Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's a run for?

I probably ran too long considering how late I started. I probably ran too far considering how tired I was to begin with. I probably ran too hard considering my knee and hip are a bit stiff, my ingrown toenail is not totally healed and I am less than a week away from my longest race to date. However, this was not a run for time. This was not a run for distance. This was not even a run for any sort of training that I needed to get in. This was, pure and simply, a run for sanity.

Since my Friday afternoon run up Mission Peak, I have spent over 12 hours of this past weekend behind the wheel of a car. Friday night Freddy had a league game up in Oakland which is normally a pretty quick drive, but it was a 7pm game which meant rush hour driving combined with the fact that both the Warriors and the A's had games that evening. Considering all this we got pretty lucky on the way up and only hit normal slow Friday traffic. Our mojo ran out on the way home as a crash which included an overturned vehicle was on 880 south just below the intersection we would be coming off of. Saturday, we had to be up early to drive up to Sacramento where Freddy's team would be playing in the AAU Under-16 regional qualifiers. There's no traffic at 7am Saturday morning, but it is a 2 hour drive nonetheless. It was also a little over 2 hours home. We had to be back up there Sunday morning as well. We could have stayed up there, but Zane needed to stay home Sunday to pack for a business trip and get some work done. So, Sunday morning was another 2 hour drive. So far, it wasn't terrible. About 8 1/2 hours driving, but most of it straight forward and only one major traffic issue to get through. The team did well placing 3rd and beating a very tough team that beat us earlier in the tournament. So, it was time to head back. I needed to drop someone off in Oakland so I planned to head down 80 to 580. Anybody who lives in the Bay Area (or pretty much anyone who had actually paid attention to the news on Sunday) can guess what this meant for me. Had I been paying attention, I would have realized that earlier that day THIS had happened. I could tell the whole story of me not getting the news until too late, of my failed attempt to avoid the traffic by taking city streets along with all the (many, many) other clever people. Suffice it to say that somewhere between 3.5-4 hours after leaving Sacto, I finally arrived home.

Over 12 hours of driving. I thought about it and realized that I could have been at the Grand Canyon after that much driving. My legs were stiff, my back was achy and I was cranky. I needed to go for a run. I told Zane that I needed to go only shortly after I got in the house. She understood. She asked "How long? Or, are you just gonna go?" (She knows me too well). I said that I wouldn't be taking my normal route as I needed a run with no loops. I was going to head out toward Ed Levin and just turnaround when I was "done". I needed to just run to move my body and clear my head.

In the end, it was just under 12 miles and my head was much clearer. This ended my week with a little over 40 miles. A little unplanned taper week as time controlled the distance. My plan to keep at around 60mi/wk was a little off, but not too bad. This would be my last real run before Miwok as I plan to want to keep my mileage around what I have been at and the race is 62. My plan is to do some walking this week in place of my running. Since Freddy has early morning workouts at school this week, it will actually help with two of my goals. I will be getting up much earlier than usually helping to ease the transition to Saturday morning and I will be using the extra hour after dropping him off to walk near my work. I don't like the sluggish feeling my legs get if I make my taper a cliff and do nothing. I also always need to work on my walking especially of I want to complete a 100 miler in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A tale of two tablets

They were the best of salts, they were the worst of salts....OK, that's a bit silly.

Anyway, I have long been a fan of NUUN electrolyte tablets and have used them at all my ultras thus far with great success. I like that they have no calories since I prefer to get my calories from solid (or semi-solid) foodstuff. I am blessed with an excellent digestive faculty. I also like that they are easy to carry in races and dissolve without the need for shaking and without any clumping. I enjoy the mild flavor (I only use lemon-lime) and the fact that they allow me to get my electrolytes as I go which is supposed to help with fluid absorption. I mix them a little bit dilute and then supplement with Succeed! Caps as needed especially when the temps are higher. I will also occasionally drink a little bit of the on course drink when the desire hits me or sometimes just drink some plain water when I am eating.

My only concern about NUUN comes from a comment that Karl King (inventor of Succeed!) made once on the ultralist:
As you know, there is a lot of chloride in sweat and blood plasma. Nuun supplies none, so using this product robs your body of the chloride it has to find within itself to match up with the sodium that goes out as the sodium chloride in sweat. That's probably no big deal in a short run. In a 100 miler it might eventually put one in electrolyte imbalance that would at least affect digestion since the production of HCl for the stomach could be compromised.
Since I do use S!Caps, I figure I am still getting some direct chloride in the mix even if not in the proportions recommended by Karl. However, I am always on the lookout for new products both simply out of wanting to try new things and to see if there are better options out there. Also, I am wondering if my strategies will need to be adjusted as I move up into ultras beyond 50 miles. I was at REI picking up some gels for Miwok on Friday afternoon when I noticed the new Camelbak Elixir tablets. They looked pretty similar to NUUN so I bought a tube to give them a try. It was a nice warm day and I was planning a run up Mission Peak so it was a perfect opportunity to give them a test run. Here is my analysis of the comparison.

First, the objective stuff. One tablet of NUUN is supposed to be mixed with 16oz of water (I generally use 20) while one tablet of Elixir is supposed to mix with 24oz of water.

Basically, they are chemically pretty similar with a slightly different mix of sodium/potassium. Both have some magnesium and calcium along with Vitamin C. NUUN includes some Riboflavin while Elixir includes the aforementioned Chloride and a small amount of Manganese. Personally, I am no expert and do not know how to evaluate the chemical differences.

However, someone out there may be interested so here's the exact chemical breakdown (per tablet):

Vitamin C37.5mg86mg

Now the subjective stuff. The Elixir is sweeter probably due to the fact that it contains sucralose (Splenda). It also tastes a bit "thicker" which I attribute to the fact that the tablets are formulated fully for the 24oz bottle size that I was using. I imagine they would be a bit too strong in the smaller 20oz bottles I often use. The NUUN is a bit "fizzier" which some people don't like, but I have grown accustomed to it and actually like they way it sort of wakes up my tongue. However, they are sometimes too fizzy on the run and I have been inadvertently squirted on a number of occasions while the tablets were dissolving. The basic flavor is pretty similar in each aside from the strength/sweetness differences mentioned above. I really didn't notice any major difference in the effects, but my run was only about 1.5 hours so it isn't a very conclusive test.

Overall, I think that I will stick with the NUUN in the near term. I am used to them and see no immediate benefit in switching right now. I also worry that I would have trouble with the stronger flavor of the Elixir tabs over time. The fact that I tend to use the NUUN even more diluted than recommended means that I am generally getting even less sodium per bottle than I would if I switched especially with Elixir's already higher sodium per tablet level. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I would have to rethink the pattern of supplementing with the tried and true S!Caps if I switched. I like the formula I have now where I use 1 every 1.5 hours on average upping it to 1/hr in hot weather and 1/2hr in cool weather. I will try the Elixir again (I have a whole tube) on a longer run and see how they hold up. For the upcoming Miwok race, I will stick with what I know.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fitting it all in

The theme for last week: Split runs

Friday Night, Freddy Time
Friday was a rest day and there really wasn't time for running as Freddy had a basketball game up in Oakland. His team, the Bay Area Wildcats were to face their old nemeses the Oakland Bulldogs up in the heart of Oak Town. We definitely didn't have the home court advantage here. It was tough going at parts, but, in the end, the Cats beat the Dogs by a score of 45-35. On the drive home I got Freddy's "full analysis" of the game, his play, his teams play, etc. Ah...the 15-year old perspective. Truly, it was Freddy Time.

When I got home I thought a bit about how I was going to fit my running in with all the other things I wanted to do this weekend. I planned to get up early (yes, on a Saturday) and get a decent run in to get things started. My wife had spent the week taking care of her younger half-sisters while her parents were on vacation. She was staying at their house in Pleasant Hill and I planned to go get her and her youngest sister and go to Great America on Saturday. So, an early morning run was the only way I was going to get any significant miles in.

Saturday Morning
Sometimes the body overrides the mind and it pays no head to the plans that may have been lain for it. Perhaps, it actually resents the fact that the mind went and made plans without first consulting it. At any rate, Saturday morning, my body decided that it needed sleep. My plans for a medium-length run disappeared as 6:30, 7:30 and then 8:30 rolled by and I was unable to extricate myself from the warm comfort of the bed. My body needed sleep. It got it. I can't remember the last time I actually slept for 9 full hours! Of course this left no time for a run of any length so I thought I would continue my pattern of two-a-day runs this week and get a 6-miler in before heading off and then see what I could get done in the evening. Turns out, the extra sleep did me good. My legs felt great and seemed to want to go. So, I let them. The morning run became a bit of a tempo run as I knocked off close to 7:30's the whole way. Happy to get at least some running in to start the weekend, I was ready to go.

The Dog Run
We had a great time at the amusement park even if the weather wasn't perfect. It probably helped keep the crowds down. Afterwards we grabbed some food and headed to Pleasant Hill where stay with my wife whom I hadn't seen pretty much all week. Her parent's have a great dog named Roxy. She's a very excitable Golden Retriever who seems to want to run whenever you take her for a walk. So, I thought I would try to take her for a run. The Contra Costa Canal Trail is right near the house so despite the sprinkling rain, Roxy and I went for an evening run. I figured a nice little 4.5 miler would test Roxy's real energy levels. I guess there's a reason people say you have to train dogs to run with you as Roxy tried to drag me for the first 1/2 mile, but, by the last 1/2 mile home, seemed to expect to be dragged by me. In between was a lot of fits and starts. I purposely took breaks to make sure she was OK with the distance. However, every time I stopped she seemed to be ready to take off and then when I would get back into a nice pace she seemed to want to slow or stop. Not exactly the smoothest run I've ever done, but it had its own kind of interesting.

Eat, Run, Visit, Eat, Run
Sunday morning. Nice big breakfast. Run some errands. Plan a run (or two). My wife's parent's house is a couple of miles from the end of the Contra Costa Canal Trail and a look at the map reveals that my Parent's house is only a couple of miles from the other end of the trail. While the two houses are less than 4 1/2 miles apart by a direct route, the horseshoe shaped trail gave a nice run of more than 10 1/2 miles between. I threw on my Camelbak and loaded up a change of clothes so I could change and visit with my parent's a bit before heading back. I've been on parts of this trail before as I once ran the Iron Horse Trail from Pleasanton to my parent's house. Contra Costa is writhe with suburban multi-use trails. It's really quite nice if you can stand the asphalt (which for some reason I seem to have more tolerance for after AR50). There are even trails connecting the major open spaces including Las Tramps, Briones and The Diablo Foothills. There is also the California Riding and Hiking Trail still under way that will connect Martinez to Diablo. There is even a plan to link the Iron Horse all the way down to Niles Canyon in Fremont. Perhaps when that is complete I will finally do the run all the way from my house to my parent's. At any rate, the run along the CCC Trail was nice. The weather alternated between cool and warm as the sun and wind took turns making their presence known. I arrived at my parent's after a little over an hour and a half leaving time for a decent visit.

Say "no" to Mom?
I had a nice visit with my parents and it's always good to surprise them. I was able to successfully stave off my mom's multiple offers to drive me back. However, I was not able to deny her offer of a plate of her wonderful leftovers. My mother is an excellent cook who seems to be able to conjure a gourmet meal out of a seemingly empty fridge. When she put down a plate containing chicken, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel spouts, yams and cranberry sauce, I told her it was too much food. "Just eat what you can" she insisted. So, of course, I pretty much cleaned my plate. I knew this wasn't a wise decision, but I have always prided myself on my ability to eat and run. Preparing to head out I got up from my seat and "ouch! what was that?" Actually, I knew what it was as soon as I felt it. It had been a long time since I had run with a pack and I failed to put some SportSheild on my back beforehand. There was a nice raw patch on my back where skin used to be. So, the way back would be sans-pack. I would have to swing by and pick up my things later. Not a problem except for the fact that it meant I would head off to finish my 21+ mile day with not but a single little bottle of water. I started the run feeling fine, in fact, quite good considering how much I had eaten. I felt pretty fast and was praising Mom's food as good running fuel. Things continued to go well until I ran out of water. I thought I could finish no problem as I felt hydrated enough to finish the last few miles. However, about a mile and a half or so from the end, things went south. The lack of water combined with my full stomach was a bad combination. As digestion stopped, I could feel the load in my belly. The suburban cruise was turning into an epic slog to finish, at least, that is, to finish without leaving my mark all over the trail. I managed to make it to a drinking fountain which helped, but now things were sloshing and I was battling nausea the whole way. A couple walking breaks, a slower pace and lots of drawing on my mental training got me to finish.

Week's End
I had just finished running up the hill to her parent's house when out came Zane with Roxy the dog going for a walk. She said I didn't look too good and I managed a smile before describing my battle with my meal. She just laughed at me knowing that part of me actually likes these self-imposed struggles I put myself through. I walked with them for my cool down and then spent a little time laying on the floor before saying our goodbyes (two more days) and getting ready to drive home. On the way home I thought that I really had managed to fit it all in this weekend. I hit my mileage goal, got in some quality family-time, and even rode some roller-coasters.

While I may not of gotten in an actual "long run" I did hit a new milestone in terms of the most individual runs I have done in one week with 9 total runs. Not bad considering I only ran on 5 separate days. Take it where you can get it. This coming week is going to be an even bigger challenge as I have a busy week at work, Zane will be coming home and the weekend will be totally full of basketball with AAU qualifiers in Sacramento. The good thing is that Miwok is less than two weeks away so I can always designate this a taper week if need be.

Run Strong.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Recovery? Check.

I'm constantly surprised at how quickly the body can recover from this big efforts. Either my efforts to keep my weekly training miles relatively constant through races is paying off or I am not running my races hard enough. Regardless, I prefer quickly recovery to running myself into the ground. I took two full days off from running after AR50. I felt pretty stiff on Monday, but an evening walk with my wife seemed to help (should have walked both days actually).

Somehow, I managed to get up at 5:30 Tuesday morning and actually run. It was slow and my legs were very stiff, but I was able to keep moving for a short run. It actually kind of felt like how I feel near the end of a race. Time constraints (and my inability to get up REALLY early) have forced me to split a lot of my runs in two. I actually am learning to like this as I think it helps my recovery and also gives me the feeling of running "all the time". I've been able to run a little more each day and have a good base going into the weekend.

Tue: 4mi (am) + 5.5mi (pm) = 8.5mi
Wed: 9.2mi (pm)
Thu: 4.4mi (am) + 6.2 (pm) = 10.6mi

A total of 28.3mi so far this week. If I can get 30 (or a little more) miles in this weekend I will keep pretty much on target. The legs actually feel pretty good. However, I am still trying to decide if I should shoot for one serious long run (20+) with a shorter supporting run or if I should aim to split the weekend closer to half and continue the patter of longer runs each day (i.e. 12-15 Sat, 15-18 Sun). Most likely it will all depend on how I schedule around all the other weekend needs.

Two weeks 'til Miwok. Another big race, a new distance, a new experience. Is it too early for the excitement and nerves to begin? I mean, it's only 12 more miles, right? Right? RIGHT?!?!?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Everything comes together when the weather falls apart

Every race is a learning experience. First time on a new course, especially so. Sometimes you learn something new about yourself and sometimes you reaffirm long held beliefs. Saturday was my second time running 50 miles and my first time at the American River Endurance Run. The AR50 is really two different races placed end-to-end. It is basically a road marathon (with a couple small trail sections thrown in) followed by a nice rolling-hills trail run that ends on a relatively steep last few miles. One thing I definitely confirmed in this race is that I am, first and foremost, a trail runner; a mountain man to the core. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the start.

Picture courtesy of

This course was very different from my previous 50-miler at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 last year. Even when attempting something new, I still like to set myself a "stretch goal" to keep myself moving and the 9-hour mark was what I put in my mind for this race. However, I didn't really know how to plan for such a course as my normal strategy of running fast on the downhill, enduring the uphills (with my patent-pending slog) and then simply maintaining on the (normally rare) flats, really wasn't appropriate here.

Knowing that I rarely keep to any plans that I may set for myself up front, I stated my race plan as follows:

- I plan to go out way too fast on the flats
- Run hard through the marathon mark
- Hit a 50K PR
- Slowly degrade in performance over the next 10 miles
- Suffer badly through the next 5
- Crawl slowly and painfully up the final hill to the finish

I figured that stating this publicly was my best insurance against it actually happening. I think it may have worked.

Every race report about this year's AR50 is bound to mention the weather and especially the abnormally, dead-on, prediction for race-day rain in the midst of great weather on all the surrounding days. I've mentioned it as well. OK, I'll say a little more. It rained from the start. We all complained (my ultralight rain jacket was useless). It let up. We all rejoiced and were, therefore, punished with worse rain, wind, cold and lots of mud later on. Personally, I think I was less bothered by the conditions than some, but then I wouldn't be a trail runner if I didn't enjoy at least a little bit of slipping and sliding.

Anyway, I started the race very conservatively. I stayed in the middle of a very tight pack of runners for at least the first mile or so and tried to run as slow as possible and still keep a comfortable stride. Eventually, I fell into a nice pace and tried to maintain it as evenly as I could. Pacing is certainly not my forte and so I like to find someone else who seems to have a good pace and try to just stick with them. For most of the flat road section I kept myself right behind a woman who seemed to be keeping a perfectly metered gait. I just told myself to match her pace and do not pass. Despite the fact that I spent a couple of hours basically staring at the back side of a women who was obviously in very good shape, I really was not enjoying this part of the run. There was plenty of variety in scenery around and the path was very nice, but this constant, flat running was really wearing on me both mentally and physically. I remember how happy I was when we had a little bit of uphill over a bridge and then some downhill on the other side. I flew by a number of people going down as I let my stride open up. It felt good. Then we hit more flats and my (unwitting) pacer passed by me and I fell back into line.

A few more hills before the Beal's Point aid station helped my legs a bit, but I was beginning to feel the results of all this constant, repetitive motion. Both my ITBs and hips were tightening up. I was glad to have packed some Ibuprofen rub into my drop bag. It was no longer raining at this point and so I simply changed socks and decided (perhaps not so wisely) to stick with my road shoes. The rain hadn't been too heavy so far and, given my last 50-miler experience, I was worried more about my feet hurting than any potential muddy sections. I actually wasted a lot more time at Beal's than I had intended as I had difficulty finding my bag (note for future, make sure your drop bag is unique in some way!) I wanted to be in-and-out of Beal's in under 4 1/2 hours figuring that, at 27.4 miles, it should be at least half way given that the remaining 22.6 miles would be much slower going. I eventually got going again (after some awesome chicken soup). It was now close to 10:40am and I had to admit that a 9 hour finish was pretty much gone. An older guy I was talking to said that the remainder would take significantly longer than what I had done so far, but that a sub-10 hour finish should still be doable. I was convinced that I would still be well below 9 1/2, but didn't want to vocalize my (possibly over) confidence.

I knew the remainder was all trail. Based on the course profile, none of it looked too steep by my standards other than the very end. It was time to live up to my "Mountain Man" persona. My feet felt good, my energy reserves were high and I was definitely looking forward to no more flat stuff as I felt as though my hips would totally lock up. The course from here on was just my style. It was basically rolling hills for the next 20 miles or so. Other than some sections with steps (which my short legs don't like), it was perfectly suited to my body and my training. I put myself into low gear on the uphills just moving at that slow-shuffle-jog I call "The Slog". Then, I let gravity (and my big stumpy thighs) do their thing on the downhill. I passed a lot of people on both. I was passed a few times, usually on the flats or some of the lesser uphills. I did very little walking which convinced me more than ever that my uphill slog is actually more efficient and less taxing for me than the power hiking that many others (especially taller others) do on the hills. The rain came back with a vengeance, but I left my jacket off for the most part except when the wind really picked up. The mud came on with an even greater vengeance and I did start to question my choice of shoes. However, I learned that I just had to deal as trying to slow or walk actually made me slip more. The real solution was to keep lifting my feet, taking short , choppy strides (not a problem here).

I really only hit one or two bad spots here. The worst came when I stopped for a check of my hydration level (i.e. take a pee) and began to feel lightheaded. I was in-between aid stations and was feeling low on energy. I reached back for my trusty gel flask filled with my proprietary blend of black sludge (Clif Shot mix of Double Espresso, Mocha and Chocolate). It wasn't there. My low physical energy was now being multiplied by low psychological energy. A bad combination in an ultra. I then remembered my Clif Blocks in my waste pack. I let a couple people pass me as I slowed to a walk and struggled to open the bag of Black Cherry flavored gelatinous squares. I pretty much stuffed them all in my mouth at once and began to feel better almost immediately. I switched into a run and passed both the guys I had just let by on a flat, open section. It is rare for me to pass on the flats late in a race. I opened my stride up and found a pace that felt good, but maintainable. From here on I was able to just keep going. Slowing a bit for the uphills, speeding a bit for the down. I had filled my water full at the Manhattan Bar aid station and was on my way to Last Gasp.

I knew that there was a little over 2 miles from the last aid station. I knew that 9 hours was impossible given the time, the the mud, the rain and the steep final climb. I reserved some energy, taking it easy on the last little downhill before the steepest part of the whole course. I looked up and could see everyone up ahead walking. The good thing about training on Mission Peak is that it makes everything else seem a little less steep. I decided I would use my low-low gear. I shuffled past people on this section up to the final aid station. I topped off my water and was ready to take on the remainder of the uphill, gravelly dirt road. A caught up with a guy who passed me at the aid station and asked if the remainder was about the same grade as what we were now running. He confirmed that it was and so I decided to push it. He told me to "dig deep" as I headed off. I was thinking that a 9:10 might still be in site, but as I reached the "2 miles left" sign I realized that that would require running under 9-minute miles on something close to 10% incline so I set my sights on a 9:15. I must have passed close to a dozen people up this last section.

My legs were tight, but I knew I could keep running. I opened my stride. The sign marking the "last big hill" and the growing sound of voices let me know that the parking lot was just up above. I slowed a little in prep for the run to the finish. I hit the flat road and gave it whatever I had left. My watch said I could make it under 9 hours 15 minutes and when the official clock came into view I knew it. I know there are various opinions about sprinting to the finish of an ultra and, truth be told, it does seem a little silly to try and make up a few seconds after running for well over 9 hours. But, it's these little goals we set for ourselves that keep us going. I wanted to beat that time. I had to get it. As someone yelled "here comes green gloves" in reference to my day-glo asics running gloves, I gave it all that was left.

Official finish time: 9 hours 14 minutes 52 seconds

Official finish thought:
"If you never give it all you have, you'll never have more than you've got."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I didn't plan to taper for the American River 50 this coming weekend, but I think I will pretend that was my intention last week rather than just bailing on my running. With two very early mornings and a trip to Vegas, my overall mileage was just about cut in half. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of trail runs as well as some very short filler runs, but it was a pretty light week overall.

I only managed to get one run in during the trip, but at least it was a beautiful one out at Red Rocks Canyon. I actually did the same route that I did a little less than a year ago there. I planned to make it a little longer by doing the full White Rock Loop before heading back up and back to the La Madre Spring. My wife was going to hike starting the opposite direction going to the spring and then doing some of the loop until we met. Well, once again, our attempt at a hiking/running meet-up go awry. I expected I would meet Zane before the Loop trail hit the Springs trail, but no dice. I figure she is either up on the last half-mile section to the springs or decided to just do an out and back and is relaxing back at the start. She was carrying extra water and I am out so I decide to head to the car where I can at least fill. No Zane. I decide she must have been up on near the Springs so I head back out. I get to the Springs. No Zane. I think, maybe we just missed each other and she is out on the Loop trail. I head out for a bit back on the loop trail. I go maybe 3/4 of a mile out and realize that the time is now around where we agreed to finish so she shouldn't be out any further. I head back and then down to the car again. No Zane. On the way down I ask numerous people if they have seen the woman carrying a pink water bottle. No. Zane? Back at the car it hits me. When I showed her the map I emphasized the straight out Springs Trail with the Loop Trail peeling off part way up. I didn't think about the fact that she would be starting on the Rocky Gap 4x4 road going right up the mountain before the La Madre Springs Trail actually peels off. Knowing Zane and her propensity to "just go" she was probably half way up the mountain. I headed out and didn't get far before I met her coming down and confirming that, "yes" she was "out there" where one buy in a Jeep asked if she realized she was "in the middle of no where". She immediately turned my worry into a smile by saying "see, you always get a longer run when I go hiking". We both laughed about it on the drive back to the Hotel. We topped off our very non-Vegas, Vegas day with a stop at the Whole Foods for an awesome Salad Bar lunch.

While the week was lacking in running, it was a great trip. My son's tournament was good. Zane and I stayed over Sunday night and went to see "O" for her birthday and then the we visited the Bodies exhibit on Monday. The exhibit was very cool and if you ever want to see what all those muscles, veins and nerves are doing inside your body from an up-close and personal perspective there is no better display.

The countdown to AR50 has begun. I am doing some light mileage this week before the race, but nothing serious. I'm heading up to Auburn Friday afternoon and will be getting up VERY early to catch the bus down to the start in Sac. This will be my second 50 miler, but a much more flat course. I am actually thinking about time goals, but don't want to jinx myself by actually mentioning them :-). In the end, it is still mainly training for Miwok which is less than a month away!!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

South Bay Foray

Monday is normally a rest day and with a 4am wake-up to drive my wife to the airport and needing to spend the work day unpacking from our office move, my only plans were to try and get to bed early.

My plans for Tuesday, however, were swirling around in my head. This week is going to be tough to get the miles in so I thought I would try for a double day on Tuesday to start the week off right. My plans to run 7+ miles in the morning went to 6 and then 4 and then none as I had difficulty getting my head off the pillow and my eyes open. A lunch run wasn't an option as Tuesdays I need to leave work early to take my son and his basketball teammate to their trainer in Los Altos.

Their trainer is right near the very popular running destination of Rancho San Antonio in the Los Altos Hills. I had around an hour to get a run in there. I studied the map a bit and decided to try and do the PG&E hill which I looked to be about 6.5 miles with some good uphill. I hadn't been to Rancho in years so I couldn't recall how steep it was. I planned to just turn around if I couldn't make the full loop. Had I found this site first, I might have been able to plan the run better. The climb up turned out not to be too steep compared to what I have now become accustomed to. It is a good climb going up the PG&E trail, but is totally runnable so I pushed it as hard as I could to try to make good time. I managed the 4 1/4 miles (1700+ft climb) to the Vista Point in around 46 minutes. I was assured by a hiker that the full route back down to the valley was "around 6 miles" so I thought I would be able to get down in a little over an hour assuming it was straight downhill. Dispite the shade on the way up, it was pretty warm and I was sweaty so I was looking forward to heading down fast. I charged down the High Meadow trail and seemed to be making good time until I hit a bunch of trail intersections (I should have memorized the route or at least grabbed a map at the start!). I kept asking people, "this way down to the trailhead parking lot?" with somewhat mixed results. When I finally made it down to Dear Hollow Farm, I realized why. This wasn't the parking area, but it was the "start" of the trail up. I still had over a mile to go to get back to the car. Out of water and already worked, I kicked in what I had left in my legs to get back to the car in just over an hour and a quarter. It was a good time for the 8 or so miles, but I had told myself I was going to do another run after dropping the boys home (if I could) .

I headed to the Alameda Creek / Quarry Lakes area to see what was left in my legs and try to top off the days running. Some nice flat stuff should make it easier and once they warmed back up my legs felt OK (except for a very small knee pain that developed over the weekend). I headed out on the Alameda Creek Trail and then decided to finish with a figure eight loop around the lakes. The warmth of the South Bay was nowhere to be found here as I turned into a nice strong head wind that cooled me, but made this less of an easy relaxing, run than I had hoped. I finished with a little under 6 miles giving a daily total close to 13 and a bit over two hours. Nice to get it in the books.

The rest of the week will simply be played by ear. Less than two weeks until AR50 so next week is taper time before the race. A 60 mile goal may not be reasonable for this week, but we'll see.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Get that run in...get that run in...

We're heading into a very busy time coming up here. It started this past weekend with my son's first basketball tournament in Fresno with his AAU team. We have another this coming weekend in Vegas and then he has one in Oakland the following weekend, but I will be running AR50 for part of that. I then have Miwok 3 weeks after, but also have my wife's and my mother's birthdays to fit in. It's either time to strike a balance or just live with a crazy hectic schedule....hmmm, wonder which I will choose ;-)

We were to drive to Fresno Saturday morning and stay overnight so I knew a long run on the weekend wasn't very likely. Luckily, I had a half day on Friday at work since we are moving to a new building. This allowed me to get a nice afternoon run in on the Mission Peak to Sonol and back route. Since I set a 3.5 hour time limit on myself, I only hit the peak once for a little over 17 miles. I did take a little time to stop at the Ohlone Wilderness sign-in and leave a note for those doing a little more "serious" run that day. I'd taken an extra day off earlier in the week since I needed to assure I recovered from the previous weekend. However, I still wanted to shoot for my 60 miles. I stood at a little over 34 heading into Saturday.

My wife wanted to get her run in at the gym Saturday morning so we managed to get over there before the car trip. She hit the treadmill for a few miles and I headed to a nearby trail. I was under strict orders to keep it to an hour, a "real" hour, not an "hour-ten" or an "hour-five" or a "that doesn't include stoppage time to go pee or tie my shoes" hour. It was to be an hour on the clock and not the chronometer...ah she knows me too well. I guess that meant following my long run with a nice 7 1/4 miles of tempo running in 56:30. I always seem to run faster when I worry about making her wait for me. Maybe I should ask Zane to come to my next race and tell me "now, need to be finished in X hours like you promised." We headed home, packed the car for the 2.5 hour drive and made it just in time for the first game after which we headed to the hotel (got lost), checked in and headed back for the second game. I had looked up a local Rails-to-Trails trail in Fresno called the Sugar Pine Trail. Zane and I switched into running clothes and quickly drove to the trailhead just at dusk. I headed out hoping to get around 5 or so more miles in and Zane decided to do a few more of her own. Again, she would be waiting for me so I pushed it a little on the way back, though it was pretty dark so I couldn't push it too much. I ended up with close to 5 1/2 and Zane did 2 1/1 herself. That earned us both a nice sushi dinner that evening :-). I planned to head back to the trail the next morning and get a couple of hours in before the first game on Sunday. The problem is that I didn't find out what time the game was until Sunday morning. A 10am start left me with only about 1.5 hours for the run so I made the best of it and got in a little over 10 miles. Back to the hotel to shower and checkout, back to the gym for the game then lunch and the second game. The team did great in their first tournament winning all their games even though they are "playing up" a year. It wasn't a particularly strong tournament, but it was a good confidence booster before heading to Vegas wear the competition will be MUCH tougher. Anyway, packed it up and hurried home so that Zane could pack for a business trip. I did my math and found myself exactly 3 miles short of my weekly goal. However, occasionally wisdom does prevail in my head and I decide that with a 4:30am wakeup time the next morning, I needed sleep more than I needed a silly little 3-4 mile run. I am not a slave to some random number in my electronic log book!

However, how am I going to hit that number THIS week with Vegas coming up...