Hey, 2010...don't let the door slam you in the butt on the way out, huh?
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Hey, 2010...don't let the door slam you in the butt on the way out, huh?
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
I just couldn't bear it. I've been waiting, hoping for some sort of inspiration that will kick my ass out of bed, into my VFFs and on to the running road on a regular basis...and it may have arrived today.
Just got an email from the Austin Marathon folks. They've changed the course so that that bitch of a hill that used to be at about mile 25, just behind the State Capitol, will now have to be conquered at the BEGINNING of the race instead of at the bitter end. I am very happy about that.
It's exactly three months until the next Austin Marathon, which is the race I've selected as my comeback event. I did it in 2009...and other than the infamous bedbugs incident in my downtown Super 8 Motel...that left me with tennis ball-size bite marks on the back of my neck and my legs on race day...I am IN LOVE with the Texas capital. When I left I knew I'd be back.
I'm up to 8 miles at one time in my barefoot shoes. And that last "long" run felt great. I am hoping for a 10er tomorrow. I really need to kick things up now. I'm serious. The news about the starting/finish line change has given me new life.
If you've got any extra mojo you can spare...please forward it to me. I'm REALLY gonna try to light a fire under my own ass and get it done.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Monday, 25 October 2010
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Okay...I'll make this quick.
I ran yesterday in my VFFs....for the first time in a very long time...and decided to hang up my running shoes for good. I have been looking for some sort of inspiration to commit myself to the marathon again...after nearly a year off. The VVFs did the trick.
I ran last week in my Brooks Beasts...and couldn't wait for it to be all over. I would have run more yesterday if I'd had more time before work. The nearly-barefoot thing just feels so much lighter, despite the eight pounds I've acquired since the Santa Barbara International Marathon last December. I'm also faster without big spongy heel strikes to battle. Bye, bye shoes...you served me well. Thanks for the ride.
That was not the only thing decided during yesterday's out-and-back along the San Francisco waterfront. I have also decided on my next marathon. I'm back in the game. I am now officially in training for a return visit to Austin, Texas in February.
I ran Austin in 2009, and despite the bed bug infestion in my first motel room, I thoroughly enjoyed the city, the bbq, the post-race margarita, the music, and the race itself. Word is many of the runners that year were treated to a blazing meteor show in the sky that morning. I missed that. I liked everything about the Austin Marathon EXCEPT the exceptionally cruel steep climb at mile 24/25...on the east end of the state capitol building. My Austin Marathon medal is my favourite, of the thirty I have hanging in my den. I need another one. So...look out Texas...Whacko's coming back.
Part of the inspiration for the two new decisions...the arrival earlier this week of my new Goon Squad Running Club "Big G" singlet. This is one bad ass singlet. I am dying to put it on, but, despite the fact that it says XL on the label...I can't wear it comfortably. My goal is to train the aforementioned eight pounds away and debut this bad boy in Austin.
For my bicycle friends...have no fear. The Scotland trip in 2012 is still on. The return to marathoning will only make me stronger and leaner for that adventure.
Once again it feels good to say....
Monday, 27 September 2010
The good thing is...I don't feel that bad about it. This has not been an easy year. Honestly, it's probably been the worst ever, in many regards. But, I have been coping. Sometimes, barely. Sometimes, way better. I know there are crowds of folks struggling to keep their sanity in these troubled times. I mean, have you seen those Glen Beck-tards? I applaud myself for not tumbling into the depths of his depravity.
Mostly, I thank my amazing wife. She has been there, in every way, every day. Partially, I thank Trader Joes...and its Simpler Times Lager, for bolstering my coping skills. $2.99 a six-pack. Not the kind of six-pack I really want, though. So....
As of October 1...I am dusting off my Brooks Beasts...and my Vibram 5 Fingers...Garmin 305, podcast-loaded iPod, and am hitting the Bay Area running paths again. I am sitting by my mailbox, waiting for the delivery of my brand new BLACK Big G (Goon Squad Running Club) running singlet. I regret letting them down this year. Last year they gave me the first-ever Craziest Goon Award...because of my marathon exploits. Not so much, in 20-10. My goal is to be back in marathon/half marathon shape by the new year.
Other than that...life, in general, is getting much smaller for me and mine. After years of lofty dreams of travel and conquest, I am playing my cards much closer to my chest these days. I will surely miss the days of wine-enhanced travel planning...like when I went to Scotland to run the Loch Ness Marathon...or Budapest, to acquire my one-and-only marathon DNF. We've cut those options up...and run them through the shredder...and handed the baton off to the dudes in the suits.
I am pouring more effort into my fledgling bike repair concern...based in my garage and on Facebook. I am looking for more freelance writing opportunities. We are taking over a community gardening plot...to grow our own veggies. For some reason, my wife wants flowers in it, too. Perhaps, I understand...more than I'm willing to admit.
Monday, 30 August 2010
Since my first marathon in 2003, until earlier this year, I lived for each of the 30 marathons I've finished...and even, for a part of that time, for Budapest, the one that I didn't.Training, running, and traveling, was pretty much what I thought about when I didn't have something that HAD to be thought about.
Since losing my job in March, I've had THAT to deal with. I have been blessed with lots of part time work in radio, freelance writing opportunities, the occasional bike tune-up, and, most recently, the chance to get in with a new service that runs errands for people. Essentially, I have four jobs right now, but am still under-employed. I can not imagine having a marathon to train for right now. I'm also glad to not have to keep my flame alive for other runners who, for some reason, looked to me for inspiration or motivation. I'm not up to any of those things right now. I made a good choice to cool my heels.
Having said that, I am feeling the urge to run again, for fun. Last week I pulled out my Vibram Five Fingers and did three miles in them. It was the first time I'd been in them since January, when I tried to go too far and fractured a little bone in the top of my right foot. That sidelined me for a couple of months. Last week's "barefoot" run felt great. I had to again get used to the people who stare at them, while trying not to stare. People are...often...funny.
I have not picked my first half marathon to train for. I will. But, as I mentioned last posting, I have picked my own 60th birthday present to myself in 2012; my trip to the UK for my second go at the 900+ mile End to End bicycle ride. The latest edition of the trip planner came a couple of days ago and I have been engrossed within.
I am beginning to feel the giddy excitement I experienced while planning my first attempt, in 2003.
I am already anticipating English breakfasts, with bangers, bacon, mushrooms and baked beans, and slice-after-slice of English toast and butter...bacon butty sarnies on the road, Crunchie candy bars for a quick sugar jolt, Marmite crisps for salt replenishment, REAL fish and chips, REAL Indian fare, and a damn fine British rainstorm...watched from around a cozy, coal-fueled fire.
I will need to meet up with my uncle and my cousin, in Oxfordshire and Kent, for snooker games, Sunday dinners and too much red wine, and stories about our mothers, all passed.
There is only so much I can cope with these days.
For now, this is it.
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
In case you missed it I recently decided that, for my 60th birthday in March of 2012, I am going to return to the UK to finish the 900 mile ride I bagged on in 2003 because both hands went numb. Much like the Budapest Marathon that I DNFed, the ride from Land's End in England to John O'Groats in Scotland that I didn't complete has been a proverbial thorn in my side for years.
Despite the fact that yesterday was predicted to be the hottest day of the year in the San Francisco Bay Area, I headed out, late for me, at 11AM, with a bottle full of orange-cream flavoured Cytomax, a couple of energy gels, my camera and my Blackberry. The actual finish line for the day would be the Marin Brewing Company, across the street from the ferry terminal, where I would meet up with my friend, Paul, for lunch.
I am often guilty of taking this place for granted. It's one of the best places on the planet for running, riding, food...and beer. It only took moments of being on the road again to get into the spirit of the whole adventure. I also realized, more quickly than I would have hoped, that I have not done much climbing on the bike in a while. I have lots of hill work to do. I remember one day during my 2003 trip when I only managed 20 miles in TEN HOURS, because of the climbs along the English coast.
Yesterday's biggest challenge was navigating through the crowds on the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm not sure why it is but it seems that tourists leave their brains in their hotel rooms on the day they decide to take to the iconic span. When I travel I really try to NOT make a fool of myself. I made it, surprisingly, without colliding with anyone. Result!
After the bridge there's the awesome Alexander Avenue decline into Sausalito, known for tacky t-shirts, overpriced everything, and amazing views of the Bay and San Francisco. The view yesterday was enhanced by the 300-million dollar private yacht belonging to a mysterious Russian billionaire. It's called "A"...and it's been anchored in the Bay for a couple of weeks now.After Sausalito, it's the Mill Valley bike path, beneath the majesty of Mount Tamalpais. Legend has it that the mountain bike was invented on "Tam." Depends on who you talk to, but I pretty much buy it.
After that the route slices through a quiet neighborhood, toward the 101 freeway. It parallels the freeway, separated by a chain link fence. There is no shade here, as the path climbs a steep, but thankfully short, hill. I quickly realized I have not sweat in a while!
From here there's an insanely steep decline. It's only about a New York City block long...but one can hit 35-40 mph here, easily. Honestly, it's a bit scary.
Once that tumble is completed, it's only a little more than a mile to the ferry building. Rode up to the terminal and picked up an official printed ferry schedule in the hopes of having lunch with Paul and then catching a boat back to SF. Said schedule said the next ferry was at 2:50. It was 1:30.
Left the restaurant with what I thought was 5 minutes to spare, rolled up to the terminal only to see the boat pulling away from the dock. Turns out the boats are running on a "revised schedule"....that is posted above the ticket window. However, the transit agency is still handing out printed schedules with inaccurate information. Ticket agent told me "We've put the actual schedule up on our Web site." To which I replied, "I didn't bring my computer with me." Tip to GG Transit. Pull the printed schedules. Quickly remembered...this is the kind of thing that can go wrong during a long-distance bike trip. Get over it.
I slept like a baby. Quickly remembered, that's the kind of sleep one gets after a long day on the bike. I like that.
20 miles down, thousands to go.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
For the past 9 years, most of my life has revolved around running marathons. Commitment, training, travel, pain, elation, planning, learning, sharing, friends, challenges, disappointment, dreaming, experimenting, succeeding, stumbling....and celebration...all part of the mix. For the past six months I, however, have not felt the fire, and have been struggling to find out why. I now think it's simply that I don't enjoy the distance anymore.
I have thirty finisher's medals in my den...and stories to go with each one. I know there are many more races that could be run, and other stories that could be written, but I am going to leave most of those to the marathon friends I have made since my first, in Vancouver, BC. I say "most" because I hope to run one marathon a year, starting next year. Other than that, running-wise, I am going to cut back to frequent half marathons and, crazily, running "just for fun." I might even run without my Garmin, once in a while!
Despite that major change, I am not giving up on what a friend of mine once called my "epic adventures." I am going to get reacquainted with an old friend, my touring bike...and an old dream, that didn't pan out a few years ago.
In 2000 I rode my loaded bike across the narrowest part of England, from Whitehaven, on the coast of the Irish Sea, to Newcastle, on the edge of the North Sea. Finishing was brilliant.
Upon coming back to California I immediately started planning a return trip, to ride from Lands End to John O'Groats...the southern-most tip of England to the northern-most tip of Scotland. I planned every inch of the 900 mile journey, and set off in July 2003.
Four days in, my carpal tunnel syndrome took its toll, rendering me unable to shift gears or brake effectively because both hands were completely numb. I hobbled home, supremely disappointed, vowing to return one day to finish. I had the necessary surgery to alleviate the offending ailment, and then poured myself into running. The End to End ride is calling me again.
My plan right now is to focus on completing that challenge in 2012...for my 60th birthday. Deciding this already feels good. For the past few years I have used my bike to cross train for marathons. We're now going to reverse that.
I have presented this idea to my brother, who says he's up for joining me.
Monday, 26 July 2010
I have said this before and I'm saying it again. Distance runners amaze me...and this time, I'm including myself among them. No, I have not grown a big head.
I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon yesterday. My first official "event" since last December 7th, when I wrapped up the 12 Months/12 Marathons thing in Santa Barbara. I've been signed up for a three other races so far this year but, for varied reasons have bagged on them. I was signed up for the full marathon yesterday, but because of a nagging heel spur did not feel adequately trained to do 26. So, last minute, I switched to the half.
Went to lay out my "stuff" the night before...including my Big G singlet. It's the uniform of my beloved, goofy running club, Goon Squad Runners, in Boston. It's an XL. Turns out, after not running for months, I'd put on a few. Sadly, the Big G was not going along on this ride. I have ordered a new Big G singlet. It's black. Black's slimming, right?
I went in hopeful of rekindling some of the fire I needed to pull myself through last year's challenge. I've been trying to reconnect with why I want to be a distance runner, for the last couple of months.
It was a chilly morning in San Francisco. The weather experts tell us this is the coldest summer in the City for nearly forty years. The shuttle bus to the start at Spreckles Lake in Golden Gate Park dropped us off at about 6:50. Start was set for 8:15. I spent much of that time in porta-potty lines. I learned a long time ago that the first thing to do in the race start area is to get in the potty line. Then, when you come out, get back into the line, and do it all again.
I have done the full marathon in San Francisco three times, so it's a course I'm not unfamiliar with. That said, how I forgot about the hill that is Golden Gate Park from Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street, I will never know. For a better look, check this elevation chart for the first seven miles.
It didn't take long for the near non-stop climbing to take its toll. Checked my Garmin on numerous occasions, and discovered each time that my heart certainly was getting a workout. My normal is about 155 during training runs, except when doing speed work and hill repeats. Seems as though it was close to 170 for most of these 13.1 miles.
Coming out of the tunnel at the east end of the park, and stepping into the Haight, I breathed my first sigh of relief. From here on it's mostly flat with a couple of awesome declines. I can honestly say the first time I felt good yesterday was near-tumbling down Haight Street toward Divisadero. The second time was a few blocks farther on, crossing Market, heading downhill into the Mission.
At this point it was all about just doing it. My heel spur had paid a return visit at about mile five, and nagged all the way to the end. I was thankful I was not running in my VFF's, as my heel needed the padding of my hefty Brooks Beasts.
I wore my iPod this race, but didn't use it. I didn't want to add any more time to my finish by stopping to insert the earbuds or select the tracks. I just wanted it to be over. So, I had a lot of time to think. I noticed the other runners. I was feeling the pain of the marathoners I was passing. They were at mile 20...I was at 10. I hurt for them...but was well aware of the conversations they were probably having in their heads at that time. Trying to keep themselves going, and pulling it off. I told myself to just shut up.
My favorite marathoners have always been the one's who've done their first...and STILL decide to do another. My second favorites, are those who've never gone that far and have decided to give it a shot. Yesterday reminded me what a challenge distance running is. When I blissfully finished my 13.1 I tried for a moment to remember what it was like going twice that far...thirty times over the last nine years. I can not remember.
It was about this time that I realized that Greek dude who did the distance from Marathon to Athens, kicking off this whole craze, only did it once...and died at the end. I've gone the distance thirty times...and am signed up to run Athens this year. And, he's the legend? WTH? Kidding.
I'm not sure I found any answers yesterday to how or why I should keep doing this. But running beneath the "Finish" banner again did feel like hooking back up with a dear, dear friend.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Looks like life's still in charge.
Headed out this morning for my 20 mile last long run before San Francisco Marathon in two weeks. Spirits, I'll admit, were not what I'd call "high"...but I was fully committed to testing the waters, to see if I was up for 26.2 miles, considering my lack of training this year.
I've been battling what I believe to be a heel spur in my left foot for a couple of months. I thought I had it beat. I ran a 15 miler last week, and, even though the heel pain came back at mile 10 that day, I continued on...no worse for the wear.
I tackled the hill climbs through Berkeley, then the lovely downhills into Oakland and the level of Lake Merritt. Then, at that goofy cathedral on the northeast corner of the lake, I turned north for the 8 mile home stretch.
As I neared San Pablo Avenue, a straight, flat shot back to Albany, I think I stepped on a knitting needle. Okay, it only felt that way. My apologies to my wife and sister-in-law, both avid knitters. I do not hold either of you responsible. It was a metaphorical needle. But, no less a needle.
Tried to walk it out. Considered just sitting down for a bit at the Subway across the street. Instead, just went in and grabbed a cup of really nasty coffee. Not by choice. I didn't say "Hey, may I have the worst cup of coffee you've got?" They just had a bad one, and they let me have it. It didn't help.
Fortunately, on long runs like this, I always take my transit card. Caught the bus home.
After running a marathon a month last year, it feels strange to be on the edge of backing out of my fourth of this year. Was signed up to run Los Angeles, Trieste and Prague earlier...bowed out of all of them, for various reasons. Now, San Francisco looks like it's next.
Not happy about this. Will reevaluate in a week. I still might be out there...especially if the bacon boys are going to be at mile 20 again. There's no telling what I'd do for free bacon. If you boys are planning a repeat appearance, let me know, huh? You might just save my running career.
Meanwhile, despite the pain, I still...
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
I discovered long ago that, at least for me, marathons are more about mental resolve than physical ability. In order to challenge both I hit the road yesterday with the goal of running a 15 miler. I have not run that far since the Santa Barbara Marathon last December. If memory serves, ten's as far as I've gone. I knew that trying for 15 was breaking one of the major rules of distance training, namely, don't increase your mileage by more than ten percent at a pop. Yesterday's run was an increase of 50% over my last ten, which was last week. My hope was I could still draw on the core fitness attained during the 12 in 12. Physically, honestly, I was pretty sure I could do it. In my head, maybe not so much.
I didn't run the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, even though I was signed up and had journied south to do it. The day before I realized the mental reserves were depleted, and I knew this race was going to require a lot of what was gone. Since then, I have been struggling to figure out what it is I love about the marathon. I've been asking myself, why? I haven't found the answer. I hoped I would rediscover it yesterday.
The first three miles were tough. I had forgotten it usually takes me 3-5 miles to really warm up and get into the whole groove. The conversations going on inside my head were not pleasant. I was calling myself names and going over a long list of things I'd rather be doing. At some point I convinced myself I was in for the long haul, but knew that I'd have to force myself to complete the task. So, seeing the course I'd set was an out-and-back, I committed to making it to the 7.5 mile turnaround. Knew that if I made it that far I'd have no choice but to finish, as I'd have to go home. The turnaround point was a Starbucks, so I promised myself a small coffee...and a breather.
That worked fine...but I still wasn't feeling the magic....and I still had 7.5 miles to go. Shortly after I began the return leg I remembered there have rarely been moments of joy during a distance run. Sure, I get those after it's all over, with beer in hand. At about mile 9, "it" all came back to me. I remembered that, in every one of the 30 marathons I've finished, there came a time when I realize that, in order to finish, I'd just have to resign myself to slogging it out. Looking for the magic is pointless. It's mostly about just deciding....to keep going, or to quit...and being prepared to deal with the consequences.
I finished my 15, and was more glad that it was over than I was that I'd done it. Not sure what that says about the upcoming SF Marathon. At this point I am committed to it. I need to do it in order to discover why it is I do them at all.
For all my running friends who still get "it"...I am envious. Enjoy!
Despite everything, for now...
Friday, 18 June 2010
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Ever since my first marathon, in 2003, my goal has been primarily to finish. Sure, I was pretty stoked when I broke 5 hours for the first and, so far, only time. I came close to doing it again in the next three marathons I ran, but, no cigar.
Last year I set myself the goal of finishing 12 marathons in 12 months. It was a challenge designed to keep me running. I had gotten bored with the 3-4 marathons I had been doing per year...even though I'd gone to Ireland, Spain, Hungary, and Scotland to do some of them. Now, having completed the 12-in-12, I have set myself a new target for October. A 4:30 marathon. When I do that, it will be a 27 minute PR. Notice the "when" is not an "if."
To that end I have adopted a structured training plan, contained in a book called 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon, by Dave Kuehls. I'm not nutty enough now to go for four. Maybe one day.
Yesterday I did my third speed session. The goal was 8X400 @ 2:15-2:25. Nailed it with 2:16, 2:16, 2:24, 2:19, 2:20, 2:14 (!!), 2:20, and 2:20. Pretty pleased with the way this is going. Unbelievable how sore my muscles were this morning...after only running two miles! Apparently there's some stuff going on in there that wasn't happening during my long slow runs.
Right now I am signed up to run San Francisco next month. I will admit to being concerned that I am under-trained for that event. I have to step things up over the next four weeks. I am also signed up for the Athens Classic Marathon in Greece in October. My heart is still committed to that adventure, although Mr. Checkbook is currently not on board. Waiting for my ship to come in.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
I've ridden long distances in eastern Canada, England, New England and along California's coast. The first time I rode in England was in 2000, when I crossed the narrowest part of my homeland, west coast to east coast, from Whitehaven to Newcastle, by myself in four and a half days. Glorious. Really.
I came home and immediately began planning a month-long ride from Land's End, in the south-west corner, to John O'Groats, in the far reaches of the north-east. I set off for that ride, fully aware of the fact that my carpal tunnel syndrome could stick a pipe through my spokes. It did.
It was not long after that that I got the running bug. It was easier to travel to take part in marathons than it was to travel with my bike. So, for about eight years, the touring machine I designed and built myself has been sitting in my bedroom, feeling unloved.
Yep! I figured out the frame geometry myself, picked the frame materials (Columbus ATB steel tube set, Paragon bottom-bracket shell, and beautifully machined Henry James lugs). I drew the plans, cut the tubes, silver braised everything together, hand sanded in prep for painting, and sent it off to get painted. I wanted green, but it got blue, at first. It's British racing green now. It was everything I always wanted in a bike (and still is). It's just that I got caught up in the running thing.
The jury is still out on whether or not cross-training helps a distance runner. If I understand him correctly, I believe my running guru, Jeff Galloway, doesn't think much of it. So, while I was training for my 30 marathons in the last nine years, I ignored my bike. Until very recently.
Losing my twelve year job in the bike industry kind of put me off all-things bike at first. It also took the wind out of my sails in terms of committing to running any marathons for a while. Registration and travel, just too dear. So, depression began to settle in a couple of weeks ago. Even though I fully intend to run the San Francisco Marathon for the fourth time next month, I am, shall we say, a bit undertrained. But my head just has not been able to wrap itself around getting out there for all the long, slow runs I need. However, in the last few weeks, me and the touring bike have been spending some long-overdue time together.
I did this ride a few weeks ago...
...and this one today...
I think we're good friends again.
Meanwhile, I still love to run. I need to do 15 tomorrow, if not a couple more.
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
This morning I just had to get out there in an attempt to atone for my failure.
My marathon training schedule doesn't call for more speed work until tomorrow but I decided to do it today. The goal was 8x440 at 2:15-2:25.
The track is 1.5 miles from my house. Thought I'd use that distance as my speed work warm up. Garmin 305 couldn't find the satellites until I got to the track, so that mileage wasn't tracked.
However, it did track my speed work. Nailed it again. 2:25, 2:19, 2:18, 2:18, 2:20, 2:22, 2:16, 2:14. It also got my 2 mile run home.
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Awoke fully intending to run 12-14 miles, but, when it came time to put my running clothes on it turned out I put my cycling duds on instead. Just wasn't in the mood for the pounding. Instead, I forced myself out the door and onto my "regular" 20 loop, although I did it in reverse.
The weather in the Bay Area today is stellar. Riding along the Berkeley/Emeryville waterfront is always delightful. After that checked out the farmers market in Jack London Square and the huge flea market at Laney College. Bought a six pack of huge fleas. Then cruised along the east shore of Lake Merritt. The city has really done a beautiful job of remodeling the lakeside park. Then up to College Avenue, where I successfully resisted the temptation to get a slice of pizza, a burrito, a smoothie, a beer and jalapeno poppers with ranch dressing, and even some hot and sour soup. It was all there. I just kept going. I did give in at Cole Coffee...where all the really cool cyclists hang out on weekends. Despite my lack of coolness, they sold me a small joe, with room for cream. Needed the boost to get me home.
The rest of the afternoon? Well, it's going to be about looking for a job, bbq-ing some chicken, making rhubarb bars and....a Guinness float. That's what I said. A Guinness float.
Oh, here's what I'm in awe about. My 25 mile bike ride took 2:22. This morning a number of friends ran Rock and Roll San Diego Marathon. Remembering that got me thinking. Whoever won RNR probably beat my bike time by 10-15 minutes...on foot! The distance just amazes me, even though I've done it 30 times. I am in awe of all of you who ran today...or who has EVER done this crazy marathon thing we do. Even me.
Friday, 4 June 2010
I was gonna run in the morning Thursday but got called to work...that messes me all up. I'm not an after-work runner. I've tried a couple times and it just pushes my blood pressure up too high when I'm tired from a day of labor. I did however walk to work from the Transbay Transit Terminal...which I think is about a mile...and back which, oddly enough, is also a mile. So there you go. Two miles, done and dusted.
This morning I squeezed into my VFFs and did a quick three miles around Oakland's Lake Merritt. If you live in Austin you'll identify with just how humid it was here today. If we were on the Gulf Coast we'd been battening down our hatches in prep for Hurricane Whomever. But, since we're in the Bay Area, we actually have no hatches to down-batten. I would have run farther, but for the heat. Hey! Who just called me a wienie???
As I kicked it into high gear for mile three (I was doing 9:30 miles at that point!!!) another runner pulled up alongside me and inquired about my "shoes." He'd been researching them and wanted to use this ocassion to do a little more of that. I told him what I'd tell anyone else about Vibram Five Fingers.
If you're thinking about doing it...do it! It will renew your faith in the fun of running. You will feel lighter and faster the first time out...seriously. Just take it easy. Don't go so far from your car that you'll struggle to get back if your feet or legs don't like the new non-shoes first time out. You'll be working with different muscles and stuff. Give 'em a good amount of time to come on board. I have had mine for nearly a year and the farthest I have gone in them in one go was 12 miles. By way of full disclosure, the ONLY running injury I have ever had was sustained in my VFFs. I went too far one day...and fractured the third metatarsyl in my right foot. Out for eight weeks.
By the end of our conversation my new-found friend had decided to take the plunge...and get himself some VFFs. I am glad of that. I hope they work for him...and you, if you decide to give them a go.
When I run in my VFFs I want to keep going. When I run in my "real" shoes...I sometimes can't wait for it to be over. You do the math.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
However, in an effort to keep my Juneathon promise...here's the skinny. Day One of the challenge found me at a local running track, ready to, for the first time in my marathon "career", concentrate on speed training. Until now I have been all about "just finishing"...no matter how long it takes. Now, unexplainably, I have adopted a training plan, with the goal of knocking out a 4:30 marathon in October. If I manage to do it, it will be a 26 minute marathon PR.
The goal was six times around the quarter mile track, at 2:15 to 2:25 a lap. Nailed it. The big struggle was finding the proper pace...but, I did it. The crazy thing is/was...just how sore my thigh muscles were the next day. All I had run was 1.5 miles...but my legs felt like I'd done ten. Goes to show just how much more work I have to do.
Today, Day Two, I hit the gym before work. Did a warm up mile on the dreadmill, then 2000 ab crunches in 23 minutes (two minutes slower than my last 2K a week ago). I also did some leg and back extentions...and a few other things before the payoff...half an hour in the jacuzzi.
Tomorrow is, duh!...day three. Not sure how I'm going to keep this pace up for the month...but I'm gonna try.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
And that’s NOT all. I have been spending an inordinate amount of free time NOT blogging. I shan’t say, “Sorry I haven’t blogged in so long, but life just been so busy, I have NOT had time.” That would be a lie. I’ve had far too much time, to do much of anything, it would seem.
The up-sides of my new obsession of “NOT” are multiple.
I am fairly certain I have cleansed my body of all those pesky endorphins runners seemingly live for. I have regenerated none of my own over the past few months of sitting on the couch, watching Survivor, praying for Russell’s demise and Parvati’s victory. Nor have I had to deal with Gatorade or Powerade or Accelerade, or any other ade-ade, in order to replenish any other depleted-by-training body liquids. My new pseudo-hobby requires only nightly excursions into the wonder-filled world of Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck…and the occasional grilled Velveeta “cheese” sandwich.
I have also saved some hefty cash, during a time when hefty cash is anything but readily available, by NOT putting unnecessary mileage on my Brooks Beasts or my Vibram Five Fingers. I have also NOT had to shell out marathon registration fees. I have NOT run a marathon since December.
I have felt momentarily guilty for leafing through Runners World magazine, being fully cognizant that my world has decidedly NOT been a runner’s of late. Perhaps I should have put my subscription on suspended mode, but I did NOT.
Time was, NOT so very long ago, my first move of the morning would be to check the status of all my online running friends. They often inspired me to put my gear on and head out the door, in the pre-dawn, for a quick six or so. The few times I have perused their early morning postings over the past few weeks have been painful. Their tales of victory and travel have been jealous-making. NOT so much, though, to get me off my butt. Until, well...next week.
I'm NOT doing it now. I was going to do it today,. Really. But Mother Nature decided to batter the Bay Area again today with rain...in late freakin' May! I heard that we got more rain today than we did in the entire month of May last year. That's NOT right. Instead, I have set June One as my target date, for rejoining the world of the living.
I had thought for a time that I was sinking into depression. Realized a couple of days ago that I am NOT. I am, rather, going through stimulus withdrawal. Much of what powered me through last year's 12-in-12 was taken from me this year...namely the job that financed the effort, the commitment to run on a regular basis, and the mystery of whether or NOT I was really up to it. NOT having goals is tough for me, so I have decided to go ahead and act like I have some.
I have the San Francisco Marathon on July 25th...and, even though I am way behind in what would be my normal training schedule for it, I am pouring myself into the time that's left. My goal is to feel, at the end of that event, like I'm fully back in the swing of things. After that, I am going to pretend that I'll have the money to travel to Greece in October for the Athens Classic Marathon. My goal for that one is to PR. 4:45 would be nice. Yeah, let's go with that. Why NOT?
Sunday, 11 April 2010
To say that I have been blown away by the support I have gotten from my sweetheart wife, family, friends, Goon Squad members, other runners, bloggers, Facebookers, Twitterers, Daily Milers, Just Finishers, and bike shop and radio colleagues, would be an understatement. To bless you all would take too much space here. You know who you are. You were the much-needed padding in the walls I've been bouncing off of for three weeks.
Thankfully, the pinball action has subsided, as I've been welcomed back into the radio fold, on a fill-in basis, at a time when there are lots of open holes. I was even offered the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a budding new business, from a Twitter friend I've been following for months. Unfortunately, current time constraints don't allow me to give the time he needs to make it work. His trust and kindness will be long-remembered and appreciated warmly.
If you've been here before you'll know I was going, at the end of this month, to Trieste and Prague, to run marathons in both places on back-to-back weekends in May. That trip has been scrapped, but, as "they" say, you can't keep an old marathoner down. I am one click away from signing up for the San Francisco Marathon in July. It'll be my fourth running of the SFM. My rule has been to not run any one marathon more than three times but...rules are meant to be broken. I am viewing it as my hometown marathon madness re-entry event. I am hoping to hear soon that at least a couple of local friends will be doing it, too.
Shortly after I'd committed to running Trieste, I agreed to run the Athens Classic Marathon in...well, Greece! I have a dear friend there, whom I have never met in person, who inspires with every workout she posts on line. We've chatted for months, and, at one point she invited me to come over and run with her. I accepted. It's not til October 31st so, despite my job loss, I was not prepared to cancel. I figured I'd give it time. Then, last week I decided to take a chance that work and finances would soon stabilize and sign up for it. Turns out, the day before, it sold out. I thought I was out of luck. However, within hours of emailing my friend, she'd spoken with her running club members about me and emailed me back. They're going to let me sign up as one of them. Could these people be more amazing? You do the math.
So. It would appear...the sharp edges of involuntary unemployment are being rounded...to where they are barely painful...right now. I am thrilled to be back in the full mix of life. Reinventing, again.
Friday, 2 April 2010
Losing my job, mine and my wife's health insurance, filling out Cobra forms and unemployment insurance paperwork, dumping out of the LA Marathon, canceling my marathon trips to Trieste and Prague, applying for jobs, interviewing, waiting for severance payments, reestablishing my ties with radio friends and my former newsroom career, coming up with a budget based on jobless bennies and fill-in work, selling my Darth Vadar bike (to pad the checkbook), and trying to stay sane...has had me bouncing off walls. I would like to think things are beginning to calm down. I'd also like to think that some of the patience and focus I've learned while running long distance has helped. However, this is one marathon I'd like to see end very soon.In an effort to regain some semblance of control, I have been trying to work out at the gym and run. I have needed to just pull my head out...and make stuff work. Today I slipped on my VFF's for the first time since I injured myself in them two months ago. They felt great. I wanted to run farther than the five I put in this morning, but realized it would be clever of me to pace myself. Hurt is something I'd rather not feel again anytime soon.
Last Saturday I did an awesome 10 miler in a park I'd all but forgotten about...in my Beasts. Hard, but welcome.
I have been itching to find a spring marathon, but have yet to pull the trigger on one. Still in a holding pattern, waiting to see how the job thing pans out. I know myself though. I will probably take the leap here soon, and will plan on bailing out if I have to work instead.
In another step toward sanity I have started working on my running book. Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions about what you'd like to hear about when it comes my marathon adventures. I kicked the whole writing process off last weekend with a visit to San Francisco's Caffe Trieste.I have been going here for about 30 years. They've always had the best latte in town. It's a comfy, well-worn, welcoming spot, known for the opera music on the jukebox, live opera on the weekends, and its varied clientele. Many books have been at least partially written here. Many poets, artists, actors, activists, movie directors and producers, singers, politicians have lined up at the coffee counter here...then sat, unhurried, for hours, debating what's wrong with the world and how to fix it. My hope in starting the book here was that I could possibly absorb some of the talent those folks left behind in the walls. Time will tell.
Friday, 26 March 2010
OK. So here's the deal. I lost my job a week or so ago. I'll not bring it up again, except to say that, as a result, I have a some extra time on my hands. Because of that, in order to retain some semblance of sanity, I have decided, urged on by a number of friends, to write my long-thought-about running book. But I need your assistance.
If you're a regular reader you know I finished twelve marathons in twelve months last year. Some folks, runners and those who just don't get that "running thing", have indicated that they found that inspirational in some way. I'm not sure I get that, really, especially given the pain I felt while doing every one of those races, how much I did NOT want to train on so many mornings, and how many times I questioned my own sanity during the process. Not much there that I would consider inspiring!
I am also so very aware that there are so many other runners out there, many of them dear friends of mine, who have run many more marathons than I have, most of them faster than I will ever run. So, I'm not sure that what I did last year was so special that anyone would want to read about it.
Don't get me wrong. I am quite proud of the case behind my desk that displays my 30 marathon finisher's medals, twelve of which were collected last year. It felt nutty to commit to doing it in the first place, was such an adventure during the process, and resulted in an amazing sense of relief when it was all over. Besides that, however, I am not sure myself what it was all for. I have yet to consciously glean from that experience whatever life lessons may be hidden within. Perhaps there's some shiny new bling in there. I could use some.
Here's where you come in. I would love to know what you would like to know about the adventure. My running has taken me to some amazing places and introduced me to some even more amazing people. I have stories about Hungarian police pulling me off of the only marathon I've started but didn't finish, frantically looking for a store candy store in Barcelona, my wine-laden search for the Loch Ness monster the night before a marathon in Scotland, the power of the "Big G", the power of Mars bars, my hunt for choco-bacon in Austin, and why one should check the Internet's bed-bug index when booking hotels in marathon cities.
I believe there is something interesting in my stories..I'm just not sure yet what it may be. If you can help, please do. Cheers. But for now...
Monday, 22 March 2010
I met with Patti, John and Bert at the sun-baked expo, wavering then, but not yet decided. Both of the guys were uncertain they were physically 100% up for the challenge, due to nagging knee pains, but were totally down with being out there. Patti is always cheerful. She loves hot weather, and was seemingly stoked and raring to go. I have run with all three before, and know how much they love the marathon. It was nearly contagious enough.
My friend, Bob, lives and trains in Tokyo. He REALLY trains. His blog is impressive numbers on top of intimidating numbers. We both ran Santa Barbara International last December. If memory serves, he was shooting for 3:04 then. He only managed to pull out a disappointing 3:09! We were supposed to meet up at the LAM expo, too, but we didn't...because I needed to get out of the heat. Patti, John and Bert and I headed off to find a couple of cold beers.
When the brews and snacks ran out, I headed back to my hostel digs, fairly certain I would NOT be spending the evening pinning my bib on my running shirt and going over the last minute race instructions. Instead, I came up with my plans for hanging out at the finish line, to take pictures of my friends as they conquered the new LAM route.
I wasn't able to go to bed as early as I normally do, because I had to deliver my other friend Sandra's bib to her. She was driving down from the Bay Area and couldn't make the expo. She rolled into Santa Monica at about 9:30, and the hand-off was complete. She also had a gift for me. She and I are both Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish addicts. Sick? We think not. Please don't judge. The surprise she had for me, was this beautifully hand-crafted goldfish cap! Sweet!Before hitting the hay for the evening I chatted a bit with the two new runner guys in my six-bunk hostel room. Turns out they arrived late at the expo and were not able to get the free t-shirts in the size they needed. Both wanted a large, but the marathon planners apparently didn't plan well enough to have the sizes that would satisfy all late-comers. I could only help one of them. I had a large I would not wear, seeing that I wasn't going to run. Gave one guy my shirt. He said he'd remember me every time he wore it. A nice thought...but I'm guessing not so much. Just glad to help.
As race morning arrived, I was not offended at all by the two roomies fumbling about for their gear at 4AM. After they slipped out, under cover of darkness, I went back to sleep. Got up two hours later and did a 10 mile run along the Santa Monica beachfront. Showered, then headed for the finish, expecting to see Tokyo Bob crush his goal time. Turns out it was not to be. Once again, he let us all down, only managing a dismal 3:08. A minute faster than Santa Barbara!I met up with him moments after he finished. His comment was, "these things don't get any easier." I could tell he was disappointed that he had not cracked 3:04. He would find out later, at the post-race party at his delightful daughter's condo in East Hollywood, he won his age group...again. I only have to trim a little less than 2 hours off of my marathon best to come close to what Bob does. He just rocks.
After Bob crossed the finish, honestly, I knew I had a little time to spare, before the rest of the crew would arrive. Grabbed a coffee, strolled out onto the Santa Monica Pier, and then came back to snag a photo-spot beneath the 26 mile banner. Waited there from when the time-clock said 4:30 til John passed before me. Turns out I missed Patti, Bert AND Sandra, even though I was standing there ready to capture their success on digital. I did catch John, thanks to text messaging.Every one of these folks is a star in their own right. This was not an easy course. Each handled it with determination and humor. I missed the shared experience. I am sorry I won't have the stories to swap about "that year we ran LA". However, I am better for having witnessed their accomplishment.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
I have never done this before.
I am currently sitting in Santa Monica. It's the night before the Los Angeles Marathon, the reason I came down here. I was going to run, but have decided against it. The choice is not without disappointment.
The deal is this. Having gone the 26.2 mile distance 30 times, I pretty much know what would be required of me if I did suit up and give LA a shot. I know how far down I've dug before to pull myself beneath the FINISH banner. I'm also fairly certain that right now I do not have those reserves.
I'm not whining about my recent job loss. I am simply acknowledging that it has taken it's toll on my ability to focus on efforts I don't have to take on right now...in order to save my energies for more important tasks at hand. If memory serves, I have been unemployed for only 2-3 weeks in my life...since I entered the work force, 40 years ago, in high school. This is new, and daunting.
I went to the marathon expo today, in search of the inspiration that would push me to choose to run tomorrow. I met with dear friends there, talked to others on the phone and online, seeking similar assistance. They all stepped up, offering their best advice and support. Most voted that I should run. A few others indicated they would respect any choice I made. It did not take long for me to realize that I needed to find the inspiration within, and, try as I may, I just could not today.
I will probably go for a nice run along the beach in Santa Monica tomorrow morning, before ending up at the LAM finish, to high-five my marathon-finishing friends. I am sure they are all folks I'll be running with in the future. I'm already looking for another marathon sign-up opportunity. After all, I've...
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Immediately, upon stepping outside my door, I started realizing the things I've missed not running the past month or so.
I was not raining but it was threatening to. I wondered, as I do many pre-dawn mornings, whether I am over- or under-dressed for the conditions. I decided I had called it just right, and headed to the closest Starbucks for an additional boost. I'd already had two cups of Blue Bottle Three Africans. As I parked, between two of the five cop cars in the lot, I saw all five officers sitting at a table inside. It was the start of their days, too. They had no idea what sort of action they'd be facing in the hours ahead. That's what's brilliant about running while almost everyone else is still in bed. As I walked by I overheard one of them mention something about some trouble he was having with his "washer and dryer". See, cops are people, too!
Along with my coffee I also had a chocolate croissant. The cheery Starbucks lass heated it up for me just a tad, making it just that more likely that some chocolate would drip out and onto my jacket. That would have been tragic. It didn't happen!
Among the many, many rarities in the city of San Francisco is free parking...right where you want it to be. I snagged such a spot across from my gym this day. Result. Happy with that, I put my earbuds in my ears and switched on my little radio. Fail. I had forgotten to check the batteries, and these had given up the ghost. I was apparently going to be left with nothing but my own thoughts for the next couple of hours. Fortunately, I had my Blackberry, so I turned the whole event into a picture-taking journey.
I started things off with a potty stop in the Ferry Building Plaza. It is usually a teeming mass of tourists and local go-getter business types. When the stalls are open you can find almost anything good to eat or drink here...and pay about twice as much as you should! However, this morning, as I started my Garmin, this is what it looked like inside...
My route of choice took me south on the Embarcadero, toward ATT Park, the home of our baseball Giants. I made one little detour, out to the end of this fishing pier. Note to self and everyone else...don't eat anything you know came from this Bay. Serious.
Having run very little in the past few weeks, it was a little tough getting into the grove. I still had not fully warmed to the challenge by the time I got to the ballpark, a little over a mile from the start. Took a moment to check my previously-injured foot here, and to snap a snap of the big mitt on display on the outfield wall.