Showing posts from 2019

Race Review: San Diego Santa Run

I may have mentioned the second half of 2019 was all about novelty races for me. My schedule and training limited my distances, but there are plenty of offbeat 5ks and 10ks here in my hometown of San Diego that I hadn't tried.  One of the big ones was the annual Santa Run in downtown Pacific Beach this past weekend. Just blocks from the Crystal Pier and boardwalk, this is truly a race for anyone and everyone. I walked it with my nephew and a friend and always had plenty of company because this race is big, as in 4000+ participants, all dressed in similar Santa Claus costumes. Getting there: Locals know it can be hard to find parking in PB, especially on weekends. Throw in road closures for the race and subsequent holiday parade and, well, welcome to San Diego. We assumed I'd be circling for on-street parking at least a half mile away on some side street. Then I turned the corner and found a spot one block from the start and finish on Garnet and Cass! Now, if y

Fun Runnin' at Walt Disney World

Every year I attend a cybersecurity conference that this year was held at a resort at the Walt Disney World in Orlando and included a 5k fun run. When I hear “fun run,” I think more of the all-comers races of old, where you show up at a certain time and place and everyone runs a course. Very loose and freewheeling and free. When I went to register and discovered this fun run was $30 and included a technical T-shirt, branded water bottle and plastic bag, course marshals, official start and finish line, professional timing and post-race medals and certificates, I was impressed. They even had awards for the top three male and female finishers.  It was exceptionally hot in Orlando (though nothing like the heat and fires back home in California right now). The inaugural race drew about 70 participants and began at 6 a.m. (which felt like 3 a.m. to me) with 77 degrees and 100% humidity. It was still pitch black, but it’s Disney, so there were employees sprucing up the grounds be

Race Review: Surfing Madonna 5k

About a year ago I set up a Pinterest board for all of the road races I wanted to try this year, if only for the novelty. The first one I pinned was the Surfing Madonna Low Tide Run in Encinitas. Billed as the Guinness World Record Holder for Largest Low Tide Beach Run, I knew it would be a crowd pleaser and I was right. What I didn't anticipate (and neither did other newcomers) was that low tide yesterday fell at 1:30 p.m., so the 10k/12k began at 1:30 and our race, the 5k, at 1:45. Most people run mornings, mid-day or evenings, so the unusual time fit the unusual course. But it made for some odd meal planning and also for hot conditions. Getting There: The race begins and ends at Moonlight Beach, which is one of the bigger public beaches in the area. If you're going to drive to the race, get there early. Parking in nearby lots and streets is typically packed on Saturdays anyway, and yesterday was perfect beach weather (low 80s) so plenty of non-runners were there too.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

In 2010, social scientists asked some 340,000 people in 72 countries to rate their happiness using a 0 to 10 scale over a series of questions. The charted results of that seminal study resembled a U-curve, indicating people generally were happy in their 20s and 30s and then start to hit rough times in their late 30s/early 40s, reaching a low point in their early 50s before bouncing back up around 55 and beyond. One theory for the mid-life dip is that we realize, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, we’ve gone from being a man or woman with a future to a man or woman with a past. Certain achievements are cut off—like running a Fortune 500 company after toiling away as a mid-level manager or running a sub-3-hour marathon after decades as a mid-packer. We also start to suffer the unintended consequences of earlier lifestyle choices: having too much house; addictions; divorce or desertion; diabetes from a poor diet; arthritis from too many miles run on roads; etc. By the study

A Thorny Issue

Here’s the thing about running through the decades: The injuries pile up. In the early years, it’s from being too ambitious and overtraining. In the latter years, it’s from being too ambitious and tripping. And with either age group, freak accidents seem to happen only after officially signing up for a race. I’d no sooner accepted the online waiver and punched in my credit card data when I was felled by a wayward bougainvillea stalk. These beautiful plants (ours is the size and shape of a tree, but I think they are technically a shrub) need to be periodically trimmed, and sometimes the landscapers you hire don’t pick up every stalk. And these stalks have “prickers” – big ones, too. And one such thorn stuck in my foot after I stepped on it because I wasn’t paying close attention to my surroundings. I didn’t think anything of it, other than “ouch.” I was wearing thin summer flats and the plant pierced the pleather and lodged into the outside of my left foot. I pulled it

Reflections on Being in Fifth Grade Again

A SDSU basketball game halftime performance by Heartlight, the intra-city dance program my nephew did last year. Hi mom was with us in the audience, just so you know things do get better with time. It’s been a year exactly since I walked into a fifth-grade class, outwardly smiling and inwardly tormented. I was there to drop off the new student, my nephew whom I would now be raising. I knew right away he did not belong here, this child who had been orphaned and who could neither read nor write. His poor speech and facial birth defects let everyone know immediately he was different. We’d arrived in San Diego just a week prior after an Oregon family court judge finally took up my petition to move back to California. That request was challenged by his birth mother, who also happens to be my youngest sister. I always thought of myself as an upstanding citizen, but that day in court I realized that my inexperience with legal proceedings handicapped me. My sister knew how to gain t

Making the Most of The One True Comic-Con

It says everything that when I told people I was attending this year’s Comic-Con, they responded with something along the lines of “Oh, San Diego has one too?!” My response was always, “Actually, San Diego is where it all began. All the others are knock-offs.” That’s not to say that the other Comic-Cons aren’t excellent events in their own rights, but they aren’t like the one that’s descended on downtown San Diego for 50 years now. Comic-Con is huge, not just for comics and pop culture fans, but for the entire region’s economy. It draws 135,000 people from 80 countries who spend $88 million directly and $149 million altogether. It’s such a financial force that we’ve had voter drives to start referendums on a San Diego Convention Center expansion solely to keep the conference from moving north.  One look at downtown last week, and it is easy to see why a bigger venue might do. But we San Diegans are grateful to the founders and organization leaders for keeping Comic-Con lo

Bullish on Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake from Cougar Crest Trail/PCT I lost more than a few hours’ sleep earlier this week, trying to reconcile a wide range of trail reviews on the AllTrails app. Some claimed two of our planned trails were tough; some said they were rather easy. Some made it sound like we’d be bouldering to the top. Some failed to mention the true pitch to one peak. No matter. My friend Trish from Cape Cod and I had a glorious time gaining ground on either side of the mountains surrounding Southern California’s  Big Bear Lake . We even got a taste of the Pacific Coast Trail. Big Bear Lake is located about 2 hours from Los Angeles and 2.5 from San Diego, unless you hit a lot of traffic, which we did until turning off the freeways and onto the picturesque Rim of the World Highway into town. This area is better known as a winter resort town and a weekend getaway. Yet it was still a surprise to find thin traffic, ample parking and sparsely populated village sidewalks and restaurants du

Farewell, Old Faithful

Post-race party in the park I bought those bright red running shorts exactly 20 years ago at a City Sports in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. They were on sale and fit—the only pair among the discount racks that day to meet my running-purchase criteria. I wore them often in the summers and early falls and then put them away come winter to get a little more life out of them. That strategy worked well until this morning, when I grabbed them to wear for the annual Scripps Ranch 4 th of July race and saw the elastic waistband was shot.  This should have been my cue to toss them, but we were in a hurry and I wanted to get one more race out of them, if only for sentimental sakes. This is my favorite summer fun run, where many former running friends and neighbors toe the line for the 10k or equally popular 2-mile fun run. And far as I remember, I’d always worn those red shorts to this race. I had lost my running shorts during the New York City Marathon , creating endless

Hiking South Bay: Be Good to Your ‘Mother’

San Diegans tend to stick close to home on the weekends. Which is why driving down to South Bay to hike Mother Miguel Mountain this morning was a bit of a big deal. There just aren’t that many opportunities for a substantial hike in or around Chula Vista. And the Rock House Trail is probably the most popular and certainly best known. [Do not confuse it with nearby Mt. Miguel, which is no longer accessible.] Until yesterday, I thought we had a local guide. My friend Happy was going to join us and show us the way to get around. But an 8 a.m. plumber visit nixed that plan. That’s when I started doing some digging into where to go and how to get to the rockpile holding up two flags that mark the summit. And here’s where I was reminded to closely examine reviews before drawing assumptions. Most called the trail steep and many recommended hiking shoes and poles, particularly going back down. And everyone seemed to remark about the signage, or lack thereof. But degree of difficult

Race Review: Vista Strawberry 5000

How can you not like a race in which you begin on level ground, knock off a hill or two and finish with vendors from 450 booths cheering you on as you move toward a finish that includes a giant medal and equally large, fresh strawberries? Sunday was actually my second time doing this annual Memorial Day weekend running event in North County. A couple of years ago I did the 10k race with a friend and finished strong. I forgot my time or place among my age group, but the race results for that year were down last time I checked. This time I was introducing my nephew, whom I’m now raising, to San Diego running. He’d shown an affinity for it during his school’s recent jogathon. He just turned 11, is quite small for his age and intellectually disabled. No way would I foist a 10k on him, so we signed up for the 5k, which actually is the bigger draw most years. The 10k runners go first, at 6:45 a.m. which means by the time we pulled into Vista Village around 6:30, parking wa

A Field Guide to Bay to Breakers

Bay 2 Breakers 2013 from Run DMZ on Vimeo . Of all the races I did during my five-year blogging hiatus, none left as big of an impression as Bay to Breakers . This storied run from the bay to ocean through San Francisco is distinct, and not just because of the high nudity quotient or people passing the time throwing tortillas at the start . It’s more than 100 years old (ancient by West Coast standards) and in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding 110,000 participants in 1986. It remains one of the largest fields in the world, ranging from 40,000 to 100,000 on average. Bay to Breakers, to me, embodies San Francisco. There are crazy-ass costumes and plenty of people wearing nothing but their birthday suits. There are spectators drunk at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, hosting raves on the toughest part of the course, and cheering on the teams of salmon “swimming” against the endless current of runners and walkers going the other way. On a good year, there are upwards of 100

A Step Up from the Usual Exercise Routine

Deborah is beating me! (And Diane's already finished.) Every now and then I like to mix it up. I am not one for the Stairmaster, but with hiking season well underway, I needed to get in a good leg workout. So I convinced some friends to join me this morning to do repeats on the San Diego Convention Center stairs .  There are 100 of them to get to a platform with stunning views of the bay, Coronado bridge and Embarcadero Park, home in the summers to the San Diego Pops outdoor concerts . Facing the other way are stunning views of downtown. During weekday afternoons, you’ll see people going up and down the stairs doing repeats. And then you’ll see tourists giving these stair-runners a strange look. Whether you walk slowing or try to run up them, your quads and calves will be angry with you for a little while. We went when it was cool and uncrowded, as in 6:30 a.m. If you chose to go later, bring water. You’ll need it. View at the top of the stairs I didn’t do