News Flash: Training for the Inaugural Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon on June 5th!

Nothing better to get motivated to run a marathon than to commit to a race. Well I did last week. I'm running the inaugural Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon on Sunday, June 5th.

As many of you know, I compile local Ventura County area running events year round to help people find a local race quickly and easily. Most races are repeats from years past. Most races are 5Ks and 10Ks. So I was shocked to discover just a few weeks ago that a brand new full 26.2 mile marathon is planned in June.

The Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon (and Half Marathon) is the brainchild of Tom Taylor and Ben DeWitt, co-owners of eco-friendly local endurance event planning company, Complete Green. Both avid runners, they decided it would be great to organize local events that promote sustainability and environmental awareness.

I spoke with Ben about this new marathon and was impressed by his passion for creating something genuinely different for runners in Ventura County. Sounds like they have their act together and I decided it would be fun to run this inaugural event!

While I haven't been focused whatsoever in my training this year and in fact have not run a single race, at least I've been running consistently. I have base mileage of about 40 miles a week on my body. So why not, for fun, train for a marathon only 6 1/2 weeks away.

Motivated by the commitment, I went out last Thursday after work and ran my longest run since the Tucson Marathon last December, 15 miles. Then on Sunday, pleased to see cool temps and cloud cover above me, I slugged out an 18.7 miler over 2 hours, 21 minutes. So with a couple of 20 milers over the coming 3-4 weeks, I should be fine to run this marathon.

So I asked Ben what distinguishes the race in terms of being "green." Some interesting things were mentioned, such as awards made out of recycled materials, race shirts made out of recycled polystyrene (e.g. old water bottles), using a solar generator for finish line needs and salvaging old surfboards from Walden Surfboards for the mile markers.

This is a first year event and I don't expect a huge turnout, but I do expect it to be fun. Starts with a 10K loop in Ojai, then takes the bike path 10 miles, with a nice downhill grade, to the ocean, where it ends at the Ventura Pier. Starts early (6 a.m.), downhill and ends at the ocean. Sounds pretty good to me! The only negative (which for some is a positive) is that I suspect crowds will be very sparse.

So who's joining me? Or how about trying the half marathon (which starts/finishes near the Ventura Pier).

95 Year Old Woman Runs 60 Meters in Under 30 Seconds for World Record!

This woman is an inspiration for sure! She runs and works out and at age 95 recently ran 60 meters in 29.86 seconds. Ida Keeling is 4' 6" and 83 lbs and started running at age 67, which means she has been running for 28 years now. I started running at age 28. My goal is to run 60 meters in under 30 seconds when I'm 95 too!

Seven Weeks Ago I Drove Past the Location of the Tucson Shooting

Twenty eight days into 2011 and I don't have a lot to write about. But that's o.k. Funny thing is, I was in the same boat a year ago with this post "Training Without Any Goals in Mind."

Call it my new year's lull. Or just recuperating from my late fall marathons. But really what it comes down to is...running is not high on my list right now. I went through the same thing a year ago.

I was about to write about other stuff when it dawned on me, I wonder exactly where the horrific Tucson Shooting took place on January 8th. It certainly was on my mind the fact that I happened to be in Tucson last December to run the Tucson Marathon but I had not taken the time to actually look at the location of the cowardly attack.

The Safeway supermarket is located at the corner of Ina Road and Oracle Road. To get to my hotel, I drove west on Ina Road and made northbound turn on Oracle Road. So tonight, to my surprise, I discovered that on Saturday, December 11th, I literally drove past the fateful location of the Tucson Shooting, exactly 4 weeks prior to the date of the attack.

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I also drove past that same location, southbound on Oracle Road, after the marathon on December 12th.

This attack sickened me as I'm sure it did all of you. Very, very sad. Let's hope that Gabrielle Giffords continues her recovery. Yet another reminder that any of us could be at the wrong place at the wrong time. And a reason to pursue everything that you want and can in life and to not hesitate in so doing.

Over 16 Years Ago I Ran My First Marathon!

Los Angeles Marathon IV Finishers Medal from March 6, 1994My 7 year old brought home a huge trophy for his Pony League baseball him it makes no difference if the team wins or loses, or how many hits he, to him, its all about having fun and all the "stuff" that he gets, least of which is the humongous, oversized trophy that all the kids receive at the end of the year. He just loves that trophy and the fact that it is bigger than his soccer trophy. He's proud.

So then I had the problem of appeasing my 4 year old, who doesn't have a nice big trophy like that (yet). He wanted something too. My quick thinking led me to the Mizuno shoebox in the garage that has become a repository for 16 years of race medals.  There must be over 200 medals in that box, with the ribbons all tangled.

Most of the medals I could easily part with, but I became possessive of my marathon medals. They have a different meaning than the local 5K/10K races.  I can go out and run a 5K anytime. But a marathon, run at a decent pace, takes months and months of dedication, persistence and grit. Running the marathon means sacrifice. It means getting out of bed at 5 a.m. to run for 3 hours while everyone else is sleeping in. It means braving the heat, leaving parties early, passing on the salsa the night before the run. It means hard work and focus!

All...for the glory of...running 26.2 miles...and a finisher medal.

My 4 year old seemed to intuitively understand this. I told him that some of the medals were "extra special" to me and I wanted to put those in a special box (or in my case shove them in a different drawer). He was amenable to that and got his medal fix with other medals.

So I was looking through the 25 or so marathon medals I've collected and most of them brought back distinct memories. (A handful of marathons I ran as "training runs" and interestingly I have very little recollection of those marathons.)

My very first marathon was the 9th Los Angeles Marathon on March 6, 1994. It was a wet day and I hadn't really trained in rain. In fact, I remember the day before wondering, what type of clothes should I wear in the rain. This first marathon was a surreal experience. After finishing 17 minutes faster than my expectation (I ran a 3:03), I was jubilant, yet, like the other finishers, the celebration was muted because of the rain pouring down on us.  I was sorer then hell for the next week and I already knew another marathon was in my future. I was hooked.

That 1994 L.A. Marathon medal is actually one of my most unique medals. It is the only one made out of glass as you can see from the picture. What a great memory that medal brings. It deserves a better home than a Mizuno shoe box in the garage.

So today I was determined to run for 2 hours. Two weeks ago I ran 1 hour, 39 minutes and a week ago 1 hour, 47 minutes (my 2 longest runs of the year). Without much fanfare I came in at 1 hour, 54 minutes, approximately 15 miles.  I ran a loop course and decided I didn't need to go out of my way for an extra 6 minutes.

3 weekends, 3 progressively longest runs of the year. I'm on track with my training.  Just have to keep dodging injuries as best I can.

Next weekend I'd be better off doing a tempo run or finding a local race to get some speed into my legs. We shall see.

Singapore Marathon Here I Come...I Think!

A few months ago a close friend who grew up in Glendale but has lived in the Far East for a number of years asked me about how I trained for a marathon. That prompted me to write this summary "26.2 Training Tips For Your First Marathon." But he hadn't committed to a particular marathon at that point.

David and I are both in our mid 40s and he never really ran, though in recent years he took up cycling and started committing himself to the sport, waking up at 4 a.m. for long rides, shedding pounds, etc. Reminded me of ME in 1993 when I started running.

So I blurted in my reply email to David that if he commits (notice that word is a recurring theme), then I'll join him.  What the heck. Would be fun to support him in his first marathon while finding motivation to run it too.

Two weeks ago he emails me his registration form to the Singapore Marathon on December 5th. Discount early bird pricing if registered by June 4th. After obtaining spousal approval, without much more thinking...I SIGNED UP!

Here we are just 2 weeks later and race organizers say the marathon is completely full. Whew, glad I made the decision to sign up quickly!

I'm now signed up. But now I have to do the REAL work...TRAIN. I've been running at a base level of 30 to 35 miles per week this year. So today I went out for a 1 1/4 hour run and felt good...though my left knee problem is still there. Hmm, I'll have to work on that.

All for now....

I Had a Damn Good Run Tonight!

Tonight I had a damn good run. One of those rare runs when I had absolutely NOTHING to complain about.

Because of my own bad habits, my morning runs have generally been miserable. I don't get to sleep until 1 a.m. and when I wake up at 6:30 a.m. I'm cranky and just not enjoying my morning runs.

Tonight I felt peppy and perky. The air temperature was 57 degrees, no wind. My legs felt light.  I smiled when I ran. I ran alone. There were very few cars and people on the road. I could have run all night.

There was a spring in my step tonight. Maybe because Spring began 4 days ago. Or perhaps because my body seems to finally be adjusting to the Daylight Saving Time 1 hour "spring forward" 10 days ago.

I enjoyed the smells in the air. I could smell jasmine all around. It was great. I thoroughly appreciated the absence of wood burning fireplace smoke that clog my lungs and make me cough and wheeze during winter nighttime runs. Heck, not a single lighted cigarette was apparent tonight. That made me happy.

Why were there no cars on the roads tonight? I was alone and loving it. No speeding race cars on the roads. No worries. It was a peaceful, easy feeling tonight (to quote one of my favorite Eagles songs).  Perhaps American Idol kept people in their houses this wonderful Wednesday night.

Tonight was a night when my running felt so effortless that I pondered what should be my next big race to train for. It has been 3 1/2 months since my last race, the Santa Barbara Marathon. I had intended to run the Great Race of Agoura half marathon this coming Saturday but family plans prevent that.

Yes, I will be looking for my next race now. My body feels good, rested and ready for the challenge of gearing up again for competition. I've been doing an easy 30 miles per week, so its not like I've been sitting around eating bon bons or something.

It is nights like this that keep me motivated, after 17 years of running, to train.

It is nights like this that I'm reminded that running is not only great exercise, but enjoyable. I've been in kind of a running "rut" for 3 months. But...I'll be back. Soon.

Running Has Been the Constant in My Life for 15 Years

Ever since Cinco de Mayo 1993, the second most constant, recurring activity in my life has been running.  The only other more consistent activity I can think of is my habit of brushing my teeth and using Listerine 2 times per day and flossing every night.

Yes, I started running on May 5, 1993 and diligently started tracking the number of miles I ran each day on an Excel spreadsheet.  This same spreadsheet is now over 6,000 rows long as I continue to add to it.

This spreadsheet is nothing too fancy.  Basically started out by jotting down how many miles, rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile, I ran each day. There is a column showing cumulative year-to-date mileage and later I added columns to show 7 and 10 day rolling average.  There is also a cumulative mileage column along the lines of the odometer on my car.

In late 1998 I started thinking, wouldn't it be interesting to see how much of my life is spent running each year. So I started tracking the number of minutes run each day along with the mileage.  Eventually I stopped tracking mileage on a "precise" basis (e.g. driving the course to get an exact tally or wear a device that measures mileage like the Nike+ iPod chip that I quickly grew tired of) and started estimating mileage based on time run and running effort.

The next year, 1999, was my personal record for most mileage run in one year: 3,645 miles. It took me 28,809 minutes, or about 480 hours, not including stretching and showers, to run those miles.  I ran a decent 2 hour, 36 minute marathon that year, one minute off my personal best time. That's the last time I ran under 2 hours, 40 minutes in a marathon.

But I 'm not so sad.  I had a good string of marathons from 1996 to 1999 (6 sub-2:40 performances). While injuries, aging and life has prevented such performance since then, I have not stopped running.

Through thick and thin, girlfriends, breakups, marriage, kids, job changes, good times, bad times, happy times, stressful times, sadness, frustration and everything else life threw at me, I've continued running.

I write this literally at 1:20 am on a Thursday night.  It was 11 pm when I started, but my 4 year old apparently has the stomach flu and I've alternated between keyboard and changing sheets. But I still plan to drag my lifeless body out of bed at 6:30 am to do my daily run.

Running keeps me sane and whole.  Without running, I wouldn't feel good. Even when I don't feel good, I go out there and run. Running is "me" time, time that no one can take away. Running is my rock. My good friend that I can turn to when I need to clear my head.

Today is Tuesday, Marathon is Sunday

Last week I ran 37 miles in my 2nd to last week prior to the Santa Barbara Marathon.  My longest run was 7.5 miles on Saturday run at a pretty solid marathon pace.

There's not much I can do at this point other than rest up for the marathon.  With 5 days left before the marathon, no training I do will help, it can only hurt.  Though running 3 or 4 miles a day at race pace wouldn't be a bad thing.

The best thing I could do for myself is get to bed earlier and sleep more.  But, truth be told, I'm actually typing this at midnight on Tuesday. So I ain't doing myself any favors at the moment.  But my thoughts start to solidify late at night.

I'm excited about this weekend.  Not so much about running the up and down training will preclude me from running at my can't fool your body in the marathon I know well.  I'm looking forward to spending Saturday night in solitude. 

Yes, my wife and kid will not be joining me for the marathon experience this weekend.  This does kind of bum me out that my wife does not want to join me and bring the kids up for the fun.  But I understand her decision, as she is not particularly interested in a weekend centered around my running.

It would certainly be motivational knowing that my young boys are at the finish line to cheer me on.  But perhaps another time.

So on one hand I'll enjoy time by myself, but on the other hand I'll miss not being able to share the experience with my family.

But ya know what, I'll have plenty of friends up there with me in the same boat.  I've run in solitude nearly all of the miles I've trained over the last 33 weeks.  Marathoning is an individual sport. 

Wish me luck!  All I want to do is finish at a respectable time, uninjured! :>

29 Weeks of Training, 3 Weeks of Tapering

Yesterday I ran 20 miles with a buddy, my first 20 miler for 9 weeks, and my last 20 miler until the Santa Barbara Marathon on December 6th assuming all goes well.

Last week was my 29th week of training for the marathon and I manaqed 54 miles.  Over those 29 weeks, I've managed to run 1,219 miles and an average of 42 miles per week. My low point was 16 miles (the week I got the swine flu) and my high point was 2 consecutive 57 mile weeks with 2 consecutive 20 milers.

While I didn't achieve my peak mileage goal of 60 miles per week, I'm happy because I'm not injured!!  Training has had peaks and valleys but overall I KNOW I can finish the marathon without a problem.  While I won't be anywhere close to my 2 hour, 35 minute PR, I'll be happy to finish in the 3 hour, 3 minute (7 minutes per mile) range.

I've been pessimistic about my training of late due to constant, recurring setbacks.  Back problems, knee problems, swine flu, colds, smoke in the air, heat, more back problems, tiredness, you name it.  I'm not one to not speak my mind.

But I'm also a stickler for documenting my daily training, which gives me the opportunity after 29 weeks to see the big picture.  While my mind wreaks havoc on my psyche by telling me my training has sucked for 2 months, I look back at the stats and see, heck, I may not be training for a marathon record, but I've done some homework!

What surprised me the most is that my average weekly mileage over 29 weeks was 42.  I was surprised by that because all I think about is the 16.5 mile swine flu week and the 25 mile vacation cruise week and how much fitness I must have lost.  But not only did I run an average of 42 per week, I actually ran 16 or more miles 7 times over 7 months, including 5 18+ milers.

So I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  I may not win my age group in the Santa Barbara Marathon. But heck, I've done a lot of training and by golly, I'm gonna have some fun!

Marathons for most of us are an individual fitness test.  We're not competing against the other runners present that day. We set our own goals and work towards them.  For the majority, the goal is to finish.  For others, it is to achieve a particular time or personal record.

My goal for this marathon is to finish at or near 3 hours.  I don't expect to be the fastest 45 year old at the race.  I just want to have some fun with it.

Long Runs are Better When You're Not Alone

Today marked the end of my "real" training for the Santa Barbara Marathon.  The event is on December 6th, 3 weeks away, but for all intents and purposes my training is done.  Time for a 3 week tapering off period as I rest my body up for the race. 

Today's long fun of roughly 20 miles took me from the Starbucks on Reino Road to Pacific Coast Highway via Sycamore Canyon.  I've been training for the marathon for 29 weeks now and believe it or not, today was the first time in those 7 months that I did a training run with another human being!

My good friend Dave is 56 years old and one of the top age group distance runners in Southern California.  He is tougher than nails and an inspiration.  Dave has done nearly 50 marathons through the years with an average, not best, but AVERAGE time of 2 hours, 52 minutes, an unbelievably outstanding statistic.  Dave is a rock.

You would not know Dave is 56 by looking at him. Dave and I used to run together all the time as we both live locally here in the Conejo Valley. But six years ago with the addition of kids into my life, my training took a nosedive and I opted to train on my own.  But we still talk all the time.

Just so happens that Dave also signed up for the Santa Barbara Marathon because he wanted to be part of this inaugural event (race director Rusty Snow recently indicated there are over 2,000 marathon entrants, which is outstanding). 

In recent months, Dave developed a case of plantar fasciitis, a condition where the bottom of the foot/heel becomes irritated and swolen.  It often takes months and months to gain relief from the problem.  That didn't get Dave down.  He is DEDICATED and took to pool running, diligently straping a floatation device to himself and running in the pool for an hour at a time.  (I could never do this unless perhaps a TV could be floating in the pool in front of me.)

So after months of pool running and a month until the marathon, Dave started back on the roads again. He asked me if I wanted to run long with him today in preparation for the marathon and I said SURE!

So we started off from Starbucks at 6:30 am.  It was windy and cold so we both wore an extra layer.  Within a mile I took my layer off as the wind didn't seem that cold. Dave followed suit a mile later.  About half the course is paved, from Starbucks up Reino Road, turning right on Potero Road, then left onto Big Sycamore Canyon Road, which winds its way down Sycamore Canyon towards the beach.

Dave and I both chatty types, which is a nice trait to have on a long run.  We hadn't run together for a while so we had lots to talk about.  It certainly make the run go a lot more quickly when you run with a buddy!  I've done the run myself many a time and while I always enjoyed it, it was a lot more fun today. 

We resolved NOT to run too hard or fast as we both are coming off injuries and illnesses that have hampered our training.  All we wanted to do today was run a nice, slow, easy 20 miles and we accomplished that goal.  At times we had to remind each other to slow down. 

We found the temperature to be quite bipolar running down Sycamore.  We both wore gloves and I took mine off 3 miles into the run.  But every mile or so we would hit a real cold patch, only to find a warm sauna-ish stretch moments later.  It was kind of bizarre how quickly and extreme the temp changes were in the canyon.  Towards the bottom of Sycamore Canyon, 2-3 miles from the ocean, it stayed pretty cool, to the point I had to put my gloves back on.

Dave and I have an understanding that when one of us needs to stop (restroom, water stop, etc.), we stick together.  I'm a Type A that has to continue movement, running circles, as Dave does his thing.  Dave is more low key and has no problem stopping to stretch in the middle of a run.  We've run together enough to know each other's style and work with it. No need for explanation.

So on the return trip we made our way up the tough 800 foot climb and at the top knew that we were on the final leg of our latest marathon journey.  Two more miles to Starbucks and we paced ourselves in, congratulating each other on getting it done.

In our "younger" days we'd hang out for a bit at Starbucks and savor the camaraderie. Today we both had to quickly drive off for family activities. I sat in my seat and attempted to lift my left leg to take the emergency brake off.  Damn was that tough.  I hard to literally pull my leg upward with my hands.  Those darn hamstrings were sore, but in a good way.

Thanks Dave. You helped me through my first 20 miler for 9 weeks. You're a good man and a good friend.  And a damn good runner.