Monday, January 26, 2015

An 8 Mile Recovery Run... With Hills

Thanks to a power outage which had my electronic equipment coming back on rather loudly at 5 am in the morning, I ended up making it out to Griffith Park on time for a change. After last week’s 18 mile run, we Team to End AIDS runners were treated to a recovery run of 8 miles. But in the process we learned that we were still in recovery more than we realized. 

As soon as I got out my car at Griffith Park, the wind hit my face in a way that was much warmer than usual. Usually it’s very cold when I get there, but that was not the case this time out. For a moment I thought about putting my Nike sweater jacket back in my car, but I decided against it for some ridiculous reason. In the end I left it at the T2EA meeting area as it became clear that this particular January morning was going to be a lot warmer than usual.

Coach Jennifer started things out with an announcement about the importance of fundraising. Right now we have raised over $116,000, but even if we hit our individual fundraising goals, we should not think of stopping there. Jennifer took the time to give us ideas about how to best fundraise, and she later admitted that she was telling us this for the sake of her upcoming performance review. Now anybody out there who says they can’t relate to that is a flat out liar, and I think it’s safe to say we got her back. 

After that Coach JC came out and it was the first time in what feels like ages that I got to hear him yell out, “GOOD MORNING T2!!!” He also told us that even though we may feel fine, our legs are still recovering from last week’s 18 mile run. As always, we needed to take it easy and not overdue anything. Coach JC also made note of the warm weather, saying that this would have been the perfect day to where that Mrs. Santa Claus costume. Yes, it would have been perfect indeed.

This recovery run was kept to inside the park as Vice President Joe Biden was in town, and you know what happens when either he or President Obama comes to Southern California: traffic becomes unbearable and the secret service closes off far too many roads. Hearing that did not make me look forward to the drive home.

One other thing, this recovery run had a hill. Not a deceptive hill mind you, but one which redefines the word “steep” for you. I’ve ran up this hill before, but I still get nervous when it becomes part of our training. All of a sudden I started to wonder if this really counted as a recovery run. My legs were telling me, “Please Ben, give us one more day of rest. Dear lord just one more day!” Not a chance. Cue Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

This hill takes us from Zoo Drive to the other side of Griffith Park where Crystal Springs Drive is. I was doing a lot of huffing and puffing on my way up, and I found myself getting winded rather quickly. Speed walking became a preferred activity for me, and I ended up trailing behind my fellow runners for a while. 

To add to our doubts about this truly being a recovery run, we ended up having to run up that same hill again. This is the kind of crazy shit that happens when the Vice President of the United States is in town. 

The wind was blowing a lot but it didn’t affect us too much. The weather, however, was very dry and I think that messed with everyone’s heads after a while. To add to our running challenges was the fact there were flies everywhere, and I began fearing that my face would start looking like my windshield does after driving for hours on the 5 freeway. We also couldn’t come out this run saying that we didn’t swallow at least one fly. Well, now we know how Marlon Brando felt on the set of Apocalypse Now.

Halfway through the run I kept hoping to see Robin Russell on this side of the park pounding away on his drum set. I also was hoping that J.K. Simmons would not be there yelling and screaming at him like he did at Miles Teller in Whiplash. Sure enough, Robin was there drumming those infectious rhythms that kept us going on a ridiculously dry day. He even waved at us while he was still playing the drums, and that should give you an idea of how talented the man is. Oh, and J.K. Simmons was not there.

According to my Runkeeper app, I was on the road for just under 2 hours, had an average pace if 14 minutes and 42 seconds per mile, and I burned 1,221 calories. Here’s hoping some pounds got burned off in the process. Next week is our 20 mile run, so you can sure bet that I will be hydrating like crazy next week. Here’s hoping that my legs have recovered from this recovery run by next Saturday.
I leave you with this quote by Olympic marathoner Rob DeCastella:

“I like hills because you can see the top. I know that sounds glib, but you know that the hill is not going to keep appearing; it’s there and once you get to the top, it’s behind you, and you feel as though you have conquered something.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Once More Unto the Breach with an 18 Mile Run

I spent the week hydrating myself like never before with water and Gatorade of various flavors, and I even managed to avoid alcohol which can be rather hard to do. But perhaps the most important thing I remembered to do before this week’s 18 mile run was to have my carb dinner at lunchtime the day before it. In the past many of us were told to have our carbo load dinner two days before the big run. If our run is on a Saturday, then we need to pile on the carbs the Thursday before. Now I get information that’s different which kind of pisses me off, but I went with it anyway which eventually proved to make all the difference.

At lunchtime on Friday I had a big, big pile of angel hair spaghetti that was slathered with basil pesto alfredo sauce, and I combined it with a small loaf of garlic bread which I heated up after I finished the main course. Actually, it would have helped to know that the directions said not to bake the garlic bread in a toaster oven beforehand because that’s all I had to cook it in, but I cooked it in one anyway and it turned out alright. After consuming a larger than usual lunch (and that’s saying a lot) I took it easy at dinnertime and had a Lean Cuisine Veggie Egg White English Muffin. My dad would be so proud of me for eating a sandwich for dinner (of course he wouldn’t). 

Arriving at Griffith Park on a cold Saturday morning that we all knew was not going to remain cold for very long, Coach JC reminded us that the asphalt on the roads is going to be a lot easier on our knees than concrete. I’m definitely with him on that, but I still find myself running on concrete more often not even though I should know better. I guess I don’t want to get too close to the cars as they whiz on by me. There’s still remnants of that skunk we passed by on the road a few weeks ago that clearly didn’t know what hit it. Reminders can be so subtle, huh?

Once again I brought my new Droid phone so I could make use of the Runkeeper app, and I finally got it to work for me the way I wanted it to. At least I thought I did. It still doesn’t tell me when to walk or run, so I had to rely on my fellow Lucky 13 pace group members whose watches were for once all on the same schedule. I got to get a new watch at some point. Or better yet, maybe I should stop being a man and read the directions for a change.

We ran through many familiar places like the beautiful Toluca Lake neighborhood which is filled with houses I will never be able to afford, and we ran down the road with the concrete bike and walking path as well. As I kept checking my running form to make sure I wasn’t slouching, I also did my best to stay on the asphalt and not run on concrete so much. But at one point a Burbank police truck passed by us which gave us a number of good reasons to move right onto the sidewalk. Fortunately none of us got a ticket. It looked like they were busy with something else anyway, like driving.

Among the topics of conversation on this run was the show In Living Color which ended up jumpstarting a number of careers like Jim Carrey’s, Damon Wayans’ and Jennifer Lopez’s. Lopez joined the show as one of the Fly Girls, but someone in our group referred to them as the “Booty Girls.” In retrospect, the latter name sounds quite appropriate.

Floyd also brought up Keenan Ivory Wayans’ movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, a movie that for some strange reason I have still not seen. I remember getting a kick out of watching its trailer which gave you more than enough reasons not to ignore it. When did it come out anyway? Ah, 1988. I guess it’s safe to say I am behind in the movies I need to watch it. Not to worry, I do plan on watching it and 12 Years a Slave at some point. I’m just not sure which order I should watch them in.

One of the things I love about my new Droid phone is how much better the camera on it is than the puny one on my prehistoric iPhone. It allowed me to capture a number of funny and informative signs we came across on this run for posterity, and I don’t just mean the ones Coach JC and company left out for us. One of them served as a reminder that there’s still a midnight movie I need to watch with an audience, The Room.

The last few miles of the run were hard on some of my fellow Lucky 13 runners. One was just getting over food poisoning, the kind of sickness where your stomach keeps yelling at you quite fiercely, “NO VACANCIES.” Now that’s something I never want to experience ever again. Another runner was in pain as I imagine anyone would be after just 13 miles. I ended up giving him a couple of my CVS Pain Relief tablets (comparable to Extra Strength Tylenol I’m told) which I assured him would help. 

Actually, I should point something out here. I decided to take two of those CVS tablets before the run, knowing that my feet were not going to forgive me during and after 18 miles. Thanks to them I held up well throughout though my feet were tremendously sore at the end of it all. Other Lucky 13 runners said they use Ibuprofen or Advil, and both have helped me out before. However, I’m wondering if I should go with Aleve from now on. Whereas most pain medication lasts for 6 hours, Aleve is supposed to last 12 hours; more than enough time for marathon endurance. 

I was eager to run the last few miles, but I decided to stick it out with Winston since he was having some troubles. It didn’t feel right to leave him on his own, and I kept hearing John Goodman’s character from Raising Arizona in the back of my head saying, “God dammit! You never leave a man behind!” Once we got back to Zoo Drive and that ever so welcome breeze of cool air hit us in the face, I asked Winston if he would be okay if I ran ahead. He said that was fine, and the truth is he ended up finishing not all that far behind me. 

Much of the food banquet we runners were treated to another food banquet like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were now a little stale (that's how long we were out on the road), Chips Ahoy cookies Hershey’s Kisses among other things. Anything tastes super good after a long run and, of course, there was plenty of chocolate milk to go around which we can never get enough of it. 

I came out of the 15 mile run a few weeks feeling bad about where I was at. I felt like I let myself down and that I was not taking training seriously. Granted, that one was the first after Christmas and New Year’s for me, but I struggled in a way I didn’t expect to. But with this 18 mile run, I feel proud for a change. I did my duty and did my two maintenance runs, kept myself hydrated throughout the week, I avoided alcohol and had a great carbo lunch the day before which gave me the fuel I needed to make it through to the end. 

We should all be proud of what we accomplished on this run whether this is our first marathon or not (it’s my fifth). I’m patting myself on the back for this one a little more than usual because, and anyone who knows me best will agree, I am way too hard on myself. I also feel like I’m losing weight for a change. Man that feels good!

According to Runkeeper I traveled 18.24 miles (I didn’t stop it right away), I was on the road for 4 hours and 52 minutes, and I burned over 2700 calories (man I hope that’s true). 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King

Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King. You had a dream. A dream that after all we have been through these last few years I would still love to see realized. And that's regardless of how much damage has been caused around the world let alone in America. Paranoia is getting worse and worse, and ignorance continues to be utter bliss for those in power.

Where is the America you dreamed of? Why does it always seem so far, far away? Your vision is one that needs to be embraced and yet the world seems to keep descending into an endless abyss that it looks unlikely to escape from. Yet we celebrate your life because you had a dream and none of us, however depressed and demoralized we get, are ever willing to let it die.

You were willing to live and die for what you believed in, and that is the kind of bravery we sure could use today. We have been scared to speak our minds of the truth we are trapped in, and when we do speak it we are not heard by those in charge. People are still judged by the color of their skin even when we try to convince ourselves that is no longer the case. The powerful voices of truth keep getting muffled by the powers that be.

Where is your dream Dr. King? I guess that's what I want to write about. I want to believe that it's still possible that we can all be free at last. I just don't know. The world keeps getting scarier and scarier, and I keep hiding away from it all. It gets to be too much sometimes, but it never did scare you, did it? So who am I to complain?

Whatever happens and whatever befalls us, you will never be forgotten. Thanks Dr. King, and not just for the day off from work (that's a coincidence more than anything else). Thanks for being a brave voice in a scary world that you refused to be intimidated by. Thanks for your dream which will never die. Ever. Thanks for remembering the most important of things, that we need to work together even when life seems to be bringing us all down.

Happy Birthday Dr. King. May your dreams be realized.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Still Recovering During The Recovery Run

After a week of ridiculously warm weather in the Los Angeles area, the clouds once again descended on us just like they should during one of the coldest months of the year. After what proved to be a rough 15 mile run, this week had us Team to End AIDS runners doing a recovery run of 8 miles. In the past I would have said that 8 miles was no big deal, having trained for the Los Angeles Marathon for the past four years, but after being reminded of how battered my body can get after last week’s 15 mile run I came to see that our marathon training can no longer be taken lightly at this point.

Getting myself out of bed that Saturday morning wasn’t too much of an ordeal, and I am happy to say that I didn’t get too caught up in watching Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear, made back in a time when remakes were rare and actually worth watching, before I drove out to Griffith Park in the safest way possible.

When I arrived at Griffith Park, Coach JC was talking to the Team to End AIDS runners about the most important things to keep in mind when running a marathon. With this being a recovery run, JC reminded us to take it easy and not speed our way through to the finish line. The most important mile we end up running in a marathon, he said, is the first mile. The second most important mile in a marathon is the second mile, and it served as a much needed reminder of how easy we need to take it at the start of things. Trying to set a land speed record at the start of any marathon is always doomed to failure. Besides running a marathon isn’t about how fast you can finish one in, but of how much you can endure in the process.

After that we did our warm ups which involved moving our heads from side to side, rotating our hips and feet clockwise and counterclockwise and doing high knees and kickbacks, we were herded out one pace group after another to the starting line for a run that was confined to the inside of Griffith Park. We would start out on Zoo Drive like we always do, and then we would continue on to Crystal Springs Drive. This would take us to the other side of the park at which point we would turn around and hopefully not get run over by cars or bicyclists.

Before that, I caught with a number of my fellow runners who have returned to the fold after being away for a number of weeks. One of the main things we talked about was how certain members of our family kept having severe emotional breakdowns on Christmas Day. I experienced that myself when my niece went through a roller coaster of emotions this past year. While she has a strong affection for Santa Claus, she also has serious issues with his wife who is in charge of leaving goodies in our stockings. 

A fellow runner said that her mother handed out checks to the family for Christmas and that she apologized for the amount being smaller than usual. We all agreed she has nothing to apologize for. 

I once again brought my Droid phone with me in an attempt to track my run with Runkeeper. I had the workout all set up and ready to go, but when I pressed the start button it seemed to forget that I had set up intervals. Once again, I had to rely on other’s watches to keep track of when we ran and walked. Maybe I should try the Strava app that Floyd and Stephen use on their runs. Either way, I really need to get a new watch with interval timing. I have to believe that those kinds of watches still exist.

One of the joys of today’s run was meeting up with all the AIDS Life Cycle participants who were riding through Griffith Park on their bicycles. Many of these bicyclists previously participated in Team to End AIDS training programs and it was great to see them again. People like Madonna Cacciatore, Robin McWilliams and Esther Kim are among those I have trained with in the past, and seeing them take on a new kind of endurance challenge is both wonderful and encouraging. It also serves as a reminder of how long it has been since I rode a bicycle. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I rode a bicycle. Yikes, I’m getting old!

Another bicyclist whose name I can’t quite remember called out to us and said, “Hey, how are my T2 bitches?” Money can’t buy that kind of loyalty.

On this run I tried to remain conscious of my form as it was starting to feel like I was leaning forward more than usual. I make an effort to keep my back straight, but I also don’t want to make it look like I’m running up and down the street with a stick up my ass. I’m not in the military for crying out loud. No offense to those of you who are serving or have served in the armed forces and thank you for your service by the way.

My legs are still recovering from last week’s 15 mile run which left me in need of a long ice bath, but I managed to hold it together and didn’t run out of energy thank goodness. This past week, with the exception of one all night bender, I stayed away from alcohol and kept hydrating myself with water and Gatorade. I also went out of the way to make salads for myself which contained butter lettuce, avocado, a very light parmesan ranch dressing and a hard-boiled egg. I’m trying to cut down on what I eat, but I’m also aware that I will need carbs for other runs to come. Just like Floyd said, running gives you a great excuse to eat lots of pasta. As for myself, I’m always looking for an excuse to put alfredo sauce on my angel hair spaghetti. You know, the good kind where the grams of fat are in double digit territory.

Just as we were heading to the finish line, it started raining down on us. It’s a good thing it wasn’t pouring down like it would end up doing later on that day. Those of us who survived the monsoon that was the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon can attest to how brutal the rain and the side winds were on us, and hypothermia is something I’m not eager to experience again in this lifetime.

The snacks and treats that were left for us were chocolate milk, chocolate soymilk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chip cookies, oranges and bananas. For some reason no one is ever quick to go after the fruit as everyone is far more interested in snagging the runner’s favorite hangover cure: chocolate milk. Then again I should talk because I never have any of the fruit either. That’s right, shame on me!

As I got into my car to drive home, the CD I was listening to, a mixtape if you will that I created of songs featured on Homicide: Life on the Street started playing Garbage’s “I’m Only Happy When It Rains.” Oh the irony! Hearing Shirley Manson sing of how she’s in love with her deep depression and asking us to pour our misery down on her reminds of the crazy state of mind I’m in a lot of the time. While I’m running, I get lost in my own thoughts and they are not always pleasant ones. I always seem to be looking for ways to infuriate myself for no good reason. I guess that’s why I keep running; to get rid of the bad and negative vibes that keep messing with my psyche.

Oh, I also learned where the Bolivers got the idea for serving us peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers. It turns out that when their children were young, they kept making them peanut butter and pickle sandwiches at lunchtime. How’s that for inspiration?

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: As you all know I have reached my fundraising goal for AIDS Project Los Angeles, the non-profit group I am running the LA Marathon in support of. However, I would still like to encourage you to make a tax deductible donation as it’s the start of a new year and we need to make it a great one for the recipients of their work and care. Just click on the link below to learn more.