Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Epic Views of the Big Sur Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 7,000 eager runners for the 25th Big Sur Marathon near Carmel, CA. This was the second leg of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, two marathons in 6 days, and a great way to ring in my 41st birthday. Thanks to great weather and the incredible organization of the volunteers and race team, it was a weekend to remember.

The race weekend started with a Sophie-led tour through Cannery Row, the amazing Monterey Aquarium, and the beach at Carmel. It was such a delight to see this all through the perpetually curious eyes of a 3-year-old. Who knew seahorses were so cool? And the males give birth! Ouch. I pretended not to notice that I was already limping as I chased her around, still healing from the bike accident a few weeks ago, and now amplified by running a beer-soaked Boston Marathon just days earlier. But I so, so wanted to experience that feeling of having Highway 1 all to ourselves, drifting up the rugged Big Sur coast. It called me like a siren song.

 (The ridiculously cool Monterey Bay Aquarium)
(Sophie takes flight at the beach)

At 3am on race day, I chased a handful of ibuprofen with a cup of coffee and hoped for the best. Taking meds before a race is like watching a traffic accident about to happen - ya know it ain't gonna end well. I may not be much wiser at age 41, but I'm as stubborn as ever! The bus ride to the start was an eager mix of first timers and grizzled vets, all citing that the projected 60 degree weather couldn't be better. Among the runners were 372 crazy enough to tackle the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. The things we do for shwag...

I got off the bus and sat with Loretta and Pam from Denver, CO, as we let the sun slowly warm us up in the starting area. Pam was hoping for a Boston qualifier, but got nervous enough a few weeks earlier to drive to another marathon and qualify to "get it out of the way". I think she's going to do just fine! Loretta was a lifelong runner who only recently began doing marathons, and loved the fact that she was nearly as fit as her two sons in the Marines. We chatted with a nice couple from Kansas City who looked for any excuse to spend time in Carmel. We learned that all 50 states were represented here, as well as 21 foreign countries. This race attracts the coolest people!

(Loretta Ulibarri and Pam Gewinner from Denver, CO)

(I love this shot of Michael Wardian saying hi mid-conversation)

 (Posing with Melinda Schwartz from Buffalo, NY, in the starting corral)
(The doves are released, and we were off!)

We made our way to the start, just in time to hear the national anthem and see the doves released (much to the liking of the circling turkey vultures). I said a quick hi to Michael Wardian, a sure favorite here today even after running a 2:25 at Boston. He had some tough competition though, including Big Sur regular Jesus Campos, local masters demi-god Rich Hanna, and seeded runners Daniel Tapia and Chris Mocko. I didn't see defending Women's champion Mary Coordt, but there were plenty of new faces here who looked pretty fit. Melinda Schwartz from Buffalo, NY, was fresh off a 3:03 at the Athens Marathon and was looking forward to the challenging hills. As the gun went off, she said "good luck!" and dropped me like a sack of potatoes.

 (Joyce Forier joins Steve Campbell heading down Highway 1)

We descended out of the redwoods to the live soundtrack of local bands who braved the early morning to be set up for us. Thanks, guys! Within a few miles we were spread out along Highway 1, hearing only the popcorn sounds of our footsteps against the crashing waves. Ah, so peaceful...

My stride was quickly whittled down to a shuffle, roughly an 8:30 min/mile pace, which was about as much as my sore tailbone could handle. Hang in there, body! It's not like we use our tails for anything, right? Oh, yeah - except for holding yourself upright. Oops. Luckily I found plenty of new friends to help pass the time. Joyce Forier, a Race Director from Henderson, NV, shared plenty of stories of charting/planning/executing new 100-mile races, tours through Red Rocks, and her upcoming debut to run Comrades. If her passion for running is any indication, I bet her races are spectacular!

(A fellow runner gets a pic of me - thanks random runner!)

 (Russell Willner can't stop smiling)

 The aid station volunteers were amazing, per usual, and the mile marker signs were hilarious. Everyone was chatting away and having a great time. I continued to be surprised by how many Boston 2 Big Sur runners there were - and they were doing great!

(The fog slowly melts away)

At mile 10, we got to my favorite part - Hurricane Point. This two mile climb never seems to end, but rewards you with the best views of the course. Fresh legs from the relay teams and the 21-milers helped pace us up the hill.

(The drum squad gives is a tempo as we tackle Hurricane)

 (Moises Mitrani from Florida paces up Hurricane with ease)

 I joked with the Boston 2 Big Sur runners at the top - which is tougher, Heartbreak or Hurricane? No contest, they said. Hurricane is 5x the heartbreak of Heartbreak.

The descent after Hurricane was quick, and we soon found ourselves crossing the halfway point at Bixby Bridge. The photo shooting session next to the piano player was so popular, I couldn't get in! It's definitely a great spot. My watch read 1:53...this was on track to be my slowest marathon of all time, but it didn't seem to matter. I was just glad to be hear to share the experience.

(So many great views, it almost gets boring....almost!)

(Pose with the leprechaun for good luck!)

The weather held up nicely, and started to get downright hot. I cruised along with Kathryn Hazzard who came all the way from Maine, and told me about a lot of great races in her area. We were moving along with the 10.6-mile runners and making plenty of new friends.

 (Kathryn Hazzard from Freeport, ME, cruises the downhill)

(The smiling Samba dancer, here every year!)

As the ibuprofen wore off, I found yo-yo'ing between 7 and 10 min/miles as I slowly climbed into the Carmel Highlands. I ran with Matthew, whom I've now met at four different races (not counting Boston, which he also did), and he pulled me up to mile 22 before stopping for the fresh strawberry aid station. He could tell by my stride that the Miwok 100k next weekend was definitely out of the picture, and he advised to enjoy every last minute of this race. Well said, my friend.

(Matthew and I get a quick photo)

With that, I pulled into the finish in 3:53 and thanked my body for holding up for one last race. That'll do, pig...that'll do. My good friend John Heltzel had finished a few minutes ahead of me, clocking a PR 3:50 on a tough course, and I got to bask in his glow as we greeted our respective families. Michael Wardian had gotten 2nd place (2:27), just a minute behind winner Daniel Tapia (2:26). New Yorker Veronica Clemens won the Women's division in 2:55, with Melinda Schwartz taking 2nd in 3:08. Mike Nutall, doing his umpteenth Big Sur, entered the 60-64 age group with a respectable 3:23 and won his age group again. All in all, some incredible performances.

 (Chilling with John Heltzel at the finish to hear about his marathon PR)

(Best part about the Boston 2 Big Sur tent? All the beer you can drink at 10am)

 (Sophie shows off our two medals and gives me tips on how to make the best monster face)
Within minutes I had retreated to the Boston 2 Big Sur tent for a couple of beers and another dose of ibuprofen. Normally I would be stressing about it, but my heart was still overflowing from all the beauty, friendly faces, and inviting community that put on an amazing day. It's hard to imagine a better setting for a marathon, and I looked forward to taking a snooze on the beach before hitting The Forge in the Forest for some grub.

 (Me and my crew)

My thanks to the Big Sur Marathon Committee, all their great sponsors and volunteers, for putting on another epic race. You keep this up, and Runner's World's #3 destination marathon will claim the place it holds in our memories - #1.

- SD

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adios, Dipsea Race. Hello, Ironman Kona! Thanking the Lottery Gods...

Lottery Gods...they work in mysterious ways. They control our destiny with their awesome power of fate, knowing just when and where to rock your world. Last Friday, they rocked mine yet again.

First, a slap in the face. I didn't get into The Dipsea Race for June, despite following their absurd and elitist application policies of including bribes in the application and hustling it to a post office within hours of downloading it from the Web (dance, clown, dance!). All this for the privilege of riding in the back of the bus by started 28 minutes behind the "real" runners. It was not only disappointing to not get in, it was fueling a rage against the establishment! I guess that movie On The Edge is based on the Dipsea for more than just location.

Next, a kick to the groin. It's quite clear that I am seriously injured from my bike accident two weeks ago, despite faking through a few fun marathons in the last couple of weeks (Boston was awesome, Big Sur Marathon blog write up in progress, but the 3:53 finish time should tell you something). If I take my recovery as seriously as my training, it's time to commit and take a month or so off. This means I won't run Miwok, a race I LOVE, and the only race the Lottery Gods graced me with this for the 2010 season. I try so hard not to take your name in vain oh Gods of Lottery, but you test me so!

On Friday, I took my grumpy mood and compromised posture to the garage to strip down my bike, throwing away the broken pieces and try to determine if what is left is worth salvaging. It seemed like more of the bike was going in the trash than remaining.

"Hmm," I thought, "perhaps this is fate's way of telling me to forget the bike and focus 100% on the trails. No cars, no hitting pavement with nothing but lycra on, no high speed descents. I was lucky to walk away - maybe fate is trying to tell me something."

A few minutes later, I got a text message from a friend. " just won a lottery slot to Ironman Hawaii on Oct 9, 2010. You lucky bastard!!!". I wha? No way!!!

Could it be?!? I've been putting my name in that lottery for nearly 12 years and have a row of $50 DVD's (your parting gift for not getting in) to prove it. It's one of my "bucket list" races, the ones you must do before you check out of this world. I checked the Web site, and there it was. Unbelievable.

I immediately pulled out all the bike parts out of the trash and started assembling. Lottery Gods, how ever could I have questioned your powers of destiny? I am your humble servant. ;-)

Best of luck to the Miwok runners this Saturday, especially that wait-lister who just got a HUGE break! The Lottery Gods are looking out for you too.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Beautiful 2010 Boston Marathon

This morning, I had the great pleasure of joining 26,000 runners for one of the biggest annual parties in American history, the 2010 Boston Marathon. Ideal weather (even a tailwind!), plenty of beer, and new and old friends alike made for a perfect day for the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston, MA. Per usual, the Boston natives and volunteers made it a special day for all of us.

I felt a deep appreciation for this Boston, my 6th, for it nearly didn't happen. Just a week ago I crashed on my bike when I slid in the rain trying to avoid a rock in the road, and in one instant hit the pavement, crushed my helmet, destroyed my bike, and bruised up my back and left butt cheek enough to see my peak fitness get put on the shelf. Oh, and did I mention sexy? Nothing like asymmetrical swelling in the butt to drive women wild. I've spent a few days ass up on the bed, and it appeared to be healing quickly with rest/ice/elevation. I wasn't able to run all week, so I toed the line at Boston with that unique sensation of not knowing if a finish was in my future or not. Beers yes, pictures for sure, but finish, who knows?

The days before were the usual pandalerium, with all of Boston feasting on the Patriots Day long weekend. the only ones missing from the party were the hundreds of European runners stranded at home from the volcanic ash that stopped all jets the last few days. We toasted them in spirit. I had a pre-race dinner with fellow trail running warrior Sarah Syed and her Mom, sharing any Boston tips I could for her inaugural run.

I joined Laurie and the Injinji gang to work the Injinji booth at Expo, and had a chance to meet Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966 when she snuck on the course and clocked a 3:21:40. Her new book, "To Boston with Love", chronicles a passion for love and nature that led her to running ultras long before her Boston victory. And get this - she got married in my home town of Woodside, CA! She could even recite my home trails by name. How cool is that?

(The Adidas shwag empire goes one more year - 
I counted $1200/minute being rung up at their booth)

(Chatting with Bobbi Gibb at the Injinji booth)

Race morning found a welcome break from the rainy weekend, with enough blue skies to coax 500,000 spectators to line the course from end to end. Sarah and I both made it in time to get pre-race massages in the Athlete's Village (still the best kept secret), and I met a nice pilot from American Airlines from Chicago taking a break from his four girls for some marathon fun. With a quick sprint to corrals, I made it just in time for the countdown. 3, 2, 1 and we're off!

(Pre-race massages, the best way to hang at the Athlete's Village)

(Great weather this year!)

My pace was so slow, I easily got passed by 1,000 runners in the first mile. Yup, I was one of "those guys"! But as long as the strides were short, the pain in the ass remained only a pain in the ass. Among those passing me were familiar faces of Jason Jones, 24-hour superstar John Geesler (a prep run for the NYC 6-Day run next weekend), Roy Pirrung (doing a double marathon), Michael Wardian (actually, he was in front of me the whole time no surprise), and Kevin Sullivan (supposedly in running retirement...busted!). Ultrarunners are everywhere!

 (I love that I took this picture behind me, and the first guy in the picture is taking a picture behind him)

(Kevin Sullivan says hi as he cruises by)

At mile 2, one of the local rabble-rousers handed me a beer and I was happy to oblige. In all my Bostons, the ones where I took the time to enjoy everything it had to offer were the most memorable, so why stop now?. It was fun to keep a mellow pace and reflect on all the world, local, and personal history of this race. It is the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon (which originated the distance and the legend of Phidippides), the 114th running of the Boston Marathon, and every street corner seemed to remind me of running with my Dad last year, donning the Bleeker costume, with my friends Kik and Paige, or the many folks I've met along the way. So many great memories!

(Dan the barefoot runner)

(Anytime I needed a beer refill, I followed these guys)

At mile 4, I ran with Sam Morris from Laurel, MD, who was staying right on a 3:15 finish pace. Sam was new to running, but had that natural stride of an all-around athlete and the watch-like consistency of a military man. We passed the time sharing stories, meeting people, and getting high fives from the kids as we came through Natick. 

(Sam flashes a chaka as I start a chin counting contest - GO!)

(A random accidental shot, but neat composition...hmm, maybe too many beers)

I grabbed another beer at mile 11, as we heard the famed scream tunnel approaching. I always enjoy watching the men check their hair and breath as the long line of beautiful young maidens approach - although it's not necessary, I'm sure the hundreds of Wellesley girls are appreciative of a little extra grooming. My favorite sign this year was "kiss me 'cause I majored in kissing!". I took a short stop to give/get some smackeroos, and immediately clocked a testosterone powered 6:20 min/mile. Ah, the sweet seduction of drunken youth.

(The Wellesley girls get prettier every year!)

(High five? Really? Time to nut up or shut up, my friend in orange)

(Lean in for a kiss and you may get sucked in for good)

As we entered the hill country, we got the benefit on a nice tailwind breeze. Sam decided to pick up the pace a bit to get closer to his 3:15 goal, so I wished him luck and watched him mountain goat up Heartbreak Hill. The Hash House Harriers aid station was fully functional this year at mile 20, and beer #3 made it official...I was running buzzed, much to the Harriers delight. I realized this when I took a PowerBar gel and washed it down with a Sam Adams (yuck). Probably best to cut back or this was not going to end well. Remember kids, do as I say, not as I do! (ahem)

 (Having a beer with the Harriers!)

(Pacing with Mario)

(Doing 26.2 the hard way...hey, did you know Inov-8 makes a lightweight race boot?)

(The clouds close in on the last hill)

(Another roving photographer)

(Boston fans are the best!)

The final stretch after Boston College had a wonderful tailwind, and I used the opportunity to pick up the pace a smidge.  My strides were still fairly short, like a Chi-running robot, but anything more felt too risky. I slowed to chat with Jason Jones, who is also doing the Boston/Big Sur/Miwok triple, before hitting the final 5k. The Citgo sign appeared in the distance, and the road began to fill with cramp-induced casualties. I slapped as many backs as I could to give encouragement.

(God says "run")

(Jason Jones in the home stretch, saving a bit for Big Sur and Miwok...I am clearly a few beers in) 
(Shawn Kyle gives Team Noah a shout of encouragement in the home stretch)

 (Nice cloud cover in the final stretch)

The crowds went wild as we pulled onto Boylston St and made the final stretch into the chute. I finished in 3:18:10, good for 4203rd place. Another great race in the books! It felt like the first finish all over again, and I thanked my body for holding up.

 (The finish!)

(The sea of burrito-wrapped finishers)

(One day, two can't beat that!)

I hit the post-race massages, and they did a good job of loosening up my back and glutes again. In an odd turn of events, I would get a phone call later saying that one of the medical advisors was convinced the bruising indicates a broken tailbone and I should get x-rays asap. How is that possible? I don't think you can run a marathon with a broken tailbone. Only an idiot would try something like tha-...fine, fine, back to the hospital. ;-) But I don't think I'll mention Big Sur on the calendar for next Sat. I mean, it's not like we use our tails or anything.

My thanks to the great people of Boston for another awesome race!

- SD

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day Specials @ XTerra

It's Tax Day here in the US, and XTerra is offering a one day special on many of their races to help cheer you up! Too bad entry fees aren't deductible (medical expense?).

I'm looking forward to the Boston Marathon in a few days, although I won't be able to give it my best shot thanks to an unexpected bike crash on Sunday. The scrapes and bruises are healing, but I've got some minor whiplash and my left butt cheek is still 25% bigger than my right. Too bad the Boston course doesn't turn to the left. ;-)

My thanks to Giro Helmets for their great products. This is the second time one of their helmets has collapsed correctly on impact and saved my noggin. Better than life insurance, I tell ya. I would much rather buy a new helmet and bike than try and learn how to chew again.

(pasted from e-mail)

XTERRA Tax Day Race Relief

With the dreaded tax day deadline quickly approaching, XTERRA wants to give you some financial relief by offering a one-day discount for a few of our 2010 trail runs. This Thursday, April 15th, register for one or more of these events for just $15 each. This offer is good for one day only, so don't miss out on this special rate. Register Thursday!

$15 on the 15th!

XTERRA Lake Las Vegas 5/10/21km Runs - Henderson, NV - April 24, 2010

XTERRA Waco 5/10/21km Trail Runs - Waco, TX - May 22, 2010

XTERRA Oak Mountain 5/10/21km Mud Runs - Pelham, AL - June 12, 2010

XTERRA Richmond 21km Xduro and Fugitive 10km Trail Run - Richmond, VA - June 19, 2010

XTERRA Bend 5/10km Trail Runs - Bend, OR - September 18, 2010

XTERRA Wheeler Canyon 21km Xduro Trail Run - Ogden, UT - September 25, 2010

XTERRA Makena Beach 5/10km Trail Runs - Makena, Maui, HI - October 23, 2010

XTERRA Kualoa 5/10km Trail Runs - Oahu, HI - December 5, 2010

For more information about the XTERRA Trail Run Series, visit or call 877-XTERRA-1.