Tuesday, 29 June 2010


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


...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


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.


Gotta run!

Sunday, 13 June 2010


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...


...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.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


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


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


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


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!