Take it to the limit!


goats on my running routeI was watching a show the other night chronicling The Eagles, one of my favorite bands. The memories…the sights and sounds…that program conjured up were surprisingly moving and personal. It threw me a little bit.

In one segment, they were interviewing Randy Meisner, one of the band members, about the song he wrote, “Take It To The Limit.” He described what his thoughts were while writing that song. He wanted to see how far he could go, how far he could push, how good could he be…one more time.

I have heard that song a thousand times over the years and never once thought of it in that context. I thought, yea, that’s pretty much what I’m doing, taking it to the limit one more time…until the next time.

One of those little nuggets of inspiration that came out of nowhere.

We’re (I’m) still not 100% sure what the problem was with our little Minnie Mouse, but she seems to have bounced back. She is her usual peppy self, waiting by the door for her favorite activity…running through the woods. We are holding off on that for now, and just taking her on long walks until we are certain she is firing on all cylinders.

Anyone that is as crazy about their dogs as we are, knows how upsetting it is when they’re sick or injured and what a relief it is when they’re ok again.

I just checked the calendar, and it is 6 weeks until the American River 50-mile Endurance Challenge (AR50). Six weeks may seem like a long time in some arenas, but in the context of preparing to run 50-miles it is more like the blink of an eye.

I have been training with many members of the Coastside Running Club as well as other small groups that get together for weekend runs. I have tapped into a pool of running resources here on the coast that has no limits. Our weekend runs have a race feel to them while still being really fun (and quite challenging).

Most of my miles in previous training cycles are spent alone on the back roads of Pescadero. While I don’t mind being alone and enjoy the solitude, logging hours out there solo can get to be a drag. Having said all that, I am heading out this morning for one of my favorite solo runs.

I run from my house in the woods of Butano Canyon to town (Pescadero), up the hill to our local cemetery and back. I have 3.5 hours scheduled, so I should cover about 18 miles. I run past the flower farms, the goat farm, a couple of churches and yes up the hill to the final resting place of some old friends and neighbors. I spend a couple of minutes up there wishing everyone well, look out at the beautiful valley and head for home.

A tail of two Frenchies…

There are a handful of subjects that I will drop everything to talk about:

  • Roofing, of course (although, I could use a breather there)

  • Running (especially when we’re talking about me)

  • Beverly, my lovely wife

  • Last,  but not least,  my dogs

We have two dogs that keep us entertained, and are often the bright spot in our lives. Yes, they require a lot of attention for their various needs, but hey, for all the joy they provide I always feel like I’m getting off easy.

Dog #1 is Tidy Tilly. She is a purebred French bulldog and quite possibly the cutest creature on the planet (see I’m already gushing). She prefers the warmth and comforts of home.





Dog # 2 is Minnie Mouse. She is also a Frenchie, but we think she may have a little Boston Bulldog Terrier mix. Minnie is a rescue dog. Beverly caught wind that she was on her way to the SPCA after her second (or third) owners decided they didn’t want her anymore. Beverly took immediate action and intercepted Minnie Mouse before she made the almost certain fatal trip to the Pound. Minnie had some real issues, but after a year of love and care is settling into the life we think she deserves.

Now, here’s where it gets fun. I discovered after a few months that Minnie liked to run. I mean run. I decided to take her out for one of my weekend runs. She was in heaven. She could run 5-6 miles without so much as breaking the proverbial sweat. Our weekly runs are now a staple, and a highlight of our week.

Minnie seems to know what day it is, and knows the difference between work cloths and running clothes. On what she knows are running days she waits by the door stretching; watching my every move. When I say stretching, I mean she looks like an elite athlete at the starting line of a big race. She is getting ready to roll!

While I grab the leash and her little water bottle, Tidy Tilly, whom we also call “little Miss Princess Pants” can be found hiding under a blanket, Beverly’s robe, or burrowed in one her many cushy beds. She wants absolutely no part of this adventure. Watching her antics before Minnie and I head out has become as much fun as the run itself.

At this writing, it is raining hard yet again. Today’s run is in jeopardy. Yet, Minnie watches in anticipation, and Tillie waits for her cue to hide.


Next Stop…American River 50-Mile Endurance Run!

Much has transpired since my last posting (over one year ago). My wife, Beverly, and I are enjoying running our roofing business with the help of the best crew one could ask for. There have been the usual ups and downs, but we continue to learn and grow.

I have said goodbye to some dear friends this past year, which may be why I decided to raise the bar on myself.

After last year’s HMB Marathon, I completed a 50K event and several more shorter races. I took three hours off my previous 50K time. When I called Beverly to let her know I finished in one piece, she asked, “are you sure you ran the whole course?”

This year I completed the HMB Marathon in 4:41. I came in 36 minutes faster than last year’s time. I trained much differently and the results were pretty dramatic. I was very happy and somewhat surprised at the faster time. I also managed to get through the training cycle injury free.

During the training cycle, I joined up with the Coastside Running Club. Several of the members are the unsung hero’s of the Marathon and are responsible for putting the event on. Many of the members are ultra runners, meaning they compete/complete distances longer than a standard marathon (26.2 miles). As I listened to their adventures of 50 and 100-mile races, a very faint drumbeat started in my head. I swore I would never do another 50-mile race! Yet, as we trained, the beat became deafening.

Yes, I HAD to do another 50-miler.

I knew the first order of business was to enroll my dear wife in the idea. I am clear that there is no way I can tackle something like this without Beverly’s support. With some trepidation, she agreed to support the project. She made me promise I would not do a 100-miler, I agreed to that.

The American River 50 is a great event. It is one of the largest 50-mile races in the country and usually attracts a who’s who of ultra athletes. I completed the race two years ago in 12 hours and 45 minutes.

So, here I am. One year older. Apparently, somewhat faster. And, on a mission. I am excited about preparing for this event as well as chronicling the undoubtedly bumpy road ahead.





Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – Epilogue: The Fat Lady Hath Sung…

I woke up about an hour and a half before the alarm was set to go off.  It was 3:30 A.M.  I still had soreness in my right calf and knew I had exhausted every available resource.  Either this thing was going to happen or it wasn’t.  I just said some words to the Big Man upstairs to the effect, “if you want me to do this I will, and if you don’t, I won’t.”

I completed the 1st Annual Half Moon Bay Marathon in 5:16:54.  I beat my best marathon time by 7 minutes.

The event was first class all the way and hardy congratulations are to be made to all the volunteers that made it happen.

Thank you.  See you next year.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – ALL IN…

My participation in the HMB Marathon has played out in a dozen different scenarios this week.  The calf injury that will not go away created a fair amount of angst, relief and more angst and then relief, followed by I’m not sure what to expect. Monday night I was on the mend, Tuesday’s light workout had the injury flare up and it was the end of my race.  My self will, along with support from my training buddies Hank and Bryan kept me in action.  I sought out more care from the local health practitioners and on it went.  I have gone from Plan A- run the race in my best time ever, to Plan B-Run half the half marathon so at least I finish something, to plan C- I’m out of the race and will put on a volunteer shirt, to Plan D- push all my chips to the center of the table and go for broke.  So tomorrow morning at 7:00 A.M. I will toe the line and head out in to the great unknown.  One thing is for sure.  When this event is complete, no matter how it turns out, I will have no regrets.  I really cannot ask for more than that.

The harsh realities of life are somehow magnified with the heightened sense of awareness that comes with facing a real challenge. This week I lost a dear friend suddenly in a tragic auto accident.  I also had a close friend that seemed to be on his way out, return home from the hospital and is receiving the support he needs to aid in his recovery.  These things hit deeper when I am on the playing field of life, and I have a profound gratitude for today and all I have as a result.

Saving the best for last.

Thank you; Mary, Chrysann, Stephanie, Margaret, Bryan, Hank, Dan, Johnson, Ron, Jackie, Jeanne, my crew at HPRS.  You all impact my life on a regular basis and especially through this very strange odyssey.  A very special thank you to the men and women of the Coastside Running club.  They had a vision for this event and have put in the hard work to turn that vision into reality.

The person I most want to thank publicly is my beautiful, one-of-a-kind wife, Beverly.  Beverly is the one behind the scenes that makes sure that everything that needs to happen, happens. Beverly is the one that puts the thought and care in to everything she touches, things turn out extra special because of her.  Anything I accomplish in my life is because of Beverly and all she gives.  I count myself as the luckiest guy in the world to have her in my life.

So thank you everybody.  Wish me luck.

Norm Armstrong

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – 26.2 not so fast my friend…

It has been one week since my last real training run and my right calf decided it had had enough. I did have a couple of very short runs this week, hoping this latest setback would just go away. Suddenly my participation the the first annual Half Moon Bay International Marathon is in jeopardy.

It’s amazing to notice the emotions that come boiling to the surface at a time like this. There is the old standard of denial.  Like “oh, this is not really happening.”  To the opposite end of the spectrum and that would be “this is really happening and you’re screwed!” I get to be reminded how competitive I am.  I am really, really competitive. Not sure who I am competing against, as I have no designs to be anywhere but in the tail end of the runners in the race.  But at the same time, there is a part of me that absolutely must be out there on the stage, in the arena.  It is who I am.  And the thought that I might be denied that opportunity is a tough one to face.

I went to see a Master health practitioner yesterday and he did some very intense work on the area in question. While he was at it he addressed a couple of other areas (arm and shoulder) that have been causing a fair amount of discomfort. The arm and shoulder are fixed, I am happy to report. But the poor little calf is still sore. He did say it might be sore for a couple of days and that I should just cool it and rest.

I knew this venture would be fraught with the unpredictable when I signed up several months ago. So, this weekend, I will cool it, rest, enjoy the full spectrum of emotions, do my best not to drive my dear wife crazy and hope for the best.  There is nothing I can do now but trust that I will heal.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – as if on cue…

Let’s see there was the time about a year ago about two weeks out from a Marathon I rolled my ankle taking a leisurely run around Lake Merced. If you don’t know the trail around Lake Merced, it is the flattest most benign blacktop running surface there is.  Yet, I found a way to turn my ankle and had to hobble back to my car. Then there was last December, two or three weeks out from running the Death Valley Marathon that I went to get my flu shot.  My wife, Beverly thought it would be a good time for me to get immunized for some other potential malady at the same time, so I got two shots. With in 24-hours I was bed ridden with what seemed like the flu on steroids.  I managed to bounce back from both incidents and have a good time at the respective races.  I told myself that this was God’s way of getting me to rest up during the all important two week tapering off phase of Marathon training.

So there I was yesterday, enjoying an easy run on the beautiful country roads near my home when out of nowhere my right calf tightened up and the burn of what felt like a hot cattle prod ensued.  Honestly, after the initial horror of realizing I was a good three miles from home with only my two legs to get me back passed, I thought, of course, this would happen.  I managed to walk, jog, run back and get my beloved ice pack on the injury as quickly as humanly possible.  So here I am literally two weeks from the HMB Marathon with an ice pack and Ace bandage on what feels like a moderate calf injury.  There is a valuable lesson to be learned somewhere here, but I am not quite sure what that lesson is yet. For now, I am going with the just relax and take it easy and everything will be fine approach.

I am genuinely excited about the event and all that it represents.  There are hundreds of people who have put their heart and soul into ensuring this 1st Annual HMB International Marathon reflects all that is good about the Coastside.  I am grateful to be one in that crowd.

Preparing for the Half Moon International Bay Marathon – the final dress rehersal…

Yesterday was the last scheduled practice run organized by the Coastside Runners Club (unsung heros).  We did the 11 mile section of the course, which starts at the harbor and goes to the Montara Lighthouse.  This section of the race is really the most scenic and dramatic.  The course goes out to the Mark Foo Memorial at Mavericks then up the bluffs and in to Moss Beach.  The turnaround point is at the Montara Lighthouse. I have been on the Coast for a long time, and the scenery is as breathtaking as ever. On race day this section of the race should take me about two hours to complete.  Then I have three hours to do the southern 15-miles.  That will bring me in at my goal time of five hours.  Simple right?

Last Sunday, I did my last long run of 20-miles. I went out solo. The first 10-12 miles were no problem, then I started to run out of steam.  This is where not having someone alongside to get through those tough miles makes a difference.

As I was running through Princeton on my way back to the Ritz I was looking over my shoulder for someone I knew to drive by and give me a ride!  “This is not good,” I said to myself. But I have learned that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep going in the desired direction, those thoughts pass. That did, in fact, happen and I finished in relatively good shape.

I plan to go out tomorrow for about 10-miles and then start to really back off.  The race is three weeks away from today. Rest and good nutrition are essential during the last couple of weeks especially. But in the meantime, I have a new puppy, a birthday, and an anniversary to celebrate!  And then…Showtime.


Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – the long run…

I am going out tomorrow morning for a 20-miler.  I will take in most of the Half Moon Bay International Marathon course on this run.  The more I run on the Coastal Trail the more I appreciate it.  The motto for the HMBIM is 26.2-miles of running heaven.  There will be many miles that I am sure will not feel like “heaven,” but in the quiet of a peaceful Saturday morning, I do feel like it is heaven on earth out there.

This will be my last long run before the race.  I must say I am looking forward to it. I will do a practice run next week on the north end of the course with other registered runners. Then the tapering begins. I know I have trained with more intensity and focus for this race than almost any other long distance race I have ever done, so I am going to give myself a fairly long tapering time. I would rather go in to September 25th a little overly rested than a little overly trained or slightly injured.

I am a production/logistics fanatic, so I am excited about the logistics that surround this, the first annual, HMBIM.  The expo on the 23rd and 24th, the pre-race dinner, the gathering of gear (making sure all my lucky shirts, socks, scarf etc. are where they need to be), the incidentals, the scheduling of work and other life commitments, checking in on other participants, these are the goodies of what taking part in an event like this are about for me.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – the race within the race

We are roughly 5 weeks out from the 1st Annual HMB International Marathon.  That gives me about 2.5 weeks to improve what I can in my conditioning and preparation to complete the race in one piece and with a respectable finishing time (around 5 hours).

I had a really good training run last Saturday.  The Coastside Running Club organized a practice run on the course and people showed up from all around the Bay Area to take part. The groups split in to varying distances.  The group I was with ran 15.2 miles.  While it was a practice run, it had the desired effect of being a dress rehearsal.  The excitement, enthusiasm, and, yes, anxiety of race day were all in the mix.

I was planning to stick with the pace I hope to maintain for the actual race, but as these things go, I got caught up in the energy of what we were doing and went out much faster. My overall pace for the 15.2 miles was about 2 minutes per mile faster than what my marathon pace might be.  Soooo, I am now telling/asking myself, hey, if I can get in a couple of more good weeks of training and taper properly over the last 2 or so weeks..who knows?  I could shock myself and those that know my race history with a personal best time. I am going to go out for about 13 miles tomorrow, then next weekend will be the last long run before the race (about 18 miles).

One might ask, who cares what your time is, as long as you give your best and finish?  To me, finishing is great. It symbolizes the spirit of sportsmanship and participation. But, to actually get out there and participate at a level I have never done before symbolizes so much more. It is a measurement that so many things went right. That the efforts of those people in my life that support me to do these crazy things (first and foremost Beverly, my wonderful, one-of-a-kind wife), really made a difference.  Because if a 53-year-old roofing contractor can get out there and run 26.2 miles faster than he ever has, well maybe someone else can too.