Sunday, November 30, 2008

Swim To The Beach

With two weeks to go before Memphis the plan called for a pretty easy week of 19 miles. Since I was on vacation and it was a holiday week I mixed things up a bit.

Monday I ran 4 miles in Bonelli in the morning. I didn’t realize until later that I had overshot the planned 3 miles. Tuesday morning in anticipation of rain forecasted for later in the week, I ran 3 more miles in Bonelli. I took a trail, Lakeview, which I hadn’t run before. It was short but sweet. Thursday morning before the turkey feast, I headed over to Bonelli once again. Tyler joined me for 3 miles on my Sunday loop. We did the 1.5 mile out & back. This was Tyler’s first time on this trail. He “complained” that the trail was one continuous hill, one way or the other. I’ve done it so many times it doesn’t seem that bad to me.

When it comes to Turkey Trots, I’m a purist. To me the only true Turkey Trot is actually run on Thanksgiving morning. In SoCal we have no less than 11 options for a Turkey Trot from the Sunday before to the Sunday after, with 8 of the choices actually on Thanksgiving Day. In the past I’ve run the Dana Point 5K, the grand daddy of them all and the Run for the Hungry twice, once with the younger son and once with the older. This year I broke my Turkey Trot Purity Vow.

Saturday morning, Lisa and I headed down to Temecula to combine two of our favorite past times into one (well at least two of mine and one of hers). The Turkey Trot was a fund raising event for a school in Arusha, Tanzania. The race was unique for me because I was running a Trot on a day other than Thanksgiving and it was a 10K. With over 5 years of running on the logs, I’ve never raced a 10K before.

The race started at the Cougar Winery and headed out onto the back roads of Temecula. It was an out and back course on gently rolling, mostly dirt roads. It wasn’t a huge race and we fell into our paces and places within the first half a mile. I maintained my position pretty well. The first three miles ticked off in 8:33, 8:42, and 8:32. After the first mile I only remember being passed by one person, a lady running with her two dogs. After the turn around I was slowly able to pick off three or four people in front of me. Mile 4 was done in 8:32. For the next 2.2 miles I didn’t lose or gain any ground. I was surprised to see Mile 5 come in at 9:40. The finish was up hill back to the tasting room. I covered the last 1.2 in 11:55 (9:56 pace). I was very happy with the 8:30 early miles and a little perplexed about the drastic slow down in the end. I didn’t feel like I was slowing and based on those around me I wasn’t losing any ground. My official time was 55:45, my new 10K PR.

on the way up the hill to the finish line, me in orange with my usual head lean to the left

After the race we spent the rest of the day in Temecula. We visited a couple of new wineries, Cougar and Frangipani, and a couple of our favorites, Robert Renzoni and Keyways. In between we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Smokehouse Restaurant on the grounds of the Ponte Winery.

A nice view of the rolling countryside in Temecula

We are cute, aren't we? (see the Happy Place post)

The next day offered an opportunity to run yet another Turkey Trot. This one a 10K as well in none other than my favorite park; Bonelli. Tyler had planned to run this one with me. When we checked the details of the race we realized that the run was on the roads and parking lots of Bonelli. The race description had mentioned trails and roads, but in reality the trails were only about a half mile of the 6.2. Tyler was none too thrilled with the 7:30 race start and truthfully I wasn’t overjoyed about paying to run where I run for free all the time. I was enamored with the idea of back to back 10K’s though. Before we called it a night we decided to skip the race and just run our own 10K later in the morning.

We got to Bonelli around 8:30. The 10K race was pretty much done, but the Turkey Tri was still going on. We put in a lot more time on the dirt, got to see the bikes go by and the last of the people finishing up the swim. We even wound our way through the finishing area. Tyler hadn’t run this far in a while and because I am technically tapering we used the run:walk method starting with 7:1 and moving to 5:1 as Tyler lost momentum. We had a great run together and saved about $80.00. I’d call that a win-win.

The week that was supposed to be 3-3-10-3, ended up being 4-3-3-6.2-6.2 for a total of 22.4 miles. Next week’s plan is a whopping 5 miles before race day. It will be a short week at work and then off to Tennessee.

(The post title was just to see if you were paying attention)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Predicting the End

With one week to go before Memphis it is time to make some predictions about finishing times. I mentioned this before but with the one year break between marathons, in many ways I feel like I'm doing this for the first time. Since the first one back in January of 2004, I gained a ton of experience and the confidence to know that I can cover 26.2 miles. This time around, although I put in a full 6 months of training, I go into Memphis with the lowest mileage base of any marathon. Since June I've covered just over 500 miles. For my first I covered 650 miles.

So what am I hoping to see on the clock when I cross the finish line? I've got several options and points of reference.
First, since this feels like the first one again, I would really like to better the time from that very first marathon, Rock-n-Roll Arizona. My time there was 4:34.

Based on the 20 miler I did 5 weeks ago, the predicting calculators give me a 4:26. If I could keep the pace just below the 10:00 per mile mark I could even eke out a 4:20.

The 22 miler a couple of weeks ago in the unseasonable hot and windy weather gives me a predicted finishing time of 4:48. I'm not really happy about that. The marathons where I've exceeded that time were all special circumstances; LA with heat in the 90's, NYC after 2 days of walking the city, and two trails marathons on muddy hills. Memphis won't fit any of these extenuating circumstances so I think I can do better than 4:48.

I have yet a third option. Memphis will mark the third year in a row that Joe and I have gotten together to run a marathon during the beginning of December. Last year we had great time with Wes, David, Lana and Michele as well. Memphis marks the end of Joe's three fall marathon challenge. Usually on race day its every man for himself. I've given serious consideration to running along with Joe, step for step, following his 3:1 run:walk plan. Joe is predicting a 4:40 finishing time. That keeps me safely below the 4:48 I dread and about equally beyond my conservatively acceptable time of 4:34. No matter the final time I will have achieved my real goal of simply moving one state closer to 50.

We'll have to see what the weather brings our way and how we each are feeling on race day. I may not make the final decision until the gun fires. Your thoughts?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ride To The Beach

I completely missed it but November 19 was the third anniversary of, currently known as Twelve Down – Training for Tennessee. In a couple of weeks that will be changing yet again for the eighth time in three years to something like Thirteen Down – Destination Unknown.

This past weekend I flip flopped my scheduled runs to 4 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. The reason for the flop was a bike ride with friends. We started deep in the San Gabriel Valley and headed to the beach again. Do you see a trend here? We rode down a different river trail than I ran last week. The weather was much different as well. We started on the Rio Hondo Trail in Arcadia and connected eventually with the San Gabriel River Trail and rode to PCH then took PCH over to the opposite end of Huntington Beach from last weekend.

We try to do these long rides at least once a year. This one was 33 miles total. Let me tell you it is not a great idea to go out 33 miles after not really riding the bike all summer long. 20 to 40 minutes on the stationary bike at the gym just doesn’t cut it as training for a 33 miler.

Since our group varies in age from teens to near retirees, the event becomes what I like to call a weakest link ride. This is as it should be. The pace overall is dictated by the slowest rider, which changes as the day progresses. We are in no hurry to get the ride done so it is a pretty easy effort. It was a much cooler day, maybe in the middle 70’s with a light on shore breeze, totally opposite of last weekend’s Santa Ana’s.

I had planned on running 4 miles when I got to the beach. I realize that I get some measure of exercise out of the 33 mile ride, but I define myself as a runner, not a cyclist. So when it comes to the end of the day, I feel this tremendous need to put a number in my log book that matches up with the plan.

But as the ride wore on, the lack of bike riding caught up to me and I reached the beach spent, thirsty and hungry (the trend continues). Not nearly as spent as last week but I still decided to trash the run. I will come to terms with the big ZERO somehow.

Now that I’ve run and ridden to the beach on consecutive weekends, does that mean I have to swim there next weekend? There's not really much water in our rivers so this could be a real challenge.

The following day I headed over to the opposite end of the San Gabriel River Trail for my 10 miler. I stretched it to 12. I have no idea how long I was out there. I kept to the 7:1 intervals as usual and enjoyed the day. I wore the shin support and had to stop at least three times during the first couple of miles to adjust it before I finally got it in a position that it would stay put and still be doing some good.

I’m sitting here at home today. I used the short work week as a chance to take a much needed vacation. As I type away, I look outside to see the beautiful day and am thinking we waste far too many of these kinds of days sitting at work, but such is the necessity of life. I’ve got no specific plans for the three days other than getting in a run or two. There are still baseboards and door trim to paint and a never ending hedge to trim. Plus I have about a week’s worth of blogs to catch up on so I think I’ll find ways to pass the time.

The excitement mounts for the St. Jude Marathon in Tennessee. I can hardly believe that it will be 364 days since my last marathon. This is the longest gap in my short running career. I’ve already been giving some serious thought to 2009. Possible states are Idaho, South Dakota and North Carolina. I’m contemplating an ultra in Ohio as well. I need to blog about it soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Happy Place

Catching up on blogs this morning I found that I’ve been tagged by Anne from Run DMZ. I thank you, Anne, for choosing my blog as “Kreativ”. I usually mull these things over for awhile and never quite get to them. I think I still owe someone the list of 6 random things. I decided to give this one some thought right away and commit it to paper.

I found it kind of ironic that I had been chosen to list six things that make me happy and to pass it along to six others. I used to consider myself to be a pretty happy go lucky guy but lately I’ve become more of a grumpy old man. I could easily think of things that make me unhappy, I was going to have to dig a little deeper right now to recall those things that do make me happy.

A couple of years ago I took a new position at work that requires much inter-departmental interaction and government regulation and oversight to get done. I find navigating all the red tape very frustrating. It seems as though no one really wants the position but they all want to tell you how to do it. Our youngest son has decided to take a path in life that is contrary to many of the things we tried to impress upon him in his youth. While we are not super rich, we have been able to provide our sons with certain advantages that the youngest one has seemed to squander away. Most recently he totaled a car we’d only made two payments on within days of getting a speeding ticket. Just recently I made the decision to leave a small group Bible study we’ve belonged to for four years after enduring one too many discussions that spiraled into hard headed non-negotiables. Then there have been layoffs and the threat of layoffs, my stress fracture, the huge losses in my 401k, the election, the whole economic mess, ad infinitum. Needless to say I haven’t been dealing well.

Before I get any further into this downward spiral I will change gears. I do realize that I have much to be thankful for and probably just need and deserve a swift kick in the pants to get moving again. Now on to the list:

Six things that make me HAPPY

1. My wife and I together. Through everything else she’s the one constant. She takes care of all the stuff I don’t/won’t/can’t. She is my biggest supporter and fan. Besides that we take really cute pictures together. I have them hanging in my cube at work and can’t help but smile when I look at them.

2. Seeing my kids succeed. They sometimes fail but when they pick themselves up and make wise decisions for themselves it is satisfying. They sometimes surprise me with their acts of generosity and brilliance.

3. Worship music. I love music in general but it is very difficult to be anything but happy when listening to and belting out my favorite church songs, old and new.

4. Comfort food. There’s just something about a plate of meat loaf and mash potatoes, a bowl of chili, Italian escarole soup, hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, even a good PB&J. The list is long. Nothing beats hearty soul satisfying food.

5. Natural beauty. I love to be outside taking in the grandeur of the landscape and the details of a leaf, a flower, or a rock. I enjoy a warm sunny day and a cool cloudy day equally.

6. Running. Of course. Running is my “me time”, my time away from all the other concerns. It also encompasses all the other things on the list. Running and the pursuit of 50 states marathons has allowed Lisa and I to get away and share some great times together exploring this nation of ours. I’ve gotten to share runs with each of my boys. Although I’ve only recently added the ipod to my runs, a song is almost always running through my head as I pound the road or the trail. As for food, comfort food, isn’t that 99% of the reason to run. Everything tastes better after a long run. And lastly running gets me out there in the middle of shoulder high mustard plants, bunnies, hawks, turkey vultures, autumn leaves, the smell of eucalyptus trees, cloudless skies, foggy skies, rolling hills, mud, live oak groves, sand and ocean waves and so much more.

Thank you Anne for giving me the opportunity to search out the happy thoughts. If you haven’t been tagged already, feel free to take the opportunity to explore your soul and create your list of happy thoughts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sneaking a Peak

Memphis, TN

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Average Temperatures: High 55°F; Low 37°F
Record Temperatures: High 76°F; Low 15°F

I couldn't help myself. I had to look. The average temps look like perfect marathon running weather.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Run To The Beach

The last long run before the marathon is complete and I am thankful for that. It was one of the toughest runs in memory. But runner’s memories can’t really be counted on when it comes to recalling the toughness of a run or race. It’s sort of like a women and childbirth.

We did something Saturday that we’ve talked about for a couple of years but just never got done. We ran to the beach. The group today was Terry, Mike, Carol and me. Many of the CA Cruisers were running the inaugural Pasadena Marathon on Sunday.

Typically I drive to the beach and run my long runs along the bike paths that parallel the beach. On many occasions I do my runs on the bike paths that parallel the drainage canals, aka rivers, in LA/OC as out and backs. Saturday we parked our cars in Yorba Linda where I first started training years ago. We hopped on the Santa Ana River Trail at the usual spot, mile marker 22.5, and headed toward the beach.

By all accounts it should have been a fairly easy run, except for the 22 mile part. The rivers all run to the beach. Rivers don’t run uphill so the whole thing was downhill, a very gradual downhill, but downhill none the less. When we arrived the Santa Ana winds were kicking up something fierce. The good thing is that the winds would be at our backs the entire way. Couple that with the downhill aspect and we had all the advantages in our favor.

The wind was actually more of a negative. The Santa Ana’s are accompanied by warmer than normal temperatures and bone dry humidity. It was already in the mid 60’s when we got started at 6:00 a.m. with projected highs for the day into the 90’s. The super arid air made proper hydration a key issue of the day. As nice as a downhill trail along a river sounds, in LA it means being fully exposed to the sun the entire time with a huge cement culvert on one side. An advantage of this type of trail is that it is nearly impossible to get lost.

The four of us are all planning on marathons the first week of December. I’m off the Tennessee of course, Terry is off to Sacramento for the California International Marathon, while Mike and Carol are off to Tuscon. Carol’s pace is slower so she had started 30 minutes ahead of the three of us. We wondered when and if we would ever catch her.

The run started uneventfully except for the wind. The three of us just marched along following Mike’s run/walk schedule of 5:30/0:45. At drank something at almost every walk break. It was so dry out there. By mile 14 I started to lag behind Mike and Terry a little bit. The mother in Terry came out to make sure I was doing all right. My shin was fine, I was just “pooped”. I’ve been pretty tired on all my runs since the 20 miler three weeks ago. I gave them permission to go on without me. I planned on finishing the 22 miles but I was going to have to slow down.

Soon afterward, Mike admitted that he too would not be able to keep up with Terry. He fell back a few yards with me. He stopped to adjust his watch timer for shorter run segments. I expected him to catch me but he never did. He kept fading further and further back.

At this point, around mile 15 or so, I had that currently familiar thought about how nice it would be to just do half marathons. I had to chuckle to myself over that. The last 6 miles we were four people running alone. Terry had continued on feeling strong, I continued to plod along, while Mike faded further. Carol was up there somewhere still to be caught. Once on my own, I set my watch to 5:1 and soon adjusted that to 4:2.

With 5 miles to go, I saw a female runner up ahead. She was walking and running as well. During my run segments I gained very little on her, but didn’t loose much ground during the walk segments. It took me a mile and half to catch her. It turned out to be Carol. I haven’t run with her often and didn’t recognize her silhouette.

With 2 miles to go, I was completely out of fluids. I had been sucking on ClifBlocks for several miles just to keep my mouth moist. About a mile from the beach I could see the ocean waves crashing under the bridge at PCH and knew I was going to make it. My pace at this point was roughly 12 to 13:00 per mile. I got to the 0 mile marker on the trail just completely spent, thirsty and hungry.

My final time was right at 4:00 for a 10:55 pace overall. I think we were around 9:30 for the first 10 to 12 miles, but I don’t really know since I wasn’t tracking mile splits. The first thing I did was wash my face at the restroom at Huntington Beach. I tried to drink some water, but at first I felt like I was going to lose it. I sat down and tried to recover. I returned to the drinking fountain and was able to get some water down. We waited a few minutes for our ride back. Terry had arranged with her daughter to pick us up and drive us back to Yorba Linda.

I told Terry that I was never running that one again! Yet I know that I likely will. The weather was just not what any of us would expect. It is the middle of November for goodness sakes and yet we are still having summer like weather in the 90’s. I’m counting on cooler weather in Tennessee.

Final mileage for the week was 33.7. Let the taper begin.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Always There

Another week in the books. One week closer to that next long awaited state. Four weeks from today I will be on a plane on my way back home from Tennessee. While not guaranteed, I am feeling pretty confident about crossing the finish line in AutoZone Park. Finishing the St. Jude Marathon will be a triumph over injury and one state closer to my goal. For that I am thankful.

This week, Week 23, consisting of 4 runs for 23 miles looked just like last week give or take a half mile moved from one day to another. I’ve come to realize that most of my mileage has been what many would classify as “junk”; just enough to get by. Reading blogs, like David, Charlie, Burger, Joe and Juls, I realize that you’ve all got a more focused training plan with speed work, tempo runs, and LT runs, while I just cover the ground.

Even with the talk of running dangerously in my last post, I’ve really been running pretty safely. I’m afraid to push it. The injury earlier this year is one reason. I frequently feel like I’m one wrong step, one pulled muscle, one pushed pace away from disaster.

I mentioned to Jeff a couple of years back that I am always keenly aware of my legs. Do you know the feeling? We’ve got a multitude of parts to our bodies. On a daily basis we are not aware of most of them. Take the spleen for example, you know it is there, but unless its causing you pain you don’t really think about it. On the other hand my legs always have some kind of twinge here or there. On any given day my quads are sore, the IT flares, my Achilles ache, etc, etc. My legs are always “there.” Before I was a runner my legs were just another part of my body. They were not constantly reminding me of their presence. Don’t get me wrong, I like that feeling of “there-ness”, but I fear that all those little pains will become bigger pains if I push beyond my comfortable pace and plan.

Besides the 50 State goal I have other goals – a sub 4:00 marathon and a Boston Qualifier, currently at 3:30 for me. A couple of years into running I was able to achieve that sub 4:00 at SEAFAIR with increased experience and mileage. I even pulled off a 3:40 with the help of a net downhill at St. George. Since then things have gone in the other direction. The BQ is going to take a more focused effort.

For now I’m going to stay the course through 2008, but 2009 is time for re-evaluation. Let’s hope this body can take the heat and even more that I will have the mental fortitude to do what needs to be done.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Filling Holes and Painting Doors

Finishing the painting of the doors was the official reason I gave for taking the day off on Monday. I had an extra company paid personal holiday left to take along with over 6 weeks of vacation in the bank and a huge hole in my work calender that needed filling.

But a day off can't be all work and no play. A day off during the week is a day to run, a day to run free, to run wild, to run a little dangerously.

Before I donned the old painted shorts and t-shirt, before I gathered the blue tape and the brush, I donned my trusty running gear and headed out to Bonelli.

I had the whole day in front of me. I decided that I'd played it safe long enough. I've run in Bonelli all summer but only on the flattest, easiest paths. Monday was different.

I had plenty of reasons not to run dangerously. I'd come so far from not running at all in the spring. I was only 5 weeks out from my one and only marathon in 2008. Now was not a good time to blow it. But there are no guarantees, so I headed out.

I strapped on my trail shoes for the first time since the Winter Trail Series back in February. I did put in the orthotics. The Cascadias felt good. I planned to run my beloved Sunday Morning 5 Mile Loop for the first time in months. I was excited.

The trail was in perfect condition. The light rains that we'd had over the weekend had knocked down all the dust but not soaked the clay soil to the point that it clumped mercilessly to my shoes. I started the run under cloudy skies with an ever so slight mist. It was a perfect re-entry, energizing run.

During the rehab process I've run this trail up to the 2 mile mark but have always turned around and retraced my steps. Today I cruised right on by that mark and kept going intent on finishing the entire loop.

As a nod to sanity and prudence, I stuck to the 5 minute run/1 minute walk routine. I thoroughly enjoyed running the back part of the loop. I'd missed it. The big hills at the end were still steep but I has thrilled to be moving up them. By the time I hit the 4.5 miles the sun was shining brightly; perfectly reflecting my mood.

Post run, all seems to be well. I indulged my running inner child and still got the doors painted. I think I'll check my work calendar for some more holes.

picture credit:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Other Chino Hills

Same town, different route.

Usually when I run in Chino Hills it means Chino Hills State Park. The park is a haven for mountain bikers, hikers and of course trail runners. Next to Bonelli it is one of my favorite local places to run. I haven't been in the park since the beginning of the year. I still haven't. Today I met Terry and Mike near the entrance of the park but instead of going into the park we ran a 9.5 mile route through the streets and neighborhoods. It was a nice morning for a run. The weather forecast had called for intermittent showers but they didn't materialize until the afternoon.

The rest of the week went well. Last Sunday I found out how my legs really felt after running 20 miles for the first time in 8 months. All day Saturday and even up until the point that I started running Sunday afternoon my legs felt really pretty good. Once I started running I realized how tired and worn out they were. I made it through a meandering 33 minute run in Bonelli and called it 3 miles. I put off Monday's 5 miler until Wednesday to give my legs a couple of extra days to recuperate.

Wednesday, I headed over to Bonelli after work for the 5 miler and finished just before 7 o'clock. I finally came to the realization that "that" time of the year was here again; the time when it's just too dark to run in the park after work. I made it to within days of the time change so I can't complain too much.

On Thursday I was able to leave work about an hour early. I took advantage of the time and ran on the trails in Bonelli. About 3/4 of the way through my shin was whining just a little. I realized I had forgotten my brace and was wearing my oldest shoes. The miles on these shoes had probably reached the point of early retirement.

Back to Saturday – Mike and Terry had met earlier for about 5 miles. I joined them at 7:00. We used Mike’s run/walk schedule of 5:15 run/0:45 walk. He likes this better than a minute walk break as he finds he stiffens up too much after a minute especially during the last miles of a marathon. About a mile before the finish Terry split off for some extra mileage. The final score was Darrell 9.5, Mike 15, and Terry 18. We met afterwards at Peet’s for coffee. There is a significant running community in Chino Hills. During the run we must have seen close to 50 other runners, as singles and in groups of up to 10, pretty cool. I’ve run all over Covina and never come across more than a single runner at a time and rather infrequently at that.

I awoke this morning a little after 6:00/7:00 depending on if you go by body time or clock time. I did the green thing and headed straight out the door for a familiar 4.5 mile loop. I decided to run the entire thing and actually time it. Other than the long runs I haven’t been timing myself on the come back trail. I’ve only been using the watch to keep track of run/walk intervals. The 4.5 miles took me 42:38 for 9:29 pace. I think I’ll go back to not timing myself for a little longer.

Now some accounting:

October – 103.5 miles – easily the highest mileage month of 2008, aided by the 20 miler. That same week of the 20 miler was my highest mileage week of the year by 0.1 of a mile at 32.4.

This week was an easy week at 23 miles. Next week will be the same. The following week will include the last long run before Tennessee.

Five weeks to the big day.