Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Big Sur Marathon is this weekend. Sunday. Less than three days away. Yipes!

People are asking one big question at this point: Are you ready? Answer: I don't know.

How can you know? I did my long runs, capping things off with a 19-mile, 3-hour run about three weeks back. I did sit ups, lunges and push ups, ran some mornings, rode my bike, even swam a bit. I ran hills. I stretched. I ate (mostly) healthy and didn't drink (too much). So probably, yes, I'm ready. And if I'm not, oh well. I'll be at the start like at 6:45 a.m. regardless.

Preparation is obviously key, but out there on the highway for that many miles, anything can happen. Heat, wet fog or the slope of the road can really wreck things fast. Dehydration is a fear. Eating enough so as not to run out of energy (literally) is something to monitor.

But it's also not THAT far (four-ish hours). A person can survive a lot and still have a good race. My last marathon (Seattle, November) I went out too fast and walked all of the hills at the end. A 10-year-old girl beat me, but I still ran a personal best. The first time I ran Big Sur (2007) I pulled off to the side and pooped in some bushes, but ended up having a great race and besting my previous time. At the end of several runs (marathons and long trail races) my feet have been blistered and chewed up to the point where I couldn't walk correctly for weeks. I almost always loose a nail from a big toe.

Without a doubt, running a marathon hurts. Only the most fittest, crazy people (who don't have day jobs) can pound out a hard 26.2 miles and feel breezy the next day. Sonja and I (and most of those other folks out there Sunday morning) will be sore and tired for days. We might curse the race and the pain, swear to never do it again.

But realistically, I probably won't run again for just a week or two. Then I'll pick up a new pair of shoes and work back into long runs on serene trails. The agony of those last few marathon miles will fade and I'll start scanning Web sites of other marathons and endurance events to pick my next big thing. Then the cycle -- build, speed, build more, taper, race, rest -- will start all over again. Hopefully my toenails will be back by then.

Marathon results next week!

Monday, April 13, 2009


So Callie, Marika and I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon lounging at Manresa State Beach, south of Santa Cruz. Marika and I were completely content to splash in the waves for a minute, then lay out on the warm sand in bathing suits and read novels. But for Callie -- being that she's a rather-dense, hyperactive dog -- this was not enough. She really wanted to dig stinky things out of the sand and chase the coastal birds.

After awhile, I decided a quick barefoot beach run might calm Callie, count for my daily run and warm me up enough to take one more dip in the water. Plus I was reading accounts of 30-mile overnight runs in "Ultramarathon Man" and felt a little lazy.

Callie and I took off down the beach at a good clip, running in the wet sand right at the tide line. Now my dog loves water but has a crippling fear of waves, so sticking to my right (where she is supposed to run) with waves crashing feet away was not going to work. Early into the run she pulled hard on the leash and darted in front of me.

I should have seen it coming, but I was watching the water and birds or taking in the sunshine or loving the sand underfoot -- something other than paying attention to the dog. I went down hard.

Now this wasn't just a trip. Try splatter. Belly-flop. Face-plant. And right on that hard, packed, wet sand. Did I mention I was THAT GIRL running in my bathing suit and hadn't worn sunscreen all weekend? My sun-burned belly became sand-scraped. Ouch!

So a woman walking toward me stared at the entire ungraceful episode, but said nothing. She would be the first of several inconsiderate (perhaps drunk on sunshine?) people Callie and I would encounter on our 30-minute beach run. But -- interestingly enough -- as we made our way up and down the sand, everyone who made our jaunt difficult were other dog owners.

There was cell phone guy with a Labradoodle that loped happily toward Callie, her loose leash dragging through the sand. Callie tugged mercilessly toward the free dog (but was luckily deterred by the incoming waves). Dude never bothered to get off the phone and get control of his dog.

We picked out turnaround point based on a trio of off-leash, rather unsupervised dogs because I knew full well Callie would pull like hell to join them, then the lackadaisical dog owners would freak out a little bit at her size and energy level and I would be left apologizing (even though they were the ones breaking the leash-your-dog beach rule).

But the most ridiculous encounter came at the very end as we neared the beach entrance. Several families with little kids were congregated there, the children wading in the water or digging in the sand. A seemingly unclaimed black and brown Australian shepherd wandered among the kids. Just as Callie and I got to the crowd, a small boy (maybe 3?) grabbed the shepherd's leash. Of course the dog walked toward us and Callie turned to jump (read: play). No parents moved toward the boy -- who probably weighed less than the dog at the other end of the rope he held) or yelled at him to move away. Callie and I stopped, she sat down and we calmly waited it out. Never did the mom (who wandered nearby) come over to corral her dog or check on the welfare of her child. Luckily, the moment passed without any teeth-barring or other calamities.

I love taking Callie to the beach for a nice romp and run. We chase birds and get wet and it's a grand time. But other dog owners, with their off-leash beasts, can really ruin our beach experience. I understand that everyone's dog is the best pet ever and wonderfully well-behaved. Sure. Except that's at home or in some other controlled environment the animal is comfortable with. The beach -- with water, people, creatures, smells, kids and all -- is not the same and that is one of the reasons why dogs are supposed to be leashed at most of these sandy sanctuaries. Otherwise they run after other dogs or skimboarders, ignore you while they chase birds a half-mile down the beach and alarm folks who aren't dog lovers like yourselves. It's not just your beach.

But if you really do feel comfortable letting your dog off-leash where it's not allowed, at least have the courtesy to grab ahold of its collar while my dog and I pass by. I really hate that dirty look you give me when my leashed dog charges playfully at your uncontrolled animal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good day

There's nothing like yanking yourself out of a warm bed in the pre-dawn hours for a morning run.

In that moment when the alarm (or, in my case, phone call from Mom) shocks you from your pleasant slumber and into the cold morning, going for a run is the last thing you want to do. It never feels good to peel off the blankets and stumble through the darkness to tug on shorts, a long sleeve and your stinky running shoes.

More sleep always seems like the better options. For me, this usually wins out unless I'm meeting someone for an easy 5-mile jaunt. But when there's someone waiting for me (and Callie, as exercising her is another big motivator) I can usually suck it up and get out the door.

The amazing thing about it is I always feel better after a before-work run. The day goes better and I'm more productive at work. I might be a bit tired and jittery from coffee (which seems to have more of a kick post-run), but I'm also happier.

So today -- even with its intermittent rain showers, fatal car crash and never-ending gang project interviews -- is great because Callie and I roused ourselves at 5:40 a.m., met Leslie for a 6 a.m. run on Pleasure Point and slogged through the rain for about 40 minutes.

The point? Get out there. It's worth it. You can always nap later.

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."