Tuesday, July 29, 2008

21st Annual MCAP 'Run for the Hill of It' 5 mile Race Report

I wasn't sure I should have been doing this race. Afterall, there were so many reasons not to do it. Because of vacation, my running was inconsistent in June. And, I was coming off an injury

that prevented me from walking let alone running. I was making my way back. Slowly but surely. More slowly than it was surely.

Still, I needed to find out where I was in regarding to the Falmouth Road Race in a few weeks time. And, a work colleague of mine from England wanted to do a race while he was over here. What better way to spend your timeoff in a different country than to run a 5 mile race? What better way, indeed.

The race is held in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. About as suburban as you can get without being in the suburbs. It is run on a path in Fairmont Park called Forbidden Drive next to the Wissahickon Creek. It's a popular spot for runners, walkers, strollers, etc. as it is, not just scenic but very shady. An out and back course. Not much of an elevation drop but rolling hills that seem to go on forever as you return.

I picked up my colleague from his hotel in downtown Philadelphia at 6:30a (as a frame of reference, I'm about a 45 minute drive without traffic from his hotel). We were planning for him to take the train up to Chestnut Hill, but it would have been very tight to pick him up, park, register, go back to the car and run the race. So, off we went for the half hour drive to the site of the race.

(I'm always fascinated to talk to my colleagues from England on what they think of America. One of the things he remarked about was how 'cheap' petrol (gasoline) was in the states. He saw a sign for gas prices and asked me was $4 for a litre or a gallon. I said gallon and he responded, 'Blimey, that's cheap.' In the UK, they pay around $11 a gallon. Lots of public transportation going on over there).

We got there with plenty of time to spare. As we were signing up, my colleague thought it would be a good idea to just put his hotel name down as his address. 'No,' I said, 'I want to see their reaction when they see your home address.' Well, the people behind the desk didn't know what to do. 'You're from England?' was their remark. 'How do we enter this?' As they were debating, we were going back to the car to drop off our goody bag.

As we were waiting for the start of the race, a fellow runner came up to us and asked, 'Have you seen the Phillie Phanatic today?' (pictured above. And you thought it was a picture of my colleague). Startled, I said, 'Am I suppose to?' Plus, I thought, I'm not sure if my colleague is the right person to ask anyway. The fellow runner said, 'Yes, he was here last year and I wanted to get my picture with him and I didn't have my camera at the time. I wanted to be ready this year'. (For those of you who don't know, the Phillie Phanatic is the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team mascot and is considered one of the best sports mascots in the country. Kids and adults in the Philadelphia area love him. People in other areas just don't get him.)

The race was about to start. Temps were in the low 80s (F) with lower humidity. The Phillie Phanatic makes his appearance. He is working the crowd. In his own way, he is saying hello to all. (He doesn't speak) My colleague is talking to me. Suddenly, the PP comes up behind him and wraps his green arms around my colleague and gives him a big hug. My colleague turns around and gives PP a high-five. I told my colleague that kids in Philadelphia would love to have been in his shoes at that moment. The national anthem begins to play. My colleague doesn't know what to do. You see, they don't play the national anthem in England for sporting events. He commented to me how truly unique Americans are.

The race starts. My colleague is way ahead. Doesn't matter. I need to run my race. I look down at my Garmin. I can see the minutes and seconds but no distance or pace. Crap! I think about Frayed Laces July 20, 2008 race report and the comments associated and the issues she had with her Garmin that day. (http://frayedlaces.blogspot.com/) I think about the people who I knew that week that had phone problems, cell problems, WiFi problems, internet problems. I immediately think the evildoers have found a way to cripple us. They are taking our communications away. They have jammed the Garmin satellite systems. It is their way of getting back at us. I will have to figure out my pace the old-fashioned way--wait for the first mile marker and see what time it is then.

I am struggling that first mile. I must be going out too fast. Probably a 7:30 pace. I hit the first mile. I was doing 8:30s. 8:30s? Damn. Seems like a lot more effort than an 8:30.

I hit mile 2 at the same pace. I think I am going to die. I'm struggling. And this is a 5-miler? I hit the halfway point and have to slow down. Slowing down forces me to gather myself. Yes, people were passing but I wasn't stopping. And, that's what I felt like doing after mile 2.

I finally found my pace. I wasn't struggling anymore. I had to plow ahead. And, my Garmin awoke. Ok, maybe it wasn't the evildoers afterall. Or maybe it was and they were taking a coffee break and that's why my Garmin was working again. Or, maybe it was the trees that were blocking the satellite links at the start of the race. I still think it was the evildoers.

The last mile is mostly uphill that seemingly goes on forever. You get to a corner, make the turn, to see the next corner. But, with a 100 yards to go, I see the finish. My colleague has already finished and he is cheering me from the sidelines. I want to make sure I break 45 minutes. I do, easily with a 44:17 finish. I'm tired. I'm sweating. But, I feel great. I feel back.

We waited around for the results to be posted. We found him on the sheet. His address shows up as 'England, PA'. The race director said, 'yes, we could hardly believe it but there was a fellow from England in this race! We didn't know what to do so we just put England down as the city.' We both chuckled.

As we were leaving the race, I asked my colleague his thoughts. He loved it. He couldn't believe how well organized it was and the food that was available before and after the race. We ran into the fellow runner looking for PP. "Did you find him?', I shouted. 'Yes,' he said, 'but I forgot my camera again.' Maybe next year.

(Notes: I ran 5+ miles the Thursday before the race at the 'new' old course at TZ Sports. My favorite running store moved from New Britain back to Doylestown, right across the street from where they were previously. They are now sponsoring a Thursday night run on a course that was popular when they were located in Doylestown before. I also ran 6 miles around the lake the day after the race. Again, slow and steady.

This certainly has been the year of not making up my mind. Steve wrote me and wants to do a marathon together afterall. We are now looking at the OBX marathon (http://www.obxmarathon.org/site3.aspx) in Outer Banks, North Carolina on November 9, 2008. I was hestiant to do this as I thought it was going to be all open with little shade. Looking at the website, it doesn't seem to be as open as I first thought. I still haven't ruled out Columbus but this might fit my timing better.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I've Been Tagged!!!

Awhile ago, I was tagged by Eric, author of the great blog, Running for My Life (http://ruralrunnere.blogspot.com/). As I understand the rules of being tagged (actually, I don't really KNOW the rules of being tagged but I did see evidence in other blogs), I have to answer specific questions. Here goes:

1) How would I describe my running 10 years ago?
Nonexistent. I just moved back into the Philadelphia area having lived in central New Jersey for about 10 years. I was running in the Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile events in the spring but I would only train for a few months at a time to get ready for a single event. I was playing basketball on Sunday nights at the local church for about 5 years. I also played a little softball. When I moved back to Philadelphia, there wasn't a place to be able to do that. I wound up not doing any sports or regular exercise for a few years.

2) What is your best and worst race experience?
I think, by far, my best race experience was the Disney World marathon. And, I'm not sure if it will ever be topped. For that race, I had to do 2 long runs in England--a 12 miler through London and a 16 miler on a path from Hatfield to St. Albans. DW marathon takes you through the 4 theme parks there, so it was never boring. It was also my second 'official' marathon but the first that I was fully healthy. The whole experience, from getting up at 2AM to the finish outside of Epcot, was a great thrill and one I will never forget!
The worst experience was the Yough River Trail Council Half-marathon. It is held in Connellsville, PA. I made too many assumptions that day and all of them were bad. I wore the wrong shirt (long sleeves on a day that turned out to be in the 60s), didn't bring my own food (doesn't every town have Clif Bars?), went out too fast, no Gatorade on the course, only water, cramping in my legs on an out and back course so HAD to finish to get to my car, on and on and on. I learned so much that day. A very humbling experience.

3) What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
This is difficult as I'm sure I've been given lots of advice through the years on running but I'm too stubborn to listen to it. Someone gave me advice on proper nutrition before a race and when you should take gels during a race. I followed that advice and was happy with the results. Another piece of advice, which I have heard from different sources, is about the mental aspect of running. When I am finishing up a race or a training run and know I only have a mile or so to go but too tired to go on, I tell myself, 'You can do anything for 10 minutes'. I've gotten through some tough runs and races (and meetings at work) with this thought in my head.

4) Why do you run?
I first began to run because of stress in my life. I continued to run because of the challenges in presents me. I still believe that if I can run a marathon, I can handle anything in life. It feels like a long time but there is an endpoint where you can relax. What I didn't anticipate was the friendships I forged. Running is a big part of my social life. Seeing Steve twice a year for races, meeting up with the Blue Dawgs when I can, running the Holiday 8 in Doylestown, races in the area, 'meeting' people on the internet whom I've never seen or even heard their voices before but feel I know about their lives, and, especially, being able to share time with my wife in something we both enjoy.

5) Tell us something surprising about yourself that many people would not know.
Hey, I'm an open book! I have nothing to hide!!!!!
Maybe one of the most surprising thing is how many celebrities I knew around when I graduated college. (But they weren't real celebrities back then). I was the manager for the Boston University basketball team for two years. (Head manager for one of those years). The coach of BU was Rick Pitino, who is presently head coach at the University of Louisville but was head coach at the University of Kentucky when they won the national championship in the 1996. Coach Pitino hired me for the position and gave me an athletic scholarship to be the head manager. I also had to babysit his son in the San Diego Sports Arena during a practice session with the team.
Out of college, I was a producer for a radio station in Boston. It was during the baseball strike in 1981, when I worked with Jon Miller, who was the color analyst for the Boston Red Sox. Jon Miller, now, is the play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco Giants but also does the same role for ESPN Sunday night baseball. To give Red Sox fans their baseball 'fix', Jon would play Strat-o-matic baseball games using Red Sox players and would do the play-by-play for these pretend games. These games were taped and played back later. I was the producer and engineer for these games.
I also worked as a producer for the Massachusetts Attorney General, who, from time to time, would have a weekend show to take calls from listeners. That AG was John Kerry, Democratic nominee for president in 2004.

(Notes: Thank you all for your participation in the most recent poll. 8% said yes, you wear sunscreen, 33% said yes, but only on long runs and the majority (58%) said no, you don't wear sunscreen at all. I may be running in the 'For the Hill of It' 5 miler in Chestnut Hill, PA on Saturday. I'll post as I know more. I ran 7 miles along the Delaware River with Eric on Sunday morning. As everyone knows by now, it's freakin' hot around here!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunscreen or Not to Sunscreen?

On the right side of my blog, I have listed some of the websites I often visit. As you can see, a few of those are newspaper websites. I like to get opinions from different parts of the country and see what makes news in their local areas. A lot of times, I will be following a certain story that I read while I was visiting that location. Other times, such as Boston or London, I've been there enough times that sites that are referenced, I am aware of first-hand. What does this have to do with the topic at hand? Not a whole lot, other than to explain why I read the San Francisco Chronicle website.

Last week, I saw this story on their website. I thought for sure this was going to be a national story but, afterwards, didn't see it in any other paper. So, I wanted to pass this information to people who read this blog.


Now, hopefully, I will get my facts straight here. A few years ago, I had a growth removed from my arm that was diagnosed as carcinoma, which is skin cancer. My understanding is my kind of carcinoma does not typically spread through the body and removing is the best thing. However, having it makes me more susceptible to skin cancer in the future. In truth, I can tell you that I have growths now similar to the one that was removed. Do I take any more precautions now then when I was first diagnosed? Of course not. Well, maybe. I do use sunscreen more often than I did before. But, having read this article, I have to think twice on the kind I'm buying from now on.

As a kid, I don't remember this being a big issue. Back then (and I will date myself here), there was no SPF. It was suntan lotion or suntain oil. That's it. Lotion prevented a sunburn. Oil was to get a dark tan. But, now, I know quite a few people who have had to deal with carcinoma or melanoma.

So, my poll question will ask, 'Do you use sunscreen on your runs?' Something to think about. It's sound like not all sunscreen lotions are all alike.

(Notes: I ran/walk six miles yesterday around Lake Galena. I am happy to report my foot is fine. No problems yesterday, none today. I had to take a walk break but, surprisingly, not because I was winded. My calves started aching after a few miles and after coming down the half mile hill. But, overall, I was satisfied and glad to be back in action. I'm back to planning on going up to Falmouth the weekend of August 9. Off for a few days to North Carolina on business. Hopefully, will be able to get a run in while down there.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Diagnosis

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
--Joni Mitchell

Since I last posted, things turned ugly for awhile. I hobbled around for a few days, almost to the point that I wasn't able to walk at all. I really did it this time. But what did I do? So, off to the podiatrist to find out what was going on with my left foot. (Before going on, check back next week for those who are squimish)

He checked my foot. He poked my foot. He scrapped my foot. He froze, then poked a hole in it, then let it drain. It was infected. But he still wasn't sure if there was any foreign matter in it. So, he laid it out for me. He told me this isn't good. I needed to get on ABs right away. I need to soak my foot in epsom salts, three times a day. I needed to change my bandage (a big, bulky bandage) three times a day. I needed crutches. I needed to get an ultrasound to find out how far in my foot this foreign matter had gotten in. Most likely, I would need to get surgery of some kind. And, the last thing he said, 'We're going to see a lot of each other in the next few weeks. You should have seen a doctor sooner.' What have I done? Why didn't I go to the emergency room in Kauai? I thought for sure my summer, my year was ruined.

The next day was Fourth of July so couldn't get an ultrasound done. But, strangely, I was feeling much better. I was able to walk on it with little pain. I didn't push myself but I certainly wasn't hobbling around like I was the previous few days.

Saturday, we had company and we all went down to Baltimore for the day. I thought this was going to push it over the edge. But, again, just a little bit of swelling but not too bad.

I had the ultrasound done on Monday. After reading the scan, the radiologist said that my body was reacting to a foreign matter that wasn't there. Uh, come again? Something was there but is either not there anymore or too little to find it on the ultrasound. Now, I have a deep bruise.

So, today, I was back in the podiatrist office. He was happy with what he saw. There is still a bruise. There is still a lump. But, it could be scar tissue. And, it doesn't hurt a tenth of what it did before. The big question--can I start running again? The answer: Yes!!!!! But, I need to stop if it starts hurting again. I have an appointment in two weeks to check it again. I am not 100% cured but I don't need surgery. I have to wait a few more days to start up again but I can go back to normal.

Wow! Whew! I had given up on Falmouth. I had given up on the Distance Classic. I had given up on running a marathon. I had given up this year. But, now, now I have new life again. And, I didn't realize how much I missed it until I couldn't do it anymore.

(Notes: I want to congratulate my wife and her friend Kim on an excellent job in running the Revolutionary Run 5k at Washington Crossing, PA on the Fourth of July.. Last year, my wife badly sprained her ankle and had to go through rehab for it. I'm very proud of the work she put in and the accomplishment of coming back to run another 5k. I wanted to do the 10k that day but was left on the sidelines. It was difficult not to participate but I saw it from a different perspective as I watched them start, cross the first mile and finished. Great job!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Left Foot

I was going to happily announce that my recent foot injury has cease to become a problem and I am back to normal running. Until this morning.....

I ran in the Tex-Mex 5k race in North Wales, PA last Wednesday. Although going downhill was a little rough on my foot, I still was able to finish the race in a reasonable time of 26:40. After the race, my foot felt fine. And, too the next day. So, I tested it more.

I ran about 5 miles on it Friday. Twinges of pain but it would go away after awhile. And, nothing the next day. Test it even more.

I ran six miles around Lake Galena on Sunday. Granted it was hot and, looking back in my running diary for June, I didn't run a lot, I did wind up walking part of the way around the lake. But, again, it was making sure my foot was not going to cause me issue. After I started, I was convinced that it was fine again. Again, just a twinge of discomfort but my stride was back so I was not turning my foot slightly when I was landing on it.

So, when my wife suggested to run a few miles yesterday, I gladly said yes. And, there was no issue. Except this morning when I started walking around. More precisely, hobbling around. And, the area around the hole in my foot is swollen again. And tender again.

What happened? I did wear a different pair of running shoes during yesterday's run. Plus it was two days in a row that I ran. The shoes? Or the frequency? Either way, frustrating as I want to begin serious marathon training.

I have two races I was going to do in the next week. One a 10k, the other a 5k. I guess I just have to be patient.

Afternoon Update since I posted the above in the morning: My foot has turned black and blue so saw the company nurse. No immediate dange of having my foot cut off but no running for awhile. If not better in two days, I need to go to the doctor and possibly get ABs for it. Ugh!

(Note: Still no definitive plan for a fall marathon but am starting to look at the Columbus marathon on Oct. 19. For those who know me I'm sure you are trying to figure out where this idea came from as I have never mentioned it before. My wife has a friend who lives in Columbus, Ohio that we had lunch with over the weekend when the friend was in town. It came to me that it might be fun to go to Columbus on an overnight trip. I could run the marathon while my wife could hang out with her friend. And, with me, she will have a LONG time to hang out with her friend while I am out there marathoning. Plus, in the back of my mind, I might be aiming to joining the 50 state +DC marathon club. Of course, at this pace, I will be in my 90s before completing but, if I do Philadelphia again, I might have to wait until my 100s before completing. Not sure if I could wait that long.)