Friday, 20 February 2009


There's recently been stepped-up interest in my thoughts on marathoning and nutrition, since I made it overly clear that my secret weapon of choice, more often than not at the 17th mile, is...English Mars bars.

That said, it probably is not necessary to point out that I am no guru when it comes to what YOU should eat on your long runs. I'm just an expert on what seems to work for me. I say "seems" to work for me because I think it's mostly mental.

I started mulling this whole thing over after finishing last weekend's Austin Marathon. I had lots of time to mull before and between flights home at AUS and LAX.

I determined that when it comes to my training regimen, and the culmination thereof on marathon Sundays, I seek to be more of an artist than a scientist. I am a devouted follower of the Jeff Galloway method, but will admit that there are way too many numbers to digest in the books explaining his plan. I mostly know I'm supposed to run a bit and walk a bit and that the resting bits are as important as the non-resting bits. I think I like the resting bits almost as much as I enjoy the finishing bit. Honestly, I don't overly relish the in-betweens.

What's pulled me through most of the 23 marathons I've done to date (number 24 is just over a week away!) is knowing that I get to honor myself at mile 17 with the candy of my youth in England. Today's Mars bars are just as good as my yesterday's. At some maybe-goofy level having a Mars bridges the gap between the life I wish I'd had in my homeland with the awesome, although decidedly different, life I do have here.

On the science side, I keep track of my miles, my heart rate, the inclines, the declines, and how many miles I have on the current pair of "trainers". I also am a big proponent of the the carbo load, Clif Shots, Accelerade (Mountain Blueberry), the taper, proper hydration, and technical running gear, including proper Garmin 305 operation.

When it comes right down to it, the science part enables the art. But, if I had to choose, I would not do this marathon thing without the latter.

To that end, for you, I would only encourage you to find some way, some place, some time on your own marathon adventure, that you get to honor, acknowledge, to celebrate your self-ness. Even if no one else ever knows.

Gotta run!

Monday, 16 February 2009


Okay, let's get one thing straight. Those things you Austinites call "hills"? We'd use those for speedbumps in posh gated communities in the SF Bay Area. Hills? Please!

Having said that...the Austin Marathon course is NOT easy. The overall men's winner came in at 2:30 which goes to show that this 26.2 mile route is a challenge. (For those who don't DO marathons, the elite guys usually come in in under 2:08 on a course considered flat and fast.)

Arrived downtown Austin at about 5:30, for a 7am start. Organizers had warned that local free parking would go quickly after 6. Snagged a place three blocks from the finish line, and headed out in search of the Temple of Starbucks. Got in line there at 6th and Congress at 6. I was number 3 in line....outside a place that didn't open for a half hour. By the time it opened the line was a block long. Gotta get the fix.

Race was supposed to start at 7. Did start at about 7:15. I think audio problems were to blame.

Watching 15,000 people running up South Congress was awesome. The first three miles are on an incline, but no worries at the start of a race. At three miles we turned around, for three miles of downhill, through predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, past the place where I had my first Breakfast Taco the morning before, and then, just after Hooters, we crossed the bridge back into the downtown area and turned left for a delightful 3 mile stretch paralleling Lake Austin. We then turned eastward, headed for Exposition Boulevard, where the half marathoners split off and went their merry way. We turned north and faced the first sort-of hill on the course.

About three miles farther on we hit our halfway point. My Garmin indicated I was at just about the same pace I had been for CIM in December, which proved to be my PR. I was hopeful I might best that here, even though the rumoured "hardest part of the course" was just beginning. This is also about the time the very comfy overcast lifted and Mr. Sun decided to join us. Things heated up pretty quickly, but conditions were still near-ideal.

Having driven the course the day before the race, I knew that I'd be happy to see the turn onto Great Northern Road, as it led to mile 17, the point where we'd be farthest out from downtown Austin. Everything after that was done facing the finish. Marked the 17 mile point with my customary English Mars Bar and walked a little extra, to give that sugary goodness time to work its magic.

For the first time on this course I now had only single digit miles to go (9), and felt pretty good about that, even though it was here that I pretty much gave up on any new PR. It was instead time to engage the cruise control and just ride this baby out.

Nothing much stood out for most of the rest of the race, until mile 24 when a woman came up from behind and introduced herself. She said she'd been trying to catch me for about 5 miles, and almost did it everytime I took a walk break. However, I only walk for a minute each time, and I kept taking off running again as she neared. Pretty cool that I was actually too fast for someone to catch me....for miles.

Running past the Texas Capitol I had one of those "look where I am, look what I'm doing" moments. I love those. Like running toward Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, along Loch Ness in Scotland, the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, across Portland's St. John's Bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate. I crossed the finish line in 5:23, my fourth best time out of 23 marathons in 6 years.

As a rule I usually avoid all contact with things Texas, but I will go on the record here admitting I could happily live in Austin. Not that that's going to happen. I just wouldn't be against it if it did.

Loose ends. I did make it to the Salt Lick BBQ place in Driftwood. A heck of a drive for a plate of meat, but well worth the effort. I did find and consume chocolate covered bacon. Tasty, to be sure, but somehow the bacon bit needs to be pumped up. The bedbug saga; I have listed the Super8 Downtown Austin as a place to avoid unless you love being eaten alive by little blood-thirsty pests that don't give up even when they're full.

Two weeks til Napa Valley Marathon, people. Let's do it.

Gotta run!

Saturday, 14 February 2009


I travel a lot, and I think I do it pretty wisely. However, I'm not so experienced that I can't learn new tricks. My latest new trick, after two nights in Austin, Texas? Online motel reviews.

Checked into my Super8 Downtown Austin digs on Thursday night, dog-tired and hoping for a good night's kip. The room seemed nice enough, especially for the price. King bed, iron, ironing board, big tv, hairdryer (not that I have anything to use it on!), fridge and microwave. Average, about $60 per night. The motel is walking distance from the state capitol, too....and has free breakfast. Trouble was, I was not the only one using the room at the time.
Didn't really notice the trouble I was having getting to sleep until about midnight when I realized I was scratching a growing collection of little bumps around my ankles, elbows and neck. Eventually I was able to ignore it enough to fall into a fitful sleep.

Not sure what I thought WAS going on, but bedbugs hadn't even occured to me, until last night's repeat performance by the voracious little buggers. At about 1am I fired up the laptop and googled motel reviews for my place and the first one I found mentioned....bedbugs! If only I'd done this before I booked. You can be sure I will from now on.

Fortunately, experienced globetrotter that I am, my luggage had been off the floor the entire time...AND I pack everything in 2 gallon ziploc bags. Keeps the stuff inside compacted and, as I have now gratefully discovered, the stuff outside...outside!

Signed out of the Super8 at 7am, two days earlier than booked, having locked down a new room at a well-reviewed, and cheaper, Motel 6. The Super8 desk clerk didn't even ask why I was leaving early. According to the unsettling review I read last night, management at this establishment has been told of the bedbugs before and has refused to accept any responsibility. I'm guessing early checkouts here are not uncommon. Banking now on good night's pre-marathon that I'm all alone.

Race report tomorrow.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 8 February 2009


At the end of my last post I said "next post from deep in the heart of Texas". Turns out, not so much, as here I am again, still in CA.

Did a few things this morning that I hardly ever do. One, training runs with other people; Two, actually meet up with people I've only previously "met" online; Three, run during the last week of a marathon taper and, Four, run faster than ever.

Met up with four great people at the Berkeley Marina for a 7 mile run arranged online by Twitter-mate Julianne a few weeks ago. It was windy, cold and drizzly out there, overlooking SF Bay, the kind of weather that tempts many of us runners to stay in bed with our hands wrapped around a warm cup of joe. But, all five of us made it out, and, at least in my opinion, hit it off well right away. Introductory pleasantries were exchanged, and, as no one looked like anyone any one of us should be afraid of, off we went.

Two of the five are in training for their first marathon (Big Sur and Avenue of the Giants), two others each going for number seven (both running Napa Valley) and then there's me, about to attempt number 23, a week from today in Austin.

I usually use the fact that I'm in taper week as an excuse to not run at all. And, I hardly ever run with anyone else, even though my speed is usually faster when I do train with others. Today was no exception. Allowing for minor discrepencies between different timing devices utilized, we did 7 miles in 1:16...or a screaming good 5.5 miles an hour, the fastest training run mile pace I've ever set. Not sure how much longer I could have kept it up, but my gut says not much. As for the others, I think it was probably a bit slow for them, but I'm nearly 57 and a devout user of the Galloway run/walk thing. I don't think any of them had ever done that before. Despite that, they accomodated the old guy needing to take a one minute walk break after every six minutes of running. By the end of the run I do believe at least a couple of them were kind of liking it.

Short story shortened, it was an excellent way to spend the Sunday morning, making friends, and chalking up the miles. I am glad to have met them all and hope to run with them again...really. Hoping for some more meetups with Daily Mile and Just Finish folks in Austin, then in Napa in March. Have I mentioned I don't often do that?

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


One week from tomorrow it's off to Austin for marathon number three in the 12 in 12 challenge and, while I'm certainly involved in the 11th hour preparations for that, I'm also making my first significant change in the rest of the year's schedule.

First, I must admit I have mostly poo-pooed the kind warnings I've received lately about the hills on the Austin course. This morning I spent 20 minutes actually watching the readily-available course preview video and will concede it showed more climbing than I hoped it would...especially at the beginning of the second half. Oh, well. Too late now, bucko! Shut up and run.

I've also gotten a good number of tips on where to eat while in the Texas capital. My mouth is already watering in anticipation of the BBQ at The Salt Lick, chocolate covered BACON, and a hot sauce outlet in the downtown. I have been known to eat pickled habaneros right out of the jar.

Two Sundays after my first Austin Marathon I am set to run my second Napa Valley Marathon, and six weeks after that, my third Salt Lake City. I had been planning to do The Avenue of the Giants Marathon in Eureka, California, two weeks after that, but have decided against that, for a number of reasons.

Primarily, I think I may need a bit more of a breather after SLC. Secondly, after looking more carefully at the Giants course today, discovered it's a double out-and-back. I really don't like out-and-backs. I know it's supposedly one of the country's most scenic courses, and nearly hecka flat...but...I'm opting out of that one in favour of my second Rock and Roll San Diego, at the end of May. I've also determined flying to SAN, staying at the Gaslight Quarter Hostel, and NOT renting a car will be way cheaper than renting a car to drive to Eureka, gas, and three nights in a motel. Current financial constraints dictate serious changes. I'm good with that. Hopefully I'll survive to see them through.

Thanks to everyone who's been following my still-young adventure. I wish I could tell you how cool it is to log on to this blog and gather in your supportive comments. They go a long way toward offsetting those from Mr. Negative, who loves to play games in my head, especially in the week before a big event.

Next post...from deep in the heart of Texas.

Gotta run!