Saturday, October 09, 2010

Best temperature for running?

This is a neat little infographic on what the ideal temperature is for running a marathon. According to it, 53F seems to be the best. Keep in mind this is a set based on runners at the New York City Marathon. Nonetheless, it gives you some idea. Temperature doesn't affect everyone in the same way. Elite runners are not affected as much as slower runners are. However, what I found most interesting was that the runners between 4:00 and 4:30 hours seem to be the least affected (after the elites). Look at how even the circles are in that diagram for the runners in this segment.

Personally, I've always felt my best running comes when the temperature is between 50 and 55 F. Haven't done any detailed study to narrow it down any further.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

New York marathon live on the web, TV, and phone

This year's New York marathon will be broadcast on the web, TV, and the phone. The even have an iPhone/iPad app. I remember watching the London marathon live on the web about three years ago. It was pretty disappointing. The quality was bad - low resolution and very jittery. Hopefully this one is good. Haile Gebrselassie is in the field this year. Here's to a great show.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Guys crashing women's road races

An article in the Wall Street Journal on how some guys run women's races. Here's an excerpt:

"To discourage male interest, many women's races present trophies only to female winners. Goodie bags often contain feminine-cut T-shirts, along with swag like perfume samples, chocolates and pink sandals. One race is giving away feather boas and tiaras.

Ahead of its Oct. 2 inaugural half marathon, Run Like a Diva announced that finishers' medals will be awarded by bare-chested male firefighters. "We had four men signed up, but two dropped out when they heard about the firemen," says Mr. Pozo, the race organizer. "We're making this race so girly that men won't want any part of it."


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tabata workouts - results from the last time

I started doing the Tabata protocol workouts back in late spring but never got around to posting the results. So, here goes:

Last week of May - 19:56 5K
Next week: 30 miles with Tabata
Next week: 40 miles including last Tabata workout
Next week: 7 miles
Next week: 22 miles and 19:37 5K at the end of the week
Next week: 11 miles and 19:05 5K at the end of the week

Probably ran a total of one or two tempo pace runs in the last three weeks. All the others were at 8:00-9:00 pace. Yet I was able to get the time down from 19:56 to 19:05 within about five weeks. I think it was probably a combination of the Tabata workouts and cooler weather in general. Plus the fact that the workouts probably took some time to pay off, i.e., the results aren't like instant noodles. Anyway, some time not too far away into the future, I'm planning to give this another try.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is running an expensive hobby?

Like most things in life, the answer is it depends. It's like going out for dinner - you have a whole range from a $5 fast food meal to a $100 meal at a fancy restaurant. Let's take a look at how things add up.

For the most basic running, you need a pair of shoes, shorts, and a shirt. Some may argue that some or all of these are optional, but I think it's safe to say that for 99% of runners these three things are the most essential. Say $30 for shoes, $10 for a simple shirt, and $10 for shorts. You're looking at about $50 and that's about as low as it gets even if you get stuff on clearance. How long will this last? Assuming a runner does 20 miles/week, he gets 1000 miles in a year. Let's say he gets 1000 miles from his $30 shoes which is stretching it for most people. Assume he can get by on wearing the same shirt and shorts for the whole year. With all these assumptions, he can get by with $50 a year. Typically this is not the case.

Most people spend $40-$80 or more on a pair of shoes. Typically shoes get thrown out after anywhere from 300 to 500 miles. Most runners usually have two or three pairs in use at any given time. Shirts and shorts - most people probably have a few of each and more likely than not, these are technical fabric, which means upwards of $25-30 for shirts and upwards of $20 for shorts. Let's do some numbers again:
- 4 pairs of $30 shirts = $120
- 4 pairs of $20 shorts = $80
Say they last you for 5 years. In 5 years, say you go through 10 pairs of shoes at 20 miles/week and 500 miles to a pair.
- 10 pairs of $40 shoes = $400
So, that's $120 + $80 + $400 = $600 over 5 years for an average of $120 a year.

Of course, the costs go up the more you run and the more expensive shoes you get. For a 40 miles/week runner, the $400 above goes up to $800 which, in combination with the shirts/shorts, works out to $200 a year. If you're a serious marathoner logging 80 miles/week, you probably go through 10 pairs of shoes in a single year. That means anywhere from $300 to $800 or more on shoes alone in a single year.

So, all this was just considering the three "essentials". Now, let's throw in more stuff that runners typically need or use:
- watch - anywhere from $15 to $300 (for the GPS ones)
- hat - $10-$20
- sunglasses - $10-$200
- gels - at about a buck each, it depends on how much you run and need
- mp3 player - $10-$100?
- sunblock - $5-10 a bottle
- ointments for all those aches and pains - $5 a tube
- race entry fees - $10 to $100
- extra food to meet all that extra nutritional demands
- extra showers means extra costs on your water and heating bill
- rain, winter, or snow gear if you live in those kind of places. Those things are particularly expensive.

Now it's not looking that cheap, is it? But, is it worth it? I say, totally. Think of all the extra health benefits. Better health means less time/money spent on medical appointments and costs. Many a time, a runner will just run down the neighborhood street to run an errand (dropping off a DVD rental, dropping off some mail, etc.), thereby saving money/fuel that would otherwise be spent on driving. More time outdoors mean more vitamin D. Runner's high means you increase the total happiness quotient on the planet. I could go on and on but I'm sure there are many such benefits all of which add to the fact that I've never heard anyone say "don't be a runner, it's too expensive."

How much do you spend on running?


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Does it take longer to warm up as you get older?

Based on my own experience, I say yes. Back in my 20s, I could get out of bed and go for a run at a sub-7:00 minute pace right away and I'd alright. Now that I'm in my 30s, it seems not so easy to crank out a sub-7:00 right out the door. My latest experience was on an 8-mile run. I started slow as usual (8:30-9:00 pace), gradually increased the pace, and then tried to run the second mile at a 7:00 minute pace. To my surprise and utter disappointment, I was panting at the end of that mile. It was very slightly uphill but not so much that I should be panting like a locomotive engine. Anyway, I continued thereafter at about an 8 minute pace or so. Just over half an hour into the run, I had recovered enough to run mile 5 in 6:28 and mile 6 in 6:22 and at the end of that, I could still have run another sub-6:30 mile. What a difference some additional minutes make. A complete turnaround. I'm thinking that by half an hour or so, my system (legs, muscles, etc.) had warmed up sufficiently to facilitate a better performance. Anyone else have a similar experience?


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Running on the track - lane etiquette

Lately, I've been going to the nearby high school track for a few odd laps occasionally. It's a nice, new rubberized track, the kind you see in an national/international meet. Unfortunately, however, very often I see people walking in lane 1 regardless of whether the other lanes are being used. I see two things wrong with this.

Back in my university days, the track on campus used to have explicit signs for at least two things - 1) Slower walkers/runners keep to the outside lanes and 2) Don't use lane 1 if you're not on the track team (or something to that effect).

Rule 1 should be somewhat obvious to anyone who uses a highway/freeway. It's simple consideration. The faster runners are probably timing their laps. If you're walking, it's best not to get in their ways. However, sadly, I do see a lot of folks that don't seem to care, more so on the track than the highway. People walking in lane 1 while chatting with their partner or on the cellphone. (Similar to a highway sometimes, isn't it?)

The campus folks were pretty good, even stringent at times, in enforcing rule 2 to the extent that they would block lane 1 altogether by putting up hurdles all around. After talking to some knowledgeable folks, I found the reason for doing so was to prevent wear and tear. Apparently, it is pretty expensive to lay out a track like that (upwards of $100,000) and the lifespan is less than 10 years. So, the idea was to make it last longer. Apparently, lane 1 is the most vulnerable. I guess this would be something like a carpet which starts to wear first from the edges.

Other than that campus, I've rarely seen any such signs on high school tracks. I wonder if it is because 1) they don't know, 2) they don't care, or 3) the lane 1 wear concept is a myth. I'm inclined to think it is 1.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Running barefoot

Recent online exchanges with some friends and acquaintances got me interested in barefoot running again.  I also managed to find a track within running distance. So, for the last couple of weeks or so, I've been running a few (3-5) laps barefoot on the track occasionally during my regular runs. Last time I did some was over six years ago. It was surprising how easy it was to get up to speed. Bear in mind though that this is on a rubberized track and I am not running much more than a mile for now. This week, I covered 200m faster than Usain Bolt covers 400m. It took me about 34s to do so barefoot, the same it took me to do so in shoes. Similarly, I was able to cover 100m in about 14.5s - the same for both, barefoot and shoes. The shoes are a bit old and heavy - over 1100 miles and over 13oz each. Factor in maybe half a second for that. Still not bad with regards to what barefoot was able to do. Not yet ready to put in a mile at a fast pace yet. Exhilarating experience however; it feels as though you are flying. I'm going to keep at this and see how it goes.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Prefontaine Classic 2010 - photos and write-up

Click on any photo for a larger version.

This weekend, I went to see the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon; the fourth consecutive year for me.This edition was a special one since the Pre Classic is now part of the IAAF Diamond League. The day was beautiful - blues skies with occasional clouds, and a gentle gust of wind or two once in a while. Not too warm either. A sold out crowd (they apparently had to build some 500 additional seats at the last minute) and there you have it - all the elements for a great start to the July 4th weekend.

The first event was the women's hammer throw. It is not part of the official IAAF Diamond League any more. However, the Prefontaine Classic decided to have it anyway, albeit as a separate event. It started at 11 a.m., before the Pre Classic which was at 12:00 noon. The meet kicked off with a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by someone from the Eugene Symphony (I think). Incredibly powerful vocal chords. That's him on the live display screen of the stadium.
The first official event was the International Men's Mile. It had a large field with at least four wearing Oregon colors including AJ Acosta and Galen Rupp who drew some enthusiastic crowd support. Unfortunately, green wasn't the one to win. Ryan Gregson of Australia won in 3:53.19 followed closely by AJ Acosta who was 0.57 second behind in a new PR for him by over four seconds.
In a compressed 3-hour meet such as this, you always have multiple events on at the same time. At some points, we could see a track event, a shot put, a pole vault, and a long/triple jump simultaneously. The men's discus throw event was won by Piotr Malachowski of Poland with a 67.66m throw. The men's shot put winner was Christian Cantwell with 22.41m, adding yet another notch to Hayward Field's record as the reigning home of the most 70 foot throws anywhere in the world. Nadezhda Alekhina of Russia won the women's triple jump with a 14.62m effort.

From where we were, it was a bit difficult to see the pole vault on the other side of the field because the protective net for the discus throw was up. This is what it looked like through the net. Fabiana Murer of Brazil won the women's event with a 4.58m effort. Too bad Yelena Isinbayeva couldn't make it. Murer gave a nice interview where she looked genuinely happy and thankful to the crowd for their support.

The women's 5000m was won by Tirunesh Dibaba in 14.34.07. Shalane Flanagan put up a great fight to overtake a few over the final lap and ended up in second place. That's Dibaba below gliding her way to victory.
The men's 1000m was the next event. Abubaker Kaki of Sudan had gone on record in his intention to set a new world record. Nick Symmonds, the local favorite was there. So were Alfred Yego and Boaz Lalang. In the end, Kaki was the victor with a 2:13.62 effort, about 1.66 seconds off the world record. Valiant effort nonetheless. That's Kaki below followed by Lalang, the second place winner. Symmonds hung back for the first half as usual, but kicked hard in the last lap to finish third.

The women's 400m hurdles was next. Lashinda Demus took victory with a 53.03 in a new Hayward Field record and a PreClassic record. The women's steeplechase followed soon. Milcah Chemos of Kenya won with a 9:26.70 performance. That's her in the photo below followed by the eventual runner-up, Marta Dominguez of Spain.
Next up was the women's 800m, this time without the perennial contestant and favorite Maria Mutola who retired a couple of years ago. Mariya Savinova of Russia made sure that Mutola's name was mentioned by breaking her 13 year old meet record by 1/100th of a second. Here's Savinova on her way to victory.
Irving Saladino won the men's long jump with a 8.46m jump beating out Dwight Phillips by 5cm. Last year it was Phillips who won and Saladino finished second. The men's 110m hurdles was won by David Oliver equaling the current American record of 12.90s. Oliver was elated. Big smiles and big victory celebration.

This was followed by the women's 100m event pictured below. Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica took victory in 10.78s.
The men's 5000m started soon after with a strong field - Tariku Bekele, Kipchoge, Solinsky, Tegenkamp, Merga. Solinsky looks much bigger than the rest in real life. Almost like a rugby player in comparison. The race itself was exciting. The Hayward Field crowd kicked into high gear in the last couple of laps and pulled Bekele in for a 12:58.93 win. Gebremeskel followed barely 0.37 second behind.
Two sub-13 performances and the first time ever on American soil as the announcer told us. That's Bekele in the photo below on his way to number one. I wonder if Bekele has ever raced his brother Bekele.
Needless to say, a new Hayward Field and PreClassic record. Solinsky however looked totally spent afterwards. Here he is lying on the track with a concerned meet official looking over him. Matt Tegenkamp is the background a few meters away.
The men's 200m race featured Tyson Gay, Walter Dix, Shawn Crawford, Churandy Martina, and Richard Thompson among others. Dix won in 19.72 followed by Gay 19.76. The post-race interview featured both Dix and Gay. Gay said that he was happy with the result and that it was "not bad for my first race." I guess that was his first race of the year?

The women's 400m was another tightly contested race. Allyson Felix beat out Amantle Montsho by 0.03 second. The third place was 0.01 second behind that - Shericka Williams. Here's a photo on them on the final straightway.

The event that everyone looks forward to at the end of the meet - the Bowerman men's mile - started on time, in fact, about 15 seconds before the scheduled time of 2:47 p.m. The announcer informed us that until then Hayward Field had seen 221 performances under 4 minutes. A spectacular field lined up as usual, under the sunny Eugene sky. The biggest cheer, however, for Andrew Wheating who lined up for his last race wearing the University of Oregon uniform. What a race it turned out to be. The crowd played a big role, especially when they all got up on their feet for not the last, but the last two laps. That finishing stretch was just like you see on TV - incredibly fast and powerful, almost like a Bolt sprint. Kiprop and Laalou battled it out with Kiprop edging ahead to win by 0.49 second. Here's them on their final sprint.
Check out the super-thin legs of Kiprop. I read somewhere on the Internet (and therefore it must be true) that the "bird-like legs" act as a powerful lever and and push you forward real fast. Funnily enough, I was talking to a high school kid today who mentioned he can't really run because he has thick calves.

The race was amazing. I can't do a byte-based description well enough to do justice; you should have been in the stadium to have experienced the atmosphere. It was louder than a stadium filled with 40,000 vuvuzelas. Wheating came through in a PR-shattering 3:51.74. He gave a nice interview at the end where he said that now he knows that he has it in him and that "I think I can run with the big dogs". That's him below waving to the crowd on his way out.

Another year, another great meet. A few meet records, field records, soil records, and American records. Everything but a world record. It was a great experience as usual. Nutrilite didn't seem to have their tent from last year with all the good stuff. I guess recession hit them too. Lots of people. For some reason, I noticed there were a lot more kids hanging around to get autographs and photographs of the athletes on their victory lap. I think it was Kara Patterson, the javelin throw winner, who spent at least 15 minutes doing that. Great overall entertainment for less than the price of a movie and a dinner. A great start to the weekend and as always, we made our way to the best ice-cream in Eugene, Prince Pucklers.

If it interests you, here are my reports from 2007, 2008, and 2009.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prefontaine Classic 2010 starting lineup?

The Prefontaine Classic is next Saturday, July 3rd. Unfortunately, they still haven't updated the start list on their website which still shows the lineup from 2009. You can get some of the names by looking at the few news items, but it would have been nice to know them all by now, especially considering that the meet is now a part of the IAAF Diamond League.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

How many miles do you run in a soccer game?

Since it's soccer mania right now courtesy of the World Cup in South Africa, I thought I'd post this. How many miles do you run while playing a 90 minute game? Based on my experiences, I'd say about 5-8 miles depending on the position of the player. When I used to play soccer back in grad school, a few times I decided to play with a pedometer clipped on. A typical reading would be around 10,000 steps or more for an hour or so play, which is about 5-6 miles. I used to love to run the field and that figure is probably a bit higher than average. Also keep in mind that the pedometer is not exactly accurate.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Vista Strawberry Festival 5K

Ran a 5K race last week. This was at the Vista Strawberry Festival. Apparently this was the first time they were holding this race in 15 years. If I were to rate it, I'd give it 4.5/5. Pretty much everything was done well.

I registered on the day of the race. This in itself was very well-managed and efficient. There were clearly marked counters for different steps. Step 1 - you fill out a form. Step 2 - you hand over the form and your entry fee. Step 3 - You pick up your bib and timing chip. Yes, a timing chip. Not many of those 5K races around. At least not for an entry fee of $35 (race day). You got the keep the chip at the end. No need to give it back.

The course was straightforward with no surprises. The marshals and the cone placements were good enough to ensure that there were no mistaken detours. There was music on the course at a couple of points. Two water stops on the course. I got water at both - it was a hot day. Nice long finishing stretch about 200 meters. Thanks to that, I was able to sprint all out and eke out a sub-20 by two seconds. Finisher medal for everyone. Very helpful volunteers all around.

The post-race festivities were substantial. Strawberries, all kinds of energy bars, granola, muffins. No bananas, oranges, or Gatorade type liquids. There was also the strawberry festival right next to the finish area. Lots of booths selling all sorts of things. Lots of food. Balloons and face painting for the kids. There was a van where you could get your blood pressure and glucose checked. They also tested your eyes for vision and glaucoma. RoadRunner had a booth where you could get your running gait analyzed. They had a treadmill and a video camera to record your feet in motion.

The bib itself was good for a free burrito or a bowl at Chipotle Mexican Grill. This is a clever ploy on their part and I mean this in a positive way. Most runners usually come with someone - spouse, family, friend. If they end up going to Chipotle, so do their companion(s). More people means more business. In addition to this, all runners got a $10 gift card for Dick's Sporting Goods who were the main sponsors.

All in all, an excellent event. I'd run it again if I get a chance. So why did I take off a half point on my rating? The mile 3 marker. I didn't see any if there was one. I think a well marked one would definitely help especially if you want to know when to start the final sprint. Usually, the last 0.1 mile is where a lot of people want to do so.

Overall, it was a very satisfying experience. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone. Kudos to the organizers once again.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tabata Protocol (continued)

This was my second week doing the Tabata workouts. Still stuck at 4 cycles. The protocol calls for 20 seconds at 170% V02Max which, given the lack of access to a lab and/or proper equipment, is a bit difficult to do. The first time, I went all out and later on, calculated it using the Internet and some fuzzy logic. So, this is how I went about it. Using a 5:55 min/mile as my pace for 3K, which is the V02Max pace (by one of many accepted notions), gives me 710 seconds for 3k which implies 23.67 seconds per 100m. At 170%, I'd need to cover 170m in 23.67s. For 20s (as per the protocol), I need to cover 143m and from online maps, it looks like I'm covering around 140m. The fuzzy logic comes in because I'm doing the Tabata cycles on grass whereas the 5:55 min/mile pace that I used to calculate my V02Max was done on tar, concrete, and dirt. Add to that the fact that I'm using online maps to measure my runs. So, fuzzy gets a bit fuzzier.

Nonetheless, the workout itself is a killer. I can barely finish 4 cycles of the protocol whereas it calls for up to 8 cycles. My RHR these days is around 42-45 but even after 2+ hours of finishing one of these workouts, I'm still ticking away at 70+ beat/minute.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My experience with the Tabata Protocol

This week I started experimenting with the Tabata Protocol. It's a form of high intensity interval training. This is what Wikipedia says about it:
A popular regimen based on a 1996 study[2] uses 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state (70% VO2max) training 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 ml/kg/min), but the tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 ml/kg/min). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits.

On Monday, I tried and could only go up to 4 cycles before I could go at maximum intensity no more. On Wednesday, I tried again and this time I made it to 5 cycles before saying "Na mas". It is quite incredible how exhausting even 120 seconds of high intensity exercise can be. The main thing is to be able to go at high intensity for all cycles. The moment you feel yourself faltering is the time to stop. I'm going to keep at this for a while to see what benefits follow.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Does running make you sweat more easily especially when you eat spicy foods?

These days, if I eat spicy food, my body breaks into a sweat in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to run a 400m lap. No kidding. It's really strange but I think I know why, after all these years of trying to find the truth. Over the past decade since I started running I've noticed this change happen slowly but surely. Back then I could eat any spicy food, even raw green chillies, without breaking into a sweat. I still can, in the sense that I don't feel the need to reach for the nearest glass of water when eating anything spicy. My tongue doesn't feel as if it's on fire, my eyes do not turn red and watery, and there's no steam coming out of my ears like in the cartoons. However, my face becomes covered with sweat - almost instantaneously. It's bizarre and embarrassing especially when you have to explain it to your buddy or whoever is sitting across you at the table. So why does this happen?

Over the years, I've tried researching but haven't run into anything specific. Maybe there are studies but I just haven't seen them. What I've gathered from tidbits and anecdotes here and there and also from talking to a friend who happens to be a doctor is this: my running has resulted in a more efficient cooling system. The body sweats in response to a rise in the core temperature of the body. The more efficient this temperature sensing and subsequent cooling mechanism is, the earlier you sweat. For instance, if you watch the NBA basketball players on TV, they are covered in sweat after about a minute or two into the game. Same logic. Also, the sweat glands are probably more enlarged and possibly more in number as compared to a sedentary person.

The next time this happens to you, think of yourself as a lean, mean, sweating machine. :)

Have to go now, it's time for my afternoon snack - jalapeno Bhoot Jolokia poppers. But, if you have a similar experience to share, send me a few bytes.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Energy drinks work as soon as they touch your tongue

Interesting article on New Scientist. Energy drinks work as soon as they touch your tongue

If you spit out an energy drink after taking a sip, it could still boost your strength. This pre-digestive effect is immediate and seems due to a newly discovered neural pathway that links taste buds to muscles.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

London Marathon 2010, Virgin, and Open Source

I went searching for where I could watch tomorrow's London Marathon live on the internet. Universal Sports seem to be one option. It is not clear from the website but I think it's about $5-7 to watch. BBC seems to be the other option. However, the internet option seems to be available only for those in the UK.

At the time of searching, I also came across this article about how Virgin (the main sponsor) has started a charity site based on open source technology (MySQL, Apache, etc.). If they can use free technology, why can't they have a free live feed on the marathon website? As it is, they already have ads on that website. Putting in a live feed would not only bring in several thousand hits but would make thousands of runners outside the UK very happy. Thus, not only would they earn several thousands of pennies but also the love and admiration of many running fans worldwide.

I would have sent them an email regarding this but all they have on their "Contact Us" page is a UK phone number. If you know of a way to reach them via email, please let me know.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What is more popular - jogging or running?

Running vs jogging is a surefire way of sparking a debate, especially online. As for the difference, there are many theses out there, some of them particularly humorous. I decided to see what the search engines had to say by putting in some search words. These are the number of results I came up with:

  • running - 379 million
  • jogging - 12.6 million
  • runner - 53.8 million
  • jogger - 3.4 million
  • running - 265 million
  • jogging - 10.6 million
  • runner - 35.8 million
  • jogger - 3.4 million
"running" is a common word with more meanings than simply running as in the physical activity. That's probably why it got so many more hits than "runner". The difference between "jogging" and "jogger" is not as big. In any case, the result is unanimous as per the search engines - "running" is more popular than "jogging".

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2010 Carlsbad 5000 - The 25th anniversary

Click on any picture for a larger version.

Earlier today I went to see the Carlsbad 5000. This year was the 25th anniversary of the race which bills itself as the "World's Fastest 5K" and the home of 16 world records including the current 5K road race record. The main events started early in the day at 7 a.m. with the Masters races (40 and above age group) followed by the 30-39 age group races a couple of hours later and then the 29 and below races another hour or so later. All this is the build up towards the main event - the elite invitational run.

The men's race started at 12:20 p.m. It was supposed to have started at 12:15 p.m. but got delayed, apparently due to some high winds. I guess they were hoping for it to get better. Here are a few pics of them warming up. That's Marcos Geneti of Ethiopia (on the left) talking to Eliud Kipchoge on the right. Kipchoge was the pre-race favorite.

That's Alistair Cragg with his boar (?) tattoo. Kipchoge is next to him in the background.

That's eventual women's winner Meseret Defar on her way to the warmups. I got lucky that all of them passed by on the side of the road that I'd picked for my spot.

The national anthem was sung. A few seconds later, the men burst out, faster than jack rabbits. Apparently, there was a (real) pace rabbit but the winds were not too kind.

The women followed less than two minutes later. The three tiny women on the right in the picture were the eventual winners.

The finish line was only a couple of blocks away so that we could walk faster than the elites could run. Needless to say, they took a slightly longer route than we did. On the way we passed by the beer garden which is for all runners who participated. They get two free beers. If you thought beer doesn't smell, you haven't passed by a beer garden. This is when you truly understand the meaning of the old adage - "the sum of the parts is greater than the whole." It Stank and that's an understatement. The runners, however, seemed to be having fun and it was a warm and cloudy day.

Unlike the start which seemed bereft of spectators, the finish was packed tighter than the seals you can find near the Carlsbad coast. I was not able to get a good finish line picture of the winners.

That's the men's winners in the pic above. Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia (2nd), Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya (1st), and Bekana Daba of Ethiopia (3rd) from left to right. The winning times were 13:11, 13:18, and 13:24.

Kipchoge seemed like a very nice guy. Here he's with someone important (I think). The announcer said something but it was hard to hear the words with all the crowds. He must have given a couple of hundred autographs easily. Below is one of him giving yet another autograph in the background while they were doing the women's presentations.

Above is the secret to running a 13:11 5K - a pair of Nike Zoom Air's with Chinese symbols for speed on it. This particular one belongs to Kipchoge.

The women's race was slower than expected. In the pic below, that's Aheza Kiros (2nd), Meseret Defar (1st), and Meskerem Assefa (3rd) - all from Ethiopia. The times were 15:04, 15:26, and 15:55. I tried to match the faces to the names using the website but it is difficult since the website has bib numbers number 101, 102, etc. whereas the runners were actually wearing bib numbers F1, F2, etc.

Defar became the first three-time champion at the Carlsbad 5000.

That's Simon Ndirangu of Kenya in the Superman T-shirt. This was after he finished. I don't think you'd want to run in a Superman T-shirt unless you are running a Halloween race. Ndirangu seemed like a very nice guy with a very big smile. I got this shot during the 7% of the time that he wasn't smiling.

Carlsbad was a fun outing. The traffic coordination and other logistics seemed to be well taken care of. Parking was not much of a problem, though we didn't go for the 7 a.m. races. Weather is usually nice at this time of the year. Making our way out from Carlsbad, we stopped the Carlsbad Flower Fields about 3 miles further south on the I-5. Here's one shot of the fields with the Pacific ocean in the distance.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Busted for peeing on a run

The next time you feel the urge to go pee while out on a run, keep this story in mind. It's from a poster on the bulletin board:

I don't know what to do, this is awful.

I am a 35 year old man with a good job, wife and kids. I volunteer with about 8 local charities and consider myself a pretty decent person.

Last night at like 6:30 pm, I was about half way through a 10 miler and I had to go to the bathroom (#1). I was nowhere near a bathroom, but on a local paved trail that meanders through forest, neighborhoods, etc.

I was at a very secluded part of the trail, no one anywhere in sight. It was dark. I would say the closest house or street was at least 800 meters away. So I stop, step off the trail and begin to pee into the bushes.

Suddenly, a cop on a bike rounds the corner and literally treats me like I am trying to run from him after robbing a bank. He make me put my hands behind my back, get down on my knees and everything. I thought he was going to cuff me.

I tried to explain that I was just on a run, but he wouldn't listen.

Anyway, I got a fat PI ticket and I have to go to court. Is this something that is going to haunt me? My wife laughed at me, but I think it could end up being serious.

Yes, I finished my run with the ticket in my key pocket.

Bike cop with too much time on his hands? Ridiculous, to say the least. Anyway, just this week, the poster reported back with somewhat good news:
Well, I am happy to report that while I do have a misdemeanor offense and will have to do some community service, I was not charged with a sex crime.

The judge seemed to understand the situation. I ended up hiring a lawyer due to the severity of the charges, and I do not know if it was needed in retrospect. Better safe than sorry though, so it was well worth it in my opinion.

The cop showed up and was visibly upset with the decision to not charge me with something more substantial.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Running on the boardwalk

Every time I go to the beach, I see runners on the boardwalk pounding away merrily, chugging along at a leisurely pace which, in part, is influenced by the speed restrictions on the boardwalk. Every time I see them, I wonder, how much does the pounding on the boardwalk hurt in the long run? The slow speed definitely makes it easier on the legs but overall you're still pounding concrete and I think that has to hurt over a period of time. When I was in my 20s, I could run anywhere and the next day would still be the same. Now that I'm in my 30s, where I run and how long I run can and does affect how I feel the next day. Indeed, if I run on concrete and/or tar roads, I am more likely to have sore legs the next day than if I run on dirt trails. Especially, if I run hard.

The other problem with concrete running is the monotonicity of the surface. Over time, this can lead to weaknesses in muscles. Variety, as that found in trail running or running on other uneven surfaces, gives the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other assorted unpronounceable parts, a chance to work out and in the process, strengthen themselves. Running on the boardwalk fails to provide this variety, unless of course, the boardwalk is covered with potholes or little sand dunes from overnight tides.

Nonetheless, this is all still anecdotal evidence. I wasn't able to find any studies on the effects of running on concrete for several years. A proper research study would definitely make for a stronger case. If you do know something like that, please drop me an email.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

iPod on the run?

Is it a good idea? Listening to your iPod while out for a jog? Two incidents in the last week bear mention. First, the female runner who apparently was killed by wolves while out for a run in Chignik, a remote part of Alaska. Second, the beach jogger who was killed by a plane making an emergency landing in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In both cases, they were apparently listening to an iPod.

Now, it's hard to make a definitive statement that without the iPod, they might still be alive. The runner in Alaska was 4'11" and probably weighed less than a single wolf, much less a pack. Regardless of whether she was running with an iPod or not, if they had attacked, she probably would have stood no chance. In the beach case, apparently the plane had cut its engine and was gliding. Combined with the sound of the waves and wind, one can see how it's possible to not hear it come. Again, it's not clear how much of a difference the iPod would have made. On the other hand, it's possible that someone else saw the plane coming down and started yelling but the jogger didn't hear it because of his iPod. You can never know for sure unless you were there yourself.

Personally I never listen to music while out for a run. Safety being the first factor, but also because I don't like having things in my ears. Even if I did, I don't think I would do it while out on the streets. Maybe on trails.

Music might be helpful and in some cases, maybe even essential, for some people to go out and run. However, one should be aware of the fact that he/she is taking a risk while doing so. How much of a risk? It depends on the person and the environment. Some people have a tendency to get lost in music so much so that they lose track of what else is happening out there. That definitely puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with any unexpected turn of events.

The environment makes a big difference too. For example, city streets are definitely not the place to run while listening to music. Some people might argue that city streets are not the place to run. Period. Even out on trails, one needs to exercise caution and weigh the risk factors. A couple of years ago, I was in Katmai, Alaska which is another remote part of the country and a great place to see grizzly bears. Even though it was beautiful and very tempting to go for a run, I chose not to mainly because I didn't want to go alone. On the other hand, I've gone running in Yosemite out in the wilderness by myself. These were on plains where I could see the terrain far into the distance and it was in the middle of clear and sunny day.

In the end, it is a choice you make for yourself. Just be aware of your choices and the associated risks. Happy running and stay safe.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Can you get a running injury while driving?

That's what I asked myself a few times after I picked up an injury earlier this year. Internet sleuthing led to the conclusion that it was some kind of tendonitis of the foot. Funny thing is I had been running a consistent 35-45 miles a week for about two months. Then one week I couldn't run much at all. Instead there was a lot of driving, especially of the slow, stop-and-go type, where you're constantly rocking the gas pedal and the brake with your foot. The next week I went for a run and by the time I got back I could feel a niggle under my driving foot. Sure enough, another run confirmed there was something wrong.

I ruled out a bunch of factors. There was no ramp-up in mileage. I'd been at a consistent 35-45 mpw for over two months. Running terrain was the same. Shoes were in decent condition. That pretty much narrowed it to the driving. In retrospect, the other thing that I neglected to do was stretching. Usually, I do. However, this time I didn't.

For the past couple of months, I've been babying the foot. Lots of rest, icing, and a bit of compression. Also bought a new pair of shoes and an arnica-based gel to apply. Cut down running. Restricted myself to around a 9 minute pace. Been doing some walking. All this seems to be helping. I've been able to get some decent running in for the last couple of weeks. Just have to take it slow and steady.

Frustration is the enemy and patience is the weapon in this game of recovery.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Prefontaine Classic 2010 - tickets and lineup

Tickets went on sale yesterday for this year's meet. In about half an hour the best seats were gone. Sounds like a concert, doesn't it? Actually, it's better. Much better.

Interestingly, Section U was marked "unavailable". This is the one that is right in front of where the finish line for most track events is. You get a front facing view of the athletes breaking the tape as they finish. I have a feeling that this section is probably reserved for season ticket holders or someone; the website didn't make it clear.

As per a news release on their site, released much after the tickets went on sale, this year's athletes include Kenenisa Bekele, Yelena Isinbayeva, Tyson Gay, and Sanya Richards. Should be exciting.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

PreClassic 2010 tickets on sale this week

Tickets for the Prefontaine Classic 2010 will go on sale on March 5. From personal experience, the best seats sell out on day 1. So, haste is the name of the game. Here's a map of Hayward Field. You want to try and get something close to the finish line.

The only little complaint I usually have is that they don't have a list of athletes announced by the time the tickets are on sale. It's like Priceline, in a way. But you can think of it as booking a 5-star hotel on Priceline. You know it will be good - the athletes are guaranteed to be of top most tier. I've been going to the Pre Classic for the last three years without knowing (at the time of booking tickets) who I'll get to see. So, who have I seen so far? Alan Webb, Kenenisa Bekele, Craig Mottram, Maria Mutola, Bernard Lagat, Sanya Richards, Jenny Barringer, Nick Symmonds, Kara Goucher, Matt Tegenkamp, Dathan Ritzenhein, Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner, Asbel Kiprop, Gelete Burka, Jen Rhines, Pamela Jelimo, Saif Shaheen, Shalane Flanagan, Shannon Rowbury, Meserat Defar, Nick Willis. Needless to say, you will not be disappointed.

Moreover, this year marks the first year of the IAAF Diamond League, and of the 14 worldwide meets that are part of this, Eugene and New York are the only ones from the United States. So, there is no better way to spend your July 4th weekend this year than this. Mark the date.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How long can you wear a merino wool shirt without washing?

I had read about people trying this on backpacking forums. So, I decided to try it out for myself. How many times did I wear my merino wool shirt without washing? The answer - 10.

10 times and yet no odor. No itches either. It was as if I'd picked up a fresh shirt each time I went for a run.

Could I have gone longer? I think so. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperative. The winter rains set in, which means less time in between runs for the shirt to dry out completely. I could've let it dry out over a few days but I didn't happen to have too many extra shirts to alternate. Moreover, if you don't let it dry out completely, there is a little bit of a funky odor. Maybe next time, I'll shoot for over 10.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Prefontaine Classic - now in July

Just checked out the website for the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. Looks like they moved it to July starting this year. July 3th, Saturday. They used to have it in early June. This is great news. Moving it to the July 4th weekend is definitely a great move. Oregon usually has a bunch of other activities in the summer and more so in July than in June. This way it becomes easier to clump them together with a visit to Hayward Field to check out some of the greatest athletes in the world.