Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Christmas Card to You


This is the Christmas card we sent out to all our friends and family. I thought it was a good idea to share with you as well. Thank you all for reading this blog. It has been an interesting year to write this blog as I have come to know and care about people whom I've never met yet know about their lives through their blogs. I have had a chance to meet new friends along the way and share in special moments with one's whom I've known for years.

There are two other things I would like to share with you. One, is a short video, that I may be doing from time to time, called, 'What are the dogs up to?'. I don't have children but I will say I have some 'parental' feelings for the dogs we have. No, I'm not trying to get them into Harvard but I do know the feeling of coming home from a bad day at the office and them putting a smile on my face from the joy they are having in life. Below is a clip of Ellie Mae having fun. I hope it puts a smile on your face as well.


video


Finally, I am a kid at heart. I remember all the corny Christmas specials and movies from my youth. But, there was one that wasn't so corny. At least, to me. There is a scene in 'A Charlie Brown's Christmas' where Linus explains the true meaning of the holiday. I wanted to share that with you as well. It doesn't matter your religion to understand the sentiment behind it. We can all pray and hope for peace on earth, goodwill to all.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and I hope you have a joyful and prosperous 2009! 2009 will be a special year for me. I hope to see you then.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008--A Year in Review

At the end of each year, it is a time of reflection of what we have done. Below are some of the highlights of my 2008. I'm not quite done for the year as I will post once more before Christmas.

Overall: I ran 14 races this year. Sometimes it's hard to look at yourself objectively but I think I had an off year this year. It has been mainly due to being injured more than I have been before. I was off my feet for about a month's time in June/July and am now nursing an unidentified ankle injury which I sustained in late October. I did well in the spring Bucks 5k Series and had a half-marathon PR in the Philadelphia Distance Run in September. My ability to run was too inconsistent to say I had a good year.

Best Race: It was not my fastest time. But, it was my best race all year. The Dead Harriers 5k in August. I didn't expect to run a race that day. But, it was a Wednesday and I had a bad day and I wanted to 'blow off some steam'. What better way than to run all out like a 5k? I started the race with Chief White. And, when it was all said and done, I had a 'one for the ages' race against him throughout the entire event. Back and forth. Strategy in play. In the end, it was as much a mental win as a physical one. We still talk about it when we see each other. By far, it was the best race I ran in for 2008.

Worse Race: Penn Relays Distance Classic 20k. As much as I liked the idea of still being part of the Penn Relays and doing a lap around the track of Franklin Field, I don't think I would do this race again. The field was too small to be enjoyable over a longer distance. Most of the race was on MLK and Kelly Drives, which I have run many times before in the Philadelphia marathon and Distance Run. I finished far back in the pack and yet had a time that would have been close to breaking a 2 hour half-marathon. I remember feeling very sluggish in this race. Not one of my better days.

Biggest surprise: I started doing a cross-training program in the beginning of the year. I was doing it to be a little stronger in case I did get a Boston marathon invite. I was doing some stretching, cardio, etc. exercises. Thirty minutes a day. Two-three times a week. After two weeks, I saw a vast improvement on my hill runs on Wednesday nights. I mean vast improvement. So much so that someone mentioned to me, months later, about how well I was running hills in the beginning of the year. I was surprised, after two weeks, I would see that much improvement. I was going to continue to do the training for Falmouth. But, Steve didn't get in and lost interest in continuing the improvement. I'm hoping next year to do it in 'spots' for upcoming races.

Proudest moment: I was not feeling well during the Philadelphia Distance Run. It was not a day to set any records. I wanted to finish around 2 hours and would have been satisfied in just doing that. I almost dropped out of the race. But, it was a day I convinced myself, that, if I keep moving my legs, good things will come. And, with less than 1/4 mile to go, I picked up the pace enough to set a PR for a half marathon distance. I was proud, in the fact, I have finally learned my lessons from the past. Don't just run a race. Finish a race.

Biggest disappointment: Looking back on my blogs for 2008, I wrote a lot about possibly getting in the Boston marathon this year. Though I was disappointed I didn't get an invite, in reality, I didn't deserve one so it was a short-term disappointment. One of my goals for 2008 was to break my 5k PR. All through the spring, I was knocking on the door. Central Bucks 5k was around 25 minutes. New Hope-Solebury was under 25 minutes. I was ready to breakthrough. Just looking for the race to do it in. I was not expecting to do it (or come close) in the Doylestown 'Red, White & Blue' 5k. I felt good that day. I pushed myself hard but, temporarily let up at the end, when I miscalculated what my potential finishing time could be. I shouldn't have let up at all. And, paid the price of not 'finishing' the race and missed my PR by 1 second. I still remember, crossing the finish line, convinced I had done it and then look down at my watch, only to realize how close I had come. Though it was a good effort, I was disappointed that I convinced myself I couldn't do it in the middle of a race.

Biggest thrill: Hawaii. In every way. Running on Waikiki Beach in the mornings. Running around Diamond Head with Frayed Laces and her boyfriend one afternoon. Taking surf lessons in Honolulu. Visiting the island of Kauai for the first time. Everyday, since I left, I think about some part of that trip. I hope it will not be another 20 years before I can visit again.

Scariest moment: Swimming in Kauai and stepping on an unidentified object. Having the foot doctor, weeks later, say, 'this could be serious'. I was scared. But, not as scared as your own father telling you he has cancer. That happened in August. And, you freeze. Not knowing how different your life might be from that moment on. Thankfully, my father has recovered and he is doing well. Well enough that he and my mother are able to travel and will visit during the Christmas holidays.

What I will remember most from this year: I challenge you to do this exercise. Write down what you think you will remember this year. Then, next year, look at it again and see if that's still the thing you remember most about that year. Last year, I said I will remember the Ocean City Half marathon the most because of the weather. This year, when I think of the half marathons I have run in my lifetime, I have to remember that I did run that race. It's not quite as important in memory as I thought it would be.
This year, I think, I will remember the Harrisburg marathon the most. Not because of my awful performance. But, because of friends who set PRs that day. And, the fun we had that weekend at the 'expo', the pasta dinner, the race itself (and my friends cheering me on at the end) and sitting around having breakfast at Perkins afterwards. There is a lot of joy of sharing moments with friends. It's something I come to appreciate more and more through the years.

(Notes: If you want to hear 'bad acting' (and who wouldn't!), take a listen to SteveRunner's Fdip episode 165. I have a small part in a skit that Steve performs. I have all the range of acting skills as a B-movie extra. Steve and the rest are great.
I go to the doctor today for my ankle. It has been bothering me since before the Harrisburg marathon so I guess it's time to find out what is really wrong with it. I'm anxious to get back running. I think it's when you can't is when you most want to.
Update on December 16, 2008--I had X-rays yesterday and it doesn't show a stress fracture (which was my biggest fear). I need to consult with my doctor on next steps. )
Update on December 19, 2008--I have Achillies and Peroneal tendonitis. So, no running for the next three weeks. I will need to go to physical therapy. I can cross train and play racquetball so will start doing that. If I'm not cured by the end of January, then it's the boot for me! (I will need to shut down everything and stabilize my foot/ankle. Also, found out that my right leg is a half inch shorter than my left. So, am I 6'3" or 6' 2 1/2"? I guess it depends on which way the winds blowing that day.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Letter to Santa

Dear Santa:

I know you are busy this time of year but I wanted to give you my list of what I want for Christmas. I've been an awfully good boy this year. For instance, I had to listen all year to Kelly whining about hills. As you can imagine, Santa, that's not easy. Come to think of it, all of the Blue Dawg group had to listen to her whining. Maybe you should give them something special this year as well!

And, I was very patient with little StevieRunner as he complained about not getting his sub-4 hour marathon again. I know, Santa, this happens all the time. And, I'm sure I'm not the only one that has to go through this. But, please, Santa, could you find a way to make little StevieRunner run a marathon under 4 hours next year? Not as a present to him but as a present to the rest of us? I know there isn't a lot of talent to work with there but we can all hope for a Christmas miracle, can't we?

So, here are some of the things I want when you come to my house for Christmas:

DryMax socks--Santa, these are hard to find. They are my favorite running socks and the ones I have now are starting to fall apart. If you could give me a half dozen, that would be swell!

Garmin 405--I know my Garmin 201 works just fine but, I'm a boy and boys like new toys. I was good and didn't ask for a 205, 301, or 305. And, I don't necessarily need the heart-rate monitor. It just looks so much easier to run with! I have heard you need nimble hands to work the 405, but, honest, Santa, I'll be patient in playing with it.

A comfortable pair of running shoes--My Adrenaline GTS 5's are on their last legs. I have a pair of Adrenaline GTS 7's to replace them but I don't think they will be as comfortable as my 5's. Why, Santa, do shoe companies 'upgrade' running shoes every year? And, they never fit the same so I have to find another shoe to replace them? It would be great if you can get me a pair of running shoes that I know I can run a marathon in with no problems.

Triathalon gear--I know, Santa, this is a big surprise to you to see this on my list. And, I was going to wait until my New Year's resolution to announce this but, I think I want to do a triathalon in 2009. Not a great big one but a sprint. Chief convinced me I could do one and I heard there is a class forming in April so I won't be working out alone. And, he didn't even convince me after a few 'adult beverages'!!!! No, I'm hoping that 2009 is a special year for me, and I think I want to compete in a triathalon to see if I like it.

A new left Achillies tendon--I know this one isn't going to be easy for you to deliver. And, realistically, I should be asking the 'birthday boy' for this. But, if there is a way to get me a new one, that would be swell. I think the other one is getting kind of old and worn out. For the past few months, it's been nothing but trouble when I run on it. I thought I would rest it a bit after my last marathon. But, I went out last Saturday, and it was still hurting me. Make it stop hurting, Santa!!! It's ok to walk around with it. Maybe if I get those new comfortable running shoes, I won't need a new Achillies tendon afterall!!!!

The book Hello, Everybody! The Dawn of American Radio by Anthony Rudel--I've always been interested in radio, Santa, and this sounds like a fun book to read. I saw a review in Spirit magazine on a Southwest airline flight I took and they said it was really keen. Could you put this under the tree too?

Peace and happiness to all--This is a tough one, Santa, and one that you have been working on a lot. But, I have friends that didn't have a particularly good year in 2008. Could you make 2009 a better year for them?

Thank you, Santa, for all you do. I promise not to make a fire in the fireplace Christmas Eve so you'll be able to come down the chimney this year. And, I will leave out some cookies for you and some carrots for the reindeer. I can't leave them by the Christmas tree or else the dogs will eat them. So, they will be on the counter in the kitchen. I hope you have good weather the night before Christmas. I'll see you in the mall!!!

Your best buddy,

Joe

Monday, December 1, 2008

Going over to the 'Dark Side'

It started out resting my ankle, my body, my spirit. I have run only once since the Harrisburg marathon. And, even then, my ankle was bothering me. So, I decided to rest some more. But, it has become more than that. You see, I have seen the 'dark side' (and, shhh, I liked it!!!)



I woke up last Sunday morning. Not bright and early. I slept in. And, then, I had a cup of coffee. I not only had a cup of coffee, I enjoyed it. I sipped it. I relished the aroma and the flavor. So much did I enjoy the experience, I had a second cup of coffee. I didn't guzzle it to get out the door to go run.



With my cup of coffee, I read the paper. The ENTIRE Sunday newspaper. From beginning to end. I didn't just skim headlines. I read articles. I read the questions posed to Walter Scott in Parade magazine and read the answers. I leafed through the inserts to see what was on sale. I read the comics. And, sipped my coffee.



For the holidays, I ate. Boy, did I eat. And not a Powerbar in sight. Turkey. Potatoes. Stuffing. Pies. Cookies. And the leftovers for turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pies and cookies. And, I went back for more. Mmmmmmm!!!!!!



Some people say they get antsy if they don't run. I didn't. I'm beginning to feel the 'dark side' is taking over my soul. I know I didn't make a pact with the devil to say I would live this life if I ran a marathon under 5 hours. Because, if I did, he didn't deliver. So, it must be something else. Something I'm not seeing.



I believe this is only a temporary condition. I believe, as my pants get tighter, I will have a 'spiritual awakening' and see my 'evil ways' of the two of the seven deadly sins I am committing of gluttony and sloth. In the meantime, could you pass another slice of pie, please?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beware of Turkey Gangs!!!!!

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, I have a turkey tale to tell. (As my heading says, this really is about life in Bucks County, PA)

One early Sunday morning, this past summer, I decided to drive up to the Delaware River for a run. I began driving up the road and noticed there was some traffic congestion up ahead. An accident maybe? As I approached, it became clear what the problem was. There was a flock of wild turkeys crossing the road. Except they weren't crossing the road. They were hanging out in the middle of the street. Not moving. Just milling about. Blocking the road.

As I got closer, I saw a man from a pickup truck, that was coming towards me on the opposite side of the road, get out and start to 'convince' the turkeys to go back to whence they came. The turkeys were gobbling away but eventually got off the road. As the man turned away to get back into the pickup truck, it was as if the turkeys decided they weren't going to be pushed around by some guy in a pickup truck. So, they followed the man back into his pickup truck and proceeded to block the road again.

The man got out, once more, convinced the turkeys didn't 'fully' understand the situation they were causing and 'convinced' them to go further away from the road. But, this only made the turkeys more mad.

As the man headed back to his truck, not only had the turkeys stepped back into the road, but they began to surround the man's pickup. There were turkeys to the left of the pickup, to the right, and blocking the vehicle in front. The man rolled down in his window and began to yell at the turkeys. And, the ' head' turkey began to gobble back. So, there it was, a man in a pickup yelling out the window to a turkey and the turkey talking smack back at him.

By this time, I was catty-corner to the pickup and saw the whole scene unfold. I was laughing so hard and began to go past the truck. Until two turkeys stepped in front of my car, as if to say, 'Where do you think you're going, buster? We're not through with you yet'. I tried to turn my wheel right to pass them but, everytime I moved more right, they ran in front of my car.

About a minute later, they must have been tired of playing games with me and they let me through. Not so with the pickup. By this time, the traffic on the other side was about 10 cars deep with no one able to move because of the turkeys on the road. As I pulled away, thankful that the turkey gang allowed me to pass, I looked in the rearview mirror thinking, 'I hope this resolves quickly.' I was imagining, on my return trip, what could happen. The man in the pickup was tired of talking to these turkeys and just plow through. The turkeys, not happy about the death of some of their comrades. tip the pickup over and fighting ensues. Blood everywhere, bodies on the side, a crashed pickup, all due to some stupid machoism displayed by man and turkey. It didn't have to come to that.

I'm glad to report that the scenario didn't play out. There were no turkey roadkill where the incident happen. There wasn't a crashed pickup. Oh sure, maybe, they settled their differences elsewhere and by some other means. Or maybe cooler heads prevailed. Or maybe the turkeys just had enough of dissin' the driver and crossed the road. It could have been ugly.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

(Note: Congratulations to all the runners of the Philadelphia marathon yesterday. I am SO glad I didn't run it this year as the temperature at the start of the race was in the mid-20's F and I don't think it got much higher).

Update on this story: There was an article on boston.com on March 3, 2009 of turkeys harrassing commuters. Seems that the turkeys are muscling in the Northeast of the US. http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/03/testy_turkeys_o.html

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Back on My Feet'--Please Vote

Last February, as I was waiting for the Frostbite 5 miler in Ambler, PA to start, a van pulled up in front of me that unloaded a bunch of runners. I noticed that these runners were a bit 'different' from your typical suburban runners. I don't mean different in a bad way and I don't mean different in skin color. But, I could tell these runners 'weren't from around here' either. And, during a race, it doesn't matter who is different from whom but, ultimately, who is faster. This was my first encounter of the 'Back on My Feet' program.

'Back on My Feet' is a local running program, started by Anne Mahlum, which helps the homeless. But, it's not a program that hands out money, food, or shelter. Instead, it gives the homeless something which is not so tangible yet almost equally important--pride and dignity.

In my opinion, everyone of us could possibly find ourselves in a similar position. The difference may not be just the fortitude of overcoming obstacles that have been thrown our way but also the strong support systems we have such as family, friends, faith, etc. Think about how lucky each one of us are to have that. Then, think about the people who aren't so lucky and, in some ways, have given up hope.

Each of us have our own reasons for running. The one thing I'm sure we agree on is the sense of pride we feel after we've done our first 5k, 10k, half, etc. Do you remember what that felt like? And, from that pride, did it carry over into your life? Did it give you confidence to try other distances in racing or other things in your life that you didn't think you could do before? Well, that is what the 'Back on My Feet' program is all about. It's giving a chance to take pride in something so they can carry it over into their everyday lives.

I would like a favor of you who are reading this. Anne Mahlum has been nominated as a 2008 CNN Person of the Year. Please vote for her if you think she is a worthy candidate. There is a link below that tells Anne's whole story and the opportunity to vote for her (there is also a link to a video). All those who have been nominated are worthy, but, Anne's story touches all of us who are fellow runners. And, how many of us, after reading her story didn't say, 'Wow, why didn't I think of that?"

Here's the favor. I have a small number of regular readers to this blog. (Which, I thank you for being there). So, I was wondering if you could pass the word in your blogs or forward the information to others? In that way, other people will read it and post on their blogs and so forth and on and on and on. Ultimately, it would be nice to let the world know what we already know--the importance of the physical and spiritual nature of what running can be in our lives. Anne has found a key to unlock the human potential where others have failed. I applauded her for her efforts and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves.

(For full disclosure, I do not personally know Anne but, as stated, have seen her with the 'Back on My Feet' runners at the Frostbite 5 miler. Her work has been featured throughout the summer on local stations. Here is link to the website. http://backonmyfeet.org/main/index.html )

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/04/02/heroes.mahlum/index.html



Link to the Video:


http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/04/02/heroes.mahlum/index.html#cnnSTCVideo

Monday, November 10, 2008

The 2008 Harrisburg Marathon Report










(Kelly and Melissa holding me up after the Harrisburg marathon)

First of all, I want to thank all that wished me luck before the race. I am always grateful of people, who only know me through this blog, who still take the time to think about me and wish me good fortune.

Second, I want to congratulate my Blue Dawg friends, Melissa and Kelly, who went out to Harrisburg with me and kicked the course's butt. Melissa set a new marathon PR by almost 10 minutes and Kelly broke 4 hours for the first time and lowered her own marathon PR by over 20 minutes!!!! Just a great effort from both.
At the bottom, is a short video clip of the start of the 2008 Harrisburg marathon. I want to thank Melissa's husband, Garth, who shot this video, the pictures above and below and for his support this weekend. We really appreciate it. (The first picture below is Melissa's finish. My finish is the second picture.)




























Highlights of the race:

  • The Radisson Penn Harris Hotel, which was the host hotel for the event. The expo was right across the driveway. The pasta dinner was about 10 yards from my room. Good food as well. (The people we met at our table were very friendly.) The shuttle was right outside the lobby which took us to the start and back from the finish. And, we had a late checkout so we could shower after the race. They did an excellent job overall.
  • The event was very well coordinated, and on a brisk, windy day, the volunteers out on the course, were cheerful and supportive even for us back of the packers.
  • The day was beautiful. Could not ask for a better temperature to run a race.
  • Parts of the course ran along the Susquehanna River, which overlooked fall foliage in the distance, and we ran past the Governor's Mansion and other historic sites.
  • It was the best I've felt after a marathon. My cardio was fine. I usually feel sick but felt fine afterwards. Probably due to the temperature.
  • The price. $45 entry fee. And the pullover jacket that was given to all participants.
  • The start/finish line. It was right next to where the Harrisburg Senators (minor affliate of the Washington Nationals) play.
  • Nobody was wrong and everyone was right on what to wear. I opted for short-sleeved shirt and shorts but started with a long-sleeved shirt on top. I carried that and wore it off and on for 15 miles before ditching it. I was a bit chilled at the end.


Lowlights of the race:


  • It was VERY windy after mile six. The Susquehanna River was beautiful but ran into a headwind for about 4 miles.
  • We ran through an industrial park which was kind of bland. On a hot day, that area would have been a killer.
  • Miles 17 through 19 which was through a wooded area and loaded with hills.
  • My left ankle. It felt better than previous weeks but still was sore to run on.
  • Cramps in my calfs and thighs. It hit me at mile 21 and I could only run as far as the cramping would take me.

This was the perfect race for me this year. It was a low-key event that felt like a 5k. And it felt there was a 2:1 ratio of volunteers to runners. The people there were tremendous and I can't thank the Harrisburg people enough for their goodwill.

I thought about running with Kelly until she told me her plans to run a 4:10 marathon. Yikes!!! And, after the first 5 minutes, I knew my ankle was going to remain sore for the race. So, I ran/walk the course. I ran the first half in about 2:27. I was on pace until I hit the hills. Trying to run up hills was an impossibility as my ankle was screaming at that point. And, then at mile 21, my legs were cramping up, probably due to the wind off the river.

At the end there were about 6 of us pushing each other along. At mile 25, Melissa, Kelly and Garth, started to cheer me up on the bridge I had to get up to and cross. What a lift that was!!!

This was the 36th running of this event. We were surprised because of the small number of participants in comparison to Marine Corps, Philadelphia and others. But, in speaking with people there, that was precisely the reason they entered. The 10,000+ participant-marthons can be overwhelming. This was not. I would recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Project: Harrisburg Marathon

As a project manager, there is one thing that usually gets overlooked when setting up a project. How do you define success? Easy, you say? OK. You might say, 'make sure it works.' If it works but it is so cumbersome for the customer that they won't use it, is that success? Then, you might say, 'make sure the customer is satisfied.' But, if it costs twice as much as the customer is willing to pay, is the customer satisfied? No, defining success is not as easy as you might think. So, it is important to define success upfront of any project that you are doing.

And, if you think of it, everything you do is a project. Don't think so? Going to the grocery store is a project, you just don't give it much thought that it is. There are a set of tasks that you must do in order to meet your objective. The tasks could be as simple as get the keys, bring the wallet, drive the car, park the car, get a shopping cart, etc. Again, you probably don't think of it as a project but, at the end, success is probably defined as having enough food and things in the house that will get you through the week.

So, this weekend, for me, is project Harrisburg marathon. And, how am I defining success? Easy, right? Break my PR. Except I can tell you I didn't follow a training schedule close enough that I would feel comfortable to say I have a shot at breaking a PR. Would it be nice? Absolutely. But, I can tell you that I currently am dealing with an inflamed Achilles tendon and some other nagging pains going into this race.

Well, that's the wrong attitude to take into this race, mister. Ahh! But there are some positives I am taking into Harrisburg. I can tell you, in each of the four past marathons I have done, I was intimidated, not only doing the 26.2 miles, but the long runs leading up to it. But, for this race, I didn't feel that type of pressure. You would think I would considering there are only 620+ people in the race. Yikes!!! (If you look for me in the results, start from the bottom up. It will be easier.)
This feels like such a laid-back event that I am looking at it as just another long run and not a race. The fact that friends are doing the race with me helps in that mindset.

Plus, and this is where success is starting to get defined by me, I am changing some of the things I do leading up to the race. I've hit the wall, big time, in each of the marathons I have done. I don't think it's all conditioning. I think it's part nutrition and part hydration. So, this week, I am carbo-loading more than usual and I'm drinking two bottles of water everyday leading up to the weekend. And, I'm also planning on bringing a Powerbar with me in the race. I haven't done this previously. I drank a lot of water a day or two before and used gels during the race. I will tell you honestly that I have been plagued by constant bathroom breaks at first few miles of each marathon I have done.

The one thing I am unsure of is whether I am doing Galloway run/walk or try to run the whole thing. I have trained for Galloway but, I've had some good runs in the past few weeks that I am thinking about ditching that. Scary? You betcha!!! As part of my mental approach of a dealing with the enormity of a project marathon is to break it down into smaller increments and don't look at it as a whole. For instance, when I run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute, I look at as only running 5 minutes at a time. Not running 5 hours!!!! It helps me not get overwhelmed.

So, what will I consider a successful project Harrisburg marathon? First, have fun with my friends. If nothing else, enjoy the time and stories that we will have for this race. Second, to finish the race. I didn't train for nothing, you know!!!! If I break 5 hours, all the better. Third, see if, or when, I bonk. One marathon, it was as early as 17 miles. Last year, it was at 20 miles. Can I get past that point? If I do, then I am heading in the right direction. And, lastly, see if I can reduce the number of bathroom breaks (hey, I aim low when it comes to expectations. Some people what to BQ. I want to reduce bathroom breaks. Everyone has goals.)

I truly am looking forward to this marathon. It will be such a departure from Philadelphia, Marine Corps and Disney. Just me and 600 of my friends going out for a little run on a beautiful Sunday fall morning in central Pennsylvania. Indeed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 Philadelphia Phillies World Series Parade

Here are some of the sights (and, yes) sounds of the parade for the Philadelphia Phillies today. I was standing near the start of the parade at 17th & Market Streets. The video clips are short but, hopefully, will give you a feel of the day, of the parade and of the fans. Enjoy!



















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Thursday, October 30, 2008

28 Years Later....

The last time it happened...

  • Jimmy Carter was President of the United States
  • Walter Mondale was Vice President of the United States
  • Median Household Income was $17,710.00
  • The cost of a first class stamp was $0.15
  • Cost for a gallon of regular gas was $1.25
  • Ted Turner had just started a television network called CNN
  • The Dow Jones had a high of 1000 and a low of 759 that year
  • John Lennon was coming out with his 'Double Fantasy' album
  • Genuine Risk wins the Kentucky Derby that year
  • The Empire Strikes Back is the top grossing film
  • U.S. viewers get caught up in the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliff hanger on the soap opera series, Dallas
  • Christina Ricci, Chelsea Clinton, Venus Williams, Jessica Simpson, Macaulay Culkin, and Jake Gyllenhaal are born
  • And, I was a senior at Boston University sitting in the living room of a house that I shared with five guys in Brighton, MA.

That was the last time the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. The time before that? Well, there was no time before that. That was the first time they had won the World Series. And, last night, they won it again.

Back in 1980, I was very excited but I was out of town when it happened. It was like someone describing a great party they attended with all your friends but you couldn't make it because you had to work. Not this year. Even my wife, who doesn't know a curveball from a changeup, was getting into it and high-fiving me when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske at the end. Fireworks going off in the neighborhood. Cars honking their horns. Everyone at work happy this morning.

I hope to go to part of the parade tomorrow. I plan on taking some pictures and I will post afterwards. Why? Because the Philadelphia Phillies are the champions of baseball today!!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Race Shirt Exchange (and other things)

Race Shirt Exchange--This past spring, I was looking in my closet to pick out a shirt to wear that day. There is a joke in my family (and I'm sure others reading this will relate) I'm lucky that, with all the races I do, I never have to buy another T-shirt again. True. My closet is full of race shirts from the past few years. But, I began to notice the shirts are from races I've run year after year. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the shirts. But, do I need to have the same shirt/different color every year? And, I didn't think I was alone in this thinking. Why not somehow set up a race shirt exchange program where people who have run the same race year after year can swap shirts with someone who has run their own race year after year? Just to be different. But, how do I get the word out?

In June, when I ran with Frayed Laces in Hawaii, I mentioned my idea to see if she what she thought. She loved the idea and wrote about it in her September 24th blog entry. I also mention it in the Phedippidations Discussion Board Forum Thing over the summer. Everyone who wrote in seemed to think it was a great idea. But, how to manage it?

I immediately went into project management mode think. We set up a separate area in the forum and people can post there if they want to exchange a shirt. If you have a taker, find out what shirt size the person wants, exchange e-mail (and mail addresses). The person who sends out is responsible for postage. On and on and on. I stepped back for a moment and told myself, 'you can't manage this. If people think it's a good idea, they will figure out how to exchange shirts on their own. No rules.'

But, from the September 24th blog entry of Frayed Laces, someone stepped forward and said, 'I'll exchange a race shirt with you'. I want to report that the idea I had back in the spring has come to fruition. Big from, Big's Running Blog, sent me a great technical T from the Capital City River Run Half marathon and 5k. And, just this past week, I sent Big my shirt I received in the 'Run for Your Neighbor' 5k I recently did in Harleysville, PA. I want to thank Big for this great shirt.

Of course, as usually happens in my life, my timing isn't the greatest. Because here I would say, 'and if anyone else wants to exchange shirts, please let me know.' Which I would like to do. Except I only have one more race this year. The Harrisburg marathon. And, no one is touching that one. (If you really want a shirt from there, I will purchase one on your behalf and can send to you. Send me the money after you've received the shirt.) So, when the spring comes, I will re-visit this idea and see if there are any takers then. In the meantime, don't let me stop you from finding others to swap with you. Use SteveRunner's forum if you would like to find someone to swap a shirt with you.

My 20 miler. In my line of work, we have things called 'pilots' before we send things into production. Pilots are tests meant to see what could go wrong with an idea before you start producing it for real. Well, my 20 miler that I run before a marathon is my pilot. To me, it simulates my marathon and I use it to test things out first. I have to say, it is a good thing I do this. Because my 20 miler yesterday didn't go exactly as planned.

First, in looking at my marathon schedule, I should have done my 20 miler LAST week. (I was wondering why Kelly and Melissa weren't running theirs this week). Normally, I dread the 20 miler. But, this year, I had the mindset of just going out there and doing it. I had packed the Friday before. Charge the garmin. Gels. Powerbars. Drinks. Change of shirts. Race wear. Everything set.

I get to the lake around 9a. (The Phillies game was rain delayed and I stayed up until midnight though the game ended around 2a). I see Melissa, and we exchange hellos, as she is finishing up her 12 miler. (Sigh. Still, it was worth staying up as the Phillies did eventually win). I'm all set to go as I turn on my Garmin. I have one hour of battery life. WHAT THE ##$%? You see, I do the Galloway run/walk method for marathons. 5 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Kind of critical to have a working watch. OK. No big deal. I approximately know where the miles are around Lake Galena so I'll just do a walk break after each mile. (Secretly, I blame Frayed Laces as I believe she owns an 'evil' Garmin. See her October 13th posting. Somehow, her Garmin is the 'mother' Garmin which controls some of the other Garmins in the world. Because, since her problems, my watch has just been 'obeying orders' to breakdown as well. Just a theory, mind you.) Pacing will be difficult but I can manage.

So, I start. And, my left ankle hurts. With every step. OK. I just need to warm up. And, now my Achilles is hurting. It feels like it needs to be stretched a bit. So, I stretch. Nothing. I run a half mile and the pain is not going away. At this point, I'm at one of those crossroads moments in life, 'do I stop and rest it or do the 20 miler and risk injury?' I HAVE to do this 20 miles. So, I press on.

The 'run a mile, walk a bit' thing isn't working out right. I have to stop more often because of my ankle. And, I forgot to put on body glide. And, I'm feeling the affects of that decision. I wished there was someone to take a video. I want to show the world how NOT to train for a marathon. I can only imagine what I looked like adjusting my shorts and favoring my right leg as I run.

I made it a point to wear my race-ready shorts. With the pockets. For my gels. You know, the gels I left in my car. Luckily, the loops I do around the lake, take me back to the car to re-fuel. Except I won't have that convenience during the marathon.

I do manage to finish the 20 miler. Chafing. Ankle swollen. Hungry. Thirsty. Yep, I'm ready for that ol' marathon in two weeks. There is going to be approximately 800 runners in this marathon. Usually, I like to be in the top 50% of the finishers in any race. I'll take top 90% for this race.

A little late with this joke--Back in August, I posted a blog entry talking about a race I ran against Police chief White. As I was running this weekend, I realized the Clash did a song in which the lyrics would have been perfect for that entry. As mentioned previously, my timing could use a little work. Anyway, here are the lyrics:


Yes, Im running down the railway track

Could you help me? police on my back

They will catch me if I dare drop back

Wont you give me all the speed I lack

Mom, make it stop!!!--I will not get all political on you. But, I will say, the process of electing a president in this country goes way TOO LONG!!! It should not take a year and a half to elect a president. Billions of dollars should not be spent electing a president. I used to be more involved politically. No more. I will vote. But, no matter how much I back a candidate, I refuse to send money for elections. I would rather see my dollars fighting diseases than electing a candidate. In truth, I wish there were viable third and fourth parties in America. They have it in the UK and Canada. Where politics are more local. I hope your candidate(s) win. For me, I just want it to be over.


October 28, 2008 update--I had to add this picture. It is from my backyard this morning. Yes, it is snowing here. Just north where they are trying to finish the World Series. Wasn't it just summer a few hours ago? (Sigh). Hope it's not an indication of what winter is going to be like around here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Six Things You Didn't Know

On October 13, 2008, I was tagged. Tagged by Karen, of the fantastic blog, Mom on the Run (http://momrun.blogspot.com/. Hey, how come I was only number 3? :-) By the way, Karen, congratulations on finishing the Grand Rapids marathon this past weekend. Can't wait to read the full report.)

So, I'm suppose to write six facts about myself. I was tagged previously and thought I had to answer specific questions. (Are there 'tag' rules out there in cyberspace?) I can't say I'm the most interesting person out there (ok, that doesn't count as a fact. Merely an opinion of myself.) Here goes:

1. I have a slight allergy to dogs and cats. I have four dogs and 1 cat. As far as I know, I don't have any allergies to kids. I don't have any of those. My four dogs' names are Einstein, Dillon, Emmett, and Ellie Mae. My cat's name is Fiona. Einstein is a bichon frise whom we got from the local SPCA. Dillon is our Hurricane Katrina rescue. There were groups that went down to the animal shelters in Louisiana after the hurricane to take as many dogs as possible off their hands. We picked Dillon up in West Virginia from one of these groups. When we took him home, he didn't wimper. Didn't make a noise. We thought there was something wrong with him. Turns out, that's his personality. The most laid-back dog you will ever see. Emmett and Ellie Mae are Havanese and are our show dogs. Emmett is a retired champion (even has the little potbelly going to 'prove' he's retired.) Ellie Mae is our up-and-comer. Fiona is a Snowshoe whom we had since 1993. Since we are not parents, we try to focus our attention to animal rescue groups and donate our hearts and time to those causes.

2. I had dinner with Larry Bird. I can't remember what year it was (1986?), I was the backup radio engineer for Boston Celtics broadcasts when Steve (Runner) and I worked in radio. I did this in case anything happened to the regular engineer and he couldn't make it. So, I was sent on the road to Washington, DC. (There is a separate story, that I will tell someday, about what happened during the game and the 'life lesson' I learned). After the game and back at the hotel, I was invited by Coach K.C. Jones to have dinner with the entire Celtics team. I couldn't believe it! The team was already there as I walked into the room. They sat me down right across from Larry Bird! Larry was there with a friend of his who was a WWF wrestler (whose name I can't recall). Larry did talk to me occassionally but I was speechless. I didn't know what to say to him. Unfortunately, my backup engineer gig didn't last long and I never had that opportunity again. (There is also a Danny Ainge story here as well that I will have to tell later.)

3. I can't point my toes. Doctors are always surprised when I point (pardon the pun) this out. As near as anyone can tell, I am missing something in my ankles that allows people to point their toes. The best way to describe how I run is, imagine someone running with flippers on. That's the extent of my flexibility. Considering I have size 12 shoes, it is not a far off comparison.

4. I am a shy person. Some may dispute this, but, I consider myself a shy person. I like to fade in the background in gatherings. I don't like to speak in front of groups even though my job requires it. When I go on business trips, I have no problems eating alone. I don't take compliments well and am very embarrassed when someone does compliment me. I grew up where 'good-natured ribbing' was how we communicated.

5. I LOVE to laugh. I sometimes come across as not a serious-minded person. That's because I try to find laughter in most situations. I have been described as having a 'dry' sense of humor. I had a boss from the UK who once told me he was impressed that I was able to make British people laugh. He said it wasn't always easy for Americans to do that. I am the wise-guy in the room with the quip. It's how I try to break up the tension in the room sometimes. But, I have to be REALLY comfortable in order for people to see that side of me.

6. I went through 'Checkpoint Charlie.' After I graduated college, I saved up enough money to take a bus tour through Europe. I went to many of the capitals in Western Europe including Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin. Back then, it was West Berlin and East Berlin. Part of the tour was going into East Berlin. We stopped at a park to see a Russian monument dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War II. When we got back to the bus, our bus driver was screaming and yelling as someone had just pointed a rifle at the bus drivers lined up in the park while we were gone. From everywhere, the Eastern German secret police (Stasi) showed up. They detained us for about an hour. We had no idea what was going on at the time and were thankful that we got back through 'Checkpoint Charlie' without any further incidents.

OK, except for the 'pointing of toes' one, that had little to do with running. Oh, well.

(Notes: THE PHILLIES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!! YAHOO!!!!!! I am scheduled to do a 20 miler this weekend in preparation for the Harrisburg marathon. I ran a 10 miler this past weekend and felt great. It was suppose to be a long slow run but wound up doing a 9:30/mile pace, which is flying for me. Must have been the weather. Congratulations to Steve (Runner) for his efforts in the Bay State marathon this weekend. I know he was hurting a bit. (from the marathon and I guess from the Sox loss). Rest up a bit, Steve.

I'm adding this article I read that was posted on sfgate.com. This past weekend, San Francisco hosted the Nike Women's marathon. The 'elite' runners had a 20 minute headstart. But, a woman from the 'non-elite' pack had the fastest time for the race. And, didn't win. Because she didn't think she was an 'elite' runner. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/21/BAUC13L3GQ.DTL

I always wondered what would happen if someone had a faster chip time than the first person who crossed the finish line. Answer: Tough luck.

October 22, 2008 Update from story mentioned above: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/22/BACI13MAIT.DTL&tsp=1

It's an interesting debate on whether we need to start recognizing chip time as the official time or at least have separate awards for gun and chip times )

Monday, October 13, 2008

The three quarters of the year 2008 Status Report


I want to thank those that have sent me suggestions on what to do about woodpeckers. As you can see by the picture on the right, I am under attack. I have lived in this house for over two years and this is the second year in a row that I have problems with woodpeckers. I have since found out that woodpeckers are migratory birds and, apparently, my house is nice and tasty. Sort of like a Shoney's Big Boy. For woodpeckers. I need to patch it for the winter as the holes in the house go all the way through.




Did you ever have the dream of partying all night and waking up the next day only to realize you have to take your mid-term that day? (Actually, that sort of happened to me once when I was going for my MBA. I miscalculated the number of weeks in a class and showed up not studying for one minute of a mid-term we were having that night!) Anyway, that's the way I am feeling as I will embark on coming up with excuses of a lifetime and explanations of why I didn't keep my 2008 New Year's resolutions. Maybe it isn't all that bad. Tell me when I can open my eyes again!

Eat healthier--I made steps toward this. In my January 8th blog, I mentioned that I discovered Quaker Oats Whole Grain Cereal and that I would try eating that a few times a week to start. I am happy to say that I have kept up with that and continue to eat this cereal about two or three times each week. I wrote this in May and, surprisingly, have kept this up for the most part. I am more likely to do this when I work from home, though. I don't think I will ever eat 'healthy'. But I've been able to maintain my weight all year. As a matter of fact, I'm proud to say that I am the same weight as I was 20 years ago.

Now my next big thing to tackle is to start making home-made smoothies. I've read that, as long as you don't add protein, this is a great subsitute for a snack. Looking for some good recipes if anyone has ideas. This idea didn't last long as I was finding out that smoothies don't last long in the refrigerator. And, yes, I have fall victim to the 100-calorie packs of stuff. Currently, it's the 100-calorie popcorn and the 100-calorie caramel which I use when I eat apples in the fall. I do find that it's 'just enough'.

Smarter exercise--...when I was doing the core training, results were pretty fast. So, realistically, maybe I can do core training for specific events and not all year round? This is what I wrote back in May. And, I have thought about this all summer. I have started to do the core training for the Harrisburg marathon and hope it will be enough so I can beat 5 hours this time out.

Beat my 5k PR--Realistically, I'm running out of chances for this spring. I plan on doing the Doylestown 'Red, White and Blue' 5k this Saturday, which will be my last 5k this spring. But, I've never run this course. I need to find a flat, fast course in the fall to get this monkey off my back. If only I knew then what I know now. As the Doylestown RWB 5k was as close as I ever got to beat my 5k PR. Ever. I missed it by 1 second. On a hilly course. I ran a 5k this past Saturday but it was to pace my wife in the race and it was 'warm up' for the 18 miles I had to run that day for my long run. Right now, I don't have plans on any races after Harrisburg, But, find me a flat, fast 5k and you might, maybe, be able to talk me into it.

Concentrate on Falmouth--Broad Street is over. This is what I'll be thinking about all summer. Steve better be ready this year. Steve didn't run it this year. Because of it, I lost my motivating factor to concentrate on Falmouth. And, it was a bad week leading up to the race. On the positive side, I did better than I did last year. (By the way, if you are a baseball fan and were watching the Red Sox-Rays baseball game yesterday, you probably saw Steve at the game about 10 rows up to the right of home plate. I was watching the game and saw someone who looked exactly like Steve and his son. So, of course, I called him. And, yes, it was him. I won't call him again if I see him. Because the Sox lost. Obviously, I'm a jinx.)

A better blog--I played a little with the poll. It's a fun thing to do from time to time. I can do a little more on the right side of the blog. I like to see what others do in their running blogs and try to get ideas to incorporate into mine. I don't do as much as the polling thing as I had done earlier in the year. And, I try to be 'competitive' on my blog. I will look at a blog and ask myself, 'how did they do that? 'I want that for my blog!' I am very jealous of the 'more creative than me' people that are out there. But, it keeps me thinking on ways I want to improve what I have to stay 'competitive'.

Continue to have fun with running--I'm hoping to be able to take my gear into work and stop and do some 3 mile runs on my way home from time to time. I'm happy to say this is part of my regular routine. On Tuesdays, I will bring my gear into work and run a 3+ mile route next to Lincoln Drive, which is right next to the Wissahickon Creek. It is a lovely part of Philadelphia and serene even though you can see the traffic on the Drive. I am also running, about once a week, with my wife. She is starting to get into 5ks and I want to encourage her to keep doing it.

Get new running shoes--(TZ Sports) had a pair of Brooks GTS 7s that I bought, and, so far, seem to be the replacement I've been looking for. I'll run in them for the next few weeks. If they still feel comfortable, then I might have to look in stocking up for the next few years. I am still not 100% convinced the GTS 7s will be my running shoes for years and I should stock them up now. They are good. I like the ones I have. But, they are not my GTS 5s. Nothing ever fit me better.

Follow through--I still need a lot of work on this. My journal entries in my running diary have been inconsistent. I don't put things a way at home that I should. I try to make sure I follow up with people after they've contacted me. I'm trying to get better at this. Just to need to keep reminding myself about this one. . As this recap was suppose to be done in September, I guess I'm keeping this one as a 2009 New Year's resolution.

Is it really just 2 1/2 months until the end of the year?
(Notes: I just discovered this coincidence recently. I am not affiliated nor have taken my blog name from 'Blue Dawg Blog', http://bluedawgblog.wordpress.com/ which is a political blog. Again, my blog name is derived from a restaurant where our group meets, on occasion, after a long, tough run to quench our thirst.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Travails of a Traveler

Just for the record: In my last blog entry, some people (Eric T) made the suggestion (Eric T)that I was whining (Eric T) about my schedule (Eric T). On the contrary, I just wanted people to know that I was going to be busy. Oh sure, I may have SAID something about 'a marathon in a month' and me beginning to panic. But, if you don't run for awhile, you swear that the next time you run, you'll be out of breath before a half mile goes by. Luckily, that didn't happen. You see, I don't whine. I leave that job for Kelly. She's much better at it than me. :-)


I don't travel for business that often. When I do, it usually comes in clusters like it did last week. I also had two personal functions (one in Long Island, NY and the other in Boston, MA) bookending my business travel to North Carolina.

Actually, I don't mind travelling for business once in awhile. It gives me a chance to get 'out of the office' for a time. See new things. See different people. And, in a lot of cases, face-to-face meetings are more effective than teleconference calls. Believe me, there have been times that we were able to accomplish in two days something we couldn't in two months because we were all in the same room.

The other nice thing is getting out and running some place different. Doesn't always happen like the beginning of last week when I had my first trip to North Carolina. But, my schedule was a little more flexible the second trip down, so had a chance to get some miles in. I have given up the thought of doing a scheduled training run for marathon prep. I get in what I can and just have fun(?) running the race.

Below is a breakdown of my week on the road:

Sunday--Scheduled to fly down to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina at 5:30p. Because of stormy weather, actually didn't take off until 8p. Landed around 9:15p and got to the hotel around 9:45p. I was suppose meet up with my boss to get something to eat when I got there. But, instead, ate at Philadelphia airport before getting on the plane. I paid for the dinner with my business credit card. Waitress gave me the card back with the top corner (where the metal strip is) torn. Great. All transactions, for the trip, will need to be entered manually.

Monday--Early morning rise with meeting after meeting. Went out, that night, with people from work. Probably the most normal day of the week.

Tuesday--Busy all day with meetings once again. Scheduled to fly home on the 6p flight to Philadelphia. My boss is to fly back to Philadelphia on a different airline but we meet up in the same terminal. I get there around 4p and check my flight. There is a 4:30p flight to Philadelphia boarding. Wow!! I ask the person behind the ticket counter if there are any more seats available for the flight. She said, 'yes, would I like to change my flight?.' I promptly do so and run back to my boss to say good-bye. After telling him the news about my luck, he asks, 'what about your luggage?' Oh. I didn't think of that. I go back to the ticket counter and ask will my luggage follow? No. Damn. Ok, can you change me back to the 6p? Which she does. I have dinner with my boss and we part ways. I get off my flight and wait for my bags at the luggage carousel. And wait. And wait. No bags. Frustrated and tired, I go to the luggage counter and am ready to lay into them when, I see my bag. Just sitting there. Off to the side. Seems my luggage made the 4:30p afterall.

Wednesday--First time I had a chance to run since PDR. I have to go to pick up some meds for one of my dogs so decided, instead of Lake Galena, I would do the 7 mile loop up on the Delaware River. When I get there, it starts to rain. Usually, I don't like running in the rain but I didn't care. I HAD to get out there because I don't think my legs know how to run anymore. I had a lot of energy so probably pushed harder than I should have. No matter. It felt great and the rain held off through most of the run.

Thursday--Back to Raleigh/Durham, NC again. Got a 3:50p flight and everything was on time. I got to the hotel around 6p and ran in Research Triangle Park. I've been told that RTP is a town in North Carolina. Many businesses have campuses there. And, they have a nice jogging trail throughout the area. It's close to the hotel so I venture out there. I park off Cornwallis Road and do most of the run on Alexander Parkway. Running this path was like running on solid waves. There were no hills just constantly 'bumps' on the path that you can feel in the legs after awhile. I was planning on doing 5 miles but, got back to where I parked my car and decided to do one more. So, totaled six for the run.

Friday--Rather than going back to Philadelphia, I decided to stay an extra day in North Carolina and fly up to New England for a reunion with people from a radio station I worked at (about 20 years ago) that was being held on Saturday. Work was done so went out to find another place to run. I went back to the hotel and they suggested 'Al Buehler Cross Country Trail' on the Duke University campus in Duke Forest. (see plaque below)

This trail was an approximate 3 mile loop. This looked different. I want to do 8 miles so decided to stick with the 8 and walk/light jog the last mile for a cool down. My first clue should have been the name 'cross country trail'. The trail was a mix of dirt and sand with pine needles thrown about. It reminded me of male pattern baldness with pine needles here and there on the path but mostly to sides. I have to say I wasn't ready for the terrain. If there was flat on this path, I want to know where. It was a series of small hills and big hills, tough hills and not-so-tough hills, just going up and down in a forested setting. I didn't get winded but my legs were screaming. By the third lap, I knew what I was in store for so adjusted the mental aspect of the run. I saved myself knowing there was a tough hill coming up and 'let it out' on the downhills. All in all, it was a far different run than what I was used to doing and fun.

After the run, I had a chance to walk around the campus of Duke University. I went to the athletic fields and found one of the meccas of college basketball, Cameron Indoor Stadium. (pictured below is an outside shot of the arena and an indoor shot). I snuck in and found that the stadium was set up for a women's volleyball game between North Carolina and Duke. I stuck around for awhile to watch them practice and to just drink in the setting of where I was. This is one of the places you want to visit if you are fan of college basketball.








I went outside of the arena and walked around the Duke University stadium where they hold their football games and track meets. (see below)


I am glad I went to school in Boston but, if I ever had a second life, Duke would be a place to consider. Just a beautiful campus.
I went back to the hotel and cleaned up a bit before heading out to eat. I got on the elevator and got off the first floor. Doors opened and there, staring at me, were about 40 large guys in Carolina sweatsuits. Now, I'm 6 foot 3 inches and, I have to say, I felt small in comparison. I made my way through the crowd of polite young men. I went to the front desk to print out my boarding pass for the next day's flight and asked, 'who are they?' The person behind the front desk said, 'they are the University of North Carolina football team. They stay with us before every home game.' Now, I was thinking, 'don't they have dorm rooms?' Going to a school that didn't have big time athletics, I guess I didn't understand.
Saturday--Got up early to go to breakfast and fill up my car before heading to the airport. When I pulled into the gas station, I couldn't figure out how to open the fuel tank door. So, there I was, kneeling, walking around, checking every nook and cranny of my rental car, to figure out how to open the fuel door. There was no book in the car to tell me how. Frustrated, I left the station to have breakfast. I sat through breakfast just irked I was defeated. It can't be that difficult. After breakfast, I did the same fuel door dance in the lot of the Waffle House. I pushed the fuel door. Nothing. Then it dawned on me. Push the other side of the door. Viola! Problem solved.
I had to change planes in Baltimore. The guy on the plane next to me was in a hurry. He asked if I could let him off ahead of me. This threw my 'getting off my plane routine' but I let him go. Getting off the plane myself, I went to get a newspaper before sitting down for lunch. As I sat down, I realized I didn't have my glasses. Damn. I didn't take them out of the pocket in front of me on the plane. I had to run back to the plane. I waited for someone to come up from the plane and explained my situation. He motioned me to follow him. So, I did. And, started to explain where I thought the glasses were. He interrupted me and yelled back, 'hey, Ruth, I think I found the guy who left his glasses on board the plane.' I thanked him and slithered away.
Arrived into Providence, RI airport and went to my sister's house for the afternoon. As mentioned before, I was going to a reunion of old friends from a radio station I used to work at. Actually, it's where Steve(Runner) and I met and worked together. Steve(Runner) picked up and went into Boston, MA in the seaport district. I hadn't been there in years and it has completely changed. It is a funny thing of how areas that you know so well when living there can change so much to confuse you. It was good to see Steve and talk about his running, my running, his podcast and how our lives are doing. And, it was good to catch up with people that I haven't seen for awhile. It was a good group to work with.
Sunday--Finally, going home! I had brunch with my sister, brother-in-law and niece in Rhode Island before heading to the airport. I get home around 3:30p. The dogs are running around playing with each other. My wife tells me about the things they've gotten into since I left. The lawn needs cut. The leaves need to be raked. It was good to be home.
(Notes: Congratuations to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning their series against the Milwaukee Brewers and advancing the National League finals against the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you know Phillies history, the Dodgers prevented us from going to the World Series in the 1970s. Should be a great series.
If you haven't signed up, please consider doing the World Wide Festival of Races this weekend. http://www.worldwidefestivalofraces.com/cgi-bin/home. It's an effort to bring the world to run one big race together. I'll be wearing number 1000 for the Half marathon challenge.
Also, does anybody have a solution on how to get rid of woodpeckers?)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Where Am I Today?

Nothing too profound this week. Just a bit of a life update.

Since PDR, I have not run one day. Nothing. Maybe a brisk walk to the car in the driveway. But, that's about it. You see, my boss at work doesn't work in the same location as me. As a matter of fact, isn't even in the same country as me. Last week, he was in town. And, we had to catch up on projects that I am doing. When that happens, my schedule gets thrown out the window.

So, you are saying, that was last week. Your excuse this week?

Here is my schedule since last Saturday:

Saturday--started in PA, went to Long Island, NY all day, back to PA by 12:30a
Sunday--started in PA, flew (with 2 hour delay) to NC
Monday--all day in North Carolina
Tuesday--started in NC, flew back to PA
Wednesday (today)--all day in PA
Thursday--starting in PA, flying to NC
Friday--all day in NC
Saturday--starting in NC, flying to Massachusetts (Providence, RI to be exact)
Sunday--starting in MA, flying to PA

(And, I'm not even in sales!)

Somewhere, somewhere, I need to get some running in. Afterall, I have a marathon in, oh, 1 MONTH!!!!!!

Here is my plan this week (I'm not saying it's a good one, it's just a plan). I'll be running today and then the next two days in North Carolina. That's it. The whole plan. If we invaded Iraq with that plan, we might be stuck there for a few years (Wait a minute? Aren't we stuck...?).

I'm hoping to get back to a better work/life balance by next week. I have as much chance of doing that as the Dow falling 700 points in a single day. (Wait a minute? Didn't the Dow fall...?)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Philadelphia Distance Run 2008 Report

My goal was to finish under 2 hours. I wanted to prove to myself that last year's race was no fluke. Because I did it once doesn't mean I could do it again. My strategy? Run the first 10 miles between 1:25-1:27. I would feel pretty confident that, whatever happens the next 3 miles, I could pull myself in doing 10 minute miles.

The forecast for the day was warm temps. But, that was more in the afternoon. During the race, it was predicted to be in the 60s. When I was driving down, the thermometer in my car was reading in the upper 40s (F) for an outside temperature. I knew I would regret it but I abandoned my singlet for a short-sleeve shirt. I also abandoned wearing a baseball cap I got from the Falmouth Road Race. It's a great cap with a sweatband built inside but, when I went to put it on, it was giving me a headache.

When I got to the Art Museum, I had planned to meet up with people who I knew. But, with 35 minutes to race time, I decided I really needed to get in the potty line as they were starting to get longer. As it turned out, good decision on my part as I had 5 minutes to spare before the start of the race. As I stood in my corral, waiting for the start, I felt as comfortable as I ever have been at a start of a race like this.

The first mile of the race takes you down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the Art Museum into Center City Philadelphia (the picture directly below is a shot of BFP but looking at the Art Museum. The one below that is from Corral 7 at the start of the race).



As I ran the first mile, I didn't feel well. I still had a headache, a bit of a sore throat, my legs were heavy, and I was thirsty. I was really surprised in being thirsty as I'm usually never thirsty during a race. I might be dehydrated in a race but I usually only see signs from other means (cramping, etc.) But, I keep moving.
The next 4 miles is through the urban jungle that is Center City. When you head east on Market Street, you are heading right into a rising sun that fills the street with little shade to hide in. It's at this point that I start to regret not wearing the singlet. You make a right off Market Street and you go past truly one of the treasures of this course, and that is, Independence Hall. (see picture below) People in this area take it for granted. But, I love being in this area of the city and what it represents to America.


Usually at the three mile mark, I can tell how my day is going to be. Last year, I settled in a comfortable pace. This year was different. I was struggling. I was still fighting my headache and my rhythm was off. I don't take fluids at the first water stop (my feeling is it will just make me want to go to the bathroom) but make sure I drink the Cytomax at the next stop. Still, I'm thirsty. But, I keep moving.
The route takes you up BFP again towards the Art Museum. From there, you make a left and head down Martin Luther King Drive. Mile 5 is mismarked as suddenly I'm doing 6 minute miles! (I have to say I wasn't sure at the time but talked to others after the race to confirm this). At mile 7, I'm at the 1 hour mark. My head is pounding even more. I know start telling myself, which becomes my mantra, 'As long as I keep my legs moving, good things will happen.' I think about how TV announcers will say that about running backs playing American football. As long as they keep their legs moving, they will be able to make the plays. So, I keep moving.
Between miles 8 and 9, you go across the Falls Bridge in the East Falls section of the city. From there you make a right down Kelly Drive heading back again to the Art Museum. There is a slight hill to get to the bridge and a slight hill down from the bridge. After the slight hill from the bridge is the mile 9 marker. Every year, I don't know why, my legs will cramp up here. This year being no exception. I slow down to gather myself and try to let the cramps subside. I've come to the conclusion that the headache and sore throat won't be going away anytime soon so I have to deal with it. But, something else happens. At this point of the race, I dread the last 4 miles. This year, I don't think about it. I'm taking it one step at a time. I keep on moving.
I hit the mile 10 marker at a little over 1:27. I downshift. There is no reason to push myself any harder than I have to now. If I do, there is a chance I won't reach my goal of a sub-2 hour time. I just keep moving.
Mile 12 is the last opportunity for water. It's also the toughest part of the course. Where Boathouse Row starts coming into the city is where the sun is at its strongest and the slight but longish hill brings you to the finish. I get past Boathouse Row but the hill continues. The sun is beating down on me. Now, I'm feeling faint. I start to walk but I know I have about a half mile to go to the end. Still, I keep moving.
I get to the crest. Someone in the crowd spots my shirt with my company name and yells encouragement to me. 50 yards from that, someone else from the crowd does the same. I'm energized at mile 13 with only .1 mile to go. I start to sprint to the end.
The last tenth of a mile is a U-turn that heads up towards the Art Museum steps (made famous in the Rockey movies. See the picture at the far bottom.) I notice that the gun time is ticking towards the 2 hour mark. I know its not the chip time but I think about the Doylestown race and want to give everything I have at the end. I keep moving but, this time, as fast as I could. I cross the finish line and look down at my watch. I finished at 1:56:33, a new PR by 17 seconds.
I'm not elated. I'm not anything. Except I am proud of myself. Not because of the PR. But, I achieved my goal of a sub-2 hour half. When I wasn't feeling so good. I did my best when I wasn't feeling my best. I think about my last blog entry that discussed the mind games you play in a race. And, how I didn't give up when I had every reason to do so. I think about a family member who is going through cancer treatments and not giving up. I'm glad I PRed. But, I'm glad more that I kept on moving.

(Picture directly below is the crowd of runners after the finish of the race)

(Notes: After the race, I did complete an additional 3 miles to finish up my scheduled 16 miler for my marathon training. It wasn't pretty and it was about a hour later but I did it. As far as not feeling well during the race, I think my allergies kicked in. I'm not sure why I was so thirsty, as I didn't take any medication for my allergies which can make me thirsty. The only thing I could think of was I ordered pasta from Outback takeout the night before butwound up with some rice dish. It was too late at night to take it back so I ate it figuring it was still carbs. Maybe too much salt in the dish? )

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mind Games

Note: Good luck to anyone running the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sunday. I'll be wearing an orange and white shirt (singlet, probably) with number 7808 starting in Corral 7. I'll be hanging out before and/or after the race by the fountain on the right hand side if you are looking at the Art Museum. If you happen to see me, please say hello!!!!

There is an interesting article in the October 2008 edition of Runner's World. (see link below)


http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244--12848-0,00.html

The article talks about the 'science of pacing'. and the fact that, you can train your legs and respitory system, but, with apologies to Bruce Springsteen, 'it's not your lungs this time, it's your heart that holds your fate'.

As I say in the 'About Me' section of this blog, I was a sprinter growing up. 100 and 220 yards. Everything beyond that, was long distance. You gave everything you got in those races. You don't have time to internally check 'how you feel'. You did that after it was over and you were gasping for breath. You didn't have time to think, just do.

Then, in high school, they threw me in a 440. I didn't know how to run it so went out as fast as I could. And died at the end. That was it. I didn't want to do it anymore. So, I walked away from it. It was because, suddenly, I was put in a position that I had to 'think' out there on the track, something I wasn't accustomed to doing.

Fast-forward some 25+ years later, and my first 5k. Now, remember, I have a sprinter's mentality. And, off I went going as fast as I could. I still maintain that most people's best times are one of their FIRST 5ks. Because, most people probably do what I did and go all out. And, experience the pain in doing so. But, your mind remembers all those horrible details and what it feels like. So, you wind up racing and training in 'comfort zones'.

As the article states: 'Perfecting your pacing--trying to run a certain distance in the shortest amount of time possible without falling apart--is a tricky art. That's because even when we watch the clock, we run largely by feel: We decide whether to speed up, slow down, or hold steady based on how much discomfort we think we can handle.' (Fellow Lake Galena runners: how many times have you eased up to save your energy going up the hill past the Nature Center? C'mon. Admit it. We anticipate we need to save that energy.)

I have yet to master this tricky art. There have been many races that I have run based on the splits on my watch and not on how I feel. I should be running this first mile at this time. And, I panic when I'm out too fast and slow down. Because, I'm afraid, I will have my own personal 'energy crisis' at the end of the race. So, I find a comfort zone that I stay in because I'm safe in this place. I will be the first to admit that I am not a confident runner.

But, it has gotten better over the years. I have learn from my mistakes. I have gotten more confident in the longer distances. I have learned that, if I'm ever going to set a new PR in the 5k, I will have to take a leap of faith and step out from that comfort zone and push myself just a little bit harder. I know physically I could do it, but convincing my mind that is a whole different challenge.

The best example, for me, is the Doylestown 5k I did over Memorial Day weekend. I remember, running the last mile in a comfort zone and telling myself that there was no reason not to push harder. So, I did. Only to convince myself that I was foolish in doing so. So, I let up a bit. Only to convince myself again that a PR was in grasp if I finished strong. And, missed it by 1 second. (Note: Yes, arguing with myself during a race may seem peculiar but, safe to say, it was only with myself. Better to do that then with, say, a dog standing on the sideline!)

So, I encourage you to read this article. And, join me coming out of the comfort zone closet. Mind over matter. Stay focus. It's a matter of trust. We can do it!!!! Can't we?

(Notes: This Sunday, September 21, 2008, I will be running the Philadelphia Distance Run (half-marathon). Forecast is for the day to be in the 70s (F) with partly cloudy skies. I intend to make PDR as part of my scheduled 16 miler for that day. Problem is I have committments for the two weekends after that so I would be behind training if I don't do it this way. Maybe not the smartest idea but why waste 13 miles if I don't have to?
I did 8 miles yesterday around Lake Galena as part of my tapering efforts and felt good despite the hot and humid weather around here. It was 1 degree shy of beating the record for high temps for that day.
Congratulations to my Hawaiian running buddy and fellow blogger, Frayed Laces, http://frayedlaces.blogspot.com/, as she finished third in her division at the Maui marathon.

RIP--Jerry Reed, who, along with the Flip Wilson, made the phrase, 'When you're hot, you're hot!' so popular in the early 1970's.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Day That Changed The World

I was sitting in my office waiting on a teleconference call. There were three of us to talk but only two had joined so far. I just started with the company only a few months ago. I was eager to show them my skills. I had just gone through months of unemployment and I knew I was lucky to have a job I liked.

When you are sitting there waiting to start a teleconference, you start to engage in small talk. The woman waiting on the call with me said, 'Did you hear a plane crashed into the World Trade Center?' Thinking that it was a just a small plane, I said, 'No, that's too bad' and continued to wait for the other to join the call. Neither one of us, at the moment, understood how the world's day was unfolding.

The third person got on the call. 'Did you hear about the World Trade Center?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'a plane hit it.' 'No', he said, 'two planes hit them!' What? We immediately ended the call to try to find out more.

Someone came in my office afterwards. 'Did you hear a plane hit the Pentagon?' 'No', I said, 'it was the World Trade Center'. 'A plane hit the World Trade Center, too?!!' None of it made sense. What was going on? We turned on the television and saw visions of the World Trade Center going up in smoke. The person next to me said, 'My God, my parents were going to go up to the skydeck there this afternoon.'

I called my wife. She worked near Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Speculation was that would be one of the targets. I told her to get out but she said she couldn't as they were closing public transportation down. Someone came into my office. 'A plane just crashed near Pittsburgh!' Pittsburgh? Why Pittsburgh? Rumors were swirling that they were going to hit major cities in the US in different time zones when people were starting their day. We were all stunned. We couldn't stop watching the coverage on television. We thought we were watching a movie as we saw the World Trade Center crumble. It can't be? How was this possible?

It wasn't until days later did we find out what happened near Pittsburgh. I worried as I have family out there. You began to hear the stories about United Flight 93. The cell phone calls made during the flight. The people in the plane finding out what happened in Manhattan. The calls to say good-bye to loved ones as they became aware of their fate. And, how the passengers took on the terrorists themselves with the words, 'Let's Roll!'. How many lives did they save that day with their brave act? How many of us could have done that without freezing in our tracks?

When I went out to my uncle's funeral, about a month ago, I stopped by the Flight 93 memorial to pay my respects. Below are some pictures I took while I was there. It is already a national park site. There is a temporary memorial until the permanent one can be built. (Here is a link to find out more about the park and how to donate to build a more permanent memorial. http://www.nps.gov/flni.) When I spoke with the park ranger there, he said the memorial will be similar to the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC. There will be a path, to the memorial, which was the original flight path leading up to the crash. (Please don't listen to the people that talk about how the crescent shape is a symbol of Islam. If you ever visited the area, it would never occur to you. It is only certain people stirring up something that's not there.) They hope to have the first phase completed in time to dedicate it in September, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the event.

The best way to describe the area around the park is, if you ever visited a Civil War battlefield, it has the same feel. There are only a few houses surrounding the area. The crash site is in the middle of a field surrounded by rolling hills. You can't believe it crashed at the spot that it did. How was it possible that it crashed at such a remote site? And the countless lives that were saved because of it?

Running in Bucks County, you will see park benches and small memorials dedicated to people who lost their lives that day. You see, Bucks County, PA is close enough to New York City to commute. When I run past a memorial that I hadn't seen before, I stop and think about the events that day. And, yet, I find it hard to watch movies about September 11th. My wife has seen the movie Flight 93 but I can't. I don't want to relive that day. And, yet, I want to honor the people that lost their lives. I will never forget.


(The pictures below are of the temporary memorial and the field of the crash. The dot in the middle of the field is an American flag where the crash occurred.)