Hummingbird Update

I'm emotionally invested now. Every time I look out my office window, the hummingbird is in its nest. She is sitting there now as I type this.

I've always liked nests. I think it stems back to when I was seven years old, living in Spokane, Washington. We came home from church one Sunday in May at around 1 PM and it seemed to be snowing, then everything went dark. Mt. Saint Helens had erupted and my brother and sister and I watched as my dad took a sheet outside to drape the pine tree in our front yard. There was a nest in the tree and the eggs had recently hatched. I remember being scared for the baby birds, and a little for my dad too.

I went outside to take a picture of my hummingbird today and it wouldn't move. The nest is hard to find, camouflaged in the leaves of the tree. I was surprised that she wasn't scared off. My wife thought it was protecting an egg. I waited until the bird flew away and looked into the nest. My wife was right. Hummingbirds sit on their eggs for 2-3 weeks for 50 to 55 minutes out of every hour until their eggs hatch, so I will be watching her for the next couple of weeks as she waits. Our kids are loud, constantly slamming doors and running around the front yard. The hummingbird could have picked a safer and quieter place for her nest, carefully built of spider webs and parts of plants, but I'm glad she didn't.

I ran today, twice. I also took a short hike with my son who pointed out wild fennel and sage. We picked some and crushed it between our fingers. The smell has followed me all day.

My Shoe Review

I just received my 2nd pair of Saucony Kinvaras in the mail. I love running in them, and heard Saucony might be making some changes, so I bought a second pair.

My review: they work for me, but they might not work for you. This could probably be the review of every running shoe ever made, but that wouldn't sell many magazines.

Dirty shoes stay outside
This is unrelated, but a hummingbird is building its nest in a tree outside of my office window. I've never seen a hummingbird nest before. It's about the diameter of a nickel, and there is no way I would have noticed it. My wife pointed it out to me; she's good at noticing stuff like that. The hummingbird is sitting in its nest right now, and I hope it stays for awhile.

Huntington Beach to Coronado -- The Ragnar Relay Report

It was my turn. The van pulled in at the Solana Beach train station. I hadn't slept all night. 5 men and 1 woman in a small Ford Flex van stuffed with enough gear and food to get us through the 24 hours it would take to finish Ragnar. This was my third leg, from Solana Beach to Del Mar, and I felt sick from the lack of sleep and the potent mixture of Gu, energy bars, and Gatorade doing turns in my stomach.

I went to the port-a-pottie to get rid of some of the nervousness, which is about the most delicate way I can put it. I opened the door and this stench hit me in the face, a big smeary pile of shit right there on top of the seat (not quite as delicate). I dry heaved, trying to hold the small amount of nutrition in my stomach, dry heaving again, tasting the bile, but thankfully keeping it down. It was my turn.

The first leg was one of the worst runs of my life, starting at Angel Stadium and running along the San Gabriel River bike path. There might have been a river here at one point, but all I could see was a concrete canal, the one featured in several movies, Grease in particular, drag racing up the sides, no cars down there now, just concrete reflecting the 95 degree heat onto my sweat-soaked face.

Oh, the beauty
The second leg was one of the best runs of my life, starting at midnight on a cool and clear night, a welcome change from the heat of the day, running through downtown Temecula as the bars were emptying, blasting music through the streets as I dodged weaving happy couples on the sidewalk. It was flat and fast, and instead of feeling tired from the previous leg, I felt fresh, opening up the stride and pushing my limit, averaging 6:45 pace for this 5 mile leg.

We tried to sleep through the night, but the cramped conditions in the third row of the Ford Flex, a row put in as an afterthought, easily folded for storage, possibly comfortable for a baby with abnormally short legs. Chris, the team leader knocked on the door at 5 AM, it was time for Jess, our first runner to run his last leg through Carlsbad and Encinitas. I slowly got out of the van with cramping leg muscles and a turning stomach.

I started sick, tired, but relieved I didn't lose it in the port-a-pottie, and as soon as I warmed up, about 5 minutes into my third leg, I felt great, the sickness gone, the tiredness gone, just running, trying to push hard to keep the pace at 7 minute miles, our agreed upon group pace.

I handed off to Chris at the top of the hill on the cruelly named Long Run Rd. I was finished with my last leg, but we still had eight more runners to go on the last stretch to Coronado Island.

I didn't really know what to expect or what I was getting into when I joined the relay team. It sounded easy, my three legs were all around 5 miles, but it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Three 10K efforts in the span of 24 hours took a lot out of me, but it turned out to be a great time. Running is such an individual sport in so many ways, and that is one of the reasons I love it; success or failure is determined by the individual. However, for this team relay, it was exciting to be part of a group and celebrate our successes together. I pushed a little harder because there were other people involved and we had a group goal. We cheered each other on through the night, stopping every couple miles to wait for the runner to catch up to the van, encouraging them and offering support. Sketcher's sponsored our team, and they did a great job of organizing, and handling some of the logistical challenges of a 205 mile race through the streets of Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties. I met some great runners, and we had some very talented people on our team. We took second place overall (out of over 400 teams), and first in the male open division. Most importantly, I think we took first place with the stack of empty red cups on our table in the beer gardens at the finish. That is the true honor.

A Fast Run and a Slow Walk

I ran along Lake Hodges on Saturday, 16 miles along the edge, a great run. It started cold and sunny, with a thin layer of fog. We separated into pace groups, about twenty of us previewing the Painted Rocks Half Marathon course. My workout was set at 16 miles, progressing from a warm-up of 6 miles to 4 faster, then 2 even faster, then 4 easy.

It turned out to be a natural progression, running with Cory, Jess, Chris and Jeff, starting pretty easy along the lake and through muddy trails, the pace felt good, then coming across a downed oak tree, a giant across the muddy single track, working up and through branches, not wanting to risk the poison ivy detour route, scraping my knee, then running again. The group turned around at Hernandez Hideaway, a spot my wife and I went to when we couldn't get into Stone Brewery on a Friday night, so we settled for the Hernandez margaritas. Most of the group turned around. Jeff and I went on, the trail got rockier, and we pushed the pace, up a short hill, pausing to take in the beauty of the lake, and I wasn't able to push the thoughts of Chelsea King out of my head. This is the trail where she was kidnapped, this is the lake where the young girl's body was found. We headed back, pushing the pace, me trying to keep up with Jeff, trying to keep his back in sight, rounding turns, losing sight, breathing hard, crossing that easy aerobic line into searing lungs, holding on for one mile, climbing a ridge, holding on for another half mile, through the mud, then Jeff pulling away, then waiting for me, jogging the last four miles back to the car, and stretching in the sun.

Sunday, I walked slow. We took the kids to one of my favorite places, Quail Gardens in Encinitas, which is now called The San Diego Botanical Gardens, but I'll always know it as Quail.

Quail Gardens
The place will always be special to me. I remember walking there with my wife, 10 years ago, from our tiny one bedroom apartment, a couple blocks from the gardens. She was pregnant with our first, so we walked, slowly along the dirt paths, her pointing out the different types of trees, flowers, cacti, as we talked about the small being growing inside her, and the dreams we had. We sat on benches under giant tree tunnels shading us from the summer.

The place hasn't changed much in 10 years, still the same giant tree tunnels, the beautiful pathways through different ecosystems, although we have changed quite a bit, with three kids now and three sets of dreams.

My son, who was sick the entire week, who we had to drag off the couch because we thought the fresh air would do him good, walked slowly down the path, 5 days worth of flu tearing through his little body, his clothes hanging a little looser, too weak to walk more than about 20 feet without a break. The girls walked ahead, and my son and I walked hand in hand, stopping every time we came upon a bench, he pointing out the different plants, telling me the names of his favorite ones, showing me his favorite statues, sounding like his mom did 10 years before, pointing to Cork Oak, Owl Eyes, and Little Pickles. He knows the paths well from afternoon outings with his mom along the same paths she and I walked ten years ago, past the same giant Oaks, and the same fragile flowers. My son and I held hands and shared in the beauty of the gardens, walking slower than I ever have, and seeing more than I thought I could.


Sometimes it sucks being a parent. Waking up at 4 AM to the sound of a little boy retching at the side of my bed, shaking the cloud of sleep away just in time to watch my wife catch the second bright red expulsion in her hands, me rushing to the closet to grab a towel and catch the third round in my favorite triathlon transition towel, bigger than a hand towel, and smaller than a bath towel, the perfect size for a transition area, also the perfect size to catch the undigested chicken, avocado, tortillas, blackberries, and one stick of a Kit Kat that he brought to me the night before, telling me it was easy to share because there was already a line down the middle where I could break it, sharing his first Kit Kat with me, one stick for me, one stick for him. This all combined to make red, and then just clearyellow bile because there was nothing left, just the small voice in bed next to me saying I think I'm going to be sick again. Looking at my watch each time, 4:00, 4:25, 4:56, a quick shower, 5:13, then turning off my alarm at 5:45. My wife looking over the top of our little boy, finally sleeping, you're not going running are you? Might as well, I'm already up.

All of that sucked, especially for him, but the worst is not being able to take the pain away, just watching, helpless. That is what sucks about being a parent.

The run felt great, cloud covered hills, fog rolling out and the sunrise through the haze. The training is paying off, running through my own sickness. I woke up with a sinus infection, sore throat and my own vomit session on Saturday morning, the morning of the Warrior Dash, my brother Zak's first race, a mud run 5k with some fun obstacles including a mud pit, real barbed wire, a rope ladder, and a fire jump. I ran it with my wife, my brother and my brother in law. The race was the best I felt all day. My wife killed it, coming in 9th out of nearly 300 women in her age group. Zak did great as well, and I hope we have the opportunity to run some more races together.

Not sure if these photos are copyrighted
My shoes came off in the mud pit, so I had to slide them over the timing mat
My wife, car hurdler
Sunday I woke up for a long run. I was supposed to run easy, so I went down to the coast, parked at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, ran past Swami's, then headed inland on one of my favorite trails, the San Elijo Lagoon trail. This trail heads inland for about 4 miles and at the turnaround I noticed a guy getting out of his car wearing a Noble Canyon 50K Bad Rats t-shirt. It was Ricardo, a friend who used to live near me and helped train me for that 50K a couple of years ago. Ricardo is fast, and smart, a great coach who preaches the gospel of efficiency. He recently ran a hilly half marathon in 1:16, a PR at 40 years old, on one run per week. Granted, the guy is gifted, an elite level triathlete who does a ton of swimming and biking, but that's still damn impressive. He credits his performance to core work and efficiency of motion. I love running with Ricardo because he always teaches me something about running. Sunday, it was to focus on tightness, wherever you are feeling it during the run, and to focus on relaxing that area. It's common sense, but I rarely remember to scan for tightness or discomfort, and it was nice to be reminded of this technique.

Yesterday, my sickness turned the corner, and I was able to do a great session on the bike trainer. It consisted of a series of hard, 3 minute, low cadence, big gear intervals with 1 minute recoveries. The fun part was between 3 sets of these intervals I was supposed to jump off the bike and do 30 seconds of crunches, lunges, push-ups, planks, phlegm drainage, and repeat for 3 minutes. Rinse and repeat (actually, there was no rinsing involved). One of the best workouts ever. Sweat puddles on the trainer mat, a damp carpet, two soaked through towels, and clear sinuses.

Volume to 11

Next time I write "time for some hurt," I'll have to remind myself that Lucho reads this blog from time to time. This week, he brought the hurt. I've been too busy running this week to make time to write about running. Today is my second straight day of doubles (running twice a day). Today is 8 miles AM, then 4 miles PM. Tomorrow I'm running The Warrior Dash with my wife and two brothers. Then a long run on Sunday. This should put me over 60 miles for the week.

Whenever I am asked for advice (it's only happened once or twice) -- (that there would be a great Dr. Seuss line) about adding volume, I tell beginning runners not to increase their mileage too quickly, build a solid base and only increase total mileage by about 10% per week. This is the conventional wisdom, but sometimes conventional wisdom needs to be ignored, or at least adjusted.

One of the benefits of having a coach is that I am able to shift the responsibility for what I can and cannot do to them. I know this sounds irresponsible, but really, that is part of what I pay for, to determine my current level of fitness and create appropriate workouts based on that determination.

Every Monday I anxiously await the email detailing my week's workouts, and when this week's came, I was more excited about the challenge than worried about whether I could do the volume. I actually didn't doubt that I could handle the volume, and I'll gladly pay for that confidence.

Earlier this year I wrote about not setting resolutions, and just running for fun, and keeping up a level of fitness that would allow me to take advantage of opportunities that came up. I've always wanted to do a team relay race. The idea of running with a group for a common goal really appeals to me, so when Jess emailed saying they had an opening on the Sketcher's team for Ragnar Relay in a couple of weeks, I couldn't resist. We are running from Huntington Beach to Coronado, and it looks like I'll be running legs 1, 13, and 25. Three pretty easy legs of about 5 miles each. The challenge is going to be running after sitting in a van for 5 or so hours with a limited amount of sleep. Well, that and dealing with my own stink.

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