Marathon Training Week 2

My second week of training is complete.  I continue to fine-tune my training plan.  I had 3 miles on the schedule for after work on Tuesday.  However, I was feeling some soreness with my right lower leg (below the knee) on Monday and somewhat into Tuesday.  With my history of injuries, I don’t want to take any chances with hurting myself, especially this early into the training cycle.  So I decided to skip Tuesday’s run again.

( ) = # of miles on my plan

Tuesday – 0 (3)

Thursday – 5.01 (5)

Friday – 10.03 (10)

Saturday – 6.05 (6)

Sunday – 3.26 (3)

Weekly Total – 24.35 miles (26)

Overall I feel good at the end of the week.  Today’s run I did with my wife biking alongside me (she’s been doing this for some of my shorter runs and it is great having the company).  Compared to the run last Sunday, this one felt easier and my legs felt better – even though I did more miles this week than last.  Hopefully that is a sign my body is actually adapting to the miles.

I’m excited for this coming week as hopefully will be getting a fun delivery, we shall see and I’ll update as things unfold.

We had some crazy rains/winds here with more of the latter than the former.  These last few nights I’ve actually been awoken due to the high winds outside.  Somewhat scary as there have been multiple trees in the neighborhood that have either have large branches fall or even entire trees (as seen below).  Here are some shots from this past week’s training:

Broken branch on the river trail
River is slightly lower than previous but still fairly high
More daylight under the bridge than last week


Crazy crushed truck!



Marathon Training Week 1

Marathon Training Week 1

So my first week of marathon training (Big Sur International Marathon at the end of April) is done. It did not start off well.  We’ve been getting some pretty crazy rains and rainfall totals here in northern California lately.  My first run was supposed to be last Tuesday.  We had some historic rains last weekend that continued into the early part of this week.  My original plan was to run after work on Tuesday.  By the time I left work, the rain was still steadily coming down and I was just tired.  So I skipped it.  I definitely want to follow a plan more closely this time (considering I’ve never followed one before), but I am not going to be a slave to it.  I am going to listen to my body as well.  Overall I’m still happy with my week.

( ) = # of miles on my plan

Tuesday – 0 (3)

Thursday – 4.2 (4)

Friday – 8 (8)

Saturday – 4 (4)

Sunday – 4 (4)

Weekly Total – 20.2 miles

Injures/aches – mild right Achilles pain after the last run of the week.  Some mild soreness of right knee also present.

My first run on Thursday I purposely ran over to the American River to see how it was looking.  Various parts of Sacramento have been flooding with the recent rains.  I know it is very unlikely for the American River to flood but I wanted to see how much it had risen with all the water we’ve been getting.  Boy I was impressed.  Here are some pictures of the river.


Normally there’s a lot more air underneath that bridge
The water plant (structure) typically has many more feet of white building underneath it


There’s supposed to be a dirt pathway  you can walk on at the bottom of the greenery


Flooded golf course across the river



2013 California International Marathon (CIM) Race Recap

The California International Marathon is my hometown marathon race.  At the time I ran this race, the CIM was the only full road marathon in the Sacramento region.  Since I did this race in 2013 another full marathon started last year (Pony Express Marathon).  Perennially the CIM is ranked as one of the fastest marathons in the west and a great Boston Qualifier race.  I decided to run this race with KP as my 2nd full marathon.  After my 2011 race where I finished 3 minutes over 5 hours, I wanted to give it another shot and see if I could break the 5 hour mark.  Given my half marathon times fell between 1:55 and 2:15 regularly, I figured that breaking the 5 hour mark should definitely be doable for me.  The other big selling point that most magazines and web sites tout for this race is that it is a net downhill race.  When you look at the elevation profile for the course it is true, though not many mention the rolling hills that you experience through various parts of the course.  The other neat thing I like about the race is that you actually run through 6 different cities from start to finish (Folsom -> Orangevale -> Citrus Heights -> Fair Oaks -> Carmichael -> Sacramento).

The Expo for this race is held at the Sacramento Convention Center, located in downtown Sacramento.  Unlike the majority of other races (the various half marathons and 5Ks) where packet pickup is at Fleet Feet and is a relatively small affair, the CIM Expo is a true race expo with a lot of various vendors and other races set up in a large open space.  One of the strangest and coolest things about the Expo was the booth from one of the sponsors, Erdinger Weissbrau.  You might think it strange that a German beer company is a big sponsor of a marathon and I thought the same.  Erdinger actually has branched into the endurance drink market with their Erdinger Alkoholfrei (alcohol-free).  While they always say don’t try anything new the day before a big race, I had to try this.  It tasted somewhat like beer but without the alcohol.  I don’t know that it is something I’d drink regularly but it is nice that its something that is like beer but doesn’t have the alcohol to dehydrate you.

The night before the race, my alma mater Michigan State played in the Big Ten Championship game in football.  I had every intention of heading to bed early to try and get some hours of sleep before the race.  I knew that I’d be getting up super early to prep for the early start (7 am start time, though it’d take us at least an hour to get to the start). It was a very close game that wasn’t decided until the late fourth quarter, which also meant that I ended up staying up later than I anticipated.  My pre-race meal, as per usual, was pizza.  As per usual before a big race, I didn’t sleep restfully and was up by something like 2:20 am.  I had some GI disturbances that made me question whether or not I’d even be able to do the race.  I worked out some issues in the restroom and before I knew it, KP was at the door.  My lovely wife graciously offered to drive us to the starting area (as opposed to going downtown and hopping on a bus to the start line).

The course is a point to point starting in Folsom (right near the Folsom Lake).  Folsom is known for its prison and Johnny Cash.  I guess Johnny Cash did some concerts there for the inmates.  There is actually a half marathon called the Folsom Blues Half in honor of the Man In Black.  The drop off point for the race still required that we hop on a bus for a short (5 minutes) ride to the starting area.  At the drop off point – in front of a strip mall – I had to relieve myself so ran into the McDonald’s.  I wasn’t the only one to think of this as there were already 3-4 guys ahead of me in line.  After finishing and meeting back up with KP, we boarded the bus.  From there we had to walk another 1/4 mile or so to the start.  Along this walk, there was a table set up in front of an apartment complex that had various gels and other items with a sign that they were free.  I thought it was nice that this individual had set up a table to provide some goodies for runners.  I grabbed a Gu to go with the ones I already carried (for this race I was using Tri-Berry Gu).

Race day proved to be a cold one.  Most people don’t think of the cold weather we experience here in Sacramento.  Yes, we are known for heat and hot summers but our winters can get cold as well.  Race morning started at 25 F, which is probably the coldest I’ve felt since living here (having lived in the midwest for 8 years, this wasn’t too terribly cold though it had been years since I lived in such cold).  I thought that it would warm up over the course of the race, but the temperature when I finished at noon was hovering around 32 F.  I had an old long sleeve t-shirt that I planned on wearing over my technical t-shirt.  I figured that once I was warm, I’d ditch it on the road.  The race said all collected clothes from the course would be donated to a shelter so at least that was something.  I also had some wind-breaker pants that I had over my shorts and planned on taking off before the race started so I could put the pants in my gear check.

Race start

Since we arrived at the start about an hour before the race start and it was below freezing, KP and I were looking for ways to stay warm.  I actually had joined the SRA (Sacramento Running Association) that year and had access to their warmed tent and bathrooms but I felt bad because KP wasn’t and I’d have to leave her in the cold (literally).  Some people had elected to camp out in a nearby gas station convenience store.  We walked in and stayed for awhile but it was getting pretty crowded and I’m sure the store manager wasn’t too happy about it.  We then moved over to a strip mall and there was another convenience store that we stayed in for a short while.  Finally it was getting close to start so we used the porta-potties.  I liked the porta-potty setup because there were banks of them but spread in various side streets so not everyone was crowded in one area trying to use the restroom.  This also allowed for more numerous shorter lines rather than a few very long lines (I think this is much more efficient).   We dropped our stuff (gear check) off with the big trucks and lined up with the group ~4:45 marathon pace.  7 am (start time) came and went and nothing happened, but then all of a sudden we were off!  Since this was a larger race (though still not super large at like 4-6,000 marathoners plus relay racers, there is no half-marathon component to this race), the beginning was a bit congested.  This actually worked for me since I didn’t want to start too fast as I tend to do with shorter races.

The beginning miles start in a somewhat rural residential area.  What I mean by that is that most properties have a fair amount of land.  The house is usually set back from the street and many people had some livestock in the yard (horses, chickens, goats).  As we came up to the first few water stations, we noted that there may be a bit of an issue with the temperatures and the water stations.

I noticed that people were slowing down considerably leading up to the water station.  Normally I expect people to move to the side of the street as they slow down but everyone seemed to be doing it.  As we came closer, we could see why.  The runners that already went through often drank the water/sport drink and then tossed the rest (many times in the street).  The cold weather actually froze this water on the ground creating large patches of slick ice.  I actually watched two people who had slowed to a walk actually fall on their butts!  From here on out I told KP that we should probably walk through the water stations.  She agreed.  I definitely had a few episodes where I almost ate it.

We then traversed through Citrus Heights and more standard homes and then into the city of Fair Oaks.  Two of my (at the time) co-workers lived in the area along the route and I did actually get to see them and say Hi!  One of them snapped a picture as we ran by.

mile 9.jpg
Photo from my former co-worker

I was still feeling pretty good at that time but it was only around mile 9-10.  I still hadn’t warmed up and wasn’t sure if I actually would.  As we wound through Fair Oaks, there were a few sections of up and down hills that definitely slowed me down.  I did stop here to use a porta-potty really quick (maybe 30-45 seconds).  I was overall still feeling good as we came to the halfway point.  By then we were mostly running through a more urban area (strip malls and bigger grocery stores and other businesses lining the street).  There were definitely some good crowds.  It was also here that I decided that even though the temperatures were still cold, I was going to ditch my long sleeve t-shirt.  I tossed it somewhere in Carmichael and continued along.  KP and I luckily have similar paces so ran together, sometimes in silence, sometimes chatting about things.  I definitely appreciate having someone who runs a similar pace and it’s nice to just have someone to share the experience with.

As we made it more towards where I live and the 18-20 mile area, I definitely started to feel the fatigue.  I had not actually done a 20-miler in anticipation of this race and only made it to 18 miles on my longest run.  My training had also been in much warmer weather (unusually hot weather in Sept-Nov leading up to the race).  I told KP that I didn’t know if I could keep running and may need to take a walk break.  She urged me to dig down and just keep at it.  I managed to continue at least at a jog and we passed through “The Wall” at mile 20.  There’s a real estate office at this spot and kudos to them for being festive.  They had an inflatable “wall” that you could run through along with a lot of people out just partying in the area.  That gave me a little bit of a push as we continued to wind closer to downtown and the finish.

Around mile 21 and crossing the H street bridge (metal bridge with some incline), I couldn’t maintain my jog/run.  I slowed down.  KP initially saw this and turned around to get me.  We continued on at a very slow pace for awhile but I urged her to keep going since she was still feeling good.

The last time I saw her before re-uniting was around mile 22-23 in East Sacramento.  East Sacramento is nice because it is tree-lined with beautiful houses.  I drive through a lot to get to downtown so was familiar with the area, but it definitely has a different vibe when you’re running through its streets.  As I entered the eastern side of downtown (midtown), I started to cramp.  I had been walking since around mile 22.  My quads started to seize up and became rock hard.  I tried to massage them a bit and after a few minutes they’d start to ease a little.  Then I’d try running but could only go for about 20-40 seconds before they’d seize up again.  With the taller buildings, there was also no sun and it was getting really chilly (especially since I was walking).

As I made my way through midtown and the businesses, I could see people at restaurants having brunch and enjoying themselves.  Of course I asked myself why I put myself through this.  I also figured I was depleted on nutrition so took whatever people were handing out at this point (I had gone through maybe 5 GUs up to this point).  One person handed me an orange quarter which I ate.  Another person had some twizzlers and I took this as well.  I continued mostly walking with a few short spurts of jogging.  Eventually I made my way down near the Capitol building.  You run down L street along the side of the Capitol and past it, then hook around the come back towards its front.  This race was also interesting because there are actually 2 different finisher’s chutes.  I hadn’t experienced this before.  After making a left on 8th street, the women’s finish turned left again much sooner than the men’s.  By this time I managed to get some energy together and was actually running.  I crossed the finish line and felt a huge relief.  Luckily they had some space blankets and I picked up some water and chocolate milk and sports drink.  I found KP, who had finished about 15 minutes before I did and we got our gear check bags so we could put on some warm clothes.

The finish area is at the steps of the Capitol and there were a ton of people (family, friends, finishers) strewn about either stretching or eating.  KP and I took a pic and then went to find some food.  The food area was actually a ways from the finish line but they had some warm soup and bread (provided by Whole Foods), along with bagels and such.  I wasn’t particularly hungry but ate some food and kept the soup.


My wife was again kind enough to come get us but with the road closures we actually ended up walking something like 10-15 blocks before she picked us up.  It was probably good though to do that walking after the race.

It was only after I was done for awhile that I checked my official chip time and then realized that I missed the sub-5 hour marathon by 4 seconds.  4 seconds!!  That finish has definitely been a strong influence on my continuing to pursue the marathon distance.  I know I won’t ever be fast, but I at least would like to do a sub-5 hour marathon at some point.

The medal is definitely big and hefty, very cool!

Chip Time: 5:00:03 (marathon PR)


2015 Napa Valley Marathon Race Recap

My 3rd attempt at the marathon distance I knew was not going to go well.

Race summary:  Point-to-point race, beautiful scenery though some people complain that it is all the same (lots and lots of wineries).  Rolling hills for the first half of the race, a few small hills towards the latter part of the race.  Spectators are sparse and scattered to certain intersections (you run on the same road for most of the race and there isn’t a way for spectators to get to the side of the road).  Weather during this time of year is usually good (March 1, 2015) – this year’s race started at a good temp but was hot by the end.  Good swag – duffel bag, long sleeve tech shirt, medal, food at the end, shuttle to the start line.

About 1 month before the race, I went out for an easy 3 mile run (I actually elected not to run a 13.1 race/training run because of heavy rain).  About 1/2 mile into my easy run, I felt a strange pain the lateral aspect of my right knee.  I figured it would work itself out as I warmed up and continued and finished my run.  Later that evening, my knee continued with an aching pain.  In the past, I’ve had knee pain during runs but they usually subsided during regular daily activities and walking.  Over the next week small amounts of knee pain would crop up during daily activity.  The following week I stepped out to see how the knee was doing.  I made it less than 1/4 mile and the pain resumed.  With my history of small aches and pains, I had in the past been able to run through knee discomfort.  This pain was different and would make it impossible to continue running and make walking hard as well.  I decided to take as much time off as I thought it would take for my knee to recover.  Luckily I had already completed my 20 mile long run the week before my injury.

Speaking with my running buddy in OH, she mentioned that she had knee pain and used KT tape for her first marathon.  A week before the NVM 2015, I purchased some KT tape, watched the video on how to apply it for knees and went on a run.  I made it 3 miles with minimal to no pain.  That run convinced me that I should still attempt to do the race even though I know my fitness had dropped from not having run the previous 3 weeks.

The Expo was held at the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa.  Packet pickup was very smooth.  There was a small room with vendors and tables for some other races.  NVM is known for their duffels that each runner receives with their registration.  This year they were celebrating the 1976 Olympic marathon team (Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Don Kardong) – hence the following duffel:

NVM also provided a long sleeve tech shirt (again with the 1976 Olympic theme):


I think they went a little overboard with the Red, White, and Blue theme.  Previous year’s duffels were a nice looking purple and grey that I would have no problem using for short trips.  I haven’t traveled much with the above duffel because it is a bit…something.

The race

The race starts in Calistoga and winds its way through the historic Silverado Trail to the city of Napa.  The finish line was at Vintage High School.  Since this was a point-to-point race, they offered parking at the high school with a bus (actual school buses, made me feel like I was back in middle school) from the finish line to the start.  It took almost an hour to make the 26 mile drive and by then my bladder was about to burst.  When we arrived at the start, the buses parked on a side-street and no one knew where the actual start was (they had yet to set up the below start line when we arrived:


Nobody knew where the porta-potties were either.  The race start was located in front of the Solage Calistoga (a resort hotel).  Many people contemplated relieving themselves in the shrubbery of this resort but there were signs warning us not to do this.  Eventually someone with NVM pointed out that the porta-potties were about 1/8 mile north of where we were all standing.  Because of the early start time, the sun had yet to rise and no one could see them.  Just my luck, the porta-potties still had their zip tie locks on them.  Luckily there was one runner who had some nail clippers that kindly went down the line and popped the zip ties.  During this time, they erected the above start line inflatable and we were getting ready.  This was the 2nd marathon that I’d be running with my good friend KT.  I’ve been lucky the previous few years to have her living relatively close because we run with similar paces.  I told her that depending on how my knee held up, she may have to go on without me.  Temperatures started out in the 40s and were to warm up into the 70s by the end.

Just prior to the start

With my knee taped up, we were off.  I’d been training with two different Saucony Guide shoes.  Most of my prior races had been run in various Saucony shoes.  I think part of why I did suffer an injury though was because I had been alternating 2 Saucony Guide shoes and therefore they were using the same muscles.  (Since this race, I started rotating between 3 shoes that are all very different).  This race remains on paved roads and starts with rolling hills for the first many miles.  My right knee felt good and we were keeping our usual pace.  There were many views of various wineries and the hills in the background.

Around mile 13, I started to note my right knee giving me a small protest.  As we continued between mile 13 and 14, I told KT to go on ahead as I needed to take a walking break.  This is where the wheels fell off my race.  I had made it to the halfway point around 2:22:18.  After walking for about a mile, I attempted to start jogging/running again.  However, my right knee yelled at me that it wasn’t going to cooperate.  So then I was relegated to a brisk walk (luckily my knee was okay with this).  I started to play a game in my head as to how fast I needed to walk to make the race cut-off (6 hours).  Through miles 14-25, I would attempt to run.  Each time either my right knee would say “NO” or my left calf would cramp.  My mind told me that since I hadn’t been running for 1 month prior to this, my body was not ready to tackle this distance and length of exercise.  I resigned myself to walking.  The highlight of the race is that around the 20 mile mark (I may be wayyy off as the sun had put me in a heat-induced daze and I was parched), there’s a B&B that hands out home-made sorbet.  Luckily even with my slow pace, they still had plenty as I passed.  I had 2 different flavors and they were fantastic.

The last few miles of the race are through residential neighborhoods in Napa.  I continued my walk and received dirty/disappointed looks from the photographers who were surprised I didn’t even attempt to jog/run as I passed them.  I didn’t care what they thought, I just wanted to be done.  Finally I came to the last 0.2 miles and KT was there, she encouraged me to run it in and I managed to run the last 200 yards to the finish.

The finish line amenities did include showers (in the school gym), massages (did not partake), and hot soup and some other snacks.  I had some soup and water and then parted ways with KT.

My official finish time was a disappointing: 5:43:32.  This race and result made me want to do another full marathon to show I can improve on my time.

The center of the medal spins.  The medal again celebrates the 1976 Olympic team.

I most likely would not run this race again mostly because if I were to do another full, I’d want to make it unique.  The lack of crowd support and somewhat monotonous scenery don’t give me enough incentive to do the race again. But I am glad that I did the race.