The legs feed the wolf.

The legs feed the wolf.

Join the Club

To become part of the San Elijo Hills Running Club (SEHRC), send us an email and we'll invite you to join us at, it's free and you'll get to see all the local runs in and around San Elijo Hills.

If you want to go hardcore, order a shirt ( and run with SEHRC at our next running event. See you on the trails, road or at the races.
San Elijo Hills Running Club

Friday, April 18, 2014

Unexpected encounters

Today was a pretty easy day at work.  I had a court appearance downtown in the morning and then one up in Vista in the afternoon.  My family is away in Florida, so once I got home, I could do whatever I wanted.  I took a nap.

Once I woke up, I was having an internal dialogue about how I dislike my job and blah blah blah.  I needed to get out and run, but I didn't want to run.  As I didn't run the day before, not only did I have to run, I needed to put in a hard workout.  I choose to do a two mile warm-up and then 5 x 1 mile intervals, with 1/4 mile rest.   This was on trail with 1600' of gain.  It was a tough work-out.

Towards the end of run, on the Ridgeline Trail, I saw a runner approaching.  It was Chris the ultrarunning bad ass.  I held out my hand as we passed.  He slapped it, with a big smile on his face.  We both ran on, without exchanging a word.  This is the sort of moment that rarely happens, an unplanned and unexpected exchange of energy with a compatriot, that gives you a boost for a bit.  

It made me think about everything that led up to that moment.  It took two years of running and reaching out to other runners to meet Chris.  Then it took me overcoming a hamstring injury and my own whining to be on the trail at that moment when Chris passed me.  Its moments like these that are more important than medals and personal bests and course records.  Its just the simple act of passing a friend on the trail who loves to run just as much as you do.  For that moment, everything was perfect in the universe.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The San Diego Club Soccer Tryout Experience

Recreational vs. Competitive Soccer

In San Diego, there are two distinct levels of outdoor soccer, recreational and competitive (also known as 'club' and 'travel').  The hallmark of recreational soccer is that the coaches are volunteers and generally the parents of one of the players.  Rec programs are put on by organizations like AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), whose motto is "Everyone Plays".

In addition, some soccer clubs have rec programs, also coached by volunteers, that act as a feeder/farm system for their club teams.  The stated focus of the rec programs are generally to give all players a chance to play and be exposed to the game.  In reality many of the rec teams turn into quasi competitive teams, where winning becomes more important for the coach than everything else.

Club soccer is the exact opposite of rec.  It is much more expensive, uses paid coaches rather than volunteers and does not guarantee equal playing time   The ideal club program is more concerned about the development of the player rather than winning, but this ideal is sometimes swept aside and replaced with the the desire for immediate gratification (aka wins).

Club Soccer Categories

In my mind, club soccer can be divided in four categories.  The first are Matrix clubs, which are a hybrid of rec and club soccer.  A Matrix club may have paid coaches on staff, but most of the coaches tend to be parents.  The teams subscribe to a philosophy of players getting to play at least 50% of a game, but the teams play in competitive leagues.  Matrix teams are found throughout San Diego in cities such as San Marcos and El Cajon.

The second category are the local club teams, such as Impact (La Jolla) or Express (Encinitas).  At this level all the coaches are paid and the teams generally service players from the surrounding areas.  Depending on the club and the specific age group, playing time is not necessarily guaranteed.  These clubs also offer varying levels of extra training clinics and skills development.

The third category is a regional team, such as Carlsbad United, that draws players from a wider area than a local club.  The last category are the national clubs that have a "Development Academy" sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation ("USSF").  In San Diego three teams bear this distinction, Surf, Albion and Nomads.

Tryout Stress

As the best players age, they tend to funnel up from rec programs, to local clubs, to regional clubs to national clubs.  At the same time, participation in youth soccer peaks around age 11 to 12 and players begin to quit the sport.  As a result, after the age of 12, local club teams begin to disintegrate as players quit or move on to a regional or national club.

All this makes tryout season an incredibly stressful period for the youth soccer player at a local club.  The average 12 year old player is concerned with whether they will be offered a spot on their current team, if their team will even exist next season and if they should try-out at another club, be that local, regional or national. It also calls into question whether a local club team should attempt to field older squads, as those squads will continually leak players to regional and national teams and never be able to recruit enough quality players to replace those who leave the team.

The Tryout Experience

With the above as prelude, I offer a synopsis of the experience of four boys dealing with the 2014 tryout season.  The four boys all played for the same team at a local club and all tried out at the same national club. Prior to tryouts beginning, we were informed that two of the best defenders on their team were quitting soccer to play football and another player was leaving the club.  On top of that, we learned that one of the players was going to be cut before tryouts even began.

Thus, to even maintain the status quo, the team needed to find four quality players to replace the ones leaving.  To have the ability to cut some of the other lesser performing players, the team would need to recruit even more players.  This placed the team in the unlikely scenario of finding five to six quality players who wanted to play for a local club team, rather than a regional or national club team.  At the same time, we were told a number of players were going to tryout with a national team, including the goalie, potentially putting the number of players to replace at seven.  Consequently, our son choose to tryout with the national team too.

Listed below is a brief synopsis of the tryout experience for each boy, based on the information I learned from the parents:

Player One

The first player tried out with the national club on Monday (2/10) and was offered a spot that evening.  On Tuesday (2/11) he attended tryouts with his current team to see if any new quality players showed up. When none did, he accepted the spot on the national team on Wednesday (2/12).

Player Two

The second player, who had already been practicing with the national club, tried out on Monday (2/10) and was also offered a spot that evening.  The second player choose to take a little more time to evaluate the situation with the current club, but he eventually accepted the spot.  The lesson to learn from the second player is, if interested in another team, ask to practice with them a month or two before tryouts begin.

Player Three

The third player tried out on Monday (2/10) and did not receive a call.  He then went to his current club's tryouts on Tuesday (2/11) and back to tryouts at the national club on Wednesday (2/12).  He was not offered a spot on Wednesday and it appeared he would not make the national club.  As a result, he went to tryouts on Thursday (2/13), played in State Cup on Saturday  (2/15) and Sunday (2/16) with the other boys and then went to tryouts at the regional club on Monday (2/17) and Tuesday (2/18).  He was then offered a spot at the regional club.

However, player three had persisted to contact the national club and due to a spot opening up, was asked to come practice with the team.  Although, that practice was a week away, during which the the regional club kept calling and asking if he would accept the spot they had offered him.  On the Tuesday (3/4), player three was slated to practice with the national club, but rain closed its field.  Instead, he went to another tryout session with his local club, which was on artificial turf.  Finally, two days later on March 6th, almost a month since tryouts began, he practiced with the national club and was offered a spot, which he accepted.  The lesson to be learned from player three is persistence pays off.

Player Four  

The fourth player tried out with the national club on Monday (2/10) and was offered a spot.  The player, like player two, waited a bit, but eventually accepted the spot.  But a few days after accepting, player four revoked his acceptance to continue to play for his old coach.

In the meantime, player five, a goalie from another club, was offered a spot at the national club. Unfortunately for player four, the very next day after player five was offered a spot, player four's coach from the local team quit.  Now player four is in a difficult position.  His local club team, as he knew it, has largely disintegrated and his spot on the national club team is dependent on another goalie turning it down.  Player four offers two lessons: don't follow coaches and recognize when it's time to jump ship.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Experienced Runners Only

In an effort to grow SEHRC into a bigger club, I have been hosting running meet-ups on the North County Running Meetup.  The tagline for the run is "8-10 mile trail run.  For EXPERIENCED RUNNERS ONLY."

Despite this description, we continue to have people show up, to paraphrase Jimi Hendrix, who are not experienced.  I first believed the fault lay with them.

A couple of weekends ago, we had two runners who took the cake.  The first was a young gentlemen who had signed up onto the meetup site a few days before and referred to himself as a "jogger."  Let's get one thing straight, I ain't no jogger - I'm a runner.  The young man showed up in Vans and a cotton hoodie.  This for a run on trails in the rain.  With him was his father, who was wearing some throwback gray sweatpants from 1982.  This is SoCal, we run in shorts.

Before the run started,  I was my usual abrupt self and pointed out to the young man that he was not wearing running shoes, this was a difficult run and that if the two could not keep up, we would leave them behind and they could get lost.

Not to be dissuaded they came with us anyway.  The dad lasted no more than a mile.  A freaking mile down a hill.  Really?  The son hung with us for three miles, but it was clear he had never run with a group before.  He kept taking point and missing the turns.

At mile three we crossed a swollen creek via a fallen tree.   Our young man seemed to have a fear of water and took about five minutes to cross.  After we crossed, we spent five minutes convincing him he should head back.  We then changed course to head back to a main road so he could find his way back.  We then spent another ten minutes convincing him the rest of the run would be too difficult for him and finally he headed back to the start.

This experience of course rolled around in my brain.  How can I grow the club, but not have knuckleheads show up?  In talking to my boss, she crystalized things for me.  She pointed out that these people are so inexperienced they have no idea what "Experienced Runners" means.  So I defined the term:
(1) completed a half-marathon in under 1:45,(2) completed a marathon in under 4:00,(3) have run over two hours on trail with elevation gains of 2000 feet or more, or(4) completed a run with us.
If you do not fall into one of the above-listed categories, please do not join us, as we reserve the right to prohibit individuals who lack the necessary experience from participating in our runs.  Thank you for your understanding.     
Of course, life is all about the push-pull.  Have I now made it too hard?  Have I shot myself in the foot?  Will no one show up to future runs?

All this got me thinking, what do I want out of this club?  What is my vision.  In the beginning, I thought I wanted to welcome all runners, regardless of ability to the club.  As time has passed, I realized I had no interest in running with people who can't run.  I'm a running snob.  I want a club filled with competitive, elite and pro runners. 

But then, my thoughts fell in the opposite direction.  Why would elite runners run with me?  What do I offer them?  Well, the best trail running in North County.  Beyond that?  Maybe not so much.  They don't need me, other than as a tour guide.

To make this club for the elite, I think I've got to become elite.  Sort of a Fields of Dreams, "build and he will come" mentality.  Runners like runners like themselves.  If I run faster, the faster will come.  One thing though, the Sunday long run is a slow run.  It's not a fast run.  But to grow the club, I think you start with the long, slow run, so people can chat.  As it gets bigger, you add the Saturday speed workouts and Wednesday night tempos.

For the moment, we'll see how it works.  Perhaps the faster will show up and the slower will stay away.  So maybe I'm not a running snob, maybe I'm just a runner who likes to run with people who are experienced.

San Elijo Hills Running Club

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nike Zoom Wildhorse Trail Shoe Review

[To help the reader gauge the usefulness of my review, I am a 42 year old male, run 30-50 miles a week both on trail and road and recently ran a marathon in 3:06 and a half marathon in 1:20.  I don't buy a lot of different types of shoes, as I tend to buy the same pair over and over again.]

For the last 12 months I've been running on the road and trail in Nike Free 5.0s.  The Frees are the most comfortable running shoes I've ever worn, but on trails the sole of the shoe gets small pebbles stuck in it, tends to get chewed up pretty quickly and does not have sufficient grip.

However, inertia plays a large role in my buying decisions and I've continued to run in the Frees.  That is until I noticed my running mates, Chris aka "Shoe Geek", Dax, Cameron, and James, among others wearing the Nike Zoom Wildhorse on trail runs.  When Chris informed me that I could get the Wildhorse on for $49.99, the cheap bastard in me overcame the inertia and asked my wife, shopper extraordinaire, to get me two pairs.  My wife first googled "Finishline coupon" and found a coupon online that saved me another $10 bucks.

Brand new
Pink & Blue all the way through
The Wildhorse comes in three color schemes.  The pink, light blue scheme being marked down from $109.99 to $49.99 on Finishline.  I'm assuming the other color schemes were selling better, as most men probably don't want pink shoes.  But at $50, and a little trail dust on them, the cheap bastard in me doesn't mind.

16.7 miles of trail later
The shoes themselves come in at 9.6oz, with 4mm of heel to toe drop.  The heel is at 27.3mm and the toe is at 23.3mm.  The Frees weigh 8.5oz and also have 4mm of drop.  One of the reasons I like Nike is the consistency in sizing.  I've been a 10.5 shoe size since around age 18.  If I order a 10.5 in Nikes, the shoes always fit me perfectly.  When I first put them on, the toe box felt a little tight under my big toe, but I figured the shoes would loosen up a bit and they did.

I first ran 7 miles of trails, with 1300' of elevation gain, in the Wildhorse fresh out of the box.  I had a raw area of skin on my left foot from a blister, but it did not bother me at all during the run - no break-in period required.  These shoes are comfortable, not quite as comfortable as the Frees, but almost.

My next run was 9.7 miles of trails, with 1800' of elevation gain.  On this run, I really appreciated the grip these shoes offer.  Compared to the Frees, these shoes are beefy.  No more feeling sharp rocks through the soles or half-running/sliding down a loose trail.  At the same time, that extra 1.1oz must add a little more padding, especially at the heel.  My feet definitely felt less beat up after my runs.

Until I find something better, I have to give the Wildhorse a 5 out of 5.  Lightweight, comfortable and grippy. What else do you need in a trail shoe?

San Elijo Hills Running Club

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mt. Olympus Relay

The Mt. Olympus Relay consists of three legs in San Elijo Hills.  The relay will take place over a two week period and consist of teams of three.  During the two week window, runners may run any leg as many times as they want.  Teams will then submit the three legs that give their team the lowest time, with each runner only allowed to run one of the three legs.  Lowest combined time wins.  All runs need to be done on Strava and a link emailed to

LEG 1 - 5 miles @ 754' of gain

The first leg begins at the Garden Trail pillar and proceeds onto Questhaven, before turning left onto the Jeep Trail, then left on Attebury Road, before finishing at the light across from the Lakeview trailhead.

LEG 2 - 4.3 miles @ 719' of gain

 The second leg begins on the other side of San Elijo Road in the parking lot for the Lakeview trail head.   Lakeview is followed until it intersects with the Ridgeline Trail, where runners make a right and head towards the antenna tower.  Runners then descend down a steep concrete section, pass the dog park and finish at the intersection of San Elijo Road and Elfin Forest Road.

LEG 3 - 1 mile @ 222' of gain

The third leg begins opposite San Elijo Middle School on the Copper Creek Trail at three posts.  The trail heads up, going past the elementary school, and continues up, with a brief plateau, before a plunge, where runners take a right onto the Garden Trail.  Runners then encounter a steady climb, before finishing at the Garden Trail pillar.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Natural Born Runners - kids

Last night I was at my children's science fair.  After taking a look at their work, I settled onto a bench, and waited until I could leave.  As I sat, I watched as the younger children became bored like me.  But rather than sit and be anti-social, they began to run.

The running involved chasing one another and playing tag.  The children all ran with perfect form (none of them were heel strikers) and smiles on their faces. They ran up steps, hurdled planters and dodged parents.  Their energy was exhausting to watch.

As I watched, I thought, this is how you get them to run. You don't put them on a track and have them go round and round.  You harness their natural proclivity to run, by letting them run the way they want.  Put up obstacles, jumps and turns and create a game of running tag.  Then let them go at it.

One of the children running was on my son's cross-country team last year.  During the meets, he looked tired and slow.  Change the venue to the school courtyard and he was fast, dynamic and indefatigable.

Why?  Because he was having fun.  Rather than force kids to run the way we want, let them run the way they want.  All it takes is a little creativity in designing the workouts, then sit back and watch them explode into action.

San Elijo Hills Running Club  

Speed Development

On Wednesday I did a speed development session.  This involves running at your absolute fastest for 50 to 150m, resting until completely recovered and then doing it again.  Since I started running, I have not done such a session.  The purpose is to train the brain to fire the muscles faster and make you a more efficient runner, which pays huge dividends in long runs.

I did the session behind the San Diego Convention Center on a grass field across from the water around 9 a.m.  The field has a flat section followed by a short decline into another flat section.  I began each run on the flat section and used the hill to accelerate into top speed.  Each run was about 50 meters.  I did nine repetitions.

At 3 p.m. my back began to hurt.  On Thursday, my back hurt even more.  On Friday, 48 hours later, my quads hurt for the first time.  After running over a thousand miles last year, just 400 meters of sprints destroyed me.  At the same time, as I began to to head back, my surgically repaired ACL (via hamstring) stretched out a bit, as if some scar tissue got ripped apart (a good thing).

Lesson: in my non-professional medical opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, my back hurts, in part, due to my core being weak and my body not getting stretched enough.

That's why, for me Year Two of Running, will focus on strength (core), stretching and of course the reason I'm hobbling around, speed.

San Elijo Hills Running Club