Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nothin but Wind

Coach Neil and a member of his half-ironman team, enjoying the weather.

"You are an idgit Rick Gaston" the inner pie hole barked with a grin as I hung on to the vertical slats of the Golden Gate Bridge guard rail, hanging on from being swept down the remaining quarter of the bridge as the wind gust hit at full force. The wind at my back was moving north on the bridge, same direction I was going, the white caps in the water below confirmed the wind direction but I truly believed at that moment that the wind was capable of hitting harder and possibly push me over the railing. I just never know with wind. So there I was hanging on thinking "I must look really stupid right now trying not to get blown away on the bridge". The second thought was "what am I doing here?". I had just passed the second supporting tower, 3/4 of the way across. For most of the crossing the wind was a pleasant but strong push on my back, running felt easy like going downhill. As I passed the last tower that was when I got caught by a strong gust that sent me flying forward. It was like someone running had put their hands on my back and proceeded to push me across. I was running by the railing as a precaution and when I shot forward I instinctively grabbed one of the vertical slats and held on.

Standing there, this time with both arms on the railing, I debated whether to return to the last tower for shelter against more wind gusts or just continue hand over hand on the railing until the wind died down or I made it across. I opted for the latter and moved cautiously until the gust which threatened to up my pace to the 5 minute mile finally died down. Another 50 feet and I was already in the shelter of Marin's hills and safe. In retrospect, had I been more courageous, I could have ridden that wind like a wave. It wasn't trying to throw me off the bridge it was trying to move me down it. However not being in control was an unpleasant feeling, like sliding or slipping and self preservation won out. This whole time I've been typing I've been laughing but believe me I was scared at the time and I don't mind admitting it.

So my newest running injury is a blood blistered and scratched right hand, and a strained forearm and bicep. Opening jars was a bit painful for a few days:)

That moment and the ensuing run in the Headlands was one of the highlights of last Sunday. The storm forecasted didn't hit as hard as it should have in San Francisco, the the worst of it landed North of us. They prepared us for the worst but and the least came, a perfect scenario. Nevertheless it was gloom and rain when I got up in the morning. Ran into Coach Neil's half-ironman training group doing hill repeats by the bridge but for the most part it was quiet out there.

After getting off the bridge I met up with my good friend Jason A. who was running part of my route with me. Jason doesn't like running across the bridge because it's all concrete. I don't blame him. I hate running across the bridge on a normal day. The first thing I told him was "I almost got blown off the bridge (an exaggeration) and that we are going to get blown off the ridge we planned to run", the second was "can I get a ride back to SF later?". To the first he said "no way, I didn't drive her for nothing" and to the second he quipped "you are a wuss". He meant the first and joked about the latter or maybe he meant both. I'll have to box his ears next time. I'll have to wait until he's tying his shoes since he's over 6 feet tall. The run went well and the wind brought out some strange sounds I've never heard before. It would be dead quiet in the valleys and furiously loud at the top of the hills and ridges. Once while zipping along at a fine speed, the wind pushed me enough that I nailed a rock with my foot and was sent scrambling on the side of the trail to keep myself from going down. Those of you who have caught yourselves from slipping know that it can be a painful experience, muscles tighten, incredible sudden strain on the back and legs; however, the section was rocky and I'm sure it would have hurt more sprawled on top of it. I just had to laugh. Such is life sometimes no? A carefully laid out plan disrupted by something beyond our control. Nevertheless we do what we can, sometimes with the grace of a dancer with two left feet but we keep on moving forward.

And so it goes.

DSCN3557.JPGDSCN3558.JPGJason A. Lots of wind through the trees and the ridges.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saturday: Things That Make you go "Huh"

"Callout obstacles! Signal for your turns!" Coach Neil, laying down the laws and etiquette for bike riding.

So I volunteered for our beginner focused triathlon group as planned. These workouts do very little for my own training but I'm a big believer in the whole "giving back" thing and I think I've managed to arrange a schedule that will satisfy both my training and my desire to volunteer. This is my third year being involved and my 6th team, we usually have one in the Spring and one group in the Fall. It's a rewarding experience watching people grow and pick up new skills. The best part is some of these guys and gals return the favor and either volunteer for races, get involved with the club or both. Of the current club board of 14, 5 or 6 are former members of this group, 4 of which are from last years Spring group.

The remains of one bike.

After the lecture but before the group ride, everyone was supposed to do an equipment check. As volunteers we were supposed to go through the participants and make sure they were all set. I had one rider who used a c02 cartridge to pump up his tires but he used one cartridge on both wheels so he had two half pumped tires. We got him all set up and I suggested he get a floor pump with a gauge. Then we had one participant however who had no bike at all but remnants of a bike. She had shipped the bike from Maine and it was lost in the mail. Her brother in-law wisely took off some items off the bike before it was shipped; nice top of the line pedals, water bottle holders, bike computer, bike pouch, other misc. bike parts and one back wheel. These were the items she brought to practice, I'm not sure why. It was strange she had the back wheel but not the front. The front was the one you usually detach off the bike, there was some strange things to this situation. It was funny and sad at the same time. Wisely she insured the package so she should be able to file her claim and get a new bike, hopefully sometime soon. Somewhere out there is a stripped down road bike with no back wheel.

Every year there's always something that makes me go "huh...".

Friday, February 22, 2008

Promises to be a Wet One

Leipheimer maintains Tour of California lead
Friday, February 22, 2008

Levi Leipheimer pedaled to a dominating individual time trial victory and extended his race lead Friday in the fifth stage of Amgen Tour of California. Leipheimer (Astana), of Santa Rosa, Calif., completed the windy 15-mile route in 30 minutes and 47 seconds at an average speed of 29.202 mph.

Okay I have never, never, ever averaged 29 mph. That's just crazy and with winds too, folks this is why you won't be seeing me in a professional bike race anytime soon, not in this life time anyway.

So the winds are up because a storm is creeping up on us here in the SF Bay Area, set to pounce Saturday afternoon and go on all through the night into Sunday noon. Saturday morning, tomorrow, is the first workout for our triathlon beginner group TAG. If we are lucky, we will get this workout in before the fireworks start. I always volunteer for TAG and I plan to be there myself. This first workout is about the Bike, Coach Neil will do a lecture, followed by equipment check then a short ride around the parking lot before taking them out into the streets. Hand signals will be learned, proper riding etiquette will be reviewed and safety pointers will be taught. As a volunteer it's my job to make sure people are okay and help those who need help. Hopefully we won't have anyone falling over with their bike due to new bike clips, falling because they forget to unclip their feet after stopping - there's always one in the group. It will be alright, I have a soft spot for beginners. My first street ride on my road bike I fell over three times because of those damn clips and that was in the parking lot with a bike wrench looking after me. I still remember what he said afterwards "kind of crazy you kept falling but I was impressed you used your body to shield your bike from scratches". It got scratched anyway.

Sunday I will have to play it by ear. I relish running in rain and mud but I'm not so sure about the wind gusts that they say can reach 60 mph, maybe even more. There's a particular ridge in the Marin Headlands that is quite exposed and on windy days you feel like you're going to get blown off. You're only on it for 10 minutes or so but I can only imagine what it would be like in a storm. Hehehe maybe I should go find out. Those who have run the Headlands Hundred and the 50-miler know this ridge. Wind coming from the ocean, whips through the valley floor and up and over this ridge. In the summer months you have fog flowing over in the late afternoons, like river water over rock. My other worry is trees, I don't want to get knocked out by a flying branch. However, there aren't a lot of trees in the Headlands before the Mt. Tam area so I should be ok. Maybe I'm just worrying too much. This storm is supposed to be fast and furious but mostly done by Sunday noon. I plan to leave at 9AM so I should catch the tail end. The Headlands promises to be muddy, debri strewn and if I'm lucky, filled with standing water everywhere. Why that's just a trail runner's paradise. Nothing like running past cafe's and shops after a good day at the trails, all muddy and wet. Like a mountain biker sans the bike. While my feet are prone to blisters from wet shoes, it doesn't bother me for runs under 50 miles. I'll have to dump the music though, out in the open the sound of a storm is deafening without walls to block the wind. Besides my iShuffle will never make it (will Apple ever make a sport version of their players or will they forever subject us to expensive third party accessories? - probably the latter) The trails, so much to love in any weather.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Track is Back On

Actually they already started last week but I had to take my good friends to the airport so tonight was my first night. Two years ago I did my first track workout here, with this club and in this track, and like that first time two years ago it was raining. Brrr... at least the wind wasn't whipping around like it usually did on a normal night. These months are the toughest for track, it's dark by 6PM, workout starts at 7PM, and it can be cold and rainy. Spring months are the best, runners out in force training for events, no rain, and light out till 8:30PM.

The workout for the evening was a short warmup and a two mile time trial. These always hurt, speed hurts, especially when it takes me such a long time to warm up. It was what it was and I gunned it when I had to. The first 3 laps the engine was still cold, laps 4-6 I was warmed up and passing folks who went out too fast, laps 7-8 were the best and most painful.

Mile 1 = 6:55
Mile 2 = 6:43
For a total of = 13:38

Frankly I fared better than I thought. The time drops by about 30 seconds as the season progresses; I lose more weight and I get in better shape. Nothing under 13 though, nothing recorded anyway. My top speed for the single mile hovers around 6:20. For me to achieve a sub-13 I believe I would have to tweak my diet even more and focus solely on running. We'll see at the end of the year or maybe by this summer before I start hitting the 100's.

It was a good night, soaked to the bone and splashing around the track with the other runners. Even got a "go Golden Gate" from our companion club "SF Triathlon". What a nice bunch of folks. Always hardy and ready to go. When we finished we were a sight, all "steaming" in the rain. It was a good, good time at track tonight. I hit the gym afterwards, grinning ear to ear.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Of Spandex and Tight Fitting Bike Shorts

Death to drafters, it's like "tailgating" - for you folks not up with the bike lingo. Ok not really, the skull and crossbones say "no" but the eyes say "yes".

I got back on the bike saddle this week, my crotch and butt can attest. Hit my first spin class Thursday night, my hot date was a state of the art Cyclops spin bike. Totally whupped me but I was saved by my running fitness. Nevertheless my power wattage was 75-80% of what it used to be. Then Saturday I went for a 40-mile ride with friends. It should have been a Friday morning ride but when I heard it was going to be in the mid-40s in the morning I promptly turned off the alarm clock. Anyway I managed to get a good ride in without taxing my legs too much but nevertheless my legs felt less than stellar during my 5.5 hour run today. That's another post however. No more back to back long rides and long runs! They whupped me last year and it's gonna whup me again.

B and his main squeeze, Spamsi. Couples that ride together... Spams is training for Ironman Brazil. I was supposed to go but I went to the Philippines instead for the holidays and there went my Brazil fund.

We ran into friends throughout the ride. Here's Karen in red, former club pres and still sporting the colors after all these years.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mt. Cameroon: Volcanic Sprint trailer

Like Bob, I thought I'd do my part in spreading the word about this unique race. Bob I saw that you ordered the video, maybe we can watch that the night before KM100, get all pumped up and all that. I have one running DVD and I've seen it a zillion times.

This text is straight from the website:

The sleepy town of Buea in the Southwest Province of Cameroon hosts Africa’s most grueling footrace: the Mt. Cameroon Race of Hope, a marathon-length sprint 10,000 feet up a live volcano, and back down again.

To conquer the mountain, racers must overcome some of the cruelest conditions in sport: temperatures fluctuate 50 degrees, altitude sickness claims the weak, and loose volcanic stones can cause serious injury, and even death, as runners fly back down the mountain.

Volcanic Sprint takes you deep inside the lives of athletes like Sarah Etonge, a five-time champion and mother of seven known as the Queen of the Mountain. Just days before the race, Sarah is haunted by a nagging knee injury and the strain of a hospitalized child. Sarah needs the money she earns from racing to support her children and the Race of Hope is the biggest purse in Cameroon.

For these competitors, Mt. Cameroon isn’t just a race. It’s their best shot at achieving fame and fortune in a country short on both. For former champion John Ekema, it’s a chance to relive fading glory through his son. For two-time champion Dominique Tedjiozem, attacked by rivals during the 2002 race, it’s a chance for vengeance.

All the competitors’ hopes and aspirations come together on the biggest sporting day in Cameroon. The winners will achieve lifelong fame. But nearly half of all runners will quit the race … conquered by Mt. Cameroon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Pictures for Words

They say pictures are worth a thousand words, I'd settle for 100.

The opposite of my favorite late evening runs, an early morning run. Wakey, wakey San Francisco, the weekend is upon us.

Home James! Returning to San Francisco from Hawk Hill, at the mouth of the bay on the Marin side of the bridge.

Food, where?! At the V. Sattui winery in Napa, Valley. Amazing deli and store but too crowded! Image courtesy of Diana.

At Sterling Vineyards, on the northern side of Napa, Valley. By the way here's a little trivia. The most visited winery in the US isn't in Napa or Sonoma Valley. It's not even in California, it's in North Carolina. The second is in Maui, Hawaii. So they say. If it's in the internet it must be true. Image courtesy of Diana.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Golden Gate Triathlon Club Season Kick-Off Social.

It's been a crazy week and it's on going. Crazy deadlines and I've got two friends from the Philippines staying with me. They got here Sunday and they leave for Los Angless this coming Tuesday. Been running on all cylinders; working lots of hours, finding time to show these guys around and getting my training done. Lucky for me these ladies are seasoned travelers and know how to explore on their own. I owe them a trip to Napa this weekend though. Wish me luck! - visitors, crazy deadlines and training. I tell ya, if I wasn't an athlete my body would have been down for the count days ago. On the plus side I've been running well. I get to bleed out all the stress as I pound those miles. Tuesday night I ran like a thug in an episode of COPS. I don't know what came over me. Like a dog set loose on a beach, tongue wagging and slobbering all over myself.

That pic there is from Thursday night. Our Triathlon club's kick-off social, led by our new social director Jennie. She also just finished her first marathon last weekend, in pouring rain and wind too. By Thursday afternoon I was pretty worn out and it was the perfect break. After a couple of hours it was right back to work but I felt much better after that.

Apologies to all my blog friends, will catch up soon.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wisconsin in June

My heart's still beating fast and my fingers are cold. Just signed up for my first 100-mile race for the year. Woof I need to sit down, wait I am sitting down:) So Wisconsin it is in June. I'll be there to see Mark defend his 100-mile title. It's the same weekend as my Mother's birthday. If I finish I might just give her the little copper kettle they give away to finishers. I'd prefer a belt buckle like the ones they give away at most U.S. 100-Mile races but I'll take the kettle.

At $115 it's a cheap race. Why that only works out to $1.15 per mile, what a bargain! Not too hilly either but I heard it can be quite technical on the footing. Plus I have a cousin who lives there who would totally hook me up with some sleeping space. I haven't told her yet that it's a 100-mile race, I just told her that I would be gone all weekend. She gave me a strange look but I didn't elaborate - we met up in the Philippines during the holidays. I never know how to tell people who don't run about my running habit. It's kind of a conversation stopper and I don't like that kind of attention. They give you that look like you're crazy, which drives ME crazy. We all know I'm not anyway, right? It's just a long race. Like a marathon but several times over with hills, nothing crazy about that. good friend J-Few mentioned that I can stop by her mom's place for some good home cookin', only 10 minutes from the race site. I'm flattered and honored although I'm kind of shy about that kind of stuff. In my own blog I can spout all kinds of nonsense but I don't know if I can actually knock on the door of someone's home that I don't know personally just to eat. I mean you know...kind of embarrassing and if I do it after the race I'll smell like a wild animal and probably look like one too:)

Aite Bob, I'm in, let me know when you finally sign up.