Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Full Day

Yesterday was a full day at the track and on the trails. I ran the bridges with M during the noon hour, 7.7 miles, in about 68 minutes. Ha, I had M, eleven years younger and faster than me to boot, begging for mercy after five miles. He tried to wave me on to continue without him when we got back into the District via the 14th Street Bridge near the Jefferson Memorial after our foray into Virginia utilizing the Memorial Bride by the Lincoln Memorial. But running buddies don't do that so I slowed down til he recovered. I capped my run off with a run up Capitol Hill (M works in a different building than me).

At 6:30 pm I took Metro to the Washington & Lee High School in Arlington for my club's Wednesday evening track workout. We ran for 20 minutes at ten-mile race pace, which I figure is 7:37s these days, so I shot for 1:48 laps. It was harder than I thought. Here were my splits: 1:48, 1:46, 1:47, 1:48, (then like a dying Energizer Bunny) 1:49, 1:50, 1:51, 1:55, 1:59, (last lap) 1:48, (cool down lap) 1:47. We capped it off with 2X400 at 5K race pace, which I figured should be 1:44s, 1:44, 1:39. That last lap I was chasing a 65 Y.O. friend of mine who was burning 1:37s. He's faster than me, sometimes, especially whenever he does track work. Then he leaves me with my tongue hanging out.

We finished the workout in the gathering gloom of the evening. I hopped onto the Custis Trail which feeds into the W&OD Trail which takes me directly to my back yard line, 4.7 miles away. I was a little tired and it got dark so I couldn't see my footfalls clearly so I went slow. What do you think about when you're running down a darkened but familiar trail? I was thinking that I hoped I didn't step on a snake on the trail even though I have never seen a snake on the trail. Our worst fears, you know? Give me a mugger to steal my two quarters for a pay phone call any day.

I got home in about 45 minutes, very tired and very glad to have this full day of running behind me. In chopped up segments, I did 16.1 miles including warmup and recovery laps.

I woke up this morning and my injured foot was throbbing. I overdid it, obviously. I'll keep you all posted.

My antics yesterday put me over 40 miles for the week for the second straight week and over 137 miles for August as I get ready for Chicago on October 7th. I still haven't done a twenty yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I was running my second 10-miler in two days this morning, thinking how I was finally back to training for Chicago again after injuring my left foot a month ago by stepping in a hole. My mind was going over all the mind-numbing details I could supply you with: Thursday's 2.2 mile run over my hill at a 10:11 pace; Friday's eclectic 10K run starting with a two-mile run to the West Falls Church Metro Station at a 7:50 pace, followed by a run over my hill at an 8:55 pace, finished off by blah blah blah...

Someone running on the W&OD Trail went by me who looked familiar in the early morning light. It was a beautiful woman pushing a child in a running stroller. Two dozen ringlets of golden hair swayed about her entrancing face, perfectly setting off her ebony skin.

I backtracked and caught up with her. She looked at me guardedly. I asked her if she ran this trail often. Her answer, spoken in the lilting accent of the Islands, was noncommittal.

"Do you remember about a month ago," I asked, "running by me when I was walking on the trail with an injured foot? And you stopped to ask if I was all right?" Her face lit up. "Yes!" she said. "And you are all right?" She remembered.

This was the one person who passed me on the trail that day as I was limping home after hurting myself who stopped to ask if I needed help. Everyone else on the trail gave a wide berth to the wild man hobbling along muttering bitter imprecations about his cursed luck.

Her sweet actions then made me feel so much better.

God was she pretty. The youngster in the stroller, an Asian-American child, looked at us curiously.

"I'm fine now, and back to running," I told her. She seemed delighted. I thanked her for expressing her concern then. I really meant it.

I was so grateful that I was able to express my feelings of appreciation to her. I felt like the circle had completely closed on my time away from training due to the injury.

Her smile was utterly radiant. I smiled in return and turned to continue my run. I was seven miles in and still had three miles of hills to go. My step was lively as I ran away and I felt absolutely great.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I had some interesting responses to the question posed in my last post, What you would do if you saw some bills lying on the floor in a crowded room? Here’s the set-up.

I was standing by the door on a jam-packed subway train after last week’s historic soccer game at RFK. (Don’t you remember? I told you that Jaime Moreno rolled a penalty shot in to break the all time MLS scoring record. You forgot already?)

One more person wedged on board before the doors closed. Looking for open space, he noticed two clumps of crumpled dollar bills on the floor right by my feet. He pointed down and said to the man on the other side of the bills, "Is that yours?"

The man immediately looked down and, without missing a beat, said, "Yes." He bent down, scooped up the two wads of bills and shoved them into his pocket without looking at them further or saying a further word (like, "Oh thanks!")

Trouble was, the money was mine. I know it was. Since the helpful guy's comment wasn't directed at me, I looked down too late. Should I have arrested the thief's wrist as it came back up with my two clumps of money? There on the crowded train full of liquored-up fans coming back from the game? Should I have instantly gotten close and personal?

The money was gone in a flash. The swindler turned and faced away from me and his benefactor.

Money is fungible, right? How could I prove it was mine? My pocket was full of wadded up bills. I had just pulled my employment id out of that pocket without looking to make sure I still had it. Some clumps of bills had obviously tumbled out.

My change from lunch was gone, a five and a some ones. My change from a snack purchase at the stadium was gone, some singles.

I said to the good samaritan, "You know, that money was mine." He said, "I’m sorry, I didn’t know." I assured him, "You did the right thing."

Pointing directly at the smooth operator I said, "He, on the other hand, did the wrong thing." The man looked back at me impassively, then moved over by the door.

Room opened up in the car. I considered going over and accosting him for my money. Or maybe bargaining with him for half of it back. What better way to create a volatile situation in a crowded subway car than to start an argument over the theft of money, which charge you couldn’t prove? Would the other riders enjoy that male alpha show?

I sat down and, staring at him, slowly pulled every wadded up bill out of my pocket and carefully smoothed them all out. The mendacious one glanced over, saw what I was doing and turned to stonily face the closed door. He got off a couple of stops later. This thief and liar evidently lives in Clarendon, which is in Arlington.

I used to believe in karma (and fairness) til I got introduced, in Arlington, to American family law (divorce law). Now I believe in the jungle.

That guy knew it was my money. But what are you gonna do in those circumstances? What should I have done? It still pisses me off. But I marvel at the guy who gave away my money. What a guy! (I'm serious. He tried!)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More soccer

Yesterday I ran a seven-miler during the noon hour at an 8:24 pace, the best run I've had in weeks. I ran across an office mate running on the Mall and I signaled for him to join me on a "Bridge Run" over to Virginia on the Memorial Bridge and back to DC on the 14th Street Bridge. He was game and we pushed each other. He's going to his H.S. reunion in Germany in a matter of weeks and wants to look good for it so he's working hard in the interim (he's faster than me). He said they won't be doing any running but they're going to drink a lot of beer. German beer out of steins.

My kind of reunion. My last H.S. reunion only confronted me with the fact that both of my high school roommates have passed on. Sigh.

Yesterday evening I went with someone from work to see a MLS game at RFK, the second professional soccer game I've seen in two weeks. It's a long story. (Whatever happened to the NASL?)

Anyway, the seats were highest up in the extreme corner of the lower deck. I could look down and see the top of the head of anyone taking a corner kick from that side. There was a foul pole in the way of my seeing some of the goalie box. (RFK is a baseball stadium.)

Good thing we arrived on time. DC United scored in the sixth and eighth minutes, both goals occurring right in front of us. It was pretty exciting. That was pretty much it. The other 82 minutes, the two sides swapped penalty kicks. DC beat the New York Red Bulls 3-1.

There were lots of balls the attacking team sent from inside their opponent's goalie box back to midfield, then back to their end of the field, then back to their goalie. This apparently is how you set up the attack in soccer, by slowly sending the ball backwards 80 yards.

The GK would hold the ball for forty seconds while everyone on offense and defense settled into their places on the long field nicely and then he'd loft a 50-50 ball back to midfield. This is as exciting as watching Mark Brunnell take snaps to throw passes.

But the DC United penalty kick was historic. You see, there's a guy on the United named Jaime Moreno. He's 33. In his eleven years in the MLS he had scored 108 goals.

He had scored three times this season, all on penalty kicks. His last goal was three months ago.

United Striker Luciano Emilio, this season's leading MLS scorer, was taken down in the box as he got free with the ball. Ignoring both the fullback's and Emilio's obligatory hands beseeching the heavens from their knees, the ref set the ball up on the 12 yard line and signaled for a PK. PK is referee shorthand for, I'm awarding this team an automatic point and probably the game.

Unlike the NBA where the fouled player takes the shot, anyone can shoot the PK. Moreno stepped up to the plate. (Sorry.) At the end of the season, if Emilio misses the scoring crown by one goal, do you think he'll remember this moment in a different light?

The dumb thing about PKs is that the GK can't move until the ball is struck. Motionless one moment, he's diving by guess and by golly the next. Yawn.

So Moreno took this PK and rolled his 109th lifetime goal inside the side of net two feet past one upright bar while the GK dove towards the other upright bar. Egg on your face! I swear the announcer bellowed "goal" as one word for ninety seconds. (Who is #19?)

You see, Moreno broke the record for the most lifetime goals ever in the MLS. Once the announcer had completely run down his copious breath pronouncing the one word "goal" for a minute and a half, he next announced that we could purchase "109, I was there" t-shirts in the concourse. How long were those suckers on ice waiting to be sold?

Here's the problem that soccer has in America as a major professional sport. Have you heard that Hank Aaron's lifetime homerun record was broken earlier this month? Did you hear that Jason Kreis's (who?) lifetime goal record was broken last night? See what I mean?

Next post: If there was $8 in cash lying on the floor in a crowded room that wasn't yours, would you claim it? Come on now! What if it was yours and somebody swifter than you claimed it and stuck it away in their pocket. What would you do? Come on now! It's a jungle out there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Bloody Business

Donating Blood. Just 1 2 Finish posted something interesting. He's a regular blood donor apparently.

He went out for a five-mile run and crashed. He wondered if something was wrong. He had a marathon he was gettin' ready for!

Then he remembered. He had given blood the day before. He had a paucity of red blood cells and his body rebelled at the exertion. It demanded some respect (in the form of time). It's a situation many runners encounter, I suspect, because I'll bet lots of runners donate blood regularly.

How Often? If I'm around, I donate blood whenever the Red Cross mobile donation center comes to my agency, which is four times a year. I have good blood, O+, which can be used for any person with RH positive blood. The Red Cross is after me all the time for it.

What About Later? The instructions afterwards are to drink plenty of fluids and not to do anything physically demanding like lifting weights for the rest of the day. If you ask them about the next day, it gets a little more uncertain and vague. But here's my experience.

It's Effect, a personal guide. Fast Runs. Hours after a blood donation, I have run in a very competitive 3K race. It seemed to have no effect.

The day after a blood donation, I have run a 5K race. It seemed to have no effect.

Slow Runs. The day after a blood donation I have run an 8 mile LSD. It seemed to have no effect.

Two days after a blood donation, I have run a sixteen mile LSD. After seven miles, I slowed down. After 12 miles I really slowed down. Miles fifteen and sixteen were a stumble-bum affair where I was panting and exhausted.

Two days after a blood donation, I have run a twenty-three mile LSD, with a 90 minute rest at the midway point. I was literally shuffling along the last four or five miles, dead tired, counting the miles off as I fantasized about the blessed moment when I'd arrive back at my house at the end.

Marathons. Last year, the Red Cross unit came to my workplace on the Wednesday before the Sunday when I was going to run the New York City Marathon. I decided that donating blood four days before a marathon race was too risky, so on the Friday prior to the Red Cross showing up at work, I went to the hospital to make a blood donation.

Nine days later, my marathon was going fine. I felt great. I was sailing along, with a 3:45 definitely within reach. I even had an escort the last ten miles, pacing me.

At MP 21 I suddenly just broke into a walk. Just like that. I didn't even call out to my escort that I was slowing down. She went on down Fifth Avenue clearing space for me and I wasn't even there anymore (NYCM is crowded). After a short while she had to double back and find me. This happened more than once. (That's me at the 2006 NYCM, # 16976. I was doing just fine on the Queensboro Bridge around MP 17.)

I walked five or six more times going to Central Park. Run a little, walk a little. I'd just...walk. I finished in 3:52:34 only because my running buddy spurred me on to greater effort the last mile. While I ran to the finish line in the roadway at the end, she ran behind the spectator barricades, loudly exhorting me on. She was tremendous.

(By MP 24, I was no longer doing just fine. I was merely seeking the end.) I have thought about my sudden and casual surrender to fatigue those last five miles at NYC and come to the conclusion that my blood donation nine days earlier very possibly cost me my BQ. But if my blood donation really helped somebody, then it was worth it, because if running is life, then life is life too. However, I'm not donating blood again until after Chicago.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Ugly Sixteen

LSD. I finally got my 16-miler in today as I prepare for Chicago seven weeks from now. You'll remember I had a little trouble with the heat last month when I attempted a sixteen miler and my running buddy A shut down our run, correctly, after 14 miles. Then I hurt my foot. My injury put me down for a full week and set me back three weeks.

But last week I did a more robust 28 miles for the week, including a track workout, a race and yesterday's eight-miler, when I had energy left over at the end of the run. Today I wanted to do 14 or 16, but I hung around the house putting it off all morning. Finally at 11 am I headed out. Fortunately it was overcast and still relatively cool.

The W&OD, a forty-mile long running trail, cuts right across my back yard line at MP 7. Pretty handy. Mile markers every half mile.

I ran seven miles down to Shirlington and seven back. That took 2:13 (9:30). Going down to the zero mile marker I was running nice 8:45s or 8:50s. But then I got tired. Coming back it was more like 9:20s to 9:50s, and well over 10:00s for the last couple of miles.

I moseyed along a little on the way back. I stopped at the comfort station at the Ranger Shelter. I went by a couple about my age, walking along wearing tie-dye t-shirts. I stopped to chat.

"Tie dye is back in?" I asked.

"Oh, you bet." (Why am I always the last one to find out?)

"I've got to get home and find all those t-shirts I still have from the seventies," I said as I hurried off.

I contemplated extending my run to a 22-miler. But I was getting really tired and I was really slowing down. I made it to my driveway, the fourteenth mile, where I'd laid out food and Gatorade in my car. I was panting and feeling a little woozy. The sun was coming out and it was getting humid.

As I sucked down Gatorade, I considered the fact I'd given blood two days earlier and attributed my weariness to that. Plus I was convalescing my foot. My grand notion of doing 22 miles shrank to 17. I'd do a single repetition of my hill workout, which is a two-mile out and back from my house, and follow it up with my neighborhood mile. How hard could it be?

Very hard indeed. On my hill, I walked twice taking deep draughts of water from the fresh bottle I was carrying. Those miles were on the order of 13-minutes each. Going down the steep part of my hill was painfully slow. My motion was akin to stumble-bum.

I abandoned my new plan to finish up with my neighborhood mile. I gratefully shuffled into my driveway after sixteen and a quarter miles at 2:40:35 (9:53) and pulled the plug. The second half of the run was ugly and getting uglier. Boy, long runs can go down the tubes in a hurry.

But my sixteen is done. My foot feels fine right now, although tomorrow will tell. Now I just gotta do a twenty-miler as I get ready for Chicago, maybe in a couple of weeks.

Odds & Sods: I have a friend at work who is scheduled to take a long-planned vacation to Cancun, Mexico, with long-purchased airline tickets on a flight on Wednesday. All of the tickets are non-refundable. Cancun would be the place where Hurricane Dean, projected to be a Category Five hurricane packing 160 MPH winds, is due to make landfall on Tuesday. For my co-worker, it must be like watching a slow-motion train wreck as the storm moves across the Caribbean.

Thanks! I want to thank my brother for his generous support of my intention to run Chicago as a fund-raiser for a charity, A Running Start Foundation. My brother is a sometimes-runner and a Yankee fan like me.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Wooden Stairs at Fletcher's...

A Little Run on the C&O. This morning the TMG which I direct for my club passed its halfway mark, six weeks done and six more to go before Army. I "led" the middle group, and we went eight miles on a grand loop through Georgetown starting at Fletcher's Boathouse on the dirt C&O Towpath, going over two bridges in the process. Since the morning was cool, a rarity in DC in August, the running wasn't onerous. Still, I could tell it stretched the endurance of the group, after going from a base of three miles to seven in the first five weeks, so next week we'll stay an additional week on eight miles before we resume our march to a ten mile base.
We ran down the C&O to Rock Creek Park, then down to and over the Memorial Bridge. The halfway mark was midpoint on the bridge. The back stairs of the Lincoln Memorial go down to the bank of the Potomac River just before the bridge, a series of maybe 100 low marble steps. I ran down them three at a time and then back up for a little bit of extra work. A group of seven or eight athletes were down there also working the steps, carefully balancing on a step, bending low, then leaping, both feet together and knees raised towards the chest each hop, three steps at a time. When they emerged on the veranda leading to the back of the Lincoln, they swigged some water stashed up there in backpacks and turned to go down to the bottom of the stairs again. I asked them what sport they were preparing for.

"The sport of life," said the leader, looking at me hard to see if I was a heckler.

"The grandest sport of them all," I said agreeably.

He invited me to join them. "Every Saturday morning we're here," he said.

It certainly looked hard. I was tempted to try it. All of the athletes were perspiring but even better, except for the leader they were all women. But by then I was on another task.

The two runners at the back of the group hadn't come by yet. While the rest of the runners went over the Memorial Bridge and then cut up the Mount Vernon Trail on the Virginia side to the Key Bridge to return to Fletcher's by running over that back to the C&O, I had to backtrack to find the missing pair, last seen running together. The main group was being led by their regular volunteer coach.

I'm a terrible person, I admit it. While there are 63 persons in the TMG, I can assign a name to a face to only about twenty of them. Embarrassingly, they all know my name. I find myself saying, "Oh, hi!" a lot. Everybody on the planet knows that's shorthand for, "I'm sorry but I haven't bothered to learn your name yet!"

There were a lot of groups out this morning in Rock Creek Park. Montgomery County Road Runners, some Team in Training types, GW Road Runners. I chatted 'em all up as I leapfrogged from group to group, but no DC Roadrunners except for one stray from the program who was independently doing ten miles on her own as she gets ready to do the The Parks Half-Marathon before doing Army. She wasn't a stray that I was looking for. I ran all the way back to Fletcher's by reversing the first half of the route, arriving several minutes before anyone from the main group. The last two miles on the C&O I pressed the pace and practised picking runners off. I was probably doing straight eights by then. In all I did about eight miles in about 69 and a half minutes.

The two missing runners were there, having turned back early. Soon athletes from the other two groups showed up as well, the fast group, which did nine miles on the blacktop Capital Crescent Trail, and the novice group which ran seven miles between the bridges on the C&O.

A Scare. There was some excitement at the hydration point. I had brought the groups' replenishments to the starting point of the run in a backpack, which I left there, unzipped with the bottles of water and Gatorade showing, along with empty cups. Some scared witless American had called the Park Police to report a suspicious package at the top of the wooden stairs leading down to the boat rental shack. Of all the vast array of soft targets available in America, the wooden stairs next to the jogging trail at Fletcher's Boathouse must be at the top of the list! Threats to America are real, but do you remember when we weren't all scared of everything all the time?

Are we following these guys? Here's a clip from YouTube you might like, the Great Bird Hunter presciently calling the occupation of Baghdad a "quagmire." In 1994. Uhh, I think Darth and his sidekick the Decider had something to do with American scaredy-catness.

Odds & Sods. Metro Run & Walk, a good running shoe store in the area, had a signing at their Falls Church store on Thursday night with Alan Webb and Samia Akbar. I got Webb, the American mile record holder at 3:46:91, to sign something for a running friend of mine who is looking to overcome a longstanding time barrier in a race later this year. I had Akbar, who placed twelfth at New York last year in her marathon debut in 2:34:14, sign something for another running friend who is overcoming injuries. Akbar was only, umm, one hour fourteen minutes and twenty seconds faster than me.

She is absolutely lovely and a warm person to boot. She reflected a moment on what little I told her about my friend's adversity and then wrote something very personal and thoughtful. She's not going to get rich quick if she starts attending autograph sessions for money because she added something personal to every signature she gave out, beyond the usual good-luck stuff.

I hope each inscription is inspiring to each friend. Local legend the bionic Ted Poulos was there getting his picture taken with Webb. Three great runners in their own rights (did I say that right?).

I donated blood yesterday for the fifth time this year. I'm still a boring stick-in-the-mud because I haven't done anything wild yet to get booted off the donor list like getting a tattoo or a body piercing or traveling to a Channel Island or having a wild night of...uh, never mind.

Thanks. I want to thank my friend and running mate Beth for her generous support of my effort to run Chicago for a charity, A Running Start. Thanks, Beth! I'm sorry I insulted the Bosox.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Track Work

Yeah, I been running again. What, are you surprised? Shocked, maybe? After my first Track W.O. since the winter (last post), I fielded a call on Friday night from the mid-group volunteer coach in the TMG (Ten-Mile Group Program) that I direct for my club. She was sick.

Good (I mean, bad for her, sorry to hear it). Now I could really get a workout in, just like in the old days when I was a coach and would run the line from slowest to fastest of my group and back again and get a real workout in. That sort of "training" led directly to a 1:14 Ten-Miler PR last year and indirectly to a 3:50 marathon PR this year.

I plotted out a 7-miler for Saturday morning on the soft dirt C&O Canal Towpath in MD, from bridge to bridge, Key Bridge to Chain Bridge (and over Chain Bridge to VA for a moment and back to burn up half a mile). The appointed time came and off we went. I ran the line. It felt great. NBTR shepherded the novice group along the same route minus the dash over the bridge and I finished up running with her the last mile. She's running great, BTW. I figured I ran eight miles in 82 minutes.

That afternoon I hiked the Billy Goat Trail off the C&O and watched the death-defying rock climbers practice their skills on huge boulders. They think runners are crazy for running themselves into exhaustion; we think they're crazy for clinging to tiny crevices in sheer rock faces forty feet up. My hands aren't strong enough to do what they do, or maybe my heart isn't big enough. I admire them.

Sunday I made it over to Rock Creek Park where I jogged four miles in about fifty minutes through trails in its wooded ravines with a friend who is just starting up with running. I stopped to smell the roses along the way several times as we moseyed along. I am truly delighted whenever anyone takes up running.

Wednesday brought forth the real test of my injured left foot, the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K race my club puts on. This was the 403rd consecutive running. It's not older than me but it's a venerable running for sure. My foot held up to the fast pounding.

I improved by 26 seconds over the July race when I was bothered by my hip (it's always something, eh?). 13:10 (7:04), 36th male out of 52. Two women passed me in the last half mile and I had no answer to either of them. I was too busy keeping ahead of the 58 year-old man chasing me and trying unsuccessfully to catch the 70 year-old man I was chasing. Shoot, I swear that when that guy beat me last month, he was only 69.

But I like to break 13 minutes for a 3K so I felt alright about the race. I'm getting close again. Did I feel good enough to call it a day? Uh, no, Wednesday night was track night.

So at 7 pm I was lining up on the track to start four 1000 meter runs at "cruise or tempo pace." That is, according to the track workout director, your 10K race pace. I figured lately that was 7:37s so I wanted to do 4:44s for each thousand meters.

Results: 4:27, 4:26, 4:38, 4:30, and my, ahem, cooldown thousand meters, 4:24. That would be a 22:25 5K if you could claim them in a race and forget about the recovery jogging (and walking) between the sets. I have done four 5Ks as fast or faster than this, twice in 2001 (when I PRed at the Spirit of Gettysburg in 21:58) and twice last year. Either I was then in unconscious shape during those two periods or else I was dogging it a few days ago. But at least I'm back to the track again. That's truly how you get faster.

Odds & Sods: Today I fielded a call at my home number from someone asking for Dr. Edmund Lang. When I first acquired my landline number in 2001 shortly after being served with divorce papers, I used to get a lot of calls from persons seeking a doctor's office here in Virginia. I still get automatic fax blasts every single weekday at 8:45 am. Anyway, this was the first one this year. I chatted briefly with the woman from Columbia, SC, who had undergone surgery on her back in 1986 after a car accident, performed by Dr. Lang out of his Seven-Corners Medical Office. It changed her life by enabling her to walk again. She was sorting and came across his number. If I'd'a been him, she woulda put me on her Christmas card list. He was a sought-after physician then. He was old back then, she confided to me. Being 55 myself, I take statements like this with a grain of salt, but I did wish him good health, or good spirit, whatever the case may be, to her upon hearing her tale. So here's to Dr. Lang, wherever he may be, for making a difference in this life.

I want to thank Bex for her generous support of my determination to run Chicago in two months for a charity, A Running Start. Bex just won a 5K race in Las Vegas. She also just purchased a house in Lake Tahoe. All in a week's work for my friend Bex, apparently. Thanks Bex. (Bex on a run in Lake Tahoe. Look at that Cheshire Cat grin. Do you suppose the East Coast phase of her life is ovah!?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Track Work

Back to the track, finally.

As I come back from my foot injury, my mileage and times have dropped dramatically, but I did get back to the track for the first time in half a year. After all, the date of the Chicago Marathon remains immutable. It hasn’t changed to accommodate my various ailments.

After my last 5K race early this month, I ran a few miles most days, albeit slowly. My foot was sore from the race. I did four miles with the novice group two Saturdays ago during the Ten-Mile Program that I direct. With half a mile to go, I ran hard back to our end-point so I could break out the fluids for the athletes, and that sprint felt good.

The next day I did a neighborhood mile in 7:35 to keep my hand in, then I did a pedestrian 2.1-miles in 18 minutes at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep because of the stifling heat built up in my unairconditioned house by the record heat wave. Some more desultory runs followed, until last Wednesday.

Wednesday is the day I lead a running group from work at noon. It was 102 degrees. No one showed. I ran two miles up Capitol Hill and called it a day. Umm, actually, that’s not true. At 7 pm I went to my club’s weekly track workout.

It was still 92 degrees but it felt like 99. I did eight spins (400 meters) around the track at varying paces. I saw runners I haven’t seen all year and caught up with them. I was reminded of the totem-pole nature of club running.

Not many people were there. Unbeknownst to me, the wimpy program director (kidding) had cancelled the workout because of the heat. At the track, I latched onto a group of fit-looking women running laps. One was the program director for a long-distance training program that our club puts on. I figured it’d be natural for us to talk since the 10-Mile Program that I direct, and her program, are both winding down.

Although she’s faster than me, I could keep up with her during the laps, which we were running in 1:37s. I tried to talk with her about getting t-shirts for our program finishers, the runner who went from her group to mine, what race she was getting ready for, etc. She wasn’t buying any of it. She motioned for me to stop talking to her until the recovery run. Fair enough.

I joked that if I could talk while running laps, I wasn’t running fast enough. She seemed to agree because she suggested that her group didn’t want to hold me back, so why didn’t I run alone? I remembered that the wonderful program director I had replaced had quit after a run-in with her. This is why I say attendance at track workouts involves knowing your place on the totem-pole. The better runners are there and there is a definite hierarchy.

I ran a few laps with a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in awhile, doing 2:05s. She talked with me and it was pleasant. She finished up and I ran my last two laps alone in 1:38 and 1:39.

I went home on the Metro. The commuters on the car looked at me in horror as I stood there in saturated running togs, dripping sweat. What are you gonna do? At least I didn’t sit down next to somebody.

Getting back to the track felt great.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Other PG County

Woo hoo. The Bowie Baysox win again!

Saturday night I attended a Bowie Baysox Double A minor league game at Prince George’s Stadium. They are an Orioles’ affiliate.

You wouldn’t know you were in PG County out there in the country between the Beltway and Annapolis. The PG County I know is an area next to SE that I run in occasionally. It’s an area of either urban blight or suburban isolation. It does have good hills though.

I try to run it in tandem with another runner because seeing another runner is rare over there. As in, I have never seen another runner over there, except for during the one race I attended in PG County.

That was the inaugural version of the National Marathon, which partially went through that part of PG County. The irate, put-upon commuters, outraged at the traffic back-up caused by the race, yelled imprecations at practically every runner going by. No mas. The National Marathon is now safely ensconced within the four borders of the District.

But PG Stadium is a pleasant place. Built in 1994, it is modern, comfortable and spacious. Like most minor league parks, it has ample open-air concourse space in which to freely roam, which also affords good views of the action on the diamond from anywhere within the park.

The ballclub provides silly on-field contests between every inning, such as having children line up with their foreheads on the end of an upright baseball bat, spinning around it fifteen times and then dizzily trying to race to home plate. A spectacle for sure. Or "sumo wrestling" in which people in bloated latex body suits run and bump into each other in a contest of three falls. That is a particular crowd favorite.

The distance down either line is a short 305 feet, but a respectable 405 feet to dead center. Out beyond the foul pole in right is a carousel that children can ride for free during the game.

The night I went, there were several women stars of the female baseball leagues of yore holding autograph sessions, with long lines of signature seekers. It was also fireworks night. This post-game exhibit just over the centerfield fence was long, sustained, noisy and spectacular. Afterwards, they turned the lights back on and let the kids run the bases on the field. All this for just $9 a ticket for general admission.

Oh yeah, there was also a baseball game. The home team won 7-4 after falling behind to the Binghamton Mets 4-0. It was their sixth straight win. Break ‘em up!

The big Bowie Baysox first baseman, Luis Jimenez, single-handedly got his team even by clouting a three run homer in the fourth, his 16th, and then drawing a bases-loaded walk the next inning for his 58th RBI of the year. He has his own particular ritual before every at-bat. Step back, breathe deeply, bow head, be still for a moment, step in, wave bat one-handedly, grab crotch with the other, take a practice swing, and wag the bat in circles high overhead while awaiting the delivery. His routine never varied. He also made a sparkling double play in the field, fielding a sharp grounder next to the bag, throwing down to second to force a runner there and then taking the return throw to put out the batter.

Oh yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bend It Like Beckham

Ninety minutes, one-oh. That's my notion of watching a soccer game, reinforced by all those years I coached soccer when my three boys were growing up. As in 90 minutes of exciting runs across the midfield pitch with two or three wildly exciting breaks into the box (ohh!) and one ball that actually goes in (ahh!!). Delirium. What a game! But beware of the zero-zero tie. Because then they play sixty more minutes of overtime. And it ain't sudden death. Oh no, it's slow death.

I went to see English superstar David Beckham in his MLS playing debut at RFK on Thursday evening. It was a sold-out crowd. The LA Galaxy paid him $32.5 million to come rejuvenate soccer in America. This is a business model that was tried in the seventies when Pele was lured to America by the NASL to rejuvenate soccer in America. That league shortly became defunct.

The MLS has a problem. This is a major professional sports league that has been around for several years. I'll bet you can't even say what MLS stands for unless you figure it out for a few seconds. (Quick! Name one other soccer player in the MLS besides Beckham. Now name two hockey players in the NHL. See what I mean?)

I bought tickets for the match last month hoping that my estranged 21-YO son would go with me (a divorce, and PAS, situation). My oldest boy was a wonderful soccer player, swift and courageous with a good kick. He was a scorer on a travel (select) team.

It all slipped away from him as the boy took the easy and intellectually lazy route to adolescent comfort in the absolute familial destruction engendered by the berserker current American domestic law system. He quit soccer along with discarding his dad as he was grotesquely manipulated by all the social-work "professionals" who routinely murder the childhoods of children to achieve gain for their client or their agenda in the insane modern American divorce warfare.

I called NOS and left a message about taking him to this game. He ignored me. I wrote him about taking him to this game. He ignored me. His Mother (I think he still lives with Sharon Rogers, two miles away) was undoubtedly proud of him, again. I went to the game anyway.

These soccer players kick the ball very hard. But the goalkeepers (us soccer parents know them as goalies) can use their arms and hands, to everyone else merely using the rest of their body. That, coupled with soccer's oppressive and incomprehensible offsides rule, means lots of 1-0 contests. Any actual scoring is regularly waved off for being offsides.

Anyway, Beckham has been nursing a sore ankle even while his traveling road show has been selling out soccer stadiums. There was a sell-out in Toronto but he didn't play in that 0-0 nailbiter. Oops.

The DC United/LA Galaxy game sold out within two days of the tickets being put up for sale. But then started a month-long watch on how his ankle was. Would he play? Likely not.

He didn't start.

DC United scored in the 27th minute. Gooooooooooooooooooooaall!!!! Um, it was exciting for sure. The guy who scored whipped around the pitch like he'd just discovered the secret to cold fusion.

And that was it. It would have been a good time to beat the subway crush.

Beckham went into a warm-up routine late in the first half. The crowd roared. The skies opened and the rain came down.

The second half came and Beckham continued his warmups. A Galaxy player was red-carded and sent off the pitch. In the 72d minute Beckham came in. The crowd went wild. Beckham played center-midfielder and suspiciously was in open space the whole way.

Not many balls came to him. But when one did, you could see the promise. His kicks curled down to the pitch perfectly for a breaking teammate to run up upon and streak in on goal. But no teammates were ever there. I think they haven't discovered yet what he can do and so they don't "create." It takes energy to create. They give you millions in the NBA to create off the ball. In the MLS they give you tens of thousands. You can do the math.

Oh yeah, it ended 1-0. Beckham had a shot on goal, from 60 yards out, easily handled by the GK (no LA player was there). It could have been a 50-50 ball. His one free kick was a fine one. No LA player was where it came down.

The LA Galaxy was off to a sold-out crowd in Boston next, on Sunday. Beckham wouldn't play in that 1-0 thriller, won by New England. Oops.

Pele, meet Beckham. The result will be the same.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

35W Bridge Collapse

She Do Run Run published a nice post about the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Particularly poignant is the story of her friend Dean, whose workplace overlooks where the bridge was. He didn't see it go down but he looked out the window a moment later and the view was wrong. The wrong bridge, the arched one, was now in the forefront. The other one was just . . . gone.

Dori writes nicely, travels widely to interesting locations like Fargo, ND and is well worth reading. She, like Bex, is moving out of this country soon to go live in California. Why are all the good ones emigrating?

My sister owns a yarnshop in St. Paul. You can see her in this video taken inside her store (she's the one with the blue hair).

Folks in Minnesota are the salt of the earth. They're normally hard to spot because it's not as if they identify themselves by wearing cowboy boots like Texans or having radiant tans like Californians. I can discern them when they say "a-boot" for "about," "you betcha!" for "oh, sure" or "Geez" for "Aww, Jesus!" It's a hoot to hear.

My sister called family members on the night of the tragedy to leave messages saying she was okay, which we were all grateful to receive. (I have five siblings spread out across the country from Santa Fe to Queens.)

I called her back the next day and she was with her husband underneath a highway bridge in some town south of Winona on the River Road. Winona is the town on the Mississippi River where my father was born in 1925 and in which he grew up.

My sister's husband works for a paper in Minnesota and after the bridge's collapse, he had been detailed to visit the structurally deficient bridges in the state and record his impressions. My sister said the bridge they were currently under was noisily shaking and shimmering due to the traffic load. I felt strangely uneasy and wished she would get out from under that bridge.

It was probably like a lot of bridges all across the US.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Better, better, better

I've got to admit it's getting better. A little better all the time.

To rehab my ankle (it's the top of my left foot, really, that is injured) I have been wearing a compression ace bandage around my foot and ankle and running slowly and carefully after taking a week off. I took the group at work out running this last week as usual, but I only did a mile, in 8:33. That seemed to go okay so next I did an evening club race, the Bluemont 5K , as a test.

It was still hot at 7 pm when the race started. This was the fourth year I have done this August race and it is always a challenge because of the heat. It was a good reason to go slow.

The race is an out-and-back on the W&OD Trail, a narrow 12 foot wide bike path that runs forty miles across Virginia following an old railroad bed. The trail was being shared with other runners and bicyclists during the race.

I stationed myself back in the pack at the start and went out slowly. To alleviate stress on my foot, I didn't actively work my way through the crowd in the beginning like I usually do with a lot of sideways running and shooting through gaps as they appear. After a half mile the race loosened up as the runners got strung out and I picked up my pace just a little and started to pick people off. I recognized many of these runners because they're always around me in club races since they go about my speed.

The first mile went by in 7:35. I was pleased with that since I was just shooting for eights. By the turnaround I had found my rhythm and was running easily. My foot felt fine within its tight compression bandage.

With a mile to go, a runner caught me and went by. She didn't put me away though and I caught her at the one hill on the course. I always tell runners that hills are your friends because if you can run hills, you can beat people by dropping them or catching them on the uphills.

I picked up my pace to match hers and we ran side by side for half a mile, chatting. It was fortuitous that she came by when she did because I was just starting to wilt.

I'm familiar with the course since I often run this part of the W&OD. Half a mile from the end I made my move. We were coming up on a teenager and I passed him. Startled out of his reverie, he immediately passed me back in a noisy rush. I stalked him for a moment and then smoothly went past him again. I steadily kept on with my increased pace and both runners let me go. I built up a 40 meter lead and then just hung on. The next fellow ahead was too far away to catch.

I came into sight of the finish clock while it was still showing 23 minutes and sprinted to get in under 24, finishing in 23:56 (7:42). This is a tough crowd I run with. I was in the bottom half of all finishers, and almost in the bottom quartile of the men (73%).

Not a bad comeback effort though. My foot is a little sore and my ankle feels a little weak but it doesn't hurt. I'm gonna go easy with it for the next coupla weeks.

What pleases me is that instead of just coasting in the last mile looking for the finish line, I worked at managing the end of the race. Although I was over a minute slower than last year, I beat my times for 2004 and 2005.

I want to thank my friend and sometimes running partner David for his generous support of my efforts to run Chicago as a charity fundraiser for A Running Start Foundation. He is battling injury issues himself (a broken patella) and I hope he comes back soon so we can run the hills of SE and PG County as we had planned to. (David in better times. He ran the first leg for my team The G-Force in the Washington's Birthday Marathon Relay on a brutally windy and cold day in February. Thanks largely to his efforts, we came in fourth in our division.)