Monday, December 04, 2006

California International Marathon - 3:04:56

Wow, what a great weekend and a great race. I'm sitting now, the day after, extremely sore and hardly able to walk, and I couldn't be happier. The results have been released and I have officially qualified for the Boston Marathon by running the CIM in 3 hours 4 minutes and 56 seconds.

I'd like to thank all of those who helped me to get to this point and to achieve my goal that I've been working so hard towards.
Thanks first to Jennifer for watching Claire and supporting my running for so many weekend mornings and evenings; I've run 1,060 miles in specific training for this race since July 11. Thanks to my parents, Judy and Ron, and my sister Molly, for spending the time and money to fly to Sacramento for the race and for a family get-together. My parents have been to each of my three marathons! Thank you to my brother Bill, Jessica Elizabeth, Owen, and Rylan for journeying to Sacramento for the get-together and especially for surprising me at mile 20 during the race. That was awesome! Thank you to my sister Jessica for seeing us on Saturday. And thank you to our friend Elise for hosting us and getting me a couple of last-minute items and driving me to the bus pick-up and for being there with us. And thank you to Casey for hosting the fun after-marathon party.

My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon and this was my third attempt. The Boston Marathon has fairly strict requirements for entering it and I had to run a qualifying marathon in 3 hours 15 minutes or less. My goal was to shoot for 3 hours 10 minutes and to run conservatively, being careful not to start out too fast and to consume enough calories and sports drink and to get enough salt (to avoid cramps). My plan of action:
  • Eat a breakfast of about 600 calories, 3 hours before the marathon. In the previous marathons, I ate less (like 350 calories) and with less time before the start. I didn't want to run out of energy like I did in Los Angeles.
  • Pace myself, using the mile markers and my Polar Watch, which tells me my pace at any given moment. I didn't want a repeat of the Los Angeles Marathon where the pace group that I was running with ran many miles too fast.
  • Try to run the first half in 1 hr 35 minutes and then speed up in the second half if I felt that I could. This is a pace of 7 minutes 15 seconds a mile.
  • Take along salt capsules, one per hour, for the last two hours, to avoid cramps like in Honolulu and Los Angeles.
  • Take along energy gel, consuming one packet 15 minutes before the race and then one every 45 minutes after the start of the race, for a total of 6 for the day. I would pick up two at the 13 mile mark and one more at the 20 mile mark.
It was a beautiful day with clear skies, no wind, and cool air. The organizers did an excellent job and there was plenty of positive energy from the crowds and music and pretty scenery. The race course started at Folsom Dam at 7am and headed over rolling hills down to the state capitol building.

I actually had fun with this race -- I thanked volunteers, waved to people, smiled a lot, gave thumbs-ups to people, encouraged faltering runners and felt relaxed and comfortable up to about mile 16. I kept up with my energy gel consumption (6 packets for the whole race) and salt capsules (2) and was constantly checking my pace, trying to keep a steady output, slowing down on the uphills and speeding up slightly on the downhills. The 3:10 pace group was there, with a guy holding a sign the entire time with a big "3:10" on it so that those who wanted to finish the race in 3 hours 10 minutes could stick with him. However, he ran too fast early on and was 45 seconds ahead of schedule by mile 2! I let them cruise on past me and I stuck to my own safer pace and as you can see by my split times below, I was mostly consistently running at the right pace (7:15).

So at some point, between mile 15 and 17, I looked around and noticed that the people around me were breathing hard and sweating profusely. I don't think I had a drop of sweat on me and my breathing was light and easy and I felt great so I figured it was worth the risk of picking up the pace slightly. And so I did and I pretty much steadily increased my speed from there on out. From mile 19 onward, every mile was faster than 7 minutes. I ran mile 25 in 6:40 and mile 26 in about 6:30 and had a big sprint at the end.

Mentally, I was happy and on a natural high and just enjoying myself and taking in the sights and sounds and breaking down the race into little pieces. Only miles 22 through 26 started feeling more difficult where I really was wanting to get the race over with. I was really wishing to see more of my family and friends, but I knew they were likely right at the finish line.

Physically, things went pretty well. At just over two hours, I felt the hint of a cramp in my left calf and a similar twinge in my right calf. It didn't slow me down or make me change my stride, but it was a warning. I immediately wanted to get more salt in my body! So I took my 2nd salt capsule ahead of schedule and dry-swallowed it and I ate another energy gel (which has lots of salt) and ate that ahead of schedule, too. I need to give a big thanks to George Miller for teaching me about the SUCCEED salt capsules and a big thanks to Julie Mell for donating her supply to me. Although I still felt twinges now and then, I never had any real cramps in my legs.

At the mile 18 marker I thought about the Honolulu Marathon and how I had broken down with bad cramps at this point. At the mile 20 marker, I thought of the Los Angeles Marathon and how I "hit the wall" and became seriously fatigued and reduce to a slow shuffle. At the mile 20 marker, I looked for Gu energy gel like they said they would have, but I didn't see any. Maybe I just overlooked it, but there was definitely no table stacked high with them, with volunteers passing them out, like there was at mile 13. So I ate a slice of orange which tasted great but then I got a side cramp for about a mile and then it went away. Along mile 20, I heard my name being called out and my brother and two nephews were there -- I was so shocked. They live an hour away but I wasn't expecting them to meet me along the race. That was quite uplifting.

Looking back, I probably could have shaved off a few more minutes from my final time, but our bodies don't come with an accurate fuel gauge and I wanted to be especially careful not to "bonk" or "hit the wall".

Other random notes:
  • I met Michelle Smith's nephew, Jesse, at the start line. He had run in The Relay on our team last April. I recognized him but couldn't place him -- he's really grown out his hair!
  • Right next to Jesse, a guy said to me, "Hey, we ran the Point Reyes Half Marathon together" and then I remembered him as the soccer player who would run races and throw in a hard sprint occasionally in the middle of the race (which I still think is a very bad idea!).
  • There was a strange protest group of 4 or 5 men at around mile 9. Some of them were wearing cardboard boxes around their torsos and one especially overweight man with a tight shirt was hollering to the runners to stop and have a cigarette. Their signs said, "Don't block Fair Oaks Blvd." Apparently they didn't like the road closure. I've never seen anything quite like that.
  • The marathon running book that I used for training guidance and race strategy is excellent and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to do well in a marathon, as opposed to "just" covering the distance (which is plenty enough of a challenge). The book is Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. I followed the "70 miles per week or Less, 18 week schedule".
I have the splits from my watch.
Mile 1 7:17 Taking it easy and trying not to run too fast.
Mile 2 7:12
Mile 3 7:03
Mile 4 7:16
Mile 5 7:07
Mile 6 7:15
Mile 7 7:17
Mile 8 7:14
Mile 9 7:12
Mile 10 7:03
Mile 11 7:07
Mile 12 7:14
Mile 13 7:11
Mile 14 7:14
Mile 15 7:17
Mile 16 6:58 I caught up to the 3:10 pace group around here.
Mile 17 7:05 I decided to pass the 3:10 pace group and push harder.
Mile 18 7:04
Mile 19 7:00
Mile 20 6:57 My brother and two nephews surprise me! Awesome!
Mile 21 6:58
Mile 22 6:54 Starting to feel sore and tired and wanting to finish this thing soon.
Mile 23 6:48
Mile 24 6:55
Mile 25 6:40
Mile 26 6:30 estimated; got combined with next 0.2 miles.
Mile 26.2 1:07 This is a 5:35 pace. I got competitive with this guy who passed me but I stuck to him and sprinted by him before the finish line.

Total: 3:04:56

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sutter Creek 10K -- 38:28, 1st Place

Well, I guess lightning struck for a third time, because this is the third time that I ran a small race (50 people, I estimate) and no one faster happened to show up. This event yesterday commemorated the opening of a bypass road in Sutter Creek and so a local charity organized a 20K, 10K, and 5K race. The 20K started at around 8am and the 10K and 5K started shortly after 9am. The course consisted of running down a big hill, across a bridge, down another big hill, across another bridge if I remember correctly. Then we turned around and ran back. The nice thing about an out-and-back course is that you get to congratulate and encourage those who are far ahead and far behind you.

When the gun went off, I got out in the front, next to a high school kid who was running the 5K. (I could tell by his bib # which race he was in). I slowly pulled ahead as we raced down the hill. I kept on telling myself to not run too fast and to imagine coming back up this huge hill and that I still had a long ways to go. At the 2.5 km mark (about 1.55 miles), I reached the 5K race turn-around point, still in first place in both the 10K and 5K races. I kept going straight and the guys behind me who were running the 5K yelled at me to turn around. I yelled back, "I'm doing the 10K! Good job!" At the 2 mile mark, my watch showed 11:35 or 11:17 -- I don't recall now, but I think it must've been closer to 11:17 because I remember thinking, "oh, that's 5 minutes 30 seconds a mile and change." Anyway, I probably was slowing down a bit but I kept on running hard. I eventually reached my turn-around point and dreaded heading back up the huge hill. The next guy behind me seemed to be about 45 seconds behind, but I started worrying that he would catch me on the uphill because it was quite steep and I had to slow down a lot and I was breathing very hard. I kept running as fast and as evenly paced as I thought I could maintain, speeding up on the occasional flat portions and slowing down on the steeper portions. I saw a lot of slow runners and walkers coming towards me and we often congratulated each other. Finally, I thought I might be approaching the top of the last big hill, but I wasn't quite certain until I saw the tents and then I let loose and picked up the pace with my heart pounding and I put in a good sprint towards the finish. Final time? 38 minutes 28 seconds as I recall. That's about 6 minutes 12 seconds a mile which is very good for me considering the steepness of those hills. And first place! I think I was about 3 minutes ahead of the next runner. They handed out a beautiful glass trophy with the race and date engraved and mounted on a nice wooden pedestal. Very nice! Was a good day.
And our friend, Cathy Snyder, had her two children run the 5K and they both came in first place in their age groups. Very cool! Thank you, as usual, to Jennifer for watching Claire while I ran and they actually saw me finish, too, which was nice.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get Out and Vote!

If you think this country needs to change direction, get out and vote! We need a Congress that will hold Bush accountable and a Republican majority has proven that they're not going to do that.

Sadly, it's not enough to just vote for good candidates. Because of the way the Republicans have changed the rules, only a majority of the majority can enact legislation. So, to change direction in this country, we need to get the Democrats to be a majority in at least one chamber of Congress.

I've done what I can by volunteering with's Call For Change program in their San Francisco office, recruiting volunteers and calling voters directly, encouraging them to get to the poles.

For the sake of Iraq, the environment, the federal deficit, cronyism, good governance, our international standing in the world, etc., we need a change.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pumpkin Run 10 km -- 4th place, 36:46

This is my 3rd consecutive year running the local Pumpkin Run 10K (10km = 6.21 miles). I decided to forgo the green fourescent wig this year and just try to run it as best as I could. I did such a surprisingly good job the previous year (6:03 average pace per mile) that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to improve on that time.

I'm pleased with the results, but I'm slightly disappointed because I think I could have run this smarter and faster. Still, 4th place overall, 2nd in my age group (30-39), out of a couple of hundred runners, and an average pace of 5 minutes 55 seconds a mile is very good for me and is a new personal record for this distance of 10 km (6.21 miles). My time was 36 minutes 46 seconds.

I'm disappointed because I started off too fast which forced me to slow down later on as my legs were getting burned up and my breathing was labored. The first mile had some downhill in it, but not enough to justify 5 minutes 33 seconds! My 2nd and 3rd miles were at about 6 minutes each. I was at 17 minutes 35 seconds for the 3 mile mark, which is the fastest I've ever run 3 miles in my life, yet, if I had run more evenly paced, I think I could've done better.

It was good seeing friends there. Jennifer pushed Claire in the jogging stroller and ran the entire 5 km race (3.1 miles). I'm proud of her! Our friend Elise, from Sacramento, stayed the night last night and ran with Jennifer. Our friend Cathy was supposed to come along also, but had injured her back (doing yardwork) a short while ago. It was good to see George Miller volunteering and Julie Mell (5K) and Peggy Ruse (10K) and Jackie Nueman (10K) and Eric (10K) and Paul (10K) and Denis (10K, pushing baby jogger).

Update: official results
time: 36:46, pace: 5:55. 4th place of 165 runners

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pillar Point Half-Marathon -- 1st place!

It was a cool clear morning today for the Pillar Point Half Marathon (13.1 miles) charity race along the coast, from Pillar Point Harbor down to Half Moon Bay and back. Today was the third time the event has been held and I've attended all three, so it's a nice gauge of my progress.

My parents have been visiting us for the weekend and drove me to the start of the race this morning. Thank you, Mom and Dad. Although this race was important to me, I did not want to interrupt my training for the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December, so I switched around some runs and added one additional rest day, but otherwise kept up with my mileage this past week including running 21 miles on Tuesday. My total mileage for the week was 57.

I got my bib, warmed up, met my running friends, Julie and Tamara, and chatted with my parents. Jennifer and Claire showed up shortly before the race started -- thank you, Jennifer!

As we were standing around, I looked at my potential competition and I saw some strong-looking runners, but I didn't see the local phenomenon and chiropractor, Dan Rhodes, who ran in the previous two years. So, I tried not to get my hopes up, but at least I wasn't guaranteed to be shut out of the top 3 males.

After some race instructions, the countdown began and then we were off! This was the first year the organizers offered a 10km race as well as a half-marathon. They also had a 5km race, I think. So, when we started, a couple of people took off really fast but I wasn't sure which race they were running. I quickly settled in 3rd place, trying not to run too fast at the beginning.

There was a young girl who was in front of me and I was guessing that she was running the 10km race because not very many teenagers do well in the half-marathon or longer distances. And in front of her was a strong-looking guy. I thought it was likely that he was running the half-marathon. As we neared the 3 mile mark, the girl started slowing down and I passed her and said "good job". I was still about 20 seconds behind the guy and then when the 10km turn-off came, he turned off! Oh oh! So, I've been in first place from the beginning in my race. That's not the kind of pressure that I like.

I was starting to feel a bit sore in my feet and achilles tendon on my right foot, I think. I felt that maybe this was a carryover from a hard run I had done on Thursday (almost 13 miles, kind of fast). But overall, I felt great and just wanted to keep a steady conservative pace to make sure I had enough energy to finish strong. Due to the bends in the trail I sometimes got a glance at who was behind me and there were two guys within about 30 seconds of me. They weren't getting closer or falling back.

At the turn-around point on the trail, at around the 5 mile mark, I saw my competition again and they were still relatively close and this was stressing me! I decided to risk a little acceleration and I started speeding up slightly as we were returning. I like this part of the course because it feels good to see those who are ahead or behind you and you can congratulate or encourage each other. In the prior two years, there was always someone in front of me, but this time I was the recipient of more encouragement and congratulations which felt good and helped me stay strong.

I guess I had warmed up by now because my feet were no longer sore. We turned off the trail to do a big loop in a residential area and I was completely alone as far as I could tell. I didn't look back. After rejoining the trail, I was past the half-way mark and still feeling good, so I sped up a little bit more. Finally, I could see Pillar Point Harbor in the distance and I was very familiar with the trail and the terrain and my confidence increased. I tried to imagine that my competition was close behind me and that I couldn't get cocky and had to stay focused. At this time, my watch was reporting my pace to be between 6:18 and 6:24 for the most part. I tried to keep my breathing and my heart rate under control to make sure I could last until the end.

At one 90-degree turn, on to a bridge, I glanced back and didn't see anyone behind me. Soon, a couple of bystanders and 10km runners/walkers congratulated me along the way and it felt more and more certain that I would win. I couldn't believe it! I estimated that I had 20 minutes left. I had been running hard for just over an hour and was getting fatigued and breathing hard, but still running strong. With a half-mile left, I heard some cheers coming from the finish area and knew I was going to be able to finish and almost certainly win. I increased my pace some more, letting the burning lactic acid build up in my legs and seemingly not breathing any harder -- I was tapped out in the lung department. I rounded the final corner, heading downhill towards the finish line and really let go, my heart rate shooting up, and sprinted as much as I could towards the finish. Unbelievable. 1 hour, 25 minutes, 37 seconds. Average pace: 6 minutes 32 seconds per mile.

This was more than 4 minutes faster than last year and was about 1 and a half minutes faster than my personal record at this distance. I was very happy with my performance! Proof that I'm not "over the hill" yet! And the fact that I won was an extra joy although it was just dumb luck that no one faster happened to show up today. Last year, my time would've brought me in second. Two years ago, my time would've had me finishing 5th. So, you never know how these small races are going to turn out.

It was great seeing Claire and Jennifer and my parents at the finish line. My name was announced as the first place male winner and I received a bottle of red wine and a $50 gift certificate. The plastic bag (that they gave me) broke as I was holding it and the wine bottle broke, but the organizers apparently had an extra bottle and were very gracious to give it to me. Tamara and Julie and I had a nice brunch afterwards.

Random running diary stuff:
  • Had a vanilla Power Bar, banana, and some coffee at about 6:40am. The race started at 8am.
  • Weighed a lot -- 167.5. That's the highest running weight I've had. I don't know what's going on there, but it's approximately 5 pounds heavier than I was in March for the Los Angeles Marathon.
  • Someone recognized me on Montara Beach that afternoon, "Were you the 1st place runner in the half-marathon this morning?" she asked. :)
Results have been posted here. My official time is 1:25:37 and 47 runners finished the half-marathon (19 men and 28 women; I'm surprised there were so many more women).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

ANA Cable Car Chase -- 14th of 548

I participated in a short very hilly race this morning in San Francisco. It started and ended at the Aquatic Park and was 5.67 miles long. It was a charity event for a boys choir and a girls running club. At the event, I thought the organizer said there were 650 participants, but the results page shows 548 finishers, although that doesn't include the dozens of people who ran the race, but who didn't register. I also thought I was 13th place, but that was based on the informal counting of someone watching the runners come in.

Summary? I ran hard and kept it together for the most part and struggled with my breathing towards the end, but somehow managed to average 6 minutes 16 seconds a mile which included a huge climb up California Ave. I put in a big sprint for about the last quarter mile and am really pleased with my performance. I came in 14th place of 548 overall and 4th of 116 in my age group. I just missed receceiving a nice boxed sake set as a reward.

Waking up at 6am was not easy this morning and I was half-hoping that my ride wouldn't show up. Julie was a bit late, but she made up the time, and then some, getting there and we knew where to park. We had plenty of time before the 8am start. We met her friends Laurie and Jorge (sp?), took in the scene, watched the boys choir, and warmed up for the race.

The race route consisted of 2 miles flat before making a right turn on to California Ave. 1st mile: 6:03, 2nd mile: 5:47 (oh, my!). The remaining mile markers were at 2.67 miles, 3.67 miles, and I think 4.67 miles, so I didn't try calculating my mile splits. (I was wearing my watch that doesn't have a lap timer, either.) The hills were tough and seemed to be in 3 sections going up California Ave where the cable car route goes. There was no race against an actual cable car. The streets or lanes were almost all closed and it was a nice safe course with lots of police directing traffic. Finally, we hit the first downhill and I "unwound" and relaxed and picked up the pace relative to those around me. It was a great break for my lungs and my breathing was easy and it felt great cruising downhill. We had undulating hills on Larkin St. after turning right off of California Ave and then some more huge downhills. Finally, we reached Aquatic Park and were directed to run out and back on a long pier. This was the toughest section for me. I was having a harder and harder time breathing due to the beginnings of cramps in my sides. I slowed my breathing down but tried to maintain or pick up my pace, thus trading side-cramps for that lactic-acid burning sensation in my legs. Mentally, I was trying to just reach within sprinting distance of the finish line where I could let loose and not worry about breathing or my heart rate. This is always the hardest part of a race -- my body really wanted to stop! Finally, I felt like I could take the risk and really put in some speed. I heard some footsteps behind me, but no one passed me in the last mile or so.

Afterwards, we hung around the race site and got our free goodies and t-shirts. One of the sponsors was a sake company, so this was the first race where the runners were offered cups of sake after a run! Innovative! I had two cups. :) It took maybe 20 minutes to wait for the results and I felt bad holding the others up, but there was a decent chance that I had placed in my age group and I wanted that sake set! I ended up being 4th in my age group, by a large margin, but the others were very proud of how I did and it felt good to have run so well.

I hadn't trained or planned very much for this specific race. I didn't interrupt my marathon training prior to the race. I ran 11 miles on Friday and 4 miles on Saturday.

After the race, we had brunch at a cute restaurant that served crepes and sandwiches and assorted good food. I've now blanked on what the name was. And then Julie and I did a little bit of shopping in Hayes Valley which is a section of Hayes St. in S.F. Lots of cute stores -- I bought a new pair of running shoes and Claire a fun children's book.

Was a very good morning and I'm glad I went. I got back home shortly before Claire and Jennifer and then I played with Claire for most of the rest of the day.

Monday, July 31, 2006

San Francisco 1/2 Marathon: 1hr 38min*

Dean Karnazes, author of Ultramarathon Man, signs Julie's copy of his book.

1 hour 38 minutes and 7 seconds*.
*includes an emergency approximately 9 minute potty break.

102 out of 3859 runners overall.
89 out of 1744 men.
26 of 611 in my age group (35-39 males).

The Whole Story (Mostly)
The weather was perfect for an early-morning race. With just a few high clouds and a slight chill to the air, we headed down from our room at about 5am. The race was scheduled to start at 5:30am, but our wave was for 5:40. The five of us who stayed the night (me, Julie, Jenny, Tamara, and Jenny's kid's soccer coach, Tom) met up with our other running friends who had driven in from Pacifica (Michelle, Vicky, and Carol).

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge, glancing out over the Bay as the sun rose was wonderful -- beautiful!

I'm not sure if it was something I ate or drank, but I had major gastrointestinal problems and had to take a 9 minute emergency potty break. I "held on" for as long as I could until I had to make a mad scramble up a hillside for a bit of privacy. I couldn't even make it to a porta-potty. So, if I could subtract that 9 minutes, my time would've been a much more respectable 1 hour 29 minutes. I didn't have any other problems really although I felt a bit sluggish and had a hard time breaking 7 minutes / mile, even on the flatter sections. Also, the battery apparently went out on my foot pod even though it was a recent replacement and it has a multiple hour warning where it flashes red instead of green, so maybe it got left on by accident, but it was useless deadweight during the race. So, I didn't know what my pace was at any given moment.

bib #16778

Other interesting things: there were many runners dressed in costume. One was wearing a Roman warrior costume that included a breast plate (front and back), shield, and spear. Another runner was carrying a serving tray with a fake bottle of wine glued to it. Another was a clown. Our local celebrity, Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon runner, also ran the marathon in just under 4 hours which was very respectable considering he ran the Badwater 130 last week.

Besides the race, it was fun relaxing and visiting with friends and enjoying myself without having to be concerned about Claire. Thank you, Jennifer, for watching her this weekend. We also got to see Dean Karnazes talk about his experiences and try to inspire others towards challenging themselves.

For a brief picture tour of this weekend, with commentary, please visit:

My splits were:
Mile #1: 7:36 weaving way through crowds
Mile #2: 7:24 avg. with mile #3 due to not seeing mile marker. crowded.
Mile #3: 7:24
Mile #4: 7:09 somewhere around here I started feeling problems "down below"
Mile #5: 7:05
Mile #6: 8:08 some hills getting on to the bridge
Mile #7: 7:05
Mile #8: 6:58 finally broke 7 minutes.
Mile #9: 17:06 emergency! stopped for a while behind a bush. #$%! What did I do wrong?
Mile #10: 6:21 had a huge downhill.
Mile #11: 7:42 hills?
Mile #12: 8:02 and more hills?
Mile #13: 6:38 picking up the pace towards the end
Mile #13.1: 0:34 had a bit of a sprint for the last couple hundred feet

Food diary: In spite of our best efforts, we had a really late dinner. I think we started eating at 9pm. About an hour before the race, I had a banana and a chocolate flavored Power Bar, and then a few bites of yogurt. I was thinking as I was running that the yogurt was a mistake as was a little bits of dried fruit the day before. In hindsight, I wish I had skipped some of the fruit from the day before and gotten up earlier and had coffee (caffeine has a strong laxative effect on me) and tried to get things "cleared out" earlier.

Of our group:
Ron: 1:38:07
Tamara: 1:56:46
Vicky: 2:01:33
Julie: 2:03:35
Michelle: 2:05:33
Jenny: 2:07:34
Tom finished somewhere in there in the middle.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pacifica Trail Run 21km - 3rd place

I participated in a nearby running event this morning in the neighboring city of Pacifica. They had four different races going on at the same time and the one I decided to enter was 21 km long and consisted of climbing and descending 3 sequentially taller hills / mountains. The 3rd climb was to the very top of Montara Mountain. I felt like I should have done better -- I walked 4 or 5 times on the climb up Montara Mountain, got fatigued, and felt like I was over-heating. I think the lack of running in the last two weeks (yeah, even though I hiked Mt. Whitney) hurt me. I got passed by a bunch of people on this final climb, but then I passed some of them on the way down. I narrowly missed coming in 2nd place overall in the 21 km race. Surprisingly to me, there were several runners entering the longer 30 km race and 50 km race who ran the first 21 km faster than I did. That really makes me want to get better....

It was fun seeing many of my running friends there. I knew: Vicky, Michelle, Stan Jensen, George, Ben, and Chris.

My final time was 2 hours 1 minute 28 seconds to cover the 20.6 km (12.8 miles) and 2,930 ft of elevation gain. 3rd place. The results have been posted.

Mt. Whitney or Bust

This 4th of July holiday weekend, our little family flew down to Fontana to see my parents and for me go on a hike that my Dad organized. Our crew consisted of me, my sister Jessica, my sister Molly, her fiance Jared, and my Dad. We all returned safely and had a good adventure and 3 of the 5 of us (me, Molly and Jared) successfully hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S., at 14,495 feet.

For pictures and some of the narrative of the hike, please visit:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

so, this fiber-optic salesman walked into a bar...

I wish this were a joke, but it's not. I went to a Dad's Book Club meeting last night in Half Moon Bay at the Kitchen & Cocktails and had an amazing conversation with this guy named Jerry [not his real name]. He said he owns a small company that does custom fiber-optic cable and equipment manufacturing.

That reminded me of an article I read recently in Wired Magazine. There have been other articles as well.,70947-0.html

So, I asked Jerry, "Did you hear about the secret court documents that were leaked recently by Wired Magazine? The documents were about a lawsuit against AT&T and were under court seal not to be revealed. The documents give details about how AT&T worked with the National Security Agency to install equipment in San Francisco and in other locations to allow the NSA to spy on nearly every email that is sent or received within the United States. Do you think this is for real?"

Jerry says, "Oh, yeah, we worked on that contract."

Holy crap! What a freakin' coincidence! He had my attention.

Jerry continued, "We worked with a company called CloudShield. There's a splitter on the fiber optic cable that sends the data to computers that do massively parallel processing. The NSA can look at just about every packet sent on the internet in the United States."

Uhhh.... This bothered me. A secretive group within the executive branch of the federal government, without any court order or warrants or outside supervision, was examining every or nearly every email, internet chat, voice-over-the-internet phone call, and website visited by every person in the United States.

Jerry seemed to be very unconcerned about this. He went on, "Yeah, I know to some people that privacy is a really big deal and I understand that. It's like some people are afraid of heights and other people are afraid of the outdoors and other people are really concerned about privacy. As for me, I've got nothing to hide. My emails are totally mundane and boring to anyone listening."

Well, call me crazy, but since when is concern about the 4th Amendment similar to agoraphobia? There's a reason we have checks and balances -- absolute power corrupts absolutely and we cannot simply close our eyes and trust one branch of the government to not abuse its power without an independent branch of government checking up on things. Jerry agreed with me that balance of power is important and that this intrusion on civil liberties is a slippery slope and can lead to future abuses. We went on to talk about the rise of Nazi Germany and how it was a legal takeover that brought them to power, and the cycles of liberalism and conservatism. We pretty much saw eye-to-eye.

So, what a conversation and revelation. This reminds me when my mom first got on to the Internet and started using email. In one of my mom's first emails, on Nov. 1, 2004, she wrote a bunch of political and religious opinions followed by "Is it safe to write stuff that's not politically correct? Just wondering!"

My response was, in part, "Regarding e-mail security, it's basically not secure. You shouldn't send credit card info in an e-mail, for example." At least I got that part right. At the time, I would have thought only a conspiracy nut would believe that our government was scanning nearly every bit of every American's online communication. No longer. Any NSA employee with the right clearance can examine any email you send without a warrant. If they can further identify your computer by IP address, they might be able to know every website you visit and anything else you do online.

Add to this the NSA's warrant-less wiretapping of phones. And the recent revelation that the government knows about every phone call you make and who and when you called (except for Qwest subscribers; they didn't cooperate). Again, all this without warrant or independent oversight.

Getting on my soapbox:

Our Founding Fathers created a pretty amazing document -- The United States Constitution. They were aware of the dangers of unchecked government power. Here's the 4th Amendment, short and sweet:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
One more infuriating aspect about all of this unconstitutional spying is that I don't think it's necessary. We don't really have to choose between security and civil rights. The FISA Court was set up for the sole purpose of quickly granting secret warrants to enable tracking down terrorists. The warrants can even be gotten for several days after the wiretapping has begun. There could be put in place a similar system of checks and balances for examining internet communications.

What can we do? Here's what I can think of:
1. Call or write or email your Representatives and Senators. They perked up when people complained about the high gas prices. But this requires some extra effort and maybe our voices would not rise above the noise.
2. Mid-term elections are coming up. Vote for members of Congress who have a backbone and who are financially independent of (currently) the Republican National Committee. A Congress that rubber-stamps whatever the president wants and ignores unconstitutional behavior is not acting as a check on the executive branch's power. On a related note, if you want independent politicians, give your donations to them directly rather than to the national public parties, then politicians won't be so beholden to national party leaders.
3. Bush is stubborn and arrogant. He's not going to change. Impeachment seems completely reasonable for trampling the Constitution and ignoring the law. Don't buy the "but not at a time of war" rhetoric -- short of annihilating the whole human race, there will always be evil doers and terrorists. It's a time-honored technique for those in power to declare a never-ending state of emergency to scare the population into submission.
4. Pass this along? Perhaps someone with more time and energy than I do can make more of a difference.


Update 6/7/06:
Pretty Good Privacy is a standard for sending secure emails:

For a good article on how email works and why it's not normally secure:

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Relay - 27:00:59

What a great adventure; thank you everyone for making this happen. We challenged ourselves, pushed ourselves hard, and lived life to its fullest this past weekend.

Our team, Maverick Waves, consisted of 12 runners and 2 drivers and we ran this relay race non-stop for 27 hours and 59 seconds. We covered the 199 miles from Calistoga, CA to Santa Cruz, CA. The runners never got lost and no one got hurt. I'm very proud of how we did. I was the captain of this team and I got the people together, and did most of the planning, but in the end it was of course a team effort and everyone did their best and did well.
21st of 104 teams. In our division, Open Mixed, we were 4th of 25.

Highlights from van #2:

It has to be Greg, finishing his first leg, leg #8 consisting of some tough steep hills in the vineyards. With wide eyes, looking like he survived a near-death experience, "that was soooo much worse than ANYTHING I could have POSSIBLY imagined." And well, you just had to be there. Brings tears to my eyes it was so funny. It was great having you on our team and in our van, Greg.

Another highlight, especially for Ben and me, would be meeting Dean Karnazes. For some reason he only ran 145 miles that weekend. That feels weird saying something like that -- "only ran 145 miles", but I guess that shows what an amazing athlete he is. He was very gracious and friendly and signed my book and let us take a couple of photos with him. Our poor Julie Mell -- you missed getting a hug from Team Dean.

Dilly.... Dilly-man, The Dilly Meister... an aspiring comedian, enthusiastic one-man support team, and the van #2 public relations manager. Thank you for driving and taking the photos and watching out for us boys and girls.

Jenny smashed my estimated time for her second leg and I didn't give van #1 a full hour's notice, so we lost about 3 minutes at the next handoff waiting for van #1 to arrive with Kiko. Sorry again about that. I think that was the only big mistake we made which is very minor compared to what could have gone wrong. Just getting 12 runners, 2 vans, and 2 drivers all together on time felt like an enormous accomplishment. From my perspective, it felt like we were half way done already!

BORING, DIARY PORTIONS HERE. Ben, skip this section, if you made it this far. :)

My most intense moment: running on the steep downhill side of leg #10 (8.9 miles, "very hard"). It was steep and fast and rocky and wet and at night. The terrain just seemed to be flying towards me in this circle of gray and brown, illuminated by my headlamp. It was a surreal out-of-body experience, like watching this sepia-colored silent movie with terrain and mud and rocks flying towards me, my eyes glued to this center of light. Even blinking my eyes seemed to be a dangerous distraction for this intense 20 to 25 minute period. A cow guard suddenly came into view and I was on one side of the trail and the plywood board only covered the middle of the cow guard. My left foot landed on the strong parallel bars and then the front of my foot plunged in between the metal bars. I instinctively yanked my foot out as my right leg was in the air, coming forward. I was running very fast (for me). It was only moments later that I realized how serious an accident I almost had. I made sure to cross the remaining cow guards in the center of the trail.

My best leg: my 3rd leg. I felt pretty "dialed in". I had developed side cramps in my first two legs because I think of the extensive downhills which I pushed myself hard on. My 3rd leg was pretty much flat for 4 miles with a strong headwind and then huge inclines for the last 2+ miles. I averaged 7 minutes 6 seconds a mile and passed 5 other runners on this leg. I had predicted 48 minutes and did it in 44:05.

All-in-all, I'm happy with how I ran. For the record, my times were:
leg #10, 8.9 miles "very hard" (the hardest leg in the race). 1:06:22
leg #22, 4.2 miles "easy". 27:53
leg #34, 6.2 miles "very hard". 44:05
I passed 3 runners in my first leg, 2 in my second, and 5 in my third. I didn't happened to get passed by anyone although there were certainly many better runners out there.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Los Angeles Marathon -- 3:18:59

Well, what can I say... it was an amazing day. The weather was beautiful -- nice and cool with clear skies. A storm had passed through on Saturday so the air seemed especially crisp and clean. There were cheering crowds and well-wishers along the whole route that formed a large flat loop in central Los Angeles.

How did the race go? I put in my best effort, I trained as hard and as well as I could, and I used the best race strategies that I know, so ultimately, I can't help but to be happy with the results even though I had hoped to do better. My goal time was to qualify for the Boston Marathon by running the race faster than 3 hours and 10 minutes. I was on pace up until about the end of mile 19 and fatigue just seemed to creep in and when I tried to run faster I felt the twinges of cramps in my calves and thighs and hips. During mile 20 my left calf suddenly clenched up briefly and I had to stop momentarily and walk a couple steps, but then the cramp settled down quickly and I resumed running. The only other time I stopped was to get my salt capsule out of the plastic bag. There's something I should've practiced more beforehand! With sweaty hands and a tight seal on the small ziplock bag, I tried 3 times to open it while running, but I just couldn't get a grip. So right at the end of mile 20, I stopped briefly and opened it up. George gave me the salt capsules after hearing about my Honolulu Marathon experience. Thank you again for all your help and advice and encouragement.

Around mile 22 I thought I could still beat my previous marathon time by about 5 minutes, but the fatigue kept on getting worse. I felt just like I did in the Pillar Point Half-Marathon last September when I ran the first two miles way too fast and my legs felt "burned out" about half-way through and I was gradually forced to slow down. So mile 23 through to the end was an even slower and more difficult struggle. It was hard seeing the tall buildings of the financial district so far away still, knowing that the finish line was buried inside that cluster of buildings somewhere. I stuck with it, trying a couple of times to speed up, but then immediately feeling the onset of cramps, so I slowed right back down again.

It occurred to me that being forced to slow down sucks not only because of the disappointment of missing one's goals but because the damn race takes that much longer to finish! Mile 24 goes by. I see my parents, my sister, and her fiancé. I gave them a big smile, two thumbs up, mumbled something about slowing down, and trudged onwards. Mile 25 goes by. I see a big sign saying 1 more mile to the finish! People are cheering me on by name. (All the runners got to choose a nickname to be printed on their bibs.) "Go, Ron, Go!" "Pick up the pace, Ron, you're almost there!" "Good job, Ron!" "You can do it, Ron!" It was great and I really appreciated the crowds and how energetic they were. Finally... I turned the corner on to Flower Street and was looking up the final gradual hill towards the dense crowds and the huge banner strung across the street. The finish line! The end is in sight! The roar of the crowds wrapped around me like a blanket. I was on a total natural high. I was going to do it. I was going to finish. My time was still going to be very good in the grand scheme of things and was going to be faster than my last marathon. I crossed the finish line. A terrific challenge overcome!

The volunteers removed my electronic chip from my shoe and placed a medal around my neck and gave me one of those metallic reflective blankets. And animal cookies. And a banana. And water. I was a bit wobbly and someone asked me if I was OK. Pretty soon I was stretching and able to walk more normally. There was a terrific band in the friends & family reunion area and they did a cover song of No Doubt's "I'm Just a Girl" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog". I started dancing. Oh, and earlier in the race, about mile 13, a DJ was playing one of my current favorite songs, "Dare" by that animated band from England, Gorillaz.

So, quite a day. I kept an eye out for Juliana but didn't see her. Also, before the race, we were going to try to meet next to the Clif Bar pace groups, but I was packed in like a sardine near the front and I learned afterwards that Juliana was near the rear of the pack. So we didn't get a chance to hook up and so sorry, Julie and Jenny, I have nothing further to report about Juliana's boyfriend. Oh, except his name is Nathan and he did come down to the marathon with her and walked about 15 miles apparently (!?!) with their dog.

What else... I ran with the 3:10:00 Clif Bar pace group up until the fatigue started settling in. I used the lap timer on my watch to record my mile splits although somehow I must not have pressed the button hard enough at the beginning, so I'm not sure how long my first mile took. And later, I must not have pressed it hard enough again or I forgot and I missed a mile split. But anyway, next time I think I should stick with my own pacing because we were somewhat all over the place and I can't help but to wonder if some of the faster miles hurt me later on. My goal pace was 7:15. (That's 7 minutes 15 seconds a mile.) My split times at the following mile markers were:

1. 7:25 (estimated)
2. 6:49
3. 6:56
4. 7:12 left hip and right quads start feeling tight.
5. 6:57
6. 7:43
7. 6:53
8. 7:23
9. 7:03
10. 7:28
11. 7:20
12. 6:57
13. 7:11 left hip and right quads mysteriously feel ok again.
14. 7:07
15. 7:19
16. 7:13 average with mile #17
17. 7:14
18. 7:22
19. 7:25 starting to fall back from the pace group a bit.
20. 8:03 oh oh. trouble settling in. pace group out of sight.
21. 7:47 can't speed up!
22. 7:43 ditto.
23. 9:02 boom... big time fatigue.
24. 9:33 red alert, red alert.
25. 8:54 after all that resting, speeding up?
26. 8:50 approximate. Got combined with next 0.2 miles.
26.2. 2:10 approx. didn't stop stopwatch immediately.

Total: 3:18:59.

I was 384th out of about 25,200 runners. I was 71 out of 1512 in my age group.

This was my second marathon, so I can't help but to compare it to the Honolulu Marathon. Pros and cons? Let's see, here's what's good about the Los Angeles Marathon:
  • nicknames on the bibs!
  • probably more crowds and more energy.
  • slightly better supported with many more water stations and even a few more sports drink stations.
  • had more prominent mile markers with huge banners stretched across the street at every mile marker. You couldn't miss them. In Honolulu, they were much smaller and to the side and more easily missed.
  • Los Angeles is a heck of a lot closer than Honolulu!
  • There is more prize money, about $450,000 total, for Los Angeles. It's also interesting that the elite women got a 20 minute head start over the elite men and some company gave $100,000 to the first person, male or female, to cross the line. This year a woman won, but last year a man won. The 1st place male and female also received about $62k, including the value of a car.

What's better about Honolulu?
  • the 5am start time keeps you out of the glare of the sun for most of the race for most runners.
  • the scenery is better. Los Angeles is a seemingly endless urban sprawl. The route did not go through any parks or even next to any parks as far as I recall unless they were very small.
  • Hawaii in general is a more enticing vacation destination, albeit expensive.
  • The Honolulu Marathon route has a large portion that doubles back on itself so that you can see the front runners and those behind you. It was fun seeing the world's best runners in person while running. The LA Marathon is a loop so the elite runners are quickly separated from everyone else.
  • ice cold sponges at two aid stations!

And I have to give an enormous thanks to my parents for driving me all around Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday and feeding me lots of good food and getting me to the starting line right on time. And a huge thanks to my sister Molly and her fiancé Jared for taking the time to see the marathon.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Kaiser Permanente Half-Marathon, 1:27:10

It was a beautiful day this morning in Golden Gate Park. The weather couldn't have been more perfect -- clear blue skies, cool air, and almost no wind. Jenny, Vicky, Michelle and I rendezvoused at 6:30am in Pacifica and made our way over. It was crowded! They announced that this was their biggest race yet. 7500 runners I think. After a 15 minute wait at the porta-potties, I didn't have much time to spare for the 8am start time. Fortunately, I was able to weave up towards the start line without too much difficulty. Let's see, long story short...
  • Michelle turned her ankle at mile 2.5 but it wasn't bad enough to make her stop. Stoic! *gulp*
  • My time was about 1:27:10 -- a new personal record by almost 3 minutes.
  • Vicky came in at 1:47 if I remember correctly.
  • Michelle... 1:52? or 1:53?
  • Jenny... 1:54 I think. I might be off by a minute.
Good racing, everyone. I'm tired and sore, but not Jenny! We dropped her off on Haight to do some shopping and she's got a long busy day planned in S.F.

Here's some more about my experience.
I was really pleased with how it went. My main goal was to not start off too fast and to keep an even 6:43 pace as best I could. My final average pace was 6:39. My first mile was my slowest, 7:02. I also tried a new technique which I think helped a lot -- I used the lap timer on my watch to count each mile so that I could try to stay at the right pace. I know, if only I could remember what my previous mile marker time was, it's not too hard to do the subtraction, but I've found that I can forget what my stopwatch reading was the last time. It's so much more simpler to press the Lap button on my watch. Plus, I'll have a history of the per-mile times for later review. My Polar watch also reports the pace that I'm running at, but I hadn't calibrated it for the shoes / pace / terrain or something, so it was quite a bit off. Typically it was showing about 20 seconds / mile faster than my true speed.Next time, I'll try better to calibrate it because it can be a very useful tool; kind of like having your own pacer to help you keep a steady pace. Anyway, it helped a lot to get accurate feedback on my pace at every mile marker.

Random running diary stuff: This morning, at about 5:35am, I ate a vanilla Power Bar and a banana and drank some sports drink. The race started at 8am. I drank a cup of Gatorade at the first aid station and it felt like it was too much. It felt like it was sloshing around in my stomache. Since I didn't seem to be sweating at all, I skipped all of the remaining aid stations until the last one (mile 10.5? 11?) at which I drank some water. I didn't feel thirsty, but I thought it would be a good idea. During the race I actually felt pretty good. I was getting fatigued, certainly, but it was not an epic battle of will to keep going, so I think it really helped to run evenly and not too fast in the beginning. Except for the very beginning with the walkers and slow runners packed up at the front, I passed the most runners along the Great Highway, which is effectively the 2nd half of the race. I interpreted that as a sign that I was keeping a good steady pace. It was nice that there was this yellow-shirt guy who bumped into me around mile 1 and I kept seeing him and I finally pulled past him when he slowed down at an aid station shortly before I got my last water. Tracking him during the course was a good motivator. It was also great seeing Vicky and Jenny during the race. Thanks for keeping an eye out for me! Towards the turn-around point past Sloat Ave., I was getting anxious and nervous about the uncertainty of how much farther I had to go. I was trying to "keep it all together" and spend my energy reserves as best I could so that I could last the entire race. Because of additional uncertainty about where the finish line was, I probably held back a little too much. As soon as I saw the finish line I was able to really let loose and all-out sprint for it. I think ideally I would've had a slightly better time by picking up the pace more on the last mile or so. Finally, this course has a net elevation drop. Combined with the perfect weather and hard fast surface, this is going to be a personal record that is hard to beat!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Crystal Springs Reservoir

I participated in a fun excursion this morning -- 20* miles through a closed watershed area nearby in Crystal Springs Reservoir. A running friend, George Miller, invited me although he ended up not being able to go. I was worried for myself because my daughter Claire woke up last night saying her ear hurt plus I was sick with some kind of virus; I felt "achey" and fatigued. But still, I couldn't pass up this opportunity if I could help it. There were some amazing runners there and I wanted to meet them and it's always fun to run in a new area. So, at 8:08am this morning, in the light rain and heavy fog, we took off and had a successful journey. Suki Martin led the way. She's an ultra marathon runner who has completed many 100 mile, 50 mile, and 50km races. Her fastest marathon time was just 3 years ago at 3 hours 28 minutes. Nice! I spoke extensively with Greg Ausley, an ironman triathlon runner about the pros and cons of the Garmin GPS watch versus the Polar watch -- Garmin wins for ease of use and accuracy. He did lose satellite coverage twice during our run, but only for 20 seconds each time. Anyway, the 13 of us had a good run although one of us had to turn back quite early; he hadn't recovered from a past injury as well he thought he had. A big thanks again to Suki for being our guide and for providing the water and chocolate goodies at the half-way point.
Anyway, here are a few foggy pictures:

*20 miles was the posted length, but Greg with the GPS watch says that the first mile marker was much less than one mile from where we started. Our overall distance may have been around 19.2 or so. It took us 3 hours 49 minutes -- a very liesurely pace.