Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Running Start Foundation

Please help: It's up and official! Both A and myself have our charity-running websites up as we each raise money for A Running Start when we run Chicago on October 7th.

A Running Start has a mission of addressing the impoverishment of the East African part of our world through sports, by enabling youngsters in that running-rich region to attend U.S. schools on running scholarships (as Rich once joked to me, we need to encourage the Kenyans to keep beating us so badly in marathons, right?), encouraging students to stay in school and using sports to promote development and education. (Left: A on the bridge.)

A explains it better than I do. She's also far ahead of me, already, in her training for the marathon and she's going to kick my butt in it. She's leading the whole Chicago-group in fundraising. Go to her site and help her out.

Or go to my site and help me out. It's a good cause, and God willing, I know we're both gonna do our best on October 7th. (Right: 2006 NYCM, 15 minutes away from Tavern on the Green.)

Running update: I ran 50.5 miles in May. On Tuesday morning I ran a mile around my house to limber up in 7:31. Leading a running group of four at work yesterday at noon, I ran about 4.3 miles on the Mall in about 43 minutes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Break Up the Team!

Running update: On Monday I ran the Falls Church Memorial Day 3K Fun Run, held this year in memory of Jerry Ziskind, a local teacher who passed on in December. My oldest son had him in first grade and he was a wonderful teacher. It's nice to see educators recognized.

Although my left leg continues to be sore due to tendonitis, it warms up after about a mile and is okay. My time was 12:52 (6:54). I passed the first mile in about 7:45 then sped up. I'll tell you a secret about this free, unrecorded 3K race. It's short by about 500 feet so it's great for PRs. I think my real pace for the actual distance was about 7:34.

Team update: Team results came out for the Capitol Hill Classic which was run on May 20th. The competitive race is the 10K but the 3K, which my team entered, has a team competition too. This is the second year in a row we won. Our team's average time for the 3K was 12:30. We beat the next team by over eleven minutes, which had an average time of 23:41. Here are the 1927 Yankees immediately after the race.

(Above: Murderers' Row, right to left, with our overall standings in the 3K race. G, first, A, fifth, myself, fifteenth, Bex, seventeenth out of 273 participants. Among the women, A was second and Bex was fourth. How did I sneak into company like this?)

The field included an interloper I'm not counting, a young man in his twenties who supposedly was a 64-year old woman. He/she/it got into fifth place just ahead of A. He/she hasn't come forward yet. The heck with him/her. This phantom is screwing up the masters division, the over-60 age group and the male results. He was sitting in second place in the female results for awhile until the women complained and then they dumped him into fourth place on the men's side as a 64-year old unknown. Sheesh.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thanks to you all

Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor our war dead, grew out of the aftermath of the carnage of the Civil War and traditionally was observed on May 30th. Ever since the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90-363) it has been celebrated on the last Monday in May.

U.S. service deaths since the start of the Iraq war stand at 3,452. I saw several graphic reminders of the incalculable human cost of the conflict while running in the last Army Ten-Miler. Several soldiers were completing the race as part of their rehabilitation from gruesome battle injuries, unsteadily progressing down the road between military escorts, forcing their maimed bodies, often missing parts of multiple limbs, onwards towards the finish line.

Here is how the recently departed novelist Kurt Vonnegut, a WWII veteran who was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, described getting shot at in his autobiographical anti-war book, Slaughterhouse-Five:

"The third bullet was for [the protagonist Billy Pilgrim], who stopped dead center in the road when the lethal bee buzzed past his ear. Billy stood there politely, giving the marksman another chance. The next shot missed Billy's knees by inches, going end-on-end, from the sound of it. Roland Weary and the scouts were safe in a ditch, and Weary growled at Billy, 'Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker.' It woke Billy up up and got him off the road."

My brother was a machine gunner in a Marine regimental combat team in 1982 when Ronald Reagan sent his unit ashore in Lebanon in an attempt to impress the Sryians, whose proxy the PLO was battling the Israelis there. When a suicide bomber blew up a Marine barracks a year later and killed 242 sleeping Marines, Reagan wisely withdrew the troops from an untenable situation. The Marines at the time were mere peacekeepers. My brother described getting shot at.

My brother was taking a sponge-bath one night, standing in the dark beside a well-used waterhole behind Marine lines. Looking up at the lights of the apartment buildings terracing away from him on the hillside opposite, he heard a shot. This in itself wasn't unusual in Lebanon. A split-second later he felt the pressure of airwaves passing close by his ear as a bullet whizzed past his head, a nearly-spent round at the end of its effective range. He quit bathing and spent the rest of the night hunkering down in his hole out of sight of the hillside beyond.

My father, a WWII marine, had a bathing story as well that he told me when I was a spellbound child asking him about his combat experiences. On Peleliu, he said, he went to the river alone one day intending to bathe. As he rounded the last turn to the river he spotted six Japanese soldiers in full combat gear standing on the bank. They spotted him at the same time. Startled, the two sides stared at each other. All my dad had with him besides his towel was a bar of soap.

At this point, my father paused in his account, obviously lost in a far-away reverie. "What happened?" I asked breathlessly. My father shook his head reproachfully at the memory. "They all got away." There was a twinkle in his eye that even a little boy could see.

I want to remember the following men whom I knew personally:

(The Price by Tom Lea, depicting the landings at Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Published in the June 11, 1945 issue of Life magazine.)

My father, a marine who fought on Peleliu and Okinawa.
Uncle Bill, an officer in the Army who suffered injuries requiring hospitalization while conducting operations against the Japanese in the Philippines.
Uncle Bob, in the Army Air Corps who flew a B-25 bomber in the Mediterranean Theater.
Billy, in the Coast Guard and present at D-Day.

I want to thank the following men whom I know personally:

Uncle Harry, a Marine officer who saw Naval combat from the Philippines to Japan.
Sy, in the Army and aboard a ship on D-Day, present at the Battle of the Bulge, injured on the last day of the war in Europe.

Running update: Yesterday, getting ready for this relay race in two weeks, I ran for the first time since Wednesday's "memorial run" on the Mall. I went ten miles out and back EB on the W&OD Trail in 1:26:26 (8:39). My left leg is sore again but I am capable, obviously, of running my assigned 9.6 mile first-leg of the relay.

Later this morning I am running in the Falls Church Memorial Day 3K Fun Run. It's a flat, free, self-timed race starting at 9 am from the Community Center with no winners and losers and a free T-shirt at the end, courtesy of former Lt. Governor Don Beyers. Except for the DC Race For The Cure next Saturday, it'll be my last race before the Lake Tahoe Relay on June 9th.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Deja Vu All Over

You know how we're always trying to re-live the good parts of our lives? The first time I was in Walt Disney World was in January 2006, when I ran the WDWM. I had a really enjoyable time because I broke four hours in a marathon after years of trying. This happened because Disney World, like the rest of Florida, is absolutely flat.

It was 34 degrees at the start, so weather wasn't a problem. The Floridians were all complaining about how cold it was but having trained in frigid DC all December, I thought the temperature was perfect.

The professional photographer caught me coming out of the Magic Castle in the tenth mile. This is the picture that's on my marathon plaque along with the race logo, the date and my finishing time.

I was in Orlando earlier this year on a case. During a free afternoon, my co-counsel and I went to the Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World.

She probably thought we went to enjoy the rides and shows. We rode the Thunder Mountain Railroad, climbed into the Swiss Family Robinson tree house and saw a show at the Hall of Presidents. But I really went so I could run through the Castle again.

Poor woman. I took her around and pointed out all the little Disney streets I ran down. I even showed her the place where I slowed to a walk while I rearranged my waistpack which had started bouncing. That stuff is really interesting to non-runners.

She was nice about it though. She even snapped this picture of me. Do you think I'm showing the same elan coming out of the Castle that I had in 2006?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An early Memorial Day run.

Memorial Day came early for me this year. At noon yesterday M and I took a run down the Mall in honor of the sacrifices others have made for us all.
We left the Federal Triangle and ran west down Constitution Avenue. Soon we were running by the Ellipse in front of the White House where there's a memorial to the Second Infantry Division. It honors the service in WWI of the AEF (Allied Expeditionary Force) sent "Over There" to help reeling Britain and France defeat exhausted Germany in that bloodletting. More than 50,000 doughboys didn't return. The Indianhead Division also engaged in combat in WWII from D-Day to VE day and served in Korea.
A little further on we walked by the Vietnam Wall, with its stark reminder of the terrible price of war. Over 58,000 names lie silent and immobile on its polished ebony face, a roll call of slain youths in the order they departed from us.

After running by the head of the reflecting pool, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech a few years before his death in the Civil Rights struggle, and past the Lincoln Memorial, honoring the president who lost his life in overseeing the shockingly costly internecine war that extirpated the stain of slavery from our land, we walked by the Korean War Memorial. It depicts a group of wary soldiers moving forward or backward in that back-and-forth war that established the furthest reaches of our Cold War influence and crystalized our strategy of containment.

Next we walked through the glen containing the District of Colmbia WWI Memorial. Although hidden away and largely unknown, it is a tall, handsome marble memorial with the names of the DC residents who served in that conflict written across its base.

A short while later we walked through the imposing WWII Memorial. We stopped by the Pacific fountain at one end of this polarized memorial and paused at the names written into its base of the two horrific battles my father took part in, Peleliu and Okinawa.

Advancing to the Atlantic granite column, I silently reflected on the service done by a friend's father with whom I had recently spoken. He had modestly told me about his participation in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge as part of a tank destroyer unit. Both of these great battles were etched in stone on this side of the memorial. "From Long Island to Gay Paree, leaving broken French hearts in my wake everywhere," he laughingly said. Have you spoken meaningfully with a WWII veteran about his or her service recently? Better hurry.

Next we ran by the Washington Monument, the towering obelisk honoring the man who sacrificed for years in holding together the rag-tag Continental Army which eventually defeated the mighty British in the Revolutionary War and which was the midwife assisting our nation's birth.

As we ran, M and I talked about what we knew of the service of our forbears in WWII . I related the little I knew about my father's service in his two terrible battles in the Pacific.

I have an uncle who was a shipboard Marine directing AA fire, and he earned a bronze star for his service during his day of hell on earth. After a fast-carrier fleet strike on Tokyo, the fleet retired to safety out of range of land based Japanese planes during the following night. They left behind a disabled carrier, escorted by my uncle's ship and one other light cruiser as it limped away at a few knots an hour. At daylight, the crews of these three ships grimly commenced upon their terrifying day of sacrifice for us as all day long they fought off Japanese planes roaring in at treetop level to strafe and bomb the three beleagured ships.

I had another uncle who saw service with the Army in the Philippines during combat operations there. I had yet another uncle who flew a B-25 bomber in the Mediterranean Theater during the war. My children's Grandmother had a brother who was in the Coast Guard on June 6, 1944, running troops to shore in an LST on that that harrowing day in Normandy. According to her, death strode easily into his boat on D-Day and seized a machine-gunner, who was shot to death right next to her brother. God bless. No war ends until the last mother dies who had a child killed in that conflict.

M had some interesting stories to share. While his mother is American, his father is German. His American grandfather was too old to be in the service. His German grandfather was older as well but he was drafted late in the war and assigned to garrison duty in Greece. When the war ended, he attempted to make his own way back to Germany. He was captured in Italy by the Italians and held as a POW for several years on an island near Sicily. It apparently wasn't too bad for him because he often went back to Italy on vacation after that.

M's German grandfather had a brother who was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot on the Eastern front until one foggy day he flew his plane into the side of a mountain while flying over the Carpathians. M's father remembers being in bomb shelters as a child while American bombers plastered the rural German town he lived in which had a munitions plant.

Forty-two minutes, 3.8 miles, eleven-minute miles including our respectful walking tours. It was a non-stop, reflective homage to the sacrifice of others, compressed into a scant noon hour. This is what running in DC can give to you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peleliu. You should know this.

My youngest child graduated from a boarding school in the Northeast on Saturday. I am proud of him for doing so because he has had a rough time. It apparently got a little rocky for him at the end up there at the school but he made it through. Congratulations to him.

Here's an artist's rendering of him done a few years ago. Don't you think he probably is now a handsome young man? (That's my boyhood photo next to his portrait. I always thought we had similar looking eyes and mouths.)

For his graduation, I sent him a card, some money, a few photos of what I have been up to, an old card of a Jet football player (when I was growing up on Staten Island, my parents had season tickets for the Joe Namath-led New York Jets at Shea, hence my affinity for Jets players), a first-day issue stamp of the1st Marine Division and a book by Bill D. Ross called Peleliu: Tragic Triumph.

The book is about the 1st Marine Division's 1944 battle against the Japanese on the island of Peleliu in the Palaus, a chain of islands about 550 miles east of the Philippines. The Army's 81st Division saw combat there as well.

Mostly it was a Marine fight. My Dad was a 19-year old corporal in K35 when he fought the Japanese there. It was awful, fighting in 110 degree heat on sharp coral with the stench of rotting bodies everywhere. The Marines took over 5,000 casualties in a division of around 15,000 men. They annihilated the Japanese garrison of 13,000 troops pretty much to the last man because no mercy was shown by either side in the war in the Pacific. The Japanese refused to surrender and didn't take prisoners themselves as a rule.

Peleliu was the first place where the Japanese eschewed the wasteful tactic of banzai charges and made the Marines come root them out of their fortified caves, one by one. These tactics were later famously applied on Iwo Jima and Okinawa (where my Dad also fought), but they started on Peleliu.

Ross' book's title is based on the fact that the savage fight was unnecessary to the nearly simultaneous reconquest of the Philippines. Bloody Peleliu easily could have been bypassed and left to wither on the vine. I bet you never heard of Peleliu. It was quite a fight.

I was always proud of my Dad. My youngest son never met him because my Dad died three years before my youngest child was born. I hope the book teaches him a little about what kind of special men those World War II combat Marines were.

I haven't seen my youngest son nor spoken with him for quite awhile but I wish him luck. I love you son.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The Capitol Hill Classic 10K is one of DC's most hallowed races. Its 28th running was Sunday. The race is a journey around Capitol Hill, a trip where runners casually pass by several American icons.

Runners set off from Stanton Square near Union Station and bolt out past Lincoln Park to RFK. There they circle that multipurpose refuge from the seventies and return to Lincoln Park before running down to Pennsylvania Avenue near Eastern Market, the city's oldest continuously operating mercantile space. Then it's back to East Capitol Street where the runners take aim at the back of the Capitol, running past the Supreme Court Building on the right. A left turn takes them past the front of the Folger Shakespeare Library and a sharp right on Independence takes them down steep Capitol Hill alongside the Capitol.

With the Mall laying out in front of them, at the bottom of the hill the racers turn right at the U.S. Botanic Garden and run past a statue of the martyred president James A. Garfield. They pass below and in front of the Capitol with its innumerable stairs where, to their left, the busy Civil War statue with Grant bestriding his horse dominates the east end of the Mall. As the runners approach the Robert A. Taft statue they turn right one last time and come upon merciless Capitol Hill on the uptake in the sixth mile. After laboring up its quarter-mile length, runners enter Stanton Square from the opposite direction and cross the finish line.

Running up that long hill last Sunday in my first Capitol Hill Classic 10K was the toughest hill mount I have ever done during a race, bar none. (I am not counting a few spectacular hills I have walked up during races, like the Calvert Climb at National. The nineteenth mile of the first Baltimore Marathon also springs to mind, as does the 26th mile at Washington's Birthday Marathon in Greenbelt.)

Capitol Hill sucked all the energy out of my body on Sunday. Those two or three or four minutes I toiled up it are still vivid in my memory.

My splits dropped from the mid-sevens for the entire race up to that point to over nine in the sixth mile. Depleted, I ran the last quarter-mile on level ground to the finish at a pace of well over eight.

I have run up Capitol Hill plenty of other times and it has not bothered me before. I ran up it in the 2002 Marine Corps Marathon, the last of my five-hour marathons. The hill didn't seem so noticeable then, but I was five years younger and I also expended considerably less energy in marathons in those days.

At the tail end of a fast 10K, the hill is brutal. But that's all about to change.

Reporter and local running legend Jim Hage aptly calls it a "gut-check climb" in his post about Sunday's race. He also reported that this year's run up Capitol Hill could be its "last rites." Security, you know. (Don't you feel so much safer now than you did when the Decider declared war on shapeless amorphous terror oh so long ago?)

The course will be moved to eliminate its charge down and then back up The Hill. What?

That is the race's signature moment, it's defining experience. When you turn right and start ascending The Hill, you encounter the exquisite feeling of being so close and yet so far. Also, there is plenty of time to brood about the hill lying in wait as you first go flying down its other side, knowing that soon payment will be extracted for your freewheeling flight downhill in the fifth mile.

Here's what the race director told me about the impending course change. "The course will change next year. The Capitol Hill Police has a long standing rule preventing races from running entirely around the Capitol. For 28 years we've been exempted from that. However, I was told in late April that we were not going to be allowed to run this course. I argued that it was too late to change this year, and they relented, on the condition that we change it next year. I don't know what the course will be at this point, although we might be able to work out something that involves the Hill, just not around it."

The older I get the more I hate change. I am so glad I ran the 10K on Sunday so I could experience the hill's soul-sucking effect during an otherwise fast race. If I had not done the race this year despite some nagging injuries, I would have lost my chance at experiencing The Hill in its full form, possibly forever.

May the Capitol Hill Classic stay true to its origins.

Monday, May 21, 2007

CHC 2007

I coached my running club's 10K Training Program this year. It's goal race was the Capitol Hill Classic 10K, run yesterday. All the runners who stuck with it for the 12 weeks did a swell job. I'm proud of what they accomplished in the program and in their races.
I'm also grateful to the coaches. Jeanne administered the program and designed our program t-shirts. (Below. Can't touch this.) Bex and A coached, along with others. Coach Bob was our fast guy.

Bob smoked me at the National Marathon by about 13 minutes. He wears a heart monitor and pays close attention to it in his training. He ran the Triple Crown races along with me on Saturday. He was much faster. He beat me in the Belmont (1.5 miles) while pushing a baby stroller. I think he was showing off. Bob trains Navy guys to meet their physical fitness standards, one of which is running a 10:30 mile and a half (7:00 pace). (Below: BOB. Bob on bike. Coach Bob crosstraining on Railroad Avenue in Falls Church parallel to the W&OD Trail in Northern Virginia.)

On Saturday, as you may recall, I ran the Belmont race so I could meet the Navy standard. I left the race area with Bob.

"So Bob, they wouldn't kick me out of the Navy. I ran a 10:28 for the 1.5 miles."

"Oh, you're old."

"No, I'm not old. You're old." (In the tradition of two kids in a sandbox.)

"No, I mean, they wouldn't kick you out because they age-grade it. What are you, 45?"

"Thanks Bob. I'm 55."

"Oh, you're old."

"We've already had this discussion, Bob."

"No, I mean, they would kick you out for being overage." Oh, man!

On Sunday, I did the Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K double. I was part of my agency's 3K team in the race, along with A and guest runner Bex. This year we recruited G, who finished 29/670 at the Capital Challenge last month. In that race, the services send their best runners so he was competing against, in effect, several professional runners. G also did the double on Sunday.

I finished the 10K in 48:44 (7:51), 358th in a field of 1122. My splits were 7:35, 7:22, 7:52, 7:39, 7:40, 9:05, 1:40. The hill in the sixth mile, from which the race takes its name, just killed me. I could barely shuffle up it although I have been running it once a week for months now on my weekly noontime Mall runs. For its quarter-mile length I just tried not to slow my movements into an actual walk, although my shuffle was probably slower than a walk. I did not look up at the horizon ever. It was awful. (Above. Slogging through the Capitol Hill Classic 3K last year, passing by the Supreme Court Building.)

Twenty minutes later I lined up for the 3K along with G, A, Bex and P on our team. G had just run a 38:59 (6:17) 10K, finishing 36th. Of course, he had ten more minutes of rest than I did because he finished the 10K that much faster than I did.

There are always a gadzillion kids in the 3K race, perpetually underfoot. You have to go out fast to get away from them.

G and A took off like rockets. I followed Bex who was running steadily at a fast pace. Midway through the race I moved by her. Knowing that at last year's 3K race she smoked A at the end for third place, I looked anxiously behind me at every corner to see where she was. She was gaining on me. G and A were totally out of sight up ahead. (Right: These two finished one-two on the team and in the 3K race, first overall, and second woman.)

Three teenagers summoned their youthful energy and dashed by me the last hundred yards, a race of three within the larger race. That dropped me from 9th to 12th. Bex finished a mere 12 seconds behind me in fourth place. A came in second.

G won the race. He had never won a race before. He later said, "I didn't know the course. I just kept following the lead police car, hoping it knew where to go." (Left: Bex finished right behind me.)

Our team defended its title of a year ago. G ran an 11:09 (6:00). A ran a 12:39 (6:48), fifth overall. She smoked the first mile in a scorching 6:10. Bex ran a 13:52 (7:27). P, new to racing, ran/walked it in in a little over 20 minutes.

Afterwards, good friend that she is, Bex took me aside and read me the riot act. Stop putting all that vitriol about your divorce in your blog, she commanded. So it happened. Nobody wants to hear it. Everyone has bad things happen. Move on.

Point well taken. When Bex talks, you listen. I'll try.

My 3K time was 13:40 (7:21). I was fourth master, first guy over 50.

See, I'm better already. My youngest son graduated from his boarding school in the Northeast on Saturday, I think. I'll call the school today to find out. Congratulations to him and good luck.

Running has a way of curing your blue funks.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Preakness

It’s been a full weekend of racing. I’m trying to manage my injury and still accomplish some long-standing racing objectives. Balancing my injury with reaching for my goals went all right. I’ll pay the piper later tonight with soreness in my left leg undoubtedly, when the warmth generated in the leg by my physical activity goes away.

Yesterday my running club held a trio of foot races in Alexandria called the Triple Crown races. The distances emulate the three horse races in the Triple Crown, the 1.25 mile Derby, the 1.1875 mile Preakness and the 1.5 mile Belmont.

Last year I finished fifth in these three races. It’s funny how nobody suddenly gets faster over the course of an hour. I never could catch the guy ahead of me. The person behind me never could catch me. All three race cards looked pretty much the same.

My times were 8:41 (6:57), 8:26 (7:06) and 10:40 (7:07). My time for the last race, 10:40 for a mile and a half, necessitated a do-over this year.

Among the Naval Academy fitness standards is one for running. Last year a senior washed out because he couldn’t do the 1.5 mile run in 10:30. He had to reimburse Uncle Sam for four years of tuition.

My time at the Belmont (1.5 miles) was 10:40. Ten seconds too slow by Navy standards. I waited a year for the Belmont race to come around again so I could try to get my time under 10:30.

Yesterday I arrived at the races late and purposefully missed the Derby. I lined up for the Preakness and used its 1.1875 distance as a warmup. I ran slowly, studying the course. Near the end I practiced my passing and knocked off a couple of runners ahead of me. The clock was almost at nine minutes as I approached so I hurried and finished at 8:58 (7:33). For contrast, Curlin, the horse who won the race in Baltimore yesterday, covered the same distance in 1:53.

The last race for the runners was the 1.5 mile Belmont. I didn’t want to have to extend my "Navy Quest" for another full year so I concentrated on my appointed task of breaking 10:30. It’s hard to find 1.5 mile races.

The starter dropped his flag and called out, "And they’re off!" That’s horse parlance for ready-set-go.

I felt awful for the first quarter mile, very leaden and weak. Soon my breathing became regular, however, and my body felt stronger. I was glad I’d warmed up by running the Preakness. My tendinitis wasn’t "cold" anymore so it wasn’t bothering me much.

The last quarter mile I focused on making the finish line before 10:30 struck on the clock. It was already reading past 10 minutes as I approached. I carefully watched the numbers change and adjusted my speed accordingly. I passed the finish line in 10:28 (6:59). Yay! I could have been a sailor!

Today was the Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K race. For the last two years I have formed a racing team at my agency to run in the 3K. Bex is a guest runner on the team. Last year she was third in the 3K race.

Bex beat A, who had just finished running the 10K twenty minutes earlier, by four seconds a year ago. We won the team 3K competition last year, with myself, Bex and A providing all the scoring for the team in that order. (Last year at the Capitol Hill Classic 3K, I spent the 2d half of the race chasing down this young runner who would stumble forward until I came up on him, then spurt forward again. It was maddening. My teammates Bex and the exhausted A were both driving hard at my heels the entire way, less that 30 seconds behind me. I finished 19th in the race.)

I admired A for doing a double last year and doing so well in both races. She was fourth in the 3K after finishing in the top 5% in the 10K. The 10K has a killer hill in the last mile which is a quarter-mile long. I wanted to be like A.

So this year I planned to do the double. I also recruited my agency’s rock star, G, to be on the 3K team. He was doing the 10K anyway so this meant he would do a double too. Bex was repeating and A was going to concentrate of the 3K this year. Along with newcomer P, the team was ready.

How did it all go? Pretty well. Maybe Bex already has a posting saying how we did. If not, you’re just gonna have to wait til a later post to find out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

But it hurts

You might have been wondering why I haven't been writing much about my current running of late. That''s because I haven't been doing much running lately. You see, I am injured.

I went to the doctor's office Tuesday complaining about pain high up on the back of my left leg. For weeks I thought it was a hamstring injury, but there was no specific moment when the injury occurred. The pain just showed up a few days after my GW Parkway 10-Mile Race last month and got worse and worse. I finally decided that maybe the hip socket was inflamed.

My left leg is sore. It hurts. It affects my running. The pain wakes me up at night and I lie in bed, comfortably feeling nothing in my right leg while my left leg aches, high up around the hip.

It was diagnosed at the doctor's office as gluteal tendonitis, which is a repetition injury. It's inflamation of the tendons which attach the glutes to the thigh bone.

Now think back. The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to... Somehow and somewhere the gluteal tendons get in on this.

Not so funnily, it takes a long time to get better.

As the LPN said while he was writing out an RX for PT, "I'm not going to waste my breath telling a runner not to run. You'll do what you want anyway, but you will be be managed by pain on this. So try to run smart."

Then he helpfully told me about how he was currently helping another patient deal with the exact same injury. They'd been at it for six months now.

My running has fallen off a cliff. It's been four weeks since I ran the 10-miler on April 22nd. That week I ran five times for twenty miles, including the race.

The next week I ran five times for 22 miles. But I also pulled up after running a block one morning and went home because of my "hamstring."

Then I cut back to doing only scheduled runs so my ailment could get better. I ran twice last week for 4.7 miles. Once was with the noontime group I lead at work, and the other time was last Saturday at the last class of the 10K Training Program I coach for. I ran a 3K while the rest of the group went 8 miles in preparation for tomorrow's race.

This week I have only run twice for 3.3 miles. Wednesday was the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K race. I couldn't miss that, especially since it was the 400th running of it. My time was normal for how I have generally been running for the last year, 12:58 (6:57).

Instead of running there as I usually do, I walked the two and a half miles from work and I caught a ride back. BTW, sub-seven minute miles will land you solidly in the lower half of the finishers in that race. I was 40th out of 75 runners. Check your ego at the start line for that race.

Today I ran a mile and a half. I had to, because this date has been circled on my calendar for a year now. It has to do with the Triple Crown and the Navy. I'll tell you about it in another post.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ACLI Capital Challenge 2007

Two weeks ago I ran in the ACLI Capital Challenge, an invitational 3-mile race, where teams from the legislative (Senate and House teams), executive and judicial branches and the Fourth Estate (Print and Electronic media teams) compete. Each team has five members, one of them a woman, and has to be captained by a Senator, Representative, Chief, Judge or Bureau Head. All five members on a team are scored by the place they finish in the race, and those place numbers are added up. The team with the lowest total wins.

I said in a previous post that it was a low point of my running career. It was a depressing morning.

I have assembled the team for my agency for the last two years. Last year the agency head who was our captain won an award in his age category, Male Captain Over 60. Our team did well last year, coming in 15th out of 113 teams. I PRed at the 3 mile distance in 22:09. I was fourth on our team. A beat me by five seconds.

However, our captain was injured as a result of training for that race and this year he asked me to find someone else if I could. No other head of the agency was available, so he stepped up to the plate again. His injury was still bothering him and he could only train on a bicycle.

C replaced one runner who ran a 21:22 last year who couldn’t participate again. I thought I was ready for the race and felt confident I could break 22 minutes (7:20 pace). Ten days earlier I had passed the three mile mark in a 10-mile race in 21:57. I had been training fast 3-milers with A and I had bet her that I would beat her this year. I thought I was in the same league as her. (Training for the Capital Challenge with A and Jake on the W&OD Trail outside the Beltway in Fairfax, Virginia.)

The early Wednesday morning out-and-back gun-timed race in Anacostia Park SE was down a flat two-lane blacktop along the south bank of the Anacostia River. I was too far back in the starting chute to get a good break out of the gates. It took me 15 seconds to cross the start line. A was up front with G, our team’s ace, and they both got away cleanly.

The first half mile I had to run on the grass where the spectators were standing to get clear of all the slow moving runners. I did a 7:10 first mile by race time. I thought I was on track for my PR, with 10 seconds already in the bank. I also knew for sure that I wasn’t going to catch A, who was motoring. (A was ready for this race and, more importantly, its aftermath.)

The second mile was not so great. I started noticing how humid it was, which bothered me after the long cold winter. I did a 7:34. I thought I could still PR if I could step it back up the last mile. It wasn’t going to happen. I started crawling up the road thinking, I could stop and still do allright if I walked it in from here.

I let myself and my team down by sluggishly running a 7:45 last mile. I never picked it up. I finished at 22:30 (7:30), 21 seconds slower than last year. A year older, that much slower. (Entertainment was provided. A local juggler with a running problem. Instead of headphones, try this when you're bored with running.)

I had teammates looking to me for help in the scoring. I didn’t dig deep.

A year ago I finished in 165th place. This year I fell to 217th place, a veritable free fall.

Our rock star, G, poured it on for us. He was one full minute faster than last year, finishing in 18:14 (6:05). He improved his place from 43rd a year ago to 29th. (G came ready to play. How about finishing 29/670?)

A also stepped it way up, running 55 seconds faster than a year ago. She finished in 21:09 (7:03) and improved her place from 162nd to 145th.

Those two gave the team a combined gain of 31 places from a year earlier. I gave it all back plus some with my solitary loss of 52 places from a year ago. I also realized that A is seriously faster than me and when she runs with me, it’s nice that she lets me hang with her.

C ran an excellent time of 23:34 (7:51) in his first race.

However, the worst was yet to come.

As a veteran runner, a former EMT, and a coach, I tell people who run that Rule Number One is: Don’t Injure Yourself. But sometimes the mania of running causes me to use less than my best judgment. Our captain wasn’t close to 100% this year. I knew it. Still, he came to play. But I should have let the team lapse this year.

After I finished the race, I watched for our captain. Soon he came into view with A running alongside of him. She had gone back after finishing to encourage him. He was hurting, running on pure determination and she was watching him closely. Two hundred yards from the finish, he stumbled. A caught him and prevented him from going down in the road. Thanks for being there, A.

The medical personnel were there in a flash and checked out our captain as a precaution. Being the tough competitor and former 3:00 marathoner that he is, our captain insisted on finishing. Which he did.

He was okay.

We finished 36th out of 124 teams this year.

I walked the four miles back to work. It was an hour of reflection.

I was depressed for awhile about this event. How shall I put it? It was a personal letdown, which also let teammates down. I did not pull my weight, much less exert a positive influence. I exercised suspect judgment, and someone came close to getting injured.

So much angst over 21 seconds. You’re not supposed to feel this way about running. Fortunately I have running to help me get over it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'm Invisible.

I paid $113.11 as my co-pay for three prescriptions at Kaiser today. I saw that the future had arrived for me. I am old now, because I am going to be regularly taking pills by the handful each day.

Whenever someone takes my pulse, they comment, You must be a runner. It's usually in the 40s. Whenever they take my bloodpressure, they get up to look for the doctor. It has been hammering away lately at over 100 on the low end and over 170 at the high end. Someone who regularly runs 25 miles a week and races once a weekend shouldn't have b/p that high.

I have no doubt that the four years of nuclear domestic-law litigation I recently emerged from, and my estrangement from my three sons who sued me during it ("their" suit was tossed out by the Court as "harassment" and their Mother was sanctioned for it), has a lot to do with my sky-high b/p. I would have died, literally, if I didn't have running during those awful years.

So now I'm on multiple prescriptions. Fistfuls of pills. Welcome to AARP.

As I wrote out my first check over $100 for a necessary set of prescriptions for me, I wryly commented to the pharmacist, I guess I'm old now. $113 for pills!

She ignored me, blankly looking away as she waited for me to finish writing the check and hand it over. I am old because I am invisible to most younger people.

A friend who is single tells me that now that she is past 40, she's invisible to everyone. I don't know why, because I think she is beautiful. She's trim and fit in addition to being tall and good looking. And sometimes when I'm with her, I will see a man scrutinize her with that look animating his face.

It's my belief that women don't look at unfamiliar men in order to avoid getting locked into that look. Maybe that's why my friend doesn't notice it when men look appraisingly at her.

In any case, I'm invisible now and feeling it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sinfonia in B minor.

Last Sunday I attended the 5 o’clock service at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in the District. I went to hear Bex perform a piano recital. Bex is an accomplished pianist who went to college on a music scholarship in piano. (All photos credit Jeanne.)
Jeanne invited me to come. This is her church. Although I grew up an Episcopalian, they are not my favorite people these days after my experience at The Falls Church in my hometown. The youth minister there came to testify against me at the two-day custody trial in my divorce, participating in my ex-wife's effort to legally strip me of my parenthood. They lost.

This was Bex’s first public performance in fifteen years. Her layoff seemed to have no effect that I could discern.

She gave a recital at the Prelude and the Postlude for the Holy Eucharist. This was arranged after Jeanne and Bex participated in bell ringing at St. Columba’s.

I was honored to have been asked to attend. Due to unanticipated traffic at Chain Bridge, I was three minutes late in arriving at this beautiful church in Tenleytown.

I walked in and sat down in a pew in the back. The service was underway, and I saw Jeanne, Bex and E, all seated off to the side of the altar over by the organ, near where the church piano was.

It was a long service. From my seat on the hard bench with its steep back, I examined the spacious interior of the church and its myriad dark, colorful stained glass windows. I read through parts of the Book of Common Prayer. This spiritual aid gave me much comfort during the period when my father was dying from lung cancer when I was 34.

I listened to the reverend give his sermon, which was about Global Warming, for heaven's sake. I also heard him speak about the concept of forgiveness.

I started thinking about forgiveness in relation to my three estranged sons, all now young adults. As children, they actively and ferociously litigated against me along with their Mother during the four years of divorce proceedings. "Their" case was thrown out as a "harassment" suit, although that particular litigation dragged on for another nerve-wracking two years when their Mother appealed her sanction.

Reflecting upon forgiveness in the serene setting of this happy church was an awakening of sorts for me. I felt my love for my children fill me despite the shattering financial and emotional drain I had gone through in the last half decade, of which they played a large part.

Pleased with these warm and fuzzy thoughts, I read the service notes. Uh-oh.

There it was in the program, the very first line. At The Gathering, Prelude of Invention in B flat Major, J.S. Bach, by Bex, Piano. I had already missed half of her recital. Dammit!

The service eventually concluded and The Postlude came. Dismissal, Postlude of Sinfonia in B minor, J.S. Bach, by Bex, Piano. I slid over in my pew so I could watch and hear Bex perform. It was lovely.

The splendid music washed soothingly over me. Bex’s long black hair framed her face and masked the intense concentration she gave to her music. Her fingers flowed gracefully and rapidly over the keyboard as comforting sound filled the church for a few minutes. Then, too soon, in the hushed, expectant atmosphere she had created, the last piano notes faded away. The congregation applauded loudly.

Outside, I joined Jeanne, Bex and E and gave my confession that I had been late and missed the opening piece. Bex lit up and insisted that she would play it again. The four of us re-entered the darkened church, turned the lights back on, and listened, enthralled, as Bex played the Prelude again for us. It was a wonderful, long moment.

Afterwards, E treated us to food and a relaxing drink at a nearby restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue. We spent a delightful hour talking about, well, California. Not that I know a whole lot about that country. Bex and E are moving back there later this year. We’ll miss them.

Bex and I have had some memorable runs. Thanks for the added memory of listening to you play music, Bex.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Is The Way?

On Sunday I attended a church service for the first time in a long time. I went to a 5 pm service at an Episcopal church in the District. In a subsequent post I’ll tell you why, and about the delightful effect it had upon me. In this post I’m gonna tell you about the Episcopal church in my home town of Falls Church, Virginia.

I grew up attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Staten Island. I felt safe, secure and welcome in that wonderful old church on St. Paul’s Avenue, not far from the ferry in St. George.

As a result, when I was growing up my religion lived within my heart, and was expressed by my best attempts to do good deeds. I knew the Lord to be loving and forgiving, and I tried to be the same. This included being tolerant.

That was the memory and knowledge I had of my faith, until I moved to Falls Church. There I attended services at The Falls Church (Episcopal) so that my children could be exposed to the church and its teachings. I wanted each of them to make up his own mind about what kind of a presence it would have in his life.

I never felt at ease in The Falls Church, nor entirely welcome. Everything was so severe. I listened to the sermons and in my opinion, they were intolerant, sexist, misogynistic and homophobic.

Principally they preached against homosexual unions being condoned by the faith and spoke disapprovingly about wanton or empowered women. The flock was usually directed to that day’s particular anti-gay tract, which could be purchased in the church’s bookstore.

The preachers I was listening to didn’t compare to Father Cope on Staten Island, whom I had trusted and loved as a boy. I didn’t trust and couldn’t love what I was now hearing.

One of my sons, the most sensitive one, uttered a curse word in frustration while attending Sunday School once. The teacher chastised him in front of the class for committing a sin and made him sit alone in repentance for the rest of the hour, apart from but in full view of the rest of the class. My young son’s lips apparently trembled the whole time. The thought of my child’s public ordeal at the hands of an adult still tortures me years later.

I obviously stopped going to this church and I wondered about my faith. Was it intolerant of persons who were different? Or did it have room for all, as I remembered it.

More recently, during my interminable divorce proceedings, the teen minister at The Falls Church, who had undertaken on his own to counsel my estranged sixteen-year old son, came to the custody trial and testified against me. Maybe I was too liberal and too tolerant for his taste. I guess this youth minister preferred that my sons have no father.

Unsurprisingly, I was awarded full joint legal custody with standard visitation after the two-day trial. The Guardian-Ad-Litem ("GAL"), the court-appointed overseer of our sons' best interests, was familiar with the Reverend Jeff Taylor's counseling of my son. The GAL addressed the Court, and his final report was incorporated en toto into the Final Custody Order. He gave my support of the other parent an A+, and her support of me to the kids an F. He said the following about this fine representative of the clergy of The Falls Church:

"I don't really think he was providing counseling in the way of an unbiased person. He was the friend. He was the father of Jimmy's best friend and I think he sort of heard his situation. But I didn’t hear in his counseling any themes of forgiveness. I didn’t hear any themes of honoring your mother and your father. I didn’t hear the things that I thought a truly unbiased counselor would be presenting."

Recently a majority of members of The Falls Church who were given ballots voted to leave the Anglican Church over their displeasure with the consecration of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions. These purists have cast their lot with a Nigerian Archbishop who has voiced support for a pending law in Nigeria that provides prison sentences for homosexual activity. Meanwhile the Archdiocese of Virginia has filed a lawsuit to get the parishes’ land and buildings back.

You might wonder why I would ever set foot in an Episcopalian Church again. I had a good reason.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Did You See That?

It's amazing what you don't see late in a marathon. When I ran the WDWM in 2006 I ran right by a giant dinosaur in Animal Kingdom and I never saw it. When I looked at the professional pictures later, I said, Huh? When did I run by that? (Right: That's me in the white shirt running away from a dinosaur in the 2006 Walt Disney World Marathon that I never saw.)

Since we ran through the four theme parks on Disney property during the marathon, I later surmised through a process of elimination that I probably ran by it in Animal Kingdom, apparently around MP 17. But I never saw that towering leviathan.

Here's another thing I ran by without a clue in a marathon. In National Marathon in March, apparently a gentleman took a nasty tumble near the finish line right in front of me. He lay prostate for several moments, facedown on the ground while a steady stream of runners, myself included, ran right by, ignoring him. (Left: At National Marathon in front of RFK, two hundred yards from the finish, a runner is lying facedown in the middle of the picture. I am approaching in the distance in black shirt and black trunks.)

I never saw him. When I looked at the professional pictures later, I said, Huh? Did I run by that? (Right: The man is still inert facedown on the pavement. I'm running up on him, unknowing.)

Although bloodied, he was all right I suppose. At least he had a finishing time (I looked it up). I don't know whether he tripped or collapsed. (Left: Finally the downed runner received some assistance as medical workers roll him over. Runners continue on by, oblivious.).

Some help he got from me, a former EMT. (Right: Bloodied Finisher. A Fifty-Stater at that. Now he has DC in there too, the hard way.) It's a jungle out there in the last miles of a marathon.

(Left: Downed runner? Huh?)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Synchronized Running Marathon Team

Y'all know I ran the National Marathon in March. What you don't know is that within the marathon, I was competing in the obscure sport of Synchronized Running.

I was on a coed team, the DC Spinners. The rules state that you need two pairs of synchronized runners. One of the overall total has to be a woman. All four runners can be synchronized, but for extra difficulty points you can have two synchronized pairs of runners traveling side by side.

Here is my team early in the marathon. We thought we were hot because before the sun even came out we were displaying dual synchronized running routines.

Look at the form on me and my partner. We're the two runners on the right. Arms synchronized, strides perfectly matched, both looking slightly away.

Our dual teammates to the left in the picture also had their routines down pat. Look at their synchronized uplifted toe thrusts. Maybe we would have lost a point because their fist closures weren't exactly the same (one has an open thumb) but the degree of difficulty we demonstrated during this type of tandem running was very high.

We were robbed! My team was DQed because of a "lack of symetry in appearance." Not our movements, but our appearance! My partner's competiton number was not as "proximate on her person" as mine. Talk about chickensh*t application of the rules.

I guess to make sure they didn't get sued (I am a lawyer) they added the violation that our chip ankle strips were not "of even appearance" (on the same foot).

Can you believe it? I was so disgusted that I didn't even bother to look up who won.

Bex ran by during the race and waved at us while we were performing. A photographer happened to catch her just then. Bex is a great person and all, but I know she brooks no fools.

I have studied this photo and I go back and forth on this. What do you think? Is Bex smiling and waving hello to us? Or is she smirking and dismissively flicking her hand at us? After all, I'm well aware that the sport of Synchronized Running is generally scoffed at within the marathoning community.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Governor's Bay Bridge 10K

Governor’s Bay Bridge Run: Race Canceled for 4th Time in Six Years.

That was the headline today. Rarely does running make it to the news page. This time it did. A point-to-point 10K race that requires a fleet of buses to conduct the runners to its starting line has been cancelled four times in six years. This is a race in peril. And what a nice race it is.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a four-mile long double structure spanning the Chesapeake near Annapolis. The two parallel roadways were built at different times so they differ slightly from each other.

The bridge is 186 above the water at its highest point so that’s the height runners climb to in the first two miles as they leave sea level on the Eastern Shore. Then it’s two miles downhill back to land on the western side, and two miles of flat running to the Sandy Point State Park where the race ends.

The runners park their cars in the park early in the morning to take buses to the start line across the Chesapeake. After the race it takes awhile to leave because of the crush of traffic. There’s a nice post-race festival in the park, though, with free beer and a nice view of the Bay Bridge. Last year they handed out finishers’ medals.

I ran the race last year. It was fabulous. I did it in 47 minutes flat, which is my 3d best 10K time. I was 59 seconds off my PR from the 2001 Pike's Peek 10K which is basically a downhill run on Rockville Pike. I got to thinking afterwards about what kind of a time I might have had if I hadn’t fooled around so much on the bridge during the race. My time included a stop in a Porto-San on the bridge in the first mile as well as two more quick stops for photo ops at the high point of the span. (A bracing early morning run over Chesapeake Bay in 2006.)

The views are stupendous. I love running over bridges. That’s why I liked running the NYCM so much last year (five bridges). And even though the Annapolis Ten-Miler deserves its reputation of being hot, hilly and humid, I loved running that cruel albeit scenic race last August because of the opportunity it afforded to run over the hulking U.S. Naval Academy Bridge twice.

I think the Bay Bridge 10K would be a good race to try to PR on. You run uphill the first two miles while you’re still fresh. Then you run downhill for two miles recovering. If you can push the pace during the last two miles on the flats you have a shot at a great race.

If I didn’t have to leave my house in Virginia at 5 am in order to be on time for the buses leaving the park for the start line across the Chesapeake, I would run the race again and try for a PR. In any case, it was an incredibly worthwhile Been-there-Done-that race, running high over the Chesapeake in the tangy salt air for thirty minutes before regaining terra firma. I also fondly remember driving out the highway in the early-morning darkness towards Annapolis and falling in with the posse of school buses coming from DC to service the race.

But with four cancellations in six years, ouch! It bodes ill for the future of the race.

This year it was too windy. At 7 am yesterday it was blowing hard in DC, at least. It 2005 there was construction on the bridge which caused the race to cancel months ahead of time. In 2003 the authorities cited security concerns in canceling the race, and in 2002 there was lightning and thunder on race day which caused cancellation.

The Annapolis Striders, which puts on the race, is a very fine running club. They conducted a 5K race in its stead yesterday in the state park. There is a Bay Bridge walk which gets underway after the race which has also been cancelled those four times as well. I hope the Bay Bridge 10K race continues in good health.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

ACLI Capital Challenge 2006

A year ago when I was new to the board of my agency’s Wellness Committee, having recently started the running program at work, my agency received a Congressional invitation to the Capital Challenge 3-Mile Race. It was forwarded to me.

This was the twenty-fifth consecutive running of this invitational race, held every year on the first Wednesday in May at 8 am. I remembered Bex telling me that she ran it the prior year. The invitational race’s concept is simple–in the spirit of collegiality a race is run where individuals race each other on teams competing with other teams within their particular category.

There are six categories of teams: Senate, House, Executive, Judicial, Print Media and Electronic Media. Each team has five members, one of whom must be a female and all of whom must finish. All team members must be on the staff of the team captain (i.e., no guest runners).

All team members score. Each individual’s place in the larger race is added to his team score, and the lowest scoring team wins. And the most important rule–each team must be headed by a bonafide chief. This means a Senator, a Representative, an agency head, a judge or a media bureau head. Chiefs are generally older, and they are often non-running folks. Some might say this is a sure recipe for disaster (like in Heart Attack). (The race sponsors always put on a nice post-race buffet. 100% of the proceeds from the race go to the DC Special Olympics.)

I put together a team at my agency. We were in the executive branch and last year we did pretty well. Our team captain won an award for placing in his individual category of Captains over 60. We finished 7th out of 28 teams in our category and 15th out of 113 teams overall. In the executive category, we finished one point ahead of the eighth place team and two points ahead of the ninth place team. We were way off the pace for sixth place. In other words, everyone on the team finished exactly right and we nailed it.

The results are always skewed by the service teams. Last year the Navy or Coast Guard teams took three of the top five spots in the executive branch. Five out of the first ten runners were servicemen. These are young guys from the service running teams who are stationed in DC, probably for this very event. Their team captains are usually some forty year old ship’s commander, not a sexagenarian agency head who normally runs twelve minute miles twice a week to keep the weight down. So the members of my team informally threw out three of the top results in our category and unofficially awarded ourselves fourth place.

Our rock star, G, finished in 19:14, in 43rd place out of 642 runners. The rest of our team finished in 122nd (M, 21:22), 162nd (A, 22:04), 165th, and 424th (26:59) place. (M leaving after the race. The race shirts last year were a distinctive mustard color, easy to spot on the Mall for several weeks thereafter. That's RFK above the treeline on the other side of the Anacostia.)

I have mentioned each of the staff runners by initial in previous posts. Yours truly came in fourth for our team in 22:09. Our woman, A, beat me by five seconds, charging by me the last hundred yards. I was injured at the time (hamstring, a miserable injury) and could not respond to her late surge. Remember me saying that the difference between seventh and ninth place in the executive category was a mere two points? Her late sprint undoubtedly secured seventh place for us. A did a great job and deserved her place three spaces in front of me. Everyone on our team did a great job, especially the team captain who stunned everyone with his excellent time. It was a PR for me by six seconds anyway.

The race itself was a delight. It was held in Anacostia Park in SE along the Anacostia River on a level two-lane blacktop. It was a one and a half mile sprint downriver, a tight turn around a cone and a run back to the finish. It was flat and fast, so long as you could get out of the crowded starting chute in good shape (the scoring is by gun time, not net time).

Everyone was happy. The Wellness Committee even had a little get-together later at which the Chairman presented the team captain with a commemorative token.

Furthermore, I am old enough to know who Jim Ryun is. He was the Kansan racing star at KU who for nine years in the sixties and seventies held the world record for the mile. It seemed like he was always on the cover of Sports Illustrated when I was growing up. He made racing exciting. His epic battles with Kenyan Kip Keino were legendary. Until he got thrown out with other Republicans last November, thanks to the Decider, Ryun was a congressman from Kansas. His Team Ryun always did well at the race, winning the House team category in 2005 and 2004. Well, here I was in the same race as the most famous runner in the world from my boyhood. I even finished ahead of him by 36 seconds. (I think he was running injured.) Talk about attending a dream fantasy camp!

That was last year. This year it all went very much differently from the start. I knew it would be much more uncertain but I thought I knew two things for sure. I would break 22 minutes finally, and I would give A a battle and hopefully beat her in the race.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Last Wednesday was a fiasco. It made me feel as low as I have ever felt about running. I guess I’ll tell you about it in a later post.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

What's Inside of You?

Last week I gave blood for the 70th time. What this says about me is that I lead a dull life.

I have no tattoos or recent body piercings. I haven’t had extended stays in the UK or lived in the Channel Islands. I wasn’t born in Africa. I haven’t had sex with a prostitute or a man or recently with a woman who does wild and crazy things that I know about. (Sigh.) Boring.

The exclusionary rules for blood donation get longer and longer. As I read them each time I wonder who, exactly, is left that they can take blood from? Besides me I mean?

They asked if I had ever taken propecia. I didn’t know what that was. I was told it’s for BPH. Oh. Well, not yet anyways. It’s also used for baldness. Ohhh. Would blood banks be forced to close if I was a little more vain about my bald pate?

They asked if there was any Creutzfeldt-Jakob in my family. I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t heard of any Creutzfeldt-Jakob in my family but then again, I don’t know every single one of my relatives.

A friend has A positive blood. She can’t give blood because, like just about every woman I know, she’s anemic. Or maybe she just tells me that when I ask if she wants to go to the donation center with me because she has a lot more fun than I do.

I guess her blood floats when they drop it into the little vial of clear liquid to check it for iron. Her blood apparently doesn’t have enough iron in it. She must not know about Fred Flintstone Vitamin pills with Iron.

My blood apparently has iron because it always sinks in the vial. The technician and I sit there and watch the drop of blood lazily glide to the bottom. It’s suspenseful, like watching the Titanic slowly slip beneath the surface.

Anyway, my friend tells me that except for the iron thing, she would love to go to the blood donation center with me. She says this is because she likes taking blood tests. She gets an A+ every time. She loves that story. She tells it better than I do.

I’m O positive, which means my blood can be given to every person with RH positive blood. The only blood better than mine is O negative, which can be given to anyone. So they like for me to donate. I get calls about every two months from organizations seeking my blood. There are two competing blood-collecting systems here in Northern Virginia, Inova and the American Red Cross, and this situation doubles my calls.

I want to donate blood 100 times. I’m seventy percent of the way there. Runners are obsessed with numbers, right? Triple digits is my number for blood donations. I just made it up, years ago before I was a runner. So you see, the obsession that eventually led to running has always been there.

I have eight pins designating gallon donations in my cufflink box atop my dresser. Four more gallon donation pins sit in my desk drawer, awaiting transfer to my cufflink box upon completion of my task. Will I stop when I get to one hundred? I don’t know, but probably not.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What's in a Cover?

What happened to the good old RBF times, which were before my time? Tagging and that sort of thing. I don't know about looking at bedhead photos, but I loved looking at photos of runners' stuff. Like their medal walls. Or their bibs lined up. Or their refrigerator photos. Even their toes (how many blackened nails?). Where have those times gone?

Here is my fridge. It's covered with magnets. I have been ordered by some--No more fridge magnets! Uh, okay. (Left: A lotta magnets of places holding photos of places on that baby. Across the top row are little pix in location photoholders of all my DC 10-Milers (six), ending in my 2004 Twin Cities Marathon finisher's photo (wearing my John Kerry t-shirt). Down the right side, top, are little pix in location photoholders of all my sub-four marathons (three).)

Can you judge a book by its cover? Here's what's inside my fridge. A lot of liquids. Does it look like a runner's fridge? A bachelor's fridge? A running bachelor's fridge? (Right: On top, pomegranate juice and wrapping materials. Up above, frozen fish, coffee and a few store-bought oven-ready packages. Down below, a lotta water, a little soda, some juice, a pint of milk, a little bit of cut-up fruit and a coupla Millers. The Red Stripe is for when company comes over, which is practically never. The crispers contain two dozen eight-ounce fruit cups for eating in the car when I'm driving to races or morning workouts.)

I tag Not Born to Run, Bex and Just 1 2 Finish to divulge their fridge particulars. Y'all haven't posted yet this month anyway, except for Jeanne.