Sunday, November 26, 2006

3rd Annual Slowtwitch Turkeyman Virtual Triathlon/Duathlon

It began with an innocuous posting on Slowtwitch's Triathlon Forum:

Ok all, the Third Annual Slowtwitch
Turkeyman will be from 11/23 to 11/26.

Distances are:
Tri: 500m swim, 20k bike 5k run.
Du: 5k / 20k / 5k.

Divisions are: Men’s Tri, Mens Du, Women’s Tri, Women’s Du

Easy to enter: No entry required except posting your times by the cut off.

No entry fee: that’s right absolutely free (beat that IMNA)

Awards: will consist of bragging rights only, given the cost of entry that seems fair.

The rules: (note anyone caught breaking the rules will be banished to the Lavender Room)

1) Have fun.

2) Race may be completed anytime between 12am 11/23/04 and 11:59pm 11/26/04, in other words anytime during the Thanksgiving weekend.

3) Rule change from previous years, events may be completed in any order and at anytime as long as they happen during the holiday weekend.

4) Swim leg, 500m please keep accurate track of your laps, I suggest having someone count for you or using some device to record laps. Immediately after you complete 500m STOP!!!

6) The bike, 20k, try to be as accurate as possible. If using a trainer you may set the tension as light as you like but the wheel must touch the tension device. Remember that your computer will not register if the magnet is on the front wheel. If you stop or get off the bike the clock keeps running.

7) The run, 5k, either treadmill or outside. try to be as accurate as possible. I will open a separate thread to be used to post times only, use this thread for comments. That way I don't have to wade through the comments to get everyone’s times. If you have your splits post them, if not overall time is fine include gender, and whether you did the tri or du.

8) Transition times should not be included in any way.

9) Drafting on the bike will not be tolerated; drafters will be forced to view every picture Tom D has ever posted on this forum

10) Above all see rule #1

The above bears no responsibility in any way shape or form for any injuring to person or property suffered during this event. Triathlon is a dangerous sport, any risk of injury or death is solely the responsibility of the participant. is in no way affiliated with this production.

D’wife had to work Saturday morning. We had a full day planned so if a workout was to be done, it had to be done early. As was my custom, I woke up, did my stretching / punk-yoga and was up, out and back, just before she had to leave at 8AM. The rest of my morning was consigned to baby-sitting … Or, as other call it: “parenting.” Parenting, plus running the Laundry Train.

She got home from the bank just about 1:30. D’Kid’s godmother came by at two o’clock to take her to the movies. They went to see “Happy Feet” … something about penguins.

I know what you’re thinking … Home alone for a couple of hours, D’Kids at the movies, what are we to do???

“Wanna fuck for a little while???”

No, see we plan things a bit better than that, our daughter’s a sound sleeper, so we don’t have to struggle and scramble for time to get “nekkid” [Tuesday and/or Thursday, and Saturday and/or Sunday]

So, with a couple hours to spare, we went for a bike ride.

The original plan was to go to the gym together, but that’s not really a “together” activity … when I go to Bally’s I run on the track then ride the bike … D’Wife prefers a workout on the elliptical trainer, some time on the recumbent bike, then a swim. We’re not really be at the gym together, just at the same time.

With the temperature pushing into the mid sixties and a sky of calm high clouds, we departed on our mountain bikes [a cruel joke of a name for people who live in mostly flat South Jersey].

I pretty much knew where she wanted to ride - she’s not the one to say “where does this go?” – I took the lead out of the development. After traveling only a few hundred yards I realized something very important … while I want to get as many miles in as quickly as possible [some may say “race”], she wants to take a more leisurely ride. This will require me to go slower, look back often to see how far behind me she is, and, in extreme cases, circle back behind her for her to take the lead for a while.

All of which, flies in the face of the “I’ll meet you at the bottom of the hill” mentality that I usually adopt once I strap on my helmet. She knows that and is pretty tolerant. It usually only takes me a couple of miles to remember we’re riding together. This is not a wedding and you are not the bride … no showing off [or extreme hats].

The ride out was pretty simple; this was basically the first couple miles of my commute, with a little detour back out to the main road; a detour which I had driven once, and run twice during my failed ½ marathon training. If she was taking out where I thought she might, we were looking at an eight or nine miler … no sweat for D’Wife, who completed 45 of 60 miles on the American Cancer Society Ride in July on training that would have translated to 5-10 miles a week for a marathoner [i.e., ridiculously little, yet successful just the same].

Getting up on wheels, I noticed that there were a lot more exits off the main road into the woods; the sweet New Jersey sugar sand called me to explore.

“Hey, where does this road go?” I asked, popping over a stack of railroad ties. “Look, deer tracks!!!”

“I don’t know! Come back here. Stop playing around.”

Well, that was fun.

For a minute. She wasn’t in a playful mood … well, not in an X-Games dirt-jump sense anyway.

After exiting the fully-built / ¾-inhabited development, we were back to the main road and the newly installed bike path. After 3 miles traveled, the end of the path was only one and a half down the road. There were plenty of hunting and ATV trails, but she wasn’t having any of those … I couldn’t blame her anyway … anyone who thinks “Locals Only” is ONLY refers to beaches and surfers need to live in the woods for a while. EVERYTHING is “locals only” … bike paths, fire roads, gas stations, convenience stores, bars, churches, schools.

Heck, my neighbors [Mark and Nicole] moved out of our development seven years ago, but #9 is still “Mark and Nicole’s House” three owners later.

Even though she had a dual-suspension MTB [killing me with thoughts of “what could be done”] she wanted to stay on the bike path.

Then out of the blue …

“Let’s go down here.”

Granted, it wasn’t a soggy trail or a sandy fire road, but it was a departure from the known that I was looking for. Of course, it was also up to me to know where we were at all times.

“Um. Honey. I don’t have that GPS on my piece-of-shit built from trash bike I’m riding today. I also forgot to print up a Google map of where we were going today. Can you forgive me?”

Fortunately, I knew enough to realize that the street she chose would either:
a) Lead us to another road I know from my daily drive, or
b) Circle around and bring us out the same way we came in

Hoping for “A” [with a nice lakeside ride back] it, turned out to be “B”

Oh, well.

[It is important to mention that D”Wife was calling out mile markers every 0.4 miles or so … just because. We were at about 6.4 at this point]

We left the lollipop development [a street in, a circle, and back out … on a map, it looks like a lollipop] and back to main road.

“How far?” I shouted back to our “navigator”

“Seven and change,” she called back.

It felt like more, but that could have been because we usually cruise much faster on open road. We weren’t really rushing and would have covered much more ground if we hadn’t been “sightseeing” … after all this WAS the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, it was 60 degrees, and many of the McMansions were already in decoration mode.

“Ooh, look at what they’ve done!!!”
“Such pretty bows. Can you make those?”
“Blue and white? Must be Jewish. But still, very nice.”

“Is this where we go?” She tooled off to the left.
“I don’t think so.”
“It says ‘Georgia O’Keefe Way’. That’s one of our streets.”
“Yeah, but … I don’t …”

”I remember it … She’s the one who painted the shells, right?”
“Flowers mostly, but yeah.”

Only a couple hundred yards off the main bike path and the development had a much less than lived in look about it. There were many unmarked lots, some even un-cleared. It definitely had a “Phase II” feel, a Phase II that may not even happen, judging by the new home market. As we got further down the road, the road became less road-like. Many of the courts and cross streets were still sandy truck paths, with little use for curbs, driveways or pavement since there was no place to drive to yet.

After a couple missteps trying to get back to “Phase One” (an unmarked road would have taken us through the woods, over a bridge and back, but we [meaning: she] didn’t trust our [her] trail riding skills) we stumbled out and back to our familiar bike path.

We had ridden just slightly more than nine miles and were looking at about six more to get back. D’wife was getting concerned about the time – it was past 3 o’clock and the sun was creeping down into the trees.

“I don’t want to be out here in the woods at dark,” she panicked.
“We have plenty of time,” I assured her, “It’s not going to take an hour to ride five miles. We can walk faster than that.”

We rolled through the McMansions again, noticing some work had been done in the past hour, reindeers and Santas had been erected, lights had been clipped in, and so on.

As we passed the trail where I saw the deer tracks, we saw the deer who those tracks belonged to. That's the great thing about being outside. You're not going to find THAT at Bally's.

We proceeded past the farms and fields, past the cottages and bungalows of our old town and home.

Without even breathing hard we had covered 15 miles, in about an hour and a half.

As I hung Blackie up in the garage it occurred to me that I had completed two thirds of the Turkeyman, without trying (pun: sorry).

I maintained my momentum, and changed out of my bike gear and into my shorts and running shoes.

“Where are you going?” D’Wife asked.

“My legs aren’t thrashed yet so I’m going for a run. I’ll be back in half an hour.”

“Really? Well, good for you!”

It was the first time I’d run off the bike in … well, a really long time.

It took a few minutes to get the feet turning over properly, but I got the three miles done.

5K: 26 min

20K MTB: 1H 10min*
5K: 28 min

That was fun.

* I had done more than the 12 mile bike, so I “normalized” the time for that – i.e., I guessed.


See the bike route:

The results thread:
[Only three posted, so I finished third]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Re-[ …] Day

I think everyone has a day, every year, where they reset the clock, turn the page, do some karmic housecleaning, tidy up the garage of Zen, power-wash the spirit, resort the psychic sock drawer, and so on and on. The metaphors flow freely.

For most it’s a birthday – especially if that birthday ends in a “0”. Many more find January 1st [New Year’s Day] more convenient. Others follow their Lenten abstinences and observances with a year-long commitment to better living; whether it’s less chocolate or more prayer.

For me that day is November 19th – my daughter’s birthday; a day I’ve referenced many times in these pages and others.

It's celebration comes in many forms.

Rejuvenation Day
I’m not getting any younger. But spending an afternoon being with, and acting like, a kid does wonders. This year I painted a ceramic monkey purple to the amazement and amusement to a dozen first graders. Last year I was a rodeo clown on skates at the Philadelphia Flyers’ practice facility. I don’t have a plan for next year yet.

Recalibration Day
Check the weight, check the BP, check the fluids. This year the cholesterol – although 6 points lower than last year – got me a good talking to. This is followed by …

Realignment Day
Appointment with chiropractor; bring a non-wrapped toy and get a free adjustment. Works for me.

Re-imagination Day
This is the most self-indulgent part of the day. It’s all about appearance. Is there some part of my personality / image that could use some ‘refinement’? Perhaps a make-over?

With the addition of Vicki to the family, I am no longer that little geek in the broken-down squirrel-powered skateboard that was Sally.

I’m getting looks … nice ones.

Revisitation Day
Simply, picking up projects and hobbies that have fallen by the wayside; prioritizing them and starting over. A new journal/sketchbook was purchased.

Reconnection Day
I call, write or email someone I haven’t spoken to in a while.

When all is said and done, Re-Something-Something Day is simply a correction of course and speed on a long journey.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Please Welcome ... Vicki

Today we "adopted" a wonderful 2007 Saturn VUE ... 6-Cyl, AWD, storm grey ... we brought her home with 27 miles on her clicker ... 182.9K to go.

Mariel wanted the blue one, but it didn't have a roof rack ... we need the roof rack ... for bikes, snowboards, surfboards, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Almost everyone knows when they were born [in my case, Halloween; October 31, 1961]

Few know when they died.

For the record:

March 9, 1509

July 2, 1863

April 14, 1912

There are others, but the dates are un-documented and calendars were different way, way, way back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sally (1990-2006)

This morning we lost a beloved member of our family.

Sally; our 1990 Nissan Sentra [Sea Foam Green] passed away at the age of 16, just 53 miles short of 183,000.

A routine oil change revealed chronic and severe deterioration of a valve [or two], which we tried to repair but to no avail. Her demise was sudden, painless, yet not unexpected. In spite of receiving a new radiator in April, her fevers over this past hot, dry NJ summer must have stressed her heart far too much to make it to winter.

As much as we are saddened by our loss, we are all happier to have known her at all.

She was our friend, our companion, our guide, our confidant, our muse, our hideaway, our run-about. She was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Indian Larry, in a convenient portable package.

It will be hard to begin my next morning run and not see her sitting faithfully in front of the house; to return and not pat her on the hood, swiping a handful of morning dew to wipe the sweat from my face. I have cancelled my last race of the season [Ben Franklin Bridge 10K], having the respect not to show up in a new ride, after so many seasons warming up to Sally's little heater.

My daughter asked me once, "Daddy, when we get a new car, will Sally go away?"
"Yes, sweetie, she probably will."
"Will you miss her?"
"Of course I will. I may even cry."

We always thought the new car [truck more likely, living in Baja NY, after all] would come before Sally went.

Sally, in sportier days.
So much for having the first Nissan Sentra with "Historical" plates.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cobwebs and Strange

When The Who (or as my brother and I call them now; “The Two”) began this year’s US tour, in Philadelphia on September 12, it was their first time in the US not celebrating an anniversary of some sort (1989 – Tommy’s 20th; 1993 – Quadrophenia’s 20th, 1999 – Tommy’s 30th) in quite some time. Pete Townshend had declared revulsion for the “Who On Ice” Tours of that time – “Ladies and gentleman … Please welcome … Special guest … Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin!!!” There is even an NEW recording by The Who on the horizon – “Wire and Glass” … release date October 31, 2006 … my 45th birthday!!!

Pete and Roger remembered!!! How sweet!!!

I go way back with The Who.

They were played on AM Top 40 Radio long long ago, back in the mid- to late-sixties, which was all a nine year-old in Connecticut knew about; all I had access to. I still – today, 2006 – don’t know if there WAS FM radio before 1973. I knew nothing of it before moving to Philadelphia. The list of songs I heard on AM [WTCT, I believe] – AM, now being the realm of news, sports and right-wing talk radio – before my discovery of FM radio, is a WTF? cornucopia of “How could they NOT know?”

Acid Queen – The Who – well, duh
Only Women Bleed – Alice Cooper – duh, again
Purple Haze – Jimi – duh, cubed
Sympathy for the Devil – The Stones – duh, infinity
Lola – The Kinks – Transvestitism
Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed, various and sundry subjects
Rainy Day Women 12-24 – Bob Dylan – catchy tune
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis – Bob ... was a dude? Maybe, that’s an “i”???
Immigrant Song and Whole Lotta Love – Led Zep – just scared me

But there they were, on “Kasey Kasem’s American Top 40” every week. In spite of this – and not having ANY idea what ANY of these people (other than the Beatles) looked like – I knew deep down, that The Who were a smart band for smart people.

I took up my flag as a Who fan with Tommy.

“A smart band for smart people?” As much of a student of The Who as I became; in the pre-pre-pre-Internet world of the time; with my first few soccer practices as a freshman in High School, I realized that Jocks liked The Who, The Hobbits liked Led Zeppelin, and Girls liked the Stones.

Let’s turn that inside out: The Who were about drinking, Led Zep was about smoking, and eventually you’d get laid (since after a few beers and a couple of joints, girls couldn’t tell the difference.) To see what I’m talking about, what “Dazed and Confused.”

Years passed. Moon died.

I drank. I ran. I finally saw them in 1979 – the night before the tragedy in Cincinnati. I saw them again at JFK Stadium in 1982 – their first Farewell Tour

I listened to The Who and awaited their triumphant return.

After many years under the radar, they blew the roof off the Garden at the “Tribute to Heroes” concert after 9-11 … who knew [or who didn’t, really] that so many men in uniform dug The Who???

I was about to buy tickets for the show in Philly when The Ox died. I took it much harder than I expected to. That was it. The anchor was gone. The ship could only drift.

Drift the ship did; for four years.

Pete wrote. Pete wrote. Pete got arrested. Pete wrote some more. Pete wrote some good songs; some very good songs. Songs Roger could sing (in the past, some songs Pete wrote were SO MUCH about Pete, Roger just couldn’t sing them).

Now they are back.

I downloaded a show from a couple of weeks ago. I had had it on my MP3 tonight … September 26, 2006, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa. Yeah, Des Moines!!! “why didn’t youse get the Philly show???!!” Well, 1) it’s not available yet, and b) they didn’t play many of the new songs.

Doing my warm-ups, it was hard to keep my HR from jumping up just on the opening three tunes [“I Can’t Explain”, “The Seeker” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”] I had previewed my acquisition on the tiny PC speakers, by not on the little blaster that is my MP3 player. I can’t run with anything in my ears, so I had to wait for my bike work-out to feel it’s full effects there … let me say … substantial, ... or maybe I was just really excited to be back in the gym after a few months.

I blew off Townshend’s warning about “earbud” style headphones …

“Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be repaired. If you use an iPod or anything like it, or your child uses one, you MAY be OK. It may only be studio earphones that cause bad damage.”

… pushed the volume to the max, and waited for “Baba O’Reilly” ... [skipping "Behind Blue Eyes" (which I could live quite comfortably without ever hearing again) and the new stuff (no disrespect intended)]

2: I Can't Explain - 02:16
3: The Seeker - 02:25
4: Anyway Anyhow Anywhere - 04:39
6: Who Are You - 06:56
10: Baba O'Riley - 05:50
11: Eminence Front - 06:01
13: Mike Post Theme - 04:06 [actually a pretty good new tune]*
14: Intro >You Better You Bet - 06:43
15: My Generation - 07:47
16: Won't Get Fooled Again - 09:52.

I nearly tore the pedals off.

* Mike Post wrote the theme music to the best detective / cop / law shows of the 80's [Rockford Files, Simon & Simon, Magnum PI, Hill Street Blues, LA Law] ... Now, in 2006, music from The Who is featured in ads for Hummer, Target, and more. The CSI franchise picked up "Who Are You" for its first production. That carried enough brand recognition to be pulled through CSI:NY ["Baba O'Reilly"] and now the most exquisite scream in recorded history ["Won't Get Fooled Again"] follows right after David Caruso's most forced pun of the week ["She wanted to catch some sun" " Well, something caught her instead"]

In a review of the NYC show, MPT [as it will be known, if it stays in the setlist; as it should, as long as there IS a setlist] is described as, "a strange ode to the television show composer that featured memorable riffs tied to silly lyrics. Explaining the latter with tongue in cheek, Townshend commented: 'You think you're going to watch a sucky TV show, and then you hear a Who song. Ka-ching!'"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stone 10th Anniversary IPA

This looks like trouble ...

Stone 10th Anniversary IPA harkens back to our earlier Anniversary Ales, with abundant hopping at many stages of the brewing process.

Appropriately, the aroma is over-the-top, with pronounced piney and resiny hop
flavors combined with tropical fruit esters and more subtle notes of toasted
malts and alcohol. Our Stone 10th Anniversary Ale weighs in at 10% alcohol by
volume (perfect for a 10th anniversary beer), and has a little more color and
malt character than our other IPAs. In addition to using the new Summit hop
variety in the brewhouse to provide the powerful bitterness, we went back
through our records and found some of our favorite hops over the years, and used
them to flavor this brew, including Chinook, Crystal, and large doses of Simcoe
in the dry-hop to provide a huge, complex, piney, fruity and floral hop
character. This is a colossal beer, big in every sense: hoppy, malty, rich, and
strong! Right up our alley.

APPEARANCE: Deep copper/amber with a light tan, dense head.

AROMA: Really hoppy, with pronounced piney hop aromatics combined with layers of pineapple and mango tropical fruit.

FLAVOR: Wow! Intensely hoppy, alcohol and bitter with some nice complexity provided by lightly roasted malt.

PALATE: Full bodied, bitter, with some hotness from the alcohol.

OVERALL: This beer delivers on everything-hops, malt and flavor! We hope everyone is as stoked about this beer as we were when we first tasted it.

What is it about Stone Brewing, that gives me anxiety attacks??? I actually shake as I bring the bottles to the cashier. Could it be the demonic / gargoyle imagery toying with my overt Catholicism??? (Wait a minute .. we INVENTED gargoyles!!)

Could it be that my ‘former life’ silk-screener is asking me ‘why … HOW … could they print a gunmetal silver metallic ink on a brown bottle and expect the UPC scanners to pick it up [we’ve had troubles with the gold ink on the Ruination]???” Maybe it is the flat out “You’re Not Worthy!!!” on the Arrogant B.

For whatever reason, I felt like I needed to ask permission to open it up. Even that felt like some deep Satanic ritual I “knew not, but was guided to” ... After finding out about the Limited Edition caps [and realizing the one I had was on a short run] I employed the ‘Nickel Trick’ and popped it open.

Align the opener to the cap with the Devil Head; slip the nickel between to perserve the artifact of this glorious moment; kiss your ass goodbye.

Okay, granted, many people read the reviews on BA or from the brewer’s site and were tipped to what to look for … Usually they come off saying “Maybe I’m wrong; Didn’t find it.”

I read and posted Stone’s self assessment AFTER I bought it but BEFORE I tasted it … Let me say this: If you ever want to know what “pronounced piney hop aromatics combined with layers of pineapple and mango tropical fruit” is ... get a bottle of this!!!! They are so right on!!! I hate to admit that I didn’t know what I was tasting without being LED to it by the brewery … but I couldn’t have defined it better

And that was just the first sniff!!!

If you want my review … just use theirs … I have nothing to add.

Except this: This is an excellent beer to transition from Summer to Fall. It is a definite threat to Dead Guy Ale as my 'go to' Halloween Beer. It has all the thirst quenching dryness of a strong hoppy IPA combined with a rich mellow maltiness of an Oktoberfest / Marzen. It’s coming home, changing out of your work clothes, throwing on cammo cargo shorts and a T-shirt, and - while you go around the block on your bike, barefoot – you realize it’s a bit cooler than you thought. A hoodie sweatshirt might have been appropriate; the whole 'short pants / long sleeve' surfer dichotomy in full effect. The streetlights are on way too early. There’s a slight smokiness in the air … late wildfires, last-chance weekday hotdog grillers or early fireplaces???

It's been nice, Summer 2006.

---- Call me??? ----

Sunday, September 17, 2006

2006 Philadelphia Distance Run - Epilogue


I crossed the finish line, received my finisher’s medal, collected my tchotchkes [including a very nice pair of flip-flops], and turned toward home. It was nearly 11:00 when I stepped off the Parkway. Eulogy would be opening for brunch. Tempting as it was, I missed the girls. Well, more importantly I wanted to tell them how Daddy blew up, Daddy walked, but Daddy didn’t quit.

When I came into the house, just past 12:30, Mariel greeted me at the door.

She saw the medal on my neck.

“Daddy!!! You won!!!”

I hadn’t thought so; but I may have been wrong.


Classic Philadelphia Distance Run:
1999 PDR:
2006 PDR:

Someone whose day went way, WAY better than mine:

2006 Philadelphia Distance Run - Part Three


Right about the 10-mile mark, my logical brain [which had been pouting for about and hour] woke up …

“Hey … wait a minute … wherever we are … is closer to the finish … than we’re used to being …”

“Yes,” the engine room told the pilot, “we only have three miles to go … versus the five you were anticipating, at this point.” [In truth, there was only a one mile difference between the Classic route and the 2006 route, but the feet knew that they had to keep Bobble-Head in the game or they wouldn’t finish at all]

“How are you feeling?” He asked, knowing that everyone would lie to him any way.

“We’re good. Fire it up.”


There are landmarks that, hopefully, the people in charge of this event never change. They’ve monkeyed with the start; they’ve monkeyed with the finish. But as long as the “Philadelphia Half-Marathon [Soon to Be Rock’N Roll’ed, I’m sure.] goes, they have to keep: The Parkway, City Hall, and the Fairmount Loop. Within “The Loop” are such physical landmarks as the Spring Street Bridge, Strawberry Mansion on the West, over Falls Bridge to Kelly Drive. Many participants are bike- or tri-geeks and recognize “Lemon Hill” as a critical point in the Philadelphia Cycling Championship [or whatever it’s called these days].

Equally important - although, never as critical to the outcome - is “the Rock Tunnel.”

After going under maybe a dozen nameless shapeless bridges, Kelly Drive takes you under a legitimate tunnel. Carved into a finger of granite poised to poke the Schuylkill in the ribs, the Tunnel provides both a car ride through and a run/bike path round. When given a chance, it is an awesome echo chamber. I had raced through there in the past, with many a Rebel Yell. Apparently, only those who intended to finish the Distance Run under 2 hour will scream … I passed through the legendary Rock Tunnel in silence.

After the Rock Tunnel came the Girard Street Bridge; essentially the end of Fairmount Park and [for those who had any speed left] the run up to the Finish.

After ‘blowing a gasket’ in the middle 5 miles, I‘d held it together pretty well over the past two, and now considered making a charge over the final mile. It was basically up and over the hill behind the Art Museum; something I’d reviewed since, well, forever, really …. I had always told anyone who asked, “You know the steps Rocky up? Well, the steps in the BACK of the museum are worse!!!! They’re shorter and steeper!!!” I knew about this part of the course, and had both feared and revered it for years.

So much so, that when I lost my breath, as saw my bride walk down the aisle in 1992, my best man, Tommy Fung asked, “ What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”

“The hill behind the Art Museum.”

“And you had to run 12 miles to get there. This should be easy; you’re standing still”

He is my sensei.


One word kept repeating itself through my head: “Crunch!” This baffled me since I really felt no discomfort. My hips, thighs and calves had stopped hurting; I could sense no blisters developing; I might even keep all my toenails.

Then I realized what “Crunch!” meant.

I had backed off enough between mile 7 and 10, that I probably had enough gas left – even without the agita producing Amino Crap and GU [which never showed up] – for another five miles … only ONE of which I needed now. After Annabelle and I did Broad Street [rather conservatively] I was fine to run 3 miles that following Wednesday.

“Crunch” meant that nothing hurt yet, we were going to make sure that something did … and for days to come.

My head went up, the arms went down, and the feet went over and over. It hurt, but I found something of a kick.

My final mile was in the 8’s.

Unfortunately, my arm crossed my number, so this is all we’ll ever see.

2006 Philadelphia Distance Run - Part Two

Half Mary, (not so) Full of Grace

There was no “gun” so to speak, just a round of applause – as the winners left the gate – then a slow wandering to the start for everyone else. I didn’t check my watch for my actual chip time to start. There would plenty of time to figure my deficit later.

I started my chatter.

“Well. We got that pesky ‘point one’ out of the way. Only thirteen more miles to go.”

“The first mile is very important. This is where you select the girl you’ll be following for the next 2 hours.”

No one wanted to play. It was too warm, and there was a definite seriousness about.

We passed the first mile timer at 15 minutes and something. So, if all my splits ended in a five, I’d be putting in 10:00 miles. That would be fine for today.

The first band was stationed at the corner of Love Park. A very nice Beatles cover band in 1964 attire. If nothing else there would be good tunes today.

We curled around City Hall. A girl just ahead of me misjudged – or didn’t see – a curb and went down. I quickly hopped around her, since I didn’t want to tumble, too.

I was tempted to turn down Broad Street just for laughs … but decided against it.

Cruising down Market into the sun was a treat. Nothing quite smells like Market Street, Philadelphia early on a Sunday morning … except, of course, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The aromas of steam vents, pee, last night’s garbage, bus exhaust, the Homeless, all create a tasty mélange that fairly overwhelms the senses.

We took a loop through the historical district and up Walnut. Band #2 was the Eagles Cheer band. I could only assume that they would be playing “Fly Eagles Fly” for over and over for the next hour or so. I mentioned to another runner that although I would like the Eagles to win this afternoon, I had Eli Manning and Tiki Barber on my Fantasy Football team. Many of guys near me were in the same predicament. This led to a discussion of post race beer.

“What’s ‘400 Beers’ mean?” a dude behind me asked.


Splits 2 and 3 were in the nice safe 25 and 35 minute range. Ten minute miles, a 2:11 finish. I could live with that quite happily.

We continued our little cruise through the cool shade of downtown; then made our run back up the parkway. In my mind I had broken the race down into three segments: 5 miles downtown, 5 miles out and over the Falls Bridge, and a final 5K back to the Art Museum. The first 5 mile portion was behind us as we took the water stop at Spring Garden Street. I had paid close attention to my coach to stop and walk through the stops. It was getting warm and a little slow down to relax was very helpful. The gentle curve over the Schuylkill brought us directly across from Boathouse row.

I did some quick math … 55 minutes out, they should be almost be done …

“Fuck!! There they are!!!” I shouted as the winners sped past the row of boathouses. Man, they were cooking!!!

We rolled into under the Girard Ave for a 10K time of 66 minutes. Right around 10 minutes; taking “the deficit” into account.

“But wait, isn’t the 10K split supposed to be near Strawberry Mansion??? It took us an hour to get to the Zoo??? This is a problem” My brain was having a bit of trouble visualizing exactly where we were

“We should be much further along!!! We are very far behind!!!” The ‘engine room’ tried to convince the ‘pilot’ all was well. My feet didn’t hurt and my legs were turning over nicely. I wasn’t breathing very hard, although I was warm. The captain would have none of it.

As a Conrail freight train screeched, groaned, rattled and clattered on the bridge above, my own wheels fell off.

I stopped running. I began Gallow-walking [look it up – it basically means ‘run for a while, walk for a while, get your T-shirt’ e.g., you suck, Rudy]

“If you are always allowed to stop training whenever you feel discomfort, you will find it too easy to give yourself permission to quit” – Jet Li

It wasn’t really discomfort in a physical sense - no pain of any sort, just disorientation and confusion. I figured that I was in some sort of fuel problem, since D’Wife and I had waylaid the traditional pasta dinner in favor of a more favorable – to her schedule – dinner of … wait for it … meatloaf. Possibly, the exact opposite of a nice bowl of rotini, a bit of mozzarella, a few olives and a couple tsp’s of sauce. I hadn’t run far or hard enough to tap into my protein supply – of which I had plenty – and had burned all my carbs (if I hadn’t quit drinking for two weeks, there would have been plenty). My plan at mile 7 was to was to load up on Gatorade at the next break and pack in some GU when I could (word on the street was they would have GU at 8, 10 and 12).

Problem #1: No Gatorade. Somehow, in their quest for sponsors, Elite racing [who also manage all the Rock’n’Roll Marathons and Half-Marathons (of which this is one, but Jeff won’t give up their naming rights, just yet)] didn’t sign up Gatorade, or even Power-Ade, but instead went with … Amino Vital.


Amino Vital???!!!
Sounds like some barely legal male enhancement substance the WWE would endorse!!!

Plus, as I found out at mile seven, it tasted like someone puking a pitcher of Kamikaze’s into your mouth!!! I would take a pass at further tables … there would be GU to make up for it.

Let me not forget to mention the VERY EXCELLENT blues / funk band playing between 6 & 7.

I hadn’t trained with GU this year but was well familiar for my triathlon days. My tummy would have a “Hey, I remember you!!” moment

As I waddled from miles seven through ten, the day of moderate triumph I had planned was now done. Without my pace-turtle, my brain had left, my tummy was in revolt, my hips, thighs and calves were cramping and un-cramping in a round robin tournament of “who can fuck Randy up the most?” The highlight – if you could find one - of the agony of the second 5 miles was that, yes, the Piper was on the Bridge.

[Look it up, the dude’s been there, since the beginning as far as I know]

The “one thing” about the Philadelphia Distance Run / Thomas Jefferson Half Marathon is that the halfway point ISN’T at 6.55 miles … It’s when you cross the Falls River Bridge. The course is a double loop - an out & back; then further out & back again. You are never really on your way home until you cross the bridge, pass the piper, and head down Kelly Drive – named for Jack Kelly, Princess Grace’s dad.

I actually sprinted to get myself a 10-mile clock time of 2 hours. Sure, my “chip time” deficit may have been 5-8 minutes, but at this point it meant nothing. I was 20 minutes behind my Broad Street time, and I felt 400% worse than I did at this point in May. When we finished that race, I think Annie and I could have gone another 3.1 miles easily. At this point, in September, heading now down to the finish with the other walking, struggling, and - more importantly - silent BOP’s, I couldn’t imagine how I had gotten through the last three miles, and had 3 more to go.

2006 Philadelphia Distance Run - Part One

The Warm-up

Even as I waited for the train Saturday afternoon, to go over to the Convention Center to pick up my number, I had no idea how I was going to get to the race the next day.

In the past, when the Philadelphia Distance Run started on Market Street, the Expo was in either the Ben Franklin Hotel on 17th & The Parkway or at the Marriott on Market. It was a pretty simple decision: take the train. But, with the Start / Finish at the Art Museum, I had to either, drive over park and walk; or drive to the train and walk just about the same distance. The deal maker would be timing.

I could figure it out on the way home from the Expo.

I got my number, my chip, my 2006 T-shirt and proceeded to browse the Expo. I considered purchasing a pint and / or shot glass, but after putting out $14 for three 2005 left-over shirts, that was a bit much. Besides, I could always get them on line later.

On the way home, I consulted the train schedule. If I took the 6AM train, I would be in town by 6:30 and – with a half hour walk to the Art Museum – I could be in place by 7:00 with plenty of time to warm up. Missing the 6 though, would move everything back ½ an hour … too close.

Six o’clock it would be; 5:30 departure; 5AM wake-up.

“If I know you - you have your equipment organized in your head if not already out and ready to be packed” Annabelle had e-mailed me Wednesday. I was already ahead of her. I put all my gear for Sunday in the wash Tuesday. I had my pre-race, race and post-race gear all settled upon. [I would wear the same thing as Broad Street – Cerveza tank, etc.]. My back pack was packed: towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, change of socks all accounted for. My MP3 player was loaded. I was as ready as I would be.

As I lay in bed, and the doubts started, I thought of three e-mails from my coach.

“Not running will have little effect at this point - honestly!” She had said when I missed a couple workouts around Labor Day, due to a cold I caught on the ride home from Bingo. I couldn’t tell if she meant that missing wouldn’t make things worse; or that adding miles wouldn’t help any.

“Anyways - Not to worry - you'll do fine. Anyone who has run the miles that you have covered this summer, who can throw his bike over a fence and ride around in the mud [BMX reference] and has your attitude, can do a little old race like this one. Keep with your current plan - don't wear anything new - stop at the water stops and walk a few steps while you drink - you need to stay hydrated and the best way to do this is walk and get the fluids down.”

“Eighty degrees [the forecast] is pretty hot - you may want to consider starting out slower than you planned if it is that hot - you will make up the time on the end if you can. If you start out to fast you may not have that option at the end to make up the time. If you start out slow and stay that way the entire race, that is also okay - speed goes down as temp goes up. You probably already know all this, but just in case.”

I fell asleep with two final thoughts of my own:

1) NOT finishing was NOT an option.
2) Visualize success.


I woke up in the dark. I brushed my teeth and took a shower – a courtesy I was sure many of the 15,000 I’d be spending my morning with hadn’t considered. After dressing, I took a quick look on for the current temperature.



I put a pair of small apples and a bottle of water into my backpack for the ride over. I left the house at exactly 5:30.

I left the house again at exactly 5:35 after I realized that I had forgotten my wallet, and turned back.

This was going to be a long day


The sun was just coming up as the train crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge. I got off at 13th Street. I figured that, with a walk through the underground concourse, it would be the closest stop to the end of the parkway nearest City Hall.

The crowd was gathering and moving up the Parkway to the Start. Some were even running, as if 13.1 miles wouldn’t be enough for them today.
I got to Eakins Oval around 7 and found a nice place to stretch out, near the George Washington statue. After stretching, I txt’d Annabelle, put my phone away, and pulled out a pair of Sharpies. I had seen in the “Race Together” forum on, that one of the members would be starting in the same corral as me [#9]. Using a green and a purple Sharpie, I tagged “400 BEERS” on my left calf … a little self-promotion wouldn’t hurt, would it???

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sacrificing My Pinky

As much as I have fought against the encroachment of 21st Century technology into my training (GPS, HRM; even treadmills, a 19th Century invention) I could not abate the ascent of digital music into my program. Music has always been a strong part of my development and my heritage as an athlete. My earliest runs were timed out to the cool Cockney count of “One,two,three,four;five,six,seven,eight” by Keith Moon at the intro to “Slip Kid” [“Who by Numbers” 1975]. I remember taking sweet warm summer rain runs through New Jersey after warming up to “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran.

“Where the Streets Have No Name” U2??? C’mon. Who doesn’t want to get out the door after haring that???

Every couple of months, one sort of “music thread” or another will show up on CoolRunning or Slowtwitch, to which I am compelled to reply.

But as hip and as cool as I imagined myself to be; I still was warming up to a big bulky CD player … sure it supported MP3’s but I still needed to burn them to CD.

The appeal became too great; I had to bite, even though I’m sure I could have held out until the Christmas sales. But, at BestBuy, for $39.99, I got a nice little SanDisk 1/2 Gig Flash drive powered MP3 player.

Did I mention that it weighs only slightly more than my Delray Beach Yacht Club Zippo, and [with the volume jacked, and AC/DC in the mix], blows my fuckin' head off???!!! It's full blown Camaro Rock, top down, case of Michelob in the back, on demand; you just need a little foresight to up-/download the proper playlist beforehand.

Why buy now, why not wait???

Very simply … when I get to mile 11 at the Distance Run, with 2 to go, if I have no juice left, I am going to pull this little player out of my pocket, plug in, turn on and tune into a play list, specifically programmed to get me down BoatHouse Row and up the hill behind the Art Museum, without inflicting any [major] soft tissue damage, and getting me home in one happy piece, to enjoy a cookout and DFH sometime around 2PM.

Okay, R, this is well and good, what’s with the finger???

Well, as archaic as it seems, one of the appeals to me of searching out digital files and compiling them on my computer (at work) to transfer to CD later for home use was that I designed and executed my own custom packaging; CD labels especially. One template for Phish, one for Talking Heads, one for The Mermen, etc.

With the MP3 player, all the files live on my computer and only take up temporary residence on the little thing, as 1’s and 0’s. I have no further need to make stickers, to find a nice typeface for each artist, to design a theme for each band ….

I have essentially cut off one venue of personal artist expression from myself, for the sake of portability.

Unless I need a CD to listen to on a long car ride …

Monday, July 31, 2006

Semi-Learning, Semi-Impaired

Last year, just about this time:

If it's a Saturday afternoon in August ... If you go for a run around noontime ... If buzzards follow you ... As you go past the cornfield ... You might want to back it off, just a little bit.

This year:

If it's the last Sunday in July ... If you go for a run in the morning, before church ... If buzzards follow you ... As you go past the cornfield ... You might want to back it off, just a little bit ... but not so much ... that turtles and snakes mock you ... as you run past the swamp.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Midnight Bingo

There was no beer at Midnight Bingo ...

In hindsight, his was probably for the better. Although, a keg – even a cooler - of Bud or Lite would have brought more “clients,” I had heard talk that Bingo attendance was suffering since the anti-smoking laws came to Church (plus, had beer been provided, I’m sure we would have received a visit from Father Jim, who does like his American Pilsner, a.k.a. NASCAR beer). Since I didn’t have to even BE there till 11:00, I felt confident that I could pop back a couple after work, take a break of a couple of hours and be ready and eager to go at 10:45. This I did. Our parish, being only a mile from our house, didn’t even require use of the car. I rode my bike, “Blackie.” Looking back, the prospect of riding an all black bicycle with no reflective equipment, no lights, through the woods at 2 or 3 AM, seemed kind of stupid; the idea of a legally blind, sleep-deprived, possibly hallucinating, Catholic operating a motor vehicle at such an hour was definitely the grater of two evils.

As I explained it - in my presentation of the defense - if it goes late, and I’m too wobbly to ride home; I can pussy out, step off and walk my bike a mile… or I could grab my balls, crash the Sentra and crawl a mile. Plenty of time to bleed to death. Not a good option.

When I told Annabelle I was being subjected to Midnight Bingo, she had some preconceptions / rumors / legends that she wanted me to investigate / clarify. This added a welcome element of stealth to the evening. If the night dragged on, or if it was busy and hectic; one thought could carry me through … Not only was I helping the church and lowering my daughter’s tuition payment, I was going undercover. I was doing research.

This could be the next great documentary … “Fahrenheit: B-23”

It didn’t long for the “Bingo Nerds” to show up.

NOTE: There are no “Bingo Geeks.” Geekness (or geek-osity) implies some technical savvy or archival knowledge … Bingo has neither. It is the lowest tech game you can play – outside of games involving playing cards or dice. It’s older than Hoyle, and that makes it older than poker. It has no past, no history, no legends; no one will recall the time Doris Mc Sweeney of St. Andrews Parish, IN, capped a six week double progressive “anchor” with 14 straight balls in 1969. Or, how many have scored the elusive “B-1, 2, 3, 4, 5” bingo (I-16, 17, 18, 19, 20; N-31, 32, 34, 35 – 33 being the “Free Space”; and so on).

No one has ever been shot in the back playing Bingo – well, if they were, no one noticed.

In the future, people will line up in bingo halls, pre-load their laptops with the games they want to play, sit down, swipe their debit cards to pay, plug in at a table, grab a cup of over-priced, watered- down cappuccino or whatever people will be drinking then (ours was free and pretty good - than you, Carol). The “caller” – as the person who says “B-3”, “I-18”, etc – will simply press a button on a network touch screen and everyone who has a match, will have that that number light up on their monitor. There will be no need for the player to cruise up and down, left and right with the dabber, possibly forgetting to tap “0-72” which WOULD HAVE gotten you that Bingo, if you hadn’t been chowing out on Herr’s pretzels; oh, well. All sixteen games – yes, sixteen, regulation, no more no less – could be played as fast as the caller could press the button. The internal processors – i.e., these piney’s brains – wouldn’t need to convert to audio signal [did she say “B-7”?] - to digital [“cover that square”]. The game, as simple as it is already, wouldn’t need to be slowed down for the slowest player.

Click, two, three, four. Click, two, three, four.

Granted, some of the mystique would be lost.

My “mentor,” Jennifer – whose son was in my daughter’s kindergarten class, and with whom I have shared 5 birthday parties this summer - let me know that when she “calls” a game she says a “Hail Mary” between numbers … Me, I would have kicked it up a notch and found the opportunity to do a whole rosary. Couldn’t hurt, right Annabelle???

What a strange world bingo is, the behavior of some players has to be seen to be believed.If you were a fly on the wall these are some the antics you might see.

Firstly ~ the precise way in which people place their equipment ~~ Cards in the center with their dabbers all lined up above.

The cardboard squares and plastic chips that we played with during “rainy day recess” are a thing of the 20th century. Now they use newsprint weight paper sheets with four 5x5 squares on each. They are serial numbered to make sure no one is brining in “ringers” Many bought multiple (3, 4, 5, or even 6) for each game. That makes a “killing field” of up to 600 squares. I was selling the “progressive” game - 50¢ each but – on the last game – with a payoff of $150. People were using their last $5or $6 dollars to buy into this one. They were walking away from me – Mr. Last Chance – with stacks of paper 2-3 inches thick for the night. As I said, they played 16 games - and every game paid. The beauty of Bingo is that every game pays. There is ALWAYS a winner. Sure sometimes two people will split a $37.50 pot - $18.75 each. They will leave in a deficit, but they did get to shout “BINGO!!!”

It would be my job – since I was “working the floor” – to shout the serial number of the card, and the winning numbers back to the “caller” preferably in an articulate manner. After all, she had spent the past 15 minutes trying to make “N-42” and “G-58” moderately interesting. The only sexy number in Bingo is “O-69” … and we’re not even supposed to know what that means.

In an expression of Bingo Geekdom, Kristina couldn’t just say “Okay, she won” or “That’s a Winner”; she had to say “That’s a Good Bingo.”

Even the [I forget the technical term, but Jennifer called it the “BallBuster”] game, the longest and most excruciating, torturous version of Bingo, has something of a winner. How do you win?? You need to COMPLETELY cover your card. But there’s a time limit. “A time limit?” Well, sort of. Yes, if you need to have your card covered by a certain number ball – this week it was #51 out of a total of 75 available – to you win the whole jackpot; otherwise you get the “consolation” [about ¼ of the pot I think] and the remainder rolls over. How long that actually takes is up to the caller.

They set their sheets up in layers (last game on the bottom, first game on the top). For the most part the dabbers - which I had never even seen nor heard of before - were place to the RIGHT of the "impact zone." Since the games were color coded, contrasting or complimentary dabber were used – I called out a girl who was using a lemon yellow – highlighter yellow – dabber on a yellow sheet.

“Yellow on Yellow??? What are you thinking??? I would have gone with purple, myself” Mom was using purple for that particular game …. Mom won.

Secondly ~ their favorite lucky charm, mascot or some other strange object is placed just to the left just in reach, ready to be PATTED ~ SLAPPED ~ TURNED FACE AWAY (in disgrace) and occasionally even KISSED.

Again, to the right, just above the dabbers. The area above the play area was the "snack bar" this is where soda, chips, TastyKakes were always at the ready.

Lucky charms included Beanie Baby puppies and kitties, many precious stones – more likely from Sedona that the Holy Land – small bibles, a collection of medals (in front of an old veteran [I prayed he would win, his wife did; close enough]). A “youngster” brought a Hot Wheels car that apparently represented either the car he was restoring, or the one he wanted. His ritual was to be the first person to make a purchase form the snack bar … pumpkin pie. I gave him unlimited leeway in his Bingo geekdom, since he brought his Grandmom. That kind of karmic well pumping does not go unfulfilled.

One woman brought a very nice porcelain bell which she would ring when she got “Bingo.” I did not find out why, since she did not win. I was very nice though … very pretty, lots of flowers.

Thirdly ~ Woe betide anyone who dares to sit in another's favorite seat. This is a HUGE SIN and can cause a fearful din, or even worse ~ sssh, I'll whisper it … Come to blows.

Not an issue. We had 25 players (12 staff) in a hall set up for maybe 400 - plenty of room. There were 8 groups of 2 or 3 and 3 players playing by themselves. These people were “obviously regulars. Such regulars in fact, they had “turf” - self-imposed boundaries of 25 feet down the table and alternating sides. There was NO interacting, even between groups sitting across from each other. Each group hit at least once - there are 16 games, no more no less - and only one single player did not win. The single player that didn't win called me "sweetie." That may have been her downfall. The lack of beer and all … Jennifer did clue me in that this being my first time out, I shouldn’t be too “sociable.”

Could there be Bingo groupies??? A Bingo circuit??? I’m locked in to six more tours … I will report back.

Last of all ~ The black looks, scowls and the odd hiss or two if you should dare to cough, splutter, sneeze or even choke while the numbers are being called.

No, not a problem - we, the church staff, the “volunteers” (volunteer meaning: this is when you are assigned to work, you are free to cancel or substitute; keep in mind that you have 20 hours to perform – any shortage will be added to your tuition) were pretty chatty. But then, we were in the back of the hall. I would cruise through the aisles, checking the cards, just to get a feel for the game; I made some small talk. I got flirted with. Now, that I think of it, there were a couple of ladies who really didn't want to be bothered, not matter how charming I tried to be. They kind of looked like giant Yoda’s – all wrinkles and big ears - so they ha no worries from me anyway.

MY OWN WORST HATE IT IS: The player who talks out loud when they are waiting for just one number ... “Come on SAY IT, SAY IT!!!” or they say the number they are waiting for, OVER & OVER AGAIN.

I usually find myself praying that the winning number will not be theirs.

Yep, saw plenty of that. There was one guy who looked real hardcore – Jennifer told me “You’ll get used to him” - won the first game. I thought it was odd that he brought his S/O … not that it was odd that her brought her, but that she sat TWO seats away from him. I learned this right away; “One seat buffer is acceptable; two is trampy.” An attitude, I felt, was just a bit lopsided, with the ratio of woman to man ratio at “all of them,” to three of us – granted there were others, but they were in the kitchen; a position I had lobbied for. To be truthful; I wouldn’t have been happy making pedestrian cheesesteaks. Without my bandoleer of spices, I just feel naked.

From then on; he usually only needed one more to win, when the game ended. Maybe five times, the first number called on the NEXT game, was the one he needed. His partner couldn’t be more entertained, as she adjusted herself in her folding chair to give me, the only male on the floor, a better glimpse of her nicely pouting breasts, the neckline of her peasant blouse suddenly diving down as her boyfriend complained about missing “I-27” as her chocolate eyes locked with mine of robin egg blue; it only seemed right since we had been making eyes at each other all night, and she remind me of my ex- ... well, in her mind anyway.

Unanswered / Unasked Questions:

I didn’t get to find out what a “’Bad’ Bingo” would be.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty Blonde Ale from Boulder Beer

As the sister to Mojo IPA and Hazed & Infused, she has quite a pedigree to work with. Like her siblings, she has a playful nature, with a little bit of an edginess. She may or may not be a natural blonde; she wouldn't mind letting you try find out, but you'll have to work for it.

She wears a jogbra under her bowling shirt (unbuttoned), stuffs her cellphone into her cargo pants, turns her baseball hat around, jacks her skateboard under her arm and rides off to do some bunnyhops in the cemetery.

I can see her and MH Circus Boy, on their bikes at the top of a big hill saying "First one to the bottom is the best beer for the rest of whole summer."

Hoegaarden asks, "Two out of three???"

"You won't make it to two" Victory Whirlwind Witbier replies and pushes up to the line.

*** to be continued ***

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

El Perro Loco

Back when I lived in Philly, I started the Mad Dog Running Club. We would meet at the corner (if front of the bar, naturally) and run 20 blocks down and 20 blocks back (4 miles). Eventually they moved away - one to Seattle, one to Boulder, one to NY state, others othe to the 'burbs - but I made "tour" shirts up every year just the same.

The last one I made before I, myself, left town said "Mad Dog Running Club - Weeknights at 7". I would run 7 miles, every weeknight at 7PM, at a 7:00 pace.

I thoroughly enjoyed going out on blazing hot summer evenings; cruising past the playgrounds, with the men shooting hoops; getting odd looks from people in the overheating buses looking at the skinny white boy running around in 90° heat and 90% humidity; watching the blood red sun set into the Schuylkill as I crossed back from UPenn over the South Street Bridge.

Even after moving back to New Jersey in 1990, I would purposely plan my runs in a way that often found me caught in a delightfully drenching early evening thunderstorm, about five miles out with three to go.

Once, as I returned from a six mile loop, neighbors were hanging out in the street, drinking beer and admiring my friend Mark's new mountain bike. It was a totally tricked-out downhiller and Mark had the full-face helmet to go with it. As he attempted to convince me that doing an evening run during the summer was ridiculous, he challenged me to run 3 miles uphill and back WITH the helmet on ... I won $50.

Now, I run early in the morning to avoid the heat. 70° at 6AM seems oppressive; too warm for even a three mile run.

Monday, D'Wife was at work and D'Kid was at camp. I could have gone to the gym for "quick" 4 miles on the nice A/C'd track; 1/2 hour - 45 minutes on the bike; but I chose to go outside for a four-miler at lunch time instead. It was about 85° and the shadows did not exactly fall where I wanted them to. I expected the hill behind the cemetery to be much shadier. When I was done, I kicked my shoes off, peeled off my socks. I grabbed the cold water bottle and hand towel (probably recently stolen from a VA hotel) I had set on the porch. As I walked my sweaty, barefooted self around the block and wiped the salt from my face, I thought, "There. That should make Annabelle proud of me."

Of course, only then did I remember that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun.

And I'm not English.

Friday, June 16, 2006


“… And as I think back makes me wonder how the smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia”
Will Smith – Summertime

I stood outside, in the cool pouring rain, looking like a complete goof. Baseball hat, sweatshirt, cargo shorts and flip flops. I had a choice of two varieties of chicken going on the grill: a tequila lime marinade or peppercorn ranch soak. I hit the rack with a blast of spray oil, as I always do. I took a sip from my pint of Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA sitting on the step as the acrid smoke billowed into the grey summer clouds.

Of course, the wind shifted and blew the plume into my face.

I was at once transported back to a cool grey foggy evening nearly thirty years before.

I was up on my uncle’s Vermont farm. It may have been a Sunday evening, but I’m not sure. The day’s activities of field clearing, brush cutting, wood chopping and rock moving had been suspended due to rain.

[a brief pause for a joke]

A tourist from the city was sitting on the porch of his Vermont bed & breakfast. He looked across the field toward the ski resort - closed for the summer – and was stunned by all the giant rocks, dotting the grassland.

“Excuse me,” he asked the proprietor, an old New Englander, “where did all these big rocks come from?”

“Glacier brung ‘em,” the Yankee replied.

“I don’t see any glacier. Where’d it go?”

“Guess it went back for more rocks.”

[ba-dum dum]

As I stood in the New Jersey rain, my mind wandered north to Vermont, Early-Summer 1977.

My uncle was on the back lawn, Weber grill smoking like a champ. Chicken, steak and ribs where on the menu.

“Randy, get yourself a beer. Get one for me, too” he said in a mild, off-hand way. Bill wasn’t usually so casual, so familiar; requests felt more like orders; questions had the flavor of interrogation. Working on the farm – even as family – I felt like a contractor. Actually, two contractors, since my day job was to work the fields; after dinner, Bill and I would venture to his design studio above the garage, where I would put on my apprentice hat (literally – I wore a Nikon baseball hat while working up there) and assist him with many phases of his graphic design / photography business. An industry that – since it allowed you to afford both a farm in Vermont, and a condo in New York City - I wanted into.

At his behest, I returned indoors and opened the refrigerator. There was a six pack of Bud – 6-packs had those flimsy plastic rings around them, then – and some foil-capped green bottles I did not recognize. I had seen green bottles before (Rolling Rock, Moosehead, Heineken) but these were unfamiliar to me. They had a girl on them, looking very much like Cinderella. Sensing they were special to my uncle, I grabbed one of each.

I walked out the side door to the cooking area; the easterly breeze blowing mesquite smoke my way. I handed Bill the green bottle and cracked open the can.

“Hey! What are you dong?” he exclaimed.

“I, uh, I thought, um, that was for you.” I always got a little panicked around my uncle, a little tongue tied.

“That’s fine but you should have one, too. It’s time for you to taste real beer.” He gave me a look that said ‘pound that truck driver beer and start over.’

I tipped my head back and chugged the contents of the All-American Beer. I tossed it into the recycle bin and went back into the house.

“We’ll need the bottle opener too!!!” Bill shouted from the yard “and, tell Maureen to get the glasses out for you.”

Okay, now I was outside my sphere of expertise. I knew what beers traveled well, which ones you could expect in what towns when on the road, which ones where held in higher esteem by the fans in the parking lot (which ones got girls drunk fastest) but I knew nothing about special glasses for beer.

My aunt found the beer glasses and handed them to me. They looked like the ones in the TV commercials for “Old Man Beer” – Schaeffer, Pabst, Ballantine – tall, slim, V-shaped, with a small base. Bill took them from me, placed them side-by-side on the picnic table and opened the first bottle. He poured just a little, and the foam surged up.

“Some people tip the glass to keep the foam down, but I find that makes you burp more,” he joked as he poured the rest. The he filled the second glass the same way and offered it to me.

We sat on the damp bench and he told me about his travels to Germany were he had “real” beer. He told me about Tecate and Presidente in Mexico; Dorado in Spain. Sure he was being a little braggadocious but one thing stuck with me … This was the first time anyone had spoken to me like a grown-up.

We finished our beverages and had dinner.

After dinner we were again out on the porch. The rain had subsided; a few errant drips fell from the roof. A fog was settling in on the field we had cleared over the past few summers at the bottom of the hill – it was now large enough for a real game of football, soccer or baseball.

Bill turned on the shortwave he kept on the porch – this being Vermont, few stations reached up there on their own, but the shortwave could pull them in. He wanted to listen to the Yankees for a while before going to bed.

My cousin had left it on his New York station, before he left for camp.

A booming bass line emerged from the small speakers

“dum dum dum dum dum dum dadadum ... dum dum dum dum dum dum dadadum ...“

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire

“Oh, I’ve hear that,” my uncle remarked, “Billy’s girlfriend - Lisa Weymouth - her sister plays in that band.”

He looked off toward the woods. He seemed to going over a schedule in his head.

“Hey, why don’t you knock off up here a couple weeks early and end of the summer in New York with Billy?”

“I could do that; if it’s okay with you.”

“Yeah, you can stay with him and his mom on 72nd Street. I’ll let her know you’ll be there about a month from now. Deal!” We touched glasses to seal the arrangement.

A rumble of thunder brought me back to present-day New Jersey. I finished the pint and went back in the house for a refill. Something reminded me that I had the remains of a twelve-pack of St. Pauli Girl in the garage, destined for lawn duty.

“Donna, have you seen those Pilsener glasses???”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Creepy Crawlies

“There was a time when giants roamed the Earth.

“No, not those giants, the dinosaurs that stomped and slogged their way through the Mesozoic Era. These giants crawled and crept, slithered and scurried, burrowed, slinked, skittered and, above all, flitted and fluttered millions of years before the dinosaurs arrived.

“They were the giant arthropods of the Carboniferous.

“There were extra-large mayflies, super-sized scorpions and spiders the size of a healthy spider plant. There was an array of giant flightless insects, and a five-foot-long millipede-like creature, Arthropleura, that resembled a tire tread rolled out flat.

“But perhaps the most remarkable of all were the giant dragonflies, Meganeuropsis permiana and its cousins, with wingspans that reached two and a half feet. They were the largest insects that ever lived.

“These large species thrived about 300 million years ago, when much of the land was lush and tropical and there was an explosion of vascular plants (which later formed coal, which is why the period is called the Carboniferous). But the giant species were gone by the middle to late Permian, some 50 million years later.”*

Except in New Jersey.

Well, maybe the giant dragonflies are gone, but New Jersey certainly has its share of mosquitoes, gnats, midges, fireflies, horseflies, deerflies, mayflies, lacewings, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, katykids and millions of other bothersome buzzers, that all seem to congregate along my running paths just about the time I’m coming through in the morning, now that summer is here.

There must just not be enough bats to eat them all up overnight.

Adding to the airborne threats, I’m also joined my ticks, chiggers, fleas and other ankle biters that make a post run shoe / sock / ankle / calf inspection a necessity.

It seems odd to start the day with a liberal application of bug spray while my mouth is still minty wake-up fresh; but that’s the way it has to be if I don’t want to come home as leftovers from some arthropodic breakfast buffet.

To add an added layer of protection against New Jersey’s official state malady – Lyme’s Disease – I have adopted a trick a friend of ours brought back from Gulf War I. To combat the giant sand fleas in Saudi Arabia, her company would tie flea and tick collars around their boots, as many as half a dozen per foot. My running shoes have a loop in the back to accomplish this; I weave the extra under the laces to minimize flopping and tripping.

Now if I could just rig an early warning system to keep the spider webs out of my face.

* “When Giants Had Wings and 6 Legs” By Henry Fountain – NY Times, February 3, 2004

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Two Dozen Years, Please

Today is a big anniversary. It was on this date in 1982, that I began running. To be truthful, I had run through high school and college but only as a part of soccer practice. Even after that I had tried “running” on my own but had no staying power. No, on this date, I ran with a group for the first time.

It was late on Memorial Day evening, after having many beers with the neighborhood “men” – the dads – that the four who ran – Mr. Fisler, Mr. Moran, Mr. Lodge, Mr, Tighe – challenged any and all of the “kids” – many of whom were not longer kids, but were old enough to have been drinking all day as well - to join them at 6:00 AM the next morning for a brief run.

I stayed up with the men, until midnight or so, excused myself for the evening, set my alarm, and met them at the curb in front of Mr. Fisler’s house at 6. It was a warm, humid, grey morning. One of the men described the course for me, (should I get left behind, or want to drop out) and after a quick stretch, we were off. I stayed with the quickest of them – I forget now whom – until the last couple streets, then took off for the “win”. I wasn’t breathing hard, (it wasn't a long run, maybe a couple miles) but was quite sweaty. I thanked them for inviting me – no one else showed up – and got ready for school.

I came back again the next day.

It wasn’t until this past weekend – Memorial Day – that two significant anniversaries converged in my consciousness.

The beginning of my running “career” was the most obvious, since I have celebrated that for 23 years now. But it only occurred to me Saturday that I returned from my Mexican surf adventure 25 years ago (1981), last weekend.

I never realized that I started running only ONE YEAR after coming back. It always felt like a much longer gap between them. I guess that since I started Art School only a month or so later, and spent most of the next year basically indoors – school, work, home, studio – that I didn’t notice the passage of time; making it feel so much longer. I also now see how the 12 months of work and school and the partying in between, aided me to gain nearly 25 pounds since coming back.

“I couldn’t have possibly gained twenty five pounds in only one year.”

Well, I guess I did; which is another reason that I started running. I was no longer the Surfer Randy that the girls in high school and college adored. I was regressing back into Chubby Geek Randy, and I didn’t want that. Being in Art School with dozens of cute chicks, the pudge had to go. So I vowed to get back in shape the first chance I got.

Surfer Randy retired; Runner Randy was born. June 1, 1982.

Happy Birthday, me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Okay, Let's Try This Again

As cloudy and wet as it's been in Boston, I wanted to send La Tortuga a bit of sunshine. I'm sure she's not running or riding much, so I would do it for her.

The Philadelphia Distance Run is September 17 - four months from today. With the restored confidence she has given me from our Broad Street performance, I am up to the task.

I woke up this morning to a clear, cool and slightly windy day.

'Enough rest, time to train,' I thought to myself. I had done a couple of three milers last week, just to see if I could; but mostly because, even after running the 10 miles on a bare minimum of training, I didn't hurt that much afterwards.

I gathered my gear and headed out. Out and back around the cemetery. Nothing new, no challenges, no changes. Just a nice easy three at 8:00 pace. Somehow, as I rounded the uphill turn into the development, I found ... what's that??? A kick???

I think that tomorrow may need to be 4 miles.

Oh, yeah, I might start counting beers again, too.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Broad Street Run 2006 - Epilogue

Post-race comments from Annabelle de La Tortuga:

Broad Street 10 Miler - a very fun race. That's all the race report that you can expect to get from me. However Randy was an outstanding race host. Top three reasons -

Getting me through a very complicated starting line. This required starting at the end, taking a subway to the beginning, leaving a belongings bag at a specifically numbered bus and the finding our correct pace group. All by 8:30am. I have no sense of direction and would have never made it there on my own.

He carried my jellybeans for me. I knew that I would need some sugar at miles 3 and 7, but somehow forgot that one needs pockets. Running 7 miles with jellybeans in your hands could be a problem.

Randy let me pick the pace.

Randy's other good qualities as a race partner -

• One gets a much more interesting and colorful tour of Philadelphia. Let me just say that it was beyond the Liberty Bell.

• He will make sure that you can properly pronounce Schyulkill by the end of a race – it took me 10 miles.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Broad Street Run 2006 - Part Four

"That was fun ... let's have a beer."

Our post run beers were to be DFH :60 and HopFish, until I spied Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused. Annabelle remarked "Oh, I've had this," as she turned the bottle over in her hand. She reached for its partner, Mojo IPA, "Or maybe it was this one" and examined that as well. "Maybe it was both???!!! I remember liking them both equally. You choose."

I chose the Hazed & Infused, on two criteria. First, was, of course, the echoing of Jimi, Secondly was that I was in a blue-green tie-dye mood vs. a red-orange tie-dye.

The H & I was slightly cloudy copper in color, a hoppy pine aroma, with a rich head and a beautiful peppery citrus taste. It could have been a little stronger (only 4.8% ABV) and it generated a touch too much "burp." It was good with dinner though.

Broad Street Run 2006 - Part Three

"Let's Roll, Sugarbowl"

The Broad Street Run is an odd road race. It's one street, point to point with almost no turns. It's pretty much downhill - there are some rises at the beginning. You run straight for 4 1/2 miles turn right for 100 yards, turn left 200 yards, turn left for another 100 yards, turn right and run 5 more miles straight.

Annabelle was concerned about what to wear on race day

"What to wear though - maybe my black running shorts, blue top and another layer in case it is cold?"

"That's good thinking, but let me tell you this. We will be running due south, with the sun to our left. If it's chilly at the start (and it will be) that's because the houses and trees at the beginning will offer plenty of shade. After 4 or five miles or so, we will be downtown; the trees will be gone, replaced by office buildings. But in that hour the sun will have climbed over all but the tallest. After mile six, the torture begins. The sun is right up, the tall buildings have been replaced by 3-4 story homes and condos. There are no trees by the street in South Philly."

It was a beautiful day, no clouds. As I predicted, it was chilly at the start. She wore a dark grey long-sleeved shirt (tossed away at mile 2), a black top and multicolored shorts. She also defied "runner common sense" and wore relatively new shoes. I braved the chill and started with a tank top. I had borrowed a bit of her sunscreen, since mine was left over form last September - yeah, remember when I hurt my knee??? That same weekend. I was not giving karma a second chance.

After taking forever to get to the line and having our chips start the clock, we settled into a comfortable rythym. I felt we were close to the 9:00 pace I had been training at. When we passed the mile one clock in 20 minutes and change, my only question was 'How far back are we?'

We got to mile two around 30 minutes. From then on we collected the miles at nearly exactly 10:00 per.

Not feeling any need for speed, I entertained her by "showing" her local landmarks.

"I used to lived 6 blocks down there"
"There's a very old, very haunted prison down there."
"There's the strip joint where I used to work."
And so on.

One story that completely slipped my mind occured to me later.

It must have been 1998.

I wore a home made tank top with the "Screaming Tortise" logo on the back. As we came back around the last turn at City Hall, a guy asked me (and I quote) "Are you with La Tortuga?"

I gave him a "Huh?" look.

"La Tortuga. The Turtle." and he pointed at the back of my shirt. "Are you with her?"

"Sorry, bud. No, I'm not. Is she here?"

"Oh, you'll find her," the guy said, like from this point on I'd be searching for some mysterious Turtle Girl.

We only walked through the water stops, I only took Gatorade once. The last two miles were something of a blur. A very quiet blur. At a certain point all the chit chat and loose comradery fades into a general agony of "when will this be over?"

After we passed the photgraphers and entered the Navy Yard - sorry, Philadelphia Naval Business District - we felt the rush of accomplishment.

Broad Street Run 2006
Bib: 4832
Last name: del mar
First name: raoul
State: NJ
Overall: 10973
Chip time: 01:38:55

Bib: 15113
Last name: de La Tortuga
First name: Annabelle
State: MA
Overall: 10974
Chip time: 01:38:56

I didn't mean to imply that I beat her by ONE second. Our clock times were exactly the same, as it should be. I think that her foot crossed the starting mat one second after mine ... like, I had my right foot forward, and she had her right foot back ... in the computer's mind, it took her one second longer.

Maybe I got that backwards ... maybe she started ahead of me, and because I ran :01 faster, I caught up to her, right at the finish line???

Either way, ONE OF US ran the last mile in a blistering 8:55.