Run, Sacramento

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

February 26, 2010
Elites Demonstrate Pre-Long Run Warmup

James Carney's Warm-Up from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.


I'm so tuckered out from this morning's 10-mile tempo run that I think I'll do what everyone's favorite teacher does -- show a movie on Fridays.

Well, it's a running video, showing how elite runners training under coach Jay Johnson in Boulder, Colo., warm up before a 20-miler.

Personally, I tend to agree with James Carney, the runner who joked that his customary pre-long run warmup is this: "Usually, I sit in the car with the heat on."

It's interesting, though, to see how these "active stretches" get the runners limber.

February 25, 2010
St. Patrick's Day Races? I'll Drink to That ... After Finishing



As you can probably tell from my surname, I always look forward to the Shamrock'n Half Marathon in West Sacramento. Given that the race (to be run March 14) sold out weeks ago, I'm sure I'm not alone.

But there is one thing I miss from earlier Shamrock'n races -- the beer glass (see photo above) given to all finishers. Instead, the race organizers now give out medals, just like nearly every other half marathon on the planet. I still use my Shamrock'n glass from 2007 and was hoping to add to my collection.

I'm not sure why the Shamrock'n switched to medals. I certainly hope it wasn't because the beer glasses, ahem, promotes alcohol use and sends a bad message to the youth of Sacramento. Puh-leeze. St. Patrick's Day is all about the cliched green beer. As someone of Irish ancestry, I don't take offense; it's kind of funny.

For comparison's sake, I took a look at a few of the plethora of St. Patrick's Day-themed runs across America and what they give as swag.

Here are 9 other races:

  • Shamrock Run 15K, 8K, 5K, Portland (Ore.): bottle-opener medallons for all 15K finishers, backpacks for all age group winners.
  • Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K, Baltimore: Free beer, post-race
  • Washington, D.C. St. Patrick's Day 8K: bagpipers and Irish dancers, post-race
  • Manhattan (KS) 10K: Starts at 1:15 p.m., after a parade, free barbecue afterward
  • St. Patrick's Day 10K, Yorktown, N.Y.: raffle prize is two airplane tickets to Ireland 
  • The Original St. Patrick's Day Race 10K, Calgary, Canada: win your weight in beer raffle
  • Biloxi (Miss.) 5K St. Patrick's Day Race: Free beer
  • San Diego St. Patrick's Day 10K: Domino's pizza and beer
  • Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon, Virginia Beach, (Va.): beer and Irish stew, post-race.      
February 24, 2010
Running and iPhone Apps: Compatible?




Just as I love pancakes and love Cytomax but don't want to mix the two -- see yesterday's entry -- I love my iPhone and love running but I don't necessarily want to mix the two.

I mention this after reading on Mashable, a social-media Web site, a list of 10 iPhone apps that runners absolutely, positively have to download and add to their home screens. Well, maybe if there was an app to magically improve my VO2 max, I'd be more interested.

Turns out, I use only two of the 10 -- the LiveStrong calorie tracker for $2.99 and the free iMap My Run (simply to keep a list of routes I run). Most of the other supposedly killer apps are GPS type of devices (the the screen shot of the RunKeeper Pro above) that essentially do what Garmin watches do.

Personally, I'd rather wear the watch, bulky as it is, on my wrist and have the lug my iPhone with me on runs. But I suppose if you're a runner who listens to music on her or his iPhone while running, then the GPS on the phone would be a plus.

Anyone out there use an iPhone as a GPS run tracker?

Tell us whether you like it.


February 23, 2010
It's National Pancake Day, Hold The Cytomax



Hey, it's National Pancake Day -- so says IHOP.

Is it just me, or do runners have a peculiar affinity to the ol' flap jacks? Today, Runner's World devoted space to celebrate the cake of the pan.

Also, I recall reading a story in that same magazine last year, in which marathoner Ryan Hall shared his love of mixing Cyotmax in the pancake batter. Here's the excerpt:

Hall: "I never have a problem consuming enough calories, one reason why I think I am a good marathoner. But I make sure each meal or snack has protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Here's my favorite breakfast: Cytomax pancakes made with one scoop Muscle Milk, a half-cup Trader Joe's pancake mix, and topped with Smart Balance butter."

Sorry, Ryan.

I love pancakes.

I love Cytomax.

Hell, I may even love Cytomax more than pancakes.

But there's no way I'm gonna put Cytomax in my pancakes. Uh-huh. Ain't happening.

February 23, 2010
It's Official: New Name for Cowtown is Urban Cow Half Marathon

After poring over more than 1,800 entries from runners, Rich Hanna of Capital Road Race Management has announced the winner of the "Rename The Cowtown Half Marathon" contest.

Drumroll, please ...

It's the "Sacramento Urban Cow Half Marathon."

Hanna, the race director, and staff had narrowed the entries to three finalists -- "Urban Cow," "Holy Cow" and "A Grazing Race." Four people, independently, submitted the "Urban Cow" name, so all four will get the grand prize: lifetime free entry to the race, run on the first Sunday in October in Land Park. The winners are: Kathleen Poe, Martin Sengo, Genevieve Clavier and George Paddeck.

Hanna was forced to change the Cowtown name because a marathon in Fort Worth had naming rights to the Cowtown brand and was threatening a lawsuit. Hanna said he wanted to keep the cow theme, because part of the race's popularity and charm was its cow motif -- and race T-shirts.

Because it's now "Urban Cow," however, maybe they'll have to change the baleful looking cows of T-shirts to sophisticated bovine in tuxes.


February 22, 2010
A Running Nirvana?

Thumbnail image for knot-water-bottles.jpgMy Bee colleague Rick Kushman has just returned from a week-long wine boondoggle symposium for journalists in lovely Napa. Tough life there for Rick. (Note to boss: Please get back to me ASAP on my proposal for that running writers symposium in the Cayman Islands.)

Anyway, Rick stayed at a fancy-pants resort called Meadowood. He decided to get in a run before another evening of wine swigging tasting. So he checked with the concierge and was told the resort has its own 4-mile trail loop "on the grounds." Well, la-di-da.

As dusk approached, Rick hit the hilly, well-manicured dirt soil trail. By the time he neared the crest of the first hill, it was getting dark, and Rick feared he might sprain an ankle (a recurring injury for him) if he kept going.

He was just ready to turn around and head back in when what to his wondering eyes should appear but a bin of water bottles, still chilled placed lovingly in a tree for runners to pluck and chug on their way to Mile 2.

Tell us more, Rick, about this running Shangri-La.

Alas, Rick didn't continue on the run. He traced his steps back to his room suite.

But it got me thinking about what other running perks might have awaited him on the trail.

  • Mile 2: a shrub that sprouts GU packets.
  • Mile 2.5: footmen brandishing rakes to groom the trail and rid the path of any pesky pebbles.
  • Mile 3: a porta-potty with solid-gold fixtures, manned by an attendant who will hand you a heated towel and a mint.
  • Mile 3.5: The Gatorade Lemon-Lime Running Springs and Babbling Brook
  • Mile 4:  EMTs armed with defibrillators and IV poles, followed by physical therapists trained in active release massage.


February 22, 2010
Be Like Frank: An Example for Aging Runners


After a brutal 20-miler Sunday and a creaky recovery run this morning, I'm feeling my age as I count down the final, futile days of my 40s.

But I've been looking at this age thing all wrong, apprently. I need to be more like Frank Levine, a 95-year-old age group world record holder in the 5K. Judging my Frank, I'm not even halfway through my running life. The dude didn't even run his first marathon until age 65. Check out how efficiently he runs laps in the above video.

This guy's an inspiration.    

February 19, 2010
Running Psyche: Negativity Can Improve Your Time

You've no doubt heard of "The Power of Positive Thinking," one of the many pop-psychology manuals to grace bookstore shelves.

Me, I've been waiting for years for "The Power of Negative Thinking," or something of that ilk. You know, how mulling over the worst-case scenario and obsessing about the difficulty of a task actually helps you?

At last, my patience has been rewarded (only because I figured it never would happen; see how negativity helps?).

Matt Fitzgerald, one of the top running writers in the biz, has a post on today extolling the virtues of negative thinking ... at least when it comes to running.

Veering away from the "positive visualization" mentra in vogue in sports psychology, Fitzgerald suggests that runners who are realistic in their race expectations, runners who know there will be pain and discomfort and expect it, have a much better chance of working through the problems that inevitably crop up during a race.

Here's an excerpt:

"If you expect your race goal to be achieved relatively easily, you are likely to find yourself suffering more than expected in the race, and this nasty surprise will trigger a performance-limiting loss of will that you are powerless to consciously override ...

"(W)idely recommended techniques such as visualizing yourself performing perfectly in races and feeling supremely awesome while doing it may actually hinder performance instead of helping it, because they may send you into races with unrealistic expectations. Going into races with confidence in your ability to achieve your goals is a good thing, because true confidence is inherently realistic. But going into races expecting to feel any better than wretched in pursuit of maximum performance is a form of self-sabotage."  


February 19, 2010
Davis to Stage Night Half Marathon in July


You know what we're sorely lacking in our little blip in the road-racing world?

Night races.

Now that the Race for the Arts at Land Park in August now has been moved to a morning start, we were lamenting that we'd have to go all the way to Modesto for a evening race -- the Modesto Midnight Half Marathon on Aug. 28.

Thankfully, the training staff at Fleet Feet Davis has stepped up. It has announced the inaugural Davisville Moo-nlight Half Marathon and 5K, set for 8 p.m. on July 24. (Hey, the starting temp will probably be 70, so hydrate well).   

February 18, 2010
Eat & Run ... Repeat: Ultra Fueling Seminar




Snarky elite marathoner David Olds is found of saying about marathon nutritional fueling, "It's a race, not a meal."

In other words, don't go crazy "replenishing" your system immediately before and during your standard 26.2-mile marathon. A couple GUs, some electrolyte replacement drink and you're good to go.

Ah, but it's a whole different thing when it comes to nutrition for ultra marathons. Tonight at 7 at Fleet Feet Sacramento (J and 23rd streets), veteran ultra runner Mo Bartley comes down from the hills long enough to educate aspiring ultras on the ins and outs (caloriewise) of fueling during the race. Details here.

Sorry, David Olds, but when you're out on a 50- or 100-mile run, it is both a meal and a  race.

Back in 2008, I wrote a story on people who run to work (and back) as part of their ultra training. Here's what ultra-legend Tim Twietmeyer had to say about his fueling:

Eating on the run is not a problem for ultramarathon superstar Tim Twietmeyer, five-time winner of the famed 100-mile Western States Endurance Run.

When Twietmeyer recently started adding a once-a-week 36-mile round-trip run from Auburn to his job at Hewlett-Packard in Roseville, he'd be like any commuter, stopping along the way for snacks.

"In the morning, I'm usually on the road by 5:30 and get to work by 8 or so, depending on how many coffee shops I stop at," Twietmeyer says. "Especially on the way home, when it's hot. I'll stop at this cool mini-mart in Penryn, about six miles from the finish, and eat an ice cream sandwich. It cools the core and smoothes everything out."

Ice cream sandwichs: snack of champions!  


February 17, 2010
Road Race Photos: Biggest Ripoff Ever?

It doesn't take a computational molecular biologist to figure out that it's just not worth shelling out $25 bucks or more for those candid race photographs those companies take of runners in extremis.

But it helps.

Check out this blog post from Keith Bradnam, a scientist at UC Davis' Genome Center. He's shocked by the price is asking for a single 5x7 or even a digital download from the Davis Stampede Half Marathon and 10K he completed two weeks ago.

I think we all can relate to Keith's rant. Me? I've sworn off Brightroom and other race-photo services since 2006. Too expensive. Plus, according to my 14-year-old son, "Dad, in every photo, you look constipated."

February 17, 2010
Cowtown Renamed, Halved: Is Sacramento Big Enough for Two Marathons?


In today's print edition of The Bee, we reported that the Rename the Cowtown Half Marathon Contest -- necessitated because those weasels in Fort Worth, Texas, say they own the naming rights -- is down to three finalists:

  • Urban Cow Half Marathon
  • Holy Cow Half Marathon
  • A Grazing Race Half Marathon

Read the full story, including names that didn't make the cut, here

For those who read closely, it's mentioned that the marathon portion of the erstwhile Cowtown has been dropped.

Yeah, it's kind of sad. But, face it, the half marathon was always the big draw for this event. I've done both the half and full at Cowtown and, to be honest, I've enjoyed the half a lot more.

Two reasons:

1. I don't like marathon courses that are two loops. I remember finishing the first loop of the marathon, and while the half marathon folks were being cheered home, we marathon folks kept slogging along. Once you leave Land Park to really get into the second half of the marathon, it got pretty darn lonely.

2. The Cowtown Marathon, held the first Sunday in October, was too close to the California International Marathon, held the first Sunday in December. For those of us injury-prone -- or mere running mortals -- that's not enough recovery time to even think about doing both races.

So this leaves Sacramento as a one-marathon town.

My question to you: Is Sacramento big enough to host two fairly well-attended marathons?

If so, would it be better to have a spring marathon here to complement CIM or do like Cowtown did and pick fall? 

February 16, 2010
V-Day and XC Results, Plus Running Through Fire

Lots of catching up to do after the holiday weekend, so let's get right to it.

Thumbnail image for conley.jpgTwo local runners competed in the women's open division of the USA Cross Country Championships in Spokane, Wash., on Saturday. It was a strong women's field, featuring several Olympians, including eventual winner Shalene Flanagan. How did our locals do?

Former UC Davis star Kim Conley (pictured), 23, finished 18th with a time of 27:55 in the 8K race.

Marathoner Jaymee Marty, 42, represented the U.S. Air Force and finished 59th at 31:59. (The Air Force team won the military competition.) Complete results for the USA Cross Country Championships are here.

Closer to home, at Saturday's Valentine's 4 Mile Run, 27-year-old Kevin Pool of Folsom was the overall winner at 19:21.7, while Elk Grove's Mary Coordt was the fastest woman at 22:46.9. In a showdown between two of the Sacramento area's top running coaches, Rich ("Team in Training") Hanna and Chad ("Nike Fleet Feet Racing") Worthen, Hanna eked out a six-second advantage. Hanna finished 8th overall at 20:47; Worthen 9th at 20:53. Complete Valentine's Day run results are here.

The Folsom Trail Run Series' Valentine's Day runs on Sunday, two out-of-staters won the 12.5-mile event. Kirk Ferris of Reno won at 1:24:32, with Spohia Grise of Welches, Ore., the top woman at 1:51:34.

Locals won the 7-Mile race (John Couillard of Folsom and Susan Grinstead of Citrus Heights), but the eye-opening results came in the 3-Mile women's competition. That's where 12-year-old Eleanor Velez of El Dorado Hills (22:05) beat 11-year-old Sarah Dolley of El Dorado Hills (23:59).   

Complete results from the Folson Trail Run series are here.

And now, for the truly odd running stories we gawked at over the weekend.

They held a "Tough Guy" race in Great Britain, in which runners had to go through fire, barbed wire, mud and broken glass for 8 grueling miles. Talk about a tough course!

Here's what the event organizer is quoted in the London Daily Mail as saying: "People attempt the course as a journey of self discovery. If people break their legs, they don't come whining like many in our blame and claim culture -- they ring up and apologize, saying, 'Please let me come back next year."

Click here for the full story and some amazing photos. Here's one below.  

tough guy.jpg


February 12, 2010
The Case of the Curious Long-Run Bonk



I need your help, please.

Help me figure out why I bonked so badly on yesterday's long run. It wasn't the leg cramping (thank goodness!) torture I've sometimes felt by going out too fast in the early miles of marathons.

Rather, it was that total fatigued state in which you feel as if someone wrapped you in a wet blanket and turned the road under your feet into wet concrete. This has never happened to me before on a mere long training run.

It hit at just past the 15-mile mark of an 18.6-mile base-building run. I completed the last three miles or so at a pace more than a minute slower than my usual long-run pace. I finished completely spent, breathing hard and feeling woozy. (Woke up this morning feeling fine, though.)

We've got some very knowledgable runners in Sacramento, so help a guy out, will ya? Let me lay out some facts to help you figure out why I bonked.

1. 18.6 miles is hardly unchartered territory for me. Already, in this training cycle for my early May marathon, I've done two 20-milers at an even pace and felt just fine.

2. I did not run the early miles at too fast a pace. It was fairly steady.

3. I had 32 ounces of Cytomax in my hydration pack (I used it all, needles to say) and gagged down a GU packet at miles 6 and 11.5.

4. I ran in the late afternoon. It was 58 degrees and partly sunny when I left midtown Sacramento and -- just a guess -- maybe 50 degrees and dark by the time I reached Davis.

5. I normally am an early-morning runner. I mean really early. Most days, this winter, I run at 5 a.m., when the temperature in Davis ranges between 35-45 degrees.

6. Here's what I ate at lunch and in the hours before running: 1 turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, an apple, an orange, 1 peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread and an ounce of shelled sunflower seeds. Oh, yes, and a banana consumed 45 minutes before I ran. I drank a lot during the day. I'd estimate about 70 ounces. It was iced tea (caffeinated), not water.  

7. I've been fighting some sinus issues recently and took two Sudafed pills at 11 a.m.

8. Four days earlier, I ran all-out at a half-marathon in Davis, but my legs felt fresh all day Thursday.

OK, so, did I bonk because my body wasn't used to running when the temperature was warmer? I mean, geez, it was only 58 degrees, not like some heat wave.

Or did I bonk because I didn't fuel enough before the run (I'm used to waking up, downing a banana and taking off) during the day?

Or was it that I didn't drink enough during the run? (On my other 20-milers in this cycle, I drank less than 32 ounces and didn't even feel close to bonking.)

Or is it that I'm not as fit as I thought? (Always a possibilty, but then how does that explain other longer runs with no such issues arising?)

Or did the half-marathon take more out of me than I thought?

Or am I just an aging running hack who should hang 'em up?

I'm thinking it might be a combination of poor fueling throughout the day and not drinking enough during the early miles as well as that extra 10 degrees in the air temperature. Here's a primer by Runners World's Amby Burfoot on temperature and pace in marathon running.)  

I'm counting on you, the wisdom of the crowd, to help me out here. Please share your thoughts on why I bonked.

P.S.: Here's a well-written primer on bonking by a nutritionist writing in UltraRunning magazine.


February 11, 2010
Video Thursday: Why Ultra Runners Do What They Do


This one goes out to all those ultra runners out there who are on those long, lonely trails training for Way Too Cool, the AR 50 and Western States 100. Enjoy.

Watch this and you can see their motivation for taking to the hills.


UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

February 10, 2010
Get Out There and Move Some Corpuscles, Will Ya?

I love reading medical literature from days of yore. Leeches and blood letting! Good stuff.

Now, courtesy of the running blogger Barefoot Ted, comes this ode to the health benefits of running from the 1895 edition of The Journal of Hygiene. The author, Dr. J. William Lloyd, obviously didn't get funding from a shoe manufacture, so count him among the barefoot/minimalist running camp. But he also extolls the virtues of running in florid prose.

You can read the entire article here, courtesy of Google Books. But here's a taste of what's to come: 

 These sharp vigorous strokes running up through the great sciatic nerve to the spinal cord and brain are stimulative and tonic in a high degree; and the quickening goes all through the body. Every nerve fibril feels it, the liver is shaken and jarred into action, the stomach grinds merrily away at its welcome grist, the bowels start their weird serpentine peristaltic action, the capillaries flush with blood, the pores open, and all is vigor and motion. Not a terminal fibre, not a corpuscle of blood but shares in the jubilee and revival.


February 9, 2010
Running's Big Lie?

cytomax.jpgYou've no doubt heard of the expression "The Big Lie." It's that falsehood passed down, generation to generation, that everybody accepts as a commonly held truth but in actuality is a big lie.

In running, The Big Lie goes something like this: Running is so elemental. All you need is a decent pair of shoes (or run barefoot, if your trendy and brave), shorts and some ratty old T-shirt.

This is no huge revelation to anyone who's been running a while. But no one really talks about the expense. They'd rather perpetuate the lie, which appeals to our ascetic/monastic streak. Go to any road race, and you'll see runners decked out with all sorts of gizmos and clothing options that run well into the hundreds of dollars.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Hey, it keeps the economy chugging along, which the country dearly needs and keeps bringing in ad revenue to media companies like, oh, The McClatchy Co.

Plus, if you want to spend some major coin, become a serious cyclist or triathlete.

I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to collecting running stuff. I've got a Garmin GPS/heart rate monitor ($250), two foam rollers ($30 each), a TriggerPoint massage roller ($40), over-the-counter insoles ($40), Petzl headlamp ($30), reflective vest ($20), Camelbak hydration pack ($30). Then there are rain jackets, shorts, hats/visors, gloves for cold weather...blah, blah, blah...

But what really strains my budget at least are the recurring expenses. Here's my list:

Cytomax energy drink powder: $22.99 every two months

Rocktane GU: $60 for a 24-pack (lasts about 2 1/2 months)

Nike shoes: $129 (replaced every 300-400 miles)  

Flex Power Pain Relief Cream: $20 every two months

Yeah, I should stop whining and either accept that running is an expensive hobby or decide to go low tech and drink only out of a fountain on long runs, wear a simple Timex watch or none at all and go minimalist.

But, hell, I need my Cytomax on 20-milers. I need that maltodextrin rush from Rocktane at Mile 12. I get injured when shoes get worn down.

Well, I guess I'm just a capitalist running dog... 

February 8, 2010
Some News to Make Old Runners Feel Better


I'm obsessing about age today. It's a buzz kill, I know. I'll try to move on.

But I wanted to pass along something that heartened me -- a 61-year-old Japanese runner set the world record Sunday by running a 2:38.12 marathon.

Here are the details.

Yoshihia Hosaka (pictured), you're my new running hero.

February 8, 2010
Race Reports: Davis Stampede and Sac Super Bowl Run

Ah, youth...

Don't you just hate those lithe and fluid runners whose supple sinew and effortless strides send we, ahem, masters plodders hurtling toward self-knowledge of our own mortality at every race we attend?

Oh, sorry for the (mock) bitterness. I was just glancing at the race results from Sundays two big events here in the Sacramento area -- the Davis Stampede half-marathon, 10K and 5K and the inaugural Sacramento Super Bowl Run 10K.

Most of the overall winners are hardly old enough to shave ... and then there are the male winners, too. (Lame joke-- my bad).

Take the Davis Stampede, which your humble blogger ran. In my race, the half marathon, the winner was 22-year-old Aaron Dilts of Roseville, whom I ran with for the first, oh, 50 feet before he disappeared up ahead. Dilts won in 1 hour 12 minutes 50 seconds -- roughly 13 and a half minutes before I did. Yikes, the guy was probably halfway up I-80 by the time I huffed and puffed over the line.

But enough about my midlife crisis. Let's talk youth.

The 10K winners in Davis were both teenagers -- 17-year-old Josh McDonald of San Leandro (33:25) and 14-year-old Stephanie Cello of Davis (38:24). View the complete results from the three Davis races here

Youth was served even more in Sacramento's first Super Bowl Run 10K at Sac State. The overall winner was 22-year-old Colin Szehner of Sacramento at 31:41. The average age of the top 10 finishers, all male: 17.9.

Hey, at least the top female, Fleet Feet Sacramento racer Emily Mah-Nakanishi (38:50) is pushing 30 (she's 28.) 

View the complete 10K results in Sacramento here.

The Sacramento race had a good turnout -- 691 runners -- considering it was an inaugural event. The Davis races drew strongly once more, with a total of 2,680 runners. 

February 5, 2010
Sanchez Completes 135-Miler in minus-21 Degree Weather

135 miles in the Brazilian rain forest? Check

135 miles in the frozen tundra of Northern Minnesota heading to the Canadian border? Check.

135 miles of blazing hot desert at Badwater in Death Valley? Up next!

Sacramento ultra marathoner Ray Sanchez, fresh off finishing the Brazil 135, this week completed the frigid Arrowhead 135 in International Falls, Mn. He finished 14th with a time of 54 hours 52 minutes.

Sanchez has done Badwater before, but if he completes it this year, he'll reach his goal of doing all three in one calendar year.

The conditions in Minnesota seemed brutal. According to the race Web site,  it was minus-21 degrees at the start on Monday. The daytime high: +10. Runners must have felt like explorers. Rules required them to carry or tow at least 15 pounds of gear throughout the run.

One unexpected challenge: A wolf blocked the path at one point.



February 5, 2010
Advice from the 'Master'


2006whitlock.jpgA must-read in the March issue of Running Times magazine is a profile of 78-year-old masters running icon Ed Whitlock, a Canadian who has set all sorts of age-group records -- including being the first man to break 3 hours in a marathon in his 70s.

(Note: The content of the March issue, including the Whitlock story, has yet to be uploaded to Running Times' online site.)

What is particularly fascinating is Whitlock's training philosophy. He runs three hours a day -- get this -- around a cemetery.

Some days, he runs faster; other days, way slow. Here's Whitlock, describing his running philosophy to writer Scott Douglas:


I do what not to do to an entreme. I go out jogging. It's not fast running, just that I do it for a long time. I don't follow what typical coaches say about serious runners. No physios, ice baths, massages, tempo runs, heart rate monitors. I have no strong objection to any of that, but I'm not sufficiently organized or ambitious to do all the thigns you're supposed to do if you're serious. The more time you spend fiddlediddling with this and that, the less time there is to run or waste time in other ways.

"Fiddlediddling." Love that.  

February 4, 2010
That's Not the Half of It


Thumbnail image for oval.jpgThe unofficial start of the 2010 half-marathon season kicks off this Sunday with the Davis Stampede and the Kaiser San Francisco races, and it got me thinking about the lure of the half. So popular have half-marathons become that the March 14 Shamrock'n in West Sacramento already has sold out.

For serious runners, the half is a great race to test your fitness level during your lonely months-long marathon training. Or just a nice tempo run for the really hard-core.

And for those of us training for spring marathons (me: Eugene in May), it can be our first foray outside of the heavy base-building period. I must admit I've yet to do speed work during this cycle, though I have incorporated hill work into long runs (the nasty Cantalow hill in really rural Vacaville). So, it'll be interesting to see just where my fitness level is after taking three weeks off, post-CIM, and then doing mostly long runs at above marathon pace since. Lactic acid, welcome back!

Maybe I just live a sheltered life, but I've yet to meet anyone among the dedicated recreational runners in Northern Califonia who specialize in the half.  I know plenty of speedy 5K and 10K dude and dudettes, scores of marathoners and those wacky ultra folks, but no one who says, You know, my half marathon training isn't going well.

But the half has become the most popular distance simply because it can be challenging without being too taxing. You can run a half, hard, and recover quickly enough not to have it affect your weekly mileage goals. And if you're a 10K specialist, it's easy to go up.

Of course, I've failed to mention runners for whom the half is a pretty big achievement. Fleet Feet stores both in Sacramento and Davis have half-marathon training groups, but it can be a proud achievement for someone relatively new to running to complete 13.1 miles. For relative newbies, I see the half as being something of a "gateway drug" to a full marathon. You get that taste for distance; you want more.

Still, the half remains the Rodney Dangerfield of road races. No respect whatsoever. The popular running message board,, where snark rules, recently had a long-running thread slamming the half. Or, rather, slamming the people who put those 13.1 oval bumper sticks on their cars.

As one snooty, elitist guy wrote, "Gotta believe the only people who put 13.1 or 26.2 stickers on their SUV's are gallo-walking soccer moms. They probably also have that stupid 13.1 / 26.2 tattoo on their kankles."

Ouch. There may be some truth in that, but so what? Why the bitterness? Taking pride in completing a half is all right by me. I still can't figure out why the so-called running elites are so disdainful of the lesser skilled, but still dedicated, runners out there. It doesn't demean the swift 1:05 half-marathon times you do, so lay off.


February 3, 2010
To get off the couch, well, get up.



I'm not weirdly athletic. I'm just a normal gal who will take a farm egg on top of my One Speed pizza, thank you very much. Oh, and dessert? Of course I have left room for anything that includes chocolate.

So it's interesting other people find it interesting that I completed the CIM and continue to run four to five days a week. It's really not that big of a deal - I have a few really good running buddies, a schedule thanks to Fleet Feet's Shamrock'n training group, shoes and an excellent running dog. (She gets antsy when a day goes by without a long run, talk about a guilt trip).

Since I started regularly running a year ago, I have come across a lot of people who say they can't run because of their knees, sports-induced asthma, back pains. While I'm sure there are valid medical reasons why someone shouldn't and can't run, for the most part, I don't think I genetically have better knees than anyone else. And Sam, who is pushing 50, hasn't worn his out even though he runs some 50 miles a week. (He may have some other screws loose though - what's this about you running from Sacramento to Davis the other day?) But I digress.

My point is, it seems like a bummer to commit to whatever ailment it is, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. When someone gets an injury, isn't there usually physical therapy or whatever to strengthen the injured part and build on it?

A friend of mine was complaining about bad knees and sports-induced asthma. But he's way too young to be sitting on the couch for the rest of his life, which could be something like five decades. I told him he should try running. He ran a few times - first a couple blocks, then a mile. He continued to complain.

So I suggested we run together. We ran four miles that day. And he was amazed.

I guess I just want to say, I'm like anyone else who is taking the time to put one foot in front of the other. And you could probably do it too if you tried.


February 3, 2010
UPDATE: Boston Qualifying Races

Ever-alert running blogger Pete Danko points out that the list of top Boston-qualifying marathons, which I blogged about here, is old data.

According to the latest figures, the CIM ranks seventh and qualified 26.7 percent of runners. Boston remains No.1 to qualify for Boston.) And, as Danko points out, this list is weighted toward smaller marathons because it goes by percentage of runners.   

February 3, 2010
CIM Makes List of Top Boston Qualifiers



Paul Kitagaki/The Bee

Once again, the California International Marathon made Running USA's list of top 10 Boston Marathon qualifying marathons.

This year, the CIM finished fifth, with 27 percent of finishers meeting Boston's entry requirements.

The top marathon? In a nice bit of symmetry, it's Boston.

Here's the entire list.

Of course, the CIM long has nurtured a reputation as a fast course that many use to meet that Boston goal. The fact it is run in December always gave runners that last chance to qualify for the April race.

But in 2009, the Boston field filled so quickly that those who used the CIM to qualify are forced to wait until 2011 to run Boston.

Wonder whether the trend of Boston filling up so fast will hurt the CIM's numbers. After all, might procrastinating Boston hopefuls will now look for a September or October races?

February 2, 2010
Study: On Long Runs, Hydration Packs Better Than Bottles

hyd pack.jpg

So-called "serious" runners always look at me funny when I'm out on a long run wearing a hydration pack for my beloved Cytomax. If these camels can get by carrying only one 20-ounce bottle or nothing at all, great. But I'm a guy who needs my fluids on a 20-miler.

I was heartened, therefore, to read about a recent study, published in Running Times magazine, that shows that wearing a hydration pack is your best bet, performance-wise.

The study by the High Altitude Performance Lab at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., showed that, even though wearing a hydration pack is heavier than carrying a bottle or a fuel belt, it "did better than the hand-held options based on performance data of heart rate, perceived exertion, VO2 and ventilation rate (ease of movement of lungs)."

The reason the packs, which sit higher on the back, performed better?

According to the study: "Because bottle or bottles carried in hand are held away from the body, as opposed to the on-body pack, there was an increased effort from the torque and arm momentum. That requires greater consumption of oxygen, and raises heart rate and breathing more than when a load is closer to center mass."  

February 1, 2010
Is Running Sexy? New Research Asks the Question


to_me_running_is_like_sex_hat-p148790623668710400tdto_210.jpgThere isn't a research study out there that we won't pore over, particularly if it involves either running or sex. And if it involves both, then (woo-hoo) we're sooo there.

So take a gander at this British survey of women and men's attitudes toward the sports that the opposite sex takes up. Specifically, Richard Wiseman, chair in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, asked people which sporting activities would make a member of the opposite sex more attractive.

Women found male rock (mountain) climbers most attractive; men found women who do aerobics most atttractive.

Where did running rate? Some 44 percent of women said they found male runners attractive; 55 percent of men said they found women runners attractive. That ranks just slightly higher than the middle of the 15 sports examined.

To which I say, "Aerobics! Oh puhleeeze."

Sure, aerobics is a fine activity to get the old heart rate up, but those pseudo-athletes don't do a thing to quicken my pulse. Give me a fit women with a high VO2 max and great mile splits, and I'm smitten. Hey, I even find women runners in compression socks attractive. Then again, I never said I was normal.

As for the 44 percent of women who found male runners attractive (7th out of 15 sports), well, thanks for the nod.

Let's do our own unscientific survey: Compression socks: Sexy or dorky?