Week 3 – Pacifica run

We capped off our third week of training with a shorter but more intense trail run at San Pedro park in Pacifica on Saturday morning.  The group was about half the size as usual because of the long three day weekend and I had woken up with a headache, probably due to the fact that I had a few drinks the night before and went to bed at 2 a.m. Lesson hopefully learned.

I knew training for an ultramarathon would introduce me to many new ‘firsts’ along the way and this weekend was the first time I had ever opened up a park.  I’ve had a lot of experience closing out bars but this morning we were waiting for the park ranger to arrive to open the gates at 8 a.m.

Once inside, we stretched, ran a couple of warm up laps in parking lots and stretched some more while Rebecca handed out maps and Ken went over the key points of the run.  We were running up, up, up Hazelnut Loop trail and then down, down, down on the other side.  Then running up, up, up Meadow View trail and then down, down, down on the other side.  Without exaggerating, there was hardly any part of the run that was just flat.  We got on the trail at 8:30 and started going up.

My right achilles which had been bothering me for a while was pretty quiet this morning and I was definitely thankful for that as I would need to be in good shape for this run.  Immediately the trail had us climbing up and around the hill.  There was a steady fog at the top of the hill above us and the ground was moist and even slick in some places as we climbed higher.  We also had to watch out for banana slugs which spotted the trail the entire run.

The initial climb went on for two miles and seemed like it would never end, until finally, FINALLY, the trail turned and up ahead I saw it slope down.  Then it just continued down, down, down for another two miles and then it seemed like the downhill would never end.  It was a series of switchbacks which all felt and looked the same as the last switchback I had just ran around.  Unlike last weekend’s run, this time I brought a bottle of water which I held in my hand and around mile three or four I could start feeling its weight bearing on my arm.  Water ain’t light and I need to figure out the right equipment to lug it around with me on the trail.

The downhill switchbacks ended at a flat white pebble trail where we ran for a third of a mile before starting up the second loop.  Although this was half the distance of the first loop, the climb was steeper and not exactly what I was hoping to do after just finishing a grueling four mile climb and descent.  I noticed my arms were swinging a lot more which Coach Joe had mentioned on Thursday’s run were a sign of fatigue and a sure way to throw off your running form.  I corrected my form for a few moments while I remembered too then sure enough went back to my old ways.  I also tried to focus on how I was breathing.  I tend to breathe very LOUDLY which is okay from what I understand, but I think I need to be breathing more deeply.  Rapid breaths do not allow you to take in as much oxygen as the body needs, so I tried to breathe in more slowly and deeply.  It’s not easy when you’re winded and climbing up hill straight for a mile but it’s something to work on.

I finished the 5.6 mile run in 1:05 and for the most part felt great.  Achilles tendon was happy which was huge.  I did start feeling a hip pointer on my right side as I was climbing up the second loop and felt it the next day too but it’s gone today, two days later.

Total miles run this week: 17.22 miles.

Week 3 – Pacifica run

Trail running in Ross

We finally got onto the trails this weekend and wow, what a butt kicking run it was.  We headed out to Ross, which is about 20 minutes north of San Francisco, not too long of a drive, especially at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning when the roads are empty.  It was a chilly morning as the sun hadn’t fully broken through yet but pretty good running weather once we got started.

The mileage for the run was 7.6 miles but as I’m quickly learning, a mile on the road does not equal a mile on the trail.   Not by a longshot.  We began on a flat road and after a mile in, we entered a park and began running on trails and began  climbing up, up and more up towards Lagunitas lake.

Side note, Lagunitas brewery is nearby and their IPA is one of my favorite beers.

Back to the trail.  It had rained quite a bit the night before and I had expected lots of mud but the dirt is packed pretty hard up here and there was really nothing to worry about.  Except of course the hills.  There was around two miles of steady climbing and I’ve found it is better to just keep on motoring up, no matter how slow, than to stop and start walking.  As coach Mama Lisa would tell us, “every biker will tell you the worst place to stop and rest is in the middle of a hill because it is so much harder to start up again from there.” And then when you do come up on a flat or downhill, you feel like you can fly.

The sun did breakthrough by the time I reached the turn around point 3.8 miles in.  The trail had turned into a paved road although I didn’t see any signs of cars.  There were some pretty views as we climbed higher but to be honest, the image that stands out to me the most is the packed, brown dirt on the ground in front of my as I put one foot in front of another and made my way up the hills.  I’d look up and see the trail continue to climb without a break and disappear around a bend up ahead.  Just one foot in front of the other and even though it felt like I was moving slower than a snail’s pace, I was surprised by how much progress I do make even when I think I’m dragging.

On the injury front, I’m still feeling my right achilles tendon but thanks to the help of Dr Sara LaMarch who showed up to our practice to help those of us who need it, it felt great during the run and even till now two days after.  She taped me with Rock Tape from heel to upper calf and I don’t know how this stuff works but a few of us got taped up and we all benefited from it.

Next week’s trail run will be a bit longer and this time we’ll be in Pacifica.  I still need to figure out how I’m going to carry water while I run.  Seems like the team is split evenly into those who prefer hand held water bottles to those who wear a belt with water bottles attached.  What I’d really like is to have a mule running alongside me then I could bring anything I wanted and not have to carry any of it. Boom.

Here is the trail route of the run we did in Ross.

Getting some final pre-run instructions
Trails are cool
Trail running in Ross

The first track workout

As part of our training program, once a week we do a track workout.  These are geared to building strength and working on running form and things like that.  For those of us in San Francisco we head out to the track at Kezar Stadium which is a former home of the San Francisco 49ers, and now is a track open to the public.  I’ve lived in this city for over ten years and this was the first time I’ve been to Kezar.  

The Team in Training run groups including marathons and half marathons train together here and to begin Coach Joe had us run hill repeats in the Haight.  I had never heard of hill repeats before but I’m sure I won’t forget they are now.  We began at the foot of a steep block (our city has many hills) and he had us run up the hill, then circle the block, and do it again.  A total of seven times.  After the first time my quads were already burning and I still had several to go.  Coming up to the top of the hill where it flattened out felt so good each time and in some way I feel I run faster on the flat surface than had I not just run up a steep hill.  It’s like the hills get my legs into fifth gear and then when I’m on the flatter surface I can really cruise.  

After the last hill repeat, we ran back to Kezar Stadium where we ran four laps (one mile) at a race pace.  The last time I ran on a track where I was being timed was back in high school where we were being timed for the mile.  I don’t remember my time back then but I think it was around 6:49.  This week I was at 8:30.  

We ended the workout with some stretching which always feels good, and for a small group of us we carried on over to Kezar pub where we discussed running and other topics over a pint of beer (or two).  Coach Joe lost a bet recently which prevents him from enjoying a beer at Kezar pub during the month of February.  So he was well hydrated by the end of the night.



The first track workout

Our first training session

It’s been a while since I set my alarm on a Saturday morning, but over these next six months it’s going to be a regular occurrence.  This weekend I set it for 6:00 a.m. (ouch) as we had our first team training session at Piedmont High School at 7:45 a.m.  I picked up teammate Sarah who also lives in the city and we headed out together.

Our team met at the school’s track and football field.  It was a sunny but brisk morning as we sat on the bleachers and listened to Coach Mama Lisa and the rest of the team captains and mentors introduce themselves.  Mama Lisa also reviewed the race we’ll be running in August, pointing out once again that we will climb 8,000 feet of elevation during the race.  Then it was time to start warming up.  We ran a couple of laps around the track, then assistant coach Marcie led us in drills designed to strengthen our stabilizer muscles and other exercises to help stave off shin splints.  Lunges were by far the most challenging exercise and I can feel my sore hamstrings right now as I write this the day after.

We did not work out too long today as the second half of the session was for Marathon University, where experts in sports equipment and endurance training nutrition spoke.  I found this really helpful as I’ve never had a coach or guide to help me with this, and typically just wing it, which is fine for runs under ten miles, but I can already tell I’m going to need to know a lot more for the longer runs.

One of our honoree teammates, Justin, spoke to our group and shared his story of being diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008, two days before he was scheduled to start training with a Team In Training group.  He looks healthy and had a great spirit about him, and he was a bit disappointed that his doctor’s would not let him train for a race this year.  He hopes to be in remission soon but there is no set timeline.

One thing that kind of worked out really nicely is as part of our training Mama Lisa wants us to run a marathon of our choice in the month of June.  And that’s exactly when the Ann Arbor marathon is (June 17) which I signed up for before registering for Team In Training.

I was going to run today since we didn’t get much of a workout in yesterday, but those aforementioned hamstrings are a bit sore and my upper right calf muscle has been tightening up lately, and I think it’s better to just rest today.  Besides, who works out on Super Bowl Sunday anyway?

Mama Lisa and the assistant coaches and mentors
Coach Al talking about the importance of nutrition


Justin, our honoree teammate
Our first training session

Running Chic, and a 5.5 mile run

As I was about to start writing this post, I realized that few people in this world will want to read details of one person’s run, post after post after post.  So in this post I’m taking a different approach to it.  This post will be about running apparel, or if it’s more appealing to you, let’s call it running FASHION.

Up till now I had been running with the same Puma soccer shorts I bought in 2001.  The biggest problem with them was a lack of pockets and so as I’d run my keys, which were safety-pinned to my shorts, would clink and clank against each other and from half a block away I could see pedestrians turning around to see what that noise coming up behind them was.  It was not too different than a dog running with a little bell on its collar.  So I started taping up the keys so they wouldn’t click and clack as much.  Helped a bit but still sounded like a muffled dog collar.

So onto Sports Basement I went this weekend in search of shorts with pockets and zippers.  The first thing you notice when buying running shorts is that they’re…short.  There’s the Kenyan-runner style which is shorter than my boxer briefs, but even the big brand running shorts can be quite revealing.  I grew up watching the Fab Five with their baggy shorts and there’s no way I can go John Stockton here.  And as the Fab Five did, I ended up going one size up and they fit great.  I went with a pair of Brooks with a side zipper and inside fold-over pocket.

And because I almost did really need it and because it looks pretty sweet, I bought a Brooks long sleeve, wind-protectant running shirt.  Throw in a new running shirt I bought and I’ve got the outfit to look like a runner while I run down the street at a slightly-faster-than-walking pace.

And last night was a windy, slightly chilly one here in the city, but perfect running weather with the right gear.  I headed down Broadway towards Polk and then ran down to Aquatic Park, up the backside hill of and through Fort Mason Park, down to Crissy Field and then back.  It was a ridiculously beautiful run.  My favorite part of the Fort Mason hill is once you’ve crested it, you’re presented with an unmatched nighttime view of the homes of Pacific Heights and the Marina, the yellow from the lights in the windows standing out in stark contrast to the dark sky above.

There is also a stunning nighttime view of the Golden Gate Bridge as you emerge onto the beach path by Crissy Field.  If I ran with my iPhone I would take pictures but you’ll just have to take my word on this.  Or come join me for a run. 🙂

Here’s the run I did: http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/67024536

good shorts
bad shorts
Running Chic, and a 5.5 mile run

Run 1: Beverly Hills 94115

San Francisco is known for its hills and where I live in Pacific Heights I’m right in the middle of one of the larger ones.  When I go running I typically head downhill immediately, walking down Laguna street till it flattens out a bit before starting to run.  Basically I always avoid the uphills.  But this morning I decided that if I’m going to run 31 miles of trails with some pretty insane climbs (I’ll try to post an elevation map of the race), I should probably start liking the hills.  I also typically map out my run before heading out but this morning I decided to just run and explore.  No iPod shuffle, no set route, just get out there and run.

So this time I turned right out of my apartment and went up Broadway and when I got passed Fillmore I had a steep two city block uphill climb.  If I’m going to run uphill I much rather do it at the start of the run than later on as it gets my running motor in high gear right away.  Then when I hit a flat stretch I feel like I run faster.  Before I knew it I was done with the two block uphill climb.  It was not that bad.  I think subconsciously part of my strategy is to mentally go somewhere else and not focus on how much more I have yet to go.  Next thing you know, I’m on Divisadero and the hill is behind me.

I reached Lyon street and made my way around the early morning Crossfit crowd working out at the top of the Lyon Street stairs and headed into the Presidio.  There was about half a mile of trail running right away before it gave way to paved road.  There weren’t many cars at 9 a.m. and running through the windy streets of the Presidio on a clear Sunday morning is a beautiful run.  After a mile or so, I circled back up Arguello blvd which is half a mile of, you guessed it, steady nonstop uphill.  And it wasn’t that bad. I ran this same road seven years ago when training for another race and I recall not being able to do it without walking part way.  Not sure what’s different now.  I do feel more motivated with my training now than I did then and motivation plays a huge part for me with my running.

I passed Inspiration Point and then decided I should start making my back.  I found a trail off the road and followed that and ran across the top of a little valley I had not seen before.  The ground beneath me had become all sand while a trail winding down into the valley was covered in hay so I headed for that trail.  I made my down and knew this meant I’d have to climb uphill again but I was ready for it.  A little white dog barked at me from up ahead while its owner called out to me that she doesn’t bite, she just barks a lot.  And the pink bowties on her ears were dead giveaways that she was all show and harmless.

The trail ended at Presido Blvd and I saw a post with a sign indicating that I was on Lover’s Lane.  The path was empty which probably just means amorous runners wake up later in the day.  Must have been a good night.  I realized I had overshot Broadway by a block and so I stayed in the park and climbed up a steep dirt path seemingly in the backyard of some stunning homes.  There was a sign indicating this was the Ecological Trail and to please remain on the path.  Fair enough.

Back on Broadway, the Crossfit trainers were still doing there thing, kudos to them, and I headed back for the last mile to home.  At the top of Divisadero I looked left and saw the bay on this clear morning, a few sailboats getting an early start to the day, and up ahead I saw Broadway street dip and then climb up again at Fillmore street, beckoning me to climb it one last time this morning.  And so I did, and putting one foot in front of the other, slowly making my way up, I was on Fillmore street before I knew it.

I mapped out my run when I returned.  It’s a 4.5 mile run with good elevation.  You can see the full route here.

Run 1: Beverly Hills 94115