A Year of Running

One year ago I started running. Ok, as some have reminded me... it was really the 1 year anniversary of me running this time. Yes, it's true that running and I sort of hung out for a while but it was totally casual. I mean, I did buy a (terrible) pair of running shoes, and I did do two 5k races, but no one on this planet would have considered me a runner.

Not that I identify myself as a runner today, I just run. I am still far more comfortable on my bike. But I have enjoyed this last year of running.

Anyway, as I was saying, it was one year ago that I "started" running. One year ago that I walked into Fleet Feet, was fit for a (much better) pair of running shoes, and went home and ran. You see, the reason I didn't run much before was I always started hurting after just a couple of miles. And did I mention that I had terrible shoes? Well, what I had described as a pain on the outside of one of my knees was probably really Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). "Probably" because that was never diagnosed by a doctor. I was shown some stretches that completely alleviated the pain I had always had. Regardless of what ailed me, the stretches that the fine folks at Fleet Feet showed me helped me a great deal. As did my new shoes. After trying on shoes for half-an-hour, and learning that everything I knew about running and shoes was completely wrong, I settled on a pair of Brooks. I liked them so much, I bought another pair when I wore them out.

I started running after doing a 5k mud run. I finished it, but barely. I thought I was in good shape, but clearly not as much as I believed. My motivation was set: complete the Tough Mudder, a much harder mud run than the Mud on the Farm I barely finished. With that goal in my head, I started running.

I have really enjoyed running. I have completed four half marathons, the tiny Half in Galt, the Modesto Half Marathon, the Pleasanton Half, and the Avenue of the Vines, and even completed a Tough Mudder. I enjoy half marathons and have no plans to run a full marathon. After a year of running, I have mad amounts of respect for the hard work it must take to train for a full marathon. What I have enjoyed the most about running this last year isn't the miles (just under 600 miles), the half-marathons, or even the shoes. Running has introduced me to early mornings. I prefer running early in the morning. That is something I never experienced as a cyclist. There's just something special about lacing up and getting out on the road before most of my neighbors were awake.




Pebble Watch

The Pebble watch has landed. Finally. Well, it landed for me on July 15. So now, after more than a month with the Pebble, here's my review.

I was going to do the good, the bad, and the ugly, but there's really only the good and the bad.

First, what is the Pebble Watch?

The Pebble Watch is a digital watch that interacts with iPhone and Android smartphones. In May 2012, Pebble successfully funded their Kickstarter project with over $10,000,000 from over 68,000 backers. Kickstarter is a website where companies and individuals can get funding for their projects from all over the world, normally by giving incentives to those that "back" them. (side note: I had the honor of making the Kickstarter video for the successful "Amazing Fist" project, a comic book written by my friend Adam Messinger, illustrated by Matthew Farnsworth, and inked by Frank Stone.)

First, the bad.

I missed backing the campaign by just  weeks and ended up pre-ordering instead. I pre-ordered in June 2012. At the time, they estimated a late 2012 launch. The company hadn't officially been launched and they had only built prototypes before the massively successful Kickstarter campaign. They still hadn't determined who would manufacture the watch, or how it would be manufactured.

The updates started to come in. With each of them came a later launch date. First 2012 was a no-go, then early 2013, then Spring 2013. While the early updates seemed to have some details, time eroded not only my hopes, but also any concrete date when my wrist would actually meet my Pebble.

I was finally charged for my Pebble in January 2013 and was promised that my watch would soon be ready.

Then nearly all communications ceased. No responses to my Facebook messages or e-mails for months. They had originally promised that they would send regular updates via e-mail so it was disappointing that after I paid I heard nothing from them.

pebble emails mattbeckwith

Then, in late May 2013 I received the message that I had been waiting for: my Pebble would be shipping SOON!

Pebble then announced that they would be selling black Pebbles in Best Buy stores across the country. They assured backers and pre-order customers that this was in the best interest of everyone, and that this move would mean we would get our Pebbles sooner - easing the stress off the supply chain or something like that. My pre-order was for a grey watch, but I was invited to request a refund from the company and then could go buy a black one in a Best Buy.

The salt in the wound came from the CEO and founder, Eric Migicovsky. On July 4, 2013, Forbes.com featured a piece titled , "Deconstructing Pebble's Mainstream Push", where the CEO said he was unfazed by complaints.

"Migicovsky is unfazed with the complaints. Because Pebble charges a customer’s credit card only after their watch is ready to ship, he says that those who pre-ordered Pebble have not paid in advance. Availability of Pebble at a local Best Buy, thus, makes it quicker and easier for such customers to buy the watch, he adds."

Unfazed with the complaints. That is something no company should ever aspire to be.

Clearly, the second sentence was factually incorrect; I had paid for my watch six months before.

And what did "shipping soon" mean? Six weeks. On July 12, my Pebble shipped. I received it just a few days later.


The good

Thankfully, once I received the Pebble watch, the story began to improve. That is, after I unpacked the watch from the box. No aesthetically pleasing packaging here. Just a watch stuck in a box. Stuck to a box that was also the shipping container to be more precise.

Within a couple of minutes of getting the watch out of the box it was on my wrist and working. It didn't require much setup other than discovering it as a bluetooth device from my iPhone.

Text notifications work great. I have always preferred getting no alerts for e-mail, no buzz, no sound, no dancing paper-clip or other animation on my computer, nothing. I have, though, used the built-in VIP feature within iOS to get notified when I receive e-mail from certain people. That works great because my family and close friends don't often e-mail me, but when they do, I can get a notification on my watch.

I don't carry my iPhone with my all day long. I usually throw it on my desk when I get to work (well, more like slide it on the desk) and only rarely look at it. Now, if I am within bluetooth range of my phone I'll get my text and e-mail alerts to my Pebble. I like that it gives a short vibration, but somedays I turn that off.

I really like having caller ID on my watch. My phone doesn't ring when I get a call (or make any noise for anything) and only sometimes do I have it vibrate when I get a call. That means I actually miss a lot of calls. Well, I miss a lot fewer calls now that my Pebble tells me I am getting a call. Although it is supposed to work with the latest version of the Pebble OS, it doesn't always give me the name of the caller (from my contact list), but the number is fine.

I really wanted the watch because I like the changeable watch faces, and those are great! Pebble doesn't offer many watch faces, but a third party site, mypebblefaces.com, has a lot. I rotate through several throughout the week depending on what I'm doing.

There are apps, but it is still pretty limited. The RunKeeper app is great and works flawlessly. I hope someday they'll let me change the display to show current split pace rather than entire workout pace, but for a free app it works great. Plus, it convinced me to move from Strava to RunKeeper.

FreeCaddie is a great free golf app that I recently downloaded. I have never used my iPhone to get the distances while playing golf, but having it sent to my Pebble is nice.

I also really like being able to control my music from the Pebble. Works perfectly when I'm out on a bike ride, especially since I no longer have to ask Siri, "who sings this song?". The small added bonus of seeing the album name is cool, too.

Overall? Awesome first generation product! The lack of display colors is fine... but I'm sure that will evolve, if not by Pebble than likely by Apple or Google. I really, really, like having a watch that I can wear to work, as well as on a run, or a bike ride, or a swim (did I mention that it is waterproof - up to 5 ATM, which is great for wearing it while I swim or water the lawn, or get hit with an errant water balloon). The battery life is great, only having to charge it every few days or so.

For the price, $150, I have been very pleased with it. Every once in a while someone will compliment the watch, and then when I show them all the stuff it can do they usually have a very surprised reaction. I'm happy to have been an original pre-order customer.

I still can't seem to get the foul taste completely out of my mouth about how they treated me as a customer. They surely didn't treat me in a way that would cause me to be loyal to them. The Pebble watch is a great product but I'd feel a lot better about owning it if the company seemed to care about its customers.

Did you get one? What do you think? What do you think is next in the "wearable" market"

Check out GetPebble.com for more details on the watch.


Tough Mudder Tahoe Summer 2013


Tough Mudder is billed by the organizers as "Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet".

I will be the judge of that.

It is. It is the the toughest event on the planet. At least it was the toughest event I have ever done.

On July 13, my brother Ken and I participated in our first Tough Mudder. The local mud run at Dell'Osso was not really a preparation for the Tough Mudder, but for both of us, it served as the inspiration for what we wanted to accomplish.


The starting gate is like nothing else I had ever experienced before. The starting line emcee, Sean Corvelle, gets the crowd psyched like no other. His inspirational opening really got me jazzed to start the challenge. Even though he gives the speech all weekend long and throughout the year he delivered it in a way that showed true passion for this event.


He reminded us that the challenge was just that, a challenge, and gave some pretty cool shout-outs to Tough Mudders from the military. He also reminded us of our pledge as Tough Mudders:

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…

I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.

I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.

I do not whine – kids whine.

I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.

I overcome all fears.


And then we were  off!

Tough Mudder Tahoe Sumer 2013 was a 10 mile course at Northstar California Resort. We climbed over 8,000 feet over the first 5 miles of the course. Within the first mile, we experienced the first two obstacles: Glory Blades and Kiss of Mud.

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And then, just after the first mile, the obstacle that would prove to be the hardest one of the day: THE ARCTIC ENEMA. Yes, it is nearly exactly what it sounds like. After you've ran up a steep incline and you're really starting to sweat you have to jump in a tank of ice water. Although it seemed to me that it was nearly all ice. And there was no skimping on this one... in order to get through the obstacle you have to go underwater (notice the wood divider with barbed wire in the pic below... that is half-way through the obstacle). The most challenging part of this obstacle was catching my breathe afterward. I was already short of breathe because of the elevation, the cold water dunk just made it worse. I thought about quitting right then. I'm glad I didn't. But I truly didn't think I could keep going after that.


After a few more obstacles we reached the summit and went through the Electric Eel: crawling through mud and water where wires are hanging down ready to jolt you with 10,000 volts of electricity. Sounds like a lot, and although it certainly gets your attention, it is not as bad as I was afraid it would be.



There were a total of 19 obstacles, and I'll spare you the details for the rest of them.


Tough Mudder Tahoe Summer 2013 map


Here are some of pics they snapped of me. If you want a better idea of what the obstacles look like, visit their Facebook album for that day - Tough Mudder Tahoe Summer 2013, Saturday, July 13

At the end of the Mud Mile obstacle, grateful it wasn't actually a mile:



The obstacle that I was the most worried about, Walk the Plank, a 15 foot jump into cold water (thankfully there was no ice):

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The last obstacle, Electroshock Therapy, was painful, but at least I had some idea of what to expect after having gone through the Electric Eel at the summit:

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At the end...

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Overall, it was an incredible event. Lots of excitement and energy before and after (not to mention all of the Tough Mudder branded stuff you can buy).

As I mentioned, it was the toughest event I've ever done, mentally and physically. Did I mention that I had to carry Ken on my back for part of it? Not that he needed it, it was just part of the Warrior Carry obstacle.

Already looking forward to Tough Mudder Tahoe 2014. I'll be there with my orange headband!


Avenue of the Vines

After just a couple of weeks since the Pleasanton half-marathon, I ran another one one Sunday, the Avenue of the Vines. This race started at Woodbridge Winery in Acampo. Interestingly, the same starting location as my first century almost 10 years ago.

We got started about 20 minutes late. There had been an accident on highway 99 and the race organizers were kind enough to delay the start so everyone could get there.

The course wasn't very interesting and there was very little shade. There were a lot of very friendly volunteers and a great turnout.



Not my favorite of the races I've done so far but still a fun race.

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I still didn't reach my goal of a sub-2 hour half-marathon. In fact, it was my slowest half-marathons of the 4 I have done. At 2:09, I am just glad I finished. I know that sounds cliché but there were a few miles during the race when I thought there was no way I'd be able to finish the 13 miles.

At around mile 10, Ken came riding his bike down the road... he took this shot. Thanks to Ken, Kenny, Megen, Dawn and Mak for being there at the finish.





Pleasanton Half Marathon

On Sunday, I completed my third half-marathon, the Pleasanton Half Marathon. It was a great day for a run! A little overcast, start time temps in the high 50s with just a hint of a breeze. Dawn, Makenzy, and I got to Dublin early to pick up Mike and Rachel before heading out to Pleasanton Sports Park.

Before the first mile, Mike was in front of me. Although I could still see him up ahead, he wouldn't see me until I crossed the finish line five minutes after him.

The route was great. For nearly the entire race, I had no idea where I was. I worked in Pleasanton for many years, but didn't recognize any of these streets. The unfamiliarity made it very interesting. The path parallel to I-680 was as close to looking familiar as I would get.


The course was along a few different surfaces. The loose dirt and other surfaces of some of the trails were a cool change to pavement.

I started off feeling pretty good. I hadn't added any bike or running miles all week so I was plenty rested. My first five miles were pretty fast for me, 8:41 pace. I first tried to hang out with the 1:55 pace group but only lasted a few miles. I then tried to stick with the 2:00 pacer but only managed to hang on for a few more miles. After mile 8 I was starting to slow down and was really starting to hurt. My knees (and ITB) were fine, just my quads were hurting.

Just before mile 10 I looked behind me and saw the 2:05 pacer running by himself. He passed me but I pushed until I caught back up. This was my first experience running with a pacer. He proved to be just what I needed. He kept me focused and I was able to push through the pain for the last few miles. He slowed a bit near the end to get back on pace and told me kick it up a gear and finish strong.

I finished at 2:01:47. Still looking for the sub-2 time, but was pretty happy with how I did, and very thankful to that pacer. I couldn't help doing the math afterward. Based on my pre-pacer pace and trend, I think I would have finished at 2:07 or so. So, thanks pacer!

Not too long after the race it started to rain. Just for a couple of minutes, but enough of it that I was even more happier that I finished when I did.


Looking forward to my next half in Lodi in a couple of weeks.



Mud on the Farm, Revisited

Today, Ken and I ran the Mud on the Farm Mud Run at Dell'Osso Farms. For me, it was a return to the place where my running life began. Before last September's Mud on the Farm, I had ran in a few 5k races but would certainly not have considered myself a runner. mudonthefarm2013

I barely survived last year's mud run and it motivated me to start running. Just to be sure I'd keep it up, and because my (11 year) older brother did the same, I also signed up for the Tahoe Tough Mudder in July 2013.

So, this time was great, except for the fact that Makenzy got sick and couldn't run it with me.

There were a couple of new obstacles and there weren't a lot of people in our wave so there weren't the delays at some of the obstacles like last year.

And how did we do?

Well, we both did a lot better than last year's event.

And Ken took 3rd place for his age group! And since he did a hard face plant in the mud at the very end, he earned some time with the medics. Thankfully, he was able to open his eyes an hour or so after finishing the race.

Looking forward to the Tahoe Tough Mudder!

Check out the pics here.


The Modesto Half Marathon

I ran my second half-marathon last weekend, the Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon. The course started in downtown Modesto and went through a residential area before heading out west of highway 99. The weather was perfect and there were a lot of runners; well, considerably more than I experienced in Galt in February!

I got to see Tyre Girl in action, who runs marathons dragging a tire behind her to raise awareness about recycling. (read her post about the SAMM here)

The course, wasn't bad at all until the last few miles, on the straight and very boring return back. After the full marathon split-off the mile markers were off a bit, and many of the runners (including myself) looked a little confused at every mile marker. I didn't mind though... it added about a half mile to my run.


There was Gatorade, not just water, at many of the water stations, and for the last few miles they were handing out Gu (thank goodness!).



My official time was 2:04:05. A little slower than the Tiny Half, but since that course was a little short and this one a little long, I was pleased with the result. Within a couple of minutes of crossing the finish line I received an e-mail congratulating me on finishing and reporting my official time. I was in a lot of pain when I finished. Both of my IT bands were killing me and it took quite a while for me to walk through to the end of the finishing line (or whatever that thing is called).

Like at my first race, it was great to have Dawn and Makenzy there with me. Maybe they'll get tired of coming out to cheer me on (at the start and finish) but I hope they never do, it's nice having someone at the end!


The volunteers were great and the course was fun. There was plenty to do after the race, too. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.


The Tiny Half-Marathon

tinysmileslogo Last Saturday, I completed the inaugural "Tiny" Half Marathon, my first half-marathon.

Having started running late last year, I was eager to run in my first half-marathon.

Right from the start, all of the advice I had heard from my runner friends was to keep it slow...

So I started off slow... or so I thought. I started my time on Strava more than a minute before the race started... so what I thought was a slow pace for the first mile was actually pretty fast. At mile 2 I finally figured that out and dropped my pace a bit.


My personal goal was to finish the 13.1 miles without stopping or walking. Even though I tried to not get a number stuck in my hand, I was pretty sure I could finish in 2:07:00.

The course was cool and interesting. Having seen some of Galt on my bike, it was nice to see it a little slower.


And it was great to see some friends like Frank, Row, and David.


Near the end, after barely getting over the massive climb at mile 12 (the highway 99 overpass) I knew I was going to finish the run but had no sense what my time was. When I turned the corner, no more than 50 meters from the finish line, I saw the time has just passed the 2 hour mark!

I was pretty pumped that I completed the race in just over 2 hours! My official time was 2:00:36.