Saturday, March 31, 2007

Training Update
A month after the marathon, I finally feel as though I've transitioned into triathlon season. Did three good swims this week, including 2,500 yards one day. Pretty big for me, especially in March. Today was my first brick – 25 miles on the bike over Mount Veeder (1,200 feet or so above the valley) and down Dry Creek, right into a 3.35-mile run that included a 400-foot climb and a mile or so of trails.

Speaking of trails, they figure to be a big part of my spring training this year. We're living less than a mile from Westwood Hills Regional Park now, a real blessing. Apparently this parcel was earmarked for development in the '70s, but the city and the developer couldn't agree on the scope of the project and the city

Westwood Hills Regional Park, Napa

ended up buying the property. I wouldn't call it pristine, but pristine is hardly possible in a city, right? But it's open space and highly variable in nature, with eucalyptus, oak and buckeye, and grassy meadows. A main fire road heads up from the parking lot on Browns Valley Road, and singletrack and deer trails crisscross what are said to be 110 acres of parkland. We didn't have a big rain year, but did get enough to green the place up nicely, which should last until May, roughly.

The previous several years, I ran almost exclusively on flat ground. That's what was out the door from 184 South Montgomery Street. Now, out the door from the new (temporary) place, it's hills, so hills it shall be a couple of times a week. These runs will build strength and depth of fitness – and they're fun! For one thing, running on the dirt, especially gnarly dirt on incline, takes me out of the head. I'm thinking about where I'm stepping, no time to contemplate how far I've gone or have to go. And it's just plain pretty out there, too.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Photo by Niko
Marin Headlands, Tennessee Valley Road, January '07

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Race Report: Napa Valley Marathon
Ran the Napa Valley Marathon this morning. Headed out with some trepidation; I'd told friends and colleagues (yeah, I'm one of those middle-aged guys who regales trapped officemates with tales of his pathetic athletic pursuits) that I wanted to run 3:30 to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon. This would require shaving almost five minutes off my PR.

Well: I did it! Don't know the official time, but my clock had me at 3:24:46.

Weather was perfect -- cool but not cold to start, very little wind, then sunshine and a few wispy clouds as the morning wore on, temps nudging 60 by the finish. All a stark contrast to the horror that was last year's race.

I just ran a steady pace the whole way, pretty much. Lots of miles in the 7:30s and 7:40s -- faster than I thought I'd go, but I felt good, and kept feeling good, so I let it roll. After 21 miles I began to suffer a bit. Tightening in the quads and hamstrings, a little Achilles action going on, hips acting up.... Not surprisingly, my tempo slowed -- my last five miles were 7:53, 7:59, 8:06, 8:05 and 8:07.

But all the same, I'm super-proud of those miles. At Sacramento 16 months ago I was on pace to run a 3:30, but could barely manage 9-minute miles over the last 10K. They always say that's when the marathon really starts, at around 20 miles. And they say truth. Today, the first 20 miles were comfortable and fun. The last five were the stuff that makes going long with a goal beyond simply finishing so interesting and addictive.

What else to say: Oh, many thanks to the Team in Training girl from somewhere in the South Bay who I ran with for five or six miles early on. Good company.

And thanks also to Bergie and her crew, who cheered for me on Mile 19 -- which, no mere coincidence here, turned out to be my fastest mile at 7:26. I know they will treasure the Gu wrapper I tossed at their feet.

And thanks to Anna, who met me afterward with a giant Jamba Juice fruit thing. That hit the spot. What a sweetheart. (We are going to miss her terribly; Friday was her last day at work.)

Anyway, maybe there's more to say. Maybe not. Maybe later. I feel good now -- nothing really hurts. Well, one little blister on the bottom of my left foot, when I step wrong, it howls a bit. Mostly, I'm just tired. A very good tired.

Boston '08. That's going to be cool.

UPDATE -- official results:
Time: 3:24:46
Pace: 7:49/mile
Overall finish/racers: 137/1708
Men: 117/1236
Age group (men 40-44): 21/148

And I noticed, in scrolling through the results for my fellow 40 to 44-year-old dudes, that famed ultraman Dean Karzanes was 8th in the group, at 3:07:01. Of course, he probably ran to the start line from San Francisco or something ridiculous like that...