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...