Friday, December 31, 2010

Dragon's Doctor Friend, Ed, Says....

I moved my 20 miler this week up a day. Not to get the mileage in 2010, like an anxious parent scheduling a c-section to get the tax break, but because it fit my schedule better.

The CA Cruiser's typical long run day is Saturday. Saturday is New Years Day. New Years Day means the Rose Parade. Although there are very few good reasons for me to miss a run, there's nothing that will keep me from watching the Rose Parade. I Love the Rose Parade. Yes, it is on all day here in southern California; repeated at least half a dozen times for all those hung over folks; but I'm a bit of a purist. I've got to watch it the first time it's on, live, without commercial interruption. I'd almost prefer to watch it live in the grand stands in Pasadena, but the recliner in my warm house is just fine, thank you.

So anyway, a long explanation as to why I ran today. The Cruisers were planning a 10 mile run. I texted Margaret and gave her a head's up on my plans and she decided to join me.

A strange and infrequent cold front has settled upon us, so it was 34 degrees at 6:30 this morning. We'd already decided to delay our run until 8:00. On my way to Huntington Beach I got a call from Margaret telling me it was cold there - too funny.

We started our run in 38 degree weather under clear sunny skies. The sun sure felt good. So did the long sleeve shirt and 99 cent gloves from Walgreens. The run itself was pretty uneventful. It was a simple out and back on the bike path in Huntington all the way into Sunset Beach. About 12 miles into the run we ran into a coworker of mine. He ran with us for a couple of miles and then took off at his own, much faster, pace.

We finished the run in 3:29 for a 10:27 pace. Again much slower than the prescribed pace of 9:35-9:54. As much as it would be easy to blame the pace on Margaret, truth be told I just can't seem to get going much faster either. I do fall into her pace at the beginning, but 3/4 of the way into the run I just run out of steam. It is a bit frustrating and worrisome.

I've been hitting the paces on both my speed and tempo workouts midweek but have no endurance when it comes to the long runs. Its been going like this for 6 weeks. It makes we really question how I'm going to run 9:09 pace in a marathon (that's what a need to get my 4:00 marathon back). Seven weeks till race day, so I'm going to stick with the plan and we'll see how things work out in Austin.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Basic Tempo

Sunny, 55 degrees and windy!

5 mile Tempo Run.

41:28 (8:17 pace)

Forgot my watch, but thankfully the new ipod I got for Christmas has a stopwatch feature.

Only tomorrow's 20 miler stands between me and the year end statistics.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One 1200 Too Much

It rained, A-G-A-I-N, today in SoCal. That's all I'm going to say about that. I was thankful today was a rest/cross training day.

Yesterday was beautiful and sunny (the Southern California we all love and expect), the perfect day for some speedwork. I'm on vacation for the week so I headed over the the San Gabriel River Trail at my leisure, which meant around 11:00 in the morning. The temperature was in the low 60 but with the sun on my skin I was plenty warm and salty by the time the days repeats were done.

Things started as usual for these days - park the vehicle in the lot and then head north on the trail from the 35.25 mile marker for a 2 mile warm up. I've gotten really good at finishing up these 2 miles in just less than 10:00. The intervals today were 3 x (2 x 1200) with 2 minute rest between the intervals and 4 minutes rest between the sets.

My goal time for the 1200's was 5:26 to 5:49. The first set of 2 were easy enough at 5:36 and 5:25; both heading south on the trail. For the first one of the second set I headed back north for a 5:49 and then headed back south again for 5:33. I could definitely feel the effect of the slight "up" in the north direction. After the required (and gratefully accepted) 4 minute walk/jog to the next 1/4 marker I got the 5th 1200 done in 5:35 heading south. For the last one I turned back north and retraced my steps. By now my legs were feeling the effects. I even took a couple of short walk breaks ending the 6th and final 1200 in 6:11. Ouch, that hurts! I blame my poor diet, i.e. (way) too many holiday treats on the sluggish legs. Rather than one 1200 too much, it is really more like one (or more) pieces of fudge too much!

This left me one mile north of the car for the perfect cool down mile which I did barefoot again. The river trail was newly asphalted last fall so is in perfect condition for the barefoot running. Unlike on Christmas Day where I actually kept my socks on this time I went for the entire barefoot experience this time. I was surprised to pull this one off in 10:22, significantly faster than just a couple of days before. The only ill effects were the loss of a bit of skin off the pads of two middle toes on my right foot (and maybe some odd looks from the other folks I encountered along the trail).

I'm not sure any of this is really helping my heel pain but at least it keeps things interesting.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rain and Rumble

I've mentioned previously that this training program takes a bit of mental fortitude. The last couple of weeks I've taken advantage of daylight and run my speed and tempo workouts during the day and things have gone quite well. This past week the forcast called for rain, rain and more rain. After my last long run in the rain, I'd already decided that I would do the speed sessions on the treadmill at the new gym.

The new gym isn't nearly as crowded as the old gym and so far hasn't instituted a 20 minute rule. I don't usually like using the treadmill but I thought it would be a fun challenge and alternative way to do the repeats called for on Tuesday. And then the rumbling began.

Sunday afternoon I ended up with either a touch of the stomach flu or some whopper of food poisoning. I'm the only one in my house that got hit but I got hit good. I rarely get sick, especially with this sort of thing; I've got a pretty iron gut. I was sapped on Monday and stayed home, laid in the recliner and watched endless hours of HGTV. Tuesday I went back to work, but my stomach still wasn't quite right. I could keep food down but my stomach intestines were sure rumbling and working overtime.

True to the forecast it was still pouring rain that afternoon and with the illness I was in no shape to complete mile and 800 repeats. One thing this program makes clear is not to try to make up any missed workouts, so I had no choice but to just let it go.

By Thursday I finally felt 85-90% again, but I had lots of last minute stuff to do and although I might have had time to get in my 10 mile tempo run, I lacked the mental fortitude to go get it done.

Finally on Friday, Christmas Eve morning, the rain had stopped and I met up with a bunch of CA Cruisers for an 5 mile jaunt through a hilly little route through Yorba Linda. I ran with Jay and John. My gut was a bit tentative about the movement, but luckily everything held together.

On Christmas Day, I took advantage of the beautiful dry day and some free time between morning present opening and breakfast and the larger meal later on in the afternoon and put in a nice 12 mile run. The schedule called for 15, but time didn't permit the extra 30 minutes it would have taken. The first 7 miles were run at 9:12 pace or so and then without any real warning things slowed down to 10:00 pace. I decided to try something fun and ran the last mile and a quarter barefoot. My pace for that last mile was as expected considerably slower at 12:33.

I've been having heel pain for some time now so I wanted to give the barefooting a try. My heels enjoyed having the pressure off them for sure. Running barefoot didn't seem that odd, really. One thing I didn't expect was an pain that happened only on my right foot. The three middle toes on that foot felt like they were on fire. That pain continued on for nearly the entire mile and even after I'd finished running. Now two days later, they still feel a little weird. Something else to keep an eye on.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and extend my best wishes for an awesome 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Long Wet One

It doesn't rain often here in Southern California, but it does rain. We're no Pacific Northwest to be sure but we have our rainy season. Right now we are in the middle of a forecasted 4 to 5 days of continuous rain.

My plan called for 18 miles on Saturday morning. The rain had already begun on Friday. All day long I fretted over the possibility of having to run that many miles all wet and chilly. I really wasn't looking forward to it. I don't mind running a few miles in the run but 3 hours out there was just messing with my head. But the CA Cruisers are just like the US Postal Service, we run rain or shine.

When I left home Saturday morning at 6:00 there was a light drizzle. By the time I met up with over a dozen intrepid souls the drizzle had become more of a heavy mist. Actually not so bad for running. Getting started in that was much easier than having to get started in full on rain.

A very funny thing happened about 2 miles into the run. Here we are, a bunch of middle- to late-aged folks out for our long run. We'd all dressed for the weather with long sleeve tech shirts, hats, assorted rain gear (jackets, ponchos, trash bags) and our fair share of extra percentage points of body fat. The mist had subsided so most of the rain gear was now tied around our waists. As we ran down Fairmont Blvd in Yorba Linda we were over taken by a trio of college guys. They must have been team mates. They could have been triplets or clones. Each one was dressed in black shorts and running shoes and nothing else and none of the three had more than 0.5% body fat. It was quite the contrast to our little band of runners. It was no time before they were well off in the distance never to be seen again.

I ran with Margaret again. She had 16 on her schedule so we decided to share much of the run together. Most of the runners ran a shorter 6 mile loop. When we hit the river trail we left the group and did an out an back on the trail. About 8 miles into the run the rain started up again and continued for the duration of the 18 miles. Luckily the temperature was in the mid 50's and there was only a light breeze, so I never got too cold.

It is nice to run with a partner on these long runs, but Margaret usually runs at a slower pace than me, so once again I didn't meet my long run pace goal. This weeks goal was 9:39. We were doing just less than 10 minute miles for quite a while. 15 miles into the run we had a cumulative pace of 10:12. The miles began piling on and the fatigue piled on too resulting in a final pace of 10:33 for the entire 18 mile distance. I ran the last mile and a half alone but was unable to pick up the pace as much as I would have liked to.

I've been good at hitting the paces mid week, now I've got to start concentrating on hitting the paces on the long runs as well. I might try running on my own to be able to get closer to the planned pace and forgo the camaraderie of the Cruisers for a couple of these long runs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nailed

I took advantage of my excess vacation and took a half day off to get my speed session in on the San Gabriel River Bikeway taking full advantage of the quarter mile markings and the daylight. The plan called for 2 x (6 x 400) with 1:30 Rest between the 400's and 2:30 rest between the two sets of 6.

My goal times for the for the 400's was 1:45 to 1:53. By running this workouts on a trail marked in quarter miles I'm really running 440 yards so I'm probably running these a bit faster than I need to, but all that extra math just isn't worth the effort.

My first quarter after the warm up was a bit slow at 1:58 but then I got then under control. The first 6 x 400 went like this:

1:58, 1:48, 1:42, 1:45, 1:37, 1:44

I took a 1:30 walk break after each quarter with a 2:30 walk break after the last one before starting round 2.

1:42, 1:42, 1:42, 1:45, 1:42, 1:42

How sweet is that? I followed that with a nice 9:18 mile cool down and left the trail tired and happy.

I'm looking forward to Thursday's tempo run.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

LA County Holiday Half Marathon

This race is run mostly in my favorite little running route - Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. This is the second running. I can't remember why I didn't end up running last year, but this year I decided to join in the fun. My new planned called for a 13 mile run this weekend, so the timing was perfect. None of the CA Cruisers were joining me, so it would be a solo effort.

The race started on the grounds of the LA County Fairgrounds. As a training run my prescribed pace was PMP (planned marathon pace) + 15 sec. That would put me at 9:24 which seemed reasonably doable. I really wanted to try to get the thing done in 2 hours or less which is really my PMP. I figured since all more other long runs on this plan had been run significantly slower than planned it wouldn't hurt to throw a little bit of speed at this effort.

At the start I ended up running into fellow Cruiser that I didn't know was going to be there. He is much faster than me at the short distances. At the sound of the air horn, we took off and I let him go right away. When we hit the 1 Mile mark I was surprised to see him only about 20 feet in front of me. My watch read 8:22, over 30 seconds per mile faster than I really wanted to go. At this point we were had left the fairgrounds and were traveling across the parking lots.

The second half of Mile 2 was run on the Pomona Raceway dragstrip. At the 2 Mile mark John was still less than 30 feet in front of me. I clocked that mile in 7:47. Way too fast. I worried that that one was going to come back and bite me in the arse for sure. I stopped at the next water stop and made a conscious effort to slow the pace. The race was being used by Students Run LA as a training effort for the LA Marathon. Running along all those young folks I think got the race of to a pace faster than I could hold on to.

Mile 3 took us along Puddingstone Drive and even with my best efforts to slow down I still clocked an 8:09 mile. Soon after that we entered the north side of Bonelli and ran west through the parking area. Mile 4 came in at 8:28. I feared that the correction had begun from my careless Mile 2.

Mile 4 took us across the dam. We had a great view of downtown Los Angeles over 30 miles away. The weather was perfect southern California "winter." The temperature at the start was 56 degrees and was probably warmed up to the 70's by the end. Mile 5 came in at 8:38. Slowing down some but still going better than the sub-2:00 plan.

After the dam we headed south on Raging Waters Drive and then east into the park on a nice little downhill. At Mile 6 I ran into John unexpectedly. He, like me, had gone out too fast and had run out of steam. I was getting tired I told John I was going to hang on as long as possible. I passed him by and didn't see him again until the finish line. Further slowing on the gently rolling course, Mile 6 was 8:43.

At the far east of the park we doubled back and round what I call the picnic loop route. I missed the marker at Mile 7. Mile 8 read 17:33 (roughly 8:45 pace). I was definitely running out of steam as well, but I'd been with a couple of the same folks since Mile 3 and we were all in the same boat, no one taking off and no one being left behind.

Mile 9 included a nice little incline that took us out of the park and into the adjacent Eastlake RV park. Along this section we had a great view of the entire Puddingtone Lake over our left shoulders and an amazing view of the San Gabriel Mountains just ahead. The uphill was followed by a nice little down hill into the RV park but it didn't help much. Mile 9 was 9:06, almost exactly on the pace I should have probably been on all along.

Mile 10 took us through and then out the other side of the RV park. The poor folks in the RV park probably wondered what all these crazy folks were doing. Still at 9:10 pace for Mile 10.

The next mile included a long slow grind up a little bump in the road passed Brackett Field a small airstip in LaVerne. We'd gone passed the other side of it on Puddingstone Drive back on Mile 3. I trudged up the bump, noticeably slowing but trying my best not to break stride. I was rewarded with a 9:20 Mile 11.

I thought that this would be the end of the rolling course but the way up McKinley Avenue towards Fairplex Drive was a long slow slog ever so slightly up as well. I don't mind a rolling course but it was definitely getting the better of me by this point. Mile 12 found us with a nice reprieve on Fairplex coming in at 10:02. I chuckled. The correction that I'd feared at Mile 2 had certainly come back to haunt me now.

We wound our way back through the fairground parking lots, onto the fairgrounds proper right back to where we started with 10.11 for the last 1.1 miles.

My final time was 1:55 and change. I'm super happy with that. It wasn't a PR but I wasn't aiming for one, but it is well under my secret hope for a sub 2:00. I waited around at the finish line for John. He came through right around the 2:00 mark. It was a decent showing on an absolutely beautiful Winter day.

This run came on the heels of my tempo run on Thursday. I was supposed to do an 8 mile run with 6 at Long Tempo Pace, 8:30-9:00. My first two were 8:22 and 8:33, then I ramped up to 8:06 without trying to. I took walk breaks each of the next 3 miles to try to keep the pace in check and still clocked 8:15, 8:14 and finally 8:43 which included a the one and only real hill on the trail (twice since it was an out and back mile).

This new approach to training is working out so far. Ten weeks until Austin.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mental

The heels still hurt, but seem to be holding up well without the orthotics. I did my the 20 miler on last Saturday and my speed session today without them. My heels weren't exactly pain free at the end of the 20 but they we much better than the week before with the orthotics. I will continue to monitor them. I ran 6 miles today at lunch and am no sitting here at home hours later with my feet on an icepack.

Now to the title of the post - Mental. As if running 20 miles isn't enough of a definition. The mental I'm referring too is mental focus. This program takes a good portion of that. I may be only running three days a week but each of those runs has a very specific sequence and pace associated with it. Just figuring out all the paces and then remembering them is a chore. Thank goodness for good notes.

Last week the night before I did my Tuesday speed work I had a dream that I got over to the river trail and then realized I had no idea what the workout was supposed to be. I was panicked. When I got up in the morning I wrote down all the specific and the paces and stuck it in my pocket. I reviewed it several times that morning to be sure I wouldn't forget. I even carried the note in my pocket while I ran an referred to it a couple of times to be sure I was hitting the paces.

The work out was 20 minute warm up, 2 x 1200 (2:00 RI), 4 x 800 (2:00 RI), and 10 minute cool down. I'd done the math to determine how time for each distance based on the per mile pace, because we all know I don't calculate well on the run.

Thursday run was a simple 5 miler at mid-temp pace which for me is 8:16-8:34. For me doing these runs requires a measured trail so I can keep track of my pace. I don't have a garmin so I really on the markings on the trail. Relying on these marks also limits my runs to at least waning daylight. This is why I've done a few of my speed runs during lunch. Thursday since the distance was less complicated I'd planned to leave work a little early to take advantage of the last few minutes of daylight. As often happens, things at work did not cooperate. This puts me in "bad place" and although a run would have cleared my head I knew I couldn't use the marked trail in the dark to meet my goals so I gave up the run. Major lack of mental focus.

I packed my stuff to give it another try on Friday afternoon and then opted out for fear of jeopardizing the 20 miler. Super duper lack of metal focus.

But today my calendar was clear and I got back out there at lunch for a similar speed session as the week before but this time with 6 x 800 (goal time 3:40). It was a beautifully warm (70 degree) and sunny day with very few folks on the trail. I was a happy camper. My paces on the intervals were 4:02 (I started off slow because I tend to start of too fast), 3:41, 3:36, 3:33, 3:36 and 3:45. Score a major victory for mental focus.

Hitting the mid week runs will be easier for the next three weeks since I have excess vacation to burn before year end so I'm taking half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get the job done. We'll see how focused I can be in 2011.

How much longer before the sun sets sometime around 6:00 pm?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heel Thyself

I started using doctor prescribed orthotics in my shoes back in 2008 when I suffered the stress fracture in my right shin. I have no idea how long orthotics are supposed to last but I'd put about 3000 miles on these (I only wear them in my running shoes). I took them in to the physical therapist and they refurbished them.

I've been having heel pain for at least the last year. They don't hurt while I run but afterward walking could be painful. The first few steps after getting up from a chair I walked like an old man. While the orthotics were out being refurbished I ran a few runs without them. It seemed that my heels didn't hurt nearly as much. Although I got the orthotics back from the PT I continued to run at least some of my runs without them to see if I could tell a difference. I ran 14.5 miles the weekend before last and felt pretty good.

This week I ran both my midweek runs without them. The long run this week was penciled in as an 18 miler. I was afraid to try that distance without the orthotics. By the time I'd run only about 5 miles I realized that I'd made an error. My heels were beginning to hurt while running. By the time I was finished they hurt worse than they'd ever hurt. I was definitely hobbling around like an older, much older, version of myself.

I was able to get a foot massage on Saturday afternoon from a reflexology and therapeutic massage therapist. My heels felt much better afterward. I didn't run Sunday or Monday and by this morning they were feeling pretty good.

I went out at lunch today and did my speed workout of the week. I didn't use the orthotics. My feet felt fine during the workout and afterward were sore but not as debilitating as on Saturday. I'm going to continue this experiment without the orthotics to see how my heels hold up. With 20 miles on tap this weekend the heels are bound to hurt, no matter what.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

well, sort of....

I've been frustrated with my marathon times for quite awhile now. I haven't made any improvement on my PR in over 4 years. I've not been able to even get below that nice round number of 4:00 except for once, in Des Moines under ideal temperature conditions. At the risk of sounding whiny, many of my long runs have been sub par if not outright disastrous. Granted I spent part of 2007 and 2008 on the disabled roster. I'm not getting any younger (but am far from old!). I've continued to run 5 days a week for most of the time and have added 3 to 4 gyms sessions to the equation as well for the last couple of years. So much of run I read in the running literature would suggest that possibly I'm over training; not giving my body the time it needs to repair and rebuild. I'm too stubborn to believe this line of reasoning, but I've recently begun to come to grips with it.

At the end of 2009 I ran a 10K personal best of 49:52 which would predict the ability to run a marathon in under 4 hours (3:54). At the beginning of this year I pulled off a surprising half marathon personal best of 1:45:11. This would predict a marathon time of 3:41. My PR at the marathon is 3:40:52 set way back in 2006. I haven't come anywhere close to that this year, in fact in Albuquerque I added a full 60 minutes to that time. Frustrating to say the least.

That old adage that goes - if you always do what you've always done, you are going to get what you've always gotten - comes to mind. Ever since I've began running I used the same basic approach - 5 days a week with little variety in pacing, very little speed work, etc, etc. So for my next marathon I've decided to take a different approach. I'm trying the FIRST program.

There are two key runs during the week that are run with some significant speed and one long run on the weekend. There seem to be more "long" miles than I normally use in a marathon buildup but they are mostly run at a slower pace. The plan also calls for cross training hard on 2 other days.

Setting the paces has been somewhat of an problem for me. Many of the pace suggestions are based on the 10K pace less some time. I'm not used to running that fast mid-week (or ever, really) but it definitely keeps things interesting.

Yesterday's workout called for 2 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile, and 1 mile cool down. The pace for the mile repeats was 10K - 35 to 40 seconds, so somewhere between 7:20 to 7:40. I took the warm up easy at 10:00 pace. My first mile seemed interminably long. I snuck a peak at each quarter mile marker, but my math skills while moving aren't the sharpest. I smacked out that first mile in 7:16 - too fast. The plan called for only 1 minute rest between repeats. At the end of the minute my heart rate was still elevated but I took off non the less, returning the way I'd just come.

This repeat was very slightly uphill (yes, that means the first was slightly downhill). I had to take a couple of short walk breaks along the way and barely managed an 8:09 mile. Not good. After this one I gave myself longer to get the heart rate back down a bit before heading back again.

The third repeat was again aided by the slight downhill which gave me a 7:32, beautifully paced mile. The cool down felt good, for sure.

Just over 12 weeks to Austin with lots more speed and variety to go. Let's see how it all works out. I'm happy to be at least trying something different.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Missed A Step

Remember back in grade school when you had those compound math problems, usually they were the word problems, and you just couldn't get the right answer. Usually it was because you missed a step. Well tonight I missed a step.

My plan called for running 5 x 1K repeats at 10K pace +42 to 47 secs. So I figured out my pace to be 8:45 or so. I don't usually run 1K repeats but I'd mapped out a stretch of Raging Waters Drive in Bonelli with some easily recognizable landmarks. After work at this time of the year that road is very sparsely traveled so i figured it would be a great place for the repeats.

I started off with a 20 minute warm up run and then hit my first land mark and started off on my first 1K repeat. I settled into a comfortably fast pace. When I got to the next land mark I hit the clock. The clock said 5:06. When I looked down I realized that I'd "missed a step." I had no idea what my 1K pace really was. I'd done the math to figure out my 1 mile pace but "missed the step" of converting that to a 1K pace.

I'm not much for calculating math on the fly but I quickly did 5:00 x 5K = 25:00. 25:00 divided by 3 miles = 8:20 or so per mile (if I'd done the math right in my head). This was faster than planned but since I hadn't done it right in the first place I went with it.

My 5 repeats came in at 5:06, 4:39, 4:52, 4:48, and 5:03. Once I got home I figured out my "per mile" pace to be: 8:12, 7:29, 7:50, 7:43, and 8:07 - quite a bit faster than the proposed 8:45. Next time I'm calculating my pace I'll be sure not to miss the step of converting to kilometers if necessary. In the end I'm pretty happy with my effort with this workout.

I feel the slug melting away already.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nearing Slugness

I said I was going to take some time to rest up after my less than stellar performance at Duke City and I guess I took myself seriously. The day after the marathon I found myself in Kansas City, Kansas for three days. I took the time to rest even though I normally would have taken advantage of the opportunity to run in a new unknown locale. I was home for one day, Thursday, of that week and then I was off to Las Vegas for a couple of days; again for work.

I was home the entire next week but had much to do at work to prepare for another trip to Europe (I know poor me - having to go to Germany and Paris for the second time in less than a year). By the time I left work each day that week I was exhausted and overwhelmed and although going for a run would have probably been good for me I collapsed instead at the end of each day. I managed only one run of 5 miles on the San Gabriel River Trail at a pretty decent clip of 8:20 pace.

On Friday of that week (10/30) I was off to Germany, then Switzerland and finally France before returning to the good old USA on Monday, November 8th. Our schedule was pretty jammed packed on this trip. I realistically had time to run in Germany but jet lag hit me hard so I just could not get up the energy to run in the mornings. I did manage a meager 2.5 miles in Interlaken, Switzerland one morning. One interesting note of that run was seeing cows grazing in the central park of the city. Switzerland was beautiful and I would love to return to get a chance to see more.

This past week back home I was exhausted yet again from jet lag. Couple that with my general hesitancy to get out in the dark when the temperature dips below 60. Ideal conditions really, except for the darkness, but I wimped out none the less. Finally on Friday I had an opportunity to run in the afternoon while the sun was still up and the temps were in the 70's. It was only 4 miles but being in Bonelli reminded me why I loved running in the first place.

So until this morning, nearly 4 weeks since the Duke City Marathon, I'd run a whopping 11.5 miles. This is about as "slug-like" as I've been since I began running without a really good reason, i.e. injury. I've booked my plans to run the Austin Marathon in February and took a look at my schedule and realized that I was already behind the plan.

My CA Cruisers were planning on running 10 miles this morning and my friend Terry was planning on running up to 12. I was afraid that going for 10 after only running that much in the last month might not be the smartest idea.

Because today was my wife's birthday I took the opportunity to skip both the Cruisers and Terry and stay home in the morning to make breakfast for Lisa. Before I was a runner, breakfast on the weekend was a ritual at our house. Living with Runner Darrell, breakfast on the weekend has gone by the wayside.

I finally opted on running at the San Gabriel River Trail after breakfast. I decided to just go until I was pooped and I made it 8 miles before I realized that I was nearing the end of my energy stores. I was 2 miles from the car at that point so I finished the last 2 miles and got in 10 miles in 1:43. I had purposely kept the pace nice and easy. Those last two miles today felt like mile 25 and 26 of a marathon. Boy have I got some work to do. Now, 8 hours later, my legs are telling me that I definitely went farther today than they are used to.

I need to keep this momentum going next week. Austin is only 3 months away and I've got those 20 milers looming out there in the future. Slugness be damned!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Duke City Marathon

The Duke City Marathon is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I signed up for this race when I was looking for someplace I could use my unused ticket from Missoula. That ticket was on Alaska and oddly enough Alaska Airlines doesn’t fly to ABQ. A couple of my CA Cruiser pals were running Duke City, so I decided to go ahead and by a ticket on Southwest and join the party. Since ABQ is a short flight from LAX I was able to save a Friday night hotel stay by leaving LAX at 8:30 a.m. and getting to ABQ before lunch. It turns out one of my friends was on the same flight. We had both scored A group boarding passes for the flight and hoped to sit together. We were chatting in the waiting area and didn’t realize they were boarding. We looked up just in time and ended up being the last two people on the plane. Needless to say we ended up with center seats, boo.

We got to ABQ and were able to check in early at the host hotel, the Doubletree. We immediately went next door to the convention center to pick up our bib, D-tag and t-shirt. Somehow, my friend’s registration hadn’t gone through. She didn’t show up in their records. Thankfully she had brought along a copy of her registration and a copy of the cancelled check. Calamity aborted.

Four of us had dinner at an Italian place, Villa de Capo’s. It was a decent meal, just average Italian food, nothing special.

The starting line was on 3rd Street just across from the Convention Center. We were able to stay in the hotel lobby until just a few minutes before the race started. The temperature was a reasonable 48 degrees. I had only packed my Marathon Maniac singlet, so I purchased a previous years long sleeve tech shirt at the expo the day before for $5. I figured I would never wear a shirt from a race I hadn’t run and I could toss the shirt when it warmed up without too much of a guilty conscience.

The starting line area only took up a very small section of the city block. Reports on the web indicated that this years race was the largest ever. Last year there were approximately 500 finishers. Add the relay teams to it and there was mayber 700 folks in the starting corral. There was never any jockeying for position in this race. We were off and running by 7:01. It took about 20 seconds to cross the starting line.

Much of this race is run on the bike path next to the Rio Grande River. The first and last three miles are run on the streets of ABQ. This is a very good thing, because most of the folks in ABQ seemed to be quite oblivious that there was a marathon going on. This was the 27th event so I would think that they would get used to having about 3 miles of city streets closed down the 2nd weekend of October, but apparently not. There were quite a few folks upset about the street closures.

Apparently the bikers are not happy about the marathon either since they seemed to be less than thrilled to be sharing their bike trail with 700 or so runners.

I was bopping along quite nicely for quite awhile. My miles spits for the first 13 miles were:
9:20, 9:22, 9:42, 9:21, 9:11, --, 20:07 (included a bathroom stop),9:06, 9:18, 9:50, 9:01, --, 17:32. Doing quite nicely so far. The course was a simple out and back, reminiscent of my training runs along the bike paths I run regularly in SoCal. On the way back things continued to buzz along ok for a few more miles. By now the long sleeve had been removed long ago, at mile 6 or so and the sun was shining brightly. The bike trail offered little protection from the sun. The next few miles ticked off like this: 8:05 (had to have been mismarked), 15:06 (see), 9:56, 9:33. This was mile 17 and then things took a turn for the worse. I began to see more people walking than I’ve ever seen at this point in a race. Mile 18 and beyond went like this: 10:47, 10:04, 11:01, 11:16, 11:57, 12:42, 13:58, 15:45, 19.51 and then thankfully it was over. I walked much of mile 24 and 25. My friend Margaret caught up to me around mile 25 and walked with me a bit. I decided we should start running again but I just couldn’t keep up with her so I let her go and started walking again. By now the temps were in the mid 70’s, not quite ideal marathon conditions but not the worst either. My final time was a not quite expected 4:42 (unofficially).

I’m not completely sure what happened, but I can’t remember a race where the wheels fell off so completely and so quickly. It could have been that I ran two marathons only two weeks apart, but I’ve done back to back weekends in the past with much better results. I could have been the elevation. ABQ is actually higher, on the books, than Denver. Could have been the arid climate leading to dehydration, but I felt like I did a decent job of drinking water at most stops and Gatorade at the rest. I only took two gels and a couple of blocks but that is about normal for me. Who knows for sure. All my long runs in 2010 have been sub-par if not disastrous. I wonder if there are long term negative effects from running the LA Marathon in March with bronchitis. Who knows?

Overall I enjoyed the race, because I really don’t mind the out and back format. Since the crowd spread out fairly quickly it was sort of like running a glorified training run at home, except with water stops and a medal at the end. The race was pretty much devoid of spectators unless you count the unhappy drivers and cyclists. ABQ is a funky little city. Our route took us down the main drag, Central Ave and then down Laguna a residential area with some pretty nice upper middle class homes and then onto the bike path which was pretty much deserted except for the ROTC kids that manned the aid stations every mile. One highlight of the race is that we got to see about a dozen hot air balloons take off in front of us around mile 7 or so. All in all, it was a nice way to get New Mexico added to the 50 states list. After the race, we went over to Old Town ABQ and had a great Tex-Mex meal at the Hacienda Restaurant.

I am currently sitting in the airport, less than 7 hours after finishing trying to catch a flight to Kansas City. Sadly it has been delayed so I won’t get there until nearly midnight. I have to be on the ground running, as the saying goes, at 8:00 for customer visits over the next couple of days. I follow that up with at trip to Las Vegas for work next weekend and then another trip to Europe the first two weeks of November. I think I will take the travel schedule as a much needed break from running and the get started at the end of November to ramp up for training for the Austin Marathon in February.

I since landed in KC and posting this before hitting the hay.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon

State #17 has been a long time coming but now it is finally in the books. Just as this blog has fallen into disrepair it seemed my training was pretty hit and miss this year as well. My work and personal travel schedule has wreaked havoc on my training, but none the less last Sunday morning I lined up outside the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to run the Twin Cities Marathon. Twin Cities is a point-to-point course ending at the steps of the state capitol in neighboring St. Paul. Twin Cities is billed as "The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America" and it certainly lives up to its reputation. The marathon was helped immensely by nearly perfect running conditions - 40 degrees at the start, mid 50's by noon, a sunny day with a very light breeze. We couldn't have asked for more.

I flew into town on Friday evening and stayed downtown within walking distance of the start. After having done a few of these I think it is the only way to go. It is so nice to just walk a to the start and not have to hassle with parking and traffic. Twin Cities had a very efficient bus service to get us back from the capital finish line to the start.

The expo was in St. Paul, not too far from the finish, so having transportation was helpful. I'd rented a car. The expo was well stocked with vendors. At the expo we got a pair of Fitsoks with the marathon logo. Shirts come later. I had lunch with some friends that used to work in SoCal but have since transferred back to the mother ship in St. Paul. Then dinner was with a friend from St. Paul that had worked for our division but now works in the corporate labs. I'd talked him into coming out of retirement to run Twin Cities together. My haphazard training and his youth (he's got a 15 year advantage on me) led to us running our own races so dinner was the only time we got to spend together. It was a fun evening with he, his wife and their two year old son. Baby #2 is on the way soon, so the poor guy won't have much time in the future to train properly so this may have been his last hurrah for a while.

Twin Cities has a pretty robust Corporate Challenge going with over 35 teams competing. I signed up for our corporate team and even bought the jersey to run in. The team jersey was a racing singlet. I was a bit concerned about being too cool in sub-40 temps so I'd bought a pair of Moeben sleeves to help keep warm. I was perfectly comfortable the entire day with the sleeveless singlet and the Moeben sleeves. My friend was trying to break 3:40. I set my own goal at a more conservative 4:15. My half marathon PR back in February would have predicted a 3:42 marathon, but nothing in my training pointed to that possibility. The real plan was to run comfortably and hopefully pain free.

I started off the race pretty far back in the pack in Corral #2, well behind the 5:30 pace group. The corral was pretty crowded and I couldn't work my way further up. Once the race got under way I passed the 5:30 and 5:00 pace groups with a couple of miles. By mile 4 or so I caught the 4:30 pace group and by mile 6 I'd caught and passed the 4:15 pace group. At the 5K mark my pace was 9:20, at 10K I'd fallen off to 9:38 but at the half I'd picked it back up to 9:27 pace overall.

Somewhere around mile 14 I had to take a bathroom break and lost my lead on the 4:15 pace group. I'd regained it by mile 16 and steadily built on that lead until Mile 20. My pace at the 30K was 9:30 and at Mile 20 was still right on 9:30 overall. Things take a change for the worse in Twin Cities at Mile 20. Up to that point the course is gently rolling up and down. Mile 20 marks the lowest point in the race and begins a steady climb over the next 3.5 miles. This is probably the worst point in any race for this to happen. To help ease the pain the view along Summit Avenue is spectacular with old homes and great crowd support. My mile splits took a dive at this point into the 10:00's and then into the 11:00 at Mile 25 and 26. The last half mile is a beautiful down hill finish but the previous 25.7 miles had just sapped any kind of umpff that was needed to bring it home. There was just no way to make up that extra 66 seconds over 4:15. Pretty darn close to my estimate and all the bettter with no major injury other than normal 26.2 stiff and sore legs. My friend didn't meet his sub 3:40 goal but he did PR with a 3:43:48 finish.

All said and done - the Twin Cities Marathon was an awesome experience. The people of the Twin Cities area come out big time to support the runners. The views along the lakes and the neighborhoods of the area were perfect. And as I said earlier the weather cooperated in a big way. The finish line food was more than adequate and at Twin Cities the finisher's shirt is exactly that. You have to finish the race to get the shirt. It is handed out at the finish line after you've even gotten your medal. Being part of the corporate team had its perks as well. It was fun to meet up with some other runners from my team and the food in the Corporate Team tent was even better. Massages were available although I didn't take part.

If you can fit it into your race schedule and travel budget or if you live in the area, I'd highly recommend the Twin Cities Marathon.

So the blog title ratchets up one notch for a week or two. I'm off to the Duke City Marathon on October 17. Fall IS marathon season, after all.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

City of San Dimas 5K

I haven't raced a 5K since last December 2009. The ones before that were July 4 in 2009 and 2008 and I ran those with other people at their pace, just for fun. A couple of interesting points about the race - my church, Christ's Church of the Valley was the title sponsor. Like me their were many of us running and even better a whole host of folks came out to volunteer and to cheer us on. The other odd fact about the race is that it is in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the city of San Dimas. In a country that has 300+ year history, especially on the east coast, I get a kick out of the fact that our history is only 50 years old. Yes, we on the west coast have history older than that but we have plenty of cities that are even younger than San Dimas.

Back to the race - since I'm at the end of marathon training (Twin Cities is next weekend) and my training has been mediocre and completely devoid of speed, my expectations were pretty low for this event. My best case scenario was somewhere around 24:00.

The field was fairly small at about 250. I ran into a bunch of folks I know, including a coworker, parents whose son played youth sports with our kids, and a guy that I run into routinely at other local races. Plus there were a bunch of friends from church and a few of my Zimbabwe team mates either running or cheering. Lisa even signed up and walked the route.

I started off the race right next to my coworker, but he left me behind fairly quickly. He'd just won 3rd place in his age group at a big 5 mile race a couple of weeks ago, so I had no expectations of staying with him.

I was more than pleased with my 7:39 first mile time. Mile 2 clocked at 8:00 pretty much to the tenth of a second. I was able to cross the finish line with an official time of 23:46 (7:39 pace); a decent cushion on the predicted 24:00 finish. I was the 26th person across the line out of 252 which included a host of walkers. My time was good enough for 4th place in my age group (M 46-50). The guy who clenched 3rd was the guy that routinely see at local races. He's on the mend from an injury, so going somewhat slower than normal. When he's trained well, his dust is settled long before I get there.

It was a fun little event. I was surprised at the relatively low attendance considering the 5oth anniversary status of the city. Our church came out in a big way but if we had really gotten behind it we could of jammed the streets of San Dimas, church attendance is well over 3000.

It was fun to try to run a little faster than normal. I should consider adding a few more 5k's into the mix in 2011. For now it's time to take it easy for the Twin Cities Marathon next weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pre-Marathon Angst

Preparation for the Twin Cities Marathon has not gone as planned or nearly as good as necessary to tow the line in two weeks. I got off to a rough start with the trip to Europe. Then my hike to Mount Whitney disturbed the plan, too. In general I just slower than I used to be. I haven't been able to get in any kind of speed work and the couple of times I attempted it the weather was cooperating; being over 100 degrees. The most recent disturbance to the the training plan was the two week land and sea tour of Alaska. It was a wonderful trip with my parents. The opportunity to vacation with my parents was a rare opportunity. I haven't vacationed with my parents since I was 18 and our whole family went to Florida from Ohio. We drove the whole way in our new chocolate brown Ford LTD station wagon. I visited my parents at their home often when the kids were young but we've gone any where significant with them.

I ran in Fairbanks (12 miles), Anchorage (7.5 miles on the Tony Knowles Coastal Bike Trail), on the ship (3.3 miles on a treadmill) and in Juneau (@4 miles on the Loop Trail Lower Daley Lake). Fun runs to be sure but not up to par with the marathon training schedule that called for 47 and 50 miles each of the two weeks I was gone. The first week including a run on Monday at home I got in 28 miles. The second week including a 22 miler I did the day after I got home I got in 27.3 miles.

The 22 miler ended up a disaster. I ran 16 miles and then my right ankle locked up. It was like it was being squeezed in a vice. At that point I decided it best to stop running and had to walk 4 miles back to my car. I iced it at home and have taken it easy on it this week. To top it off both Lisa and I caught a cold when we got home.

The original plan for years was to run with a friend that lives and works in the Twin Cities. This is his "Brett Favre" run as he calls it. He's aiming to break 3:40 and there's just no way I can keep up with that. I feel bad about talking him into coming out of retirement to run and not being able to run it with him. He's still a young guy so he'll do fine. We share some grub and drink after we both make it to the finish line.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seventeen Down - Interupted

This ad appeared in Runner's World in January or February. It caught my attention right away. I loved the colors and the chalk art. What really got my attention was the race date - July 11, 2010 - my birthday. What a better way to celebrate my birthday than running a marathon. I'd run a half in Napa several years ago and a marathon in Bellevue, Washington on the weekend of my birthday in 2006. I was intrigued. The same issue of Runner's World also had a review of the Missoula Marathon. It was very highly regarded winning "Best Overall Marathon" of 2009 by Runner's World readers. There were many kudos on the race on marathonguide.com as well. A fellow CA Cruiser had run the race in 2009 and had only good things to say about it.

I registered early, bought plane tickets, secured a hotel room and even recruited another 50 state hopeful from the Cruisers to join me. Since the race is a small one, I had contacted the race staff and they'd agreed to give me bib number 49 in recognition of spending my 49th birthday at the Missoula Marathon.

I registered by mail and somehow neglected to fill out the amount on the check, although I'd managed to sign it. The race staff had a bit of fun with me by filling in the check amount for $275,000 and thanking me for purchasing the marathon and hoping I enjoyed by birthday. After a couple of frantic phone calls trying to assure myself that they were just kidding, I couldn't wait to actually make the trip to Missoula and to meet these people. They had a little fun at my expense, but good fun, my kind of folks.

But then disaster struck. Well not quite disaster, but the big project I was working on at work required me to take a two week trip to Europe to obtain customer feedback. The trip had to be scheduled in July, the first two weeks, before all the Europeans take off for their summer holidays. Just like that my hopes of adding the Missoula Marathon as State #17 were put on hold. At first I was reluctant to go on the work trip, I really would have rather run the marathon. But I finally came to terms with the trip and thoroughly enjoyed my two week stay in Europe on the companies dime. I was able to get some very much needed feedback on a new product idea and to see a part of the world I'd never had the opportunity to see before. And the best part is I got in some really fun runs while I was there.

In Paris I found my way to the Tour Eiffel and the River Seine one morning while in Paris. In Germany I got to run several days in the wonderful NaturPark Nordlicher Teutoburger Wald in Bad Essen. In London I had an afternoon where I got to explore Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Park and a shorter run on morning around St. James Park. In Madrid I was able to go for a run in the Parque del Retiro. It turned out to be not such a bad exchange for missing Missoula.

I'm planning on trying to run it in 2011 and although it won't be on my actual birthday it will be my birthday weekend. As a bonus a couple of the other 50 state crazies in my running group are hoping to join me.

For now I'm on track to make the Twin Cities Marathon on October 3, 2010 the official reason to change the blog header/name yet again to Seventeen Down. But then again you never know where work might send me in the fall......

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Ragnar Relay - LA 2010

It has been just over two weeks since I ran this incredibly fun event and I thought I'd better get it down on blog "paper" before the specific become any fuzzier.

The journey to this race started a long time ago. I'd read blog accounts of others that have done similar races, like Hood to Coast, and they always sounded like a lot of good fun. I received a flyer for the Ragnar race several months ago and wondered whether the Cruisers would be interested. I didn't necessarily want to be the team leader and decided that the Cruisers might not be into something like this, so I let it go. Then about 6 weeks before the race I found out that Rochelle, a long time CA Cruiser, was running the relay with a team of folks from her gym, appropriately named the "CrAzY gYm RaTs". I immediately emailed her an offered myself to the team if they had any openings. Her initial response was that the team was full but she would keep me in mind. Only a few days later I got another email from Rochelle asking me if I was still interested. Of course I was. And just like that I was the 12th member of a Ragnar Relay team. Rochelle was the only person I knew initially but after spending a day or two in a vehicle with 5 others you get to know them a little as well.

When I joined the team, I told them I'd be willing to run any leg they need me to. I said, "give me the hills, give me the long legs, give me the stuff no one else wants." Well I got my wish. I ended up with some good stuff.

Ragnar rates all the legs from "Easy" to "Very Hard". I got one "Very Hard" and 2 "Moderates". After having run the Very Hard leg I think that Ragnar rates them based on a beginning runner. There's no doubt that it was a challenging leg, but I wouldn't call it very hard.

To explain the format of a Ragnar Relay: there are 36 legs, about 200 miles total, that are split between the 12 runners. Each runner runs three legs ranging from as low as 2 miles to as much as 9.9 miles. Runners maintain the same run order throughout the 36 legs. I ended up with leg 6, 18 and 30. Each runner runs on average 16 miles or so. At the LA version the lowest 3 leg total was 12.6 miles and the highest three leg total was 21.1. Guess who got the 21.1?

In my estimation the running part of a Ragnar Relay is maybe the easiest part. More difficult is dealing with the lack of sleep and the effect that has on the other 6 folks in your van. Our van was awesome in that regard. Although none of us got much sleep, some more than others, we all got along famously. I'm not sure that can be said of all the other vans.

As the Leg 6 runner, I was the anchor for Van 1. I handed it the snap bracelet that served as a baton off to Jerry, the lead runner for Van 2.

Our team had gathered in Orange County on Thursday evening. We went out as a group for dinner and then drove up the Ventura and stayed overnight in a hotel near the race start. Friday race morning began with packing up the two Ford Expeditions that would serve us as race vehicles and home for the next 30 hours or so. Our designated start time was 9:30 with a required safety meeting at the starting line an hour before. There were something like 280 teams, but with the staggered starts from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m and starting times every 30 minutes only about 30 teams start running at a time.

We had projected times for each of the legs but there was a flaw, at least in my mind. The projected times were based on your 10K PR, but with a very hard nearly 10 mile leg, keeping up a 10K pace over that distance was somewhat realistic. The morning was spent seeing our runner off and then navigating/driving to the next relay point.

I began my first leg around 2:30 in afternoon on Friday. My first leg was the longest leg of the race. The route included a total elevation gain of 779 feet with most of that occurring in the second half of the leg. I was able to overtake a couple of runners and was feeling pretty good about my run. Pacing yourself is somewhat difficult due to the staggered start there are never that many people on the road with you and there is no real way to tell when they started. My major humiliation during this leg was being passed by Marilyn Monroe. Actually Marilyn was a very studly guy in drag, but being passed by the windswept white dress was a fun memory. My time for the leg was around 1:23 for an 8:30 pace. I was pretty pleased.

With that we were free for a few hours while Van 2 ran Legs 7-12. We grabbed a bite to eat at Corner Bakery and then headed over to the Major Exchange Point and tried to get some rest. It was still early in the evening so although we didn't necessarily feel sleepy a few of us did our best to catch some z's. I slept, or more accurately, napped lightly for about 2 hours.

Our second round started sometime after 9:00. My second leg, my shortest at 4.3 miles was classified as Moderate. I started running somewhere around 2:00 in the morning. I left the exchange point within steps of another running. Our leg took us pretty much straight down Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica to the pier. The run was a nice slow down grade all the way to the pier. I was a few feet behind the other runner about 2 miles or so. We were keeping up a pretty good pace. We were running on the sidewalk. We ended up catching up to a slower runner that was being paced by bicycle (this is allowed at night during a Ragnar Relay). I yelled out to the other runner "go into the street!" I got out there first and took the opportunity to pass my rabbit. I never looked back. One of the highlights of this leg was the number of homeless folks we passed spending the night in almost every doorway we passed. I made it to the exchange point with a 7:30 pace - undoubtedly assisted by the downhill and rabbit effect.

The second set of legs by Van 2 were shorter than their first set, so we had less time to rest. Although we probably need it more now than we did earlier. We caught about an hour of fitful sleep on the Santa Monica pier to the sounds of vans coming and going and cheers at the relay point. We needed the shorter rest to have sufficient time to get to the next Major Exchange Point.

We started our final set of legs around 6:30 on Saturday morning in Long Beach. My leg was a relatively easy one for me. I had 6.9 miles along the Huntington Beach bike path. I run here all the time so I was very familiar with how far I had to go. I enjoyed this leg, but I think I enjoyed the others more because I had the opportunity to run in places I hadn't run before. One of the highlights of this leg for me was putting a younger guy in his place. I passed this guy who may have been in his late 20's or early 30's and thought nothing of it. About 10 minutes later he came barrelling by me. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but I imagined that he had decided that he didn't want to get beaten by the old guy. Well his little burst of speed didn't last long. I maintained my pace, passed him up and got to the exchange point a good 5 minutes before he did. His tactics may have had nothing to do with me, but I had some fun believing that it did.

With that Van 1 was done with nothing to do but to wait for the rest of our team to complete their last round of legs and meet up in Dana Point at the finish line. That was around 11:00 on Saturday morning. Rochelle had the honors of Leg 36 and came across the finish line in the late afternoon 31:28:41 after we started.

This was at least an hour longer than we originally expected, but never having done anything like this we were all ecstatic. We hung out at the finish line festival for a little bit and then headed home for much needed showers and sleep. Everything went well. No one got hurt. There was even talk of getting together and doing it all again next year. Now we have a goal to beat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One half of the Crazy Gym Rats

After we finished our last leg. All we had to do was wait for Van 2 to run to the finish line. Our final time was somewhere around 31 hours. Good fun! !

Sunday, April 18, 2010

History Lesson

I mention often running with the California Cruisers. We get several weekly emails announcing the next weeks run location, pictures from the the last run and news of upcoming races and results afterward. We get together for races everywhere and have a party or two now and again.

Today I received an email from our fearless leaders, John and Dorothy, with the story of the beginning of our little group.

"Our first organizational meeting was on April 18, 2005. Fresh from our 2005 LA Marathon (training with A Snail’s Pace), we decided to stick together and venture forth for new adventures. We decided to run the Chicago Marathon and Margaret discovered that if we ran as a team we could get entry into a VIP tent at the start/finish line. We had enough runners for three teams and we needed a name. So after considering all suggestions, we settled on California Cruisers. We had three teams, so we were California Cruisers 1, 2, and 3. Kitty took charge of getting a shirt design and we had shirts printed up by Sonia. To train for the Chicago Marathon we each took a week end and came up with a course to run.

So we began our adventures. Some runners brought along family members and what a great time we had in Chicago! Since then we have grown to a very sizable group and continue to have memorable adventures. We are a great team!"


Below I included some of the pictures that came with the email. Photo credit goes to John, although he is in most of the pictures, he is definitely our historian.

The group at the planning meeting five years ago. (Thank goodness for date stamped digital photos)
some of the group in the heated VIP tent at Chicago.

Our fearless leaders John and Dorothy somewhere on the streets of Chicago.


Part of the group before the race started. Gotta love the port-o-potties in the background. What else would there be at a marathon starting line?
This was all back in 2005. I hadn't joined the California Cruisers on this particular race because I had been accepted into the NYC marathon lottery. NYC is run just 4 weeks after Chicago and back then I didn't think I could run two marathons in a 4 week span. This was also before I had a blog. NYC was my 6th marathon and 4th state.
As it would happen John and Dorothy and a few others had registered to run the Las Vegas Marathon the first weekend in December 2005. A room became available so I nabbed it signed up and ran the Las Vegas Marathon just 4 weeks after having run the NYC Marathon, proving that you don't know what you can do until you try. This little blog was started soon after New York. Las Vegas earned me Nevada as my fifth state thus the origin of the url - www.fivedown.blogspot.com. I've since run 20 marathons and added 16 states and the Distric of Columbia to my 50 state list.
Our little group has grown over the years, adding members almost weekly at times. The email list is quite long. (We grown so much that John has even added a disclaimer about injury, etc and the bottom of the emails. Runners tend to be a responsible bunch, but I guess you can never be too careful.)
Now five years later I'm still running many of my long weekend runs with the California Cruisers. We've been to lots of great locations, run many miles and races and created long lasting friendships. There's not much more you could ask for out of a running group.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The 25th Los Angeles Marathon

Back in January, I signed up to run the new and improved Los Angeles Marathon. This was the 25th running of the event with the new course that started at Dodgers Stadium and "ran the icons" all the way to the Santa Monica Pier. I didn't end up with a stress fracture this year but the running gods were certainly trying their best to hold me to my "No More CA Marathons" Pledge, no matter how easily sucked into the hype I can get.

Thinking back on it my 15 miler two weeks ago was the beginning of the downhill slide. That particular run went horribly. I was beat like I'd run a full marathon after what should have been an easy run. I also can now recognize all the signs of labored breathing after that run for the next week until I ended up with a horrible cough deep in my chest. No matter how hard I coughed I couldn't bring up whatever was down there. I ran 10 miles last weekend with Celeste, Brian and Terry and nearly lost a lung afterward. Monday at work I felt awful and Tuesday I ended up staying home from work. I haven't taken a sick day in years.

I didn't get out for my easy 5 miler on Tuesday. I couldn't. I went back to work on Wednesday and made it the rest of the week, but I was wiped out by the end of the day. Thursday I finally succumbed to peer pressure (mostly from my wife) and went to the urgent care to find out I had a pretty bad case of bronchitis. The PA prescribed antibiotic and an inhaler. I told her I was a runner. She suggested resting a couple more days. Friday and Saturday were a couple of days, so in my mind I was running again on Sunday for the LA Marathon. Even if I had told her about the marathon and she had suggested I not run, I likely would have run anyway, so I figured why ask for permission. Thursday's 5 miler was scrapped, too.

The drugs did some serious damage on the infections but I was by no means anywhere near marathon shape by Sunday. I came home after the expo on Saturday and took a 2 hour nap; not exactly a good omen. I did get to meet Joe and his nephew at the expo. We had lunch in Eagle Rock and then they gave me a ride home.

Sunday morning Terry met me at my house and my wife chauffeured us to Dodger Stadium. We were there soon after 5:30 and got in quite easily. I had that familiar "I can't believe I'm running another marathon" bubbly feeling inside. I really was looking forward to this race. I spoke with Joe on the phone several times that morning but we never managed to hook up in the sea of humanity.

Dodger Stadium was open to the runners, which was very cool. We had access to the outfield and the low level bleaches. I headed straight to the bathrooms but it was apparent very early on that this was one huge area for improvement for next year. The bathrooms inside the stadium are not nearly numerous enough to accommodate 25,000 pre-race bladders/bowels. There were a bank of port-o-lets in the parking lot, but again not nearly enough. By the time Terry had gone a second time and we headed to the starting corrals, we were lined up way in the back.

We were at least 10, if not 15 minutes from the starting line. We heard Randy Newman's "I Love LA" at least 4 if not 5 times before we were racing. It wasn't a problem, just a testament to the shear number of people there. Starting that far back put us behind many, many walkers. The first mile was predictably crowded. A 12 minute first mile was determined by the crowd more than anything. Upon exiting the stadium Terry was able to open it up a little on the downhill. It became apparent right then and there that my bronchitis was not going to allow me to keep up with her. I let her go early and settled in for a long day.

I felt good. I just couldn't muster up any kind of speed or power. I just kinda hummed along at around 11:00 miles, taking a walk break every 7 minutes. I knew it was going to be a long day, but like I said I felt OK. Then I hit mile 19 and the wheels really fell off. There were two 12:00 miles and then things headed up into the over 14:00 range. I was definitely doing the "worn out old man shuffle." I kept up my 7 minute run and 1 minute walk break until mile 23 when the walk breaks started extending themselves to about 90 seconds.

I ran those last few miles off to the right side of the course, mostly to stay out of the way. One nice side effect of that was that I got called out quite often by the spectators which was really pretty nice and frankly quite needed at that point. I knew that I didn't "look good" nor was I "almost there" but it was nice to be recognized by name. I kept going more for them than for anything. I never doubted that I would finish. I just wanted to be done.

Final official time was 5:19:28. This was my third slowest marathon time ever, 60 t0 90 minutes longer than my recent times from last fall/winter. The only ones that were slower were a previous LA Marathon on a 93 degree day (only my second marathon ever) and the Tecumseh Trail Marathon "mudfest." The slow time doesn't bother me in the least. I never had a time goal for LA from the start and I knew the battle with bronchitis was going to bring a challenge to the day that I was certain not to overcome. Just being able to start and finish my 20th marathon was reward enough. (Although the finishers metal is pretty darn cool.)

I'll be back with another post about the good and bad, at least from my perspective, on the 25th LA Marathon Stadium to the Sea.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Variations on a Theme

Thank goodness for taper weeks. No more trying to fit in a 7 to 10 miler midweek in the dark. I just find it difficult to wrap my head around getting out the door for those miles in the winter months. The taper week called for nothing but 4, 5 and 6 miles. Funny that 6 is doable but 7 seems so far.

I usually try to vary my routes on a daily basis but this week, all three runs were on the same basic route. I used the equestrian path in Via Verde as much as possible. Tuesday I ran a 5 mile out and back. Wednesday I covered the same ground, a little less of it though, for my 4 miler. Last night I started at a different spot on the route for my 6 miler that included hills covering some of the same ground from the previous two nights and adding on a couple of the hilly extensions. My go to 3-5 mile route is in the valley between two hills in the Via Verde neighborhood. The rest of the neighborhood is one big up or down hill run. It would be a terrible place to have to learn to ride a bike for a little kid.

One last long-ish run on this weekend of 10 or 12 miles and then next week I even get an extra rest day before the LA Marathon. Time to start checking the weather forecast.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Hat Was for Naught

After starting out this week's training with an accidentally shortened run, it all came together in the end.

I worked out with my trainer on Tuesday after work and then opted not to run. I'm not sure why, normally I would and especially thinking ahead to the after work commitments I had the rest of the week I should have.

My two easy 7 milers this week, Wednesday and Sunday, were extended to 7.5 and 7.7 respectively. I didn't plan it that way its just the way the routes worked out.

Dinner plans with friends on Thursday and small group meeting on Friday precluded running or gym time for that matter. I snuck out at lunch time and ran my 8 miler that included 3x1 mile repeats. Instead of driving over to the dam I ran straight out the front gate. Doing it this way saves quite a bit of time. It takes nearly a 30 minutes round trip to drive back and forth to the dam. The 8 mile run only took 70 minutes. I don't think I was missed at all, except that one of the management team saw me leaving. I've heard he spend some of his lunch hours at the gym.

Saturday's long run was threatened with rain. It seems to have rained or threatened rain very frequently in the last couple of months. We get so spoiled with beautiful weather most of the time, the rain is getting a little old. But I know eventually it is going to be in the 90's with no relief in sight and we'll be wishing for some rain. The CA Cruisers met for a run on the Santa Ana River Trail. We had a pretty big turnout today with a couple of new comers as well. There were at least 25 of us.

It was cloudy but not raining when we started. I wore my baseball cap just in case. We had about a half dozen rain drops around mile 4 and then the sun broke through the clouds for a few miles. I was running with Terry and the girls. Carol and Jamie turned back at the 5 mile point. Jeanne talked Terry into continuing on to 6 miles. I was planning 15 total so I was in for the long haul.

Around mile 9 I was cooked. I couldn't really explain why. I'd felt so good last week on the 20 miler and here I was wondering if I'd even make it back for the 12 mile round trip. I seriously considered calling it quits at 12. When we got back Terry and Jeanne were done. I was beginning to feel a little better and knew that I'd be upset with myself later for giving up, so I headed off on my own for the last 3 miles to make it 15 (2:32). I got it done, but I was beat. I'm still not quite sure why. The rain held off until the afternoon and evening, hurray!

45.2 miles for the week, a tab bit over plan. Next week should be a breeze with only 32 miles on the docket. Only 2 weeks until the 25th running of the Los Angeles Marathon. There's quite a bit of buzz about it on Twitter. I'm getting kind of excited for it, even though it wont' get me a state.

In other exciting news I may get to run as part of a team for the Ragnar Relay from Ventura to Dana Point. When I'd gotten the flyer I was interested but didn't think anyone else would be. I found out this weekend that a Cruiser I haven't seen in a while has a team going and has an opening so I may join in on the fun. I've read lots of posts about relays and everyone seems to have fun, exhausting fun, but fun. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mistaken Identity

It was shaping up to be a mildly hectic week so I ended up running yesterday. Monday is usually a day off and especially after a 20 miler on Sunday I might have expected to take the day off. I was very happy with how good I felt after the 20, almost too good to be true.

In an effort to get in all the planned runs for the week I ended up heading to Bonelli, but stuck to the pavement to keep it a little easier on my legs. I hadn't really studied the plan nor committed it to memory I new there were two "round number" runs bookending a 7 miler was about as specific as I could remember on the run.

I ended up running 6 miles and by then it was fully dark and Bonelli gives me a little heebie jeebies at that point. There were still a couple of bike riding stragglers but I in two separate places last night I came upon lone men walking along purposelessly, or so it seemed. Kind of gave me the creeps especially after listening to the news on the way home about the girl jogger down near San Diego. I'll will be very happy in a couple of weeks when daylight savings time kicks in.

I got home and gave the schedule a look and the "round number" I remembered was actually an 8, not the 6 I ran, but I'm calling it good.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Good Choices

At least I think they were good choices. This was the last "big" week of training before the LA Marathon on March 21. The week included a speed session with Yasso 800's and the longest long run.

Good Choice #1: The plan called for 10 miles with 10x800. I had a great time doing this workout last summer in preparation for the Heart of America Marathon, but I haven't done much in the way of speed work since then. I find it very difficult to muster up the concentration for those types of drills in the darkness of winter. For this one I opted to run it at lunch time on Wednesday. A meeting-less afternoon was assurance that my post run aroma would not offend anyone. Ten miles in really too much to squeeze into a lunch break, even and extended one. The first accommodation I made was to shorten the run to 8 miles. With the lack of speed work leading up to this, trying for 10x800 seemed unrealistic, so I cut it back to 5x800 and ran them in an average pace of 3:51. I had a 2 mile warm up and 2 mile cool down.

Good Choice #2: The long run for the weekend was a 22 miler that I'd scaled back to 20, weeks ago since the LA training was compressed a bit. I usually get my long runs in on Saturday morning. The weather gurus were calling for 100% chance of torrential downpours on Saturday. My original plan for the weekend was to hit the gym on Friday after work, run long on Saturday and then run short on Sunday. With the predicted weather I saw no reason to chance the rain. I don't mind running in the rain, but torrential just didn't seem necessary when Sunday's forecast called for clear skies.

When I got home Friday rather than going to the gym I put in the 6 easy miles scheduled for Sunday. Then on Saturday I went to the gym during one of the respites from the downpours. We had the strangest weather (at least for SoCal). We'd have torrential downpours, often with hail followed by bursts of sunshine, then drizzle then more downpours. This went on all day. I was glad I'd run on Friday night.

This morning the rain clouds had dispersed and the sun was shining brightly. It was a beautiful day for a 20 miler. The temperature was in the mid to high 50's. My friend Terry and I ran the Santa Ana River Trail. We kept up an 7:1 run:walk ratio. Around mile 11 Terry was feeling pretty wiped out so she fell behind, switching to a 5:1. I kept on alone and finished the 20 miles in a moderate 3:23 (10:09) pace. Terry wasn't too far behind. I felt really good, but it is runs like Terry had that make you wonder why we ever thought running marathons was a good idea.

Good Choice #3: Terry and I will likely run the LA Marathon together, shooting for a 4:05 finish. This will qualify Terry for Boston a second time and shouldn't be a stretch for me or put me under too much stress running a marathon that doesn't add to my 50 state goal. I'm looking forward to the weekend as Joe will be in town with his nephew from San Diego. It will be fun to hang out again. The next two weekends are relatively short runs of 15 and 12 and then its time for the big one. I'm happy to have entered the taper phase, yet again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bonelli Haiku

A nearly full moon
Lighting the way as I run
Smoothly on the trail

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Solid and Sliding

How did I ever find time to blog. I hate to give it up but with Facebook and Twitter competing for my time its getting harder to keep up. Reading is difficult, but made somewhat easier because so many others seemed to have dropped off the blogger wagon. Posting is difficult. Twitter is my personal fave at the moment. It is short, sweet and to the point. Easy to stay in touch with a lot of peeps without any commitment to a long read or a comment.

On the running front, it was a good solid week of training miles. Four weeks to the day when I break my no-CA marathons for the new LA Marathon Stadium to Sea course.

I took advantage of my carpool situation and the wonderful summer like weather to run 8 and 10.5 miles on Monday and Wednesday during my (extended) lunch hours. It was so nice to complete those medium length distances during the daylight. The 80 degree temps were a bonus. I was definitely in my element.

Thursday I headed straight to Bonelli and got 2.5 miles in on the trails before darkness encroached and then added about 4 more miles on the pavement for a nice 6.6 miler.

Rain was predicted for Saturday morning but we were blessed with a wonderful clear and cool morning for a beautiful lap around the Newport Beach Back Bay. There were so many other runners out there, it was very enjoyable. I ran the first part with Michelle and Jay and the remainder with my friend Terry and her friend Terry. At the end to the loop Terry and I headed back out for a few more miles to bring the total to 15.

Today I headed over to Bonelli for my Sunday Morning Loop but my fave trails were closed due to the land slide that happened on Thursday afternoon. It had rained overnight and I was hoping for a little play time in the mud. The slide was on the far southwest corner of Bonelli near the 3.5 to 4 mile mark of my normal loop. I made do by jumping on the loop at the far end and doubling back a couple of time to make up my mileage.

Total for the week was 47.1 miles. Next week includes the last big long run before LA. Not sure I'll get to cool off in the ocean like last week.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pulled the Trigger

Today I registerd for what may become state #17. Super excited. I've wanted to run this one for a while now. Plans are to run with a coworker from the Twin Cities area. Expectations are high. Twin Cities is billed as "the most scenic urban marathon in America". I'll let you know. Training offically starts June 14th.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Surf City Schwag

Race Banner on the Huntington Beach Pier the day before the race, a stormy, wet, windy day.

The race medal is one of the coolest ever. The surf board is wooden with the metal medallion attached. (Try as I might I couldn't rotate the top picture, sorry)
The California Dreamin' metal for completing some combination of the Long Beach, San Francisco and Surf City Half or Full Marathons. I did the half option - no more California marathons, remember.

The logo on the California Dreamin' jacket.

The final official results are in:

1:45:11 (8:02 pace)

Splits were - 3 mi 24:13 (8:05 pace) and 8.2 mi 1:04:48 (7:55 pace).

925 out of 11783 overall. I'm still jazzed.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Surf City Half Marathon

I signed up for this race last July. Yes, a little over 8 months ago. I don't normally plan quite that far ahead, but the race sells out early and I wanted to be sure to get in on California Dreamin' Series. At the time I had no real goal other than to finish and collect the really cool metal and the California Dreamin' schwag.

After my PR performance at the 10K in October and without the high mileage of a marathon training program facing me done, I thought I might try to better my half marathon PR. My current PR, set back in 2005 at the Fontana Days Half, is kind of a "soft" PR in that it was set with the benefit of a really nice downhill course. A PR is a PR, but I wanted to legitimize it a bit.

Then I started training based on Bart Yasso's plan in his book "My Life on the Run". I'd used the full marathon plan with success. Unfortunately I found it difficult to complete the quality workouts during the dark and cooler evenings of winter. The couple of half marathon pace runs I did try during the daylight did not go well. To achieve a PR I'd have to run the race at a steady 8:00 pace or less. I'd also heard from others that the course is unusually crowded further complicating PR attempts. A few weeks back I'd pretty much given up any hope of a PR effort at Surf City.

Then race morning dawned as a new day. We'd just had two days of scattered showers with heavy rains, winds and gloomy conditions. This morning the clouds cleared and the rains moved on. The temperatures were in the mid 50's. After the rain everything looks brighter and clearer, even the air is clean for a few days afterward. I decided to line up as close to the front as could. I decided to give it all I could for as long as I could and let whatever happened happen.

The race sent the full marathoners off over an hour before the half. With the half they employed a wave start that went off without a hitch. I was only able to work my way into the 2:00 corral. The 1:30, 1:40 and 1:50 were ahead of me. Being in the 2:00 corral actually worked to my advantage. From the get go I was passing people and that never let up throughout the race. The mental boost from gaining on and then overtaking other runners was huge.

I kept a close watch on my mile splits and was shocked from the get go. The first 5 miles went like this:
8:23, 7:26, 8:25 (including a pit stop), 7:58, and 8:01.
During my training I hadn't been able to sustain an 8:00 pace for more than 3 miles. I'd gone 5 so I just kept on chugging away.

The next 3 miles looked like this:
8:08, 7:40 and 8:00
Incredible. I was even stopping at every water stop for a drink and walking through until I'd downed the liquid and then got right back to it. I'd planned not to use a more formal run/walk schedule.

The 8 mile mark was the final U-turn and it was a straight shot down Pacific Coast Highway to the finish line. I figured 5 more miles at this pace and I'd be done in less than an hour. I hoped I could hang on.

Mile 9: missed the marker
Mile 10: 16:52 - I was a little concerned here, the pace had fallen to 8:26
Mile 11: 7:39
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13.1: 8:34 (7:47 pace)

Final time on my watch 1:45:13. Live results on the website show 1:45:11 (still unofficial at this point)

At any rate the 1:45:11 is a surprisingly unexpected PR by nearly 30 seconds. I'm really at a loss to explain it. My training wouldn't have predicted it. I guess being slightly under trained and the near perfect race conditions all fell together to make it possible. With no downhill assist on a basically flat course at Surf City, I'd say I now have a legitimate half marathon PR! And some great schwag to go with it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Return to Bonelli


Run.GPS Community Run.GPS Mobile Sports GPS Software
The ground hog may be able to keep spring from coming but he can't keep the days from getting longer. It has been noticeably lighter each day when we leave work and remaining lighter once I'm home.

Today I make a quick change and then a bee line for the park and ride near Bonelli. I left the parking lot at 5:35. It was probably already after the official sundown but there was still plenty of light to see the trails.

I ran on of my shorter routes that combines trails and roads. The first 2.25 miles or so are trail with the rest pavement. I had plenty of light to navigate the trails, but by the time I hit the asphalt it was definitely dark.

I used the new phone/gps and was a little disappointed to see the distance came in at 3.8 miles. I've always called this route at 4 miles. I guess its close enough for government work, as the saying goes. That 0.2 miles haunts me just a little, it is the end of a marathon. Who wants to only run 26 miles and take credit for 26.2.

I'm not quite obsessive enough to go back an change my running journal, but I will only take credit for 3.8 today and I'll measure it a couple more times to see what I get. Regardless I enjoyed the midweek foray back into Bonelli.

Four days to go before the Surf City Half and the weather forecast seems to have improved, thankfully.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gadgetry


Run.GPS Community Run.GPS Mobile Sports GPS Software

As usual, I loaded up my Christmas wish list with running related items - a couple of books, socks, a new running log, Moeben arm warmers, a really cool jersey from Pearl Izumi and entry into the LA Marathon. I got the socks and the running log. Something else I've been eyeing for some time was a smartphone. I'd personally never spend the money on one, but I was intrigued by the cool factor. Santa (my wonderful wife) got me the Droid for Christmas because she knew I'd never actually go get it for myself.


I've been having fun with it as you can tell from the picture posts since Christmas that are coming straight from the 5.0 megapixel camera and I changed my email address to a gmail account to take full advantage of the Google enabled Droid.

I've always run with nothing more than a watch. To determine distance I rely on friends with a Garmin, marked routes or my favorite standby gmap-pedometer.com. I downloaded a trial application the other day to use with the Droid - Run.GPS. The map up there is of my 4 miler on Saturday evening.


I was very happy to see that the route came in at least 4 miles. I was very afraid of finding out that my old standby routes were all under distance as compared to a GPS. The route came in at 4.11 miles (I hit the lap button in the car on the way home and added a few extra tenths by accident). I'm all excited about being able to see the map.

I used it again this morning on my run at the beach. It kept great track of the time I was running, but I forgot to enable the GPS satellite part of the program so it only tracked the actual route for 8.32 miles. I ran with my old running partner Brian. The 10 miles was the longest he'd gone in years. Our pace was slower than my usual but it was a good to help Brian get back into the swing of running the longer distances. The pace chart clearly shows where we took walk breaks and a bathroom break as well.



Running with gadgets can be fun! Something else to take up my time, gaaah!

This was a really off week for running. I didn't do a very good job of sticking to the schedule. There was no focused workout, only easy runs. I managed 19 miles for the week. Next weekend is the Surf City Half. Pretty much all bets are off on me reaching anything even remotely close to a PR.

With today being the end of the first month of 2010 - time for the monthly update: 143.5 miles.