Sunday, September 29, 2013

Watch Out for Bees

Today: 7
Present: 541
Count: 79

When the toughest decision you have to make all day is which of the world class trail runs that are fewer than 30 minutes away to choose from, its hard to complain about much. Such is life in San Francisco.

Tyler and I left early to get back early. Still working his way slowly into running, I wanted to make sure our run was fun and challenging, but not a death march. I don't know the trails here nearly as well as I do the headlands, but there is a fairly proscribed path that I've gotten to know through races and a few more casual runs. It has some elevation gain to be sure, but is a fun and scenic and run.

A perfect morning for running, crisp but cold, warm enough to stay loose all the way. We kept a good pace up the first climb and into the flats before starting the long set of switchbacks up to Skyline. A gradual climb that is totally runnable, we pushed up to the flatter section, which I actually find harder because the slope is harder to see. You think its almost flat so you pick up the pace, only to find that not only did you just climb 1,000ft, but its also still most certainly up. Turning around and zooming down, you realize why that last mile was as hard as it was.

We bumped into a high school cross country team practicing, and were happy to veer off away from them and have the trails to ourselves. Just like the ups, the downs at Huddart are just that perfect pitch to coast down at pace, still running, not just falling southward.

Strangely, not once but twice, I was dive bombed by bees along the trail. I don't think I have been stung by a bee in 20 years and damn does it hurt! The first time I saw it out of the corner of my eye and it nailed be right behind the ear. Early in the run, my head hurt the entire time. Then later out of nowhere, one got me behind the right shoulder through my shirt. That one swelled up and bothered me all week. I've heard about bees on the trails, especially in the fall, but have never had an issue with them. I guess you spend enough time out there and its bound to happen.

A little bit lost at the end, we popped out into the parking lot and didn't realize it was ours until we saw Tyler's car. Oh, we're done. And while it's nice to be surprised by being done before you think, I couldn't help but feel like there was a little running yet left to be done. Next time.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chasing Down the Wife

Today: 17
Present: 534
Count: 78

Its a funny thing to look at running 17 miles as a privilege. But at this point that's exactly how it feels.

After a Saturday morning work appointment, I hurried home to lace up and follow Maura out the door and around the horn. She had left about an hour earlier for a 20-miler, out to Hopper's Hands and back. I wanted to catch her and run with her back home, knowing that her long runs have been a struggle of late. Misery loves company.

Up over Vermont, through Mission Creek and out to the ballpark. Crossing the railroad tracks, I started to run. I haven't been able to spend much time at pace in the past few months, and with only a month before New York, I know I need to get back into my race day rhythm. 6:45 has been my race pace for a while now, and I struggled to stay at pace for any real amount of time. It still feels comfortable, but I am out of practice at maintaining it.

I'd look down at my watch to find myself dipping below 6:30 or above 7:00. Not the end of the world, but I should be able to cruise at that pace and hold it steady.

Clicking miles off along the Embarcadero, I turned up into the wind and pushed forward, winding through tourists and joggers alike. It feels great to blow past other runners, even though no one else is racing.

Out along the Marina Green I saw Maura up ahead, orange shirt and knee-high pink socks. She remembered her hat today, sun shining bright. I had wanted to hit 16 miles today, so seeing her at 7.25 I told her I'd go a bit further than come back. She yelled something about going around Fisherman's Wharf, so I turned back early to make sure I didn't miss her.

Doing some mental gymnastics around when and where I'd catch her, I doubled back around Ghirardelli Square and hit the Embarcadero again. No Maura, so I pushed forward, fast. I had no problem overshooting, knowing I could wait for her, but if I didn't catch her then turned back, I wouldn't see her until home.

I turned around just before the Ferry Building and found her a couple hundred yards further on, stretching along the side the road. Now 15 miles into her run, I could tell she wasn't feeling great.

We chatted a bit back to the ballpark, stopped for water and another stretch and turned for home. The last couple miles were tough for both of us, and I started to realize that I am perhaps more behind on my training than I thought. Towards the end my Achilles did start to feel a bit tight, so I didn't mind taking it easy on those last miles.

But all those crowds, all the interruption, all the starting and stopping made me appreciate my recent trail runs all the more. And I'll be back at it again tomorrow, a morning run with Tyler at Huddart.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Afternoon Loop with Luchi

Today: 5
Present: 517
Count: 77

It just feels amazing to be able to run without pain. Its as if now that my leg feels well again, it feels just that much stronger. As if relative to pain, no pain feels like invincible.

Now I just have to take it easy and not overdo it.

Luchi and I had a great run, around the Potrero Horn and I showed him the back way into AT&T Park. Baseball game so we didn't loop it, but I did get to charge back up 20th. I went for the KOM but didn't realize the route started from 3rd Street, not Tennessee. So it goes. It felt great just to feel that burn again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lonesome Duck Exploration

Today: 7
Count: 512
Count: 76

My first trail run in Oregon was anything but magical. The setting was pretty enough: quiet river, jagged hills, misty and cool. But these were not running trails. Old 4WD roads long since forgotten slashed in the memories of Native American hunting trails make for a lot of stops and starts.

I set off from the Lonesome Duck, a fishing lodge cum B&B in southeast Oregon owned by a business partner. I ran along the river on a gravel road, breaking in my new Saucony trail running shoes, their second adventure after my run in Tahoe two days ago. And as I determined today, these minimalist shoes, while achieving my stated goal of feeling like I was running in my road shoes, are a two-wheel drive version of my rugged Salomons.

My feet were almost instantly wet -- and maybe they would have been in any shoe, hacking through bushes, hiking up embankments and trudging through wilderness where the trails had disappeared into history. But I made the most of it, finding a solid dirt road leading south to the Jeld Wen window and door factory. Rolling hills and not a soul for miles.

The air was crisp and thin, though not as thin as Tahoe. I didn't have much spring in my step, and wasn't sure why. Maybe it was the cold, or the fact that I barely ate the day before. Or maybe I was just out of my element, up in Oregon for a big work meeting and nervous as hell.

I came back along the river where there definitely wasn't a trail. But ironically it was my favorite part of the trek. High stepping over cow patties and gopher mounds, the minimalist shoe forced me to dance more than run. You have to place each step carefully, gingerly, since the lack of support isn't forgiving of bumps and turns.

And running without a trail, so close to "civilization" as it was, felt free in many ways. It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty, but not having to follow a proscribed route, out along the quiet river, was refreshing all the same.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Back in the Tahoe Trails, Lovin it in New Shoes

Today: 6
Present: 505
Count: 75

These trails can heal.

In the past couple years I have transitioned from weekend warrior used-to-be high school track "star" to wanna-be ultra runner and sub 3-hour marathoner. The transformation has not been without its slings and arrows, and at times I've been forced to stash my shoes and ride out injuries. Fortunately its been nothing major, nothing that has sidelined me for more than a few weeks or a month at a time.

And when I'm on the mend, looking to migrate from a few slow miles back to real runs, I find myself in Tahoe. Maybe its just the air, the way the pine permeates the void, refreshing a tired soul and mending my aching muscles. It could be the sounds -- nothing but the leaves rustling, the occasional animal scurrying away from my approaching feet. Or maybe its the trails themselves. Gentle, needles dropped into a cushiony pad, then rocky and rugged they can kick your ass up and down.

Whatever it is though, these trails can heal.

I hit them Rim Trail behind our little house in Tahoe City, a quick six mile loop through Page Meadows. I'm yet to run these trails fully healthy. And maybe that's for the best, since given the chance I might not come back. The trail winds out from the meadows into the woods, up and up and out to Alpine Meadows. Then to Squaw and beyond.

I haven't gone that far. Yet.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

IronMan Lake Tahoe: Looking for Abra

Today: 8
Present: 499
Count: 74

They look like seals. Nervous seals with bright green and yellow hats. Huddled together, they push to the center of the pod so when the circling sharks attack, they won't be snatched. The rush into the water is slow, like floating at the top of a waterfall, waiting to be sucked over the edge.

And they're off, into the misty water, two laps in Tahoe's transparent blue before being flung into what's being called one of the hardest triathlon courses, ever.

I've witnessed the start of a handful of triathlons, even participated in a few. But this was a start like no other. Just above freezing, half the athletes were wearing socks just to keep their feet from going numb. Mist rose from the lake, as if to remind them how cold the air was. Air they'd be slicing through on their bikes, air that would dip below freezing before the day was done. Fresh snow dusted the mountaintops. The daybreak scene was postcard-worthy. And I couldn't have been happier not to be getting into the lake.

My brother and his wife, Abra, chose Tahoe as their first Ironman. Both in phenomenal shape, they still had to spend the better part of the year training, forgoing family events, social gatherings and pretty much everything else that didn't involve swimming, biking or running. As the race neared, they just wanted it over so they could get their lives back.

They both had by all accounts very good swims. 1:05 for KJ and 1:40 for Abra. T1 was a slow affair, with the smarter ones doing a full change and dry before heading out on the bike. I heard about a couple people who wore their bike clothes into the water to save transition time. They never got warm on the bike, and one even had to stop for an hour midway through to warm up.

I jumped from Tahoe City to Truckee to intercept them midway through the bike, just in time to catch the leaders charging up Brockway Summit. After coffee and breakfast with my dad, Pam and Kat, I wandered out into the Alpine sun to post up along the course and watch the riders coming through downtown. Its a positively beautiful place to ride. Wide roads, mountain vistas and challenging climbs. But as KJ said after the race, "I would love to do that ride again. But only once. And then not run a marathon after."

The bike course was two grueling loops. 112 miles in thin, frosty air, burdened with the knowledge that the reward for spending six (if you were lucky) or eight (if you were normal) hours in the saddle was 26.2 miles on your feet.

After watching KJ fly past in Truckee, I headed over to Squaw to find a spot to watch the end of the ride and catch them as they started the run. I met up with my mom at the finish of the bike course, and my dad soon joined. I still chuckle when I spend time with just my mom and my dad, 30-years now divorced. They get along perfectly well but its just one of those things you never really get used to.

KJ cruised in, looking happy. I would be too if I got to get off my bike. He started the run with a smile on his face, calling out: "My legs still work!" When we saw him suffering back into the Squaw, two hours and 18 miles later, I wondered if he still had the same opinion about the functionality of his legs.

My mom and I found a spot to watch the riders come in to the home stretch, catch the runners head out on loop one (18 miles), then see them again on the way in, then back out again on loop two (8 miles). Triathlon watching is hard work.

KJ was out on loop two before Abra came in from the bike. I ran with him for a few steps and slapped him on the back for encouragement. He was not appreciative -- and in hindsight I don't think I'd want someone touching me at that point in the race either. 10 hours of exercising in "challenging" conditions will wear out the patience of even the most up-beat competitor.

We started watching the clock. There was a 5:30pm cut off to finish the bike course, and we hadn't seen Abra yet. Her stated goal was to finish the race one second before midnight (the run cutoff), but in order to even get there she'd need to finish the bike before 5:30. At 5:00, we saw riders laboring in, riders who looked like real riders. This wasn't the dregs of the field (if there is such a thing at an Ironman), but people who looked well-trained and comfortable on their bikes.

I heard more than a few athletes going out on their run saying things like "I can't believe I spent eight hours to finish the bike." Eight hours!

At 5:15 we started getting worried. I tried to imagine how crushing it would be to train this long, work this hard, only to DNF (Did Not Finish) because you missed the bike cutoff. I tried to imagine, but couldn't. At 5:20 we were really worried.

If you've ever been a spectator at a bike race of any sort, you know how hard it is to identify riders as they approach. Even if you know what color their helmet is, what they're wearing and what color their bike is, it's still almost impossible. We kept "seeing" Abra, picking out her pink jersey, white helmet and pink bike, only to realize we had really picked out a guy with a gray helmet, orange shirt and red bike. You can't even be sure what gender they are in the distance.

And then, when you see them, you wonder how you could have ever mistakened them for someone else.

She made it. Barely. With five minutes to spare.

Just before we saw Abra, we witnessed one of those hilarious moments that can only happen at a big race where everyone but those involved are highly inconvenienced and its basically impossible to drive anywhere. A spectator with a megaphone was standing in the middle of the road cheering on the bikers, telling them to get their asses in gear to make the cutoff. The downhill lane of traffic was closed to cars, split between bikers and runners.

Across from megaphone guy was a little parking lot. This car came out of the parking lot and, in a misguided attempt to head downhill, staring turning left. She would have taken out cones, runners, bikers and blocked the course, but she seemed determined to give it a shot. Megaphone guy didn't miss a beat.

"Go Go Go!" He yelled to a passing biker. He then deftly stepped in front of the turning car. "STOP! STOP! STOP! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! GET. THE. FUCK. OUT. OF. HERE. NOW!!"

He stood feet from the hood of the car, now stopped, screaming into his megaphone. He kept screaming, repeating his command to get the fuck out of here until she did. The crowd, along with the passing runners, cheered wildly.

With Abra now safely into the run, we started making preparations for watching the end of the race. We hustled to scope out the finish line, settling into a spot about 200 yards from the tape where we could easily catch them as they ran past, then could run over and watch them cross the finish line, accept their medals and, probably, burst into tears.

KJ came down the chute looking strong. He wasn't running fast per se, but he was running. And smiling. High fives all around as he passed. He had an amazing race. 11 hours and 26 minutes, 126th place. Not bad for his first Ironman. And more impressively to me as a runner, he ran the marathon in negative splits (meaning he ran the second half faster than the first).

Ironman knows how to put on a race. When you cross the finish line, whether you come in first or last, the announcer yells your name and says, "YOU are an IronMan!" Man or woman, it doesn't matter. You are an Ironman, and no one can take that away from you.

Volunteers flank the athletes as they stumble across the finish line, checking their vitals and getting them whatever they need. They toss a medal around your neck, prop you up for your post-race photo then help get you warm. It's remarkable to watch. Half the finishers are crying.

I've been there. You just spent countless hours out on the course, every ounce of focus, energy and endorphin pushing you forward. Don't imagine the finish. Don't imagine what it would feel like to stop. Because you just might. And then when you finish, when you don't have to run any more, the emotions come gushing forward, like a hose that was just turned on. Where there was nothing, now there is everything.

Your eyes well up. Your stomach clenches. And if you don't cry, you feel like you are about to. It's not quite happiness about being finished, or pride at completing the race. There is a sense of sadness to it. It's like you just lost a best friend, someone you just spent six, eight or 11 intense hours with. And how they're gone. Never to be seen again. You have to push on alone, with only memories to fill the void.

That and you are god damn happy not to be running any more.

KJ spent 40 minutes in the medic tent warming up and re-hydrating. The human body is an incredible machine. One moment you can be mercilessly pushing yourself forward, nothing but grit and adrenaline keeping you on your feet. The next, you can barely stand and can't stop shivering.

Strong mind. Strong body.

KJ on the mend, we settled in to wait for Abra. The sun dipped behind the snow-swept mountains. The temperature dropped. Daylight slid away. And we waited.

Realizing she had set out on the run without a jacket or gloves, we rustled up her warm clothes to hand off when she came by at mile 17. We found a big light to stand under. No way we'd miss her with three of us looking.

There is this app you can download that shows you the athletes' splits as they cross various points along the course. We saw Abra clock in at mile 13.1. She had slowed down, but was still moving plenty well enough to meet her midnight deadline. But service was spotty along the course and with every other spectator checking the same app, technology begins to work against you.

She must have crossed the 16.7 checkpoint by now. But we're at mile 17 and haven't seen here. Where is she? We weren't quite worried, but started to wonder if we'd missed her. It was dark now, after 9pm and cold. If she had slowed down, which would be understandable, she'd be generating less body heat, making her even colder.

At around 10pm, an hour after my sister Lisa had texted my mom to tell us that Abra had indeed clocked in at 16.7, we decided to take action. Perhaps we had missed her on the way in. Maybe she stopped after the first loop because she was too cold. Maybe she was just still running. KJ and my mom went up to the finish to check in with the medics and I ran out into the course, jacket and gloves in tow.

Wearing a headlamp, I checked each runner I passed, figuring I couldn't miss her on the out and back course. But no Abra.

I hadn't run at night in a long time. I had forgotten how magical it is. Its quieter, more peaceful, and even though you can't really see, the poor light illuminates your senses. You feel every breath of wind, hear every sound and eventually, as your eyes adjust, you can even see the road.

Not having been competing for the past 15 hours, I flew past runners, shufflers and walkers alike. I felt guilty as they cheered me on, not being able to tell I was wearing jeans and a hoody. At each aid station, I asked if they had seen a girl concede and be taken away to the finish. No dice.

When I hit two miles and Highway 89, I called KJ. Nothing I said, any luck with you? Nope. I wanted to keep going, to finish the loop. Occam's Razor says the simplest answer is usually right. She was just running, I felt. But when you are out looking for someone else's wife, and they tell you to come back. You do what they say. The last thing they need is some idiot there trying to be a hero.

I ran back and found KJ and my mom, wandering around the finish line looking for answers that weren't there. We tried to think rationally. If she had stopped, she would have called. If she were with the medics, they would have called (one called us from the medic tent to let us know that KJ was taking in fluids, but OK). The only logical answer was that she was just out there running. The alternative was too distressing to consider: that something bad had happened to her, and that they had taken her away in an ambulance without calling. But you don't propose what everyone is thinking in the back of their mind. It's just not productive.

KJ went to talk to the medics again. He was frantic now. It's not every day you lose your wife in the woods, with the temperature dropping and her out there with a running vest and yoga pants, 16 hours into the hardest physical activity of her life. Hell, its not every day you lose your wife, period. It's not easy to stay calm.

My mom started chatting with a guy also looking for his daughter, sharing her iPad and the app to try and find her. She also had checked in at 16.7, then nothing. The last check in was too long ago to make sense. Occam again: maybe the post-16.7 check in just wasn't working.

Ironically, the technological solution designed to make it easier to find people threw us into a panic when it didn't work. Evidence of just how damaging bad information can be when you believe it. Without that app, without knowing she had clocked in at 16.7 but nothing more for hours, the only logical explanation was that we missed her going by and that she was still out there running.

KJ came back and said: "They think she's just out on the course." He almost seemed relieved. I said, "KJ, let me go back out there. You stay here in case she finishes. I'll be fine." He acquiesced.

So I headed back out there again, at 11pm, looking for Abra. The air was even stiller now. Mist rising off the open fields, now shrouded in darkness. My running had an urgency, interrupted only when I passed a runner and shined my light at their belly, looking for their number. Looking for her number. 572.

I passed the first aid station, and this time took some water. I hadn't eaten much all day, and had now run five miles, fast, at altitude. No need for me to lose my energy, which I'd need to get back.

Twice I passed the girl wearing 573. One number off. Not Abra.

Everyone was walking now, but me. I have run for lots of reasons in my life, but never before to look for someone. Looking for someone who we thought may be lost. Fatigue is not really an option.

But she wasn't lost. She was just out there, running.

Up ahead I saw two headlamps coming towards me. I slowed down. I raised my arms. "Abra!"


"Is that your husband?" her companion asked.

"No, its AJ! I found you! And I have a jacket."

She was confused. Why was I there? Delirious and freezing, less than three miles from the finish, walking, she didn't really care. I had brought a jacket. She had one of those silver finisher capes wrapped around her shoulders for warmth, hiding her pink arm-warmers, probably why we missed her going by.

She had been with Julia, her new friend, for miles, each one urging the other on. You make friends like that in long races. Sometimes you never talk, understanding silence passing between you. Sometimes you chat for hours.

She and Julia spoke slowly, complete sentences were a bit of a struggle. Understandable, thanks to the pain and cold and exhaustion. But they were in good spirits.

I almost forgot to call KJ. "Found her!"


"And we're going to finish on time."

I walked with Abra and Julia the rest of the way. It was a hard balance to strike, talking to them enough to keep them lucid, meanwhile not wanting to wreck their rhythm. Long past tired, long past hurting, even walking those last miles takes something more than will. Maybe its the haunting knowledge that if you stop now you'll always regret not pushing on, even though at that moment every step brings shooting pain and is one more step than you thought you could take one step ago. Or maybe to finish an Ironman, you can't know the meaning of the word Quit.

I left them when I saw KJ and my mom. KJ kissed his now found wife. She started running again and finished, nine minutes before the cutoff. "Abra Cranford, YOU are an ironman!" Indeed she is.

We racked the bikes on KJ's car and drove off, past midnight, out of the quickly emptying parking lot. KJ and Abra drove together, sharing a moment I am sure they won't soon forget.

Watching all those people finish, watching most of them cry, watching their families and friends so proud, I couldn't help but think that maybe an Ironman was something I'd like to do. But swimming isn't my thing, and while I enjoy being on the bike, not enough to put in the time it takes to train for the Ironman.

But as I stood there in the dark, midnight approaching, I watched these people push on. For many, this would be the crowning achievement of their athletic career. Perhaps even the hardest "thing" they'd ever done. If you're not inspired by a thing like this, you're lacking some fundamental human emotion. It doesn't take any more will to come in 126th than it does to finish at 11:51pm. Or to win.

I am still pretty sure that I'm not going to sign up for an Ironman any time soon, but I'm definitely jealous of the experience.

And so the next day I laced up my shoes, hit the trails and started training. For what, I don't know. But it won't be long until I figure it out.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wet Wet Sawyer Camp

Today: 13
Present: 491
Count: 73

Its pretty embarrassing that I've never actually run at Sawyer Camp before. I've ridden my bike here once, but its only 20 minutes away, beautiful and a great track for a weekend run. Or weekday for that matter.

Maura, Luchi and I woke up early looking for a change of scenery. Luchi has been getting back in shape, Maura's training schedule said 13 and I have been feeling better of late and wanted to get in some mellow mileage.

The sky was ominous as we left home, but its mid-September in San Francisco so the chance of actual rain is nill. Until its not. It was raining, hard, and cold when we left the car and headed out onto the winding path. Maura had forgotten her hat -- something I doubt she'll do again any time soon. I mean, I'm a great husband and all, but I wasn't about to lend her mine.

You know your wife is a keeper when a mile into a wet, cold run that's going to last for two hours, she says, "hey, this is kind of fun." The rain let up as we went, down down into the valley along the reservoir. The first rain of the season and only the real runners were out. You have to be pretty committed to this masochistic act to drag yourself out into that weather when waiting until the afternoon would reward you with blue skies and a dry head.

My leg felt great. No pain, minimal tightness, and charging up the hill at the end I felt strong. Spry even, which I feel like I can call myself now approaching my mid-30s.

The run reminded me of those epic winter days at Mt. Montara, sheets of rain steamrolling in from the Pacific, like runaway trucks careening into the hillside. You can't help but feel alive.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Checking out the Boats with Kat

Today: 4
Present: 478
Count: 72

Running alone is one my favorite things to do. Unlike some runners, but much like most long distance runners, I'm utterly content to pad along without companionship and without earbuds, whether its a few miles or a few hours.

But over the past couple years, I have come to appreciate running with others. My brother and I run together, often on epic jaunts through the hills, pushing each other up and down the hills, a quiet understanding that while we're not quite racing, we're just jogging either. Maura and I train together on long runs when possible, and its on these quiet Saturday mornings where we work out the troubles of our lives and plan for the future. We suffer together, and its wonderful.

My sister Kat, 10 years my junior, was in town today to watch the America's Cup races. She and I have spent little, but increasingly high quality time together of late. She has spent more time at our new house than any of my family members, crashing on the couch on several occasions.

Not an avid runner, but in plenty good shape, Kat agreed to join me for an afternoon run. I dragged her up the Kansas Street hill, down through the flats, out to the water and up 3rd Street. We stopped so she could compose herself passing in front of the where some of the Kiwi sailors live, continuing on past team Oracle HQ. Not a fan of hills, we returned on Cesar Chavez, where if you like finishing a run uphill and into the wind, you couldn't be happier (she wasn't).

It only took 45 minutes, and we didn't talk the whole time, but its as quality an hour with a sibling you don't see much as you can ask for.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Humpin' Down the Waterfront

Today: 4
Present: 474
Count: 71

It just feels good to be able to run again. I'm not out there setting PRs, or flying past people, but I'm running. I'm breaking a sweat and not taking every step in nervous anticipation that my Achilles is going to tighten up, again, grinding me to a halt.

My calves are tighter than I'd like, but with a regular schedule of ice, Advil and compression socks, warming up and cooling down, I'm headed in the right direction. And I'm running.

I've been exploring new routes and today took off north from the office, rather than my usual slog down 16th to Terry Francois and out to the ballpark. Weaving my way through the new UCSF campus and the surrounding developments, running in shadows of towers of glass.

The good news is that even after my time "off," I still settle into a comfortable pace around the same speed, 6:45/mile. Granted I can't hold it for as long, but its still my most fluid gate. So now it's just a question of getting the endurance back. And with only six weeks to the marathon, I'd better get it back quick!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Potrero Pancake

Today: 5
Present: 473
Count: 70

With 10 strong miles under my belt yesterday, I hit a recovery milestone today: I got hungry on a run. I only went five miles, and not particularly fast, but man it felt great to get hungry. I haven't been eating terribly well, and consumed way too much Diplomatico Friday but running three times a week you can eat pretty much whatever you want.

So to be back into caloric deprivation felt oddly satisfying.

My Achilles felt better today than it has in months, and this after a reasonably long run yesterday. Its a testament to icing, steady Advil, strength work and not pushing too hard, too fast. In other words, smart rehab. Couple that with a pair of new socks and the knowledge that I have a brand spanking new pair of trail running shoes at home to try out, and I felt like a runner again.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Twin Peak Loop From New House

Today: 10
Present: 468
Count: 69

Diablo will have to wait. Today, I tackle Twin Peaks.

What a phenomenal approach from the south, my old familiar route with an extra mile of warm-up to start. I tickled Bernal on the way, taking care to take it light. The goal of this run was easy: break a sweat, finish strong with no limp. I want to be able to run tomorrow, even if I don't.

Mission accomplished.

It was touch and go when I caught some guy right at the base of the mountain on Portola. He started strong, and the smarter part of me said just let him go. It's OK, you don't have to pass him. Today is about running long and smart -- don't be a hero. But I don't have that gear in me, so I pushed it into a smooth rhythm, rocking my hips back and forth letting my core do the work. I felt strong, despite (or thanks to?) a truly brutal leg workout at boxing on Thursday.

Midway up, I caught him and never looked back. Why do I feel compelled to race every other casual jogger I find out in the world?

As crisper day you won't find in this city. Views forever, Diablo shrouded in haze. I stopped momentarily to marvel at Potrero, and new of an accepted offer on a truly unique piece of real estate right in its heart. Downtown to the north, just past blooming Mission Bay. DogPatch to the east, Bayview and eventually Hunters Point to the south. The Mission to the West, SoMa to the northwest. Bernal to the southwest. A better bet on the new Pacific Heights you won't find.

I looped past buses and tourists, soaking in the windy vistas. I've been up here on days when you can barely stand up straight from the wind, the skyline buried in fog. But this morning a gentle breeze whispered my good fortunate as I gently descended, the only slight pain of the day. Back to the flats and a Mission stoplight run back home.

Flat. It kills me not to end the loop on Dolores, or charge Kansas or De Haro to finish off the run. But I remind myself of Todd's wisdom, that in order to get through it, you have to get through it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Path of Development

Today: 5
Present: 458
Count: 68

Sometimes, Mother Nature bails you out. My Mt. Diablo dilemma resolved itself when the mountain caught fire. A curse for most, a blessing for me: Race day delayed. And while I still want to run Sunday, it'll be easier to run smart without the competitive juices flowing.

Part of the fun of moving to a new neighborhood, even if its only a mile from your old one, is discovering new loops. And two months into my stint in Potrero, I'm working on some good ones. The biggest challenge I have is that nursing my Achilles back to health means laying of the hills where possible. Not an easy task since I love the hills and they're all around me.

I'm working on some fun loops that wind me through real estate development in the southern neighborhoods. Sure, I get to cheat and work a bit, watching cranes and steel rise, checking out the who of the new, flourishing communities. Letting the day's decisions bounce around inside my skull.

Weaving through the Potrero Flats, I tick off the lots slated for new construction. Because even the dug in neighbors up the hill can't stop progress forever. Under a stretch of 280 that will hopefully be gone some day soon, into into the maze of half-built, partially complete and fully operational wings of the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. Together with the condos sprouting up around the new campus, this is perhaps the most intriguing of the new San Francisco neighborhoods.

Growing from scratch, a chance to remake a landscape from zero, the scale is perilously too big. When the Yardhouse arrives, the potential for coolness may be doomed. But maybe that's OK. Perhaps this will be, and was always meant to be, just a medical campus and destination for the type of person who is into that. Let the artists have DogPatch.

Out back behind 3rd Street and along the soon-to-be-developed-maybe-never-to-be-finished Pier 70 project and along Illinois, looking out into the dilapidated, forgotten industrial complex of the San Francisco waterfront. So much potential, so much time.

And back up Cesar Chavez, which for an ugly, flat, busy road is actually a great way to finish a run. Uphill, into the wind, cars whizzing by. Strong mind. The strong body will come.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Flat" DP Loop

Today: 4
Present: 453
Count: 67

In the past week, I've been much more diligent about my rehab. Icing more, consistent Advil and taking it easy. No crazy runs, no pretending I'm healthier than I am.

Had a great run today, kept a brisk pace without pain. I avoided the hills where possible and shut it down before the Achilles started to get sore. Its amazing though, that 4.5 miles at a mellow pace now constitutes a "great" run. I guess its all relative.

I've got a bit of dilemma coming up this weekend, my scheduled 25k up and down Diablo. I want to do it, of course, and probably can, but the question is whether I should or not. At the very least I should keep it light, enjoy myself and not try to win. The fires my throw a wrench in my plans, so I'll see how it shakes out as the week goes on.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

CV Trails, Missed You

Today: 3
Present: 449
Count: 66

There's just something about Carmel Valley. Maybe its the perfect weather, that touch of humidity drifting in from the ocean, that hint of brisk to keep you sharp. It could be the sounds -- silence occasionally breached by fortunate birds and the lucky dogs who chase their calls. Or perhaps its my family history, roots that run deep to that part of the world, back a hundred years when mountain lions had good reason to fear my grandfather's bow.

I end up there from time to time and can never stay long enough. There is no doubt that next Labor Day for the 3-day novel contest I'll end up there, looking for that valley full of quail.

We were down there for Maura's 30th birthday, holed up in a Mansion in the hills. It was vintage Carmel Valley. An amazing mix of humble, breathtaking views. Fog, rolling in from the coast, then back out again as quietly as it came.

Maura, Tyler, Gaucho and I hit the trails as the sun set, a quick jaunt out and back. I could have run forever -- and indeed wanted to. Its almost a blessing that my leg wouldn't have let me, or I would have been disappointed. But to just get out there, dance along the dirt and move in the wilderness, was enough.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More Mission Mellowness

Today: 3
Present: 446
Count: 65

Not going to lie, very frustrating to hobble around for three miles not that fast and not feel that great at the end. I of course have no one to blame but myself, but doesn't make it any easier.

I'm taking a different approach to training this month though, I am not going to press the miles. I'm not going to stop running, but short runs a few days a week to keep my loose are going to supplement strength and core training. I have a solid base but need to stay strong and active while giving my leg a chance to more fully heal.

Discipline. Its  not just running further, faster and pushing through the pain. Sometimes it cuts both ways, when knowing when not to run is just as important as knowing when to run an extra mile.