Archive for the 'group runs' Category


A friend sent me this. It’s a scanned clipping from the West County Times. That’s me on the left. This was last Sunday, when we ran 20 miles along the Marathon course. It’s funny how I often appear in photos like I’m out for a  relaxing jog!

Click on image to see a larger version.


An Evening With The Stars

I need to post here more often, I’m stating to accumulate topics to write about.
I got paced by a bus this morning. Yes, really. The Park Street bridge that I cross at the beginning and end of my runs is a lifting bridge and the buses are required to stop before crossing. And so I ran past the Transbay bus as it was stopped. When it started again and drew level, it stayed level. I could not see the driver in the dark, but waved anyway and sped up. So did he. So then I turned on the jets and drew ahead. By the far end of the bridge I was going full out (The Garmin recorded a few seconds at 4:25 pace) and the bus blew past. That was fun.
Yesterday thee marathon training group was hosted by Innersports Chiropractic in Berkeley, where we saw a demonstration of video gait analysis, and listened to a talk on Marathon training and prep by Perter Gilmore and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. On the subject of the big hill in the Oakland marathon course, Peter remarked “You have two months to go. Be afraid of it now so you’ll be well prepared on the day.” This led to a discussion on hill work. Magda talked about specificity in training. Although she likes the treadmill, particularly for hill repeats, and loves the trails, sh runs the majority of her miles on the roads. It’s not just a matter of gait-tuning for hard surfaces, but the road miles strengthen you so that you’re less likely to get injured during an actual race. When I asked her afterwards what races she has coming up, it turned out she’s training for the cross-country nationals, so some of her miles are on grass in spikes. If she gets onto the U.S. team, she’ll go to the world championship in March in her native Poland, and her 98-year old grandmother will get to see her race. Here’s hoping she makes the team!
Nutrition factoids from the talk: Women don’t benefit much from carbo-loading, And don’t have your regular breakfast on race-day. You need to be vary low-fiber in the final 24 hours, to avoid those emergency bathroom breaks during the race.


When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in the USA, pig out on turkey and all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, Whoohoo!
I’m thankful I discovered running, and the friends that come with it, and also thankful that I’ve made it to taper time in fairly good shape.

What have I been up to? Our club, the LMJS, is organizing a training program for the Oakland Marathon and Half. The marathon program started last week, so now there are about 75 people following three training programs drawn up by little old me (with some input from others). Eek! I hope they’re doing OK. The weekly supervised runs will be plenty hilly, since the course has a major hill in it.  I’ve run various bits of this course at different times. The uphill’s not too bad, but that descent down Lincoln is not be trifled with. It’s on concrete too. They don’t put asphalt on gradients that steep. The half-marathoners are starting their training soon, and I’m still working on those plans…

Today I’m taking a day off as part of my taper. CIM is the weekend after next, and I’m still thinking about a pacing plans For the first time I’m planning a negative split instead of doing it by muddle. I’m tinkering with a spreadsheet to get the splits out. I’m not sure if I’ll use a pace band, or try and memorize it all. The memorization trick would involve a set off offsets from 7:30 pace, hitting zero around halfway, then going negative. After mile 18-20 or so, it stops being a pacing plan, and becomes a schedule. “Hitting mile 20 in X equates to a finish time of Y” type of thing. Nice to know if you’re pushing to hit a particular goal.

Speaking of pace bands, I volunteered at the LMJS 4th Sunday Runs last weekend, and at the start Loraine showed me a small post-it note with three mile splits on it. Yup, a 5K “pace band”. It worked, and she got another PR, on her own this time. Good job, Loraine! Her husband, Dan, has been coming back from a knee injury that the docs seemed to think is degenerative, but maybe isn’t. He’s been running in a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes, with good results. It looks like there’s something to this barefoot/minimal-shoe trend.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Bush-Button Weight Loss

For our weekly run today we were the guests of Sports & Orthopedic Leaders Physical Therapy in Oakland. After a gentle six miles or so – this is supposed to be a recovery day for me – we went inside for refreshment. We all breezed straight past the other fancy PT gear and lined up for a go on the Alter-G treadmill. If you’ve not seen one of these, it’s basically a treadmill inside a pressurized bag. It looks like this:

That's not me

That's not me

You wear a pair of wetsuit-like shorts which zip to the top of the bag, and the air machine removes a variable portion of your body weight. Oh boy. After a short warmup at 6mph, 80% of normal weight, Andy, who was demonstrating it, lightened me to 20% and said “OK, now hop!” So I did. It was like being on the moon. After a little run at tempo pace, 75% weight I gave it up to the next person. I’m unused to treadmills, so I didn’t try going really fast on it. Andy said he’s used it for speedwork when preparing for a 5k, so it’s not just for injured runners. An amazing machine.

Speaking of injuries, here’s a fun way to get some. I got an email from the Big Sur organization and was wistfully regretting that it clashes with Boston. Then this jumped out at me:

In 2010…the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge

2 Marathons…2 Coasts…6 Days

Only the fittest (or craziest!) ever attempt back-to-back marathons, much less 3,000 miles apart. In 2010, the Big Sur Marathon would like to honor those runners willing to accept the challenge in celebration of Big Sur’s 25th presentation.
The challenge will be open to limited number of participants on a first come, first served basis during registration which opens September 1, 2009. Those who sign-up will receive a Boston 2 Big Sur ASICS jacket, a custom participant bib and finisher’s medallion, and will celebrate their accomplishment in a special finish tent in Big Sur’s Marathon Village.

This is of course insane. Or cool. I won’t do it. Or will I?

In other news, one of our regular Saturday runners, Katy, who is a Fulbright scholar from Hungary, is going home this week. Happy trails Kati, and maybe a group of us will come and run the Budapest Marathon. Wouldn’t that be something!

The Importance of Easy

A marathon paced run is a fragile thing. When things are going well it can be an exhilarating ticking off of miles, each one executed within a few seconds of the target pace.

Sunday’s run was not like that. I had done a trail run the previous day, in lieu of a slow recovery run. Also went a little fast in the 9-mile preliminary. The subsequent “10 miles at marathon pace.” Became a struggle, not helped by a stiff breeze. I mostly stayed in the general neighborhood of the right pace, but it felt more like a very long tempo run. Ugh. I took a rest day to recover, whilst wondering about my goals.

But then Tuesday’s 13-miler went just fine, and Wednesday’s 15 miler took me out in beautiful sunshine. All is right with the world again.

The lesson here is that, as the routine gets more intense, There’s less latitude to add gratuitous stuff. Easy runs should be just that, or the hard workouts will suffer. Pfitzinger’s 12/70 plan has some hard stuff in it so the recoveries should be taken as seriously as the rest.

There’s No Boulder

Well, the first week of taper did not turn out to be very taper-y. In fact I ended up with a new mileage PR. How did that happen? I didn’t keep count during the week, extended a run or two because I felt like it, and then there was today.
Briones Reservior
The program called for an MP run, but this wasn’t going to happen because I would be running with the group on a roller-coaster of a trail alongside Briones reservoir. I compromised by showing up early and going for a fast solo 4 miler along the road. This was a nice little Big Sur practice, because the first mile ascended 320 ft, then it rolled for another mile before I turned around and headed back. I was experimenting to see how fast I could go downhill at a marathon effort level or a bit more. A bit unrealistic, since that hill was steeper than anything at Big Sur, but I managed 6:20 with a burst to 6:02, according to the Garmin.

A few minutes later, the group was standing around in the still-chill morning air being briefed by Karen, When someone remarked “Haha Jim, your shirt is steaming!”
So far so good, but then Joe suggested a run all the way around the lake, and I foolishly said yes to this 13-miler. It’s been over a year since I was last here, and time smooths out the hills.

Mud. There was plenty of mud. We had to keep kicking its dead weight off our shoes. After some steep oscillations, around mile 5 the trail started to go up. It continued up around each tantalizing turn and apparent crest.
“Um Joe, does this go up forever, like an M.C. Escher illusion?”
“Actually the plane crashed, and this is Hell. Or perhaps it’s Heaven. After all the gradient is quite runnable and there is no boulder to push.”

The vistas got more extensive, and there was finally a top after 400ft of climbing. Joe, having run fewer miles than me, was the pacesetter, and towards the end of the circuit I let him go on ahead. This was getting to be stressful and I am, after all, supposed to be tapering.

Some taper. Last week, my supposedly peak week, was 73 miles. This weeks total, which should have been around 50, was 77, after running 17 miles today. Am I the only nut who makes this sort of error?

Speaking of mileage, Loraine put her finger on my reporting problem. “You’re been telling me to make most of my miles easy, but in your blog, you always seem to be going fast.” That’s because I haven’t been reporting the easy runs, and yes, that is wrong. I’ll make some changes around here shortly.

UPDATE: Not only do I have trouble with basic math whilst running, but apparently for some time afterward. I messed up the heights of the hills in this post, and have now corrected them. I had forgotten to subtract the altitude of the bottom of the hill!


Joe accompanied me on today’s two  hour MP run. He’s been doing low milages lately while waiting for his plantar fasciitis to subside, so he had no expectations about staying with me for all of it. After the warmup he dropped back and tracked me from about 200 yards back.

Thus removed from any peer pressure, I immediately forgot my plan to stick to 7:50 pace and got into a groove at about 7:41. After about five miles of this, Joe decided that he’d done his tempo for today and slowed down. This run was up and down the Bay Trail staring at point Isabelle in Richmond, heading south as far as Emeryville, then going north to the gate at the end of the trail in Richmond (slap that gate!) and returning to the starting point. At  a road crossing in Berkeley, drivers waved me over, so I was able to run the whole thing without breaking stride once. On the way back from the gate, I met Joe who turned as I passed him. “One more mile, then I’ll slow down.” His retort: “You animal!”.  Suitably encouraged, I tempo’d  that last mile in 7:17.

The hill behind the racecourse had slowed me a bit, as did a slight headwind in Richmond. I ended up covering 16 miles in 2:03:44, average pace 7:44. A bit faster than the planned 7:50. The warmup and cooldown brought the total to 20.5 miles.  I am extremely pleased with this run. Even the weather was perfect!

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


January 2019
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