Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Lake Tahoe Marathon

It's a pretty common assertion that you get out of things about what you put into them. In this case, I put very little effort into training for the Lake Tahoe Marathon, but may have taken away a few lessons. One is that I don't want to go through another sufferfest like that.

It's all my own fault, of course. My training has been off, especially for distances. My longest run in the past two months was the Wild West Trail Half Marathon, and before that the TRT 50K that I dropped out of. So, I really wasn't up for a marathon right now. My thinking was that forcing myself through it would be punishment for having let myself slip so far. I think I took care of the punishment part of it quite well.

But enough about me. This was, and is always a beautiful race. During the race, and in the time since it, I've had all sorts of thoughts about what I wanted to say about it, but they're escaping me now. So, let's start with the pictures and I'll interject as we go.

The start line, at the Commons Beach in Tahoe City. It was warm enough in the sunlight this year that standing around in a t-shirt was just fine. It did get a little warm later in the day, but not terribly.

The Tahoe Bagpiper. I'm not sure what his connection with the race is, but I liked having him wandering around piping. I liked it even more when he used to be at the top of the Hill From Hell, to reward you for the climb.

A blurry shot heading out of Tahoe City. The people you see in the yellow bibs to the left, and the blue bib right in front were all doing the "Tahoe Triple." They were on their third marathon in three days, having run from Emerald Bay to Spooner Summit on Friday, then on to Tahoe City on Saturday. We all gave them "way to go's" throughout the day, as we saw them out there.

A note on the photos: the camera that I usually carry while running died at Hood to Coast. These were all taken with my phone, a Droid Incredible, and uploaded to Picasa on the shuttle ride back to South Lake after the race. I edited them in Picasa Web albums using Piknik today. Seems to have worked pretty well.

Within the first couple miles, I saw a couple people wearing FiveFingers. In a marathon. On pavement. Wow. I wonder what their callouses look like.

Tahoe isn't generally a big costume race, so I'm not sure what "Candy Gram" girl was up to. But the guy next to her sure was interested. Actually, he chatted with me for awhile, too - he was training for CIM, and just doing Tahoe as a training run. Pretty expensive training run, but nice to have long runs so supported...

Another version of the race that was going on was the 72 mile ultra. They started at midnight at the marathon finish line, and run around the whole lake. This was their 50 mile point. Apparently they got donuts.

Just a really nice section by the lake here. Tough to get a shot without the sun glaring this time of the morning.

From time to time, the course moves on to the bike paths - generally when the road has blind curves or there's a good place off the road for an aid station.

Can't quite figure out what Bar & Grill this was. None of the other runners seemed tempted to stop...

A couple more running shots - one by the lake, one near Homewood.

Ah, and we come to the Hill From Hell. I've always wanted to take the time to get pictures of the signs, and this year I did.

500 feet of climbing. This year, I didn't even try to run any of it - just walked it. The bummer in that is that when you get to the top, you have to start running again...

But you do get rewarded by some great views of Emerald Bay...

Ah, there I am. Traded cameras with another runner for scenery shots. And that's my homemade race shirt. Free advertising, and a decent conversation starter.

More running scenery. I tried to do a better job of taking photos on course this year, since I wasn't too concerned with my time.

Actually, it was right about at this point that the half marathoners started going past. They had started later, and the fast ones were just blowing past up. Gretchen went past so fast I didn't even have time to take a picture. Glad she liked my shirt, though -

It was just after that (mile 19 or so) that my body kind of lost interest in the run. My legs felt about as bad whether I ran or walked, and I started getting stomach cramps. For the last 4 or 5 miles, I just ran until my stomach tightened, then walked until it went away. Lotsa fun.

Near Camp Richardson, there's a bridge over a river that, this time of year, the Kokanee salmon are heading up. Had to stop and get a picture of them - they're a deep red on their backs, with green bellies. Beautiful. In fact, next weekend is the Kokanee Salmon Festival up there, and an associated trail run...

With a combination of walking and running (shuffling) I made it to the finish. Stumbled across the line, grabbed a cup of water and bareley made it to a chair by the medical tent. A few minutes there gave me enough energy to wander to the bag claim, where I found a rock to sit on in the shade. Here's what I looked like at that point:

Yeah, not super happy. Actually, I was fighting tears at this point, and actually had to muffle a few sobs. That was tough.

Here's the data from the race:

4:44:22, a Personal Worst. Even my first marathon, back in 1999, was faster than that. But it's kind of what I was expecting, and deserved.

And jeez, look at that elevation profile. Brutal.

Here's a link to the results.

So this is a great race. Well organized, and draws a very interesting crown of runners. Not sure I'll do the whole thing again, though. Maybe I'll give the half or 10 a try one of these years...

Monday, September 20, 2010

FiveFingers thoughts

After yesterday's race, I just wanted to keep the legs moving a little this morning, so I did a mile or so in my Vibram FiveFingers. Here's a funny thing I've noticed about them:

The cul-de-sac I live on is slightly uphill coming into it, and at the end of a run, I usually stop my watch and walk in from about the middle of the street. When I'm wearing the FiveFingers, though, I seem to wan to keep running right up to my driveway - like I don't want the run to stop. Interesting.

Speaking of the monkey toe shoes, Amber wore them for a race yesterday - the Bay to Bliss up a Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe. That seven miler basically doubled her longest distance in them - and while she came away with no back or knee pain after, she is now sporting some huge big toe blisters. Any tips for blister avoidance with the Vibrams? I've found wearing toe socks on anything longer than a couple miles helps me, but then mine are an older model...

Added a couple races to the local race calender, from the email:

10/9 - Buck Up and Run 5K - From what I can tell, this is a benefit for Miss Reno rodeo, Lauren Neil, to be able to travel and compete in Miss Rodeo America. Bartley Ranch is a beautiful place for a run, but there's a sneaky hill in there...

10/30 - Scheels Spark-a-delic 5K/10K - A fun run from Scheels in the Legends center out in Sparks around the Marina. 70s themed costume contest as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2010 Reno Gazette Journal Jog

So, only a few changes to the Journal Jog this year. A new day (Sunday instead of Saturday), a new Start/Finish area and a slightly different course.

The new day and Start/Finish area probably had something to do with the church whose parking lot was used in the past as the staging area - although I'm not sure how they were supposed to get in there on Sunday morning, if Saturday had been an issue. They did host the packet pick-up on Saturday, instead of it being at a casino with a race expo - I'm not a big fan of the expos, but my son was disappointed that there weren't snacks. And the course this year was pretty similar to the last two years, with very minor changes. Mostly, the Start/Finish area was moved a bit east on Foster drive, closer to the front of Reno High School.

I was going to meet Chris and Dave at a specified place near where the start line was last year, but that got turned into "scan-the-crowd-for-faces" mode by the start line change. With about 4 minutes to the start, I heard my name called, and made my way over to them. With Chris recovering from an injury and there to pace us, our plan was to run the first half kind of easy, around a 9:00 pace, then pick up the last two or so depending on how we felt. And pretty quickly we were headed out, into the glaring sun.

As we turned the corner by Idlewild Park, there was some commotion as a girl took a spill over a traffic cone she must not have seen. Pretty soon, though, it was just a nice run through the park:

Dave and I soon realized how seriously our "pacer" was taking this:

There's one point in the course where there's a little out-and-back turnaround in Chrissie Caughlin Park. My photo of the oncoming runners is a little blurry...

At about mile three, Chris and I decided to try to do the last two miles in under 15 minutes. Despite his "socializing" - I swear, the guy must know all the runner in Reno - we made it. 7:09 and 7:02 pace for the last 1.97.

I got through the chute and back in time to catch Dave putting on a burst of speed to pass some guy (who, granted, isn't looking too good in that first picture.)

Fun day out there, guys. No PRs were in danger, but I had a great time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Miles per Hour and Minutes per Mile

Something that always fascinated me when I was running on the treadmill more was the relationship between Miles per hour and Minutes per mile. My watch would read out in MPM, but the treadmill should show MPH (unless I figured out how to change the settings.)

SO, as all we stats-obsessed runners know, sometimes you have to convert from minutes per mile to miles per hour, or vice versa. Mathematically, it's not too complex, you just convert to minutes and divide 60 by it:

9 miles per hour: 60/9 = 6.66 minutes per mile, or 6:40
7.5 miles per hour: 60/7.5 = 8 minutes per mile

or -

9:30 minutes per mile, or 9.5: 60/9.5 = 6.31 miles per hour
7 minutes per mile: 60/7 = 8.57 miles per hour

Of course, for ease of calculation, you can use an online pace calculator like the ones at,, or

One thing I had always wondered was at what point speed and pace numbers would be the same. You know - since a ten minute mile is six miles per hour, and a six minute mile is ten miles per hour, surely speed and pace cross at some nice round number, right?

Yeah, not so much. My math isn't up to figuring out a way to calculate it, so I used a spreadsheet program to draw a graph for me:

As you can see, the lines cross at about 7.75. So, 7.75 miles per hour equals a 7:45 mile. (It's closer to 7.746, to take it one more decimal point out.)

So if you were curious, there you go.

Short Weekend

Hi everyone -

Hope you all had a nice weekend out running. Beautiful weather, but I only managed a few short runs - although a couple of them were out with the Balloon Races. Didn't make it up into Keystone Canyon, but I did run by Rancho San Rafael right while the glow show was going on - and playing "Dueling Banjos" over the loudspeakers, for some reason. Funny to see all those people out at the hour that I usually have the streets to myself. I love running past all the cars stuck in traffic, just flying back downhill toward home...

Sunday I got out for a short run with a friend, Amber, down by the river. She had a couple runs in on a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers and wanted to do a slightly longer one - so I strapped mine on too. Now, I've heard stories of people having really good experiences with the "barefoot" shoes - no more pain, etc. I hadn't really worked that way for me - I found them fun to run in, and felt my calves strengthening a bit, but I don't usually have a lot of issues, so there was no huge benefit. Amber, though, is one of the success stories so far - her knee had been bothering her after every run, but so far with the Vibrams, no pain. Super cool to see someone have that experience. Now she's got a lot of experimentation ahead to see what kind of shoes she can wear, for races or longer runs or whatever...

A few big weekends coming up, race-wise. Of course, there's the Reno Gazette Journal Jog this weekend, then the Lake Tahoe Marathon the weekend after that. I think there's a couple more coming up as well...

Friday, September 10, 2010

A little motivation, please?

So, I ran this morning. Surprising, yes, I know.

It's been almost two weeks since Hood to Coast, and I hadn't run once since. First my shoulder was a little messed up (reaching-behind-the-seat for a water bottle incident) and that took a week to heal. Then a family camping trip and sleeping on the ground left me with a weird soreness in my the left side of my chest. It's OK, it only hurts when I breathe. Deeply. Like when running. Anyway, whine whine whine.

So yeah, I've been lacking motivation. But managed to get myself out the door pretty early this morning, like 4:15, and did my standard little 3+ mile route through the edge of Rancho San Rafael. Forgot that the balloon races would be setting up that early, and was eyeballed by a bunch of National Guards that were manning the entrances to the park, letting the balloon crews in. But I felt OK, got the run done, logged it on Garmin Connect and on my Google spreadsheet, and thought about when I could run this weekend.

A little later on, as I was checking through email, I noticed a "Friend request." This was a little strange, because I deleted my Facebook account a few months ago (longer story there.) But this was from a running tracking service called dailymile that I'd signed up for long ago and forgotten about. It looks like they recently updated it, and it looks pretty slick. So, I found a way to import from Garmin (you can also import from Nike+) and logged the morning's run.

I know, who needs another social network at this point, right? And personally, I already keep track of my running through Garmin Connect and on my own spreadsheet - do I need another place to have to enter stuff? But really, this does look pretty cool - and anything that motivates me to get out the door and run at this point, I'm going to glom onto.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to try to go out and do my yearly "Keystone Canyon to balloon race traffic" run. I'll log it on dailymile, and go from there. If anyone else wants to take a look at the site, search for me there. I hope some more people show up to follow.

(Oh, and they're really social-network friendly, too - Twitter, Facebook, blog widgets, etc. I'll put a blog widget on the sidebar somewhere...)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hood to Coast - The Fun

So, just to jump right into the trip -

After flying up to Portland Thursday afternoon, I spent the evening with my friends Karl and Brandi, who were the organizers of our Hood to Coast team. We sorted out t-shirts, did some last-minute planning, and basically tried to keep Brandi from stressing too much.

The next morning, Karl and I were picked up by Inessa and Keith, whose van we would be riding in. Inessa would be running, and Keith would be our driver. We then picked up two more team members, Max and Jenn, and met our sixth, Eric, at a good rendezvous point. Here at Meghan's house, we packed up the van and got organized.

We also did a bit of Monkey Butter Express van decorating:

Now it was time to head up the hill to the start, at Timberline Lodge. I had hopped in the far back seat of the van and was trying to get some reading done - forgetting lessons learned in grade school about the bumpy qualities of the back seat. But I survived, and we made it to the start with plenty of time to wander around, check out some sponsor booths, and take silly pictures in front of the start line.

It was finally time for our wave to start:

From 2010-08-30

And we were off! Eric ran the first, brutally downhill leg from Timberline to Government Camp, then handed off to Max:

Who took it downhill some more and passed it to Inessa:

Inessa handed off to Karl (which I didn't get a good picture of, and Karl set off on his long leg - seven miles. Still smiling here -

The rest of us spectated:

Oops, but I was up next - Leg 5. Better get ready -

To take the handoff from Karl:

Thanks to Max for snapping a few pictures of me along my leg -

Before I handed off to Jenn. She had a good leg along the highway towards Gresham -

Where she handed off to Brandi, the first runner for Van 2.

So now Van 1 had a while to ourselves. We did a little shopping and headed back into Portland to make some dinner. A good runner's meal of pasta, veggies and garlic bread. Some of us tried to catch a few minutes of sleep, others figured it just wasn't gonna happed and stayed up chatting. Before we knew it, it was time to head to our next van exchange point.

Now, I don't have very many good nighttime pictures. Most ended up looking like this, of the van exchange point:

Or this, of Inessa running:

But at any rate, we all cranked out our night time legs, and handed off to Van 2 somewhere northwest of Portland. After some confusion driving to our next exchange point, we found a parking place and huddled up either in the van or in sleeping bags on the grass, to wait for dawn:

It was around this point that it was hard to know when Van 2 was going to be showing up. There was very little cell phone coverage in the area, and while we had two-way radios, they only worked within a certain range. So we did a bunch of standing around here:

Until the fine folks from Van 2 showed up!

Our last legs started out a bit chilly:

But did warm up as the morning progressed.

This was about the time that my camera decided to have a lens retracting issue, and became unusable for the rest of the race. But it was OK - I got out and did my last leg, up and over the last big hill.

Now, one thing about this type of relay - they generally start the slower teams in the morning, and the faster teams later on in the afternoon - so everyone ends up finishing within the same range of time. A side effect of this is that the roads get crowded toward the end of the race. And some of these roads are barely wide enough for two cars, let alone runners as well. So, especially coming into the last big van exchange, there were traffic jams.

After we gave our last runner, Jenn, a water break about halfway through her 6-mile run, we hadn't gone very far before traffic stopped. A couple of us got out to walk, thinking that if the van started going faster than us, it could pick us up again. Well, it didn't - s I ended up jog/walking about a mile and a half down to the next exchange with the race clipboard, so we could hand it off to Van 2. Apparently I just made it in time, because the by the time I had a chance to look around, Jenn had already handed off to Brandi. Closer call then I had thought!

So Van 1 was now done. We drove on into Seaside, found a parking place, and walked down to the beach. And the beer garden. Wow - sponsored by Widmer, and those beers went down very nicely. We had a few hours to wait until Van 2 came across the finish line, and we made good use of them -

Van 2 showed up, we lined up and ran across the finish with them. Then back into more lines for team photos, then back to the vans for more driving - to Astoria, where we would spend the night at a wonderful place owned my Keith and Inessa's family. Pizza, beer, games - lots of fun.

The next morning we divided up depending on who needed to go where when, and headed back into Portland. I ended up in the back seat of a Suburban, trying to do a little more reading. I was near the bottles of water, though, and when someone asked me to grab one, I did a weird reach-behind, gave a tug, and felt my neck, shoulder and back pop. It's been sore since; finally it's recovering about a week later. Silly to do a big run like that and hurt yourself reaching for a water bottle.

After breakfast with Karl and Brandi, and a lazy afternoon, I flew back down to Reno late Sunday - just in time to get a little sleep before shuffling the kids off to the first day of school.

My thanks to my whole team - it was good to see those of you that I hadn't in awhile, and it was great to meet those of you who are new friends. I can't imagine a better bunch of people to spend two days in a van with. Extra thanks to Keith, whose driving expertise and calm assurance got us through the relay smoothly.