Sunday, July 31, 2005

Caught In The Act

North UTBT 3 mi

Sunday morning I hit the UTBT for the required forty minute walk before work. I take the old standby three-mile out and back route to Linebaugh. I know that my former captain runs this route from his station to the south and I’m hoping that I don’t run into him while I’m doing this powerwalking. About three-quarters of a mile in, I hear footsteps and a voice behind me. “Good morning Devon,” followed by “What are you doing, warming up?” I fall in with him and jog for a minute or so, explaining the training program that I’m doing. We both stop to walk for a minute at the UTBT’s two-mile marker, and he looks disappointedly at his watch. “Do you think that these mile markers are too far apart?” I always think that they are too far apart. I tell him that the next time that we are at a station together I’ll show him how to use the mapcard site to figure out the mileage of his routes.
I borrowed a pair of Jan’s socks because mine had been causing hotspots on the balls of my feet when I walked. These socks solved that problem, but they didn’t come up high enough on my achilles and the backs of my shoes had rubbed me raw there after a few miles. I ended up running the last mile or so just because it was easier on my chafed heels.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Weirdo The Dog Murderer

Shelley's 3.7mi

Jan and I went out to meet some friends at a party in the neighborhood last night and I ended up drinking a little more than my share. We were drinking Hefeweizen from a keg and I think it was a little more powerful than your average keg of Budweiser. I had enough that at some point a guy that I had been talking to outside excused himself and went inside ostensibly to get another drink. While he was inside he told the present company, Jan included, that he had been talking to some “weirdo” outside who wouldn’t shut up. Jan and our other friends looked outside to see only me standing there. They thought this was the most hilarious thing they had seen all night.
I had a ten o’clock meeting in north Tampa the next morning, and I had been going on and on about how I was going to run there in the morning. After a protracted battle with the alarm clock, I got up about 9:30 and just barely managed to make it there on time by car. Running, for the time being, was completely out of the question.
In the afternoon I started to feel a little better just as the thunderclouds started rolling in to view. It only rained for a few minutes, but the sky was black and there was lightning and thunder all around. I watched on the satellite as the system moved to the north, and as soon as it seemed to have passed I headed out.
I followed the river to the north over a new route that I discovered while out driving around the other day. There is a sidewalk and an alley that connects Hollywood on the east of I-275 to Hanlon on the west. The path goes under I-275 and along the river. I had been exploring the neighborhood off of Hanlon between Florida and the interstate. This area consists of a couple blocks of riverfront property that have been kind of forgotten due to their isolation and their former proximity to a large and severely neglected public housing project. This housing project has since been demolished and rebuilt as a much more attractive apartment complex, and I have a feeling that this area will not be forgotten for long.
The thunderheads were still visible to the north and there was an almost constant undertone of thunder, but the lightning was infrequent and obviously far away. I crossed Nebraska Ave. at the foot of the bridge and watched intently for the roofs of cars cresting its rise. I ran down Hanlon to the east and into what turned out to be a dead end, so I backtracked out and headed south. I ran down Patterson past one of my favorite houses on the river. This three-story house was apparently designed by an architect as his personal residence and has since been subdivided into three units. I remember when we were looking for houses in 1997; this house was on the market for $175,000 which seemed like an astronomical amount of money to me when I was making $11 an hour. This house could probably sell for a half million dollars now. If only I’d had 175 grand when I was twenty-three.
This was about the point when the dogs started chasing me. It started with the chow. Avery rough, obviously street hardened chow came running from a driveway on my right and fell in behind me. What scared me was that the dog never made a sound. When a dog runs after you and barks ferociously, it’s obvious that he’s trying to drive you away. When a dog silently sneaks up behind you, my guess is that he’s going to bite your ass. I know that dogs can smell fear and my only hope is that this scent is overpowered by the strength of my body odor. I smell like a wino in a sauna.
Whenever I’m in one of these predicaments, my mind starts running through all sorts of wild scenarios. What do I do when (not if) this dog bites me? Should I punch it in the head? I don’t think I’ll be able to kick it because it will probably be latched onto my leg. I start thinking that I should be running with a stick for protection. Somehow though, this seems like an invitation to aggressive behavior for both dogs and humans. Then I actually consider carrying a gun. I know that you need all sorts of special permits to carry a concealed weapon, but what if I just run around with it in my hand? Would that be legal? Finally, I decide that if anything happens I’ll just rip its throat out. I’ll grab its trachea between my thumb and forefinger and pull. This seems like it will work just fine. Maybe I’m not getting enough oxygen to my brain. I slow my pace a little and the dog falls away at the next block.
About a mile later, I get chased by a large and very unhappy looking Rottweiler. Jeff Galloway says that one of the tricks to motivate yourself on a long run is to recite a mantra. I return to my mantra for the day. “Go for the throat, go for the throat”. Not that I need the motivation. Another great motivator is being chased by a bloodthirsty animal. Ahead I see another dog barking furiously behind a chain-link fence and instinctively I run towards it. The Rottweiler forgets all about me, and starts trying to get through the fence to murder the other dog. It was so easy, like getting rid of a weirdo at a party.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Crooked Legs

Camino Villa 3.3mi

I can’t seem to force myself to remember to take a waking pulse every day. When I do remember, I’m always afraid that the minute that I’m sitting still watching the clock I will fall back asleep. I have been monitoring my resting pulse during the day and it seems to hover around 51-56 bpm.
This morning I started off feeling like I had plenty of energy, but my legs started cramping in the first mile and I never was able to stretch them out. Something was definitely out of whack, whether it was my body or the road I’m not sure, but the tightness was in my right shin and my left achilles. I took a lot of walk/stretch breaks and ended up running about a twelve minute pace.
I saw lightning in the distance starting out so I decided to stay close to the station. I ended up running through the subdivision off of Camino Villa, which was good for my general knowledge of the area. I think if I spend some time running in these neighborhoods I’ll be much more efficient when it comes to finding them on calls. This looked like a relatively standard subdivision, but I kept hearing roosters crowing from people’s backyards, and everyone who was leaving on their way to work was putting water in their radiator first. Everyone seemed to be eyeing me suspiciously and no one said “Hello”, but then again neither did I.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Party People

Ft. Brooke 4.4mi

View Interactive Map

I’ve been reading “Tampa: Before The Civil War” by Canter Brown Jr. This text covers Tampa history from its inception at the establishment of Fort Brooke in January of 1824 until presumably 1861, when the civilian population of Tampa still numbered only 800 individuals. Based on these descriptions of Tampa’s early years, anyone with any sense would have said that this remote military outpost on the Florida frontier was destined to be a ghost town.
The site where Fort Brooke once stood sits at the eastern bank of the Hillsborough River, where it empties into Hillsborough Bay. This site is now occupied by the Tampa Convention Center and the Fort Brooke parking garage, which houses the downtown YMCA. Today I did the run to Fort Brooke, and I used Jan as my sag wagon. I like these one-way runs sometimes because I get to venture out a little further and it makes for a greater sense of accomplishment.
I started out feeling strong despite the heat, and I did a pretty good job of keeping the pace down and sticking to the shade wherever possible. I had predicted for Jan that it would take me about 50 minutes to run this route, but this time I didn’t feel obligated to live up to my estimate. Running at this kind of pace really leaves room for your mind to wander, and I enjoyed this new and somewhat unfamiliar route. Of course I’ve driven this route into downtown Tampa probably hundreds of times, but the experience on foot can be completely different. I’ve noticed before when I’m running that the general feeling that I have about Tampa is a lot closer to the feeling that I’ve gotten in other cities and it starts to make Tampa feel a little more cosmopolitan somehow. Not that the city seems more glamorous, it actually seems much dirtier, but its dirtiness seems more like the dirtiness in other more “real” cities. I realize that my sense of the city, its scale, and the richness of the experiences within it are shaped largely by my mode of transport. My experience of other large cities is shaped by a pedestrian perspective that I don’t usually have in my hometown. Tampa is almost universally viewed as a pedestrian unfriendly city, and the idea of traveling around Tampa on foot out of anything other than absolute necessity is as laughable to most of its citizens as going for a Sunday drive in Manhattan. By the same token, I’ve often commented on the similarities of other cities to Tampa when I’ve entered them by car and navigated their sprawling outskirts of billboards and parking lots.
Traffic lights are my nemesis. I like to establish a rhythm and settle into it, and sometimes these lights make it impossible. Sometimes I get impatient and cross against the light, but when you’re running you don’t quite have the lead time that you need to break the intersection safely and I can see that this behavior could result in a very unfortunate outcome. I’ll have to learn to just calm down and wait. At least when you’re taking walk breaks you can just bump up the time of your next break and not have to worry about it too much.
This preoccupation with time, efficiency, etc. is something I’m going to have to work on some more. I can see myself getting better gradually, and my sense of enjoyment on these runs has increased greatly.
One thing that I have noticed a lot more from the sidewalk is the boarding houses. Some of the buildings are so dilapidated on the exterior that I can only imagine what they must be like on the inside. The city’s code enforcement squad must cut a wide swath around these places. I think that they would prefer to spend their time in places where the property values are on the rise.
I pass by one boardinghouse at about 9:30 am and the stoop party is already in full swing. People are sitting out in the morning sun drinking forties from brown paper sacks and settling into a rhythm all their own. These people rarely acknowledge my presence other than perhaps a quick nod of the head, but I often wonder what they think of this sweaty little white boy running through their neighborhood. Generally, I think the only people who really like to talk to runners are of the corny old man variety. That’s fine with me because I’m always up for a corny old man joke. So far my favorite line is “You know if you had just left earlier you wouldn’t have to run.”
I was reading “Midnight Culmination” the other day and Rachel was writing about this same part of town. She said that when she rides her bike past the Salvation Army she is greeted with “Hey Bike Lady!” to which she responds “Hey Homeless People!” Somehow I don’t see that working out for me.
The sun is starting to beat down now as I cross south of the tree line at Palm Ave. I put on my Roy Orbison wrap-around shades and look towards downtown where I can hide in the shadows of the skyscrapers. Just past the Army Navy Surplus store I cut over one block to Franklin Street’s northern terminus and I’m on the main artery of Tampa’s historic downtown. The brick sidewalks roll nicely underfoot and I run past the landmarks of Tampa’s once vibrant downtown scene, past the faded mural for the Carriage Repository, the remains of the Kress building, Maas Brothers department store, and the old Woolworth’s where, even when I was a teenager, you could still get a grilled cheese and a malt at the soda fountain. While we waited for our food we would go to the aisle with the alarm clocks and set them all to go off at the same time. Then we would eat our sandwiches and wait for the explosion of noise from the other side of the store. The only real landmarks that remain functional are the Tampa Theater and The Hub (although The Hub’s location has changed). The Hub has long been known for mixing the strongest drinks in town. When I worked the night shift in Largo, I would race across the bridge to make it to The Hub before last call. I would have two Jack and ginger ales before closing and drive straight home. Usually the buzz would kick in right about the time my key hit the lock on the front door.
A few more blocks and I’m into the heart of corporate downtown where the few street vendors and cafes are starting to prepare for the lunch rush. I stop to read a historical marker about a 1909 auto race from Tampa to Jacksonville and I see Jan up ahead, waiting for me at the car.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pacheco's Ybor

Thomas 3.2mi

Yesterday I went for a walk with Jan in the evening before going out to dinner with the family. I tried not to push too hard, as yesterdays run had left me feeling pretty wasted. I forgot to check my waking pulse again this morning, but my resting rate was 51 so I figured I hadn’t overdone it too badly.
Today is my off day. Tomorrow will be my “long run” although at this stage my long runs are actually a little shorter than my training runs. I am at Station 35 in Westchase today so I laid out a route on mapcard for a four-mile run on the golf course, but now I think I would rather go home and run in the neighborhood. This mapping project is starting to affect my choice of running routes. I used to prefer to run out here on the UTBT, but it is much harder to vary the routes and I just can’t see much historical significance in this area.
Lately I’ve been reading some about mountaineering and rock climbing and one of the things that fascinates me about these sports is the artistic component that is involved. Climbers are very concerned with issues of “style” and “ethics”, and they often plan their routes with an eye towards the elegance of the lines created and the moves necessary to execute them. Placing protection along a route has strong aesthetic and ethical concerns because all future climbers on that route will be forced to follow your lead. If you lay out a route that is unimaginative or clumsy you are doing a disservice to yourself, your fellow climbers, and ultimately the mountain itself. Many of these climbers are accomplished visual artists in their own right and they spend a great deal of time producing exquisite maps and renderings of their routes.
Last night I downloaded all of my mapcard routes for the last two weeks. I registered the routes against an aerial photo, and I made each layer semitransparent so that they would be darker where the routes overlapped. Once I had all of the routes in place I deleted the background so that I could see the lines of the routes more clearly. I was taken with the beauty of the lines in this map, and I immediately started thinking about new routes to run in order to fill it out or add new compositional elements to the line work.
I lay in bed with the image of this map developing in my head. I thought about the “Universe Within” exhibit in San Francisco where the vasculature of the cadavers had been polymerized and the rest of the tissue had been dissolved from around it. These were like three-dimensional maps of the vasculature suspended in space.
I kept thinking about Chantel Foretich’s installation about her walk to the House of Meats. A delicate sculpture suspended in space with a miniature replica of the House of Meats and a long ribbon of sidewalk leading back to her house. A sweet little poem about love, loss, and shopping for meat.
These running maps are beginning to form a sort of vasculature. I think of covering a floor with aerial photos and suspending this vascular model in the space above it. The man/city metaphor comes to mind again and I think of reading Williams’ “Patterson” again as well as Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.
I just finished Ferdie Pacheco’s “Ybor Chronicles” and its imagery plays through my head on these runs through town. I try to imagine this city as he describes it in the 30’s and 40’s. Running down Central Ave. I can see how the two interstates (I-275 and I-4) have broken the continuity and the spirit of this part of town. Pacheco refers to Cuscaden Park as being in Ybor city and this strikes me as odd. I had never considered it to be a part of Ybor because it is north of I-4. I think of the trolley that ran up Central Ave. to Sulphur Springs, and I can’t believe I’ve never been on Central south of Robles Park. I would like to put together a Ferdie Pacheco tour of this part of tow, maybe for one of my long runs. Points of interest would include his home in Tampa Heights on Lamar, his grandparents house and the former Spanish consulate on Columbus, the Ybor social clubs (Centro Asturiano, Centro Espanol, the Italian Club, the Cuban Club), Cuscaden Park, the Columbia Restaurant, and the downtown landmarks on Franklin Street.
Some of the most vivid imagery in Pacheco’s book is a simple list of the sensory experiences of Ybor, especially the smells. The Cuban coffee being roasted, the devil crabs cooking, Cuban bread baking, and the ever-present cigar smoke. All of these conjure up vivid memories of the Ybor that I have known growing up. Some of these experiences can still be had for those who know where to look. Naviera still roasts their own coffee on Seventh Avenue where you can get an espresso and a pound of coffee so fresh that its oils soak through it s brown paper bag. Carmines still makes the best devil crab you’ve ever had, and Mauricio’s still bakes Cuban bread twenty four hours a day so that you can get a hot loaf for $1.30 on a drunken Friday night (they don’t bake on Saturday night because all of the Cuban restaurants are closed on Sunday).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Flight 19

Flight 19 4.4mi

So, my laps around the station never happened. I didn't want to go in the heat of the day and then I had dinner to prepare and food to digest. I guess I should have just done it early and gotten it out of the way.
I had a nice urban adventure run today. I ran down to the new Flight 19 Gallery located in the old baggage claim of Tampa's Union Station. This route took me through some of the most neglected parts of Tampa. I went down Central Ave. through Robles Park. I don't think I've ever been on Central south of the park, and I was surprised at how beautiful and well kept some of the homes were down there. I took Columbus east to Nebraska and went south past the Centro Asturiano towards the train station.
The heat was starting to take its toll and my pulse at the split was 180, so I increased my walk breaks to 4:1 and then 4:2 for awhile. I'm starting to get a feel for the way in which the temperature can affect your pace, but I obviously went out too hard. I had told Jan that I would meet her at the gallery 45 minutes from leaving the house and I think it was a point of pride for me to make it there on time. Now I know not to set time goals like that on training runs.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rivercrest Trail

Rivercrest 4mi

I got up about 6:30 and picked out a new route on mapcard before leaving. A large sinkhole opened up at Sligh Ave. and the river the other day and the bridge has been closed for repairs. I need to go up and take some pictures of the sinkhole before they fill it in.
I saw an article in the Seminole Heights newsletter about a trail section that opened in Rivercrest Park on Osborne, so I decided to run down there and check it out.
I felt good starting out and I tried to concentrate on a smooth, relaxed form. I like to imagine that my head is a movie camera and I am trying to make a nice smooth dolly shot with as little camera shake as possible.
I covered the first mile in less than ten minutes and I felt like I had my legs and lungs with me. The new trail section is nice and it expands the amount of riverfront running that I can do.
I put in for overtime and I got called to go to Station 17 in Ruskin. I'm working tomorrow at Station 39 so I'll have to figure out a way to get some cross training in. Maybe I'll just walk some laps around the station.

Tour Aspirations

I went to the gym with Jan when I got home from work. I did forty minutes on the elliptical at a resistance of seven. My pace count stayed around 140 and the workout felt nice and easy. I'm going to miss Lance Armstrong next year if he doesn't race the Tour. When the Tour is going it's one of the few times I look forward to doing cardio at the gym. I followed the cardio with the same weight routine that I did the other day. This seems like a good workout, it only takes a few minutes and after the last time I had a good all-over soreness in my upper body that made me think I was getting a pretty good all around workout.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Egg Lakes

North UTBT 3 mi

I ran the three mile circuit from Station 38 up the trail to Linebaugh and back. I didn't stretch at all and I think I paid the price a little. My calves and achilles were feeling tight the whole way. I felt like I had the lungs for it, but my legs didn't want to cooperate. My pulse stayed within range and my time was not too bad.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bo's Meats

Bo's Meats 2.8mi
I took things slowly for a couple of reasons. First, by the time I got home from work the sun was already high in the sky and the temperature was pushing ninety degrees. We didn't sleep a lot last night and I already hadn't been feeling so well yesterday.
I took the camera with me and I walked a new route past a few Seminole Heights landmarks like Bo's Ice Cream and the House Of Meats. I wanted to do a little photo documentation, but the camera batteries crapped out on my when I tried to take the first picture.
Jan and I met Eric for breakfast at Three Coins and I had a big plate of eggs, pancakes, and bacon before Eric and I set off to do some work on his house. We spent the day knocking down a cinderblock wall and framing it out for french doors. We didn't stop for lunch and I didn't drink much water. About 5:00 a drank a couple of beers and I felt like I was going to pass out.
We met the family for dinner later and by 9:30 I was at home and asleep on the couch.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Two Burritos, Three Beers, Four Miles

UTBT Dump 3.9mi

We went out to Rick's On The River for a few drinks with some friends. When we got home it was about 10:30 and I was starving. We didn't have much in the fridge other than some eggs and tortillas, so I made some breakfast burritos, ate, and went straight to bed. I don't usually like to eat so close to bed time and I realized later that I should have just had a protein bar or something.
I started running from the station at around 6:20 and I was feeling a little winded by my second walk break at only 11 minutes. I kept trying to hold the pace down but I kept my walk breaks at 5:1.
I thought I could take the UTBT south from Linebaugh after looping around the dump, but I was about 29 minutes in when I got to the turnoff and I thought it might take me another 20 minutes to get back that way. I went back the way that I came which I knew to be about 8 minutes and I ran about a quarter mile past the station and back to make it an even 40 minutes. This route on comes out to 3.9mi and the other way would have been about 4.2. Even trying to hold back and not feeling great I ran 45 seconds per mile faster than my run the other day. No wonder my finish pulse was 180!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Five After Midnight

Lowry 3.5mi

I decided not to run coming off duty this morning because the sun was already over the trees and it was well above 80 degrees. On top of that, we ran five calls after midnight and I 'm feeling a little sleep deprived.
Instead, Jan and I join some friends for a brunch of country-fried steak with mashed potatoes, gravy, and soup, and I spend the day farting around with the computer, napping and watching movies.
In the evening the storm clouds roll in and I'm watching the radar for a break. Finally about 7:45 I decide to go for it and I tell Jan the route I'm taking in case it really opens up.
There's a light rain falling and the air is cool and breezy. I haven't even broken a sweat by the first mile. Lowry Park is virtually deserted and I run the path along the river accompanied by two young boys on bicycles. Around a bend in the river I can see the white water tower looming up ahead. The creeks are swollen with rain and everything seems so lush. My feet are soaked from the puddles but I feel strong and I've settled into a nice easy pace.
At the water tower I head south across the river and run for a few blocks past the crack addled motels and boarding houses along Florida Ave. before cutting back into the neighborhood. The sun has gone down and I'm wishing I had brought my headlamp. This route is one that I picked out on I'm enjoying the surprise of running an unfamiliar route, but the street signs are getting hard to read.
I can definitely tell the difference when I'm using the Galloway method. I have been spacing my walk breaks 5:1 and at the end of a run like this my legs feel great. I have been trying to do a walking cooldown as well and I think this has also aided in my recovery times.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Power Walk of Shame

South UTBT 3.7mi

Wednesday morning before the start of my shift I take a brisk walk from the station south to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Here I head south along the canal and then loop north around the water plant and up Montague to Waters. Even after a year at this station I can't pass Montague Street without getting a Bob Dylan lyric stuck in my head "I lived with them on Montague Street in a basement down the stairs." Somehow I think the apartments around Westchase's fake little Main Street come up short on the bohemian flophouse charm.
I'm a little self conscious about this required power walking, and I hope that I don't run into anyone from my crew on their way into work. My shoe/sock combo which works great for running is creating a lot of friction on the balls of my feet and I fear that I'm developing blisters. I maintain a good 13 min/mile pace and I'm back at the station before anyone else makes it in.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Henry & Ola 2.6mi

I'm trying to get in a three mile run between work and the arrival of hurricane Dennis. Trying to hold the pace back, so I walk most of the route. Down to the street and west to the stop sign. Turn to the north and a block ahead a neighbor has landscaped his side yard on the outside of his privacy fence, a gift to the rest of us. These summer rains have nourished it into a dense thicket of flowers and vines. It seems like it may just cross the street and run through the neighborhood like a wildfire. Fine by me.
At the next block I usually turn left, but today I continue north one more block before cutting west towards the river. I head down the short incline past the two brothers who seem to be perpetually walking this same one block stretch of sloping, pot-holed pavement. They both walk with the same angry, stomping, arm flailing gait to the top of the small rise only to turn around and stomp back down to the bottom. They have been doing this for years now. They were both large fat men when they started. Now they are tall robust berzerkers.
I like to imagine that the damage to this stretch of road was all caused by their incessant pounding, slowly etching their route into these bricks. I wonder what their neighbors think. It makes for one hell of a neighborhood watch.
Past the berzerker brothers I turn left and down the narrow alley that leads to the river park. Down to the river and I'm back on my old circuit. Watch for dogshit here. Up a little rise and back onto the pavement. Past the old marina and its fleet of decaying and sunken houseboats. There are a few new additions to the river bottom after last years string of four hurricanes. Follow the river road to its end and turn left towards the ball fields. On summer nights you can hear the calls from the dugouts blocks away on my front porch.
I leave my old route again to go one block south and walk past the house of Steven Lorenzo who is believed to have raped and killed several young men that he picked up in gay bars around town. I'm amazed at how well kept the house is, I guess I figured it would look a little more like mine.
A light rain is starting to fall and I cut into an alley for a straight shot north to my house. The sky is starting to look threatening so I pick up the pace. It crosses my mind that running down the alley in a pouring rain is not entirley normal behavior, but as the lightning begins to strike I'm not concerned with appearances for long.