Monday, June 25, 2007

Just Run Where You Can, Eh?

From where I sit in my hotel room, I can see the Toronto airport maybe a mile or so away. Every few minutes, a plane flies overhead coming in for a landing, close enough that you hear it go ssssccrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooowwwooosh, but at least the windows don't rattle. How nice.

I flew in last night, and I should've flown out tonight, but my flight got cancelled. I'm on a 7:10 am flight tomorrow morning to San Antonio, then I'm hopefully home tomorrow night. Today is S&S's birthday. Yes, I know, it's not a good thing to miss birthdays and holidays, and in their 11 years of existence, I don't think I've missed any. We celebrated a day earlier on Sunday with family, and they've had a friend and a cousin stay over the weekend and again tonight, so they've been in extended party mode for a few days now.

Back to running ... Toronto should be a nice place to run. I was here several years back with S. and remember the downtown waterfront area to be quite picturesque. Unfortunately, when I went out for a run this morning, the airport area was predictably much less scenic, unless you enjoy views of offsite rental car lots, highway interchanges, and fast food drive throughs. I did eventually reach a residential area, and it had a nice greenbelt that was deserted and peaceful. It was a nice change of pace and scenery. I got in about 4-5 miles and that was good enough for me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

ShoeWash 5K

Well, actually, it was the Dadfest 5K yesterday. I was in my closet quietly getting changed when I heard the first drops of rain coming down. Big drops, still spaced far apart. Sydney was signed up for the 50 yd dash, for which she received her first running medal in this same race last year, but this year she was still sound asleep in our bed where she had sneaked in overnight. At the sound of rain, I decided to let her sleep in while I eagerly quickened my pace, grabbed by still mud-caked shoes from the Mango Madness run, and headed out the door.

I arrived at the race with about 15 mins to spare. It wasn't raining yet up there, but the PA announcer was already calling wave after wave of the 50 yd dash, trying the get the kids program done before the rain came down. He barely made it. After the last wave, he called the 5K runners to the start line, and as we did, the clouds let loose and it started raining buckets.

At that moment, you knew you were part of a special assembly, runners that step up when conditions threaten, runners that toe the line while spectators dash for cover, runners that run come hell or high water, and we were about to get a LOT of water. Or it's possible that we were just plain nuts.

You could feel a buzz of excitement as we all waited to start the race, hoping to not miss out on the rain. Cheers would sound out when the wind kicked in, or when the rain came down heavier for a moment. We needn't have worried, because all 400 of us ended up running in a constant downpour throughout the entire race. While some ran in the middle of the road, I and others happily ran along the side where the water was deeper and flowing fast toward the storm drains. I was running for pure fun and long ago decided that I wasn't going to run this one for time. I was going to stretch it out. I was going to get a shoe wash. I was going to get my morning shower. Before I knew it, it was almost over. I had barely broken a sweat :-) so I kicked it in and splish-splashed my way home in 26:07.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It H.U.R.T.ed A Lot

Since the Hawaiian Half Marathon this past weekend was cancelled, I signed up for the only other race going on in town. It was an informal race, sponsored by the aptly named Hawaiian Ultra Running Team (H.U.R.T.), and yes it did.

The Mango Madness 10+ Mile Run is a trail run on the outskirts of Honolulu. I'd never done a trail run before, and now I know why. There were 30+ runners last year, and about double that this year. We started at a small innocent looking park, about half the size of a football field, set within a residential neighborhood.

As we waited for the 7:00 am start, it rained. After a few wise cracks from the race director Mike (shown above, photo courtesy of co-director Pete) about how the rain was providing ideal race conditions, there was a quick 3-2-1 and we were sent off.

We ran gently uphill on a paved road for about a half mile, and then we entered the Makiki Valley Trail. What started as a nice trail of small evenly crushed rock eventually got narrower, muddier, steeper, wildly uneven, overgrown with tree roots, and liberally plastered with rocks of all shapes and sizes. I had done 2 back-to-back 7+ mile runs earlier in the week, from Waikiki to Diamond Head, encircling Diamond Head crater and going back, but it didn't prepare me one bit for trail running. After 5 mins of this trail, most of it only 2-3 feet wide, I was breathing heavily and moving slowly. After 50 minutes of straight uphill, I finally broke out of the trail and onto a real paved road again.

Then it got worse. The next 15 minutes was on something the locals affectionately call "The Concretes". It's basically a poorly paved road that goes steeply straight up forever and ever and ever. No one around me ran it. We all walked it, and even that was difficult. I was managing about one and a half foot lengths with each stride, it was that bad. Did I mention it had rained several times since we started?

Anyway, an hour and change after the start, I finally reached the top of The Concretes and the midpoint of the run. From there, I entered another trail and it was all downhill, but not simpler. It was just as narrow, steeply declining, muddy etc. for a first time trail runner like me. I eventually finished the darn thing in 2:06, good for very close to the bottom of the barrel, but not rock bottom :-)

My vacation is over and I'm in transit in LAX on my way back to Dallas. The family units are staying a few more days in Hawaii. My calves and quads still hurt going up and down stairs, just like when I ran my first marathon. I've got some new found respect for trail runners, and I'm happy to stick to road running for now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Diamond Head 10K

In years past, the good people of Hawaii lined up to run a half marathon last Sunday through the streets of Honolulu. I would have had the privilege of lining up with them too, if they hadn’t cancelled the event a couple of months ago. :-(

Instead, I lined up for my own 6-ish mile loop run, retracing a familiar path I took when we were here a couple of years ago. It’s one of my all-time favorite routes, and I couldn’t wait to get it going again. Starting at dawn, I ran on Kalakaua Avenue towards Waikiki Beach, which was already buzzing with activity. Dozens of surfers were already in the water at first light, and others were making their way down. Running through Waikiki, it’s always an eclectic mix of surfers, runners, mostly Japanese and American tourists, and local old-timers all drawn to this one spot on the map by some magical appeal.

From Waikiki, I ran through Kapiolani Park, a wide expanse of green grass and palm trees. Here you run into dozens of runners either coming or going to Diamond Head, and the occasional biker with a little something more than biking on their mind.

At the other end of Kapiolani Park is the beginning of Diamond Head Road. It’s only about a mile to the highest point that the road will take you, on a one lane road with private homes on the right and the hillside sloping up on the left.

When you get to the lookout point, that's when the run was all worth it:

I ran a similar route again this morning, but instead of starting out on Kalakaua Avenue, I started out on the beach. This is view from my start line, with my destination Diamond Head straight ahead.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Moonset over Maui

I ran one more time on Friday morning, getting out there by 5:15 am to catch the moon setting over the horizon. How was I to know that the lunar schedule varies widely from one day to the next? This time, the moon was still high in the sky, so I started running instead of waiting.

As I ran north towards Kihei again, I occasionally glanced back to see how the moon was setting. Over the next 20 minutes, the sun rose in front and to the right of me, while the moon set over my left shoulder.

In the last shot, the moon has settled into the hazy orange band above the horizon, and is barely visible about 1/3 of the way from the right edge. Back at my hotel, another beautiful day begins.