Sunday, July 20, 2008

Midnight Madness - Epilogue

Eight and a half miles in the dark,
Ooky spooky Fairmount Park.
Who are these people? What have I done?
I sure hope this is gonna be fun.
Bright blue eyes and happy smile
Greeted me by the T-shirt pile.
The others were there, and all said "Hello.
Um, but where is your buddy Doe?"
We started off at the stroke of Midnight.
"We gonna run some and walk too, right?"
Two hours or so and then we were done.
I can't wait till to do another one.
Meeting again in the sun by the pool,
Made me feel special, welcomed, and cool.
D'Wife and D'Kid both had a good time.
That was a great weekend, and the end of my rhyme.

Midnight Madness – Part 2

At Midnight we departed, led by Lora’s bright Olympic torch, glowing rings, and solitary strand of white Xmas lights wrapped around her left leg. She hadn’t travelled more that twenty yards past the cheering fans before she was first mistaken as the Statue of Liberty, an error that would be made several more times before the night was out.

“If she were the Statue of Liberty, she’d be GREEN,” I’d shout, with a muffled, “dumbass” behind.

Securely surrounded by nearly 400 other highly reflective and luminous souls, it didn’t take long for our little gang to zoom … straight to the end of the line. Doe and I had a bit of trouble slowing down enough to be backpaced* by the others, but we eventually found our rhythm and settled into a nice groove of chatting, joking and making new friends.

* pacing done by someone behind you without them knowing it, matching their speed just enough to stay a little bit ahead of them … really good for overlistening ;)

I didn’t feel glowy enough, so I began picking up whatever discarded enlightenment items I found – in true pirate fashion, what I couldn’t steal, I scavenged. With the addition of a couple of necklaces and a few wristbands I felt sufficiently luminous.

Since Maureen had invited me to the group and it was she that I knew best, I ran closer with her for the first stretch. Lor-I had the Garmin®, so she was “the Pilot.” The plan was to run a mile and a half or so, then walk a half, repeating as necessary along the 8.5 [or .4?] course. I wasn’t sure whether Maureen had ever run Kelly Drive before, so I pointed out on of my favorite landmarks, the Boathouse Row lighthouse [officially named Turtle Rock Lighthouse]. Coming the opposite way, as you would in the Distance run, this beacon near the 12 mile mark says, “you’re almost done!” However, on this night, it said, “See ya later, gator!”

We passed the John Kelly, Sr. statute [“Why is there a naked dude rowing, dude?” Doe asked. I explained who Kelly was and why they renamed East River Drive, Kelly Drive], the Temple and St. Joe’s Boathouses

It didn’t take long before the heat and humidity to produce a nice sheen of sweat on us, but nothing could prepare us for the sight we found at the first water stop just before the Strawberry Mansion Bridge: a tall, heavy-set gentleman, in full uniform of a Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War. He wore a wool jacket, flannel pants, leather boots and gigantic – I don’t know the technical term – “pope hat” Sadly he was running on his own; I guess he couldn’t convince the rest of the platoon to come along.

That would have been an awesome sight.

We walked and chatted, some of the girls took a bio-break and we took off again. We were proceeding up Kelly Drive to the falls River Bridge and home down MLK – the UltraMarathoners were traveling the opposite way. “YAY! We turn left, just like NASCAR,” I shouted to Doe; recalling the original WAH! who we both worked with at one time; probably the goofiest chick I’ve ever met [which says a LOT] and Dale Jr. fan besides. However, when I would turn around and run backwards to talk to the girls, I ran the risk of slamming into one of these exhausted and fragile heroes.

More than once did I hear “RANDY!” from the cute chorus jogging ahead of/behind me.

I pointed out the Laurel Hill Cemetery entrance, knowing that Maureen trains in one at home in Boston, and the rock tunnel where everyone screams while running in the street for PDR – sadly we had to stay on the running path, since the roads couldn’t be closed for the event. The entrance is at the end of Hunting Park Drive, which we all know leads to the TastyKake Bakery [I wonder if she ate the KandkyKakes, I bought for her?]

We ran under the Twin Bridges of Roosevelt Blvd. and over the Falls River Bridge. Lora and I remarked that not only was it weird to be going the “wrong” way, let alone, in the dark, that there was no bagpiper there, as is the tradition at the Distance Run.

Coming off the bridge, a slight confusion began regarding the sign that said “4 Miles”

Were we for miles from the start or the finish? Since the sign had it’s back to us [going the “wrong way” we figured it was the 4 mile marker for the outgoing runners – meaning it was 4 miles to our finish.

It was about 1:15AM Sunday, but the energy and friendship felt like 8:00PM Saturday – even though Maureen was struggling a bit and Doe was riding the fine line of knee discomfort.

We had traded places with the Hessian again before meeting up break station #2. The Fuze® juice they offered was tasty, although it certainly needed ½ a cup of water per cup [rum would be nice, too. Another time]

Don’t take this the wrong way, but Martin Luther King Drive, was a LOT darker than Kelly Drive. It was amazing though, how many people were just out strolling in the park – other these ultra-marathoning knuckleheads. It’s not like FairmountPark is adjacent to any neighborhood like Central Park is. If you cross 5th Avenue, westward, between 59th St, and 110th St., you’re in Central Park. To get to this part of Fairmount Park involves the Schuylkill Expressway in some respect. There were many strands of bright white Xmas lights to notify runners of impending points of collision. Lor-A’s lights had disappeared from her leg long ago, and Maureen had whipped out her headlamp by now. Invigorated by the halogen lamps, the swirly playful snails on her skirt jumped to life … well, if snails could jump, that is.

Break #3 followed Break #2 pretty quickly. As we passed under the Conrail railroad bridge it occurred to me that the high pitched squeal I’d been hearing all night [which sounded so much like The Edge’s slide-guitar effect at the beginning of “With or Without You’] was in fact the screech of freight train wheels.

As we moved out from the final rest stop, I drifted back to talk to “the Pilot” [more precisely “the Navigator” but …]. She confirmed the plan for this 2 ½ mile last leg: run one, walk half, finish running. I sprinted back up to give the info to Maureen, Lor-A and Doe. It was a good plan.

As the four of us passed under the Girard Avenue Bridge at the zoo, the bike path slid closer to MLK drive and the orange glow of the mercury lights. The Art Museum was in full view now, out of the woods and no longer hidden. Although that wasn’t the finish line, we could clearly see that we had not much further to go. In some dude-ish fashion Doe and I decided there would be no more breaks. His knee felt better running than not, so running it would be. Before we could say, “see you later, gator” to Maureen and Lor-A, we were ½ a block away.

“Should we back off” “and we tell them we’re running it out?” we asked each other, nearly simultaneously. We laughed as brothers and passed the first people we’d caught [other than our Hessian friend] in nearly 2 hours.

A sign notified us of “Mile 1” – one mile from the marathoner’s star; one mile to our finish. We both looked at our clocks. 1:45AM on mine; 1:49 on his. No matter it was the difference that counted. We didn’t know that as we passed the dam and made the turn at Spring Garden, we were on the bottom side of an up and down, cresting at Eakins Oval.

As we clicked along, we passed people who had probably been only a couple hundred yards ahead of us all night long.

“Hey, dude, we’re passing people!”

Approaching the parkway, the road was shut off due to construction of the new paring lots at the Art Museum.

“Where do we go?” Doe asked.

“Um, dude, I don’t think it matters,” I answered, “If you’re worried about staying on course, I would just say ‘Follow the skinny white guys?’”

Coming past the Rocky Steps and onto the downhill to Boathouse Row, I heard voices to my left.

It was horribly ironic, running past actual homeless people, arguing/philosophizing drunkenly in the service entrance of the Art Museum, while kicking out the last 1/2 mile in an event which raised $90K for them.

Coming down that hill through the final twists and turns we confirmed that we’d wait for the girls. We didn’t cross the line but Doe clicked us out. We ran that last mile in 8:35. We finished just before 2AM

Spent and dripping in soggy summer sweat Doe and I foraged for water, juice, anything; but paid mind NOT to cross the finish [not like had ‘chips’ or anything]. While on recon, we heard “Will the runner with the light-up glasses report to the awards table please. We have something for her.”

Yeah, Lor-I won. But she wasn’t done yet.

I sent Doe off to the table to let them know, thinking that he’d have enough time to get there and back before Maureen and Lor-A finished, so we could all cross together.

Missed by THAT much.

They crossed about a minute before Doe emerged from the Hall. We guys checked in/out and the four of us waited for the rest of the team.

All in all, The Glo-Pokes and our friends held down 8 of the final 20 spots with Maureen finishing first among us.

No number on The Hessian, but there were only two dudes behind me and Doe [in that order ;)]

Slowly, saltily, and stinkily, we reconvened at Lloyd Hall.

Doe's knee hurt, Maureen didn't feel well and when I wasn't moving, all the glowy stuff just looked really gay. Hugs and high fives were given as we wound down. I handed out the Glow-Pokes shirts to the team. Offers were made to pay me, and I quickly declined.

Close to 3AM, we Jersey boys left the girls, for the evening. On the walk back to our cars, Doe's knee had something nasty to say about the effort. My main focus was, "Hey, dude. It's not the gas pedal, so you can drive home."

Even though we both had to take I-295 home, I chose to take The Ben vs. The Walt. I had a plan, sort of.

I was starving.

As I cruised down Race Street, through Chinatown, I stopped at the first place that was open. I hit my flashers and picked up pint of Veg Lo Mien and three Spring Rolls.

Forty-five minutes later, I washed them down with a couple of bottles of Victory Whirlwind.

The Epliogue >>>

Midnight Madness – Part 1

"Glo-Pokes” T-shirts made? Check! [with D’Kid’s help, and materials on sale from AC Moore]
Glowy stuff acquired? Check! [on sale at Party City]
Church attended? Check!
Gear laid out? Check!
Post-race bag packed? Check!
Nap taken? Check!
Contacts with D’Girls and D’Doe established? Check! [Doe may have still be asleep when I called him at 9PM]

Let’s do it!!!

It’s a quick and tumble journey up to I-295 and over the bridge to Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row. After missing the crucial turn at the Art Museum, [the one I usually take to the back parking lot of the Museum, which was closed anyway, due to construction of a new multi-deck lot – yeah, that will be skated when done] I pulled into the near-vacant lot on Eakins Oval. I double checked the contents of my near-stuffed backpack – I brought all six shirts with me, in case someone might not make it to the post-race pool-party planned for the next day.

I threw my pack over my shoulder, and started walking to Boathouse Row. Opening my phone and calling the number saved from earlier, [“So, what are we doing tonight?”], I felt a rush of excitement and something else … stage fright!!!

Suddenly, it was open mike night, and I had nothing prepared. Maybe that was the point?

Now I knew where the girls were; where was Doe? I called him for the 3rd time … still on his way; the word “bridge” was mentioned. I told him where I parked, and where we would be. The circle was closing. On my way down the bike path, I leapt up and down in joy.


As I wandered around looking for my friends, somewhere either in or near the registration desk, I heard my name. I turned and saw a beautiful, glowing face highlighted by brilliant blue eyes and the brightest, happiest smile I’d seen in ages [other than my own, which was stage left, hidden to her in the welcome hug]. She directed me, moderately shell-shocked that my on-line friends were becoming non-holographc, to the number and shirt table.

Maureen noticed first that my number was 645; hers was 646. Since we had all registered in a flurry on that last day, it wasn’t surprising that we’d be close; we hadn’t counted on consequtivity.

The next step was to meet the rest of the “team.”

Maureen took me to the “crash pad” room, where the hardcore slept on their 24 journeys.

Lor-A was not as tall as I expected; Lor-I was. Kelly, Jen and Yi Juin were Kicks-in-Laws, so I had no clue.

Girls gathered; I now needed to find my wingman: Ring-Doe. I told him I’d be out front; he could stash his stuff in my bag check.

Apparently, he walked past as I was glowing up [the sound system allowed practically no verbal communication within 20 yards of any speaker], but we did connect; and we found the girls.

A couple of times.

The pre-race instructions were given [Lor-I, was declared “Most Illuminated” by virtue of her disco glasses which, from her perspective behind them, must have been a torture device straight from “A Clockwork Orange”].

Glo-Pokes assembled, and at midnight, after being treated to Maureen’s voice in a wonderful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” [she shined to those nearby, while the PA cut in and out], we were off.

Yeah, a gun or something more than “GO!” would have been nice!

To Part Two >>>

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Midnight Madness – Prologue

Heck, this first part could be the 400 Beers Prologue!

For so many years I had a very regular annual road racing schedule:

March – Bancroft 5K, Haddonfield
April – Inglis House 5M, Kelly Drive, Philly
May – Broad Street Run, 10M, Philly
July – somebody’s 5K on 4th of July
September – Philadelphia Distance Run, ½ Marathon
November – Haddonfield 5 [was a 5M, then a 5K]

Plus, spur-of-the-weekend- and “Hey-it’s-a-Twilight-“ 5Ks.

I was fast then, too. It wouldn’t last.

Shortly after being married, the 5Ks disappeared. It took longer to get there than it did to run. For what? A free T-shirt?

Looking for new, more local / more Jersey horizons, I became a triathlete, adding those evens to my schedule, where they would fit during the summer. Plus, I got to buy a bike and tinker … I love to tinker. In fact I bought my first tri bike with winnings from the NCAA Tourney when Chris Webber called time-out … I wear a Michigan hoodie to this day. I should named that bike The Wolverine.

However, with the stresses of marriage, and pressures of work [both of which the endless tri-training and time away from the house certainly relieved] those had to go, too. I still have [most of] the bike.

Three weeks before the Distance Run in 1999 – while cruising through a 10-mile workout at about a 7½ minute pace; I quit running.

With Mariel due in November, D’Wife high-risk and stressed in four-dimensions [physically, emotionally, hormonally and spiritually], it seemed pretty selfish to be going for a PR at this time.

After 17½ years, I stopped for a while. Heck, I had plenty of training in the box, no problem. I ran the race, and finished in a [then] disastrous 2:08; compounded by a 15 minute defeat to my sister-in-law.

My first run after Mariel was born was Wednesday, February 9, 2000. It was wonderful, but I couldn’t be consistent. I did the best to maintain, but what is the motivation to train without a goal? Just to kill time? Once I ran 5 miles in 90°/90% with a motorcycle helmet on to win $50 from my neighbor – MTB Mark.

Many of the races I had done while they were in there tweens were approaching drinking age now: PDR was 10 when I first ran it in 1988, Broad Street turned 20 in May 1999. I missed both of my friends’ 25th Anniversaries.

The first time I pinned on a number as a Dad was for the Broad Street Run, May 7, 2006. Not a PR, but fulfilling. [Thanks, Annabelle] It would have been even better if the family had been there.

The Philadelphia Distance Run that September was humbling. You can find that story here

I was still in replacement mode … “Let me see how I do now, as a slow fat old man, Daddy; compared to when I was a fast slim young dude, dude.”

Recipe for failure, or at least disappointment.

Somehow though, cards started falling in place. I changed running forums, first of all, and met a whole new runner-verse. I wandered into a place reserved for people far younger than me, and was cordially invited to stay. Highly intimidated at first [fearing my “old man” secret might leak out and get me expelled], and not exactly which persona to adopt [eventually settling on “E: None of the Above,” i.e., be yourself dumbass], I was drawn out and befriended.

Still, these people we just 1’s and 0’s. I had heard stories and seen pictures of a warm and loving community, something I desperately wanted to belong to, scattered across though country [the globe, even – see “Audrey” to the left there]. A big annual meet-up is at the Philly Marathon in November, but with that being D’Kid’s birthday weekend, the chances of me getting free a Slim and None … and Slim just left town.

My newest bestest friend, Maureen [link over to the left] filled me in about this thing with a thing – wonderfully Jersey-spoken – that some of the girls were doing; would I be interested?

Details? One loop around Fairmount Park [8.5 miles – which I’d done plenty] in the dark [done that, too] at Midnight [probably] with 4 girls I’d never met? [that’s new!]

Um, that might not fly 100%. Let me make a call.

“Doe. We’re doing the Distance Run, right? Let’s do this. It will be cool!”

Doe’s on board, and with a familiar face in the mix, I have clearance.

Off we go. A new adventure. A clean slate. This time, is the first time.

To Part One >>>

Friday, July 18, 2008

Worlds are Colliding!

Some 24 hours from now, give or take 60 minutes or so, a bunch of people who have existed to me only as made-up names, avatars [with maximum size of 160 by 160 pixels], and email addresses, will become real-life living and breathing friends, as we meet at Llloyd Hall in Fairmount Park to run [?] one loop along the Schuylkill River - essentially the back half of the Distance Run - IN THE DARK!!!

This is big. This is huge.

I've never felt so welcomed.

Thanks, gang. I'll see you tomorrow.

Los Glo-Pokes

Midnight Madness - Prologue >>>

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008


I took a hard fall on my skateboard today. Nothing new, I just hadn’t done that in more than 20 years. Gravity still feels the same as it always has. My knee, hip and elbow got pretty scuffed up, but nothing’s broken, which is fortunate since, in Newtonian terms, I did collide with a whole planet.

My 5½ foot frame has taken quite a beating over these 46 years.

Taking it from the top:

Scar on the very top of my head: brother whacked me with a stick about 1½" thick, breaking the stick, plus other cementheadly events

7 concussions

Broken nose [3 times]

Fractured cheekbone [mugging attempt]

I still have all my wisdom teeth

Chronic tinnitus

Separated shoulder [rugby]

Fractured collarbone [fall from monkey bars]

Broken ribs [4] [assorted collisions]

Moderately high blood pressure

Semi-annual chiro alignment

Dislocated elbow [bike]

Fractured radii [bike]

Broken hand [metacarpal] [soccer]

Broken fingers [various]

Fertility-treatment scar [my only surgery]

F’d up right knee [I don’t know what I did, but it’s fine now]

Fractured left tibia [soccer]

Shattered left baby toe [water park]

Plus hundreds of nicks, scratches and dings, and dozens of heartaches and heartbreaks.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, I am not clumsy ... I'm just careless, reckless and a little bit self-destructive