Run, Sacramento

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

January 29, 2010
Best Fake Race Names



So I recently looked up my wife's time in last year's Davis Turkey Trot, and I got a good chuckle out of the 5th- and 6th-place 10K finishers in that race: Cisco Kidd and Butch Cassidy.

Their names may be a joke, but their times weren't. They both ran 34 minutes and change.

This got me wondering about the best fake names people give to enter races. And that sent me to the repository of all things running -- the message board.   

Here are a few of my favorites (family-friendly division):

Sarah Tonin

Olden Phatte

Tyrone Shoelaces

Steve Postfontaine

Hugh Jass


January 29, 2010
New Barefoot Running Study: What It Does Not Show



Davis runners Efrem Rensi, left, and Noah Elhardt, who were featured in a 2007 Bee story on barefoot running. Bee Photo/Lezlie Sterling


There has been considerable attention paid to the new study published in the journal Nautre by Harvard's Daniel Lieberman fanning the growing shoes-versus-barefoot running debate.

Lieberman's research both in the U.S. and Kenya show that habitual unshod runners create less impact on footstrike, mostly because they are forefoot or midfoot strikers, as compared to shoe-wearers who are mostly heel strikers.

But, as my favorite exercise science researchers on The Science of Sport blog point out, the study did not show that running barefoot reduces the chance of injury. In fact, the opposite might be true. The jury is still out. Here's an interesting excerpt from Drs. Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas.

What the Nature study hasn't measured is the long term (or even the short term) effects of the change on loading rates on different joints.  If you wish to guarantee yourself an injury, then go out for a 2km run barefoot on a hard surface, and you will be asking your calf muscles and Achilles tendons to do work that for perhaps 30 years, they haven't had to do.

And I will illustrate this with our own insight into footstrike and injury.  When the Pose research was done in Cape Town, athletes basically had their footstrike patterns changed through 2 weeks of training in the new method.  The biomechanical analysis found lower impact forces (sound familiar? Same as the Nature paper), and even less work on the knee joint.  This was hailed as a breakthrough against running injuries, because lower impact plus lower work on the knee meant less chance of injury.  Jump ahead 2 weeks, and 19 out of 20 runners had broken down injured.  Why?  Because their calves and ankles were murdered by the sudden change.  And the science showed this - the work on the ANKLE was significantly INCREASED during the forefoot landing.  

The point is, changing how you run, whether by technique training or a change in shoes (like running barefoot) will load muscles that may be very weak, and joints and tendons well beyond their means.  If however, you are a habitually barefoot runner, then you can do this, because your body has been prepared for it.  For everyone else, I think we may be underestimating the time it will take to transition successfully to barefoot running (or forefoot striking, if you're going to force that change 'unnaturally').

So I'm not eschewing the shoe just yet. How about you?

January 28, 2010
More Proof that TV Watching Is Bad for Runners




Not only does watching TV, the ultimate passive and sedentary activity, numb the mind and bring on feelings of ennui, it can hurt your running, too.

Just ask world record-holding marathoner Haile Gebrselassie, whose attempt to better his record was thwarted last week at the Dubai Marathon after an incident involving TV and sleeping wrong. The full story is here, courtesy of the London Guardian, but below is the gist.

"I was watching TV and I slipped into an awkward position which meant I had to sleep in a different way," Gebrselassie said after a restless night in bed."I normally sleep on my stomach but I had to sleep on my back. When I woke up I found my disc was troublesome and in a bad way and I still cannot bend."

OK, I'm not saying all TV is bad. For instance, you probably wouldn't get hurt watching educational shows on PBS. Watching "The Batchelor," though, can cause severe stomach distress.  


January 27, 2010
Help Rename the Sac Cowtown Marathon


Sad news: The Cowtown Marathon, the highlight of the fall (October) racing season here in Sacramento, is being forced to change its name. Seems those evil Texans in Fort Worth also have a "Cowtown Marathon" and own the naming rights.

Rich Hanna, the Sac Cowtown race director and honcho at Capital Road Race Management, is not as bitter as curdled milk over having to change his race name. Instead, Hanna has embraced the marketing aspect of the name change. He's running a contest to rename the race -- the prize being lifetime free entry. Hanna wants to keep the cows (wise move, Rich), which each year make a wonderful T-shirt.

Click here to submit an entry.

Here's the one I've entered: "SACred Cow Marathon."

Sacramento means "sacrament" in Espanol, and that's close enough for me. By calling the marathon "Sacred Cow," it also can let us snub our noses at those Texas weasels who are taking back the Cowtown name. It tells them that their marathon is not a Sacred Cow.

Hey, Rich: I can see the illustration now of a cow wearing a nun's habit. Nothing funnier than large animals dressed as nuns.

Certainly, you readers out there are more imaginative than your humble blogger. Do some brainstorming and help Rich out with a name -- and win free entry fees to the erstwhile Cowtown.    

January 26, 2010
Sanchez Finishes 7th in Brazil 135-Mile Ultra


Thumbnail image for cdc_raymond_sanchez_2.JPG

Sac Bee File Photo

Sacramento ultramarathoner Ray Sanchez, who was boxer before taking up running a few years ago, was the seventh overall finisher and second American in the Brazil 135-Mile ultramarathon through the rainforest.

Sanchez covered the hilly course in 35 hours 1 minute. The winner was Brazil's Adilson Ligeirinho at 27:59. The top American was Brian Krogman of Van Nuys at 30:14. Full results here.

This is the third time Sanchez finished the Brazilian 135.  

January 26, 2010
Beware of the 48-Hour Post-Run Period

Jay Johnson, the Boulder-based running coach, has an interesting blog post on Nike's running site, called "Training Like a Toddler."

No, it doesn't involve a Big Wheel or Legos. It's about how his daughter scraped her nose and was fine that day and the next, but that the stress of the incident caught up to her 48 hours later. Johnson then goes on to compare that to the stress the body feels 48 hours after a particularly hard workout.

It may explain something I'm going through right now.

I ran a 20-miler on Sunday at near-marathon pace. I felt fine during and immediately after the run, had a little DOMS later in the afternoon but loosened up with a light swimming workout Sunday night. Monday was a planned day off, and I did my usual bodily assessment the day after a long run. Everything felt fine, even my previously pesky sacroiliac.

But then I woke up this morning, 48 hours after the long run, with this weird pain on top (not the side) of my right foot, in the fifth metatarsal area. It was not swollen and did not appear discolored. It wasn't a debilitating pain, more a dull ache.

So I went on my scheduled 6 1/2 mile run and didn't feel any foot pain until I finished and walked back into the house to stretch. It's been sore in the hours since, and I've been icing it.

Strange that I could go to sleep with my foot feeling fine, then awaken with it painful.  

It reminds me of a story I once read written by a physical therapist, telling about how a runner complained that he pulled his hamstring just walking down the street. The P.T.'s point was that the runner didn't really injury himself walking; it rather was the accumulation of his stressful training finally catching up to him.

I'm hoping, of course, that this foot thing is a bruise caused by -- oh, I don't know, tying my shoes too tightly -- but time will tell. In the meantime, I'm doing this at work (see below) and drawing weird looks from podmates.


January 25, 2010
Take in This Study, Then Call Me in the Morning


tylenol.jpgRunner's World magazine's online site reports today about a British study that performance can be enhanced in endurance athletes simply by taking two Tylenol before a workout or competition. It blunts the pain, researchers say. That's certainly something I could've used yesterday on my 20-miler.

Please, note: It's acetaminophen, not ibuprofen (Advil).

Here's the complete story. But here's the gist: "The British researchers note that NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibuprofen work through a number of different mechanisms, while ACT affects just two pathways: pain and fever. They believe that their result adds more evidence for the "central governor" theory of exercise performance, ie, that the brain has ultimate control over performance."

Still, I'm hesistant to try this myself. Masking pain could put you at higher risk for injury, enabling you to run on that torn hamstring when you really should stop and immediately ice it, for instance. Also, Tylenol is not a friend of the liver.

But read the study and decide for yourself.


January 22, 2010
Coming Sunday: A Look at New Book, 'Racing Weight'



In Sunday's print edition of The Bee, I interviewed author Matt Fitzgerald about his new book, "Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance" (Velo News, $18.95, 288 pages).

I also talked to two local runners, Mary Coordt and Jaymee Marty, about the touchy subject of running and weight.

Eating disorders among runners, especially females, is a problem. And Fitzgerald acknowledges that in his book. But the book's premise makes sense: "Excess body fat is the enemy of performance ... As body-fat levels go down, aerobic capacity goes up, because mscle has less competition from fat tissue for oxygen and fuel."

Fitzgerald advocates a runner increasing his nutrition-per-calorie ratio. In other words, eating higher quality foods. He stresses body composition (percentage of body fat) over straight weight on the scale.

(Shameless plug alert) Please pick up Sunday's print edition to read more. Help keep a journalist employed.    

January 21, 2010
Chinese Students Run (and Cheat) for Extra Credit



So, say your SAT scores are just a tad low. Damn that math section!

Wouldn't it be great if they gave extra credit on college entrance exams just for being a fast runner?

They do, in China.

Reuters reports that students were given extra credit if they completed the Xiamen International Marathon in 2 hours 34 minutes. That's some pretty fast running for high school students. Still, it's an intriguing idea.

In execution, though, not so good.

According to the Reuters story, more than 30 runners vying for extra credit had their times expunged for cheating. I love the way they cheated, too.

"Some runners had carried the time-recording microchips of others so that one runner would register two or more results on passing the finish line, the report said. "...Others made their way around at least some of the course in vehicles, while some hired impostors."

Wish I'd thought of that before the CIM.  

January 21, 2010
Dogs, Part 2: Best Running Partners

Speaking of dogs, the New York Times today weighs in on which breed of dog is best for running. No surprise that labs and retrievers rated high.

My question: What kind of fool would think of running with a bulldog?

As the owner for a cattle dog, I can attest that you don't want to go running with a canine with a herding instinct.


January 21, 2010
When Dogs Attack on Our Runs


rabid_dog_small.jpgJaymee Marty, one of Sacramento's elite masters marathoners, blogs about getting bitten by a dog.

This happened to me last year, and I blogged about the mistakes I made that contributed to the bite (biggest mistake: raising my arms above my head).

Anyway, Jaymee's story actually makes me feel like less of a dork. I figure, if someone as speedy as her can get nipped, it could happen to anyone.

A few years ago, Marathon & Beyond magazine ran an interesting story about runners vs. dogs and how to protect yourself. Here's an excerpt:

Experts say that if you are confronted by an unfamiliar or aggressive dog, it is best not to run away from or scream at the dog. Also, do not look the dog in the eye, as the dog may perceive this as a challenge. A dog that perceives your behavior as a challenge or a threat is more likely to attack. You should be silent and remain as still as possible with your arms at your sides. If the dog loses interest, withdraw slowly and gradually so as not to revive its interest.

If you are knocked down, it is recommended that you curl up into a ball and try not to move or make a sound, no matter how terrified you are. If you are bitten, the Humane Society recommends that you immediately wash the wound with soap and warm water and contact your doctor for further advice. It also recommends calling your local animal control authority and giving as much information as possible about the attack and the dog involved.



January 21, 2010
Running Tweeters Find Ways to Connect

There's a handful of Northern California runners who share details of their daily runs on Twitter, the social media system that's the soul of brevity (140 characters or less).

They aren't telling about their mile splits, interval work or max heart rate. Rather, it's unusual things they see on their runs. They use the hash tag #seenonmyrun. Here's a sample from Sacramentan Jose Galvan: "weirdo on mtn bike, Russian familes filing into church, muddy river."

In that spirit, let me share what I saw on my run today (and I'll try to do it in less than 140 characters): only one cyclist on Yolo Causeway, drunk passed out at West Sac bus stop, workers at Crocker smoking.   

Feel free to share your own, either on Twitter or in thecomments section of the blog.

January 20, 2010
Triathlon Seminar Tonight in Sac

Total Body Fitness and Fleet Feet Sacramento are teamming tonight at 6 on a seminar called "Triathlon 101." As its name implies, it's for budding triathletes. (C'mon, you know you want to give it a shot. I lost my triathlon virginity last summer; it was memorable.)

The seminar, led by TBF's Dan Foster, will be at Fleet Feet's store at J and 23rd streets. Who knows, you might even see Pat Sweeney, the Fleet Feet owner who is an Ironman Triathlete.

Click here for more details.

January 20, 2010
Get Your Costume Ready...


SMALL_Bay_To_Breakers_Race.jpgRegistration is open for that annual May running orgy extravaganza -- the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco. It'll be the 99th running.

Click here for details, but the thing to know is to register before March 31 to get the $44 rate.

I've only run the BtoB once, back in the mid-90s. It's one of those races where you forget all about silly little things like time. There are so many runners that you couldn't get in your race pace if you tried. Of course, if you're an elite and start at the front ...

My most vivid memory of the race were the nude nekkid runners, all guys just, you know, letting it all hang out. My wife was fascinated by the guys and kept trying to speed up to stay with them. At one point, she turned and asked me, "Doesn't it hurt when your thingy (medical term, I think) flops around like that?" I assumed it was a rhetorical question.


January 19, 2010
Difference Between 'Running' and 'Jogging'



Photo courtesy of The Guardian (U.K.)


Days like this -- rain coming down sideways, gusty winds -- separate the runners from the joggers.

The joggers take a look at the conditions and, say, "Uh, maybe I'll take a rest day." The runners take a look and say, "Which hat do I wear?"

Not that it's particularly a pleasant experience, trudging through the puddles, blinking away stinging rain drops spitting in your face, getting soaked to the bone despite whatever layering you're wearing. But it's part of the deal -- run in good weather or bad.

I saw a quote recently former Oregon's legendary coach, Bill Bowerman, who said, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people." 

Yeah, it sounds like one of those hard-a**, eye-rolling rah-rah coaching axioms. But it also happens to be true.   

January 19, 2010
Send Used Running Shoes to Haiti



OK, so maybe you've texted in a contribution to the Haiti earthquake recovery fund. But you want to do something more ... tangible.

Why not send your old running shoes to Haiti?

Let's face it: We've all got way too many perfectly functional Nikes, Asics, Brooks, whatever, piled up on the floor of our closets. They've got 300 to 400 miles on them and might show a little wear on the heel. Not great for training, but just fine for wearing. Send them to Haiti, where the country needs everything _ food, clothes, shelter and, yes, shoes.

Here's the link for the Soles4Souls program.

January 15, 2010
CIM Chooses Ultima Drink! Carb-Lovers Revolt


ultima.jpgThe California International Marathon, apparently, carefully considered the scores of input from runners about which sports drink to use in 2010 -- nearly everyone wanted one with carbs -- and then went ahead and chose another non-carb brand, Ultima.

The announcement was made on its Facebook page, and the reaction was, ahem, less than positive. To quote from one comment, "Why ask us if you are not going to take our advice?"


January 15, 2010
Eat (GU), Pray, Run???

Aid stations apparently aren't enough for runners in Sunday's Houston Marathon.

A Christian radio station will be hosting prayer stops  at miles  9, 16.5, and 24.5.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of fundamentalist commenters, I'm not so sure this is a good idea. I've always advocated the separation of church and running. Then again, whatever gets you through the 26.2 miles ...

Your thoughts, readers?

January 15, 2010
How About a Davis-to-Sac Marathon? The Causeway Cruise?




So I tried something new last night and ran home from work. It's 18.6 miles from The Bee's international headquarters in Midtown Sacramento to my humble Davis abode.

It went well. Thanks for asking. The weather was mild and pleasant. No wind even on the rural stretches. But, boy, the Yolo Causeway sure is noisier traversed on foot compared to being on a bike. Those cars blowing by you on I-80 can be a little distracting. Tolerable, though.

My time on the road got me thinking (always a dangerous thing). Why not a Davis-to-Sacramento marathon, connecting the campuses of the two major universities in the region?

You'd start at the Toomey Field track UC Davis, wind through the plentiful bike trails in Davis, out to the Yolo Causeway, through gritty and beautiful West Sac and along motel row, over the bridge into downtown and then out to East Sac before finishing with a lap inside the track at Hughes Stadium.

I would hold the marathon in the late spring, because there's a gap in the Sacto region for a big marathon during that season. My coworker (and running guru) Rick Kushman thinks the race should be held in tandem with the Causeway Classic football game between Sac State and UCD, but we already have the Cowtown Marathon in October and the CIM in December. A November marathon wouldn't fly.

So, whattya think, race directors?

Anyone want to take my half-formed idea and, uh, run with it?       

January 14, 2010
Have a Voice in Choosing 2010 CIM Drink




On the California International Marathon page on Facebook, officials are asking runners to weigh in on which electrolyte replacement drink they should to use in 2010.

Me? I'm a tangy orange Cytomax kind of guy.

You? Sign in and have your say for the next CIM. 

Remember, you aren't allowed to whine about the fluids they hand out unless you've voted.

January 14, 2010
Ultra Running Seminar Tonight at Fleet Feet Sac

Thinking about trying an ultra-marathon? Go lie down for a few hours until the feel goes away.

Just kidding.

But it does take a certain type of person to think of, say, 26.2 miles as a jaunty training run for a 100-miler. If you're secretly nurturing your inner Tim Twietmeyer and want to give ultras a try, a good place to start would be to attend tonight's seminar for aspirants featuring ultra-vet Mo Bartley.

Details: 7 p.m., Fleet Feet Sacramento, 2311 J Street, Sacramento. To RSVP, click here.

It will be the first of three ultra seminars. In February, there will be a nutrition session and in March a "race prep" session.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with an ultra-marathon video spoof. (My favorite line: I'll give you a Gu packet at Mile 63.")


January 13, 2010
Drop Everything and Go Run ... Now


sun.jpgWhat is that golden orb in the firmament?

Rumor has it that it's something called ... the sun.

Yes, for the first time since who-knows-how-long, the sun is shining here in Sacramento.

If you haven't already run today, do it now during what our TV weather experts say is a brief window before thunder storms later in the day.

I, like an idiot, ran in the dark this morning. But even I enjoyed the 55 degrees and noted that when I looked up, I saw stars for the first time in a long while. Nice. 

Weather like this is one reason why we run, people.

Take advantage of it.

January 12, 2010
My Latest Fetishistic Running Tchotchke


peas.jpgBeing a runner pushing 50 (both age and miles per week), I have become something of an expert on ice bags.

Actually, the real experts these days call it "cold therapy." But, really, it's just ice bags. Back in the late 70s, when I first started running, I simply threw some ice in a Baggie, zipped it up and slapped it on the body part. Then I'd toss it in the freezer and reuse it. But you'd have to slap the against a kitchen counter the next time you used it to break up the molded ice. Such a hassle.

Yes, there always was the bag o' frozen peas, which worked like a charm. Old school runners still use Birdseye.

In modern times, however, we've got all sorts of fancy ice bags. I must have 10 of various shapes, sizes and icy filling. I've got kinds secured in mesh packets, some with Velcro straps, and others featuring that slimy blue stuff.

It's that latter type that drives me to find the ideal bag. I like the intense coldness of the blue slime (what exactly is that compound, anyway?) but after a few months of use I find they leak out of the corners, depositing globs of oozing blueness on my legs.

The other day I stumbled upon a new (at least to me) entrant in the ice-bg marketplace, one that combines molding ability of a frozen pea bag with the consistent coldness of the blue slimy bags.

It's called Peas Cold Packet, sold by CVS. (See photo.) Instead of slime, there are little balls of cold that slide around your knee, hamstring, groin, whatever. It appears sturdy enough not to leak. But only time -- and my aching glutes -- will tell.  

I know. I know. I'm obsessed.

Maybe I should just, you know, chill.

January 11, 2010
'Risk of Running' Story Just Won't Go Away

My mom -- a great woman who, bless her, still reads newspapers religiously -- made sure to alert me yesterday about a story in the Arizona Republic about sudden deaths during marathons.

The way Mom read it, I'm at great risk for dropping dead on my next long training run. Mom worries a lot. But what Mom doesn't realize is that millions of people compete in marathons and half marathons a year and six died in 2009. I think those are pretty good odds, myself.

Plus (and this fact was played down in the Republic story, which served as a preview to Sunday's Phoenix Rock 'n Roll Marathon), nearly all sudden deaths of runners are those with pre-existing conditions, such as high cholesterol or congenital heart abnormalities. As Mom knows, McManises and Waughs have freakishly long lifespans. So stop worrying.

As the two sports exercise physiologists at the blog The Science of Sport write:

The reality is that people who die during exercise have some underlying, probably undetected condition that predisposes them to a cardiac event during exercise.  Those who are simply unfit don't die - they just stop at the 10 mile mark (or sooner) and walk the rest of the way, because their brain does not allow them to continue running.  The fact of the matter is that there are conditions that predispose us to sudden cardiac death, and exercise can bring this out - but it could happen to the elite (Ryan Shay, a few soccer players in recent years) or to the average runner.  It's not that they're unfit or undertrained.

Of course, behaviours contribute to some deaths - overdrinking, for example, can lead to hyponatremia and death.  But even here, the criticism belongs with those who advocate excessive drinking, the dangers of "dehydration" and advertise sports drinks to unknowing consumers, not to the athlete who makes the mistake

Here's the link to their sudden death posts.  

January 8, 2010
Dueling Road Races on Super Bowl Sunday

Time was, the Davis Stampede half marathon, 10K and 5K had Super Bowl Sunday all to itself as the race to run before pigging out during The Big Game.

But this Feb. 7, the Stampede will have some competition for the hearts, feet and wallets of area runners.

It's the inaugural Super Bowl Sunday 10K Run, starting at Sac State and looping through the American River Parkway before finishing back on campus. It's presented by the folks who run the CIM, so it's not some fly-by-night operation.

Is the Sacramento area big enough for two races on Super Sunday?

Well, I guess we'll find out.  

Say, here's an idea for a real speedy runner: Do both!

It might be possible. Here's how you'd do it: Do the 5K in Davis. It starts at 8 a.m. Presuming you finish in 17-18 minutes and change, jump in your car and drive like a maniac down I-80 to Highway 50 to Sac State and run the 10K at 9 a.m.

If anyone's crazy enough to try this, let me know.   

January 8, 2010
Race Chaos Writ Large


halfchaos.jpgWe've all had experience at races that aren't organized too well. Uusally, the complaints are minor -- "They didn't fill up the Cytomax cups high enough" or "They ran out of bananas by the time I finished" -- but occasionally they reach the level of chaos.

Check out this race report from the Zayed International Half Marathon in Abu Dhabi. The photo above says it all. The runner is heading right toward the stroller and cars are on the street. This was a race that gave $300,000 to the winner of the half marathon. They could at least afford to close the streets of traffic for a few hours. 

The accompanying 6K race started while some of the elites were still in sweats because they were told the wrong race time; pedestrains clogged the course and many runners cheated by cutting the course.

Yikes. Makes you appreciate your well-run local 10K, doesn't it?

January 7, 2010
Lost on the Trail, Part 2



Turns out, I'm not the only person who gets lost while trail running. Runners World excellent online site has a blog called Trail Heads, which detailed episodes of runners getting lost on training runs.

But getting lost in a trail RACE, as I did? No mention of that. Guess I'm still the only idiot to do that...twice.

January 7, 2010
Running in California Fog Sure Beats The Alternative


The fog was particularly bad on my run this morning. I think "soupy" is the adjective you're required to use. Before I left the house, I noted the temperature: 46 degrees. I wore a long-sleeved T-shirt and shorts. Sure, it was a tad damp, due to the fog, but really quite tolerable.

All of which led me to this conclusion: We Northern California runners are damn lucky bastards.

I mean, it's January and I'm wearing shorts and one layer. Sure, those SoCal wimps might think it's cold, but they don't know cold. In fact, we in NorCal don't know cold, either.

Cold is the rest of the country. (Strawberries are freezing now in Florida.) I came to this pretty obvious epiphany last night. The new issue of Runner's World magazine was in the mail, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading scores of stories about winter running in the snow and frigid temperatures, what to do and wear and what to avoid. You might think it'd be boring, because none of it relates to a Californian. But, like Proust's madeleines, the photos of runners trudging through the snow sparked my memories and took me back to the past.

The winters of 1991-93, to be exact.

I was living in Ithaca, N.Y., where the town motto is "Brrr." In Ithaca (see photo above), winter there lasts, oh, maybe nine months. Then there's a day of spring, followed by three months of humid summers.

I made it a point to run outside no matter the conditions. It was my way of not giving in to the elements. I recall one day, it may have been minus-4 or something, when just breathing in the air was painful. I would wear three or four layers (wicking material was still in its early stages back then) and two pairs of gloves. I also looked like some sort of criminal, because I wore a black ski mask that covered my entire face, save eye and mouth holes. My wife called it a "head condom."

Running in Ithaca was tough under ideal conditions because it's hilly, really hilly. Add snow and ice, and it becomes precarious. One day, I recall, I wasn't vigilant enough watching where my footfalls were landing and I slipped on black ice. My legs-- whoosh -- went right out underneath me and I fell directly on my tailbone. I slid about 10 feet on the sidewalk. Part of the problem was that I wore regular running shoes. Had I known better, I would've donned spiky trail shoes for better traction.

But, hey, those days are gone now. Thank goodness.

I can handle a little fog.

The wind? Yeah, I still curse the wind when it blows through Davis and rural Yolo County. But I keep plugging away, repeating this mantra: "It's not Ithaca-cold." 


January 6, 2010
Quadballer Review: Hurts So Good

Thumbnail image for quadballer.jpgScores of readers (oh, OK, one) ask how I liked my latest running recovery gizmo -- the Quadballer.

Here's my succinct review: Ow!

Consider that a rave. For the past week, I've mostly been using the device in place of my first love, the foam roller, on my achy 49-year-old hamstrings and piriformis muscles. The Quadballer is like a foam roller on human growth hormone -- more intense, more pain, but ultimately looser muscles.

Let's face it, as much affection as I have for the roller (it's been my personal masseur for two years now), it's showing its age, getting kind of saggy and just doesn't have that same oomph as before. Plus, not to get too personal, but there's this trouble spot between my right gluteus maximus and the top of the hamstrings that the roller just won't reach. The hard lacrosse ball I had been using didn't work well, either. The Quadballer does the trick.

Interestingly, I really haven't used the QB much on my quads, although it made me yelp with pain using it after running downhills during a trail race. 


January 6, 2010
Still running



There are those who run a marathon and vow to never do it again. I'm not sure more marathons are in my future but I am still running. And a great way to keep motivated and active is with the free runs hosted by Fleet Feet on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Meet at the J Street store at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays for a speed workout or 3 to 5 mile run around McKinley Park. On Sundays, runners start at 8 a.m. and head to Sutter's Landing to get on the American River Trail. The run is an out and back, meaning you decide how far you want to run.

Last Sunday, there were about 40 runners who went from 7 miles to 14. The very best part is there is free coffee after. There are also raffle tickets runners write their names on for free prizes once a month. It's like a win, win, win situation.

Did I mention it was free? Leave your wallet at home if you don't want to be tempted to buy new running shoes as you sip coffee and walk around the store afterward. OK, so I bought another pair of shoes last weekend. I'm still a girl.



January 5, 2010
My Spring Marathon: Eugene! What's Yours?



Because the Boston Marathon application process closed so early for this April's race, some of us who BQ'd in December's CIM are looking for spring marathons to tide us over until Boston in 2011.

I thought long and hard about this spring's selection. There were some intriguing marathons from which to choose.

The L.A. Marathon has a new course that starts at Dodger Stadium, winds through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and ends on the beach in Santa Monica. Sounds great, but the race is on March 21 -- too soon after the CIM for an older, injury-prone runner such as me.

Ditto for the Napa Valley Marathon March 7. Too soon. And friends tell me it's always cold, windy and rainy on race day.

There are two brand spankin' new marathons: Oakland on March 28 and Modesto on March 21. It's always dicey to do an "inaugural" marathon. Oakland's course has some challenging hills, though. But, again, March is too soon for me.

Big Sur on April 25 was a definite contender. But I worried about the cost of lodging in a resort town such as Carmel. Hey, there's a recession going on, folks.

So that took me into May, where I considered the Avenue of the Giants near Humboldt and the Eugene (Ore.) Marathon, both on May 2. Or, I could go into June and run the San Diego RnR Marathon or even late July and run the San Francisco Marathon, which I last ran in 1985. San Francisco was appealing because it wouldn't involve travel.

Last year, I winnowed my decision to Ave of the Gs or Eugene. I chose Eugene, because the town holds a certain running lore (Prefontaine and Salazar and all that) and because the finish was just outside of storied Hayward Field.

I ended up loving the race but hating my performance. It was the site of my biggest Marathon Meltdown ever. I came in too cocky. My training cycle had been great (a month before race day, I'd completed a 23-mile training run at a 7:19 pace).

But I went out too fast, at a pace that would have me finish around 3:08, and I completely fell apart at Mile 19. The last seven miles was agony, a run-walk-lurch that had me doubting why I ever took up this masochistic sport. I crossed the finish line cramping badly at 3:59. Worse, I had to make the eight-hour drive back home that same day, because I had my two teenaged sons with me and they had school in the morning. (By the way, two Sacramento Fleet Feet Racing runners, Chad Worthen and Emily Mah-Nakanishi finished in the top 5 in their gender divisions.) 

This time, around, I was really leaning toward SF, where I'd run well (albeit decades ago). But my family made the decision for me. My two sons loved Eugene and my daughter and wife wanted to visit the town, too. (My wife has a thing for college towns; hence, we live in Davis.) 

So it's back to Eugene. I think it'll be good for me. I hopefully can purge those demons from last year and run a smarter race. It's a great course -- if memory serves, the only major hill is around Mile 8 -- and the part of the course on the Willamette River is beautiful. Plus, this year, the race will end inside Hayward Field -- even better.  One more advantage: My wife can drive home and I can kick back afterward.

I'm sure I missed some worthy marathon options for spring/early summer.

Tell me which you are doing, please.           

January 4, 2010
Going the Extra Mile on New Year's Day

traillegs.jpgNo, literally. I ran an extra mile (not intentionally) at the Resolution Run 10K (and 5K and 10-miler) in Auburn on New Year's Day.

I am such a doofus. I've done three trail races in the past year and made wrong turns twice.

The first time was last May in the Nitro Trail Half Marathon in Pinole. I was second overall at Mile 11 when both the leader and I got lost. It was a poorly marked trail. We ended up running 14.7 miles; he finished fifth, I finished sixth.

I did not get lost at last June's Dipsea race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach over Mount Tamalpais, mostly because there were so many runners that you just follow the herd.

Then there's my most recent screw up on Friday. I was in fourth place overall in the 10K at somewhere between Mile 4 and 4 1/2.  I was coming down a hill to a fork in the road. I turned left and followed a bunch of runners. Those were other 5K and 10K runners behind me. D'oh! I should've turned right.

Long story, uh, longer, I realized my mistake when I noticed the 4-mile mark sign for the 10K (which I'd already passed), cursed my stupidity and made the proper turn the second time around. I ran 7.3 miles for the 10K. But the great thing about the Auburn race is, it's not a huge field, so I still placed second in my age group: 40-49.

My wife just laughed at me when I showed her my Garmin at the finish line. I get lost driving, too.

Despite kicking myself for getting lost, I was pleased that I ran the 7.3 miles with a 7:28 pace. It was a hilly, muddy course (see photo of my calves, post-race) and I live in Davis, where there are no hills.