Monday, July 30, 2007

Keeping Things Positive

Fogshots. Looking back towards San Francisco from Tiburon, it's right behind all that white stuff. On my run Sunday, heading towards Coastal Trail, the Golden Gate Bridge and home!

New commenter Addy said: ah...I miss running in SF. I used to live in Berkeley and made the trip over almost every weekend so that I could run across the golden gate. Such a beautiful place to run! (even in heavy fog :) Well then lady these shots are for you. We had a ton of fog this past weekend. It was quite heavy on Sunday in fact. Sunny in Marin though, sunglasses and t-shirts.

Thank God It's Monday! Finally the madness can stop, haha. I love all that running, biking, swimming and moving around but it can all be too much sometimes - whew! Preaching to the choir I know.

Sunday was a hard day. After a terrific time biking in Marin on Saturday with friends, Sunday I was just drained and tired. It was my last big run heading into my taper for the Headlands Hundred and I was dreading it. The fatigue is not all training related, things have been busier than normal on all fronts. Plus the sore left hamstring wasn't helping things. Doesn't bother me as much on the bike but bums me out on the run.

I started that run tired with leaden legs. However somewhere along mile 3, on my way to the bridge, my mood lightened considerably. Away from all the buildings and into open space with other like minded people got me in a much more positive frame of mind. I started having a good time and took things less seriously. It was like a fire and I did my best to fan the flames and keep it going for the rest of my outing. Physically speaking it was a weak workout, a fizzle and a whisper to send me into my taper. I'd give it a c / c-. As a spiritual and mental exercise however it was a keeper. I managed to get some work done and had a good time as well. 2.5 hours into it I wasn't moving any faster but I was in a very good and contented mood. I even felt some fight in me and opted for the harder way home. I cursed on the way up, even shook my right fist in mock defiance at the trail but all while grinning like an idiot. A very good time and the positive vibes I carried for the rest of day.

The trail mocks me, a little tough love. "Look at you with all your fancy gear, the almost new trail shoes, the pack stuffed with food and liquids. Oh my is that a genuine Quad Dipsea race shirt...I'm sooo impressed...ok not really. You go up and over like all the rest, running if you can hack it. Come get yours."

Hamstring is not so bad actually. A neoprene sleeve that I sometimes use for my knee when my IT gets tight and sore I was able to reconfigure as a compression wrap for my thigh. I just hiked that sucker up past my knee and wala, compression sleeve. The glute muscle above the offended hammy was also a bit sore but unfortunately I couldn't neoprene my butt so I just kept an eye on it. Well I've got two more weeks and I think it's going to be okay. Probably just going to take it easy at track tomorrow. Now where's that foam roller?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Vineman Half-Ironman

Cool, foggy start to what would be a very warm day. Aid station gang in action, unfortunately I was only able to take pictures when things slowed down. It got way too busy when the bulk of the racers came through. With friends Jen and Tina, both had good races. Tina is off with her guy to celebrate what's left of the summer in Turkey. A little time away from work, training and triathlons. Finally with some of the guys from our aid station, Malik, John, and Brian (photo courtesy of Mari Miyashita). Congratulations to all who started.

Is a fast marathon a good taper workout for a 100-miler? A question I've been pondering since last night. I was out with a buddy, haven't seen him in months. Started working for Yahoo and I stopped seeing him, an interactive media designer he says he's been keeping college hours - work in the morning, work during the day, work at night. Anyway Friday night we were out at a wine bar in our neighborhood, my new hangout on Friday nights. Susan the Friday night bartender, law school student, adventure junkie, ultra runner, wanted me to take her place in the relay for the upcoming Full Ironman Vineman race on August 4th. She's the runner but hasn't been running because of an injury - wanted me to take her place. "Look, honestly the marathon is probably not going to help you on your Headlands Hundred on August 11th but don't you want to do it just to do it?". Yes, yes I do. On the other hand I really want to well at Headlands, besides the left hamstring (old injury) is in bad shape at the moment. It may need all the time that I have to heal and get stronger.

Anyway, I'll be out on the Vineman course tomorrow. I'm a volunteer for the half-iron event. The club has an aid station at mile 4, it's a down and back course so they see us again at mile 9. Maybe being out there will help my decision.

Ummm...there's no way I'm running that marathon, ahaha! It was in the high 90's out there. It ain't Badwater but I ain't no heat trained runner at the moment either. I was in early at 7AM to help set up the run aid station with Ed the aid station captain. At 2PM I left to catch a ride back with friends Malik and John. We had to run back the 4 miles or so to the finish line where Malik had parked his car. I found it quite uncomfortable once we actually started running. I was quite surprised at how bad I felt at that heat. So no, no Ironman relay run for me. Funny thing, I found out that John was actually offered the relay job first by Susan. He turned it down since he was running the San Francisco marathon the weekend before. He's anticipating a 3 hr. finish and knows he won't be in any mood to run another fast one the weekend after. Small town. I will just have to tell Susan that I discussed it with John and we both decided that it's a bad idea, she'll love that. My left hamstring is thanking me already. I do feel like a wuss right now for backing out but that's mainly a mental problem:)

Lots of friends were out there racing and it was great to see them, they were so appreciative too. A friend, Cathy Morgan, was out there plugging away. She's hoping it won't be this hot when she returns in two weeks to do the full version. I said "Sorry Cathy, it's probably going to be just like this". Next we time we meet our roles will be reversed. She's volunteering for the Headlands Hundred. Another friend, Jenn, who was also racing, will be coming out to volunteer as well for Headlands. Nice to know I'll see a couple of these guys on my race. I've decided to do it sans pacer, sans crew but anyone willing to come out to cheer and volunteer is more than welcome.

The day went very, very well. A lot of work but also a lot of fun. I was there early as I mentioned, the fog was still in the valley in between the rows of grapes in the vineyards. It's a down and back run course that takes you past wineries on a narrow asphalt road, the turnaround point is the La Crema winery. We were situated around mile 4, mile 9 for those headed back. It was so hot water was in high demand, for drinking and pouring over heads. Runners on their way back to the finish was especially thirsty because the aid station at mile 8 ran out of water. They came once to fill up their water jugs on our hose but still ran out. We were lucky, a home let us run a hose and coach Neil attached an in-line water filter.

Ed the station captain was exceptional. Two of the strangest requests we had all day he was able to take care of. One woman came in wondering if we had extra shoe laces. The speed laces she was using was bothering her feet. I cut them out with a knife and Ed gave her the laces from his own shoes. Then later in the day another woman came through looking for extra socks and Ed got her a fresh pair from his car. This is on top of picking up sandwiches, snacks and drinks for everyone at the station. Guy went the extra mile for everyone.

So no, no marathon for me. Aggressively stretching and taking care of the left hamstring now, should be fine. One more long workout this weekend and I'm off to taper. Looking forward to hearing stories from Tahoe Rim Trail 100 and the Badwater 135.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wrong Way

Guys, I think we took the wrong way. Tourists on the freeway on ramp headed to the Golden Gate Bridge.

On Saturday while getting ready for a ride several of us spotted these guys, luckily we didn't have to yell for them to turn back - they figured it out on their own. Despite the heavy, heavy fog this weekend, many tourists made their way to the bridge on their rent-a-bikes. A couple of them nearly took me out as I was coming home from a long run. Just another summer weekend in San Francisco.

There's nothing going on. Just the same ol' same ol' here.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Loop de Loop

My pastor once told us, "everyone has a kingdom where you are the ruler". He explained that it's a sphere or space, no matter how small, where everything you say goes. As a single guy, my kingdom is at least the size of my apartment and as Grand Puba of this humble abode I declare Steak and Movie night because I am celebrating a great race. Oh and some carbs to go with that protein too.

ANGEL ISLAND 50k • 4200 ft. (+) • 4200 ft. (-) • 4:46 Unofficial Time

The course consisted of 3 loops. The first was a perimeter loop which was mostly asphalt road, the second got you in hills but not to the top and the third followed parts of the second loop but this one took you all they way to the summit. 50k runners had to do it twice. The sun never really broke through the fog, in fact for most of the race the temps were nice and cool. After the difficult, technical trail at BH100 this race was a welcome experience.

I thought it would be boring but I actually loved it. First of all the trail is very runnable. I didn't like the asphalt so much but the trails were nice, except for some stairs, everything was runnable. The total elevation gain, compared to the many races I've survived, was a measely 4200 ft. and it comes in small doses. In fact it was so tempting to just run all the hills but at my level that would have only slowed me down overall. The temperatures were cool. I didn't sweat much and drank less than I usually did.

I started in the back as usual. 25 and 50k folks got their own start. As we passed the bathrooms I even had to make a stop so I was really the last of the last as we started the first climb. This happens more often than you think with me. My heart rate was higher than normal for the effort which I took as a sign that I was still shy of being 100%. Met up with old friends, made new ones. Chased friends as usual. After the first loop I went hard and on the downhill of the first summit I turned it on and left it on. From that point on my heart rate was pegged at the threshold for pretty much the rest of the run. My legs felt fine so I just kept going. I came with the goal of giving 110% and see how my body felt. I wanted to know that the speed and fitness that served me well before BH100 was still there. Into the 4th loop, back on the asphalt, I caught up to Vladimir but started to feel a little light headed and fell back, a little worn and fuzzy. We ran together for a bit. I popped a caffeinated gel, was revived and I was off but not before promising Vladimir that I would introduce him to the other crazy Russian runner that I knew. Halfway through the 5th loop my right hamstring felt like it was going to cramp which got me running scared. I knew I was doing well and I didn't want a cramp to ruin it for me as it did in last year's Stinson Beach 50k. I shifted most of the work on my left and continued on. I had to consciously relax the right leg as well as putting in more walk breaks. I was taking precautions to avoid a full blown cramp. My hydration was good and so was my salt, the hamstring was just worn from the distance and fast pace. I also started to feel weak on the uphills. I was definitely reaching my limits but I reassured myself that whatever happened I could most likely suffer through it and finish anyway. I did my best Rocky Balboa impression and sucked it up. Fight! Fight! Fight! I thought to myself. Once I summitted for the last time I just let it all go. The leg stopped bothering me and I finished with a great time. I can say that I gave it 110% out there today. Could I have gone harder? Maybe, I always think I could have after the fact. I was in super serious mode. No picture taking and I even tanked up based on need and not just filling a water bottle cause it's there, got the idea from Nascar - only put in what you need. I didn't want the extra weight. I ate my gels before I hit the stations and only stopped long enough to put some energy drink into the bottle - Olga you would have been proud. I didn't even bring my carbo pro powder, takes too long. I hustled, hustled and hustled, like waiting tables on a Friday lunch shift at the financial district - a lifetime ago.

I even picked up a pacer for the last 3 miles. A freshman college student who got accepted to an Iowa school on a running scholarship. Matt and family were visiting from Chicago. He decided to do his own exploring and ended up following part of the race. When I first ran past him he was taking pictures. As I was making my way down the last downhill I saw and heard him up on a switchback coming fast. Initially I thought I was caught by a faster runner but a second glance revealed the jeans tucked under his arm. He had running shorts on the ready just in case, of course he did. He stayed right behind me and the sound of his feet got me going even faster to stay ahead. We talked and as the last mile of the trail widened into a fire road he pulled alongside and I kicked it another notch to stay with him. That young runner probably helped me shave a couple of minutes. Thank you Matt.

A bunch of us boys hung out afterwards and introduced ourselves. Great guys some with big plans for the future. One in particular, Jonathan, is headed back to Badwater for his second time. Another was Blake who was a little over a minute in front of me. He smiled as he greeted me and told me he gunned it down the hill knowing I wasn't far behind. Good folk. Chikara Omine was there as well but he ran the 16k and stayed the entire day to hangout and cheer people on. His friend Jason took the top finishing time of 4:16. None of us bothered to go up to Wendell and inquire about our standings, well Jason didn't need to. Unfortunately my friend Lem who was attempting his first 50k settled for 34k instead. He just started running in August, he's got time.

Rollin Once Again

All of a sudden there has been one event after another, wine and beer all around, not to mention food. Tough on the training regimen, even for the recreational athlete. BH100 really did a number on me but I'm finally over, took long enough! In the past I've recovered faster from 100s. Speed is mostly back. For some reason I thought I had 2 months till the Headlands Hundred. Wrong! It's only 5 weeks away, got it switched with the Big Kahuna Triathlon. I signed up for the Angel Island 50k being run today. Just giving myself a nice swift kick in the butt to get the long distance training back into play. It's such a small island it will take 6 loops to cover the distance. I don't mind though, it's shaping up to be a sunny weekend and the views of the bay are going to be spectacular. There's 112 runners for the 8k, 99 for the 16k, 84 for the 25k and 51 for the 50k. It will end up being more than that because of race day registrations. It's a small island so it will be quite crowded. It's kind of cool how I'm so excited even if it's just a 50k. Had a hard time sleeping last night. My last dream before I woke up was Wendell telling us to be ready because there was snow and mud on the course. Hahaha. Haven't decided if I'm going to bring my camera. Haven't you guys seen enough of the Bay Area already? Speaking of which here's pics of all the fun things I've been doing outside of training. Been spoiled this past week.

Janet's birthday party at the Wine Snob. Same block as our spin studio. So this is what it looks like on the inside. One of the bartenders is an ultra runner. Pretty too.

Silver Horse Winery in the central valley. Beautiful place for a wedding.

Nothing healthier than cotton candy with your veggies, at a July 4th BBQ.

Emeryville Storefront Rendering.jpg
My friend Jason Arth is an architect for Sephora. Thursday night we went to Emeryville for the opening of one of his stores. Photo courtesy of Jason Arth. This was of course followed by a little celebrating.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Who let the dogs out?

This might be a wild one kids. Once the dogs get a hold of the beer who knows what will happen. You know them dogs, they'll serve anyone. Hope everyone is having a good time. Taking a little time off from work myself to go to a bbq, folks from the tri-group. I just read my latest issue of Triathlete magazine, I'm good to go:)

Happy 4th of July!

Drugs or Ultra Running Necessities
Officer, those are left over from a 100-mile running race I just did in Sheridan. I needed the dope to keep going, I mean the energy drink powder and pills, salt pills.

I hope ya'll are having a good time. Here's a story you guys might enjoy.

2 Officers: Excuse, Mr. Gaston? Could you come with us please we'd like to ask you a few questions.
Me: Uh-oh, is this what I think it is, crappola I bet it is.
2 Officers: We found something in your luggage that we'd like to talk to you about, you have any idea what we're talking about?
Me: You guys are talking about white powder in plastic bag aren't you?
2 Officers: Now why would you say that?
Me: It occured to me that it does look like drugs but then I thought further that surely you guys would know how to spot the real thing, besides who would openly transport real dope like that.
2 Officers: So what is it?
Me: Sports Drink / Energy Drink
2 Officers: Is that what that is?
Me: Yup.
2 Officers: Why are you transporting it like that?
Me: I was at a race and we package it that way so we can just open and mix the powder with H20 on the go.
2 Officers: What race was this?
Me: Bighorn 100-miler in Sheridan.
2 Officers: Yeah what is that race? A bike race? (Officers had already rifled through my bag and found the water bottle with the splits on the them, the shirt, the race number, blister repair kit and other race related gear, not to mention three pairs of stinking, muddy shoes in individual shoe bags and the dirty smelly clothes)
Me: It's a run.
2 Officers: A run?
Me: Yup.
2 Officers: Brief silence. one scribbles more notes on small notepad.
2 Officers: So look what you've created here is a suspicious situation. You're transporting powder, white powder at that in small plastic bags. Under x-ray it all looked very suspicious. Now we actually did take out your bag and tested it. Because this is a small airport we were able to handle it quickly but had this been a larger airport, say San Francisco, you could have missed your flight.
Me: I understand officers.
2 Officers: Next time transport it in a container with the package intact or buy it here if possible.
Me: Got it.
2 Officers: Also you had suspicious looking pills. You had pills in a bottle but you also had pills in small plastic baggies. That was also suspicious.
Me: Oh those are salt tablets (smiling at this point because I'm getting off with a warning)
2 Officers: More brief silence (definitely not amused)
2 Officers: Well ok, we have your name and address on record, next time be careful about that kind of stuff.
Me: Thank you officers. ( I shuffle painfully away)

So that was my encounter with the police before leaving Sheridan, Wyoming. I did create a situation where they had no choice but to investigate. Placing myself in their shoes I would have done the same. I also felt bad that they had to go through my stuff, there were some pretty "ripe" stuff in there. There was no time to hit the laundry before leaving Sheridan. I placed everything in separate bags, the shoes, the used clothes, the used socks...oh damn the socks! They were stern but nice, speaking of which, I did not meet one rude person while I was in Wyoming. They let me go without giving me too much of a hard time. Maybe they felt sorry for me when they saw me walk. Damn blisters!