Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's On

We did it. We signed up for the Ragnar Relay.

Our team name is the Desert Tortoises. We're thinking about finding/making a logo and making t-shirts.

As one of the people on the team who runs the most consistently, I've got a lot of responsibility. Now that its for real I have to figure out a training plan. And I have to do at least a couple of runs in the wee hours of the morning.

I figure I should have the strength to run 20 miles in order to handle my legs of the relay. I'm going to sign up with the Lopers running group so that should help.

First thing we need to do is fill out our team. We have 9-10 runners on board but we're confident we will be able to fill out the team.

Should be fun because now its for real.


Some random stuff to get going here on a Tuesday.

- So I inherited a treadmill. It's in my garage right now. My mother-in-law decided that she wanted to get a newer, smaller one for their new house and asked if I wanted it. I said yeah and before I knew it, it was in the back of my truck.

I'm happy about it but I just don't know where it will fit in my house. I'm thinking of the office. I've ran on the treadmill before and it works fine. We'll see though if I can get it in the house to make use of it.

- The girls are taking swim lessons now that it's summertime and 90-plus degrees out here on a daily basis. I'm thinking about seeing if I can sign up for adult swim lessons. Actually, Mrs. LB already inquired about it and turns out I can join a class if I'm for it. Not sure. I suppose one thing that should be motivating would be the chance to participate in a triathlon!

- My blog buddy Willoughby asked me about my diet during my weight loss, the pre-running part of the weight loss which I blogged about yesterday. I figure I'd write about that now.

I hate the word diet if it's used in the context of eating less or differently for a short amount of time. The word diet in context of what you eat is acceptable for me of course but it often gets confused for the other one so I use the word meal plan. Anyway, my meal plan was simple during my weight loss. All I did was track my calories and eventually my fiber intake. I stuck to 1700 calories a day for three consecutive days, then had 2800 calories on the fourth day. I repeated the process over and over again, so three consecutive days I'd eat less than I was used to and the fourth day I could eat a bit more.

I don't know why that works but it worked. My trainer said it would help drive the metabolism or something and I didn't want to question him because I figured he knew more than me so I put my trust in him. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation to it but I don't know where to find that info or what the info is.

Right around the time that second picture I posted yesterday was taken, I changed my meal plan and ate 1800 calories a day. I try to stay between 1500-1800 calories a day but sometimes it's hard... well, often times it's difficult. What helps is writing your food intake down because that forces you to become more accountable for what you eat. And if you walk past a jar of whatever, cookies/jellybeans/chocolates/whatever, then you can't just as easily grab one and pop it in your mouth since you know you'll have to write it down later.

Anyway, I should write more about my meal plans, old and new, on this here blog and I probably will in the near future.

- This is one of my awesome rocking running songs. I recently picked this CD up (can't believe it took me this long) and this song is one of the better ones.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Motivational Mondays (June 29)

I know this blog is mostly about running - well, the fitness parts of it anyway. I've dubbed it the Muddy Runner after all, not the Muddy Ellipticaller or the Muddy Biker.

But that doesn't mean I ran the weight off myself.

I little disclaimer: scary pic coming up!

When I went from the first picture to the second picture, I did so without running much.

That was me in early 2006, before I started my weight loss journey and fitness renaissance.

And this was me in September 2007, about 95 pounds lighter. I hadn't cracked the century mark by then.

In between those two pictures, I ran outside approximately zero times. Actually, I take that back. I ran a mile once, to time myself. That was humbling. It was March 2007 and I hadn't been exercising much in the days/weeks prior to that. I ran a mile around the track at the local high school to see how fast I could run it in. I ran a mile in a little over 10 minutes and was thoroughly exhausted, wiped out and dripping with sweat. It took me several hours to recover from that. But that helped me continue on my weight-loss journey, since it was around the time I really hit the gym hard and drove myself to get back to losing weight.

Anyway, from March 2006 to Sept./Oct. 2007, I barely ran outside, barely ran at all. When I first signed up for a trainer, I started from scratch. I was 308 pounds and had not done any steady exercise for, what?, a decade, maybe longer. I had to start slowly. I never ever imagined I'd like to run and would run a half-marathon by April 2009 or would want to train for a marathon... never. In fact, I was like many people and despised the thought of running. Miles were for driving, not running, right?

Well, I started from scratch and started doing work on the stationary bike. I moved on to the elliptical and then eventually the stair climber (which, incidentally I hate to this day, screw that thing). My trainer had me spend about a month or six weeks on each and I'd rotate around. He wanted me to get in 2-3 cardio sessions a week on that and that's what I did, to supplement our twice-weekly training sessions which I remember as utter hell. Now, they might be more enjoyable but then, the only thing that kept me going was the hope that it would make a difference somehow.

It did, of course, as I lost at least 10 pounds a month for the first four months or so and 60 from March to November 2006.

I stopped seeing a trainer around that time and didn't get started back into working out until February or March 2007, a little before my horrible and humbling mile experience. When I picked it up into high gear, I used the elliptical. A lot. I didn't keep track of heart rates or mileage or anything but the machine measured strides and I made it a goal to keep increasing my strides until I got a really challenging level. I think it was around 3200 strides for... I can't remember, 20 minutes, 30 minutes... not sure. I wish I would have written it down. I think it was 20 minutes because after a while I started throwing in 20-minute stupid stair master sessions. Did I mention how I still hate that thing? It left a mark on me apparently.

But it was effective. So was the elliptical. I never really got back on the bike because I really loved the elliptical and built my own cardio program around that. I also did weights and things like that, core. I don't do weights either anymore because that's just a notch below on The Things I Really Hate At The Gym list.

The elliptical and stair master helped get me from where I started to more than 100 pounds lost. Running came after that. Now, my trainer did stick me on the treadmill a few times and I remember dreading the thing, loathing it. I don't remember how much I ran but I think it was just 20 minutes worth and I think I ran it at a speed of around 5.0 or 5.3 or something, a pretty good clip for myself back then. I didn't spend much time on the treadmill though because I just stuck to the other machines.

But around October 2007 I started to branch out. I didn't get tired of the elliptical but I knew I needed a new challenge. I needed to increase my cardio level to get to the next step, which was to drop the last 10 pounds or so. I was just under 200 for a while, around 199-195 but I wouldn't really go much lower, so I figured running would help. The treadmill finally then did not seem to be as daunting as it had been, and slowly I started to run some intervals or 2-3 mile runs. I dropped 10 pounds like nothing, maybe within five or six weeks of hitting the treadmill hard. Next thing I know I signed up for the 2008 Mud Run, started training for that, realized I liked to run, signed up for my first-ever run, a 5K in June 2008, and my love of running grew from there.

I run now, pretty much exclusively. I get on the elliptical every now and then, for nostalgia. No, actually, I do want to mix things up more and use the elliptical more but I don't. I should but sometimes I opt for the bike if I do a post-run workout, and even then it's only 10-15 minutes. I got a bike, of course, and I intend on riding it more and getting more cardio in that way.

But running is my forte nowadays. I like it, enjoy the health benefits, enjoy races and training for them and love the places running has taken me.

I realize, though, that running is not for everyone. If I would have been presented with the task of running to lose weight back in 2006, I probably would not have gone through with it. Also, people have knee, muscle, feet, ankle, back... whatever... conditions that keep them from running.

While I see firsthand the benefits of running, I also know that there are other ways to get fit and stay fit. I saw that firsthand too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ragnar breakdown

I don't want to get too ahead of myself but this is what we have facing us for the Ragnar Relay.

The runner list on the left side is the order in which you'll run, but this is organized by total mileage over the course of the three runs. So Runner 1 has a total of 15.0 miles to run while Runner 11 has the most at 19.3. Also the runs are listed as either Easy, Moderate, Hard and Very Hard, which I believe is due to hills and all that.

I've already been penciled in as either Runner 11 or Runner 12 so I'll have a lot of responsibility. Gotta make sure I train properly for it.

Ragnar update

It looks as if we have about 10 firm commitments for the Las Vegas Ragnar Relay as we got two commitments on Thursday. Not sure if my e-mail helped but it's good news.

Of course, there are some last-minute jitters though. I'm not sure but I think of the 10 thus far, I'm the only one with children. Being gone for three days is one thing when you don't have any kids but it's a bit different when you do, especially when I'm the one who's home with the girls and will have to worry about getting the girls to and from school and figure out those sorts of logistics.

They probably won't be at the finish line, which is a bit of a downer but Riverside to Las Vegas is a long drive for Mrs. LB and the girls. And there's work that I have to miss, which as a freelancer is sometimes tough to come by.

But those sorts of negatives seem to arise when trying to plan for something. For us, it seems that it's never been convenient to do anything. There's always something that comes up, always a reason not to do something.

Those are obstacles, though, and many times it's likely just the jitters that arise before taking a plunge into the unknown, jitters than can blow things out of proportion.

It will be an exciting experience, I'm sure. And it will give me something to train for as I might not run a race from now until then, and that might be my last race of the year.

The best part of the race will be having something to train for. Visualizing a race and being on the course always works well for me during my training runs. It's a good thing to have a tangible goal sometimes, and picturing myself running in the wee hours of the morning somewhere in Nevada will fuel my runs until that actually happens.

So things are going well then in that regard, and I'm sure everything else will work out as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Basilique Notre-Dame

We weren't intending on checking out any churches during out trip to Montreal, but when I read more about the things that were "must-sees" in Old Montreal, the Basilique Notre-Dame kept coming up. So it wasn't a tough choice then to include that into our things that we had to check out.

In fact, I ran by the Basilique on my first morning in Montreal. I hadn't intended to run past it but I did, and it was an awesome sight. The Basilique towered over the street and plaza in front of it and I couldn't wait to go back with my camera, which we did on Friday.

This is about the view I had as I ran past, since I was on the opposite side of a one-way street, this street actually.

I also took a picture of a large sign in front of the Basilique. I would have taken a shot of the English-language sign, but there is no such thing so I can only kind of make out a few things.

Ville-Marie, incidentally, was the original name of Montreal. Construction did begin on the Basilique in 1823 and the James O'Donnell reference is for the architect of the building. Of course, it was originally a church or cathedral and didn't achieve the status of basilica until 1982.

When we walked out to explore Old Montreal, we walked to the Basilique first. I actually craned my neck quite high to get a glimpse of the building once we were up close. Had to.

Not sure if you can see three prominent statues on the front of this building. They're difficult to see in this picture and you can kind of make them out from the first shot, but I got some up-close shots of them and put them together a bit.

If you think the outside is beautiful, the inside is a masterpiece. I couldn't get a real good wide shot of the inside unfortunately but here's a picture I found online that's pretty much what the inside is like.

Not the best shot but it fit. I pretty much stink at taking indoor shots, but I did get a couple on my own.

For all of its history, the efforts made into building it, the tourists it draws each year and the countless thousands who still worship there, the Basilique is quite famous and might be one of Montreal's most important buildings. They still hold services there every day, and those of course don't cost anything. We saw a show inside that told the history of the church and Montreal and that was only 10 bucks. It cost five to go inside and do a walkthrough and take pictures and all that.

Definitely a fantastic building and one that I feel lucky to have been able to not only see but to step foot in.

Catching up

It seems like lately I've been traveling and with all the travel posts I've not had a chance to blog about some of my racing/running/training thoughts and such.

So as I have several more Montreal posts waiting to be written, I figured I'd squeeze in some of the running thoughts here and now.

* I got a new Polar. Funny thing about the whole heart rate monitor was that in the latest issue of The Other Mag, there was a big story on heart rate monitors. I was thrilled to read it and some of the conclusions they came up with but the story only made me depressed after the Mud Run, after I'd lost my watch. Still, the best part about that story was that there are heart rate monitors with a fabric strap. That might keep me from getting torn open. But when I went to go look for a new heart rate monitor, I opted for the same one. It's gray, not black, but otherwise it's the same, a Polar F4.

* I'm not so sure about the Long Beach Marathon. I'm still hoping for the Ragnar to come through, but if it doesn't I might pass on the Long Beach Marathon. I'm leaning on joining the local running club, the Loma Linda Lopers, and if I do I'll train for the Surf City 2010 Marathon, which is the marathon they train for. Signups for the Lopers begin July 12 and I might well be there that morning to see what it's all about.

* The Mission Inn Run is on Nov. 8, 2009. I'd like to run in that race. I ran it last year and figure it'd be cool to run the local 10K every year if possible. I'd thought about the Camp Pendleton 13.1 Marathon but I'm not so sure about that one. It's a long ways away, but more than that I looked at the results from last year and my 2:14:50 finish time from my half-marathon would have been down towards the bottom in Camp Pendleton. Might be too tough for me. I'd love to run the Disneyland Half Marathon but that's a hundred bucks I believe, too much for a half marathon in my opinion.

* I'm still down for the local Mud Run, the SBSD Mud Run. That's on Sept. 12. I won't be wearing The Polar in that race.

* I got an email about this relay race, the Redrock Relay. Sounds interesting. I suppose it could be a backup in case the Ragnar falls through. It's in Utah, which is a bit of a longer drive than the Las Vegas race's starting point, which is actually closer to Utah than California.

* It's hot! It's officially summer in SoCal and the weather is creeping into the 90s. That means more early-morning runs for me, and also more trips to the gym... which is where I'm headed now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Montreal's Old Port

Part of Montreal's charm was the old buildings. Born and bred in Southern California, I haven't exactly been around places that were established in the 1800s or 1700s. We do have some missions out here that have some history but that's about the extent of it. So being in a building or walking past a building that was built more than 200 years ago was intriguing and a bit humbling. Made me feel kind of inconsequential at times, as if so many people throughout history had passed through the very spot I was standing/walking that my presence there was nothing.

One of the buildings that most intrigued me was this one.

This is the chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours (or the Our Lady of Good Help). It sits right on the Old Port. There is a street in front of it, the Rue De la Commune, and then couple dozen meters before you hit the water. The church was originally built in 1655, but it was mostly destroyed in a fire.

It's also dubbed the Sailors' Church because back in the day as ships pulled into the harbor, one of the first things the sailors saw was this church, and the Virgin helped usher in the sailors to port. Gracious sailors supposedly left her offerings and prayed upon arriving for having helped them arrive in port safely.

Here's a link to the museum web site. We actually didn't go inside the museum to visit it but only because we were busy visiting other museums and just walking around.

We did go inside the Marche Bonsecours, or the Bonsecours Market.

This place was built in the mid-1800s and has been a government building, a farmers market and a general marketplace, which is what it is today. The inside is kind of drab looking but there are a lot of awesome stores in there that sell some really cool stuff. A lot of art pieces that were way outside of our budget. I had a really good cup of espresso in there though.

Also, there was this building that was intriguing, the old Customs House.

I think this was built sometime in the early 1800s as well, though I'm not certain. This used to be the place where visitors would have to pass through customs upon arriving in Montreal. Not sure what it is today except for a cool background for a picture.

Anyway, you could spend a lot of time in Old Montreal and the Old Port. The only thing we really did outside these two areas was our trip to Parc du Mont-Royal because there was plenty to see in the Old Port...

... or the Vieux-Port, I guess.

Ragnar links

On June 19-20, there was a Ragnar Relay held in Utah. It came at just the right time for me to look first-hand into what I might be getting myself into.

Certainly looks like fun.

The bloggers here, Matt and Audrey, participated in the Ragnar Relay.

Here's their recaps split into three parts: first, second and third.

There are several common themes that I've seen here and elsewhere: the relay is tough, robs you sleep and comfort, but it is so much fun that people are quick to look forward to the next race. I'm guessing that's how we'd be.

Ragnar back on?

I'd all but given up hope of running the Ragnar Relay in Las Vegas this year. There are 12 spots to be filled and we'd secured about half of them, but two of the runners who ran the Mud Run with us on June 13 were not among them. That sort of deflated us and knocked down our numbers.

But they're in, and there's a good chance that all of us (plus Mrs. Danny) are in for the Ragnar. All told, we have about eight or nine solid commitments and a handful of maybes. It'd be great to fill out 12 spots by the end of the month as it works out a bit cheaper with if we register by June 30.

So we're making a push to try and get our maybes or others who may not be on our radar to join us.

How are we doing this? By e-mail. Danny and I collaborated on an e-mail. Here's my part, and I tried to do my best to persuade potential Ragnar runners to commit.

Picture this:

It's 11:30 pm and you're worn out. A long drive and a late-morning run gave taken their toll on your legs, and your body feels as if it's ready to call it a day.

But you can't. Because if you do, you will let 11 other people down.

As part of your Ragnar Relay mission, you have to run almost five miles pretty soon, which would be your second run of the day, third overall of a 24-hour-plus span. The first one was a breeze, a simple five-miler you cranked out late in the morning. Now though, you're set for a challenge. Tired from having slept a few (uncomfortable) hours in the van, longing for a pillow and some peace and quiet, instead you are lacing up your running shoes, finding the playlist on your iPod you put together specifically for this moment and receiving encouragement from your teammates while chomping down a pre-run energy bar.

You step out of the van at the designated exchange point, look up to the stars and wonder what you are doing there. Soon, your teammate is within sight. Suddenly, a jolt of adrenaline shoots through your body. You are no longer tired. Your teammate approaches, and with each passing step you get anxious, nervous, excited and that adrenaline rush has not dissipated.

Unexpectedly, though, you feel a last-minute tug of doubt and wonder 'Am I up for this?'

Within moments, though, you answer to yourself 'Oh hell yes I am!'

With a van full of people clapping, cheering and hollering their encouragement for you, you take the handoff and start on your first-ever midnight run.

The Ragnar Relay is a superior running challenge. Not only must you run between 11-18 miles, you must do so in three separate runs during 24-hour-plus span. But you won't have to go it alone - it is a relay race after all. Each team consists of 12 members split among two vans. Van One starts the race and all the runners take turns running their respective legs. Runner One hands off to Runner Two and so on. Eventually, Runner Six hands off to Runner Seven, and Van Two is now on stage while the first group rests up. Runners 7-12 now go through their first legs and when Runner 12 is done, he/she passes off to Runner One and the order starts all over again.

Each runner has three runs to complete, and runs can and will happen during all hours. It might be that your first run is at 5 pm, your second run at 4 am, and your third and final run at 2:30 pm. Or you could run at 8 am, 11:30 pm and high noon.

Although there are several Ragnar Relays across the United States, our focus will be Las Vegas. The start line is in Valley of Fire State Park and the finish line is somewhere in Sin City. So aside from the glory you will share with 11 others, casinos and nightlife await your arrival at the end point.

But that's the least of the appeal. Running as a team, challenging yourself like you've not been challenged before, fighting for one another, motivating/cheering/rooting fellow runners... that's what the Ragnar Relay is all about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cirque du Soleil!

I've never really been into Cirque du Soleil. It's not that I dislike it or anything, just had never really been interested too much in it. I don't know why, just happened that way I suppose.

I knew so little of Cirque du Soleil that I didn't realize it had originated in Montreal, and the topic of it didn't come up until we were literally walking past it.

The conversation was something like this:

Mrs. LB: We should check out Cirque du Soleil.

LB: Oh yeah?

Mrs. LB: It got its start here in Montreal. We just walked past it.

LB: Is that what those big yellow tents were?

We talked about it and Mrs. LB was a bit worried about the cost (cheapest seats were 80 I think). But we figured that since we were on our 10-year anniversary trip and were at the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, we should take advantage of the show. We bought tickets for the Sunday show so it would be one of the last things we experienced in Montreal.

WOW! Did we ever save the best for last?!? I was blown away by the show.

I didn't know here that I'd be in for the time of my life.

The show has some awesome costumes, amazing music and, of course, the unique costumes. Mrs. LB tried on a cool-looking but too-expensive mask during intermission.

The name of the show is called OVO and, well, I'd probably bore you with too many details but here's a trailer for the show. It is about insects and an egg and, uh, well, lots of stunts and acrobatics and great music.

It's so awesome! I will watch it again one day, hopefully, if it comes to Las Vegas, I might just make the trip.

Parc du Mont-Royal

In reading about and researching Montreal, one of the first things I realized was that the Parc du Mont-Royal was a must-see, particularly for me. Before my trip, I'd wanted to get at least one outdoor run in and I quickly realized that running through Parc du Mont-Royal was the place for me. The park sits atop a vast hill (it's technically a hill though it's also described as a mountain) and the park itself was designed by the same person who designed Central Park in New York.

(Incidentally, the park's English name is Mount Royal Park but the French name sounds cooler)

On my first morning there I actually got a run in, as I went running through the streets of Old Montreal and Downtown (two of Montreal's many neighborhoods). But I still wanted to check out Mont-Royal.

On Sunday, I did.

This is the spot where I started and finished (Mrs. LB was in charge of the camera while I was off on my run). This lake freezes in the winter and is a popular ice skating rink. In the adjacent clubhouse, there are skates for rent when the lake freezes over. It's a shallow, man-made lake but it makes for a peaceful scene.

I ran through that trail, up and over the hill and through trees. There were so many trees, so much so that the fact that I'd left The Garmin in our hotel room didn't matter since picking up the GPS signal through those trees would have been impossible.

I wasn't alone in my run as dozens of Montrealers and visitors like myself were running, bicycling and walking along the paths and trails of the vast Parc du Mont-Royal. After running through so many trees and a curved path that kept curving, I wondered if I had gotten myself lost but eventually I came out the back way of some path I ran through, back through some sort-of familiar landmarks and eventually back down to the lake and Mrs. LB.

It wasn't the easiest run as the park was hilly, as you'd expect from a gigantic hill. So I labored toward the end of my run.

When I finished - and I think I got in about four miles but without The Garmin it's tough to say - Mrs. LB and I walked up to a place where you could see a view of the city. It wasn't the most-visited lookout - one I'd actually ran past, where you can see the downtown skyline - but we got to see a good view of Montreal nonetheless.

That's the Olympic Stadium and the Montreal Tower in the distance.

It was a taxing day at the park, to be honest. We probably walked about two miles to get from the lake to the lookout and on to a spot where we finally caught a taxi, and my legs were beat down after that. But the experience is just one of many in Montreal that will be unforgettable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back home

Greetings all! It's been too long since I posted, but I took my blog buddy Willoughby's advice and abstained from this here trusty blog while I was off in Montreal. I will blog about Montreal here in the coming days so be patient but I just wanted to say that I am glad to be home after a long travel day, and having spent a long time away from my girls.

And while I'll get into detail later, in short Montreal was flat out awesome. I loved it, all of it. Definitely different than our Costa Rica experience but unique unto itself. I loved being in Montreal and had a wonderful time there.

Anyway, I'm going to rest now and get acquainted to this heat. It was in the 70-80 degree range when I left and it's 91 the day I come back. Hello summer!

The picture, by the way, is outside a place called Titanic where we had lunch on Friday. Like most eateries we visited, awesome food!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mud Run: The Pictures

A few photos from the Mud Run. Unfortunately, my wife didn't see Luis as he crossed the mud pit so we don't have any pictures of him. He apparently blended in with a lot of the other muddy runners.

The Bueno bros. help each other put their numbers on. What's gonna work? Teamwork!!

A little pre-race flex always helps.

Ready...get set...GO!!!

Me furiously trying to get out of the final mud pit and finish the race strong.

Success!!! Here's our group in order of finish.


DB's Mud Run

My editor, Luis, wants me to write about my Mud Run experiences so I will. I also have photos from the event that my determined wife took and which she paid dearly for (most of the mud splatters should wash out of her clothes, I think). I’ll post those later.

I’ll recap a few of my thoughts from last Saturday:

- I ran last year’s event so I knew what the course was all about but this was the first time I ran the event to get the best time I could. I knew it would be challenging but I didn’t know that the hills would be so tough. Note to self: include more hills in future training.

- About 3/4 of the way through the race, Luis and my uncle both passed me. I did not expect this although at that point I was laboring up a hill. I thought for sure they would both beat me and was preparing myself for a lot of chatter after the race. During the next downhill portion, though, I regained some energy and was able to pass both of them towards the end of the race. I passed Luis first at the last wall and then I sprinted past my uncle 30 feet from the finish line. I finished the race three seconds ahead of him. I wish we got that on video.

- I saw someone run the race completely barefoot. Why? Who knows. Maybe they were doing it for a specific reason but since I don’t know that I’ll have to assume they were just stupid. I mean, there are sharp rocks and gravel on the course!

- Some of the teams that competed wore pretty funny costumes (Mexican wrestler masks, Power Rangers, tutus, etc.). I’m pretty confident that we’ll run as a team next time and wear cool costumes. The early favorite is a pirate theme but first I need to figure out how to run with a peg leg without being slowed down…

- I was happy for my finish time of 1 hr 5 min but I want to improve on it each time I run this race. I can run a normal 10K in under 50 min. so I think I should be able to keep my time within 10 min of that after you factor in the hills, walls, water trucks, etc. I guess what I’m saying is that I won’t live happily until I run a sub 1-hour Mud Run. Luis thinks I can’t do it. He’s good at motivating me.

- DB

Checking in from Montreal


I made it to Montreal and have already had an eventful trip. I went on a 50-minute run this morning through the streets of Old Montreal. I ran down many Rues and Ponts and Ports and went past the Palais de Justice, the Centre Commerce Mondial Montreal, Palais des Congres as well as the Basilique Notre-Dame, an absolutely stunning cathedral.

I did however have to deal with people smoking. Lots of people smoke here apparently, at least along the route I took. Still, that didnt' damper the run or anything.

I'll be off in Montreal trying to enjoy myself for the next several days and while I might check in every now and then, my brother Danny will once again take the wheel for the duration of my trip. Hopefully he'll post some pictures of the Mud Run and maybe he'll recap his Mud Run experience. Not that I'm providing assignments or anything...

As tempting as it is to blog away, I'm going to try and unplug here for a few days before returning to the rat race back home.

Oh, one more thing, I don't speak French which I hope won't be a hindrance. I saw mostly French-language signs - Alles des Huissers, Arret d'Autobus - and heard a lot of French, and when I got back here to my hotel room the cleaning lady was just about wrapping up my room and she greeted me with a "Bonjour" and I replied in English but she kept going in French. Oh well. I'll figure it out I guess.

Anyway, take care all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pura Vida in photos

As this posts to my blog, I'm getting ready to take off. I'm headed to Montreal for a vacation. Unlike my Costa Rica trip, which was planned around my work and really just came to fruition relatively late, this Montreal trip has been planned for a while longer. It's celebration for Mrs. LB and me, for our 10-year anniversary.

Anyway, I figure now would be a good time to get the last of my Costa Rica pictures out there. No stories attached to these shots, really. Just pictures with a few words of description, random pics that didn't really fit anywhere.

Overall, I loved Costa Rica, everything about it. Their famed saying down there is Pura Vida, pure life. I can't wait until I get the chance to go back.

On the long road outside the capital.

Statues for sale on the side of the road.

A Costa Rican convenience store.

Their version of a school (I think).

A typical Costa Rican dish, loaded with black beans and white rice. Very yummy.

A sign from inside the Manuel Antonio National Park.

In an unfocused picture, I circled our friend the Eyelash Viper. See how close we were to death?

One of the absolute best things about Costa Rica were the clean bathrooms everywhere I went, including at Manuel Antonio National Park (where even the porta-potties were clean!).

Yours truly.

Til next time, Ticos.

First relay

I've been part of a relay team before.

I just found out about the Ragnar Relay on Saturday, a 12-member, 180-mile relay race that is held in various locations throughout the country. We're trying to get a team together for the Oct. 9-10 race within Nevada, that ends in Las Vegas.

But that won't be the first time I've run a relay race. It wasn't, actually, a race but we did run.

When I was 17, I went to Mexico for about six weeks during my junior and senior years of high school. I lived in my parents hometown, about 50 miles from Guadalajara. I happened to be there during Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16. Every year, a lot of small towns near the city of Guanajuato gather in that city to pay homage to the start of the revolution.

In Guanajuato, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo touched off the revolution in a speech given to fellow revolutionary fighters way back in 1810. That's known as El Grito, or the shout, and it's revered today. So small towns will send a contingent of people to Guanajuato and each town takes one torch. Each torch is lit using fire from the same torch in Guanajuato, and all those torches make their way back to the small towns via the representative group.

And they do so by running. The year I went, there were maybe 60 people on the trip, give or take. It's about a six-hour drive from the twon to the city of Guanajuato so it's quite a bit of running. I actually only ran twice on my own, and once with the rest of the team running out of town. The first time I ran was at around midnight and it was raining. I was worried the torch would lose its flame but it didn't. The second time I ran was in the middle of the day, and I ran right past a tiny collection of houses that I suppose passed as a town. A lot of people stood on the side of the road, cheering, and one girl held out a flower. I grabbed it and held on to it and took it back to the town with me but it ended up dying. Still, the gesture was great and I was touched, even as a 17-year-old American.

I guess there was one other time I ran, as we all organized ourselves outside of town and ran in together. We were welcomed back like returning heroes from a far-off battle. It was pretty intense.

That was quite an experience. As I said, I was 17 years old but it left its mark on me. I just got a deeper feel for my parents' lives and my own heritage and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things.

The one thing it didn't do, though, was ignite a love of running in me. That would have to wait until 2008. Oh well.

But in going through the Ragnar Relay in my mind and picturing what it would be like, I've drifted back some to 1992 and my first relay experience. Yeah, it's different but if I still recall with great clarity the details of my runs back then, I'm certain the Ragnar Relay would create more treasured memories for myself and my fellow participants.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When in Quepos...

... do like the locals do.

Okay, maybe not all the locals take regional flights, and not sure how many can afford or would take such a trip. But on our last morning in Costa Rica, we had two choices to go from the coast to the capital: take a shuttle or an airplane. The shuttle would take three and a half hours, while a flight would last about 25 minutes.

I opted for the flight and convinced Mrs. LB on it about a week before our trip. I found pictures of the airplane we would fly in afterward, and I think it helped my cause to have saved those pictures for after.

This is the plane we ended up boarding and flying from Quepos to San Jose.

It's kinda small. It seats 12. It has a propeller. It makes a lot of noise. My wife called it a cropduster. As it was pulling up to the, uh, airport, I joked with my wife that it had a load of pesticides underneath and that we would fly over a field of crops en route to San Jose.

Mrs. LB didn't laugh.

Actually, she was terrified about the whole ordeal. Here's the Quepos Airport.

It didn't exactly do much to calm her fears. I was never worried though. I'd done some research on their safety record and was pretty calm about it. Still, Mrs. LB had me ask several locals about the flight and if it was safe and the cabbies and waiters I asked all assured her that it was quite safe to fly from Quepos to San Jose.

Oh, check out the rest of the airport.

Once on the plane, the propeller whirred to life. Our small plane, which did not feature a pressurized cabin since we wouldn't be high enough to require one, skirted down the runway and took off. We got a good view of the coast.

We were barely in the air 20 minutes when the pilot announced that were descending upon San Jose's main airport, Juan Santamaria. We landed without any problems, and even Mrs. LB admitted that it was the smoothest landing she'd experienced on an airplane, in recent memory anyway.

Here's the plane that took us to the capital, and it got there in one piece and in right around 23 minutes.

Hurray for regional airlines!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Racing Uncertainty

I know I mentioned in my Motivational Mondays post about savoring moments, which for me are races, but I'm already thinking about filling out a big chunk of my time this fall.

I considered several options but it was difficult to really focus on anything because of the Mud Run, but now that it's over I've got time to ponder.

Of course, I'd already mostly decided on running a marathon, the Long Beach Marathon as it were, but now that's up in the air. For one reason. Or is it for 12 reasons?

Something called the Ragnar Relay is now forcing me to re-consider plans for the Long Beach Marathon. Ever heard of the Ragnar Relay? Well, before Saturday I hadn't. In short, it's a 12-team relay race. There are several of these races across the country and the premise is pretty similar: a 12-member team competes in a nonstop 180-mile race, with each runner logging three runs in a span of 24 hours or however long it takes to complete the race. So I could have legs the begin at, say 10 a.m., 6 p.m. and 4 a.m., and each would range from three miles to a shade over eight.

We're considering trying to put together a team to compete in the Las Vegas race, which is from Oct. 9-10. Right now, we'd have seven members. Danny seems confident in our (his) ability to fill out the team. I gave him a soft commitment: if we can get a team together by the end of June (price goes up afterward) then I'm in, we sign up and I won't run the Long Beach Marathon (sad) which is scheduled for Oct. 11. But if that happens, I might be up for the Santa Clarita Marathon, scheduled for Nov. 8. It's not that close to my house (about 80 miles) but then again neither is Camp Pendleton (about the same, only in the opposite direction). And if not that one, another SoCal marathon in November if there is one.

Another option might be a marathon in September, but I'd prefer to have longer to train for it than shorter. November would work well since the Ragnar Relay wouldn't really interfere with marathon training. It might interfere with sleep and life in general but not necessarily marathon training.

There are other options if I choose Ragnar over Long Beach: run a half-marathon in September or November; plan for a 2010 marathon, perhaps LA or another one in February/March.

Everything is up in the air right now. The Ragnar sounds like such an exciting event (not to Mrs. LB, though, who said it sounded like waterboarding or some other form of torture) but the marathon is, well, a marathon, the ultimate test of endurance (at least for us lay people). If I can have my cake and eat it too, then why not?

Motivational Mondays (June 15)

Sometimes, you can't see the large steps you take in life because you are so caught up in the small day-to-day steps. It's easy to get lost amidst the tiny steps, to go through life by thinking only about what's going on in the next hour, minute or second, and before you know it so much time has passed by you wonder where everything went.

Running can be like that for me. Races come, they go and then it's off to the next race. Already I'm considering my options for the remainder of the year (see updated list on the side) when I've barely finished my latest greatest challenge.

It's great to keep thinking ahead, whether it's a race months from now or some long-term project at home or work. But it's also good to keep in mind what you've done and how far you've come.

For me, what I've done in terms of running is off on the side there. Saturday marked my third race of the year and sixth in the last two years... my life, actually. My first-ever race was June 2008. Now, about a year and two weeks later, I've got six under my belt. And that list isn't stopping there. It'll be by double-digits shortly into 2010 and who knows where it will be or how long I'll have run by the end of next year?

Wherever my racing future takes me, I'll try to remember the races that have passed on by, that have been challenges that I've met and overcome. There will be highs (Run Through Redlands) and lows (Seal Beach), races that I felt very prepared for (Mud Run 2008) and those I didn't (Mission Inn Run 2008) and in the end all those races will mold me.

Even if you don't race, whatever accomplishments you've done, whether it's dropped XX pounds this week/month/year, a promotion or new job, whatever steps you've taken, obstacles you've overcome, take pride in them and don't forget about them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cooking With Yvie: Pumpkin Muffins

The latest installment of Cooking With Yvie.

For a while now, Yvie has wanted to make pumpkin muffins on her show. Not sure why. Maybe she saw the stacks of canned pumpkin I have in the cupboard and has wanted to use them.

For whatever reason, we ended up making these pumpkin muffins for her show.


LB Conquers the Mud Run

Having run the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in October, I wasn't as nervous on Saturday as I had been before the first event. I'd trained hard for that one, though, and this time around the last stretch of time before the race featured a weeklong trip outside the country. But a four-mile run on Wednesday gave me the confidence I needed to head into the Mud Run with a full head of steam.

The morning was cool, downright chilly at times, but that was mostly a positive. No running under a blazing sun, as I'd feared when I first signed up for the race in January. The forecast was in the low 60s, great running weather. Except, of course, we were going to get absolutely drenched.

We were rounded up like cattle and steered into the starting gate with about 30 minutes to go before the race. Now, if you want to get a decent position and not fight crowds for the first stretch, it's beneficial to get there early and stand as close to the start line as possible. There was a Marine on a microphone riling up the runners, raising everyone's spirits and giving instructions. I remembered Sue Ann Jaffarian's awesome blog post when he said the following:

"Here are your instructions: You start the race alive, you finish the race alive. We will not memorialize the track in your honor. This is the Camp Pendleton Mud Run, not Joe and Sarah's Mud Run."

As the clock counted down, though, I started to feel butterflies in my stomach. At three minutes, I was amazed that there were only three minutes left. At two minutes, I was nervous. At one minute, I refocused and said my little saying to myself. 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds... five, four, three, two, one...


I had a strategy for this year. Since most of the first 3-4 miles is running, I figured I'd approach the beginning as one longer run through hills. But aside from that, I'd also try to run it faster than I normally would. The last couple of miles has built-in breaks, such as the river crossing and the mud crawl, breaks in that they don't require running.

I got nailed twice by the water trucks. The first one I was able to mostly avoid but no such luck with Water Truck Nos. 2 and 3. By the time we hit the off-road portion of the race, I was dripping wet.

The first big obstacle was a stream crossing, except it was quite a bit deeper than last year. A year ago, the water was about ankle deep but on Saturday it went close to my knees. And the worst part was that the mud was smelly. That was an added bonus for no extra charge.

I plowed through, though, and was determined to make it through the hills unscathed. I was doing well, my heart rate was in the low 180s (a bit high for so early in a run) but I felt great. On the uphill parts I passed several runners and was going at a strong pace. I even passed my brother Danny! I was surprised to see him because I figured he'd taken off quickly, which he had, but he apparently witnessed the difficulty of running hills first hand. That's when I knew my runs up The Hill had helped. For next year, I think I'm going to try and The Hill several times, weekly maybe, in preparing for the Mud Run.

But that would have to wait. What laid before me were the hills. The last stretch was difficult, but once we started to go downhill I knew we were close to the obstacles. And sure enough, the first wall was upon us. I scaled it without much problems, though I felt a slight twinge on my back when I splashed into the mud. It quickly went away and I was relieved. Didn't need an injury. I splashed through some more mud and ran quickly to the river. Last year I jogged to the river but I figured I could go a little faster now before hitting the water since I'd rest in the water.

My heart rate went from the mid-180s to the mid-160s by the time I got out of the river. At the end, I slipped when getting out of the water - which was about chest high. I hit a patch of slippery, hard-packed mud and caught myself with the palms of my hands. Otherwise, I would have went face-first, a fate other runners had suffered. My shoes were like bricks when I finally emerged, sopping wet. It took less than a minute for my heart rate to get back up to the 180s, the last time my watch would give me assistance.

I came up to the second wall climb and at the same time as Danny had, and approached the wall. I slipped in a hole at the base of the wall, forcing me to regroup. I grabbed hold of the top of the wall, forced my weakened legs to shove off and elevated slightly. My arms couldn't hold, and my hands slipped off the top the wall. In that instant, my watch flung off my wrist, twisted a few times in the air and made it over the wall before I did. I went around to the other wall next to mine as that one had a wider top, willed myself over and made it to the other side. I scanned for my watch, figuring it would be floating somewhere. But it wasn't. I felt around for it as runner after runner scaled the wall and nothing. I tried to get close to the wall and nearly got stepped on. I made a few last fruitless reaches for my watch before painfully turning away and heading out toward the last leg.

I'd blown my chance to compete with Danny since we were pretty even but at that moment I did not care. I was saddened by the loss of my trusty Polar. It had been a Father's Day gift from Mrs. LB, just one year ago, and it drastically changed my approach to training and helped mold me into the runner I am today.

Still, there was a race to be run and I had to do it. Although my wrist felt nuder now than it had in a long time, I plodded forward. The tunnels were up next and I remembered why I hated them. They were slippery, hard to find a grip and very cramped. I didn't want to crawl on my knees but had no choice. My tunnel exit was less than graceful, as I imagined a large worm regurgitating some bad chorizo as I came out.

I ran a bit more, came up to Slippery Hill and tried to refocus once more. I remembered that I'd called it an Escalator of Mud a year ago, but this time the hill was a little less slippery, a little less muddy. One Marine said to go through the water (there was a stream of water knifing through the heart of Slippery Hill). I noticed steps in it, as previous runners had carved out such steps in the hill. I followed them and was happy to have gotten up unscathed. Last year, my shoe got stuck in the mud and it had popped completely off my foot.

With both shoes still firmly in place, I continued on. It was mostly running here near the end but there was the final obstacle to scale, the Mud Crawl. I went in head first and tried not to go completely underwater upon entering the challenge like I had a year ago. I was successful - only my chin and mouth were underwater. I had some sand and mud in my mouth, but it was all good. Again fearing the skin being ripped off my knee, I straightened my legs behind me and let them go limp in the water. Using the palms of my hands, I dragged my body forward. Since it was watery, it worked well. Not until the water gave way to more mud near the end did I have to crawl, but I did so just fine, jumped out of the challenge altogether and emerged poised for one last charge.

I went down a really, really steep hill and nearly lost my footing at the end. When I got down, I saw the time. I was under 1 hour 7 minutes! I went into a full-on sprint at that point, passed three other runners and crossed the finish line at 1:06:54. I lamented the loss of my watch once more and wondered if I would have been able to shave a minute off my time from last year had I managed the second wall better.

I tried not to worry about the watch but I felt bummed. It was a reminder, though, of the challenges of the Mud Run. I noticed too that I had scraped both knees and was bleeding slightly from them. There were others, though, who had full on bloody streams pouring out of their knees so I got off lightly. My shoes were muddy as they'd ever been, I feared that I'd ruined my good running socks (which I'd accidentally taken with me) and my clothes were a much darker shade than they had been in the morning.

The Polar notwithstanding, it had been an excellent day of running. I can't wait until the 2010 Camp Pendleton Mud Run.

And from now on, no watches allowed on the course for LB.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm muddy, tired, I even got a scraped knee but I finished the Mud Run. It was so much fun, such a great challenge and I passed!

I beat my time from last year too. Got 1:06:54, which is 50 seconds better than last year.

The worst part, though, was losing my watch. It popped off when I was trying to hop a wall and got sucked into the muddy water. Bummer.

I will be back later to post a more detailed recap but just want to pass the word along!

One week ago

I wrote this blog post on Friday night. Right now, as it posts to the blog, I'm probably knee deep in mud or trudging uphill somewhere on Camp Pendleton.

It's a far cry from where I was at this exact moment one week ago. I remember looking at my watch on our last morning in Costa Rica and thinking that I'd be competing in the Mud Run at this very moment.

Funny how things work out.

So anti-today.

Let it rain

One of the things we experienced in Costa Rica that we don't normally experience in Southern California... or anywhere for that matter... was a torrential downpour.

Now, I don't mean just a hard rain, or even a hard storm. This was the skies unleashing their fury on Quepos.

From May to October is Costa Rica's rainy season, though they call it the Green Season to tourists and such. I mean, Green sounds better than Rainy, right? It didn't rain the first three days I was there, but when Mrs. LB and I were there together, it rained both nights.

On Thursday, it rained from about 4 p.m. to about 5 a.m., a solid 13 hours of this torrential rain. It was about the same on Friday. On the Friday, we were out at the beach and went into an Internet cafe to send some e-mails. In about 20 minutes, it went from overcast to a blanket of rain. It was actually fun because it was a new experience for us. We had to get a cab in the pouring rain and the drive to our hotel was, interesting.

I shot a video of the rain. This was in the hotel restaurant.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Drink up

I'd wanted to blog about the cuisine we enjoyed in Costa Rica but figured it'd be best to split it up into the food part of it and the drinks separately.

Costa Rican food was... well, we'll save that for another time. The drinks were fantastic. There's something about sipping certain drinks on the shores of the Pacific, a part of the Pacific you've never been to, not many have, that just makes the drinks taste sweeter.

Now, we drank some alcoholic drinks but not all of our trip was liquor. Mrs. LB opted for a Diet Coke, which in much of Latin America is called a Coca Light.

This next drink was very good. It was made of passionfruit and don't even know anything about passionfruit other than it makes for a great drink in Costa Rica.

There was also another drink that was quite excellent. It was made from a fruit called guanabana and that was a very sweet flavor. It was a little thick but it didn't leave any aftertaste or any sort of lingering flavor or anything that overly sweet drinks here can sometimes leave.

Now, onto the mixed drinks my wife tasted. The first one was a caipirinho or something, apparently a popular drink in Brazil. The waiter at the restaurant recommended it to Mrs. LB and it was very good. It was made with lime and sugar cane and rum, I think. Can't be certain.

Remember how I said the pineapples were great here? Well, that makes for a pretty good Piña Colada.
I'm not much of a mixed drink person but I liked the sip I had of Mrs. LB's Piña Colada. That pineapple flavor shined through. Incidentally, I ate the pineapple that was on the glass :)

While I didn't drink any mixed drinks, I did indulge in some beer. Now, quick story, I used to drink more than I do now. I used to enjoy it. Not that I don't enjoy it now but it's funny what losing 120 pounds will do to your alcohol tolerance. I suddenly became a lightweight in more ways than one. So a couple of beers now are enough to knock me out sometimes, especially if I haven't eaten.

But I don't drink much. I had one beer in late May and the last beer I had before that, I cant' remember. Maybe... I don't know, may have been 08 sometime.

In Costa Rica, though, I opted for the local brew, Imperial.

I like Mexican beers and this one was similar to that. This particular photo was at a restaurant across the street from the public beach in Manuel Antonio. The day was warm, a bit humid and we'd just traveled more than 3 hours from San Jose by van. This beer was ice cold and hit the spot.

When you factor everything in, probably the best beer I've had in a long time.