Monday, May 31, 2010

Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in

Run For Victory 5K - Downington, PA

I was attracted to this race because I wanted to do a Memorial Day Run and the prospect of doing a new race starting in a great local brewery and ending with a burger and beer seemed irresistible.

The course was a bit different than any I've done before. I'm guessing that the course was designed to minimized the effect on local traffic. The course looped twice on the same section of road so that at one point there were three lines of runners with the lead runners lapping the slower runners. On one side was a high school field and on the other an industrial park/retention pond. No shade. The last 3/4's mile was thru neighborhood streets.

Pretty good incline but I suppose the course was relatively flat as describe. (When I "challenge" the race director on his "flat" description he said it is compared to where we are - a born politician).

Ran mid pack and felt my pace was fairly consistent with mile two a little too slow.

Just three runners in my age group. I finished second but well (two minutes) behind first. Unfortunately, the age awards were only one deep (a beer mug ).
Major sponsor was Victory Brewery so the after spread and beer were first rate.

Still this race consolidated my gradual return to racing. I have discovered that my current regime will allow me to race occasionally without causing hip pain.
I won't be fast but I will be comfortably mid pack and even if not competitive it feels like racing.

"No matter how old I get, the race remains one of life's most rewarding experiences. My times become slower and slower, but the experience of the race is unchanged: each race a drama, each race a challenge, each race stretching me in one way or another, and each race telling me more about myself and others." George Sheehan
egret - ocean city nj - cowpen island

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

These guys have the right idea - get a beer and get back in line

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After The Run

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Great T Shirts

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Founder of the Feast

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Finish Line

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Race Timers

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Victory 5K

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Friday, May 28, 2010

On Getting Old

"No matter how old I get, the race remains one of life's most rewarding experiences. My times become slower and slower, but the experience of the race is unchanged: each race a drama, each race a challenge, each race stretching me in one way or another, and each race telling me more about myself and others." George Sheehan

Next race the aptly named "Run For Victory". Right now it looks like I will be the oldest runner. I will be thinking of Dr. Sheehan.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chestnutwold 5K

A follow up to yesterday's post:

There is a local race director, Ron Horn of Pretzel Sports, (a wild and crazy guy if there ever was one) who often advertises races as easy medal races. These are usually small local races with a hundred participants. Well Sunday I ran a race like that. The Chestnutwold Elementary School is just around the corner from my house. The course used a route locally called the busway. I used part of this roadway when I created the Reindeer Romp course. Up through the 1960's trolleys ran up Darby Road. Much of the rail bed was used to widen the Road but a two mile stretch was preserved as a closed roadway for exclusive use of buses. This has become a valuable resource for the community and is widely used for walking, jogging and biking. It is also used by emergency vehicles who can avoid the congestion on Eagle Road.

Since there are no buses on Sundays the route is especially attractive as a race route. It is not flat but the ups are gradual and since it out and back you do get the hills back and Sunday's race finished on the downhill. (The Reindeer Romp finishes on the uphill and never fails to catch first timers by surprise who took the downhill without a care.)

Being a small race I thought there would be no age group awards but I had hung around post-race to enjoy a pancake breakfast (very nice amenity) and kibbutz with friends. Greg speculated that given that the race was mostly kids and their parents there might be awards for the old guys. Well to my surprise there were age awards one deep, and to my further surprise I got one. Turns out I was alone in my age group. Being old has some rewards.

Now next Sunday I am doing a 5K in Dowingtown at Victory Brewing (one of my favorite microbreweries - if you get Victory in your area and like hoppy beer get their HopDevil).

A quick survey of the 400 registered runners shows I am pretty much alone in the age group. One other 63 yr old runner ordered an xxl shirt so I thinking maybe he won't be much competition. I know I am dangerously close to hubris but I am feeling good and Sunday's time was almost two minutes faster than my last 5K.

Today I did a 1500 meter swim followed by whirlpool. Really seems to help recovery.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ho Hum Another Day Another Medal

So here is a tutorial on how to get a medal: run a small local race; make sure there is no one else in your age group and voila you have a medal. Turns out there is an advantage to getting old.

Ran a small 5K (Chesnutwald School 5K)where most of the participants were children (glad to see so many kids running). Since it was so small didn't expect there would be any medals. After race there was a nice pancake breakfast. Best news for me is that I improved my time since my last 5K and I hope to do even better next week.

Friday, May 21, 2010


A recent (and recurring) thread on the Dead Runners Society forum concerned the definition of a runner. The quote that started the discussion:

"Someone whose day's activities are controlled by his run rather than
whose run is controlled by his day's activities."

This led to a wider discussion of how we understand running and as runners often do whether jogging and running are the same.

Running (the definition) and senioritis (getting old and slow) and fear of getting on the road.

All recent themes on DRS. All themes I identified with.

Runner vs. Jogger. Who cares (although I do like George Sheehan: my version of his quote – the difference between a jogger and a runner: a race number). But note that I titled this essay Runner. Running is strong, powerful, primitive yet modern. Jogging is soft, easy, old fashion and out of date. We run with the antelopes we don’t jog with them.

The other day after being told by my favorite thrift shop that they would be delighter to take old T-shirts I gave away about a hundred race shirts from ten years ago. Many of them had never been worn. Many of the races I couldn’t even remember. Quite a few don’t even exist anymore. But it was fun to look them over (seems to be they use to much more fun and creative than the ones you see now). When I expressed amazement over the quantity my wife observed that I was crazy to run in those days. (I was always going to do something with those shirts – display them, make a quilt, but as they accumulated they ended up in totes and trash cans never to be seen again. Sigh!)

Was I runner then? Am I now?

Do you know that when I drive down the street and see a runner I instantly want to be on the road? Do you know that when I lined up for Broad Street I still had butterflies in my stomach even though I planned to go slow and easy? Do you know that even when I take 29 minutes to run a 5K I still lust after a medal?

I do like going fast. I once drove from Philadelphia to New York in 90 minutes. But of course in the real world it is neither safe nor sensible to drive all out (not to mention expensive if [when] you are stopped for speeding). But when I run I can go as fast as I want to – now sometimes (most times) that won’t be very fast but I am in control.

I written before about my running history but suffice to say there was a very long hiatus that was broken shortly before my fiftieth birthday. A baffling decision to run a marathon and to this day I cannot remember why such a goal entered my head. I do remember being at the Delaware Art Museum one year (this before I had started running) and seeing the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in progress and being strongly drawn to things I would come to love: bibs, water tables, time clocks, the camaraderie of runners doing something hard. It’s possible that the idea percolated there. But that first 5K I ran really hooked me. A simple challenged by colleague to run (not race just run); then race brochures, then more races, then a seminar on running, a running group, a goal.

A decade of great fun and adventure. A devastating diagnosis. The grief cycle (although in my case something like denial, bargaining, denial, anger, bargaining, denial, anger, depression, acceptance, bargaining). Now I’m running – cautiously knowing there will be consequences, and yet . . . better to wear out then rust out.

So lots of words and no answer or definition. I still remember the neighborhood youngster who asked her mother when she saw me “jogging” home after a “run”: why is that man playing? That’s what we do and that defines a runner for me – someone at play, comfortable with their body (although not always happy with it) connected to the ground and air in a way mere mortals cannot fathom. (Have you ever come home from a race and pitied those poor slubs you encountered – what have they done today???)

Define a runner? Easier to define the big bang or quantum mechanics. It’s someone in motion perfectly in sync with all those dimensions of the universe hidden and seen.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I am walking back to my car - runners still coming
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Only one mothballed ship left - use to half dozen
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Big crowds even at the end
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Finish Line - runners still in at more 2 hrs after start
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Crowded parade grounds
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Water at the finish
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Getting Crowded - Baggage Busses in the Distance
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I liked these shirts
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On Broad walking to Sommerville
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Broad and Olney: 6:39
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On the train
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Waiting for the express
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Broad and Pattison: 6:10 AM
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Broad Street Run

Some day I will wake on the first Sunday in May and it will be sunny, cool, and dry but not this year. Last Sunday I did a Tri and it was wet and cold, this Sunday hot, humid, hazy.

I no longer run distances, but I do run Broad Street. (I haven't updated this blog for a long time and perhaps I will explain in a future post). I have not run ten miles since last year so I lined up with some trepidation and felt somewhat like a poser. I do Broad Street for sentimental reasons. It was my first long distances race and I still remember the excitement of running with thousands of runners. Coming up to the first water stop and hearing a crunching sound and realizing it was runners crunching plastic cups (I noted that all the cups yesterday were paper but there was one water station where you had to run carefully to avoid slipping on a carpet of cups and there was that satisfying crunch.)

Generally speaking I thought the race organizers did a great job managing such a huge crowd. I usually park in Roosevelt Park (the race use to end in Roosevelt Park - the Navy Yard makes a much better finish) close to the Subway stop but about a mile and half from the finish. I got an express subway and a seat. Even though it was an early train it was packed and when we got to Broad and Olney there were already thousands of runners. I walked to the football field and promptly used a porta potty since I knew that later the lines would be impossible. Much to my surprise it was pristine and the toilet paper was still wrapped – don’t think I ever encountered that before.

They changed the baggage checked this year. Rather then based on your bib number it was a first come first serve system; each runner received a band that id’d their bus and bag. I think the idea was that instead of waiting for all the runners to check their bag, each bus could leave as packed. I didn’t think the wait was onerous and it was very easy to retrieve my bag at the end.

I must give a shout out to volunteers – whether it is a small event like last week’s triathlon ord huge like yesterday these events wouldn’t happen without volunteers. I found the bus kids, the water givers, the food tent people full of spirit. Kudos to whoever organizes this effort. (Last week volunteers stood for hours in a cold, drizzly rain and still cheered us on when us back of pack got to them).

It took me 13 minutes to get to the start line – the longest ever but once we started running I didn’t found it too difficult to get into a rhythm and found I didn’t need to dodge or weave too much.

A little about the course: Broad Street is one of the longer straight streets (interrupted only by City Hall) in the country. It is very urban with very few residences (until South Philadelphia). You past Philly’s industrial past especially at Broad and Leigh. You past Temple Hospital and Temple University. There is the sad relic of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, the Inquier building, City Hall (one time the largest government building in the world), and then in succession the Union League, Academy of Music and the Kimel Center. By Broad and Oregon I am ready to finish but there’s still a couple of miles. It is always a shock to get to Broad and Pattison and realize there still a mile to go.

By habit I have always run the in southbound lane but I heard a runner point out the northbound lane was somewhat shaded and immediately changed over. It added some steps but was worthwhile. Contrary to my expectations I never had a problem getting water and, although it probably costs me a couple of minutes, I made sure I stopped at each station (normally I skip stations) and actually drink the water. I took one power bar gel right after City Hall and a Succeed Tablet at mile seven. No cramping and while slow I finished feeling strong.

I wish my time hadn’t slipped over 1:40 but given conditions felt satisfied. (Not for the first time I was struck by how young everyone around me seemed. Sigh!).

Usually I avoid water sprays from hydrants because I fear wet shoes means blisters but after mile five I did every hydrant and it felt good.

Note to future racers as you near the Navy Yard there is a downhill. Use it. It will be the last time you can really race for speed. Once you enter the Navy Yard the course narrows and the crowded conditions make a spurt for the finish line difficult.

The “chip” is now in the race bib so no stopping at the finish. Some crowding and a slow slog thru the refreshment area and then out into the amazingly crowded Parade Grounds.

Didn’t run into people I expected to see. Ran into people I didn’t expect to see. Did see Neil Weygandt and got to congratulate him on another Boston finish (42???? quite a record). Then the long, slow walk back to car.

Glad I did it. Unlike someI quite enjoyed the crowds. Yes it is much too crowded. Yes there is a lot of hurry up and wait. Yes there are people who really shouldn’t be running a 5K let alone ten miles. But there is a great spirit to this race and tremendous energy of human spirit. I hope I can do it again next year.

P.S. It turns out that cross training does aerobically prepare you. You won't be fast but you will finish with energy left. I was skeptical that the elliptical training was really preparing me aerobically but so far this season I have a second in my age group in a 5K (obviously being in the 60+ age group helps), a first in my tri age group (ok there were only two competitors in that age group), and a Broad Street finish that the results say I'm in the 55 percentile. And my hip doesn't hurt. Yes I am well satisfied.