Friday, December 31, 2004

Upper Main Line YMCA New Year 5K

Well it's not actually run on New Year's Day but on the morning of the 31st. I would like to do a New Year run but there are none that are convenient. There is a 4 mile run in Central Park that sounds like fun but it is hardly practical for me.

So I wrapped up my year with this mornings 5K through the neighborhood near the Y. It is a very hilly course. One of those when you are only briefly on level ground.

I haven't run this course for a couple of years. In past years it has been very cold but today very mild.

Didn't set any PRs but ran well considering how full of Christmas coookies and chocolate I am.

Tomorrow brings a new year and a new training regime. I have three months to prepare for my Ultra-Marathon. Here we go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Posted by Hello

Christmas Running

I almost always run in the morning. Only Tuesdays, when I have faithfully run speed work first on Kelly Drive and then, when that commute became too daunting,
Haverford College with the Bryn Mawr Running Club, has broken this pattern. But this time of year for a couple of weeks I make time to run in the evening to enjoy the
Christmas lights. I try over the space of several evenings to run as many of the streets within two miles as I can.

I am nearing the end of my marathon recovery still limiting both the days and miles I am running, but these are relaxing runs and fit into the recovery

Some random thoughts and reactions to what I see: too many white lights; lots of people seem to have white lights only on their interion trees; (I am somewhat of a Christmas nut and put up two large trees as well as two small trees - my Santa tree (on which all the ornaments are Santas) does have white lights but my downstairs tree has multicolor lights - my other two trees (small ones) have no lights); what's
with cartoon characters - spongebob squarepants makes me laugh but what does he have to do with Christmas; ran past a house with all blue lights didn't seem very
Christmassy (pretty sure they weren't celebrating Hanukkah); a little further all green as I got closer the lights spelled go eagles, cut but... Some people
have gone back to the old C5 lights, nice but wow they must burn electric.

The big canvas snowman, santas, trees (and yes spongbobs) are interesting but the are noisy since a fan runs to keep them infalted. In the day most people let them deflate leaving a pile of canvas on the lawn and that seems a little sad.

I like lights that twinkle but never had much luck keeping twinkling lights lit. My wife bought me a novelty item a flasher bulb in a small box with the
legend "break in case of emergency".

So I run past the tasteful, the garish, the simple,the overtop and all of it great fun. A great custom,Christmas lights, tying us both to our pagan and Christian roots,helping us celebrate light come into the world.

There are more streets to explore and probably more surprises.

Merry Christmas

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure: for the first time I have put lights outside my own house - I lighted two artificial trees with non-twinkle white lights to light a Santa I purchased this year.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Prediction Run and Reindeer Romp

Bryn Mawr Running Club sponsors through the year a series of predictionruns. This is a run where speed doesn't necessarily win but pacing does. Runners get to pick from three courses 5, 7, 10. (Although these
are approximations - the five mile course is actually 5.4). These courses are the ones used by the Club for their Wednesday night runs during the summer. Each participant picks their expected finished time. No watches are allowed. For the Christmas prediction run the entry fee is an unwrapped toy that is giving to a local charity. They also collect running shoes and accept donations for socks for the homeless. Very sociable event since most everyone is running at a relaxed pace. I have never even been close to my predicted time although this year doing the five mile course I was within a minute. I wasn't able to hang around after the race so I don't know who won but in the past the winner is usually within 10 seconds or less. I saw a friend later in the day who told me he was within 30 seconds and knew he hadn't won. The course after you get off Montgomery Avenue is pleasant but I was disappointed by the paucity of Christmas decorations. I guess it is déclassé among the rich to have too much Christmas.

Sunday was the Reindeer Romp to benefit the American Cancer Society.
CBS's Sunday Morning had done a segment on cancer survival that morning.
I love this race since it's a four minute run from my house to the start. This race runs a course I had laid out several years ago. The first couple of years it was very informal - it was "almost a 5K". But a couple of years ago a local runner and entrepreneur Kevin Nolan took it under his wing. He worked on sponsorship and got the course professionally measured. The first year he did it, despite his best effort, a course marshal sent everyone down the wrong street. But this year the markings were excellent and unlike last year when the weather was terrible, the weather was decent (mostly cloudy, low 40's). It has a wonderfully civilized starting time - 3PM. I've been running the course a couple of times of week with very slow times, so I only went out expecting to break 24 minutes. The course utilizes a roadway owned by the regional transportation provider (SEPTA). This "busway" is closed to all traffic except buses and since there is no service Sunday afternoons it makes a great runway. The first ¾ mile is downhill. You run to Haverford Road and loop back up the busway and after a ¼ mile you go out onto a parallel roadway and through residential streets until you loop back to the busway. Mile two is mostly uphill and then you come down a long slope, a short quarter mile flat then the hill back to the start. A challenging course. This year one of the police officers I had worked with and whom I had encouraged to run for fitness ran his first 5K. I warned him about going out too fast on the initial downhill, but it is just too irresistible. I passed him about the first mile mark - he had burned out on the first mile (and I must confess it felt good to show that the old man still had it.)

I felt I ran well and finished 23:15 - not bad since I've been running lightly since the marathon and really only expected 8 minute miles. I was getting ready to leave when Dick Fitch who times a lot of local races told me that I had placed first in my age group (bless five year age groups - the 50 year old had run 20:xx something). There were 350 runners and another 150 walkers so a nice turnout for a nice cause. My only regret is that I didn't bring a camera so I could have had a photo of Santa giving me my medal.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Posted by Hello

Winter officially begins on or about 21 December. But for me the official first day of winter was Friday, 3 December. I ran the trails that day in what for me was the first winter run. Two weeks ago there was still color in the woods as the trees held some foliage. But heavy rain and winds stripped all the color away. As I step out of the jeep the temp was 29 Farenheit. Frost covered the ground. My tracks stood out as dark spots in the white. The winds had brought down trees. One large tree completely blocked by path. This tree had taken several smaller trees down and looked like a giant's game of pick up sticks.

The woods look very different with the foliage gone. You get a greater sense of the topography. (And you also realize just how high you must climb.) Whereas the other three seasons are about color, winter is about shapes. You see how the skeleton trees and how they stand individually. And not only the trees; the shape of the creek is much more apparent.

This will be a short run since I am still in marathon recovery. It was good to see the wood in winter mode. I plan on many long runs here especially if I do decide to try a 50K trail run.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

In today’s paper there’s an article by someone from the Ayn Rand institute who says we all got it all wrong the Thanksgiving is all about gratitude for productivity. Well maybe. But on my morning run (the first after the marathon. Don’t you love those first runs. Never sure if every thing will work, but restless after three days off – running is addictive.) I found myself grateful just for all the things around me.

So just on this run and not even beginning to count all my other blessings I am grateful for clouds – black, gray and white all roiling across the sky. I am grateful for the patches of brilliant blue and a sun the makes the edges of clouds fiery white. The ornamental pears planted by the town a few years ago hung on to their green leaves after the maples had changed and dropped. But this week they had a committee meeting and decided all together to switch on the red and yellows. I am grateful for green fields and leaves, red, orange and yellow. I am grateful for other runners and shouts of good morning and Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for barking dogs, for leaf litter and muddy paths, for honking geese and squirrel houses high in the trees.

And that't just this morning. This year I have enjoyed many great runs through fields and woods, on the beach with ocean waves, in Canadian towns and Mt. Desert Island. For all I am grateful.

Throughout today I will reflect on friends and family and all that means and all the blessings I have been given and how very much I have to be grateful for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Goal sub 4 hours. Results 4:05:04

Let me get the disappointment part over first. If I hadn’t run the first 20 so well I wouldn’t be so disappointed by the 4:05:04. But there it is. Almost a classic case of the clichés of running: hitting the wall – the race has two halves the first 20 and the last 6.2 – you have to run the whole race not part, etc., etc.

I didn’t feel bad during the last six. My left arm cramped briefly but mercifully my legs didn’t. I just didn’t have energy and turnover. I’m annoyed at myself because I finished with a caffinated clif shot in my pocket. Kind of a waste to carry it 26 miles and not use it. More on that later. Let’s start at the beginning and the good things.

A couple of days before the race a young fellow I had run with a few times emailed and said he was doing Philadelphia as his first marathon. He had read my blog and knew my time from last year and wanted to do about that pace. I warned him I was a terrible pace setter but that I would enjoy running with him so we made arrangements to meet up. (As it turned out Mukand using the pod on his shoe kept us on pace). I did debate whether you are better off running within yourself or making it a social experience. Undoubtedly if I was going, for example a Boston Qualifier, I would probably want to run undistracted but on this day I’m a mid pack runner just interested in a good time and if I get a good race time that’s icing on the cake. As I told Mukand if you run by yourself you just obsess over all your aches and pains.

Philly’s expo this year was on Eakins Oval just in front of the Art Museum. I was skeptical but the large tents they set up worked well. I found the number/chip/shirt pick up easy and the expo easy to navigate. They used the same tents for the post race refreshments so it was an efficient use of resources. I went over to the kids’ races to find Mukand since he had mentioned his kids would be running. Always fun to see the little guys run. Hope they always run.

Didn’t hang around long; I wasn’t sure I parked legally and didn’t want to come back to find a ticket or worse towed. And I had a pasta dinner to get ready for.

Sunday morning I did the easy ride to Mantua (love hometown running) and parked easily, walked over the Schuylkill Expressway and River to Eakins Oval. I had unwisely chosen to wear old socks thinking of “nothing new” and comfort but they were too stretchy - a mistake I won’t repeat. I fussed with them but knew it was to no avail.

Used the stick, vasolined all over, made sure I had my gels and Succeed. Baggage check was easy. A courteous young volunteer asked are you doing the marathon, do you have everything you need. Have a great race. Very nice.

I met Mukand at the 8 minute mile mark (my stated goal was 8:45 but I knew it helps to be seeded a little ahead of goal). Introduced two other friends who had shared a wonderful pasta dinner with me the night before. They were planning on running a little faster (they would finish 3:50).

The early miles of a marathon always seem so easy. We ran comfortably enjoying the city and the other runners. A runner saw my dead singlet and introduced himself as a dead runner. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name (he was from Ohio and I looked at Ohio runners hoping it would jog my memory but it didn’t work – I hope he jumps into the list with his impressions).

We progressed thru the city down Race, Columbus Blvd, South Street, Chestnut, up 34th, pass the Zoo, which hadn’t take my suggestion and put some animals on display, and into Fairmount Park. In the city, at various points on Chestnut, there had actually been some spectators. Just after crossing Girard Avenue you drop down and then face the longest, steepest hill of the race. A homemade sign at the top declares, “Last Hill”. Liars!

I like the loop thru the Civil War Memorial, past Memorial Hall (for any Jack Finney fans out there – Philly has many Time and Again places but Memorial Hall is at the top of that list) and into the horticultural center which takes to a steep drop down to West River Drive. I warn Mukand not to overstride and then proceeded to fly down – do as I say not as I do.

Still we are on West River Drive and running well. I notice a lot of people are very wet (once again – why does anyone wear cotton). And I predict there will be a lot of cramping later.

Not long after we past the half marathon point, a young fellow says you seem to know the course. (As is my wont I have been talking non-stop). It turns out Damon is running his first marathon on his 26th birthday. Cool. His goal sub four (he finished 3:55 chip). He lives in NJ but this is his first visit to Philly. Where’s the Rocky statue? South Philadelphia at the Spectrum. Will we past the steps Rocky ran up? Mukand tells him yes and that in fact he had run up them that morning. I explain that shortly, just after the next water stop, we will past those steps. (Steps my grandfather help lay btw). We run past the museum – it’s crowded here as they squeeze you into a shute to separate you from the finish. The crowd is large and noisy (seemed to be more spectators this year then any I remember). We are around the museum and on West River Drive approaching Boat House Row. Damon is on my shoulder and asked “Where are those steps?” He had missed them – don’t worry we assure him you’ll see them at the finish line. On down West River Drive. I try to remember something about the sculptures we are facing. I can never remember the Viking at the end of Boat House Road. He’s not, as people think, Eric or Lief but
Thorfinn Karlsefni. (How's that for a household name!!!)

There is a water stop about 15.5 – General Grant . I lost contact with Mukand at this point. Later he would email and say his arch hurt and that he slowed. I was still running well – in fact I covered this section 16 to 18 miles as well as I ever had. Damon was still with me and introduced me to his sister who was also running (and would finish at 4:00 hrs chip) as his new best friend.

Now I don’t know why but I hate miles 18 thru 20. They seem interminable. You pass from Kelly Drive onto Ridge Avenue then Main Street in Manayunk. I think I made some tactical errors here. I should have walked thru the water stop just past the Falls Bridge and made sure I took my Clif Shot and got both water and gator aid. As it was I only got water. The next water stop is just before the turnaround (20 miles) in Manayunk. It was not a long stop and I was on the wrong side and missed it. You get another chance after making the turnaround but this side only seemed to have water. I am still trying to figure out why I didn’t use my gel (even if I had to stop). Mental fatigue I suppose. I had gotten it into my head I was not going to walk at all during this race. And I never did but I wonder if my stubbornness didn’t cost me a sub 4. I saw my friend Joe Gallagher walking and he finished in 3:57. Walking thru the water stops may have been a better strategy.

Well it got ugly here: the mile times dropped and dropped. At mile 23 I tried to psyche myself that if I picked it up to 9 minutes miles I could still make 4, but I knew it was 1) impossible and 2) I was lying. Still even though I was being passed left and right I felt pretty good. The race was no disaster. I was enjoying the stragglers still coming toward Manayunk (thinking how do they do it – they will be two more hours on the course). There were lots of cramping runners now. It had started in Manayunk but now it’s common. They are over to the side trying to stretch or doing that funny stiff leg waddle you do when cramped. I was churning along slow but steady – no cramps but I was afraid to test my legs by changing stride too much. When you’re a long time runner on the drives you say to yourself – hey I done this – it’s that easy jog back to Lloyd Hall- I’ve done it a thousand times.

The finish is anticlimactic – but a very nice volunteer helps with chip removal. I think these kids should be commended for getting out there. I posed for a finish photo – it’s highly unlikely I will buy it but I am curious of how I looked after 26. Longish wait for food but enjoyed chatting with the people around me. One woman missed a Boston qualifier by five minutes. Now that must hurt – yet she was in good spirits. Chicken broth felt good. Baggage pickup and another great, polite, courteous kid. There is hope for the world. (And by the way no problem dropping off – no problem picking up – got my bag in 30 seconds – the Army should take lessons from this bag check.)

But here’s my treasure --- Mukand wrote me:

“What a fabulous experience that was!

Thanks for teaming up and for the "running tour of Philadelphia".
If the Philly marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards of history,
then you are the best tour guide for it.”

Now that was nice to hear.

Can an experience be at once disappointing yet very positive and entertaining – I think so. Thanks Philadelphia.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Long Run - Valley Forge and the Perkiomen Trail

Don’t you love fall. After many dreary days, Sunday was just beautiful. Temps in the 70’s may have been a little warm but it was breezy enough to compensate. I needed a long run so I headed out to Valley Forge. I had planned on starting at Conshohocken and running to Valley Forge but the first few miles out of Conshohocken are pretty much industrial wasteland and I didn’t want that today. There is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail where the trees form a canopy that is quite lovely so I began my run running from VF toward Philadelphia. The recent rains had knocked a lot of leaves off but there was still plenty of cover. The old Betzwood Studios have been rehab as the Lubin Office Complex which is nice, but what wasn’t so nice is the huge apartment complex they have built adjoining the trail. It’s obvious trees have been cut down even along the trail. I hope the architect and engineers have a good flood water management system because this area is flood prone and when Floyd went thru the area was under a couple of feet of water. This was a brownfield and I suppose the developer O'Neill Properties deserves some credit but I can't help thinking all that impervious surface is going cause trouble downstream.

After three miles I turn back reentering the park and picking up the Perkiomen Trail. This is a rail to trail project which runs twelve miles north out of Valley Forge National Park. A couple of miles parrell Rt. 422; not my favorite section but, I suppose because this part is treeless and the path warms, there were scores of grasshoppers and wooly caterpillars. The grasshoppers seemed lethargic and you could almost step on them before they would jump; the caterpillars just bustled along on some mysterious mission. I hope not too many were bicycle road kill. You then cross the Perkiomen Creek, take a sharp S curve down and run along this large stream. This section is really quite beautiful. At one point the trail hugs a rocky cliff with great vistas of the Perkiomen and the surrounding countryside. The colors are all the rich reds, oranges and yellows of fall. The wet summer has given this bonanza of color. This is definitely a trail I will revisit. About five miles into the run the trail skirts some private property. Someone had place two bikes along the trail with a sign that said “Free Bikes”. I must say I was quite tempted to take one and see if it was in working order. I ran a little more than an hour and reluctantly turned back for the return trip to VF. I thought the return trip would drag but the miles seemed to fly by. When I got to the edge of Valley Forge Park I took a trail that led to the Schuylkill River and completed my run on this lovely path.

I wasn’t conscious of sweating or water loss but I was salt crusted and was glad I had taken my camel pack despite the weight.

Even the ride home was nice. The Schuylkill Expressway itself glowed and the exit for Gulph Mills was stunning in the parade of color presented as you wound down to what will become Montgomery Avenue.

Did I tell you – I love fall.

Friday, October 29, 2004

October Running

Since I didn't blog much in October I thought I would use this post to reflect on this month’s running which included trails, boardwalk and beach. I celebrated wrapping up another Haverford Township Day with a long, leisurely run through the neighborhood. The next Friday (the 8th) I had a very pleasant trail run – woods still green in that getting ready for fall mode. Early Saturday I headed down the shore. Once in Ventnor and after letting my dog Max have a run on the beach I ran south on the beach from Ventnor to Longport. It was two quite different runs - wooded trail and beach sand. But they have in common that they connect me to nature in way my street runs can’t. Perhaps because they are changes from my normal routine, perhaps I just find them more relaxing, but these runs just seem to fly by. There are only a few people about and many of the homes are already boarded up for winter. The last mile I take off my shoes and run thru the surf. The water feels good and before leaving I venture out and let the waves crash over me – I’ll be chilled going back to the house but it will be worth it.

The next morning I am out for a long run (three hours). I trot to the end of the boardwalk turn and head north toward Atlantic City. I kinda like the boardwalk. Not too crowded on this October morning. You get to look out at the Ocean at least until Atlantic City. AC is as downtrodden and bedraggled as I found it last year with the added bonus that the striking casino workers are picketing. Not sure why since there seems to be almost no one on the boardwalk. The boardwalk continues past the casinos. A portion is closed too rickety even for foot traffic. There are dozens of people fishing and it seems a chummy community. They are the first people to greet me with hellos. The boardwalk ends and I venture only a little farther into the marina area before turning back. The advantage of the boardwalk is that there are some public restrooms and water fountains. The strikers are a little more organized on my way back and are chanting and drumming as I pass. One striker even calls out some encouragement to me. (Later I was to read a judge issued an injunction limiting the noise they make – who exactly were they bothering, the seagulls). I get back to Ventnor sooner than I expected so I make my way down to the beach. Although I am very tired the last miles are a delight and though it is cloudy and cool I can’t resist another dip – probably the last of the season.

Today I did my Friday Trail Run. Yesterday had been beautiful – the trees seem to be at their peak. I forgot that this close to the clock change how dark it would be early morning. Fortunately, I know the trail well enough that running in the dark woods is not a problem (but you Ultras that run trails at night – wow!). I’m a little nervous at the first creek crossing but I get over without falling in. The woods are extremely quiet. Instead of the chorus of birds you hear in spring there is only an occasional cry. Twice I hear deer but I only catch of glimpse of white tail. There is a stump on the trail. It’s about eight feet high, jagged and knurled – it broke in some storm years ago. I have passed it dozens of times. But in this morning’s gloom as I round the curve and encounter it, it seems like some wood troll out of time past and, momentarily, I hesitate to run toward him as a cold chill runs up my spine. Yo I was born in the 2oth and will die the 21st there are no trolls. No trolls. No trolls. I murmur my chant as I run past. I am almost 45 minutes into the run before this cloudy morning gives some color to the trees. But what color. I am surrounded by reds, oranges, yellows, golds of all shades and varieties. Perhaps some evolutionary psychologist could tell me why the colors are so pleasing. Don’t they harbinger death? Yet they are splendid. I look carefully for my turn – the trail I’ve chosen is narrow and hidden – easy to miss even in full light. But find it I do and carefully over another stream I make my way up to Ridley and then back down along the stream. The return trip will include a long uphill climb. From the ridge I look across a valley to a gorgeous tableau of trees in full color even in the cloudy light. The fresh leaf litter is pleasant to run thru and I get to see what I missed on my way in. Tall tulips trees their trunks almost black are headed with crowns of gold. I feel I should round up people and say take the day off go see the trees.

October has been cool and cloudy but I have had some great runs. Hope you have too.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Army Ten Miler

It's been a month without a posting. I did some nice runs in October but no racing, but Sunday, October 24th, I did the Army Ten Miler.

First my whines:

It is never fair to compare one race to another but I can’t help comparing this race with the Marine Corps Marathon.

I hate to admit it but the Marines simply do a better job. The Ten Miler is in its twentieth year - shouldn’t it be bettered organized?

For a race with 20,000 runners the Expo was disappointing. There were less vendors than at Broad Street a smaller race.

My biggest gripe? What was with the baggage check? It has to be the worst setup I have ever encountered. They don’t want to check regular bags – fair enough. I understand there are special security concerns in this race. But then why not give us the clear plastic bags at the number pick up – use that bag to give you the number, etc.

The baggage check was impossible to find. I know it wasn’t just me because I encountered other frustrated runners. A little signage would have gone a long way.
Telling me to go to E street was useless. Why the baggage check wasn’t in the secure area where runners finish the race was a complete mystery. Instead you have skip the food/water or stand around wet, shivering. I grabbed a water and went to the baggage area where there was complete chaos. Instead of an orderly line, people were standing around like the floor of the stock exchange holding up their number and yelling. Then bags were tossed out. One problem is that the numbers are based on approximate finished times. So all the runners in a particular number range hit their section at the same time. So everyone is at the green section and no one is at the blue.

And someone told me it was worst last year!

Metro: The trains were on a Sunday Schedule. (They delayed the start because don’t cha know the trains are running late – dud). The Pentagon stop was closed. Again security. Unfortunately, no one told our operator. Everyone got off at the Pentagon. Then realized it was closed. The operator did wait until everyone reloaded but another unnecessary annoyance. Post race, coming back – there is one turnstile open. Hundreds streaming down into the station. How difficult would it have been to say this isn’t like other Sundays and open additional turnstiles?

Waited almost twenty minutes for a train (had just missed one because of the crush getting in). Of course it was packed (which did lead to a funny moment – some one said make like it’s Tokyo – only in a military crowd and priceless for someone like myself who lived in Tokyo.)

And as long as I’m being picky and whining. They gave a medal – fine I didn’t expect anything for a ten miler (although it was a twentieth anniversary) but if your going to do a medal put it on a ribbon for crying out loud – and why the heck was it made in China. No one in America makes medals?

OK - finish whining now a race report:

Seems I have run an awful lot of races in the rain this year. I got up at 5:30 and the ground was dry, but when I left the hotel at six a steady drizzle was falling. It would rain off and on all morning.

Your bib color seeds you at the start. Green put me near the front about two minutes from the start line. I was afraid I was too far forward and stood at the tail end of the greed section. I probably should have started a little further forward since in a big race my pace tends to be set by those around me. As it turned out the crowd made it hard to get a smooth pace especially since there seemed to be a lot of slow runners in front of me. A cannon shot started the race and several vollies followed. One of my images is a dog handler trying to calm her large German Shephard spooked by the cannon shots. The first mile took about 8:15 which turned out close to my net average (8:14). Disappointing because I had planned on eight minute miles. I felt comfortable (in hindsight probably too comfortable). Didn’t seem to be passed a lot and passed a lot of people in the first couple of miles so I think I thought I was going faster then I was. The course goes over Memorial Bridge, and in back of the Lincoln Memorial. There is construction work here that appears related to preventing vehicles from getting near the Memorial. This section of Washington is Foggy Bottom and the couse passes theWatergate complex where you circle back, running along side the Potomac. I chose the inner path which took me underneath the overhang of Kennedy Center.

I had a very slow mile four – no reason that I can think of (it is a hill but not particular steep) but I think that 9 minute mile just ripped any chance for an 80 minute run.

The course then wines toward Independence Avenue. The Washington Monument is prominent - at first it seems to be on your right but you actually pass on the left. Mostly park here. On Indepence you past the backs of the various Smithsonian Buildings.

You really don’t get to see much – circling the Watergate complex is blah and the river views behind the Kennedy center while nice are nothing special. On Independence Avenue you are really seeing the backs of the Smithsonian Buildings. And the boring façade of Dept. of Agriculture (how darn big is that agency and what do all those bureaucrats do?).

You see the runners ahead of you coming up Independence and well on their way to the finish. Later, you get to see the thousands of runners still well behind you as you enter those last two miles.

I remembered the 14th Street Bridge well from Marine Corps. It’s a point in the marathon where runners are really struggling; many are walking and trying to stretch out. I passed a road marking that noted "35K Marine Corps". In the marathon you still have more than four miles to go. But today less than a mile left. Almost everyone is ratcheting it up a notch. I have a great last half mile. I didn’t expect the finish line to be so close when you make that final turn but enjoyed the final sprint.

It’s been on my to do list for awhile but now that it’s crossed off I don’t think I would do it again.

Stats: Place 3258 Males 2697 Age Group 52 of 338 Clock 1:24:45 Chip: 1:22:21

Friday, September 24, 2004

First Fall Trail Run

Dew point 63/Humidity 84%.

It was wet this morning as I set out on the trail. I have to cross a grassy field to enter the woods so my feet are quickly soaking wet. It is light but the sun is still hidden. A mist hangs low which always gives a primeval feel to the woods. It is warm this morning but fall changes have begun. Some trees have yellowed and the trail already has a coating of freshly fallen leaves. I make the great loop this morning and briefly leave the Arboretum and enter Ridley Creek Park. On the trail there I encounter a hiker. It's rare that I ever see another human on the trails. Our brief exchange of good mornings is interrupted by a deer crashing across the trail. The mere sound of our voices must have disturbed her.

Back in the Arboretum the trail I choose leads to a large meadow and here fall is more evident as much of the vegetation has begun to die back. The sunlight just striking the trees to my right makes the yellows particularly brilliant. As I re-entry the woods the dappled sunlight is another reminder of fall. In high summer the canopy is dense enough to keep out direct sunlight but now patches of sunshine are everywhere. I skirt one more meadow and then enter the woods for the last leg out to Middletown Road. I've been out here for more than hour but it seems like only minutes have gone by - it was that kind of run.

Bar Harbor Half Marathon

I ran this race on Saturday, 18 September 2004 but am only now getting to publish a report since we were visiting and exploring Maine and Canada.

This is a very low key race (especially compared to the race I might have been doing that weekend - the Philadelphia Distance Run). There were about four hundred runners. Pick your number and shirt up at the YMCA. Paper bag with the race shirt and number. That's it. No expo. No freebies.

Race day greeted us with the a driving rain. It rained about 80% of the race (I joked thatit was my longest swim ever).

The course begins on Bar Harbor's Main Street. I love resort towns. Kind of nice to think that whole towns exist just so we can go and spend money. I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. It just seems great that as a society we can create that much leisure.

Despite the fact that the summer season is over the place is still quite busy, but this rainy Saturday morning all is quiet as we thunder down Main Street past tourist shops and eateries. Down to the harbor and then a hard left on the road out of town.

Second mile is up a long black top where you eventually enter the park. Acadia National Park is just magical. Hard to believe it belonged to one family. The paths thru the park are a packed gravel of some sort(crushed granite I believe). The trick is to stay off the cinders and still cut the tangents as much of possible since the paths curve quite a bit.

There seemed to be long gradual uphills and then dramatic downhills. Mile six is almost entirely uphill but seven is almost entirely downhill so I guess it evens out. I may have been too conservative on the downhills. A woman running near me would open these huge leads on the downhills and then I would reel her in on the level and uphills. I was afraid going too hard on the downhills would result in poor performance later.

The vistas even in the misty rain are spectacular and when there are man made objects like the stone bridges they seem to fit quite naturally.

About mile eight I hear someone say "Didn't I wait on you last night?" It's my waitress from dinner. It must be tough running after serving all night. we
chat only briefly because I am moving quite well and want to keep it up. The next couple of miles seem to fly by.

Mile 11 is a shock as you leave the park and come out onto a highway. You must run on the shoulder as it is not closed to traffic. I tried hitching
a ride but no one stopped. There is one last hill not long but steep and then a mile plus of almost all downhill. In fact one drop seems almost too precipitous and I wonder how fast should I go for.

One giant puddle (is this a steeplechase)swin jokes a volunteer and then a couple hundred years in the park. It seemed easy.

My goal 1:50; my finish 1:50:15.

I saw the clock but just couldn't get 1:49. If I had known how close I was I would have pushed some of those downhills just a little.

Great race despite the rain which does ruin afterward more then the race itself. The Y does allow you to shower which is nice since you can go home clean, dry
and warm.

I enjoy the half marathon distance. A hard run but not a destroyer like a marathon.

The next day I returned to Bar Harbor to take a ferry. The CAT to Nova Scotia. The seas were choppy but I survived the three hour trip without getting seasick. (Fortifide by some Dramamine.)

We enjoyed a two hour guided tour of Yarmouth and then explore the town. It's a hardscrabble kind of place. Tourism helps but fishing and some industry are probably more important since the tourism season is short.

Sunday morning I ran for about an hour and saw the town from one end to the other. They have recently improved the waterfront and the town does have a number of victorian houses but it is really the vistas out to sea that grab you.

The ride back on the Ferry provided an unexpected highlight - whales. About an hour out we entered an area where we seemed to be surrounded by dozens of whales. Mostly you just saw their spouts. But a couple of times some were close enough to boat that you could glimpse their fins and bodies. Quick a stroke of luck especially since according to the local paper whale sightings have been rare this year.

Chad Brooks

Monday, September 13, 2004

Main Line Dollars For Scholars

A 5K run with two loops on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, Pennsylvania. It always surprises runners even those who traverse Lancaster frequently by car how hilly it is. But these are gentle hills and it is relatively easy to keep pace; it also helped that I warmed up by running a major portion of the course. This race has an elaborate, detailed certification map – one of the best I have seen and yet as far as I can determine no results on line. In fact I never did see the results board. I know they were disappointed in the turnout – beautiful morning, well advertised race, not a lot of competition, good prize money and still only about 100 runners. It was my best 5K time in a while: 22:30 and I was pleased with that. I couldn’t id anyone I had raced with before (which also surprised me since this is close to home) so was pretty much on my own with pacing. My first mile was about 7:30+ which means for once I picked up (very slightly) the pace as the race proceeded. Partly this was due to two nice downhills in the last mile. I love a race that finishes on a downhill which this did. I know that I ran the last mile well because for a change I was reeling runners in instead of being past left and right. I once again used another runner to draft but only shortly because I realized that although he had passed me just past two he was really slowing by 2.5 (must have miscalculated a surge) and I knew I had plenty of energy left. I can’t be certain but I don’t think anyone passed me in that last half mile. Nice event. It’s always good to run better then you expected.

Yesterday, I did a longish run – a little over two hours. Not sure that was wise since I am doing a Half-Marathon on Saturday. But I will taper the rest of the week and it was such a pleasant morning. I started out in the dark just after six and enjoyed seeing the gradual brightening day come. Merion golf course was a hive of activity as I went past; the grounds keepers already hard at work greeted me as another early bird. There is a water fountain just off Ardmore Avenue so I took advantage of it and just a little further along on Golf View I secreted a drink that I could pick up on my return circuit. While not crowded there were more people on Haverford’s nature trail then I expected early Sunday morning. Ironically, I nearly got a chance to test dog abatement procedures when I encountered a yellow lab on an isolated road. He seemed determine to block my path but when I showed no interest in his driveway he lost interest in me and allowed me to past, but not without some admonishments so everyone would know he did his job and chased the intruder away. Got home just in time for the Sunday puzzle on NPR (phrases where both words are silent e). Felt quite energized and ready for a good half.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Stone Harbor 10K

This was an interesting race for me. Last September I ran the Ocean Drive Marathon and part of the course was thru Stone Harbor. The road markings (16 miles and 17 miles) were still on the road. So late in the race I could console myself that the finish was so close instead of so far. This race nicely book ended the season since I ran the Ventnor 10K to start summer.

Being a Jersey Shore race it was very flat although the weather was hot and humid. (I had driven thru thick fog to get to the race.) Nice wide streets completely closed to traffic with an out and back that lets you see all the runners. Although beautiful to watch it is also disconcerting to realize the three Kenyans in the lead are going twice as fast as you are.

I used this race to gauge my fitness and felt strong thru the race (I was quite surprised to learn I was only a few seconds faster that the Ventnor race where I had felt I was struggling). I had a great first three miles but lost some ground in the final three but not bad: 50:35 for an 8:09 pace. Would have liked a sub 8 pace but I let my mind wander a bit too much over the final miles. Despite the heat and humidity but I did manage to pass runners which I found heartening. (There were Kenyan runners in the race and one of the women was being treated by the paramedics when I came in.)

I don’t know if it was an official water stop on just a kindly neighbor but the last water stop on the race gave out tiny bathroom cups with ice. Very strange.

Toward the end of the race (with about a mile to go) I was passed by a runner who appeared to be about my age (turned out he was exactly my age 57). Now I knew I wasn’t in the running for any medals but inspired by the Olympics I decided I would contest my finish with him. Initially I ran beside him but then strategize - the talking heads on the Olympic coverage had discussed the advantage of following a runner. so I tucked in behind him. When we were two blocks from the finished I poured it on; I didn’t know if he would challenge since he seemed to be running comfortably but I easily passed him and beat him by four seconds. I was only hampered by three runners just in front of me who slowed down and blocked the finish. I know sometimes I slow down before the finish but really run thru and keep moving thru the chute. There were very nice finisher medals so I got to have my own Olympic fantasy despite my mid-pack finish.

The race ends on First Street just off the beach so before heading home I went down the beach and into the ocean for a quick swim – wonderful way to end a race.

As I heard people discussing how very hot it was I couldn’t help thinking that in a couple of hours half way around the world the marathon would start under very similar conditions (although as it turned out much better conditions then the women had to contend with). I was very impressed with the times run on that difficult course. I shudder to think what my time would be with hills and humidity. I knew exactly what Baldini was going thru as he laid on the track his quads in perfect definition. And Dan Brown – that stiff leg walk as he tried to stretch and massage just before entering the stadium (I am sure he wanted to run the last lap even if slowly). As for De Lima, my heart broke for him. I think fellow marathoners know how at mile 23 every physical and mental resource is stretched to its limit – how devastating that shove must have been. Not just the time lost but simply the mental concentration and rhythm lost. He may indeed have slowed down and been passed w/o the incident but how hard to live with the “what if”. What courage and grace he showed in defeat.

One commentator has talked about the how difficult the marathon is on participants – these athletes can really only be competitive in one or two races a year. The Olympics falling as it does in late summer is especially challenging for runners not just because of summer heat but because timing conditioning and race readiness is so difficult. It may explain why Olympic marathon winners are rarely the pre race favorites.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Friday Trail Run

Late summer now. In a few weeks there will be dramatic changes but now is deep green lush wood of summer. The air is humid and the ground wet. But it is pleasant to be on the trail. Struck out on a portion of the white trail I had never done. The trail seemed to disapper at one point and I had to make a great loop around to pick it up again but for most of the run it was well marked and easy to follow. I was pleased to find that when the trail rejoined the portion of trail I regularly run I recognized it. Imagine a city boy like me and I knew one wooded path from another. Amazing. Lots of deer sightings with one close encounter. One of my longer runs, very satisfied with pace and the deep peace of the woods.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Half Wit Half Marathon

Don’t know why I have such a problem with this run.

First, the weather (yes I know it is August but there are nice days in August). The first year I ran it was very hot. Last year was only a little better. This year – well we could have had anything: first forecast was for a nice day. Then Charley came along. For awhile it looked like the race might occur during a driving rain and high winds, but Charley’s track took it off shore and what rain fell was gone by race time. But while relatively cool it was extremely humid.

I felt organized and ready, but somehow I had a series of mishaps. First I forgot to pick up the trail shoes (left right by the front door) I planned to run in. Fortunately, I had another pair in my Jeep. These were heavier than I would have liked for a race, but I had little choice since I was an hour from home. Then a rather serious misstep: I forgot to put my Succeed tablets in my race ready pocket. I had them ready to go and can’t understand the oversight.

The race itself (as usual) began about 20 minutes late. The race director has a good time making fun of the course, Reading, and the runners. If you have seen his race application you will get a flavor of his sense of humor.

I knew I wanted to run slow and steady and lined up toward the back. The disadvantage of this is that in the first mile there a number of choke points - so you find yourself running and then stopping. Early on there was a stream crossing and despite some care I got wet – yuck first mile and my foot is wet. Every year this first part is slightly different.

The first part of the race loops back to the pavilion where the registration takes place. You actually run thru the pavilion. Then into the woods. This race has a number of steep inclines. I suppose the faster runners run up them all (something I would like to see someday). But I walked the steepest inclines. The problem with this course is that many of the down hills are so precipitous that we can’t speed down but must cautiously careen down grabbing tress sweat stained from previous runners (again I would like to see how the fast runners handle these hills).

Miles three thru six are wooded over rolling landscape and so far I was running well. About mile six you come down a steep incline onto a ball field. There is a water station there. You circle the infield and are confronted with the 128 steps from hell. I have no idea why or where this comes from but it is a very steep incline up a series of granite blocks. Who or why they were placed is an unsolved mystery. This stretch includes negotiating a large tree that most choose to crawl under. Notable on the course this year was the number of downed trees. After the steps there is a return three mile trip thru the woods until you get back to road. I was struggling a bit walking more than I wanted and bitterly regretted not having my Succeed tablets since I could feel my legs cramping up. I made sure I got two cups of water and ran fairly well on a short stretch of asphalt but just after reentering the woods my legs (quadriceps) really seized up. The pain was intense I couldn’t even stretch I managed to sit down and tried to massage my legs. By drawing them up it felt better. Several runners went by asking how I was. (My experience in this race is that runners really watch out for each other and always check on lagging runners). The irony was that I felt fine unlike two years ago when I felt faint and completely unfocused. I just couldn’t get uncramped. After a few minutes I began to walk and felt better – I had decided to drop out at 9.1 miles. But after another minute of so I felt like running and did. Another four miles was going to be tough but I decided to go for it. I went into the final loop. Here you get to see faster runners who have finished the loop and are headed to the finish. The first part of the loop contains the longest downhill where you can actually run and I did pretty well but it also has the steepest uphill and just when you think you are finished with up there is one last climb. The first time I did this portion I actually sat down completely exhausted and very nearly passed out. This time I felt fine and even the cramping held off – I was just very, very slow. Finally we were back to a straight away (but very rocky and slippery) unfortunately the cramps came back in spades. Not only couldn’t I run but I could barely walk. I chose not to stop but just walk slowly. Finally I came out to the last road and path and found I could run a little and I did run – in fact I felt great in the last quarter mile (probably because I knew it was over).

All in all it was a frustrating and yet strangely satisfying experience. My performance was miserable but I willed thru the pain and setbacks. I think it will make me a better runner. I can’t imagine any race daunting me after Sunday. (Of course I have no intention of testing this theory or myself in a 50K trail run.)

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Have other early morning runners noticed? It's dark out there - a sure sign summer is slipping away. Monday I tried to kid myself that it was just cloudy but, no, there was a crescent moon and Venus to show it was darkness not clouds. This morning it was cloudy which made it even gloomier. Sigh. Still it's running that puts me in touch with the seasons.

I have a run that I do most Thursdays. It is on the quiet back roads near home. I can expand or contract it easily and these days run it without a watch. There is a regular cast of early morning people I see, although forthe most part it is solitary. But if this routine run had no surprises there was a surprise at the end. Birds. Mourning Doves. Dozens lined up along the roof of my house, and more lined up along the fence bordering my property and on the utility line that runs through the back of the property. And just my property. A few years ago I had to stop feeding birds because I began to attract hundreds of pigeons. Since then I hadn't seen such a congregation of birds. (There is a large flock of starlings that fly over in the evening on their way tonight time roost, but they fly on to a large tree in the cemetery.) Though I knew mourning doves flocked, I had mostly seen them in pairs and never in such a concentration. I suppose they were on their way somewhere and just stopped for a morning chat because when I came down from my shower they were all gone. Still I wondered why my house? Will they be there tomorrow?

If I hadn't been up in the grey dawn I would have missed them. Running really does open other worlds. Life in all its variety is wonderful and wonderous.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A quick update

I asked at the end of my last post about a sky phenomenon I saw on Sunday 8 August 2004 on the beach at Ventnor.

A reader has contacted me to tell me that what I saw was a "sun dog". I googled sun dog and found a number of sites but none contained a photograph that was as striking or beautiful as what I saw Sunday.

However, this link comes closest and gives some idea and a definition.

I feel very lucky to have seen such a beautiful phenomenon.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Weekend Musings

I had the good fortune this summer to spend a couple of weekends “downtheshore” (a local regionalism used as one word meaning to go to the beach). So Friday after helping at Bryn Mawr’s Zoom Mile (strong wind slowed the mile – winning time was a “slow” 4:05) we headed out to Ventnor. Early Saturday I jogged down to the beach, put my shoes and socks under the boardwalk and ran south to the end of Absecon Island. (Absecon Island contains Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport – every July there is a swim around the Island, 22.5 miles, now that’s a marathon.) I am always surprised by how few people are on the beach early. It’s my favorite time of day. Running barefoot is fun although crushed shells can be painful. It’s neat to arrive at the end of the Island and realize you have run out of land. Back north I see my own footprints and have graphic demo of why the long toe on my right foot causes problems. The print in the sand shows clearly that that toe digs deeper then any of the others on either foot. Interesting. Going south you clearly see the high rises (mainly casinos) that line the Atlantic City boardwalk; a few dog walkers (strictly against the rules), but mostly I and the sea birds have the beach to ourselves. The next morning, Sunday, I tried something different. I drove over the Longport bridge and parked about a mile from the toll bridge that goes to Ocean City. I ran south and cross the bridge, my vertigo flickers but remains under control; then through the streets to the boardwalk – I run the length of the boardwalk (about three miles) and back again. The boardwalk is crowded with walkers and bikers. On my way back I break stride a couple of times to take in the art exhibited along the boardwalk. (On admiring one set of prints the artist amiably says “come back with money”). I must say I equally enjoyed both runs – the solitude of the beach and the crowded boardwalk - both have things to offer. At the end of the Sunday’s run I finished at a small beach where dog owners had congregated to allow their dogs to run in the surf. I spent some time cooling down and watching the dogs, joyously released from their leases, splashing through the water. My favorite – a young Great Dane bounding at remarkable speed and agility making great leaps for its toy. (BTW I saw something on the beach Sunday afternoon – a cloud was lit with the colors of the rainbow. It was quite striking and lasted several minutes. Is this a common phenomenon on the shore? What causes it?)

Friday, August 06, 2004

What a beautiful morning. Clear and 60. I had always thought of Delaware County has a good place to avoid the extremes of climate. A four season place with hot humid summers and cold winters but nothing extreme. But in the last couple of years I think the whole county has up and moved to somewhere in the mid-west. It started with Floyd a tired old hurricane that was mostly tropical storm when it got here but then decided to hang around and around. Worst flooding we ever saw. The next summer was a drought. The next summer the most days over 90 ever. Then a winter when we had more and deeper snow then Maine. Then last fall the wind storm (don’t know if they ever decided it was a tornado) that knock down trees, took off roofs. Then this Sunday it was water again. Six inches of rain in less than two hours. Some of the areas flooded were in a flood plain and were use to high water but other places had never seen water like this. Streams that were normally a trickle raged carrying off cars, bridges, and roads. (Sometime this morning we will officially become a federal disaster area.)

What does that have to do with running – nothing other than it was a great morning to be out in woods this time to benefit from one of those extremes (calling for record lows tonight!). While some of my humid weather runs have been all effort, today was the opposite. The miles flew by and even more than usual I found myself reluctant to leave the woods and so did another loop. For the past couple of weeks I have been going further into the woods taking paths I never used before. Sometimes I easily rejoin a known trail and sometimes I get lost and must retrace my steps but it has been great fun. Today on my detour I encountered a stag with a large rack. He came crashing out of the underbrush just in front of me and raced down the path with me just behind him. Shortly he turned off the path and just feet off the path turned and watched to see if I would follow. We stood facing each other only a couple of feet apart until he bolted deeper into the brush. Earlier a rabbit had played a similar game. He would race ahead, wait for me to catch up, then race ahead. He did this five or six times before tiring of the game and disappearing into the undergrowth. (Now I know it is silly to anthropomorphize this natural behavior but I can’t help thinking there is some sport for them in this – silly human we are the real athletes.)

Next week I will do the Half-Wit Marathon (If you want to read a fun race application click on the link). After reading about 50Ks and longer and 6 hour runs I hate to admit I am somewhat intimidated by that course. It is the toughest run I have ever done, far more than any of my twelve marathons. I can only wish that the weather is like today and not the 90s it has been the last two years.

Tonight I will volunteer at Bryn Mawr Running Company’s Shut Up and Run 5K. New this year is the Zoom Mile. The elite category should be a great race to watch especially with the cool weather and slight downhill, no turns there should be some very fast times.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Running Notes

Cool, rainy Saturday morning. It was nice to get out in the weather. Might seem crazy to some to run in the rain, but there were golfers on the golf course. sNot that’s crazy – at least I’m in a t shirt and shorts. I have been having some hamstring problems lately but today felt great. I developed soreness in my left leg a few weeks back. It seemed to be hamstring related but the discomfort shifted from time to time – sometimes it seemed more in the piriformis, sometimes in the hip flexor area. Around the time I that developed it, I discovered I had a planter wart (kept feeling I was walking on a pebble.) Even though I didn’t feel any pain when in my running shoes I wondered if it had made me changed stride. I did see my family physician about it but he believed it was only because my hamstring was tight (especially since the soreness lessened as I ran and only returned 24 hours later and it was obvious my range of motion for the left leg was poor). I have been faithfully stretching and using the stick (which I highly recommend - works great) and have already seen an improvement and this morning’s run convinces me I’m on the right track. Doc said he could burn the planter wart but then I couldn’t run for a week and he knew I wouldn’t like that (he gets it bless his soul). He recommended I simply use an otc treatment. It seems to be working.

Because I had been feeling sore I had cut back quite a bit on my running. It turns out that if you go from 20 mile weekends to 8 mile weekends and don’t change caloric intake to results are weight increase (dud). I was 189 in doc’s office – highest in several years. When people try to lose they are told go slow, don’t expect to lose rapidly, etc. Why the hell does it gone on so fast! Actually it’s been creeping up since Christmas but the last six weeks were especially dramatic. It’s back to no treats, no seconds, low fats. It’s a rotten spiral – run less, weight increases, makes running harder and more injury prone, run less. My wife wanted me to give up beer but I kept the beer and gave up the peanuts, pretzels, chips that accompany the beer.

Last Sunday I did a 10K in Ventnor NJ (and no I shouldn’t have been racing at that point but I went nice and slow and actually felt better after the run). This was the flattest, straightest 10K I have ever run. It must be difficult to train in such an environment and probably explains why I saw runners going over the Ocean City Bridge since that would be one of the only ways to get in hill workouts. The race had a strange synchronicity moment – after the race when I checked the results I noticed that the runner following me was Mary Brooks. I was vaguely aware that there was a young lady behind me but never spoke to her. I wish I had a chance to speak to her to see if there was any connection.

I realized Sunday that I really don’t prefer out and back courses. I know there’s probably some benefit to knowing the return course but I much prefer loop courses. I now realize that is why I prefer my northerly trail course over my south course. The north course allows me to make a wide loop and only repeat the last half mile while the south course which I did yesterday is an out and back. I am curious if any one else has a preference for one over the other and if so why.

There is a beach replenishment project underway in Ventnor. Lot of people don’t like it because it has created sand dunes that block the beach for beach front house. I think it is pretty cool. Fascinating to see the sand slurry coming out of the huge pipe and the bulldozers moving the results up the beach. They worked 24 hours straight thru the holiday weekend must be anxious to get it done before the season really gets going. Costing millions and will probably all be gone in the first big coastal storm.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Late Spring Trail Run

The morning was damp, closed in. A misty rain had been falling but stopped just as I stepped out onto the trail. The woods are a deep, vibrant green now. The new growth overwhelms the path in spots. The morning is loud with bird calls. I have the trail mostly to myself with just a few rabbits – I will see only one deer further into the run on the edge of a meadow. Perhaps the vegetation makes them harder to see or perhaps the lusher growth allows them to stay further in the woods.

I believe that current evolutionary thinking posits that the path to humanity as we know it began when our ancestors left the forest for the plains. In fact I remember reading somewhere that all over the world humans replicate the look and feel of that African veldt.

But I feel quite comfortable in these woods and when the trail opens into a meadow I am glad to reenter the forest. I especially like the spots where ferns predominate and the forest could be a million years old. (Of course if it was filled with critters anxious to make me their next meal I would undoubtedly feel quite different. And there are stretches of less used paths where the brambles say imagine if no one had come before you. And you don’t mind being wet and chilly when you know a hot shower is minutes away.)

I stayed on a circuit I know well enjoying the calmness of this world apart. I need hardly to think about where to go – when I first ran these paths I would occasionally get lost but now the paths are familiar and I coast on automatic pilot just enjoying this wet morning.

Wet, tired my hour used up I head toward that hot shower.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Tuesday night I was at Haverford College for some track work with the Bryn Mawr Running Club. The track was in use so we moved to a nearby field to run the perimeter. A little later a group of youngsters came to use the field for soccer practice. I heard one of the young fellows tell his coach, "We can't play on the field those men are playing on it."

We forget sometimes that running lets us play.

Later when I ran home my neighbor was unloading her kids and her daughter asked her mom, "Why is he running?" For exercise said mom, but I liked the earlier assessment better, for play.

I run for the play.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Broad Street 10 Miler

The race started out with just the kind of synchronicity I love. I got down a little earlier than usual because there had been warnings about parking. The combinations of events at the Wachovia (Flyers game) and a Phillies game meant limited parking. It turned out for me at least to be no problem (although my parking choice latter caused me problems when I tried to get to the post race parties).

Part of the fun of Broad Street is crowding on the train with all the other runners for the ride up Broad. But I had beaten the crowd and the car I got on was mostly empty. No one to trade quips and war stories with. But at the Walnut Street stop a number of runners got on and the car filled. A runner sat down and we began to chat. Learned he was from Boston and came down for Broad Street, didn't run marathons anymore, but liked to return to Philly for the Distance Run. As we got near Broad and Olney I wished him luck; he noticed my dear runners singlet for the first time (I had a jacket on) and said are you a dead runner? He was too. We exchanged names. Paul Flynn meet Chad Brooks. Paul said I read your post last night in the hotel. Ok small world, but come on, I didn't even see half the people I know among the 10,000 runners let alone have a dead runner get on that particular train, choose my car and sit down beside me. Be careful of any theory based on coincidence because coincidence happens all the time (and yes it's oxymoronic and true).

Along with cloudy and breezy there was near 100% humidity. A short warm up run left me sweating so I knew this could be a tough run. The start was delayed by a fire in the subway at Broad and Cherry and the officials didn't want to start until they were assured the fire engines had cleared Broad. Understandably but it threw off my dehydradration schedule. So although I hated to do so I had to stop before mid way and lost about 40 seconds.

Other then that it was a good run. Goal was 80 minutes and I finished in 1:20:56 clock time and 1:19:39 chip time so given the delay I ran mostly sub eights. Those miles felt hard but not terrible and I kept a good steady pace.

A run through Broad is always run through my own personal history: I went to college at LaSalle a couple of blocks from the start. The aunt I currently care for had a store in the Logan area the first subway stop after the race begins. A distant relative lived in one of the grand houses that once lined Broad Street and I remember as a child visiting the old lady in the drabby old mansion soon to be cut into apartments and eventual decline into ruin. I was inducted into the army at 401 N. Broad Street. Well on and on but you get the idea.

I use to die after City Hall but because I finally (at least in this race) did a better job at pacing I ran mostly comfortable through the entire distance. I never much enjoyed mile seven and perhaps that's why I lost a little focus in mile seven which was too slow but I picked it up and had two good final miles. Terrance Mahon who finished fourth in this race told me that everyone has one of those miles and usually it is the segment just past mid-way – for example the third quarter in a mile run.

Very impressed overall with the organization of this race - especially impressed with the volunteers who seemed particularly enthusiastic and gracious. When I handed my gear over to the kids at the baggage bus I said I'm going to recommend your boss gives you a raise - the young lady said, very seriously, we do this for free. I just laughed and said good for you when I was your age there's no way I'd be out here early on Sunday morning. The woman behind me said you got that right.

We runners take an awful lot for granted and exspect a lot for an entrance fee. If you are a runner always be sure to be nice to the volunteers and thank them a thousand times.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Commodore Barry Bridge 10K

Last Sunday I ran a very small 5K in Swarthmore. It was a fun run and part of a larger festival. The course itself was pleasant - thru Swartmore College and the borough of Swartmore.

This week I did the Commodore Barry Bridge Run. It was a 5K walk and run
and a 10K. This bridge like the Ben Franklin was designed originally
without a center barrier and the lanes would change depending on the rush
hour. I guess several head ons later both bridges have center barriers.
The 5K starts in the south(east) bound lanes and the 10K in the north(west)
lanes. Walkers start behind the 10K (pretty good planning I thought since
the walkers have their own space the entire way - 10K runners cross the
entire span and return in the east lanes). On the start line a runner said
that the bridge looked a lot steeper and longer than it did on the web. And
indeed the uphill portion is daunting. Suprisingly just when you think you
crested there is another little rise (I thought it was just me but a couple
of other runners noticed it). The view from the top is spectacular -
although the day was shortly to turn cloudy and eventually rainy it was
still blue skies with views of the Philly skyline 10 miles away. On the
down slope you get a clear view of the Chester Power Station - a fantastic redevelopment project to give new life to an old power station. It should be spectacular when finished in the fall. Favorite sign - No Stopping On Bridge - good race advice. Coming back I really planned on enjoying the
downhill and I did, but the wind was very strong somewhat negating my plans
for a fast finish.

My goal was 8 minutes miles and I finished in 49:11 which was 7:56. Only
disappointment - originally I was announced as third in my age group - no
big deal in a small field - but apparently a mistake since looking at the
results this morning I see I was fourth. By accident they had no medals for
the 10K runners so at least I don't have to give back a medal.

When I came back there were many 5K runners on the scene. This race is known for a really delicious post race brunch and I figured they were still there because of the food - but many more than usual still hung around - then a friend who had done the 5K enlightened me - duh! The bridge was closed until all the walkers cleared - no one could leave! That's one way to get people to stay for the awards ceremony. Once they announced the bridge opened the crowd melted away almost instantaneously.

Coming up this week one of my favorites - Broad Street.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Tyler Arboretum 10K

This is a trail run mostly thru the 450 uncultivated acres of the 650 acres owned by the Arboretum. Several years ago the Arboretum made the decision to erect of large deer fence to protect the collections of rare plants. Going out thru the fence always seems a dramatic way to enter the woodlands reminiscent of King Kong or Jurassic Park.

Much of the run is familiar ground for it covers the trails I run every Friday. My last run on the trail was in a spring snow and today is considerably greener (although not quite a green as I expected – the cold wet weather undoubtedly). A low pressure system has stalled over this area bringing grey skies and rain, although we got through the run without rain. The course reflected that with much mud, wet courses and high water on the stream crossings.

My only goal was not to walk any of the hills and though my shorten stride was often barely running I did accomplished that.

A combination of better weather (last year a cold wet rain fell all thru the run), familiarity with the trails, and better hill running meant I was much faster then last year.

Biggest disappointment was the t-shirt – so non-descript they might as well given Hanes right out of the package. Second biggest was no plant give away. Although I always manage to kill it – I did enjoy getting a cutting of some bush or other that had traditionally been given out at the finish line.

Still it is a great spring run and a definite favorite.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Down The Shore - The Ocean Drive Marathon

This was the smallest marathon that I have participated in (370 finishers; there were also 342 in a ten mile race). I began checking the weather about ten days ago (and yes I know it's useless and yes it drives my poor wife crazy) and right up until Saturday
the weather looked good - 50's with mild southwest winds. Instead Sunday was overcast and in the 40's -not necessarily bad running weather but it also came with stiff winds out of the north and east. Cool temps good - north winds bad.
I was a little concerned about a bruise on the top of my left foot. Not sure what did it - it's only painful with some shoes - unfortunately my Brooks dyads were one of them. I chanced wearing my ds trainers (light but no cushioning) and they worked quite well. The bruise never bothered me. In fact I was quite pleased with my condition after the run – I felt quite relaxed and have suffered very little doms (delayed onset muscle soreness) or other problems. Perhaps I am not going hard enough.

This race goes from Cape May, NJ to Sea Isle City. The ten milers stop in Wildwood. Very friendly crowd made the cold wait for the start bearable. The first couple of miles I was with a chatterbox, but then I tend to be talky during a marathon - it's one of the
contrasts between marathons and the all out of a 5k. Two runners carried on a hysterical account of the deficiencies of the host hotel complete with peeling wallpaper and tepid water.

After a couple of miles thru mostly residential streets Lower Township you go thru salt marshes. Despite the name Ocean Drive for long parts of the run you don't actually see the ocean. The salt marshes, teeming with life I suppose, provide boring vistas and are also very windy.

In Wildwoods you’re on a bike path and then the boardwalk. Wildwood has a huge expanse of beach compared to Cape May. But its boardwalk seemed dreary and tired even for the off season.

Terrific volunteers throughout the race (and this was important because there were no spectators - it has to be the least people I have ever seen over a 26 mile run. Even my marathon in Maine had more spectators.)

I only had one really slow mile when I lost my succeed tablets - it was kind of comical. I had shoved the tablets into the back pocket - at least I thought I did but I had shoved them into the shorts - it must have been a sight as I danced around trying to retrieve them.

I had worn gloves which came to be soaking wet but despite that my hands seemed warmer with them then without them, however, retrieving gels and tablets with
gloves was cumbersome. Took gels twice (probably later in the race then I should have but the first 10 miles had flew by and I just didn’t think of them.)

There's quite a long stretch (about 7 miles) thru Stone Harbor and Avalon. Wow! What homes. The amazing thing is this that these million dollar homes sit largely empty. In those seven miles I saw only a couple of people but more amazing is that there were no cars parked anywhere. This is a strictly summer community and these mansions are second homes. And though we were only a block from the ocean you don't see it at all. Partly this is because the grand homes block the view and partly because they have built up sand dunes to protect the Island. Ironically some homeowners are miffed because their view is obstructed. I think if I lived on a fragile barrier island I would learn to love sand dunes.

Out of Avalon there is one last bridge to challenge you, then briefly thru tiny Townsend Inlet before Sea Isle and a fast last mile on Sea Isle’s Promenade.

Seven bridges break up an otherwise very flat course. One bridge is under reconstruction but volunteers were placed so keep us safe. Not that I had any inclination to tempt fate by running anywhere near the railing less left side of the bridge. The bridge is not open to traffic and the sea gulls seemed to have learned to use it to open shells. Between droppings, sea shell casings, and left over calms you definitely wanted to step carefully.

Only few bends on the course, so no tangents to calculate. Because this is an early in the season race it is relatively under appreciated but it is definitely a Boston qualifier course. With relatively few long runs before hand, and steady hard effort but not pushing I finished in 3:56:56 right on goal. (I could qualify for Boston with a 3:45.)

After the race a young runner approached me and said how impressed he was with my good spirits at the 25 mile mark and that he appreciated my enthusiasm. And I must confess that I enjoyed trading quips along the route especially with the volunteers. It’s probably the lactic acid that wears away my usual reserve. I probably should stay more focused and not waste energy shouting but it wouldn’t be as much fun.

I did all my runs strictly by time and never did a run longer then 3 hours. And still ran
comfortably. I must give some credit to Succeed tablets; they have been a great tool. I can race these distances without cramps and that is a big bonus. And as long as I'm doing product placement I might as well mention blistershield - picked this up at an expo (NY?) and have been very pleased with it. A powder you put in your socks it definitely helps prevent blisters.

Now I need to plan my fall marathon.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Last Snowfall Run

A late winter snowfall can be very beautiful. When I went to bed last night it was raining but morning showed a street scene already covered with a wet slushy snow. I was anxious to get out on the trail for this last snow run. Because it is a wet snow all the branches are covered and sharp edges have disappeared. This is a soft snow not the hard granular snow of January but big soft flakes drifting down. The path is very wet – in one spot hardly different from a shallow stream. The heavy snow bends branches down into the path blocking the way but I learned that with a soft shake the snow drops and the branches unburdened rise like a toll barrier. I found myself shaking branches even when I could get around just to see them rise. The woods remind me of what it must have looked like to Lucy when she went thru the wardrobe into the frozen world of the White Witch. I quite liked it this morning but could imagine how it would be if spring never came. The quiet is only broken by distance traffic sounds. Running is not too bad except on the uphills where the slushy snow gives little purchase to my churning legs, but a shorten stride soon takes me to the ridge and a really gorgeous view of the snow covered valley where the stream stands out as a black ribbon thru the stark white. I wish I could linger in my snowglobe but it is already late. I wouldn’t be surprised if next week as the temperature climbs toward 60 these woods are already greening with spring.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon

Sunday morning was gray, cold and windy: this despite forecast that a high pressure system would move in with calm winds, clear skies and warmer temps. The blur at the top of lin-mark’s result page says it all: “Start time 9:00 a.m., weather was "brisk" with winds reported at 17 miles an hour which made the start temperatures feel like 35 degrees instead of closer to 40 degrees. Weather could have been a bit better, but hey in the past few weeks we have had much worse! So thank goodness no rain or snow. This was not a day for a personal record.” (Although I know one runner who pr’d his half-marathon best – go figure!)

There was also a race director’s nightmare – potta johns ordered but a no show. 1200 runners and no facilities. Everyone running the three blocks back to the Y.

All that aside, a good day for racing. Cool overcast is really good race weather and the wind didn’t seem a factor. I did wear gloves – green gloves for St. Patrick’s Day – these were in the Philly Marathon race packet, an advertising gimmick from Citizen’s Bank. Good gimmick as I noticed dozens of runners similarly donned green gloves for the day.

I went with my Baltimore Marathon long sleeve shirt which is made by Under Armour and I must say it is a very good product. I was quite comfortable thru the race but I saw runners in cotton soaking wet. In very hot weather when you are going to be soaking wet no matter what it may not matter but in conditions like yesterday I think coolmax like products show their superiority. I am sure I will never race in cotton.

The race begins in downtown Wilmington’s Rodney Square. The race was chipped but the start mats couldn’t be used because underground wires at the intersection created interference (next year the plan is to move the start).

The first half mile is a good downhill so naturally I went out too fast. But generally I felt my pacing was good and given the hilly nature of this race pretty even. That downhill is deceiving as this elevation graphic shows. The opening four miles are urban with a tour of the underside of I95, but also passing the minor league ballpark, the outlet shopping center, and the refurbished waterfront. But the heart of the race is the steep climb thru Brandywine Park and Rockford Park along the Brandywine.

The race course goes along Kentmere Parkway past the Delaware Art Museum which is undergoing a major overhaul. Several years ago I was at the Museum in March when I saw this strange spectacle – hundreds of people running by being handed cups of water. I was as fascinated with that as anything in the Museum. I asked about it and was told I was some kind of race they did every year. The runners streamed by for a long time and I was quite taken with it – perhaps the roots of my running were sub-consciously planted right there.

This year some poor volunteer was being harangued by a woman quite put out by the road closures. I wonder what she thought he could do about it. It seemed ironic in a week where the news has so ferociously reported the “obesity crisis”. I almost wanted to stop and encourage her to walk part of the route and enjoy the closure rather then see it as a problem.

This is a race with lots of bends and twists and I worked hard to use the tangents.
Using the tangents means that rather then running with the curve you seek to run the straight line that creates the shortest possible distance.

When I was successful it did seem to enable me to past those not doing the tangent. The problem I encountered was you have to be very careful or you will cut other people off since you are going against the grain. But, it did seem to work and I will continue to practice tangents.

Out of the park and up Rt 52 and around the MBNA building and the glorious feeling that soon you will have that glorious drop back through the park. As we ran toward the park a large flock of geese flew low over head honking noisily almost as if they were cheering us on. You get the benefit of downhills well thru mile twelve. Then in that last quarter mile up that wall of a hill.

Good finish - didn't give in to the hill but ran it strong. Pushed a little hard to make sure I got in under 1:50 and did just.

Finished right in the middle of the age group and the pack:
– 1:49:58 (8:24 mile spilts) 20/44 ( M55-59) 470/831 Males.

Felt good with my finished, even tempered with the fact that the first five 60yr olds finished faster (much faster) and ever the first three 65yr olds. Well, it just means there’s no reason I can’t continue to run well for years more.

Afterwards I wanted a couple more miles so I ran backwards on the course and then down to the path along the river. They have done a very nice job here and the path is quite inviting. The river so dry a couple of years ago is in full throat and roars over the shallows. Interesting thing I saw. There was an explanation of why so many trees were cut down. It seems that Norwegian Maples are considered an alien species and an intruder that crowds out native trees. By thinning over two hundred of the maples the park hopes to encourage native species. Another urban jewel – congratulations Wilmington.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Beautiful morning for a run.
I chose to do the paved loop in Ridley Creek Park rather then the trails. This is because the course replicates the Caesar Rodney course which I will run Sunday by half.

The park loop is about five miles if you run from the entrance. Like CR (actually CR's first half mile drops but then flattens)you start flat and then climb steadily for about a mile and a half – plateau – then go downhill for about a mile. If you look at the graphic of CR's elevation the park loop does the same thing (that graphic is very scary btw and always makes me thing what the heck are you doing!!!!).

The sun was at the perfect elevation to light the woods which glowed silver. The wind (out of the NW with gusts up to 45 mph) was terrific – the roar through the trees as loud and rumbling but at ground level I was relatively protected by the woods on either side and wasn’t bothered. For the first time in a long time I saw no deer in the park – too
many walkers and joggers I guess.

I got my newly confirgured RW yesterday. (Haven't made up my mind about the new graphics but certainly
wasn't blown away.) Read an article about downhill running. Unfortunately only learned that it's murder on your quads which I knew. I'll let you know how my great downhill goes Sunday. One thing Friday morning didn't replicate is the huge uphill at the end of CR. I've been imaging all week hoping that I will really challenge that hill.

I want to run smart on Sunday. Steady pacing with a great finish is my goal.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

First Race of the Season

I did run a race in January but the Icicle 10 Miler lived up to its name and between the rain, sleet and slushy roads it was hardly a typical race more like a survial exercise.

Today however was just about perfect. Bright blue skies, about 47F, windy during my warm up run but I noticed it less during the race itself.

I realized my winter runs have been very solitary. Oh you would see the other occasional runner but mostly, especially on the early morning runs ,you have the road to yourself. On Friday's trail run I did over ten miles and never saw another human being. (BTW I did several stream crossings without getting wet!)

Even as recently as two weeks ago when I did my long run, much to my surprise at the time, the river drives were mostly empty.

Today the path is full of life and the parking lots full. The rowers appear to here in force and bikers are gathering for group rides. The skaters, joggers and walkers all are here in numbers. It’s pleasant to see all the variety and activity.

Today’s race is the first of my three March runs of increasing distance. Northeast Road Runners Winter 10K is a low key affair on the Kelly Drive bike path. We racers will share the path with all the other users.

I see lots of friends and acquaintances who have come out for the start of the race season. I am sure the good weather also helps the turnout. My plan is to go out hard in control and try for a negative split race. I line up with Julia who is in her first race since taking time off to have a baby. Cameron is there with his Dad to cheer Mom on (well ok as it turns out he slept thru the race but hey I got rewarded with a big smile). It turns out Julia is quite prepared for her comeback and goes out very fast. My plan is busted. Still I feel good – later in the race I am passed by two contemporaries . They had raced wisely. Still I did well and had a good sprint to the finish.

After the race and after some kibitzing I followed up with another six miles – really a beautiful morning for running and great to see so many folks out to enjoy this urban treasure. My only negative – the amount of graffiti vandalism. A tremendous amount in just the past couple of weeks. So sad. And we know how to fight it – have known for many years. The secret is to clean it up immediately not in a couple days, or couple of weeks or never. I just don’t understand why government doesn’t get it.


Sunday, February 29, 2004

Weekend Running

This part of the Northeast is having a preview of spring and we are having the warmest days since late December. Friday’s trail run was quiet and uneventful. I enjoyed the winter woods which will green up in just a couple of weeks. Other then a couple of soggy spots the going was easy and the trails appear to have been freshly marked so I was more adventurous and took a couple of detours.

Saturday was just perfect. A daytime moon looked down as I started out just past noon. I had new shoes on. I seriously considered a different route because I knew if I took the nature trail thru Haverford I would encounter a lot of mud and didn’t like messing my new shoes. I think it has something to with a poor childhood and the only thing guarantee not to be a hand me down was new shoes which were to be kept perfect as long as possible. But what the hey they will get dirty why not today.

I ran to music (and yes I was careful and mostly on almost traffic less roads.) One of the local NPR stations carries From The Top a program that features young classical talent. If ever you have a rotten week and are convinced the world’s going to hell in a hand basket listen to From The Top. It always makes me feel better about life. Immediately following was the Met’s rendition of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri. It’s bel canto opera – a form popular in the early 19th century where plot was minimal and the singers drove all. Rossini wrote it in three weeks when he was just 21. It sounds like a young man’s opera. Although I was over an hour into the run the overture got me doing an incredibly fast mile. I finished my run to the rousing finish of Act One where all seven principals are on stage singing as bells. Great fun.

Today’s run much more mundane but still satisfying because the warming temps are near perfect. This I could get use to.

Chad Brooks

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Winter Contradictions

Last Saturday was warm (40’s) and Sunday was cold. This time last year we had 43 inches of snow and this
year 13. A colder than average January but lots ofrain. So it has gone this winter.

Friday I went south on the Rocky Run trail. To my surprise the trails still had a lot of icy patches. Winter opens great vistas and perhaps that’s why I saw so many deer. But the weather has been tough on parts of the trail and my first fall of the day was a minor stumble as I tried to get over a small stream where the bridge had partially washed away. An hour into the run I had circled around and needed to cross a larger stream. I have crossed at this spot a half-dozen times without incident but debris forced me further upstream. Still there were plenty of rocks and though the water higher than usual it wasn't moving very hard. I got more then half way across when the only rocks left were under water. No problem if I stepped lightly and quick I would be ok. But it wasn’t to be - I slipped and my right arm and leg went into about 18 inches of very cold water – I must have been a sight as I tried to bounce up without getting my left side wet. I was only about twenty minutes out and it was about 40 so I thought I’d be ok. I decided I was better off without the wet glove so off it came but I did quicken my pace. Minutes later I saw a beautiful red fox in his gorgeous winter coat. But coming down a hill I had my third fall. This was a beaut. It started with me sliding on ice I thought I had avoided by going to the side of the trail. Now what follows sounds like I thought it out slowly and carefully but it happened in a second. I knew I was falling and I knew trying to break with my arms might cause a worst injury so I folded into a fetal position and bounce on my left arm – not bad but then I kept sliding head forward down the hill – what fun. I kind of slipped off the path and was able to get up none the worse forwear. I couldn't believe I had managed it without injury. It was tempting to get cocky but I knew I had been very lucky and it was time to be careful. Fortunately the rest of run was uneventful but a hot shower sure did feel good.

Today was a long run using Kelly, West River, and Forbidden Drives. Early in the run I ran by Nick. We chatted briefly as runners do. How about this wind? Nick says at least you have it at your back. I smiled – this is Kelly Drive the wind is never at your back, somehow it’s always in your face. I ran the new trail that parallels the Schuylkill and goes to Locust Street. It should be very nice when it’s finished. I did my fav run around the Art Museum then back down
to the loop and hit the strongest winds yet. There was so much debris in the wind it actually stung. This winter I feel like I’m in a Willa Cather novel and am one of the pioneers bedeviled by the plains winds. (Forecast for tomorrow: strong north west winds.) I did enjoy this run – yes I was tired and sore – but the winter landscape seems so stark and clear that you are often in the moment – you seemed to notice the bones of the land and somehow seem connected to it – and in the end it seemed much more effortless then an equivalent summer run.

P.S. It's better to wear out then rust.