Run, Sacramento

News and observations for recreational and competitive runners in Northern California.

October 31, 2009
We Want to See Your Running Photos



One cool interactive part of The Bee's new running page is the photo gallery, where you, dear reader, can upload photos of yourself on the run.

My favorite is this couple, pictured above, getting hitched after the Shamrock'n Half Marathon on March 15.  

October 30, 2009
Weekend dilemma
I should not be undecided about my training runs this late in the game, but I am trying to choose between two options for a long run this weekend.

One is a fairly typical long run of 22 miles or so that would keep me on my feet for close to 3 hours. I've seen it recommended time and again that time on your feet is more important than mileage when it comes to a long easy run, and I have never done a training run that kept me out there for as long as the marathon should take me to run.

The other option is a much more difficult but intriguing run some friends are doing on Saturday. The drill: a 4-mile warm-up, 4 miles at marathon pace, 4 X 1 mile at tempo pace with short rests between the miles, 4 miles at marathon pace, and a 4 mile cool down. It sounds like a great workout and some good quality miles, but it might be harder and shorter than I need at this point. I am trying to calculate how long it would take, and maybe consider adding another couple of miles to the cool down to extend the time. But I am afraid that by the time I get to that point the last thing I am going to want to do is run some more slow miles.

October 30, 2009
A Little Bit About Us...

You may be wondering, who are these clowns insightful bloggers, anyway?

The running blog is a couple of weeks old now, so let us share some personal running data. Dan Weintraub is a former Bee political columnist now writing a weekly column for the New York Times; Sam McManis is the health and fitness reporter at The Bee; Gina Kim is a general assignment reporter at The Bee.  

Here's how they filled out a questionaire:


Shoes: Saucony ProGrid Guide 2 (trainers), Saucony Tangent (lightweight trainers and possible marathon shoe), New Balance 1001 (5K racing shoe)

Favorite run: Tempo pace run on the American River trail from the 0 mark to 2.5 mile and back.

Morning or evening run: I almost always run in the morning. I like to run on a relatively empty stomach after a full night's rest. I find that when I try to run at night I am tired from being on my feet during the day and I feel full from eating breakfast and lunch.

Best night-before-race dinner: I have not found a favorite. I usually just try to stay away from red meat and other difficult to digest foods. And I try to keep the portions small.

Pre-workout ritual: Change my clothes and go run. If I am meeting someone I will usually get there early and stretch. But I don't have much of a ritual. For races I am fanatic about getting there early because I hate to rush to the starting line. I will do a long warm-up and then stretch and do strides out in front of the start. I don't care how long I have to wait as long as I don't have to rush or worry about finding a place to park.

Recovery drink: Ensure meal replacement, Vanilla flavored shake

Fuel of choice: Vanilla-flavored Gu

Hydration of choice: EFS (Electrolyte Fuel System), fruit punch flavor


Why I run: To stay in shape, to compete, because it's fun. I like the solitude and the time to think.

Favorite part of a run: After a mile or two of running at speed, when I am fully warmed up, I usually hit my stride and my form is good and I'm pain-free. That's when running feels effortless and fun and good for you, before it starts to hurt and it begins to feel more like work.

Number of marathons: 1, CIM in 2007.

Marathon Goal Pace: 6:29



Shoes: The least offensive looking pair at Marshall's or Ross. Sorry, Fleet Feet but if I'm going to pay $150 for a pair of shoes, they better pair with something other than spandex. Note: This is because I'm a neutral runner. A running store will be able to tell you if you need special shoes because you pronate or over-pronate.


Favorite run: The levy along the American River, either from Sutter's Landing or Glen Hall.


Morning or evening run: Morning. After the initial horror of getting up at that hour, it's nice to see the sun rise and the feeling of accomplishment follows you throughout your day.


Best night-before-race dinner: Something that includes most of the food groups. No beans.


Pre-workout ritual: A GU Energy (chocolate outburst). And if it's a 10-plus mile run, I take two ibuprofen before bed.


Recovery drink: Chocolate milk


Fuel of choice: Jelly Belly sports beans (lemon-lime)


Hydration of choice: Water


Why I run: Because my dog likes it. I also love exploring the American River Parkway.


Favorite part of a run: Being done.


Number of marathons: Zero. The CIM 2009 will be the first.


Marathon Goal Pace: 12 minute mile





Shoes: Nike Air Vomero 4


Favorite Run: 11-miler in Davis that takes me past the Davis airport, agricultural buildings (horses, cows, sheep), a dirt trail along Putah Creek,  under Interstate 80 and along a levee, back through more UCD horse barns, through the bucolic arboretum and several verdant fields.


Morning or evening: Morning.


Best night-before-race dinner: Pasta (I'm such a cliche)


Pre-workout ritual: I get up at least a half hour before I run, listen to NPR news (the paper's not here yet), eat a banana.


Recovery drink: Strawberry smoothie (on long runs); iced tea (short runs)


Fuel of choice: Vanilla GU


Hydration of choice: Cytomax, tangy orange


Why I run: Cheaper than a shrink's couch (I'm serious; it's like therapy)


Favorite part of a run: The 2-mile mark. Muscles are loose and I start motoring


Number of marathons: 6


Marathon Goal Pace: 7:40-7:45 per mile







October 30, 2009
Mmmmm, chocolate milk!



Life seems to have gotten a little out of control. Why are there so many butter substitutes when you can just eat butter? I understand there are health concerns but mostly, I feel like there's a strange fixation with creating things that shouldn't be recreated. I mean, what are IN those bacon bits?

The same goes for some of the running products out there. Take capitalism, add in a running community obsessed with performance and out comes this raging industry of gels, drinks, blocks and shots.

I have tried to steer clear of most of it because: (A) They generally taste terrible; (B) They are weirdly expensive; and (C) They generally taste terrible.

So I feel incredibly smug in my recovery drink. No lumpy liquid for me. I simply reach into the fridge and pour myself a glass of chocolate milk. Plus, it tastes good.

October 30, 2009
Time-Change Running Fashion

Yeah, I'm pumped because of the end of daylight's savings time this weekend. For early morning runners like me, it means that I'll at least get to end most fo my runs in daylight (or at least dawn).

For you afternoon and early evening runners: Sorry. Bummer, dude.

This is a good opportunity to talk about reflective gear for safety while running at night. I've used a headlamp for more than a year now. I learned the hard way, having stepped in a pothole and partially tearing a tibial tendon in my left ankle last October. You can get a decent headlamp for $25. It helps cars see you coming at them, as well.

As for running vests, I've always worn them while running in darkness. Check that: I shouldn't have used the plural. I've worn the same reflective vest -- I kid you not! -- since the mid-1980s. I think I may have washed it once or twice in that period, but I can't remember. It's very Cal-Trans chic. Here it is below.



But after having it blown around during a windy run earlier this week, I finally forked over $26.99 at Fleet Feet and bought a Xinglet (see below), which is the most minimalistic vest on the market -- literally, like suspenders. It doesn't flap around and I barely feel that I'm wearing it.


I know that fashionistas, such as my colleague Gina Kim, will cringe at the gauche style. But, hey, works for me.  


October 29, 2009
Speed workouts and over-cooked brussel sprouts



I have to commend the Fleet Feet training program for not only getting me running, but for pulling me out of bed at 6 a.m. on Sundays. Trust me, it's no small feat.

But I would take a long run anyday over the Wednesday night speed workouts. They really tinge on evil. A speed workout is essentially training your body to run faster. You repeatedly push your body for short increments and after awhile, that speed is supposed to feel more natural or something.

Every week the speed workout varies. At the beginning, there were shorter total distances. Perhaps it would be four miles consisting of a mile warm-up and a mile cool-down, sandwiching two miles of two minutes running above threshold and two minutes running below threshold. Basically, that means spending two minutes pushing it, two minutes pulling back, over and over for two miles.

Last night we did seven miles, five of which where the actual speed workout. I ran in a column of five people. Talk about not being able to slack, you had to keep up or be eaten by a coyote likely stalking us from somewhere along the American River Parkway.

The leader would sprint for a minute, then slow to somewhere between a jog and a run for a minute, then fall to the back of the line. Over and over. It was sort of like eating over-cooked brussel sprouts. It doesn't taste so good but is still supposedly good for you.

By the way, I look nothing like either woman in the photo above.

October 29, 2009
Runners, Check the Sell-By Date on Your Gels



After reading this thread about consuming GU beyond its expiration date, I plan to go right home and check if my gel packs are still fresh.

Great! Another thing to worry about before the marathon.

Frankly, I didn't even know the little packets had sell-by dates.

Have any of you consumed GU-gone-bad? Was it as nasty as sour milk? 

October 29, 2009
Welcome to Video Thursday

Feeling pretty good right now -- I got my own lane at the pool last night for cross training and the wind dissipated enough this morning to make my hill-repeats run tolerable -- so what say we watch videos today?

Here are two (one serious, one funny) that I've gleaned from two of my favorite running blogs, Runner's World Daily Views and Younger Legs for Older Runners.

The first is the serious one. It's an interview with highly respected running coach Jack Daniels (please refrain from the alcohol jokes) about revisiting the elite runners he tested for his dissertation in 1968. Daniels found that, 40 years later, the runners who continued to train maintained most of their fitness even into their 60s, while those who didn't and then started running again found they'd lost fitness. The biggest takeaway, from my view, is when Daniels says the runners told him they'd take more time off to nurse injuries if they had to do it all over again.

The second video is a comedic sendup of actor Anthony Edwards' charity participation in Sunday's New York City Marathon. (Edwards really is planning to run ... all 26.2 miles, but it's nice to see he can laugh at himself.)

October 29, 2009
Treadmill equivalents
Does anybody know a good way to convert treadmill paces to outdoor paces? I assume they are not the same but I don't know if there is a standard formula or if there is anyway to know. I am traveling this morning and did 5 miles at descending paces from marathon pace to tempo pace according to the machine in the hotel, but I am wondering if I was really running as fast as the machine was telling me. I am not sure why it matters, but I am still curious.
October 28, 2009
Reminder: Entry Deadline Is Nov. 1



A mass email just popped into my inbox reminding runners that the deadline to register for the CIM is Nov. 1.

That's this Sunday, folks. No more time to procrastinate.

The email from CIM race director John Mansoor says that, as of today, 6,524 of the 7,000 slots have been taken. Click here for the CIM site.

And, speaking of deadlines, it's not too late to sign up for the Nov. 8 Paul Reese Memorial Clarksburg Run, a half-marathon, 30K and 20-miler that many use to prep for the CIM. I'll be doing the 20-miler as my last long run before the marathon, and Dan Weintraub says he's going to race the 30K distance. It's a fine race put on by Fleet Feet, supportive and homey but professionally done. Click here to register.

A while ago on The Bee's new running page, I posted a forum question about whether it's wise to race so far so close to the marathon. It got some interesting responses.

Here's an edited version of my original post:

I've been having a running (pardon the pun) debate with a friend as to the wisdom of running Clarksburg slightly less than a month before CIM.

I say, yes. My reason: You need to get in that Sunday long run, anyway, and it's a nice change to do a 20-miler when you're not out there all by yourself lugging Gu and Cytomax. Clarksburg is a flat run and there's good support along the course and camaraderie.

Now, my friend says no. He feels that when you strap on that bib number, people can't help but RACE, not do a training run. And racing too close to the CIM is not optimal for a good marathon performance.

Barring injury (which derailed me last year), I'll be out in Clarksburg in November, trying to take it easy on the 20-miler.

What's your opinion?

Do you use Clarksburg as a CIM warmup? 



October 28, 2009
Dealing With the Wind, Part 2


marathon mag.jpg

So while battling the wind once again this morning on a 10-miler, I got to thinking whether the California International Marathon has ever been marred by gusty winds.

Since I've been in town -- 2005 -- the weather has been ideal each race day. Cool, yes. A little fog, certainly. A slight breeze, occasionally. Like I said, fine conditions.

But the bimonthly magazine, Marathon & Beyond, this month has a feature on the CIM that details a cautionary tale about the 1987 race that, to quote the magazine, featured weather that was "atrocious, horrible, beastly, nearly apocalyptic, the stuff of legend."

How bad was it?

Here's how Mark Conover, a former U.S. Olympic marathon, describes that race (he finished third in '87) in the magazine article: "When I woke up race morning I ... hoped it wouldn't start pouring. I wore ... a singlet and shorts and the wind was so bad that ... I watched it uproot a tree and topple it on top of a car. I also watched it rip the singlet off eventual winner Peter Maher as I ran along with him. It looked like a plastic bag flying in the wind as it went off in the distance."

Yikes. Let's hope there's no sequel on Dec. 6.   

October 27, 2009
The big hurt
As long as we are on the subject of injuries....Runners, I think, are famous for trying to run through their injuries. People who like to run generally do not like to take a break from their training, probably out of fear that they either will not be able to get back to it or, maybe worse, will not want to get back to it. Some runners just pretend they don't have injuries and run through them. Others obsess on them. That's me.
Not that I have not had my share of real injuries. Starting with my first one in the fall of 2007, I've had an IT band injury, a persistent bout of piriformis syndrome, a mysterious injury on the ball of my foot that resulted in my first doctor's visit for a running ailment (the day after I ran a half-marathon), a double hernia that required surgery, and a lower back/upper butt injury that needed physical therapy and a month of rest before I could even jog again.

I hated missing time for these injuries, but it was simply unavoidable. I didn't have a choice.  But still I tried to push things along. My hernia surgeon had told me I would be back running in a couple of weeks, and I read accounts on the Internet of people getting back to full speed within a month. That did not happen for me. In fact it was months before I was done with my rehab and I still have some pain even now. In the early days of my comeback my sports medicine doc, Jeff Tanji at UC Davis sports medicine clinic, could tell I was frustrated. But there was little he could do. "The art of medicine," he told me once, quoting Voltaire, "is to amuse the patient while nature cures the disease."

In between those serious problems and sometimes overlapping them, I have felt numerous aches and pains that seemed, at the time, to be worse than just your average post-run soreness. Pains in my toes, feet, shins, calves, knees, quads, hamstrings, back and neck (did I miss a body part?) had me thinking that I was headed for the shelf, only to disappear after a few days or a week on their own.

You would think that all of these injuries and pains would lead one to drop the activity that was causing them. After the 2008 Shamrock half marathon, a friend who had come to cheer me and others on at the finish saw me limping to my car and asked, "Why do you keep doing this if it thrashes your body like this?" I didn't really have an answer, and I still don't. Except that I like being in shape (my motto: "I want to die healthy") and I enjoy competing, against myself and others. So I keep at it. I imagine others have similar answers.

Now, as CIM looms around the corner, injury-obsession is breaking out all over Sacramento and Northern California. Even a minor injury now that might force you to skip a week or two could be the end of marathon training for Dec. 6. So the next time I feel pain, rather than stop running I will do what so many of my friends do: pretend it doesn't exist and keep on running. If it's minor, it will go away. If it's serious, I'm probably going to miss the marathon one way or another. So I might as well keep running and find out which it is.

October 27, 2009
A Pain in the Butt No Longer


A tall, strapping man named Ron periodically puts all his weight on me and cracks my back. I pay him to do this. I go out of my way to see him.


This guy is the reason I ran a 1:25 at the Cowtown Half Marathon earlier this month.


This is the guy who is keeping me on pace during my marathon training.


This is the guy who, thankfully, takes my insurance plan.


I'm talking about my chiropractor, Dr. Ron Rudometkin, who practices in East Sac. The man has done wonders helping me heal from a back injury - the dreaded, yet little-hyped sacroiliac joint dysfunction - that sidelined me for nine weeks this summer after I did the Dipsea Race.


Had you asked me two months ago if I would recommend chiropractic care, I would've been a little wary and told you to try more traditional means. But after about eight torture treatments - uh, "adjustments" is what they call them - I not only was back running but able to steadily build my mileage back up to 50-plus per week.


Now, I can't give Dr. Ron credit for everything. I had excellent care from my physical therapist, Janice Daniels, to get my back to the point where there was hope of resuming. And my UCD sports medicine orthopedist, Dr. Gina Lokna, gave me a choice of treatment options.


In fact, in an unusual circumstance, it was Lokna who first suggested back in late May that I might consider a chiropractor for the SI joint. At that point, I basically blew her off, saying I really didn't trust "those guys." I asked her, "Would you use one if your back was hurt?" She smiled and said, "They have been known to help."


Only after five weeks of intense physical therapy, where I reached a plateau of not getting better but not getting worse, did Daniels, my physical therapist, suggest I try a chiropractor.

"I recommend Ron Rudometkin," she says. "You know, he's Gina Lokna's husband. He sees a lot of runners."


Man, was I embarrassed. Here I was bad-mouthing chiropractors to an orthopedist - knowing that, traditionally, ortho docs look down on chiros - and it turns out the two are married.


Well, when I went back to my follow-up visit with Dr. Lokna, I told her I'd like to try more aggressive treatment. She mentioned a cortisone injection as one option, and I brought up chiropractors. I figured the best way to broach my previous faux pas would be to make light of it.


"I hear there's this guy named Ron who's pretty good," I said.


Dr. Lokna laughed.


"I didn't realize you were married to a chiropractor," I added. "I feel really sheepish. I always thought all doctors looked down on them."


"Not so much anymore," Lokna said. "We (doctors) realize we can't solve every case, so alternative therapies like chiropractors or acupuncture sometimes helps patients."


Lokna and I agreed that I'd take an oral corticosteroid for two weeks and try three appointments with the chiropractor. If that didn't help, a cortisone injection was next.


Within a week, I was running with no pain. Within two weeks, I completed a sprint triathlon in Pleasanton (I had been cross training by biking and swimming during the period I couldn't run). Within six weeks, I came within 40 seconds of setting a PR in the half marathon.


"It's all mechanical, Sam," Dr. Rudometkin said. "I'm just adjusting your mechanics."


Because I'm feeling better and have my hips back in alignment - and still doing the regimen of core and glute exercises Daniels prescribed - I now only see Dr. Rudometkin about once every couple of weeks for what I call a tuneup.


I last went on Monday morning, following my 23-mile training run. The appointment took all of 45 seconds; then he put me in traction for 10 minutes. Then I was on my way.


I won't bore you in this post about the heartbreak of sacroiliac injuries, which hardly ever show up in books of running injuries or even on the Web. I'll save that tale (tail?) of woe for a later date.

October 26, 2009
The 10 things Gina has learned about running


Since getting into this running thing, I've figured out things no one actually tells you. I don't know what happened to running being about you and a pair of shoes, but somehow, it's a little more complicated than that. So here are the 10 lessons I've learned so far.


1. Those dorky fanny packs are actually called "hydration belts," and yes, I gave in and bought one. REI carries less dorky ones.

2. Chamois butter is my new best friend. I put it everywhere, including between my toes before they go into socks and everywhere else imaginable.

3. After polling my fellow runners, I no longer wear underwear beneath my running pants.

4. Too many GUs can upset your stomach. Try out the various gels, blocks and jelly beans (my favorite, it's like candy!) to see what combination works best for you.

5. Showering after a run is vital. Shower before you eat! A funny rash may result.

6. If something hurts, it usually means another body part needs to be stretched. Weird, I know, but everything is connected. So my sore foot didn't go away until I regularly stretched my calf. True story.

7. Running shoes are really ugly.

8. Cotton is evil. Even if the shirt is made for running, check the fiber content and make sure there is no cotton. This goes for socks too; non-cotton socks may not save your life, but they will save your feet.

9. Bugs are attracted to your headlamp during night runs. And yes, I have eaten some.

10. Beans are not the best thing to eat the night before a morning run or during the day before an evening run.


October 26, 2009
Sac's Jaymee Marty Finishes Second at Marine Corps Marathon



Jaymee Marty, the 42-year-old Sacramento marathoner who was profiled in The Bee last month, did something extraordinary on Sunday.

Just three weeks after running a 2 hour 46 minute marathon in Minneapolis, Marty turned around and ran 2:50 at the Marine Corps Marathon Sunday in Washington, D.C., finishing second overall among women and tops among military women. (Marty is a major in the Air Force reserve; read the Washington Post here.)

Not even dedicated racers like Marty would think of running two hard marathons back-to-back, but Marty was forced to do it if she wanted to qualify for the military world marathon this coming summer in Athens, Greece. (Marty ran the Twin Cities Marathon three weeks ago as the U.S. Masters Championship and in a bid to qualify for the Olympic trials; she failed by less than a minute).

Here's Marty's race recap, including some entertaining bits about how she found herself in the lead in the last three miles and not really sure how to react.

Gee, you think Jaymee will rest and recover this weekend or just go nuts and head up to the New York City Marathon?  

P.S.: Marty's boyfriend, Michael Fadling of Roseville, ran the MCM in 2:45.   

October 26, 2009
Phone calls from your body



A lot of marathon training is figuring out your body and learning the messages it tells you as you push it faster and longer. Every runner experiments to learn the right combination of fuel and hydration during training runs. But just when you think you've figured it all out, you realize you don't actually know much at all.

Here is the routine I've fine-tuned. Disclaimer: I'm probably doing it all wrong, but hey, I'm a beginner! My theory is that I'll keep doing whatever seems to work and adjust as it fails. I mean, before a quick tutorial at a recent dinner, I didn't actually know what an electrolyte is and simply envisioned a lime-colored Gatorade. And what's this new-fangled thing called maltodextrin people keep talking about?



- Night before a run longer than 10 miles - 2 ibuprofen, lots of water.

- On the drive to the run - water and one GU Energy (Chocolate Outrage preferable)

- On the run - water and a plethora of Jelly Belly sports beans (Lemon-lime).  


That's it. Easy-peasy. I've been cruising along pretty well with this and actually felt a little smug about the simplicity. But what I realized on Sunday during my 17-mile training run is the same body is not the same on every run. There are so many factors that feed into how you feel. There's the amount of sleep you got, what you ate and what you drank. And then there are the external factors out of your control.

On Saturday I worked a 12-hour day and then had to deal with a broken car windshield. (What karmic return is due someone who breaks windshields just for fun?) At 10 p.m., I realized I still hadn't eaten dinner and shoveled down some leftover bean salad and a little rice. The highlight of the sad dinner was the last slices of a sourdough bread loaf care of The Bee's resident baker extraordinaire.

It was midnight by the time I got into bed, and when the two alarms (I whole-heartedly endorse this strategy) went off at 6 a.m., I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. By mile 2, I was convinced I wasn't going to make it. Then I got into problem-solving mode and decided the lightheadedness taking over my brain was from lack of fuel and ate all 6 pieces of boiled-and-salted potatoes the running fairy happened to be distributing to some of the runners that day.

By mile 4, I was cruising. I fueled with jelly beans and GU every hour after that. And when the training-run ended with my Garmin just shy of 17 miles, I did a couple laps around the parking lot.

It's all about being flexible and reading your body's signs. When in doubt, drink something. When in pain, eat something. Easy peasy.


October 26, 2009
Blowin' in the Wind



All right, so on Saturday night I had psyched myself up for my longest long run of this training cycle -- 23 miles at marathon pace-- for Sunday morning. (BTW, marathon pace for me is 7:40-and-change, with the goal being a below-3:30 CIM and return trip to Boston, where I ran in 2006).

I needed to run painfully early because my daughter had a soccer tournament in Sacramento Sunday morning. All of which is to say that I went to bed early Saturday night and awoke at 4:30 Sunday morning. It was a normal Saturday night when I turned in, but I knew the weather had changed in Davis when I awoke.

I could hear the difference. The wind was howling. I muttered a few profanities to myself as I headed to the kitchen for a pre-run banana and half a peanut butter sandwich. I wanted to be on the road by 5:30, at the latest, but now I was having trouble mustering the will to go out the door to check just so bad the wind was and from which direction it was blowing.

My plan was to run a rural route -- hey, in Davis, any long run eventually becomes rural -- to Woodland, through unincorporated Yolo County and back to the homestead. There were only two "hills" -- uh, freeway overpasses -- on the run, but it's a good test of endurance nonetheless.

So there I stand in the middle of my street at 4:30 and I can't figure out the wind's direction. It seemed to be swirling. Tree branches were waving at me like over-stimulated toddlers trying to get Mommy's attention. I wanted to determine the wind's direction because runners are always told to run into the wind at the start of the run so that you get that nice tailwind at the end when you're laboring, anyway.

It makes sense, really. But it also isn't very pleasant to start your run with the wind blowing at you.

I tried to remain positive as I took off -- with a head wind. Now, I can take the cold and snow (hell, I ran for three years in frigid Ithaca, NY). I can take the rain (I lived in Tacoma, Wash. for two years). I can take the heat and smog (I grew up in Southern California). But I HATE the wind with a deep and abiding passion.

Once I got going, I figured out the wind direction. And, fortunately, I would have the wind at my back the last 8-10 miles and a cross wind for a couple of miles. But the first 8-10 miles of head wind was brutal. Because I was on agricultural roads (roads 29 and 102, for you Yoloites), there was absolutely no buffer provided by houses, buildings, even trees. Add to that the big rigs blowing by me barely three feet away (yes, even on a Sunday morning, the tomato trucks are out), and it wasn't fun.

But I hung tough. I kept my pace between 7:45 and 7:51 for the first 11 miles. Then I turned left onto Gibson Street, where there is civilization (OK, the Woodland equivalent) to buffer the wind. Or so I thought. I figured I'd get a crosswind at this point. Instead, it blew harder directly into me.

I had to really exert myself to keep the pace at 7:45, but I accomplished it. I consoled myself that, about 4 miles up the road, when I turned left again to head back to Davis, I'd have a tail wind to carry me. Funny, these psychological bargains we make with ourselves during long runs.

I was right, and it was heavenly the last 8 miles. It wasn't so much that the wind was pushing me on; more like the absence of wind enabled me to get in a groove. I ran a nice negative split -- thanks, wind! -- and finished with a 7:37 pace for 23 miles.

In recent marathons (Eugene, Ore., in 2009 and Cowtown in 2008), I've been having trouble with lower leg cramping around the 20-mile mark, which I've chalked up to lack of volume in training (I had been doing a lot of cross training, swimming and cycling, and running only an average of 40 miles a week in previous marathon cycles, but am up to the high 50s per week this time around) and not a lack of fluids (I'm smart about hydration, etc.). Anyway, there was nary a cramp in my legs on this run. In fact, I felt I could've kept gonig at the end of 23 miles, which I hope bodes well for a good race on Dec. 6.

Postscript: I had hardly any DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) this morning on my recovery run. I chalk that up to walking around a lot Sunday at my daughter's soccer games. I've found it's good to keep moving after a 20-plus mile training run, even though the temptation is to kick back and recline.



October 25, 2009
A training run and a half
My goal for CIM is to break three hours. In my only other marathon, two years ago, I was shooting for the same goal and fell one minute short.  But based on my recent race performances, I should be able to do even better than that, perhaps even approach 2:50. That would require maintaining a 6:30 pace, and my first attempt at a long run at that pace ended badly last weekend.

Today I used the Four Bridges Half Marathon as part of a marathon-pace training run. I ran about 6.5 miles at an easy pace before the race started, went to the starting line and then ran the race at marathon pace. I started my warm-up run in the dark, and it was beautiful running down by Lake Natoma as the sun rose. When I turned around and headed back to the start, I ran through the still quiet streets of Old Town Folsom. The only people around were the yellow-vested volunteers getting ready to direct traffic -- cars and runners. With about 15 minutes to go before the race began, I found a porta-potty outside a Sutter Street house that was being remodeled and was able to use it without having to wait in line. Always an added bonus.

My race effort wasn't perfect, but it went much better than last week. I am still not convinced I can run at that pace for 26 miles. But I guess that's what training runs are for.

My splits are below. I was pretty much able to maintain my pace except for mile 7, which took us up the sloping Hazel Avenue bridge, and the final mile, which is a pretty steep climb to the finish. I had wondered whether it would be worth it to pay my $60 bucks for  a training run, but once the race started I realized it was. It was great to have other people to run with, and I was able to run with a small group for several miles after the start, then stay motivated by trying to reel people in during the second half of the race.

My heart rate ended up higher than I would like. But one reason is that it took a big jump on the climb up Hazel and never settled back down. I was happy that I was able to string together three sub-6:30 miles on the north side of the lake even as my heart rate was elevated.

This is a tougher course than the flats I am used to running on in Sacramento, and tougher, I think, than the CIM course. So I am pretty pleased with this effort. I might do something similar next weekend on my own or with a partner. I will probably try to stretch the total running time out closer to 3 hours. And in two weeks I will run the Clarksburg 30K at marathon pace. By then I should know exactly the pace I will be comfortable with on Dec. 6.


October 24, 2009
Picking a training pace
When you are training to try to make a certain time in a race, how do you determine what pace you should be running?

One source I use is Greg McMillan. He is a coach and writer who has studied running and offers excellent advice on his website for free (he also charges for personal online coaching, but I think he free site has more than enough information for most people).

One of my favorite features is his run pace calculator. You plug in a recent race time and his calculator gives you equivalent times for other distances and a full selection of training paces for every kind of run. I've found his time conversions to be uncannily accurate. I have finished several of my races within seconds of the times his system predicted for me. Now, that might be because, equipped with a goal time, I trained to that pace and then accomplished it. But that's his point: he gives you a reasonable goal, provides the pacing you should use to train for it, and predicts that your training will yield that result.

You can find his site at   WARNING: he is currently running an ad for one of his DVDs that kicks in seconds after you load the page and includes a loud audio feed. Turn down your sound before you click.

October 23, 2009
Should Slow Runners Be Allowed in Marathons?

Here's a story from today's front page of the New York Times asking that very question.

It sure to raise dialogue and hackles.

So what do you think? Are these people elitist, or has the marathon been "watered down" by too many slow runners finishing in 5-plus hours?

Don't ask me. I'm just the moderator here.

October 23, 2009
Listen to Your 'Governor' -- No, Not Arnold



Like countless runners, I treasure my GPS watch, which gives me accurate mile splits and pacing for a run so I know exactly how I'm doing.

Lately, though, I've started leaving the Garmin at home when I do "recovery runs" -- you know, those slow, day-after-a-long-ass-run meant to replenish and get the muscles moving to repair micro tears and all that stuff.

The reason?

I have this terrible habit of running too fast on my recovery days. I know it is defeating the purpose and I know that I need to go slower. And I do, most of the time. But I've found that monitoring my runs on the watch makes me run faster. I can't help myself.

So, now, for recovery, I shed the watch and find that I don't pick up the pace as much and it becomes a much more productive run. It feels easier and better for me.

What I'm doing by just running and letting the body go at the speed it wants to is what renown South African exercise physiologist Tim Noakes called being ruled by "the central governor." Noakes says the brain governs or regulates your system during exercise. The brain tells the muscles when to fire, when to hold back, what level of running exertion to do so that oxygen, glycogen and fluid levels are optimal and you don't, well, pass out and die.

Check out Noakes seminal book, "The Lore of Running" for a much more scientific explanation than some stupid journalist can supply.  

All I know is that my recovery runs are less stressful without the watch. But when I'm doing a specific pace/mileage run, you better believe I'm wearing the watch. I'd feel naked without it.  


October 23, 2009
What's your training plan?
Since I started running seriously a few years ago, I have consulted every runner I know, scanned dozens of websites and read countless books to try to find the ideal training program for racing. And while everyone has their own ideas on the topic, some formed by gut instinct and some, allegedly, backed by science, it seems like almost all of them come down to the same essence: three quality runs a week. That's where I stand (or run) today. Do you have something better?

Most of the year, when I am not training for a marathon, I run three times a week. One day I run speed: intervals of a mile or less (usually a lot less). Typical would be 12 x 400 meters at 5K pace. Or 8 x 800 meters. Before my 10K personal best last year, a partner and I did a weekly progression, extending the length of the intervals each week. We started with 400s, then 600s, 800s, 1000s, up to 1600 meters the week before the race. Since it worked so well, I go back to that or some version of it before other key races.

My second workout, usually after a day of rest, is almost always a tempo. This is where you do a short warm up and then run for about 30 to 40 minutes at a pace you could hold for an hour. I've heard this described as "comfortably hard." For me it is my 10-mile race pace, or a little faster than my half-marathon pace. My favorite version is a simple five-mile tempo. But we also do 3 x 3 miles or 2 x 3 miles with a rest in the middle, and if I am training for a short race I might back off to 2 x 2 miles for a week or two before the event.  Other variations include "tempo intervals," and this year I have done two of those: workouts of 10 x 1 mile at tempo pace. The idea of these workouts, as I understand it, is to increase your threshold level, or the pace at which you can run before you reach the point where your muscles can no longer process lactic acid and you begin to quickly tire. It does seem to work, and if you use a heart rate monitor, you can compare your stats week to week and see how over time you are running at a faster pace at the same heart rate, or at the same pace with a lower heart rate.

My third quality workout is usually a long run. When I am not training for a marathon, that might mean 14 or 16 miles. During marathon season it goes up to 20 miles or more, with 10 or miles at my goal marathon pace.

And that's it. Most of the year I mix in cycling and swimming on my running off days, and when I am training for a marathon, I will do one or two recovery runs in place of the cycling. But I actually have found that cycling on off days leaves me feeling better than running. I've even had very good races just one or two days after doing a fairly tough bike ride of 40 or 50 miles. Something about spinning those wheels seems to loosen up my leg muscles for running hard the next day or two days later.

The details of these three workouts are easy to adjust according to your pace. Anyone who is trying to improve their times can use this system. Just plug in your recent race paces or a reasonable goal pace and go from there. But if you have a better system, I would love to know. I am always looking for new ideas and for ways to improve my training.

October 22, 2009
Must-Have: 'The Runner's Rule Book'

rule book.jpg

If they gave National Book Awards for public service, as they do for the Pulitzer Prize, "The Runner's Rule Book" (Rodale, $17.99, 166 pages) by Runner's World online editor Mark Remy would be a shoo-in simply by virtue of Rule 2.18:

"Line up Where You Belong."

Remy's rant - more of a snarky reminder, actually - in this case concerns those misguided or "delusional" runners who line up at pace-per-mile markers way faster than they are capable of running in big races. If runners would follow this rule, it would cut down on post-start mishaps, especially in shorter races like 5Ks, and a lot of irritation by those trying to get around the slower runner.

The book is chock full of such serious nuggets of information that those relatively new to running may have missed and those experienced racers will recognize and nod in acknowledgment.

Perhaps the best part are whimsical, almost Seinfeldian observations such as Rule 2.36, "Postrace Bagels Must Be Dry and Taste Like Aspirin" or Rule 2.38, "Race Photos Never Look Good."

Those training for Dec. 6's California International Marathon might want to heed a rule that, when violated, really rankles me for some reason: "Save the Race Shirt for Postrace." Writes Remy: "Wearing the official race shirt during the race is like wearing a U2 T-shirt to a U2 concert. Not cool. Don't do it."

The real fun comes in arguing with fellow runners about accepted tips such as ice baths after long workouts (Remy shoots that down), the virtues or lack thereof  of stretching (Remy: noncommittal) and naming your favorite running routes (an enthusiastic Remy thumbs-up).

October 22, 2009
Am I a Runner or a Stalker?

I scared a woman running with her dog in Davis this morning, but I really don't think I was in the wrong.

It was about 5:30, still quite dark, and I had just crossed over a bridge over I-80 and was going at a pretty good clip toward 5th Street. I saw the woman and her dog cruising up ahead going in the same direction as I, but I figured she'd hear and see me coming as I got closer.

After all, I was wearing a powerful Petzl headlamp and she could see the light coming from behind her. (I also wear a reflective vest for early-mornnig runs, though she couldn't see that). Also, since it was an 11-miler at sub-marathon pace, I was wearing a hydration vest that sloshes around on my back and makes some noise. Plus, I've got a reasonably heavy foot strike (which I'm trying to change, by the way). No way she couldn't have heard me coming.

Still, as I approached her on her left and said, loudly, "Good morning," she jumped and screamed. The dog seemed unfazed, though.

I quickly looked back and said, "Sorry," but she still looked flustered.  

So, the question is: Should I have been sorry. Had I done anything necessitating an apology?

I don't think so.

Often, runners are so zoned out that they are unaware of their surroundings, including other runners heading their way. It really becomes dangerous on the American River bike trail when runners (or cyclists) wear headphones.

This woman wasn't listennig to an iPod or anything. I guess that's just one of the hazards when you run in the dark. Well, at least I got that woman's heart rate going.  

October 22, 2009
A bad day on the trail
Although I have completed only a single marathon, my training partners and reading have convinced me that doing long training runs at your marathon goal-pace is a key to a successful race. This is true, I think, for anyone who has a time goal in mind, whether it is sub-three hours like me, or a Boston qualifier time, or sub 4-hours. If you're trying to run for 26 miles at a particular pace, it makes sense to run significant distances at that pace before the event.

After last Saturday's experience, however, I would not recommend trying this the morning after you get a flu shot.
One of the last things I did that Friday before leaving the Bee was get a shot. I felt pretty good about that. Like most marathoners, I dread the idea of getting sick in the weeks before the event and missing crucial training time. I am germ-a-phobic this time of year, avoiding handshakes, doorknobs and anything else that might transmit a bug. So even though I hate needles more than 12 x 400-meter intervals, I jumped at the chance to get the shot when the Bee's nurse offered it to me.

The shot itself turned out to be painless, but a few hours later my arm was pretty sore. Still, the next morning I wasn't thinking much about it as I headed out for an early morning long run. With two friends, I planned to run 20 miles on the American River Trail, with 14 miles at marathon goal pace. Based on my recent race performances, my MP is supposed to be 6:30, though I am still not sure about that. It feels too fast to me, and I might end up slowing it closer to 6:40 to stay comfortable at CIM. I don't want to bonk again like I did last time.

The morning was pretty warm for this time of year, and fairly humid for Sacramento, but it was comfortable when we started out at 7:15 am. After a three mile warm-up, we kicked it into MP and everything felt great. But we were running faster than 6:30. This is one problem when you try to train with others. If they go out far faster than you, you might let them go. But when they are just a few seconds faster than your preferred pace, you're more likely to try to hang with them. That's what I did, and it was not a good idea.

I was trying to pace myself by heart rate as much as time, and I was shooting to keep my heart rate around 150-155 for this entire run. My maximum HR is around 190 beats per minute. I made it fine to the turnaround point, which was 8 miles out, but my HR was already in the high 150s, and I was starting to worry.  (It didn't help that I was dozing at the turnaround and ran past it, then had to sprint back to catch up with my partners, who had stopped for a quick drink and then turned back the other way). By mile 10, I was fading. My pace was slowing and my HR was too high. Miles 11 - 14  were between 6:30 and 7:00 -- nothing to sneeze at but slower than I'd intended. I finally let my partners go ahead; I didn't have any choice anyway. By the end of mile 14 I was exhausted, hot, and my whole body hurt. I hadn't felt this bad on a training run in I don't know how long.

It was all I could do to keep up with my friends for the first mile of our three-mile cool down. When we stopped for water at the 10-mile mark on the trail, I told them to go ahead with out me because I was going to walk-jog the rest of the way back to Sac State. In reality, I mostly walked. I was in pain and borderline delirious. I kept looking at the tall grass on the side of the trail and thinking that maybe I should just lay down there and rest for a while. Later, as I approached the Guy West Bridge and saw the parking garage across the river where I'd left my car, I thought about swimming across rather than going to the bridge because it would be shorter. Fortunately, I thought better of the idea.

I made it back to the car and made it home, then curled up and went to sleep. I chalked up the dismal outing to the flu shot. But later my friend Mark told me he had lost 5 pounds on the run. I weighed myself and found that the same was true for me. I drank more fluids on that run than I usually do, but the extra humidity must have zapped me. That and the shot and I was down for the count.

Not exactly a big confidence builder. But I have done a couple of runs since then and I am feeling better now. I will try another MP training run as part of the Four Bridges Half Marathon this Sunday. If that goes ok I will stick with my goal. But if I come up short again, I might have to re-evaluate. My real goal is to break three hours. Training for a 2:50 finish might be pushing it.

For those of you who love stats, here is the data from that run: 


October 21, 2009
A noobie's tale

When it comes to running, I was a late bloomer. I started when I was 44, when my younger son joined the cross-country team at McClatchy High School. His coach welcomed parents to run with the kids, and I took him up on it. Around the same time, some friends talked me into doing a short triathlon even though I was out of shape and had never participated in an athletic event as an adult. I suffered, but I finished. And I was hooked.

I ran a 5K and did alright, then another and did better. Soon I started taking tips from a friend who was an experienced, competitive runner, and I started making progress. I won my age group in a couple of local races, and in my third year of running I started to do longer distances.

In December 2007 I found myself in my first marathon. My goal was to break three hours, and I just missed it, finishing in 3:01:21 in the California International Marathon. I was doing great until mile 20, where I hit the wall, started to fall apart and slipped behind my goal pace. Where have you heard that before? I vowed to return and do it a year later, but in 2008 I suffered a serious abdominal injury and couldn't run from September through the end of the year. Now I am healthy again and hoping to make my goal in this year's CIM.

For a serious marathoner, I run relatively low mileage. I average less than 40 miles a week most of the year and will probably not run more than 55 miles in any week this year. I usually run about three days a week, and try to bike or swim on the other days.

What else should you know about me? I am a gadget geek, obsessed with heart rates and pacing and elevation changes. I love my Garmin. I am also a germ-a-phobe, especially this time of year. I try to avoid shaking hands, and I wash my hands at every opportunity. I've already had my flu shot, which made me feel pretty smug. Until I tried to run 20 miles the next morning and almost died.

More on that in my next post.

October 21, 2009
Now THIS Is Hard-Core Running



Northern California is home to scores of ultra-runners who consider the marathon distance to be just a light training run.

I admire them. I don't want to be one of them, but I admire their grit while I question their sanity. The 26.2-mile distance is enough for me, thank you very much.

You have to be a little, well, different to be an ultra-runner. The New York Times today posted a story about how some runners are having their toenails surgically removed to avoid all that pesky blood and blackened mess under the sock. That may be extreme, but so is running 100 miles.

Personally, I've only encountered blackened toenails once -- at the 2008 Cowtown Marathon. It wasn't until later, when I took off my left shoe, that I saw my big toe was blackened. It didn't hurt during the run -- or even after the run. Then again, I was in so much pain after mile 23 that I probably didn't notice my toe.

October 21, 2009
The dog likes to run


 bf berkeley.jpg


I don't like running. Is it odd then, that I have signed up for the CIM? Well, it's one of those things people always say they want to do in their lives if they could find the time -- train for a marathon.

So figured, I've got the time and I have the perfect running partner. Beija Flor is a 4-1/2-year-old mutt I rescued from the pound when she was a puppy. She is a great pacer and has learned to be a fabulous running dog.

The true savior to our runs is the Gentle Leader, which keeps her from chasing cats, squirrels and anything else she might take an interest in mid-run. She has learned when the head halter is on that if she pulls, her face will be pulled back toward me and it's just not worth it.

Together, Beija and I did 15 miles last Sunday. We are part of the Fleet Feet training group, which doesn't actually allow dogs at the trainings. We just happen to show up at the public trails at the same time the running group is going out. This weekend, we may happen to show up at the 17-mile run.

We are in the last six weeks of the 17-week training and there have been many firsts for me. Now, as we are building up distance, every long run is the longest run I've ever done. There are terms like fueling and hydration. I finally tossed the cotton clothes after much urging. And, I don't even need to get into chafing. (Who knew butt cheeks rub against each other while running?)

I'll be blogging about these things and more as a first-time marathoner. I'm not breaking any records. But I hope to run the entire 26.2.


October 21, 2009
Welcome! Now I Need to Go Take a Nap



Good morning, fellow runners, and welcome to The Bee's newest blog. It's all about running, and at least at the start it will focus on training for California International Marathon on Dec. 6.

And, if you are, indeed, trainnig for CIM, there's no need to explain why I mentioned napping there in the headline. We're in the midst of the heavy training period six weeks out from the race.

I've done back-to-back long Sunday runs of 20 and 18 miles, respectively, and squeezed in double-digit midweek runs. The mileage keeps adding up, and I find myself getting sleepy at odd times of the day. And it'll kick up a notch this Sunday, when I've got a 23-miler scheduled.

It was embarrassing the other night. I went to bed at 7:45 p.m. My God, am I 6 years old or what? (Full disclosure: I'm 49.) I had only done a 4-mile "recovery" run that morning but was looking at a 12-miler at below goal marathon pace the next morning, so I was out like a light.

Yeah, I'm a real fun guy to be around at home these days. Try as I might, my body still hasn't adapted to awaking at 4:45 a.m. to get my runs in. Around 2 p.m. each day, I want to nap at my desk. For some reason, the boss frowns on that.

 So, I'd like to know how you, fellow marathoners, deal with the sleep issue. Me? I'm a wreck if I don't get my 9 hours. But others seem to get by quite nicely with 5 hours of shuteye.

Heck, some of you might even feel invigorated during these weeks of heavy mileage. 

Your thoughts?