Monday, February 7, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Like many of you out there I read "Born to Run" last year and my curiosity led me to Zombie Runner in Palo Alto to buy the FiveFingers Bikila. My sporadic training made transitioning to low-profile shoes relatively easy and I've run almost exclusively in them for the last six months.

I have to say that running closer to barefoot has been a revelation. The three people who read my orthotics post from 2008 will know that I've struggled mightily against the oppression of overpronation. Imagine my surprise when I ran six miles comfortably in the Bikilas without any achilles, shin splints or knee pain whatsoever. All the symptoms that plagued me in regular running shoes were absent.

Last Thursday I left my Bikilas at home and pulled by old Mizuno trainers out of my sports bag for my lunchtime run. I've logged a lot of miles in Mizuno shoes over the years and they make a spectacular product but the shoes could not have felt worse. All this time running barefoot changed my stride for the better but ruined me for regular running shoes. I felt sluggish as if I was unable to apply any power through my stride. It was like a nightmare I dreamt more than once where I'm racing but I'm suspended just above the ground and I can't propel myself forward.

Needless to say on Saturday morning I departed for my long run in the Fivefinger's Bikila again. My stride felt alive again - compact, dynamic and engergized - despite my glacial pace. That's not to say that my lower leg muscles weren't sore the next day. They were, but in a positive way derived from hard work rather than joint misalignment.

I think this low profile running/barefoot thing is for me. I'll admit the crazy hippie aspect that is clearly evident in a lot of the barefoot running posts I've seen is off-putting for me but my goal is to run far and fast, not join a movement. I think I'll vary my training in the fivefingers with miles logged in a x-country racing flat. It's nice to have a little more stone protection once in a while on some of the rockier trails.

It will be interesting to see how the changes in my stride and cadence impact my interval training that will start next month. I feel like I am more efficient which should translate to faster times but I'll need to lose some weight and log more miles before I can compare my times to 2008.

BTW - I signed up for SF marathon at the end of July. There is no turning back now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

3 months later...

Almost three months have passed since my last post and so much has happened since then but almost nothing related to training or racing.

So what have I been up to?

1. Sold our old house in Santa Clara and bought a new house in Sunnyvale about 7 miles away but closer to the hills.

2. Took a new job at the same company with lots more responsibility.

3. My wife and I had a baby (our second).

Any one of those events might put a slight dent in a training schedule and maybe impact a race or two but all three have sent me skidding sideways. I would swim for the surface if I could remember which direction it was.

This Sunday, however, I found the surface! I even took a breath.

The day didn't start out as promising as it ended. In the morning my wife reminded me we were going to take my eldest daughter and my in-laws to Stern Grove in San Francisco to see modern ballet.

My first instinct was to escape all-together and I tried by claiming I had too many chores around the new house to possibly get away. That didn't work, not even close. I ruefully thought to myself that time sitting around in Stern Grove could be spent running along Ocean Beach and I had it! Why not run while my family was happily eating a picnic lunch and watching the show?

I drove the family to Stern Grove, dropped them off, parked, and then hauled the rest of the picnic paraphernalia down the hill to their spot. I quickly turned right around and headed out on a gorgeous run from 33rd down Vincente to the Great Highway, up the bike path to the Beach Chalet, across the street and up past the Cliff House, a loop around the hill and back - 10 miles total. It was heaven. That's my longest run since May and I felt great. Not fast, but great nonetheless.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Climbing into the back of beyond

Will G. and Ryan C. were kind enough to give me an introduction to the first 20 miles of the Ohlone course on Saturday morning. I'd read and heard stories about Ohlone but I'd never set foot on that set of trails. So Saturday morning I found myself milling about in front of the Mission Peak gate waiting for Mr. Ryan Commons to roll up.

He sauntered up the hill ready to go and we set off. Will was to meet us in Sunol with Beth Vitalis.

The climb up Mission Peak was comfortable but plenty challenging. Here we are on top.

On the way down the back side of Mission Peak the charm of the Oak trees and pasture land was evident. Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and California Poppies blazed on the hillsides and across meadows.

Will, Ryan and Beth before Beth headed back to Sunol. She ran the Diablo 50 the previous week but still kept pace for a good seven miles of climbing. Beth has won the Ohlone 50K at least three times. It was a real treat running getting to meet her!

20080419 Mission Peak 013

Will, Ryan and I before the final climb up to Rose Peak

20080419 Mission Peak 017

I wasn't monitoring my calorie intake very well and found myself bouncing between extremes of running well and then getting light-headed and slowing to a crawl. Will on the other hand was consistently strong and set a blazing pace throughout. He didn't run all the way from Mission Peak but I'm sure that wouldn't have shortened his stride at all. Here's the tough guy on top of Rose Peak.

20080419 Mission Peak 020

Rose Peak Summit. I was too tired to to take advantage of the view and the thought of standing up and getting the full brunt of the icy wind was not particularly enticing. There was ice frozen on the trees and it was melting and falling on our heads as we passed.

20080419 Mission Peak 022

The way down from Rose Peak was more or less uneventful. We didn't have to face down any menacing herds of cows like we did on the way up. Ryan decided to make the return trip a little more exciting and he slide tackled a phantom opponent on an unveven piece of terrain and sliced his knee up. At least that's what it looked like from a few feet behind.

20080419 Mission Peak 023

The run ended up at 28 mies with about 7000 feet of climbing. I ended up with a healthy respect for the Ohlone course!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Six word memoir

I've seen it happen to other bloggers but I never thought it could happen to me. Was I naive to think I was immune? Did I think I could avoid it forever? I've been tagged courtesy of Trail Blog Patriarch Scott D.

Before I get started I'd like to request Scott to postpone business travel, time with family, eating and sleeping until he publishes his Diablo 50 race report. Donald has already published his report and he acheived a zen state after 12 hours of perseverance. Considering that Scott is as close in demeanor to Buddha as anyone that skinny can be, he might have acheived nirvana during the race and vanished from this plane altogether.

Wendell did record a finishing time for Scott so I assume he is still with us and we patiently await his report...

On to my memoir. Rules are below.

1) Write your own six word memoir

2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want

3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4) Tag at least five more blogs with links

5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

One step forward, two steps up

I chose these six words as an illustration of both how I run and how I like to think I live my life. Climbing a hill in early morning mist to suddenly come around a corner and be blinded by sunlight rippling across a sea of fog is as close to transcendence as I'm likely to get. Climbing to new levels in other areas of my life is not as straightforward as acheivement in sport but something to aspire to nonetheless.

I am reminded of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken. I wonder if Mr. Frost had ventured West into the Rocky Mountains or farther on to the Sierra Nevada or the Cascade Range would his perspective have been altered. Would his metaphor of the choices in his life have shifted from the left and the right fork in the road to the path up the mountain and the path down the mountain.

My time spent in the mountains, among the jagged peaks and glittering glaciers changed my perspective from horizontal to vertical.

Tagging Jon, Sean & CS. I'll have to think about who else to tag...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blast from the past

I took the day off today to pack the garage (or at least try to make a dent) in preparation for our move next weekend. We did buy a new house in Sunnyvale so we won't be homeless!

As I sifted through old boxes I came upon an old training diary from my Freshman year in college. I was a walk-on to the team and to make matters worse I was a little soft after spending the previous summer in Europe visiting family.  I barely survived cross-country season. The entry below is from halfway through indoor track season. For some reason I thought I'd try to run with the middle distance team (for you hardcore utlra runners that's not a 50 miler - it's 800m-1500m).
2/8/3 4:30 PM 20-30 degrees F
Ran brisk warmup (2 mile Long Occum Pond)
Stretched, ran strides, went to the bathroom twice.

4x400 at 62 sec. Coach Barry actually gave me a time to shoot for which is a first. His attention gave a lot more credence to the workout. The rest of my group was supposed to run 56 sec. The first group: Dennis Webster, Mike Hughes, Brian Barry and Jon Fidelak, ran 54 sec quarters.

I hit #1 in 64 sec. I felt like I was running faster than that. DW pointed out that in the 800m it is important to stay relaxed during the first 600 so that you're not too tight to run the next 200 all out. I was tightening up on the second 200. #2 in 63, #3 in 63, #4 in 61. I was really pushing the last 1/4.

I wish I had kept better logs from those days. I tore myself to shreds trying to train with those guys. Every day after practice I'd spend twenty minutes waist deep in an ice bath just to be able to walk to the dining hall. 

I was surprised when I read this entry today to see that I could run 4x400 that fast. In the grand scheme of things a 62 sec quarter isn't that quick, most high schools have a kid who is faster than that. But considering these days I lumber around the track running 400's at 75-80 sec pace it sure felt good to know that somewhere, buried under slow twitch fibers is a fast twitch muscle waiting for the last 200m.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Keeping the faith

My wife is out of town on business and I'm struggling. Struggling to keep the house together. Struggling to get out the door with my daughter in the morning. Struggling to find time to run.

There is no balance between work, family and running. There's only compromise. My wife and daughter do without me as I disappear to races. They compromise. If I don't race to the edge of my ability the worst part is that I feel like I let them down. Not only was I gone for most of the day but I don't have anything to show for it.

The PCTR Pirates Cove 50K couldn't have been held on a more perfect day. Not too much wind, not too hot. The pre-dawn view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City was mesmerizing. The lights twinkling and dancing on the water.

Golden Gate Bridge Pre-dawn

The Marin Headlands were sparkling with Wildflowers. Even before the sun came up a full moon set over the Pacific. 

Moon over Marin Headlands Lagoon

The race was a non-event for me. By mile ten it was clear I had nothing left and that a long hike was all that awaited me out on the course. I kept going and picked it up the last five miles to edge into a lackluster seventh place. 

I don't know how exactly I'm going to push apart the Scylla and Charybdis of Work and Family enough to get some solid training in. I'm angling for a new job so I can't slack off to slip on the running shoes at lunch. We just sold our house and are occupied looking for the next one. 

But runners are optimists. If we weren't how would we ever keep running if we didn't think we would improve? Running is an act of faith. If I run it means I believe I can be more than what I am today. Today it just happens there is a lot of room for improvement.

Monday, March 3, 2008

PCTR Skyline Ridge 50K Race Report 2

A few days after a race I like to use 20/20 hindsight to capture the pearls of wisdom that racing provides. It is a little more proactive than my usual tactic of either wallowing in self-pity or celebrating a good race with a few too many calories.

By the way - in fifteen minutes I'm off to Pot Sticker King for some of those calories! But not before grabbing a pearl or two.

The target pace I chose was too aggressive considering the hip injury, sinus infection and the irregular training I experienced since the Woodside 50K. I was healthy and ready to race on Saturday but a more experienced competitor would have opted to start a little slower and finish faster. This is exactly what Jon Olsen did to great effect. I probably should have run 1:54 for the first 23K and in so doing I might have been able to give Jon a little more competition and finish closer to 4:09.


Out 00:55
Back 00:53
Loop 1 01:10
Loop 2 01:13
Total 04:11

What went well:
  • I hydrated well and used the first half of the race to fuel with gu every 30-40 minutes which helped.
  • I'm happy that I was able to run 4 hr pace for the first half of the race and while I fell off that pace I didn't blow up completely.
  • The hip injury (torn hip flexor and pulled glut muscle) was gone by race day.
What didn't go well:

  • Muscle soreness in the last half of the race was much worse than in previous races. This is most likely due to the pace of the first half and the lack of consistent mileage for the three weeks prior to the race
  • I need some injinji socks. Let's leave it at that. The rest of the race kit was great.
  • Sunscreen. I usually never forget it but did on Saturday.
Lessons Learned:

  • Consistency is critical to maintaining my race fitness. Even a few days off put me behind the competition.
  • More mileage will be crucial to compete with someone like Leor Pantilat or to be competitive in some of the bigger races like Ohlone 50K.
  • I love trail racing! Something new around every corner.