Category Archives: running

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The Road to Boston, 2016 Edition

Road to Boston

Marathons are tough!!! Seems like I’ve said that before. And I suppose that is not always true, but lately I’ve been running toward another BQ, so maybe that is the issue. Let’s revise my statement to be:

Running a BQ is tough!!!

As you may remember, my first BQ occurred last year. I was a “squeaker” and beat my qualifying standard by less than a minute. I was excited to submit my registration for Boston 2015 and did so early on Monday morning of Week 2. And then I waited anxiously to find out if I would be accepted. After weeks (not really) of anticipation, I found out that the cutoff time was 1:02. Meaning that I would NOT be running in 2015.

I decided that was OK, and that I would simply wait until 2016 to make my Boston début.

I ran several marathons in the last three months of 2014, but didn’t really follow a training plan. First up was the beautiful, challenging MDI Marathon in my home state of Maine, followed by the equally beautiful, pristine Antarctic Ice Marathon on Union Glacier in Antarctica. A few weeks later I ran the scenic, fairly fast Tucson Marathon, but didn’t push too hard. I closed out the year with the SF28.2, then started seriously planning for the next BQ.

The goal race was Mountains 2 Beach from Day 1. I set a PR there in 2012 and again in 2013 (when I almost BQed without even realizing it). 2014 was a slow year, but it was also a week after I ran the Great Wall Marathon, so that was to be expected. I know the course well and it has a lot of downhill miles. The temperature is generally close to perfect. It gets hot in Ojai where the race starts, but by the half way point you’re well on your way to Ventura, which is on the coast and much cooler. Much of the first part of the course is shady which helps as well.

In January, Coach Val and I worked out a plan to have me BQ ready by May. I was impatient and we wound up adding in two marathons along the way. I think that in both of those first two marathons some aspects of my training were not complete, but each was a good learning experience and a way to measure progress.

I ran the Napa Valley Marathon about 8 weeks in. I was logging around 50 miles/week at that point. My base was pretty solid and I had run some very consistent tempo runs so I was able to get the green light from Coach Val to go for the BQ if I was feeling good. I wound up having some weird stomach issues the day before and morning of the race, so I was definitely NOT feeling good. I started the race fairly strong, but ended up slowing down a lot. Napa is a beautiful race, but the rolling hills have always been tough for me. Around mile 15, I decided to back off and save it for another day. Finish time: 3 hours, 46 minutes.

I took a week completely off, then jumped back into training. I wanted another opportunity to test things out before Mountains 2 Beach so I assumed the role of “pushy client” and signed up for the Modesto Marathon, which was 4 weeks after Napa. That basically gave me time to recover, then taper. My fitness level was probably about the same going into Modesto as it was for Napa, but there were no stomach issues and the course was pancake flat. Unfortunately it was also super hot with no shade at all. The course was essentially an out and back with the sun behind you for the first part, then in your face for the final miles. I ran a pretty strong, consistent race for the first 16 miles, then started to gradually fade. The sun was a factor, but my mental game was also not quite ready. Finish time: 3 hours, 27 minutes.

With 8 weeks to go until Mountains 2 Beach, we had plenty of time to fine tune my training. We added more running on tired legs and more speed work at the end of long runs. However, I also had some mental fatigue to work through. I had been running 6 days/week for months and making training a huge priority. I had some bad runs and some bad weeks in the final stretch and I wound up taking time off. Coach Val helped me through those tough weeks and made sure that I was ready for race day both physically and mentally this time.

A few days before the race I received the perfect pre-race note from Coach Val. It said, among other things:

You have worked so hard, you have learned a lot, you have grown as a person and as a runner, you are ready! Believe in yourself as much as I believe in you, as much as everyone around you believes in you. You can do it! Give it your all, tears, blood and guts.

I was calm the entire week before the race. There were no stomach issues and the weather was pretty much perfect. But the most important thing was that I was mentally ready.

I ran a good, solid race. I started out a little slow, then picked up the pace for the bulk of the race, then slowed down a lot at the end. Wait, scratch that. Slowing down a lot was NOT part of the plan. But it did happen. The last 5 miles were tough and I had to really push to keep my pace under 8:00 miles. I missed my “A” goal of a sub 3:20, but stayed mentally tough, pushed through, and hit my “B” goal of a solid BQ. Finish time: 3 hours, 22 minutes.

I just want to wrap up by giving a HUGE thank you to Coach Val. There’s no way that I could have done this without your guidance, your encouragement, and your belief in me. In addition to Coach Val I also have an amazing support crew. Thanks for being there and supporting me through this crazy process.

boston_jacket boston_shoes


Cue the goofy grin…

The SF28.2

a [new] Sweat Tracker tradition

Way back in 2008 my mom bought me a copy of Ultramarathon Man for Christmas. I had run 10 or 12 marathons at the time and it was the perfect gift. I started reading the book that night and continued the next morning. Eventually I got up to eat breakfast and decided to go out and run until I got tired. I confirmed that a friend would be able to pick me up if I needed a ride and headed out with my phone and a general idea of where I wanted to go. Twenty-eight miles later I was back home and the first DK28 was in the books. I’ve run pretty much the same route six out of the past seven years on the day after Christmas.

The run has become a time to reflect on the previous year and to look forward to the challenges of a new one. It’s a time to enjoy running just for the sake of running. San Francisco is a beautiful city and the route takes me through some of my favorite spots.


This year I realized that Dean Karnazes was no longer my inspiration to get out and do the run. I’ve never even met the guy and I only heard him speak once, so other than the book he’s had very little influence on my life. Given that, the DK28 was officially retired as of 12/26/2013 with thanks to Dean for five great years.

To be honest, I’m not sure that I really need inspiration to run any more, or perhaps I inspire myself. San Francisco is an amazing place to live, work, and run, so it’s probably the city itself that inspires me. At any rate, going forward the DK28 will be known as the SF28.2 (due to a small route change to get around some construction).

2014 was an incredible year with lots of inspiration. I ran 6 miles with Pam Reed in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I spent 5 days with Richard Donovan in Antarctica. Coach Val helped a bunch of people reach their goals in 2014, including me (finally qualified for Boston). My buddy Brian got me to run my first obstacle race and we completed the Spartan Trifecta. I completed my 50th marathon and then I ran 9 more including the BQ.


Sweat Tracker did some work with Bob Anderson, founder of Runner’s World. I worked with Dave Rhody over at RhodyCo and learned a lot about race management. Each month I worked with Kyle on City Beer Runs – what a great guy and what a fun event to be involved with! And we did online coaching for the Tucson Marathon and helped people reach their goals.

Here’s to a great 2015, filled with lots of inspiration, lots of running, and more cool people to work with. With SF as a backdrop, you know it’s going to be another awesome year!


On Thick Ice

The amazing story of the Antarctic Ice Marathon. Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post are copyright, 2014. We’d like to thank the folks at the Antarctic Ice Marathon for putting on a top notch event and for allowing us to share some of the incredible photos that they captured this year.

Union Glacier is located in the southern Ellsworth Mountains of West Antarctica. During the summer months (November to January), it is home to more than 30 people who staff the Union Glacier Camp. The camp is located about 600 miles from the South Pole at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet.

Antarctica map
the white arrow on the map indicates the location of the camp

The camp is near a rare, naturally occurring, blue ice runway that allows wheeled jet cargo aircraft to land. At the beginning of the season, aircraft drop ANI (Adventure Network International) personnel and equipment off via parachute to clear the runway and start preparing the camp. Once the runway is ready, the aircraft returns with additional staff and equipment. For more details about the camp, please visit

Russian Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft are used to transport equipment and personnel to the camp. The flight from Punta Arenas, Chile is around 2,000 miles and takes a little over four hours.

boarding-punta-arenas russian-safety-briefing
boarding the plane in Punta Arenas and safety briefing by Russian crew (emergency exits)
ilyushin-standard-seating ilyushin-jump-seats
“standard” seating for 48 people plus some jump seats located in the rear cargo area
view from the cockpit

Upon arrival in Antarctica, visitors are transported to Union Glacier Camp via specially adapted 4×4 passenger vans. The camp is located about 5 miles from the runway in an area that is generally sheltered from the wind.

first steps on the frozen continent
warm-vans luggage
warm vans quickly transport visitors to camp and luggage follows soon after

Union Glacier Camp is amazing!

We slept in double walled, unheated tents. A polar sleeping bag was provided and it kept us quite warm. However, a bottle of water left beside the bed overnight would freeze. The same was true for a pee bottle left beside the bed (yup, that’s really a thing). The temperature inside the tent varied between 25ºF and 68ºF depending on the amount of sunlight that was available. The sun doesn’t set in the summer, but cloud cover can keep things on the cooler side. We arrived on Tuesday and didn’t see the sun until Friday afternoon, so it was definitely cool for most of our stay.

The dining tent was heated and we spent much of our time there. In addition to dining, this was the place for group meetings, socializing, or just relaxing. The full kitchen served us delicious, fresh-cooked meals that included fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. Snacks and beverages were available anytime.

The bathroom facilities were not heated, so each trip was a quick one. We’ll spare the details, but the ANI crew leave nothing behind on the continent. All waste is returned to Punta Arenas. They are dedicated to keeping the environment pristine and beautiful. There were also heated shower facilities that used melted snow for water. We were allowed one shower during our five day stay.

base-camp dining-tent
the accommodations (two people per tent) and a view of the long blue dining tent behind the crowd
showers safety-meeting
the shower facility and a view of the inside of the dining tent (at a safety briefing presented by the doctors)
taking life easy while drying out my boots


The schedule was a bit unpredictable. Everything was based on the weather and the safety of the guests. After the first few delays, people seemed to settle in and accept that things were beyond their control. We were initially supposed to fly to Antarctica on Monday (11/17), but poor weather conditions pushed our departure out until Tuesday afternoon. Once we arrived, we were supposed to run the marathon the next day, the 100K on Thursday, and return on Friday (our original return date). However, very soon after we arrived the small window of good weather closed and things got cloudy and windy. We were not able to run the marathon on Wednesday, although we were allowed to go out for a quick 4K run to test out our gear.

The 100K actually took place first, starting on Thursday at 9:00AM. The weather was still very windy, but the 100K route stayed closer to camp and the runners were a bit tougher than us mere marathoners. Six people started the race and six people finished. The winning time was just under 14 hours and the last runners finished in just under 24 hours. That’s right, 24 hours. We cheered for them at the start, then at various points throughout the race, then went to bed while they continued to run. We got up the next morning, had some breakfast, and then cheered as the last people finished. Here are the six brave souls that took on this incredible challenge.

the 100K participants: Richard, Adriana, Penbin, Oscar, Kenichi, Willy

The marathon started on Friday at 2:00PM, just hours after the 100K wrapped up. The wind had died down and the sun came out around 3:00PM or 3:30PM, so we actually had very nice conditions. There were 57 runners with times ranging from about 4.25 hours to 9.25 hours. And again, everyone who started the race finished it. This is a testament not only to the dedication of the individual runners, but to the support that we received from the ANI and Antarctic Ice Marathon staff.

start-marathon-1 start-marathon-2
the start of the marathon, still overcast, but with low wind
and we’re off!

The race itself was incredible! The crowd broke up very quickly and I spent much of my time running by myself, listening to the sound of snow crunch beneath my feet. This was the most peaceful, pristine marathon that I have ever run (and it was #58).

here I am solo, enjoying the scenery – this is the back stretch of the first loop and the sky has started to clear

We had prepared for the race by running on a treadmill in a walk in freezer, so I knew pretty much what to expect in terms of gear. The main advice from the race veterans was to take things slowly in the beginning and avoid overheating. Getting soaked with sweat and then getting cold later in the race would be a very bad thing. The marathon was two loops of 13.1 miles. Each loop had two manned checkpoints and an unmanned aid station. My plan starting out was to strip off all my wet gear midway through (in the heated dining tent) and replace it with dry gear. Given how nice the conditions were, this may not have been necessary, but I stuck to the plan and started out fresh at the halfway mark.

checkpoint-1 hydration
the first checkpoint

We had done some initial prep to get used to the temperature and the gear, but hadn’t really done much to prepare for the conditions underfoot. I would recommend logging some miles in wet sand before taking on this race. The footing was always slightly unstable and this definitely sapped your energy more quickly than during a normal road race. The course was very well marked and packed down, but not quite solid. There were places where you could run in vehicle tracks and places where you could run in snowmobile tracks, but I found the best footing to actually be on the edge of the trail where the wind had blown the snow and made it firm. It still wasn’t totally solid, so you were always aware of your feet, but it was the most predictable. There were also sections with drifting snow that you pretty much needed to walk though.

check out the footing… and the clear, blue sky!

About 5.5 hours after I started, I was very tired and very happy to be done. I was looking forward to my one shower for the week and some time by the fire. But even more than that, I was looking forward to receiving my finisher medal from Richard Donovan, winner of the first marathon ever run in Antarctica back in 2002 (he actually finished at the South Pole, under much tougher conditions).

finisher-medal-1 finisher-medal-2
the toughest marathon medal I have ever earned was personally handed out by the race director
finisher photo with Richard Donovan, winner of the first marathon ever run in Antarctica

There was quite a bit of celebrating Friday night and the weather was the best that it had been all week around 2:00AM, so naturally we needed to capture one final photo with the finisher medal…

Yes, that’s me wearing just my boots and gloves, about 600 miles from the South Pole. How many people have been there? And how many of them have run a marathon?

(censored by my Social Media Director – you’ll have to wait for my book to see the “raw” photo)

The following day was Saturday and we had an official awards ceremony with champagne. A bunch of people had completed their final marathon in their #quest4seven and were officially welcomed into the 7 Continents Marathon Club. Others were welcomed the Marathon Grand Slam Club (seven continents plus the North Pole).

winners 7-continents
winners of the marathon and 100K – Penbin (100K), Frederique (marathon), Adriana (100K), Marc (marathon) in the left photo, members of The 7 Continents Marathon Club in the right photo

all the runners

The weather was favorable for the plane to return, so we left that afternoon, one day later than planned. This was actually a good thing because we gained the day back that we had lost with our outbound delay.

prepping the plane
boarding the return flight

For those of you who plan to join us on the #quest4seven (more info), here are a few additional thoughts.

There are other marathons that claim to take place in Antarctica. If you have already run one of them and are happy with the experience, then congratulations! We are happy for you and in no way want to diminish your accomplishment.

If you are still looking for a marathon in Antarctica, then we can’t recommend this one any more highly. First of all, it actually takes place on the continent. If you are going to put in the effort to complete marathons on all seven continents, then why short change yourself? Second and most important, we think that the #quest4seven should not just be about checking off a box, but about actually experiencing each continent.

We spent five days in Antarctica, sleeping in an unheated tent. We woke up at night to the wind howling and the tent shaking. That very first morning when I woke up and it was so incredibly cold that I didn’t want to get out of the sleeping bag to pee, the feeling of isolation was almost overwhelming.

I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

Make each continent a destination, not a layover. When you look back at the memories that you have made, you will be glad that you did.

– Coach Larry

Marathons – The Mental Part

Marathons are tough! I’ve run more than 50 of them so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what is involved. About 15 months ago I set my sights on Boston. I made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to qualify on my own and realized that I could use some help.

I started working with Coach Val in March. She did an initial evaluation and worked with me on running form to improve my efficiency. She built a custom training plan designed to make me faster and managed to squeeze some pre-existing races into the schedule. We looked at both heart rate and cadence and set targets for those. We discussed diet and worked to improve the type and quality of food that I was eating. We also looked at sleep and I made an effort to get more consistent rest.

My training went really well. I had one week where I missed most of my runs, but otherwise I stuck to the plan. During the final two months of training, I put an even higher priority on getting the miles in. There were some aches and pains along the way, but Val managed to keep me injury free. She also worked with me on mental preparation towards the end, which is crucial to marathon success.

When race day came, I arrived at the start line better prepared than I have ever been. The course was mostly flat and the weather was cooperative, a bit humid but overcast. I was excited to get started and had a fairly high confidence level in a successful outcome.

The plan going in was to run even splits and focus on individual miles, not overall time. It is good to have some checkpoints, but it’s far too easy to get obsessed with overall time. Everything is great when you have time “in the bank,” but things often get challenging mentally when you start to use some of that buffer up.

I’ve always said that marathons can be divided into thirds: the first 10 miles, the next 10 miles, and the last 10 kilometers. 

The first 10 miles went well. I kept an eye on pace and things were fairly consistent. I felt good. Towards the end of the next 10 miles I started to feel a bit of fatigue. My splits were still in the target range, but I was working harder to maintain pace. Looking at the data after the fact, my average pace was 7:43 for the first 10 miles and dropped to 7:45 for the next 10 miles.

The last 10K was tough, especially miles 22 and 26. Those were the miles where I reminded myself that Coach Val believed in me and replayed in my mind all the times that she had told me “you’ve got this.” I also thought about the conversation that I would have after the race with Coach Val and didn’t want it to be about what I could have done differently. I knew that I had to dig deep and push through. Average pace dropped to 7:52.

In the end, I was able to run a strong race and meet my goal of qualifying for Boston. My second half was 30 seconds slower than my first half. That’s not the holy grail of negative splits or my race goal of even splits, but it’s pretty amazing based on my history.

Training is about more than just knowledge. Even if you know what to do and how to do, you need an external force to hold you accountable and keep you motivated. That’s where a coach comes in…

It’s also a huge benefit to have someone knowledgeable assess your readiness. Again, look to your coach. They know you, they know what your training has been, and they’ve helped you every step of the way. If they say you can do something you can be pretty certain that they know what they are talking about.

It’s great when your mom tells you that you can do it, but she’s your mom. What’s she supposed to say?


Coach Larry

NOTE: If you plan to look at individual splits on your watch rather than focus on overall time (which I highly recommend), you need to take 2 – 5 seconds off your target pace. That’s because of the extra distance that you wind up running. My Garmin always measures longer than the stated distance. In this case it was 26.34 miles which is pretty efficient, but this was a small marathon. That extra distance translates to about 2.5 seconds per mile, so my overall time was about a minute longer than predicted by the individual mile splits.

#Quest4Seven: Athens Classic Marathon Recap

This feels like the most important marathon that I have ever completed. Boom! Probably should have built up to that, but I had to get it out. Let’s rewind a bit…

The night before the marathon was pretty much sleepless. That wasn’t really because of nerves, more an issue of not adjusting to the time change. We’d been in Athens for five nights and I was feeling like a local, but not sleeping like one. The marathon didn’t start until 9:00 AM, but there were some logistics involved and I wound up on a bus at 6:00 AM.

It was still dark and I sat quietly with a sense of anticipation, listening to the conversations around me, trying to convince myself that I was rested enough to complete the marathon. There were some people speaking English, a lot speaking Greek, and many other languages mixed in. The two people in front of me went up front to speak with the bus driver multiple times and eventually we stopped the bus so one of them could pee on the roadside. Otherwise the ride was uneventful and we arrived at the start right around 7:00 AM.

As we approached the end of the trip, they started announcements in Greek followed by English with details on what to do when we arrived. They also talked about the history of the marathon and the route we were about to run,  telling us:

Today as you follow in the footsteps of Pheidippides you will go beyond your limits to honor his memory.

Powerful words.

It was cold when we got off the bus, but they handed out plastic bags which helped a bit. I located the portable toilets. They were marked separately for men and women. The men’s version had no toilet seat. Interesting. I made my way to the stadium and found a spot to wait where I could be off my feet. I watched people and relaxed. They announced that we had 30 minutes until the start. I dropped off my clothes at the clothes check, peed in the bushes with a bunch of people I didn’t know, then headed back to the stadium which was packed with people warming up.

tons of people warming up on the track

I continued to the start line, where the “blocks” (corrals) were starting to fill.

Athens Classic Start Line

Again we had announcements in Greek, then English. There was a minute of silence for the Boston tragedy (some official from the Boston Marathon was present), then we released balloons.

Balloons More Balloons

There were a few more announcements, then fireworks as each block started. We were told:

Watch out for one another and have a fine race!

The first two kilometers were packed and slow, but there was a sense of camaraderie and it wasn’t frustrating at all. I was gradually able to speed up to about an 8:00 minute/mile pace and chose someone who seemed to be running at the same speed to help with pacing. He was checking his watch every kilometer and I was checking mine every mile, but the net result was the same.

It was warm almost immediately, but the countryside was beautiful. As we passed through each small town, there was a lot music and crowd support. It felt very festive. People were clapping and there were cheers of “bravo, bravo!” Many of the people had medals as they had already completed a shorter distance. Some passed out olive branches.

When we reached the 10 kilometer mark, the course started to go uphill and I left my pacer behind. I found someone else who looked strong and stuck with him. The sun grew hotter as we continued up the hill. The course was pretty much as advertised, and was steady (relentless) uphill for 20+ kilometers. At some point, I left my second pacer behind and chose a third. As we passed the halfway point, the hill and the heat took their toll on me. I did a walk break at 22.5 kilometers and lost my pacer. I continued on, taking another walk break at 30 kilometers.

Soon after that, we started the downhill into Athens. There was some shade. There were many people out, but no music. The crowd support was still helpful, but didn’t feel quite as festive. I took my final walk break at 35 kilometers. Somewhere in the next 5 kilometers my watch died and I was totally on my own in terms of pacing. The heat started to bother me more and I couldn’t stomach another Gu. I took Power Ade at the 40 kilometer  mark and it did some nasty things to my insides. I powered through it.

We finished in the stadium where the original Olympics were held. The last 200 meters were on the track. There was an overwhelming sense of history as I entered the stadium and heard the cheers of the crowd. I actually slowed down for the final stretch because I didn’t want it to end.


After the finish, we continued walking around the track and received our medals. There was a huge feeling of accomplishment, much more  than usual (and this was my 48th marathon). There were some tears, then I continued on to some amazing photo ops in the stands.

Finish - Stands Medal


In 490 BC

The first battle for democracy was fought at the Greek village of Marathon. Though overwhelmingly outnumbered by an invading Persian Army, the citizen-soldiers of Athens prevailed and in so doing allowed the first democracy to be established and preserved the classical Greek way of life that became the foundation of western civilization.

Legend has it that, when the battle was won, the Athenian messenger Pheidippides ran twenty-four miles to Athens, carrying news of that stunning victory. The modern marathon commemorates this feat.

The Sweat Tracker team will soon participate in our first International race: the Athens Classic Marathon on 11/10. We’ll officially kick off the #quest4seven in Greece in about two weeks. Things have been busy around here getting ready for our first PR Challenge at Run Wild San Francisco on 12/1. As a result, marathon training has taken a back seat to staying on top of all the deadlines and keeping our members happy. Don’t expect any PRs this time…

The course looks a bit challenging:

Athens Classic Elevation Profile

But the total elevation gain isn’t much worse than the San Francisco marathon. The course follows the original route from Marathon to Athens. It starts in Marathon Stadium and finishes in Panathinaikon Stadium.

Athens Classic

Full details are here:

For those training with us for Run Wild – I’ll be monitoring my email so keep that feedback coming. Coach Jon and Coach Val will hold down the fort while I’m gone and Sweat Tracker will still host our regular Thursday speed workouts.


Larry Rich
Chief Runner

Speed Work – Thursdays

We had a great run last night at Sports Basement Presidio! Thanks to everyone who showed up! The weather was perfect and the views were spectacular. We managed to get some speed work in as well… we started with stair work, then tackled that nasty (but short) hill from Crissy Field up to the Golden Gate Bridge. My legs are feeling it today!

Our coaches answered a variety of questions and provided support throughout the run.

We’ll be meeting every Thursday at 6:30 through 11/21. The speed work is geared toward our PR Challenge participants, but everyone is welcome. Hope to see you out there soon!

Happy Birthday Chris!

I joined Chris for a birthday tradition this past Sunday – each year he runs his age! He turned 38 and I planned to do the whole thing with him. The furthest I’ve ever run is 50K, so I was a bit nervous, but excited at the same time. The course he laid out looked beautiful, hitting some of my favorite spots in San Francisco, heading over the Golden Gate Bridge, and doing some trails in Marin. I went out and bought my first Camelbak a couple days before, figured out how to use it, and wore it around the house on Saturday. Yup, I’m a real bad ass now!

We started at 5AM, which may be the earliest I’ve ever started a run. It was a beautiful morning and a great run with good friends and good conversation. The Camelbak rode pretty well on my back and didn’t cause me any discomfort. After we crossed the bridge I started to tire, but I really loved the section of trail in the Headlands and running through the fog. By the time we turned around, I had slowed down quite a bit and felt like I was holding the group back. I made it back across the bridge and called it at 28 miles. As I told Chris, you’ll always be 28 to me…

[But next year, I hope to do the whole thing with him]

I went home, took a quick shower, then joined the group for some victory coffee at Peets. Our cool finisher photo is below. Brian and Chris (on the left) did the whole 38. I started out with them and Casey finished the run. Even though I didn’t make it the whole way, it was a very cool way to spend my morning!


To BQ, or not to BQ, that was never the question

I suppose a lot of runners think about Boston, but most of them are much faster than I am. I’ve thought about it too, but in an abstract kind of way. It’s like thinking about being the President or launching a wildly successful startup. Cool if it happens, but don’t hold your breath.

2014 Boston Marathon

Things changed for me shortly after the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. My goal for that race was to break 3:30. That seemed like a stretch goal, but one that was achievable: the perfect kind of goal. I did far better than I expected, coming in 2.5 minutes ahead of target. I was tired, but thrilled with my time.

That’s when the problems began. You see, as I get older, those Boston guys expect less and less from me. I checked out the official rules, and sure enough, your qualifying time is based on your age on Boston Marathon day, not your age when you run the qualifying race. Hmmm, perhaps this year was my opportunity to “sneak” into Boston… All I need to do was shave another 2.5 minutes off that PR.

Which brings us to the Santa Rosa Marathon. That’s right, last weekend I qualified for Boston! Or didn’t…

Boston does a rolling admission process, so I actually wanted to run a 3:20, not a 3:25. Given the interest in Boston for next year, that seemed like the best way to guarantee a spot.

Without further ado, here are the gory details from last weekend:

I started out with the 3:15 pace group. That lasted for 8 miles. By mile 10 I was one minute behind and had given up all hope [of catching them]. Halfway mark was 1:40:35. Maybe I could pick it up a bit at the end? Around mile 15, the 3:25 pace group caught up to me. It should be easy enough to just stick with them, right? Not a chance…

Guess what? Qualifying for Boston is hard at ANY age. I was pretty disappointed last Sunday, but in a way I’m glad I didn’t make it. I mean, if I had actually qualified the first time I really tried what life lessons would I learn?

Having said that, I’m far happier with my 3:38:03 than I would have been with 3:25:03. That would have been a HUGE life lesson.




I miss running marathons for the fun of it. I typically have a goal now and there is advance planning involved. I spend more time checking my watch than enjoying the beauty of the course. Having said that, I am PSYCHED that I broke through the 3:30 mark. I’m still not even close to qualifying for Boston, but this was a huge personal accomplishment!

And that’s why we all run, right?

I set my previous PR in 2012 at Ojai 2 Ocean. Ojai is a trendy little town in the mountains inland from Ventura. The course starts out with a 10K loop that has some hills, then descends along a bike path for about 14 miles to Ventura, then has 6 flat miles along the coast to finish. The elevation profile looks like this:

Mountains 2 Beach Elevation

I did a 3:38:50 last year and my goal was to break 3:30 this year. I wasn’t sure if that was possible. On the positive side, I’ve been working with a coach for the past 7 weeks. On the negative side, I hadn’t run a marathon since 11/11/2012.

I looked at my splits from last year and put together a little race packet to share with my buddy Benny so that we could strategize. The basic plan was to try to keep the average pace close to 8:00 for the first loop, then do some sub 8:00s for the downhill portion to bank some time, then slow down at the end (I always do, might as well plan for it) and hit 3:30 at the end. Pretty simple.

Before we get into all the details on the masterful execution of this plan, here’s a shot of Benny and I at the expo the day before.

Mountains 2 Beach Expo

Before I forget: Ojai 2 Ocean is now Mountains 2 Beach. I’m sure there is some drama somewhere in the name change, but not really sure what it is. In any event, it is the same course, same organizer, etc.

Benny and I showed up bright and early. Ready to run that PR! But there was a porta potty crisis (for the race, not us) and we wound up starting 8 minutes late. We were undeterred.

The first few miles flew by. Then there was the dreaded uphill bit and a walk break at mile 5. We continued on. Elapsed time at 6.2 miles: 50:03. Only 27 seconds slower than an 8:00 pace.

We descended along the bike path into the Ventura River Basin. The first part of the course was pretty, but heading down into the valley was beautiful. At one point Benny remarked that the view was a 6 on a scale from 1 to 5. I agreed and looked back at my watch 🙂 Our fastest mile in the downhill segment was a 7:22. The slowest (and only one over 8:00) was an 8:10 for mile 16. That’s because we took a walk break just after we passed mile 15.

Somewhere between mile 16 and 17, Benny and I had our Titanic moment and I continued on alone.

The last 6 were tough. They always are. I had almost a 3 minute buffer to keep me under 3:30. I only wound up using a bit of it. My final splits were 8:12, 8:07, 8:12, 8:24, 8:07, and 7:52, followed by a crazy sprint at the very end. Coach Lori said those were “fast man real runner splits.” High praise!

So everything went according to plan, as crazy as that sounds. Here’s a photo of me looking happy after it was over.

Mountains 2 Beach PR

I had an amazing support crew out there. I think Tucker is my number one fan, always. Jerico, Scott, and my parents are not far behind. Thanks for all your support and encouragement leading up to the race and on race day. Benny got me through the first 16 and reminded me to check out the view every once in a while. Thanks for that. I’m going to run the next race and just enjoy the views! Well, maybe…

To summarize: Beautiful course. Fast course. Small, well organized race. Great support. And a big PR!