Monday, 30 August 2010


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


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


My first ever article to be published on

Check it out, huh? 

Monday, 16 August 2010


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.