Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Honolulu Marathon Survivor - 3:19:19

Last Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005, I participated in an act of massive group madness, and ran 26.2 miles along the roads of the lush tropical cities of Honolulu and Waikiki, accompanied by about 28,000 24,643 runners (28,048 registered) and thousands more walkers. How often can you leave your hotel room at 3:00am and as you ride down the elevator from the 17th floor, the elevator stops at every floor and runners board and crowd in! I was on a shuttle bus about 8 minutes later and was walking across the field near the starting line at 3:26am. There was plenty of time to get ready and take in the scene and do final preparations for the 5am start time. It seemed to take forever! At about 4:40am or so, a police escort worked its way from the back of the crowds to the front, parting the sea of people so that a long line of wheelchair racers could get through. The racing models looked like they belonged in the future -- very aerodynamic with one little steering wheel in the front and large carbon fiber drive wheels in the back, slanted inwards. They reminded me of Star Wars land speeders in Return of the Jedi. The crowd cheered as they worked their way down the middle of the wide avenue.

5am finally arrives. Bang! The gun is fired, the fireworks shoot off into the night sky in sync, and the rows and waves of runners start peeling away from the sardine pack. About 1 minute and just 100 feet later I crossed the starting line and started my stopwatch. In spite of the signs suggesting that everyone in this section was running the marathon between 2 hours and 3 hours, I swerved around: a blind woman runner being led by her companion, dozens of walkers, and many joggers. My goal time for the first mile was 7min 30s and it took me 8:16. Oops! I seemed to easily gain back the time and I tried to focus on running each mile at the desired pace, starting off more slowly and building up steam for the 2nd half of the marathon. My breathing was easy, I felt good.

I had not drank anything since about 2:30am so I was actually getting thirsty by the start of the race. I drank a full glass of water, probably 8oz, at the first aid station. It felt good. There was no sports drink available. At the 2nd aid station, I looked again for sports drink because I wanted to make sure I had enough salts and calories, but again there was no sports drink.

Mile 5 came along and I was approaching the hotels where Jennifer and I were staying and where my parents were staying. I thought I heard someone call out "Ron" behind me, but I didn't see who it was. I was disappointed not to see anyone, but the race had only just begun practically. There was a long way to go.

Mile 8 began the hill around Diamond Head Peak. Pshaw! Easy! The 124' of climb seemed gentle and was nothing compared to the hills that I train on in Montara. No problem. I hardly slowed down at all. And on the downhill side, my legs felt like wound-up springs and without any effort at all, I seemed to pick up a lot of speed and pass people even more quickly than I had been. Every mile marker I noted my time and added 7:20 to 7:10 to it, making that my goal for the next mile. My plan was to start more slowly and to increase my pace during the race. Sometimes I would forget the exact goal time and a few times I somehow missed a mile marker. Several times I found myself running a mile faster than intended but since I lost time on the first mile, I didn't mind too much and I felt very strong. At about mile 9 my right knee started feeling "weird", like there was some swelling and a bit of stiffness and soreness. It didn't seem to affect my running, though. At the half-way point, I still felt great, my breathing was smooth and easy, I had eaten my first Cliff Bar, and I found myself thinking, "this marathon running business is pretty good and is so far easier than running a shorter race because I was consciously slowing myself down and my breathing was like I was in a training run." Well, the good times didn't last forever.

Somewhere shortly after the half-way mark I saw the first-place wheelchair racer coming in the opposite direction, on this long section where the course double-backs on itself. This guy was amazing and was moving at a moderate bicycle speed, 15mph maybe? Then I saw more wheelchair racers. Each wheelchair rider had an entourage of two or more bicyclists, all with flashing lights. 10 or 15 minutes later I saw the first runner. He was shorter than I had imagined and of course he was extremely thin. My thought was that his running didn't actually look that much different from those like myself who were running two minutes a mile slower. His cadence was very similar, he looked very efficient and fluid, but he was taking longer strides. But it all added up to him being one of the world's very best marathon runners. I saw his #1 bib and so I knew he was Jimmy Muindi. Far behind him, 2 or 3 minutes at least, followed another group of Kenyan runners. Then the very fastest male Japanese runners. Then the first female -- I clapped for her. I didn't recognize her from my studies of past marathons. Then I recognized the fast Russian woman, Lyubov Morgunova, who won this last year and a short while later the very fast Japanese female runner, Eri Hayakawa, who was a complete unknown and who had won the Honolulu Marathon a few years ago.

Around this large park we go and then I'm headed back to the finish line and I can see all of the people behind me. The crowds were getting bigger and bigger behind me whereas in my group, we were still just a trickle, relatively. More runners were developing problems and stopping and walking. I saw one of the elite runners who had dropped out, #7, who had removed one of his shoes and had apparently injured that foot. I passed mile #16 and I thought, "ok, just one moderate Sunday run away now. I do 10 miles all the time."

I was feeling strong and ate my second Cliff Bar. I thought, "hey, I think I can really achieve my goal and qualify for the Boston Marathon! Maybe even by a good margin!" But I still had a long ways to go -- about 8 miles. Then rather suddenly, I felt a twinge in one calf muscle followed by the other. Then within seconds it seemed, my calf muscles started cramping and freezing. My brisk pace drastically shut down. "Oh, no! No no no no no NO!" Not enough salt? But what else could I do at this point? I've been drinking nothing but sports drink since about mile 6 and had eaten two Cliff Bars (500 calories!). I thought of my running friend, George, and his salt tablets and how he had cramps during a 50 mile race.

Mile 20. I had 45 minutes remaining for my goal time of 3:10:00 and had to run 10K (6.21 miles). This is only a bit longer than my Tuesday and Thursay morning runs with my Pacifica Group. On a fresh pair of legs this would be extremely easy and feel like a training run. (My best 10K time is 37 minutes.) Yet I could not get my calves to work so my stride had turned into a painful shuffle. I tried running differently by swinging my hips more and that seemed to help somewhat. Mile 21 came. It had taken me almost exactly 9 minutes. My goal was shot. I had nothing left to do but to shuffle on in and to try to not make a bad situation worse. The hill at mile 24 didn't feel hardly any different than the flat section -- it was a very gradual climb. On the downhill, the supposed last dash to the finish, where I would normally easily pick up speed and cruise down, I had nothing. It was painful and slow and I shuffled down the hill. I was getting regularly passed by other runners for the first time in the race. I passed a few poor souls who were struggling even more than me and who were also dealing with cramps, it seemed. The sun was out in full force and the heat was ratcheting up noticeably. Fortunately, I was in the shade most of the time for the last couple of miles and the sponges of ice cold water at the aid stations were fabulous.

The home stretch, the final miles, yards, and steps, were finally here. The crowds of onlookers and well-wishers and cheering volunteers increased dramatically as I entered the park that had the finish line. I tried to pick up my speed a bit to put in a good show and a good finish. BAM! My left hamstring froze in a wonderfully powerful painful yet funny spasmatic attack. OK, that was a bad idea. Hey, I'm right in front of the last aid station, might as well get a drink. I gulped a full cup of sports drink and started running again. OK, my calves are still fried but my hamstring is OK again. I probably picked up the pace to about 8 min / mile. I'll try to put in a good show and good finish. I saw my dad taking pictures. Yay. And then my mom. And she pointed across the street where Jennifer and Claire were and Jennifer had the video camera. Thank you, everyone! I started feeling powerful emotions and almost came to tears. I thought of my running friend Vicky and her recent emotional finish of the San Francisco Nike Women's Marathon. I waved to the cheering crowds and pumped my fists a few times. I picked up the pace some more and had a good strong finish and I heard my name and # being announced, "Ron Little from Montara, California". Oh what a beautiful sight that finish line was, lined with cheering people on both sides. What a feeling, what a terrific challenge that was overcome. Congratulations to all who finished that day.

I need to give a huge thanks to Jennifer and to my parents for their encouragement and support.

Post-Race Thoughts & Results
It's now Tuesday late morning. We got back Monday night at around midnight. My calves are rather tight and sore, but frequent stretching helps. My right knee was sore from after the race and all day yesterday but I haven't felt any pain or discomfort this morning, so I'm happy about that. The results,bib #5052:

Ronald P. Little II #5052
of Montara CA USA

10K: 00:44:51
Half Marathon: 01:35:15
30K: 02:15:19
Gun Time: 03:19:41
Finish Time: 03:19:19
Place Overall: 357
Place Men: 311
Place Men 30-34: 57

Update: The Honolulu Advertiser printed my name in Monday's paper in their Mainland Top 200 list. I'm #25! Woot!

Next time, I'll try carrying some salty pretzels or salt tablets, and making sure I get some more salt the day before. I'd like to give this marathon another try next year. It was truly a great vacation spot and being surrounded by so many runners was encouraging and fostered a sense of camaraderie.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pt Reyes Half-Marathon, 3rd Place

I ran the Pt Reyes half-marathon today, put on by the Redwood Trails Company. The weather was perfect -- clear and cool. The course consists of 0.6 miles on the sandy beach, followed by a wide trail that we do two times out and back, and then 0.6 miles on the beach back to where we started. Picturesque views, 4 aid stations, and lots of friendly competition make for a good race. I ran this same race a year ago, barely coming in 4th place overall (of 63) with a time of 1:41:40. I was hoping to do better this year!

I left my house at 6:50am and was parked by about 8:20. It turned out that so many people arrived late, apparently misjudging how long it would take to drive about 28 miles on curvy roads plus walking a half-mile to the starting line, that the organizer started a second round of half-marathoners 14 minutes after the first round. A guy recognized me from last Saturday's race and we chit-chatted about strategies for this race. I didn't recognize anyone. Looking around, there seemed to be two guys who were likely to be very strong runners. My competition!

9am comes and off we go! I angled out towards the water where the sand is much firmer although the entire beach was firmer than average due to the rains last night. One of the two guys I thought would be a strong runner started even faster. He did not look like he should be running that fast! He had bleached hair, was listening to his portable music with an earpiece in both ears, and had a lot of upper body strength. Yet there he was, blazing ahead. I didn't want to keep up with him; I was sure he would burn out.

Also, I remembered from last year how much strength the sand sapped from my legs and how important it was not to start too fast. I still probably started too fast. I was starting to feel soreness in my feet and calves after about the first mile. Yikes! My breathing was fine, though, and I adopted what I hoped was a reasonable pace, trying to take it easy.

The first turn-around came and I was probably 20 seconds behind the leader. The other runner that I identified at the beginning was about 30 seconds behind me. He asked, "where do we turn around?" I gestured behind me and blurted "aid station"; racing and talking don't mix! I kept what I thought was an even pace and I started to catch up to J.D., the bleached-hair jock. I joked as I slowly passed him, "don't laugh if you pass me later". He laughed and said he was hurting. I believed him!

Time goes on, I'm in first place. My stomach or side or both seem unsettled. I wondered if I ate too much that morning (Cliff Bar, 250 calories, medium banana, coffee, and sports drink). I was having trouble breathing as much as I wanted. I still had plenty of strength and seemed to be consistently moving. After the second turn-around, I heard the rapid beating of footsteps and heard someone get right up behind me. I didn't have to turn around to realize it was J.D. What the hell was he doing? Did he just do a sprint about 1/3rd the way through a half-marathon? Yes, he did. I kept what I thought was a steady pace and I pulled away from him. As the course goes back on itself I saw that Adam, the young (23 years old I found out at the end) strong lean looking runner was not far behind me and J.D. I kept up the pace. Turning around again at the other end of the trail, I saw that J.D. and Adam were very close; they had gained ground on me. Not a good sign as I did not feel like I had anything in reserve. I thought 3rd place was going to be my destiny. Everyone else was so much farther behind us, that I didn't think I was in any danger of falling to 4th. I was breathing very hard and rapidly now. I was still ahead at the last turn-around, but J.D. and Adam were now very close. Around mile 11, Adam passed me with a strong pace. I just could not catch my breath and get enough oxygen. I felt like my legs had plenty of strength left if I could only get them the oxygen they needed! J.D. caught up to me, seemingly with another sprint. He passed me but then slowed down to my pace. On a short stint of downhill, I felt I had the strength to pass him again and in hindsight that was probably a mistake. I should have drafted off of him, for whatever that's worth, and got my breathing under control. But after passing him, my lungs seemed to be shutting down again and I slowly slowed down. J.D. soon passed me. We turned off the trail back on to the sandy beach. 0.6 miles to go and I could not find any energy reserves. I could not sprint. I could not breathe deep or rapidly, only slow short shallow breaths. J.D. seemed to be looking back over his shoulder every 5 seconds at me, but he was safe. It was all I could do to keep moving and coast on in, about 17 seconds behind J.D. and another 45 seconds behind Adam.

Although of course I would have liked to have won, I was actually pleased with how I did. I'd like to figure out how to avoid the breathing problems and my only regret was not getting my breathing under control earlier even if it meant slowing down earlier. My theory is that it is harder for the breathing to be restored than it is for the leg muscles to regain strength. Still, I was happy with the race and my time, especially considering 1.2 miles is on the sandy beach. My time was 1:30:18 which was good enough for 3rd place overall out of about 60 runners. I beat my previous time, from a year ago, by 11 minutes and 22 seconds.

The three of us introduced ourselves and congratulated each other on a good race. J.D. was a triathlete who runs in Iron Man triathlons where the running portion alone is a full marathon (26.2 miles). Adam had recently graduated from U.C. Davis and had been in some kind of organized running club (he was wearing their club shirt) although I'm not sure it was officially associated with the school. Anyway, they were both accomplished runners, and nice guys, too. J.D.'s mother also ran the half-marathon. Inspiring! Adam's parents were there, too, and jogged a few miles along the course.

Was a good day. Thanks, Jennifer, for watching Claire.

UPDATE: The results are in. Although I was told that there were 60 people who paid to enter the half-marathon, only 40 actually showed up (on time, anyway) and finished. I was 3rd place with a time of 1:30:18 and a pace of 6:53 per mile.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Huddart Park Half-Marathon - 3rd Place

The deer were grazing, the sun was shining, and the trails were soft and welcoming. What an excellent race in Huddart Park, well organized as usual by the Redwood Trails Company.

The route along the trails of this pretty park in the city of Woodside effectively formed one large hill. We trudged uphill for just over 4 miles at the beginning, climbing almost exactly 1500 ft, but then we were rewarded with mostly level ground and a nice long downhill towards the finish line.

About 60 of us in the half-marathon race lined up at 9am and off we went! I was in a front pack of 5 people pretty quickly. The guy setting the pace was probably going too fast for his own good and he started gradually slowing down and we passed him when we could on the single-track trail. The amazing runner, Kevin, from the Pumpkin Run 10K was in front of me, quickly eating up the steep uphill switchbacks. He was soon out of sight and I was in 4th place at around mile 3 with the guy behind me slowly falling back until the first aid station. As a reward for quickly climbing 1500 ft, and out of a disdain for littering, I completely stopped at the unmanned aid station for a liesurely 5 or 6 second break, gulping down a whole cup of sports drink. I suddenly felt great again, taking off on the now mostly level trail. But then a strange thing happened, my left foot started to fall asleep! How can a foot fall asleep while running? I figured it must have been a combination of the shoe laces being slightly too tight while continuously climbing that steep hill. I wiggled my toes to keep it awake and I thought about stopping to fix the problem but then after a short segment on the asphalt road, the foot woke up completely and didn't cause any more problems. Weird! So now I was feeling strong and fast and cruising along easily. But then I started getting cramps in my chest around the sternum, presumably from so much heavy breathing. I tried to vary my breathing which helped a bit. Then I started getting a cramp in my right side which surprised me since I never got cramps in my side any more, either during training or races. Sigh. The course had turned back on itself by now and it was a nice distraction facing the oncoming runners. Everybody congratulated each other "good job" and gave each other encouragement. Finally I was getting into some real downhill and I opened up my stride, covering the ground quickly. I started feeling good again and my side ache disappeared. Somewhere around mile 8 I caught sight of Kevin again and I was surprised. Here's the guy who ran 5 minutes 58 seconds a mile in that 10K, beating me soundly! Yet I was quickly catching him on the downhill. After a 20 seconds or so of riding his heels there was a good opportunity to pass him after a short bridge and he stepped to the side and congratulated me. I quickly resumed the fast downhill pace but I was getting plenty fatigued, unable to quite catch my breath, on the flat sections and brief uphills. I made a mistake of looking at my watch one time and it read 1:12:00. One hour, 12 minutes into the run, I was feeling tired, and I had probably 35 to 40 minutes remaining. Disheartening. At mile 12, I would have been quite happy to stop! But I kept on going, slowing down a bit, I'm sure. Finally I got to the wide open sunny area where we had started and I tried to put in a good finish but I was in no shape to sprint. I was worried that Kevin would have caught up to me and could sprint past me to the end. I heard some familiar cheers and was happy to see that Jennifer and Claire had made it, in addition to my friend Tamara from Santa Cruz being there (she ran the 5 mile race today). I did a little wave (Jennifer said she didn't notice and thought I hadn't seen them!) but I was in no condition to really smile or do anything else except run the last couple tenths of a mile to the finish. (See photo above.) Whew!

Was a good tough run and I was happy with how I did. My time was about 1:36:17 with a pace of 7 minutes 21 seconds a mile on average which I feel good about considering the size of that initial climb and the inherent limitations of trail running. Thank you, Jennifer, for watching Claire so I could do this!

UPDATE: The results are in. I was 3rd place of 63 runners. My official time was 1:36:17.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Pumpkin Run 10 km

I was very happy with the race this morning in the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Run 10K. I decided to start celebrating Halloween early by donning a green fluorescent rock 'n roll wig. I didn't get any pictures of this, but it's wild and definitely stands out. I told people I hoped to distract my competition. I knew it would slow me down somewhat but it's only 10 km (6.21 miles) and I wanted to have fun with it. To compensate, I wore my lightest weight racing shoes which feel about as heavy as wool socks -- I believe each shoe weighs about 4 ounces while still providing good support and cushioning.

So, I was out the door at 7am with friends Cathy and Tamara (who stayed with us the night before) and we drove over together. I met my running friends George Miller, Julie Mell, and Peggy Ruse there. Caroline couldn't make it at the last moment -- sick. I warmed up a bit, chatted a bit, and got plenty of looks and positive comments on the wig. I had worked on building a fence for some friends for about 5 hours on Saturday and it involved a lot of hard work with a pick axe and shovel, so my upper body and back were noticeably sore. My legs felt good though and I had rested the last couple of days otherwise, only running a few miles on Saturday morning.

At 8am, the very short kids race began and then ended about 12 minutes later. Cute! Then the 10K race started at 8:15am. One tall powerful guy took off and was the obvious uncontensted winner within seconds. The rest of us settled in. I was in 6th place or so, out of about 200 I think. (They had a 5K "fun run" start at the same time, so it's a little hard to know how many were in the 10K.) I was impressed that an older guy, in his 50s, passed me around mile 1 and went on to pass a couple of others. I tried to "take it easy", knowing my inclination towards running the beginnings too quickly. At mile 3 I checked my watch -- 18:06. Oh, boy. Kind of fast. Only a week earlier did I run the fastest 3 miles in my life in exactly 18 minutes. But on the other hand, I was almost halfway through the race. I could feel some burning and fatigue so I increased my breathing, inhaling in one step and exhaling on the next step. (Called 1:1 breathing.) Typically, when running steady my breathing cadence is 2:2-- two steps on inhale and two steps on exhale. I think this helped me feed oxygen to my legs and I "kept it all together".

This is a flat course that consists of a run through a residential area towards the coastal trail, then north along the trail to a turn-around point that doubles back on the trail and then takes a shortcut back to the elementary school where the race started. So, while running back on the coastal trail after the turn-around point, the runners get to face each other as they're going in opposite directions. I enjoyed the distraction as dozens of people said things like "nice hair", "cool hair", "I like your hair", and "you're 1st place of the green haired runners". Funny! Before I knew it, there was less than a mile to go. I was slowly getting closer to the guy in front of me, but he knew I was behind him thanks to all of the comments plus I was breathing rather heavily, too! With about a half mile to go, I decided to let my heart rate shoot to the moon and pour on the speed and go for broke. I was in 7th place. My competitor picked up the pace in response but then seemed to lose heart and slowed down suddenly. I kept up the sprint and finished in 37 minutes and 37 seconds, give or take a couple of seconds. My average pace was about 6 minutes 3 seconds a mile which I'm thrilled about not only because of the speed but because of the consistency.

The organizers gave awards for the 1st and 2nd place finishers overall, male and female, plus 1st and 2nd in each age bracket. Being in the male 30 to 39 age bracket and 6th place overall, I didn't win any award, but I did get a t-shirt and 2 small pumpkins and a great feeling. Woot!

Our friend Tamara crossed the finish line without giving them her bib stub. I told her she should so that her time can be recorded and she reluctantly did so. Then during the award ceremonies, she realized that she was first place in her age group! Her time was 46 minutes, I believe. Julie Mell was the 4th place woman and her achilles tendon still hurt from our 19 mile run almost 2 weeks ago. Cathy had a 5 minute bathroom break during the race and still did a couple minutes better than her 6 mile (not 6.21 mile) race in Santa Cruz a shortwhile ago. Funny! Peggy did it slow and easy and was happy to be there. George Miller, having completed a 50 mile (yes, 50 mile) race yesterday in about 11 and half hours was in good spirits and was just volunteering to help the race out.

Claire slept in and Jennifer didn't make it to the race this time. I watched Claire for most of the afternoon and evening. Was a good day.
UPDATE: The results have been posted. There were 202 runners who finished the race and my official time was 37 minutes 35 seconds.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Good Training Runs

I've had so many good training runs lately, I thought I should post a little update on my progress. I set a personal record for mileage in a week last week, running 64.85 miles from Monday through Sunday. I've been ratcheting-up the miles. My weekly totals read:
8/21/05 35.42
8/28/05 39.39
9/4/05 46.28
9/11/05 37.11 (half-marathon race)
9/18/05 53.80
9/25/05 61.40
10/1/05 42.82 (business trip)
10/9/05 64.85
Additionally, I've completed my longest training runs -- 22.46 miles (3:06:05 hrs min sec), 21.78 miles (3:07:31), and 19 miles (3:30:00). The times vary a great deal according to how much I am running with others versus by myself. I did a 14.05 mile run yesterday by myself, trying to "take it easy", but did it in 1:44:20 which I realized afterwards was a pace nearly identical to my first half-marathon race, but over tougher terrain and longer! So that's encouraging that my training pace is quite close to my race pace from a year ago! Finally, today I ran 3.11 miles at a pace of nearly exactly 6 minutes a mile which is the fastest I've ever covered that distance in my life, including cross-country in high school, and I ran that relatively fast 14 miles yesterday! Very encouraging.

Upcoming Goal Paces
Pumpkin Run 10 km, flat cool coastal course: 6 minutes 20 seconds a mile.
Honolulu Marathon: 7 minutes 15 seconds a mile.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pillar Point Half Marathon

Yesterday morning, Sunday, Sept. 11, I ran in the Pillar Point Half Marathon, a charity race put on by the Coastside Infant/Toddler Center. One year ago, this was the first race that I ran since I started running again in June, 2004. So I was looking forward to this as a gauge of my progress over the last year.

It was a cool overcast morning, ideal for running. There was some confusion about where to pick up our racing bibs (the #s that we pin to our shirts) and also some confusion as to where the race began. The active.com website was correct but the Coastside Infant/Toddler Center website was out of date and had the wrong starting location. Fortunately, I got to the race plenty early (about 7:15am for the 8am start time) and the two locations weren't more than a mile apart.

Five other runners from my running club were there, which was nice. (Dale is missing from the group shot above.) Julie and Dale are my long-distance running partners and Caroline ran in the race a year ago and was one of the founding members of our club. Finally, Juliana was running one last time in the Bay Area before moving to near Santa Barbara yesterday.

I met a young guy, Jimmy, from Los Angeles who drove the 400+ miles here just for our little race because his marathon training schedule called for running a half-marathon this weekend. Talk about dedication! He said he's been running for only 5 months and has really gotten into it. Also, that he forgot to bring his running shoes with him! He bought a new pair and I spoke with him after the race and fortunately they didn't give him blisters or other problems.

Anyway, as we were warming up, chatting, and waiting for the start of the race, I noticed many fewer runners this year. I don't think there were more than 40 and maybe only about 30. [UPDATE: was told later there were 37 at the start.] After a brief question and answer session, we were off!

I guess I did too much speedwork recently because I started out at what felt like a strong but comfortable pace and at the two mile marker, my stopwatch showed 12 minutes 36 seconds. Doh! Way way too fast. I started feeling a burning in my calves, like I was using up their energy faster than my body could replenish them and I was gradually slowing down I think, although it's hard to tell. At about the 5.5 or 6 mile mark, the course turned back on itself and it was fun running towards the other runners. We encouraged each other, especially the people I knew.

I held on to second place overall until about mile 8. The two guys behind me had been slowly but surely catching up over the last 5 miles, like the clock's minute hand slowly and inevitably passing the hour hand. There was nothing I could do about it; it was a huge effort to just "keep everything together". I congratulated the #3 guy as he passed me and he said "the route is longer than it appears, isn't it?" Not exactly encouraging words, but I had plenty of purely physical struggles to keep me occupied between my calves getting burned out and my lungs working double-time. So I finished 4th place in 1 hour 29 minutes 55 seconds which is a pace of 6 minutes 52 seconds a mile. That's a little more than 7 minutes faster than my time last year, so I'm happy with that but disappointed that I couldn't keep a more even pace.

After the race, I spoke with guy who came in first place. His name is Dan Rhodes and he ran another race just on Saturday! He said it was a "cross country race" in San Francisco although he didn't say how long it was. He said he runs 5 or 6 days a week, 40 miles a week at a minimum and up to 50 or 60 miles a week depending on the training schedule. I was encouraged by him -- he looked to be about the same age as me, or maybe even older, and had a similar body build as me. I'm hopeful that I can rise to his level. I currently run about 40 miles a week with my maximum so far being 47 miles, which I ran on the Monday through Sunday prior to this race week.

Now it's back to building up the miles for the Honolulu marathon on December 11. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Wedding in Vermont

Jennifer, Claire, and myself had a nice long weekend in Boston and Vermont, leaving on Thursday, 8/25 and returning Monday night, 8/29. The purpose was to attend our friend Kerry's wedding in Vermont. What a wonderful ceremony it was, not because it was so lavish, but because so much care and thought went into it. It was highly personalized and went far beyond the couple writing their own vows. There was music integrated into the ceremony, lines of poetry read by 14 friends of the bride and groom, and even the finger of the hand that the ring was put on was personalized -- the index finger, not the "ring" finger because "a vein in the index finger leads directly to the heart".
Claire did great and played well with our friend Audrey's son, Tristan.
I did a two-hour training run on Sunday, running across Cambridge, including across Harvard, and well into Arlington and back. The run went well -- I carried a 16oz bottle of Gatorade and drank it all during the run. I ran on the fast side and started getting fatigued in the last 15 minutes or so, so I walked a couple of times and was less aggressive about crossing busy streets, taking my time to recover my strength. I think I ran at least 15 miles.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


We had a good time in Yosemite this weekend except for my various ailments. I had gotten a cold and I had run a relatively-fast-for-me 15 miles early Friday morning in 1 hour 53 minutes. I felt good after the run, but somewhere during the day, after carrying my beautiful and hefty 38 pound 3-year old around for a couple of miles, my right foot started hurting. Then carrying her a lot on a 2 or 3 mile hike on Saturday was even more painful. So, I went 5 days in a row without being able to run.

Claire had a great time, swimming and splashing in a pretty lake and in the Merced River.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Cold Shoulder at Blizzard

So, Blizzard, the computer game company that Jennifer works at, is shutting down their northern California office. They offered the employees there a decent severance package or the chance to continue working at the main office in Irvine, CA. Jennifer doesn't want to move, so she has some free time now while looking for a new job. Anyone need a friendly, well-liked and effective video game producer or project manager?
Editorial comment: It's my opinion that if there were problems with the direction of the game they were working on or with the progress that the game was making, they should have brought in some new management rather than to abandon a really good product that almost certainly would have been a big seller.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Wharf-to-Wharf Weekend

I knew five people who were in the Wharf-to-Wharf run in Santa Cruz yesterday although it was such a big event, I didn't find anyone! So how did it go? From our little group, Lynn, Juliana, Caroline, and I were planning on being there. I heard from Lynn that she had a great time and it seemed as if she took the time to really appreciate the spectacles and music along the route. My approach, not surprisingly I suppose, was to run it as fast as possible with Jennifer (my wife) worried that I would give myself a heart attack.
It was hard getting out of the crowds (15,000 runners!) at the beginning although I had been warned (thanks, Tamra) that many people completely disregard the pace signs and there were quite a few walkers or very slow joggers packed up right near the starting line. I started probably within 50' of the start line. It still took me 15 seconds or more to get to the starting line after the gun went off and I was often blocked by slower runners during the first mile which was officially was 7 minutes 20 seconds. I ran hard, passing a lot of people in the first couple of miles. It seems like no matter how long the race is, I feel like stopping with about 2 miles to go! So I was getting fatigued around mile 4 and was very much looking forward to finishing but I tried to keep it all together and I hung on until the end. I was quite happy to see the finish line at the end of that long downhill. The announcer was calling out that the top 100 finishers were still coming in, so I pretty much sprinted the last couple hundred yards. In hindsight, I should have remembered based on the 2004 results that there was no way I could be in the top 100 males and that the announcer must have been referring to the women finishers. Anyway, I was pretty happy with my performance all-in-all, and my time of 40 minutes 20 seconds would've made me tie with the 62nd woman last year! (Hey, I have to look for positive reinforcement where I can get it!)
I did enjoy the sights and sounds, especially the Clock Man with the accordion. Wild! And the orchestra, marching band, rock bands, cheerleaders, spectators, water-sprayers, etc., were great. It is quite the event and I'll definitely (try to ) attend Wharf-to-Wharf again.

Rex Was a Good Dog

We celebrated July 4th with Jennifer's sister's family in Pacifica, where fireworks are legal. Unfortunately, here in Montara, even though fireworks are illegal, there were enough going on to have scared Rex. When we got home, around 11pm, Rex was nowhere to be found and he had dug a hole under the fence, including moving a 15 lb concrete block. I walked around the neighborhood, calling his name, for about 20 minutes, but there was no sign of him. Jennifer made fliers the next morning and I posted them around the neighborhood. Less than an hour later, someone called, said his name was Andy and that he had some bad news -- he had found a dog on Highway 1 that looked like ours. He insisted on bringing the body to me and he showed up a short while later with the body wrapped in cardboard, lying in the back of his pickup truck. The grief didn't hit me until I identified him as Rex. Poor stupid dog. He was about 8 and a half years old and never was very smart about cars and streets. I had the body cremated and Jennifer wants to have a little ceremony where we spread the ashes.

I was very grateful for the kindness of strangers. An older woman dropped by on Tuesday (7/5) saying she had found Rex running around and got a hold of him and brought him to our house (we weren't home yet) and put him in the back yard. So, he was saved once, but obviously he got out again. And of course I was very grateful for Andy's help. I wish I had gotten his phone # so that we could take him and his wife out to dinner or at least thank him again.

Claire took 4 or 5 days before she noticed that Rex was gone and she asked where he was. It's odd that she didn't grieve over him until days later, on three different occasions in particular. Her lamenting was heart breaking. We said he died, that he wasn't coming back, and that he was "OK" or "happy". Jennifer mentioned heaven once, in an effort to console her, even though neither of us believe that there's a literal heaven or hell, as described in popular culture. But myths can be useful, just like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. The heaven thing didn't work with Claire though -- "who's going to feed him? who will put on his leash? why won't he come back?". My take on it was to emphasize that Rex was not sad or hurt and he was OK and that we can remember him.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Claire's Birthday Party: 3 Years Old!

Gymtowne Gymnastics -- 2 hours of frenzied fun, yummy pizza, and delicious cake. Thank you everyone who attended, especially Claire's cousins, Owen and Rylan, who drove 4 or 5 hours to get here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ron-o-matic vs Big Basin: Pyrrhic victory?

I should be in San Francisco right now, having finished Bay-to-Breakers, however the race yesterday in Big Basin has left me somewhat incapacitated. But let's start at the beginning.

I was so pumped-up about the race that I had difficulty sleeping Friday night. With a big cup of coffee in hand and sports drink, I was out the door at 6:40am and I'm glad I left a bit early because I didn't get to the registration desk until 8:30am and the race started at 9. The forest was beautiful and there were hundreds of runners milling about. Somewhere above the treetops it was a sunny day, but the shadows made us feel cool and protected -- sunscreen was definitely not necessary this time. I noticed a handful of very very fit-looking very serious-looking runners. When they raised their hands indicating they were running the 10.5 mile race with me, it was in a way a relief to know I didn't have to worry about winning this one. I was just going to do the best I could and maybe get in the top 10 or even top 5.

The race coordinator got us to where we needed to be, gave us instructions, counted down and "go!", we were off! One of these extraordinarily in-shape runners literally sprinted from the group. I think he took off faster than a runner on a flat 10K and here we were going to run 10.5 miles in tough mountain trails! "Crazy!" I thought. About 5 other runners took off with him. I couldn't help myself and I started off faster than I thought I should so I entered the trail head in 6th place, I think. That leading group was so fast, they were out of sight within 20 seconds. A big guy in front of me who I suspected started out way too fast had already started
slowing down, so I passed him in the first quarter mile. After that, I was alone -- no sight or sound of anyone in front of me or behind me. It felt good to be cruising along the trail. I felt strong! I knew we had 1 mile uphill and then 4 miles of downhill, so I was willing to spend the extra effort on the first mile and making up for it on the downhill.

The trail was quite technical compared to what I'm used to and even compared to the Pirates Cove 20K. I had to duck under huge fallen trees, jump over small logs, and watch the trail very carefully. The course was very well marked and there were mile markers as well. Once again, the Redwood Trail Company had done an excellent job. I checked my watch at mile 2 and I was averaging 7 minutes 15 seconds for the first two miles and felt good about it.

Somewhere around mile 2.5 to 2.75 my thoughts wandered and I think my gaze left the trail to look up at a big fallen tree I was approaching and in a small fraction of a second several things seemed to happen at once. There was a searing pain in my right ankle, my right leg gave away, and some part of my brain immediately began calculating the ramifications -- I had really hurt my ankle. I fortunately was able to get my left leg under me in time to avoid falling and I stopped and leaned over against a large fallen tree. So many thoughts flooded my mind. "#$%@!! Damn it, I just hurt myself! Did I hear a loud cracking popping noise? Was that my ankle? I hope that was a branch or something. I'm not going to be able to run Bay-to-Breaker's tomorrow! I'm only on mile 2 of this race! I was doing so well! I can't believe I've hurt myself! You idiot, why weren't you more careful? Did I
break anything? Can I walk?" I gathered myself and limped forward a couple of steps. I had just happened to read about Scott Jurek on Friday, an amazing ultramarathon runner who is not just a vegetarian, but a vegan. He has won the Western States 100 six times in a row and set the course record on his last attempt. One of the times, he severely twisted his ankle at mile 50 and continued on for the remaining 50 miles. "Should I go back to the beginning and have all of those runners run by me? Can I go forward?" I thought of Scott. "OK, I don't think it's broken. I paid like $30 and spent all this time getting here, so damn it, even if I have to walk the
remaining 8 miles, I'm going to see the waterfalls and this trail!"

So, decision made I started limping forward. "@#!!" after one step on my right foot. "%^@#@!!" another step. I was a jogging sailor. I started running, with my left leg taking a full stride and my right leg taking about 3/4 of a stride because I could not bend my foot forward, away from my leg. But I was able to bend my foot back, with my toe coming towards my knee. So I quickly learned that I could go uphill almost like normal. Downhills were much more difficult and my left leg was getting fatigued with having to do so much more work. I ambled on. I passed a couple of people doing the marathon. I passed one guy who I think may have been doing the 10.5 mile race but had stopped at the base of the first waterfall, looking very out of

So I struggled on in various degrees of pain from miles 3 through 7. I tried landing on different parts of my right foot to see if that helped. The only thing that really mattered was whether I was going uphill or not. Flat or downhill terrain, I could not extend my foot and so could not take a full stride, so I had this awkward gait. Around mile 7, two runners passed me. Around mile 8, I could almost run like normal again and was limping much less. But that was temporary and by mile 9 I was hurting and by mile 10 I could hardly wait to finish, but I did. I ambled on in.

It's kind of funny how I was able to run 8 or so miles on a twisted ankle, but after stopping and sitting down for a bit, I could hardly walk at all and had to take limping half-steps to get some food and to talk to the EMT. He had me sit on a bench next to another guy who had sprained his ankle. He got me some ice in a plastic bag and gave me some instructions and asked some questions. He wrote down something on a pad of paper and if was a list of injuries he had treated, then there were 4 or 5 people, although I only saw the one other guy. My outer side of my right ankle looked like it had half a plumb stuck underneath the skin.

I decided to get home as soon as I could so I could start treating my injury. I had at least a 1.5 hour drive and I knew the mountainous roads were going to be painful because of all the breaking and accelerating on the curves. But first I had to get to my car. I was parked maybe a half mile away but I flagged down someone and told him I had hurt my ankle and asked for ride. His car was full, but he said I could sit on the hood of the car. Worked for me! So I got a ride, thanked him, and set off for home.

The pain was pretty bad. Gripping the steering wheel hard, biting my lip and cursing seemed to help. I started to feel nauseous. But I made it to Saratoga and then driving was easier. Thank goodness for cruise control on the freeway!

Anyway... it's good to be back home. I feel bad for being a burden on Jennifer now; she's been great. The results were posted online today.

So I came in 6th place out of 110 runners. I don't quite understand the line-up because 2 people passed me but the next two runners in front of me on the list have much different times. I'd like to think I had a shot at 2nd place if I hadn't injured myself, but most likely I would have been 4th or 5th because there was such a gap between me and the front runners.

So, I guess I "won the battle" with the Big Basin trail although at a big cost. I'm not sure when I can run again. Optimistically, I'll be running a little bit in a week. Certainly in 2 weeks I hope I'll be back, although I've read that I need to be real careful and let this fully heal or it will become a chronic injury. I injured the same ankle the same way about 10 years ago so I think I know what to expect.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Pirates Cove 20 km Race

So, Pirates Cove, what can I say, but owwwww, those hills. And dohhh, those course markings! And ahh, the views! The weather was very good too -- no rain, mostly overcast, not too hot. After a good carb-loading dinner last night at Lynn's house (thanks again, Lynn!), I met Ben this morning and he was kind enough to drive me. Lynn and her entourage of running friends and husband, Steve, drove separately this morning. Juliana did do the 20 km run, too, but on her own schedule which unfortunately was 20 minutes after the official start time! Anyway, it was great seeing everyone there.
Anyway, it's good to be home now. I suspected the hills would be brutal, but owwww. Almost to the foot, we climbed the equivalent of Montara Mt.'s saddle point (824' above the base), but in less than half the distance, and that was the first 1.4 miles of the race! There were long series of steps in a few places and sometimes they were so steep that trying to "run" up them was pointless, at least for mere mortals. So, for the first time in a race I was forced to walk, but not because I was tired (although I was getting there fast, too). The 20 km race was a big loop, pieced together by about a dozen trails.
So if the first challenge was the hills, the second challenge was navigation. I'm going to suggest to the race organizers, Pacific Coast Trail Runs, that they splurge and buy 20 or 30 more ribbons and maybe some little flags and maybe even a sign or two! It was clear that navigation was going to be a problem right from the get-go as 20 or 30 of the front runners left the course within about 20 seconds of starting. Yes, we missed the first turn onto the "scenic trail" although it was quietly marked with one or two blue ribbons. Lots of yelling from people behind us got me and Ben and a bunch of other overly eager runners to turn around and then squeeze into a narrow trail. Further on, I was fortunate that a runner behind me directed me through the farm and horse corrals and kept me from running into the horse pens. He also helped me realize that the first aid station was a considerable distance from the 20 km trail and so I skipped the first aid station (and there were only two at the 4.1 mile and 10.3 mile points). Later on, I yelled at the guy in front of me that he had taken a wrong turn on to the road, making a right instead of left. This was near the end of the race, with maybe one mile left, and even though his mistake cost him an extra hundred feet or so, he didn't pass me again. I felt bad pulling ahead of him because of inadequate course markings, but I didn't have the heart to just stop and let him pass me. I truly wanted him to pass me! Afterwards he was in pretty good spirits about it (his name is Kevin in case I run into him again) and he said he had gotten off the route 2 other times. Ahh, well. He thanked me for keeping him on the route. A short while after helping Kevin, another front runner asked me which way to go. Even though there were supposed to be 2 blue ribbons before and after every intersection turn, I only saw one (again) and anyway I pointed him in the right direction and he promptly took off, putting a lot of distance in front of me. His name was Rick and he was declared the official winner of the race. I was struggling the last couple of miles and in the end just hoped that my legs could carry me through because my breathing couldn't keep up. I came in 2nd, officially, in 1 hour 41 minutes. Alas, the 3 or 4 best athletes didn't see that turn-off and finished the race on a shorter course, skipping the circle around the lagoon. One of them was the race winner from last year. So sad.
Super Lynn had a great run and looked like she had maybe just jogged around the block. Apparently she ran so fast that she had time to stop for lunch along the route. And a manicure, or so I was told.
Big Ben had a solid run, too, although was slowed down by hydration problems. But still, for this being his first race of more than 8 miles or so (consecutively), he did great. Ben has run in long distance relays before (like 200 miles), but each leg was much shorter than today's race.
And Juliana, again running on her own personal clock, had a great run, too, and looked like she was ready to walk right on to a fashion shoot, dressed head-to-toe-to-fingers for speed! And cool shades, too!
Other random notes:
1. I learned what it was like to be considered a "creature that needed corralling" by someone's eager collie (?). This alert ambitious mid-sized dog was trying to guide me off the side of the hill or something, and it ran smack into my left leg and I was running relatively quick on a mild downhill. After a not-so-mild curse and some furious arm flailing, I managed to recover without crashing.
2. An organizer told me that due to the good weather, 45 signed up yesterday and about the same signed up this morning, so I'm guessing the 20 km attendance was around 100 people.
Update: The 20 km race results show 108 people completing the race, with me being #5.

Thank you, Jennifer, for watching Claire and bringing her to the race. And happy birthday.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Palo Alto 10K, First Place! (Shocking, Lucky!)

We three running club members, Peggy, Caroline, and myself, all carpooled together and ran in the Palo Alto Vista Trail Run this morning. Caroline and I ran the 10km race and Peggy crashed the 5km race. :)
It was a beautiful day and a nice turn-out of people. There were 100 people in the 10K race, although I don't know if that includes no-shows. The 10K course consisted of running up and down 4 big hills while running out to a loop, doing the loop, and then back again on the same trail.
How did we all do? We all completed the runs with solid performances. I came in first place in my age group (1st of 14), first place of males (1st of 47) and first place overall (1st of 100)! The 2nd place finisher was about 4 minutes behind me and I ran alone and in front pretty much the entire race. I felt strong and good the entire time; this was definitely the least painful race I've done. It's all that practicing on Montara hills! As I've been telling people, all of the super-fast runners must have been running in other races this morning! I still can hardly believe it. Caroline also ran strong and finished about in the middle of the pack at around 60 minutes. Peggy did very well in the 5K (top 25% of runners? sorry, don't remember right now, Peggy) and the organizers were very gracious. Not only did they refuse to accept last-minute payment from Peggy, they gave her a free T-shirt! (And asked her to sign up for the next race.) Cheers to the Redwood Trails company for putting on a very well organized race.
We had a very nice lunch afterwards in Portolla Valley.
A great time was had by all!