Monday, July 21, 2008
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
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.
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!
Will, Ryan and I before the final climb up to Rose Peak
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
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.
Loop 1 01:10
Loop 2 01:13
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
I'm always up early the morning before a race. I thought I would do something a little more constructive than sitting in the car reading the newspaper so I drove to the vista point off of Skyline Blvd. at the base of Borel Hill just before 6:30 AM. I jogged up the hill with my camera and tripod hoping to take some pre-dawn shots of the bay. After a few hundred meters I realized the sky was brightening faster than I was moving up the hill and I was in danger of missing the sunrise. Too make matters worse a bank of fog was looming over my shoulder and edging towards me. I broke into a gallop and made it to the top in time to get the tripod set up and get a few shots in between veils of fog floating by.
My goal was to run as close to 4 hours as I could. I pushed hard to run 55 minutes out to the Hickory Oaks aid station right on pace but never felt like I settled into a smooth stride. Jon Olsen was less than a minute behind me at this turnaround. Ryan Commons and Sean Lang were just behind Jon. Scott D. was clearly enjoying himself with his camera at the ready.
Jon stopped at the vista point aid station and I ploughed right through hoping to gain some time. I powered up the hill as best I could on shattered legs, wishing for another gear that I'd used up too early in the race. Jon was bearing down on me with long strides and a bright blue shirt. Part of me wanted to stop and cheer him on as he went by. He was supremely focused. His eyes never left the trail in front of him. The tractor beam wasn't aimed at me anymore. It was reaching for Kevin, ready to reel him in.
I kept pace with Jon for a grand total of about five seconds but seeing him running so strong so late in the race did help me to lift my pace. I was afraid Jon would similarly inspire Kevin and that I might not catch a reinvigorated Mr. Weil. When I did catch up to Kevin farther on we found each other in a world of pain, legs torn up by Leor's fierce pace. As I turned up the Mindego trail and started to climb again I could feel the finish line getting closer. The pain in my legs subsided and I surged forward hoping to limit the time gap to Jon.
Back on the connector trail, down the single track and a sprint across the line into third place in a time of 4:11:29. I left everything out on the course, too much of it in the first 23K.
Once again, I enjoyed chatting with my fellow racers over post-race chow.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
This is what a snowstorm looks like after a day of cross-country skiing and two beers.
The snow was absolutely dumping Saturday and Sunday and the snow temp was perfect for snowball fights. It was next to impossible to walk through the village without passing through a pitched battle between friends or family members. I had to use my daughter's sled as a shield on more than one occassion.
Deep snow makes cross-country skiing even tougher than usual. At least it does for a low-lander like me. There was a guy from Reno who was ripping along like he was on ice. I felt more like I was running on a sand dune. It was a great workout nonetheless.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Includes details of his 2007 North Face Challenge victories
What I find remarkable is that his training runs are seldom longer than 24 miles and yet he can blitz a 50 miler with 13,000 feet of climbling as in Seattle. The one exception was the 30 miler with Greg Crowther run at 6:18 pace (not a typo!)
A few observations:
- He is remarkably consistent with his mileage averaging 90 miles a week for 2007.
- He incorportates a lot of quality in his running schedule - at least the pace of the workouts make it look that way.
- He races frequently and is as competitive at 5K - 10K as he is at the marathon up to the 50 mile distance.
- He trains with the SU team.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I pulled a Scott D. for the photo of the women running. They thought the idea of me running backwards to take their photo was hilarious.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Quality - one great workout -8 x 1/2 mile hilly repeats.
Summary - fighting off a cold.
Chance of redemption: I get to x-country ski tomorrow to my heart's content while my daughter takes a ski lesson and my wife snow-shoes. I might be able to fit in 3 hours of skiing! I'll bring the camera and take a few photos on during what I hope will be 20 miles of skiing. So stay tuned!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Take high mileage for example. Learning that one runner benefits from 100 mile weeks might make another runner, like me, eager to work up to that type of weekly distance. Anecdotal evidence certainly shows that elite runners who run consistently high mileage perform at a higher level than those that do not. The renaissance of American distance running (its probably too early to call it that but I'm an optimist) is most likely due in part to emulating the altitude and high mileage training of elite runners in other parts of the world. But not every runner is built to run 100 mile or more weeks. Trying to build up to that type of workload may put a runner on a path to injury after injury, stress fractures, etc.
I always have to remind myself why I choose to train the way I do when I hear or read what other trail racers are doing. There is plenty of information on training practices out there on blogs and in interviews and bantered back and forth after races. Recently a series of comments from friends and competitors made me start thinking about high mileage again. Then I read Jean Pommier's excellent interview with Graham Cooper and read a few tidbits about Graham's training - low mileage and lots of cross-training. The best thing about the Internet is there is always fodder for any viewpoint! I would venture a guess that the volume of Graham's training, measured in duration of effort, is equal to that of most high mileage runners.
In the end if you are not getting paid to train and race than it had better be something you love and enjoy. I'm not sure what my life would be like without running and I don't want to have to find out!
Monday, February 11, 2008
The first part of the 23K section heads south and dodges in and out of the Tree Farm. It is easy to lose the trail in this section as it undulates steeply up and down.
Melting pumpkins and corrugated steel
After running on the Ridge Trail in open meadows the trail turns slightly and plunges into the forest. Soon the trail turns steeply up and I found myself walking through tall douglas firs. I reached the top of the hill somewhat disapppointed with myself for not running this section and I turned around to do it again. A few miles further on, the trail suddenly passes through a gate and I popped out into brilliant sunshine with a breathtaking view of the Pacific. It is moments like these that make me glad to live in California and thankful to be able to get to places like these.
The run was not without its challenges. Those of you who have run the Skyline PCTR 23, 37 or 50K before might not recognize the intersetion in the photo below. That is because it isn't part of the course! I looked over the course description and the map before I departed and thought I knew where I was going. The trail signage was ambiguous in some places but to be honest I didn't committ to memory every turn on the course, nor did I carry a map. After many wrong turns I certainly have a great understanding of where the course doesn't go.
Evidence of Mountain Lions?
Monday, February 4, 2008
"Who wants to read about you winning? I want pics of pole vaulters. Where are your priorities man?"
In reference to Scott's photo of me climbing out of Huddart park, "You look like a 70 year old man!"
In reference to the photo of me standing next to Scott, "You look like an *%$## midget!"
In reference to my finishing time, "Don't you wish you had pushed a bit harder to break 4 hrs?"
Serves me right for forwarding the link.
These were too funny not to post.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Especially in the last six months of the year when I was building up to Cal Int'l Marathon I never felt smooth or efficient when running at or faster than tempo pace. The spark wasn't there and I couldn't quite understand why. I was running the miles and crushing myself with workouts from Jack Daniels marathon training program. My speed and endurance improved somewhat over the year as evidenced by my performance at the San Jose Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon (1:24:11), nothing to write home about but better than I was running in the Spring. Despite some hard earned improvements running just wasn't fun. Slogging it out day after day isn't what I love about running. I love the feeling of gliding around the track or over the trail with each footstrike light and quick. I love the exhileration of acceleration but instead I felt like I was running through molasses.
2008 rolled aound soon after a disappointing run at Cal Intl Marathon. A I said earlier I would sooner forget that race. I spent the month of December and early January thinking hard about what to do differently. There were lots of threads waiting to be woven together into a cohesive plan for the new year.
Here are a few of those thoughts:
1. I run better when I'm cross-training.
2. Training doesn't make you faster. It is the recovery period that makes you faster.
3. Racing frequently can pay big dividends (from a fitness standpoint).
4. Road-racing doesn't make me happy.
5. The race I enjoyed the most in 2007 was the Woodside 50K.
6. Taking my running to a higher level would require a holistic approach.
7. My training needs to be more consistent.
8. My training needs to be sustainable, not one week that is so hard that I need to take the next week off.
9. Meticulously prepared training schedules often work against me and I need to be more flexible day to day and week by week.
10. And so on...
Slowly these threads drifted into recognizable patterns and I arrived at my plan of attack for 2007. Instead of creating a detailed training schedule I created a sustainable "model week" with a goal for the month such as "hill-climbing strength and power". I oriented each workout around this goal. I added cycling and weight training back into my regime. I renewed my focus on core strength. I scheduled my workouts to maximize recovery and sleep in between harder days. All this was to support at least one to two races every month in 2008.
Two races into 2008 and my first goal is already met. Running is much more fun! I'm no longer running under water and while I'm not always running on a cloud I can feel the spark is back. I'm looking forward to the rest of 2008.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
If I'm going to try to run more of the PCTR Ultra series this year I'm going to have to compartmentalize my running obsession so that I'm not so distracted at work. Everytime Google Reader shows a new entry in my browser I pounce on it hoping it is a running blog I subscribe to. I want to wrap myself in all things running.
I even use zinsli.com to do some pre-race stalking of the competition. It's illuminating (and at times deceptive) to see what the competition has been racing recently. For example, Michael Buchanan, seems to have run slower in 2007 than he did in 2006 in the Quad Dipsea. But without a detailed race report with weather, list of competitors and other factors to evaluate performance the data is interesting but not predictive. According to the results I found Michael has a marathon PR of 2:32! The value of sites that aggregate race results is to help you know who to watch out for. Mr. Buchanan was already on his Mtn Bike starting his next workout when I finished the Woodside 50K last year. Enough said!
Part of my excitement is generated by my desire to race against myself on a course I know very well. I ran 4:13 at the Woodside 50K (and only got fourth!) last year. I look forward to setting a PR and getting a reliable measure of my fitness and the early results of my new training regime. For now, it is time to relax, focus on the last details of my race plan and to start (calmly) visualizing a fast, successful race.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The course was, as expected, wet but still fast and not too muddy. There were about five more trees down on the course than I remember from October. Will Gotthardt and Ryan Commons were out scouting the course as well and seeing them put a spring in my step, anticipating another good race Feb. 2nd.
I'll see how long I can stay with Mr. Commons. My guess is he'll be able to run at or below four hours on that course and I'll be happy to draft as long as I can. I'm also looking forward to racing with Scott Dunlap. I've enjoyed his blog for some time now and certainly would like to thank him for the excellent interviews he's posted with trail and ultra-running luminaries and up & coming athletes. His blog is a great resource for the running community.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The course was a challenging set of loops. We started with the 20K and 30K racers and that helped to push a strong early pace. Ryan Commons (50K ) and Will Gotthardt (50K) set the pace for the first three miles and then Jason Wolf took off on the last stretch of the Montara fire road. I was close to Will and Ryan on the way to the summitt of North Peak but couldn't keep up with them as they rocketed the descent. I found it hard to believe that anyone could go that fast down the rocky, off-camber singletrack section but they did it. I was only a turn behind them (50 m) when I took a wrong turn and lost about 40 seconds hoofing it back to the course.
I thought for sure I was out of contention for first and second place but good hydration, fueling and tailing a fast 30K racer was all I needed to catch up to Will G. Ryan C. was at least 10-15 minutes ahead at this point and it looked like fourth place was 20 min back so Will and I ran conservatively up to North Peak on the fourth loop. I knew what a strong descender Will is so I thought if I could stay with him to the last lap maybe I could put enough distance between us on the last climb that I might squeak into second place.
As it turned out when I started the descent and tried to mimic the nimble steps and blistering pace Ryan and Will demonstrated on the first lap, it worked! Soon I was alone on the last climb. I was haunted by the possibility that Will was just behind me, lurking out of sight. I tried to push the pace and as luck would have it, I finished second behind Ryan Commons. My finishing time was 4:52:53, just about ten minutes behind the victor and new course record holder.
I had a great time chatting with Will, Ryan and Jason Reed at the end of the race. I look forward to racing with them again in the future.
What went well?
-Hydration - I drank a full 20 oz of sports drink every 6-7 miles.
-Fuel - I ate a gu every 40 min
-I washed my legs with dishwashing detergent to get the dirt and poison oak off when I got home
What didn't go well?
-I somehow managed to get poison oak on my face (cheeks, eye, ear) and neck. I probably got it when I took my shoes off and then scratched my face in the car on the way home.
-Four days after the race I needed a cortico-steroid shot, prednisone pills and salicylic acid to get the rash under control. Lesson learned - Just becuase I didn't see the tell-tale "leaves of three" doesn't mean I didn't come in contact with poison oak.
I'm really looking forward to competing in the PCTR Woodside 50K February 2nd. It is one of my favorite courses and we don't have to battle the 17K or 35K crowd on the way out and there's usually only a few that I see on the way back. Should be fun!
Monday, January 7, 2008
Point Reyes is a gorgeous place to run. The terrain is varied. There are countless trails, many of which are singletrack. We were staying 45 minutes away in Bodega Bay for New Years and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do my long run in this beautiful national seashore.
I started at the Bear Valley trailhead and headed south on the Rift Trail. The trail was slick and muddy from recent rain. I had to skirt a herd of cows as I headed through the meadows in the rift zone. The pond (below) was just getting the first rays of the sun as I passed by.
I despite best efforts to keep the feet dry I ran straight through. 20 miles later my feet were just about dry!
At about twenty-six miles I reached the Bear Valley trail where it hits the Coast trail. With only four miles to go on a very forgiving trail I picked up the pace to make it back to the cabin for lunch.
PCTR Pacifica 50K 1/19
PCTR Woodside 50K 2/2
Big Sur Marathon 4/27
SF Marathon 8/3
PCTR Ultramarathon Series - I'd like to see how I well I can do in this series. There always seems to be a battle for first place in the PCTR runs but the gap between first and eighth place is often 45-60 minutes. I'm hoping consistent placings will help my place in the overall standings. That is if I can handle running one or more 50K's a month!
My first race of the year is this weekend and while I plan not to run too hard it will still be a good test of fitness.