Monday, April 5, 2010

Philadelphia 100

I'm still alive. I haven't kept this up, but have been doing good things. I have more adventures coming up, so I'll try to post here to let folks know what's going on.
I heard about the Philadelphia 100 in early January. It sounded like my kind of event. Free!!The idea was that a group of runners would meet at Lloyd Hall in Fairmont Park and run on the Boathouse Loop for as long as anybody wanted to run. There would be people running from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. One of the races I have on my calendar is a 48 hour event. I've never run a fixed time event. I planned to use the Philadelphia run as a 36 hour event. The Boathouse loop is a paved path along the Schuylkill River. I would get to resupply at my car every trip around. I could carry what I needed for 8 miles. It sounded like a perfect training event.
I checked and found a place to stay nearby. The Chamounix Hostel is in Fairmont Park. It is 4 miles away and I could stay for $30 a night. Things were falling into place. As the time got closer, the weather was forecast to be near perfect, with day times near 80 and nights in the 50's.
I drove down Friday to Philadelphia. It is a couple hundred miles, so I planned to take most of the day. I wanted to go to Fairmont Park to see the race site and meeting place in the daylight. I didn't want to be wandering around in the dark on race morning. The race director warned us that parking would be a nuisance. Parking was limited and even if we used the metered parking and kept the meters fed, there is some rule about having to move to a new spot every couple hours or get at ticket. I wanted to see where I could park without hassle.
I followed my gps unit off the Schuylkill Expressway into the side streets right to Lloyd Hall. The whole place was an absolute zoo. I admit to being a country boy, but I have traveled some. The sidewalks were full of people walking and pushing strollers. There were kids on bicycles weaving in and out of traffic, people stepping out from between parked cars. Fairmont Park is one of the largest city parks in the USA. The Philadelphia area is home to 5 million people. Most of them seemed to be enjoying the fine afternoon in the park. This was 3pm on Friday. I couldn't think what it would look like Saturday afternoon. It would be much different from any other run I had ever done. In fairness, Fairmont Park is beautiful. It is along the river and had sidewalks and benches. I couldn't blame those folks for wanting to be there.
I couldn't stop because there was no place to park, so I went on by and went to the hostel to check that out. I followed the computer screen to Chamounix Hostel. It was a smaller, obviously older building in a corner of the park by the riding stables. I parked and found the door locked. I remembered reading about a lockout period in the middle of the day, so that made sense. What really put me off though, was the trash can on the front porch overflowing with beer bottles. That told me that the housekeeping was slack. It also told me about the people who stayed there. The more I thought about it, it didn't sound like a place to get a good night's rest and leave at 5am for a race.
I decided to stay somewhere else and get my rest. The handy gps unit said all the near hotels were Hilton and Marriots. I drove back to Quakertown to find a cheaper place. All the places at the turnpike entrance were the chain places. I drove on into town and found a local no brand name motel. It was in my price range at $45. The room reeked so bad of mold and cleaning chemicals, I couldn't take it. I got my money back and retreated to the expensive places. I ended up at a Comfort Inn for $89. At least it was clean and didn't smell. I turned in early and fell asleep readily. I needed to get up at 4 to get to the race in time for the 6 am start.
I woke up at 6:42. I never heard the alarm or it didn't go off. I was almost an hour late and over an hour away. That was not the main problem, though. My head was stuffed up tight and my eyes didn't want to open. I felt like I had taken a thrashing. I could tell I wouldn't run 100 miles this day. I lay there a bit and calculated. I was certain I would never find a place to park by the time I arrived at 8:30 on the first nice Saturday of the spring, especially on a holiday weekend. It was Easter weekend, after all.
I dragged myself to breakfast and thought about what to do. I had come all this way and didn't want to just turn around and go home. I used the computer in the lobby and found a rail trail in Allentown, 30 miles away. The Ironton Rail Trail is a 6 mile loop. I was sure I could manage 6 miles at a time. My friend Wanda was planning to come and check on me at Philadelphia in the afternoon. She has crewed for me at other races. There was no need for crewing in an 8 mile loop, but she wanted to cheer me on. I called her to say there was no need to go to Philadelphia.
I drove on up to Allentown and managed to find the Ironton trail. I lucked into the only place along it with bathrooms. The Ironton trail is very nice. It is paved, about 10 feet wide. It has several access points with parking. It wanders around back yards, along a river and some empty land that was obviously railroad property once. It passes a preserved, early concrete kiln from the 1860's. It is shaded, which was nice, since it was a warm day for early April. It is popular, with many people out walking or cycling or jogging.
I headed out to get in some miles. My head was still plugged up. My chest felt like it had an iron band around it. My feet were made of concrete. The first loop was work. The second time I got a little looser. The third loop was getting hard again.
I kept trying to figure out what was going on. A couple years ago, I had a race in Umstead, in North Carolina. It was in the early spring. The pine trees were in full bloom and the yellow pollen was everywhere. It was on the cabin floors, on the puddles. That time I felt the same; I just couldn't go. I ended up not finishing that race.
I was determined to do another loop now, so headed out a fourth time. Even if I ended up walking in, I wanted more than 18 miles. I made it around and added a bit to call it 25 miles. I just sat on the grass, all done for.
Wanda had arrived by then, and we headed to find a room. I took a shower and needed a nap before supper. After supper, I turned in and was out like a light.
When I woke up, I was all new again. My head was clear and I wasn't sore anywhere. I was quite hungry. After breakfast, I headed home. I felt like a million bucks. I was antsy in the car. I wanted to run. I felt like I could have run all the way home.
I must have had some allergy. At Umstead, I must have been affected by the pines. There were no pines here. Nothing was blooming. I didn't go away from anything overnight. I didn't cough or sneeze. My stomach wasn't affected, so no food poisoning. I'm baffled for an exact cause. I'm glad it went away so quickly, I just want to know what to avoid so it doesn't happen again.
So that was my race weekend. It didn't go like I expected.