Monday, December 31, 2007

Running Again

So, I have been back to running the past couple of weeks and it has generally felt pretty good, though I just can't seem to hold myself back enough.

Last weekend I went for what was supposed to be an easy 2 hour run. It started out easy enough, and I even took the uphills slow. But coming back I was feeling good and really blasted the downhills. And in doing so, I think I re-aggravated my left-ankle/Achilles injury and my left hamstring. Additionally, I think I just ran too much over the last two weeks as my right knee is bothering me a little - feels like runners knee.

I'm trying to ice the left ankle/Achilles and right knee, but have only been successful intermittently. Not doing much about the hamstring though, except light stretching and strength training. Hopefully, I can manage these without having to take any additional time off. My "plan" is to focus on running slow, and flat (as flat as possible considering I live in the mountains, and refuse to run on most of the roads around here as there are too many crappy drivers).

Though I am getting deja vu, since I recall that being my "plan" before I started back running two weeks ago - DOH!

I have been putting together a tentative race schedule for 2008, and hope to post that soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gettin Back to Running

I am really looking forward to getting back to running tomorrow. I have been taking it easy the past two weeks to give some nagging pains in my left leg a break. I guess if you call doing a couple hour-long elliptical workouts taking it easy than I have been taking it easy.

But no running, and I'm feeling pretty good. My plan is to run easy, and mostly flat stuff for a week or so and see how things feel. Hopefully I'll be feeling good, then I can get back to my regular trail running. I really want to ramp up my running and training this next year to prepare myself for longer distances, at least a 50 miler, as I would like to try to qualify to put my name in the Western States lottery for 2009. There is a track club that meets not far from my work - the Santa Cruz Track Club - and I'm thinking of joining so I can have a group to do some workouts with, and hopefully improve my form and do some speed work.

I also want to continue with the strength training I have been doing the last two weeks, as it really makes me feel good, and I know from past experience that it can help my running overall. I have focused on core strengthening and some light upper body work, but have also thrown in some leg work too. Since my left hamstring was giving me some problems I made sure to use light weight. And I'm thinking about getting a weight bench that will allow me to do leg work on a regular basis, with the hope that some regular, lightweight weight training for my legs will help condition my legs and prevent injury.

Tomorrow morning can't come soon enough! :D

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Science of Sport Blog

I ran across a fantastic blog titled The Science of Sport written by a couple of guys - Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D., and Ross Tucker, Ph.D. - who completed their Ph.D's at the Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit at the University of Cape Town - where Tim Noakes has been for over 25 years. You may recognize Professor Noakes name, as he is the author of The Lore of Running, a thick book on all things running. I haven't read it, but have leafed through it on many a trip to the bookstore, and covet it.

I have just started to sink my teeth into their work, and so far have found it very interesting and enlightening. Here is a snippet of what it's all about:

Our primary interests are running and cycling, and so we will focus predominantly on these two sports. We try to write articles on sports and sporting analysis that you cannot find anywhere else.

Our goal is to take sports news that you'll read in the sports pages and provide the second, third and fourth level of analysis. You saw the game or match, but we will explore the WHY? HOW? and WHAT? of performance.

I am currently reading a 5 part series on muscle cramps and electrolytes. While I haven't finished it, they don't necessarily prescribe to conventional wisdom on the subject. And I just found out they did another series on hydration/dehydration - both of these are topics I can't wait to read their opinions on, as I had major problems in my first ultramarathon due to dehydration and muscle cramps. At least that is what I think now, but who knows, they may blow a hole in my views if their research on it follows the general course of what I have read so far.

If you are interested in endurance sports, I highly recommend reading their blog. At a minimum it will give you some fodder to discuss/debate with your running friends.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nathan HPL #020 Hydration Vest

I recently started using the Nathan HPL #020 hydration vest. I received it as a birthday gift from my brother and his family. Here is a pic:

I am still getting used to the fit and feel, but so far I like it. It has easy access to the storage pockets up front which makes it easy to access food and other items. The fit can be adjusted pretty easily, and the bladder has a wide opening so you can fill it and clean it easily. You can also dump ice cubes in easily with the wide opening.

I do have a couple of suggestions to improve it, which I emailed to Nathan and just received a reply from them thanking me for my input. The guy who responded - Greg - even mentioned that one of the suggestions I had was already in the works. I like the fact that 1. someone got back to me, and 2. they are willing to listen to feedback from customers. That is good business.

So what are the issues I have with the vest, you ask? Here they are:

1. The bladder is not secured in any way inside the pack, and as such, has a tendency to bounce around a bit. This could be alleviated by sewing in some webbing loops with plastic pieces at the inside top that could be pushed through the holes at the top of the bladder to hold it up, thus preventing bounce.

2. Sew in some elastic in the middle of the side webbing to allow for a fit that is not quite so...confining. A little give, especially in the bottom tension straps, would make for a more comfortable fit - snug but not too tight and confining.

That's it. Really, the issues I have are pretty minor, but they really would improve the overall comfort of the vest. Even though, I am pleased with it and look forward to many miles of running with this thing strapped to me.

Running and Dissociation

The New York Times recently ran a great article on running and dissociation. I know I have used the technique at times, though mostly unconsciously.

According to the article, performance and endurance have at least as much, if not more, to do with the brain as it does the body. By "dissociating," or focusing on something other than what your are doing, you can override your brain's reluctance to push past pain and what you think your limits are.

Give the article a read, and on your next long run try it out and see for yourself. I know I am going to work on this technique more.

Rest, Recovery and Strength Training

I'm in rest and recovery mode right now, giving myself some time to recuperate from a few nagging injuries. This past summer, I rolled my left ankle a couple times and, while not painful enough to stop running, needs some time to rest. I also strained my left hamstring during the Big Sur Half Marathon, which had been more of a problem leading up to my first ultramarathon - PCTR's Woodside 50K on December 1st.

Leading up to Woodside I had to back off my running a bit, not an ideal situation leading up to ones' first ultra, but necessary if I wanted to run. I committed myself to taking at least two weeks off running after the race. So now, I'm a little over halfway through my self-imposed running hiatus.

It's not easy, but so far my hamstring feels pretty good. And so does my ankle. I really want to run, but a few more days will do me good in the long run and I feel it's worth it to complete the time off.

I have also taken this time to restart a strength training program I had been doing regularly during the summer and early fall, but had let fall by the wayside the last few months. I am very happy with that, because I feel that it helps me a lot in my running, especially the core strengthening aspect. The program is not too involved, and I do it at home. It involves only a little weight lifting, using only dumbbells and exercises like crunches, push-ups, and some balance exercises to help build the little muscles in the feet, legs and hips. I have so far skipped the balance exercises as I haven't wanted to push my legs, up until yesterday.

Yesterday, I went to a climbing gym in Santa Cruz as I just needed to do something else. I actually started out my workout on an elliptical trainer, and my left leg felt really good, so I ended up doing about an hour on it. That felt great - I got a good cardio workout in. Then I hit the weight room and did a variety of exercises, including some leg lifting. No problems or pain, which I am very happy about!! I finished off with about a half hour of climbing to get the upper body some work. Overall, I am really pleased with the whole workout, and I hope to continue doing that routine a couple times a month. Especially the elliptical, leg lifting and climbing routines. It will be good to mix it up, even when I'm back to running regularly.

I'm really itching to get back on the trails, running again. Only a few days left and I can get back to it. While difficult, I know the rest and recovery time will help my running in the future.

And, I have a race on my 2008 schedule: the Way Too Cool 50K on March 8th. My wife and I both got in and we are excited. This will be Lori's first ultramarathon, and unless I do a PCTR 50K between now and then (not likely, but I won't completely rule it out), it will be my second. I'm still trying to put together a race schedule for the rest of the year, as I want to do at least a 50 miler sometime to try to qualify for entry to Western States, and I would like to get a number of PCTR races planned too, as they have begun a race series for 2008 that would be fun to take part in. Hopefully, I'll get a good idea of what I want to do soon.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My First Ultramarathon – the PCTR Woodside 50K (actually, 49.6K, but who's really counting...besides me?!?)

A few words can sum up my first ultramarathon experience - mistakes, pain, and hard lessons learned. Pretty much in that order.

The day dawned cold - the coldest yet this fall. I woke early in order to get something to eat early enough to allow proper digestion. I snuck around quietly as my wife and her co-worker, visiting from out of town, had fallen asleep on the couch out in the living room. They had to work on a project that required a midnight - 4am shift, so they would not be joining me for the race. I was bummed about that, but completely understood. I wouldn't want to go to a race if I had to work those hours either. After grabbing some breakfast and a little coffee, I hit the road to pick up my brother and head to the race. Only one problem so far, but a problem I ignored: my morning tinkle was pretty dark. Seems I didn't hydrate well enough the day/evening before. No problem, I thought to myself, I'll be alright. It just means I won't have to pull over every 20 minutes like I have had to on some of my longer training runs.

Mike (my bro) and I got to Huddart Park early - the park wasn't open yet but a line of others had already formed. We waited a few minutes until the gates opened then followed the line down to the parking area. After parking, we stayed in my truck to keep warm and started getting our stuff ready. We made a quick trip to the bathroom, did a little stretching, and then headed up to the start area. Within a few minutes we were off.

We started out at a pretty good pace, and soon enough were headed up the long climb to the first aid station. After about a half hour or so I asked Mike if he had had any water. I drank a little, but still wasn't even thinking much about hydration as an issue. The climb wasn't too hard, and we maintained a good, though comfortable pace. It was cold and it felt good to maintain the pace to keep the body temp up. I was sweating a fair amount pretty early on, a clue that I managed overlook.

Huddart Park, in San Mateo County, is a beautiful park. I had never been there before, but living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I am familiar with the general look and feel - Redwood forest with tall trees and steep hillsides. Lots of little dry creek beds that can turn into raging torrents with a few good winter storms. Soft redwood duff underfoot makes the trails a real pleasure to run on. And the smell - there is nothing quite so pleasing as the earthy, rich, fecund smell of a Redwood forest.

We reached the first aid station (which was also the fourth), at the top of the first long climb, and blew right through it. We both had hydration packs, a little food, and Hammer Endurolytes electrolyte caps so no need to stop yet. On the way up, though, I had some odd feelings in the middle part of my abdomen, almost like a stitch, but across the entire mid section. I chalked it up to "clenching" the muscles, though thought it strange as I had never experienced this before. Again, another clue that I ignored, but turned out to be a precursor of things to come.

Between the first and second aid stations the trail flattened out mostly, with a few rolling sections. We maintained a pretty good pace and both felt good. The trail here ran just below Hwy. 35 - Skyline Blvd. - which runs along a ridge line between the San Francisco Bay area and the Pacific coast. This is another beautiful section of trail, mostly single track. The wind was a bit stronger here and at times really cut through. Good thing we were moving well, or else it would have been quite cold. Cloud cover had moved in up here, so sunlight, even if it could have penetrated the forest canopy, was non-existent.

We made the second aid station (which was also the third) in the top ten, and stopped to refill Mike's water bladder and get some food. We chatted with the volunteers for a few minutes, and a couple other runners passed through. No problem, we weren’t trying to hit any place goal, as this being our first ultramarathon we just wanted to enjoy ourselves and finish. Up to this point I had taken one electrolyte cap and had a little water, along with the food. I was feeling pretty good, though by now I was feeling a little something in a few areas in my legs. Areas I had never felt anything in before. Still, I didn't recognize these as warning signs.

The trail out of the second aid station was mostly downhill until the midpoint of the race, where there was a loop and then followed the same trail back to the second (now third) then fourth (initially the first) aid station. We were now in Wunderlich Park, and it has the same terrain as Huddart. It was here that I started to have issues that I would recognize as dehydration - an elevated heart rate on uphill sections that I shouldn't have struggled with. I had to slow down and walk. Still, I didn't drink enough water. I took an electrolyte cap, and had some water, but not enough. This would prove to be a big mistake that I would pay for big time later.

So we walked, and here and there ran. After a while, I told Mike to go ahead. He insisted on keeping together, and I appreciated that. But a little while later I insisted he go on ahead, as I was holding him back. I assured him I would be fine, and would be able to finish. Or, if I experienced a complete meltdown, would make the decision to drop. He went ahead.

It wasn't long before the trail started to flatten out again, and I was able to start a good shuffle/slow run. I ended up catching up to him at the next aid station as he stopped to get water and some food.

By this time I was having issues in my calves, thighs, neck, shoulders, mid-abdomen, and lower back. My lower back was quite painful, and upon reaching the third aid station I sat on the ground to stretch it some. Immediately my left calf cramped badly. Uh oh, not only was I dehydrated (I had only taken one leak so far, which is unheard of for me), my electrolytes were way off. I quickly got out an electrolyte capsule and took it, then got up, moved around, and had a couple pieces of potato with salt to help further remedy that situation. Unfortunately, I didn't hang around long and force myself to re-hydrate too.

After walking so much I was cold, and being in a fair amount of pain, I just wanted to get to the finish so I could get some warm clothes on and rest. The thought of dropping out had crossed my mind a few times, but I figured I could make it back faster if I continued on and finished. I told myself to just push through the pain and cold - you can do it!

Continuing on, my thoughts were pretty much focused on three things: pain, cold, and finish line. On the way to the final aid station I encountered a few other runners. As is typical of trail runners, we exchanged a few words of encouragement for each other. I love the trail/ultra running community for this. It is such a wonderful thing to know that others will support, encourage, and show genuine concern for you during a race.

I continued to alternate between walking (mostly) and shuffling – if it remotely resembled an uphill I was walking. I tried to drink water, and continued to take an electrolyte cap every so often. The water wasn't going down easy, as my stomach just wasn't feeling all that good and I didn't want to really push it and puke, as I felt that may exacerbate the dehydration issue. Another error in judgment.

I finally reached the last aid station and just pushed through. I did have to stop though, just after, to give myself a bit of a rest and try to stretch my back a little, which was still in a lot of pain.

The final stretch from the last aid station to the finish was mostly downhill, which under normal circumstances I would have blasted down. Not this time. Between my screaming back and my vastus medialis muscles (the muscles just above the knees on the front inside of the thigh), I just couldn't move faster than a shuffle at best, and was forced to walk a fair amount. Occasionally, I had to stop to rest. If I could have rolled myself down the rest of the way, I would have. Anything but walking/running seemed better at that point.

A few fellow runners stopped to check that I was alright and didn't need serious assistance – one even offered me his last vitamin “I” (Ibuprofen). I was again heartened by their courtesy and concern for a fellow runner. We all did a bit of yo-yo on the way down, as they were not in the best condition either, and we continually encouraged each other and checked in to make sure things were not deteriorating too much.

After what seemed an interminably long time, I finally heard the sounds of the assembled people at the finish line. I had made it. I crossed the finish to cheers, and fell to the ground happy to be done. I picked myself up as Mike came over, and we gave each hearty congratulations and a big hug. He had some struggles of his own, with his left knee giving him a fair amount of grief towards the end, but finished in 5:33:58! Incredible! I finished in 6:01:50.

We had done it - persevered through pain and other challenges to finish, and we were both happy and proud to have done so. It was a good day.

I quickly went down to my car to get some warm clothes, water and some Hammer Recoverite mix, to help with the recovery process (I have used this previously after long runs, and really feel it helps significantly with recovery). I hobbled back up to the finish area (of course, there had to be a little hill to climb from the parking area to the finish area!) to get a little food, though wasn’t very hungry. Mike and I talked with Sarah (of Pacific Coast Trail Runs) and a few other people for a little while, all of whom congratulated us on completing our first ultra. PCTR gives out a nice coaster for those who finish their first ultramarathon, so we picked those up along with the race t-shirts. I paid a little extra to get the Patagonia Capilene 1 race t-shirt, as they are really comfortable and make a great running shirt.

I learned some important lessons during this run. Some lessons that I obviously learned the hard, painful way. First of which was – I need to pay better attention to hydration. I thought I had a pretty good handle on how I need to hydrate, and have never experienced the issues I did during this race. The clues that I ignored were plain to see, but in my concern about stopping too often to pee, and overconfidence in my knowledge of my needs, I overlooked the other side of the issue - dehydration and the adverse effects that has on ones' body and performance. I also need to pay more attention to my electrolyte needs. This was my longest run ever, and while I have taken electrolyte capsules during many of my longer training runs (20 - 23 miles), I had never experienced cramping and didn't recognize many of the early symptoms.

I had hoped to finish in the low 5 hour range, and even thought that if I had a good day - maybe finish in under 5 hours. Obviously, the mistakes I made put those goals way out of reach. But I am wiser, and now have a much better understanding of what I need and how my body works. This knowledge will help me to be a better and smarter runner in the future - as long as I pay better attention and put into practice what I have learned (no guarantees there, but I can hope, can’t I???). I also learned that I can do the distance, and can push myself pretty far. Though I am no stranger to pushing myself, it has been some time since I had to deal with this level of adversity.

I feel I left a lot of time out on that course, and if I can take the knowledge gained through the pain and struggles of my first ultra into my next, I know I can improve.

My thanks and appreciation go out to: Sarah and Wendell of PCTR for all the work they did to put on this race - I had a great time even though I hurt like never before; the volunteers who offered encouragement and advice, and themselves persevered through wind and cold, always with a smile; and the many fellow runners who encouraged me, and offered assistance and showed concern for my well being. Thank you all for making this such a memorable experience.


Upon returning home, I expected to have to call my wife to come help me out of my truck and inside the house. But when I got home, my back wasn't sore, and I was able to get out of my car and my legs actually felt pretty good! By evening, most of the pain was gone, and only a little residual soreness was left - truly a sign that my problems were due to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes. And the next day (Sunday), I actually felt well enough that I could have gone for a run, if I hadn't put myself under a self-imposed moratorium on running for a few weeks in December to allow for recovery of some long-nagging issues.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Running Lingo and Definitions

I just ran across a couple of running lingo definition pages that I thought I would pass along to anyone who may be interested in knowing the meaning of running terms such as "fartlek", or "LSD", or even the hallowed "bonk" (though I'm sure we all know what that one means ;-) ).

Check em out, and enjoy!

Running Terminology
Tahoe Mountain Milers Running Club - Running Terms

Monday, November 26, 2007

Night Running and Headlamps

Since there just isn't as much daylight after work these days, I have had to carry some light with me if I run after work. I haven't done any serious night running yet, but plan to as I intend to run distances long enough to require it.

I have had a couple different headlamps, and currently have one by Black Diamond. I found out the "dark" way a month or so ago that it just wasn't going to cut it for night running. Night hiking, slow and steady, it works fine. Camping and all that requires, it works fine. But it was apparent that first time running in the dark that I needed something brighter.

Reading a discussion somewhere online about night running and headlamps, I first heard of the Brunton L3 Headlamp. This thing has a 3 watt LED bulb, 3 brightness settings, and throws a beam out about 200 feet! One description of it went something like this: "While running a race at night, people ahead of me turned off their lights as mine was bright enough to light up the way for them."

HFS! That sounds like exactly what I need, and I have to have this thing. So, I got it. And it rocks.

I have done a couple evening runs where I need a light for the last half-hour to 45 minutes. And no doubt this thing can throw out some light. I went out hiking with a friend recently, where we hiked for an hour or so in the dark, and he turned off his headlamp as mine easily lit up the trail for both of us - on the medium setting!

It is powered in two separate ways: either by 4 AA batteries held in two compartments attached to the headband; or by 4 C batteries that are held in a compartment with a long cord, that can be attached to a belt or stashed in some kind of pack. Both options are a little on the heavy side, but in my opinion the light factor out"weighs" the weight factor.

Here are the problems I can see with it so far: I get tunnel vision without some other light source, the lamp portion should be detachable from the headband, and I wish there was a top strap along with the standard around-the-head strap.

Getting tunnel vision is a problem with head lamps, and it seems to me it's magnified when traveling at higher speeds. So this is not a problem with the Brunton as much as it is with headlamps in general. I think I may try to wear it around my waist, somehow. I have read a few accounts of how this type of configuration can help a lot with not only reducing tunnel vision, but seeing much more "depth" to the trail so things you can trip easily over are much more recognizable. I'm not entirely sure of how I am going to do it, I am still considering that. This does, though, bring me to my next issue: the lamp portion should be detachable from the headband.

Unfortunately, Brunton did not consider the possibility of someone wanting to remove the whole lamp portion and use it in a different way from what they had intended, so they did not allow for its' removal. This is unfortunate for me, as it will necessitate either cutting the headband, or dealing with the headband in whatever configuration I come up with. If they had designed the lamp portion in a similar fashion to the AA battery compartments, it would stay on the headband just fine and allow for removal.

I can't understand why there is no top strap on the L3. With the weight of the two AA compartments that are attached to the headband a top strap would assist in keeping it in a stable position on the head. Even with the C battery compartment attachment, the top strap would be hardly noticeable. I think this may be something I could try to add, if I don't end up cutting the headband to convert it to a waist lamp.

Overall, I love the Brunton L3. My friend was quite impressed with it, and that is something as he is a gearhead too, and we have been hanging out since we were kids so truly impressing one another is a rare thing. The problems I have with it are minor, in comparison to the light this thing provides for night running on trails. Check it out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Big Sur Half Marathon

"Oh crap," my wife's friend said, "check out the intersection!" I looked over the top of the car to see a roadblock getting blown across the intersection. We all looked at each other and quickly agreed that this race would be a tough one if this wind persisted. I was with my wife and a workmate of hers outside our car on a street in Monterey.

Me, my brother, and Lori at the Big Sur Half Marathon, 2007 Me, my brother, and Lori hanging out after the race.

We were there for the Big Sur Half Marathon. My brother, wife and I had run this together last year. I hadn't had the running mojo last year, and my wife had been working some insane hours and just couldn't get much time to devote to running and as a result hadn't really looked forward to it. We did alright, but my brother had been doing some running and was really looking forward to it, as it was his first race - and he really liked it. And right after he wanted to sign up for this year, so we did. This year the race happened to be on his birthday, so matter what it would be great to spend the day with him and run a race in a beautiful place!

This year my brother and a friend of his stayed in Monterey Saturday night, so they could hit the expo and not have to drive back and forth from Sunnyvale. Lori and I drove down Saturday afternoon to pick up our race packets, meet my bro and his friend at the expo, then had dinner with them in Monterey before heading back home. Lori and I split a pizza - our fave toppings being pepperoni, pineapple, and jalepeno! Love the spicy stuff. :-)

Sunday morning we met her friend in Scotts Valley and drove to Monterey. I could tell it was a bit windy while driving, and the skies looked a bit dark as the forecast called for a good possibility of rain Sunday morning. Our thoughts of good times were quickly being reevaluated.

The race starts at the intersection of Del Monte and Tyler Streets in downtown Monterey and ends at the Custom House plaza in downtown Monterey. While called the Big Sur Half Marathon, this run really has nothing to do with Big Sur except for it is put on by the same folks that do the Big Sur Marathon in the spring, as far as I can tell. Oh well, guess it sounds better than the " Monterey to Pacific Grove and Back Half Marathon," or the "Tour of Really Expensive Housing of the Monterey Peninsula Area Half Marathon."

The mandatory stop at a bathroom for the three of us ate up most of our pre-race time and a warm-up was pretty much "sent" down the drain, so to speak. Oh well, that's what the first mile is for, I told myself. I wished Lori and her friend luck, and hopped the gate into my "corral" start area. A couple minutes later, we were off and on our way. My strategy was to not go out too fast and just see how things were going for the first mile or so and then determine if I could pick things up to go for my ultimate goal of a sub 1:30 time. I felt pretty good starting out, and at the first mile I was at...6:50!

"Uhh ohh," I thought, "I've gone out too fast and I'm gonna die later on!" I had definately felt like I was warming up that first mile, but hadn't felt like I was struggling at all. My breathing was good, I was feeling stronger, and my legs were getting warm and loose. I settled into that pace and after a few more miles the crowd thinned out and at one of the mile markers one of the volunteers called out "1:28 finish." I knew it was still early, but still, I was pleased I was on a good pace early on. Maybe I could keep it up long enough to counter a late-race slow down. I was still feeling pretty good, though, and didn't have a problem keeping the pace.

Fortunately, the wind wasn't the issue it seemed it was going to be. It did blow a bit, and for a short distance I had to really put my head down and push a little to maintain pace. No rain, too. Overall, the weather turned out to be quite nice. The course is really nice too. Especially once it gets out on the coast in the Pacific Grove area. The Pacific Ocean in the Monterey Peninsula area is really beautiful, no matter the weather. Having the opportunity to run this area is quite a treat, and it's not an uncommon sight to see runners taking in the scenery during the race.

Soon, runners going the opposite direction let me know the turn around wasn't too far off. I always like seeing the front runners, as they are fun to watch and cheer on. Some are so focused they don't even register awareness of anything but the road. Others will acknowledge you and pump their fist or something like that. Not far after the turn, I saw my bro. He was looking good and we exchanged a high-five. A few minutes later I thought I saw his friend but I wasn't sure. Turned out it was. A little later I picked out Lori and her friend running together. I couldn't believe I saw everyone I knew there! Could it be that the stars were aligning?!?

I was still feeling pretty good at the turnaround, but was starting to feel something in the top part of my left leg - the back and front. I had felt something like this before, but not both the front and back at the same time. Within two miles I wasn't sure if my left leg was going to seize up on me or not. It felt...trippy. Not sure quite how to describe it, but it didn't slow me down, apparently. At mile 10 or 11, a volunteer called out "88 minute finish." I was still on track! I couldn't believe it!

At that point, I pretty much figured I could do it no matter what - barring a complete breakdown. Fortunately, my leg started to feel less trippy. While I didn't feel like I could kick out a fast sprint, I could maintain the pace I had been on for the entire race. Down the last couple miles I did manage to pass a couple of people, and was passed by one guy who was just smokin it. He passed me handily, and I didn't have anything but encouragement to offer in return, as there was no way I was going to match his pace at that point. I'll have to work on saving a little more for a final sprint. :-)

Running down the last mile there were quite a few spectators cheering on all the runners. I pushed it all the way to the end, and was elated to see my finish time of 1:28:24! Not only a PR, but I hit my "stretch goal" for the race - under 1:30! I came in 85th out of 3,594, and 6th in my age group (40 - 44)! WOOHOO!!! I am very happy with my race. Even better, everyone I knew at the race achieved their goals too.

I hung around the finish corral for my brother, and he came in a few minutes later. He beat his time goal, besting his time from last year by 7 - 8 minutes! Next his friend came in and he beat his time goal, too! We met a few other of my brother's friends and they all ran well. After getting some food, my brother and I went to see if we could see Lori cross the finish line. She wasn't too sure about her ultimate goal, as things had conspired against her in the previous couple weeks and she didn't run a lot, but she was sure she would set a PR nonetheless. We missed her at the finish line, but that was a good thing, it turned out. Seems she was feeling pretty good, and running really strong Sunday. She beat her ultimate goal - by 2 seconds! She wanted to run better than 2 hours, and came in at 1:59:58. She still gets a chuckle out of the two seconds. I still get a big smile that she beat her goal.

Breakfast of Champions!

We hung around for awhile, had a celebratory beer or two (can't remember the last time I had a beer before 10 am), watched the awards presentation, then headed home. It was a fun day and great to see everyone I know achieve their race goals. And spend the day with my bro on his birthday. Yes, a great day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rock Climbing

I went rock climbing the other night and it was a lot of fun and a good workout to boot! I went to a place called Pacific Edge in Santa Cruz, which is an indoor rock climbing gym. While not quite the same as climbing a real rock, indoor rock climbing offers a wide range of climbing experiences from very challenging to beginner.

Pacific Edge itself offers bouldering, top-rope wall and lead wall climbs, with plenty of overhangs and a few cracks to round out the climbing. They also offer a weight room, cardio equipment, and yoga classes. You can take climbing classes as well. If you are in the Santa Cruz, California area and are looking for a fun way to get a workout in, try them. You will have fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I recently ordered a pair of gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters. I love these things. No more detritus in my shoes! I got the "hottie" pattern and it goes well with my yellow Mizuno shoes which, by the way, I have warmed to and quite like now. I hope I can get another pair the same color.

Hard to see them, but they are there.

These things are really easy to set up, just attach a piece of velcro (included) on the back of each shoe you plan to wear them with - Xi, the proprietor of DGG, includes enough for a few pair of shoes. Slip them on before your shoes, clip the lace holder to the front of your shoe laces and the velcro on the gaiter to your shoe. It's that simple and you won't even know they are there. Except for when you take your shoes off and there are no rocks or sticks!

Do your self a favor if you run or hike on trails...get a pair of these things.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Trail Running "Emergency"

So, I recently had my first trail running "emergency." Nothing serious, mind you, but an emergency nonetheless.

It was last week. I was trying to get in a couple hours after work, and before heading over to a high school football game that the son of one of my work mates was playing in. I work about 5 minutes from the Forest of Nicene Marks, of which I have written of before, so it's pretty easy for me to get in a nice run there after work (or before, if I could get my lazy butt out of bed early enough). I figured I could easily run up a trail an hour or so and then come back, do a quick change, and not be too late for the game.

Everything started out great. I was feeling good, running well and enjoying the forest scenery. We have had a little rain lately here in the Santa Cruz area so the Redwood forests are wet and beautiful. The particular route I took starts on a fire road, but after a short time I took a turn on single track. I'm cruising uphill, everything going well though after about 30 minutes I feel like maybe I need to get rid of some water instead of just taking it in - not unusual for me as I have highly efficient kidneys (at least that is how I like to think of it). I pull off the trail to relieve myself but quickly realize this could turn into a multi-event situation. No problem, just knock everything back, I think, and finish the run. Then relief can be had without problem.

Well, while I told myself this it seems as though some parts didn't get the memo. A few minutes later the first cramps start - you know those ones that practically double you over. It's basically your GI system saying "HEY, we're here and just want to remind you in case you had forgotten!" At this point, maybe 35 - 40 minutes in, I'm just hoping to get to 45 minutes and then turn around. There's an outhouse near a picnic area a little over halfway back to my truck, I tell myself. I can make it there and take care of business.

I turn around at 42 minutes.

At about 45 minutes - I know this because I'm really taking a hard look at my watch, by this point, to realistically estimate my time situation here - I have to stop to walk, as whatever is going on won't let me run. More watch checking and time calculating. I start to run again. I stop running to walk again. I start running again, only off trail behind some trees.

Explosiveness followed. Though I did make it to as suitable an area as can be hoped for given the circumstances. Fortunately it was late afternoon on a weekday and pretty much no one was on the trail.

Now maybe most of you carry TP with you on runs. I don't. Have never needed it on a run. Until now. I do keep it with me while on fishing trips. And hiking trips. And hunting trips. Basically anytime I'm going to be away from my vehicle for more than a couple hours as I have needed it many a time. Except for running. That is going to change.

High up in a Redwood forest, there is an amazing lack of broadleaf plants or trees. Down by the creeks there can be quite a few. But higher up on the hills there are none. At least where I was. Thank god for the fern. The ancient fern. I have found that the tips of a few sword ferns, doubled over, can, in an emergency, provide enough "coverage" to clean things up just enough to not embarrass oneself getting back to your vehicle. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly not ideal and not as squeezable as Charmin. But it's much better than nothing, and those consequences.

I felt fine after, got rid of the problem right then. I continued back, though, eager to finish the "cleansing" process at the nearest outhouse, which I made in pretty good time (all downhill) :-)

I did make it to the football game. Unfortunately my work mate's son had already played. And it seems the coach of his team is having some troubles cycling kids through the games on a regular basis so I didn't get to see him play. They won, I make it home and everyone lived happily ever after. Or something like that.

Sorry if I offended anyone with this post. It is a part of running, though. And this is a blog about running. Even if you haven't yet (yes, YET!) experienced this aspect of running, I'm sure you know stories. Well, as least now you do.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Good Runs

Fall is here, though you wouldn't necessarily know it by the last couple weekends around Northern California. Beautiful weather - crisp mornings warming to comfortable afternoons and clear skies. Both Lori and I ran in a couple of Pacific Coast Trail Run runs the last two weekends. Angel Island on Saturday, September 29th, and Carmel Valley today - October 7th.

Lori had been battling a cold for a little over a week up until yesterday, and didn't run her planned race last weekend at Angel Island. She still ran a good 8k and felt alright. Today, she ran the 8k at Carmel and was feeling good and was pleased with her time.

I had not planned on running either of these races, but changed my plans, stayed in town and joined Lori for both. The Angel Island run was a great day. The weather could not have been better, and the 25k course had us doing three loops around the island, each progressively higher with the final loop ending at the summit. Lori and I had to leave early for the drive to Tiburon, but it went by quickly with no traffic, and crossing the Golden Gate bridge in the early morning is nice, especially with the incredibly clear air. You could see everything!

Once at the ferry station in Tiburon (one of the cool features of this run is having to take the ferry over to Angel Island) we got our bib numbers and milled around with everyone else waiting to catch a ride over the the island. Everyone pitched in and helped load the race gear and supplies onto, and off the ferry and over to the start area. Within a few minutes, Wendell had the 25k and 50k runners up to the line for instructions.

After a short level section, the trail took a sharp turn up. After a short distance a section of stairs replaced the trail. After the stairs the course wound along a paved road, through old, abandoned buildings left over from Angel Island's era as an immigration station (I believe). I ended up running next to a nice guy and we started to chat about all kinds of things, lots about the fantastic views (did I mention how clear the air was???) and we ended up running nearly the entire race within a few yards of each other. On the first loop, we actually missed a turn as we both were staring out at the view of San Francisco. Fortunately, a few other runners behind us alerted us to our mishap, and we quickly corrected our mistake.

The race really flew by, and before I knew it, we were at the summit - with yet another fantastic view of the entire San Francisco Bay - and only a downhill to go to the end. Ken, the guy I was running with, picked up the pace and we really attacked the remaining trails. I must say that it was fantastic to have run with him, as it really taught me that I can be a lot more aggressive than I have been in training. We crossed the line a few seconds apart. I posted a cool 2:09:04 for 6th place (results)! I couldn't believe it. Top ten!

After, Ken and I talked for a few minutes, congratulating each other on a great run and enjoying the beautiful day. Lori met me, and we hung out at the finish area for a while before catching the ferry back to Tiburon. An afternoon in San Francisco topped off the day, and what a great day it was.

The Carmel Valley run today was another gorgeous day. A bit on the chilly side at the start, it warmed up nicely. I ran the 25k again, taking Lori's spot in the 17k and upgrading to the 25 late last week. Actually, Lori was not going to run, but had been feeling sick all week and since I was staying in town instead of going hunting and camping, I took her spot. She actually did race day registration and did the 8k since she was feeling better.

Since I had run well the week before at Angel Island, I was looking forward to how this run would end up. While the distance is the same, the nature of the course is quite a bit different. Carmel Valley has twice the elevation (just over 4k), and that elevation is MUCH steeper! As in really steep. To the point that quite a few sections were not runnable. At least by me. I did see one woman running a a pretty good section of it (I think she was wearing a Wonder Woman suit, but not sure as she flew by me on the uphill). I had worked out some rough times based on last years 33k times so Lori would know an approximate time to expect me.

The smile on Wendell's face told me what I wanted to know about the hills on this course. He had a devilish smirk when referencing the "real fun" that begins for the 25k and 50k runners after the first aid station. The smirk understated what lay ahead. The uphill I mentioned above that I didn't run...that was the smirk. It was ridiculous steep. And went on for a while. A few sections had to be at least a 50 degree slope and probably more. I'm still awed by "Wonder Woman" running up it. Damn. That is some serious fitness.

The downhill was equally steep, and certainly required control and quads to keep from taking a tumble. This run was definitely going to introduce me to any and all little used muscles in my legs, butt, abdomen and some other areas of my body. I felt this run a lot more than Angel Island, and on the last big uphill was passed by one person running the 50k, and one running the 25k. Dammit man. Within a mile-and-a-half and I get passed. The elevation had taken its' toll, and I couldn't keep up.

My time was 2:37:11. Good for 4th place (I think, I didn't want to bother the time keeper too much so I only took a quick look at the time sheet)! I am very happy with this. I still can't believe it. I had actually beat my best case time prediction by a few minutes. Turns out the 25k person who passed me near the end was the women's first place winner. She looked really strong there at the end and picked up her pace to the finish, as did the guy who was running the 50k. Really cool to see.

All-in-all, I am ecstatic about the past two races and learned a lot from them. I have some good things to focus on in training, and both Lori and I really like the race scene with Pacific Coast Trail Runs - lots of really nice people and well organized "races."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Exercise and Weight Loss

New York Magazine has an article titled The Scientist and the Stairmaster (by Gary Taubes) which pokes holes in the belief that exercise effects weight loss. The premise of the article is that exercise has been overhyped as a weight loss tool, and no definitive evidence exists to support the assertion that it does. While this may be true - that exercise alone will not make you lose weight - I think it overlooks other contributions exercise makes to weight loss.

It seems as no one thing will make you lose weight. Just as no one thing will make you happy. A good diet should be the foundation of a weight loss program. The key word there is program. And maintaining weight loss will require maintaining the program. Cut calorie intake, increase the burning of calories, and weight loss will ensue. A study cited by the author finds that...

"...the dozen best-constructed experimental trials that addressed weight maintenance—that is, successful dieters who were trying to keep off the pounds they had shed—they found that everyone regains weight. And depending on the type of trial, exercise would either decrease the rate of that gain (by 3.2 ounces per month) or increase its rate (by 1.8 ounces). As the [study authors] themselves concluded, with characteristic understatement, the relationship between exercise and weight is “more complex” than they might otherwise have imagined."

Not surprising. People are "more complex" than most studies can give them credit for.

It seems that much of the article relies heavily on this statement: "The one thing that might be said about exercise with certainty is that it tends to make us hungry. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. Burn more calories and the odds are very good that we’ll consume more as well."

True. It makes me more hungry. But what about the differences exercise makes to physiology? Aren't there changes to the body that exercise causes? Other reading I have done point to an increase in metabolism and changes in body composition from more fatty tissue to more lean muscle mass which requires more fuel - even at rest.

Late in the article is this passage:

"Ultimately, the relationship between physical activity and fatness comes down to the question of cause and effect. Is Lance Armstrong excessively lean because he burns off a few thousand calories a day cycling, or is he driven to expend that energy because his body is constitutionally set against storing calories as fat? If his fat tissue is resistant to accumulating calories, his body has little choice but to burn them as quickly as possible: what Rony and his contemporaries called the “activity impulse”—a physiological drive, not a conscious one. His body is telling him to get on his bike and ride, not his mind. Those of us who run to fat would have the opposite problem. Our fat tissue wants to store calories, leaving our muscles with a relative dearth of energy to burn. It’s not willpower we lack, but fuel."

While I agree that we are "programmed" a certain way, I think this particular view overlooks the possibility of re-programming the body. This really is what training is all about. If you do certain things in training, you can improve your endurance, speed, and the distance you are able to run. If you don't do certain things in training, would you expect to be able to run faster? Further?

If you don't exercise, you can't train your body to utilize certain energy stored in your body. If you exercise certain ways, you train your body to utilize different types of fuel. There is a great book, Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich, which really delves into the physiology of running and endurance. It really is a fascinating book and very much worth a read. Or re-read.

Mr. Taubes points to aspects of diet that have a greater effect on weight loss - cutting candy, beer, soda, chips (all the stuff I used to eat in much higher quantities). I agree here too. And I think that diet does have a much more drastic affect on weight loss - it is easier to avoid eating 500 calories than it is to burn off 500 calories.

But how many people really maintain weight loss without exercise? I can't say that my weight would be where it's at without the running I do. At the same time, as is pointed out in the article, I did not get where I am at with exercise alone. I made significant changes to my diet and maintain those changes now. Mainly because it's much more healthy and allows me to do the things I want to do better.

He also says exercise can, and should, be done for other health benefits. Just not alone for the purpose of weight loss. It's an interesting read. Give it a read.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Runnin Again

Sing to the tune of "Singing in the Rain:"

I'm RUNNING in the rain
Just RUNNING in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
To be RUNNING again...

That's what I was singing all day last Saturday. After nearly two weeks of no running due to being sick, I finally got out to this past week (Wednesday and Saturday, with a little weight workout on Thursday - I'm not overdoing it at all...), but my run on Saturday afternoon was in the rain. Partly.

It didn't rain the whole time, but the forest was wet and dripping the whole time. I love the smell of redwood forest during a rain storm. It has an earthy, fecund smell that is very pleasing and refreshing. Especially to run in. Even more so if you haven't run for two weeks. Just in case you weren't aware, being sick really sucks.

Fall Creek was the location, part of Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. As expected, the creek didn't even get a touch of color. The ground just sucked the rain up. I saw a few deer, just off the trail maybe 20 feet. With the ground being wet they couldn't hear me coming up until the last minute. Pretty cool. I stopped for a moment to watch them bound away downhill. They are beautiful animals.

I also got out for a run with my wife Lori and our dog Maggie Sunday evening. It was really nice to run with Lori, as we usually don't run together. We also brought our medically challenged dog out for a trot, and she did great. She has had some issues with her left back leg, having a few surgeries on it the past year. But she has been getting stronger and playing a lot and she had no problems on our run. And no soreness, as far as I can tell, today!

I did see the season's first banana slug on our run Sunday. I almost mistook it for a leaf and nearly stepped on it. Banana slugs are really cool creatures, and the mascot for my alma mater - UC Santa Cruz. I have been on runs where I have seen 10 or so in an hour. Of course, I didn't have a camera to record the moment. Maybe next time. Don't everyone get too excited. ;-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

PCTR's Big Basin Trail Run Report

I didn't run this one, as I have a cold that just won't give up. Damn thing has parked itself in my upper respiratory system, and I have this annoying, persistent cough. I haven't run for over a week because of it!

Though I didn't run the race, I was there to support Lori, who ran the 15k. This was Lori's first trail race, and definitely the biggest elevation gain for a run she has done, race or not. Here is a short report.

We got to the race area in plenty of time, and everything was well organized, as seems to be the case for the PCTR races that we have been to. Lori got her bib, and I let them know I wasn't running. The weather was perfect for a run, with fog hanging over the park keeping things cool, but not cold. The weather the last few days in the Santa Cruz mountains has been stellar - warm days and nights that get crisp. Classic late-summer, early-fall weather.

I kept an eye out for my friend Doug, who was signed up for the 15k too. I was also hoping to have a chance to meet another local trail runner and blogger - Addy. Alas, I was not to see either.

While waiting around the check-in area, I saw a woman with one of the Nathan hydration packs on. I have wanted to check one of these out, but have yet to find them in a store locally. After hemming and hawing for a few moments (I can be shy about going up to people I don't know) I approached her to ask her a few questions about the pack and how she liked it. She was very nice and even let me try it on. Though small for me, I did get a general idea of how if felt, and I definitely want to check them out further. Turns out the woman was none other than local runner and blogger Miki. Thanks, Miki for letting me try your Nathan hydration vest on. Miki had some bad feelings about this race, as past races here didn't treat her well. Unfortunately for Miki, those bad feelings were prescient as she turned her ankle early in the race and had to DNF.

After the start I went for a short hike up the trail the 15k, 25k, and 50k runners took. I wish I had fresh batteries for my camera, as there were a couple places that would have been good to get some photos of runners coming back through. After a while, I meandered over to the aid station between loops to cheer runners on and help direct runners the right way. It wasn't long before the reports stared coming in - yellowjacket or bee stings were a problem. A big problem. Some runners said they had been stung 15 - 20 times! A number of runners dropped right then, said they had been stung too many times and felt bad. Those of us around the aid station tried to encourage runners coming through, and let them know there were no reports of problems on the 10k course, but no one can blame anyone who had to endure the trail of stings for not wanting to repeat that experience.

Lori came through, and finished around 2:17 or so - a really good time and she was happy with the whole thing. She didn't get stung around the areas where most of the problems occurred, but did get stung while going up the cable area near Berry Creek Falls. And, even better, she isn't as sore as she expected, considering the elevation gain.

She is really lovin trail running, something we are both happy about as we can do a little running together from time-to-time. She is even signed up for the PCTR Carmel Valley 17k already! And trying to get me to sign up for the 50k. Not sure I'll take the bait on that one, though. It's got nearly 9,000' of climbing. And I don't know if I want to kill my legs on my first ultra. I'll think about it some more. ;-)

Monday, September 10, 2007

California Coastal Trail

I just learned of this trail the other day while browsing some books. I saw two guidebooks covering the California Coastal Trail - and figured some digging was in order.

Here is a snippet from the website:

The California Coastal Trail (CCT) is a network of public trails for walkers, bikers, equestrians, wheelchair riders and others along the entire California coastline. It is currently more than half complete. Coastwalk is a volunteer organization that advocates for completion of the Trail.

I wish them well. I think trail systems are great ideas, as they can offer a great place for people to get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. The more trails the better, I say.

It also looks like a great candidate for a long trek-like run/adventure. Not saying I'm in the planning phase, as 1,200 miles is a little out of my league currently. I still need to finish my first ultra, for heaven's sake! I'm just saying that it could be a good challenge for anyone inclined to do that sort of thing. It could also help raise awareness of the whole project - get some attention directed towards the effort, knowwhatimean?!?

Aarrrgghhh!!! Down time...

The last 3 weeks have been frustrating for me running-wise. I have gotten sick twice, one nasty headache, and lots of other stuff to get in the way of regular running. Right now, I have the second bug - a nice little sore throat that has scuttled any plans for a regular running week this week.

I haven't been sick in about a year-and-a-half. And now, within 3 weeks, I get sick twice. What the hell is this all about. It's not like I have been hanging with a bunch of germ-infested kids, or running around nekkid in sub-freezing weather. Just going about normal day-to-day stuff and all-of-a-sudden WHAM-O, I just won the sickie lottery. And I didn't even buy a ticket.

I have gotten in only 6 runs over the last three weeks. I typically run 4-5 days a week depending on long runs and other stuff. And I'm running my first ultra this Sunday - Pacific Coast Trail Runs' Boulder Creek 50k. I was hoping to get some good runs in this week to prepare, and get back on a normal running schedule. Well, not this week - hopefully I can get at least one more run in later on.

On the plus side, the few runs I did manage over the past three weeks have been fairly good ones. I ran Fall Creek again, and again set a new PR for the big loop course I run there. And, my run/hike up in the Trinity Alps was really nice. It turned out to be a great weekend to camp, though it was a little hot during the days; the evenings around the campfire just couldn't be beat for all-around comfort - t-shirt weather until 10pm! I did one run while up there, to the Upper and Lower Canyon Creek Lakes.

That was a fun run/hike. I didn't time it, and to the best I have been able to guess, it was somewhere between 16 - 18 miles. Not sure what the elevation profile looks like - I'll have to get the map program out later to see if I can figure that out. It's times like these that I really wish I could find my GPS receiver. It would be great to be able to have the route and elevation data from it for running.

I took my time going up, stopping a few times to take a few pics, check out some areas along the trail (I had ulterior motives for being up in the area, mainly scouting for possible future hunting and fishing trips). While there are some nice areas for fishing, I think it's a little to popular with hikers to be good or safe for hunting.

Here is a shot of me at Lower Canyon Creek Lake:

There are lots of good trails up in this area of California. If you like to camp, fish, hike, backpack, hunt, or mountain bike - you may want to pay a visit to the Trinity Alps or the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. I love that whole area and have done a lot of camping there over the years. And in case you needed additional motivation, it is home to Big Foot! From the looks of the plaster cast of Bigfoot's footprint, it seems as though Bigfoot is a proponent of barefoot running. Hmmmm...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Big Basin 50K

I've gone and done it now - actually signed-up for the PCTR Big Basin 50K run. This will be my first ultramarathon, and I am really looking forward to it. Even though I have not trained for this specifically, I'm not concerned about doing the distance. I just want to make sure I don't injure anything! To that end, I will have to try to take it easy and not jump off to a fast start.

My running over the last few months has really been going well. Taking a more relaxed attitude and giving myself time off when my body asks for it really seems to be helping. My ankle injury has more-or-less healed, and the only thing that seems to be giving me grief is my knee, and so far that has been manageable.

It's also great to be able to feel the change in fitness level, and see it as I run certain trails. Two days ago I ran a trail in the Fall Creek section of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It's about an 8 1/2 mile loop with decent elevation gain. I knocked about 5 minutes off my previous best time for that trail! I was quite pleased with that.

So this weekend I'm going camping up in the Trinity Alps area. I'm planning on getting some nice trail runs in on the trails in the wilderness area. Should be a great time to be up there and hopefully the area I'm planning to be in won't be too crowded. I'll take a few pics for my trip report next week.

Have a great holiday weekend all, happy running, and don't forget the working folks that this holiday is all about.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Western States documentary

I recently bought the documentary on the Western States Endurance Run - A Race for the Soul. It was produced by KVIE Public Television. It is pretty cool. I already have Western States as a long-term goal, so seeing this just confirms my desire to attempt it. Even though I have yet to run an ultra, it doesn't hurt to have a long-term goal to keep you motivated. So, I'm willing to check out just about anything remotely related to Western States.

If you haven't seen this, it really gives a pretty good look at what the race is about (at least from my inexperienced point-of-view). Good interviews with a wide range of people involved from volunteers to support crew to racers - from front runners to back-of-packers. The 2 DVD set includes a disk of footage from various aid stations, the river crossing, and the finish line. The only knock I have on it is the music is corny. But that is small potatoes in the grand scheme.

If you are looking for something to provide a little entertainment and motivation, take a look at A Race for the Soul. And if you have any tips on stuff related to WS, even remotely, let me know. I need my fix, man!

New shoes

So, I ordered a new pair of my favorite trail shoes - Mizuno's Wave Ascend 2 - and get a call from the store to inform me that they are out of my size. Completely. Not just them, but the manufacturer too! Not too surprising given the color they decided to go with.

Now, I love these shoes. And I am willing to wear this color because they are so comfortable to me. While they will not do the job in the winter around here - they just don't have any weather protection - I love how light they are and what great feel they have. It's almost like they are a part of my feet.

For me, a good, comfortable pair of shoes is worth the money. Or a terrible color. What the hell were they thinking? According to the running shoe store employee, the manufacturer's rep said that Mizuno was trying to "be different" and really "stand out". At the expense of business? With total loss of good judgment?!?

The reason the manufacturer is out is because buyer response to the color was so bad, they decided to halt production and wait until they do a run of new colors for next year. They won't be available until January. I can't wait until then. My current pair will be done in a few weeks. I have yet to find a pair of winter shoes that fit well enough. I have found one that feels pretty good - the Vasque Blur with Gore Tex - but not willing to commit yet until I try on some others.

So, I ended up finding a pair online and ordering them. I really didn't want to, as I prefer to support local businesses as much as possible, but I needed a pair of shoes. Sorry local business. I know your pain. I worked in specialty retail for quite a few years and hated losing business to other online stores. But it happens. And people need what they need (or want what they want - whatever). If you see a guy running around in the Santa Cruz area with a dirty pair of yellow shoes, say hi. It'll probably be me. I'm sure I'll be one of the few fools with a pair, as it seems. Guess that makes me "different" and someone who will "stand out." Whoopee. At least they're comfortable. That's all I care about.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lots o' Activity

This last weekend was a good one for my running. Actually, it was a good weekend for physical activity. I like those kind of weekends.

It started Saturday morning with a big pile of wood in the backyard that has been calling out to me for the past month or so. Since the house we rent has no central air, furnace, or insulation to speak of we get most of our heat in the winter from the wood burning stove in the living room, and a couple small space heaters for times when we are too lazy to start a fire. For the past two winters, we have rounded up our own wood by scanning Craigslist for people trying to get rid of downed trees, asking people in our area who have downed trees on their property if we can relieve them of some of it, and also through wood cutting permits on National Forest land.

Back to the woodpile. So, we have all this wood in the backyard, mostly in sections that have to be cut in half before chopping, which means getting the chainsaw out. Now, I don't mind using a chainsaw, in fact at times I really enjoy it. But I prefer splitting and chopping. It is way more enjoyable, and a lot less loud. It is good, hard work but rewarding - I like to call it "productive destruction!"

Unfortunately, the chains for my chainsaw are dull and that makes that part of the process a bit harder. I got through a fair amount though, and before I completely trashed my arms with the chainsaw I put it down and took a little break. A snack and some water got me a nice second surge, and off to chopping I went. I quartered all the rounds I created with the saw, and called it a good session. I'm not sure how long I spent, but my arms and shoulders were definitely feeling it. Here are the results:

After a nice relaxing afternoon, Lori and I headed down to the train tracks by the San Lorenzo River for a run. We got in about an hour and fifteen minutes - nothing spectacular on this one, except my overall plan. I have been thinking about this for awhile, and after reading Addy's post about her recent weekend of running in Marin and Berkeley, I decided I wanted to get in a two day fairly long run combo in myself. I really think I'm going to be doing the 50k run at PCTR's Big Basin run in the middle of September (there I've said it - I guess it's official now :-)) - which will be my first ultra - and thought it would be good for me to put more miles on the legs over a weekend.

So Saturday afternoon went like a charm. The run I do along the train tracks is fairly flat - probably no more than 300 feet of elevation gain and about 9 miles give or take a little.

Sunday morning was back to Nisene Marks for my current favorite trail run - the Aptos Creek Fire Road to the West Ridge Trail. This time, though, when I came back down to the Aptos Creek Fire Road, I went back up to the trailhead for the Aptos Creek Trail, which added almost 4.5 miles round-trip. Total mileage for the run was about 22.5 which is my longest since I ran my first and only marathon about 10 years ago. I ran a pretty good pace, too, finishing in 3:24. I am very happy with the weekend plan, as I was definitely tired, but my legs recovered quickly. I did have a repeat of this new pain in my right knee, but I really think it is more an overuse issue now. It goes away after a day or so, especially if I ice it and wear my neoprene knee brace/wrap during the day.

My biggest concern now in doing the 50k next month is really about whether I'm pushing too far too fast. Injuries are a drag, and so far I have been pretty good about not overdoing it (something I have done a few times in the past). I don't really have any question about doing the distance, I just want to make sure I can run the next week.

Speaking of which, I haven't had a chance to run this week. Due to work issues, not running/injury issues. Tomorrow...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nisene Marks

Last Saturday, after a week of no running due to sickness, my wife and I were able to get out for a nice long run at our new favorite place for long runs - The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. It really is a cool place, offering a fair amount of both flat and hilly running - with elevations up to 2,600'! It also offers plenty of trails which allow for runs of 20+ miles. It really felt great to get back out and hit the trail after nothing for 5 days. Being sick really sucks.

The loop I've been doing lately is a little over 18 miles, and climbs roughly 2,500'. A couple of weeks earlier I ran this general route, but tried to take a different trail which would have added some distance, but ended up having to turn around as a section of the trail had been lost to a landslide and it was impossible to go around - up or down. Most of the climbing is within the first 7 or so miles, and then the trail follows along a ridgeline for awhile before dropping back down. At a few places the trail offers some great views of the Aptos/Capitola area of the Monterey Bay as long as it's not foggy. Here is the view:

Kinda hard to see, but the middle stretch of blue is the bay, and right on the edge of it and the green is where Aptos and Capitola are. I really need to get a new camera.

A great couple of mile stretch follows this where the trail winds through some great redwood forest - mostly second growth - and I just love the feel and smell of it. The ground is soft with redwood duff, ferns are scattered here and there, particularly close to anything resembling a regular water source, and there is often a fecund smell that pervades the forest - really any redwood forest - that is intoxicating. Especially in the wetter months. Even living in it I don't tire of the smell, feel, and look of a redwood forest. It really is magnificent.

Back to this past Saturday: I had a cool experience as I made my way up the fire road to the top and the lookout point where the pic above was taken. After rounding a bend, I caught sight of a couple of guys on mountain bikes ahead. Not thinking much of it I just continued with my climb, in my own little world. In a few minutes I realized I was catching up to them, and after two more bends in the road I began a long straight stretch. I kicked it up a little and by the end of the straight stretch I passed them! Now, they certainly weren't in "Tour de France" shape, and were definitely older than me (and I'm no spring chicken) but still, I'll take my little victories where I can get em! ;-)

The really great thing about the run didn't have anything to do with my run, though. It was Lori's (my wife) run. She had struggled for a few months with an ankle injury earlier this year, got back to running a month or so ago and ran a great race at the Wharf-to-Wharf (see my post on it here). She is also getting into trail running as a result of her injury and rehab, and it is great to have her along, even if we don't run much together. Well, after a long business trip and a week of being sick, she ran more than 15 miles in about 2:45 including walk breaks!!! That is the longest she has run at one time, and the longest time she has run! She really rocks and I am so proud of her and happy for her. She was sore for a day or so, but felt pretty good and can't wait to get back this next weekend.

Me too.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

New place for my musings on running

I thought it would be better to create a separate space for my running stuff, and keep the other one (blog, that is. see - if you want something to put you to sleep) for my general purpose rants and raves. This way I won't bore everybody with stuff they really don't want to read about. Like first blog posts such as this.

I first started running while in the military, but didn't like the formal aspect of running in formation, at someone else's pace, all while chanting lame call-and-response ditties about some girl on a hill and her sister. I really started running about 10 years ago, though it has been somewhat off-and-on. There have been a few stretches of minimal to no running in that time. My early running was mostly road running, and I ran the inaugural Silicon Valley Marathon in 1997. I did a fair amount of my marathon training on trails, mostly the trails at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. I have also run the Dipsea a couple times - and what a fun run that is.

As I mentioned earlier, my running has had its ups and downs. Injuries have given me some grief, mostly a problem with one of my knees that recently I had checked out and told was most likely a tight Illiotibial Band. I am happy to say that after doing a little research and incorporating some new stretches, I haven't had much of a problem with it. Now, I have a really good running mojo going, and am really gearing up to start running ultramarathons.

Trail running is, for me, really relaxing and challenging at the same time. I love being outside and have always enjoyed hiking, watching wildlife, hearing the sound of running water or wind rushing through the trees. As a kid, I loved to rock hop along and through rivers, and there is an element of that in running trails, as opposed to road running where the surface is quite predictable. I like picking my way through rocks and roots, under fallen trees, and over - or sometimes through - streams. The mental alertness trail running requires is a big draw, and one of the reasons I so enjoy it.

Well, that is all for my intro. I'm sure I will have much more to say and share, and hope all who come to this place will take the opportunity to say hi and share their own thoughts. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you out on the trails...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back to Running (Hooray!)

I am re-posting a few blog posts from another blog that I recently deleted, but wanted to save the running related posts. I'll post them over the next week or so, starting with the earliest. This one was originally written in July, 2007:

I started running again - with much motivation - almost exclusively on trails, and love it. I am fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of trails and I have been making good use of them. This time around, I have been running with a much keener eye to avoiding injury, though it didn't take long for me to roll an ankle. While it hasn't stopped me from running, it has made me slow down and modify my stride and foot strike somewhat.

I ran a trail race last month. It was the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Run, put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs. I ran the 21K race - they offered a 10K, 21K, 29K and 50K. A fun race, and I finished in about 2:18. Not too bad for my first foray back into trail racing (I have done the Dipsea twice, but about 10 years ago). This Sunday I am running the Wharf-to-Wharf 10K. This is a fun road race that starts at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and ends up at the Capitola Wharf. I'm going to really push myself and see if I can break 40 minutes. No biggie if I don't, but it will be fun (???) to try.

Lori (my wife) and I also went to Hawaii last month for a family reunion. We spent almost a week on Maui and had a great time with relatives on my dad's side of the family. It was great to catch up with a few cousins and their kids and see my aunt and uncle as well. Good times were had by all. I even got in a nice trail run on an old trail from the Lahina side of Maui up and over a hill to another area, I think it is called the Lahina Pali trail. The distance was a little over 10 miles and pretty good elevation gain.