Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miles and Miles

Friday morning started early at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa.  After a little sleep, the roosters started crowing well before dawn and I was awake and pulling my last bits of paraphernalia together at 5AM sharp.  My last solid meal was a simple chicken breast at about 8PM the night before, so I was a little hungry.  I made a protein shake comprised of Perpetuem mixed with some egg based protein powder.  I used this to wash down a final Hammer bar.  In addition to the shake, I took on about a liter of water, careful not to overload on fluids that I would have to rid myself of later.

I strapped on my heart rate monitor and my Garmin 310XT to track my position throughout the day.  While my heart wasn't down in the 50's as it is at rest after the many hours of training that I have put in, it was still in the mid-60's and I was feeling calm as I pulled my gear together and called for our truck.

By 6:10AM, we were on the road headed on a thirty-five minute drive from the hotel to The French Laundry for the start of the 40-mile run.  I nervously switched on the radio as the first evidence of the dawn found its way over the eastern mountains separating us from Napa Valley.  I knew that whatever song I heard would likely repeat through my head for many hours to come.  And luckily I found myself singing along to Mumford & Song - The Cave as we crested the very pass that I would struggle to cross about four hours later.

Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Fitting lyrics as we descended into the valley and started north on 29 for the final few minutes before we reached Yountville, California.  I didn't push my luck any further and switched off the tunes, still repeating the lyrics in my head.

Upon arrival at around a quarter to seven, I went straight to work.  Jason the Medic had arrived in his brand new 2011 Jeep Wrangler - a beacon that I would come to search out on the horizon over the hours ahead.  We exchanged hand shakes and a quick look at my watch let me know that the time was drawing near and my heart rate had crept up to the high 70's.  I wasn't nervous yet, but I was certainly feeling a little adrenaline pulsing through the body.  The coolness surrounding us contributed to the moment and the fresh 36-degree air felt splendid in my lungs.

I went to a bench overlooking The French Laundry's beautifully manicured herb garden and pulled tightly on my shoe laces, really focusing in on the task at hand.  I stood up to stretch against the beautiful trees lining Washington Street in Yountville, and then much to my pleasant surprise, a whole cadre of well-wishers showed up, almost at once.  My parents who had trailed us out to the starting point were joined by my wife's parents and quickly thereafter several of my professional associates and then one of my co-workers with her friend, the Olympian in tow on bicycles.  Finally, clad in a poorly sized 40for40 T-Shirt came Cousin Joe and his lovely wife.

At this point, I provided a little bit of comic relief as the liter of water had to be cleared out, so kneeling near the rear tire of the truck, I did the only thing I could of, short of fertilizing The French Laundry radishes, as my business partner so appropriately pointed out.  Although the caffeine clearly hadn't settled in for most of our supporters, I was greeted with a semi-circle of glowing smiles and after a short unplanned welcome and thank you by yours truly, I left the scene at 7 minutes past 7 headed north toward Yountville Hill and away from the warm applause from our supporters.

As with any run, the first few kilometers were less about the overall journey and more about finding a rhythm.  The glorious uncertainty is what makes each run unique.  Would my knees be hurting today?  How would my stomach be - receiving to the protein mixes that would be come my diet for the rest of the day?  Would I struggle to settle in an appropriate pace or would I relax and allow myself to do what I had come to do?

I almost answered the question as to whether I would be sure footed at only 1.8 kilometers into the run.  As I turned from Washington Street onto Hwy 29 North, i cut the corner across a gravel patch and my left ankle rolled over far enough to give me a jolt and remind me that while I would exceed 60,000 paces along the day, the run could end in failure on any one if I didn't take each one carefully.  After I scampered past my first scare, I was happy to see that the pace was settling in to just under 8 minute miles and my heart rate was working well below the 160 bpm target that I had set for my average.  I was finding my pace and without a bit of knee pain.  I felt that I was on my way.

By pure coincidence the route covered almost exactly 10 kilometers by the time I made a turn South onto the Silverado Trail.  I had covered my first 10k in a respectable 48 minutes, 36 seconds.  After correcting some confusion with Jason regarding water deliveries, I started settling in to a fairly consistent delivery of hydration.  On my Fuel Belt, I carried two flasks.  One was an 8-oz flask dedicated to my energy mixture.  This slurry of strawberry-vanilla Perpetuem, vanilla Hammer gel, electrolyte-rich Endurolytes, and water was intended to be consumed over a 90-minute period on a regular basis.  The other flask was pure H2O and as planned, I only took this on as I felt thirsty.  I settled into a rhythm of slurping some energy mix every 3 kilometers (approximately 1.8 miles) and found that I was putting down 8 ounces of water about every 20 - 30 minutes.

I got a special treat at 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) as I was greeted by my three boys and my beautiful wife at the Soda Canyon Store heading south.  I crossed the road and pulled my glove off to slap some high-5's to the gang and just as quickly as I arrived, I was gone - moving on down the road.  My average heart rate was in a good range - 161.5 and I was still turning out good miles with my overall average pace at 07:52 per mile or 04:53 per kilometer.  As I saw Sylvia and the gang pass me once more on their way back to Sonoma for their day of fun at Sonoma West Safari Tours, I was just passing through the half-marathon mark in 1 hour, 43 minutes.

At the 2 hour mark, I was cruising through the town of Napa and happy to be going through before the rush of the day had started.  The streets that I had surveyed months ago and had wondered about many times were somewhat void of traffic and I was never concerned for safety as I worked my way from North to South.  Even the weather was better than I had imagined.  The temperatures at 9:30 in the morning were still in the low 40's so my long sleeve shirt was just the thing, but the sun was shining solidly and I felt the warmth on my face.  Before I knew it, I was through and the town of Napa was at my back and the first real hills on Old Sonoma Road were in front of me.

Miles 19 and 20 really showed that my pace would slow as I moved through the hills.  As per my plan, I slowed to keep my heart rate under control and allow my pace to slow accordingly.  I was able to keep my heart rate below 175 throughout the first real hills and my pace remained below 9 minutes and I recovered nicely into the lower 8's as the the hills subsided.  I spent the next few miles rolling through the Carneros landscape enjoying the beautiful scenery on a very idyllic and almost country road, the first of its type in many miles.

At Mile 22, I turned from Old Sonoma Road onto Highway 12 and started my climb toward the pass between Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  To my left the beautiful Chateau of Domaine Carneros rose up in the distance and I could just make out a group of revelers waving and cheering.  I couldn't make out the specific calls and was too far away to see their faces, but I knew that our friends and supporters had made it to their first destination on a Sonoma wine tour.  Their next stop was some 16 miles away on my map and as the hills rose up in front of me and the tractor trailers thundered by, those 16 miles seemed quite a ways away.

The next few Miles involved some considerable hills and my legs showed me that they were beginning to feel the effects of the run.  Mile 23 as I left Domaine Carneros behind was my last mile below 9 minutes and while the hills were steep during Miles 24, 25 and even 26, I was mostly descending as I passed the marathon mark in 3 hours, 36 minutes.  And although the elevation was moving back toward something closer to the level of the sea, I felt the first stages of cramps starting to set in.  At Mile marker 25, I made the first change to my electrolyte intake.  I asked Jason the Medic for two additional Endurolyte capsules and asked him to hold any further requests for the capsules for another hour.  The Endurolytes should be taken in metered increments to avoid an overload.  I tried to up the water intake as well, since I could feel that my lips were dry, but as I crossed through 27 miles, I could tell that my efforts to rehydrate were going to be too late.  My quadriceps were fluttering steadily and while I hadn't fully cramped up, I knew what was coming.

I was running near the famed vineyards of Gundlach Bunschu when Lisa, my co-worker and William the Olympian rounded the corner at Denmark Street on their bikes.  They had been trailing me from the start and after 28 miles had caught me.  I enjoyed their company as I approached Mile Marker 29 and what would ultimately be my first stop.  As the cramps settled in, I knew that I needed some distraction, so I put on my iPod and turned inward with some cocktail hour specials from DJMK.  This first stop was less than three minutes, but pushed my first mile above ten minutes as I crossed past 30 miles.

On the streets of Sonoma, the cramps were strong - each step more difficult than the last to get air between my feet and the ground.  My average miles went above 10 minutes at Miles 31 and 32 as I made my way over the Sonoma Bike Path with William the Olympian as my silent shadow on his bike.  I enjoyed the company and tried to focus on the music in my ears and the beautiful meadows on the sides of the Sonoma Bike Path.  At times I could move my mind away, but it seemed that not many steps would pass before the cramps would strengthen and remind me that I was only 80% complete on the task at hand.

As I exited the Sonoma Bike Path, I turned North on Highway 12 and was forced to cross the street to continue west on Verano Avenue.  Unfortunately for me, the traffic was heavy at the time and the lights didn't work in my favor; I was forced to stop twice while making the crossing.  That pause in my stride was more than I could handle and the cramps came on in full waves.  I was going to need to stop and try to rehydrate and stretch.  Jason was parked just past Highway 12 on the north side of Verano Avenue and for this I was pleased.  I laid down on the bed of his jeep and tried to stretch my quadriceps into submission while taking on some additional hydration.  After a six minute pause beneath the golden arches, I was able to stand up and begin again.

Miles 33 and 34 were not as bad as the ones before.  I left Sonoma behind me with miles just over 10 minutes and my heart rate in the 150's, but slowing.  While I wasn't cramping completely now, my muscles ached from the cramps that had been settled in for the last hour and my strides became more forced.  I quickened my cadence slightly to compensate, hoping that a shorter, quicker stride might find me into a solid rhythm.  But I just couldn't get back into the groove.  And as I slowed, a new battle began - my body heat.

As I made my final turn to the North on Arnold Drive, I could feel my teeth chattering and could feel the chill in the air start to settle upon me beneath a now cloudy Sonoma sky.  I managed three miles in all along Arnold Drive before reality started to settle in - I was starting to get cold and I was starting to really question my ability to achieve my goal of finishing 40 miles.  As I approached Madrone Road, just shy of 36 miles, I decided that I needed to change some clothes, warm myself up, drink some water and give myself a chance to recover.  I settled into the passenger seat of Jason's jeep and cranked the heater up to full blast, while donning wind pants, my running vest, a sock cap, and a new pair of gloves.  In all, I spent thirteen minutes huddled in my shelter before setting out again - this time at a much reduced pace.

For the next two miles, Miles 37 and 38, I would be only walking and drinking water - working to rehydrate myself for the finish.  As I walked - straight-legged to prevent further cramping - my mind cleared and I realized how shaky and dizzy I had been for the miles before.  Just before Mile 37, I tried some guerilla stretching and attempted to restart my running pace only to be shut down again amidst full leg cramps that threatened my hamstrings as well.  I continued walking until just past Mile Marker 38 where I made my final turn toward an uphill finish.  I could feel that the extra shots of water had taken their effect and tentatively I started in a slow shuffle and eventually found a running stride.  I was well short of my sub-8-minute pace where I had started the day, but I was happy to be really running as I clipped my way along up my final grade, a 650-foot elevation gain from the town of Glen Ellen.

After more than six hours, the few 15 minutes that it took me to make my final climb up from the Sonoma Valley to the finish at Benziger Family Winery seemed like a snap of the finger.  Before I knew it, I was hearing the cheers of our supporters and seeing smiling faces on top of a winding entrance.  I was even clipping along quickly enough to beat ole Joe up to the winery gates.  As I crossed the yellow ribbon, I was greeted by so many supporters, not the least of which were Nico, Zachary, and William, who helped me finish off my last 400 meters in the Benziger parking lot.

At the end of the run, I felt amazingly good overall.  While the legs were certainly sore, I was fully coherent and able to walk around and interact with my friends and family and the wonderful supporters of 40for40.  I was able to give my special thanks to Jason the Medic who was with me every step of the way and without whose support, I would have never made it.  Thanks, Jason!

All in all I was pleased with my performance, coming in with an overall average of 10:06 per mile.  If I ever did find myself in an ultra-marathon distance, I would work to find a better strategy for hydration to avoid the cramping.  Perhaps some longer, slower training runs where I really got to know what to expect from my body at the extreme distances.  For now, I'll leave any thoughts of ultra-long runs to the future and just sit back, relax and enjoy the rewards of a job completed - 40 miles run to celebrate - 40 miles run for the greater good.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Before taking on the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Marathon in January, I wrote an entry on nutrition where I outlined my initial strategy for staying hydrated and full of energy during the race. All in all I was pleased with the plan and never felt that I was approaching the energy wall during the race. However, as with any plan, there was always room for improvement and modification.

The first change that I made even before the January marathon was an elimination of the Sports Beans. As my preparatory long runs showed, the cane sugar from the Sports Beans just did not mix well with engineered sugars present within the Hammer Nutrition products that have become the centerpoint of my nutrition strategies.

The second modification came after I managed a face full of Perpetuem mix. I had mixed up an energy gel that was just to viscous for the spout valve on my FuelBelt squeeze bottles. As such, I've lightened up the mixture for each bottle in an effort to make it really easy to draw down during the run.

During the marathon, I only carried bottles of energy mix and relied upon the race staff to hand me cups of water along the way for hydration. For the 40for40, I'm taking a different approach. I will always keep one energy bottle and one hydration bottle in my FuelBelt. To keep myself flush with energy product and hydration, I've hired a motorcycle escort who will be ready with additional RaceBelt bottles as I need them. My goal will be one energy bottle per hour and as many hydration bottles as I need not to be thirsty.

The composition of the energy bottles is fairly simple. The first step is to put approximately 80 cc of Perpetuem powder in an 8-oz FuelBelt squeeze bottle. Perpetuem recommends 1-1/2 53cc-scoops per hour for someone in my weight class (approximately 72kg). Perpetuem is carbohydrate energy source with protein and fat and is engineered for longer duration events where the body might begin leaching muscle to make up the body's energy requirements. I tried several flavor varieties, but ultimately settled on Strawberry Vanilla. I've used it on at least two dozen runs so far and have never been unhappy to take a slurp. There are some varieties that include 25 or 50mg of caffeine per serving for those super-ultra distances, but I'm quite content to pass up the caffeine for this 40-miler.

On top of the Perpetuem powder, I drop in 6 each 0.625-cc scoops of Endurolytes. The Endurolytes are pure electrolytes and intended to counteract the loss of the same to perspiration. Hammer Nutrition recommends up to 6 scoops per hour during activities during high-heat, high-sweat activities, but as you'll see in my caloric analysis, I'll only be going through one of these bottles every hour and a half.  And with expectations of temperate weather of no more than 20 - 25 degree-C temperatures in Napa, I don't think I'll need to go to the limit. I'll be sure to have some additional capsules in my side pouch in the case that I get behind.

My plan is to give my motorcycle escort eight bottles with powder only. My escort will be able to mix the fluid during the run and hand me the energy bottles as needed. If all goes well, I'll only use six of the bottles during the event. The fluid to be mixed on top of the powder includes both gel and water. The gel is Hammer Gel. I use a little more than a double dose with 60 cc of vanilla flavored Hammer Gel. This gel is nearly pure carbohydrate with no simple sugars and no artificial sweeteners. On my 8-oz Fuel Belt bottle, this should bring me up to the 5-oz line.

From the 5-oz line up to the 8-oz line, is pure water. With approximately 1.5 servings of Perpetuem and about 2.2 servings of Hammer Gel, this energy bottle is will serve me up just about 400 calories, assuming a little bit of loss in the bottle.  Now the real challenge is - how many to drink and how often.  My first thought was to look at my training results and based on 40 miles, I can expect to burn somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 calories during my run - so you might expect that I'd have to run through 10 or more of these energy flasks.  Well after some research, I found that this just wasn't true.

I looked through some of the excellent Hammer Nutrition articles and found some very detailed scientific information that answered my questions.  In the most informative article on the topic by the Hammer scientists, they propose that the body's ability to use the fuel is limited to between 4 and 4.6 calories per minute or about 250 calories per hour.  If I consume more than 250 calories per hour, that food is only going to move down the GI tract and when it gets below the absorption areas, I'm either stopping or extra weight will be riding in places where I'd rather not carry them.  So the question is - if I am going to finish in less than 6 hours and I only am going to take in 250 calories per hour, how can I sustain a drain of 4,000 to 6,000 calories with only 1,500 calories of intake.  The answer is fat storage.  According to Hammer, I have a reserve of 100,000 calories or more just waiting inside to come forth and go beyond the calories that I take in through my energy flasks.  The real key is to make sure those calories come from the fat stores and not from catabolized muscle tissue.  I protect against catabolism with a solid intake of protein and that is where the Perpetuem shines.

So in summary, I'm planning to run through one of my energy flasks every 90 minutes and should I really just feel compelled to fill my stomach for some reason, I'll bring along some handy dandy Hammer Bars.  But who knows what my stomach is going to want at Mile 35.  That's just part of the fun.
With my energy sources settled, the next question is hydration.  Out of everything I've read and experienced, the key thing on the H2O is definitely not to force it.  Drinking too much water can really be a problem, so I'm going to drink when I'm thirsty, sipping from a flask on my Fuel Belt.

As the days and weeks wear thin and I'm looking at only seven days to go, my mind has moved into the taper.  I'm running shorter distances, stretching for longer periods of time and trying to refine my diet for a few short days as I make my final preparations.  Currently, I'm focusing on Fish and Chicken for my protein intake sources outside of my normal training aids.  And for carbohydrates, I'm working more and more Sweet Potatoes and Oatmeal into the diet on a percentage basis as the race approaches.  I've dropped nearly all spices and I'm really trying to avoid citrus juices or any other acidic fluids or intakes

As for my fiber intake, I'm not doing as much as I would normally do, but when I do it, I'm focusing on insoluble fibers.  These insoluble fibers don't break down quite as easily in the GI tract as pointed out in a really great article on the Livestrong.com website.  Carrots, beets, and cauliflower all made sense to me as low gas but fibrous vegetables, but I was surprised to see brussel sprouts and cabbage on the list of veggies that are high in the insoluble fibers.  Bananas and avocados also rate well on the scale as do whole wheat products and long grain brown rice.  I've actually enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to make my carbo loading diet taste good and look appealing.  And while I can't seem to get my co-workers interested in my sweet potato oatmeal for breakfast and lunch, I'm convinced that it will be a pre-race week staple for years to come.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shot Day

Spring is a good reminder for our family about allergies. Each one of us has our own cross to bear as the trees bud and the grasses rise up from the once wintered landscape. It is an especially tough time for Zachary. Airborne allergens drop his immunities, asthma sets in and before you know it, we are battling bronchitis or worse. And so spring is a battle against allergens so we stay ahead and we live healthy. For Zachary, the inspiration behind 40for40, two things have made huge impacts in his battle for health over the last two years -- swim team and shot day.

Northern Virginia is like no other place I've been when it comes to swimming. The summer brings warmth to our region and as the school year ends, hundreds of pools are active with competitors from pre-K to young adult stroking their way through practices, preparing for Saturday competitions in one of the 18 divisions in the Northern Virginia Swim League. For Zachary, the competition is greater than a race for ribbons and medals. Every stroke and every lap means extra lung capacity to keep the immunities up and the oxygen levels high in his blood stream. The awards that he will get this summer and the summers to come with our team, the Division 1 Tuckahoe Tigers, really is just icing on the cake.

The benefits of swimming are palpable and obvious. Since 2009, we have had a barometer with which to measure the progress. Every week, we head to our oasis in Bethesda, the Institute for Asthma and Allergy to visit our friends and get a booster shot against airborne allergens. Before every shot, Zach blows into a peak-flow meter to check his lung capacity. Prior to joining the swim team, 120 liters per minute was a high end reading. After daily swim practices began, Zachary popped up to a 175 l/min and has been 150+ ever since.

As for shot day, the only downside is a little bit of pain in each arm. But the benefits are many and go well beyond the emergency room trips that we have avoided. For Zach and for me, the benefits include a special trip that he and I take together each week. This week, Zachary is hard at play, creating a new scene amidst the palms and sands of his pirate island, while I reflect on the progress he is making. It really is a special time for us - an early rise, a bowl of cereal, some good tunes in the car and general camaraderie to start our day. No one likes a shot, but this shot really brings us together. At least one of us is happy that today is shot day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Grand Plans

The date of April 8th is well within sight now and plans are underway for a really fun event. Thanks to my friend and co-worker Susie Staiko, we have found a great company in San Francisco that is dedicated to ensuring that events such as 40for40 go off without a hitch - Cappa & Graham.

Cappa & Graham is a member of what is referred to as the DMC Network - Destination Management Companies. DMC companies got their start before rollerboards and overhead bins, in the days when travelers went on long holidays by coach, by train, and by boat. Without the convenience of today's amenities, travelers would take huge travel chests along with them and often would return home bringing their purchased prizes big and small. As they would land at ports or arrive at stations, the local DMC would do the heavy lifting so that the travel chests would arrive safely at the hotel and the ladies and gentlemen could concentrate on the more important tasks of taking in the local culture and flashing a bit of social pomp in their wake.

Now while we don't expect any large travel chests from our 40for40 guests, we do intend to organize an event that will be memorable in experience and flawless in execution, while achieving our overarching goal to raise awareness for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Cappa & Graham has really helped us put this together.

Since the site of the run is the Napa and Sonoma valleys in California, the fruit of the local farmers' labor will play a central roll in the activities for our guests. While I am working up a sweat on the open road, our guests will enjoy a private tour of two local wineries that are coordinated with the route. First stop is the beautiful Chateau at Domaine Carneros perched atop the ridge separating Napa from Sonoma. After enjoying some sparkling wine and local cheeses, our team will depart to Norther Sonoma for a pairing extravaganza featuring the wines and hospitality of the Mayo Family Winery.

As the course is laid out, Mayo is next to mile 38 and if I have trained well enough and am keeping to the schedule, our wine aficionados will get to great me as I turn home toward the final stop at Benziger Family Winery. It won't be an easy task as the last mile climbs up from the quaint town of Glen Ellen up almost 200 meters on the same road that Jack London himself traveled in years past. While I am on my way, our team will be able to take a tour of the Benziger vineyards and the beautiful gardens that are the centerpiece to their organic growing techniques.

Benziger won't just be the site for the finish line. Our group will return that evening for a private dinner in the caves at Benziger, featuring the produce of local chefs and the local vintner as well. With any luck we will have a little energy left in the tank to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of Fairmont's Sonoma Mission Inn that evening.

Thanks again to Josiline and her team. We are looking forward to April 8th. It should be a memorable event.

Friday, February 18, 2011


One of the challenges I have faced with the prospect of running 40 miles on April 8th in Napa and Sonoma in California Wine Country has been the general wear and tear that 40 years of living has taken on my body. After 16 years of baseball as a catcher and another 18 years of rugby, I have really put a beating on my knees. In fact, things got bad enough in March of 2009 that I finally went in to Doctor Annunziata of Commonwealth Orthopaedics in Virginia for arthroscopic surgery to clean things up in my left knee. I was actually thrilled with the job that Doctor Annunziata did for me and within days, my knee felt better than it had felt in many years.

After some focused physical therapy with Kevin Linde of Linde Physical Therapy, I started running again and eventually felt strong enough to hatch the concept of 40for40 nine months later in January, 2010. However, I've never completely beaten the pain in the knee as I've worked through hundreds if not thousands of miles in preparation for my 40 mile adventure. But through the pain, I have come to have a greater respect for the importance of good equipment and the importance of proper stretching and preparation.

Although even the best preparation and the most intense stretching will not prevent injury and injury is on the forefront of my mind as I move through the final 60 days of training. The week before running the Phoenix marathon last month, I started to feel some pressure building up in my left lower leg. The pressure would start as discomfort in the tibia and then radiate to the inside, but after a couple of kilometers on the road, the pain would always subside enough to push through and complete my training sessions. Even 26 miles on the road was manageable and I finished my training marathon well below my intended time. But after a few recovery runs in the days following Phoenix, I could tell that something was not right. There was no longer an option of working through the pain. The pain was here to stay and as no story is complete without adversity, I was ready to add a new chapter.

My first response was to back off completely - stop running and increase my swimming exercises. This helped, but the knot on the inside of my lower leg was not going anywhere and even normal walking was beginning to be a problem. After speaking with my friend, Schatem Boyd, owner of a Snap Fitness facility in Herndon, Virginia, she suggested that I meet Dr. Karl at American Health and Wellness.

Every athlete needs a pit crew and with the team at American Health and Wellness, I've found mine. Doctor Karl delivers the most intense deep tissue treatments I have ever experienced, coupled with extreme stretching and chiropractic realignment. The results were immediate. My range of motion improved. My stride straightened up and the pain has even started to abate. But as in any recovery, there are good days and bad, good weeks and bad weeks and now I am flatly in a recovery race - can I go pain free before attempting 40 miles in April. Only time will tell, but I'm glad to have Dr. Karl on my team.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


With the 40-mile run just 60 days away, my mind has turned toward the event and toward the sites I'll see on my journey through Napa and Sonoma wine country.

I start the adventure in front of French Laundry in Yountville, California where Thomas Keller delights guests and dignitaries with an award winning cuisine backed up by Three Michelin Stars and the award for Best Restaurant in the World 2003 and 2004.  I plan to leave amidst a little morning fog at around 7.30am.

From Yountville, I travel north through the Oakville region for a quiet tour around the Yountville Hills, passing Paradigm Vineyards along the way.  Paradigm Vineyards is considered to be a great example of the essence of Napa with their small Oakville estate.  Just north of Yountville Hills lies the well-known big hitters of Oakville – Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel, Mondavi, and many more.

From the shadows of the Yountville Hills, I journey Northeast on Yountville Cross Road – destination: Silverado Trail.  Paraduxx’s award winning wines lie just to the North at their Napa Estate as I turn south on Silverado Trail.

As I travel south on the Trail, I enter the famed Stags Leap district.  According to the Wappo Indian legend as retold by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars of Cask23 fame, hunters in the area long ago were pursuing a magnificent stag.  The noble creature reached a large promontory in the palisades towering over the Napa Valley below. Trapped between the cliffs and the hunters, the stag paused, considered, and then leapt across the chasm to safety. Having eluded the hunters, the stag’s boldness earned him the enduring admiration of his pursuers and their descendants for generations to come.  

As I venture south, I pass Stags Leap stalwarts – Silverado, Pine Ridge, Chimney Rock, Clos Du Val and more before I leave the district and move on to the district of Oak Knoll.  As I approach the town of Napa, I will pass the Oak Knoll fields of Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The iconographic columns of Darioush are clearly visible just to the east of the Silverado Trail.  Other notables include Signorello, Hagafen, Crushpad, and Judd’s Hill.

My goal as I wind my way through the town of Napa is merely safe passage.  I’ll be pushing past miles 16, 17, and 18 as I pass through the often busy city center of California’s wine country.  At the southern tip of Napa’s Bike Boulevard, I’ll pass through Fuller Park.  Fuller Park is described by travelforkids.com as a big old shady park in the heart of historic Napa, with plenty of picnic tables, a large playground with climbing structures, and a great place for kids and parents alike to relax.

After I cross Napa, I’ll leave westward on Old Sonoma Road and enter the Carneros region of Napa County.  In my first real test, I’ll move from the near sea level Napa village 100 meters higher to the base of the famed Truchard Vineyards.  I’ll meet California Route 12 near the first stop on the 40for40 Vineyard Tour, available to our guests in California.  Starting at 10am, our guests will have a sampler of the famed sparkling wines of Domaine Carneros.  If I’m running swiftly, I’ll pass our guests as they stand on the terraces of the beautiful chateau at Domaine Carneros between 10:30 and 11:00am.  To the west of Carneros lies my next test and mile marker 25.

(photo of Domaine Carneros terraces courtesy of jimg944 @Flickr)

As I pass from Napa County into Sonoma County, I must once again pick up 100 meters of elevation.  At the peak of the ridge separating the counties, I will have a great view of Mount Veeder to the North and Nicholson Ranch to the west with their luscious vines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  To the south and west of the route, I’m proud to say that I’ll travel close to the fruits of the inspirational labor of Pablo Ceja at Ceja Vineyards.  Pablo Ceja worked many years in Napa Valley in the 60’s in the brasero work program and immigrated back and forth from Mexico each year bringing gifts to his family and friends in his small village in Mexico.  Over the course of many years of hard work, Pablo moved his family to the lands of California and eventually grabbed 15 acres of Sonoma County land to call his own.  Now with 117 acres, Ceja produces 10,000 cases a year of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.

I will descend into the heart of Sonoma along Napa Road, and along the way I will pass the marathon distance traveled the first time so many years ago by Pheidippides as he carried his message of victory from the Battle of Marathon.  I turn from Napa Road to Denmark Street passing by the 150-year old estate vineyard of Gundlach Bundschu on the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain Range.

Finally, I will pass mile marker 30 just to the north of the city of Sonoma.  I’ll pass Ravenswood and Sebastiani and head west along the Sonoma Bike Path.  I turn north and a little west onto Arnold Drive toward the quaint town of Glen Ellen.  Along the route, I’ll pass the Sonoma Golf Club to the west and then run by Chandelle Winery, featuring Great Wines with the Spirit of Flight.  Owned by the Arnold Family, descendents of five-star general Hap Arnold, Chandelle takes its name from an aviation term used to describe a 180-degree change in direction and an increase in altitude. This maneuver is a classic test of aircraft performance and pilot skill requiring a smooth touch on the stick and rudder.

North from Chandelle, the influences shift to Jack London as I pass the Jack London Village Shops.  Flanked by huge bushes of rosemary, guests can pick up bottles of Sonoma’s best wineries not to mention some of the best olives and olive inspired products around.  As I cross, Glen Ellen, I’ll have my sights set on the second stop for the 40for40 Vineyard Tour, Mayo Family Winery.  At the Mayo Family Winery, our guests will enjoy a seven course pairing menu with wines ranging from Viognier to Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’ll grab some water for the last stretch as I turn back south and west for the final two miles of my journey.

Back in Glen Ellen, I’ll make my final turn on London Ranch Road with a final 100 meter climb up to the finish line at Benziger Family Winery.  Benziger is the epitome of a Sonoma Valley experience.  They really enjoy showing their wares and encourage everyone to learn about the wine making process.  Flanked by natural butterfly gardens to enable organic insect control, you won’t find a better spot for a vineyard tour.  I look forward to raising a glass at this special spot in the shadows of the Jack London Historic State Park.

(photo of Benziger Gardens courtesy of daryl_mitchell @Flickr)

Thursday, February 3, 2011


This morning I am reminded of the power of stopping the rhythm of the day to enjoy the task of another's request, no matter how simple. Already boosted by a moderately successful 6km run through Hyde Park, my first in two weeks as I nurse my left soleus muscle, I remembered a request of my rugby mate, Kevin. A simple request - a trinket from London for his lovely bride.

I snapped a photo of a nearby statue at Old Park Lane and then turned East toward my destination, an easy kilometer away. The path was full of city life: rubble tossed from a renovated window, shouting curses between moto and cycle, confusing encounters with left hugging and right hugging zaxes, plaid scarves, maroon, and more.

With my destination reached and my trinket in hand, I changed my order from double to go to a double to stay and now I sit in front of a four meter window overlooking Berkeley Square and am reminded that the spring of life is always one good deed away.


Thursday, January 13, 2011


Zachary and I have both had some positive feedback on our respective training in the last few weeks. And the results have really given us both some things to celebrate as the new year chimes.

First - let's start with Zach. He has been working hard on his allergy shots - getting up out of bed an hour before his brothers and slogging with me up to Bethesda. Honestly, I've enjoyed the weekly trips up to our allergy attack team at the Institute of Allergy and Asthma. I get an opportunity to be a part of Zachary's successes and I do get to spend some quality time while we wait 30 minutes after each shot (each one stronger than the previous) to ensure that there are no abnormal reactions before departing. Our typical feedbacks come in small amounts - rewards for shot bravery, nice smiles from the nurses, etc. But sometimes there are other marks along the way to track our progress.

In December, Zachary got his annual blood test to take a look at the allergen specific antibodies present in his blood stream. This is a way of tracking how strongly Zachary's body would respond to the ingestion of a particular allergen. Well this December, we got some really great news. After our third full year of monitoring, Zachary's antibodies for peanuts have dropped down from almost 50 kU/L to 20 kU/L - a really healthy improvement. It shows us that his body is really changing and beginning to be able to absorb the allergens in a more productive manner. In fact - other than an increase in walnut, he saw a drop in antibody levels across the board. That's great news.

For me, I'm approaching an important test of my ability to tackle 40 miles on April 8th in Napa and Sonoma. This weekend, I'm headed out west to participate in the Phoenix Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on this Sunday, January 16th. As I mentioned in previous blogs, I'm focused on testing my nutrition strategies and my pacing to ensure that I've got the right approach to a long distance run. As a precursor to the run, I decided to go for a 25km run this past Saturday where I took my intended nutrition mix and run at my proposed marathon pace of 4:50 per km or about 7:45 per mile.

I took my new Garmin Forerunner 310XT along with me and was really happy with the results. I used the Virtual Partner feature on the watch and at the end of 25 km I was only 97 meters off pace - less than a second per km. I'm really pleased with the results that I get via the Garmin Connect website. There's great graphs and the ability to go back and review the performance on a lap by lap basis.

And with my FuelBelt 2 Bottle Belt loaded with about one half of my intended marathon calories, I was able to take on enough nourishment to finish the run in really fresh condition.

The only challenge that I've managed as the final days approach is a really concerning ball of tension in my groin muscle. I've used a sports massage and more days of rest in a row than I've had in months to try and give myself that final preparation for the Sunday race. I'm really excited to put myself to the test and I'm also pleased to know that I've got 88 days to go before the 40for40 event for final tuning.

Don't be afraid to check out the final course. I was able to drive it on Monday. I'm going to have plenty of beautiful vistas to help me ring in a new decade.