Tuesday, 28 December 2010

DONE WITH IT


Hey, 2010...don't let the door slam you in the butt on the way out, huh?

I know it's only December 28th, but I'm pulling the plug on your ass right now. That way I have three days unmolested by your crap to get ready for your younger brother, 2011. I already like him more than I ever liked you, if for no other reason than sheer potential.

You and I are no longer Facebook friends and I'm not following you anymore on Twitter. As a matter of fact, I am blocking you on both.

I will be spending the next few days figuring out how to get myself back into shape, physically and mentally. There have been thoughts of late about asking my doctor for anti-bummed-out meds, but think I'll wait a bit more on that. Wondering if what I really need is to pump up my endorphin levels with a return to some sort of regular exercise. After pretty much not running for a solid year, after nine years of near-constant marathon training, I think those levels have been all but depleted.

In the last couple of weeks I've been back on the bike, doing a number of 20 mile rides. They've not been hard, but they've not been the piece of cake they used to be. During this week's big ride I realized that the reason it was hard was that physically I'm kind of a wreck. I'm back up to the weight I was when I ran my first marathon in 2003. My heart sank when I saw the bathroom scale needle pushing 195 again. At my most fit I've been 20 pounds lighter than that.

So, it's back to square one.

Don't expect to see reports of 20 mile runs anytime soon. I think it's back to 3-5 milers...and figuring out how to do it all again. I am sticking with my commitment to only running in my VFFs, so added caution is required in that regard.

One thing I am doing is taking part in a month long "competition" with a bunch of online friends in the UK, called Janathon. It's a low-key kind of "let's see what we can do" thing, and it's a way for me to keep in touch with what's happening in the old country. Should be a hoot. Oh, and there are PRIZES! (Wouldn't mind if some other stateside folks would sign up, by the way!)

All in all, 2010 has been about too much mental and physical weight. 2011 will be about lightening up.

Gotta run...gotta ride.



Thursday, 2 December 2010

THE SEARCH FOR NEW NORMAL


For nine of the past ten years, normal, for me, has been about dreaming about running marathons...training for them...travelling to the venue cities...finishing the race...and starting all over again. This year, there has been no normal.


Long story short, lost a twelve year job in March, then spent much of the subsequent nine months dog-paddling in treacherous financial waters...until finally going under. That process included many sleepless nights, cold-sweat wake-ups at 2am, mad scramble job searches on line, a number of job interviews that did not pan out, all while angling for as many hours as I could snatch back among my big city radio newsroom colleagues. I could have survived quite nicely, thanks very much, without every one of those...except the latter.


During that time I have not run much. I have done a few stress-relief jogs, one official half marathon, and have utililized my gym membership to minimal advantage. I've rediscovered 12-15 pounds that I previously thought I'd vanquished...and placed them under my belt for safe keeping. 2010 has been mostly about bouncing off walls...with very little padding.


I have made a number of visits to this blog to make grand proclamations...among them, learning to swim, swearing off my running shoes in full-time favour of my Vibram Five Fingers, and committing to a return to the marathon world in Austin in February. I have stayed true to the VFF's plan, I rarely get my feet wet unless it's in a jacuzzi, and I'm not sure a trip to Austin is a wise investment, considering the current economy. I believe now those were attempts to inject some control...some "normal"...into an out-of-wack situation. I'm learning just how little real control I have.


The goal now is not necessarily to regain control, but to find the new normal in the madness, despite that madness, a way to be content with the changes that were forced upon me and mine. I have no idea to what degree running, marathons or otherwise, will fit into the new scheme. I only know I will not stop running altogether. And, I surely will NOT stop following the exploits of the hundreds...really, hundreds...of runners whom I count as friends, who've provided so much inspiration and support over the past decade.


The new normal, I think, is going to be about running like a kid again...maybe even leaving the Garmin at home once in a while. It's going to be about growing some of our own food in our new organic-only city-owned garden plot. It's going to be about becoming a "foodie" again, spending more time in the kitchen with my lovely wife. It's going to be about writing my marathon book.


In the past month or so I have posted on line, on Twitter and/or Facebook, at least three times, that I've been "trying" to get back into this running thing. Twice I've gotten the response that "there's no trying...there's just doing." I would like to state, without reservation, that I could NOT disagree more. I believe there are times in life when "try" is all we have. For those of you who've never been there...believe me...I will believe you, if and when you do. "Do" is great...but sometimes good is as good as it gets.


Gotta run!

Monday, 22 November 2010

NOTHING

That's what I've done, training wise, for the past couple of weeks. 

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. 

Gotta run? 


Thursday, 28 October 2010

ATHENS

If you've been reading my blog for a time chances are you know that I have a special fondness for first time marathoners. There is something about the spirit that moves someone to make that committment, keeps them training, in the pre-dawn darkness, chilling wind and rain, exhausting heat, and gets them to that nerve-wracked morning when they line up beneath the "Start" banner for their virgin 26.2...wondering how they wound up there.

Even though I have run very little this year, after last year's dozen marathons, I have still been following a number of folks who've been training for their first. Their journeys have been inspirational, heartwarming, funny, and sometimes frustrating. I have relished each training report, whether posted on a blog or a social media site. They have provided many an hour of early morning reading over that first cup of Blue Bottle coffee...and through many a second.

For one special runner, the training journey is over now. Sunday is race day, in Athens, Greece. Freakin' Athens, people, where this goofiness began some 2500 years ago. I was supposed to be there, but will not be. As we will not be running together, I will not get to share all my "wisdom" with her in person...so I'm going to do it here. This is what I know...about the marathon.

It's a long way. But, the distance gives you so many opportunities for brilliance. There will be many moments when you'll lose control and focus...only to ravenously snatch them back a few steps farther on. You'll then lose it all again...and gain it back..and on and on and on.

It's going to hurt. During...and after. But, it's an amazingly good hurt. Really. It's a pain that comes from having done "it"...spending everything you had on "it". Collapsing on your bed for the first time after the race is run...is like being on it at no other moment. It's like going home.

There are so many snapshots your mind's camera will take..that you'll draw upon well after the pain is gone. You'll see so many joyous faces, as personal mountains are scaled and conquered. You'll never forget seeing someone give up. You'll wish you could help...but will quickly realize that you only brought enough of your own "right stuff" for you.

Time doesn't matter. I firmly believe that first time marathoners should be intent on nothing more than figuring out how to finish..however long that takes...and relishing the completion. The first time is one big class about respecting the distance. The distance is the boss...and always will be. You can not beat the distance. But you can learn to manage your reaction to it. Subsequent marathons can be about time...if you want them to be.

Mile 17 is not where major life decisions should be made. It's somewhere in the 17-20 mile range where many first timers, perhaps out of boredom or desperation, begin to contemplate relationships, career goals, career changes, major purchases, spiritual pathways...anything to distract them from the insanity of the remaining task at hand. This is not good. I have an English Mars bar at every mile 17. They distract me, with childhood comfort, at a time when distraction is priceless. Whatever your equivalent is...don't be afraid to use it.

You'll be thrilled when it's over. For a few minutes. If your experience is as fulfilling as I hope it will be, you'll very shortly begin to consider your next marathon adventure. It's been said that fewer than 1% of everyone in the world will ever run a marathon. You're about to join them.

You've got this. You've done the work. The training's over. It's time to party.

Gotta run!

Monday, 25 October 2010

GOING SLOW---NEED SWAG

I have been taking my return to running slowly.

I'm training to run the Austin Marathon in February...in my Vibram Five Fingers. The only running injury I've ever had was sustained while trying to do too much in my "barefoot shoes." Not planning to go through that again. I've gone nine miles in the VFFs in the last ten days. Seven more are planned for tomorrow.

I was feeling like a slacker...until I did my weekly check-in on all the runners' blogs I follow. Not sure if it's just the athletes I'm interested in...or if it's a wider epidemic...but it seems as though every other blog I read is all about being injured. Did you all kick off the fall marathon season with a tad too much zeal?

I'm hearing stories of torn tendons, twisted ankles, fractured metatarsyls, piercing knee pain, aching backs...and fronts. I'm hearing about depression, dreams-delayed...or even cancelled. Too sad. I think I'll stick with slow and steady. I really want some more Texas barbeque in February.
The other thing I'm discovering in many of the blogs I read is...somebody's getting some swag...and it ain't me. What's up with that?

I've been blogging about running for seven of the nine years I've been a marathoner...and I've never gotten anything to giveaway. I'm reading about bloggers giving away sunglasses, compression socks, edible goodies, energy drinks, technical wear, even running shoes, for heaven's sake! What is your secret, people?

One of my very few running rituals is that I eat an English Mars bar at mile 17...every freakin' time...and I've even gotten other runners to try the Mars magic during their runs. So, have I even gotten even ONE free Mars bar? No, I tell you, NO! (Even after my friend Leslie wrote to Mars on my behalf!)

Just in case any marketing people read this...and would like to repair this gross injustice...here's a list of stuff I'd like. I promise to give some of it away...and to write really bitchin' reviews! (I'm a journalist with integrity in my professional life...but this is a running blog. Hello!)
1. A lifetime supply of the aforementioned Mars bars. (But...they must be made in England...or Ireland...the Canadian or Australian ones just won't do.)

2. Vibram Five Fingers...any one of the running models. The ones I have now will surely wear out by Austin...so I wouldn't mind a couple of new pairs. (One for me...one to give away.)

3. Lifetime plane tickets on Southwest...and/or Virgin Atlantic. The former will get me pretty much anywhere I want to run in the USA...the latter will get me to London. From there I'll get myself to Greece, or Italy, or Spain, or Estonia, or France, or Germany, or Romania. Of course, if you represent RyanAir, EasyJet, or WizzAir...have your peoples call my peoples.
4. Top class accomodation at fancy-dancy hotels near marathon starting lines around the world. I have mostly stayed at hostels, which are okay...but if I ain't paying, any Ritz Carlton or W would be just fine!

5. A Garmin Forerunner 410 would be nice.

6. As would an Apple iPod Nano. I have a third generation video iPod...it's awfully big!

7. An iPhone 4 would be okay...with free unlimited service...so I could call home from anywhere to announce my latest finish. And, surely, an extra to give away.

8. Did I mention the Mars bars?

I'm just sayin'.....
Gotta run!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER..with apologies to John


Now that I've committed to next February's Austin Marathon, and have taken a couple of short runs, it's become sadly apparent that I've been too long away from the madness of marathon training to be able draw on the physical benefits acquired over the thirty races I've run. It's obviously back to Square One.

With that in mind, I spent much of yesterday's day off going over the training I did for those, especially the twelve I ran last year, in an effort to come up with a workable, sane plan for preparing for my second trip to the Lone State state. While gearing up for that adventure, I also had to keep in mind my planned bike trip in Spring 2012, in Scotland, England and Wales. I need to train for both.

As of this coming Sunday, I have 120 days to train for Austin. Four months. Perfect. The twist in this training cycle will be that I have hung up my running shoes, hopefully for good. This time I'm training in my Vibram Five Fingers, fully intending to run the 26.2 miles through Texas' capital city, without the "benefit" of heel padding and the like. My training schedule over the next few weeks consists mainly of the short stuff, in order to get my feet ready for the future onslaught of concrete and blacktop.

The basic plan calls for only two runs a week, with a long run one day, a short or medium run the other day, and a day of core stuff at the gym or a bike ride. I'll only do about 30 miles the rest of this month, more than double that in November, 90 in December and 100 in January. January will include two 20-plus runs leading up to a 25 two weeks before the marathon on February 20th.

Over the past ten months I have gained 8-10 pounds, depending on the day. My other goal this training cycle is to drop five pounds a month, which will leave me at under 175 for the race. I have been there before, and believe it's my fighting weight. I don't think I have much to change in terms of diet, as I eat fairly well now. Just need to trim a little off the edges. One notch in the belt...that's all I ask.

Now that the physical plan's been made, I also need to work on the mental. It's been a while since I've gotten up at 3am to run...'cos I just have to get my long run in before work. The good thing is, I already enjoy running in the dark. Then there's the whole running in the rain thing, as our rainy season is just weeks away. I don't really mind running in the rain, as you can only get so wet. But, the whole VFF's angle might present some challenging debates between the voices in my head! Here we go, people.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

THE WHACK IS BACK



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....

Gotta run!

Monday, 27 September 2010

BIGGER...AND SMALLER

2010 has been the mirror opposite of 2009, in terms of workin' out and stuff...and it shows. Just weighed myself for the first time this year. There are 8 pounds more of me than there were back in December, when I finished my marathon-a-month thing. I'm using a belt hole that's one step farther out. That's a bad thing. 

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

A QUESTION OF CAPACITY

I decided a couple of weeks ago to ease off on myself a bit, running-wise. Even though I have not run a lot this year, I've felt as though I should have. Since backing away from that, I've been lighter.

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

20 DOWN

A year and a half's worth of training began yesterday...with my bike ride from San Francisco's Ferry Building to the Ferry Terminal in Larkspur.

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

PUBLISHED!


My first ever article to be published on Livestrong.com. 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/210440-how-to-set-up-bike-gears/

Check it out, huh? 

Monday, 16 August 2010

PARADIGM SHIFT

Regular readers will know this has not been the easiest year 'round these parts. I won't revisit the whole string of events but will say their cumulative affect has been to force a shift in thinking on a number of levels. Some of what's gone on has been out of my control. It's now about fixing what I can.

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.

Let the games begin.

Monday, 26 July 2010

ON THE ROAD AGAIN


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.


Gotta run!

Monday, 12 July 2010

THEY SAY....

...life is what happens, while you're making other plans.  Yep!

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. 

Today, not so much. 

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...

Gotta run!






Tuesday, 29 June 2010

MAGIC?

After running over a thousand miles last year, I have hardly run at all in 2010. Regular visitors here will know some of the reasons. I shan't go into them again right now. Suffice it to say, a number of conditions have not been ideal. However, with the San Francisco Marathon just weeks away, I decided yesterday that it was time to test whether I might really be up for it.

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...

Gotta run!

Friday, 18 June 2010

IN BETWEEN....

...today's awesome US World Cup game...and England's atrocious display of ineptitude...I went for a 10 mile run...after a healthy breakfast.

I am SOOO behind in my training for the San Francisco Marathon at the end of next month that I had to get some distance in.

My training schedule has me doing 17 by now. Being officially unemployed I really can't turn fill-in work down...and, the last two weeks I have gotten 80 hours! That seriously cut into my training time! It is comforting to know that two of my running buddies are under-trained as well. However, that will not help ME...once the starting gun goes off.

My plan is to do 15 next Tuesday, 18 one day the following week and 20/22 on July 11th. Then, I'll taper. That's the plan.

However, Houston...we may have a problem.

For the past week or so my right foot has been behaving badly...like it's developing a case of plantar faciitis. It feels tight when I wake up...then eases as it warms up. Then, on numerous ocassions throughout every day, it has periods of sharp pain that makes it difficult to walk. It bothered me during today's run...especially when I was in my walk breaks. Would love to have run in my VFFs but didn't think that would work too well.

I have been rolling it on my Footwheel and that helps, temporarily. I am also taking my wonder Chinese herb, The Great Mender, hoping it works as well on this as it did on my right foot fracture earlier this year. I should know in two or three days. Fingers crossed.

Until I can't...


Gotta run!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

SPEED WORK

This is all very new, this speed work thing. To be honest, I'm wishing I'd started it a long time ago.

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.

Meantime....

Gotta run!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

MAKING FRIENDS

Before I took up running the marathon I was an avid cyclist. Not a racer (although my road bike was pretty much a time trials machine); not a committed mountain biker (although I did dabble. Even had a single speed Bianchi Boss for a while!), not a die-hard commuter (although there was a period of that until I got tired of taking so long to get to work and back). No. I was in love with loaded touring.

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.


Five days in, both hands siezed up. I had no feeling in either hand. My thumb muscles wouldn't respond when I asked them to shift gears. I dumped out, crushed.

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...

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/32033926

...and this one today...

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/36791978

I think we're good friends again.

Meanwhile, I still love to run. I need to do 15 tomorrow, if not a couple more.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

FOGGY SPEED

Okay, I'll admit it. I did absolutely nothing yesterday, workout-wise. When it comes to the whole spirit of the Juneathon thing, I blew it. I was on the computer all day, looking for work.

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.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

IN AWE

This is my Juneathon blog for June 5th and 6th. Sorry, I just can't seem to get to it every single day. Besides, since I did nothing but walk to and from work again yesterday, there was not much to share. Today, however, a much better story.

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.

Gotta run!

Friday, 4 June 2010

A NEW CONVERT

This is my Juneathon posting for June 3rd AND 4th...since I failed big time yesterday.

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.

Gotta Run!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

JUNEATHON...AND SPEED

June One came pretty quickly after the end of May. Not sure I was ready for it, as I had a bunch of stuff planned for the new month. I was going to start REALLY training again...and speed training, at that. I had also signed up on my friend Jogblog's Juneathon challenge, where I committed to doing something every freakin' day of the new month. I also decided I would start taking a photo a day and posting it on my Facebook page. Why? I do not know.

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.

Gotta run!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

TO BE...OR NOT

I have been doing a lot of NOT running lately. Serious.

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?

Gotta run!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

REINVENTION REVISTED

Twelve years ago I walked away, partly by choice, from a career that I'd grown weary of, partly due to work-related injury. I gave it up for a new adventure that paid half of what my wife and I'd been used to, in an effort to have and experience something different. At the beginning of this year I had finally worked my way back up the pay scale to what I was taking home in 1998! Three months later, the axe fell there, tossing me into the jobless mix of uncertainty, frustration, raised blood pressure, frantic budget trimming, and a forced lowering of life expectations. Turns out, it would not stay that way for long. 

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. 

Gotta run!

Friday, 2 April 2010

HEAD OUT...SHOES OFF

It's been a pretty intense couple of weeks.

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.












I'm also fond of the grilled ham and cheese.

Gotta run!

Friday, 26 March 2010

THE NEXT CHAPTER

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...

Gotta run!



Monday, 22 March 2010

PULLING OUT..PULLING FOR

From the moment I made the decision on Saturday to not run the Los Angeles Marathon the following morning, my trip to Santa Monica became nothing about me and everything about the folks I know who were going to be out there at the Dodger Stadium start.

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. 

Gotta run!




Saturday, 20 March 2010

A DIFFICULT FIRST

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... 

Gotta run!


Sunday, 21 February 2010

PULLING FROM THE CORE

Earlier this week, with an abundance of caution, I laced up my Beasts and reintroduced them to the pavement. It's been five weeks since I hurt myself and found myself in Recoveryland. It is not a fun land. I did three miles that day, around Oakland's Lake Merritt, and another three miles on the treadmill on another day. It was after those little jaunts that I decided I was probably ready to kick things up a bit, especially since I have the Los Angeles Marathon in four (arrgh???) weeks. Today I slipped into the Beasts again and headed into San Francisco, with the goal of starting a ten miler right outside my jacuzzi-equipped gym and then ending it there, hopefully, without pain.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/25243588

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.

From the stadium I turned north, heading up 3rd Street, then west to 4th, and an area called China Basin. It used to be butt-ugly. It ain't no more. Despite the current economic climate, there's big bucks being spent and made here.

Next I ran across a "street" I'd never heard of before. I'm thinking most of us would feel pretty cool if a street was named for us. I'm wondering, though, what Helen Macintosh thinks. You are looking at her namesake Lane...all of it!









Around the corner from HM Lane, I found this intersection. Again, I've never heard of these streets before today. This is one of the joys of running. The tasty discoveries you make along the way.








In order to make it to Market Street, I had to weave my way through throngs of out-of-towners, obviously on their way to a convention at Moscone Center. I gave up at one point and went into the street. Why is it that tourists leave their brains in their hotel rooms when they venture out, if they brought them from home at all?

Crossing Market I climbed up Stockton Street. This is the tunnel at the top of the hill. I didn't go through here, as I was afraid I'd loose my Garmin's connection with the heavens.







Turned right here and then left on Grant, the entrance to Chinatown. I wanted to pay homage to the herbal concoction I am sure sped my recovery up. What was disconcerting, a bit, but fun, a lot, what that most of the streets were vacant, having been shut down for some event. Never did figure out what it was.








North Beach is just north of Chinatown...and home to some amazing Italian restaurants and cafes.










I will admit to being tempted. But, I had a job to do.

I also found a Belgian restaurant I didn't know existed. Snapped a pic of the menu for my friend, Laura. She's all hot for anything Belgian. Serious.








At the top (or is it the bottom?) of Columbus Avenue, I turned west again, heading toward Fort Mason and the Marina Green. Decided the Marina would be where I turned back toward the Financial District, my car and the jacuzzi. Hit mile 8 right about here...with no pain.







That's the St. Francis Yacht Club back there. Chances are it will be hosting the next America's Cup. Don't know if you heard, but Oracle's big guy, Larry Ellison just won that little trinket. He gets to choose the next venue for the competition.










These are the Ft. Mason steps. I did run up them. I stopped to breathe again at the top...then headed down the hill towards Fisherman's Wharf. These folks will welcome just about anybody to the City...from anywhere...even pirates!








The third flag from the right is a Jolly Roger! Aye!

After the wharf, where I inhaled the smells of steamed crab and fresh baked sourdough bread (and did NOT exhale!), it was all about the last mile back down the Embarcadero, from whence I came.

At mile 8 my Garmin indicated I had been doing 12:40 miles. I was not happy with that time, even though this run was meant to test the mettle of my right foot, and not for any sort of record pace. Decided to kick things up a bit for the last two, as the foot was fine. Whittled that down to 12:09 average pace by the end. Happy with that.

Also happy with the outdoor, but covered, jacuzzi at my 24 Hour Fitness place. This, people, was what it was all about.









Having not trained much for over a month I was not certain how much gas there would be in the tank today. Apparently I have some core stuff left from last year's madness. Happy for that. Let's do us some LA, huh?

Gotta run!