Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SF Evening Taper: Discovering Heron

Today: 4
Present: 645
Count: 94

Running is by in large a selfish endeavor. Every once in a while like this year from New York, you get to run for something else, but most of us run basically for our own satisfaction, release, joy or whatever it is that keeps us pushing through what most people consider to be unnecessary levels of suffering.

And as such, you end up having to make selfish decisions, choosing time on your feet over time spent with family and friends. Maybe its worth it, maybe its not. At the final tally, perhaps I'll wish that I spent more time with people who care about me and less time bouncing around inside my skull. Or maybe I'll wish I had dragged myself out of bed before dawn and laced up my shoes more often than I did.

Knowing I was already late to meet a friend for drinks, I ran anyway. With my flight tomorrow, I knew I'd be all over the place and wanted to make sure and get in one more run before I left.

Flat is hard to find where I live, a blessing and a curse. I headed out on Cesar Chavez as the sun dipped behind Sutro and cruised out to 3rd Street. A flat, but generally unattractive sliver of the city. Without a particular route in mind, I turned right rather than the usual left and made my way towards Bayview.

Over the bridge I saw what looked like a well-established bike path along a road running out to the water. I turned to check it out, cruising past what looked like a big postal service sorting center, which I never knew existed. Piles of dirt and cranes to the left, the beginnings of a decades-long project to ready this area for development.

At the end of the road I saw what looked like a park, so I kept going. Heron Head Park -- a name I'd heard but a park I'd never seen. Concrete yielded to a dirt path and I was immediately surrounded by marshy wetlands, a reminder of just how much of the city's waterfront is built on landfill.

The path extended out into the bay and it reminded me of my very early running days at the Palo Alto Baylands. A quiet bay to the right, a gentle rise above carpeted in public housing projects. I checked my watch and looked back at the sun, deciding to turn back early rather than head all the way out to the end. I'd have to explore the whole thing another time - there's selfish and then there's your friend is just going to stop waiting and leave.

I turned around to the pink-tinted sky and the sun disappearing behind the quiet hills to the west. Another urban discovery to be re-explored when I had more time. Which I hardly ever feel like I actually have.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tapering Five

Today: 5
Present: 641
Count: 93

I find tapering to be as much a mental exercise as a physical one. They say that running marathons is about patience. Holding back at the start so you have something left at the end. Its hard, you want to bank time and run fast while you're feeling good. But it will catch up to you, making that last six miles as miserable as most people will tell you it is.

So this morning I did my best to run easy, but comfortable, shaking out the legs but keeping them turning over. Several times I caught myself speeding up and had to consciously remind myself to slow back down. I knew I'd have to do the same thing in New York during the notoriously fast first ten miles.

By the end, I didn't feel nearly as fresh as I was should have after five easy miles. But so it goes -- the idea is to be ready on race day, not five days before.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Easy Eight Part Deux: Sawyer Camp in Daylight

Today: 8
Present: 636
Count: 92

The moon wasn't out, but Sawyer Camp Trail still delivered a beautiful Sunday morning run.

Maura and I took off for what would be her last real run before next weekend's race. All morning, I drifted in and out of reality, imaging what it would like to be running New York. The long drag through Brooklyn which I'd probably barely remember. Winding through Queens then onto the bridge. And into the city, into the roaring crowds down 1st Avenue.

Uptown to the Bronx and around the horn, through Harlem and back down along 5th Avenue. Into the park and done. I try to imagine what it will feel like, crossing the finish line, looking up at my time, knowing its done. Then I stop to try and retain my current no expectations mindset. But in reality I couldn't be more excited.

Maura set her usual metronome pace. I envy her consistency. As the crowds thinned and the leaves fell, my thoughts wandered from New York to the New England fall colors, the yellow leaves slipping gently through the air, fluttering to the ground in front of us.

There is something about watching leaves fall that is utterly relaxing.

The way back was longer than I thought it would be, my legs feeling better but still not great. Worlds better than yesterday, but I still don't have an 8-minute gear. The last few winding miles at Sawyer Camp can seem like forever, the twists and turns melting together. The convenient mile markers take forever to get there, no matter how hard you try not to look.

But my mind kept drifting back to New York. I'd check back and barely know where I was, so intense was my mental trip east.

I don't know how the race will go, but I'm more ready than I could have ever hoped just a few weeks ago. And I couldn't be more thankful.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Easy Eight

Today: 8
Present: 628
Count: 91

I don't run the paper, but when it comes to the final two weeks before a big race, I do try my best to taper properly. Of course there are as many theories on tapering as there are marathon training plans, so I just roll with the one that makes the most sense to me.

Too much rest and the rust can start to form. But after months of running tired, not taking it easy isn't doing you any favors.

So the schedule called for an easy eight today. It was anything but easy.

Still shaking the dregs of this head cold, Maura and I slept until 11am. A glorious first in what feels like years. Maybe I was still asleep, or maybe charging Bernal on Thursday took more out of me than I thought. But whatever it was, these eight easy miles felt like anything but.

I ran OK out along the Embarcadero to the Bay Bridge where my watch clicked four and I turned back. But the rest of the run was a slog. I couldn't keep a pace -- any pace. I'd go from low sevens to the low eights seemingly without a change in effort. Then back again and my body groaned.

Its a good reminder that at the very least, one week is not enough to recover from a hard run. Or perhaps that trying for a KOM up a mile hill two days before a race doesn't count as tapering.

Whatever it was, these were not eight easy miles, but I am thankful I still have enough week to rest before it matters.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bernal Assault

Today: 4
Present: 620
Count: 90

The rise from Cesar Chavez to the top of Bernal Hill isn't much more than 300 feet and you have a mile to get there. But the tail end of Alabama is only moderately runnable and the climb is relentless. The views, a worthy reward, are barely noteworthy sucking in that much air.

I feel, not without a hint of pride, like a race car driver whose vehicle has been in the shop. Every day he drags over to the mechanic, asking when repairs will be done and he can take it out for a spin. Patience. But waiting is hard you're used to opening it up every chance you get.

And then one day, just when the driver thinks maybe he'll stop coming every day, perhaps just a call will do because its too painful to see those sad shoes lying on the ground, begging for a spin, the mechanic smiles and tosses him the keys. He idles off the lot, gently tapping the accelerator.

The engine purrs, urging him on.

Sunday was that first test drive after months in the shop. The engine responded, like it never missed a beat. All those months swirled down the drain, an empty, gleaming tub.

But today was the first real test. The test to make sure the screws are all tight, the nuts all bolted on with just the right amount of torque. I ramped up Alabama and was quickly breathing hard. So it goes, up the hill. I kept climbing, hard without overdoing it. I know the climb and I know the hill, its a long mile.

The flat before veering onto the hill proper is a welcome respite, but heavy legs and heaving lungs meant even keeping a moderate pace was still a challenge. I pressed on, maintaining the intensity. My legs responded well -- complaining but not unduly so.

The wrap up the north side of Bernal is gradual but steep enough that most people crawl up. A path I've done a hundred times or more, I know the grade, the turn, even where the rocks are apt to collect after tumbling down the hill. Dogs outnumber people and the walkers always give me this odd look, like I'm the first person they've every seen actually running up this thing.

I rounded the top and peaked south, to Candelstick and Bayview and Hunters Point and perhaps the future of San Francisco. Decades from now, runners may crest this hill, take in this view and wonder how BVHP as we know it today lasted as long as it did.

I kept on going, all the way to the top. My chest heaved, and I leaned in until I touched the gate. Quite a mile.

Drifting down, I finally took in the views, soaked in the expanse. The city laid out before me, the Bay and both bridges easily seen on this crisp autumn afternoon. I zoomed back down and did my best superman impression, donning a sport coat and slacks for this evening's schmoozefest, my brown plastic glasses masking my true identity.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shakin' Out the Legs

Today: 6
Present: 616
Count: 89

After Sunday's awesome run, I took Monday off. Back-to-backs are great, but with just two weeks left until New York, I didn't want to press my luck.

So I set off this evening to shake out the legs. I wound down to the ballpark through Mission Bay and my legs felt heavy, but good. No pain. Running without pain, without tightness, is still a treat and one I hope I still revel in on race day.

As I crept behind DogPatch along Illinois, my legs shook out and felt loose. I smiled -- 20 miles nearly at pace two days before and I was back running, feeling better than I had in months. I remain cautiously optimistic.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Moonlight Beginnings, Deer for Breakfast

Today: 20
Present: 612
Count: 88

In the crisp, dark morning I felt something. I felt like this run would be different, like I had turned some corner and after months of running up hill, the climb would yield and I'd finally start coasting down the other side.

The full moon, glimmering off the placid reservoir, illuminated the path with a mystical light. I love running in the dark:
"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." - IronMan Lake Tahoe: Looking for Abra
I took the first mile easy, loosening my muscles in the chilly air. Now acutely aware of every little pang, I listened to my legs. They were silent, turning over like a dream.

My watch beeped at mile one and the count was deer two, humans zero. The path wraps around the banks with trees arching overhead. Every few minutes you pop out into a clearing and the lake spreads out in front of you, misty hills in the background, a giant flying saucer-like moon hanging, suspended, just above the water.

I pushed it a bit, settling into a comfortable, but quick pace. I came out this morning just to run, to put in the miles. I had no expectations that I'd run particularly fast, all I wanted to do was finish and feel good. I focused on running efficiently, smooth, effortless as I sliced through the still morning air, silence interrupted by the occasional hum of the highway now drifting away behind me.

Two miles, three and still I couldn't feel my legs. Maybe they were still numb from the cold I thought, as the deer count swelled. I'd lose focus and let my mind wander into the trees, but it didn't stray far, so blissful was my place in space and time. An entire world to myself, and all I had to do was run through it.

As the path gradually turned up, adrenaline kicked in and I picked up the pace. That happens to me sometimes, I find myself running gradual ups faster than flats. I think subconsciously the incline forces me to run better, to use my core rather than my legs to drive me forward. And as a result, with the same effort I actually go faster up the hill. Turns ou my fourth mile was just a second slower than my fastest all day, and the fastest by far on a GAP (grade adjusted pace) basis, despite the rising grade.

Each time I came out from under the trees and into a clearing, the soft morning light glowed a bit brighter than before. And by the time I climbed up out of the canyon, I was greeted by a pink-hewed dawn, sunrise finally here.

One more climb and Sawyer Camp Trail was in the past, the rolling hills of San Andreas laid out in front of me. I felt strong, stronger than I have in months, so I kept up the pace. No matter how hard I tried to slow down, my natural rhythm took over and I sped back up. I conceded. Its only so often you feel like this, fighting it is exactly that and has no place here.

Sawyer Camp + San Andreas is just under 18 miles out and back, so I knew to hit 20 I'd need to extend it a bit. I momentarily considered just doing the 18, but I've now run enough marathons to know that something does happen at 18 and I wanted to remind myself what it feels like. There may not be an actual wall, but there's something.

I skipped out of the gate and onto Skyline, coasting down hill then back up the other side. Facing oncoming traffic, the cars whizzing past me were in stark contrast to the silent deer I passed, their wide round eyes glued to me, way back in the dark.

Up along the eucalyptus I had to veer into the suburbs until 10 miles clicked over. I gave myself a quick respite, walked a few steps and turned around.

In slowing, I felt my legs. But they felt more stiff than tired, so I pushed forward down the hill.

One of my favorite things about running long distances is how intimate you become with your body. You get to know every creak, every twitch and when heavy legs mean you just started a run, have been going too fast, or are about to bonk. But its hard to know what message your body is sending without logging the miles, so the more you run the better you get to know yourself, and in turn the better and further you can run without falling apart.

As I surged through the rolling hills of San Andreas Trail, I hardened myself to what I knew would be a painful finish. Still eight miles left to go, despite the net down I knew well enough that I hadn't run this hard, this far, in months. Running out of gas was inevitable. This wasn't defeatism, but experience telling me that I was more than welcome to keep pushing, so long as I knew I'd pay in the end.

Its OK -- running, like life, is suffering. And its wonderful.

Back through the gate onto Sawyer Camp, I coasted down the twisting hill to the levee, now full on morning. The deer had receded into the brush, morning walkers, joggers and bikers now dominated the trail. I wove between them, maintaining my strong pace.

There is something about seeing mile 15 on my watch that always makes me laugh with mixed emotion. On the one hand most people would think running 15 miles is a terrible idea -- and they may be right. But 15 miles is real distance, and when I reflect upon my fleeting thoughts of the past couple hours, how quickly the flash between two and 15 goes by, I wonder how far I can actually go.

At 18, the wheels started to come off. On one of our early trail runs, KJ once asked "What makes you stop being able to run? Is it your legs? Lungs? Mind? Or Other?" Neither of really knew what Other was. I do now.

Other is everything. Other is the connection between your mind and body breaking down. Your mind says go but your body isn't paying attention. Your legs actually feel OK, and your mind is still sharp, but you just don't have it. Physiologically you're just running out of gas. And you're skating on an increasingly thin sheet of mental ice. Its training that Other, and being willing to suffer enough to get there, that enables you to run far and (relatively) fast.

Or as Jurek puts it, striving to push yourself far enough to reach the Nirvana that only comes when you break through your limits so many times they actually disappear.

I struggled to maintain my pace as the path wove home. Endless turns, benches I hadn't seen since the silver-tinted morning, the moon now long since sunk behind the hills. I agonized over whether to pull over and pee. I just wanted to be done, but suffering and not having to pee is moderately preferable to suffering and having to pee, so I swung off the road for a break.

For an instant my legs felt fresh after the rest, but it didn't last. At least I didn't have to pee.

I've gotten into a bad habit of over-checking my watch when I start to get tired. Its a vicious cycle: the numbers are always worse than I expect (I am going slower, I have further to go) but I keep checking nonetheless. I wanted to stop, I really did. But I was training. And training is a lot more than just making your legs stronger.

20 clicked over and I ground to a halt. Water cashed, totally spent, I wandered towards a spot to sit down. Cheery weekend warriors were launching into their jogs all around me. We couldn't have been further apart. My mind spun a bit, like it does after a hard race. I smiled and was thankful that for whatever reason, I have the capacity to push myself at race pace on my weekend runs.

And what a run it was! My body felt amazing, legs tired but no trace of Achilles or calf pain beyond what was to be expected after the last two hours and twenty minutes. I held 7-minute pace for the entire run, and while a bit slower than my marathon goal pace, is respectable given the hills. My confidence, for the first time in a long time, swelled. And those morning moonlight miles were some of the most peaceful I've ever experienced.

Two weeks until New York and I'm healthy. I don't know how it happened, or why, but somehow I knew it would. I trust my body and know that if I take care of it, even a bit, it will reward me. For that I am blessed and now finally, after 34 years, actually appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Twin Peaks Golden Hour

Today: 11
Present: 592
Count: 87

Every time I go running before boxing, I remember midway through class that its a bad idea. Today was no different.

I ran over to Tyler's and we set off for a late afternoon ascent up Twin Peaks. Being the lousy friend that I am, I dragged him over Bernal Hill first, luring him with the concept of a more scenic run than the slog up Mission and along Arlington into Glen Park. Which is all fine and good except that the climb up Folsom isn't much better, and Crescent is a grind.

Up and over San Jose, down Arlington and up Bosworth to O'Shaughnessy. I love climbing up that canyon. The air cools and smells of eucalyptus. I breathe it in, grinding up the wind.

We crested Portola and flipped onto Twin Peaks, sun setting in the west. At the top, Tyler said he liked his way better -- up Clipper, short and sweet. I'll take the long way, ever time.

Coasting down, I felt good. A bit tight as I transitioned from up to down, but overall it felt like when I could run and run and run until my legs couldn't move. The good old days.

It was dark by the time we got to the Mission, weaving our way through the crowds and hopping frogger-style across the street.

The evening was warm, almost muggy in a San Francisco style. I dropped Tyler off at Whole Foods and climbed up Rhode Island home, a quick change and then to boxing. Which was too much.

Strong mind again today, helped by the strong body. I may not be back, but I sure feel that way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Date Night

Today: 6
Present: 581
Count: 86

Running is, by definition, going with the flow. If I have learned nothing this year, its that efficiency and working with, not against nature, is the path to good running.

So when I envisioned a solo evening run after my painless three miles yesterday, and my wife suggested we go together -- I gladly accepted. It was probably the smart thing to do anyway -- no need to ruin my new found health by pushing it too hard, too soon.

I am so privileged to share my favorite activity with my favorite person. We don't always run together -- like last weekend when 20 miles was way beyond my pay grade and I biked instead, we still got up early and braved a chilly fall morning along the lake. But when we do, we have these great chats and I feel so much closer to her when we're done.

Maura had an amazing run Sunday and got her mojo back ahead of the marathon in a couple weeks. I could not be more thrilled. After everything that went down last year, the hurricane and our makeshift marathon, her mid-run melt down and my bum knee, I think we're both looking forward to just being able to run.

Of course I'm going to try and PR, and I may not make it 10 miles before I have to slow down, but who cares. I am going to be out there, running the New York City marathon a dozen years after one flippant decision changed my life forever.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just Go Running

Today: 3
Present: 575
Count: 85

Much has been written about the connection between running and mental health. It's all true.

Days and days and days of stress, layers of grime. All washed away by the wind. It isn't always an hours-long, epic jaunt that leaves you breathless and gassed. Sometimes its just running. And for me, of late, running without pain.

It was only three miles. Three miles not that fast. But I felt good. Achilles felt great and while my calf felt a tiny bit tight, I ran how I wanted. I had to back it off -- I wanted to go faster. I could have gone faster. And after seven days without running, my legs felt fresh, strong. I got my swagger back.

I realized that one of the hardest parts about running hurt is that your mind flips from automatically running through pain to shying away from it. When you're rehabbing and feel pain, the smart thing to do is stop. Because if you don't, it will only get worse. As opposed to when you're healthy, where pain comes and goes a thousand times during a run, and it always goes away.

Without being able to fight through pain, you'll never get anywhere. Anywhere fast, anyway.

I'm not going to say today was a turning point -- I've had too many of those lately that have proven to be false positives. I know my body is not 100%, but I got my mind back today. And that, as they say, makes all the difference.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Calf Cramp All the Way

Today: 2
Present: 572
Count: 84

After a week off, I finally hit the road again. To no avail.

I limped the entire way, but not from a bum Achilles. The pain has migrated up my leg to my calf. And while I realize the two are connected, it's also moderately promising that my Achilles feels good. Even though it feels like a golf ball got wedged directly into my calf.

Perhaps I am splitting hairs, and looking for a silver lining after one of the worst, shortest runs I have been on in a long time, but call me an optimist.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Race Report: Diablo Serves Up Humble Pie

Today: 13
Present: 570
Count: 83

With all my Achilles issues of late, I was thankful just to be able to run. But I still had a shitty race. Weak mind, weak body. Bad all around.

It started the night before.

Maura and I offered to babysit for some friends, and while we had a great time vegging out, I didn't get to bed until after midnight and after a couple too many glasses of wine. The alarm went off with a 5-handle and it just didn't feel like race day. After so many great race mornings at our old house, it's going to take a while for race day to feel like race day at the new house.

New trails, new mountain. Pre-race was a mess, and no cash meant I had to park about a mile from the start and jog in. Fine, nice warmup. But it just didn't feel right. My Achilles felt fine, but my legs didn't. I had run Twin Peaks two days before, and while I didn't go fast, it's still a lot of up before a race which was basically nothing but up (then down).

I checked in, hit the bathroom and started stretching, but I never found those race day jitters. Even jogging up a little hill, my quads burned. I started losing confidence. Bad mindset.

All distances started together, but it was easy to pick out my half marathon competition from their similar numbers and the fact that vast majority of the strong runners were in the half. I picked out the two strongest looking runners and when the "gun" went off, they jumped out in front. I had already decided they were faster than me, so I hung back. Weak mind.

Sure enough the rest of the pack settled behind and I followed them about 50 yards back up the gentle incline. The first two miles are along a fire road up Mitchell Canyon, gradual and a great way to start a race. I knew the real hill started at mile 2, so was happy to hang back and see how the leaders fared when it got steep. They fared better than I did.

As we began to rise, I settled into a grinding pace I thought would be sustainable all the way up. I knew the race wouldn't be won in the first half of the climb, but much like Pacifica in July, as soon as I lost contact with the leaders, I lost that edge. I forgot I was racing.

After a quarter mile, I got passed. I didn't care. I rationalized: I'm saving it for later in the up, I'll wait until the front guys start to fade and then I'll catch them. They never faded. I did.

Several other runners passed me on the way up, and I felt nothing. I wasn't so much tired as I was scared of going any faster. I wanted to have something left later on.

As we rose, the valley floor dropped away. It was quiet, nothing but my plodding feet to break the silence of the wind.

The trail was relentlessly steep. And it just kept going. A winding fire trail, flat sections were few and far between. Up ahead, I saw runners starting to walk. Rather than seizing on an opportunity to pAA I told myself it was OK for me to walk as well.

Part of trail running, more mental than physical, is figuring out when to walk the ups. You can do perfectly fine in a race by hiking the steep sections, but knowing how steep is steep enough to walk and when to start running again is the art. The science is that you've been climbing for almost five miles and you're starting to really run out of gas.

And as soon as you break, as soon as you relent, you almost cease to be able to control it. The leap between tired and walking shrinks and the next thing you know you're walking again. You didn't even realize you made the decision. Body starts taking over from mind.

We crested a ridge and looped west, reeling in the breathtaking Diablo views for the first time. I didn't care. After that much climbing, the view almost didn't matter. You can't appreciate it. Or I couldn't anyway. I tried -- tried to suck in the crisp air and derive strength from the expanse. I whiffed.

I breezed through the aid station -- inconveniently placed about 20 yards off the trail, and joined several runners ahead of me lost getting onto the single track summit trail. We found the trail and for a second, I regained my strength. I felt good -- back on single track and off the fire trail, I surged. I ran strong. And then I faded.

In hindsight, I think I had it in me to make a push there, stay in what was then third of fourth place. But I just didn't have that killer instinct you need to climb the last mile after an hour and 3,400 feet up without any down -- balls out as hard as you can go.

I hit the top and caught my breath. Winding through construction and a parking lot, the summit is uninspiring -- the opposite from my experience riding up the winding road on the opposite side. As I started down, I took it easy to let my legs rest and see how my Achilles felt. I knew the down would be harder on me than the up, and the last thing I wanted to do was injure myself.

This was my first race in my new trail shoes, the Saucony Kinvara Trail. I wanted a minimalist trail shoe, and this certainly is it. Only my second time on trails, I am still getting used to them -- especially down. They are a far cry from my burly, rugged Salomons, but more inline with my current running gait. I'm excited to break them in, but for now I'm taking it easy going down. Dancing more than running.

Several more runners passed me on the single track as I picked my way down hill and around runners coming up. Hammering it here just seemed stupid, although on more than one occasion I've been that guy. These were runners who should not be in front of me -- I had lost it.

When we hit the fire trail, I was breathing hard. I was more tired than I thought I'd be, and any time the trail flattened out my legs reminded me of the climb I'd just finished. So I took it easy and mailed it in. No sense in hurting myself, coming in 6th vs. 8th vs. 10th didn't really matter.

Typical of my attitude that day. As my brother commented later, I think I've become too focused on racing, and not focused enough on running. Its a spectrum of course, but the more fun I have the better I do. The more serious I make these casual, fun trail runs, the less fun I have and by extension, the less well I'll do.

And having never really had to fight through an injury like this, I didn't appreciate the impact it would have on the mental aspect of my running. When you don't trust your legs, when you're focused on every little pang and twitch, you never really lose yourself and fine that zone.

I was really gassed as I ran the final two miles back down the gentle slope, and I could feel my Achilles tightening up. I've never checked my watch so much when it mattered so little.

I cruised into the finish line, grabbed about 15 slices of watermelon and chilled on the bench, listening to the leaders swap stories, chat about Ledville, Western States and other races that at the time, seemed very far away. I longed to be one of the guys who had earned the right to expound.

I left quietly, a mellow walk back to the car. It was a beautiful, crisp morning. Birds sang, wind rustled the trees. It was fitting that the most enjoyable part of the day was the 1-mile walk along the road back to my car.

Weak mind, weak body.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Infamous Ineffective 1-Day Taper

Today: 2
Present: 557
Count: 82

Riding to work today, my legs felt weak. They felt sore, the opposite of the way they should feel a day before race day. So I took a few minutes to shake them out, a quick jaunt through the Mission before a big night out ... baby sitting. My legs felt, in a word, weak. Even my Achilles tightened up for good measure.

Race day, eh?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dragging Luchi Up Twin Peaks

Today: 10
Present: 555
Count: 81

The weather has been absurdly perfect for the past week, and I've been doing my best to work in afternoon runs. Today was no different. Tyler was going to join but couldn't get away from work, so it was just Luchi and me to take on Twin Peaks.

I prefer to start the loop out Bernal and over the hill, but for Luchi's sake I decided against it. Running is supposed to be fun, right? So we skirted the hill and ended up on Mission, a gradual up through traffic and people, an overall lousy start to what ends up being a beautiful course.

But once you hit Glen Park and start climbing, the city crowds drift away. Winding up O'Shaughnessy, Glen Canyon to the east, your mind starts to clear. You catch a glimpse of the peak. You grind up in its shadow.

A few months ago I tried to take the Strava KOM on the O'Shaughnessy climb. I missed it by two minutes -- a big gap on a 10-minute run. I've got a lot of work to do on my climbing strength.

Luchi was hanging well so I kept it at a brisk pace. We hit Portola and made the turn for the top. I've come to really enjoy this run. There's just enough elevation to keep it interesting and a gradual enough climb that you can go just about as hard as you want. And when you get halfway up, the hills start to slip away and the city spreads out. The views are out of this world.

Winding up Twin Peaks Blvd, I noticed that there's a trail along the side of the road that joins up with those that wrap around the Peaks. I made a mental note to drive up here some time and hit the trails. I am slowly resolving to spend more time on the trails, where I feel at home, and get away from the roads. Which in San Francisco is easier than most cities, but still takes some effort.

I'm not sure I've ever seen it clearer. Diablo was right there -- ominous for my race this weekend. I could see all the way up the headlands, Mt. Tam looming behind my headland hills, looking puny by comparison. Downtown and the rest of the city down in front, not a cloud in the sky.

We barreled back down through Corona Heights and the Castro, up half the Dolores hills and back through the Mission. I felt strong the entire way, no Achilles pain to speak of. Quite the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Afternoon Bernal Loop

Today: 4
Present: 545
Count: 80

A day off after three good runs in a row, everything felt good for a trip up Bernal Hill. I grabbed Luchi for the mid-afternoon run but had to cut it a bit short to get back to the office. The way is steep, but the reward is worth the trek. The views from Bernal never cease to amaze, and now that they are no longer out my front door, I appreciate them all that much more.