Trying to fit in my daily run is a little challenging, so I have started to run to places I need to go.  I think it is called run-commuting, but that sounds boring and stupid and running to places I need to go is neither boring nor stupid (to me).  I ran to In-N-Out Burger on Saturday.  The kids really wanted to go and my wife craved junk food and In-N-Out is about as good and fresh as junk food gets.  So, I ran there.  It was about six miles and I thoroughly enjoyed the Double Double with cheese and grilled onions (best hamburger ever), fries and a Dr. Pepper.  I also found a new trail on the way that helps me circumvent some of the tract housing between my house and the ubermall where In-N-Out is located (along with Best Buy, Lowes, and I'm not sure but I'll bet anyone $10,000 that there is a Starbucks there as well).

I work from an office attached to my house, so I don't really work from home; I have an office like a grown-up and my office has it's own shower and entry and lock, but the door has a big window in the middle of it, so if my kids want in they just smear their various germs and stickiness all over the window until I let them in.  I have to clean the window every few weeks once it starts to look like a car windshield after a cross-country road trip.  I love my office, but it does get small and I get tired of staring at the computer screen all day, so I am lucky that I have a trail right outside my door.

There is a route that goes down to my mom's house (she lives over the hill a few miles away), so yesterday when I had to drop something off at her house, I threw my trail shoes on and ran. It was quiet on the trail and I was kind of lost in my own thoughts, and not really noticing what was around me.  This happens when I run, and I usually like it because it makes  everything speed up and it makes the miles pass quickly, but on the other side of that, it is also nice to be completely present and aware of what is going on around you.  I like to focus on the sound of my shoes hitting the dirt and trying to make it as quiet as possible, I like to listen to my breath and feel my arms and legs moving as I climb a hill, or feel the out of control, controlled falling as I run downhill and watch the trail in front of me, plotting a course around the rocks and ruts.  Yesterday I wasn't doing any of this, I realized that I had been running for a couple of miles and hadn't noticed anything around me, so I just stopped and listened and it was quiet, no cars, no kids, just nothing, and nothing is a beautiful sound.  There were two hawks circling close above my head and I must have disturbed them because they were just gliding and circling above me and some telephone wires where they were probably sitting because I have seen one there before.  I just watched them fly and glide away without moving, or seeming to breathe; just still and soaring.

Old Guys Rule (except when they are crushing your soul into bite-sized pieces)

I love running with other people, especially people that are faster than I am and can push me a little harder than I would go if I was just running by myself.  I woke up yesterday with clear sinuses and to celebrate, I decided to go run one of my favorite trails in San Diego, the San Elijo Lagoon trail.  After watching the sunrise, I sent an email to my running friends to see if anyone wanted to join me in a few hours for a nice, easy trail run.  Jeff responded almost immediately that he was going to run that same trail today and would join me.  Jeff is great to run with; he has all kinds of stories and running knowledge.  He's fast, too.  He runs a 1:20 half marathon and usually places in the 46-50 age group, so it's good running with him; he always pushes me and talks the whole way as I gasp for breath and try to find some way to keep up.  Yesterday was no exception.  He shows up with an "Old Guys Rule" t-shirt and board shorts and later in the run I decided he chose said ensemble just to taunt me as I spent about 45 minutes staring at the back of it.  He shows up and says we can run easy or hard and I told him I preferred easy, so he sets out at about a 7 min./mile pace and gets faster after he warms up.  The great thing about running with Jeff is that I tell him that I don't want to hold him back and he can take off if he wants, so he speeds up a little bit, but he keeps talking, so you really only have two choices, either to speed up and continue the one-sided conversation punctuated by the occasional grunt on my part, or to slow down and rudely cut off the conversation, and if nothing else, I am polite, so I suffered through the 6 1/2 miler and hopefully I am better for it.

So, this morning I woke up and decided to reward myself with an easier solo run, something short and slow, because I like to have a few easy days after a hard day and yesterday was definitely a hard day.  I woke up and was surprised because there were some clouds in the sky and there was some wind, the ground was actually holding some moisture from the night before, and it was cold.  I love running in tough conditions, especially wet, windy, cold days.  I haven't run in snow yet, so I don't know if I would like that, but I am doing the Slowtwitch 100/100 challenge and I have felt like quite a wimp, because although I have not skipped a day in the challenge, the conditions I have dealt with have been near-perfect and I read the posts of others around the country who are also doing the challenge, and doing it in much harder conditions, so today I was going to go out, put on my wool socks and beanie, break out a long-sleeve shirt and really suffer in the sub-50 degree winter.  I didn't grow this winter running beard for nothing.

Last week's weather - I don't know what everyone is complaining about; winter is awesome.

I headed out the door and the wind was pretty strong, but I felt good and hit one of my favorite little trails, and even though I wore a long-sleeve running shirt, it was a little thin and I felt cold.  Sweet, I am strong and I will suffer.  Unfortunately at around 2 miles into the run, the sun broke through, the temps shot up and I started to overheat.  Curse you, sun, I even had to take off my beanie.

This is what it looks like when the temperature drops to the 50s in North County San Diego:

My wool socks - jealous?

Beanie and winter growth.

My wife and what she wears when we drop below 60 (yes, her hands are resting on a 20 lb. roast and yes, the butcher gave her a 50% hotness discount).


Being a macho alpha-male, I am forced to watch shows like "Glee" and "So You Think You Can Dance" to keep my testosterone levels in check.  In fact, just in case I miss them, I have them on Tivo so I can quickly dial them up if I get the urge to eat some raw meat or run naked with the coyotes that keep snatching the local cats.

So I was watching SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Get Away With Telling Your Friends You Only Watch This Because Your Wife and Daughter Are Into It), and they conclude the finale with J-Lo singing a song called "Louboutins," and I had a bunch of questions for my wife like, "what are Louboutins?" and "what is this triathlete doing in a giant shoe?" and "please don't change it because she might fall again."  The last one wasn't really a question, more of a desire and the sole reason I will sit through Olympic ice skating or gymnastics.

My wife explains that Louboutins are shoes and they are red on the bottom and cost more than I could spend on a used car that actually runs.  So I ranted.  Stuff like this is really stupid.  And, can you believe how stupid this song is.  And, stupid people must be watching this show.  And, really, really?  But, then I realized that I was being overly critical because I, too, am slightly obsessed with shoes.

I have been running in Adidas Adizero XT trail shoes, but they recently changed their design which is what shoe companies do in the name of innovation and profits.  I used to run in New Balance 790s, but they discontinued these about a year ago.  The 790s felt like slippers, they were so lightweight and comfortable, but I guess they weren't for everyone because they didn't offer any support, but I never had a problem with this.  I loved the New Balance 790s and still have a few old pairs that I wear around, but the traction is nearly gone, so they are a little too slippery on the trails.  New Balance just introduced a new ultra-lightweight trail runner, the New Balance 100, which weighs in at a whopping 290 grams and feels a lot like the old 790s.  Supposedly, this guy helped develop the 100s, and he knows a few things about running long.  I ordered them online and looked forward to trying them out.  I have been a little obsessed with these new shoes, tracking the package daily on UPS, and when they arrived yesterday I opened the package, took a deep breath in of shoe rubber and told everyone to hold them and feel how light they were.  My son loved them because he loves orange and they are orange for now.  I almost felt like finding a giant version of the New Balance 100s, climbing on top of them and belting out a vapid pop song in their honor.

I always love starting a run in new trail shoes and today was a perfect day for the trails.  A little chilly, but sunny and I was running with a couple of trail-running friends and a beautiful dog who loves the hills  We ran the trails around the La Costa Preserve.  It starts with a nice, long and steep climb that peaks with an amazing 360 degree view of North County San Diego.  It was a clear day and we could see snow-covered mountains to the East and San Clemente Island to the West.  At the top we ran into a guy driving golf balls off the cliff and another weathered hiker who pointed out all the local peaks and their elevations.  The shoes were perfect for the distance and gripped the rocky trails.  The only problem with them is that there is a rubber collar-type piece that goes around the ankle and rubbed my Achilles tendon raw because my socks weren't long enough.  But, it's fashion, and pain is all a part of looking fabulous.


I didn't feel like running today.  I was congested, had a sinus headache, it was hot and dry (whaaaaaaa, it's hot and beautiful in December, whaaaaaa), and the pizza and beer from last night hadn't settled quite right.  Today would be a good day to take the day off, but I entered this challenge and I (probably stupidly) wanted to get at least a 4 miler in, so I told the neighborhood gaggle of 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders I would walk them to school, and afterwards I planned to hit the trails around my house.

This isn't one of those runs were I start out feeling like crap and all of a sudden I am flying over the trails, getting a nice runner's high and marveling at the beauty of nature and the mindful process of putting one foot in front of the other.  No, not today, today was the type of run where I started off feeling like crap and I finished feeling like crap, but some days are like that, and it's okay to feel like crap.

I am logging my training now, for the first time ever, and that probably isn't a good thing, because I would have taken the day off today if I wasn't logging my training, but I am, so there is this little box that asks me for the intensity of the run and I gave today's a 6.  For future reference, this is a 6.

My left hip hurt when I started and my sinuses started to drain, so I had to execute multiple snot rockets.  I have perfected the snot rocket on my right nostril, so I executed a few blows on the right, these were the platonic ideal of the snot rocket and if you ever need to do this, and you will if you run, bike or hike, here is how to do it.  Close the other nostril with a finger, turn your head in the direction of the nostril you are about to evacuate and blow, hard, just once.  Sounds simple, but it takes some practice to get the right angle and force.  You should be left clean and breathing clearly.  I am great on the right, as I said.  On the left, I completely fail and usually end up with some snot hanging from my cheek, or in today's case, my beard and clothing.  The worst part about a poorly executed snot rocket is that you don't really have any clue where it landed, so you have to do the check with your hand and you basically end up smearing it all over anyway, so when the cute jogger passes you, does a double-take and smiles, it's safest to assume she is laughing at you, not with you.  In fact, it's usually safe to assume they are laughing at you.

I got a few miles in and my legs hadn't woken up yet and I felt slow going up the hills, which I usually power lightly up, like some animal that powers lightly up hills.  I was shuffling and trying to just stay in the moment.  I went on a night run a couple of nights ago on a trail that I wasn't too familiar with and I wore a headlamp that illuminated the trail about ten feet in front of me.  This was a good run - I was forced to be mindful of exactly where I was putting my feet, and I would hit inclines and I wouldn't be able to see the peak, so I wouldn't worry about it.  This is ideal running for me, in the moment, mindful, and focused.  Today wasn't really like that, even on the smallest hill, I was looking for the peak, and really, there never is a peak, just a series of ups and downs and a philosopher better than me could probably come up with some important parallels out of this thought, but you know what, it's pretty obvious.

The reason I can't do a great snot rocket with my left nostril (and it's not really the nostril at all, a proper snot rocket is from deep down in the sinuses), is because I broke my nose in 7th grade trying to get my money back from a bully and you know how all the TV shows tell you to stand up to bullies and the movies always show the bully backing down, well that's not exactly how it goes down.  I stood up to the bully, he told me if I wanted my money I could come with him outside and get it, and all the movies and after-school specials were flowing through my head, so I said what the hell and went outside, he pushed me and I pushed him back and he punched me in the nose and I had a double-cupped handful of blood and a broken nose, but it didn't hurt.  The surgery hurt and the recovery hurt and the plaster face-mask hurt my pride, but the punch didn't hurt.  So, now I can't blow a proper snot rocket my left side and there is a little bump on the bridge of my nose, not big enough to be a boxer tough-guy distinguishing characteristic, just big enough that I notice a bump and I can't do a proper snot rocket from the left side.

So, yeah, there are no peaks, but today there were several, and when I finished I was going to make a banana shake, and I love my post-workout banana shakes.

The perfect post-workout banana shake

1 over-ripe banana
cupful of ice
2 cups milk
2 heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter
squirt of agave nectar
spoonful of Hershey's unsweetened cocoa

Mix it all in a blender and enjoy.

But I couldn't enjoy because someone ate the last over-ripe banana, and the banana holds it all together, so when I made it without the banana and put it in the handheld blender, it sprayed all over me and the counter.

So, for future reference when I try to quantify the intensity of my run, today's was a 6.

Miwok 100K

"Smile, breathe and go slowly" - Thich Nhat Hanh

I entered the lottery for the Miwok 100K trail race and I just found out I am in.  100K is 62.2 miles and if I did the calculations beforehand I probably wouldn't have entered.  I paced at this run last year for my friend and ultra-runner Jeremy Scarbrough.

The course starts near Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and runs through the Muir Woods and Marin Headlands.  There is a total altitude gain of about 10,000 feet.  From the parts I saw last year, it is a gorgeous course and should be a beautiful run.  Last year's race was cold, rainy and windy and it was supposedly one of the worst conditions that the race has seen, so hopefully we are due for some mild weather this year.

To train for this run, I have enrolled in the Slowtwitch challenge of running 100 times in 100 days.  I figure this will give me a good base to build on and I will be able to add some long back to back runs in the months leading up to Miwok.  I have never run this far, and I hope I will finish with a smile on my face.

altitude profile

Ironman Cozumel

I don't like to linger on the past, and  I usually have to sign up for an event past the current event I am training for to not stress too much about the current event.  It's a coping mechanism and I'm sure I could work it all out in therapy, but who has the time for that?

What I remember most about the Ironman is the training leading up to it.  I did a number of 100+ mile solo bike rides to get stronger on the bike.  Most of these rides were solo and I tried to pick routes without too much traffic, so I could zone out.  I kept my running volume down to about 30 miles/week and most of this was done in conjunction with other workouts, so it didn't feel like I was running very much.  I did spend a lot of time in the pool and I think that helped on race day.

This was the inaugural Ironman in Cozumel and I worried that it would be a cluster because it was their first IM and my first IM, but everything was smooth.  The organizers did a great job of organizing the pre and post-event  meetings and logistics.

My wife and 8-year old daughter accompanied me to Cozumel.  When we arrived in Cancun, the winds were howling and on the ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, the swell was making everyone sick, including my daughter, who held it in until we docked in Cozumel and were trying to get off the close, but at least there were handy garbage cans every few aisles.

Race morning was beautiful, a little overcast and windy, but the swell had died down completely for the swim.  I jumped in the crystal-clear water and had to hold on to an overhanging sign on the dock to avoid getting swept back.  The current was crazy, but I followed the advice from some locals and swam close to the shore.  We swam over the reef and I did see some marine life, but I think the 2,000 swimmers scared most of it away.  I found someone with a similar pace and stuck to their feet.  I didn't notice much of a head-current, but when we headed back the other direction, I noticed a very strong current that helped me to a fast (for me) swim.  I came in at 59 minutes, which was much faster than I anticipated, and I got out of the water feeling great.

The bike was flat, desolate and windy for the most part.  There was a small section in town that was a little technical and the crowds made it a lot of fun.  There was quite a headwind on the bike and I was going much slower than I had in previous races and training.  At certain points of the race I was leaning into the wind to avoid getting pushed off the road.  It was a 3-loop course which made it mentally tough knowing that I would have to struggle through the difficult sections multiple times.  I came in at 6:06, which was slower than I planned on, but I was happy with the time considering the conditions.

The run was the struggle.  I love running and I consider it my strength out of the 3 sports, but I have realized that triathlon running is a different beast.  There wasn't much I could do to prepare myself for a marathon run after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike.  You can't train that type of distance.  I tried to take it really slow, hoping to run a 4 hour marathon.  I was on pace through about eight miles, and that is when the self-negotiations came in.  First, I decided to walk the aid stations, then I would walk a few meters beyond the aid stations, then I decided to walk the aid stations and take a walk break after every five minutes of running.  The run was flat, concrete, three out and back loops, and humid.  My ideal conditions are hilly, trail, and dry, so it wasn't the perfect match, but I struggled through it.  The crowd support in the town of Cozumel was amazing.  Hotel workers, families, policemen, shopkeepers, and vacationers lined the streets and cheered us on.  It did help quite a bit because you can't walk when some policeman is telling you to get moving.  I completed the run in 4:33.  Not as fast as I had planned, but it was a definite learning experience for the next one.

It was great having my wife and daughter on the course.  I am not going to lie and say I was stone-faced at the finish and it was no big deal.  It was a humbling experience to complete an Ironman and when I finished, I didn't think about the day and the accomplishment, I thought about the months and hours of training and my family's sacrifice and the seemingly endless laps in the pool and the self-doubt after completing a long ride and not really being able to walk, let alone run, afterwards, and the times I felt like throwing up all of the sportsenergyhoneysugarygucliffcrap that I had to take in just to remain coherent.  I definitely want to do another one, but it will be a couple of years and I think I will choose something a little closer to home.  Right now, I am enjoying the trails again.

Resting the legs.

Finally, I can call myself an "atlhete."

My beautiful girl.

Still smiling, but it was early in the run.

This is what tired looks like.

The caffeine finally kicked in (2 hrs after the finish).

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