Saturday, December 19, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The one I found was in a small suburb of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, called Spijkenisse. It was the 4th running of this event, nicknamed, "Spark," and I would be the only person from North America.
After a hard work of meetings, speeches, consultations and writing where I traveled back and forth from Paris to Munich and Milan, it was time to get out of town and relax before the marathon. I took the Friday night train from Paris to Rotterdam. Some of my colleagues questioned my choice of staying in Rotterdam when Amsterdam was only about 20 minutes further away and had much more history and culture. But I had been to Amsterdam a few times and had never been to Rotterdam. Part of their skepticism lied in the fact that Rotterdam was completely destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. But since then, the city has returned to its roots as the busiest and most important port in Europe.
Many important Dutch architects took up the challenge to rebuild Rotterdam and give it a new unique appeal and I have to say, they succeeded. The city has some totally gorgeous architecture, most especially the Erastmus bridge.
It's pretty similar to the new bridge in Boston but predates it and supports a curving bridge. It's amazingly gorgeous at night.
The city also has a very robust shopping district that was gussied up for Christmas shopping and drew the crowds in droves. Several important designers have shops here along with some lesser known brands from France, Belgium and Italy that you can't get in the US. Women, if you go, check out Kookai a line of clothes from Paris that are definitely worth the trip.
There are many good restaurants in Rotterdam as well and I wanted to partake for my pre-marathon dinner. Unfortunately, being just three weeks before Christmas and a Saturday night, the best restaurants were booked up with holiday parties and post-shopping dinners. Rather than have an Argentinian dinner in Rotterdam (seemed wrong), I was staying at the Rotterdam Westin and I decided to see if the hotel concierge was sincere in recommending the hotel's restaurant, VIS. Oh she certainly was. Its executive chef Jos de Groot, doesn't play around. Instead of set menu that normally features the cheapest items on the menu (I try to avoid these in most European restaurants, especially if they have an English language menu) de Groot's was a set of special items selected by the chef from the freshest ingredients bought that day. None of the items were from the regular menu and all were out of this world.
Pardon my indulgement here - I don't normally blog about food but in this case, I just have to.
The mean started with fresh baked bread and fresh olive tapenade that contained corn, Tuscan tomatoes and other ingredients that made it truly succulent - you didn't even need the bread.
Then came a special appetizer prepared that evening by the chef that wasn't on the menu. It was a light dish combining fresh beets, mozzarella cheese and homemade pesto. The combination was perfect. Also before the appetizer they brought a small plate with 4 smaller containers on it, holding freshly roasted mixed nuts, green olives, radishes and tiny puff pastries (and mayonnaise, a Dutch staple). Then came the menu appetizer which had a combination of tiny spring rolls containing freshly made ricotta mixed with seafood, wrapped in - get this - fresh pumpkin, sliced super thin. Next to these were two other items I couldn't recognize that tasted wonderful as well.
The main course, I was kind of unsure about when the waiter described it. It was tortelli stuffed with shell fish and when he described it he said it was in a heavy cream sauce. My standard eating habits are a maintenance mode South Beach Diet and so I typically shun anything that sounds loaded with carbs but I was running the marathon the next day so said, "why not."
When the dish arrived there was no cream. What I received instead (impeccable presentation of all the dishes, BTW) was four small, hand formed tortelli with shell fish surrounding a collection of capers, grilled sweet onions and other shelfish mixed together and crowned by muscles in the shell. Very interesting and completely succulent. A perfect compliment to my glass of Montepulciano wine from Tuscany.
Dessert kept the hits coming. In a very long rectangular tray came a homemade hazelnut ice cream, next to a very light pastry filled with cinnamon mousse and a coconut fried plantain. Yum, yum, yum (I passed on the pastry but the rest were amazing!).
If you come to Rotterdam in the future, definitely stay at the Westin or at least try this fantastic restaurant.
Note: If you are thinking about coming to Rotterdam, wait until 2011. They are remodeling the Central train station to turn it into another of the city's architectural wonders, but right now it's just a big construction site.
I got back to my room, rested and full. I dressed my chair for the morning, looked over the logistics for getting to Spijkenisse and tried to get some sleep. This trip to Europe had been a rough one sleepwise. I suffered my usual up at 3am and can't get back to sleep evening on teh second day but struggled to sleep every other night that week too. I finally got a full night's sleep Friday and hoped Saturday night would be a repeat. Ah, no.
I feel asleep at 10pm no problem but woke up at 11:30 and couldn't get back to sleep until 2am. Thankfully marathons on Northern Europe are typically later in the day. This one started at 11am, so I was able to sleep until 8am. I'll take it; 6 hours is better than nothing.
Normally the morning before a marathon is all about dressing, preparing and traveling to the marathon start. This time, I had time to shower, eat a nice leisurely breakfast at the hotel before my train to Spijkenisse. It was only a 30 minute trip plus a 15 minute walk to the sports field.
Spijkenisse was the last stop from Rotterdam Centrum so I couldn't miss it.
The morning temperature was a nippy 2 degrees Celsius so I arrived wearing 3 layers of clothing. I shed one layer in prep for the run, stashed my stuff in the locker room and headed out for a warm up lap on the track. I can't speak Dutch and there was no translation. There were only 3 participants from outside Western Europe, two from Great Britian and me, so I guess they didn't see any point in translating the announcements.
The Dutch were kind enough to tell me what was being said but one joker decided to play with the stupid American and tried to convince me that the marathon didn't start until 12. I double-checked with the help desk and made my way across the track to the start line in time to reset my Timex Ironman watch and make my way through the crowd a bit.
We started with a half lap around the local track then out and around the sports complex. Then it was up to the bike trail along the canal where a flock of sheep cheered us on with a few "ba-ah-ahs." The sheep were in full coat due to the cold - something I would be wishing for later in the run.
It was sunny at the start and the wind was nearly non-existent for the first 12K. Gorgeous countryside scenery was everywhere you looked. You also got a look at the ubiquitous Dutch windmills. Not the quaint farm staples but the large white power generating kind. They are everywhere in the Netherlands.
Around the 18K mark I came to a fork in the road. To the left the sign said "Helf Marathon." To the right, "1/2 Marathon." Huh? Where was the full marathon. Asked the course monitor standing between the two paths and learned that "Helf" must mean full. I guess that makes the Dutch, optimists.
Off I went to the left along with the very few of my compatriots as we said goodbye to nearly everyone who went to the right. That's pretty typical of an event that starts the half and full marathoners at the same time. I felt this event reminded me of the inaugural Santa Rosa marathon. Both had less than 150 full marathoners, were both small suburban marathons and both wound along waterways and past a lot of beautiful pastoral settings.
As we crossed the half-way point at 21K the clouds moved in and darkened. The temperature dropped nearly immediately and a vicious headwind carrying lots of chilling moisture slapped me in the face. It would remain this way for the next 12-15 km. I had stripped off my second layer of dri-fit clothing -- the long sleeve Big Sur marathon shirt -- around the 5K mark and was carrying it around my waste but the chill didn't seem bad enough to warrant pulling it out.
We passed several more sheep (who looked very warm, thank you) along with goats and horses. Strangely every time we passed a horse it was accompanied by a miniature horse. These stocky, full coated animals are very different than ponies. They have the build of a full horse just in smaller form. Very beautiful.
The sun finally peaked around the 32K mark and by this time we had returned the main town of Spijkenisse but were along the main waterway through town so the headwinds were back and more than able to offset any warmth the sun planned to provide.
I'm always filled with excitement when I see the 25 mile marker in a marathon. The equivalent in this one (the European marathons are, of course, marked in kilometers, not miles) was the 40K sign which was perched facing the main bridge from Spijkenisse to Hoogvleit. We wouldn't have to cross it (thank goodness) but would follow a bike trail that went just beneath it and then head back the way we started to the sport park. I felt a surge of energy that didn't do much for my speed but lifted my spirits.
I finished in 3:38:47, which is pretty much par for me.
I kind of have to call this event the silent marathon as there were very, very few spectators and nearly no one cheered. The best you got was the faint clapping of mittened hands and the occasional "you can do it" (at least that's what I think it was, since I speak no Dutch) from a course volunteer.
That was true as well when you rounded the corner and entered the sports park track. The only sound you could hear was the course announcer saying everyone's name as they hit the final straightaway. His voice had a lilt that conveyed excitement for you but he had few compatriots.
Despite this minor nit, the marathon was a true joy. It was dead flat, had gorgeous scenery, was very well supported and had a very cool medal in the shape of an "X." I should have requested two medals as this was XX for me.
And of course, I had to finish it with my usual reward:
Now its time for a week's rest, then the training begins again for the Rock & Roll Marathon campaign of 2010.
Thanks for reading and for supporting my fundraising efforts for the LLS.
Monday, November 30, 2009
It happened at the annual Run Wild for a Child race in San Francisco on Sunday, November 29th. And it couldn't have been on a better day. It was a perfectly clear day with temperatures in the low 50s, perfect for a good day.
Big congrats to Miriam who also set a new PR and to Chris and Bob who also had great days!
Sadly the event attendance has been declining for years and it felt much lighter this year than last. Normally those that register on the day of the event have to stand in line for 10 minutes or so, but this time you walked right up to registration. We were also able to walk right up the starting line as well. Usually you'd have to line up early or push your way through the crowd to get there. Sad, because this is a very nice event. It used to be a go-to event when it was called Run to the Far Side. It supported the Academy of Sciences at that time and the finisher shirt featured an original Gary Larson The Far Side comic. Larson and the Academy stepped away from this prime Thanksgiving weekend date and Run Wild for a Child stepped in.
I hope more people find this great event and help make it a personal tradition.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
As you know, I've set my goal for 2010 to be the first person to complete every event in this newly expanded series of races. Well, I'm committed and can officially announce that I've signed up for R&R Los Angeles.
This newly named event was previously the City of Angels Half Marathon held annually in December since 2006. In 2010 it will be moved up to October 24th so as not to conflict with the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Marathon. And under its new name, the race will still benefit Grove of Hope a foundation committed to providing science and technology education to children so they can understand, protect and manage the earth and the world around them. A very worthy cause given that our current generation of politicians will be leaving this generation with a rather disturbing mess to clean up.
The course looks pretty fantastic. It starts at historic Griffith Park near the Los Angeles Zoo, then heads down along the Los Angeles River (yes, there really is one), down Sunset Boulevard, past Echo Park Lake and finishes with a scenic view of downtown. If you haven't been to downtown LA in a while because you don't work downtown and wouldn't frequent it at night without an entourage of bodyguards, you might want to give it a chance. Since the Staples Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall and many other attractions have moved in the city center has been revitalized.
I'm really looking forward to this new event (and am secretly glad they didn't add another marathon - I think 8 marathons in one year, is plenty!)
Come join me for this fantastic event. Competitor has a special offer for the first 500 runners - register for just $55 with the coupon code LAROCKS.
Thanks also to my early supporters who have helped me raise the first $1,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. You are the best! If you haven't made a contribution yet, donate today!
I'm still seeking corporations that want to join PowerBar in sponsoring me for this campaign. Details are here!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Hey gang! After the NYC Marathon I was interviewed about the race and my 2010 quest to be the first person to complete the entire expanded Rock and Roll Endurance Series. Take a listen. Big thanks to Zoran for putting this together. If you are looking for a good listen on running tips and race summaries, subscribe to Runcast.net today.
I could have raised money to get in but I am devoted to helping the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and they weren't an official charity for NYM so my best route was the lottery. NYM's lottery favors people from NYC and the state of NY so my chances of getting in as Californian weren't so great. But they have a great policy that if you don't get in through the lottery three years in a row, you are automatic the fourth year. Hello 2009.
I travel a lot for work so we were able to use Hilton Honor points to secure free nights at the Waldorf-Astoria for the weekend and were off to Manhattan.
The weekend started with a trip to the Marathon Expo at the Javits Center, a massive convention center on the East side. Here I learned that more runners from outside the US participate in this event than those from within our own borders. This was very apparent as the corrals for international participants were packed and a million different languages could be heard. It was quite an experience.
Once inside the expo the Asics NYM official merchandise area was enormous and flooded with athletes wielding credit cards like ninja throwing stars.
I quickly made my way to the Competitor.com booth to officially sign up for the 2010 Rock and Roll Endurance Series - the whole series. As you can imagine, the folks working the booth were a bit surprised at my request but quickly pulled out the form and off I went checking off every single box. Yep, it's official. No backing out now!
The Competitor crew were great. They showered me with 2010 event t-shirts and wished me well. See y'all in Arizona in January!
There was an extra special treat in the Competitor booth - super star triathlete Sarah Reinertsen. She's an amazing challenged athlete who completed the Ironman Championships in Hawaii and was later a contestant on the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race. I so admire, Sarah, as she lets nothing get her down and proves every day that we can overcome any adversity through perseverance and heart. She was a delight to talk to and I picked up a signed copy of her autobiography. What a story.
Next up with saying hello to the PowerBar crew, especially the Team Elite managers. I'm very proud to support this organization who has been such a big supporter of Team in Training. They invited me to a victory party the night after the race. Sweet!
Next up was a quick visit to Runnerworld.com's booth where actor Anthony Edwards was spreading the word about Shoe4Africa, a great charity to help the youth of Africa.
It was a real thrill for my wife to meet him and he couldn't have been more humble and personable. Chatting with him was more like sharing experiences with another runner rather than being in the presence of an Emmy winning actor with an incredible resume. What a guy!
We took the next two days to see Manhattan and rest up for the race.
Race day started with a subway ride followed by the Staten Island ferry. It was pitch black out and as we crossed the water, the Statue of Liberty stood out from the darkness in majestic blue and white.
I think the ferry listed a little to the side and everyone rushed out to take a picture of Lady Liberty. Wish I had my real camera that day. The Blackberry camera just didn't do it justice.
After we docked we all made our way to warm buses that took us to the runner's village to await the start. It was drizzling a bit as the sun rose and Dunkin Donuts served as savior for us all by providing lots of warm coffee and pink and orange knit caps that were just the trick to keep the cold out.
The wait wasn't too long before we were in our corrals and listening to the national anthem.
NYM did a fantastic job with the start line. There were 42,000 runners this year and they split us into three waves of 15,000 each (that's the entire San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon per corral). These waves were further split into three color groups who each took off down a separate path for the first 8 or so miles. This start really kept the crowding to a manageable level and allowed us in Wave 1 to start running within the first 100 yards.
We crossed into Brooklyn which I didn't know from Newark until I got a patented experience. About half way through town out of the throngs of cheering supporters came a man with classically Italian looks and a cross expression who barked, "Hey, look what you're doin' to our streets. Get outtaheah!" He said it in jest (I think).
The crowds kept coming through Queens, over into the upper west side and on through to Harlem. Huge kudos to the Harlem crowd who provided the best music of the day (of course). It started with a killer gospel choir who were belting out inspirationals and ended with classic funk tunes from The Gap Band and Kool in the Gang. I think I logged my fastest miles in Harlem. Thanks, all!
We only got a brief encounter with The Bronx as took a quick left turn going from one bridge to the next and back into Harlem. Would have liked to see more but had a date with Central Park ahead.
As I waited in the corral for the start, I met a fellow Texan who was running his third marathon and first NYM, a woman from Anchorage running NY as her first marathon and a veteran NYMer from Connecticut named Amy who was hoping for a personal best. As the gun went off we all separated but weren't far apart most of the way. At about mile 17 I caught back up with Amy and we fueled each other for the remaining 9 miles. We were stride for stride through manhattan as we ran along the west side and into Central Park.
It helped a lot to have someone to pace with as we both held faster and stronger paces than we would have alone.
We turned the corner at the south end of Central Park as the crowds grew thicker and just as my energy was running low, there way my lovely wife leaning over the railings cheering for me. That was the boost I needed at mile 25.
Like most marathoners I am usually just holding on at mile 25 but Reesa gave me the lift I needed to pick up the pace and with Amy shortly ahead I was able to catch her with 0.2 to go as wel crossed the line under 3:30 - a PR for Amy, a third best for me.
Heat sheets and bottles of water were my usual solace as we worked our way up the long finisher's shoot and out. It was a fantastic run. The weather was ideal - in the low 50s all day an overcast.
To top off the experience, I popped over to the PowerBar party that night, after dinner with friends and got the rare opportunity to congratulate NYM winner Meb Keflezighi who finally returned a NYM victory to a US runner. I'm definitely patriotic about this but this win was all Meb.
He is an incredible runner, inspiration and role model for many of us runners. He was very gracious in his victory and even mentioned how those of us who run for Team in Training - beating up our bodies to help fight blood cancers -- are an inspiration to him. What a guy.
Run the ING New York City Marathon next year by entering the lottery today!
When I finally crossed the finish line, Patxi and I high fived for a great effort but both knew our goal of first place had eluded us. We took solace in the fact that we had blown away the team that beat us the prior year, though, and left Santa Cruz satisfied with our day - and who wouldn't be having just finished a tremendous athletic effort in a gorgeous place on a nearly perfect day (other than that morning fog thing, that is).
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Just found out that the Competitor Group's Rock and Roll Endurance Series has added two more events to the 2010 series raising the number of events to 13. To most people this is just an interesting fact but to me its a bit more. That's because I plan to run every event in the series in a single year.
- No one has ever done it. That in itself holds perhaps the most appeal and I love crossing and setting milestones. It's perhaps a bit of a technicality since 2010 is the first time there have been 13 events in the series. So while other runners might have run all the events in a prior year, there haven't been 13 before. Thus it's a new milestone.
- I've never run a Rock and Roll marathon before. I completed their inaugural half marathon on San Jose and found the support, organization and bands every mile to make the event pretty fun and special. As a coach for TNT I've had many friends run the Rock and Roll that started it all - San Diego, and raved about it. So I'm excited to hear all the bands all across the country.
- I love destination runs. Let's face it. Running marathons is tough on your body. You have to burn lots of hour training, sacrifice time with the family and push yourself to the brink nearly every time. I still hit mile 22 cursing myself an wondering why I put myself through this. I figure that if I'm going to put myself through this much torture I ought to do it in a pretty place and make a short vacation out of it. And the R&R series has some great cities: Phoenix, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Virginia Beach, Seattle, San Antonio and more.
- It's a great platform to help raise awareness for cancer research. I've been an active supporters of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since 2003 and can't think of a better way to raise the awareness of this cause than to dedicate my life to it. In 2007 I became a running coach for the society's Team in Training program and have found it extremely rewarding to help people train for their first endurance event while raising valuable funds for the society. It is such a thrill to help someone cross that finish line for the first time. Competitor.com has been a consistent supporter of TNT through its R&R events so running every event allows me to help raise awareness and funds for the society throughout the entire year and on a national stage.
- I'm crazy about running and want to share the love. There are few other ways you can get such incredible cardiovascular exercise in such a short time as through running. And what sport is more accessible. All you need are a pair of good shoes, shorts and a T-shirt. You can do it year round, in any weather. And even if you can only get out for 30 minutes you can get in a really good workout. I started running as a way to stay fit while traveling a ton for work. It also gave me a chance to see all the cities I was flying too (rather than just the inside of a conference room). Staying healthy for life is its own reward.
- But honestly, I'm all about the bling! Come on, let's face it. We can all run anywhere. We can even run 26 miles on the weekends on our own. But we don't. We run in organized events for the camaraderie, great support, excitement of running with so many others who share our passion and for the medals. There are no other marathon series anywhere in the world that come close to the bling factor R&R delivers. Sure, you can run all the World Majors (I plan to do all those, too) and compete for big prize money but realistically you probably won't see any of that money and even if you did, you probably wouldn't be proudly displaying the check - you'd cash it! Competitor.com's Rock and Roll Series has progressing medals in what it calls the Heavy Medal program. You, of course, get a medal for each event you complete but if you complete multiple events in the same calendar year R&R rewards you with extra medals commemorating your accomplishments. In 2009, Competitor.com had 8 of these special medals which peaked with their Rock Legend medal for anyone of finished 7 of their events in a single year. Can't wait to see what they add to the Heavy Medal series now that there are 13 events!
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tomorrow is the inaugural Santa Rosa (CA) Marathon and we've been having unseasonably warm weather here in the SF Bay Area. The forecast is a high of 78 this Sunday and I hope the weatherman is right because it was 104 here in Redwood City yesterday and is expected to top 100 again today.
Some quick tips for the 499 other runners joining me for this event, or anyone else planning to run a hot weather marathon:
* Bring your own hydration - while most marathons are well supported with water and sports drinks at water stations every mile or so, you really don't want to rely on this service. First off, you may need a drink well before the next water stop and second, as people who ran Chicago in 2007 learned, on a hot day, they may just run out of water. I run with an Amphipod Hydraform. It slips over your hand so don't have to grip it throughout the run and is form fitted, rather than round like other bottles, so it is much more comfortable to carry.
* Eat regulary - If you have a routine of taking in nutrition every 30-40 minutes or so, such as Gu Energy Gels or PowerGels, stick with it. The heat will drain your body of nutrients and you'll need this replenishment, even if you aren't hungry. Definitely don't wait until you are hungry; by then it's too late.
* Extra protection against chafing - If you are prone to chafing in certain areas take extra protection because the heat raises your level of sweat and increases your risk of rashes and rubbing in these areas. It goes without saying that you should be running in wicking technical fabrics like quality Sugoi Ts andshorts. Take the extra step of applying Body Glide to your sensitive areas and nip guards.
* Keep your heat releases uncovered - During exercise your body releases heat through the top of your head, cheeks and hands (among other places) so consider a visor instead of a hat. If you do wear a hat be sure it is a light-colored (or white) running hat made from a wicking technical fabric and is porous throughout the top so it lets your head breathe.
During hot runs, they often pass out cool wet sponges in the latter 10 or so miles. These can really help bring your core temperature down so take one if you are feeling really hot. I like to press them to the top of my head so the cool water runs down my head in all directions and gets down my back a bit. These sponges are preferable to running through sprinklers or having someone hose you down because you don't want to get your feet wet. This can lead to chafing and blisters.
Hope this is helpful and that you have successful hot-weather runs. Got other tips? Share them here.
James is a Sugoi Brand Champion, serial marathoner and running coach for Team in Training. He's attempting to be the first person to complete all the Rock n Roll Endurance Series events in 2010 - 7 marathons and 4 halfs. Follow him on Twitter at RnRJames.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
CSM Cross-country course. If you haven't been here for a run, I highly recommend it. It's nearly a perfect 3 miles with hills and incredible views overlooking the Crystal Springs Reservior and 280.
Since we'll be doing this event again next year I can't give away the challenges but we had some very creative participants.
Hats off to our winners:
Krissy was right behind her having mastered the challenging games in no time.
Steph & Bob tied for third when they climbed the hill together all smiles and three bands showing.
On this figure eight course contestants could yield their competitors for 5 minutes and the board saw a lot of action. Poor Gia was the biggest victim getting two back-to-back yields costing her 10 minutes. "Thanks, guys!"
Big thanks to the volunteers who helped run the challenges and keep the challenge humming: Santi, David, Riya, Reesa and Alan.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I got the joy through Team in Training, an incredible endurance training program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They took me from the work-travel runner (only way to see the cities I was in, since the rest of the time was in conference rooms) to marathon finisher in 5 months. Now I'm addicted.
TNT taught me three very important lessons which I think are the key to getting the most out of running.
1. Friendship. Nothing beats running with friends. Turn off the iPod and tune into the people around you. I've made the most incredible friends through the program - friends I still run with to this day and hope are with me the rest of my life.
2. Cadence. If you think the key to running is long strides, think again. The key to distance running, endurance running, is a high cadence, or number of foot strides per minute. The higher your cadence the shorter your stride, the more you conserve energy and the less impact on your body. Elite runners average close to 95 strides per minute (that's a left and a right footstrike). It took me about three days of training to get it, but once I got it, I got faster, stronger and more efficient.
3. Get the right equipment. I learned all the equipment lessons the hard way. Big mistakes: cotton underwear, socks, shirts, shorts and hats (cotton seems to be the enemy), fashion running shoes, the wrong food, the wrong hydration. You name it, I've made the mistake with equipment. If you only plan to run 1-3 miles you can do fine with just about any equipment, but up it to 10-26, forget about it. Now I'm very particular about my equipment and it makes a world of difference.
Why is there such a dearth of good, objective running advice and product reviews on the Internet? Why is there such a dearth of good advice on where to run?
Enough. Do something about it. That's the goal of this blog. Hope it helps a few of you out there.
I don't work for any company affiliated with running and have no bias. I'm just an enthusiastic amateur runner hoping to help others enjoy the sport that has brought so much joy to my life.
My favorite equipment (right now):
Shoes: Asics Gel Culumus - An excellent cushioned running shoe that is great for long distance training. Highly recommend them if you have a neutral strike. Go at least a full size up from your usual dress shoe size so you avoid black toes.
Socks: Adidas UltraTech Cusion No Show. Breathable, skin tight, no blister, no sweat socks. Socks are crucial to running. Don't skimp here. Nearly all the Adidas running socks are good. These have a nice feel and last many washings.
Shorts and Shirts: Anything Dri-Fit or ClimaCool or from a similar fabric. Nike has some cool looks and wild colors. Adidas is more neutral and its styles are pretty consistent from season to season. Asics and Brooks are nice too, but harder to find. Sugoi is a bit pricier but has some nice features like wicking patterns, iPod pockets and other features you may like. Pick up Sub4 gear if you can find it. They used to be huge in running gear but have faded badly. For shorts make sure they are real running short, with the built in underwear. Another alternative is to get compression shorts and wear them underneath a DriFit-style short that doesn't have the built in underwear (but not advisable in hot weather).
Underwear: Forget it. Don't even bother with the sports underwear from UnderArmor and others. You don't need it.
Sensitive Area Protection: BodyGlide. This is a must, people. If you run more than 6 miles without it, its your funeral. This stuff protects your sensitive areas from rubbing and creating a rash. It is essential stuff.
Hydration: Accelerade Lemon Lime. You can run short distances with water and go a bit longer with Gatorade, but if you plan to do 15miles or longer get a solution that keeps the carbs up, helps you manage sodium and tastes good. This is my favorite. I store it in an ingenious bottle called the Hydraform from Amphipod that is shaped to fit your hand and has a comfortable strap that goes over your hand so you don't have to grip the bottle the whole way. Very nice.
Food: GU Energy Gel Plain or Vanilla Bean. Forget the PowerBars, Granola Bars, and other foods, when you are running you need nutrition that gets to your muscles fast and nothing is faster than energy gel. There are lots of makers of this kind of stuff. For me, GU is the right amount, the right taste and right consistency. When it's really hot out I switch to their Sublime Lemon flavor which is easier on the stomach.
When selecting a running food, try as many different varieties as you can, until you find one you really like, then stick with it. Carrying energy gels can be an issue. Some shorts have pockets on the side where it flops around, others have a pocket in the back and others have no pockets at all. So I store my GU in a small clip-on pouch from Amphipod. It's lightweight, comfortable and stores up to 4 GUs at a time - perfect for a marathon.
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 305. Killer app for the distance runner. It's a bit bulky but doesn't weight very much and for the features, totally worth it. It's a GPS watch that tracks (and maps) where you go, gives you distance, pace, heart rate, calories burned, time, splits, elevation and more and stores up to 6 months of runs at a time. You can download the runs to a PC with some good software called Training Center. My favorite feature is the virtual partner where you can set a pace you want to hit for a certain run and a virtual runner on the watch will run with you. The watch alerts you if you are ahead or behind this pace runner. Very valuable.
I'm kind of a sucker for running equipment so will share my reviews and thoughts on some of this equipment in this blog from time to time. If you have favorite equipment or comments on the equipment mentioned here, let me know.
See you on the trails!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
It's time to announce my running goal for 2010. I plan to be the first person to complete the entire Rock n Roll Endurance Series in a single year. This popular series of marathon and half marathon events has expanded to a total of 11 events for 2010 including 7 marathons and 4 more halfs and I plan to run them all.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
My life, like many of yours, has always been about setting goals and working hard to achieve them, then setting new ones. In running, this started for me with a half marathon, then a full, then a full after which I could actually walk the next day. Once I got to this point I was fully hooked on marathoning and set the next goal for myself - to complete 10 marathons by my 40th birthday. In the fall of 2007 I hit that goal with the Portland Marathon.
Robert “Buck” Edmondson IV
1927 - 2005
(reposted from winter 2005)
Last month, just four months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my father-in-law passed away at his home with his family around him. He was 78. I knew Buck for 15 years as a farmer, husband, father and shrewd, conservative investor. I learned a lot from him over those years and will miss him greatly.
Buck grew up in Riverside, California during The Depression when the value of a dollar was cemented into his generation in ways today’s children in America cannot possibly relate. For him, you respected a hard days work and earned everything you had and therefore it meant more to you. You fixed what was broken and reused everything. You didn’t throw things out as is the common practice in today’s society where this year’s products are obsoleted in 12 months or less. His 1940’s Ford Tractor still runs and is occasionally used to free a modern truck or two from the mud or snow.
He grew up in a time where you respected your elders, the government and most importantly, if you grew up in the agricultural belt of Orange County at the time, the land and all it bore. Buck was a thin athletic man who lied to joined the Navy at the age of 16, like so many others of his generation, because the world was calling and World War II was “the good fight.” After losing more friends than could be counted and seeing his brother come home with a Purple Heart, Buck returned from the war and again respected the land, but through eyes that had seen atrocities thrust upon them that were far removed from the care he and his family had shown to the orange trees around them at home.
Those orange trees grounded Buck. His greatest peace was achieved walking through the rows upon rows of Valencias he and his brother inherited and climbing and repairing wind machines that seemed constantly in need of care. The wind machines seemed to need so much of his time we often wondered if it was the trees or the wind machines, that kept them from freezing in winter, that needed him most. Buck also spent countless hours in winter tending to a series of old-world smudge pots that delivered heat to the trees and fighting snails and “political snakes” over precious water rights. To say Buck had a green thumb was far shy of an understatement. If it came from the soil and needed water, Buck could make it grow.
Shortly after I met him, he and his wife Bobbie moved from Riverside to escape the encroaching LA smog and settled in the small Gold Rush town of West Point, California. About an hour outside of Sacramento, West Point was a long drive from Buck’s orange groves and he diligently made the over 9 hour drive to tend his trees. It was only after he had planted every tree the Bureau of Land Management could spare that West Point began to feel like home for him. The BLM, fighting the ever-ending battle to keep California green, supplied anyone who wanted them with saplings. Buck’s son Bob told me that the BLM only expects a 10-20 percent survival rate for the saplings it distributes -- over 90 percent of Buck’s are still growing on his 10 acre ranch.
I think there were only three other things Buck really loved in this world -- bowling, stocks and most importantly, his family. Sure, he grumbled and rolled his eyes at the menagerie of dogs, horses and cats, and the constant stream of knickknacks, family squabbles and silly whims nearly every family experiences, but he cherished his wife Bobbie who was the only thing in this world that meant more to him than his trees. He was her wall of strength and reason. She showed Buck that love, spontaneity and frivolity were the rewards of a good life and not to take them for granted. Sure he would grumble about going as Raggedy Ann and Andy at an annual Halloween party, but then be the host with the most until the last guest had left, ensuring everyone had a good time.
Buck was good at just about everything, especially sports. One time my wife and I took 6 weeks of golf lessons, then went with Buck and Bobbie up to the links near West Point and watched him school us both with dead on straight shots, perfect putts and a humbleness that simply should not be allowed in someone who hadn’t picked up a club in over twenty years. Nearly everyone in West Point can attest to Buck’s bowling skills. You didn’t want to play against him and you definitely didn’t want to get ahead of him with three frames remaining.
While he probably would never have said he lived a charmed life, from most people’s vantage point, he had it all - happy, committed marriage; loving children; a great career that had allowed him a comfortable retirement; the looks, confidence and charisma that turned every head (yep, even women half his age looked), and his health. I never saw a day go by that Buck wasn’t working and in his seventies he took on tasks most men in their forties couldn’t finish. Yet cancer got him anyway.
Cancer got my mother too. She was in her fifties and had been a professional dancer and dance teacher her entire life. A picture of health and I miss her terribly. My wife never got to meet her and for that I am very sad as I think they would have been the best of friends.
You see cancer doesn’t care if you are in peak physical condition. It doesn’t care if you have a perfect diet. No supplements, herbal remedies or fad diets or exercise programs can keep it away. Yes, taking care of yourself can help lessen your risk of getting it, but genetics you can’t control. And if it wants you, it’s going to come calling. Thankfully a lot of us will reap the rewards of the incredible medical and genetic breakthroughs that are being developed and will be among the cancer survivors. But many will not. And those like me and my wife’s family outnumber both groups. We’re their survivors and we have a great responsibility. It is our job to keep fighting this disease and use the memories of our loved ones to drive us on in this fight. Some of us fight with our dollars, others with our time and others as our profession. I run and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a proud member of their Team in Training endurance athletic program that funds cancer research, and patient care and education. However you choose to fight, remember that we fight not for those the disease has taken but to prevent others from succumbing. And so I thank all of you who contribute in whatever way you can.
We miss you Buck.