Monday, 26 January 2009



By coasting I don't mean the Carlsbad Marathon was easy. It was not. For those who've never run 26+miles before, it's a freaking long way. By coasting it I do mean, this was a beautiful course, mostly paralleling the beaches of northern San Diego County. It does not take long to figure out why so many call this home, and why significant multiples of those numbers dream of doing so.

The morning started with a 4:30 alarm, a quick shower to wake myself up, and then the search for that all-important cup of pre-race coffee. I didn't think the local Starbucks would be open, so settled for Denny's. Either their coffee has gotten better (drinkable!) of late, or I was still asleep when I managed to finish it off.

The race starts at a local mall, in the 6am darkness. After one sweeping left turn we were already climbing, short and steep. We shortly found ourselves running through downtown Carlsbad, along a roadway that opened up onto ocean views...for miles the sun came up.

It usually takes me about 3-5 miles to warm up to any marathon, to the point where I'll actually consider enjoying myself. That happened for me after we passed the Encina Power Station, turned left onto Palomar Airport Road, and into the major hilly section.

The biggest hill lives from mile 8 to 9. I was happy it was in the first half of the race, when I wasn't scrambling to find the strength to crest it. It was about this time that the rain-threatening clouds cleared, without ever having opened up. From here we turned around and headed beachward. I hit the 13.1 mile mark (the In-N-Out burger place) at near PR pace, despite having just cleared the hilly section. Visions of a 2nd successive new PR were creeping their way into my silly little head.

Once I hit oceanside again, I was pleased to join up with the half marathoners who had started their Sunday challenge at 7:30. I was happy for the company, as it can sometimes get lonely on the road. Was hoping we'd all be running together the rest of the way, but it was not to be. About a mile later they turned back toward home, and us full marathoners kept on going south...until our mile 18 turnaround. It was here that I rewarded myself with my traditional English Mars bar, and walked a little extra to let it work its energy magic.

I was still on PR pace with about 4-5 miles left to go, when I began to hear those voices that plague many of us who participate in this goofy endevour, telling me I was tired and that I should probably just be nice to my body and walk, as I have so many times before. This time, though, just like at CIM last month, I didn't listen. Tested myself by speeding up a bit to see if there was anymore steam in the old boiler, and there was. So I stuck to my 5:1 run/walk Galloway intervals.

Trouble was there were at least two hefty inclines to clear before mile 23 where I would alert my brother that I was nearing the finish. My 56 year old legs just couldn't take those hills on with the vengeance required, so I told myself it was okay to just settle for the finish this time.

My 5:10 finish was good enough for my second fastest marathon in 22. As I was treating this race as a final long training run for Austin in 20 days, I was fine with all of that.

My brother and I had a good time together. We just chilled a lot. A couple of really good meals, a movie, a few beers, a few glasses of the wine, and some lovely sleep. The near-biggest challenge of the weekend was finding the Red Lobster that we went to post-marathon. BTW....if you've never been to one then you've never had their biscuits. Worth the marathon effort right there.

Austin's next.

Gotta run.

Friday, 23 January 2009


I hit the road with the sunrise this morning in Carlsbad, to acquire some java juice and drive this Sunday's marathon route.

I have been hearing tales of challenging hills, and figured the exact opposite of "what I don't know won't hurt me". Truth told, there are more hills than I expected for a course that mostly parallels the beach, but there is nothing here that should present much of a problem. The few hills there are are long, granted, but are not steep inclines at all. San Francisco it ain't.

Started at the start...where work crews were busy setting up the big tents...and pouring chemicals into the hundreds of porta-potties.

From there the course jogs through the "downtown" Village of Carlsbad". Later in the day I noticed La Jolla calls itself a "village", too. I don't know what makes either of them that instead of a city or town, but I do know, as our current Secretary of State has written, it takes one. And palm tree-rich San Diego County has two.

Just south of the downtown the route runs down Carlsbad Boulevard, all along the shoreline. It's also the old Highway 101. It's typical SoCal beachy stuff. Picture Malibu but with smaller homes...but more of them...and the delightful Encina Power Station.

After the first pass of the power station the course turns inland toward the Palomar Airport. It's mostly industrial and tech complexs and the fast food joints and chain restaurants that serve the folks who work there and at the airport. It's also where the harshest hills live.

It's along this part of the course that we'll hit the 13.1 mile, halfway point. In a cruel bit of coincidence, THIS is the half marathon mark.

There's a sign at the end of the drive-through lane that says "Do Not Enter". Just for marathon day I think that should be changed to "Free Burgers for Marathoners - Come On In".

After this we turn south, back along the shoreline for about 3-4 miles, then turn around and head back up Carlsbad Boulevard...with no more major turns to make.

I'm not anticipating any major problems, other then mental, as I hate running out-and-backs, of which there are three major ones along this route.

That's it for now folks. Time for some complex carbs...and then some rest.

Gotta run.

Monday, 19 January 2009


....where things get serious.

Sure, Barack Obama will be sworn into office, there's apparently word of a ceasefire in Gaza, and the economy's looking to tank even more than it has. All important, to be certain. But, this is also the week of the Carlsbad Marathon, the first of three marathons I shall attempt to complete in just 36 days.

I am trying to be calm. I realized shortly before my last 26.2 (CIM, Sacramento), at the beginning of December, that I don't get nervous about the events anymore. I've done enough of these goofy things that I know what to expect, give or take.

Since CIM I've done a number of 10, 13, and 15 mile long runs, just to keep my legs in the game. I am hoping the core fitness achieved prior to that race will see me through Carlsbad. Sunday's race is more of a last training run before Austin next month.

I've been getting comments from people who know both routes (Carlsbad and Austin), warning me of the hills. I almost panicked, but then realized that, prior to CIM I set my PR running the San Francisco Marathon. My second best time was set two months after SF in the Loch Ness Marathon in Scotland. Neither one of those routes is anything close to flat. So, no more worries about them thar' hills.

As if running a beach-side marathon isn't enough, the added treat for Carlsbad is that my brother's coming with me. He came with me to Portland a few years ago, back when he still smoked. Despite that, while there, he was inspired to sign up for his first 10K. After I took off for the marathon he ran his race. He'd set himself a goal of under an hour...and came in at 59 minutes. We then spent the rest of the weekend eating, drinking red wine, and sharing secrets only brothers will tell.

I'll be going to Austin by myself. Have not been back to Texas since Air Force basic training in 1973. My memories of the Lone Star State are those of someone who really did not want to be there. Will concede the beauty of San Antonio's River Walk...but will also admit that I've purposely avoided Texas...until now. Some say Austin's not really Texas...sort of like London's not really England. We'll see. I am seriously looking forward to exploring the capital city...and some sort of local BBQ.

Two weeks after Austin it's a local race, the Napa Valley Marathon. I've run it once before, and it is every bit as beautiful as you might expect. However, even rolling green grapevine-laced hills can get tedious after a couple of hours...and I was out there for 5:30. As a matter of fact, I was the last one to cross the finish line as the Highway Patrol reopened the course to vehicle traffic. I also recall the start, in Calistoga, was on one of the coldest morning's I've ever been outside.

It's going to be an interesting six weeks.

Gotta run!

Monday, 12 January 2009


Apparently I have fallen down on my homework.

Got an email from someone who knows the Austin Marathon, which I am attempting on February 15th, marathon #3 in my 12in12 challenge. She casually drops in "I hope you're doing some hill training, because Austin is hilly". Who knew? Apparently a lot of folks, NOT including me.

The information's all available on the official marathon web site and other places, such as I didn't even think of looking for it because my assumption (yes, I know!) was "How hilly could it be? It's Texas, for heaven's sake."

Fortunately, about six months ago, I added hills to my regular training runs. There's a mile and a half climb right outside my front door, should I choose to accept it. Today I added nearly three more miles of climbing to that, and did it into an often-fierce headwind, on my 15 mile morning jaunt through Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and back.

It was my last long run before the Carlsbad Marathon in 13 days, which I am using as a final long training run for Austin. (No disrespect to the the SoCal folks. I just need to space this stuff out if I'm going to be able to knock this challenge out.) I would normally add an 18 and a 20 to that pre-marathon training schedule, but seeing that I just did CIM (Sacramento) last month, I figure I can still count on my core fitness from that.

Speaking of core fitness (whatever that really is) I am about to head into week two of the 200 situps challenge, A six week training schedule that ends with, duh, 200 situps at one go. My initial test came out "average", which kind of set me aback. I did 30. Was hoping for 50. Since then I've done three days work. The 3rd day I did a total of 92 (broken up over 5 sets). I can't even imagine doing more this week. Dang! that burns. Why am I doing it? Your guess is as good as mine.

In other news...I am patting myself on the back just a little today, because as of the end of this morning's run I weigh less than I have in at least 30 years. In 2003, my stepdaughter told me as we ran the Portland Marathon together, that she had read that every time our feet hit the ground our body was absorbing three times our body weight's worth of shock. I weighed 197 then. The math from that was sobering, although I do remember having a tasty cheeseburger, fries and beer post-finish. For the years since then I have mostly hovered around 182-184, but for some reason, the pounds have been falling off over the past couple of months. I've wanted to weigh 175 for years. I'm currently just one pound off.

With less than two weeks til Carlsbad, it's time to taper. And that can mean only one thing. It's pasta time.

Gotta run!

Monday, 5 January 2009


This morning was strangely strange.

For the past four years or so I've gotten up six days a week knowing I had to go to work each day. I've had two jobs, partly out of financial necessity, partly out of a need to stay connected to some fine people. My real job pays most of my bills, while my second job paid for things like iTunes downloads, first-run movies (complete with medium buttered popcorns), Blue Bottle Coffee, Cheese Board cheese rolls, Peets shortbread, and, ever-so rarely, new socks.

The curtain came down on the radio job last week, as mentioned in previous posts, which is why this morning I woke up wondering what I was going to do with myself all day. I swear there were at least a couple of moments when the sense of difference was almost physical in nature.

I usually rush with breakfast, preparing simple fare, like toast and tea, because of the time it takes to make more, and then to clean up the mess. Today I found I had time to make...whatever. Mess, be damned.

I love to run, but have struggled to find the time to fit in all the training I'd like to do. Today I had time to start a six-week training program that will finish with the ability to do 200 situps in one session. Then, I donned my running togs, complete with beanie, gloves, tights, Garmin 305 and my podcast-full iPod and headed out the door for a 13.1 mile run. Realizing I had no time constraints allowed me the luxury of really soaking in the stunning scenery along the Berkeley/Emeryville shoreline. I even took a little break at mile 8 for a quick shot of espresso and a Milky Way bar at the little produce stand at the entrance to the Berkeley marina. Weighed myself after my post-run shower...finally broke the 180 barrier...coming in at 178! It's been YEARS.

After that my wife and I had time to spend the afternoon together. That doesn't happen much. I recently went back on my oath to never again paint rental property, when, as a Christmas gift to her, I agreed to paint our living room, as per her request. We went paint shopping at the Home Depot. So often it's the little things.

We'll paint next Sunday, which has for years been my only day off each week, and my day for sanity-sustaining long runs. Doesn't matter. I can let it go. I can do my long run Monday. What else would I do?

Gotta run!