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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Evolution of a Gooner Fan

Back in my youth, South San Francisco aka South City was full of soccer-kids, jr high and high school soccer was popular. It was taught in PE. And yet, it was like being in a cult-there was no soccer on tv, not even the World Cup, no magazines available locally and the newspapers had very little to offer. The only soccer news we could get was from the month old copies of World Soccer magazine that passed around and coveted. "Just who is this George Best guy anyway?" But, we played. Through school, some pick up games while in the Navy and on some club teams with my mates from Scotland on Sundays while in College. Then came the revolution.

At first, it was just PBS that would show games from Germany or England. Then ESPN was born and all of a sudden, you could watch English League games or even college games. So, I would watch and read the papers. During this time, when my daughters were young, I played defense for a team that consisted of Iranians and me. To say I got an education into Iranian culture is an understatement. Appearing as ordered for a 7:30 practice, I would run laps until 8:30 or 9 when the team would show up, the manager announcing that we had a game at 10. To say my wife, who was at home with two toddlers was not happy would also be an understatement. So ended my playing days on an organized team.

Fast forward to when one of my daughters was in London for University. She lived in North London and by default, became enamored with one Thiery Henry and thus became a casual Arsenal fan. Being a good daughter, she soon sent me some Arsenal Kit and my fandom of the Gunners was born. In the Bay Area I like to go to Maggie's Pub in North Beach to hang out with the Bay Area Gooners.

In New York, I go to the Blind Pig and watch the games with the same daughter who started all of this.

I am so blessed to be a Gooner!  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Into the breach comes Sebastian Coe

Just announced, Sebastian Coe will become the President of the IAAF, the ruling body for Track and Field athletes. His stated goal is to clean up our sport. I sincerely hope he is successful.

My sport has always been running. Track, cross-country and more recently, trail running have been my passion since I was in the 5th grade. My first heroes were in fact runners-Jim Ryun-sub 4:00 miler in HIGH SCHOOL, Olympian and Congressman. I also admired and occasional communicate with Gerry Lindgren, the eccentric, but true "phenom" who beat the Russians as a high schooler and is one of the few Americans who beat Steve Prefontaine head to head. None of the above were ever accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.

As I got older and more educated, some would say more cynical, I was curious about the mysterious Lasse Viren and  Waldimar Cierpinski, winners of Olympic Gold medals and little else. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, documents discovered prove without a doubt that Cierpienski was using steroids, cheating Frank Shorter out of getting a 2nd Gold medal in the marathon, something he is still very bitter about.

Other scandals followed: Ben Johnson in the 1988 Games; Regina Jacobs after the 1996 Games; Marion Jones in the 2000 Games and the entire Chinese Distance Running team withdrawing from the 2000 Games for fear of being found to be EPO users. Yes, there are many others and its been a sad history of doping.

The result? Television rarely shows track and field in non-Olympic years for two reasons. First, its just not a popular sport for non-runners. The average American coach potato can't relate at all. Second, the networks and knowledgable viewers can't be sure that the winner of today's event won't be found to be a user a few weeks or months later.

Sebastian Coes mission is clear. Change the image of track from being a dirty sport to one where people can trust the results. How the 1980 Olympian does that will be as interesting as watching a duel between Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori was in the early 70's. Stay tuned track fans!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why Tom Cruise should be a Trail Runner (if he isn't already)

Let's face it, it is a rare Tom Cruise movie where we don't see him sprinting away from danger or sprinting to jump on an airplane etc. There is even a website dedicated to showing Tom's runs.

Still, I think Tom should become a trail runner in real life, here's why:


Face it, we trail runners rarely run in crowds if it isn't a race. And, even in most races, you end up running large stretches by yourself. No photographers, no autographs to sign and only the animals-seen and unseen to watch you huff and puff up that steep hill.

Tom is genetically disposed to be a trail runner

For one thing, because of his being a wrestler in high school, his being a rock climber and his "ahem" short stature, Tom has great balance. Perfect for gliding up or down the technical trails. If he falls, he's less likely to be hurt because he knows how to fall.

There are trails everywhere, even in LA

There are well known trails and of course, there are the secret trails that only a select few know about. If Tom flashes his pearly whites at some folks at a running store, he's sure to get a private viewing of some choice single track.

Trail runners are very cool

We won't stare at you at the starting line. We won't laugh if you do a face plant. Hell, we'll probably help you up. And after the race, we'll hand you a beer and laugh about what happened. In short, Tom, we'll treat you like every other trail runner, a special group indeed.

So what do you say Tom, ready to lace em up?

Quick Update

Since my last post, I've had an x--ray and a MRI at my request after the MD's insisted what I had was just a badly sprained ankle. The x-ray found nothing while the MRI found that I had a cyst in the channel that lies between the bottom of the tibia and the actual ankle bone. The MD gave me a choice-take a cortisone shot which wasn't guaranteed to work or have surgery which would mean crutches for 2 weeks and another month in the "boot." I took the shot.

The MD said to take a week off. So, I took the time off, played some golf and then when it was time, took a test run. No pain during the run. The next day, I was worried that the pain would return as it had when I had tried to run the past 3 months. And wonder of wonders, no pain. So I am back to running. Most of the runs have been slow and easy. Today, I took off the training wheels and let it out a bit on a 10K run. Time was 48:00 which was 20 minutes slower than when I was in my 20's, BUT, it was still 7:45 mile pace.

The key now is to be smart and not rush into doing big mileage. But yes, I am indeed on the comeback trail.

Monday, June 15, 2015

In Drydock

Stuck in Drydock

Much like a ship that has been taken out of the water and placed in drydock for repairs, so has been my journey since the Way Too Cool 50K in March. During the last 5 miles of the race, going downhill was really painful. I knew something was wrong but what the heck, I’m a runner and kept going.

After not running the first week after the race, I tried a nice, easy and slow jog around my neighborhood. Well, one out of three was correct, it was slow. Very painful right ankle left me hobbling back to my house for some ice. Another week goes by and it’s a repeat of the first “run.” At the end of April, I had done a total of 3 short runs on a treadmill that left me in pain the next day.

Finally coming to my senses, I went to the Kaiser where they took an x-ray and happily informed me that the foot wasn’t broken but they didn’t know exactly what was wrong. Maybe a really major sprain caused by minor stupidity they laughingly said to me. They told me to take 6 weeks off, no running.

Which brings me to this point, in mid-June. In the past 4 weeks, I’ve played a lot of golf and done some weight lifting. I haven’t gained any weight. still, I can tell I am woefully out of shape and feeling slower by the day. As I drive home from work, I wistfully gaze at people jogging down the sidewalk, feeling as jealous as a Kardashian when she walks past a marble statue of a horse.

This is the week that I dust off the Hokas and see if I can start to reclaim what I’ve lost in the past two months. Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why I love golf

Admittedly, some of this is applicable to running, which is why I've included it in this blog.


One of the last things I did before being discharged from the Navy was to buy a set of Gary Player irons at the Exchange. Why? I'm still not sure. My Dad played, but my sport was always track and cross country. So off to college I went. One November Saturday, I decided I had to play golf. Never mind that I was in Eugene and it was pouring rain and 40 degrees outside, I just had to play. So off I went to the puny muni, plunked down 10 bucks and ignored the stares of the old guys in the pro shop looking at me like I had lost my mind. Out on the course, I was alone. Except for the sound of the rain hitting the trees and ponds, it was quiet. I loved it. I played a full 18 that day, often hitting 2-3 balls per hole. I played each shot as it lied and only counted my first hit on my score card. I loved that it was just me on the course. I could think and reflect. I liked that my performance was solely up to me, like running and there wasn't any favortism or politics that could affect the outcome. I liked that I obeyed the rules, as much as I knew them at the time even when no one was watching. I learned more about my young 23 year old self than a hundred therapy sessions would have revealed.


After my round, I came dripping back into the pro shop. The older gentlemen looked at me and asked me how my round went. When I said "it was great!" They nodded and smiled. They got it. Then they invited me to have a glass of whiskey to warm myself up. They were all veterans and once I told them I was recently discharged, they became my friends and one of them a true mentor. I understood then why my Father's golfing friends were so important to him and why he would do anything for them, no questions asked. I feel forever grateful that I have had a great and loyal friend named Kirk who is the first person I think of when I want to play golf and how over the years we've talked about raising our children, work and the passing of our parents while we played.


I have seen with my own eyes, golfers going through nasty divorces that left them penniless and who would be taken out to the course by his friends. I've seen that this man, so miserable that he could only mumble "getting by" when his friends asked him how he was doing become happy and carefree for the 4-5 hours he was playing. I've seen these men be able to go on with their lives and not despair because they had golf and their friends. I've also seen people suffering from cancer who were able to forget the pain for a few hours by enjoying walking on grass, looking at wildlife and hitting the occasional good shot.


I've never played Pebble Beach, the Olympic Club or any of the other notable courses in the Bay Area. I have played Pacific Grove and been stunned at the beauty of watching the sunset from the 17th tee. I've posed for photos with my friend on the 16th tee at Lincoln Park in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. I've had memorable and wonderful conversations with my wife and 3 daughters on a golf course. I've sat in front of the tv at home all by myself, crying when Ben Crenshaw won the 1984 Masters. I am happy that the very last conversation I had with my Father before he died, was talking about our upcoming round at Pacific Grove. I remember my Father every time I play Pacific Grove, using his favorite phrase that he would yell at the tv when Arnie was playing. CHARGE!!! Golf is special, it is a blessing that all golfers treasure. that's why I love golf. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 WAY TOO COOL 50K WAS……………………...



To say I was nervous going into this race would be a gross understatement.  I put my name in the lottery on a whim and was shocked when I got in, leaving me 2 months to train. Even then, due to some minor injuries, my mileage totals for leading up to the race peaked at 43 miles with 3 runs of 2 hours or more and none approaching 4 hours.  Plus, my right ankle has been sore since the Urbanathon I did in November. The good folks at Kaiser x-rayed it and said everything looked “normal.” So the confidence level approaching the race was pretty low.

This was to be only my second 50K and my only goals were to finish the race and beat my previous time of 7:05 hours at the Pacifica 50K in 2009.  What I planned to do was to eat early and often, to take S-tabs and to not go out so fast.

Here is what the starting looked like. I was tempted to ask someone to take my photo, but, managed to restrain myself.


The race starts on pavement going downhill and just like all the road races, there were plenty of people doing 7 minute miles who had no chance of winning.  Soon, we hit the trails and started on some nice smooth single track that wound through the foothills.  This section lasted 8 miles and included a couple of creek crossings, the second of which I just had to wade through.  I resisted the urge to pass people and kept to a steady 9 minute pace and relaxed.

The second stage took us from the Starting area and going north. More smooth single track and some double track and the occasional short section of fire road. By this time, I was chatting with a nice woman in her 30’s, Mia Martinez who was running her first 50K. It was very pleasant to chat away the miles on the middle section that ran along the American River. There were a few short steep sections that we had to walk, but still this section was fairly relaxed. After leaving the 3rd Aid station, (mile 16.7) we started to climb some hard sections leading to the 4th Aid station (mile 21) Now I was feeling some pain in the ankle, especially on the downhill sections. It was around this time that Mia dusted me and left me to hobble down the trails.

Strange, but, I was really looking forward to going up Goat Hill so I could have an excuse to walk! So walk I did, slowly, but, steady behind a long line of runners. Just as I got to the top of Goat Hill (mile 26), I felt a bit of a second wind.


The good folks at the top of Goat Hill said it was all downhill from there. THEY LIED!!  Plenty of hills to go and too many downhills for my gimpy ankle. Some serious pain by this time. Still, my eating, drinking and taking the S-tabs was working great. There was no bonking!! I’ve had worse 30K’s and marathons.

Here’s where this race earns it’s nickname of WAY TOO CRUEL!
Starting 1.4 miles from the finish, we were forced to climb a hellacious steep hill.

Stumbling down , the ankle was throbbing and the flat red clay fire road leading to the Finish was a welcome site! 

Total time-6:37:10,  I had my PR, didn’t bonk and didn’t let a sore ankle keep me from finishing.