Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final Run of the Year

During last year's snowboarding season, my running mileage dropped dramatically. In fact, from January through March, I barely managed to run more than five miles per week...a slip which likely led to my meltdown during the Palos Verdes Half Marathon. So, to keep on track, I needed to run today, my first day home after a five days on Mammoth Mountain.

That said, my real reason for running today was more about achieving 800 miles in 2008 than anything else. Yes, I was curious to see if all that time at higher elevations would help my breathing (which I think it did). Yes, I wanted to see if my legs could endure pounding even though they were still sore from snowboarding (no issues to report). Yes, I needed to know if a five day break from running would kill my pace (a 48:38 10km split suggests it did not). But those were all secondary goals to achieving this milestone.

Of course, I did not begin the year with any mileage goal in mind. Should I target more miles in 2009?

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Snowboarding Season

And I'm on my way to Mammoth Mountain with no plans to run over the next five days...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Lunchtime Personal Records

My crazy ultra running coworker continues to treat our lunchtime training runs as races...or at least it seems that way to me. Right from the get go, he pushes me to run at a sub-7 minute pace, refusing to slow down despite my constant bitching and moaning. Though we have agreed to make Tuesdays our "short" and fast run, there is no way I can keep this up for 6.4 miles.

He gets away from me as I drop off the pace through miles two and three, which is not unusual given the slight incline during this segment of our run. That said, my 5km split of 23:15 is something I have not achieved since running cross country in high school.

I catch up with my coworker stretching at our turnaround spot a tenth of a mile further. He says the rest of our run will be "a fast recovery".


We start back way too fast (my watch pace indicates that I'd run a 6 minute mile if I could maintain it), so I ease off the accelerator and let him take the lead. I am surprised to cross mile four in under 30 minutes...definitely a PR. 37:10 at mile five is another personal is 44:38 at mile six. I estimate my 10km split at 45:32...nearly a minute off my previous best.

I have never seen myself as someone who could run a 10km in less than 45 minutes. If I let my coworker continue to push my pace like this, I might get there before the end of this year. Fortunately, he will be on vacation starting next week and our lunch runs will not resume until January. A New Year's Resolution perhaps?

An interesting footnote: Pre-marathon, my average pace over 69 miles of lunchtime running was 8:22/mile. Since then, we have run as many miles together, but my pace has dropped to 7:52/mile.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sub 2hrs Without Pushing

There's something nice about achieving an unintended goal.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Week Off = 9 Mile PR?

I completed 9 miles in 1:10:33 during lunch today (7:49/mile). This is a personal record for this distance...highly unexpected given I had not run since last Thursday and felt very stiff at the start of the run. That said, had I run as fast as last week's eight miler, I would easily have beat this time.

I feel more than a little beat up.

I blame my crazy ultra running coworker.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It Never Rains...It Burns

Another major series of wildfires has filled the sky with smoke, so running is on hold until the air clears.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting Faster

Proving last Thursday's run was not a fluke, I pulled out a slightly faster time on the same route today...without really aiming to do so. My 10km split was the same, but my last mile-and-a-half was quite a bit faster.

This brings this week's total to 32 miles. Now to figure out how much I should run on Saturday...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blown 18 Mile Attempt

I planned on running 18 today, but ended up just shy of 15. Strong (and chilly) gusts provided numerous challenges (along the Esplanade I needed to lean into the wind to keep from being knocked over...while holding on to my hat). The roads and sidewalks were littered with debris (I even witnessed palm fronds falling nearby). I probably could have completed the full 18, but I did not look forward to attempting a significant incline against a 30mph headwind.

Today's goal was not to achieve any specific pace, but to simply see if my post-marathon joints could endure 18 miles with little or no finalize a decision on whether or not I should attempt a 30Km trail race in two weeks. Totaling 22 miles last week while setting some personal records was pretty encouraging, but, after failing today, I am convinced I should pass on this upcoming event.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

100th Mile from Dog Runs

Less than five months ago, my crazy ultra-running coworker somehow convinced me to skip our Thursday lunch hour for a six-to-nine mile run. At that time, I was unsure if I would be able to keep up with him, how often I would be willing and able to join him, and whether or not I could survive the midday heat.

Even with a break for all of September and half of October, our distance total has now passed the century mark. And, despite having a fast Tuesday, I am fairly certain that I have set personal records today (five miles: 39:06, six miles: 46:22, 10km: 47:52, seven miles: 53:46, eight miles: 1:01:25). Is training with my coworker worth it? Definitely!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Two-sday Dog Run

My crazy ultra-running coworker and I decide to run on a Tuesday, hoping to up our lunchtime routine to twice a week. Sore joints and my weekend off have not affected my fact, this is the fastest I have completed eight miles while training. That said, his average of 7:09/mile is considerably faster.

I am crossing my fingers (and toes) that my knees will be up for this kind of speed twice a week. We may try for nine on Thursday.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Not Running Due To Cold

Temperatures are dropping, it is raining, but the reason I have not run this weekend is due to illness (or, at least, fear of making something worse). A bug has been going around the office and I started feeling its ill effects after Thursday's lunchtime run. I hit a low on Saturday night, but am feeling a little bit better this morning (thanks end-of-DST).

After clocking 26 miles the previous week, I only managed 8 during the last. I blame my crazy ultra running coworker, who wanted me to run with him on Tuesday, but then backed out at the last minute due to a quad injury (I didn't feel like going out during a hot lunch hour on my own, couldn't leave the office until well after it was dark, and didn't want to run on Wednesday knowing I'd be doing a fast eight on Thursday).

At this point, I do not see how I can get myself back up to 30km in time for the next race. Good thing I have not yet registered for it!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cheesecake Orbit Revisited

This is my first 13.5 miler since my full marathon...and, judging by how my legs feel, it will be some time before I feel up to entering another half marathon (note that I have registered for one in 2009).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Resuming Lunch Hour Dog Runs

My crazy ultra running coworker has been trying to get me to run with him since I left for my Maui Marathon vacation in early September, but today is the first day that both of our schedules have allowed it...and, perhaps more importantly, my legs have felt good enough that I can try and keep up with him.

Unfortunately, Santa Ana winds are present today, accompanied by wildfires (fortunately, the one in nearby Sepulveda Pass is extinguished before lunch hour) and 90+ degree dry heat. My coworker and I mutually decide to shorten today's run to only 7 miles...and we allow ourselves to stop at every traffic light on the way back to the office.

Despite the harsh conditions, I am able to clock my fastest post-marathon run and one of my faster lunch hour runs. Even better, I do so with absolutely no pain at all in my left knee, not even a slight tingle. Flat sections of my previous post-marathon runs have bothered it, so I am pleased. And this workout features more than two miles on concrete!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I believe I have mentioned before that I am not a fan of out-and-backs. I hate to retrace my steps. I hate running laps too (800m - two laps - is my threshold on a track). That said, both can be means to an end.

For instance, today I am still trying to test my post-marathon limits...unsure if my legs have sufficiently recovered to complete the distance of a half marathon. By planning an out-and-back, I can simply turn back when my legs are starting to have issues.

I am also trying to push my wife to run longer distances, hoping I can get her to consider running an 18km trail race in November. By planning an out-and-back, we can start together, she can find her distance threshold within mine. When she needs to turn around, I can head back, meet up with her, and we can run the rest of the way together

I strongly encourage my wife to run all the way to Miramar Park (4 miles from our home), fully expecting that I can reach Cheesecake Factory (6.5 miles) in the same amount of time it takes her to get there. I tell her to call me as soon as she reaches the park at which time I will turn back regardless of how far I get. She should not have to wait more than 15-20 minutes for me to get back to her...a good amount of time for stretching before the uphill climb home.

I am shocked by how quickly she reaches the park. I receive her call as I approach Knob Hill...which is only 5 miles from home. She has not run many sub-10 minute miles in her training, but, this morning, has already averaged such a pace for three of her four miles! I am actually glad she has called me when she did though. I have been feeling some slight discomfort in my left knee after my run flattened out, so attempting a 13 miler today is probably not a good idea anyway.

I meet up with her and we immediately start our climb. Now that we are running together, I decide to make some course alterations so we can cross Palos Verdes Blvd at a controlled intersection...which adds a little distance. I am pleased that my wife is keeping up with me (I am not intentionally holding back, but I am not pushing my pace either). She is not running like someone who has never run 8 miles before.

As we get closer to home, the road gets steeper for roughly a half mile. My pace really drops here, but my wife needs to walk. She has held a great pace for over seven miles, so she deserves a break.

When we complete our run, she has managed to average 11:19/mile for 8.31 miles...a better pace than many of her shorter runs and a longer distance than she has ever attempted! I am impressed!

Wife's data:

My data:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

2008 = 600 Miles (and Counting)'s run may not have gone as well as I had hoped, but the 5 miler pushed me across another significant milestone: 600 miles in one year! What amuses me is that I have run about as many miles as my crazy ultra running coworker (I must apologize for not running with him wife wanted me to run with her instead).

I may have postponed my next marathon until next year, but I am certainly not done running in 2008. My last planned race for the year is still substantial - a 30km trail run in the mountains overlooking Point Mugu, so I cannot afford any more breaks in my training.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pace Recovers

On the heels of once again feeling comfortable running 8+ miles, I am also regaining my pace. It helps having a wife is running the same five mile orbit and has a good head start. I first see her around 3.1 miles into the run and need the next 0.65 miles to overtake her.

I am pretty excited that my wife has run five miles today since she did nearly the same orbit on Saturday. Even better, she did so while improving her pace (two sub 10 minute miles!). Now if only I can convince her to up her mileage in time for an upcoming 18km trail race....

Wife's data (she started more than seven minutes before me):

My data (note how my pace improves between miles 3 and 4...when I could see her):

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Adding Mileage

I have just returned from running 8.37 miles in 1:22:21...not great, but not bad either. Averaging near 10 minutes per mile is actually pretty decent considering the amount of elevation change. Even better, I did it without walking.

Having totaled more than 16 miles for the week without significant pain, I can say with certainty that I have recovered from the injuries. Next week should be over twenty with at least one half-marathon distance run.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No More Pain, No More Endurance

Well, I survived five miles on my favorite local trail without aggravating any of my joints. I just had a few issues with actually running the whole distance. That said, this was the most elevation change I have faced since leaving for Maui and this morning was particularly hot (Burma Road happens to be very exposed to the early morning sun) I really should not let myself get too down about it.

I am happy the pain is gone and thrilled my first miles were sub 8, but I am left wondering how long it will take to build mileage for a second marathon attempt.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recovery Update

Despite having issues with my joints all last week (enough discomfort that I could not risk running), I wake up this morning feeling pretty my wife and I decide to run our basic three mile orbit.

It is unexpectedly hot and humid this morning, but I manage to complete the orbit in 27:52. More importantly, I did so without aggravating any of my joints. I finish my last mostly downhill mile in 8:07 (the last 0.2 miles is a steep incline), so, even having taken so much time off, I have not really lost much speed.

That all said, I am fairly certain I will rollover my entry fee for this year's Long Beach Marathon to next year. I now know what can happen over 26.2 miles when my legs feel like they are in perfect health at the start of the race...I do not need to learn what can happen when they are not.

BTW, for those of you who are infrequent visitors to my blog, you should check my earlier posts for the Hana Relay and Maui Marathon because I have been adding details and links to photographs as they become available.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recovery / Safe Mode

A week and a day has passed since I completed my first marathon, but only today have I dared to run again. On Saturday, I went for a nice four mile walk with my mom on Burma Road (my better half ran the full five mile out-and-back), but I have been afraid to run because a number of my joints and/or muscles still ache...and I do not want to risk a more serious injury.

That said, I do need to resume my training because I have a second marathon within the next few weeks (I registered for the Long Beach International Marathon before I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon simply because I wanted the bonus technical shirt...greed will be my undoing).

I do my favorite five mile loop because, though it starts uphill, it features a longer gentle descent. I take it easy at first...and my legs feel okay (breathing rhythm is off, but not horrible). I let my stride naturally open up as the hill crests, and my pace easily improves. By the third mile, I am back under nine minutes per mile (wondering why I did not try running again earlier). I have no difficulty sustaining this pace for the rest of the run, but I feel my left knee twinge over the fourth and fifth mile. I do not experience the same painful sensations I did during the marathon, but the tingling implies a potential setback could occur at any moment given harsher conditions (steeper grade, angled pavement, concrete, longer distance, stepping on a rock the wrong way, etc.).

As soon as I return home, I realize that the discomfort I have been experiencing has definitely increased. My right hip and right ankle (both of which first got tweaked during the Palos Verdes Half Marathon) are definitely worse for wear, likely due to over compensating to protect my injured left knee. My right foot's arch/heel pain (possibly plantar fasciiatus) is also more pronounced, but strangely continues to bother me only when I walk. Rolling my foot over a tennis ball usually relieves the latter pain, but now not nearly as much or as instantaneously.

If these issues do not go away any time soon, I may have to postpone my second marathon attempt until next year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Day After

My crazy ultra-running coworker sent me this video awhile ago...I can now fully appreciate it!

This morning, I wake up at 1:15am...probably because I was asleep last night by 7pm. Still, I would have expected to need more after yesterday's ordeal.

I try to get out of bed. OMG! My legs don't work! I must use my hands to shift each leg off the bed and on to the floor. I try to stand up, but it is slow going and requires a lot of upper body strength. For some reason, I thought I would avoid a lot of this by getting a post-race massage (an amazing deep tissue massage at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's beautiful new Waihua Spa), but apparently my muscles will need a bit more time to recover.

I lie back down and try to fall asleep. I re-watch one of the videos I put on my PSP before the trip. It helps...I probably am out again by 3:30am.

The alarm goes off at 5:30am. I must have slept oddly because my neck now hurts. I still need to assist my legs out of bed. The bottoms of my feet feel like they have no padding whatsoever, so my first steps are painful. At least I am able to walk somewhat normally. Yesterday, when I first attempted to stand after sitting down to consume my post-race snacks, I was wishing for a wheelchair. It was damn near impossible to get up. At that time, I could not even fully extend my legs when I walked.

Somehow I manage to walk up a hill and climb a few sets of stairs to reach my rental car and then drive myself to Gazebo for breakfast. This is one of the rare times I am glad to be driving a car without a clutch.

While waiting in line for the restaurant to open, I am soon congratulated by an older guy who is wearing the same "Maui Marathon Finisher" T-shirt as I am. The fun thing about wearing a shirt only awarded to those who actually finish the race is instant recognition...for most, completing a marathon seems a significant enough achievement that times do not matter (although I find it strange how few people realize that marathons are 26.2 miles long). That said, this particular gentleman claims to have run 91 marathons (this being his first on Maui)! Two of the women he is with ran the half. None of them are hobbling around like me. In fact, this guy even ran three miles this morning! I feel humbled.

I need protein, so I order an Spanish omelet instead of my favorite banana-mac nut-pineapple pancakes (I'll be back tomorrow for those). The waiter congratulates me...mentioning that she saw us runners while driving between here and Kahului yesterday.

As I leave the restaurant, another lady approaches to congratulate me. She did not run this marathon, but has run several others. I find out she will be participating in next month's Long Beach next marathon (crossing fingers that I will be ready for it).

This is funny. Marathoners seem to form an instant bond. I also noticed this in conversations I overheard while sitting on the shuttle bus yesterday morning. This reminds me of when I took up snowboarding. The first days are painful. Everyone who tries the sport has had to endure the same and makes it easy for everyone to relate to one another. Marathoners must endure more. Perhaps that's why this acknowledgment and encouragement seems all the more genuine.

When I return to the hotel, a member of the staff asks me how the race went. Between running the Hana Relay with two guys who work here and meeting those who work with my wife, word has definitely gotten around. Yesterday, the waiter at one of the hotel's restaurants even presented me with a congratulatory platter of chocolate covered strawberries and truffles. Here I do not need to wear the shirt.

This definitely helps me get over the frustration I had with my knee.

As the morning continues, I focus on loosening up my legs. I alternate between spending time in the jacuzzi and swimming in the the time I am done, I am walking much more normally and can handle stairs with ease. I will probably head back down this afternoon, but first I must blog!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Maui Marathon

My wife and I are up at 2am, giving me just enough time to have coffee and a light snack before she drives me to Ka'anapali. Shuttle buses to Kahului will depart from there at 3:30, but she wants to leave early to avoid potential gridlock on Ka'anapali Parkway.

We leave Kapalua with plenty of time to spare, but need to stop for gas. The station in Kahana is closed! Thankfully, the car has enough to get to Ka'anapali...and I am able to find a seat on the first bus. My wife calls from a station in Lahaina...also closed. Hopefully the car has enough gas to not only get her back to the hotel, but also to Kahana (there are no service stations in Kapalua).

My worries soon shift below the belt. Apparently, one of the biggest mistakes a runner can make is drinking coffee and pre-hydrating before sitting down towards the back of a school bus. Just as our shuttle departs from Ka'anapali, I suddenly need to go. I must grin and bear it over every little bump our bus hits en route to the starting area. Making matters worse, our driver takes us on a longer and slower route through Wailuku before arriving at our destination behind Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. People can't get off the bus fast enough for me. Fortunately, ours is one of the first busses to arrive, so the port-a-potties are vacant (and the one I have found looks unused).

As I look around the staging area, I can hardly believe I am about to run my first marathon. A day shy of one year ago, I ran my first race since high school (and that was only five miles long). I step up to a table, set my things down, and pin my bib number to my shirt. Ouch...I have pricked my thumb! I guess I am not dreaming.

I ask around...seems like I am the only first time marathoner in my immediate vicinity. Another Eric standing nearby says we need to team together, but, when I tell him my pace goal of 9 minute miles, he replies that he'll be lagging far behind me. I start talking to the lady next to me. Her husband couldn't be here today because he hurt his ankle doing a trail run. She has not run Maui before, but has done marathons in Chicago and San Diego. She says that San Diego's Rock and Roll Marathon course (which was almost my first) is quite hilly, so I was smart not to start there.

An announcer welcomes us, provides some statistics (1,035 runners have registered for today's race representing 20 countries...500 or so from the State of Hawaii), and warms up the crowd by having us give a shout-out when our home state or country is called. I am getting anxious. Time to stretch. To my right is a large contingency of Japanese runners (who appear to be on some kind of group tour). They are stretching in unison. They look serious.

A half-an-hour before our 5:30am race time, the announcer confirms it is time to walk to the starting line. We are told to follow a truck up the driveway by the Macys and around a corner away from the mall. How far are we going? It seems like we are walking forever before we gather in the middle of a dark residential street (Google Maps measures our walk at just under a half-mile). I wonder how residents must feel having so many people crowd their street before sunrise. I notice that I am far closer to the front than the back of the field. That's good.

The announcer once again has us shout-out when our state or country is called. The countdown has begun. Apparently, the start time for the half and full marathons are synchronized. I overhear someone make the comment "I wonder how the slower half marathon runners will feel when they are passed by the elite marathoners". The guy behind me mentions that this is his first full marathon. I tell him this is mine too. We wish each other luck.

At 5:30am, the horn sounds! The announcer reminds us to cross the timing mat, but it is too dark to see the ground. My feet touch something that feels like carpet just as the field spreads out enough to run. This must be the mat...time to start my GPS watch. I pass between two Polynesian guys holding torches before proceeding into the darkness. The course begins flat with perhaps a slight dip. I am making a conscious effort to keep my pace between 8-and-a-half and 9 minutes per mile for the first half of this race, having noted that the next four or five miles will be a slight incline followed by more significant hills when we reach the coast.

According to my watch, I complete my first mile in 8:32. I am off to a good start. My legs feel great and my breathing is calm and controlled. As I reach the intersection of Puunene and Dairy Road and turn on to the Kuihelani Highway (380), however, the air turns foul. I am guessing that the source of this stench is fertilizer for the sugar cane fields adjacent to the highway. Stalks of sugar cane continue to the horizon. I hope the smell does not.

As with the Hana Relay, the road is not completely closed to vehicles (I suppose it would be impossible to close the only highway connecting Kahului with West Maui) and participants must stick to the left. Though I would have preferred being able to run in the center of the pavement (where it is least sloped to the sides), cones have been placed so that we can at least run within a portion of the slow lane and not just upon the shoulder. That said, pre-dawn traffic is light in both directions. Generator powered lights dot the highway, so we are not running in total darkness. I grab a cup at the first water station. Expecting heat, I plan to take at least some water or Gatorade at every station...I will not make the mistake of waiting for my body to tell me it is thirsty.

Despite the slight incline, I have no difficulty maintaining my target pace over the next few miles. The sky starts to lighten up. Shortly after passing the fourth mile marker, I notice my pace has improved to nearly 8 minutes per mile. The road has flattened so gradually that I may not have noticed the slight downward slope if not for my watch.

As the intersection of the Honoapiilani Highway (30) comes into view, a runner behind me says that she is patting herself on the back for reaching this point by sunrise. I look over my left shoulder and can see a tiny spot of bright red over the northern slope of Haleakala. The sky has an odd haze about it (yesterday, I heard the Honolulu news refer to "vog" - volcanic smog - but this is my first time seeing it), but, otherwise, there are no clouds. I am glad I have made it this far this fast because I suspect that the temperature will soon begin to rise.

After merging with Highway 30, I encounter a much more pronounced downward slope. Without any effort, my pace accelerates (I do not realize I am averaging sub-8 over the next two miles). With the island now bathing in dawn's light, I can more fully appreciate my surroundings. I pass the Maui Ocean Center and Maalea Harbor. The coast is in view. Through the haze, I see Wailea, Molokini, Kahoolawe. This is truly running in paradise.

The hilly coastal section of the race begins, but the initial grade is nowhere near as steep as I anticipated. Training around Palos Verdes, Kapalua, and participating in the Hana Relay have prepared me for elevation changes far worse than this. I grab my first sponge from one of the aid stations and apply it to my forehead. WOW! It is ice-cold! That will wake anyone up.

Winding roads and rolling hills (followed by one last significant incline) overlook rugged coastline for the next few miles...similar to some stretches of Palos Verdes Drive back home. The banked turns, however, prove to be far more challenging than the final ascent. The longer the turn, the longer one leg must compensate. Though my joints do not like the sustained uneven strain, my pace never drops below 9 minutes per mile.

As I begin the descent towards Ukumehame Park, I let my pace improve knowing that all significant elevation changes are now behind me. My legs and breathing feel great as I pass through the at tunnel (the momentary blip in pace recorded by my watch is simply where it lost communication with the satellites). My half marathon split is actually the second fastest I have ever recorded, yet I feel fully capable of doing the second half at the same pace...or even faster. Four hours seems totally doable.

I reach the flat section of highway that is adjacent to the beach...a stretch of the course that I have been looking forward to ever since I decided to run the full marathon. Unfortunately, the road does not feel nearly as flat as it looks. I start pushing myself just to maintain my pace (unaware that I have slowed below nine minutes per mile). This is the first time today that my muscles really feel the effort. Adding discomfort, I feel the sun on my back. There is no shade. There is barely any sea breeze. I start looking for the next aid station, now eager to take on water, Gatorade, and sponges.

According to my watch, I complete fifteen miles in 2:08:23. During one of my longer training runs, I remember being impressed when I reached this distance in 2:15:00, so I am obviously pleased (failing to notice that my pace has continued to fade). Over the next mile-and-a-half, my breathing remains very comfortable, but I definitely am pushing my legs harder than expected...seemingly convinced I am running slightly uphill.

Suddenly, my left knee gives out...and I hop upon my right leg until I reach a complete stop. This is totally unexpected. I have never felt anything like this while running before. I try walking, hoping the pain will pass quickly. Since my average pace is still well under nine minutes per mile, I can take it easy for a bit and still finish in four hours. Even more encouraging, I am able to walk pretty fast. A quarter of a mile later, I try running. The knee appears to be holding up.

As I approach the aid station near the seventeenth mile marker, the pain returns. It seems centered behind the joint, perhaps in the ligaments, and becomes more pronounced as I relax the muscles around the knee. The slower I jog, the worse the pain grows, so I walk through the aid station. Even more frustrating, I am unable to run through the only shaded stretch of the entire course!

I hate watching my average pace drop. I must try running again. The pain is not too bad for the first few strides, but becomes unbearable as my pace drops to a jog. I repeat this frustrating cycle several times. I keep passing and being passed by a short Asian gal who has been maintaining a slow but steady clip. I have no idea what she must think of my technique. Now my knee hurts when I walk too. The road here slopes to the left, causing additional torque on my joints with each painful step. I cannot let myself stop.

After I pass the eighteenth mile marker, I try running again. Despite having already been on the course for more than three hours, I feel confident that I can still finish this race within four hours. My mind is going. I am deluding myself. I have never run eight miles in one hour...and I have more than eight to go. Perhaps the sun is starting to get to me. Shortly after crossing the 30K timing mat, I start walking again.

I reach the turn-around point for today's half marathon. I remember how good I felt after running 13.1 miles...and start regretting my decision to run the full 26.2. Course workers remove cones used for separating incoming and outgoing participants running the half. I guess their race is over. Lucky them.

The next few miles are a blur.

When I see a sign for medical assistance at the aid station near mile 21, I grab a seat and describe my injury to the volunteer working there. She thinks the pain sounds deep, rubs some form of relieving cream (perhaps IcyHot) on the back of my leg, and then tells me I can catch a bus from here to the finish line if I feel like stopping. I cannot believe what I am hearing. I am only five miles from completing my first marathon. I refuse to quit, immediately stand up, and resume a brisk walking pace. I soon feel heat working its way deep into the muscles behind my knee. When the course turns down Front Street, I start jogging again. My leg feels pretty good!

Unfortunately, it is even hotter in Lahaina than I had feared. Residents offer to hose me down. I accept as long as they don't spray my shoes. My pace drops back to a walk as I reach the next aid station. Ack! Warm water is bad enough, but warm Gatorade is nasty! The sponge helps, but not for long. I walk through Old Lahaina Town. As I pass Bubba Gump Shrimp, I keep hearing "run, Forrest, run!", but my body says "stop, Forrest, stop!"

Continuing down Front Street, I encounter a series of official looking photographers. Before I reach the first, I somehow manage to start jogging while morphing a seemingly frozen grimace into a very forced smile. I am able to strike nearly the same pose for each photographer. Perhaps this is the motivation I need to finish the race! But, when I pass the last of them, I start walking again. It does not help that Front Street has slight inclines at a bridge and as it merges with the highway.

The incline continues for a bit past the twenty-fifth mile marker, but I decide to try running again. The knee is a bit iffy, but seems solid enough to endure one last push. I slow my pace to save energy for the descent into Ka'anapali. I grab a cup of water and a sponge at the last aid station. I am so over walking. I want to run as much of the home stretch as I can, no matter how badly I feel.

As my pace improves, my wife tries calling my cellphone. I answer, but she cannot hear me. She tries again, hoping to hear where I am on the course. I am unable to tell her that I am close to the end, struggling to maintain my rhythm. At least I am running. By the time I turn on Ka'anapali Parkway, my pace is sub-10 and improves as the course continues downhill. I see many cheering people, but no one I recognize. I cross a timing mat as the finish comes into view. Still no sign of my wife. The announcer calls out my name and hometown, giving me one last boost. I muster enough strength to throw both arms up as I run across the finish line.


My wife finds me as I proceed down the chute, collect my finisher's medal, and pose for one last official photo. Since she has missed snapping a photo of me crossing the finish line, she takes a couple now. I am not winded, but my legs and feet feel thoroughly abused. I grab my finisher's T-shirt, gather much needed post-race snacks, and then my wife helps me find a spot to sit down. I cannot sit comfortably. All of my joints ache. I am not yet enjoying the fact I completed my first marathon. I am not sure if I ever will...

Official photos of me

Article in The Maui News

Official stats:
Time: 04:41:59
10K split: 0:52:37
Half split: 1:52:52
30K split: 3:12:35 (left knee went out before mile 17)
Place overall: 302 (of 808 finishers)
Place division: 42 (of 75 finishers)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Marathon Training Complete

My first full marathon is on Sunday (just a few days way), so this morning's run is officially my last until the big give my legs one last chance to rest before making them suffer! My training on Maui has taken me close to the northern end of the Honoapiilani Highway to as far south as the Kahana Gateway (and even further if you count the Hana entry still being worked on), but I have yet to run upon any segment of the 26.2 mile stretch between Kahului and Kaanapali that defines the Maui Marathon.

I am getting somewhat used to the humidity, but I have not yet run in the late morning heat (my 11:20AM leg of the Hana Relay was in a full downpour). Unfortunately, low winds and higher humidity is forecast for the weekend. I am crossing my fingers that, during the race, I will be able to get through Lahaina before it gets too hot.

Until Sunday morning, I am going to take it easy and spend a lot of time in the pool. I have managed to stay healthy and injury free this long, so I do not need to take any chances. I have to pick up my race packet either tomorrow or on Saturday...and then it is once again time to carbo-load!

Friday's run: 4.08 miles (8:44/mi)
Hana Relay: 9.49 miles (8:15/mi)
Tuesday's run: 10.6 miles (9:34/mi)
Today's run: 6.21 miles (8:49/mi)

Total on Maui: 29.36 miles (8:52/mi)

Total YTD: 542.43 miles (9:42/mi)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hana Relay

If Nike's Run Hit Remix is "more fun than run" and Disneyland's Half Marathon is the "happiest race on earth", then I am totally at a loss for how to describe the wacky and highly spirited relay that takes place on the infamous 52 mile long road to Hana.

On our pre-dawn ride to Kahului, I meet my teammates, learn that our team is called "Off the Couch" and that our official baton is a TV Remote (an actual IR remote with batteries removed), but this hardly prepares me for the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the start of the race. Unlike many of the participating teams, we are not wearing crazy costumes or riding in a decorated support vehicle. Some guys apparently have no issues with their sexuality as we see everything from running nuns to Super Fairies. The women are no less enthusiastic with instantly recognizable teams like G.I. Janes and Disco Divas. And there are mixed sex teams including a rowdy band of pirates (their truck is decorated like a pirate ship...complete with mast and sails) and a team of rock stars featuring a bald guy wearing a dress that is supposed to be Sinead O'Connor. What have I gotten myself into?

Jorge, our team leader, has run this event before and is indeed a runner (he has run a half marathon in the low 1:30's). Unfortunately, he has not had time to run much this year. Since I am the one with the most training, I have volunteered for the first and thirteenth legs, both of which are recorded by the timing chip...and, since we agree to maintain our team order for the duration of the race, I will also take the seventh. I'll be handing the remote to Mike, Mike to Jorge, Jorge to Paige, Paige to Joe, Joe to Mitch, and Mitch back to me until he crosses the finish line in Hana.

Having arrived only 15 minutes before our start time (the start is staggered based on how long each captain estimates his or her team will take to complete the entire 52 mile course), I have just enough time to put on my bib, strap the official timing chip to my left ankle (which I will hand to Mitch after I complete the thirteenth leg), stretch, make one last pit stop, and pose for a team photo before I must hand my camera to Mitch, grab the baton, and line up for the start of the race. Runners are warned to stay left because the road to Hana is not closed (say what?) and are advised to use good judgment because we will encounter traffic. Some team captains are scolded for bringing two or more support vehicles...with a record 121 teams participating, parking will already be difficult around the hand off zones. For those of you who have not done this drive before, the road to Hana features many narrow sections, blind corners, and one lane bridges. This will be interesting to say the least!

Leg 1:
2.4 Miles - Start at the JUNCTION OF KEOLANI AND AALELE ST. Run East on Aalele St., left onto Old Haleakala Hwy., then straight on Haleakala Hwy. Juct. To Kala Rd. (Which is one-way: Support Vehicles must turn right on Haleakala Hwy., left on Hana Hwy., then park along Hana Hwy. for hand-off.) HAND-OFF POINT IS ON KALA RD. about 150 meters from the Hana hwy. intersection.

When the horn sounds, I sprint to the lead, but then quickly back off (letting a few guys pass me) when I realize my pace is around six minutes per mile. I want to use this flat and short segment to warm up, not burn out! That said, I am not entirely sure how I should pace such an event because, while my total run will be over nine miles, the long breaks in between might provide me with fresh legs or nasty cramps.

As the course turns towards Haleakala, I can see the sun rising through the clouds, rays streaking across the inspiring sight. The early morning temperature is pleasant, so the humidity seems manageable...for now.

I complete the first mile in 6:47.

As the road turns near runway 2 of Kahului International Airport, another runner gets by me. We are on one of those deceptively slight inclines, so I try to keep him within view without pushing too hard. When the road dips towards the first hand off zone, I start reeling him in...but I cannot catch him before handing the baton to Mike.

Though only four teams handed off ahead of us, the staggered start times make it impossible to know our place in overall race even at this early stage. My teammates seem pleased with my effort and my legs are feeling pretty good, so I am pumped when I return to the van.

Leg 7:
3.4 Miles - From TWIN FALLS (HOOLAWA) BRIDGE to EMI BASE YARD IN KAILUA . Rolling hills, then mostly level on winding road.

At this point, everyone on our team has had a turn and everyone is looking pretty good, but our van is really starting to smell. Jorge seems especially fast, but he was seriously winded after his leg. Joe had a bad reaction to the 5 hour energy gel he consumed prior to running, but he was able to keep it down until completing his leg. Though Joe had an especially hot leg under direct sun, things have cooled off since Mitch took the baton. I have been blessed with overcast skies and light winds.

Over two hours have passed since I was out there, so I actually feel quite rested...and I have time to make a pit stop and stretch before Mitch hands me the remote.

The descriptions "rolling hills" and "winding road" apply to most of the road to Hana, but Twin Falls is really where the crazy drive begins. Having trained on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, I do not fear this is not unlike running along Portuguese Bend.

Two miles in, the course starts an uphill climb and I feel my pace drop. Still, I am able to use the incline to pass a couple of people. I am feeling pretty good about not being passed until one guy in particular flies by me...and, no matter how hard I try, I cannot stay with him. His bib color is pink, meaning he is from the last group to start. After a couple of turns, he is no longer within view. I have a feeling he is going to be on the winning team.

I am still climbing as my watch indicates 3.4 miles, so I start worrying when I cannot see the next hand off zone. Fortunately, the road soon levels off, so I am able to pick up my pace and stop thinking about the discrepancy between my GPS watch and the stated length for this leg. By the time I pass the remote to Mike, I am really moving.

Leg 13:
3.3 Miles - From WAILUA BAY LOOKOUT to PUAA KAA STATE PARK. 2.1 miles uphill. A tough leg. Put the guy/gal you don't like on this leg. Bathrooms and water available.

Since my last leg, parking around hand off zones has become nearly impossible. Lots are tiny, road is narrow, shoulders are practically non-existent, turn outs are rare, bridges are barely wide enough for a car plus runner. On the plus side, the views have been spectacular and the tropical vegetation especially lush. With the ride being broken up for these hand offs, the drive to Hana actually does not seem nearly as long as I remember (ironic because we have already been out here for more than four hours and we still have a long way to go).

As I get ready for my next leg, I start looking for a restroom since the description states one would be available. Unfortunately, this stop is merely a scenic overlook with no place to go unless I am willing to risk falling off a cliff (that does not stop one girl from trying). Aggravating the situation, it starts to rain. Another runner mentions this precipitation is not nearly as bad as last year...just minutes before it gets worse. I wait nearly ten minutes in a tropical downpour, the kind with thick and heavy drops (feels like I am standing under a waterfall). The wind is chilling. My hat, clothes, and, even worse, shoes and socks get drenched. Did I mention I really have to go?

Mitch hands me the remote and I am off. This leg starts on an incline...and continues upward endlessly with very few moments of respite. Some sections are quite steep. The rain continues to pour for most of my ascent. I am barely able to enjoy the view. I can hardly concentrate on my breathing and I completely forget how long this leg is. I just keep thinking about the official descriptions "2.1 miles uphill" and "put the guy/gal you don't like on this leg". Before the course flattens, I suffer my first slower than ten minutes mile of the race.

As I reach the top, I am thrilled to see that the course actually starts to descend. With this being my last leg, I start pushing the pace hoping to improve my overall average for this leg. While the rain has stopped, the road remains wet, so I have to be careful not to slip as I lengthen my stride. That said, I no longer need to leave anything in reserve. The faster I finish, the faster I can go...and I really need to now!

When I cross the timing mat and hand off to Mike, I am more relieved than anything...relieved to see an actual restroom just a few steps away!

Back in the van, I hand my timing chip to Mitch. Paige and I actually consider joining him on the anchor leg, so we can cross the finish line together, but, as we continue our ride towards Hana, Mitch reminds me that I have a marathon to run next week. Ditching my soaked shoes and socks for flip flops feels so good. I am so done.

More details about our finish coming soon...

Official photographs

My photographs

Unofficial Personal Results:

Total distance: 9.49 (according to GPS)
Total time: 01:18:21
Average pace: 08:15/Mile

Official Results:
Overall time for team "Off the Couch": 07:14:03
Team pace: 8:21/Mile
Overall place: 60 out of 121
First leg: 17:37 (37th)
Thirteenth leg
: No data (WTF?!?)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Arrived on Maui

And I just got confirmation that I will be running the Hana Relay this Saturday!

Last night, while I was still packing for this marathon trip, my wife forwarded an e-mail from a coworker whose fiancee had been looking for an additional runner for the race. I was already familiar with the event, having read about it a couple of months ago, but figured it would be impossible to gather the necessary team of six runners with such little notice especially because I live on the mainland.

The Hana Relay is categorized as a "fun run" and none of my teammates are serious runners. In other words, I'll be treating this as a warm up for the help me acclimate to the heat and humidity here (today it is in the mid-80's, but feels a LOT hotter!)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Disneyland Half Marathon

Walking around both Disney parks and the Anaheim Resorts until 9pm yesterday could have worked against me, but the always pleasant diversion combined with significant energy expenditure probably improved the quality of my slumber (no pre-race jitters!). In other words, I have no problem waking up with the alarm at 4am.

I arrive at the pre-race staging area at 5am and, shortly thereafter, meet up with two coworkers also participating in the race (one of them being the crazy ultra trail-runner I train with once a week). We have been assigned different adjacent starting corrals (I'm in B) and, since officials are indeed checking bibs, we cannot sneak into one together. We will definitely not be seeing each other again until after the race.

Nearly all of today's conditions appear to be perfect. My legs feel good, my new pair of Kayano 13s are sufficiently broken in. I have adequetly carbo-loaded over the past two days. I am already feeling my morning dose of caffeine (hotel room coffee made more palatable thanks to the light snack included in the goody bag I picked up with my race packet). I remember to bring enough gels for consumption at 45 and 15 minutes before the gun and one for 45 minutes into the race...and I have brought a disposable water bottle so I can keep myself thoroughly hydrated until the moment the race starts. I do not even feel the need a last minute restroom break. The pre-dawn air does seem humid and perhaps a bit too pleasant this early, but the marine layer should prevent the temperature from rising too high.

After some purely Disney theatrics (the announcer proposes to his girlfriend...Mickey and Minnie's friends arrive via monorail stopping directly in view through the starting gate), it is finally time to run. The race begins at 6am as scheduled. It takes me over a minute to cross the line and start running (I can only imagine how long it will take corral G to get here). I start my watch and music...and, just a few moments later, I realize I have made one major mistake.

In the process of deleting slower songs from my Walkman phone before the race, I have forgotten to place the MP3 player back into shuffled track mode. It must be in album mode because I can't change tracks (I only ripped one song from the selected album). I can't change playback modes without stopping to take the phone out of my armband. A-ha's The Living Daylights is holding my pace back, so I decide to race without music.

Fortunately, there is plenty of entertainment along the course, from classic Disney characters and parade performers found throughout Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland to dozens of drill teams, cheerleaders, marching bands (not to mention a Mariachi band and Polynesian dancers) lining the streets of Anaheim. I give high fives to a number of boy and girl scouts along the way, thanking them for their support. And, since first names are printed on the bib, complete strangers are cheering "You can do it, Eric!"

It's nice going into a race with a definite plan...and then being able to stick to it. From my training, I am confident I can hold an 8 minute per mile pace. I do not let my pace drop much during slight inclines (and actually use these as opportunities to pick other runners off). I do let my pace increase on the slight declines (for the most part, this is a really flat course). I am using my watch to monitor my overall average pace and am encouraged each time it updates another second faster than 8...even splits are great, negative even better! I consume fluids at every station, I stick to my own schedule for consuming a Cliff Shot rather than wait for the freebie at mile 9.

When I pass ten miles having held my fastest eight mile training pace with absolutely no issues, I grow even more confident I can finish this race in 1:45. I am actually smiling as I attack the slight incline after mile 11 (look for runner 2001 in photo to the left)...and it ends up being my second fastest mile of the race.

My mood changes with a mile-and-a-half to go. I see my pace momentarily slow and I must struggle to get my legs to turn over any faster. I am not winded...just feeling my burning muscles and a general sense of fatigue. We cross back through California Adventure and twist our way through the Downtown Disney. Where's the finish line? My watch says I've already run 13.2 miles!

One final turn near the Disneyland Hotel and I push hard through to the finish line. The clock reads 1:46:55 when I cross the line, my watch 1:45:47...and my chip time is officially 1:45:46. I really feel like I had done a 1:45 flat, so that extra 46 seconds bother the heck out of me! My GPS data suggests the course length is just a couple tenths of a mile longer than it should have been. It's not just my watch either. Both of my coworkers recorded a course length longer than 13.34 miles (of course, we all have the same exact GPS watch). My official 5K split sounds a minute too slow. I am pretty certain that my 10K split was faster than the logged 50:40 (just a couple of weeks ago I ran a 10K that felt much slower in 50:38...and my watch disputed the length of that course as well).

After meeting up with my coworkers and consuming post race snacks, it starts to sink in that, regardless of whether or not I hit 1:45 flat, I still beat my personal record by eight minutes. I have finished 75th out of 749 men in my age division, 418th of 4442 men overall, and 515th of all 10,849 participants who completed the course within the four hour time limit. My coworkers, both also within my age division, both set personal records today as well.

Disney calls this event the "Happiest Race On Earth." I should be happy. I am happy that I can walk back to my hotel. I am thrilled that I do not have to drive home (my best bud not only provided transportation but also got me into both parks yesterday). And Monday is a holiday...I should be enjoying a total high.

That said, I know I will not be able to hold this pace for a full 26.2 miles. Am I a bit worried that my first full marathon is just two weeks away? Absolutely!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Asics Kayano 14 vs 13

Last week, my crazy ultra trail-running coworker was forced to buy Kayano 14s because the Disneyland Half Marathon is fast approaching and his 13s have completely lost their spring. Like me, he loves the 13s, so I was curious to hear his review.

He says the new generation fits differently...takes some getting used to...and has hot spots.

Today, my wife and I drop by Sports Authority. I try on a pair. Just like my coworker, I immediately notice a tightness in the toe-box. One of the things I love about my 13s is how free my toes are to wiggle and flex, but the 14s definitely pinch and a half-size up would be too big and sloppy. This new shoe would definitely take some getting used to.

Why, why, WHY does Asics have to change a good thing?

I am glad I have still have an unused pair of Kayano 13s that I will be rotating into my routine starting tomorrow morning. I will be using this fresh pair on both the Disneyland Half Marathon and the Maui less variable to worry about.