Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Run 10K -- 37:09

It was a cool overcast day -- perfect for running. This is the 4th time I've run this 10K (6.21 miles), I think. I had set a personal record two years ago of 36:46 (5:55 a mile average pace) and I had hoped to do better, but realistically, given that I've done almost no speedwork this year, that just wasn't going to happen.

But first, the kid's run! Claire was a trooper and ran the whole way down two long city blocks and back. I'm proud of her!
Then the 10K started and it had some good runners. Two guys I had met at our weekly club meet just the day before, Thomas and Jose, showed up this morning due to me having invited them. They're fast! They run for the College of San Mateo cross-country team. Jose said he ran a 4 mile race just last Friday in 20+ minutes. Wow. So, he and Thomas burned up the course, placing first (33+ minutes) and second. Then the guy who barely beat me in the half marathon finished. And then another young kid. And finally, me. 5th place. 37:09. Given my training, I'm not disappointed, but I can't help thinking, am I "over the hill"? Have I run the fastest 10K I'll ever run? I hope not! Next year...

Jennifer and her sister Lisa ran the 5K which started shortly after the 10K. They did well and ran the whole thing. Lisa might have caught the running bug -- she wants to do another 5K!

It was fun seeing so many friends from the Coastside Running Club. We had many volunteers, including Ken who led the field on the bicycle, and many others who handed out water at one of the two aid stations.

Thanks, everyone! And a big thanks to Michelle for watching Claire while Jennifer and I ran.

Random race notes:

I weighed on the high side -- 167.4 lbs. It's possible that a bunch of this was water weight. I was mildly sick with stomach problems (ok, diarrhea) this whole week including the race day. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems during the race.

I ate a banana and some bread about 2 hours before the race.

I wore my lightweight 10K running shoes. My left calf started getting sore during the race. I think it's OK, but I ran 8 miles the next evening and was sore all over the place. That might've been a mistake.

Time to concentrate on building up for the 50 miler on Dec. 6.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UK Trip

I had an enjoyable and productive 8 days in London and Liverpool this week. The presentations and demos went well and lots of people are strongly interested in our software. I missed my family, though, so I don’t want to do this kind of week-long work-related travel too much. Twice a year seems OK, I think. The weather was very good this week and I never needed an umbrella, as the couple of brief rain showers that occurred were during meetings that I had.

This blog post isn’t going to be a travel guide. For that, I highly recommend Lonely Planet’s London Encounter which was very useful and well-organized. The book is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket and the removable fold-out map was great for carrying around on my runs. Anyway, I’ll share a few impressions that might be outside the typical travel guide.

Hotels – not surprisingly, they vary a great deal in cost, services and quality. What did surprise me was that even the most expensive hotel, at about 220 GBP (~$400) per night charged a whopping 15 GBP ($30) for 24 hours of internet access! I mean, come on, that seems like extortion. Well, Uncle Sony paid for that at least.

Westminster Abbey – I was expecting this beautiful old church to be mostly well, a church, but its function was just as much a mausoleum and national monument storehouse. It was packed-full of monuments, coffins, and honors to various important Brits from King Henry III to Princess Diana. Many poets and writers are buried under the floors or honored with granite stones, or in the case of Shakespeare, a magnificent statue. What surprised and disturbed me a little bit was that thousands of people every day were walking on the stone inscriptions, gradually wearing them away. Many of the grave markers were entirely worn away, leaving just smooth black marble. On others, say from World War II, I could see the progress of wear showing how the stone was carved to different depths using some kind of narrow round chisel, with the deepest parts still visible and the shallow parts having been worn away by the foot traffic. I tried not to walk on the tiles that had writing on them. There was a door that had a sign saying it was the oldest door in Britain, dating to 1050! The Abbey was magnificent, inside and out. I only wished they allowed visitors to take photographs.

“Mind the gap” – The Underground is the subway system that can get you just about anywhere in London and there’s this phrase that is broadcast at every station, “Mind the gap”, that is practically a trademark phrase. It simply means to be careful about stepping over the space between the platform and the train car as you enter or exit. But it’s just so British that it’s cute.

“Look Left” – At nearly every intersection in central London there were messages on the asphalt indicating to the pedestrians which way to look before crossing. Since the cars drive on the left side of the road and since many visitors have presumably looked the wrong way and got flattened by a double-decker bus or speeding taxi, these notices are life savers. I gradually got used to being better aware of which way the cars were coming.

Running-wise, it was a mixed visit, and every single run was mostly at night, sadly.

Sunday -- It started off great, with a good strong 25.6 mile run immediately after I got to my hotel from the flight from San Francisco. I described this in my previous post.

Monday – rest day, as is normal.

Tuesday -- went well, except it was an evening run, which meant that the remaining runs for the week were likely to be in the evening, too. 8+ miles.

Wednesday -- To help build personal relationships with clients and spend some time with my coworkers, I skipped my run. Argh! I hate doing that.

Thursday -- I got in a good 14 miles in Liverpool on Thursday night in 2 hours, skipping dinner with coworkers and clients.

Friday -- I really blew it. I was so exhausted from traveling and not getting good nights’ sleep and visiting the British National Museum that I decided to sleep instead. Mistake! For one thing, I woke up at 2:30am and couldn’t fall asleep again for an hour. And then I was really off my running schedule.

Saturday – spent about 8 hours walking or standing. Visited Westminster Abbey, rode The Eye (135m tall Ferris wheel), and visited the National War Museum. My feet and knees were sore! But I had to get in a run. My plan was to run 4 hours (max 20 miles) Saturday night and 3 hours Sunday morning. Yeah, right! I did 20.4 miles, but I was sore and it started getting difficult and my left knee was bothering me. I adjusted my patella strap a few times (a strap that goes around the leg just underneath the knee cap) and took two short walking breaks in addition to my check-the-map breaks, find-a-place-to-pee breaks, and buy-some-water-because-there-are-no-public-drinking-fountains breaks. 3 hours 45 minutes later, I finished.

Sunday – As I’m typing this in the London Heathrow Airport, I actually feel fine and I did feel pretty good when I woke up. I’m mad at myself for not trying to run! Oh well, at least I got a really good night’s sleep. I don’t recall waking up at all from 1am to 8:30am and then I fell back to sleep until 9:30am. Yay, 8+ hours! This night and last Sunday night were my best night’s sleep. Maybe I should run 20 miles every night! Ha ha.

From Monday to Sunday, that’s a paltry 42 miles. However, in the 7 days from Sunday to Saturday, the total is 66 miles, so that’s not so terrible. I have to get back on track though and get in a couple of 70+ mile weeks for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile race on Dec. 6.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Unintentional Long Run in London

I had an unusual and good long run last night in London. I'm here the whole week on a business trip plus a couple of days at the end for myself, as a tourist. So, dear Diary, I thought I should share....

My plan was to run 18 miles. I asked the concierge at my hotel if he had any ideas of where to run and he pointed to Hyde Park on a map. But he added, with a warning, it is a little ways to get there, about 1.8 miles. I told him that was fine and thanked him. Starting at about 6pm on a Sunday evening, the streets were packed with shoppers and tourists and cars. It was slow going and I was only able to run in short little bursts. Finally, I got to Hyde Park. It was only 1.2 miles.

Hyde Park has miles and miles of trails criss-crossing it and it's a very lovely place. I ran around it and across it a couple of times when I started feeling unmotivated and tired and bored. Hyde Park has a lot of trails, but the park itself doesn't feel very large after 45 minutes of running back and forth. I had gotten almost no sleep during the entire 10 hour overnight flight. I had gone straight from the airport to the hotel, immediately got dressed and was out the door for the run, so I was feeling tired to start with. I was thinking as I got to around mile 6 that I would be lucky to make this a 12 mile run. It was just going so slowly.

I thought I might do another lap around the park and then see how I felt. I put on my head lamp as twilight was coming on and the sun had set. I was wearing my hydration pack and long-sleeve Boston Marathon shirt. (Sorry, Coastside Running Club, it was a bit chilly to be wearing the short-sleave club shirts!) There was a really nice public restroom that was well-lit and had video cameras at the entrance; I only had to find a tree once all night.

Finally, I decided to go exploring. There are many helpful maps stationed around Hyde Park and I picked an adjacent park. I think I saw St. James's Palace that had a Queen's Guard (with the big furry hats). Moving on... I saw another street map showing that I was close to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Cool! I head off in that direction, take some photos. Things are looking good mileage-wise -- I'm up to 10. So, I decide to run down the Thames River for 2 miles, turn around and head back, and it should total to about 18 by the time I got to my hotel.

The Thames River was lovely at night with plenty of pedestrians, lovers, bicyclists, and even a few police. It felt safe even as I got into an industrial area. I was drinking pleny of water, taking a salt capsule every 45 minutes or so, and eating an energy gel every 45 minutes, too. I was feeling good and not running too fast. I stopped to use a restroom at a gas station and he replied, misunderstanding me, "restaurant?" I corrected myself, "Do you have a toilet I could use?" 'Lavatory' also would have worked, but they don't call them 'restrooms'. Business taken care of, and I was off again. I finally turned around at some small park.

At mile 16, I suddenly felt a blister and it hurt. I don't often get painful blisters, but for some reason my left little toe got pushed against the next toe and had already lost a layer of skin. It was red, raw, and angry. It took 3 stops to get it taken care of, but I was lucky that I could transfer a bandaid from one of my big toes. (I sometimes put bandaids on my big black toenails, getting tired of explaining them to guests at our house.) The pain went away and I was comfortable again by mile 18.

Feeling good, I get to a corner of Hyde Park that I thought I recognized and I only had 1.2 miles left to go. So, it should be 19.2 for the night which was longer than planned, but fine. Around mile 20, thinking I was very close to home, I stopped at a convenience store and bought some food for dinner -- a box of healthy cereal, soy milk, and two bananas. Everything just fit into my running backpack. Yay. I continue on. 

I start thinking that I don't quite recognize where I'm at. I keep looking for a street sign to verify that I am really on Oxford St., but dang it, I could not find any. They just don't do street signs here like they do in California. I stop and ask someone. He looks at my map that I was carrying and points to a spot in the air about six inches off of the side of the map in the wrong direction of where I wanted to be. Doh! He asked where I was going... I said "Great Marlborough St. eventually, but if you could get me to Oxford St., that would be great." Oh, man, how did I do this? I had somehow wrapped around Hyde Park instead of going straight. The guy thought it might just be 3 miles away. I thanked him and continued.

I still felt fine and was drinking plenty of water and not running too fast. I would have liked another Gu, but I had eaten all 5 that I had brought. Another 15 or 20 minutes later, I still don't see Hyde Park and I had taken a "short cut" to get there. Fortunately, I hadn't gotten off track yet and another helpful pedestrian pointed me in the right direction.

I came across an Underground Station (subway) and probably would have used it except I couldn't see a way to pay the fare of 4 GBP ($8) except by coin or credit card and I only had cash. It turns out that the machine takes the paper bills but with an unusually wide slot that wasn't labeled; I thought it was for a pass card of some kind. I saw that my destination was only 3 stops away, so I continued. I ran out of water but the night was cool and I felt fine. Finally... I made it to my hotel, feeling good and tired, but not particularly sore. 25.6 miles in about 4 hours 18 minutes of running. That doesn't count the bathroom stops and the grocery store stop.

Today, I felt great and did plenty of walking. It's a confidence booster that I was able to cover that distance pretty easily. Let's hope the rest of the week goes well and I don't get lost any more!