Monday, 27 April 2009


Had no idea before Saturday evening that yesterday's Big Sur International Marathon would be one big experiment, but it turned into just that.

Having run the Salt Lake City Marathon just eight days previous, I was fully prepared to just go through the motions along the "Jagged Edge of the Western World" and settle for nothing more than an upright, albeit "wobbly", finish. The Big Sur event is known primarily for the exceptional scenery, secondarily for the "could kick-your-ass" hills. If you're looking for an overall description of this course let me say...if you're not going up, you're coming down.

Arrived at the Expo just in time for Jeff Galloway's afternoon talk, despite Payless Car Rental's best efforts to keep me from going on the trip at all. Long story shortened...they had NO cars when I arrived to pick up my reserved vehicle. Took them an hour to get me one. When I left the rental office there were four other customers waiting for cars the agency didn't seem to have. Anyway...

If you're a frequent visitor here you'll know that I am a big subscriber to Galloway's run/walk system. I've used my own variations of it on all 25 marathons I've started. However, yesterday's run was going to be significantly different.

Every time I've heard Jeff speak I've clued-in just that much more on the specifics of his plan. This time I really heard him when he said he and his wife were going to do Big Sur running 1 minute and walking 1 minute, over and over again. He also said they'd FINISH in 5 hours. He also explained (again!) how the basic premise is that the more frequent the walk breaks, the more energy you've got to spend at the end. For years (really!) I have been alternating between 6:1 and 5:1 ratios and still finishing (mostly!) in over 5 hours. Decided to change things up for Big Sur, and to use it as a testing ground. I set my watch for 3:1's.

The first 4-5 miles of the course are downhill, so it was difficult to determine if my revised intervals schedule was responsible for how good I was feeling, or if it was just because of the gravity-assist. As I was not really expecting to post any semblance of a record time on this race, I temporarily hooked up with the 5:30 pace group. Then, as we approached the "star of the show" hill, the famous 2.25 mile climb to Hurricane Point, I decided to move on. As my eyes and brain soaked in the awesome spectacle before me, I thought that if Jeff and his wife could do this at 1:1 I could surely do it at 2:1, so I adjusted my watch, and made my way up.

The additional walk breaks worked wonders. I was amazed at how strong I felt at the top. At that point I considered ramping things back up to 3:1 but decided instead to leave my intervals at 2:1 for a little while. My thinking was that, as most of the course from here on was downhill, I'd let gravity do a bit more of the work and I'd enjoy the additional recovery time afforded by the more frequent walk breaks.

From this point on, Hurricane Point achieved, it was pretty much automatic pilot, at a 2:1 pace, soaking in the scenery, battling the wind and the cold, but really enjoying myself. I won't say I felt "good"....but I did feel like I had this one in the bag and, for a couple of miles at least, toyed with the prospect of negative splits, comparing the second half to the first. That wasn't to be, but what did happen was, as far as I could tell, only a handful of people passed me in the last 3-4 miles. The Galloway system was paying off, in that my end pace was almost the same as my starting pace, instead of running out of steam and dying at the end.

I am thrilled with my ending time of 5:16, considering the hills and the headwinds. Looking forward now to a few days out of my running shoes. Four weeks now before race #7 in the 12in12 challenge, Rock and Roll San Diego. I may even have to change things up again for that one...and take the 1:1 plunge.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 19 April 2009


Time was I had a rule that I would run no race more than twice. My thinking was that doing so could possibly lead to boredom and, with so many events available, there was really no need to do three-peats or beyond. The first time I broke that rule, after more than 15 marathons and as many 1/2's, was early 2008 when I ran the Davis Stampede for the third time. However, for that race the organizers announced a completely new course, so, I contend, I really wasn't running the same race for the third time. Semantics can be fun. Yesterday I did, however, completely break my finishing my third Salt Lake City Marathon.

Someone clever booked me into a motel just 1 block from the finish line, which was surely clever enough. That motel is also 1 block from the first station on the trolley car line that took thousands of us to the starting line at the Olympic Legacy Bridge, two frightfully clever moves, thank you very much, for the price of one. Because of that, this was not one of those "have to get up at some ungodly hour" events. Stepped out the door at 5:45, expecting fully to be sorry I'd forgotten my gloves. Not so much. The starting time temperature was somewhere in the low 40s...much warmer than I'd been expecting. SLC was bashed by a blizzard earlier in the week.

The starting horn blast was heard a little past 7am, releasing upwards of 10-thousand runners onto the course, the first half of which runs along the base of the Wasatch Mountains. This has simply got to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever run. I'm not sure if I lived here if I'd ever be able to take the visuals for granted.

The first three of miles are downhill, providing the challenge of holding back and running at my target pace, rather than faster. It usually takes me 3-5 miles to really get warmed up and "into" what I'm doing out there. This race was no exception. Must admit, despite the scenery, there was a little voice in my head that was questioning my sanity.

At mile 5 the marathon runners split off from the half marathoners at Sugarhouse Park. Those running the full got to go around the whole delightful park. Those doing the half only got to run along its eastern edge. For some reason I recognized the clump of trees behind which I'd taken a potty break the last time I did this race. Ducked in there and did it again. I'm a big fan of tradition.

After the park we marathoners continued to head south, through the suburbs. The locals were out in respectable numbers, cheering us on, with all the normal chants. "Lookin' good". "You're a hero". "You're almost there". All of those a little goofy...but much appreciated.

My biggest goal for the first half of the race complete the first half of the race. It's at about that point, in the city of Holloway, that the course turns west for a mile and then makes the big turn north, back to downtown SLC and the Gateway Center finish. At mile 14 we made the turn onto the Van Winkle Parkway, my least favourite 4 miles of the course the last two times I was here. I was not looking forward to it this time...until I hit it. As I was not struggling this time as much as I was on the previous visits, it was nowhere near as bad.

It was about this time that I noticed something heartening. I was passing more people than were passing me. This, about mile 17, is about where Galloway kicks in, at least in my experience. The only time people were passing me was when I was in my walk breaks, after which I would almost always catch them up. One guy I just could not catch, though, was a big bald dude in University of Utah basketball shorts. He was taking regular walk breaks too. A fellow Gallowayer, I am sure.

Mile 17 is where I unwrapped my customary English Mars bar. It's tradition. It didn't stand a chance and was gone in a wink. Walked a little extra to let that yummy energy goodness seep into my system.

The run up 500 East, through the city of South Salt Lake, is pretty much flat and uneventful. The coolest thing here, though, is...the cops have the meanest looking patrol cars I've ever seen. All painted matt black, with few graphics, and bitchin' wheels to match. I'm thinking if a bad guy in SSL sees one of these Darth Vader machines chasing him down he should pretty much just give it up!

Up until about mile 22 I thought I'd been pretty much on pace for a 5:00 finish, if not a little faster. At mile 23 I felt I was running out of steam. Even though I only had 3 more to go I knew from experience what was to come. After going around Liberty Park we turned west again, heading for the right turn onto State Street, and the view of the Utah Capitol, on its hilltop perch. The cruelest part of this whole course, to my mind (and legs) is the State Street climb, which this year was about three blocks longer than it has been in the past. Looking at the climb from the bottom I wasn't sure I could do it. From the top, South Temple, I couldn't believe I had. But I had lost some time. It was now just about rolling down the hill to the finish.

My Garmin said I'd finished 26.2 just a little short of the official finishing line, so I stopped the timer there, showing 5:09. My third best marathon time ever, my best SLC by about 20 minutes, and my 5th race of the 12in12 challenge.

Now, I know this a big race weekend for thousands of runners around the world. Boston is tomorrow, and much of the running world is looking toward Bean Town. My suggestion, for those of you, like me, who will never get into Boston, consider SLC. There were concerns before this year's race about troubles for Devine Racing. If those troubles exist they were not apparent out on the course. Here's hoping the organization gets its ducks in a row, and puts on an even better race next year. I would surely do this one again...for the fourth time.

Gotta run!

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Recently a fellow runner commented that he and I should run a race together at some point. That may not happen soon, as we live on opposite sides of the country, but meeting up somewhere is certainly possible, and has been added to my “to do” list. But we may not run together for long.

Other than suggest the shared run, he also asked about my pace. When I told him my average per mile time, taking into account my one minute walk break for every six minutes of running, his response was that we “need to get you down to a track and work on that”. Well-meaning, I have no doubt, and I took no offense. It did set my mind in motion, though, mulling over the whole question of, as John Bingham has put it, the NEED for SPEED.

I was wondering about that first marathoner, Pheidippides, who plowed his way from Marathon to Athens (allegedly) with a mission far more vital than my quest for finishers’ medals and free wicking running shirts. I have done no research into this, so I may be completely off base, but I’m guessing he may have actually taken a walk break or two. He may even have sat down and had a sandwich! I know he needed to deliver his battle victory report quickly, but I surmise, again, based on no hard facts, he wasn’t worried about his per mile pace. Job One was to finish. I also wonder, if he had taken a few walk breaks he may not have freakin' DIED at the end of the run.

Now, as thousands prepare to run Boston on Monday, I will confess, I have no desire to run that one. As speed is the prime ingredient in the marathon qualification formula, rightly or wrongly, it's pretty much a done deal that I'll never participate in this Holy Grail event. I hold everyone who wants to qualify for Boston, does qualify for Boston, and who runs Boston in the ultimate esteem. I'll be watching the live coverage on Patriots Day. But, and perhaps this is totally uncool, I have no desire to run it. Give me Paris, Vienna, Dublin, London, New York, and even Salt Lake City (where I am running my 3rd SLC this weekend). I have run in 24 marathons to date, and have not felt during one of them that I'd rather be in Hopkinton. (I would take an invitation to run Boston, in all honesty, but I'm not holding my breath.)

I finished my first marathon at 50-years-old seven years ago, in an admittedly then-disappointing 6:40. Since then I've dropped 25 pounds and, just last December, broke the 5 hour mark for the first time. I've also taken to heart the fact that I will never win a marathon, nor, probably, my age group. I'm okay with that. What I do care about is running for as long as I can, while avoiding injury, enjoying myself, and meeting more and more other runners, most of whom will be more cheetah-like than me. Also, there's way more room to run in the back of the pack, and I like my space.

In the name of full disclosure, I will say, that IF I do set a new PR anytime, in any marathon, in any city or country, I WILL be totally stoked, and surprised, by my time, momentarily.

So, if you line up at any starting line with me anytime soon, let me say this now. Chances are you'll get to the beer at the end before me. Just save me one, okay? I'm on my way.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 12 April 2009


On my birthday this year, four weeks out from my third Salt Lake City Marathon, I loaded up my iPod with fresh podcasts and headed out on a 15 mile training run in San Francisco. One of those shows was episode 61 of Chris Russell's runrunlive, featuring an interview, conducted inside a Boston-area funeral home's donated limo, with founders and members of the Goon Squad runners' club, on their way to a half marathon.

As I cranked my way up the infamous Hayes Street Hill I was totally taken with the goofy-yet-dedicated spirit of this band of East Coast friends who were/are obviously intent on wringing every little once of whatever out of the awesome sport of distance running, all while having a great time. I knew then and there that, when I got home from running the Bay to Breakers course and back that day, I would be looking into how I could weasel my way in to the goon group. I was hoping the fact that the club is based in the Boston-area and I'm on the Left Coast would not be a problem. After all, "distance" is what we're all about, right?

The basic membership rules are, as far as I understand, the founders of the club decide who joins, and they only admit two newbies each month. We're not allowed to whine, although I do believe wine may be an integral part of the insanely intense deliberation process. To that end, when I sent my email requesting membership consideration, I did mention that I have easy access to Napa/Sonoma Wine Country products that I would be willing to forward, if such items would, shall we say, grease the wheel.

A few days ago I did get an email from one of the founders saying I was actually being considered by the team. I was, as they say in my homeland (England), "over the moon". That means I was, shall we say, "pleased". I replied that I would be chanting the Goon Squad moniker as a mantra until I heard back on the result of those discussions.

This Easter morning Callie the cat woke me up earlier than usual (4am instead of 5am), as her tummy was apparently rumbling, requiring immediate remedial action. I fed her and determined that, since I'd be getting up as normal in an hour anyway, I might as well stay up. Signed on to the computer, clicking into that internet thing. Not more than moments after logging in I got an email notification from "Doc" (members get goofy Goon Squad names, decided by the founders) of the GSR, that I had indeed made the cut!

I will admit that I wanted to jump up and shout, "YES"...and "SWEET", but such demonstrations would have startled my wife, who sleeps way longer than me, and the cat, who had just settled back into her cozy little blanket-lined basket for a post-breakfast kip. I did the next best thing, immediately went onto Twitter (where I am bowerm, btw), and tweeted my glee.

Long story, short...I am totally stoked to have been taken in to the Goon fold. I have not perused all the member profiles yet, so I may be wrong on this, but I do believe I'm the sole West Coast member right now. As such, I am looking forward to proudly wearing the big "G" singlet in my upcoming races. Sounds like my first chance to wear it will be either Rock and Roll San Diego in May or Rock and Roll Seattle in June.

I am currently in taper for Salt Lake City Marathon next Saturday...which I am now treating as my last long training run for the Big Sur Marathon the following weekend. Here's hoping I do my new running club proud. far I have not been asked to pay off on the aforementioned wine bribe. If that remains the case I will put that money aside toward an East Coast race with my new team.

PS. If anyone in a position of power at GSR reads this...I wouldn't mind if my Goon name was "OvertheMoon". I'm just sayin'!

Gotta run!

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Yesterday was NOT my best ever at work. As a matter of fact, it was one of a handful of days over the past nearly eleven years at this job in which I really wanted to quit. I didn't do it. Instead, I came home, had nothing to eat, a couple glasses of wine, and sat on the couch with my laptop. By the time the final curtain fell on the evening, I'd been offered, and had accepted, a comp entry into the Big Sur Marathon, On April 26th.

Normally, that would be no big deal. Except for the fact that I'm running Salt Lake City Marathon the weekend before. WTF?

I was pretty jazzed when I went to bed. Didn't think I'd sleep well, but I did. Really did think, for just a moment when I woke up, that perhaps it had been something stupid I'd done in dreamland. Not so much. Checked my e-mail and, sure enough, there was confirmation that I had indeed jumped on board the BSIM train...that's leaving really soon.

I have run plenty of marathons in my seven year "career", granted...but never two with just a week between. Earlier this year I did Napa Valley Marathon two weeks after Austin...and did the California race faster than the Texas one. But this?????

Salt Lake is largely downhill, so it should be no problem. I'm looking for my best time ever there, based on recent form. Big Sur is NOT downhill, by any stretch of the imagination. There will be no PR's on the coast for me. should be fun.

I'll at least start with a bunch of folks I know from the Twitterverse, dailymile, Just Finish, and even Facebook. I'll get to met them in real life, and that should be a hoot. Looking forward to seeing what they're really like...when we catch the bus to the start at 3:45AM.

Hope I have a better day at work today. Afraid of what I might commit to if it all goes pear-shaped again.
Gotta run!

Monday, 6 April 2009


With my third Salt Lake City Marathon looming less than two freakin' weeks away...decided I simply must get my last long run in....TODAY.

Woke up early, with kind assistance from Callie the cat, who was desperately in need of nourishment and attention (not necessarily in that order), fully intending to get my 275 situps in before my 20 mile run. Came to my senses before attempting the former, laced up the "trainers", donned the Garmin and the iPod, the latter freshly loaded with the latest favoured podcasts, and caught the "G" bus to downtown San Francisco.

Grabbed a coffee, and headed out from the iconic SF Ferry Building, with visions of lunch at Marin Brewing Company, exactly 20 miles north, as my inspiration. I hear tell that those who ran in SF yesterday battled some mighty stiff winds. Today, same city, completely different conditions. The tv folks who guess about the weather are saying it's going to rain off and on this whole week. No evidence of that this day.

The Embarcadero was fairly crowded with runners at 8am....surprisingly so, I thought, for a Monday. I cruised through Fisherman's Wharf, gladly inhaling the smells of bacon, coffee, and the sinfully delicious aroma wafting from the Boudin Bakery, out to the Marina, across Crissy Field, past the Coast Guard station (mile 5) and out to Ft. Point, then back along the seawall to the fairly new steps leading up to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. That's a hefty climb, densly populated this morning with a group of young women with stretchy straps wrapped around fence posts, doing some sort of workout thing. I would not have minded hanging out to watch, but I had accepted my mission, and chose instead to complete it.

The bridge itself was packed with tourists, as was Vista Point, all soaking in the postcard picture views of The City, digital cameras firing in quick succession, apparently eager to not lose the shot. From here it was what could have been a mad romp down Spencer Avenue, and I do mean down (for those who've never done it). This descent has to be carefully managed to avoid injury. Hit the 10 mile point in downtown Sausalito. Right here my time was 2:02. Took a short mental health break and then re-hit the road, counting miles down now, instead of up.

From this point on it was all about getting to Horse Hill, a steep little bastard that parallels the 101 freeway, leading to a roller coaster section in Corte Madera (that's way more fun on a bike than it is on foot), past Marin Joe's (where a waiter friend of mind says Carlos Santana is a regular), and down to the last 3 miles of this 20 mile route, past a mall, the DMV, past a couple of trailer parks (that, as far as I know, have NEVER been hit by tornadoes), then across an overpass to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and the aforementioned Marin Brewing Company, in Larkspur Landing.

My final time was 4:07, 2:05 for the second half, and 7 minutes slower than the last two times I've run this route. But it wasn't about the time today, it was about the distance...and the reward. My wife sweetly drove over to meet me for lunch and, hopefully (!), to give me a ride home. I dined on Ceasar Salad with shrimp and Raspberry Trail Ale, times two (just the beer, not the salad). She had a club sandwich and Old English Ale.

Once home I treated myself to a half hour in an Albany Sauna hot tub. I know I'm supposed to do ice. Not gonna happen. It's taper time, now.

Gotta run!