Sweatin’ with the oldies, or It’s still summer!

Call me wet. For today’s Sunday run, the temperature was, well, temperate, in the mid-seventies. The humidity, though, was closing in on the 100% mark. Almost everyone was running with a water bottle today, even though we have water fountains along our route. Staying hydrated was paramount, as the shorts, shirts, socks and hats got thoroughly soaked with sweat.

The crew have been cranking up the miles. Tony ran 15.86 miles today, totally ignoring the Garmin master telling him to do the extra 0.14. I give him credit for not being a slave to the Garmin. Steve and Bryan also upped the distance, but I didn’t get their totals for today. My own approach has been to get the long runs in earlier in the training plan so I did 19 today, and glad to say, it was a good run, averaging a 9:15 pace.

We now have only ten weeks until Steamtown. Having run five marathons, I’m starting to detect a pattern. Sixteen weeks seems like a very long time to train. As the event gets closer, time, in spite of known physical laws, compresses, and seems to go by in chunks. I think our group is doing well, getting in the proper training, and each sticking to his plans. I can only wonder what it would be like to run in a dryer place, though. It takes two days for my shoes to dry. Well, that’s the way summer is here.

I hope everyone is enjoying watching the Olympics. London seems to have done an excellent job preparing, and the games are always exciting.


A Message from Steamtown Asst. Race Director to SJAC

Greetings South Jersey Athletic Club members!

Alert SJAC club member Tony Walter sent us an e-mail letting us know that a big part of your crew is doing Steamtown this year.  That’s excellent news.  We love New Jersey runners!

I hope your training is going well.  I know that you have begun your long runs and are probably in the 12 to 14 mile range by now (at least I hope you are).  Make sure you mix in some downhills.  When I ran Steamtown, my quads were so sore afterwords that I couldn’t walk downstairs forwards for three days.  But believe me, when you cross the finish line and get that medal hung around your neck, it’s all worth it.

I think you’ll like our medal this year – 3″, antique nickel, with a cool ribbon.  And make sure you stick around for the post race party!

Tony said about 10 of you are doing Steamtown.  Hopefully the 10 of you will be able to inspire even more runners to give Steamtown a try next year.  Training for a marathon together is a great experience, provided you don’t kill each other in the process.

Anyway, I’m confident you’ll have a great experience here  – and you’ll even like Scranton.  We’re just like Haddonfield but without the glitter!

Keep up the good work.  See you in October!

Yours in running,

Jim Cummings, Asst. Race Director, Steamtown Marathon


Andorra is a small country  in the Pyrenees, between Spain and France.  It’s namesake is a road in Philadelphia which rises up from the end of Forbidden Drive to Ridge Avenue, then leads to Harts Lane and a series of sharp hills before heading down to the Schuykill River Trail.  It made for a great training run for serious hill climbing and descending practice in a beautiful setting, a bit Hobbit-like in places, but definitely a valuable part of our path to Steamtown.  Our 14.7 mile route, mapped out on MapMyRun,  starts out with small hills, a bike path, and some areas of boardwalk over the Wissahickon Creek, leading up to Forbidden Drive.  Forbidden Drive runs along Wissahickon Creek, through the Wissahickon Gorge, an area of great natural beauty.  It wasn’t always so.  Early in the years of settlement of this area, it was filled with mills and taverns, but in 1868, the City of Philadelphia acquired 1800 acres of this area in order to preserve a clean water supply for the city, and demolished many of those mills and taverns.    The drive was banned to motorized traffic in 1899, hence the name.  No less a writer than Edgar Allan Poe described the area in an essay entitled “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”  It is a graveled, fairly wide road which curves along the Wissahickon Creek, with a stop mid-way at the one remaining Inn, the Valley Green Inn.  There, water fountains and restrooms are available for the many runners, cyclists, and walkers using the drive.  Our run continued on to the end of Forbidden Drive, where we headed left on Andorra Road and the start of the climbing.  Andorra climbs up to Park, for a quick right and steep uphill to a left on Church.  After crossing Ridge Pike, we headed along Harts Lane.  Harts Lane has several hills, fairly steep, which gave us some good downhill training as well.  The legs take a beating on the downhills.  They want to move fast, and trying to compromise between a controlled descent and taking advantage of gravity leads to strains on the quads, knees and ankles, and shins.  The organizers of the Steamtown Marathon make a big point of needing to practice downhills, and stress not going out too fast at the beginning of the race.  Naturally, for training, one must head uphill in order to go down.

The run finishes along the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT), heading back to Manayunk.  We had energy left for one more long climb, so we turned up Shawmont at the end of the paved portion of the SRT, making the quick U-turn at Umbria and following its hilly course until it ultimately dumped us on Main Street in Manayunk.  Anyone who has run the Philly Marathon will find this last bit very familiar, and can recall the crowds of locals cheering you on as you run up Main Street, having made the last turn on the way back to the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Our run stopped well short of that, ending where we started, at the Manayunk Diner.  There, eleven of our group got cleaned up and presentable, and sat down to a breakfast we rarely get to enjoy, with omelets, fried eggs, sausage, corned beef hash, pancakes, and home fries.  Those who had not done the run before, Tony and Brian to name two, were impressed with the run, and want to do it again.  Those of us who had done it before, also found it exhilarating, a good, hard, challenging run.  We’ll be out there in another few weeks to run it again.


A Good Week for Miles

After my long run last Sunday, a week and a couple days ago, I sat down on a bench to take off my sneaks and socks.  I wrung out my socks, and about a cup of water hit the steamy sidewalk.  The last week has been extraordinarily hot and humid, and when we finish a run of any length, we are as wet with sweat as if we had stood in the shower with our running clothes on.  The Body Glide doesn’t protect much, and you get cuts and abrasions from the material of your shorts at your waistline and other areas.  But something else has been going on, acclimation.  I think summer running has its challenges, but once you accept that you can’t go as fast as in cooler weather, and that you need to drink enormous volumes of water to stay hydrated, it gets fun and rewarding.  Last Saturday, Brandon and I ran a 7 miler with passing rain showers, and the rain was cool, not cold.  It felt good, and we didn’t get any wetter than if we had no rain.

This was a long week, miles-wise for me, totalling over 44.  My plan for getting in longer runs early in the training seems to be working.  I’m concentrating on slower long runs, even pacing, and  conditioning of the legs for endurance.

It wasn’t a particularly interesting week for wildlife.  We saw the common animals hanging out, geese by the flock, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and the dead raccoon on Coles Mill.  No fox or turtle this week.

There is news on the beer front.  Saturday, I bottled my Königesz-Hefeweizen, a simple German wheat beer made with Canadian wheat and German barley malt, Tettnanger hops, Bavarian yeast, and South Jersey tapwater.  An early taste test showed great promise, and the brew is a light amber with good clarity.  We need to wait about four weeks to start drinking it.

The heat will continue this week, although the weekend may be a bit milder.  We have plans Sunday for a Manayunk-Forbidden Drive loop, a fourteen mile run with a big hill in the middle.  It should be good.


Road Trip

taking a page from Frank’s book of travels, I too decided to do a road trip. I drove 5 or so hours north to block island for the weekend. What to pack…sunscreen, bathing suit, good book, t-shirts, and of course my garmin and running sneakers. Something about an island that seems to encourage running. Located about 13 miles straight shot from the tip of Long Island off the coast of Rhode Island, block island is only about 9 miles long by 3 miles wide so hard to get lost out there. But the running is fantastic. Lots of hills, great views, and some shade. My favorite run (which I did twice over the weekend) was the 10+ mile out and back on Corn Neck Road. Just to get out was hard enough and my target was Settlers Rock as the turnaround point which is a good thing as that’s the end of the road. Settlers Rock has a plaque proclaiming the location of the initial settlement back in the 1600’s.  Anyway I was glad to lay a very sweaty hand on this lonely rock and then head back.

Heading back while I didnt see a groundhog or poor turtle, I did see plenty of these fellows ready to steal my pwer bar. Going out I would see runners heading back on the other side of the road and I was jealous that they were almost done. Now it was my turn to laugh at the runners as they headed out and the day was only getting hotter.

One more pic. of a street scene along the route. Nothing special but has nice flowers, and the sea beyond. My pace was low 9’s which I guess is ok. I mean it was hot and hilly and the course was tough. Like Steamtown, the end of the run had an uphill which is torture at that point but good practice. While many miles from Steamtown the marathon was never far from my mind. One of the things I like best about getting that hard run done though was the guilt-free eating and drinking which I could really take advantage of. “Yes my good man, one more budweiser and a clam chowdah will do fine, thank you!”

I’m tired. Time to recharge.

Today at work, later in the afternoon, I found myself dropping my head and taking micronaps while trying to finish some desk work. It can be pretty humorous to bolt upright and see a line of m’s (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm) on the email I was composing. I think it is also a sign I need some rest.

Saturday, 7/7/12, I ran with Brandon, club pres. and my training advisor, for our usual 7 mile loop. It has a nice long hill around mile 5, which makes for a good muscle building exercise.

Two days ago, Sunday morning, I did my second long run, sticking to my personal plan for getting used to going the distance leg cramp free. It was another warm and humid day, and I started at 6:10 AM. After a five mile loop, already soaked with sweat, I stopped home for a quick change of running shorts and to take on some fluids. I’ve been drinking E.F.S (Electrolyte Fuel System) sports drink, given to me by a cycling friend and said to help prevent muscle cramps. I then proceeded to run 13 more miles, carrying a water bottle with me, taking two gels during the run, and finishing with an average of 9:30 per mile. I recognize this is not a fast pace, but my goal right now is to go the long distance without cramping, and to teach the muscles endurance. Towards the end of this run, I was starting to cramp up in my right calf, so I cut out the last mile and contented myself with 17. Afterwards, I felt good, though, and I think it was valuable training. I had another intimate encounter with wildlife, this time with a large, furry groundhog, which, I’ve learned, is a type of Marmot. As I went around the back of a building to discard a gel pack, the critter was a couple of meters away, staring at me. He scurried off, only to stop a bit farther away and turn to look at me again. One can imagine what he was thinking.

Monday was a day for the bridge. Two residents at my hospital and I did our run from the hospital, across the Ben Franklin Bridge, down and around the Race Street pier on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, and back across the bridge. It’s a great run, with beautiful views, a nice breeze and hills! In both directions.

As I mentioned at the start, I am tired today. I didn’t join my fellow club members at the No Frills Tuesday night race, nor at the Irish Mile for a beer, and I feel some remorse because of that. But, I needed the rest.



Beastly Heat

Last Sunday, July 1, the four Musketeers, also known as Bryan, Tony, Steve and Frank, spent the morning hours facing heat stroke and dehydration, as we did our usual 13 mile run.  We’ve moved our start time up to 7AM for our summer Sunday runs for good reason.  It gets awfully hot out there as the sun rises.  The humidity drains you and the stillness of the air doesn’t make for very good natural cooling, either.  But, we slogged on and did our training run, finishing at a respectable pace considering the heat.  Afterwards, we and our fellow SJACers cooled and re-hydrated in the air-conditioned local Starbucks.  I find it takes a lot of liquid to bring my tank back up to normal after a run like that, several liters at least.

Monday, I did my “recovery run”, a 6 mile run over the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden, down and around a pier on the Delaware, then back across the bridge.  I’m not sure of the value of a recovery run, or whatever you want to call it.  I always feel a bit stiff and awkward starting out on my Monday run following a long Sunday run, but the muscles get going and then it becomes just a usual run.  The fact that going over the bridge gives a hill and downhill in both directions makes for a little training bonus.

Wednesday, July 4, was a day for cross-training.  In addition to the scheduled October 7 marathon, I am also doing a four-day cycling tour in the Green Mountains of Vermont, in August, called the Vermont Challenge.  Anything called a “challenge” requires a little prep.  So, part of my training requires some cycling.  Co-members of SJAC, Ed and Michele, and a colleague from work, Mike, and I did a 55 mile ride from Lloyd Hall in Philadelphia to Valley Forge, including a loop around the park which has a number of demanding hills.  Glad to say, we all did quite well, and stopped in Manayunk for a bit of lunch at Bella Trattoria.  In Philly, on our return, the Ben Franklin Parkway was already jammed with people out to celebrate the Fourth, and participate in Philly’s big, free party.  There were big displays set up by Ford, the NBA and Wawa which dominated the parkway.  There were also little vendors as seen in the photo below.  Musicians were set to perform, jugglers wandered about, and there were many families enjoying it all.  The famous fireworks arising from the art museum grounds would come later in the evening.  But, it is still hot and humid, with little chance for relief at least in the next several days, so I guess we’ll just live with it.

On the BFP, July 4, 2012. What good are cheese curds if they are not fried?

Like money in the bank

I ran the Haddon Heights Firecracker 5K today. While hot I have no complaints I did my best. My splits were 6:42; 7:02; and 7:08 for an overall time of 21:39 and an average pace of 6:57. I think I’m good with a 7 minute pace. I went to Runner’s World and looked up a marathon predictor calculator entering my 5k result. It says I am able to run a marathon in 3:27:16 (I love they have this down to the seconds). Now that’s a great time way better than my target. So I’m done. LIke money in the bank I can now kick back and sleep late and just count down the days till Steamtown knowing I have this. Pretty cool. Maybe when Frank’s out there sweating away some Sunday morning I’ll drive by on my way to the mall give a little beep-beep and waive with the AC blowing at full blast.

Uncorking Croatia



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