Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beach, baby!

I am happy to say that my recent string of bad luck travelling about has come to an end. I went down to Florida last Thursday and came back yesterday and my flights were without incident (except for the screaming kid who 'had to go' when we were taxiing to the gate on our arrival in Philadelphia. I really felt bad for him and his parents. But, he made it!)

I had a two-part trip in Florida--first few days in New Smyrna Beach (see picture on right), where my parents live and the second part was three days at Disney World with my sisters and their families. Since this is a running blog, I won't go into any details about my stay at Disney other than it was fun to drive around to the different theme parks and re-visit the Disney marathon course I ran in January 2006 (Epcot Center, pictured to the right is the start and finish of the race).

I brought my running stuff down with me but didn't really know how much I would be running while I was down there. In Pennsylvania, if you get up early enough, for the most part you can beat the heat of the day and get a good run in. My experiences in Florida, it's a little different. Even though I started relatively early, it was still pretty hot and humid.

I had various options on where to run but the easiest was running on the boards at Smyrna Dunes Park This park is where the Indian River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. They have a 1.5 mile circular boardwalk overlooking the river and ocean. The park has various vegetation but is also home to large turtles. The turtles and the area are federally protected but it is fun running around the boards looking for them. (see image to the right)

I started in the parking lot and headed east running parallel to the river. In truth, because of the dunes (hence the name Smyrna Dunes park), you don't get great views of the river but catch glimpses of it. There are other boards going down to the river and ocean if you want to explore. You run the boards for about 1/2 mile when it begins to circle and you head south parallel to the ocean. I sometimes find it hard to run here as you try to drink in the scenery at the same time focusing on trying not bumping into anyone. After the first mile, you begin to go west, back towards the parking lot. But, here you have a small hill to climb. It's not much of a hill (yes, I'm still running the boards at this point) and, in truth, you go down the hill after the climb. But, I find that last half-mile a bit rough. It's not pancake flat. The boards go a bit down and a bit up, just enough to throw off the rhythm of your running and your breathing.

I ran Friday and did 3 laps around the park for 4.5 miles. No matter what I try, I can't seem to run when the sun beats down on me. That day it did. I was following the shadows of the rails that fell on the boardwalk itself and realized that wasn't necessarily a good thing since the sun wasn't being blocked from creating those shadows. Breezes, on the course, are different from day-to-day. On Friday, there was no breeze that last half-mile and it hurt. I had some pented up energy to start and was gassed by 4.5.

I went back out on Saturday and thought, since my energy was zapped from the previous day, I would do an easy 3. But, it was a bit cloudy that day. I started with the intention of 3 until I passed someone walking their dog and she shouted, 'How many are you doing today?'. 'Four laps', I replied. Four laps? OK, now I've committed myself.

As I got more of a rhythm going, I knew I could do it without a problem. I started off slow enough and saved my energy 'in case' I wanted to do more than 2 laps. The sun was being hidden by the clouds and, though it was hot, it was a comfortable hot that didn't drain you. Plus, the winds had shifted from the previous day and that last half-mile that I feared, now had a gentle breeze I was running into. So, I did end up doing the 4 laps for a total of 6 miles. Plus, the 5 miles I did on my normal Wednesday run put my total at 15.5 miles for the week.

Granted, it's not a lot of miles for any type of marathon training. And, it would be a bit of stretch to say it was any type of training for a half-marathon. But, it was something and I felt great doing it.

Last year when I went to Florida, it was around this time of year as well. I happened upon a Cross-country 5k in Titusville which was different than anything I've run previously. But, I didn't see it this year and was a little disappointment they didn't have their second annual verison of the race. They offered cash prizes for their 5k series and that race was their kick-off of the series. The first 15 people in each age group were to get a cash prize. I thought it hilarious that I was actually in the top 15 for my age group after the first race. I think I calculated that I would have won $20 if I competed in the whole series and kept my standings.

So to recap my August: I have run in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Huron, Ohio and New Smyrna Beach, Florida in the past three weekends. That's a lot of travelling. And, as much fun as it was to visit and have the chance to run in these areas, I'm looking forward to just being at home next weekend. So, back to my routine. Back to Lake Galena.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This past weekend, my wife and I went to a wedding in Sandusky, Ohio. Sandusky is about an hour west of Cleveland. Now, I know, you are jealous of me for taking this trip. But, before you snicker, it was actually quite nice.

But, getting there and back was anything but nice. We left from Newark Liberty airport on a 4pm flight Friday evening. Or was suppose to. Thunderstorms came in and delayed our flight. As usual, we had left the gate and sat on the tarmac. And sat. And sat. And sat. Through this we were told we were going to leave soon, no, we aren't, yes, we are. Three hours later, we took off. Three hours on a plane. Waiting. And waiting. People were not happy. People expressed themselves as not being happy. I do not envy the cabin crew dealing with people in these type of situations.

We did finally arrive in Cleveland around 8p. Ok, not so bad. We'll pick up the car and get going. But, the car rentals are not at the airport. You have to take a bus to get your rental car. Now, I'm sure I was tired but it felt like I had to go to Michigan to get my car. After about 10 minutes, we did get to the car rental and headed out.

After stopping for dinner at some buffalo joint (not Buffalo, NY but they served buffalo), we headed to Huron, Ohio. Got there around 11p and turned in.

Here is where the surprising part (for me) was. Huron is a nice little town. It is situated on Lake Erie. Our hotel overlooked the Huron River which flows into Lake Erie. Now, the view of the river was nice but there was agri-businesses on the other side didn't look so nice. Still, there were parks around and looking out onto the lake was similar to looking out on to an ocean. (picture above).

If you are familar with the eastern part of the United States, the area reminded me of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. You drove around and there were farms. Lots of things are geared to enjoyment of the water. It felt like a shore community.
We were also surprised that (a) Ohio has wineries and (b) the wine is pretty good. We only had a chance to visit one but we did wind up buying a bottle and taking it home with us. We do have wineries in the Bucks County area where I live, but they tend to be hit or miss for me. I think Bucks County wineries tend to gear themselves to the sweet wines (Concord, Niagara grapes) and, personally, I like a drier wine and Ohio did have some good ones.

As mentioned the wedding was in Sandusky. We didn't get a chance to go into downtown Sandusky much but it had one of the things that I think is destroying the uniqueness of towns in America. Every town (and, I mean every town) has the same restaurants, Targets, Lowes, Home Depots, blah, blah, blah and on and on. Towns all look the same. And, I think that's a shame. Our towns (and not just Sandusky) are becoming bland with no identity of their own (ok, I'm off my soapbox now).

Sunday was raining but I was determined to run anyway. From the hotel, there is a 1/2 mile walkway jutting out onto Lake Erie. It is right next to where the Huron River flows into the lake. With the storm surging, the wind was pretty fierce out there so, with hat in hand (no, literally, it would blow off otherwise), I went out and back for my first mile. I only did three, so tried to follow the lake as much as I could. I would love to run a 5k here for a PR as the roads were flat and fast. I felt great after the run but a little wet.

After checking out, we went to Cleveland to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn't see much of Cleveland to have an impression other than it was pretty empty (at least by Philadelphia standards). But, having said that, it was raining hard the entire day. We enjoyed the RRHoF spending the afternoon there. You can easily spend an entire day. (Highlight for me was to see the costume John Lennon wore on the Sgt. Pepper's cover).

After our RRHoF visit, it was back to the airport. Thank goodness for GPS devices as we rented one with our car and would have gotten hopelessly lost if we didn't have it. Because the car rental place is tucked in where no visitor would venture to go. After we dropped off, found out the flight was delayed for an hour. Sigh. I guess it's better than sitting on a plane. No wait. We did that too as we got on the plane and waited for another hour. And, the captain, told us that we were going to wait another hour! The weird part that about 5 minutes later, the captain got on the PA system and announced we are ready for takeoff. We wound up not getting home until 12:30a. (By the way, in case you were wondering, surgham doesn't travel well on an airplane. Don't ask questions. Take my word.)

The adventures continue with me as I head down to Florida this weekend. For those taking a Southwest flight on either Thursday this week or Tuesday next to and from Orlando, beware. If I'm sitting next to you, chances are your flight will be delayed.

Note: I did six miles on Wednesday and three on Sunday. This week the mileage will be about the same as long runs are just not possible at the moment. Chances are slim I'll be doing a marathon in October but will gear up for the Philadelphia marathon in November.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Falmouth Road Race Weekend Report

My weekend started with a late arrival into Providence airport from 90 degrees (F) Philadelphia on Friday. Steve and I were intending to go to the Worcester Tornadoes (a independent minor league baseball team) that night but, when I landed it was raining. But, afterall, this was New England so, as Mark Twain once stated, if you didn't like the weather there, just wait, it will change in a minute. Sure enough, the rain stopped but now it was 50 degrees (F)! (Bit of drastic change for my body). We did wind up at the game, a little late but, unfortunately for Steve, his Worcester Tornadoes lost to the Traveling Grays (they literally are a traveling road team with no home stadium).

Saturday, Steve, his wife and I did the DAY KIMBALL HOSPITAL DEARY MEMORIAL 5 Mile Race in Putnam, CT. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea--a race before the day of a race but, decided, since I hadn't raced in awhile, it would be good to at least use this as a training run to get the rust off. It was a beautiful day with temps in the 60's (F) and lower humidity. I finished the race in 43:52 and was satisfied that I didn't push myself too hard. It took me awhile to find my stride in the beginning but by the end I felt fine, not winded at all.

After the race and a shower, we headed down to Falmouth to pick up our numbers and walk around the expo. Some years it can be an interesting expo but I mostly like to go as a number of the running greats, past and present, show up for an autograph session. So, each year, I get the poster, the race gives out, signed. Since this was the 35th Falmouth Road Race, the autograph session featured 'The Olympians'. So, I had a chance to talk to Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Catherine Ndereba, and "Meb" Keflezghi. Not only did I get to talk with them but they each brought their Olympic medals. When I was 13, I remember Frank Shorter winning the 1972 marathon in Munich and now I had a chance to see and hold the medal he won!
(Picture at top is myself with Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Picture to the right below are Frank Shorter's gold medal from the 1972 Munich games and the silver medal from the 1976 Montreal games) Also there was Astronaut Sunni Williams who is local to the area and ran the Boston marathon in space!

Since we got late to the expo, we never had a chance to walk around and the booths were breaking down for the day. Our intention for the evening was to attend a Cape Cod League baseball game in Falmouth that night. The Cape Cod League is where college players get a chance to play in the summer. Many of today's minor and major leaguers once started out playing in the Cape Cod League. We found out, since it rained the night before, the game was postponed until Sunday. We found out there was a game in Bourne, about 15 miles north of Falmouth. We wound up getting there around the 6th inning, but, that was ok, it was baseball and it was fun to just to watch that amount.

After the game, we went over to Falmouth High School to watch the Falmouth Mile. This is an invitational event for men and women. Incredible performances for both the women and the men with the standout performance from John Riley, a local from Brookline, MA doing a sub-4:00 mile in 3:57. (First time I had a chance to ever witness that!)

Whew! All that and I didn't even run the Falmouth race yet! Steve and I went to the Captain Kidd restaurant on Saturday night for dinner. The Captain Kidd is the starting point for the Falmouth race. After a beer or two, some onion rings, fries and a hamburger, (yes, I'm sure that isn't on any Olympic pre-race meal plan for distance runners), it was time to go back and rest up for tomorrow.

I woke up Sunday, feeling pretty good, but, I must admit, my legs and back were stiffer than I had hoped. Plus, I was dealing with some digestive 'issues' (don't you dare blame it on the onion rings). We left the hotel and, in our traditional way, parked by the finish line. Even though we were literally a quarter mile from the start, it's best to park at the finish as Falmouth is a point to point race. It would be more of a pain to get back to the hotel after the race then it was to drive to the finish at the start of the race. From where we parked, it's about a mile and a half walk to a school (I don't remember the name but just sort of followed everyone) where the bus picks everyone up to bring you to the start line.

We got to the start about an hour before the race. As I had feared, it was getting hot that day. The temperatures were predicted in the lower 80's with humidity. Even though Steve and I were each predicting victory, I knew I would melt in this sun.

I think the Falmouth course is one of the hardest courses I have run. The first 2 miles are shady but hilly. (Actually, at about 1/2 mile into the race, the most picturesque scene I ever witness is when the runners go up the hill towards Nobska Point Lighthouse where the 1 mile mark is. It is truly breathtaking!) Miles 3-4 are in the sun with no relief. Spectators lined the course blocking any breeze from the ocean but, with their cheering, they will get you through. Miles 5-6 have parts of shade winding your way around Falmouth harbor. Mile 7 is in the sun and the last slap in the face is a hill about a 1/2 mile from the finish. It can a lovely course and yet a brutal one the next year.

We started in the second wave, around 5 minutes after the elite runners. When the gun went off, my strategy was to go out fast and lose Steve and make him wonder where I was the entire race. I thought maybe he felt he had to play catch up and, since he ran the race on Saturday as if it was a race, I thought maybe he might be too tired. I ran the first mile in 8:30 pace, which is what I wanted. But, things fell apart soon after. I struggled through miles 3 and 4. I felt my only hope was not to stop and just keep going. Maybe Steve was feeling the heat too. I slowed down to a 9:15 pace. I wanted to stop but knew the race was lost if I did. Every chance I got, I was taking sips of water at the water stop or running around the garden hoses the residents on the course would be spraying for the runners. By the sixth mile, I saw people falling by the wayside needing medical attention. I had to keep going but what were they feeling when they passed out? Was it the same as I was feeling? No, I had to just keep going.

It is deceptive after climbing the last hill because you know you are near the end but still can't see the finish. People are cheering and the energy of the crowd is what's keeping you going. Finally, I see the huge American flag, signally the finish is only down the hill. I cross the line with a time of 1:07:44.

I didn't see Steve at the place where we agreed to meet. For a moment, I thought, could it be? Did I really beat him? But, further ahead, there was Steve with a big smile on his face. Both of us thought, at some point, we could do this race in under an hour. And, he did, with a time of 58:20. I give him all the credit in the world because he must have run the race of his life for a great time like that.

It is our custom that the loser buys a round at the British Beer Company, a local bar at the finish line (afterall, the race is a pub-to-pub run). With a run that Steve had, I was only to glad to buy him a beer for his efforts.

We went to Monument Beach afterwards and talked about the day's events and realized we did about a week's worth of activity in one weekend. I asked Steve what he thought the key to his victory was and he said it must be all the miles he was putting in. Steve is trying to do a sub-4 hour marathon and is currently doing 55 miles a week. Compare that to my 20+ miles a week, I think he might have something there. But, it is taking a toll on him and if he achieves his goal, he will back down his miles and, hopefully (for me, anyway) Falmouth will be a more competitive race next year. It gives me another year to think about it!

(Pictured below are Athens marathon silver medalist Meb Kflegzghi, 2007 Falmouth winner Catherine Ndereba with Meb, and the whole table)

(Note: If you want to see me finish the race, click on the following link:

Under Categories, click on 'Second Wave' and enter 1:07:44 as the running time. I must warn you that, despite knowing what I look like, I haven't found me yet crossing the finish. I even tried 1:12:44 as we were 5 minutes after the elite runners. If you find me, let me know. I am wearing a blue hat, orange and white sleeveless shirt and black running shorts. I'm 6ft, 3 in so I would think it would be easy to spot me. I think I crossed the line in the middle of the course.

Next week, you can also listen to Steve's podcast about the race at As he is in Maine this week, he plans to post his show early part of the week of August 20.

I'm off to Cleveland next weekend for a wedding and then to Florida the following weekend to see my parents. At this writing, my next event will be the Philadelphia Distance Run in September (I have signed up) which is a half-marathon course. Still haven't signed up for any of the marathons but have given myself until mid-September to decide on one or two marathons. )

Monday, August 6, 2007

Falmouth Road Race (Pre-Race report)

When I lived in the Boston area from 1977-1988, there were two road races that the casual running fan in New England followed--the Boston Marathon, held each year on Patriot's Day in April and the Falmouth Road race, held on Cape Cod in August. Back then, I was more into softball and basketball and occasionally would run and train for a sporting event sponsored by the university. But still, Falmouth intrigued me as it had some of the greatest names of track and field participating. The Bill Rogers, Frank Shorters, Marty Liquoris, etc. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever participate in this race. And, yet, next Sunday, this will be my 5th time I had a chance to run the Falmouth Road Race.

I will post a link of the Falmouth Road Race in 'My favorites' section on the side. Please read about the history of the event. But, in short, in 1973, a bunch of guys were sitting around in a bar in Woods Hole, MA and wanted to celebrate Tommy Leonard's birthday (a bartender and running advocate) . So they decided to run to a bar called the British Beer Company that was located 7.1 miles away in Falmouth Heights, MA. And, thus the Falmouth Road Race began. What was once just a handful of people participating in that first race has now grown into a 10,000+ participant event with some of the most renowned world class runners. In fact, you can't just sign up for the race but need to enter a lottery to get in.

The Falmouth Race weekend has become somewhat of a guys weekend. My friend Steve was the first to talk me into going. I had just started running and to participate in this race was like entering a World Series game as a rookie. I had no idea of what the course was about and the thing I remember was that it was hot. Up to that point, 7 miles was the longest I ever ran so I was just glad I finished.

The following year, something changed in the guys weekend thing. You see, that year, I beat Steve in the race. I remember crossing the finish line and was surprised Steve wasn't there. About a half-hour later, I finally found him and he asked me what was my time. I will never forget the look on his face when he discovered that I beat him. That was a kin to the United States beating England in a World Cup match in the 1950's. It wasn't suppose to happen. But, it did.

Since then, the Falmouth Road Race has been hotly contested between the two of us. The third year, Steve did win by about 4 minutes. Last year was a doozy. Steve and I went back and forth for the first 3 miles. Then I went out in front and stayed there until the last hill (about 1/2 mile from the finish). I didn't know that Steve was on my shoulder. I thought I won the race going away. I made a bad tactical decision as I assumed I won the race and glided to the finish, happy in the knowledge that I was also going to set a PR! Imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish and there was Steve.

As I grow older, I realize these type of get togethers are things that get me through my life. It gives me an opportunity to look forward to something. And not just running the race, but getting together with a friend over a weekend. It adds memories to our lives. We talk about past races and 'trash' talk about who is going to win. All in good clean fun. Let the better man win this year!

(Update: Last week, I didn't have a chance to run as work got in the way. I did manage to run 10 miles around Lake Galena on Sunday, and did it fairly comfortably considering how warm it was. I seem to have gotten over my sinusitis episode and feel pretty good. I don't feel real confident going into the Falmouth Race as I haven't run any race since mid-June so I have nothing to gauge myself. If Sunday is hot, I have no shot. None. If it is overcast and mild, I might be able to pull an upset. It is a bit of a stretch but Steve has been concentrating on mileage and not speed, so I might be able to do what he did last year and tail him and pass him at the end. )

This will be a fun weekend. By the way, you can view the Falmouth Road Race on line. Read the following I received in an e-mail from the race directors.

Live Webcast: This year for the first time the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race will be webcast live in its entirety. This remote live stream will follow the lead runners and give you a bird's eye view of the race from start to finish. The webcast will be seen on and is provided to you by WBZ Radio in Boston, the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race and Cape Cod E-Com of Yarmouth Port.