Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

It has been a long time since a book inspired me to do more, to become more, to strive harder than I have ever before. Ultramarathon Man has done just this, literally. I already enjoy running quite a bit and am slowly but steadily increasing my endurance. I was going to go out for an 8 mile run but after reading about Karnazes' first Western States 100 I pushed it to 13.1 miles, the longest training run I have ever done. Of course it was my desire, but it was Karnazes' inspirational book that lit a fire under my ass.

I don't mean inspiration as in sappy and that cheesy bravado of "you can do it, I know you can" kind of way. His is the best kind of inspiration, the kind that inspires by doing. To feel as though I experienced his Ultra races at Western States, Badwater, South Pole and the 199 mile Relay is a great achievement, a testament to his abilities as a runner and a writer. Much props must go to Karnazes. In fact almost too much as I oftentimes found myself shaking my head and smiling, saying "this guy is crazy".

Karnazes is history in the making, achieving feats that no other human has ever done. His tenacity is awe inspiring and, more importantly, his view on life is commendable. Even if you are not a runner you should run out and read this book. For it isn't too often that you can pick up a book to read about the trials and tribulations of one man and become inspired to want to do more with your own life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An Inspired Training Session

Today was just one of those days. Last night I knew that I wanted to go for a long run. I set my goal today for 8 miles and my original intention was to wake up early and run it in the morning. That didn't happen. I was too tired after having watched Ocean's 13 and then read some before going to bed. The clock read 2:00 AM. So the afternoon rolls around and I eat an early dinner then sit down and read some more of Ultramarathon Man. After reading about Karnazes first Western States 100 finish I was so inspired I started thinking lets push it to 10 if I am feeling good.

Hit the bike path and start out at a nice even pace at around 8:15 a mile or so. Soon enough I am feeling good so I decide to push it to 5 miles before turning back, but that wasn't enough! I started feeling the runner's high. Perhaps the first time I have ever recognized it for what it was. I was 6.5 miles into the run and started smiling and hitting my stride. Everything felt great when I usually start to feel tired. Hell with it, gonna do 13.1 miles today and make this my endurance run for the week. The kicker, though, is that I want to run it faster than I did in Santa Cruz last April, and I want to run the entire way without stopping or walking (which I had to do in Santa Cruz). Before I knew it I was back at my car having run 13.15 miles without stopping at a 8:29 a mile pace. I came in at 1:51:41, or 7 minutes faster than my previous best Half Marathon event.

This week has been a strong week for running and it is only just beginning. I leave for Mt. Madonna on Thursday and I know I will get at least a couple of 5-7 mile trail runs in, which will most certainly improve my endurance. Before long I will be running the SF Marathon and should be in great shape to finish strong. One can only hope.

Ongoing List of Mistakes and Lessons Learned

I find that there are many mistakes that I make and lessons learned almost every week that I run. Some lessons I continually learn over and over, others are experienced for the first time. The list below will be an ongoing project, one that I will compile, in no particular order, for myself as well as any other runners who are trying to learn from their mistakes as well as the mistakes that others have made. Ultimately this list will remind me of what not to do as I march ever onward towards that first Ultramarathon.

  1. Don’t overtrain; allow ample rest for your body to recover. Mistake: I was running and exercising continuously for days on end, sometimes 2 weeks straight. It never bothered me until I threw in 6.5 hours of tennis and then less than 12 hours later I ran a PR in a 10k. Problem was no rest and then went straight into two events where I exerted more energy than normal. Legs became tight and I couldn’t run for a few days.
  2. Eat and drink properly before an event or training. Mistake: Seems simple enough, but not always the case. I ate lunch at noon and the only fluid I had was a 40 oz. of coke at noon. Then I went and trained at 6:20. Result was I didn’t have the energy and hydration to be able to complete the training at the level that I wanted to train at.
  3. Don’t run on autopilot! Mistake: In the few races I have run this year so far I would always get tired and allow myself to run slower. I finally turned off autopilot and kicked it into high gear, overtaking the man in front of me at the end of the race. My legs have the strength to push on and I can dredge up more energy to increase my speed.
  4. Slower first mile then pick up pace. Mistake: Starting out the race on cold legs at a fast speed. Run the first mile at a good pace to warm the legs up, then increase the pace to the desired speed.
  5. Train with discipline. Mistake: Setting out and doing the same run, the same distance over and over again. Vary it up and go for a long endurance run, then do speed workout at the local track, then change it up and do a tough hill climb. The combination will ultimately put you in better shape and prepare you for the longer runs. Also cross train in other sports. Biking is a good one if you include hills, which will also prepare your lungs for the long runs.
  6. Pace, Pace, Pace. Mistake: My only races last year, the SF Marathon and the SJ Half Marathon, were run at terrible paces. I started out much faster than I should have and sapped my energy for the rest of the race. Each race takes a different pace. The 10k, for example, runs at 7-7:30 pace for me, whereas the Half Marathon at 8:30 pace. Mind your paces and you will go farther and faster than you ever have.
  7. Treat All Distances The Same. Mistake: I notice when I get ready for a shorter run, say a 4-5 mile run, I tend to drag my feet a little more than I should, and yet when I set out with the mind frame of running longer than 6 miles I feel light footed and don't drag my feet. Treat all distances as long distances and the miles will go by easier.
  8. Run the descents, walk the ascents. Mistake: No Mistake here, I knew that going into trail running that, and especially with endurance trail runs, you walk the ascents and run the descents. This prevents you from blowing all your energy and killing your legs by trying to run the hills too much.
  9. Don't run all the descents and don't walk all the ascents. Mistake: At about mile 16 at the Stevens Creek 50k was an extremely steep downhill. I took it like any other hill and tried to run it, although it was too steep to run so I had to lean back and do a half trot. All this did was not necessarily make up some time but definitely hurt my left knee from the massive amount of pressure the steepness caused from trying to run. I would have been better off walking it with that steep of a descent. Same with hills, run the ones that are manageable, and walk the steep ones.
  10. Just say NO! Mistake: After running the 50k last week I started to run again. The day went as such. I at lunch at 11:00, then met my brother at the gym at 4:00 and did some weight training on my chest and triceps for about 30-40 minutes, then decided to go out and run for an hour at 5:15 before eating anything. I got .2 of a mile in and knew immediately that it wouldn't be a good running day. Tired legs from the 50k, plus early lunch and hard weight training = no energy and heavy legs. Know when to say no to yourself and either not go out for a scheduled run or stop the run you are doing.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Walk For Rights 10k

I must say that I haven't planned my events too well. When I was looking over what I could race my eyes were much bigger than my legs could handle and I started booking back to back events. This is the third weekend in a row that I had an event on Saturday and Sunday. And this is the third event in a row where my legs felt heavy and tired before I was into the first mile on the Sunday event. But, surprisingly, this is the third weekend in a row where I have been able to set a new PR on the 10k.

Walk For Rights 10k - 0:46:32 (7:30 pace; 3/16)

Ever since Muddy Buddy my brother has started getting into running more, so I was happy to see that he wanted to run this 10k with me. We both arrived at around 7:30 and were one of the first to check in. Right away we saw that this was going to be a rather low key event, one with only a few participants and where the organization of the race itself could have been better. After we get our bib and go to the bathroom we loiter around for a while as the event brought in someone to go through a morning spiritual/yoga type exercise routine. It seemed a little out of place, but whatever floats your boat, right? 10 minutes after 8:00 rolls around and the stretching is done and we are ready to start. Right away a group of four people took off, two of which I knew there would be no way to catch them. The other two were close enough that it was still possible.

The course itself was at Shoreline Blvd. as a 2 loop course near the marshlands, very similar to the Run For The Future event I ran last weekend. A flat fast course, and very dry. As I went into the home stretch of the first loop I hear someone come up behind me and am passed. Five people now in front of me. Soon enough, though, I turn into the first loop finish where the 5k racers finish and notice that three of the leaders were all running the 5k race. This was a quick buoy to the morale that was steadily being pushed down from having to run a loop course, running exactly what I had just ran over again. Ahead of me in the distance I could see one runner, but I knew then that I wouldn't be able to catch him, so trudge on and begin firmly lengthening my lead on whoever was behind me, which I couldn't see anyone at that time.

Eventually I had to stop and walk, but for only 15 seconds, just enough to get my breath back and get a little feeling into my legs. Doing the triathlon yesterday took a lot of energy and I was doing all I could to not walk more than this short walk. Rested, I picked up my pace and pushed to the finish line in 46:32, 22 seconds faster than my previous 10k best! The one nagging thought, which usually is only recognized in hindsight, is if I wouldn't have walked would I have still set a PR or would I have ended up going slower without the quick rest? At the finish line I drank some water and waited a few minutes, got some feeling back into my legs, and then ran back until I found my brother in order to run the last of his race in with him. For running only two weeks and this being his first race (and he was sick to boot!) he did a great job.

Sum it up: great run, set a PR, and ran a race with my brother. Organization of the event could have been better but, ultimately, the charity benefits from this 10k and comes out a winner.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lake Almaden Mountain Bike Triathlon

Now this is my second and last scheduled triathlon of the year, with hopefully more to come. The last one I had raced in Morgan Hill at Uvas Reservoir and was hampered by my swimming as well as the fact that I had a mountain bike, which took a lot more energy and was a lot slower. This race would be much more accurate as to my stamina in a triathlon compared to the other racers.

Lake Almaden Mnt. Bike Triathlon - 1:19:27 (5:56 pace; 73/203) Stats

Whew, this was a fun race. I've been looking forward to this event for a long time, not only because it is a) a triathlon or b) it is a mountain bike triathlon but because c) I have two friends who signed up for this event as well: Brian and Carla. Race day rolls around and I am there pretty early, wanting again to be sure and claim a good transition spot. Brian and Carla are already there, so I play catch up and pick up my packet and get my body marked. We finish everything up and take a stroll down to the water to test the temperature. I couldn't tell at first, but this water is definitely cooler than the Uvas Triathlon, confirmed by the announcer who said the water was 58 degrees. Not sure it was that cold but... They had been filling up the lake with extremely cold water, which you notice at the end of your swim as you swim right past the incoming water.

Time rolls around and the first wave goes off. My friend Brian and I are in the second wave, so we get in and get ready. I've began using the breaststroke recently which greatly increased my snail's pace that I had at Uvas, so I was fairly confident. Gun goes off and the mayhem began. 500 yards isn't so long, so I wasn't too worried about the length. Round the second and last buoy and I look up at the beach and Brian is already getting out! He lapped the wave in front of him and came into the transition area at 8:15! Unbelievable. So I am just about to finish and get out when I feel a rolling of water to my right and sure enough, the lead female swimmer from the wave that started 5 minutes after me passes on by, then I feel a wave to the left and the second female from the same wave passes as well. Damn it, I was trying to finish fast enough to not be lapped myself, but oh well, I kind of knew this would happen. Luckily it was only two swimmers, right? So after 12 minutes and 25 seconds I get into the transition area and about a minute into it my friend Carla comes in (who started five minutes after me), clocking in an impressive 9:26! Damn Carla and Brian are fast.

So I take off on the bike and immediately begin passing a ton of people. I passed the most, though, on the steep half mile hill. In fact, this is where I finally was able to catch up to Brian. Anyway, we cruise down that hill and get to the mountain bike part of the race, which is a single track trail following a creek with a few creek crossings. They didn't give us any warning on the first one and we hit it pretty hard. I got half way across the creek in too low a gear and had to walk my bike out. A little warning would have been good. The guy in front of me hit it so hard he almost flipped over the handlebars. Pretty soon though I am moving along and I am all by myself. I can't see anyone in front of me or behind me. The trail has some pretty steep turns that go straight up a hill, and I hit one of these without warning and crashed. Kind of funny. I was able to stop mostly but my momentum kept going forward and I was on the ground. I few cuts and bruises and I was up again. Only two people were able to pass, in fact these were the only two people I saw the whole single track section, which was about the last 6 miles or so. I came into the transition at 40:33.

The run felt tough. My legs were heavy, but I was surprised to see my first mile clock in at 7:15. Must have been moving faster than I thought. Eventually I finish the 3.1 miles at a 7:15 pace in 22:29, the fastest I have ever ran that distance. Amazing that it happened after I was tired from the swim and bike portions. In fact I have found while training for this that a lot of times once my legs are already warmed up, tired and so on from the bike that I do run very good mile splits. Strange. Overall I came in at 1:19:27, which was good for 73 out of 203 participants. At this finish line it was the best food I had seen at any event. Plenty of water with fruit, bagels and burritos! Big chicken burritos. Loved it. Granted it was 9:50 in the morning, but that burrito tasted great. My friends put in strong finishes as well, so I was happy when they crossed the finish line and I could see the flush of a recently completed triathlon spread across their face. Triathlons: tough, but rewarding.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Lofty Running Goals

With running it is good, not necessary, but good to set goals for what you want to accomplish. This will help motivate you to go the extra mile, to try and make your mile pace faster or to tackle that tough hill. Perhaps it is to lose weight, or maybe it is to feel the accomplishment of completing an endurance run.

I have three goals. The first is to continue to set PRs in all my events, but more importantly to set PRs in the longer endurance runs (accomplished: PRs in each marathon and 50k ran this year). The second is to complete an Ultramarathon (accomplished on 9/8/07 at the Stevens Creek 50k). And the third is the most recent one: to become a member of Marathon Maniacs (accomplished with three marathons or longer in a 3 month period: Silicon Valley Marathon 11/4/07, Woodside 50k 12/2, Rodeo Beach 50k 12/21), but haven't applied yet). This last is perhaps the hardest and yet the one that is driving me the most. To become a member on the ground level, which is Bronze, the easiest feat to accomplish to get in, is to do one of three things:

● Back to Back Marathons (two marathons on consecutive weekends)

● 2 Marathons in 3 Weeks (2 marathons within a 16 day time frame)

● 3 Marathons in 3 Months (3 marathons within a 90 day time period)

In striving to achieve this goal I see many positive outcomes. The amount of training that will be needed to feel ready to accomplish this will get some much needed fuel. In addition, even if I don’t become a Marathon Maniac I will have been able to push myself harder than ever and be in the best shape possible (although I know I can be in better shape once I train enough to accomplish this goal). I will know how realistic this goal is once I finish the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July. This will tell me what shape I am currently in and whether I can attempt to achieve goal #3 by the end of the year. A bit ambitious, especially considering I haven’t been training with long runs. But I know it can be done.

I will try to achieve this goal at the end of the year, and hopefully this will allow me to fulfill goal #2 as well (goal #1 of course can never be completely fulfilled because once I set a new PR I can always get out there and try and set another one). I am running the Metro Silicon Valley Marathon on November 4th. From that point on I will have 90 days to run two more marathon or longer races. On December 1st I will attempt to run the Woodside Trail Run 50k, my first Ultra. I feel I will be ready for this because by this point I will have completed 6 Half Marathons and 2 Marathons, in addition to numerous smaller distance runs. The only catch is that this is a trail run and thus harder than a road marathon. To counter this, and this may not be enough, one of my Half Marathons is a trail run, and I am running in a couple of trail 10ks as well. Of course much of my training will also be trail running and hill running. That gives me two marathons or longer in less than 30 days. Hopefully, if I can finish the Woodside event comfortably (meaning I wouldn’t mind running another Ultra) than I will run another Ultra on December 15th, the Muir Beach Trail Run 50k.

A lofty goal, I know, especially since I am coupling one Ultra with another in a two week time period, and they are trail runs to boot! I have confidence that I can complete this goal. After all, I signed up for the SF Marathon last year on a whim 3 days before the event and had zero training and I was able to run and finish that one, and I am most certainly in much better shape now than I was then. And if the second Ultra is too close to the first, well there are plenty of other Ultras I can run to complete the 3 in 90 day requirement, although I would like to complete the goal with 2 Ultras in 3 weeks. Ultimately it is not necessarily to get into Marathon Maniacs per se, but it is to accomplish the requirements to get in. What I am certain of though is that in setting my goals I will now be able to strive for them and have the motivation to become the best that I can.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Triathlon Training

One of the first lessons I learned was to not over train, to not exert yourself more than what your abilities will allow. I have continually ignored this small bit of wisdom for some reason, but I never felt hampered in my training. Until now that is, and more so because of the amount of training capped off by an event filled weekend.

I felt pretty tired with very tight muscles after playing 6.5 hours of tennis last Saturday and then setting a PR at a 10k on Sunday. After trying to run on Monday I knew I had to stop and do no running for a few days or I would pull a muscle, something I hadn't done since playing soccer in junior high. So I didn't run on Monday and did some weight training instead. Which leads me to today, the first day that I felt halfway decent. This coming weekend I have a triathlon and another 10k, another action packed weekend that will stress my body yet again, and wanted to get in one last day of training before resting.

Today I wanted to do a mini triathlon to mimic what I will go through on Saturday. My breathing is very inconsistent doing freestyle so I can only go a short distance before resorting to breaststroke, which allows me to continue moving at a decent pace and still breathe correctly. I started by swimming .6 of a mile (my tri is only 500 yards, or about .3 of a mile), which took about 22 minutes. My transition was long as I had to drive to my bike location, which turned out to be about 30 minutes. After that I jumped on my mountain bike (the upcoming triathlon is a Mtn. Bike Triathlon) and biked 10 miles at a very fast pace, which took 38 minutes. My transition was a couple of minutes, enough time to remove the tire and put it in the back of the car, and then headed out on my run. I was told once by another triathlete during the bike leg to increase my RPMs and pedal more rather than use more energy and pedal in a lower gear. I definitely noticed why today as I went out so fast and hard that by the time I got to the run portion my legs were so tight that I couldn't do the complete 4 miles that I had set out to run, and instead ran only 2 in a much slower time of 17 minutes.

At that pace I know I will do well, I can only hope that my run portion is stronger. Two lessons I learned today. One, don't train more than your body can handle. Two, eat and drink properly before training and events. I had last eaten 6 hours before and the only fluids I had was a 40 oz. of coke at noon. Change both and I know I will begin to see much better and consistent results. Other than that, my week is done as I rest for the upcoming weekend.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Decathlon Club and Run For The Future 10k

I have had yet again another eventful weekend, one that has left me drained a little more than normal. It all started with a tennis tournament in Santa Clara at the Decathlon Club. I played singles and doubles. My singles match was played on Saturday at 10 and lasted for about an hour and a half. I lost, which isn't anything new. Not sure why I keep playing singles. My serve, when it goes in, is almost too hard for most people in my division to return. That is the problem, it doesn't go in. In the first set I double faulted all four of my opponents points in one game (the two times I got my serve in that game I won the points), and another where I double faulted three times. Ridiculous and very frustrating. I've had problems with my serve since High School. Final score ended up being 6-1 7-6 (5).

Later in the day I played mixed doubles with my sister. We are a comical team because we play absolutely horrible for most of the first set before we find our tennis feet and decide that we would actually like to win. We've done this enough to know this is the norm, not the exception. Anyway, we came back from being down 5-1 to take the set at 7-5. But stupid mistakes abounded in the second set and we handed our opponents the set on a silver platter. The third was a little scare but we took it anyway. Final score 7-5 3-6 6-3 in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Finally, we played yet another match on Saturday at 5:30, with one of the players being the player that beat me in singles. I so wanted revenge, but it wasn't ours to take. But, yet again, we handed them the third set with errors galore from simple volleys and ground strokes. Final score 6-4 3-6 6-4 in 2 hours and 45 minutes. A busy, tired weekend. And I mention this because this all happened on Saturday. The next day, in less than 12 hours, I was to run a 10k.

Run For The Future 10k - 0:46:54 (7:33 pace; 44/181)

At the last minute earlier in the week I decided to sign up for this 10k. I knew I had the tennis tournament and I had two thoughts going into it. One, if I happened to make it to the finals of either/both draws I would have plenty of time after the run to get to the tournament for my match (I was a little unsure about my level of energy though, but thought two won over). My final thought was that it was very unlikely that I would make it to the finals. Pessimistic thoughts, but I have played in enough tournaments to know how far I can go and the semifinals is usually as far as I can make it. What I didn't count on was that I would be playing 6.5 hours of tennis in 90 degree weather with less than half a day to recover and for a chance at setting a new PR.

Anyway, I woke up and felt strong. A little groggy since I was working on five hours sleep, but at the time nothing too noticeable. The race took place in Palo Alto at the Baylands, a marsh area just off the bay. At 8:30 the race began and I started with a bang. I think it was being around all the other runners and the anticipation of running in another race that triggered my legs to want to run faster than I felt I should. The first mile clocked in at 6:52 and I was shocked. In every event I had ever been in I had always been mid to high 7 minute miles to start, whether from not having the speed or forcing myself to pace slower. Either way, I was starting much faster than I should have. I noticed right away that my legs were very tender and tired, with my heels and toes still sore from playing tennis the day before. Couple that with my fast start and I didn't think things were looking too good. So I soldier on and mile two comes by and it is a 7:12, not too far off mile one. I was in disbelief. At this point, though, fatigue from the day before started setting in and all my miles, except mile 6, progressively got slower. The course helped some as it was a loop that followed HWY 101 before turning towards the Baylands and follow along the mud flats. A very flat and fast course.

At 5.5 miles in I decided to make a run for it. There was a man in a yellow shirt that had passed me at about mile 2 and I had him in my sight, from a distance, for the whole race. I had to make my move, so I sped up. This was perhaps lesson one, that when you feel tired you really can press on and make yourself run faster. The strength is there, you just need to apply it. It seems rhetorical, but it really isn't. After you have raced x amount of miles your body begins to deceive itself and your mind wants to listen to it. So I overrode the pending system failure and took control. It felt great. My energy picked up and I caught the man with about .3 miles left and beat him to the finish line. By the end of the day, despite the fatigue from tennis, I was able to post a PR of two and a half minutes at 46:52. I can only imagine how I could have done if I had come in to the race with fresh legs. I also learned one final lesson. I should begin focusing on starting slower and gradually getting faster, hopefully posting negative splits. With this conservation of energy on cold muscles I will allow my legs after a mile or so to warm up and perform their best towards the latter end of the race when you need it the most.

All in all, a great event. Well organized with plenty of food and beverages at the finish line with friendly volunteers. I think I will definitely plan on doing this one again next year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Nitty Gritty of Training

Now down to the nitty gritty: training. After all, this is my journey to endurance, and how could it be a journey without showing how I am preparing myself to accomplish my goals? I started the year out with one basic tenement to my training: to run an average of 13.1 miles every single week. Granted this may not seem much in order to get myself ready for a Marathon or 50k, but it will at least get my endurance up enough to where I can pace myself at a decent pace and not blow all my energy when I need it most. I see some people running 13 miles a day, or doing two hour runs. Eventually I will get there, and eventually is some time in the coming months because I know that it is these longer runs that are going to help my body sustain itself over the long haul. That being said, the foundation to my training is 13.1 miles a week. Recently I have added to my training a few extra activities. One is I started doing trail running. This can do some amazing things to your legs and lungs, both of which make your endurance running much easier. Second is to cross train more in all sports. Currently I cross train in tennis, swimming, biking, weightlifting and occasionally rock climbing, basketball and softball. Running is so focused that a lot of times the muscles you could use or strain in longer distances can be buoyed by the stamina and strength of muscles used by cross training. Finally, I've started trying to increase my speed, most notably my mile pace. When I run a fast mile I notice considerable difference with my lungs and know that I am training my lungs for the pressure and tension that would come with endurance runs.

That puts me to this week, which has definitely been a full week of training. Perhaps not in the amount of running, although I did do a decent amount (26.41 miles), but I was able to get some good cross training in that really completed my workout. First off I started the week with Muddy Muddy, which is a combination of biking and running. I coupled this by going swimming later in the day to try and simulate the tension that I would feel in the triathlons I am racing. As I have said in the past, I am a horrible long distance swimmer. No training + Not swimming for a long time = The slowest swimmer in the world. But I think I finally figured out a stroke, the breast stroke, that will drastically increase the 53 minutes per mile pace I did during the swim portion of the Uvas Triathlon. Anything to not feel like such a fool as wave after wave passes me up. This is decidedly my worst leg of the triathlon and where I lose most of my time. Anyway, the breast stroke helps my breathing, my speed, my stamina... everything. And with the Mountain Bike Triathlon coming up I am on even ground with everyone else on the bike leg (those damn 10-speeds just kept blowing past me at Uvas). That leaves the swim.

Monday I tried to run a fast mile but it was too soon after the 10k and Muddy Buddy of the weekend to feel up to speed. A half mile in at 3:02 I stopped as my legs were too tired to continue. Seeing my time I wish I hadn't of stopped, would have been a PR! Oh well, my legs were thanking me for it. The next day I went trail running with my brother for 3 miles in South San Jose and was blown away. Didn't even know those trails existed. We were overlooking all of San Jose. We got back to his house and he surprised the hell out of me. He wanted to keep running!

I say surprised because before Muddy Buddy he hadn't done much running at all, now he wants to run more. I am glad he did though 'cause I had some of my best running that night. I had never done night running and I am amazed at the difference that it makes. I was doing 7:15 miles after running 3 in the hills! In fact the sixth and last mile I ran in 7 minutes. I have got to do more night running. The next day I took it easy on the legs and played some mixed doubles with the family. Although easier than running, tennis is still great for the legs and lungs, especially when there is a lot of pivoting and quick sprints.

My biggest day, though, was Thursday. I really am a glutton for punishment. We were sitting on low to mid 90s at about 5 PM. I wanted to get a run in and didn't think anything of it. I mean, most of the trail I was going to run is in the shade, how bad can it be? Anyway, I got a call from my friends and they wanted to go bike riding. So we set a time for later in the evening. I head out and do my run. Strong first two miles, then I melted on the last two, turning in 7:41, 7:39, 8:20 and 9:10 splits. The heat was too much without bringing water. So that was a 33 minute 4 mile run. A half hour drive later I met my friends for a nice afternoon bike ride. Sure, like I would let myself have a nice ride. The scenery is great, it is the elevation climb that isn't nice.

About 9 miles to the summit above Lexington Reservoir. The last 2 miles or so is an 850 foot ascent to the summit that overlooks all of the Bay Area. Amazing view, overall fun ride, a bitch of a climb. I've done this before when I hadn't run and it was tough, but doing the run first exhausted me. 2 hours and 12 minutes and 18 miles later and we are back to our cars. I hadn't eaten since 12:30 so we run over and get a quick bite to eat. I was supposed to go to the gym with my brother but it was too late now at 9:45 so he wanted to run and, you guessed it, this glutton jumped at the opportunity to log in more running. So a quick 20 minute drive later (leaving me a total of 50 minute rest since bike and 1hr20 minute rest since 5) I get to his house. We are off and running after a quick visit with mom, niece, nephew and sister-in-law. He originally told me he wanted to do about a 3 mile run, but it ended up being a 6.14 mile loop around his neighborhood. I got back to the house at 11:47 and I was exhausted. My brother went for another mile, and I was tempted to join him but listened to my body instead. A day of running, biking and then running again resulted in 10.15 miles ran and an 18 mile bike ride over a 7 hour time period. I burned 2,300 calories.

That leaves today, Friday, for the week. A day of rest for my legs to be ready for tomorrow when I play in a doubles and singles tennis tournament in Santa Clara. Then another 10k event in Palo Alto Sunday morning.

Here's to a week of cross training from one glutton to another.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Index of Races




Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Henry Coe 10k and Muddy Buddy

Now this was a fun weekend. I was able to get two events in: My first 10k and one my brother and I have been waiting for, Muddy Buddy.

Henry Coe 10k - 0:49:16 (7:57 pace, 26/99)

The 10k was held in Henry Coe State Park in Gilroy, CA. A great park that made a nice little quaint morning run. My friend, Carla, and myself arrived early and walked the course some. They've said in the past that there are meandering creeks that run through the trail run, but this year there were only two that had any water in them, one you could jump over and the other had a trail going around it. Some die hards jumped straight into the creek to cross, but if you can cross and remain dry why would you ever soak your shoes and socks and risk blisters and sore feet? Who knows, but I was happy that the 7 or so creeks were all mostly dry.

The race itself was great. Around 200 or so people showed up for the 5k and the 10k, so it wasn't too crowded. Still, I moved to the front to avoid the walkers early on. With the gun going off I eagerly began. My pace in the beginning was a little fast and soon noticed it and so slowed down. With a nice even pace I was able to take in the course. And this I did as all the dust swirling in the air caked my nostrils and face. Soon enough we hit some small hills which kind of made this a trail run. I say this because this is definitely a trail run, but probably an easy one compared to others. Anyway, at the half way point I grabbed some water and drank half and threw the other half over my head. The rest was an easy run as most of the small rolling trail was now going at a slight decline. Soon enough I came in at 49mins16sec, a personal best by almost 3 minutes! My friend Carla, incidentally, who hadn't run a competitive race since October of last year, placed first in her division! This just tickled me happy. In fact, if you include the men she placed 3rd in her age overall! Way to go!

Muddy Buddy - 1:08:37 (11:22 pace; 443/746)

Now this is one I have looked forward to for awhile, one my brother had heard about and wanted to do with me. In case you have never heard of it, Muddy Buddy is a race where you team with a partner and one person bikes and the other runs, then after a mile or so you do an obstacle course and then switch, the other biking and the other running. This goes on for about 6 miles or so. We had heard that the first leg is up a steep hill so whoever was in better shape should ride the bike first. This was our original intention, but then they released a map that showed that whoever ran first would run quite a bit more and the rest was downhill, so since I was a better runner than I should start with the run (we were originally going to have me do the bike for the hill on leg 1). Suffice it to say, I wouldn't have brought it up if the hill wasn't so tough. Practically straight uphill for 6 tenths of a mile. Poor bikers. We started the run leg three minutes after the bikers started and we passed the first biker, who was walking his bike, at about a tenth of a mile in! That hill was a bitch. The rest of the race was a blast. Extremely dusty, especially with all the bikers flying past you as you run kicking all the dust in the air. Didn't have my sunglasses on, so you can only imagine.

Technically it was a duathlon, but something makes this one different. At the very end, you climb into a mud pit roughly a hundred feet long! You look at it and realize that you actually paid money for this, then you look forward and find that the only way to cross the finish line is to crawl in mud. You reach your hand in and you sink to your elbow. It's kind of comical. We looked like dogs or cats trying to walk in water with the legs in the water and your abdomen thrust way into the air to avoid the water. Then I hear the announcer yell out, "It's a mud pit, you're supposed to get in it!" Ha, he could only be talking about us. Eventually I said screw it and went as fast as possible, while my brother was trying to throw mud on me from behind. All in all, a very fun race. I wish there were more to the obstacle courses. Perhaps include a few obstacles in the mud pit. Other than that, we had a great time.

Uvas Triathlon

Having conquered the Marathon and the Half Marathon last year I began looking for a new endeavor, something that would challenge me just as much as the other two. Of course it was the Triathlon that sprang to mind, and the moron that I am I started out on an almost Olympic distance Triathlon (not quite Olympic, but too far away from Sprint to be considered as such), which was a 3/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike and a 5 mile run. So of course I trained quite a bit for the bike and the run portion. No problems there. But I have never swam long distance, and hadn't swam in almost 10 years! How about we compound the issue a bit more. Before the Triathlon I was only able to get two swim practices in on the Sunday and Monday before the event.

Uvas Triathlon - 3/4m, 16m, 5m - 2:38:10 (540/61) Stats

Race day arrived and I showed up way to early, eager to get there and be sure that I got a transition spot. I was the second person there and had a lot of time to kill. Anyway, here was the kicker. I only had a mountain bike. How much of a difference would it make? We'll see later. So I set up my transition and they eventually kicked everyone out and ushered them to the reservoir. As I was standing around I glanced up and down at the 650 or so participants. I was so out of place. Everyone had full body wetsuits and I was standing there in my tri shorts. A sea of black bodies with me the lone white ass skinned man standing out like a sore thumb (ha, well at least I wasn't alone - there were about 10 others without wetsuits).

I had already felt the water and didn't think it was cold at all, but as I approached the water for my wave I see a woman fully submerged in the water with a full wetsuit shivering! Huh, what was going on here? Anyway, my wave got in the water and it wasn't cold, so that worry flew out the window. In fact the temp felt great, must have been around 70. Gun went off and everyone began swimming. 30 seconds into the swim and I was already so tired I couldn't swim anymore. This was going to be a long day. I should have trained more. I turned over on my back and resorted to this weird backward stroke that at least kept me afloat and moved me forward a little. Again, the moron that I am, and a friend pointed this out later, I wasn't taking my hands out of the water when I moved them for the next stroke. So I was moving three steps forward and two steps back. In fact I was moving so slow the lifeguards kept paddling over and asking if everything was alright or if I wanted to hold onto their surfboard and rest. Kind of comical. A little embarrassed, I pawned one lifeguard off to another swimmer who had moved to the shallow water to stand on firm ground rest. 39 minutes later (a 53 min per mile pace - yeah, that's right, I was moving along really fast!) I could finally get out of the water. It seemed like every single wave after me had passed me up, accept perhaps the Clydesdale and Athena groups. Waves that started 20 minutes after breezed past without even breaking a sweat. Oh well. I slipped on my flip flops and began walking up the boat ramp (Uvas was too low to have the transition area next to the water) and kept slipping out of them. Looking like a fool, I kept my head down and focused on not losing my flip flops again, which I still did another couple of times.

Get to the bike and I started to think that this was where I would make up time. I started moving along and felt strong. Then whoosh, whoosh, and whoosh as three bikers flew past me barely pedaling. I'm struggling to move as fast as I could and they were barely trying. You see, I had a mountain bike, which was considerably slower and used a lot more energy. Suffice it to say, it felt like every single biker that was behind me had passed me. Even up until the last half mile they were all still passing me. I could do nothing but shake my head. There were some very helpful triathletes out there, though, who took the time to give me some tips. One nice gentleman saw me pedaling hard and told me to change gears and pedal faster, which would ultimately save the legs for the run portion. I think this could have just perhaps been a life saver. 1hr8mins later I finally transitioned into the running leg.

My legs felt wobbly but strong, so I moved out without waiting. A mile in my left leg tightened up and almost cramped. This has never happened before. Luckily I was able to finish strong, despite the leg, at about an 8:52 pace in 44 mins. The course itself followed the road around Uvas and was fairly flat, with only slight ups and downs with gentle ascents and descents. The heat, though, was starting to pick up, so that dampened things a little.

Overall, the whole Triathlon took 2hrs38mins. Yet another event I conquered in less than ideal circumstances. I can only learn from my mistakes again. All in all, a great event that was well organized. If you live in the Bay Area give this one a try. You won't regret it.

Santa Cruz Half Marathon

Because of the two races I did last year I knew that I wanted to begin entering a lot more events, if for nothing more than to get my butt out there to run and to have motivation to try and improve my running personal records. I got a late start, not beginning until April.

Santa Cruz Half Marathon - 1:58:29 (9:03 pace; 582/1509)

This was my first test of how well I was doing in my training. I had previously bought the Garmin Forerunner 205 and had been training with this a ton. If you don't have one, get one. Amazing, one of the best toys I have ever bought. Anyway, I had gotten myself to a respectable pace over a 6 mile run. Taking this to Santa Cruz I paced myself at about an 8:30 minute mile. For the first 8 miles it worked wonderfully, but this was where I began to slow down. The course itself was a great course that started next to the Beach Boardwalk. From the start line you move straight to a hill right from the get go before following the coastline and eventually did a loop on a dirt hiking trail. There were a few hills, not too large, that I wasn't aware of and this definitely made it a more difficult Half Marathon than the PF Changs Half, which was very flat.

That being said, I eventually crossed the finish line at 1hr58mins, 18 minutes faster than my previous best! Woohoo, my training was working. Must say, great course and great weather. The finish line was a little irksome as they have you finish on the beach, running through sand. A bit heavy after 13.1 miles. And the refreshments! No easy way to get either water or food, since they were on opposite sides of the beach separated by the finish line! Finally, results were sorted by gun time, not actual chip time. Other than that I loved this event. Would recommend to everyone.

Rock n' Roll Half Marathon

Previous to this race I had only raced one other race: The San Francisco Marathon. I had no training for that one and was sore for a week, but it definitely put the bug in me to run a ton more. That was when I stumbled upon the inaugural Rock n' Roll Half Marathon. I signed up for it and then I was able to get a few more friends to join up with me. This was going to be a great race.

Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - 2:16:21 (10:25 pace; 4,362/8,336) Stats

I had come into this in a much better condition than the Marathon that I had run previously. I was running regularly and had shed roughly 15 lbs, so things were looking up. The downside, in hindsight, was that my "long" runs were only around 4 miles or so. That would certainly not cut it. We all met up at Clint's house and headed out to fight traffic. The event was in downtown San Jose and there is huge shortage of parking. Finally, a mile or so away, we parked. What the hell, we needed a warm up anyway, right? I had to do the same dance I did at the Marathon as I waited for the port-o-pottie as the race was just about to begin. Comfort level back to normal, I lined up to start.

The start and the long stretch through downtown

When the gun went off Clint and I started out at a decent pace. We started in a wave pretty far back so we did a ton of weaving and swerving to get around and in front of thousands of people. This blew more energy than just straight running, and this was mistake number one. Eventually we were getting a little more space to run. Unfortunately, though, this was where Clint had to drop back. He came into this event as I did the SF Marathon: with no training. So I soldiered on.

This was mistake number two: I started out way too fast and didn't properly pace myself. This was a killer. At about mile 4 I had to start walking as we came upon a cheerleader squad and a water station. I grabbed some water and sauntered along, eventually deciding to pick up the pace again. Eventually I pass a few bands and enter the Rose Garden district with some beautiful houses. I didn't even know this area was back there! I find it amazing what you see when running, and this was no exception. Eventually we came back around towards downtown before turning past the HP Pavilion and heading west. At this point I was still doing alright. I was about 6 miles in and felt strong, despite the need to walk every once in a while. This was when I heard people cheering and so I looked down the road. The lead gazelle was coming down seemingly with a full on sprint! You see, where we turned past the HP Pavilion was right around where the finish line was, so the lead runner was about to finish 13.1 miles in just over an hour, having run the entire race at 13.1 MPH! Unbelievable how fast he was running. And I had more than half the race to go still.

So as we continued west I came upon a few more bands and cheerleader squads, which does some to distract you. Unfortunately you are past them so quick you barely get to hear them. So we cross under an overpass and turn into another residential district before looping back and making our return home. At this time my pace had slowed terribly. I was doing a ton of walking and people were passing me all over the place. I didn't care. I was getting that feeling again behind my knees and I was losing energy fast. Luckily I had applied Body Glide so there was no chafing this time. Now I just wanted to finish.

Eventually I ran back in front of the HP Pavilion before turning into the Caesar Chavez Park where the finish line waited. As I crossed over I could only think, "How in bloody hell did I ever run a marathon?" as my legs and knees screamed at me. I didn't answer, instead I went back, got my medal, a wet towel and drank about 6 bottles of water before going back to the finish line to await my friends. Soon after Carla came across, and then Clint after her. It was a fun event, very well organized and I was glad I was able to run it with some friends. I knew, though, that if I wanted to continue running these events that I would have to begin logging a lot more miles a week.

San Francisco Marathon

The Devil Made Me Do It

It is the only explanation to why I would sign up for a marathon. I had recently climbed Half Dome. It took me 10 hours to climb the 17.5 miles. I was sore, I was chafing, but I was alive. I was also out of shape, 30 lbs overweight, but that didn’t stop me. So why couldn’t I run a marathon? Two weeks after Half Dome I was out drinking with the friends when I decided I would sign up for the San Francisco Marathon. No biggie, right? Well, it was. I had absolutely zero training and the only running I had done was a mile or two warm up before weightlifting. And here is the kicker. The marathon was three days away. I had no clue about anything that revolved around a marathon. I didn’t know people trained for months at a time. I didn’t know anything about how to hydrate myself on the race, nothing about pacing. Absolutely blank slate going in to this. All I had was my drive to accomplish something that I had always wanted to accomplish. So I went out and bought brand new running shoes. Ha, lets compound matters.

San Francisco Marathon - 5:47:16 (13:15 pace; 3700/4086) Stats

San Francisco is about an hour and half away from where I live, and the race started at 5:30. Suffice it to say, I didn’t get much sleep before the race, about three hours worth. The anticipation, though, kept me awake and alert, and I felt ready to run a ton. I didn’t realize it at the time, but race jitters got me and I had to go to the restroom about three times. The lines were huge. In fact the race started when I was still in line, but I wasn’t worried because my wave was way in the back. Finally done, I joined my wave and we were herded to the start line. Eventually we were off running and the first five miles felt great. I was keeping a 9 minute per mile pace and hadn’t stopped to walk yet. I thought that was pretty good for no training. Then the first “mini” hill. I walked. From there on out it was torture. Eventually we got to the Golden Gate Bridge and the view was amazing. The sun rising, the fog lifting. Amazing. I walked a few more times and by the time I ran across the bridge and back I was already exhausted, and I was only at mile 7. This was where I began plotting when I would quit. I figured the Half Marathon would be good time to stop.

So as I turned into Golden Gate Park I was slightly relieved. My knees were hurting, my thighs chafing and I was out of breath. To top it off, I wasn’t drinking enough fluids. But then I had to make a choice. The Half Marathon split off to the left and Marathoners had to go to the right. I could see the finish line for the Halfers and I was so close. My resolve stepped in and I knew that I had to continue on. I mean, how can you go half way and then stop? From here on out you were essentially on your way back to the finish line. So I stopped and went to the restroom. As I was standing at the urinal it felt like I was swaying, as though I were on a boat and it was rocking. It made me laugh at the time.

Slightly refreshed, I continued through Golden Gate Park and did a loop around the lake. This was a dreadful part of the race because you can see all the runners and the distance that you must cover. It felt like it never ended. The scenery was great but I didn’t really have enough focus to enjoy everything around me. Eventually we headed out of the park and back into the streets and gradually made our way back to Embarcadero St. At one point I had someone yell out of a window, “There’s no walking in a marathon!” I know now there is and it is a good tactic, but at the time I could only shake my head. The streets were tough. It was getting later into the afternoon and the heat was picking up. The runners were getting more and more spread out so the miles seemed to stretch longer and longer. I wasn’t doing to hot at this point. People were passing me everywhere. I mean, old overweight people were passing me. I’m thirty and should be passing them! But I couldn’t get myself to speed up and catch them. I was done.

The longest part was the last few miles. Most of it I spent walking. I could feel myself getting closer, but I didn’t have any energy left. I could only shuffle walk every once in a while. I eventually crossed the finish line in 5:47:16. Sore, tired, chafed and could barely stand. This was perhaps one of the most stupid things I have ever done without proper preparation and knowledge of what I was getting into, but I had done it. I had finished a marathon. In the end, the only thing that kept me going was my resolve, was my will power. I knew I could do it, so I did it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I am a runner!

I've been researching running quite a bit online of late and have noticed tons of blogs out there. Reading many of them I come to see how much more advanced they are and how much more endurance they have than I have. This blogger does a 100k, that blogger just completed a 50 miler, and the other just completed an Iron Man and an Ultramarathon. I read with awe and I feel so... so... inadequate. You see I too want my endurance to grow so that I can begin running the 50k or the 50 miler. That is what this blog represents to me. My journey from no running last year to long endurance running in, hopefully, the near future.

I also wanted to write a blog from this perspective because lets face it, the ultrarunners are few and far between, leaving most of us runners as wanting to have more endurance and struggling through our Half Marathons or Marathons. We have the bug in us, we want to compete, we want to continue setting PRs. We just don't have the endurance yet. Is this something that you can train for and increase year over year? Or is this something that a few of us are capable of doing, be it because they ran starting when they were young or because they are just natural at it? I intend to put it to the test and find out if I can, someone who ran some cross country in High School (not very well I might add) and has very little experience besides that.

On a side note, I find it funny that an ad for running shoes would try to define what a runner is, seemingly alienating a ton of would-be runners. A runner is someone who has the bug in them. It doesn't matter if they can't run a sub 5 minute mile, a sub 3:30 marathon or can't run a 50k. Its how they feel about running that makes them a runner. I will make the statement of myself: I am a runner! I may be extremely slow compared to what others say are runners, but what do I care? I look forward to running every day. I search for races all the time that I can run and continually try and improve my previous best times. That to me is a runner.

I can already see differences in my speed and endurance. I can only hope it will continue to grow as it already is. This is my Journey to Endurance.