Tuesday, 24 November 2009


There's a belief among some runners that if your last training run before your marathon sucks...it's a sign that you're going to have a good race on event day. Oh, please, running gods...make it true.

I have had a crazy work schedule of late, making it hard for me to find the time to get my last long training run for the Santa Barbara International Marathon in. In a last ditch effort to accomplish same, this morning I headed out for a 14-miler. I did 3 miles yesterday on the dreadmill, and apparently that gym session left me with little reserves for the task at hand.

The weather was beautiful. Crisp and cool, not a cloud to be seen over San Francisco Bay.

Today's course was from my house, through Richmond to the Starbucks in Pt. Richmond, and back. I bundled up, with running beanie, windbreaker, gloves, and my armband radio, tuned to the Stephanie Miller Show.

It's not uncommon for my legs to not be into a run right off...or my mind to take some coaxing to really get on board. This morning both were betraying me. It took about 4 miles til my legs actually seemed to completely give in to my intention to run. They went along somewhat happily until I got to the Starbucks, where I decided to grab a quick coffee, hoping it would provide the boost I needed to get home. Once I hit the road again, the legs just never regained their momentum. It was like pushing cement pillars uphill. On top of that, my head could think of nothing but being finished.

Somehow, I ground it out. Seriously, I do not know how. At the end I could not believe that in just another week and a half I'm going to do what I did today AND another 12 miles. I could not imagine going another 12 feet today.

So, I have posted 17 miles in the last two days. It's my custom to put in a 20 miler two weeks before the marathon. I hope this week's efforts suffice for December 6th, when the 12 in 12 winds up.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


A customer came in to my bike shop today in search of a stem that would allow him to sit up higher than he is now, in an effort to relieve some of the neck/back pain he experiences after almost every ride he takes. Remember, we're talking about battling actual pain here. I pointed him in the direction of our wall-o-stems and he found one that fit the bill. He showed it to me, I confirmed it should do what he wanted it to, then he waffled. He was most worried about what other cyclists would say about the stem, as he has a "really nice" bike and this particular stem was "kinda dorky".

My stepson and I went on a bike ride together on Monday of this week. It must be said here that I am what some have called a "gearhead". I have all the bells and whistles...sweat-wicking jerseys, cool new Lake shoes, a Garmin 305 with cadence sensor, a beautiful, stealthy matt-black Giant OCR machine, and credit cards for easy access to post-ride refreshment. The boy chooses to ride, despite the fact that I have built him a sleek, similar-to-mine, stealthy, aluminum bicycle, an old, steel Univega 12 speed, that doesn't even have a "granny gear" that would give him, at least, the option of going uphill without pushing his heartbeat into the "danger, danger, Will Robinson" zone. He also rides in jeans, a button-up regular shirt, and battered running shoes. To other "serious" cyclists, he probably looks like a "dork".

The difference between the two is that...only one of them gives a flyin' rat's patooty about the dork label. This got me to thinking about those of us who run...long...and slow.

Perhaps you read it. There was a recent article in the New York Times about whether or not us "plodders" belong in official marathon events. For your perusal, that stoopid piece of drivel is here. I have toyed with responding to this piece of crap but, thankfully, do not have to. My friend Jewelz has done so, with eloquence. I can add nothing more to what she has posted here...after she mastered the NYC Marathon course, slowly...but SURELY, earlier this month. Then, out of the blue, my friend Kari struck similar notes in her most recent blog post, when she spoke of just getting out there when you feel like... just getting out there.

The way this stuff played out? My bike shop customer ended up buying his "dorky" stem. Despite my near-pathological aversion to ever being called a "salesman", I convinced him to take this health-improving little piece of hardware home for his own physical good. I thoroughly expect a "thumbs up" report from him soon, despite of what his "friends" may say. My stepson pretty much mapped out our ride course on Monday, and it included some serious hills. Despite my "gear", he kicked my butt. I am glad he waited for me at the top. Because he did, I sprang for the "afters" .

And then, there's this. If anyone of you out there is dreaming of running a marathon, but thinking you just can't commit, because you'll be slow, or your friends or family, or both, won't get it, or they'll think you're NUTZ...or that you won't be considered a serious runner because you walked a bit, or took a bit "too long", NONE OF THAT MATTERS.

For those of you training for your first marathon (my favourite people on the planet)...good on 'ya! It's a big deal, no matter how long you take. It's about the distance, and your resolve...not about the time. It's NOT about looking "cool" when you cross the finish line. You probably won't. I never have.

Gotta run!

Saturday, 7 November 2009


A running friend asked me recently how I do so many marathons without burning out. She wondered how all the training that goes into the effort doesn't make me crazy. She's no stranger to the game, having run five mararathons herself so far, with three more scheduled for the next month or so. However, for some reason, she wondered how I handle it all. So...here, for the first time ever, anywhere...here...are my "secrets".

#1. Tame Your Goals

The first marathon I ran was Vancouver, BC, in 2003. I took it to heart when our National AIDS Marathon Training Program coaches told us that the goal for first timers should be to do nothing more than finish. If my fading memory serves, I finished that bad boy in something over 6:30. It was not fun. It was cold and rainy. I had never felt such pain. But, after crossing beneath the finish banner, where my sweet wife and hot soup were waiting, my first thought was, "What's next?" I had achieved all that I had come to do. There was no beating myself up because of my time. I still don't beat myself about time. Would I like to be faster? Sure. Do I stress about it? Not for a minute. My marathon goal remains today what was back then, 30 marathons ago. Finish.

#2. Respect the Distance

Ever since Vancouver I have had a reverence for the sheer majesty of the 26.2. In my mind, the distance is always in charge. I will never "beat" it. My goal has been to manage my experience over the distance to the best of my ability. That ability, by the way, may be way different on event day than it was during training. Over time I have learned to live with that disparity when it makes itself known. Some days I'm just a little bit better at doing that than other days. I go into every race knowing that this is the one that could kick my ass. Instead of trying to lash out first, I try to make friends with the task at hand, and ease myself through it. I have gotten much more adept at managing my races, and going with the flow. However, doing so has never, not even once, been anything remotely close to easy.

#3 Train Smart

I know so many runners who simply have to get out there practically every day. For me, that's just not practical. The AIDS Marathon folks started me out at two maintenance runs and one long run a week. I have hardly ever run more than that. I may have run four days a week twice in nearly eight years of training. Over that time I have never had a serious injury. I have never had to take one day off because of excruciating pain. Honestly, I would like to run more. There are times I see other runners running and I wish I was running, too. There are many days there's nothing I'd rather do than run. I am willing to set those days aside in hopes of just being able to run until I'm 100.

#4 Run Your Own Race

The hardest part of doing this is when everyone else in your race is leaving you behind. I know this because it happens to me every time I run a marathon. Despite the warnings from all the experts, the temptation to go out too fast when the starting gun sounds, because everyone else is doing it, is monumental. I, however, have really learned how NOT to do this. I will admit it is difficult to convince myself EVERY time that I will be happy for my choice later. A lot later. But, it has ALWAYS proven itself out. I cannot recall the last race I ran in which more people passed me over the last six miles than I passed by. It's a feeling worth waiting for...and a far better feeling than most of the speed demons of 20 miles ago are experiencing.

#5 Go a Little Crazy

The previous "secrets" are long on control. This one is not. I dream a lot about where I might run next. I am slightly, but only slightly, embarrassed by how much time I spend doing just that. I spend way too much time online, searching for destination races for myself, and keeping up with where other runners are running, for inspiration. I find nothing more motivating than paying the registration fee for another event. I hate paying for a race I don't run. Once I've paid my money, there's a 99% chance I'm gonna be there. I get an adrenaline rush when I score cheap airfare, hotel room, hostel bed, and/or car rental. To that end, I subscribe to a long list of services that let me know when there are savings to be snagged. I snag as many as I can.

So. This is just how I handle this marathon thing. I don't claim to be a coach. I am thrilled that some find inspiration in what I've done so far. If anything I've left here strikes a chord with you, I am grateful for that. Hoping to pay forward the inspiration I have drawn from so many.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


...is that I spend most of them dreaming about where I'd like to run next.

It's a combination of loving living out of my suitcase (I've always wanted to be a flight attendant. Really!), wanting to fill my head with as many amazing sights and stories as I can in the 2nd half of my life, and my new found joy, meeting up with other distance runners. Oh, yeah...and the whole actually running thing. I like that, too...except on race day mornings, when I relentlessly question my own sanity.

As I prepare to wind things up on the 12 in 12 in 5 weeks in Santa Barbara, I have already become kind of antsy about 2010. I need goals. Until yesterday's day off, I had tentatively planned only four marathons for next year. I say tentatively because of current economic times. Part of the new challenge will be just how to work the airfare thing, for May's trip to Trieste and Prague and October's to Athens. One of those tickets will be funded largely by Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles. That gets me to London. From there it's a hop-skip-and-budget airline-jump to Italy. Then back to London from Prague, via another cheapo carrier, and back to SFO via Virgin. Greece is going to be a whole other kettle of fish. I might actually have to "go retail".

That's three of next year's races. The fourth is the brand new Oakland Marathon, on March 28th. Until they came up with this one I considered San Francisco my hometown marathon. But Oakland's practically next door, so I've gotta do it. I've already run most of the course while training for other events. Most of the rest of it I've done on my bike.

Yesterday I added the fifth.

Back in March 2004 I travelled to Los Angeles with a good friend. We threw our bikes in the back of his big red truck and headed south to do the Acura LA Bike Tour. It's when the organizers of the LA Marathon allow cyclists to ride the marathon route before the runners. It was a great bike ride, but, after completing it I swore I would NEVER run LA. It was one ugly, ugly course. Sorry, guys...but, I speak truth here. Yesterday I ate my words. They have changed the course. It now runs from Dodger Stadium to the beach in Santa Monica. I think I can deal with that. The new LA Marathon is set for March 21st...the week before Oakland.

I've done back-to-back marathons once before...this year's Salt Lake City and Big Sur. Next year's Trieste and Prague will be one week apart. I think I'll be okay with LA and Oakland...especially since Oakland will require no travel.

Starting to feel like I may have enough planned for 2010, but you never know. If I spend enough time searching online for other events, with cheap red wine by my side, I may just press the "enter now" key another couple of times.

Gotta run!