Seebo's Run

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

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Race for Humanity 5k

This is a race put on by a sorority at USP, and the start is within a short warmup run of my house. I of course have last weekend's marathon as a ready excuse for any problems with my performance. So I figured even if I didn't race it I should at least go out and show support. Represent, so to speak.

The two prior times I've run RFH the course has wound through the neighborhoods and went within a block of my house. This year though the City tried to strongarm the race organizers into paying for much more police overtime to keep that course, and the organizers, whom I assume are college students, balked. Pay triple to get the same thing you've gotten the last three years - that makes for a good civics lesson, Philly style.

So instead they ran the course in nearby Woodland Cemetery. This means that the Race for Humanity was run through a graveyard - not sure what to make of this. Also not sure what to make out of the confluence of cemeteries and running I've been experiencing lately. Finally, it meant that the course was a loop repeated four times on an up, down and curvy road that had badly cracked pavement. And we'd have to tread softly to avoid waking the dead.

A couple of hundred folks braved the ominous clouds that hung over the morning. The student who took my registration said to make sure I write my name on the tearoff part of the bib, since "[I was] going to win." I laughed and shook my head. Mike Daigeaun, who won the race last year, was standing around the start and he didn't look to have much competition. As the gun went off I felt I could probably scam 2nd place with an 18 minute something time here but after about a half mile I felt both my achilles tendons burning. The figuring did not take long - if I were to run the rest of this race I'd risk frying my heels like I did at a Bryn Mawr speed workout last summer - it obviously wasn't worth it. So I did two things I rarely do - learn from past mistakes and drop out of a race.

After walking a little I hung out a bit with two course marshalls, one of whom is a student of mine. I busted on him by asking why he wasn't in the race and he stammered a few things before saying he was tired of giving me excuses all semester and that he just had too much to drink last night. Sounded like that was the first time he ever told that to one of his profs. I told him that there was in fact no better cure for a hangover than running.

I then moseyed over to the finish line and chatted with various folks I knew, including another student of mine who finished his first 5k here in 31 minutes. He'd been talking about his training for the race all through the semester and I was glad to see him finish.

Logistically, the race was a mess but somehow averted being a disaster. On a 4-loop course, the leaders were soon left to thread their way through the walkers and joggers they lapped, in some instances two times. Finishers were missing the chute and people who still had laps to go were stumbling into the finishing chute. A car started driving up the course and, when stopped, explained that he was late for a procession being held at the mansion. That was a first in my racing experience. But the cool thing about this was that nobody seemed irate about any of this. Everybody came out to run, few really came out to race and among those that did, there didn't seem to be an expectation of anything more than what we got. And at least the rain held off.

I jogged the half mile back home and my heel seemed okay. I'm treating this as a warning and will continue to just do miles and work in speed very carefully at a later time. I don't know what this portends for Broad Street. But I'll take it a week at a time. 1.5 miles today.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Getting the Crud Out

I like to think that running a week after a marathon amounts to jolting the legs enough so that all of the crud that accumulated from the race starts to break off, float around for a bit and create achy feelings, and then get cleansed away. While questionable from a medical perspective, it does let me feel like I'm healing myself by running more. That is the way it works, right.

Anyway, great morning to run. Sunny and mild and the plants and trees seem like they are right on the verge of bursting into Spring. I ran it down to the Art Museum and came back west on Hamilton Street. The street runs parallel to Powelton Ave. but is less traveled and less known to me. It has gorgeous old houses and people that obviously take care of them, and gawking at them did much to pass the running time.

Catching up, I went 5 or so miles (40 minutes worth) on Wednesday, took a day off yesterday, and today did 5.7 miles, untimed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

With a Whimper

I made it out this morning for a short run, 3.5 or so to Franklin Field and back, just to get things rolling again. Had these expectations now, with a clear race calendar, that I could do anything I wanted. This morning reminded me that it is still cold out there, that I still don't feel like getting up at 6 am to put in miles, and that if I want to do all the wonderful things I am dreaming about I'm still going to need to get there by the same means I've always had to, traveling an endless, circuitous journey of many miles.

Given that, today was that single step that these cursed long journeys start with. Unassuming to be sure, but I'm again on my way. Don't know where to yet either, but ultimately I'm guessing to some fall destination.

That being said, I did get to run past the Fisher Fine Arts Library on Penn campus and see its brownstone exterior basking in the morning sun. It is one of my favorite running sights and energizes me on the occasions when I time things right to catch it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Back in Philly today, had some thoughts on the ride home.

I checked the results of the half marathon. John and I didn't get our names in it. So you'll have to take our word that we double dipped yesterday... crossing the finish and getting times for both the half-marathon and the full marathon. We went out last night - me, John, Ian and Steve K. (who was in DC over the weekend), Reba, Heather, Nora and Allison - and the first pitcher hadn't even been drained before it became the defining story of the race. To paraphrase John, without that little blunder it would have been just another so-so marathon. Now it'll be one we always remember.

The other thing that has stuck in my mind a bit, which I think I mentioned in yesterday's post, was the little episode I witnessed at about mile 24 where a cop along the course was pushing and shoving a spectator/passerby for no apparent reason. No-one around the two, the guy was not resisting, and the cop was just in his face, pushing and shoving the guy backwards as he was shouting something. While I wouldn't call it brutality I can't imagine how, in any context, that could have been considered appropriate police procedure. I think if anything would have been gained by asking the cop if he realized he was looking like a brutish idiot to the runners streaming by. And I think if anything was lost as instead I ran by, fully into my second wind and intent on moving up a few notches in the finishing order.

I also think of Michael Wardian, who is somewhat of a DC running celebrity/oddity and past three-time winner of the National Marathon. He finished second yesterday, running a 2:22. He then turned around and went down to Virginia Beach, where he ran a 2:35 today in the Shamrock Marathon. He runs some vast number of fast marathons, ultras and the like, holds the record for the fastest baby-jogger marathon time and had the fastest marathon time on the treadmill, and the like. All that with a job and two small children.

I guess I take comfort in how that running from one race to another repels me. Then I think how, after taking tomorrow off, I'll start up again with a few miles on Tuesday and start planning out a strategy for getting some faster times again. Jai-ho!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

DC National Marathon

Sometimes 26.2 just isn't enough.

But it's done, and I'm on the couch watching the NCAAs on my sister's couch.

The race really began last night as I was driving down here, later than I wanted and with a WaWa chicken salad hoagie as my pre-race dinner, and I decide my race plan would be to go out with John Dubs and see how long I could hang with him. He was going for a sub-3 time and I figured I'd give it a shot. I knew my training was lacking for this to me it was a bit like taking an exam without studying... see what happens.

It was chilly and dark when we - Rebecca (who was running the half-marathon), Sal (a friend of my sister's) and I pull into the RFK Stadium parking lot. Just about enough time to get all the usual pre-race business taken care of and to find Ian and John. Gun goes off and I go out with John. Weather is perfect and the company is good - we're working together and heading up to the Capital and then past the mall. I kept 5-mile splits and mile 5 goes by in 34:49 - perfect given the slow start.

That's the thing about marathons. The pace is comfortable, almost too comfortable, but there is an awareness that this is a long race. The next few miles through Adams Morgan and back around toward the Capitol are where most of the course's hills are, and the 5 mile split at mile 10 is 33:39 (68:28 total). This is right on schedule. The first 10 miles, however, are the warmup and this is the point when potential problems often first introduce themselves. For me, my stomach was acting up and a blister was starting up under the ball of my right foot. I stop briefly to readjust the sock, a futile effort. Nothing to do but keep running.

The run continues on pace until midway, here the course forks - marathon to the left and the half-marathon to the right. John and I never did see the left. We run right into the finishing chute for the half before we realize we screwed up. Our "finishing time" was 1:29:50, perfect except for it being the wrong clock. Waves of confusion and anger and panic come over us, we turn around, upstream, to return to the marathon course and pass the other halfway mark in 1:31:48. We lost two minutes.

I talk to John about the need to focus on keeping up our effort and forgetting this little misstep. Like a gymnast falling off the balance beam. Just get back on and keep going. I say this as much to myself as to him. We circle RFK stadium and head out to the second part of the course, and soon after that I start falling off the pace. Nothing to do with the missteps; I'm just running out of gas after overreaching with my pace.

At this point I don't think I've ever wanted to quit a race more. My foot hurt, I was off pace, and I was right at RFK Stadium. The main thing that kept me going was that I really didn't feel like telling everyone for the next few weeks that I dropped out. I mean, I had all kinds of reasons to quit, but nothing that forced me to. So I said I'd take it as a long run. But I knew it would be a long run.

The miles got longer, which makes sense as it was taking longer to finish them. Miles 10-15, with the extra time at the half, came in at 37:05. At this point I'm slowing and people are starting to trickle past me. I give up any hope of a sub 3 hour time and start wondering if I'll get a Boston qualifying time - 3:20.

Here we're back at the capital and heading southeast towards the Anacostia River. Running through tunnels and on freeways, slowing down and more people passing me. This is really miserable. Not quite a death march, but I'm struggling to find reasons to continue beyond just seeing if I could do it. The course crosses the Anacostia River over a bridge that has a metal grate surface with spikes. This kills my blister. Then its a long out and back along the riverfront. At mile 18 I pop a GU and then do a Gallowalk through a waterstop and throw down two cups of Gatorade. I see John coming back as I go out, he looks much better than I. The riverfront part of the course ends at mile 20, time for these five miles is 41:12. Total time 2:26.

I'm feeling lousy, but at least its the part of the race now where I'm supposed to feel lousy. At mile 22, going through the Anacostia section of DC, I'm thinking that I could walk from here on in and it only would take an hour more. This gives me comfort until a paunchy guy with a fuel belt that is pulling down his shorts passes me. Its sunny as we go through SE Washington neighborhoods and at mile 23 I start getting a second wind. Really extraordinary. I just start kicking it up again. I reeled in people who passed me a few minutes ago, including fuel belt guy. I go up a ramp and see a chubby white cop pushing an older black guy around. Shoving him and yelling. I want to intervene but keep going, I can't see any reason how this was appropriate. The cop obviously felt he could do this with impunity. And he was probably right. This sticks in my mind as I feel better and better. Mile 25 and the split is 41:48. Mile 25 is in 7:22, not great but a full minute better than the pace I was getting a few miles back. The last .2 was in 1:23 and then it was done. 3:17:23, 141st place out of about 2,000.

Looking back, I basically got what I trained for. I'd been telling people that I'd be happy with a BQ. Just before the race I decided to reach for the sub 3, knowing I'd likely get a race like this if I came up short. Looking back now, it was a good gamble. It would have been great to get a sub 3, it would have sucked to miss a BQ. Any time in between really didn't matter.

What intrigued me about this race was my second wind. Never been running out of gas in a marathon and then recovered like that. I was in a full sprint down to the finish, holding off a guy coming up from behind me. The only reason I could think of for that was the GU/Gatorade at mile 18. I've got to experiment with mid course replenishment in future training cycles. Along with that, better logistical planning to get more sleep and eat better before the race couldn't hurt either. And finally, more extensive training would have made a difference.

Some things to think about. For I'll be back. That was one thing this race had me determined to do.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Going Running

Not much to say except thanks for all the well wishes that I've been getting.

Ran 46 minutes easy yesterday, out to Cobbs Creek and back on Thomas Ave to pass by the bread smell from the Amoroso Bakery.

Slept in this morning and ready to go.

Typing this up while I've got a conference call (on mute) on the speakerphone. This image, from the car of a friend of a colleague, reflects my current inclinations. By way of warning, it is R rated.

LBRR coming up next post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Twitterable Run

Out with Erin and Jody on a pasta loop, seemed strange to do it without Iris.

The only thing noteworthy was the false dawn peering through the headstones as we ran (whistled?) through Woodlands Cemetery, the other, better kept large SW Philly cemetery. Jody said that the light on the horizon was actually from a chemical leak at the Sunoco refinery. Either way, it was a pretty sight.

Set out to run 45 minutes, actually ran 46 and change on an unmappable course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Inside Out

Again reaping the benefits of a taper, I did 5 1/2 easy on the Art Museum loop instead of any kind of tempo or fast stuff that I usually do on Tuesday. Weather is damp overcast, feels colder than the 40 degrees its supposed to be.

Tuesday runs of late have been used for a self-debriefing of the Monday evening class I teach. I've written occasionally here on my involvement with Inside Out, an organization that facilitates setting up courses in jails and prisons. These courses match colleges and carceral facilities in courses where the class is comprised of equal numbers of incarcerated ("inside") and undergraduate ("outside") students. This semester, I finally got things together to where I'm teaching a class on Monday evening in one of the Philly jails. Its been one of the best teaching experiences I've had. Last night the topic of the class was victims and victimization, and the students shared some powerful stuff and made some insights that had me scratching my head.

I took all this with me on my run this morning and just let my mind run on its own parallel course. Running here becomes something that my legs do while I take time to wander off deep into my thoughts. Along the way I find connections, insights, and new ideas. And then, without really being aware of it, the run is over.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pudding for Breakfast

One of the good things about being an adult. I can have pudding for breakfast... everyday if I want to.

I made instant pudding last weekend for dessert, and after looking at the ingredients and then looking at a recipe for pudding from scratch marveled at how simple it was. So when I had to make a dessert for a dinner party last night and because our oven is currently out (thanks, PECO), I made pudding last night. This morning I had the leftovers. I figured it would be a good quick, high energy food, along the lines of Gu.

And it may well be. Problem is that its rich and sits in your stomach, and little reminders that you have a belly full of pudding come up every so often. So although there is a freedom to have pudding for breakfast, it is not something I recommend to start your day. Now I sound like an adult.

Otherwise it's a dreary, gray day out, but not too cold. I resolved to run for an hour, went out west and back down Kingsessing, and added a few blocks to it so that it became this route and took me 60:23; giving me a hair under 7 miles.

Tomorrow I'm taking a day off... from running and blogging. I'd like to take a day off from a few other things that are hanging over my head but life doesn't work that way.

Again I sound like an adult. Anyway, check back on Tuesday.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Since its the last weekend before the marathon, John and I could get away with calling a 10 miler our "long" run for the week. We were joined by "Chemistry" Steve, who I don't think I've seen since he blew by me at mile 18 in Boston eleven months ago.

Running with good friends is like fine wine - mellowing with age to where the miles go down nice and smooth ensconced in a bouquet of easy conversation, especially when served up on an early, sunny, low-40's Saturday morning.

I could have gone on for 10 or 20 or 30 more miles and got hopelessly drunk on this. Instead, 10 1/4 miles on this route left me with a buzz that should take me through the rest of the day. My watch is upstairs; but the time of the run is not so important this morning.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nothing Much

Haven't been blogging in a few days; mostly because there hasn't been much going on.

5 and a half on Wednesday with Jody, day off yesterday (it is a taper after all), and 6 or so this morning out to the Art Museum and back around with Erin and Jody. Our Club West Philly runs are feeling more regular again, like meeting M-W-F at 6:15 is the default and not something to make arrangements to be at. This is a subtle but important difference. The run was long enough so that the conversation went to weird places and ended up examining some sacred cows... like whether or not murals are stigmatizing.

That's what happens when overeducated folks run together.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shake Em on Down!

A noteworthy day has come. Tony, my 12 year old, turned me on to some good music. The first, I hope, of many such tips. Tony has gotten very into playing guitar and, along with that, is developing a taste for blues. He said I should listen to Seasick Steve, so I downloaded some. Hobo blues and homeless boogie played on a three string guitar. I love it. Check some out here.

That was the fuel for my morning run. Reba asked, "Aren't you supposed to be tapering?" and I answered, "I got nothing to taper from." So it was one more hard take on the South Street Bridge-less SMB loop. Got the MLK 3 down to 19:32. Gonna get fast enough soon to start calling them tempo runs again.

Very typical March morning: overcast, breezy with a damp chill. Uncomfortable enough to resist going out but once you wallow in it for a bit it gets downright comfortable. Anytime I can run in short sleeves I can't complain.

10.5 miles in 88:50.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Funereal Sunrise

Back to routine, both with my running and my blog. But I half expect something to come along soon and disrupt it.

Whatever it is, it won't be the time change. I met Erin at 6:15 and it was again dark. It's hard having to give back that hard-won daylight. But it will come back. What we couldn't figure out was why we have this spring forward/fall backward ritual anymore.

We made the best of it, trying to time the run so that we hit the high ground at Mount Moriah at sunrise. We made it but the sunrise didn't really reward us with anything extraordinary.

My legs were deader than they should have been after yesterday's run. Get it? "Deader" while running out to the cemetery. Well... never mind.

I'm spending way too much time in cemeteries lately. 62 minutes worth of running, call it 6.5 miles.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Fever

Balmy temps made running fun this weekend.

Played hooky on Friday - from work as well as from running.

Took an easy run on Saturday. Ran out to Mount Moriah Cemetery and did some urban archaeology. Fancy (and trendy) term for mucking around amid the old headstones. Took some pictures with my phone and looked at what I could find online when I got home. Took names off of the giant phallically shaped monuments, which were, when I could find info, mostly business types who must have lived in fear of being forgotten. Ironically, where they are buried is now bedecked in weeds and surrounded by trash, tires and the like. In other words, forgotten. There are also quite a few civil war vets, some who died in the war, others who lived on but whose lives, insofar as there is any documentation online, only focuses on the war.

Mount Moriah, which was one of the "pastoral cemetaries" laid out in the mid nineteenth century that sought to provide large space to bury Philadelphia's dead and also let the City reinter the dead buried in many churchyards and small cemeteries throughout the city, freeing up that land for development. 80,000 people are buried there. I guess people thought they were getting a nice peaceful plot in the country; little did they know what the place would look like 150 years later.

After poking around there I headed to Bartrams Gardens and explored down by the river a bit. I went down an improbably named Botanical Avenue which led me through some industrial areas and onto some dirt paths that took me over railroad tracks and after some bushwhacking I popped up on Grey's Ferry and 47th Streets. From there it was home again, in about 55 minutes of running time, about an hour and a half and 6 miles total. Route is here.

This morning I met John Dubs at the Art Museum and we ran up to Manayunk, over the Belmont hills and through Fairmount Park. We pretty much did non-stop chattering, not much that was too deep, for two hours and the time went by pleasantly enough for the most part. You know the conversation is getting trivial when I start talking about how I like my coffee, but when you are on a long run you have a captive audience and can talk about such topics. This was a tapered long run - marathon is in two weeks - though my training this time around really doesn't seem worthy of a taper. Or maybe I just started my taper six weeks early. I don't have the route gmapped but John assures me that it came out to 15.7 miles. In about 2:05.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Rebatemp (tm) said it was 12 degrees this morning. That didn't do wonders for my motivation to head out the door, so I stole a few moments by reading the front page of the Inquirer. The deal is I let myself read the front-page articles but cannot turn the page.

Among the articles there was one about Twitter. Twitter, for those who don't know (my mother reads this blog), is a website where you post 1-sentence updates online as to what you are doing. Done diligently, it lets you provide a narrative to your life. And apparently its all the rage. Finishing the article, I felt the same relief as I used to get after reading articles about ultramarathons and then realizing that I still had no interest in them.

But it did get me thinking (once I got running) about how blogging is becoming yesterday's form of online self expression. My perception is that it is still going strong, and will always have a presence, but fair weather bloggers are moving on. Which makes me more comfortable, as I tend to lose my balance when I'm walking along any cutting edge.

I like to write. To write stuff like this where I can recount stuff, process thoughts, and let my mind wander to wherever it wants to go. If other folks are into it, so much the better. I think that is why I'm back to blogging now, I never really found a substitute for it.

That line of thinking got me about to Penn campus on this morning's run. For a minute or two more my mind stayed occupied with thoughts of how it really didn't feel as cold as the 12 degrees it was supposed to be. The sun and absence of wind helped in that. I congratulated myself on forgoing the long pants and feeling comfortable.

In other words, it was a fine morning to run. One of those rare mornings when the run goes by faster than it feels like it should. Ran down to MLK Drive via my now established post-South Street Bridge closing route over the Chestnut Street bridge. This cuts about a half mile from the old route to the Art Museum. From there I took the 3 MLK miles briskly (20:28 - I hesitate to use the term "tempo run" yet) and took it easy the rest of the way home.

I reveled in being out there this morning. Not quite sure how I would twitter that. Saying "10.5 miles in 88 minutes" just doesn't convey the sentiment.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Discourse on Running Morality

Its about as cold as it gets in Philadelphia right now, temps in the mid teens with some wind. Monday's snow has now gotten stale, which our crappy city services (and slated to get crappier) more often than not leave on the street to get compacted into pitted gray ice.

These conditions were unpalatable enough yesterday to where I said screw it and ran on the hamster wheel. That has its own set of problems that I usually whine about when I'm running indoors. But I got in 8 and was pleased with myself that I got a workout in at all.

Erin, Jody and I met this morning, I felt bad for being a few minutes late on what was likely the worst morning of the year to be late. Perhaps because of the conditions we compensated with more lively conversation than usual along the way. Route was up to the Art Museum and back on Spring Garden St., not the wisest of routes given the snow.

One of the topics that came up was an offshoot of the TV show Biggest Loser that I confess that I've at times been known to watch thanks to the nefarious influence of Reba. In doing a follow up on one of the contestants that was voted off of the show, it showed him running a marathon 8 weeks after losing 130 pounds. The time in which he crossed the finish line was a remarkable 3:50 or so. Turns out, if you follow this link, it was too remarkable. This rekindles that slimy feeling I get after I lose an hour of my life (I never sit through the whole show) watching the show, kind of like a burp after a fast food meal.

What gets me all self-righteous about this is that this episode goes directly against the ethic of most runners I meet out there, who bend over backwards to make sure their accomplishments are legit. I've seen (and have done it myself) runners go an extra 100 meters past a finish point just to make sure they got a certain amount of miles in on their training run, or do painstaking homework to prove a course measurement short on a race they have pr'd on. All to make sure that those accomplishments they do make are legit. For if it ain't legit, why do it? Perhaps that's why we feel so little mercy for the likes of Eddy Hellebuyck and Marion Jones.

I'll get off my soapbox now. 5.674 miles, untimed.

The blog turned rant. Can you tell I feel strongly about this.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Checking In

Its time to check back in again. Various reasons for that, all of which come together to produce that feeling. No promises on whether this gig will resume on a regular basis, but its time to revisit the ol' Seebo's Run.

Probably the main reason for my coming back is that I have a better feeling about running again. The weather's better, my little niggling maladies are holding back, Erin's been coming out in the mornings again and dragging me along, and I had a really good 22-miler with John Dubs and three other folks yesterday. And the number one reason for coming back to this blog is that I'm absolutely bound and determined to finish up a paper I'm writing this morning and, depending on how you look at it, the writing that I'm doing here is either a warm up or a procrastinatory exercise. Perhaps both.

But mostly I've had thoughts popping around in my head that I wanted to put down somewhere, and this used to be my outlet. I'll stick with the habit I tend to have about writing about the thoughts rather than delving into the actual thoughts themselves, one resolution I'll make on future posts is revisiting some of these thoughts. This morning's Inquirer had an article on what they call "x-treme archaeologists" and "urban explorers" which Erin and I have been dabbling in of late with runs through the extreme reaches of Mount Moriah cemetery and the hulking ruins around Bartram's Gardens. Yesterday's 22 miler was a great example of how much a group can help on these things, as there was a great dynamic where we'd mix and match off into different combinations of 2s and 3s as the run progressed, and by the end just more or less ran our mouths as much as our legs to run out the clock. Three of the folks - Cassie, Jenny and Luke - were Philly Runners whom I'd not known before, which was the third straight Saturday I've run with new folks: Philly Runners has turned over in personnel, bringing new people to run with and sadness for the moving on of many of the old heads. Then there's my aches and pains, just writing about them indicates how I'm getting old. Finally, there's the upcoming marathon, March 21 in DC, which has been looming in the distance and which, after yesterday's run, I am now confidant I can at least finish in a BQ fashion.

So much to write, so much to write. And I will sign off with that. Hopefully I'll get out for a couple of miles around noon today before the big snow hits. And now off to my paper.