Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Running for the Roses

American Pharaoh
American Lairdo

American Pharaoh just blasted past two horses to win the 141st Kentucky Derby.  I would love to write that I did the same to win the 14th Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon the weekend before on April 25th.  However, I would need the field to be about 7 slow people in total rather than my fellow 1500 rain soaked runners.

Sparkling times in the 3:30s seemed to have fully slipped out of my grasp, and this race, thanks to a few longer bathroom stops was my slowest marathon ever at just under 4:45.  I’ve spent more time on a course but only for longer distances.  In fact, I completed two 50Ks (31 miles) faster!

So whilst state 31 got notched where ever one notches completed marathon states, I need to look at other qualities of my runs rather than purely completion time.

First, just finishing really needs to be goal one.  Determination and heart cannot be ignored when running 26.2 miles.  The distance and time both are too long to do it all on skill and physical ability.  Or perhaps more accurately stated, part of the skill needed is mental.  This is less about willing myself to keep running (usually) but more this is about running well.  Can I keep a good pace, my heart rate in a good zone and my mind clear?  Yes on this race at least!

The Mighty Ohio
So, second is setting a plan and trying to hit it.  When I go out running, I have a preconceived idea of how I will run.  Is the first half flat and the second half hilly?  Do I try to for negative splits (2nd half faster than the first)?  Do I want to pass lots of people at the end?  What is my time goal, and what is a stretch one?  In the end, I need to respect the conditions on the course.  So, with rain for the entire race (pretty much), I knew my time would be slower and yet also I would not overheat.  Everything is a trade off.  Had the day been hot or humid, the time would have been even slower.  But you do not want to bonk at mile 18 and not finish.  This is meant to be fun after all, and it is.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Deep Run in the Heart of Texas

Waco is famous for cattle coming to market. This cowboy statue drives in a herd.  When the race starts, they play sound effects of cattle stampeding.

Reading this site, you cannot help to notice I set a lot of running goals.  Seven continents, 50 mile runs, 50 states before I am 50 years old, and even shorter term ones such as running 3 half-marathons in 3 days.  One goal that is less driven by events and more by fitness is that ability to run a marathon at any time.

So, the opportunity arose this weekend for me to knock off state 29 by signing up late for a marathon in Waco Texas.  And while this turned into a mini-ultra (see more below), happily the run showed me that indeed I can drop in a marathon without much warning.  This comes from maintaining a certain fitness level and knowing how to pace a race and stay within my capabilities on any given day.  This knowledge of my skills and body came in handy today as this “toughest marathon in Texas” dished out hill after and after hill after hill.  And then a few more hills!  Fortunately, I happen to like hills.

Running by Baylor
In my mind, Waco is connected to the tragedy at the Branch Davidian complex.  But really, that happened miles outside of the town, and the city is rightly known for Baylor University, the Brazos River and Lake Waco.  All of these landmarks featured on today’s course.

The race is called the Miracle Match Marathon, and it’s hosted by the Waco Fire Department.  In fact, many of the brave men and women who protect Waco participated in full gear.  The miracle match refers to stem cell Donors, and with a family member narrowly avoiding needing one recently, I was happy to toss in my registration fee to help the cause.  I liked how every mile marker highlighted a donor or recipient by name.

We circled the exterior of the Baylor football stadium
The event features all sorts of running distances of which the half was probably the most popular. When the marathoners and halvers separated at 6 miles, the course thinned considerably.  So, in the end, this was just a long city run.  We started with 3 miles in and around Baylor which was great.  It’s a beautiful campus, and there were students out to cheer us on.
Waco also is near an air force base, and airmen and women were abundant volunteering and extolling us to a quick pace.  A few yelled at us runners good natured.  Actually, I picked up my pace just in case they were not actually friendly threats.
An inlet of Lake Waco
And then we hit the hills as we made our way to and along Lake Waco.  Forget Texas being flat.  Them thar hills out there!  Up one and down another.  50 feet up.  75 down.  100 up etc.  But like I wrote, I enjoy hills.  In fact, I took my every 5 mile one minute walk breaks on the downhill portions only to be teased by other runners zipping by me.

Top of the stairs looking back down
The race features an optional “Jacob’s Ladder” staircase 100' climb. If you do this, you get a wrist band which is then exchanged for a ladder to hang off your medal. (See the photo at the bottom.)  Of course, not at all caring about time, I did this; I did skip the offered chili pepper at the bottom and beer at the top.  And a good thing my time did not matter.  A fellow runner and I were completely confused at the top where to go, and no one was around to give directions.  The street had a chalk line.  In fact it had two.  We chose….  poorly.

And thus my 26.2 mile run became 28.2.  Fortunately, it was not worse, as a course official saw us and turned us around.  We had managed to run back part of the half marathon course which was reconnecting with the marathon before leading to the finish along the Brazos River.  How about some more hills - this time in reverse?  The diversion cost me a sub 4:30 finish, but I was not at all upset.  When we hit the course again, it was obviously the right way to go.  I felt more dumb than annoyed. In fact, 10 of us enjoyed getting back on the beam together.  At least we had company in our extended run.  No special wrist band or medal extension for this excursion though. 

So, state 29 was a bit longer than normal, but the sunny yet cool day was gorgeous.  Everyone was super friendly, and even following last week’s Star Wars Disney Weekend of running (10K + half marathon over two days), I was in fine form.

Next up - Little Rock on March 1 and state 30.

The dark ladder under the two is hanging off the finisher medal which itself is sitting on the bib that is then on the finisher pull over they give you for besting those pesky hills.

Updated state map with 21 states to yet shade blue - and 30 months to run them

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Triple the Turkey Treats

This past Thanksgiving marked my 9th since beginning my running career in 2006.  I remember driving to Long Beach in 2006 for my first Turkey day race.  For some reason, I just knew that people hosted events on the 4th Thursday of each November.  Long Beach was only 45 minutes away, and while my run was only a 45 minute 10K, I enjoyed the start to the day.
Circa 2006 going out of business
In fact, running on Thanksgiving filled a gap left by the loss of Tower Records.  After I earned my drivers license in 1993, I began going to Tower Records in West Hollywood every Thanksgiving.  For some reason, this legendary record shop kept its doors ajar on the typical day off.  I would start with the video store, move down a few doors to classical then dodge the sparse traffic across venerable Sunset Boulevard to the main establishment.  Sometimes I came home with nothing to show for the sojourn, but usually I discovered some new treat.  At some point, the store Book Soup entered the morning routine.  I first discovered the Dark Tower series there by Stephen King.

Even when in college, if I returned home for the holiday, Tower figured into the Thursday plan along with football and food.

But all things must pass into the grey havens, and Tower is long gone.  So much for a new work by a composer or a remastered album by a 60’s rock legend.  Physical media are eschewed these days both in audio and text, so I am not even sure what I would take away from a journey in any case.  (Those out there thinking that I would figure it out are most likely correct.)

In any case, when I analyze why these outings engendered such regular behavior, I really think at the core is a desire for a newness.  A surprise find.  A revelation of some kind.

So, Thanksgiving dawns often with a new running goal.  I am not as regular with races these past 9 years as always finding a brand new goal, but I believe I have run every Thanksgiving since 2006.

This year, I decided to find a new challenge, and thanks to the small, but well run local running outfit “A Better World Running,” discovery occurred.  Operated by Mark and Michelle, a Better World Running is a successor to another running group in So Cal.  I ran one of their races in Santa Monica in 2012 as I trained for my 50 mile run.  Their races take place on numerous beach bike paths.  The runs are supported by aid stations, and the atmosphere is very relaxed.  Super friendly in fact.

This year, they hosted runs on all 4 days of the long weekend.  Being only in town for three, I opted for my first ever back-to-back-to-back half marathons.  Whilst I have twice completed two marathons on sequential days, I have never done 3 halves in a row.  To be honest, at my training level, this should not be an issue, but until the laces are tied and the 13.1 miles crossed each day, the outcome is unknown.

The first event took place conveniently enough in Santa Monica.  Three 4.37 loops from just south of the Santa Monica pier north to just after the California incline comprised this course.  The loop courses allow for you to pass many of the over 100 participants running a range of distances from 5k to marathon.  You see others with their tiny bibs pinned to their running gear and give a wave or nod or cheer.  While the course it open and cyclists and other runners weave around you, there is a sense of communal experience.  I took the first day in just over 2 hours.  I do have to say that the third lap was anticlimactic.   There was a sense of having been there and done that - partly due to the three laps and partly as I run this area all the time.  Given the 6:30 start, I was back at home and watching football at 9:30, finisher medal in hand.

The next day required the longest drive and in fact I was unsure how to time the 60 miles to Huntington Beach and probably got up too early.  In any case, I sat in my car for a few chilly moments before embarking on the two lap course south and back between Seal Beach and Huntington.  I had never run this area before, so there was enjoyment at seeing the Pacific from this vantage point.  The crowd today was smaller given the Friday, but it was still fun and I pulled in with a 1:59 time, happy to have compiled the 2nd race faster than the first.  Another medal in hand, and I was back at home to get some work done.

The last day for me was a Saturday.  As I was flying off to the UK that afternoon, I got up early to push myself a bit towards GMT.  That corresponded with the Arsenal Football match at 4:45 AM and I was able to watch a fair bit of it before driving to Long Beach.  This course started exactly where my very first Turkey Trot had occurred.  I didn’t realize what a treat returning here would be.  Long Beach has been improving their bike paths and beach areas, necessitating the closure of some sections.  Mark and Michelle had anticipated running us south, but after scoping the course the day before, they found we could run north instead.  What was great about this is that you run towards the Queen Mary - the venerable icon of the Long Beach Harbor.  You can pretty much see it from everywhere, but the course included the spit of land of that juts into the water just across from the vessel.  I really did not realize it until I got near the end of the 6.55 mile first loop.  The cloudy morning, perfect for running, still afforded a lovely view.  And getting to run the second loop was a treat too as the sun have poked out and the ship was a wash in light.

As I zipped in with final time of 1:59:58, Michelle handed me a specially made trophy complete with my name and the logos of the three races: The Turkey Trot, The Turkey Trek and the Turkey Dash.  A tradition of running rewarded by a new goal sated (and a new level in the Half Fanatics online run club!).

Next year, who knows what I will do.  Other than run of course.

Post script
Ironically, I did not have turkey at all during the weekend.  In fact, I had salmon all three nights before each race which is in fact my traditional post long run food.  It’s my turkey of the sea I guess.

Monday, November 17, 2014

13 months later...

Well, it's been a baker's dozen of months since I last posted.  Thank you to those of you who have wished for some sort of update with your kind words.

So, here I am post Las Vegas Marathon keyboard jockeying in my Uber from SFO.  So much has happened in a year - from having some strange medical issues that are resolved but otherwise mysterious to helping sell Oculus to Facebook and basically moving to the Bay Area to work at the social media company's HQ.

The good running news is that after a 7 month hiatus, I am back in shape and continuing my 50 state quest by the time I am 50 years old.  Losing 7 months to recovery and work definitely is adding stress to completing that goal by July 2017 - the month of my 50th birthday.  But it is doable for sure.

This year, I added Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maine and Nevada to the quest.  That takes my total to 28.

Next year, I will start off by pounding out Mississippi and Alabama in my third ever back-to-back weekend.  Kentucky and Vermont are on the list for the spring.  I plan to find four others as well.

This past weekend was fun because I shared it with Lyndsey, Shara, Aliya and Kari (+ their spouses) from Fort Collins.  Lyndsey and I ran the first 9 miles together at which point our courses split so she could finish her third half-marathon and me my 54th marathon.

My parents were kind enough to swap their travel to come to Vegas too, and they were cheering Lyndsey and me on with signs and loud voices at mile 3.  They had a hot cup of mint tea for me post race as well which was awesome considering the low temperatures of this crazy 4:30 pm start race.  The race starts at night to allow us to see the strip all lit up.  I have to say that was pretty fun.  (But about half the course was in a relatively empty area without a lot of fan support.)

No rest for the crazy though.  A 7 AM flight had me winging back to the Bay Area for a full week of work.

More to follow (in less than 13 months I promise).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Those Last 3 Miles - Newport RI

The Fab Five Follies Fund Raiser continues.  Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.  I am touched by your support.  Donation Link for those still interested in helping Children International, The Alliance for Children's Rights and The Andrew Reisse fund at University of Maryland:

Day 2 of the back-to-back madness:
After a spot on target Hartford Marathon, my thoughts turned to attacking (or surviving) the UnitedHeatlhCare Newport Marathon in Rhode Island.  This jewel of New England is populated by huge mansions and a seaside attitude to match its miles of coastline around the various islands and peninsulas that comprise the city.

A fellow runner warms up as the sun rises on Easton Beach, Newport

Where the Hartford marathon exuded a big city start with pomp and whatnot, this smaller marathon said local from start to finish.  The expo, in a parking lot along Easton Beach also served as the start area.  Expecting a lot of vendors selling wears.  Yeah, not at this race.

Still, the day dawned on Sunday with some breezes and sun, but lots of good energy.  As I walked from my hotel to the start, I joined hundreds others.  Most were doing the half-marathon (which shared all but 50 feet with the marathon).  A delay of 15 minutes caused by late buses from the parking areas was the only blemish.  The race heads west to lap the famous residential areas of Newport.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Strolling through Hartford

All in all, a very good day for race 2 of the Fab Five Fall Follies Fund Raiser.

What promised to be a rainy one in the end became sunny and actually quite warm as the 20th Hartford Marathon kicked off my 2-day back-to-back marathon weekend.

The race starts at the Capitol building amidst pomp and circumstance.  The Governor's Protective Detail, the oldest such in the country, marched onto the steps of the library and presented the colors.  A police chief sang the national anthem.  A priest from Newtown, home of the senseless tragedy at its elementary school, intoned prayers for a safe run.  Finally, a group of dancers, oddly positioned mostly behind the half- and full marathon runner area, danced with Boston Strong shirts and a dance version of Sweet Caroline singing.  And 7 minutes late, the race finally started.

After that, it was pretty much business as usual.  The first part of the marathon weaved in and out of Hartford's downtown and Connecticut Riverfront areas.  Then around mile 11, it headed northeast into residential areas.  A U-turn at mile 17 sent us back the way we came.

Fall is in the air - but today was warm and sunny

The last few miles found the course crossing a massive bridge over the river before heading down Asylum Street (perfect for Marathon Maniacs such as myself) and a left turn back to the park through the Hartford Arch.  The finish line was a few steps further.

Finish Line - Through There!
I cruised in right at my target pace of 9 mins/mi.  3:55:57 in total.

Near the end, a fellow Maniac (for there were tons on the course, each greeting me with a hearty "Maniac!"), Jc came up to me spotting me from behind somehow.  He urged me to sprint the end with him, but I declined to not waste anything for today's Newport Marathon.  He finished a few mins ahead of me (his first under 4 hours this year - he's trying to run 52).  We chatted as we walked to get our medals, and then he dashed off to the airport to run Chicago today. I zipped to the hotel to shower and get ready for the Newport drive.

Thanks for all the donations that have come in so far!  I'll update everyone after Newport. links to the donation page.

22 States!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fab Five Fall Follies Fund Raiser 2013

Once again good people, I lace the shoes for charity.  5 years ago, I approached the New York City Marathon with my only real injury in my running career (knock on wood!).  Knowing that I could not achieve a new fast time, I decided to change the focus of my running from myself to others - the day would not be about my usual crazy collection of personal goals; it would be about kids.  And thus the annual fund raising campaign was born.

We raised $10,000 and have not looked back since.  Each year, we have raised between $10,000 and $20,000 around one or more races.  Last year was a double run around the LA Marathon and the London Marathon which allowed me to raise money for both US and UK charities.

This year is about a crazy five weeks where I am running three marathons and two half-marathons in five different states.  Add to that runs in five other states as part of my normal training. Five races.  104.8 race miles over 5 weeks.  For those wanting more details, read on.

(For those already inching to make a donation, please visit:

Hard Sell: Darth Vadar says you will donate or else. 

The three charities I am supporting this year are:

Children International
The Alliance for Children's Rights
The Andrew Reisse Memorial Scholarship at the University of Maryland

Each of these is close to my heart, and I am proud to be pounding the pavement and internet for them all.

So, why five races in five states in five weeks?  Well, actually, this is pretty much happenstance with each set of events being scheduled independently from one another.  Only upon deciding how to write this blog post did I realize the madness.  What else would you expect from a Marathon Maniac and aspiring 50 State Marathon Club Finisher?

But ultimately, this is mostly about because I can.  I run because I love it.  I run because I can get to these neat places and because I like meeting people on the course.  (One runner recently told me I had great spirit.)  I run to lead a healthy lifestyle.  I run to relax and to get pumped. I run to be unique and to be part of a community.  I run.

However, I make sure to run when others cannot.  Or when my running can help them achieve their dreams.  Or to fulfill dreams that they can no longer fulfill.  I love sharing my running, and judging by the reactions, other people still like hearing from me about them.  If we can come together and make our lives better, then maybe we can do so for others too. Running is how I do that.  I find solace and excitement and meaning in each race.

That's why I run.  And why I run for charities.

Let me tell you about the three for this year's fund raiser.

The Alliance for Children's Right is my local charity.  Focused primarily in Los Angeles, the Alliance provides legal services for parents looking to adopt children and for children in the foster system.  They set up mentors (my friend Pamela has found this rewarding for years) and help teach kids about how to get ready for life.  These Survival Saturdays are awesome groups events.  The leadership of the Alliance is amazing, and I've been fortunate to be a Friends of the Alliance Committee member for a few years.  We lead a group of dedicate Alliance supporters in various events including Dinner with Oscar with Friends.  If you are interesting in volunteering or being involved in this LA charity, please let me know.  Hit to learn more.

On the global front is the amazing Children International.  CI is a non-denominational charity based in one of my family cities, Kansas City.  We sponsor 4 children in the Philippines.  In 2011, I capped my 7 continent marathon goal by visiting the CI facility in Chile two days after the final race in that same country.  It was a very moving experience that really brought into focus what CI does on the ground in each of its regions.  I saw their medical clinic and got to speak to parents and grandparents who have kids supported by CI's donors.  The staff their was wonderful to me but more over obviously a fantastic team dedicated to helping others in their neighborhood.

For this marathon fund raising, we have designated the money to a specific cause.  This year's program is "Point. Click. Learn" - a computer training program in the Philippines providing impoverished youth with the basic computer skills to move forward in life. From the basics to software workshops, students are just a click away from success. Personally, I have been involved with computers since my uncle introduced me to them when I was 10. I turned my immediate love into my career.  I imagine the same thing happening over 8,000 miles away.  Helping others find this amazing tool and mastering it fits perfectly with my history. for more information on CI.

(And good luck to Sarah, my contact at CI who will be running a half-marathon on October 19 during my own race weekends.)

Lastly, as many of you know and have read on my blog, my new company, Oculus VR, lost one of its founders, Andrew Reisse.  With the support of his parents, I helped establish a scholarship in Andrew's honor at his alma mater, the University of Maryland.  Funds donated will help build an endowment to perpetually support students who embody Andrew's love of computers and the environment.  The Computer Science department at UM celebrates its 40th anniversary next week, so this is a double good reason to support it. to learn about Andrew and his scholarship.  I often think about Andrew when I am running. I am sure this weekend will be no different.

My fundraising page combining all three charities:

Lastly, back to running and the Fab Five Fall Follies Fund - how did I plan this ridiculous 100+ mile 5-race challenge for myself?

Point in fact, my 50 State goal ( led me to schedule the most mad part of this madness - a back-to-back marathon weekend here in New England where I am writing now.  Saturday, October 12 (tomorrow as I write) will find me running the ING Hartford Marathon.  Then, I shower and jump in the car to drive 2 hours to Newport, Rhode Island for the United HealthCare Marathon.  Two days, two races, two more states (22 and 23 if all goes well).

Trying to complete the 50 states by the time I am 50 - July 2017 - inspires a sense of efficiency, and this year the above marathons line up on the same weekend.  Two small states and one long weekend.  I've been eyeing these days for over 11 months.

About 6 months ago, my friend Lyndsey announced her plans to run her first half-marathon in Denver. (She lives in Fort Collins next to my lil sis Jen and family.)  She asked me if I would run it with her, and I of course said yes.  So, that locked in the October 20 event.

Beginning in January 2012, I have run at least one marathon per month.  As I looked at my September 2013 schedule this past summer, I saw that I could run a marathon in New Hampshire (Clarence DeMar Marathon, Keene, NH) about 2 hours from a conference I was attending at MIT.  It seemed wiser and saner given how little I am home to combine my already scheduled east coast travel with knocking off state 21 and keeping my monthly streak in tact.  I have some great photos I will post this week.

Lastly, the LA Half-Marathon is October 27, and I can join the Half Fanatics (the Half version of Marathon Maniacs) by running a third half this fall.  (Besides the upcoming Denver Half, I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in early September.  I will publish a write up of that fun weekend soon.)  And it doesn't require a plane flight.

So, that ended creating this nutty schedule:

September 28         Keene NH Marathon
October 12 Hartford CT Marathon
October 13 Newport RI Marathon
October 20 Denver CO Half-Marathon
October 27 LA   CA Half-Marathon

And just to keep it fun, I have already run training runs in North Carolina, New York, Boston, Missouri and Kansas.

If you decide to make a donation (or 2 or 3), I hope you will follow the spirit of this Fabulous Five Fall Folly - add $5 or $50 or $500 to your total.  Or sum in the fun runs = $10/$100/$1000!!!!

Here's the link to the donation page again and thank you all in advance.

I run for me.  I run for you.  I run for those who cannot run - however they define running for themselves.