2011 San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon - Race Report

The Good:
  • An 8:15am start
  • Passing the marathoners as they had already ran half of there race...kind of felt like Pre!
  • Runner chicks...nuff said
  • Crossing the finish line...and adding my 2nd open Half Mary to the books
  • Food in the VIP area
  • Post race massage...AWESOME!!!

The Bad:
  • The thought of running 13.1 miles
  • Waking up at 5:20am
  • Averaging a Heart Rate of 185 for the race...is that healthy?
  • Every single uphill
  • Miles 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13, and .1
  • Every single downhill
  • Getting chicked by camo and flower skirt girls...it was down to the wire...ok just Mile 11 or so
  • Walking around lost trying to find said awesome VIP area after the race...even though I was there before the race
  • My SI and hip being done with about 3 miles to go
  • Ohh Yeah...and running 13.1 miles

The Ugly:
  • Getting a blister on top of a blister
  • Having said blister break open mid race (though it actually felt better)...
  • Walking to the Bart Station and back to my apartment...had the gangsta limp workin'

Seriously...WHAT WAS I THINKING!?! ;)

In all honesty, even though the race didn't go as planned (though there really wasn't a plan), San Francisco puts on a great event. The organization, the pre and post race festivities, the on-course management, this was a top notch race from start to finish and glad I was able to get out there and run!!!


Make that a Double...

The weekend plans were figured out as I was sitting around with the rest of my coworkers enjoying our last day at the old office. A conversation started to see who would be interested in a long run the following morning. Obviously I was game to try and run a new route, as the nice lake by my house is starting to get that…summer smell.

Mile Markers
The decision was made and we were going to run a Double Dipsea. I had never heard of the Dipsea Trail but I was game...even though I was told there were 700 steps to contest with...I was ready to run/walk/crawl...whatever it took.

Over 3000' of climbing...
The run started at a local elementary school in Mill Valley and from the beginning we started climbing…and climbing…and climbing. Here are a few pictures of the steps within 2 minutes of the run, I was sure were getting those 700 steps out of the way early.

Looking Up
Looking Down

After navigating our way up the steps and through a couple neighborhoods, we finally made our way to the “trail” part of the Dipsea Trail. And just like the previous millions stairs we climbed, there were more. We would go down a ton of steps...and roots...and then more steps...and more roots only to head right back up some a few minutes later. This was by far the toughest run I have ever done. I wish I could say that I didn’t walk but I would be just play lying. I was walking up steps left and right...well kind of more straight forward but you get the point.

Amazing View (Pacific Ocean in the distance)

But just like every trail run I have been on around here, there are moments when the views make all the pain and suffering TOTALLY worth it. After winding our way through a couple valleys, down some super steep steps and along some very cool paths, we were greeted with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Absolutely amazing.

Stinson Beach in the distance...we ran to that too
See :)
Now since the Dipsea Trail is a point-to-point trail and we were doing the “Double” Dipsea, we had to head back. I definitely think heading back was easier, if you call running that trail easy, and seem to go by quite a bit faster. I am guessing it is because I was able to mentally prepare myself for the torture I was putting my legs through.

A cool bridge we ran across!
Steps Down...and Up I guess since we ran them both ways :)

The trail is just under 7.5 miles long for a total of 15 miles of up and down stairs, roots and dirt trails and WAY more than 700 stairs especially if you count the thousands of roots along the way. Still it was a very cool run and just the beginning of a long weekend of training.

The Landscape Architect in me LOVES the simplicity of this sign...Very Cool!


Running the trails of Redwood Park...

With the asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks getting rather boring, I have been trying to get out and see what running trails are near my apartment. Now by near, I unfortunately don't be just down the block like back home but close enough to drive and not feel like I am in the car all day.

A couple weekends ago I was feeling pretty recovered...or basically I skipped a few workouts during the week and thought it might be best to go torture myself on a long trail run. Having no idea where to go, I googled 'trail run east bay' and came up with a local race that happened back in February. The website had detailed descriptions of the course, maps, elevations and turn-by-turn directions...basically a perfect fit for a guy who has no idea where anything is around here.

Not sure this elevation map does ANY justice on exactly how steep some of these sections were.

I had rode past the entrance to Redwood Park on "My Favorite Loop" ride a few times and when I found the trail run online, I knew this was where I was going to go. I loaded up with a few gels, a camera and my directions and was off for a 20K or about 12.5 miles. This was going to be my longest run in basically forever and throw in the difficulty of trails, I knew it was going to be tough.

Nice clear path after a super steep climb to start off...but I am starting to understand
no mater what sport you are doing here, it is uphill. I am just waiting to swim uphill next.

Another Amazing View

Cool Cover Trail

Loved this part.

Stream Trail- 3 miles home
West Ridge Trail- 6 miles home
Only one way to go...
Some single track trails...was definitely worried about Poison Oak but
pretty hard to tell with all the other plants. 

I really enjoyed the run. I might have been a bit overzealous when I picked the 20k loop as I was struggling quite a bit near the end but I made it back to my car in one piece. And with any trail run will come a bath for my legs in rubbing alcohol to make sure I do not get another case of Poison Oak. 

The smell is intoxicating...I should probably start
marketing it as a body wash, Axe has nothing on me :) 
I do feel like I am finally getting some running legs under me and though I can't say that I love running, once I get out there no matter how hard it gets, I am really starting to enjoy running...though it could definitely use a touch or sounds of my peeps from the northwest to make it even better.


San Jose Metro Triathlon - Race Report

First of all I want to start out by saying how impressed I was with this entire race. From the organization of transitions, to the music and announcements but most importantly, it was the in-race efforts that I most appreciated. I am not kidding when I say there was a police officer at EVERY intersection, cones and arrows at EVERY corner and people telling you exactly where to go. I have done many races, Ironman included and this is top-notch. I didn’t stick around for the awards ceremony but the 3 tables full of bottles of wine were a sure bet that this event was legit from beginning to end.

Swim and Expo Area
There is always a little bit of fear when getting ready for your first race of the year. Not knowing where your fitness really is, will you remember to do all the “small” things leading up to and during the race, will you take your helmet off before you head out for the run…you know, all the things that you might just forget.

My last race was in September, I spent much of the last month getting over a cold and poison oak, so much of my training was hit and miss. Riding has been most consistent but nothing more than some base miles. Running has been going ok but I never get out as much as I need to, but honestly that has been the problem since I started this sport. And swimming…well let’s just say I forgot the smell of chlorine…Yeah it’s THAT bad. I swam last Thursday just to see if remembered how to do it. Another athlete at the race made a funny comment and referenced it to that “Last Chance Workout” they do on Biggest Loser…that was my last chance swim workout before the race.

Swim Course (out around the island twice)
Just like every race morning, the alarm goes off WAY to early and I was out of bed by 4:05am and out the door 30 minutes later. It was about an hour drive down to the race site and like always, wanted to give myself plenty of time. I was ready to go with over an hour to spare…perfect in triathlon time.

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So with a little extra time, I took a moment to familiarize myself with the transition entrances and exits along with the first parts of the bike and run course. Mentally I was ready to go…it was only a matter of time until I would see if I was physically ready as well.

After struggling into my wetsuit and a quick warm-up swim, I was toeing the water’s edge ready to go. With a lack of confidence in my swimming fitness, I really forced myself to go out easy. I usually try to start fast before settling into a hard but good pace. I didn’t feel that would be a good approach at this race since it could leave me doggy paddling the rest of the race.

Photo by: Tom Vo

I was surprised on how comfortable and strong I felt throughout the swim. I knew I wasn’t going real fast but at the same time, I felt like I was working hard and didn’t feel like I faded…definitely a plus considering the last month. And if it wasn’t for the guy who kept touching my feet the ENTIRE swim, it would have been perfect and considering it was a 2-loop swim, with quick beach run…Ironman CDA-esque, well minus the few thousand fans cheering you on. I exited the water knowing I might have been able to go just a little harder but knew that I could have easily gone too hard and suffered the rest of the race. Swim Time: 25:31 (but I think this counts the run up to transition too).

Photo by: Tom Vo

Up and into transition I went. This is kind of my self-proclaimed specialty and for the first transition of the season, it went surprisingly smooth. I even did the whole flying mount onto the bike...SUCCESS!!!

Photo by: Tom Vo

Once on the bike, I still had to force myself to hold back. I wanted to push myself but at the same time REALLY didn’t want to blow up on the run. The course was flat and fast which can easily lead to pushing yourself harder than you really should. This was my fastest 40k (1:04:57) to date but I contribute that to the fast course and to these damn hills surrounding the East Bay.

Photo by: Tom Vo

Coming off the bike, I really wanted to see where my run fitness was at. So far I had only done 1 transition workout and that was after a 3 hour ride. Not a real good gauge on 10k fitness. I was surprised to feel my legs under me right from the start. I was passed pretty quickly by a couple of guys who disappeared in no time but I was just focused on putting together a solid run.

Photo by: Tom Vo

Without a watch, all I focused on was my effort. I wanted to make it to the turn-a-round and then begin to pick up the pace with each passing mile. This was by no means my fastest run off the bike but I really felt it was my smartest. Each time I wanted to speed up, the legs responded…especially when I heard one guy chasing me down.

Photo by: Tom Vo

I was able to hold him off and finish with a 43:23 or what I like to call… sub 7’s at 6:59.8!!! It felt like I was running faster but it was nice to “feel” what this pace felt like and now I know I can begin to push myself more and more.

Photo by: Tom Vo

All in all, this was a great race. I think this is my second fastest ever Olympic (2:15:37) and for the first race of the season with all that has been going on over the past 2 months, I will take it. I was impressed by the race itself and glad to get my first race of the year under my belt and finally some numbers to look at.


Bike to Work - 2011 Team Bike Challenge

At the end of April, I was approached by a coworker looking to form a team for the 2011 Team Bike Challenge here in the Bay Area for the month of May. Not really having a competitive bone in my body...I am not sure why they would ask me but heck I was up for a little challenge ;)

The whole challenge revolves around substituting you bike for any trip that you might use a car for instead. Like commuting to work, running an errand, going shopping or just running over to a friends house. Being new to the area, I was a little skeptical about trying to commute by bike. I had done it a few times back home but never on a consistent basis so I was going to do my best to give our team points.
4 Members of our 5 Member GU Crew Team
Me, Mel, John and Jeremy
You get points for each commute and then additional points if it is over a certain distance. For example, a commute to work for me is 6.1 miles each way for a totally of 12.2 miles. I get one point for the commute to work and I get one point for the commute being over 10 miles total. I would only get 1 point for my trips to the store since the total distance was only 2 miles.

Over the month of May, I tallied 35 different commutes by bike with a total of 370 miles of riding which includes 21 straight days to work. That doesn't include any "exercise" rides or miles since those would be done in lei of a car. I was able to rack up a total of 65 points and won some cool "medals" along with way...well I am not sure how cool they are but you get them as your totals add up. Though we kind of faded at the end, I think it is pretty awesome that we were able to ride over 1,700 miles...pretty awesome.

All in all, I think this was a pretty cool event. I was able to save between $50-$60 bucks in gas commuting and was able to get some recovery rides in for my legs. And honestly, I was surprised how much more awake I would feel in the morning once I got to work. There were days that it was tough to get out the door when you have a nice warm car sitting right there but once I started peddling, I was good to go.

PS: As I am typing this, I am looking at the weather for tomorrow and it is suppose to rain all day. (Special Note- I have been told no less than 50 times that it doesn't rain like this in California and this weather is not normal...though I am not sure an entire week has gone by without some rain) I think I might take this opportunity to drive myself to work for the first time since April...the challenge is over right ;) But I honestly plan to commute many more days by bike, so really this is just the beginning.


My New Favorite Bike Loop and the road called Butters!!!

I have found it rather difficult to "know" where to go ride. I have been on some great rides since I got down here but not always knowing exactly where we went. Plus it can always be difficult trying to get out of the city and onto these rural roads. A few weeks ago, a buddy took me on this route that I thought was pretty cool and even though the 3:00+ ride was a bit more than I was bargaining for at the time, it was still great to see some new roads.

The road called Butters :)
Fast forward to yesterday and I was on my own trying to remember where we went and exactly how we got there. After looking at a map and a quick mental note on where to turn, I headed out the door. I am never too worried since I have a smart phone with Google Maps on it and even if that fails, a good rule of thumb is to head towards to ocean...and then try and find your way home.

Always some amazing views at the top of the climbs.
This is a perfect weekend route. It is just over 25 miles and takes about 1:45 to complete if you are out to work hard but not try to push your self to exhaustion. Just like EVERY single ride here, it starts off with climbing...like averaging 10.5 mph for the first 40 minutes of the ride...climbing. You just go up and then up again and the in case you thought that was fun you go up a little bit more. The ride has just over 2,200 feet of climbing but what goes up must come down, so there are some great technical descents on winding roads. How can a ride not be some road names like: Skyline, Redwood and of course Butters...

Some small trees next to the roads :)
The hidden Post Office- This place is famous for being close to nothing.
And what would a good ride be without the random Stop signs
in the middle of nowhere...and the cars actually stop which can't be
said for ANY other Stop Sign in the state of California :)
I know I am not the first person to find this route but as of today I am going to claim it as "My Weekend Loop". There are opportunities to easily add additional miles if I need to and you are protected from the constant winds that seem to make sure I am ALWAYS riding into a head wind. So its pretty much MINE now :) Hopefully it helps me get my butt out the door without the hour or so of me telling myself that it will be fun.

So if you are ever in the Bay Area and want to go for a ride just let me know. I have the PERFECT one all planned out.


Michelin Krylion Carbon- Bulletproof...Just not Stapleproof

Michelin Krylion Carbon
I stumbled onto these tires looking for something that could withstand the tough roads around my hometown of Spokane and have continue to use them down here in California. I do a fair amount of city and rural road riding along with plenty of miles put in along side highways. These are prime locations for anything and everything to collect that could give you a flat tire.

Now I would like to think that it was my amazing abilities and superscope vision that has left me flat free for the last 2 years but I highly doubt that is the case...I am good, just not that good ;) I have to give credit where credit is due and I honestly believe it is these tires.

A Souvenir...or not
Just today I got my first flat tire in as long as I can remember. The culprit, well it was a heavy duty staple that someone decided to leave on the side of the road and I just happen to find that exact spot they left it and thought it might fun...or not so fun to get off and have to fix a flat.

You probably have your own favorites and maybe you had a bad run of luck with these tires but to go on as many rides as I have, on the roads that I have, and the harsh conditions I have...these tires have been amazing. I actually replaced my last set before ever getting a flat... not one and like I said I would like to think it is because I am so awesome but let's be real. Now I probably just jinxed myself but triathletes aren't supersitious...right ;)

Back up and riding...Rain in the morning and Sun in the afternoon
So if you are in the market for a great training tire that can 'roll' with the punches, might I suggest you pick up a set of these. With a relatively low cost, high reward and come in quite a few colors if you are all about accessorizing your ride.


Tour of California- Stage 4 GU Crew Recap

I should have know that starting the day racing to catch the Bart was just the beginning of a long but fun day. The plan was for the GU Crew to leave work around 10:30am, catch the 10:45am Bart and start riding shortly after 11:45am. The race was suppose to finish around 3:15pm so that gave us plenty of time to make the 30 mile journey from West Dublin to the top of Sierra Road.

The day began with my coworker and I have time trial it through the streets of Berkeley trying not to miss the train EVERYONE else was on. After running a few red lights, my fastest ever Bart ticket purchase (I only have 3 in the books, so not a whole lot of competition) and running down an escalator in cycling shoes, we walked up just as the train was pulling in. I am guessing we had about a minute to spare...just like we planned it.

The GU Crew
The ride started out awesome, we were cruising through the streets of Dublin looking like we should have been in the race. There was pulling, there was drafting…we pretty much had our own little pelaton heading to the finish.

Totally should have entered the race...
I haven’t really been on a big group ride since I left home so it was nice to be able to chit chat with everyone and just get out of the office and on the bike. The roads were absolutely beautiful and really reminded me of the scenery back home. Sure do miss all that.

Still Smiling...probably haven't started climbing the "Real" stuff yet!
The fun began when we started climbing up the backside of Sierra Road. It wasn't the Cat 1 the pros were heading up a few hours later but I was told that it could have been classified as Cat 2. So pretty much…I NEVER WANNA RIDE A CAT 1!!!

I was sweating so much, I could barely hold on to my handlebars, the sunscreen that was on my face was dripping into my eyes which was burning and made it almost impossible to see plus I had no idea where the top actually was. All I wanted to do was just stop, get off and start walking. But walk...with a tri bike...around all these cyclists...NEVER!!! I was going to keep peddling until either my legs fell off or I started rolling backwards. I am happy to report neither actually happened but I am pretty sure, it was only a matter of time.

San Jose in the distance.
Just like all the rides around Berkeley that produce many amazing views, this ride did not disappoint. Our ride took us just east of San Jose and with all the climbing made for some beautiful shots of the valley below.

Have you tried the new GU?
The "Work" reason we went to this ride was to hand out samples of the new Chocolate Raspberry Roctane released last week. We each carried about 8 lbs of GU gel up the mountain to give to all the spectators who made the trek. I was glad to see so many people, because there was NO WAY I was carrying that back down.

Bike Rack / Barbed-Wire Fence
A view from above the finish line.
We did actually make it to the race start. It is quite the production they set up in the middle of absolute nowhere. There were huge tents, mobile media trucks, fencing and people everywhere. I was surprised how many people made the actual climb up to the finish…many who rode the west side (Cat 1). It was very cool to see them  cheering and support all the riders and teams. It makes me wonder how absolutely insane the Tour de France is...

Chris Horner- The Stage 4 and eventually race winner.
Andy Schleck (left) and Levi Leipheimer (right)
Jens Voigt
One final climb to the line.
I was also surprised by how quickly the riders would head right back down the mountain. A few would throw on a jacket or some arm warmers, a can of pop and just turned around and headed back down as the race was still going on. It’s probably not that uncommon at a stage race like this, but just something new to me.

And back down the mountain they go.
Levi Leipheimer
The Pelaton reaches the top.
The ride back down for us was much less uneventful. Everyone knew exactly what lied ahead and everyone (or maybe just me) wanted to get back as my legs were feeling it. With over 3:30 on the bike and what I was told over 4,500 ft of climbing, I was going to sleep REEEEAL good.

All in all, I can’t think of a better day at the office. Pretty cool to be able to get out of work, jump on the bike and see the finish of the largest stage races in the US.