Thursday, August 30, 2012

From Atop Telegraph Hill....

So I continue to relearn the same lesson every time I do a trail run.  I have learned to love running downhill; however, I continue to hate the recovery process. 

So as I mentioned a couple of posts back, now that I am comfortable in trail shoes, I have lost my apprehension running down hill, especially in loose dirt or gravel.  That came in real handy last Sunday on the Zoom Castle Rock Half-Marathon.  That said, it has now taken me till Thursday to finally not have legs that have any resemblance to wet spaghetti. 

As usual, I do my research and came up with some great posts with some wonderful recommendations.  One is from Running Times Magazine dealing with mastering your descents.  The second one is found at and highlights the perfect exercises to strengthen your quads, you can find it here.  The final post comes from, specifically techniques to fix down hill quad problems, you can find it here.

I have also considered one of the running clinics that Footfeathers puts together.  There is actually one this weekend; however, I have prior commitments.  I would love to do one of these and I hope he continues to fly out from Colorado to host them.

But really it comes down to running more hills.  I have gotten into a bad habit of running flats and it really showed this past weekend.  So that is why I am posting from atop Telegraph Hill.  I work very close the the Filbert Street and Greenwich Street steps that lead up to Telegraph Hill.  So going forward, I will be making them a part of my exercise regimen to improve my quad strength.  Today, it was a bit of a slow go since I'm still in that recovery mode, but I am expecting things improving going forward.

Also Beth and I ordered the Asylum workout program in hopes that it will improve my core strength and therefore not have me overuse other muscles.  At my age, it is all about efficiency and smarts, so this should improve my agility.

So there you have it, expect more posts from the top of Telegraph Hill.  Now all I have to worry about climbing down the stairs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zoom Racing: Castle Rock Half-marathon

This past weekend I ran the Castle Rock half-marathon organized by Zoom Racing.  This is the newest trail racing company in the Bay Area; however, it has its roots deeply imbedded with Coastal Trail Runs.  Their courses are meant to be flatter and faster than the more traditional trail running companies; however, the officially inaugural run was more of an intermediate half, with an elevation gain of over 2,700 feet!

Originally, the course was meant to run through the East Bay Regional Parks of Castle Rock and Diablo Foothills before a nice run through Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge Open Space.  However, at the last moment, the supervisor of the park district pulled the permit which meant a nice climb.  I was aware of the change before I signed up so it wasn’t a big deal.
I can say though, that this course is definitely a keeper.  The course climbed out of the Castle Rock area, up the Little Yosemite Trail, past the China Wall, to the Mercado Staging area in Danville.  After that, you followed the Wall Point trail to Rock City, dropped down into the valley for some fun technical and back out to the aid station.  After a little more uphill, you face a nice long 5.5 mile run downhill back to Castle Rock Regional Park.

I had a goal of doing this run within 2:30; however, I ran into issues the second half of the run.  First I didn’t plan on fuel for the run back to Castle Rock Regional Park.  So about 3 miles from the aid station I seriously bonked!!!  I had the chills and definitely needed something, besides water.  But I was able to manage to get my head back in the game to finish. This was about the time I came across a lovely tarantula crossing the road, which was awesome!!  I was also pacing another guy I figured was in my age group (he was actually in the next one up), so we played a little cat and mouse until I allowed him to get a head.  I wanted him to expend his energy so that I could drop the hammer the last 100 yards.  When I did, my hammy tweaked and I came to a dead stop.  Little did I know, my true competition passed me at that point I would end up 2 minutes behind him for fourth place in my age group.  I ended up with a respectable 2:37.
I wished there had been an aid station on the second half; however, from a logistics standpoint it isn’t feasible.  Also, since the number of people running this race was a little over 50, they had one person manning each aid station which was acceptable, but not what I am used to.  I did miss the signature boiled potatoes and salt that you typically find at a Coastal Trails Run, but that was OK.

Overall, Zoom has a nice race here.  Like Brazen Racing, you do get a metal at the end of the race.  This is a departure from the normal Coastal Trail Runs.  The company is definitely in its fledgling stage, but it is under the wings of CTR, which is almost a sure bet it will succeed.  Going forward, if they keep up with the strategy of faster and flatter (this race felt more like a CTR race than what they promised) I would definitely recommend them, especially if you are finding that the Brazen Racing run you were wanting to do is sold out.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What do you listen to when you run?

It is always interesting to find out what someone listens to when they are running.  Early on, my wife discovered Pandora and has now trained it to play either Fergie or Aerosmith.  Myself, I typically listen to either a mix of my own or if I am listening to Pandora, it is either the No Doubt or Trance channels.  

The problem though with Pandora is that we always chew up our cell phone battery.  If I am listening to the mix on my phone instead of my Ipod Shuffle, I find that it decides to begin dialing other telephone numbers about 30 minutes into the run.  I have recently discovered TuneInRadio, which is great; however, it again it chews up the battery if you are not careful.

Talking with other runners, I have found it runs the gambit, from music, to sports (the 49er story is one of my favorites!) to podcast.  

However, listening to podcast, seem to me the most interesting thing to listen to. I mean, I have been sold on the idea that actually listening to something with a good beat actually improves your pace, this is great for road racing on a near flat course; however, for trail running, sometimes having something to listen to keep your mind  of the hill you are climbing.  So when I found out that my buddy, Ultraryan listens to them when he runs I was intrigued.   He even listens to NPR podcasts while he runs.

Well, about three weeks ago, I started listening to ScienceFridays, on NPR while I ran at lunch.  Yes, my wife has known I am a NPR geek, even before we were married.  This was  also the run where, according to Strava, I PR’d on my Embarcadero Run segments.  So I didn’t see a decline in my pace.

So today, I discovered, and boy was it fun!!  I listened to Devon CrosbyHelms podcast about the Olympic Trials this year in Houston, why she does Ultra’s, and why she got into cooking.  I also listened to Hal Koerner recap this year’s Hard Rock race as well as pacing Tim Olsen for Western States.

So I guess I am going to have to give listening to podcast when I am running a try. And Sunday will be a perfect day for it since I decided at the last minute to run Zoom’s new Castle Rock Run.  I do feel a little duped since originally (up to Monday) the half-marathon was mapped through the Shell Ridge and Diablo Foothills Regional Parks.  Now the run takes you to Mercado Ranch in Danville and up to Rock City before descending back down to Castle Rock Regional Park.  I will be doing a recap next week.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Benefit of Trail Shoes

One of the epiphanies my wife and I learned last year is the importance of getting a good pair of trail shoes.  Why?  Road shoes just don’t cut it if you are running highly technical terrain or running down hills due to the traction inherently built in the shoe. That said, my apprehension of running downhill has been greatly improved.  I am now able to focus on conserving my quads instead of how I am going to keep from falling on my face.

What is amazing to me is how technical these shoes have become, especially since the Born to Run craze began.  If you keep in mind that running trails mechanically different than running on pavement, you will find that it comes more down to the style of shoe you like, the type of trails you will be running, and comfort.

The low tread profile of the Adrenaline 12.  Photo Courtesy of
For example, when you are running on pavement, having your gait analysis done is a wise investment of your time since you can easily be directed to a shoe that will help minimize possible damage either caused by over or under pronation.   When you are running on pavement, you are running basically on flat ground without very little change in the profile of the road.  The problem is that our gait was not created to walk less run on flat pavement, so running on the wrong shoe can cause you to have alignment problems.

A stability shoe heal is higher to help neutralize over pronation. Photo courtesy of
However, running on trails, the pronation of your foot is less of an issue since you are basically running on uneven, loose dirt or rock. Your pronation naturally adjusts to the terrain which means you do not need an overly engineered shoe. 
The tread of the Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8's.  Photo courtesy of
Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8.  Photo courtesy of
This is the point of the whole Born to Run, barefoot running craze. So while there are shoes out there (and I have a pair) built for the stability runner or the motion control runner, it is not as important.  I say this to call out that running with trail shoes on pavement, while economical, may not always be the wisest choice.  Both my wife and I found out the hard way when we injured ourselves leading up to and during the Napa Valley Marathon.

Right now I have two pairs of trail shoes, and I recommend them both.  I first got a pair of BrooksAdrenaline ASR 7.  These are great shoes and really helped me to understand the importance of having a shoe with good traction.  These are the trail running version of the popular Adrenaline GTS 11.  I got this shoe; however, with the understanding that I over pronate and that I have been running in the GTS’s.  Basically you go with what you know.  The shoe is comfortable, and is just like my GTS; however, they are a bit heavier and ridged.  While I have run on pavement with this shoe I would not recommend it.

The awesome tread of the Brooks Cascade 7, I love these shoes.  Photo courtesy of
Brooks Cascade 7. Notice very little heal elevation.  Photo courtesy of
However, right before the Diablo 50K Challenge, I took advantage of a discount that Forward Motion was putting on at the packet pickup and got a pair of the Brooks Cascade 7’s.  I love these shoes.  They are very comfortable, and while they are a neutral shoe, I have not had a problem on the trails.  This shoe feels lighter than the Adrenaline and definitely made for running downhill and technical terrain. It is not overly engineered either.  I highly recommend this shoe.

So consider getting a pair of trail shoes for your next trail run if you haven’t already.  You will find that the run is more enjoyable as you are speeding by other runners downhill.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Science of Long Distance Running

Back in April, I began my job at the largest science open access publishing company, PLOS.  They have been one of the front runners in providing access in publicly funded scientific research, which was previously controlled by a small group of publishing houses.

What I have enjoyed, though, is that I have come to a realization that I (and everyone else) has access to a lot of scientific research that doesn't require a subscription to Nature or Science.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be able to find research on running.  As my wife puts it, and I will not fight the label, I am a NERD!!!  So I thought I would share some of my findings:

In PLOS Computational Biology, I came across and article on Metabolic Factors Limiting Performance in Marathon Runners. Basically, this research is a scientific explanation of hitting the wall with the guise of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

On the Mega-Journal PLOS ONE you will find a very interesting article on the Neuromuscular Consequences of an Extreme Mountain Ultra-Marathon. It is a discussion of the effects of the famous Ultra Tour du Mount Blanc on its participants and how long it takes to recover.  

Also in PLOS ONE, I came across this article on Impact of Environmental Parameters on Marathon Running Performance.  I especially like this one since it really explains in detail how running performance is effected the warmer it gets and definitely provided me with a better justification for our DNF at the Diablo Challenge 50K as well as our time at the Napa Valley Marathon.

So you probably can tell, expect more of these type of blogs.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS

So last year I was in the market for a GPS watch, especially after I missed my PR at the Long Beach Marathon.  I found myself fiddling with my RunKeeper app throughout the second half of the race and missed my goal by four minutes.

So I read the different reviews and was waiting until the Garmin 900XT came out, until I received a Active Schwagle alert that I could get the Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS with a 65% discount through  Since it had most of the features I was looking for (bicycling, running, and if I ever do get the gumption to do a tri, a swim function), I jumped on the deal.  I mean I was looking at spending over $300 more for the Garmin.

I will say, the watch in itself is great! One of my personality flaws is that I over-analyze everything to death and this watch allows me to do that.  With the recent hardware patch, I find that the GPS is locked within a minute or two and it stays locked for the duration.  As with most triathlon watches, it does have both a performance and multi-sport levels.   Also, it has no problems picking up any ANT devices.  My watch came with a heart monitor strap, which I use without too much problems, but it will also pick up any of the cycling devices you need.

The uploading is a simple process, while still requiring you to tether the watch through a USB connection.  It will also hold a charge pretty well.  I have run for several hours and it has plenty of battery left.  In fact I may charge it once a week, while I put in 5 runs and 30+ miles on it.

The size and profile of the watch is big, especially in comparison of other GPS watches.  I have skinny wrists so it does look huge on me.

One problem though that I have had, and it happened again to me today, is that occasionally it will pick up and lock the GPS; however, it doesn’t track the mileage.  To fix this problem, you have to reset the GPS and then start your run.  The key here is taking notice before the run.  There has been a couple of times, like today and including my first 50K, that I did not check my watch and ended up not getting the mileage associated with it.  So, and especially before a big run, make sure that the mileage is tracking.

So the biggest issue that I have with the watch, though, is that it uses a .pwx extension and Timex has an agreement with Training Peaks which has meant that you either use their high priced training software or find some back water software fix.  Map My Fitness is just starting to allow the proprietary program and you can now upload to Strava or Endomondo using this site to convert the .pwx file to a .tcx file; however, you might  as well use a site like which does allow you to upload that extension.

I mean I am sorry, I am cheap!  I am not going to spend a lot on a watch only to then spend more on a training program that I can get for free somewhere else.  There basic site is fine, but if I really am going to use all of the capabilities of the watch I need more.

So would I recommend the watch?  I sure would!!  This is my first GPS watch I love it.  That said, if you are a Garmin or Polaris loyalist I wouldn’t recommend the jump.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Behind the Scenes Look.....Manning an Aid Station!

So over the weekend we had the privilege of manning an aid station at the Bad Bass 5K, 10K, and half-marathon at Lake Chabot.  This race was hosted by Brazen Racing, one of our favorite and highly recommended Bay Area trail racing companies.  We have always known that from an organization standpoint, the race directors Sam and Jasmin have really dialed in a series of trail running events that is well supported.

Brazen has found its niche with the 5K to half-marathon trail runner with both fun and challenging courses (including its 50K Diablo Challenge).  Also, most races are a family affair, with people of all ages and abilities taking on the challenge.  Our girls developed a love of trail racing on their Rocky Ridge 5K.  And of course, everything is first rate, from the race shirts that you want to continue to wear, to providing medals for every participant (something unheard of with the other Bay Area trail running companies).  In fact, our girls now get pretty disappointed when they don't get a medal (at Emma's first 10k, the inaugural year of the Walnut Creek Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K didn't give out medals for the 10K or 5K participants, great example of a truly unorganized race!!).  You can tell by the extra attention to detail that the race directors are definitely catering to the runner and it can be seen by the loyal following they have.

So it was my wife and mine privilege to volunteer.  And volunteer we did!!!  We were given the assignment of the first aid station at a little over 1.5 miles in.  This is the aid station that would see the most action with the half marathon and 5K runners going through once (the 5K turnaround was at our station) and the 10K group going through twice (the 10K course is an out and back).

Here is where we really saw the organization at hand. Every aid station had its folder which included instructions, what should be at the aid station, what to do if there is an emergency, etc.  Since there were four aid stations for this race, the different quantities were doled out as well as the required equipment for each location.  Everyone there was engaged to get there assignment done, helping each group get their supplies.
The ranger arrived to help us transport the supplies to the set up location.  Now, if you have ever run a trail run, you know that an aid station is not like a road race, there are a lot of goodies to snack on between stations.    However, Brazen exceeds what you would typically find at a trail aid station.  It was really fun watching the kids eyes bonk out of their head when they get to the aid station to find gummy bears, M&Ms, jelly beans, chips, cookies, and pretzels.  I would say there a few kids in the group that lingered at the station to fill up with candy.  That's ok, though, since they would be burning it off back to the finish line. 

And of course there was water and sports drink.  We had a team of 6 at our station, which meant that we took turns filling cups as we handed out the drinks.  This is where, I think, Brazen also gets it right compared to a typical road race.  Basically the volunteers are fellow trail runners.  So they know how to position the cup for the minimal spillover as a runner runs by.  As runners we know what it is like to come across a poor performing aid station and therefore will not do that to fellow runners.  I will say, the time at the aid station flew by.  There were times I think we almost couldn't keep up; however, somehow we managed to keep everyone supplied.

I will have to say, there are other well organized race companies out there.  However, Brazen Racing stands out in its attention to detail while maintaining its family feel.  And having the privelage of volunteering only makes me want to do it again as well as continue running with them!!!  Thank you Sam and Jasmin!!

For the next Brazen Race check here!!!
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