Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Diablo Half Marathon - Costal Trail Runs

So what can I say about this run other than it was awesome!!!   This was an over 13 mile, almost 3,800 foot elevation gain, challenge that was worth every moment.  I never thought I would summit Mt. Diablo on foot, but we did it.

Our family is familiar with the first three miles of the trail.  A little over 3 years ago, when the kids were much little and I would push a jogging stroller on fire trails, we tried to climb up to Deer Flat.  Mind you, it was in the 90's that day and I was not as healthy as I am today.  That said, the trail is beautiful, with sweeping views of Mitchell Canyon and of the Clayton and Concord valleys.

Today the run started at a chilly 48-degrees.  By the time we would finish (3 hours and 54 minutes, not bad for this type of run) it was 81-degrees.
This was also the first time we have run with Coastal Trail Runs. The race was well organized, challenging courses, two aid stations; however we have definitely been spoiled by running Brazen.  That said, we would definitely run with Coastal Trail Runs again.

The run begins at the Mitchell Canyon Staging area on the north side of Mt. Diablo State park.  For the first two miles, there is a mild incline.  The majority of the elevation gain happens over the next 5.25 miles.  Most of this is on fire trail up to the Juniper Campground, then gets technical to the summit.  What goes up must go down on this race and my quads were crying for mercy after the first 2 miles down.

As I have stated before, my wife and I got into running about three years ago and we run most of our races together.  This run was definitely an accomplishment that I really am proud to say we can share. When it came to this run, climbing is my specialty (due to my bicycle training) while Beth's specialty is the decent. So I was support for Beth on the way up, and she kept me going down hill.  We also ran into our friend Alan (this is his blog) almost to the Juniper Campground aid station which gave us added support.  You can follow his blog here.

Again, if you want a challenging run, this is the one.   Next up is the Long Beach half-marathon, which should be a cake walk.  Fun times......

Monday, September 12, 2011

The San Francisco Marathon 2011

So we did it again.  The big, bad, SF Marathon.   Let me put it this way, this is one marathon we looked to improve over last year.  I mean, we definitely could do it under five hours, right?  We hadn't over-trained, no one was hurt.  So why wouldn't we at least come in under 5 hours.

The race is broken into two parts.  In fact if you just want to run a half-marathon, you can run the first or second half.  The first half is beautiful.  You start off on the Embarcadero, run through Fisherman's Wharf, and down through Chrissy Field.  Then you run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, down a lovely hill, through the Richmond, and finally through Golden Gate Park.  The second half is just as touristy, through Haight Ashbury, the Mission, Dog Patch, and past AT&T Park.

Everything went smoothly during the first half.  The weather was perfect, cool in the 50's.  We got there in enough time.  But once we got into Golden Gate Park (a place we love to do our training runs) it seemed like we would never leave.  We ran out of steam.  That, combined with the monotony of the course, meant that we finished a humbling 21 minutes after five hours.  By that time, all of the food at the recovery area was gone.

This will probably be the last time for this marathon.  While it is close to us, it is definitely not our favorite.  We find that of all of the Marathons we have run, it is poorly organized and that the second half is definitely not worth the hefty price tag.  This is not a New York or Boston Marathon, and a runner shouldn't have to pay a similar price.  I mean, when Fresno/Clovis (The Two Cities Marathon) can put together a first class marathon , thinking about the littlest detail why can't San Francisco?

If you are going to run just the half, run the first.  It does sell out quick, but is more worth the price.

I'm back........

Ok, so I know it has been awhile; however, I am back.  I have a lot to post.  I will be providing an update so be patient.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Diablo Trails Challenge

So running has definitely become a family affair.  This past weekend we participated in the Diablo Trails Challenge.  Since the girls would be running we did the 5K, and it was such a great time.  This great time included muddy trails,  several creek crossings, and a wonderful BBQ.

Courtesey Brazen Racing
The run was organized by our favorite trail running company Brazen Racing for the Save Mt. Diablo group. There was a race for everyone: a 50K, half-marathon, 10K and 5K. This is a first rate company.  Besides the traditional shirts, everyone gets medals. In fact, everyone who comes in 1st to 3rd gets a medal.  The aid stations are fully stocked and the volunteers are so friendly.  There is so much attention to detail down to the care and concern of the runner, I have no problem having the entire family run with them.

Located in the Castle Rock Regional Park and Mt. Diablo State Park, the race was fun.  This was definitely not a day to get your PR.  In fact we got over an 1.5 inches of rain on Saturday.  Emma, our eight year old, and I placed ourselves at the starting line.  Beth and our daughter Sophie, our six year old, were in the middle of the pack.  The strategy would be that I would run ahead and if the creeks were too deep, I would ferry the girls across.  No need.  They plowed through.  The trail was extremely muddy, but you knew this going in. 

We had several friends running this race, with one being his first race ever. He bested my time by 3 minutes.  My ego slightly hurt, I was so happy that he had a great time.  In fact he came in third in his age group.  He will be running another race in Tilden Park in April with another company, I am just glad he started out with the best.

I did good, especially with the conditions, at 31 minutes.  Emma was 10 minutes behind me followed by Beth and Sophie 10 minutes after her.
Brazen typically has the finish area well stocked with recovery food.  This race included a BBQ also provided by Save Mt. Diablo. Soaking wet and cold, we had lunch and headed home for a warm bath and a cup of coffee.  I love that we can do this as a family!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Airobics: Aerobics on Trampoline

So last week we tried something different.  Mind you, I have never been a fan of the ttrampoline.  However, I have learned to try things that I never thought I would enjoy and found this was an awesome experience.

We went to Sky High.  There are a few of these locations on the West Coast and are set up with trampolines for the kids, a foam pit, trampoline dodge ball, and an  even larger trampoline area to jump around. 

Sky High has Airobics classes throughout the week and on Saturday's.  The class combines traditional aerobics with trampoline.  By adding the trampoline to the mix, you forget that you are exercising.  It was a great workout.

I never thought that at 42 I would have so much fun.  From a running standpoint, I couldn't help think about endurance running and training your quick twitch muscles.  Also, I really do not have much balance, so I can see how this workout could help in that manor. 

What stood out to me was that everyone in the class was at different fitness levels.  However, everyone was having tremendous fun.  There was a girl in the class that had to have been about eight years old; but was keeping up (more like showing up) the adults.

Most of all, I did it with my wife and children.  It was a family affair.  The kids were off in the kids area and also jumping into a foam pit. 

We definitely will be adding it to our list of things to do as a family.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bicycle Review: Cannondale Quick 3

As I mentioned in previous posts, I ride my bike to work and bike.  Concord and Walnut Creek are wonderful for bike lanes and trails which makes commuting by bike extremely easy and pretty safe.  For the last three years, I have been riding on a Schwinn Trailways Hybrid that my parents got me as a gift.  It has been a great bike, putting 41 miles a week on it.  That said, the bike really wasn't built to put on that many miles every week.

So when we moved a bit further from work, and my commute increased to 65 miles week, it took about two weeks before the bike broke beyond repairing. The seat post had broken two years ago (I jerryrigged it to work) and the aluminum wheel completely torqued to the point that the spokes pulled out, so I could justify getting a new bike. 

After narrowing down the selection to 3 bikes, I settled on the Cannondale Quick 3.  This is a beautiful hybrid.  It is 27 speed with carbon forks.  It is geared like a mountain bike but rides like a road bike.  After riding what I have been riding for so long, I was amazed how light this bike was.   The seat took a bit getting used to (the Schwinn had a nice wide seat, which was nice when I was heavier).

I love how rapid I can change gears.  I climb up hills like they are not they.  This is great because I now have 580 feet of elevation gain up Ygnacio Valley Road hill.  I scream down the trails now. I have always wanted a Cannondale.  I love this bike!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My First Half Marathon

So I mentioned in my previous post that my first half marathon occurred February 2009.  This was the Surf City Half Marathon.

I can say I didn't train for it in the conventional sense.  Keep in mind I made the decision about 6 weeks before the race, so I didn't benefit from what we would later use: a training schedule.  Once I did make up my mind to do it, there was very little doubt that, whether walking or running, I would finish the race.

Why?  I guess I had already changed my mind over discounting what I couldn't do to what can I not do?  Let me explain.  When I would run with my wife around the Lafayette Reservoir, I would be pushing my kids on the jogging stroller.  This means that I was pushing over 100 pounds around the lake.  I did this first walking, then jogging parts of the lake, to the full lake.  Then we moved to doing the same thing on another local trail, the Iron Horse.  Combine this with bicycling an average of 40 miles a week for great cross training, I felt I was prepared.

Being the analyst that I am, I also read a lot.  I read what kind of nutrition you would need on the course.  I got my first running shoes after going to Road Runner Sports for a gait analysis.  I had this confirmed with at Sports Basement and settled on a pair of yellow Brooks Adrenaline 9's.  Great shoes. I have since tried a pair of Asics Kayano 15's that were on sale; however, I do not think I will change brands.

So about four weeks before the race I started to feeling a pain on the outside of my right knee.  Slightly concerned, I went on-line and determined that it was actually a common problem due to over training: IT Band Syndrome.  So I read up and watched YouTube videos on this and learned what stretches to do to release the tendon.  It did definitely help; however, I would see it return with a vengeance at mile 8 of the race.

What I am describing above is not what to do when you do your first half marathon.  What you should do is, definitely do your research; however find a good training schedule.  Two I recommend are found at or  These two sites have training schedules for all types of races, so do it smart.

So race day weekend came.  The night before I had the traditional pasta dinner to carb load.  I did this more because this is what I read I needed to do instead of thinking about how this might effect me the next day.  It was great  and I got very little sleep that night (digesting dinner).  That morning we got to the course early; however, parking for the Surf City races are the State Beach parking.  What this means that if you do not get their early, you are parking further and further down the beach.  We ended parking near Brookhurst St which meant that we had about a 2 mile trek to the starting line, so we had to hurry.  We put the kids in the jogger and ran.  So basically I ran 15 miles that day.

Once we got to the starting line, my wave was about to take off, so I hit the bathroom and off I went.  Still very excited, but not realizing what I was about to do.

Another pointer.  Race waves are set up with your anticipated finish times.  However, don't worry about getting in a later one if you have a D-tag.  You will do fine.

The first three miles was great.  I heard Beach Boy songs, I heard Wipeout, and other bands.  I attacked the first hill no problem.  The problem was that I wasn't pacing myself, the benefit from following a training program.  I also was running with Jelly Bellies, so I sounded as a candy machine as I ran.

I couldn't believe how much support the runners had from their families.  Everyone showed up, from the oldest to youngest. I couldn't believe how much encouragement they were for them and wished other members of my family were there to support me in this accomplishment.  It was just a month prior on a visit with them that I was told I looked sick for not being overweight.  I mean being a normal weight.  I now weighed what I did when I graduated High School.  I was just happy that my wife and children were there.  And you know what?  These same folks that were cheering their family members were cheering me also!!  It meant SO much.

About mile 7 I started loosing steam.  Mile 8 I felt the familiar pain hit. At mile 9 I walked for the first time.  I rationalized that it would be a short time.  However, once I started back up  I couldn't get back up to my pace.  Then became the mental part of running.  My brain started rationalizing why was I doing this?  I could walk the rest of the way, but then the familiar Beach music kicked in and the cheering kept me going.

Running any distance, especially in a race is more mental than physical.  In fact, why does everyone develop the excuse that they have "bad knees" when you mention that you run?  More on that in some future post.

At mile 11 I could see the Huntington Beach Pier in the distance.  I knew that meant that I was getting closer to the finish.  This gave me the extra I needed to pick up the pace.  I was in a lot of pain by then due to my IT band.  But I was going to finish!!!

I did it in 2:23 minutes.  Boy I was exhausted.  But I couldn't believe I did this.  I was emotionally drained.  But I was so happy that I did it.  After recovering a bit, we did the two mile walk back to the car and then the six hour drive back to the Bay Area.

So the Surf City Marathon and Half were part of the California Dreaming series.  If I were to complete either a half or full marathon at the Long Beach Marathon or San Francisco Marathon within 2 years I would get I nice California State medal as well as a nice racing jacket.  This race gave me the running bug so began looking forward to Long Beach to do the full!!!  More on those races in the future.

So that is how I become a serious runner as well as why I use running and half and full marathons as a way to be healthy and stay in a healthy weight. Oh, and by the way, I just ran the Surf City Half Marathon this year, and my time is now 1:51.  The benefit of training.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What worked....

Weighing less equals being healthy, right?  Believing this statement means that if you loose weight, especially if you are obese, you will receive all the benefits of being healthy.  We diet to loose weight. We diet because its easier, doesn't affect our schedule, and we see instant gratification with the first 10 pounds of water weight we loose.

This was the cycle my wife and I were in.  When we did not feel good about ourselves, we would put ourselves on a diet.  Once we reached our "goal weight," we would slowly creep back to our "normal" weight.

It was time to break the cycle.  It was our time to break the cycle.  Two events helped us.  First my wife was asked to be in a wedding. This gave her the desire to loose weight.  Second, we wanted to simplify our lives financially. So I began riding my bicycle to work.  This was 11 mile round trip so I began the dropping pounds.

Now here was the challenge: we have three young children.  So what could we do as a family that also allowed us to get healthy?  It started at Lafayette Reservoir.  We started walking around the lake as usual.  We had a double jogger and some how fit all three kids on it.  One day my wife, and I still do not know what got into to her, began to run.  Not very far at first, only a quarter mile, back to the car.  Then half a mile.  Then half the lake.  Then the entire 2.8 miles of the reservoir.  This is not a flat trail, it is pretty challenging.

I was left to either walk around the lake or join her. I will admit, by this time, I hated to run.  However, we had decided to get healthy together, so I also began to run.

She also began a on-line crosstraining program.  I started tracking my miles on my bike and running.  I started tracking my calories on  We began eating a lot of grilled chicken, fish, salad.  We experimented with different ingredients. And we lost the weight.

The final component to healthy living was when a couple we are friends with invited us to do an Urban Race.  This is like the Amazing Race in San Francisco.  By this time I had lost 40 pounds and was feeling younger.  We placed 13th out of 189 couples. I couldn't believe that we were doing it.  Climbing the hills in San Francisco, doing the obstacle course, it was crazy!!!  We did three of these that year.

Next, my wife signed up for a 5K (3.1 miles) in Lafayette.  We trained together for this but two weeks before the race she sprained her ankle!  She was good to go by race time though, and did it within 27 minutes.

Then she talked me into a trail run.  We went through Pacific Coast Trail Runs and ran the Muir Beach run.  This was an 11K and took me back to my days at Stadium High School.  If you ever want to try trail running, I really recommend this course.  It has beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean and runs through the Marin Headlands.  It was a beautiful day and it was wonderful doing this race with her.  This was early December.

Then she suggested that I consider the Surf City half-marathon in Huntington Beach.  This would be on the first Sunday in February. This would mean very little training time.  However this half-marathon had special significance. First, this was the beach my parents and grandparents would take us to when we were kids.  Beach music would be played through out the course, taking me back to my childhood. Finally, I would turn 40 ten days after the race.....

I will describe the training for this race and the race details in my next post.  However,  I can say that this was the race that I began to enjoy running again.  I also realized that I had limited myself.  If I set my mind to something, set the right priorities, then worked toward that goal, that I could achieve what I set out to do...

To sum up.  The goal is being healthy, not to loose weight to be healthy.  It means being accountable for yourself.  It means being balanced and realistic about your limitations.  However, it is OK to challenge yourself and test the validity of your limitations.  

Be active!!!  Find that one activity that you enjoy.  If you are married or have a family, find the activity or activities that you can do together.  Have fun, don't be a victim of circumstance, keep moving forward!!

Next my first half-marathon.....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I little bit about myself!!!!

I have been thinking for quite some time blogging about what has helped me successfully maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I am not sure why. 

So about me.  I was pretty skinny when thru my teens.  I stayed pretty active, liked bicycling; however, I was not in anyway an athletic person.  In fact, my only blemish on my report cards in middle and high school was my C's in P.E. 

It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school that I had any glimmer of liking running.  This was at Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington.  This is the French castle high school that was featured in the movie "Ten Things I Hate About You."  The funny thing is that this school wasn't known for its sports program.  Until 1984 hadn't won a single football game since 1968. It was known more for its academics, its arts program, and its award winning orchestra.

This is where I learned about trail running.  We would do this once a week and then were given the option on Friday's to choose an activity. I typically chose running.  I liked that it wasn't boring.  That the terrain was constantly changing and that some thought had to go on every foot placement.  Running through the autumn leaves or the moss and Washington drizzle was extremely peaceful.

As a junior and senior we were not required to take P.E, and while I enjoyed it for the first time they year prior, I opted for the school newspaper.

In my twenties I was back to riding my bicycle.  But this was only when it wasn't raining, in Washington, the rain capital of the world.  This meant bicycle riding from May through October.  This also meant weight swings of 35 pounds, in about 185 in the summer and 220 in the winter.  This and unhealthy eating habits finally caught up with me.  I stopped bicycling regularly by the time I was 28 and the weight kept building.

In 1999 we moved to the Bay Area.  Perfect climate, close to Napa, the Sierra's, Monterey, near the ocean.  We did a lot of exploring.  A lot of eating out.  We probably ate at a restaurant at least once a week.  We would eat fast food at least every other day for convenience.  The one of our favorite meals was cheesy hasbrown hamburger helper.

I topped out at 285 when my first daughter was born.  This was 2002  I was able to bring down and maintain my weight to 262 pounds.  We joked back then that our daughters first words were Taco Bell and "Jumbo Jack, two tacos, and a large diet coke easy ice,".  That should have been the biggest clue to how unhealthy and unbalanced our choices had become.

I would go on diets, primarily the high protein diets. Most of the time I would loose 20 to 30 pounds, but once I reached a goal, I would pop right back up.  I tried Weight Watchers with my wife.  In fact we both were battling our weight.  I walked the hills in San Francisco.  We would walk around a local reservoir.

But we would always gain back our weight.....

What would finally do it?

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