First Run

I made it out the door this morning into a brisk, pre-snowy Columbus for a first post-marathon run. And it was good.

There was a bit of soreness with the initial bit of out-the-door; my Achilles said “Hey, man, I thought we were done with this”.

But about a mile or so into it, things were good, and the motor just wanted to keep going.

Man, this is light-years better feeling than after my last marathons.

Children’s sermons

So, we to to church this morning, and the children’s sermon is a very special one about Thanksgiving and all that jazz. Very motivational, except for one thing –


Including an axe and good children rescuing the turkeys from said axe. And a discussion of life being the best gift of all.

Looks like the boys aren’t going with me to pick up the bird from the farm in Stonington.

jeff, Warren – How’s Scotland sound?

Not that I’d turn my back on Uncle, but how cool is it to have this to use for recruiting?

The UK Ministry of Defence says it is keen to hear from “budding Qs who think they could supply the armed forces of the future with high-tech gadgets and gizmos”. To that end, the MoD has organised an “innovation day” at Glasgow University. [From MoD seeks ‘budding Qs’ in SME engagement push • The Register]

I’ve also got to plug one of the best shows you’ve never seen – MI-5 or Spooks

PPS – I also realize that there’s a world of difference between MI-5 and the world of Bond. It’s FICTION, people…

San Antonio Marathon 2008

So, there’s three marathons in my legs now.

Man, can I feel the third one.

Missy and I headed out for the San Antonio Marathon and half (me full, Missy half – she had ITB troubles this summer) on Sunday. The day was pretty close to perfect for a marathon – crisp and cool at the start, rising to the mid 70’s by noon. The course was great, too – flat, flat, (mostly) pretty decent pavement, great spectator turnout, good support with drink, gels, and water, and great volunteers.

And we will for sure look at Saturns the next time we need a car – man, did they do a great job as a sponsor. I don’t generally like to shill for companies, but Saturn was there with good stuff all the way through the race – good pace tattoos at the expo, heaters and hats at the start, and the only bit of shade at the finish.

Running was as good as running a marathon can be. I was absolutely great until about mile 21, and then everything went to crap. I think that my big mistake was to take a little bit of a walk break there, and I couldn’t get momentum back after that. I walk-ran through the Kappa Kappa Delta water stop just past mile 24, but from about mile 25 on, I kept having pretty intense cramps in my calves and left thigh.

Which drove me crazy. I’ve been listening to my lovely wife about the beauty of pacing, and even though I felt great at the start of the race, I fought the urge to RUN and kept right at the 8:55/9:00 pace that the tattoo required for a 3:55 finish. So the miles clicked on, and as I crossed the halfway point, I could really feel the difference between this race and the others that I’ve done – there was plenty of zip left in my legs. So, when I walked and couldn’t really get going again at 21, I was frustrated.

I lost 15 minutes in the last 5 miles, finishing in 4:11, for a PR.

AND, I’m happy about the marathon thing for the first time ever. If you look back to 2005, you’ll read about a bit of post-marathon depression on my part. This time, I’m pretty psyched about the whole experience, I think largely because I did a much better job sticking to the training program, modifying it only slightly to account for life, sickness, and motivation.

Support Review

This was an inaugural marathon, so the City and the organizers have more than a couple of bugs to work out:

The Start

  • NO COFFEE! First, I think that this is pretty close to being a violation of the Geneva Convention – having people stand around at the crack of dawn without providing anything warm and caffeinated. Made even worse by the fact that the race brochure SPECIFICALLY STATED that there would be COFFEE AND BAGLES at the beginning. I’m kicking myself for passing a half dozen Starbucks, Krispy Kremes, and Taco Cabanas without getting coffee.
  • NO SHELTER! The start was at the Lions Field just south of Brackenridge Park, rather than in the park itself. So, there was no where to stand in the dry if it had been raining, and no way to stand under something to stay warm-ish in the 30 degree morning. If it had been a typical San Antonio November morning, we probably would have been OK. Saturn had some patio heaters – 30,000 runners tried to huddle under them.
  • GREAT ACTUAL RACE START – The Rock and/or Roll series uses “Corrals” for the start, where groups of about 1,000 runners are set off spaced about 60-90 seconds. The beauty of this is that there’s not the usual pre-race shuffle for the first mile. The drawback is that if you’re back in corral 30, you don’t start until at least 60 minutes after the leaders.
  • Parking – plenty of parking at the ATT Center, and since we were there 2 hours before the race start, we had no problems getting a shuttle.

I think that 90 minutes standing and shivering before the start may have had something to do with the crash at mile 21. We’d brought throw-away sweats for the start, but should have brought some space blankets, too.

The Finish

  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS. After 26.2 relatively flat miles, there’s a dip to go under the freeway, then a hill for an onramp, then a downhill and a 90 degree turn for the bus loading-unloading ramp, and then a hill and a 90 degree corner to the finish line. Blows.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART II. After you get through the finish line support (great, by the way – plenty of food, plenty of volunteers), you’re out in the middle of a big parking lot. No grass, no benches, no trees.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART III – NO SHADE. So, you’ve just run 26.2 miles on a pretty sunny course, and it’s afternoon in South Texas. Of course you don’t want shade. NOT. Seriously, the only shade was in the Saturn Tent, and in the potties. No tent under which to watch the entertainment. It hits 85 some afternoons in November; this could have been a disaster.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART IV – NO PARKING. So, by using the Alamodome for the finish, the organizers eliminated almost all the excess parking in downtown San Antonio. They’d tried to mitigate it by having parking at the AT&T Center just east of Downtown and running shuttles, but the buses didn’t work – we stood in line (Did I mention there’s no shade?) for about an hour before we got on the bus.

How I’d Fix It

  • MOVE THE START TO BRACKENRIDGE PARK instead of the Lions Fields. Starting in the park would solve the shelter at the beginning part, as it’s pretty well wooded, which feels much warmer, or would block some of the rain. There’s also stuff on which to sit at the start. You could bring the shuttles off of Hildebrand into the park, and have them get back on 281 to make another run by taking them out on Mulberry.
  • MOVE THE FINISH TO HEMISFAIR PLAZA. Starting another half mile up Broadway at Brackenridge would let you finish at Hemisfair without having to change much of the course. There’s a bunch of advantages here:

    • Easier access to downtown hotels

And that’s honestly about it. Shade at the finish and coffee at the start could have made this my favorite marathon ever. As it is, I don’t think that we’ll go through the trouble of running this race again – there’s more than enough cool local options in New England, and enough other destination races to do that our trips to San Antonio ought to go back to being just about family.

Oh, I’d also like to comment about the walkers – there were a TON of them. Miles 22-24 shared part of the course with miles 11.5-13, and the last two miles of the marathon and half courses were on the same road. There were probably more half-marathon walkers finishing the half as I was coming to the finish line for the full, and plenty of marathoners hitting mile 12 as I was going past the other way. And, even with the corral start, I passed a lot of walkers in the first few miles.

All in all, it’s a pretty decent race – the course is great, and if the weather

Bondi Beach

I got up at 5 this morning, with the intent of heading over to world-famous Bondi Beach for a little bit of a run along their Cliff Walk. Got there a little after 6, and was completely blown away.

First, it is an absolutely spectacular beach – perfect sand , nice arc, amazingly blue water (the first Bondi Blue iMacs were aptly named).

What blew me away was that when I got there, again at a little after 6 am, the place was packed. On a Friday morning. As in, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting someone running, kickboxing, doing pilates, yoga, whatever. There were probably close to 100 surfers out waiting for waves. But the place was PACKED.

The other thing that was cool to see was that people were bringing their kids at the crack of dawn. Motivates me to maybe drag Jake and Nate off the couch on Saturday mornings.

Which kind of jibes with what I’ve seen while here – there are groups working out in the park every evening, tons of runners and cyclists.

Anyway, it goes a long way to explaining why Americans are beginning to look like those folks in Wall-E.

All right, one quick swim, and I’m back to the hotel. I’ll go see the New South Wales art museum, and maybe the Australia Museum, and consign myself to misery on the way home.

More Sydney

I’ll start by recommending a trip to Australia with one caveat – it’s a long, long way to get down under. Man, am I dreading the flight back to the states. Like really, really fully considering just not going back to avoid another 14 hours in the air. I’ll probably go, ’cause I get to go back in time (will leave at 2pm Friday and arrive LAX at 7am Friday), and I’ve always wanted to be Marty McFly.

Anyway, the running is astounding. Weather is perfect, and there’s a great network of parks around the city, so you’re not fighting traffic all the time.

Plus, fellas (and ladies, now that i’m thinking about it) the “scenery” is outstanding. Australians apparently like walking and running, and I haven’t even been over to Bondi Beach yet. As a round, red-faced Yank, I stick out like a sore thumb.

Other stuff: there’s a monorail running through the tourist and shopping sections of downtown. Which means I cannot help but feel that North Haverbrook’s problems must have been caused by all of the monorail engineers defecting to Sydney.

Paddy’s Market rocks. All the kitsch and crap you could want at low prices. I’m trying to resist buying the stuffed cat.

Asian influence. Assuming the US doesn’t go Spanish in the next 20 years, there’s a good chance that, just like in any good cyberpunk story, there are going to be a surplus of ramen, Korean BBQ, and sushi stores lining our streets, just like here. Hopefully, we’ll get decent pubs, too.

Available mass transit rocks.

Conference was good. Learned lots.