Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Out with the Old

I ran with Kevin, aka the Anglocellerator, this morning. We figured out that, despite rooming together, this was only our eighth training run together this year. In contrast, we identified at least a dozen races we both ran in this year.

Kevin is like Deirdre in that they don't know how to run slow. Not in either of their vocabulary. In contrast, my training pace usually is slower than what it should be for the race times I shoot for. So heading out this morning was one of the few times I wished I had stretched before a run, as we pretty much went right into a 7 flat pace and kept going.

The pace wasn't hard (and even if it was I wouldn't admit it), it was brisk. But not so much as it wasn't conversational in a guy style - short bursts followed by periods of silence. Running with Kevin, I feel like as much gets said in the silences as when we chatter.

Anyway, we did a Strawberry Mansion Bridge loop, another mild morning. I told Rebecca, who was running the Drives with a friend later, to tell me if the smoke was still lingering on MLK Dr. She said it was.

10.8 miles in 77.26. That closes the book on '07. 3,133 miles logged. Enough to run to Vancouver and still have a few hundred miles left over. And tomorrow that will just be a number to beat for '07.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Got up early enough to find out that, on an overcast day, it gets light out a little before 7. That was when I got out of the house to just get in some miles. The streets of West Philly were quiet this time on a holiday weekend morning, and the weather was still mild, although I had a sweatshirt on more for comfort reasons than because I actually needed it.

Otherwise nothing much to be said about the run. A zen run, I was able to clear my mind and just put a foot ahead of the other better than on most runs. Quiet, just me and my thoughts heading out to the Art Museum, up MLK, and through Fairmount Park to Belmont Ave. via Montgomery Ave. Total was 8.8 miles in 70.03.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Top Ten

This morning’s run really felt like training again. No more lying in bed asking myself whether or not I’d run today, no more waiting till it was light. Just got myself up at 5:30 and got on out there into the cold and dark. Easy 4 in 33:12.

Today I’ll post my ten most memorable running moments of 2006. I started doing the top ten last year and it’s a good way to end the year. There are no criteria for this beyond what I feel they should be and what order I feel they should go. It helps me relive what has been a hard year, but a great one running-wise.

10 – Long Tinicum loop (12/28) – this one is still fresh in my mind, running at sunrise through a nature refuge, with all the beauty that implies. Running, and life, are both good here.

9 – Long run with friends (2/18) – this is what the Philadelphia marathon route should look like, a long loop through Philly’s grittier streets which link up all the notable sights from the Rocky movie. I love the city I run in and I love the folks I run it with. Beaucoup of them out with me on that day as we ran north, south, west, and up Kelly Drive.

8 – Two Street 5k (9/9) – One of three races I won this year (okay, so one of the others was the Guerilla 5k), but that was incidental. It was a neighborhood race that was run through the streets of South Philly that I was talked into running as part of a team put together by a guy, Bobby, who lived a few blocks from the start and now counts as one of the many friends I’ve made through this bloody sport. A nice vibe to the race, and the place where Tony pr’d, big time, running a 32:10. Look for that time to keep coming down.

7 – Running in the Rockies (5/13) – started out at 9,000 feet and headed to Snowmass Lake, upwards of 11,000 feet in altitude. Didn’t mind running a trail on that day. Never made it to the lake; just kept running up until the snow got past my knees and I had to turn back. The scenery took my breath away more than the altitude.

6 – Track workout (8/15) – 2 sets of 8x400 in the heat. From the blog entry: 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. ‘Nuff said. Looking back this was a turning point, as things just got faster from here on out.

5 – Delaware Ave run (6/11) A run from Port Richmond almost down to the Walt Whitman Bridge and back with Kevin F. That day was about the low point of my year, and I don’t remember much about the run but do remember how the Anglocellerator came through, in a big way, just by being there to run and to listen. And this was a taste of how running would do much toward saving my sanity over the course of the rest of the year.

4 – Paris (4/9) – PR marathon run through my favorite European city that kicked off a week spent running around (more metaphorically than literally) the City of Lights. Looking back, what was a great trip now has more than a tinge of the bittersweet to it.

3 – California International Marathon (12/4) – 2:36. The place where my whole year’s training came together to shatter my previous marathon PR. It was a feeling of triumph over the adversity of the year and a feeling of broadened possibilities as 2007 comes. It was also a fairy tale road trip out into the Golden State.

2 – Philadelphia Distance Run (9/17) – Performance-wise, with the possible exception of Boston Marathon in 2002, this was the race of my lifetime. I hoped to run in the 1:15’s and ended up running a 1:13. Everything just came together, an incredible feeling that I still savor as I write this. Ended up as third masters finisher. This took my running up to another level that I was able to maintain for the rest of the year. From my blog entry, thinking of where my running started and where it has now arrived at: If I could do this, what other things can I take on . . . and get similar results?

1 – Delaware Distance Classic (10/8) – yeah, I got a big PR, first masters finisher, a nice payday, and a lot closer to my eventual Grand Prix victory. But on this day all that stuff was incidental, as this was the race I met Rebecca and kicked off what has become a great relationship. 2006 has been a dream year for PR’s, awards, and all that stuff, but in 2007 all that will only taunt me to do even better. With Rebecca, I’m happy with what I’ve got and couldn’t do better no matter how hard I tried.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

To Live is to Fly

Days, up and down they come
like rain on a conga drum
forget most, remember some
but don't turn none away.
~Townes Van Zandt

A beautiful beautiful morning today, one that falls in the "remember some" category.

Headed out to Tinicum again, this time to explore further than I went yesterday. Looking again at the map I first linked to in the last post, like yesterday I started on the southwest end and ran the second loop; today I added the outer version of the third loop for a big figure eight.

Bright sun and a chill that was enough for some frost and a scim of ice on the puddles. The whole refuge seemed alive this morning. Herons and egrets fishing on the edges of the shore, ducks swimming and diving. A red tailed hawk sitting in a small tree let me come to about 20 meters before lazily flying to another perch about 50 meters away. Juncoes and sparrows formed an advance guard in the woods as they flew ahead of me a bit, only to again get rousted as I got nearer. And some squirrels (those darn things are never far away) played chicken with me, darting across the path almost right before I would have stepped on them.

The most breathtaking view of the morning came after I rounded the far turn by the northeast parking lot and ran into the sun, which silhouetted all the birds in the water going about their morning business.

Running in this context is different from walking. It takes me and Tony a good hour to walk from the NE lot to the first lookout and back, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 miles out and back. That's because we stop repeatedly to look at birds, skip stones, throw sticks, fool around and do a million other things. This morning I covered from the lot entrance to the lookout platform in about five or six minutes. Not a terribly fast speed but a very different speed. Enough to where I'm not waiting for the scene to unfold, instead I'm just moving and taking in impressions. One after the other and just getting hit repeatedly by the beauty unfolding.

It's been a good morning, magical even. One I'll definitely remember. The TVZ song I quoted up in front of this post came to mind. To Live is to Fly. A good mantra as I ease back into training for the spring.

Had a timer malfunction, so as best I can tell it was (always conservatively) 9 miles in about 75 minutes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


To have a girl who maps me running routes. What more can I ask for.

Took it to Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge this morning. Tony and I have been hiking several times out in the northeast end of the park over the past few months. This morning I took advantage of a day off and continued mild weather and headed out there again, this time solo and to run. I started on the southwest end (see map) and went along I-95 and then clockwise around the second loop. At the tip of the second loop I improvised a bit and turned east until the next fork in the path and then, turning back, completed the loop I started. The running was on sufficiently wide dirt trails that went along marshy tidal flats with ducks and shorebirds to keep me company. Everything was quiet except for the wind blowing through the reeds and the cars whooshing by on I-95.

Looking at the map I see I only scratched the surface of the running possibilities in this place. I'm sure I'll return to explore further.

The extra little bit was enough to give me 45 minutes running time. 46:18 to be exact, call it 5.5 miles.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

You Need Legs to Be Cool

Got into a fight with Spider today.
He told me you need legs to be cool.
Then he ran, I couldn't keep up.

Maybe he's right.

Doreen Cronin
Diary of a Worm

Headed out into a drizzly fog this morning. First back to back runs all month. I took this route from my mom's, one that would have been too hard for me to run when I was growing up here, but one that I enjoy for the same reason now and will usually run when I'm up here. There are not only alot of hills on this loop, but the hills are of the extended kind.

I ran more than I probably should have. I started out very stiff and by mile 7 or so my calves and hamstrings felt tight. I could have taken a short cut at this point but elected to go the full loop as I had originally planned. Partly to get back in the mindset of running miles, partly because I was lost in my running at the time and just wanted to keep going. Either way, I came out fine at the end.

I daresay things are starting to pick up again, and I look forward to that. The arc is still long to the point where I get competitive again, as I envision January consisting mostly of these kind of extended runs where speed is not an issue. The only numbers that will be important will be the number of miles logged.

I found a cellphone along the side of the road in the mountains where there was no reception. I thought a bit about what to do and for reasons I won't go into ultimately decided to leave it in plain sight by the side of the road. I've become a slave to my own phone, and if the person who lost it is anything like me he'll miss it pretty quickly.

I had a nice breakfast waiting for me from my mom on my return, and it lasted awhile as she, my sister and I just sat at the kitchen table and talked. The best talk is always in the kitchen.

I'm driving back to Philadelphia pretty soon. I enjoyed my stay here, but it'll be good to be home tonight.

9.8 hilly miles in 78 minutes flat.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Where It All Began

Merry Christmas from Rockland County. I'm up here spending the holiday with family.

One family tradition we have is to open gifts on Christmas Eve. Thus I have Christmas morning free and what better way to take advantage of that than to go out for a run. My sister said that I'm like a horse, I need to be let out to run around a bit. I didn't argue that point this morning.

I headed out to Rockland Lake, about a 15 minute drive from my mom's. Its a state park around a lake that has a multiuse paved path that provides a loop that is slightly more than three miles long. My mom used to run around the lake regularly back in my junior high years, and it was here that I first ask if I could run with her. I remember the skeptical look she gave me in response, but said okay and I hung with her. Many other loops subsequently would follow, as did other experiences there that have left their memories.

These memories and other thoughts came back to me as I ran two loops around. Weather was overcast and in the high 30s, and I felt strong enough to reach a cruising pace in the low 7 minute range. Loop 1 passed in 23:03, loop 2 in 21:31.

Tori Amos and Cowboy Junkies on the iPod.

When I got home I "cooled down" with another one and a half miles that I ran with my sister. Annette ran track in high school and is in tennis shape, but otherwise doesn't run much. We ran out of the house to Garnerville via Cinder Road and back on Central Highway. I was very happy to run with her, I can't remember if I have ever done that before. I spent much of this time together carrying on a monologue while she huffed and puffed, one of the few times in which I can dominate a conversation with her. This added another mile and a half to my morning.

My mom also has a scale that reads in pounds, and I found out I weigh 182. This is disappointing, as, given that I usually gain a few pounds in the winter months, my usual weight around this time of year is in the mid to high 170s. So I won't come close to gaining the ten spot I was looking for, despite being about as gluttonous and as slothful as I'll get over the last three weeks.

Christmas is hard this year, but its good to be with family. Back in Philly tomorrow. Rooting for the Eagles tonight. 7.5 miles total.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm Ready

I was sitting with my friend Bruce in the Green Line Cafe a few months back and he was telling me about his vacation in Mexico. He said it was just the right length, as he was thinking of getting home and all the things he wanted to do there just about when the vacation ended.

That made alot of sense to me at the time, and is how I felt this morning. Its time to get running again. Don't get me wrong, I liked waking up in the morning, thinking about whether I wanted to run or not, and then, guilt free, rolling back over and deciding not to. After putting in 3000+ miles this year, that's an undescribably delicious feeling. But I've had enough of that.

Today is the last day I've got to work this year. USP will shut down for the holidays starting tomorrow, and I'm thinking its a good time to start running regularly, maybe getting back up to 40 or 50 next week so that when the new year starts I'll be flush with resolution and ready again to torque up the mileage. No speed or anything fancy for January, just miles. And all of the miles I proudly logged this year will now taunt me to get more in 2007. That is the problem with personal bests.

I was talking with my roomate Kevin last night about our top ten running moments of '06. I started that last year in a blog entry and he followed suit. I had forgotten about that and will write the 2nd annual top ten sometime next week.

Rebecca emailed and suggested that I write about my workouts towards my efforts at gaining ten pounds and a pair of love handles by the New Year. She has chided me on my lack of progress towards this pursuit and I must admit the results have been disappointing. But I had a good workout yesterday, with our immediate office having a pot luck Christmas Party with a spread laid out for lunch and remaining in the hall all day long. So each time I got up I'd help myself to a variety of food, including a most excellent rice pudding, which I must have consumed half of. I brought chili, and made sure there were no leftovers by finishing it off for dinner before I left that night. When I got home I then proceeded to have a second dinner, and brought the workout home with a cold frosty beverage. Today is the university-wide Christmas party, which always features an opulent and gluttonous spread, and should again give me the opportunity for a good workout. And then come the holidays, so perhaps all is not lost.

It would help my efforts if I had an American scale, Kevin's scale only gives weight in kilos and stone.

Oh yeah, I did run this morning. 4 miles on still stiff and sore legs. Franklin Field loop with two laps on the track in a pedestrian 35:25.

Its good to be blogging again.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Had a very nice weekend. Since this is a running blog I will only give details that are running related, saying that it involved a) something I won from the gracious folks at the Parkway Run; b) enough walking places in shoes that my heels felt a bit raw running this morning; c) a massage whose benefits have lasted through this morning's run; and d) wonderful company the acquaintance of which dates back to the Delaware Distance Classic.

All this, however, now gets looked at from the prism of a Monday morning. Yet another sunny mild morning stolen from winter (I'll keep saying it as long as I can) made getting out a bit easier. But going up Cedar Ave I stepped into a pothole and came down hard. Came down like in the pictures of Jesus falling in the Stations of the Cross. In contrast to our Lord and Savior I cursed loudly while I was lying on the ground before getting up and taking inventory of a turned right ankle and a few scrapes. And then I felt like I had to keep going, that there was something at stake beyond just finishing a lousy marathon-recovery workout. And I felt that weight again descend upon me that drove me through fall training.

This moment came quickly and it didn't take too long to lift. I got off pretty easily; other than scapes on my left elbow and left knee, and a bruise on the outside of my ankle, I'm fine. But it takes me out of the weekend and smack into the week again.

Cobbs Creek loop coming back on Thomas Ave. Course is here, 5 miles in 41:55.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ride the River. . .

. . . in this boat.

A line repeated over and over in the Cale/Clapton song of that name. Had the album on the iPod, made it home just before it ended.

The weather keeps staying gorgeous. I was a bit delayed in getting out so I was "punished" by getting the full glory of the morning. Took that glory out west to Cobbs Creek and beyond to the Lansdowne Sycamore.

I felt like I was making a pilgrimage of sorts, heading out to the tree in search of something. Like traveling out to Lourdes, hoping that the powers reputed to be there will indeed have healing powers. In this case my legs can stand to be healed, as they are still sore. I thought that last year at this point, two weeks after I ran Philly Marathon, I ran a 34 and a half minute 10k on a very hilly Brian's Run course. No way that I could do that this weekend. No way. Maybe I put more of myself into CIM, or maybe I'm just a year older. Anyway, I did go by the tree and the legs weren't healed, but I did tank up on an energy the tree seems to emit (at least to me) and took that energy back home with me.

8 miles in 63:42. I'm timing my runs again. Course is here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Fog of Running

Through the misty morn
Seebo flies through the city
Feet, heart marking time

This haiku was waiting on my phone upon my return this morning. I hope the author doesn't mind that I post it. She hints at how delicious the fog was this morning. And indeed it was tasty, especially in how it shrouded the older Penn structures such as Irvine Auditorium and the Anthropology Museum, and rose from the Schuylkill to almost totally envelop the Cira Centre.

Almost doubled last week's total mileage. Left my watch at home, with profound effect. Many mornings running along the Schuylkill on my way to hard workouts on the Drives I envy folks I'd pass on the bike path in their lack of apparent urgency and intensity. Just by taking off my watch, today I felt in solidarity with those runners.

I needed today's run, to just surrender myself to the lingering fog. The soreness I felt in my legs still carried memories of CIM. Hard to believe that was only a week and a half ago.

6.5 miles in who the *@#$ knows (or cares) how many minutes and seconds.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Haven't run a lick since the last time I posted. I've been told that my love handles aren't coming along well, however, and I'll have to work harder to develop them. We'll see about that. As concerns running, different time demands are pushing running to the wayside, and I'm letting that happen, consciously. It gets me the break I know I need from the daily pounding. I do miss it, especially since I'm building up a whole new supply of emotional stuff that I'm feeling the need to burn off and be rid of.

On to more positive things. Norm Green emailed me and said that I've been selected as "Male Masters Runner of the Year" by the Long Distance Running committee at Mid Atlantic USATF, which makes me feel good. Dave Thomas is also resurrecting the PACTC website, and asked me for a bio. I wrote it, and thought I could double dip and post it here as well, as doing so is a way of filing it away for me.

The correspondence from both Dave and Norm also let me reflect back on the fall, which is now closed and starting to sink in. It's a poor substitute for actually running towards some future goal, but in its absence I let myself indulge.


Hi Dave,

Here is the info you asked for.

Steve Metraux, born in 1964, graduated high school at Rockland Country Day School in 1982, which had no track or cross country programs, and Grinnell College in 1986, where he ran, in unspectacular fashion, with the cross country team for one season. He did not take up competitive running until 1997, when he started training with his newborn son in a baby jogger. He finished the Philadelphia Marathon, his first, later that year in 3:24. His times have come down steadily since then, and 2006 represents his best season to date, in which he has set personal bests all the distances he's run. Among these performances, he was 3rd place Masters finisher in 3 major races: the Adrenaline 5k (16:24); the Philadelphia Distance Run (1:13:33) and the California International Marathon in 2:36:36. In 2006, Metraux also won the individual male title for the Mid Atlantic USATF Grand Prix series, and was named Masters Male Athlete of the Year by MAUSATF's Long Distance Running committee. For 2007, Metraux plans to pursue lifelong goals of breaking 16 minutes at 5k and 2 hours 35 minutes at the marathon. Metraux is on the faculty in the Health Policy and Public Health Department at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Best times (through 2006) are:

Marathon - California International Marathon, 12/3/06 - 2:36:36
Half Marathon - Philadelphia Distance Run, 9/17/06 - 1:13:33
10 miles - Broad Street Run, 5/7/06 - 55:09
15 km - Delaware Distance Classic, 10/7/06 - 51:11
10 km - Ben Franklin Bridge Challenge, 11/5/06 - 33:14
5 miles - Radnor Run, 10/29/06 - 27:10
8 km - Rothman 8k, 11/19/06 - 26:00
5 km - Jingle Bell 5k, 12/5/03 - 16:21 (uncertified); Adrenaline 5k, 3/18/06 - 16:25

Picture is attached, let me know if you need anything more.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hair of the Dog

First run since last Sunday. Easy 3.5 on a Franklin Field loop, don't want to burn too many of those calories I've been scarfing down. Left at 9:01 and got back at 9:28. It was cold enough to find out that coolmax has no insulating abilities whatsoever. Tori Amos' Beekeeper was on the iPod; the slow steady percussion in many of the songs matched my lumbering strides. But no aches and pains; feel like I can do it again tomorrow!

Finally caught up on my blogging. Like I said, December posts will be infrequent, whenever I run or feel like writing.

CIM race pics are up here (and then type in number 2327). I did a big fist pump into the air at the finish, which was caught best in the last few pics and which several people liked.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Love Handles (CIM report - long version)

My goal for December is to grow love handles. And I will approach this goal with as much seriousness and determination as I approached my marathon training this fall. So it is with much pride that I can report a) not having run since Sunday; and b) having had peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream for breakfast this morning.

I'm posting the full version of my race report below. Actually it is more a weekend report as the weekend and the race are inseparable. I do break the report into sections, so if you're just interested in the geeky parts you can go right to the middle section. I won't mind, as I often skip to the running parts in other people's blogs.

Reading over my race account, there is not much drama there. The only exception may be whether I would hit my dream time, but if you've been keeping up with me you'll know the end already. Otherwise, when I run marathons I get very focused on execution, and so I miss much of the stuff that goes on around me and makes race reports much more readable. But on the other hand one of the most gratifying parts of this race was that I executed well. In this respect, I follow the examples of John W's, Ryan's and Paul B's races earlier this fall. Thanks, guys.

This report will be long enough without me prolonging this preamble. But if you make it to the end you'll be rewarded with pictures that I posted yesterday.


Pre Race

Much of this race report, or rather this weekend report, will function as a chronicle so that I can come back to it someday and refresh my sievelike memory with details that will have been long forgotten. Perhaps of most interest to other runners, other than just having more material about running to read, is my weekend as a one-man experiment on the effects of overly lax race preparation of executing the actual marathon itself.

Perhaps the key component to pre-marathon preparation is getting enough sleep. Followers of this blog have already heard me grouse enough on how this just didn’t happen on this training cycle. I had at least hoped to make up for it some on these last two night before the race.

Alas, USAir saw to it that would not happen on Friday. Rebecca and I flew out to San Jose (the flights there are much cheaper there than to Sacramento) with the intention of getting in, getting a hotel room, and continuing our journey via rented car on Saturday. But our flight out was delayed by over an hour, meaning that we missed our connection in Las Vegas and had to wait several hours for the next flight out. Even the slots couldn’t keep us amused for that long, especially after our new connecting flight was delayed on top of that. Long story short, we got into San Jose at 2 am. By 2:45 it became clear that USAir had sent Rebecca’s bag to some destination other than San Jose. It was well past 3 when we plopped down, tired and frustrated, in the hotel closest to the airport. Taking into account the time change, we’d been up for over 24 hours.

Not surprisingly, our start on Saturday was a bit later than planned. This was compounded by logistical oversight #1 - my California geography was a bit off as I now learned it was a good 100 mile drive out to Sacramento. But after we loaded up on music and coffee it became a road trip fueled by a determination not to let the logistics get us down. A beautiful sunny day amidst the dry rolling hills helped these efforts immensely, and spirits were high as we blew into Sacramento and did the usual expo and check-out-the-course stuff. After that we headed out to Jackson, a town in the “Gold Country” outside of Sacramento where we checked into the Gate House Inn and ate a pasta dinner that couldn’t be beat at Buscaglia’s – cannelloni washed down by some excellent local cabernet.

Sleep came a little later than planned and was rudely interrupted at 4 am when the phone rang and a courier informed us that he was waiting downstairs with Rebecca’s bag (remember the bag?). This compounded logistical oversight #2 – I didn’t realize CIM had a 7 am start. This became compounded by logistical oversight #3 – I figured a 5:30 departure would get me to the start in time, but this became increasingly doubtful as the country road from Jackson to Folsom just kept going. Rebecca was panicking (so I wouldn’t have to), and responded with some SPRNTC fast (see caption on 2nd picture below) driving to get to the runner drop off, a mile from the start, at 7:45. This proved to be just the right time for a brisk warm up and a stop behind the bushes, with five minutes to spare to the gun. This actually worked out ideally timewise, and with the adrenaline pulsing through my body I didn’t feel tired at all.

The Race

Mike hollers at me pretty much as soon as I get to the corral. We exchang some geeky running talk, strategize a bit, and get ready to run. Back in the day marathon starts would be giddy affairs, like the start of a long journey. Now, wiser, I start them reluctantly, knowing the pain that will be involved – the only questions being what kind and how much. But opening miles are also borrowed time – running should be easy and relaxed. This being California, there is very little jostling or pushing around at the start and Mike and I fall into goal pace pretty quickly, with some assistance from his Garmin GPS watch that provided pace times which, reading his report, gave him some grief related to its ultimate reliability – grief which he graciously kept to himself. I have a good natural sense of pace, so when mile 1 passes in 5:55 I am pleased. I have never hit goal pace before at mile 1 and this now gives me a reference point for the upcoming miles. So while Mike approaches pace methodically, I take an intuitive approach. Mike’s running commentary on the goings on about us offset my more taciturn approach. He guesses at this point that there are about fifty folks in front of us, and notes that our goal pace should put us in the top 20, meaning that if we hold on most of those folks would come back to us. For awhile we run in a pack with the lead women, and when someone shouts out “you’re the first women” he shoots back that he has never before been so insulted. This looseness is facilitated by, and helps us keep, a good steady pace – miles 2-5 went in 5:53; 5:52; 5:57; and 5:52. This makes for a 29:29 cumulative time – one second off of 2:35 pace. Perfect.

Miles 6-10 go by in a similarly uneventful manner, and my memory of these miles is largely a blur. Mike and I run abreast for most of this time, sticking together as we hook up and then turn loose a steady procession of other runners. I was glad we had prearranged running together, as this now proves to be more than a marriage of convenience. The course, a mostly straight road of rolling hills heading to downtown Sacramento, is all it was billed to be. Splits for this segment are 5:53; 5:54; 5:55; 5:52; 5:51. Total cumulative time at mile 10 is 58:55 – 5 seconds quicker than goal pace and still right where I want to be. I have the comfort of knowing that, come what may, there would be nothing I’d want to change in these first ten miles.

Mike asks me how I am holding up – I say “good” and think “good but not great.” Ten miles is already a long race but there is still so much more to go. Although keeping this pace takes little effort I am worried by the wear I feel. Shortly after this I round a turn and see Rebecca cheering and taking photos. I barely have time to smile at her before whizzing by but take a lift along with me. This lift builds as the course goes downhill, around a sharp turn, and past a blues band playing “Sweet Home Chicago”. I become instantly reenergized, looking forward to the upcoming halfway point. A guy dressed up as a clown sees my number, quickly looks it up in the spectators guide, and shouts “Go Steve from Philadelphia.” Crowds usually don’t pump me but this guy did. I take a GU around here, slowly so that the cake frosting dissolves in my mouth and goes down easier. I still have not drank anything. Miles 11, 12 go by in 11:45 miles 13 and 14 go by in 11:41. Somewhere in the latter split (I failed to hit my watch on the odd splits) Mike and I go through the halfway point in 1:17:08. 22 seconds in the bank. A little fast but now I’m thinking a 2:35 marathon is only a half-marathon away.

I have two dream times, after which I can contentedly retire from competitive running. One is a 2:35 marathon and the other is a sub 16 minute 5k. Both goals were set when I had no real expectation of ever being able to achieve them, but this Fall has put both of these times in reach. My focus now is on the former. I thought back on my high school soccer days playing goalkeeper, and the lonely experience of defending a one-goal lead and watching the minutes go by, all to slowly, one at a time. Now I had that feeling with the miles. Each mile now that I kept on pace would be one more mile closer to my dream time.

Mile 15 in 5:58. A slight withdrawal but one more mile down. A balding guy is coming back to us and I suspect he is another masters runner. Now I’m feeling competitive and push the pace a little to pull up even with him. Mike doesn’t let me go but now hangs a bit behind me. Whether it’s the effect of the GU or a second wind or whatever, I feel strong and kick it into a higher gear. That voice that I’ve learned to trust says go for it. Sweet Home Alabama” blares from a set of stacks and the energy from the oft-played guitar riff keeps me pumped. I’m going now and Mike’s gonna have to hang with me if we are going to work together. He does, and we slowly lose bald guy as mile 16 goes by in what appears to be a blistering 5:46. However mile 17 goes by in a more pedestrian 6:03. Mike says that the last two markers must have been off, and this makes sense but also disorients me. My cognitive functioning is starting to go, a sure sign that we are approaching the real race. Mile 18 goes by in 5:57 and I pop my second GU. I also take my first liquid, some really watered down sports drink. Mile 19 in 5:56 and I’m still in the zone. Mile 20 then passes in 6:02, and my cumulative time is 158:03. Three seconds off of 2:35 pace. I have come to mile 20 having run exactly the race I want to run, and my dream time is in sight.

Mike and I are still together here, but the pattern for the last few miles has been that one of us would take a lead and the other hang on. Several times I find myself hustling to keep up with him, while other times I just pulled ahead of him and stayed there for awhile. Here we stop talking to each other and retreat into our own races. We are still together at mile 21 and the split is 6:03. My heart sinks. With each mile now it will be harder to make up those seconds, and I couldn’t be sure if this is the beginning of an ugly slide. I try one push to get back down under 6 minute pace but mile 22 comes in at 6:10. I pondered the possibility of inaccurate mile markers, but three successive ones is unlikely. At this point I give up hopes of a sub 2:35 time and just want to avoid crashing. Mike is behind me now, we have lost each other.

Even if I were to continue slowing at this rate I should still get a big PR time. Just maintain what I got. My legs are shot and my form is out of control but uncorrectable –this is to be expected at this point in the race. Taking inventory, the rest of me is miserable but fine. This is encouraging, amazing really, as I have never felt this “good” this far into a marathon. I’d have to save 2:35 for another day, but I should do fine today. Mile 23 is in 6:13, a bit disappointing but at the same time encouraging in the gradual nature of this time loss. I could take this hit. Bald guy comes up behind me now. Ain’t gonna happen, I tell myself, and I maintain speed to keep just ahead of him. The tactic works, as he can’t maintain his surge and falls back again.

I never did see the next two mile markers, not for desperate lack of looking for these turkeys. The next marker I see shows a mile left to go. I hit my watch (2.2 miles in 13:58; 6:21 pace) here and take off with every last bit of energy I had. This will get the last mile back down to 6:06 as I round the streets of downtown Sacramento, past the capital and around a few more turns to where suddenly the finish is right ahead of me, ticking away in the 2:36’s. 2:36’s! One last sprint and I’m home, pumping my fist in the air as I cross the finish, finding Rebecca on the sidelines and collapsing into her arms. 2:36:34.

Post Race

Sounds romantic, but for her it’s getting leaned on by an exhausted, sweaty 175 pound guy and for me its trying to stay upright with lungs wheezing for air and legs on the verge of collapsing. I hung around long enough to congratulate Mike when he came in around a minute later. We embraced, but glycogen depletion left us both bereft of any further social skills and unfortunately I did not get to see him again. Rebecca and I walked around the finish area for awhile, and the wheezing, which I never had before, slowly went away. Some early results got posted showing that I was 30th overall and the third masters runner to finish, which means I should get $100 for my efforts. We decided to go. Brunch in a little coffeeshop in Sutter’s Creek replaced the usual post-race bagels and bananas, and the rest of the afternoon was slow and relaxed, capped by dinner and wine at another Italian restaurant.

Early next morning it was back to San Jose and then the long trip back to Philly.

I cannot say that I would change anything about how I ran the marathon. I feel I ran my best on a solid base of training and a good taper. No blisters, GI problems, cramps, worrisome aches or pains, or any other distractions during the run. Hydration was, as usual for me, minimal but appropriate. And while ideally I would have planned the logistics a bit better and fortune would have permitted me more sleep, I could not see myself having gone any faster had any of this fallen into place. So while folks around me have no doubt grown tired of my anti-hydration rants, they will now have to suffer through accounts of how I pr’d on 5 hours of sleep. But seriously, remember this race when things don’t quite go your way in the days preceding your marathon.

Folks around me also probably get tired of my mantra that it takes a village to train for a marathon. Well my village has apparently now also rejoiced in my marathon performance, and it is gratifying to have gotten congratulations from so many folks. There are enough people to thank that I will surely leave folks out, so I’ll just say thanks to folks who know who they are. The one addition to my village on Sunday, and the one special shoutout I’ll give is to Mike Salkowski. There was a very positive chemistry in our running together, and I could not have put in the performance I did without collaborating with him. Aside from being a talented and dedicated runner, he is also a most gracious person. I hope we run again together sometime, and until then I’ll follow him on his blog.

And as Ian commented, there is a story behind every one of those splits. This marathon is the culmination of an amazing fall. A sorta fairytale. I poured my life into my training, and at times trained feeling my life, or at least my sanity, depended on it. In return I got to experience some of the peak moments of my life, and received some other unexpected blessings along the way. I can’t see how it could get better than this.

But personal bests are always short-lived, and there are always faster times to go after. So after training for my love handles this month I’m sure I’ll be back out logging serious mileage in January and hoping to continue to drop my times. Two goals I want to focus on for ’07 are the dream times I commented on earlier. They are close to becoming reality, but where I’m at now may also be my highwater mark. I will put my heart into these goals, but will not be disappointed if I fail to achieve them. But that is for January. In the meantime, blog entries for December will be sporadic, as will be my running.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm back from Columbus, now I feel as though I'm really home.

I wrote most of my lbrr on the plane, its really long and I'd like to give it a thorough polishing but may just post it for fear that I will never get around to editing. After all, its a blog entry, not a publication.

In the meantime, I'll post a few pics of the trip. The camera ran out of batteries post marathon, so there are not as many race pics as there otherwise would have been.

Me and Mike (left), running super-power-ranger-ninja-turtle-cheetah fast.

(below) me at about mile 26. Kids, don't model your form after this; I'm a mess here.

Below - post-race - 1st pic - taking advantage of the double jacuzzi in the room;
(2nd pic) Rebecca and I kicking back in the living room at the Gate House Inn.

Monday, December 04, 2006

CIM - Short Version

Just wanted to check in here.

Rebecca and I got back to Philly a short time ago. Long traveling day today after a very nice weekend which, on top of many wonderful things, I had no internet access.

Many of you have by now heard or looked up my CIM time - 2:36:36. This is the cherry on top of a fairy tale season and I am ecstatic.

For the reader's digest version - where I had earlier in the season had the more modest goal of breaking 2:40, at the prodding of friends and the opportunity of working the race with Mike S., someone I got introduced to through the blogosphere and who was shooting to break 2:35, I dropped my goal time down to sub 2:35 (a 5:54 pace). Mike and I clicked nicely and for the first 20 miles everything went almost exactly to plan - 58:55 (5 seconds faster than pace) at mile 10; 1:17:09 (21 seconds in the bank) at the half; and 1:58:03 (3 seconds over goal pace) at mile 20. By this point however my splits had slowed a bit (6:13 ended up being my slowest timed mile) and I realized that I had aimed high shooting for a 2:35 yet managed to get a very satisfactory time out of it. I am ecstatic about that. And, oh yeah, 33rd place overall, and 3rd Masters finisher, which gets me a $100 payday.

Much more to the race and much more to a wonderful weekend in Gold Country with Rebecca, and I will write about it in depth sometime in the next few days. In the meantime, Mike posts a well done race report in which you can get some impression of my race as well. I've got to go to Columbus tomorrow for business and tonight I need to get to bed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Last Minute Quickie

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

Not quite there yet. Took the day off and leaving this afternoon. Unlike Chuck Berry, I'm foregoing the buses, trains and automobiles and just jetting right over, with a stop in Vegas where I can test my luck.

Easy run this morning, same Franklin Field loop I did yesterday, but I just ran it to keep the monkey fed and to put some closure on my training. Going up Locust Walk, I ran into Jason, who is on the faculty of the program I got my doctorate at, and I got a chance to congratulate him on his Philly Marathon performance. I've known Jason since he was a marathon newbie, and now from last year to this he has cut 20 minutes off his marathon time. And now he's got Boston on his mind. The way he's talking about it, I have little doubt he'll get there.

Check out Scott's blog, if for no other reason than he says that its his last blog post. Before I start begging him to reconsider, or picket his house, I'll bet/hope that, like an alcoholic who swears off drinking after a particularly painful bender, this resolution is but temporary.

Next post you'll get will be of the lbrr variety.

There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground

. . .

Mister I ain't a boy no I'm a man
And I believe in a Promised Land

- Bruce