Thursday, February 25, 2010

I like pie

I have had two great runs in a row. Tuesday, after I hemmed and hawed about going to the gym after work, I ran a 3.5 mile tempo run (with a mile warmup). I havent dont the math but I think my avg pace had to be in the low/ mid 8’s.

Last night, I went to the Delco SWarthmore Run. I really had no intention of doing anything other than a relaxed pace. I started out the run near the front of the group. Within a quarter mile, three of the fastest runners passed me and the small group that I was with. With me were three other people who arent too shabby in their own right. We werent killing the pace initially. I was keeping my eye on my average pace on Garmin, and we’re going fairly comfortable for the first 2 miles. After mile 2, they started increasing the pace, and by the time we hit the 3rd mile, we’re running an 8:37 pace, which isnt exactly tearing the road on fire, but I ran tempo the night before and I havent taken a day off in the last four days. I tried my best to stay with them, but I finally capitulated around mile 4-ish and circled back to the next group behind me. I hooked up with them, but within three minutes I stopped them and ran in the last leg on my own.

I feel good today. I am going to try and get some miles in later but its snowing right now and we’ll have to see what the rest of the day brings. I would be happy to get in just 3 – something is better than nothing.

We;’re still trying to figure out a plan for this weekend’s long run. I am hearing that Sunday will be a 15 miler. I would rather it be Saturday, but I will have to see what the group wants to do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Wrote this on Tuesday. Just getting around to publishing it now

I finally got my longest run of the year in on Sunday – 18 miles on a windy but relatively mild day.

Five of us met at Lloyd Hall at 8:00 am for a run that would take us down West River Drive, over the Falls Bridge, up through Main Street Manyunk, and back. Of the five, only three of us would be doing the full 18 miles, with the other two falling back at 6.5 miles for a total of 13 (they’re only training for a half marathon).

I hadnt run in two days – the day prior, Saturday, had me timing a big race in the am with Tim, and the Pickle immediately after. Friday, I took a rest day. So, I had fresh legs going into the run on Sunday. As a test, I wore the track flats for the entire 18 miles, and I will get into that later

We lucked out with the weather – it was a bit warmer than its been, but the windy was fairly strong. The wind was only a limiting factor on parts of the Drive where there’s no cover from the wind coming off the river.

I started out the run with four full flasks of low-cal gatorade on my Fuel belt, and four GU gels. In retrospect, I should have used the GU electrolyte replacement drink mix that I have in lieu of the Gatorade, which is really nothing more than flavored water.

The “out” leg of the run was great. The Drives have been completely plowed and were clear of snow, with the exception of some small patches of black ice here and there. Once we got into Manyunk, we run the length of Main Street. Normally, the group I was running with wouldnt even attempt to go down Main Street – they would jump on the Canal path that parallels Main, and then eventually dumps out onto the Bike Path that stretches out towards Valley Forge and beyond. However, the Canal Path was completely snowed over, so we had to improvise. However, this improvised route posed a challenge: when we reached the end of Main Street, we had to add-on some mileage in order to make the whole trip a full 18. In Manyunk, there’s really no where to go but up. Manyunk is infamous for “The Wall” – the monster climb that pro cyclists ascend fourteen times as part of the US Pro Championships. Needless to say, Manyunk is hilly, and what did we do? We climbed.

We made right onto Leverington Ave which parallels the Wall. As we started the ascent, I said to myself - “I cant believe we’re going to climb this thing. Maybe Diane is going to make a another right which would flatten us out and run us parallel to Main Street.” I couldnt have been more wrong. We went up. And up. And up until we reached the top of Leverington, at which point we made a right onto a street whose name I cant remember. That street was flat, and we ran it the length to Shurs Lane, which provided a longgggggg descent downhill back to Main Street.

So, in the middle of an 18 miler, I ran one of the largest, longest hills in the Philadelphia area. Granted, I wasnt sprinting up the damn thing, but it was a nice accomplishment that adds a bit of bravado to the long run.

The “back” leg was uneventful, although, I could definitely feel the miles wearing on me. Around mile 12 is when I think I noticed that my feet we really starting to ache, and my calves were tight. The cushionless track flats were catching up to me. But, on the positive side, I didnt feel as though my quads were being taxed as much as I would have perceived if I were wearing “normal” running shoes.

Mentally, as we cruised back down West River Drive, I was starting to get a bit antsy. I’ve come to this point before in other long runs. Its the point where you know that you’re almost there, but you’re far enough away to make the miles in-between you and the end seem like an eternity. I hit that point somewhere around mile 13. Additionally, the distance from where I was at on the Drive to the Art Museum was not enough to even out the 18 miles. Our trip would have to take us past the Museum out to the Schukyll Banks Trail, for another small out and back leg. Mentally, this is big. This is like running Broad Street (for those of you who have) and reaching the Navy Yard, thinking that you’re done, only to find that you still have another quarter mile or so into the Navy Yard to finish the race. Its a killer.

Anyway, we do the out and back leg, and around mile 17.5-ish, our route takes back out in front on the Museum, around the side, to the finish in front of Lloyd Hall. As we I rounded the corner in front of the Museum, I suddenly felt great – good enough that I had a nice kick back to Lloyd Hall.

Yesterday, I felt “ok” – much better than I thought I would but sore enough that I only managed to scrape out 3.2 miles last night with the running club. As I sit here on the train, I am still kicking around the idea of going to the gym now, and maybe getting in three (or more). The other part of me is telling me to go home and take a night off, and maybe do eight tomorrow – 3 or 4 early miles in the am and 5 tempo miles after work.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Key to Success?

I have had some of the best days of running in the last week, that I have had in a long time. Now, when I say “best” I don’t necessarily mean “fast.” Rather, the quality of the running has been above average.

I kicked things off on Saturday with a 14 miler through Fairmount Park with some of the folks from the running club. The following day, Sunday, I got up and went to the Sunday Delco morning run. I wasnt feeling great – I had a late night – so I was only banking on running 4 miles. The Sunday course is typically 7.1 miles, with a huge hill about 3/4 of the way into the course. I was planning on cutting off right before the hill. I was in a pretty good groove when I got to the cutoff, and I said “eff it” and went for it. Surprisingly, I didnt feel terrible. Granted, I wasn’t setting any kind of records on the ascent, but I felt good enough that I wasnt cursing out mankind and the world itself, as is my normal frame of mind whenever I am running uphill for any sustained amount of time. Anyway, so that impromptu hill run made the grand total for Sunday’s run 7 miles.

Monday night, I ran with the club at the Ridley YMCA. Normally, I only run one loop of the course which is about 3.2 miles. I was feeling good, and I was running with another guy, Steve, who always does two loops. When I finished the first loop, I said “eff it” and ran the 2nd loop with him.

Last night, I showed up for the Tuesday night run, which is typically 7 miles, but there’s a cutoff at 5 miles. I did the 5 miles. I wanted to run the 5 mile course tonight in Swarthmore, but a) I am tired and b) I got out of work later than I wanted to. Still, that’s quite a bit of distance to cover in four days, at least for me. 14+7+6+5 = 32. If I wasnt so tired, I would have run tonight. My legs arent tired – I am physically tired from a crappy night’s sleep. My legs fee fine.

I am would like to run tomorrow, Friday, and Sunday. I have to time a race Saturday morning and then the Pickle is later in the afternoon so I am going to defer the long run until Sunday. I have to touch base with the running club to see what’s on the menu for this weekend.

Idealistically, I would like to do 18 on Sunday. If I did 18 on Sunday, five tomorrow and so 5 on Friday, that would put me at 40 miles for the week. I would be happy with that, or maybe take it easy Friday with a slow 3 miler.

So that’s a lot of miles, and I feel really good, so what’s the difference? Last week, I didnt run for 5 days because of my calf. Why such the dichotomy in my fitness?

Answer: Track flats

I bought a pair of Nike Waffle Racers about 4 years ago. I picked them up cheaply and my intent was to use them for triathlon and 5k’s. I never really used them ever for training – maybe a handful of times in prep for a race.

I’ve been doing alot of research on barefoot running, as I think I had mentioned in some previous blog posts. If you recall, I tried the Vibram Five Fingers, and they werent for me. However, the next best thing to barefoot running is “minimalist” running – the use of shoes that do not include any type of motion control, cushioning, etc.

So, Sunday, I strapped on the Waffle’s and did the Sunday run, and I felt great. Monday, I wore them again and felt great, and again last night. My legs felt great and I felt as though I had recovered quicker from day to day. The only small issue I have is that my calves are sore, but not in pain, like they were last week. Apparently, sore calves are the norm for the first couple of runs as the body adapts to different mechanics, so I am not concerned. And like I said, what I am feeling is definitely soreness, and not pain.

I am going to continue to run in these shoes for the foreseeable future. I’ve been told to keep an eye out for stress fractures and that sort of thing, but until then, I am going to keep trucking along.

Friday, February 12, 2010


The trains have been a mess the last couple of days. Let me preface my comments by admitting that I dont expect Septa to be perfect given the amount of snow we've received over the past four days. However, what I do expect is a bit more customer service.

Example #1:
Last night, I got on the 5:22 train. Septa has a website called "Trainview" that shows realtime train status. Prior to leaving the office, Trainview told me that my train was only a few minutes late. Upon arriving at Suburban Station, my train pulled up more or less on time. However, this is where things took an immediate downward spiral.

The train sat for 30 minutes on the platform. Not once in that 30-minute span of time did a conductor make any sort of arrangement as to what the problem was. I am not asking much - just tell me whats up, even if you dont know the answer as to when the problem will remedied. Knowing something is better than knowing nothing. Turns out they couldnt find an engineer to drive the train. I am assuming that Septa was short-staffed on crews - people probably called out of work. Thats no big deal -I can understand that - just tell me what the hell is going on.

Example #2:
Monday night, Septa sends a two-car train in lieu of the normal 5 car train for the 5:50 pm train. As you can imagine, it was bedlam. People were crammed everywhere. Once we left Suburban Station, we were filled to the max. The friggen train has the audacity to pull up to the platform at 30th Street Station (that's the next stop) and take on passengers!! I hear the conductor yelling in the vestibule "MOVE BACK MOVE BACK MAKE SOME ROOM." Me, being the always even keeled calm and resolute perform, yelled back "WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GO?" C'mon man, use some friggen common sense.

Example #3:
Tonight, I get down to the station and its again the scene of chaos and anarchy. All trains were suspended due to signal problems or some cockamamy shit like that. Everyone is milling around the station, waiting for an update. All of the train status boards at each stairwell to the platforms were more or less blank. Occasional announcements were being made, but they were inaudible. How bout putting a couple of real-live customer service people at each stairwell periodically giving some updates to the throngs of passengers standing around with their thumbs up their asses?

FYI, as soon as one of the outbound trains arrived at Suburban station, I ran down that platform and jumped and amazingly got a seat. Cha-ching.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Siberian Workout


If I picked a good week to take some time off running, this is it. Over the last two days I’ve done what I am calling “The Siberian Workout.” I feel like Rocky in that Perennial Classic Rocky IV where he goes to Siberia to train for his fight against Ivan Drago.


The regimen is simple: shovel. The shovel again. Keep repeating that over and over. My back is very sore. The first round of snow on Tuesday night was very heavy. This morning, I have to shovel out the driveway, and that snow was almost ice from the plows coming through and packing it down. Good stuff. Not only do I shovel my property, but I helped my neighbor Lou shovel his a bunch of times. He just got knee replacement. Plus, with not running, and no access to the gym with the roads being all fuct up, I needed an outlet for exercise.

I ventured out on the mountain bike last night. It wasnt terrible. I had some trouble spots getting down my street because as of 6:00 last night, it wasnt plowed and it was about 6” deep. I tried to ride as best as I could in the tires tracks from the pickup trucks that had come up and down the street here and there. Once I got out to the main roads, I faired much better – everything was really packed down. I probably road about two miles – I went to Wawa to buy ice cream, got home, and somehow I lost a pint in my return trip home. It was in my pocket, and it must have slipped out. Anyway, I went back out, bought another pint, and came home. I pulled up to Wawa on my bike and I got a lot of funny looks from the guys in plows parked in the lot. That’s how I roll.

I didnt even dare attempt to go out for a run. I laid low. I was fairly exhausted yesterday from shoveling for damn near three hours, and then helping the kids make a snow for and a snow tunnel.Depending on the situation after work (I am on the train as we speak venturing into the city) I might try and go to the gym and run, or at a minimum hit the elliptical machine. I gotta be honest though – my back is really friggen sore.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I ran a tempo run last night and it’s the fasted I have run in a long time. In retrospect, it was probably a bit faster than a tempo pace. I ran two miles at an 8:00 pace and on at 8:45 pace. It felt good to stretch the ole’ legs out a bit, but it also put in perspective how out of shape I am. There was a point time where I could run that pace for 13 miles. I couldnt even touch that right now. Last night, I was knackered after 3.5 miles at that pace!

Tonight, I am completely blitzed. I took one of my wife’s sleeping pills last night, and I swear it did something to me. I woke up this morning feeling like I didnt sleep, and I was in a fog most of the morning. I am still in a fog now. I am moving in slow speed. I am definitely not running tonight. I just want to go home and sleep.

We got some awful weather headed this way which figures, because I have another long run planned for this weekend. I want to do at least 18. Right now, there’s a tentative plan to do 18 on Saturday morning along the Schukyll River Trail with some of the peeps from my running club. These fools are still planning to go even it snows, and if that’s the case, then I am going with them. I am at about 9 miles for the week; if I do 3 tomorrow, and 18 on Saturday, that will put me close to 30, which is my target. The nice part about Saturday is the course is FLAT, unlike the hilly routes I have been running around my neck of the woods. Thank god! Since it’s flat, I think I can sneak out and do an easy three tomorrow which shouldnt tax my legs at all. This should be a hoot.