Friday, September 29, 2006


Miki's recent post on the subject got me thinking about dogs. Mind you, I am definitely more of a cat person both in terms of my pet preferences and in my own personality. However, having a father who was a veterinarian meant that we had lots of pets: cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, horses. We even had a couple of adopted pigeons named Fred and Wilma once that, for reasons I can no longer recall, my dad had hatch a chicken egg. I had lots of cats over the years, but only one dog, an unclipped pincher (she had long tail and floppy ears) who I remember having some sort of brain problem. My sister had a number of dogs. She was always attracted to those high-strung, yelping, car-chasing cattle breads. Personally, I've always had a thing for the northern dogs such as Siberian Huskys, Alaskan Malamutes or Norwegian Elkhounds. I like the more mellow, obedient temperament that these breeds tend to have. I've always thought that when I eventually have a house with land again, I want one of these dogs to raise as a running companion.

I think my love of northern dogs goes back to the first family dog we ever had. Kippy was a big fluffy white Samoyed and the most gentle dog on earth. My parents had him before they had us kids. My dad eventually had to put him to sleep when he got old. I still remember him telling me that it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. It may be the first time I ever saw my dad cry. The one story about Kippy that is always told by my family is when I was still a toddler and we lived in Davis. We lived on a small cul-de-sac and a neighbor's pet rabbit got loose. My dad heard a scratching at the front door and when he answered it, there was Kippy with the rabbit in his mouth. He put the rabbit down on the doorstep and my father immediately picked it up to see if it was OK. Not only was the rabbit still alive, but there was not a single scratch on it. There are other Kippy stories including how protective he was of us kids and even one where, I think, he lied down in front of my sister stopping her from tumbling down a hill. But, the story of the rabbit has always seemed to capture his kind gentle nature the best. There will never be another dog like Kippy.

I was thinking about the Elkhound recently. A neighbor of ours had one when we lived up on Mt. Diablo. He also had a very gentle nature. I looked up the breed on the American Kennel Club website. It had the following to say about them. "As a hunter, the Norwegian Elkhound has the courage, agility and stamina to hold moose and other big game at bay by barking and dodging attack, and the endurance to track for long hours in all weather over rough and varied terrain." While I don't plan to do any moose hunting anytime soon. That last bit certainly seems to describe the perfect trail running companion.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cutting back

I only did 30 miles last week on 3 days running. I was planning on doing a couple short-mid distance runs this weekend to keep my overall mileage up until my official taper start this week. However, after a 14.5 miler on Friday night I realized that my feet need more healing time than I have been giving them. I have been managing a recurring case of Plantar Faciitis. The new insoles I am using in my trail shoes have helped in the sense that my feet generally feel no worse at the end of my runs. However, I realized that they aren't really healing enough between runs even with the icing and stuff. I had already committed to playing soccer Sunday morning and I know that is as bad or worse for my heel pain than running so that was it for the weekend.

I am going to continue to do my icing with the frozen water bottle, taking ibuprofen, stretching and doing strengthening work. However, I recently read about "trigger point therapy" in an article called "Heal Pain Be Gone" by Twyla Carolan posted to John Vonhof's site. I tried the rubber ball exercises described in the article and all I can say is YOWCH!!! There are a couple of spots on my right foot that feel like needles being poked into them. Who would have thought that so much pain could come from a little rubber ball. They don't exactly feel like they release, but 15-20 minutes after working them, my feet seem to feel generally better. We'll see how it goes. I ordered the book from Amazon to read up further.

The plan between now and DC is as follows. I'm going to take the next two days off working to heal my feet. If things feel good I will do a short run on Wednesday. I will follow it up on Thursday, playing the distance by ear. I'm taking Friday off and then starting my "count down" runs of 5mi, 4mi, 3mi, 2mi starting Saturday. Sort of a mental game I play before entering new distances. I am planning to take 3 full days off before the race. I am also trying to force myself to wake by 5am and do a little walking in the morning. Trying to get used to waking up and moving my body at that gawd awful time of the day in prep for the 6:30am start time.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Last Long

I think that I will make yesterday my Last Long run before Dick Collins in three weeks. Next week I will keep my overall distance up and maybe do a couple medium distance runs on the weekend before starting to slow things down for the last 2 weeks. I have a lot of little nagging twinges and tweaky pains around my ankles and feet that I need to fully heal up before attempting 50 miles.

Yesterday's plan was to run the "back" part of the out-and-back course. It was, for the most part, a success. My wife VERY kindly dropped me off at Berkeley's Tilden Park at the Lone Oak picnic area which is the turnaround spot. It was a bit of a late start at about 3:15pm since my son had a football game in the morning and, it turned out, so did Cal causing lots of traffic getting to the park. The climb started right away with the Meadows Canyon trail makes a fairly steep ascent up to the ridge to meet with the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail. This trail is essentially followed all the way through to Redwood Regional Park, though it occasionally changes name to either Seaview Trail or Bay Area Ridge Trail as you head out of Tilden and through Robert Sibley Volcanic Preserve and Huckleberry Botanic Park. It is a beautiful trail and about the best the east bay has to offer in my opinion with views of the entire area that are only rivaled at the top of either Mt. Diablo or Mt. Tam. At the top of the ridge the entire bay was visible to the west including the Bay, Golden Gate and Richmond bridges with Tam to the north. The city itself was exceedingly clear and I could see well into the ocean beyond. Looking east was Diablo and the foothills with views of the delta beyond that. Truly a panoramic display.

The trail itself is wide fireroad up to Sibley where it heads downward and becomes one of the choicest pieces of single track you could ask for. It dips down and back up through redwoods and then continues along the ridge with thick bushes lining both sides before opening up into a nice meadow. There are a few road crossings on the way, the last of which is just before heading into Redwood Park. In Redwood, a short trip along the Ridge Trail leads to the Stream Trail which heads straight down into the canyon and across the park. At least, it used to do this. I was about two hours into my run at this point which is where I usually go into auto-pilot. This is why I went right past the sign saying that the Stream Trail was closed up ahead. I didn't even pay much attention to the sign at the bottom since someone had pushed it to the side. However, I couldn't ignore the closed bridge which was completely blocked off and under construction. Well, what to do now? I had to head back a bit and head up the path to Prince Road. I wasn't really looking for more climbing, but there wasn't much choice. This took me back up to the Ridge Trail which I followed until the Canyon Trail took me back down into the canyon. I was under a time constraint with both my wife and darkness looking to meet me at Chabot. To save some time, I decided not to backtrack and pick up the Bridle Trail, but instead ran along the road to meet the Golden Spike Trail about 1/3 mile up. I had already added about a mile and a half to my planned run.

I was wondering what the race would do and when I checked today I saw that, aside from the Bridle Trail, I pretty much followed the new path of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. Those of you planning to do this race should take note. This definitely adds some elevation gain/loss within Redwood park, but eliminates the grind down to and back up from Lone Oak. I believe the overall up and down will be about the same. Anyway, I continued on Golden Spike and on towards the climb up the MacDonald Trail. I knew what to expect for this one having run it a couple of weeks ago so I just put my head down and did the "RFP" mantra. In fact, the climb was not nearly as daunting as I remembered. Familiarity definitely helps. I arrived at Bort Meadows just as dusk was setting in and a bunch of horse trailers were heading out. There was apparently a ride earlier in the day which explained both the pink ribbons and plethora of droppings along some of my course. Over focused on the setting sun and the fact that I would soon be running on unfamiliar trail in the dark, I took a wrong turn. Luckily I quickly discovered the mistake, but the negative thoughts that lingered were not what I needed.

I tried to keep my spirits up running the last familiar section of the trail down the Brandon Trail to the Stone Bridge. I didn't pause at all, but proceeded directly to the Cascade Trail and the Columbine beyond. Both of these are supposed to be quite beautiful, but with the sun now down and the deep tree cover overhead, I was pretty much doing all that I could just to see the narrow trail beneath my feet. I was glad to have done so much night running recently. I made it to the Bass Cove Trail and the relative safety of fireroad which was good since it was now about 7:45pm and visible light was going fast. I managed to find my way to the dam and the West Shore Trail where I called my wife to let her know I was almost done. Luckily, the remainder was on paved road as I could not longer see anything on the dark and tree lined path. While it was a unique experience and the lake is pretty cool at night, I can't really say that I acquired any familiarity with this last part of the trail. Unless, that is, things go horribly wrong and I end up taking 13+ hours to finish the race.

Well, that's it, I'm about as ready as I'm going to be. I still can't quite fathom repeating most of the run I just did after running a full marathon. I just hope that with a fully rested body and that illusive "race day magic" I can Last Long enough to go the distance.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On Sundays I play soccer

Soccer was the only team sport I really enjoyed (or, quite frankly, was any good at) as a kid. I played it all through my youth until the end of high school when I stopped all exercise and then became very fat by my second year of college. I played again at the end of college after loosing 50 lbs. And then again for a short while after I first entered the workforce. However, I hadn't played for about a decade before joining a men's 35 and over team a couple years ago. We're basically a bunch of whiny middle-aged men who meet on Sunday mornings to run around on a field kicking at a ball, yelling at each other, cursing about the refs and almost getting into fights with other whiny middle-aged men wearing different colored shirts. Truth be told, I love it. I guess it takes care of my latent aggressive/competitive streak that I leave behind while running.

Some people think I'm crazy to continue playing while training for ultras. I stopped for a month before my first one, but have continued through the rest of the summer and only skipped the two Sundays of my 50K races. I am still trying to decide when to shut it down before my 50M attempt. It's not exactly ultra-specific training, but it is my only form of speedwork and it does help maintain my leg strength which I think is my main asset for running. Also, doing a middle distance run after a 90-minute game is definitely practice for running on tired legs. There is of course the risk of injury, but being a defender, I tend to give more than I receive. However, this past weekend while tangling with the other teams striker for the ball I took a hard knee to the thigh causing a pretty decent "charlie horse" to set in. I was still able to run so I finished out the match.

After the game, I had planned a 10+ mile run. I decided to go forward with it despite the pain in my right leg. I was hoping that the knots might subside or loosen up as I ran. I'm not sure why I believed this; maybe excess residual testosterone clouded my thinking. It was mostly manageable, but downhills were particularly difficult. I was able to complete the run. However, I am now taking an extra rest day and reviewing the wisdom of my decision. It's starting to loosen up so I will try to run tonight. Lessons learned? No, I'll probably still play next weekend. It's far too much fun. Besides, I now know that should someone decide to give me a swift kick to the leg at mile 40 of the Dick Collins race, I should be able to forge on for the remaining 10 miles. How many others can say that with confidence? >-)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Just gimme the night...

View from Mission Peak at Night

Another beautiful Wednesday night and another run up Mission Peak. More perfect weather, clear skies and a very bright moon. It was a nearly full moon (aka a waxing gibbous moon). In fact, the moon was so bright going up the face that it almost seemed like daytime. This was definitely a "no headlamp" run. As seen above, it is also the first time I remembered to bring the camera.

I started the run off at a good clip and was pushing up the hills as I have been doing lately on my middle distance (10-15mile) runs. My thinking is that if I can improve my uphill speed than my normal slow shuffle/run in my long races should feel easier. In this run I felt strong and the air temp was just right for pushing it a bit. I decided to hit the peak from the front side (as apposed to going around back first) to see if I could make a PR to the top. I did. I made it from out my door in Warm Springs to the peak in just over 1:22, slightly over 48 minutes from the Stanford Dr. parking lot. I'm sure there are those who can really speed it up to the peak, but for me going sub-50 is an accomplishment. Pushing up those last rocky sections was tough and probably helps explain why my photos came out so shaky. Well, that and the facts that my camera isn't so good at night and I am not so good with a camera. Anyway, I took a few shots from the top, but most look like the Bay Area is on fire.
Mission Peak Structure

I continued over the peak and down to the Eagle Trail. I decided that, with the good time I was making, I would reward myself with some bonus miles. I detoured down the Laurel Loop trail to the Ohlone Wilderness sign in to leave a little message. I did have to use my headlamp a bit there as even I am not crazy enough to run blind beneath the tree cover. The Laurel Loop is also where I had a legitimate scary animal encounter. No, not a mountain lion. Something much more frightening. Luckily as it ran away ahead of my, its big puffy black and white tail in the air was not pointed directly in my direction. I can just imagine coming home from my run reeking of skunk spray. ("Honey, your sleeping in the backyard tonight.")

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful except for once again meeting the grazing deer out on the trail as well as at the bottom near the parking lot. I took one more picture before heading down. I debated whether to post the cheezy, grinning, sweat-covered image of myself. However, given the background I seem to be laughing as the Silicon Valley goes down in flames and sometimes I kinda feel that way.
Sweaty me on MP

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Accidental Marathon

This past Sunday I decided to do my long run on the trails of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. My plan was to do 21-22 miles by covering the first part of the course out-and-back. I arrived at Lake Chabot to perfect, cool running weather. In fact it was cold enough at the start that I wore my gloves for the first part of the run. I was determined to stay on course this time as the previous time I attempted to run this route I missed numerous turn-offs including the very first one. I ended up doing about 23 miles on that run, but covered less than 7 miles of the actual course. I wasn't going to let that happen this time.

I finally had the chance to experience the first hill up the Live Oak trail which is a pretty decent climb, but not horrendous especially in cool weather. As I crested this climb the sun broke the clouds and my gloves went back into my pack. I was familiar with the next section, reaching the Brandon Trail which I would follow for a little over 4.6 miles. However, there was one bit of familiarity that I was not looking forward to... Pop! Pop! Pop! I simply can not get used to running next to a rifle range. Call me a wimpy Californian, but it stresses me out. Even knowing it is coming, I am still unable to keep the heartrate from raising and the adrenaline from surging. It definitely uses up psychological energy that I would prefer to reserve for later in my run. I can't imagine how absolutely terrifying it must be to experience an actual firefight, but running through the woods next to a gun range is about as close as I ever want to be.

Eventually the sound of gunfire fades and the trail heads down to the stone bridge. This is a fairly significant trail junction where my previous run went very wrong. The Brandon Trail continues to the right alongside a creek (there is even a sign if you bother to read it). This is one of the most beautiful parts of the trail for those that like the woods. The eucalyptus thins out and the redwoods start to take over. The trail follow a creekbed so it is a much more lush area. This trail leads to Bort Meadows and then on to the group camp where there is water and facilities. This is where I eventually found my way to during my previous run, in desperate need of water. I returned to the group camp again on this run before realizing that it was not part of my route and that I had passed the turnoff to the MacDonald Trail. I decided not to stop for water and just turned back around to find the trail head I had missed. It probably only added about half a mile total so not a big deal.

The MacDonald Trail is found up a short hill on the other side of a parking lot. Not very obvious on the map. Once on the trail it begins a nice gradual climb along the ridge that provides some decent views of the east hills. The sun was shining, but a nice cool breeze kept it comfortable. Just about every biker and hiker I saw on the trail commented on how perfect the weather was. MacDonald has only one real intersection about a mile and a half in, where a spur trail leads to a residential area off of Parkridge Drive. I wish I could afford to live there! At this point it heads downhill for another mile and a third to the MacDonald Staging Area which is where Anthony Chabot ends and Redwood Regional Park begins. This is where I had originally planned to turn around, but now I realized I had made a mistake. There was no water here nor at the Big Bear Staging Area a little futher down. I probably could have made it back to the group camp, but that was a pretty steep hill I had just come down. I knew that a couple more miles down the trail there would be a good water and bathroom stop in the park. This would also allow me to check out the single-track of the Golden Spike trail. I must say, it is a sweet trail, though fairly heavy with poison oak (don't forget your technu). Finish that, trot down the Bridle Trail fireroad and you are in Redwood Park central. I had some eats here (PB&J tortilla...yum), filled the pack with water, dropped in a few NUUN tablets and was back on my way for the return trip.

I was glad to have the fresh drink as it was a bit warmer going up the hill with the wind no longer at my face. I made another stop at the group camp on the way back as I was craving some plain water (and needed to do an intestinal check). Then it was back down the Brandon towards the last climb of the day. Another runner (the first I'd seen that day) was starting his run here as I past. While my pace was starting to slow, I did manage to hold him off ;-). Then, from the other direction, came yet another runner (why all in this spot?). This guy looked serious and was hauling some serious butt, carrying the classic two water bottles. I didn't recognize him, but figured he was an ultra runner. It made me think about all the good runners I've heard about recently from Oakland. If you have wondered about this, as I have, you need only to come check out the choice running in their backyard. Maybe I'd get faster if I moved a few miles further north :-).

Anyway, I finished back on the same route I went out on instead of by following the race route return. I'll have to check out the West Shore return route another time. I also plan to do a run on the remainder of the route from Redwood Park out to Lone Oak and back. The whole run took a little under 4 3/4 hours to complete which was more than I had planned for the day. I apologized to my wife for being late by stopping to pick up Chipotle on the way home (mmm...burritos). Upon completion, I was quite pleased to do the math and discover that I had done pretty close to a marathon distance considering the 10.5 planned turnaround plus 2 miles and the double trips out-and-back to the group camp. It felt good to be able to do an unplanned marathon as a Sunday long run.