Monday, April 30, 2007

ALS Out and Back 4-miler Race Report

Just a short entry this week as I make final preparations for the Broad Street Run on Sunday, May 6.

Last Friday (April 27), I ran the ALS Out and Back 4-miler held in Philadelphia along Kelly Drive. I wasn't sure what to expect that day. It had rained the previous night and most of that day so I thought the course was going to be wet. The race started and ended in front of Boathouse Row (Is the front of a boathouse the river or the street side?).

I have hit a point, in my running life, that I think 5ks are now sprints. So, I am trying to take my sprinter's mentality into these 'short' races. I read in Runner's World about the new theory of going out fast instead of doing negative splits for the shorter distances. I am trying to apply that theory to my races this year.

The race was actually on the recreational trail along the Schuykill River and not on Kelly Drive itself. The big difference is the trail is not that wide to accomodate 900 people at the start. I made the mistake of lining up in the back of the pack as I was stuck for awhile during the first half mile or so. But, once it cleared out, I was doing 8 minute splits (or so I thought). I felt good at the turnaround and had enough to hit my goal of 32:00. This goal time, by the way, is 1:30 faster than any other 4 miler I've done. It was a flat, fast course and I've been feeling good on my 5ks. Then something curious happened.

As I was into my third mile, my GPS had me running at a 30:00/mile pace. What the heck was going on? For that third mile, I couldn't find my pace. I'm guessing the Garmin was confused as I was running back whence I came. It must have thought I was going backwards or something. It seemed to be back on track during my fourth mile. I was kind of surprised that my time was 32:25. (Not in a good kind of surprise). I can't complain about this time as I wound up doing 8:06/mile. But, I must have fallen into a real comfort zone that 3rd mile as all my other splits were under 8 minutes.

I have to say this was a well run event. The Bryn Mawr Running Club sponsored the race, gave out wicking shirts to all participants and threw an after-party at Lemon Hill Mansion, just above the boathouses. Beautiful view overlooking the Art Museum and the Philadelphia skyline. I was sorry I didn't bring my camera.

Note: I just found out that I won my division! I registered as a Clydesdale 190-210lb Over 40. Now, before anyone asks if I was the only one in that division (believe me, that was MY first question), I did beat out 8 other runners.

I did an 8-miler on Sunday, which was not a very good run. Not sure why, but I had no energy and had to slow down just to finish. Did the 4-mile race take that much out of me? Based on that, definite taper this week as I prepare for Broad Street. Forecast now is sunshine and high of 72 degrees F that day. If its that warm, then I don't think I can do my PR. I would like to keep it around 1:30. Last year, I had knee problems the last 3 miles of the race. This year, I'm feeling good. I think I can come close.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So, Al Stewart and I were hanging out together...

A Quick Life Update--Last night, I went to see Al Stewart in concert at a 100 seat 'coffeehouse' in Doylestown, PA. You probably remember him (if you are old enough) from the songs 'Year of the Cat', 'Time Passages', 'On the Border', etc. I like folksy rock music and Al Stewart is one of my all time favorites. I was a DJ at my college radio station and around the time of exams each semester, we had something called 'Cram Jam', which was a few hours straight of one artist. Al Stewart was the guy I played. Had all his albums, which were not easy to find.

The concert was great. And, I had a chance to meet him, shake his hand and get his autograph after the show (that's me and Al in the picture). (Quick story--Al couldn't have been nicer. My wife was trying to take this picture and the camera wasn't working. All these people behind us in line were grumbling and I felt bad, so I said that we'll forget the picture as I didn't want to take up anymore of his time. Al said, 'Don't worry. Help your wife find out what's wrong with the camera and we'll take the picture then.' As you can see, we figured it out!)
The only thing that spoiled the night were two tables of obnoxious, rude people who thought people were paying to hear their conversations. I can understand people having a good time and being loud before a show begins. But, once the show starts... Still, it was a great chance to see and meet an artist I enjoyed through the years.

A 4 mile race tonight after inches of rain all night and day. Should be fun.

Monday, April 23, 2007

And you are...?

In many meetings that I chair, I have a habit of diving into the subject matter and start discussing and debating the topic at hand. After a few minutes of what the meeting is about, someone will eventually stop me and say, 'don't you think we should introduce ourselves?' So, now that I have a few postings, I guess it would be a good time to introduce myself and tell you why I run. (The Clif Notes version of me is in the 'About Me' section of this blog.)

I was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the suburbs. I always had a love of sports and competition. Growing up, my main sports were baseball and basketball. (I also played schoolyard buck-buck but there were no leagues for that back then.) When I was in seventh grade, my school had tryouts for a team at the Penn Relays. The tryout consisted of running from one end of the schoolyard to the other. Not only did I beat all the other seventh graders but also beat most of the eighth graders. I was hooked on running from then on.

For the next two years, I went on to become a pretty good sprinter from our region, running the 100 and 200. When I went to high school, the coach tried to turn me into a 440 yard and cross country runner because I was tall and lanky. I thought that was crazy. If I couldn't go all out, what was the point of running? So, my high school track career was short-lived.

Fast forward 30 some odd years later. The tech company I was working for set up their business plan for the first half of the year 2000, to fix all the Y2k problems that were forecasted. Boy, we were going to be busy. We wouldn't have enough people to fix these problems. Boy, were they ever wrong and layoffs ensued. Thus, began a 5 year odyssey for me to land another fulltime job.

Unemployment was one of the toughest periods I ever faced. Looking for jobs, making calls, writing letters, going on interviews, having people thinking of you and treating you, not as a person, but as a mere part in their puzzle. It is akin to bending over to get a beating and 'cheerfully' asking for more because you have to.

I began going to an outplacement service to get some life coaching. At the same time, I renewed my friendship with Steve who I used to work with when I lived in Boston (and he began running himself). The service taught me that I should look for outlets for my pent up frustrations. Steve taught me that running was more mental than it really was physical. With this perfect storm of influences surrounding me, I began to venture past the 400 yards that 'limited' me in the past.

In the past five years since, I have run over 60 races, from 5ks to marathons. I'm not particularly good at running distance races. I have no pretenses of ever winning a race or my age group (especially my age group. Geez. Those guys are tough!). I don't train particularly hard year-round, but, focus on specific events. Because of these training methods, I think I have avoided any serious injuries. Besides the fun I have with it, the main reason I run is the mental challenges it presents.

Like unemployment, you have to believe in yourself when running. There will be times when it is really difficult and you want to quit but you have to remember what it will feel like when you have accomplished your goal. I've come to realize the hardest part of running a marathon is not the physical act of running but believing that you CAN run and finish a marathon. You just need to convince yourself that nothing will come in the way between you and the finish line. And, if something does, you will find a way to overcome that obstacle. So it is the same with looking for a job or anything else you have set your sights on.

I silently dedicated my first marathon to those who go through unemployment. I silently dedicate my running to those who have given up hope in their lives. Don't give up, no matter what. You will want to quit. Don't. Persevere. Find within yourself the will to go on. I know it's easier said than done but... YOU CAN DO IT. (Send me an e-mail if it helps. Look in the 'About Me' section)

Today, when I run, it is a reminder to myself of the hard times that I went through and the fact that I never did, or will ever, EVER, give up.

(Note: I ran the Fitness Center 5k in Warrington, PA last Saturday, April 21, 2007. Finally, the Northeast US had good spring weather as temperatures were in the upper 50- low 60's F! One of my goals this year is to beat my 24:43 5k PR. I started strong but the last mile was one long hill and wound up with an approximate 25:20 finish.

I have run (3) 5ks so far this year, all in the 25 minute range. If I could just find a flat 5k course in Central Bucks County! Another subject I intend to discuss is the mental aspect of beating this PR!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The 'Real' Story Behind Steve Runner

It was like working for Baby Herman from the 'Roger Rabbit' movie. He was so nice when he was behind the mike but ranting and raving when he was off mike. He once asked me to ask the Race Director of the Marine Corps Marathon to re-start the race THREE times because he kept on flubbing his first line. Just impossible. --former assistant producer of the podcast

Nay. I come not to bury Steve Runner, but to praise him!

I didn't think I was going to write on this particular subject until later in the year. But, events during the Boston Marathon have changed my mind.

If you don't know who Steve Runner is, that's ok. This is a life lesson I think you may enjoy. Steve (Walker) Runner is a fellow runner who lives in Oxford, Massachusetts. He produces a podcast called Phedippidations. (You will see it on the right as one of my favorite websites).

Steve and I have been friends for the past twenty-two years. We used to work as radio engineers at an all-news station in Boston. We got out of the business (Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be radio engineers!) but both still have an interest in the media. Steve started his own website with a blog. About two years ago, he decided to create a 'goofy little' running podcast instead of the blog, because, it gave him a chance to talk to 'someone' when he was out training. Steve imagined only 10 people or so would listen to him on a regular basis. He doesn't do it for money but for the love of the sport.

This year, Steve had an opportunity to run in the Boston Marathon. So each week, for the past 3 months or so, he described what he did to prepare himself and his thoughts and feelings on the runup to the marathon. He asked people who enjoyed his podcast to subscribe to a newsgroup to follow his race.

Something happened yesterday that I could never have imagined. As Steve was running, people from all over the world were cheering him by e-mail. E-mails from Australia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, England, Colombia, up, down and across the United States, everywhere were coming in with words of encouragement and cheering him on. (One e-mail from Canada said it best: I could almost hear those cheers coming into my inbox throughout the day. In fact, it reminded me of your gift to us last fall - the "shouts of encouragement" episode for the 1st Annual P.W.W.H.M.C. I felt like we could finally return the favour in some small way. And it was also great to hear that John let you know about the huge crowd of supporters following your every step. There's nothing quite like real-time positive feedback :-)) People talked about what an inspiration he is and how he has changed their lives for the better. (I just found out that he is a YouTube star as well!) It was amazing to take it all in from this side of the race.

I talked to Steve today and he told me that he thinks hypothermia was setting in at mile 22. He spoke to his running mentor at mile 22 and was thinking of quitting at that point. His mentor told him about the hundreds of e-mails coming in from around the world cheering him on. He found, within himself, the fortitude to go on based on all the well-wishers. He did finish the race and was happy with what he had done that day.

I tell this, not to be a name dropper that I KNOW Steve Runner, but as observation of what you can accomplish in this world today. Steve took a simple idea of a podcast and a love of media and running, and put it out there for all to hear. Through no means of advertising but strictly by word of mouth or by sheer accident, people started to latch on and care about who Steve Runner is. He had no idea that what he had done would change, entertain, encourage, touch the lives of hundreds (if not thousands) of people around the world. Think about it. AROUND THE WORLD! Just because he thought it would be fun. Yesterday's chain of e-mails amazed me, beyond belief, of how small our planet has become.

If you get a chance and need something new for your MP3 player, download Steve's podcast.

Steve, I am very proud of you, buddy, not just for your valiant effort in the wind and cold of the Boston marathon. But, also, for finding a way for all of us from around the globe to virtually cheer you on and make it feel we were there, under the Pru on Boylston Street, as you crossed the finish.

(I found out yesterday that Steve is changing his mind and is now thinking about racing against me at the Falmouth Road Race in August. I told him already that I will be waiting at the finish line with a nice, frosty Sam Adams after I beat him in the race.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's Next?

Since I have taken up running as a hobby for the past few years, I have noticed a parallel universe between my running life and my everyday 'other' life. One of the parallels is the motivation to keep you going and the affects it has once you've achieved your goal. In everyday life, it can be a vacation that you have been looking forward to or a conclusion of a project that you have been working on for months. In running life, it is the achievement of running a race that you have planned and trained for months in advanced. After it is all done, you take a moment to look around and ask yourself: 'OK. what's next?'

I started my plan on running the Ocean City half-marathon back in November of last year. The last half-marathon I did in the spring was one about 4 years ago in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. To this day, it was my worse race I ever ran. It was because of a lack of preparation.

I imagined the Ocean City half to be a flat course so I thought a PR was achievable. As a warm January turned into a bitter cold February this year plus work piling up, my training goals changed. But, no matter what, it was one of the things (that and a cancelled trip to Phillies spring training) kept me going through the winter. It was the reason why I left my warm bed on Sunday mornings to run by a lake. It was the reason why, when I got home on Wednesdays after a one hour commute, I would run six or so miles in the dark and cold of winter with the Blue Dawg running group.

As I stated in my previous blog, I ran it as training run for the upcoming Broad Street run next month. At least, that is what was what I kept telling myself. In reality, it was the one spring race I was most looking forward to. But, now it's over. The thing, I looked so forward to, is over.

After my friend Steve told me this week he couldn't make our annual trip to the Falmouth Road Race (which I was determined to train hard for this year) I was left wondering what is next? There is Broad Street, no doubt, but I need a new carrot for my stick.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ocean City, MD Half-Marathon Report

I have joined the 21st century form of communications. I am starting a blog. And, with my first blog, I will not bore you with name, age, and purpose in blog life (actually, the purpose is to have a running blog but the other information will come later). Nope. I will dive in head first and give you a first-hand account of the 3rd Annual Ocean City Factory Outlets Marathon/Half-marathon/5k. (I participated in the half-marathon).

When I was growing up in the Philadelphia area, my family did not go down to the Jersey Shore (blasphemy!) but instead headed down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where my aunt lived. So, back in December when I first thought of doing this race, the idea of running from Ocean City, Md to Assateague Island brought back memories of pleasant times in the sun and surf.

But now I have a new memory which will surely not get mixed in with the sun and surf ones. As this memory involved cold, snow and wind gusts from 30-40 mph! (Picture is the marathon finish line)

There were about 600 hearty souls lined up in the Parking Lot at the end of the Boardwalk in Ocean City at 7a Saturday (April 8). The marathoners and half-marathoners were all together. The halfies would run to Assateague, the full ones would run back. My goal was to use this as a long-run for the Broad Street Race in Philadelphia on May 6.

Game time temps were in the 30's with snow coming at you vertically. Any flag that you saw was standing straight out at attention. The gun went off and we did a loop in the parking lot before heading down the boardwalk. We were only on the boardwalk for a short while before making a left onto First Avenue and over the Assawoman Bay bridge. This would have been a great opportunity to look at the beauty of the inlet and shoreline. But, I never looked up to take in the view. The wind was so fierce, I was just looking at the heels of the running shoes in front of me to guide me over. My eyes were stinging from the snow blowing in my face.

Once we crossed the bridge, the winds died down to 10-20 mph but the snow was still coming down. I was at the pace I wanted to be and was feeling physically strong (though fighting an upset stomach). For the next 10 miles, the course would take us south either on Route 611 or parallel to it. I was layered, wearing (2) thin long-sleeved shirts with a throwaway jacket on top. I also ran with Cool-Max pants, which was a first for me in a race. It was one of those days where I was constantly taking my gloves on and off as, around each corner, there would be a change of temperature.

The last two miles brought us over the bridge into Assateague Island. Luckily for us halfies, the wind was at our back and helped us propel us to the finish line. But, the full marathoners were now running back over the bridge and into the wind. Points must be given somewhere for running part of your marathon backwards as some wound up doing as it was the only chance of cutting through the wind.

In the end, I finished 2:11:02, or a 10:00/mi pace. I was happy with the result, considering the weather and the fact that I was not feeling my best for the previous two days. Before heading back to the bus to take me back to the after-party, I was walking around the beach that I was so familar with as a kid. But, I was so friggin' cold and sweaty that I knew this was not a good day for nostalgia.

The organization of the race was very good. The volunteers were incredible! Only minor complaints (no Gatorade on the course, only one port-a-pottie per watering station, and no big "Finish' sign at the end. Just a chipmat.) On paper, it really is a fast course if you have good weather. There were enough people on the course that you never felt alone out there (at least for the half). If you are contemplating running a half or full marathon, in the future, I would suggest you run this race.