Friday, November 22, 2013

My Runner-versary

I was born on Aug. 9, 1975.

I was married on June 26, 1999.

My kids were born on Oct. 1, 2003 and Oct. 19, 2005.

I became a runner on Nov. 22, 2009.

There are specific dates and moments that created an imprint on (or in one instance began) my life. The big ones are, well, important and life-altering, but the final date there has had a big impact on the person I've become and helped set my own bar high.

I'd actually been running quite a bit before Nov. 22, 2009. I'd run a half marathon, two mud runs, a 5K and a couple of 10Ks... a 15-miler too. But I was in Seattle and was supposed to run 18 miles that day with my running group. Since none of my group made the trip with me, I was left with two options - either run the whole thing alone or skip it. I wasn't about to skip it.

The run (read about it here) was absolutely the most difficult thing I'd ever done. With the help of some local runners/bloggers, I figured out what the weather was like, how to prepare for it and where a good running path was. It rained from start to finish, and the temperatures hovered in the low 40s.

I powered through. The run became increasingly difficult as it grew longer. The last two miles were torturous, and the final stretch the most painful I'd experienced before.

To this day it stands alone as the most difficult training run I've ever done. I don't think I can experience a tougher one, to be honest. 18 solo miles in unfamiliar territory under harsh conditions? Good luck topping that.

But I felt like I joined an elite group that day. I felt like I did something that only a true runner would do. I felt like I earned my runner label that day.

I've since gone on to run 10 marathons and 14 more half marathons and there have been many times, either during training runs or the aforementioned races, where I question myself, where I doubt that I can get something done, when I let in those negative thoughts, but all I have to do is to remember how, when I was an inexperienced and determined runner, I was able to accomplish something great. I can do it. I proved that and so many other things long ago.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When A 10-Mile Run Isn't A 10-Mile Run

It's been way too long. I don't mean since I last blogged but since I last blogged regularly. It's been so long in fact that I don't want to say that I am going to be doing this regularly or even semi-regularly. All I know is that I want to get back into running long distances regularly and I feel like I am close to that point, and that when I was at my best running, I was blogging regularly. So perhaps the two go hand-in-hand.

Anyway, this isn't a what-have-I-been-up-to post. This isn't a what-plans-do-I-have post either. This is just a... well... I guess I should jump right into it.

Sunday was a challenge. Better put, the approach to Sunday was a challenge. I wanted to run 10 miles. Not only were my in-laws celebrating Thanksgiving later in the day (a lot of hectic schedules forced it a bit early) but I was primed for such a distance. The last time I hit double digits I was somewhere in Fontana running the city's half marathon on June 1. The last training run where I hit double digits was... I can't remember. I had barely run the few weeks before Fontana.

So my training had been going well recently, very well, but the most I had done was one eight-miler and several six-milers. Most everything else was in the five-ish range.

I went ahead and signed up for the Lopers Holiday Classic half marathon on Dec. 1 so not only did I need to get back into running long distances for myself, I need to do it in preparation for my next race.

I got up early Sunday, threw my stuff on and went out the door about 5:40. I made my way over to my new favorite running place, Bonaminio Park by Mt Rubidoux, and I was off. I had been a little worried that I wouldn't be able to find the mental strength to get up and do that but I did and that was a bit of a hurdle cleared.

Once I was running, I was fine. I got back into the long-run groove somewhat quickly. I mentally planned out a route, scrapped it and decided to run on some city streets. Eventually I made my way around Fairmount Park and then took a trail back to where I started. Six miles down, four to go, which had been my plan - I'd wanted to run the final four up and down Mt. Rubidoux. Even though I'd already run six miles, my legs attacked the hill with ferocity. I wasn't necessarily flying up the hill but my legs where churning at a steady, solid place.

At the top I rested briefly and off I went downhill. As I was in my long-run mode, I didn't try and hit some top speeds like I normally do down Mt. Rubidoux. I felt good though, and felt like if I needed a kick I had one to give. Finally I was back in the parking lot and coming up on my truck. 10.2 miles done and I felt great, but more importantly I felt like I could have given more. Of course, later in the day I was wiped out.

It's funny how this whole run and day went. While the run itself was not overly taxing, the aftermath was. The way I felt afterward - tired, sore, desperately needing sleep - was how I usually felt when I ran more than 15 miles. Usually with 10 miles, not only do I not sweat it mentally, I go about my day afterward like normal, with no physical setbacks.

Just shows that I have a long way to go until I get back to where I was. But I have the desire, the time and possibly this blog to help me get back there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

OC Marathon: Cruising To My 10th Marathon Medal

Preparing for the OC Marathon was quite a bit difficult. I hadn't exactly been feeling fleet-of-feet in recent weeks, but on April 15 I ran 20 miles and the following Sunday I ran a half marathon. I knew I could do it, just was fearful of what condition I'd do it in.

I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I decided that I just wanted to finish. I think in some ways my experience in Long Beach has scarred me and running fast now seems to me a recipe for crashing out.

Regardless, I wanted to enjoy the marathon. Why not? This was supposed to be my 10th marathon after all, and I wanted the medal, the glory, the feeling of complete elation. I did. I'm greedy that way.

Because of all that, I got up at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, got my stuff together and met up with a friend in nearby Corona at 4 a.m. After a trafic-less drive to Costa Mesa and the OC Fairgrounds, we hopped on a shuttle bus and before too long were standing near the start line.

My friend Kuuipo and I ran into another friend of ours, Vance, and the three of us set off on our 26.2-mile journeys at roughly 5:30 a.m. I felt great. We started slow, which was planned, but after a couple of miles we picked up the pace ever so slightly. I felt comfortable and wanted to stay that way as long as possible.

Shortly into the race, Vance and I had to jump into the bathroom and Kuuipo kept on going. She was just up ahead and stayed that way. Eventually we lost her. Vance had springy legs and I told him a few times to run up ahead. After the midway point, he said he wanted to negative split, I wished him luck and off he went.

I was alone, and fine with it. I knew my race was going to be slow, and I didn't want to hold anyone back.

I was cruising. I wasn't going particularly fast (the 4:30 pacer went past me around Mile 16 while the 4:40 pacer passed me around Mile 22) but I didn't care. I was comfortable. I wanted to stay comfortable. I felt like if I were to have dug deep to find that extra gear, that I'd crash out eventually and then I'd be toast.

Mile 17 came and there were no feelings of despair. I made it a goal to focus on the next mile and tried to stay mentally sharp.  Pretty soon I passed up the Mile 18, 19 and 20 markers and celebrated after each one. After I hit 20 miles, I marveled at how much different and better I felt then than I had when I'd finished my 20-mile run last month. I knew I could get through another six-point-two miles.

Sure, there were tough moments. I had an issue with my phone and phone holder at about Mile 21. I had to fumble around when Mrs. LB called me a mile later. There were moments when my legs felt heavy. But I pushed through it all. Around Mile 25 I started to run with a smile afixed on my face. I knew I wasn't going to crash out. I knew that I was going to cruise into the finish. I also knew that I wasn't going to beat my LA time but it was night and day from how I felt at the end of LA to how I felt this last mile, and for that I was happy.

People were out on the course cheering me on and I thanked as many of them as I could. The horrendous situation that happened in Boston last month did not keep these people from lining the course and supporting the runners, and for that I felt humbled. I appreciated their cheers, claps and high-fives. It really did help lift my spirits.

Eventually, I came upon sight of the Mile 26 marker. I'd had some tears welled up in my eyes, as I have had in each of my marathons. I thought back to how I was before, 300-plus pounds, and here I was now about to finish my 10th marathon.

I rounded the final corner. The finish line was up ahead. I'd been practicing my pose for a little bit and here now was showtime. I lifted my arms up, spread my fingers out and commemorated my 10th marathon that way, with a smile and tears and finally, that medal.

And afterward, the best-tasting beer I've had in quite a while.



* I finished in 4:48:30, definitely not one of my faster efforts.
* Kuuipo finished in 4:30:16, not bad considering she was worried
* Vance, who ran with me every step of LA, finished in 4:24:14 - his pace at the half was 10:12, and overall was 10:04, so he got his negative split. Proud of him.
* I love the OC Marathon. I really do. Enjoyed it last year, enjoyed it this year. Becoming very fond of this event.

Friday, May 3, 2013

OC Marathon Plan: Finish

Well, this marathon sneaked up on me.

I will be running the OC Marathon on Sunday. It will be my 10th marathon and it will be my biggest challenge.

Why is it my biggest challenge? Because it's what's up next on my plate. I am sure that no matter how well my training is going, a marathon will always be a monstrous challenge. So this fits the bill for the latter even though the former is most defnitely not the case.

I have gotten my runs in, have gotten in the miles but for some reason the training has not felt great. My recent Run Through Redlands half marathon time is reflective of that. I finished in just under 2:03. It's a sluggish time for me, and that about sums up my training - sluggish.

I considered dropping down to the OC Half but opted against it, mostly because I want that marathon medal and that sense of pride I feel after running 26.2 miles. But when I decided to go all in, I did so with the caveat that I would take it easy. So I'm planning on taking it easy.

What does easy mean? Um... well... that part is to be determined with regards to time. But I want to run at a comfortable pace early on and hope that I can maintain it. For LA, I ran at a pace that was just a tad faster than comfortable and pooped out over the last 6-7 miles. I don't want to get to Mile 19 and begin to hate life. I want to wait until at least Mile 23 for that to happen.

I mean, I'm going to get there. I'm going to reach my breaking point. I know it. I've had one marathon where I felt like I nailed it mentally, and that was OC 2012. I don't know, maybe history will repeat itself. Maybe the course will be kind to me once more. Or maybe I will start to relax knowing that I will try to enjoy myself on the course. I'm hoping that sort of takes the pressure off of me.

Whatever the case, I have less than 48 hours now until Marathon No. 10. Double digits! I can't believe I'm in this position. I know I will cross the finish line. I know I will feel proud of myself after doing so. And I know I will wear my medal with pride. I've worked hard to put myself in a position to do all of that, so why fret about anything?

I just have to start believing that last part.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What I've Been Up To

So what have I been up to lately? I haven't been blogging but I have been running. Quite a bit.

Here are some of the highlights from the last six weeks (this is just a quick-hit post, I'll come back and post about each in detail separately at some point):

* I ran the LA Marathon. On March 17 I completed my ninth marathon. I finished in 4:44:15. It's not a great time and I faded badly down the stretch but I finished. I think what I will be most proud of will be pacing a first-timer to his first marathon finish and a second-timer to his second-marathon finish. I loved the experience though. I enjoyed LA immensely in 2012 and the experience was the same this year, despite me fading down the stretch.

* On March 30 I ran my first trail half marathon. Oh yeah, this was hard. Super hard. In terms of level of difficulty, none of the other half marathons comes anywhere near how tough this was. The race was small, like 25 runners small, and the course was a four-mile loop which we did three times, then a mile out-and-back to complete the distance. The first loop was tough but it just got progressively more difficult. My legs were dead the rest of the day.

* On Sunday I ran the Run Through Redlands half marathon. I was a little disappointed in my finish time of 2:03. I was gunning for a sub-2 and really wasn't that close to the time. Sigh. Just a few years ago I blazed through the course in a time of 1:56:58. Oh well. There's always next year.

* As I mentioned on Monday, I ran a solo 20-miler. Oh my goodness this was tough. I ran this on April 15 when the horrible events at the Boston Marathon took place. I didn't find out about that until I was done with my run. I was pretty shaken up the rest of the day, because of what happened over there and because of how I felt physically.

* I have the OC Marathon coming up in two weeks. Actually less than that. And actually actually, I'm not sure if I'm running the full. I mean, I registered for the full but I don't know. I will have to seriously think about what my options are for that race. Not to get too much into my next blog post but I have two options - run the full, go through with it, get my 10th marathon medal but prepare myself to run a slower marathon or - drop down to the half, see it not as a setback or an opportunity lost but a chance to test myself at the half marathon distance once more and help me stay mentallly fresh for the San Francisco Marathon. Ugh. Tough choice!

Anyway, that's a small sampling of what has transpired during my quiet period.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back...

Is this thing on?

Is there anyone out there still.

I dropped the ball. I've just been not as motivated to write here, not as motivated to run like I was before if I'm being honest. I don't know what's going on. I mean, I'm not done done done with anything or close to it, but on a scale of 1 to going-through-the-motions, I'm probably at a 7.

So I'm hoping to come out of my funk. I always felt energized to write here, to share my thoughts and goals, my successes and accomplishments. It's noticeable now that I haven't done that. I don't get that rush of excitement when piecing together what I know will be a good blog post. I don't snatch details and store them for recounting them later. Those creative juices aren't flowing.

And that's the case all around. The juices aren't flowing and that spills over into running.

Now, I want to be clear. I still enjoy running. I have an active run streak of 111 days. I've run one marathon and three half marathons this year and my next race is May 5 (half or full I haven't quite decided). I ran 20 miles alone a week ago today and made plans to run with friends next Sunday. I very much am still running and running strong.

But that extra oomph, that part of running that made me salivate, that part has lost a bit of its luster. And I know it's me. 100 percent it's me.

And I think I've done the damage by not having updated my blog. That's the only logical conclusion. It makes sense. I started this blog to chronicle my training for the 2008 Camp Pendleton Mud Run and it evolved into something much more than that. Here, I shared my greatest fears and my triumphant successes. I shared my goals which I accomplished and wrote about my failures which didn't seem too bad once they were out in print... or type... or whatever... I changed a lot from early 2008 to now and all along the way this blog was there to help me note the change.

So I'm going to reinvest in this blog. I have to. I owe it to myself. But more importantly, I owe it to you. I owe it to my readers.

See, I've always believed that I went through my transformation from 300-pounder to marathoner for a reason greater than myself. I'm the ultimate if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can story. I had ZERO motivation to do anything physical and since 2006 all I've done is lose 120 pounds, run 12 half marathons and nine full marathons. It's been hard as hell, depressing at times, massively challenging and difficult but immensely rewarding. What I feel when I finish a race is like a drug and I want to keep feeling that. I never though I'd get to this point, never desired anything near this but here I am.

Let's be real here. If someone with a decent amount of athletic ability (which is more than I possess) and a modicum of desire (more than I had before 2006) sets out to accomplish something whether it's running related or not, imagine the places they can go. I started with nothing and look where I got. If you start with something more, you will go further. And if you doubt yourself, all you have to do is look at me because surely you are more motivated than me, than LB circa 2005 if nothing else.

But because this blog petered out, I stopped providing you a place to look. I took that away from you. And that's not fair.

So I'm back, for you dear reader. Together we'll get to some interesting places here in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Frisco Fridays: SFM Representative In Charge

One of the perks of being a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador is representing the San Francisco Marathon.

Most of the time, this representation is virtual - I tweet about the race (follow me @RunnerLuis), I'll post and share things on Facebook and right here on this trusty blog. The personal representation is mostly informal - I have nothing but good things to say when fellow runners talk to or aske me about the San Francisco Marathon (and I say those good things because I mean them).

But there have been a few times where I'm on official SFM business, serving in an official SFM capacity. Friday will be one of those days.

I'm going to be the person in charge of the San Francisco Marathon's booth at the San Diego Half Marathon Expo. For nearly five hours I'll be manning the booth, will help people sign up for the race, will answer questions about it, will show off my medals and the LA/SF Challenge medal as well and will spread the love of my favorite marathon.

I've done it twice before, but there were differences.

I was at the LA Marathon Expo last year and hung out for about 5-6 hours, got to talk to a few people... well, more than a few people I suppose... and spread the love for SFM. Also, at the San Francisco Marathon Expo itself I was there for most of Saturday doing the same.

The difference of course was that I was not alone. I was not in charge save for about an hour when the staffer at last year's LA expo booth went on her lunch.

Ugh.

Alone. In charge. The man.

Nerves.

I'll do well. I think. I hope.

Either way, I'll come back here and report on how it went.