Monday, December 24, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Relays

This weekend Patty and I ran the Christmas Relays at Lake Merced in San Francisco. Our running club put together 9 teams, each of 4 runners. Each runner completed one lap of the lake, about 4.5 miles.

On my team one runner couldn't run because of a knee problem, so Ken stepped up to run two legs, each at a spectacular pace (sub 6 min/mile). My leg of the race went well and I held roughly my previous 5K pace for the 50% longer distance. Of course, that meant I was passed by a lot of people as the position Ken had put us in was totally out of my league. At one point I was running down a hill at just under 7 min/mile and people were flying by me on both sides like I wasn't moving at all.

The course itself was tougher than I thought when I drove around it. There's a hill at the start which you run too hard because it's the start, then a lot of downhill with a lot of people moving faster than you. Here you fly, too fast. By the third mile it's a slow uphill and the reality of how fast you ran the first two miles and how far it is still to go sets in. The final push to the finish also had a untimely hill. On top of that, the whole time you know there's a guy standing at the finish waiting for you. That keeps it moving along. I finished my leg in about 39 mins. Our team was the second LMJS team to finish.

Anyway, a fun time was had by all. After the race Patty, Patrick and I ran around the lake again to keep our miles up. It was a little rough as Patty and I were thinking 12 min/mile and Patrick was thinking 10 min/mile. Oh well, the legs were already trashed from the race, so what did it matter.

Monday, December 3, 2007


We were recently on a roadtrip to the American Southwest and managed to get in a few runs. Here's the first one. Patty returning down Echo Canyon in Death Valley National Park.

We camped there for two nights in perfect camping weather. This run took us a couple of miles up a canyon along a jeep road. It was pretty hard going on the way up as it was uphill and the footing was very loose rocks. On the way down those same rocks were like pillows for our feet to crunch down on.

From Death Valley we headed into Arizona where the temperatures were not as nice. Flagstaff was in single digits and windy when we got up so we decided to pass on our planned run in Buffalo Park. We Northern Californian dwellers are not built for those conditions (or at least lack the right apparel!)

A couple of days later, now in Moab, UT we woke up and, because Kelly was still asleep and we were in a dark motel room, we checked the iPhone to see what the weather was like outside. "28 degrees." Not bad. A run looked on. "And a chance of snow." Hmmm. We checked the radar image and a big green and yellow blob hovered over Moab. Double hmmm. I got up and looked out the window. White. Snow. Everywhere.

When Kelly woke up she was pretty excited. She'd never seen snow actually falling before.

We spent the first part of the morning hanging out in a coffee shop and then playing in snow at the local park. While there I noticed how many people were out running! There was even a couple doing intervals across the park's snowy grass. If they could run, so could I. We went back to the hotel and got changed and then took turns in putting down a 3 mile run.

While I won't go so far as to say it was really all that nice running into the snow, it was refreshing and something different. Plus, with almost 3000 miles of driving in a week, it got my legs moving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big Sur Half Marathon

This past Sunday Patty and I completed our last big race for the year, the Big Sur Half Marathon. It was also a PR for both of us, by more than 9 minutes!

As I might have mentioned before, this race isn't actually in Big Sur at all. Rather it is in nearby Monterey and along its own beautiful coast line. It is run by the same people who organize the somewhat famous full length marathon in April, except this run is (of course) shorter, and also much less hilly. What is the same is that it is exceptionally well organized and run along one of the nicest courses in the country.


The lead up to the race could have been better. I was off work sick for the whole week with stomach bug, the effect of which is best not described. With antibiotics I started taking on Friday I recovered just in time to make the start line.

Saturday afternoon we drove down to Monterey and spent the afternoon at the Expo including seeing Bart Yasso talk. He is the chief running officer (CRO) at Runner's World. Now that's a job. He's paid to fly around the world and attend interesting races. His talk included some great stories including being in the first every Badwater ultramarathon. I'll never think of banana bread the same way. On a sader note he talked about being at the Olympic trials and the death of Ryan Shay. His discussion of that will stay with me for some time.

In the evening we found an Italian restaurant. While you don't really have to carbo-load for a half marathon, it can't hurt. Plus, who doesn't like Italian?

We considered going for a walk somewhere but decided it might be better to stay off our feet so instead we spent the evening lying around watching bad TV. I did catch the end of Eragon and noticed to my surprise that I actually have a credit in that movie.

Race day

Our alarm went off at 4:30am and as usual we were already awake but lying in bed denying what lay ahead of us. I woke a few times during the night to the sound of rain, but by morning that seemed to have moved to the north and east. The wind, however, had not moved on.

We drove down to the start area, it still being dark, and parked in a free lot. The start line was right outside. We walked over to fisherman's wharf but couldn't really find a spot out of the cold wind. It was pretty empty over there, just a group of fisherman about to head out on a trip. Note to self: if I ever go on an organized fishing trip I need a big big cooler. We headed back and used our (secret) pottys for the last time and then returned to the start line. In our absence several thousand people had already gathered. With 5 minutes to go we slipped between the corral fence and took our place. Then we were off.

We took about 40 seconds to cross the start line and picked up to about a 9:30 pace. I'm not sure if it was the wind or just the fatigue from being sick all week, but I knew it was going to be a hard run. I was already tired by mile 2. But my HR was holding steady so we kept up a pace between 9:30 and 10:00, hoping to keep it together for a 2:10:00 finish. The run up to Pacific Grove was the only real hill and our pace slowed there, but much of the course was rolling with there always being a grade of some sort and always the wind, especially on the outward bound portion. It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped.

The course itself was completely gorgeous. Much of it ran right along the pacific coast. Waves crashing into rocks, sea lions barking at us from rocks, pelicans flying by us. Plus, with the road closed it was only the sounds of the sea and other runners. On the way back part of the course was along a bike path which presumably was an old railway grade, and took us even closer to the water and down tunnels of Cyprus trees. Even the parts in the town were nice, running around a lagoon of sorts and also down through the historic old town of Monterey. In front of the old movie theater a man dressed in a tux played the piano for us. At the end of a tunnel a Scotsman in full gear played the bagpipes. It was very cool.

I recorded the race on my watch. Here's the pace, HR and elevation on a chart. The blue spikes are us walking through aid stations. The mileage misses a little bit at the beginning.

With a couple of miles to go Patty picked up the pace and dashed off 30 yards or so in front of me. She is clearly the faster runner now and she shows a whole other side when it comes to hitting a time goal. My pace also quickened and I kept her close, but my HR was pushing up into the 190s so I was more inclined to balance my pace against imploding so close to the finish. Plus, I'm willing to give up a little time to not scare the medical staff waiting at the end.

As the finish line came into sight Patty slowed to allow me to catch her and we cross the line together in 2:09:21. It was very charitable of her, of course.

They hung a hand made medallion around our necks and then passed us an empty box. I soon found out what the box was for. It was to put all the food in. All kinds of fruit: strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas. Muffins. Cookies. Fruit cups. Bagels. And, a bottle of water. We slumped down against the side of a building and may I just say that those were the best strawberries and cookies I've ever had. I'm pretty sure of that.

The taste of fresh PR.


This was a great half marathon and everything we hopped for. A class act of event organizing which I plan to judge all future races against, completely spectacular scenery, and we came in under our goal. An awesome weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two weeks to go

Week mileage: 22.3 Miles (4hrs 4min)

Another pretty good week, although there's signs of overtraining.

It's been a pretty fast climb back up to decent miles, both for our long runs and total miles. Because of this we've now peaked for our half marathon and will hold at this level with some easy running this week and then taper down the following week so we're fresh at the start line.

This weekend I did my first real race since the marathon three months ago! We did the 15km race at Lake Merritt. Both of us were pretty happy with our run. My time was just over 90 minutes, which was my goal.

According to the GPS we ran quite a bit over 15km, probably because of poor tangents at the beginning (and maybe GPS error). Apart from the first two miles, which were fast, we basically negative split each mile until the end, with the slowest being 10:00 mins (actually our goal pace) for mile 3, and just under 9:00 mins for my final mile. It was good to be able to finish strong like that. Patty finished so strong in fact that she kicked my butt by 30 seconds.

From this race I'm supposed to draw conclusions on how fast to run the half marathon. I feel like 9:30ish pace is probably doable now, with 10:00 being pretty easy and 9:00 being probably too hard for that distance at this point. That puts our goal between 2:05 and 2:10.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Taco Tuesday

Weekly mileage: 25.1 Mi (4 hrs 56 min)

Running has come completely around in the past month and I'm back to enjoying it. Mostly. Last week I hit my target of 25 miles a week which I hope to more or less sustain until the beginning of next year.

On Wednesday morning we headed out to Tilden, a local regional park, in pouring rain to run five miles on a trail there. It turned out to be one of the hardest runs in a long time. With the rain the trail turned to sticky slippery mud. How can something be sticky and slippery at once? Somehow this mud was. Running was something like running on sand dunes, two steps up, one slide back with the bonus of extra pounds of mud caking our shoes and rain pelting our faces. Afterwards I was beat for the rest of the day.

During the week I also put in a couple of good runs at work. I have a new Garmin Forerunner which I got to test out for the first time. It's pretty cool, but I have the same feeling I had when I first got a HRM. That it will initially just show me how slow I really am. But in the long run, that's probably a good thing.

On Sunday we headed out for our long run. The morning started with a flat tire on our car, followed by a flat battery on the forerunner, and plus, I felt terrible and in completely the wrong place for the run mentally. After about three miles the run came round and we ran a little over 12 miles in total. I've been having some kind of cramping and/or early onset fatigue on the outside of my right shin. Not pain, like shin splints, but something else. It usually subsides after a while. No idea what that's about, but it doesn't help!

Our goal is a half marathon in three weeks called the Big Sur Half Marathon. Rather than actually being in Big Sur, it's in Monterey and runs by the aquarium and out to near Pebble Beach and back. The course is actually pretty stunning as it runs right along the coast.

I'm really looking forward to it, although I don't have the best sense of how my body will respond to a race that length or even what an good pace is for me right now. I'm surely fitter than the first and only time I've run a half marathon that wasn't a mountainous trail run and that time was 2:18. To help figure this out, and kick ourselves into the racing mood, we're running a local 15km race this weekend. Three laps around the lake. I'm mostly hoping to not DNF like the last time I raced there, but the goal is tentatively 90 minutes.

Well, it's Tuesday. And that means track workout and Baja fish tacos!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

One month later

Well more than a month has gone by since the marathon so it seems time to update.

I've been considering this lately: does anyone really care to hear about nagging injury and failed runs for blog after blog? That should give you a hint of how the last month has been. But it is time to recap, so here's the rundown.

The bad:

Firstly, the marathon took a toll that I wasn't really expecting, and I was expecting plenty of toll. Both of us have found running hard and even now barely consider ourselves over it. But then a month is probably not that unusual for the damage to heel and lingering fatigue to depart our torn up muscles. 26.2 miles is a rough ride. I'm amazed now by those I know going on to run another one already. For me, I needed this month almost free of running on many levels.
Although the fatigue seems mostly gone, for me, there are still bonus problems I'm dealing with.

I ran the marathon on a foot injury, which exploded mile 19, and left my foot mostly blue. It also hurt a lot. While this seemed concerning to me, my doctor was completely unconcerned about the whole thing. Perhaps the patient before me had a severed arm to show her. I was expecting a horrified gasp. Instead I got a 'Well, that will heal. We'll do x-rays to make sure it's not a fracture and here's a PT referral'.

X-rays were negative on the stress fracture, so off I went to PT. What I learned is that this is almost certainly caused by some tearing in one of the peronial tendons, which in turn was probably caused by tightness in the peronial muscles which run down the outside of the leg. They probably got tight from running, and since I didn't know they existed, didn't stretch them. Apparently they are there for stability mostly, but the 'push-off' uses these muscles and can stress the peronial tendons in the foot. More so on uphills. Enough of that tension and pop! If they pop, the blood flows out and turns your foot blue. Cool. Anyway, I have a plan and am working on that.

But the real problem has been IT pain. This is really something which I thought would vanish after the marathon since I never had much of it before. But it's stayed around like an annoying 4 year old. I didn't even bring it up with my doctor. At that stage I still had blown quads and hamstrings and was hobbling around with a blue foot. The IT stuff was just background noise. But not when I ran. By 1.5 miles it inflamed and put a quick end to my run. Over and over. This was depressing. Pretty soon I felt like the whole marathon was a mistake and had decided that, for sure, I would never run again. Time to move on to sitting on the couch and eating potato chips. Time to call the cable company. This is, of course, crazy. But I, of course, am crazy.

The good:

Well, I needed a good news section to this post or I may not have written it at all.

Firstly, we went to Idaho on vacation after the marathon and it was fantastic. I'd like to write a post about that, but if I could move to Boise, I would.

Secondly, I've been spending some quality time with my mountain bike and am beginning to see the appeal. I spent 5 hours on it this past weekend, including a great ride in Tilden regional park down a 1000 ft drop single track trail through the woods. We had to carry our bikes across a stream. It was completely fun.

And thirdly, the best news is that I have now done 2 three mile runs with little IT pain, both on a track.

So, perhaps there is life after a marathon.

Monday, July 30, 2007

San Francisco Marathon

Yesterday we completed our first marathon. Patty and I crossed the finish line together in 5 hours and 8 minutes. What a weekend!


After collecting our race packet Friday, we returned to the expo site Saturday to watch some of the talks. There was a crazy mix of people presenting, including the race medical chief telling a room full of people that they didn't need to eat before or during the race. The highlight was seeing ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes talk. He was funny and inspiring.

I also managed to meet up with a couple of Internet friends: Steve from the Hal Higdon v-team message boards and Mary who lives in Florida and has been blogging about her marathon training since March.

We went home and ignored the race medical chief and had a big plate of pasta.

The race

We were awake and up by 3:30am. I downed a cup of coffee, drank a last glass of water and ate a granola bar and yogurt (sticking to my standard pre-run breakfast). By 4:30am we were out the door and driving across the bridge. We were beyond ready to go by this stage, no room to feel tired from the early wake up.

We made it over to SF and parked fairly close to the start/finish. People were emptying out of their cars, attaching timing chips to shoes, bibs to shirts, jogging around. We used the potties and ran into one of Kelly's teachers two people in front of us in the line. We walked over to the start line and watched the first wave go off, joined the potty line again, and had basically the perfect amount of time to join our wave, find our pace leader, before we were off.

We decided we'd join the 4:30 pace group. Not because we planned to run 4:30, but because we didn't want to start faster than this. It was fun running with them for a little while, easy running, but staying with a pace group would be hard for the whole race. At the first aid station we slowed, grabbed a couple of cups of water and looked up to see her halfway up the Fort Mason hill! We couldn't believe we were blown away by her so fast through the first aid station so we ran a 9:37 mile to catch her. At the end of Crissy field the same thing happened again and by the time we sighted her she was halfway up to the bridge. We blew her a kiss goodbye, we were on our own.

Up on the bridge it was very foggy. A refreshing wet wind blew through the gate. No view, but it was better to have it cool. The running was at it's most congested here and the walkers who didn't move to the right drove us a little crazy. Really, do they think running 3 across and then coming to a relative halt is helpful to the thousands of people coming up behind them? Half way across I heard "Go Patty! Go Peter!". It was Mary, who'd caught up with us. She was more or less naked (sports bra and skorts). We stayed with her for much of the rest of the bridge and then she was gone.

Also interesting about the bridge was that my IT band started to act up. This is Patty's designated problem and I haven't had any problems with mine in all the training runs. Oh well, if there's one thing we mentally practiced during our training, it was that anything could happen and we'd take it and deal with it.

From there we headed south to the park. We were keeping roughly a 10:30 pace for much of this time. This section was underrated for hills. They are not steep, but they wear you down then you're not paying attention to them. We started to walk one minute every mile too, realizing that we had a long way to go. During this period my foot started to hurt again. Slowly, each mile, it got worse and worse. I knew it would come at some point during the race, but I had hoped for later rather than sooner.

We passed the half marathon mark in 2:20, almost a half PR! I'm looking forward to running another half some time soon and see what I can do when I don't have another 13 miles to run. But back to the business at hand.

The course soon headed back up the park from near ocean beach. This section was where we dived. It's hard to say where 'The Wall' was, but for us this was it. Our pace dropped a minute or two a mile with the long long uphill and never rebounded. My foot hurt. My knee hurt (IT). My hips hurt. And generally, as far as my body went, things were all downhill from around mile 15 or 16.

Around Stowe Lake was one of the low points. We weren't moving towards the finish line, just going around in a circle and my foot was now so troubled that I seriously was considering the nearby half marathon return buses. This is the only point where I started to doubt things. Then something happened. I don't medically know what went on, but around mile 18 the buildup of pain all of a sudden gave way and there was a feeling of having something very cold poured on it, followed by a slightly mushy feeling and dull pain. I could almost feel the internal bleeding. Yikes! But the good news was that it was then much easier to run!

From the park we re-entered the city and ran down the middle of Haight street. This was a highlight of the race and the energy coming from the spectators there gave me a big lift. Mile 20, a point I was looking forward to (and dreading) came and went without us spotting the marker. We ran across Market street and I knew then I'd make it. Finishing sub-5 hours now seemed doubtful, so it was just a matter of getting it done.

This was a much more industrial area of old rundown buildings and bikies mixing the tunes for the runners under freeway overpasses. To be honest, I didn't care for the music by this point, but every spectator gave me lift. One had a sign for "Patty" and yelled "Hey, a Patty. Hey, we made a sign for you!" They put a smile on my face and really helped to keep me going.

But in general those were tough miles for us and there's some take home lessons there. Like have a slow walk-run backup plan for when/if the wheels fall off, don't just start walking with no plan to start running again. We didn't have too many clear thoughts in there.

By the final two miles I regained my focus and actually felt good and strong. The "dog patch" area was the turning point where the course turned to face the ball park and the Bay Bridge. The effect of seeing where the finish line was overcame everything else. I was ready to run the rest but Patty wanted to walk more because of the old IT knee thing.

We passed AT&T park, with a game about to start, there were people everywhere, but we were a secondary attraction to some guy called Barry Bonds I suppose. Rounding the park was the 26 mile mark and the finish line was in sight. I picked up my pace with what I had left and ran strong across the line.

The aftermath

My foot is now a mess. A red-blue bruise now covers half the side of my foot. And of course much of my lower half will take some recovery time.

All in all, we're really happy. When I hurt my foot 5 weeks ago I thought that's it, no marathon this time. Then I got some more running in and hurt my foot again. Again that was it. But I cross trained like a crazy person and did make it to the start line.

"The only way you really fail is to not try at all"

I wanted the experience and was willing to take a cost. I felt like even if I dropped, I would still learn things for the next one. So I did all that. As a bonus, I finished.

Physically, this race was a serious challenge. But I never stopped enjoying being out there and being in the event. Even in the final miles I knew it wasn't going to be the last. I wasn't saying to myself "how did I get myself into this thing?" like I probably should have been.

Was running my first marathon a defining moment in my life? Unfortunately not in the way I thought it might be. It was almost anti-climatic. But it really was living life and that's what it's all about.

We're already deciding what's next, but first I need to see about that foot.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Week 15

The big week. In many ways this week, the highest mileage week of my program, has been the focus of my training, even more than the marathon. I thought, if I can get through to that peak week then I'd be in good shape for the marathon.

The numbers:
  • Running: 32 miles (on a plan of 40 miles)
  • Time: 6hrs 25mins
As you can see, things rebounded some what from the previous forced fall back week and I got some much needed final miles in.

The foot injury held up well during the week. It was ever present as a faint something, but didn't escalate. I ran 3, 10, then 3 miles. The 10 mile run was also one of those focus points of this training cycle. The peak mid-week mileage on the 4th of July holiday. I really enjoyed this run and felt pretty encourage about the marathon outlook after this.

Then Sunday came and we went out for our 20 miler. I felt I needed another long run before the taper so I went for it. If I made it then it would be like week 14 never happened. If I broke I'd have 3 weeks to heal.

It felt pretty good for the first 10 miles, but then fell apart. How can something be fine for two hours and then have a problem? It was right after our half way point where we stopped at our car to fill up on water. Perhaps my foot started to swell at that moment or something. We took off from the cars and I had the same sensation of there being an unusual pressure in my shoe. A couple of miles later the pressure had became more like stabbing pain and soon after that I was walking back to the car. There's no point in pushing through that kind of thing in a training run.

Back at the car I waited for Patty to finish her run. I couldn't locate any sharp objects to kill myself with, so I just had to sit there watching a woman hit a tennis ball against a wall for an hour. When Patty finally showed up she was only 17 miles into hers and had circled back to see how I was doing. She wasn't doing so good either (ITB issues), but she was moving. She suggested that if I needed to kill myself, the BART tracks were close by. I didn't think of that.

Anyway, enough dwelling on the failure of this run. My goal now is to forget it happened and get my foot in shape to take the marathon. I'm fit enough to run it, I have a solid number of miles banked. I just need a working foot. Now almost a week later, it doesn't really hurt anymore so hopefully in two weeks it will be healed enough to not relapse in the marathon.

Here's a graph of my training up until the taper, just for the fun of it:

Time will tell if it's enough.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Well this week was more of a fallback than I had in mind. 
Here are the numbers:

Running: 4 miles (on a plan of 32)
Cycling: 20+ miles (on a plan of 0)
Injuries: 1 (on a plan of 0)

Last Tuesday I headed down to the lake from here on a gentle 5 miler. The first 2 miles went by quickly, a nice run downhill. The next mile I looped around a tree a 1/2 mile around the lake and then headed back towards home. I passed one of the marathon training LMJS guys headed the other way and said Hi. Heading back home, initially, my left foot felt a little funny. Like the tongue of my shoe had moved to an annoying location. Kind of a pressure in the outside of my foot. 

I passed a woman who noted how much energy I looked like I had. In fact, I felt good. I was thinking about how well the run was going after the 17.5 mile trail run just a few days before. It was exactly 300 miles since we began training for this marathon. Pretty good!

Then my foot started to ache. Hmmm. I ran a little further. It hurt some more. I stopped and started to walk. I was a mile out from home. By the time I got home I couldn't put my foot on the ground. Nice.

I took the rest of the day off work. I didn't really know how I was going to get in there anyway. I iced. I Advil'ed (verb). I elevated. I compressed. I hoped around.

Things didn't really get too much better for a few days. I posed to Hal Higdon's message board. He said it wasn't a good sign. I might have to taper. My doctor told me to rest it. It was probably a stain. Since there was no sore spot to touch it probably wasn't a stress fracture. 

So, I've taken the whole week off, my second last build up week. I didn't go to work (they let me work from home), and concentrated on my resting and icing. By Saturday I could walk around. Kelly and I went out to Moraga to crew Patty on her 14 miler. That was fun, but I wished I was out running of course.

The cause of my injury is anyone's guess, but the suspects are:
  1. The 18 miler did the damage, something I didn't feel at the time finished it off.
  2. I was trying to break in new shoes and instead they broke me.
  3. I walked around the lake the day before wearing a pair of sandles.
  4. I only had 300 miles in me.
Who knows?!  


The good news, since I'd like to reflect on the good parts of my marathon jeopardizing week, is that I finally got a mountain bike. It's not a very expensive model, but I like it. In fact Patty had to warn my that it wasn't coming to bed with us.

On Sunday I did two rides. One out on a rail trail we run on (I mean I used to run on, when I was, you know, a runner), and in the evening I did I trail ride in the area of our trail half marathon. Both were a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Week 13

Our biggest week so far (and what may prove to be my biggest), and not at all unlucky.

Distance: 35.4 miles on a plan of 36.
Duration: 7hrs 18min

Well, last week was great. A complete change from the sad tale that was getting through a 16-miler with a knife stabbed into the back of my foot. The mid-week runs are taking up a lot of time so I've been working at home a lot, or trying to slot them in really early.

Mid-week runs:
Tuesday's run was at my old nemesis, the Lafayette-Moraga Regional trail. It follows an old mule train route where loggers once pulled redwoods from the hills and carted them to Sacramento. Later a steam train ran along part of the route. Today it's a stretch of pavement with a 'linear park' on either side. It gives you 7 or 8 miles each way of relatively uninterrupted pavement and pleasant enough scenery to look at. For a rail trail, it's also decently hilly. We ran just 4 miles. Map.

Wednesday we were back out to the same area to run around a canal trail. The Walnut Creek area (which I used to associate with hellish shopping, baking heat, and misguided visits to The Container Store) actually has these canals everywhere. I suppose once upon a time the whole thing must have flooded all the time. There's water control infrastructure everywhere. These canals are not canals like Venice, however, more like irrigation concrete channels that are mostly about 6 feet or so across. If you like concrete canals, then you'd like these. They do have wildlife sometimes, which right now means there's baby mallard spotting to be had. There's almost nothing cuter than a baby duck sliding down a concrete bank. Anyway, several of these long canals have trails next to them. Wednesday's run was 9 miles east from Walden Park in the middle of Walnut Creek, out to the hills on the Contra Costa Canal Trail. Then we turned south and travel up along the hillside, eventually passing under a road in a pretty cool tunnel. This section, being up high, is actually quite pretty. You can't even spot the Container Store, just trees mostly. Then it's back on a different canal through mostly residential areas along the Ygnacio Canal Trail. Map.

Thursday's 5M run was from home down to Lake Merritt-a pretty well trodden route. It felt so good I picked up the pace and ran it as a tempo run. I hadn't had the energy for that kind of thing since the whole 3 races in 3 weeks thing.

Long run:
This was all, of course, just a warm up for Saturday's long run. We decided that running a safe route, flat and easy, was just not for us. I was probably still a little crazy from my tempo run, and plus, the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles through the Sierras) was simultaneously off and running (a friend of ours was pacing), so we felt like something more adventurous than running along I-80 for 4 hours. So instead we headed out to the hills, to Tilden regional park where the LMJS running club was meeting.

The first section of the run was what the organizer Karen described as flat. Well maybe "with a hill in the middle, but mostly flat". In what universe was that flat? Not a flat universe, that's for sure. Most of it was, however, runnable hills. Except the one in the middle, which we walked some of. This section took us from the Little Farm parking lot north through Wildcat canyon to the Wildcat staging area, and back. It was pretty enough in there, and definitely better than running along the interstate. But somehow it wasn't quite trail running. At about 4 miles along a woman stopped us (who actually stops runners?) and asks if we could give our water to her dog. We look at her dog and it looks fine. She's less than a mile from her car and we're out for an 18 miler. We say sorry and keep running. After 9 miles we were back near our car, and those in the club doing just the Half headed to the parking lot. We stopped short of there at a drinking fountain and filled up and ate. After chatting to a couple of runners we started our second leg. A couple who is doing the marathon opted to get in their 18miles by running the first 9 miles again. We thought about it for a moment and again decided adventure needed to come first.

We headed up the road less travelled, more or less up the side of a mountain. We ran for an acceptably long time and then eventually started to walk. As the walking was getting tough we turned our walk break into a stop break. At the top was a paved section called Nimitz Way where the Tilden Tough Ten is held each year. We started to run again, but something was up. My HR was high, and quick to anger. Patty figured I was having some problems and gave me her bottle which had Cytomax in it. Now, I don't mean to promote Cytomax, or to appear like I believe a thing of their (FDA has not verified) claims, but that stuff is great. Half a mile later I'd gotten about 20 Oz of fluid in me and I was back on track.

Math interlude:
Now, I take from this that I need more water than I'd drunk up until that point. That is, in 10 or so miles I had drunk about 2 bottles worth of water, or around 3-4 oz per mile. This was pretty much in line with my pre-run plan. But on a warm but not hot day, that wasn't enough. In the following mile I drank another 20 oz and that set me right. About 50% more liquid. So, based on that, if I up my intake to 4-5 oz per mile, then in the race that's 8-10 oz an aid station which means getting a whole cup down plus some. In the race, this also means about 24 oz per hour, which is well below the 30 oz per hour considered dangerous. Also, note to self. Cytomax rocks.

At inspiration point we'd stashed more water, more Cytomax and a couple of Cliff Shots. We ate a little, refilled out bottles and then headed off. The next section was really tough. It took us up hundreds more feet along a spectacular ridge line. But mostly we were annoyed that a lot of this wasn't really runnable. Sure, it was a great workout, but we also needed just long running. After a few miles we reached the highest point. Some hikers were there looking at the view that extended for miles both inland and across the bay. In the distance was San Francisco, our marathon course. We were looking down on the whole city thinking that at least no hill was going to be as high as that one in the course.

By the time we returned to our car we'd covered around 17.5 miles in a slow but grueling 4 hours on the trails. We were beat. The gain/loss was over 2500ft not counting all the small hills. It was pretty rough.

Recovery Peter and Patty style:

1) Ice water in the car. Start drinking.
2) Start replacing calories. One Mocho Freddo (large) from Peets Coffee. This is a chocolate shake with coffee in it. They are beyond good, and not really that bad for you if you don't get the whipped cream.
3) 2 Super burritos (one each). I went with Veggie. Patty had smelled grilling meat somewhere on our run as we past near a picnic area and had partially turned into a grizzly bear ready to kill for meat. She went with the steak.
4) Ice bath. Filled half way with cold tap water. Add ice. Not so it's a slushy, just enough to put a chill into it. Soak for 10 minutes. Do not share. It heats the water up too fast and isn't romantic. Also, you need a clock. It's a long 10 minutes.
5) Lots of Advil. 800mg is a good place to start.
6) Sleep. 1 hour of quality napping.
7) Next day:recovery walk. One 3M lap of the lake works well.

Woodminster XC

The Dick Houston Memorial Woodminster is a cross country race here in Oakland now in its 42nd year. You might not normally associate Oakland with cross country racing opportunity, but in fact Oakland is bordered to the East with beautiful hills that hold some great trail running. Redwood shaded creeks that are great for hiking and steep rough terrain which makes for tough running.

Originally we were going to run this race, a 9 mile event which runs over some of the toughest course you could imagine around here. Instead, we decided it was time to work on running longer and not potentially injure ourself on this. So, rather than run it I decided to take some photos.

Woodminster is a handicap race, different age groups leave one after another. If I was in it I'd be 4 minutes in front of the fastest group (the young men), and about 20 minutes behind Patty in the old ladies group. Here's a couple of photos from the start:

Runners coming down the hill near the finish:

The trails are mostly like this, although there's hills which bring the whole field to a walk. Last year we were hiking on the day of this race and had a nice conversation with one of the racers as we walked up one of the more serious hills.

Here are a few more photos of the runners. This first one is the winner, Roy Rivers.

And I think this is the first place woman:

The rest of the photos are here, and the organizers were excited enough to have some one take photos they sent out a link to my photos with the race results and on their page.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Post-race slump

The payback for the trail race in the middle of our marathon training had to come.

In the days following the race I didn't feel especially bad in any one place. Just tiredness. Okay, well that's not exactly true. My knees felt tweaky. My back hurt a little. My blister did it's own thing. Nothing unexpected though. But as the days past I think the biggest problem was tightness.

By Tuesday I managed to get myself down to Lake Merritt and put in a slow and really rough recovery run in gusty and somewhat hot conditions. I threw in lots of walk breaks and a few times they weren't really walk breaks. More like just straight out walking. I cut the distance short to 3 miles (planned 4) and felt proud of myself for even getting out there, but NO fun was had, for the record. My main complaints at this stage: inside of right knee had a little pain left over from the weekend and my calves felt stiff.

Thursday morning before work I took on my 8 mile mid-long run with much better results, running from home to the lake, 2 miles around, then reverse. I felt tired, but basically I felt okay. And I love this run, especially early in the morning. The city rises over the course of the run's elapsed time. There's lots of people out doing their thing. It's Oakland at it's best.

Friday I skipped the first run of my training. There was supposed to be a 4 mile run in there that just didn't happen. Patty had run even less than me this week, still fighting ITB soreness around her knee from the race. So together we convinced ourselves another day of rest would do us good.

Saturday we had our 16 miler. It was horrible.

It was all a little disastrous from the beginning. With no relatives around this weekend we called in a play date we were owed. But there were two problems: Firstly, it ended up on a Saturday. Usually we do our long run on Sunday and besides, another day of rest would maybe have helped. The second problem was we ended up dropping Kelly off at nearly midday, which is neither good marathon practice, nor our idea running time food-wise (where was lunch? oh yeah, we ran for 3 hours instead!), nor the coolest time of the day. It was warm.

On top of that we made up a route with the following criteria. 1) Flat! 2) Long. 3) Few cross streets 4) close by, we didn't have time to drive anywhere. Enjoyable was not on the list. The result was we used the trail that runs along the bay from Emeryville, near the IKEA, north to the horse racing track, looping all over the place (into Chavez park twice and Berkeley Aquatic park once) to get 16 miles out of it.

Now, this might not seem so bad, with it's San Francisco views, but it is also right next to I-80.

Bike path between I-80 and the bay

The run started with us having to park a mile from where we'd planned to start. Curse you 'Chevy's customer parking only' signs. This made all the mileages I'd marked on a map a mile off. This was okay for a while, but by the time we'd run 10 or 11 miles, the math was too complicated. Seriously, it was.

Cesar E Chavez Park near Berkeley marina

The real problem with this run though was none of the above. It was my achilles of all things. I'd never heard a thing from my achilles. Never. Until just ONE mile into this run when it started to hurt out of nowhere. By mile 8 it was painful. Each step was a knife stab in the back of my heel. Interestingly, it was much worse to walk than run. So I ran. Now I look back on it as amazing I even finished this run. Each time conditions are not ideal we look at it as a good experience for the marathon, because things will get tough there and just like this run I will just have to tough them out as best I can. I just hoped that when I was done I'd walk again one day.

In the last few miles my foot still hurt but I'd stopped listening to it. It was best to keep moving. But a sense of fatigue descended on me which is hard to put into words. If they could bottle it, I think it could have dropped an elephant. But we maintained pace, such that it was, and got the job done. 3 hours and 14 minutes. 40 minutes longer than we'd ever run before. Fallback week ahead, thank God.

We got home and we both took an ice bath and I started 72 hours of rest, Advil, elevation and ice. My achiles seems to have responded, with a couple of solid runs (4 miles and 8 miles) in the past couple of days with no pain. My guess is an overly tight calf caused the damage, so I'm hoping if I keep up the stretching and stay off hills for a while, I can steer clear of that one going forward.

Although we love the trail racing, we're just not strong enough to do it in the middle of this kind of mileage build up. So we've decided to skip the Woodminster XC race this weekend and maybe do a run out on the Iron Horse trail (paved, relatively flat) this Saturday with our running club. After that there's two big runs (18 and 20 milers) with a fallback in between and then the taper! Let's hope, NO MORE SLUMPS!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Lake Chabot Trail Challenge

This past Sunday we took part in the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge Half Marathon. We signed up because we thought the course looked beautiful, because ultimately we'd like to get better at trail running (so why not dive right in?) and because it fit into our schedule and general sense that a few tough races would do us good on marathon day, if we survived. If the San Francisco Marathon is our A race, then this is our main B for the spring. On one hand I couldn't wait and on the other I kept thinking "once I get past that Chabot run then it's full speed ahead to the marathon."

Initially my expectations were that we'd go in it, try to have fun, and run with a bunch of people who went as fast (I mean, as slow) as us. Most races have a pretty good range of abilities. But then a week or two ago we started to look at last years times. They were fast! The last person in my age group last year finished in 2:33. Not normally too fast a time, but over a rough course with 1800+ ft of gain/loss, that seems to me like a pretty competitive field. Perhaps we were completely out of our league here. And what's more, there was a course limit of 3 hours. We started to become a little scared. What if we got to the finish line and they'd already folded up the tables and everyone had gone home? What if the race results just showed "LOSER" instead of a time next to our name? I'm not really a big fan of signing up for something that I'm clearly going to completely fail at. Perhaps this was really a bad idea.

So, meetings were held, expectations beaten with a large stick and goals were reset.
In order of importance (and decreasing order of likeliness) they now read:
  1. finish first trail race
  2. finish in under the 3 hour time limit
  3. try not to injure self or severely hamper training week ahead
  4. enjoy it!
  5. beat at least one person in my age group
  6. run under 2:30hrs (an unlikely goal)
The race:

I woke up after a bad night's sleep and really didn't feel too good. Nothing felt right in my stomach but I was willing to head out and give it a go anyway. Race nerves or oncoming illness? Who knows?! Our baby sitter arrived just after 7am and we were out the door, headed into the unknown.

When we arrived at the lake, the street nearby was already swarming with runners parking along the road and heading down to the lake (there's a $5 parking fee to park in the lot). We too parked on the street and followed them to the start line and picked up our packets, then made a pre-race bathroom stop. That left us barely enough time to put down a granola bar and get a little pre-race stretching in before the start. A ready. Set. And go! and we were off and running. It was all so fast I didn't even start recording my HR until around mile one!

Patty and I at the start

The race initially followed along the lake on a paved bike trail. A guy went by on his tandem bike (alone) and said he was catching up to his 11 year old daughter who was running. She'd done several half's before. Then he was off. First mile went by in around 10:00. Still plenty of people around us.

At 1.5 miles we hit the first real hill and headed up. We imagined the fast people half way home by now. We ran to the top of this hill with perhaps a little walking near the end. Some people started to fly by us on the way down the other side (perhaps the steepest downhill of the whole race). At the bottom we noticed one of them was covered with a smear of dirt down one side of his body. I don't think you need that so early in the race.

At the bottom of this hill the course runs along the golf course for a few hundred feet through tall trees and ferns to a cool wooden bridge and an aid station at the 3 mile mark. We later noted that this few hundred feet was the only significant flat section of the course!

Across the bridge was the major climb of the run. Something like 650ft straight up. Pretty soon we realized running was out of the question here and started to walk and settled into a power hike to the top , practiced through many years of hiking up bigger hills than this one. We noticed that we were gaining here on lots of people. We caught up to the guy with who'd fallen. He said "you guys walk faster than I can run". Yes we do. Still, my HR was up in the 180s just walking. As we continued up the hill. we passed several more people as everyone in view started to walk eventually. Back behind us was a beautiful view of the lake nestled within the green hills. I tried to appreciate how nice this section was scenically and ignore the incline. Goal 4.

The top was an aid station, at 4.5 miles, and we stopped for a minute or so and tried to swallow freezing cold Gatorade. Brain freeze! My stomach was still not pleased too, so I didn't drink too much. For what would be at most three hours running I was willing to risk a little dehydration. I carried a hand bottle filled with Cytomax and sipped this from time to time. Mostly I just wanted to practice running a race with it, the aid stations would have been fine. In hindsight I probably could have used more fluids.

The terrain after this aid station became a very welcome gentle downhill before becoming steeper as we entered the loggers loop. This area was filled with gum trees and smelled of home (Australia). The trail was a little slick with their leaves and nuts; we had to be careful. Goal 3. The second half of the loop regained the elevation lost and we walked several sections here. On the way up I felt like a pebble had gotten behind the heel of my shoe. At the top I reached in the see what the problem was. No pebble. Hmmm. I kept running. A little later I figured out I had a blister, caused by all the steep uphill walking. Note to self.

The miles from this point on became a bit of a blur. I do remember the mile markers coming by faster than I expected so I took this as a good sign. I didn't really feel any real pain anywhere, just growing fatigue. I think perhaps I was numb by this point. Patty was yelping at anything like a downhill with a sore knee and/or IT band problem. Overall though we were feeling pretty strong.

At the half way point I calculated that we might run 2:45 . And the hard hills were behind us. That was exciting but we had to keep moving. And moving we did. By the time we hit 5km to go it was 2:01. We had 29 minutes to do a 5K. Easy. Normally. I set off at a faster pace. Patty yelled at me for going so fast. I yelled back "Let's give it a go!" And both of us were off. Each mile mark we seemed on track. It was going to be close. We rounded the final corner and the clock read 2:29:22. 40 seconds! No problem!! I don't think I tried to kick at the end, just ran it in. Final time 2:29:35 (unofficial). Patty came in a few seconds back from me.

Here's a graph of elevation (blue) and HR (red):

Afterwards we sat around on the grass with Patty's friend Julie and her son and watched the rest of the field come in. It turned out that Julie had run with the eleven year old girl for several miles. They both came in just after two hours (and both won their age groups.) An eleven year old running that course in two hours. My daughter is such a slacker!

It felt nice sitting on the grass when I probably should have been walking around. They gave out pies and bags and water bottles. When I got up later I noted that I could barely put my weight on my right leg without intense pain. I also noted that walking around had my HR back up to the 150s! Interesting! We went home and both soaked in an ice bath for 10 minutes and popped 800mg of Advil. After that we were good to go.


We're elated! We achieved all of our goals for the race. We entered and finished our first real trail run. Our time exceeded both our expectations by half an hour and any reasonable prediction. Looking at the results I was not last in my division (the tough 35-40 men group), and most importantly I felt like I had fun and arrived at the finish line in okay shape. Marathon full speed ahead!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bay to Breakers

This past weekend we ran one of the largest foot races in the world. More than 60,000 people take part, many without a number. I came 7334th (being narrowly beaten by Patty who came 7333rd).

We entered this circus because I used to watch it and be amazed at how many people could get up on a Sunday morning and run 12km (7.5 miles) across the whole city. At the time that seemed a pretty long way. At best back then I'd run a couple of miles anaerobically on a gym treadmill. Running on a road, for that distance, was unimaginable. So this year it was a running goal to enter it, do it, run the whole thing including the dreaded Hayes St Hill and put that one to rest.

For bonus measure, we decided we'd do it, and then we'd turn around at the finish line and run back downtown. This would get us our 13 mile long run. And it would save us each $7 to take the special bus back. And, we'd rock.

The race started with us standing in Zone 2. That meant there were 3 city blocks of people ahead of us. Tortillas flew threw the air and occasionally spin into the back of our heads. They almost hurt. I lifted my foot to stretch, a difficult act in itself in the confined space, and noted that the bottoms of my shoes were now tortilla covered too.

Soon the count down began and we were off. Actually, of course, we just stood there. This year they had timing chips and so it wasn't a big deal. Up ahead, a long way ahead, you could see heads start to bob. A wave of bobbing coming towards us at a snails pace. When it hit us, we started to bob too. A walking kind of bob.

Almost 9 minutes later we crossed the start line and broke into a slow shuffle. Then back to walking. Then the shuffle. Then walk. Then something like a slow run. Then there it stayed, a slow run. For miles.

Just before The Hill, Kelly and her Grandpa were waiting for us. Kelly was later given a string of beads by a naked man. That's an education for her. She enjoyed the spectacle. We stopped for a couple of minutes and chatted with them, then slow ran it towards the hill. Our pace was greater than a 12:00 at this point, possible closer the 13:00. Flying!

Up the hill we went and it was fine. In fact it felt good. All the hill work has made a big difference. There started to be some open space and we even picked it up. Pretty soon we hit the top and started the journey down to the coast. At this point we noticed there was few walkers and people were moving much faster.

Photo: Novato Advance

The rest of the race was pretty easy and passed quickly. We settled into a comfortable 10:00-10:30 pace for much of it always mindful of the return trip we still had ahead. There was probably faster miles in there too. Running felt good in the park with a slight cool breeze and a clear blue sky and everything was bathed in the morning light at our backs. We stopped for water a couple of times for practice and I had some luck with grabbing the back of the cup and squeezing it to make a mouth opening and drinking while moving.

I'm not sure where the 6 or 7 mile marks were, but we hit the end of the park all of a sudden and ran out onto ocean road and headed to the finish. I kicked at the end and probably passed 200 people in the process. We had lots left, I wish I could finish all races with so much to spare.

We crossed the finishing mats. Beep. Grabbed a couple of bottles of water and then after a few minutes of walking picked up to a jog again and started to head back up through the park. Initially this felt awful, but it settled down to being just unpleasant.

Half way up the park we rejoined the race (us headed the wrong way). We stayed over on the sidewalk and it didn't really cause a problem. A few others were either walking or running back too. Most people in the race were walking by now, but there was still thousands of them. Many were really just wandering around drunk. Or dancing on truck rooves. Or lying face down in the park. Or lined up at a port-a-potty. By the time we hit the panhandle it was mostly people who had no intention of finishing.

At this point we hit the regular streets and made our way towards to the BART station. By now we were both pretty beat and the concrete downhill pounding, raising day temperature, increasing dehydration and the constant start. stop. of the traffic lights was pretty brutal.

But eventually we were there. Reflecting what it would have been like to turn around and run another 13 miles, like we'll have facing us in the marathon, was not a happy thought.

Across the road was a Rite Aid where we wandered the around looking for calories for a while. I came out with a King Size Snickers bar and a 32 Oz Gatorade. The Snickers bar vanished instantaneously. The Gatorade followed fairly quickly.

So, would I do it again? Well, in a way I'd have liked to have actually raced it. So maybe one year we'll do that. The race itself was fun and the costumes and general madness were worth being involved with, once at least. If you're going to try and afford to live in the Bay Area it's worth being part of what it has to offer. Not everything has to be a race, so once you let go of that, realize you can't run this fast anyway, then you set the running on cruise control and enjoy the show. So yes, I'd do it again. It's funner than it looks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


A running update on several fronts.

1) The hill running is starting to pay off. My run up Park Blvd, 1.5 miles straight uphill followed by a steep drop into and out of a canyon, then a downhill return, has gotten noticeably faster and at a lower HR. Last week's pace was 11:51 (avg HR=158). A month ago the pace was 12:16 (avg HR=162). Back in November last year, the first time I ran this route, my pace was 14:00!

2) Last week was my longest week ever: 24 miles (5:00 hours). On top of that I got in some stretching and strength training and went for a Sunday morning hike. Sure, the theory is that my marathon training will peak at a 40 mile week, and the marathon, at 26.2 miles, is longer even by itself, but this is still progress. Last time I ventured over 20 miles (much faster build up than this time), I self-destructed. This time I'm ready to run some more.

3) Longest ever training run: 12 miles. Yes, I've gone 13.1 in a race, but this was the longest self motivated run. It was also a trail run, with climb/loss 1750 ft so it felt like an epic.

We spent the weekend camped in San Mateo Memorial Park, which is between Silicon Valley and the coast in surprisingly beautiful coastal mountains filled with windy roads and redwood groves and misty open space ridge tops.

On Saturday, our long run day, we drove up to one of these ridge tops to run 6 miles each way from Russian Ridge to Horseshoe Lake in Skyline Ridge Open Space and back.

It was a tough run with almost none of it being flat. The first mile of the trail was tight single track which had been cut into a V shape by the mountain bikers, surrounded on both sides by waist-high grass. This made for terrible running and during this section we were imagining that 12 miles was going to take all day.

Fortunately the rest of the trail was either more standard gauge single track or wide fire roads. The return trip after the lake was much faster; we knew how far we had to go and could moderate our energy usage appropriately. That makes a big difference. Patty took the lead in powering up most of the hills and we both put in a fast final quarter mile to cap it off.

In three weeks we are scheduled to do the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge, a half marathon, so this was perfect practice for that. That promises lots of elevation gain. But before that, this weekend, is the infamous Bay to Breakers which we plan to run double (out and back).

Saturday, May 5, 2007


My commute went up in flames this week and it's making me grumpy. It made news world wide. "Peter's commute went to hell" said the headlines.

Last Sunday a Gas Tanker lost control and exploded melting the I-580 East overpass (it then fell down like a giant molten blanket across an I-880 connector). The 580 section is the freeway that gets me home each night and there are no options. Traffic is now using Oakland city streets which have become a giant mess. Bottom line: getting home by bus is now 45 minutes longer and will be for the next 2 months while they rebuild this.

And that's 45 minutes I could be running!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

High altitude training

This is really a post about something other than running. This past weekend we finally made it to the snow, what little remains, and got in some very late season fun.

We left early and the day was already warm in Oakland. We drove east to the town of Davis in the central valley and stopped and had breakfast, then took in some of the farmers market across the road. Kelly rode the old merry-go-round which is powered my someone pedaling! We also watched some hula dancing. The pickings at the market are still slim but we did buy some cheese, bread rolls and slightly too early strawberries there before heading towards the mountains.

Up into the mountains we drove thinking it was too late. In fact there was so little snow that we ended up at Donner Summit, the highest point as I-80 crosses the Sierras, as it was the only area with snow at highway level. With so little snow up in the mountains people around here are now talking about water restrictions this summer. I remember last year people saying there was so much snow pack that there'd not be restrictions for years to come. Ah, easy come easy go.

It turns out, however, that the little snow we found was perfect for what we wanted: some snow play. Usually we head down back roads until we can find a plowed pullout or jeep road. We get out, climb the bank, and make our own fun away from the crowds. At this time of year, even along I-80, there wasn't any crowds. We parked in a snow play area just below Donner Summit and headed off to find a sled run.

Patty crossed the river first. I stood back uncertain her idea was sound. She prodded the middle of what was admittedly a small stream with a stick and then with hardly a hesitation leaped into ankle deep water and headed upstream along the middle to a place where she could cross the snow bank on the other side. Kelly and I followed, impressed.

The other side was sledding heaven. Someone had built a long chute which we could use. Here's Patty making a run...

And there were little hills that Kelly improvised her own 'butt slide' on...

We built a snow man, of course...

And later, Kelly also went down the main sled run by herself, a first...

We probably stayed for about an hour. The air was warm, there was nobody else there, the sled run was ideal and our snowman rocked. What could be better? So what if we were on the only snow patch in the Sierras!