Sunday, December 24, 2006


A frequent discussion thread for runners is the timing of runs: Morning,mid-day, evening. But I reckon the majority of runners are morning runners. Which leads me to my theme - how do you get up.

I have a friend who has never used an alarm clock. He is so confident in his ability to wake when he wants he doesn't ever use one. Makes sense I guess - afterall for thousands of years humans had to get up without artificial aids, although I am guessing that most humans got up with dawn. Perhaps there a book that discusses how non-technological societies handled waking.

I remember reading that clocks or at least devices that accurately tracked time were developed by monks who needed to know when the hours of prayer occurred (Matins, Lauds, Prime, etc.).

Probably, Islam needed the same.

I still remember my first alarm clock, bought in a local five and ten. I was about 11 and my Father decided I was old enough to be responsible to get myself up. It was the kind with two bells, had a satisfying tick tock, and rang like the all the bells that terrified Scrooge just before Marley's appearance. I did love that clock.

For years now I have used a clock radio to get up but my wife still prefers an alarm ring to wake up. I am a solid sleeper and have slept through storms and calamities that have woken or kept my wife up but ironically I wake up easily and instantaneously.

I have some ability to wake up when I want but I am not as confident as my friend to forgo an clock altogether. Normally, I wake up about two minutes before the alarm goes off whether it is for 5:30 AM or my weekend 7 AM. This enables me to turn off the alarm so as not to disturb my wife. I am not sure how this works, but I just think of when I want to get up before going to sleep and I wake up at that time. I am lucky in that I generally fall right off to sleep and have almost never had insomnia.

I know there are some that recommend naps but I don't usually nap during the day although I have been know to fall asleep in front of the TV or while reading at night.

Do you use an alarm clock?
If so what kind?
Do you get right up or linger? Do you use the snooze alarm - I never
do - don't see the point of ten extra minutes?
Are you a light or heavy sleeper?

But best wishes to all for a very joyous holiday.

Chad Brooks

Monday, December 11, 2006


Two great runs this weekend:

On Saturday I did Bryn Mawr Running Club's Winter Prediction Run. Every Wednesday night during the Spring, Summer and Fall BMRC has club runs on a course known as the Tennis Loop. Runners can choose five, seven or ten miles. Several times a year the club makes these runs a prediction run - each runner picks a finish time and the winner is the runner closest to their predicted time. Because of safety concerns when Daylight Savings ends so does the Tennis Loop, but each December the club has the prediction run on Satruday morning. Entrance fee is an unwrapped toy and the club also encourages a shoe turn in. Toys and shoes are given to a local charity.

This was the first Tennis Loop Run since the Morris Avenue bridge linking Lancaster Avenue and Montgomery Avenue was closed for repairs. This means an alteration of course which of course affected everyone's prediction time. (I actually won, quite by fluke, a prediction run this year - but my prediction times have gotten better simply because I know the route well. New routing, new timing.)

So off I went pacing myself with various club members and chatting. About four miles into the course I am running alone but following a woman I have frequently finished with - I catch up with her and we run the last part together - I opinioned that I was going too fast for my prediction and with that she slows down. I am thinking jeez why is she listening to me!!! I keep going and my finish is about thirty seconds too fast - in this race that's a huge gap. But it was a fun run on a beautiful morning.

Sunday was the Reindeer Romp. This race follows a course I laid out nine years ago. This year I was on the race committee. Last year we had a huge crowd and one of the turnarounds was overly congestion. This year we came up with the idea of running part of the course backwards and it worked out great (thanks to some enegetic course marshals).

The course itself uses a busway - this is a former trolley car route that was paved over in the 1970's and is use only for SEPTA buses . Since the buses don't run on Sundays it makes a perfect race route. The start went smoothly even with a record number of runners (about 650 and another 200 walkers). The course is downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill. I went out very fast, probably too fast. I struggled a bit on the uphill and then was overly hesitant on the downhill. The finish is a half mile uphill that gets steeper as you close in on the finish. I had wanted to finish under 24 but just missed it probably because I started a little too far back. Still pleased with the race (I ended up third in my new age group).

After my race I helped with collecting the results - the timer was using barcodes and it was interesting to see how that worked (did you know you can't barcode single digits) and how the timer is married to finishers list. I also got my photo with Santa Claus. This was a very good Claus although he could use a good pair of black boots.

Now it's time for my Christmas rest. I will do some evening runs just to see the Christmas lights but not hard or long runs until the New Year.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I knew it would be cold and dark this morning when I began my run. The surprise was that even though sunrise was still a half hour away the sky had already brightened considerably. But cold it was - last week I had run in shorts and a t-shirt; this week I needed a jacket, hat and mittens. It wasn't just cold (25F) but windy too. The wind is not too bad once in the woods, but how it roared overhead in the canopy.

The woods are in full winter mode - you can see deep thru the trees and the contours of the surrounding land are much more apparent. I love this change - sometimes in the summer wood I feel almost claustrophobic as the wood pushes in and grabs at you. But now the all the beauty of trunk and branch can be seen and appreciated.

I have decided that once across Painter Road I will run my usual path backwards. I like the newness this simple step creates and how different everything looks and feels.

I often see deer in the winter woods simply because the line of sight is improved, but today I am completely alone except for some small birds that seem to enjoy my company and flit ahead of me every few yards but never fly away.

I cross water very carefully. Last week I slipped and got wet feet - I don't want that today. As usually happens, less that a mile into the run I feel quite comfortable - my thumbs are a little cold but I draw up then into the mittens and feel good.

Because of my route I am in shadow most of the way. I know the sun is up because I can see the gold tones on the higher ridges and tree tops but along the creek I am still in shadow.

Last Sunday I went to the Darwin exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Tree height is an example of natural selection wherein some plants get advantage by getting more light. I realize looking up, this just isn't in relation to competition with other plants, but also because by stretching up, the tree will get more morning light. Even though no photosynthesis is happening now the effect is quite striking as light floods the heights.

At last my circuit is completed I as I climb higher, I too see the morning sun, brilliant but giving no heat.

I enter the field where my Oak lies. When I saw it fallen two weeks ago it was still in leaf but now it lies bare - its striking lattice structure revealed. I get my camera out to take a photo hoping to capture the moon still visible above. My camera, however, won't work - too cold. The lens extends but nothing fires up. Should have carried the camera under my jacket - oh well lesson learned. Even the short time without mittens has frozen my fingers and I can feel the chill seeping in. So one last look and then off. A hot shower and coffee will feel very good.