Tag Archives: Stanford University


Welcome to today’s post in the continuing saga of Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life.  If you are interested in listening to this, please click on this link:

I’ve been running competitively, off and on, ever since Junior High School.  I’ve probably had a bit more than my share of successes, some colossal failures, and several injuries, with some muscles and tendons breaking down more than once. 

The most recent have been calf cramps in both legs which I have had before.  I did rest, but even after a few weeks of rest and then gentle running, I experienced occasional twinges in both calves.  But when we left for a Stanford Study/Travel Tour of Italy a few weeks ago, the twinges had not occurred, and I planned to do some running, interspersed with touring.

Alas, that was not to be!  This turned out to be a “cross-training” trip.  I had failed to catch this fine print in the tour brochure:  “You must be capable of extensive walking-two to four miles-in historic centers, in museums and on city tours, as well as extended periods of standing on excursions.  Participants will encounter uneven terrain, including some dirt and cobblestoned paths, and must be able to walk at least 20 minutes up and down hills in the Tuscan towns and at Gargonza.  At the Palio, participants must be able to sit outside for several hours on metal bleacher seats with limited legroom.”  I really should have paid attention to this last bit about the Palio, but more about that later.


On the first full day of the tour we took the train from Santa Margherita in Liguria to the coastal town of Camogli, part of the Italian Riviera.  We toured the town, had lunch overlooking the beach, and then took the ferry to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Fruttuoso.  I had planned to participate in the 3 hour walk, up and down the mountains that separated Santa Fruttuoso and Portofino, the most famous town on the Italian Riviera.  I took one look up at the steep inclines, my jet lag exhaustion kicked in, and I decided to save myself for the famous Cinque Terre hike the following day.  I joined the majority, who took the ferry from Santa Fruttuoso to Portofino.  I was glad at the time I had chosen that option, because the one hour tour of hilly Portofino pretty much wiped me out.  We saw lots of yachts, and while Portofino was pleasant, I wouldn’t call it trending!


We then took the ferry back to Santa Margherita, and it sure was a long, uphill walk from the pier to our hotel, the Continental.

That brings me to the next day.  It began with a near debacle of us getting on the semi-express to Monterosso by mistake (it was late), rather than the local, which we had tickets for.  The conductor removed most of us at the next stop, but some did not get the message and remained on board, including one of our guides who was looking for those still on the train.  We ultimately did get on the local, and were joined further down the line by the rest of our group.  One of our group said conductors do this regularly to collect extra money for their own pockets, but I only know he said it would cost an extra 11.50 euros to stay on the semi-express.  You can decide whether or not the allegation is true.   

During the brief tour of Monterosso, my right calf began to twinge.  I looked up at the steep climb up out of the town; the trail appeared to go straight up, not switched back and forth, the way the path was cut, rising out of Santa Fruttuoso the day before.  I was on the verge of bailing out of this hike as well.

Then, a tiny miracle happened.  The pain in my calf vanished.  I felt a surge of energy.  It was game on.

It wasn’t easy.  We did climb straight up for about the first twenty minutes, but then the trail swung to the left, along a ridge which had a lesser incline, leading further inland.  We began encountering lemon trees and grape vines, planted into the terraced mountainside.  We stopped and our guide, Marco, gave us a short history of the rise and fall of the lemon industry over the last 800 years, which was replaced eventually by the current wine industry.


 We moved on, and then mounted a series of very steep steps, until we ultimately reached the peak of the highest mountain.  From there on the bias was down, but there certainly were more steep ups as well. Along the way, we stopped at the “cat feeding” station.  As you can tell from the picture, this cat may have been past saving!   

Cat Feeding Station Along the trail to Vernazza
Cat Feeding Station Along the trail to Vernazza

After 3 hours, we spied the village of Vernazza far below and the panorama made for a breathtaking photo.  We saw the ferry that was loading the rest of our group for the trip to Portofino, but it took us 20 minutes to get down the mountain to the dock, so we missed it.

The Ferry Leaving Vernazza With Our Group, Without Us
The Ferry Leaving Vernazza With Our Group, Without Us

Fortunately, Sylvia, another one of our guides, was hiking with us, and she arranged for a private boat to take us on to Manarola, where we met up with the rest of the group.  We had an extremely challenging hike around the uphill town, then further up to meet our bus.  We first came to the car parking area (no buses there!), further up a path alongside the very narrow road (a bus couldn’t make it), and then finally up to a wider road where the bus was waiting.  I was plenty glad they had bottles of water on the bus!

The next day we took the bus from Liguria to Tuscany, where my wife and I had been a few times before.  We stayed in Gargonza, just outside Arezzo, for the next few days, and the highlight during that time was the Palio horserace in Siena.  There are several Palio celebrations all around Italy, but nothing is quite like this 800 year old grudge match.  This is a 3 lap race, run on a trucked-in dirt track laid around the center of Il Campo, and there are no rules!!!


Even after I had read the warning to prepare for discomfort during the Palio, I did not expect 5 hours of regular waves of pain.  We were all packed into the stadium seats with our knees pressed against the backs of those in front of us and someone else’s knees digging into our backs.  We could stand, and we did frequently, but when the Contradas’ (Neighborhoods) parades began, with all their pomp and circumstance, we did so more sparingly because we blocked the view of those next to us and behind us. 

The worst part was waiting for the race to actually start.  All 10 horses had to be in the right starting positions before the restraining rope would be dropped, starting the race.  Believe it or not, this took over 1 hour to accomplish.  Various jockeys are paid huge sums to obstruct or facilitate the start of foe or friendly Contradas.  This was mainly accomplished by a jockey not guiding his horse into the correct starting position.  Countless times we heard the starter say, “Go out!  Go out!” and the horses would leave the starting area and circle around.  Then they would be called again, according to their drawn starting position.  And countless times, the crowd would emit its disapproving whistles, typical in Europe.  And it was getting darker and darker as twilight began to close around us!


Suddenly, the number 10 horse bolted into his slot, the starter dropped the rope, and the race was on!  In a matter of a few seconds the horses were in the straightaway right in front of us, and in several more seconds they flashed by and went into the next turn. 

Palio-Valdimonte (Ram) Jockey Unhorsing Nicchio(Shell) in Sienna July 2 2015
Palio-Valdimonte (Ram) Jockey Unhorsing Nicchio(Shell) in Sienna July 2 2015

Then, incredibly, the jockey riding for the Valdimontone (Ram) Contrada reached across to the Nicchio (Shell) jockey to his right and yanked him off his horse!  A roar of horror rose up in the crowd, and my mind was stunned by what I had just witnessed.  I thought, “How could this even happen….”  Then I remembered that there were no rules.  And I realized how easy it was to unseat the jockey, because they were all riding bareback, with no saddles or stirrups to aid them.  The others rushed on, including the jockey-less horse.  The second and third turns in the track were literally 90 degrees, and some of the horses actually careened off the far wall on those turns.  The pace was extremely fast and the three lap race was over before we were even over the shock of seeing one jockey unhorse another.

Suddenly a man who was sitting behind us charged down the steep steps, dashed out onto the dirt track and up to the jockey who did the unhorsing.  He and a couple of others helped him off his horse and spirited him away through a tunnel to safety.  Immediately thereafter a swarm of men from the unhorsed Contrada charged onto the track from our right and the Contrada whose jockey did the unhorsing spilled out onto the track from our left, with the abandoned horse trapped between them.  Fists flew and security forces quickly drove a wedge between the two Contradas.

The next twenty minutes were super-tense.  A groom kept the horse moving back and forth between the opposing forces who continued to scream at each other, while some tried to breach the security line to get at their enemy.  Nobody actually got through, but the security line appeared to be weakening.  Finally the Carabinieri National Police forced their way in, with full riot gear.  Gradually they pushed each Contrada further and further back from the other, giving more room to the horse and the groom.  Eventually they reached a space where they could leave the track for the safety of the stables.  We then made our way down the steep steps of the stands, out onto the track, and through the closest exit, thus ending our long summer afternoon of discomfort.  I’m glad we had this incredible experience, but I don’t believe I’ll do it again!  This must be an example of what people mean when they say, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience!”

The balance of the tour lacked the excitement and tension of the Palio, but certainly worth visits.  We toured the Etruscan Hill Town of Cortona which predates the arrival of the Romans.  The Etruscan Museum is comprehensive and demonstrates the power of women in their culture.  Much of their sculptures, ceramics and other art were copied by the Romans. 


Their tombs were reminiscent of the Egyptians, filled with possessions from this life for use in the next one.  On the day before we left Italy we did visit an actual Etruscan Burial Ground in Cerveteri, about 50 miles north of the Rome Airport.  It was an incredibly peaceful spot and several of the tombs were filled with hunting tools, beds, tables, chairs, pots and several other useful items.  It was well worth the stop.


Another very interesting stop was the medieval town of Lucca.  It is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini. There are several good restaurants, including Ristorante Puccini nearby.  The food is good and moderately priced, but they accept cash only. We also dined at the excellent Buca di Sant’Antonio which is premium priced, but worth it.  It’s a wonderful walking town, but take your map; it’s easy to get lost in the oval-walled town.  The wall is a good landmark, but it is, after all, round.  It all looks pretty much alike, particularly at night.   

The final tour stop that lingers in my memory is the gargantuan scale of the marble quarries at Carrara.  This is where Michelangelo found the huge slab of marble with which he sculptured his famous David into a figure way larger than life.  I can pull this mine into my consciousness readily.   A few pictures will do a far better job with this image than my mere words can do.  These remain captured memories in my mind’s eye.

I would like to share the good news with you, here at the end.  The rest and the “cross training” walking while we were in Italy, plus slow running when I returned home, have resulted in recovery from the calf injuries!  I am back up to my normal training regimen of running 3 days a week and walking and other cross training 2 days!!

Please let me know if you would like to know anything more about this monumental trip.  You can send a note to me in the Leave A Reply Box below.

Thanks for traveling with me in this vicarious way.



 Direct Link to Today’s Audio Podcast:

December was a difficult month, which actually was probably a good thing.  First I had to deal with jet-lag after a down-and-back trip to Canberra, Australia.  Then I kept trying to run 200s and 400s at my desired 800 meter race time, which left me further exhausted.  After that, most of my running was easy, and the few intervals I did were at a slower pace.  And I had a lot more rest days because I paid attention to my fatigue and only walked, golfed, or rested when I didn’t feel up to running. 

Now it is January, and I feel more rested.  In fact, this week I have felt the strongest in months.  I was able to handle a long run, and then an interval workout in 2 consecutive days.  I am hoping I can build slowly, but steadily in the coming months. 

I have also been thinking about my next novel.  I have been quite disturbed by world-wide terrorism, murder, bigotry and greed, and I have been trying to understand the root cause.  I think about poverty, drugs and alcohol, insanity,  lack of education, being spoiled, sexual drive, and myriads of other circumstances contributing to the chaos in the world.

When I was doing my prayers and meditations this week, I had an epiphany that all of these heinous acts and states of being have to do with power.  Or more specifically, the lack of power.  I want to investigate further.  How does one gain power in healthy ways?  Is the best power external or internal? Is win-win really possible?

I have dabbled in this area in my thriller, Slaves On Horseback, and my children stories, particularly Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom.  I have been podcasting the first 2 Episodes on iTunes, and I am including the link to the third Episode just below.  For those of you who have listened to the first 2 Episodes already, today we will March for Freedom in Maracaibo with Debby, Michael, their mother and Mr. Wugidgem: 


For those of you who want to start at the beginning, please go to:









Stanford University Track
Stanford University Track


If you would like to listen to this Podcast, please click on this link:


Back at last!  I have been struggling to decide whether or not I was ready to compete on the track.  I have had some gratifying interval speed workouts at my goal 800 meter race pace, but every time I reduced the rest interval between my speed repeats, my heart rate really jumped up and would not drop to an acceptable level when I reached the end of the rest interval, before the next repeat.  I would have to extend the length of the rest interval until my heart rate was at an acceptable level.  I expect this to happen at the end of the workout, but this was happening after only a few repeats with the shorter rest between them.

Eventually I decided to run a 600 meter time trial at my goal 800 meter race pace.  I felt good during the first 200 meters, but I was quite a bit slower than my race pace.  I began to struggle during the second 200 meters, which was slower than the first 200.  The final 200 was a bit faster, but I not as fast as I thought I was going!

Anyway, I was well off my goal 800 meter race pace, which I needed to achieve to qualify for the 2015 Senior Games.  I decided not to compete in the qualifying Games this month, but rather continue to train in my steady, gradual, injury- free way.  I’ll race only when I feel ready, hopefully by next Spring.  It is difficult indeed to accept that the recovery time after surgery and the recovery time after strenuous workouts get longer and longer as we age.  What helps keep me exercising though, is that I still love to run, my blood pressure and heart rate are low, and my overall health is very good. Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE – EPISODE 19

Iffley Road Track-Oxford University


Thanks for joining me today for Episode 18 in my running, writing, and traveling blog. For those of you who want to listen, rather the read, here is the link to the Audio Podcast: 

Picking up on one of my comments from the last Episode, it is extremely difficult to see the fine line between health and injury. Last week I ran a 600 meter time trial to get an idea how close I was to running a steady pace at my desired 800 meter race pace goal. I felt I was getting close to being able to race a full 800 meters at my goal pace, based on the 200 meter interval times at which I had been running. Was I ever wrong!

I thought I was running the first 200 meters at race pace, but I was quite a bit slower than I expected. I picked up the pace, but even at the 400 meter mark, I was still behind my goal pace. I increased my tempo in the final 200, but still finished well off my goal.

I just looked back at my training log, and I see that I had done a difficult tempo run 3 days before, and only walked the following 2 days. Therefore I did have 2 days of rest between the runs, but I may have needed a third day of rest.

I also may have needed to do my 200 meter interval training at a pace faster than race pace and/or reduced the rest interval to less than the 2 minutes I was taking. This week I think I will just reduce the rest interval and maintain the 200 meter pace at race level. The last time I did intervals faster than race pace, while maintaining the 2 minute rest intervals, I sustained a glute injury that took a long time to heal. Reducing the rest interval should be less stressful on the tired muscles, with less risk of injury.



Stanford University Track-Another View
Stanford University Track-Another View

I have been reviewing my workouts since the beginning of the year, in an attempt to unearth progress and setbacks during this 5 month period.  Because of hernia and eye operations during the first half of last year, I had spent the second half of 2013 doing a lot of easy running.  I was injury free. 

In January of this year, I began to do some speedwork, but at a 2 mile pace, rather than an 800 meter one.  I was doing 200s, 300s and 400s, usually 4 or 5 repeats, with a 2 to 3 minute rest interval, depending on how I felt.  I got through January injury free.

At the beginning of February, I began to increase the speed of my repeats to my 800 meter pace and I dropped the rest interval to the 2 minute range, but still did 4 or 5 repeats.  I felt very good during these repeats.  On February 27 I felt excellent, having rested 3 days, but on the 4th 200 meter repeat, my left glute cramped at about the 80 meter mark, so I stopped.  I rested 90 seconds, then ran 100 meters at my slower 2 mile pace, rested 2 ½ minutes, and then ran one more 100 meters at the 2 mile pace.  I prayed I wasn’t injured too seriously. Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE16

Running, Writing, and Traveling For Life – Episode 14



It’s been another long hiatus between blogs.  My main excuse this time is I took an Advanced Creative Writing class at Stanford this quarter from Professor Nancy Huddleston Packer.  This was by far the best writing experience I have ever had.  We had 18 students in the class and each of us submitted 2 pieces (mostly short stories) during the quarter for critique by the other students.   It was a large writing class, so each of us had to critique 3 or 4 stories each week, plus find time to either do two of our own, either a new one or rewrite an old one. 

The results were incredible!  I think most, if not all, of us read each story several times before we wrote our critiques, which we spoke from in class and then gave them to the writers of the week in class.  The comments were primarily positive and even the negative ones were mostly constructive. 

Professor Packer gave us in class exercises every week, reviewing the fundamentals of powerful writing, and then gave us homework to employ what we learned in class to present the following week.

I would suggest you search for a class of this type near you because I believe this is the best way to learn to write more successfully.  I would also suggest you sign up the moment registration opens up because these classes fill up rapidly.

Anfi Beach Resort, Grand Canary, from the top floor
Anfi Beach Resort, Grand Canary, from the top floor


My wife and I are currently at the Anfi Beach Resort on the southeast coast of Grand Canary Island which is part of Spain.  The Island is in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, west of the country of Western Sahara.  We drove over to the town of Playa Del Ingles, caught a glimpse of sand dunes, found a parking lot, and walked over to the beach.  As we stood on the promenade, which was set back from the water’s edge a few hundred meters, it really was as though we were looking at the other end of the Egyptian Sahara, which we visited a few years back.  Huge dunes rose and fell across our field of vision.  A few people appeared to be returning from a trek across the dunes to the water’s edge, and they looked hot and exhausted.


Playa del Ingles
Playa del Ingles

We also drove over to Puerto Del Mogan at what appears to be the end of Highway GC1, the main freeway or dual carriageway on the island.  It’s a bit reminiscent of Venice, with small footbridges over canals which crisscross the oceanfront.  It’s quite picturesque and the choice of restaurants is staggering.  That said, some of them were closed for the month of May which we ultimately discovered was the slowest tourist month of the year.  There’s a lot to be said for that.  And we didn’t starve.

Canal Bridge in Mogan, Grand Canary Island
Canal Bridge in Mogan, Grand Canary Island

We had read on the RCI web site complaints about the lack of view at the Anfi Beach Resort.  They mostly were from those who had rooms with numbers in the 500s.  Our “confirmed” room number was 1027, but more often than not, resorts in the past have ignored the confirmed number and assigned us another room.  It was usually disappointing.  So we expected we would be relegated to a room in the 500s. 

Wow, were we greatly surprised!  We were confirmed in room 1027 which is on the top floor with a great ocean view from a large lanai.  The unit was very spacious with a large living room, bathroom, and bedroom.  The kitchen had a large freezer/refrigerator and cook-top stove and microwave oven.  We were so comfortable and relaxed there that we spent the majority of the time in our rooms.

The fine sandy beach was right in front of the complex, but the water temperature was a bit colder than I expected.  It was very clean and clear, however, and I enjoyed my time in the water, albeit was brief.  The resort has several pools, including a water slide, and we could hear children enjoying themselves and chattering and screaming throughout the day.  Adults played games and did exercises as well.  We watched and listened from the shade and relative quiet from our top floor lanai.

Anfi Beach Resort from the Breakwater
Anfi Beach Resort from the Breakwater

The major language we heard was Spanish of course, but we heard a lot of Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and British English.  We didn’t hear much American English, probably because the trek to Grand Canary is long and difficult from the U.S.  Hawaii and the Caribbean are much more accessible tropical paradises.

We arrived at Las Palmas Airport one day before we could check into our timeshare, so we stayed at the AC Hotel in Las Palmas, a recent acquisition by Marriott.  The rooms (2 of them) were spacious and comfortable, and their restaurant food was quite good.  The only funny thing was the bathroom basin was slanted down toward you, so anything that could roll that you placed on its surface did roll.

One tip I will pass on that we never noticed before on our European trips.  At both Frankfurt and Las Palmas, you can find out where to find the Airline check in spot from the departure board.  There is a column listing a range on numbers (i.e. 17-21).  This indicates the check-in positions at the Airline counter.  Then look above the ticket counters around you, and you will see numbers.  They are sequentially numbered as you proceed in either direction to make it easier to find.  I know this sounds complex, but it will make sense when you are there.

Another tip to make the trip easier from the U.S. is to connect in Madrid or Barcelona.  The flights to Las Palmas are shorter and more frequent than from Northern European cities.

We’re headed back home, the coming week’s schedule is pretty free, so I plan to update you on my personal work with the power of positive affirmations for running and the rest of your lives.  To refresh your memory on these affirmation please go back to my post of December 19. 2013.    
Link To Affirmations Blog
I have been repeating these and other affirmations daily since that time.  Here are 2 more key affirmations that I have added: 

1.  I enjoy doing my affirmations, and I repeat them daily. 

2.  Affirmations work to improve my life. 

Please look for my next blog soon for concrete examples of what the affirmation process does for me.  Thanks!  





At San Dieguito Park-Solana Beach, California

I’ve had a lot going on with my day job since I last posted.  It appears I may have a breather as we head into the weekend, so let’s see if I can finish this and post it today.  We shall see….

While I have been busy with my business, I have been thinking about running in the spare moments – and when I have actually been running.

One major theme that has come up for me is the mental part of the entire gestalt of running.  In the October, 2013 issue of Runner’s World there is an article which places extreme emphasis on the mental side.  If you would like to read it, please click on this link:  Train Your Brain Hard0001.  For me, this is radical, not gradual.  I believe the strongest and longest lasting method is steady, gradual development, both physically and mentally.

 I recommend the book Psychocybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz to give you a better idea of this longer term approach to the mental side of life, including running.  This book was the foundation of the mental approach to training I learned at Stanford University when I was in school eons ago.  Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who noticed over the years that many of his patients who had improved their appearance physically through surgery had not improved their internal self-image.  Negative “self-talk” continued to dominate their thoughts. 

He ultimately discovered that positive thoughts, vividly imagined in the mind’s eye, are perceived by the mind to be every bit as real as actual events.  He believed a person’s outer success could never exceed one’s internally visualized success.  From this he developed a template which his patients could customize to codify areas of life they wanted to improve.  Here are some of the positive affirmations we used on the track team:

  1. I am a relaxed, fast runner.
  2. I enjoy my workouts.
  3. I am a winner.
  4. I am a good student and I complete my assignments easily.    
  5. I focus on my breathing to distract myself from pain during strenuous workouts and races.        
  6. I enjoy doing my affirmations every day.                                         

We were instructed to find a quiet place, close our eyes, and relax.  We then repeated each affirmation aloud and focused on evoking a vivid mental picture of ourselves in action, executing the affirmation in as much detail as possible.  For example, when you repeat “I am a winner,” see yourself coming down the final straightaway, pumping your arms, legs strong and churning, then leaning forward, first to break the tape.  Of particular importance is seeing yourself enjoying doing your affirmations every day, because this ultimately overcomes the negative thought that doing the affirmations is a waste of time.

This approach is alive and well today.  Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE 12

Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life-Episode 11


For the last several weeks, I have been doing a modest amount of running, but not feeling prepared to write about.  I’m still tired much of the time, and I’m stiff the days following the gym workouts, interval training and the tempo runs.  I’ve cut back to these two running days and one gym workout per week.  I do some walking and easy running on the other four days, but most of them are rest days.

But I really feel good when I am running, and for several hours after the workouts.  Some of this “feel good” phenomenon is the endorphins my body produces, but I think the majority is just the relaxed movement.  I think in former times, every stride was tense, and probably I had muscle groups working against each other.  Now I try to relax my stomach, keep my elbows tucked in slightly, shorten my stride, and land mid-sole.  I feel more fluid, and I really enjoy this kind of movement.  Perhaps I’m just fooling myself, but I haven’t sustained any injuries since I resumed training six months ago.  This is the longest I’ve ever gone after a layoff without injury.

Stanford Oval View Of The Quad
Stanford Oval View Of The Quad

Continue reading Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life-Episode 11