Saturday, February 26, 2011

T-3 to LA, Trail shoe selection for S2S

Trail shoe choice

After having such good luck with the Kinvaras (I've put 55 miles on them now)  I decided to go with the Peregrines (also from Saucony) as my trail shoe. Here's a review at runblogger, with a video review from the tridudes blog too.

The Peregrines are reasonably priced ($89), light for a trail shoe (10oz) and have the same soft breathable uppers (with no hard heel plastic) of the Kinvara which I like a lot. The cushioning is the same as the K's and the drop is the same 4mm. (I seem to be dealing with that just fine .)

The soles on the shoe have incredibly good sticky rubber and nobbies...(at the price of a bit more weight than the K's).  The only downside mentioned in the review is that if it's a really really wet/muddy trail the uppers may let in too much water and silt. On the other hand they'll probably dry out quicker 8)

Alas, ZombieRunner doesn't carry them (yet), and neither does the local Sports Authority store, so I ordered them online from Roadrunner Sports...should get them next week.

This weeks training so far

Taking it easier this week after last weeks really hard slug of training. A full rest day on Monday, and then some cross training on Tuesday: my usual 30 minutes of 100rpm + biking and then 30 minutes of core and weights. 

Wednesday was an easy 4.8 mile run..10:35 pace with a good spm of 170+.  

Thursday I decided I was recovered enough to do a 3 mile fast tempo+ run and see how my conditioning was doing.

So ...ran a slow 2 miles to the Paly track. Once I got there, I discovered the PE instructor  had the kiddies out doing some kind of 15 minute walk/run warmup.

They don't seem to mind sharing their track (I helped pay for it after all 8) but I did have to do some dodging and weaving..seems nobody explained to these young'uns about leaving the inside track open..some of the laps came out @.27miles on the GPS. 

After grumbling their way through it, whistle blew signalling the end of the torture warm-up and were herded off to the gym. Peace and quiet for the rest of the run.

The stats  for the tempo portion:

Tot:    3.17 miles,  Avg Pace:  7:54 m/m,  Avg HR: 132.8,  Avg Cadence: 88.4 (i.e. 177 spm)

An HR of 132 for this pace  is  low for me....not sure what's going on here...
For example, here's the splits from my PR 10k race back in Sept '09:

Split:   1.00, Pace:  7:53, Avg Pace:   7:53, HR: 140.5, Cadence: 85.0
Split:   2.00, Pace:  7:48, Avg Pace:   7:50, HR: 153.0, Cadence: 85.2
Split:   3.00, Pace:  7:55, Avg Pace:   7:52, HR: 154.0, Cadence: 84.8
Split:   4.00, Pace:  7:56, Avg Pace:   7:53, HR: 154.0, Cadence: 84.8
Split:   5.00, Pace:  8:03, Avg Pace:   7:55, HR: 154.8, Cadence: 84.0
Split:   6.00, Pace:  8:16, Avg Pace:   7:58, HR: 156.0, Cadence: 83.8

Notice the cadence now  is 4-5% higher for the same pace and my HR is way lower...almost 20 bpm.  I don't fully believe the 7:54 m/m pace number..the Garmin is not very accurate on the track..(much better on straight line courses)..probably more like 8:10 m/m.

I jogged the 2 miles back for a total run stats of ~7 miles @ 9:22 average pace, 121 average HR. So ..I seem to be in pretty good shape considering how little fast running I've been doing lately.

Friday it was back to the gym for more cross training. (FYI for the last 4-5 months I am running 4 days a week (vs 5) trading an easy 3-5 mile run for two days of cross.)

So..same routine plus this time some 'step downs' stand on a box, lower one foot  and touch its heel to the floor (never put your weight on it though). Then you lift yourself back up..(it's kind of like one legged squats). This is to strengthen my quads...ack..eerk..they sure need it. I..could only do two sets of 12 on each leg and I suspect I'm going to be pretty sore tomorrow.

Saturday (today), We had the threat of snow in the forecast (last time was 1976) but it was not to be, alas. (It would not have accumulated since the ground temp is above freezing). It was a bit cold (for us) this morning however.

9.2 miles on the flat baylands run at a pretty constant 9:23 pace/119 ave bpm.. This is the lowest HR vs pace I've ever recorded for this run..(previous best pace vs HR is 9:24/123 from April 2009, right after I did my PR 8:30 pace HM) 

I've done this run many times so I have a lot of data to compare against. The run felt moderately hard, maybe 7-8/10 effort level. 

I haven't been paying much attention to the pace/HR numbers ..since I'm not peaking for any of these races, but I noticed I was feeling pretty good ...and so it seems I am pretty fit, at least cardio and running-economy wise.

Legs are doing ok after this weeks workout...yesterdays step down exercises didn't mess me up too much today ;)

Sunday: Another poky hilly run on the schedule.....distance and pace based on feel. Wx should be perfect.

Monday, February 21, 2011

T-4 weeks to LA

spring is here!
I set off for a run Saturday in the rain..but luckily it let up after the first 2-3 miles..double lucky because later in the day it dumped and dumped buckets.

I did a fast one (for me): 9.8 miles at 8:42 m/m. HR was about 130 average, which is about 70% of my WHR.

The run was great..wore the Kinvaras again problems with them. Not one bit of Achilles issue at any point during the run and I was pretty loose when I got up in the morning (tight calves in morning a precursor sign for me).

Kept my cadence up  at 174 spm, which is pretty darn good and fast (again, for me) and I think with good relaxed form. 


I can see San Francisco way in the distance
crappy cell phone camera won't let you see it..
Sunday it was FINALLY sunny again..and with all the rain the air was so crisp and was pure pleasure.

I wanted to do a trail run today, but after the major rainfall we had Saturday afternoon all the trails would be rivers.

After yesterday's fast run today was to be a poky day with hills. To keep from totally killing myself I kept the speed down by walking the ups and forcing myself to walk a bit every mile or so. 

Average pace 11:08...Ave HR 115 (yawn), 950' of climbing, 162 spm cadence which is pretty good considering the slow pace. Oh yes, the run was 15 miles.

What a great day! Everybody out running, biking and walking after all that rain. Lots of songbirds are back in the area and could be heard all around.

After this run my legs were officially what I  would call 'a dark toast' 8). They were pretty beat.

Someday, I should talk about my legs. Everybody thinks running is all about cardio, HR, V02Max, aerobics etc. Piffle...rot...nonsense...for me it's really all about the legs (at least in the marathon). The heart steps up to deliver the goods..but not always the legs....

Later in the afternoon I went for a 3 mile walk in the Baylands with Toni..there was quite a bit of snow on the east bay hills (6" on Mt Hamilton!) from yesterdays cold rain...neat to see. 

BTW, I've found that staying on my feet and/or a bit of walking is really good after a long or hard run..the worst is just sitting ...the leg muscles stiffen right up 8(

rain + sun = flowers!
(On Arastradero Road, mile 10)
So, a great week: the Kinvara's worked out wonderfully, in the 4 days of running this week I logged just shy of 40 miles ....with some speedy running and 1600' of hills.

It's only the 2nd week after Surf City.. so yes, I am now  'knackered' as they say in Ireland.  I have no idea why I felt so good this week, but I harvested the good vibes to good training effect!

This coming mid-week you can bet I will be very careful to not overdo it.

Next Sunday the plan is 15 miles (two loops) of the "Los Trancos" trail in Foothill Park. Hopefully the rain will hold off a bit now.

(Does anyone know what a "Tranco" is?)

I have also selected my trail shoe to be used at S2S, and I'll be unveiling it later this week ;)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A letter to first time marathoners...

It's raining today but I managed a 10 mile run without getting too wet. I don't often have to run long in the rain and when I did today I was reminded of something I wanted to share: some thoughts on first time marathons.


Dear marathon virgin,

Once upon a time on the rainy night of March 1st, 2009, I was trying to sleep before my first marathon from Callistoga to Napa, California. 

I was worried about the blustery winds and intermittent pounding rain I could hear outside my hotel window.

As it turned out the threat of bad weather was a lucky thing. The rain was light by the morning and the winds were not as bad as during the middle of the night. 

But what the crappy weather did do is scare me and cause me to blow off my aggressive pacing fantasies ideas and run a conservative (for me) 10m/m pace (Hal's advice: 5x my then 10k pace).

don't have a bad race
I had a wonderful race that day finishing in 4:25 with fairly even splits. That bit of bad weather steered me to Hal's advice  and served me well. Thank you Hal Higdon!

How can you maximize your enjoyment of your race day? Here are some of my thoughts..

  1. Don't train for a marathon until you lose as much excess weight as possible. You'll avoid injury and have a much better chance of enjoying your race. And you'll feel like a million bucks to boot!
  2. Perhaps try this simple experiment: Borrow a weight belt from a scuba diver friend or fill up a backpack with gallon jugs of water (8.3 lbs each) and add as much weight as you think you need to lose. Walk some hills with it for a while.Then take it off and trot will be tired but feel really LIGHT. Now, realize that you STILL HAVE that amount again to shuck, so imagine taking off another pack like the one you just did!...when you diet try to remember how dropping that loaded pack felt.
  3. One good thing about being heavy: your tendons/ligaments/connective tissue are already somewhat toughened up from lugging around too much weight. As you lose the weight you can pick up the pace and not break.
  4. Run/walk for at least one year consistently, ideally ending up at 15-25 miles/week. This running can be used for the weight loss. Your heart, lungs and muscles will improve rapidly but it takes a full year to strengthen the connective tissues. Don't be in a hurry to go fast and don't be in a hurry to run a marathon..they are TOUGH.
  5. Do shorter races first. Try some 5 and10ks to start, then make very sure you try a half marathon or better yet two. Going from zero to marathon is not a good idea....did I mention that marathons are TOUGH? Think 4X harder than a half marathon, 10X harder than a 10k.
  6. If you have problems with cramping during long or fast runs you are asking too much from your muscles. If you are very overweight you need to see #1, else you need to do some intervals/hills/strength training to build extra muscle, or both.
Pacing: some thoughts...
  1. If you haven't tasted the "wall", you can't imagine what it feels like. Continuing to run will be the most difficult thing you've ever done in your life. Pacing errors at shorter distances just cause you to slow the marathon they make you hurt...a lot.
  2. Even experienced (50-100 marathons) runners say they are never completely sure what is going to happen. From my puny experience (7 races so far) I still have a lot to learn. 
  3. Think of mile 20 (32km) as the halfway point. (In terms of perceived effort, I assure you it is.) So, if you're all proud of yourself for running those 20 mile long runs fast and hard, realize that you still haven't explored terra incognita.  You may be immune to fading/bonking/"The Wall"/cramps/nausea/??? ..or you may not. You don't get to know for sure. I've seen plenty of strapping young 20-30 somethings walking/limping/ralfing in the last 10k of the marathon. Running fast increases the likelihood you will discover a weakness...everything gets exponentially worse with speed.
  4. If your 20 mile long runs are always difficult at the end you are running them too fast. The most common beginner mistake is running long runs too fast at the beginning of training.
  5. At the end of your training you should be able to run 10 miles at your target pace the day before your last 20 miler, and then you should be able to run your 20 miler at your MP + 20-30 sec/mile. If you can't do those back to back runs the danger of hitting the wall at that pace is very high.
  6. Find some online marathon race results that show mid-race splits (even better some 20 mile splits). Look up your age group/sex and scroll through and see how many runners screwed up their pacing. For example you may see somebody that cruised through the half marathon point in 1:50 and then finished in 4:20. A properly paced 1:50 half should result in a ~3:45 finish. Something very very bad happened to add on so much extra time..and it probably meant there was a lot of walking in a not-fun state of mind.
  7. On race day, you will be fully tapered and feel REALLY'll say "today is my day!". You will also probably be swept along with the pack..and the pack always starts too damn fast. RESIST THE URGE TO RUN SOMEBODY ELSE's pace. Keep to your previously worked out (cautious) can always speed up later! I recommend a gradual opening of the throttle after the half (even better after 16 miles) if you feel really great at that point (you probably won't).
  8. To put the pacing conundrum yet another way: to shave 10 minutes off your time, you risk potential slowdowns of 20, 30 minutes or more. And during these minutes you will be hurting. A lot.
  9. The Jeff Galloway race/walk method is a great way to do marathons. (Virtually all ultra marathoners use a running/walking mix). But, you still need a realistic pace or you will be reduced to lot of tough walking at the end.
  10. Some fade is normal (due to loss of running economy).  Depending on the runner you might accrue 3-6 minutes extra in the last ~6 miles. More than that and you are not running a smart race and losing too much time (and suffering for no damn good reason other than your own sillyness).
  11. If you've had any muscle pulls or tears in your training, make sure they are at least 3-4 weeks in the past. Any partially healed tissue will probably fail during the stress of race...especially if you go out too fast. Marathons will find your problems and magnify them.
  12. Don't forget that GPS watches have noise.. the pace on your watch will be faster than what you are really running. Also, if you don't run the course tangents, you will be running farther than 26.2. In a recent trail marathon my Garmin said I ran 27 miles. So your training paces will translate into a slower actual (pace-band) pace. 
  13. Why am I harping on pacing? Because people DON'T SEEM TO LISTEN and I hate seeing people having a bad time!
  14. When you run your second marathon you'll be much the wiser, you'll train better, pace better, hydrate and fuel better and can crack open the throttle more and get yourself a big solid shiny new PR. So, don't be in such a rush to go your fastest in your very first race! ITS JUST STUPID.
  15. [added] Oh, and one more thing. Many beginners say "I'm not training for a pace, I just want to finish". This is mostly rubbish. You and I know darn well you have a pace in are just keeping it a secret. You *have* to have a pace in mind because you go out and run those 20 mile runs at some pace. So be up front that you have a target pace and see #5 before you think your 20mile pace is that pace.

you may not look this good after a marathon, but
we want you to feel this good!
To conclude: RUN A SMART RACE, pick a REALISTIC PACE, have a fun day, and race lots more marathons!



There. I've said it. I'll stop now. Was I clear?

So, marathoners, what did I leave out?  What are your observations?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

T-5 Weeks to LA, T-8 weeks to S2S. What's the plan?

Five more weeks to LA. This may not seem like much time to peak to you, but after running 4 marathons in 6 months, I'm thinking I've got oodles of time 8). I used to think 18 weeks was barely enough time!

After feeling a bit tired on Sunday's run and then resting Monday, I came back feeling GREAT on Tuesday and took what would normally be an easy run and hammered it a little  bit (4.75 miles @ 8:58). I felt fast and relaxed and really enjoyed the faster running (which I've been avoiding for a few months), hitting 8:10 pace for about 2 miles near the end.

To feel this way so soon after a marathon is a first for me, and I hope a sign that I'm building endurance and not just beating myself into the ground...don't get me wrong..I'm still cautious.

We all know when you hit the bricks and feel like crap, you need to take it easy and not try to hold to some stupid schedule you fantasized-up when you where feeling good.

Conversely when you feel great, you need put hammer down,  blow off that poky 10:00 pace and let the horse RUN.

I was thinking to myself how I dearly wish I could bottle that feeling and have some of it in 20 years from now... but no...can't be done, so best to enjoy it and remember it.

The Stanford Dish (i.e. radio telescope)
Wednesday it's back to the Kinvara's and time for running the Stanford Dish path. This open space preserve trail is about a 3 mile distance from my house and is 4 miles around so the total run is about 10 miles. 

Luckily the rain held off and I got the entire 10 mile run in with only about 1-2 minutes of very chilly rain (ice pellets for a second). I had my arm warmers with me (birthday present from Toni ;) and these were just the ticket.

double rainbow and oak trees
Of course where there's rain, and occasional sun, you may get rainbows and boy what a beauty we saw today! If you look closely you'll see that it's actually a double rainbow..with a fainter bow outside and above the bright one. The camera does not do it justice

 The Kinvaras were great, no problems on the downhills, ultra comfy, ultra light feeling, but with enough cushioning for my old bones to survive 8).

I think they are on track to be my new go-to marathon training and racing shoe! (Sorry Nike was a nice relationship I had with you, but time to move on).

I still like running in the Nike Free's, the flexibility can't be beat for the road feel. I'll still use them for my shorter/medium  <10 mile runs.
dish round trip from my house
This is the hilliest run I've done in a long time: about 750' of up and down. I know that's not very impressive for some of you out there in the blogosphere, but for me it's a pretty tough run. I'm hoping this will toughen me up to another level.


As you might gather from this weeks running so far, my plan for the next 5 weeks, qualitatively speaking,  is to do more speed-work and hilly trail running  for 3 weeks, then just faster running but lower tapering mileage, leading up to LA.  I will do one 20 mile + trail run at the end of that three weeks, LA will be another long run, and then I'll maintain that conditioning until S2S (Skyline-to-the-Sea) ...but with no more really long runs for that 3 weeks between LA and S2S. 

I really need the hilly trail runs in preparation for S2S which has 4000' of up, and 6000' of down. I'm not that afraid of the up (I'll walk it) but I really need stronger quads for the down, else I'll probably fall down and face plant a few times when I get really tired and the trail gets technical. (a fancy world for SUCKY)

I've been reading up on how to run a 50k and based on that I think my 6:30 estimate may be too aggressive for a first my current notion is more like 7:00.

I've always been really bad about doing hill running and I'm not expecting to fix that too much in the next 8 weeks...just enough to keep from trashing my quads completely.

The race cutoff is 8 hours so no problem there.

How do you train for hilly races? How do you feel about bloggers that ask questions at the end of their postings to get you to comment 8)?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

New shoes and the week's running

Been taking it easy and didn't start running again until Thursday (3.4 miles). Saturday we did 4.75, and today (Sunday) a 8.75 mile run.

Sunday's run was pushing it a bit..I felt good, but I could tell I was still a bit fagged out from the race. There's always a risk in pushing yourself but in this case I really wanted to give it a go because:
  1. Sunday is my day to run long, and I hate missing it.
  2. Rain is coming and it's going to last a full week (or more). So the running will be wet or on a treadmill.  
  3. I had new shoes to try!
I've been looking for a pair of shoes like my Nike Free's that are minimalist-tending, almost zero drop, light and able to be used  on gravelly trails (the Free's catch gravel in the soles really badly). 

Saucony Kinvara
I saw some very positive reviews, including this well written one for the Saucony Kinvara, and so I bought a pair on Saturday.

I liked the look of these shoes right away..the uppers are like the Frees: very flexible,  no plastic heel cup, nothing to dig into the heel at all. They are not quite zero drop, but have less lift than the Pegasus (the photo makes the heel look much bigger than the forefoot which is not true). They have a nice broad toe box so that you don't feel cramped and your toes can do their job.

They are light:  7.7 oz for size 10. I'm hoping these can take over from the Nike Pegasus and become my marathon race shoe as well as long run shoe. 

I bought them at my local Zombie Runner store (so close to my the small businesses!) and they have a treadmill there that they let me use to try the, what a great idea!  I gave it a spin for 4-5 minutes and didn't find any bumps or bothers. 

So.I bought 'em and took them for the 8.75 mile run..ready to abort and head back at any time...but no problems...did some *slightly* faster running (9:00)..yes not a good idea yet, but couldn't help it and they were wonderful. I felt like Winged Mercury 8)

It's not as flexible a shoe as the Free, but it's got better fore/mid-foot cushioning, which is why I hope it can be my long run shoe. We'll see...

(Yes, I know cushioning is a bad word in the minimalist shoe camp, but this is a 'transition shoe'..i.e. a shoe that gets you closer to the way your body was meant to run, i.e barefoot, but lets you survive on the way..especially if you are 55 and not quite ready to go barefoot 8) 

I hope to use this shoes at LA on 3/20....we shall see!

Now, if I could only find a trail shoe (one with good waffles like my Inov8 RocLites) that was light and had light flexible uppers! Anybody got any suggestions?

Friday, February 11, 2011

RUNDown:Surf City, Part II..more pictures, video

The Brightroom photos came in for Surf City...for my first few marathons I didn't take my own pictures and I didn't buy the photos taken during the race. Eventually, I realized that one of the most fun parts of the travel Toni and I do is the photos we can enjoy in the days and years after, and that the same would be true of my races.

Also, when I consider how much time goes into training and money goes into airfare/hotel/entry fee each race that one has to travel to, the money to have a few really good photos is well spent. I also don't begrudge the couple of minutes I probably lose running the race taking photos ;)

First though, I want to give you a closer look at the California Dreamin' series idea. (The name is derived from a song written in 1965 by the Mamas and the Papas. Rolling stone gives it #89 in the 500 top songs, ever. If you are buried under snow right now I encourage you to listen to it ;)

This was the last year for this perk (a new series idea is supposed to be in the works) and I think it was a great idea. Runners are always looking for some new challenges for motivation to move to another level of running!

In this case these three big California races teamed up and offered extra prizes (jacket, medal) for completing all three races within two years. You could run any combination of half or full marathons, which made it accessible to a lot more people.

I decided to do all three as full marathons and because the series was ending I needed to do them all back-to-back (July->Oct->Feb). That was a challenge! 
I liked each of these races, but I have to say the Long Beach logo really sucks (IMHO). Good 'ol ICB needs it's spot smack in the middle of every race logo. Bletch. 

Anyway, here's a closeup of the jacket's not bad. No mention of the races or even that it's about running tho...could be stock car racing!

This is the half marathoners start, well AFTER
 the marathoners (6:30 vs 7:45am). Also the sun is up 8)

I think this is at about 6-8 miles. 

The 12 mile turnaround for marathoners.
It's the 8 mile point for halfers. See video of this below.
Me at about mile 21-22, Actually realizing I'm feeling pretty good for this point.

Mile 23-24 I think..still  decent shape.
 A new thing they have now is video clips of you running. The first one is at the 12 mile turnaround (same as photo above). In finish line video ...I come down just to the left of the dashed line about 8 seconds in.

Tired but happy!
This is the first time I've actually seen myself running on video. I have to say it's very disappointed to see how slow I'm actually looking. I also look pretty stiff. My 'sprint' to hold off the girl in red is pretty hard to notice 8/

But I felt so happy with my performance I did a little fist pump for the first time 8) (Didn't do that at my SFM PR 4:06..I was pretty wiped ;)

And that's it for Surf City 2011 and the Cal Dreamin' series!

Monday, February 07, 2011

RUNDown: Surf City Marathon (#7)

One word summary: clockwork.

Congrats to Chris K on his BQ!

Surf City (Huntington Beach)  is marathon #4 in my year of marathons that started at the San Francisco Marathon (7/25/10).  As you may recall,  my goal for this race was to  enjoy myself with a relaxed even effort at around 4:30-ish in order to finish easily and be ready for #5 (LA) in 6 weeks (with my brother in law). Of course sometimes the body may or may not agree with this idea...that's why marathons are so interesting ;)

on the boardwalk

Toni and I flew down on Saturday morning and checked into our hotel which was about .9m north on the PCH from the expo/start area. We decided to walk down the beach path since it was such a great sunny day. Toni commented "but you said previously you want to stay off your feet the day before a race?". My reply was that "yes, normally, but this isn't a peak(ed) race, so I'm not worrying about it".

modeling schwag jacket
The expo was outdoors in large white tents...we managed to find the entrance and I got my cool California Dreamin' jacket. It's a little premature to give out these jackets until you've actually finished the race 8)

The race shirt was a dark blue long sleeve with Surf City logos on front and back. Not bad. I bought a hat (us blue eyed fair skinned folks find them useful 8) 

We looked around the expo for another 2 or 3 minutes and then started walking back.

expo line, mile markers on right
After we got out of the expo we saw how HUGE the lines has become to get in..they were throttling entries at the door. 

You can already see from these shots how beautiful a day it was....probably a lot of folks escaping from Snowmageddon at this race.

Walking back, we strolled out on the long fishing Pier and watched the surfers for a while.

Had a nice Italian dinner at an early hour where I stuffed myself with breads, salads and vino though...on the wagon so we won't be draggin'..

The marathoners start early in this race, 6:30am, with my wave at 6:34. This is actually wonderful because the halfers don't start until 7:45am and they have more and slower waves.
I set my phone alarm for 5:40, which I figured was plenty of time and went to bed at 9pm. Luckily I'm one of those people that can sleep pretty easily and can go back to sleep if I'm woken up. 

And so I was woken 5:20am. I had noticed my cell phone glowing extra brightly to complain that it was almost out of juice so "please plug in your charger". GRRRR. I had the charger plugged in but the wall outlet in this crappy (but expensive) Best Western was completely shot and the charger prongs were not making contact.

Oh well. Up a bit early and got the phone charging properly (so Toni and I could find each other at the finish). Then I ran down my checklist of race morning prep (you can download it for yourself from my "interesting links" section.  A peek out the window showed foggy! Perfect! 

at the start
I walked down to the start and it was very low key since it was just the full marathoners...the halfers probably weren't out of bed yet ;)  I chomped down 3 or 4 cliff blocks I had with me and finally we were ready to start. 

The national anthem was sung by a women with a beautiful voice, but I could have sworn she say "gave proof through the fight, that our flag was still there". Hmm.

Anyway, off goes the first wave and the MC has to really get folks to stop at the next wave for a couple of minutes. One guy is actually waiting standing on the timing mat and so the MC tells me to get the heck out of here since the clock started for him. Um.

foggy, dark first mile
Off goes me in the 2nd wave. I decided earlier to do an even 10:00 pace to start to give me some teeny leeway for any stretching or power walking if I had any problems. 8 minutes later I go by our Hotel and wave to Toni up on the balcony of our hotel. 

We have plenty of room on the divided PCH its flat and cool..just great. Got in my groove for 10:00 pace and locked it in and set the the autopilot.

I noticed a young guy go by me with a 'scuffing' know, the kind of runner that is decelerating on every step by scraping their shoes (the toes, usually) on each stride. I get really bothered and I'm really tempted to say something but I keep my mouth shut. Lots of people are passing me but a bunch are going at a very similar pace, I setting in near one very small women with an ultra efficient and compact fast shuffle..THAT I like to see (and emulate).

After a time we approach about 3 miles and leave the PCH to head inland. Right at this turn is the first of several bands, the Goofy Foots,  playing California Surf Classics...(I think goofy footing is when you lead with the 'wrong foot' surfing, such that your body is facing away from the wave). 

I have to confess I really like this music. At 55 I was to young to really be listening to it (especially growing up in Massachusetts) but I like it a lot now.  I can recognize the sounds of "Pipeline" by the Chantays quite a ways off..

aid station with yellow shirts
We take the turn to the right and that shots catches one of the aid stations manned by the most enthusiastic volunteers you ever saw. They were all wearing yellow shirts which you can see ahead 

There were a LOT of aid stations (it seemed) in this race. I have learned my lesson with bloating from previous races and with the weather so cool I on take a small swig at each station. 

We head uphill but it's not too bad a hill and it comes very early in the race. Eventually we end up in the Central Park of Huntington Beach where there are a lake, lots of trees and green fields.

There are LOTS more of the screaming volunteers here, even between aid stations, telling us all manner of encouragement. I wonder what their voices are going to feel like the day after? The funniest was the little girl shouting "you can do it!, oh yah, yes you can, your gonna make it......feel the BURN!". LOL! Sometimes you'd see a pair of them that were too shy to really yell, or maybe they just hadn't go their juices flowing. But some other groups were going crazy trying to out do each other. 

Luckily, I'm guessing somebody had coached these kids to NOT say things like "Only 17 more miles to go!" 8) All the runners (I think) enjoyed all the pandemonium. So far it's been the best crowd supported race I've ever been in.

more park running
I'm still going my 10:00 varies a bit up and down. I have the Garmin set to give me 1/4  mile splits and I shoot for a few seconds under 2:30 to give me time for water stops and inaccuracies. There's something really nice about this pace though: The math at each mile marker is trivial. At 6 miles you should show 60 minutes, etc. Very handy as the math skills go slowly down the drain... (The Garmin of course shows 9:55 or so as my pace).

My legs feel pretty good....a tightness in my right hip/upper leg (as before during my last long run) but it doesn't seem to be developing.

mile 8 hill
I know that by mile 9 or so we should be back on the PCH, but before that we have this hill to climb at mile 8

It's a steep enough hill that I decide to walk it for 20-30 seconds...I'm proud of myself that I can abandon my type A "gotta run all the time" mentality...I figure it's good training for the upcoming trail 50k where I'll walk all the uphills.

 (I've also been walking while drinking my swig of water at the aid stations).

downhill and back to PCH
Over the top and then we bomb down the other side eventually getting back on the PCH (and we hear GoofyFoots again). 
on the pch and surfs up!

As you can see, it's still foggy. 

There's a great surf running you can see (and we could also hear) it in the background, eventually we see surfers showing up. Some of them blithely cross the road in wetsuits and carrying there boards orthogonal to the PCH. No three stooges moments, though.

Back on the PCH

We are headed back toward town and I've been playing cat and mouse with the 4:20 pacing group for quite a while but I let them pull away a bit to talk to an older runner, Jay, that's running his 2nd marathon.  I stop for a second to take a shot of the Boca Chica wetlands. 

I'm still going dead nuts on my 10:00 pace, (mas o menos).

Eventually I come up to the half marathon point and snap a shot of the mile marker ...there's some guy there doing something ...I was thinking he was peeing on it  or reading the fine print.

At this point I would describe my leg state as "a light toast"..i.e. just about what they should be. They aren't fresh but there's no weak points or problems. The split here almost exactly 131 minutes (i.e., 13.1 x 10!).

I've been concentrating on my form and noticing that all my core and bit of upper body work seems to have really helped. I have a strong arm swing and no soreness in my upper body at all. I work on my fast stride (cadence 85), keeping forefoot impact, slight lean forward at the ankles  and staying relaxed.

At mile 16 or so, we approach the turnaround were we head back out of town, but this time down on the beach path rather then along the PCH. This is a good setup: the faster halfers have come through our ranks, but we are turning off on our own spur before the gobs of the rest of them arrive.

I'm expecting to see Toni at this point and there she is! She takes a shot of me with her cell phone. If you look really really closely you can my left foot is actually not on the ground, yet.

You can also see I'm wearing the Zensa calf sleeves which seem to be a good thing..or at least not a bad thing.

I've folded my bib up so it's just the number showing.... I prefer maxmum airflow ;)

I give Toni and kiss and let her know that all is according to plan, I'll see her at the finish at about 11am if things continue well.
Tom Broach

Pretty soon now we enter the stage of the race where we find out who's going to have problems and who's not.

Along the way I met another master's runner, Tom Broach (#1822). He's 62 and done a bunch of marathons and finished this one in a very healthy 4:31 (19 out of 46 in his A.G.). Excellent! I hope to be doing that in 7 years too! I'm going just a bit faster than Tom's pace, so I say goodbye (after snarfing this photo) and resume my 10:00.

Eventually we get to the turnaround at mile 20.9, my pace is still on target...but my legs are more of a 'medium toast' right now. I'm holding the pace now...but I know how quickly the fatigue can build up in just a mile or two.

sun coming out
Finally, the sun starts to burn it's way through the fog. We've been running is perfect temperatures and the air remains cool but the sun is strong. At this point I'm dumping some water down the back of my shirt as well as taking a swig.

I'm following the women in blue you see in this pic, she's on almost exactly the same pace and is pulling me along (not that she knows that ;)

Still hanging on on the 10:00, sometimes I have faster 1/4 splits, sometimes slower, but at every mile marker I'm almost exactly on pace.

hilarious signs
Eventually we pass the former 16.5 mile point and head toward the finish up on the sidewalk and then eventually merging into the PCH. We have a single lane coned off on the right to keep the halfs away and I have no problems. Some of the spectators are leaking on the road here and there but hey, there's spectators.

As we run down the last 1/4 mile I'm feeling really good and with the crowds roaring I see and hear Toni call my name and head for the finish line. I run a 1/4 mile here in 9:17 and then I kick it up even more as I approach the finish. To my right I see a flash of red..another runner..and *instantly* I sprint. I run the last .12 miles at 7:20 and cross the mats, punch the garmin and turn to my right to greet the runner next to me and high five her ..we both kicked ass at the finish! 

[Note: I'm not silly about being 'chicked' or anything like that, I'm happy to be passed but NOT at the finish when I'm feeling that good.]

Got my surfboard medal and my cal. dreamin' medal....lots of prepackaged munchies at the finish and bananas/apples. Can't compare with the smoothes at the SFM though.

the spoils!
The Michelob beer area had a huge line, so I bagged it..dont' really like that beer much anyway. Instead, after showering Toni and I headed over to 25 degrees for a huge burger, fries and Guiness! Yum.

All in all a fun time and great race and real confidence builder that a marathon every 6.5 weeks at age 55 is not a crazy thing to do ;)

All photos here.

Did you ever see such perfect splits?
Runner DetailsRace Results
Hometown:Palo Alto, CA
Overall:1184out of2435
Men:805 out of 1466
M 55-59:41 out of 110
Tag Time:4:21:58
Gun Time:4:25:12
Split Times
3 Mi:29:52 Pace:9:58
6 Mi:59:19 Pace:9:54
12.2 Mi:2:01:42 Pace:9:59
20.9 Mi:3:28:31 Pace:9:59

The garmin track: