Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Run of 2009

This morning, while on my final run of the year, I started thinking about my Resolutions for 2010...and, perhaps because I came up with this list while huffing and puffing, they skew in that direction:

1) Match or beat my time from the 25th Long Beach Marathon during the 25th in L.A.

I waited until the week of Long Beach to set my best case 3:45 time goal because I was afraid of repeating what happened on Maui. Even though Long Beach's course was flat and the temperature was ideal on race day, finishing the 26.2 miles in under 3:45 gives me hope for Los Angeles' new downhill trending course.

2) Break the 6 minute per mile barrier

This goal has eluded me, even on days when I felt strong enough and had the assistance of gravity. I suppose I will have to get over my distaste for interval training if I want to achieve this. I do not intend to run many of these...just one on a short day would make me happy!

3) Drive my NSX at least as many miles as I run each week

There is nothing more upsetting than having to jump start your favorite automobile whenever you get the itch to drive her. Since I am no longer willing to commute in my garage queen, I need to make time to drive her on weekends (at least enough to keep her battery charged). Perhaps even more distressing, this year marks the fewest miles I have driven her...barely topping my running mileage!

4) Finish everything I start (including a backlog of things already started)

Like Resolution #3, this one is not specifically directed towards running...but it sure sounds like it.

At the beginning of 2009, I only had one goal: To run the full distance of a marathon. Though I did not state this as my New Year's Resolution, it was clearly my intent. Despite hitting some personal lows, I never wavered in my training. The result? I more than exceeded my expectations at Long Beach...and in the months that followed.

In 2008, I was amazed that I could run 800 miles in one year. 1,000 seemed possible, but unlikely. This year, I ran more than 900 before the October marathon. I recovered quickly enough from that race to add many more. This morning's run pushed me past 1,250 for the year...enough miles to retire two pairs of Kayano 13s and, within the next week or two, a pair of Kayano 15s. This was a serious time investment with 53 more hours dedicated to running than during the year before, but at an average pace nearly a minute per mile faster.

Will I be able to repeat this mileage feat? If I stay injury and illness free, I probably will. Note that I have not been sick since I started blogging about running in 2007...or perhaps because I have been running.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

1,200 Miles YTD

Thursday, November 5, 2009

1,000 Miles YTD

Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Orbit Post-Marathon #2

After my first marathon, I waited eight days before attempting to run again. Two days after my second, I was itching to lace up my running shoes. In the interest of avoiding injuries, I convinced myself to take the full week off.

That is, until today.

No longer able to resist the urge to move my feet, I head out on my basic 3 mile orbit. My legs do not feel like they have just run a marathon. The breathing is a little labored, not wholly unexpected during the initial climb given that I have not run since Sunday, but otherwise this feels like any day after a break. I average 9 minutes per mile, which is several seconds per mile slower than my average for this loop...but I blame this morning's unexpectedly high temperature.

I am so glad this is not the morning of my race.

Can you believe that Mammoth opened for skiing and snowboarding yesterday?

As my next marathon is not for another five months, I have decided I should limit myself to no more than 26 miles per week until the New Year. There is no urgency to push pace either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day After 2nd Marathon

I wake up, get out of bed, and head to the kitchen to make coffee. Wait a minute...I am walking. Normally! Sure, I have a few achy muscles, but I have felt worse after snowboarding weekends. And today is certainly nothing like the day after my first marathon!

I am shocked. I am stunned. I expected to be dragging my legs for at least another day. I am tired, but more from lack of sleep (for some reason, I had a hard time falling asleep last night..and I did not take any post-race naps either).

As I wait for the coffee to brew, I turn on the laptop computer in the kitchen, browse to the official website for the 2010 Los Angeles Marathon, and click "Sign Me Up".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

25th Long Beach Marathon

I wake up at 3:45am. My alarm is set for 4:30, but I am understandably anxious. My second marathon is less than four hours away. Rather than even attempt to go back to sleep and risk being groggy when the alarm eventually goes off, I decide to get out of bed. The extra time will help me enjoy (and pass) coffee and a bagel before I hit the road...anything to avoid the discomfort I felt on the bus to Kahului last year.

Concerned that traffic may be more of an issue than originally feared, I call dad to make sure he received my e-mail about picking me up 15 minutes earlier than planned. He did not, but is still good to go. I can usually count on him to be punctual. He arrives at my place at exactly 5:15. I grab my bag, already packed with everything needed for the race, and we are headed to Long Beach.

Everything except my pre-race water.

Thankfully, dad has a spare bottle. Because he has brought his bike (so he can record video of me at various spots along the course), he made sure to pack plenty of water and Gatorade for himself.

En route, I finish getting ready - put on sunscreen, prep my electronics (Walkman phone and Garmin watch / heart rate monitor), put on my cap. I hold off putting on my bib until arrival, so it does not get scrunched while I sit.

I recommend we take the alternate street route suggested by the marathon guide. As soon as we drive over the Long Beach Freeway, I see we have made the right decision. Cars in southbound lanes are backed up for miles. We do not hit traffic until we are just a couple of blocks from the Long Beach Convention Center. I have my dad drop me in front of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Familiarity with the area after spectating at this year's Long Beach Grand Prix is proving valuable. It is an easy walk to the start area.

I reach the pre-race port-a-potties just as the bike tour begins. I have an hour before the race. I can now finish getting ready and relax...or at least try to. I hang out around a rock where I can set things down and stretch my legs. I have brought a garbage bag to use as a throwaway windbreaker, but discard it as it no longer seems necessary. There is no wind and the pre-dawn temperature is pleasant. In fact, today's weather looks perfect for running...overcast with highs forecast in the mid-60's. I wrap the timing chip into my laces (same disposable type I complained about at the Chesebro Half Marathon, but at least now I know how to properly use it).

I meet a guy who is doing this year's half marathon, but has done the full here before (albeit on a slightly different course). He has done a couple of Ironman Triathlons. He strongly recommends I try a normal triathlon or, at the very least, a sprint. I tell him that, though I once was a strong swimmer, it has been many years since I have felt that way and as many years since I last rode a bicycle. He still thinks I should try a sprint. I think triathletes are insane. Of course, I used to think the same of marathoners.

15 minutes before the first wave of the marathon starts, I down my pre-race Gu, take a few swigs from the bottle dad let me have, and work my way into the field of participants on Shoreline Drive. I try to find a spot within Wave 2, which consists of people expecting to finish the marathon between 3:40 and 4:05. I had hoped to find a spot near the front of this wave, but people are already pretty packed in. Someone starts singing the National Anthem. I give up trying to advance.

The gun fires promptly at 7am. My wave starts 5 minutes later, but my nerves are already firing on all cylinders. After the last runners in the first wave cross the start line, the race staff leads us up to the gate. No turning back now!


We are off and not running. As our wave nears the line, we slowly unpack...and only manage a light jog by the time we step on the initial timing mat. I probably spend the first half mile just getting up to speed. I should be glad that I am forced to this restrained pace because the adrenalin is begging me to go faster than I probably should. I pass the first mile marker at 8:20. Obviously my pace has improved enough to offset the slow start. My hope is to average 8:35 per mile as long as I can, so I am quite happy to already be under my target.

Of course, now my legs are up to speed. Unexpectedly, I remain below 8 minutes per mile for the next five. My legs feel great so I see little reason to hold back. Perhaps this is not the smartest decision, but I do not think that clearly when I run races. I cross the 10Km mat at 50:17...a few minutes faster than I told my dad I would. I do not see him. So much for capturing me on video as I pass through here. I finally ditch the water bottle dad gave me. It held more than enough to last me this long. I should have no problem holding out until the next water station.

The course has been interesting up to this point, running along the Gran Prix circuit, crossing a couple of bridges, nearly working its way to the Queen Mary in Ports O'Call and around a boardwalk featuring a marina and seaside restaurants and shops. The running surface has been a bit more concrete than I would like, so I am being very careful not to pound too hard. The boardwalk itself is a mix of wood and brick, but the wood planks seem a bit too loose to stay on for long.

After passing the start and finishing areas, we head on to the bike path that cuts along the beach. More concrete...ugh. Asphalt would be so much easier on the joints. Though I did not grow up far from here, I have never been out on this beach before. I now see where Long Beach gets its name. The area reminds me of South Beach, Miami...a wide, endless stretch of sand with high-rise buildings to the left, water to the right...thankfully nowhere near as hot or humid. I love having a view of the Queen Mary. Though my pace has dipped into the 8's, I am still running well ahead of my target average. I still see no reason to adjust my stride.

When we reach Belmont Plaza, I start looking for my dad again. I told him my expected time to reach here, but, like before, I am way ahead of schedule. He is nowhere to be seen even when I cross back near it between miles 10 and 11. Here the half marathoners split from the full marathoners. I try not to think how much easier it would be to follow them.

I am being extra careful to consume Gu gel and Clif Shots on the same schedule I use when I train. I do not want to do anything that breaks a comforting routine. Of course, water stations do not necessarily correspond with my schedule... and I consume a pack a bit further ahead of a station than I would have liked. Next time I will wait until I actually see a station before downing one.

The course gets a bit less interesting as we head northeast on Livingston Drive. Having clocked so many miles on concrete, I am disappointed that Nieto Ave, the street Livingston becomes is not paved. The scenery picks up again as we turn off of the street to run along Marine Stadium. Valerie and I have run here before during one of the training sessions for 2007's Nike Run Hit Remix, sessions that were directly responsible for getting me running again after a 17 year break. I never would have guessed I would return to this stretch as part of a marathon. This stretch is an out-and-back with a timing mat at the u-turn. Not sure why they have the mat a tenth of a mile before the 13 mile mark (would have far preferred for it to record my half marathon split). Heck, that's not even a 20Km split. It registers my time as 1:43:43. I cannot think clearly enough to figure how that will translates to my half split, but it sounds fast. Perhaps too fast.

I glance at my watch when I do reach the half marathon split and I think it reads 1:46. That would be my third fastest half marathon, second during an actual competition. Perhaps I should ease back average pace is still very close to 8 minutes per mile.

I catch up with someone wearing a t-shirt exclaiming "Fight on"...obviously a 'SC alum or student. I first noticed his shirt when I passed him on the bike path between miles 8 and 9, but passed me back while we ran along Marine Stadium. Noting our similar pace, I ask, "'What is your target time today?" He replies "3:41:00." Awesome. I now have another way of checking my pace (assuming he sticks to his).

The course cuts through a couple of parks and turns north on Park Road. Roughly halfway into mile 14, I see the Mile 22 marker on the oncoming side...and a couple of motorcycle officers escorting a guy I presume to be the overall race leader. He is approaching the end of his race and I still have a long way to go.

There is not much to report about the course as it cuts north and east towards Cal State Long Beach. I am still holding my pace below my target average, but can feel the effort starting to grow as I approach mile 17....a marker which lies within their campus.

Mile 17 is personally significant because it is during this mile that my knee went out during the Maui Marathon. I am seriously crossing fingers and toes that this does not recur. This marathon's 17th mile features a couple of somewhat expected inclines. I can tell my pace is continuing to slow, but am thrilled to not experience pain. My right ankle is tingling, almost as if it is falling asleep, but nothing that terribly concerns me. Our route through and around the campus lasts more than two miles, most of which are uphill, but I am pleased that my pace has only been slightly off my target average. Even better, I pass the mile 18 marker on a downhill stretch which helps me bring my pace closer to 8 for the 19th.

I maintain a pace lower than target through the 20th as well. I am growing ever more confident that I will not only be able to run this whole marathon, but also possibly beat my estimated target. That said, I no longer see the "Fight on" t-shirt. He was pulling ahead as we exited CSULB, so I am guessing he will beat his target as well.

The rest of the course is very much like an out-and-back since we retrace much of the roads we have already ran upon or near. However I was not at all aware that I was running downhill on my way to CSULB...until I start my ascent in the opposite direction. Now I feel the burn. No cramps or joint pains, just the sensation of muscles that have been pushed a bit too hard for perhaps too long. I can tell I do not have much left in reserve. Any notion that I might be able to push harder during the final 5Km fades quickly. Mile 22 is in my first in the 9's. Mile 23 is a little slower. Mile 24 slower than that, but thankfully I am still under 10 minutes per mile. I start wondering if I can still beat or even my goal. I am suddenly thankful I ran so many miles under my target pace. Or perhaps regretting I went out so fast.

Though flat, Mile 25 (on Ocean Blvd) seems especially rough. I cannot seem to get my legs to turn over any faster, but I try with only some success. The balls of my feet are bothering me as is my right ankle. Though this stretch is asphalt, I preferred the view from the bike path. I just want this run to be over.

We approach Downtown Long Beach. The guy I chatted with before the race told me that the final bit is downhill, but I do not see it. I am no longer certain I can take advantage of the descent when I do reach it. The lanes split for the bike riders, half marathoners, and full marathoners. I feel the end is near. One way or another.

I pass the Mile 26 marker and turn on to Shoreline Drive. The final stretch is indeed downhill. Crowds are cheering. Did I mention there are a lot of people attending this event? 35,000 are expected, 18,000+ of which are participants in the various events (bike tour, marathon, half marathon, 5Km). I feel one final rush of adrenalin and manage to bring my pace below 9 for the home stretch. I see the finish chute surrounded by fence. I look for my dad, but suspect he is going to have a hard time video taping me through the fence. I look for my mom, though am uncertain whether or not she decided to come. I see the official time clock. It reads 3:46 something...not at all discouraging because I started 5 minutes later.

I cross the final timing mat and grin when I read the final time on my watch: 3:43:24. I beat my goal by nearly two minutes! I beat my personal record by nearly an hour. Shortly after I come to a stop I see my mom. She is beaming with pride, apparently aware how much this achievement meant to me by reading the wide smile that appeared on my face as soon as I crossed the finish line. At that point, I think I was simply more elated to be done.

That said, this race answers a huge question that bugged me after Maui - can I consider myself a marathoner? After my first, I was yet not certain I could run a full marathon. Now I have completed two...this one on my terms. Though spent, my post-race legs feel far better than after Maui. I have no problem standing after sitting to enjoy my post-race snack. I feel even better after walking from the finish area to my dad's car at Lincoln Park.

Of course, how quickly I recover will be the real test. Mom and dad help with my muscle recovery by treating me to a meal at Seaside Palace. For some reason, lamb, filet and ground beef kabobs make me feel so happy.

I will likely sign up for Los Angeles Marathon 2010 very soon...tomorrow morning if I feel up to getting out of bed!

Official results:

10Km Split: 00:50:17
12.9 Mile Split: 01:43:43
18 Mile Split: 02:28:54
Total: 03:43:17

RunPix Results

Friday, October 9, 2009

Point of no return

Why is it that even when you pre-register long before race day (in this particular case, I rolled over my registration from last year's), you still have to attend some Health and Fitness Expo to pick up your bib, timing chip, and goody bag?

This would not be nearly as annoying if the race organizers did not make their website intentionally vague as to where the *cheap* ($4?!?!?) parking was located. By the time I learned that the lot would cost $10, I was already in a row of cars with nowhere to pull out. Ugh!

And while this marathon is the second closest held to my home, the total drive is still longer than an hour!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Marathon #2 Training Complete

With this morning's 4 mile run, I am officially done with my training. Now I will save my legs and feet for Sunday morning. I can rest comfortably knowing that I put in a solid effort, built upon a significantly larger mileage base than my virginal endeavor, at a much faster clip, and without getting injured or sick.

Then why am I already getting butterflies in my stomach?

My primary goal is to run the Long Beach Marathon in under four hours. My Garmin data suggests that I should have no difficulty doing so. If I average only 9:00 per mile, I will achieve a 3:55:48. During my longest run of the year (22.7 miles), I easily averaged 8:54. Year-to-date, my average training pace has been significantly faster (8:35). I completed my last official race, a half marathon with significant elevation change, with an average of 8:04...all the way back in March. Since then, I ran 13.2 miles in under 8s.

I think my concern now is that I truly see 3:45:00 as an attainable secondary target. I would only need to maintain my year-to-date average to reach this goal. Long Beach is supposedly a fast flat course. In absence of elevation changes, my legs naturally want to run 8:00 per mile. Do I allow myself to start running at whatever pace feels good and see how long I can sustain it? Do I aim for negative splits at the risk of being unable to improve my pace as I approach the latter miles? Do I hold myself back to try and maintain a consistent 8:35 even though I have never tried to run longer than 17 miles at that pace?

What's more, if Sunday's weather forecast holds, I may be enjoying optimal conditions: sunny with temperatures between 58 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. With it being so cool at race time, I may be tempted to start even faster than I should. Not once should I allow myself to think I can go faster than 3:45:00.

I have to remind myself that, though I have finished a marathon, I have yet to actually run all 26.2 miles. Halfway into last year's Maui Marathon, I was still averaging 8:37 per mile before my pace started to drop...and that was BEFORE my knee went out!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why I Don't Run In Asics GT2120s

Rather than risk running in a nearly worn out pair of Asics Kayano 13s to keep my Kayano 15s fresh for Sunday's race, I decide to use my nearly untouched pair of GT2120s. About three miles into this morning's six miler and just as I really start to hit my stride, I remember why I stopped using them. I develop a burning sensation on the inside of my arches. The insides of my knees are feeling each footfall a little bit more than usual, probably because this pair does not provide as much stability as my Kayanos. And please say those aren't the tingling beginnings of shin splints.

Fortunately I survived this run with nothing more than a tiny blister on the inside of my left foot's arch. This should not affect Thursday's run and will be long gone before Sunday.

Next time I get the stupid idea to run in my GT2120, I will refer to this post. Of course, I should have looked at my previous running blog.

Monday, October 5, 2009

900 Miles and Counting

With this morning's 10 miler, I have officially run more than 900 miles in 2009. It was only a few weeks ago that I reached 800. After the marathon, I should be able to dial my mileage back and still surpass last year's total by at least 200 miles!

To keep my Kayano 15's fresh for my marathon, I have been rotating in retired pairs of Kayano 13's based on which appear to have had the least amount of wear. One older pair definitely felt better than my most recently retired pair, but only for another 10 miles or so. If my estimates are correct, I have already logged an average of just over 360 miles per pair.

Tomorrow and Thursday should be my last runs wearing Kayano 13's.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Not only did driving a few hundred spirited miles physically drain me, but traffic delayed my return home until sunset.

I do not like running in the dark. Last thing I need now is to be hit by a car. Postponing my last "long" run until tomorrow morning.

One Week to Marathon #2

Only one week to my second marathon, but first I am headed into Canyon Country for my ninth of nine annual drives with the CalCoastal NSX Group. The real question is will I have enough energy to run 10 miles once I am done....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Asics Kayano 15

In my first running blog, I expressed deep concern that Asics had screwed up their Kayano formula when they produced the 14th generation. The Kayano 13 was the first running shoe that, for me, was truly love at first wear. I owned at least five pairs of them. They took me from running my first 5 mile race to my first full marathon. With my second just two weeks away, my aging 13s just a few miles from retirement, and replacements now impossible to find, I had to look for a successor.

I am happy to report that with the Kayano 15, Asics has apparently undone all of the issues I had with their immediate predecessor and possibly even improved the formula. The first thing my feet notice is an even more generous toe box...the laces almost appear to run down the side of the shoe due to this welcome enlargement. Though I have only run 5 miles in this new pair, the stability and comfort seem as good as ever. I will not comment about how much spring these add to each step because my last pair of 13s have logged nearly 400 miles (more evidence that the time has come to hang them up).

I want to save this new pair for Long Beach, but it will be tough. If I stick to my training schedule, I still have 50 miles to run...and the last thing I need to do is injure myself just days before a race.

And is it merely coincidence that, while I never intended to push pace during this morning's five miler, I log my fastest time on this particular loop?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Forerunner 305 IS Working Again

My GPS watch recorded and uploaded data from this morning's seven mile run, so deleting the history appears to have fixed the problem!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garmin Troubles?

I decide to review my latest run data on my Garmin Forerunner 305 before going to bed only to discover that it will not turn on. The battery should still have a good amount of juice as it was fully charged for my long run on Sunday (and the Forerunner 305's are known to get nearly 10 hours on a single charge), so I am somewhat concerned.

I remember that Justin had a similar problem with his 205 last year and that there is a combination of buttons you need to press to get the watch to turn on, but I certainly do not know what they are. I pull up Garmin's website and search the support section for my watch. Following the site's instructions, I connect my watch to the computer, press and hold the mode and lap (reset) buttons for ten seconds. Upon releasing the buttons, the watch displays that it is charging and my computer attempts to read the latest data.

Though it appears to finish uploading data to my PC, a message warns that there was a problem receiving activities. This morning's five mile run has not been added to Garmin Training Center. Now I start to worry.

Garmin's website also recommends that I use their web updater to make sure my watch has the latest firmware. Much to my surprise, I do I let the updater do its thing. Once the process completes, my watch refuses to power on I follow the steps above to perform a soft reset one more time.

I again try to upload the data. Training Center still reports having an issue reading the activities.

I disconnect the watch from the computer, deciding to take a closer look at the history data for this morning's run. The data IS there. Time, pace, heart rate, calories, 5 laps (I use auto lap per mile). I take a closer look per lap. The breakdown is there. I select to view each lap on map. Wait a minute?!?! Where is the track data from my GPS? The lap markers show up among my recorded navigation points as expected, but there is no line connecting the dots!

Is it possible my watch ran out of memory without any warning? Today's run pushed my year-to-date total to 804.28 miles...all of which is currently stored in my watch. Since I minimally record a lap for each mile (and runs finishing with fractions include an additional lap), it is possible my watch is holding close to its 1000 lap maximum. I always thought that the Forerunner simply would start removing older history items once this limit was reached, but perhaps I am wrong.

So I must manually add the data from today's run into Training Center. Hopefully deleting all of the history on my watch will fix the upload problem. I have a seven miler tomorrow morning and I want to make sure IT and every run thereafter gets recorded!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anniversary of First Marathon

Interesting statistics:

Total Distance:
Total Time:
Average Pace:
Average Speed:
Total Calories:
Total Ascent:
Total Descent:
Avg Heart Rate:
800.58 mi
9:30 /mi
6.3 mph
107788 cal
134510 ft
136965 ft
No monitor
2009 YTD
799.28 mi
8:36 /mi
7.0 mph
105590 cal
133433 ft
135933 ft
156 bpm

I may not be sticking as close to a marathon training schedule this time around, but, even without doing so, I have traveled much further...and, despite running fewer races, have done so at a significantly faster pace. If I do not get injured during the Long Beach Marathon, I have a very good chance of totaling 1,000 miles this year!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Would You Like "Fry's" With That?

While training for my first marathon last year, I did a fairly good job targeting distances as specified in various marathon training schedules. This year, I opted to pay more attention to what my body was feeling (and perhaps allowed temperature to affect my choices a bit too much). On the plus side, I have not picked up any injuries (no sign of plantar fasciitis coming back). On the other hand, I have reached the week I am supposed to peak without having exceeded 17 miles on any single workout...not since the marathon. Even more worrisome, that was the very distance at which my left knee went out during the race.

With much trepidation, I set out to do at least 22 miles this morning. To maximize flatter terrain, I figure I must go at least as far as Manhattan Beach. To minimize pounding, I decide to incorporate the full dirt trail that parallels Valley Drive from Hermosa through Manhattan Beach...even though I have never done so before and suspect it may add to the elevation change of an already demanding run.

Though I fear going out too fast, I start my run downhill. The first descent is fairly steep and, for a time, I had debated heading out in a different direction (which is flatter, but also includes some ascents before heading down). I make a conscience effort to not simply let myself go, but try not to use too much energy to slow myself either. And the last thing I need to do is pick up chin splints this close to the event. It is a delicate balancing act, but I seem to have good control over my pace, reaching the end of my first mile in a reasonable eight minutes flat. Funny thing is that my pace naturally drops below eight over the next mile even though the grade is not nearly as steep. I am really not targeting any particular pace goal today...just want to minimize time walking. Just to be safe, I shift my route to go by my dad's house to further reduce the grade.

As I reach the coast, the route starts to flatten and my pace finally slows to around 8:30/mile. Typically during long runs (especially last week's half marathon at race pace) if I noticed how close I was to achieving a certain 10km split time I would start pushing myself to run faster, but not today. Distance alone is my goal. After downing my first Gu Shot at 45 minutes into my run, I stop periodically checking my GPS least not until I reach the trail head at the border of Redondo and Hermosa Beach, 6.5 miles into my run.

I recently discovered that I prefer starting this soft trail from this end, perhaps because my legs are still relatively fresh. Last year, I would pick up this trail in Manhattan Beach upon my return from the Manhattan Beach Pier. In fact, often felt like quitting by the time I reached this spot during last year's runs. My pace does drop when I hit this trail, but not nearly as much as it did last year...and I feel much better while running it. I am not even aware of the elevation change that I complained about last year.

After passing Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, I suddenly realize that today's route passes near all of my childhood homes. Though too young to remember living in Hermosa, I do recall that my first home was located just off of Valley Drive. I cannot identify which house it is.

Damn! Accidentally hit my lap button as I come to Manhattan Beach Blvd...just shy of 10 miles! I like recording a lap per mile because it makes visualizing distances on Google Earth much easier and mistakes like this mean I will have to revisit this route in the future if I want to fix it.

I cross Manhattan Beach Blvd and continue north on to the stretch of the trail I have yet run upon. I notice signs labeling this path "Veteran's Parkway"...had not noticed such signs in Hermosa Beach. The trail appears to turn inland before straightening out. Now I can see ahead for a good distance. The end is not yet visible. Much to my surprise, there does not appear to be much elevation change either. This bodes well.

The path bends more as I continue further into Manhattan Beach with perhaps a slight incline. As I round the bend I see that the trail continues under a bridge and appears to end at a parking lot. If the street is Sepulveda Blvd, I think I may know where I am.

As I emerge from the tunnel at the end of the trail, I definitely recognize where I am...standing just below Fry's Electronics! When I used to shop here, I often parked in this lower lot to avoid the madness above. Bad experiences with faulty products and frustrating returns have prevented me from shopping here.

After re-hydrating, I climb the steps to Fry's main lot, pass by their main entrance, and head to the intersection of Rosecrans Ave and Sepulveda Blvd. I realize I have actually reached the border of Manhattan Beach and El Segundo, but I still have more than half of my run left to do. When the light turns green, I head west on Rosecrans and continue towards the beach.

I have forgotten how long the stretch between Sepulveda and Highland Avenue is...and as my mileage ticks past 11 miles, I come across a fairly steep incline. Fortunately, the hill is short and the descent to the beach is not far beyond the peak.

When I reach the sidewalk at the end of Rosecrans, I overlook the coast. I can see that I am south of Dockweiler Beach and north of Manhattan Beach Pier...definitely the farthest point I have ever run from my home. That said, I hope that a direct return route will be shorter than the 11.86 miles I have traveled thus far. I "only" need to run between 22 and 23 miles today.

I follow the sidewalk south towards the pier, passing patios of beachfront homes that overlook the bike path. Many of the homes have nicely landscaped patches on the beach-side of the sidewalk. As I approach the Manhattan Beach Pier, I briefly debate whether or not I should run to the end of the pier. Since I have yet to do so this year, I elect to do so now. Who knows...this may be my only run here in 2009.

Shortly after stepping on to the pier, I reach my half marathon split. I am pleasantly surprised to see my time is under an hour and fifty minutes. Despite making a serious effort to maintain a slower pace, I have run faster than I did during my first full marathon (which was also faster than my first two half marathon races). I should have plenty in reserve for the remaining distance. I decide to orbit the end of the pier and snap a few pics before resuming my run home.

I reach 15 miles in 02:06:25...perhaps my fastest time to this milestone. I need to adjust my shoelaces around mile 16, but otherwise feel pretty good. Then I start to develop a tingling sensation in the back of my legs that I fear is a precursor to cramps. I start worrying about cramps as I approach the staircase at Knob Hill. I spend some time stretching before climbing up to the Esplanade.

I continue south overlooking RAT Beach. As I approach the parking lot just south of Miramar Park, I start looking for an aid station...specifically our friends' RV. I have yet to come across them during my runs, but have hung out with them here before. I really hope they are here today. A Gatorade sounds so good right now.

Unfortunately, their usual parking spot is empty. I have a Cliff Shot and a couple of Shot Blocks left, but very little water. It is a damn good thing that the marine layer has kept things cool this late into the morning. If it had been any warmer, I doubt my water would have lasted this long.

The good news is that I have already run 19 miles, easily exceeding my longest since last year's Maui Marathon. I have done so in under two and three-quarter hours. If you recall, my left knee went out at mile 17 during that race, so this may actually be my fastest 19 miler to date. The bad news is that I still have over three miles to go. Even worse, it is all uphill!

I contemplate stopping at my mom's house to refill my water bottle, but decide against it. I would be too tempted to quit running.

The ascent is as difficult as I expect it to be. My current pace slows beyond ten minutes per mile, but I manage to keep running...until mile 22. This milestone falls upon the final steep incline that has become the bane of my running existence. This unfortunate barrier stands between home and nearly all of my excursions off of the peninsula. My legs are still threatening me with cramps. I have no more water. The sun threatens to emerge from behind the marine layer. Fortunately, I only need to run 22 miles today. I allow myself to walk until the peak...and then run as best as I can until I get home.

I finish my 22.7 mile run in 03:22:18. Given my struggles over the final miles, I am surprised to see this translate to an average pace under nine minutes per mile...especially because I did not really attempt to push a fast pace early on. Even more surprising, if I were attempting to run a full marathon today, I would only need to average around nine minutes per mile over the remaining distance to complete the run in under 4 goal for Long Beach. In other words, I really do not need to push my pace any harder than I did today (and Long Beach's course will not have nearly as much elevation change).

With my next marathon exactly four weeks away, that is very encouraging.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Not Disneyland Half Marathon

Saved $100 and set a personal record.

Friday, August 21, 2009

3:45:00 For A 2:23:22 Run

At 7:30am, I head outside to start my run. I hope to extend my distance over previous long runs (perhaps as long as 18), but the absence of any marine layer is definitely a concern. That said, it is only 60 degrees right now and my plan to run near the coast should help me stay relatively cool.

Trying to improve upon similar runs I did last year, I now incorporate my elementary school and dad's house into the early stages of my route and, rather than head straight to the coast, I now stay at least one street in. This turns keeps my course more of a loop than an out-and-back.

When I reach Herondo (the border between Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach) I decide to hit the dirt trail that parallels Valley Drive. I have run upon this before, but always heading in the opposite direction...which actually makes less sense on two counts: 1) The dirt is much cooler earlier in the morning. 2) The trail actually seems to trend downhill through to Pier Avenue.

When I reach Pier Avenue, I debate continuing on to Manhattan Beach or heading down to the Hermosa Beach Pier. If I recall correctly, my runs to Manhattan were around 19 miles long. I definitely am not ready to run that far...especially without the marine layer keeping things cool. I have already traveled over 7.5, so I figure the end of Hermosa's pier will give me more than 8.

As I reach the end of the pier, I am a little disappointed to see that I have only traveled 8.3 miles. Turning back now means I will finish shy of 17 miles...still an improvement over the previous week, but far short of the 18 I had initially hoped to do. The sea breeze is keeping the air cool out here, but I am growing concerned that the temperature has already risen on the peninsula. I decide to start back, sticking to the coast to stay cool.

My pace remains strong (averaging roughly 8:14/mile) until I reach the start of my ascent towards home. The hill begins with less than a mile to my half marathon split...and I am on pace to go sub-1:50 (which is surprising given how little I have pushed my pace today). If I really wanted to go for it, I probably could get a 1:48...which would be among my top 3 fastest half marathon times, but I must remind myself that home will still be more than 3 uphill miles away once I reach that split.

I reach 13.11 miles at around 1:48:50...still a very strong time for a training run (albeit not as fast as one in May).

I struggle up what could be my final hill. When I reach 25km, I decide to take a short break. Tomorrow is the Bulldog 25km, a race I had originally intended to register for. My watch reads 2:12:16...which would be an awesome race result for Bulldog. Maybe next year?

As I near the top, I see I am still short of 16 miles, I decide to turn down another street to add some more distance. By doing so, I get one last descent to offset the slow uphill pace I have averaged over the 16th mile, but at a cost. The last little bit is followed by a really steep ascent to my house. I am hot. I am out of water. My legs are spent. I push with what energy I have left to reach home.

I am quite pleased with my run, but am shocked how late it is. My watch reads 11:15am. Could I have really been out here for three hours and forty-five minutes? Where did the time go? The thermometer outside now reads 80 degrees, 20 degrees hotter than when I left. My recorded time of 2:23:22 shows that I am continuing to improve both distance and pace despite not making a concerted effort to increase my speed...but I really need to shrink the discrepancy between running time and total time if I want these numbers to translate into race results.

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