Archive for March, 2008

Don’t Race like This!

March 31, 2008

As Boston approaches, I keep thinking of my first marathon.

I did almost everything wrong.

I was living in Boston in early ’92, had been living there for three years and was about to move to Santa Barbara. A friend of mine, Carl, decided to run the Boston Marathon. He hadn’t qualified or anything, he just decided to run it. He had a personal trainer come out to his house daily to run with him, the trainer was going to run the marathon too, also without qualifying. Every now and then Carl would suggest that I join him.

Finally, about a week or two before the marathon, I thought “Why not? I’m leaving Boston, I won’t have a chance like this again, and it will be interesting to see if I can do it.

I didn’t know you had to register. So I didn’t. I did know there was a qualifying time, but since Carl hadn’t qualified I assumed it didn’t matter much.

I hadn’t trained either.

Oh, I hadn’t been sedentary. During the winter I often couldn’t ride my bike (what with snow and ice and all) so I would frequently run one way to work (~8miles) and take the car the other way (leaving the car at work overnight sometimes). But I hadn’t really trained. I hadn’t raced since high-school — and even then the longest I’d done was ~3mile road race that we called “cross-country”. I was a little worried.

So, on the Saturday, 9 days before the race, I went out for a thirty mile run. I managed it, so now I was confident that I could run the distance. A week later, 2 days before the race, I did another 30 mile run.

I didn’t know you were supposed to taper.

I’d never heard of carbo-loading.

Monday, 20 April, dawned, and it was cold. So I put on some long corduroy pants and a button down shirt. Carl picked me up and we drove out to Hopkinton. Carl was in running shorts. I thought he’d get cold. I didn’t have any running gear in those days, I ran in my street clothes. I also had done the training runs in long pants — and a down jacket. (I’m amused to see that Bill Rodgers also ran the Boston course in street clothes).

We got to the start and went to stand in line. I went to the back, Carl and his trainer put themselves further up (after all, they had been training).

It was cold, even in long pants.

The gun went off.

Nothing happened.

For a long time, nothing continued to happen.

Finally we started walking — slowly.

We were still walking when we got to the start line. There were no chips in those days, but I did start my own watch. We were a mile out before I was able to start running. Rusty recommends using the first mile as a warm up, but I think a walking pace is a bit extreme.

After a bit I was entranced by the sound. I was in the middle of a huge throng of people, tightly packed and I heard — footfalls. I felt I had a purpose that I shared with all those around me, and the sound our feet made affirmed that.

There were no gel-packs then, I remember the joy I felt at about mile 20 where someone passed out orange quarters. But it really never occurred to me that it might be wise to eat on the course. I’d never eaten when I raced the mile in high-school, why should I expect to eat in a longer race?

When I could see the finish line I started running faster, and passed quite a few people in the last quarter mile or so. I went through the chute and stopped my watch 3:29:06. The woman who was there to help the runners took one look at me and said “You didn’t run this, get out of here.” Being too bewildered and exhausted to contradict her, I got.

I assume not many people race in street clothes, and as I didn’t have a bib I was obviously not a real runner.

Now was the hard part. I had to find Carl, since he was my ride home. It was cold, I didn’t have any money to buy food. Carl hadn’t finished yet. I waited. An hour. More. Finally he showed up. His wife drove us home and I soaked in a hot bath for a long time.

The next day, I got on a plane for LA and then SB. I was amused that everyone else on the plane seemed to be hobbling too.

Mistakes not to make again:

  • Qualify
  • Register
  • Train
  • Taper
  • Don’t run 30 miles two days before a marathon
  • Don’t wear street clothes
  • Now-a-days, take some gel packs with you and do some form of carbo-loading.
  • Don’t cross the finish-line looking like someone who could not possibly have raced, or you’ll get kicked out of the finish area without food and without a mylar blanket.
  • Don’t wait for someone who is an hour and a half slower than you if it’s cold and you are hungry.

I feel that I made it up to Boston in 2006. I qualified in 2005, and registered for the 2006 Boston marathon, but got injured and could not run it. So I have qualified, have registered, have trained, and have run it. I just qualified after I ran it.

The Boston website says the qualifying times must be run after a certain date — but it doesn’t explicitly say it must be before the race:-)


But… Where’s the Orchard?

March 22, 2008

Orchard to Ocean, 2008

I set out on the bike at 5:30. It was dark. And cold. It’s ~16 miles to Carpenteria Main School and I wanted to be there at 7 to register and warm up. And I wanted to travel easily on the bike and not burn up all my glycogen.

There was a full moon setting in the west. Ah, of course, the day before easter, the day after the vernal equinox, the moon must be well nigh full.

The moon is at my back though, I rarely see it. The cold gets into my fingers and toes. They go numb by the time I’ve gone 5 miles. Summerland, at 10 miles is warmer, and the extremities start to thaw, but after a mile or two the road drops down to the Polo field and it gets cold again. Well, it will probably warm up with the sun, and even if it does not, once I start running I’ll be fine.

Many orchid and other flower farms, but I pass no orchard.

It’s lighter now. There seems to be an awful lot of traffic leaving Carp, on the frontage road (not the freeway) at 6:40am. Where on earth are they all going this early on a Saturday morning, and why aren’t they on the freeway?

When I get to the school it is definitely light.

They have maps inside showing the course route. Hmm. It’s rather different from when I last did it — good heavens — five years ago. I had intended to run the 5K loop as a warm up, and here’s even more reason to do so — I don’t want to get lost. Not that I’ll be in front.

And there’s Shiggy, well no chance of being first in my division either :-).

The map says go out Palm to 4th street and turn left. Unfortunately 4th St. does not really exist here; there is an unnamed road inside the State Beach, perhaps that’s it? There is no chalk arrow to mark the turn though, and it means running the wrong way over some tire-shredders, so I decide I must be lost already, and I go back, and try to recreate the start from 5 years ago.

I forget the route after the first few turns and spend a pleasant time wandering the dead ends of suburban Carp. When I come out on Carp Ave, I see Aaron who assures me of the turn into the park, even without chalk, even going the wrong way over tire-rippers.

We get back to the school (which is not an orchard in any way shape or form), and I have to decide how many layers to wear. It’s much warmer than it was, but still feels a bit nippy. Hmm. I’ll bet I’ll only need a singlet once we get going. But I’ll take gloves to keep my hands warm. But when I reach the start line I think even the gloves may be too much — some friends are complaining about cold hands, and I try to palm the gloves off on them — with no luck.

I do my strides.
We line up.
No, says Paul (who starts us), the line is here. We all move forward a yard.
“Two minutes.”
“One minute.”
“Ready” (we all crouch down with our fingers on our watches)

And we’re off. About 10 people are ahead of me. I see Monica’s back and figure I can run with her (much later, at the finish line, I realize that it wasn’t Monica’s back after all, it was Andrea whom I do not know, and who is faster than Monica). Fred passes me. Oh, well, with him here no chance of second place in the division either.


No one’s foot is punctured by the tire-destroyers, and there are now volunteers there to show us the route (but no chalk, I wonder why not?). We run through the State Beach. The Carp Slough has formed a lagoon which does not open into the ocean. A calm spot where birds float as we thunder past over the bridge.

I’m impressed at how fast Monica is running. I thought I was faster at the moment. I guess not.

At the end of the parking lot we’re on a trail. Finally some chalk. Little white dots showing us where to go. We come to a road and turn up onto it. Such a pity, 5 years ago we ran out on the bluffs here, but I’m told that the city only lets us to cross the RR tracks on roads, and I guess I can see why they’d insist on that.

train.jpegCrossing RR tracks is always dicey in a race course — the freight trains seem to have no schedule, and the passenger trains only a nominal one. You never know, there might be a train just when you need to cross. You can lose a lot of time to a long, slow-moving freight. And trains cannot stop for runners as cars will.

Today: No train.

At the 1 mile mark I look down. 5:50. Oh dear. That’s too fast for me. Certainly today. I’d said I was going to treat this as a tempo run and go out at a sedate 6:24 pace. Somehow that didn’t happen. But even if I’m racing I’ll need to slow down. I’ll have to drop back from Monica. And then Martin passes me.

We follow the unfortunately named “Dump Road” to Carp Ave, and turn onto that (Damn it, why are there cars parked in our lane? Oh. It’s City Hall, doubtless they don’t care about runners) to the Bluffs’ park, and then we turn back to the ocean. A lovely view of the Islands, well mostly of Santa Cruz Island, though later I do catch a peak of Anacapa.

And here’s the two mile mark. 6:26. Erp. That’s too slow. I’ve given up on the tempo idea, I was hoping to do better. I notice with amusement that though I have dropped back from Monica’s back, and Martin’s, I haven’t dropped back by much. They’ve slowed too. That’s some consolation.

“Correopsis has set in!”
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

sageflowerspike.jpegAnd we make a sharp turn (through fine white sand that shifts under our feet, not what I want for a turn) to run along the bluffs. I can’t really see the ocean now, the purple sage, in full bloom, and some mounding yellow daisy are blocking my views

But then, from behind one large shrub, a view opens up, and there are the cliffs dropping down into the sea, with the morning mist hazing the distant ones. When I first ran this course, this view just stunned me, it’s the main reason I love this race.


But all too soon we turn away from the ocean (years before we went along the edge for much further and then scrambled up an wonderful, steep hill on which I passed two people. But no hill today, nor do I pass anyone). Back to the main road, and then we dive once more into the shrubbery (Nee!), and here’s the 3 mile mark. 6:34? Ug. I had intended to speed up, not slow down. At this rate I might not even break 40 minutes. I’m in worse shape than I thought.

Still Monica’s back isn’t that far in front, so she’s slowed too. And Martin and Ricky and Shana. Onward.

On into the brush. Hmm. Why haven’t I seen anyone returning? I’d have thought Aaron would have turned back by now. But then it isn’t Aaron, it’s someone I don’t recognize. And then Aaron, with Fred number 4. And then I’m turning. And there’s someone behind me, and Jeff passes me. Sigh. And when mile 4 comes up I see 6:27. Well, no wonder. That’s quite discouraging. And now Monica’s back pulls further away. I seem to have lost heart.

At mile 5 I see 6:12. Well, that’s a surprise. I guess it’s downhill. But even though I’ve actually sped up, the people ahead of me have sped up more.

And the ones behind too; someone else passes me. And then Joe Hilton does. We’re on the road now. Dull. At mile 6, 6:13. And then round the corner, and there’s the finish. A final burst, and I see the time ticking down 38:56, 38:57… I’m sure I’ll end up with 39:02 or something, but no, for once the second drops on my side and I sneak past at 38:59.

And then I see “Monica”‘s face, and she isn’t Monica at all. How could I have confused her with Monica? She doesn’t look a bit like her. I guess I’m not very good at recognizing backs. I discover she’s Andrea.

I head for the food. But it’s all wrapped up, and they aren’t ready for people yet, and they don’t want me to pick things up with my hands. It’s not worth fighting, I’ve got my own food at the bike. Ah, the bagels aren’t protected. I grab one (they tell me I shouldn’t have). It’s stale. Well water is the most important thing. Where’s the water? Big jugs of something. Coffee??!! What stupid idiot puts a diuretic out for people who need to rehydrate? Another large jug with McDonald’s stamped on the side. I’m not trusting that. Oh. Here. A tiny 6oz individually packaged thing of bottled water in a tub of ice. I don’t really want cold water either, it’s harder to absorb cold than warm. I’ll find a water fountain.

Grumble. What’s gotten into people? Why this recent set of over-the-top sanitary rules? They just make this whole race recovery process so uninviting that I’m repelled.

Food at the bike, and water too. Change out of light trainers for normal running shoes. Get rid of the gloves.

I’ve got a 6mile cool down to run. I might as well run the course again, but this time I’ll spend more on the bluffs and cross the tracks on a trail.

When I get back to the start/finish line there is the real Monica. How could I have confused her with Andrea?

And there is Fred taking off for his cooldown, so I run with him for a bit, but he turns back and I continue.

I don’t go up Dump Road, I continue on the bluffs. Tide looks quite high, crashing against the base of the cliffs, I look for harbor seals but see none here. Then on, past the Venco oil dock, and there, on the other side is the seal sanctuary. It’s the birthing season just now, and I pause at an outlook.

sealsanctuary.jpegThere’s a couple here already, looking down at the seals. They point out two new pups. There’s still a bit of beach below, one of the pups has clambered up it and found a comfy spot, but each time a wave passes over him, he gets washed away and has to clamber up again. It’s a struggle for him, he’s very small.

A larger seal flops up onto the beach, and those already there are disturbed and there’s some flapping of flippers. The couple comment they’ve not seen seals fighting before. I hadn’t realized it was a fight, but I’ll take their word for it.

The couple ask me if the race is over. They have a big hand-held stop sign so I assume they must be race volunteers, and thank them for helping out. It turned out they were seal volunteers, and the stop sign is to keep noisy intruders and dogs away from the seals and the cliff edge.

I see a Western Grebe in the ocean. A pelican, floating calmly on the waves some distance out looks like a great boat in comparison. A cormorant zips past.

sealasana.jpegA greater wave splooshes onto the beach and all the seals arc their backs, noses up, foot flippers up, they seem to form a perfect circular arch. I wish I could do as well when I try that pose in yoga.

But I can’t stay here all day, or shouldn’t anyway. I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

eucalyptusalley.jpegSo I head away from the bluffs, and cross the tracks (at the old location) and run on the path under the Eucalyptus allée. Hunh. I’d be willing to risk crossing the train tracks here, it’s a much nicer route.

But now I can’t find a path that would lead out to the hill I recall. Sigh. I gather there is no longer a trail in that direction.

Ah well, I’m back on the new course, and just follow that again. Out, and then back.

Shortly after the 5K turn-around (well on my way back) I start passing my some 5K walkers (the 5K race started about when I began my cooldown). And at the final turn before the finish line the corner volunteer cheers me on. I find I’m, well, insulted, that he thinks I could take over an hour to run a 5K, can’t he tell from my pace that I’m going faster (much faster, even on my cooldown) than that?

But I have my bib on, and no one else seems to have run the course twice, so I guess it’s the obvious assumption.

Silly me.

I get back to the school, and I hear them announcing the results, so I wander over. I see my friends in a clump on the grass and go sit with them. I find I didn’t even get third in my division, I was fourth. Oh well.

Back to the bike, and then the farmers’ market.

(The ocean was lovely, but I never even saw the orchard).

ps.png I spoke to Dan Cornet, who has always helped organize Orchard to Ocean. He tells me that when the race was first run it started up in the foothills amid orchards, but they moved the start. So like Roses to La Playa the name no longer reflects the current race. Maggie suggested “Pedrogosa to La Playa” for that, which alliterates, so perhaps “School to Sea” would work here?

Dan also tells me that there is no race director for next year, and some doubt as to whether the race will continue. Saying “I hope someone turns up.” seems a bit superficial, as it begs the question of why I’m not that someone.



March 14, 2008

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson lived before daylight savings though.

I used to like daylight savings time — my father would let me run barefoot after the change. My computer friends, who tend to arise “at the crack of noon”, are all in favor of it.

I’ve come to hate it. At least in March. In May it’s ok, I guess.

By the beginning of March the winter darkness is dissipating, and when I do my morning run at 6 or so it is light again. And then comes daylight savings time and bang! it’s pitch black again at 6.

I suppose it could be worse. During World War II the Germans decided that France should be in CET rather than GMT. This means that France (and Spain) is always at least one hour off from solar time, and is two hours off in the summer. England also had “Double Summer Time” during the war, but they came to their senses afterward.

But it’s  pitch black now when I start my runs. I worry about being seen if I run on the roads, I worry about my footing if I run on trails.

It is pitch black as I start my run a little before 6. The stars are shining. No cars are on the road today. By 6:15 there is a faint light toward the east. When runners pass me I can’t see their faces. By 6:30 the eastern sky is blue and low lying clouds are black, but the western sky is still black. I no longer worry about my footing. By 6:45 there’s a tinge of yellow to the east, and I have no problem seeing people. By 7:00 it is reasonably light out. I see the sun for the first time at 7:25.

When I did a track work-out I couldn’t see my watch until just before 7. The watch does have a light, but when I’m running hard, pressing the button is difficult and focusing on a dim, jiggling set of numbers seems beyond my eye’s abilities (I have no problems when running slowly, but when I’m running at 10K pace or faster I just can’t focus. Maybe I need better glasses. Or better eyes).

Why do we have DST? I thought the theory was that it saved energy, but there seem to be as many studies saying it doesn’t as there are saying it does.

It certainly messes up my life in March.

I look forward to May…