Sunday, October 07, 2007

How much can premature celebration cost?

How much could it cost you to celebrate too soon? Well, in this case, $60,000 and the rights to a marathon title.

This year's Chicago marathon apparently had an exciting finish in the women's race. Adriana Pirtrea had been leading Berhane Adere for miles. With less than a 1/4 mile to go, Pirtrea had a good lead of 80 yards. Unfortunately, she took the win for granted and started celebrating a bit too soon - jogging towards the finish and high-fiving spectators. Little did she realize when Adere caught up with her and blew past her and went on to win by 3 seconds. First prize - $125,000. Second prize - $65,000. Seems like the ingredients for the making of a Mastercard commercial.

On another note, the race director closed down the course after about four hours due to the intense heat (topping 88 F) and humidity. One person died on the course, about 50 had to be hospitalized, and 300 odd were treated on the course. Sure sounds like a tough one.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chasing Kimbia

Came across this interesting site last week: In their own words:
chasingKIMBIA is a blogumentary that documents the lifestyle and training of some of the world's best marathon runners. In the fall of 2006 Matt Taylor lived with the athletes in their Boulder, Colorado apartment as they prepared for the Chicago and New York City marathons. The daily coverage was unprecedented for athletes of this caliber. Taylor's unrestricted access allowed him to provide a personal touch and a unique perspective into the lives of these otherwise super-human athletes.

Check it out. It makes for some interesting reading, especially if you are a runner. I found the entry for September 23rd very intriguing. It talks about the differences in the way Kenyan and American marathoners approach their goal. He gives the example of them trying to run a 2:08 marathon. The Kenyan goes out at a 2:08 pace on his first try and goes as far as he can. First time, maybe he gets to 25K at this pace. The next time, he gets up to 35K. On his third try, he might do 40K. Finally, he gets to his 2:08. On the other hand, an American starts off running a 2:16 marathon on his first try, a 2:13 on the second attempt, a 2:10 thereafter, and finally the 2:08. One is distance-based and the other is time-based.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Running through the seasons in merino wool

Has it ever happened to you that you put on a warm shirt to go running outside and discovered that it was a bit too warm? Maybe you put on a lightweight shirt and later found yourself staying out for an extended period of time and starting to feel cold? Surely there must be an easy solution to this problem than having to wear or take off multiple layers? Yes indeed, there is and it's called merino wool.

I discovered the joy of running in merino wool last year when I picked up a merino wool running shirt from REI. It's been a year, running through four seasons (or however many you can categorize California weather into) and I've been using it on a regular basis. Based on that experience, I can say that it's probably my favorite type of running shirt.

The cool thing about merino wool is that you can wear it when it cold outside or warm outside and it'll still maintain a comfortable temperature.It dries fast and doesn't hang to to sweat like cotton. I've used it in the 40F to 80F range with nary a complaint. Often, I might go for a hike/run combo and sometimes, I end up going elsewhere after the run, e.g., grab a bite to eat. The body tends to cool down after a while and it's in these moments that I find my merino wool shirt very convenient - I don't need to put on another layer. Then, of course, there are other benefits such as not having to worry about the shirt shrinking due to repeated wash-and-dry cycles and that it doesn't itch unlike some other materials. For temperatures below 40F, a lightweight shirt might not be sufficient depending on how you deal with cold. Likewise, once it gets above 80F, you might want to look at something even lighter such as some technical shirts made by Sugoi.

REI is a great place to buy merino wool shirts. Another good place to snag some bargains is Sierra Trading Post. Keep in mind that merino wool shirts typically cost more than a regular polyester shirt, but trust me, it's worth the extra money.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dude, where's the track?

If you are a runner, chances are that, when faced with an upcoming move or planning a vacation to a new place, you might asked yourself - where is a good place to run near [insert your favorite place here] or is there a running track there? There are many ways to find an answer, but in today's age of Web 2.0 (or is it 3.0 yet?) where should you go first? But, of course, the web. With online mapping tools like,,,, and others, the quest for running places becomes much easier. If you are looking for running tracks, simply go to your favorite maps site and switch to the hybrid mode, input your intended location, and adjust the zoom level. Presto! Tracks are very easy to spot because of their oval shape with usually a patch of green in the middle. Also easily recognizable are running trails. This can also be used if you happen to be hunting for an apartment or house on craigslist. Most of the listings on craigslist have a link to a map. Click on it, switch to hybrid mode, and you can even measure distances from your intended location to the nearest track or trail.

If you are picky about measuring distances (like I am sometimes) then go to and zoom down to the level where you want, click "Start Recording." You can mark your entire route using a series of clicks on the maps and at each point (i.e., each click) it tells you the total distance. I use this quite regularly when I run new routes. This is especially useful when I want to figure out the distance between two points along my route where I know I can run fast without having to worry about traffic lights. Keep in mind, though, that this won't work as well if your route is hilly since the site doesn't account for elevation change. So, if you happen to be running up a mountain, it will tell you the distance in as-the-crow-flies terms, which invariably will be less than what you will be running.

Tools are cool, nevertheless, the good old method of asking people - in person or online - still remains useful, particularly if you want to know specific details about the neighborhood and other stuff that an online map site won't be able to tell you. Another good resource would be a running store in the neighborhood. Typically, most running store employees are runners themselves and have a good knowledge of places to run nearby.

Do you have any favored recipes for hunting down tracks and trails that you would like to share? Send me an email.

Good luck and happy tracking.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Prefontaine Classic 2007

Last weekend, I was at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. This is an annual invitational meet of the top track and field athletes in the world and is named after Steve Prefontaine, one of the greatest American runners of all time. This year's field was especially stellar - Maria Mutola, Craig Mottram, Alan Webb, the Bekele brothers, Bernard Lagat, Daniel Komen, Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner among others.

The meet started at 12:30 in the afternoon, but we got there at 11:00. Surprisingly, the best seats are in the general admission section AA which is right in front of the finish line. You just have to get there a bit early; it fills up quickly. When you go to buy tickets at the website, look at the layout of the track and the seating arrangements before buying the tickets.

The first event was the women's javelin throw, followed by the women's 400m hurdles. Then came the men's long jump. Here's a pic of the eventual winner Irving Saladino in action.

The men's 100m followed soon after with Darrel Brown winning in a relatively slow 10.42 seconds, probably because of the 2.1m/s headwind going against the field.

The men's 3000m steeplechase was next. Paul Koech (seen below) won in a time of 8:08.08 - a new Prefontaine Classic and a Hayward Field record.

Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia, the 2004 Olympic gold medal winner was the favorite for the men's 800m race. He's known to sit back and kick it in towards the end. Even with about 1.5 laps gone, he was quite some ways behind the rest of the field, but then, true to reputation, he surged all the way to the front.

However, Nick Symmonds of the USA had other ideas and matched him stride for stride and beat him by width of a shoe - 17/100th of a second - in a new Pre Classic record of 1:44.54. He got quite an ovation on his victory lap.

All throughout this, the other field events were in progress - shot put, javelin, triple jump, long jump, high jump, and pole vault. At some points, I managed to see both the high jumper and the pole vaulter in the air at the same time.

Liu Xiang, the current world champion won the men's 110m hurdles and Torri Edwards won the women's 100m race. This was followed by the men's 400m dash and then the women's 1500 which was won by Gelete Burka of Ethiopia in a new Pre Classic record of 4:00.08.

Sanya Richards of the USA won the women's 400m in 50.74 giving way to what was probably the most anticipated event of the day - the men's 2 mile race. Among those lined up at the start : Craig Mottram (Bib #104 below), Tariku Bekele (#101), Alan Webb (#103), Matt Tegenkamp (#109), Dathan Ritzenhein (#102), Ben Limo (#105). Kenenisa Bekele dropped out at the last minute.

The race lived up to its expectations. Mottram and Bekele found themselves leading the pack quite soon and that stayed so till the end. Alan Webb was trailing behind and he never caught up. As they came down the final 100m stretch, with more than 30-40m to go, Mottram started celebrating, turning to the crowd and raising his right arm in victory. Bekele just didn't have it in him to catch up.

Mottram finished in a new Pre Classic and Hayward Field record of 8:03.50. Apparently, he gave quite the interview afterwards. Bekele was second, followed by Matt Tegenkamp in a new American record of 8:07.07. Here's Tegenkamp posing for the pictures after his finish.

Next was the women's 800m. Maria Mutola of Mozambique won it 1:58.33 and got the loudest ovation of the meet. Below is a picture of the field during the race.

Apparently, she used to live in Springfield, near Eugene, and the local folks love her. This was her 15th consecutive win at the Prefontaine meet. In terms of consistency, she is one of the all-time greats. Check out the pictures on my photo blog of her surrounded by photographers after her finish.

Next was the men's 200m which was supposed to be a match-up between the world 100m champion Asafa Powell, the 2004 Olympic gold winner in the 400m, Jeremy Wariner, and the 200m winner in the 2004 Olympics, Shawn Crawford. However, Xavier Carter decided not to play by the script and was the eventual winner, with Powell finishing in the third position and Wariner a distant sixth.

The last race was the men's 1 mile - the Bowerman mile, named after Bill Bowerman. Daniel Komen of Kenya won quite easily in 3:48.28, a new Pre Classic and Hayward Field record and the fastest mile ever on US soil. Bernard Lagat finished second.

Just like that, it started pouring heavily. The sun had been playing hide-and-seek behind the clouds all day but it was nice of the clouds to hold their rain till the end. This is what it looked like throughout the three hours we were there.

As we walked out the announcer started saying something about the Olympics trials next year on this field and out come a bulldozer and scooped up a giant chunk of the earth in the middle of the green field. Apparently, Hayward field is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation for the Olympic trials.

Eugene is a great place. I saw lots of runners while driving around. Lots of people including young kids and youth showed up for the meet indicating the strong support in the community for running. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, check out the Eugene Saturday Market. If you are driving you could stop by Crater Lake National Park which is about 140 miles away or Portland, about 110 miles away.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saucony Trigons - absolutely great running shoes

Today, I took out a new pair of Saucony Trigon shoes to replace my current pair that has 800+ miles on them now. The shots below are those of one shoe from each pair - one with 800 miles and the other with 0 miles.

These have been great running shoes. I got them on for $30 on clearance. After a few runs, I loved the first pair so much that I promptly went on to order a few more pairs. These have been very comfortable shoes. Most of my running is on the road and sometimes on dirt trails. The first pair lasted me for just over a 1000 miles before I gave them to a local shoe store for recycling. This is the original Trigon edition. Now they are up to Trigon 4.

Disclaimer: No, I don't work for Saucony or own any stake. Just a very satisfied customer.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A race in the park

This past weekend, I ran a 10K race. This was at the Shoreline Park in Mountain View, which houses the Shoreline Amphitheatre, a site for music concerts. This is what it looks like during the day.

More than a couple of years had passed since my last 10K which was in 2004 and which was essentially my last race. This was a condition-gauging race, with the prime objective being to see where I stand in my current state.

The race was conducted by a charity organization, Asha. One of my colleagues told me about them last year when he was training with them for a marathon. Check them out at Their primary objective is education and they are very efficient in their fund-raising. Take a gander at their efficiency rating over at and you'll see that they score 39.70 out of a possible 40. Mighty impressive.

The race was an out-and-back course and started at 9:20 a.m., a wee bit late into the day for a warm spring day. Most of my races have started by 7-8 a.m. If I were primed for an optimal performance, that might have been a concern, but in this case, it just merely a passing thought. There were about a couple of hundred entrants in the 5K and 10K inclusive. This was a low key race and there was no gun to start us off, just a human voice counting down from 10 downwards. Off we started. I found myself bunched up behind a few slower runners and started weaving my way gently to the front where I found myself in a pack of about 10-12 people. Mile 1 came even before I realized - in 6:20. Mile 2 and 3 followed in 7:28 and 7:52. This part passed by marshlands and we found ourselves fighting swarms of little bugs, the kind that you find on ripe fruit. Trying to keep them from entering the eyes and mouth. However, my legs were starting to tire by now and so, eschewing mouth-breathing wasn't really all that difficult. The turn-around came soon after and miles 4 and 5 were in 7:55 and 7:49. This was even worse since, by now, my face was covered in sweat and going back through the buggy area saw me come out with dozens of bugs stuck on my neck and face. A few made their way into my eyes. Soon after mile 5, there was a marker which said 0.2. That was a neat concept which I haven't seen before. What this means is that, at this point, you are done with 5.2 of the 6.2 miles that constitute a 10K and that you have exactly one mile to the finish. If I were in better shape, that would have been an invitation to change gears and blast it all the way through the end. However, the combination of tired legs and the bugs prevented me even trying to do so. I did manage a slightly faster mile and finished in 7:14 for a total time of 45:18. I reckon I finished about 7th or 8th overall. My pace was 7:18 min/mile. Can't say I was too disappointed but I had been hoping for a sub-44 minute time since that would've given me a sub-7:00 pace.

The guy that finished just before me (about 20 seconds ahead) ran the entire race barefoot. Part of the course was over dirt trails and I was impressed. The overall winner was a Stanford University track team runner who finished in 32:XX while looking like he'd just finished a leisurely Sunday morning jog.

My weekly mileage for the month leading into this race was a bit on the low end - 12.5, 19, 18, 16, and 10 - in addition to about 85 miles of biking and 0 miles of speedwork. Speedwork was something that I'd last done back in 2004. So, overall, I wasn't exactly expecting to do too well, however, I was satisfied with what I did. At least I know where I stand and this gives me a base to shoot from for the next target. I think I'll be aiming for sub-40 which is a 6:27 pace. It'll be tough, but it has to be done. :)

Shoreline Park is a nice place, especially on a night where a full moon is rising. However, it's probably not the best place for a race if the race has to pass through swarms of marsh bugs.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Year's in Joshua Tree

Got myself a circular polarizer filter last month. On New Year's day, found myself in Joshua Tree National Park looking up at this humongous cloud after a beautiful 3 mile run.

Joshua Tree is a beautiful desert. Once a year, in spring, the desert blooms and you'd never guess it was a desert if you looked at the pictures of the flowers blooming.