Saturday, May 31, 2008

Last run

Before marathon day that is!

Today I did my last two miler before marathon day. I tried to keep it slow and easy. Did the upper back bay for 20 minutes today. Got in just a tad less than 2 miles.

Earlier this week, I ran a new short trail. I took off from Bonita Creek Park and ran south along a trail. I've never taken the route before, but when my son ran Cross Country for CDM High School, at least part of the trail was used as their home meet trail. Since my run was only 20 minutes, I wasn't sure how far I was going to be able to go - in fact I didn't know where I would be going. The trail parallels the 73 freeway as it head south. Soon, I was running under the MacArthur offramp and found myself on a dirt trail in a creek bed. The run ended right next to the ball fields at Arroyo Park in the Bonita Canyon neighborhood. Looks like I'm going to need to try this out sometime when I need to run a little longer!

Well, for now that's it folks. I'm off to San Diego this afternoon for Marathon!

I'll talk to you all after that one!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newport Back Bay Trail

Us runners in Southern California are lucky in a lot of respects. We define "cold" as 65 degrees. Humid means 25 percent humidity. This year, it rained a total of maybe 15 days. Then, there are a lucky few who live near the ocean. For us, hot is over 80 degrees. In addition, we enjoy a *ton* of great trails to run on. One of those is the Back Bay Trail, which uses a series of paved, multi use trails around Newport Bay to provide a 12 mile training path.

I belong to the Cal Coast Track club. One of the programs that the club has are various marathon and half marathon training programs that take place during the year. I am currently part of the San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon training group. A couple of weekends ago, we did a 12 mile training run around the Back Bay. I took advantage of the run to snap some photos. I thought I would dedicate a blog page to sharing this gem of a trail with others that may be interested in running the loop.

Cal Coast meets at Corona del Mar High School. The group is divided based on skill and experience, so in general there are always people to run with.

Every Saturday, we make our way out of the back of the track to Vista del Oro Street. We synchronize our Garmins, and with a hearty "GO" and a press of the start/stop button, we are off. The one neat thing about the trail network that we run is that Cal Coast has measured and marked mileage. The "Start/Finish" line is located at our starting point on the street. From that point, every half mile is marked on a number of trails.

I will be describing the Back Bay Trail as we leave CDM High School, and head to the north. The Back Bay trail is really comprised of two routes - "Upper" Back Bay and "Lower" Back Bay. Together these two routes make the Back Bay Loop. I will be describing the route by going out Upper Back Bay, and returning via Lower Back Bay.

The first mile is actually run on Eastbluff Drive. This is one of the few places where you share trail on a busy street. The grade here is gentle and downhill, so on a longer run you need to watch your pace to make sure you don't go out too fast. Just before getting to mile 1, you will get to an intersection with Back Bay Drive. If you want to, you could turn left here and do the route in reverse from what I will be describing here (out via Lower Back Bay and back via Upper Back Bay). There are some advantages of doing that. First, you will run down "the hill" (description coming later). Second, traffic on Back Bay Drive is one way going north. By running the trail in reverse, you will be facing traffic. If you are like me and run with an ipod, sometimes it's better to see the car that is about to hit you....

The disadvantage, though, of running in that direction is you will miss some of the tremendous views to be seen. The one to the left here is the first view of Upper Newport Bay just prior to mile 1. If you are wondering why you see no boat traffic on this pristine piece of water, it is because the Upper Bay is a State Reserve and is protected. Newport Bay is one of the last remaining estuaries in Southern California.

Just past mile one, the paved trail turns left at Jamboree Road. Here you will be running on paved/concrete trail for the next half mile. About a quarter mile past the left turn is a marked trail junction. Turning left at this junction puts you on the San Diego Creek trail, which provides several options for runs including the 22 mile Mountains to Sea Trail. But that is another story for another day. For this run, you continue straight ahead on the bridge over San Diego Creek.

This is the view of Upper Back Bay from the bridge on Jamboree Road. A little history - Jamboree Road was actually named in honor of the Boy Scouts National Jamboree held in 1953. It was the first National Jamboree ever held west of the Mississippi River, and was held where the present day Fashion Island Shopping Center is located.

Just past the bridge is Bayside Drive, where you will make a left. Across the street is Fletcher Jones Mercedes Benz, one of the largest Mercedes Benz dealers in the United States. When you make the left, glance down and you will see the yellow slash with the 1/2 painted in yellow. You've just passed mile 1.5 from our start point at the High School.

This photo is right at the 1.5 mile point as you turn left at Bayside. For the next 2.5 miles, you will leave traffic behind and run on a trail that you will share with walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and the infrequent equestrian. In my humble opinion, this is the gem of this trail. The views along the way are outstanding as you look out over the back bay.

Just past mile 2.5, you will encounter the first of the uphill grades you will run into as the trail rolls through the coastal scrub. This one is the worst though - about a quarter mile in length. But, the grade is gentle, so other than a little hard breathing, it provides a good break in the routine.

Things pretty much remain the same over the next mile and a half. Outstanding views, gentle rolling hills, invigorating breezes. By mile 3, the trail has taken a gentle turn toward the south, and you parallel Irvine Avenue through the West Bay neighborhood of Newport Beach.

But, just prior to mile 4, the trail comes to an end. As the photo shows, you pop out onto a short stretch of concrete sidewalk.

Here is where the trail can get a little confusing. The sidewalk comes up to the intersection of Irvine Avenue and Santiago Drive. If you follow the Back Bay Trail marked on the sidewalk, you would continue south on Irvine Avenue. Our journey though, will require us to turn left on Santiago. Normally, there are yellow arrows on the street pointing the direction of travel, but here a repaving project has covered the arrows. So, trust me at this point and turn left.

Your left turn will place you in the Westcliff/Dover Shores neighborhood for the next 2 or so miles. The only trick in this neighborhood is just past the 4 mile marker. After turning left on Santiago, watch for the yellow 4 mile mark in the street. When you see that watch next for the left arrow on the pavement at Galaxy Drive. Turn left at Galaxy. Your next mile and a half are on Galaxy Drive. Just past the 5 mile mark watch for the small park on your left where you can refill your water at the water fountain.

The next point of confusion is past the park about a quarter mile where you run into an intersection at Polaris Drive. At Polaris continue straight! If you turn at Polaris, you will run down the hill toward the Newport Aquatic Center, which means you'll have another climb out of the "hole". If you have any questions, follow the yellow arrows to Santiago where you make a left turn. Follow Santiago until it begins to turn left, where you enter a trail just to the left of the start of the turn.

There are several yellow arrows - so just follow them to the trail.

At this point, you are off the street and back on shared paved trails. The trails run behind a neighborhood known as Castaways. The views are once again spectacular!

That's actually my youngest son rowing his single skull down on the back bay. Castaway's is the half way point on the trail. Keep your eyes peeled for the six mile marker! Past the six mile marker, the mileage marks will actually be counting down. Stay in the park and follow the yellow arrows.

The next mile or so has you going down this steep portion of trail to the intersection of Dover Drive and Pacific Coast Highway. You turn left at PCH and go over the bridge. As you go over the bridge you pass the yellow 5 on the street telling you that 7 miles are now behind you. Follow the yellow arrows and turn left at Bayside Drive.

This next section of trail is definitely my least favorite. The only view is of a concrete block wall on your right, and the back of the Newport Dunes Resort on your left. It lasts a little over half a mile .

At the end of that trail, and coincidentally at mile 8, you will pop put on Back Bay Drive (remember that name from mile 1?) Here you are back on a short but busy section of road. The can be a bit of auto traffic on this stretch of road with Newport Dunes on your left and the Newport Beach Hyatt on your right. This is a short stretch of road, and once you pass Shellmaker Island on your left (the State has a new Interpretive Center there), you are back on one way road.

For the next 3 miles you will be on Back Bay Drive. This is a popular stretch of road with many many cyclists, runners, walkers and inline skaters. But the caution is that cars also use this road. While the pedestrians flow both directions, auto traffic is one way travelling north. That means the autos are travelling the same direction as you are. A loud ipod and often you will not even know a car is there until it passes you. Stay to the left in the pedestrian lane to avoid any problems.

Just past the 1 mile marker (meaning 11 are behind you), you start up "the hill". This is a steep stretch of trail - gaining 100 feet in about a quarter of a mile. When you get here make sure to pay attention. Coming downhill can be Bomber Biker. The last thing you want so close to the finish is to be a casualty of an out of control cyclist.

At the top of the hill, it's time to take a brief rest, catch your breath, and turn right on Eastbluff Drive.

Here you rejoin the trail that you started on 11 and a half miles ago. Jog up the gently sloping hill to Vista Del Oro, turn right and greet the start/finish mark that started this whole madness!

That's the extent of the Back Bay trail - one of the pristine trails that we get to run here in Orange County!

If you want to see other pictures, feel free to visit my Flickr site at For a unique view of these photos on a map of this route, check out

Slow week...

Well, at this point I am in full blown taper. I know my body needs the rest - I've been really tired the past couple of weeks. On my runs I was feeling a few tweaks here and there - more probably from not hitting the weight room and doing my stretching, but this close to the big day, I just want to make sure I don't blow it and really hurt myself.

This week was three days at 30 minutes per day and a six mile long run on Saturday. I put in a little over 15 miles, so this week was at an easy pace. The good news is that even at an easy pace on Saturday (an it was pretty easy), I still beat my PR for a 10K! Something is working!

So, for now, it's one last easy week, and then MARATHON TIME!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Newport Back Bay Trail

This past weekend we ran our last long run as part of our San Diego Rock n' Roll training program. I have been physically tired lately (don't really know why) and have started to feel some tweaks here and there, so I didn't want to push things too hard. According to McMillan, my long run pace should be between 11:00 and 12:00 per mile, so I thought I would settle in and take it easy. What better opportunity than to take the new camera out and snap a bunch of pictures of the run!
I plan on putting a description of the run together -right now I am playing with some features of Flickr to place the photos on a map of the course. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it and have something later today for you all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Twelve in the Heat

Yesterday's run was fun. Fun but slow.... Twelve miles in wilting heat (at least wilting for us Southern Californians).

The last of our long runs had us running around the Newport Back Bay for a nice little 12 mile jaunt. The heat was oppressive, and we started at 7:30 AM! I wilted, but still finished - out of water, out of energy, and at an 11:00 plus overall pace - but finish it I did! Unlike my 16 miler a couple of weeks ago, I didn't have any cramping. My legs - more specifically - my calves, just ran out of juice!

Over the next couple of days, I will post some photos and descriptions of the Back Bay trail. For now, photos are posted at

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Turn up the heat!

Yesterday I tried to keep my four miler pretty easy. Someone has turned on the heat around here! I took off at 5:00 PM, and according to the NWSZ, it was a balmy 85 degrees outside! Add a little humidity, and I was soaked in no time at all! I kept it to an easy 4 miles at a 10:00 pace.

These runs have been getting easier and easier lately, but for some reason, after today's run my legs were pretty tired - fatigued even. I think that means I'll take it slow and easy tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Just biding my time...

With only a couple of weeks left until the big day, I'm just biding my time. Put in my 4 miles yesterday and 4 miles today. I'm trying real hard to take it easy and to not end up hurt before the marathon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Three weeks and counting!

Three weeks left until the big day! Got my paperwork in the mail late last week. I'm back in Corral 12 with my anticipated finish time of 4:30. I need to find out if they actually have pace teams or if we are all kind of on our own....

Work has been hectic these past weeks too. Last night I was supposed to put in 4 miles, but didn't get home until 8 o'clock or so, so I decided that I would be flexible and do it tonight. So, this week will be short runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and then a 12 miler to wrap up the week this Saturday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Piece of Cake!

Yesterday's 14 mile run was really that - a piece of cake. I set a pace target of 10:45, near the low end of my long run pace according to McMillan and set off up the river trail toward Irvine. It was a perfect day for running - low overcast, 63 degrees, slight breeze. I had all systems set and ready to go for a final long run test.

I felt real good on the run. I didn't stop until I reached the turn around point at 7 miles. Took my two packets of Gu, drank a few ounces of water and set on my way back. At mile 12 I still felt good - which is a big deal because I have come to dread the last two miles of these runs. It's the mental challenge of the upcoming 100 foot climb over the last mile and a quarter toward the start/finish. So many times this little piece of the run kicks my butt just as I have very little left. I geared down and slowed down to get up and over this last hurdle yesterday. My last mile split shows that - I dropped to an 11:49 to get up over the hill, but I still finished at a 10:36 for the 14 miles. Hmm... maybe a 4:30 is not out of the question!

Here are a couple of pictures of the trail taken last week:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Taper has Started

Well, I guess we are on the downside of our training program at this point. Our peak mileage week was last week at 33 scheduled miles. This week we drop our short runs from 45 minutes (4.5 miles) to 40 minutes (4 miles) Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We have a long run on 14 miles on Sautrday this week, and 12 miles on Saturday next week. Then we really do taper by droping miles down to 3 a day 3 times a week with a 6 mile long run, then 2 miles a day 3 times a week before the big weekend.

I'm looking forward to the marathon at this point. I want to be careful to make sure I don't injure myself prior to the big event. I am also looking forward to post recovery in a couple of months to work on driving mileage up closer to 50 a week or so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My new Camera

As you can see in my last couple of posts, I finally got a running camera. I had some pretty specific requirements. First, the camera had to be small enough to fit in the pocket of my Nathan Fuel belt. Second, it had to be easy to use - the more point and shoot the better. Obviously, if I'm running, I can't be taking gobs of time to be adjusting a camera to take a shot or two.

In today's market, there are literally hundreds of cameras that meet these requirements. The information out on the Internet is voluminous and confusing. I ended up relying on two main information sources for my camera review: CNET( and the "What Camera Should I Buy?" forum at ( I used CNET to find the cameras that looked promising, and to converse with others about their experiences with those cameras. When all the smoke cleared, I had a short list of 3 different cameras:

(1) Canon Powershot SD1100/SD1000: This was the smallest camera of the group. Canon has a reputation for great photo quality.
(2) Sony DSC-T300: This was the fastest camera of the three I looked at.
(3) Olympus 790SW: This was the simplest camera I looked at. Also, the SW line is waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof.

I ended up with the Olympus. The main reason was for selecting this one was the fact that the camera is waterproof. That means that I can put it in my fuel belt pouch or even carry it in my hand and not have to worry about my perspiration affecting the camera. Also, since the camera is shockproof (advertised to be able to withstand a drop of 5 feet), it will hold up to the repeated shock of running over distances. Also, I went to the Olympus refurbished web store on eBay and purchased the camera for less than $200.

The camera actually fits in my hand:

So far, the quality of the few pictures that I've taken seem to be good (it has 7MP resolution compared to the Sony and Canon at 10MP). It takes video and has image stabilization as well. My biggest beef so far is it's speed. It is not the fastest camera - especially when I want to take action pictures. I can only seem to squeeze out a picture a second...

Bottom line - if you are looking for a good point and shoot that can stand up to the punishment that we as runners can dole out, consider the Olympus. But, if you want higher quality photos, or need an ultracompact point and shoot to take action shots, then this camera is not the one that would make you happy.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Some photos of where I run

After Saturday's 20 miler, we have started a "mini-taper" period. Our weekly runs scale back to 40 minutes each, and our LSDs will start reducing in length.

So today, I armed myself with my new Olympus 790SW camera and took a few pics of my route. For those of you familiar with the Newport Beach Back Bay area, I start my runs at the Newport Aquatic Center (NAC). I head north through Dover Shores, and take off toward the upper Back Bay. For a 40 minute run, I do a 20 minute out and back:

Immediately leaving the NAC and turning north, the first thing that you will encounter is a hill. It's not much of a hill (87 feet according to my Garmin), but its enough to get the heart pumping:

Next, you wind your way through Dover Shores, a development of older but nice homes. Most of the homes in this neighborhood are in the $2.5 to $4 million price range. It is a quiet neighborhood, but there is enough traffic to require some caution. About two miles from the start, you pop out of the neighborhood and encounter the Back Bay trail. From here on, you will get to enjoy views of the ocean, bay, flora and fauna:

For me today, I ran about a mile of the Back Bay trail and then turned around and headed on back.

There is one thing that is really neat to know about this trail. The Back Bay Trail is actually an organized trail maintained by Orange County:

The club that I currently run with, Cal Coast Track Club, also has marked the trail. The markers actually start at Corona del Mar High School (I'll show that some other time), and the trail is marked every 1/2 mile:
And at each mile:

When the trail turns, you need only to follow the arrows:

To be sure, there are tons of other mileage marks around, but if you do use this trail, the yellow mile markers are accurate (set by GPS).
All in all, if you start at the Start/Finish line next to the track at CDM, and follow the marks around the back bay, you can make a nice 12.5 mile loop! But that's for another day!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

20 Miler Madness!

After last week's long run, yesterday was the day I was kind of dreading - the 20 miler. I made it though - nothing fancy, no speed records, but I made it!

I am still feeling the effects of a cold that I had earlier in the week, but I think I only had to stop and hack twice in the 20. Plus I actually felt good right up until mile 17 or so. At that point, I ran out of gas and started my slowdown to the finish. But - I did finish! That's great considering what happened last week!

I did make a few changes this week over last. First, I took in 200 calories before leaving for the track. Second, I took only water for hydration instead of Ultrafuel. Third, I rearranged my training calendar so that I had Friday off instead of trying to put in a training day the day before my long run.

But, I think the most important change was that some of our club members (unfortunately injured over the course of training) manned a water station for us! Since we ran an out and back, the water stop at 6.7 miles meant that we got to stop and refuel at one third the distance, and then again at two thirds the distance. A final "mini" station at mile 18 was the last inspiration that I needed to got over the hump. The 1 minute stop at the station was such a great break in the monotony of the run that I left the water station invigorated and ready to go! What a lifesaver!

I did learn some important things for the upcoming marathon - first, I need to take some calories during the run. I took two gel packs at mile 10. They really helped. I am sure that another couple of gel packs at mile 17/18 would have given me a little jolt that I sorely needed. Secondly, the 200 calories for breakfast helped. I hardly felt tired at the 10 mile mark.

Now for the bad - my feet were killing me by mile 18. It felt as if I had something in my shoe, but it turns out is was just my feet being wet and tired. I ended up without any blisters though, so that I guess is a good thing. Third and most important - I learned that a 10:00 pace for my first marathon is probably unrealistic. I had a couple of bad miles yesterday (jogged at 4 mph or less) that pushed my average pace to 12:00. That puts me on pace for a 5 hour marathon. I am hoping that tapering will help and I'll still make at 4:30 or 4:40, but after yesterday that may not be realistic.

Today I'm actually not too bad. My back and hips are a little stiff, but my legs actually feel good (no pain). One thing for sure - next week's 14 miler will be a piece of cake!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Getting better

I put in a run of a little over an hour yesterday. I'm definitely feeling better. No coughing and hacking while I go. After the run - well that's a different story, but at least I put in some miles tonight. One hour ten minutes, 7 miles. Nothing record setting, but I did get my miles in.

Time to do some recovery Friday for the Saturday 20 miler. I'll make sure to carry *water* this weekend and get some food before takeoff.

Talk to you all later!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Think I'll Stop and Cough up a Lung...

Maybe there's another reason I couldn't finish my long run last weekend. There has been a cold that was making its way through our house the past couple of weeks. I thought I had been able to avoid it, but no such luck. I started feeling bad on Sunday, and by Monday I was congested and coughing. To be sure, I did not have it as bad as the others in the family had it, but nonetheless, I've been hacking away for the past few days.

I missed Monday's run because of travel. I had to go to Yuma Arizona for a couple of days. I had hoped to be able to make it there in time to get my run in, but I wasn't able to leave until late in the afternoon, so I didn't get into Yuma until early evening. It was a nice drive though!

Yesterday I laced up my shoes and ran north out of the NAC. I did put in an hour, but had to stop and cough up a lung a couple of times en route. Bottom line was that I couldn't make 6 miles (5.92 according to the Garmin). I'll do another hour today, and then take Friday off in anticipation of Saturday's long run.