shoreline park oakland-alameda

Thanksgiving in the Bay Area. Our hotel near the Oakland airport was also near Shoreline Park. I don’t get to run as often as I want to when I travel but a trail next to the hotel with complimentary recovery breakfast left no room for excuses.

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After the long drive up, I scouted the course to stretch my legs. True to its name, Shoreline Park followed the bay southeast of San Francisco. The path was entirely flat, equal parts dirt and asphalt. Since I was in a step-back  week I looked forward to some loose relaxed running.

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Five a.m. and dark. It would be dark for some time. I warmed up in the hotel gym and headed out to a 35 degree morning. There was no wind and I was soon warm and comfortable. My biggest problem was the darkness. I ran two miles before sunrise.

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As I passed the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal, I could see downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and Mt. Tamalpais.

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My 8:20 pace was 20 seconds faster than my easy runs, but I felt loose and decided to hold on for the rest of my run- 12 miles. Half way out, I crossed a pedestrian bridge and continued along the south shore into Alameda. At first my route was single track and crossed a salt marsh. The trail had been under water the night before because of king tides.

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After six miles the path ended at Crab Cove. Time to head back to the hotel and breakfast.

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As a rule, I try to avoid out and back runs. But Shoreline was a refreshing change of scenery and kept me coming back for three straight days, my entire Thanksgiving stay.

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griffith park half marathon

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January 24, 2016. Start: 7:00 am. Weather: 43 degrees- long sleeves and gloves. Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 6. My time: 1:36:21 (7:16). 14th place overall, second place* in my age group.

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I run four mornings a week in Griffith Park, and if I can claim a home course, this is it. During my longer training runs I followed most of the route and heading into to race day I felt well prepared. Three months earlier I ran 1:39:00 at the Tiburon Half Marathon and I wanted to beat my time by one to two minutes. My race pace needed to average in the 7:20s.

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The race starts and finishes on Crystal Springs Drive, at the center of the park. The first mile of the course follows Griffith Park Drive winding along the base of the Hollywood Hills.

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At mile two the first and only big hill presents itself, rising 300 feet and lasting one mile. I get to take it all back on the way down until the road levels onto Zoo Drive by Travel Town.

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The course remains flat- and fast- for five more miles crossing over the 5 freeway and heading south along the LA River.

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The last five miles double back onto Crystal Springs Drive. There is a slight rise but nothing like the first hill and the final stretch encourages negative splits.

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My race plan was straightforward. I would start at my goal pace of 7:25, take the hill running strong but avoid blowing out my legs and lungs. Whatever I lost on the way up I could surely make back on the way down. Then I would run the final 10 miles at a steady pace in the 7:20s. During training I ran my longer tempo runs close to a 7:00 clip and I ran the hill twice a week- I convinced myself that a PR was in sight.

The race started on time and I ran loose and relaxed during the first mile. I felt like I was running at my planned pace of 7:25 but my watch said 7:02- too fast. I figured that the hill, now imminent, would put me back on track.

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My hill strategy worked perfectly: 8:11 up and 6:40 down for a 7:25 average. The final 10 miles were going to be flat, and if I stayed loose and on pace I’d be fine. I ran the next 5 miles at about 7:10- too fast again. At each mile I told myself that I felt good so I decided to hold my faster pace. Unfortunately my body told me otherwise. I slowed to 7:25 during miles 9-12 and pulled myself together for a 7:00 finish.

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At mile 10 I wanted to stop but at the same time I realized if I could hang on I’d beat my goal time. The HM merged with the 5k runners and the road was crowded with joggers, walkers, and strollers. Instead of being an obstacle, it felt good to pass so many people and I focused on ‘roadkills’ for the final three miles.

When I saw the finish line in the distance, my watch said I was already at 13.1m (1:35:19), almost four minutes faster than my PR. I dug deep and ran the extra .1m as fast as I could. When it was over, I had run 13.2 miles in 1:36:19, a two minute and 40 second PR, or 3′ 40″ for the HM distance. I finished strong and was super happy with my time. Even better was when I checked the results: 14th overall and number one in my age group. I picked up my first ever gold medal and headed home, tired but on a post-race high.

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*Later, my results showed me finishing in second place. If I did come in second I feel bad for being awarded somebody else’s gold medal…but since I was competing against myself, I’ll take the PR and try to beat 1:35:19 next time. I told myself that if I set a new personal best it was time to level up and go for a marathon.

We’ll see…

american tobacco trail

I travel to Durham, NC a few times each year and a happy discovery is the American Tobacco Trail. It runs along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s.

I’ve run two sections covering 17 miles. The trail is paved for cycling but there are dirt shoulders on each side where I like to run. The satellite map shows a lot of development but most of the trail is forested, especially compared to  Southern California.

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My first run was in late November, 2013. Temperatures were in the mid to low 30s with a strong headwind. The best way to describe the wind chill: bracing. This was and still is my coldest run. Over 7.5 miles I never felt warm, especially my hands and face. The novelty of a new run and the changing fall colors distracted me enough to enjoy myself.

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The following summer, I ran the same route. It was a completely different experience. The trail was green and lush and even at 6:30 in the morning the temperature and humidity were climbing. I drained my water bottle halfway through and when I finished, my clothes were soaked. Still, a great run that left me energized all day.

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Last fall I ran a new section of the trail. I headed south, away from Durham,  and the trail was more wooded than before with a rural feel. Conditions were perfect: sunny and cool, with temps in the mid 40s. No wind. While running I became aware of the incredibly fresh air and I’m sure it helped my performance. I set out to run seven easy miles and ended up running 10 with the last few at an eight minute pace. I could have run further but I needed to get ready for work.

Even when the time change makes it feel like I’m running at three or four in the morning, I look forward to running the American Tobacco Trail. Once I become aware of my surroundings, the fresh air, and the change of scenery I forget about my fatigue and enjoy the experience. The ATT is a nice change from training in LA and a trail I will continue to run.

 

tiburon half marathon

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October 4, 2015. Start time: 7:00 am. Weather: 60 degrees- perfect! Shoes: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante. My time: 1:39:00, a new personal best. 35th place overall, fourth place in my age group.

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I grew up in Tiburon, CA, and when I learned about the Tiburon HM I knew I had to enter. The race starts downtown and heads out the bike path, past Greenwood Cove, and around Strawberry Point. Having walked, run, biked, and skateboarded all of these roads I knew the course and felt I could run a strong race.

My Summer training went well. Coming off a 1:43 finish at the Chesebro HM in March I felt I could break 1:40:00 in Tiburon. Feeling confident and only a little nervous I headed north hoping for a great race and a new PR.

The day before the race I scouted the course. It was mostly flat as I remembered but there were two hills that I did not expect to be so steep:

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I needed to change my race strategy. Originally I wanted to run a consistent 7:35 pace, but now I would need to run even faster on the flats to make up for what I anticipated to be a slower pace on the hills.

On race day, I decided to run by feel instead of constantly checking my watch. The first miles felt smooth and relaxed and I did not realize I was running 10-15 seconds below my goal pace. I adjusted and tried to hold my pace at 7:30 until the first hill.

At the six mile mark, there was a sudden steep incline. I tried to stay relaxed as I climbed but I could tell my pace was slowing. Fortunately, there was an equal descent that allowed me to catch my breath and regain my pace. This proved to be true for all of the hills and I was able to make up whatever ground I lost running downhill.

The final miles leveled out and backtracked along the bike path.  I had enough energy left to record negative splits: 7:45 to 7:35 to 7:25. I sprinted the last quarter mile and held off a runner who was trying to catch me.

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Somehow he me beat me by one second. He must have started after me. I didn’t mind because I had beat my 1:40:00 goal time by a full minute and set a new personal best for the half marathon.

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My splits show that I was able to stick to my race plan. Except for the hills I held a solid 7:35 pace. For the Tiburon Half Marathon, I used my training to reliably predict my race performance, and that will help my future training. This was an excellent race and a confidence builder for whatever comes next.

run photos 2015

Some of my favorite running pictures from 2015:

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Stormfront, Lake Arrowhead. April 2015. From ALA (Around Lake Arrowhead) Trail, a storm crested over the San Bernadino Mountains but stopped short of the lake.

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Blufftop Trail, Palos Verdes. November, 2015. One of my favorite runs along the PV Penninsula. Catalina is in the distance.

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Mount Hollywood Drive, Griffith Park. February, 2015. Usually the weather is clear and the views go all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Today was overcast keeping me cool on my run.

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Beach Run, Hermosa Beach. December, 2015. On a cold, clear morning the beach was empty and the sand undisturbed.

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Palo Comado Peak, Chesebro Canyon. March, 2015. While training for the Chesebro Half Marathon, I ran the course just after a rainstorm.

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Pelican Cove, Palos Verdes. January, 2015. One of my long run turnaround points.

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Vista del Valle Road, Griffith Park. February, 2015. The climb to the upper trails in Griffith Park is always worth the effort.

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Beach Run, Hermosa Beach. December, 2015.

 

 

chesebro canyon

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The view down Chesebro Canyon from Palo Comado peak is definitely worth the six mile climb. I ran Chesebro in early 2015 to prepare for the Chesebro Canyon Half Marathon. The trail portion of the race covers eight miles with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. It was my first trail HM and I wanted to get to know the course before the race.

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The lower portion of the trail is mostly dirt. It was muddy on my first run but had dried out before the race. Oak trees and dense brush line both sides giving me plenty of shade, especially in the morning. While the running is comfortable here I have to watch out for rocks and tree roots that cross my path often hidden by leaves.

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As the trees start to thin so does the topsoil. The trail becomes increasingly rocky and uneven. At first the climb is not too steep and the hard surface helps provide traction.

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In places the ground is entirely exposed rock. The uneven running surface forces me to pick my way up the trail but does not slow my pace.

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As the vegetation turns to scrub, the hill begins to assert itself. The course becomes more challenging and I have to work harder to tackle the slope. Without trees I am more exposed and I can feel the temperature rise. This will be a difficult part of the race.

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Loose dirt and rock become a new obstacle. It is easy to slip here and now it takes more concentration to run at a consistent pace.

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The last two miles are single track. The trail levels briefly then rises in a series of switchbacks before Palo Comado peak. When I reach the top I am winded and need to take a break before my descent. Chesebro was a challenging run and will be a worthy endurance test on race day.

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I ran Chesebro Canyon three times before the half marathon. I found it incredibly helpful to understand the course in advance. During my final tune up run I could anticipate the difficult parts of the course and I knew where to speed up or hold back. At the same time I discovered a new running area with spectacular scenery. I’ll be back.