Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Longy

Woke up to a sunny 49F day this morning at and out the door at 8:45am for our long run, the first since Long Beach...the plan was to do about 16 miles and see how the legs were feeling and cut short if any problems.

I started out heading for Mountain View and the Stevens Creek trail, and once I got on the trail I remembered that there was a new baylands trail opened up behind the Moffet Air Station/ NASA-Ames. Perhaps my subconscious was really in charge here ;)

I asked another runner on the trail if they knew where the entrance was and he ran me there as part of his run (as we swapped stories about Si-Valley jobs we've had) and then he turned around at the entrance.

It was  cool to go inside the fence that's kept us out of an entire segment of the Baylands since we moved to Ca. Here's a view..hard to see much since my cellphone camera is so wide-angle.

I'm standing on a narrow strip of land (maybe 12m/36ft wide) with water on both the distance are the large zeppelin hangers that date from the 1930s. The Akron and Macon were stored there.

You can't possibly see it in this shot, but there's a NEW zeppelin in the area, built for giving rides, and it was tied down outside the hanger waiting to go. It's not as big as the German Zepps from back then of course.
Down the path a bit, we saw our beautiful white Pelicans, as usual. 

Again, hard for you to see, but they aren't really more than 15 meters from me..need to bring the real camera, I guess.

At this point, I'm about 8.5 miles into my run and i realize I should turn around soon or I'll be over 16 miles getting back home. So, we turned around and backtracked (next time we'll make a big loop back on one of the outer slough berms.

My original intended pace was about 10:00+ and I was right on and feeling pretty good. Heading through Shoreline park at about 12 miles I was feeling my left IT Band, which I *never* do and realized probably my stride was messed up by my left calf issues. I took a couple of walk breaks when i was eating GUs and they seemed to help...after another mile or so it felt much better. I think the rough terrain on the dirt paths also stressed things a bit and once i was on smooth pavement it's actually better.

About two miles out from home I saw some speed bumps in the road and a trail of Jackson-Pollock-like white paint drips down the road ahead of me to infinity. Methinks somebody had a few tipped over cans in the back of the truck perhaps? This linear modern art exhibit continued for about another mile until the paint ran out 8)

Final stats:
 16.3 miles, Pace 10:00 HR 118, cadence 84

Friday, October 29, 2010

Strange Connections

Sometimes when your running, you see things. I mean your out on the roads for 6-8 hours a week, your bound to see stuff, right?

One day as I was out running  my route that cuts through downtown Palo Alto I came across this plaque mounted on a concrete slab next to the sidewalk.

I read it and suddenly had a flashback to when I was 9 or 10 years old.

You see, I was given this book called "Men of Science". Lots of stories about the famous discoveries of science, Fleming and penicillin, Pasteur curing a small girl of  rabies...

And... the story of "Lee de Forest and the "Audion Tube."

This kind of gave me goose bumps because I've lived in this general area since 1990 and I had no idea that this story I read about as a kid was played out right here.

I'm an electrical engineer, so I was kind of impressed and thrilled in a small way. It also caused me to remember carefree childhood times playing with electronics...and that's a good feeling 8)
Lee de Forest

He's the inventor of the triode (what we call it now), which is basically a very fast switch, and it started the path that led to the stuff your using to look at my blog right now.

And there's your strange connection!

7.3 miles at about 9:30 pace today...

I also signed up for the LA Marathon in March.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Avoirdupois Problem



 A lot my bloggy friends are working on weight-loss as well as running... today  James declared war on his 'food addiction'. It's been a couple of years since I went through this (and I wasn't blogging then).

I thought I'd share what worked for me:
  • I ate smaller portions...I would stop eating when still a bit hungry.
  • Eat slower, enjoy each bite and let your body tell you it's getting full (my family is from the "wolf it all down before somebody takes it away" camp 8)
  • Use fresh herbs and spices rather than fats to make food interesting.
  • I stopped eating so much dairy fat. No sour cream, no major dumping of cheese on pasta, etc.
  • I would have a good (but not fatty) breakfast, but go easy on lunch.
  • It became quite addictive to seeing the lbs come off and the running get easier.
    Helped me through the really hungry patches.
  • Eating bread for me, no starter (or share..or salad), no dessert or share one.
  • I started eating more fish, shellfish and chicken rather than beef. Try to eat only lean cuts of beef (grass fed).
  • It helped to have the support of my spouse, Toni. She was willing to put up with some of my cooking 'experiments'. 8)
After doing this for a while, I got used to being a bit hungry all the time and my stomach shrunk way down and got full sooner. 

I was very very gradually upping my mileage, so eventually I was losing about 1 lb a week, sometimes more. 

As you get closer to your ideal weight it the loss rate slows and your body seems to tell you where you belong.

me in 2006...
In my case I had gotten up to 228 lbs (I'm 6' 1" tall and the fat is spread all over..not in a big belly so nobody thought I was that fat, but it was really killing me)

My natural weight seems to be about 170 lbs, but I could probably stand to lose another 8-10 lbs if I want to run my fastest marathon time. 

Here's before and after shots..I wish I had done a better job of photographically documenting my weight loss...(just to remind me of how crappy I felt back then)....
me in 2009..airborne!
At this point, I feel I have this thing under control and I'll never go back to being overweight. If I couldn't run, I'd bike or swim, and if I couldn't do that I'd just have to eat less.

These days I don't even really need a scale to tell me what's going on...I can just pinch the fat layer on my stomach and tell if I'm up a pound or two..that tells me time to cut back the portions for a couple of days.

Good luck to all of you! 

Get it done!

PS: How many of you know how to pronouce "Avoirdupois" ?

I only know this word because my mother used to say "Move your avoirdupois! " when she wanted to get us off the couch 8)

Monday, October 18, 2010

RUNDown: Long Beach Marathon 2010 (marathon #5)

sand castle of finisher's medal

Sunday I ran the Long Beach Marathon. For those just tuning in, let's recap a bit:

Due to travel and catching a cold on the return, the running has been spare since August. Last long run was 8 weeks previous, and total mileage about 70 miles.

Adding injury to insult we tore our left calf muscle about 3 weeks ago and have been feeling that slowly get better.

So, my expectations were low, my goals were:

  • Run easy and with good form, especially after mile 20. Keep the cadence high.
  • Find a realistic pace...this will happen by itself in the first few miles. Pretend your doing your first ultra...slow down some..put the watch away. Finish easy!
  • Drink and eat properly.
  • Enjoy the sites and crowds along the course.
  • Rack up race #2 in the California Dreamin' Racing Series!
  • Take pictures.
  • Enjoy the post race festival

We'll see how I did with these goals later.

This was my first time flying to a race...took JetBlue from SFO down to LGB the day before and checked into my hotel, which was very close to the expo and the start and finish lines.

Got to the Expo, snarfed my packet of stuff and made a quick pass around the floor.

I'm I the only person that thinks running Expos are dumb? How much stuff can you market to a runner, especially when it's all the same stuff? Meh.

Long Beach did something nice though, they had mile marker posters made by local artists (children and adults) and they had them mounted on stands. Here's mile marker #1:

This were really nicely done and were easy to spot during the race as well as making for an added interesting element to the course. There was a silent auction of all the mile markers to benefit a local charity...another nice idea.

I walked over to the California Pizza Kitchen to get some dinner and sat at the bar....looking around you could spot all the runners: not eating pizzas or pastas  smothered in cheese, but just the simple sauces. ...I did the same 8). I had a nice chat with a guy doing the half marathon that used to do the inline-skating marathons as part of this race (they discontinued them because it was too dangerous and not many people did that event)

Before bed,  I got all my kit set up. I've got checklists now to make sure I don't forget to take anything on the trip and also make sure I don't forget anything on race morning (you can find them in my "Useful stuff" section on the right).

So far the weather was looking perfect: overcast and about 60F for the whole morning. I debated whether I should wear my cut-down shirt, or a regular shirt (brought both)..decided to wait for race morning to decide that. Went to sleep at about 8:30pm and had no problem falling up at 3pm to eat some light breakfast (I brought my favorite cereal and a plastic bowl and spoon from home, and had bought a small milk at a market earlier.

After that, I wasn't able to sleep and finally I got up at about all my stuff on and snapped a bad photo . You can see I elected the cut down shirt..I'm not trying show off my fat-coated abs....I do it because it leaves the solar plexus exposed for cooling (most people pin their bib right over it!). I find that after hours of running I suffer if I get too hot and this really helps. I also have stopped wearing hats and use a headband to keep the sweat off my face...your head dissipates a ton of heat and wearing a hat just insulates headband or open visors are best, IMHO.

For this race, I decided to write my name on the front of my shirt and I also put the URL of this blog on the back...a lot of people coming up behind me during the race and complementing me on the name (and not just the 50+ folks).

Out the door at 5:45am and as usual it's already hopping. The bike racers were starting at 6am and flowed away down the course. Many people had on jackets and the de-riguer garbage bags but I didn't feel it was that cold. The humidity was a bit high and I decided I made the right shirt choice since we'd be sweating plenty.

When I read the reviews for race, many many people complained about the crowding on the course. This year had 25,000 entrants (!) of which 6000 were full marathoners so it looked to be even worse for crowding. I really didn't mind this, since I wasn't going for a good time, but I still don't like dodging. When the race walkers lined up for the early start, the MC made a big deal about really asking them to be careful to not walk abreast in the early part of the course..I was glad to hear this!

I lined up in wave-2 (3:45-4:05 pace), I didn't expect to run this pace but didn't want to be completely jammed up, and so I decided to run a 9-ish minute pace at least until the crowding eased.

While I was waiting I met and talked about running with this guy, Mike Taylor. He getting pretty close to being in my 50+ club but not there yet ;), he ended up running a 1:56 half ...go Mike!

The sun was up now (7am) and the first wave was about to go off. A very good singer sang our  national anthem (which is so hard on the high notes) and then off they went!

Miles 0-4
The race starts by loop around the marina areas where the Queen Mary, aquarium and other sites are visible. (Garmin map at the bottom of this post). I found the crowding not a problem so far.

Here's my first mile splits:
mile:     1  pace:      8:45
mile:     2  pace:      8:58
mile:     3  pace:      8:52
mile:     4  pace:      9:01
 cumulative @ mile:     4  pace:      8:54

You can see I was going fast but gradually slowing it down.  

The picture here shows some of the next wave on the left that will eventually be running where I am on the right. We are going under a road deck we eventually run on (I think)

Now were are approaching the bridge
Some of the reviewers in were kvetching about this "hill". I say, this is not a hill. Run SF if you want to see a hill or two.

From the top of the bridge you can see the Queen quite nicely. The white domed building used to have the Spruce Goose in it before they sold it to the Evergreen Aviation museum in Oregon

So far, I'm feeling really great. I  have a perfect stride and the crowding ain't nuthin compared to the SF bridge!

Miles 5-10

mile:     5  pace:      9:11
mile:     6  pace:      9:05
mile:     7  pace:      9:11
mile:     8  pace:      9:02
mile:     9  pace:      8:59
 cumulative @ mile:     10  pace:      9:00

During this section I noticed my quads and legs in general feeling a lot more tired than the should be at this point in the run. Probably I should have slowed down, but you know, I just decided I'd hold 9 min until I couldn't and then be happy with whatever pace I came in with.

Now we've exited the marina area and are running along the actual, well, looong beach. You can see its' still a bit crowded, but quite manageable. 

Miles 10-15

Now is when things get interesting.  My calf tear spot is getting to feel more and more strongly. Not a pain, but kind of a tight feeling. I'm not taking any ibuprofen....but it worries me.
Lengthening my stride seems to help.

mile:     10  pace:      9:16
mile:     11  pace:      9:08
mile:     12  pace:      9:07
mile:     13  pace:      9:15
mile:     14  pace:      9:00
 cumulative @ mile:     15  pace:      9:03

Eventually we come to the half/full split  I was following the women in blue as she had a very similar pace to me, but at the last second she headed left for the half! 

You can see the crowds were spread out nicely here (about mile 11) and if you look on the right side you can see there aren't very many marathoners compared to's gets much thinner.

At this point I'm starting to wonder where the 4 hour pace group is, they were right behind me in the wave-2 and I fingered they should be showing up any minute, since I knew I had dropped back to pretty much the average they should be holding.

....And wouldn't you know it, they came by just a minute later. Here's a photo of the perky women holding the balloons that was the pacer. She ran a non-stop commentary of praise and encouragement for the people in her group, as well as all the other racers out there.

I decided to try to hold my pace and keep with these guys as as far as I could. That strategy had worked pretty well at SF, if I could just not fade too badly at the end I'd have a pretty good run. I was thinking my legs were too sore to let me get another PR, i.e. sub-4:06, but the course was also much flatter so maybe the two might partially cancel out(?)
Miles 15-20

mile:     15  pace:      9:12
mile:     16  pace:      9:07
mile:     17  pace:      9:11

Now we are entering the last phase of the marathon, but we still have a long way to go. I'm holding with the pace group as we are going through the CSU campus and getting massive support from crowds of students! I'm not really used to all this shouting and hub-bub. But it sure helps the miles tick by painlessly. 

The picture to the right shows the "pyramid" building at CSU...a very striking blue color. No idea what's in there. Treasure perhaps?
Interestingly my calf is not feeling nearly as weird now, and even though my legs are tired, I have good stretches where I'm feeling like i can keep this up just fine till the finish. 

mile:     18  pace:      9:26   
mile:     19  pace:      9:33
cumulative @ mile:     20  pace:      9:07

It's about mile 17-18 we have an 80 foot hill to climb and that goes well, I blast up there and follow the pacer pretty closely..but I can tell I'm not going to last much longer. She gradually slips to being 30 seconds ahead or so by mile 20.

Miles 20-25 

Now  something unexpected happens, if you look at my splits you'll see something:

mile:     20  pace:     10:01
mile:     21  pace:     10:17
mile:     22  pace:     13:00  < cramp/spasm here>
mile:     23  pace:     14:24
mile:     24  pace:     12:33
cumulative @ mile:     25  pace:      9:44

After feeling pretty good, suddenly I get a cramp in that leg right where the scar tissue probably is. My guess is that that section of muscle was working more inefficiently that the rest of the calf and so it gave up the ghost.

After I realized it was just a cramp, and not a re-tear or something bad, I was ok and I massaged it for a while..which helped me power walk and run in alternation. It was a bummer to have happen but hey, bound to happen someday and as long as I wasn't hurting myself more I didn't mind. So far I'd been going much faster than I thought I would, so we could still finish in a reasonable time.

Around this time, I met a young guy also having troubles with his legs cramping, he's in the photo to the right in the lime-green shirt (in front of the girl with the gray shirt). 

Every time I'd see him go off ahead I figured that was it, but then I'd be jogging and I'd find him walking again too. So we kept see-sawing back and forth probably half a dozen times  until the finish.

Approaching the finish! You can see the mile marker for 26 in the photo and below from the expo shot I took.

mile:     25  pace:     14:10
mile:     26  pace:     13:59
mile:     26.2  pace:     10:45
cumulative @ mile:     26.2  pace:     10:05

So the race was over, marathon #5! My right quads are a bit more sore than left the day after from my limping shuffle I used, but generally I feel pretty good. My left calf is tight but the cramp area feels pretty good today (Monday) we'll see on Tuesday how we really feel.

How did I do on my goals?

  • Run easy and with good form, especially after mile 20. Keep the cadence high.
I did good on this one I think, the garmin shows my cadence as well over 85 for the first 18 miles of the race. I had ZERO Achilles issues before, during or after the race. That problem is solved.  I get an A on this one.
  • Find a realistic pace...this will happen by itself in the first few miles. Pretend your doing your first ultra...slow down some..put the watch away. Finish easy!
Hmmmm. I give myself a D on this one. I probably should have just gone out at a 10 minute pace and I would have had no cramping. But hey.
  • Drink and eat properly.
I gave myself a B- here. I drank a ton..maybe even too much I was starting to think. I did have breakfast and eat 3 GUS so I did ok but I did feel a bit bloaty after mile 17 or so.  At one point during the walk-run part I picked up a bag of watermelon slices being given away and MAN that that taste good! I wonder if these GUS are really better than just using salt tabs and real foods? Something to explore...
  • Enjoy the sites and crowds along the course.
Get an A here! It is the first race that had such a huge number..and not just in CSU.
  • Rack up race #2 in the California Dreamin' Racing Series!
  • Take pictures.
I probably lost about a minute taking pictures, but it's well worth it. I think I'll do this every race from now on. I get an A.
  • Enjoy the post race festival 
Spent about an hour and 15 minutes..was hoping to find Arthur (SeniorRunner) but never saw him. (he did great on his first full marathon!). I did meet one of the Marathon Maniacs that I'd said hello to as I passed him on the course. He's name is "Irish Joe" and I'll tell more about that later.

Stats: 4:25 is the same time as my very first marathon. I was shocked given all the walking that I could do so well as that. I'm also shocked my relative place is as good as it is.

All in all, despite  the cramping it was a fun day and I'd do it again for sure!

Runner Details Race Results
Bib: 2911
Name: Paul
Gender: M
Age: 54
Hometown: Silicon Valley, CA
Overall: 1528 out of 3527
Men: 1049 out of 2158
M 50-54: 104 out of 213
Age/Grade: 54.55% Place: 1149
Finish: 4:25:08 Pace: 10:07
Tag Time: 4:25:08
Gun Time: 4:29:28
Split Times
10 Km: Pace:
12.5 Mile: 1:54:11 Pace: 9:00
18 Mile: Pace:
24 Mile: 3:55:27 Pace: 9:49

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yay! Long Beach weekend ...

Well, here we are.... the day before the day before.

My lungs have a tiny bit of crud in them, but not bad. Leg muscle already good enough to do the distance and getting more loose and normal by the day. Weather looks perfect. 

.....the theme for this weekend is "run for the fun!":
  • Run easy and with good form, especially after mile 20. Keep the cadence high.
  • Find a realistic pace...this will happen by itself in the first few miles. Pretend your doing your first ultra...slow down some..put the watch away. Finish easy!
  • Drink and eat properly.
  • Enjoy the sites and crowds along the course.
  • Rack up race #2 in the California Dreamin' Racing Series!
  • Take pictures.
  • Enjoy the post race festival

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Testing ..9...10...11...12

This morning I'm up pre-dawn (6:30am, *yawn*) to test the waters for a longer run..10-13 miles. Normally I would be tapering and not running this much in the last week, but given my lack of training that's not a problem.

But, I do want to make sure that my leg is healed up enough that it's not going to leave me walking at mile 18 or some other ignominious end. 

Anyway, out the door....Thomas isn't the only one to see Orion up in the sky ...beautiful...but it means another summer is over, sigh. I jog to my stretching place and by the time I'm done the breaking dawn light has washed all the stars from the sky.

I set out at about a 9:30 pace, faster than I though I would, but it felt so darn good I couldn't resist. I felt fast and light, a nice change. Some chest muscles were still sore from all the coughing and hacking in the previous weeks, it felt good to stretch them out.

Took my loop around Palo Alto airport along the marshes and through BayLands with a crystal clear blue sky and water all around.

The sun peeped up over the east bay hills and kept me swiveling my visor as the path turned and twisted to keep the sun out of my eyes.

8 miles in, my calf muscle was still noticeable, but ok. I held my pace on the rough gravel and into a headwind and it felt "comfortably hard", I could tell my conditioning was down from my peak in July, but still felt pretty darn good.

There was a bit of wind, (rare for this hour) and it was neat to hear it in the pine trees near the duck pond. The usual suspects out for breakfast: geese, pelicans, sand pipers.

I finally turned toward home, ducked under rt 101 along the creek ( The Benjamin Lefkowitz bike underpass ) onto west bayshore and headed left, up Loma Verde. By now it was already about 72 degrees....going to be another warm day..

12 miles, 9:28min/mile, HR 126, cadence 84.

Good to go this weekend... WOOT!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Testing 1...2....3....4...

Well, here I am one week away from the Long Beach Marathon...

queen mary is at LB
This morning I felt pretty good, lung-wise as my Dr gave me some inhalers a few days ago when I told him I really needed to get rid of the last of my crud before 10/17. [ I really like my HMO, it's close by and I can always get into see a Dr for small things on the same day..]

So, what with Saturday dawning with gorgeous blue skies and 60F temps  I just had to test the waters....I went for a 4.75 mile slow recovery pace run...didn't even wear the Garmin. I did a lot of slow *careful* stretching beforehand.

My calf tear was "there", i.e. I could feel it, but it was better than last week. The proof of the pudding will be it feels then. If good, i'll do another longer run.

UPDATE: (next day), leg felt good after 3.75 soreness...just a bit tight so more easy stretches and easy pace...looking good.

But the results are good so far...perhaps may be good to go at LB, at least if we run a nice easy race?

I actually don't mind that, as one current goal is to complete the "California Dreamin' Racing Series", and so being able to make the race at all is goal #1. 

And, I have to say, it's not such a bad idea to not be pushing for a PR for once. Instead, just enjoying the sites and crowds and having fun. I plan to take my camera and get some shots, and perhaps even one of Arthur when he finishes.

The extended weather forecast looks great: sunny and mid-50's at the start time and a high of 69 for the day.....but I'll probably be done at about 11:30 when the temps are still below 65, which is fine.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Where's Paul?

No posting for a while...still dealing with leftover cough and congestion from the cold. When I get a post cold cough sometimes  it's such a pain, takes weeks to totally get back to normal.

But worse than that...just before the cold I seemed to have torn a muscle in my left calf due to too aggressive stretching (!)

I have a stretching regimen....a little bit out the door, then run .3 miles, then a full set of stretches at my favorite spot. When I was doing the 'out the door' cold stretching of my left calf, I pulled back a bit too much on my left foot and felt a sharp pain, not super bad, but not normal. Near the end of the run, I could feel the spot getting more sore.

Then i got the cold, so at first I didn't pay much attention to it, since I was feeling pretty sick, I assumed it was nothing and would get go away quickly, but as I got better I found that running was not normal...after a few miles I felt soreness that built up in the same place.

Rule of thumb; if pain gets worse during running, then stop. So I did, and have. 

Little setbacks like this are humbling...reminds us how important health is...little things like the common cold can reduce us to weaklings. We work hard to peak and speed up by a small amount when racing, but when we're sick we are unable to do anything. A tiny tear and we're reduced to waiting.

It reminds me that someday I won't be able to run marathons at all, at that I should really savor it while I can. I like the saying on frayed lace's blog:

"Someday I won't be able to do is NOT that day."

Except of course right now it is that day 8-/  

Anyway, ok,  no moping,  I'm hoping that I'll heal up by 10/17 (Long Beach) plan is to try a long run (13+) on 10/13 and see if there is any developing soreness...if not I'm good to go. 

At this point I just want to run this race and have fun...I have blown off pacing goals.....I can always to peak again for Surf City in February. I've lost a lot of conditioning due to this downtime but I'm pretty sure I can knock out a <4:30 marathon with no problems even my current state. 

Wish me (i.e. my calf) luck!