Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Return to Racing

It may be a little early in the game but since my last post I’ve made a return to racing. Neither attempt was about setting a PR, but more about just participating in a group setting.

The slow and steady mileage buildup has continued. With seven weeks of running on the books I have yet to break 20 miles for a week. My longest “long run” has yet to break the double digits at “only” 7 miles. In weeks 5 and 6 rather than bumping any one run’s miles I added mileage by adding a fourth day of running to the plan.

Week 5, I ran on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with the additional run on Sunday. Because I we had a Thanksgiving travel plans during the end of Week 6, I ran Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. I’ve also continued to be a midweek early morning runner. This is a completely new concept for me. I used to abhor the thought of squeezing in my run before work, but with the time change and the early daylight I’ve really come to enjoy running then rather than after work in the dark.

Week 5 included my first race this time around. On Saturday, November 12th I ran the Kare Youth League 5K. The race took place only a few miles from my home at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. The race was put on my Kare Youth League (KYL). Both my boys were involved in KYL from kindergarten to junior high. KYL is a year round sports league. The boys played football, baseball, basketball, soccer and track. The also enjoyed summer and winter camps. It was a lot of fun to go back and see the old coaches. I wore my youngest son’s Carolina Panthers football jersey to run in. I haven’t focused on speed at all at this point so I was running for the fun of it. My expectations were in the 27:00 range. The field was small. I was able to maintain my position and completely surprised myself with a 24:55 finish time (8:01 pace). Way faster than I expected.

Week 6 was spent mostly on the Isle of Palms near Charleston, South Carolina. I got in 3 runs there and then two more back home this weekend. So although my overall mileage didn’t really increase I bumped up the ante by adding in a 5 day of running. My hope is to maintain the 5 day schedule from now until my goal marathon next spring. Highlights of week 6 included running 3 miles with my oldest son. He joined the family in SC; driving down from Cleveland, OH. He and I, along with my wife, took part in the Charleston Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble 5K. Tyler’s goal was to PR which he did in 22:45. I finished my own race in 26:11. My race strategy hadn’t included a goal of improving on the KYL 5K time. The race is the largest 5K in South Carolina. The crowd of nearly 6000 made a fast time somewhat more difficult. I had lined up with the 24:00 to 27:00 estimated finish time and slowly worked my way up. I might have been able to run a faster race, but my primary goal of the morning was camaraderie.

Right now the main goal is to be running and to be running while keeping the heel pain that nagged me for the better part of 2011 in control. So far, I’ve been able to accomplish those goals and for that I’m thankful.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Not only did I stop running after Missoula, I stopped blogging and unfortunately I stopped reading most of my favorite blogs. My apologies.

After running my last 26.2 miles on July 10, I didn't run another step until October 11 except for the few yards I ran in a sad attempt to play soccer against school kids in Zimbabwe. Like I said I started running again on October 11, three months after Missoula and a Tuesday which traditionally would have been the first run of the week. I guess I should have read my last blog post before I did that. Seems I promised myself and all of you not to run again until November. Ah, know what the say about the best laid plans of men.

I took time off to see if I could get my heel pain healed up. By the first of October the pain had subsided considerably. The only other thing that went up was my weight. I gained a good 10 pounds over the 3 month hiatus, mostly due to bad diet choices - damn sugar! Candy, cookies, cake, pie, ice cream - that about covers the 5 major food groups. All during my time off from running I continued to hike 5 miles a couple of times a week and hit the gym sporadically for weights and cardio on the elliptical, the stairs or the bike. But there's just nothing like running.

Other times when I've come back from injury, I've jumped right back into a 5 day a week schedule with long runs of 10 miles. I mean there's really no good reason to run less than 10 miles on a Saturday morning, right? Well this time I decided to go all the way back to the beginning, maybe further than that. I decided to start with a week day run of 2 miles (hardly worth changing clothes for!) and a weekend long run of 4 miles with plans to only ramp that up a mile each weekend with a couple of cut back weeks along the way.

I've stuck to my promise to myself so far.
The first week, Oct 10-16, I ran 2 miles on Tues, 2.3 on Thurs and 4 on Saturday.
Week 2 was 2.5 miles on Tues, 3 on Thurs and 5 on Saturday.
Week 4 was 3 miles on Tues, 3 more on Thursday and 6 on Saturday. For the 6 I finally joined up with my old buddies the CA Cruisers and ran in Peter's Canyon. I stayed off the big hills but got to run with Julie, Steve, Emile and Catherine.
This week it was 3 and 3 miles again on Tues and Thursday and today I joined the Cruisers again for one loop of the 2 Parks-2 Loops course for a 5 mile long run. I got to run with Julie, Shay, James and his Golden Retriever.

So far, so good. The right heel is pretty much pain free, the left is probably at 85% but holding up well. The residual pain doesn't seem be be aggravated by the mileage so far. A good sign, but them my weekly mileage right now is less than my Saturday long runs used to be. I don't expect to hit 10 mile long runs until sometime in January. Before that I plan on adding in a fourth run each week to boost the mileage first.

It's good to be back!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missoula Marathon

Montana, finally marked off the list at the Missoula Marathon on July 10, 2011. The story may be getting a bit old but I was supposed to run this one last year. It was planned to be state #17 but ended up being state #22. It was supposed to be my first race as a 49 year old guy being run on my birthday in 2010. Instead it was run as my last race as a 49 year old guy run the day before my 50th birthday. A business trip to Europe for 2 weeks last year interfered with my grand plans. In the end the trip to Europe was a great opportunity. I was supposed to run last year with fellow CA Cruiser 50 stater, Margaret. I felt bad about abandoning here to Montana alone. But this year Missoula became the Cruisers annual group outing. I was joined in Missoula by 15 other CA Cruisers; 8 of us running the full, the other 8 running the half.

Many of us flew up together, non-stop from LAX on Allegiant Air. They only travel to and from Missoula 3 times a week so we went up on Friday and came home on Monday. We all stayed downtown, which I highly recommend to take advantage of the many restaurants in downtown Missoula. The big chain hotels have built outside of town but would require a car to get around. We simply walked everywhere we needed or wanted to go.

The Missoula Marathon organization had a full schedule of events, for the hardy souls. I opted to stay off my legs for as much time as possible before the race on Sunday but there was a Beer Run on Friday. Runners met downtown at a local bar, ran up to 6 miles and then came back to the bar to enjoy a beer or too and to socialize. Saturday evening was the Hellgate 5K (named after the local high school). I’d done the 5K in Illinois with Joe but opted out this time for no other reason that it collided with the group dinner we had planned.

I spent Saturday morning hanging out at Caras Park, a nice little suburban parked wedged between downtown and the Clark River. I made it there in time to see the start of the Kid’s Marathon. They ran 25 miles on their own leading up to race day, running the last 1.2 on Saturday. The race started on the bike path directly across the river, followed the bike path, crossed a pedestrian bridge and finished at the park. It was a very good time to watch all the little kids finishing the race. I clapped and cheered for them all. There were smiles on nearly every little face. The finish line definitely reinforced the notion that running is FUN!

I woke up at 3:45 on Sunday morning to prepare for the race. Breakfast was the standard instant oatmeal prepared with the hot water in the in-room coffee maker followed by a cup of coffee and some Gatorade. I boarded the bus to the start at 4:30 a.m. with fellow Cruisers Julie, Cathe and Mary. Julie and I had planned to run together. Cathe and Mary weren’t sure if they could keep up. The start was in a Frenchtown, Montana’s version of Boyleston.

I met up with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs at the start for the requisite photo op. I ran into Steve Metcalf who I’d met in Little Rock and Terri Menghini a Facebook friend. I’d worn my MM singlet. I think I’ve worn it for all my marathons this year.

The race started promptly at 6:00 to a cannon blast and some fireworks. The temperature at the start was in the low to mid 40’s. I was plenty warm enough once I was running except for my hands. It took over two miles and the sun popping up over the mountains before I could feel my hands.

Julie, Cathe and I feel into an easy rhythm from the start using a 6 minute run and 1 minute walk schedule. The pace was a bit fast for Mary so she fell back and ran her own race joining up with Sue another CA Cruiser for quite a few miles. Our first couple of miles were on the slower side but not of us were overly concerned with time. It was mile 3 before we finally ran a 10:00 mile.

The first almost 9 miles were run on Mullan Road. Those miles ticked off in: 11:54, 11:13, 10:01, --, 21:48, 10:29, 14:02, 10:15 and 10:17. The long one in the middle was a bathroom stop for all three of us.

Mile 9 include our first turn onto Kona Ranch Road which took us over the Clark River and gave us a beautiful view of the mountains directly in front of us. After about a mile or so we turned again onto Big Flat Road which had two things to offer us. One of the prettiest views on the course with the hill rising on our right and the river down below on our left, not to mention some of the most beautiful homes on the entire route.

Cathe had soldiered along with Julie and I up until the point that we hit the incline around mile 13. Julie and I continued on together. We’d definitely hit our rhythm at this point with the next 7 miles ticking off in: 10:19, 10:34, --, 22:30, 10:17, and 9:45. That last one being going down the other side of the “hill” on River Pines Road.

Soon after that we got back into civilization and starting making left and right turns more frequently. We just keep doing our 6:1 thing and ticking of the miles up to mile 20 in: 10:15, 10:17, 10:12, 10:08 and 9:51. Mile 21 at sub 10:00 was a complete surprise to me. It was only the second mile at that pace and the first was aided by a downhill.

Right after that fatigue began to set in with the remainder of the miles: 11:13, 11:54, 11:44, 11:06, 11:40 and the final 0.2 in 2:45. Julie was obviously feeling good and able to keep up the faster pace but no matter how often I suggested that she go on without me she refused. She started taking longer walks and then “sprinting” up to me then walking again. I continued on with the 6:1. except for a couple of time that Julie allowed us an extra break mid way. Finally after mile 25 she took off toward the barn and finished nearly 2 minutes ahead of me. I crossed the Higgins Street Bridge to the finish line in 4:44:38. I was happy to have kept the pace consistent for longer than expected and to have finished in sub 5:00 pace.

We were rewarded with a medal and a Popsicle at the finish line. Any race that gives out popsicles is a great race in my books. Missoula also offered a free beer at the finish line and I enjoyed that as well.

After phone calls and texts home, a short nap and a shower I headed back out into Missoula and hiked the “M” Trail to the big M up the side of the hill my the University of Montana. Julie was somewhat perturbed with me that I hiked the hill after the race assuming I should have run harder. The “M” had beckoned on Saturday but I decided hiking it the day before the race was a bad idea and I wasn’t sure I had sufficient time to do in Monday morning before the return flight home to Sunday post race it was. Enduracne is never usually my issue, speed in the final miles is and hiking to the “M” only required endurance not speed. I was rewarded with a great view of the entire Missoula valley.

And now after having run 26 marathons – 22 states plus DC and multiple California races – I am taking a forced hiatus from running. My heels have been painful for the better part of a year and my left hip has been troublesome for some time. I may be admitting defeat but running nearly non-stop for 7 years has apparently taken its toll. The plan is to start running again sometime in November. I’ve already signed up for the Hollywood Half Marathon next April and I’d like to make the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in South Dakota my 23rd state in June of 2012. Joe and I have tentative plans to join Wes next November for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Georgia. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Last Long Run, Once Again

I've been here at least 20 times before. This weekend was the last long run, a 20 miler this time around, before heading for the Missoula Marathon.

Last Sunday, I'd run a moderately hilly trail race and then followed that up on Tuesday with hill repeats with the local running group, the Glendora Ridge Runners. I'd run speed work at the Azusa Pacific University track earlier in the season. The track work aggravated my already tenuous left arch, so I had to beg off the track work weeks before tackling Illinois and hadn't gone back. I felt bad having disappeared after only running 4 weeks with the group. As with most running groups, they were great folks to be around.

Two weeks ago the group found out that the APU track was closed for the summer to the Ridge Runners switched their Tuesday workouts to hill repeats. This seemed like the opportunity to rejoin the group. Last week we started with 4 repeats of a hill that is just a hair shy of 2 tenths of a mile. I made the rookie mistake of heading out too fast on the first one. The next four (we snuck in a 5th repeat) came in 1:36, 1:38, 1:38 and 1:37.

This week it was back to the hill repeats. This time the plan was 6. My quads were a bit tired from the trail race but I made it through the 6 repeats. My times were a bit slower this week from 1:38 to 1:41. Still pretty consistent I think.

My legs were still feeling a bit heavy on my Thursday afternoon run. The CA Cruisers had planned on running Powder Canyon. I really enjoy the trails there. The loop is about 8 miles. With the 20 miler staring in me the face, if I chose to run Powder Canyon I’d have to do two loops plus some more. I wasn’t too keen on that and there are a couple of leg burning hills. So as much as I wasn’t entirely happy about it I decided to run my long run on the safer Santa Ana River Trail.

My good friend Terry joined me for the first 1o miles and I was on my own for the second 10. The June Gloom this morning was much less severe than the last couple of days. On Thursday and Friday I had to use my windshield wipers to keep the June Gloom at bay. The first 10 miles were under cloudy skies. With Terry pacing we made decent time and pace at 9:50ish. After Terry departed the sun broke through the clouds much earlier that it had been. General fatigue set in and without my pacer, the inevitable slow down came into play. The entire 20 miles took 3:22:42 for a 10:08 pace.

This long run was plagued with the same issues I’ve battled in most of my long runs and marathons of late. About 4 miles into the run I really needed to visit the john. This has been a common occurrence lately. The panic situations are no doubt linked to my diet. I can no longer get away with eating as I please. I’ve got about 10 pounds to get rid of to get back to racing weight. Another unfortunate by product of my crappy diet is chafing like no other “down there.” That is never a fun experience.

Today’s run was also coupled with a very unwelcome light headed and queasy feeling once I’d finished up. This same thing happened to me at Champaign-Urbana. Leaving the stadium that day I had to sit down several times to keep from loosing my balance and collapsing. This never used to happen to me and it is not as though I’m just burning up the trail these days so I’m not sure what is causing this little issue, but it is a concern. Sitting for a few minutes, rehydrating and a few calories and all seems to be well.

Taper time, once again! Let’s see if I can eat a bit better for the next 21 days. Missoula here I come Anybody want to volunteer to bring me some fluid and a burger at the finish line just in case I decide to nearly pass out again?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Valley Crest Half Marathon

Today I finally ran a race that I’ve considered at several times but from some inexplicable reason had never run. It is the perfect distance on trails within an hour of my house. In June we are almost always guaranteed perfect weather conditions for a run so why it has eluded me for so long I’m not sure.

Anyway the planned run on the buildup to Missoula was a 15 miler. Once I saw this race on the calendar I decided the 13.1 miles with hills would make the perfect alternative to 15 miles on one of several bike path options, so on Thursday I signed up.

This was the 10th running of the Valley Crest Half Marathon. It is held entirely on the Mulholland fire road. 13.1 miles that are either going up or down. It isn’t a crazy mountain run but the total elevation gain is about 800 feet. I’ve definitely tackled worse but I knew that I was working. Even on this cool misty morning I was sweating.

I arrived at the race start about an hour early to secure a parking spot. The website had repeatedly noted that parking was limited. The morning was very heavy “June Gloom” conditions. I needed my windshield wipers at times on the drive there due to the low lying thick cloud cover. It wasn’t raining but there was a lot of moisture in the air. Bib pickup was a breeze. They were expecting about 400 runners. Shirts and goodie bags were handed out after the race.

After a short briefing from the RD, the race started promptly at 8:00 with a simple Ready, Set, Go! Right away we headed up a short spur trail to get on the Mulholland Fire Road proper. Due to starting line crowding the best tactic was to just walk up the hill. Once on the fire road things began to move along a little more smoothly. It was probably about 15 minutes in before there was adequate room to just run the pace of your choosing.

There were no mile markers on this course and since I was just running it as a training run anyway it didn’t really matter to me. I did take mile splits at the turn around points. The course was a simple double out and back. We first headed west for about 3.5 miles, turned around and retraced our steps and then continued east to the 10 mile mark, made another U-turn and then headed down the little spur trail back to the start/finish line.

I hit the 3.5 mile turn in 33:16 for an approximate 9:30 pace. The course had been predominately downhill to that point. Then began the work of climbing back up what we just descended. I just chugged along keeping pace with a bunch of folks and picking them off slowly one by one. I should have tracked my kills on the way to the 10 mile turn around point.

I hit the second turn around point in 1:06, about 10:16 pace. This direction on the fire road was mostly uphill with only a downhill respite between mile 6.5 and 7.5. After the turn around we were headed mostly downhill and I was still able to catch a couple of folks which surprised me because I usually not much of a downhiller. I had to take a quick duck into the bushes and lost some time but even then I re-caught a couple of the folks again.

The cloud cover and mist heavy at times was both a blessing and a curse (of sorts). The June Gloom kept the temperature in the low 60’s, very nice for running. The heavy mist caused my glassed to get water spotted and even fogged up, so vision was a bit of an issue. I chose my foot placement carefully, the fire road was rocky in places and partially eroded from the winter rains. The mist had dissipated for the final push down the hill to the finish which was nice.

I finished the race in 2:13:37 (10:10 pace overall). This isn’t exactly a stellar time for me at the half marathon distance, but it served the purpose of the day of getting in the miles before Missoula. Overall there is nothing not to like about this race. Unlike some other races of its size, the top three male and females all received prize money. The rest of us got the obligatory t-shirt and a medal.

I was back home and showered by noon. I spent the remainder of the day with my wife. We enjoyed a late breakfast at a local eatery and then headed down to Temecula to pick up our June wine club shipments. Quite an enjoyable day.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Old Men and Ladies

That’s all I encountered on my run this morning. Circumstances led to me running a 20 miler by myself on the multi-use path along the beach in Huntington Beach. It was a perfect morning for a long run; overcast with temperatures in the 60’s. Heading north the wind was at my back. Once I turned around to head back the wind was in my face and made it a bit cool but it helped keep the sweat out of my eyes. The sun came out around mile 16 as did a couple of younger people out running.

I used a 6 minute run:1 minute walk routine throughout the run. I got fatigued after mile 16 or so but not to the point of crippling. I ran the first 10 miles at 10:00 pace (near perfect to expectations) and the second 10 miles in a not totally unexpected 11:00 pace. Although I slowed down, I never felt like I couldn’t keep going.

During the run I ran into Tom Prendergast out for his daily run. He is 72 years old runs about 6 miles nearly every day on the multi-use path. I’d first met time on the trail in March 2005. As often as I run the trail I’d think I would see him more often. I ran with him from my mile 13 to 15 without walk breaks. I was great to have some company for a little while.

I often see another older guy on the trail always in a grey Purdue t-shirt. He always makes me think of Joe. I’m sure he was out there somewhere but in my 20 miles our paths just didn’t cross.

Friday night I’d gotten a call from fellow CA Cruiser and 50 State hopeful, Margaret. She was in Casper, Wyoming to check of that state on her list. She’d run into some folks from Canada that were extolling the virtues of the Humpy’s Anchorage Marathon. It is run in August. Part of the route is on the bike trail that I ran last year when I was in Anchorage on the cruise with my parents. Although it is enticing to get Alaska checked off, I don’t think I can swing it this year.

Only 6 weeks until my 22nd state, Montana and the Missoula Marathon.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Illinois Marathon

Running, especially marathon running, can be a pretty selfish and solitary pursuit. I don’t live near most of my training buddies so I run many miles alone. When I do meet up with them, most aren’t at my pace, some are faster and some are slower. Sometime I just want to run where, when, how far and how fast I want to run. I dare say we, as in we runners, are all a bit like that at times.

But sometimes running becomes a shared experience, even an experience where we depend on and relish the company of others. This past weekend at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon the concept of “it takes a village” to run a race was evident at every turn.

Exhibit #1. Transportation/Lodging/Meals. I was running this race with running blogger/buddy and friend Joe. The Illinois marathon was the seventh time we’d met up to run a marathon. I always fly in from So Cal while Joe drives in from Indiana. As in several times in the past I was relying on Joe to pick me up from the local airport. We share a room at a local hotel, a meal or two, maybe a few miles in the race and then Joe takes me back to the airport and heads for home himself. It’s a plan that has worked out well for us.

Exhibit #2. Packet Pick-Up. One of my fellow CA Cruisers, also chasing the 50 state goal, was in Champaign-Urbana (C-U) for the Illinois marathon as well. John is 75 years old. Illinois would be his 31st state. I arrived at Chicago’s Midway airport at 3:00. On the ride down to C-U it became apparent that we weren’t going to have sufficient time to pick up our bibs and goodie bags and make it to the planned start of the 5K event that was to run at 6:30 on Friday evening. Thankfully John was able to pick up our stuff for us. We met him just outside the expo, grabbed our stuff, beat the cops through two road closures, parked, stripped off street clothes, laced up shoes, pinned on bibs and ran to the starting line with seconds to spare and thanks to a late start ran the 5K. Sometimes getting to the starting line requires a little help from a friend.

Exhibit #3. Marathon Maniacs. Joe and I had planned to run the race together, using a 4:1 run:walk combo that was expected to get us to the finish line in 4:45. We’d both worn our Marathon Maniac singlets and had met up with about a dozen other Maniacs before the race. It is always an easy conversation with a fellow Maniacs. It is always good to have other like minded “maniacs” to share the fun.

Exhibit #4. Misery Love Company/The More, The Merrier. I don’t recall ever seeing so many groups of people running together. There were the four girls with the Hawkeye tshirts, four girls in matching black shorts and turquoise tops, the pair in blue tops with orange and white strips on the side, the pair with “I Run for Jesus” on their sleeve and the lady in the chocolate colored jacket and the guy with the safari hat using a 3:1 routine that Joe and I leap frogged countless times throughout the day. One of the girls in matching outfits claimed that running together gave them a good reason to shop. Each member was there for there for the others.

Exhibit #5. Sarah. Joe and I came upon Sarah around mile 6. She’d volunteered and then ran with a friend for a few miles until she couldn’t keep up his pace. Sarah was in ROTC at the U of I, with plans to join the Marines. She ended up running the next 5 miles or so with us as the route wound back to campus. Joe had a great time connecting with an engineer and future Marine. Sarah helped not only her friend but she made those miles all the more interesting for us.

Exhibit #6. The ultra-guy and his girlfriend. I’d seen the guy at the start of the race. He was easily recognizable by the military style vest he was wearing. He would run ahead and then double back to check on his girlfriend. I noticed him several times. We came upon the girlfriend once and I asked her where the ultra-guy was. That’s when I found out he was using this race as practice for an ultra and his doubling back tactic served two purposes – helping her through her first marathon and getting in some miles and feet time for him. Sometime the motivation is different but covering the miles together is better than covering them alone.

Exhibit #7. Volunteers/Spectators. The citizens of C-U came out in a great way with great attitudes. The volunteers were plentiful, helpful and quick with a smile. We ran through many neighborhoods in both Urbana and Champaign and the folks there turned it into one big block party. Neighbors gathered together in driveways around breakfast buffet and coffee and cheered us along the entire way. It was a great way for them to get together and share the beautiful day.

Exhibit #8. Me and Joe. Although this was the 7th time we gotten together to cover the same 26.2 miles this was only the second time that we decided to run side by side. Joe and I stuck together, in our matching Maniac singlets, for 24.5 miles before I finally convinced Joe to go nab a 5:00 finish since I clearly was the one holding us back. We’d done the same thing in Memphis but that time it was me that galloped strong to the finish with Joe not far behind when his leg seized up from running on the camber for so many miles. Earlier this year, we’d met up and run the Austin Marathon. I selfishly ran my own race in a ill fated attempt to break 4:30. Joe and I ended up finishing only minutes apart when my race fell apart. In retrospect I should have just run with Joe and vowed to do so here in C-U. It was good to share so many steps side by side. Thanks to Joe for sticking with me for so long.

Sometimes running is a selfish and solitary pursuit, but sometimes, like at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, running is a shared endeavor with each person’s experience being all the better for sharing it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ragnar Relay So Cal 2011

[I'd better post soon before this blog (and to a lesser degree my running) goes completely comatose]

I did this event last year and had an absolute blast, so when the CA Cruisers jumped on the band wagon I was in with both feet. So many things were similar to last year but some things were completely different.

2010 - The route went from Ventura to Dana Point 2011 - The route went from Huntington Beach to Coronado Island
2010 - I was on a team of relatively fast paced runners. I ran two of my legs last year in 8:30 and 7:30 pace

2011 - I was on a team of "running for fun" paced runners and my own paces were dramatically slower
2010 - I was in Van 1, Leg 6

2011 - I was in Van 2, Leg 7 2010 - The CrAzY gYm RaTs finished the thing in 31:28 (that's hours)
2011 - The California Cruisers #1 finished the thing in about 37:00 (yes, that's hours, too)

2010 - I had the longest mileage in my three legs of any one on the team at 21.1
2011 - I had the longest mileage in my three legs of any one on the team at 25.6 (can you say, sucker?)

The race started with our official start in Huntington Beach at 7:15. The route took our first 6 runners up the Santa Ana River Trail that I've run countless times in training. After Van 1 ran 22 miles Van 2 started the day at around 1:00 in the dirt parking lot that served as my home base for many Saturday long runs for my first few marathons.

My first leg, Leg 7, was 7.3 Miles Hard continuing on the Santa Ana River Trail. I had opted not to take water with me since the distance was less than 10 miles. But the temperature was 85 degrees and 0% humidity running into a dry breeze. I started off the first mile at 8:54 and the next couple ticked off in the low 9:00, but with the heat I just couldn't sustain it. It seems pathetic now after reading in last years post that I ran a similar distance and time of the day last year for an 8:30 pace. It was just so hot and my legs just ain't what they were a year ago. (As a side note, I really need to figure that out.)

The day only continued to get hotter, reaching 95 for some of the runs before the sun finally set. Every runner’s times were suffering. We finished up our 6 legs 39.2 miles later in Lake Elsinore before sundown. One of our runners suffered heat exhaustion and nearly passed out after her leg. I've never seen some one so devoid of color. After some ice, water and a bit of food she came back to life and was able to run her other two legs later the next day.

We ate dinner at the Exchange Point and then headed off to a hotel for showers and a brief nap. I slept for about 2 hours, waking up at midnight to leave for Exchange Point 18.

I took over from Jean at about 2:00 a.m. after about a total of 96 miles. Leg 19 was 8.2 Miles Very Hard with 1000 ft of elevation gain but also a nice downhill section of about 600 feet. This run was so enjoyable. It is fun to see the bobbing blinking tail lights strung out in the distance ahead of me. The temperatures were considerably cooler at 50 degrees, just right for running. I felt really good on this leg and was able to run the entire distance including the hill. My pace was still a relatively pedestrian 10:36 (8.2 miles in 1:27).

We finished our next five legs, about 28.8 miles total about 6:30 in the morning. Van 1 was on their way trying to complete their last round of legs. By now we had fallen nearly 2 hours behind our projected finish time of 5:30 p.m. Our van headed out the breakfast and then went straight to Exchange Point 30 to wait for the arrival of Van 1. Exchange 30 was at the Torrey Pines Glider Park. There was plenty of room to park and spread out but no shade what so ever and the day was warming quickly. We hung out until nearly 2:00 in the afternoon before I took off once again.

My third and final leg, Leg 31, was the longest yet and longest of the race at 9.7 Miles Very Hard along the bluffs of La Jolla. It was a spectacular view. The temperature was nearing the 80's but there was a nice ocean breeze. I chugged along the paths and streets of La Jolla and evened managed to get to Kills along the way; Ragnar jargon for passing runners. At this point Kills were more picking off the young, elderly or sickly than they were dragon slaying but I'm still taking credit for them). As the run seemed to never end the temperature soared and my paces crashed to a final of 11:00. I wasn't doing anything to help our estimated finishing time from slipping further.

Our anchor runner slayed the last leg, 7.1 miles in an 8:00 pace to finally bring this thing to a loud and jubilant finish just before 8:00 p.m., almost 37 hours after we started and nearly 3 hours passed our original projections. It was a long couple of days but it was still a total and complete blast. I'm pretty confident there will be CA Cruisers Redux at Ragnar in 2012.

I ended up running into my teammates from last year's Ragnar just before my first leg and kept in touch with them throughout the day via Facebook. It’s a good thing I ran with the CA Cruisers because the team now known as the Commandos finished in about 31 hours. I was clearly not Commandos material this year.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Billy Goats Gruff

I've run over this bridge countless times in my 7-plus years of running in Bonelli. I always have the same thought as I trip and tramp over the bridge. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. When I was in grade school, for some reason 3rd grade sticks out, we often had a substitute teacher, Mrs. McLaughlin. It was always a good day when we had a substitute especially when we had Mrs. McLaughlin. Mrs McLaughlin was a retired teacher and she a classmate's, Kevin, grandmother. One day to fill the day she told us the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. She narrated the story complete with voices for each of the billy goats and of course the troll and with wonderful sound effects of the three goats crossing the bridge. Trip, trap, trip, trap - with a clicking of her tongue. We never tired of hearing her tell the story and begged for her to tell it every time she substituted. I can't recall a time that she didn't regale us with the tale of the goats Gruff. I wish a could draw some profound parallels between Mrs. McLaughlin's Three Billy Goats Gruff and running, but that isn't really my forte. Maybe every time I cross that little bridge on the Bonelli Trail I am outwitting those things that may keep me from my running goals or from running at all. The troll that says I'm too slow or too tired will just have to wait for the next guy to come along. The troll of injury that plays havoc with my body and my mental health. Yesterday I walked the bridge rather than run it because I'm nursing my left leg, but I crossed the bridge none the less. The troll will have to wait for another day. If you are the goat, then keep running and don't let that troll get to you. Maybe from the troll's perspective the lesson is to seize the day. You never really know if something else is going to cross that bridge or if what does cross that bridge is the thing that does you in. If you are the troll, then take advantage of each opportunity to run, enjoy it for what it is, not waiting for something better to come along. Either way, I will always think of Mrs. McLaughlin and the Three Billy Goats Gruff each time I pass that bridge, I'll smile and hear the trip, trap, trip, trap in my mind. I hope to pass over that bridge many more times. In the end it wasn't the troll the won out after all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Speed Anew

Back at it after the two winter marathons, taking it kind of slow and easy. I've stuck with the three day a week program for the time being. I continue to nurse a few nagging aches and pains - right ankle, left heel and left buttock/hamstring. I'm too stubborn or stupid to take the proper time off. For now the plan it to focus on a time goal at Missoula in July and to train through Illinois at the end of April. To some this might seem wrong, but for me right now its the right choice. After Missoula I fully expect to take a break, assuming I can hold thing together until then. Most of the winter I got my speed work in by taking extended lunch hours to be able to run in the sun and the daylight on a well marked bike path. Now that daylight savings time has blessed us with its presence I was able to move those workouts back to the end of the day. And as an added bonus I've decided to join a local group of folks, the Glendora Ridge Runners, at their Tuesday evening speed sessions on the track of Azusa Pacific University. The Ridge Runners are a speedy bunch. I'm always bringing up the rear of the elite group. They are gracious enough to wait for me before starting the next interval. When I was doing my own speed work based on the first plan I always agonized over the distance and pace, bringing notes along with me to be sure I didn't forget any of the details or the prescribed pace goals. Now that I'm running on Tuesdays with the Ridge Runners, I don't know what I'm in for when I get there, so I just run as fast as I can. Every week we are in for something different. Each week calls for a 2 mile warm up, the speed stuff and a 1 mile cool down. Exactly the protocol I was following anyway. Week 1 we ran 5 x 1K. I averaged 4:35 for each 1K. Last week we did 1 x 1 mile, 1 x 1200 and 4 x 400. This week we started off with a 2K that I thought was never going to end. I got lapped on my 3rd lap by the fastest guy, Joe and then lapped on the 4th lap by both Owen and Jose. At 9:34 it was finally over (7:41 pace). We followed that with 1 x 1K, 1 x 800 and 1 x 400. My times were 4:41, 3:44 and 1:42. I don't think I could have gone any faster on that last 400, I gave it pretty much all I had. It kind of sucks to always be the last one done, but I know that the challenge of keeping up should help improve my speed. My left heel and arch were shot by the end and are on ice now. I'm enjoying the new challenge so I hope my poor tired wheels will hold on for a couple of more months. I promise to take a break after that, really I do.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's The Plan, Man?

After taking the last from running, I finally hit the road again this morning. I opted for the lonely and lazy way out and ran by myself at the San Gabriel River Trail around 9:30 this morning. Most of the CA Cruiser are running a half marathon in north San Diego County. It was a coolish, less than 60 degree, overcast morning. Which is in stark contrast to the wonderfully sunny, high 70 degree day we had yesterday. It must have been great bike riding weather, because there were more bikers on the trail than I remember seeing.

I ran 10 miles on a double out and back route on the bike way. The first 9 were at 9:20 pace; the last 1 was barefoot at 11:51. I got three comments this morning about running barefoot. I've been running my last mile barefoot since Christmas on the trail and this is the first anyone's ever commented.

The big debate at the moment is what training plan should I use. I've got the Illinois Marathon in 6 weeks and then the Missoula Marathon 10 weeks after that. I'm still chasing the sub 4:00, but don't know if either of these will be the one. Missoula probably offers the best shot for that.

For Austin a couple of weeks ago I used the three day a week approach of the FIRST system. I enjoyed the speed work and tempo runs midweek but the long runs never did come together. For me those are the best predictor of marathon performance and true to form Austin was slow.

The last time I was able to break the 4:00 barrier was at the Des Moines Marathon in October 2009. I was using Bart Yasso's training program from Runner's World and his book "My Life on the Run". A year later, still using Yasso's plan I ran a disappointing race at the Twin Cities marathon. Thinking I was over training and not recovering from the 5 day a week schedule I switched to FIRST. So far it hasn't lived up to its promise at least for me. I like the three day approach but I worry that the mileage just isn't enough. With Yasso's plan I topped out at 50 miles a week. On the FIRST plan I topped out at 30 miles or running combined with 2 days of cross training on the bike, elliptical or stairs at the gym.

What to do for these next two has been on my mind for the last week or so. Although I'm tempted to go back to Yasso, I think I'm going to give FIRST another shot. I'll train through Illinois, running with Joe at his pace, and then give it a go at Missoula. It would be fun to go sub 4:00 on the last day before I jump age groups.

There's never a shortage of things to ponder and obsess over as a runner. Let's just hope I can stay healthy through it all.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Little Rock Marathon

The numbers:
State #20 - 40% complete
Bib #1099 (not the tax form)
Temperature at race start: 37F
Temperature at race finish: 48F
Finishers: 1811
Final Time: 4:42:01

The end result - a completely enjoyable race experience.

What a difference two weeks can make. My time in Austin was only 9 minutes slower but boy did I beat myself up over that one. I approached Little Rock with a whole new attitude and perspective and a rejiggered set of expectations. I went into Little Rock with the goal of enjoying myself and finishing off state number 20 without any unhealthy mental and emotional gymnastics.

I flew in the day before the race just in time to pick up my bib, buy some Gatorade and to enjoy the pre-race Pasta Feed with fellow CA Cruisers - Margaret, Cyndee and John and John's wife. I'd talked to Margaret a couple of days before and asked her about running together, since we'd done a few long runs together recently. She agreed. The Pasta Feed was a nice event capturing the spirit of the Little Rock Marathon - An Event of Mythic Proportions.

Race morning dawned cold and breezy. I'd counted on slightly warmer weather but had packed for the weather. The one thing I'd forgotten were gloves. I picked up a pair for $2 at the expo and was glad to have them on race morning. I wore my Marathon Maniac singlet and arm sleeves, topped that with at long sleeve tech shirt and then a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. I wore the gloves and a cap just to help keep some warmth in by keeping my head warm. Dave Mari, Maniac #2465, organized a Marathon Maniac photo before the race. There were over 80 of us there. On the course you were never far from one.

Part of the plan of running with Margaret was to start off slow with the hope that I wouldn't die so dramatically at the end. I hit my watch at the mile markers, gave the time a quick glance and then moved on. Margaret and I seemed to be pretty evenly matched. She said that she was doing her best to keep up with me and I was doing my best to stay half a step behind so that I wouldn't pull her faster than she was comfortable with.

The first few miles were chilly. My face was cold and the gloves felt good. I took off the long sleeve cotton T at mile 2 and held onto to it for about a half mile. I finally tossed it, not wanting to carry it along with me the entire way like I did in Austin. I wasn't going to be needing in to mop up sweat at these temps and I didn't need the added stress on my shoulder from carrying the thing around. It was harder than it should have been for me to toss it, but I did it.

The course winds its way back and forth through and near downtown Little Rock and the adjacent North Little Rock for the first 12 miles and it seemed like we were getting no where. We were always within a mile or two of the starting line. The course was up and down and full of many right and left turns, but never overly crowded

Mile 13 to 16 contained the most challenging section of the course. We'd left the half marathoners behind so the crowd thinned considerably and the 3 mile climb up Boone and Kavanaugh made us all did deep to keep moving forward. The climb seemed to never end. Margaret and my pace slowed understandably. Margaret began to press me to go on without her, but I stuck to my plan to stay with her and enjoy the day. Margaret and I had used a one mile run/one minute walk break so far.

After mile 16 we were rewarded with a nice nearly 2 mile long down hill, through a pretty section of town with large homes up on the hill to our right and a forested area off to the left. The sun broke through for the first time during this section. Miles 18 to 23.5 were an out and back flat section. It was fun to see the others coming back already. Margaret and I were able to spot Cyndee coming back. She'd taken the early start two hours ahead of us.

At mile 20 Margaret asked for an additional walk break. She'd been struggling with her asthma from the start and had used her inhaler twice already. She needed to walk to get her heart rate under control. Again she urged me onward. I finally agreed to go after making sure that she was going to be OK and that I'd see her at the finish line. It was along here that I was warm enough to take off the long sleeve tech T and was finally recognized as a Marathon Maniac. Wearing one of those shirts sure gets you a lot of attention from the other runners and spectators alike.

I continued with my 1:1 schedule to the end of the race. My pace had slowed into the 11 and eventually the low 12 minute range but I was happy that it was there rather than in the 14's and 15' as there were in the end of Austin. In addition my feet, ankles and hips didn't hurt nearly as much. Maybe even better than that was the complete lack of negative thoughts from Austin.

I crossed the finish line to Bart Yasso calling out my name feeling happy and tired. Cyndee was already there to see the rest of come in. It was very cool for her to be the one waiting for us this time rather than knowing that we were all waiting for her. Margaret finished about 6 minutes behind me and then John came in 5 minutes later. We enjoyed the post race food and walked the mile or so back to the hotel together.

Later in the evening Cyndee, Margaret and I went over to Bid Bodacious Post-Race Party for some BBQ in the Clinton Library. It was quite the affair and included in the registration fee. The folks that run the Little Rock Marathon know what they are doing.

The course isn't easy, but it is well marked and well staffed. The citizens of Little Rock seem to embrace the event. The pre-race dinner and post-race party were well run as well. And of course the marathon medal is truly of "mythical proportions." It dwarfs the other 23 marathon medals hanging on my wall.

I've come to really like races of this size, less than 2000 marathon runners. They seem to really be able to cater to the runners without all the crowds and confusion that can sometimes accompany the big city races. If you are like me, you should put Little Rock on your schedule.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LiveSTRONG Austin Marathon

State #19 in the books.

Back when I signed up for this race my intent was to train to get back under 4:00. I'd last accomplished that at a wonderfully cool clear day in Des Moines, Iowa. My two attempts at it in 2010 fell short. The first try in Twin Cities was foiled by inconsistent training and an uphill finish. My second attempt at Duke City was likely doomed from the start being just two weeks after Twin Cities.

So to try a fresh approach I adjusted my tried and true 5 day a week schedule to the FIRST schedule, running just three days and cross-training on 2 to 3 of the others. I did reasonably well at the speed work and tempo runs mid-week on this plan. But the long run pace and endurance never really came together. I've lamented that fact numerous times before.

I flew into town with my wife on Friday afternoon. After checking in to the hotel we walked over to the expo, actually arriving there before it even opened at 3:00. Packet pick up went smoothly. I picked up my own stuff as well as Joe, as and his wife were joining us the following day. On the walk back we enjoyed a frozen custard cone; something we don't get in California. We managed to continue eating our way through Austin the entire weekend.

Friday night we had dinner at the Iron Cactus in the middle of the 6th Street music district. I had a couple of Shiner Bocks with dinner. I was in Lance Armstrong's town and I remember he drank Shiner Bock in "It's Not About the Bike". Afterward we walked 6th St, stopping in at Coyote Ugly (a huge disappointment) and ultimately landing at The Thirsty Nickel and listened to a great local band, Nothing Left.

We got up the Saturday morning to a heavy overcast and light drizzle. We got a ride out to Magnolia Cafe on South Congress for a great late breakfast. We joined up with Joe and his wife around 2 pm and walked to the finish line to let Joe get the lay of the land for the next day.

Saturday nights carb load dinner was a bit of an adventure. Our original plan was to head back out to South Congress to Vespaio. The opened at 5:30. We arrived about 5 minutes later to find a full restaurant with a 90 minute wait. We ventured next door to their sister restaurant, Enoteca and lucked into 4 seats at the counter overlooking the street. We enjoyed a great meal and people watching in Austin. Right across the street were several food trucks. The food trucks were a common sight in empty lots throughout the downtown area. One particular truck caught our eye - Hey Cupcake. There was a continuous line throughout our entire meal. We headed over and enjoyed some really tasty cupcakes to help fuel our race efforts the next day. The four of us sat at a nearby picnic table for 30 minutes or so enjoying the crowd and some live country music. Joe added his own renditions every once in a while.

Race morning dawned overcast, breezy and a bit warm at 63-degrees. Joe and I headed out and met some other Marathon Maniacs from a group photo. Thanks to Dave Mari for organizing that. We then each headed to our prospective starting areas. Joe stayed at 4:45 and I optimistically headed up towards the 4:00 group. I didn't really think I could do it, but decided to give a shot at least. I lined up just ahead of the 4:15 sign.

Even though there were close to 19,000 runner out there, the starting area didn't' feel overly cramped or congested. Things seemed to have started off without a hitch. It did take me almost 12 minutes to get to the starting line, but the mood was relaxed.

The "hills" of this race start almost immediately after leaving the starting line. I'd read a three part preview of the race on Facebook that talked a lot about the ups and downs of the course. They come early and often. Not necessarily hills in the truest sense but the Austin route is definitely a non-stop up and down roller coaster.

I stopped at the port-a-johns at Mile 1. I wasn't in panic mode yet but the lines were short and I decided to get it out of the way before it did. I'd started the race wearing a "throw away" long sleeve t-shirt which I immediately removed upon exiting the big blue box. I ended up carrying the shirt the rest of the race, switching it periodically from hand to hand. The weather in Austin was warm and humid, so the T came in handy as a sweat rag most of the day.

Up through Mile 11, I'd been keeping up a pace between 9:15 and 9:30 per mile. This was off pace but more realistically what I felt I could do to get me in around 4:15 to 4:20. So far I was feeling pretty good. I was soaked through, but I'd been very mindful of my fluid intake and had taken a gel at the 5 and 10 mile marks. Soon after this the half marathoners split off from us. I remember feeling sort of jealous of them, knowing that they only had two more miles to go and they were still feeling pretty fresh at that point. At least the folks around me seemed to be.

I just kept reeling off the miles, not as fast as I'd hoped, but I felt good, not speedy but good. At the half marathon point the 4:15 pace group caught up to me. I hung with them for about half a mile and then I let them go. I was just not going to be able to keep up their pace for long. I knew I would lose them at my next walk break anyway. I'd being using a run a mile-walk a mine schedule so far in the race.

After the half folks left us, I fell in with the long haul truckers and the pace slowed down. The next few miles came around 10:00, which I knew would still put me at a 4:20 race. By mile 17, although I still felt OK, I just had no speed in the legs. The Triple H - heat, humidity and hills - got to me I think. My pace slowed to 11:00, then 12:00. At Mile 20 I was passed by the 4:30 pace group. I didn't even make an attempt hang with them. Also at mile 20 I took my 4th and last gel of the day.

At Mile 20 the Triple H was joined by its good buddy the Head Wind. It was at this point that the 4H of Austin began to really mess with my 4H's - Heart, Head, Hands and Heart. The last 6 miles were an emotional roller coaster, although thankfully the course had finally taken a mostly downhill trajectory.

My hips were hurting, my ankles were hurting, my feet were hurting, my ego was hurting, my confidence was hurting. At the 25 mile mark the 4:45 pace group passed me by. On some of the hills although I was "running" my pace was more akin to walking at 14:00 or more.

I was worried that the little nagging pains were really something worse. I was worried that I had another race to run in 2 weeks as well as others I'd just recently signed up for in April and July. How would I ever get them done, let alone the 31 more I'd hoped to run on my goal to 50 States? I was worried that I'd made Lisa worry about me. I knew she'd been waiting patiently at the finish line for me expecting me to be there at least 30 minutes before.

I stuck to my Run 1/Walk 1 routine until Mile 24 when I just finally caved knowing that I would eventually finish anyway. I walked the hills and ran when I could. My pace slowed to 15:12 for Mile 25. I was happy to make those last few turns we'd previewed the day before. On my way down the final chute it was really good to catch a glimpse of Lisa and to finally stop running.

4:51:46 was one of my worst marathon showings not counting a 93 degree LA, an LA run with bronchitis and trail marathons in knee deep mud. After meeting Lisa at the finish I had one final meltdown until she reminded me that I do these for fun. I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. We each had a scoop of ice cream from the Amy's Ice Cream truck and I felt better. Joe finished only about 15 minutes behind me feeling pretty darn good. I wished I'd just run the race with him and enjoyed the day and saved myself the torment. Some day I will learn.

After getting cleaned up, the four of us headed out to Driftwood, TX to The Salt Lick BBQ. We met a lady that questioned whether or not we shouldn't really be napping after having run the marathon. I told her we'd run that far so we could eat whatever we wanted, we could nap later.

Lisa and I ended our day with appetizers and a couple glasses of Tempranillo at Max's Wine Dive where the slogan is "Fried Chicken and champagne - why the heck not?" We ended our culinary tour of Austin with a return trip to Magnolia's Cafe for breakfast on Monday morning, this time with Joe and Gretchen. Then it was back to the airport and on to LA.

Although the race wasn't what I'd have hoped it to be, I would highly recommend the LiveSTRONG Austin Marathon. The whole event was well organization. We got some great swag - a messenger bag, a SPI-belt, a whopper of a medal and a true finisher's shirt that you pick up at the finish line. The course while hilly shows off some great neighborhoods in Austin. Austin itself is a great place to visit. I'd go back just to hit a few more of its fine eating establishments.

Keep Austin Weird! and live to run (and eat) another day.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Rose Bowl Half Marathon

The 50,000 Foot View:
Typical California morning in February - 49 degrees at the start
Beautiful setting at the Rose Bowl and surrounding area
Advertised as 70% on trails
Finished in 2:03:28 - off pace, but satisfying

The Fine Print:
The plan offered up a 13 mile run at PMP, so what better way to get that done than to take part in an organized Half Marathon. The last time the plan called for 13 miles I ran the LA County Holiday Half. This time around it was the Rose Bowl Half. I was excited about this race because it gave me the opportunity to run my planned marathon pace (PMP). This program has me running all kinds of other speeds. The tempo runs that I was supposed to do at PMP, all happened at a pace faster than that. My skepticism continued on how I'd be able to pull off 26.2 miles at 9:09 pace when I'd never actually done it. All these years of training I've run most of my long runs at or near what I actually end up doing in the races that follow.

I was able to pick up my bib and chip an hour before the race started and sit in my car until 10 minutes before the start. The starting line was on Arroyo Blvd. in front of the Rose Bowl. The actual start was very low-key. The starter announced 60 second to start; 30 seconds to start, and a simple GO! and we were off. No fanfare, no music, no air horn, just GO!

The race was advertised as 70% trails. I decided to wear my Adrenaline ASR's to take advantage of the little extra traction on the trail sections. Within the first half mile we left pavement and began the first trail section. Their was a bit of a bottle neck there but nothing too serious. I was happy to see that I'd managed Mile 1 in 9:03, right on target.

The horse trail we were on paralleled a flood control channel on either side. Before we to to Mile 2 we could see the leaders on their back the other side. Mile 2 - 8:43, Mile 3 - 8:49, Mile 4 - 9:26. Not sure what happened there. The pack had thinned considerably, but I decided not to worry too much at this point.

Soon after Mile 4 we were back on to pavement headed towards the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl has really nice paved running path that circles both it and the Brookside Golf Club. Mile 5 and 6 were on this path on the east side of the Bowl. Mile 5 - 9:15, Mile 6 - 8:59. This section was a very gentle uphill grade, but I seem to do well on that.

Soon we were back on trail headed out toward JPL. When I reached Mile 7, I saw the leaders again heading back. They were somewhere between Mile 10 and 11; already. Mile 7 - 9:42; the trails were slowing me down.

Right after Mile 7 we headed up the steepest rockiest hill on the course. Most of us were reduced to walking up. The hill took us to the top of the appropriately named Devil's Gate Dam. The worst part was knowing that we had to go back down that thing later. During this mile I also had to take a short biology break. Mile 8 - 10:47.

The next few miles wound around the Devil's Gate Reservoir and adjacent to the grounds of the Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL). It would be great to work there and to have access to these trails at lunch or right after work. Mile 9 - 9:37, Mile 10 - 4:18. I was slowing down and that last mile was obviously mismarked.

The next mile took us on a really nice single track through some oak forests and then dropped us back out onto the paved path around the golf course. Mile 11 - 15:17. Combine that with the short mile 10 and the pace was 9:45 for the 2 mile segment. I'd slowed down beyond what I'd hoped for but I attributed much of it to the hills. I've mentioned that this plan has not included hills at all. Another contributing factor might have been the leg workout I did yesterday at the gym and the 5 easy miles I ran on the hill of Bonelli right after that. Worst case scenario if my legs were feeling any negative effects from those two workouts, it would help to simulate running tired at the end of a marathon. Or at least I hoped.

The gentle down slope of the paved running path back towards the Rose Bowl rewarded me with my third fastest mile of the day. Mile 12 - 8:51.

I tried to keep the momentum going as we rounded the perimeter of the parking lot and headed back up Arroyo Blvd towards the Rose Bowl. The last little decline to get into the Rose Bowl hurt way more than it should have but it is always fun to enter a sports stadium at field level and to get to finish there. I wished I'd have had my camera with me. Mile 13.1 - 10:39 (9:40 pace).

Final time was 2:03:28 (9:26 pace). It was off what I'd hoped for, but realistically what I felt I was capable of. It is a little disconcerting that I ran a faster half 2 months ago when I started this training cycle. Getting slower is not exactly the desired effect you hope for from a training plan. But....I still satisfied because its the fasted pace I've kept up for that many miles in a really long time, which is still a positive achievement.

The only negative was a darn blister. I haven't had one in a long time. I could feel it coming on around mile 8. It is probably caused by the ASR's. I rarely wear them for anything longer than 5 miles. The one on my right foot felt like I should snug it up a bit but I never stopped to do it. The blister is in its usual spot right on the pad of my right foot right behind my big toe. Although the race did incorporate lots of off road running, my street shoes would have been fine. In hind sight I wish I had worn them instead.

Taper time is officially in session. Will I be able to achieve a sub 4:00 in Austin? I'm not sure - but I'll find out in two weeks.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eighth Leg

I ran the Ragnar Relay last year with some really great folks that I really didn't know. This year the CA Cruisers have united and put together two teams. We've got the competitive over-50 co-ed team and the lets run this thing and see how much fun we can have. I'm part of the second team. This years southern California route is completely different than last years, so it'll be a whole new adventure.

Just for fun the Cruisers decided to run the eighth leg of the Ragnar route today. This put us in completely new territory than we've ever run before. The eighth leg starts at the point on the Santa Ana River Trail were we usually turn around and head back. This was listed as a 5.4 mile Moderate leg that included 945 feet of elevation gain. We ran it out and back. I needed to get to 15 so I did a few extra miles back onto the River Trail on familiar ground. I ran about a third of the route with Jim, the ring leader of the competitive over-50 co-ed team. He slowed down considerably to run with me. I ran the rest alone, meeting up with the others before and after. My overall time for the 15 was 2:35 for a pace of 10:22. This is still off the planned pace but I felt good the entire way. I was glad to get some hill training in too.

Thursday's tempo run went well. The plan called for 8 miles at planned marathon pace (PMP). I hoped to stay as close to 9:09 as possible. The last few I've done have all been on the fast side and I really wanted to get a better feel for the 9:09 I am supposed to run in Austin. My first mile was 8:38, so I decided to start the next mile by walking the difference to get me to 9:00 pace and walked for about 20 seconds. I ended up doing this at every mile, walking as much as 40 seconds at the beginning and as little as 15 seconds on the latter miles. My overall pace even with 7 walk breaks was 8:34. So I guess I have no 9:09 gear in my legs. I'm either too fast on the tempo runs or too slow on the long runs. What a quandary!

4 weeks to Austin. One more 20 miler next weekend where I hope to work on hydration and nutrition to see if I can get past the wall. The following week is a 13 miler at PMP so I signed up for the Rose Bowl Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday. I'm going to do my best to stick to the 9:09 PMP.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Called Off Not Phoned In

Today's speed workout called for 10 x 400 (with 400m rests). It would have been an 8 mile workout. I was really looking forward to it because 3 weeks ago I did a similar workout and nailed it.

We've been enjoying some very warm, almost summer like, weather here in So Cal. My kind of weather. I love the sunshine. The temperature at noon was just shy of 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky and no breeze to be heard of. My kind of weather. Sitting at the beach kind of weather.

I found out soon enough that today it wasn't exactly good 400 meter repeat weather. I started off just fine with my usual 2 mile warm up and then began the repeats. My times were actually right on target at 1:42, 1:39, 1:46, 1:47, 1:46, and 1:53, but it was taking everything I had to stick with it. My legs felt like lead and I just wasn't mentally ready for the warmth. This weather in the summer would have actually been expected and I've run plenty of times in 80 or greater temps and enjoyed it. Today it kicked my butt, in a bad way.

After the 6th repeat at mile 5 I decided to call it off rather than phoning it in. I could of probably made the next 4 repeats and the mile back to the car, but I'd have been miserable. The mile cool down I did was at 12:00 pace, nearly a walking pace.

I was a little bummed that I'd caved. I haven't done that in a while, especially on this plan. I got in some extra cross training this evening by taking the R.I.P.P.E.D. class at the gym. It's a good kick in the butt, in a good way. It isn't running but it gets the heart a-pumping and the sweat a-flowing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Santa Barbara Strand(ed)

My in-laws flew into San Francisco last Saturday and began a southward journey through California that ended at hour home today. The spent 3 days in the Carmel area. We joined them when they got to Paso Robles. We spent Wednesday touring several wineries in the area and then enjoying a wonderful dinner at Buona Tavola.

Thursday was my scheduled tempo run day and I was excited about the opportunity to run somewhere other than by current status quo of the river trail. I set my watch to get out the door at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. I got up checked the temperature. It was a balmy 35 degrees so I went back to bed. After breakfast our southward tour took us to Solvang, where we shared a nice apple strudle and then ultimately to Santa Barbara. Our hotel was conventiently located across the street from the beach. We arrived in the late afternoon giving my ample time before dinner to get my tempo run in along the multi-purpose path that runs along the beach. This was a much better choice than running in Paso at near freezing temps.

Without my trusty marked path I was pretty much ad-libbing the run. I knew the distance (5 miles) and my planned pace (8:41 to 9:09) but without the markings I had no real way to reconcile the two. I did have the GPS app on my smartphone that I checked periodically to know the distance.

I've mentioned before that I'm am functionally illiterate in the mathematical computational arena while on foot. Once on the path I headed east first for about 1/2 mile and then back west. I ran west past my starting point toward Shoreline Park. I checked my phone occasionally to monitor the mileage. For some reason I can't explain I didn't turn around until the GPS said I'd run 3.5 miles total. This included the 1 mile eastward out&back plus 2.5 more miles westward. It wasn't until I was on my way back and checked the phone again that I realized just how math challenged I was. I hit the 5 mile mark while I was still a mile away from the hotel (no surprise to any of you). I walked that last mile back to my hotel.

Another side effect of the run was my lack of pacing control without mile marks. Although I looked at my phone a couple of times to get the distance there was no way I was going to be able to calculate the pace. Odd distance at odd times just don't compute. I finished the 5 miles in 41:55. Once I was walking I could at least determine that I'd run faster than 9 minute miles. After a bit of finger writing on an imaginary chalk board I figured the pace to be 8:24 or at least close enough. Oh well, I can think of worse place to be "stranded" than the bike path along the Santa Barbara coast.

We went to the Getty Villa in Malibu the next day. Upon returning home that evening I went to listen to Dick Beardsley speak about his marathon experience, his trials with accidents and his subsequent drug addition. He gives a very good presentation. I would recommend seeing him if he is in your area.

Saturday morning was yet another long run; the third of the four prescribed 20 milers. I ran in Huntington Beach, meeting up with the CA Cruisers. Margaret and I were again running partners. We were running consistently 9:50 pace up through 15 miles when Margaret began to lag and gave me permission to go on ahead. I maintained the 9:50 pace up through mile 18 and then fell to pieces. This has been my usual modus operandi on all these long runs. My pace for those last two miles was in the 12 minute range. Those miles were so slow that my overall pace for the run fell off to 10:21. I finished the 20 miles in 3:27:11.

I'm a bit bewildered by this whole thing. At mile 15, 16 and 17 I could tell I was on pace to complete the run in 3:20 (I can do simple math like 10 minute miles by x miles = y minutes). I hate to be a broken record but it is really hard to see how when I can't complete a long slow distance at a pace significantly lower than planned marathon pace that I will ever be able to run 26.2 at a faster pace. Also Dick Beardsley reminded me that the Austin Marathon has its fair share of hill. This training cycle has been completely devoid of hill training. With 5 weeks to go, I may swap some of those speed sessions for hill work. It should be an interesting little experiment in the hill country of Texas.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Running Lunch

Somewhere along the way I became that guy that doesn't like to run after work. I'm not into the chilly evening darkness. On the other side of the coin I'm definitely not the get up early and get my run in so I can get to work guy either. It's just easier to face the challenge of hitting the paces of this training program on a well marked course in the daylight when I can clearly see the markings. All the better than I can do it on the bike path rather than running circles around the track.

So for at least a month now I've been doing my 2 midweek runs at lunch time and I'm loving it. Up today was 3 x 1600. My goal was 7:20 to 7:50 pace. I was a bit worried about making it a whole mile at that pace. I notoriously run my first repeat too fast so today I worked really hard trying to stay near the 7:50 end of things. I managed that pretty well and let the chips fall where they may for the last two. The 3 miles came in at 7:40, 7:23 and 7:24; another decent effort in the books.

All told I ran 6.5 miles for the day and continuing my foray into barefoot running ran my last mile sans shoes in 11:36. It really is kind of fun to do.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Split Decision

Before Christmas I'd made plans to run with my old running buds, Brian and Celeste. I had 15 on the schedule so I'd run with them and then make up the difference either before or after.

As a nice coincidence the CA Cruisers had decided to run the Newport Back Bay loop which goes right by Brian's neighborhood. The grand plan came together. I would meet the Cruisers at 7 a.m. Run about 5 miles to Brian's 'hood, meet up with he and Celeste and run a few miles then continue on the loop for somewhere around 15 miles.

You know what they say about the best laid plans....well, I never heard my alarm so I over slept, waking up with only enough time to meet Brian and Celeste at 8:00 a.m. We had a great run, the three of us plus Brian's wife and 7 month old daughter. We ran out of the neighborhood and down Back Back Drive. The girls lead the way with Brian's wife pushing the baby jogger. Brian and I brought up the rear. It was a nice leisurely out and back 6 mile run. Back at Brian's house we stood around chatted and had fun watching their adorable daughter. We could have spent the whole morning, maybe even the day, being entertained by her.

I finally broke away with the intentions of completing my miles for the day. But I'd cooled down considerably and my wet shirt was making me feel even chillier. I had to drop some stuff off at my car and struggled with myself about whether to complete the miles or not. I was cold and tired and really wanted to just go home but I forced myself to get moving.

I ran the entire Back Bay Loop, 11 miles, in 1:50 for a nice 10:00 pace. Although this was still off from my planned pace of 9:19, it was far better than the paces I'd been keeping on some of my other long runs of late. It was a short "long run due to the warm up 6 miles with Brian and C0. but the pace was improved. I was glad I had fought off the desire to be warm and home.

Six weeks to race day!

Oh, I've fleshed out the 2011 race calendar a bit by signing up to run the Little Rock Marathon on March 6. I'd I forgotten that the CA Cruisers had chosen the Missoula Marathon as our group outing in July. I missed this one in 2010 and hope to run it this year, 1 day shy of my 50th birthday. I'm still searching for a decent airfare to be able to join Joe in April at the Illinois Marathon. Cleveland, Fargo and Deadwood my have to wait another year. But there's still the fall season I haven't even begun to consider yet.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A B-minus Run

Today called for the Mother of All Tempo Runs. Well, at least for the current training cycle. The plan called for the longest tempo run of the cycle - 10 miles. the pace called for was either planned marathon pace (9:09) or 10K + 40 seconds (8:41).

I was a bit intimidated by this workout but I was going to give it my best shot. I headed on over to the river trail during lunch (and yes I stayed late to make up for the extra long lunch break). Conditions were good - mostly cloudy skies, light breeze, 65 degrees. My goal was to stick to the marathon pace as much as possible. The run started off well enough but didn't end up so well. I'll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Mile 1 8:55
Mile 2 8:47
Mile 3 8:44
Mile 4 8:22
Mile 5 8:30
Mile 6 8:39
Mile 7 8:40
Mile 8 9:05
Mile 9 9:56
Mile 10 10:19

I realized early on that I was running too fast to make it the entire 10 miles. I even took some walk breaks along the way if I realized I was approaching a mile marker in less than the fastest pace of 8:41. By Mile 7 all momentum was lost. Mile 8 was respectable and almost on target, but those last two are just disgraceful. All told, my final total time was 1:30 so my average pace was a nice round 9:00/mile; right on target. I just needed to even things out a bit.

So for 8 good miles, albeit a bit too fast, I'm giving myself a B-.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Put a Bow on Another One

2010 is over. It wasn't such a bad year, running wise. 7 races, 1424 miles.

I ran 3 marathons, adding 2 states and a repeat performance in California.

First was the Los Angeles Marathon in March. It is my home town race so I feel I should really love this race, but I don't. The new course for 2010 was a great route for folks seeking a destination race. It takes in all the best "tourist" attractions of the area. The start at Dodger Stadium and finish at the Santa Monica Pier are great elements, but like a kid who lives across the street from Disneyland, the rest of the route is "stale" for this local. Been there, done that. Running it with bronchitis wasn't my wisest move either.

Second was the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota in October. Check off State #17. If I lived in the Twin Cities I would do this race annually. It certainly is "The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America." We had wonderful racing weather and although I missed my goal of 4:00 I enjoyed pretty much every step of this race and got to see some good friends while I was there.

Third was the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque, NM. I ran this only 2 weeks after Twin Cities joining three of my running friends on the 50 state quest. There was nothing memorable about this race but I'm glad to have checked off State #18. I'm grateful for the ability to be able to continue the countdown to "Fifty Down". At my current rate I expect to get there in 2023!

Besides the three marathons I also ran 3 half marathons - Surf City, Orange County and Los Angeles County Holiday Half. I was super pumped to set a PR unexpectedly at Surf City in 1:45:11. In stark contrast, I ran Orange County with a friend (at his pace) and set an all time personal worst of 2:42. It wasn't my race to worry about and it was satisfying to pull Brian through to the finish line. Most recently the LA Holiday Half took me through Bonelli, my favorite venue.

I rounded out the races with a single 5K, the first one in a long time. Although not a PR, I was happy with my 23:46 effort.

I ended December with 127.3 miles, a 60% improvement over November. The year came in at 1424 miles, which is just about my average mileage over the last 6 years. One nice milestone for 2010 is that I passed the 10K mile milestone, having now run 10,188.2 career miles since June 2003. One bad thing is my weight is up, 10 to 15 pounds, from my lowest weight in 2004 - something to definitely work on in 2011.

Plans for the year ahead are still very fuzzy at this point. The only thing that is currently scheduled is the Livestrong Austin Marathon (State #19) on February 20. Others I'm considering are: Little Rock Marathon - March 6, Illinois Marathon - April 30, Cleveland Marathon - May 15, Fargo Marathon - May 21, or the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon (South Dakota) - June 5 and then who knows about the fall and winter. I'd also like to throw in a bunch of local 5K's to work on my speed again in 2011.

Other highlights for 2010 were two trips to Europe for work allowing we to run in Germany, around Paris and London and in Switzerland. A 2-week mission trip to Zimbabwe was a great experience and I even got to run 4 miles with our host in Ruwa. Lisa and I took a land/sea cruise to Alaska with my parents in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary and I found time to get some mileage in Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage and Skagway. I missed being able to combine the trip with a marathon in Anchorage or Fairbanks by 2 weeks on either end of our trip.

I hope you all met or made progress on your running goals in 2010 and wish you all the best in 2011.