The Famous CITGO Sign in Boston Tells You There's Just One Mile to Go

Although I haven't run the Boston Marathon for quite some time, I did have a chance to visit the city of Boston recently on a family vacation. In over 13 years of marriage, not once have we, as a complete family unit. been to a local Dodger game. But that didn't stop my wife from convincing me to spend the equivalent of two car payments on outstanding tickets to the Red Sox vs Yankees game at Fenway Park.

The game was a lot of fun, at least the few minute of it that I got to see between trips to the concession stands for my offspring. A growing family requires sustenance at all times.

Before the game we grabbed a snack at a local eatery (pre-game sustenance) and I looked up to see one of the most well known scenes from the Boston Marathon...the CITGO sign on Beacon Street.

Any Boston Marathon participant with eyesight will be able to recall the CITGO sign, because it indicates that you are just about done with the 26.2 mile trip. The sign is situated just about a mile from the finish of the race. I've run over 30 marathons over the years, but this is perhaps the only marathon that has such a distinctive, memorable, historal finish.

According to the CITGO website, CITGO was founded in 1910 as Cities Service Company. In 1965 its name was changed to CITGO for branding purposes, using the first 3 letters of "Cities" and ending with "GO." My wife says local pronounce it "See It Go." I don't know if that's true or not but pretty cool nonetheless.

After a brief stint as a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum in 1982, CITGO was sold to The Southland Corporation in 1983 to provide a steady supply of gasoline to the 7-Eleven store chain. In 1986, Southland sold half of CITGO to Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., (PDVSA), the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the other half in January 1990.

But I digress. We had a great vacation and I managed to get out there and run every single day. Not a lot of mileage, but enough to keep me feeling groovy. I have no race plans at the moment but once I'm feeling it I'll be back in the game, having just turned the BIG 5-0. New age group!

 

My Little Eight Year Old Kicked My $%^&* On a Hike Up Boney This Weekend

Last Friday night I took my 8 year old and our dog to the Edison Road Trail in Newbury Park when it was becoming overcast. And dark. He wanted to keep going up the hill to walk "into a cloud." We didn't quite make it and had to turn around, lest we get stuck in the dark. That was that.

The next day I got up and ran about 9 miles mid-morning, came home and decided to take take the same kid out for some fun. No dog this time. We stopped at Jamba Juice. While slurping our smoothies, he said, let's go hike up Mount Boney. Huh?? I said, how come? Because I want to hike up to Mount Boney while I am still in one digits. And I want to walk inside a cloud.

Basically, I discovered these were two things he wanted to accomplish on his pre-double digit age "bucket list."

Saturday was a bit overcast (the photo above was taken another day). I said, are you sure? Yep. Are you sure? Yes. I think I must have repeated it 5 times but he didn't back down. We had shorts on and I had jackets, along with a backpack, in the car. I went back into Jamba Juice to buy a couple bottles of water and some snacks. The temps were in the 60s, making it a nice day to hike up there.

As we drove over, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, how I will reward him for making it to the Danielson Monument, quite a hike in and of itself. The really technical, rocky, crazy steep sections of the path to Boney Peak come on an unmarked trail above the Monument, unsupported by the National Park Service. Most people who have been "up Boney" have been to the Monument, not to the very top. Boney Peak stands at over 2,800 feet, making the climb well over 2,000 feet from Newbury Park.

It was a great time. The entire time my son asked questions, starting with, how many miles is it? I estimate about 4 miles. How many feet is it? How many inches? How many centimeters? And so on, the day goes. And we move along, gradually, stopping now and then to observe something of interest. A gigantic red ant, a stink bug, a stick, a bench. Then more questions. What would happen if an asteroid landing here right now? What would happen if three coyotes came and tried to attack us? How many minutes does it take to get to the top? How many seconds?

We made it to the Danielson Monument and had a snack. Then he saw the sign below, that after years of running up here from time to time, somehow I never noticed it among the overgrowth.

So, you wanna keep going, or are you tired? We moved on, through the narrow, jungle-like sections with poison oak surrounding us, the steep, rocky, highly technical sections that he seemed to navigate like a pro, the ups and occasional downs, the twists and turns and occasional pass by some person's discards (quite disheartening to see that someone would make the effort to bring TP yet leave it up there after use). There's always gotta be someone like that out there I guess.

We left the parking lot around 1:45pm and reached the top around 4:45pm. My son got his wish, or wishes, I should say. He had reached the top of Boney Peak. And he enjoyed the feeling of being "inside a cloud."

He was thrilled climbing on large boulders that made me cringe. I had to keep my eyes on close watch on my little adventurer because the drop from Boney Peak would be the end. After 20 minutes of exploring, it was time to head down.

We made it back to the car in about 2 hours and about 100 questions. I was nervous about getting locked into the parking lot as it was getting late. He was starting to peeter out a bit so I grabbed his hand and helped him along a bit. Overall though I was quite impressed at his endurance and stamina. Then again, he managed to eat all the snacks I brought. I had to settle for a handful of BBQ potato chips as he scarfed everything down. Note to self: Bring more snacks next time.

So long story short, here we are 3 days after our little cross training endeavor, and my upper ass cheeks (technical terminology), an area of the body I never think about, are still SORE! Mount Boney is like training on a Stairmaster on steroids. My glutes weren't used to this type of workout. But I'm sure by tomorrow, or maybe the day after, they will be fine.

On the other hand, I've heard no complaints from the 2nd grader. He seems as spunky as ever. It's good to be young, when you can kick your old man's %^&*( and not even know it. Or maybe he did know it. That night, he said to me, you don't have to run tomorrow. You can take a day off, you know.

And so I did. I took a Sunday off. I rarely take Sundays off. But that little kid of mine had the upper hand. He knew dad would stay home on Sunday morning and cook him pancakes while skipping his weekly long run. And that's what he, or I should say I, did.

The Occasional Hazards of Running Trails

I've enjoyed running local trails for over 15 years and am on them almost every day, barring rain and mud. A majority of my mileage is on trails and I enjoy the variety, the peace and quiet, the scenery and the chance of spotting wildlife, like a coyote off in the distance.

For the last few years I've been carrying my camera with me when I run so that when something photo-worthy appears, I'll be ready. Kind of a hassle for sure, in that the camera is not light, and I hold it in one of my hands (switching off to the other hand from time to time).  But occasionally it comes in handy.

This year, 2014, so far I've managed to trip and fall on the trails not once, not twice, but THREE times. I'm not talking a simple trip and catch myself, but a full on, snag my shoe on something, then topple almost flat on my face fall.

No, this is not a pile of poop on the trail. It is a root sticking out of the ground, I believe a remnant from damage done by the Springs Fire of 2013.

This has never happened to me before. Ever. Never have I fallen flat on my face before while running on any surface, and I've run all types of surfaces and have run and raced trails like Bulldog at Malibu Creek, the Catalina Marathon and all around town.

Mostly just scrapes and cuts from my latest encounter with the ground on a trail run.The other day was the worst of my three trip-and-falls. I was running along, la la laaaa, thinking of all the exciting workday activities, when, BAAAMMM, I was down. My right foot snagged either a rock or a root, and I had no time to react. But I did manage to get my right arm on the ground before my head, which saved my face, but got my right arm pretty good. Just scrapes and a little blood. Nothing broken. There were some minor scrapes and scratches on my shin and lower back. THANKFULLY my knees and face were spared.

After my body finished sliding, I got up, assessed the damage, picked up my camera (held in a case, so it was safe, unlike my body), and ran home.

So WHY does this keep happening? I'm almost afraid to continue running on trails because next time I may do some more serious damage.

I think it is one of, or a combination of, three things. I've noticed that the Saucony shoes I currently wear feel slightly too big. I have to re-tie them more often than most shoes I wear to make them more snug. I suspect that this is the main culprit...my shoes are too big and they are snagging things on the trails and damn near killing me.

But perhaps the other issue is that I'm carrying this camera around, looking around for nice shots. Maybe I should be looking at the trail more and the surroundings less...at least when the trails are rocky and technically challenging. That would make sense now, wouldn't it?

Lastly though, I'm turning 50 in a few months. Maybe I'm, well, just getting OLD. Yes, maybe I'm not lifting my legs up as much when I run (which actually is a good thing on the roads, as it is more efficient). Maybe I'm going blind (well to some degree I am, after dealing with a detached retina a few years ago and its impact on my eyesight). Maybe I'm just going senile.

Or perhaps it could be all of the above. I dunno, but I'm gonna continue running those trails until it kills me. Probably. Literally.

In the meantime, time for some new shoes.

2016 Women's and Men's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to Be Hosted by the City of Los Angeles on February 13, 2016

Today USA Track & Field, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and LA MARATHON LLC announced that the City of Los Angeles will host the Women’s and Men’s 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon.

The 2016 Olympic Trials will be held February 13, 2016. With separate starts, the men’s and women’s races both will be carried in their entirety on NBC. The 2016 Olympic Games will take place in Brazil.

In winning the bid, LA MARATHON LLC proposed a February race date that accommodates an NBC broadcast and ensures athletes optimal time to recover should they choose to run in the 2016 Olympic Trials for Track & Field in June.

Now for the other interesting news in the announcement...the LA Marathon will follow a day later, on February 14, 2016. For those of you who have followed the LA Marathon in the past, this should sound unusual to you. In the history of the LA Marathon going back to 1986, the LA Marathon has never been run (literally and figuratively) in February. In all years with the exception of 2009 (when the marathon took place in late May), the LA Marathon took place in March.

Start times and specifics on the criterium courses for both the men’s and women’s races will be determined in coming months

USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the country’s #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. For more information on USATF, visit www.usatf.org.

LA MARATHON LLC is a leading U.S. running organization dedicated to inspiring the athlete in every runner and connecting communities through health and fitness.  The LA Marathon is among the largest marathons in the country with more than 25,000 participants, thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of spectators. The “Stadium to the Sea” course, starting at Dodger Stadium and finishing near the Santa Monica Pier, is one of the most scenic in the world, taking runners on a tour of Los Angeles past every major landmark. The race has been named Best Big City Race by Runner’s World.

Author Malcolm Gladwell Holds the Canadian 1500 Meter 13 Year Old Age Group Record

First, an update on the dangling toenail. It was about two weeks ago that I first discovered a toenail with days that were numbered. Today was its final day. The toenail is gone, though I don't know where it went...which is ok I guess, as there's new toenail in its place.

The September Runner's World had an interesting conversation with Malcolm Gladwell. I'm a fan of his work, like The Tipping Point and Blink, and he has new book out called David and Goliath. Something I never knew about him is that he is an avid runner. And quite an accomplished one at that.

Gladwell holds the Canadian 1500 meter 13 year old age group record, with a 4:14, then ran a 4:05 at age 14. And he beat Dave Reid, who subsequently became the Canadian 1500 meter record holder.  When asked about that, he responds analytically:

"Age-class running, as you know, is completely unreliable. It’s based on this artificial thing, which is that people who are the same age have the same level of physical maturity. Which just isn’t true. And I always suspected, when I was an age-class runner, that I was just maturing faster than my peers. At 13 I would go to the line at a race and I would be the tallest guy in the race. Now, I’m not a tall person. I realized I was just maturing faster. And if you’re improving in those years, you’re improving your 1500 time by seven or eight seconds a year. If you have six months of maturity on someone, that’s four seconds! These races, these results, mean nothing at that age. All they tell you is that someone has a reasonable degree of promise."

So true. Age groups are an artificial means of grouping runners competitively. But then again, I can't think of a better way, short of "handicapping" runners based on past performances, regardless of age. As I approach age 50, however, I'm liking this age group approach more and more though. Survival of the fittest.

Disposable Wipes Make a Worthy Addition to One's Post-Marathon Routine

Had a discussion with a friend about his 3 day family camping trip in which they had no access to running water for bathing. He was running 10 or so miles a day on this trip. So the most pressing question was, how does his family stand the smell!!?? (I asked him in a more respectful way then that. I think.) He said disposable wipes did the trick.

I didn't think much of it until September 7th, the day before the Ventura Marathon. After sweating through 26.2 miles, I generally want to head right home or hotel room for a shower. But this time I planned to meet my family after the race for the Ventura County ComiCon event at VC Fairgrounds. So what the heck, I brought a package of "wipies" with me to see how well they work.

As usual, I was smelling quite pungent after the race. But those trusty wipies actually did a great job cleaning me up...to the point that I didn't, at least in my own humble, olfactory opinion, have post-race stench. The next four hours brought no pained looks and plugged noses by those around me.

The Porta-John - One of the Most Welcome Sights to Marathon Runners

As I was picking up my Ventura Marathon race bib before the race a few weeks ago, I came across an awesome sight...this perfectly arranged line of porta-johns. Kudos to local Cal State Site Services for this beautiful line-up.

After 20 years of running and racing, I have no qualms chatting about the use of porta-johns. Well I don't like using the porta-john, they are a welcome sight, particularly when unoccupied.

Having access to porta-johns are a critical aspect of marathons as well as other races, as the lack thereof can cause massive problems and/or messes.

Well organized marathons have an adequate number of porta-johns at both the start of the race and dispersed throughout the course. Every few miles. The Ventura Marathon did a pretty decent job of that. In fact, I visited one of them around Mile 9 of the race.

The time and momentum lost in visiting a porta-john mid-race is not a good thing. But...as they say...when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Probably my single biggest pre-race stress point is ensuring my innards are empty, yet have enough fuel in me to power me through the full 26.2 miles. I didn't quite achieve that goal in Ventura and that sliced probably two minutes or so from my time.

Perhaps I'll figure the timing one of these days. Perhaps not. After running 30+ marathons you'd think I'd figure that out.

Runners are Sometimes the Inspiration for Chart Topping Hit Songs

I flip through the pages of Runner's World magazing each month and have been doing so for years. In the August 2013 issue, there's a brief mention of Delihah DiCrescenzo, age 30. She has quite an interesting name, first off for the obvious. She was the inspiration for Plain White T's singer Tom Higgenson's chart-topping hit "Hey There Delilah" that was nominated for 2008 Song of the Year (won by Amy Winehouse).

Although there was no "love" interest between the two (well, at least from her), she was treated to a visit to the 2008 Grammy Awards with the band. I don't know Delilah's current status, but my advice to Tom is...start running!

Delilah is now 30 years old and still based out of New York. Earlier this year she ran a personal best time of 15:36.45 in the 5,000 meters and in 2012 ran a 4:32 mile. That's pretty darn speedy. She also came pretty darn close to making the Olympics with a 7th place in the Olympic Trials Steeplechase race in 2012. More recently she won the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run 4-Miler in 21:07 in Manhattan as well as two other road wins in a six-week period, according to Runner's World.

I find her last name, DiCrescenzo, kind of oxymoronic. DiCrescenzo is similar sounding to decrescendo, which basically in music terms to decrease in loudness, become softer. The last thing that comes to mind when I see her running times is a decrescendo.

The Plain White T's performed last month at the Ventura County Fair. I missed it!

Here's "Hey There Delilah" which happens one of my all-time favorite listenable over and over again songs.

And there you have it. Running word association. Though no mention of running in the lyrics:

Hey there Delilah what's it like in New York City
I'm a thousand miles away
But girl tonight you look so pretty, yes you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you, I swear it's true

Hey there Delilah don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely give this song another listen
Close your eyes, listen to my voice it's my disguise
I'm by your side

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me

Hey there Delilah, I know times are getting hard
But just believe me girl, someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar
We'll have it good, we'll have the life we knew we would
My word is good

Hey there Delilah, I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away, I'd write it all
Even more in love with me you'd fall, we'd have it all

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
And we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way

Delilah I can promise you
That by the time that we get through
The world will never ever be the same
And you're to blame

Hey there Delilah
You be good and don't you miss me
Two more years and you'll be done with school
And I'll be making history like I do

You'll know it's all because of you
We can do whatever we want to
Hey there Delilah here's to you
This one's for you

Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
Oh it's what you do to me
What you do to me

Registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon Began on Monday, September 9th

Registration began began this past Monday, September 9th, for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I hadn't even thought about the Boston Marathon lately, let alone any marathon, other than the marathon I ran this past Sunday.

My 3 hrs, 8 minutes is about 17 minutes than the 3:25 qualifying time for my age group, which gets me into the second group of qualifiers allowed to apply to event. The first group, those that finished at least 20 minutes below their designated qualifying time, were allowed to enter starting on Monday. There's even a Registration Date Calculator for the event on the BAA website:

 

Qualifying times for the 2014 Boston Marathon are as follows:

Age        Men                                      Women

18-34     3hrs 05min 00sec              3hrs 35min 00sec

35-39     3hrs 10min 00sec              3hrs 40min 00sec

40-44     3hrs 15min 00sec              3hrs 45min 00sec

45-49     3hrs 25min 00sec              3hrs 55min 00sec

50-54     3hrs 30min 00sec              4hrs 00min 00sec

55-59     3hrs 40min 00sec              4hrs 10min 00sec

60-64     3hrs 55min 00sec              4hrs 25min 00sec

65-69     4hrs 10min 00sec              4hrs 40min 00sec

70-74     4hrs 25min 00sec              4hrs 55min 00sec

75-79     4hrs 40min 00sec              5hrs 10min 00sec

80+         4hrs 55min 00sec              5hrs 25min 00sec

Boston Marathon organizers indicate this will be a unique event and that entrants, volunteers may be asked for additional cooperation in certain areas, including transportation, baggage and other logistics.

"Among the changes, it is anticipated participants will be asked to submit to security checks of their personal belongings.  Participants may be asked to significantly reduce, or eliminate, the belongings that they carry with them on the transportation provided by the B.A.A. and into race areas.

Participants should be prepared for the possibility that the checking and pick-up of personal belongings will not be allowed."

BAA organizers are taking a particularly hard look it appears at what the runners can check in at the start of the race. They actually indicate as shown above that there is a possibility that personal belongings will not be allowed.

That would obviously be a drastic, perhaps overly draconian move. Unfortunately due to the 2013 bombing the organizers of the 2014 event have to be particularly cautious as to how to proceed.  I recall for example running the 100th Boston Marathon, quite a cold day, with snow on the ground while we awaited the start of the race in Hopkinton. Luckily I had gloves and warm, layered clothes to keep me marginally warm. But then I placed the items in a bag and retrieved them at the finish. Would entrants basically have to toss away their belongings next year? I guess we'll find out.

Have I registered? No.

Will I register? Haven't decided yet but leaning toward no because I'm likely to have a surgery in the next few months that may take me away from training for several months.

Would I like to register and run the 2014 Boston Marathon? I would for sure if I lived near Boston. But I dread the hassle and cost of travel to an event I've already run several times. That said, this will be a special event in more ways than one.

Seeing the Humor in Running a 200 Mile Relay Race

Many, many years ago, a couple of runner friends at work talked me into running the Hood to Coast Relay, a 12 person, 195 mile relay race in Portland, Oregon. I had never really wanted to run a relay race and have not pondered the joys of running a relay race again since then. Why? For the same reason, I think camping is the equivalent of pretending to be homeless. I don't enjoy it!

It's not that I don't love the outdoors or anything. I love the outdoors. I just don't like sleeping outdoors in a sleeping bag in a tent. I'd rather just sleep in my good ole comfy bed. But that's just me.

Similarly, I love running...trails, roads, varying distances, alone, with friends, casually, competitively. But I don't like running at 3am for 6 miles, finishing, hopping into a van all sweaty, towel off, attempt to sleep and get up 5 hours later to run another 7 miles. Then do it yet again 8 hours later. Especially when I'm sharing the van with 5 other smelly guys who have not showered.

However, a lot of people apparently LOVE running relays, like the popular Ragnar Relay series.  I'd rather run a boring 10K or half marathon, head home, shower up, have a beer and call it a day. However, to each his own. The humorous animation below sums it up for me.

But getting back to Hood to Coast...you know, it was actually kind of fun. Fun enough to be talked into doing it another year. Perhaps you should put a 200 mile relay race on your bucket list.