Thursday, December 26, 2013

Training and Recovery : "...Get a massage once per month..."

I'm not sure if you've heard or read this often said bit of sage advice before to '...get a massage once per month...' but I'm here to tell you there is a reason you've heard or read it before.

I was one of those that avoids 'massage' places because I don't really like the whole 'pampered' experience and thought "What has a massage got to do with running?" or "If I need a massage I'll massage myself'.  Well, you can give yourself a massage in fact you should routinely roll using your hard form roller, tennis ball or whatever you've found as a part of your post workaround routine to relax those muscles.  However, there is a subtle difference in having the right external person do it who is an experienced 'sports' masseuse, listens to you, can melt away knots and other things that is just very difficult to do yourself.

I went for the first time as per advice from an experienced running friend and suffered through all the pampering till my masseuse got down to the good stuff.  I won't lie and tell you there was no pain; especially, as he found those knots in my soleus.  However, after each knot melted and as the entire muscle was relaxed via hot oil and towels I found a new level of relaxed muscles I have not felt before.  The extra work on my foot arches, behind the knee and shoulders I'm sure contributed to the total relaxed sense of feeling.

It has been two weeks since I ran my last full marathon and even though I felt I was mostly recovered from the run I know now after having been to the sports massage specialist that I wasn't.  We counted at least four tender places around the soleus that I'm working on and will get another maintenance tuneup next month but was tremendous feedback to have and sure made my following 5 mile fun run actually fun.

If you consult your fellow running friends and find the right sports masseuse for you then I think a monthly massage is yet another positive tool at your disposal to help maintain good running form and hopefully keep running pain-free for years to come.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

California International Marathon (CIM) - Dec 8th, 2013

Saturday, Dec 7th

Arrived late to downtown Sacramento because we had to run some errands but was still able to park off L Street and walked the couple of blocks to the Convention Center.  Bib pickup around 3PM was quick and orderly.  The outrageously long line that stretched along the convention center turned out to the the optional chip validation line!  Of course we queued up even though technically not necessary because many, many years ago there someone had a chip problem that prevented a PR or BQ.  Chip was fine as expected.  In the excitement of verifying my chip, I forgot to pick up my technical shirt so add to my to-do list to contact the SRA to see if they can mail it to me!

 Eventually we made it back to the car and found out we parked right next to Hyatt Regency where we booked a room almost a year ago.  Check is was very efficient, room was nice, service excellent and there were numerous nice restaurants to eat at.  The mini-highlight was not only checkout extended to 1PM because of the race but we were awarded the coveted $50 'late' checkout giving us until 6PM to checkout!

Sunday, Dec 8th

The iPhone, wakeup call for 4:30AM knowing bus pickup was 5AM at the hotel.  Theory was that any earlier would be unrealistic of me getting up and 30min would be enough to put on my layers that were all nicely laid out on the chair. No problem right?

By 4:45AM was dressed and ready to go.

Did my business then headed down to the lobby to see how many crazy people were waiting for the bus.  OMG, the lobby was packed and it turns out that not only do guests congregate but all the nearby guests come to the Hyatt as a pick up location.  The air was cool in the lobby and arctic outside.  As soon as the school buses started pulling in it was a stampede to secure a ride.

Bus ride was uneventful for the first 30min.  People were connecting, reconnecting, telling of past races, nice carbo-load diners the night before or expected race times.  The gentleman sitting next to me from Eastern Canada had run Boston several times but had a heart issue he was recovery from and this was to be his last marathon and happened to be CIM.  Was a pleasure to hear his story and ride with him on his last race.

Nearing 15min left to the start, my head started to spin and something was going on with my GI track.  I mentioned this to by neighbor then asked driver to pull over.  Driver said we were almost there and there would be a million porta potties to choose from.  I sat back down and within 5 min of the destination what we all dread the most happened.

After the bus stopped I was the first off the bus and sprinted to the 300 porta potties - was a heavenly sight!  Took off my racing pants and tech undies did what I could to minimize mess then redressed in 22 deg weather.  I made it to a continence store and was able to buy some generic anti-diarrhea meds for like $1.50!  After popping pills, moved around like the rest of racers until 15min prior to start then undressed out of my nice and toasty Wall-mart special over sized sweats and parted at sweat-check.  Sweat-check vans were by number but volunteers would take yours and make sure they got to the right area.  Very efficient and pleasant volunteers.

The approximately 10,000 racers piled into pace groups and start was on time! I was in the 4 hour pace group with the hope of staying with them in sight the entire race.

 Our race club probably had 20 participants but was only able to see one amongst the sea of faces.  Lisa was primed and ready to go!

Here is short Instagram video of start that sorta captures the excitement of the start.  I wasn't even sure I was going to make the start giving my early morning GI issues to no one was happier than me that we were finally off!

I didn't count all the bands and interesting characters along the course.  However, my overall feeling is that CIM has more number and better quality bands than any Rock N Roll race!  I really enjoyed a band playing 'Ring of Fire' around the half marathon mark and really, really enjoyed the beer samples around mile 23.  I was trying very hard to hold back and still finished the first half in 1:58.  It feels like you are running down hill for 13 miles!  The black ice areas around water stations was something near and took a few unsuspecting runners by surprise until folks caught on.  Volunteers stepped up and would warn runners and put pylons or some kind of marker around troublesome areas. In general all the volunteers were extremely helpful.  A couple water stations couldn't keep up with demand but it all worked out.

I paced the 4 hour group till about mile 19 then noticed I started to fall behind and my paces slowed by an entire minute.  My assumption that I trained enough and had enough reserve from holding back on the first half wasn't working out.  I ran into my friend and best running buddy, Andrea, around mile 24 or so and we tried to push the last few miles.  She was struggling with the aftermath of a cold but looked pretty good.

 We both finished around 4:20, extremely glad we finished and in search of calories and warmth.

Overall, the course is VERY fast as advertised which is not normally true of most races.  You can see the elevation change below and can feel the slop as you are running along for most of the race. You may hear some say there were a few hills to climb. Nah.  For any trail runners out there there were no 'hill's at all.  You pretty much run downhill for 26 miles!

Many new experiences both good and bad.  Took 15min off my previous PR and finished without freezing to death. The warm vegan butternut squash soup was almost as heavenly as the tall eggnog latte I had at Starbucks right after the race.  I'm not sure If I'm running CIM next year but If I do I'll prepare better in the morning and stick to the four hour pace group like glue!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday Runner Deals

Pavement Runner has a very nice assembly of Cyber Monday RUNNER deals.

In fact, I used the Inside Trail Racing discount code to save on next years Folsom 50K.  Saved a nice $10 off.

Another sorta discount is the $5 deal on New York Marathon lottery registration.  Yeah, kinda dumb that you have to spend $5 for a lottery chance but hey racing isn't cheap.  If you have been turned down three years in a row or something like that then you get guaranteed entry for 2014 - that is better deal.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon - Nov 24, 2013

Berkeley + Beer = Fun

It must be said up front that we were expecting to see more Bears and a bit more Blue and Yellow but hey.

For those that didn’t pay the fee to have their bibs snail mailed to them you got to checkout Pyramid Alehouse on Saturday the night before the race and sample some local beers.  The pickup was efficient but no schwag stations so a bit anticlimactic for some of the first time racers.  My bib was missing and had to first check to see if my bib number might have changed on the four right-most computers (it didn’t) then went to the left most computer/attendant to have a new bib number issued.  First time my bib number was misplaced but a it really didn’t take very long to have a new number assigned.  I got a slightly faster wave number and the D-tag didn’t have my name and age printed on it which is required (or a photo ID) to get into the beer garden in the finishers area.
Race morning was very well organized with lots of porta potties, parking was easy if you arrived early (one hour before race started) and we pretty much started on time.  Morning temperature was a brisk 45 and much better than the 37 inland.  Everyone was friendly and actively moving about to keep from freezing.
The first few miles of the race felt like you were running downhill the whole time and was a very pleasant experience.  Yes, it was hard to hold back and run under your expected race pace but the pacers (2 per bracket every 5 min!) were expert and started off slow and gradually ramped up to race pace.  I have not experienced a better group of pacers before.  Well done.

I happen to be in the back of Wave 2 (four waves I think before 10miler, then 10K) and was literally between the 2 hour and 1:55 pace groups.  I ended up finishing just past the 1:55 pace group with a 1:54.  Couldn’t heap enough praise on these pro pacers.

The course itself is a bit of a bizarre in that there are multiple switchback/roundabout where you meander around Berkeley culminating in a sizable hill 0.1 mile before the finish line at Golden Gates fields – which I suspect runners will be talking about for sometime.

There were a couple of bands, lots of mixed road/trail to run on.  Lots of pot holes and a few muddy areas to keep you on your toes.   The mixing and splitting off of the three different running groups was interesting.   One of the most beautiful stretches of the run and also most congested was the bit of trail along the bay.

There were at least three beers to choose from in the beer garden hosted by Pyramid of course.  The IPA was very good. We had several PRs and at least one age group medal.  Great race day!

Would I run the race again?  Hell ya. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Can others see you?

Now that day light savings has passed (in US) and as winter approaches the days and the amount of sun warmed streets are becoming shorter and shorter runners should be thinking about how to make sure others we share roads (and trails) with can see you to help avoid injury. This is even more true for those that like to run in 'ninja' black apparel with zero reflective gear.  Yes, stealth is good if you are a commando and hunter stalking prey.  But, if you are a runner who really doesn't want to get side swiped by a passing car, motorcycle or bicyclists then wear 'high vis' colors with reflective gear.

Apparel/gear to consider for your night runs:

  • shorts/top with reflective material built in
  • water bottles/shoes/vests/hat with reflective material
  • red blinking warning lights for ankles, wrists or as head band
  • flash light 

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Sunday / Sunday : Back to back half marathons and recovery.

    Didn't plan it but decided to see if I could handle 'back to back' Sunday half marathons.  Since I'm on a perpetual marathon training program and do half marathon distance (or longer) every weekend I thought running two consecutive races shouldn't have any impact at all.  Was a naive thought.

    Below are the race splits from Half Moon Bay on 09/29 (left) and San Jose Rock in Roll on 10/06.  Both races are flat, both had cool mornings (~55) that warmed up towards after noon (65 in HMB, 85 San Jose), HMB was an out and back, SJ was a loop, both had you traversnig through residential neighborhoods.  One obvious difference was that HMB had 2000 runners whereas SJ had 16,000.

    I was able to control my pace rather well at HMB and could actually see the little lag between when I took a GU and a pop in speed (between mile 7 and 9).   In SJ, I was fine for the first 6 miles then something happened. Just lost pace/energy and basically had to push from 7 all the way till the end. A mini-wall if you will.  Times are close but I was noticeably slower and more tired after SJ.

    In between each race I did one practice run and some core workouts.  I didn't do any cross-training and my conclusion was that I just wasn't recovered from the first HM.  If I do Sunday to Sunday HM again, I think I'll attempt to do some spin classes to get my aerobic system and legs back to normal faster.

    For this week I plan on doing some short ~4 mile runs after one day off then jump right into stationary bike spin/core workouts to aid in recovery.

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    plantar fasciitis (PF) fun

    Firstly, I run a base mileage of 25-35 miles per week year round.  A typical week is at least one trail run or hill repeats, a short 6.5 mile maintenance run and two long runs on the weekend.  I have never had plantar Fasciitis (PF) like symptoms in my foot arch near by heel before.

    A month go I finished a 16 mile run on a Sunday in my older Sketchers Go Run 2s and felt fine.  The following week, however, I did basically the same 16 miler on Sunday in my NEW Sketchers Go Run 2, same shoe, same model just newer (and probably a bit stiffer with more arch support) and by the end of the run could barely put pressure on my left arch near heal.  The next day my left arch was sensitive to the touch.

    If you get fascilltis pain, which is basically swelling due to tearing of the fasciitis that connects toe area back to heel, there is little you can do short term other than take some pair reliever, ice it and immediately start stretching out the area that caused the tearing (calf, Achilles and fasciitis).  Long term requires figuring out what exactly caused the tearing and constant stretch exercises of much of your calf, Achilles and foot area.

    Two days later after that Sunday, I hit the trails for a 7.5 very hilly trail run in my TRAIL SHOES (Tecnica x-lites) and to my great surprise I had no arch pain at all. Gone.  I don't believe the few hours of massage fixed my arch but that the shoes/hills didn't annoy it.  So, something about pavement pounding and my shoes were off.

    Enter experiment number one.  I tried running a test 6.5 mile run in my trail shoes whilst running on pavement.  Comfortable but felt it a little bit in my left arch.  Yesterday, I completed a half marathon in Half Moon Bay in my trail shoes and almost had to stop at mile 10 because of arch pain. Luckily it wasn't bad enough to stop but painful and learned that if I run like a crab slightly askew there was less pain.  Today (day after) my left arch is sensitive to the touch but walkable. My plan is to continue to do the stretches below and attempt to figure what about my shoes or how I'm running on pavement that is irritating my arch.  One theory is that the 'extra arch' support found in Sketchers Go Run 2 is actually too much support and tweaked my fasciitis.  Which suggests my fasciitis or calf are too tight.

     Must do exercises:

    1) Foot rolling : I do both recommended forms for different reasons.  I use a golf ball to pinpoint areas up and down the arch of my foot. Painful at first but as the arch stretches out it feels much better.  And, the second technique which is to freeze a bottle of water and simply roll the arch up and down the frozen bottle.  Feels really, really good.  If you live by the beach (especially cold water like we have in northern California) walking up/down the cold seashore also feels very good.

    2) Gastrocnemius muscle stretch : After a run I always stand on a curb's edge and pivot both feet one at a time down hold 30 seconds then up.  The muscles are warm after a run and perfect for stretching out but don't over do it - stop when you get a mild burn.  This stretches the calf muscles nicely.

    3) Soleus muscle stretch : Similar to above just bend you knee to isolate the Soleus and Achilles area.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Run with the Bulls ... really?

    We've all seen footage of the great bull run in Pamplona, Spain or have read about 'Running with the Bulls' in Hemingways bibliography, etc.  However, how many of us really want the same experience?  Well, apparently enough to justify such a run with locations throughout the United States including right here in California.

    I don't know anything about the hosting company, but there are more than one planned location according to their website.  In fact, there appear to be more interest on the East Coast than West.  Or, maybe craziness just starts on the East first then slowly migrates West?

    And, if running with bulls isn't enough for the adventurer in you there is also the advertised tomato royale afterwards to burn off any lingering adrenaline/testosterone. Yes, if I was 18 again I might just need a bull running behind me for motivation but at my Masters age I'd rather run along an empty trail or possibly chasing behind a pony tail in tight running shorts.

    According to lore, Hemingway also witnessed on July 13th, 1924 the first death in the running of the bulls, when Esteban Domeño from Sanguesa, was fatally gored...

    Got your Forrest Gump on?

    Local California runner, Noah Coughlan, is making the trek from West Coast (Half Moon Bay near San Mateo) to Boston in support of research leading towards a cure of rare recessive gene disorder called Batten disease.

    This Coast to Coast run was featured in our local Tracy Paper as he made his along West Valley Mall heading East.  I wish I had known of his quest before hand so I could have cheered him on.

    Since he doesn't have a support crew he is pushing his support wagon also Eastward - about 70# worth of supplies.

    We all have a little Forrest in us and at least we can run vicariously through Noah; especially, for a worthy cause.

    He plans to hit the Boston shores by Nov 2nd.  So, you just might catch a glimpse of 'Forrest' in a local town near you.

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

    Summer trail mascot

    Tuesday Trail day was a series of new experiences.  First we increased from 5 to 7 miles with almost 1900 feet of elevation change.  Second there were critters all over the place.  I was able to capture a picture of a tarantula roaming around. I was not able to get a picture of the bobcat with a squirrel in its mouth.  Love trail Tuesday!

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    Summer fluid mix

    'Keep things simple' as it is often said.

    The simplest and most effective fluid mix I've found for those hot summer running days is just an electrolyte, complex carbohydrate (Maltodextrin)  and icecubes.  During a race, I'll eat one GU every hour with a bit of caffiene just to keep fatigue at bay and put a little bit more spring into each step but that's it.

    Maltodextrin (MD) provides roughly 112 calories per oz and it is recommended to consume 1.5 oz per hour of activity.

    I'll actually finish the entire ~21oz in one hour (~6 miles) on a normal training run during the summer. All depends on how hot, pace and how many hills.

    Summer Fluid Mix:
    • CamelBak Elixir -   NUUN and Nathan are also popular.  I happen to like the Elixir Berry flavor.
    • Maltodextrin (MD) - I use Carbo-Pro but bulk food grade is probably just as good.  Normally just one or two scoups per 21 oz per instructions. 
    • Icecubes - Nothing like cool water to help cool you from the inside out as your body quickly warms up on a hot day.
    • 21-oz Hand-held - I like the CamelBak hand-held with little pouch because it fits well and you can synch the strap down for a good fit. 

      Saturday, July 27, 2013

      Running Brazen Racing Half Marathon at Del Valle, Livermore

      In mid March of this year (2013) I did a really stupid but fun thing.  After completing the Napa Valley Marathon in Early march and before I learned I'd won free registration to run the Oakland Marathon, I signed up for Brazen Racing's Badger Cove Half Marathon in Del Valle, Livermore. In a single Month I had completed my first and second full marathons with a half marathon trail run tossed in the middle.

      They don't call California the 'Golden State' for no reason.  Most of the year this desert state is covered mostly by dead grass; except, around March when it rains and everything turns green and flowers.  March is a great month to be in California and running the hills.

      Friday, July 26, 2013

      Running Brazen Racing Summit Rock 10K, Saratoga Hills

      My buddy suggests, "Let's do one of the trail runs in Santa Cruz or Marin Headlands!  It will be great!".  At the time he had been hiking for years, me running for five months and I thought maybe we're ready?  Most normal people hike the Saratoga mountains they don't run it.  Now I know why.  Can you say 'Switchback'?

      The Brazen Racing Summit Rock race starts off nice and flat in a very beautiful, green and picturesque park.  It's December at a little altitude and freak'n cold.  I mean for California 45 deg F is cold.  Smart ones are in layers, that don't hold moisture.

      Running the Brazen Racing Lake Chabot New Years Eve HM

      The Brazen Racing New Years Eve race is actually part of a 'Marathon' broken up in two where you run the first half in one year and the other in the new year.  However, I was only able to get the family together to run New Years Eve.  From the attire below, December in Castro Valley wasn't cold but it certainly wasn't warm and there were a lot of gloves, double layers and beanies.

       Here's a pic in the last mile.  It had just rained the days leading to race day but not on race day. However, the trail was slippery, there were gun shots going on in the back part of the course near the shooting range and several fallen trees to maneuver around and sometimes over. In short, it was a really fun race.

      Group shot with the crew. We all had a great time and my eldest son on the left medaled on his 5K.

      Was one of my slowest half marathons on record but also one of the funnest.  Definitely planning on doing it again this year.

      Thursday, July 25, 2013

      Running the Stockton St Joseph's Half Marathon (October, 2012)

      The second half marathon (HM) I ran was the climax to FleetFeet's HM training program and it was the St Joseph's.  I had learned a great deal running the Peace Officers HM in Modesto and applied that knowledge and actually completed St Joseph's in a better 2:09. In fact I was downright kiddy for almost hitting 2 hours on my second HM. I placed middle of the pack but my youngest son, who swears he doesn't like to run, paced second in his age group.

      Running the Modesto Peace Officers Memorial Half Marathon (September, 2012)

      My very first half marathon (HM) race was ran whilst I was in a Stockton FleetFeet half marathon training program for the St Joseph's!  It was the second annual Fallen Peace Officers Memorial Run held in Modesto.  Some highlights of the fast and flat race were: bagpipes, mounted patrols, a gargantuan American flag held up over the finish by two fire engines and motorcycle policeman manning the routes.  For a second annual race, it was surprisingly well organized.  There was plenty of food and water at the finish including hot dogs.  There were six aid stations thorough the course.  Directions were clear.  And the course  was made somewhat more interesting by weaving in and out of Modesto Junior College, a local arboretum and some nicely tree lined neighborhoods.  I didn't even know we had redwood trees in the Central Valley?  There was also a kids short race where children had to 'catch the crook' then got to take their photograph with the thief.

      September in the Central Valley is hot and was one of many lessons I learned about long distance running is to research your race, dress accordingly and hydrate!  I finished the race in a very slow 2:25 minutes, was hot and sweaty and had small blisters on my feet because I simply didn't have enough running experience nor properly fitted shoes.  Was fun a fun local race and if I did it again I think I would run much faster.

      Fun Run : 10 mile Tomales Point

      Last November, 2012 running friend Jake wanted to do a different kind of run and picked Tomales Point since he had such fun hiking it before.  The run is a 10 mile out and back from the last public place to park at Pierce Point Ranch all the out to Tomales Point.  The terrain is mixed road, dirt trail and sand as you get near the point.  You can expect to meet hikers and tule elk.  Total elevation change is an interesting 1473 feet since there were not many steep hills so much as many rolling hills; so the elevation sorta sneaks up on you.  The views on the sea side are just breathtaking : looking out on expansive ocean from sea cliffs.  On the bay side you can see the occasional kayak, seal and homes on the land side.  A truly great place to run or hike with the family.

      Wednesday, July 24, 2013

      Running the Oakland Marathon

      On March 24th, 2013 I 'won' a random drawing to run in the Oakland Marathon.  What made this random drawing special was:

      a) My company hosted the event which means I was entitled to VIP parking and VIP pass

      b) I had just run my very first full marathon (Napa Valley Marathon) on March 3rd and wasn't sure if three weeks was enough time to recover. [More on that later]

      One year running anniversary!

      I officially started running Wednesday, July 25, 2012 and completed 1.425 miles in 15.35 min or 10.77 min/mile pace.  I was chasing my youngest son around the long block and I remember as if it was yesterday the heat building up and sweat poring down my face, the wheezing and absolute exhaustion and joy when we finally stopped.
      One of the main motivating factors to start running was health because after a routine annual checkup my HDL (High-density lipoprotein) or 'Good Cholesterol'  was too low and Triglycerides were too high.  My weight was also a heavy 168!  I'm only 5 foot 9-10" and thin boned.  I knew I needed to get in shape but hated the gym, liked cycling but just couldn't keep a routine up and swimming...forget it.  Love to play in the water but doing endless laps just wasn't going to happen.  Running was the easiest to do after crawling out of bed and turned out to be fun.  Why didn't I quiet cross county in high school after one semester?  Don't remember.

      Now one year later, I'm down to a very lean 153 pounds and don't know my blood chemistry yet but my energy and endurance level has never been higher.  I'm completed many races including a 50km/31mile trail run.

      I know people who try all kinds of 'diet programs' but rarely have I ever heard of any long-term success.  There is just no substitute for putting a pair of running shoes on, getting your 'mojo' on, favorite tunes, running buddy and hitting the road or trail.  And you can pretty much eat/drink whatever you want afterwards.

      Looking forward to another year of running and health living!

      Monday, July 22, 2013

      USATF Masters (over 40) Phidippides Award

      There is a little known award offered to USATF members over 40 called The Phildippides Award.
      From the website:

      Who Was Phidippides?
      Phidippides was a Master when he performed his historic runs. According to chronicles Phidippides was sent to Sparta by Athenian officials when they were threatened by Persians landing at Marathon. The trip was 150 miles which he ran in 2 days. The Spartans were celebrating a festival and could not come until the full moon, several days later, whereupon Phidippides retraced his steps in 2 more days. He then fought a battle with the rest of the Athenians routing the Persians. The Persians retreated to their ships and set sail for Athens, which caused the Athenians to send Phidippides from the battlefield to Athens, a distance of 26 miles. He reached Athens, pronounced Nenikekamen (‘We have won’ or ‘We are victorious’) and promptly died. Robert Browning commemorated this story in his 1879 poem Pheidippides. The poem inspired Baron Pierre de Coubertin and other founders of the modern Olympic games to invent a running race of 42 kilometers called the marathon.

      To qualify for the award plack you have to be a USATF member, be above the age of 40 and all your races need to be USATF certified and in the US.  You get one point for 5K, 1 points for 10K, 3 points for half marathon and 4 points for anything that is marathon in distance or longer.

      For a runner between the ages of 40 and 59, the minimum number of points is 12 for bronze, 16 for silver and 20 for gold.  Deadline to submit your form for 2013 is January 31, 2014


      Sunday, July 21, 2013

      Why everyone should volunteer at races

      First let's talk about the easiest, selfish reason to volunteer at a race event : hours leading to free registration if you're a runner or free running equipment if the hosting company has their own line of equipment.  Yes, it is a great motivating factor and the Race Director (RD) has a captive audience to help fill those race slots (not that most RD need that much help).  However, there are other less tangible but more important reasons to volunteer.

      The race I volunteered for was the Inside Trail Racing (ITR) Feb 23rd Lake Chabot 10k, Half, 30 and 50K because Lake Chabot is one of my favorite places to run and I wanted to see what a crazy 50K trail racer looked, talked and acted like.

      Hosting a race is a big deal requiring the orchestration of quiet a few different activities all at the same time.  You have Aid Stations (AS) to setup with aid supplies, trail markings, sweepers, registration staff to do last minute signup, race modifications, course photographers, course marshals and those to staff finisher tables.  You also have third party support staff such as EMT, timing company, vendors, announcer, PA system, etc.

      Based on the questions I answered on the volunteer form I was assigned to the Finisher Table.  For this role you simple need to know how to prepare and organize foods to satisfy the basic senses : sweet, salty, etc.  If you can cut bananas, oranges and bagles you are half way there!

      Here is my finisher table complete with burner for soup:

      Foods should be organized by sweet, salty, be near the finish line and water but not too accessible to spectators or random visitors to the park.

      Ok, so what intangibles are their to volunteering?  You get to interact and get to know the RD, other volunteers who typically are veteran runners and development connections that only come from shared labor over half a day or longer.  My purpose other than to help ITR staff out was to get a sense of how 50K'ers do what they do. Run 31 miles of trail?  How?

      After spending half the day with ITR staff, volunteers and racers I discovered several trends:
      • Many ultra runners hike (canoe, windsurf and other outdoor activities) in addition to running.
      • Most ultra runners logs many more hours than your average runner (> 50 per week) and do back to back weekend long runs (e.g. 20 miles on Saturday, 10 on Sunday kinda thing).
      • Most ultra runners know their equipment very well
      • Most ultra runners know their fluid/fuel requirements by season very well
      • Most ultra runners have a high tolerance for pain or just can't stop running unless there is serious physical injury.
      I received much advice from Ken (Running Stupid), Catra (Dirt Diva), and Sam Hsu that I put to use when I used my 'free registration' to run my own 50K at Lake Folsom later that year in April.

      There is no down side to spending half a day at the races and plenty of direct and indirect benefits doing so.  I've volunteered two more times thus far in 2013.

      Race Director Tim with several very fast trail runners.

      Typical long slow summer run atire

      In Northern California, Summers are relatively mild in that it can get hot during the day but morning are normally cool and humidity is low.  Here is typical running, race attire for long slow summer weekend runs:
      Shoes : Montrail Rogue Racer  About 9 oz shoes, sort of a neutral shoe with a little mid foot support and lugs on the bottom for traction.

      Socks : Asics low-cut three for $12 at National Running Center (NRC)!

      Shorts : I like the Frank Shorter's Marathon split running shorts when they are on sale for $16.  Or, the regular non-split when they are on sale for $10.  Can't get a better, lighter pair of shorts for $10!

      Singlet Tops : Frank Shorter's Accent Tank Top when on sale for $16 or less.  Comes in four different colors either on white or solid.  Excellent tops.  I like the high-visibility especially at night with the reflectors that are iron-on the back of the shirt.

      Hat  : Basic 'head sweats' hat with front liner to help control sweat.  Normally $10 and if I'm doing an order at NRC I'll add a head-band for winter.

      iPhone arm band : I've tried a bunch of them and my favorite is the iFitness arm band because it had a half zip side to allow easy access to the phone while you are running to take pictures, made out of neoprene so it doesn't pinch, will accommodate iPhone with case and comes in different colors.

      Accessory Belt : Can't beat the classic SPIbelt  for comfort and flexibility.  I normally keep a packet of GU, car keys and $20 just in case.  Put money or anything you don't want to get sweater in a baggy first just in case.

      22-oz hand held : I have many, many hydration systems, but the one I always have with me and count on is the CamelBak Quick Grip because the grip is comfortable, secure and has a strap to sinch down for a tight ... well ... grip.  There is also a small zipper pocket on the side for a car key, some money and a GU - but not much else.

      As soon as the early morning weather drops below 60, I'll transition to CW-X pro racing tights not only for the bit of insulation but integrated band puts that little extra spring into your step.  Very comfortable.  However, there is a seam around the crotch so I'd recommend also wearing technical underwear with it.

      Saturday, July 20, 2013

      iPhone5 running apps : RunKeeper it is

      On my iPhone 5 now I have six running-related apps installed : RunKeeper, Strava Cycling, MapMyRun, TrainingPeaks, Fitocracy and Runmeter.

      I've decided that these apps and their associated websites to host and analyze data is just too complicated and takes too much time to sync the data, etc.
      TrainingPeaks (TP)  is associated with my Timex Ironman GPS triathlete watch which even though it is waterproof has such slow GPS sync that has become less useful to me. So, TP and Timex watch have been retired.

      Strava Cycling is fine for discovering other cyclers in your area but the interface is not tuned for runners and since I'm a runner who occasionally cycles not that useful.  Strava is out.

      Runmeter is kinda cool but because I disabled payments 'General->Restrictions->In-Apps Purchases set to OFF' on my phone the app constantly prompts me asking me if I'd like to turn it back on. Very annoying and by that general principle alone RunMeter is out.

      MapMyRun with its many advertisements using the free version couple with many route print features disabled again in the free version is out. However, our club leader uses it and has many saved routes, so will keep it until I've run all routes to have my own history in RunKeeper, then out!

      Fitocracy isn't just a running app and incorporates points/quests for total workouts so will leave it installed for now. Plus I have it linked with RK so I get updates automatically.

      RunKeeper (RK).  Has the simplest interface, no ads, has auto-pause, posts to facebook/twitter in the free version (only runkeeper live is not available in free version).

      There was the problem of not having a widget for Blogger that was compatible for RK but I have since found one _and_ I found someone who knows how to bulk load all my RK history into dailymile!   So, whether I use RK or Garmin I can pretty much get the data automatically updated in Fitocracy, RK, Dailymile and on Blogger.

      Life is incrementally less complex but still looking for easier integration of data and social media sites.


      Friday, July 19, 2013

      Running the ITR 50K at Lake Folsom

      After I finished two marathons in the month of March (Napa Valley and Oakland) I thought what would be my next logical challenge?  Somehow, not exactly sure how, the thought of running 6 extra miles to make the magical 'ultra' millage just wouldn't leave my mind.  Knowing the difference between a road and trail race I consulted an experienced trail ultra runner named 'Ken' from Running Stupid regarding running a trail marathon and which race would be appropriate for a newbie.  I actually volunteered at an Inside Trail Racing (ITR) 50K race at Lake Chabot and got a first hand view of all the 50K'ers, got to hear about all the races they've been in, equipment they used and tips/tricks used to help complete the race per their desired pace/time.  After the race as we were cleaning up the finishers table, cooking that last pot of vegetarian and beef noodle soup, I decided on the Lake Folsom 50K towards the end of April because the race _only_ had 2,850ft of total elevation change over 31 miles.  Elevation change is obviously a major indicator of how challenging a course is and there are other factors!

      Thursday, July 18, 2013

      Product Review : Sketchers Go Run 2

      I held off trying the new Sketchers shoes because let's face it the parent company makes kids shoes!!!  However, after reading RunBlogger's review of the shoe in February I bought a pair and have been truly impressed by how comfortable they are and how much they can improve your track workouts/5k sprints.

      Overview of The Skechers 'GoRun' Shoes in this Roundup

      •  Go Run 2 (GR2) : A minimalist, lightweight, flexible 4mm-drop racing shoe.
      •  Go Run 3 (GoRide 3) : A more traditional, generic 4mm-drop running shoe. (read the review here)
      •  Go Meb : A Minimalist, stability 4mm-drop racing shoe. (read the review here)

      The shoes really should be called slippers as they are so flexible and comfortable.  In fact I wore them to work for several days and really didn't want to take them off.  However, track Tuesday finally came around and I had to take them for a test drive doing ladder runs.  I was not only able to maintain my 5K race pace but completed a 6 min/mile 200 and 400 sprints in them.  These are my 'goto' shoes for 5K and track work outs now.  I've heard about people doing long distance runs and even trail running in them but two things concern me:

      1) The bottom 'cleats' are very soft and within two weeks several wore right off.
      2) There is little protection in the toe so trail running is out

      I think they would do fine for a single marathon but then you'd have to buy a new pair for your second.  Good for sketchers bad for runner's budget.

      Product Review : Tecnica Inferno X-lite

      Everyone has their favorite running shoe for road, trail or just walking around in.  My current favorite trail shoe is the semi-oversized Tecnica Inferno X-Lite.

      The shoes weigh about 10.5 oz (without being covered in dirt!) so I don't use them for track or sprint runs (e.g. 5K).  For track or sprint runs I like the 6oz slipper like Sketchers Go Run 2 or 9oz Montrail racing shoes. [More on those later]

      However, for longer runs where the ground is uneven with rocks, roots, rivers and generally tough conditions you find on a trail the extra cushioning and hard toe help protect your feet.  In addition to the nice ride, the quick bungee lacing system eliminates worrying about whether your laces come undone or not.  

      The top is breathable so you wouldn't want to submerge the shoe and I'd imgine the shoe itself would trap water; however, the shoe is sealed and I've gone through puddles and haven't noticed any water getting into the shoe at all. Very nice.  I haven't purposely submerged my foot yet to see how much water the shoe retains but I guess that would be the next test to simulate real winter or spring running.

      In short, I'm very happy with these shoes as a semi-cushioned long distance trail shoe.

      [Update - June 2nd 2014]

      Last weekend I did a training run in the Mill Valley, CA area in preparation for The Dipsea Race coming up. I wore my now second pair of X-lites which performed very well on a tough course.  The shoes started off a white tone and everything came back covered in dust a nice light brown in color.  I do own a pair of Hoka Stinsons but I still like the X-lites for tougher trail conditions with lots of exposed rocks, roots, etc; mostly, because the X-lites have a larger and reenforced toebox.

      Wednesday, July 17, 2013

      Running the 4th 2013, Ahgan Cup Running Festival, Taibei, Taiwan

      After I gained more confidence that I could figure out the logistics to run a race in Taiwan by completing the Standard Chartered 12.KM race, my sister in law helped me sign up for one of the local races called Ahgan Running Festival.  The Ahgan race is held in north-west Taiwan in the ZhongShan sports area.  Unlike the Standard Chartered race, the Ahgan race registration is in Chinese only and the payment must be done at one of the 7-Eleven Kiosks.  So, pretty much you need local help to join this race.

      The bib is rather large and contains a 'D-loop' attached to the top of the bib.  Some inventive runners attached to the back of their hats and some to the back of their shorts. I showed my Half Marathon pride by wearing my Half Fanatics singlet which was amazingly recognized by one runner.

      Running the Standard Chartered 12.5k, Taibei, Taiwan ROC

      It is now July and a month ago I was lucky enough to squeeze in not one but two races in Taiwan during our bi-annual trip to visit the extended family.  Just to give some context here.  Summer months in Taiwan are 'tropical' to put it kindly; or, in other words hot, humid, sticky and down right hostile to human habitation.  Normal people 'race' from one air conditioned building, car or cab to another spending the minimum amount of time exposed to the sun and air.  Not many choose to run on purpose in the summer months of Taiwan.  Then again, we aren't normal, we're Runners!

      My 'test race' to see if I could actually handle the logistics and weather was the Standard Charted Charity Run; since, it was only 12.5KM, located near my mother in law's house, was known to be well managed and most importantly had registration and payment instructions in English!

      Payment and registration was done in the States two months before the race and was easy  and inexpensive (600 NT or $30 USD)!  Bib pickup was done at tents in the Breeze shopping center downtown near Taibei 101 and was orderly and efficient.  Yes, the staff speak English but if you speak Mandarin or Taiwanese use it!  The packet consisted of a race number, shoe tag and a nice technical shirt from Adidas I believe.

      Wednesday, June 26, 2013

      Running the CA Aqueduct

      Was really getting tired of sharing the road with cars, bicylists and wild dogs; so, searched around Tracy for an area mostly forgotten yet had long paths to wander. I found it! The California Aqeduct. Basically the 'fire' or maintenance roads that run along the aqeduct are hard-pack gravel that is perfectly suited for running or riding with a mountain bike. The entrances have 'bike' gates that do not allow cars to pass. Fortunately or unfortunately the maintenance roads are rarely if ever used and basically provide a private reprieve from the world. Here is an article I wrote in our local paper introducing the Aqueducts to the City of Tracy so that maybe other runners could enjoy them. I'm still mostly the only person early Sunday mornings for my long 10-20 miles runs but it is just the way I like it!

      Aqueduct Provides Runner's Reprieve