The Purpose of the "50-Mile Dolphin Dash"

Welcome to my blog leading up to the American Cetacean Society's 2nd Annual "50-Mile Dolphin Dash" fundraiser run on Wednesday, July 6th, Monterey, CA. I'm willing to shed 50 miles worth of blood, sweat, and (possibly) tears to raise funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in St. Helier, Jersey (UK), where ACS will be speaking out against commercial whaling and compromises to international whale protection measures. I'm also the Executive Director of ACS, so I put my heart and "sole" where my mouth is.

Support the Dolphin Dash with a tax-deductible contribution:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Suicide... a morning routine

When I’m first beginning my run, I focus on external stimuli – lyrics of music, people I see regularly along my running route, whether or not I can spot any whale spouts in the San Pedro Channel. I notice every detail of my surroundings – the scent of blossoms, species of trees and flowers in landscaping and in chaparral communities along the cliffs (as a plant ecologist, this takes up a lot of head space), birds that inhabit the area. I’ve noticed lately there’s a daily morning “snail suicide procession” – snails big and small make the trek from vegetated habitats along sidewalks and roads to the other side...hopefully. I can tell you firsthand that the vast majority of them do not make it, but the birds are very happy to have a meal. I wonder how many people notice this ill-fated trek in urban environments. It seems important to me – to be aware of these seemingly lilliputian events.  They’re woven into the fabric of my day, and so are not inconsequential to me.  Besides, lately I can relate all to well to my doomed, slimy companions. If challenged to a race, at least half of them would likely beat me. I’m slowing down, in many ways... and I’m painfully aware of it.

Good things come slow - especially in distance running.
- Bill Dellinger, Oregon coach

After settling into a comfortable pace, I can think creatively.  I do my best thinking about my work and personal life at this time.  I’m not being bombarded by competing stimuli; not multi-tasking; not busying my mind in other ways – I’m free to let my mind wander in whatever direction it wants to go. This is the very best thinking time; I can work through a lot – or not.  If there’s nothing that I want to think about, I just put my mind on autopilot and eventually get into the “Zen head candy place”.  My favorite things to focus on are my work, of course – new programs I’d like to implement – how to inspire people to care enough about protecting whales and dolphins to get involved – how to constantly improve ACS and my own service to the organization.

Other things... are not for public consumption.

Happy running,


Ear Candy

I find it nearly impossible to run without music – it’s a vital part of maintaining motivation and pacing myself over the course of many hours.  An assortment of music with varying beats-per-minute (BPM) makes it easier to dig in, get the adrenaline pumping, and motor up a steep hill in record time, or settle into a consistent, energy-conserving pace over long-distance.

When I’m listening to music I can’t hear the sound of my own breathing, which psychologically tires me faster.  I also don’t want to hear somebody else’s heavy breathing (at least, not in this context) or their footfall behind me; it’s creepy and distracting and sounds as though somebody's following me... which of course, they are. 

Regardless of how many gazillabytes worth of music you have on your iPod, after so many hours of pounding the pavement, eventually your music selection will become stale and predictable. Fortunately for me, I have a good friend who is always discovering new music and it's a huge passion of his – he sends me new music regularly, so I can overhaul the iPod regularly – that prevents boredom, increases my motivation, and greatly expands my musical repertoire. I am often reminded that he “owns my iPod”, for which I am very grateful.  You’ll find everything on my iPod – from Aimee Mann to Al Green, N.E.R.D. to Neil Young, Peter Gabriel to Pearl Jam, Thievery Corporation to Thin Lizzy and everything in between.

Good music matters just as much as good coaching and can send you to that Nirvana state a lot faster. If it weren’t for amazing ‘ear candy’.... who would want to run for multiple hours or days on end? Who would I call upon besides Blondie for support when there is no one else to turn to?

What would I do without Bono there to push me to the finish?

Happy running,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Be Smarter Than a Box of Hammers

Today, I was ambushed by two nimble redheads as I loped through an affluent subdivision on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Nobody ever expects to be attacked in wealthy towns, let alone in broad daylight, and yet here I was. They came out of nowhere – the first pressing his weight on my legs behind me while the other wheeled around directly in my path, bringing me to a grinding halt. By the time I could comprehend what was happening, I was knocked down and thoroughly pawed over.

"Don’t worry, they won’t bite, that’s just their way of saying “Hi”!

Why do dog owners always say that? As if forgetting that his auburn-tressed companions were Irish Setters (aka, one of the "blockhead breeds"), the gentleman calls to them, as if expecting them to actually listen and obey. They don’t, of course, and instead vacuously run off, showing absolutely no sign of even a nanosecond’s worth of gray matter stimulation. Three redheads on this street are two too many.  Slightly annoying, yes...but hardly stressful or menacing. In my own experiences in the realm of runner vs. dog, I have met the enemy. And it is me.

Your own worst enemy has come to town.
– Bruce Springsteen

The ultimate dog nemesis was a beagle named “Goober” who lived in a trailer along a long stretch of Nowhere Road in Athens, Georgia. No, I am not making this up. He was an old, gnarly-looking mutt who didn’t think very highly of cyclists or runners and was hell bent on proving it. He’d lie in wait at the end of his driveway, rise at your approach, yawn and stretch, and then charge, full-throttle, snapping at your heels and baying. He was a kinetic blur of teeth and an overworked voice box, undeterred by collisions with cars or bikes, or verbal and even physical abuse from runner.  In fact, he seemed to thrive on adversity.

My immediate thought was to rationally discuss the situation with Goober’s owner. I immediately reconsidered this strategy when I noticed the rebel flag exterior decor, charming lawn replica of a KKK Grand Wizard, and fully-stocked gun rack in the truck window.  Yes, it was possible that I wasn't likely to move the needle of the owner's "care-o'-meter", given my obviously Yankee attitude and accent.  And anyway, how would I get past the Napoleonic Cujo?

I like dogs, but was beginning to intently dislike this particular mutt. I needed an effective deterrent - one that was easy to deploy, didn’t hurt the dog, was lightweight, and “memorable”. I tried everything – spraying the dog with water from my bottle, shouting, speeding past it, walking past it, charging it, throwing dog biscuits... nothing worked. Then, an idea came... pepper spray!

Let me just say that my grand scheme did not involve hosing "The Goob" down with pepper spray.  My perfectly designed and flawlessly executed plan involved carrying a small unit of pepper in the pocket of my shorts, alerting Goober to my approach, unlocking the pepper canister well in advance, and spraying a line of capsicum 10 feet between me and Gooby which, when sniffed from a safe distance, would stop him dead in his tracks, leaving him foiled, baying, and forever associating me with bad burnin' juju. Basking in the glow of my victory, I would run past, maybe even walk, knowing that I was in fact, smarter than the dumbest, redneck hound dog.

This is a good time to mention that my track record of designing and executing flawless plans rival that of Wile E. Coyote. Here’s what actually happened: I put the locked pepper in the pocket of my shorts, approached and was greeted by Goober, ears back, lips curled exposing his tooth, hair on end. I took the pepper canister from my shorts, and unlocked it. With about 30 feet between us, he burst forth, intent on shredding my legs to ribbons. I sprayed the pepper in a long line – perfectly... over which Goober bolted as if it weren’t there. My mind didn’t register what I was seeing until he was almost upon me – I sprinted off, Goober barking and snapping at my heels for a good 1/8th of a mile. I was exhausted... and a beagle. I resolved to find another solution before the end of the run. I snapped the pepper canister and put it back into the pocket of my shorts.

It was in the 90’s that day – standard for a Georgia summer. I took my tank top off and doubled it as a towel to wipe the sweat from my face. Man, was it ever hot. Unbearable, in fact... my face was absolutely on fire! I looked down and to my absolute horror and misery, I noticed the pepper spray had leaked and was on my shirt, which I was now using to wipe my face. Death, sweet death... would’ve been welcome for about 20 minutes until the seering burn started to subside. 

In the end, I changed my route. I know when I’ve been defeated. It’s just that, well... I was outwitted by a beagle, a breed rivaling only Dalmatians and Irish setters on the “dumb as a box of hammers” scale of intellectual prowess.

I dread to think of the outcome had Goober been a border collie. 

Happy running,


Sunday, April 11, 2010

50-Mile Dolphin Dash Event Route

If you're interested in what the event route "looks like" and how the mileage has been calculated, you can view the interactive course map by clicking on the link below, which will take you to  Feel free to browse some of my former routes and runs on the Monterey Peninsula while you're there.

View Interactive Map on

Once the map is active, you can display course elevation by clicking on the box on the upper right-hand side of the screen labeled Info & Tools.  I would describe the course as "rolling terrain" of average/medium difficulty.  The Palos Verdes Marathon ( route comprises a section of the course. 

The course is a 25-mile out-and-back course, beginning and ending at the National Headquarters of the American Cetacean Society (ACS), located in Point Fermin Park, San Pedro, CA.  The event will begin at 5:30 am on Thursday, June 17th, 2010 and will end...whenever I finish. 

Click here to make a donation to the 50-Mile Dolphin Dash fundraiser run:
Thank you and happy running,


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Running is a Mistress

Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.
Duke Ellington

My friend Todd once described running as his “mistress” – something that started out innocently enough – without commitment or emotional attachment – and eventually blossomed into an all-consuming passion of the mind, body, and soul. I commented that I thought his metaphor was an intriguing one, but as it turns out he wasn’t being clever. For two years, Todd ran twice daily for hours on end and spent entire weekends traveling to-and-from races; eventually his wife issued an ultimatum. His presence at the starting line on a gorgeous Saturday and bare left hand indicated that he now had a lot more time for such dalliances.

That was many years ago, and I’ve since explored that poignant theme hundreds of times as my own relationship with running has evolved. I’ve found the analogy no less applicable to my own life, albeit for different reasons.

I am his mistress.
His work is his wife.
Marion Javits

In my case, the metaphorical wife is my work – comfortable, familiar, frequently stressful but firmly entrenched within my comfort zone, and so integrated into the fabric of my daily routine that it’s no longer a conscious part of my thought process. Colleagues and partners no longer feel the need to “make themselves up" for me – what you see is what you get. The wife can be complicated and infuriating, and in those times, I may complain about her and her endless challenges, but I may resent it if you do the same. And in the interest of keeping up appearances, I will cheerlead and proclaim that I have the most wonderful spouse ever – much like a Christmas photo card depicting a perfect moment in an otherwise dysfunctional family. Despite the ups-and-downs, I’m generally content. For all of her quirkiness and occasional emotionally-draining meltdowns, I love her in my own way, and I did commit to her.

Ah, but the mistress... this is another animal altogether. At times, "The Other Woman" in my life – the runner – has utterly consumed me; she’s what I dream of and long for when I’m suffering through meetings and grant-writing sessions; the one I miss when I’m with my spouse; the one I make first priority and to whom I feel a profound and deep sense of connection and passion. The Other Woman is a fantasy, I realize – a manifestation of possibility, of excitement, something unattainable even– a departure from the mundane. She never nags, is always happy to see me, never complains about my shortcomings, and gets the best of me. I am an eager guest in her home, and when I leave I know she simultaneously mourns my departure and is grateful for her solitude. In my mind, she’s perfection in motion.

In 2006, I was given the opportunity to “upgrade” the mistress to the wife position after a second-place finish in the Croom’s 50K Trail Run in Bradenton, FL. I struggled with the decision. No one talks about what it means to bring The Other Woman into the fold of domesticity, revealed – to overcome the odds stacked up against her in her former position – what happens to the fantasyDo you begin to resent her reality and ordinariness? And what happens to you – your dreams, your passions, the sense of breathlessness and anticipation of being with her when you invite the fire to become the familiar – when you possess what was once forbidden and concealed?   

All questions unknowable to me. In the end, I declined the offer to make my passion my vocation. I didn’t want it to become routine – I didn’t want to resent my time with her because I felt I had to be there... I wanted the desire to be there.  Even when, or perhaps especially because, I couldn't. 

The Other Woman knows the most important rule - know your place. She is aware that our relationship can end at any moment, at any time, without further notice, - kinda like cell phone coverage. I was warned about my beloved mistress –that I’d pay a price for loving her the way I do – that she’d grind my hips to dust, pulverize my ligaments, and chew up my knees. At times, she can be a hard-driving, powerful, demanding bitch, and I pay her the respect she deserves - she's hard to love.  But when I'm with her and she faces me squarely and turns her attention to me, it’s sublime... and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to keep her.

Much can be inferred about a man from his mistress: in her
one beholds his weaknesses and his dreams.
George C. Litchtenberg


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Salt of the earth...

Saturday was the most beautiful day in San Pedro history – sunny, clear, and gorgeous. My original plan included an early trip to The Corner Store for coffee, perhaps a 30-35 mile run, an early dinner at the Lighthouse Cafe and a trip to Barnes & Noble - in short, a perfect Saturday. Fast forward to mile 15 on the run (the turn-around point) – feeling, feeling great! How about 5 more miles... or 10 for a 50-mile loop?

When you’re solo on a very long run, you have to stop for food and water, whereas with a support crew, you’re literally handed everything you need – salt tablets, glucose, food, fluid, etc.  If you did nothing for nine hours, you’d be hungry – now imagine you’re burning at least 15,000 calories - you've got to replenish that fuel. I’ve heard of runners eating whole pizzas on their runs. And, since you’re sweating so much, you need to replace not only fluid, but electrolytes.  You need food, water, and salt. 

First stop - 7-Eleven Store (Rolling Hills, mile 18.5) - two bags of Fritos, two waters, two Snickers Bars, and four Motrin. I pay and tear open the Fritos on the spot, and add three packets of salt, to the alarm disgust of the perfectly coifed soccer mom behind me purchasing a Diet Coke.  No point in explaining; I realize this doesn’t look rational. I quickly eat one bag of Fritos and one of the Snickers, stuff the others in my shorts, which I imagine appears even sketchier than my Fritos attack, and run off, grateful that I don’t actually know anybody in this town.

Second stop – Ranch Market (Malaga Cove, mile 35) – large iced coffee and a bag of salty chips. I pay, open the bag of chips, add five packets of salt, shake the bag and quickly nom them down. I take a few packets of salt and put them in the pocket of my shorts. A gentleman ordering a sandwich does a double, then a triple take, with the expression that suggests he’s observing an asylum escapee. Immediately, I feel better. After ten minutes, the cramped muscles in my legs disappear.

Funny thing about ultrarunners – if you get even two of them together, very quickly the conversation will turn to the topic of salt and the virtues of consuming excessive amounts of it – how to get it, how often to take it, the best absorption delivery, how much to take, etc. The topic of food, salt, and ultrarunning merits attention as a stand-alone topic – more on that later.

Last stop – 7 Eleven (San Pedro, mile 47) - two orange juices, taken with two glucose tablets, and three salt packets. I stop to pound out the lactic acid in my quads on the curb, which cannot appear anything less than lunatic fringe.  It’s cold, it’s dark, and here’s a deranged, inappropriately dressed, sweaty woman, double-fisting OJ, using it to first to beat up her legs, then guzzling it down before eating salt packets and tearing off into the night. I half expect somebody to call the police.

I was never happier to be home. When I arrived, my cat Fellini was waiting outside.  He can sense craziness coming from a mile away (apparently).

Out: 12:30 pm     In: 9:15 pm   Weekly mileage (Sunday to Sunday): 114 miles 

Easter Sunday strategy:  Rest.  Advil.  Sleep.  Hydrate.  Eat.  Re-gain 4.4 pounds.  No problem.       

June 17th suddenly seems very doable... I’ll be ready.  BYO salt lick.

Happy running,