Monday, 29 June 2009


Okay. I'm home now, and calming down. For those of you who really want to know how the actual inaugural Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon was, here you go.

Having run hot weather marathons in Tucson, Barcelona, and Salt Lake City, it never crossed my mind that the heat could be an issue in Seattle. Was banking on overcast, cool temps, and maybe even a drop or two of rain. Not! Turned out the Emerald City had been rainless for about a month prior to Saturday's race. No change for race day. It was probably mid-50s at the 7am start, as 17,000 half marathoners and 7,000 full marathoners lined up at the Tukwila start. By the time I finished over 5 hours later it was surely into 70s. It was certainly not TOO hot, but the heat and blazing sunshine were something to contend with.

The RNR folks loves them some starting corrals. In Seattle there were over 30 of them. For RNR San Diego last month they dropped the ropes that kept the corrals separate after the elites took off, which allowed everyone else to move up and then begin when we inched up to the start. For some reason they didn't do that in Seattle. They kept the corrals in tact, moving one up after the previous one was released. I was in corral 24, and didn't pass under the balloons for 45 minutes! As I looked back from there I could see nothing but full corrals. I'm guessing those at the end didn't cross the start for at least an hour. Not good.

The first 3-4 miles were pleasant enough, although not very scenic. A mix of residential and commercial areas. The next 8 miles could not have been more beautiful, through posh Seward Park and along the western shoreline of Lake Washington. A Kodak moment brought big crowds of runners to a halt at mile 7, as a bald eagle was spotted perched at the end of a tree branch over the water's edge. I didn't have my camera.

We reached the I-90 highway at the 9 mile mark, and turned east across the floating bridge. Once out on the span, another chance for an awesome picture. Snow-capped Mount Rainer not too far off to the south. Once we hit the eastern end of the bridge we turned around and headed back across and up into the first of a number of tunnels that knocked out my Garmin. Lost the satellites for about 1/2 mile.

It was not long after coming out of the tunnel that the Seattle skyline rose in the distance. Just before heading into the downtown area we passed by Qwest Stadium. It would be the first of three times we'd run by the finish. That plays with your head a little. This is where the 1/2 marathoners turned south while the full folks headed in the opposite direction, where the biggest hills of the course live. Actually they're the same hill...we just ran up it from both sides. My northbound ascent was blessed with the mile 17 Mars bar moment. I was so ready for that!

Once we'd put the long, gradual, southbound climb to the 20 mile marker behind us, it was pretty much downhill til mile 25. That's where the last short climb kicks in, before the very welcome downhill along the west side of Qwest to the big 26...and a sizeable, cheering crowd. Nice!

Elite Racing put on a very well- planned and executed event for 25,000 people. I think they need to do the corral start thing differently. It's just goofy to wait upwards of an hour to reach the start. And...the out-and-back for the last 3 miles is just brutal, and ugly. There's gotta be somewhere else those miles can be achieved.

As far as how I did...stuck with my 3:1 run/walk intervals until mile 23-ish, then geared down to 2:1, mostly because of the heat. I turned in a 5:12, which I am happy with. Marathon 27 in the can...the 8th of the 12 in 12 challenge.

Next up, San Francisco at the end of July. Then, nearly six weeks "off" before Rochester.

Gotta run!

Monday, 22 June 2009


I have lots of running friends who really struggle with the whole concept and practice of the pre-marathon taper, where you take time off from running in the build-up to the big event. Most of the runners I know just hate not running. I, on the other hand, don't mind it at all. I usually love finishing that last training long-run, knowing that I get a couple of weeks where I don't have to force myself into my running shoes (with apologies to you barefooters!) when I don't really want to go. However, with Rock and Roll Seattle 6 days away, I laced up my new Kayano 14's yesterday morning and headed out for a 10 miler. I just HAD to.

It was my first run since last week's 15 miler that included 4 miles in bare feet. The no-shoes part of that run was awesome. I really did not want to put my shoes on but knew my un-shod feet would not fare well if I tried to go the whole way unprotected. Trouble was, I got a couple of huge blisters AFTER I put the shoes on. I took the following week off so that those blisters could heal in time for Rock and Roll. That accomplished I thought yesterday's run, with shoes, would be safe.

The bigger issue, at least yesterday, was my head needed to go for a run. I needed some space from a crazy, busy, sometimes unpleasant few days of work last week. One of those weeks where one questions the whole reason one does what one does for a living. One of those weeks where your brain tries to beat you up for being silly and un-smart in the run-up to where you are now. What was required and desired yesterday was a couple of hours of listening to something other than those voices. Running works for that.

When I do run it's usually early in the morning. It's my favourite time of day. It's when most of the locals are still asleep. I work in a retail environment, which may help to explain the need for time away from people. However, for yesterday's run I didn't start til about 10:00. I don't think I've ever started a run that late, except for the 2004 Loch Ness Marathon, that started at about that time, if memory serves. I never run in the afternoon or evenings. I'm usually too pooped by then.

I have no clue why I chose a hill workout for yesterday's run, but I did. It started with exactly five miles of climbing. According to the Garmin, about 600' of up. The highest point on this Saturday's marathon in Seattle is about 150'. I geared down to 2:1 run/walk intervals for the climb and wrapped it up in 1:02. For many that's crazy slow. For me, considering the climbing, I was pretty pleased with the pace. After cresting "The Arlington" at the golf course, it's pretty much a tumble down the hill for about a mile. After that, it's four miles of flat to home.

I listened to three episodes of one of my favourite running podcasts during the 1:59 I was out there. One was about Vibram running products, another featured a not-so-famous NPR gameshow host, and the third was all about running bras. I will admit to NOT listening to the whole bra episode. I mean, really. What would the point have been? My brain did get a little break, but my feet did not.

My new Asics shoes are not working out well. At least, not yet. Upon getting home I uncovered two new blisters, in spots I've never developed a blister before. One was on the inside of my left heel. The other was on the tip of my 2nd toe on that same foot. Not sure what's up with the new footwear, but I'm glad to have tried them out to the point where I know they're probably not going to work for the next marathon. Pulling the old "Beasts" out of retirement. Old friends are often the best.

I only have to tread water for two days of work this week before I board a Virgin America flight to Seattle on Thursday. I love flying Virgin, so I've got that to look forward to. At the end of that flight there's a nice room ready at a posh (for me) hotel on Lake Union. It's walking distance from the Pike Place Market. I'm thinking that's where me and my camera will be hanging out on Friday, after the marathon expo.

I'm thinking now yesterday's run accomplished just what I needed. This week is mostly about Saturday, and my 21st wedding anniversary. The really important stuff.

Gotta run!

Monday, 15 June 2009


Few weeks back I let it slip that I was looking into the whole barefoot running thing, thanks to the new book Born to Run. I was intrigued by the author's explanation of how running shoes were developed and the possibility that they could be responsible for the lion's share of modern running injuries. The alternative was, naturally, no shoes at all. I was in no hurry to run unshod, as I have a bunch of marathons still to run this year, one of which is RnR Seattle on the 27th of this month, and I didn't want to do anything stupider than I normally would, for fear of injuring myself.

If memory serves, it was the very next day (after I revealed my interest) that my online running bud, Karoline, from Road to Paris blog fame and fortune, hit the road shoeless. She returned unscathed and, apparently, jubilant for the experience. That's when the subtle (?) pressures began to be applied. Kari was a convert, and it was clear her Paris Marathon partner in crime, Laura, was under the gun to give it a try. They go way back, you see.

Laura and I twittered and facebooked a bit back and forth about Kari's, shall we say, intensity?! Yeah, that works. At this point I was feeling a little self-applied pressure to take the plunge, as it was my suggestion that created this monster (used in the nicest way!) in the first place, but, I was still planning on saving myself til after Seattle. Then, out of the blue, surprising me and our friend in Trieste (Kari), Laura dove in last week. She, too, was hooked. I had no choice but to follow suit.

My intent, when I headed into San Francisco at 6:30 this morning was to put in 18-20 miles as by last long run before Seattle. I was thinking about kicking things off (including my shoes) at the Marina, where I could run barefoot around the Green, either on the grass or the pavement path, for MAYBE a mile...just to say I'd tried it.

Got out of the car in my "birthday shoes" (as Kari calls them) and walked across the blacktop parking area to the green. The only thing I could say right then was "damn, that hurts". The parking area is a bit rough. I was sure at this point that this was not going to go well, but stuck to my guns and started running on the grass. It felt good. Nice and damp...and cool...and soft. I was, however, immediately concerned about the sprinkler heads that are almost hidden in the turf, and did not want to hit one of those, so I stepped out on the amazingly smooth and even blacktop path. It did not take long at all for me to be blown away.

I was amazed, primarily, just how much this did NOT hurt. Seems there are pretty much more nerve endings in the foot than almost anywhere else in the body, which might lead one to surmise that, therefore, running barefoot would hurt a lot. But, turns out, all those sensitive nerve endings allow the bare foot to respond and adapt in nano seconds to the stimulus, pleasant or otherwise.

I also quickly felt as though all the energy I was spending was being efficiently used. I was setting a really good pace (for me), with surprisingly little effort. The experience was so enjoyable, that I ended up going around the green seven times, just under 4 miles, before deciding it was time for shoes...and the rest of my run.

Hitting the road again in the new Kayano's did feel first. The cushy heal was comfortable and first. But I soon had the feeling that I was leaving a lot of energy in the cushioning, and perhaps, having to work way harder to get the shoes to go where I wanted them to.

Turns out the balls of both feet got a little tender during the barefoot section, which led to the development of one big blister, late into the shoed portion of the run. That was painful enough that I bailed on my 18-20 mile plan and settled for 15...five minutes faster than my previous 15 mile pace.

All in all, I am blown away by what a positive experience this was. I'm not an expert or a coach so I can not say it's for everyone. But if you're game, give it a go. If you do, even if you don't like it, please let me, Laura, or Kari know. We'd love to hear your tales.

Right now, gotta go lance a blister.
Gotta run!

Friday, 5 June 2009


Time to say goodbye to my '09 Brooks Beasts, finally. They have served me and the 12 in 12 challenge admirably, at Carlsbad, Austin, Napa Valley, Salt Lake City, Big Sur and Rock and Roll San Diego. I think they need a rest.

The big question now I get new shoes...or not?

Here's the deal. I have been listening this week to an audiobook, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christoper McDougall, an amazing account of one man's search for an even more amazing tribe of Mexican native runners who, if they had a hankering to, could probably eat those pesky Kenyan/Ethiopian marathon giants for lunch in any race they'd care to enter with them. But there's more.

The author also does in depth research into how the tribe (the Tarahumara) runs, and how those of us in the mainstream run, and how we got to where we are. One of the major differences between the two is that they, the tribe, run hundreds and hundreds of miles, BAREFOOT and uninjured, We, on the other hand, run in shoes that can cost well over $100, that we replace every 300-500 miles, and that may actually be responsible for the worrying statistic that, in any given year, 6-8 of every 10 runners in the United States will suffer at least one injury that sidelines them, at least temporarily.

Now, I will admit that, in each of the 26 marathons I have run I have seen at least one shoeless runner, and have either not given them much more than a passing glance or rated them an 11 on a 1 -10 nuttiness scale. In last weekend's Rock and Roll San Diego, however, I was pretty much stride-for-stride much of the time with a guy sporting a perfect tan, no shirt and barefeet. He seemed to be having a grand old time, and he got me to thinking then, more than ever, about the sans shoe approach. (One thinks about some goofy stuff during the latter miles of a marathon!!)Little did I know that just a few days later I'd be listening to someone explain his bliss to me, via my iPod.

To say that I am intrigued would put it mildly, although I am not YET ready to take the plunge. I love learning about new stuff, and then trying it out. In my excitement this morning I posted on Twitter that I was looking into this whole barefoot thing, and got a lot of quick responses, every one of them positive. I did not expect, however, to inspire someone to take to a bike path in Trieste (in THE Italy!) with her shoes ON HER HANDS and NOTHING on her feet, but, that's just what my friend Karoline did (click on her name to read about how it went for her). It will be interesting to see if either of us is still in shoes when we run the Trieste Marathon together next May.

I also heard from a guy named Joe, in THE New Jersey, who sent me a link to a video showing a runner doing the barefoot thing on the treadmill. What I noticed right off was that he was NOT hitting the ground first with his heels. Interesting. Different. AND, he seemed to be quite light on his bare feet. Joe's experimenting with barefoot running, too. He's warming up to the running with some walks and then walk/runs. I like Joe's style. May try his method this weekend, as I resume my training for Rock and Roll Seattle in three weeks. I won't be running RNR barefooted, I am sure. Don't have time to work up to that. But, I may get a pair of Nike Free's and try those out.

Not sure I'll ever go whole hog on the barefoot thing, even though I don't really care about maybe being an 11 or 12 on some random shoed-runner's nuttiness scale. What I know about barefoot running, at this early stage of my investigations, makes a lot of sense. That frightens me a little.

Would love to hear from any of you've tried to run without shoes, successfully or otherwise. Would also like to hear from anyone who's run in Nike Free's.

Gotta run!

Monday, 1 June 2009


Running in the back of the pack of every marathon I've done, I have had the opportunity to overhear some interesting, and often disheartening conversations between fellow runners who are about to cross the 26.2 mile finish line. The ones that sadden me are those involving people in the throws of beating themselves up for not realizing their intended goals. More often than not those expectations were time-related. I just wanted to take a moment to remind them, and those of you who may have suffered similar "setbacks", or may in the future, 26.2 miles is a helluva long way, and, no matter how convinced you are that you should be the next Kenyan superstar, sometimes the marathon just kicks your butt. There is nothing there that speaks to "failure". Remember, the first guy who went the distance between Marathon and Athens (the story goes) nearly died at the 17th mile...and DID DIE at the end. Finishing, and living to do it again, is nothing short of awesome.

Having said that... I finished yesterday's Rock and Roll San Diego in 5:17:07. My 4:56 PR from December's CIM in Sacramento still stands. Admittedly, I was hoping to set a new standard for myself, but, it was apparently not to be. Despite that, I am thrilled to have racked up another finish, number 7 in this year's 12in12. I am over the hump.

The weather was awesomely awesome. Cool, overcast, and even a bit drizzly at times. It was muggy in spots away from bay breezes, but nothing like the last time I ran RnR in 2006, when it was riduculously hot. My watch was set for 3:1 run/walk Galloway intervals, a system I was hoping to stick with all the way.

When I made the eastward turn from the edge of the harbor toward downtown, at mile 6.5ish, I knew things were going to be better this time than in '06. Back then this is where I realized my first RnR was going to suck, big time.

The big challenge on this course is the climb up the 168 freeway, closed off for us 15,000+ (new official numbers) runners. It's about a two mile climb, twice as long as Big Sur's trek up to Hurricane Point. Perhaps I should have geared down to 2:1's here, as I did at Big Sur, but I didn't. It may have been my one mistake this time around. At the start of the climb I was setting a PR pace. By the time I crested the peak, I had lost it. Not to worry, I told myself. The rest of the course is downhill or flat.

As I hit the halfway point my Garmin showed 2:30, which is pretty much the norm for me for 13.1. I had gained back a little time, but with half the race to go it was a crap-shoot as to whether or not I could maintain my pace. I did well until mile 20 (3 miles passed my blessed Mars bar break) where I realized the "3" part of the 3:1's was taking its toll. I switched to 2:1's here, thinking no matter how tired I was I could surely always find a 2 minute run in the tank til the end. That worked, and I stuck with the intervals the rest of the way. In many past races this is where I've dumped out on the intervals and walked more than ran.

The first time I ran RnRSD I was pretty new to this sport, and knew no one in the pack. This time I had lots of friends who came down from the Bay Area and beyond, with their own goals tattooed on their minds. I am thrilled to say most, if not all of them, set new records for themselves in San Diego, and are going home fulfilled. I am in awe of every one of them, and what they were able to accomplish here. You know who you are. Looking forward to many more races with you. For those runs we don't share, I will be watching, and wondering, often, just how, and yes, sometimes why, we keep doing this. But do it, we will.

Rock and Roll Seattle is next, next month.

Gotta run!