Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Mileage Awakens

It’s late at night now, and I am still recovering from this week’s 18 mile run. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I went straight to bed and slept for several hours. By the time I woke up it was already 5 pm and dark outside (thanks a lot daylight savings time). I had to work to do but I was totally unmotivated to do anything other than rest. You all know that I have trained for the Los Angeles Marathon for several years now, but all that experience doesn’t keep me from feeling completely winded after pounding the asphalt, and at times the pavement, through Burbank and Glendale.

For once I got to Griffith Park before any announcements by the coaches were made, and that felt like a tremendous accomplishment considering how I like to sleep in most days. Coach JC told us once again to take it easy on this run and reminded us that this was not about being fast but completing all 18 miles. Knowing the impact that all these miles were going to have on us, he made it clear that if we wanted to do maintenance walks or other cardio exercises instead of runs through next week that would be fine. Having been through this marathon training before, I came into this particular run with an alarming amount of confidence. I’ve ran 18 miles before, but I seem to have forgotten the effect that has had on my body. I treated this run as if it was no big deal, but it sure was.

This run comes just after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” finally arrived in theaters everywhere, so us runners tried to talk about it without spoiling any important plot details. This proved to be even more challenging than the run itself as those of us who had seen the most anticipated movie of 2015 were ever so eager to talk about its most pivotal moments in extensive detail. As for myself, I was curious what people thought about Jar Jar Binks’ sex scene with an ewok as it raised a few eyebrows… Okay, that didn’t happen in “The Force Awakens.” I just wanted to make sure I had your attention.

For the record I did do my two maintenance runs before this 18 miler, so I was certain that I would keep up with my fellow pace group runners throughout this run. For the most part I did, but just like in any LA Marathon I eventually got separated from the rest of the pack and found myself once again experiencing the loneliness of the long distance Kenber. Fortunately I did have a map of the course, one that I did not lose for once, so I wasn’t about to go in the wrong direction. Have I done that in the past? I’ll plead the fifth on that.

We were not inundated with hills even though we had to run part way up Grandview Avenue, but we did have to watch ourselves more than usual as we ran downhill more often than not. I did my best to run on the asphalt as much as possible, but there were times I was forced to run on concrete which did not do my joints much in the way of favors. During the LA Marathon we spend most of our time running on asphalt, so it’s important that we run on it now so that we can fully prepare for what’s coming up in two months.

Despite the fact that I ran by my lonesome, I found myself running at just the right pace even as the temperature rose from a frigid 49 degrees to a temperature that just had to be unseasonably warm. I had more layers of clothing on than usual, but it was no surprise that I shed some of them way before the halfway point.

I did have a few packs of gel blocks handy in case I needed more of an energy boost, and it didn’t take long for me to need them as I could tell when I was low on fuel. Coach JC told us that this 18 mile run would be the first one in our training that would have us hitting “the wall.” Now hitting the wall means we’ve reached the point where we feel like we can’t go any further and we go into some sort of collapse. Getting up from there and forcing yourself to get to the finish line back can be a mighty challenge, and I’ve been there several times before.

Towards the end I found myself slowing to a crawl, and I knew my fellow pace group members, who had long since left me in their vapor trails, would not be waiting for me back at Griffith Park. Not that I’m holding it against them; I wouldn’t even wait for me. Just as I started running again, I found myself losing speed to where my feet were telling me, “Fuck this!”

But crossed the finish line I did, and the coaches were on hand to greet with applause and endless praise. As you can imagine, I was one sore mother fucker and eager to stretch my legs for all of eternity. What was really bothering me, however, was my back which felt a lot more sore than usual. 

Throughout this run it felt like I was slouching a lot and I kept trying to stay in the present moment so that I could keep my back straight, but my mind always wanders. If anyone knows any good back exercises or stretches, please let me know.

So, I survived another 18 mile run and now have a 10 mile recovery run to look forward to next week. I will be out of town for Christmas but I do plan on continuing my marathon training. In the meantime I got a lot of resting to do. Seriously, I was too tired to even get a bag of ice from Ralphs Supermarket so that I could have an ice bath. I got to the store and even then I was ready to pass out.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Weiland and Dealing with 16 miles

After a week away in Northern California to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and do a recovery run on a treadmill (don’t worry, I increased the grade on it to 4%), I am now back in Los Angeles to continue my training for the 2016 LA Marathon. I did my best to keep up with my maintenance runs as this week’s run had us going 16 miles through Burbank and Glendale. But once again I was reminded of how all my years of training for the LA Marathon mean only so much as it always feels like I’m starting from scratch.

I had the music of Stone Temple Pilots blasting out of my car speakers as I drove to Griffith Park for the latest Team to End AIDS run. This past week, the band’s lead singer Scott Weiland passed away at the age of 48 which was very sad to learn about. Weiland was a vibrant lead singer who commanded the stage with a highly energetic presence, but his talents were long overshadowed by his battles with substance abuse. Like many, I hoped that he would beat his demons down to a bloody pulp, but there were a few demons left that served to end his existence at far too young an age.

I’m happy to say that I actually kept up with my pace group for the majority of this run to where I was convinced I would cross the finish line with them for a change. But thanks to a stop light which they understandably defied and me “dropping the kids in the pool” a little more than usual, I was once again by myself. While Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” keeps playing through my head during these runs because of all those “turn around” signs the coaches leave out for us, I instead had Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” flooding my memory banks as I was once again enduring the phenomenon known as the loneliness of the long distance Kenber. Plus, people made great use of the song on “Friends” and the movie “Shrek 2.”

I’m not sure why I went to the bathroom a little more than usual on this run. Maybe it was that tasty chicken cobb salad I had the other night at The Counter. That’s right; I ate something other than a burger there. Lord knows I don’t enough green stuff these days, and I figured all that protein would be of great benefit for this run. Well, maybe I should stay away from salads on the night before the marathon. That’s just a thought.

The weather was perfect and we all managed to finish our runs before the temperature rose up to the mid 70’s. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold, and there was a nice breeze going on which kept things bearable even as we ran up the hill on Grandview. As a result, I got to focus more on my surroundings which were full of leaves and dogs barking at us in excitement as if they were saying that they wanted to run with us. There was one dog who kept barking in a metronome fashion to where we runners started barking back. As Rowlf the Dog said in “The Great Muppet Caper,” it helps to know a second language.

I even got to see a dog chase a squirrel, and that immediately brought the great Pixar movie “Up” to mind as all those talking dogs were always easily distracted by the squirrels they thought they saw.
Among the conversations my fellow pace group runners involved themselves in was how the big twist in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” was spoiled in a recent film class. Apparently a friend of a friend had to take a scene from a movie and use it to explain certain aspects of filmmaking, and that person ended up showing the scene from “Gone Girl” that spelled out what was really going with a certain character. Now I am not about to spoil that twist for anybody reading this, and that’s even though the threat of doing so might actually make for a good fundraising opportunity, but I felt for those runners who had “Gone Girl” completely ruined for them. Some secrets should not be revealed until it is absolutely necessary, and that person who spoiled the one from that movie should be arrested for revealing that among other things.

Running on this day reminded me of why maintenance runs are so important. I did do mine before this particular run, and it helped to keep me from slouching and crossing my arms in front of my chest, both of which take from me as a runner. I’m always convinced that I am slouching while running, and doing this marathon training is a strong reminder of what I need to watch out for. I’m happy to say that I did great work in keeping my arms moving forward instead of in front of my chest, and now I feel like I am on track to run a good marathon.

Granted, I lost a lot of steam before I crossed the finish line back in Griffith Park, but I crossed it all the same. My pace group members had long since gone home but I didn’t hold that against them because everyone has their life to get back to. I did however get to partake in a couple of cups of chocolate milk, the perfect answer to a runner’s hangover, but I can never drink enough of it. Still, the Bolivers did bring a cake for us runners to share in. Granted, it was for the Honolulu runners as their marathon is coming up next week, but they were kind enough to leave us some leftovers. It didn’t matter if it was still early in the morning; this cake was going to taste fantastic no matter what. Heck, anything tastes great after you have ran many miles!

While I had other work to do after this run, those 16 miles still took me for a loop and left me drained of my energy. Still, I did have enough enthusiasm to drive to a nearby McDonald’s for a Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich and a Dr. Pepper, but the rest of the day left with a large level of justification to do little to nothing. You all know by now that I’ve trained for five LA Marathons before this, so no excuse is needed to justify how I feel.

From now on I plan to increase my cardiovascular activity in the hopes that I might actually finish a run with my pace group, and that’s of the utmost necessity because the LA Marathon will be here before we know it. Once again, I have to thank every single volunteer who took the time to give us water, Gatorade, pretzels and whatever else we needed to survive this especially long run. They never get enough credit, and that’s regardless of whether or not they have the last name of Boliver.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The 14 Mile Wipeout

After a recovery run of six miles which had me keeping up with my fellow pace group runners for a change, this week had us running 14 miles. I came into it with my usual confidence that I would complete it with little problem, but I was beset by some issues which came to take away from that confidence which may have been over-inflated unnecessarily.

The night before had me searching for my cell phone as I suddenly realized that I didn’t have it on me. This led me to have a near nervous breakdown as I have never lost any cell phone I’ve ever owned whether it’s a Nokia or an iPhone that is far past its prime. I searched the movie theater where I saw “The Peanuts Movie” as well as the Ralphs Supermarket I went to afterwards where I bought all the energy blocks I knew I would need for this run. After a great deal of self-flagellation which involved slapping myself in the face and yelling in my car at full volume, I found my phone which was lying on a sidewalk where it could have easily been taken. The fact that it wasn’t taken is amazing. Of course, realizing how tragic it was to lose my cell phone made me realize that, like everybody else, I am a slave to technology. It always felt like I avoided being a slave to it, but that was probably just me being in denial.

Anyway, I arrived at the Team to End AIDS meeting spot at Griffith Park just in time to hear Coach JC talk about how there’s still a stigma to admitting you are HIV positive. This past week saw Charlie Sheen admit to the world that he is HIV positive, and with that admission brought a strong realization of just how misinformed people are about this. By now it should be plainly obvious that being HIV positive does not equate to a death sentence. People are still able to live active and healthy lives even if they have been diagnosed as such. Coach JC became emotional as he told us how flabbergasted he is at just how many people around him don’t seem to have a clue about what being HIV positive really means.

This week’s route took us all over Burbank to where the map looked even more convoluted than the plot to the first “Mission: Impossible” movie. Heck, last week’s run was like that as we couldn’t figure out if we needed to take a right or left on Sonora.

Believe it or not, I actually managed to keep up with my pace group for the most part, but that inevitably changed towards the end. Because of my lack of sleep, my energy started to evaporate on the last few miles. I consumed more energy blocks than I usually do, and it got to where my heart was pounding as if John Bonham was doing his “Moby Dick” drum solo on it. This morning started off with a chill in the air which quickly made me put on my black Nike jacket, but with the sun already high up in the sky I knew it was not going to stay cold long so I left it on the bench before proceeding to the starting line.

It’s a good thing I left my jacket behind because the summer weather we thought had finally left us came back with a vengeance. The temperature went up to at least 80 degrees, and while I really could use the extra vitamin D, the heat really got to me more than usual. Thankfully the Bolivers were on hand to give us all the supplies we needed to cross the finish line. I’m not just talking about those peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers they always have on hand; I’m talking about that cooler of ice cubes they had because I shoved as many of them as I could into my water bottles. Once again the colder my water bottles were, the more infinitely refreshing the liquids inside of them were. As a result, I found myself drinking more water than usual and consumed a couple of salt packets to help absorb it. I could feel the salt on my skin as I made my way to the finish line, so I knew I needed to keep consuming it even it was a bit disgusting.

Also, I couldn’t help but peruse the various yard and garage sales that were taking place throughout Burbank. I would spend less than a minute at each one because there was only so much time I could spend looking at the DVDs, VHS tapes and stuffed animals that were on display.
When it came to the last few miles, I had finally fallen way behind my fellow pace group runners but was still determined to cross the finish line back at Griffith Park. However, this did not keep me from stopping at one last garage sale where I found an Eeyore plush doll. Now anyone who knows me best understands just how big a fan of Eeyore, and I have gone a mission to rescue as many as I can. Plus, it was only a dollar.

I’m going to call this one Boliver Eeyore. The name seems more than appropriate.

Somewhere around mile 12, my pace group leader Walter drove up to me in his car and asked if I was okay and if I needed a ride back. I told him I was fine and thanked him for checking up on me. In retrospect, I think I should have let him drive me back as I was pretty much winded at that point and was practically crawling my way to the finish line. I guess it’s just that instinct I have inside of me to not quit anything. I need to remember that sometimes it’s okay to not finish a run.

Fortunately, the coaches were still around when I FINALLY crossed the finish line back in Griffith Park. Coach JC got a picture of me and my new Eeyore and gave me a certificate congratulating me on completing this 14 mile run which was the equivalent of a half-marathon. I thanked him and the others for waiting for me, and they calmly reminded me that it was their job to do so. Point taken.

The rest of the day had me resting and recovering from this run as it took a bigger toll on me than I expected it to. There was work I needed to do, but I was just too winded to do much of anything except lay in bed. It didn’t matter that I have trained for the LA Marathon five times before; my body still reminds me when I’ve pushed myself a little further than usual.

I still need to get those maintenance runs in during the week and increase my cardio activity as well. That belly on my body is far too big, and Thanksgiving has yet to take place. Pray for me!

Monday, November 9, 2015

There Will Be Hills

I’m sorry I haven’t written much about my marathon training recently. The last week or so has been insanely busy as I have been going from one press day to another, and I even got to interview Gaspar Noe, the director of “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void.” In the midst of all the driving I did around Los Angeles, I did manage to get one maintenance run in but not two.

Last week’s run was the Halloween costume run, but I didn’t get around to buying a new costume and wasn’t all that enthused to put on my Jason “Friday the 13th” Voorhees costume on again. So I decided to come dressed as the Team to End AIDS runner that I am and fell back on the Wednesday Adams excuse: “I’m a homicidal maniac, they look just like everyone else.” Other than that, I did very well and managed to keep up with my fellow pace group runners for a change. This surprised me the most as I didn’t get around to doing any maintenance runs before that run.

It should also be noted that the weather in Los Angeles has FINALLY cooled down after a summer season and hot temperatures that refused to go away. For once we got to wear layers of clothing, and we welcomed the warming rays of the sun for a change. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to ditch my Nike sweater jacket  as there was no way the weather was going to stay cool for very long.

This week’s run had us running 12 miles, and Coach JC sent us a message with a subtle take on one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest movies:

He also indicated the following in that same post:

“I'm not saying when. I'm not saying which.
 I'm just saying that the LA Marathon ain't flat.”

Lo and behold, Coach JC had us running up that steep hill which led us to Crystal Springs Drive and the other side of Griffith Park. We of course were all huffing and puffing even before we made it to the halfway mark. When it looked like we got to the top, we quickly realized that we had not gotten to the top. Honestly, there was a lot more walking than running as a result. As “Spectre” was just released a few days ago, I kept thinking about what James Bond would do in this situation. Then I remembered that I don’t have any of his gadgets (that underwater car would be cool to have though).

Once we got over the hill, I started losing track of my fellow pace group runners, and I eventually fell behind them as I needed to drop the kids off in the pool (a.k.a. going to the bathroom). Fortunately, I did get a map from Coach JC before beginning this run as I didn’t want to get lost like I did before. Unfortunately, I either lost it or it just evaporated into thin air as I made my way down Griffith Park Drive. I don’t know how it escaped my grasp, but it wasn’t a disaster as I did remember where I needed to go. Even as I went through a repeat of “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Kenber,” I was determined to complete this 12 mile run even if there was no one alongside me. I was also determined not to get lost either.

Coach JC did pop up at one point during the run and encouraged me not to swing my arms in front of my chest but in front of me instead. I’m glad he pointed that out because I didn’t even realize I was doing that. While you run, your arms should be pointing in the direction you are going. Swinging your arms in front of your chest just robs you of energy and has you risking injury. I remember learning about that while attending an LA Marathon expo, and that has stayed with me ever since. So to be told that I was doing that was shocking to me because I thought I was way better than that.

Thank goodness that I had plenty of energy gels on me, and that Gu Roctane gel was a huge help when I had to run up the other side of that same hill. By this time the sun had risen much higher than we wanted it to rise, and it started to feel like summer all over again.

I made it back to our starting point in Griffith Park in one piece, proud of myself for completing this 12 mile run even as I spent most of it running by my lonesome. However, I was disturbed that I had fallen into the habit of crossing my arms in front of my chest while running. I also found myself slouching forward more than usual which I thought I was good at avoiding. I said out loud that every time I come back to train for a marathon, it feels like I’m starting all over again. This led Coach JC to say out loud, “Are you kidding me?” He then remarked that, even after having run dozens of marathons, he finds himself falling into bad habits all the time and constantly has to keep an eye out for them. It made me realize how everyone feels like they are just starting over again when they begin marathon training.

So next week we are having a recovery run, but I’m going to get my two maintenance runs and do my best to stay hydrated. Bring on the electrolytes baby!