Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
Alan Geraldi was about halfway into his run home from work when he began passing the cemeteries of Colma.
Darkness had descended, cars streamed by, and Geraldi, a 45-year-old attorney, found inspiration in the sea of headstones.
"It's motivation to keep running," Geraldi said with a smile.
On this night in late November, Geraldi was running a mere 7 miles home. For him, it was like a jog to the corner store. Before his office was relocated, he ran 25 miles each way, about twice a week. Even a 50-mile round-trip commute was not much of a strain.
Geraldi is an ultramarathoner, one of those relentless runners who think it's fun to run 100 miles without stopping. Geraldi is now preparing for his first 200-mile and 315-mile races.
"I've done runs all around the world - Switzerland, Italy, the U.K., China, Hong Kong," Geraldi said, continuing along his 7-mile jaunt, which takes him from his office on East Grand Avenue in South San Francisco to his Daly City home bordering San Francisco.
Wearing shorts, yellow Asics running shoes and a shirt with built-in reflectors, Geraldi ran facing traffic. He passed cemetery after cemetery, from the Hoy Sun Memorial Cemetery and the Serbian Cemetery to the Japanese Cemetery. He had folded his work clothes and tucked them into his backpack, along with staples he uses for longer runs: arm covers for falling temperatures, and packets of energizing carbohydrate Goo. Holding his BlackBerry, he checked messages and used it as a flashlight.
"I forgot my flashlight and headlight today," he said, noting that he can text while running without looking at the keyboard. To his left was the Lucky Chances Casino. Across Hillside Boulevard were several cemeteries.
Not far away, he said, is the cemetery where Wyatt Earp is interred. He said he once took a detour to find the iconic lawman's plot.
Born in San Francisco and raised in the Sonoma County town of Penngrove, Geraldi serves as general counsel for Panalpina, an international freight forwarding company. He began jogging as an undergraduate at Sonoma State University. "It started as a way to burn off stress, and it still is that," he said.
His jogging days led to 10K races, followed by marathons, triathlons and Ironman triathlons. When his work - he travels as much as 200,000 miles a year - made him realize he didn't have time to train for the cycling part of an Ironman, he set his sights on the ultramarathon.
"I decided I can bring my running shoes with me anywhere, but not the bike," he said, leaving Colma and heading into Daly City, where darkened auto body shops lined the industrial stretch.
His first ultramarathon was in 2007, when he did the Tahoe Rim Trail race. He finished the 100 miles in 27 hours.
"The toughest thing about the 100-milers is the sleep deprivation," he said. "By around mile 85 of the Tahoe race, I remember hallucinating. I saw a guy cheering me on and it turned out to be a tree. Around mile 97, I saw a house that was not there."
He was hooked, hallucinations and all. He is a founder of the San Francisco Triathlon Club, and has become a member of an ultramarathon group that calls itself the Ultraholics. He now does marathons - his best time is two hours and 49 minutes - just to train for the ultramarathons.
"I'm a Type A personality," he said, noting that his father, now in his 70s, is also a marathon addict. "I like challenges that I set for myself. I'm stubborn. Every race and every course is so different. The miles that hurt can appear at any time."
Running along the bicycle path up Hillside Boulevard, Geraldi recounted the one race that he didn't finish. At mile 17 of the 100-mile Rocky Raccoon race in Texas, Geraldi's sciatica flared up. By mile 26, he was reduced to a limp. By mile 80, he finally ceded to the pain and stepped out.
"I'm still thinking about that race," he said, shaking his head. "But I made 80 miles in debilitating pain."
He says his twice-weekly commute by sneaker began about a year ago, when gas prices were soaring. At the time, his office was in Redwood Shores.
"I figured I could save on gas and do nearly 50 miles round trip," he said. "I have an SUV, so it was significant. Plus, I don't like sitting in traffic."
There are no showers at his new office, so he uses antibacterial baby wipes to clean up, a tip he picked up from a fellow ultramarathoner.
When he reached the top of Hillside Boulevard, near the end of Mission Street, he took a left on East Market Street. He was a half mile from home.
He has three big races planned for this year: the Barkley in Tennessee, which has had about 750 people start and fewer than 10 finish and is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice; the 100-mile Keyes race, in which he will run the entire length of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West; and the Vol State Road Race across the state of Tennessee, which is about 315 miles. (His best time on a 100-miler is 25 hours.)
"When I do the Florida Keys next year, I plan on starting at the finish line and running to the starting line to join the race and then run to the finish line, so it will be 200 miles," Geraldi said. "I'd be the first person to do that."
Barely breaking a sweat as he arrived home, he was greeted by one of his four sons and his wife, Cori, who is training for her first ultramarathon.
He planned a dinner of pasta and would indulge in a couple of glasses of wine. Dinner is the main meal of the day for Geraldi, who is a vegetarian. He would sleep for maybe five hours, spending the rest of the night checking his BlackBerry, reviewing briefs and working on his computer.
"The sleep deprivation that comes with the job is great training for the ultramarathons," he quipped. --
Occupation: General counsel and senior vice president, Panalpina USA
Distance in miles: Runs between 7 and 10 miles each way
Time he leaves: Varies
What he has for breakfast: Black coffee
What he eats for lunch: Nothing, on occasion a bowl of cottage cheese
What he carries: BlackBerry, driver's license and $10, bandanna, carbohydrate gels, flashlight or headlamp, water bottle, small camera
How long he's been commuting by sneaker: Over a year, about twice a week
Biggest impediment: "The time. It takes time to run in. Also, now I don't have a shower at my new office."
Why the heck: "It allows me to save on gas. It's green for the environment. And it allows me to put in miles for my sport."
Weirdest experience: "This isn't weird, but I do see a lot of great things in nature. I was running to work and passed by a slough from the bay, which ended in a road. There was a sea lion right there."
E-mail Julian Guthrie at email@example.com.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/02/CMU11AV34N.DTL#ixzz0bfs1p3RJ