Monday, January 31, 2005


If you have a Garmin Forerunner, you HAVE to check out this site: MotionBased. It will download your GPS data from your watch and display it on maps. Not one map, but many different maps:

Basemap (?)

It will show you elevation profiles. It will tell you total elevation gain and loss, highest and lowest elevations, temperature, speed, splits, etc., etc., etc. It will even let you replay your entire run/walk and will show you your movement both on a map and an elevation profile. It is incredible, and the vast majority of the features are FREE!

Here are a couple of maps of my urban adventure yesterday. First, street:

Next, photo:

Finally, topo:

I can't believe all of the information that is available, and it is mostly free. If you use Garmin, you've got to check it out.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Urban Adventure

I had an unusual training experience yesterday. My wife and daughter went to the opera to see Madame Butterfly, so I decided to take the opportunity to do some afternoon training. (In case you're wondering, I love opera and Madame Butterfly is one of my favorites, but this was a Mama-daughter activity). We've had some rain this week so I knew the trail would be muddy. But I also have a maxim I like to remember: You can't choose your weather on race day, so don't choose your weather on training day. Plus, I really do like walking in the rain, and walking in mud is definitely an interesting experience.

On the way to the lake it started raining so I knew it would be messy (and cool; it was 40 degrees). And I wasn't wrong. It rained almost the whole time I was walking; within one and a half miles I fell and scraped my leg, covering my right side with mud. But it was fun and I enjoyed the experience of struggling through the mud.

It began to rain harder and never stopped, so the muddy trails turned into small creeks and streams and most of the time I walked in water that covered my shoes.

My plan was to do 14 miles; seven out and seven back. Everything went according to plan and I was heading back to the car when I encountered a small problem. About 2.5 miles from the trailhead there is a small stream with some rocks placed so you can walk across it. On a normal day your shoes won't even touch water; on a day that has seen some rain you might get the bottom of your shoes wet; on a rainy day you might get water about halfway up your shoes.

On a day that has seen a lot of rain, the creek grows to about six feet across and turns into a raging river about 2-3 feet deep! Uh oh. That river separated me from my car. I waded a little way in and realized that was a stupid thing to do. The water really was fast and I could feel the current tugging on my legs. I couldn't see the bottom so had no idea where to put my feet. I decided I didn't want to become a flash flood casualty so I waded out of the creek. I really had no idea what to do. I found a pretty large fallen tree and carried it to the creek. I thought I could throw it across and either walk on it or brace myself with it. I threw it across the creek and it instantly rushed downstream! I walked along the bank looking for another place to cross and couldn't find one. I was stuck.

I decided I would have to leave the lake and find my way on the neighborhood roads surrounding the lake. The trail had recently crossed a road so I ran back to that intersection. That's right, I ran. I don't know why, but I felt like running, not walking. I didn't go fast, but for the rest of the day I ran instead of walking.

I headed down the road and using the map mode on my Garmin I found I was going Northeast instead of Southeast. There aren't a lot of streets in this area so I had to run where the road took me. I ran for a while in the wrong direction, then I was able to turn right and run away from the lake (still not South, but I felt like I might be heading to a road that would lead South).

After a little while I found a fire station so I stopped and got directions. Fortunately I was going the right way. I followed the firefighter's directions and ended up running on the grassy median of a four lane, 55 mile per hour highway. By this time it was almost dark and I was soaked; I had been walking or running in non-stop rain for three hours.

Finally I started to get my bearings and turned off the highway onto a small, deserted road. That road let right to the lake entrance and I ran the rest of the way to my car. I ended up doing 17.25 miles instead of 14, and I was out for about four hours and fifteen minutes instead of three hours. But in spite of all this "drama" I still had a great time. My only concerns were worrying my family (I didn't have my cell phone so I couldn't call and tell them I would be late) and the hours at the park. I was afraid they would lock the park gate before I got back and I would be trapped. Luckily that wasn't the case.

After I got to my car I headed to Starbucks for a soy latte (a venti this time) and I treated myself to a cookie since I hadn't had any lunch and only brought one Clif Shot with me today (I left my Hammer Gel flask at home by mistake).


Did I mention I set a PR Saturday in the Lake Benbrook Half Marathon? My time was 2:13:55 (10:13 pace), 2:15 faster than my last half marathon (2:16:10, a 10:23 pace) and five minutes faster than last year's Lake Benbrook Half (2:18:51, a 10:35 pace). It's not a great race; the course is kind of boring and they only serve water at the aid stations. I didn't bring enough Gel and ran out of steam at the end. I think I could have hit my goal time (2:10) if I had had more Gel and if I had tapered during the week. I didn't decide to do the half marathon until the Friday before so there wasn't any opportunity to taper.

Friday, January 21, 2005

HILL training

I was in San Jose, CA for three days this week for work. While there I wanted to find a good place to train. Luckily the very helpful and informative Ultra-G told me I should try the trails at Mission Peak, only about 15 minutes from my hotel. So I headed out there yesterday and today at about 5:00 AM.

Sometimes I'm a little dense, so even though it was called Mission PEAK, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. This trail is up, up, up to the peak. There is more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain in less than three miles, and there are almost no flat portions until the trail plateaus toward the top. It was really hard going up and my times were anywhere from 15 to 18 minutes per mile. Several times I wasn't sure if I would make it (tired, so tired....), and I was especially concerned about getting down in time to get back to my hotel and shower before work.

At least I had company during my training--cows. The peak is in a wilderness preserve and they have free-roaming cows and goats, so I saw lots of cows. To entertain myself I greeted them like I would greet a passing runner or hiker. I don't think the cows cared, but I amused myself.

The last half mile was the hardest--the trail is very rocky and, from a running/walking perspective, almost not a trail at all; it's more like a jumble of big rocks. Also, the trail seemed to steepen significantly. Here's a picture of the final approach to the peak.

But once I got to the top it was all worth it. The view was just incredible, a 360 degree view of cities, wilderness, fog and clouds. Here's a daytime view from the top looking toward the urban areas to the west. And here's a view looking toward the mostly wilderness and rural areas to the east. Imagine these views at about 5:45 AM with the sun about to rise over the mountains to the east and not another soul in site. It was so beautiful and peaceful.

After enjoying a few minutes at the top, it was time to go down. This is where things got really interesting. The trail was way too steep to walk down (at least, to racewalk). I really had no choice but to run! And run I did, all the way down (three miles). My times were between 6:15 and 9:00 per mile, all thanks to gravity. A few times I really felt out of control and had to slow myself down before I took a tumble. But I felt great, and when I finally got back to my car my legs felt this great burn, like they had been worked well and appreciated the challenge.

Below is the altitude chart created by my Garmin Forerunner. It is not to scale so the steepness is exaggerated, but you can see that I'm not lying; it's straight up, then straight down.

I was really excited when I read in the Mission Peak brochure that hikers should plan five hours for the round trip ascent and descent; it took me 1:28:15, a pace of 13:41.

So if you are in the Bay Area and looking for a hill to train on, I highly recommend this one. It's very beautiful and very challenging.

Here is a photo essay from Bay Area Hiker with a lot of great pictures of the trail and the peak.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Great Trail Training Yesterday

I had a great training session yesterday at the North Shore Trail. I felt tired, but I was still fast and got faster and faster. Four of my five fastest splits were in the last five miles (of a twenty mile walk). Also, I got a negative split:

1st Half: 2:10
2nd Half: 2:07

My pace was faster than the last three training sessions on this trial even though this was the farthest distance:

12/26: 18.2 miles @ 14:42 pace
1/2: 12.21 miles @ 13.35 (mud and rain)
1/9: 15.25 miles @ 13:05
1/16: 20.3 miles @ 12:53

I'm not sure why yesterday was so good. I didn't change anything--same food, drink, gel, etc. I guess I'm just seeing the effects of my training, and I like them!

Distance: 20.3 miles
Time: 4:21:40
Pace: 12:53

Friday, January 14, 2005

Degrees of Separation?

Check this out! Put in your URL and see who you are directly and indirectly connected to on the internet. Pretty cool. Here's mine:

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Speaking of losing things

This morning I lost another toenail, on the toe next to my big toe on my left foot (I lost the same toe on the right foot after Sunmart). I suspect this is a due to the residual effects of SunMart plus my recent trail training. No matter though; it doesn't even hurt.

Guess who's coming to our house tonight?

The Tooth Fairy.

Lela lost her first tooth!

Recent Activities

Training is going well. Sunday I did 15.25 miles at North Shore. It was muddy in spots but overall the trail was great. I got there early again and walked with my headlamp. I love walking in the dark.

I fell once--my first fall ever on trails! I managed to tuck and roll and end up on my back with no injuries. It was a beautiful day with weather in the 40s and 50s and sun. After the walk I got my usual Soy Latte from Starbucks.

After the walk I painted the dining room and sitting room, took down the outdoor Christmas decorations and raked the leaves! Ugh, I was tired......I sure slept well Sunday night.

Distance: 15.25 miles
Time: 3:19:44
Pace: 13:05

Today I did some Acceleration Tempo training. It went better than I expected. My mile splits were:

12:18 (warmup 1/2 mile)
11:01 (cooldown 3/4 mile)

Distance: 6.25 miles
Time: 1:05:07
Pace: 10:25

In my last post I talked about about a cold front coming through. Well, it came and went. Today at 4:30 am the temperature was 66 degrees!

I hope everyone is having great training and a great new year!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Artist's Choice™

Have you guys been to Starbucks and seen the Artist's Choice™ CDs, the CDs where a selected artist picks 15-20 songs that he/she likes? Well I thought it might be interesting to see what the different members of the RBF™ would pick for their Artist's Choice™ compilations. If you are interested, you can either post your selections on your blog or leave them in my comments. Here are my choices:

1. Let The Train Blow The Whistle - Johnny Cash
2. Chez Max Coiffeur Pour Hommes - Serge Gainsbourg
3. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis - Tom Waits
4. Biggest Lie - Elliott Smith
5. Can't Make a Sound - Elliott Smith
6. Supplique Pour Être Enterré A la Plage de Séte - Georges Brassens
7. Trouble in Mind - Lightnin' Hopkins
8. Take the Skinheads Bowling - Camper Van Beethoven
9. Roll My Blues - Jolie Holland
10. Fruits of My Labor - Lucinda Williams
11. Hell Hound on My Trail - Robert Johnson
12. I Can't Quit You Baby - Led Zeppelin
13. Don't Worry About the Government - Talking Heads
14. Poor Places - Wilco
15. Theologians - Wilco
16. Hell is Chrome - Wilco
17. Anywhere I Lay My Head - Tom Waits
18. Like a Soldier - Johnny Cash
19. Chelsea Hotel No. 2 - Leonard Cohen
20. A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free - Elliott Smith
Anyone else?

On a walking-related note, we've had a cold front come through today so tomorrow's walk will be chilly. The temperature is supposed to be 27 but it will feel like 17 degrees (yesterday's high was 70). Time to get out the hat and gloves.
Check out Artist's Choice lists from VJ & Deene.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

20k in the Mud

Yesterday I felt fortunate because the rain predicted for the end of the week had not come and was anticipated on Monday or Tuesday. Whoops! Meteorology is not an exact science. When I left my house this morning it was foggy and raining. I went to the North Shore Trail anyway because I really want to do all my long walks on trails--I need to train on a surface as close as possible to my races.

When I got closer to the lake there was no rain and the streets looked dry so I once again felt fortunate. It was still dark so I put on my headlamp, then gulped down a Hammer Gel and headed out of the car. As I did, a light, gentle rain started. I hit the trail and walked carefully since there are some small cliffs at the beginning (the trailhead is called Rockledge Park for good reason) and it was damp and dark. The walk was great--the trails were deserted and the temperatures were in the 60s.

After about mile 4 it started to rain, not really hard but hard enough to get the trail good and wet. And that is where the fun began. I avoided the mud and major puddles for a while, but it started raining harder and harder and the trail turned into a little creek! I discovered two interesting things about trail walking in the rain and mud:

1. Your strategy totally reverses. Normally I look for smooth dirt to walk on and avoid rocks, roots and leaves where possible. But in the slick conditions the rocks and leaves became my friends. They gave me enough traction to get up and down the hills relatively safely.
2. On single track trails, you pretty much have to walk/run in the water. The water gathers in the center of the trail for one reason: gravity. You are subject to the same force--if you try to walk on the sides of the trails, you end up sliding down into the center anyway (and almost falling in the process) so you might as well just stay in the middle and get good and dirty.

The more I walked, the slicker and messier it got. I turned around a little after six miles and never saw another runner or walker. I started to see footprints after the five mile marker on the return trip--it looked like two guys running together, and I could tell from their footprints that they were getting just as messy and wet as I was.

I walked through mud and water that came up over my shoes. At one point I put my foot someplace I thought was solid but I sank down to the tops of my shoes. When I lifted my foot it came almot all the way out of the shoe! I shoved my foot back in but the shoe was filled with dirt and crud.

I never fell until about mile 11.8, within distance of my car, when I came across a guy walking the trail with his dog. We exchanged pleasantries and I tried to make room on the trail for all of us, but I slid and landed on my right side. I wasn't hurt, just muddy.

Back at the car I stomped around in some puddles trying to wash off some of the mud and dirt, then headed to Starbucks for a nice warm Soy Latte. When I got home I sat on the back porch for about 15 minutes to hose off my legs, feet and shoes.

It was a great walk and I'll never be afraid to walk on trails in the rain again! What a blast! It wasn't fast but it was fun.

Distance: 12.21 miles
Time: 2:45:54
Pace: 13:35