I had something all written and ready to go, but I didn't like it and it was kind mean (but true) so I'm going to take a break for a few days. Plus, I have that whole marathon taper irritability thing going on so I'm just going to cool out. Check back on Friday night or Saturday when I might post something from the Poconos where I'll be holed up in a hotel (with a pool!) for a few days ahead of Sunday's big race.
Below is a photo of Stanford runner Alicia Follmar, who took a hard fall in the Penn Relays women's collegiate distance medley race at Franklin Field yesterday. While on the ground after the fall, Follmar was spiked on the head, which probably didn't feel too great, either. Those spikes are sharp like needles and can cut through soda cans like those ginzu knives in the old TV commercials.
Imagine what it must feel like to be trampled on the head by a shoe covered with ginzu knives... yeah, ouch!Nevertheless, Follmar got up -- bloodied but unbowed -- and finished in third place, behind Tennessee and Michigan.
Alicia Follmar is much tougher than you.
photos from the Track & Field News
We're kind of into the whole endurance sport thing here at Finger Food World Headquarters in Lancaster, Pa., U.S.A. We're big fans of all of it and follow it the way most people get into football or baseball. Truth is, we such big running geeks that we can recite training logs of some of the sports top athletes for the weeks leading up to a big race. Like how Alberto Salazar raced Henry Rono in a 10k match race days before winning the '82 Boston in the famous "Duel in the Sun." Or how Brian Sell ran 10 in 52 the day before finishing third in last November's Olympic Trials.
There are many reasons for our geekdom. For one thing, running, cycling, swimming and those types of things are the most egalitarian of all the sports. If a person want to be good at one of those sports, all he has to do is put in the work. Over time, the people who are consistent in working hard will get good results.
What I also like about those sports is you don't have to pass the ball. If a mistake is made, it's your own damn fault. No one has to worry about fielding errors or those types of annoyances.
Sure, there are errors in a race. For instance, over a decade ago I was in a 10k and running in second place well off the lead. Actually, the leader was so far ahead that I couldn't see him and there was no one within sight behind me either. I was in no-man's land... literally. But here's the thing - the leader had the local police leading the way with a pace car. All he had to do was follow the guide through the woods and hills of the course out in some nature preserve on the far northern edge of Lancaster County. Not only was the dude in the lead and winning easily, but also he had a tour guide.
Back in second place (or first loser) I'm grinding it out a hoping that every corner I turn is the last one. Finally, around 30 minutes into it I figure it's time to put down the hammer and run it in hard. Out there by myself I didn't know if anyone was gaining on me so I'm scared about losing second. But here's the funny part - there was no one out there to show me the way to the finish line. So running hard with eyes bulging and froth flying from my mouth, I missed the final right turn. Actually, the course wasn't marked so it wasn't like I missed the turn - the turn didn't exist.
About five minutes later I realized something was wrong, but I still worried that someone would catch me. So I kept hammering away and before I knew it I was somewhere in the woods of Lebanon County -- just running around and trying to find the finish line. It took another 30 minutes for me to find my way back to the car. So yeah, an error in running can cost another person a race.
Anyway, as endurance freaks this is a fun time of year. London, the Olympic Trials and Boston were piled on top of each other in successive weeks. That's like holding the conference championships and the Super Bowl without bye weeks with all the best athletes in the world in action.
Locally, the Penn Relays start today with the Olympic development 5 and 10 kilometer races set for tonight's Distance Night. The big-timers preparing to win gold in Beijing like 400-meter man Jeremy Wariner and sprinter Tyson Gay are in town for Saturday's marquee events.
Meanwhile, the road racing scene blasts into full gear, too. The always speedy Broad Street Run is next weekend, as well as a ton of smaller, local races. That goes for the multi-sport set, too. In fact, one-time Phillie Jeff Conine has joined our ranks as an endurance geek. After finally retiring from the Major Leagues, Conine has jumped into the triathlon and even got a special waiver to compete in October's Hawaiian Ironman.
Frankly, I think he should qualify like a real athlete, but you know, Major Leaguers often have special entitlements.
Anyway, Conine's new hobby was chronicled by The New York Times this week.
There is nothing like warming up for a marathon with a long swim and bike ride, huh?
Speaking of qualifying for big races, there was another story in The Times about the lengths people go to get into the Boston Marathon and why, as Gina Kolota writes, "Why is it so hard to enter?"
Here it is:
It isn't hard to enter the Boston Marathon. The fact is the qualifying standards are a little too fair. Soft, actually. Boston is good because it's supposedly difficult to get into. There should be standards sometimes.
Look, our sport is easy - if a person want to be good, all he has to do is put in the work. Over time, the people who are consistent in working hard will get good results. Even Jeff Conine.
Monday was one of those epic days in sports where everything kind of fell into place the way everyone expected.
Robert Cheruiyot dominated the Boston Marathon... again.
The Flyers went from a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series to a do-or-die Game 7... again.
And Chase Utley hit a home run and made some clutch plays to lead the Phillies to a victory... again.
You know - no big whoop.
Anyway, Cheruiyot won his fourth Boston against a weaker field than in past years. One reason for that is because the top American runners either ran in the Olympic Trials last November (or London two weeks ago) or will run in the track Trials in July. So unlike the past handful of years where the elite Americans showed up and ran with Cheruiyot for a little bit, this year there were other things going on.
Additionally, guys like Ryan Hall and the fastest runners in the world went to London where the course is much more forgiving, the competition fierce and fast times are inevitable. Boston's course beats the hell out the quads and calves with the undulating terrain. No, Boston isn't exactly a slow course - there is a net downhill, after all. There are parts of the route from Hopkinton to Boston where runners actually have to hold back to avoid going too fast.
In contrast, the uphill climbs in Newton come at a point where a runner's glycogen stores are just about gone. They don't call them Heartbreak Hill for nothing. Hell, I recall doing workouts through the Newton hills and attacked the famed (infamous?) Heartbreak Hill fresh and it gave me a little kick in the ass. Imagine spending miles 16 to 21 of a marathon trying to get over those hills.
Lance Armstrong, who mastered Alpe d'Huez (among others) during his seven Tour de France victories, ran his first Boston yesterday. From the sound of it, Armstrong got a little boot to the rear in Newton though it should be noted that he ran negative splits for a respectable 2:50:58.
According to the Associated Press:
Armstrong said there's no comparison between running a marathon and cycling, either physically or mentally."You can't compare the pounding or running with the efficiency of a bicycle," he said. "Nothing even comes close to comparing the pain, especially it seems like this course, with a significant amount of downhills ... that really take their toll on the muscles."
But Boston is not exactly a world-record course, either. Cheruiyot was on course-record pace yesterday, casually ripping through miles 3 to 19 in 4:53 or faster. That includes a 4:37 at mile 19 that obliterated the rest of the field. However, Cheruiyot "slowed" over the final 10k to finish in 2:07:43, well off his record 2:07:14 he set in 2006. Interestingly, Cheruiyot's fourth victory in Boston was only the fifth winning time under 2:08 in the 112 years of the race.
Compare that to the London Marathon this year where the top six in the 2008 race ran under 2:07 and it's easy to see why the best runners don't show up to Boston (or New York) any more. Why go get beat up when Chicago, London and Berlin have (relative) cakewalk courses?
Nevertheless, Boston and its sponsors might have to dig into the coffers to lure the big guns away from London in the spring. The fact that Haile Gebrselasie, Paul Tergat, Martin Lel, Khalid Khannouchi - and worse - Ryan Hall, have not lined up on Patriot's Day in Hopkinton proves that Boston is missing something.
Sure, runners like London because of the speedy course and the chance for fast times. But more than anything else runners go where the best competition is. That hasn't been Boston for a long time.
Elsewhere, it's Game 7 night in Washington where most folks seem to have a bad feeling about the fate of the Flyers.
There. That's the depth of my hockey analysis.
Had Chase Utley not broken his hand last season, Jimmy Rollins probably wouldn't have won the MVP Award. Chances are Utley would have been in the top three with Prince Fielder and Matt Holliday. So noting that it was Utley's injury that pushed Rollins into the MVP discussion in 2007, it's kind of ironic that Rollins' injury has the spotlight on Utley.
Then again, six homers in five straight games kind of gets a ballplayer noticed...
Plus, it's only April 22, too. There is a lot of baseball to go.
Nevertheless, Utley is off to one of those stop-what-your-doing-when-he-comes-up starts. So far he has reached base in all but one of the Phillies' 20 games, has posted gaudy numbers in categories that all the stat geeks love, and seems to have his hand in the outcome of every game.
Things happen whenever Utley is on the field. But then again that's not new.
Remember when Ryan Howard used to be that way?
Anyway, during his pre-game powwow with the writers prior to last night's game at Coors Field, the Wilmington News Journal's Scott Lauber reports this quote from manager Charlie Manuel:
"Chase Utley is a very, very, very tough player. I've been in the game a long time, and he's as tough as any player I've seen. I'm talking about old throwback players, guys like Pete Roseand Kirby Puckett. You could put Utley in that category. He could play with any of them."
So there's that... which is nice.
The Phillies decided Jimmy Rollins might need more than a day or two to recover from his ankle injury... nearly two weeks after the injury occurred.
Hey, who wants to rush into things?
Nevertheless, the Phillies finally decided that Jimmy Rollins' ankle wasn't getting better any time soon so they placed him on the 15-day disabled list. But because Rollins was used as a pinch hitter three times since the injury occurred on April 8, the Phillies won't be able to backdate the DL stint. That also means Rollins isn't eligible to come off the disabled list until May 5.
It's an odd situation. Rollins' injury isn't getting any worse, but it's also not getting much better. The reigning NL MVP said he was "75 percent" before the series against the Mets began, but that might only be about 76 or 77 percent today.
Plus, Rollins had been testing the ankle in batting and fielding practice daily. The ankle, as we all know, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle - then there's the bone and ligament throwing a monkey wrench into the deal. Ankle injuries can linger and reappear out of the blue like a bad bowl of chili. That's especially true even if a ballplayer believes he's 75 percent.
So a break just might be the ticket for Rollins, who will head to the DL for the first time of his career.
Yes, injuries stink.
ESPN is here at the ballpark for one of those national cable broadcasts that any clearheaded person with a normal life and responsibilities finds nauseating. There are a lot of reasons this is the case, but for lack time (and desire) we'll stick with the superficial.
Firstly, a Sunday night game means the game won't start until after 8 p.m. My kids go to bed at 8 p.m. and my oldest boy (he's 4) says "baseball is boring." The reason is because there are never any big games on TV before his bed time. I suspect there are a lot of kids out there who don't say baseball is boring and have a respectable bed time as well. They get shut out, too.
Worse, because Sunday night games are produced by ESPN it means they are overwrought with all sorts of gizmos, graphics, teevee things and general fluff that hinder the natural ebb and flow of the game. When ESPN gets its hands on a game it's just like building a dam in the middle of a free-flowing river. Sure, the water moves a little bit, but there are no rapids. In fact there are times when some production geek jumps out onto the field to tell the umpires to halt the game because all of the commercials haven't run yet.
Look, I'm an adult with a brain who doesn't like to have his chain jerked. Just show me the game so I can get to bed at a respectable hour on a Sunday night because the kids are getting up at the crack and after that all bets are off.
Sleep, as we have written on this site on so many other occasions, is better than HGH.
Another reason why the ESPN game stinks is Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Truth be told, Miller was brilliant with the Orioles before Peter Angelos destroyed that once proud franchise. These days it seems as if he gets paid by the word. Meanwhile, Joe Morgan was brilliant as a big-league second baseman with that kinetic chicken wing flap that personified all his at-bats.
They say true genius is marked by a little bit of crazy, so in that regard Morgan at the plate was quite a treat.
But listening to Morgan has an announcer is like listening to that old man who slowly drove his big-assed car with the tail fins through my neighborhood a few weeks ago while I was out running. Instead of passing by, the old guy sidled that beast next to me to chastise me for "running on the wrong side of the road."
"You should run on the other side so you face traffic," he yelled through the passenger-side window. "You're going to get killed running the way you are."
"Dude," yes, I called the old man (he was at least 80) driving a powder blue Cadillac with tail fins, "Dude." "It's a one-lane road. There is no other side."
So yeah, that's what Joe Morgan sounds like to me. He's a guy chewing me out because he can... until I turn the channel.
Which is what I usually do.
But not tonight - instead I'm sitting in the press box filthy with New York writers and local TV types who like to get out for a ballgame once in a while. Better yet, the TV hanging from the ceiling right over my seat perfectly augments the action on the field. That's because ESPN games are on a seven-second delay, so if I miss a pitch on the field all I have to do is look straight up to catch what happened.
Thank you, ESPN. And thank you to the folks at the Federal Communications Commission for protecting our eyes and ears from something.
Had I been in better shape during November and December of last year I wouldn't be at the ballpark tonight. Instead, I would be fast asleep in a cozy hotel room with an early wakeup call the night before the Boston Marathon. When I was figuring out my racing plans for 2008 back then, I thought I'd need a good four months in order to get into great shape.
Who would have guessed that I would have been ready to go for Boston instead of two weeks from now?
Nevertheless, the Boston Marathon is tomorrow and like the geek I am I will be glued to the Internet coverage on WCSN.com as well as the television broadcast on Versus.
Is there any way Robert Cheruiyot won't win his fourth straight Boston? I wonder if Brian Sell considered jumping in the race as a hearty warm up for his buildup before the Beijing Olympics in August.
Anyway, this year's Boston had the extra added flair of playing host to the women's Olympic Marathon Trials this morning. It was kind of a doubleheader of marathoning, if you will. But rather than run the regular Boston course from Hopkinton to the Back Bay, the women's trials looped around the Charles River into Cambridge and back a few times before finishing on Boylston Street.
And just as everyone suspected, Deena Kastor won easily by coming from well off the pace to lead a relatively weak field. Kastor is one of the best five or six marathoners in the world as well as one of the best one or two American marathoners ever, so the fact that she didn't take over the lead until 23½ miles into the race wasn't as dramatic as it could have been.
Actually, Kastor made it look kind of easy by rolling through at 5:43 pace.
But when she goes to Beijing for her second Olympic medal, Kastor knows a 2:29 won't cut it, nor will her main competition be the No. 42-seeded and unsponsored Magdalena Lewy Boulet or the No. 17-seeded Blake Russell, the 2006 national cross country champion.
In Beijing it's going to be hot, dirty and intense.
Meanwhile, Joan Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic Marathon champion and former U.S. record holder, finished with a respectable 2:48. That's really good considering that Samuelson has qualified to run in every single Olympic Marathon Trials and will turn 51 next month.
 Actually, I don't know if "they" say that at all. I just made it up.
Note: The gang back at the CSN office did a nice job putting together a tribute for Johnny Marz.
For those of us who grew up dreaming of glory as an athlete, there was nothing more impressive than the Olympian. Oh sure, big leaguers were cool because they got to travel around the country from city to city to play games. To be a pro in some sport was always the goal of every kid.
But pro athletes are one of many. To be an Olympian is to be a part of a very select group.
Olympians are the best of the best. Moreover, Olympians are chosen once every four years. That just adds to aura.
John Marzano was an Olympian.
A member of the first U.S. Olympic baseball team in 1984, Marzano's teammates were former Major League MVPs and All-Stars Mark McGwire, Will Clark, Barry Larkin and B.J. Surhoff. That team finished second to Japan in the Los Angeles games, but the title of Olympian was not lost on Marzano.
Though he spent 10 seasons as a backup catcher in the Major Leagues and 16 years in pro ball, Marzano seemed the most proud that he was an Olympian. Almost as proud of his baseball academy where he taught kids the right way to play the game that had been so good to him.
Mythical, impressive, teacher, Philadelphian, Olympian. That was John Marzano.
Marzano, a native of South Philadelphia, was found dead inside his home on Passyunk Ave. in the city today. He was just 45. It was in his home, the report states, that a family member called police to break down the door where Marzano apparently fell. Marzano reportedly fell down a flight of stairs in his home, but the cause of his death was not immediately clear, police said.
Marzano graduated from Philadelphia's Central High School and Temple University, where he was a member of the school's athletic Hall of Fame. As a catcher for Temple, Marzano earned a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team before being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round (14th overall pick) of the 1984 draft.
Marzano played in the big leagues for the Red Sox, Rangers and Mariners. He also played in the minors for the Indians and Phillies organizations.
He also played for the U.S.A.
Better yet and more impressive than all of that was how easily and readily Marzano made friends. At the ballpark or in the newsroom at Comcast SportsNet, Marzano knew everyone. Even more amazing was how well he knew everyone - from the top to the bottom, anyone who came into contact with Johnny Marz! as he was affectionately known, was always greeted with a quick smile, pat on the back and a pointed joke delivered directly and personally.
It was a joke meant just for you specially delivered from Johnny Marz.
"You always knew when John was in the room," said Michael Barkann, the host of many of the shows on Comcast SportsNet in which Marzano appeared. "You never asked, 'When'd you get here, Johnny?' He always made an entrance, and it was big and it was loud and it was full of joy."
Most important of all, Marzano was a husband to Terri and a father to Dominique and Danielle as well as a grandfather. For that, The Olympian will be missed most of all.
So the big Cole Hamels vs. Johan Santana matchup was kind of good. It wasn't one of those transcendent matchups like we always heard about when Bob Gibson took on Robin Roberts or Sandy Koufax and all of those other great pitchers from a generation or two or go, but that's not the fault of the pitchers.
There just aren't enough great pitchers to go around to have those classic matchups the way they used to.
Nevertheless, Hamels likely will square off against Santana again this season and it has already pitched in a much-hyped showdown against Roger Clemens during his first season in the big leagues. Of that outing Hamels wasn't so much geeked up about pitching against Clemens as he was about hitting against him. In fact, the single Hamels rapped out was the only one Clemens surrendered that day.
Hamels didn't get any hits against Santana last night, but for the first seven innings of the game most of his teammates didn't either. Santana was crafty and sneakily good against the Phillies. He allowed a just one hit through the first six innings before Chase Utley led off the seventh with a solo shot into the bullpen in deep right-center. More impressively, Santana got 10 strikeouts against the first 23 hitters he faced.
The impressive part about that was Santana threw just 14 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced. That's just OK... if that. It certainly wasn't as good as the first-strike ratio Hamels posted (22 for 28), which means a couple of things. One is Santana was sharp until he reached the 100-pitch plateau and a second is that the Mets were up there hacking early at Hamels.
Hamels noticed that. After the game he said it seemed as if the Mets' book on him was to get after him early in the count to avoid falling into a hole and putting the young lefty in position to use his batting-average destroying changeup.
"Because I've been around for two years there's plenty of video on me," Hamel said. "Hitters are swinging early in the count and not waiting for my ‘out' pitch."
As a result, the Mets forced the Phillies error-prone defense to make plays. When they didn't (misplays by Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard proved costly), Hamels' frustration showed.
"Some things caught up with me tonight," Hamels said. "I definitely showed my emotions on the field, dropping my head a few times going, ‘How did that happen?' But I'll see these guys again, and I'll make the adjustments."
Perhaps he'll even see Santana, though Hamels claimed he would be more prone to get caught up in the hype of the rivalry if he weren't pitching. When he's on the mound, Hamels says, the focus is on the Mets' hitters and not the opposing pitcher. The new-age Carlton-Seaver/Phillies-Mets matchup was almost lost on Hamels, who was more concerned with the four hits David Wright got than anything else.
Still, Hamels tipped his hand that he had some idea that Santana was stringing up the goose eggs on the scoreboard. For as much as he downplayed the big-time matchup, deep down Hamels knew Friday night's game was different.
That can explain the uncharacteristic displays of frustration on the field after a few plays.
"There definitely isn't much margin for error," Hamels said. "He's always going to be able to have success. When you go into a game, you know it's going to be low-scoring and you hope you're on the right side of it. He has phenomenal stuff that he can get away with mistakes."
Any way you slice it following the first installment, Hamels v. Santana could turn out to be baseball's best pitching duel in one of its better rivalries.