Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview With a Thousandaire

Today, our crack reporter at “Just a Little Run” (Mike) was fortunate enough to catch up with Mike to talk to him about his recent attainment of “thousandaire” status.  He joins us despite his busy training schedule.

Interviewer (Mike): So, how do you feel about your new status?

Mike: I feel great! It’s quite an accomplishment and I’m stoked that I have reached it so early in the year. It’s funny though cause running 1000 miles was my goal last year as well, but I didn’t make it. I guess that makes it even sweeter!

Interviewer (Mike): Why 1000? Why not 500 or 2000 or 5000? Also, we’ve heard that some people are suggesting that you haven’t actually reached 1000 miles yet. Can you explain?

Mike: Well it’s a funny story actually. Early last year, a buddy of mine decided that he was tired of being out of shape and that he was gonna sign up to run a half-marathon to keep him honest with his running and training. Why a half-marathon? Well honestly, it seemed like such an insanely long run, that we both thought we would be totally legit if we could do it. We also realized that a marathon was probably a bridge too far. So anyway, we both registered for the half-marathon and began to train diligently. Our training went well, and we both completed the half-marathon in March 2010. I was even lucky enough that Julie trained and ran it as well. Well after the run, I was amazed that I was able to complete it and decided right there that I would sign up for a marathon and would also try and run 1000 miles for the year. 1000 miles just seemed like an insane number that would be really hard to achieve and would also mean that I was a legitimate runner if I could get there. Well last year I didn’t make it, but this year I reset the goal and worked hard to achieve it.

As for the controversy surrounding whether or not I have actually reached 1000 miles, that has to do with a 22 mile disparity between my trusty training spreadsheet and my DailyMile profile.  According to my records, I have 1005 spreadsheet miles and 983 DailyMiles. Before joining the DailyMile, I used Nike+ and my spreadsheet to track my mileage. As I was becoming more disillusioned with my Nike + (read about it here), I began to experiment with other run logging applications as well as running with no watch or gadget. Well in that timeframe, I ran a few runs unplugged that got entered on my spreadsheet, but not on Nike+ (you can’t log workouts there that were not done with a Nike+ gadget), so they never got uploaded to the DailyMile. There is no controversy really, I did the miles, but once I realized the disparity a few days ago, I did not want to add a workout to DM purely to sync  the numbers. Besides, I will hit the landmark on DM this week.

Interviewer (Mike): What’s next for you?

Mike: I’m going to Disney World of course! No, but seriously, I am gonna keep chugging along. No mileage goal for the rest of the year, but I figure that I will probably run about 1500 miles once it’s all said and done this year. The really crazy thing is that now I am training for a 50 miler, so with 4 months left this year, I should get some nice miles in. While I love the number, I am trying to look past the quantity and focus on the quality of my runs.

Interviewer (Mike): Thanks for your time Mike. It’s been great spending time with you. By the way, do you have any sponsors?

Mike: Well you’re very welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look forward to seeing this interview in print! As for sponsorship, unfortunately no. I have no sponsors and have to come out of pocket for everything! That includes 3 pairs of Saucony Kinvaras so far this year, hundreds of PowerBar Strawberry-Banana Gels, 2 pair of Nike running shorts, 6 pair of Injinji Toe Socks, and much much more. I love to run and I love to write, so if anyone wants to offer up some gear for me to try out and review, I’d be more than happy to oblige!

Wow! Can you believe it? My first running interview! Crazy, huh? 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekly Training Update: Running Tired (and sore!)

Running this week went really well. I had my first “real” trail run, and I totally destroyed myself on the ups and the downs.  The run featured lots of climbing and descending, and was a very challenging run overall with a ton of lessons learned.  The first is that trail shoes are pretty important to have on rough trails! I know it may sound like a “no brainer” to say that, but most of my running off road has been restricted to hard pack trails and fireroads. While you can definitely feel rocks and stuff through the Kinvaras, they have been adequate until now. Midway through the second trip up the trail, I stepped on a stick that went straight through the bottom of my shoe and out the side! Fortunately it somehow missed my foot! I will be getting some legit trail shoes soon! 

Anyway, back to the run, check out the elevation profile!

That’s 1800 feet of climbing in 2 miles with grades around 30%! Not only was the climbing intense (mostly walking uphill), but the downhills were tricky and fast. More than once, I almost lost it and went sliding down the hill. Towards the bottom, you run through some old growth Redwoods and cross a small creek several times on logs and rocks. Overall, the run was awesome. This route will become a weekly training run as I continue to prepare for TNF 50 miler.  

Additionally, I ran my first double this week (read about it here) and really like the idea of running twice a day to increase weekly volume and also build endurance. One of the other reasons I enjoyed it provides a great segue to today’s run… running tired (and sore). Today’s run was a LSD with Julie.  She is in a recovery week, so the distance was only 14 today.  Had it been longer, I hope I would have had the sense to not go, though I’m not completely sure that I would have!!!! So anyway, when I woke up this morning, my entire lower body was super sore. My calves, quads, and even the bottom of my feet just felt totally beat up, making descending the stairs this morning a practice in not breaking my neck! I hoped that as I loosened up that the soreness would subside, but it didn’t.  Needless to say, when it was time to run, I put on my gear and was out the door.

We decided to head out to Pebble Beach for the run today, as the scenery is amazing.  All of that old money out there is really something to behold and it makes for a nice running experience. We kept the pace to a pedestrian 9:50 or so with some miles around 10 minutes, and some slightly faster. Towards the end, we dropped the hammer as I was just ready to be done, and was able to convince Julie that running fast on tired legs was a great exercise. While it was not b2b long runs, today’s run was totally worth the experience (I think).  My mindset is that at mile 40 of my ultra, I’m probably gonna be pretty beat, so having the confidence that I can run when I am extremely tired and sore should be a nice mental boost!  Damn glad that tomorrow is a rest day!

What are your thoughts? Is it worth it to train when you are destroyed or is the rest more beneficial?

Mon – Rest
Tue – 8 @ 10:00
Wed – 7 @ 8:30
Thu – 5 @ 9:26 / 10 @ 9:58 – 1st Double
Fri – Rest
Sat – 12 @ 14:11 – Trail run at Garrapata
Sun – 14 @ 9:45

Total miles for the week – 56

Next week’s goal: Build mileage back to mid 60s with two days of doubles and possibly something epic this weekend!

Here’s one more picture from my Saturday run.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Running Double

After much consternation and many fits and starts, I finally ran my first double today. It was good, but I am smoked. I have no idea how Kevin does this day in and day out, but I intend to find out! The jury is still out though as to how exactly I will utilize doubles in my ultra training (mainly how often and how far).

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with doubles, the idea is that by running twice a day, you will get stronger faster while increasing your VO2 max and increasing your weekly mileage volume (there are a ton of articles on the subject, such as this one from Runner’s World).  I have recently begun to believe that the volume of mileage is the most important factor for success in ultra running. I am too lazy now to make this an academic post and cite this claim, though I have read a lot about this and generally believe that this is the consensus among most. A quick look at the training regimen of some of the world’s top runners would also suggest that volume is important, as most of these runners log more than 100 miles per week regularly! This is not to say that quantity is the only thing that matters though.

Junk miles are junk miles. At some point, running purely to post big numbers on your weekly (or monthly) mileage chart will catch up with you in the form of injury, overtraining, burnout, or all three.  So quality workouts are very much a necessity and should be part of any training plan, no matter what your goal. Quality miles might be in the form of speedwork (tempos or intervals), hill training, or simply working on your running form.

As for me, I enjoyed the sensation of running twice in a day. The nervousness this morning of how I would feel during my second run this evening was quickly replaced by excitement throughout the day in anticipation of getting back on the road. Throughout the run, I felt tired, but maintained a steady pace and pretty solid form (I think). At the end of the night, I have a new training tool in my toolbox and had a great DNH (do no harm) run.

What are your thoughts about running doubles? Have you tried it? Will you try it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekly Training Update: Back to Back Long Runs

This was an awesome week for running.  The more volume I am able to build into my weekly training, the more confident I become with completion of the 50 miler in December. Since I decided to complete an ultra-marathon, I have been obsessed with reading about running; specifically about running ultras. One of the key aspects to training for an ultra in a lot of the literature seems to be the inclusion of back to back (b2b) long runs. Basically, the thought is that if you can run long two days in a row, you will train yourself to run on tired legs and overcome the mental and physical aspects of long runs since your body will be used to running long distances.  Others however seem to think that the risk of injury is too high, especially for novice runners.

So why not just run 40 miles in a day instead of consecutive 20 mile days? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that your risk of injury rises pretty quickly the longer you run. For amateurs like myself, a 40 mile run would take quite some time to complete (upwards of 7 hours at least), and the toll that takes on your body is too much to do regularly. However, two 20 mile runs, while still 3+ hours are much easier to complete and give you ample time to rest and refuel before you do it again the next day. The second reason, at least in a practical sense, is time. Long runs take time. Even 3+ hours for a 20 miler is a lot of time. If you are lucky like me, then your significant other is OK with you sacrificing your sleep-in time on the weekend to knock out a run – assuming of course that you can complete it and still be able to participate in family stuff afterwards! Now imagine running 7 hours! While you may get away with that once, you are not likely to get away with it consistently, and I’m willing to bet that you probably wouldn’t be in great shape to take the kids to the park and chase them around afterwards; or wash the car, or help clean the house, or cut the grass, or…. you get it, I’m sure.

Well, if you follow my DailyMile profile then you know that I did my first b2b long runs this weekend and it was awesome. It was harder than I thought it would be, but I think it was more mental than anything. Unfortunately, my planned route was blocked at the 8 mile mark so I had to do some back tracking, which caused me to pass my pre-planned turn home in order to add an additional 3 miles so that I could do the full 20 miles. Regardless, I am a believer now that this is the sort of training that will allow me to reach my goal of finishing my first ultra and being in great shape at the finish line! In fact, I am seriously considering trying to incorporate two weeks of b2b2b long runs as I peak for the race. Crazy?

Have you tried b2b long runs? What are your thoughts? Is it too risky or is it the key to success?

Mon – Rest
Tue – 7 @ 8:39
Wed – 9 @ 9:09
Thu – 9 @ 9:53
Fri – Rest
Sat – 17 @ 10:18
Sun – 20 @ 9:51

Total miles for the week – 62 – new weekly distance PR!

Next week’s goal: One more week building before a recovery week. Looking to hit mid 60s for mileage and again hit a b2b this weekend! Find some time to get some cross training done!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marriage is a Lot Like a Long Run!

Today is my 11 year wedding anniversary. That’s right, I found someone willing to put up with me in marriage for 11 years. Unbelievable, I know. To celebrate, we did a long run. 17 miles. The number 17 means nothing special to us, but it was the number on the schedule today, so that’s what we did.  Furthermore, when I say we, I mean all 5 of us; the big kids (OverThinker and AntiThinker) on their bikes, BabyThinker in the jogger and the HeadThinker and I running. It was pretty great really. As soon as we left the neighborhood, I resigned myself to enjoying the run and not stressing out over the small stuff. Overall I think I did pretty well all things considered. The OverThinker complained (a lot), but that’s normal.

So anyway, while running along the beautiful Monterey coastline, I was thinking about running, thinking about marriage, thinking how lucky I was to be out with my entire family, and fretting that maybe a long run may not be the best way to spend an anniversary. On top of that, things have been so hectic lately, that this was scheduled to be the main event of the day (unless of course you count the steaks that were cooked up and consumed for dinner)! Fortunately for me, she was cool with a very low key day and just spending time together. Guess I’m pretty lucky!

You know it turns out (at least in my world) that marriage is a lot like a long run. I submit this to you as evidence:

-         You don’t have to run long, but you want to, and you know you’re better off for doing it.
-          Long runs, like marriage, are hard.  They take a lot of time, hard work, and concentration if you want to  do it right.
-          Long runs are not always enjoyable, though sometimes they can be very enjoyable. The enjoyment ebbs and flows just like marriage.
-          Long runs, like marriage can cause injuries if you do not pay attention to yourself and listen to your body and mind.
-          Long runs are the most fulfilling part of your training plan and you are more amazed and fulfilled with each additional mile you add to your run!

I think it’s pretty obvious that long runs and marriage share many things in common! Even though not every day is a fairy tale – in fact, most are not – marriage is so fulfilling. It’s challenging, it’s fulfilling, and it’s definitely worth the time it takes to do it right!

This one’s for you Julie! You truly are my long run and I’m better off for it! Happy Anniversary! It’s been a great first 11 and I’m looking forward to many more long runs in the future with you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Morning Running and I 'heart' Old People

I haven’t run in the morning for a while, though the morning used to be my main workout time for both running and lifting. While I don’t lift much anymore, I am still doing a ton of running! Maybe you’ve noticed.  Anyway, last night I decided that I would run this morning, as I didn’t have class until 10 and I knew it was gonna be a full day of standard grad school drivel. As usual, the weather was perfect for running. As is normal for Monterey, the morning fog hung low over the area keeping it cool and calm, while the mist felt surprisingly refreshing.  Needless to say, I am so glad that I got my lazy butt out of bed and hit the pavement this morning.  Besides just being lazy and enjoying the comfort of my bed too much, I often worry about making it back in time from my runs to catch the bus on time. Also, it takes longer to prep in the morning if I want to avoid an uncomfortable run, and like I said, lately I’m lazy. Oh yeah, I also stay up to late reading for school, replying to workouts on the DailyMile and writing this blog! Back on track… I love the mornings. Normally the views are incredible and you get to see things before everyone else does.  Barking harbor seals perched on the rocks and the piers, sea otters swimming in the kelp, and this morning, classic cars at the Fisherman’s Wharf.  The cars were super cool as they are here as part of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance; an exhibition of the most prized collector cars and motorcycles in the world.” Seeing just a few of these cars covered in the morning dew and fog was really neat as I thought about all the others that would see them later in the day.

Anyway, today’s point is a theory. Basically I think that runners in the morning are more friendly than those who run later in the day. I know this sounds counterintuitive. After all, people who run in the morning should be grumpy right? They should be half asleep zombies shuffling along, upset that they are running rather than sleeping like every other sane person in the world. I say not so. The serious runners run in the morning for all the benefits I mentioned above. Not only do they get to soak in the day before everyone else, but they get to start their day in the best way, with an endorphin spiking run to get the mind going and the blood flowing. In contrast, many runners in the afternoon look haggard and rushed; iPods plugged in and scowls on their face as they dodge the tourists, fight the heat, and hurry to make it home before dinner and the evening routine. Obviously my theory has not been tested and short of many, many runners interviewed, there will be no definitive answer. I was only reflecting on my own experiences as I crafted my theory. I ran cause the schedule said I had to; I ran a certain distance based on the time until dinner, homework, family time and bedtime; and I ran to relieve stress even though the run in the heat and traffic and pending requirements at home often induced more stress.

I know that passion comes and goes. Whether that passion is for running or love or sports or whatever, it is often fleeting. More and more, I run to be. I run to feel like me, even though at 34, I’m still not sure who “me” is. I know I will find it if only I run long enough or fast enough. It’s out there.

Oh yeah, I also decided today that I ‘heart’ old people. Seriously. By and large, they are the kindest group of people I have ever come into contact with. Old people exercise in the morning and they are friendly and sociable and always say “hello” with a smile on their face! No iPods for them, just getting it done, some fast and some slow; some alone and some with friends or their significant other. I ‘heart’ old people!

So anyway, what do you think about my theory? Do the serious runners come out in the morning? Are they in fact more friendly than those who run in the afternoon?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekly Training Update: Confessions of a Calculating Runner

I don’t do well with uncertainty.  Let me rephrase that, I don’t do well with uncertainty when it can be avoided.  What I’m trying to say is that if there is any way that I can plan out my day or my week, then I want to do it. It makes me very comfortable knowing what lies ahead and really allows me to focus on what is ahead of me, be it work, school, or running in this case. My wife likes plans as well (I think), though she is much more willing to call an audible for any number of reasons. It drives me crazy, especially since we have been running together for the last couple weeks.

The rub is not so much whether or not we will run what is on the schedule, but when we will actually run it. Morning, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, you get the picture. You may be saying to yourself that I should just relax! Believe me, I’ve tried, but I just can’t. I love to be prepared. In fact, I love to be uber prepared, meaning that I am actually over prepared for the task at hand as well as prepared for multiple other things that could potentially happen. Is it hard? Sometimes it is, especially if the situation is uncertain, but to me it’s totally worth it and it really helps me to perform. Of course it also means that I am normally much more stressed than I probably have to be, but I like it. If I have been successful at anything I’ve done in life, I probably owe a huge debt of gratitude to planning and schedules!

I find that planning and scheduling really helps when it comes to running. Since I am very much still a novice runner, I find that reading and planning training schedules helps me to learn “my craft” and helps me to improve in the areas that I’m weak, both knowledge wise and actual running wise. I have spreadsheet after spreadsheet to plan my runs and log my runs, and I just got a new one today courtesy of a DM friend (thanks Kenny!).  As for consistency in training, I can also tell you that scheduling workouts nearly ensures that it will get done! I constantly hear people who cannot maintain consistency and complain that they can’t get into a rhythm, and my first question is, “Do you have a plan?”. Guess what, most don’t. I also believe that structuring your training helps you to perform on race day, as you have something to fall back on. Good race? Take a look back at your training plan and note what you did right. Bad race? Take a look back at your training plan and see where you need to improve. What, no plan? Well then good luck truly improving.

What say you? Do you use a plan? Do you stick to it?

Mon – 5 @ 9:40 - Hills
Tue – 5 @ 9:32
Wed – Rest
Thu – 9 @ 9:40
Fri – 5 @ 8:37
Sat – 11 @ 8:36
Sun – 15 @ 10:15

Total miles for the week – 50

Next week’s goal: Continue to build volume to mid 50s with a couple of longish runs back to back.  I also want to begin my search for my “effortless pace.” The effortless pace comes from the Rambling Runner on DM, and is basically the pace that you could maintain forever as long as someone was supplying you with food and water.  Also planning to start P90X for like the bazzilioninth time (my record is 6 weeks I think)!  

Race Review: The San Francisco Marathon

Long sleeve tech tee (heavy duty) and huge finisher's medal/coaster

The San Francisco Marathon, held yearly at the end of July is a first class race that promises to be “worth the hurt.” Well, I’m here to tell you that it absolutely is. The 2011 running was my first marathon and left me with memories that will last a lifetime. I have already written about my training, race execution and lessons learned (here), so this review will focus on the actual race itself.  San Francisco is a great city, though a bit daunting if you’ve never been there (we had not). Make sure you book your hotel early and I strongly suggest that you stay close to the start line at Mission and Embarcadero if at all possible. It may cost you a bit more, but it’s worth it not to have to worry about getting to the start line on race morning. Additionally, the finish line is very close as well.
We drove to San Francisco the day before the race with plans to hit the expo and then do some sightseeing before we checked into the hotel and called it a night. We arrived in town around noon and immediately went to the expo which was a complete madhouse. After nearly circling the expo we found a parking lot, payed our $12 and headed inside.  The expo was your standard affair with plenty of deals to be had if you were so inclined.  Unfortunately, I was not and just stuck to the getting my bib and shirt and getting to some sightseeing. Of note, I did think it was really cool that Bart Yasso (My Life on the Run), Marshall Ulrich (Running on Empty) and Dane Rauschenberg (See Dane Run) were all there selling their books personally.
After walking around the city for a few hours, we headed to our hotel to check in. It was not in the greatest section of town, but we had no issues whatsoever. We got wedged into the very tiny parking lot (space for 12 cars) and headed to the Round Table Pizza around the corner for dinner. While pasta would have been nice, I have found that I can fuel pretty well on pizza as long as I stick with what I know. After dinner, we returned to the hotel and I got my gear ready while the kids ran wild with Mom and Grandma in the room next door. I tried to hit the rack early, as I had already mapped out my bus ride to the start line in the morning. The city of San Francisco has an excellent trip planner that makes it stupid easy to figure out and plan a trip.
After a fitful 4 hours of sleep, I got up and got dressed, eating breakfast and heading to the bus stop. I entertained the idea of jogging (or walking) to the start, but it was 2 miles and I did not want to take any chances of messing up my race performance. The bus was on time and full of runners heading to the start. At $2, it was an excellent bargain and got me to the start with plenty of time to spare. The starting area was way less crowded than I anticipated, making the stops at the porta-potties super easy. I realize now that it was less crowded since many people were already in their corrals awaiting the start. The first wave leaves at 5:30 and I decided early on that I was going to jump in a later wave so as to avoid any undue pressure from trying to hustle to the start. My assigned wave was due to leave at 5:52, but chose to hang out until 6:12. This will come back to bite me somewhat when the race reaches the Golden Gate Bridge!
At 6:12 I was off and running, on the sidewalks as I tried to carve a path and get into a rhythm. Running through the wharf area was fantastic and not too crowded. The bridge was another story though as starting later put me in a situation where I was passing people constantly (part of my strategy).  The bridge however was quite the bottleneck and caused some frustration and trepidation stepping into the oncoming runners lane to try and pass! I won’t recount the whole journey here, since I already have a post on that here, but it was a great race, and I am definitely glad that I trained for hills, cause the course is definitely hilly!
Overall, it was a great race, and a great performance for my first marathon. The course was challenging and the race was well put together. I would definitely run this race again and I would absolutely suggest this marathon as a great destination race, although the hills may make it more challenging than you may like. San Francisco was a great race and most definitely “worth the hurt!”

Weather: A 
Starting temp was in the low 50s and overcast. In fact, the temps never got above the very low 60s (if that) and the marine layer fog remained throughout the course of the run, making it great running weather!

Organization: A
Overall, I give the organization an A, though with 20K runners on the course, things can get pretty hectic. In addition to the marathon, they also run two half-marathons (1st half and 2nd half) which can make things somewhat confusing if you aren’t paying total attention. Both the start and finish were impeccable, though busy, and the expo was pretty good with many vendors and tons of great deals to be had.   

Course: A
The course is challenging. It is hilly and it goes through many areas with where there are not many spectators which can be mentally tough, especially if you are having a bad race.  From the beginning, the start is crowded, though not more than any other race. The corral system is great and really does a good job spreading groups out given the high number of runners on the course. The first hill is a steep hill, though relatively short and in my mind, the elevation profile posted on the race website, while accurate is definitely deceiving! Running across the bridge was awesome! Due to the fog, you couldn’t see much, but it was super cool just running across it. People were snapping pictures and I was a couple stop off to the side so that he could propose to her! As I mentioned previously the bridge is pretty congested as well, so be prepared to either take it easy and enjoy the scenery, or play chicken with oncoming runners!

Additionally, while the elevation profile (and other race reviews) suggests that the majority of the hills are on the first half of the course; do not take this to mean that the second half is not hilly. It is. There are major ups and downs on the entire course and they will smoke your quads if you are not ready for them! Most of the course is through urban areas, but there are about 6 miles through Golden Gate Park and while the course is tame through here, I felt that it would never end. There is also the fact that the 1st half-marathon ends here (and you see their finish) and the 2nd half-marathon starts here, so a bunch of fresh runners blow past you making you feel like you have just run a half-marathon or something!

Once you’re out of the park, the race starts, well the last 6 miles anyway. You go through the Haight and there is some pretty cool scenery, but also some legit hills as you push through. Miles 21-24 are pretty lonely as there are not many people along the course and you know you are nearly done! Huge curb jump at AT&T Park and you get to run through the back of the stadium.  If you look to your left, you can see the baseball diamond and I thought that was really cool. If you look down, you are running over huge bronze plaques that celebrate historic Giants’ achievements! From here, it’s a short jaunt to the finish and glory! Great course, very challenging, and very proud to have done it!

Medal: A
First marathon medal, so it was totally cool in that respect. This year’s medal was a huge coaster with the Haight & Ashbury on the front with a tie-dyed ribbon. Very cool and one of the biggest and nicest that I have gotten to date.

Schwag: B-
For this being such a big race, there was not much schwag to speak of. The shirt is a long-sleeve tech tee that is definitely heavy weight and quality construction, no knock-off here. The different races get different colors and they all looked legit. Other than the shirt and the medal, there was no other schwag to speak of. The “goody bag” was virtual and contained nothing that I could use as I am not from San Francisco.  

Post-Race: B
I did not hang around for post-race festivities as my hotel would not extend my checkout time past noon, so I had to hustle to get back and shower before more sightseeing and the 2 hour drive home. Most of the post-race stuff appeared to be at the tail end of the finisher chute and all of the race sponsors were there giving out samples of their goods (nothing too spectacular). Of note, you could get your medal engraved if you were so inclined (I think).

My Performance: A+
For a first marathon on a challenging course, I think my 3:49 was a pretty good time. I probably could have gone a little faster, but I am very happy with my performance, and more happy with my race planning and strategy.  My major advice if you are planning to run this race is to train hills and go out conservatively! I planned to run a 1:55 out and a 1:50 back and nearly nailed my times which helped to keep me calm and on target!

Overall Grade: A
I truly hope that I have another opportunity in my lifetime to run the San Francisco Marathon again. We will be moving back to the east coast next summer, so I don’t know if I’ll find the time to get back out here, but it was a great experience. If you are looking for a scenic race that will challenge you, I highly recommend the San Francisco Marathon. It is most definitely “worth the hurt!”

For more info, or to register, go to:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Race Review: Blue Moon Wicked 10K, Virginia Beach, VA

Long sleeve tech tee, tech beanie, metal water bottle and medal

This race is put on by Bon Secours Virginia Health System and really is a wicked good time! We were looking for an off season race, something fun, and something different and we found it when we stumbled on the Blue Moon Wicked 10K.  This is a fun affordable race with a lot of support and some nice swag to boot.  Feel free to really get into the spirit of things and dress up in your favorite Halloween costume!  There is a costume judging so make it a good one!  Although we didn’t run together during this race (Mike ran in support of Team Hoyt) we both had a really good time.

Weather: A 
With the average temperature around 70 degrees you really couldn’t ask for more! It was chilly waiting for the race to start but warmed up nice with the sun shining the whole time!

Organization: A
This was a great race with lots of free parking, lots of support along the way, and is part of the Live, Love, Run VB Challenge. 

Course: A
The course is fast and flat.  The start is at the VB Convention Center and heads towards the beach.  It’s nice because around mile 2 you get on the boardwalk with a beautiful view of the ocean for awhile before cutting back to the road.  Around mile 5 you get back on the boardwalk and get to finish and head to the post-race party right on the beach.

Medal: A
I liked this medal because it was unique and fun.  It wasn’t just a shiny medal with the year printed on it.  It has the witch on her broom with the name of the race and year printed in color.  The ribbon was also unique because it was orange with Halloween themed print on it.

Schwag: A
For this being a “cheaper” race, and a short one to boot, they really do a nice job on the schwag.  You get a virtual goody bag with lots of coupons, training info, and a discount into next year’s race.  At the expo you get a long sleeve technical shirt, reusable bag, and at the end of the race you get a surprise finisher item (we got a performance beanie) and of course your medal.

Post-Race: A
The post-race party is pretty awesome.  We didn’t hang out for long but everyone was having a great time.  They have food, blue moon beer, and live music.  They do a costume judging and award the best along with awarding the winners of the race.  The party is right on the beach with a nice sized tent where the food and beer is being served and open right onto the beach with plenty of room to sit around and relax.

Our Performance: B
We ran this race separate, with me running just to run, and Mike running in support of Team Hoyt.  Mike cheated and got to start before the rest of the field so he didn’t have to deal with any traffic up front, I’m just kidding, he did a great thing running with his friend Rooster and helping to push his daughter Ainsley,( in support of Team Hoyt.  I did notice this race was very race etiquette friendly with almost all the walkers actually lining up in the back.  Mike came in at 53:28 and I came in at 58:05.  I gave us a B only because we could have done better but we weren’t out there to race we were out there to have a good time and support a great cause.

Overall Grade: A+
This is just a fun race where you can take a breath and forget about the marathon for once.  Dress up, get out there, and have a great time! If you are in the area and can run this race we definitely recommend it!

For more info, or to register, go to:   

Julie's scrapbook page

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Do It For The Tee Shirt and Medal Too, Right?

If you guys are not reading Dane Rauschenberg’s blog at, then you should be.  His blunt and honest style is refreshing.   I think that I will definitely go ahead and order his book now that I have been reading his blog for a while (See Dane Run - an autographed copy is available for purchase on his website for only $20). I also should have said “What’s up” to him at the San Fran Expo, but I was a wuss.  Anyway, I just read his blog post from the other day, titled “How Far is this Marathon,” and it was like a tall refreshing glass of “Haterade.” I loved it!

Besides being very funny, the blog post totally got me thinking and ranting about running, and I was really on a roll. In fact, I had lunch with the Jackalope  today and we were both just killing it bitching about running. In fact, I ended up writing several pages about the things that have been bugging me and thought that maybe I would roll them out in stages.  Today’s post is about race fees.

It’s amazing how much I am willing to pay for a tech tee and a medal, even though most of the tees are cheap knockoffs. I know that my race entry fee goes to much more than just the shirt and the medal, such as the expo, safety, food, etc., but that stuff isn’t necessarily tangible. I only race for the shirt and the medal. Seriously. After some self- reflection and a quick check of the bank account balance, I realize that I am way too willing to pay for a race that I really have no interest in and serve no real training purpose.  I know what you’re thinking….”why are you always so negative?” “How come nothing is ever good enough for you?” “Do you seriously have to bitch about everything, really?” So why bring this up now?

Nice medal, huh? (photo credit)
Well it’s because the Big Sur Half Marathon is coming up and it’s nearly sold out though Julie and I have not registered yet. Honestly, I want to run the race with her. The race is local, it’s well put on, I enjoy running half-marathons, and I really like the clay medals that they give out to finishers. I got one for the Big Sur Mud run earlier this year and have also registered for the Big Sur International Marathon next April (though admittedly not for the medal only, but more so because Bart Yasso called it one of THE marathons to run in your lifetime). 

Anyway, the registration fee for the Big Sur Half is $115! I know that early registration would have been somewhat cheaper, but come on! $115 for a race that does nothing for me?  That’s $230 for both of us to get a new tee shirt and another medal. Add in another $20 to purchase a race photo to go on the wall with our medal and now we have spent $250. Oh yeah, someone’s gotta watch the kids! I guess my point is that my wife and I run together nearly every day and we are very fortunate to be able to so should we really register for this race just to run together, or just to do another half-marathon? Funny enough, we are also loathe to buy new running gear (especially shirts and shorts) since they are so expensive, but somehow we are willing to shell out $250 bucks for a tee shirt and a medal? Unbelievable right?

Not so much. Just a quick browse on the running blogs I read and the DailyMile surfing I do shows that people race…. a lot! It actually appears that some people may be addicted to racing (I did 6 races last year – a 10K, a 14K, a 10 miler and 3 half-marathons, and I have done 3 races so far this year – a 10K, a half-marathon, and a full marathon, with 1 official race to go – the 50 miler and one potential race – the 50K as a training run for the 50 miler). If you’re addicted to running, it’s OK. I was recently addicted to racing also, but have now been clean for almost two weeks! Two weeks, so I know that I’m good now, though I may still be vulnerable to spending 3-4 times the price of a real tech tee for one that may or may not be.

What say you? Are you just out for the tee shirt and the medal as well? Why do you race? When you race are you running to complete or running to compete (either with yourself or others)? By the way, Dane has a post on the competition piece as well!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekly Training Update: I Hate Sundays (normally)!

Normally I hate Sundays. It’s mainly because Sunday is the end of the weekend and there is always so much to do to get ready for the work week. It just kinda bums me out thinking of ironing all my dress shirts & such, catching up on reading for class, etc… As you may have guessed from the picture above, this Sunday was different. Friday, I heard a commercial for “Day out with Thomas” at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, CA, so on a whim we decided to buy tickets and take the kids to see Thomas!

For some perspective, my youngest (babythinker) loves everything Thomas. He has nearly every train in the collection as well as all of the playsets. Some of the trains were passed down from the overthinker (my oldest) as he loved Thomas as well, and as I found out today, I think he still does! The babythinker knows all their names, has watched every movie at least 100 times, and can sing parts of the songs from the movies to boot. We just knew he would have a blast!

As we pulled into Roaring Camp Railroads, the place was packed with families all sporting their best Thomas gear and smiles as wide as the roadway.  While parking was atrocious, I was gifted a spot from a Vietnam Vet who spotted my DoD decal and thanked me for my service.  As I backed up to wait for him to pull out of his spot, I noticed his Vietnam Service Medal sticker on the back of his car and thanked him for his service as well! After parking, we headed to the tracks to meet Thomas and enjoy our day!

From the get go, the babythinker was in Thomas heaven, pointing and yelling and laughing, and then he spotted Thomas! It was awesome! We got a picture with Sir Topham Hat (the leader of the Sodor Island railway), an inflatable Percy engine, and got temporary tattoos! Finally we topped it all off with a ride aboard Thomas the Tank Engine along the Santa Cruz rail line through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It was a great day, and a great Sunday especially!

Now, here is where the running connection comes in. The area that we were in is where the Santa Cruz Mountains 50K race will be held in September.  As I am now officially transitioning to training for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler in December, I have decided (upon being given permission from the HeadThinker (my wife) of course) that I want to do the Santa Cruz Mountains 50K as a long training run and race rehearsal for the 50 miler.  The course runs right through the same area as the Roaring Camp Railroads and it is breathtakingly beautiful! In fact, prior to today I had never before seen a Redwood tree. Holy Amazing! Those things are huge! The whole train ride I was getting more and more psyched to run, not only on these trails, but any trails. I have a feeling that completing a couple of trail runs will cement trail runs and ultras as my new favorite past times!

Anyway, this post is way longer than I originally intended. Truth be told, I guess most of them are, but I really enjoy writing this blog and it’s hard to stop writing once I start. So since I titled this my weekly training update, I guess I should get to it.

This week was a recovery week, as though I hate to admit it, I am still not 100% following the marathon. I don’t have any injuries or issues, just still a little fatigued. I only did 3 runs this week, though they were of pretty good quality and included a 13 miler with the HeadThinker! By the way, she is doing awesome with her own marathon training, but is struggling a little bit with her fundraising efforts for LLS, so if you would like to donate, it would be greatly appreciated! Remember, every little bit helps and it goes to a great cause!

Mon – Rest
Tue – Rest
Wed – 3 @ 9:36
Thu – 8 @ 9:50
Fri – Rest
Sat – 13 @ 9:49
Sun – Rest

Total miles for the week – 24

Next week’s goal: Build up volume to mid to high 30s while continuing to focus on recovery and quality workouts.  I would also like to cement my training outline for the next several months and figure out some good cross-training! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mr. Literal

I love kids. I have 3, so that’s probably a good thing. It’s funny how kids can do things that you would never think of, but that make total sense to them.  For instance, last night, my oldest (the overthinker) had his moment that left me laughing and scratching my head, thinking “Really”? So here’s the story. Over the last several days, the game “The Sims” has become the hot topic in our house. I’m not sure exactly why, but last night, there we were loading “The Sims” on two separate computers so that both the overthinker and the anti-thinker could enjoy the game. Quick backstory here….Julie used to be a prolific “Sims” player and knows all the tricks of the trade for the game series, so as the kids are gathering the software discs, she is educating them on the intricacies of each of the games and the associated expansion packs. 

By this time, the overthinker has decided that he will play “The Sims 1” with the “Living Large” expansion pack so that he will have more options for his gameplay. Now his mom explained to him that in order to utilize the expansion pack it will have to be loaded on top of “The Sims 1” game.  As is the case with most computer related adventures in our house, the overthinker asked for my assistance in getting the software installed. As I meander over to the computer to help, I open the CD tray and pop in the game disc and turn my attention to the monitor.  Since the overthinker was sitting right there and wanted to help, his job was to push the CD tray back in so that we could get going. No sooner does this happen, than we hear a terrible racket coming from inside the computer! Hard to describe, but think about a grinder on plastic. My first thought was that “perhaps it’s time for this computer to go”. After all, it is our old desktop that was replaced nearly 2 years ago. It isn’t connected to the internet and we only kept it for the kids to mess around on. My second thought was “make it stop”! As I reached down and hit the eject button on the CD tray, it suddenly dawned on me as to what happened.

Did you guess it? Yup, he had quite literally loaded the expansion pack on top of the original game disc. I looked at him incredulously and he goes “Whhhaaaaaattttt, Mom said that you had to load the expansion pack on top of the game”!!! Suddenly, we all busted up laughing at what had just happened. I looked at him and was like “Really”??!!  “You’ve got to be kidding me, Shut the front door”!!

Ahhh, the literalism of a child. Isn’t it great? You really have to love how their minds work. As I was told many times growing up, “for such a smart kid, you’ve got no common sense”! Well of course this wasn’t true, I just had too much smarts for my own good! Apparently, so too does the overthinker! What a riot!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is Variety the Spice of Life?

My wife says I complain a lot. I don’t disagree. I tend to complain about a lot of things and unfortunately, most of the things I complain about are things that I have absolutely no control over. So while I waste time being upset, I generally get no relief as there is nothing that I can do to effect change in the things I am upset over. Today, I am not upset, nor am I complaining; seriously. Just an observation that I made today while running that I wanted to pass along to you all (my wife said I was complaining, but I’m not).

So as many of you know, I ran my very first marathon this past weekend in San Francisco, and I posted a very respectable time. I am very proud of my accomplishment, BUT I had an epiphany today while running; I can do better. I am not complaining that I did not do better mind you, I was only observing that I know I can do better (not that I need to, as a 3:49 is a very respectable marathon time).
Anyway, so there I was…running on the treadmill as my quads are still a touch sore and I did not want to go crazy on today’s run.  As I climbed aboard and hit start, I set my pace for 9:30 and 1% incline. As I started running, I was really trying to focus on the feeling and the form and I just sort of zoned out, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling off.  Within about 10 minutes, I realized that even though I had just posted a great marathon time, I didn’t really push myself. Now, if you read any of my previous posts, then you’ll know that partly, that was by design as I was deathly afraid of blowing up on the course and having to walk it in. I truly have no shame in racing conservatively, but I started thinking about my half-marathon PR (1:46), and again, while I am extremely proud of the time, I finished with a lot left in the tank and was really no worse for wear.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that I could have gone out Sunday and posted a 3:15 or even a 3:30. Again, this post is not about my marathon time at all, but rather about the realization that I never push myself; in anything. I do things easily that I know I can do easily. Check out my DailyMile training and you’ll see that every run is a 9:30!!! Obviously some are slightly faster, but my point is that I do every run at 9:30 and its stupid easy, but then I race at 8:45. I am not pushing myself and it’s a little frustrating.  So of course, I started thinking about the other aspects of my life as well.
Guess what? I’m vanilla bland everywhere. Same restaurants all the time, same TV shows, same websites, same everything. Now I know what my wife is talking about when she says our lives are so boring and routine. Even when I run, while the distance and scenery may change, the pace never does.  BORING! So, here’s to variety. Here’s to changing things up and really challenging myself. No more 9:30ish pace on every run that I do, but rather different paces for different types of runs. Oh yeah, here’s to breaking routines at home too! I’m breaking free!

How many of you are stuck in the same boring pace rut as me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

1st Marathon: Key Takeaways and Lessons Learned

The race is over and it went great - far better than I expected to be honest! While I bask in the glory and soreness of my quads (from the steep down hills I think) I wanted to try and chronicle the experience to capture the important lessons I learned, while not boring you all to death. Additionally, I will incorporate some of this post into a comprehensive race report like the others on the site that focuses more on the race itself than my performance. As I decided to run a marathon, I scoured the web and blogs for reports that chronicled the training and racing experience so that I could learn, and I hope that this post serves that purpose for some of you.

Race Prep
Training for the race went about as well as it could have; at least since May.

On average, I ran 5 days a week and did a medium distance run (8-12 miles) as well as a long run (15+) every week and averaged around a 9:15 pace across the boards.

This year I didn’t do any speed work and really, just ran. I followed a schedule to a “T,” that I put together from several resources (mainly the Runner’s World break 4 hours plan and the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan). The main change from both plans (and nearly everything else I read) was that I ran 5 runs of more than 20 miles, with a long of 24 three weeks out, and a 21 miler two weeks out.  The vast majority of my running was on the roads, and the terrain here is hilly, though not unbearable. I only did a few runs off road as I was hyper-vigilant of getting injured, though the 21 miler was off road and I am glad that I did it, cause the hills were worth any risk! As far as pace goes, my long runs were run at 9:30 (45 secs slower than eventual race pace), and I probably should have slowed down on my long runs just a little more to 9:45-10:00, though the 9:30 average pace was easily manageable and I recovered quickly.
One more thing on race prep. Early on, I did do other workouts such as P-90X discs and some cross fit type stuff in addition to the running. As the runs got longer and life got busier, I dropped most of the other workouts and just did the runs, as the marathon and the 50 miler were (are) my main focus.

Race Execution
Full disclosure – I was a total diva in the week leading up to the race. I was crabby, I was short with those around me, I was selfish, and I was hyper focused on finishing the marathon with “a good time,” which for me was sub 4 hours. I was so concerned that a time of over 4 hours would be a failure given the amount of training that I had put in, that the race started to consume me!

Alright, for race execution, I had to have a plan. That’s how I work. I do not do well with “squishiness,” and while most everyone told me to relax and just to run, that was a non-starter for me. I understand the thinking behind the advice, but I just cannot function without a plan. So, as for planning, I started with considering just trying to run consistent 9:09s.  While I knew that the pace wouldn’t be a problem, I was afraid of the “what ifs”. What if I started too slow? What if I didn’t feel good? There was just too much to risk by running straight 9:09s leaving me no wiggle room. Bad plan! Next I considered running 8:45s for the entire race, but was similarly concerned that 8:45 may be too fast and if I got behind I would start to stress and bonk (ironically, 8:46 ended up being my average pace)!
What I came up with in the last several days for the race came from some Daily Mile posts I read concerning advice from the venerable Bart Yasso and specific advice for the San Francisco Marathon. Bart suggested running negative splits (doesn’t everybody) as the first half of the race is far more hilly than the second half, though I thought both halves were damn hilly! Anyway, I decided that I would try to run a 1:55 out and a 1:50 back, as my half-marathon PR is a 1:46 last September so I felt that the pace was easily doable. Those time goals equate to 8:50 out and 8:20ish back and I was able to hit 1:55 on the way out and a 1:53ish back. While I did not hit my exact time goals, my splits are uncannily consistent and I actually ran progressively faster every mile so I was very pleased.

This may sound cliché, but the race went by way too quickly. Before I knew it I had already run 18 miles. Seriously. It just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks that I was almost 20 miles into the race and I really felt great. That realization scared the crap out of me, cause I felt that I would fall of the cliff at any moment. I can tell you though that when people say that “a marathon is not the first 20 miles, it’s the last 6,” they’re not kidding. The race is in the last 6 miles, so I just tried to stay calm and consistent, and fortunately it worked. This is not meant as a scare tactic, but the last 6 miles looked like the trail of tears, with people melting all over the place!
I was most happy though that I stayed disciplined given how good I felt throughout the race. I was very nervous about bonking at mile 20, so whenever my pace got below 8:30 or so, I would consciously slow back down a touch. Fortunately, I never hit the wall. Felt great all the way through and finished strong, even going sight-seeing after and walking a few more miles.

I got up at 4 am for an anticipated 6:12 start, leaving the hotel at 5 am to catch the bus to the start. At about 4:15 I ate a PB&J sandwich and a few sips of Gatorade and had another PB&J at about 4:45.  As I left the hotel, I took a bottle of water to sip and a banana to eat closer to the start time. I brought a Gatorade Prime, but forgot it in the morning.

I arrived at the start at 5:30 and walked around, trying to kill nerves and also get my bearings. I think it worked to some degree, because at that point, I just wanted to run. I was stressed out from worrying and tired of thinking about it, knowing that there was nothing I could do now except see what happens. I ate my banana at about 5:45 had a few sips of water and got in the corral at about 6. I stayed to the side, letting the 6:02 corral pass me by, while waiting for the 6:12 guys. Saw my good friend Marcus as we were about to start, so talking to him was an added bonus!
During the race, I took gels at 6.5, 12, 17, and 22. For all of my training runs longer than 12 miles I took gels religiously every 6 miles. One the race started, I kind of lost my bearings and while on the Golden Gate Bridge of all places, realized that I was past 6 miles and had not taken a gel! From then on, I fueled just a little sooner to try and make sure that I never hit the wall. As far as fluids, I walked every water stop except for the very first one (too busy) and took a cup of electrolyte drink (don’t know what brand) and a cup of water and had a few sips of each. I was very proud of myself for doing this and I think it made a difference. In fact, I even stopped to pee at the halfway point, figuring that the 48 seconds it took me would pay dividends later in the race, and I think it did. All in all, fueling and fluids went perfectly.

Key Takeaways and Lessons Learned
      1)      I am stronger than I thought.

a.       While I’m not sure how fast I could have gone, I feel pretty confident that I could have held 8:30s throughout. I felt like I finished with something left in the tank and gave probably about 85% effort. I know I should have given 100% but I was so scared of bonking and having a miserable race that I decided to run conservatively instead and try to ensure that I had a good experience the first time out (see race execution above).

2)      A good strategy is paramount – but I can also see the draw of running “free” and seeing what happens.

a.       For me, this is a non-starter as I have to have a plan to rely on. This allows me to focus my training, preferring to train like I will fight. I think for the most part, this was pretty successful for me and I will definitely plan like a maniac for all races hereafter.

3)      Qualifying for Boston will have to wait until the intersection between pace and age becomes more manageable.

a.       To run Boston today, I would have to run a 3:10. Next year I get a big break when I turn 35 and will only have to run a 3:15! I’m thinking that I will need another 10-15 years to BQ (3:30-3:35), but who knows? To be honest, I only want to run Boston because everyone seems to go for that and also because not everyone can do it (charity runner aside – but I wouldn’t want to do it unless I could meet the standards…I think…).
Things to do differently next time:

1)      Work out and cross train more.

a.       I realized that I am a decent endurance runner, but I feel like I have lost all of my “athletic prowess.” I feel very mechanical and I do not like that, so I am gonna focus on this as I move forward with ultra-training.

2)      Pay more attention to the quality of my training instead of just trying to get the miles in.

a.       I think that I will try and work on HR training and zones as well as dedicated training for hills and speed, as well as back to back long runs. While I am seriously considering running twice a day a few times a week, I will not do it only to get miles in; it will have a purpose.

3)      Try to relax more before the race and not stress the details so much. Try to honestly enjoy the experience.

a.       I know that I made my wife and kids (as well as my in-laws) crazy cause I was so stressed. Here they were excited out of their minds in anticipation for me and I was not excited at all. All I wanted to do was to get it over with. 100s of hours of training and hundreds of miles and did not give a crap about enjoying the experience. For me, it was work!
OK, so there it is. Hopefully it was not too boring or painful to read, and I honestly hope that it helped those of you looking to run your first marathon. It was a great experience, and I am already looking for a marathon in the next month or two as I already want to put all the things I learned to work! If you have any questions, leave a comment or e-mail me!