Sunday, June 30, 2013

Huddart Wakeup

Today: 9
Present: 277
Count: 39

Not a bad way to kick off a Sunday.

A quiet drive down to Woodside where Maura and I met Tony to hit up the Huddart trails. Leigh couldn't join, she had bigger fish to fry crewing at Western States. It was Maura's first time at Huddart, so I did what I could to make her maiden voyage on her first trail shoes a good one.

And she has battle scars to prove it, a stray root jumping up to grab her foot a mile from the end of the run. She's OK, having learned the hard way that trail running is as much dancing as it is running.

My legs felt fresh yesterday morning at boxing for the first time since the marathon. Meandering on these trails one more step to getting back to normal.

It was a low mileage second half of the month, having cranked out over 100 in the first 16 days. To then not reach 140 by the end of the month shows just how much that race took out of me. But tomorrow I'll be back at it. A fresh month, a fresh count and (hopefully) fresh legs.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Working Remotely: DogPatch Ramble

Today: 6
Present: 268
Count: 38

Four days without running and I can feel it bottled upside me now. A good sign, I have to imagine.

But almost two weeks after the marathon and 7-minute miles feel like a struggle. I wondered today, as I labored under the unseasonly warm San Francisco sun, if what I depleted was really my legs. 

There is something visceral about pushing yourself for that long. I mean, three hours goes by like a flash during the week, you forget they're even there. But in a marathon, those three hours stretch out, deepen. You dive into the chasm, explore yourself, find out whats inside.

And when you come out the other side, you find out that you left something along the way. You didn't come completely back. 

I look forward to a decent run. I look forward to any spring in my step, whatsoever. But more than that, I look forward to getting my will back. 

Maybe I'm making too much of it. Perhaps it is all in my head. But isn't it? Isn't that what the race was all about? Isn't the fact that my legs appear to be hopelessly shot, for way too long after the race, evidence that I ran beyond my means? 

Which is ultimately what I set out to do. To test myself. And on the day of the test, I passed. But the aftermath. Oh, the stench of napalm, the scorched earth. To push that far, that deep, beyond the realm of normality, is not without its consequences. Glorious consequences.

I look forward to having licked my wounds and being out there again, ready to run at the sound of the gun.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Desert Too Hot

Today: 4
Present: 262
Count: 37

Sometimes you just need to run.

Maybe its driving for nine hours, hack across the state in jagged lines. Or the stench of a desert casino, overweight depression seeping into your pores. Or maybe its just sleeping on the floor, jammed between a cheap motel bed and the rocking air conditioner.

Sometimes, you just need to run. Even if its too hot.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wife is Back, Nine in the Flat

Today: 9
Present: 258
Count: 36

It's a joy to watch Maura getting back into running shape. We hit Ferry Building (almost) and back today, a morning jog before I hit the road and she hit the game.

As it warmed up, I could tell she started to tire. But every time I looked over, she was smiling. Maybe she was gritting her teeth, determined not to slow down, but the look was more smile than grit. And when we ground through the Mission on the way back, hugging the east block for share, she picked up the pace.

You're a runner when out on a training run, with nothing to prove to anyone but yourself, you push. Anyone can jog, anyone can run. But runners push beyond when everyone else lets up.

My legs felt like hell. Absolute hell. Heavy, tight, asleep. Oh those beautiful trails -- I bounced back quicker from my 50-miler.

Friday, June 21, 2013

More Trails, More Sore

Today: 2
Present: 249
Count: 35

I am going to miss these morning trails, a quick stair ride up from my doorstep. Hitting the orange this early and being rewarded with that view is just a phenomenal way to start the day.

My dream of mapping a course on the trails is dwindling, as I am finding it far more enjoyable to just run them, stoplight style. Keeping it in the yellow requires focus enough, without having to worry if you're on the "right" course or not.

If you're running, you're going the right way.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Still Sore After all These Days

Today: 2
Present: 247
Count: 34

A trail shakeout, boxing and now two miles of Bernal loops. Still sore.

I had nothing last night at boxing. My legs gave out early and I just didn't have the fire. Fortunately the workout was too intense, and I got to just rip into my core for 15 minutes to finish it out. Getting there, but I am starting to appreciate how hard I actually pushed last weekend.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Healing Trails

Today: 2
Present: 245
Count: 33

It will never cease to amaze me how much harder on the body road running is than trail running. Two days after the marathon and I can barely limp up the hill and hit the trails. But man oh man does it feel good to stretch the legs, work the kinks out.

I am still in a bit of a haze after the run, probably a combination of actual exhaustion and a vacuum of endorphins. It's the first time the marathon as presented itself to me as an experience, rather than just a race. Perhaps cliched, but quite real.

And one of those things that's mostly yours, hard to convey to others. Unless you've been there it's hard to know how that feels. Wrapping yourself up in your mind for three hours, pushing out the world and taking one more step, thousands and thousands of times.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Morning Hill Meander

Today: 5
Present: 217
Count: 31

So far, I give myself an F in tapering. Last Friday, after running 55 miles the previous week (my highest weekly mileage in non-race week, ever), I felt great. Legs felt great, body felt great, mind felt great. I jogged up Mt Montara and barely broke a sweat.

Today, after 25 miles this past week, I feel the opposite of great. My legs feel heavy, they creek and the brazen confidence I had early in the week is slipping away. Two runs in a row am I thankful the race isn't today. Who knows, maybe that's the way you're supposed to feel two days before a race. But somehow I don't think so.

The blessing and the curse of living in San Francisco is that it's nearly impossible to find a flat place to run. Surrounded by hills and wary of yet another flat slog along Embarcadero I cruised my 5-mile loop from home to (almost) Twin Peaks and down. I figured that maybe some hills would help shake the legs a bit.

After a couple miles they did loosen up, but no spring. To my credit I didn't really push it, but when you don't have it, you don't have it.

Like I said yesterday, I am sure glad the marathon wasn't today!

5 More

Today: 5
Present: 212
Count: 30

It's a good thing the marathon wasn't today at around 5pm, because I didn't have it.

It feels like actual summer though, and I enjoyed the run despite not having an ounce of spring or resiliency. Legs felt heavy and I was tired throughout the run. Maybe its all mental, that I just can't get myself up for these short, slow runs. That whatever it is inside me that running tickles, doesn't get woken up.

And after running almost every day for almost two months, I don't look forward to the days off. I know the next day it's going to take longer to shake the legs out. That while I know I need to rest, it just doesn't seem worth it.

Maybe I'm becoming an actual runner.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Post Boxing Shake the Legs

Today: 2
Present: 207
Count: 29

It almost feels like cheating to count a 2-miler as a run, which at the same time sounds unbelievably snobbish but also belies the fact that running after boxing class is a feat unto itself.

My legs dragged up the stairs, but down the back of the hill started to shake out. Which was the point -- all too often it takes me a couple days after class for my legs to feel back to normal. To wit, three days before Way Too Cool in April, I did a hard and physical drilling session. My whole body was thrashed the next day, despite clearing the cobwebs and putting me in a great mental state for the race.

I think that workout and not really shaking out the legs contributed to me never really feeling a spring in my step on race day. Trying to learn from my mistakes, I switched boxing to Tuesday of this week and planned an easy run after class.

Bernal Hill shone in the early evening sun. Wind whipped down the north slope, turning my already meandering climb to barely above a crawl. But that's OK, that was the point. Quiet trails on a Tuesday night, twenty minutes of mind wandering to nowhere. I could have gone for longer, but that wasn't the point. I shook it out ahead of tomorrow's rest day in my modified tapering schedule.

If there's a better one-mile loop in San Francisco, I haven't been there.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flat Five at Five

Today: 5
Present: 205
Count: 28

If it weren't for this breathing through my nose thing, I'm not sure I'd still be tolerating these tapering runs. I've been in a great running groove lately, and to deliberately back it down and take it easy, barely break a sweat, is tough.

But I know its the right thing, and I am feeling good about my upcoming race. So, I soldier on.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blazing Montara

Today: 7
Present: 200
Count: 27

When Maura first met my dad, she joked, "you better be as fit as your dad is when you are his age." She isn't kidding.

He is a testament to the runner's axiom "you don't get old and stop running, you stop running and get old." At 64, he runs basically every day. In the blazing Central Valley heat or nippy Tahoe mornings, he is up with the sun and out on the road. He's fitter than basically any 64-year old I know, save the gray haired wonders out there running ultras.

He used to run marathons, with a PR almost 30 minutes faster than mine -- a gap I hope to close next week. He joins Maura on her training runs, bonding that cannot be measured since she has lived without a father since she was five. He and my step-mom run together, a tradition they have kept for more than 20 years.

As I have gotten back into running, it's been great to see his competitive spirit come back. He ran a half marathon without proper training (I am truly my father's son) and freaked out my step mom when he got dizzy at the end. He joked that he isn't going to try another marathon until he hits 65 -- better chance to place at the bottom of your age group.

Recently, I convinced him to sign up for a trail run in Pacifica -- not exactly the easiest course, which starts with a 1,600-foot climb to the summit of Mt. Montara. My dad isn't out there to win. He's out to mostly have a good time and finish -- a mature drive that I in some way look forward to. A return to purity.

Running has this amazing quality of being perhaps the most solitary of athletic endeavors, yet one which brings you immeasurably closer to those around you. Maura, my dad and I ran together this morning, rising in the hottest weather I've felt going up that mountain. Sure, I could have gone faster, pushed harder, but that's not why I was there. I ran for the company, to see them both do something that at the bottom didn't seem like a sure thing. And to be there to celebrate with them at the top.

And I was thrilled, a palpable sensation of just how lucky I am to not only count my brother as my training partner, who pushes me to be faster and better than I ever thought possible, but to have my wife and dad as training partners too -- perhaps reminding me that there is more to running than just the clock, or trying to win. That running truly is about the journey.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Taaaapering, Nose Breathing Experiment

Today: 6
Present: 187
Count: 25

I may have cracked the code today. I have an extremely hard time just going out for an easy run. I understand the benefits, of shaking the legs and moving smoothly on tired feet. But when I get out there I just want to run. And I always find a reason to push it, rather than backing it down like I know I should.

But midway through my run today, I started breathing exclusively through my nose. Not sure what triggered it, but I remembered back to Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, where he mentioned doing training runs while breathing only through his nose. And hey, if its good enough for him, its good enough for me.

At first I labored. I felt short of breath, like I wasn't getting enough air. But I soon settled in, thinking back to diving and that the body is used to getting more air than it actually needs. You are taught to overcome the constricting feeling of not getting enough air with the knowledge that you actually are. And that your body will let you know when you actually get close to danger.

So I plodded on, mouth shut, wondering if anyone I passed would notice. They didn't, and I finished the run with a few breaks to open my mouth, suck in air and keep going.

I got back to my office and tried to figure out what nose breathing would actually do for me. This is an interesting post which argues that it helps you learn to slow your breathing, which in turn slows your heart rate, which in turn allows you to run further, with less effort. And while I am only slowly learning running physiology, this seems to makes sense.

So we'll see, I may learn to enjoy my runs in time, and use them to train my breathing, even as my legs take a break.

Tapering is Slow

Today: 6
Present: 193
Count: 26

Another mellow out and back, tracing the final steps of next week's marathon. When I ran in 2011, the final three miles were brutal. Everyone talks about the last six they say to go out and try to PR in the 10k and that's how the end of the marathon will feel.

It didn't start for me until midway through mile 23.

Friends were waiting at Cirios HQ, 17th and Arkansas -- mile 22. I felt fresh, smiled, soaked up their energy. I crossed under the freeway and passed fans blaring Chariots of Fire. I burst with energy and picked up the pace. I hit 22nd Street to make the turn from home. 30 women in yoga paints cheered me on. And I hit the wall. I had nothing left.

I didn't quite limp the final three miles to the finish, but if I were limping I wouldn't have gone much slower. I was hoping the familiar territory would push me on, but it turns out I didn't think about the fact that the race didn't end at the ballpark, and that the stretch from the ballpark to the Bay Bridge is one of the loneliest on the Embarcadero.

Stronger runners passed me, and I didn't blame them. I silently rooted for them. And pitied the ones I passed, because they must have been in a truly bad place. I shuffled across the finish line in 3:20 -- a perfectly respectable time and better than my goal, but I certainly didn't run a comfortable race.

Plagued with Achilles pain, I popped eight Advil on the course, limped the first three miles at 9-minute pace to loosen up my calves and floundered on the home stretch. And I haven't run a Marathon since. I've gone further -- even hit 26 on a training run a few times -- but never another Marathon.

Next Sunday, if nothing else, I want to finish strong -- or if I shuffle in like last time, there had better be a two in front of my time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Marathon Finish, Negative Splits

Today: 7
Present: 181
Count: 24

I think you know you're a runner when as a run gets longer, you talk yourself into running further, then faster. Or maybe that just means you're crazy.

Very heavy legs when I set off today, I envisioned running an easy six miles to shake the legs out after my long run Saturday then surprise Twin Peaks adventure Monday morning. I have now run the final four miles of the SF Marathon a couple times and my hope is that when I get there in a couple weeks at least I'll be on familiar ground.

But as my legs shook out and I turned into the wind, I changed course and decided to run a bit further and speed up. The legs felt good and I tried to stay at 7-7:20 pace on the way out, expecting to turn around and keep it under seven.

I love passing people. And even though passing casual joggers is kind of cheating, it boosts the ego to speed past them. Never get passed, pass everyone.

I hit the ferry building to turn around kicked it up. I did start to tire as I passed AT&T park but felt like I had a lot left, and at the very least couple keep this pace for a while.

At 40 miles so far this week, it's on pace to be one of my longest non-race weeks and a new adventure into the world of not knowing how to taper. Although I do not that pure rest doesn't seem to work -- so we'll try the opposite.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Good Morning Twin Peaks!

Today: 8
Present: 174
Count: 23

Why haven't I done this before? Is all I could think when I came around the bend and the view opened up, the San Francisco Peninsula from the Golden Gate to Mt Diablo spread wide before me.

Twin Peaks on a crisp Monday morning, alone, bluebird sunny day. The 800-ft climb was well worth the effort.

I set off this morning on what began as a five-mile loop from my house up through Glen Canyon to Portola, then back down Clipper into Noe. There's a long, gradual climb up O'Shaughnessy Blvd that ends at Portola Dr. And one of these days I'll top the leaderboard for the climb.

I hit the top and kept going, following signs to Twin Peaks. Traffic thinned out, and as the homes dropped away it was just me, early morning walkers and a few birds providing a soundtrack for my climb. Trails, steps and all manner of routes will take you to the top. But I stuck to the road, winding my way up.

At the summit, you're greeted with these jaw-dropping views and a half mile or so of one-way roads that wind around to the vista point. Silence, on top of the world. Bernal Hill looks like a speed bump. Morning perspective.

A steep decline leads you through the Castro and dumps you out at Dolores Park. A jaunt up and over those two hills and I was home. A slight detour to scope some property and I tallied 8.5 miles. Not a bad way to start the week.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pre-Marathon (almost) Marathon

Today: 25
Present: 166
Count: 22

Evolution, like life, is about inches.

I came about as close as I've ever come to getting hit by a car today. And this one would have been ugly. The intersection of Sloat, Portola and, Junipero Sierra has got to be on the most dangerous in America. At least if you're trying to frogger across without waiting for the eternal signals to change.

I was at mile 22 and ready to be done. Leaping off the median into what I thought was clear roadway, my periphery caught a black car racing towards me. I had seconds to leap back, tires screeching mid-jump. The car whizzed past, way too close. Holy Shit.

And like that, it could have been over. This was not going to be a limb-snapping crash. Limbs would certainly be snapped, but it wouldn't have mattered. I would have been launched into a line of waiting cars, crashing down into some unsuspecting motorist's windshield, their day having turned only just moderately not as bad as mine. Or namely, my wife's, since I wouldn't have been alive to experience the drama.

A final thought would have careened through my mind, until whatever point the lights dimmed out "Wow, can't believe it happened like that. Idiot!"

But I didn't die today. The inches were on my side.

With two weeks to go until the San Francisco Marathon I needed to get a long run in. I set off this bright Saturday morning with Maura, our first joint Saturday morning run in months. Her studying *maybe* over, training season launches Monday. She couldn't be happier.

We left Bernal and wound through the Mission on our way to Mission Bay. She planned to turn around just past the ballpark and do nine, while I would continue to on Hoppers Hands and hit 22 or 23, depending on how many horsehoes I did. I left her, and sped back up to my normal pace.

I wanted this to be an easy run, no charging ahead and wearing myself out. 20 miles is never easy, per se, but the days after varies a lot but how hard you push.

There is this great 25-mile loop around the city I do on my bike sometimes, and have run once. It wasn't pleasant - I had to make an emergency bathroom stop. But I'm in a lot better shape now, and understanding how to recover better than I used to, I figured what the heck. The back half's scenery is as good as San Francisco has to offer and the elevation would be good practice for the race.

A guy passed me along the Marina Green and another by Crissy Field. I flinched, thinking of my training mantra "Pass everyone, get passed by no one." I let them go. Slowly, I am becoming more disciplined. My annoyance tempered by the fact that both looked like strong runners.

Up over the Presidio, through Sea Cliff's nagging climb and to the Palace of Legion of Honor. Not an easy stretch, and I could feel it. I hit Lands End without a cloud in the sky. Pee and water break above the Sutro Baths and I descended to Ocean Beach. Wide, low tide, a gentle breeze with swell and the lineup was full.

Ever since this year's Kaiser Half, when I grinded out the Great Highway better than I ever had, this relentless rolling stretch doesn't bother me. It also could be nostalgia for my 16-mile second leg of a back-to-back-to-back earlier this year, I now look forward to the simple trail and dunes. But today I labored. I even hit the famous 18-mile wall.

It's a really good thing I did this run today. It's my first over 20 since the AR50 in April, and it was a stark reminder of what happens above 20. It hurts. Everything hurts. And after that much time on the pavement, the mind is sick and tired of being present. It wants to wander. To stopping. To the post-run smoothie. To an ice bath. To more water.

You slow down, without even knowing it. And when you catch yourself and reset, the pace is that much harder to resume. It's that third 200, the one that separates the pack.

I hit Sloat and rose towards St. Francis Wood, invigorated with familiar territory. 5.5 miles to home. After the aforementioned incident rekindled my adrenaline, I shot up the rest of the hill and coasted down Monterey into Glen Park. And I was gassed. The Arlington Hill actually felt like one. The light at San Jose turned almost immediately, to my disappointment. And the Lundys home stretch felt unusually long.

But man was that smoothie worth it.