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, December 31, 2008

Bridge Report

In signing in just now I happen to see that this is my 1000th post. I'm not sure whether to be proud of that or think that had I put all this writing toward other ends I could have a novel done by now.

Interesting run this morning. Started by heading out west with Erin. As we caught up on what seemed like too much of each others lives we realized how little we've run together lately. After four miles and citing lack of shape, she ducked into the A-Plus store for a gallon of milk and I was on my own.

I continued down toward Penn, ducking behind the baseball field onto a service road that runs parallel to I-76 to see how close I could get to the South Street Bridge construction. I figured I could get back up onto South Street through the Penn ROTC building. But when I got there ROTC was an island, as the elevated section of South Street that hooks the ROTC building to civilization as it passes over I-76 and connects to the bridge is now completely gone. This is a stretch of street, now vanished, that I've run on for a good percentage of the 1000 blog posts I've written. A strange sight. Beyond it, the South Street Bridge was well on its way to being dismantled as well. All I could do was wish them Godspeed and try to figure out how to get back on to the portion of South Street that still exists. The only way was back the way I came.

From there I headed through the ever growing medical complex around 34th Street to Walnut Street, where I crossed the river and hit the bike path along the Schuylkill. From there it was to the Art Museum and, instead of running the usual way back home through Penn, I kept going on Spring Garden Street till it ended on 42nd St. I surprised myself with how unfamiliar I am with this street. Running on it, it was easy to imagine how it must have been the heart of Powelton Village back when Powelton was a village, and as I headed west the stately homes turned into progressively more dilapidated row houses.

One of the reasons I love running in the city - the endless places to explore, sometimes right underfoot.

A December 31st post would not be complete without some mention of the year that's wrapping up today. In year's past I've posted a top 10 list of running events for the year, but my heart isn't in it this year. There weren't so many single points this year as much as little bits of zen gleaned from a string of minor adversities. I logged 2,471 miles this year, an average of 6.8 per day. This is more than the 2,200 I logged last year, but less than the 3,133 I logged in 2006. While it has not been an eventful year runningwise, it has been a good year otherwise and for that I'm glad.

For once I have my hopes up for 2009 - both for running and in general. Starting on a new log sheet, with all of its blankness, always gets me excited for all of the possibilities it holds. Happy New Year.

11.5 miles in 1:43:10, and no that's not a typo - just slow and not accounting for all of the turning around due to the construction.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Mighty Wind

It was howlin' like a wolf out there this morning. Not too cold but blowing hard into the backstretch of the Interboro HS track. This added an interesting dimension to my workout - 5k on the installment plan (5x1000 w/ 400m recovery) - as the odd numbered reps would be wind aided and the even ones wind impaired.

Reps went like this: 3:33; 3:30; 3:29; 3:31; 3:34.

It doesn't take much to get my mind going, and on recoveries I dissected the times and 400 and 200 meter splits to see how much difference running the last 200 meters with or against the wind made. The ultimate answer is not much, at most the wind slowed me down by 1 second. However, the change in efforts over the course of the reps may have contributed to my slower times over the last two reps. The wind blew hardest on the last rep and the slowdown was more due to a loss of focus than a loss of speed.

Okay, Seebo, don't hurt yourself overthinking here.

Six days of altitude training had no noticeable effect on my running.

As usual, I would like to have run this workout faster. But key is that I ran the workout. 10 miles total with 80:56 total time. 5k, all tallied up, was in 17:37.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back Home

Got in last night. Denver was great. Since I last wrote:
- Christmas day I got alot of hill work in on this loop: 8.5 in 67:24. Hiked for a bit afterward.
- on the 26th I went skiing in 6 inches or so of fresh powder on top of who knows how much more snow. Most amazing condition and surroundings I've ever skied in, but left my legs oh-so very sore; so
- on the 27th I rested; and
- on the 28th I did 5.5 in the morning (47:27) before flying back to Philly.

All in all, I'm glad I kept up some running, although I would hardly call it training. But that's why its called vacation.

This morning I ran through Tinicum to go get my car. The prelude to this was that Bluette, my faithful 97 VW Golf, had some trouble last Monday before I left for Denver. We managed to limp into a Strauss Auto Supplies store/repair shop on Island Ave/Lindbergh Blvd - just down the road from where she broke down. I left her there while I went out west and this morning did a destination run from Reba's place to pick her up.

Reba will be moving in with me in the upcoming month, which is a wonderful thing save for that I won't have much occasion to run Tinicum anymore. Today's run felt like a farewell party of sorts. I ran into a chilly crisp sunrise and the whole refuge was alive. Some members of the Tinicum Track Club gave me a little escort, there were more herons than I've ever seen, geese, ducks, sparrows, cardinals among other species flew and twittered and were all over. Then as I started running around a newly filled Darby Lake a Bald Eagle flew overhead. Took my breath away faster than the Denver altitude. I will miss Tinicum.

I'll call it 6 miles, a slow 55:20. Still not a training run. Tomorrow morning I'll head out to the track to see how these legs have fared over the holiday.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sucking Wind

Merry Christmas, and greetings from Colorado.

If Santa is putting his Christmas list together based on recent workouts, I'm definitely some of the hard black lumpy stuff. I blew off running last weekend, didn't run on Monday due to car trouble and travel, and then finally made it out again yesterday for four miles or so here in Lakewood, just outside of Denver, where we are spending the holiday with Reba's family.

Sofar I've learned to avoid running on roads that have the word "Mountain" in them. Seriously, it is, not surprisingly, much hillier around here at the foot of the foothills of the Rockies. The ups and the downs are more extended, in the fashion of Rockford Park in Wilmington, and for yesterdays workout I took it easy on the downhills and took the uphills hard. This got me realizing how much thinner the air really is out here.

Today I took an early morning loop that was a bit longer and provided me with plenty of ups and downs again. The downhills were nice, especially one that was about a mile long and not too steep. I took the uphills hard again and didn't realize how much oxygen debt I was in until I finished the run and could not get enough oxygen in my lungs for a few minutes.

Be blogging sporadically for the next few days and hopefully doing some cross training. Just giving myself an easy week again. 5.5 miles in 42:14.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rapture (or running the line)

For once I'm staring at the rain outside and feeling good, as I've got my run in already. The legs continue to feel beat up so I didn't push the mileage. Deirdre came by and we agreed to take it out to Mount Moriah Cemetery and call it an "easy" day at seven or so. One subject for discussion was the greater discipline it takes not to overdue things, and the fine line between getting fitter and heading toward injury. I like to think the soreness in my legs is a sign that I'm progressing toward the shape I want to be in (I of course never actually get there) but am also aware that on any morning things can shut down just like that. Running the line, so to speak.

Weather was a little too cool for mild, but very comfortable. A pervasively grey morning light hit just as we were running (whistling?) through the graveyard, making for an image of gravestones on a hill that looked like a stark, black and white photo. I told Deirdre that this is the type of morning I imagine a rapture could occur, with people coming out of their graves.

But it doesn't look like the rapture happened this morning, and we continued on. 7.5 miles on this route in 64:07

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running Strong

Looked to hit the track over lunch. Big signs saying that, starting today, Franklin Field will be closed until January 13. Nothing like getting all revved for a track workout and then having to scramble for a plan B.

Plan B became an abbreviated tempo run on MLK. I was starting to think that FF being closed may have been a blessing from gods who had more sense than I did. My legs still felt sore and I didn't see how I'd be able to ramp things up. But I hit MLK and just took off, my strides feeling longer and as if they were hitting the treadmill. Felt I was pushing and held it there for two miles, finishing them in 11:45. Don't know if I could have held that for a third mile, but I was happy to take it that fast for two. Next step will be keep that pace for longer distances.

With that I felt like I am continuing to make progress with my training. Dunno how much physical progress from today but it's big to be able to visualize myself doing sub 6's down the Drives. Also left me feeling like a beast running back down 42nd St. to USP, with JB Hutto pumping into my ears from the iPod.

8.8 miles in 69:34. And next up is to work off my fitness at the departmental holiday party.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Little Help from My Friends

Yesterday I spoke of how the treadmill just takes you with it, where you set a pace and then its a matter of hanging on. In that manner, running becomes different than when you're on the roads and have to concentrate to keep pushing yourself when your energy and motivation flag.

In the absence of a treadmill this morning, there was Deirdre. She came by all warmed up and I left still hurting from yesterday afternoon's workout. The pace wasn't hard but I was pushing it as we took up an Acme loop, and by the time we hit Fairmount Park I was wondering if I'd last the whole loop. That was the worst of it, by the time we got to Wynnefield I was feeling better and though my legs were beat up I knew I'd get through it. By the time we got to 57th St. I was picking up the pace.

10 miles, 82:11. Nothing blistering, just glad to get a solid run in this morning, and humbled knowing I couldn't have done it on my own.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Perquisite Storm

Two nice things about the academic life are flexible lunch hours and access to athletic centers. With it being a rainy/ice pellety day I took advantage of that and did my workout on the hamster wheel.

I'm still early enough in my training to where I can get my tempo run in on the TM. The machine maxes out at a six minute pace so after two warmup miles I cranked it up to ten and resolved to hang on for at least three and a maximum of six miles. This is where TM running is different than road running, in the latter you push and in the former you hang on. I made it through three, than four, and things started getting dicey. Soon I was hanging on by the quarter mile, and when I got past five miles I was hanging on by each tenth of a mile. But hang on I did and then I did two cooldown miles.

As everyone knows, TM workouts are as grueling on the mind as they are on the legs. I like to think of that as a plus, but only after I'm done.

Although the TM was set at the fastest it will go - 10 miles an hour (6 minute mile) - the miles went by at a 5:58 clip. Does this mean that the band ran fast... the band was a little short... or the timer was fast? We'll never know, will we.

Now if I could get four MLK miles in at 6 minute pace, I'll be happy. After the holidays I will try that out - as I'll be ready for the Bloody Nipple tempo runs again. Then marathon training will be full tilt.

10 miles total, forgot to check the time, 6 miles in 36.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Heading West

Easy this morning, all I had time for and the wise way to go. Deirdre came by and we ran up to Cobbs Creek and back down Cedar Ave. 3.75 miles, 31:16. Weather was milder than usual, daylight was more absent than usual. Got home again and it was still dark.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Gears

Long trip home from New York, with the Christmas shopping and the dinner we got in along the way. Going to bed now. Before I brush my teeth and say my prayers, I'll give a quick recap of this morning's run.

Reba and I headed out to Rockland Lake and I did three laps around. Each loop around the lake was just over 3 miles around. First lap, in low gear, was in 26:40; second lap, in half-fast gear, was 23:24; and then I put it in high gear for the last one in 20:02. This progression felt natural and the last lap felt very strong. I really like the way I was feeling, like I could have run a marathon at that final pace. Another nice thing about doing the laps is that I could peel clothing off as I warmed up.

No one likes my new shoes, which are a shade that Reba calls "yellow snow". I think they do make me go faster, though. But I've been believing that about new shoes ever since I was six.

9 miles in 70:08.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Long Run

Greetings from New York, where I'm visiting my mom.

I got up early this morning to get my long run in before the trip. Deirdre obliged by running with me. To meet up with her, I had to cross the Grey's Ferry Bridge as an alternate to the now unavailable South Street Bridge. Then with Deirdre then ran up to Manayunk, crossed the river and went down Belmont (via the 3 Bears) back to West Philly.

Writing it like that makes the run sound relatively short, in reality it was a few miles longer than planned. Chilly in the beginning, more comfortable towards the end. When all was said and done, it was 17 miles in 2:17:23 on this route. This gets me beyond the 15 mile rut I've been falling into recently on my long runs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Putting It Out There

It was raining so hard this morning that I couldn't hear it. That's what I was thinking.

But I did get out to run. Out west to Cobbs Creek. It started raining about when I got to Warrington Ave, so I figured it was a good place to turn back. Then it let up as I got closer to home, so I tacked on an extra half mile.

It was mainly about getting out there to run today. That's what I did. And now its just about writing it down here. That's what I'm doing.

6 miles, untimed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Zero in Zero

Didn't run yesterday due to scheduling and was all set to run on the track today and then saw the rain outside. Just didn't want to do it wet and I didn't. Thinking now I should have at least gone to the treadmill but I didn't. So I'll take my second DNR.

So here I am in the midst of a post-trip letdown. Just have to ride it out.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tempo Run Lite

Didn’t get a good sleep last night, but still couldn’t sleep past 5:30 this morning. Had to be out battling LA freeway traffic by 8 this morning. I had planned to take a day off, but as I was up I’d have time to sneak in a quick run on a hotel treadmill. Better to log some miles than none at all.

And that, my friends, was what I did. Stripped down the workout to its bare essentials – the fast miles. Within the first mile I got the treadmill maxed out at 6 minute pace and then cruised for the next three miles. First four miles went by in 25:15, a much faster pace than what I’ve been running my tempos on MLK. With a half mile cooldown it was 4.5 miles in 29:58.

So I got my runs in on my travel days. Heading back home today. Past experience tells me that it’s the boomerang, the difficulty running in the days immediately following the trip, that presents the larger challenge. Hopefully forewarned is forearmed.

And yes, my watch does stop at red lights (when I do).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sociology Lesson

One of the best-known theories in urban sociology is Ernest Burgess' Concentric Zone Model. In it, he lays out a general socio-spatial schema of the city in which the most valuable, highest use land is situated in a downtown core, which is surrounded by a band of land, the zone of transition, which is industrial, dilapidated and of low value. After that, each concentric band around the downtown increases in value as the further away it gets from the downtown core.

Like many theories, this one holds up better in the classroom than in real life. But I can apply it to my running over these last few days, for as soon as you get out of downtown LA the potential running routes take you through parts of the city you don't see on postcards. But those are the parts of the city that fascinate me. So this morning I plotted (plodded?) a route through East LA, which conjures pictures of Cheech Marin doing bad riffs on Springsteen.

Nothing very glamorous about this run. First part was the same as yesterday, up Bunker Hill and through Skid Row. Then I headed east instead of south. Like a sociology textbook, I first ran through the industry laden area around the LA River, with its cement riverbed, and then over the Santa Ana freeway, which provided the boundary past which lay East LA. The parts I ran through seemed drab and the people I passed seemed intent with getting their week started. Neighborhoods are seldom dicey at 6:30 a.m., if anything I felt invisible. Then it was back around to downtown.

I feel I've gotten a much better feel for the city through my runs. Not in the sense that I feel like I know the city but in that have gotten a sense of respect for it. LA to me has always been a city of sprawl and traffic, lacking in soul. While the former is true, I have seen the city's heart on my runs and have developed a fondness for it.

But I'll be glad to be coming back home tomorrow. 10+ miles in 83:42.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


No Redondo Beach to Malibu run this morning. No sunny postcard either but a cloudy, albeit wonderfully mild one.

I'm staying in the Millenium Biltmore, a storied, architecturally magnificent hotel in downtown LA, where I'm doing some work for the next few days. This morning I took a little sightseeing run and headed uphill from the hotel and went by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, an amazingly ostentatious Frank Gehry creation that I could not take my eyes off. Right past that and at the top of Bunker Hill is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a contemporary design in a mission style that I hope to take a peek inside of before I go.

City of Angels Half Marathon was today. The finish was right around the cathedral. Had I known earlier I could have jumped in.

But instead I continued on and in a mile or so got to Skid Row. For anybody interested in homelessness, Skid Row is a must see when in LA. Its maybe a square mile of homeless shelters, services, bars, and the like with hundreds of homeless people milling about. Its exactly how not to address homelessness. Where downtown was sleepy on a Sunday morning, everyone seemed out on "the Nickel" and to where there was no room for me on the sidewalk and I ran in the street.

From there it was south on Central Ave. through a section with alot of produce markets and then under the Santa Monica Freeway and into what I quickly figured out must be South Central LA. Things quickly became very Latino, with lots of Spanish and lots of color. An enormous white rooster statue was on top of a restaurant.

Sofar I was enjoying this route immensely, as these and other images and the rapid changes of scenery and neighborhoods got me thinking that I have to write in this morning's blog entry how there is no better way to reconnoiter a city than by running. Then I turned right on Jefferson Ave, and the vibrancy of Central Ave got replaced by more bleak surroundings. One of the things I remember from Mike Davis' late 80's book about LA, City of Quartz, was descriptions of the fortress mentality typical of LA. And here I saw what Davis meant, with walls, fences, barbed wire and the like partitioning and protecting everything. Employees were out painting over grafitti with bright pink paint at a local supermarket. And I'm starting to get nervous that my increasingly frequent crossings against the lights may get me in trouble in a city notorious for ticketing jaywalkers.

Jefferson Ave took me to Figueroa Ave, at the corner of the Southern Cal campus and from there I headed back up to downtown, past the enormous Convention Center and the glittery Staples Center. I got back to downtown and ended my loop as I started it, on an uphill. Map of the loop is here, I recommend it if you're ever staying in downtown LA and looking to run. Did I mention that there is no better way to reconnoiter a city than through a good run. And no jaywalking tickets... today.

Tomorrow the plan is to run out to East LA down Whittier Boulevard, see what that area looks like.

9 miles today in 74:04.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hair Shirt

Reba and I took a day off yesterday. To make it a true mental health day, I took a day off from running as well. No excuses. Just did it.

The best atonement for such sloth is to then do a run that you really don’t want to do. Put on a hair shirt and reassert the self-mortification that running can sometimes become. So on this chilly Saturday morning I dragged myself out of the warmth of bed to head out on a long run.

I really didn’t want to do this run but it would be the easiest time I’d have this weekend to get in a long run, as I left for Los Angeles later this afternoon. The run itself was nothing very noteworthy. Out to the Art Museum, around the Drives, and back. All with an iPod that froze up before I got to the South Street Bridge. 15 unimaginative miles over very familiar terrain. I’m still careful and holding back on the speed, so the game I played with myself on the marked miles was, once on the Drives, chipping away at an 8:24 first mile to log a cumulative 31:58 for the four MLK miles. I then resolved to hit the four Kelly Drive miles in under 31 minutes, and overshot this a bit by hitting a 30:36. Doing all this was more amusing than challenging. I’m determined to be patient this week.

My new sneeks did not arrive in time and I’m left with shlepping my near treadless 1062s to the West Coast with me. Tri City New Balance made a point of calling me and saying that the extra money I had spent to get second day delivery on the shoes was unnecessary. Then I was grateful for the money saved but, four days later and no shoes, I’m pissed.

I’m on a plane now, non-stop to LA, and foolishly ate a salty Land Jaeger – German smoked meat – and unwilling to pay for the now non-complementary beverages US Air offers. A bit more of the hair shirt. I’ll know better on the trip back.

Next entry will be a sunny postcard from California. 15 miles today in 2:02:12.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Recon Run

I took yesterday off and this morning I put on my now dry 1062s for an easy run. I was very conscious of my foot throughout the run; like tiptoeing around a sleeping baby. Baby stayed asleep, however, and all felt fine.

I'm still thinking crazy, however, as I'm feeling like I should have hammered it some this morning and could only reassure myself by saying, again and again, that the only sane way to run this morning would be as a recon run, to test out how things were working.

I did put Dave Alvin on again, and there were times in the run when all just grooved together and I felt like a runner.

Tomorrow I expect the cavalry to arrive, in the form of new shoes. A trip out of town means that I'm not going to be able to get any regular training in until middle of next week, so I'll take some recovery time.

So I'll take a page from a friend of mine who is good, too good maybe, at spinning running setbacks into positives. So now a combination of niggling pains and travel turns, presto, into a recovery week. Sounds much better that way, no?

Art Museum loop (one of the last across SSB). 6.5 miles in 56.03.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Run Cut Short

If things were going as planned, instead of writing this I should be running on leafy Fairmount Park roads and cooling down from a passel of 6:15 tempo miles on the river. But some minor foot plan, on my left, outer, back sole and a bit up the outside, scuttled those plans just after crossing 38th St. and going down Hamilton Walk.

Doesn't this figure to happen just after a string of intense workouts?! I noticed the pain yesterday afternoon and again this morning. A likely culprit is old shoes, as I drenched my New Balance 1062s, which are well past their freshness date, on Sunday's soggy trek and ran in my NB 825s, which are older to the point where I have absolutely no business running in them, yesterday and this morning. I had ordered new 1062s over the weekend, but once again New Balance has discontinued the model and its follow up won't be available until February.

The irony isn't so much that I've been running good lately as much as that I've been getting into that old intense training mindset. A big part of that is the "I gotta have X miles in for this week" mindset." To the point where I set out today thinking that I'll do the tempo run and if the pain gets worse then I'll see about cutting back. My friends, that is crazy thinking. It took me about a mile and a half of running to realize that and called it off. I got a day off on Friday, and have a west coast trip on tap for this weekend into next week. Sounds like a good week to cut back a bit.

And use the rest of the time I'd be spending on the run this morning going to again order a new pair of shoes.

2.5 miles, not timed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dave Alvin & the South St Bridge

Planned today to be an easy day. I felt strong despite of the effort I've been putting into my running over the past three days, but I figured I'd save the extra miles I felt I had in my legs this morning for my tempo run tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I did get in 8+ miles by taking it out to Sweetbriar and around 49th St. The weather has warmed up to where I again ran in a t-shirt.

As I crossed the South Street bridge I took note of the sign promising the bridge's closure next Monday. This means the bridge will be torn down and rebuilt and out of commission for at least 24 months. This is past due, as chunks of concrete have been known to fall on cars passing under the bridge on I-76, and no vehicles over 4 tons are permitted to cross over the bridge - but they do anyway because this is Philadelphia, the city where signs like that are only meant for the other guy. So while I don't deny the need, I do lament the inconvenience this will bring into my life, not the least of which will be with my eastward running routes. And I will miss the bridge; I've been running, driving, and cycling over it for over 13 years.

Ran with the latest Dave Alvin album on the iPod. He has recently rereleased a bunch of songs he recorded for the HighTone label, and it was with anticipation that I listened to it for the first time this morning. Alvin, first known for his work with the Blasters, has one of the finest senses for American music and zeitgeist this side of Springsteen. I connected this morning with what was flowing through my head with an intensity I have seldom felt. From headphones to ears to heart to legs. Once I got going, I felt I could do anything.

8+ miles in 64:48.