Friday, 2 November 2012

PDX EXPERIMENT REWIND

It's almost universally accepted in the world of marathon running that you don't do anything on race day that you haven't tried before. It's reportedly not the time to break in new running shoes, or try a new pre-run breakfast/snack, or even a new pace or stride. I decided to blow that off a month ago when I ran my third Portland Marathon (Oregon)...and my 33rd overall...with interesting results. I have been a Jeff Galloway run/walk/run guy since day one of my distance running "career". For most of the past decade I done a 3:1 ratio...three minutes running, one minute walking. I have tried others, including 10:1s, 5:1s, blah, blah, blah. I know from watching him do it, Jeff frequently does 1:1s...and still finishes sub-5 hours. However, even though I've used his method for years, I still had trouble getting my head around his assertion that if I ran less and walked more I could still be faster. For PDX this time around I decided to test it out. After hearing Jeff speak at the expo I adjusted the intervals on my watch to 2:1. I really had nothing to lose. I also decided to leave my energy gels behind, in favor of Life Savers...and to NOT drink the sports drinks offered up along the route. This, after Jeff explained to a woman how neither of those things do ANYTHING to restore energy during the marathon. Using the fact the body virtually ceases to absorb new fuel during strenuous activities like, say, women in labor, or anyone running 26.2 miles. His research has found that the brain is what needs sugar during a marathon, or it begins to shut down. Thus, the Life Savers (Jeff uses them or just plain sugar). Apparently, all those energy gels and drinks just stack up in the stomach during the race, and aren't processed until the runner's done. No wonder we feel nauseous in the latter parts of the mary. This, I believe, also gives credence to my long-running tradition of eating an English Mars bar at every mile 17. It's just sugar! So...Race Day. It was a gorgeous October morning in Portlandia...although a little warmer at 6:30 than had been predicted. 56 instead of 44. This was indicative of what was to come, but more on that later. The 2:1 ratio felt good, as one might expect. It allowed for more rest, and less energy expenditure. I quickly discovered that I was keeping very close to my standard pace, despite running less. I also don't run up hills anymore...I walk them all...to save energy that I'll need later. I did not remember PDX being as hilly as it is...even though I'd run it twice before. However, the overall pace felt great. Taking just water along the course instead of energy drinks felt good, too. At Mile 17, where the big climb to the St. John's Bridge takes place, I was actually on track for a my possible second-ever sub-5. But it quickly became obvious that that would not be happening. Remember the early morning temperature being warmer than predicted? Well...that translated into the afternoon temp being higher, too. The predicted high was supposed to be in the low- to mid-70s. It was well into the 80s...and from Mile 18 the course rolls through tree-line residential streets...but none of their shade was on the road. So, it was 8 miles of into-the-sun run/walking...and not very much fun. I will admit that I was a bit bummed thinking about what my finishing time was likely to be as I slowed way down to manage the heat. But...turns out, not so bad. I finished (according to my Garmin) in 5:40. I had been realistically been hoping to do 5:30...so...considering my change in run/walk ratio, and my walking of all uphills, and NOT taking any food during the race...I nailed this bad boy. I know all you die-hards will have a tough time with some of this stuff, but I have now adopted it as the Gospel According to Jeff. The Belfast Marathon in Northern Ireland is currently my next scheduled event...next May. I am looking for something sooner, though. Stay tuned. I plan on being here on the blog more often. Gotta run!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

THE SIXTIES

Firstly, I will just say. The closest I got to being killed by a driver during my 38 mile bike ride Sunday was in the last two miles. Stop me if you've heard this before. Prius driver, on the cellphone, rolling through the crosswalk (I was on a bike path, otherwise I would have been on the road), turning left. I glared..and escaped! The ride was amazing. It was during one of the hottest days we've had in the Bay Area this year. Met another cyclist later in the day who said it was 101 at Olema at 11am. That's near the Pt. Reyes National Seashore...and, while I question her number, I will say it WAS darned hot. I had to do something substantial to keep my training going for Portland Marathon in October. I had just kicked off the training program at the first of the month and was doing well when I got scheduled to work 7 3am-11am shifts fashioning the news for the radio listening public. At that end of those shifts I am nothing short of a zombie, so training took a holiday for a week. However, the dreaming and the planning did not. Ten years after I began running marathons and after taking about two years off since I ran 12 in 12 months, I am looking to make my own mark again in my 60s. Thus, the blog name change. I have convinced my stepson to join me for Portland. Now I just have to get him to start training again. He's young. He beat me by an hour when we ran Dublin in 2008. You know what they say about youth! Portland will my 33rd, and my third running of that race. Now I have signed up for the Belfast City Marathon in Northern Ireland in May 2013. When the lad and I went to Ireland we spent three short days in Belfast. He fell for a Swedish girl he met in the lobby of the hostel...I fell for Belfast. I need to go back. In preparation for that, I am now considering doing California International Marathon (CIM) this December, for the third time. I set my PR there in December 2008 (4:56)and I want to see if I can better that. Stay tuned. Speaking of CIM. The second time I ran that race, and set my only sub-5 record, I had a strange, but enlightening experience, beginning at mile 17. I experienced a migraine aura and for a moment or two thought my race might be over. Looked in my fanny pack for my meds, which I had forgotten to pack. Then I remembered having heard that migraines are caused by blood flow being temporarily restricted to the brain...and I wondered what would happen if, instead of quitting, I stepped up my pace to get my heart to beat harder. I did, it did, and I set a PR, after the migraine aura vanished in about 10 minutes. Well, a similar thing happened yesterday. Felt fine until I got off the bike for a break in Sausalito, and almost immediately the aura appeared. Again, no meds in the bag, so I decided to step up the pace on the bike. About 10 minutes later, the aura cleared. FYI. BTW. I am not a doctor and do not play one the radio. I'm just saying. Two other things from the ride. First, I discovered as I climbed two big hills that I have not enjoyed in the past that I kicked their butts. I got to the top of both and realized they were easier than they were the many times I've ridden them before. No explanation at this time. Second...remember to put your smart phone back INSIDE your rackbag BEFORE heading down a 35 mile an hour hill. It broke open, but still works. Phew! PS- This is the first time I've used blogger since it did some sort of change thing. I have no idea why it won't separate paragraphs.

Friday, 9 March 2012

DAT RUN DUN!


It was not without a certain level of trepidation that I boarded my Southwest flight to the Big Easy for my first marathon in more than two years. Over a period of 8 years that began when I turned 50, I started 31 marys...and finished all but one. In 2009 I ran 12...and...until last weekend had not gone the distance since December of that year.

This was going to be a test mostly of my mental commitment. A few weeks previous I had run 20, in a shorter test of the same, and to see if it was safe to run long in my minimal Altra shoes. All went well then, but last Sunday I tacked on 6 more miles and another hour...in Rock and Roll New Orleans.

Turns out I was up to it all. It was as sweet as New Orleans jazz.



My first day in NOLA was frightening. As I walked out my apartment door for the first time, I was well-smacked in the face by a wall of near-visible humidity. I have lived in Pittsburgh during the summer, so I know sweltering heat...but this was insane. It immediately became my number one concern to the point where I let my friends and fellow marathoners who were coming out from the Bay Area on later flights know that if this weather held through the marathon we were in deep doo-doo.

Spent the day doing the sight-seeing thing, walking so much that I developed the beginnings of blister on one foot. Met my friend Patti for dinner in the French Quarter, where I opted for carb-rich red beans and rice. She went for blackened catfish. We both had beers. Carbs, you know.


Saturday was all about cheering the weather gods for blowing the sticky out overnight...and some early morning sightseeing....


...followed by a cooking class at...





Our delightful lecturer, Sandra, showed us how to make jambalaya, gumbo, bread pudding, and pralines (prah...not pray). Then we got to scarf it all down. More race prep.

Then it was off to the marathon expo, where we all...me, Patti, John, and Carrie, met up. After that, I headed to my digs, to go through my still-familiar pre-race rituals...and dinner...that consisted of the second half of my muffaletta lunch from the day before.

I woke up a minute before my 5am alarm went off, had english muffins and creamed cheese and coffee and headed for the starting line in downtown. Patti and I met up and had another cup of coffee then entered corral 16.

As you may know, I am a devout follower of Jeff Galloway and veteran marathon run-walk guy. Patti does not run-walk. Therefore, we ran together for about 5 minutes...then she took off...as I slipped into my first walk interval. I would not see her again until mile 20, when we passed on an out-and-back along the shore of Lake Ponchartrain.

This was by far the flattest marathon course I have ever run...even flatter than Chicago. The scenery was as beautiful and interesting. The supporting crowd was not huge. Chicago's got NOLA beat where that's concerned. But the folks who did turn out to cheer did it with gusto.

Shortly after running under the start banner, 29 minutes after the first corral left, we turned onto tree-lined St. Charles Avenue, and stayed on that historic street until we reached Loyola, then turned around, and headed for the French Quarter, then up Esplanade to City Park, then up to Lake Ponchartrain. After the aforementioned out-and-back there it was back to City Park where we wrapped it all up. All three of my friends were there, thrilled that it was all over. We've already started talking about where we're going next.


This was definitely one of the strongest marathon's I've run. My Garmin says my total time was 5:26...but I had about 6 minutes of non-moving time (ie. porta potties)which puts my moving time at 5:20. The shoes performed better than I could ever have hoped for. I maintained my intervals from beginning to end, which was a real challenge on a number of occasions when I would rather have been walking. One of the best moments was as I approached the finish line...where John Bingham, the "No Need for Speed" guy, was welcoming the runners home said "Man, you look strong". Doesn't get any better than that.

What followed was two of the best nights of eating I have ever experienced. Us runners were wined and dined by Patti's exceedingly generous husband, Rusty, at two amazing top flight restaurants. At the Palace Cafe I had turtle soup for the first time and chicken with truffled mashed potatoes...and...a Hurricane. The next night we met at one of the hottest spots in the Big Easy, Cochon, a pork-themed place that could not have been better. I will just say, if you've never had real southern grits...you have not lived.

This was also the first time I'd opted for an AirBNB room, instead of a hotel or hostel, and, if everyone is as gracious a host as Ronnie Woods was for me, I may never stay in a hotel again. He did come up with one of the best lines of the weekend the night I arrived. After I told him I was there to run Rock and Roll Marathon he asked if it was "one of the long ones?" Yes, Ronnie. It was.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

CRANKY



I had forgotten about this part of the marathon thing, but quickly remembered it when it hit me couple of days ago.

I always get a bit depressed, nervous, anxious, quiet, snippy, introspective, tunnel-visioned, worried, doubtful, short-tempered, CRANKY...the week before a marathon. I KNOW that once I get to New Orleans, pick up my expo goodies, meet up with my friends, and wake up on time for Sunday's rocking and rolling...all will be just fine. But...right now I just want the waiting to end.

I am not sure I am physically ready to run 26.2 again after two years off. My 20 went very well about ten days ago. I am looking forward to seeing how my Altras perform over the long haul. I AM mentally fit. I've done it so many times before, my head is well-versed. We'll see if my legs have total recall...or selective amnesia. I think I'll know at about mile 17...when it's time for my customary English Mars bar.

I was waffling on whether I NEEDED to replace my trusty Timex Ironman Triathalon watch for this race. The old one drowned in the hot tub last week...and I had been looking for another way of keeping track of my run/walk intervals. I almost sprang for the Gymboss interval timer for only $20...as opposed to the $50 for the Ironman...but the expedited shipping to get it here in time was another $20...which meant that for just $10 more I could replace the watch here and now. Did that today...it's all set up...and a bit of my anxiety subsided immediately. (Thanks, Tokyorunner, for the push!)

Had been hoping to bust out my Goon Squad Runners "Big G" singlet for this race. I am still proud to be a member of the team, even though most of them have probably written me off, after my two year hiatus. Pulled it out of the drawer today and tried it on...and...in my current condition, it's just not comfortable or a good look. Instead I have packed it...for inspiration. My hope now is that I will wear it for my fall/winter race. Hope to win my way back into the hearts and minds of the GSR on Sunday.

So - I am all packed, and ready to go. Looking forward to my first-ever AirBNB experience, beignets on Friday morning, New Orleans Cooking School on Saturday morning with my friend Patti, getting soundly beaten to the finish line by her brother, John, meeting his girlfriend and marathon-virgin, Carrie...and eating and drinking with them all and Patti's other half, Rusty. This is shaping up to be a stellar group of days.



Meanwhile, as I reenter the marathon world, I just wanted to wish everyone else who's running this weekend...Napa Valley; Little Rock; Antalya, Turkey; Osaka, Japan; New Plymouth, New Zealand and Treviso, Italy all the best. Hoping it's everything you want it to be. Perhaps the above video will be helpful.

Next stop, the Big Easy.

Gotta run!

Friday, 24 February 2012

IRONMAN DIES IN HOT TUB



I tried to save a little money this week...by changing the battery in my trusty Timex Ironman watch. I have had this since that summer day back in 2006 when my stepdaughter and I went to Sports Basement in San Francisco in preparation for our joint marathon effort in Portland, Oregon that October. It was not easy for me to let go of the $50...but I convinced myself I "needed" this watch, because it allowed me to set intervals.

For every marathon I've run I've used some variation of Jeff Galloway's run-walk interval system. I am thinking the older I get the more useful this will be. Most of the time I've done 3 minutes running to every one minute of walking. If you think that's nuts, JG himself does 1:1 ratios..and still finishes marathons, along with his wife, in under 5 hours. Anyway...before I bought this watch I had been using just a regular watch, trying to keep track of the intervals in my head. This simplified matters. Elise (my stepdaughter) refused to express an opinion on whether it was a good idea...just in case her mom got mad that I'd spent the 50. She didn't..and the watch has been with me for 18 marathons and oh so many training runs, from Portland to Barcelona to Dublin to Seattle, Austin, Sacramento, Big Sur, Napa, Rochester and Santa Barbara, and others, consistently keeping track of my time, so I didn't have to.

I had noticed for weeks recently that the display was fading, and taking about 10 seconds to fully illuminate in between Rock and Roll New Orleans training runs. But, it still worked, so I paid little attention until, a few days ago, it went dark.

Knowing that watch repair shops charge up to $20 to replace the pooped power source with one that was fully juiced, I decided to pay the $3 for the battery and do it myself. Everything went swimmingly...until I got into the gym hot tub after a 5 miler at Pt. Pinole State Park. It took seconds for me to figure out I had not sufficiently resealed the case. The picture above it what I am stuck with now.

I have a Garmin 305, that does intervals, sort of. Now I am faced, with just over a week to go to running the Big Easy, with a dilemna. Do I try to run RNRNO without an efficient interval timer...or go spend another $50 for the peace of mind of having a new Ironman on my team?

I would ask Elise...but she'd be no help...if past experience is any guide.

Gotta run!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

OOPS! SORRY.



A quick note on the post below. I apparently mis-read the Portland Marathon web site. It's the HALF that's sold out...not the FULL...yet! Now what am I going to do. I love Portland. Pondering.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

REGGAE OR NOT...GOING BIG EASY


Well, it is down to this. In two weeks I will be jetting off to New Orleans for the inaugural Rock and Roll NO Marathon. It will be the 32nd time I have ever lined up on a marathon start line. Here's hoping it will be my 31st finish.

Pretty much wrapped up the training with my 20 miler two days ago...from the San Francisco Ferry Building to the Larkspur Ferry Building in Marin.

My hope was to pull it off in 4 hours. I've run this route on many a final LTR for previous marathons, and have always done it in 4, give or take two or three minutes. You would think I'd think I had it in the bag, but, due to what I had felt was lack of adequate training since I signed up for this event, I set off with one of those "who knows how this will go?" thoughts bouncing around.

The weather was a little brisk, as I parked just two blocks from the SF Ferry Building just before 6:30AM. Just enough of a breeze that I talked myself out of leaving my windbreaker in the car...and headed off down the Embarcadero with visions of a cold one or two on the ferry right back to this very spot in just a few hours.

The run was hard, but not harder than I had expected. I took that as a good sign, that all is well, training wise. I had not run this far in well over two years and it was the first time I'd gone this distance in my Altus shoes. Every time I go a bit farther I am concerned that this will be the time when I injure myself like I did a few years back in my VFFs. Didn't happen...and I am liking these shoes more and more the longer I go.

I did have a couple moments when I experienced a sharp pain in my right knee. The first one was right at the very beginning. Chalked that one up to having not been fully warmed up. The second time was, run completed, on the ferry. Chalked that one up to having just run 20 miles. In between the two twinges, nothing to speak of.

I spent the entire time catching up on a few of my favourite podcasts. I don't do the music thing when I run. I figure I'm going to be out there so long, I may as well be thoroughly entertained. Just in case you might in the market for a new program to listen to, here are my suggestions.

If you must listen to something about running I would suggest RunWorldRadio. It's pretty new, and certainly does the trick of distracting me from the dreariness (at times) of the long slow run. In only three episodes so far they have talked about "running naked", the "drinking club with a running problem", whether male athletes should shave (and I mean "everything"), the female host's tale of her first "Brazilian", and I don't mean a guy she met in Rio, and what each of the three hosts are training for and how it's going. I also listened to Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, where they talked about Cheetos...for nearly an hour. Seriously. Now with real cheese. And...for you serious foodies, my favourite podcasts of the moment, The Splendid Table. Nothing like listening to people who love food and cooking talk about food and cooking while you can eat only sports gels! One man's torture is another's inspiration.

The crowning, and completely unexpected moment of the run was when I got my first glimpse of the Larspur Landing shopping center, which is across the street from the terminal for the ferry back to SF, and seeing, in letters not unlike the famous "Hollywood" sign, FOOD TRUCKS SUNDAY. Life gets no better than this, my friend. I did a loop around the shopping center so that my Garmin hit the 20 mile mark right in front of the first of the line of gourmet trucks, offering everything from cupcakes to Indian, to fried chicken, sandwiches...and on and on. I was delirious with having the good fortune of being where I found myself...with 20 minutes to go til my boat left for home. I settled on the Indian samosas and a Stella on the ferry.

Back in the city I went to my gym...with fingers crossed. On a number of other days when I've done this run, I've returned to my 24 Hour club to take a jacuzzi (don't even try to sell me on an ice bath! I've tried. I hate them) only to find it shut down for maintenance. This time...it was hot, bubbly and OPEN! Score!

I did the run in 4:13, which I initially was not happy about, but, then remembered I had walked every uphill...and there were a number of them. I hear that's a technique employed by those goofs who do 100-mile races! I have adopted it, realizing that no matter how hard I try to beat the incline, it always wins, and I'm left drained. This time, saved that fuel for the distance. So...seeing that New Orleans has NO HILLS whatsoever, I should be just peachy! Right?

To show you how good I was feeling about things when I got home I immediately began looking for a fall/winter marathon. Portland, Oregon, in October is already sold out. That's a drag. But..Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica, in December, is NOT.



Gotta run. Yeah, mon. Red Stripes and coconuts at the end.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

REACQUAINTED

IT'S FUNNY HOW QUICKLY WE FORGET...




Prior to recently getting back into the whole running thing I had not done any serious training since the run-up to the Santa Barbara International Marathon in December 2009. Then I committed to this year's inaugural Rock and Roll New Orleans, got new shoes, recharged the Garmin 305, re-subscribed to a couple of running podcasts, put them on the iPod, and plunged back in.

One thing I'd forgotten was how amazing it is to run before the sun comes up. Totally different, for me, than running after it goes down. For the past two non-running years I, on numerous occasions, looked out my kitchen window, watching others run by at 4:30am...and just didn't get it. I get it again. I know you night owls will not. That's too bad.

I had also forgotten the joy of running into the rain until I did that again. Until yesterday the last time I'd done that was Napa Valley Marathon...oh so many years ago. During that race I experienced cold like never before, drenched and shivering with serious nipple bleeding...and miles upon miles to go. Vaseline is a beautiful thing...when it's just what you need. Yesterday, I did a 15...my longest run since before Santa Barbara. At 7.5 I went into a Starbucks for a quick shot of espresso...and within that five minutes, the rain began.

It only let up as I approached my front door. When you've been drenched, and pressed on, there's nothing like the dry delivered by a big, fluffy, warm towel...and a cup of tea.

Job loss can wreak havoc with even the most well-constructed travel plans. I lost a 12-year gig in 2009 and had to cancel marathon adventures in Trieste, Prague and Athens that year. Since then I had not had the high of scoring really cheap airfare til last week. It's perhaps silly to think that in those moments I've pulled one over on the airlines...but it almost feels that good. I got crazy-cheap tickets to New Orleans, by waiting til just the right moment. Little victories?

Since Santa Barbara I have gripped the world of marathon goings-on by the thread of those of you who kept going. I'm glad to have shared in your ups and downs in some small way through your blogs, postings on Daily Mile and Just Finish, and in conversation. I'm glad for not losing interest in all you were doing. Your stories made me jealous. I'm hoping to have some new tales of my own to tell.

In just about five weeks I'll be lining up on the NORNR start line...having guzzled a quick cup of coffee, bagel and a banana. Butterflies have caused me to lose those breakfasts on a number of occasions. If that happens in the Big Easy...I'll know I'm back to stay.

Gotta run!