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, April 30, 2008

Marathon Legs

Running has been irregular since the marathon, as has the blogging. It will likely continue thus through May. In June I want to regroup for one more effort at a fast marathon this fall.

If I do that my legs are going to have to feel better than they did this morning. They felt worn out and punchless, very similar to how I remember them feeling in Boston. Here I dwelt on bad memories and wondered whether I'd have any zip for Broad Street on Sunday. I went out to Cobbs Creek and back on Warrington and had enough energy to fartlek it most of the way. But it just didn't feel like I had anything fast to lay down.

Cool sunny Spring morning, of the kind where you can't help but go out and run.

We'll see how Broad Street goes on Sunday. In the meantime I'd like to run for the rest of the week to retune things.

5.5 miles, no watch.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Run

I'm not doing any deliberate training right now, just running when the mood strikes and hoping I don't lose too much fitness before Broad Street.

In another sign of advancing age, I had 4 beers last night and have had a headache since I woke up. In times past a run would often clear this up. In search of relief I tagged along with Kevin as he did "easy" laps around Clark Park. Its good to run with him, and something I do much too infrequently. The run was brisk, but not so much that we couldn't talk and match wits with hecklers.

3.5 miles, untimed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Home again, this time from Portland, Oregon. Had a meeting there with other people who work with information systems and data on homeless services. Pretty geeky, I know, but it’s fun spending a day with a group of people who are deeply involved in the same esoteric subject. In that it has parallels to Boston.

It also had parallels in that there were several runners among us. I was invited to join a group that was heading out after the meeting was over at 4:30. I didn’t bring any running stuff on the trip, but had some old trainers for walking around shoes and a pair of shorts to sleep in. That with a shirt and I was good to go. Four of us met up and took the light rail from our downtown hotel to the Washington Park stop. This stop sits in a tunnel 300 feet under a hill, and you take an elevator to the top where you come out by the zoo and a network of trails.

Brett and I took the Woodland Trail on a modified (by our difficulty in following the path) out and back (and up and down) to the Pittock Mansion on top of a hill that provided a panoramic view of Portland. The afternoon was clear enough to see the city, but the muddiness of the trail (and, eventually, my calves) spoke to the wet climate here. The running was good, and the legs feel rested again. This supports my framing of Monday as a long run in preparation for Broad Street (10 mile run) next weekend.

Speaking of Boston, thank you for all the comments and support. I’ve never gotten in the double-digits in comments on a post. More people followed me online and poignantly described their concern as my 5k splits got slower. And I got much affirmation for my theory that, hey, these races happen and, if anything, it’s surprising that its taken me 12 marathons to a meltdown. Seems most runners, regardless of ability, have a bad marathon story, and now I have one too.

Total run time was about 65 minutes, call it 7 miles.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Boston Marathon

Okay, time to exorcise this race and move on.

I feel humbled.

Everything started out great. Met up with Ian, Chem Steve, English Mike and Yoshiko and took the bus up to Boston. Weather was cool and cloudy, so much so that I left my sunglasses in the gear bag and sent them back. Because of this, the sun broke through the clouds just before the gun went off.

True to my intentions, I took the first mile slow, hitting a 6:46 and then the second at 6 flat. Mile 3 went by in 6:14 and the mile splits fluctuated in the lowish 6's until about mile 6, when Matt Palumbaro comes running by me. We run together until mile 9 and he keeps me on goal pace as I come to realize that there is no way I'm going to be able to hold this pace for another 17 miles. It never felt comfortable from the start, and now, at 15k, I was less than a minute off goal pace but I felt like I was on the Newton Hills already.

So as Matt motored away I bargained my pace down to a 6:15, then a 6:30, and still couldn't see myself hanging on to this pace. As I was figuring all this out, the crowds in Framingham and Natick were as big as I'd ever seen them, and Wellesley was the usual screamfest. But the more I wasn't feeling it the more self-absorbed I got. And as I slowed there was a relentless stream of people running past me. This added an element of self pity.

Nonetheless, by the halfway point my split time was 1:22:47, still leaving some hope for a decent finishing time. But I was still fading. By mile 15 I was hitting mile splits in the 7 minute range and I stopped recording them on my watch. Mile 16 started up the Newton Hills, and there was still a steady stream of people passing. One of them was Jeff Bundy, a former Evil Killer Bunny of Death. He looked strong; I told him it wasn't my day and reminded him to save something for the upcoming hills.

The low point of the race was about here. My legs were shredded, my toes were hitting up against the front of my shoes, and I felt a blister start up under the base of my big toe. My pace hadn't bottomed out, and I wondered if I'd make it to the finish. Worse than that, I didn't know if I wanted to finish. And the turnoff to Commonwealth Ave (by the firehouse) hadn't even come up yet.

I don't check splits now, I just count down how many miles are left and wonder how long it would take to walk the rest of the way. I take water at the water stops and pop a Gu. I put my head down and trudged up the hills - first Braeburn, then the unnamed one, and finally Heartbreak. Between the last two I found a little something and speed up a bit. But it doesn't last. It takes me 24:13 to go from 25km to 30km, and 24:19 from 30km to 35km (7:51 pace). Somewhere along the former interval Lance passes me by, or so Reba tells me. I never saw him pass. My last goal is shattered. Chem Steve also passes me. I tell him it isn't my day and wonder if I'd finish before seeing Ian, who's running at a 4-hour clip with Amby Burfoot as Amby commemorates the 40th anniversary of his winning this race.

Mile 21 and I crest Heartbreak and start the descent along Boston College. My blister is now large enough to make this painful, and I'm telling myself this is all a long Sunday run. The crowds are great but sound hollow. All those damn runners continue to pass. One mile passes more slowly than the last. I start checking splits again and notice they have migrated into the low 8 minute rage. I give up hope of finishing under 3 hours. The last thing left is my resolve not to walk it in.

And I do hang on to that, crossing the line in 3:05:48. My slowest of 4 Bostons. Upon finishing, I see Jeff again, who was hampered by IT band problems and hung on to finish about 10 seconds ahead of me. Then all starts to go white around the edges. We get to the mylar blanket handouts and I wonder if I'm going to pass out. I sit down for a bit, hobble down to get my chip removed, and have to sit down again. Jeff stuck with me here, and I owe him big. After an endless shuffle to get the gear back its an even longer endless shuffle to get back to the hotel.

Reba got me a massage at the hotel and I follow this up with a long sit in the hot tub. I feel a bit better but still feel more beat up than I remember after any marathon. I run into Kevin Matthews by the pool, and we talk for a bit. He has opened up a running store a few weeks ago in Downingtown. He is the perfect person to open such a store and I hope he does well.

And all that is left now is to get some meaning out of my meltdown. First time this has happened to me in a marathon. No clear reason why. Today just wasn't meant to be. If I fell apart at, say, Heartbreak, I could put it down to something or other in my training. But this one just wasn't meant to be. I've run Sunday 20-milers better than I did today's race, and just couldn't do any better. So I'm inclined to write it off and move on. Just a shitty race. Obviously disappointed, but I feel okay.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Watching Seebo in Boston

Ran an Art Museum loop. Beautiful morning and the usual. 6.5 miles, no time. I'm not getting too up on running this week. Just not feeling it, like I'm running just for the sake of fulfilling the obligation. On the bright side, no crises have popped up, yet.

Me and the kids are leaving for Boston this afternoon. We will make a road trip out of it, staying overnight at my mom's tonight and spending Saturday visiting some colleges that M is interested in before pulling into Boston on Saturday night in time to catch a Red Sox game. Sunday its the Trials and more colleges and dinner at the North End. Monday is marathon day and its one more college on Tuesday and the long ride home, with the goal to be back by 5 and in time for me to teach my Tuesday evening class.

For the record, like I've said before my goal is 2:40 and anything under 2:45 is very realistic. You can follow me online in real time starting at 10am on Monday on the Boston Marathon website (not sure the exact link) and, if you follow me you may want to compare my progress to Lance Armstrong's, as my true goal will be to best him. If I beat him I'll finish happy and if I don't, well, I'll still be happy.

If you do follow me online, here are some signs to how you'll know whether I'm doing well. The website gives you runner's times at successive 5k intervals. For me, if you see me hitting the 5k's in/around 19 minutes flat (a little faster is okay, a little slower for the first one is okay), then I'm doing well. If I'm ringing these up much faster than 19 flat then I'm running stupid, much slower and I'm likely hurting or the weather conditions are bad.

The website also give you runner's times at the halfway mark (13.1 miles). The way I run marathons is to focus on getting a desired halfway time, and then leave the second half of the race to fate and to my abilities. My plan is to cross the 13.1 mile mark in 1:20. Again, anything much off from that is an indicator that things aren't (slow) or won't be (fast) going well.

Third, the drama really starts after 25k. Judging from my goal pace, I should be hitting 25k (15.5 miles) in 1:34:30 or so. Thereafter the Newton hills (including Heartbreak Hill) start, and things get challenging. From there on in, the longer I can show 5k splits under 19 minutes the better I'll be running. Its that simple... and that hard.

The next time I post I'll probably be blathering about the race. Good luck to the many folks I know, either in real life or virtually, who will be running on Monday. And thanks for the good wishes that have been coming to me in all sorts of ways.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shedding the Yoke

My runs this week are more like afterthoughts, and my posts are then afterthoughts to afterthoughts.

Ran out to Cobbs Creek and back on Warrington today. Didn't want to get out there and then didn't want to stop running on such a glorious morning. I rid myself of my watch's oppressive gaze and just ran free.

I never know how to taper. Last time around, in late 06, I just took the whole last week easy, the marathon tapers before that I did one more track workout midweek before marathon day, a 5k on the installment plan. One part of me feels that I should go to the track one more time, but the prevailing part of me says that I need the rest more than I need the legs flogged one more time. So another nice jog tomorrow and Friday, and then its off to Boston.

5.5 miles.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Ideal morning to run. Did a short figure 8 through Tinicum - basking in the rising sun and leaving the iPod at home in favor of bird songs. No pressure to do any distance or go any speed and I took full advantage of it. Wildlife highlights included a woodchuck who speed-wattled ahead of me on the trail long enough to realize how much he reminded me of my cat, and the first Canada goslings of the year.

As I'm feeling more ready for the marathon I'm feeling more the need to put the logistics of the trip together.

6.5 miles in 56:59.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ruination Day

Ruination Day, and the sky was red,
I went back to work and back to bed.
And the iceberg broke, and the Okies fled
And the Great Emancipator took a bullet in the head.

- Gillian Welch

Won't be running today.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Update

Took Friday off.

Went out yesterday for an easy 8 around Eastern Delco and West Philly with Bob, who looks me up to run every time he visits his sister, who is a colleague of mine at USP. If things go as planned I'll see Bob again next week in Hopkinton. First really warm day of the year, which had me sweating profusely. 8 in 69:07.

It was nice calling the Tenicum my long run for the week today. Noteworthy stuff included seeing my first turtle of the year, watching the newly arrived swallows fight to fly against the strong southerly winds, and stumbling three times on the interesting part, narrowly averting a fall each time. After the first time I said to myself be careful, second time I redoubled these efforts, and on the third time I realized how little control I have over whether or not I take a dive.

I also ran miles 5-9 at marathon pace, running them in 24:20. Felt about as it should. 10 total in 79:30.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Undulating Splits

Wanted to get a few more marathon pace miles in this morning in the name of revving the engine. Ran an old chestnut, where I warm up to 34th and Market and run hard for 2 miles to the Civil War Memorial in Fairmount Park. Anyone who's run the Phila Marathon knows that segment as the only part of the course (with the exception now that they added Lemon Hill to the course) with any hills to speak of. This segment is exactly two miles, then there is about a half-mile downhill to MLK, and then its another mile of marked bike path to the Strawberry Mansion bridge. This 3.5 mile portion I'd take at 6:07 pace. Afterwards I start running easy again.

Turns out this was not the best of choices for simulating marathon conditions. The first two miles is a challenging stretch, and with the up and downhills its hard to get a good read on pace until I get the split time at two miles. I know I could run it fast if I wanted, but I was looking to get the marathon pace feel, meaning I'd be running briskly but not so much that I get real anaerobic (i.e., tempo pace). All this overthinking, and a truck blocking the sidewalk by the zoo, and a long red light at 34th and Girard Ave, all contributed to a 12:38 2-mile split. I continued pace on the downhill and then ran the last, marked mile in 6:02. After that I jogged home, speeding up a bit at the end when I realized I was running late.

The cooldown gave me some time to think about my marathon pace performance. From the initial disappointment of missing my initial time goal, I digested my performance to where I came to appreciate the role of various course intangibles. My effort for the first part felt about the same as for the second, where time and effort felt like I wanted them to. I still don't like missing a time goal, I'd feel better compensating for course factors by running a bit faster. But in a marathon, adapting, rather than bulling through, is the wiser way to go. Hopefully my experience this morning will lead to my feeling a bit more relaxed at the specter of undulating splits come Boston. If that is the case then I will have picked up a bit of wisdom this morning.

It is all mental from here on in. 10 miles along this course in 81:03.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

1000 in 100

Another easy run. Took the run I planned yesterday, up to MLK and around Sweetbriar. Went home on 46th instead of on 49th as is usual, giving me 7.75 in a pedestrian 68:03. Running on days I drive Tony still means I start out in darkness, but the mild weather reminds me how far I've come since the cold days of January.

And I mean that literally. I noticed yesterday that with today's run I broke the 1000 mark in total mileage for the year. On the run today I figured that this was the 100th day of the year. Living up to my 10-mile a day habit. That won't last, my mileage from here to June will drop significantly, but its a nice achievement and the best mileage I've done ever over an extended time period.

Which got me thinking. As I've said before, according to any indicator I can find I'm in low-2:40's marathon shape. I will plan accordingly to run the first half in Boston at 1:20. After that I stop planning because, while I can control my performance for the first half, the best I can do in the second half is to put me in a position to do well. After that, anything, positive or negative, can happen. And does happen.

That number, the final race time, is what we actually focus on. What we do have control over, and what ultimately represents an exponentially greater effort, is what we accomplish in training. But all that gets forgotten in favor of the race time. I'm not complaining necessarily, just putting it out there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cutting Short

Looked to go 8 today, but got on the road and still felt alot of crud in my legs. So I called an audible and instead of heading to the Art Museum I turned onto Market St. instead.

Weather is grey and uninviting, and my mood seems affected by this as well. At this point I'm not feeling ready for anything, and my taper feels more like a flail.

I suspect, however, that such emotional ups and downs are all part of the taper. I'll have to check the archives here to assess this theory, but not this morning.

5+ miles in 45:27.

Monday, April 07, 2008

One Two Punch

Or how not to taper.

Went to a track meet on Saturday. Mostly for the fun of it. Friends would be running and there would be alot of opportunity to hang out before running 5000 meters. I don't have to worry about wrapping mileage around that as, hey, I'm in a taper. Don't have to worry about the time I run the 5000 in because, hey, I'm keying on a marathon. Just for the fun of it.

And it was fun. But its such a different culture than road racing. Kevin and I got there for the start at 10 but it wasn't until about 1:30 that the 5000 meter race started. I hadn't planned on it taking that long. The race went fine, but I realized that running 5000 on a track is much different than running 5k on the road. Its just going round and round. No hills or anything, I figured I'd go faster. Instead I ran a 16:59 (5:19; 5:29; 5:31) for fifth place which felt more like a time trial than a race. This surprised but did not dismay.

I then got roped into running part of the 4x400 relay with a team that needed a fourth. This was amusing to Kevin and Chuck and some others who kindly took the time to explain how to hand off the baton. They were even more amused when our team, referred to as the Misfits, got placed in the second heat opposite the only women's team running, from Goldey Beacom College.

I figured how hard can running once around the track be. And it wasn't. I just ran as fast as I could and it was quickly done. Split was somewhere between 68 and 70 (yes, we beat the other team). What I didn't figure on was how hard that was on the legs. I first noticed it while driving, with soreness in my legs making itself known every time I'd shift (manual transmission). Then just had more achiness than usual walking around.

I nonetheless stuck with my Sunday plan to run up to the Drives, do 8 miles at marathon pace, and cool down for a total of about 14. First 4 went in 24:26, right on pace, and second four went in 24:37, still pretty close to pace but surprising in how I started losing it in miles 7 & 8. It felt like I was holding pace for mile 7 when I lost about 8 seconds, and I felt like I was going sub 6 pace when I got a 6:10 for the final mile. After finishing these miles and slowing down, I realized how done my legs were. The only reason I ran the 3 cooldown miles home was so I'd get there faster. My legs really hurt. I was totally unaware of this while running the marathon pace miles, but realized afterwards that the wheels were starting to come off.

Which I realize is good marathon prep. I think most vividly of Grandma's marathon in 2004, when the harder I tried to keep pace the slower I'd get - a helpless feeling of matter over mind. That was what I had yesterday. I should not have had any problems physically doing this workout, but Saturday's running took alot more out of me than I thought it would. Running the final miles home I visualized running the last 10k in a marathon. If I'm feeling like this then, then its too late. Heroics isn't what its about at that point, the key lies in not overextending in the first place. It gave me a new resolve to start conservative in Boston. I have not ever heard people complain that they started a marathon too slow. We've all heard plenty of folks describe how they started a marathon too fast.

But then I also wish I had a dollar for everyone about to run Boston who harped on how they knew they need to go out slow, and then went out too fast anyway. I hope I don't become another one of them.

And my legs still feel really beat up today. Good thing I'm taking the day off.

6.5 miles on Saturday with warm-up and cooldown, 14 miles on Sunday in 1:44.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Keeping Up With Reba

It was raining this morning. Not heavy, but enough for me to stay indoors. Reba, however, made it out. She did 40-something minutes, so I couldn't let her show me up.

Thus I went out at lunchtime, when it was drier. Did an Art Museum loop from USP. When I got to the bike path I tried some half-hearted pickups, but it was mostly a run to fulfill the obligation. Six miles was the most I would allow myself, and I got that in 48:36.

No skin pics on this entry. If you want to see some thigh, you'll have to visit Reba's blog.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tapering & Pondering

Tapers are never easy. One big question that vexes me, as well as many others, is how much to taper so that one is well rested but doesn't get stale. Another question that really has no good answer is whether it is true that you don't really gain or lose fitness with what you do in the last three weeks before a marathon. There is no empirical evidence I'm aware of that informs this issue, so all we have left is alot of folklore. Folklore particular to marathon runners. For if you can't get anymore fit in the three weeks before a marathon, it would stand to reason that you couldn't gain any more fitness in the three weeks before, say, a 5k. Yet no one tapers that much before a 5k.

What makes it even more confusing is the different things different coaches and "experts" recommend for doing a taper. A guy posted on the Philly Runners message board that a Jack Daniels program is having him run a 10k at full race pace as part of a marathon taper. WTF? Greg McMillan, who I briefly enlisted as a coach several years back, liked to throw in tougher workouts to "rev the engine." Cool concept, but is it beneficial? Others, mostly women, are hesitant to cut down on their mileage for fear of gaining weight. All this seems to go against the spirit of the taper. And indeed, after months of doing more, it is hard now to do less.

In such a vacuum of information, I have learned to take it by feel. Take conventional wisdom, no matter how contradictory, under advisement and in the end do what seems to work for me. I wanted to go out to the track today, but I just don't see any point in running jelly-legged hyperventilating repeats. I do enough of those in a training cycle, and they really don't fit well with the psychology of the marathon, which calls for a more tortoise-like, slow and steady approach. So instead I figured that today I'd do an extended marathon pace workout. Here I could still get the speed up to where it would give me a good workout, but would work on my ability to keep pace, to feel comfortable while going at an elevated speed, rather than looking to boldly go where Seebo has not gone in a long time.

So I warmed up by running down to Franklin Field and ran 10,000 meters around the track. I aimed for 6 consecutive 1600 splits at marathon pace (6:07) and then, as a reward, the last 400 meters as fast as I could go. For the first two 1600s I checked my watch every 400m and ran fast, 5:55 and 6:05. For the second two 1600s I checked my watch every 800m and clocked even 6:07s. For the last two I checked my watch only at the end of the 1600 and did a 6:02 and then a 6:11. Then I reassured myself that I had plenty left in the tank by doing a 77 second 400. I could have done another one. So it was 10,000 meters in 37:44. 32,000 more meters of that would get me a good marathon time.

This is an entirely different way of thinking than the usual track repeats, because I worry about going both too slow and too fast. Holding pace is physically not a challenge, its all mental. I tend to fight harder with the demons who taunt me about going too slow. As a result I go too fast. Not good in a marathon.

So, decidedly mixed results today, and I'll look to get me some more marathon pace workouts in this taper. It feels right - keeping my legs sharp and gearing up my mind for the steady splits I'll need. 26 of them. And then take off for the last point-two!

10 miles total in 74:52.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Destined for Obscurity

Out of maybe 100 runs there emerges one memorable run. Well, this morning's was one of the other ninety-nine. Did a Sweetbriar Loop for eight miles. Running was good when the wind was at my back, not-so-good when it was in my face. The garbage train returned to park alongside the Schuylkill bike path, and Ryan Adams' Gold was on my iPod for the umpteenth time in the last month. The sun was out and the spring was blooming.

Not a bad run, just one that, after being dutifully summarized here, is surely destined to join the thousands of runs whose details are forgotten and have blurred together and presumably accumulated into one primal running memory submerged somewhere in the unconscious.

8 miles in 64:06.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


After taking yesterday off, I got back out into this mild, gray morning and ran the first figure 8 of Spring through the Tinicum refuge. Better known as the Tenicum. Ten miles door to door with nary a traffic light or a road crossing.

One of the best runs of the year. The spring fever was epidemic. Going through the car wash section, everything was green and the sounds of birds were everywhere. The ground was springy, not muddy, giving a bounce that felt like I was getting as much energy back from the path as I was pounding into it. Having a south wind at my back didn't hurt the cause either. The Tinicum Track Club was out beating through the bushes. One of several Northern Shoveler ducks was running on water and flapping its wings like an airplane upon takeoff. But the best wildlife sighting of the morning was three wild turkeys who slowly sauntered across the path in the woodsy part as I was approaching, and were maybe ten feet into the woods when I passed them. I stopped and checked them out for about 30 seconds, never having seen wild turkeys this close. A tom and two hens.

No more worrying about my fitness, so all that leaves is to go out and run for the enjoyment of it. That's what this morning was about.