Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope everyone in the States had a good Memorial Day weekend. Please pause for a moment and think of the men and women who have given their lives throughout history in defense of their country. Pray that our leaders, all leaders will work toward everlasting peace in the world and will do good in the name of the people they lead.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Summer Plans

After the Broad Street run, I step back for a moment and evaluate what I want to accomplish for the rest of the year (running-wise). I also take the time to heal from any nagging injuries I may have. This year I thought I made it without problems until the past two weeks I've experienced soreness on the bottom of my left foot which is sending out shooting pain and numbness to the toes. I haven't gauged seriousness of this yet as it is more nagging than crippling. I'm hoping it doesn't affect the plans I've laid out for my summer.

As stated before ad naseum my goals for this year are--(1) beat my 5k PR and (2) run a 1 hour Falmouth Road race! Right now, as we speak, between you and me and everyone else who reads this blog, I am planning to run (2) marathons this year--The Mohawk Valley/Hudson River marathon in October and the Philadelphia marathon in November. OK, in actuality, I plan on RUNNING the Mohawk Valley/Hudson River marathon and run/walk Philadelphia. My PR for a marathon was doing run/walk so, for me, that may be the best way to do a marathon on the type of training I tend to do.

But, it is always EASY to say that you will do these things in the winter and spring when it's nice and cool and I don't have to get up at 5A on a weekend morning so I don't have to run in the stinkin' hot sun. Luckily, there is a group of people from the Central Bucks County area that are planning on running the Mohawk Valley/Hudson River marathon and they plan on training together so I won't be the only one getting up at 5A on a weekend morning training to avoid strength-zapping forces of the midday sun in this area of the world during the summer months. So, no committments, just plans for these 2 races (they seem so far away).

There are 5 summer races I do like to do and hope to be around to run them this year. First, ANY race that feeds you after you've run is very tempting to me (I like to eat about $5 worth less than the entry fee. Afterall, the race is usually for a good cause). The June Tex-Mex Connection race in North Wales, PA and the July Moyer & Son 5k in Souderton, PA fall into that category. If I can, I also like to run the Washington's Crossing 10k on July 4 for the historical significance (yes, Washington didn't cross the Delaware on the 4th of July but there is a tie-in). Plus, it's a nice, flat course which is a rarity in this area of the world. And, lastly, the race that started it all for me, the Ivyland 5k is held at the end of August. Ivyland 5k does feed you (can't beat firehouse pancakes and peaches!) and, to me, in signifies the end of summer.

The 5th summer race, if I'm lucky to get in, is the Falmouth Road Race, held on Cape Cod, MA in mid-August. That is a topic for another discussion.

So, there it be. Those are the summer plans. And now, I have a few weeks before I immerse myself in marathon training. I hope the pain in my foot goes away!

Monday, May 14, 2007

SERTOMA 5k Race Report (or A Random Act of Kindness)

I start thinking about what I intend to write over the weekend. My intention was to write how I FINALLY lowered my 5k PR after a 4 year quest. Nah! Too hot on Saturday to do that. So, instead I was going to write abou the mental and physical aspects of achieving this goal. I think I will wait on that. Mainly because something happened right after the 5k on Saturday that is much more touching than what my thoughts are on the above subject matter. First, a short race report.

SERTOMA 5k is part of the Bucks County 5k Series of spring events. The race is held at Central Park and surrounding neighborhoods in Doylestown, PA. The first mile is mainly downhill (there is a small hill thrown in at the start), the second mile is flat and goes through a park, and the third mile is similar to the first mile but in reverse (mainly uphill). I have run this course quite a few times as other races throughout the year will use it for their events. Looking through my running diaries, I have done fairly well on this course so I thought I had a shot at a PR.

Well, I started to believe my press clippings. I just thought I could run a similar race as Broad Street. But, I never clocked at 6:00/mi pace last Sunday! (which is what I was running the first 1/2 mile at this race). I ran the first mile in 7:25 and it went downhill (figuratively not literally) from there. I was burned out after the second mile and wound up at 25:14 to finish. Not bad, but I knew I went out too fast and paid for it at the end. Realistically, I won't have another shot at a PR until the fall. My mission this summer is to find a nice, flat course for a fall event.

All of that was to set up my story. After the race, there was a raffle. Realizing I still had my raffle ticket, I quickly ran to drop it into the bucket. As were waiting for the drawing to start, my fellow runner Eric and I were discussing if we had ever won a raffle before. Sure enough, the first number called out was mine! And, the prize was a basket of games and toys for children! I don't have any kids so I asked if the hosts could donate the prize to someone. I'm not sure if they were expecting that as they told me that I should pick a kid to give the prize to. As I looked around, surveying the crowd to see if there was anyone who I recognized, there was a 10/11-year-old (I think) girl behind me who raised her hand with a huge grin on her face and volunteered to help me with my plight. She was so cute and so excited by her luck of standing next to the 'kid's basket' winner that I handed the prize over to her and said, 'it's yours'. The smile on her face could have lit the sky as she ran back to her parents to let them know of her luck of being at the right place at the right time. Not the end of the story.

As they were handing out the other prizes, the announcer had called on 'the winner of the kid's gift prize to come forward.' OK. I wasn't sure what this was about. As I stepped forward, the announcer said that the girl who I gave the basket to, had herself won a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant and would like to give me this prize in exchange for the one I gave her. My favorite British term, which fits here, is I was gob-smacked. I didn't know what to say. I was truly moved by this generous offer and accepted it gratefully. I don't know who this girl is or who the parents are but they didn't have to do this 'exchange'. They could have taken both prizes and I wouldn't have been the wiser. But, they didn't.

I originally gave my prize away as I didn't want it to sit around my house. I thought someone else could use it. Really, no other reason than that. And, I'm sure the parents could have used the gift certificate for a night out. Instead, they gave it to me. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the parents and especially the girl, not just for the gift certificate but for giving me faith that the future of our world will be in good hands.

Monday, May 7, 2007

28th Annual Broad Street Run Race Report

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. --Forrest Gump

(Picture is looking north on the course around mile 9)

Philadelphia has 2 major running events during the year, the Philadelphia Distance Run (half-marathon held in September) and the 10-mile Broad Street Run (note: the Philadelphia marathon is getting there to be a major event in town.) Growing up, I was taught that Broad Street is the longest straight street in the country (not sure if that's true or not). Yesterday, over 17,000 runners signed up for the event. The course is a flat, slightly downhill point-to-point from Central High School in North Philadelphia, around City Hall, past the stadium complex and finishing at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.

I woke up at 5a to a cool, crisp day. The weather forecast was calling for a great day for a race. I left my house at around 6:45a to drive down and park at the Wachovia Center, home of the Flyers (NHL) and the Sixers (NBA). The race directors encourage you to park in this location as this is near the finish of the race. With your race number, you get a free ride on the subway to the start of the race. When people ask me about this race, I tell them it is really a 10-mile run for those with no change in their pockets so you can get back to your car.

I intended to wear a sleeveless shirt Sunday as there were predictions of no clouds during the race. But, once I got out of my car and looked around, I noticed people were wearing running suits and fleeces! Even though my car thermometer read 50 degrees (F), with the gusty wind and no humidity it felt much colder than that. Luckily, I brought a short-sleeve shirt and old T-shirt to wear while standing around the start.

I knew more people in this race than ever before but, with 17,000 others milling about, never found anyone. Because I was one on my company's team, I was encouraged to stand close to the start line, where the 6 minute milers hang out. The reason is the team times go by clock time and not chip time. I started close to the front last year as well so my previous fear of being trampled to death would most likely go unfounded. I start close to the side with a little room on my left for people to pass.

I was nervous going into the race but everything seemed to be in alignment that day. The weather was cool with low humidity. My bathroom breaks were perfectly timed so felt I could run the whole course without stopping (believe me, this has become an issue with me). And, my stomach felt fine. I had some nagging aches but didn't think it would seriously affect me. It was time!

My goal was around 1:30 or, at the very least, break my PR of 1:28:20. My strategy was to run the first three miles hard and gauge how I felt and decide whether to slow down or maintain pace. The splits for the first two miles were around 7:45. And, I unofficially achieved my 5k PR as I clocked in around 24:30 for the first 5k. There was no way I was going to maintain this pace but I felt good. I wasn't struggling so I kept it up for the next 3 miles.

I can't drink water in a race, only Gatorade (I don't know why but my stomach gets upset when I do drink water). There were 3 Gatorade stops on the course. I purposely passed the first Gatorade stop, which was 2 miles into the race. I didn't feel I needed it, and besides, the next one wasn't that far away. Unfortunately, I had somehow passed up the second stop and only realized I did once I saw the crushed, empty cups with 'Gatorade' on the side labels strewn on the ground. Damn!

I did a self-check at mile 6 (which is around City Hall) and I was feeling great. One of the fun things in this race is that the present Governor of Pennsylvania comes out and cheers and high-fives the runners. The Governor used to be the Mayor of Philadelphia and is a huge sports fan. In fact, he is part of a team that does the Eagles post-game report on the local cable company! So, I had the chance to high-five the Governor!

I realized that I was running the race of my life. I had done 7 miles under 1 hour (do you hear that, Steve?). What was a little disconcerting was I still being past by thousands of people! Oh, well. At mile seven, my right thigh began to cramp up but I wasn't going to let it spoil my hard work. I realized I was a bit dehydrated but felt, if I didn't push myself anymore, I could get a decent time. Finally, I reached the last Gatorade stop, downed a gel, walked through the station while sipping on Gatorade, knowing that all I had was another 5k to go.

The cramp wasn't going away so I was just going to live with it. No matter what race you are in, the last mile always seems the longest. This was no different. Once at the finish, then I could rest.

When you reach the gates of the Navy Yard, you are fooled into thinking it's the finish line. Nope. Still another 1/4 mile to go. The finish line is not obvious. It's around a bend and you are straining to locate it. But once spotted, I had plenty left and made a dash at the end. I had finished at 1:22:46 (chip), almost 6 minutes less than my previous PR!

At the end of any race, I could double as a zombie from the 'Night of the Living Dead'. But, after this race, it was different. I felt good. I felt human. I felt like Forrest Gump and could've kept on running!

I knew I ran like I never ran before. If you ever saw my training regiment, you would laugh as I usually only run 2-3 times a week. But, this year, I didn't take any time off from running. Usually, I will take a month's break either because I am sick and forced to or just need a mental break. That and the lose of five pounds is the answer? Or was I just carried by the gusty wind at my back which was evident the entire race?

I wanted so bad to savor the moment on the course. Take it all in. I ran a race under perfect conditions and circumstances. All on a day that I celebrated my birthday!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Broad Street Run countdown

I pick up my number tomorrow at the Broad Street Run expo (or as they call it the 'Not for Runner's Only Expo') for Sunday's race. The expo is at, of all places, Lincoln Financial Field, home of the American football Philadelphia Eagles (and to our second round draft pick and new quarterback, Kevin Kolb. What kind of pick was that?) The plan is for a few of us from work to take a shuttle down from Center City at lunchtime.

It is suppose to be an absolutely gorgeous weekend and Sunday is no exception. Highs for the day expected to be in the mid-60's and quite comfortable. If there is a bit of cloud cover, it will be perfect running weather!

I'm afraid my big 'win' last Friday has come at a price. Since then, my groin and hips have been aching. I ran 4.5 miles last night on a flat course. I was hoping it would shake itself out but it hasn't happened. Not sure if I did anything during the race (it was awfully crowded in the beginning and I could have zigged instead of zagged) or if I overextended myself. No matter what, I am still aiming for around a 1:30 on Sunday.

Now, here's my current dilemma: the following weekend is the Sertoma 5k in Doylestown which is run on a course I have flirted with a PR. Do I push myself at Broad Street or hold back and rest for the Sertoma and try for my stated goal this year of a new 5k PR? I figure I'll have my answer around 8:50A Sunday morning in the middle of mile 2.