Friday, 25 December 2009


For Christmas I gave myself....a little run around The City.

I was going to go when it was still dark but then decided I wanted to make this eight miler all about the sights. So, I waited til first light, so I could take some "snaps".

It started at the Port of San Francisco's Ferry Building. Wanted to duck in there for one last stop for Mother Nature...but dang if it wasn't all locked up. As I was about to set out I noticed a sprig of misteltoe dangling from an overhead wire.

Hung out there for about 30 seconds, hoping I might get lucky...then realized I could probably hang for 4 or 5 hours, or days, with similar, disheartening I set off, heading west, up the city's main drag, Market Street.
Didn't take long to realize that there were quite a few homeless folk out and about in the early morning chill. I'm guessing it seemed like a lot because their presence was not diluted by the normal workday masses. Most of those people were surely warm and full and being hugged. Not the order of the day on Market.

Where Powell Street and Market join in a "T", the city's famous mobile landmarks wait to carry giddy tourists to the top of Nob Hill.

There were three "gripmen" here, waiting for their turns to pull into place. Each of them was either talking on their cellphones or texting someone. In a few short minutes they'd be ringing their bells as they glided past Union Square. I was headed there...on foot.

Just before Union Square the temptation was strong to duck into the Gold Rush for a quick Irish Coffee...

Steadfastly, I resisted.
From here it was back to Market, with City Hall in mind. Before I got there, though, I cruised through United Nations Plaza and up to the city's old main library. Today it was not about was about scores of needy people digging through piles and piles of free clothes. They were hoping to find warmth in there...somewhere.

This scene played out just a stone's throw from one of the most opulent buildings in the city...

 a dedicated band of devotees to someone/something bigger than themselves performed their morning ablutions in the plaza.

One of my morning rituals is the homage I pay to the Blue Bottle Coffee Company. Quite simply's the best. One of the company's few outlets is a kiosk, tucked away on Linden, in the Hayes Valley area of the city, behind City Hall. I knew it was probably not open...and I was right.

How dare they take the day off! That's okay, really. I didn't have time to stop for a cup. I had to climb up Gough Street and then down Geary to take a pic of St. Mary's Cathedral, known to some locals as the "pregnant Maytag".

After a couple more blocks of climbing (walking!) I tumbled down Gough towards the waterfront. As I hit Fort Mason I was hit with a view of the iconic Golden Gate...

Not the best picture ever...but,'ve seen it a bazillion times...used your imagination, huh?

With only a couple miles to go to where I'd parked my car, I prepared my senses for the tastiest part of the run. As I headed into the Fisherman's Wharf area, I passed the California Shellfish Company. In its window, a couple of carolers...

After this it was Fisherman's Wharf proper...complete with fresh crab...

...and the cocktail version...

...and the intoxicating sourdough drift from the Boudin bakery!

Before heading into the home stretch, in other words, the last mile, I tooled around Pier 39, perhaps most famous for the colony of sea lions often seen, and heard there, basking in the sunshine. Plenty of sun there this morning but no sea lions. I guess even they go home for the holidays.
I hope you got to be home for the seasonal festivities, and that your celebrations were joyous and your personal encounters were sweet.
Gotta run!

Monday, 7 December 2009


Over the past 12 months I have learned, questioned, hurt, and laughed a lot. I beat myself down at times, pumped myself up at others, was inspired by many, encouraged a few, sealed some lasting friendships, and was honored to witness the victories of many I'll never see again. I have also launched some new dreams, some of them my own. Overall the challenge was about pacing, places...and people. More on all that later. THIS post is my Santa Barbara International Marathon report.

I drove the course early Saturday morning, and was thrilled to confirm, I thought, the pre-race publicity celebrating its many flat bits, downhills, and the relatively few climbs. My mind began racing with thoughts of breaking 5:00 hours as I wrapped up the 12/12...just as I'd started it back in Sacramento, at CIM, in December 2008.

Race day morning began at 3:45. There was a quick wake-up shower to take, and a bus to the starting line in Goleta, to catch. I needed to pick up my friend, John, on the way. I was also banking on the original Sambos (yes, there is still ONE!) to be open so I could secure a much-needed cup of coffee. I got John. Didn't get the joe.

The race was supposed to start at 6:30. We got to the starting area, a local elementary school, a touch after 5. It was crazy cold, but a few of the rooms were opened up, among them the library with cute little books and cute little chairs. I got one of the chairs before John did.

Those rooms were only slightly warmer than the outside, but the shelter was welcomed. Shortly after 6 the word came down that the start would be delayed, due to an accident on the nearby freeway. We finally blasted across the start line at 7, and headed out for the initial 12 mile loop, lined with vineyards, lemon groves and houses. I was pleased to have brought my cheapo gloves. I don't mind my legs begin cold...but hands are another story.

Most of the loop WAS downhill or flat. That's good. What I didn't like was seeing sights at the start of the loop that I knew I'd be seeing again in 8 miles or so. Mentally, a bit of a challenge. It's for that reason that I am not a big fan of out-and-back courses. I'm pretty much a point-to-point guy, even though that often requires an early morning bus to the start.

I hit the 13.1 mile point, just after finishing the loop, at 2:29. Felt okay about that, as I was under the misconception that most of the rest of the course was downhill. I believed the worst bits were behind me, and was now entertaining thoughts of negative splits.

Just before mile 17 we finally turned off Cathedral Oaks Road (which we'd been on for a total of 10 miles by this time) and headed down Turnpike Road toward the ocean. However, despite it being Santa Barbara, we would not see the Pacific from this course until the last two miles. I was enjoying a nice downhill bit when the 17 marker appeared. Normally I stop here and unwrap my secret (not so secret anymore, I'll admit) weapon...the English Mars bar. I delayed that though for nearly a mile this time, to take advantage of the gravitional pull. The payoff was worth the wait.

Just after mile 18 we turned south, off the street and onto a two mile section of bike path. According to my Garmin I was holding steady with a pace that did not exclude the possibility of sub 5:00. As I waited for the Mars bar boost to kick in, I was beginning to believe I had this thing in the bag. I did have one worry though. For the past couple of weeks I have been experiencing some intermittent pain in my left heel and arch. I was frightened about the possible onset of plantar fasciitis. I had not felt that pain this morning until here. It was mild at this point so I pressed on, hoping this little annoyance would not derail the day.

After the bike path we hit Modoc Road. When I drove the course I marked this spot in my head as the beginning of the end, so I was thrilled to see the Modoc street sign. The next big turn was onto Las Positas, and its very welcome descent. What's not so welcome is the biggest hill of the course, that begins at the bottom of Los Positas and Cliff Drive, and climbs up to mile 24. My Garmin indicated that I still had sub 5, or very close to it, in sight, if I could just maintain my pace. My left heel and arch were conspiring against me, though. They'd obviously decided they'd had enough and wanted to go home. I was afraid that if I didn't concede on a few of my demands they'd filibuster, ending all negotiations. Apparently, they are Blue Dog Democrats.

The top of the hill offered a Pacific vista that seemed to put the last few hours of hard work, strategizing, pain and pleasure into perspective. The next two miles, along Shoreline Drive, were the last two miles of the 12 in 12. I was very happy to tumble down them, although I am sure the expression on my face would not have given that away...until I crossed the finish line.

My friend, John, was there at the end, cheering me in. He'd finished in 4:40. He'd hoped for faster, especially since I'd told him that I thought the course would be "almost easy". Okay, I was wrong. But he kicked butt. Shortly after getting my medal, my friend Bob found us. He'd come over from Tokyo with visions of a 3:04 finish in his head. Sadly (HA!), he was only able to manage a 3:09. He won his 60-64 age group!

More in these guys later. Suffice it to say...they are stars.

My official course time was 5:19...but my Garmin says 5:13. I'm going with Garmin.

The post-race celebrations included a jacuzzi at John's motel, pizza, fish tacos, beers and martinis at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, before heading back to my motel where I was asleep by 7pm.

Oh, by the way. I finally got my first cup of coffee for the 2:30 in the afternoon! Damn, that was good.

Gotta run!.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Don't know about you...but I don't often have days like yesterday. I'm thinking most of us wouldn't mind more of them.

About 9 months ago I was totally blown away when the Boston-based Goon Squad Runners Club took me into the fold...despite the fact that I live (and run) about three thousand miles away from the organization's base of operations. These folks have some fun running...and other stuff. Beer is a staple. Need I say more?

All day I was anticipating a call from the GSR, which was holding its first annual awards ceremony last night. Word was they wanted to cheer me on, over the phone, to the completion of my 12 in 12 challenge this weekend in Santa Barbara. Said call came just after 5:30pm. It was short...and unexpectedly sweet.

I am the honored recipient of the GSR's first-ever Craziest Goon of the Year award. Has something to do with being, in the estimation of the voters, the "craziest nut case..who runs out of control...does zillions of...races, marathons, ultras, etc." Truth be told, I run with some crazy control. My pacing charts from my Garmin bear that out. I have less control, admittedly, of my "enter" key finger...when it comes to signing up for future races. Five are scheduled for far. Rest assured there will be more. And, my running clubmates can count on me to be there for the 2nd annual awards ceremony.

Enough? As if.

Then, just moments after the awards call from Boston, I got an e-mail from upstate New York. My veteran marathon friend, and advocate for all things JELLO, Laura, wanted to make sure I was not going to kill her...for passing my 12 in 12 story on to the PR folks at the Santa Barbara International Marathon. Despite my fairly frequent postings about my running routes and times, I'm really not one to shout a lot about what I'm doing. I know that, for some, the 12 in 12 may seem amazing. I also recognize that there are many...really...other runners who do much more.

Laura wanted to clear the way for me to meet up with the marathon folks this weekend. And, apparently, a writer there wants to talk to me on Saturday. I am more than happy to do that, especially if it allows me to get the word out that being a back-of-the-pack runner is okay. You elites have no idea what fun we're having back there, while you're having your post-race ice baths, massages and beers.

I have one day of work to do this week, then it's off to Santa Barbara. My motel is a block from the beach and there's a gym in town I can use for jacuzzi purposes before and after the event. I'm going to have dinner Saturday night with my friend Bob, who's coming over from Tokyo to run and my other friend, John, who's from just down the road. Good times about to commence. Crazy.

Gotta run!