Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I run because I am young at heart..

Some kids can't wait to grow up. They yearn for freedom from the rules and strictures imposed on them by their parental units. Unfortunately, there is usually an inordinate amount of responsibility associated with the 'freedom' of adulthood.

I yearned to liberate myself from my parents as a kid, but I wouldn't say I loved the idea of being an adult. My parents seemed at least vaguely if not markedly stressed about any number of things most of the time. Freedom didn't look terribly free to me.

My dad seemed to work his ass off all the time. He didn't seem miserable, but I never got the impression he loved what he was doing. Mom's existence seemed harried. She had 3 kids to corral and a myriad of household tasks to manage. Her plate was perpetually full, if not overflowing. Being an adult seemed like an enormous pain in the ass to me.

The stress my parents were dealing with washed over into my life as well. As a kid, I was confronted with plenty of 'adult' issues in our household. I wouldn't fall back on the cliche that I 'didn't have a childhood', but it did feel like my childhood was somewhat abbreviated or compromised. There are a reasonable number of my childhood memories that aren't exactly sunshine and roses.

Like many who find themselves confronted with issues they can't quite comprehend or process, I sought escape. I found myself escaping via the movies, initially. I was enthralled by the vivid alternate worlds projected onto the silver screen that I often found myself craving to be a part of, but knowing the real world was sadly just 120 minutes away.

In my teens, I found another form of escapism. I would throw on a pair of running shoes and hit the road. I was putting literal and metaphorical distance between myself and the adult issues that seemed to color many aspects of my life.

Ultimately, it was in these minutes and miles I spent on the road that I would feel most like a child. Unlike at home, I was in complete control on the road. I could run as far or as fast as I wanted and I was the only one who could stop me. I felt a lightness when I was running. I felt young. This was true freedom.

Unlike many forms of escapism, running provided more than just an 'escape'. I felt clearer and more comfortable in my own skin when I finished my run. I would have moments of clarity and insight during my runs. Sometimes I would find answers to my problems. I discovered that running may be the one of the most productive forms of escapism out there.

I don't have any illusions that I am still a kid. I'm confronted with the reality of being an adult (or pretending to be one) every day. But, if I'm lucky, I get to log a few miles each day and when everything's clicking, I feel like the fifteen year old version of myself who is putting his shoes on for the very first time. I feel young again.

Earlier this year a study was released that effectively characterized running as a veritable fountain of youth. Running in fact slows the aging process. This didn't surprise me. I've always known this on some level. I run because I am young at heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I run because I can't fly..

I once tried to fly as a kid and learned the all too painful lesson that I was simply not designed to do it. I was discouraged, but I never let go of the hope that perhaps some day, some way there might be a way to feel the rush and exhilaration of flight sans wings.

Soccer was a huge part of my childhood and there were brief, fleeting moments of exhilaration that felt vaguely similar to what I imagined flight must feel like. Most of these infrequent moments were associated with scoring goals. What ultimately killed my interest in soccer was the infrequency of such moments and a coach who had a real gift for yelling and browbeating.

I also spent many hours of my childhood playing tennis. As was the case with soccer, there were a handful of moments that provided the excitement and rush of flight, but fundamentally tennis always felt like somewhat of an unnatural act as you needed a tool in order to play the sport. Flight required no such tools and I managed to destroy my racket after a particularly disheartening loss.

While I had experienced some degree of 'success' with virtually every sport I tried, none of them really spoke to me. Balls, rackets, bats, gloves, helmets, and all other trappings of most conventional sports eventually lost any kind of hold on me. If I was honest with myself, the moments I enjoyed most as an athlete were associated with the act of running.

Scoring a goal in soccer was often the climax of an all out sprint evading defenders en route to burying the ball in the back of the net. Winning a great point on the tennis court was frequently an exclamation point at the end of an explosive surge from from one side of the court to another.

Only when I effectively jettisoned the aforementioned sports and focused exclusively on the one thing in all of these sports I truly enjoyed did I realize I had found my calling. I had also found the closest thing to flight.

I could cruise at a comfortable speed like a lazy, carefree seagull for hours. I could dive down a steep hill like a hawk closing in quickly on its prey. What I had been seeking all along was right in front of me.

This is not to say running 'always' feels like flying, but in many respects it legitimately IS flying. Take a look at a few photos of runners in full flight and chances are you'll find one where both feet are off the ground simultaneously. Is this not flying?

The fastest (and prettiest) runners out there spend as little time as possible in contact with the ground. Even when they are in contact with the ground, they often 'glide' and never 'plod'. These runners may not be breaking the law of gravity, but perhaps they're bending it a bit.

So, I run because I can't fly. Running may ultimately be a compromise, but flying is for the birds anyway.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saturday (08/27) Route Description

Due to the Giant Race coming through Marina Boulevard on Saturday morning, we will be meeting at the NORTH parking lot of Lake Merced. This parking lot is located 'roughly' where Sunset Boulevard runs into Lake Merced Boulevard. Here is a link to give you a better sense of exactly where this is located-

North parking lot of Lake Merced

The course everyone is running is a pretty simple out/back course on Sunset Boulevard. You will be logging 3-7 miles depending upon your training level. Here is a link to the course map for your reference-

Saturday's Course Map

After doing a brief warmup and our range of motion drills, we will cross the pedestrian crosswalk and head NORTH on Sunset Boulevard There is a path that runs parallel to Sunset Boulevard on the LEFT. This is where you want to run.

The cross streets are 'roughly' alphabetical so pay close attention to the cross streets as you are running. Beginner level runners will continue running up Sunset Boulevard until you reach the intersection of Sunset & Ortega. Turn around here and head back to the Lake Merced parking lot for 3 MILES!

Intermediate, Advanced, and Race level runners will continue running up Sunset Boulevard until you reach the intersection of Sunset & Kirkham. Intermediate runners will turn around at this intersection and head back to the Lake Merced parking lot for 4 MILES!

Advanced and Race level runners will continue running up Sunset. Roughly half a mile later you will arrive at the intersection of Sunset & Martin Luther King. This intersection is actually under the Lincoln Boulevard overpass. Advanced runners will turn around here and head back to the Lake Merced parking lot for 5 MILES!

Race level runners will TURN RIGHT at this intersection and get on the paved path on the LEFT side of MLK. Follow this path along MLK for 'roughly' a mile until you hit the intersection of MLK and Transverse. This is a controlled intersection with stop signs and a water fountain. You will see stop lights for 19th Ave. here. In other words, it's a conspicuous spot ;) Race level runners will turn around here and head back to the Lake Merced parking lot for 7 MILES!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


You've logged the miles, you've done the crostraining, you're a few days away from getting your race bib, BUT, do you have everything covered? I've outlined below a 'proposed' race week itinerary that should have you good to go on race day. Read on!


-Identify your race day wardrobe.

Make sure whatever you choose is something you're comfortable running in. Plan for the weather conditions! Take a look at the extended forecast and plan accordingly! You may want to bring a few different options.

Try to make sure your wardrobe includes the 'Team Open Hand' shirt so I can readily identify you on the course! I will be getting QUALITY glamour shots and possibly video footage on race day! Your 13.1 miles of glory will be immortalized forever!

-Nail down your travel plans.

You want to plan on getting to the race start AT LEAST 30-45 minutes in advance of the actual start. Figure out how you're getting to the start of the half marathon NOW! Don't wait until later this week.

Arriving well in advance of the start of your race will give you time to use the restroom, warmup, and make your way to the start. For those driving in on race morning, allow PLENTY of time! It will likely take time to find parking if you're driving in the morning of the race.

While parking is available in Lot A and Lot D, it will cost $10 to park here. I'd definitely encourage carpooling or public transportation to get to the race start. Please check the event website for more details-

The Giant Race


-Scout the course.

Check out the The Giant Race Half Marathon Course Info/Map. This course is generally pretty flat with one big hill at the 5 and 9 mile mark (approx.)near Fort Mason.

-Lube if necessary.

Some of you have complained about blisters on your toes/feet and chafing during the course of our training. Well, there's a handy product out there called 'Body Glide' that you can apply to your feet, thighs, underarms, or any other area where you encounter friction based irritation that will help reduce/eliminate this. It may be time to invest in some. Alternatively, you can use Vaseline, but it can be a bit on the greasy side.

Gentlemen, if you have experienced chafing of the nipples (my apologies if this grosses some of you out), stick a band-aid on both nipples and you should be good to go.

-Confirm receipt of your race bib OR pickup your bib at the expo on Friday or Saturday.

If you registered for the event, a race bib 'may' have been sent to you in the mail if you specifically specified this option. If you did NOT specify this OR you have yet to receive your race bib, you MUST go to the race expo on Friday between 12-7PM or Saturday from 9AM-4PM. THERE IS NO RACE DAY BIB PICKUP OPTION.

-Nail down race nutrition items.

I introduced you to GUs this season and hopefully you managed to identify the items that work best for you. Remember that you should be consuming one of the aforementioned items approximately every 45-60 minutes during the race to keep yourself performing at a high level.

Water and Powerade will be provided at '7' aid stations throughout the course. Try to coordinate consumption of GUs (or whatever you're using) in conjunction with the water stops. Just a reminder that any product you bring should be washed down with WATER, NOT Powerade.


-Schedule a sports massage.

Some of you may have some residual soreness/tightness that has been bothering you these past few weeks. Now is the time to be a bit self-indulgent. In addition, to taking an extra day off and/or cutting a workout short, indulge in a nice sports massage to help knock out those last few kinks. I'd recommend scheduling one for Thursday or Friday, ideally.

Once again, PSOAS Massage & Bodywork gives us a standing 10% discount, so take advantage of this great discount and get some work done!

-Hydrate properly.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, one way you can identify whether or not you are properly hydrated is by looking at the color/quantity of your urine. In short, 'clear' and 'copious' is what you're looking for, respectively. You should start making a conscious effort in making sure this is what you're seeing in the days leading up to the race.


-Pick up your race bib at the expo between 12-7PM.

If you did NOT elect to have your race bib mailed, you MUST pickup your bib at the race expo on Friday between 12-7PM. Where is the expo?

Race Expo location/details

-Focus on complex carbs.

OK, we're a couple days from the race and now is the time to start making some adjustments to your diet to help insure you're properly fueled for race day. Think whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat bagels, organic fruits/vegetables, etc.

Some folks only 'carboload' the day/night before an endurance event, but the reality is that carboloading this late in the game won't give you much bang for the buck. If you start a few days prior, your are insuring that your glycogen stores (primary fuel source) are topped off. This doesn't mean eat carbs EXCLUSIVELY!

But, if your diet normally doesn't include much of the aforementioned, make a conscious effort to include more at this juncture.

-Get a good night's sleep.

Given the early start time we have on Sunday and some pre-race nerves, it's not unlikely that you may not get a ton of sleep the night before the race. Ultimately, this isn't a big deal and has not proven to have a significant impact on race day performance by and large.

So, don't sweat it too much. BUT, try to make a conscious effort to get a solid night's sleep on FRIDAY. Make it a quiet evening of quality, complex carbs, rest, and relaxation!


-Pick up your race bib at the expo between 9-4PM.

If you did NOT elect to have your race bib mailed, you MUST pickup your bib at the race expo on Saturday between 9-3PM. Where is the expo?

Race Expo location/details

-Eat dinner early.

Given the early start time on Sunday morning(7AM), I'd encourage you to target 5PM or 5:30PM to get your final meal of the day. Again, you probably want to focus on complex carbs for this meal and try to stay away from anything that is spicy or markedly different from anything you would normally eat.

If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, you may want to plan on bringing your own food for this meal.

-Lay out your outfit for race morning.

I'd STRONGLY encourage all of you to lay out all the items you need for race morning on a chair or on the floor next to your bed before you go to bed. This includes your shirt, your hat, shorts, shoes, gels, socks, race bib, etc. Have everything laid out so that when you get up in the morning, you won't have to even think about it, you can just put everything on and you're good to go.

-Set your alarm clock, set your alarm on your cell phone, and request a wake up call from a friend or two (if they're willing).

This three pronged approach virtually GUARANTEES you will be up in the morning on time! You should plan on being near the race start area AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO START!



I'd STRONGLY encourage all of you to arrive at least 30-45 min. early. This gives you time to warmup, use the bathroom, drop any items in gear check, and get positioned near the start.

THERE WILL BE NO FORMAL WARMUP PRIOR TO THE RACE. BUT, we will 'informally' congregate in front of the Willie Mays statue adjacent to King/3rd Street around 6:30AM and head over to the start area together.

I will be running the half marathon in much the same way that I have all of our long runs with one minor wrinkle. I will be going out fast the first couple miles to 'thin the herd' and then I will wait for the first folks to come through to capture some glamour shots and run a mile with them. I will then stop and wait for the next folks to come through.

I will do my level best to catch all of you on race day, but I need your help! There will be A LOT of people running! If you wear your Team Open Hand shirt, you will be making my job MUCH EASIER!

Look for me in a white hat and my Team Open Hand shirt. I will be looking for all of you for 'glamour shots' with my camera after mile 2!

-Pace Accordingly!

OK, so you're probably going to feel pretty amped when the gun goes off, but please HOLD BACK and PACE ACCORDINGLY! You 'should' have a solid handle at this juncture on what you can maintain for 13.1 miles. Focus on running at your comfortable, conversational pace. There will be mile markers along the course.

If you run 10 min. pace, your watch should reflect roughly 10:00 at the one mile mark, 20:00 at the two mile mark, and so one. RESIST the urge to go out fast. If anything run a bit SLOWER the first few miles (10:10-10:15) and EASE into your comfortable, conversational pace. I want to make sure you have something left in the tank those last few miles!

-Take water/sports drink at every opportunity.

Even if you aren't necessarily feeling thirsty, TAKE IT ANYWAY! Some of you may have heard of 'hyponatremia' which is often associated with taking in too much water. Let me emphasize that 'hyponatremia' is MOST PREVALENT in marathons where elapsed time on the road exceeds 4-5 hours. So, this means that there is virtually zero chance of this being an issue for any of you.

-How to handle water stops/stations on race day-

There will be several of these along the course. Typically, there are several tables laid out. DO NOT GO TO THE FIRST TABLE YOU SEE! Let the other runners slow down and bump into each other to get their water and electrolyte drink. Try to go to the LAST TABLE you see at the water station to avoid slowing down or possibly stumbling. Certainly you can walk through the water stations if you like.

-How to drink water and/or electrolyte drink on the run-

When you get your cup of water or electrolyte drink, pinch the top of the cup closed and fold one of the corners over so you effectively have a small, narrow 'spout'. Pour carefully into your mouth. If you don't want to walk through water stops/stations, this is the best way I know of to drink while running.

-Take a GU every 45-60 minutes.

Make sure you get some simple carbohydrates (GUs or some other form of simple carbs) in your system every 45-60 min. This will help you continue to perform at a high level. Make sure to wash any nutrition product down with WATER not an electrolyte drink.

-Be mentally tough!

You've done the work. You've endured the long runs. You've tapered. You know how to fuel/hydrate properly. Remind yourself of all the hard work and preparation you've done those last few miles when you might be feeling a bit tired. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! YOU ARE READY FOR GLORY!

-Expedite race recovery.

As quickly as possible, get a quality combination of carbohydrates/protein in your system (remember 4 carbs: 1 protein is OPTIMAL for recovery. Chocolate Milk has this ratio.) I'd also encourage you to walk around for a few minutes to help increase circulation and help flush the lactic acid out of your system. If you have a stick or foam roller handy, spend some quality time with it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday Recovery Run Description (8/22/11)

You will be logging between 6 miles on Sunday. Here's a link to the course map for your reference-

Sunday's Recovery Run

Everyone will launch from the paved path to the RIGHT of the ballfield. You will follow this path behind the ballfield(s) and turn RIGHT onto Middle Drive East.

You will follow Middle Drive East towards John F. Kennedy Drive (the main drag in Golden Gate Park). Once you reach the intersection of Middle Drive East and JFK, you will cross over to the RIGHT side of JFK via the pedestrian crosswalk and turn LEFT on JFK.

Continue running along JFK into Golden Gate Park. Eventually you will pass the Stow Lake Pavilion which is on the LEFT off of Stow Lake Drive. Once you pass Stow Lake Drive you will see a YELLOW sign indicating '13'0 Clearance'. This is 1.5 miles. Continue running on the right side of JFK underneath the overpass and through the intersection of JFK/Transverse.

At this intersection there is a water fountain on the right if you need it. Shortly after you run through this intersection, you will pass 'Lloyd Lake' on your RIGHT. Just past this lake you will see a sign/banner for 'SF Rec & Park'. This is 2 miles. Keep running!

As you approach Lake Spreckles on the right you will have logged 2.5 miles. Cross over to the LEFT side of JFK. This side of JFK is a dirt path that gets a bit rocky at times, so please watch your footing carefully! You will be running slightly downhill for the next half mile until you reach the intersection of JFK and Chain of Lakes Drive East.

This is a controlled, four way stop intersection. This is 3 MILES from where we started. Turn around here and head back to the ballfield for a total of 6 MILES!