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Archives for March, 2011

Spring is Here: Hit the Trails!

Want to find new places to run? Looking for a way to revitalize your running workouts? It may be time to shake things up and find your way to some local trails for a bit of fun in the woods.

Trail running offers a unique, challenging way to explore new areas you may not even know existed in your neighborhood. As the weather warms up and much of the nation begins to slowly thaw out, state and federal parks will become thriving hubs of activity among hikers, campers and athletes looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

A few basic tips: start slowly and on flatter terrain, as your running stride will need to adjust to compensate for uneven running surfaces. Since rocks, roots and other debris are often located on the trails, you’ll have to lift your feet and find a new slightly-modified running stride.

Trail running can be a humbling experience, even for faster, more-experienced runners. If you’re tackling a steep uphill or treacherous downhill, don’t be afraid to slow down and walk down the hill. As your body becomes more familiar with trail running, you’ll be able to pick up speed.

The San Francisco Bay Area has a number of beautiful parks and well-maintained running trails you can explore. Since we live in the East Bay, we spend the majority of our time exploring parks operated by the EBRPD (EBRPD’s Twitter) — which does an exceptional job of maintaining trails.

Even if you don’t have trails nearby, you should still reach out and contact runners in your area. They will be able to locate running spots in your area — and we strongly recommend you avoid remote, secluded areas until you’re better familiar with the geography.

Here is some additional reading for you:

Backpacker Magazine tackles the benefits of trails
Trail running basics from
I’d also recommend reading the trail running 101 document (PDF)


Runners are posting race reports, sharing pictures and videos with friends while the City of Oakland enjoys the positive impact of the Oakland Running Festival (ORF).

Last year’s event attracted around 6,300 participants and left Corrigan Sports Enterprises (CSE) owing money from the inaugural event. However, the company’s efforts in Oakland will follow the same successful blue print as its Baltimore event that successfully expanded to more than 25,000 runners.

Both the half and full marathon courses showed beautiful scenery and parts of the City that many of us wouldn’t run through otherwise. For one weekend in late March, the City of Oakland will have one more event to look forward to that shows the support from the people.

C SE picked up the $775,000 tab — including around $100,000 for Oakland Police overtime — and the City of Oakland is expected to collect more than $2 million in revenue.

As someone who has seen the good and bad sides of Oakland, it was great to see the city come out in support of runners. I know visitors from outside the Bay Area think of Oakland only as a magnet for crime and violence, though for just one weekend all was forgiven. The two ladies on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland cheering for runners  “You are in West Oakland, West Oakland, Run, Run, Run…” and their local neighborhood was well-received among runners.

There were fans lining the street throughout most of the half marathon course, cheering and supporting us the entire run.

The Oakland Half Marathon last year was my first distance race, I had a lot of fun then and I had a great time again this year, so I look forward to the Oakland Running Festival 2012.

A big shout out to the Brown Sugar Cafe on Mandela Parkway for the excellent custom brownies made just for us runners.

Casual athletes understand that running, cycling and endurance sports can be extremely expensive, especially for higher-priced compression and tech clothing. I’ve worn compression shirts and shorts, but haven’t tried compression arm or leg products — which got me thinking, isn’t it time to reach out to a new company?

Alameda Runners recently chatted with Zensah, a compression apparel company popular with athletes. We wanted to hear about the company and some of its products — and why they matter.

Some people believe running should be a minimalist sport excluding compression clothing and similar products, but supporters clearly disagree. Zensah and other companies directly promote their products by listing benefits we can expect.

“If you don’t try it you will never know,” Zensah recently told Alameda Runners. If used properly, athletes will feel feel their legs feeling fresher, and see a reduction in recovery time after those long runs. For those that run with compression they will feel like they can go longer with less exertion.”

As for Zensah’s products specifically, the company has a few items it can be especially proud of in its store catalog.

“Zensah was the first to develop compression leg sleeves. We own our own technology. Some of the other companies just joined the compression market, they are still learning how to create compression clothing. At Zensah we have always been focused on compression.”

For runners hoping to keep their legs healthy during long training exercises and races, Zensah has compression socks, leg sleeves, and shin sleeves. The leg sleeves cost $39.99 and are designed more for health and usefulness more than general warmth and looks — but we were curious how they helped.

“Zensah leg sleeves are the only leg sleeves made with a physiological design to help support the calf and reduce the risk of shin splints. Leg sleeves will help in circulation which in turn helps getting oxygen to the muscles.”

Zensah products can be purchased online at REI or RoadRunners Sports, or check your local running store. If you’ve already used Twitter, feel free to interact with the company (good or bad) via Zensah’s Twitter or Facebook account.

Kudos to the medical volunteers from the Alameda County Medical Center, as they were a great asset for anyone needing medical attention. Immediately after finishing the half marathon yesterday, I started to feel a rather uneasy feeling in my stomach … an unexpected, miserable feeling most athletes have occasionally suffered through.

Oakland Running Officials had medical stations at the start line, and at miles 4, 6, 11, 15.5, 19, and 23, along with a medical tent at the finish line. The course also had EMTs on bikes to offer needed assistance throughout the course.

The staff I encountered at the finish line tent were extremely courteous and efficient, and were quick to help any runners that needed help.

I ate a banana and some type of delicious brownie pastry during the run, which proved to be a relatively bad idea. I conveniently got sick next to the medical tent — which was located just a few feet away from the finish line — and was given some water and Gatorade. The added fluids and electrolytes helped perk me up and I felt fine just a couple of minutes later, and was able to slip out the door.

I took a few seconds to drink the added fluids and let my legs relax after what was supposed to be an easy, relaxing 13.1 miles. After reassuring the EMT that I was sick from my own foolish behavior, and just needed to rest, he moved on to help others looking in significantly more dire shape.

The Kaiser Half marathon gained media attention for all of the wrong reasons — a runner collapsed and died before EMTs were able to get to the helpless runner. It was an unfortunate incident that continually shows the importance of event planning, which is something CSE obviously took into consideration.

First and foremost, congratulations on a successful Oakland Running Festival!

For new readers, feel free to leave comments (we’ll e-mail you any pictures or specifics) or contact us on Twitter.  My account can be found here, and Ted’s Twitter is available here.  (I’m a Twitter addict and will likely be in touch a lot sooner.)

If you encountered the 2:15 pacers out on the course, feel free to check if we snapped a picture!  You’re more than welcome to re-post any of the pictures, as it’s nice to have a picture or two without paying an insane amount.

ORF 2011 Race Reports

Chic Runner’s Oakland Marathon Full race report — LINK@ChicRunner
Heather’s thoughts about finishing the half — LINK
Bike, Run, Eat, Sleep’s ORF 2011 report — LINK@thorpej
Living in the O’s ORF musings — LINK @OaklandBecks
Payam’s speedy marathon thoughts — LINK — @chunkybearcub
Pavement Runner played dress up! — LINK@PavementRunner
A Trail Runner’s Blog full marathon recap — LINK
See Dane Run — LINK

ORF runners

Big crowd

Photos from today’s race can be found on
I carried my 2:15 pace sign for the half marathon again today.  Our group was a bit smaller this year but everyone was just as happy.  I had a lot of people coming up to me after the race to thank me for setting the pace.  They were not hanging out with us but they were following for the whole race.  The course layout had some minor changes but they were all good.  The biggest and best change was finishing on the street rather than an alley.  There was a bit of a cattle shoot after the finish line that had everyone getting cozy while trying to make it past the photographers.

It was nice to see the Brazen racing crew and regulars at today’s race.  Sam completed the marathon then went to work on about 10 minutes rest.  He is a machine.
In an effort to get this post up quickly, I am cutting it short.  It was great seeing all of my old friends and great meeting all of my new friends.

Today is the first official day of the Oakland running festival 2011.  This is the biggest half marathon of the year for me.  I carry my pace sign for 2:15 for the half.  The run is not difficult.  The event is just exciting because it is our home course for a big time event.  I ran into Sam from Brazen racing at the festival expo center today.  He is a participant for the full marathon.

The check-in for the races was very smooth today.  There were volunteers all over the place to direct runners in the proper direction.

The email check-in worked very well.  We were emailed our bib number and went to the table with our number and moved right along.  There were volunteers handing out the swag bags on the way into the expo area with no confusion or fuss.

The swag bag was a Sports Basement bag.  Most of us Bay area athletes love the Sports Basement.  Having a big store at Crissy Field helps them a bit.  The bag contained a lean selection of trials for athletes.  I don’t run races for gift bags.  A couple of things of note contained in the bag were the shave secret shaving oil and udderly smooth udder cream.  The shave secret is hard to find but I feel it is worth the effort.  I like to put the oil on my face before I use an electric shaver or before I shave using shaving cream.  I like the udder cream when I get my legs massaged at home.  There are a lot of chemical bombs for muscle relief that I like to use but they are not good for the people doing the massaging.  Another good thing about the udder cream is the price.  It does not break the bank.

The shirt for the marathon is fantastic.  It is one of the few race shirts that I grabbed and said “Wow.”  It is a really nice shirt that is worthy of wearing.  The people from Greenlight Apparel are very nice and have a story to tell.  They are going to get a follow up article in the near future.

I am ready to go.  I will see my fellow runners tomorrow morning.

The need to find runners to train with can help push us towards new PRs and added camaraderie in a usually independent sport.

A basic idea behind Alameda Runners is to help share information among casual athletes looking to learn and push themselves. As such, we have a special request from a SF East Bay runner looking ahead to the 2011 California International Marathon (CIM).

@Chris_in_cal is looking for training partners while he wants a sub-3:00 hour marathon — and needs a few running buddies to train with. If you think you can help out, or know someone who runs at a similar pace, feel free to Tweet him. (Or post here and we can make sure you get in touch with him.)

The second Oakland Running Festival event will take place this weekend, and Alameda Runners decided it was time to chat with race organizers, Corrigan Sports Enterprises (CSE). We ran the Oakland Half last year — and will lead the official (but still unofficial) 2:15 half marathon pace group — and had a couple of questions.

Last year’s event had around 6,400 participants, with event organizers expecting more than 7,000 runners this year, race organizers told Alameda Runners.

SF Bay Area runners really had no idea what to expect leading into the event last year, and there were good and bad things about the event. Athletes were brutally honest and CSE took the criticism as motivation to make changes.

“Runners really loved the crowd support, bands, the Crucible Fire Arch, the organization and the course. The one area they were concerned about was the expo and we have done our best to make the experience better for 2011.”

I enjoyed the Crucible Fire Arch and the taiko drummers, and can’t wait to see what’s lining the course this year. It was great to see Oakland and the East Bay turn out in great numbers last year, but this weekend’s poor weather forecast may only bring out the diehards.

There have been some slight course changes made that CSE wants runners to be familiar with.

“The full marathon has some changes in the Montclair and Fruitvale areas to alleviate some of the traffic concerns we heard after last year’s event. Runners this year will run along Trafalgar and Monterey before Lincoln instead of Mountain Blvd. Also, participants will make a left onto Nicol before turning onto Coolidge as opposed to making a right and going down Fruitvale. The other major change is that runners will traverse the path around Lake Merritt this year instead of going down Bellevue avenue.”

Outside of the actual race and what runners will experience, other changes have been made as well.

“We have streamlined the expo process where runners can print out their confirmation card before arriving at the expo. We will have more signage and made the post-race area longer to accommodate more people. Residents will see that we have put together a detour map to show how they can get to each one of the Freeways that surround Oakland.”

Waiting in line is never fun, so it’s great that they’ve made it easier for us to get the packet pickup faster and more efficient. In addition, I saw a few complaints on Twitter and in local media about the unexpected traffic issues in and around Oakland on race day… good to see it’s getting fixed.

The inaugural ORF expo was a bit sparse, and runners told CSE about it, and changes are being made for 2011. Organizers decided to expand into a larger hall and expect more than 40 vendors to show their wares — and we’ll be there to check out the good stuff.

To finish up the interview, CSE — which also hosts a successful half marathon and running weekend in Baltimore — is glad that the event is able to have such a positive impact on the City.

“Last year’s event brought high praise to the City of Oakland and changed a lot of misconceptions. We hope your readers understand that our goal is to put on a top-flight race each year that will rival some of the other races around the Bay Area. Last year’s event brought in nearly $2 million for the city and CSE paid for all the city services.”

If you’re looking for a race this weekend, on-site registration is still taking place, with a limited number of spots available for the full marathon, half marathon, 5K and kids fun run.

Running for Beginners

Spring is here.  A lot of people are looking at their waist lines and worrying about that winter layer hanging over the Speedos.  If this is your first attempt at working your weight off, there are a few rules to follow.

The rules will follow below.  First, think about how many people make a living off selling you exercise stuff that you will rarely use.  You don’t need much to get into shape.  For running, you really only need the following: shoes, clothes and a road to run on.  To the rules!

  • Get out and do it
  • Do not worry about pace
  • Take your time
  • If you are tired, take a walk break
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Running a few days a week is fine
  • Stretching is good but do not stress about it

Do you notice a theme here?  I am all about getting out and working.  I am also all about taking it easy.  I rarely go more than two weeks without someone coming up to me with some type of injury because they are just starting out and they are going too hard.

Rome was not built in a day.  The foundation has to be built before the aqueducts can be erected.  Get out and play.  Do not worry about what other people are doing.  Do your thing.

After a while, you will build up strength and speed.  Go to to find other people who have similar abilities.  You will find fast people.  Learn from them but do not try to emulate them.

Salesman and television advertisements will try to sell you socks full of sand if they could get away with it.  You don’t need a lot of toys.  If you want to workout with other stuff, you can buy a cheap weight set for about $50.  There are plenty of exercises that you can do to build strength with a simple weight set.