Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The 23 Mile "Celebration" Run

So today was the big one, the 23 mile “Celebration Run” through the cities of Burbank and Glendale. The past few days had me preparing like crazy as I needed to replace much of my running gear. My compression tights and underwear had developed holes in them which made them largest worthless, and that’s even though it allowed me to aptly describe them as “holy.” But when it comes to running, the clothes that we wear can only be so blessed.

I finally got a new watch with the interval timing at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store, and it was the same make and model as the last one I got. I also went down to several Sports Chalets in the Los Angeles area and got myself a new Fuel Belt pocket for my water belt as the zipper on one of my previous pockets broke, and this allowed me to jam pack it with all the energy gels I could stuff in there. I was also looking for a new pair of compression tights, but I couldn’t find a pair in my size. As a result I bought a pair of 2XU compression shorts and a pair of 2XU compression performance socks as I felt that would be enough even though it forced me to spend more money as a result. I did try on another pair of compression tights from another brand which was cheaper, but they were more for recovery than performance.

I had trouble getting to sleep the night before as I had work to do, and I didn’t fall asleep until after midnight. Part of this was because the nice couple living next door to me was making love, and I couldn’t keep my endless sexual frustration at bay. The alarm on my new watch did succeed in waking me up at 5 am and I managed to get my ass out of bed a lot sooner than I usually do. I got everything prepared and put a huge amount of Body Glide all over my body as I didn’t not want to get any blisters or bloody nipples anytime soon. I also put on a new arm band I bought to put my Android phone in, and it was a little tricky strapping it on to where it didn’t fall off. I was afraid it would end up feeling like some blood pressure sleeve if I strapped it on too tightly.

For once I was not distracted by anything that was on television or on my computer, and I made my way out to Griffith Park to meet up with my fellow Team to End AIDS runners in good time. Of course, I had to go back to my car at one point as I left my sunglasses in it. But even worse, I left my new interval watch at home. Can you believe it? I spent $50 dollars on that watch (it was on sale) and I couldn’t even remember to bring it! Geez…

This run started off with us heading towards Forest Lawn Drive, but we turned around long before we had a chance to travel down the most dangerous parts of it. We have actually avoided running down it during this training session which is just as well as there are so many blind corners where any of us could accidently run over by a gas guzzling car SUV whose driver is talking on their phone when they shouldn’t be.  

At the start of these runs, my calves are always burning up even before we start going up a hill. It’s like they’re telling me, “Oh we’re running? Okay give us a second to warm up.” This hesitation reminds me of when I drove my mom’s Chevrolet Suburban so many years ago. When I took that Panzer Tank of a car onto the highway, I had to slam my foot on the gas pedal to make it go anywhere, and it was like it was telling me, “Oh you want to go faster?”

Throughout the run I had John Carpenter’s “Obsidian” playing in my head non-stop. It’s off his debut solo album Lost Themes, and it was a record I couldn’t wait to buy. I’ve been a big fan of Carpenter’s films throughout the years, and I’m an even bigger fan of his music. After he declined to score his last film The Ward, I figured that would be the last time we would ever compose music (listen to the film’s commentary track to find out why). Then along comes this solo album which he worked on with his son Cody and Dave Davies, and I have been listening to it non-stop. “Vortex” and “Night” are my favorite tracks off the album, but for some reason “Obsidian” seemed to stay with me the most on this 23 mile run.

On the upside of things the weather cooled down for the first time in weeks. When we learned that the average temperature on Saturday morning was going to be around 60 degrees, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was still unseasonably warm, but not unbearably so and it was mostly overcast throughout. Of course, the sun did make an appearance on the last few miles as if to say, “You thought I forgot about you, didn’t you?” Fortunately we didn’t have to deal with the heat too much.

 I came into this 23 mile run with a lot of confidence, and I didn’t have any alcohol throughout the week as it was of the upmost importance to say hydrated with water and Gatorade. What slipped my mind, however, was how this run is usually harder than the actual marathon itself. Why I thought this run would be a piece of cake is beyond me because I’ve been through this enough times to know better.

Many of us threatened to be deterred by those yummy advertisements on the windows of a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. Okay not really, but looking at those ads made my mouth water. Of course, it I ever bothered going into a Carl’s Jr. after one of these runs, I’d find that the actual product is nowhere as delicious looking. Don’t even get me started on their “All-Natural Burger” because you cannot convince me that such a thing exists.

The Lucky 13 pace group started out with at least a dozen runners, but by the end there were about 3 or 4 of us left. A number of runners had to drop out because of injuries or that they weren’t feeling well. One lady, who ran a half-marathon last weekend, was using this as a recovery run, and you have to give her credit for having the balls to treat this as a recovery run. She ended up dropping out as her feet were like, “ENOUGH ALREADY.”

I don’t know how it is for other marathon training programs, but none of runners were chided or berated for not running all 23 miles. In fact, Coach JC later commended them for knowing when to stop:

“And for those who didn't quite make the full distance today... remember that you were not training for the 23-mile Celebration Run. And there is nothing quite as rewarding as seeing you've developed the wisdom to accept (albeit reluctantly) that it was better for you to stop than continue. I hope you are all even half as proud of yourselves as I am for you.”

Truth be told, it is very important for every runner to have that wisdom even though you don’t want to come out of this training feeling disappointed or that you didn’t do enough. The fact that we have gotten this far does say the world about what we have accomplished.

As for myself, I did pretty well although my feet started feeling the pain early on. Seriously, it didn’t take long for them to tell me to go fuck myself and burn in hell, and I eventually gave in and took another Aleve tablet. The bottle says takes only one, but it also says to not take more than 2 in an 8 to 12 hour period. I figured screw it, another one won’t hurt. It certainly was a big help in getting me to the finish line.

I tried my best to be mindful of my running form throughout. There were a number of times where I felt like I was leaning forward too much, and I kept thinking that I needed to straighten myself up. Heck, there are times where I am not even sure if I have the correct form of a runner. I keep waiting for someone to tell me that my running form is all wrong and I have a lot of work to do in that area, but I still hope to beat anyone who downgrades me like that to the punch.

We came up to a train crossing where the gates kept going up and down even though no Amtrak or Metrolink train was heading our way. While waiting for the gates to rise, I started doing the limbo on one of them and discovered my back has no patience for going that low. My ego on the other hand…

Running through the Toluca Lake neighborhood was more fun than usual because we took the time to marvel at how beautiful the houses were instead of complaining about the fact that we can’t afford them. We also passed a number of the neighborhood’s residents who were incredibly impressed at how far we were running. Then again, if we were running just half that distance they would have been impressed anyway.

Seeing this reminded me of when I first attended an info session about marathon training where the woman handling it told us we would be surprised as to how responsive people would be when we told them we were training for a marathon. She was right. I can be really modest about doing something like this, but we have all earned bragging rights that others could only dream of having.

Of all the Team to End AIDS runners to cross the finish line that day, I was the last of the bunch. But that was okay because this can in no way be mistaken for a race, and making it to the end was a huge relief. While I did hit that psychological wall which kind of made me want to slow down long before I reached the end, I still had a big smile on my face regardless. Despite having trained for the Los Angeles Marathon for four years in a row, I’m still astonished at how grueling it is to run 23 miles. While this is referred to as Team to End AIDS’ “Celebration Run,” it feels more like a torturous one as our bodies threaten mutiny on us at any given opportunity.

At the finish line we were greeted with a feast that included cheese, roast beef and turkey sandwiches which were incredibly delicious and not the kind I am able to make back at my apartment. There was also a great pasta salad covered in balsamic vinegar dressing, and tasting it immediately reminded of just how hopelessly addicted I can get to any kind of pasta. There were lots of leftovers as the celebration was coming to a close, and you can sure bet that I took away as much food as I could. These days I am all about the free food as I’m trying to save money any which way I can. It’s certainly more preferable than hunting for food in Hancock Park with a bow and arrow.

Following that incredibly difficult run, I drove back to my apartment and stopped along the way at the Ralphs Supermarket on the corner of 3rd Street and La Brea Avenue. Knowing that an ice bath was going to be mandatory, I splurged and bought a 20 pound bag of ice as a 7 pound bag was not going to help me recover from muscles that were infinitely sore and which would remain sore for an obscene period of time.

So now I have a few days to recover as my feet continue to tell me to go fuck myself, and I have a lifetime to never forget the fact that these 23 mile runs are harder to endure than the LA Marathon. Trust me when I say it will never slip my mind again.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Recovery Run on Singles Awareness Day

There’s nothing like a hot summer day in February. While the eastern states in America are dealing with infinitely frigid conditions and snowstorms which refuse to end, we Californians seemed to have skipped over the winter season and instead went straight to spring. This makes many of us want to move to a state that actually has seasons, and it also had us Team to End AIDS runners leaving our jackets at home as we knew we wouldn’t need them on this our 10 mile recovery run. 

I arrived in Griffith Park to see the runners all gathered around Coach JC and Coach Jennifer as they made their morning announcements, and I also saw Drea lathering herself with all the sunscreen that was available. Looking at her made me wonder if I had put enough on myself. I guess I’ll know the answer to that after the run. I haven’t had sunburn in ages, and the last time I can remember having it was when I was 10. Having it then was not fun as I became “appealing” in a very painful way.

Actually, seeing Drea and others putting on sunscreen got me thinking of one of those fake commercials in the god awful sequel that was Robocop 2 in which a woman advertises a new suntan lotion that will keep your skin from burning even though the ozone layer is now completely gone. It was this bluish lotion that made her look a bit like Mystique from the X-Men movies, and it made me think that we may not be far off from a reality like that. Climate change is real folks! All you global warming deniers can suck it!

A few days beforehand I had finally gotten around to buying a new pair of running shoes for which I was long overdue. I have been sticking with the Saucony brand these past few LA Marathons, but the shoe model they have this year proved to be a little too tight on my feet. Instead, I went with running shoes from Brooks which felt very comfortable in a way many other brands do not. I also made sure to break them in with a maintenance run this week as Coach JC encouraged us to do that instead of just trying them out on the day of our 23 mile run (which, coincidentally, is next week). Our feet will not be happy with us if we do that.

Another thing I had to contend with was that I had a phone interview with John Madden, the director of the upcoming sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, at 9:50 am. This 10 mile run started at around 7:30 am so I figured I would be able to get back just in time. Then again, I ran into the same dilemma when I had that interview with Ethan Hawke about Predestination. When it came to that one, I got lucky in that my interview with him was delayed for about a half hour (WHEW!). 

Oh yeah, I should also mention that this recovery run was happening on Valentine’s Day or, as I’ve been calling it for years now, Singles Awareness Day. At the starting line I wished everyone one a Happy Singles Awareness Day which, of course, was greeted with much laughter. One of my fellow pace group runners, John, ended up thanking me and said that I didn’t know how much that meant to him. John may have been saying that sarcastically for all I know.

The new shoes worked out well for me on this run, but I kept wondering if I was slouching or leaning forward too much. I wasn’t always sure and I was conscious of things being off this time around, but I’m certain that I straightened up long before I crossed the finish line. I still need to get a watch with interval timing though.

Unlike last week though, I was not dragging behind everybody. I was keeping a good pace even as we ran past people walking their dogs who were more than interested in running with us. I also keep wondering if we will ever run into Adam Hendershot as we keep passing his house from time to time. Adam and I trained together for the 2012 LA Marathon, and he runs a photography business with his wife. I don’t know, maybe he is just happy to sleep in on Saturday mornings for a change.

I should admit that I did have a cocktail the night before this run. Usually I try to stay dry throughout the week especially when it comes to the longer runs, but I got invited to the birthday party of a friend of mine at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood and they had quite the drink menu. When I saw that they were serving the Sazerac, a delicious cocktail which has Rittenhouse Rye, Peychaud’s Bitters, Absinthe and cane sugar in it, I had to have one. But I only had one as the thing was $14 dollars, and I have no business spending that much money right now. For those disappointed in me, just be happy that the cocktail had cane sugar in it instead of high fructose corn syrup.

As we approached the end of the run, I suddenly realized that 9:50 am was coming up a lot sooner than I realized. Despite staying on pace, we did make some bathroom stops and had to say hi to the Bolivers who brought all their goodies including those delicious peanut butter pickle covered Ritz crackers. Like Boy George once sang, time won’t give me time and I was becoming concerned that I would end up answering my phone during the last portion of the run. Somehow, I don’t think it’s entirely professional to conduct a phone interview while I am running the streets of Burbank.

When we finally made it back onto Zoo Drive and the finish line was getting closer and closer, I ended up running the rest of the way to the finish line as it was now 9:48 in the morning and I wanted to beat John Madden to the finish line. I wasn’t sure the people at Fox Searchlight Pictures were going to be patient with me if I asked them to wait until I finished my run.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line and Coach JC looked at me and asked, “Where’s the rest of your team?” I explained my situation to him and then promptly retrieved my car key, jogged over to my car, opened the door, sat down in the driver’s seat, turned on the air conditioning as it was too damn hot in February, got out my Simpsons Moleskin diary where I had my questions written down, got out my digital recorder and waited for the good folks at Fox Searchlight Pictures to call me…

Well, it was actually around 10:15 am when they finally rang my phone. In the end, the delay really helped as it allowed me to catch my breath and think about any other questions I might like to ask. John was a real pleasure to talk with, and he apologized for being late to call me. I told him it was fine as I just finished a 10 mile run and that I was training for the 2015 LA Marathon, and he was very impressed to hear about me doing that.

I did the interview and breathed a huge sigh of relief that I didn’t miss it. From there I drove out to Steve “speed walking” Robinson’s house where he was holding a breakfast in honor of the Bolivers for their consistent support of our training each week. It was fun times as we sat back and were treated to bagels with cream cheese which we could top off with salmon and onions, pastries from Porto’s Bakery, fizzy water and an enormous box of chocolates. Floyd talked about his times in New York, Steve talked about how he and his partner manage to keep the sun from shining too brightly in their home, and other runners spoke of how sick they are of the heat. Granted, the east coast is sick of the freezing weather they are forced to deal with, but at least they live in states that have seasons.

All in all, it was an interesting way to spend Valentine’s Day and certainly a whole lot better than having to sit through Fifty Shades of Grey. Don’t waste your time on that one! See Kingsman: The Secret Service instead!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Losing Myself with an 8 Mile Run

After treading the asphalt last week through Burbank and Glendale for 20 miles, we had a much needed recovery run this Saturday that was only 8 miles. That’s right; you know you’ve entered new territory when you tell someone who absolutely hates to run that you are running “only 8 miles.” It’s worth it just to see the look on their face. 

We were warned in advance that it would most likely rain on us, and the sky was overcast more than usual. I was going to put on my rain jacket, but I couldn’t seem to find it in the jungle that is my closet. As I was again running behind schedule (thank you Batman reruns on IFC), I just went ahead and put on my black Nike jacket and headed to my car. I also took the time to clean my sunglasses which proved to be filthier than usual. I hate it when those spots obscure your view while you’re trying to protect your eyes from the sun. I’d get a new pair if I could afford it, but anyway.

I arrived at Griffith Park just in time to hear Coach JC tell my fellow Team to End AIDS runners that if they decided not to run 20 miles last week because of some injury or pain they were experiencing, they did the right thing. There’s pushing yourself to do more than you ever thought you could, and then there’s taking it easy when you don’t feel so hot. So far during this marathon training season I have taken it pretty easy, not wanting to overdo anything. The only time I ran faster than I should have was when I had that interview with Ethan Hawke on his movie Predestination. Thank goodness I didn’t miss out on that!

This 8 mile run kept us inside Griffith Park as we ran past the Gene Autry Museum and the golf course. This allowed me the opportunity to watch a golfer lose sight of his clubs as they rolled away from him. Fortunately, he caught them just in time and those who were passing him by congratulated him on a great save. Still, with him being a golfer at Griffith Park, he probably has it a lot easier than the rest of us financially speaking.

I guess this is time to admit that I didn’t do my maintenance runs this past week. We’re supposed to do two of them throughout the week to keep our bodies in gear, but I decided to take an extra few days off from them which eventually turned into taking the whole week off from running. After this run I confessed my sins to Coach JC and he laughed and said, “You’re body always knows when you haven’t done your maintenance runs.” How true.

The fact is that I was lagging behind everybody to where I was running by myself for the last few miles and caught up in my own thoughts. The past week had me struggling to get any work done as I had to deal with someone from my past who is far too bitter to let go of the past, and I was once again reminded of how tedious it can be to transcribe an interview. And once again, I did not have an interval timing watch on me so I ended up losing track of when we were walking and running after a while. I could make out my fellow runners from a distance, but after a while they just became a blur.

Thankfully Winston, who I stayed behind with when experienced problems during our 18 mile run, waited up for me to make sure I was alright. Even he wasn’t sure if we were running or walking, and my Runkeeper app didn’t want to indicate where I was pace-wise. It was nice to have the company though as we made our way back to Zoo Drive where the breeze hit our faces in a most refreshing way.

I did make it to the finish line eventually, and I burned a lot of calories that I will more than likely put back into my body before I know it. One of the many things to keep in mind about running is that it can really increase your appetite in a way few other physical activities can. I found myself tearing into a package of Chips Ahoy cookies at the finish line to where I wondered just how bad my addiction to all things chocolate is. 

When it comes to runs like these where I end up falling behind everyone else, I usually come out of them feeling like I let myself down completely. But this time around I didn’t get into a state where I was beating myself up mercilessly. There were certainly things I could have improved on, but I really didn’t do a bad job. Regardless of how long it took me, I did run all 8 miles and crossed the finish line just like I should have. 

According to my trust Runkeeper app I ran for two hours and had an average pace of 14:22 per mile which was a little faster than usual for me. I burned 1,253 calories, but those calories will, of course, will be reentering my body at some point. 

For this next week I need to take care of a few things: I need to get a new pair of running shoes, a watch with interval timing and some new compression gear. My compression tights and underwear, which have gotten me through four LA Marathons, now have holes in them and need to be replaced. On one hand you could say I now have blessed clothing (their holy, get it?), but it’s time to get some new threads. 

A big thanks also goes out to the mentor of the Lucky 13 pace group, Jenn Alonzo, who continues to keep a good eye on us throughout each and every run and greets us at the finish line with a great big smile. Following this run, she also held a fundraiser at the Veggie Grill in the Farmer's Market next to The Grove. It's the kind of place where you look at the menu and become convinced that they do actually serve meat, but you should know damn well that they don't before you enter the restaurant. This is a vegan establishment through and through, and the fact that they have natural sodas instead of Coke and Pepsi should clue you into that.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Iceman Runneth 20 Miles

It’s been a few weeks since we entered double digit mileage territory in our training for the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, and now we are taking things a step further. This training run had us running 20 miles, the furthest distance we have ran so far, and regardless of whether or not we’re marathon veterans, we came into this run with a lot of anxiety. 

While most Team to End AIDS runs start at 7 am in the morning, this one started at 6 am because of the distance. As a result I got up at 5 am so that I could get up, lather myself with all the anti-chafe cream I had on me and put on all the anti-cotton clothing I had on me. My alarm clock for once woke me up at the right time, and I got up as quickly as I could even while I was slightly detained by Two Girls and a Guy which stars Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner. It’s the kind of movie that shows what an amazing talent Downey Jr. is, and Graham is quite luscious in it as well.

Anyway, I had to make a quick stop at Ralphs supermarket to get ice as my pace group Lucky 13 was responsible for bringing food and treats for the runners to feast on at the finish line, and I was asked to bring ice. I dashed in but wondered if I should get a 7 pound bag of ice or a 20 pound one. The time I had to decide on that was minimal, so I just went with the 7 pound bag and raced to the nearest express checkout. But since it was so early in the morning, only 3 registers were open which had me waiting in line impatiently as I wanted to arrive at Griffith Park on time. Thankfully, an African American woman ahead of me invited me to go ahead of her as I had one item and she had at least a dozen. That was very thoughtful of her.

Despite that unforeseen delay, I did make it out to Griffith Park in one piece and while it was still a little cold outside. I placed the bag of ice next to all the goodies the Lucky 13 pace group brought, hoping that someone would know what to do with it before it all melted. No one asked me to bring a cooler anyway. After we finished our warm ups where Coach JC reminded us to not set any land speed records on this run (good advice), I suddenly realized that I left my sunglasses in my car. Since the Lucky 13’s were the first head off to the starting line, I made a mad dash for my car so I could get them. It also gave me a good idea of how fast NOT to run for the rest of the day.

I was fumbling about with my phone trying to get Runkeeper started as our run began, and I was a little peeved that I wasn’t able to start my timer along with everybody else. Once again, I need to get a watch with interval timing.

On our 18 mile run a few weeks ago, I ended up taking some CVS Tylenol-wannabe tablets to ease the pain I knew I was going to experience. With this run I decided to go with a CVS Aleve-wannabe tablet as it is said to last 12 hours instead of 6 or whatever. Taking that into account, I guess you could say that I have been experimenting with drugs. 

With this 20 mile run, we took a tour of sorts through the various movie studios in Burbank and Glendale. We of course passed by Warner Brothers Studios which was nearby and we ran past Disney Animation Studios which one building being held up by the Seven Dwarves from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I forgot how strong those dwarves are. Then again, the Lord of the Rings movies should have reminded me of that.

We never get to run inside the studios though, so maybe calling it a tour isn’t all that accurate. 
It was good that we left at 6 am instead of 7. I don’t just say that because of the long distance we were going to be running, but it allowed us to enjoy the cooler temperatures before they disappeared. It was another hot day that was humid more than anything else. The flies were in our faces again but not as much as last week. Thankfully we had the Bolivers and other volunteers helping us stay hydrated. 

Once again I was focusing on my body and making sure I wasn’t slouching. It felt like I was slouching at times which concerned me. As for the agony my feet were enduring, it wasn’t too bad thanks to that CVS Aleve-wannabe tablet I ended up having. But if I wasn’t in intense pain at that point, I figured I would be at some point. My feet and knees were thanking me for taking pain medication beforehand, but I also knew they would have their revenge on me later.

According to Runkeeper I was on the road for 5 hours and 35 minutes and had burned close to 4,000 calories (man I hope that’s accurate). While I came out of the last few runs feeling like hammered shit, this one had me feeling better than I had in a long time. It was great too because the last couple of days had me dealing with another employment situation coming to a frustrating and abrupt conclusion (the less said about it here, the better). That’s what I love about running; it gets all those endorphins working to such a liberating effect to where you feel great and sore all at the same time.

While I have been averse to taking ice baths this training season, I knew having one after a 20 mile run was of the upmost necessity. Once I finished filling my bathtub up with cold water and dumped a 20 pound bag of ice in it (7 wasn’t going to be enough this time), it felt refreshing in a way it usually never does. I was also reminded of what one of my marathon training buddies from 2012 said when she put her feet in a kiddie pool filled with ice cold water:

“That hurts worse than running!”