Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pillar Point Half Marathon -- 1:21:05 PR

The weather was perfect and cool for the 6th annual Pillar Point Half Marathon and I've run it every year and every year I've gotten a bit faster. This time, I wasn't sure I could improve on my time of 1:24:26 from last year which is a pace of 6 minutes 27 seconds a mile. I had done very little speed work and just not very many miles since my 50 mile race on Oct. 10. My 10K race on Oct. 18 was good for me, but was still quite a ways off from earlier years.

When I parked my car that morning, I happened to park next to David Lara who beat me last year by about 20 feet. He had since improved dramatically, so if he had a good race, I wasn't going to be a contender for winning today's race. That's fine, one less thing to worry about! Another fast guy in our club, Thomas Setser, also showed up, who is a champion college runner in cross country and track.

Many other friends from my running club also showed up which was great to see.

My plan was to try to improve on my time and to take a risk and to carefully monitor my heart rate. I wore my Garmin 305 GPS watch with a heart rate monitor. Soon, we were off!

I started off a little quick but then soon settled down into a good rhythm, trying to keep in mind that I had a long ways to go. I kept tabs on my heart rate and overall pace. Thomas took the lead immediately and David passed me very soon after the start. I remained in 3rd place for the remainder of the race.

The 2nd aid station, near the 10K turn-around point was coming up and I wanted to get some water, but the guy wasn't ready. He started filling a cup for me, but there was no way I was going to stop and wait! "I'll grab water next time!" I blurted out as I raced by. I did get water at the next aid station and then once more later on -- so two full cups was plenty for this distance and the cool weather.

We got on to the dirt trails and the course was very well marked with chalk and yellow flags. Good job organizers -- this was the best marked dirt portion of the race yet. This part is out-and-back and I saw Thomas in the lead still followed very closely behind by David. When I turned around, I was somewhat surprised to see my friend and club member Franz Dill somewhat close to me, like maybe just a few hundred feet. "Wow, he's running fast today; I didn't know he had this much speed in him!" Shortly behind him was the first place female and also a club member, Robin Martin. My watch was showing 6:19 average pace since the start of the race. Not bad, I thought! I was feeling the hard effort, but still had lots of gas in the tank. This was around mile 5.

Soon we got on to the residential loop. The volunteer at the turn said "turn left at Railroad St. something something Myrtle?". I knew the route and turned left on to the street, leaving the paved trail. But then, maybe my mind was fogged by the effort or my eyes were blurry from sweat or something, but I saw the that the two lane road went down to one lane and it looked like a driveway of sorts. There were no course markings since leaving the paved trail. What to do? I felt like I needed to turn right even though there was no chalk on the ground. I was on Myrtle St. "Oh good, that's what she said to turn on, right?" Then I got to an intersection, again with no course markings. I kept on going straight. "Hmm... they could really use some course markings out here." Then I got a bad feeling that I had turned too early. Suddenly I saw Thomas and David dart across the street about a block ahead. Crap. I had turned too early. The actual course was on a parallel road.

When I got to the next cross street (3rd St.), I made a left turn, running backwards on the course and away from Thomas and David. I got to Central Ave., which was the street I should have been on instead of Myrtle and then did a quick turn-around. I hoped I hadn't cut any distance. I would be so disappointed to have such a good race and hard effort (and $35 or so) spoiled by a mistake like this.

Here's a map of the area showing the correct route and my route.
And my Garmin GPS data is here, but it looks like you need to be a member of Running Ahead. (It's a useful site and free; you can track your workouts there.)

Now I was filled with uncertainty. I would hate to overtake either Thomas or David by potentially having taken a short cut. I just didn't know if Central Ave. was parallel to Myrtle! At the next aid station I stopped completely, drank my 2nd cup of water and told the volunteer that I thought she said to turn on Myrtle. She said, "No, I said turn left on Railroad". "OK, thanks." And I was off again. It was a quick stop, but still 5 seconds (10 seconds?) felt like a long time.

My watch showed my overall average pace as being 6:19 again. I monitored my heart rate and tried pushing the pace more. Soon, the average was 6:18. I was getting close to the finish and I pushed harder. I was starting to struggle and couldn't get enough oxygen. I sprinted towards the finish line. "Holy crap -- 1:21:something!! That can't be right." I stopped my watch. 1:21:05 -- a huge personal record. My watch showed just 12.85 miles. Dang. I must have cut distance. Jennifer and Claire met me at the finish line. I was very grateful to see them. Claire told me she came in 3rd place in the 1 mile kids' run. Good job, Claire!

I told one of the race officials about my course deviation but she was busy and didn't seem to care. Then I saw a map and fortunately, Central Ave. and Myrtle were parallel. Whew. Later, I double-checked with my GPS watch data and Google Maps and all was well. The course was just over 13.1 miles and my alternate route was only 14' shorter which is mostly mitigated by having to come to a complete stop and turning around.

Long story short -- I'm amazed that I was able to maintain an average pace of 6 minutes 11 seconds a mile for 13.1 miles. I would not have guessed that this was possible.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Run 10K -- 37:12

8 days after my 50 miler, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to run my favorite 10K. I've done this local event every year since 2004. But the day before the race, I felt good in our weekly 5.4 mile club run so I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did. I was a few seconds slower than last year, and slower still than my P.R., but had a strong consistent run, averaging exactly 6 minutes a mile for the 6.2 mile course.
The results are in:
I came in 4th overall, and 1st in the 30-39 age group. I'm happy!

I looked up the results for all my Pumpkin Runs:
The columns are 1) overall place. 2) gender place. 3) age group place. 4) my age. 5) time. 6) pace. 7) date.
15 15 6 33 0:41:18 6:39 10/17/2004
6 6 3 34 0:37:35 6:03 10/16/2005
4 4 2 35 0:36:46 5:55 10/15/2006
3 3 2 36 0:37:28 6:02 10/14/2007
5 5 2 37 0:37:09 5:59 10/19/2008
4 4 1 38 0:37:12 6:00 10/18/2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Firetrails 50 Mile -- 8:10:00

I successfully completed the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile race today in 8 hours 10 minutes. (Average pace: 9:48 per mile.) It was very difficult (lots and lots of hills), I'm very sore, and very happy!

I want to give a big thanks to my friend "Big" Ben Voight for running the last 13 miles with me. Here's the Coastside Running Club crew that either ran or helped out today.
The weather was great and just about perfect for a long run -- lots of cool still air, a bit of mist at times, and low clouds. I'm so glad that I didn't have to contend with a lot of heat.

The race was superbly well organized and executed. The course was very well marked; I think the best-marked of any trail race I've done. The aid stations were well stocked and well staffed with friendly efficient volunteers. Thank you, volunteers! The "schwag" (goody bag containing stuff passed out to the finishers) was great, too -- a nice-looking wind breaker and a nice synthetic dry-weave running shirt. Made me think of the Boston Marathon jacket that cost $100 and was of poorer quality.

The results have been announced: I came in 23rd out of 234 runners. For nearly the entire race, I did not feel competitive with other runners. Just overcoming the challenging course and tremendous distance was the focus of my attention. I think everyone who started that morning has a lot to be proud of.

I'll jot down random thoughts and encounters I had during the race:
  • I ran with a couple of people for a mile or two and enjoyed their company -- Mark Matyazic, a triathlete and Rory Bosio, a 25 year old school teacher. Mark had an incredible 2nd half, running about 30 minutes faster and finishing 7:30:38. Rory ended up being the first place female in 7:54:33. She ran all the uphills! I tended to walk these and I would catch up to her eventually except towards the turn-around where she may have picked up the pace. Rory asked me during the race if I wanted to hear some jokes. That was a fun way of passing the time and I told her I'd pass them along to my daughter.
  • I thought to myself: "Mile 27. That's only 10 miles until I see Ben!"
  • I thought to myself: "Whew, 30 miles. That's a good long training run. I'm feeling the effort. Oh, man, 20 miles to go. That's so long. I don't feel like doing 20 miles. I wish I hadn't just thought about how far I have to go."
  • Ben: "You've only got 6 miles to go. That's only about an hour." He was right, but dang, after having been running or uphill power-walking for 7 hours, running for 1 more hour seemed very very difficult. I tried to just think about getting to the next aid station.
  • ~3 miles to go. After the last aid station, after stopping briefly and eating a yummy salty potato chunk, I started feeling much better. Soon, I was able to see Lake Chabot again. I knew that I was getting close and that the last few miles were going to be relatively flat. I decided to really push the pace. I dumped out my water out of one bottle and kept just the 8 oz of sports drink in the other. I decided I didn't need any more energy gels. I got to around 7 min./mile on the flat sections, faster on the short downhills, and never stopped running even on the uphills. Ben fell behind and I couldn't hear him any more, but I was determined to do my best. I knew I was going to finish the race and I was so happy and so relieved. It was wonderful hearing Jennifer and Claire at the finish area and I sprinted through the finishing chute. Whew. I was so relieved and happy, that I felt emotional and teary-eyed.
Consumed during the race:
  • ~20 Gu energy gels
  • 1 Shot Blok package
  • 1 Cliff Bar
  • 1 very salty potato chunk, with 3 miles to go
  • 1 handful of Pringles
  • lots of sports drink and water
  • 16 S-Caps (salt capsules)
My weight:
  • 163.6 lbs on race morning, after waking up and after carb loading the previous day. I was glad I was able to lose a few pounds of fat (presumably) since the SF Marathon.
  • 161.2 lbs after getting back home after the race, after having snacked and drank a bit.
Things that went well:
  • I appear to be uninjured.
  • I didn't fall, trip, or even stumble on the many miles of rough single-track trail.
  • My hydration, electrolytes, and fueling went very well. Eating an energy gel every 20 minutes and an S-Cap salt capsule every 30 minutes worked well. I tried to take a good sip of water or sports drink every few minutes. I'm guessing I drank 7 to 8oz a mile.
  • I had fun except around miles 40-45.
  • I put in my best effort. I kept my heart rate in the mid-140s on average. (My max heart rate is 183 beats per minute.)
  • I was 1 hour 37 minutes faster than last year's 50 miler!
  • I was efficient at the aid stations for the most part. I had the aid station mileage chart written on one of my water bottles and I knew what I needed to get each time. I wanted to leave each aid station with 3 Gu energy gels in my pockets and with one or both water bottles filled (depending on how far the next aid station was).
  • My equipment on the whole did pretty well. I discovered I needed to replace my Garmin heart rate monitor battery the day before. Thankfully, it performed well. My Dirty Girl gaiters worked great and kept rocks and twigs out of my shoes. My Garmin watch reported 49.0 miles at the end, so it was "close enough" but I think it lost a mile due to all the tree cover and the curvy trail was getting broken down into longer straighter lines. Body Glide kept me from having any chafing. No sunburns. My Halo headband, which has a thin plastic strip to guide water away, worked well and kept the sweat out of my eyes.
Things to improve on:
  • My shoes were not quite perfect and any problem at all can cause foot / skin problems. The ends of 4 toes started developing blisters -- not so bad that they needed to be drained, though, and the skin didn't tear. (Update: 2 days later, the ends of my toes are back to normal.) The top of my left middle toe started to get painful at times on the steepest downhills where I had to brake hard on each step. I don't know if my shoes were a tiny bit too small or if my laces weren't quite tight enough or what. And my right big toe has some redness underneath the toenail which can lead to me losing it. We'll see. Otherwise, I've enjoyed these Brooks shoes very much.
  • I think I picked up the pace too much when Ben met me at mile 37. I knew I was pushing my heart rate up, but then at mile 40 I felt a strong twinge of a cramp in my right thigh and things were feeling delicate all over my leg muscles. I think I was very close to having a lock-down general cramping. I quickly doubled-up on the salt and energy gels, but I felt very fatigued and sore for maybe 45 minutes. It felt like a long time. Only after the last aid station, with 3 miles to go, did I really start feeling strong again.
  • My shorts were a little loose for what I was carrying in them. I discovered this on a training run but that was a different pair of shorts. I should've tested the exact pair I was intending to wear. It wasn't too bad, but they started falling off my bum and I had to hitch them up every 5 minutes or so until I ate my Cliff Bar.
  • My worst soreness and borderline injury is my right forearm! Weird! But I guess holding and running with 2 20oz water bottles was a bit much for so many hours. Oftentimes, I had to carry both bottles in one hand and so my forearm muscles might be strained. It's painful to the touch. I should do more arm exercises.
As usual, I owe Jennifer a huge amount of gratitude. I ran every Saturday and Sunday morning, sometimes for many hours, since the San Francisco Marathon. My longest training run took me 5 hours 15 minutes, to run from the Bay Bridge in S.F. to our house (32.3 miles by the coastal route). Thanks, my love!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SF Marathon -- 3:06:25

I successfully completed all 26.2 miles of the San Francisco Marathon this morning in 3 hours 6 minutes 25 seconds. This was my first time running the entire SF Marathon. Previously I had run just the first half.

The weather was perfect for running -- cool and overcast. The course was interesting and the support was excellent. I loved running back and forth over the Golden Gate Bridge and through all of the city streets and up and down Golden Gate Park. Three of us carpooled, arriving at the Embarcadero Ctr parking garage at about 4:50am. It took a surprisingly long time to walk to the start, use a porta-potty (long lines) and get into our corrals. For next time, I need an additional 20 minutes. I ended up being just barely on time for the 5:31am start of my wave, wave 2. But I started at the back of wave 2 and there were lots and lots of people who didn't belong in this area and so it was a very slow start. I had to come to a complete stop shortly after I crossed the start line and there were many very slow runners that I had to navigate around.

The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge involved a steep hill, shortly after Crissy Field. I wore a heart rate monitor that communicated with my Garmin 305 watch to help me know how hard my body was really working. I knew that my maximum heart rate was 183. My goal early on was to not run too fast so my target heart rate was around 155 for the flat sections and I let it climb to 165 to 168 on the steep uphills early in the race. It was fun seeing the front runners coming back across the bridge as I was about halfway over. I had forgotten how much of an arc the bridge is and how long the uphill parts are. We were pretty much encased in fog. I couldn't see the water. But it was still fun. 3 of the 5 lanes are blocked off for the marathon.

After turning around, on my way back, I checked the distance on my watch for the first time. I was expecting it to be around 7 miles, feeling warmed up but still having a long way to go. I was pleasantly surprised that I had covered 9.3 miles already.

I was passing people less frequently now as we approached the Golden Gate Park where the first half of the marathon ended. The crowds thinned considerably after we marathon runners turned right to run west towards the end of the park and the half-marathoners turned left.

I kept glancing at my heart rate to try to keep a good steady output. I was feeling pretty good but then my right knee suddenly started feeling stiff and sore, like it was swelling up. I don't think I slowed down. Around mile 16, the feeling disappeared.

For the second half, I kept on trying to speed up. I was monitoring my average pace for the whole race and I wanted it to get down to 7:03 minutes per mile. It was slowly but steadily going down as I was gradually speeding up. I set as a goal to keep my heart rate at around 160 for the flat sections and around 167 on the uphills. I was basically feeling pretty good. At the aid stations, I usually grabbed one small cup of water and one small cup of sports drink.

Around mile 19, my calves started feeling heavy and I got small signs of cramps. Around mile 21, my calves were feeling heavy and somewhat tight. What was fun, though, was seemingly owning the streets of San Francisco. We runners were so spread out that for a time I saw just two runners in front of me, over the distance of what seemed like a quarter mile. When I approached intersections, the police stopped the cars and made them wait for me. It felt like I was a VIP, running down the center of these wide streets, crossing major streets with cars waiting on both sides, just for me!

The end was getting difficult but I was keeping a steady pace and letting my heart rate rise and rise. I was catching up to a woman who was told by a volunteer that she was the 10th place female! I passed her and later passed another woman. It felt strange being so near the frontrunners of such a big race.

Around mile 22-23, I was starting to struggle with my heart rate and heavy calves and general sense of fatigue. A guy passed me and I thought to myself, "I'm going to try to hang on to this guy. He's not going much faster than me." I felt a bit of headwind at this point, so I might as well use him to block the wind. I stuck right on his back as we got nearer to the finish, with both of us passing another 10 or 12 runners. With about a half mile to go, even though I couldn't see the finish line, I broke away and began sprinting towards the finish in a last-ditch redline effort. My heart rate shot up to the low 170s. (Again, my max heart rate is 183.) I passed another cluster of runners. I saw the 3:10 pace group which was about 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I put in a big final sprint, passed them, and ran across the finish line. Whew! I thanked the guy that I glued myself to for those last few miles and we congratulated each other. He finished right behind me; he must've been sprinting, too.

The results were posted in real-time. Nice! I was happily surprised that I did so well compared to the other runners. UPDATE: The unofficial results as of this moment have me at 84th place overall (out of 5,000+ finishers) and 9th place in my age group of 35-39 males (out of 568 finishers). Results are here: . My bib # is 2075.

Other random notes:
  • My cold / flu was still going on, but it didn't seem to affect me much. I still feel dizzy when I stand up too quickly and I spit out a lot of heavy yellow phlegm during the race.
  • I overslept a bit, sleeping through my 2:30am alarm in order to eat 3 hours before the race. Instead, I started eating at around 3:10am. It didn't seem to matter.
  • Weight-wise, I was probably around 165 pounds, but I didn't weigh myself this morning.
Above: my sister Molly and me. Below: my sister Jessica and me. A big thanks to my two sisters who came out to visit. Thanks, Jess, for buying me lunch.

And a huge thanks to Jennifer for making this race possible.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lake Merritt 10K - 40:27

I ran an impromptu 10K race this morning instead of doing a long run. I figured it'd be good to get some speedwork in and it's always fun to run somewhere new and to enter a race. This running club, Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders, puts on a 5K and 10K race every 4th Sunday of each month. It only costs $5 and they hand out ribbons to the age-group award winners.

So... in spite of my telling myself repeatedly not to go out too fast, of course I did. It's so hard to hold back when I'm feeling great! So, after a 5:30 or so first mile, I start slowing down and by the end of mile 2 I'm actually struggling, feeling the lactic acid burn in my legs, feeling overheated and my heart pounding, and sweat stinging in my eyes. Sheesh! I almost called it quits and did the 5K instead. (Each loop around the lake is 5K.) But I held on, slowed down, and finished in 3rd place overall.

Thanks to Bill, my friend and coworker, for encouraging me to show up. I want to run this course again and improve!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon -- 3:03:33

I successfully completed the Boston Marathon last Monday in 3 hours 3 minutes and 33 seconds. (7:00 minutes per mile average pace.) I had a rough time the last 5 miles being just on the verge of cramps. I had to slow down a bit but I didn't completely fall apart. This was my 3rd and fastest Boston Marathon. I'm happy!

I had a great weekend, meeting friends and being surrounded by thousands of dedicated and accomplished runners.

The predicted weather for race day was cool, high of 47, with some wind from the east. The temperature sounded great, but I sure didn't need any headwind. I was cold at the starting line but quickly warmed up. Next time, I'll try to remember to bring some warm and disposable clothing to the start line.
My goal time was right around 3 hours, with a hope of setting a personal record and coming in with a low 2:59 or 2:58.
I was concerned early on during the race that my left knee would be a problem. I could feel that my left patellar tendon was getting swollen. I also knew that there was a good chance it would just "loosen up" and be fine. It was fine and I didn't feel it at all after mile 9 or so.
After the half-way point, the headwinds were much stronger but still nothing like the Boston of 2007 when we were running into the northeastern storm and had gusts of 40mph wind in our faces. Mentally, after the half-way point, I was going to try to give an "extra push". I was monitoring my heart rate closely and tried to keep it around 160-163 beats per minute. (My maximum heart rate I've ever seen is 183, so this is 87% to 89% of my maximum heart rate.) After the half-way point, I let it rise to 165-168 (90% to 92%) with low 170s on the uphills. In hindsight, I think I should've stayed steady until about mile 20.
I had written my running-club nickname, RON-O-MATIC, on the front and back of my shirt. It was a bit of fun and levity. I think I made the 'M' too narrow and a bunch of onlookers seemed to struggle to read it and yelled out "good job, Ron-o". It was fun.

Other runners in the race wore relatively elaborate costumes. These guys were all running at about a 3 hour marathon pace. One guy was dressed head-to-toe as Captain America, complete with a cardboard shield painted silver. Funny! Another guy was wearing a big clown's wig, like a rainbow-colored afro.

The hills in the 2nd half of the race seemed to knock me down more. It was as if every mile almost there was something that slowed me down. Combined with the increasing headwinds and my increased effort to speed-up, I think I set myself up for problems with cramps again. After the mile 21 marker passed by, I got a strong twinge of a cramp in my left calf. Whoa! Then I felt something similar in my right calf. I felt flashbacks of the previous year of other races where I knew I was very near having a big breakdown where large muscle groups just stopped working. I slowed down and carefully tried to stay on that cliff edge of going as fast as I could without falling off and having to do a painful walk / shuffle. My lap times for each mile dropped further -- 7:25 for mile 21, 7:13 for mile 22, then a couple of 7:23s to finish the race. Ugh. It was very difficult. I stopped interacting with the crowds or looking around much. I was very focused on just moving forward as fast as I could without getting cramps. These last 5 miles were difficult until I got within sight of the finish line on Boylston St. and I knew I was going to be OK. Whew!

Race Encounters
Around halfway through the race, a guy was catching up to me and said "hi, Ron, I know you from the running club." It was David Lara who I had such a close race against in the Pillar Point Half Marathon the previous September. Funny! He lives nearby in El Granada and he recognized me from my club shirt I was wearing. We chatted for a while. He passed me then, but I passed him later, finishing just about 2 minutes in front of him. He had a terrific race considering his training. He said he only did one "long" run of 10 miles and otherwise ran about 8 miles a day. Wow. Apparently that was enough to keep in shape from his previous marathon last December. Good job, Dave!
Around mile 24 someone yelled out and ran through the crowds a bit, "Ron Little! Ron Little! Hi!". I didn't recognize him and I was "in the zone", just trying to stay focused. But then I thought who could it be that would know my first and last name and look vaguely like this guy -- Allen Kachalia from Bonita High School. Yep! He contacted me through Facebook. Very cool. I hadn't seen him since my 10 year reunion.
I passed by Dick and Rick Hoyt again this year. This is a father and son team. Rick is the son and has cerebral palsy and can't voluntarily move his arms or legs. His dad pushes him in a racing wheelchair. His dad has done around 1,000 racing events with his son! Dick is 68 years old and pushed his son the whole way, mostly running, in 5 hours 30 minutes. Just incredible.
I passed by another wheelchair user, Jason Pisano, who also has cerebral palsy and has control mostly over just one leg. He rides backwards in his wheelchair, kicking against the ground to shove himself forward, and has two able-bodied guides walking with him. When I passed him, he was going uphill so so slowly, one little kick at a time. I remember him from the previous year, too.  I think it takes him 8 or 9 hours to finish. My friend Amanda took this picture of him as he neared the finish line:

26,331 runners had qualified and entered the race.
23,162 actually showed up and crossed the starting line on Monday morning.
22,849 (98.6% of the starters) finished.
There were 5,035 runners who started the race who were in my age group of 18-39 males. That's a big age group! When I'm 40, I'll have an advantage, being the youngest in my age group rather than the oldest. :-)
I placed 1,723rd overall and 1,176th in my age group. That's in the top 7.4% overall and the top 23% in my age group.
Busy Social Calendar
It was fun meeting friends this weekend. I stayed with a guy I met two years ago at Boston, Ron McCracken. He got me into the Runner's World party on Sunday night where there were many famous accomplished runners from previous decades, like Joan Benoit Samuelson. I met two previous coworkers and their families, and I met two friends from my running club who were also running the Boston Marathon.
What Went Right
  • My training went well. I made all of my long runs over the last 3-4 months and most of my other scheduled runs. I topped out at just over 70 miles for a week.
  • My new lightweight shoes worked fine. I was a little nervous since I hadn't run more than about 9 miles at a time in them.
  • Wearing a heart rate monitor for the first time in a road marathon seemed useful. I liked knowing how hard my body was really working.
  • I wore a hat for a road marathon for the first time. I liked it. I was imagining that I was more aerodynamically efficient! Placebo effect?
  • Eating a Gu every 35-40 minutes seemed to work fine.
  • I started feeling a blister on my left 2nd toe around mile 11 or 12. I realized it was from a bandaid that I had on my big toe. In the end, it was a relatively minor blister. That was the only one.
  • My Garmin Forerunner 305 is a GPS watch that I use. It worked well and was useful. One cautionary note is that it reported 26.46 miles total distance. This could be because of my crossing the road back and forth, perhaps? There were a lot of runners and I couldn't always run on the shortest path through the curves of the roads. The downside of this is that the reported pace was faster than my official pace. For example, if my watch said 6:48 minutes per mile, it was "really" (as far as the race officials are concerned) 6:51 or 6:52 per mile.
  • I'm glad I got to Boston Commons to meet the buses at 6:20am. By the time I boarded the bus at 6:35 or so, the crowds had doubled. I really wanted to get to Hopkinton earlier rather than later, so that I could have some coffee, use the porta-potties and sit down and relax, rather than stand in line for 45 minutes.
What Went Wrong
  • I could have done more speedwork during training perhaps. I was taking it easy on my patellar tendon.
  • I weighed 166.4 lbs before flying to Boston. I wanted to lose some weight but I seem to be incapable! My body is very stubborn, apparently!
  • During the race, I think I should have kept about a constant heart rate for a little longer, saving a speed-up for mile 21 perhaps. Those extra 25 seconds a mile towards the end were costly and I think could've been avoided by going a bit slower earlier on.
More Photos
I owe a huge thanks and I'm very grateful towards my wife for making it possible for me to train and participate this year. Maybe next year I can get Jennifer and Claire to come along!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Death Valley Vacation

March 26 to March 29
Jennifer and I had a nice little vacation without Claire, flying to Las Vegas and staying for one night and then driving to Death Valley for two more nights. We got in a couple of nice dinners, a great show (Blue Man Group) and lots of hiking and running. I had a strong 20 mile run along Badwater Road and Artist Drive -- very pretty in a desolate way.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Angel Island 25K -- 3rd place

In preparation for the upcoming Boston Marathon, my training schedule called for a tough run -- 16 miles with 12 miles at marathon race pace. I thought this would be tough to do solo both because of the speed (6:51 minutes per mile goal pace) and the practical matter of carrying enough water or having quick access to water. Plus, races are fun! I saw this 25K put on by EnviroSports on Angel Island and since I've never been to this island in the San Francisco Bay, I signed up.

A couple hundred of us boarded a ferry at 8:30am this morning. (I had a bit of a panic after I realized I had forgotten my wallet and couldn't pay for parking, but I took a chance in a 2 hour residential area and was ok -- no ticket.) The weather felt good and cool, with no wind or rain.
The scenery was beautiful as we crossed to the island.

The race started at 9:30am which was about 15 minutes late. I had eaten my Gu energy gel 15 minutes before the race was scheduled to start, so it wasn't ideal to have an unexpected delay. But that's OK, I was ready, had used the bathroom, and everyone was in a good mood. The race director gave us good instructions, told a few jokes, and we were off!

The 25K runners started first, with a 10 minute head start over the 12K runners. Those of us in the front were taking it easy, doing about 7 min./mile on this flat loop around the picnic area. Then we were on a trail, climbing a steep hill.

I was in 3rd place. We quickly spread out and after the first couple of miles, there were two faster guys in the front. One of them looked like a fast track runner (very thin) and he wasn't carrying any water. The other guy was really muscular and looked more like a soccer play plus ultra-runner. Then there was me and a strong-looking guy right behind me. The guy behind me stuck with me for the first few miles before passing me on a flatter area, but then when we hit another uphill, he slowed down a lot and I passed him again. He got closer towards the end of the first loop, but then I pulled away from him on the 2nd loop and never saw him again. So, mostly I ran in 3rd place the entire race.

So, we did two loops, ending up with 14.5 miles. There were lots of walkers doing the 12K and it was kind of fun passing all of them on my 2nd loop. I was passing many of the slowest 12K runners, feeling strong, and then I was done! 3rd place. 7:11 average pace. I'm happy!

I'm a bit sore and I have 6 or 7 scratches on my legs and my left ankle is a bit bruised, but all-in-all, I'm feeling good. The various minor injuries were from this big tree that had recently fallen on the trail and it was a real struggle to get through all of the branches. And this part of the trail had to be traversed 4 times in the 25K. Yuck! There were a couple of other spots that required jumping over logs, but those were much more minor.

Another random note: for the first 5 miles or so, my left foot seemed to be falling asleep. I kept on wiggling my toes, trying to fix it. Were my shoes too tight? Running that downhill seemed to wake it up and I was fine from then on.

Results are in. There were only 51 people in the 25K. Felt like more!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crystal Springs Watershed 20 Miles


My iliotibial band (IT Band) problem seems to have finally been solved! I had a wonderful 20 mile slow social run on a beautiful day last Saturday.

My running club organized a charity run in a closed-to-the-public area near the Crystal Springs Watershed. 21 runners (well, 20 runners and one bicyclist) participated and we've blown past our goal of raising at least $750 for a scholarship for a Half Moon Bay High School cross-country runner.


Accomplished ultramarathon runner, Jean Pommier, in front of Pilarcitos Lake.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


I took Claire for a short trip to visit my parents and we went to Disneyland this past Monday. I also tried out my big new Christmas present -- a Nikon D90 digital camera.

Claire was just tall enough to go on some of the big rides. We had a long fun day, in spite of the huge crowds. (FastPass is a winner, if you stack them up every two hours.) We went on:

  • Splash Mountain (twice)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (twice)
  • Indiana Jones
  • Pinocchio
  • Snow White
  • Jungle Cruise
  • steam train around Disneyland

I must have carried Claire (all 50 pounds of her) for at least 3 hours on Monday. I count that as a work-out!

Running-wise, I think I'm getting better. I've had a couple of hour-long runs in the last week on a soft sandy beach. Today, I ran 5.25 miles on a hard dirt trail but I sensed that the IT band on my left knee was getting tender or inflamed. It didn't hurt, but I was glad to stop. I'm seeing an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow who specializes in running injuries, for an evaluation of my left knee.

Oh, and I've signed up for:
Boston Marathon on April 20. Woo hoo!
San Francisco Marathon on July 26.

I'm thinking of trying to get into the New York City Marathon this year, too. Time to get training!