Friday, November 23, 2007

Back on The Streets

Six miles Wednesday night was my longest midweek run since Marshall. Bonelli trails are off limits once again due to the early departure of the sun, so it was back to the streets around the neighborhood. A quick look through the logbook showed that I hadn't run any serious streets since last March. My goal was to keep the pace around 9:30, I ended up at 8:57. I was trying to keep things on the slow side in anticipation of the Turkey Trot the following morning.

Tyler had started asking about a Turkey Trot a couple of weeks back. I signed us up for The Run for the Hungry. At one point he had his little brother talked into it as well. He and I had run this together back in 2004. He ultimately backed out but he and my wife came along to watch. They ended up walking their own Turkey Trot, a 2+ mile trip to get a Starbucks before the race started. My old running partner Celeste and her little sis had signed up for the run months ago. We ran into each other at the starting line.

I had warned Tyler that the course was a rolling course, a simple out and back down Foothill Blvd in La Canada. He was really hoping to improve on his PR time by going sub 29:00. At the start he overhead some locals discussing how this race is always their slowest 5K of the year. Between that and the fact that the first mile of the race was obviously uphill, I think he was a little worried about PR'ing. I encouraged to just keep it steady on the way out and then let it fly and enjoy the downhill finish.

Rather than running together we each ran our own race. That seemed to work out better for Tyler. My hopes for the race were to go sub 24:00, still a long way from my 21:54 PR in 2006, but that's where I'm at this year. Although the route is simple it is by no means easy. I was only able to knock out a 24:35. I headed back out to run Tyler in. He looked great. He was able to knock out a huge PR of 27:18, nearly a 2 minute improvement from his last 5K 2 months ago.

We followed up the occasion with breakfast at a little place Lisa and Bryan had smelled on the their coffee run. It was a spontaneous decision but you know how we love our breakfast.

Back home Lisa made the apple pie. The pumpkin pies had been made the night before. My mother in law cooked an awesome Thanksgiving dinner as usual. My sister in law suggested we go around the table and tell what we were thankful for. After some eye rolling by the teenager and before the whole thing completely deteriorated into silliness Tyler mentioned that he was grateful for the changes he'd made toward a healthier lifestyle and fitness. Very cool.

Dinner was followed up with the yummy pies and a game of Dominoes that included a lot of uncontrolled laughter resulting in much snorting and near pants wetting. But it was fun.

I hope everyone had a great day with family and friends. Here are a couple of pics from the Turkey Trot:
Me "gliding" to the finish.And Tyler rocking his PR. Check out that knee lift!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Race or Run

Hanging out over coffee after our 10 mile run along the Santa Ana River Trail, Jim mentioned that he was uncertain whether to run the Boston Marathon. He had qualified earlier this year at his first marathon in seven years. The required travel, starting line logistics, etc; all had him a little out of his comfort zone. Mary suggested that he should go and just enjoy the experience. She went on to suggest that he just run it and not worry about time. The look on his face was that of a person trying to make sense of something just spoken to them in a foreign language.

In the ensuing conversation it became apparent that Jim saw no value in just “running” the race. He’d never in 20+ years of running not raced a race. For the couple of years that I’ve know Jim I’ve seen this to be true. At every race I’ve seen him in he lays it all out there and is completely used up at the end. Jim is often recovering from one injury or the other. Jim is intense.

Mary on the other hand runs races for the atmosphere and camaraderie. She runs for the physical benefits. I can’t remember her sustaining an injury in the 3 years I’ve known her. Mary is upbeat.

Earlier in the run I had been asked when my next marathon was. I replied that I would be running Rocket City in Huntsville, Alabama in three weeks. I would be my 12th state, 15th marathon in 4 years. I lamented my recent slower times attributing them to the recent spate of marathons and continued hip issues.

Does someone who just runs a race not posses a competitive spirit? Does a racer miss the social aspects and the aura of the race locale? Of course the issue is more complex that this but where do you fall on the race vs. run debate?

I realized that I currently fall more in line with Mary than Jim. I had aspired (and still do) to running a Boston qualifying marathon. Although I think that running many marathons close together and running a BQ marathon are almost mutually exclusive goals. In my first couple of years of running it wasn’t unreasonable to expect my marathon times to improve one after the other. To achieve the BQ I think I'll have to reassess the chase for states at least for a little while.
Two weeks post marathon (recover phase?) I ran 22 miles. The next two weeks are taper (right?) for Rocket City with mileage in the low 30’s planned. I’ll be “running” Rocket City and doing my best to keep up with the other bloggers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tyler's Longest Run

Last Wednesday I made a comment to a coworker about how good I felt after having run marathons on back to back weekends. I really did feel worse after the first than I did after the second.

That all changed when I went for an easy 3 miler on Thursday. My right hamstring was tight, and I mean tight. This was an unfamiliar pain for me. I guess the two marathons had more of an effect on my body than I initially realized.

Earlier in the week I emailed Anne of run-dmz for route suggestions for Tyler and I on Saturday. She sent me a link to a great site on San Diego running routes and gave me her own personal recommendations. Thanks, Anne! I talked them over with Tyler and he ended up choosing Los Penasquitos Canyon. He also chose the starting time of 10:00, a "little" later than I normally get going but it allowed me plenty of time for the 2 hour drive to San Diego. This being November and with San Diego's normally moderate weather I figured I couldn't go too wrong.

I did make the decision to start the run at the west end of the trail so that we ran uphill on the out portion and downhill on the back. Turns out the trail is pretty much flat except for a couple of decent rollers in the first mile or two on the west end. I did hear a couple of "I so hate you" on the couple of little hills since I had pretty much sold him on the route being flat.

The main route down the center of the fairly wide canyon is basically a dirt service road. At the west end after the couple of hills the trail goes through some sycamore groves, then through some meadows and finally through a couple of groves of live oak before reaching the parking lot a the opposite end, 6 miles away. There are many little side trails that could be added on for a fun little day of running exploration.

At one point a guy blew by us in the opposite direction and then passed us a little later like we were standing still. He had to have been doing sub 7:00 miles, maybe even less. It was a beautiful thing to see. We also found and picked up a car alarm clicker that we were able to give back to the owner who had doubled back on the trail in search of it. Call it our good deed for the day.

Tyler's plan called for 10 miles in preparation for his first half marathon. We made it to the 5 mile mark pretty much without incident. There were several other runners, some hikers and quite a few bikers out enjoying the day as well. The plan was to run out the the 5 mile mark and then head on back.

When we hit the 5 mile mark Tyler questioned whether the planned 10 was adequate as his last long run before the half. I tried to assure him that it would be fine but left the decision up to him. He decided to go the full 6 partially for the sake of preparation, partially for the hopes of the port-a-john that would surely be at the parking lot on that end of the trail.

Thankfully it was there and after a brief stop Tyler was ready to head back to down the canyon. Up to this point my legs were feeling tired but OK. Somewhere along the way back my legs started feeling really fatigued and the right hamstring was causing me some pain. Tyler was getting pretty beat himself. There were a couple of walk breaks in the last 3 or 4 miles, especially on those rollers, but we finished the 12 in 2:06:19, a leisurely 11:22 pace for Tyler's longest run to date.

My legs were thrashed and he commented on being way more tired than after his 9 miler last weekend. Some of that may be due to sprints he did on the treadmill on Thursday and Friday. I told him no sprints the week of the half. By the way I finally signed us both up for the half earlier in the week. We'll be running the City of Angels Half Marathon. This is the second running. I wanted to run the inaugural last year but instead I was in Kentucky running the Otter Creek Trail Marathon.

After the run we went back to his place and showered then when downtown to Little Italy for lunch at Zia's Bistro. I had a one of the best bowls of minestrone ever and the Tre Gusti pizza. Tyler had penne with sausage, garlic and broccoli. We should have stopped there but instead we headed over to Extraordinary Desserts for coffee and a little something sweet. I had a wonderful pumpkin cheesecake with dark cherry sauce. That one piece of cheesecake took care of all the calories burned out there on the trail but it was delicious.

I took Sunday off in favor of the hamstring. I'm probably going to baby the leg a little this next week although I'd really like to ramp back up. I've got another state to conquer here with an ever growing list of bloggers going to be there. Besides me, Joe and Wes; I now know about Lana, Michele and David (all from TN). The excitement builds. Let's hope the hamstring loosens up.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Marshall University Marathon - Race Report

Make that 11 Down - On To Rocket City!

Earlier this morning while David, Susan and Danny were tackling the largest marathon in the world I was winding my way through Huntington, West Virginia for the 4th running of the Marshall University Marathon on a much smaller scale.

I couldn’t be happier with my final time of 4:07:08 (by my watch, official times aren’t available yet).

Based on info that I heard at packet pickup; there was no expo; there were about 440 registered runners. There was also a half marathon and a marathon relay that started at the same time. My parents drove me to the start line about 20 minutes before the race start. My sisters and nieces joined us as well. I stayed on the sidewalk and chatted with them until 5 minutes before start time and simply stepped off the sidewalk into the crowd and right on time we were off.

As I mentioned earlier, my only real goal for this race to finish upright. After the desperate struggle to finish last week at MCM, I had serious concerns that this race would be a complete blowout. My strategy for finishing well was to run 9:00 miles and to walk the water stops.

The only real bad points to this race were having forgotten to grab my fuel belt from the car. Luckily because of the course layout I was able to see my parents at mile 3 and alerted them to the belt. They were able to travel the course by car since only one lane was closed and by mile 6 or so I had my belt with me. Water stations were plentiful, though small, but I really wanted my gels for the last part of the race. The other bad point was three stops at the johns. I hadn’t run a step since last week’s marathon so systems tend to shut down. Running this morning jump started everything.

The course through Huntington is billed as West Virginia’s only flat and fast course and it lived up to its names. The only real hill was the underpass under the railroad tracks that bisect the town from east to west.

I started the race off a little fast with a couple of miles around 8:30. By mile 5 I had things under control in the low 9:00’s. At mile 11 when the half marathons left the course the crowd thinned considerably. At mile 17 I had my first mile that exceeded 9:30, not counting the miles that had included the potty stops prior. By mile 20 I was still running at 9:42. I expected to hit the wall but never did. I kept moving smoothly and calmly forward. At mile 22 I saw my family in Ritter Park. This was the 4th time I saw them before the finish line.

It was at this point that I began to catch and pass some of the runners that had left me behind before mile 13. This is usually the point in the race when I am slowing down miserably and everyone is passing me. My last 5 miles were 9:40, 9:32, 9:27, 9:45 and 9:36 with the last 0.2 in 1:58. I never hit the wall or the point where I felt I couldn’t go on. No one passed me in those last 5 miles until one guy got me at mile 26.

Mile 25 took us down through the center of the campus of Marshall University. There is just something for me about being on campus surrounded by all those brick buildings that just makes me happy. As we enter campus there was a coed handing out carnations. I picked one out and carried it to the football stadium and handed to my Mom. The finish line was inside the stadium. We an the full field along the sidelines and then went to center field where a volunteer handed each runner a football to carry the 100 yards to the finish line at the opposite end.

After having expected disaster, the Marshall University Marathon was very satisfying. We ran along the Ohio River (too short), through Ritter Park (twice) and the beautiful neighborhood surrounding it, and through neighborhoods at the other end of the socioeconomic strata. The starting temp was in the low 30’s. We finished in the 60’s. The foliage was just beginning to turn colors. Having so much of my family there to support me was a huge bonus. It would have been a much different marathon without them there. My nieces can’t understand why anyone would run for fun, but I think they got into the spirit, at least a little.

I’m going to take it easy this week. Next weekend Tyler wants me to come down to San Diego to run 10 miles with him. He’s gearing up for his first half marathon. Then I’ve got about a month to get myself ready to run in Alabama with Joe and Wes.

(I’m uploading this on a very slow wireless connection at the hotel in WV, so sorry no links)

Thursday, November 01, 2007


“We all have a weakness, but some of ours are easy to identify.
We all have a sickness that cleverly attaches and multiplies. No matter how we try.”
- Incubus, “Dig”

I’ve mentioned having an unused voucher for a plane ticket before on these pages. The unused voucher from our trip to Pennsylvania in January offered me the chance to add another state to the tally. I’ve had 9 months to find the right race but no race ever seemed right and I’m just a big procrastinator.

The marathon attached to this voucher came with some conditions:
1. It had to be near an airport serviced by Southwest Airlines
2. It had to be used before December 1, 2008
3. It had to be in a state I hadn’t already completed a marathon
4. It had to be in a state that my wife had no interest in going to
5. Lastly, because I’d procrastinated, it had to be squeezed in between the Marine Corps Marathon and Rocket City Marathon on December 8.

The choices weren’t all that numerous and I narrowed it down to the following:
November 17 – The X-Country Marathon, near Tampa, FL
November 11 – San Antonio Marathon
November 3 – Marshall University Marathon, Huntington, WV

The Tampa race was eliminated due to the available airfares being nearly 3 times the voucher amount. Hotel rentals in San Antonio were higher than I would have liked especially knowing that I could go to Houston some other time and visit my brother in law (free lodging). That left Marshall. The airfare into Columbus, OH airport was reasonable and hotel rooms in Huntington, WV were very affordable.

So although it is only 1 week after MCM, I’m hopping on a plane tomorrow morning and heading out to West Virginia, state #11. The coolest thing about this trip is that my parents, 2 of my sisters and 3 of my nieces are driving down from northern OH to see me.

I think the only reasonable goal for this one is to cross that finish line in an upright position and to enjoy seeing family I haven’t seen since April 2006. Wish me luck!

“I remember when I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that phase
Even your emotions had an echo and so much space
Hmm mmmm
And when you're out there without care, Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough, I just knew too much
Does that make me crazy; Does that make me crazy; Does that make me crazy?

- Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”