Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This morning I swam for the first time using a wetsuit. I thought it would be a good idea to get use to the feel of the suit before I used it in the triathlon. I had read that a suit gives increased buoyancy but I was pleasantly surprised by how much easier it seemed to make swimming. My fifty yard laps were on average about 10 seconds faster. This greatly increased my confidence in taking on open water.

But that is not the point of this post. Last Sunday I watched this report on CBS’ Sunday Morning on the new swimsuits that are causing world records to crash.

Now I suppose this is analogous to when pole vaulters made the switch to fiberglass, but it seems to me that this changes the whole nature of the sport. You could get new world records by making the pool 10 centimeters shorter. Shouldn’t a line be drawn separating the records before these suits and after and not pretend that human performance changed.

Chad Brooks

Monday, May 05, 2008

It Is The Navy Yard

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Some Are Still Finishing

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Glad Its Over

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The View From Nine Minutes

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The Start Line

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In The Subway

Hey nobody here looks very happy. Well it is very early!!!

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Broad Street 2008

Well I dipped deep into Dr. McShane’s bank yesterday. Ten miles is the longest I have run since last year’s Broad Street. Many of you know my story but for new readers: I had a busy race season last year. After two half marathons I began to feel pain in my gut. I thought it was a muscle pull of some kind but it turned out to be arthritis in my hip due to a bone spur on my femur that had destroyed cartilage in the hip socket. (One question I have is why a hip problem manifests itself as gut pain.)

One medical opinion was that I should never run again. The analogy was to a bank account where you can make withdrawals but not deposits.

So for several months I didn’t run at all. I turned all my attention to biking, swimming and strength training. But I never stopped missing the run and when several weeks back I began running I decided to do Broad Street.

This has become a very big race. 19,112 finishers. A cool cloudy morning but the overnight rain has ended and the race will be dry. It is amazing to stand on Broad at Sommerville and see the sea of humanity stretched out before you. No wave start (although there were hints that next year they may go to that system) it is strictly an honor system. I had never started so far back and it took six minutes to get to the start.

But it was a good decision. I wasn’t tempted to go out too fast and settled into a comfortable pace. The first mile is a little bumpy as you pass runners who mis-seeded themselves. After that I had pretty clear running in a crowd going pretty much my pace. I was hitting each mile very close to nine minutes and the miles seemed to be flying by. I was minded of Big Brown’s jockey who said he held his horse back for the first part of the race so that he would be strong in the stretch. For once I had the discipline to race within my ability so that the race felt comfortable. I didn’t take water at every stop which I think helped my pacing – I did make the mistake of taking Gatorade at one point. Now I have had good luck with Endurance which is what they had on the course but this time it didn’t settle well. When we got near the Academy of Music Gov. Rendell was in his usual spot and for the very first time I went out of my way to give him a high five. What the heck if he is dedicated enough to be out here every year I may as well recognize him. Circus Soleil is in Town with a production and their bright blue and yellow circus tent attracted my attention at Broad and Carpenter. At this point (seven miles) I was quite confident I was going to finish in ninety minutes. Mile eight has always been a tough one for me. And I flagged a bit. But when I got to nine at Pattison I tried picking up the pace. For the first time in the race a lot of people were passing me but I was still passing people. Right before the entrance to the Navy Yard you get a nice downhill and I could pick it up but after entering the Navy Yard I felt pretty done in (remember this is the farthest I had run in a year). A pretty young thing ran up beside. I don’t know why she picked on me but she began to encourage me – you’re close now, let’s go, you can do it. I began to accelerate to the finish and even though by this time the Gatorade was in full rebellion I managed a strong finish. My watch said 1:30:19 (and the chip time would turn out to be 1:30:18). I wanted to thank my cheerleader but never did see her in the crush of finishers but maybe she was a figment of my imagination or a guardian angel. The sun had peeked out just as we got to mile 9 and the sun felt good as we exited the refreshment area and headed for the gear buses. As I trekked the mile and half back to my car I marveled that runners were still coming in. The walk back was pleasant as I chatted with fellow runners about the day. Had a great parking spot in FDR Park and was quickly on my way without any parking lot hassle.

“Fellow runners”. I guess that why I am addicted. There is just something about the immersion into a big race. It begins with the ritual of the Expo. Giving guidance to the newbies and seeing old friends. Like any Gnostic movement – you feel you’re in on some secret the rest of humanity doesn’t know. The feeling grows as you assemble on Broad anxious to begin the journey and continues as you survey the runners closing rituals standing on the Marine Parade Grounds. As the fans pour in for the Phillies game probably pissed off at all the traffic hassles, you have this sense of accomplishment but more a sense of community. All these strangers were engaged in doing something difficult and you were part of it. If you have never done a big race try it – I think you will find it’s worth the hassles. I’m glad I made a withdrawal.