Sunday, November 10, 2013

Runner's World

            Runner's World  
Runner's World, Dec. 2013, pg. 90
Runner's World Magazine saw the June AARP Bulletin article and contacted me about my 'Challenge 65' for their end-of-year story profiling several runners with story headline of:

'Everyday athletes inspired us with incredible feats this year.'

Photo at right from their December issue.

'Racing' Again

'Racing' Again & Runner's World

Last Saturday (Nov. 2) I ran in 'The John Lawson Tamalpa Challenge',  a 4.15 mile cross country USA Track & Field event held on trails of the beautiful China Camp State Park of San Rafael. With 3 separate starts (women, men's Masters, open men), we also saw the start and finish of both the women's and men's open races, in addition to racing -- extra fun.

Beautiful day. It was also my first race since June. The 300 finishers were each awarded a commemorative half-pint glass mug, fresh bagels and cooled beer kegs to 'test' out the mugs. Nice.
Happy to be 'racing' 
(Photo: Dave Waco)
Lots of talent in the women's and men's fields. Jennie Wilson won in 24:46.  Running friend Alex Varna won the men's in just 21:03 (a 5:06 pace). And then yesterday, just a week later, Alex won the  USA 50K Trail Championship (running a 6:52 pace for a hilly 31.1 miles, and setting a new course record)! More to come from Alex.

Runner's World  

(click here)


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dipsea Race -- One Year Later

Three days from now is the 2013 Dipsea Race, one of the most difficult and challenging races -- and also one of my all-time favorites. Uniquely handicapped, 1-minute start intervals give everyone (if they are at the top of their game by age and gender) a chance to win the race. My goals are modest -- doing better than last year  (and qualifying for the 2014 Invitational).

The oldest trail race in the US, the 7.4 mile course features a tough elevation gain of 2,000 feet, and 688 steps just to get you going. Like any race, the key is to go for it and cross the finish line with nothing 'left in the tank.' Given narrow and sometimes treacherous trail, and runners who started ahead, it takes constant focus to run your own race, keep your effort at maximum, and pass everyone you can.

Most of my fast-and-talented Pelican Inn Track Club buddies pass me before I reach the finish, so also I get to cheer on friends while running. Maybe we'll even win the Team Trophy again this year (lowest team total of the top 5 teammate finisher places).

Last year's Dipsea Race was 1st of the 10 events that began my 'Comeback 65' journey. The year has flown by.

I'm grateful to be running and also able to again enjoy the trails (a rarity most of last year, while training for swimming, biking and triathlon/marathon running on roads).

Paraphrasing the quote in the June 2013 AARP Bulletin (or their Feature Editor's blog), just thinking about getting fit won't help. No matter the activity you choose, it's time to get started - no excuses. You owe it to yourself.

Pacific Ocean, Marin County CA

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Last of the 10 Events

The Avenue of the Giants Marathon
Humbolt Redwoods State Park, May 5, 2013
(Event #10 of 10)
10 Starts & 10 Finishes in 10 Events

After a long drive from SF Bay via Chico (picking up my son Elliot at college), we finally arrived Saturday afternoon in Arcata, a seaside college town north of the start of Sunday's marathon among the giant Coast Redwoods (the tallest known species of trees in the world). 

Up at 5 am Sunday to get to the start of the marathon, obtain my race number and warm up prior to the 7:45 am start. (Marian up early to drive hour south to the start,  then returned  to snooze, then return with Elliot to the Marathon). Marathon Sunday was also coincidently my 66th birthday.

Nice hometown feeling at the pre-race, fun booths, music playing and low-key anxiety. Beautiful sunny, cool morning. In rural California, Boston's tragedy was present:

The course was an out & back, in a layout that at each turnaround, a quarter of the marathon distance was marked. Additionally, because they also ran a Half-Marathon and a 10K Race (both of which started later), we got to see hundreds of runners for each event, including all the marathon leaders running the opposite direction (coming back back from where we were headed).

At 7:40 a man from San Francisco sang our national anthem, was moving to many -- and the start blast then sounded. Some 750 marathon runners started off down a road, in near-constant shade by huge redwoods on both sides. 

100 yards from Finish,
-- a Happy Camper.

My first mile was 8:18 so I slowed it down purposely to just over 9 minutes....and held it in the 9 minute range, until mile 10. I had hoped to run under 4:10 to qualify for the 2014 Boston, but I could tell by mile 11 that it was unlikely to happen (needing a 9:25 pace average), so I backed off and started to enjoy the scenery -- and focus on crossing the finish line of my 10th and final event of my Comeback 65 year.

Mile 15-17 I was running 11 minute miles, and slowed to 14 minute miles at the very end.  Just 7 weeks after finishing the grueling Ironman, it was clear my body needed more recovery time. Just 7 weeks (with 10K race in-between) would have been a challenge for most.

So I kicked back, watched the runners in the opposite lane for distraction, chatted it up among runners alongside -- and enjoyed the run. It started getting hot, so drinking at every aid station. 

This time no back spasm, no hamstring pulls, just good old slow from being tired, starting after 20 miles. 

As I headed finally toward the finish line, a few minutes below 5 hours,  I spotted Elliot who also saw me at the same time. It was a boost to see how excited he was. Me too.

The Year that Flew By
No major muscle pulls. No broken bones. No drowning. Feb. hospitalized for pneumonia, but bounced back. All in all, no complaints. 10 starts and 10 finish lines, for which I am very grateful.

I feel fit for the upcoming 2013 Dipsea Race. For a year, nearly daily I either swam distance in a pool, biked 20-60 miles with climbing; or ran paved roads for mileage. Only Tuesdays could I run trails. Now I'm back to my favorite of trail running.  

Now About You -- Yes You

If you are not already fit, find inspiration or motivation to do so. 

Everyone owes it to themselves to be fit. You feel good and have more energy for more hours. You'd also look fit. And reduce your individual risks of getting several chronic or killer diseases.

Walk, hike, run, swim, bike or get exercise any way you wish. But stop promising. Start being fit -- at all ages. No excuses.  You can do it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Benicia 10K Time Trial

Benicia Run for Education
(Event #9 of 10)

Sunday I ran a local 10K race that I had selected because it was nearby and 3 weeks away from my last Event of my year-long journey: The Avenue of The Giants Marathon on Sunday May 5 (coincidently, also my 66th Birthday).

A beautiful, cool, windy clear day in the historic town of Benicia on the northwestern edge of the San Francisco Bay. Small town feel, with proceeds from 1,500 Benicia Run for Education entrants (10K, 5K and Kids' 1-miler) all going for their local schools. 

The course was an out & back, with several hills, but the main reason I had chosen the 10K was it is a commonly-used time trial or predictor for marathon finish times (and also for realistic pacing). 

My 10K time of 51:12 converts to predicted marathon finish time of just under 4 hours. 

It had always been my intent to use the only marathon I'd run during this Comeback65 year as a qualifier for the following Boston Marathon. 
60-69 Age Award 2nd Place. 

I need a 4:05 to be confident of an entry (though my official qualifying cut-off is 4:10). 

But I have run enough marathons to know 'certainty' is not part of marathoning and to take nothing for granted 19 days from now.

2013 Boston Marathon

In Memory of  those who lost their lives at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

I am devastated by yesterday's bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon. 

My heart goes out to those who lost their lives, their families and the many, many others both physically and emotionally injured. Whoever is responsible, they have no value for life.

The first of my 10 events was originally to have been last year's Avenue of the Giants Marathon to try to qualify for this year's 2013 Boston Marathon.  But then a muscle injury in early April last year required my reordering the planned events. 

The Boston Marathon finish line clock yesterday read 4:09 at the time of the first blast (approximately 1 minute from the finish line). I could very well have been there at that time, and thank 'serendipity' for that not being the case.

What's Next

I am going to run The Avenue of The Giants Marathon with all I have, so that next April 2014 on Massachusetts Patriots Day, maybe I will be privileged to then join thousands of runners and hopefully the largest spectator turnout in the 118 year history of the Boston Marathon to communally say No to senseless violence -- and Yes for respect of life and for the freedoms, values and traditions that Americans celebrate.  

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Ironman

Ironman Los Cabos
Baja California, Mexico, March 17, 2017
Event #8 of 10

A 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and finally a full 26.2 mile marathon. 

I could fill a page with details about times, pacing and such, but it would be beside the point. 

The first woman President of an African country said in a Harvard commencement: “If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough....The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. … If you start off with a small dream, you may not have much left when it is fulfilled because, along the way, life will … make demands on you." (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia) 

For me the Ironman was new territory, my dream 'bar' set high. Going the distance was my primary objective: all 140.6 miles to the finish line. 

Just prior to the Ironman, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about my journey in the Sunday Sports:

Standing on the beach, the Ironman had finally arrived. Jitters? Yes. Ready to get started? Yes.

The 2.4-mile Swim Leg
After changing into wetsuits and swim gear, some 1,400 athletes were massed on the beach, awaiting the 7 am start blast to scramble into the water and start the swim. Facing east in the Sea of Cortez, the bright rising sun was blinding at that same moment. 

Exiting the swim, rushing to bike.

I tried locating myself at the back of the pack, but others arrived behind me. When the gun went off at 7 am, there was a bit of chaos. Unfortunately, moments after starting, big waves hit our start area (which with the sun and excitement, I never saw), and I soon found myself swept back with swimmers on top of me and others underneath me. No one got hurt, but it was unsettling. 

I told myself to calm down, that I could do this, that I had a 'job' to do -- and soon found my rhythm and was off to the first red buoy. 

The 2.4 mile course was a huge rectangle marked by red buoys (part of which is visible in the bike photo below). 

Given my newbie swimming skills in challenging open water waves, contant sighting of the next buoy was what I should have been continually focused on. By the time I finished just over 2 hours later, my watch told me I had swam my longest distance ever (nearly 2.6 miles) thus wasting minutes and energy on the extra 0.2 miles that I swam. But no time to fret. Off to the next leg.

The Bike 112-mile Leg

My pre-check bike gear bag had my shirt with race number on the back, shorts, socks, shoes, helmet and a belt with 2 snap-on squeeze containers filled with a recommended caloric replenishment liquid I brought from the US, as well as salt pills and ibuprofen (if needed).

Bike staging. Red buoys show short side of rectangular swim. (Click to enlarge.)

The long leg towards Cabo San Lucas was hilly, and in the bright desert sun, 80's for the entire ride.

Somewhere on first leg.
Mexican Route #1 is a 4-lane divided highway between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.  On race day, 2 lanes were closed for the Ironman bikers. Lots of hills, with slowed traffic on the adjacent 2 lanes sharing 1 lane each -- but quite a mobile cheering section as a result, along much of the route.

Route #1 had lots of hills along the entire way. But the most steep hills were on the following leg to and from the airport on a toll highway that was closed for the Ironman.

In the midpoint of the bike ride, I retrieved by numbered-nutrition bag to pull out 2 of my food bottles to swap for those I'd consumed, and pick a few items off the food table (including some delicious Quaker butter and pineapple cookies). I was probably off the bike 2-3 minutes in total -- only 'stop' I took.

The aid stations were great and amply staffed with 'runners' who made it easy to switch water or gatorade bottles without stopping. When I discovered the water bottles even had ices cubes, I began dumping one over my hemet to keep cool at all the following aid stops.

Not the easiest bike course. 6,000 feet of elevation gain for the entire ride, and apparently one of the toughest bike segments of all the Ironman venues. Fortunately, Bicycle Odyssey of Sausalito sponsored me by lending a Giant TSR bike (instead of my vintage 1992 bike, used in the Death Ride). Current technology does make a difference.

Because the bike course consisted of 2 loops, virtually all the bikers passed me at least once, so I got so see up close the top athletes, all kinds of amazing bikes, not to mention the colorful fashions and  incredibly fit (and usually young) athletes that somehow managed to 'effortlessly' pass me. With 5-year age groups clearly marked on all athletes' calves, at least it was easy to see how old everyone was as they passed (and their names and countries, displayed on competitor bibs pinned on the back of everyone's jersey).

A long, hot, hilly bike ride. On the last 30+ miles, I picked up the pace with what I had 'left' and managed to pass scores of bikers -- see one ahead, pass 'em, pick a new target....I had never ridden as fast or as consistently tuned-in to the gearing, body position, leg turnover, use of aerial bars for lowering my profile and wind resistance, including my being out of the saddle pushing the hills at every opportunity. Just over 10 hours after the swim start, it was time (finally) to get on with the run.

The 26.2-mile Marathon
I have run many marathons, but none following a long swim and an even longer bike ride. I knew I had extra time or 'margin' for error, because all I needed was to finish before midnight.  Heck, I had over 6 hours to do so and had never gone over 5 hours prior. And running was my strong event. Simple, no?

The marathon course consisted of 3 identical loops meandering through the heart of colonial San Jose del Cabo and some residential areas. Near the start, the course soon passed the finish line, with a divided 'shoot' : straight to the finish, and to left for more loops. By the time I started, there were people being announced as they finished. Off I went on loop 1 at a conservative slow pace, an easy jog until I got my legs moving OK.

There were great crowds of natives and tourists cheering in large numbers, all along much of the marathon route. I remember distinctly people cheering me on me that I had only a mile to go (when in fact I was nearing just the end of my 1st or 2nd of the 3 loops for the marathon).

The aid stops were also well placed and frequent, with lots of volunteers offering specially-filled water bags, gatorade, cups of Pepsi Cola, pretzels, salted peanuts, cookies, PowerBar choices, cut bananas and more.

Given I was in uncharted territory for me, I drank at nearly every opportunity, and ate something whenever I could  manage to do so as well. Once I started running, I had a fear of stopping resulting in muscle spasms.  I saw and passed many people walking -- and just wanted to keep moving.

During the midpoint, I was moving along at a steady pace, and passing lots of people. Some another athlete blew by me and yelled to me (in accented English) 'You are inspiring! Looking good.'  Didn't feel like I was 'looking good' but such comments helped. (He was in the 25-29 age group.)

On my 3rd loop, around mile 21, a lower back spasm hit me (first time ever), making my maintaining an efficient upright posture 'problematic'. Unfortunately, in the rush to change from biking to running, I also left behind my ibuprofen pills. But since my legs were OK, I was determined that no such back spasm was going to stop me from getting to the finish line, now some 5 miles away. But my 'margin' for the midnight cutoff was disappearing, as the last few miles were more 'speed walking' than racing.

All along those last miles, by then after 11 pm, I was asking people what time it was, and using the mile and kilometer markers to estimate my pace, recalculating what I needed to get there before midnight.

Finally, my 3rd time approaching the Finish line was a charm -- and before I even headed down the finish line chute I heard 'Eric Spector of the United States -- an Ironman' over the speakers.  Heading down the brightly lit and densely-crowded finish line, I was able to stop for the first time all day. And smile. And savor the moment.

Finish Line.
16 hours, 42 minutes and 46 seconds later. Plenty of people still finished after me. But as I was getting on to a message table (they had some 25 tables and masseurs set up, an awesomely nice detail) I heard the 'closing' of Ironman Los Cabos 2013. Ten minutes later, I got off the table -- and walked away upright.

Next was the challenge to get to and find my bike & clothing bags, and past midnight find a way back to my hotel, some 15 miles away. I got lucky, paid whatever the taxi asked, and upon arrival, had him find a hotel employee to bring over a luggage cart, get my bike and stuff on it -- and guide me to my room. By 1:30 am, after a drinking a bottle of water and lying down, I was down for the count.

Somewhere in the middle of the bike ride, this popped into my head and made me laugh: 
"Thou shalt be humbled by thee Ironman no matter thy training." 
There's truth to that fleeting thought. 

So far 8 finish lines out of 8 events. Just 2 more events to go until my birthday on May 5th and the Comeback65 year will be over.  

I plan to continue offering tips and links on Twitter @fitatallages to help motivate people getting or staying fit, so please pass the word. 

5 weeks of road-based training lie ahead. 

But heck, event #10 on my birthday is just a marathon, no?  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kaiser San Francisco Half Marathon

Event #7 of 10

Sunday morning (Feb. 3, 2013) was a bright, sunny cool morning in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Nearly 10,000 runners & walkers gathered for the Half Marathon and also a 5 Km distance -- but with all 10,000 starting at the same time. A colorful bit of mayhem, but in good spirits, well-mannered, with eager anticipation for the official start.

At 8:02 the masses headed to and past the starting line. It took me nearly 2 minutes to pass the start and then actually begin jogging, but quickly enough, the field thinned out enough to get going as desired.

The course circled through the beautiful, lush green Golden Gate Park, past gardens, fields, the museum row (both the de Young and California Museum of Science), a scenic waterfall, the idyllic Windmill and then out to the Great Highway that ran along the ocean -- with incredible views of the beach and waves.

On the Great Highway, it was an out and back, so we got to see the race leaders (both men and women) pass to our left, already on their return to the finish. Fun and exciting to watch, especially while you're still running your own race (also a humbling 'diversion').

My hope was to run the half marathon distance in under 2 hours -- and not get injured. I ran it at a good steady pace, but not all-out, at what is often called a 'tempo' pace.

My first lap was slow due to the masses, but subsequent 1-mile laps ranged from a slow of 9:04 to an 8:29, with the average of 8:55 per mile for the  entire 13.1 mile distance. My last mile I picked it up to an 8:32 and was grateful to pass many scores of runners at the end.

My 1:57 finish translates to a predicted full marathon finish time of 4 hours and 4 minutes -- which is OK for now, and would be just fine for Event #8.

And therein lies the 'big stretch', the unknown, the next event #8 -- just 6 weeks away, with a paltry 5 weeks of training left.

What I enjoyed greatly was my 2 days off for tapering for the half-marathon. No training, nothing on last Friday and Saturday, and even some extra sleep.

But that's over -- and until the week prior to the Ironman (event #8), every day must count. Running, biking, swimming, biking spin class, and even some stretching and weights. Every day at least one sport, and on several days even 2 workouts. But above all, not getting injured.

The Ironman consists of swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean (which will take me around 2 hours, depending on currents and waves), then a 112 mile bike ride (probably 8 hours, if I manage to average 14 MPH), and finally followed by a full 26.2 mile road marathon.

More to come in a future post, but you get the picture -- and why the 'big stretch' and unknown.

There's no way anyone can finish an Ironman without training, let alone at age 65 (which is a whole other matter). But for those interested, I'm keeping a daily log -- and can be viewed by clicking here.

Stay tuned. Event #8 is coming -- and way too soon.