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.

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