Onward Ho!

After hurting myself last night I allowed myself to luxury of wallowing in my self pity for one night. Well now it is morning so no more self pity. And actually I feel quite good. I did a few stretches this morning and nothing felt too odd. So I am going to keep on keeping on. I’ll take things a bit gingerly for the next few days, but I am going to move forward with my training. Getting hurt yesterday made me realize just how much I am enjoying this running racket. I will not let this injury stop me. 66 days until the SLO marathon. Onward Ho!


I broke

Today, I broke.

Two weeks ago today I decided to train for a marathon that was just over 11 weeks away. I still cannot recall why. Maybe it was because I decided to buy a new pair of running shoes that day (Brooks Pure Flows) and was really, really excited. Up to that point I had been running primarily in Vibram 5 fingers and I was running mostly the same route one to three times a week, a short trail near my house that took about 30 minutes total. I remember the day I bought the Vibrams, at the parking lot sale of shoesurfing.com. I was excited to try a new approach to running and I ended up really liking them. People would stop me on the trail and ask what i thought about them. I described it as being akin to climbing a wall with gloves on vs. mittens. It just felt less constricting when on a trail (I only used them on trials). You could curl your toes and feel the nuances of the ground. However, feeling the nuances of the ground is not always a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I loved the Vibrams. On the rare occasion when I went road running, I would lace up an old pair of Asics trail runners. They were heavy and worn but they were what I had been using for years.

Then, I ran into a friend of mine at the Cal Poly track who told me how Brooks and several other companies were reengineering shoes to have less of a drop from the heel to the toe, in order to simulate a more barefoot style. That is why I bought the Pure Flows. Concurrently with my purchase I started reading Born To Run and began to drastically change my running style. And for two weeks I was in the zone as I ran upwards of 55 miles while starting a vegan diet. And then today happened.

I was planning to go on my usual 6.5 mile loop from my house to the Felsman trail and back. Well, just over one mile into the run I felt a sharp pain in my lower calf muscle, as if the tendon holding it to the bone was ripping. So I stopped immediately. The injury made sense. Ever since changing my running style to a more mid-foot strike, I had developed sore calfs. A heel strike takes the pressure off the calfs, but the mid foot strike puts pretty much all the pressure on them, and it was finally catching up to me. The thing is, I thought I had built up those calf muscles after so much time on the trail with the 5 fingers, but apparently not. I was devastated. I walked home, head hanging low. However, along the way I discovered two pineapple guava bushes teeming with fruit. A small consolation.

This is the main reason I have not done anything competitive since the 1996 Wildflower triathlon. My zeal seems to get me into trouble. I over-train and hurt myself and then cannot hold back. I am really heartbroken.

Band of Skulls!

Last night I want to see Band of Skulls play at SLO Brewing Co. with friends Tim, Tim, and Jess. I was very excited to go, as Band of Skulls is one of my favorites. They cover all the great musical bases: power chords, bluesy riffs, short and sweet solos, male-female harmonies, and a fantastic quiver of songs.

Well first and foremost I was glad to see the place jam packed. It is tough to gauge the level at which a band like theirs is popular these days. They are not on the radio and I am not very tuned into the pop culture zeitgeist, so there is not telling just how popular they are. Also, the reason I was glad to see the place packed, especially with youngsters, is because I become more and more fearful as the days go on of the death of Rock-n-Roll. I think it is because of the vast attention received by mainstream Country, Hip-Hop, and Pop. And probably also because of the countless articles asking “Is Rock Dead?” And frankly there is simply not a lot of good Rock out there these days. the push towards a more twee Indie approach to Rock has generated a lot of bands that are just downright BORING. But a good Rock show is still the best, and last night was a Really Good Rock Show. It was nothing fancy, just fantastic music and fantastic musicianship. There was even a mosh pit. How quaint.

We were lucky to catch the band at a small club here in SLO, as they have been playing arenas on the West Coast opening up for Muse. As a musician myself, I imagine it would be quite flattering to open up for a band at the Staples Center, but i also imagine it must be a cold, cold experience. A half full arena, bad acoustics, a gaping chasm between the stage and the first row of seats, and a quick 30 minute set. Not the greatest of circumstances. However, for the SLO Brew show they were the headliner, and the club was jam packed and intimate, with concertgoers at the foot of the performers. I see a lot of shows at SLO Brew and there is a very listless energy to many of them. Several are sparsely attended (a testament to my age I suppose, as I, an aging rocker, attend the shows of aging rockers), so it was nice to have a packed club AND good energy, as they do not always go hand in hand. I suppose the best crowd other than last night was a few years ago when Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros came to town right before getting really big. The energy was great. And that show too was filled with youngsters.

So maybe there is hope yet that youngsters will continue to come out in droves and support ROCK. I do enjoy some Hip-Hop, but I think live Hip-Hop is pure torture. One of my favorite shows ever was Ice-T at the Anaconda Lounge in Isla Vista. He did a split set. He rapped for the first half and it was meh. But then, after a brief intermission during which live instruments were placed on the stage, he returned with Bodycount, his brand new hard rock band. They played a ferocious set of songs from their not-yet released first album. It was a truly incredible show. Ice-T is OK at rap, but he is a pure genius at ROCK.

If you have not checked out Band of Skulls, I urge you to buy one of their albums. Even better, go catch them live. They ROCK.

The twelve days of obsession

I feel very grateful today. 12 days ago (January 16th, 2013), on a very non-descript Wednesday, I decided, for no particular reason, to attempt to run a marathon on April 7th. I said I would give it until the end of the month to see how I felt before fully committing. Well, there are still 5 days before the end of the month but I have already made the decision to enter the San Luis Obispo Marathon. I have logged 50 miles in 12 days and have been eating vegan for 7 of those and I feel great. I ran a very difficult trail run of almost a 1/2 marathon yesterday and today I do not feel much worse for the wear. And the reason I say I feel grateful is because there still seems to be a sense of possibility in this rickety 41 year old body of mine. I feel a real sense of wonder as I jump headlong into this obsession (yes, I am totally obsessed. I readily admit that). And it is very gratifying to make a leap of faith and try something new and challenging only to be rewarded with positive results. I am SO FAR away from actually achieving my goal and I have a lot of training to do before I finish 26.2, but I feel strong, excited, and optimistic.

By the way, on the music front, I am going to see Band of Skulls tonight, a great British trio. I’m excited.

A half marathon training run today. Did I make it?


Last weekend my indefatigable cousin Earl, who is training for the Big Sur Marathon, said he would be running 14 miles today (Saturday). I said I might tag along but I wanted to see how the week went. Well, it went like this: I had a great 6 mile run on Monday, rested Tuesday and Wednesday, ran the same 6 miles Thursday with great effort, and rested Friday. However, the real wild card was whether or not I would be able to behave on Friday night (last night) before the run. You see, my gracious aunt and uncle Patty and Dan offered to take our boys overnight on Friday. A Friday night without the children at home is a very rare occurrence, and typically my favorite way to spend it is to drink way too much and play music until I can no longer stand. For those who know me, when i say “play music” I do not mean that I press “play” on the stereo. Rather, I physically play guitar and sing original songs and play harmonica and electric guitar and, if the wife is feeling it, I get her to sing too. I cherish these opportunities, since they are rare. So on Friday I had to make a decision about my high contrast life. Stay up late, get drunk, and play music until the wee hours, or be good and go on a 14 mile training run the next morning. Well, I chose the latter. But I wasn’t necessarily good. Melanie and I went downtown to have drinks for a friends birthday and I did have a few beers. And then I came home and really wanted to drink more beer and stay up til 3 am playing music but instead I…made a great tempeh and kale stir-fry and went to bed. YES!

So this morning my brother Jed and Earl met me at 8 am at my place and we set off. I decided on the route, which was mostly trails. So we ran to the San Luis Mountain trailhead and ran around the mountain and down to Laguna Lake Park to Madonna Road, which we took until it dead-ended at the Froom Ranch trailhead. None of us had ever been on Froom Ranch trails before, and we got lost a couple of times. But we found our way to the Johnson Ranch connector trail and finally to the Johnson Ranch trailhead parking lot. By then we had been running for 2:30 and had covered 12.2 miles. And we were done.

It was a really fantastic run. First of all, I cannot express how amazing it is to be able to walk out my front door, access a trailhead just 1/2 mile away, and run 12 miles, 11 of which are on trails. For someone like me, who prefers trails, that is amazing. Also, even though we only ran 12.2 miles at a pace just under 13 minutes per mile, we did some serious climbing. I think we climbed around 1,900 ft. during the run. I am going to go on a limb and say that if I could translate todays run to roads, then we likely could have run closer to 15 or 16 miles. Of course, that is little consolation considering we would still need to cover 10 more miles after that to finish a marathon. It is little consolation because I was DONE. And I had issues. I had a blister on my left foot and nipple chafing and I was out of water. But for now I think I will focus on the success, the fact that we made it and the fact that I only started training 11 days ago for a marathon and I was able to get halfway there today. Yay.

So the plan is to rest tomorrow and go see Band of Skulls in concert. I will see how I feel on Monday and hopefully get back to it then. I think I will try to tackle 15 miles one week from today. And I continue to eat vegan. It has been 7 days, and I will stick to it for awhile. I feel good. Well, I actually feel exhausted right now, but today’s result gives me hope.

And reality sinks in…


After six straight days of running I took a much needed two day break. Then I set off on a 6 miler today at lunch. I felt fantastic and blazed through the first two miles of road to the Felsman Loop trailhead. That was a mistake. Five minutes into the uphill on the trail I bonked. Well, maybe bonk is the wrong word. I just had to walk for a hundred yards to let my heart rate settle. Then it was back to it. So that was a good lesson. I am looking to endure, not win any sprints, so I have to stay within a reasonable heart rate. I struggled again once I completed the trail and got back on the road and I quit a few hundred yards from my house. I am really trying to work on my technique of a mid-foot strike and that is difficult. Now here I sit, back at the office, feeling destroyed rather than refreshed. Not what i was hoping for.

By the way, I am trying a vegan diet, which I began 5 days ago. The first day I actually ate all raw food, and I have been eating all plant-based foods since. Lots of spinach, quinoa, potatoes, almond milk, and fruit. And Beer. Fortunately, that is plant based. I actually feel great. No heaviness, and I think it is making me stronger. I am going to try to keep eating vegan for as long as I can. I used to eat a vegetarian diet in my twenties when I was doing a lot of intense exercise and it worked out just fine. I am glad to be back to it.

Last night I started reading Eat and Run, the new book by ultramarathoner Scott Jurek. He is a vegan eating a plant based diet, so it is very motivating. So far the book is great. There are lots of good recipes and helpful training anecdotes.

Tomorrow I will rest and stretch in order to prepare for a long run the next day (Saturday). I think I will shoot for 13 miles.

By the way, today was overcast, muddy, and a bit drizzly. Those conditions made for a beautiful, empty trail and great smells in the air. Still lots of sweat. I need to find a hat I can wear that absorbs my sweat and wicks it down my back. It’s a tough thing to find.


I am Born (to run) Again!!!

Yesterday I declared that I am training for a marathon. This is all very new. It was literally only a week ago that I decided to start running consistently and see where it got me. But I think the stars are aligning. I went on a 6 mile run yesterday, my 6th run in as many days, and it was one of the best runs I have ever had in my life. I expected to be tired. Instead, I was ecstatic and elated. And it all comes down to the book Born To Run. The book has gotten a lot of attention and for good reason. It basically states that we have been running all wrong for the last 30 or so years, that with the introduction of the running shoe we began favoring a heel strike due to the shoe padding. The argument is that the heel strike is neither natural nor efficient.

Luckily, I started trail running in Vibram 5 fingers a couple years ago, and those shoes make it very difficult to run with a heel strike since there is no padding. The natural inclination with those shoes is to run with the forefoot, which Born To Run argues is the right way to run. Sill, it is very difficult to run with a forefoot strike on pavement in running shoes when the heel strike is something you have been doing all your life. So yesterday I ran focusing solely on a forefoot strike, and it was a profound experience. Road running for me has always been a labor, and I think it is because I have been running in a very inefficient way (heel strike!). The forefoot strike takes no more effort, yet it propels you forward more quickly and more effortlessly. It is remarkable. I feel like I stumbled across some secret that has been kept from me for 40 years and that now I know the secret to better running. Yesterdays run was truly a revelation. I ran from my house to the Felsman Loop trail on Bishops Peak (I love that trail!) and back home again. It was a piece of cake.

Read Born to Run and you too may be born (to run) again. Hallelujah!!!