Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One last gasp

For some reason, I hadn't expected to do anything today; the last day of 2009. I'm back in Phoenix house sitting and with all my friends out of town, I thought I'd spend a quite night reading a book (A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce) and having a glass of wine or two. But noooooooo. Instead I ended up at a 3 mile run with a gun time of 10:30 PM.

Now, I realize there are lots of places on the planet where you just don't want to be out racing at 10:30 PM on December 31st; but it's fabulous running weather in Phoenix with the temperature around 45F (7C) at gun time. No wind, clear skies, lots of darkness and 500 of my closest friends. Where else should a runner be on New Year's Eve than with other runners?

I got in a good 2 mile warm up, took off my sweats and squeezed into the chute 10 yards back from the start line. After the gun went off, I spent 1/4 mile weaving in and out of the joggers who, for reasons that still escape me, insist on starting races up front. But after I broke free, I realized that I could still see the leaders up ahead and there weren't a whole lot of runners between me and them; at least a lot fewer than I've seen in other races this year. I was feeling good and the cool, moist air felt great; plus, I was passing 2 or 3 runners per minute and no one was passing me - this usually means I'm running too fast; but I just didn't care - I was having fun.

I never did see the 1 mile marker and it was too dark to read my watch anyway, but I really sensed that I was motoring along. I'd seen the 2 mile marker during my warm up so I could gauge my approximate position and knew I'd gone past the half-way point and I was still passing people; all be it at a much slower rate. I'd pass a runner, fixate my eyes on the next runner in front of me and give chase. I still had half the race to run and I knew I was running way too fast; but I still didn't care - I was having fun.

I took a timing hack at the 2 mile marker; but it was still way too dark to read any times. It was getting harder to catch the next runner in front, but I was slowly reeling them in one by one. My legs were feeling great; breathing was hard, but steady - not labored and I didn't feel anywhere near close to cracking. As I got near 1/4 mile to go I passed the last runner I'd catch in this race.

I fixated on two girls 20 yards in front of me and gave chase; but, they had their own ideas and continued to accelerate. I got within 5 yards of them at the finish, but just couldn't catch them.

I was shocked to look down at my watch and see that I'd run the last mile in 6:27; my unofficial time for 3 miles - 20:32; that works out to a 6:51/mi avg pace. That is the fastest avg pace of any race I've ever run.

So ... I can add three additional accomplishments to the year:

1) Fast overall average pace in a race: 6:51/mi
2) 3 mile PR: 20:32
3) Fastest single mile in any race since High School: 6:27

This is so much better than sitting around getting drunk. I think I've started a new tradition.

Have a great 2009 everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Wrap Up

Ah ... the traditional year-end wrap up. This should be really short since I didn't set any goals for 2008; other than getting healthy and over coming the injuries that plagued me through much of the back half of 2007. For the most part, I've accomplished that.

Although I only ran 1,100 miles this year; I'm running pain free. I had my weekly mileage built back up to the 40+ miles/week range in November and started to enjoy our sport again. I didn't race much, only competing in five 5Ks and one 10K all year; with none anywhere close to a PR.

On the plus side, I had three significant accomplishments

1) I started yoga, found that I really enjoyed it and dramatically improved my flexibility. Before yoga, I cold barely reach my shins and now I can put all 10 fingers on the floor (the palms will have to wait a few more months)
2) Introduced a new runner to our sport and coached her to a 31:11 in her first 5K and, in the process, created another running fanatic (insert evil laugh here)
3) Finally got my weight back down to the low 170 lb range.

I guess it's been a pretty good year.

I don't have a clue what 2009 will bring. Clearly, I need to get my life back on track with a renewed focus. I need to blog more and make sure that I keep up with all my blogging friends. I need to keep up the yoga and continue to improve my flexibility and I need to set some specific goals for running this year. With your help, I should be able to do that and more.

I wish you all the best over New Years and hope you all do nothing but improve throughout 2009.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from my Christmas Vacation in Mission Viejo, California.



Laguna Hills



My little brother and me



My nephew and me



Mt. Baldy



The Pacific Ocean



More ocean shots



Pacific Ocean through the Reeds


I didn't take the following pictures of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Eastern California, but got permission from the photographer to use them. They are really cool.

From Eastern California


From Eastern California


From Eastern California


From Eastern California

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Checking In

Holy mackerel, it's sure been a long time since I've posted. There's lots of turmoil in my life at the moment and I just haven't found the time to blog; however, I do miss following your trials and tribulation on your blogs as well as hearing words of encouragement from you.

Since I passed 1000 miles 3 weeks ago, I haven't kept up with my 40+ miles per week regime as evidenced by my weekly mileage totals; 33.9, 14.0 and 15.3 miles, respectively; 2, maybe 3 runs per week. I find it ironic that as soon as the weather in central Arizona turns perfect, my running takes a nose dive. Next week will be better (it has to be)

For all my friends celebrating Christmas, I wish you all the best next week and hope you have the opportunity to enjoy time with your families. The rest of us will just have to enjoy a couple of quiet weeks

Cheers

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1000 Miles

I finally burst through the 1,000 mile mark for 2008 this morning. To say the least, it's been a tough year for me and it wasn't until this summer that I started to get my act together and returned to my roots. Things really kicked into high gear over the past few months and November has been simply outstanding.

How appropriate that I broke through the 1,0000 mile barrier with a 16.5 mile run; my longest run of the year.



As you can see above, I've been making steady improvement since April; but November was over the top. I've run 33, 36, 46 and 47 miles in the past 4 weeks. It must be that pesky muse kicking me in the butt.

Take care.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My inner Muse

Everyone needs a muse and somehow, I found mine. She's that inner voice that tells you when enough is enough. Time to stop complaining about being too stiff in the morning and time to start yoga. Time to stop complaining about being too fat and time stop my informal campaign to taste each and every beer variety ever brewed. I don't know where my muse has been hiding; but, I'm happy to have her flooding my tiny brain with a better vision of myself.

I started yoga at the local LA Fitness 4 weeks ago and the results have been nothing less than amazing. I can touch the floor again, whereas 4 weeks ago, I struggled to reach my mid-calf. I no longer wake up in the mornings stiff and bent over and I can actually look both ways easily when I run across intersections. Just amazing.

After improving my diet and cutting down on my beer consumption, my weight dropped from 188.5 to 178.5 in 4 weeks. I just couldn't hang onto the pounds. I even got through the Thanksgiving food-fest without any extra poundage.

Listen to your muse, she will set you free.

Running is also going very well as well. In the past 3 weeks I've got in 33, 36 and 46 miles and I'm on track to run another 46 this week. The best part is that I'm running pain free and nothing is getting in my way. I ran my mid-week 12 miler on Thanksgiving morning through a driving rain storm with the water running ankle deep down the streets. Feeling good feels so good.

Hope all is well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

176

Who'd have thunk it. Who would have thought that I could push myself hard enough to get my HR up and sustain 176, but this I did on a treadmill in South Bend, Indiana this past Tuesday night. I was scheduled for a 3.2 mile recovery run following my 8 mile tempo the night before and did oki-doki for first 2 miles, keeping the pace slow and my HR well within the lower bounds of my aerobic range ... but boredom set in on mile 3 and I felt a bit adventurous. Starting at the 2 mile mark with the inclination set at 1.5%, I adjusted the pace down to an easy 10/mi and commenced to crank up the inclination 1% every 0.1 mile.

Of the fun ... the pure joy of pushing one's self to the limit. 2.5% - no problem; 3.5% - child's play; 4.5% - OK, I felt that; 5.5%, 6.5%, 7.5% - I be huffing and puffing now; 8.5% - HR well north of 165 - up to 5K range; 9.5% - 170, 171, 172, 173; 10.0% - 174, 175, 175, 175. I didn't think it was going to happen; but with 0.05 on mile 3, 176 popped onto my watch and stayed there for 20 seconds.

For sure, my legs felt like rubber and I wasn't about to raise the inclination any more, but I did it. My previous high reading was 172 - so this was quiet the accomplishment. Funny how the simple things in life bring us so much joy.

Go team go ... hope all is well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Travels and Tribulations

On the road again. Actually, I’ve been on the road physically and mentally nearly non-stop. I’ve spent no more than 3 days in my official office (the one with my name on the door) in the past three weeks and I’m currently on a South West Airlines 737-800, heading to Chicago; after which, I’ll rent a car and drive to South Bend, Indiana. I’m on the road so much, that I now include my location at the top of my OUTLOOK calendar for each day so my Admin has a fighting chance to keep up with me. Ironically, I’m ever more conscious of where I’m not. The more I go, the more I’m cognizant that I should be somewhere else. I need to get back to Mexico very soon and it’s been months since I’ve been to Canada. I can’t remember the last time I was in California and the folks in Tucson must think I’m avoiding them. I’ve completely given up any thought of getting back to France anytime soon. It’s been 11 months since I was in Germany and even longer since I stepped on English soil. Bitch, bitch, bitch……..

Despite the traveling, my running is doing exceedingly well. I’m completely recovered from my last Grand Canyon crossing and running stronger than I have all year. I got in 37 quality miles in 6 runs two weeks ago and 33+ miles this past week in 4 runs, including a fantastic 12 miler on Sunday where, after nearly two hours on the road, I was honored with a spectacular sun-rise of the type you can only see in the desert. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. Of course the reds and oranges that exploded in the clouds as the sun started its slow rise over the McDowell Mountains could have been a total delusion brought on by dehydration and glycogen depletion – who knows – but it was outstanding none-the-less. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera – so the image will just have to remain forever locked in my feeble brain.

Cheers … and happy travels to all.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Calendar says November, My Thermometer cries September

ROUND 3 - THIS IS MY 3RD ATTEMPT AT THIS POST

For some reason, the gods at Google have deemed my prose inadequate an have deleted the running portion of the post not once, but twice. Too tired to type the whole thing again ... I will simply summarize:

1) It's hot as hell in central Arizona - what gives? It's November and temperatures are still in the mid to high 90sF
2) I'm traveling again and have had little time to blog - bummer
3) Running is going well. After coasting along for two weeks following the Grand Canyon traverse, I got in 30 miles this week. Except for my long run this morning, which was a complete bust, the rest of the week went well.

PICTURES - Not Running Related - but cool.



From Running in the Sun


I took this picture in Phoenix while waiting for a flight to Seattle. You can see down-town in the background. It was a pretty afternoon.

The rest of the pictures in this series I took yesterday while on the Phoenix Loft Tour. Although I still haven't sold my house; I'm still looking for a simpler life style, which means moving down-down. The "home" tour I went on yesterday with some friends was really a guided tour of new loft condos in and around the central core of Phoenix. The views from the high-rise buildings were spectacular, but my heart is still set on something a bit more organic.

From 2008-11-01 - Phoenix Loft Tour




This is a really cool building situated next to "Chase Field" - the baseball stadium in Phoenix. The views from the community room on top of the building were great:

From 2008-11-01 - Phoenix Loft Tour


From 2008-11-01 - Phoenix Loft Tour


From 2008-11-01 - Phoenix Loft Tour


I checked out a couple of other high rise buildings during the day, but in the end the one I really like was a small cluster of 5 condos just north of down-town. Each unit is 4 stories high with unobstructed views from the top two floors. Now, if I could only sell my house.

.


Cheers

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rim to Rim - Part II

Where did I leave off? Oh, yes ... the River. I was just starting across the Black Suspension bridge heading south across the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (hence forth referred as "The Canyon"). This is where the hike really begins; the previous 14 miles being little more than prologue. From here, I knew I had a 1600' climb out of the inner-canyon up onto the Tonto Plateau; then a hellish 1200' climb from the Tonto Plateau to Skeleton Point; followed by a relatively easy 1100' climb to Cedar Ridge; and finishing up with a slow 1000' slog to the rim - exiting 7260' above sea-level. Oh boy!


By this time, I was about 500' above the river, nearly directly above the suspension bridge. If you look closely, you can see river boats on the beach. Somewhere along here, I got passed by a youngish looking women. She kept looking back at her family further down the trail, put pressed on without them. My strategy for this climb was to keep my HR between 135 and 141, so I resisted the urge to chase her. Besides, I still had over 4000' to climb and I was sure she'd burn out in no time. She was going way to fast.


Looking west down the river. The main part of the Canyon is made up of an inner canyon and the main part of the canyon you see in all those pictures taken from the rim. The walls of the inner canyon are about 1000' high. Pretty cool.



As the sun continues to rise, the deep reds of the lower part of the canyon come through.

The last little bit of the inner canyon, just before reaching the Tonto Plateau. I had convinced one of the guys in the hiking party to go with me up South Kaibab. Most people don't try to get out this way, and have know idea what their missing. I gave him a 10 minute head start and caught him just before this point.


The Tonto Plateau. This is relatively flat area that runs for miles along the River. The building in the back ground is a toilet.

Another shot of the Tonto Plateau, looking North-West. 

Same place looking North-East

Looking back down the trail coming off the Tonto Plateau. It looks peaceful doesn't it? Just wait until you go around the corner.

The Steps! I'm sure this section of the trail has a real name. I call it THE STEPS FROM HELL. My hiking partner is pictured above. This whole section is series of switch backs with an average gradient greater than 20% - it's STEEP, very STEEP. Not only is it steep, but the National Park Service has installed a log across the trail every two or three feet to make sure you pick up your feet and really work your quads (they claim it's all about erosion control - but I know better).


Now we're getting on up the hill


The inner canyon seems so far away.

Finally! I reach the top of the steps and I'm still smiling. That would soon change. The wind is picking up and is blowing  constantly at 20 to 30 MPH.


I finally got to Skeleton Point. This spot is at 5220'. It's 3000' off the river and 2000' below the South Rim; only 3 miles to go (ha ha). This is about as far as the day-hikers go.

The River is down there somewhere


Just a cool shot on the way up to Cedar Ridge




I took the two pictures above just below Cedar Ridge (1.5 miles from the top). This is the spot where short trees start showing up and the scenery transitions from desert to forest.


Ahh, the South Rim ... only 1500' feet to go. The temperature is dropping as I continue to climb and wind is blowing harder. 38F and 30MPH+ winds and I'm still wearing my sleeveless technical top and shorts, but I'm way too focused to think about stopping to put on a warmer top. The altitude is starting to wear on me also. I'm not exactly slowing down, but my HR is pegged at 141 and I keep backing off as it climbs up to the 144, 145 range. That young women that passed me 2 hours earlier is still ahead of me. I get within 200 or 300 feet and sheet scoots along, leaving me in the dust.

Don't remember the name of this butte. You can see the South Kaibab trail running along the east side. My hiking partner is down there somewhere.

This is the last time I had the energy to get out my camera. Besides, it's very close to the top, only 500' or so under the rim. The colors in the Canyon really pop out though. I was freezing at this point. Goose bumps ran up and down my arms, but I was closing in on the girl. Just before the last set of switch backs leading up to the Rim, I caught up with her. I told that she'd beaten my sorry butt this far and there was no way she should let me beat her to the top. She smiled and took off (again).

I got to the top (7,260'), stopped my watch (9:34:40) and tore into my pack and pulled out my long sleeve top, my thermal top and gloves. It wasn't enough. I couldn't  get warm and just walked around trying to keep my blood flowing while waiting for my friend to pop out of the Canyon. 

While I was waiting, I walked over to talk to the girl. She turned out to be much younger than I thought. She was wearing an Arizona State University (ASU) sweat shirt, so I asked her if she went there. No she said - I'm 13. I'd been out muscled up my favorite trail in the Canyon by a 13 year old. Nice kid. It was her first time to the Canyon and she had descended down Bright Angel Trail earlier on Saturday with her mom, aunt and sister  ... but had left them far behind on the climb out. Not too shabby. The kid has a future in endurance sports.


My friend came out 20 minutes behind me, so we had the girl take a picture of us, before we found the shuttle bus to take us over to the main lodge at the Bright Angel trail head. It'd be two hours before the other two guys in our party got out via Bright Angel - once again, the oldest guy got out first (good thing I wasn't officially hiking with the girl - she whooped me, but good).

Another great day at the Grand Canyon. Cold and windy, but a fabulous day for a 21 mile hike. 6000 feet down, 5000 feet up, 21 miles across. I averaged 104 BPM on the way down and 137 BPM on the way up. I never bonked, but I could feel the altitude wearing on me near the end. We flat-landers have trouble doing that much aerobic exercise above 6000'.

If you've never hiked the Canyon, you really have to try it at least once. It's a lot like marathoning, you never do it twice. You either do one crossing and never do it again; or you do it as often as you can. For me, that's once every other year or so. And like the marathon, it's never the same.

On a closing note, I'm always amazed at how small this planet is. While I was at the bottom of the Canyon heading for the river, I ran into a fellow runner I know heading in the other direction. Couldn't resists the opportunity for a photo.




I start my 5th week of "the come back" in the morning. I need to be in Tempe, AZ at 7:30AM for meetings, so I'll need to be on the road by 5:00AM ... don't know if I'll be moving very fast, but I will be moving.

Cheers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rim to Rim - Part 1

It will probably be best to make this a two part post since most of you are more interested in the pictures than anything else.

Despite the gloom and doom of my last post, I made it across the Grand Canyon today (go team go). The weather reports predicting 60 MPH gusts and sustained winds of 4 5MPH with snow and rain showers turned out to be greatly exaggerated. It was cold, the weather service got that part right. The temperature was 38F at 5:20 AM when we headed down into the Canyon from the North Rim, but the wind wasn't near 60MPH. Yes, there were trees scattered all over the trail for the first couple of miles and the wind speed was probably close to 30 with gust up to 40, but it wasn't raining nor was it snowing and although the morning was partly cloudy, the sky was clear blue by 10 AM. All in all, nice hiking weather right up to the last couple of miles on the South Rim (but more about that later)

Those of you who follow this blog, already know that the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona holds a certain mystic for me (as it does for nearly everyone that has ever walked across it). I never get tired of hiking in the Canyon. The light is never same, the weather can vary dramatically from hour to hour and there is always something new to catch my attention. I just love the place.

The hike I did on Saturday was fairly standard. South on the North Kaibab trail from the Rim to the Colorado River; across the river on the Black suspension bridge and climb a climb out of the Canyon using the South Kaibab trail from the river to the South rim

The trail from the North Rim drops from 8,000ft to 4,100ft in 7 miles at Cottonwood Camp ground and then continues along Bright Angle Creek for another 7 miles, descending 1,700ft to the Colorado river at 2,400ft. The South Kaibab trail isn't as gentle. It climbs up off the river and continues none stop from 2,400 ft to 7,000 ft in another 7 miles. 21 miles in all. Along the way the scenery is spectacular.

Unfortunately, I'm never on the North Kaibab above Cottonwood Camp Ground when the light is really good, so most of my pictures of his area are taken with poor light. More correctly, I don't have a camera that is able to capture the startling effects that the soft predawn light has on the side canyon through which the North Kaibab trail descends. Keep in mind that I always start down in the dark using a head lamp and the shear size of the canyon slowly takes shape as the sky slowly brightens. But this part of the canyon doesn't get any direct light until 10AM. By that time, I'm well on my way to the river. Consequently, the photos on the North Side of the River are never as nice as the photos on the south. None-the-less, on to the photos.




A couple of shots I took from the North Rim on Friday afternoon. Not many people see the Canyon from this angle. It's hard to get to the north rim so most tourists only go to the South Side. In the second picture, you can see the San Francisco Peaks in the back ground. The highest peak is 12,000ft.



A shot of the North Kaibab Trail head from Friday afternoon. It was seriously dark when we left on Saturday.



The wind in the Canyon was nasty on the way down, but that didn't diminish the grandeur of the place. The picture above is the trail along the canyon wall about 2000 feet below the rim. Notice the shear drop next to the trail. This was the first photo I took after the sky brightened enough.



This is the first view of the South Rim looking through the top of Bright Angle Canyon. It's a long way up from here and we'll still need to descend 2000ft to get to the river.





Cool rock formations on the way to the river.



Mule Deer





More cool stuff



The entrance into Phantom Ranch



Yours truly at Phantom Ranch. By this time, the temperature was in the mid 50's and I shed all my cold weather gear.



Exiting Phantom Ranch, heading to the Colorado River.



The Black Suspension Bridge over the Colorado River



The River, note the white water rafting boats on the small beach.



A view from underneith the bridge



Onto South Kaibab. 14 miles behind me and the real hike is just beginning.