Monday, December 17, 2007

2008- A Look Ahead

Hello everyone,

It’s a little over a week until Christmas, which means a lot to celebrate. I know quite a few other bloggers have posted their “Christmas Wish” Lists, so I don’t want to bore you too much. Last weekend, I posted about my Top 9 favorite items/grub to use. This week, I’ll keep it short and list my Top 5 Bay Area running routes. Keep in mind that while I know there are other routes in the Bay Area, these represent routes I’ve run personally. In no particular order:
1) Mt. Tamalpais- Only 2600 ft. of elevation gain the ocean, but its compressed into a short distance, which makes this a favorite for training for big climbs in races.
2) Mt. Diablo- It’s much further away from me in San Francisco than Mt. Tam, but Mt. Diablo in the East Bay packs a close to 4000 ft. elevation climb which will definitely test me prior to major races with a large uphill component.3) Dipsea Trail- 7.1 miles one way, but a two way trip yields 5000 ft. of elevation gain and 5000 ft. of elevation loss. Its varied terrain, high difficulty, and quiet trails are great after a stressful week.4) Novato (San Marin area) to Pt. Reyes- 40 miles roundtrip from my parents’ home is a trip through wide open diary and farm land in Northern Marin. It is a road run, but peaceful nonetheless.5) San Francisco Twin Peaks- 7.7 miles roundtrip from my house. It’s 900 ft. of elevation up and down, combined with incredible views of the ocean and downtown, make this an easy choice for this road route.

I’ve also set forth my proposed 2008 race schedule in the lower right hand column, which doesn’t necessarily set it in stone, but it gives a clear idea of where I want to go and what I want to accomplish this year. One notable

Key Races:

2008 Rocky Raccoon 100
2008 Boston Marathon
2008 Badwater Ultramarathon (if accepted)
2008 Angeles Crest 100

These are races that I consider “review” points, races where I can evaluate my progress towards reaching my long-term running goals. While some of the other races in the year may prove to be more valuable in evaluating this due to the unpredictability of long-distance running (particularly ultras), each of these races represents very different types of challenges as well as premier events where the competition will hopefully fuel a higher level of performance. Rocky Raccoon is a flat, fast trail course which will give me a baseline for my speed on the trails in an early 2008 race. The Boston Marathon is a road marathon which, although challenging compared to other marathons, will give me a chance to “let it fly” compared to the ultra scene. My goal prior to Badwater is to run a sub-3 hr. marathon as a sort of speed development goal.

Accountability and Game Plan:

As a sort of accountability for myself, I have decided to post my training on a week-by-week basis in 2008. While I always give myself the flexibility to adjust to life events, I want to accountable for the type of training that leads to the type of results I desire. I will start at the end of next week with this past week and next week’s training.

I hesitate to put down specific hour goals here for each race. It’s not so much that I don’t have goals; it’s that I do not want to boast about things which I have not done. While I believe that I am capable of much more, I can not speak of “talent” that is unfulfilled.

However, to give you an idea of how I approach each race, I go into each race with specific race plans that are geared around multiple goal tiers. It might help in your own goal setting as you push the limits of what your body is capable of. I caution those that are reading this to make sure you apply this appropriately to the particular race.

The first tier is a very low baseline. For a 100 mile race, considering the unpredictability of the endeavor, the first tier is almost always to finish. I know there are other runners that would rather “DNF” than show a poor race time, but I believe this would hurt the integrity of my personal purpose in ultrarunning. While this does not preclude me from a DNF (of which I have 2), I consider a DNF only acceptable for me when my health is threatened or I miss a cutoff while recovering from an unspecified maladie.

The second tier is a more conservative goal tier. It accounts for the occurance of some bigger issues (nausea, major muscle pain, major joint pain). The third tier is the training tier, which my training has been geared for. It represents a bigger step forward and fits with my running development plan and yearly goals which I discussed in a previous entry.

Finally, the forth tier is a stretch goal. It represents a clean race, with few issues. With the emphasis this year on negative splits (faster second half than first half), this would represent close to even splits for the first half and second half of a race (dependent on the overall layout of the course). Anything beyond this is usually gravy on top. While I expect these goals to change as my running ability changes, this provides a framework going into a race. If I feel terrific after the first half, maybe I pick up in the second half. If I run into issues in the first half, maybe I have to reset the race goals. It’s such a fluid process. Going into the race, I examine splits from previous races and use them to match my tiered goals. I take into account the terrain and profile of the course as well, and how they play into my relative strengths/weaknesses.

Ok, that does it for me. As always, run strong, finish well, and God bless.


P.S. I found this inspirational story, which further reinforced my focus on “Finishing what I start”. It’s a reminder to me to follow the words of Paul in the New Testament about finishing the race:

October 20, 1968, Mexico City, Olympic Stadium, 7.00 P.M. The closing ceremonies had just been completed. The spectators and athletes, still warm from the euphoria of the celebration, were gathering their belongings to leave the stadium. Then the announcer asked them to remain in their seats. Down the boulevard came the whine of police sirens. From their vantage point, many in the stadium could see motorcycles with their flashing blue lights, encircling someone making his way toward the stadium. Whoever it was, he was moving slowly. Everyone remained seated to see the last chapter of the Olympics take place. By the time the police escort got to the stadium, the public address announcer said that a final marathoner would be making his way into the arena and around the track to the finish line. Confusion was evident among the crowd. The last marathoner had come in hours ago. The medals had already been awarded. What had taken this man so long? But the first sign of the runner making his way out of the tunnel and onto the track told the whole story. John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania, covered with blood, hobbled into the light. He had taken a horrible fall early in the race, whacked his head, damaged his knee, and endured a trampling before he could get back on his feet. And there he was, over 40 kilometers later, stumbling his way to the finish line. The response of the crowd was so overwhelming, it was almost frightening. They encouraged Akhwari through the last few meters of his race with a thundering ovation that far exceeded the one given the man who, hours earlier, had come in first. When Akhwari crossed the finish line, he collapsed into the arms of the medical personnel who immediately whisked him off to the hospital. The next day, Akhwari appeared before sports journalists to field their questions about his extraordinary feat. The first question was the one any of us would have asked, "Why, after sustaining the kinds of injuries you did, would you ever get up and proceed to the finish line, when there was no way you could possibly place in the race?" John Stephen Akhwari said this: "My country did not send me over 7,000 miles to start a race. They sent me over 7,000 miles to finish one."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

2007 leading to 2008- Time for Boston

It’s the beginning of December, which normally represents the “slow” season in the running world. I’m working on my race schedule for 2008, which should be interesting. Most people go inside for the winter, with travel and family responsibilities taking precedence. While I have many of the same responsibilities and time constraints, I don’t want to lose the training base which I’ve developed. I also don’t want to just stop running, which during the sometimes stressful holidays can provide a quiet rest bit. Besides, I’ve always loved the feeling after a hard run in the cool winter when your breath looks like smoke and your exposed head and arms steam.

Last year, I ended the year with a flurry with the Quad Dipsea and the California International Marathon (CIM) in back to back weekends. This year, I skipped the Quad Dipsea so that I could just focus on CIM and not leave myself with any residual tiredness before the race. I’ve not really focused on marathons over the last couple years, instead using most of them as training runs for longer races. A couple times, I’ve tried to run Boston Marathon qualifying times, but the lack of consistent speed work left me tired during the home stretch at the end and in the end I failed. The Boston Marathon was always an eventual goal of mine when I started running marathons in 2001, so doing CIM was a way to get back to the matter and try to deal with some unfinished business.

Well, I finally did it. I ran the 2007 California International Marathon ( last Sunday and came away with a 3:07 finishing time. It was just a great moment, an opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Over the last 0.2 miles, I got a little emotional, thinking of how far I’d come in my running career and how I had finally achieved a long term goal that I had set aside for a time.

I’d been feeling rather lethargic the last week and a half, when I tweaked a muscle in my right lower back. It was so bad, that I could barely get off the couch at Thanksgiving. I even thought I might be at least 5-7 lbs over what I need to be to compete with those real skinny dudes. But, over the last 5 weeks since the Javelina Jundred, I honed my speed work in addition to the speed work I started in early October. I made the commitment to go to the track at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco and run 800m intervals on a consistent, weekly basis back in early October. The crazy thing about the race was that at one point I was almost 5 minutes ahead of 3:10 pace and if I hadn’t slowed to ensure I wouldn’t pull a hamstring I could have done a 3:05. It was by far the best long race of my life; With a 1:31:31 first half and a 1:36:20 second half, this was by far the most consistent long race I had completed. The first half of this race is always a little faster with the downhill sections. There will always be a decrease in performance from the first half to the second half of a race. But by aiming for negative splits (from the first to second half of races), I was able to produce a disciplined performance that was consistently under the goal pace. I do have to say that I was a bit surprised later to find out there was over 4100 ft. of elevation drop and 3800 ft. of elevation gain. That is still a significant amount of change, despite its reputation as a faster course.

It has been a long journey started when I trained for 6 weeks to run my first marathon (which was the first time over 4 miles in 11 years) in 2001. Now, I’ve done it and it felt incredible….and I’m ready go for sub-3, when I’m not running 50 or 100 milers! No Western States for me next year (didn’t get selected in the lottery, but Boston and Badwater in 2008 make for a mighty fine start to the 2008 Race Schedule. Remember to always run hard, stay strong, and God bless all who have made 2007 a great year, and 2008 a year I will never forget.
Since it is the Thanksgiving season, it’s only appropriate to give thanks for the things which we all enjoy. In running, our gear can make a world of difference, particularly when you’re doing a marathon, 50k, 50 mile or 100 mile run. It keeps our minds on the trails rather than our waist pack slipping or the nagging blisters in our shoes. I’m most thankful for my following Top 9 gear/grub list (in no particular order):

Injinji Socks (

These things come in all sizes and materials (coolmax and nuwool). I ran marathons and ultramarathons. My feet tend to sweat a lot, so getting these socks in time for my first Badwater Ultramarthon in 2006 was definitely a lifesaver. The only time I got a blister in them was when I ran in a shoe 1.5 sizes too big.

Brooks Cascadia (

The best part about being a part of the ID (Inspire Daily) Program with Brooks is the opportunity to work with their new products. When I was looking for a trail shoe which ran more like my road shoes, I developed an affinity for the Cascadias. I’ve used my current pair for three 100-mile races last year, and they’re so comfortable that I might be using them for my first 100-miler of 2008, Rocky Raccoon (

Brooks Burn

While I know many people who stay exclusively on the trails (because of wear and tear), I still love a good road marathon. I don’t use these shoes all the time, because the cushioning is less than what I normally need (at 175 lb.). But these have worked great for me, including during my marathon PR. They’re light enough to not drag me down, but just enough cushion to race without knee problems.

Garmin 301 (

I know many people have upgraded to the 305, but my 301 works just fine. I like the way the 301 fits on my wrist compared to the 305. The heart rate monitor, GPS system and other nice features keep my training on track. Plus, it fits just fine on my wrist.

CamelBak Classic 70 oz. (

Some people like using waist packs with multiple water bottles. While this works well for convenience to refill them at aid stations, the CamelBak takes the pressure off my lower back and puts it on my shoulders. With frequent muscle tightness in my lower back and my shoulders strong, this is the perfect long run tool. It works well in mountainous races where the distance between certain aid stations is over 7 miles.

Timex IronMan Watch (

This is an interesting one, I know. I also listed the Garmin, which gives a runner a tremendous amount of feedback about their running. Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to be “tuned in” to all the data. Especially during a marathon, it give me just enough information to keep me going. It can help me learn to listen to my body and adjust the pace accordingly.

Hammer Gel (
Nasty tasting? Sometimes. Do I prefer GU? Sometimes for shorter races (marathons). Despite what are its drawbacks are, I can’t deny that the stuff flat out works. While I do have to be careful how I use it because I do need to take solids with it for my stomach during ultras, it is the one thing that will get me going instantly “on contact”.

Jolly Ranchers (

Who can resist Jolly Ranchers? They give me the pep I need when my blood sugar level drops later in a race. An added bonus is that by letting one of them dissolve in my front lip, it keeps the salivary glands pumping to keep my mouth from going dry.

NUUN Electrolyte Tablets (

I’ve been having problems taking in electrolytes, dissatisfied with the various electrolyte pills out on the market which have started irritating my stomach. The NUUN tablets work great and make my water more like a fizzy flavored soda so I can take in electrolytes gradually.

Two Crazy Uncles

Honestly, I almost consider these two as performance enhancing drugs. Everybody should have a couple of crazy uncles willing to follow them to some pretty interesting locals (i.e. Death Valley). Where others won’t go, they’re there.