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.