Sunday, December 26, 2010

RUNDown: ZombieRunner Bay Trail Marathon (#6)

Sorry for the delay with this report, I was having a great time over the holidays with family.

The Zombie Runner Bay Trail Marathon is my 6th marathon and first trail marathon. My slowest time and toughest marathon yet....but my new favorite race for reasons you'll have yet to learn.....

As you may recall, this race was a last minute addition to my schedule..I happened to be at the ZombieRunner store and saw the flyer. I just had to do this race, even though my training isn't peaked or anything, because I train on the same trails all the time. 

This is also my first 'low key' race, run by, they put on small (200-300 people) trail races in California. It's a half marathon course with two loops for the full marathoners. Not ideal, but still pretty nice to be off road for a change.

On Saturday I picked up my bib at the Z.R. store (about a mile from my house) and not bad for a $60 marathon: nice Z.R. hat included in goody bag along with various eats..the store also had a 10% discount for racers! Way better deal than your usual crowded boring "expo".

Saturday afternoon and evening I was co-host of a Holiday party for about 80 people and ended up being on my feet from about 1pm to 10pm. My legs were pretty shot when I went to bed and I knew this wasn't optimal, but on the other hand I was going to run as slow as it took to make it an 'easy' race, so I hoped it would be ok.

At about 2:30am I was awoken by a pounding, humongous downpour: one of those rains that even with your wipers on 'super fast' it's not enough and you can't see. This major dumping continued most of the rest of the night. At about 5:30am Toni woke up from it too and said "Are you *really* going to go out in run in *that*?". I mumbled something like "I'll see".

Toni was concerned when the ran didn't let up and said things like "I forbid you to go out and run 4hrs plus in all this wind and rain!". I countered with suggesting "let's see how it is at sun-up" as often the rain is less during the day around here.  I'll leave out the details but this kind of haggling occurred every time the rain got loud and noisy ..

At 7am I got up, put on my stuff. For keeping my feet from getting wet I slathered on a layer of vaseline just before putting my normal socks on (actually I wear silk sock liners). Over that I put a set of nike half socks, the theory being the extra layer might help with preventing any moisture induced blisters.

Upshot: No foot problems at all...even after totally submersion of feet many times.

I had promised Toni I would quit at 13.1 if things were too horrible and so she grudgingly  let me out the door. The weather forecast was for plenty of rain and wind (up to 45 mph!) during the day but at the moment it was just a normal rain.

10 minutes later I was in the parking lot (after dodging lots of standing water with the car) and as I suspected there were plenty of crazies showing up even in the rain and wind. I decided to sit in the car until 10 minutes before race start (8am) and it was a good thing I did as a major dumpage started and continued for quite some time. During this time Toni called and told me the power had gone out. (Later we found out somebody hit a pole..power was out until 9:30am), I was able to tell her that yes, indeed, all the folks were here and the race was a go. Eventually the start time approached and the rain luckily was just a normal wiper speed rain so I got out and walked to the start.

I moved to the back of the pack, even though no chip timing I wasn't going to get caught up in trying to do a fast time. I swore that I would really berate myself if I finished faster than 4:30...I really needed to be able to ski with everybody in two days after the race.

I chatted with a bunch of people around and also saw that the now famous "Walking Diva" (aka Yolanda) was running this race. It was cool to see her in person in our fair baylands race! She was lean and mean and walked a fast, steady, power walk the entire race.

The race started with little fanfare and off we went. I was wearing my nylon jacket to keep me warmer (even though it's not waterproof) and also my L.L.Bean "duck hunters" hat...totally water proof and a huge bill that keeps the rain off your glasses and face really well.

At about mile 3 I realized I was passing somebody I knew from work, Steve Tjiang. He's somebody I really admire as he's run lots of 50k's and a couple of 50 milers, which I would love to do but not sure I'm up to.  He was doing the half and running about the same pace as I was and so we ran together...a first for me to run with somebody in a race. During the run I picked his brain for all the information possible. At about mile 4 or 5 I took a photo of him and he grabbed my camera and took one of me. You can see that at this point the rain was not very hard (just a light spitting) but if you notice, you can see my race number through my jacket because it's totally soaked.

There are two ways of running a trail with puddles: straight through, or dance around. I was doing the 'dance around' and Steve was a plow-straight-through man. I tried this but I found the cold water splashing on the lifted leg from the impacting leg to be quite cold. The only way to avoid that was to lift your feet really high..and this was not easy to do.

To avoid Steve's splashes, I tending to fall behind or pull ahead when we hit a patch of puddles.

At this point we were running about a 10:18 pace on the Garmin, a easy conversational we got out to about 6 miles, we hit the open stretches that faced right into the wind, and the wind became pretty strong and on the nose....15-20 mph or so. 

We'd missed the first aid station so when we got to the pump house I pointed out the drinking fountain there to Steve (he wasn't carrying any water, I had my own bottle with me) and he stopped to tank up. He caught back up on East Bayshore and we met Julie from Modesto also running the half marathon.

Soon we came upon the next aid station and I discovered the great stuff they had at this race, in particular orange slices. I took two and chowed down while walking. So wonderful! Makes GU taste like creamed newspaper pulp.

We eventually came into one of the really muddy sections of the course. I discovered that it takes a lot more energy to run when your footing is slippery! This lasted for a mile or two and then we came to the one set of hills on the course.

The photo shows the stream crossing you have to do as you come down the hill (see the guy in green out there?) was about 8 inches deep and there was no going had to splat your way through ;)

Eventually we exited the south loop (at about mile 10 or so I think) and you had to cross another huge puddle with same method....on the exit a race person was taking photos of everybody's, um,  technique. He caught me too late to see my splash...and he also  chopped my head off (didn't zoom out fast too fast for him..ha ha). You can see the puddle right behind me..I had just splashed through to the right of concrete post behind me. I would have to pass this puddle both ways again on the 2nd loop. It was nice and muddy on the bottom of this little pond and squelched really good.

As you can see, I took off my jacket as I was getting too warm. The rain was very minimal at this point..but it wasn't done with us yet. Here's a photo of Steve fording the puddle (right through the middle..splash..splash..splash ;)

As we came around the duck pond again the wind picked up but we were still holding a 10:22 or so pace on the Garmin. Steve was going a bit faster here and I suddenly had to pay attention to keep up..we hit a 9:00 pace for 1/4 mile....then back to normal pace as we came down along the Palo Alto airport back-stretch and finally hit pavement (and the wind on the nose).

At this point the course does a little out-and-back stub to Cooley Landing..a section of this is on single track that was VERY muddy and slippery (and not very scenic with power lines and chain link fence). I instantly called this section the 'slip-and-slide'. Try as I might, I could not run this very fast....I was really worried I'd get dumped on my feet were all over the pace!

I hit the aid station at the Cooley landing turnaround by myself...Steve had faded a bit, but I was (so far) still doing the same 10:22 pace. As I approached the half marathon finish I could see my split on the clock was about a 2:18... slow for me but hey, not buggin' me at all. 

On the way back out I passed Steve and wished him adieu (he finished in 2:21) and off I went for lap number 2. At this point I was feeling really good but it was strange to be heading back out with so few people on the course going in the same direction! It got pretty lonely pretty quickly. 

But this was my turf..the trails I run all the time...(well, not the slip-and-slide ;) I was feeling pretty ok with the temps (54), wind and occasional showers. My curiosity, of course, was focused on how the last 6 miles would go.

Coming up on the aid station near the duck pond, because I was running alone I lingered for a full 30-40 seconds and tried some new things: potato chips, defizzed coke. Mostly I loved the orange slices and also melon slices. I had been taking GU (and ended up eating 4 during the race) but I ate also probably 8 orange slices and 4 melon slices by the end of the race. 

At miles 15-16 I was realizing (into the headwind again) my legs were really feeling all the effort of running on the slippery parts and the uneven terrain...this was kind of a bad patch.  

My legs and shoes were not really very muddy..wet yes, but not muddy. As I mentioned to @martha in my previous posting I realized during this race that a rainy muddy race isn't as bad as it could be: the rain and puddles keep your shoes cleaner, and the mud itself is more diluted and not sticky. I'm very familiar with the local 'gumbo' mud and if you happen to let it dry on your shoes you need a jackhammer to get it off. The water prevents all that.

At the aid station on the back stretch on bayshore again we lingered again and then set off on the muddy stretch leading back to the hill again. Along the way I had passed a few folks that were going slow and didn't look too happy. I was feeling it in my legs, but less so after my bad patch at 15-16.

At the hill, I walked up (only cost 30 seconds or so) and didn't see a soul on the trail up ahead...I had absolutely no idea where I was in the field but figured it was well near the back. 

The miles ticked off, and the rain started up again in earnest on the return leg behind the airport. I passed another two guys on this stretch. About this time (mile 21-22) I also realized I was getting chilled and so I thought about putting my jacket on.  But for some reason (i.e. brain fade) this seemed like a lot of work and so I kept putting it off. Finally after a few minutes of this procrastination I told myself I really needed to stop being stupid and get the blasted thing on. I started warming up and realized I had been pretty cold...zipped the sucker all the way up to the neck. 

I was not looking forward to the slip-and-slide again. When I finally got on it there were a few walkers heading back to finish the half and they said I looked strong..bless their hearts! When I got to the turn around I just had to ask the fellow at the aid station how much further ...ans: 1.7 miles. My watch was saying about .9 mile but I knew this was rubbish since I'd done so much puddle dodging. 

On the way back toward the main trail I passed a few of the guys behind me I'd passed heading out and we all gave each other encouragement. It's pretty special to be running a marathon with so *few* other people and zero spectators.

When I finally got off the mud and back on the final stretch of asphalt, I felt really good. I pulled together my form and kicked up the pace and felt really good as I approached the finish. My last half mile was at about a 9:00 pace.

Finally I pulled up to the finish and there was not a soul in the finish tent I saw the head of a young guy as I pulled up and he pushed some button as I showed up, stood up and slipped a medal on me. Then he asked me my number, and I unzipped my jacket and showed it to him and he wrote it down.

That's marathon #6, methinks!

 I had some nice lentil soup and m&m's at the finish area, basically nobody there so I was pretty sure I must be almost dead last....When I got home, strangely I wasn't that hungry..I had some leftover mushroom soup and toast and I was good until dinner time.

A few days later I was shocked when looking at the results...I did pretty well: 21st out of 46 full marathoners (I think 60 had registered so 14 were no shows). But even more surprising was that out of the 5 people in my age group I was second!  You could have knocked me over with a feather!

Eventually I got a medal in the mail. It's probably worth about $1.50 (doesn't matter!). In my entire life I have *never* won anything for athletics. I didn't really like the kids that did this nor their parents and coaches when I was a young....most of them seemed to be jerks. The entire "sportsmanship" thing was completely missing. (Not that I understood it that way at the time). 

But here I am. I'm really pleased with myself..but it's a strange feeling: ..I ran a 4:06 on SF hills, but frankly, I'm more pleased with a 4:42 on the trail. 

"80% of success is showing up" --Woody Allen

Was Woody talking about running trail marathons as a master in crappy weather?

Finished 21 out of 46 full marathoners
 4:42:25 (10:47 pace)
 Second place finisher in age group: M50-59
 26.94 miles on the Garmin

In short, I discovered trail races are a wonderful challenge and contrast to the big road marathons I've been doing so far. Hooray for variety!

Full album of my photos here.

How did the post-marathon skiing work out? Great! Here's a shot of the very un-crowded trails at Alpine Meadows! (My shadow visible at the bottom). My quads were sore but not nearly as much as my other races.

Next up: Surf City on Feb 6th!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick note on ZombieRunner Bay Trail Marathon

Update: Full RUNDown of this race is here.
G'day blogsphere!

I have lots of pictures and will be writing up a full race report, but it may take a while.
Meanwhile the upshot:

My first trail marathon! In 20 knot winds, rain and mud I ran 27 miles in 4:42 (half split 2:18) and felt fairly strong given the conditions throughout. No official results up yet.

More anon.


@lee, raegun, detroitrunner: thanks for your comments! 

@martha: Yes, it's true they aren't that muddy. Thats because the rain and deep puddles wash the mud off and make the mud less sticky! I realized this during the run...the muddiest  trail run would be one that had rain on it hours before but no rain when running it. 

Update (day after): Sore a bit today but not too bad....good for skiing tomorrow I think!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Everything but Air


ZombieRunner Marathon is this Sunday and the forecast is for rain. Not showers, but full-out rain. 

How do you deal with shoe/socks getting soaked and causing blistering? One I idea I've heard is to put a plastic bag around your socks before you stuff them into the shoes and then tape that off around your leg to keep water out.

Anybody tried that? Don't you just sweat up the inside of the sock anyway?


The course is going to be muddy ..that will also be a first...I've been running after a rain and you end up with each shoe weight about a pound and a half after you hit the bad spots that have no gravel cover.

Ah, well.  It's a good thing the weather will be challenging: it will keep me from trying to run too fast. My goal for this race, which was a very recent signup, is to do it as a long slow run, not a race. I'm going skiing two days later and so I don't want full on marathon soreness...

I'm also angling to run a 50k (Skyline-to-the-Sea) in April and so I want to practice the kinds of paces and trail running I'll be doing for that. So I figure a 4:45-4:30 marathon will be pretty easy on me. If I run an easy 10:00 pace, and then walk 30s every mile or so that would be in that ball park and hopefully leave my legs in good shape. (This course is flat: it has one 65' hill you go up twice).

Anyway, that's the plan, take it easy, enjoy the fun of a small race (only 50 full marathoners signed up) ,  on my favorite training trails, in the rain and mud!

Here's some full pics the race director took of the course.


Last night we watched Chariots of Fire.....this movie won Best Picture in 1981 and it was good then and still good now ;). Very well made, kept pretty close to the truth (with a few bendings here and there but not too bad).

The opening and ending scenes with the now-iconic music and the runners running barefoot in the cold surf is not to be missed.

The only downside is the longest races they talk about is the 800 ;)

One funny thing is the bizarre running  form for the  Liddell character. He's got this kind of clawing at the air and putting his head way back with mouth wide open thing happening at the last sprint in every race (the pic shows him doing it a little bit)

It was good for getting the juices flowing in preparation for Sunday...


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Running Stuff, part #2: The Shoes!

Update (3/10/2011): 

I am now running in Saucony Kinvaras (9 oz) and the Nike Free's for road running
and the Saucony Peregrine (10.5 oz) for trail running. These shoes are all more minimalist than the Pegasus and much lighter. My Achilles Tendinitis is well under control, even with lots of marathons.


Time to talk the most personal and important gear for any runner, the shoes!
(note: weights taken with our little postal scale)

Nike Pegasus (12 oz, size 11)

I went back to the Pegasus after running in the Stupid Nike Vomero 4 for a year and a half and getting nasty Achilles Tendinitis.  Like a moron I figured that since the Vomero's have more padding, and cost more, they must be better for me, right? wrong.

I can't claim any smarts was a suggestion from a guy in a running store when I complained about my A.T...he commented that the (Stupid Nike) Vomero was 'a bit stiff' and something more flexible might help with my A.T.

I remembered running in Pegasus  waaaay back in 1978-1980 and they were a good shoe then.

The Pegasus has a bit of "drop"..i.e. wedge shape from back to front. (Running barefoot is "zero drop"). However, it's less than the Stupid Nike Vomero and it was quite noticeable when I transitioned...took a few months to get used to it. 

"Drop" is considered bad by the minimalize community.. a large "drop" shortens up and weakens your calf muscles (and hence the A.T. develops). I got onto a vicious cycle of needing heel lifts to reduce the stress even more, which shortened things up more, etc.

At 12oz the Pegasus is also 'reasonably light' for a non-minimalist shoe.

Nike Free (10 oz, size 11)

At the same time I switched back to Pegasus, I bought a pair of Nike Frees. The Free isn't really considered a minimalist was billed as an ultra-flexible shoe to help runners build leg strength and avoid injury by running in them from time to time. The first time I ran in them boy did my legs feel it!  

The lack of huge cushioning made me instinctively do a forefoot strike, using my muscles to absorb the shock that normally I would let  the shoe do....I had to or I would have been bashing my legs! was really eye-opener....a moving epiphany if you will. The Free is only 2 ounce lighter than Pegasus but feels half the weight! It's amazingly can roll them up into a 'armadillo'-like ball. 

In only a couple of months I weaned myself off of all the heel lifts and S.N.Vomero "drop". Bye bye to the A.T!

There is one flaw with the Free design: The same tiles that make the sole so flexible  also can grab and clamp onto small pea gravel when you run. It's easy to get it out, you just flex the shoe to open the crack and it falls out...but on a gravel trail you end up with quite a pile of stones down there..once your back on the road it sounds like you're wearing tap dancing shoes. So, I only wear the Frees on the roads or track.

Gradually, I started doing longer and longer distances in them...I'm up to about 10 miles max. I find my form degrades after that and I start to really beat on my legs worse than in the Pegasus. 

Purists  (most of whom are probably young'uns) think you can run in such shoes for full marathons, etc, but this is completely unrealistic (so far) for would be great to have the lighter shoe for a race, but my legs aren't strong enough to pull this off...yet.

The good news is that I find that the form training in this shoe transfers back to the legs 'remember' the forefoot style of strike and I can 'channel' the same feel when back in the Pegasus. 

I'm sure that the extra muscle strength I developed training in this way helped me get my SF marathon 9 minute PR (4:06). 

So, if you haven't tried minimalist shoes, YOU REALLY SHOULD. 

One more feature of the Free I like is the 'sock' style uppers...they are really flexible and have NO rigid heel counter at all. If you are coming off of A.T. problems down on the back of your heel this is really pressure points from the shoe on your tender tendon!

NOTE: when trying these shoes on you'll probably find that your normal size is quite tight, but the uppers will loosen up after a few runs and feel fine. 

INOV8, f-LITE 230 (9.5 oz, size 10, UK sizing)

I bought these because I wanted a light flexible shoe like the Free, that I could also use to run on my favorite gravel-strewn trail around the Palo Alto airport and through the Baylands.

They do still have some drop, actually too much for my taste as it turns out..I have to really work to stay off striking the rear part of the shoe before the forefoot..perhaps not a bad thing to remind me ?

The soles are more 'normal' than the Free and don't catch rocks, etc. And boy, they are feel like Mercury in them! Initially the toe box is a bit tight for me but the shoes are not really broken in yet so I'm sure that will fix itself in a few miles.

I'm being really careful breaking these shoes in (without breaking me ;) and so I've only run a few times in them, and not for very far. But I have high hopes they'll help take me to the next level of leg fitness. 

 INOV8, ROCLITE 295 (12.5 oz, size 10.5, UK sizing)

These are my trail shoes...I haven't worn them for running on steep trails more then a few times (I have to drive to such runs and I really don't like having to drive to my running), but I've hiked in them a bunch of times. They are the heaviest shoe in this group by 1/2 an ounce but don't feel heavy at all when compared to hiking boots ;)

These shoes are awesome in situations with difficult traction: the large waffle knobs dig in and grip when normal shoes like the Pegasus would leave you slipping and sliding. I love that aspect of the shoe.

A downside for me is the big heel counter that curves back into toward the back of the foot....I don't like that much..some hints of a problem.. and I am a bit worried that on a long trail race (marathon) the back of my heels would get sore.


Weekly Recap

A light week: 17 miles of running..with some speedwork in there, 80 minutes of medium effort biking and 40 minutes of upper body/core workout.

I probably would have done ~ 5 more miles of running but I went bowling (!) on Friday and after two solid hours of left foot lunges (which is how my style for bowling seems to look)  I found I was pretty sore in the muscles that stabilize the knee next day, so I took it easier than I'd planned. 

The bowling was fun! We did three sets...I scored 152 on my final game. I like "Zen" style sports like this. (I figure if man was meant to chase a ball around he would have been born a  kitten instead ;)

One more week to the Zombie Runner Bay Trail marathon so this will be a really light week..just a few short fast runs....the 10 day forecast does not look good...showers called out which means a wet muddy course. That will be a first!

I haven't heard from my brother-in-law...don't know how his marathon training is going, but we'll be seeing him soon and can find out if he's on board and logging the miles for LA.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Awoke today to a pissing cold rain. Sigh. 

I was all fired up to do some speedwork...I'm all recovered from the 21 miler after one full day of rest and one X-training day.

But that blasted rain...too heavy to run off to the gym. Luckily I have access to a very fine gym at my place of work.

I like the gym..I'm getting really into this XT stuff...but I do not like treadmills. There are all the obvious reasons why you might not like them...but I have my own special reason.

Do you like treadmills? I know some people swear by them. 

I swear at them. I suspect the people that like them own their own and can use it in the privacy of their own home...that might be OK...but they are kinda big to have around.

Here's what I don't like: the guy next to me. He's a problem. Really. 

I always end up next to one or two youngn's that bang the treadmill like jackhammers with every stride. 
Or, they bound like kangaroos with a stride rate slower than a elephant and more air-time than Jordan. 
Or, I get the guy that likes to grunt or cry out like he's being water-boarded and just came up for air when doing an interval. 

C'mon man, STFU.

Inevitably what happens is I decide to show the young'ns a thing or two and ratchet the pace up to some level that I'm not supposed to do for that day, and I regret it later. 

The truly fast good runners don't land like a ton of bricks and know not to make big noises, but of course they probably go and run in the rain too.

Anyway, I got on the thing, ignored the pounding and banging around me  and did some intervals. And I did them smooth and fast...running like a Tarahumaran Indian (well maybe not quite that good ;):

After a  1 mile warmup at 10:00/mile pace...did 5 x .5miles at a 7:40/mile pace (HR=147,  83% of WHR) with .25 mile recoveries at 11:30 pace between. (aka "treadmill Yassos"). Could have done more but haven't been doing much speedwork so need to build up more gradually. (Yes, we do learn, eventually).

..then I did 20 minutes on the bike as a 'warm down' at mostly a HR of 115 or so.

Slight chance of rain tomorrow..I think I'll risk it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Marathon of Marathons

In two weeks I run the ZombieRunner Bay Trail Marathon....the start of my "marathon of marathons": 

7 weeks after is Surf City, which  completes our "California Dreamin' Racing series (San Fran, Long Beach, Surf City) and get our cool schwag (jacket and medal).

About 5 weeks after is the LA Marathon (hopefully with running with Charlie)

....and then perhaps Skyline to the sea and then Copenhagen (not signed up for them, yet). 

Am I crazy?

I don't think so: I don't plan on running any of these races all-out, obviously. I'll probably do them in the 9:40-10:10 range which is easy run pace for me. (Don't get me wrong though, runs over 16 miles are never 'easy')

This Sunday was the  final long run before the first marathon in the series.....the weather forecast was not good, and if I was rained out it meant getting up really really  early on Monday to get the run in before work.

I woke up at about 630am and stared out the window and saw a clear sky with dawn starting... venus aka "the morning star" was shining brightly saying: "Paul, come out and RUN! 8)"

Out the door at 6:50am and ran 21 miles in the dawn and then clear sunny sky. Temps started cold  but as soon as the sun cleared the hills it got up into the sixties. I started slowly and gradually chopped down the average pace to 9:35min/mile.

At mile 19 I hopped on the Paly track and banged out an 8:24 mile, which felt good. Then I took it easy for the final 2 mile jog home. 

Here are my splits:

mile:     1  pace:     10:17
mile:     2  pace:      9:53
mile:     3  pace:      9:51
mile:     4  pace:      9:57
 cumulative @ mile:     5  pace:      9:59
mile:     5  pace:      9:59
mile:     6  pace:     10:02
mile:     7  pace:      9:44
mile:     8  pace:      9:32
mile:     9  pace:      9:21
 cumulative @ mile:     10  pace:      9:50
mile:     10  pace:      9:21
mile:     11  pace:      9:31
mile:     12  pace:      9:18
mile:     13  pace:      9:27
mile:     14  pace:      9:22
 cumulative @ mile:     15  pace:      9:41
mile:     15  pace:      9:36
mile:     16  pace:      9:34
mile:     17  pace:      9:30
mile:     18  pace:      9:13
mile:     19  pace:      8:24  (Paly track)
 cumulative @ mile:     20  pace:      9:34
mile:     20  pace:      9:07
mile:     21  pace:     10:38
 cumulative @ mile:     21.0  pace:      9:35

3hr 22 min

The rain showed up later, but I was already happy with the morning's results. I refueled by eating a wonderful lunch of homemade vegetarian Indian Dhosas at a friend's house and then some super chicken-roasted leek pasta for dinner at another friends house. How great is that? Yum!

I have not logged many miles (about 40) in the last month so I was kinda curious what my fitness level suspected I'm not at my peak but I've still got plenty of endurance...I felt I could have easily extended this run to a full 26.2 in 4:15-4:25.

Now starts 2 weeks of 'taper''s really not a taper since I was already tapered ;)

The earlier part  of this week went well with 18 miles of running, 5 miles of walking, 40 minutes of biking and 60 minutes of core/upper workout time.

The biking is good..doing about an hour a week at a medium hard pace..but it's been messing with my leg muscles quite a bit...something is going on but not sure if it's good or bad yet.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Holiday Surprises

Toni and I spent Thanksgiving holiday down in Pasadena visiting her parents and sisters family. My brother-in-law, Charlie, has been running for quite a while now..5 to 7 miles at a time I think...mostly to maintain some level of fitness.

He also takes the family dog, Cleo, with him when he goes so she gets some exercise (and some quality roving time with the alpha dog ;)

Charlie has never indicated any interest in running ...he's been very clear that for him it's just boring. Unlike me, he's always been interested in and involved in team sports..but never running very much if at all (maybe a race here and there in his younger days).

As we were driving the 10 home from a family dinner out, I happened to mention that I had signed up for the LA marathon and how great point to point courses can be (no crowds of half marathoners, you really feel like your going someplace, etc).

Charlie then confessed that he'd gotten the notion to run a full! Knock me over with a feather! The idea then surfaced that we should run LA together...just enough weeks for him to train (and he's in much better condition than a lot of people that start).

I think he's signed up for the race and now training to the the Hal Higdon Intermediate I schedule...we'll see if he can log the miles: he's got a busy job, busy family and the aforementioned Cleo.

He's done the first 12 miler last Sunday...thats a good sign.

If it all works out we'll be running it together March 20! This will be the first time I've ever run a race with somebody else. (but we won't be racing of course we'll just be enjoying the sites of LA by foot ;)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Running Stuff, part #1: Hydration Belts

One of the things I like about running (vs say, biking) is the minimal amount of gear you have to have. 

But that said, everybody likes to spend money on their hobby 8). Part of the fun is figuring out exactly what you want to make your experience more enjoyable. By sharing my decision making process perhaps I can help you optimize yours.

Therefore, over the next few weeks, I'm going to discuss all the gear I've purchased and how it's worked out.

Let's start with hydration belts.

Early into my first marathon training (this was BB, before blogging), I was just starting to do long-ish runs (10 miles +).  Up until that point I had didn't have any way to carry water or food with me and knew I was going to need a hydration belt of some kind.

After heading over to Zombie Runner and checked out some of the products they carry. As always the staff there is helpful (and lots of running skill abounds). I chose an "Ultimate Direction" product:

This is a dual bottle belt...I figured I could always just leave one bottle home if I wanted to carry less weight. The belt has a center compartment shown better here:

This model has the smallest center compartment..they have many models with larger size center compartments (for hikers and ultramarthoners) but basically the same layout.

Here you can also see why I chose this brand: the bottles have unusual spigots...they are rubber and can extend or retract. (I've shown one out and one in) You can pull it out with your teeth holding the bottle in one hand. No matter how rough the running there is no banging of your teeth since the rubber is very soft.

There is a small slot at the end of the red rubber part that keeps the water in but when you suck on the bottle while squeezing you get plenty of fluid (although my wife finds them too stiff to squeeze easily).

I find carrying two bottles (they are 20oz each I think) is sufficient if the temps are low (50-60F), If the temps are higher, then I need to make sure I do a route with a refill spot on the way.

I should also mention that my strategy for marathon hydration is to always avoid the supplied Powerade, Cytomax, etc and drink only water and carry my own GU packs for calories and electrolytes. The reason I do this is that every race chooses a different drink and some of them are quite foul.  

 I train for this of course: I always take water and my GUs ..refilling mid-run, only water is needed. In addition, in hot weather, I can squirt my water bottle onto my head or chest....Cytomax would be a bit sticky for that ;)

(NB: They'll be another article about why my choices for GU and other foods to eat with the water)

One last thing to note about the bottles...I've deployed the 'keeper strap' around the left bottle. This is mostly used when you are not wearing the belt (i.e tossing it into your trunk) and the bottles are keeps them from falling out. During the run you flip them up and off the bottles and since they are upright they don't fall out, even during trail running etc.

Ok, continuing, the belt has two identical side compartments, shown here:

fits GUs just perfectly
The side pockets aren't huge, but can hold enough gels/chomps for 4 hour runs+. I like the fact that the belt overall is wide and the clips are beefy...the weight is distributed nicely. In fact, it  feels like it holds your back in place better than with no belt...kinda like a weight lifter's belt. I really have no problems running with it (other than lugging more weight).

The extra belt length you don't need can be wrapped up and there's a small elastic loop on the belt that holds it together thusly:


For short runs, I always like to carry my cell phone and house keys, and I got tired of the former banging around in my shorts (either back pocket or side pocket....) And keeping keys with the cell phone isn't a good idea unless they are seperated. So I got this at a running expo:

It's very slim, padded a bit and fits in the small of your back with the buckle in front. It actually has a little pockets inside which can keep your keys off your phone, or you can just schooch the keys to one side, phone on the other. I put my phone in a ziploc bag during a race where I might dump water on myself for cooling.

If your shirt is not tucked in this thing out of sight you can look svelte and unencumbered. It can actually fit more stuff than I carry but it will start to bulge a bit. 

When you need to get your phone, you can just spin the whole belt around pretty easily (so the pouch is in front) and zip it open.


The last purchase was for marathon races ...there you get plenty of access to water, but I need to carry my own gels, etc (as well as cell phone, ID, money, salt tablets, ibprofen, glasses cleaner, etc).

What I really wanted was just a belt with a couple of pouches so I could carry things, but I ended up with this:

It's another Ultima product, but a single bottle. The main compartment is not that big..very slim. I've added two kinds of amphipod pouches to the belt, a longer one:

And a shorter one:

These pouches give me much more volume and can slide around on the belt (which is nice actually).

I got the single bottle model because I also sometimes thought I would like to stage my gel-taking when there doesn't happen to be a water stop.

In practice I've decided to just deal with waiting until the existing water stops..usually there are tons of them. 

And, the other problem is that the bottle pouch on this model really grabs the bottle too hard (to keep it from falling out since it's on an angle). This really takes TWO hands to get the thing out and in: left hand around back holding bottom of pouch down and right hand around back pulling out the bottle.

It's not fun to run with two hands behind your back. In fact during the late phases of my PR marathon run at SF my left leg would go into mild spasms every time I reached around behind messed up my stride that much.

So, I'll probably get some webbing and buckles at REI, move the amphipods over and have my marathon belt as originally planned. (I also can carry my small camera this way too as I did during the Long Beach Marathon)

I still do use this single bottle belt for runs from 8-13 miles where the dual belt is too much...but it's really just a nice-to-have.

There you have it!.... that's the scoop on my hydration belts.

Any questions [8-) ?


A light week this week, 20 miles of easy running and some cross training Sunday.

(Taking it easy on my left ITB and legs in general).

Today for the first time I tried rowing.... vigorously for 10 minutes to see if I like it ..and it was fun!  It's another cross exercise (besides biking) that gives the regular running muscles a break.