Race Planning for 2011

Get out your calendar, iPhone or Blackberry and get ready to enter some key dates. We are going to help you plan your race schedule for 2011.

In the “old days” most runners decided what race to run based on whether your training was going well and if you had sufficient sleep the night before. On race morning all you had to do was pull on your nylon shorts and white cotton t-shirt, head for the starting line, sign up, pay your $5.00, and you were ready to race.

There are a few races early in the year where you can still do that (except for the $5.00). See how you feel after New Year’s Eve, then head out to the Rio Resolution Run on January 1st. You can choose the 5K or the 10K and sign up at the Rio Grill at the Crossroads shopping center in Carmel. On February 13th you can run the 5K or 10K Together with Love run at Lover’s Point with your favorite valentine.

After that it gets more difficult. The Big Sur Marathon used to be the only “destination” race in our area that required early entry, but now we have four others that are going to draw not only local runners but runners from virtually every state as well. Planning your schedule requires some logistical support.

Do you want to run the Big Sur Marathon on May 1st? We hope we are not the first to tell you that it’s too late. That’s right – it sold out over six months before race day. You cannot get in. Check out Bsim.org and see if some of the shorter races are still available. Better yet, think outside the box and enter the relay; you can still run the whole course by running each leg yourself.

Two other Big Sur events needing very early entry are the March 26th Mud Run and the November 20th Half Marathon on Monterey Bay.

We also have a first time event in Carmel on Father’s Day, June 19th, called the Run in the Name of Love. This 5k for runners and 2K for walkers and their dogs will certainly become one of the most popular events in our area. Enter early because it is limited to 1,000 runners and 300 walkers. The website is runinthenameoflove.org. This unique event is dedicated to the memory of Brian Love, a Carmel High graduate, who died in a tragic snowboard accident while competing for the University of Virginia.

The race offers runners and walkers the opportunity to honor a loved one of their choice. The 5K course is extremely fast, starting at the Sunset Center, and passing the Carmel Mission and Carmel River State Beach, and finishing along Scenic Avenue near Ocean Avenue. The 2K course is equally scenic and encourages dogs, even offering doggie race shirts.

Last year’s inaugural Salinas Valley Half Marathon sold out two months early and the 2nd edition scheduled for August 6th is sure to sell out even more quickly. Last year runners loved the wine country course along River Road, the finish line festivities with wine and beer, the luxurious buses used for transportion, and the Double Magnums given to age group winners. This year’s race has even more surprises. Go to salinasvalleyhalfmarathon.org for more information.

On-line entry to all these races, except the Big Sur Half Marathon (opens April 1st), are available now on active.com. We hope to see you at all of these great local races.

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Gifts From Head to Toe

Don’t look now, but Christmas is practically here! If you need a last-minute gift for the runner on your list, or if you’re a runner looking to exchange some of the useless gifts you receive for something you really want, we’ve created the following head to toe gift guide.

Most of these items are available at one of our local running stores – The Treadmill, Fleet Feet, or REI – and you probably even have time to grab them online if you hurry, so keep this list with you, and get moving!

(*Online note: items purchased through Wilderness Running Company are eligible for a 10% discount with coupon code R&R10.)

Head: Black Diamond’s Sprinter headlamp has a bright LED in front for visibility, blinking red LED in back for safety, is super-lightweight for comfort, with rechargeable batteries for eco-friendliness. It’s one of the best pieces of gear out there to stay safe on dark roads.

Brain: Stimulate your mind with a great running book. Last month we listed our favorites, and that list is still available on our website archive, where you’ll also find a new book from your favorite Herald running columnists.

Mouth (and/or Stomach), Part 1: Seasonal CLIF Bars come in cranberry orange nut bread, spiced pumpkin pie, or iced gingerbread flavors, all of which taste amazing. Look for them at REI or Trader Joe’s, but hurry: CLIF only makes limited quantities each year, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Mouth (and/or Stomach), Part 2: GU energy gel also makes two awesome holiday flavors: vanilla gingerbread and chocolate mint. A handful of these make a perfect stocking stuffer.

Trunk: Reflective vests are the cheapest insurance you can buy to increase your visibility to oncoming cars. They can be worn over any shirt or jacket, and typically last for several years.

Hands: Warm gloves make winter running much more bearable. Manzella's Hatchback Glove is a clever little creation: use the soft fleece moisture-wicking glove for mildly cold days, and pull out the retractable water-resistant hood to cover the fingers when temperatures drop even lower.

Delicates, Part 1: Some folks might snicker, but any cold-weather runner will tell you that keeping your unmentionables warm is a crucial part of winter running, and a good pair of moisture-wicking underwear is worth its weight in gold. Pick up a couple pairs for yourself or a loved one at Target or our local running stores, and thank us later.

Delicates, Part 2: The other way to keep those areas comfortable is to prevent chafing, and Bodyglide is your best weapon against a friction-related crisis. One stick of this stuff is the most useful under-10-dollar gift a runner can receive.

Legs: A pair of tights can be bundled up small enough to fit in a stocking. Salomon’s Trail III tights are super comfortable, but tough and durable enough to handle any trail or weather conditions you’ll encounter this winter.

Feet: Runners can never have too many good socks – and Drymax makes the most effective moisture-wicking and blister proof socks on the market, in both road and trail versions. Dry feet are happy feet, in winter time and all year round.

If you need additional gift ideas, check out Donald's 2010 Gear of the Year guide at Running and Rambling. Happy Holidays to everyone, and happy winter running!

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Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis

Running and arthritis seem irrevocably linked in the minds of casual observers; we wish we had a nickel for every time someone said, “You’re going to get arthritis!” after learning that we are runners. So when we heard about a great new race called the Run for Arthritis, we figured the name might generate a bit of discussion.

Is there a connection between running and arthritis? Well, yes … but probably not in the way you suspect. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the race.

The Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis takes place on Saturday, December 11th at Lover’s Point Park in Pacific Grove. The timing is ideal, as December has been a blank entry on our local race calendar in recent years. Even better, it has a fun holiday theme, includes special children’s events, and encourages participants in all shapes, sizes, and breeds.

Festivities kick off with a kids’ “Fun Run with the Elves” at 8AM, followed by a timed 5K run at 8:30. Everybody is welcome to take part: walkers, parents with strollers, wheelchair athletes, dogs on leashes … or even cats on leashes if you could somehow manage it. Entrants are encouraged to wear holiday colors, decorative costumes, jingle bells on their shoelaces, or any other creative getup to help celebrate the holiday season. It’s rumored that Santa might even show up to say hi to the kids.

You can register on race morning beginning at 7AM, or prior to race day online at www.jinglebellrunpacificgrove.kintera.org. The local event is part of a nationwide effort by the Arthritis Foundation for fundraising and awareness regarding the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Which brings us back to the question: does running cause arthritis? Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, there’s no increased incidence of arthritis among runners compared to the general population – in other words, if you’re genetically predisposed to getting arthritis, it will probably develop at the same rate whether you’re a runner or a couch potato. In fact, some studies suggest that running might actually DECREASE your risk of developing arthritis.

Leg strength built through running helps the muscles around the hips and knees support the joints more effectively. Running also improves overall bone density, giving the cartilage at the end of each bone a firm platform to anchor itself. Erosion of cartilage is what causes arthritis pain – so if your bones give it a strong support system and your muscles protect it from excess impact, you can see how running contributes to improved joint health.

We figured the perfect person to ask about this would be Dr Marc Lieberman, an exceptional local runner and veteran of more marathons than we can count, who also happens to be a rheumatologist and member of the advisory board for the Arthritis Foundation. He told us about Stanford University studies showing decreased knee and hip osteoarthritis among recreational runners – although the rate was somewhat higher among elite (national-caliber or better) runners, presumably due to their extremely high training volumes.

Dr Lieberman pointed out two other factors, calcium deficits and high body mass index, which both carry an increased risk of osteoarthritis. He recommends that runners take calcium supplements, and to exercise consistently for weight management and general overall health. “Run to stay healthy, and stay healthy to run” he says.

So follow the doctor’s orders, as well as your authors’ recommendation, and take part in this year’s Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis to celebrate the season in a healthy, fun manner.

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