Friday, 25 December 2009

CHRISTMAS RUN

For Christmas I gave myself....a little run around The City.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/20976579

I was going to go when it was still dark but then decided I wanted to make this eight miler all about the sights. So, I waited til first light, so I could take some "snaps".

It started at the Port of San Francisco's Ferry Building. Wanted to duck in there for one last stop for Mother Nature...but dang if it wasn't all locked up. As I was about to set out I noticed a sprig of misteltoe dangling from an overhead wire.













Hung out there for about 30 seconds, hoping I might get lucky...then realized I could probably hang for 4 or 5 hours, or days, with similar, disheartening results...so I set off, heading west, up the city's main drag, Market Street.
Didn't take long to realize that there were quite a few homeless folk out and about in the early morning chill. I'm guessing it seemed like a lot because their presence was not diluted by the normal workday masses. Most of those people were surely warm and full and being hugged. Not the order of the day on Market.

Where Powell Street and Market join in a "T", the city's famous mobile landmarks wait to carry giddy tourists to the top of Nob Hill.












There were three "gripmen" here, waiting for their turns to pull into place. Each of them was either talking on their cellphones or texting someone. In a few short minutes they'd be ringing their bells as they glided past Union Square. I was headed there...on foot.














Just before Union Square the temptation was strong to duck into the Gold Rush for a quick Irish Coffee...












Steadfastly, I resisted.
From here it was back to Market, with City Hall in mind. Before I got there, though, I cruised through United Nations Plaza and up to the city's old main library. Today it was not about books...it was about scores of needy people digging through piles and piles of free clothes. They were hoping to find warmth in there...somewhere.












This scene played out just a stone's throw from one of the most opulent buildings in the city...











...as a dedicated band of devotees to someone/something bigger than themselves performed their morning ablutions in the plaza.












One of my morning rituals is the homage I pay to the Blue Bottle Coffee Company. Quite simply put...it's the best. One of the company's few outlets is a kiosk, tucked away on Linden, in the Hayes Valley area of the city, behind City Hall. I knew it was probably not open...and I was right.












How dare they take the day off! That's okay, really. I didn't have time to stop for a cup. I had to climb up Gough Street and then down Geary to take a pic of St. Mary's Cathedral, known to some locals as the "pregnant Maytag".














After a couple more blocks of climbing (walking!) I tumbled down Gough towards the waterfront. As I hit Fort Mason I was hit with a view of the iconic Golden Gate...












Not the best picture ever...but, hey...you've seen it a bazillion times...used your imagination, huh?

With only a couple miles to go to where I'd parked my car, I prepared my senses for the tastiest part of the run. As I headed into the Fisherman's Wharf area, I passed the California Shellfish Company. In its window, a couple of carolers...















After this it was Fisherman's Wharf proper...complete with fresh crab...














...and the cocktail version...










...and the intoxicating sourdough drift from the Boudin bakery!

Before heading into the home stretch, in other words, the last mile, I tooled around Pier 39, perhaps most famous for the colony of sea lions often seen, and heard there, basking in the sunshine. Plenty of sun there this morning but no sea lions. I guess even they go home for the holidays.
I hope you got to be home for the seasonal festivities, and that your celebrations were joyous and your personal encounters were sweet.
Gotta run!


Monday, 7 December 2009

IT'S A WRAP

Over the past 12 months I have learned, questioned, hurt, and laughed a lot. I beat myself down at times, pumped myself up at others, was inspired by many, encouraged a few, sealed some lasting friendships, and was honored to witness the victories of many I'll never see again. I have also launched some new dreams, some of them my own. Overall the challenge was about pacing, places...and people. More on all that later. THIS post is my Santa Barbara International Marathon report.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/20216079

I drove the course early Saturday morning, and was thrilled to confirm, I thought, the pre-race publicity celebrating its many flat bits, downhills, and the relatively few climbs. My mind began racing with thoughts of breaking 5:00 hours as I wrapped up the 12/12...just as I'd started it back in Sacramento, at CIM, in December 2008.


Race day morning began at 3:45. There was a quick wake-up shower to take, and a bus to the starting line in Goleta, to catch. I needed to pick up my friend, John, on the way. I was also banking on the original Sambos (yes, there is still ONE!) to be open so I could secure a much-needed cup of coffee. I got John. Didn't get the joe.


The race was supposed to start at 6:30. We got to the starting area, a local elementary school, a touch after 5. It was crazy cold, but a few of the rooms were opened up, among them the library with cute little books and cute little chairs. I got one of the chairs before John did.













Those rooms were only slightly warmer than the outside, but the shelter was welcomed. Shortly after 6 the word came down that the start would be delayed, due to an accident on the nearby freeway. We finally blasted across the start line at 7, and headed out for the initial 12 mile loop, lined with vineyards, lemon groves and houses. I was pleased to have brought my cheapo gloves. I don't mind my legs begin cold...but hands are another story.

Most of the loop WAS downhill or flat. That's good. What I didn't like was seeing sights at the start of the loop that I knew I'd be seeing again in 8 miles or so. Mentally, a bit of a challenge. It's for that reason that I am not a big fan of out-and-back courses. I'm pretty much a point-to-point guy, even though that often requires an early morning bus to the start.

I hit the 13.1 mile point, just after finishing the loop, at 2:29. Felt okay about that, as I was under the misconception that most of the rest of the course was downhill. I believed the worst bits were behind me, and was now entertaining thoughts of negative splits.

Just before mile 17 we finally turned off Cathedral Oaks Road (which we'd been on for a total of 10 miles by this time) and headed down Turnpike Road toward the ocean. However, despite it being Santa Barbara, we would not see the Pacific from this course until the last two miles. I was enjoying a nice downhill bit when the 17 marker appeared. Normally I stop here and unwrap my secret (not so secret anymore, I'll admit) weapon...the English Mars bar. I delayed that though for nearly a mile this time, to take advantage of the gravitional pull. The payoff was worth the wait.

Just after mile 18 we turned south, off the street and onto a two mile section of bike path. According to my Garmin I was holding steady with a pace that did not exclude the possibility of sub 5:00. As I waited for the Mars bar boost to kick in, I was beginning to believe I had this thing in the bag. I did have one worry though. For the past couple of weeks I have been experiencing some intermittent pain in my left heel and arch. I was frightened about the possible onset of plantar fasciitis. I had not felt that pain this morning until here. It was mild at this point so I pressed on, hoping this little annoyance would not derail the day.

After the bike path we hit Modoc Road. When I drove the course I marked this spot in my head as the beginning of the end, so I was thrilled to see the Modoc street sign. The next big turn was onto Las Positas, and its very welcome descent. What's not so welcome is the biggest hill of the course, that begins at the bottom of Los Positas and Cliff Drive, and climbs up to mile 24. My Garmin indicated that I still had sub 5, or very close to it, in sight, if I could just maintain my pace. My left heel and arch were conspiring against me, though. They'd obviously decided they'd had enough and wanted to go home. I was afraid that if I didn't concede on a few of my demands they'd filibuster, ending all negotiations. Apparently, they are Blue Dog Democrats.

The top of the hill offered a Pacific vista that seemed to put the last few hours of hard work, strategizing, pain and pleasure into perspective. The next two miles, along Shoreline Drive, were the last two miles of the 12 in 12. I was very happy to tumble down them, although I am sure the expression on my face would not have given that away...until I crossed the finish line.

My friend, John, was there at the end, cheering me in. He'd finished in 4:40. He'd hoped for faster, especially since I'd told him that I thought the course would be "almost easy". Okay, I was wrong. But he kicked butt. Shortly after getting my medal, my friend Bob found us. He'd come over from Tokyo with visions of a 3:04 finish in his head. Sadly (HA!), he was only able to manage a 3:09. He won his 60-64 age group!













More in these guys later. Suffice it to say...they are stars.

My official course time was 5:19...but my Garmin says 5:13. I'm going with Garmin.

The post-race celebrations included a jacuzzi at John's motel, pizza, fish tacos, beers and martinis at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, before heading back to my motel where I was asleep by 7pm.

Oh, by the way. I finally got my first cup of coffee for the day...at 2:30 in the afternoon! Damn, that was good.

Gotta run!.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

HOLY MOLY!











Don't know about you...but I don't often have days like yesterday. I'm thinking most of us wouldn't mind more of them.

About 9 months ago I was totally blown away when the Boston-based Goon Squad Runners Club took me into the fold...despite the fact that I live (and run) about three thousand miles away from the organization's base of operations. These folks have some fun running...and other stuff. Beer is a staple. Need I say more?

All day I was anticipating a call from the GSR, which was holding its first annual awards ceremony last night. Word was they wanted to cheer me on, over the phone, to the completion of my 12 in 12 challenge this weekend in Santa Barbara. Said call came just after 5:30pm. It was short...and unexpectedly sweet.

I am the honored recipient of the GSR's first-ever Craziest Goon of the Year award. Has something to do with being, in the estimation of the voters, the "craziest nut case..who runs out of control...does zillions of...races, marathons, ultras, etc." Truth be told, I run with some crazy control. My pacing charts from my Garmin bear that out. I have less control, admittedly, of my "enter" key finger...when it comes to signing up for future races. Five are scheduled for 2010...so far. Rest assured there will be more. And, my running clubmates can count on me to be there for the 2nd annual awards ceremony.

Enough? As if.

Then, just moments after the awards call from Boston, I got an e-mail from upstate New York. My veteran marathon friend, and advocate for all things JELLO, Laura, wanted to make sure I was not going to kill her...for passing my 12 in 12 story on to the PR folks at the Santa Barbara International Marathon. Despite my fairly frequent postings about my running routes and times, I'm really not one to shout a lot about what I'm doing. I know that, for some, the 12 in 12 may seem amazing. I also recognize that there are many...really...other runners who do much more.












Laura wanted to clear the way for me to meet up with the marathon folks this weekend. And, apparently, a writer there wants to talk to me on Saturday. I am more than happy to do that, especially if it allows me to get the word out that being a back-of-the-pack runner is okay. You elites have no idea what fun we're having back there, while you're having your post-race ice baths, massages and beers.

I have one day of work to do this week, then it's off to Santa Barbara. My motel is a block from the beach and there's a gym in town I can use for jacuzzi purposes before and after the event. I'm going to have dinner Saturday night with my friend Bob, who's coming over from Tokyo to run and my other friend, John, who's from just down the road. Good times about to commence. Crazy.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

BANKING ON MYTH

There's a belief among some runners that if your last training run before your marathon sucks...it's a sign that you're going to have a good race on event day. Oh, please, running gods...make it true.

I have had a crazy work schedule of late, making it hard for me to find the time to get my last long training run for the Santa Barbara International Marathon in. In a last ditch effort to accomplish same, this morning I headed out for a 14-miler. I did 3 miles yesterday on the dreadmill, and apparently that gym session left me with little reserves for the task at hand.













The weather was beautiful. Crisp and cool, not a cloud to be seen over San Francisco Bay.


Today's course was from my house, through Richmond to the Starbucks in Pt. Richmond, and back. I bundled up, with running beanie, windbreaker, gloves, and my armband radio, tuned to the Stephanie Miller Show.

It's not uncommon for my legs to not be into a run right off...or my mind to take some coaxing to really get on board. This morning both were betraying me. It took about 4 miles til my legs actually seemed to completely give in to my intention to run. They went along somewhat happily until I got to the Starbucks, where I decided to grab a quick coffee, hoping it would provide the boost I needed to get home. Once I hit the road again, the legs just never regained their momentum. It was like pushing cement pillars uphill. On top of that, my head could think of nothing but being finished.

Somehow, I ground it out. Seriously, I do not know how. At the end I could not believe that in just another week and a half I'm going to do what I did today AND another 12 miles. I could not imagine going another 12 feet today.

So, I have posted 17 miles in the last two days. It's my custom to put in a 20 miler two weeks before the marathon. I hope this week's efforts suffice for December 6th, when the 12 in 12 winds up.

Gotta run!



Wednesday, 18 November 2009

DORK!

A customer came in to my bike shop today in search of a stem that would allow him to sit up higher than he is now, in an effort to relieve some of the neck/back pain he experiences after almost every ride he takes. Remember, we're talking about battling actual pain here. I pointed him in the direction of our wall-o-stems and he found one that fit the bill. He showed it to me, I confirmed it should do what he wanted it to, then he waffled. He was most worried about what other cyclists would say about the stem, as he has a "really nice" bike and this particular stem was "kinda dorky".

My stepson and I went on a bike ride together on Monday of this week. It must be said here that I am what some have called a "gearhead". I have all the bells and whistles...sweat-wicking jerseys, cool new Lake shoes, a Garmin 305 with cadence sensor, a beautiful, stealthy matt-black Giant OCR machine, and credit cards for easy access to post-ride refreshment. The boy chooses to ride, despite the fact that I have built him a sleek, similar-to-mine, stealthy, aluminum bicycle, an old, steel Univega 12 speed, that doesn't even have a "granny gear" that would give him, at least, the option of going uphill without pushing his heartbeat into the "danger, danger, Will Robinson" zone. He also rides in jeans, a button-up regular shirt, and battered running shoes. To other "serious" cyclists, he probably looks like a "dork".

The difference between the two is that...only one of them gives a flyin' rat's patooty about the dork label. This got me to thinking about those of us who run...long...and slow.

Perhaps you read it. There was a recent article in the New York Times about whether or not us "plodders" belong in official marathon events. For your perusal, that stoopid piece of drivel is here. I have toyed with responding to this piece of crap but, thankfully, do not have to. My friend Jewelz has done so, with eloquence. I can add nothing more to what she has posted here...after she mastered the NYC Marathon course, slowly...but SURELY, earlier this month. Then, out of the blue, my friend Kari struck similar notes in her most recent blog post, when she spoke of just getting out there when you feel like... just getting out there.

The way this stuff played out? My bike shop customer ended up buying his "dorky" stem. Despite my near-pathological aversion to ever being called a "salesman", I convinced him to take this health-improving little piece of hardware home for his own physical good. I thoroughly expect a "thumbs up" report from him soon, despite of what his "friends" may say. My stepson pretty much mapped out our ride course on Monday, and it included some serious hills. Despite my "gear", he kicked my butt. I am glad he waited for me at the top. Because he did, I sprang for the "afters" .


And then, there's this. If anyone of you out there is dreaming of running a marathon, but thinking you just can't commit, because you'll be slow, or your friends or family, or both, won't get it, or they'll think you're NUTZ...or that you won't be considered a serious runner because you walked a bit, or took a bit "too long", NONE OF THAT MATTERS.


For those of you training for your first marathon (my favourite people on the planet)...good on 'ya! It's a big deal, no matter how long you take. It's about the distance, and your resolve...not about the time. It's NOT about looking "cool" when you cross the finish line. You probably won't. I never have.

Gotta run!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

LONG-TRAIN-RUNNING

A running friend asked me recently how I do so many marathons without burning out. She wondered how all the training that goes into the effort doesn't make me crazy. She's no stranger to the game, having run five mararathons herself so far, with three more scheduled for the next month or so. However, for some reason, she wondered how I handle it all. So...here, for the first time ever, anywhere...here...are my "secrets".

#1. Tame Your Goals

The first marathon I ran was Vancouver, BC, in 2003. I took it to heart when our National AIDS Marathon Training Program coaches told us that the goal for first timers should be to do nothing more than finish. If my fading memory serves, I finished that bad boy in something over 6:30. It was not fun. It was cold and rainy. I had never felt such pain. But, after crossing beneath the finish banner, where my sweet wife and hot soup were waiting, my first thought was, "What's next?" I had achieved all that I had come to do. There was no beating myself up because of my time. I still don't beat myself about time. Would I like to be faster? Sure. Do I stress about it? Not for a minute. My marathon goal remains today what was back then, 30 marathons ago. Finish.

#2. Respect the Distance

Ever since Vancouver I have had a reverence for the sheer majesty of the 26.2. In my mind, the distance is always in charge. I will never "beat" it. My goal has been to manage my experience over the distance to the best of my ability. That ability, by the way, may be way different on event day than it was during training. Over time I have learned to live with that disparity when it makes itself known. Some days I'm just a little bit better at doing that than other days. I go into every race knowing that this is the one that could kick my ass. Instead of trying to lash out first, I try to make friends with the task at hand, and ease myself through it. I have gotten much more adept at managing my races, and going with the flow. However, doing so has never, not even once, been anything remotely close to easy.

#3 Train Smart

I know so many runners who simply have to get out there practically every day. For me, that's just not practical. The AIDS Marathon folks started me out at two maintenance runs and one long run a week. I have hardly ever run more than that. I may have run four days a week twice in nearly eight years of training. Over that time I have never had a serious injury. I have never had to take one day off because of excruciating pain. Honestly, I would like to run more. There are times I see other runners running and I wish I was running, too. There are many days there's nothing I'd rather do than run. I am willing to set those days aside in hopes of just being able to run until I'm 100.

#4 Run Your Own Race

The hardest part of doing this is when everyone else in your race is leaving you behind. I know this because it happens to me every time I run a marathon. Despite the warnings from all the experts, the temptation to go out too fast when the starting gun sounds, because everyone else is doing it, is monumental. I, however, have really learned how NOT to do this. I will admit it is difficult to convince myself EVERY time that I will be happy for my choice later. A lot later. But, it has ALWAYS proven itself out. I cannot recall the last race I ran in which more people passed me over the last six miles than I passed by. It's a feeling worth waiting for...and a far better feeling than most of the speed demons of 20 miles ago are experiencing.

#5 Go a Little Crazy

The previous "secrets" are long on control. This one is not. I dream a lot about where I might run next. I am slightly, but only slightly, embarrassed by how much time I spend doing just that. I spend way too much time online, searching for destination races for myself, and keeping up with where other runners are running, for inspiration. I find nothing more motivating than paying the registration fee for another event. I hate paying for a race I don't run. Once I've paid my money, there's a 99% chance I'm gonna be there. I get an adrenaline rush when I score cheap airfare, hotel room, hostel bed, and/or car rental. To that end, I subscribe to a long list of services that let me know when there are savings to be snagged. I snag as many as I can.

So. This is just how I handle this marathon thing. I don't claim to be a coach. I am thrilled that some find inspiration in what I've done so far. If anything I've left here strikes a chord with you, I am grateful for that. Hoping to pay forward the inspiration I have drawn from so many.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

THE TROUBLE WITH DAYS OFF...

...is that I spend most of them dreaming about where I'd like to run next.

It's a combination of loving living out of my suitcase (I've always wanted to be a flight attendant. Really!), wanting to fill my head with as many amazing sights and stories as I can in the 2nd half of my life, and my new found joy, meeting up with other distance runners. Oh, yeah...and the whole actually running thing. I like that, too...except on race day mornings, when I relentlessly question my own sanity.

As I prepare to wind things up on the 12 in 12 in 5 weeks in Santa Barbara, I have already become kind of antsy about 2010. I need goals. Until yesterday's day off, I had tentatively planned only four marathons for next year. I say tentatively because of current economic times. Part of the new challenge will be just how to work the airfare thing, for May's trip to Trieste and Prague and October's to Athens. One of those tickets will be funded largely by Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles. That gets me to London. From there it's a hop-skip-and-budget airline-jump to Italy. Then back to London from Prague, via another cheapo carrier, and back to SFO via Virgin. Greece is going to be a whole other kettle of fish. I might actually have to "go retail".

That's three of next year's races. The fourth is the brand new Oakland Marathon, on March 28th. Until they came up with this one I considered San Francisco my hometown marathon. But Oakland's practically next door, so I've gotta do it. I've already run most of the course while training for other events. Most of the rest of it I've done on my bike.

Yesterday I added the fifth.

Back in March 2004 I travelled to Los Angeles with a good friend. We threw our bikes in the back of his big red truck and headed south to do the Acura LA Bike Tour. It's when the organizers of the LA Marathon allow cyclists to ride the marathon route before the runners. It was a great bike ride, but, after completing it I swore I would NEVER run LA. It was one ugly, ugly course. Sorry, guys...but, I speak truth here. Yesterday I ate my words. They have changed the course. It now runs from Dodger Stadium to the beach in Santa Monica. I think I can deal with that. The new LA Marathon is set for March 21st...the week before Oakland.

I've done back-to-back marathons once before...this year's Salt Lake City and Big Sur. Next year's Trieste and Prague will be one week apart. I think I'll be okay with LA and Oakland...especially since Oakland will require no travel.

Starting to feel like I may have enough planned for 2010, but you never know. If I spend enough time searching online for other events, with cheap red wine by my side, I may just press the "enter now" key another couple of times.

Gotta run!


Monday, 26 October 2009

KICKED MY BUTT...AND EATING MY HAT

This morning after grocery shopping I had to carry the goody bags up the 29 steps that lead to my apartment. While making that climb I had to pause for a moment...to thank my legs for still doing what they were meant to do. I put them through a grueling test yesterday morning, namely the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon and, admittedly, there were moments then that I was unsure they'd be able to cut the mustard.

The organizers like to tout the SVM as a flat and fast course. All I will say on the subject is...take a look at the elevation chart from my Garmin readout after the race...and you tell me if that's flat...or not!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/17096081#

I believed the pre-race hype, thinking I might stand a good chance of a new PR here. It was not to be.

Here is where I eat my hat. Prior to the race I bitched (technically different than whining, although don't press me for the distinctions) a bit about San Jose not really being my favourite place to run because of its lack of up-to-snuff scenic beauty. Now I will concede this was an attractive course, pretty much from start to finish (it was an out-and-back so accomplishing that was only half as difficult as it would have been if it was a point to point or a loop). San Jose's Willow Glen district is a delightful residential area, blessed with near-bucolic tree-lined streets. After about mile 5 we left those streets and took to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, following, as you have figured out, the LG Creek. This was pretty much the way it was...as we looped around Los Gatos High School's track and made our way back to the outskirts of Willow Glen. It reminded me a lot of last month's Rochester Marathon course that paralleled the historic and gorgeous Erie Canal. There was just a bit too much canal then...and a bit too much creek yesterday. It's sort of like running the Napa Valley Marathon, past vineyard after vineyard after vineyard after...well, at some point I say "Enough with the vineyards!! Pour me some damn wine!"

While working on the first 13.1 miles of the course I had a sneaking suspicion that I was, for the most part, climbing. Not what I had expected. Finished the first half at the high school in 2:29. Was hoping for more like 2:18-2:20.

Upon leaving the jubilant half marathoners back at their finish party, those of us goofy enough to choose to run all the way back to San Jose, when there were buses available at the school, were confronted with the biggest hill of the course so far. This is also when we climbed out of the near-constant shade and into the glaring sunshine. This is late October, right? Should it really be in the mid-to-upper 70s? Serious?

Having figured out that the first half was nothing but a climb I mistakenly decided that, because the 26.2 course was an out-and-back, the back part would now be downhill. Perhaps I could make up some time and turn in a negative split and maybe even break the 5:00 barrier again. This is where the course designers threw us for a little loop, again. Even though we were indeed retracing many of our steps, the course took us UP some new, steep, long hills. Not a lot. Just enough to dispell hopes of a PR.

Mr. DooDoo Head started talking to me somewhere along here. He's the guy in my head that doesn't think I can finish these things in times like these...or ever, actually. (I co-opted his name from my young friend, Evan Williams, in LeRoy, New York. Seems he has a Mr. DooDoo Head, too. Press on, young man, DDH does NOT get to win!).

From about mile 18 to 21, thoughts of beers and sausages danced in my head. I cast them asunder after that, realizing that if I were to dump out now I'd have to run two marathons by December 7th to successfully finish the 12 in 12, and I'd rather finish this one and have only ONE left. Geared down from my 4:1 run/walk intervals to 3:1, sucked it all up, and pounded it out.

Finished the 2nd half in 2:45...having gone from 5.3 mph average in the first half to 4.8 in the second.

There were free fish tacos, rice and beans at the end. That was awesome. The finishing medal was a bit disappointing. How about putting a little thought into it, huh?








Afterall...this is what my fellow Goon, Mad Dog, got for running the Marine Corps Marathon the same morning...








Drove the 50 miles home in some major pain...but luckily, not injured. Just dog-tired. Had a hour long hottub, followed by margaritas and bed at 6pm. Slept eleven glorious hours. Feeling almost human again. Time now to map out strategies for Santa Barbara International Marathon in six weeks...and the celebrations to follow.

BTW...like my new socks?

Gotta run!

Monday, 19 October 2009

THANKS! I NEEDED THAT.

I will be honest. I have not been looking forward to this Sunday's Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon.

Physically, I feel great, now that I've had a couple of days to rest up from Hell Week last week at work. Mentally, I'm thinking I'm kind of in control of most of those faculties, despite a slight increase in what some have called "senior moments". It's not even that I'm tiring of running marathons, because I am not, even though the SVM will be #30 overall and the 11th since last December. Trouble is, this weekend's event is in San Jose. California. Not, sadly, Costa Rica.

With apologies to friends and others with whom I am acquainted who happily call the Bay Area's largest city "home"...I'm just not fond of the place. I've lived in California for long enough (since 1967) that I remember when San Jose was pretty much a bigger version of Fresno...or Phoenix, Junior. Since taking part in marathons in such inspiringly beautiful places as Budapest, Barcelona, Seattle and Salt Lake City, I've become somewhat of an eye-candy addict. Consider next year's schedule, so far. Trieste, Prague, and Athens.

The reason I signed up for SVM, honestly, was because it fit in my 12 in 12 schedule...as did another marathon, in the aforementioned Fresno. Fresno's farther away, and my travel budget has been, shall we say, "challenged" a bit, of late. So, San Jose, got the reluctant nod.
Having copped to all that...it's probably no surprise that I have been in serious need of inspiration. With just a handful of days to go til I line up on the starting line again, I will concede, I have found it.

Last weekend, like most October weekends, was chock-full of marathon opportunities. Denver, Toronto, Duke City (ABQ), Kansas City, the Baystate, Amsterdam...and right here in the Bay Area, with the Nike Women's Marathon, San Francisco, there was no shortage of choices. However, I had to work. Fortunately, as I follow/friend/tweet/Facebook/Flork/DailyMile /Just Finish hundreds of other runners online, there were dozens of people I "know" who were free to run. It was to them I turned for "spark" for my upcoming endevour.

Upon getting home Sunday evening I immediately began searching for post-race information. Found out that a few had posted new PR's...while a few others had narrowly missed out on their's. Read amazing stories about half marathoners who travelled far, not sure they were going to cut the mustard, who proudly pulled it out in the end. Also read of fellow running club members kicking butt (as they always seem to do!) and posting times I will not even allow my mind to entertain as remote possibilities. Read of people stunning themselves with unexpected BQ's. Also found written evidence of people "blowing up" at mile 20, but pressing on, crossing the finish line in tears...of pain...and joy. Understandably, inspirational.

I also found a few reports of runners who came up short, I hasten to say, THIS TIME, who did not finish, or achieve their lofty goals. To those who DNFed...believe me...I feel your pain. I did that, after travelling thousands of miles to run Budapest. It remains a painful thorn in my side today. I will, however, go back, and tame that course, one day. Instead of beating myself up with that "failure", I now relish the chance to return and set the record straight. To those with goals you did not meet, believe me, there are simply days when, like "sh#t happens", "marathons happen"...and they get to win. I've run in 29 of these things, never knowing until about mile 22-24 whether or not I was going to finish. There's always another marathon to run, if you're game.

I am ready now to lace up my Brooks Beasts this Sunday, spurred on by those of you who got out there and did it, regardless of the outcome, last weekend. Cheers.

San Jose, here I come. Just hope I know the way!

Gotta run!

Monday, 12 October 2009

VFF UPDATE








Earlier today I informed the Twitter and Facebook worlds that I was not planning to run today at all. Last week at work was especially taxing. It included an outdoor cycling event Saturday that kept me on my feet for 12 hours. Then I worked Sunday. Had "decided" I was not going to run, and would instead let my lower extremeties recover more today from last week's toiling ..until I heard the weather forecast for tomorrow. The Bay Area is expecting, what the weather-goofs call , "remnants of three Pacific typhoons"to converge upon our little slice of heaven...bringing upwards of 2-6 inches of rain in one day. Now, I will say, I don't really mind running in rain...but not typhoon remnants!

I was also thinking my left foot needed, despite the prospect of 26.2 miles on October 25th (Silicon Valley Marathon), a little extra time off from running. Early last week I tried to get 10 miles in in my Vibram Five Fingers...but bowed out at 8.5 because of a nagging little pain in the ball of my left foot. I decided this morning, after hearing the weather forecast for tomorrow, and a quick appraisal of my left foot's condition, that today would have to be the day to get out there.

Was first going to do it in the trusty Brooks Beasts, as that's what I'll be running the marathon in San Jose in, but, based on how good it has been feeling to run in the VFF's, decided today would be a good one to try for a 10 miler again.

Set off at about 10:30am, under grey, cloudy, there's-soon-gonna-be-a-kick-ass-storm-here clouds. Perfect temps. The clouds were so thick the Garmin 305 struggled a bit to latch on the satellites. Started to run before it had actually accomplished that mission, and started the timer, too. About a half mile in, everything lined up just right.

The run, in short, was a total joy. Running through the Berkeley Lagoon area, down to the Emeryville Marina, and then back home along the waterfront....validated my love of running here.



I did 10 miles in 1:52:56. The first five took 56:39....the second, 56:15. Negative splits! Nice. Mr. Garmin says I burned nearly 1400 calories...and my bathroom scale says I'm under 180 again...finally.

I really wish I could dump the running shoes for good, but, as much fun as today's run was, I don't think I could have done more than 10 in the VFFs just yet. Still taking it slow. Santa Barbara Marathon is the first weekend in December. I'm thinking that may even be too soon for my first VFF marathon. Stay tuned.
Currently having a little taste of Laphroaig Single Malt. Medicinal, you understand.

Gotta run!




Friday, 2 October 2009

BLIMP SIGHTING ON ST. JOHN'S BRIDGE...


WINDING DOWN...SHAPING UP

Oh, wait! That's me in that picture up there, three years ago this weekend, when I did my second running of the Portland Marathon. What was I thinking? Did I really think this was an image I'd want to savour to the point where I paid upwards of $30 for the print? Apparently.

Found the photo in a shoebox in the dark recesses of my closet today. I was looking back over the last seven-and-a-half years of running, as I count down (or is it up?) to the penultimate race in my 12 months/12 marathons thing. It's just over three weeks til the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon. Number 11 in the challenge.

At the time, back in 2006, I had no clue I was so, shall we say, substantial. Portland was marathon 13. Since then I have done 16 more. I've shed somewhere around 20 -25 pounds of fat and, quite literally, found a new take on life. It's hard to even remember what I thought about before I started running. Now, it seems, marathoning touches most of what I do and love.

While the physical benefits have surely been welcome, what's most amazing to me have been the social rewards. Outside of my current band of running friends, I have somewhat of a rep as a bit of a grouch. I have learned, over the past couple of years especially, that that was mostly about me and my tainted take on things. It was not about the greater reality. Turns out, there are far more people I'd like to know than not, and I have met many of them this year. They have expressed continued interest in the 12 in 12 effort, and have been kind enough to provide much-needed inspiration, through their own efforts and achievements, along with their encouragement of mine.

I have gone on training runs with a handful of people, primarily because I do this run/walk thing and I don't like holding people back who want to run faster than me. There have been a few who've slowed themselves down to run with me and put up with my intervals. You know who you are. Thanks. I have loved every step of those runs, the conversations, and the beers in the trunk of the car at the end.

Most of the marathons I've done have been races where I knew no one else. A few of them, especially this year, have been events attended by people I've met online (Daily Mile, Twitter, Just Finish, Facebook, or through their own blogs or this one). Almost every one of those folks is faster than me, so we did not get to run together. But we did meet up before and/or after, and shared some amazing moments. You know who you are. Salut!

Now, as the 12 in 12 is nearly over, I have begun planning next year's adventures. I need to do that to fend off boredom. I will not be able to travel as often in 2010 as I did this year, but the journeys will be to more distant shores. The 12 in 12 was planned by me, based mostly, although not entirely, on what races were available in certain months and in places where airfares and hotels were, at least, almost affordable. My trip to Rochester, the noteable exception. That one was about the people. All of next year's trips will be people-driven. I am developing what I hope are life-long friendships with people in Italy, the Czech Republic and Greece. Therefore, my current schedule calls for marathon visits to Trieste, Prague and Athens. Here in California, I will be running the inaugural Oakland Marathon, where I expect to see all my Bay Area buds...at the starting line, and at the post-race celebration(s).

Lastly, but not "leastly"...I must say thanks to my family for being there during all this marathon insanity. I think every one of my family members has at least muttered to themselves, if not directly to me, that I was/am nuts. But no one's ever stood in the way or said "you won't make it".

My sweet wife has spent many a weekend alone while I've been off running somewhere, from Tucson to Scotland, from Budapest to Seattle. She's even come along, to Vancouver, Salt Lake City and Chicago, despite not being much of a traveler. Seeing her at the finish line each of those times was the best.

The same goes for my brother. He's taken time off to spend a couple marathon weekends with me. There's nothing better than that. He and his family have been there to welcome me at the CIM finish line in Sacramento twice. Amazing moments. Good times.

To my stepkids, both of whom have trained for and run a marathon with me. I knew you could do it. But that applies to almost anything you put your minds to. Thanks for coming along.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

AND THEN...THERE WERE TWO

Ever have one of those days when everything was golden? Well, good for you. I just had FIVE of them, in a row. HA! Thinking my karma bank account may now be overdrawn.


If you're here to find out how I fared in the Rochester Marathon last Sunday, you'll likely know that it was #10 in my year-long effort to run the distance a dozen times in as many months. I finished, in 5:10, and in really fine fettle. Had there been dancing at our awesome after-race picnic, and someone had asked me to boogie, I would have been physically able...except that boogying is not something I even remotely know how to do. If you need more numbers or details on how I did in the event, click here..

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/13302919

Race weekend began with my flight from SFO to PHX, and the second leg from PHX to BUF. The journey was uneventful until its very end, when I caught sight of Laura, my friend from LeRoy, New York, who'd come to meet up with me for the first time since we started chatting online earlier this year. She was about to run her second marathon of the year. I happened upon her and her BFF, Karoline, when I started following their collaborative blog about their Paris Marathon adventure. For those of you suspect of online communication as a way of planting the seeds of friendship let me say...do it. I struck it royally-rich on this one.

Laura left me alone with her XM/Sirius radio-equipped Saturn Vue at the Park-and-Ride lot outside LeRoy, and clear instructions on how to get to my Super8 Motel in Henrietta. Problem was I didn't read them, and ended up spending an unneccesary extra 45 minutes or so driving around suburban Rochester before turning in for the night. The next morning I drove what I could of the marathon course. 15 miles of it was along the historic (duh!) Erie Canal. This would prove to be an issue, later.

Later that day I met up with Laura for a quick trip to the marathon expo, where she'd pick up her race packet. I had retrieved mine already, prior to my course tour earlier in the day. After Laura got her's she gave me a thumbnail tour of the Rochester sights/sites, including the Eastman House, the cemetary where Susan B. Anthony is buried and, last, but seriously NOT least, the flagship Wegman's grocery store. This was foodie heaven...and then some. Imagine The Food Network, Disneyland, Las Vegas...corraled under one giant, awe-inspiring, roof.

The only pre-jouney request I made of my new friend, who is apparently notorious for over-planning, was that I must, simply must, eat at the Dinosaur BBQ joint. Laura set that up for Friday evening, with a whole crew of sweet locals and out-of-towners who were involved somehow, running or not, with those running the half or full marathon on the coming Sunday. My Chicago-based-lawyer, soon-to-be-married step-daughter, highly recommended the place. She was not wrong. She seldom is, in her own mind, or mine.

The evening was full of great running stories, including two about encounters with Hungarian police, free-flowing beers, and PR predictions/dreams for the weekend's big events. Russ, 3rd from the left, was about to run the first marathon of his young life. Judi, to his right, was doing 13.1, as was Jennifer, who's 3rd from the right. Laura's across from her, with her husband, Justin, to her left. Mark's the guy with the baseball cap, who provided our RV support center. Across from him is Melissa, Russ' wife, who was along to provide moral support. I left Dinosaur with a full tummy, and a warmed soul, happy to be where I was, sharing this experience with these very people.


Pre-race Saturday was designed (by Laura) to be a full, but no-stress, day. She could not have done a better job. We visited the Jell-O Museum. Jell-O was invented in LeRoy, and Laura's mom is the local historian and expert on all-things pudding. We got top-notch commentary from museum guide, Doris. We even got some gossip about 30-year Jell-O frontman, Bill Cosby. I'd share it with you, but then, as you know, I'd have to kill you.













After that I got to visit a number of local landmarks, including Laura-designed "modern" art, forever-installed at a school she attended, and Letchfield State Park and the "Grand Canyon of New York". Laura's son, Evan, kept us entertained, from his car seat, with persistant requests for a new toy. Sadly, really, there were no toy stores along the route back to home base. Prior to that, though, I was introduced to Laura's pal, Beaman, a 19-year-old stallion, who lives to be driven, by Laura. They are both champions. Beaman hangs out in his barn at Laura's childhood home, that is tastefully jammed/adorned with her family history and travel memorabilia. It also includes a log cabin section that, if given the chance, I would never have left.

Moments after arriving back at the Williams estate, she was blessed by husband, Justin, with her very own Garmin 305. Knowing her penchant for planning and attention to detail, I'm guessing we will soon be blessed with easy access to her training numbers, whenever we need them.

THE RACE

Marathon morning started too early, as they are apt to do, since anticipation usually wakes me up way before the clock radio's alarm. I got to the event area at about 6:30, to find Mark and Judi already there, setting up their RV/Race Headquarters. Mark was offering his own version of personally-prepared breakfast muffins, with egg and cheese and ???? I wish I could have taken him up on the offer, but my earlier bagel and banana seemed much safer. Russ was there, too, decked out in resplendant yellow, with his nickname, Limaruss, displayed across his chest. No one was going to miss him on the course. Morning hugs/high fives were exchanged when Laura arrived. Turns out, Laura's had it going on running wise for some time. She ran track in school not that many years ago, with her pal, Derek. We met Derek in the parking lot before the start. He ended up getting to the finish faster than everyone else...and I mean, everyone! He won the event in 2:36.

The first 9 miles or so were a gradual downhill along East Avenue, heading toward the southward turn that would put us onto the pathway that parallels the Erie Canal. Yes, THAT Erie Canal. I held steady at 11 minute miles, 4:1 run/walk intervals, until a couple of long, gentle climbs. I then realized that this run was going to require some "management". From the 10 mile point onward I walked all inclines and blew-off walk-breaks on downhills. The latter tactic, about taking advantage of gravity.

This was the smallest marathon I have ever run. 600-some runners going the insane 26.2 mile distance. The smaller field meant a greater chance of being alone. I spent a long time alone out there, on the 15-or-s0 miles along the historic waterway. My suggestion for the race organizers, if they want this event to flourish, is to mix it up a little. A little less canal would be okay.

I hit the halfway point at 2:28, about 2 minutes faster than usual. It was here that I geared down to 3:1 run/walk intervals, thinking I needed to more efficiently portion out the energy I had left. I settled in to the new pacing here and stayed with it the rest of the way. Nothing much happened from here on, except for mile 17, where I inhaled my customary English Mars bar. I brought Mars to share with all of our running group, and it would appear they worked their magic. Everyone of us finished. At mile 22 I heard cheers that included my name. Couldn't tell who it was until I got closer to them, because I don't run in my prescription glasses. Turns out it was our little band's support group. Now THAT was awesome! After this there was nothing left to do but finish. Had hoped to break 5 hours again, but it was not to be. Laura was about 25 minutes ahead of me, allegedly scarfing every hot dog she could find. Limaruss was about a half hour behind, having cramped up at mile 21. Despite that, he brought it home, in high spirits, and with a newly-enhanced appreciation for "the distance".

POST RACE












After the race we all gathered at Limaruss' lovely home in Lima, for celebratory food and frolic. Okay, frolicking was not happening. It hurt to move. It was, despite the aches and pains, the perfect way to end the day.

THE DAY AFTER

One might think that rest would be the order of the day after running a marathon. Not this time, people. I could not visit this region and not take in Niagara Falls. I flew into and out of Buffalo International Airport, which is just about 15 minutes from the falls. Laura and I shuffled into the car again at about 9:30, after spending a half hour talking with Kari, in Trieste, via Skype. Skype blew me away, as did Kari's ability to make goofy faces that lent themselves to video capture. I'll be running Trieste AND Prague with K next May. Want to come along?

We arrived at the Falls, on the Canadian side, at 10:30. At about 10:45 we were ready to go. The Falls are awesome, as you no doubt already know. But, after you see them, there's not much more to do, unless you like wax museums, tacky gift shops and the like. We headed back into Buffalo...destination, the Anchor Bar. This, folks, is where Buffalo Wings were born. I ordered "hot". They weren't. But, dang, they were tasty. This was how this amazing weekend ended. Nothing better!

To everyone who welcomed me into the fold, I just have to say "thanks". There was not one moment that I felt like a stranger. To all who ran, half marathons or full, you are all stars. Here's to you....












Up next, Silicon Valley Marathon next month...and wrapping things up in Santa Barbara on December 6th.

Gotta run!

Monday, 31 August 2009

TWO THUMBS UP...FOR THE VFF

Okay. So they're goofy looking. Who among us isn't, on any given day? That aside, the dang things work.

I've been exploring the whole running without running shoes for a while. Have experimented a little (one 4 mile run barefoot, followed by another of less length), and read a lot, plus listened to proponents blather on about the theory and practice. I waited a while to take the plunge, partly because I was somewhat skeptical about the amazing claims, and also because, if truth be told, I couldn't afford them earlier. For what they are they ain't cheap. Last week, however, I ponied up the $80.

My Vibram Five Fingers arrived this morning. They came right after I returned home from a 5 mile run around San Francisco's Treasure Island.

http://connect.garmin.com/player/12271224

I had decided that I needed to get a run in whether or not the VFFs came today. Figured if they came early enough in the day I could go out again. They did. So I did.

My first run of the day was in my trusty Brooks Beasts. Love those shoes. They have never done anything to hurt me, which is something I can not say for the Asics Kayano 14s I experimented with earlier this summer. Someone asked me recently why I would consider going barefoot seeing that over the course of 28 marathons to date I have had practically no injuries. One of the big claims of the barefooting community is that the modern running shoe is to blame for up to 80% of all modern running injuries. They claim humans are basically running machines and that shoes just clog the works. Clearly my shoes have not hurt me...physically. My reason for looking into the shoeless thing is that if shoeless is a more efficient way of doing what I've already been doing fairly well, why wouldn't I at least check it out?

My run in shoes was pleasant enough, although nothing miraculous. My time was good. 5 miles in 55 minutes. Obviously, 11 minute miles. My VFF run felt very different, in a number of ways. I ran the same Treasure Island route that I ran in the morning. Did 5 miles in 55:53. 11:10 minute miles. Not sure if I was just that tad slower because of the lack of shoes, or just thet fact that it was my second run of the day and I was a little tired from the first.

http://connect.garmin.com/player/12296407

What was different was the feeling I had that I was so much lighter on my feet. I didn't feel like I was working as hard during the second run as I had in the first. I also didn't check my watch as much during the shoeless run as I had during the first, hoping for my walk break. I ran through the walk breaks at least three times, during the barefoot run. I hardly ever miss a walk break when I'm running with shoes. I think, and this jury-of-one is still out on this, I didn't feel I needed the breaks as much, when running in the VFFs. That, duh!, could only mean one thing...faster times.

For those who may be a little skiddish about running with so little on your feet... I ran on a number of surfaces today in the 5 Fingers...ranging from grass, to a gravel-strewn dirt road, to some very rough blacktop and equally smooth concrete. I did feel the pebbles on the dirt road, but they did not hurt. If and when you try this out I believe you will be amazed at how quickly your feet respond to any surface or obstacle that may potentially hurt. They automatically recoil. The VFFs rubber sole does the rest.

My previous two runs without shoes were revelations. I knew then that barefoot was something that deserved serious consideration. However, my feet did hurt after both of those trial runs. The VFFs gave me the confidence to give it a real go this afternoon, reassured that there would be no injuries. It freed me up to "just run".

I've got the Rochester Marathon in less that two weeks. I will not be doing it in my VFFs. I think it's too soon for that. But I am fairly certain, barring any currently unforeseen setback, that I may be ready to take that leap for Santa Barbara International Marathon, the last in the 12 in 12 challenge, in December.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

PULLED THE TRIGGER

If you've been a regular visitor here you will no doubt know that I have been investigating the whole running barefoot thing for a few months. It really took off when I read the book Born to Run. Seemingly, the mounting evidence is indicating that modern running shoes are responsible for MOST modern running injuries. I've read a lot about it, and listened to any number of podcasts/interviews about it, but, up until today, I have been on the fence about taking the plunge. This morning, during my 10 miler along the Berkeley/Emeryville waterfront, I listened to episode #43 of the runnersroundtable podcast. It knocked me off my perch on the fence. This afternoon I purchased my Vibram 5 Fingers. I can not wait, now that I've taken the plunge, to hit the ground running in them. I still have questions, though. Time and experience will, hopefully, provide the answers.


Chief among those questions is...why have I not hurt more, while wearing shoes? I am three weeks away from my 29th marathon in just over 7 years...and my 10th since December 2008. I am 57 years old, and not blessed with the proverbial runner's body. However, I have only come close to a running injury once. The first time I ran CIM in Sacramento, in 2004, I experienced knitting-needle-thru-the-left-knee pains at mile 17. Wound up walking the rest of the way. Since then, I have committed myself more diligently to the Galloway run/walk method and have not even come close to another injury. All that time I was wearing shoes. Why didn't I experience more pain, additional injury? Not a bad "problem" to have, right?


My other wondering is about how much "better" I might get doing this distance running thing, if the claims that running sans shoes makes one's feet and legs and body and, maybe even, the mind, stronger. I've never been concerned about speed. Interested, rather, in doing the distance, finishing in a more joyful state of mind and body. We'll see, huh? My priorities just might adjust, presented with unforeseen possibilities.


Gotta run!


Sunday, 9 August 2009

...AND PASTRIES







You might think it would be safe to assume that I love to run. Afterall, I am obsessed with doing it, have nearly as many running clothes as regular clothes, and I actually enjoy the taste of Accelerade. However, in general, I do not "love" it. More often than not just getting out the door in my running togs is the end result of much mental grappling with the voices many runners battle. I estimate that those trying to convince me TO run win out about 60 percent of the time. 40 percent is not a bad record for those urging me to put it off "til tomorrow" but it is a number I'd like to trim.

This morning's run along the San Francisco waterfront was more an exception than the rule. I headed out fully intending to squeeze in an acceptable 6 miler. It turned in to 13. The reason was, without much reason, I was loving it! I could wax poetic about the beauty of the area, but I won't. Suffice it to say I was feeling good enough at mile 6 that I just didn't want it to end. It may have had something to do with the fact that, at mile 3 or so I took off my new non-blister-producing Brooks Beasts and ran a mile and a half barefoot in the wet grass. That was seriously refreshing.

I then continued westward, toward the fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, accompanied, via iPod, by the best of Paul Carrack and, via itself, the periodic blasting of the city's fog horn. It was surprising how many times the horn fit right in some gap in the Carrack songs.

My half marathon PR is 2:17, set years ago. I usually do that distance in 2:25-2:35. Today, it was 2:30. I'm okay with that, with just over 5 weeks til the Rochester Marathon. I polished off the morning with a cup of Peets Coffee and a piece of their shortbread. Turns out finishing at Peets was a good thing in another way. As soon as I stopped running I experienced the aura that signals the approach of a migraine. I usually get them when I'm really tired. This week I ran 33 miles, my most for a single week in 7 years of running. I'm on vacation, so I've had lots of free time. The caffiene-rich coffee went straight to my head and fended off the migraine. The shortbread was a bonus.

Gotta run!

Monday, 3 August 2009

THE BIG G


END IN SIGHT...OR NOT

I will admit, having run 9 of the 12 marathons I intend to this year, I have briefly entertained thoughts of calling it quits after December's Santa Barbara International. But I have also, so far, quieted those voices, and have started planning for marathon life after the 12 in 12.

Today, I got an added boost. After weeks of camping out in front of my mailbox, in anticipation of the arrival of my official "Big G" Goon Squad Runners singlet, my patience was rewarded this afternoon. I had been sent one before, but it was an "L". Despite the loss of numerous pounds over the past year and, literally thousands of pre-dawn situps, the L was a tad on the snug side. No, to be honest, it was more like a sausage casing than a piece of clothing. So much for thinking I'd become seriously skinny. The "XL" is way more the trick, although there is still some serious work to be done.

Now that the Big G is here, there is no way I could stop running. I may not even go back to running fewer than a marathon a month.

I am thrilled to be headed back east in September, for the Rochester Marathon, number 10 of the 12. It will be the first time I'll run in the Big G. I have been promised it imparts maGical powers. I will be meeting up, for the first time, with my friend Laura. I do believe there will be talk there, over brews and bbq, of a possible destination marathon effort in 2010, with our friend, Karoline, who lives in Trieste. (Poor thing! Someone's got to live there, though.) Not sure K knows anything about this yet. But, hopefully, after Laura and I set personal bests on the Rochester course, we'll set something even more exciting into motion.

I am already scheduled to run Europe's Marathon in Trieste AND the Prague Marathon in May of next year, despite those moments of weakness when I considered cutting back. K knows about those, as I'll be running at least one of them with her. Hoping she may even want to try Prague, too.

After next month's Rochester race, I have the Silicon Valley Marathon in San Jose (California, not Costa Rica, sadly!) and then Santa Barbara. After that, the world is my oyster.
Here's some of what I'm thinking about.
How about Sydney, in September 2010? After all, if I had to choose one food item to eat for the rest of my life it would surely be shrimp. Big ol' shrimp off the Barbie, after running 26.2 miles through Australia's capital city? What could be better? HA! You thought you caught me in a mistake, right? I know Sydney's not the capital. I was just joshin' ya, mate! The only problem I have with the Down Under idea is the plane flight. Unless I can score First Class, that much time in the air can be killer.

Then there's Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2010. As I will never run LIKE a Kenyan, perhaps I can run (for ever such a brief moment) NEXT to one. I can't even wrap my head around what it must feel like to wake up in the Kenyan capital on race day morning. I'm guessing it would be nothing short of stunning. I have a pretty good idea what it would feel like to wake up the following morning, having done 26.2 miles in east Africa. About the same as it feels having done the distance anywhere else. Hurting.

While those choices are certainly numbers 2 and 3 on my short list, my current number 1 is Reykjavik, Iceland, in August. In my mind, this is surely one of those corners of the world that, once one's gone into it, one may not ever want to come out of. (Poor grammar, I know. Deal with it.) From what I've been able to glean so far, it's mind-blowing scenery, food, drink and people. The event also takes place the same weekend as Reykjavik Culture Night, which features a midnight fireworks display that is not to be missed. Then, there's the thermal pools after the run. (I know, I know, ice baths, blah, blah, blah.) Give me a beer and a hot tub every time.

Not sure if any one of these dreams will ever come true, but it's sure fun having them. I love sharing these kind of hopes with other people. Hoping Laura and Kari are down, too. Would also love to hear from anyone else who may consider joining in on the fun. The world is full of way cool stuff to be done...and, after all, we're marathoners. We can.

Gotta run!






Monday, 27 July 2009

GELS, SMELLS, BEER...& BACON!!!

Okay. For those who need the numbers from yesterday's San Francisco Marathon...

Got up at 4, had 2 cups of coffee, left the house at 4:30, got to The City at 5. Snagged a parking spot 3 blocks from the Finish.Waited 1.5 hours til starting wave 8 got to run. During that time I had 12 ounces of Mountain Blueberry Accelerade AND went pee 4 times. My race started at 6:42. 1/2 mile into it I had to pee again. Then settled into my run, which was going to end up lasting 5:06. My average speed was 5.1 mph, my fastest mile was done at a 5.6 clip, my slowest mile was done at 4.6. I apparently burned 3,588 calories. This was marathon #28 overall, and the 9th of the 12 in 12 challenge. It was my 3rd running of this particular race. This running was my 3rd best time of all 28, my 3rd best time of this year, and 15 minutes faster than the last time I did SFM in 2005, or 4 years ago. I had 3 strawberry Clifshots and 1 English Mars Bar (at mile 17), and suffered through 1 hotspot on my right foot and 0 blisters. I did 4:1 run/walk intervals for the first 15 miles, then geared down to 3:1 til mile 22, then chilled out at 2:1 til the finish. Oh! My bib number was 8614. Numbers sorted!

Now, the important bits.

While I didn't really welcome the alarm at 4, it was very nice to wake up in my own bed, as opposed to a hotel somewhere else, on marathon morning. In other cities I've resorted to buying a cup of coffee the night before a race then saving it overnight and nuking it in the pre-dawn getting-ready-to-go ritual. Here, I set up the coffee maker the night before and was welcomed by the smell of freshly brewed Blue Bottle.

I was in wave 8, the last group to start the marathon, at 6:42. The first wave left at 5:30. Didn't think I was going to like the wave thing but when it came right down to it, it was okay. The separation meant we were not packed like sardines in a tin behind the starting line and, after the race began, there was far less jockeying for room in the first couple of miles.

The weather at the start could not have been better. San Francisco's lovely fog chilled the air (ala Tony Bennett). As we ran through Fisherman's Wharf, the aroma of Boudin's fresh baked sourdough bread was something I would have paid to take with me the whole 5 hours. I run through this area at least once a week and will admit to sometimes not understanding what it is that out-of towners find so attractive about it. This time, I got it. I was proud to see so many visitors stop their runs to snap keepsake pics, as proof they were really here.

After climbing our first steep, although quite short, hill, in Fort Mason, we got our first look of the day at the Golden Gate Bridge. Actually, it was our first glimpse of where we were sure the GGB was. The fog completely shrouded the iconic structure that means SF to so many people. What we could see was a steady stream of runners, about 3 miles away, climbing the 2nd steep hill of the course, into that fog. Made me think of a horror movie where hundreds of runners enter a mysterious fog...and never...come...out!

It did not take long for my beard to retain enough of the mist and fog, once on the GGB, that, had it been a towel, I could have wrung it out and had a 1/2 cup or so. As exciting as it must have been for the visitors to run on the bridge deck (one lane north and one lane south) I found it to be somewhat of a pain. Too many people in that confined space. I was relieved when the bridge portion of the marathon was done.

From there we headed into the Presidio (an old Army base) and up the 3rd steep climb of the day. Had there been no fog this is where we would have got our first look at the Pacific Ocean. Not THIS morning. From the top of that hill we tumbled down for, I'm guessing, at least two miles. A great spot to make up some of the time lost on the three earlier climbs. Then, it was into Golden Gate Park. This is where I had the most trouble. The hills are not steep, at all. But they are long. The park is home to mile 15, which is where the city's Hash House Harriers were pouring little cups of Pabst Blue Ribbon. As I approached, they were loudly proclaiming "the keg is dead". I, however, scored the last little cup. It was a delightful reminder of what was waiting at the end of all this. I was happy to come out at the east end of the park at mile 19, with "the Haight" before me. The last two times I'd run SFM, by the time I got here the cops had re-opened the famous street to traffic, forcing me onto the sidewalk. Not this time. Nice!

The fog had lifted by this time, and the sun was beating down. Temps were on the rise, as energy waned. This is when the "bacon station" appeared, on lower Haight, at, roughly, mile 20. Two guys with a little table, with freshly fried-up bacon and a sign saying "free to marathoners". These two guys are now my favourite people in the world. One piece is all it took to spur me on. THAT rocked.

The next 4 miles wind through SF's warmest neighborhoods and an industrial/office park area know as "Dogpatch". The latter is the least attractive part of the course. I have found that keeping my eyes fixed on AT&T Park off in the distance helps get me through this stretch. The last two miles skirt the southern edge of the ballpark and then up the Embarcadero, right back to where we started. Before crossing the finish line I got a high five from Bart Yasso. Bonus!

Shortly after running past the ballpark I realized I was very close to breaking 5 hours for only my second time. Turns out I was a half mile short of that, but I am very pleased with how my race went. Next up, Rochester, New York, in about 6 weeks.

Oh, look. I found some more numbers. After the race I had 1 7/11 hotdog, 16 ounces of chocolate milk, drove 15 miles home where I had, over the next 7 hours, 1 Stella, 12 ounces of tangerine juice, 2 margaritas, 1 dinner (of beans on toast with turkey bacon), went to bed at 7, and slept for 10 hours.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

LET 'EM GO...

At the expo before Rock and Roll Seattle last month, John "The Penguin" Bingham shared an insight he gleaned from an elite marathoner about the link between running times and performance. It made an inkling of sense then, but with added pondering, it's even more of a gem now.

Probably safe to say that many, if not most, amateur runners, base their training around the setting of race time goals. Come race day you could ask them what their goal is and the response would be a certain finishing time. Trouble is, if I understand the elite's practice quoted by Bingham, setting one's finishing time before hand and then trying to get that day's performance to match, is doing the whole thing backwards. Bingham said the elites, while surely knowing their time capabilities and those of their true competitors, actually are more concerned and in tune with how their bodies are responding to the task at hand while racing, and therefore allow their ability to perform in that moment, as compared to those around them, to dictate their results. In short, their performance dictates their time, not the other way around. Seems to me that frees one up to enjoy the ride of the marathon, instead of looking at it as anything close to work, or a chore, or something that has to be conquered.

I had been thinking about this this morning before tuning into a radio interview of a philosopher/poet. He was asked about the poetry writing process. Long story shortened, he replied that, for him, poems evolve, with some sort of life their own, and that sometimes the poet's job is to just go along for the ride and/or get out of the way, rather than try to get the piece to end up somewhere that's been pre-determined. He said it's like raising kids, in that parents may have grand ideas for their offspring, but the trick to helping them be successful in their own lives is to do the basics, then to fall back, and watch. I would say, having helped raise two awesome stepkids, fall back and prepare to be amazed.

Linking these two (or is it three or four?) stories together, became almost effortless for me this morning when I realized that I have been unknowingly applying these principles, in varying degrees, while running my 12 in 12 marathons.


I really do like running with other people, but when it comes right down to it, I like running alone the best. The reason for that is that when I am running a marathon I am married to running "my race". It's easier for me to accept what's happening if I'm not having to worry about anyone else's. If you are faster than me I would encourage you to leave me behind and run yours. If you are slower, the same applies. If we both manage our own event and we end up together all the way, that's great. However, there will always be enough post-race beer to go around, regardless of our finishing order.


I am hoping to become more of an artist as I keep running 26.2 mile races. I have no interest in being blinded by the science of it all. I have vivid pictures in my head of the places I've run and the people who've run near/with/in front of/behind me. I have seriously almost forgotten most of my 27 finishing times. Most, mind you, not all. I have broken 5 hours once, and that number's tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Each one of those races has its own stories. My "goal" is to get out of my own way so I can live many new ones.

Starting with my hometown marathon, San Francisco, next weekend.





Gotta run!

Monday, 6 July 2009

In my workday world I am a full-time bicycle technician. As such, I guess I'm supposed to be all fired up about "the Tour". With apologies to all those folks setting their alarms to watch the race on television, for me, it's just a bunch of dudes riding their bikes. Then there's the whole Lance thing. With apologies to those who worship the guy, I'm so over Mr. Livestrong.

Don't get me wrong. What he has accomplished in his life has been nothing short of amazing. His refusal to give in to cancer surely inspired others facing similar and even greater challenges, helping them power over their hurdles. But, when it comes to riding his bike...not so much.

Lance is kind of like ultra runner, Dean Karnazes. They're both stunning athletes. But they're also, in my estimation, pseudo-freaks of nature. They are not normal. They're not just regular guys who turned themselves into the monsters of their sports. They got extra helpings of genes most of humankind does without. I have learned from their accomplishments, and have applied nuggets of their training philosophies to my marathon adventures, to positive ends. But, I have not been inspired by either of them. I turn to "regular" folks for that.

My most recent experience of "inspiration" was during Rock and Roll Seattle, two weekends ago. As I approached mile 22, thinking just how hot and tired I was, wishing the last 4 miles would just be over, I saw, going in the opposite direction, at his mile 14 or 15, a very large man, plugging away at what was quite possibly his first marathon. He was showing no signs of being anywhere close to packing it in. For some reason I am inspired whenever I come across those who've taken it upon themselves to battle the plus-size they've become in an effort to release the runner within.

Speaking of first time marathoners; they are an awesome bunch. Deciding to run 26.2 miles the first time can be an exciting, heady experience. Sticking with it, pushing through the pains and progress of training, to the point where one actually "gets" the distance, and then tearfully shuffling across the FINISH line...for me, that's inspiring. That's why I follow so many runners online. I love finding a new person whose profile says "just hoping to finish my first marathon". They get me at "Just hoping...". Then there are those who finish their first marathon...and decide to do ANOTHER. Holy smokes!

Lance doesn't have to hope he'll finish the Tour. Karnazes doesn't have to hope he can run 50 marathons in 50 days or all the way from Napa to Santa Cruz. They just do what they do. Former Manchester United star Ronaldo doesn't have to hope he can slam a ball into the back of a net. He just does it. He claims he's worth the 90 MILLION euros Real Madrid just paid for him, and he may well be, in a business sense. He sells team jerseys, not hope.

I'm thinking genuine inspiration is born, in hope, at ground level, with life's minnows. Very seldom does it come from the top. Those who've got it at the pinnacle have a tendency to keep it for themselves, while they figure out a way to sell it. I like the free, amateur stuff way better.

Gotta run!