Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's All a Mind Game

I had everything laid out and ready to go. Layers laid out, hydration pack topped off, electrolyte tabs, sunglasses, camera (cause I knew it would be a pretty day), shoes, socks, hat and headband (it would be pretty AND pretty cold). My alarm was set for 5:45. I skipped the Nova-Kansas game (in which Nova upset #2 Kansas!) because it started too late for my 5:45 wake up. I was excited for the potential to add 5 (!!!) people to my list, to learn about some new (to me) trails at Valley Forge, to see some friends I have not run with or seen in a pretty long time.

I went to my bedroom to read near 10 pm and lights out shortly thereafter. I fell asleep for about an hour. Then I tossed and turned and turned and tossed. I couldn't shut my brain off. At 3:15 or so I got up and left a message for the group that I would not make it. I came back to bed and fell sound asleep until just before 8.

It wasn't the early hour that had me in knots. Heck, we were up and out at 3:30 for parade duties and it was just as cold. Colder because we had to stand around.

It wasn't the trails that scared me. I love running trails. I've discovered that I really really do. And I discovered years ago that I enjoy cold weather running too. Here was a chance to do both.

It's all a mind game. I know that but knowing that isn't helping. I feel out of my league - because I am out of my league - with the trail group. They say they don't care and I believe them. And truly if I got separated it wouldn't be a big deal either. We were meeting at Valley Forge. I'd eventually end up somewhere that is familiar and find my way back to my car.

Still, I'm afraid. I feel like I'm pretending to be something I'm not and I feel like everyone knows it and I feel like they probably wish I'd go away so they don't have to babysit me ......... so I do. I thought running, in general, had helped me get over that but I obviously still need work. I want to blend into the background but instead I'm standing out worse because I keep say I'm going to show up and then I don't. Not a very proud moment for me right now.

And worst of all. I'm missing out on stuff I really want to do. The same thing is going to happen in the Spring when I try to cycle with a group if I don't get over this.

I have things to do today. Can't dwell on this right now, so I write it to get it out of my head.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past

First off I want to thank my brother Thomas and my nephew Robbie for scanning old family photos. It's an arduous process at best and they are doing an awesome job bringing back lots of great memories. The photos of Thanksgiving past in today's post are of my family's trips to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1974 and 1975.

Let's get something straight right away now. While, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade gets all the press - and I'm sure is a fine parade in it's own time and place - the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade was FIRST. It kicked off in 1920 with 50 employees from Gimbels. Ellis Gimble, one of the four brothers who founded Gimbels thought it would be a great marketing tool for his store. It wasn't until four years later that New York and Detroit copied Philadelphia's idea. Today there are parades in many large cites including Chicago and St. Louis to name two.

A lot of Macy's fame likely stems from its marquee role in "Miracle on 34th Street". The movie (released in 1947) about the defense of Santa Claus as a real person (which he absolutely is by the way) contains a subplot about the competition between Macy's and Gimbels.

For the first 66 years of it's existence the Philadelphia parade started at the Art Museum and travelled to Gimbel's at 8th and Market where a fire truck ladder allowed Santa to climb to the 8th floor to take his place in Toyland for the holiday season. Here he is in 1975 doing just that as the parade goers follow.

It's unlikely you'd find Captain Kangaroo
in the New York parade (1974)

And if there are soft pretzels at the New York parade they
are likely not Philadelphia Soft Pretzels
and therefore by definition - inferior (1975)

These guys could be in either parade but this is definitely Philadelphia
Notice Lit Brothers Store in the background.(1975)
So in 1985, Gimbels was acquired by Allied Stores Corporation and renamed Stern's. The new owners declined to continue sponsorship of the parade. So does anyone even remember Stern's? I think not and I'm sure Allied wonders why. Hmph! Now that Gimbels was no longer Santa's destination, in 1986 the parade switched directions to what we know today from 20th and Market to the Art Museum. Instead of climbing a fire truck ladder, Santa climbs the Art Museum steps. One of these days they should have Sylvester Stallone join him. I'm just saying. :)

A lot has changed over the years.

The balloons have come a long way. I'm really not sure
what this is from 1974
Sponsorship has changed. After Sterns passed on the parade WPVI/6ABC - who had been broadcasting the parade since 1966 with our beloved Jim O'Brien as the original host - took over and co-sponsored with Boscov's until Boscov's declared bankruptcy in 2008 and couldn't afford it anymore. Ikea stepped in for a year or two and now it is co-sponsored Dunkin Donuts.

From 50 Gimbels employees for the whole parade in 1924 to
25 random fun loving strangers on just one balloon in 2012

Some things never change though -----

Smiling faces of my family 1974

Smiling faces of a random family 2009
In 1975 the kids in my family (includes cousins here) were thrilled
to have their very own helium balloons from a street vendor

Kids still love to hold Helium Balloons! (2009)
Letting random kids hold the balloon while the parade is on a commercial break is one of my two favorite things about being a balloon handler. The other is spinning the balloon to the delight of the  crowd. But it's hard to take photos while spinning. (Trust me, I've tried).

Traditions are awesome. I'm really glad Dave and I answered the call for balloon volunteers on Action News one September evening back in 2007. Look for us this year on the Olivia Balloon.

Credit for some of the Thanksgiving Day History goes to this article.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Art of Being Flexible

Or in today's case opting for a trail run because it felt too windy for a bike ride.

I planned to meet Emma and Arron at the Erlton Bike Shop for the last group ride of the season this morning. I woke at 6:30 and heard the wind blowing through the trees outside my window. Since there are no leaves left the noise it was making was a sign that the gusts were in the teens at had been predicted. I texted Emma that I didn't want to ride in that.

So I went to Ridley Creek State Park (RCSP) for a trail run instead. I planned to run for 45 minutes. I set my timer for 20 minutes out and 25 minutes back. I figured I would go out too fast (typical) and would be tired on the way back. I chose the Yellow trail. I don't run or hike this one often. This became obvious when I could not remember where the trail goes when it crosses picnic area 17. I ran around the parking lot once looking for the pick up only to remember as I came around that the trail comes up along the washrooms; circles around and goes back down the other side. Signage is not great in this spot. In the end I arrived back at my car 4 minutes early. I didn't need the extra time on the second half. Cool! (and just to be sure I ran around the parking lot on the way back through 17 so the distance would be equal)

I'm taking this as a victory. I didn't slow down as much on the second half as I thought I would. In the interest of full disclosure though you should know that the yellow trail is not as steep as the white or blue trails (red is the flattest although nothing is entirely flat at RCSP). And without the MLC trail rabbits to chase I was able to keep my own pace leaving me a bit more energy to tackle the hills. Still, this is really good and the entire outing gave me a boost of confidence. My right glute/hip did make noise about a quarter of the way through but unlike Wednesday night's run I was able to run through it and felt great at the end.

I have kinda, sorta made a schedule for myself to get ready for Tyler 10k in April. I built the schedule to run for time not distance. Trail running is slower than road running and all the trail running articles recommend letting go of distance so as not to get discouraged. So my schedule is based on how many minutes I run each outing.

I have lots of time until the Tyler 10k so the schedule is not very aggressive. I know with the holidays and the sister birthday cruise I won't be able to run every weekend and lack of daylight will make my weeknight choices slim as far as trail running goes until February when after work light starts to return. Hence, it's a kinda, sorta schedule. I will not be running Tyler 10k for time. I will be running to finish. However, to make sure I can train well enough to finish I estimate that 100 minutes is sufficient time for me to finish a trail 10K. That's a 16 minute mile. I can hike 20 minute miles so this feels reasonable to me. Today I ran 45 minutes (I made up my 4 around the parking lot which only served to remind me how much I love trails over pavement now). My kinda sorta plan is to build slowly each week to 100 minutes 2 or 3 weeks before the race. I may or may not run for distance a few times before April I haven't decided yet. The upside is to see where my pace really is, the downside is maybe finding out it's really horrible and getting discouraged.

It was a nice day for a run. Cold and sunny to start. I saw my shadow but didn't take a photo and by the end the winds had brought in thick cloud cover so the chance had passed. Instead I took this photo

I couldn't see the reflection on the phone screen with my sunglasses on or I would have lowered my hand away from my face. So it's goofy photo but I kind of sums up theme of my morning. Me after a trail run superimposed through the window over my bike in the back of the car which didn't get out today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let's Go Fly a Balloon

It's that time of year again. The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is one week away and once again Dave and I will be there. This year we are escorting Olivia the Pig.

I had no idea who Olivia was until we received our assignment. Shortly after posting a message to Facebook however, I discovered that she is big among the toddler and older crowd that have heard the book or watch Nick Jr. We will wear red jumpsuits and have a scarf as the accessory. The weather forecast for now is for sunny skies and cool temperatures. The dress code for balloon handlers calls for no hats or ear muffs, black socks and black shoes. I hope the scarf reaches my ears. :)

This will be our 8th year in the parade! If you'd like to see what happened in the other 7 years you can click the links below. For this year, tune in to ABC at 9:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.

Parade 2012; Snowman
Parade 2011; Cornucopia
Parade 2010; Tom the Turkey
Parade 2009; Garfield
Parade 2008; Elmo/Fireman
Parade 2007; Barney

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Other Side of the Marathon

Today was Philadelphia Full and Half Marathon day. I ran my first marathon here in 2008 and after that I ran one more full and three half marathons at Philly in November. This year I was a spectator. In each of my 5 years running the event, Dave has faithfully supported me and my running buddies through all kinds of weather for hours on end. This year I got to see the marathon from the other side - from Dave's point of view. Dave knows the route, the best places to cheer, to have breakfast and to travel from one cheer spot to another. This year I got to learn from the master. It was a very long yet enjoyable and inspiring day.

As a result of the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Philadelphia instituted extra security measures this year requiring runners and spectators to pass through limited screening check points near the start/finish line. We arrived at 5:15 am having hitched a ride with a runner and after sending him off we started roaming around the outskirts of the protected area.

We climbed the Art Museum steps
for an early morning photo of the city
We watched the volunteers dress rocky in a marathon shirt
specially made for him for the occasion
It was at this point that we began to see the holes in the security plan. There was no access to the secure area from the Rocky Statue. Everyone knows this is a favorite photo op of not only tourists but runners in Philadelphia races. There should have been an access point here. The runners however were unperturbed by the lack of access. They simply jumped the fence. (roll your eyes and shake your head moment here)

One of our group had a backpack which - according to the news and race website - would not be allowed in the secure area. So we continued to skirt the edges trying to take in as much of the atmosphere as we could. This is how we completely by accident discovered another flaw in the security plan. If one wanders long enough there is (I won't say where it was) a place to simply walk in. So we did. Still with an extra fence creating a cushion of space between spectators and the runners it was even more difficult to spot any runners when the gun went off so we didn't stay there long. Before we left though we saw a runner toss their throw away clothes toward the fence only to have the clothes head straight for a police officer. He made an nice catch, laughed and tossed them over the fence. (For those that don't know, runners wear some extra layers to keep warm while waiting for the start and the tossed clothing is washed and donated to shelters in the area).

Since we knew we wouldn't be able to pick out any of our friends in the crowded start we followed Dave over to Spring Garden Street and then to 34th and Hamilton where he gets his breakfast on race day. Kimmy's Deli wasn't open yet as - we found out from the owner later - they got stuck behind the barricaded streets. Breakfast was as good as promised, the coffee hot and much appreciated!

We stayed here to cheer runners just short of the 8 mile marker. Two more from our running group joined us to cheer here. And from here we saw the entire race contingent. As we arrived we saw the wheeled participants, the first runners and stayed through the last of the walkers. We missed maybe a dozen of them. We tried to cheer as many folks as we could helped along by names printed on their bibs. It's awesome to see someone smile when you call out there name and some encouragement. There was only one flaw in the plan. We were so focused on reading names off bibs that we almost missed most of the people we were there to cheer for. Fortunately one of our cheer section had good eyes and called out when needed. So although we saw many of them as they were almost past us we did see just about everyone we had hoped to see.

We were not the only cheer group to miss their runners. At one point a runner came running BACK toward us to the group standing next to us. He jumped around waving at them until they finally saw him! It was pretty funny.

We also saw a man at this point in the race who offered to sell us his bib to finish for him. I'm not sure he was all joking. Toward the end we saw a woman who 'wished it was over' but mostly we saw a lot of smiling and determined faces. Lots of tutu runners and of course the Joggler. That's him in the white below.

From here we wandered back toward the Art Museum and on to Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive. We stopped briefly on the Spring Garden Street bridge to wave and cheer runners going under the bridge. I've always loved running under this bridge and one year my friend made me cry with emotion when she screamed my name and took my picture from up on the bridge as I ran under. It's my favorite running photo.

At Lloyd Hall (#1 Boathouse Row) we cheered for a few minutes on the outgoing side and then crossed over to see our friends returning from Manayunk. Our spot was about a half mile from the finish and we tried to offer as much encouragement as we could. The ranks of runners has thinned out considerably by this time so we were able to spot our runners much easier and I think we caught all but one who actually passed that spot before we got there! She finished the marathon in under two hours.

We stayed until about 1:25 and then began making our way to 30th Street Station for the ride home. On our way there we had to cross back over an earlier part of the race course about a half mile from the half marathon (13.1 miles) finish. Here we saw a man with a half marathon bib, bent over in pain walking toward the finish. This was at least 6 hours after he started. I really hope someone saved him a medal.

The train ride home was uneventful. We were back in the house by 2:30 and quickly went out for Wawa hoagies for dinner. It had been a long time since breakfast. We were VERY hungry.

I had a wonderful time today. I thank Dave for showing me and sharing his marathon experience. I've said this before and now I know I'm right.... being a spectator or volunteer at a race is long, tiring work. I have always tried to appreciate spectators and volunteers. I'm not sure I've appreciated them quite enough!

Keep smiling and keep moving all. And to my friends who raced today "You are awesome! Congratulations!"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

4 Is Just A Number

This morning I ran with Misery Loves Company (MLC) at Ridley Creek/Tyler Arboretum. The day began wet and cloudy but the rain was over before we started and by the time I headed home blue skies and sun prevailed.

I waffled many times this week about whether to go for this run. In my head the MLC group is a little intimidating. In reality, though, the people are awesome and truly believe in no one left behind. I'm just trying to get comfortable with being one of the one's not being left behind. :) I have to look at it as incentive to get stronger and pay it forward someday.

There were lots of reason to go; not the least of which is the aforementioned awesome people. Other reasons included - the meeting spot is less than 10 minutes from my house and I am registered for the Tyler 10K in April so spending time on these trails is something I should be doing to get ready. The icing on the reasons-to-go cake was the messages flying around last night in favor of starting an hour later at 8 a.m.

The only remaining hitch in the plan was the rating Pete had given the run - 4. Pete has a comical but lovable way of underestimating trail ratings. A 4 for Pete can turn out to be 5 or more for the rest of us. I wondered if I was ready for a 4. Admittedly I struggled with this way more than is probably healthy during the course of this week. In the end - as in minutes before I almost bailed again this morning - I decided that 4 means it will challenge me not that it's impossible.

So off I went. And very glad I did.

The trail starts off uphill. A fairly significant hill for me. Somehow I was in the middle of the group of as we started. I pulled over halfway up and took up a more realistic spot at the back.

When I first decided to sign up for Tyler 10K I turned to MLC for support and training advice. Awesome as ever, they gave me lots of support and advice - even the folks I haven't met yet. The theme of that advice was to have fun and just go out and run trails. "Run the flats and walk the hills" they said. Today's run had a fair amount of up and down. I pushed myself on the hills so as not to get too far behind. My legs held up very well but my lungs wanted to explode. So while today's run confirmed that I still have a lot of work to do it also showed me I'm stronger than I think. I may have been last but I was there. Thank you MLC.

After one go-round which I estimate was 2.5 miles? I broke off to the RCSP multi-use trail. Maggi, Julius and Mike came with me allowing the faster MLC folks to find their own pace on the trails. Mike is training for the Space Coast half marathon Thanksgiving weekend so he ran the multi use trail. Maggi, Julius and I powered walked and talked. It was a great morning!

So there were 8 in the group today including me. Three of them I have not run, walked or biked with this year and although I spent most of the time in their dust I'm counting it and adding John C. John H. and Ryan to my list. I'm up to 40 since March 1st. :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall at the Wisshickon Gorge

I was 1-2 weeks late to really experience fall along the Wissahickon Creek & Forbidden Drive. Still, I had a great hike today. My plan was to hike the Orange Trail along one side of the creek; cross over to Forbidden Drive at Valley Green and walk back to NW Ave and my car. Before I started out I stopped at Cedars House and picked up a trail map for the area. With that I was able to see how to return on trails on the other side of the creek instead of Forbidden Drive.

I remembered a run with Pete and MLC crew last fall/winter where we were able to access the Orange Trail without having to go out FD to Bells Mills road. I took that route. The trails at Wissahickon here are frequented by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and horses. I even saw a boy on a unicycle once! The Orange trail however has mostly hikers and runners as most of it does not allow bikes or horses. It's a little too rocky including one spot with virtually no sign of trail. One must sort of scramble hand over foot.

I saw quite a few hikers as I made my way out to Valley Green. I was really excited to see the number of small children hiking rather than being carried. One man was accompanied by two toddlers. They couldn't have been more than 4. I smiled as I watched them hike. What really made me smile though was realizing Dad was carrying their tiny tricycles! I pointed and asked "Future mountain bikers". He grinned, "You bet!".
I could have sat in this spot for hours!

At Valley Green, I crossed over and began to take the yellow trail back toward NW Ave and my car. I missed a turn and ended up on some single track trails high up on the ridge. I was passed in both directions multiple times by horses and mountain bikers. Some of the curves were tight. I had to be extra alert for oncoming traffic that - at least the bikes - would have mowed me down. At one point bikes met horses. I stood off to the side to watch them navigate past each other. I didn't take a photo because I was too focused on not becoming collateral damage! The wrong turn added time and distance to the hike and I've made a note to go back earlier in the month next year to see the colors. I bet it was awesome a few weeks ago!

I had a really nice time today. 2.5 hours in a gorgeous area. I'm looking forward to going back and exploring more of the trails I've not been on before.

In other unrelated to the hike stuff:

I've discovered that Dave and I are not jigsaw compatible. Here is what I came home to earlier this week.

I need my pieces messy. I like looking for them. I had just gotten used to his tendency to group them and not THIS (what you see in the photo) Beyond crazy! :) For better or worse I guess. :)

Also, the End to End Hike I mentioned a few posts ago? Probably not going to happen. My friend Kristi Y helped me with a reality check on that and - although doable - it is a stretch to be ready for that by April 2014. I'd basically be trying to train for an ultra marathon after having done nothing for so long. Maybe another year. Still, I hope to keep adding hiking to the mix of activities. Today was so nice!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Trail Run

Tonight I headed out to Haverford College for some night time trail running. it is fast becoming a standing date for a small (and hopefully growing) group of runners. I was last there two weeks ago and I want to make it regularly.

We meet at 6 pm which is a bit awkward for me. I finish work at 4 and even taking my time changing and driving there I arrive before 5. Perhaps by Spring when my endurance is back and it is lighter longer again I can go for a solo loop while I wait. For now I make sure I have something to read.

November has been its typically roller coaster like self swinging from cold to warm. Two weeks ago we had extra layers tonight it was still in the low 60s at 6:00 p.m. and a little breezy. The loop is just over 2 miles of dirt, gravel and short stretches of pavement. In the daylight it offers peaceful views of the campus and it's duck pond. The trail meanders through the trees over bridges and past ball fields. It is very pretty. In daylight.

At night the trail is still peaceful and the pitch darkness on some parts make it mysterious, challenging and fun. It also makes it unwise - in my opinion - to run it alone. Alone it's scary. With company it's an exciting challenge.

So tonight the group consisted of me Mike and Levi. Mike I know is faster than me right now. Levi I only met for the first time tonight but if he's 25 I'd be surprised. Not hard to guess he's faster than me. There was only one way this would work for me. Honest begging. LOL I told them I knew it would be a struggle for me to keep up but that the only way I could run this tonight - and I really wanted, needed a run - was if they stayed with me. In true running-friend fashion they did and made it feel like my pace was cool for them. I thanked them after one loop and let them go the second loop on their own.

I was gasping for air at the end yet feeling refreshed and glad that I didn't go home. Here's to getting back out there, getting stronger, with luck getting a little faster and looking forward to the chance to pay Mike's and Levi's patience forward some day. :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

89 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds....

..... Until sister #3's birthday cruise. It's fun to countdown as we wait to celebrate yet another of our 50th birthdays. That's not what today's post is about really but I can work it in.... watch me ;)

Not much has happened since my last post - hence the lack of words. Halloween came and went without a hurricane (2012) or a snow storm (2011) which allows fall to give off color in ways we've missed lately.

Downtown Media - November 2, 2013
Naomi, Mike, Sara and I had a great time on the Horseshoe Trail on Sunday October 20th. You can see photos here.

My attempts to run trails with Misery Loves Company were thwarted once again although this time for something I really wanted to do. I am taking a mediator training course. It's a four day program- two consecutive Fridays and Saturdays So I missed "Lace up the Mountain" this week and I'll miss the "Newbie Run" next weekend. But the mediation course is awesome! In the litigious/combative culture we live in mediation is, IMHO, a better way to go by leaps and bounds. I'm psyched to use what I'm learning to beef up our mediation program at work and to develop a niche for myself outside of work. Completion of the program will allow me to work as a volunteer community mediator.

Through all this great stuff, the fitness part of my life is all over the place again. Kind if like a yo-yo on steroids. So despite my hesitance to sign up for events - having to bail on three in 2103 - I am officially registered for the Tyler 10k on April 5, 2014. I bailed for health not laziness and maybe having a goal is really what I need to keep moving. This will by my first trail race. It's also the first time I've ever registered for something with so little confidence that I can actually do it. Even for my first marathon (2008) I had more confidence - even before I found a group to train with. Life is an adventure though so here I go ......

I've also set my sights on the Brandywine Trail End to End Hike. The Brandywine Trail connects the Horse Shoe Trail at Ludwig's Corner to the Mason Dixon trail 36 miles south in Chadds Ford. According to its website it is accessible only to members of the two groups that maintain the trail - not sure how they police that - and to participants in this event. A 12 hour time limit for 36 miles with SAG wagons at mile 13, 23 and 29 to take you back to the start if you aren't going to make it. Judging by the pace of our Horseshoe Trail hikes I think I can manage this. Anyone care to join me? by the way, trail buddies, I noticed from the results page of the race that some folks run it. :)

If I'm going to do any of this, I need to get my butt training for trails. Can't think about that now (although I know I must soon). For now I need to set a manageable and beatable goal just to keep moving. So a minimum of 2 miles on my feet every day for the next 89 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds....(See I told you I'd work it in.) 178 miles minimum on my feet by cruise time. And to keep my cycling skills from disappearing a minimum of 10 bike miles every weekend. Without a light yet it's foolish to set a daily goal on the bike right now. I'll run or walk in the dark (I can carry a flashlight if needed) but not bike. Plus if we have a week long blizzard (I wish) I can always do 10 on a trainer. I won't like it but I won't die.
Thanks for all who are still with me despite my constantly moving targets, do-overs and restarts.
Keep smiling and keep moving folks.