Sunday, 29 March 2009


After taking it fairly easy since the rainy Napa Valley Marathon earlier this month, I am now back into full-on training mode, with my third visit to Salt Lake City, and marathon #5 in the 12in12 challenge, just under three weeks away.

Hit the road in the dark of the early morning, heading for San Francisco's financial district, where the City's famous Bay to Breakers run begins each year. It's the only race I've run so many times I have actually lost count. I believe it's somewhere between 5-8, but who cares, really? With 8 more marathons scheduled for this year I can't justify the expense of officially signing up for B2B this I decided the 7+ mile course, out and back, would make a tasty 15 mile training run. Bingo!

For the few of you running it this year who've never done it before, I took my camera-equipped cellphone along. Thought I'd snap some shots for you, by way of a little, if not slightly askew, preview. Sadly, said cellphone is NOT an iPhone, so you'll have to bear with the crap picture quality.

My run began beneath the famous Ferry Building clock tower, just two blocks from where B2B starts beneath a shower of tortillas. Don't ask. You'll know what I mean soon enough. Suffice it to say, you may need a tortilla helmet. The official race route travels up Howard to 9th, turns right, crosses Market and turns left onto Hayes. Hayes is home to the biggest hill on the course.

Honestly, I think the Hayes Hill hype is just that. First off, it's only about 4 blocks long. Secondly, if you're anything but an elite runner or a snail, you'll find it tough to walk up the hill, let alone run it at pace, because of the crowds. I had it to myself this morning, and ran the whole way. Pat me on the back! Coming down the other side is tough on the quads. Be careful here, or you could easily take a nasty, career-threatening tumble.

Left turn onto Divisadero, home to some of the best coffee, BBQ, and ethnic eateries in the City. One block on, right turn onto Fell, the northern border of the famous Golden Gate Park panhandle, seemingly eternally-populated by earnest runners, lycra-clad cyclists, clueless crackheads, the housing-challenged, shameless Bohemians, and unsuspecting tourists. Fell runs into GGP-proper and becomes JFK Drive, beautifully devoid of car traffic on Sundays, giving skateboarders, in-line skaters, more runners, and more cyclists, unfettered access.

Once your feet start pounding away on JFK, or about half way into the race, we're pretty much talking downhill the rest of the way.

The run is what it is here...just another run in a big city park...unless you consider the chance that the buffalo, who live in their own gated community on the north side of JFK Drive, are out and frolicking about for your viewing pleasure. They usually are....out. Frolicking? Not so much.

After the bison/buffalo, you'll be wanting to watch for the windmill. It's coming up on the right. You can't miss it. But, if you're attention-challenged enough to do so, you won't miss the next big site. It's called the Pacific Ocean. It's all that's left between you and that vacation you've always wanted in our 50th state. Just before you run into the water, turn left at the Great Highway.

That's the finish line up ahead.

This is where I did a 180, and headed back the way I came.
To find out what the route's like going that direction, read all the above, backwards. Or hold it up to a mirror. That works.

My time for the westbound leg today was a tad dissappointing, somewhere in the 1:30 range. However, Bucko, going back was 1:23. Negative splits. That's what I'm talking about.
I have a 20-miler scheduled for a week from tomorrow. It'll be my last long run til SLC. I'm feeling like I'm in good shape for the marathon, and those that follow in quick succession, until my next big break in August/September.
Gotta run!

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I am currently at the friendly end of a seven week break between marathons, but that doesn't mean I'm slacking. Okay, maybe just a bit. But, I won't be for long. I'll kick things up very soon, in anticipation of my third running of the Salt Lake City Marathon (#5 in the 12in12) in mid-April.

Since the soggy Napa Valley Marathon two weeks ago today, I've taken a week off, then run a 10 miler and a 7 miler...and today I rode my bike, for the first time in months.

When I got up I checked the wx forecast and decided if it WAS raining, I'd run. If it wasn't, I'd ride. It was NOT raining when I left my house, heading into San Francisco to cheer some friends across the finish line of the Emerald Nuts Across the Bay 14K run from Sausalito to The City. That was pretty much the last time it really wasn't raining all day.

Arrived at the finish line about 45 minutes after the race started. Already, the soggy front-runners (pun intended) were sloshing beneath the banner, many of them, smiling from ears to ears. I waited a half an hour, til the race clock hit 1:20...and I hadn't seen my friend Julianne come up the chutes...but knew there was no way she'd not crossed already. So, off I went, heading for the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County, and my post-ride lunch.

Checked my Twitter while on the bridge, as I hunkered down behind one of the massive towers, sheltering from a driving rain. Turns out Julianne and her gang had finished around I had missed their finish, after all.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, except for incessant rain showers and the obligitory Mars bar at mile 13, always a stellar moment, outside Mike's Bikes in Sausalito. After that headed into Mill Valley and the very steep (but, short) Horse Hill. Coming down the other side of that climb I hit 42 mph on my the rain. Awesome!

My original thought was to have lunch at the 20 mile mark, which just happens to be Marin Brewing Company. I was thinking jalapeno poppers and a Raspberry Trail Ale...IF...I could time it right with a ride home on the Larkspur Ferry. However, as I pulled into the Ferry Building parking lot, the 11:40 boat was pulling out, four minutes late. The next one would not be for two hours, so I shifted gears (literally!) and headed past San Quentin, head-down, up-hill, into another drizzly headwind, with San Rafael's Broken Drum Brewpub on my mind.

Once there, I ordered up. Turkey Burger with cheese, garlic fries IPA. Top-notch nosh.

Then it was off to catch the bus across the San Rafael Bridge, back to the East Bay.

My options at that point were the 3 mile ride home from the Del Norte BART station or the 8 mile ride from Pt. Richmond. Being a glutton for punishment, I chose the latter.

My favourite part of that ride is the Richmond Marina. It's home to some amazing views...

...and some stunning boats. Among them, the Robert Gray.

This is someone's home. I first saw it years ago. Ever since then I have been envious of whoever it is who gets to take their shoes off here at the end of a work day, and sit out on the aft deck with a glass of wine, watching the evening sun's recession.

My total for the day, 32 2:49. Not a great time, in terms of how long it took to complete the distance. But, a great time, in all other ways. Despite the freakin' rain!
Gotta run!

Sunday, 8 March 2009


I started running marathons 7 years ago, just about when I turned 50. At that time I hardly ever weighed myself. I didn't know I had a reason to. I thought my body had gone pear-shaped due to heredity. My dad had a belly, a so-called barrel-chest, and hardly enough butt to hold his pants up, even with a belt. It just seemed to be my lot.

Signed up for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program almost by accident. My wife sent me out to a local produce store to retrieve an onion. While standing in the line there I noticed a brochure put out by the aforementioned training program promising to get me through my first official 26.2 miles AND pay my way to and from Vancouver, BC, for the big event. All I had to do was jog with these guys once a week for four months and convince enough friends, co-workers and loved ones to part with a combined total of $2600. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

At the time I weighed somewhere near 200 pounds. Most days, I'm certain, I was a couple of pounds under that but, I'm also sure now, looking back, there were days that I topped the double century mark.

I finished the training, the fundraising and my first sanctioned marathon. Doing so perhaps reinforced my misconception that all was right with me, health-wise. After all, at 50 I had just completed something most people in the world never even try to do.

This is me and my dear, departed friend, Lori, on the comfortable side of the Vancouver Marathon finish line....

As I crossed the finish line in Vancouver my first thought (really!!!) was "what's next?" I soon decided "Portland" was the answer to that query. My stepdaughter decided she'd train for and run the Oregon race with me. While we pounded the pavement in the City of Roses she told me she'd read that every time a runner's foot hits the ground his/her joints bear some riduculous multiple of his/her body's poundage as shock. I did some quick math in my head and determined I didn't relish the numbers.

My post-race celebratory meal was, admittedly, a cheese burger. But, I didn't have the fries. From then on I've been on a quest to get down to 175.

It has not been an easy journey, mostly due to my own tenacity. I don't like to be told what to do. I love all things dairy and, for a time, I brewed my own beer. Brews and butter might well have been the death of me had it not been for this goofy running thing that took over my thought processes. I also fell back into the mindset that I was okay because I was doing marathons and lots of them. I had managed to drop about ten of those unwanted pounds, but they didn't stay off for long. And, I didn't look any better. But my training was not paying the dividends I was hoping for anymore and I thought about quitting, until I attended a Jeff Galloway Running School in San Jose. Jeff talked about fat, pace, walk breaks, and, somewhere in the mix, someone said if I wanted to get better at this running thing I'd have to step things up.

After that I added hills to my training, bought a Garmin 305, so I couldn't cheat on times or distance anymore, and poured myself back into the effort to improve. My 12in12 challenge was born there. It was either going to push me out of the sport altogether or give me reason to keep going.

My first race in the 12in12 challenge was California International Marathon in Sacramento last December...the first time I broke the 5 hour barrier in 21 marathon tries. Just a few weeks later I did Carlsbad in 5:10. Two weeks later it was Austin in 5:23....and last weekend it was Napa Valley in 5:01.

Prior to Napa I got on a scale and was surprised to see the rising needle stop at 177. I knew I was nearing my goal, set so long ago in Portland. I just knew that following Napa I'd hit it. Turns out, the day after that soggy race, I stepped on the scale and saw it top-out back over 180.

Since Napa I hadn't run until this morning...but I have been monitoring the weight thing all week. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the numbers have been falling. Last night I was back down to 176 and knew that if I ran today I'd almost surely hit my goal.

Did 10 miles this morning along the San Francisco waterfront. It's been raining in the Bay Area for weeks, so it's been hard to get out there. Today it was overcast, but dry. It was a joy to be out there paid off. Raced home, after grabbing a cup of Peets coffee and a piece of their divine shortbread, stripped down and, gingerly, stepped on the bathroom scale. 175.4. Awesome.

This is from Carslbad. Evidence that this marathon thing works.

My number one problem now is...just like my dad...I'm having trouble keeping my trousers in place.

Next stop? 170?

Gotta run!

Monday, 2 March 2009


Woke up yesterday morning in my own bed with a marathon to run that day. First time I've done that in nearly 4 years. The last time was 2005 when I ran San Francisco for the second time. This time it was the Napa Valley Marathon...and it was a doozey.

The weather-guessers on television had been calling for lots of race-day rain for over a week. My hope was they were wrong again...and for a few minutes I thought my wish had come true. My first glance out my living room window to the pavement below revealed a bone-dry roadway. The dream was shattered about half an hour later, when I stepped out my front door, into a downpour, for the 45-minute drive to Napa.

At Napa's Vintage High School we boarded yellow Blue Bird school buses for the 26 mile ride to the starting line in Calistoga. As I looked out my bus window all I could see was the spray from beneath the bus tires, looking somewhat like a big ship's wake, slicing through the bounding sea.

I've done other marathons that included bus rides to the start and they've all been fairly noisey, with runners sharing their PR's, their hopes for setting new ones, and talk of just how nuts we distance runners are. THIS bus was way too quiet.

I knew it was cold outside, but it was not affecting me. My seat on the bus was directly over the heater, that was cranking at full blast. I just might have lost a couple of pounds right there had I not been forced to change seats. If you can't stand the heat...

The race started dead on time, sending 2000 runners south on the Silverado Trail, into the chilly mist and unrelenting rain. For the next 23 miles we would see nothing but the lush Northern California wine country. The grape vines are bare now. The rolling hlls are nearly unbelievably green. The winery chateaus are testimony to grace and granduer, if not a little O-T-T. The course is, in a word, undulating. It is also, overall, downhill. At the same time it has some significant climbs, especially getting to mile 20. Have I mentioned it was raining?

The rain didn't bother me much, other than the weight it added to my Austin Marathon shirt. The only near-mishap I experienced was an early case of jogger's nipple at about mile 10. The rain-heavied shirt managed to work my nip-covers off. Long streams of blood were visible. Went to first aid and had Vaseline applied. Problem sorted. A few miles farther down the road I noticed the rain had washed the evidence away.

At the half way point my Garmin said 2:25, and I felt pretty good about that time. I knew that if I kept that pace up I'd PR again. I last PRed at CIM in December (4:56). Now I was looking at a possible 4:50!

At mile 17 I unwrapped, and devoured, my customary English Mars Bar. Always a big moment for me. And, yes....if the people from Mars are reading this, I WILL accept a sponsorship. Have your people call my people.
Coming down out of the hills for the last three miles the end was nearly in sight. My pace was still good but I did feel like I was losing steam. I held on for as long as I could before I took an extra long walk break at about mile 25. Got to talking with another runner for just a little too long. Came rolling across the finish line at 5:01. No PR but still my second best time in 24 tries.

Next up is Salt Lake City, one of my faves. I've run it twice before. Right now I have a 5 week break. Very welcome after knocking out 3 marathons since the end of January.

Next on the blog...the social side of marathons...and messing with Texas!!!

Gotta run!

PS. Special thanks to Brian B. for the finishing photo and the post-run burger and beer!