Thursday, December 31, 2009

End Of The Best Year

I can't believe how far I've gone in one year. When I think back to the runner I was at the end of '08 to the one that I am now, heading into 2010, it almost feels like night and day. I guess it's just the natural progression of running. You have to start somewhere, and you have to take that next step and then the next one and so on and so forth. Still, it's very motivating to think about my year in running, particularly the last three months of '09.

I had intended to close out 2009 the way I opened it, with a five-mile run, but life got in the way so no run today. I really hope that I am able to run on Friday, on New Year's, and I hope that I can get out there and run 10 miles. It would be great to be able to do so, to make my first run in 2010 a nice double-digit run. I don't intend on drinking alcohol tonight so if I can avoid that, I should be good to go.

Anyway, a couple of things for my last post of 2009. First, the MUD RUN!!! We're going to sign up for the June 5 edition of the Camp Pendleton Mud Run. Registration opens at midnight PT on Jan. 1. That's Friday!! This race will sell out probably by Monday, so I suggest you sign up on Friday if you want to do it. There are four total races, all in June: 5, 6, 12 and 19, but because of a little soccer tournament going on in Africa (which I'll gladly follow from the comforts of my home) we've settled on running in the first of the four.

We'll probably have a contingent of six out there, possibly seven, all of us Desert Tortoises (our Ragnar Relay team). And since it's in early June, there's only five months from now until the race. The Mud Run is awesome, and I'm going to go for a PR. I want to get as close to an hour as possible since I don't think I can finish the race in under an hour. But it will be fun no matter what my time is.

Also, a big Happy New Year to everyone out there who reads my blog. It's very motivating to be able to report back to you about my successes and failures, goals and dreams, setbacks and PRs. I intend to do more of the same in 2010 as I did in '09, and I hope you all are up for the journey.

queue Auld Lang Syne...

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 1

This is it. My number one post of the year. I felt quite proud for having run the Run Through Redlands Half Marathon, for several reasons.

It was a half marathon, my longest race distance to date. It cemented my status as a runner and let me know that I can set goals and achieve them, even tough goals that involve 13.1 miles.

But it also let me reflect on how I used to be and the runner I'd become.

Originally published April 20

Motivational Mondays (April 20)

Impossible? What's impossible?

That this person can't lose the weight?

That this severely overweight guy can't change his lifestyle?

That the fat won't come off, no matter what?

Well, I can vouch personally that nothing is impossible.

And I've got 13.1 miles to back me up.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Constructing LB's Ultimate Playlist

Over the past several weeks, I've been slowly adding songs to my Surf City playlist. I've just thrown them in one or two at a time as I didn't want to try and come up with songs for my ultimate playlist in one sitting.

It's funny because I don't run with my iPod on my long runs, but for the marathon my iPod seems almost as indispensable as my fuel belt. I guess I should get to that in another post, but for the time being I wanted to try and plan out my playlist.

It's going to be a long playlist. Really long. Almost five hours long. I intend on finishing sooner than five hours but I usually err on the side of caution with playlists and make them longer than I need to, just in case.

So I've got to fill up a five-hour playlist with music, and do so in a way that will inspire when I need inspiration, relax when I need relaxing, motivate when I need motivation, sooth when I need soothing and accompany when I need a companion.

Easy, right?

Well, not exactly. But I'll get there.

I think what I'll do is to divide up the playlist in thirds, kind of like I did for my half marathon playlist. In that playlist the final third was all Metallica songs, the middle third was all Johnny Cash and the first third was a mixture of songs intended to help ease me into the race and get me into a comfortable pace for the middle miles.

I'm not so much worried about time entering this race, but I will need to keep my pace in check. A too-fast start will be brutal for me at the end of the race so I need songs up front that will likely settle my nerves and hold me back a bit. I know myself, and I know that my tendency will be to run faster than I should be running. So the right songs will help me focus and remember the things that I'll need to do in those early miles to help myself come the later ones.

At about Mile 9, the Surf City path takes you from running through an inland part of the beach town to running along Pacific Coast Highway, which from what I've heard is a long out-and-back stretch. I'll have to figure out how long into the playlist that will be and try and time it accordingly, as that will be the second part of the playlist.

I'm guessing I'll need some tried-and-true running songs there for companionship, songs that have been helpful in previous races but not ones that fall into the "heavy artillery" category. I have to save up the big guns for the last part of the race. But certainly here I'll need songs that will help get me to Miles 9-19, a 10-mile stretch that will likely feature some nice scenery, flat running, the Pacific Ocean as well as increasingly tired legs and possible mental issues.

The third part of the playlist, hopefully, will take me from Mile 20 to the end. It's been said that Mile 20 is the halfway point of a marathon, in that the first 20 miles are tough but the last six miles are excruciating. So, I'll need the heavy artillery for this last stretch. I might actually start it a bit early but for the last part of the playlist I'm going to need all the songs that inspire and motivate me the most. Physically at this stretch I will have nothing left to give, so I need the songs that rile me up and draw emotions.

And in order to maximize the effect of music and the playlist, I'm going to stop listening to music altogether for the last two weeks prior to the marathon. It's impossible to keep from hearing music of course but I'm not going to play music, listen to music while I write or cook or drive or whenever I usually listen to music and I'm going to give the iPod a two-week break before calling it back into action full force. I figure that will give me something to look forward to, to listen to music once more.

So basically I have about three weeks to finalize my playlist and put it together so I won't have to think about that in the lead-up to Surf City. There will be a million other things to worry and think about, so one less thing will be nice.

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 2

Now on to the top two.

I may have ranked my races/runs at some point by now, who knows? It's so difficult to rate races and runs and experiences. What matters more - personal accomplishments or sharing the highs and lows of running with others? What means more - meeting a personal goal or achieving something as a team, as a unit?

It's really impossible to gauge, not only from person to person but for yourself as well. One day, I think my half marathon was my greatest feat of '09. The next, I think my 10K PR was greater. And another day, I feel best about the Cedar River Run.

Regardless of what moment ranks as number one, this post is the culmination of what I think is the greatest combination of '09 in terms of running - participating in the Ragnar Relay and having had the chance to share the experience with all of my readers.

Originally published Oct. 13

Ragnar Relay, Part III: The Desert Tortoise Society

Part three of three of the Desert Tortoises' Ragnar Relay experience. Here are links to Part I and Part II of this three-legged journey.

Ragnar Relay, Part III

Following the completion of our respective second legs, Van Two members were in a bit of a whirlwind. Physically, we were spent. We'd run a combined 75 miles already, and all of that since 2 p.m. Friday. It was about 6 a.m. Saturday, so we'd exerted a lot of energy in a short amount of time.

The recent accident that took the life of a fellow runner was also fresh in our minds, and while we tried to focus on our experience, I couldn't (and haven't been able to) shake off the sadness.

We tried to recover physically by going to breakfast. We drove around and around until we finally found our destination: the Green River Valley Casino, home of the Original Pancake House. At the time, I didn't care if it was the Original or the Copy, I just wanted to eat.

The seven of us ordered our food (another Ragnar team ate nearby and we waved hello to them) and while we waited, I stretched. I thought the waiters/hostesses might think it odd to see someone doing full-on stretches in the middle of an empty restaurant, in the wee hours of the morning, but I could not care less. I was on the ground, thinking about the Loper who leads our weekly stretches after our Sunday runs, trying to reach for my ankle while I sat on the ground.

I wasn't quite thinking about my third and final run because I knew if I would have started thinking about it, I would have become overwhelmed. It was supposed to start between noon and 1 p.m., in other words, right as the sun was overhead. My first two runs were run in the darkness, so that would be a new and different experience. I didn't want to start psyching myself out, so instead I just chowed down five pancakes and a plate of potatoes (hash browns, not really hashed... or brown).

As we dragged our legs out of the casino, we were suddenly surrounded by a mass of runners. Except they weren't Ragnar participants. No, they were there for a 5K. I couldn't help but laugh. A 5K? That's it? I don't look down on race distances or anything like that, but the thought of a 3.1-mile race seemed so insignificant at the time. After all, we'd just finished running 70-something miles.

With stomachs filled to the brim, we piled into the van and made our way to Exchange Point 30. There, we would begin our journey and each of us would run our final legs.

But would we rest?

This Exchange Point was at an elementary school, and there were plenty of vehicles there. Still, I was interested in only one thing, and I soon spotted it. Behind a chain-link fence, on the other side of the street was a place to sleep. I grabbed a sleeping bag, the towel that served as my pillow and bade farewell to my van-mates. They were welcomed to join me, but nobody did. I found a spot about 20 yards away from other runners/sleepers, unfolded the bag, crawled inside and closed my eyes. The sun was already shining down on us, so I put on my sunglasses and crashed.

About two hours later, my stomach woke me up and I had to go find a bathroom. The porta-potties ranged from gross to really, really, really gross but I didn't care.

I felt refreshed, ready to begin our final trek, ready to help the Desert Tortoises along to the finish line. But even though I felt refreshed and ready to go, we wouldn't be going for another hour. Van One had hit some problems as blisters and fatigue set in. We were running about 1 hour, 40 minutes behind our projected time, though we'd been behind when we handed the bracelet off to Van One a few hours back.

I wasn't so concerned with our finish time, though. I was only disappointed in that because it meant my run would be later in the day and the heat might start to have an impact on me.

Meanwhile, Jesse was starting to regain his health. He said he shook his knee around and felt it pop, and afterward it felt good once more. He said he was willing to try his leg but I wasn't sure if that would have been a good idea or not. He seemed determined and some of the other van-mates supported him so I figured I'd support him to.

Eventually, Van One pulled into the Exchange Point and we were a team once more, albeit for about 15 minutes. Vanessa (Runner 6) was within sight and we gathered at the Exchange Point to cheer her on. She handed off the bracelet to Jon...

... and after a quick photo-op, he began his final leg.

And that was it. Van Two was off. Jon tore through his 4.0-mile run, finishing in under 40 minutes.

Next up was Alex, and he had 4.2 miles to scale. While Alex was on the course, Jesse was preparing himself for a run. I did not know if he was really ready for it or if he just felt like he had to step up because the rest of us had run so much.

Whatever the case, as Alex approached the end Jesse took his place in the Exchange Point. Alex finished his run in about 40 minutes...

... and off Jesse went. We first passed him after he'd been running around half a mile. He seemed okay, and at the mile mark we got off to give him some water. He kept chugging along the course and seemed determined.

Jesse was close to the finish line as we passed him for the last time and we cheered him on from the van. He seemed determined to finish strong as he increased his speed, passing a few runners along the way.

The last stretch, he'd tell us later, was quite tough but he saw the run through, finishing his 3.5-miler in about 30 minutes. Excellent time if he ran it healthy and under normal circumstances, but given that his knee had been in pain and he'd had little sleep in the last 30 hours, it really was remarkable.

Elvia took off, and so did our momentum. Jesse's effort and the two previous successful runs were really contagious, and Elvia's grit and determination only added to that.

Now, originally she was only supposed to run 3.1 miles and my leg was slated for 6.3 miles, but once we got to the penultimate Exchange Point, we were told that Leg 34 (Elvia's) was increased to 4.1 miles and Leg 35 (mine) had been decreased to 5.3. I was quite enthused that I would not have to run more than six miles. I would have been able to do it, I believe, but the sun and the fatigue could have done damage, and I suspect that was the reason the change was made.

While I felt bad for Elvia - she was expecting to run three miles but would have to run a fourth without knowing/preparing for it - I couldn't help but celebrate my good fortune.

Still, the last thing I wanted to do was to lose my focus. I had done well to prepare myself mentally for the run, had stocked my fuel belt with Gatorade, had a packet of Gu ready, had my iPod set on my third and final playlist, had my sunglasses on (oh, what glory not to have to wear the headlamp!) and even got some sunblock sprayed on me.

I kept an eye out for Elvia.

When I finally spotted her, that was it. I was on. Five miles separated me from the final runner, the final leg, the run that would culminate the entire team's journey. The last thing I was going to do was to fail, to let my team down, to bring to a crashing halt the momentum started by Jon, carried on by Alex, elevated by Jesse and now moved forward by Elvia, and supported all along by the unyielding efforts of our beloved driver and teammate Fausto. We had all worked as a team from the moment we got together and I had to see my end through.

So when Elvia slapped the bracelet on my wrist, I was ready. More than ready. Letting my team down was not an option. It just wasn't in my plans.

I set off on my final 5.3 miles of the Ragnar Relay. Despite not getting much sleep and having run some 14 miles already, I felt good. Felt great. I got into the run pretty quickly and tried to keep myself from running at a too-fast pace. I did, after all, have to battle the conditions.

A few runners passed me by, and I had to especially stay focused when that happened. I did feel bit more competitive at this point than I had in previous times during the race, mainly because it was the end and I always feel the need to finish strong. But I did well to keep my emotions in check.

Before my run, I'd told my team that I would need some assistance in the form of water. Since I had my fuel belt, I wouldn't need it to drink but I wanted some water splashed on me to keep me cool. So at the three-mile mark, Jorge complied.

Feeling refreshed and enthused at having seen the Tortoises showing me their support, I knew the finish would come soon enough. And when I saw the "One Mile To Go" mark, I was raring to set a new mile PR.

Of course, that was never going to happen. Fastest I've ever run a mile was in about 6:57, and there was no way that was going to happen under the circumstances. But I upped my pace down the last stretch, off a road from the one I'd run the first four miles. The terrain was fine, the sun was hot and I was close to the finish. I even passed a couple of runners.

I got close to the finish, took my bracelet off and tried to slap it on Jorge's wrist. Instead, I fumbled it and had to hand it to him to send him on his way for the last five miles of the race.

I was thrilled to have reached the finish line. It was a glorious end to a long journey. But the journey wasn't over quite yet. Jorge, after all, was still on the course. And we needed to meet him at the finish line.

As we made our way to the van, Jesse had relayed a story to me. While they waited for me at the Exchange Point, an older lady had asked him if they were part of the Desert Tortoise Society. See, on our van we'd painted tortoises and written "Desert Tortoises" in large green-and-white letters. Jesse said he was surprised by the question and that he told her that we were part of a relay race team named the Desert Tortoises.

It's funny though, because we did form some sort of Society during the race. Ragnar Relay participants, we quickly found out, were friendly, willing to help out, and all there for the same thing: to have fun and to have a memorable experience, all of which made the tragic loss the night before more difficult.

We were a society, though, a unit. A team. That much was evident during the final run. By the time Jorge had crossed the finish line, we had shaved off about 40 minutes from out deficit. We tore through that last set of legs as if it was our first, as if we had fresh legs and a full night's sleep behind us.

All in all, Van Two ran about 98 of the 171 miles, and did so in about 25 hours. Overall, our team finished in 28 hours, 15 minutes, 3 seconds. We finished 130th out of 182 teams. But those were all details. We were happy with having finished the race, having met a tough challenge head on and come out better for it on the other end.

Members of Van One here: Chris, Mychael (my sister-in-law), Danny (my bro), David, Jennifer and Vanessa.

My beloved van-mates: me, Alex, Elvia, Jesse, Jon, Jorge and Fausto kneeling in front of us.

We ARE the Desert Tortoise Society.

And damn, does it feel good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Almost Home

On Sunday, I ran 15 miles. It wasn't exactly a ho-hum run, even though our pace was slow - we finished in about 2 hours 55 minutes. And it wasn't exactly a memorable run - three of us finished. But it was a great run for several reasons.

First, it was 15 miles and no matter how much I run, 15 miles will always be an awesome distance to run. It's longer than a half marathon and a distance I've only recently conquered.

Secondly - and perhaps more significant for me - it is the second-to-last long run before Surf City. No, we won't be throwing in any six-milers on Sundays in January, but these are the runs we'll be doing come next month: 12 miles, 15, 22, 12, 10. I like 12-mile runs. I really like 10-mile runs. Those are still long runs to me but there are certainly differences between 10-12 miles and 15-plus.

I can run 10 miles in less than two hours. I can run 12 miles in less than that too, probably, though in our running group we've typically finished those runs in about 2 hours 10 minutes or so, give or take.

It's not to say that I don't have fun running 15 miles or more. My 20-mile run was a great accomplishment. And I know that I'll enjoy running 22 miles. But it just seems a bit relaxing knowing that I'll only have to run more than 12 miles twice in the next month.

There is a flip side to all of this, though. The fewer long runs, the fewer training runs, the closer we get to the marathon. And for me, that will be the run to end all runs. So yeah I'll be a bit nervous for that. But that's a bridge I'll cross when I get to it.

For now, I'm going to enjoy the enjoyable thought of having nearly scaled all of my long-distance training runs.

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 3

Now, I tried to keep the countdown to things that happened earlier in the year, at least, in the first half of the year or so. But a recap of '09 just would not be complete with what I consider my greatest non-race run of my life.

It just wouldn't.

Originally published Nov. 23

Motivational Mondays (Nov. 23)

I normally set Mondays aside for a Motivational Monday post, and while today is not exactly identical to other such posts, I believe this post to be quite motivational. So instead of postponing this a day to include something that is solely to motivate, I'll let this serve that purpose. It's long but it was a long run after all...

Sunday morning was not like any other morning. For one, I was in Seattle on a business trip. Add in my restless sleep and it was a unique start to the day. I first saw the alarm clock at about 3:20 a.m. and after that, I barely slept.

18 miles. And it's cold.

It had been rather chilly upon my arrival in the Emerald City on Saturday. I wore a beanie and gloves most of the day and was still rather cold. But this morning, I would have to deal with the cold and the rain somehow. I first look outside my hotel window before 4 a.m. and noticed a lack of rain, though the parking lot was quite wet. But every time I looked outside afterward, there was a steady drizzle.

The weather forecast had called for temperatures in the low 40s, rain and wind.

Great. As if I need something else to deal with.

The thought of the wind jarred me out of bed sometime around 6:30. The wind was supposed to start blowing hard where I would run, the Cedar River Trail, sometime around 10 or 11 that morning, so I realized that the sooner I left, the more likely it would be to avoid that.

Time to get dressed.

Pushing thoughts of how drenched I would get aside, I got dressed. First, I taped the nips. Last thing I need is to have that rear its ugly head again. Then, I put on my skin-tight undershirt. On top of that, the moisture wicking shirt I picked up on Friday. Then, my brand-new jacket I got as a gift on Saturday at the stadium. I wore my running underwear, one of my better pairs of shorts, a new pair of socks that was supposed to keep my feet dry and my shoes. Got my gloves as well, a hat, Gu, The Garmin, fuel belt.

I walked outside and was surprised to feel that it wasn't the blast of cold ice I expected. Counting that as good fortune, I got in the car and zipped off to find the start point.

Now where is that place?

I was looking for a road that I ultimately must have passed up. Two freeways had spilled me onto the road I was on now, but there was no sign of the next street. But I spotted my destination, the Cedar River Trail, and remembered reading how there were parking spots all along the course, so an opening ahead adjacent to the trail was where I finally parked the car.

You ready for this?

It was around 7:20 or so by the time I parked. The rain had not let up but it was mostly a drizzle, nothing like Ray Bradbury's Hard Rain. I turned on The Garmin, got my Gu together, filled up the fuel belt bottles with Gatorade and stepped outside.

Aw, this ain't bad.

Initially, it wasn't. Yes, it was cold. Much colder than I'm used to during my Sunday morning runs. But I wasn't quite a ball of ice. I felt good. Prepared.

Let's do this.

After several steps along the trail, I took off. I didn't want to run fast but I guess I couldn't help it. My pace was under nine minutes when I looked at The Garmin the first time, so I slowed down. I suppose it was the anxiety and pent-up energy I was releasing.

The trail cut a path between the road I'd taken and a series of houses. Above, the sky was a gray canopy of moisture. Beyond that, there were unconfirmed reports of a sun but I never was able to verify the existence of said sun. The canopy couldn't hold all its moisture so we benefited from that underneath. Leaves covered the trail, but aside from a few puddles the trail was visually enticing.

Somewhere, my Lopers are running under sunny skies.

Of course, the Lopers were running their own 18-mile course, and while it was the same distance as I'd run, my run was not quite like theirs. Still, I felt strengthened knowing that they were out there tackling their own 18-run monster.

Oh my. Look at that.

There up ahead, loudly announcing its presence, was the Cedar River in all its glory. This wasn't the streams we have at home. This was a bona fide river, slicing a path between evergreen trees and other weathered vegetation. I felt humbled by the river. I wanted to salute or somehow acknowledge the mighty river, but just kept running. I wondered how many people had depended on this river, in this very spot, 400 years ago. 500 years ago.

Aw man, don't do this now.

Jarring my memories of some scantily-clad natives taking fish out of the river was silence. I'd had my iPod on but suddenly it ceased playing music. The iPod is almost four years old, and it's been through a lot so it goes out on me often. But this was not the time to be left alone. I ran about a half mile when I decided that it was worth the effort to take it off and try and reset it. Careful not to allow water on my shirt, I zipped open the jacket long enough to take the iPod out of the carrier and reset it. Once it got going again, I placed it inside the jacket pocket.

Stupid thing.

Up ahead, I saw a figure. I'd been alone on the trail the whole time and wondered if anyone else was out there somewhere, running towards or away from me. But this confirmed that indeed I was not alone. The figure ahead was moving quickly towards me, running at a much faster pace than me and we said hello to each other when we crossed paths. I smiled broadly.

I'm not the only crazy guy out here, I guess.

I was past the six-mile mark and had not been running an hour yet. Probably too fast of a pace but figured I'd start to take it easy. The trail now had snaked underneath a bridge and spilled me out on the other side when...

Hey, that lady looks familiar.

Coming to a halt off her own run was someone I'd seen pictures of just recently. Kerrie of mom vs. Marathon was smiling, saying hi and I smiled back, surprised to have seen her. She introduced me to her running partner, Zoe of Run Zoe Run, and we chatted briefly about the weather. It hadn't really rained on Saturday but of course now it was raining.

"It's okay, though. I might as well experience Washington and what it's all about. Bring it," I told the two local ladies.

We posed for a quick picture or four. Kerrie's phone couldn't quite get us all in frame but finally a sideways tilt of the phone worked wonders. She was gracious enough to share the picture with me.

We parted ways and I was once again on my own. I was not quite yet at seven miles but I felt energized, invigorated, enthralled by having ran across Kerrie. It's a moment I'll carry with me forever.

And she has no choice but to run in this crap.

Quite true. Kerrie and Zoe and the other Seattle bloggers I'd stumbled upon have no choice but to run in the rain. Next week in fact is a half-marathon that I believe they are all training for. Kerrie and Zoe had already ran about nine or 10 miles by the time I'd caught up to them. I'm lucky. And I felt guilty telling them that my marathon was going to be in Huntington Beach. The low that day is usually 48 degress, in other words, about eight degrees warmer than it was when I stepped out of the car this morning.

Okay, that really sucks.

The iPod had stopped once more. I tried to resuscitate it but no luck. The screen looked strange, and since it couldn't and wouldn't last even half the distance, I decided to scrap it and do the run myself. Quickly, I came upon a gazebo that was off the path a bit. I was at around 8.92 miles and figured I'd run to it, and when I got to 9.0 miles, I stopped to take a drink and gather myself.

Now you just have to run back to the car.

While it wasn't that easy, that's what I needed to do. The scenery had changed a bit. I was still near the river but I'd taken a path under a bridge so I was on the other side of the street from where I'd started. The rain was still a pleasant companion and had started to take its toll on me. My shoes had been fine up until that point. My feet were becoming increasingly cold and I don't know if it was water and cold or just the cold temperatures but they were certainly cold.

Soon, I had gone underneath the bridge once more and was back on the other side of the street. I wondered where Kerrie and Zoe had gone off to. I pictured a dry, warm setting with coffee and conversation... precisely the opposite of my own experience.

swish swish, swish swish, swish swish, swish swish
thud thud, thud thud, thud thud, thud thud

Who needed the iPod when I had my own jacket and shoes to make a unique brand of music? Okay, it was sound, not really music, but it was rhythmic.

I was slowing down. I was nearing Mile 12 and was at or close to two hours. By the time The Garmin read 12.0 miles, I was on the north side of 2 hours. My thought of finishing the run in under three hours was gone, and even though it wasn't much of a goal, I wondered how long I'd run.

You've never ran more than three straight hours before. You gonna make it?

My feet were increasingly colder. No longer did I have shoes and socks but rather a mass of cold. I tried to ignore it until, at around mile 14, I couldn't any more.

My feet hurt.

I admitted my pain but I didn't want to think about my feet. I didn't want to think about my legs or my back or my arms or anything. I tried to stay focused, tried to use the bill of my hat as a target, to keep my eyes directly underneath and pointing forward. No use in worrying about my feet. There would be time to worry about them afterward.

Three more miles. Come on man, you laugh at three miles.

While I don't think of three-mile runs as a joke, I do quite often run more than three miles. Actually, most every time out I cross the 3.0-mile mark. But this time, of course, I'd already had 15 miles under my belt. And then there was the rain. The relentless rain. It was mostly a drizzle to be honest. A drizzle that at times grew a bit stronger. And other times it even cleared up. But it would have taken a long time to fill a bucket with rainwater under this sort of drizzle.

But it was enough to drench you after it pelted you for nearly three hours. And drenched I was. I couldn't feel what part of my face was sweat and what part was rain. My hat had served its purpose, taking the brunt of the rain and keeping it out of my eyes. I never got a drop of rain that hit me in the eyes.

The river was now more audible than it was when I'd had my iPod but I couldn't hear it too much over the shouts from my body. The trees and vegetation that had greeted me on my way out were now encouraging me to finish despite the rain's attempt to slow me down.

Two more miles. That's nothing.

I had been stopping for short walk breaks every mile for the last few miles. It grew harder to do so, simply because I had to start running again, usually with an audible grunt. My cold feet were not responding well to the constant pounding and my pace was slow. But I had to power through that. I thought of my blog buddies, my loyal readers who are there to support me in all my running adventures. I thought of the new Seattle-area bloggers I found, how helpful and encouraging they'd been and how great it was to have met a pair of them. I thought of the Lopers, who were probably done at that point, celebrating their own conquest. And I thought of my family and how Yvie had wished me good luck on my run on Friday before I said bye to her.

There was absolutely no way I was going to let any of them down. Nope. Not a chance. I might have been in pain, might have been cold and wet and tired and achy but I was going to finish this run no matter what. That's one thing I've learned throughout my running. I don't do this just for myself. I feel it's an obligation of mine to see my runs through for my friends and family. I refuse to fail, to fall short and then have to explain myself to anybody. That's just not an option.

Like a carrot dangling in front of a horse, I saw my car up ahead. I knew I could do it. The Garmin had read 17.55 the last time I'd looked at it but I did not let my gaze wander down until I got to a bridge very close to where I'd started. I slogged to the bridge, feet aching.


Oh my God! I'm so close.

A few more painful steps later and The Garmin read 18.0.

Oh, I'm done. It's over.

I shut The Garmin off, panted audibly and groaned a few times as I tried to gather my footing.

You did it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Motivational Mondays (Dec. 28)

Guess what Friday is?

Yeah, a new year. A new decade actually. Jan. 1, 2010. Wow. Can't believe it's going to be 2010 already.

With a new year comes the dreaded resolutions. It's like mandatory to make them, isn't it? Well, not really, but I do go back and forth between the significance of them. They really can be important and memorable but at the same time they can be meaningless and forgotten quickly.

Like most things, they are what you make of them. So, if you want to make good use of your resolutions, I'd suggest making resolutions that are A) realistic and B) specific.

A poor resolution then would be something like "I want to lose weight" (not specific) or "I want to run 2,500 miles" (not realistic). "I want to run more often" is something that is realistic but not specific. By "more often" does that mean twice a day? Twice a week? What is "often?"

And also, it's probably not the best idea to make too many resolutions as they could get lost in the shuffle. (Resolution number 225, section 5, line 7 states that I need to do make dinner five times a week, and I shall meet it).

Keep it simple, specific and realistic. If you're going to make resolutions, the last thing you want to do is to set yourself up for failure. One of the resolutions I've been kicking around is to run more days than I don't. Or you could say that it's to run at least four times a week. But I don't want to set myself up for failure with that because I go through some busy stretches of time during the year where running two or three times a week is an accomplishment.

So when we're all ready to make resolutions and put them down for everyone to see, keeping a couple of things in mind will only help start the new year off on the right foot.

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 4

Into the top four we go...

This might have been the most personal post I shared this year. Not really in terms of family or anything like that, but just about the inner workings of my minds and my feelings, things that I don't normally share with many people.

It's funny because, while many, many things have happened since early March, this sentiment hasn't really changed or evolved. It's as if I could have written this post yesterday, because I feel the same exact way today as I did in early March.

Originally published on March 8

How I See Myself

I'm going to let you in on something, a feeling from the nether-regions of my brain and my soul.

My perception is skewed. It is completely out of whack.

That doesn't sound like a problem, and maybe calling it a problem is a bit excessive, but it exists. And I struggle with it sometimes.

Perception. How I perceive myself. How I view myself. It's just a little bit off kilter.

I don't necessarily mean that in a good way or even a bad but understandable way. Good would be "My perception of myself is that I'm lean and have the body of someone who obviously works out." Bad but understandable would be "I am dead sexy."

No, it's not any thinking like that really. Sometimes, a lot actually, I feel big. I feel like I never dropped way more than 100 pounds. I feel like I'm still a big guy and that I'm starting to inflate.

I think that one of the biggest fears in my life is a fear that I'll put all my weight back on, or even a lot of it. Or even 20 pounds. I fear that I'll weigh more than 200 pounds again. It's a legitimate fear. And it feels like the beginnings of weight loss aren't far away. I feel as if I stop running or don't work out in a few days that it will be akin to having my fat-burning mechanics stop and for my body to start storing fat once again.

It's irrational, I know. It doesn't make sense. I run a lot. I wear size 32 pants! I fit in clothes that I would never thought possible, and when I put on some of the few clothes I have left from back in the day, I literally swim in them.

But don't try to talk sense into the nonsensical. My brain won't have it.

You see, for the longest time I heard that I was fat. I heard that I should exercise more, that I needed to lose weight, that I did not take care of myself. That I was lazy. Overweight. Chubby. Chunky. Just plain FAT.

Around high school was when it was the worst. Extended family members would tell me at family gatherings that I weighed too much, that I needed to drop some weight, that if all I ate was hamburgers.

So I believed them. They wouldn't tell me that I was fat if I wasn't fat, right? Time, though, has a way of showing you that your flawed way of thinking was just that, flawed.

Here is Yours Truly, circa 1991.

That's me in the middle, with the gray shorts and no shirt. I remember this picture as clear as the day it was taken. We used to go to this lake, Lake Perris, a great deal. I loved going there because it meant volleyball, splashing in the water, spending time with family and, of course, good food. But it also meant having to take my shirt off.

You want to know why I have my arms crossed? Because I thought I was fat, and that if I kept my arms at my side that I would look horrible in the picture. I seriously thought I was fat. I look at that teenager now and, I don't know, but I don't think that's fat. Or overweight even.

But of course, I didn't know any better. Before too long, I was big, well over 200 pounds. Then I was really big. Then, I was really, really big. I don't know when I crossed over from 200-plus to pushing 300 and then well over three hundred pounds. Then what?

At some point, it didn't really matter to me whether I was overweight or not. Because I had always been fat, from grade school all the way up to high school. Except that I hadn't been. And then when I really was severely overweight, it didn't really matter because I'd been hearing "You really need to lose weight" my whole life. That ceased having an impact on me years and years ago.

So now that I'm lean and have the look of someone who exercises regularly, I still have this mental baggage. See, I always perceived myself to be overweight. And I still perceive myself to be overweight because, well, not sure. Old habits die hard? In this case, old thoughts don't just vanish.

I guess in some ways it's just me trying to be humble, trying to stay grounded and not feel like I'm suddenly some Adonis. But mostly, though, it's just a lifelong thing of hearing that I'm overweight. I'd say from fourth grade until I was 30-something, I felt overweight. I heard that I was overweight. So now that I'm 30-something still, not a lot of time has passed between when I really was overweight to when I was in the average category in terms of body fat.

So while I knocked off 120-plus pounds in 20 months, it might take a bit longer to slim my perception down too.

At least nobody calls me fat anymore.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 5

And now on to the countdown.

I created a monster with this one. Let me get to the post and I'll be back on the other side to explain some of the fallout.

Originally published Aug. 27

Daddy-Daughter Work Day

I had the chance to take Kennedy out to work with me today, out for a soccer practice. It was fun having her go out there with me now as to before when she was young and extra squirrely. She's still a squirrel but at least now she can be bribed with promises of DVDs and chicken nuggets for lunch. Bribed I guess might be a strong word but it's a consequence thing. If she's good, she gets something good in return. If not, she doesn't.

Anyway, one of the cool things was having the chance to take this picture.

She doesn't realize how famous the soccer player is. She only knows he was a soccer player.

Okay, if you don't know who that is, then I don't know what to tell you.

But Kennedy now knows very well who that is. And she giggles like the girl that she is whenever she sees herself with that picture and says she wants to marry him. Yeah, marry him.

You and every other female with a pulse, Kennedy.

The coolest thing about this though was when I was getting ready take this picture. After I politely asked David Beckham if he'd be willing to take a picture with my daughter, he said "Of course." And then he told Kennedy "My, don't you look pretty."

And how many other females can say that David Beckham called them pretty? So I suppose my daughter may be in some exclusive company after all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Muddy Runner Countdown: No. 6

2009 was a year of travel for me. I got to visit two countries that I hadn't visited prior in Costa Rica and Canada and got in a trip to Mexico City as well. Three international trips for LB! Woo hoo! And that's not even counting Seattle, Phoenix and Las Vegas...

Anyway, Costa Rica was a treat and one I hope I can repeat sometime soon. Why?

Well, this post didn't make it on the list for nothing.

Originally published June 8

Luscious Beaches

Costa Rica translates to rich coast in English, and we were first-hand witnesses to how rich this coast was. Nature can be amazing and beautiful, and nature sure didn’t disappoint down there.

The beaches here are in Manuel Antonio, and these first ones are inside the park itself. The water was quite warm. In fact, Mrs. LB said that Yvie prefers her bathwater less warm than how warm the water was.

What was amazing me to was that there was the water and the beach and then all of the sudden, vegetation. Lots of it. And that’s just the spots where the was actual beach. A lot of times, it’s just vegetation.

Now, in all the pictures above – the ones with beach anyway – do you notice anything? Or, more appropriately, do you notice anything that’s not there? People.

When we first got to this particular beach, it was about 10 a.m. on Friday morning, and that was near the end of our tour through Manuel Antonio. Inside the park, there are two beaches that are only accessible to park patrons. The general public can’t get in. The park closes at 4 pm (early, because it gets dark early and there are no lights) so if you get there early enough, you can have the entire beach to yourself.

We left the park and came back later to go swimming and by that time more people were there, but it wasn’t packed or anything. Not even close.

The first day we were in Quepos/Manuel Antonio, we visited the beach and the public beach was just as awesome, albeit a bit more crowded.

Okay, that’s about as crowded as it got while we were there, but that’s not exactly crowded. Over on the side closest to the park, there were some rock formations.

The part with the rocks really wasn’t a great place to go swimming (because of the rocks) but that didn’t detract from its beauty.

At all.

Friday, December 25, 2009

From Us To You

Merry Christmas!!

If you are reading this on Dec. 25, thank you for taking time out of this blessed day to visit my trusty blog.

The girls and I thought we'd bring some special friends to help say Merry Christmas.

The girls and Princess Aurora.

The girls and Snow White.

And the girls and the Mad Hatter and Alice.

Feliz Navidad!

Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen: No. 7

Next on the Dirty Dozen is a post about my daughter Yvie.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for my family.

Originally published Oct. 1

Life Changing Date

Six years ago today, our lives changed forever.

Mrs. LB was pregnant with our first child, and while we knew things were going to be different, we had no idea how different they would become. We had been married more than four years at that point and had enjoyed life as a married, childless couple. We'd done some traveling and had changed a few jobs but mostly we enjoyed those carefree days because we were only responsible for ourselves. We went to the movies a lot. We ate out a lot. We slept in on the weekends.

But in January of '03, Mrs. LB was sick. Very sick. Throwing up sick. For a Christmas present to Mrs. LB, I'd arranged a weekend stay in Ensenada, Mexico, for us and we were both looking forward to it. That entire weekend, though, was spent with her throwing up and unable to move and function, so I spent most of the time watching TV.

We soon found out upon returning that she was indeed pregnant. We'd been sorta trying to start a family but hadn't had much luck. Until then. The rest of 2003 then seemed like a countdown. It would be the end of one part of our lives and the beginning of another.

As the year grew on, we were anxious to find out the gender, but several ultrasounds showed nothing. I don't remember if one of the ultrasound techs told us that we could be having a girl or I got it stuck in my head because I wanted a girl very badly, but we kind of assumed that we'd be having a girl. Both Mrs. LB and I have three brothers and no sisters, so a girl would have been special.

The due date came and went, and changed. First, it was Sept. 12. Then, it was Sept. 26. Finally, on Sept. 30 our doctor told us that the baby was in the breech position, and a natural delivery would not be possible. So Mrs. LB would have to deliver via C-section. He scheduled us for an appointment on Oct. 1, 2003. Now, up until this point, Mrs. LB had felt no contractions. Nothing. But the doctor had hooked her up to some sort of apparatus and it showed there that she was having very mild contractions, but having them nonetheless, which is why he wanted us back soon.

That night, we went out to dinner and a movie. We got home after 8, turned off the lights and went to bed at around 9. The house was quiet and peaceful. It's never been the same since.

On Oct. 1, a little after 1 p.m. Mrs. LB gave birth to our daughter. She was so small, covered in ick and crying. The doctor who'd taken her out lifted her very quickly so I could see before nurses whisked her away. That was it. I was a changed man. I knew everything would change. I knew that little fragile life depended on me and Mrs. LB, and that we had to deliver. But I was ready. I'd been ready.

We'd decided that, if it was a girl, we'd name her after our grandmothers, so we named her Yvonne Esperanza.

We called her Yvie for short.

Happy Birthday Yvie. I love you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Join Us On A Ride

I'm glad you all enjoyed the Christmas Parade on Wednesday, but how about we all take a ride together? Yvie and Kennedy will be there, and we hope you will too.

It's about 12 minutes long but it's got an intermission, so if you need to take a break, we'll understand. We don't mind stopping.

And here's the second part...

Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Muddy Runner Countdown: No. 8

At number eight in the Muddy Runner Dirty Dozen is one of the many motivational posts I wrote this year.

I felt this one was memorable because I was able to post a picture of myself that was very embarrassing, a picture that haunted me for some time. Part of the process of moving on from the person I used to be to the person I am now was posting this picture.

It's a really terrible picture, one of the many horrid pictures of me that are around. But it's nice that I'm not that man anymore.

Originally published March 9

Motivational Mondays (March 9)

It's a cycle.

This whole weight-loss thing has been a cycle. I would say a "vicious" cycle but there's nothing negative about it, well, except the lost weight itself.

Eating well and exercising drives weight loss. Weight loss becomes a motivation to continue eating well and exercising, which drives more weight loss, which becomes more motivating...

At some point the weight loss is minimal. There's not much to lose when you have, what 15-22 percent body fat depending on age and gender. At least to us normal people.

But then, it becomes a little more difficult because you are eating well and exercising but you don't see much drastic change in weight. And if you do, it's because the weight is going in the wrong direction. But that spurns more eating right, exercising, it drives weight maintenance which becomes just as good as weight loss and that is just as motivating and that forces you to eat right, exercise...

See what I mean about a cycle?

I was thinking about this recently as I feel I gained control again over my cravings. It was a little difficult sometimes recently to cook because I found myself picking at the cheese or taking an extra bite of some other ingredient while cooking. Of course, I didn't need all those extra pickings (especially the cheese, no matter how tasty it was) but they were just cravings that I couldn't resist.

But last week was good in that I took out the ingredients, got what I needed and put everything promptly back in the refrigerator or cupboard or wherever. No extra nibbles missing. On Friday, I weighed in at 186.7, my post-workout weight, which was a drop of a few pounds from the last time I'd weighed myself.

I'm back in the cycle 100 percent now. I'm confident now as well, and confidence plays a big role in weight loss. I had zero confidence when I weighed 300-plus pounds, but now that I'm at 186 and dropping hopefully to around 180, I have a sense of confidence. Now, I'm not saying I'm ready to model any underwear or anything, come on now, but I know I tackled something challenging and it leads me to have a belief in myself that I can do things I previously thought weren't doable, such as running long distances.

I don't ever forget how I used to look. It's an unfortunate image that is not only ingrained in my mind and my person but a sad vestige of a previous life that featured little confidence and low self-esteem.

That picture, that entire outing was the last straw. I had no choice but to change, and I finally felt like doing something. It's a horrendous picture, an embarrassing picture even to this day. I never thought of posting it online but have been toying with the idea for weeks now, to post it, exorcise those demons, perhaps inspire others who have just as much weight to lose or nowhere near that amount of weight to lose.

What's that cliche? If you put your mind to it, you can do anything. Well, it's corny and played out, but dammit, it's true.

Eat right. Exercise. Lose weight. Feel good. Feel motivated. Eat right. Exercise. Lose weight. Feel good. Feel motivated. Eat right. Exercise. Feel good....

Nothing vicious about it.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Parade

It's two days before Christmas and I don't know about you but I've still got shopping to do. No! Nevermind the sweets that I need to bake and presents that need wrapping...

Anyway, amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, how about we all take in a parade? Disneyland style, of course...


Presenting A Christmas Fantasy parade! I'm glad you could all make it.

The toy soldiers trumpet their horns for all to hear.

Pluto and Donald put up their tree for all to see.

Mrs. Claus says hello.

Snowflakes galore.

How about having this tree in your living room?

Dancing snowmen strut their stuff.

And there's Mickey and Minnie!

Hi Mickey! Nice trees!

Anyone up for a Gingerbread snack?

Well, here's how you make 'em.

Say hi to the Gingerbread Men, Kennedy.

How about a Gingerbread House, Goofy style?

I'm sure Goofy can whip you up a Gingerbread House of your own.

Oh, did I mention this doubles as a ball? Here is Princess Ariel with her beau, Eric.

And there's Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Mademoiselle Belle and Monsieur Beast.

And there's Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip attend as well.

And Christmas wouldn't be complete without toys, right? How about Woody riding his wooden horse?

And how about a ride to infinity, and beyond?

Oh my, the end of the parade is upon us. How would you answer that question underneath the clock?

Maybe Santa can help you figure out that answer.

And the small and lovely little animals bid you fare thee well.