The Final Post

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2010 by Spenser

Hi Everyone!

I know, I know…I ran the marathon back in July.  What could I possibly have to write about?

Well, now I’m totally done.  And by that, I mean that today I just mailed off the check for the aggregate total of everything that we managed to raise.  After tallying up the checks, the WePay donations, the matching gifts from family members, and the cash we made in the Mars Bar Mayhem of July 2010, it turned out that we were able to collect quite a bit of legal tender.

“How much?” I can hear you eagerly asking.  “Why won’t he just cut the suspense and write the damn number down?  Why this narcissistic rant, why the tired old tactic of pretending to know what the reader is thinking?”

Good question, reader.  Let me answer thusly: It’s my last post on this blog.  EVER. So if you’re thinking that I’m just dragging this out because I enjoyed the attention I got for writing about something and having other people read it, well, you’re more correct than you know.  If you weren’t thinking that, well, I appreciate you not thinking of me as a lonely egocentric wanker.  We should have a drink.

Okay, final tally…



Oh yeah baby.  I mailed a check to the World Food Program in Washington DC, in the amount of $12,104.68, and my mom and brother will be taking care of getting the remaining $5,100 there.

So that’s that.  Yup.  All done now.  WebGreek continues.  Climbing continues. Running doesn’t continue.  Plotting the world’s greatest road trip commences.  And life goes on.

One final note: Please keep Haiti in your thoughts.  Not just Haiti, but every disaster area, every pocket of poverty, every source of suffering.  This marathon was one of the more meaningful experiences in my life, and, without getting too hokey, it did feel good to make a difference, to work toward fixing one of the many broken bits this world has.

Catch you at the next bloggable life decision…


Marathon: Check.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 by Spenser

Hi everyone.  My body is in a fair amount of distress at the moment.  After hitting the ground 34,583 times, my feet doth protest.  My knees, contrary to their usual policy of not whining, are wondering why in the hell stairs were ever invented, and my back is complaining that it’s never had to hold me rigid for so long without a nice slouch break.  This is all to be expected, because I actually ran 26.2 miles!!!!!! Holy crap.

Not that I didn’t expect to, mind you.  Mostly, I am just surprised that D-Day actually came and went.  The following is a rough account of Saturday evening through Sunday, so that you can get a taste of what it was like to live through the ridiculous feat of running really far.


This was a fairly relaxed day, yet I was far from relaxed.  Vikki and I had a Burning Man meeting with some friends, and we planned the various bits and pieces we’d need to bring for a week in the desert.  I spent most of the meeting snacking and carbo-loading (read: drinking beer and champagne).  We then went for a brief climbing jaunt at Berkeley Ironworks.  I was forced to depart quickly, because I was unable to keep myself from trying harder climbs, and I didn’t want to tire myself out.

We adjourned to San Francisco, where I cut my hair nice and short (for extra speed, you see), shaved my face, and got all my stuff together.  After dropping Vikki off at her house, I went to my friends Ann and Aiden’s loft in SoMa.  They live a few short blocks from the starting line, so I figured I could get to sleep early, wake up and just walk over to the race.  I ended up getting to bed around 9:30 or 10pm, which is something like 10^3 earlier than I usually get to bed.


My starting time was 6:12am.  What?  Didn’t the Vatican declare that to be an ungodly hour?  Well, apparently the atheist heathens who run the marathon didn’t get the memo, so like it or not, I was up just after 5am.  I staggered around, made some coffee, got most of the way dressed, then sat around the kitchen drinking coffee and hoping that the morning poop would come.  I had already packed a ziploc bag of electrolyte powder, a small tupperware container with my special caffeinated energy goo, and I had taken my Sportlegs, a pill that loads your body with lactate.  At about 5:45, the urge to lighten my load finally came, and upon completion, I took off for the starting line.

Of course, in my bleary, race-anxious, poo-panicky state, I totally forgot the timing tag.  That little orange device that goes around my shoelace and makes my race official was back at the loft.  Sh**.  So I ran back to get that, with about ten minutes to go before my wave was supposed to leave.

By now, of course, I’m jittery and somewhat stressed out by the morning’s first SNAFU, so when I get to the race, I become all manner of confused and flustered.  This leads to an inability to find the location of the bag drop (the place where runners can leave their sweats and keys and pick them up after the race).  By the time I do, it’s past 6:12, and I don’t even start the race until 6:40.

The Race: All 26.2 Gruesome Miles of It

No worries, of course.  My personal race clock doesn’t start ticking until my foot crosses the starting line.  I take off at my typical leisurely warm-up pace.  The weather is foggy and overcast, but windless and actually rather pleasant.  Perfect running weather.  I’m running in Wave 8 (instead of my assigned wave), and this is for people expecting a time of up to 6 hours.  I am hoping to run the thing in about 4 hours, so it’s no surprise that I am passing lots of people.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that having slower pacers in the beginning is a good thing.  I had been warned on many occasions that the biggest mistake marathoners make is starting out too strong, and bonking hard at mile 17, or mile 20, or whatever.  I did not intend to let that happen to yours truly.

To make a long story short, I kept fairly well to the plan.  I felt completely solid from the start until about mile 15, at which point I can’t help but notice that I’m approaching the longest distance I’ve ever run and that I don’t know what it’s going to be like beyond this point.  Thankfully, it’s a long stretch of downhill from mile 20 until about mile 24, and flat the rest of the way, so I at least was able to count on that.  I definitely felt like hell for the last 7 miles or so, but was so determined to keep charging and to do the race justice that I was able to keep a fairly consistent pace.

My splits reflect this: the first quarter (7.6 mi) took me 1:09:50.  I finished the first half at 2:00:29, and the third quarter at 3:05:17.

All told, I finished the race with a time of 4:02:25.  I am very happy with this time.  I can’t believe I ran 26.2 miles, and I can’t believe I did so in such good form.  I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed when I saw that my time was over the 4 hour mark, but it wasn’t by enough for me to really care too much.  Overall, I’m very happy with the effort I put forward.

(Here are some bullet points of things I specifically remember during the race)

  • At about mile 3, some guy farted really really loudly in front of me.  I know how it is to have to fart during a run, and it’s actually kinda funny, but when I caught a whiff, I wasn’t too happy about it.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge section was cool because I got to run on the road.  They closed three lanes: one for each direction and one for a buffer lane.  It was kinda lame, though, because one lane is only four people across, and since I was faster than most people at that point in the course, it was really frustrating trying to pass people and getting caught in bottlenecks.  Still, I was happy it wasn’t windy or crappy in some other way.
  • I saw Kinzie, a friend who was running the half marathon, at the end of her bridge part while I was beginning mine (meaning she was a long way in front of me).  She was just standing on the side.  Turns out her knees were bothering her.  A lot.
  • I saw my aunt Anne, who was also running the first half, on the bridge.  Her longest training run had been 5 miles or so, yet she managed to do the half in 2 hours and 18 minutes.  I am very impressed!
  • Golden Gate Park took forever.  We wound through that thing for miles and miles.  The best part was getting a paper cup of beer at one of the aid stations.
  • Vikki, Kinzie, Caitlin, Patrick, and Josh were apparently waiting for me at mile 17, but somehow we didn’t see each other at all.  I also didn’t see anyone on Haight at Clayton, which is a block from our house.  Apparently Erik thought I was going to pass by at 7am and didn’t bother to wake up.
  • I saw several runners doing the race barefoot.  I found that to be rather impressive.  Apparently, it’s supposed to be good for you.
  • I managed to eat two Larabars during the race.  They were very difficult to choke down.  I also had to pee three times during the race.  That part was easy.
  • Watching people dash off the course and into the bushes was funny.
  • I really enjoyed everyone along the course who was cheering the runners on.  I was impressed at how many were there, since I was along the back of the pack because of my late start.  Since our bibs had our names on them, people were actually calling out individual runners, and that was actually really nice (although I kept doing double-takes, thinking that people knew me).
  • I got so many second winds.  When I started to really feel it around mile 18 or so, my legs started to feel very bipolar: I would feel incredible for about a quarter mile.  Like, bring it on.  Like, let’s run another twenty or so for fun.  Then I would think to myself “HOLY SH** I HAVE FOUR MORE MILES HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”
  • My hamstrings actually started to cramp a little at mile 17.  This was cause for some concern.  I drank more electrolytes, but they remained on the verge of cramping for the rest of the race.  I had to be hyper-conscious of my stride, to make sure that they were as even and effortless as possible.  I also did this because about the same time, my feet started hurting a bit.  Did I say bit?  I meant lot.  They hurt a lot.
  • I remember hitting the top of the hill on Haight Street and thinking to myself that I was on the home stretch.  Of course, there were about 4 miles left.  Not home stretch at all.  Each mile got progressively harder.  Then, after we cross Harrison, you can start to see the end: the Bay Bridge.  Then, as if to make sure all runners cry, the course takes a few right turns away from the bridge before finally getting onto 3rd Street and heading toward AT&T park.  That was hellish.  The last three miles or so I spent staring at the ground, concentrating on not cramping, and anticipating the feeling of allowing myself to stop running.
  • My forearms started cramping a bit.  Weird.
  • I saw my mom right past AT&T park, cheering and yelling.  I told her “This really hurts.”  I think she laughed.
  • I saw Vikki, Caitlin, Tzveta and Kinzie in the last few hundred yards.  I gave them a salute.
  • I saw my dad and Eliot a little bit later.  I gave them a salute.
  • The last half mile or so I ran pretty hard because I wanted to be left with nothing in the tank when I finished.
  • When I finished, I had nothing in the tank.  I checked my time and then went straight to the beer garden.  I was pissed that they only gave us runners one beer.
  • I exited the beer garden and borrowed my parents’ folding chair.  I sat down.  It was good.

So yeah, I did it!  I can’t believe it’s come and gone, but I’m done.  No more running for a while.  I can’t say whether I will run another long race, but I have to say that I did enjoy the process a lot.  Feeling so spent is a wonderful thing, and it’s a feeling that I relish.  So let’s just say for now that I can’t rule out the possibility of myself becoming a runner of sorts. But right now, I want to get back into climbing with a fury unseen since General Sherman used the Southern states as his personal stomping ground.

I will post again with the final results of the fundraising, and perhaps some other thoughts on life.  For now, I want to say thank you to everyone, but in particular, the following:

  • Andy Schilling: for motivation, massages at the Olympic club, mentoring, and making it to the race.
  • Vikki: for feeding me, being patient when I stressed out about missing a morning run, for, well, for being Vikki.
  • Mom and Dad: for the post-race barbecue, for putting up a generous matching grant, for, well, for everything.  Including having me, so I could then have a birthday challenge.
  • Eliot: For a generous matching grant, and for being hella chill.  Keep crankin’ bro.
  • Erik Bro: For chatting about marathons, training, and mostly for making me believe it was possible.
  • Lauren: You ran that first training run with me, remember?
  • Ann and Aiden: For letting me run around with poodles, and for letting me crash at your house the night before the big day.
  • The WebGreek boys: For the belief, the encouragement, and for letting me eat a disproportionate amount of the food in the house.
  • Lady: You inspire all runners because you are the best in the world at it.
  • To every single person who donated money to the Haiti cause: You made the race more meaningful.

If you’re reading this (and especially if you’ve read this far), then that means I love you.  Thanks for being there.

Party Success! Birthday Happy! Great Anxiety!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 by Spenser

First things first, a huge thank you to everyone who came out last night to Mars Bar.  Getting to see so many of my favorite people in the world in one place, with some great music and copious alcohol consumption, made my birthday extremely special.  I definitely felt the love, and I only wish that life didn’t get in the way of us celebrating like that all the time.  I guess that’s why we did it big last night.  I’d also like to thank my lovely mom, Nadine, for coming out.  Some of you met her, and she had nothing but praise for you.  Except you, Dan.  She still thinks you’re a degenerate.

The aftermath of the party is that many people went home with sweet new bracelets, a few went home with prizes, I went home and fell off the ladder that goes up to my bed, and all told, we raised $325 towards Haiti!  Combined with over 30 other donations and multiplied by two to take the matching grants into account, this puts the total we’ve raised all the way up to over $13,300! This is, to be honest, more money than I thought I’d be capable of raising, and it’s all thanks to the generosity and all around awesomeness of my friends and family.  In fact, I think it’s time we brought back that thermometer:

easy fundraisers

There we go.  Looks pretty good, actually.

I realize that, with only three days remaining and nearly $13,000 left to raise, I probably won’t achieve the big hairy goal of $26,000.  But we did awesome!  I set the goal nearly as a joke, something to make me try really hard.  Well, it worked.  I wrote a lot of emails, did a fair bit of blogging, and pulled all the strings I could think of.

And I learned a lot along the way.  I had never really tried to raise money before (and my bank account will tell you that I’m terrible with money), and now I have a few ideas for how to do so in the future.  People are, in general, extremely generous.  For example, I met a woman in Seattle named Mary O’Neill, and after speaking with her for about five minutes, she asked for my address.  A few days later, $100 check showed up in the mail from her, because she wanted to support a worthy cause.  Getting Sports Basement to donate a $50 gift certificate was as easy as calling the store and asking if they’d be willing to donate an item.  Several of you have come forward and donated whatever you could, and it’s been very inspiring for me.  I have to say, it’s been a great way to get in touch or stay in touch with folks.

If you’ve been thinking about donating, now’s the time.  Help us get as close to $26,000 as possible!

In the meantime, I’m recovering from a hangover, working my face off, and getting antsy thinking about this weekend.  I start very early Sunday morning, and I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line, hoisting a few beers, and kicking back at my house in Kensington with lots of food and some good friends.  Let me know if you want to come to a post-race BBQ at my place!

Tapering and Getting Ready for Game Day

Posted in Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 by Spenser

Holy crap, in five days I’m supposed to run really really far.

About this far:

Click the image to see it full size.

Take a look at the map, too.  If you’re planning on coming out to watch the race, I’d recommend hanging out somewhere in the park, because we’ll be passing certain intersections twice.  It’s also walking distance from our house in the Haight, and bathrooms, couches and relaxation will be available to you there.  Let me know if you plan on coming out (you know how to get a hold of me), and I’ll be happy to dispense some advice.

And here’s how the elevation changes look:

Click on it to see the thing full size, yo.

So the hard part of training is over, after the long run in Seattle.  The idea now, according to Coach Uncle Andy, is to run just enough to keep the blood flowing and the muscle memory intact, but little enough to ensure that the body is in tip-top physical conditioning.  I’ve heard this is more or less the same for just about any sort of training (just ask the most fit dude I’ve ever known, Steve Edwards.  Read his blog to be inspired, or perhaps disgusted with yourself).

This week, I’m running for about 20 minutes in the morning, followed by some stretching and rolling out the tension in the IT bands.  It’s a great way to wake up, and it’s also got me chomping at the bit.  Compared to the 16-17 milers, a jog around the Panhandle feels like walking to the fridge.  I barely get warmed up by the time I’m coming home, shucking my shoes, and making breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, the other awesome part of this training phase is that I’m supposed to eat copious amounts of salty foods, particularly carbohydrates.  I guess this is my reward for having spent untold hours pounding the ground with my feet.

Between now and race day, I’ll be working hard, as WebGreek just signed its first national account (!!!).  I’ll also be grooving at the fundraiser/birthday party on Wednesday night.  I’ll be eating.  And I’ll be looking forward to relaxing all of Sunday afternoon with beer in hand and comfy chair under my butt.

The Last Long Run; The Home Stretch

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 by Spenser

I’ve just returned to the glorious Bay Area after a glorious week in Seattle.  We (WebGreek) attended a tradeshow for the Fraternal Executives Association.  Without tipping our hand too much, we made a great big splash.  The basic gist is that we are the new kids on the block, and we are bringing the new school funky badness that everybody wants to get down with.  The old players, well, they’re old news.  The age of WebGreek is nigh upon us, and I hope you got your umbrella cuz this owl will be raining down a storm of awesome.

But you don’t read this blog for abstract, superlative-laden ministrations of our own superiority in the business realm.  So on to the running thing.

Firstly, I am happy to report that we’ve raised over $11,000!  Thanks to over 30 donors and $7700 worth of challenge grants, we are nearly halfway there with over a week to go.  Some additional good news: there are still a couple grand worth of challenge dollars out there, so anything up to that amount is still getting doubled.  A big thanks to those who have generously opened their hearts and wallets for this cause. You make this whole gig worthwhile.

Also worthwhile, and also big news, is the PARTAY!!!!!!!  So yesterday was my birthday (thanks mom for carrying me around for 26 years and 9 months), which means a celebration.  There will be a rather large Party/Fundraiser at Mars Bar on Wednesday, July 21.

Now, there are a few questions, so without further ado, here’s the FAQ

1. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is, I was yanked from my comfy placental nook precisely 26 years ago, and in this country, we celebrate that.  I figure that I can roll a celebration into the birthday challenge fundraising goal, by hosting a kickass party, having a kickass DJ play some kickass grooves, and having all my kickass friends kick in a few bucks toward relief in a country that needs it more than most.

2. DJ? What DJ?

Why, none other than DJ One-Z, aka our good friend Scott Kasting.  He’s just graduated from Expressions, and has played at many venues including our housewarming party Mad Haight, and Dirty Dishes.  He’s been working on some killer stuff lately, and is guaranteed to get your feet moving.

3. Sounds dope. How much should I be expecting to contribute?

We’ll be asking for $10 donation at the door, and hopefully there will be a drink special that will also contribute to the Haiti Fund.  Additionally, we’ll be doing a raffle, with such awesome prizes as bottles of Remy Martin and Korbel Brandy, as well as other sweet swag.

4. How do I get there?

Well, you’re in luck.  Whether you are from the East Bay or SF, Mars Bar is centrally located in SOMA on Brannan and 7th, convenient to the 101 freeway.  See below for a handy little guide.

Click on the image to see it full-size

5. What should I wear?

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do much by way of formal, but I’d never say no to seein’ you lookin’ purty.  If you got it, I would ask that you dress in blue and/or red, as they are the colors of the Haiti flag.  Mostly, I just want to see you.

If you need more details or whatever, just ask me.  I’m reachable.  Savvy?

Don’t Run With Cheeseburgers

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 by Spenser

So, due to a busy weekend of seeing friends get older, catching up with old buddies from around the way, going to two mind-blowing performances of Fat Freddy’s Drop (click on this link to listen to one of their concerts), and becoming a Divine Non-Chalant, I had no time for running. Well, no time for running 2.5 hours anyway.

I actually grew antsy, as I’m sure Vikki can attest, but all was remedied on Monday.  After a day of workin’ the WebGreek, I took off from the Haight house at 6:30 and ran.  I went through Golden Gate Park, through the Richmond to the Presidio (where I enjoyed a spectacular pre-sunset battle between UV rays and fog), to the toll plaza for the Golden Gate Bridge, down past Crissy Field, and along the water all the way to AT&T Park.  There I rested briefly and watched about three minutes of the Giants game, then ran along 3rd street to Mission Bay, took a right on 16th, and ran back home through the Mission and the Wiggle.  I basically ran the marathon backward, but without the loops in the park and the traverse of the bridge.  All in all, it was probably about 17 miles.  It took me 2:35.

The run for Monday, 6/28

I had a great time circumnavigating the entire part of SF that I hang out in, but I made a grave mistake.  I had two gigantic cheeseburgers at around 2pm.  They were still in me when I ran, to the point where I spent the first half hour trying to burp to relieve pressure on my jostling stomach.  Things turned out okay after about an hour, and it may have actually been helpful in the long run (no pun) because I felt very well nourished.  I still ate energy goo, but I never felt hungry.  Perhaps the night before the race, I shall consume 4000 calories.  Hmmm…

One Month to Go

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 by Spenser

Today is June 25th, and one month from now, July 25th, I’ll be attempting to run 26.2 miles.  I’m aiming for under 4 hours, which, I’ve been told, should be doable, as long as I can somehow replace about 1000 calories per hour.  This will be in the form of maltodextrin goop, sport drinks with carbs in ‘em, and perhaps a Larabar.

One month from now, I need to raise a lot of money to reach my goal of $26,000.  A few friends have come forward lately, but I’ll be hitting up just about everyone I know.  I’m also trying to get Touchstone Climbing to agree to a deal, where if I can get a new member to sign up, part of their initiation fee gets donated.  My fingers are crossed.

I’m also looking to host a party in mid-July for both my birthday and for fundraising purposes.  The details will come soon.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has already donated, everyone who has supported me, and everyone who has helped in any way.  This has been a fun process.

Our Lady of the Trails

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 by Spenser

Stop it Lady. Just stop it right now. You're too much.

Sup ya’ll.  So as I mentioned, I’m getting dangerously close to enjoying running.  In large part, I enjoy it because it’s getting easier, but what I’ve really enjoyed lately is the thrill of exploration.

Since my weekday running is less serious than the weekend stuff, I get to take Lady along.  For those who haven’t met her, Lady is a ball of energy in dog shape, enemy to all frisbees, and runner extraordinaire.  Once we are safely across Stanyan and into the park, I let her run free, and she will spend the first 30 minutes dashing about like a crazy person, sniffing and sprinting and chasing birds like a cracked-out squirrel with delusions about its size.  She’s an inspiration to all runners, because she can do it faster, longer, and will enjoy it more than you.  Guaranteed.

What I have been doing lately is taking Lady through some of the lesser-known regions of the park.  I spent most of my time along John F Kennedy Drive when I first started training, but now I am taking any and all manner of paths and twists and trails and turns, exploring botanical gardens, redwood forests, lakes, pine trees, and polo grounds.  Lady, who can’t seem to focus for more than a heartbeat, consistently will take the wrong trail, realize her mistake, and sprint full-tilt to catch up to me, only to over-run her target and end up on the wrong trail again.  The look on her face as she pounds the ground to catch up is indescribable.

The net result is that Lady poops out in about the time it takes me to get back home, and we both lie docilely on a giant bean bag, panting and sweating respectively.  The difference is that Lady is ready to go again twenty minutes later, while I will be frying up sausages or microwaving potatoes.

If you’re considering getting into running, and you have a dog that is under reasonable voice control, and you have trails accessible, then by all means do it.  You and your pooch will thank each other, and that’s a promise.

Johnny Paen; More About the World Food Program

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by Spenser

Johnny’s Story

Johnny Paen, from Jacmel, Haiti, is working to clear rubble, which will be transported to help build roads.  Johnny lost his wife, his two children, and his sister in the earthquake.  The World Food Program’s Food for Work project is working with Johnny to help him obtain food, buy clothing, and allow him to save some money to care for his aging, ailing mother.

I want to help Johnny.  I can’t imagine the tragedy that struck him, but I know that if we traded places, I would be unspeakably grateful for the empathy and the assistance of strangers.  And if we can gather enough cash, we can help a few more people like Johnny rebuild their lives.  Your donation will give Johnny the opportunity to help rebuild his town of Jacmel, as well as help him rebuild his life after his loss.

For more about the program, click “Read More”

Continue reading

Dispatch from China; Some Thoughts on Running

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 by Spenser

I’m writing from gritty gritty China, where I’ve done the unthinkable: I’ve run on a treadmill.  Beijing air, as those who paid attention to the run up to the Olympics in 2008 will recall, is dismal.  China managed to clear it up by cutting off all of the factories around it and inundating the sky with cloud-seeds, but suffice it to say that they did not do the same for our arrival.  Upon landing I immediately got a headache, and my throat started to clog a bit with some lead-flavored particles.  So besides a yellow-tinted sky and perpetual haze, we also had 95° weather to enjoy.  All of this meant that running in the air-conditioned hotel gym was the only way to go.

I ran for about 40 minutes at 12Km/hr, which is almost identical to the pace at which I ran Bay to Breakers.  It was excruciatingly boring.  I counted my strides and did some mental math, and calculated that over the course of a marathon I would take approximately 34,584 strides.  Running on a treadmill is also unnerving.  If you look away and swerve left or right, or fall behind a bit, you risk deep abrasions and crushing embarrassment.

Thankfully, the air in Lijiang is much clearer.  At 7,800 feet of elevation, this town is nestled in a stunningly gorgeous valley, near Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, an incredible landmark and also home to the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere.  This morning, before a tour of the old town, I arose before sunrise and ran for two hours up and down the valley.  I had surprisingly little trouble with altitude, although my run went longer than expected because there are no street signs, and I got lost.  Still a welcome change from running on a treadmill.

I’m on my way home now.  I’ve flown four times in the last two days, and have a 12 hour flight tomorrow.  I’ll be getting in around 9am to SFO, probably sore and exhausted from lack of a proper bed.

Training-wise, not much else to report.  Instead, I’d like to take this opportunity to write out my thoughts about why I really look forward to my long runs these days.  One thing I did not mention in my earlier post about running for novices is the pleasure that comes from finally getting comfortable running.  Allow me to explain:

When I get going on these long runs, the first couple of miles are given to finding my stride, getting all the muscles and joints warmed up, and getting a sweat going.  I’m running very lightly at this point.  After about half an hour, the running starts to feel easier.  I’ve gradually sped up, any tightness has been worked through, and I can feel my body getting warmer.  Then, for the period of time between 30 minutes and 100 minutes, I get this feeling like I’m not running, but actually rolling along the ground.  I feel like the marathon will be easy.  The rhythm of my feet pounding the pavement or the trail becomes the beat of life itself, the world bouncing along on its merry way as it passes by my panting perspective.

Something very funny happens in this middle hour.  My mind becomes both busy and empty, as random song lyrics pop in and pop out (I don’t run with an iPod), thoughts about life flash for a brief moment and disappear, and all I really focus on is enjoying the sensation of moving through whatever setting I’m in with the greatest of ease.  Muscles are warm, my body feels strong, and I only really think about where I’m going to take this run, and when I’m going to stop quickly and have another sip of energy goo or electrolyte water.  It’s amazing how the act of running reduces my needs to basic sustenance, and therefore makes meeting them very easy.  All I’m concerned about is keeping fueled, so that this feeling of effortless chugging along will stay around.

After about 90-100 minutes, I start to feel fatigued.  I keep the same pace, the same stride length and frequency, but the effortlessness is gone, and I have to concentrate on keeping form and on a determination to keep the wheels moving.  Nutrition and hydration become even more important at this point.  Also, at this time I’m usually about 5 miles away from home, and getting back to the shower and the refrigerator become extremely prominent desires.  (By the way, I’m not sure I’ve ever typed refrigerator before, and it’s a really funny word when you stop to examine it.)  The satisfaction at this point comes not from detached, airy floating about the world, but from enjoying the anticipation of complete exhaustion, the feeling of burning legs, the fantasy of collapse onto a bed, sofa, or hell, even the floor.  Every minute that I struggle through the pain, the burn, the heavy breathing, is a little bit more rewarding the collapse will be.  I also begin to strongly anticipate cheeseburgers.

Also, I occasionally get funny thoughts.  Two weekends ago I was running along Land’s End trail, and I thought back to a Vertebrate Morphology class I took at UCSB.  Sam Sweet, who was famous for his awesome beard, was explaining that our calf muscles aren’t meant so much as locomotors, but as “batteries” to store kinetic energy.  They basically augment the Achilles’ tendon, vascular rubber bands.  This is primarily responsible for the feeling of “rolling” along the ground when you get into the groove: you aren’t expending energy so much as just using what you’ve already expended to get yourself going.  A horse is an extreme example.  Sam Sweet said that if you could somehow kill a horse that was galloping at full stride, the kinetic energy it has stored in its body would keep it going for about a quarter of a mile.  A kangaroo’s tail is similar in its purpose, and is responsible for a kangaroo’s method of locomotion being among the most efficient of all terrestrial mammals.

What this all means, I realized, is that it actually takes effort to stop running.  In other words, once you start running, it’s harder to stop than it is to keep running.  I could extrapolate this and say that it’s responsible for runners being so damn addicted to the sport (I am beginning to feel that craving as I type), but that might be leaping to conclusions.

So is this what the runner’s high feels like?  I’ve heard people say they get it, but is this similar to what other people experience?  If you’re reading this and you run, I’m curious to get your perspective.  Do your legs feel like wheels?