Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Mile Too Many?

So I managed to get my two maintenance runs in this week which had me feeling fully prepared for this 5 mile run. Like the week before I was hoping to get more cardio workouts in, but I was kept from doing so as I had to work and make some money. I also had the opportunity to interview Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld about their new movie “The Keeping Room,” and that seemed like a good reason to avoid a workout.

Furthermore, I got to interview Eli Roth and Lorenza Izzo about their cannibal movie “The Green Inferno,” and watching that gave me a good enough reason to skip breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m hoping I lost a couple of pounds as a result.

After last week, Coach JC became increasingly concerned that many of us were not in the correct pace groups. Many of us in the 12 minute pace group came to realize that we were better off running in the 13 minute pace group instead, and to that effect we changed our pace from 3:1 to 4:1 which sounded like a good way to go.

This week’s run was the alumni run, so I felt compelled to bring Bubba Eeyore back as he did accompany me on my 23 mile run back in 2014. I was hoping to see a lot of friends from previous years, but that did not prove to be the case. Jessica and Annette, how could you two sleep in this Saturday morning? I hope you have good excuses!

The summer season has ended and fall has begun, but that doesn’t mean much when you live in Southern California because summer tends to extend its invitation all the way into November. If that doesn’t convince you that climate change is not fiction, then what the fuck will?!

I felt like I got off to a good start as I made my way towards the streets of Burbank with my fellow runners, but it didn’t take long for me to start lagging behind to where I found myself running by my lonesome. I started to feel like a water skier who was impatiently waiting for someone to throw him the tow rope so that he can rise from the water and race upon it. Or in other words, I just wanted someone to pull me so that I could keep up with everybody else.

You know, when a runner stops short of completing a run because he or she doesn’t feel up to it, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s smart because it means you’re looking out for yourself and not pushing yourself too hard. This was the first T2EA run ever where I felt like I should have stopped sooner, but there still exists a part deep down inside of me that is out to prove to the world I’m no quitter. Whether it was refusing to switch high schools because I was miserable Freshman year or refusing to quit the wrestling team because it was too much work, I still feel like giving up on something is an inescapable sign of failure. After all these years (never mind how many), it may be time to seriously rethink that perspective.

I did get saved momentarily by the Bolivers who were on hand to give us their usual display of running fuel, and those peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers are always a lifesaver. They also had a cooler of ice cubes which I quickly shoved into my water bottles before taking off. But it was still a hot day so those ice cubes disintegrated in no time at all, and my water and grape Gatorade remained unrefreshingly warm.

I feel like I more or less limped to the finish line at Griffith Park, but I was happy to see that Coach JC and my fellow pace group runners were still there waiting for me to return. I told JC that I wasn’t sure why my running was off this week as I did do my two maintenance runs, and he admits that he is still trying to get all the runners into the right pace groups. The goal, he said, is to have everyone run at a pace which is comfortable for them to where they are not huffing and puffing for no good reason.

I told JC that my hope is to do cardio workouts outside of my two maintenance runs. Swimming comes to mind, and he liked that and encouraged me to do workouts that didn’t put too much strain on my legs. He also encouraged me to avoid stair masters as they can be especially hard on the joints. I haven’t been on one of those machines since I was in high school.

One of my fellow runners said he remembered when I ran with Bubba Eeyore a few years back and that seeing him always brought a smile to his face. Bubba later came up to him to say thank you, but that same runner started laughing hysterically to where Bubba felt offended. Oh well, Bubba does get strong responses from one person to the next.

So next week I need to keep up with those maintenance runs, and hopefully I’ll fit in some other cardio workouts as well. If only we had time to do all the things we needed to do…

Monday, September 21, 2015

Faster than a 13 minute pace group?

Okay, in my last marathon blog I said I was going to do cardio exercises all throughout the week. I even packed up my gym bag in a way I haven’t in the last few months, determined to make myself go through with this important and much-needed mission. Well, things did not go as planned as I ended up being a victim of check fraud which depleted my checking and savings accounts, and I had to spend a ridiculous number of hours getting an oil change, getting my rear brakes replaced and a new tire put on my car. It also didn’t help that the guys at the tire shop kind of forgot about me and my car for at least an hour.

Oh yeah, Ben Stein was also at the tire shop too if anyone is interested to know…

Anyway, this week’s Team to End AIDS run was the “Bring a Friend” run, so naturally I brought Bubba Eeyore with me. This is the same Eeyore that accompanied me on my 23 mile run when I trained for the LA Marathon in 2014. Hey, they said bring a friend!

Bubba ended up staying behind to guard the car keys of those running the Honolulu Marathon to where Coach Jennifer was convinced  he wanted to come to Honolulu as well (I’m sure he would jump at the chance).

We had a choice today of running either three or five miles. I decided to run five. Since all my fellow marathon buddies were running in the 12 minute pace group, I stuck with them. I guess there are times where I can’t help but be a follower. To say that it was relatively cool that morning in Griffith Park would have people staring right at you with their jaws dropped as if to say, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!!” Let’s just say that we’re all really glad to run early in the morning. It sucks not to sleep in on a Saturday, but at least we got the run out of the way before the temperature reached an unbearable level.

This run took us outside of Griffith Park and into parts of Burbank many of us have traversed before. It also allowed us to catch up with the Bolivars who were at a local park serving us with all the treats any runner could ever need any day (especially on one as hot as this). And of course, this marked the return of those peanut butter pickle covered Ritz crackers which remain as addictive as ever. Coach JC may be repelled by them, but for everyone else they are insatiable.

Having trained time and time again for the LA Marathon, I usually come into a run like this saying, “It’s only five miles.” It drives those who don’t run nuts, but it makes perfect sense to those who have long since been bitten by the running bug. But this run definitely felt longer than usual, and it wasn’t just because of the heat. Having missed my opportunity to do those two maintenance runs during the week, the strain showed to where I didn’t even try to hide it. I didn’t falter or give up, but my form was definitely off this time around. I need to keep up with training during the week and to get myself to doing all those cardio exercises I promised myself I would do throughout the week. Also, a decrease in junk food would be helpful too (don’t ask why).

As the group made their way back to where we started, I had to stop at one point to “drop the kids in the pool.” I thought I could make it to the end before having to go to the bathroom, but then I remembered that there’s not much in the way of portable toilets near our running site. I wasn’t sure if anyone heard I was going to give a shit and not wait up for me… I know the correct term is to “take a shit,” but who really takes one? You don’t take a shit, you give a shit. Granted, the term “giving a shit” may have multiple meanings, but when it comes to going to the bathroom that term makes a hell of a lot more sense.

Thankfully I didn’t have to spend too long at the bathroom and the finish line was not all that far away. As I made my way back to Griffith Park, Winston (who ran the 2015 LA Marathon with me) came running my way to make sure I was okay. I was fine, and even he admitted there was no way I would drop dead during a run.

As we approached the finish line, it was getting hotter and hotter. When you literally yards away from the end, the run begins to feel a lot longer than it has any right to. I always kind of resent that about running in general. Maybe it’s because I keep getting Vietnam-like flashbacks of when I ran cross country in high school and feeling like I would die a painful death before I even crossed the finish line. Either that or the sun was shining so brightly that I couldn’t stop thinking about that cup of ice cold water waiting for me  at the end and of how I wanted it sooner than later. This was especially the case when we did runs in 80 degree heat without any shade.

Well, considering that I am writing about this run, it’s safe to say that I completed it and am still breathing. Coach JC, however, was concerned that me and several others were in the wrong pace group. He said he understood how runners always try to push themselves to another level, but considering the time we finished in, it made more sense for us to run in the 13 minute pace group. This should show you just how much JC is looking out for us as a marathon coach. Do not doubt his dedication to making sure we cross the finish line next February.

So hopefully I will get those maintenance runs and cardio exercises in during the week week as I have a lot of catching up to do. Not to worry though. We are still in the beginning stages of marathon training and have plenty of time to improve.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

6th time's the charm, I hope

Once again, I am back at Griffith Park because it’s that time of year again; the time to start training for the Los Angeles Marathon. This marks the sixth year in a row that I will be doing it as well as the sixth year that I have been running it with Team to End AIDS, and I’m sure that makes it sound like I am certifiably insane. Well maybe I am, but this training program always seems to come around at a time when I really need it.

This time it is called the Skechers Los Angeles Marathon. Many wondered why ASICS isn’t sponsoring the event this year, and in the end it all comes down to who ponies up the most money for sponsorship. It certainly does bring attention to your product line.

There are various reasons why I keep coming back to this: I’ve rediscovered my love of running (and it’s a love no one else in my family shares), I am desperately trying to lose weight because I’m sick of my belly hanging out over my shorts, I was in a deep depression and needed to escape from the emotional black hole I was being sucked into, or maybe I just want to see if I can set another personal record for myself. For me, this year is all about getting into shape, losing all that belly fat and staying away from the social elixir known as alcohol a little more often during the week. It certainly loosens me up, but it can also rob me of my ambition to do the things I love and get work done.

Even though it’s September, the last few weeks have unbearably hot to where my apartment feels like a makeshift sauna more than anything else. The heat made it almost impossible for me to get to sleep the night before, and I astonished myself for getting out of bed so quickly when my alarm went off at 6 am. I left myself plenty of time to get ready and drive to Griffith Park with time to spare, but then I remembered that I parked my car several blocks away from my apartment. Oh well, at least I got a good warm walk up as I made my way to my automobile.

It was already hovering around 80 degrees when Coach JC Fernandez greeted everyone loudly by shouting out, “GOOD MORNING T2!!!” If he appeared shy before, he certainly doesn’t now. He also told everyone that the JC stands for Juan Carlos and then went on to give us his full name which is beautiful. I say it’s beautiful because, like all beautiful names, I can’t pronounce it. It’ll probably take me a few months before I am able to.

Coach JC started off with the usual address to the marathon troops such as getting a good pair of running shoes from somewhere other than Foot Locker or Sports Chalet. As always we need to get our shoes from a store which employs runners who know what they are talking about (ARunner’s Circle). He also talked about not wearing headphones, that we would be running against traffic and that we needed to run more on the asphalt than on the concrete as the asphalt would provide more cushioning on our joints. And when the day of the marathon comes, we will be spending more time running on the asphalt than not, so this is our opportunity to get used to running on it.

But the most memorable advice from JC came when he told us not to wear cotton clothing while running as it absorbs moisture instead of wicking it away. He also presented us with an equation that I would have loved to have seen in a math class:


Today’s run gave us the option of running either a timed two miles, and that was mostly for newbies who had yet to see which pace group they would be most comfortable running in, or five miles for alumni. I was aiming to run five, but I knew that desire would be short-lived because I only did one maintenance run this past week. Despite having trained for the LA Marathon for the past few years, it always feels like I’m starting over again when the first week of training comes around.

I caught up with my fellow marathon veterans John, Floyd, Virginia and a few others whose names I should have learned a long time ago. Floyd admitted that he didn’t do any maintenance runs this past and decided not to run as a result. As for everyone else, they decided to run just three miles which sounded just right to me. But even with a short run, the heat still got to me as the summer weather still sears our bodies like we’re shish kabobs on a hibachi grill, and that’s even though Labor Day 2015 has already passed us by. It’s like the sun was telling us, “I AIN’T DONE WITH YOU YET!” It doesn’t matter that we ran the 2015 LA Marathon in the same unbearable heat because the sun, unlike humans, does not discriminate.

I’m still trying to remain conscious of my form while running because sometimes it feels like I’m slouching or hunching forward when I should be. It’s moments like that which make me miss going to the chiropractor twice a week.

After finishing the run, John came up to me and asked if Tilda Swinton was as cool in person as she is on the big screen. I said she was even cooler. Why this question? Check out the video below:

Regardless, I got off to a pretty good start and there’s nowhere to go from here but up. I just need to get as much cardio workouts into my schedule as possible as well as do those two maintenance runs during the week. I congratulated myself by stopping at Costco and buying gasoline for $2.85 a gallon (I remembered when that used to seem expensive) and having two Sausage McMuffins with Egg at McDonald’s. As a result, I REALLY need to get those cardio workouts in more than ever. If the heat doesn’t get me, the cholesterol will!