Tag Archives: marathon

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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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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Columbia River Power Marathon and Tri-Cities Marathon race report

When I heard the Autumn Leaves 50 mile was going to be rescheduled to a weekend my mother in-law was going to visit I was a little bit disappointed. But hey, these things happen and I immediately looked into what else I could do the weekend of October 25th. Lo and behold… The Columbia River Power Marathon and the Tri-Cities Marathon. Both about a 30 minute drive apart. So I planned on doing my first double. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve done a 50k in May and a 30 mile trail run the week before so I had some experience with ultramarathon distance. But 50+ miles over two days?

The Columbia River Power Marathon was on Saturday. Roger picked me up at 4 am in the morning so we could make the 3 hour drive to Umatilla by 7 am for a 8 am start. We made it right on schedule at 7 am and decided to check in and keep warm at the McNary Elementary School where the starting line was. The volunteers were great and they told us about the baked potato bar that was planned for the post-race food. Mmm… baked potatoes. I told one of the ladies that I run because of the food. And that’s not an exaggeration. The thought of baked potatoes kept me going all 26 miles.

Speaking of food… I drank a small can of tomato juice 30 minutes before the start. I thought it was a good idea at the time. But I would soon regret it as I was feeling the effects of the acid in my esophagus an hour into the race.

We planned on a 4-hour race, i.e. a 9:00/mile pace. Roger and I stayed pretty much on target the whole time, running together. The scenery was good and it was pretty neat to run over the McNary Dam. And the volunteers were great. There was a gravel and sand portion of the course between miles 13-18. It didn’t slow us down any but it did zap me of some energy. It didn’t help that the gravel+sand trail didn’t seem to end. Plus the tomato juice kept wanting the come back up. When the trail did end, the course put us on the highway. The drivers were good about giving the runners extra room. But it’s always a bit uneasy running on a highway.

At the mile 24 aid station the tomato juice was really affecting me. So I told Roger to go ahead since I didn’t want to hold him back. I was still on a 4-hour pace so I figured I could afford a minute or two to let my GI tract settle down. When it finally did I was back on a 9:00/mile pace and crossed the finish line at just under 3:58. I ran a very conservative pace thinking about the next day. I didn’t break much of a sweat and hardly used any of the gel I packed, probably the equivalent of 2 packets (I’ve been carrying a gel flask for these fall marathons).

But let me tell you about the best part of the marathon… the baked potatoes. Oh man. They were so good, so fluffy, I got seconds. Piled with chili, butter, sour cream, cheese… Oh man. So good. Best post-race food ever.

We hung out with a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs at the school cafeteria eating our potatoes and talking marathon talk, such as doubles, triples, fat ass, dumb ass, 100 marathons, 50 states, triathlons, etc. Fun stuff. After the potatoes, Roger and I made the short drive over to the Tri-Cities area.

The Tri-Cities Marathon was day two. Roger and I checked into the Shilo Inn where the marathon start was. Real convenient. We were both feeling remarkably good but still apprehensive about running #2 the next day. The baked potatoes were great but we were feeling hungry for dinner early and went out for Mexican food at the mall. Mexican food the night before a marathon? Not sure if that would be a good idea but what the hey, I love Mexican food. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a lot of TV before going to bed early.

The next morning started out a bit chilly but I had a feeling it was going to warm up. Since the starting line was the hotel parking lot we stayed in the room to keep warm right up until the start. It was a bigger field than yesterday so I lost Roger right at the start. Shortly after mile 1 someone asked how fast we were going. I replied “8:14”. He didn’t see a mile marker and I said there wasn’t one, I was going off my Garmin. Then Van said there was a mile marker and it was the dead cat. She’s kidding, right? I ended up going out much too fast for my 4-hour goal time, running about 8:30/mile for the first 13 miles. I caught up to the guy running in a Starfleet uniform and asked if he was the real Will Riker or his evil twin from the transporter accident, then he made it so and left me in his tachyon field. The course was nice, following the Columbia River most of the way. Running over the Cable Bridge was pretty cool. I kept looking up at the suspension cables and the clear blue sky thinking I should have lugged my camera. I also got in some birding (American Widgeon, Bufflehead, either a Clark’s or Western Grebe, Mallards, Coots, and some other stuff I’m forgetting). By mile 18 I figured I had my goal time of 4 hours in the bag barring a disaster, which is not out of the realm of possibility but I didn’t want to pressure myself into injury so I eased back into 9- and 10-minute/mile paces. The headwind helped me slow down and I took my time at the aid stations. Then it was back over the I-182 bridge and into the home stretch. I hit mile marker 25 and there it was, the dead cat Van was talking about. She wasn’t kidding! Poor kitty. With a quarter mile to go Andy caught me walking and pushed me to get up and go (I’m not sure if that’s what he was yelling about but I got the picture). So I did and crossed the finish line at just under 3:55.

Not bad for my first double. 52.4 miles over 2 days in a grand total of under 8 hours. I hit my goal and the only effect is a sore left Achilles due to lack of stretching.

Things I learned:

  • It’s probably a good idea to stretch
  • Don’t drink tomato juice right before a long run
  • Doubles aren’t so scary


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Chicago Marathon race report – DNS

I was supposed to run the Chicago Marathon today. Supposed to.

The Chicago Marathon has special significance to me. The first (and still only) time I ran it in 2006 was when I met the person who I would later fall in love with and marry not so long thereafter. It was also the final marathon I needed to earn a 4-star rating as a Marathon Maniac. So back in February I got on the ball and signed up to run this October marathon because it sells out it’s ~40,000 slots fast. I even booked a room at the hostel. I was good to go. All I had to do was show up.

Then I had the opportunity to attend the Cochrane Colloquium. What that is exactly is besides the point. What does matter is that attending it would mean flying back from Germany to Chicago 2 days before the marathon. Attending wasn’t exactly mandatory but it’s a big conference in my field of systematic reviews and all the big names go there so it’s a great place to show off your work if you have a poster (which I did) and network (which I did a little). Plus, how could I pass up an expenses paid trip to Freiburg, Germany?

Well… it turned out not so well for my Chicago Marathon experience. The whole trip to Europe was great. We spent a few days before the conference zipping across Switzerland. A day in Luzern, and day in Ballenberg, a night in Zurich, a morning in Chur. Then we headed to Freiburg, where the conference was located. We checked in to our mostly-paid-for hotel, checked out the old town a little bit, then the next morning rode the rails to Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg turned out to be our favorite city on this trip. We only had a day to spend here but decided to spend one of our free days after the conference going back. Next there was 4 days of conference stuff which I won’t bore you with. It was good, but there’s probably only a couple dozen people in the world who would be interested in hearing about it. Then it was back to Strasbourg and from Strasbourg to Frankfurt. And from Frankfurt to Detroit and then to Chicago.

It was that last part that was the problem. The night before our flight out of Frankfurt I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Oh boy. It wasn’t the good kind of bathroom break. Okay. No big deal, right? It’s only one-time food poisoning. Then I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. The alarm goes off and we gather are stuff, check out of the hotel, and walk over the catch a taxi to the airport. I already know I’m not feeling too well but it’s all pretty mild, right? As we’re navigating the airport, checking in, finding our gate, I’m feeling quite ill. And it’s not a good kind of ill, if there is a good kind. As time goes on I’m feeling worse and worse. This is going to be a miserable flight. And it turned out I was right about that one. It was the most agonizing 8.5 hours I’ve ever spent. I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable. I was either too hot or too cold and too weak to adjust my blanket or take off my jacket. It was bad. Then there was the waiting in lines, plural, to pass through customs in Detroit. Then there was the extremely uncomfortable waiting lounge in the Detroit airport for our 3 hour layover. Then there was the 1 hour flight from Detroit to Chicago. Then there was the grueling drive from O’Hare to my mother-in-law’s house during rush hour. Oh. Boy.

So that was my Friday. I was hoping that if I felt better by Saturday morning I would at least make it to downtown to the marathon expo. I had already told myself if I miraculously felt better it was probably still a bad idea to run the marathon on Sunday since I was already dehydrated from the diarrhea. And it was predicted to be a little on the warm side so little chance of a PR even if I was 100%. Fine. The marathon is bagged but I could at least hope for is picking up a bunch of schwag to make up for it. No go. Saturday I felt just as miserable as Friday. So no schwag either. Damn. And Chicago has a really great expo.

So yup, a big fat nothing for me in Chicago.

Pictures of the trip are here, not all of them yet, but they’ll all get up there soon. No pictures from the sicky part of the trip.

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The 50-miler race I had planned on October 25th (Autumn Leaves 50/50) has been canceled due to trail maintenance. Bummer. That would have been my first 50 mile ultramarathon. And it’s reputed to be an easy course and a good way to break into the 50-mile world. Considering I’m doing the Sisters Poker Run, a 34-mile trail run, the week before on October 19, and the Chicago Marathon on October 12th right after coming back from Germany, it’s probably a good thing Autumn Leaves is canceled. Running 50 miles in one day after all this running weeks before is nuts. So I’m thinking about breaking all those miles into two days instead: the Columbia River Power Marathon on the 25th and the Tri-Cities Marathon on the 26th. I think that’s a little less nutty.


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