Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quad Dipsea -- 5:32:32

I had never run any of the Dipsea races -- the regular Dipsea, Double Dipsea, or Quad Dipsea. Some friends from my running club said they would sign up for the Quad Dipsea and I checked the calendar and asked my wife, and it was a go! The Quad Dipsea runs 7 miles from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Then we turn around and come back. And then go out again. And finally back again. That's a total of 28 miles. 28 miles might sound like just a little more than a marathon (26.2 miles) but it's the 9200' of elevation gain that make this race special! It much harder than many 50 km (31 mile) trail races.

I met two friends from my running club, Chris B. and Omar, at my house at 6am, and we were parked and in line to get our bibs shortly after 7am. I was grateful that it wasn't raining at the start/finish. I saw other friends there, like Mike (below). My sister-in-law's boyfriend, Matt, even showed up and said "hi". Cool!

As the race time drew nearer, I settled in 20 or 30 feet back from the start line, and finally, promptly at 8am, we were off!

The race quickly goes uphill through a residential area and up three long flights of stairs. The race organizers say there are 686 steps in these first three flights. There was some congestion with the runners in front of me, but I didn't want to go any faster and I quickly hiked up the steps two-at-a-time. We had a long ways to go!

My heart rate quickly climbed into the high 150s and low 160s, which was higher than my target of around 150, but I figured I would recover on the downhills. It didn't quite work out that way....

The trails were gorgeous and lush, and I was thoroughly enjoying the experience. I couldn't enjoy the scenery too much because I had to stay focused on the terrain in front of me. There are many many tripping hazards.

I was carrying one 20oz water bottle, starting with water, and I ran out with about 15 minutes until the first aid station -- Cardiac Arrest. I filled up with sports drink and drank only sports drink for the rest of the race.

We went through a little forested area and I'm still not sure if it was raining or if the trees were so moist, that the rain was coming just from the trees. It was a surreal environment because the clouds were in the tree tops and so it was like running in twilight.

Coming down into Stinson Beach are some of the most beautiful views in the Bay Area. The trail is smooth and very runnable and there are long sight lines down to the beach. Somewhere around here I encountered the first place runners returning. Awesome! I recognized Dave Mackey followed closely by Chikara Omine, and then a little while later, Jean Pommier. I cheered them on.

I got to the turn-around -- 1 hour 16 minutes had passed. Not bad! I was tentatively hoping for about a 5 hour finish, so I was basically on track for that, but I felt that I may have pushed too hard already. Time to go back!

The return trip was fun because I could look out for other friends and we would wish each other good luck. I was feeling the effort. I also started feeling chafing on my nipples, but tucking my totally soaked shirt into the front of my shorts helped a lot. I came across Matt again who was out hiking the trail and he took some pictures. Thanks for being out there, Matt! Unfortunately, the photo was mostly a blur of me:

Going down the stairs was rather treacherous. I slipped a little bit on the first set of stairs and I landed softly on my bottom. No big deal. I got to the turn-around at the start/finish in Mill Valley and that leg had taken 1 hour 18 minutes. Not too bad. I felt good. Time to go back up the stairs! I was feeling good. I think this photo (bought from Facchino Photography) was taken on the third leg, but I'm not completely sure:

About half-way through this third traversal of the course, around mile 18 or so, I started feeling cramps in my legs. Oh no! I took another energy gel right away. I slowed down. The descent into Stinson Beach started getting ugly and at one point, I had to stop, as both quads had locked up. I was in survival mode now, trying to keep moving as best I could while preserving my legs. Other runners passed me. There are a lot of huge steps and rocks on this part of the Dipsea trail and I kept on telling myself "no heroics, just be careful and keep moving". The third traversal took 1 hour 26 minutes -- 10 minutes slower than my first traversal which amounts to almost a minute-and-a-half per mile slower.

The final traversal was more difficult still. At various times I either struggled a lot with uphill running or with downhill running. The final descent of the stairs was especially slow and painful as I didn't feel like I could go down the steps two-at-a-time. I got passed by about 5 runners on these last stairs. The finish line came in sight. Yay! The last traversal took 1 hour 32 minutes. Ouch!

Here are my four traversal times, with each one being 7 miles, 2300' of elevation gain, and 2300' of descent.
1:26 Ouch!
1:32 Double ouch!
5:32 finish time

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this race! Yeah, even though I struggled for about the last third, I enjoyed the scenery, camaraderie, and the challenge. There's plenty of room for improvement and I would like to run it again in 2015.

Random Data

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chicago Marathon -- 3:00:52

Wow, Chicago knows how to put on a race! I was impressed over and over again at the scale of this marathon and how well-supported it was. I heard that there were 12,000 volunteers for us 41,000 runners!

I had a really good race! I felt strong and kept up a good pace for the entire race, with my fastest miles towards the end. I started about a third of the way back in the second corral, Corral B, which positioned me with runners who were aiming for around 3 hours 20 minutes. I never felt too crowded though, and the psychological benefit of continuously passing runners the whole race was nice.

I ran the first half in 1:30:51 and the second half in 1:30:01. I monitored my heart rate, aiming for the low 150s for the first five miles and then gradually increasing to the high 160s and low 170s towards the end. That gave me a finish time of 3 hours 52 seconds, which is the 7th fastest of my 23 road marathons.


The morning of the race, I woke at 5am and immediately ate a small breakfast of about 2.5 slices of whole wheat bread, a Clif bar, and a banana. I took the train for a short ride from our rental house and arrived at my designated Gate #1 at about 6:40am. Security was tight, as expected, in response to the stupid delusional Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013.

The weather was great, being nice and cool in the morning, like around 47F as I recall. I only had a very slight urge to use the bathroom, but as a good practice I wanted to go one more time before the race. Unfortunately, it was too crowded!

After standing in line for about 10 minutes and estimating that I would need to wait another 20 minutes to use the porta-potty, I realized that I would miss the 7:20am cut-off to be in my corral in time for the 7:30am start. I left the porta-potty line and went to take off my warm clothes and drop off my drop-bag.

As I was entering the corral, people from other later corrals were being stopped from entering corral B. Why do slower runners feel like they need or deserve to get up front? They're just going to become obstacles to those behind them. After entering the corral, I saw that there were more porta-potties! Oh, well, it was too late now. I felt OK. I tried to get myself situated between the 3:20 and 3:15 pace group.

After some nervous waiting with thousands of runners packed in around me (I tried to do some gentle stretching, but it was difficult), we were off! Well, the runners far in front of us started. A short couple of minutes later I crossed the start line in a run and then things were fine as far as the crowds were concerned. I appreciated being forced to not run too fast at the beginning. We were soon running through a big tunnel. Neat! When crossing some of the bridges, there were carpets laid upon the steel grate to give us better footing. Nice!

I enjoyed the sights and the spectators and the whole vibe. I tried to take it easy, keeping above 7 minutes a mile.

The miles pleasantly cruised by. I steadily passed runners, jumping from one group to the next. I came upon pace setters that were identified by bibs on their backs. I was concerned when at the 7 mile point I came across two guys who were a part of the 3 hour pace group. Oops, I thought I had gone too fast! I realized later that the pace group people were all over the place and these guys were far behind the actual 3 hour pace. I wanted to take it easy the first half, so I didn't mind. My goal was to finish in the low 3 hours, like 3:04 or 3:03.

At the 13 mile mark, I came across the first casualty -- some guy was walking stiffly with what looked like cramps. Perhaps he went out too fast.

Finally the half way point came. 1 hour 30 minutes and 51 seconds. Sweet! I felt like I had a really solid workout but I had plenty of energy left. I gently increased my effort and monitored my heart rate every couple of minutes.

I was surprised at how there were more than a few overweight-looking people running at nearly a 3 hour pace still.

Somewhere around mile 16 or 17 I latched on to a slender fast woman who was steadily passing people too. She was the only other runner I saw around my pace who apparently had my strategy of starting off slow and finishing fast. I started thinking that I had a chance at a 3 hour finish if I could gradually increase my pace and finish strong.

Around the 18 mile mark I was looking for Jennifer and Claire, but I didn't see them. I learned later that they were there looking for me, but they didn't see me either.

At some point around the 20 to 21 mile mark, my heart rate hit 169 beats per minute and with 5 or 6 miles to go, I felt like it was too risky. I slowed down a bit and the fast woman I was following gradually pulled away from me.

A runner asked if I wanted to finish her drink. She had just taken a small sip. Sure! I was going to skip that aid station otherwise. Nice!

I was still passing people steadily and I felt tired but still really good as the last few miles passed by. I was looking forward to finishing though! I realized a sub-3 hour goal was impossible but I still wanted to do as well as I could. There was a helpful sign for "1 mile to go" and then 800 meters (which was dispiriting actually), then 400 meters. There was one short sharp hill before the final downhill straightaway. Ugh... I felt weak all of a sudden going up that. The finish line was in sight! I put in a good strong finish. Woo hoo! 3 hours and 52 seconds!

The finish area was the best I've ever seen for a road race. There were hundreds of volunteers ready to assist, starting with a sports drink, then your medal, bottle of water, prepared bag of goodies, a banana, protein drink, and then a freshly poured beer! Yummy! There were many medical personnel, too, ready to assist runners with cramps, for example.

Weather-wise, I never felt hot, but after some miles in the occasional bright sunshine I appreciated the return to the cool shadows. After crossing the finish, I suddenly had a lot of sweat in my eyes which stung, so I dumped water on my face to wash my eyes. That's why my shirt is so wet in the photo above.

This was my 23rd road marathon and my first Chicago Marathon (or "Bank of America Chicago Marathon" as it was carefully branded so frequently) and this was my 7th fastest. Here are the fastest road marathons I've run:

  1. New York City Marathon 2010 -- 2:55:52
  2. California International Marathon 2011 -- 2:56:40
  3. Oakland Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:03
  4. Las Vegas Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:04
  5. California International Marathon 2007 -- 2:59:36
  6. Napa Valley Marathon 2011 -- 3:00:06
  7. Chicago 2014 -- 3:00:52
  8. California International Marathon 2012 -- 3:01:32
  9. Oakland Marathon 2013 -- 3:02:07
  10. Boston Marathon 2009 -- 3:03:33
  11. Santa Rosa Marathon 2014 -- 3:04:16
  12. California International Marathon 2006 -- 3:04:56
  13. Avenue of the Giants Marathon 2012 -- 3:05:05
  14. Boston Marathon 2007 -- 3:05:31

Things that went well:

  • I think I ran well and paced myself well.
  • I didn't feel weak except for a bit at the very end.
  • I didn't have any cramps.

Things to improve upon:

  • I got to the park at 6:40am which ended up too late to use the main porta-potties considering the 7:30am start time. The porta-potty line was way too long, like 30 minutes. I had to leave the line. Fortunately, I was OK during the race. I saw that there were many porta-potties in the corrals, so for next time, I should drop off my drop-bag and then go straight to my corral.
  • I should have been in the back of corral A or the front of corral B, given my finish time.
  • I need slightly better skin protection. Body Glide isn't protecting my nipples well enough. I also got a blackened toe nail and a blister on another toe. My purple Firetrails 50 shirt was distinctive ("Good job, Purple!" spectators shouted) and lightweight, but it was a little tight around my armpits and I got some chafing there.

Random data:
  • I ate an energy gel every 40 minutes and drank plenty of sports drink.
  • I ate breakfast at 5am which consisted of two pieces of whole wheat bread, a Clif bar, and a banana, for a total of about 550 calories.
  • Weighed 164.0 lbs recently.
  • Garmin data.
  • Over 41,000 racers started and 40,802 racers crossed the finish line. I finished in 1,100th place. (Wow, this was a big race.) I was 132nd in my 40-44 age group.
  • Official results.
I run a lot of trail races, too, and I notice some cultural differences between trail runners and road runners. With that in mind, I have a few tips for my fellow road runners:


  • Thank the volunteers! It takes thousands of people donating many hours of their time to make the race happen. (I was told 12,000 volunteers worked this marathon!)
  • Be aware of the runners around you. Try not to suddenly slow down or stop in the middle of the road or in front of an aid station. Try not to cut someone off while turning a corner. Runners wearing headphones are more likely to do things like this.
  • Smile, high-five people, cheer occasionally! This doesn't cost any appreciable time and you and those around you will enjoy the experience more.


  • Don't drop your cup right at your feet! Thousands or even tens of thousands of runners are behind you! The road can get slippery with all the empty cups and it's difficult for the volunteers to rake them away when the road is crowded. It's very easy to crumple the cup and toss it to the side of the road or aim for a trash can if the race includes them.
  • Don't throw your empty energy gels on the street and especially not on bike paths. It's not nice to make someone pick up your sticky mess with their hands. Just put the wrapper back in your shorts pocket or into an empty paper cup that you crumple and throw to the side of the road.
  • Don't drop your discarded clothes right at your feet after the race starts. Thousands of racers behind you will have that tripping hazard and have to navigate around your trash. Toss your clothes to the side. If you can't throw that far, hang on to your clothes until you can get rid of them in a better way.
Thank you, Chicago! We had a wonderful five day family vacation there. And thank you, Jennifer, for watching Claire during the race and supporting my running. Love you!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Santa Rosa Marathon -- 3:04:16

This was my first time running the Santa Rosa Marathon and was my 22nd road marathon. I had heard good things about it from friends, and I was not disappointed!

The DeLoach winery was a lovely setting for the expo.

I had a nice pasta dinner with my friends Dana and Veronica. Thanks again, Dana for finding that restaurant and using a Groupon coupon. I then retired to my hotel room to get ready for the race!

Although I had my alarm set for 3:30am, to give me time to eat and get ready for the 6am start, I was woken up with a huge jolt at 3:22am. It was a 6.0 earthquake that was centered about 25 miles away in Napa Valley. I quickly got out of bed and onto the floor and waited for the rolling to stop. It was a long quake and was the second strongest I've ever experienced, with the first being the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. I checked Twitter on my phone and it appeared that the world hadn't come to an end, so it was time to get ready for the race!

Parking was easy and there were plenty of porta-potties, since we marathoners started an hour before the half-marathoners. I met my friends Dana and Veronica before the race start.

As 6am approached, I was surprised that the workers were still setting up the start line and there was a big rental truck blocking the road, but within minutes of the start, everything came together, and we were off!

I was planning on watching my heart rate and taking it easy at first and hopefully ending up with a 3:03 finishing time. The course starts off with many turns as we're exploring the cute downtown of Santa Rosa. Then we got on to a bicycle path next to a river and that was scenic. The miles drifted by easily enough. I tried to keep my heart rate in the low 150s and I was steadily passing people. There were small handfuls of spectators and I high-fived the high-fiving specators (mostly kids). I made sure to thank the volunteers and sometimes the police, too. It was fun and scenic.

On this scenic bicycle path, I saw a runner in front of me toss his empty energy gel packet to the side of the trail, into the grass. I felt like saying something, like "I've volunteered at races before, and let me tell you, I hated picking up energy gels on the side of bicycle paths. There are no street cleaners coming through here. Someone is going to have to pick up your sticky trash with their hands." But I didn't say anything. This is one of the big differences between trail runners and road runners. A trail runner would never intentionally throw trash on the ground in the middle of nowhere, far away from an aid station.

The course worked its way alongside some wineries and running next to the rows of grapevines was pretty. When we got to the DeLouch winery, we ran on the driveway and through the winery building! Neat!

The half-way point eventually came and I was feeling the work-out. I forgot to check my watch at that instant but I guessed that I ran the first half in about 1:33. Looking at the results afterwards, it was 1:32:22.

I gradually increased my effort and I passed the 3:05 pace group at around the 14 mile mark. I was wondering if I could possibly get in a 3 hour marathon. I thought I would try to get as close to that as I could. In hindsight, I should have been a bit more cautious and just gone for the 3:03.

Eventually we marathoners merged into the back of the half-marathon. There was plenty of room on the bicycle path and the slower half-marathoners mostly stayed to the right. I found it uplifting to have more runners around and for me to all of a sudden be much faster than those around me.

Around mile 23 – my energy levels just dropped and my legs felt heavy and both calves got very tight and I couldn't move as fast as before, especially up short little hills. I may have made a mistake with my energy gels during the race. I was feeling full and so I delayed my last energy gel (the 4th) until about 15 minutes before I finished. Maybe if I had eaten it on my original schedule (every 40 minutes) I would have been better off. So, the last few miles were much more of a struggle and I got passed by a handful or two of runners. Finally, the finish line came in sight and I finished with a good sprint, giving me a finish time of 3:04:16. Whew! I hung out for a while, picked up the free fleece jacket, and ate the free pancake breakfast. Yum!

So, all-in-all, I'm happy with how I did and I highly recommend the Santa Rosa Marathon. The race was very well organized. The schwag offered by the race was exceptional – long sleeve tech shirt, fleece jacket with a hood, bottle of wine, tote bag, and a nice huge finishers medal. The entry fee was $135 (including the mandatory fees). There was a pancake breakfast after the race, too. I bought the mug for $10 at the expo.
Random data:

  • Results are here.
  • I weighed about 166.2 lbs.
  • There were 1,657 finishers in the marathon and 1,450 finishers in the half-marathon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mt. Ashland Hill Climb -- 2:21:21

Working hard, heading uphill, of course. :-)
Beautiful Ashland, Oregon, is the location of this crazy race, the Mt. Ashland Hill Climb. I ran it once before, two years ago, when it surprised me with a ridiculous last half mile of scrambling straight up a steep mountain top. Although the race is only 13.3 miles, I think it's fair to say that it's about the equivalent to 20.5 miles of your typical relatively flat marathon road course.

I ran the race well and paced myself well, and I'm very happy to have shaved off 4 minutes from my previous attempt. I finished 24th, out of 230 finishers.

I got a good laugh out of my Garmin data, especially for the last half mile or so. I think it took me about 16 minutes to go the last 5 or 6 tenths of a mile.

The course is mostly shaded, and although the predicted high in Ashland was 91F that day, I never felt overheated. I didn't carry any water bottles and I drank a cup or two of sports drink at each aid station. I ate one energy gel, around 54 minutes into the race.

My training was somewhat unusual. I didn't exactly taper for this race, since I'm focused on the Santa Rosa Marathon which is just two weeks after this race. So, I ran a slow 12 miles, two days before the race. I bicycled a few miles the day before the race and the morning of the race.

Jennifer, Claire and I enjoyed river rafting on the Rogue River and Jennifer and Claire attended a play at the Shakespeare Festival while I ran the race.

That's my big girl. 12 years old!
Random data:

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pacifica Rocket Run

Coastside Running Club members in the race
I ran this 5 mile race in Pacifica for the first time yesterday. It's held annually on July 4, and it's an informal and affordable ($20 race-day registration with t-shirt) and small (80 people?) race on the streets of Pacifica, with a good-sized hill in the middle.
The start was about 3 minutes late
I saw the kids line up at the front, and I knew from past races that they were very likely to sprint at the beginning and then quickly fade. The race started a few minutes past the scheduled 9am start, and then with a police escort at the front, we were off! The kids at the front sprinted ahead and then quickly faded. :-)

Us older runners soon worked our way to the front, with my friend Dan chasing a 20-something young man decked out in patriotic running gear. Then came Alon, my friend Mor's brother who was visiting from Israel. Then it was me, chasing Alon. I glanced at my watch -- 5:37 average pace. Oops. Then 5:45 average pace a bit later -- that's better.

Around the one mile mark, I was feeling good and I slowly pulled ahead of Alon, putting myself in third. I didn't feel like I could push any harder.

At the 1.7 mile mark, we turned left from Linda Mar Blvd on to Alicante Drive. This is a steep climb up to about the 2.1 mile mark. I saw Dan put on a burst of effort and pass Mr. 20-Something to put himself in first place. I pushed extra hard here too, thinking I could recover on the downhill. However, the recovery never really happened! The gradual downhill back towards the start felt quite difficult and I just tried to hang on. I maintained about the same distance from the second place guy of maybe a 100 feet.

I was happy to be able to finish in 30 minutes 50 seconds (6:11 per mile pace) and third place overall.
Working hard to finish!
We waited a while for all the runners to finish and then the age-group awards were handed out, 6 deep in each age bracket (10 year brackets for adults).

The age group winners
We had a wonderful breakfast at Mor's house afterwards. Thanks, Mor! Was a nice day! Jennifer promised to run the race next year. Who knows, maybe I can get Claire to run it, too.

Here is my Garmin data.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

San Lorenzo River 50K -- 5:10:47

I had a really good race on this beautiful and somewhat difficult course (5,175' of elevation gain and descent) in the mountains near Santa Cruz. I covered the 50.5 kilometers (31.4 miles) in 5 hours 10 minutes and 47 seconds (9:54 per mile average pace), which was good for 5th place overall out of 37 finishers. The weather was cool, and the trails were mostly shaded. The four hip-deep river crossings were actually rather fun! The approximately 2-3 miles on sand was different and unexpected and very slow. I think my hydration and calories and electrolytes and pacing were good, on the whole. I struggled a bit around miles 23 to 26, feeling tired and sore and having borderline-cramps, but I ate a lot and got through it. I also had some moments of tightness around my IT band on my right leg and although I felt good otherwise, the problem was getting worse and I was happy to stop when I reached the finish line.

It had been a long time since I've run the 50K distance -- over two years since the Lake Chabot 50K. The San Lorenzo River runs through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, in Santa Cruz, and my wife suggested we sign up for this race, the San Lorenzo River races. Jennifer originally signed up for the half-marathon, but decided to do the 10K at the last minute. We were able to stay at a friend's house in Santa Cruz, which was very convenient. Jennifer's sister Lisa and hubby-to-be, Matt, ran the 10K as well.
My headband keeps the sweat out of my eyes, but it's got a certain dork factor.
The course consists of two out-and-backs, with a 4.6 mile extension half-way through the first out-and-back. We had to cross the San Lorenzo River on each out-and-back, so that would be four river crossings. Intriguing!

Race morning finally came around. I rested for about 8 hours, but I can't say I slept very much. My alarm went off at 5:30am, which gave me time to eat a quick breakfast (whole wheat rolls and an energy bar) in time for the 8am start.

It was going to be 6.9 miles from the start to the first aid station, so I went with two hand-held 20oz bottles that can be carried in my lightweight Ultimate Direction AK running vest. Parking was easy and there were three porta-potties there at the starting area. (I heard there were more restrooms nearby.) I met up with my friend Chris from the Coastside Running Club; he was doing the 30K.
Chris from Coastside Running Club

The race director, Wendell, gave us some instructions, including something about 50K runners needing to pick up a rubber band somewhere. (I think I missed a key sentence.) All of us 50K runners were asked to raise our hands and there were a good amount of us -- 40 maybe? Most people were in the half-marathon. Finally, promptly at 8am, we were on our way! Woo hoo! We had to do a little parade loop around the grass, to sort ourselves out by speed before hitting the single-track trail. 

I noticed a familiar form ahead of me, a short egg-shaped guy (sorry, that sounds unkind, but he has a distinctive shape) wearing Vibram 5-finger shoes. He had run in the last trail race I was in, in February, and he did the same thing -- sprinting to nearly the front of the pack and then a couple minutes later slowing down dramatically, making lots of people behind him try to get around him. Strange! Anyway, I got around him OK and I was in no hurry at the beginning, and along with a large number of half-marathoners and some 30K runners and marathoners, we made our way up the first steep climb.

I felt good and at ease and after a few minutes, I started checking my heartrate regularly, on my Garmin watch. The watch seemed to take an especially long time to "latch on". And then after it was giving good numbers, it started reporting garbage again (like 40 or 80 beats per minute, while working hard up the hill!). I soon realized that the battery must be dying on the heartrate monitor. Bummer! It was fine in the my last run with it. I should have replaced it about a month ago, just in case.

The miles ticked by and the scenery was really pretty. I love the redwood trees and the lush forest. There were lots of turns and intersections, but Coastal Trail Runs did a great job marking the course. I never had any confusion about where to go.

Around mile 3.6 came the first river crossing. I was curious! I had imagined that I might take a big jump and try to run in it, but that wasn't going to happen. The water was quite muddy on this first transit, probably because of the runners in front of me. There were many large slippery rocks, so I just marched across, holding the rope. The water came up to around my hip. The river was slow at this point, so I didn't feel any danger. It was fun!

A while later I saw the first place 50K runner heading towards me. He was fast and he made it look easy! There were a few more 50K runners in front of me, including the first place woman. The first place man and woman were a couple from Norway -- neat!

Nearing the first aid station, there was a long steep descent. I had some runners behind me and I'm sure that caused me to push extra hard. I kept on reminding myself that I was going to be back in this same spot several hours later and that I had a long ways to go. This section around mile 5 was hard on my quads and in hindsight, I think I should have taken this a bit easier.

Next came the "orange loop" -- a 4.6 mile extension for the 50K and 30K runners. I was quite surprised to soon find myself running on soft sand! There were stairs of sand climbing up to the peak and it felt really slow. I kept looking for where I was supposed to grab my rubber band, that would prove that I had done the orange loop, but I didn't see anything. I ran by the observation tower at the top, and I heard voices up there, but I didn't think to look up. I learned afterwards that the rubber bands were up a short flight of stairs. Oops!

Another runner caught up with me and he was in the 50K. He said he had run another 50K the previous weekend and that he was training for some kind of 12 hour "run with the devil" race. So, to Daniel Gallo from New Jersey, congratulations on your back-to-back weekend races and good luck on your goal race! He pulled ahead and soon was out of sight.

We headed back to the previous aid station (Henry Cowell Picnic Area) and then finally returned towards the start line. I caught up with Daniel again, who was pulling rocks out of his shoe. I was thinking, "You should use gaiters!" but I just said "hi" again and passed him. He would end up finishing just 19 seconds after me. He should have worn gaiters and he would have beat me! (I love my Dirty Girl gaiters.)

Somewhere in the next half hour or so, I felt my first tightness around my IT band, on the outside of my right knee. Oh no! It didn't hurt yet, but I knew from experience that this was the start of something bad that could get much worse, eventually causing loss of control of my leg and making running impossible. I started wondering if I was going to be able to finish the race. Fortunately, I made it to the next steep uphill, which is a lot easier on my leg. I also took a naproxen (an anti-inflammatory pain medication). The problem seemed to stabilize.

It was admittedly uplifting to be steadily passing the slower runners in the other races. Many of us gave encouragement to each other. I especially called out to 50K runners that I encountered.

I got back to the starting area, where there were lots of cheers for the 30K finishers and half-marathon finishers. It was a little bit dispiriting to have to head out again, for another 13+ miles. I made a quick stop, grabbing 5 energy gels from my drop bag (the race seemed to only offer caffeinated energy gels, which can give my heart a harmless but uncomfortable arrhythmia). I dropped off my useless heart rate monitor, too.

Onward and upward! I was heading north again. I felt reasonably good and I think I ran this uphill about as fast as the first time. It was pleasant covering the same pretty trails again. But eventually I noticed a sudden drop in energy and an increase in soreness. I felt borderline cramps, too. I slowed down a bit and became more cautious, to try to conserve my energy. I made sure to eat and drink and take my salt pills (about one per hour). I took a second naproxen.
I'm about to cross the river again, around the 3.5 hour mark.
Maybe two miles before the Henry Cowell aid station I came across the first place runner again. The Norwegian guy was still in first. But the shocker was that his girlfriend/partner was not far behind him. She was second overall! Cool! I didn't see them again until after the race, but she caught up with him and finished practically at the same time as he did, smashing the women's course record. Apparently, Malene Blikken Hauk√ły is a world-class skier and a superb endurance runner.
The first place woman, when she's not running.
I made it to the Henry Cowell aid station again, turned around, and steadily but carefully made my way back. For example, there was a low fence that we had to get over. This second time, I didn't try doing a running jump like I had the first time. There was a downed tree that we had to crawl under, and I didn't try to do a squat, but instead got my hands dirty, to save my legs. I walked more of the steepest uphills.

Eventually, I crossed Hwy 9, where the 10K turn-around was. There was an unofficial aid station there which I took advantage of and began to count on, so that I didn't have to carry as much water. I started feeling good again and soon I realized that there was only about 3 miles left! Woo hoo! I started to push the pace. I sometimes felt my IT band and I would back off the pace a bit, but otherwise I felt really good and the rest of my body felt like it could run much farther! I passed plenty of people in the other races, but us 50K runners were quite spread out by now.

As I descended to the finish line, on the last final steep hill, I couldn't sprint due to my IT band. It was having spasms and I couldn't have kept running for much longer. I let out a whoop as I saw the clearing. I heard some cheers and someone yelling my name! It was Matt and Lisa! That was so sweet for them to come back and see me finish.

Yay! I felt pretty good. I didn't have any cramps and my stomach felt good. I ate a big cup of soup and chatted a bit with Matt and Lisa. I picked up my medal for my 2nd place age group finish. It was a good day!

What went well
  • I had a good solid race!
  • My shoes and equipment mostly did very well.
  • My training was decent, with two four-hour runs that had nearly 5700' of elevation gain. So, I was quite prepared for the hills.
  • I started getting one minor blister at the end of my long toe of my left foot, but otherwise, my feet were in good shape.
  • Coastal Trail Runs put on an excellent race, with thorough and easy-to-follow course markings.
Things to improve
  • It was a bummer that my heartrate monitor's battery was dying, and so I didn't have that feedback about my effort that I'm accustomed to in races. Next time, I should replace the battery before a race.
  • I probably should have held back a bit more on parts of the first leg, on the toughest descents.
  • I got some bad chafing around my neck, due to the running vest pressing against my shirt. This didn't happen during my training runs, so I think it was bad luck that this particular shirt didn't work well with the vest.
Random data
  • I estimate that I drank 200 oz of water, mostly (2/3rds) as sports drink.
  • Ate 11 energy gels and a few handfuls of boiled potato chunks dipped in salt.
  • Ate about 5 SUCCEED salt capsules.
  • 2 naproxen
  • Weighed around 167 lbs the morning of the race.
  • Results
  • My Garmin data

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston Marathon -- 3:07:00

This was my 5th Boston Marathon and the whole experience was life-affirming, beautiful, glorious, loving, and powerful. And the race was challenging, as usual. Being a year after the bombings, there was a strong sense of taking back the marathon and loving Boston and the runners. "Boston Strong" was a common tagline.

Leading into the race, I was coming off a long-term injury to my iliotibial band or "I.T." band. This is the injury that plagued me for about 8 months last year. I wasn't able to run until the first week of this year. Between then and now, I gradually raised my weekly mileage and I got in the most important speed workouts and long runs, but I was also strangely unmotivated to keep track of my mileage or create a training plan. I didn't formally get on a plan until about three weeks before the race.

Looking at my Garmin watch data over this year, I got in 13 mostly solid weeks of 30 miles or more. My peak week was just 58 miles. (In the past I've hit multiple weeks of 70 miles.) I had a few 40 mile weeks and the rest were in the 30s. Between work pressure (March was awful) and fear of injury, I just didn't get in the runs I usually do. I knew this, and I could see this in some of my key workouts, so I came into the race with reduced expectations. I told friends that I would aim for 3:10 to 3:15.

I was excited to be here! The city was obviously very supportive of the race. On one of my last training runs, I came across this amazing scene of inspirational banners that were written on by thousands of people from across the country and laid out in a big area of Boston Commons.

I filled out a square for the Coastside Running Club.

A church group recruited volunteers to hand-knit 7,000 scarves, of many different styles, but all with the blue and yellow colors of the Boston Marathon. Amazing! I was very grateful to get mine. Each scarf has a postcard or tag with the name of the person who created it. So, thank you very much Rosa from Nashua, NH! I love my scarf!

Amanda and I, showing off our scarfs

The Expo was huge and was very well organized. I went shortly after it opened on the Friday before Monday's race and the lines got very long for the first couple of hours but then got down to nothing. So, there was just a big surge at the opening of the Expo. I met up with my friend Amanda, a fellow running club member.

 I met up with my interesting and unusual friend, Ron McCracken, whom I first met at the 2007 Boston Marathon because we happened to sit next to each other on the bus ride to the start line. He was at the marathon last year for the bombings and the whole experience was traumatizing for him, so this year's marathon was especially important to him, as a way of having closure.

I got in some nice easy training runs while in Boston. The weather was cold but beautiful.

Race Day
Monday, April 21, finally arrives! I woke up shortly before my alarm at 5:30am and I felt good! I had gotten a decent night's sleep. I ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, grabbed two more bagels for the bus, and headed out of my hotel at 6am sharp. It's almost a mile walk to where the drop bags are collected and the buses pick us runners up. The organization was very impressive, with long rows of buses lined up in two lanes. (Previously, there was only one lane.) So, I didn't have to stand in line at all and was on the bus by 6:30am.

I ate the rest of my breakfast on the leisurely ride towards Hopkinton. I chatted with the guy next to me who was from the UK (an hour outside of London) and this was his first Boston.

The race organizers greatly expanded the field, by about 50% above normal, to around 36,000 entrants. So, the athletes village in Hopkinton was even more packed than in previous years. Yet, I felt like I had time to use the porta-potties (twice) and I didn't feel unduly crowded. I met up with Dan Rhodes, another runner from my running club, and we hung out for a bit.

The security was far higher than normal. There may have been snipers on the school roof and the whole perimeter was being carefully patrolled and observed. I felt very safe! And because we weren't allowed to have drop bags with us, we were all wearing throw-away clothes. We were an eclectic bunch. One guy was even wearing an old suit. Some were wearing older Boston Marathon jackets which I felt bad about because they were going to lose them unless they carried them.

Finally, we were ushered to our corals, as a part of Wave 1 (of 4 waves). I reminded myself to take it easy and run by heart rate and to have a grand adventure! Soon, we were off! Woo hoo!

I was happy to keep my heart rate at about 140 beats per minute for most of the first few miles. I felt comfortable and was enjoying the experience. The miles slipped by. The crowd support was fantastic. The volunteers were fantastic. I was surrounded by thousands of runners in front and behind who were running very similar paces. There's no other race in the world where you can have around five thousand runners who can run around a 3 hour marathon.

Wellesley college at around mile 13 was fantastic as ever. It was a scream tunnel! I loved all the signs that the young women carried. My favorite was, "Kiss Me, I'm Performance Enhancing!" I smiled a big goofy smile, I'm sure, but I stuck to business.

By around the half-way point, 1:33:12, I was feeling like I had had a good workout but there was plenty of gas left in the tank. I was hoping to have a negative split and to push harder in the 2nd half and get to a low 3 hour marathon. But I also knew I had some hills coming up at mile 16 and that I wasn't in the same shape as a year ago.

I was feeling some minor side cramps. My right little toe felt like it was being squished a bit and was likely getting a blister. I thought that maybe I was drinking or eating too much because my stomach felt a bit full and "sloshy". I ate an energy gel every 40 minutes.

Somewhere around mile 14 to 16, I felt my right iliotibial band, on the outside of my knee. It was hurting a bit and I imagined that if it suddenly became crippling, that I would end up walking for 13 miles. I was looking forward to the uphills at mile 16, which I knew would be easier on my leg.

I heard "Ron Little!" being shouted out. I turned my head, facing back to my right, and it was my old high school friend! "Allen Kachalia!" I shouted. Cool! I had tried contacting him prior to my trip to Boston, but I couldn't find any old emails. So, Allen, if you're reading this, get a hold of me!

I came across a very enthusiastic little person (or a dwarf, as her friends seem to call her). I've never seen a dwarf in a marathon before. When I passed her, she was moving fast and was high-fiving the spectators. Very cool!
I came across Dick and Rick Hoyt, as I have in past years. I've read that this will be their last Boston Marathon together. I congratulated them as I passed them. The father is 74 years old. Wow.
source, story
I attacked the Newton hills and my legs felt good. But my heart rate was rising and I sometimes felt weak, too. I didn't have that last gear or two that I've had on my best races. Being injured for so long and having an abbreviated training schedule was showing itself.

In the last miles, I was becoming more desperate. Here's me at around mile 23.5. I just wanted to hold it together.

Finally, finally, we made the right turn on to Hereford and then a quick left on to Boylston. The finish line was in sight! I tried to give a good hard finish and I see that my heart rate did max out (183 beats per minute). So, I think I gave it everything I could! I was very pleased to have had a solid race.

My stats:
Net Time: 3:07:00 (7:08 per mile)
Overall: 3543/31931
In Gender: 3281/17575 (Male)
In Division: 552/2628 (M40-44 Age Group)

For a really great race report with photos along the course, check out Scott Dunlap's blog. He ran a 2:55 while carrying a camera and participating in the festivities! Amazing!

It was very sweet arriving at the airport and seeing Jennifer and Claire with these signs.

It was good to be home, although I'll miss my friends.

Thank You
I want to thank the residents of Boston and the surrounding communities for being so incredibly supportive and loving. I want to thank the estimated 10,000 volunteers for all their hard work and cheerful enthusiasm that made this event possible. And I want to thank the Boston Athletic Association for putting on such a superbly organized event. Given that I have a bit of similar organizational experience, but on a much smaller scale, I was in awe at how big this operation was and how much work it took to put this event on so smoothly with so many runners. Thank you!!!

I want to thank my running club, the Coastside Running Club, for their companionship and camaraderie, especially during the weekly speed workouts, which I would have had a hard time doing on my own!

Finally, I need to thank my wonderfully supportive wife for encouraging me to get back into running shape and for taking care of Claire while I was gone. Thank you, Jennifer!

Random Data
Two days after the race, I weighed 163.0 lbs and I looked dehydrated. My true race weight was probably right around 165 lbs.

The organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, sent out a great list of facts about the race:
  • 32,456 runners started the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
  • 31,931 completed the race from Hopkinton to Boston, which is a finisher rate of more than 98%.
  • 54 push-rim wheelchair athletes started the day with 53 of them officially finishing.
  • 48 mobility impaired athletes started with 44 completing the event. 
  • 51 visually impaired athletes started with 48 finishing.
  • There were 80 countries, and all 50 states (plus six U.S. territories) represented in the race.
  • Meb Keflezighi (USA) became the first American man to win the event since Greg Meyer (1983), and the first American to win the open division since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach (1985). His time was 2:08:37.
  • Rita Jeptoo's (KEN) time of 2:18:57 improved the course record set by Margaret Okayo in 2002. 
  • With victories from Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) and Tatyana McFadden (USA) in the push-rim wheelchair division, they both captured the men's and women's 2014 Boston-London Wheelchair Challenge competition respectively.
  • Joan Samuelson (two-time Boston Marathon champion) became the fastest 56-year-old woman in history with her time of 2:52:11. 1968 champion Amby Burfoot (4:42:48) and 1990 champion Gelindo Bordin (4:10:37) also ran.