’s why I don’t run anything less than 5k; because at that distance I feel I’m only starting to warm up. And, besides, putting in the mileage is the best part of this whole bloody business.

Under the wire,
I'm a train down the line.
Nothing left to lose or gain,
But distance over time.
(Carbon Leaf)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

USATF Masters XC Nationals

Saturday (contains nothing about running, so skip to the Sunday section for Nationals)

Saturday morning, a bright sun cutting through the chilly air as Tony and I pulled out of Philadelphia at 7:30 am. Just me and him this weekend, roadtrippin’ it. A quick stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts and then Tony slaps on his iPod and I rummage through the cassette tapes that I had scrounged up from what I had left lying around. The car I bought a few months back still has only its original cassette player, and I had jettisoned most of my cassettes years ago. The one’s that were left were old Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, Joe Ely and the like, and mostly live. The kind of music I listened to on road trips in years gone by.

We started up 95 and into Jersey, onto 31 outside of Trenton, and 202 to 287 which got us onto the NYS Thruway. The farther up north we got the brighter the fall colors got. When we got off the Thruway we stopped just past the tolls so I could look at the map. Tony stretched his legs outside and when he came back he was waving a $10 bill around that he had found in the grass. From here it was past Albany, through Troy and onto the backroads all the way to Cambridge, population 2,000, and we got to my friend Eva’s at about 1:00.

I had worked with Eva some back around 2000 when she helped me get data for a big project in NYC that I was working on. We struck up a friendship as we negotiated the Byzantine computer system of NYC’s public hospital system but had lost touch until she called, out of the blue, about three weeks ago. Turns out she, her husband and two kids left their house in midtown Manhattan and moved out to rural upstate New York, where they bought a farm spread and an additional 150 acres of undeveloped land. On a whim, I asked her how far they were from Saratoga and couldn’t believe my luck when she said about 20 miles. I told her I would be inviting myself to visit during Nationals.

There farm is still very much a work in progress, and apparently it takes quite some learning and work before a farm actually gets to be productive. They had just finished building a barn, had stuff growing, and Eva was full of plans about getting livestock for next Spring. We also went out to the land they owned, which comprised a natural bowl with a small pond in the middle (i.e., the bottom) and were surrounded by hillsides thick with brightly colored trees. They had a cabin and a sauna (yes! a wood-burning sauna) by the pond, and when you are down there the surrounding hills cut you off from the rest of the world. Eva said that hippies came out here and chanted for harmonic peace when the planets aligned in the 80’s. The sauna is wood burning and right by the pond so, Swedish style, you schwitz awhile and then jump into the pond, regardless of the season. I now have a standing invitation to come out to this cabin. After we got back to the house we all had pizza and Eva, Mike and I sat around the propane stove, drank wine and talked while Tony and their two kids bonded over Playstation.


Tony stayed at Eva’s and I left for Saratoga Springs and the XC meet at 8:30. Temps were chilly, in the high 30’s and sunny, and there was frost on the road. About 20 miles through country back roads and I was in Saratoga Springs. The meet was in Saratoga Spa State Park, an expansive park built around Greco-Roman bathhouses that once let people enjoy the hot springs in the area. I found the rest of Philly AC Track Club: Chuck Shields – Mr. Cross-country himself, excellent runner and you swear even up here he knows everybody and everybody knows him; Jeff Hayes – another excellent runner a few years older than I, whom I’ll usually beat in local races but he will come back to outscore me on the age-grade; Scott Landis – a crack middle-distance track guy stepping up to go 5 whole kilometers; and two guys, Keith Davies and Jim Cuono, who I hadn’t met nor did I know much about their running. In addition to that, PACTC had an over 50 team – Paul Hines, Russ Patton & Pete Heeson, and a women’s team – Joan Affleck, Mary Pat McFarland, Sarah Tabbut, & Suzanne Pacitti.

The guys immediately set on briefing me on the course, and we all then proceeded to run part of the course as our warm up. I felt a sense of camaraderie almost instantly: an easygoing banter, strategizing from a team perspective, and a solidarity coming from the knowledge that we all had a stake in each of our performances. One great thing about XC was that all five people who score are equally important for the final result, and even the six and seven guys (we only had six) are important in their ability to displace people from other teams. This is pretty basic cross country stuff, but is all new to me, and I was drinking it in.

The course started on one side of a big field that funneled and then went between the park administration building and a rectangular pool. It then went into the woods and would go up two fair sized hills. It was also a well known secret that, though it was advertised at 5k, was actually 79 meters short (so the USATF championships were not on a USATF certified course). Given this, I gave myself two goals: a top ten finish and a sub 16 minute time

As the time approached the 11 am start everyone started lining up at the starting line that stretched for a good one hundred yards, and we looked like an infantry charge about to commence. With my goals in mind, when the starters pistol went off so did I. To my surprise no one went with me and when the course funneled into a path I was in the lead. Against my better judgment I looked back, to make sure I didn’t take a wrong turn. Chuck later said he wanted to scream at me to slow down but decided not to.

As for me, having gone over my head and held it for two of my last three races, I thought lets see what happens. I held the lead almost up to the first mile marker (5:08) when a pack of guys overtook me on the uphill. A couple of more individuals overtake me soon thereafter, including Kevin Kelly, a former coach of mine and organizer of the Chester County Running Store team, with whom we have a friendly but palpable rivalry. Kevin is generally much faster than I, so I found it encouraging that I spent much of the second mile hanging on to him and dueling it out with a Central Park Track Club guy and someone else.

Up the second hill, steeper than the first, and the second mile marker (5:14) was right in the middle. This hill did not feel bad on the warmup but the last part of it was lung searing this time around and I had to slow a bit when the course again leveled. From here it was a loop through the woods and an almost 600 meter straightaway across the field to the finish. After about 100 meters I recovered enough to again get position with the two guys I was dueling, Kevin had moved up ahead. But I really had to push, this was tougher than any 5k I had run. Then we were out of the woods and it was a sprint to the finish. One guy got ahead of me and I got ahead of CPTC guy. When I could read the finish clock it was at 15:50 and ticking. It mesmerized to where I didn’t dig for that last bit I had, but despite this lapse in concentration I got in at 15:59 (last 1.? miles in 5:37) and, more important, 8th place!

30 seconds or so later Chuck and Scott came in one after the other and Jeff came in soon thereafter – 4 guys under 17 minutes. Jim and Keith came in at around 17:30 and we realized we all did well and maybe even had a shot at winning something. I have never felt so spent after a race, and my lungs were burning, a very unpleasant sensation I never had before. And now I have a sore throat to show for it.

The race is over and you immediately huddle with your teammates to see how things went, how people finished, who placed where and ahead of who on the other teams. There is never enough information, though, to know how the team scored. I got called on what I was thinking with my jackrabbit start. In my defense I said that, while I slowed some, I did not crash. And then Chuck, like a final arbiter, decides that that was okay, that perhaps the leaders had started off a little too tactically and that I just ran my race. And then the proof was in the results, despite a start and a finish I would like to have done differently, I met both of my goals and we were now looking to see if PACTC would place.

In the meantime, we cooled down by jogging to different parts of the course to cheer on first Paul, Russ and Pete, and then the women in their respective races. In between we waited around and replayed the race again and again. The anticipation was finally cut by rumors and then confirmation that we placed third, only three points away from second and beating Chester County, the fourth place team, by eight points. We were ecstatic.

So I am a member of the third best over-40 cross country team in the nation. A bit arcane I grant you but as close to an officially sanctioned national championship of any kind as I’m likely ever to get. This was a totally different way to run, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can better appreciate the allure of being a harrier, and why guys get so nostalgic about it. And Chuck won’t have to twist my arm nearly as hard to get me back next year.

Finally, two folks whom I owe big thank yous for helping me get to the finish line as fast as I did. Mike, the crash course on running cross country you gave me over the last two weeks was invaluable in giving me the confidence that I knew at least the basics of how to run over hill and dale. And Rebecca, your support from 300 miles away was touching and surprisingly effective in getting me pumped to race this thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Great Expectations

Ran with two women this morning who have large life events looming imminently in front of them.

Erin is conceivably (sic) due any day now. And Deirdre is scheduled to defend her dissertation on Wednesday.

We did Clark Park loops until Erin wanted to bail, and we made her do another one after which she really did bail. During that time the conversation went back and forth from pregnancy to defense to the point that the two became superimposed upon each other. We also decided that Club West Philly should become more exclusive - starting in January if we can't call you "Doctor" you can't run with us, as all five of us will by then answer to that moniker. Not a group I'd care to run with personally.

After Erin stopped Deirdre and I ran down to the South St. Bridge and back, catching up on things as its been a few weeks since she's been up here to run. She's training for Philly marathon in a quest for another OT qualifier, and things seem to be going well there as well.

Cut the run short after Deirdre stopped and I saw my iPod was out of juice. Call it 6.5 miles in 51:32. Easy day.

First chilly morning of the season. Stepping outside felt like jumping into a cold pool. Takes your breath away at first and then, as you get used to it, it feels very comfortable. My hands and arms were cold for awhile, however. My theory is that it takes a few cold runs for one's body to adjust the thermostat to winter settings.

Finally, it's off to Saratoga Springs and Masters XC Nationals. I don't know what internet access will be like up there so I'll probably just write an account of it when I get back home.

And in tending to old business, in a follow up from yesterday, apparently Marathon Bars still exist, as Mike sent me this link.

And I didn't get to do a top 10 artists list this morning (hopefully next week), but Kevin F. sent me his, so I'll post that (without his permission yet, hope its okay) instead. In no discernable order:
Iron Maiden
Pat Benatar
David Sylvain (all 3 already played, and)
Ritchie Blackmore
Stiff LittleFingers
Gary Numan
Jimi Hendrix
Duran Duran
Knowing (and now rooming with) Kevin, there is no surprise here except for Stiff Little Fingers. I wish he'd play them a bit more and Maiden a bit less!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Caramels

Still got caramels bouncing around in my head. The combination of running and caramels leads to interesting things, and dredges up memories of Marathon bars. These things were basically long thin braids of caramel with a chocolate coating, and the premise of them was that it took forever to eat one. And it did, and even after you finished one you’d be picking bits of it out of your teeth for several hours afterward. Marathon bars were aptly named, as this relatively short-lived candy treat came out right around the time of the first running craze (if you don’t know when that was, then go rent Forrest Gump). There was also a marketing campaign that is still imprinted upon some dark recess of my brain (and, apparently, on the internet) that ran endlessly on the daytime reruns of The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie and the like. It featured Marathon John (played by Patrick Wayne, aka John Wayne fils) a white-hatted cowboy who would outwit his black-hatted adversaries by getting them to set aside whatever they were doing as they became totally engrossed with the Marathon bar.

I can relate.

Long and slow today, as promised. Ran the same route as I ran on Tuesday, with a little extra tacked on to make it an even 12. The morning was humid and overcast. Squirrels were scampering about doing their usual squirrelly things, but with a little more respect today. And while it was the same route, replacing Dave Alvin with Fela Kuti on the iPod made it a totally different run. Kuti is known as the Nigerian Bob Marley, not because their music is similar but because of how the music is firmly embedded with in-your-face politics. The music consists of intense, improvisational jazz jams that go on so long I just lose myself. Six songs got me around the whole loop.

Speaking of music, XPN is playing the results of their 885 All-time Greatest Artists poll. Readers vote their top ten and then this gets compiled. I didn’t vote but figure I should come up with a top ten. A good activity to do on tomorrow morning’s run. If I follow through I’ll post the list here.

My running peeps are just spouting wisdom right and left lately. From Ian:

When naming a team, I think it's a good idea to consider how uncomfortable we can make a Race Director reading the name, should we win. Remember when Senator Carper had to say "Evil Killer Bunnies of Doom" at Caesar Rodney? It was probably one of my proudest moments.

I can proudly say I ran on both incarnations of EKBOD, and remember Carper’s face well. Ian’s quote is part of a thread that becomes progressively more tasteless as it gets more highbrow, and is currently on the Philly Runners message board (go here, then click on “enter my forum” and on the “Eastern State Breakout 5k” thread).

Its been awhile since I’ve written a post that’s been this ADD. 12 miles in 96:14.


Lights will shine and the moon will be bright,
Night will be day and day will be night.
Pain will be felt, sorrow will be seen.
I’m going to the Promised Land.

(Spanic Boys)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Email from Mike

Ed. note - I got this great email from Mike, whom I mentioned yesterday as the closest thing I currently have to a coach. Mike, you'll probably see this here so I'll say thanks and that this is very helpful advice on this weekend for a cross country novice (cross country, for the uninitiated, is substantially different than road racing). I post it because the wisdom in it is worth sharing with everyone other than the Chester County folks, who should kindly refrain from reading past this point. ~sm



Thanks for the compliment in the blog, but you are coaching yourself, I am just happy to help in any way possible. I have said it before, no one can coach an athlete without watching that athlete perform in training and competition (not necessarily all of them), in order to visually assess how the athlete is responding to the training program.

Just a few observations about X-C I wanted to pass on for the race this weekend, not sure it was part of my reminiscences a few weeks back.

Besides the fact that cross-country is about position, sometimes you see courses with funnel starts. What that means is that there is a penalty to be paid for a slow start, because you end up behind people that cannot run as fast as you are in shape to run, yet because of the narrowness of the course, or the difficulty of the terrain (in woods, or on bad footing), you cannot pass them as quickly/easily as you would simply do on the roads. This problem is even more acute in more competitive races where the ability levels of the runners is closer together. What it means is that sometimes you need to really get a good strong start and get a good position when the course narrows.

I am not saying it never happens, but it is not typical for guys starting out near the end to simply start picking off the whole field when it spreads out. Most of the time, after 1.5 miles of a 5 mile race, there are not extreme changes in position.

One of the good things about being on a team is that you can see each other and try to use each other as markers for where you are, where you want to be.

Remember that generally, the shorter the race, the more extensive the warm up. You really do not need to run as a warmup for a marathon, as the average pace feels almost like walking in the early going. It is different for a shorter race where it takes some effort to go from a standing start to your average pace for the entire race. The goal of your warmup is that you are ready to hit your average pace right after the start of the race without any shock to the system.
When I do a good warmup, it consists of about a mile of easy running, but then another mile where I am actually running a bit faster than the first mile. Then any stretching that I need to do, stretch back, legs, do some stretches to prevent side stitches, windmills (clockwise and counter) with each arm to make sure arms are loose and relaxed. Then accelerations back and forth just prior to the gun. What each runner needs is different, you really need to figure it out by trial and error. I do know that I did not warm up very well in HS and a lot of college, and by my senior year in college, when I started doing a serious warmup, I was a better racer.

I used to watch Sydney Maree (US record holder for many years at 1500, 2000 3000 and 5000 meters) spend almost a whole hour warming up (including stretching) before a lengthy track workout (Syd used to sometimes do 16 X 400 meters with a 100 meter rest, he was probably doing the 400's in 60 or a little faster).

This is really an individual thing, but the general rule of more warmup for a shorter race distance tends to apply.

One thing that tends to happen more in X-C and rarely in a longer distance race (like a 13.1 or 26.2) is what they call "oxygen debt." You definitely would have experienced it in any mile/3000 race on track, maybe even 5000 on roads, though you probably would not really experience it for a race as short as 800 meters. You are running hard enough that you are using oxygen up faster than you can take it in. Yet, you are running long enough that you cannot just run anaerobically (without oxygen) as you can do (theoretically) in a 100/200 meter race. Most likely to feel this way on hills, and maybe just after.

You do not need to be the first man up to be a good hill runner. You need to get up smoothly, without being completely out of gas at the top so that you can take advantage of the end of the hill and run the succeeding flat or downhill fast. All kinds of advice out there on how to run hills. My guess is that all the hills you do in training have forced you to find an efficient running form up hills. When I am running them well, I tend to shorten my stride, lean forward a little bit, and focus on picking up my feet, I think there is a little extra flexion in my ankles. Definitely will use my arms in a vertical motion, at a camp I once went to when I was 16, they talked as well about thinking as if you are grabbing an imaginary rope that is just in front of you as you go. The more hills I have been doing in training, the better I tend to run them in races.

You should be fine in this regard. Your workout today is just further proof that you are in good hill shape.

Good luck this weekend, save the caramels until after the race.

P.S. I think DeMar died from stomach cancer-no joke.

Races with Squirrels

I swear this happened. I was on Ford Road, just before Chamounix, when I saw two squirrels running on the sidewalk trying to gain on me. A quick burst put an end to that, and about 20 meters later, as I pulled ahead of the squirrels, I know I saw a look of disgust on their faces as they turned off into the bushes.

This morning I had caramels on my mind. Clarence DeMar, the Babe Ruth of marathon running, once had a pre-marathon breakfast that included a pound of caramels. This was back in the 20's, and was considered the latest "scientific" (evidence-based, no doubt) approach to enhancing marathon performance. DeMar actually won the race with all that gooey stuff oozing around his guts, but said he wouldn't do it again because it took so damn long to eat them.

But pardon my arbitrariness this morning. Yes, I did get a run in. Overslept and missed Club West Philly. Once I did get out of the house I resolved to revisit the workhorse loop of last fall, when I was training for the Philly Marathon. For old times sake I mapped the course out here. I used to do tempo runs in two 2-mile segments. The first was the toughest, starting at 34th and Market Sts. (1.75 miles into the course) and going on the hilliest part of the Philly marathon course. Then it was a half mile or so downhill cooldown and another tempo burst on MLK up to Falls Bridge.

Last year I had to bust my ass to get the first tempo segment under 12 minutes; today I nailed it in 11:32. Second segment went down at the same pace - 11:31. I then kept going up BN (1.4 miles in 8:48) and all the way to Belmont Plateau in 16:19 (2.65 miles total). I never hammered this part last year and, I see that I've again lowered last weeks times on this part. I don't know if anyone besides me is able to follow this stuff, but this is heady stuff.

So if yesterday finished my recovery from the Distance Classic, tomorrow starts my taper for Masters XC Nationals. I'm going back to long slow mileage, as I want to be fresh for that race. I see this race differently because I'm not running for me, I feel I'm running first and foremost as part of a team.

12.5 miles in 88:25.


The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land
(Bruce Springsteen)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Heading to the Promised Land

Legs are still too beat up to do my usual Tuesday morning BN workout, and I took Mike's (who's become my de facto coach) advice to go easy this week. So as soon as I woke up this morning I was mentally mapping out a long easy route and thinking about what to listen to on the way.

Settled for an extended version of the Acme Loop that now, ironically, completely bypasses the Acme food distribution center that the loop was named after. As for music, I chose Dave Alvin's live cd. There is so much disk space on my iPod that I get to loading stuff on and then forgetting I have it (like a squirrel burying nuts), and so its gotten to the point where I can dig around and find some great stuff that I've hardly listened to. Alvin's cd is one example of this.

The best song on there is a version of Alvin's "Jubilee Train" that incorporates Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" and Chuck Berry's "Promised Land". Nine minutes long and playing it twice drove me up North Concourse Ave, past the Moses statue and over the Lebanon Hill and through Wynnewood into Overbrook (Scott's turf). On the second time around listening to "Promised Land," a song where the narrator recounts a manic trip out to California, I realized that was exactly what I was doing in training for the California International Marathon - heading for the Promised Land. So I got me a theme song this morning.

I also got me a thoroughly enjoyable run this morning. Continued to be sunny and mild (once the sun came up) with mist hanging low over the fields out west of 63rd St. Freed from the tyranny of hammering the BN, I just took it slow. This is the kind of running I envision when I finally slow down and dispense with all of this racing silliness.

11.5 miles in 97:24.

Tell the folks back home that the Promised Land's a' calling
And this poor boy's on the line

Monday, October 09, 2006


Ran out to KJ's and then we went by Erin's to run laps with her around Clark Park. She was in rare form today telling us how, in various ways, she just doesn't fit with the others in to those pregnancy classes she is subjected to. But it won't be long now. She also said there is a resemblance between me and a character in a series/movie I never heard of - Firefly/Serenity. Vanity now dictates that I'll have to check it out.

Running with an 8 1/2 months pregnant woman and a guy pushing around a running stroller (although KJ did win first in the running stroller category in a 5k up in Brooklyn's Prospect Park over the weekend) was about the right pace for me today.

Erin went home after 4 times around the Park and KJ and I ran to Franklin Field via Woodland and back up Locust. KJ bailed at the Other Green Line Cafe and I kept going to 54th Street and then back down Cedar. Among other things, he has set up a dissertation defense date, which is exciting news.

9 easy miles in 77:07. Going around in circles.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Delaware Distance Classic

Third time I've run this race in Wilmington, staged in front of a minor league ballpark and looping through the parking lot, some adjacent neighborhoods, and then along the Christina River front. 15k race (9.3 miles), a clunky distance, and there is prize money to the first three finishers and first masters finisher.

In the past two years this has been a sleepy little race, but apparently not so this year as two Kenyan runners and Matt Sandercock lined up at the start, meaning that the first three places were pretty much locked up. But, as I said before the race to Ryan Walsh (last years winner), as long as none of them are over 40 I'm okay with that.

At the start everyone goes out relatively slow, pulling me along until a lead pack forms after about 1/2 mile. I find myself straggling in a loosely formed second pack, maybe 8th or 9th place. Mile 1 in 5:22, mile 2, containing virtually all the ups and downs in the race, goes in 5:31, and mile 3, again looping around the stadium parking lot, is back down to 5:21. I'm in a group with Ryan and Kareem Lanier, both of whom are usually well ahead of me. This is telling me that I'm running over my head, but I'm feeling okay and got a rhythm.

I'm running with a new watch (the band on my old one broke, and I miss it), and I inadvertantly have it set on cumulative splits. I turn this to my advantage and agree with myself that I will see how long I can run average a sub 5:30 pace. Once I go above that, I will reevaluate my strategy. Mile 4 passes at 21:40 (5:27 split and 20 seconds in the bank). By this point Ryan starts to pull away and I put some space between me and Kareem. Scott Purcell has also moved up to where he is giving me chase.

I miss the mile 5 marker and mile 6 passes in 32:54 - now six seconds left in the bank. I did not expect to last at sub 5:30 pace for this long. Mile 7 at 38:27 - 3 seconds in the bank. Mile 8 at 43:58 - 2 seconds in the bank. I'm thrilled that I've lasted this long and with 1.3 miles left just look to hammer it as hard as I can. No one has challenged me for position, Scott still lurking behind me, but at a non-threatening distance. I close the gap between me and Ryan by a bit but never really challenge him. The last stretch again traverses the parking lot perimeter, and I cross the finish in front of Frawley Stadium in 51:11 - exactly a 5:30 pace. Seventh place overall and first masters finisher.

Looking at Greg McMillans "Running Calculator", this time is almost exactly consistent with my PDR time. This indicates that PDR was no fluke, and it looks like I've gotten a notch faster. It feels like puberty, I'm aware of my body going through changes that I only partly understand. In this race I was still feeling my legs out, stuck between thinking that this pace is okay and the fear that it is much too fast. I'm also now getting competitive with a set of folks that I always looked at as beyond my ability. And, as I've mentioned in some recent training runs, when my stride is on it seems smoother, lighter, more like I think a runner should. Finally, I had bad post-race GI difficulties that lasted most of the day. This is something new that has also been coming up after harder workouts.

This race was a Mid Atlantic USATF Grand Prix event. Phila. Athletic Charities probably got third at best (like we just about always do) behind the evil empire of SJAC, who was out in force, and host club Pike Creek Valley. I also cooled down by doubling back on the course and running the last few miles in with Rebecca, and in so doing perhaps pushed her a bit too hard but she responded by beating her goal time.

Including the cooldown miles I got 80 for the week. Not bad given I missed Friday's run.

And I got paid $75 for less than an hours worth of work (not quite my consulting fee). This turned out to be road trip money, as the kids and I headed up to NYC this afternoon for Maricela's birthday. It was an inspired request by Maricela, as it was a beautiful afternoon as we wandered around the East Village. Maricela blew a wad of birthday money and Tony and I played frisbee in Washington Square Park.

Up next weekend is a road trip to Saratoga Springs and USATF Masters Cross Country Nationals. I'm running on PAC's team, and the expectation is that we should be strong enough to compete for a top three standing. Kevin F. and the kids are going too, and we're staying with my friend Eva, whom I serendipitously reconnected with a few weeks ago after her family moved from midtown Manhattan to the more bucolic upstate NY farm. All that, and the promise of fall colors, should make for a most excellent trip.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Two Days of Rain. . .

and I'm feeling no pain

A (paraphrased) line from a song that is on one of my top ten favorite albums of all time. But its pretty obscure, so I'd be very impressed if anyone can identify it, even Scott, even with the assistance of google.

Anyway, it rained almost all day yesterday, and I couldn't get myself to go out and run. I've lamented before how I have this mental block against running in the rain. Then later I feel bad for not just sucking it in and running anyway. Yesterday was another rainy day in that litany.

Today I woke up with the same pitter patter on the windows. But I had to go this morning. A planned 20 miler was too important a workout to rollover and wait till the rain stops. So I went out and thankfully it was only a drizzle. Loaded up the iPod with a different Carbon Leaf cd - Echo Echo - and Matt Nathanson - At the Point. The latter is live, recorded locally. Both bands are co-headlining a show at the TLA this month and I'm going with Maricela as a present for her 16th birthday. Carbon Leaf has the singular distinction of being the first cd that both M. and I have had on heavy rotation at the same time.

Listened to Carbon Leaf down to the Art Museum, where I met John Dubs and we ran up to Manayunk and back down Belmont and back into Fairmount Park. We split at Belmont Plateau and I headed west. I put on Matt Nathanson and ran the rest of the way out to 66th and then down to Market & 63rd, down 63rd and back onto Cedar. By this time I was running well into two hours and really had little idea of the pace I was going, but knew I had to get back to the crib by 11. I picked up the pace a bit when I got south of Market, but though I felt strong it was hard to keep a rhythm.

And I cruised home. The music was good, but not really right for running, and the run felt disorganized. I felt if I'm serious about CIM I gotta get a run like that better blocked out. What made matters a bit worse was that, upon measuring the course (here) it only came out to 19 miles. So not an ideal run, but a strong run and one that went relatively quickly, thanks to John's good company. We yapped pretty much non-stop, even up the series of Belmont Ave hills.

So 19 miles in 2:34:30. 8:10 pace, I'd like it to have been a little faster.

As a consolation, I should have more oomph left over for tomorrow's Delaware Distance Classic. You'll hear about it in the next entry, with an lbrr (long boring race report, for those not in the know) on how it goes.

And, for closure, some more lyrics from the song I opened with ("Four Days of Rain" from the Flying Burrito Bros self titled album):

[Running] around this big old town just thinking of you. . .
Hope you think of me too.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Learn to Fly (encore)

Today was a hard morning. Fortunately I teach this evening so I don't need to be in till later. And also, fortunately, today was the day of my return to the track.

I love the track. I don't think, however, there is anything I love as much that I dread as much. But I slapped Carbon Leaf on the iPod and headed to Franklin Field. I put "Learn to Fly" on repeat. I've raved over Carbon Leaf in previous posts, so suffice to say I love this whole cd, but this song nails both where my head is at and gets me going at the same time.

So by the time I got to the track I was ready. I wanted to do 1600s, four of them. Checking the archives, last time I did 1600s, in July, I was struggling with getting them in 5:20 (fun little writeup here). Time before that was in May and I shot for 5:20 and the wheels came off (a more long winded writeup here). So I set 5:20 as the benchmark for today. 4 of em w/ 400m recovery in about 2 minutes.

First rep went by in 5:15. Running felt smooth, not forced but I was wary of paying for this speed in the final reps. But when the second rep started at the same pace a wiser voice told the rest of me to just go with it. 5:16 and still feeling strong. Rep 3 was 5:16 and still feeling strong. But I knew these wouldn't mean shit if I couldn't pull the last one off. And it went, with the pain and exhaustion starting to hit right at the 800 mark, and I had to push through it. And today I could do it, just push through all the resistance and pain I was up against. Its really a remarkable feeling, and I hit the last 400 meters in 77 seconds for a 5:15 final rep. And then I was spent.

As I fall apart, I learn to fly.

That line makes perfect sense to me after this workout. And I left the track with the feeling I always have after a good workout, of having gone up to the edge of what I'm capable of and looking into the abyss beyond. I suppose the reason I both love and fear the track so much is that its as close as I come these days to a mystical experience. Now I'm sounding weird.

9 miles total with all the warm up, cool down, recoveries and reps figured in.

Delaware Distance Classic is up on Sunday. If I take anything with me from this morning, I hope it will be that feeling of breaking through pain and exhaustion. There's a rival who I hope shows up (a few of you know who I'm talking about) with whom I have unfinished business, as well as a new acquaintance I look forward to running with. All in all this morning consolidates my PDR performance and leaves me looking to do something big this weekend.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

City of Dreams

Only Jody and I showed up to run this morning. Weather is still mild, but it was pitch black when we started. This is something that will ease up a bit when the time shifts to daylight saving, but otherwise we'll be starting out in the dark for awhile. We headed out west and the morning light slowly lit up the rowhouses. It felt like we were creeping up on a city asleep, with only us up early enough to see it, along with the occasional car and the walkers on the Cobbs Creek bike path - always with a dog or carrying a stick or something else to fend off undesirables. I always figured my best defense is my legs: if they don't catch me in the first twenty feet they ain't gonna get me.

But the dreamlike state of the city slowly lifted as we headed back down Warrington and Jody turned to go home. After he left my legs still had some miles in them, so I kept cruising down Baltimore. I put on my iPod and listened to Marah, an old friend made new again and whose sound emanates from the very streets I run upon. The sun was an orange ball over the skyline as I hit the South Street Bridge and entered Center City and the town was now fully awake. An easy conversational front six with Jody now became a more insistent back six, taking me to the Art Museum and back thru U City.

City of dreams
You don't know what it means
To only dream about it

Combined Cobbs Creek/Warrington and Art Museum loops (gmapped here). 12 miles in 93:48.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Run in 3 Acts

Up for today was the BN loop. It would be done in 3 acts: 1) warm it up; 2) throw it down; 3) cool it off.

There was actually a preface this morning. I had to use every trick I knew to get myself out of bed. I just didn't want to get up. One part of me was thinking about other times today I could get the run in until the other part of me laid down the bottom line: I would run something this morning. Period. From there I bargained with myself: as far as I wanted to, I wouldn't have to go fast if I didn't want to, I would go fast but with the iPod. By this time I was moving and when I got out the door it was without iPod and intending to run the full BN loop.

Act 1: Mile 1 was a mess: my calves and my stomach were both in knots. Mile 2, through Penn campus and down to the river, is downhill and I felt a groove coming on so that by the time I hit the Schuylkill bike path I was cruising and started thinking about how fast I wanted to do the river miles. I got to MLK at a middlin' 27 minutes and took off at a fast but manageable pace.

Act 2: Keeping this pace, however, was work - not the joyful run fast for the joy of running stuff that I was getting attacks of last week. The quarter-mile hash passed in 1:30 - 6 minute pace, my target marathon pace. Perfect, I thought, lets see if I could hold it. And hold it I did, clicking off three neat 6-minute miles and then putting in a little extra to finish up the four miles at Falls River Bridge in 23:54. Then it was up BN hill. Object was to get anaerobic without killing myself. To my surprise I found a smooth stride going up it, a stride I've been catching myself in more and more lately. Its hard to describe, it feels longer and lighter than my usual hard stomp, and when I get this groove I get the sense of being fast, of mastery, and imagine myself almost Kenyan. It comes and goes, and has been coming more and more lately. I took this up the hill and passed the summit checkpoint in 8:57 - awesome time - and kept chugging to the plateau. Chamounix Road is a long straightaway and I got in that smooth stride again to where I knew I was going to do this stretch fast but it felt effortless. Sure enough, I hit the plateau with the watch saying that 16:42 had elapsed since the bridge. Again a time to be happy with. Again I am on a ladder downwards.

Act 3: The cooldown is in alot of ways the hardest act in this little play. Once I'm at the plateau I could theoretically walk the rest of the way in and I'd be happy. But there are still about four miles from here to home and I'm anxious to be done. Circling around the Plateau is on a downhill and I still have some residual adrenaline left to fuel my legs. But once I get to Belmont Ave. everything typically starts to hurt, and today was no exception. The closer I get to home, the slower I get. But time doesn't matter here. If anything, its good practice to run on very tired legs. And the high from a quality workout like today's is better than any painkiller in dulling the ache in my legs.

Totals are 13.5 miles in 94:10.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New Blood

Took a DNR yesterday, kills me to do so on a weekend. Wanted to go out early but it was pouring rain, and then a combination of moving and kids stuff took up the rest of my day. But that will be the last day that I can use moving as an excuse.

Made it up and out this morning with Kevin F., who is now rooming with me. Allen also made it out for his 2nd official Club West Philly run to join veterans me and KJ. Beautiful morning and a good clip as we ran out to Cobbs Creek and back around Woodland Ave.

We were running down Cobbs Creek and, in a lull between conversations I got thinking on the topic of change. Having Kevin and Allen along changes the dynamic of the runs considerably. Our running has a bit more of an edge to it, the talk is more sports and running focused. The latter has alot to do with Erin's absence as well. Anyway, was thinking about how there seems weeks and months of runs that are comfortable and comforting in the constancy of the people and the routes, followed by relatively short times where things seem to get convulsed and contorted until a new order emerges. This is obviously one of those times.

The thing that keeps it all together is the thing that doesn't change - lacing up your shoes and heading out the door. 10+ miles in 80:36.