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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.


Friday, February 27, 2015

McFarland U.S.A. Review

Cross-country isn’t a popular sport in the United States, particularly at the High School level. Neither myself, or anyone I knew became a “big man on campus” because we could run a 2 mile race between 9 and 10 minutes. The only people I can remember seeing at the meets were coaches and some hardy parents, willing to stand around in the rain and cold at the start and finish lines. There were no cheerleaders. Running is a sport that I would reluctantly agree is closer to a cult than a big time sport like Football (both the American and World versions), basketball and baseball.

Ask anyone, running is painful. It’s not “fun.”  We trackmen used to laugh at football players and tell them that their sports punishment was our sport. Still, that was more to make ourselves feel better about the suffering we all endured. So, why would people be willing to spend their money on watching a movie about a bunch of high school kids running cross country?

Because whether or not people are willing to admit it, there are few things in the United States where the game isn’t rigged. Whether its Congress passing laws written by lobbyists for Corporations who will reap the benefits from that law to Haliburton making billions from the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and the blood spilled by our military, this is a corrupt nation.

Running is pure. It’s objective. It doesn’t matter where you live, what kind of clothes you wear, what your politics are or if you are popular. And it doesn’t matter if you are poor kid that picks produce from McFarland, California. What matters is what is the time on the clock. Fastest, wins. PERIOD. Growing up, I loved running because even though I wasn’t strong or popular, I had a chance to win.

As I see it, the magic of McFarland U.S.A. is that the makers of this film show non-runners the purity of being a runner. The film properly shows the suffering and the sacrifices runners go through in order to compete. It also shows the unbreakable bond that runners share who’ve been through the TRIAL OF MILES. It can’t be faked. There are no Cliff Notes or friendly counselors to help you get through the tough times. It’s just you facing your pain and overcoming it. The makers of this film do a fantastic job showing this side of running.

I only have two minor issues with this film. First, the animosity between the teams was something I never experienced as a high school runner. Whether there were racist comments made by the Palo Alto coach and his runners, I have no way of knowing. It may have been something put into the screenplay for dramatic effect. The second issue also deals with the Palo Alto team and that is the smug and racist coach for Palo Alto. I never met a coach like that in all my years of running. The people who’ve I met are coaching runners because they love the sport and they are often doing it with little or no pay.

Aside from these two minor issues, I loved this movie and found it inspiring. Kevin Costner did an able job of portraying a man swimming against the tide of despair. The other actors were authentic and believable. Best of all, it’s a true story. I believe that every runner or anyone thinking of becoming a runner should see this fine film. Well done Disney!    

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Salomon Skin Pro 3 Pack Review

For those trail runners who don’t like carrying water bottles and hate wearing a clunky, heavy pack, this pack is for you!

Salomon advertisements for this pack state that it’s “P.A.C.E. fit utilizes hard and soft elements for comfort, protection, and freedom of movement during intense races and workouts.”
What this means is that the body and shoulder straps are a very light nylon blend that doesn't pinch and stays on your shoulders, even if you have, like me, narrow shoulders.

The pack has an adjustable waist belt that is essentially a narrow elastic band that clips onto plastic rectangles on the left shoulder strap. At first, I was leery of this system. but after many runs on all kinds of terrain, I’ve discovered that the chest and waist straps are comfortable and stay put with little or no bouncing. .

On the front of the straps there are convenient pockets for energy gels, food or even a small hydration bottle. The water reservoir with a bit valve on/off system, much like a Camelback works very well. I had no leakage problems. For storage there are rear and side pockets which I used for my phone and jacket. There are also trekking pole-specific loops included as well as a  whistle included for added safety should you encounter a rabid raccoon. I have yet to fill this pack to capacity, even on all day runs where I changed from leggings and a jacket to shorts and a tee.

All in all, this is an outstanding pack for trail runners. I highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Should runners be "Dazed and Confused?" The debate over runners smoking pot to improve performance

In the February 9, 2014, Wall Street Journal, writer Frederick Dreier interviews several runners to ask about their using pot during and after races.

Not surprisingly, the evidence of its positive effects are anecdotal at best. Yes, pot is helpful in battling nausea experienced by cancer patients and it does encourage eating. But does that translate to a better running performance? Pretty unlikely would be my opinion. As a runner in high school beginning in the fall of 1969 and graduating in the spring of 1974, smoking pot was very popular in my high school. Did I ? No-for the same reason that I didn't smoke cigarettes, I didn't want any smoke going into my lungs. I instinctively knew that bad lungs equals a slower runner.

But, whatever floats your boat, man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Manifesto for Runners

I refuse to surrender to the despair of the "voice" in my head who tells me to stop running fast because it hurts.
I refuse to conform to modern society that constantly tells us that easier is better.
I refuse to spend my life making money at the expense of my family and my health.
I refuse to stop running, ever.

I will fly on the trails, my feet nimble and connected to the Earth.
I will praise and encourage all who run, who by running, refuse to give up, to conform, to kneel
I will listen to the rhythmic breathing of my soul as I run and feel blessed to be alive
I will race, knowing that ignoring the "voice" that tells me to take it easy, to treat this race like a training run or that "it just wasn't my day" will mean that every day is MY DAY.

I will run, always.