Saturday, April 30, 2016

#RunDadRun Virtual 5k

Went out for an easy couple of miles barefoot, then decided to throw on my Vibrams and see what I could do. Was surprised to find the hill climbing much easier on the legs, lungs, and heart (thanks, Big Sur.)

Also! Ended up meeting my climbing goal for April. Climbed 1,823 meters in April. That's 3 months down on my goal of setting and completing a climbing goal for running! 3 months to go!

On Fatherhood and Running

As this blog mainly chronicles my life in endurance sports and also adventures in being a new dad, I love the intersection of the two things. I follow a number of parenting and endurance sport blogs, including the National At-home Dad Network. I'm not an at-home dad, myself, but I like the idea of it and like the group as a place to share thoughts on fatherhood. As such, I'll be participating in the Run Dad Run Virtual 5k. I'm not usually one for virtual races, but the money goes to an organization I follow frequently. I'll consider this a subscription fee, and I hope that it does manage to get some other dads out on the road who wouldn't otherwise run.

I do wish that instead of the medal, one could just receive a t-shirt. Participating in endurance events quite often, I have a lot of medals in a bin somewhere in the basement that I don't really ever look at. Big fan of shirts, though. The AHDN has a great "Dads Don't Babysit" shirt, which I love. Strongly recommend that one.

This week my wife returned to work and our daughter began her time at daycare. The daycare we have her in is extremely nice, affordable, and also used by some of my coworkers. My wife was a preschool teacher in a previous life, and this daycare checked off all of our boxes. The teachers have a great rapport with the babies, and our daughter is doing very well there. She's really strong, too, and has really been enjoying playing in the exercise saucer they have there.

We're even transitioning her into small amounts of food -- starting with rice cereal. Just so she can practice taking it off the spoon, my wife says. These little developmental breakthroughs remind one to savor this time, because she isn't going to be little forever. I am foreseeing many days of me chasing this little one around the yard, trying hard to keep up.

These last few months have been very difficult, but I'm happy for the gift of such a great family and for the gift of movement. I haven't run at all since Big Sur, and I'm looking forward to getting in 5k today. I'm so happy to see my daughter thriving and doing so well, becoming so strong. I'll have quite a bit to think about during my ramble today.

I've had some poison oak on my ankles (nothing terrible, just mildly annoying) from a ramble through Nisene Marks State Park while I was out in California. I may end up barefooting today, if only to avoid irritating the poison oak rash more.

I'll post some from my run later. I hope you get outside today and have an adventure!

Friday, April 29, 2016

the Big Sur Marathon (Race Review)

The Big Sur International Marathon has been on my list for a couple of years, since reading about it in Runner's World. Multiple times in my life I've tried to go out to California -- but unexpected events always canceled the trip. Back when I entered for the lottery my wife was eight months pregnant, so we ended up having a discussion about how to make this work. My wife was super supportive, and I worked really hard in training.

Big Sur is a race with a really great sense of humor.

The mile markers, the folks all along the course. The humor helps keep the race feeling doable and managable. The climbing is a bit better for it, because you don't feel so much like you'll die. The bands all along the course are really good, too. They add a really positive energy and even add their own sense of humor to the event.

Big Sur is a really emotional experience, at least it was for me.

Many of the views are things I'd thought about all through my training. I would stand at the bottom of good grade hills and think about hurricane point. I would think about the descents cruising to Bixby while cruising down my own local down hills. It made the endorphin highs really big pay offs in the race, which led to me giggling to myself all along the course as I felt like I was really living my dream.

Big Sur is really punishing, and it knows it. It is still really worthwhile.

Those hills, man. That climbing. I wasn't anywhere close to running that whole course. I'd love to try again. It was tough, though. In a way that makes me want to try again. Makes me want to revisit it, to see what I remember of the course, to see if my legs can remember it and outperform my showing this year.

Here is a breakdown of my race day:

Race day started about 3am. Although, still being pretty used to EDT (GMT -5) it really felt like 6 am. Caught the shuttle bus into Big Sur at 3:45 or so. Couldn't really see the course in the dark, but noticed the distance down to the taillights ahead at Hurricane Point.

I planned to run a 4:15-4:30 at Big Sur, knowing full well that I was going to have a rough time with the hills. Really wanted to run Hurricane Point, aiming for a 10:30-11:00/mile pace.

Race went off at 6:45am, and I was feeling pretty good. Decided to dial the pace in for 9:15-9:30/mile in the first few, just to see how I would feel. Didn't want to gun it in the first 10k because I knew they would be mostly downhill. Around mile 4 I felt pretty good, but warm, so I shucked my hoodie.

At about the 10k mark, hit the coast line and some tremendous wind. Like, gusts that made your footsteps land wrong. Decided conditions weren't great to be running in shorts and a singlet, so huddled into the pack and kept moving. Stopped to take a couple photos, and some video of the Taiko drummers. I like to have short clips of waves crashing to put on loop when I'm in a particularly frustrating meeting.

Dug into Hurricane Point and dialed in my planned pace. I was alarmed to see my heart rate hit 180 bpm, but I felt alright even though I was climbing. Ended up cresting the hill with an 11/mile pace. Had a huge endorphin payoff at the top, and got really emotional remembering standing at the foot of my neighborhood climb, and the number of times I climbed it thinking about that very point in the course. I turned around to survey the coastline, and started giggling to myself in absolute joy. I'm sure I looked like a lunatic, but that moment was the realization of years of dreaming of visiting the other coast.

Started listening to Ginger Runner's "Bixby" on loop approaching the Bixby Bridge. Had so much fun that entire segment. It was sheer elation looking at the coast, the mountains, cruising towards the bridge. The endorphin were still rolling in, and so I felt really good, but was consciously trying to not push the pace too hard. Hit the Bixby at 2:09, more or less when I wanted to, and stopped to take some photos.

Heading on I hit the hills that start around mile 15, and became fairly consigned to the fact that I was going to need to work in some walking. I decided since I was on time and well ahead of the time cut off at mile 15.6, I would also work in more photo breaks. The coast line was so lovely, and it would have been easy to just hang out on the course looking and reveling.

Around mile 17 the climbing really started to take it's toll so the walking became slightly longer. I was still cruising the downhills comfortably, and was working really hard to keep the negative thoughts at bay.

The bands along the course were really awesome. Lots of school bands, which played really well, but also some rock bands, blues bands, even accordion players and bag pipers. The folks playing were really awesome, too, and very willing to interact with the runners. That doesn't happen at every race where you have bands.

Mile 24 had strawberries. They were awesome. I spent that time wishing strawberries at mile 24 were a tradition at every marathon. If I ever organize a marathon, that will be a must.

Came into sight of the hill at mile 25, and was overcome with dread. It looked the same grade as the Hurricane point climb. At that point, though, there were lots of folks walking the hill so I wasn't alone at all. I walked up, and cruised the last mile into Carmel and the finish at 4:34. I was really happy with that time and absolutely loved the race.

Overall, had a great time and a really whirlwind trip to California. But I finally got to do it. I really want to go back, want to run again in the Big Sur redwoods, all along the coast to see if the wind this year was really an anomaly. We'll see what running has for me later this year.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dreams of Big Sur

I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
Clear, bright orbs off in a great distance
a black expanse
speckled with white

The sky seems very cold now
the wind beats down
as we circle eachother

In four days, I will be running the Big Sur International Marathon. I've wanted to run this marathon for a few years now, the BSIM having made my list since reading about it in multiple books and running periodicals. So far I've covered 425 miles in training (the only marathon training where I covered more miles was the first marathon I ran). I've trained through the coldest days of the winter. I had a great tune up race at the Eastern States, and I've had some good quality cross training that was a heck of a lot of fun.

I had lots of days this cycle where I came home, ate, ran, changed diapers, spent time with my daughter, played with the dog. I've also had days where I came home, found I wasn't feeling the workout and took a day off. I'm not punishing myself over the rest days anymore, and I'm OK with the additional days off. I feel stronger for them.


On my right as we run through the night
as I pass the head of the bay
as I turn,
I dream of seeing the sibling to this body of water

Orion can see it from his height
no doubt
He has seen countless others
run along the curveture
crest hurricane point
heard the taiko drums

I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
I dream of Big Sur
and Orion dreams with me


My wife and I took this past weekend to go spend some time with our friends up north. It meant a lot of time to rest, and spend time with my family. That was great. I could have dragged myself out for some miles, but at this point I feel like the work is done. I can cover the miles. I also don't have a time goal for this marathon -- the climbing is more than I do in a week, normally. I'm planning to just go and spend time running, really enjoying the course.

At this point in the taper, I usually end up throwing more rest days in. I'm not sure why -- maybe I'm training too hard, maybe I'm fighting off burn out. Either way, this seems to be a pattern that I've fallen into before, and I've been able to cover the distance in the past.

I'm planning to bring a camera with me to the marathon -- as much to distract me so I don't get bogged down by my pace. I should be able to run a comfortable pace and still be well under the time limit, so I want to really enjoy the experience and the scenery.

I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me

in the Spring
my mind stirs
off into the distance
I dream of Big Sur


I'm going to be gone for four days, total. That is the longest I've been gone from my little family. That's tough, because I'm pretty content to spend all of my time with my wife and child. I don't really love travel, either. I'm nervous about the travel, I'm freaked about the marathon (the distance, the hills, the self doubt, etc.) I'm not really sure how it is going to be. I'm freaked out about the unknowns going into this.

The experience of running Big Sur, though. Seeing the incredible views and finally seeing the ocean on the opposite side of my country. As with every marathon, I'm a jumble of excitement, dread, joy, and fear. The true experience of a race like this is how one manages to overcome those feelings, climb the mountain of self-doubt and achieve whatever they are capable of on the course.

What will I do on the race day? I'm not really sure. As I said above I'm planning just go and enjoy the run, the views. There will be a race report upon my return. Watch this space.


I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
I dream of Big Sur
and Orion dreams with me

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

the Art of the Line

"Life isn't a science. We make it up as we go." 
--Al Hirschfeld

During my early and mid-teens I struggled a lot with depression. I had a rough home life, with people who loved me, but gave me very little trust or freedom. I think they really did the best they could, but I think it was hard for them to reconcile having a teenager at a point when technology was coming so much to the foreground of society. Like many kids, I was drawn to endless hours on the computer, and coupled with the self-imposed teenage exile from family, I think they felt they had little choice but to hover over me very intrusively. I figured out at about age thirteen that I could escape a lot of the strife I felt with my family by sleeping. If I was asleep, it was taken as a nap and no one would bother me. I loved sleeping.

I could sleep from about the time I would get home from school, until around 9 o'clock at night, and then again from 10:30 or so until 6:30 and repeat the cycle. It frustrated and concerned my family, but they really had no idea what to do. I was shuttled to multiple therapists, and the general consensus was that for a kid who had lived through what I had lived through (and that will get many posts in the future) I was perfectly well adjusted. Were things kind of odd and messed up? Yeah. But, I wasn't living a "leave it to beaver" kind of life. We had illnesses in the family, I had a tough time adjusting to the many moves my family had made when I was a kid, and my parents divorce was tough. There was also some substance abuse in the family, which made things really trying at times.

As I hit high school, I began to realize that sleeping meant alone time. It would not be uncommon for a family member to stop by my room once an hour (as I said, very little privacy, and very little trust.)  They would leave if they found me asleep, though. I'd wake from shorter naps, and I had a choice of things to occupy myself with. Sometimes it was video games, sometimes I listened to music, I would read. I had lots of copy paper, my backpack, pens.

Then the lines came.

The lines came through me and out of me and on to the page. I couldn't stop them, I was hypnotized by them and I would fill page after page with them. I listened to albums and drew out meditation-lines in this space where nothing was wrong and I could create anything I wanted.

There wasn't a sense of right or wrong in drawing -- not anything right or wrong beyond what felt that way to me. I would create massive arrays of abstract line work studying different colors, working in cartoon forms, focusing on telling a story. I would use a home made light table to work in natural forms such as flowers, weaving them into the line work tapestry. I could draw for hours and hours on end. I didn't really care what anyone's reaction would be at the time.

People did react once they saw them, though. I made friends that I wouldn't have had before in school because they liked my drawings. I posted a lot of my linework online and found a sort of oddball community there of people who also had a gift for corralling an endless stream of line work. Visual art was one of my first hobbies, and I had taken lessons in drawing as a kid, but there wasn't much to be said for abstract drawing. It was really free, and no one could tell you which elements weren't acceptable. I liked that.

Eventually art would give way to musical pursuits, which was just as well. The line work was a good distraction but I doubt I could have ever turned it into a career. I found it just in time to help me out of a dark place, and I will always be thankful for that. I think there has been a common thread through many of the hobbies I've had in my life, right up to marathon running. If there is a common thread it is undoubtedly mental discipline. It wasn't always the easiest thing to draw for hours straight, but I learned a remarkable focus from it.

Running last week took a backseat to my work and family life. I'm intending to pick up my training this week, and I am hopeful about how Big Sur will go. I don't have an ideal time in mind, I just want to run the course and see the sights. I would be happy somewhere in the mid-4 hour range, I would be just as happy to spend more time out in Big Sur looking at the Pacific.


I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
"ecce gratum" -- 
now arrives the glorious spring

my mind stirs
off into the distance
I dream of Big Sur

We are close and yet far away
miles to go 
before the Marathon day

I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
I dream of Big Sur
and Orion dreams with me

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pancake Breakfast/Long Run Saturday!

Decided to deviate from our normal routine a bit today and go to one of our favorite local diners for breakfast. Brought the high chair we have (straps to a normal chair securely) and of course the baby. She was a big hit, and had an excellent time. Overall, it was a short but really important breakfast because it proved that we can get back parts of our old life. Making part of the old normal a part of the new normal.

Haven't run much this week because of the high demands of my job, and at home. Prioritized being at home with the wife and daughter this week. I'm hoping to get out to do seventeen or so miles today, so I will have some mileage for the week. I did do quite a bit of strength training this week, so I feel pretty good. I can actually get some strength training done at work in our gym, but I hate using the treadmill so I don't really log any miles that way. Plus I tend to get injured running on treadmills.

Next week is my last "big mileage" week before tapering for Big Sur. I'm hopeful about logging the miles next week, but starting to feel like I have to make serious sacrifices from other columns (family, work) in order to make the miles happen. I need to find a balance.

Once I'm done with Big Sur I'll take some time to rest and look at the calendar towards my next race. I have a couple of 5ks that I'm looking to do this summer, but I'm not really racing them as much as just running them. I'd like to do a serious run streak this summer (like I did last year) but I have to really set my focus on something. My wife also wants to get back into running (she hasn't run since before the pregnancy, but has some really excellent goals) and so we will have to figure out a way to find balance in all areas. I wouldn't be opposed to training with her, but without a really reliable babysitter we won't be able to make that work.

So more likely we'll trade off baby duty and training. With my new watch and hrm, she'll be able to take my old hrm and do some heart rate training. I'm excited to see how it goes for her, given that I have had success working a moderate amount of it into my training.

Debating trying to get into the MCM this year through the transfer program. Would be good to go back and really give it a go, try to improve on my past performance. In any event, I'm looking around at fall marathons. That would mean this would be my first year doing two marathons in one year. That has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now. There are also a couple of trail races I am interested in, and quite a bit of plans for hiking this summer, so I have some things on the horizon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Behold, the pleasant and longed-for return of Spring!

Being it is now early April spring has started to return to my little part of the world. I love running in these transitional seasons -- as unpredictable as they can be -- partly because it gives me a chance to wake up my legs. I have an easier time adding speed in when the weather is warmer, where I tend to slog through my winter miles to maintain fitness.

We have had one snow storm a week recently, and they each deposit a couple of inches of snow. Usually the snow melts in a couple of hours but yesterday's winter squall is sticking around for a couple of days. I've thrown in extra cross training, and I'm hanging off the roads for now. I can't bring myself to muscle more miles out in the snow. I'm ready for the warmer weather!

My core feels really strong this year. I'm not sure if that's because of all the baby-wearing I do these days or what. I'm looking to get into Parkour. I've found a great program that separates out the conditioning with the actual wall-running stuff, and 80% of the workouts are done on the ground. I have been doing improvised drills with quadrupedal movements, crab walking, and walking on my hands. I'm doing more push ups and pull ups, and I'm feeling a stronger core for it.  I mix in the crab walking and quadrupedal movements into playing with the dog, so that has been lots of fun. My wife has even been getting into the conditioning stuff.

I love the philosophy that Parkour has of making one useful to their community. Marathon running can be a very selfish thing (if you don't raise money for charity, or whatever) and while I don't mind the selfishness because I feel like I deserve to do something for myself as an outlet, I also really like the idea of being a dependable part of a community.

Overall I see this as moving to a place where I'll add the Parkour in on some days, and then continue my marathon training. Hopefully it will help me build an even stronger core, and I'm hoping to maybe realize some benefits I haven't experienced before. So far I've been adding in quadrupedal movement drills in once a week. I try to do about 30 minutes of these drills, and I also try to get in some reps of pull ups and push ups. I usually hate cross training but I have been enjoying the parkour movement stuff this year.

I've also been eating better. Not necessarily better, I guess. Differently. I am hitting vegetables less hard than I should these days, and I'm eating many more seeds, nuts, and eggs. I still do eat vegetables but where I used to add a salad to my lunch every day I've lost that for the most part.  So hopefully that will help me rediscover my love of veggies. I have been loving duck eggs lately. They are a bit richer, and have more yolk, but they go so well cooked up sunny side up with some guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. I am also growing a vegetable garden this year, however (plants started are all over my kitchen!)

I started my plants from seed about a month ago, using a sort of mini green house and heat mat kit. They came up really quick, and I've had to transplant them. I'm now in a stage of keeping them going until they can go outside which should be around mid-late May. I have bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, lavender, basil and peperoncinis growing. I'm hoping to start tomatoes soon, too, but the seeds have taken some time to come in. If all goes well hopefully I'll have a garden with some decent yields all summer long. May cut back on how often I go to the market!

I want my daughter to grow up without all my weird food hangups. I want her to honestly make good decisions, so I know I'm going to have to provide good choices and set a good example. We will always have lots of produce, and hopefully this example-setting thing will keep my hand out of the cookie jar more often.