Sunday, January 17, 2016

Must Be The Shoes!

There was an episode of the HBO prison series "Oz" in which a trio of inmates forced another inmate to publicly give up his shoes. That shoeless inmate later complained to a higher up as to what happened, and in retaliation those thugs forced him to play the most brutal version round of one-on-one basketball which leaves him severely battered and bruised. During the game, the arrogantly victorious Kenny Wangler (played by J.D. Williams) says, "Must be the shoes!"

That phrase was playing in my head during my 8 mile recovery run with Team to End AIDS this weekend. I say that because I just bought a new pair of running shoes at my local "A Runer's Circle" store on La Brea Avenue, a pair of red Brooks Transcend shoes to be exact, and they made all the difference on this run.

Coach JC assured us that there would be no hills for us to run up this time, and that included the one everyone now refers to as "cardiac hill" which, if you have ever run up it, is a perfectly appropriate name.

Going on this run made me fully realize what kept me from running all the way to the finish line last week on the 20 mile run. Because my most current pair of running shoes were in my car when I got carjacked on New Year's Day, I was forced to wear a pair of running shoes that have long since padded their prime. As a result, my knees came out of it feeling like they had taken more punishment than legally necessary.

But with this new pair of shoes, I found myself feeling a level of cushioning I haven't felt in quite some time. The person who sold them to me this past week told me that the moral of the story is not to wait a year to replace your shoes a year later. That's true, but to his credit he didn't know what I had been carjacked on New Year's Day.

I had felt some aches and pains in my knees, but these new shoes kept me from falling apart on this run as a result. Nothing stopped me from running out of fuel, and I kept up with my fellow pace group runners for a change which honestly meant so much to me as I usually find myself trailing behind everyone else to where I wonder what brought me back for another season.

Whereas I was usually one of the last T2EA runners to cross the finish line, this time I succeeded in keeping up with everybody all the way to the end. That made this run especially fulfilling as I've hit "the wall" more often than not this training season. But this time I didn't fall behind to where I was running by my lonesome. Some may say it's the result of keeping up with those maintenance runs, but I have to say it must be the shoes.

It's so easy to forget what a comfortable pair of shoes can feel like. I don't just mean running shoes; I mean any kind of shoes. As adults we get used to feeling uncomfortable about a lot of things to where we accept a level of discomfort as being part of life. Life is hard and life is pain, and many of us put up with those facts far more than we should. The pain some of us feel in our legs and feet force us to develop a tolerance which feels necessary but soon blinds us to the fact that we don't have to feel that uncomfortable on a regular basis.

I keep getting reminded of this whenever I get new shoes, and I keep telling myself that I won't quickly forget the importance of having a pair with a lot of cushioning. Perhaps writing about it will keep me more alert in the future.

So the next time you feel like you are experiencing more pain than usual, keep in mind that it must be the shoes.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Thanks to my great friend Ed Mahoney, we have reached the fundraising goal of $1,100 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. But even though we raised the necessary amount, it doesn't mean our work is over. You can still donate if you would like, and a mere $5 or $10 dollar donation can still go a long way.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Something Wickedly Long Comes This Way

This new year has not gotten off to the best start for me. To make a long story short, I arrived back in Los Angeles to find myself locked out of my apartment and later carjacked. Despite that, I did make it to Griffith Park for the annual Scott Boliver run where us Team to End AIDS runners honored our late marathon coach who left us way too soon. 

Having dealt with the worst New Year's Eve/Day ever, I came to that run winded as I had gone through a wealth of emotions a couple of days before, and an 8 mile run became a 4 and a half mile run a result. Coach Dene ended up driving me to the finish line as even she saw how exhausted I was. Still, I enjoyed a breakfast at Home Restaurant with my fellow marathon veterans even though I fell asleep a couple of times at the table.

However, I was in better shape for this week's 20 mile run, our longest yet in this training session. Granted, this past week had me doing only one maintenance run as one of my legs felt a little off, but I was not about to back off from it as a result.

Because of this run's length, we all met at Griffith Park at 6 AM instead of 7. The sun still had yet to rise in the sky so it was blacker than usual. It really helped to have a flashlight on your person as it was a little hard to make out faces right away.

Coach JC strongly reminded us to take it easy on this run, and that was advice I was eager to take heed of. When we started on this especially frigid January morning, I actually found myself not overdoing it and running slower than usual along with everyone else. We all knew this was not that run to burn out on earlier than later, and it felt good to keep up with my fellow pace group runners for a change. That is, for the majority of the run.

There was a point where I went to the bathroom as did others in my group, but they ended up not waiting for me which annoyed me to a certain extent. As a result, I spent the next few miles trying to catch up with everyone, and I eventually did at the stop where the Boliver family was on hand to give us all the peanut and pickle covered Ritz crackers we could ever hope to consume.

Throughout this training period we have done our best to outrun the heat, but this time we were trying to outrun the rain. El Nino has come down on California with a semi-vengeance and I say semi-vengeance because I'm convinced the weatherman will still say it's not enough. All the same, we did outrun the rain.

I was doing fine until I reached mile 17. That was the point where many of us hit "the wall." My will to run, even though I was only 3 miles from the finish line, was going south with the birds, and it was also being decreased by other runners who couldn't do more than walk at a lethargic pace (I couldn't blame them though).

But crossed the finish line I did with my fellow Team to End AIDS coaches JC, Kerry, Dene and Jennifer greeting me with high fives. To that, I could only reply, "Finally!" Even though I have done this marathon training several times before, running 20 miles still feels like quite the struggle.

A special thanks goes out to the Roadkill pace group for bringing us all the food and chocolate milk we could ever hope to find at the end of a run like this. I also have to thank them for not giving us actual roadkill to feast on, and that's even if it had more protein than what we ate.

Like I said, this 20 mile run was a struggle, and I guess I came into it thinking I would handle it better than others because I have been through this training before, but reality can work in truly mysterious ways.

While it would have been best for me to have an ice bath after conquering so many miles, I instead went to my apartment and collapsed on my bed where I slept for more hours than I usually do. Here's hoping I can fit even more cardio exercises into my schedule before Valentine's Day.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I have now raised over $848 towards AIDS Project Los Angeles which puts me at 77% towards my fundraising goal of $1,100. Seriously, even a $5 donation will go a long way in helping those afflicted by this unforgiving disease. Please message me to find out how you can help.