Surf City Marathon

I think I have a new favorite marathon: Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. Sure, it may be my new favorite because I barely beat my previous PR there today. But there are a few other things about this marathon that makes it my new favorite.

From reading the Runners World forums, I found out that it’s advised to show up to the event by 5:00am for the 6:50am start time. Yikes! Nearly two hours early? Well, if the veterans recommend it, it must be good advice. So I wake up at 3:45, hit the snooze button a few times, rolls out of bed by 4:00, and hit the road from my parents house by 4:15. I get to the marathon start a bit before 5:00 and yeah, they weren’t kidding. There were already a bunch of people there and a steady stream of cars coming into the parking areas. I kill about 20 minutes looking for a honey bucket, don’t find one with toilet paper (yes, I needed it), but discovered the public restrooms along the beach were open. Good thing too. After that, I take a nap in the car for 45 minutes.

After I wake up, I get all my gear together, load up the gel packs, put the race belt on, lace up the shoes, and head on down to the starting line. There I meet Philo. He’s wearing a Silicon Valley Marathon shirt and I ask him about it because I’m planning on running it this year the day after my cousins wedding (hey, if I’m going to travel to San Jose and there just happens to be a marathon I’m going to run it). We chat about Silicon Valley, Big Sur, and Avenue of the Giants. And I find out Philo is 70 years old. Holy crap! Not only is a 70 year-old running this marathon, but I seriously didn’t think he was older than 60. At the start line I also meet Sherrie, another Marathon Maniac who also just happens to be from Portland. Weird. Her master plan is to do 7 continents. Even weirder!

Even though the number of marathoners today was roughly double what was expected due to the LA Marathon fiasco, the field didn’t feel too crowded. I didn’t feel like I had to weave around runners, wasting energy on side-to-side movement. Good thing too. I planned to PR here and things looked especially good for that. Weather was supposed to be almost perfect running conditions. I also had good training runs the week before. I also packed 6 gel packs in the pockets of my Race Ready shorts so I wasn’t going to run out of fuel.

The first 11 miles went well. If anything I went out a bit fast, but I was feeling good. The 2 hills, neither of which were much, came and went with ease early on. Then we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway for an out-and-back section and hit a headwind. Okay, this will slow me down some, I thought, but no big deal, I’ll make up the time at the turnaround. I felt okay at the turnaround; didn’t feel like I lost a whole lot. But the expected boost from what should have been a tailwind now didn’t seem to materialize, or at least, didn’t feel like it did. I just didn’t feel faster. That was a bit of a psychological downer. I managed to get in some birding though as we ran by Bolsa Chica wetlands, so that was a plus. The other nice part about the course is at this part, you see the other marathoners on the out-and-back. Shouted out and got shouted at by some other Maniacs (Stevie Ray and Guillermo and a few others whose names I forgot or don’t know).

Then at about mile 17 we got into a section of the route that is probably my only complaint about Surf City. There’s a large section of the course that is run on a paved trail along the beach. Nice, eh? The problem: it’s not closed to the public. And in some places the path is pretty narrow. So marathoners have to navigate the bikers, pedestrians, and recreational runners who aren’t running the marathon. On a couple of occasions surfers carrying surfboards crossed the path in front of me and I wondered if they’d get across before I came by. Altogether though, people were respectful. On only one occasion did I have to yell “on your left” to a pair of walkers walking side-by-side.

Despite feeling good for the first half, okay for the next 5, and iffy the the next 2, things started to fall apart for the last 6. Nothing big. Just fatigue. I had to pick up a different brand of gels (Accelerade) than I prefer (Hammerhead) and I don’t think I stomach them all that well so I decided to forgo my 6th gel to prevent upset stomach and cramping and run on guts rather than calories. That didn’t work so great and I ended up doing a bit of walking. A couple of times during the last 1.5 miles two different marathoners caught me and told me things like “tough it out” and “you got it” — you know, stuff runners say to each other for motivation. It sort of worked. I knew I had 3:30 in the bag, but I really wanted a PR today since I don’t exactly have any other fast races planned this year (I’m still iffy on Eugene and even more iffy on Newport). So I gutted it out for the last 3/4 mile, tried to sprint the last 1/4 and couldn’t. But I still PR’ed by 44 seconds for a finish time of 3:28:51 Nice! Sort of. I really thought I was going to smash my previous PR, but hey, I’ll take today’s result. Another plus: I finished 20 out of 132 in the mens 35-39 age group (15th percentile). I never finished that well.

Next up: Pier Park 6-hour run on Saturday.

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Diamond Valley Lake and Carlsbad Marathons

When I started this whole marathon running hobby (or obsession) I quickly learned that I I could use running marathons as an excuse to travel. Or as a corollary, I could use traveling as an excuse to run marathons. Have to go to Sacramento, California for a work meeting? Run CIM. Want to go visit a friend in Columbus, Ohio? Schedule the trip for the same weekend as the Columbus Marathon. And while you just happen to be in the Midwest, why not run the Chicago Marathon the next week?

So when I knew I was going through a transition in late January and early February, end my job and starting student teaching, I wanted to make sure to take some time off in between and I knew I needed to run a marathon during that transition. Now, I don’t like to travel during the holidays to visit my family in Southern California so a trip to Southern California seemed in order. Naturally, I looked into what marathons were on the calendar in Southern California during this transition. Hmm… the Surf City Marathon is February 1. I’ve read good things about that one, flat course, run along the beach. But wait… the Carlsbad Marathon is January 25. How to decide which one to do? Well, why not do both? So that was the plan a few months ago. But when it was time to book flights I discovered the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon in Hemet, California the day before Carlsbad. Hemet is about an 80 minute drive from my parents house. Hmm… why not run Diamond Valley Lake also. I mean, it’s reasonably close, fairly flat, on groomed trails, along a lake. Lot’s of things in the positive column. So that was the new plan.

Fast forward to yesterday when I ran the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon. I got to Hemet about 45 minutes before the 8am start time and parked right in front of a carload of Dudes. Not “dudes” in the generic sense meaning guys or men, but “Dudes”. These guys threw around phrases like “that’s what I’m talkin’ about” and “bring it” at least a few times a day. For example, Dude #1: “Did you bring it?”, Dude #2: “Hell yeah I’m bringin’ it”, Dude #1: “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”. They also played their music from the car stereo loud enough so you can hear 10 meters away. And they played stuff that sounded like it was entrance music for wrestlers. I secretly hoped they didn’t hear about nipple chafing. I seriously wanted to see these Dudes at the finish with two red streaks down the fronts of their shirts.

Okay, back to DVLM… as usual, I started out too aggressive and ran a faster pace than I really planned to. I was going for a sub-4:00. After all, this was supposed to be just a training run for Surf City, which is the fastest course, on paper, of the three marathons I was running). I forgot to charge my Garmin so I was without my GPS and had to run by feel. That worked out okay. It’s just that I felt like I was running fast.

DVLM is a small marathon, I think maybe 100-200 runners, so you don’t see very many people. I did met a few other Marathon Maniacs (Guillermo, another from Utah whose name I didn’t catch, and another from San Diego whose name I already forgot). Amazingly enough for a small marathon, the aid station support was great. There wasn’t a lot of aid stations. They were spaced maybe 3-4 miles apart. But the volunteers were always great and helpful.

The course started with a 2.5 mile out-and-back followed by a single clockwise loop around Diamond Valley Lake. It was a nice, pretty course. The signs for what to do when you encounter a mountain lion kind of concerned me though. But I think I was more afraid of wandering off the top of the 3-mile long dams while taking in the views and falling a hundred feet or so into either the lake or even farther on the dry side than I was about mountain lions.

I managed to get in a pretty decent 20 mile training run but then things started to fall apart. The next 4.5 miles involved a bit of walking. But my internal clock thought I was still in sub-4:00 territory. I ask another runner what time she had and confirmed my feeling. I started feeling good for the last 1.5 miles and ran almost all of it and got into the finish line at 3:48:50. BTW, I didn’t see if the Dudes had bloody nipples because I didn’t see them. Their car was still there when I left. I guess they didn’t bring enough of it.

Amazingly enough, I felt great afterward. No soreness, no cramping, no blisters, no chafing, nothing. I did have my usual GI issues, namely an acid reflex-ish kind of feeling. Not sure why, but I get that way when I run faster than I should. I only took in 3 gels (Hammerhead) so it wasn’t gel overdose. But I felt optimistic about Carlsbad the next day.

Let me start off by saying that Carlsbad has got to have the greatest expo I’ve ever been to. Okay, maybe Chicago, with it’s shear enormity is the greatest. But more isn’t always better. More is just more. Carlsbad on the other hand, well, at Carlsbad they give out free loaves of bread. That’s right, not a few slices, but entire loaves. Weird, huh? And that’s why it has the best expo. Do I remember what I got at any of the other expos I’ve been to? Okay, I do remember the cowbells at Chicago. But I’ll never forget the bread.

Now, because of the bread I had a good feeling about Carlsbad (I know, weird), despite the 6am start, which meant I would have to leave my sister’s house (she’s closer to Carlsbad than my parents are) at 4am. Of course, at that early of an hour there was no traffic and I got there a bit sooner than I expected so I managed to take a 15 minute nap in the car after landing a nice parking spot near the exit of the mall where the start/finish line was. After the nap, I got my shoes and race belt on, shed my warm layers to reveal my Obama ’08 singlet I got but never wore for the Chicago Marathon and headed to the start line. There I found Julie, rather she found me, a friend from Portland who decided to run Carlsbad also because her boyfriend’s sister lives in the area. She told me she drove the course the day before and realized how hilly it was. I thought it was supposed to be flat? Hmm.

We start the 6am race in the dark. I lose Julie in the crowd of 1000+ marathoners (there’s a half marathon that starts later in the morning). Then the sun starts to rise about 3 miles in and I realize that we’re running on the Pacific Coast Highway along the beach. Nice! Julie finds me again now that the crowd has thinned out and we run together with the 4:00 pace group. Then, for some reason, the 4:00 pacers dial it up and run noticeably faster than needed for a 4 hour finish. Man, these guys suck. I don’t feel bad about myself since this is another training run for me. I feel bad about the first-timers or folks with hard goals they want to hit who trained specifically for a 4 hour finish and might bonk because they started out too fast. Oh well, it’s not my battle to fight.

Julie and I run together just slightly faster than a 4:00 pace (the 4:00 pace group is so far ahead of us we can’t even see them). Her boyfriend, Brian, is on his folding/travel/clown bike, riding the entire course and meeting up with us every couple of miles (well, mostly Julie since I’m just tagging along) taking pictures and offering support. Chatting almost the entire time helped pass the time. By mile 19 I think Julie senses I’m running fine and she’s starting to fade and tells me she won’t mind if I drop her. I give it another mile to make sure I’m feeling strong and at mile 20 I pick up the pace. We merge with the half marathoners for a second time soon after. This time it’s the 2:30-ish halfers so a slower group than the first time the marathoners and halfers merged. So I’m having fun picking off halfers, the only downside is weaving between them. But I’ll never doubt the psychological boost of passing people (and conversely, getting passed). Amazingly enough, the GI problems I fought the day before aren’t happening today. I take in a gel at mile 23 and another at mile 25. At this point I pass the 4:00 pace group. Feels good since I know the pacers badly managed their pacing. I feel so good by the time I hit the mile 26 marker with 0.2 miles left, I start into a full-on sprint. I totally could have finished a few seconds faster but I slow down 30 meters from the finish because a full marathoner realized she was about to cross the half marathon finish line and crossed over to the full marathon side right in front of me. Kind of annoying, but she seemed more enthusiastic about getting a good marathon finish photo than I was so I was okay about that. After all, this was just a training run for me. I still managed to get in a 3:53:53 finish (chip time). A little slower than the day before but a smarter race.

So my second double averaged faster than my first. I think I’m getting better at this. I’m also less sore today than I was right after my first double. Now I just need to rest up before Surf City.

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If I only knew

I read this interesting piece from Science Daily:


New Computer Program Enables Powerful Data Analysis On Small Computers

ScienceDaily (2009-01-10) — A powerful new tool that can extract features and patterns from enormously large and complex data sets has been developed. The tool — a set of problem-solving calculations known as an algorithm — is compact enough to run on computers with as little as two gigabytes of memory.

Pretty exciting stuff. Then I read:

A mathematical tool to extract and visualize useful features from data sets has existed for nearly 40 years – in theory. Called the Morse-Smale complex, it partitions sets by similarity of features and encodes them into mathematical terms. But working with the Morse-Smale complex is not easy. “It’s a powerful language. But a cost of that, is that using it meaningfully for practical applications is very difficult,” Gyulassy said.

What a minute… it that Smale guy the same Smale I took numerical methods from at Berkeley? Holy crap! If I only knew what a mathematical big shot he was (Erdos number 4) I might have paid more attention in that class.

BTW, the A- I got in that class pushed my GPA a smidge above 3.0. And I took the final exam the day after my graduation ceremony.

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Tour de McMenamins

I’ve had this idea stewing in my head for a couple weeks now… a running tour of a number of the McMenamins establishments around town. This idea was partly inspired by Sam Thompson’s quest to hit all 27 of Seattle’s public libraries on a 60 mile route. He’s more of a badass than I am so he did it during a blizzard. With a lot of downtime during the Snowpocalypse I mapped out the following route:

  1. Start at Kennedy School
  2. Head west to Chapel Pub
  3. Then northwest to St Johns Pub
  4. South to White Eagle
  5. Over the Broadway Bridge, through the Park blocks, to Market St Pub
  6. Then south to Fulton Pub
  7. North through the South Waterfront, over the Hawthorne Bridge, and onto the Barley Mill Pub
  8. Then back to the Kennedy School

Google Maps says this route is just shy of 27 miles. I’m not in shape for a 27 mile training run so I prepared myself to take a abbreviated route if I didn’t feel up to do the whole thing. By the way, I even mapped out a 50 mile route that included the Highland Pub out in Gresham and the Edgefield out in Troutdale.

A few weeks ago I planned on doing the Team Red Lizard Purge & Splurge today, running the entire 30 miles of the Wildwood trail. That seemed like a good idea at the time. Then Snowpocalypse happened. I spent some time on the Wildwood on Sunday checking out trail conditions and again on Monday. not so good. Lots of slushy ice and icy mud. And with 17.5 miles need to bag a 1500 mile year, the Tour de McMenamins was Plan B.

Things started out great for the first 13 miles, up until I hit the White Eagle. As usual, I started out fast. I was supposed to be at about 9:00/mile but was more like in the 8:20-8:30. White Eagle was a decision point since I could either cross the river or run down the Eastside Esplanade to the Barley Mill Pub (skipping the Market Street Pub and the Fulton Pub). I figured I had my 1500 mile year in the bag if I went with the latter, so it was onto the Barley Mill.

Once I got there, things started to go badly. Quite a bit of cramping and lactic acid build-up in the quads. My last “long” run was 3 weeks ago and that was only 12 miles. I definitely got soft during November and December, which is fairly typical for me. Holidays and post-fall marathons usually mean I slack off. So after the Barley Mill, I ended up taking a lot of walking breaks.

So, by the time I was done, I hit 5 McMenamins pubs and logged 20.3 miles in 3:07. And I bagged just short of 1503 miles on the year.

Kennedy School Chapel Pub St Johns Pub White Eagle Barley Mill Pub

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2009 race calendar, updated

I added a few more things to the first half of 2009, plus a couple more to close out 2008:

  1. 12/20: Pigtails Flat Ass Marathon — I’m not doing to 50K! victim of Arctic Blast 2008
  2. 12/21: Christmas Marathon (Olympia, WA) — 2nd double of 2008! ditto
  3. 12/31: Purge & Splurge — the entire length of the Wildwood trail!
  4. 01/24: Diamond Valley Lake Marathon (Riverside county, CA)
  5. 01/25: Carlsbad Marathon — 1st double of 2009!
  6. 02/01: Surf City Marathon
  7. 02/07: Pier Park Trail Run 6-hour
  8. 04/05: Peterson Ridge Rumble 60K
  9. 05/03: Eugene Marathon
  10. 05/24: Forest Park Trail Run 50K — happy birthday to me!
  11. 10/25: Metro Silicon Valley Marathon — cousin’s wedding in San Jose the day before!

I know. Kind of ambitious, especially with student teaching starting in February. And I’d like to do more in May and June (like the Capital City Marathon and the North Olympic Discovery Marathon) but I’m probably going to have to keep some weekends open for the student teaching gigs.

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2009 race calendar, revised

I added a few more things to the first half of 2009, plus a couple more to close out 2008:

  1. 12/20: Pigtails Flat Ass Marathon — I’m not doing to 50K!)
  2. 12/21: Christmas Marathon (Olympia, WA) — 2nd double of 2008!
  3. 01/24: Diamond Valley Lake Marathon (Riverside county, CA)
  4. 01/25: Carlsbad Marathon — 1st double of 2009!
  5. 02/01: Surf City Marathon
  6. 02/07: Pier Park Trail Run 6-hour
  7. 04/05: Peterson Ridge Rumble 60K
  8. 05/03: Eugene Marathon
  9. 05/24: Forest Park Trail Run 50K — happy birthday to me!
  10. 10/25: Metro Silicon Valley Marathon — cousin’s wedding in San Jose the day before!

I know. Kind of ambitious, especially with student teaching starting in February. And I’d like to do more in May and June (like the Capital City Marathon and the North Olympic Discovery Marathon) but I’m probably going to have to keep some weekends open for the student teaching gigs.

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This is completely weird

I’m not sure what the make of this.

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