Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I am going to summarize two workouts today. I haven't blogged since Sunday. Monday I had an off day and thus nothing to write about, yesterday I had plenty to write about but no time to do so. I still don't really have time today, but will write a quick update anyway.

Yesterdays track workout was supposed to go like this:

6 X 800 – Run them in this fashion: 200 jog in 1:45 nice n’ easy between repeats.

Set 1: 40/35/40/35 = 2.30. (i.e Change pace per 200).
Set 2: 75-75 even paced = 2.30.
Set 3 40/35/40/35 = 2.30. (i.e Change pace per 200).
Set 4 75-75 even paced = 2.30.
Set 5 40/35/40/35 = 2.30. (i.e Change pace per 200).
Set 6 75-75 even paced = 2.30.

With these marching orders I went down to Franklin Field in the early afternoon. My legs did not feel good but I know that is not a good predictor of how my workout would go. I knew that dropping the speed to a 35 sec. 200m would be tough. For some reason I also thought the recovery time was 1:25 instead of 1:45, so I rushed the recoveries a bit. The temps were in the 40s and the wind was calm, so I knew in advance that I could, for once, not use the conditions as an excuse.

Here are the times, when I give numbers in parentheses they are either 200 or 400 meter splits, as I remember them.

2:29 (37; 38; 39; 35)
2:31 (75; 76) one second over was more pacing than tiredness
2:36 (41; 35; 44; 36) after the first 400 I was totally disoriented as to pace and, huffing and puffing, slowed down too much
2:34 (47; 47) tiredness and demoralization set in. I still got 2 more to go?
2:38 (40; 36; 43; 39) I have reached my limit and then some
2:37 (79; 78) I wanted to go faster than rep #5 just to maintain some self respect, and got a little kick at the end.

A disappointing workout in that I felt like I have reached a ceiling, that this is as fast as I can go. I don't know if this is true or not, but it had me thinking of my mortality. If not at this point, at some point there is a limit as to how fast I'm going to be able to push things. My times will not go down forever. Also, since 5k is the shortest distance I run, its also the one I do fastest. So if the fastest I can go is, say, a five minute mile, then I have a ceiling on all my other distances accordingly. I don't want to make too much of all this except to say that after yesterdays workout I became painfully aware of myself as a finite creature.

Then again, if I had given myself those extra 20 seconds recovery, maybe the sky would still be the limit. Doubt it. My legs also felt really sore and stiff for the rest of the day. To the point where I did something that is very rare for me in that I took the elevator to and from my 4th floor office. All told, I covered about 9 miles and the running clock showed 73:45.

This morning was a good rebound, a revival of sorts. The weather, if not mild, was at worst seasonably cold and there was a pretty sunrise when I hit the streets at 6 am. This portends of spring, rebirth, and all those kinds of metaphors which are not here yet, but are just around the corner. My legs experienced a revival as well, as there was a definite spring in their step. Did a long Tinicum loop, which always gets me starting out fast to get the nondescript front five out of the way so I can enjoy the back 5 and a half that go through the wildlife refuge. I was worried about muddy conditions, and it turned out that the trail was indeed wet, but the ground froze overnight to create a springy surface not unlike a track. In addition to the deer, hawks and other usual wildlife, at one point I rounded a bend and about 25 meters in front of me was a red fox, who then quickly scampered away. Beautiful sight.

I'd see another red fox at the end of my run.

I needed this run after yesterday's. The subsequent feelings of revival have stayed with me all day. 10.5 miles in 80:43, and the pace felt faster than that.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blind Date

On Saturday I answered a post left on the Philly Runners message board by a guy looking to get some action in, about 10 miles worth at 6:45 pace, while he was in town visiting his sister. I like answering such ads, and have benefitted much from getting to know some of the persons I've met this way.

By some interesting twists of serendipity the sister (as well as the brother-in-law) that Bob was visiting are both faculty at USP whom I know, and they live in Lansdowne, within spitting distance of the Sycamore. So I went over there to run the Sycamore loop, with a little extra added on to get back and forth from Roy and Kim's, starting at what usually would be the middle of the run.

But before running I hung out a bit and drank coffee. Then we headed out. Turns out that Bob and I have various things in common, enough to give us plenty to talk about during the course of the run. And we are both too old to have to worry about having the run devolve into a pissing contest. 10.5 miles went by in no time, well, actually in 78:53.

The run was over and we had more coffee, this time with muffins and more conversation. Met a new friend, got to know some colleagues a bit better, and squeezed in a run between leisurely cups of coffee. Sunday running at its finest.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Long Strange Trip

Here is a postcard from the Drives. But the larger part of the story is the getting there. The trip starts with the directions:

Track: Usual warm up and strides.
1 x 2400 @ 75 pace. - Total 7.30 mins.

2 mile cooldown.

This workout was a trial run - do almost half the 5k at race pace and see how it goes. Kind of a midterm exam of sorts. This would be good data to have.

I dropped Tony off at 1:30 and had a window to do this run until 4:00. I knew from earlier recon that the Franklin Field track was closed due to lacrosse games. Plan B was the St. Joe's University track. I'd never been on that track before. It was very collegiate, in a bowl surrounded by big, grey, stone-brick buildings. I started on my warmup and got about a mile down before a security guard came and kicked me off. There was a scheduled soccer game about to start.

So that left plan C. I went cross-town to the Roxborough High School track. I got on to City Line Ave. and it was a parking lot. So I took it one block and turned off. Running around there at least has given me a working knowledge of the backroads, which I used to get to Rox. Once at the track, I saw it looked fine except for a 20 meter or so stretch in the back turn that still had ice on it. So much for that.

All that was left to me now was plan D. I went to the Drives and did measured quarters instead of 400s. I figure target here would be 5:09/mile pace, or quarters in 77/78 seconds. Not the same as the workout, but close enough. It was sunny and windy, so I parked on MLK, the less windy of the two Drives, and warmed up heading north into the wind so as to get the tailwind on the fast stuff. It was the least I could do for myself on an afternoon like this.

By this time it was 2:45. I had been driving around and getting myself pumped only to drive more. I really didn't want to do this workout anymore. The weather was uncomfortable and less than ideal. My mind looked for any legitimate excuse to postpone this workout, but there was none. I spent three or four minutes sitting in my now parked car just talking myself into doing the workout. And then I got out.

Did the rest of the warmup and the strides. I started on the 2400 meters-cum-1.5 miles at the 4 mile hash and heading toward the Art Museum. First thing I notice is that there is a headwind. The Drives don't have headwinds and tailwinds - the wind just swirls in the opposite of whatever direction you run. The splits will tell the story - 77; 78; 81; 79; 80; & roughly another 80. To add insult to injury I missed the hash mark for the last marker. My head wasn't in it and my heart wasn't in it. I was concentrating on my form and I was gasping for air at the end, but it never felt right. Best I could calculate, roughly a 5:15 pace. Proceeded to do the 2 mile cooldown.

GP says on days like today it is better to consider the run to be at goal effort instead of goal time. I still am not there yet, as even with the 400/quarter-mile adjustment I still felt like I fell short. This was supposed to be a time trial of sorts, at best it came out inconclusive.

I blew roughly 2 and a half hours to get in this lousy mile and a half. I suppose I can feel good about getting it in at all. I suppose I can say there are bound to be days like this. And I suppose I've already started telling the story about how I drove all around town to get my mile and a half in.

Long strange trip. All told, not including the driving, 7.5+ in 59:23.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Not Crying About the Leaving

I ran 4 more miles on the USP hamster wheel last night, 28:04. Just did it 'cause my coach told me to, and trust that I'm the better, or at least the faster man for it. This run happened after I taught class and then went to Tony's talent show (he played trumpet), so it was fairly late in the evening and the last thing I wanted to do was more running. But I did it.

Maybe the best training I get out of those evening doubles is that it takes all I've got to force myself back up the next morning. "But I just ran" is the recurring whine I kept hearing from the more sensible part of myself this morning. Sensible is an understatement, as I was lying in bed for a long time this morning listening to the wind howl and just feeling cozy. Why anyone would want to leave that to run, especially on a morning like this, makes no sense.

But get out the door I did, albeit a bit late. Sure enough, the wind was blowing fiercely from the Northwest and judging from the ice on the puddles temps were in the high 20s or so. I was in denial as to the temperatures when I started, and as a result I left without gloves. My left contact was also bothering me to where I had to stop twice, take it out and reinsert it. No easy task given this morning's conditions.

But now that I have that bellyaching out of the way, I must say that even on a morning like this I love running out in Tinicum refuge. Its still new enough to me where I'm seeing things I haven't noticed before. Today it was how the Center City skyline is visible, in the distance, over the mouth of the Darby Creek. The snow that confounded me on Wednesday's run was largely gone, and instead much of the trail was clear but frozen, and felt like the cinder tracks of my childhood running. I did manage to use the wooded parts of this loop to my advantage as a break against the wind. Hawks and deer were the predominant wildlife out this morning, with several close up views of both. I have to review my buteo hawks, as I can readily recognize red-tails (I saw my buddy again this morning) but there were others today that I know were not red-tails, and I don't know what species they were.

9 miles in 76.08. Still feel exuberence from yesterday's track workout. I appreciate the comments, both here and by email.

This old porch is just a long time of waiting and forgetting
Remembering the coming back and not crying about the leaving
And remembering the falling down and the laughter of the curse of luck
From all those son's of bitches who said we'd never get back up. . .
- Robert Earl Keen & Lyle Lovett

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Got so much I want to write about today.

I'll start with the workout. Back to the track today. The first workout of the day was:

2 mile warm up, mile strides:
10 x 400 – 100 jog in 48 seconds between repeats. Pace per 400. avg 75.
1 mile cooldown.

Did 1.5 miles warmup and 1.5 miles strides. I'm getting to be a big fan of strides. While they are tedious when I'm itching to get into the actual workout, going hard on the straights and recovering on the turns is an excellent warmup and gets me running the first rep like I've been doing several of them already.

GP, last time we talked, said four or five times that my times for these ten reps should average 75 seconds, they didn't all have to be 75 seconds. GP was perceptive to repeat this, as it took at least that many times for something like that to penetrate my skull. I'm used to the all or nothing thinking saying that if I don't nail each one in 75 seconds the workout will be a failure. This took some of that pressure off.

Today I was not fearing the 400s. Actually I was looking forward to going fast. The best way to describe it is that I wanted to go up to the mountaintop and, once there, look around.

I started on them and that feel quickly dissipated. The first rep I went out hard in what I guessed would be 75 seconds, only to clock it in 76.1. The next four went by in 75.2, 76.5, 75.0 and 75.7 and I was quickly getting frustrated. I wanted to go under 75 seconds to make up time and really pushing but still falling short. And I still had 5 reps to go and no way did I see myself lasting through them. It really felt like I was pushing these out, like (for those of you who've played football) working out on a blocking sled.

I was still out of breath when I started rep #6. It was survival mode, and I switched tactics. Instead of pushing to go faster I instead focused on my stride and pictured myself running fast. It didn't seem like I was running fast, but I imagined myself as being fast and looking fast. To my surprise this lap came in at 74.6. I tried this again for the next lap, visualizing another 74 second quarter. Sure enough, lap #7 clocked a 74.0. I was amazed, and now with three laps to go the end was in sight. Laps 8 & 9 were run the same way, not focusing on speed but on form - long strides and steady turnover. And the times kept coming - 74.7 and 74.4. And now I was on lap #10. Last one. I could give this my all now and I found I was out of gas, couldn't find a kick. Despite this the lap went by in 74.9 and I was done.

This made for an average of 75.1 seconds per 400, with the reps getting faster as the workout progressed. I finished that workout feeling like Moses coming down from Mount Horeb, my eyes having witnessed a revelation. Those last five laps were a totally different way to run. Instead of brute force I used more mental finesse and my body responded better than it ever has at that speed. This is really amazing to me. All kinds of thoughts going through my head in the aftermath of this.

The first one is that I've broken through something, that in thinking like this I can run more relaxed and faster. The possibilities are again limitless. The second thought is that this feels like masters running. The body may not be capable of what it used to be in years past, but by using my head I can compensate and still compete. Hard to explain further so I'll substitute a metaphor. It reminds me of a scene in the movie Colors, where Robert Duvall, as a veteran cop, tells his rookie partner, played by Sean Penn, a joke that I'll link to here (warning: the joke is a bit off color). I get the joke now.

I had other stuff that I wanted to blog about but I don't have time to do so, so I'll save the material for tomorrow. I am just really really pumped at how well this workout went and for the first time see sub 16 as being really attainable on March 17. But there still remains much work to do and only a little over three weeks to do it.

Call it 8.5 miles total in 63:33. Just as I left the track there was thunder and lightning and I returned to USP drenched. Got another workout on tap for this evening: 4 miles in 30 minutes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


"Did you ever wake up with bullfrog's on your mind?" Anybody know the song (without googling) - all 16 minutes of it - from whence that lyric comes from?

Anyway, no bullfrogs this morning but rabbits. Rarely see rabbits on my run, this morning I saw four of them in different places. The first one, near the I-95 and 420 interchange, was running ahead of me for maybe 50 meters. But, Kenyan-like, it held me off without much apparent effort.

But, before that, let me back up. I did get in 4 miles in in a second workout yesterday after teaching class. 25 flat on a USP hamster wheel. Was supposed to do it in about 26 but I had places to go so I sped it up. No problem slicing off that minute, but its a lousy feeling when, after the workout, I go out into the dark and realize that it will still be dark when my next workout starts.

Sure enough, I started at 5:30 this morning in the dark and fog. 12 miles was on the agenda, at 7/7:30 pace. Now (primarily for the sake of GP) I'll say that, while this pace is appropriate for someone who races the times I do, I generally do off-day training runs at a more mellow pace. Just the way I am. One more of those quirks people will sometimes comment about to the effect of "Judging by your training runs its hard to believe you can run as fast as you do." My usual off-day pace is usually in the high 7s/low 8s, but this morning I made a conscious effort to up the pace a bit to conform with the instructions (kind of like what happens to me when I run with Deirdre). Its not really a big deal and it took me through the first 6 or so miles relatively effortlessly. . . up to when I hit the Tinicum refuge and the false dawn was rising.

But I don't know what I was thinking this morning. I was a bit worried that the paths through Tinicum would be muddy. But when I got there I saw that, hell, there was still a blanket of crusty snow on the paths. By this point, however, I was at a point of no return. So it was part skating, part breaking through the crust, and part trying to keep some kind of regular pace on a thin sheet of what Ian calls "creme brulee" snow. It takes alot of energy - picking feet up after breaking through the crust; losing traction on icy parts; running serpentine at times to get to the areas with the most traction; and once submerging my foot ankle deep into ice cold water that lay under some snow. This went on for four miles and my calves and hamstrings were hurting by the end. When I got back on to 420 it was a strange sensation, as I was going the same effort but suddenly alot faster. When this feeling wore off I did strides for the rest of the loop and then about 1.5 miles extra to get to 12.

It was again beautiful in Tinicum when bathed in the early morning light. In addition to rabbits, deer were all over the place, and some also ran in front of me, white tails and all - Ethiopians playing to the rabbits' Kenyans. I'm also making friends with a Red Tail Hawk that I've seen either perched or flying at about the same spot every morning I make it through Tinicum.

So a unique run with the odd conditions, conditions which slowed an initially brisk run down a bit. Tinicum loop split to 89:06, relatively slow for 10.5 or so miles, and the strides took the run to 12 miles in 99:24.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Education of Seebo

Today is a track day. Its tough to get this in as I have to coordinate between getting kids to school in the a.m. and teaching this evening and the various stuff I got in the middle.

Workout for today is:

AM: 2 mile warm up including strides. Then – 3 miles race set up ( phase 2) @ these paces, 5.50-5.45-5.10- 2 mile easy.

PM 4 miles 6.30 avg clip.

I worked this morning from home and meant to get out of the house by 10:00. Me being me, it wasn't until after 10:30 that I actually got out. This was a blessing however, as I got down to the Franklin Field track at 10:50 and was told by security that I couldn't run on the track until 11. Oh. So I did my strides running around the periphery of FF and at 11 I went in and did two last warmup laps on the track.

I consciously tried to stay slow. GP said don't worry about taking the first two 1600's too slow, the idea is to get tired legs and then run the third 1600. This helped me start off better, as I hit the first 1600 in 5:49 and the second in 5:42. For the third rep I started off a little slow 80 and 78 - 2:38 for the first 800 and I knew I would have a hard time making up those extra three seconds. I didn't check my split for the third 400 but on the final lap I put in a good kick in the backstretch and carried it all the way around. The final time was still 5:13 - on the downside I missed my target but on the up side I held pace - 2:35 - for the last 800. It felt nice to have that kick at the end.

At that speed I'm running at my maximum. But I'm getting used to it. Where before I'm feeling like hey I'm dying I better just hang on, now I'm starting to look around and take stock of where I'm at, how I feel, and what I can do to go faster. Its hard to gauge whether or not this is actually getting me faster, but I feel like I'm in more control. So I'm heartened by that but conscious that I still need to get my time down.

I'm exploring both my limits and my capabilities. Trying new things and learning what I can do. This mindset extends beyond the track. Running has become fun again. . . to the extent that running around in ovals until you're breathless can be described as "fun."

And tonight I get my second dose of the day.

Workout #1, 8.5 miles total in 65:06.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday Driving

Today is a rest day; its cold enough outside to be glad about this.

I didn't get to post yesterday, which was a special workout because I got to run with Rebecca. This was only the second time we’ve run together, the first being the first time we met. As our paces are a bit different we each brought someone to run with – Rebecca brought her friend Amy and I got Deirdre to come out. After we all met up at Lloyd Hall and made introductions, Deirdre and I set off at our pace and Rebecca and Amy set off at theirs around Kelly Drive.

It was cold and blustery. Once on the Drives, the legendary Kelly Drive headwind buffeted us about during the first few miles and then actually became a tailwind upon crossing the Falls River Bridge and heading back down MLK. My workout called for seven regular miles and one last all out mile. Deirdre hung with me until the last mile and then peeled off to run in Fairmount Park while I peeled out down to the Art Museum. After a promising first half-mile in 2:32 (aided by a tailwind) the second half was hampered by ice on the sidewalk, crossing traffic, standing water and an uphill. Total time for that mile was 5:15, I’d call it about a 5:10 effort, however. Even that was not as fast as I would have liked but fast enough to where I was okay with it. I’m feeling like the top effort parts of my runs are getting a bit faster and, more importantly, more sustained.

After I finished my workout I doubled back and caught up with Amy and Rebecca at about the mile 7 marker. We ran it back to Lloyd Hall, where it was warm inside, and I actually stretched a bit. Yes, that’s right, I stretched. She’s a bad influence, that Rebecca!

10.5 miles in 75:26.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lucky Day

Today called for a return to the track. I haven't run around in 400 meter ovals in what seems like a few weeks. Today I was worried about the logistics. I had the PAC Track Club luncheon this afternoon, which more or less overlapped with the time that the Franklin Field track was officially open to the public. The other tracks that I know of around here would more likely than not be covered with snow.

This disruption led me to dread this workout. In the larger context, it fit in well with this week, in which the cold prevented the snow on the ground from going anywhere. Snow in the city is nice for the first day, and after that it gets brown, black and yellow, and takes up lots of space so that the cramped quarters of urban life become even more so. This is especially true with running, where to the extent you run the streets you are forced either on sidewalks that as often as not are unshoveled, or on the streets which, due to the snow, you are thrust into the traffic. So running on a week like this requires alot of adapting and rearranging and, as a last resort, hitting the treadmill. After a few days this gets tiresome mentally, as I long to just have my regular routine back.

Anyway, back to todays workout. The workout as GP laid it out was simple:

1 x 3000 - 1st 1k @ 3.40- 2nd 1000 @ 3.20 – 3rd 1000 sub 3.08.

The question was would I have access to a track to do it. I planned I would go down to Franklin Field in the morning and if the track were unavailable then I'd keep going down to MLK and run 3x3/4 miles at 6, 5:20, and 5 minute pace. Again, I had a hard time with the uncertainty of where I would run this workout. I think this was the culmination of an uncertain running week.

But the track was open, but most likely unofficially so as none of the usual monitors were there. As I did my warmup striders people started coming into the stands and then Penn's and Haverford's lacrosse teams came streaming in. I began to get nervous about whether I'd get my 3000 in. When I was on my 8th and final lap of strides a guy points to me and says fifteen minutes. I smile. I should be able to get 3k in that time.

The 3000 itself was a familiar story. First 1k in 3:40 meant 6 minute pace. No matter how I tried I couldn't bring myself to slow down enough - actual time 3:27.8. At least I didn't have to speed up that much to hit the next target. Second 1k in 3:20 meant 5:20 pace. Hit it in 3:20.5 but was starting to hurt. Last 1k in sub 3:08 basically meant run as fast as I can - shooting for sub 5 minute pace. And indeed I ran as fast as I could, though I held a bit back as 1000 meters, 2 1/2 laps, is a long way to go all out. The first 400 went in 76 seconds, about 1 second too slow and I apparently held this pace as my final time was 3:10.9. I was debating whether I actually gave my all although I was pretty well wiped out by the end.

I'm always disappointed when I don't hit my goal times, but I wasn't too bummed about it today. I felt I was getting closer to handling goal pace. I don't know if the 3:08 was a reach time or a time GP expected me to hit. I'm guessing, somewhat zenlike, that it was a bit of both.

I was also happy just to get the workout in as planned. I realize that I am lucky to have a track that, while oversalted to the point of being crunchy today, was very usable in this weather. Furthermore, I have at my disposal a marked outdoor course that is promptly cleared of snow (i.e., the Drives and props to the Fairmount Park Commission for maintaining the bike paths). And as a dreary but valuable backup I can use a treadmill as a perq of working at USP. This all works to minimize the losses I need to take during the few periods of shitty weather that inevitably hit in the winter.

Today I also realize that I'm also just lucky that this workout happened. Today I'll take that.

8 miles total in 62:51.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Aimless in Essington

Yesterday was a bad time management day. I was supposed to get ten miles in but by the time I got my act together to run (due to various work-related reasons; yeah I know its bad to let work get in the way of running) it was 2pm and I had a meeting at 4 and a class to teach at 5. So I repeated a maxim I use on these occasions, its better to get a few miles in than take a DNR. I managed to get in 5 miles in 34:52 on the hamster wheel at USP. Fulfilled half of the obligation, I have no other positive things to say about it. And something is up with my iPod to where the volume now doesn't get loud enough to drown out the whirr of the treadmill.

Today I was supposed to go 5 miles and so instead I did yesterdays 10 miler. Temps were in the teens, winds gusted up to 20+ mph, and, worst of all, there was still snow taking up the trails and the shoulders of the roads. So Tinicum Refuge was out and I had nowhere to go beyond running around the streets of Tinicum township and Essington for 85 minutes. The historical markers say these are among the oldest European settlements in Pennsylvania, originally established by Swedes. Now they are both little sleepy blue collar towns just south of the airport and right on the Delaware. There is still some industry down there, but much of it has moved away and both towns are slowly turning into long term parking lots for the airport.

While I was running I thought of how I owe my friend Barry a few emails. We were good friends in college and he looked me up recently. Neither of us really ran in college, but it didn't take long into our catching up to discover that we were both avid runners now. Its a funny process, as you sense it quickly (much like alcoholics or Deadheads can sniff each other out) and then are surprised at the eeriness of the coincidence. Anyway, Barry's in Minnesota now, where this weather would probably qualify as a thaw. I don't know how he or other Minnesotans manage to train all winter. I can handle the cold, but the snow just really makes things claustrophobic and, in these temps, doesn't go away. Better you than me, Barry.

And yes, GP, I'll have plenty of juice for tomorrow's track workout.

87:28 to be exact, call it 10.5 miles conservatively. A route I cannot reconstruct, nor would I care to do so.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day

Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart! It all started at the Delaware Distance Classic and it's been a great run since. Here's to many more miles!

Running, on the other hand, is a bitch of a mistress. She demands you give her everything and the next day there she is just wanting it again. No Valentines props for her. With that in mind, today's workout was most appropriate.

The original plan was to run tempo outside. GP emailed me this morning saying that, given my reluctance to modify my schedule last week, he'd wait to hear from me how the workout went. He swears he wrote this without any irony, perhaps I am too jaded to believe that. Anyway, I wrote back and told him that no way was I going to get a tempo run in today, given all the snow and freezing rain that we got last night. I ask him for alternatives on the hamster wheel, given the limitation of it maxing out at a 6-minute mile pace. He emails back to warm up a mile and then go five hard.

This was more of a consolation workout, as it would give me a sweat but would not come near to breaking me. But I dutifully went to USP's ARC to get the workout in. As I was doing my warmup mile I remembered in winters past how I'd compensate for the speed cap by messing with the incline and then my mind started getting sadistic. I usually have the incline on '1' as the default, as I read somewhere that this compensates for the lack of wind resistance one experiences through forward motion when covering distance (don't ask me if this is true, its just something I do). So, I figure I'd do a progression run of sorts, upping the incline after each successive mile for the first four miles and then bring it back down to '1' for the fifth mile (all at 6 minute pace).

I run the first mile at 6 minute pace keeping the incline on '1'.

For mile 2 I push the incline up to '2'. This gets more strenuous.

Nonetheless for mile 3 I push it to '3'.

Here I realize I won't be able to sustain another whole digit increase, so at mile 4 I push it to 3.5.

At mile 5, instead of taking it back down to '1' I push it up to '4'. I got this idea in my head that I'm not dying yet, so lets see how long I can hold out. I take it a tenth of a mile at a time. I'm dying here but manage to hang at '4' till mile 4.5

Here I take it back down to '2', meaning to keep six minute pace for the last half mile while tapering back down to '1'. This is still strenuous but I'm feeling myself recovering.

At this point an evil thought comes to mind. If I'm recovering here why not take the incline back up to '4' for the last quarter mile. So I crank it back up for the last .25 and now I am dying. To where its all I can do to hang on. Not since high school chemistry have I watched the clock as intensely only to see time move so slow. The odometer crawls a hundredth of a mile at a time. But I hang on and it was with immense relief that mile 5 rolled around.

I then took a real recovery mile with an even incline and a slowed down pace.

It wasn't until I got off of the hamster wheel that I realized how exhausted I was. It was a really intense workout, not only physically but mentally, as running this on the treadmill makes the miles all the more agonizing. Matthew Ryan was on the iPod to give me aural support. But I feel good, and all the more so as I figured out how to make a really good workout out of one that promised to be decidedly ho-hum.

7 miles in 44:52. Having given the mistress her due, I will now enjoy Valentine's Day with my sweetheart.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ribbons Undone

She's a girl
Rising from a shell
Running to spring. ~Tori Amos

Getting thoughts of Spring. On the bright side, its becoming more noticeable that its getting lighter earlier, even on days like today that are grey and overcast.

However Winter is not going anywhere soon. While its a bit warmer than its been, its still cold enough to where the earphone cord gets stiff and the buds have a harder time staying in my ears. But fortunately I'm a clever guy and I figured out that if I wear a knit cap instead of my usual baseball cap I can keep the buds firmly ensconced.

I may be running towards Spring, but just for today, I hope Winter sticks around. For today's grey is overcast with anticipation of snow. One of those forecasts where if the timing is right classes this evening will be cancelled and I'll have an easier day. But dare I hope? I'll take it gladly and worry about what is to become of tomorrow's workout tomorrow.

I remember exactly where I was this morning when the first snowflake fell. It was about mile 3 into the run on Governor Printz Blvd., running the long loop around to Tinicum. By the time I got to the Tinicum refuge there was already a light dusting on the ground. This added to the palate of heavy greys with which the marsh was painted this morning. All was quiet, and even if it wasn't, I wouldn't have heard it over the music I was listening to.

Bread and butter run, as GP refers to it. Did light strides towards the end, but they were very light. Nonetheless, at 83:28, I shaved about 6 minutes from my time on this 10.5 mile course.

And its still snowing.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gut Check

Today was a gut check type of workout. I was in New York visiting my mom yesterday and logistics didn't permit my getting time for a run. So I planned to push my off day (supposed to be today) to yesterday and do yesterday's workout, 14 long easy miles, today. This was a little tricky to coordinate with getting the kids out the door for school. So bottom line I had to get up a half hour earlier to get out the door in time to get back in time.

All clear as mud? Good.

Nothing sexy about this run. Just steady pace for many miles. The MLK miles went at just under an 8 minute pace, and that was pretty representative. I ran the BN loop, again where I wasn't looking to break it and it wasn't looking to break me. Instead I was plodding along, and it was obliging me with comfortable weather and a pretty sunrise. I reloaded my iPod over the weekend and spent the whole run listening to Steve Earle stuff. Wanted something familiar with me this morning.

In an important sense, this is what training is about. Going out and doing what needs to be done, even if doing what needs to be done is unappealing and a pain in the backside. I told myself that a few times this morning and that helped a bit. I was also, for the second straight workout, technologically encumbered with not only carrying my iPod, but also my cell phone (which I'll carry when necessary for the kids to be able to contact me). The phone has a camera, so I stopped briefly to take a shot of me on top of Flagpole Hill (overlooking the Belmont XC course) and if you squint you can see the skyline in the background. The skyline looks much more awesome in real life.

13.5 miles in about 1:40. Timing malfunction precluded an exact time. Terrain, since GP asked, was hilly from about mile 7 on including the infamous Bloody Nipple hill on Conshohocken Ave.

Also never blogged over the weekend so I'll recap Saturdays workout. Made it out in the afternoon. Ran out to the Art Museum and was instructed to do 6 tempo miles - 5:30; 6:30, 5:30, 6:30; 5:30; 7:00. Actual splits were 5:33; 6:26; 5:29; 6:28; 5:26; 6:51. The first mile was run right into the jaws of a legendary MLK Drive headwind and was really hard. I nailed my splits and would have nailed the mile if my cellphone hadn't fallen out of my shorts pocket and forced me to stop and retrieve. That and the wind were too much, but it was by far my best effort. The other 5:30s got easier as, for the second, the wind died and, for the third, the fierce headwind of the first mile was now a tailwind. I felt better when I made up on this mile the three seconds I lost on the first mile. The 6:30's had a pattern where I'd slow a bit too much (1:45ish) on the first quarter and then pick up the pace by what seemed a little bit and more than made up for the time. 6:30 is now a very comfortable recovery pace. Legs felt dead and sore on the way back, I thought maybe thats what too much lactic buildup feels like.

11 miles total in 79:20.

Guts are checking out fine, but the reassurance will not last long.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Guest Author

Todays entry comes courtesy of GP:

Off relax and stretch. Yes, I know this extra day off will freak you out but you will just have to trust the coach.

GP and I are in the middle of an email exchange stemming from the stuff that I've posted concerning my thoughts and performances of late. His responsiveness has been great. It's really helped to get his feedback, and I'll share it when I have some time to put it all together. But for today, the order is to chill a bit.

I'll try not to freak out.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Moves Like She Runs

Hey when she sings, when she sings when she sings like she runs
Moves like she runs. . . ~Neko Case

Four months since the Delaware Distance Classic.

I don't know about the numbers, but today felt colder than the previous couple of days.

Of course I went ahead and did the planned workout anyway. It was:

Race set up tempo:

2 mile easy warm up
1.mile strides
¾ mle @ 5.30 pace
drop to 5.00 minute pace for half mile
return to 5.30 pace ¾ mile

2 mile easy cooldown.

I ran the warmup and the strides as part of my run out to the art museum, then started the fast stuff on MLK.

3/4 mile at 5:30 pace translates to a 4:07/4:08 or 82/83 second quarters. As is my habit, I started fast but not as fast as usual, with the first quarter going by in 78, and then I got on pace to where I hit the 3/4 mile in 4:03.

1/2 mile at 5:00 pace is at the edge of my capabilities right now. I needed two 75 second quarters to hit 2:30 on this stretch. It had me feeling nervous. I hammered it hard and hit the first quarter in about 78. Here I had to turn around and head back. I knew I wouldn't hit 2:30 but wanted to keep pushing. But I lost my focus and hit the half in 2:38. This is disappointing, but both physically and mentally it wasn't there today. I did get a little taste of the edge and realized that it isn't just about legs and lungs, but that the head needs to stay in the game as well. 5 minute pace will necessitate the whole body being involved.

Then there was the little matter of hitting the last 3/4 mile stretch. This one is the mirror of the first 3/4 stretch. Between the letdown and the recovery after missing the goal time on the previous half mile, I slipped to 88 seconds for the first quarter but then managed to regroup and hit this 3/4 mile right on target in 4:07. This was a silver lining, as I felt like I was recovering at speed, shifting gears when I had to, and the 5:30 pace is becoming increasingly comfortable to me.

I think I learn more when I "fail" than when I hit my target times. I feel alright after today's workout. The tempo part went fast. Less than 11 minutes and it was done. Not much time for adjusting. 5 minute pace still seems outside of my reach, but I'm getting closer. 5:30, on the other hand, is feeling much more like old hat. I want to keep having at this here. I'm hungry. And then I suppose the cold can't last forever, and a little thaw can't hurt my effort either.

Call it 8.5 miles in 66:53. Time for a nice warm shower.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


The tyranny of keeping a blog updated. The problem is that I gotta run before I can update the damn thing.

I had a double on the schedule for today. 2 four milers, one at 32 minutes and one at 28 minutes. I'm not sure why they can't be done as one eight miler, but I did it as instructed.

Workout 1

The nice thing about a shorter workout is that I could sleep in a little longer. I took full advantage of that and was dreaming of sunny weather and warm temps when I was rudely awakened by the alarm. But it was daylight when I left, but it was cold enough for the freshly fallen dusting of snow to crunch underfoot. Second day in a row I dressed warmly. Went out to Tinicum and did the bottom loop of the figure 8. Much of the water was frozen, making life harder for the ducks and the shorebirds. After I was done I went from the freezing cold straight into a hot shower - a strange sensation.

Run was somewhere between 4.5 and 5 miles in 39:05.

Workout 2

The disadvantage to shorter workouts is that there is twice as much prep/shower time. Took it to the USP hamster wheel in a singularly uneventful workout. Listened to Hayes Carll on the iPod and realized that precious little of the music on my iPod inspires me to run at the moment. I need new music.

Ran 4 miles in 27:55, not a great feat of timing as pace can be minutely controlled on the machine.

Don't have any really deep thoughts to share, today was only about getting in the miles I had to.

However, I'll close with something interesting that Mike M. emailed me:

I looked up the 5k equivalent of your 26:00 8k on McMillan's [prediction] table, it is 15:45. I think the workouts you are doing are good, but prepare your mind as well as your body. Maybe you cannot break 15:30, but wouldn't it be fun to try?

I've thought about that as well. And it is a mental thing. Running a 26 minute 8k basically meant extending my best 5k pace for an additional 3k. It was speed that I was familiar with, I only had to hold it longer. Going down on my 5k time means actually going faster, substantially faster, and holding it. This spooks me, as I've always considered myself more of an endurance guy than a speed guy. But Mike's right, why settle for sub 16? But the nice thing is that a 5k is not a marathon. I run a 5k and, whether I get my goal or not, I can try again a few weeks later. So we'll see.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sixty Minute Man

Today was a day that I didn't quite see eye to eye with GP.

He sent an email yesterday to his acolytes anticipating the cold temps forecast for today and asking us to email him for alternate workouts. Now those who know me know that one of my numerous ideosyncracies is a higher than average tolerance for cold. I don't remember ever modifying a workout due to cold weather, so I email back GP and say that I should be fine despite the cold, and I'll just do my planned workout. He emails me back and writes something to the effect that my thermoregulation will be out of whack and affect my ability to perform optimally.

And I guess that is where we are different. I like his approach to training from a tactical standpoint: building comfort with faster speeds, recovering on the run (so to speak) and the like makes alot of sense to me. However I've always cast a wary eye towards biophysiological justifications of training practices. Whenever I've looked there has been precious little evidence to back up what folks like Daniels and Pfitzinger write. I've been doing this bloody sport off and on for decades now and have developed a pretty good sense of what works for me and what my body responds to. I trust this more than explanations involving mitochondria and the like.

Today's scheduled workout was:

10 @ 60: Lactate threshold run. This is an interesting workout as the pacing is very skillful.

Meaning gun to tape you cover 10 miles in 1 hour. However this includes the warm up, but the longer and slower your warm up, the more you have to make time up, the faster and shorter you warm up, the more the risk of incurring lactic build up which we are trying to avoid, so the run has to be just perfect in its make up.

Here we have more physiology. In planning this race I realized I don't think I would recognize lactic acid buildup in a situation like this. To me its basically a fast run without a warmup. Kind of like when I show up at races at the last minute and don't have time to warm up. Doing this never bothered me. Doing ten in sub 60 is a little fast for where I'm at, but I wasn't worried about being able to do it. As for the cold, well that made things interesting.

So I dropped Tony off at school and kept on driving to the Drives. Weather Underground said that temperatures were in the teens. This was enough to make me wear tights, my bulky and ever more raggedy Penn sweatshirt, and a hat and gloves. I figured I'd start at 7 minute pace and head towards 6 minute pace until mile 4, and then figure out what pace I had to run to make it back in under 60 - taking the last six miles as a tempo run.

Heading into the legendary Kelly Drive headwind, I felt comfortable and strong. Mile splits were 6:46; 6:13; 5:55; 5:58; 5:43; 5:46; 5:47; 5:53; 6:02; 5:55 for a total time of 59:58. Cut it a little closer than I had planned, but I love it. Today I'm a sixty minute man! After the first mile into the wind I knew the cold wouldn't be an issue and I wouldn't have a hard time with this workout. I hit the my fastest split, 5:43, right at the half, and tried to gradually ease up the rest of the way. As you can see from the subsequent splits I was pretty successful at this, and I felt in complete control of my pace, only having to push a little at the end to dip under 60.

Oh, and by mile 7 I felt overheated to the point of taking off my gloves and hat to let out more steam.

So my legs ache a little, but lactic acid buildup doesn't seem to be a problem. I also remember reading recently that lactic acid has gotten a bad rap, that there are supposedly benefits to it now. Confused? I guess I am. But today's workout felt right.

10 miles on Kelly & MLK, out and back, in 59:58.
There'll be 15 minutes of kissing
Then you'll holler "please don't stop"
There'll be 15 minutes of teasing
And 15 minutes of squeezing
And 15 minutes of blowing my top

If your man ain't treating you right
Come up and see ol' Dan
I rock 'em, roll 'em all night long
I'm a sixty-minute man
[Listen here]

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Long" Run

Mike's blog yesterday had an entry referring to Groundhog Day (the movie) where he said that for many runners their training cycles are like waking up to the same day again and again and again. I clicked on this immediately. I think that's why so much of my January just felt blah and why I now have 5k on the brain. This would have been the fourth or fifth winter where I would just be going out in cold mornings with the aim to put in miles. I love running, but this gets old.

So it was with some amusement that I ran my "long" run this morning. GP called for 10 miles at conversational pace. To assure that I would have the opportunity for conversation, I made arrangements with Deirdre for us to head west. On this morning, heading west meant heading into a fierce wind, and we spent much of the first four or so miles complaining about the wind in our faces - talking about other hard runs, about drafting off of others (being petite and female, she has much better success at this tactic than I), and other wind related stuff. Then we passed by the Lansdowne Sycamore (it sends its regards) and that was a literal turning point. It was the northernmost and westernmost point on the loop, and so the wind was at our backs for the rest of the way. We headed back through Yeadon and into West Philly, where our pace picked up and we felt like greyhounds until we realized that the wind was now pushing us. Thus the back five went considerably faster than the front five.

So that was my long run for the week. Old habits die hard, however. It feels like there is something missing, like I'm cheating, or slacking or something. Part of me wants to wake to Feb 2 again. 57 miles for the week. Seems to fall short when the goal for so long has been to hit the 80s and beyond. But shaking things up means leaving that comfort zone. Its funny to refer to running endless miles in the bitter cold as a comfort zone, but it is. And I am now leaving it. That is why I have a coach, so I can just follow direction and save my thoughts for filling up this blog.

I read over my last couple of entries and this one continues in that spirit, where I am digesting a different way to train. Its what I was looking for, but its not always easy when you actually get what you want. I'm sure there will be more of this. In the meantime, I'm waking up to February 4.

10 miles in 74:41 on this loop.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Running Scared

Warning to Rebecca and like-minded readers: this entry contains geekiness.

Workout from GP for the day was this:

Tempo run. Warm up 2 miles easy.....then move smoothly at 6.00 pace for 1 mile, slow to 7.30 pace for 2 minutes then return to 6.00 pace for remainder of mile.....then a very slow jog for 2 do 8 x 20 seconds at 4.40 effort.....each followed by a 30 easy jog....after the last one, jog a very slow 2 minutes, then run 2 miles at 5.25 pace......mile cooldown

This workout seemed to fit in well into a loop around the Drives, so I drove over there this afternoon.

Basically as best I can tell all the early stuff is designed to soften me up for the crux of the workout, which is the last two miles at 5:25 pace.

I went through the early stuff easily. Two warmup miles, and then the next two miles went at or below prescribed pace. Again I am surprised at how easy 6 minute pace feels. What I have in mind as this pace is invariably a bit faster, and then I slow and it doesn't feel like nearly the effort that I feel 6 minute pace should be. I suppose this is progress. Running around the Drives I also remembered that it was the Schuylkill Loop race, back in 2001, where I ran my first sub-6 minute mile split in a road race. This was a watershed moment; it opened possibilities for me for how fast I was able to run. But it is now also a point to see how far I've come since then. I reminded myself that in CIM I ran 26.2 miles in under 6 minute pace.

The little 20 second strides I just took running as fast as I can. When I do this my mind always messes with me by asking whether this is actually as fast as I can go, or whether I can push myself harder. I'll never have an answer for this so I'll just say I took them hard, but they are such short efforts and, given the recoveries, I wasn't real winded from them.

Then there was a 2-minute recovery and the two miles that counted. What I like about GP's track and tempo workouts sofar is that he has managed to include at least one item on them that scares me, but which I realize upon finishing is within my range. It is this fear of running at my limits that I bring to these workouts, and that I then proceed to face down. Today was no exception.

So I started these last miles conscious of the fact that, with two of them at 5:25, I'd have to push it a bit faster than the last timed mile I had to run on Thursday - a 5:30 which I just missed hitting. I know now that when I run scared I run too fast, and the first of these miles was no exception. Ran a 71 second 1st quarter split when I should have run an 81. I evened out the pace somewhat to run the first mile in 5:22 and then there was one mile left. I visualized myself racing, and focused on holding pace. The pace was comfortable enough (don't get me wrong, I was huffing and puffing aplenty) to where I could get into this maintenance mindset. For the second mile, the 3/4 mark came in at 4:04, right on pace and I just gunned it for the last quarter, running a 78 to finish in another 5:22.

I was pumped. I faced down the workout and nailed it. Although this training program is only a week old at this point, I'm seeing progress. But although I'm happy I nailed this run and handled the 5:25 pace, I know I've got awhile to go. 5:25 pace translates to about a 16:40 5k, so I've got to get comfortable with a considerably faster pace to make my goal. But I trust that is on the way.

Alright. I should close with something non-geeky. Dunno what, though. I nailed the workout despite very windy conditions. On the Drives that means that there is no such thing as a tailwind. It was also chilly but not extremely cold, which you couldn't tell from most of the other people out there. They were bundled up to where, in the case of some women who were out there, the Taliban would have approved. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and felt comfortable. I got several comments about my light dress, including one that came when I was running all-out. Did the guy think I was going to answer him?

All totalled, the 8.5 mile loop went by in 56:08.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Back to Tinicum

Ran the figure 8 loop around the perimeter of the John Heinz-Tinicum Wildlife Refuge. Each time I have run this I have raved about it here, and the temptation is to do so again.

It is such a beautiful run. Today the sky was grey and the ground was dusted white by just a touch of fresh snow. The ground had the consistency of a springy track and the tide was low, exposing huge mudflats. I saw at least four Red-Tailed Hawks, spooked 7 or 8 Great Blue Herons, countless cardinals and sparrows, and, as the highlight, saw a pair of Wild Turkeys cross the path in front of me. All this without seeing another soul (human that is!) on the run. Just a beautiful run.

Today called for an easy 8. It started out that way but picked up speed as the run progressed. Couldn't help it. Just a celebration of being in a wonderful space and time. Conservatively, call it 9 in 73:55.

Let's go!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Run Baby Run

Popped the Sheryl Crow dvd that Kevin got me for Christmas into the player and got it in the background. More for the music than to watch, even though I catch myself stealing a long glance every so often. The song that I titled this entry after has nothing to do with running, but so what?

Met Deirdre at the South St. bridge this morning and we went to the Art Museum to do tempo runs on MLK. Parallel play - Deirdre did her tempo and I did mine and we met again where we started when we were both done. On tap for me this morning were three progressive miles: 5:50, 5:40 and 5:30. I ran them in 5:46; 5:38 and 5:31. Went out a little too fast and finished a little too slow. I shouldn't make too much out of a second, but its frustrating as I was right on pace - 4:08 - at the 3/4 mark. Oh well.

If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad.

Considering my goal time, this isn't terribly fast but again is where I'm at. I was sucking oxygen when I was done and it took me jogging all the way back to the South St. bridge, about a mile, before I felt recovered. Until then, I would be holding up my end of a conversation about training with Deirdre and would say an animated mouthful and then have to break to take some breaths.

There was a circle around the moon last night. The moon's light refracted through ice crystals is the scientific explanation; a harbinger of rain is the folk wisdom. Add the chilly weather to that and it might snow tonight. Weather Underground says its a distinct possibility. One can always hope.

9.5 miles in 67:41.