Monday, 26 July 2010


I have said this before and I'm saying it again. Distance runners amaze me...and this time, I'm including myself among them. No, I have not grown a big head.

I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon yesterday. My first official "event" since last December 7th, when I wrapped up the 12 Months/12 Marathons thing in Santa Barbara. I've been signed up for a three other races so far this year but, for varied reasons have bagged on them. I was signed up for the full marathon yesterday, but because of a nagging heel spur did not feel adequately trained to do 26. So, last minute, I switched to the half.

Went to lay out my "stuff" the night before...including my Big G singlet. It's the uniform of my beloved, goofy running club, Goon Squad Runners, in Boston. It's an XL. Turns out, after not running for months, I'd put on a few. Sadly, the Big G was not going along on this ride. I have ordered a new Big G singlet. It's black. Black's slimming, right?

I went in hopeful of rekindling some of the fire I needed to pull myself through last year's challenge. I've been trying to reconnect with why I want to be a distance runner, for the last couple of months.

It was a chilly morning in San Francisco. The weather experts tell us this is the coldest summer in the City for nearly forty years. The shuttle bus to the start at Spreckles Lake in Golden Gate Park dropped us off at about 6:50. Start was set for 8:15. I spent much of that time in porta-potty lines. I learned a long time ago that the first thing to do in the race start area is to get in the potty line. Then, when you come out, get back into the line, and do it all again.

I have done the full marathon in San Francisco three times, so it's a course I'm not unfamiliar with. That said, how I forgot about the hill that is Golden Gate Park from Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street, I will never know. For a better look, check this elevation chart for the first seven miles.

It didn't take long for the near non-stop climbing to take its toll. Checked my Garmin on numerous occasions, and discovered each time that my heart certainly was getting a workout. My normal is about 155 during training runs, except when doing speed work and hill repeats. Seems as though it was close to 170 for most of these 13.1 miles.

Coming out of the tunnel at the east end of the park, and stepping into the Haight, I breathed my first sigh of relief. From here on it's mostly flat with a couple of awesome declines. I can honestly say the first time I felt good yesterday was near-tumbling down Haight Street toward Divisadero. The second time was a few blocks farther on, crossing Market, heading downhill into the Mission.

At this point it was all about just doing it. My heel spur had paid a return visit at about mile five, and nagged all the way to the end. I was thankful I was not running in my VFF's, as my heel needed the padding of my hefty Brooks Beasts.

I wore my iPod this race, but didn't use it. I didn't want to add any more time to my finish by stopping to insert the earbuds or select the tracks. I just wanted it to be over. So, I had a lot of time to think. I noticed the other runners. I was feeling the pain of the marathoners I was passing. They were at mile 20...I was at 10. I hurt for them...but was well aware of the conversations they were probably having in their heads at that time. Trying to keep themselves going, and pulling it off. I told myself to just shut up.

My favorite marathoners have always been the one's who've done their first...and STILL decide to do another. My second favorites, are those who've never gone that far and have decided to give it a shot. Yesterday reminded me what a challenge distance running is. When I blissfully finished my 13.1 I tried for a moment to remember what it was like going twice that far...thirty times over the last nine years. I can not remember.

It was about this time that I realized that Greek dude who did the distance from Marathon to Athens, kicking off this whole craze, only did it once...and died at the end. I've gone the distance thirty times...and am signed up to run Athens this year. And, he's the legend? WTH? Kidding.

I'm not sure I found any answers yesterday to how or why I should keep doing this. But running beneath the "Finish" banner again did feel like hooking back up with a dear, dear friend.

Gotta run!

Monday, 12 July 2010

THEY SAY.... 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 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!