Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Big Sur International Marathon Review

(Pic from the 2010 Big Sur Marathon)
The Big Sur Marathon was the fourth marathon that I have run and it was the best. It is a purist's marathon and a soulful course. Not a lot of flash and glitz, it is a challenging and beautiful run... It is a true runner's marathon.

Just getting to the starting line of this race makes it quite an adventure. If you're staying in Monterey or Carmel you have a 3:30am wake-up call and an hour long bus ride to the start. Once there, the race organizers do a great job of providing h2o, bagels, coffee, toilets and good vibes.

The field of runner's for the full marathon is about 5,000 so it has an intimate feel compared to other marathons. I saw a few people I knew and made friends with a handful of folks including an 80 year old man who was a Big Sur Marathon and Quad Dipsea vet. He was running Big Sur for the 20-something time. He shared some great stories while we waited for the gun.

Once we took off, I realized there were quite a few seasoned runners on the course. It seemed like there were a lot of people on par for a 3:20-3:50 finish. This was the first marathon that I ran without headphones and it was a great course to do it on. I was really able to tune into nature, the ocean and the movement of the course. The hills were great but the road was rougher than I expected it to be... I was wearing my Brooks Green Silence racing flats and I actually would have been more comfortable in my beat up Brooks Cascadia trail shoes. The weather was abnormally warm for a Big Sur Marathon. As you can see in the pic at the top, the marine layer (foggy looking air) only rose to about 200 ft... above that layer is warm dry air. On the Hurricane Point hill I noticed a fairly drastic change in temp and was excited to get back down into that marine layer. I was cruising and feeling great at an average pace of 8:30/mile through mile 16... then my hamstring locked up. This was the first running related injury that I have had and I think it had to do with the temperature changes + being on a hilly course. I had to slow my roll to a hobbling 10min+/mile pace and finished just over 4hrs. Pushing through this minor setback made crossing the finish that much sweeter.

Along the way I loved the MILE MARKERS and felt that the aid stations were excellently placed and stocked... even with fruit!! The ladies on Strawberry Hill were handing out some of the best Strawberries that I have ever tasted. The Watsonville Taiko Drummers as you approached Hurricane Point Hill were chilling and Michael Martinez, the pianist just on the other side of Bixby Bridge was excellent.

It was great pulling into Carmel and there was a solid but still intimate crowd at the finish. I am definitely running this marathon again in the future. Congrats to Daniel Tapia and Veronica Clemens, who won in 2:26:09 and 2:55:18, respectively.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting Ready for the Big Sur Marathon 2010

Hello all! I have almost finished tapering for the Big Sur Marathon! Although... in reality you should be tapering up to the starting line. I went to sleep at 9:30pm last night and set my alarm for 4am to get my sleep schedule onto marathon time. I didn't really wake up and start my day at 4, I just got up and walked around the apartment a bit and then went back to sleep until about 7:30. At 8am I stepped out for my last 2 mile jaunt up Page street in San Francisco. I have another 2 miler on Saturday but it's more of a shake-out/loosen-up kinda thing.

Aside from the Hurricane Point Hill (Check out the Virtual Tour of Hurricane Point below... It's the 2nd video.) the Big Sur Marathon offers runner's an additional and more "under the radar" type of challenge. You need to wake up at 3 am!!!  If you are staying in Monterey or Carmel (which, i think 90% of the runner's are), you need to wake up at that time to catch a bus which takes you an hour down the coast to the starting line. Mind you, the start of the race is at 6:45am! Usually, I go to sleep at about midnight each night and wake up around 8 so this waking up at 3:30am business has me "sleep training"!

In addition to the slumber conditioning, I have been eating quite a few bananas (about 2/day), clementines, raisins, avocados, whole grain stuff like Ak-Mak Crackers and Kashi Go Lean Cereal, lotsa different veggies, fish, nuts and chocolate! Even though this sounds like quite a bit of food I have been monitoring the quantity of my intake to avoid gaining weight.

The Big Sur Marathon will be my 4th full marathon and it's the first marathon that I have trained for using a running coaches training schedule. I used Hal Higdon's Advanced I schedule and trained completely in San Francisco. Here's the 20 Miler route that I used for this training program:

I also ran along the hillier part of that course for the 8-14 milers. Overall, I would say that Hal's Advanced I schedule was great. I feel stronger and I am running faster than I ever have before. Thanks Hal!

As of now, I am feeling confident, keeping my mind quiet, and trying to catch as many z's as possible before my alarm goes off at 3:45am on Sunday morning. I am hoping to get out there and take some post race pics for the blog as well... I might bring my little camera with me on the run to capture some of the actual race but I'm still debating. If some of you felt strongly about seeing that I might be persuaded to carry it :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tadesse Tola and Atsede Baysa Win PARIS MARATHON

Tadessa Tola won the Paris Marathon in 2:06:41. Atsede Baysa was the women's champion and set a course record by more than 2 minutes! Her time was 2:22:04. 31,000 runners took part in the 34th Paris Marathon. Check out Tadessa Tola crushing the last mile of the Paris Marathon in this video:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Running and Breathing; Getting Started in Running

Over the weekend a friend of mine who just started running asked me why he has so much trouble getting past the two mile mark. He explained that more than anything else it was his breathing that was holding him back. Naturally, I began to offer some advice and also, naturally, I started going off on running related tangents left and right! So I quickly ended the discussion by telling him that I would send him an email with tips, links, etc ...He readily accepted because he realized that I could have gone on and on and on! This post is a sketch of an introduction to running...

I was a beginner runner about 8 years ago. Before I started running, I was 30 lbs heavier, smoked quite a bit, drank my fair share of alcohol and did not care to much about eating healthy. I should disclose that I was in college at that point so all that "partying" was in some sort of context. I never ran track or ran with a running group or club so I have had no formal running training or any source of motivation besides myself. I played baseball and soccer through high school and my Dad has been a runner since before I was born. My Mom used to own and operate a Diet Center and she has always been into maintaining a relatively healthy diet. My parents instilled a health conscious mindset in me which I did not know was there until my early twenties... I thank them dearly for it!  In 2002 my grandfather was suffering from strokes which eventually ended his life in 2003. I started to become more health conscious. I watched what I ate, drank and smoked. I started running... Probably not in the healthiest way (I would sometimes smoke weed and then go for a run!), but I started out by logging about 2-3 miles along the Potomac River trail in Washington DC (just below Georgetown). I would throw on my headphones and just cruise along the path with no concern of my pace or really how far I was going. After a couple of months, my curiosity started to kick in and I wanted to see how much farther down (or is it up?) the Potomac River I could make it.

My Dad provided me with the only two pieces of running advice I had prior to beginning to run and they turned out to be the two most crucial pieces of running advice I can offer. The first is pace yourself and the second is breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. To me these two rules are the foundation of becoming a successful runner. As you run more and more you will learn how to build on those two elements.

As you are working through your first month of running I would focus on things other than the running itself. After all, running is a natural thing! It is part of human evolution! You have all of the equipment you need... your body! There has been quite a bit of discussion about barefoot and/or minimalist-shoe running lately in the running community (check out this ARTICLE from RUNNING TIMES). If you're just starting out, it would serve you well to read up on some of the research and discussions that have been going on. So now that, you're ready to step out for your first run, focus on the fact that just by moving your body you are covering some significant distance. The human body is an amazing machine and the resilience of your own body will amaze you. Focus on the nature around you, focus on moving with whatever music you're listening to or listen to your body move. This focus will help you find your natural desire to run.

To me, the most rewarding thing about running is overcoming a challenge. This doesn't mean that running is always a struggle... far from it! Challenges are the beauty of running and this will translate to all areas of your life. I always remind myself to "love the struggle". When you embrace your challenges you will overcome them. "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

As you work your way through your first month, SLOWLY build on your runs. Try a hilly-er route or try to doing a short sprint. The key to improving your running is to vary your runs. Check out this exceptional BEGINNERS RUNNING GUIDE from the training plan master, Hal Higdon.