Tuesday, 30 December 2008


I'm posting this here because the events of today will seriously impact my ability to train for the 12in12 challenge...in a positive way. That said....

I got the radio bug in the mid-1960s, as a geeky, pimply teenager in Peterborough, England. The house my family lived in then didn't have enough bedrooms for me or my siblings to have our own rooms, so I opted for the privacy of an oversized closet. It was big enough for a camping cot, beneath my hanging clothes. It also had a window, overlooking the next door neighbor's back yard, or "garden", as they're called on that side of the Pond. It was rumoured that the teenage girl who lived in #67 had a penchant for topless sunbathing. I was, sadly, never able to confirm that.

On those far-too-many nights when I sought solace in my upstairs sanctuary, the "portable" radio my Nan gave me played a major calming role. These were the "pirate radio" days, when broadcast pioneers butted heads with the government-sanctioned BBC in an effort to offer independent entertainment alternatives. What those guys, like Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Dave Cash and Emperor Rosko, gave me was a substitute family, that laughed...rather than yelled. From those early days, til now, radio has been just that...family.

I never thought I'd be lucky enough to work in radio until the 1980s in San Francisco. At that time I was a professional singer, touring the country with a soon-to-be Grammy award winning vocal ensemble. Trouble was my wife-at-that-time wasn't down with the tour schedule. Her ultimatum was "her" or "the tour". I chose her, and began looking for a career.

I chose radio, and signed up for a crazy-costly broadcasting school. Fortunately for me, I aced that program, and landed my first radio gig at a Country Western station in Santa Rosa. The station was famous (locally) for its cowboy hat car. A VW Beetle topped with a fiberglass cowboy hat that was almost as big as the bug.

My job was to turn the daytime station on on Saturdays and Sundays...and then present the morning show. The biggest challenge there was just getting into the place without gagging. When one opened the front door one was assaulted with the smell of stale cigarette smoke. One carried that home on Sunday afternoons. I was not a country music fan when I started. I am today.

I spent those weekends tent camping at the KOA campground in nearby Petaluma. Mark my words, said campground is much nicer today than it was 25 years ago. My main concern was the shower opportunities. I spent most of what I earned those weekends on the camping fees and restaurant food. Good times.

It was about this time that my wife-at-that-time decided "it" wasn't going to work. I chose her over the tour...but she left anyway. Radio stepped in again...to fill the void.

My first full-time radio gig was as the overnight guy at KKHI in San Francisco, a now-defunct Classical music station housed in the penthouse suite of the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square. I held that job down for over two years, despite taking numerous naps between delightfully long Mozart tracks. I only got caught once...when I slept through both alarms I'd set in an effort to avoid just such a catastrophe.

I went on to work for a Houston-based traffic reporting service for about two years, a brand new News/Talk station back in Santa Rosa, KSRO, and an AOR station, The Fox, across town. From there I took a job as News Director at another Country station in Merced, California, mostly because my brother lived there and I wanted to live near him. Shortly after I moved my new family there, he moved his away. I stayed for a couple more years, working for KUBB, then KRTB in Modesto, then KABX and KYOS, both in Merced.

Back in broadcasting school I decided my two goals were to one day work for the BBC...and/or KCBS in San Francisco. My friend, and former KSRO colleague, Larry, was now working for the latter, and knew I was looking to go to "the show". He put in a good word for me, and presto-change-o, I was hired by the All News giant.

My first day there was the Monday of the Oakland Hills firestorm in 1991. Talk about tested by fire. I could not have been happier to be where I was, although I was secretly frightened that "they" would soon discover I had no idea what I was doing.

Seven years later I cut those ties, due to carpal tunnel syndrome. I went away for a number of years, missing it most of the time away. I then got a second chance, and went back, part time, after having the pain-relieving surgery on my right wrist. That stint ended today, due, mostly to current economic conditions, but partly just because it was time.

When I got to work today I was greeted by a tasty chocolate cake, home made brownies, and the realization that my 25 year broadcasting dream was almost over. Some heady moments.
No tears were shed, as I made the farewell rounds, although there were a couple of moments when I, admittedly, barely fended them off. I heard praise a couple of times for my newswriting abilities. Some have said I was their favourite newswriter. For that I am deeply grateful. That means I accomplished what I wanted to when I started.

What I will do now is turn my attention to the schedule change that allows me to run....every day...if I'm knucklehead enough. But while I'm running, I'll be listening, like I did back in that little English closet. Thankful for the family.

Gotta run!

Monday, 29 December 2008


Yesterday was just one of those days in San Francisco.

Met my friend Patti and her brother, John, for a 10-miler along the SF waterfront. She's run marathons and halfs. We run together a lot. He's a relatively new distance runner, with his immediate sights set on a half marathon next month, and then, who knows?

The weather could NOT have been better. A little chill, no wind, overcast skies at the beginning. It didn't take long, though, to begin to clear. Started near the Coast Guard Station near Fort Point, and headed east and south toward SF's iconic Ferry Building, exactly five miles away.

I may have run this course a hundred times over the years, and it's still one of my favourites. I love the fact that people travel from all over the world to suck in this scenery and I can run here any day. What was fun about yesterday's trek was that, despite living in the area for years, John had not seen this part of The City from this angle.

Chrissy Fields was packed with runners and cyclists, Fisherman's Wharf and the Embarcadero were teeming with the afore-alluded-to tourists, transforming much of our route into an obstacle course. This obstacle course came, however, with the smells of steaming crab, the Boudin sourdough bakery, and caramel popcorn, making navigation more pleasure than pain. Once we hit the Ferry Building, we did a 180 with thoughts of the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale that was cooling in the trunk of my car.

Patti is used to my Galloway run/walk thing, but I wasn't sure how John would take it. He's more of a run-straight-through guy, I think. I let him know at the beginning if I was too slow for him, he and his sister were more than welcome to forge ahead. That didn't happen. Turns out my run/walk pace was a bit faster than he's used to. Imagine that! My speed, considered "fast" by someone. Despite the "blistering" pace I set for us all, we made it, in fine fettle.

The Cherry Wheat slid down well. Cheers.

Gotta run!

Thursday, 25 December 2008


Woke up this morning with everyone else in the house still asleep, showing no signs of stirring anytime soon. My best course of action was to lace up the Brooks and hit the road, despite the (for California) blustery, cold conditions.

Where to run, where to run? I know. Let's do some hills, he says. Judgement perhaps still impaired from last night's wine?

My online running friend Julianne recently asked me where I run in our neighborhoods, and mentioned that when she does hill work she hits "The Arlington", a twisty-turny stretch of hoity-toity residential roadway through the North Berkeley hills and, to the immediate north of that, toney little Kensington. I've driven it for years, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. Not so much.

Earlier this year I ran the New Mexico Marathon, that starts with an 8-mile climb. Really. Since then I've done maybe 1 mile chunks of hill training a few times. Made up for that today.

It's widely accepted that what goes up MUST come down. I was beginning to question that old chestnut at 5.5 miles, running into a biting near-freezing rain, while moving my iPod from outside my windbreaker to inside, to protect its delicate innards.

At this point my watch said it had taken me 1:13 to get there. Way behind my normal pace. But then the downhill began. Just about 35 minutes later I landed on my front porch, having done the last 3.5 under my normal pace. I think that's called negative splits, right?

Regardless of what they're called, I called it a day, and climbed the 29 steps to my apartment, to find the family had risen. My Garmin says I burned more than 1200 calories this morning. I'm thinking I'm all good for a holiday snack or two.

Merry, merry to you all.

Gotta run!

Monday, 22 December 2008


Decided early this morning that my raging cold had messed with my training for far too long.

Haven't run a step in two weeks. That ended in the pre-dawn chill of Oakland's Lake Merritt, one of my favourite places to run.

Two times around did the trick, to the tune of 6 miles in 1:09. That time includes an 8 minute warm up walk. The most notable moment was the one where that first shot of icy air went right up both nostrils, as I drew my first step's first breath. It almost hurt.

I have just two weeks left of my six days a week work schedule. As of New Year's Day I'm out one of my two current jobs, thanks to previously noted downsizing. I'm jazzed about having the time to run practically every day, once my current schedule changes. I'm jazzed about maybe having a life again.

I'm jazzed about being back in the saddle, with 34 days to go until the Carlsbad Marathon, in Southern California.

Gotta run! See you out there.

Sunday, 14 December 2008



I've had a week to think about this, although I really didn't need to think that hard.

After 25 years in the radio business, I got downsized out of my current broadcasting job last week. It didn't come as much of a shock, considering current economic times, but I didn't expect it to happen to me. Not to worry, though, really. The radio gig was a side job. At my "real" job, I got a promotion, more money, and a better schedule. All in all, I'm a happy camper.

That said, I will sorely miss nearly every one of the people I've worked with in the newsroom. I'll miss the snarkiness. I'll miss the often-unbridled laughter. I'll miss the "freebies". But I will not miss the job.

What does this have to do with my 12in12 challenge? Pretty near everything, actually.

As of January I will no longer have to be at my real job until 10am...instead of the 7am I've been doing for years. That means I can run every freakin' morning if I want to. It also means I will have two whole days off every week, which makes even more time for training runs. It also means I may sleep in every day, if able. I'm a 5 o'clock wake-up guy, and have been all my life. That's probably not going to change.

This could not have happened at a better time, I'm thinking. The 12in12 is shaping up nicely. I have booked my runs through April and have decided which others I'll sign up for when finances allow. For the update, and links to their web sites, check the list to the right. The only month I haven't decided on is August. Not much going on that month that won't cost an arm and a leg to get to, the same month I'm going to Spain for La Tomatina. I'll work it out.

I am now wrapping up my rest and recovery from last week's CIM. Ready to hit the road again.

Gotta run.

Monday, 8 December 2008


Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend a whole day in running class with Jeff Galloway, without whom I'd not be a runner today.

During that event I learned a number of things. Primarily, that rest is just as important to one's training regimen, if not more so, than the time you actually spend running. Secondarily, finishing time is not important unless you're hoping to win your event. (I know, I was just celebrating my sub-5 marathon finish just yesterday. I can not always adequately explain myself. Oh, well.) Thirdly, Accelerade rocks, before, during and after long runs. It provides much-needed energy stores prior to a marathon, quickly accessible calories during a run, AND...aids in post-long-run recovery. It is the last of these that I am interested in here.

After hearing of Accelerade's restorative powers back in the summer, I followed Galloway's advice and indulged in 12 ounces of the stuff immediately after a 20 miler. Not surprisingly, I honestly felt good enough to run again the next day. Pretty sure it was the sports drink.

Right now I'm still in pain from Sunday's CIM...but I'm in no hurry to guzzle another batch of Mountain Blueberry...as I kind of WANT to experience the pain that I earned running 26.2 miles, at least for another day or so. I guess I sort of consider those aches and burns, and the trouble my thighs have going up or down stairs, a badge of honor, of sorts.

I'm wondering if Accelerade, or any other recovery method, makes it easier to do the work that going the distance requires, will I lose my respect for the distance? I'm thinking, maybe so.

Was a time, not too many years ago, that running three miles was major. (For those of you for whom that is still true, I honor your place. Enjoy, the hard three's, five's and ten's. Learn from them.) Now I can roll out of bed and do 10-15 practically any day of the week. The challenges change over time, and I don't want marathon running to become pedestrian. Thinking that if it becomes too easy to recover from it, it may not offer the same value.

Not ready to take that chance...yet. No post-marathon Accelerade for me just yet, thanks. Sick, or what?

Gotta run!


After the first time I ran the California International Marathon, in 2004, I swore I'd never run it again. This weekend did a 180.

In 2004 it was ridiculously cold as we gathered at the Folsom Dam start, and I had no gloves. That would prove to taint the whole experience, as my hands never thawed. I seem to remember Fair Oaks Boulevard being industrial strength boring. And, at mile 17 that day, my right knee decided it wanted nothing more to do with this whole running a marathon thing. It agreed to go along if only I would walk. I walked the last 9.

This weekend could not have been more different.

My brother got up early and took me to the start, with the obligitory Starbucks stop along the way. Thick fog shrouded the area, that was quickly filling with 10,000 runners. I fully expected to throw up the coffee I'd just inhaled, as I usually do right before a race. Didn't happen. Hit the portapotties a couple of times, and then lined up to run.

Almost immediately I hooked up with a couple of runners of similar years, one a marathon virgin, the other, Scott -the-lawyer-from-Cleveland who's hated his job for thirty years. The first guy didn't stay with us long, but the barrister and I ran and chatted together for about 12 miles. He then said he was pretty much done, running-wise. I gave him one of my two English Mars bars (my secret energy weapon), told him he couldn't have it until mile 17, said cheerio" and struck out on my own.

Nothing much really happened the rest of the way, other than, for the first time in 21 marathons, I was able to stick with my Jeff Galloway method 5:1 run/walk pace all the way to the end. I ususally toss all that out somewhere between 17 and 20. Not sure where this batch of resolve came from, but it's welcome anytime.

The only down part of the race was as I approached mile 21, I started to sense the onset of a migraine, which I only get when I am really, really tired. Remembered that a migraine means the blood vessels in the brain are constricted and can't get enough blood through the affected area. I hadn't brought my migraine meds, although I'd thought about doing so as I got ready earlier, but forgot to follow through. Decided to experiment, by stepping up my pace to see if the old ticker would push a bit more blood to where it was needed, and maybe fend off the looming headache. For about a mile and a half my vision was blurred, and I could barely see the road. Good thing it was wide and closed to traffic. The experiment apparently worked, as my vision cleared a few minutes later, and I cruised the rest of the way in.

I have wanted to break the 5 hour mark for years, but had recently come to the realization that that was probably never going to happen at my age (56). Have taken on board, sort of, Jeff Galloway's and John Bingham's admonishments to just let go of the time limit thing. But I'll admit breaking that barrier was something I still really wanted to do.

As I crossed the 26 mile marker I noticed my Garmin showed I'd actually run a little more than that, so I carefully watched it tick up to 26.2...then hit the stop. I couldn't believe that my total time was 4:56. Un-freakin' real. Kept going and crossed the official finish line, even though I'd actually finished my marathon about half a block earlier. My brother, his wife, and their boys were there to welcome me in, which was awesome.

So, even though I'm officially done putting finishing time limits on myself, I quickly realized with a 4:56 on record, I am now just 26 minutes away from being able to run my dream marathon, San Sebasitan in Spain. They have a strict 4:30 course limit. I'm just saying.

Next up it's Carlsbad Marathon at the end of next month.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


...but it might be.

Have realized over the past couple of days that I am not anxious at all about this Sunday's California International Marathon in Sacramento. It's the first of an anticipated dozen marathons in as many months, and the 21st since turning 50, six years ago.

I will admit there are a number of things I don't know about what will happen this weekend...and, indeed, once a month for the next year. I don't know if I'll finish any one of the races I'll start. I don't really know if I'll even be able to start them all. I could get hurt any day, any hour, any minute. Some part of my 56 year old body could implode during any one of the races I do manage to start. In other words, the whole thing's a crapshoot.

Among the things I DO know. Every race I do manage to start will hurt. But, as "they" say....it's a good hurt. Miles 0-13 will probably be fairly easy. I can do that distance almost any day. For that, I am grateful. From 13 on, it's anyone's guess. Depends upon the day. At every 17th mile I will inhale an imported Mars bar...my favourite candy since my childhood in Peterborough, England. I maybe even do two!

At mile 20 I will wonder why I keep doing this and, hopefully, keep going. Somewhere around mile 24 I'll seriously consider quitting, but, if all goes as planned, won't.

As I catch my first glimpse of the bright colours that usually indicate the finish line, I'll try to summon up that often-elusive "second wind", and somehow stumble, while pretending to be in better shape than I really am, for the photo-guys, through the arch. Shortly thereafter I will ask, where to next?

For those of you who are a little wobbly about how you may handle your first, second, tenth, or 30th marathon...where ever it may be....let me say I honor your trepidation. It is well-founded. 26.2 is an awesome distance, and something you'll be proud to have pounded out...after it's over. I honestly feel almost anyone who's in even relatively decent shape can "do" the marathon. The fact that YOU decided to take it on is the amazing thing. So few people do.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Another day of cross-training on the bike. Just because it's Thanksgiving doesn't mean it's a holiday. There's a 12in12 regimen to maintain.

Headed out at about 8am, while much of the immediate area was still socked-in with fog. Rolled through Oakland, on my annual turkey day search for a decent cup of coffee. Found it at an old standard, Hudson Bay Cafe on College Avenue. Crazy busy, but a pleasant break nonetheless.

Next up, a single Lake Merritt loop, then downtown Oakland to Jack London Square. One of my favourite places to just chill, watch people, and look at the really big boats.

On the way out of Jack London Square something caught my eye in the Ben and Jerry's window. HOT FLOATS! Shut up!

Steamed flavoured milk with a scoop of your favourite ice cream. This place is looking for an assistant manager. I'm wondering, if I took the job, how many of those hot floats I could have before they let me go?

Turning south, along Oakland's version of the Embarcadero, I discovered how to get to the lovely island city of Alameda, without having to go through the Posey Tube. However, didn't have time to go any farther AWAY from home, so turned around and headed back.

Surprise of surprises, a photographer's dream. The 5th Street Pier. To think I almost blew it off and kept riding. Instead, I spent a few minutes here, taking pictures of old motorcycles with baby dolls attached to the handlebars, old trucks, and even older cars.

Just a couple of blocks farther north, one of life's myths was shattered. I've heard that money won't buy love. Apparently that is NOT so.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful, taking in the Emeryville/Berkeley shoreline.

My Garmin tells me I burned more than 3700 calories on my 30 mile ride. I'm thinking that translates into permission to have two helpings of stuffing later tonight.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


With the California International Marathon a fortnight off, I decided today to run just 10 miles...then didn't.

Early in the morning I realized I was having too much fun doing nothing, workout/training-wise, and thought I'd give it a go for the whole day. I got caught up on a bunch of things I've been putting off for weeks.

Finally repaired the flat tire I had a couple of weeks ago when I tried a bit of bicycle cross-training (see "Cross-Straining" post). That was the road bike. On my touring bike I changed tires to the winter variety, re-installed fenders and a brand new XTR rear derailleur, and put the drop bars back on. A month or so ago I took them off to try out a set of upright bars that turned out to be nothing but rubbish. While doing that I stripped a stem faceplate bolt and and to go buy a new one. Very happy to have both machines back on line and fully accessible. Seriously considered a 20 mile ride...but decided against that. Instead, I gave my new motorcycle its first bath. Did not get any soap in its eyes, thankfully.

After that I remembered something I've wanted to do for months, namely donate all my half marathon finisher medals to an organization called Medals4Mettle. They give them to kids who are battling diseases that could take their young lives. Recently saw a video featuring a kid with cancer who could not have been more stoked to have his NYC Marathon medal. A pile of mine are on the way there. Check it out, if you've got some you'd like to share.

Then I uncorked a bottle of cheap red wine, tuned into BBC Radio 2 (online), my official favourite radio station in the world...and listened to a documentary about the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' White Album. Totally AWESOME! You can check that out, too, if you're of such a mind.
I shall run tomorrow morning. Really.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008



With just a couple of weeks to go until marathon number one of my 12 in 12 months challenge, I am officially into what’s known as the taper. For the uninitiated, that’s the 2-3 weeks after your last long run before the big event, when us runner folks gradually cut back from our longer distances in an effort to recover from the months of, in my case, early morning training (while loved ones have still been snuggly warm in bed fast asleep). It's also one of my favourite times of the cycle when I get to concentrate on replenishing many of the calories I've incinerated , and store up extra energy for the impending 26.2 mile adventure.

Thing is, I realized this morning, that, as I’m going to attempt to do the distance a dozen times over the next year, THIS taper will perhaps be my last classic taper until December ’09. Reason being, doing a marathon every 3-6 weeks should mean that I’ll be in marathon condition all year. Each completed marathon should serve as the last long run for the next...followed by a few carefully planned maintenance runs to keep the legs from forgetting what they're for.

I’m guessing that, if I play my cards wisely, resting as well as I’m able between races, and not having to push so hard to get into shape, I may actually be able to pull this off running LESS overall than if I was only doing 3-4 marathons in 2009. It could also mean that I'll be needing to fuel up on a fairly consistant basic. (Read: I'll get to eat lots!)

Best case scenario, I'll get to consume plenty of pasta, will lose more weight, will get faster (if only slightly), and will get to travel even more than usual.

I'll admit I'm itchin' to get going.

Sunday, 16 November 2008



I'm talking about your first run in new shoes.

Delayed the start of my 20 mile pre-CIM training run today by two hours, waiting for SF's Presidio Sports Basement to open. I needed new "trainers" (as they say in Ye Olde Country). After all my experiments with other brands I have determined that the Brooks Beast is the best shoe for me. Motion control with decent padding in the heal, wide toe box, and high enough insteps for my slightly mis-matched feet. Knew the store had last year's Beast and was going to go with that until I spied the '09 version. A tasty little version it is, too. Navy blue mesh with tastefully done silver/gray trim. Not only did they feel good, they LOOK good.. This is America, after all.

Headed out towards the Golden Gate Bridge listening to, and thoroughly enjoying my newly-acquired Jonatha Brook album "The Works". If you haven't heard her before check it out. It's the lyrics of Woody Guthrie set to her original music. Completely sweet.

Crossed the GGB and returned to the waterfront, all the way through Ft. Mason, Chrissy Field, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, the Embarcadero, down to the Ferry Building. At the Ferry Building I gave myself a little boost with a little cup of Peet's cofee, then swiftly hit the pavement for the return from whence I came.

All in all, fairly uneventful, which allowed my mind to wander a bit. Decided, as December 7th's CIM in Sacramento will be my last marathon during the Bush administration, I am going to celebrate that run as such. Perhaps it will make me lighter and faster. It will surely make me smile. My next marathon after CIM is January 25th in Carlsbad...the first weekend of the fresh, new Obama era. They'll be some celebrating then, to be sure.

Earlier this week I mentioned to some on Twitter and the Daily Mile that I had the absolute pleasure to do a morning run through a neighborhood in which it smelled as though everyone was frying lovely, lovely bacon. Today's smell of the run was that of fresh caramel popcorn, wafting over Pier 39. I was enticed to stop, as I am a major popcorn junkie. But, I resisted.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 9 November 2008


With the California International Marathon just four weeks from today, I decided this morning that I needed to do SOMETHING, training-wise, but I did NOT feel like running.

Pulled out the road bike, planning on a 40-50 mile ride encompassing some East Bay stuff, a BART ride under the Bay to the SF side, some Blue Bottle coffee and then 30 miles into tony Marin, finishing off with lunch at Marin Brewing Company, the home of my favourite brew, Raspberry Trail Ale. If you can't find this in your store I highly recommend Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat. OMG!

Headed out at a chilly 7am, taking in the Berkeley/Emeryville shoreline, then passing IKEA, (which has FREE coffee Sundays between 9-10am, by the way, in case you didn't know. I was too early, so I missed out). Just short of 10 miles into the ride my back tire bonded with a really big staple that someone had left behind. Not to worry, right? I'm a bike mechanic. I'd never leave home on a ride without the requisite spare and the proper tools to install such. Not so much.

I have high profile, hoity-toity Italian (not Campy!) wheels that require an extra long valve stem. I only had the too-short standard. The puncture was large enough that I couldn't get enough air into the tube with my hand pump that would me the time required to locate the hole...so...long story short, I took public transit home...and switched bikes. Discovered then that after I tried earlier to patch the tube I'd apparently left my "Alien" multi-tool on an Oakland sidewalk.

Hoping to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, I realized then I had over-dressed when I left home the first time. Took this opportunity to leave behind one of the two fleece tops I had on, plus my full-fingered gloves. Blew off the transbay plans, deciding instead to just do my "normal" 20-mile loop through Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, back to Berkeley and Albany...with some added miles to pad. Everything was going swimmingly, I thinks, until I notice my Garmin 305's mileage tally is not changing at 28.7. How long's this been going on? No way of knowing, so I restart the whole thing. Came home and ran my route through MapYourRide and discovered I had done the 40 I'd wanted to....plus 2.5. Sweet!

BTW, rode by the scene of the initial puncture on the second leg of the adventure, just to see if the multi-tool was still there. DUH! What kind of optimist am I? It was gone. Hopefully to a good home.

Oh...tomorrow morning. I'm leaving the bikes behind, and putting on my running shoes again. Way easier.

Thursday, 6 November 2008


...I can turn my attention back to my little races.

Just in case you missed it, the BIG one was Obama. Sweet!

The little ones? I'm going to try running 26.2 miles 12 times over the next 12 months. Let me just say, I could run a marathon a month for the next two centuries and they still wouldn't add up to the significance of Barack's one big race, even in my own mind. But, you knew that already.

I ran 14 miles last Sunday, along the Berkeley/Emeryville shoreline. The goal was 15, in anticipation of next month's California International Marathon, but my front door fell suspiciously at my feet at mile 14 so I called it quits right there. This morning I didn't really feel like running at all but knew I "should". Grasping Nike's "Just Do It" catch phrase like that kitten we all remember from the "Just Hang In There" poster from a few years back, I laced up my New Balance and headed out...choosing to step up the hill work, as distance was the farthest thing from my mind at that moment. Did not do badly, if I do say so myself.

I have learned that my new New Balance shoes are not working for me. Last Sunday's run resulted in a nasty right foot blister. Seems as though my arches are NOT equally low. More so to starboard. My shoes are not forgiving. It's back to Sports Basement for a new pair of the Beast by Brooks on Sunday.

Just in case you're wondering, when it comes to the other marathons I'm considering for next year, here's the short list. Nine will be chosen. Rock and Roll San Diego, Salt Lake City, Eugene, Avenue of the Giants, San Francisco, Berlin, New Mexico, Napa Valley, Little Rock, Connemarathon (Ireland), Big Sur, Belfast, Prague, Grandma's (MN), Rio (Brazil), Missoula, Edmonton, Helsinki, Medoc (France), Lake Tahoe, Portland (OR), Twin Cities (MN), Chicago, Long Beach, Toronto, Marines (DC...the then-residence of President Barack Obama!), Dublin (Ireland), Seattle, San Sebastian (Spain).

Note to marathon organizers. Free admission could influence my final choices. I'm just saying.

Sunday, 2 November 2008



Running marathons should not be about the shirt. I get that. And I really don't obsess about them. But, while doing this morning's 14 mile training jaunt along the cloud-shrouded Berkeley/Emeryville shoreline, somehow my mind started rattling off the problems I have had just getting the souvenir shirts I've paid for in a few races. With a dozen races being planned for the next dozen months, I'd like to think that most of the event organizers will get it right. Holding my breath, not.

The first time it happened that it really disappointed me was the Loch Ness Marathon in 2004. To this day I think this marathon has the coolest marketing picture for a race, and, at least in 2004, it was on the shirt. It's a running shoe laced to represent Nessie, the monster in the lake. They completely ran out of shirts by the time I crept across the line. And they were none too worried about making any excuses about not printing enough. Did they not know I was coming? I contacted the organizers after getting home, and they sent me a number of full size prints of the logo, which was nice of them. But I really did want THAT shirt.

The next time there was a shirt snafu was just a few months ago. I ordered an XL from the folks at the New Mexico Marathon, despite the fact that I have lost nearly 20 pounds since I started running. If my shirts are anywhere near snug I won't wear them. Then a few weeks before the race in Albuquerque, the organizers sent out an email informing us that the shirts they were having made up were running a bit on the big side and giving us the chance to change our size request. I took the bait and changed to Large, please. Race day comes and my Large is by no means a Large. It's a medium, to be sure. Not for me, big guy. I emailed them and requested a switch. No response.

Thinking I'd learned my lessson, when it came time to order my Chicago Marathon shirt, I picked XL again, feeling fairly confident in my selection. Picked up my shirt at the Expo on pre-race Friday, got it back to my motel and took a look at it. Had I had a couple of poles with me I could have used it as a tent and saved the lodging costs for the next three days! Decided I'd trek back into downtown Chitown to attempt a trade the following morning. The volunteer behind the t-shirt counter shot my request right out of the sky, practically before I'd made it. She said all the shirts were accounted for and there were just enough for everyone if they took the size they ordered. I donated my shirt back to the cause...and bought one that I am wearing as I write this. Turns out, of the 45,ooo or so people who signed up for the race, only about 33,ooo showed up. Could that mean there are about 12,000 shirts that were never picked up? Might there have been a Large in there for this old dude from California? You do the math.

So, here's what I'm hoping for at CIM, Carlsbad and Austin (so far)......oh, never mind.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008



Setting up this new challenge is moving far more quickly than I ever have on a marathon race course.

Shortly after barely completing Chicago earlier this month I signed up for the Carlsbad Marathon, north of San Diego. Having survived the heat of Chicagoland, perhaps I was drawn to the January race because I was in serious need of some cool ocean breezes. Little did I know it would end up being #2 in my 12 race series. Since then I have set the previously-mentioned CIM/Sacramento as the kick-off event.

Today, I nailed down #3, which is of course assuming I survive the previous two, still able to put one foot in front of the other. Turns out February is not chock-full of stellar marathon options. Only a handful fell within my acceptable time frame.

I could have chosen Valencia, Spain, which is running its marathon in the middle of the month. Trouble is I'm already going to Valencia in August of next year on my way to La Tomatina in nearby Bunol. I love to travel, but two transatlantic flights to Spain? I may be nuts, but I'm not sadistic.

The massive Los Angeles Marathon is on the 16th...but it's LA, for heaven's sake. The organizers set up a pre-run bike ride over the marathon course that I rode with a friend a few years ago. I swore then I'd never run LA. I can hardly imagine an uglier course, and I've seen a few.

That left...Austin. A very cool place to test my "limits", I'm thinking. So I've signed up for the run in the Lone Star State capital on February 15th, three weeks after Carlsbad.

I can only afford to do it because I have lots of airline rewards miles thanks to Amex...and I've recently read that it's a good idea to cash them in as soon as you acquire enough for a plane ticket to somewhere you'd like to go. Seems some companies are closing their rewards programs without notice during these tough economic times, leaving people who thought they had lots of points to spend high and dry with no recourse. When it comes to budget travel I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, "my friends" (apologies to J.McCain).

Now I think I'll slow down a bit. It's always a bad idea for a marathon runner to start too fast. It comes back to bite you in your running shorts-clad behind. I'll continue to research my rest-of-the-year options but will not commit to anything else until I've finished Carlsbad, and recovered from it.

Gotta run!

Monday, 27 October 2008



Race Number One in my dirty dozen for the next twelve months will be Sacramento's California International Marathon on December 7th. It will be a repeat appearance but hopefully not a repeat performance.

The weather the first time I ran CIM was beautifully clear and crisp. No, "crisp" would not be the word. The word would be "frigid"! And me without gloves. I'll have them next time.

The course is notoriously fast, and I am sure many PRs are set here. I would imagine it's fertile ground for those hoping to qualify for Boston. Things were fine, other than the boredom of Fair Oaks Boulevard, until mile 17 when, I am sure, a competitor pulled a knitting needle from his/her fanny pack and shoved it through my right knee. Okay, it just felt like it. I would be setting no records this day, personal or otherwise.

The searing pain dogged me all the way in to the finish line, where my brother and his kids were waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for the Old Man to come cruising in. Instead, he wobbled across, swearing CIM was one race he would never run again. Never!

I'm going to try it again, believing I'm in much better shape now than I was then. I weigh about 15 pounds less than I did the first time. I've also completed 15 other marathons since then, so I think I've got the mental chops to handle the Fair Oaks Boulevard stretch, if not happily, at least without fighting it so much.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 26 October 2008


For the unitiated, I got the bug six or so years ago, when I signed up for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, more for the promised "free" trip to Vancouver than for the actual opportunity to punish myself, by choice, by "running" 26.2 miles. At the end of a rainy, chilly, 6+ hour showing on this stunningly beautiful city course, the only thing that came to mind, other than "where's the hot chicken soup" was..."That was it?" No way. I've GOT to do this again.

Since then I HAVE done it over...and over... and over...and over again. Marathon running has given me the opportunity to travel like never before. Somehow my dear wife understands, and lets me go, with hardly an expressed reservation. These jaunts, to places such as Dublin, Barcelona or Budapest, are not, for the most part, cheap...but they're pretty much all I do, other than work, most of the year. I spend hardly anything on regular clothes, but do have a drawer full of some really nice running togs. I don't skimp on running shoes, either.

Three of my greatest moments in life were centered on running marathons...first, when my stepdaughter agreed to run Portland with me back in 2003, and did, despite not having what one might call the best time in her life. The second was when my stepson and I set out from our Dublin, Ireland hotel room in October 2007 to run that city's awesome 26.2 mile course. We got separated at the very beginning, while hunting for porta-potties, and didn't meet up again prior to both arriving, triumphant and in serious need of a Guinness (or four), back at our digs. The third was just a couple of weeks ago, when my wife was waiting at the Chicago finish line, along with my stepdaughter, who ran with me for a bit before ducking out, for fear of being nabbed as a "bandit". The wife's kiss and the stepdaughter's high-fives were, it should be said, not to be missed.

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my next adventure. It's not for show. It's just because I am able. I've decided to try and do a race a month for the next year. My hope is that each run will be a marathon. I am honestly thrilled, almost everyday, that, as a 56 year old dude I can complete THE marathon. I so respect the distance, and the physical challenge it presents everytime I do it. I hate DOING it mostly...but at the finish it IS worth it. Even more than the physical challenge, though, the fact that I can tame the mental part of it, again and again, is something I want to experience for as long as I can.

I have had varied responses to my latest aspiration, mostly supportive. My friend and co-worker Mark had the best one, for my money...when I told him I'd signed up for California International Marathon in Sacramento in December and Carlsbad in January....he just calmly said..."That's what you do".