Monday, 26 October 2009


This morning after grocery shopping I had to carry the goody bags up the 29 steps that lead to my apartment. While making that climb I had to pause for a thank my legs for still doing what they were meant to do. I put them through a grueling test yesterday morning, namely the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon and, admittedly, there were moments then that I was unsure they'd be able to cut the mustard.

The organizers like to tout the SVM as a flat and fast course. All I will say on the subject is...take a look at the elevation chart from my Garmin readout after the race...and you tell me if that's flat...or not!

I believed the pre-race hype, thinking I might stand a good chance of a new PR here. It was not to be.

Here is where I eat my hat. Prior to the race I bitched (technically different than whining, although don't press me for the distinctions) a bit about San Jose not really being my favourite place to run because of its lack of up-to-snuff scenic beauty. Now I will concede this was an attractive course, pretty much from start to finish (it was an out-and-back so accomplishing that was only half as difficult as it would have been if it was a point to point or a loop). San Jose's Willow Glen district is a delightful residential area, blessed with near-bucolic tree-lined streets. After about mile 5 we left those streets and took to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, following, as you have figured out, the LG Creek. This was pretty much the way it we looped around Los Gatos High School's track and made our way back to the outskirts of Willow Glen. It reminded me a lot of last month's Rochester Marathon course that paralleled the historic and gorgeous Erie Canal. There was just a bit too much canal then...and a bit too much creek yesterday. It's sort of like running the Napa Valley Marathon, past vineyard after vineyard after vineyard after...well, at some point I say "Enough with the vineyards!! Pour me some damn wine!"

While working on the first 13.1 miles of the course I had a sneaking suspicion that I was, for the most part, climbing. Not what I had expected. Finished the first half at the high school in 2:29. Was hoping for more like 2:18-2:20.

Upon leaving the jubilant half marathoners back at their finish party, those of us goofy enough to choose to run all the way back to San Jose, when there were buses available at the school, were confronted with the biggest hill of the course so far. This is also when we climbed out of the near-constant shade and into the glaring sunshine. This is late October, right? Should it really be in the mid-to-upper 70s? Serious?

Having figured out that the first half was nothing but a climb I mistakenly decided that, because the 26.2 course was an out-and-back, the back part would now be downhill. Perhaps I could make up some time and turn in a negative split and maybe even break the 5:00 barrier again. This is where the course designers threw us for a little loop, again. Even though we were indeed retracing many of our steps, the course took us UP some new, steep, long hills. Not a lot. Just enough to dispell hopes of a PR.

Mr. DooDoo Head started talking to me somewhere along here. He's the guy in my head that doesn't think I can finish these things in times like these...or ever, actually. (I co-opted his name from my young friend, Evan Williams, in LeRoy, New York. Seems he has a Mr. DooDoo Head, too. Press on, young man, DDH does NOT get to win!).

From about mile 18 to 21, thoughts of beers and sausages danced in my head. I cast them asunder after that, realizing that if I were to dump out now I'd have to run two marathons by December 7th to successfully finish the 12 in 12, and I'd rather finish this one and have only ONE left. Geared down from my 4:1 run/walk intervals to 3:1, sucked it all up, and pounded it out.

Finished the 2nd half in 2:45...having gone from 5.3 mph average in the first half to 4.8 in the second.

There were free fish tacos, rice and beans at the end. That was awesome. The finishing medal was a bit disappointing. How about putting a little thought into it, huh?

Afterall...this is what my fellow Goon, Mad Dog, got for running the Marine Corps Marathon the same morning...

Drove the 50 miles home in some major pain...but luckily, not injured. Just dog-tired. Had a hour long hottub, followed by margaritas and bed at 6pm. Slept eleven glorious hours. Feeling almost human again. Time now to map out strategies for Santa Barbara International Marathon in six weeks...and the celebrations to follow. my new socks?

Gotta run!

Monday, 19 October 2009


I will be honest. I have not been looking forward to this Sunday's Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon.

Physically, I feel great, now that I've had a couple of days to rest up from Hell Week last week at work. Mentally, I'm thinking I'm kind of in control of most of those faculties, despite a slight increase in what some have called "senior moments". It's not even that I'm tiring of running marathons, because I am not, even though the SVM will be #30 overall and the 11th since last December. Trouble is, this weekend's event is in San Jose. California. Not, sadly, Costa Rica.

With apologies to friends and others with whom I am acquainted who happily call the Bay Area's largest city "home"...I'm just not fond of the place. I've lived in California for long enough (since 1967) that I remember when San Jose was pretty much a bigger version of Fresno...or Phoenix, Junior. Since taking part in marathons in such inspiringly beautiful places as Budapest, Barcelona, Seattle and Salt Lake City, I've become somewhat of an eye-candy addict. Consider next year's schedule, so far. Trieste, Prague, and Athens.

The reason I signed up for SVM, honestly, was because it fit in my 12 in 12 did another marathon, in the aforementioned Fresno. Fresno's farther away, and my travel budget has been, shall we say, "challenged" a bit, of late. So, San Jose, got the reluctant nod.
Having copped to all's probably no surprise that I have been in serious need of inspiration. With just a handful of days to go til I line up on the starting line again, I will concede, I have found it.

Last weekend, like most October weekends, was chock-full of marathon opportunities. Denver, Toronto, Duke City (ABQ), Kansas City, the Baystate, Amsterdam...and right here in the Bay Area, with the Nike Women's Marathon, San Francisco, there was no shortage of choices. However, I had to work. Fortunately, as I follow/friend/tweet/Facebook/Flork/DailyMile /Just Finish hundreds of other runners online, there were dozens of people I "know" who were free to run. It was to them I turned for "spark" for my upcoming endevour.

Upon getting home Sunday evening I immediately began searching for post-race information. Found out that a few had posted new PR's...while a few others had narrowly missed out on their's. Read amazing stories about half marathoners who travelled far, not sure they were going to cut the mustard, who proudly pulled it out in the end. Also read of fellow running club members kicking butt (as they always seem to do!) and posting times I will not even allow my mind to entertain as remote possibilities. Read of people stunning themselves with unexpected BQ's. Also found written evidence of people "blowing up" at mile 20, but pressing on, crossing the finish line in tears...of pain...and joy. Understandably, inspirational.

I also found a few reports of runners who came up short, I hasten to say, THIS TIME, who did not finish, or achieve their lofty goals. To those who DNFed...believe me...I feel your pain. I did that, after travelling thousands of miles to run Budapest. It remains a painful thorn in my side today. I will, however, go back, and tame that course, one day. Instead of beating myself up with that "failure", I now relish the chance to return and set the record straight. To those with goals you did not meet, believe me, there are simply days when, like "sh#t happens", "marathons happen"...and they get to win. I've run in 29 of these things, never knowing until about mile 22-24 whether or not I was going to finish. There's always another marathon to run, if you're game.

I am ready now to lace up my Brooks Beasts this Sunday, spurred on by those of you who got out there and did it, regardless of the outcome, last weekend. Cheers.

San Jose, here I come. Just hope I know the way!

Gotta run!

Monday, 12 October 2009


Earlier today I informed the Twitter and Facebook worlds that I was not planning to run today at all. Last week at work was especially taxing. It included an outdoor cycling event Saturday that kept me on my feet for 12 hours. Then I worked Sunday. Had "decided" I was not going to run, and would instead let my lower extremeties recover more today from last week's toiling ..until I heard the weather forecast for tomorrow. The Bay Area is expecting, what the weather-goofs call , "remnants of three Pacific typhoons"to converge upon our little slice of heaven...bringing upwards of 2-6 inches of rain in one day. Now, I will say, I don't really mind running in rain...but not typhoon remnants!

I was also thinking my left foot needed, despite the prospect of 26.2 miles on October 25th (Silicon Valley Marathon), a little extra time off from running. Early last week I tried to get 10 miles in in my Vibram Five Fingers...but bowed out at 8.5 because of a nagging little pain in the ball of my left foot. I decided this morning, after hearing the weather forecast for tomorrow, and a quick appraisal of my left foot's condition, that today would have to be the day to get out there.

Was first going to do it in the trusty Brooks Beasts, as that's what I'll be running the marathon in San Jose in, but, based on how good it has been feeling to run in the VFF's, decided today would be a good one to try for a 10 miler again.

Set off at about 10:30am, under grey, cloudy, there's-soon-gonna-be-a-kick-ass-storm-here clouds. Perfect temps. The clouds were so thick the Garmin 305 struggled a bit to latch on the satellites. Started to run before it had actually accomplished that mission, and started the timer, too. About a half mile in, everything lined up just right.

The run, in short, was a total joy. Running through the Berkeley Lagoon area, down to the Emeryville Marina, and then back home along the waterfront....validated my love of running here.

I did 10 miles in 1:52:56. The first five took 56:39....the second, 56:15. Negative splits! Nice. Mr. Garmin says I burned nearly 1400 calories...and my bathroom scale says I'm under 180 again...finally.

I really wish I could dump the running shoes for good, but, as much fun as today's run was, I don't think I could have done more than 10 in the VFFs just yet. Still taking it slow. Santa Barbara Marathon is the first weekend in December. I'm thinking that may even be too soon for my first VFF marathon. Stay tuned.
Currently having a little taste of Laphroaig Single Malt. Medicinal, you understand.

Gotta run!

Friday, 2 October 2009



Oh, wait! That's me in that picture up there, three years ago this weekend, when I did my second running of the Portland Marathon. What was I thinking? Did I really think this was an image I'd want to savour to the point where I paid upwards of $30 for the print? Apparently.

Found the photo in a shoebox in the dark recesses of my closet today. I was looking back over the last seven-and-a-half years of running, as I count down (or is it up?) to the penultimate race in my 12 months/12 marathons thing. It's just over three weeks til the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon. Number 11 in the challenge.

At the time, back in 2006, I had no clue I was so, shall we say, substantial. Portland was marathon 13. Since then I have done 16 more. I've shed somewhere around 20 -25 pounds of fat and, quite literally, found a new take on life. It's hard to even remember what I thought about before I started running. Now, it seems, marathoning touches most of what I do and love.

While the physical benefits have surely been welcome, what's most amazing to me have been the social rewards. Outside of my current band of running friends, I have somewhat of a rep as a bit of a grouch. I have learned, over the past couple of years especially, that that was mostly about me and my tainted take on things. It was not about the greater reality. Turns out, there are far more people I'd like to know than not, and I have met many of them this year. They have expressed continued interest in the 12 in 12 effort, and have been kind enough to provide much-needed inspiration, through their own efforts and achievements, along with their encouragement of mine.

I have gone on training runs with a handful of people, primarily because I do this run/walk thing and I don't like holding people back who want to run faster than me. There have been a few who've slowed themselves down to run with me and put up with my intervals. You know who you are. Thanks. I have loved every step of those runs, the conversations, and the beers in the trunk of the car at the end.

Most of the marathons I've done have been races where I knew no one else. A few of them, especially this year, have been events attended by people I've met online (Daily Mile, Twitter, Just Finish, Facebook, or through their own blogs or this one). Almost every one of those folks is faster than me, so we did not get to run together. But we did meet up before and/or after, and shared some amazing moments. You know who you are. Salut!

Now, as the 12 in 12 is nearly over, I have begun planning next year's adventures. I need to do that to fend off boredom. I will not be able to travel as often in 2010 as I did this year, but the journeys will be to more distant shores. The 12 in 12 was planned by me, based mostly, although not entirely, on what races were available in certain months and in places where airfares and hotels were, at least, almost affordable. My trip to Rochester, the noteable exception. That one was about the people. All of next year's trips will be people-driven. I am developing what I hope are life-long friendships with people in Italy, the Czech Republic and Greece. Therefore, my current schedule calls for marathon visits to Trieste, Prague and Athens. Here in California, I will be running the inaugural Oakland Marathon, where I expect to see all my Bay Area the starting line, and at the post-race celebration(s).

Lastly, but not "leastly"...I must say thanks to my family for being there during all this marathon insanity. I think every one of my family members has at least muttered to themselves, if not directly to me, that I was/am nuts. But no one's ever stood in the way or said "you won't make it".

My sweet wife has spent many a weekend alone while I've been off running somewhere, from Tucson to Scotland, from Budapest to Seattle. She's even come along, to Vancouver, Salt Lake City and Chicago, despite not being much of a traveler. Seeing her at the finish line each of those times was the best.

The same goes for my brother. He's taken time off to spend a couple marathon weekends with me. There's nothing better than that. He and his family have been there to welcome me at the CIM finish line in Sacramento twice. Amazing moments. Good times.

To my stepkids, both of whom have trained for and run a marathon with me. I knew you could do it. But that applies to almost anything you put your minds to. Thanks for coming along.

Gotta run!