Portland Marathon 2008 – Finisher!

Last Sunday (10/5/2008), we ran the Portland Marathon.

The vast majority of the course was the same as last year, with only a minor change crossing back over the river at mile 24. (Yes, the St. John’s Bridge kicked my butt again.)

Unlike last year however, it rained, starting around Mile 9 all the way through the finish! Unlike last year, I left my rain gear in the hotel as it wasn’t supposed to rain at race time (doh!). At the start, the temperature was 52 degrees (F), which meant short sleeve weather. Even with the rain, the temperature never dipped below 50 degrees.

My finish was 3 minutes slower than last year, however, given the fact that I missed the first 8 weeks (out of 16) of training due to “snapping hip syndrome” (I couldn’t even run on a treadmill until week 5), I was very satisfied with my finish. Like last year, the iPod was essential after Mile 20 (and I didn’t have to hide my headphones like I did at the Napa Valley Marathon)

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization - Incredible. Very well organized and staffed. Grade: A

Course - Fairly scenic, a few "industrial" spots that could have been avoided. Grade: B+

Aid-stations - Well staffed and stocked, approximately every 2 miles. Numerous gummi-bear stops, along with neighborhood kids handing out jellybeans (Although the honey-based energy gel was nasty) Grade: A

Swag - Long sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A

Bonus: Dinner at the Bridgeport Brewery. Grade: A+

Portland Marathon Goes mp3 Friendly


When we ran the Napa Valley Marathon in March, we had to hide our headphones/iPods, lest they be taken away by race officials. Fortunately, the Portland Marathon has declared themselves to be “MP3 Player Friendly”.

When we run the Portland Marathon in a few weeks, I can let my iPod see the light of day and not spend the race worrying that someone will jump me on the course! (Now if I can just make it over the St. John’s Bridge intact…)

TheRelay - 2008 Edition

The 2008 edition of The Relay starts tomorrow (4/19/2008). The 12-person relay starts in Calistoga and ends in Santa Cruz and goes non-stop for the entire length of the 199 mile run.

I'll be running in Van 2, Leg 11 with an overall ranking of 4th most difficult (my bad-ass wife has the 2nd most difficult overall)

If you are driving in the area, be on the lookout for 398 vans (199 teams, 2 vans each) full of tired, sweaty, smelly runners!



Napa Valley Marathon 2008 - Finisher!

Last Sunday we ran the Napa Valley Marathon. The race starts in Calistoga on the Silverado Trail, passes a number of famous wineries, and finishes in Napa.


Staying at the host hotel (Marriott in Napa), we hit the Expo on Saturday to get our bibs, etc. While we were at the Expo, Dean Karnazes came by to sign his book. He ran from his house in San Francisco to the Expo in Napa to give a presentation. Afterwards, he was going to run to the start of the marathon. He was then supposed to run the actual marathon and then run back to his house. I'm guessing his mileage was about 100 miles each way. Looks like he beat my time:

     529 Dean Karnazes  San Francisco, CA  3:51:26.0  Men 40 to 44


Up at 4:30am, we caught the bus to the start. Unfortunately, our bus driver got lost on the way. Fearing we would be late and miss the start, everyone's stress level was quite high. Eventually, the bus driver was able to find her way to Highway 29 and then to Calistoga. We arrived about 6:30 and barely had enough time to stretch, check in our sweat bags and head to the start.  At the 7am start, the weather was in the mid 30's, strong winds at about 20 mph and clear skies.

With 2300 participants (no half, full marathon only) it took a minute or so to cross the starting line (no chips for this race) and a mile or two for the crowds to thin out. Following the Silverado Trail, we had great shade and a tailwind for much of the race. The canter of the road changed quite a bit as we followed the twists and turns of the asphalt which kept us constantly looking for the flat part of the road.

We hit the first half at 2:06, which was pretty much on pace. The first 5 miles of the race has some decent hills, but nothing like Mile 17 at the Portland Marathon. As the sun rose, the temperature got pretty warm, hitting ~70 degrees (F) at the finish. Unlike CIM, I never did hit the wall, which I attribute to being aggressive on fluid intake and Gu every 4 miles. The race is remote in many spots so the crowds are fairly sparse. That said, there were many people cheering at the end, which really helped push us across the line.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization - Accurate mile markers, aid stations where they were supposed to be and plenty of support. Grade: A

Course - Beautiful course, extremely scenic. Grade: A

Aid-stations - Well staffed and stocked. Grade: A

Swag - Long sleeve, dri-fit shirt, nice medal.. Grade: A

Post-race food (new category) - Hot soup (not so good on a hot day), yogurt (?), rolls, bananas and oranges. Grade: C-



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Napa Marathon - No Headphones??

File this one under "They've Got to be Kidding"

The February update for the Napa Valley Marathon was just published (2/19/2008)

The update details that they will be enforcing the USATF ban on headphones/mp3 players.

The 2008 Napa Valley Marathon is the RRCA National Marathon Championships and, in keeping with RRCA guidelines and USATF rules of competition, headphones are prohibited on the course.

USATF Rule 144.3(b): The visible possession or use by athletes of video or audiocassette recorders or players, TV's, CD or DVD players, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, or any similar devices in the competition area shall not be permitted.

Athletes carrying these devices will be asked to surrender them to a race official prior to the race. Surrendered devices may be picked up at the finish line area following the race.

Wow, I might be "asked to surrender" my iPod? Give me a break Napa Valley Marathon - your rules need some serious revising.

Spirit of the Marathon

Last Thursday night (1/24/2008) I caught the one-night-only showing of the movie "Spirit of the Marathon". If you are a runner, go see this movie. If you know someone who runs and you think they are crazy, go see this movie. (They've added an encore showing on 2/21/2008)

The movie follows six people who are training for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Two are professional athletes, two have run the Chicago marathon previously (one of them wants to qualify for Boston) and the other two runners are marathon novices. You get to see their training up close and follow them through the ups and downs. One of the professional athletes is Deena Kastor, an American who won the Bronze medal in the marathon from the last Olympics. In her second week of training, she runs 145 miles - around what I run in a month. She gets the official "bad-ass runner" label from me...

The cinematography on race day is great - lots of shots of the course, the individual runners and good history throughout on marathons in general (guest cameos by people like Paula Radcliffe, Amby Burfoot, Alberto Salazar, etc. Lots of familiar names if you read Runner's World). Adrenaline pumping finishes by the two professional runners and a strong sense of pride for the four non-professional folks (after my tough CIM run, I could really relate to one of the runners :-))

Definitely check it out if you get a chance.



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California International Marathon (CIM) 2007 - Finisher!

Last Sunday I ran the California International Marathon, starting in Folsom and ending in Sacramento.

LIke most out-of-town participants, I stayed at a downtown hotel, 3 blocks from the finish line. Up at 4:15am, I headed over the host hotel to catch a bus to the starting line. Arriving at the start at 6:15am, I stretched, ate more food and tried to stay warm.  At the 7am start, the weather was in the high 40's with a slight headwind of about 7 mph.

The first half went pretty well. I stuck to my pace, finishing in 1:58. One thing to note about this race - it is a net downhill, but there are plenty of hills in the first half. My GPS said it was over 1000 ft of vertical. The second half was a bit tougher though. The wind picked up quite a bit (~20mph) and the temperature dropped. I bonked really hard at Mile 17 - I've never hit the wall that hard, that early. Over the next 5 miles, I drank a ton of fluids and by Mile 22 had climbed the wall.  The finish was great; there was a vocal group of people supporting the race. Their cheering helped push me across the finish line.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization - Accurate mile markers, 18 aid stations. My only complaint is that the aid stations weren't laid out in any organized/published fashion (i.e. every 2 miles, etc). Grade: B+

Course - First third of the course somewhat scenic. Grade: B-

Aid-stations - Well staffed and stocked. Grade: A

Swag - Short sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A

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Cal International Marathon (CIM) - 2000 Additional Runners

Apparently CIM is really popular this year - there are 2000 more runners this year than last. I was already planning on taking the bus to the start, but this leaves no doubt (from an "official" CIM email -- bad karma for the person sending the email hoax btw)



If you are being dropped off at the start, arrival at the starting area between 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. is highly recommended. Long lines of bumper-to-bumper cars are anticipated along both the north and the south start area runner drop offs.

If you haven't already made this wise decision, purchase a bus ticket at the Expo and drive to Sacramento on Marathon morning to take the bus! You will end up saving time.

An evil email was being circulated this morning (Friday, Nov. 30) about a change in the Relay start time. DISREGARD it! NOTHING has changed; the Relay runners will start with the marathoners at 7 a.m.!


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Portland Marathon 2007: Finisher!

Last Sunday, I ran the Portland Marathon (10/7/2007)

We arrived in Portland on Saturday afternoon, checked into the host hotel (Portland Hilton) and went directly to the expo. After picking up our numbers, chips and race packets, I bought a waterproof vest as rain was expected for the race. After a great pasta dinner, we crashed and got up bright and early for the race. Fortunately, the rain did not materialize, so we had a dry start with the temperature in the mid 50's.

With over 9,000 runners, it took a few minutes to cross the Start line. Overall, the course was great, fairly scenic and flat. I had heard about the St. John's Bridge at Mile 17 from several people prior to the race, but nothing prepared me for the sight of the bridge.  


One minute, I'm running along a fairly flat stretch of road, the next I'm running up the off-ramp, gaining 150+ feet of elevation in a half mile or less (check out the topo map below). I managed to run all the way to the highest point and the view was a great reward.

I never hit the wall, but definitely slowed my pace after Mile 21. I cranked up my iPod, ignored the cries of pain from my legs and had a strong finish. I would definitely recommend Portland, it was well organized and a lot of fun.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:



Organization - Incredible. Very well organized and staffed. Grade: A

Course - Fairly scenic, a few "industrial" spots that could have been avoided. Grade: B

Aid-stations - Well staffed and stocked, approximately every 2 miles. Grade: A

Swag - Long sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A


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