Tuesday, 31 May 2011


In a recent previous post I conceded that, after more than a year of unsuccessful searching, I found a bit of my running mojo during the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco earlier this month. Despite the attempts by the race organizers to wring all the fun out of the often-bawdy event, those who took part refused to give in, and partied from sunny start to rainy finish.

Since then I have been looking for some half marathons and even a full mary to sign up for. I do best when I have goal to shoot for that's been paid for..but, holy moley, people, who can afford this stuff anymore?

As you may know, I am planning a big bike trip in the UK next year to celebrate 60 years on the planet (at least in my current incarnation?!). That journey is going to take about a month, during which I will not be working. I don't get vacation time. So, you do the math. I have to sock away over a month's worth of regular living expenses to keep the home fires stoked and burning AND another month's worth of trip funds (beer? fish and chips? hostel beds?). In other words, I have very little discretionary cash now, and don't anticipate that changing anytime soon. Unlike Washington, I can not just raise my debt ceiling and keep spending.

So, imagine my surprise, when tooling around on the web thing, I discovered many footrace organizers are, IMHO, being a bit goofy in what they think their events are worth. Up front I will admit, no one's being forced to enter these races...but I just wonder if they'd raise more money for their causes if they lowered the fees to "affordable" so more folks could sign up?

Some examples. My first thought was the Santa Rosa Half Marathon. It's close by, and I love the city. I have friends there who have already agreed to pay for post-race brews. But...it's $75-90...for a half, depending on when one enters. You think that's bad? The San Francisco Half, which is even closer to my house, is $105!!! The full 26 is $150! But wait! December's Honolulu Marathon...$155 to 260!!!!!!!! And that does NOT include a hotel room! Or even an umbrella drink or two. WTF? I could use that $260 to pay for about a week's lodging during my cycling adventure...or a week's worth of post-ride English ales!

I had all but given up finding a race I could commit to...until yesterday morning when I was greeted by an email message from the kind folks at Living Social. Ha! Half price entry into the new Nor Cal Half Marathon and Marathon in September in San Jose. $30 for the half, $40 for the full. Now we're talking. I did not hesitate. I bought. Now, I'm in. Looking forward to the race...and not feeling ripped off.

In an effort to pay forward my good fortune I told some running buddies about the deal...and some of them have signed up, as well. I guess that's the social part of Living Social.

The goal now is to drop ten pounds before race day. Race day weight goal...178.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Today's bike ride was inspired by President Obama. (Not him above!)

I got up in time to watch The Man address the British Parliament in Westminster Hall, his appearance there an historic event in and of itself. And...he nailed it. How anyone can find anything wrong with this guy at times like these I just do not know!

Anyway, in that speech he mentioned the Magna Carta, reminding me that it's currently on display at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park. Despite predictions of rain, I put one and one together, pulled out my dusty Burley rain gear, and set off on my bike, thoroughly expecting a quick ten-miler, then home. (To think I put my rain suit up on eBay when I lost my job last year. Thanks to all you bidders who thought my reserve was just too high.)

The ride there was wet, although nothing like the rain I expect to battle through during next year's E2E ride in the UK, for which I am in training. What I had forgotten, from the handful of times I've been to this museum before, was the nasty-ass hill it crowns. It was just one of number of climbs I had to do, into the wind and rain. I will admit...they were all fun...once I topped them. Fond memories of climbing Hartside Hill and Black Hill in England in 2000, when I rode the Sea to Sea. Not so fond remembrances of 20 mile, 10 hour days on the bike in 2003, the last time I tried the End to End!

Checking out the precious document was amazing. It's the second time I've seen it. The first time was for free in the British Museum in London, where I also saw lyrics handwritten by Beatles Lennon and McCartney, music scores from Classical masters...and so much, much more. I've seen some cool shit in my time, including Vikki Carr AND Tom Jones. (hehe) Today I saw more coolness...just by going on a bike ride.

Not only did I see the document without which the US Constitution might have been very different, but I saw artworks by El Greco, Rodin (Thinker, pictured above), Cezanne, Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh and Renoir...all right here atop a bitch of a hill, for just $10. I spent two hours in the museum...just enough time to completely dry off, before heading back out into the rain. I did, however, take a few moments to give in to a stunning female visitor to our shores from Brazil who asked me to take a picture of her in front of a wall-sized oil painting. I only said "yes"...in the interest of global harmony. You see. Obama got to me, talking all flowery, and democracy-like. Come to think of it, my friend Joe recently told me it's important to have a beautiful Brazilian as a friend....you never know when you'll find yourself alone...in Rio.

I left the museum just as the skies opened up again...but hit the road, regardless. My goal was 7th and Folsom streets where, according to its Twitter feed, a certain beef-centric food truck was supposed to be serving up hot meaty goodness from noon to 3pm. Got there at 1:30. No truck. Oh, well. I settled for a slice of pizza, and then headed for home, chalking up a brilliant 20 miler.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Gotta ride. Gotta run.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Alright. I'll admit it. When I woke up this morning at 4, I was hoping to hear the sound of pounding rain outside my window. I was not jazzed about running another Bay to Breakers. I have not been jazzed about running much of anything for a while. Had the weather "experts" been right about what to expect this morning, I would have gotten my wish, and stayed home and watched the B2B on TV. They called for rain, strong winds, possible thundershowers and...can you believe this...HAIL! It rained before the race...and drizzled a teensy bit while I was running through Golden Gate Park...but that was IT!

Got into the City at about 6:30 for a 7am start. Found a sweet parking spot...and headed for Corral C, where I was hoping to meet up with at least three running pals. Turned out one had bagged on the whole thing and two others were late. I started alone...unless you count the thousands of others I did not know.

This year's race has new sponsors, who, by the way, did stellar work, I must say. I was worried the new rules limiting the participants to JUST 55-thousand, banning booze, floats, and nudity would just take the magic out of it. Didn't happen. I will say I saw only one person flagrantly imbibing, tossing back some Jim Beam. She was handling it pretty well, for 7:15am. I did miss Cal's Tiki Bar, but all-in-all, I think the booze ban achieved its goal. The spirit was goofy, and fun, not out-of-control stoopid! There were many pleasant references, however, to the excess of years-past.

The course was alive with all manner of delight. These folks were powered by Tiger Blood, apparently. I passed them, Tiger Blood-less, regardless. At this point we're still in Mile 1, running west on Howard Street, heading for the hard right turn at the Chevron station on 9th. The best part of this mile for me was coming up on my good pal, Paul, and his young son, Connor. We did a quick catch-up...and then I headed off, hoping to reconnect at the end. Didn't happen.

We stay on 9th for about a quarter-mile, turn left on Hayes, travel through the good eats paradise that is Hayes Valley...and onwards to the infamous Hayes Hill. This is the only hill on the course, but it is a doozy. There's no point trying to run up it, unless you're one of the elites, who, by this time in the race, were about to win the big money about four miles west of us. The cyclone fencing I'd heard was going to be erected here, to keep runners from peeing on residents' doorsteps, was not.

Once over the Hayes Hill, it really is all flat or downhill the rest of the way. We cruised through the Panhandle, where we were were serenaded by Surivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and some disco delights, before we entered the magic kingdom that is Golden Gate Park. I love this place. And you never know who you'll run into.

Or, what! Seriously. Those are bison. In the city park. If you're from here, you don't care. If you're not...it's pretty cool, right? This is literally...where the buffalo roam.

After the bison, it's pretty much a tumble down to the Queen Wilhemina windmill, and the hard left on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach...and about a quarter mile to the Finish.

I posted a 1:29, according to my Garmin 305. It's not my fasted B2B, but not my slowest, either. I would have loved to have come in at 1:15 or 1:18...but I haven't been running for a while, so I'll take what I get, with bells on.

If you're wondering why this post is entitled as it is...it's because I really thought, I had lost my love of running. Turns out, I may not have. I learned over the past couple of days, through the excitement of those I know about this event, that the magic of running, for me, has always been about the people I've met, run with, shared wine with, shared beers with, shared burgers with, shared potato-encrusted shark steaks with, shared amazing barbeque with, shared free pasta with, shared amazing paid-for pasta with, shared English Mars bars with, shared cheddar goldfish with, shared hotel rooms with, shared early morning shuttle bus rides with, shared dreams and aspirations with...shared life. I'm eating my hat, because I was wrong about not missing all that.

By the way. If you're wondering about the whole nudity thing during this year's B2B. It has NOT gone away. If you want to see a picture of the 50-60 year old dudes who thought we wanted to see their junk, check out the post before this one. I have a shot of the same guys from this year's race. They have nothing to add. For those who wonder about the female nudes...there were, by my count, none. That is, unless you count the young lady above. I have it on good authority, there's nothing much under the tutu. I'm just saying.

Gotta run, gotta ride!

Monday, 9 May 2011


This is the week of Bay to Breakers, San Francisco's running street party that will reportedly be less of a party this year than in year's past, even though it's the 100th anniversary event.

The race organizers have decided this is the year they're pulling the plug on the centipede Tiki huts, human beer bongs, naked folks...and just about everything else for which this "race" is famous. I have it on good authority that fencing will be up in some neighborhoods to keep the residents sitting on their doorsteps from actually touching the runners. Truth is, the barriers will be to keep runners from peeing on said residents' doorsteps. I am not sure if actual fun will be permitted. (They'd better not ban the tortilla toss in the start area!) We'll know this time next week what came down...or didn't.

I got wind of most of the changes months and months ago. I decided then I would not take part, having run it so many times I don't recall how many times I've run it. Been there, blah, blah, blah. BUT, then I heard from a friend on the American Right Coast that she's coming to the Left Coast to tackle the 12K...so I just have to go along. Word is she's buying all the beer at the end. This might well be the first she's heard of it, but, that's life.

Yesterday, as a public service to Ms. Fool (she calls herself that....really!), I got on my bike and decided to ride the Bay to Breakers route , the first 7 miles of the route on that link, and videotape it for her. Not sure she really wants to see Hayes Hill before she gets there, but...whatever. Never mind. Turns out I needed to listen to the voices inside my head before I set off telling me to put fresh batteries in the camera. I flunked Field Video Operations 101. Took a few still photos at the beginning...checked them...they were fine. Then assumed my Minolta had enough juice to video. Oh, well.

Here's what she would have seen...had I powered up.

Howard and Spear streets...the traditional start zone. There is a Starbucks here...but I doubt we'll be able to get close on Sunday. A straight shot up Howard, to 9th Street, right at the Chevron station, up 9th to Hayes, turn left here. Relax while taking in the Hayes Valley area, known for having more than its fair share of good eats. Once you clear the trees that line both sides of about 4 blocks, it's the way-hyped Hayes Hill. Okay, it's steep. But it ain't no thang...serious. And...there are so many people, it's not like you could sprint it if you wanted to. One catches one's breath and puts one's heart back in one's chest at the top...which is Alamo Square Park. Look behind you for a stunning shot of the City skyline. (Look at those cute Victorians, all in a row. That would make a cool post card. Really!) Next, we tumble down the downside of Hayes to Divisadero, turn left for a block, then turn right onto Fell. We're basically at the east end of The Panhandle, a little finger-like thing on the edge of Golden Gate Park. This is pretty much Mile 4...and the end of any climbing at all. The next three miles are a stroll in the park. It's bigger than NYC's Central Park, is all man-made, and features bison..and Dutch windmills. When you see the windmill on your right, prepare to turn left on the Great Highway. If you don't turn here, you might end up in Hawaii. That's pretty much it.

On the way home, I ran across the high point of the day. Once again in the middle of the park, I happened upon a group giving free Lindy lessons. One participant caught my eye...and I could not not TRY to catch him on video. Put new batteries in and shot a couple minutes...only to discover some setting or other on the camera was off. The picture quality's horrid...but his spirit makes up. I am jealous of his joy. He's got it going on. I only hope there's a healthy dose of that sort of stuff during next Sunday's B2B.

Gotta run...ride??