Going up top

It took the three tries for the legendary, prolific mountaineer Apa Sherpa to summit Mount Everest. Only after hooking up with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund, and a group of Kiwis was ol’ Apa able to reach the rooftop of the world.

But since that first successful ascent up Everest, a lot has changed for Apa. Raised in the foothills of the mountain in Nepal in 1960 or 1962 – the Nepalese don’t keep track of such trite things such as one’s birth year – Apa moved his family from the highlands of the Himalayas to the Rockies of Utah, because, as he once told an interviewer, “the schools are better.”

He also summated Everest 17 more times since that maiden effort with Sir Ed’s boy. That’s more than anyone in the history of mountaineering.

Like Apa Sherpa, I moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to Lancaster, Pa., because “the schools are better.” At least that’s what I tell people from Philadelphia. This morning on the shuttle bound from the car rental joint to the main terminal of Denver International, I told some Texans I was passing the time with that “Philadelphia is the ugly step-brother of New York, Washington and every other major Northeast city.”

But as my man DMac says, “Philadelphia will do…”

At least for the time being.

Anyway, unlike Apa, I reached the summit of the first peak I aimed for. I also did it without any technical gear other than a pair of Brooks Radius shoes and blue and red-trimmed Brooks running shorts. Yessir, I ran to the top of Twin Sisters Peak, which is located to the east of the more famous Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I ran to the top of Twin Sisters in 67 minutes, took a short drink, checked out the view where I saw the town of Estes Park, some clouds, what I think was the city of Boulder, and a whole bunch of lakes. I stood there with the view and felt the stiff wind through my flimsy clothes and looked down at the tree line a few hundred feet below the edge of the peak as one of those dreaded altitude headaches began pounding against my temples.

That was my cue to get down.

With that, I headed down the same route from which I climbed. Fifty-four minutes later I was at the trailhead where my rented car was parked.

Yes, 67 minutes up and 54 minutes down for the slowest nine miles I ever clocked.

And yes, unlike Apa Sherpa, I ran up my first mountain on the first attempt…

Of course Twin Sisters Peak (pictured above from the back porch) isn’t quite Everest. My run started at 9,000 feet of altitude and rose to a little more than 11,400. Though it’s quite a bit of climbing packed into those four-plus miles of trails, Apa’s mountain is three-times higher than mine. For a sea level dude like me, the daily runs in Colorado from 7,500-feet up and over 8,100-feet are pretty substantial. Going up to 11,400-plus takes some effort.

Apa, of course, probably looks at something like Twin Sisters as a walk in the park. In fact, a walk in the park might have been the best way to describe my pace as the trail became rockier and the wind a little more fierce as I pushed on past the tree line. If I can run up over the tree line with relative ease, Apa probably would have skipped up while juggling flaming torches.

Hey, I’m not exactly Jon Krakauer here… or even CSN’s Lance Crawford, who once did a technical climb up the famed diamond of Long’s Peak. Lance, our resident Apa, took mountaineering classes in Estes Park, practiced on some smaller climbs, and then took down one of the most famous “14ers” in the Rocky Mountain chain.

Legend has it that Lance performed a series of one-armed, fingertip pushups at the summit of Longs.

I believe the legend.

And while I was in Colorado running up a mountain and visiting such places as Boulder, Black Hawk and the exquisite Sundance Lodge [1]in Nederland, I also was privy to a few more tales that could be called legends, stories and, better yet, rumors. The fact is stories and rumors are the currency of ball writers everywhere and this is no different in Colorado. In fact, folks I talked to told me that the Colorado Rockies are debating whether or not to trade away All-Star outfielder and 2007 MVP runner-up, Matt Holliday. Because the Rockies were/are beset with injuries all season and Holliday’s contract status doesn’t exactly give a ballclub much wiggle room when contemplating a move toward rebuilding, the so-called conventional wisdom looks at Holliday’s days as a Rockie as numbered.

The Phillies, they say, are a team that could package a deal for a player like Holliday.

I’m not so sure. After cornering the market for overweight, right-handed and underachieving Opening Day starters in the acquisition of Joe Blanton, the Phillies cleaned out the cupboards and sent the top-notch minor-league prospects to Billy Beane in Oakland. Therefore, to get a star like Holliday, the Phillies would have to pick up all of the remaining years on his contract and throw in some big leaguers like Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and whomever else the Rockies fancy.

Meanwhile, after being told the Holliday tales, I countered with the idea that the Phillies had long been interested in side-wheeling left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes. The Phillies have just one lefty in their solid corps of relievers and Fuentes has always given them fits. But when I broached the idea of Fuentes being dealt from the Rockies to the Phillies, I was told, “Take him. You can have him.”

From the outside Fuentes seems like a good fit for the Phillies’ bullpen. After all, he strikes out more than a hitter per inning, has a respectable 3.23 ERA and has saved 16 games in 20 chances. Plus, Fuentes has not allowed a run since June 30 and is hell against the Phillies. In 16 career appearances (including three playoff games), the lefty has never allowed a run when facing the Phillies.

But Fuentes has whetted his peak in the closer pond and likes it. In fact, he told the Denver Post in last Sunday’s edition that if he gets traded, he would like to go somewhere to be the closer. A free agent at the end of this season, Fuentes said he would seek out a gig as a closer during free agency.

That kind of eliminates the Phillies right there. Brad Lidge is going to be the closer until at least 2011.

So that leaves us with a lot of unfinished stories with plots left to twist. The non-waivers trading deadline is just nine days away and even though the Phillies already made a move for Husky Joe, it doesn’t seem as if Trader Pat Gillick is finished with the wheelin’ and dealin’.

At least it doesn’t seem that way if ol’ Pat wants to go out standing on top of the mountain.


[1] If you ever find yourself in Nederland or on the Peak-to-Peak Highway an hour west of Boulder and Denver, you owe it to yourself to have a meal at the Sundance. The first time I ever heard Ted Leo’s song “La Costa Brava” I immediately thought of the little spot just off the road near Nederland. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Sundance; have an ever-changing menu with tons of choices and some of the best fresh-brewed iced tea ever tasted. Plus, the view can’t be beat. It’s always hard not to stare at snow-capped mountains through large picture windows (or on a sun/windswept deck). My wife and I snuck away for a quiet dinner last Thursday where she had homemade chicken marsala and I had tofu steaks with a citrusy teriyaki that came with grilled veggies and fantastic mashed potatoes. Man, what a place.

We were somewhere near Barstow…

Pat BurrellI’m holed up here in a hotel in the Pocono Mountains kind of like Hunter Thompson on the Vegas strip, only not as much fun and fewer grapefruits. But I bet I have the departed gonzo doctor beat on pounds of ice applied to muscles and tendons as well as milligrams of NSAIDs ingested.

Do I know how to party or what?

Anyway, it’s always peculiar to note the extremes folks (like me) will go to in order to put on some skimpy and overpriced clothing along with shoes featuring more technological materials than the space shuttle in order to run around like a weirdo. Oh sure, there really aren’t too many things that are more fun than dashing around all naked in the wind-like, but it’s not exactly natural. Hell, when is the last time a giraffe out on the savanna decided to get the training run in for the day?

Giraffes run when they have to, not because they can.

But speaking of natural, Pat Burrell’s plate appearance with two outs in the bottom of the 10th was certified organic. Better yet, it was artful – a measure of power vs. power and baseball savvy all rolled into a healthy, natural mix. Better yet, watching here in the heavily fortified compound off the Interstate with free parking, a pool, wireless and a complimentary breakfast, it was hard not to see how Burrell was going to end last night’s game with a home run. On the telecast it was easy to see Burrell attempt to get his timing down to catch up with Brian Wilson’s blazing fastball and by the time he solved the riddle of velocity and location, the baseball didn’t stand a chance.

But more than the walk-off homer to win another game for the Phillies, Burrell’s transformation this season has remarkable. At the plate he’s balanced, patient, focused and relaxed. He seems to have a plan every time he strolls to the plate that goes beyond the simple grip-it-and-rip-it mien. For once it seems, the numbers tell the full story about what Burrell is bringing to the table for the Phillies – certainly it’s been a long time since that occurred.

Burrell rates in the top five in six major offensive categories. He leads the league in RBIs (29); he’s second in homers (nine) and slugging (.690); third in OPS (1.142); fourth in on-base percentage (.452); and fifth in walks (23). Better yet, Burrell is on pace to set career highs in homers, RBIs, walks, hits and runs.

Perhaps most importantly, Burrell is on pace to set a career low in strikeouts. Sure, he’s whiffing at a clip that could give him 113 for the season, but that’s a big drop from last season’s 120. That’s because he and Chase Utley are carrying the middle of the order while Ryan Howard attempts to find a clue out there.

But how about this? Should Charlie Manuel bump up Burrell a spot in the batting order to cleanup and slide Howard down to the fifth or sixth spot? For one, Burrell might get more pitches to hit with the specter of Howard’s past performances lurking on the on-deck circle. For another, the Phillies break up the lefties in the middle of the order so that the opposition can’t bring in a late-inning left-hander to face both Utley and Howard.

From here, holed up on the first floor waiting for the wakeup call in order to get caffeine and numb from the ibuprofen, the Burrell-Howard switch seems like the smart thing to do. With Burrell driving in runs and winning games for the team and Howard doing his best to kill rallies with an avalanche of whiffs, the longest-tenured Phillie seems ready to be the anchor.

Morning clicks

John AdamsIf I was a contributor to the web site Stuff White People Like, I would add something about HBO docudramas about dead presidents/founding fathers in Colonial America that are produced by Academy Award-winning actors that appear to be defined by the subject matter of the web site, Stuff White People Like.

Or something like that.

The truth is, like most people described on that site, I like hating corporations, coffee, knowing what’s best for poor people, and Mos Def. I also have enjoyed the first three installments of HBO’s series, John Adams, which, I think, shows just how messy it was to set up a representative democracy in a time when the population was not connected by mass media or a mouse click. Actually, there wasn’t even electricity and the men wore some of the fanciest powdered wigs this side of the Christopher St. Halloween Parade.

I think it’s a cross between awesome and totally awesome.

Instead, being a citizen took effort by today’s standards, though it likely wasn’t viewed in such a manner. Based on my reading of Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin, participation elaborate civics duties wasn’t just relegated to certain cliques. No one claimed that our founders were in “show business for ugly people.” Actually, politics didn’t have an entertainment value and it seemed as if the participants were in it more for the common good than some sort of jewel at the end of a long campaign spent raising millions and millions of dollars.

For instance, Adams spent years away from his family in Europe where he campaigned to the swells in France and Holland for money to fund the revolution. While there he kind of had a knack for rubbing folks the wrong way with his uncompromising ways, belief in American independence and inability to promote and market himself the way his buddy Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson could.

In fact, Adams sacrificed much personal glory for the sake of American ideals and goals. He very well could have been the main architect of the Declaration of Independence, but instead took a role in the background as Jefferson’s editor and compass. Yes, Jefferson gets all the well-deserved credit for writing the Declaration, but the document is as much Adams’s as well.

So yeah, if I’m not already in bed resting up for an early Monday morning to prepare for Opening Day and escaping The Lanc before Barry Obama shows up in town for the big rally at Stevens Trade, I’ll tune in to the fourth installment of the Adams epic on HBO. After all, there won’t be any college hoops on the tube and it appears as if I have the bracket competition all but locked up.

Dead presidents and founding fathers… hell yeah!

In the meantime, former Phillies and all-around gentleman, Doug Glanville, wrote another Op-Ed piece for The New York Times. It seems as if ol’ Dougie is itching to get the glove and uniform back on, but, you know, a new career calls. Besides, the Phillies don’t really have a need for a reserve outfielder with a low on-base percentage and limited power. CBP was built for American League-style ball, baby. The Phillies need to bash.

***
Elsewhere on the baseball front, ESPN’s Jeff Pearlman focused on the death of left-handed pitcher Joe Kennedy and how his family is coping. As some may recall, Kennedy died suddenly last winter in Florida the day before he was to attend a wedding, leaving behind a 26-year-old pregnant wife.

Though just 28, Kennedy died from hypertensive heart disease.

My memory of Kennedy is from the 2001 season when he shutdown the Phillies while pitching for the Devil Rays around the time manager Larry Bowa and Scott Rolen had it out after the skipper told a writer that the middle of the order “is killing us.”

That game in St. Pete could have been Kennedy’s finest as a big leaguer.

***
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post became the first mainstream writer — at least that I’ve seen — to take the IOC to task for awarding the 2008 Olympics to Beijing.

Before I write, “What were they thinking…”, and yes, I know what they were thinking. The dollar signs where their pupils used to be are easy to spot. Try this out from Jenkins:

Up to this point, the IOC has soft-pedaled these events under the rationale that “engagement” with Chinese officials is better than nothing. President Jacques Rogge defends the decision to send the Games to China, saying they are an opportunity to expose a fifth of the world’s population to the “Olympic ideal.” But it’s safe to say the Olympic ideal isn’t getting through to the Chinese people. Only the McDonald’s billboards are. On Monday, Yang Chunlin was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting subversion.” His crime? He posted on Internet sites under the theme, “We don’t want the Olympics, we want human rights.”

Seriously… what were they thinking?

***
Finally, from Gina Kolata of The New York Times, running can, indeed, make one feel high.

Duh!

More
HBO: John Adams

ESPN: Joe Kennedy is gone, but not forgotten

The New York Times: The Boys of Spring

The Washington Post: IOC Needs to Step In Or Perhaps Move On

The New York Times: Yes, Running Can Make You High

Mother Nature 1, Everyone else 0

Brett FavreThe weather has a tendency to get a little chilly in the month of January as folks may have noticed from walking outdoors, watching football on television or from watching the little soft-shoe routine those suspenders-and-sports coat frocked slicksters pull off every night on the evening news. The weather is big business on local TV news. In fact, it is such big business that there are song lyrics that go:

“Murder and weather is our only news…”

If those lyrics don’t exist, they should.

Anyway, the middle part – the part about football, the outdoors and that nip, nip, nip at your nose – is the intriguing part. The truth is I tuned in to last Sunday’s Giants-Packers just to see how cold it was. Oh sure, I had a sneaking suspicion that Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre just might do something crazy enough to sabotage the game for his team, and in that regard I suppose no one was disappointed. But really, the outcome of the game was pretty meaningless. All I wanted to see what Favre’s breath turn from a plume of carbon dioxide and crystallize into a free-floating diamond-shaped ball of ice.

My guess is that it was something that other folks wanted to see, too. Actually, it appeared as if the only story of the game wasn’t Favre trying to get back to the Super Bowl one last time or Eli Manning attempting to copy his big brother and make it to the big game, but instead it was the coffee-sicle that formed in Terry Bradshaw’s mug during the pre-game show. Because, as it is, if it’s negative-three degrees without the wind chill in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the smart thing to do is hold the pre-game show out of doors. That way the frostbite that forms on Howie Long’s exposed extremities can be used as a tax write-off because technically it was a live experiment kind of like the stuff they do on Nova.

What, do you really think people cared if Howie broke down the Cover-2? Hell, the viewers at home wanted permanent scarring. It makes the frozen coffee go down smoother.

Now I don’t know where the idea that meteorology is a pseudo-science came from. It didn’t come from me, I can tell you that much. But what they don’t tell you during football games and TV weather reports is that cold weather hurts. It actually causes pain to a person more than a muggy scorcher in August ever could. No, cold temperatures don’t make one wake up screaming in the middle of the night and running off to find a doorway with your sleeping cap slouched to the side. That’s the move for an earthquake. But cold weather can freeze pipes and cause them to burst making floods or fires or both. Certainly that’s no picnic.

Interestingly though, the pain of cold temperatures in this part of the world only lasts a little while. At least that’s the way it worked out for me on Sunday and Monday when I decided to go out for a run. Hey, if they’re playing football all the way out there in Wisconsin, which is close to Canada and very near outer space where it gets as nippy as your Aunt Tilly’s gazpacho, I figured I ought to get out there and get my work in.

So out I went during the coldest part of the day, which, according to the Accuweather web site, was a raw negative-1 degree on the ol’ real feel index. Apparently such numbers are deduced when one accounts for the temperature, wind speed and direction, the time of day and on-base percentage. In other words it’s the Moneyball of weather. But the thing I learned about running around in ultra-cold weather was that it’s all about the wind. When the wind blows at one’s face it’s bad. When it blows at your back, it ain’t all that.

But you get used to it. At least that’s the way it went down on Sunday thanks to some effort and creative rambling. During a 60-minute effort the first few moments are the key. That’s when one decides whether to keep at it, thus proving oneself as an evolved life being that continuously takes strides at improvement. Or, it’s when one says out loud to no one, “This is stupid. I’m going back home so I can strip down, flop on the couch, order up a mushroom ‘boli and watch Rachel Ray… or whatever.”

beerClearly I’m evolved, but during the first couple of minutes as I negotiated through the neighborhood, I thought, “Wow! It’s cold! It’s really, really cold! Oh well, I guess it will be OK when I warm up.”

The notion of personal evolvement disappeared approximately five minutes into the run when I passed by a friend’s house, turned to look to spy someone moving around inside and realized that I couldn’t feel my face. Oh, I could touch it, but I couldn’t feel it.

“Is this dangerous?” I thought. “This feels like it could be dangerous. This isn’t dangerous is it?”

I realized I made a mistake when I put a gloved hand to my face and it felt like a bee sting. That sensation soon went away when my toes felt as though I had just dropped a canned ham on them. But oddly enough – after just 15 minutes of running – everything was back to normal. The wind had shifted, the swarm of bees that peppered my face had rubbed it with aloe and everything was back in order. The strut around the ‘hood was no longer dangerous. Instead, it was fun… as long as the wind remained where it was.

It looked as if the football players were out there having fun in Green Bay, too. Better yet, it didn’t look as if the cold temperatures changed much about the performances at all. Plaxico Burress made Al Harris look like his personal hand puppet, Tom Coughlin was typical full bore jackassery, and Brett Favre caught a late case of the crazies when his passes suddenly began to behave as if they were punts.

More than the Giants, the Super Bowl, or the Fox network, the weather was the winner last weekend. It showed that it will always be the topic of discussion in ways beyond the banality of, “Some weather we’re having, huh?” Yep, it got cold and none of that silliness about “Global Warming” reared its un-ironic head as the great misnomer of the past decade.

You know, global warming… kind of like jumbo shrimp.

End of the road

headWASHINGTON – So far this weekend’s trip to The District has been pretty eventful for everyone in the Phillies’ travelling party. A few of the players were given a private tour of the White House and were even granted an audience with the President in the Oval Office.

Another got to show off his superhero poses, while a few teammates were given the chance to show off a softer, more feminine side in formal evening wear.

But the best part of the last road trip of the season that ends tomorrow with the final Major League Baseball game at RFK Stadium hasn’t been the quiet time spent away from media mass at Citizens Bank Park, nor the special perks granted to the gentry athlete class.

Instead, the Phillies have simply taken pride in their work.

“Nothing beats winning,” manager Charlie Manuel.

That certainly has been the case for the Phillies, who enter Sunday’s game with an 8-1 record during the 10-game road trip. Actually, it has been on this trip that the Phillies went from sitting on the edge of oblivion, to a team with an incredibly legitimate chance at winning the division OR the wild card.

To think, when the Phillies left for New York after the victory over the Rockies on Sept. 13 they were a distant 6½ games behind the Mets in the NL East. But when the team returns home to host the Braves on Tuesday night, they very well could be tied for first place.

Then again, in a worst-case scenario, they could be four games back, too.

The District
As far as northeastern cities go, Washington, D.C. provides the perfect urban experience. The city has an extensive public transportation system, an incredible system of trails and parks for the recreationally and fitness inclined, every type of cuisine or entertainment offering imaginable, and of course, all of those free museums

Yes, Washington, D.C. has culture coming out the wazoo.

Need an example of how D.C. is unique? Check this out:

During Friday morning’s run I meandered through the Northwest quadrant of the city’s confusing grid, passing by such notable places as JFK’s last residence before he was elected president, Bob Woodward’s towering Q Street crib and, of course, the childhood home of the legendary iconoclast, Ian MacKaye, until I filtered back toward the Key Bridge and the C&O Canal Tow Path. This part of the run took nearly 30-minutes at a modest clip where I made sure I ran hard up the inclines on Q Street and Observation Place. After all, D.C. was built on top of a swamp, which (I assume) are relatively flat. So when one arrives at the base of a hill during a run, they should take it with some pace.

Anyway, I hit the tow path, which is the ultimate urban biking/running trail in these United States. Instead of a modest nine-mile loop around the Schuylkill River like Philly’s Kelly Drive, the C&O goes from the Key Bridge (just off Georgetown’s main thoroughfare) through the western edge of the city along the Potomac River, into the Maryland suburbs and onto the countryside for nearly 200 miles.

One runner, named Scott Douglas, ran the entire trail during a seven-day stretch.

ANYWAY, the towpath…

George HamiltonNeedless to say I wasn’t about to run the length of the entire path. After all, the weather in D.C. has been hot and sticky and the main reason I wanted to run on the riverside, tree-shrouded trail was to get out of the sun. Besides, if I bake beneath those ultraviolet rays any more than I already do, I’m going to have the complexion of George Hamilton.

C’mon, who wants to dress in a tuxedo all the time even if it does give Georgie’s epidermis the hue of rich, Corinthian leather?

The plan was to run for 13 miles, which takes about 86-to-90 minutes. Or, if I felt good I would run for an hour and then weave my way back through Georgetown. But I didn’t feel good because it was hot, and, truth be told, since the birth of our son, I have only been able to run about 70 to 80 miles per week. My fitness level is a little lacking these days, so 90 minutes in the heat and humidity would be fine enough.

And it was. On the way up the trail I enjoyed the shade, the sweeping river views into Northern Virginia and the quietness of the day where the only audible noise was the cadence of my feet pounding on the hard, packed dirt. I just couldn’t believe that I was in Washington, D.C.

But as the run progressed I really could not believe that I was in one of the biggest cities in the country.

At first glance I thought it was a dog…

After getting good and tired and deciding that approximately four miles on the trail was plenty, I made a u-turn and retraced my steps. I also decided to ease off a bit after doing half-mile intervals at lactate threshold pace. However, upon noticing some hikers and what I thought was some type of amber-colored dog, I figured I could put on the pace one more time before knocking off and cruising in to the finish.

It was hot, though. I was also thirsty and the combination of the heat and dehydration narrowed the focus of my vision causing me to weave ever-so slightly on the path as I attempted to run down the hikers.

That’s when I brushed up against what I originally thought was a dog… only it was a white-tailed deer.

Yeah, that’s right. A white-tailed deer. I rubbed shoulders — quite literally — with a freaking white-tailed deer a little more than a mile from M St. You know, where the Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Dean & Deluca and Starbucks are mixed in amongst all of those tourist-trap bars and restaurants. In Washington, D.C. …

A white-tailed freaking deer.

Needless to say, my brush with Bambi straightened me right the hell up. For the next half mile I ran as hard as the heat and my legs would allow for fear that I somehow angered the deer and he was hot on my rear in attempt to chase me down and give me a beating like that scene in Tommy Boy.

As if I could out-run a deer…

robo deerAnyway, I suppose robo-deer remained in the brush to munch on some leaves and shrubs while I settled down, finally eased up on the pace, and cruised on toward the end of the path. But there, again, in the last copse of woods before nature gave way to the giant cylinders of concrete that supported the bridge and menaced the landscape as cars sped to and from Northern Virginia, another white-tailed deer stood as it picked away at the brush from the left side of the trail. This one was even closer to all of the action of G’town, yet really didn’t seem to mind when the walkers, runners and bike riders passed by just inches away.

Perhaps this proved that political animals are not the only species that inhabit Washington.

Though the deer might be less frightening.

Anyway, that’s some of the highlights from the trip. We’ll have more from the equally deer-laden tranquility of The Lanc tomorrow.

One foot in front of the other

It’s pretty safe to assume that my updates on this page may directly correlate to how well my running has been going. So obviously, it hasn’t been so hot – relatively speaking, of course.

Actually, it hasn’t been as bad as that. I still get out nearly every day, it’s just that since the end of December I hit the proverbial wall. Just like that I went from running hard and turning in some of the best workouts I’ve ever had to simply not wanting to do it… well, it hasn’t been that bad, but I definitely have had my share of days off.

Not that it’s a bad thing. As someone who was once chewed up and spit out by the sport not so long ago, I know I was walking on a tightrope. That’s the good part – I can pinpoint my mistake and exactly where everything went wrong. That’s good. Now the trick is to figure out how to get back to the place I once was.

So what happened? Simple. I bit off more than I could chew. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Instead of breaking down after the Harrisburg Marathon last November, I pushed the envelope and thought I could get away with it. I was a degenerate sitting at the roulette wheel who thought he had the game figured out only to wonder where all my money went when the number didn’t come up.

Need any more bad analogies?

Because I ran “just” 2:53 at Harrisburg, which was a good 8 to 12 minutes slower than I should have run because of the 20 to 30 mile-per-hour headwinds, I figured that my body didn’t take the pounding it would have if I had run 2:40.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

It’s not the time, it’s the effort and I really busted my ass during the last five miles even though when I finished I didn’t feel as though I was done running. I wanted another 40 yards to catch the dude that was paced through the race like he was Lance Armstrong in New York or some silliness like that.

In reality, the silliness came from the “smart” dude who turned in four straight 100-mile weeks just two weeks after running a marathon.

The point of all of it was to be ready to take a strong crack at 2:35 at the National Marathon on March 24 and then gear up for 2:30 at Steamtown in early October. National, of course, wasn’t the important one but it was gearing up to be with the way the workouts were going during those four 100-mile weeks. Not only was the distance there, but also there was plenty of quality sessions, too. In fact, I think I made up a workout that I called “knockdowns” where the plan was to run a minute faster for each five-mile segment of a 15 miler. For instance, I wanted to do one effort in 33, 32 and 31 minutes for each split, but instead ran 33:14; 30:57; and 29:08.

That one made me feel like a badass.

But a week later a 20-miler knocked me out. It was work and I don’t know how I was able to force myself through it. Afterwards I only ran 10 kilometers over the next two days, took a bunch of days off over the next few weeks and pretty much gave up on National being anything more than another marathon to add to the collection.

Steamtown is out, too. With my wife due to have our second child in mid August, training for a race and heading out of town for a few days to run it kind of found a spot on the back burner. August and September are going to be pretty busy.

So things have been rearranged a bit. Hey, things happen. There’s nothing wrong with some new ideas, right? Try this one for instance: a marathon a month through the summer before re-focusing for another run at Harrisburg. All of those marathons will be run at workout pace and will be great for base building before gearing up a serious marathon in mid-November. In reality it’s the same kind of plan I used before the 1998 Boston Marathon where I used a couple of local races for long runs where I got an age-group trophy at the end.

The George Washington Marathon is coming up on Feb. 18. Then I can run National on March 24, maybe (maybe) Boston on April 16, and Delaware on May 20.

Good idea, huh?

Meanwhile, I’m contemplating doing a run from my house in Lancaster to the ballpark in Philadelphia a la Terry Fox. It could be a fun and interesting way to break up some of the monotony of my commute and every day workouts, though the logistics could be a bit difficult. The distance is about 70 miles as the crow flies, which I figure should take no more than 10 hours. I’ll probably need a support group and maybe a handful of people to run segments with me, as well as a good route with little traffic. The running will be the easy part.

If I can get out the door.

Oh good… another self-indulgent running site

Here’s the deal:

I have received a lot of response regarding my training and the running posts on my “Finger Food” blog (trust me, I didn’t come up with the title), though it seemed as some of the posts are hard to find. In order to remedy this, I decided to move my training posts and some of my running writing this brand-new site.

This means I will update my progress and other running-related musings every day on this site. Oh sure, I’ll keep adding running stuff to the other “main” site, but this is where to come just for writing on running.

One more note: the weekly roundup format will be the same and will be posted on Sunday, but the rest is anything goes.