Monday, August 31, 2009

Where I Run (Delaware River)

I wanted to do 10 miles over the weekend. My regular route was closed for construction so I decided to head up to the Delaware River.

Below are some short videos of where I run when I head up to the Delaware. The first video is in the town of Stockton, New Jersey. But Joe, you might ask, why do you go to New Jersey when you live in Pennsylvania? Stockton is about a half hour from my house and a good place to start the run. Parking is easy and you can either go north or south on the Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail. The trail is around 30 miles long running parallel to the Delaware River.

What you see in the first video is a 360 degree view of where I start my 7 mile loop. I run from Stockton south for about 3+ miles to the town of Lambertville, NJ, then across the bridge over to New Hope, PA, up and short hill and pick up the canal path on the Pennsylvania side and head north for another 3+ miles to Center Bridge, PA. The second video will show you the bridge that I cross to finish up the 7 miles.

If I need to add any additional mileage, I will head north on the towpath (just for a change of scenary). There is a good run from Stockton north to Bull Island but you can't cross into Pennsylvania and run on the towpath coming back. A few years ago, there were a series of floods that washed out the towpaths on that side of the river. They rebuilt it once for a hefty sum of money only to have it flooded again washing out parts of the path up and down the Delaware. They have talked about rebuilding once again but, with these tough economic times, not sure when they will happen. Luckily, the Pennsylvania side is not totally closed but you have to know where they are open or you'll be in for a big surprise.

As a frame of reference, Stockton is about 10 mile north of where Washington crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776.

The towpath is a mixture of sand and gravel. After Saturday's heavy rain, the run on Sunday felt a little like running on the beach. Believe me, I had some dead legs at the end of the run.

Anyway, I hope you get a sense of one of the places where I train. It's a beautiful area and I enjoy going up there on an early weekend morning.

(above: beginning of the Stockton loop)

(above: at the end of the 7 mile loop)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Steve Runner on the BBC

Just found out that Steve Runner will be on the BBC Cambridgeshire as a guest on the Sue Dougan show to talk about running. He should be on around 9:30a EDT (14:30A UK time).

Here's the link if you want to listen in:

BBC Cambridgeshire (click on the 'Listen Live' section on the right. You will need Real Player to listen in.

If you didn't catch it, click here for a replay.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I've Been Everywhere, Man!

It certainly seems I have done my fair share of travelling this year. This weekend was no exception as my wife and I went down to Washington DC to meet up with her family. But, the weekend started off with a 5k race. The annual Ivyland 5k or as the locals call it, the 'Pancake race.'

We woke up Saturday morning around 6a to the sounds of thunder, lightning and heavy rain. At that point we were questioning our sanity on whether or not to run this race. This particular event has a special meaning to me as it was my first race I did when I got back into running and stayed with it. So, I like to try to run it whenever I can. Plus, the entry fee is very reasonable and you get free pancakes, peaches, coffee and orange juice at the end. Who doesn't like free? By 6:45a, the rain had lightened up and we decided to just go for it.

As we were waiting around for the start, the rain had eased up but the humidity was like a blanket over us. Luckily, it wasn't hot just humid. I wasn't going to push myself anyway. Humidity and I don't seem to get along very well and that day would be no exception. It will make me nauseous if I push it and, with the second mile being all uphill, it didn't make sense to do so. My goal for the race was just do sub 9:00 miles.

By the first mile (which I did in 8:15), I was pretty drenched in sweat. And, the picture wasn't going to get any prettier. As I mentioned, the second mile is long, slow uphill climb. I was passing people along the way but paid for it as I crested the hill and tried to recover. The third mile was down the hill you just climbed. I don't know why I never think of this until after a race but I should bring a bandana or small washcloth on days like this. Your eyes sting from the sweat pouring down. A hat could help but why don't I just carry something in my pocket?

As I rounded the bend to the finish line, I felt strong. I sprinted the last 100 yards with relative ease and finished officially at 26:25 (26:19 watch time). All three miles were under 9:00 so I was pleased with the results. Leading up to the race, my wife wasn't sure how she was going to do but she did fine. I was proud of her as she doesn't have a lot of confidence when she trains but tries hard during the race and does the best she can. After the race, we headed directly to the firehouse and scarfed down our share of pancakes as we needed to hit the road for Washington DC.

It only takes about 3 hours to get to Washington DC from our house. I've been down there many times but I never get tired of going. We stayed in Alexandria, VA which is great town to visit in and of itself. Plus, it is convenient to just hop on the Metro to go into Washington.

The trip down was uneventful until we hit the city itself. Then it poured. And poured. My wife's family didn't get down there until later than expected. The plan was to go see the Washington Nationals play the Milwaukee Brewers that night as we had tickets to the game. I was never in this stadium before so I saw it as an extension of my baseball trip back in June.

It was dinnertime by the time my wife's family got there, so we decided to eat in Alexandria before heading over to the game. It was still coming down pretty hard so we knew that either the game was going to be in a rain delay or, if not, who the heck wants to sit out in the rain anyway?

We headed for the game after dinner and wound up missing only the first two innings (though we did miss out on a chance to get a Frank Howard bobblehead and the Brewers were up 7-2 when we entered the stadium). It is a nice stadium, but, in my travels, all the new stadiums are nice now. The crowd was on the smaller side, I'm sure because of the weather but the team isn't that good as well. There were areas of the stadium that was closed and it didn't have that buzz you get from a large crowd. Still, the Nationals did have a chance to come back as they wound up tying it at 8-8 but losing at the end, 11-9. It was long day and night and we were all ready to go back to the hotel.

On Sunday, we headed for the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. It had been awhile since I was there and, again, it's something I don't ever get tired of going. We spent most of the day there and, in truth, we didn't get a chance to see everything we wanted. It's just a great place to walk around and see history, especially seeing the Apollo 11 command module in the 40th anniversary year of its flight. You look how cramped the conditions were and the fact the computer power for the mission was equivalent to running something with today's cellphone and you just wonder how they did it. Truly amazing.

Afterwards, we walked around a bit before heading home. The dummy that I am forgot to bring my camera along (by the way, it doesn't count if you take your camera out of the drawer, charge the battery, put it in a place that you won't forget to bring it along but don't actually physically place it in the luggage) but did have my cellphone to take some pictures.

Despite the weather, it was a fun weekend and a good way to start winding down the summer and prep for the fall.

(Notes: SteveRunner and I have signed up for the Valley Harvest half-marathon in Wolfville, Nova Scotia on October 11, 2009 as we celebrate the 3rd annual World Wide Festival of Races weekend. Though my intention at the beginning of the year was to run a marathon as the finishing touch of my 50 years of life celebration, it became more appealing to me to train only for a half marathon instead. Plus, Steve agreed with me that it might be best for him to slow down this year and let his ankle heal a bit. As of now, I plan on running the Philadelphia Distance Run in September and possibly do the half at the Philadelphia marathon in November. It may be too ambitous and I may say the heck with that after Nova Scotia but that's the plan so far.)

(Above: Washington Monument)

(Above: The Capitol Building from the National Mall)

(Above: The Lunar Lander at the Air & Space Museum)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When The Hero Takes a Fall

When I read the news, I sighed. I didn't know how to react. Nor did I think I should react. But, nonetheless, I shook my head and sighed again in disappointment. The story I'm referring to is about the basketball coach of the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino and his affair with another woman other than his wife and the aftermath. And, you are asking, why should I care? Because Rick Pitino was my boss for two years when I was in college.

In the past several years, people I knew, 'heroes' in my eyes, one by one have shown their human frailities. First, it was baseball players and the whole steroid controversy. I was disappointed but not shocked about players taking drugs to find an edge over their competition. I recently read the book Ball Four by Jim Bouton which came out in 1970. Even back then, Bouton mentioned the proliferation of 'greenies' to give a player a boost before gametime. But, I didn't know any players personally so it didn't directly affect me and I still love the game of baseball.

But, then the priest scandal broke about the sexual abuse and the years of coverup that followed. Having been an altar boy, I understood how that could have happened. Growing up, priests were men to be admired. It was what your parents hoped how you would model your own life. So, for the most part, you hung on every word when a priest spoke. When the list of priests that were involved in the sexual abuse scandals in Philadelphia were posted, and there were some priests that I knew and served Mass with, it absolutely broke my heart. I couldn't believe it. No, not them. And, why did the Archdiocese hide these men?

But, my faith in mankind was starting to return in the past few years. Then, I read about my former boss and his affair in the restaurant. You see, I was a manager for the Boston University basketball team when Rick Pitino started out as a head coach. He interviewed me for the job and hired me. The first year, I was an assistant manager to the team. By the second year, Coach Pitino named me as the head manager.

There was no pay involved. At least, directly. Coach Pitino knew that so he gave me a $500 scholarship so I didn't have to work outside of basketball for the year. (It would probably be equivalent to getting a $2000 scholarship today). He would also 'give' me paying jobs to do. For instance, he would ask me if I wanted to make a few bucks to be the official scorer for a basketball game. To a starving college kid, who wouldn't want to? But, during the game, when his emotions would run high, it was interesting the 'discussions' we had if he questioned the official scorer's decisions.

I also had the chance to come to know his wife. They were just starting a family back then. You see, Coach Pitino was only 26 when he was hired as the head coach for BU. One time, the team went out to San Diego over winter break to play a university out there. (Name of the university escapes me). The game was at the San Diego Sports Arena and we had practice the day before the game. I showed up on court and coach approached me and said, 'My wife wants to go shopping in San Diego. I have one job for you today. And, one job only. You need to babysit my son and you have the whole Sports Arena to do it in.' I am the youngest child in the family. I didn't have kids in my life at the time. I had no idea how to entertain a 3 year old. So, I walked around, up and down, around and around that Sports Arena for two hours as the team practiced.

Through the years I have followed Rick Pitino. I have followed the ups in his career as he brought different teams to the Final Four and, finally, winning a National Collegiate Championship at the University of Kentucky. I have followed the downs in his career as he tried to venture into the world of the NBA only to fail not once but twice. I followed the story of the death of one of his sons. I admired him the way he handled things and how he was able to keep coming back because he believed in himself. And, I think the same way as I go through life.

But, then I hear about his affair and I ask why? Why would you do that to your family? Why would you do that to your spouse? And, I think of Mrs. Pitino and the humilation she must have felt. And, I ask myself, is there any more truly good people in this world?

The more I thought about, the more I realized that the thing these people have in common was power. They had the power of thinking they won't get caught. There would be no ramifications. And they abused that power. Why, they think this way, I don't know. How they live with themselves I don't know. And, then I think of my father, who truly is a hero to me.

He was a kid born in the coal mines in western Pennsylvania who didn't have electricity for the first 12 years of his life. He taught me the values of hard work and keeping my nose clean. He and my mother brought my sisters and I up right. He had hard days in his work life. He has some hard days in the past few years with his health. But, he never complains. He is an 'everyman'. And, usually, 'everymans' are the heroes that should be followed.

It is hard when your heroes fall. But, maybe its my own fault. Maybe they shouldn't have been heroes at all to start with. Maybe if I stay within my own family I'll have all the heroes I need.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Everchanging Dynamics

It's been awhile since we've all got together. It's not unusual we go our own separate ways in the summer, but, this past 12 months has been different. You see, the Blue Dawgs are stepping out on the town tonight. Or, in reality, we are running a few miles and heading for the Blue Dawg Tavern for a cold one or two.

I often marvel at dynamics of a situation. How do people converge, that, for a brief moment, they all think alike? What do I mean? A few years ago, there were quite a few fellow runners that would meet up on Wednesday nights in the summer and run together. Then, a few of us (what became known as the Blue Dawg group) kept on running through the winter. There were very few times any of us would miss that night. And, the spring/summer would come and, the scene shifted with more people added, but all thinking alike. And, then winter. Summer. And on. And, you swore, that it would go on forever. Or, at least, it felt that way.

But, things in life change. Jobs change, careers shift, people start families, injuries occur, what was once a high priority doesn't feel that way anymore. The dynamics of the situation have changed. And, you try to put your finger on where. Where did it change? And why?

Can that dynamic ever be recaptured? Is it like putting the genie back in the bottle? What you once took for granted, you now reflect on how special that moment in time was. When a group of people all thought alike and wanted and could run together.

There are times we get together individually. But, the summer runs on Wednesday nights have all but disappeared. Or, maybe, it was me not paying attention and they are still happening. Dunno. But, I miss the comraderie.

I look forward to this evening to find out how everyone is and, as Eric T wrote to us, to tell of our summer war stories. And, maybe it will not be just to tell stories but to plan new ones for ourselves. You can bet I won't be taking it for granted.

(Notes: For the record, I did go through Falmouth withdrawal. I thought about it all morning yesterday and wondered what the weather conditions were for the race. Hopefully, things will be different next year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Different Ways of Finding your Motivation

One of the things I wanted to talk about, when I was training for the triathlon, was where I was training. No, not where I ran, as it was pretty much the same places where I always run. And, I don't think there are too many differences in indoor swimming pools, though, I think the YMCA pool was longer than the pool at LA Fitness. (Not that you would care.) No, I was looking for a place to train for the bike portion of the race. And, I was looking for a place different than I normally trained. So, I went back to the future.

During my triathlon class, something my coach (Sharon) mentioned was to try to find a neighborhood that you could ride in to do training. In that way, you are off the main streets and less likely to get injured. My neighborhood would have been fine (I've run around there many times) but it is a bit hilly. Plus, I wanted something different. I decided to go back to the neighborhood of where my grade school is located. It was a perfect place as it was slightly hilly in spots but mostly flat.

Now, you might want a short history of me to understand that, even though I live about 20 minutes away from where I grew up, it wasn't always that way. You see, I lived in Boston for 10 years. Then New Jersey for 10 years. And, 12 years ago, I came back to live in the Philadelphia area again. And, the past few years, I began to reconnect with the people who I knew growing up in the area especially those I went to grade school. Though I've passed by my grade school on a number of occasions over the years, I felt like a tourist just passing through the area. I might drive through maybe 2-3 times a year. Even though I didn't live that far away.

So, I would take my bike and park in my old school's parking lot. The first time I did it, I drove around looking for a good loop that I could do. I knew I could find 3-4 mile course as I swear I lived 10 miles from the school to start. And, to get to any of my friends' houses would take hours. Ah, nope. As it turned out, the neighborhood was a little smaller than I remembered.

But, after some trial and error, I did find an appropriate loop about 3+ miles long. Whizzing by, I would look at the houses and think, 'So and so lived there.' And, 'this is the way I would take to the park when I was visiting so and so.' People who lived there now must have thought I was nuts as I would do 3-4 loops around. Luckily, I did run into a few other people on bikes so I didn't feel like a complete idiot racing around.

After I was done for the day, I would sit on the steps of the school and just think about days long ago when I would play in this schoolyard. It's not a glamorous place. It's just your everyday, run-of-the-mill school that you would see in Anytown USA. But, in this everchanging world we live in, it was nice to have something anchored that hadn't changed. People find different ways to motivate themselves to train. Mine was to go back and reconnect with my past.

(Notes: In some ways, it won't seem like I went through a summer this year. This coming weekend is the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Though I was selected in the lottery to run the race, Steve (Runner) was not, so I've decided not to take the trip up by myself. I've been doing the race for the past 5 years and its been a bit of summer tradition so it will feel a bit strange not to do it.

Speaking of Steve, yet another change of plans for the fall. We both decided not to do a fall marathon but instead concentrate on the half marathon instead. Steve has had a nagging ankle injury and, in truth, I wanted a break from 4 hour long training runs in August and September. So, as of today, this moment, we are considering either the Valley Harvest Half-marathon in Wolfville, Nova Scotia the weekend of October 9 or the Prince Edward Island Half-marathon the following weekend. Valley Harvest is presently in the lead as, in comparing the logisitics and costs with both, it seems to be the more 'friendlier' to get to and on the wallet.

And, yes, as predicted, it has been a short transition as I am starting to get back into the swing of things for training. I am going to include some swimming and biking as I train for the half marathon. Yes, a little more running as well but I don't want to fall too far behind as I look forward to next year's opportunities to compete in triathlons :-) )

(This picture has nothing to do with this post. I was starting to download some pictures on my computer when I put my camera down on my desk at this angle. When I looked through the viewfinder, I liked the composition and the lighting so I took the picture. )