The Obligatory Goal Post and Getting Epic Like Kim Jong Il

I've written about goals in the past and how I don't really believe in them. I don't sit down at the beginning of the year and write down things that I don't really think I'll be doing come January 31st. Instead, I spend the year focusing on what I enjoy doing, whether that be spending time with my family, or running trails. I run long races because I love to run, so this year I'm focusing on more of the same. The main thing that I learned this year about my running is that if I focus too much on goals and reaching them at the expense of the enjoyment that I gain from running, then there really is no point in running at all.

That's not to say that I don't want to run faster or further, I just don't want to do it at the expense of my enjoyment. I love running and I cringe when I hear the cliché answer "because I can" or the "because it's there" to the admittedly difficult question of "why do you [insert hard thing here]?" I love a long jog in the mountains, I love running through the night, I love running through the rain and muddy trails, I love watching high def videos of European mountains that I hope to run someday, I love the long talks with friends, and the short guttural responses when we are running too fast to form sentences, I love walking to meet the early morning regulars with my headlamp off and steps lit by the stars, I love running through streams with my dog, I love coming home after a hard run, sweaty and stinky and giving my kids hugs as they cringe, and I love the taste of blood in my mouth and numb shoulders because I can't give any more. "Because I can" doesn't begin to describe it.

I've been thinking a lot about potential lately, and pushing the limits to reach mine, and to be able to see it in others. That is something I need to work on. We all have greatness in us, the ability to accomplish things unimaginable. I think that's one thing that my kids have taught me, and I'm working really hard to see this potential in others.

My daughter Kaya was born nine weeks premature, and she struggled early in life.


I remember the incubator and a short, elvish doctor discussing the health of my daughter, still developing lungs, with the help of tubes, drugs, and a warm, glass-covered bed. I remember being scared, not sure if she was going to make it.

This memory came hard at me last night as I watched her dancing to Just Dance 3, our new video game, my five-year-old keeping up with her six- and ten-year-old siblings. Moving arms and legs, spinning around, singing the songs that she has heard from the lips of her older sister, and laughing.

I failed to see this potential as she struggled in the hospital, relying on machines and drugs to live, to gain weight and recover from starving in the womb, with a knotted umbilical chord. We were as surprised as the doctors when she came out, her source of life cut off, and slowly starving. Now she makes us all laugh, spouting off knock knock jokes at the dinner table with the timing of a natural comedian.

Last night, as she finished dancing, growing weary of LMFAO on repeat, she squeezed in next to me on my favorite chair as I wrote about her early struggles. She looked over my shoulder as I typed on the screen, asking me what I was writing about and I told her I was just writing about my sunshine.

Sometimes I get lost in the day to day struggle, the fear and the uncertainty, and I forget to recognize the potential for greatness in others, a potential that we all share.

I have a lot planned for 2012 and it's more of a wish list than a list of goals. The year will start with some short trail races, a marathon in Death Valley, a traverse of the Joshua Tree Riding and Hiking Trail, a traverse of Zion National Park with Jess, a 50 miler on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 100 miler on some of my favorite trails in San Diego, and a top secret marathon on the trails of San Elijo Hills with some of my favorite people. When I look at that list I get giddy from excitement. I look forward to stretching my limits while sharing beautiful trails with some amazing people. I consider myself lucky and blessed, and when the struggle gets me down, I am grateful that I have the ability and the drive to occasionally do some long, epic jogs.

And while we can't all run a 1:59 marathon like Kim Jong Il, occasionally we can all do something epic.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.

Hiking Elfin Forest

Yesterday, I went on a long hike with two of my favorite hiking buddies. It was a nice reminder to slow down, take in the view, and talk. We talked about school, where lightning comes from, Charlie Brown's Christmas (Woodstock is cool, but the rest of those kids are kind of assholes, right?), and the amazing taste of orange Gatorade. My son carried his own CamelBak and snacks that we ate at the top of the climb, overlooking the Olivenhain reservoir and dam. We did about 5 miles of pretty steep hiking, and he only fell six times. I guess I should have bought him the trail-rated Chuck Taylor's. He's a good little hiker, though, strong and deliberate. He would stop every few minutes to point something out to me, he spotted Double Peak Park, the new hospital by Stone Brewery, a hawk circling above us, and he would ask me to be quiet so he could try to hear the stream down below. I run this trail a lot, but I generally don't take the time to look around, and yesterday was a good reminder.

My wife's friend passed away a few days ago. My wife and kids went to the memorial service on Sunday and had an amazing time. Her friend was an artist, so all the guests made a huge splatter painting. My kids came home covered in paint and laughter. I can't think of a better way to celebrate a life.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are all able to slow down over the holidays and enjoy time with friends and family.

Finish Lines

By a rough estimate (and with some help from, I figure that I have crossed over 40 finish lines in the past five years. Crossing that line comes with such a mixture of emotions, happiness, relief, disappointment, and sometimes overwhelming joy.

On Sunday, our Girls on the Run group ran the Sparkle and Shine 5K (complete with a pre-race glitter and hair station, of which I did not partake). Every girl ran with a mentor or coach, most ran with a parent or relative. The girls have been training hard for the last three months to be able to run a 5K, and they made amazing progress. At the beginning of our program, some of the girls couldn't run one lap around our make-shift track (about 300 meters of grass around the elementary school playgrounds and baseball fields) without a walk break. They ran that loop hundreds of times, sometimes incorporating games and rest breaks to make the workout seem easier. On Sunday, that work paid off as all of the girls finished the 5K.

My daughter asked me to run the 5K with her. She had two goals, to beat her previous time and to run the entire 3.1 miles without walking, something she had never done before. Before the race, I told her to take it easy, especially at the start, then at the end, if she had anything left, to push hard to the finish.

I ran alongside her, sometimes a little behind to let her dictate the pace, offering words of encouragement and I tried to be mindful not to push her to run faster, this was her race, not mine. She ran steady, with a smile on her face, sometimes breathing hard and we'd slow a little to help her recover. As we turned the last corner before the finish, she heard footsteps behind her, and she ran, pumping her arms and stretching out her legs, with a smile on her face, sprinting towards the line confident that she had accomplished both of her goals. As we finished, she grabbed my hand, or maybe I grabbed hers, and of all the finish lines I have crossed, this one was the sweetest.

The Dirty Running Holiday Gift Guide

I usually spend about 30 minutes every morning deleting junk email. This is too long, and it's my own damn fault. For some strange reason, I receive daily emails from discount shopping sites like The Clymb, Steap and Cheap, Open Sky, Chain Love, Living Social, Groupon, Google Offers, REI Gearmail, and Victoria's Secret (for my essential running undergarments). It's pretty easy to unsubscribe to these, but I don't. I should, but I'm worried that I'll miss some super good deal. I've spent way too much money on these sites, and have bought some great gear at a discount, but I've also bought things I don't really need just because I couldn't pass up the deal (seriously, how many pairs of aviator sunglasses can one man wear?). And with the success of all of these deal sites, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. This is also the time of year of gift guides, black Friday taser fights, crowded malls, giant bow-covered Lexuses, and overwhelming holiday trips to the mall. And while I'm not full-blown anti-consumerism, every year around this time I inch a little closer.

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity. You really just need a pair of shoes to get out there and participate in the sport. It really is just you and your effort out there. You can invest thousands of dollars in running gear, and it's not going to make you any better, in fact carrying the extra pounds of packs, GPS watches, overly built shoes (or $150 shoes that claim to mimic running barefoot), and iPods can actually make you slower. There really is no "buying speed" on the run, and the simplicity and purity of this is unique to running. The more you run, and the smarter you run, the better you'll get.

So, in the spirit of simplicity, and with a tip of the hat to The 5 Best Toys of All Time, I offer the Dirty Running Holiday Gift Guide.

1. A Notebook. I don't know if it's all the solitary time on the trails or the countless hours spent listening to the rhythmic sound of feet on pavement, but runners like to write. A journal, lined notebook, scratch pad, or various sizes and colors of old paper lying around can be the perfect place to keep track of those musings that come on a long, slow run. If you don't have anything to write, write about the workout you just did. Log the miles, the time, the weather, how you felt before, during, and after the run. Keep these running logs as a resource to learn from, or to re-live some of your more memorable runs. Running can be similar to a dream state where you'll have some great, world-changing idea while on the run, then forget about it as soon as the sweaty polyester clothes are thrown into the laundry and the shower starts to steam. Write that stuff down before you forget it.

2. Chaos. This isn't really something you can buy, but there is no shortage of it. We all have our own level of stress and for most, this level is too high. Running will help lower your stress levels, and will also make you a better person to be around during regular life. There's nothing like going out for a run after a hard day, going back to the simple and sweet pain of the physical challenge, and coming out the other side relaxed, happy, and ready to deal with screaming kids, nagging spouses, demanding bosses, and a pile of bills. You know why? Because you just kicked some ass. The chaos of ordinary life makes those quiet hours spent on the road or trail that much more peaceful and cathartic.

I will never again do an image search for balls
3. Balls. I'm not talking about the kind that it takes to push the "Register Now" button for a 100 miler, let alone run one. I'm talking about the kind you probably have in a bag in your garage, or under your couch, or in the shadowy reaches of your closet. Balls can take the place of a lot of the $100/hr deep tissue massage sessions, and can prevent some major injuries. If your IT band is tight, lay sideways on a tennis (or lacrosse if you really like the pain) ball and roll over it, letting it dig deep into the fascia. Arch pain? Grab a golf ball and work it back and forth on the bottoms of your feet. You can do this while sitting at work, or watching TV. A foam roller is great for this as well, but if you want a free version that still gets really deep into the muscle, use a ball or a rolling pin. You can find a good introduction to the technique here.

Undisclosed location
4. A Good Hill. The hill usually has a name and it's one that a good runner will know intimately. I have my favorite and I call it Desolation Row. It just seemed to fit. I have cried, nearly puked, and spent all my bullets on that hill getting ready for races over the past few years. Desolation Row is the perfect length for brutal 30 second hill sprints, it's 2-3 miles away (perfect for a warm-up), and has an ocean view from the top. It has landmarks...a rock, a branch that sticks out, a clump of weeds; I can measure myself against these things and see progress over the weeks and years of training. I imagine the best hills have multiple names given by various runners who each have a connection with those inclined stretches of dirt. If you don't have access to a steep hill, a flat stretch will do. Measure a quarter mile, or a half mile and get to know that stretch, give it a name and sanctify it with your blood, sweat and tears.

5. An Alarm. Set it early and run before the sun comes up, while you can still see your breath, with friends or alone, and watch as the sun paints the hills in pinks and oranges. Get back to a quiet house, a sleeping neighborhood, a hungry dog, and put some coffee on the stove. Take a deep breath and know that you may have sacrificed an hour of sleep, but you have experienced the beauty of an early morning run.

That's it. My list of 5 greatest gifts things that every runner needs, and while the gadgets and gear are fun, it really all comes back to the basics...a pair of shoes and a long stretch of trail. I'd love to hear some of your simple essentials in the comments below.

Las Vegas Marathon Race Report And My Dilemma

I finished the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon on Sunday in 3:24. I put the time in there, because I was really focused on running for time, 3:15 to be exact, and it didn't happen, and I want to remind myself not to make that my primary focus in future races.

My training has been going great the last couple of months, I was pretty sure I was in 3:15 shape going into the marathon, but there were a couple of things that were out of my hands. I don't want to use this as a place to make excuses or complain, however there were some difficulties with the race that affected how I ran. If I was stronger, mentally, I'm sure I could have overcome the logistical challenges with the race. If you want to read about the fallout from the race, head on over to Facebook and sort through the thousands of comments there.

My race went a little something like this:

I started in the first corral and felt great as the sun set over the mountains to the west of Vegas and we headed to an industrial, seemingly deserted section of town, zig-zagging through city blocks, pin point turns and out and backs. My pace was solid and steady, and I was looking forward to the second half of the race were we would run up one side of the Strip and down the other. The main problem for the marathoners running the race (there were about 4,000 of us) was that as we were funneled back onto the strip, we joined 40,000 half marathoners who had started about ten minutes before my group joined them, so I was right in the middle of it, dodging, bumping, saying sorry and being called an asshole as I tried to keep the pace by weaving through the throng. It was tough and draining, but I actually sped up at this point...probably anger and adrenaline. I think it came back to haunt me because at mile 20 I didn't have much left, I slowed considerably off my goal pace and really had a tough time at the end.


I was disappointed in myself. I thought of all the hard work and the training that I had done to get me ready to run a good race, and I felt that I had blown it. I felt like I had let myself, my coach, my wife, and my friends down. And I know it's silly, but I even felt like I let people who read this blog down. I was in a pretty rough spot when I saw my wife. My daughter asked us to text her my time as soon as I finished and she immediately responded with a text saying "That's so cool. Good job." It was actually something more like "Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" That snapped me out of the darkness and self-loathing really quick. I chalked it up to a shitty day (they can't all be great, right?), the race was over and I was in Vegas, so it wasn't all bad. We went out that night, and I worked hard at replenishing my glycogen stores until about 2 AM.

Running down the strip at night was pretty cool at times. It's not a novel idea to say that the Rock and Roll Marathon series caters to the "just finish" crowd and they do provide more of a party experience than a race. I'm not an elite runner, I like to think that I'm a relatively fast runner compared to the average person, and I just don't think these gigantic road races are for me, but for those that crave a shared experience with thousands of people and are in it more for the spectacle/party/event than the race, then these continue to be great options. It seems that as the bottom line becomes more and more important to the corporations that put on these races, the more and more they cater to this crowd. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and there are still plenty of options for more serious runners (those who still wear dolphin shorts and headbands with pride), it's just not my preferred type of race.

On the plus side, Vegas is always fun, and I didn't lose any money gambling. I also took advantage of cable TV and caught up with the Kardashians (and mourned the fall of civilization at the same time...a two birds, one stone thing). I also learned the The Discovery Channel has become the Blowing Shit Up Channel (and I kind of like it).

I try to learn something from every race, and I think I learned an important thing about myself from this race. I haven't raced a marathon since 2007 (where I broke down at about mile 20 and ran a 3:24...coincidence?), and I don't really like the distance. I don't know if I have the mental focus and pain tolerance to complete 26.2 miles at a pace that should be do-able based on the training. I can endure the dull pain of races three times as long as a marathon, but I have a much more difficult time enduring the sharp pain of speed. I give in too quickly, and I lose confidence in myself, and that's hard to get back in a marathon.

Now, I need to make a decision, and I welcome any advice or comments. I am considering two options.

The first is to continue with my training and try to run another marathon in the beginning of February. I think I have good fitness right now, I could back off and recover for a couple of weeks, then ramp up the training again for the Death Valley Marathon in February. I wouldn't go into it with a concrete time goal, I'd try to have fun and run to the best of my ability. I have friends that are running it, it's a small race, and I think it would help get rid of the slightly bitter aftertaste of the Vegas marathon. My concern about this is that I may be at the peak of my fitness right now and I will train too much and get burnt out or injured with diminishing returns.

The second option is to take a longer period of time to rest, recover, and just run without a training structure. I'm planning on a big year next year with a Joshua Tree traverse, a Zion traverse, the PCT 50 mile race, and possibly the San Diego 100 all between March and June next year, so the rest could be exactly what I need. I'm going to lose a lot of speed with this option, and that kind of makes me sad, but the rest may be necessary.

Thank you for reading, and I appreciate your comments.

One final note, I wish my blog was this awesome.

Black Friday Trail Run in Huddart Park

Happy Thanksgiving, sorry it's late, but I still wanted to get it out there. It has become my favorite holiday, mostly because I'm lazy, I don't like shopping, and I don't like to mix religion and fun. I do, however, like to eat, and spend time with my family.

Last week we loaded the kids into the jeep and armed with 4 DVDs, we headed up the coast to Los Altos to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

On Black Friday I decided to head to Wal-Mart, pepper spray and bile in tow, and saved $5 on a giant flat screen TV where I can now watch C-SPAN in super high def 1090p (you haven't lived unless you've seen every detail of Waxman's 'stache in high def).

Not really. We drove up to see some redwoods at Huddart Park. The kids took off with Grandma in hopes of earning a quarter for every banana slug they saw, and I proceeded to get lost among the giant trees and narrow pine-covered trails of the park.

It was a beautiful 10 mile run, surrounded by the sound of falling water, heavy drops falling from the canopy above. Once I got away from the main parking lot, I only saw one other person, and one big deer who stared at me, blocking the sun. It had a nice rack.

I stood in a circle of trees and stared up, taking in the energy of this place. A few years ago, I sat in the audience as my mom gave a talk about building a successful business and she referenced these trees. She talked about how Sequoias are some of the oldest and tallest living things and shared the strategies and adaptations that led to their growth and persistence; the fact that their roots only go down about ten feet, spreading wide rather than deep and connecting to surrounding trees for strength, and how they grow in family circles, nourishing and supporting each other. And as I stood there, the day after Thanksgiving, I was grateful for my own small family circle, and for the fact that my roots have spread beyond my family to friends, people I run with, and to people who I have never met face to face, but I feel connected to, and I am grateful for all of these connections that support, strengthen and sustain.

Rediscovering Joy

“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” – Once a Runner

I hit a low point in my training the last couple weeks. I'm out of it now, feeling good and running well, but those low points suck and I wanted to share a few things that helped me get out of it. As is pretty obvious, I'm kind of passionate about running. I devote a lot of time to this hobby...reading blogs, magazines, and books about running, watching video clips, listening to podcasts, planning, and running itself, all without a chance of financial gain. The least I demand out of this hobby is joy.

My friend Eric posted the quote above on Facebook and it really stuck with me this week (as a side note, if you run and haven't read Once a Runner, you really should). Not every run is full of joy, and there's nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes running sucks and is far from enjoyable. I do enjoy the process, however, the process of growth, getting stronger, faster, and going further. I enjoy running at a tempo pace, semi-comfortably, a pace I couldn't hold a few months ago for more than about a mile. I also realize that, just like in a long race, there will be highs and lows. The lows are temporary, and that if you wait around long enough, you'll get a high (I guess I did learn something from that year I spent at Humboldt State). 

I don't know if it was over-training or boredom or pushing too hard or real life getting in the way, or a combination of all of these, but I had no real motivation to run, and it lasted for a couple of weeks. These are the things that helped me get my mojo back, and only a couple of them involve a penis pump.

1) Take a break.

As runners, we are conditioned to deal with the pain, and to push through it. Luckily, I have an awesome coach who listens to me and designs a training schedule for the week based on my performance and feedback from the prior week. This is invaluable for me because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of my training. Normally, I would try to push through these low points and continue with the cycle of fatigue, thinking that it would only serve to make me stronger, when what I really needed to do, and what my coach recognized and advised me to do, was to take a couple days off and when I was ready, to just get out and run, without a watch, without a goal, just run, which leads to the second tip.

2) Go naked.

Run without a watch, GPS, music, and goal. I went to my favorite local trail with my dog (who ensures that I take it easy), and just ran. I stopped every couple of miles to just look around, listen to the sounds and let my dog explore off-leash. I wasn't worried about hitting paces; I was just doing something that I do nearly every day, and enjoying every minute of it.

3) Focus on the now.

I have been stressed about the marathon, and trying to hit a goal time. As the date approaches, I have been beating myself up for not hitting certain paces in training, losing confidence, and creating more stress for the race. I started to feel extremely negative about the marathon, and to look beyond it, focusing on next year's plans that include a lot of trail running. It's funny because I did the same thing when preparing for the Canadian Death Race, sometimes cursing all the trail running and hiking I was doing to prepare for the race. I would focus on the upcoming marathon training and how much better it would feel to run shorter and faster. This is a defense mechanism and a way to give myself an excuse in case I have a bad race. I am now focused on running a strong marathon, trusting in the good, consistent training I have done, and knowing that on a good day, I will run strong, but also knowing that I will enjoy the race and the experience of running with friends under the lights of the Vegas strip. And regardless of the outcome, I will enjoy the after-party.

4) Run with friends.

There is a group of about 5 of us who meet Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays. Someone will usually send an email out the night before, late, to see who else is going to show up, but there is almost always someone there waiting, sometimes with a headlamp in the dark, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with sleep still pulling towards the warm comfort of home, and sometimes pissed off and just wanting to get this run over with before starting another long day.

This group has been rock solid, through good training periods and bad, and as my motivation slipped, and as I started to question why I was training for a stupid marathon...on the road, I knew that I had to get out and run with these guys, with our steady pace, easy conversation, and the comfort of a well-known trail.

We all are out there for one reason, to run, but that encompasses different things for all of us. That morning, for me, "to run" meant throw the self-doubt and negative talk to the wind and the cold, to spit on it. And as the sun came up and the air warmed, nothing special happened, no breathtaking sunrises or hills covered in blankets of wet fog, just one foot in front of the other with friends talking about work, running, kids, problems, future races, past races, and small victories.

I can't join this group every morning, but I know that one or two of us will always be able to make it, and when I need it the most, I know that they will be out there running a steady pace, running for our own reasons, our own "to runs."

5. Rediscover your joy.

Really, this is what it's all about. This whole post could have been simplified to those three words, but it took me the whole process of thinking it out and writing it to bring me here. A few days ago I went for a long tempo run on the coast. It was a beautiful post-rain clear and cool morning. The ocean was like glass, the waves were small, and there was a pod of dolphins about 30 feet out just playing. They were kind of moving with me, pretty much in the same spot and for the duration of the 12 miler, I kept looking over my shoulder and there they were, jumping and gliding in and out of the water, not worrying about a destination, a time, a place, just enjoying the simple beauty of the ocean.

I love watching these short Killian's Quest movies. His joy and his love of running and the mountains flows through everything he does. His joy is so real, young and infectious, that I can't help but be motivated every time I watch him. I especially liked the most recent one below because it not only shows the connection with the beauty of the trail, it shows the joy that flows through everyone that has discovered this connection, with each other, with the trails and with running.

Sony Walkman Mp3 Player Giveaway Winner plus My Snake Encounter

I want to thank everyone who liked Dirty Running on Facebook, and also to everyone who left comments on the Sony Walkman Giveaway post. You shared some great music, some more embarrassing than others, and I've had some really bad songs stuck in my head for the last week.

I did the thing and picked a number between 1 and 154 (I added up the 117 likes and all the favorite running song comments). The winner was number 118, which is pretty cool because it turned out to be the first comment on the blog, so I didn't have to count very high. So, congratulations to Rose at Eat, Drink, and be Meiri. You won, and now you too can look like Lobot. Send me a message with your address and I'll ship the Sony Mp3 player out to you.

I would suggest you leave the music at home when running windy single-track.

You can still like Dirty Running on Facebook as that is where I share running videos, links to podcasts, running tips, and other cool running-related links that I'm sure my "normal" friends get sick of seeing and hearing about.

Speaking of snakes.

I was running in a part of Daley Ranch that I have never been through before. What started as a group of six, slowly became a group of one as each runner peeled off to head back to the trailhead. It was quiet on the trails as I hit 15 miles, and with only 3 or 4 to go, I decided to do a little exploring.

I ran up and then back down the steep and rocky section of Cougar Ridge, and I passed a couple of hikers beating the brush with trekking poles, cameras at the ready. I asked them if they had seen a snake and they said not yet, and they asked me if I had seen any, and I said I haven't, but I'm so oblivious I'd probably step right on one before I saw it (I swear I said that). Once I passed the hikers, I hit Boulder Loop.

I wasn't quite sure how to get back down to the Meadow Loop and eventually the trailhead, and when I saw a couple of mountain bikers fixing a flat off the side of the trail, I asked them for directions. You should head up to the top of the hill, then take a left onto a beautiful single-track, they said, you'll love it, then you'll hit a fire road that will take you back to Meadow Loop.

It was a beautiful single-track and I was loving the shade-covered narrow twists and turns of the trail. I saw a branch sticking out into the trail and I was just about ready to leap over it when the branch opened its mouth wide and hissed, baring long fangs. I wish I could list the string of words that came out of my mouth as my body broke a few of the laws of physics, stopping mid-jump, reversing directions, and quickly backing up about 15 yards as the triangular head of the Diamondback rattlesnake turned to look at me, tongue sliding in and out, seeming to decide if I was worth it or not. It was too late to re-trace my steps, so I decided to wait it out. I probably should have thrown a small rock at the snake to scare it back into the bushes, but I was watching in awe at the harsh quiet beauty of the snake in its natural state as it slowly made its way across the narrow trail. I also didn't want to piss it off any more than I already had. The trail was about two feet wide and as the head of the snake disappeared in the bushes on the other side of the trail, the body seemed to just keep going and going until the long white rattle slid across the sand and into the cover of the brush and scrub. I'm not sure exactly how long it was, but I'd bet some good money it was at least four feet.

I couldn't see where the snake was, and as I debated whether to make a run for it or to wait a couple of more minutes, the mountain bikers who sent me down this path came rolling by. I warned them about the snake and they seemed to speed up to pass it. I watched, waiting for a strike, but none came, so I went for it, releasing a freeing, wild scream, something from deep down, between fear and exhilaration as I bounded down the trail, again, oblivious.

I didn't have my camera on me, but this is a snake.

Sony Walkman W-Series Review and Giveaway

When I started running, I had one of those brick Walkman tape recorders with the big foamy yellow headphones that covered my ears. When I was a freshman in high school, that thing kept me company as I walked the 2 mile trip home while listening to tapes one and two of The Wall over and over (no wonder I'm so messed up). I tried running with it and I would attach the belt clip to my shorts which would eventually be dragging around my knees, so that's where that trend started. The tape player turned into the slimmer and more compact CD player, which turned into the iPod which has gotten smaller and more convenient over the years. The one thing that has always bugged me about running with any of these devices are the wires that inevitably get tangled around my neck, arms, and legs. It doesn't matter where I put the player, and I try running the wires through various routes under and around clothing, through homemade holes in shirts, hats, and miscellaneous orifices, the wires always find a way to get tangled up. There are math geniuses that are currently studying this problem (seriously), but in the meantime, Sony has developed a simple solution, and I have come full circle back to the Walkman.

Sony Walkman W-Series Mp3 Player
If you start a discussion among runners about running with headphones, be prepared for some strong opinions. You'd think that you started a discussion on abortion, gun control, or Mitt Romney's hair. This is usually a black and white issue with most runners; some can't run without music, and others despise the existence of earbuds. It is an issue where I am a solid and distinct grey.

I rarely use headphones. When I'm on the trail I like to tune in to my surroundings, not to mention that I am scared of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and I'd rather listen to what is rustling in the bushes than the sweet vocal stylings of The Dan Band. I also like to tune into my running, making sure that I am treading softly and that my breath is controlled. It is rare that running bores me and I usually find something to think about on the run; that's kind of why I'm out there in the first place.

On the other hand, there is a performance benefit to running with music, and if you don't believe me, ask Roger Bannister. There is no way he would have broken the 4 minute mile barrier if it weren't for Master of Puppets blaring through his headphones. Treadmill running is another exception. I simply can't run to the soft 80s mix that wafts lightly through the speakers of the local Y. Robert Palmer, seriously? Did I write that I don't get bored while running? I need to change that. Sometimes on runs over 6 or 7 hours, I start to get a little bored, and having some music or a good podcast has helped me through the Anza Borrego Desert, across the Grand Canyon, and over the Canadian Rockies.

I have been testing the Sony Walkman W-Series over the last few weeks and while I don't use it for every run, I have found that it will be very useful when I need to run on the treadmill and will definitely come in handy next year when I try to tackle some longer races.

What I like:

No wires, except for the wire goes around the back of the neck that connects the two earpieces.

I forget I'm wearing it.

It makes me look like Lobot, and I can pretend I'm doing chores for Lando Calrissian.

It's waterproof, so I can listen to Zeppelin's Rain Song while running in the rain.

The unit I tested is the Meb Keflezighi version, and while it won't make you run like Meb, it comes pre-loaded with running tips from the swift American-Eritrean.

It has an 8-hour battery life, which means I will only have to listen to Jess Downer for about 5 hours when we do the Zion Traverse next year.

It has 2 Gigs of storage, so it holds a lot of songs. At first I loaded it to capacity with a couple hundred songs and dozens of podcasts, but then I couldn't really find what I wanted to listen to. Then I decided to load it with enough songs for a long run and one or two podcasts from and it was a much better running with music experience.

The headphones stay in my ears. This is huge for me because I've never been able to keep earbuds in my ears while running and I'm constantly fidgeting with them. I have had no trouble with that when using the Sony Walkman; must be the no wire effect.

What I'm not crazy about:

The controls. This is a trade-off because the main unit is in your ear rather than clipped onto some part of clothing, and the buttons are small. I'm sure that the more I use it, the more I'll get used to the controls.

It looks like a Bluetooth earpiece, and I've always found those kind of lame. Actually, it looks like two Bluetooth earpieces, one in each ear. If one Bluetooth is lame, a Bluetooth in each ear is kind of badass because you know that guy is way past the point of caring what other people think, so never mind, the look is one of the things I like about the Walkman W-Series.

The last thing is minor, and that is that it has separate software to transfer music to the unit once it is plugged into the computer. It's actually really easy to drag and drop music from iTunes to the unit, I would just prefer it loaded up in iTunes and I could manage the playlist from there.

Sony provided me with two units, one to test, load my music on, and sweat all over, and another which is brand spanking new in the box. I'll give away one of these units, you can chose which one you want.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway (double your chances by doing both):
  1. Like my new page on The Facebook (Sean Parker was totally wrong about dropping the "The.” The Facebook could have been huge). To like it, go here and press "Like," or just press "Like" on the right side of this page. If you were one of the early adopters and already like my page, then thank you, you are already entered.
  2. Want an additional entry? Open up to me (it’s okay, this is a no-judgement zone, stupid) and let me know in the comments section below (not on The Facebook, Grandma, but in the comments below) what is your favorite song to run to. The more embarrassing, the better. Mine is by The Roots, which isn't that embarrassing. Well, it's The Roots on Yo Gabba Gabba singning "Lovely, Love My Family." I love this song and it has gotten me through some low points in races. I'm proud to say that I love Yo Gabba Gabba, it's just like dropping acid without taking drugs. My wife really likes Muno, but I'm not sure why. So, please share your favorite running song in the comments section below.
You can also tweet, post on your blog, and share on The Facebook, but that wont get you more entries because that gets more complicated, and I just can't handle any more options, but I appreciate the good will and it will be good contest karma.

I'll pick a winner next week. Thanks for reading.

Click here for more information about the Sony Walkman W-Series Mp3 player.
Click here for the Sony running community on (including free training plans).

King of the Hill Half Marathon -- Race Report

The King of the Hill half marathon at El Capitan nearly broke me. I guess it was a beautifully rugged course, but in reality, I wasn't really feeling up to soaking in the view. The trail was steep, both up and down, and much hiking was done on the day. Towards the end, I couldn't really muster up more than a slow jog on anything except the few portions of the race that were downhill, and even the downhills were brutal and not very runnable.

The race started with ten burpees, then each aid station on the way to El Capitan peak had some type of exercise that you were required to do before going on. At one, it was mountain climbers, and at another it was tuck jumps and starbursts. It was a hot day and towards the end I was seeing stars. I remember finishing, walking to the shade and sitting on the top rail of a fence, swaying forward and backward and thinking I should probably not be sitting up there, but too tired to do anything about it. I eventually summoned the strength to down a couple of barley-based recovery drinks and felt better almost immediately.

I finished 4th in the under 40 "whipper-snapper" division in 2:10. I'm not sure of the overall placing, maybe 7th.

It was grueling in the true sense of the word, but I wouldn't expect anything less from race director Joe Decker (of Gut Check Fitness). Driving away from the race, I swore to myself that I'd never do that one again, but I hear they're going to be putting on a full marathon early next year.

That might be fun.

The turnaround point at the summit
Some boulder-scrambling towards the halfway point

I think I ran that first 20 minutes and the last 30 minutes

Girls on the Run

When I first heard about Girls on the Run, I got really excited. I figured it was a running program that would teach girls how to run faster. My daughter has been trying to make the track team and I figured that the Girls on the Run program would help in her running development.

When I heard they were looking for coaches in our area, I asked my wife if she would be interested in coaching my daughter and a few other girls at the elementary school. I figured that the girls would relate more to my wife than me because she is female and I'm not, plus she has a good competitive running background. She needed a couple of assistant coaches, so I signed up for the job.

I expected to help teach the girls about proper stretching, good form, and even give them a few tips on getting faster and maybe even some cutthroat racing strategies. What I didn't realize at the time was that this wasn't really a running program, this was a place where girls could form bonds, learn about how to communicate with others, how to be a good listener, how to be a better friend, how to stand up for your values, and how to make good choices. Most importantly, the Girls on the Run program provides the girls a safe place to be girls, to have fun, and to be themselves without the fear of being judged or teased.

The girls do run, and at the end of the program, we will have all of them in shape to run a 5k with a mentor or a parent. Mixed in with the running are activities to help with the girls' personal growth. One of my favorite sessions so far was teaching the girls about managing their emotions and handling stress. We went over various healthy methods of dealing with stress, and, not surprisingly, we taught the girls how to use running as a way to manage and work through complicated emotions.

I have two daughters and I worry about them constantly. The worries range from hoping that they will excel in school while not give in to the pressures of sacrificing their values for popularity, to hoping that they will search out and befriend good people, to hoping that they will be kind to others. What I hope most for my girls is that they will grow to be strong, smart, and independent women. Lucky for them, they have a good example in a mom who runs the household smoothly, makes sure that homework is done, cooks dinner every night, and still manages to excel at school while following her dream of becoming a nurse.

The Girls on the Run program helps the girls develop their strength and confidence through running, but also encourages them to become the strong, powerful, smart, and self-assured young women that they are and that so often society tries to beat out of them. I love seeing the bonds that these girls are developing through running, and I love seeing what happens to the girls when they are allowed to fly.

More information about the Girls on the Run program can be found here. The program is always looking for coaching volunteers. You can find a local chapter (or start your own) here.

Raptor Ridge Half Marathon -- Race Report

This was a fun one. The Raptor Ridge 1/2 marathon is a very interesting course and one that can really hurt. The first four miles are flat, then there is this steep mile climb, then you run down the other side, turn around and run back up and over. The flats aren't really easy in a half marathon because of the pace, and then you throw this one long climb into the mix and it can make for a tough second half.

The morning had perfect running weather with a chilly start and some low-lying fog with bare branches reaching out. There was the usual nervous pre-race banter and sandbagging about how this is just a training run and how it's been a long week of training. As the bullhorn sounded and runners jockeyed for position I listened to the breathing, sometimes hard, of those that let their adrenaline get the best of them, starting too fast. My legs felt good with smooth motion, just enjoying the sunrise over the ridge that we would soon be climbing, the sun burning my eyes.

The climb was mechanical, just keep moving, fight off the voices telling me to walk, recuperate for a few seconds, fight off that ultra mentality because I was racing this. It was a training run before the race started, but  there were a few people up ahead that were breathing heavy, looking down at their feet with heads bobbing up and down, struggling, suddenly it was a race.

I held back on the downhills, and tried to recover from the climbs. A flaming red-bearded downhill bomber with a Tough Mudder headband flew by me on the downhill. I caught him later, feeling strong for the last four miles, feeling like this is marathon pace and I can hold this.

This race was a good confidence boost for the December marathon. I finished as fast as I started, I held a 7:15 pace in a half marathon with a couple of long, tough climbs, and I felt like I could have kept going.

The Dirt Devils put on a great race with one of the best race shirts ever and a cool pint glass for all finishers. The race was very well organized and supported. It was a large crowd; I hear it was double last year's size, which is good and bad. I don't think the trail can handle many more people and I love the small feel of trail races, but I am happy for the success of the Dirt Devils and the San Diego Running Institute. I guess if you put out a good product, people will hear about it and it will be popular.

On an unrelated note, my friend Veronica, who is on the Carlsbad School Board, is going to read part of the letter I wrote to my daughter at the next school board meeting. She is going to be talking about teasing and bullying. I'm honored that she would choose to read part of it, and I really hope that it helps in some small way.

Thanks for reading.

This is the elevation profile for Raptor Ridge 1/2

My homemade version wasn't that far off
At this point in the race, I believe I was compliant with the speed limit

Great gear. I just realized what all my other race shirts are missing...raptors.

Winner -- You Are An Ironman Book Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who left a comment and/or joined my site for a chance to win the book You Are An Ironman. I made a list of all 25 comments and used to pick a winner and the winner is...

Detroit Runner.

Old-school spreadsheet (MS Works Version 1.2)
Next time I'll try to think of something a little more creative.

I promise that Detroit Runner's victory has nothing to do with the Tigers knocking off the Yankees last night, or Verlander (along with Martinez and Peralta) bringing home the fantasy baseball glory to my team, "The Pen is Mightier." Congratulations Jeff.

On the running front, I've been getting in some good quality runs in preparation for the Las Vegas Marathon. I'm a big fan of quality over quantity, and while I'm not doing monster weekly mileage, I feel that I'm getting some really tough workouts in while avoiding injury (my wife is going to kill me for writing that). On Wednesday I did one of my toughest workouts to date. I went to the Y and ran on a treadmill for the first time in months because I wanted to get an accurate pace on a flat surface and I don't have easy access to a track. The workout was a 3 mile warm-up followed by 8X800 at 10K pace with a "rest" interval of 400 at marathon pace. This workout kicked my butt. I think the purpose of this is to make marathon pace feel comfortable, either that or to create puddles of sweat all around my treadmill and gross out the suburban moms and the senior citizen walkers on the adjacent treadmills.

Speaking of suburban moms, it dropped to 60 here this week, so the Burberry scarves are out in full force.

I'm racing the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon this weekend. It's a great trail and I'm really excited to run it. There's no elevation profile on the site, so I did some satellite triangulation and mapped it with the U.S. Geological Survey's elevation database, ran it through some custom algorithms and this is what I have to look forward to:


Thanks for reading.

Outrunning CF at Daley Ranch

I had a great run at Daley Ranch on Saturday. These trails are some of my favorites, mostly because they are so close. I can drive about 20 minutes, pass through the ugly sprawl of Escondido, turn a couple of corners and wind up at Daley Ranch and 30 or so miles of trails with some good climbs, great views, hidden ponds, and a good mix of wide trails and some fun singletrack sections.

This run was special because of the people who showed up to support the fight to cure Cystic Fibrosis. I want to let those people know how much I appreciate them. I have met so many great people through running, which is kind of funny, because one of the things that drew me to running, and one of the things that I still love about running, is the quiet, solitary time I am able to spend on the trail. Although I enjoy the quiet miles, I really appreciate the friendships and connections that I have made with so many great people.

Saturday we joined hundreds of others across the country to Outrun CF. It was a perfect morning on the trails, and I want to thank Isaac and his two children (who will soon be outrunning all of us), Christine, Beth, Chad, Trisha, Jeff, Chris, Andrea, Kim, and everyone else who supported the Outrun CF event.

Also, I'm giving away the new book, You Are An Ironman at the end of this week. You can enter here.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some pictures from our Outrun CF run.

Ratings and Recommendations