Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nothing Is Impossible: How My Speech Went

Sunday came and went and so did my speech.

Sadly, I was unable to record it as I'd hoped. That was a major bummer but it was the only real setback I had. I'd been practicing my speech for days now as I had been rehearsing it in my head on many of my recent runs.

Here's kinda how the speech played out.


My name is Luis and I'm the co-pace leader with the 10s. I've run four marathons and this is my third year with the Lopers. Not too long ago, it would not have seemed possible to describe myself that way but I used to think a lot of things were impossible. By sharing my story, I hope that I will change the meaning of that word and give you a bit of a different perspective on impossible.

Every person in here has encountered something impossible, something that they thought was out of reach, whether it's in running, your career, education. And I know the first-timers are possibly having those thoughts as well, and maybe you're looking at the calendar and wondering 'How am I going to run 18 miles? That's impossible' or 'I'm supposed to run 20 and 22 miles? That's impossible' or 'A marathon? I'm supposed to run 26.2 miles at once? That's impossible.' I hope that by seeing what I went through, how I was able to redefine impossible, that you will come away with a different view of the word.

(Okay, here I went into my story, about how I had ballooned up to more than 300 pounds, and just to punctuate that point I put on and old Bears jersey that I wore, that was a XXL and really huge on me; about how I joined the gym and got a trainer; about my pie-in-the-sky goal of having a 1- in front of my weight and then about my entire journey, both in my weight loss, then after taking up running... skip ahead to the last part...)

When I had to run 18 miles I was in Seattle for work and I didn't want to run it but it was on the schedule so I had to do it, and I ran 18 miles alone, in 40-degree weather in the pouring rain. Then I ran 20 miles with the group, and then 22. For about two and a half months before the marathon, I was on a high. When the marathon came, I felt like I had to punctuate my journey and everything I had gone through so I wrote this on an old bib of mine.

I figured I could motivate people along the way but I also got a lot of complements too which was very motivating. The marathon itself was great. It started off just like a regular Sunday run, with about 8-10 of us. After awhile I kind of started running ahead and I felt good. At 18 miles I was thinking 'Yeah, going strong.' At 20 miles 'Feeling good.' At 22 'Almost there.' At 23 'What the hell was I thinking?' I kind of hit the wall there but my wife called me and talked me off the ledge a bit and settled me down, and when I saw my wife and girls just before the Mile 26 marker, and that helped motivate me to keep going.

I hit Mile 26 and just had the finish line before me. It was such a surreal feeling, seeing it right in front of me. I started to think about everything I'd gone through to get me there. Now, imagine if I would have thought at some point along the journey 'Why join the gym? You can't lose weight, that's impossible' or 'You can't lose 60 pounds by yourself, that's impossible' or 'You can't run a 5K or 10 miles, that's impossible' or 'You can't run a marathon. That's impossible.' I would cheated myself out of my appearance. I would have cheated myself out of my health, out of my lifestyle. I would have cheated myself out of everything.

I pushed forward to the finish line. I'd crossed the threshold of pain several miles back and was just numb but I got to the finish line, raised my arms and crossed. That feeling is so amazing. It's one of the best feelings of my life. It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything and it never diminishes. I've done three marathons after and it's always the same.

Now, before I go I just want to leave you with this. What I wrote on the back of that bib is something I believe wholeheartedly. Nothing is impossible, because if someone would have told you six years ago that I would have lost 120 pounds and run a marathon you'd have said that's impossible, and I'm here to show you that it's not.


Well, that's pretty much how my speech went. It would have been nice to have recorded it but hopefully next time I give the speech I will have a video camera.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Felt like writing but my mind was not in the mood to piece together too many coherent thoughts in a row so here are some random, off-the-cuff thoughts to close out the week.

* My pace for the shortened Mission Inn Half Marathon was 8:39. Had I run that over 13.1 miles I would have had a 1:53:19, which would have been my non-Fontana half PR. Argh.

* I had wanted to run a 5K on Saturday, to test myself and gun for a PR but the only I found nearby cost $40. That's way too much for a 5K. I'd have done 20, considered 30 but nothing over. Oh well.

* I might run a 5K with the girls in January. Why not? I was talking to a fellow Loper about running with kids. Her 11- and 8-year-olds ran the Mission Inn Half with her. The girls and I ran two miles on Monday together (they cranked out two miles in 37:20 :) ). We ran and walked and ran and walked until we got to a mile and then turned around and went home. It was a lot of fun.

* Anyway, this fellow Loper I talked to said they girls should be able to run a 5K since they've been playing soccer all fall. I found one on Jan. 21 nearby that cost 20 bucks per. Oh yeah, I'm so there.

* An 11-year-old ran the Mission Inn Half at an 8:18 pace. There were also two 12-year-olds who finished at a 9:34 pace. Kids ages 7-11 ran it, and there was even a 5-year-old.

* Not to say that I want my girls to run a half marathon next year but kids are capable of a lot of things and sometimes we put limitations on them because we don't have enough faith in them or we don't trust they can do things.

* We're volunteering for a race. I'm kinda obligated to since it's the Loper Classic and all us Lopers should go ahead and volunteer, well, not first-year Lopers but all vets. I'm going to and it's going to be fun. I hope it will be anyway.

* On Oct. 1 I started off the day having run 861 miles in 2011. After Thursday's 10-mile run, I had 1,217 miles run this year. Not bad. It gives me hope that I'll be able to surpass last year's total of 1,333 which I thought wasn't going to be possible before October.

* I refereed a high school soccer game on Tuesday. I did not count the mileage. I'm not sure if I'm going to count the mileage I accumulate during HS soccer games this year.

* I wore my Garmin in enough games to figure out that, on average, I was running about three miles per each HS soccer game I reffed.

* I look at that as speedwork. There are moments where I'm just walking but there are moments where I'm sprinting. It's kinda cool to be able to keep up with these high school kids.

* I ate so much on Thursday. I was stuffed to the gills. It's a good thing I ran 10 miles in the morning.

* I hope I get my appetite back on Friday. On Thursday, I finished gorging myself eating at about noon or 12:30 and I was not at all hungry the rest of the day.

* Happy Friday, and have a great weekend! Thanks for taking the time to read, I appreciate ya ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nothing Is Impossible

On Sunday, I will be the speaker in my running club's pre-run meeting. The topic: motivation.

I hope that by sharing my story I help motivate other runners, particularly the first-timers. I want to give everyone a different idea of what the word impossible really means.

I used to think a lot of things were impossible. Then I stopped setting up challenges for myself and approached things with an open mind.

And that's when the guy on the left became the guy on the right.

I dropped 120 pounds from March 2006 to November 2007, and took up running afterward. I've done four marathons, six half-marathons and am the 10-minute-per-mile pace group leader for my running club.

Any of the running accomplishments for the heavy-set guy above would have seemed impossible. But that guy dug deep, found some discipline, commitment and motivation and accomplished all those things.

That's what I want to get across to the first-timers, that no matter how impossible something seems, it's really not. I mean, who'd have thought that I could have made the change and would have done what I've done?

Monday, November 21, 2011

2012 Races

My evolution as a runner continues. 2010 was the year of the races for me (10 in all) while 2011 has been the year of few races (six, but it feels like a lot less).

2012 could be a bounce-back year. A rough sketch of what next year could hold in store.

Feb. 5 - Surf City Half Marathon. I'm going to be a bit sad to not be running the full this day. I've run the full in both 2010 and 2011. The half could feel like a downer but after the race I'm sure I'll still have a bounce in my step, unlike my Surf City experiences in 2010 and 2011.

March 18 - LA Marathon. What I'm running all these miles for. I want to be strong throughout this marathon and want to set an example to my pace group. I want to PR but more than that I just want to run a strong race.

April 22 - Run Through Redlands Half Marathon. A memorable race this is for me. RtR was my first half (in 2009) and also my first sub-2 (2010). I skipped it last year because it was the day after Diamond Valley Lake Marathon. In 2012, it will be great because it's a hilly course so it will be a good test for me as I'll be in the early stages of my San Francisco training.

June 2 - Fontana Days Half Marathon. I will PR this day! Actually, this race is both encouraging and discouraging. This course is all downhill so if you run strong, you may get a ridiculous PR. I was undertrained for it in 2011 and still got a 1:48, a PR by seven minutes. If I was running this race this weekend, I would guarantee a PR and it could even be a massive PR. Of course, on a flat course I'm not going to touch the low 1:40s, so this race is both good and bad. But I'm running it next year.

June... something - Camp Pendleton Mud Run. Dates haven't been announced but I'm guessing we'll either run it the second or third weekend in June.

July 29 - San Francisco Marathon - As Ambassador I can run any of their three races - the first or second half, or the full. I'm going to run the full again. (this is a secret... I want to PR... shhh!!)


Honestly I don't want to look past San Francisco. My focus now, in November 2011, is two-fold. First, train for LA and get strong in order to finish strong. Two, put myself in a position so I can recover quickly - both mentally and physically - in order to get back into the swing of things and start running hills in earnest in preparation for San Francisco.

What happens after SF right now is anyone's guess.

But even that limited race calendar is very enticing to me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tres Cosas Jueves: LB's Un-Impossible Journey Edition

1. Sharing My Story: On Nov. 27, I am going to give the pre-run talk at our Lopers meeting. I'm going to talk about my own weight-loss story and will try to motivate the runners in there and try and get the message across that nothing is impossible. It's true, nothing is impossible. I don't have an official name or anything but Redefining Impossible wouldn't be bad. That's what I'm going to try and do, to have everyone who listens come away with a different view of that word, impossible. I know I redefined it and I hope by sharing my journey from 308 pounds to a marathon finish line, that others will realize that truly nothing is impossible.

2. Opening Doors: So yeah, this weight loss thing is pretty awesome. I never imagined the places I'd go and the things I'd do when I began this journey way back when. I mean, I'm a pace leader with a running club and and Ambassador with the San Francisco Marathon. They don't let just any old person do those things, right? I love my life now, and while I wasn't necessarily depressed or anything when I was heavy, I certainly didn't enjoy things as much as I do now. Maybe I needed some of those down times though to appreciate what I have now. It's like when I go on a run and maybe I don't have the best run or maybe I'm not feeling it but, dammit, I'm fit enough to actually go running. I'm fit. LB is fit. I was so far removed from fitness before that the word didn't even exist in my vocabulary. The thought of me being fit sometimes is still a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming moment.

3: Initial Plan: So I'm hoping I get some time to practice my speech. I've been going over and over it during recent runs but have to stand in front of a mirror and get some things done. One thing I'm doing is to put an old favorite shirt of mine that now fits me so huge. I want to wear that at some point to illustrate how big I was. It's so big! Whatever I wear I will be ready for the talk, ready to motivate!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Post-Mission Inn Thoughts

Some post-mortem thoughts on Sunday's Mission Inn "Half" Marathon

* Throwing 'em Under: In case you missed it, Sunday's Mission Inn Half Marathon was not 13.1 miles but rather 12.3 miles. The reason why that happened? Race organizers seemed to throw the volunteers under the bus while also laying some blame on us runners. From a story in the local paper about the race:

“It was unintentionally shortened when the volunteers set up the last water station short of the turn-around,” event director Salynn Simon said. “Runners didn’t know and stopped there.”

I don't know... I've never been involved in organizing a race but if I'm part of the event organizers, I ride my bike through the entire course to make sure everything is tip-top. But whatever, this event seemed to go for the cheap way out and, well, we got ripped off .8 miles in the process.

* On The Cheap: We got jobbed in the distance, but it wasn't the only place we were ripped off. I never got a t-shirt. I registered late (race day morning) and I was so focused on the race that once I got my bib I went and tried to put it on. I don't recall anyone steering me towards a t-shirt. Maybe it's my fault, but still a simple "Don't forget the shirt" may have helped.

But the biggest rip was after the race. The medal did not indicate what year the race was and was identical to last year's medal. Hmm... perhaps they used leftovers from last year? And instead of water bottles handed to us, there were volunteers pouring water into cups. Seriously??? How about a full bottle of water for the person who just paid good money to run in your race? There was bananas and sliced oranges there for us but the lack of water bottles was troubling.

* What's Next? I have a post coming up on my 2012 race calendar but that was probably my last race of the year. Sad. My next race may not be until LA Marathon. Double sad. Not having a great experience then means that this memory will be fresh for awhile. Triple sad.

* Mission Inn 2012? Probably not. Now, this race is the Lopers' first race of the season so I will likely have a lot of friends out there for the event and possibly new runners, so I don't want to say for sure that I won't run in this race. However, I think I simple solution is in order - run it as a bandit. Probably not the half, but the 10K since that's the distance recommended for our first-timers. Whatever the case, I just can't bear the thought of giving that race my hard-earned money once again, at least not in 2012.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mission Inn Race Recap: The Not-Quite Half Marathon

Sunday was going to be an awesome day.

On a personal level, I was going to race for the first time since June. I feel as if I am in the best shape of my life right now, that I am stronger than I have been because of how much I've been running lately and I was anxious to test myself.

But I had to suppress those feelings somewhat because I was going to be running next to a first-timer, someone who had never run more than 12 miles in his life and was looking forward to making the Mission Inn Half Marathon his first 13.1 challenge.

Turned out, the day was memorable but not all of them were positive.

I met up with Dean before the race and he was as anxious as I'd seen him. He said he had problems sleeping the night before and I told him that meant he was ready for race day. Pre-race jitters are typical and not being able to sleep is a good sign. Finally the gun went off and we took off running. My original plan was to go out strong and pick up the pace around Mile 3, where the course spilled onto a bike path. We hit a nice downhill early on and we took advantage of it. We were going strong and I could tell we were going to finish in under two hours.

That was one of my hesitations. I wondered if I should push him a bit and have him knock out a sub-two from the start or if we should just run an easier pace, finish at 2:xx:xx and then have him knock that hurdle down on his own. But Dean's a speedy guy and his comfortable race pace, it turns out, was enough to finish in under two hours.

Splits: Mile 1 - 9:00, Mile 2 - 8:49, Mile 3 - 8:42

We got out to the bike path and settled into a comfortable rhythm. I know this bike path by heart now. I run it about once a week, usually longer runs, 6-10 miles, and I have started at different spots. I knew when the turnaround was going to be, what the scenery looks like at certain places and how much distance there is between certain landmarks. I knew this would be the time to settle into a strong pace, and we did.

But it didn't happen right away. The bike path was a bit more crowded than I'd hoped, and since it's narrow it was difficult to meander around runners at times.

Splits: Mile 4 - 8:28, Mile 5 - 9:07, Mile 6 - 9:01

We started seeing other runners now, going in the opposite direction, so we could feel that the turnaround was close. It was awesome seeing the lead runner holding such a strong pace and seeing the first female runner doing the same, and all the other speedburners churning and working hard. Dean commented on the faster runners several times so I know we were both a bit in awe.

Maybe that was contagious. Or maybe that, once we finally hit the turnaround, we both could sense that a major hurdle was scaled. Whatever the case, we were going strong and hitting our stride at just the right time.

Splits: Mile 7 - 8:39, Mile 8 - 8:43, Mile 9 - 8:20

I wondered, though, about the last part of the course. The turnaround was nice but it was a lot closer on the path than it had been last year. I hadn't paid much attention to the course map but had heard that the course was a bit different than last year. We did run a different way during Mile 2, hadn't run through a neighborhood like we had last year but rather around another bike path that leads in and out of a large park that itself was part of the course. I knew we would hit the turnoff into the park at about Mile 10 but last year it was at about Mile 11 when we did that.

I wondered where we would make up that extra mile. I hoped that early downhill we hit that was not supposed to be part of the way back was indeed not part of the way back. In retrospect, I wish it would have been.

Splits: Mile 10 - 8:43, Mile 11 - 8:20

We hit Mile 11 and we just had two miles to go. Our time was in the 1:30s so a sub-2 was ours, barring some unfortunate collapse. I wondered where the course would veer off. It seemed eerily similar to last year's final stretch but it couldn't be the same since we still had quite a bit of distance to run.

I saw the next mile marker. My stomach dropped. Mile 12 was before us, even though we had just hit Mile 11.

There would be no veering off this course. There would be no new part of the final stretch of the course. I wasn't pacing someone to their first half-marathon finish but rather pacing someone to their first 12-mile race finish. I felt bad for Dean, who had worked so hard and built up this day for so long (literally our third Lopers meeting he asked me if I would pace him, and that was in early September) only for this to happen.

A runner next to me asked what was going on. I looked at my phone and the miCoach app read 11.20 miles. I told him and he said he had the same distance on his Garmin. I shook my head. It kind of took the wind out of my sails a bit. That and a hill that I didn't quite handle properly separated me from Dean. He was ahead and motioned to me but I told him to finish strong and go for it.

Mile 12: 9:05

Now, I had wanted Dean to taste glory on his own, to finish the race strong and alone. I was honored to have paced him for the race but I did want him to have that moment to himself. I don't know that I would have tainted it for him necessarily but I just felt it was important to keep myself out of his spotlight. But I had figured on that happening as we neared the finish, like maybe at the 12.75 mile mark for instance.

So the hill and the realization did the favor for me and sped that process up. I saw Dean way up ahead and another runner from our pace group ran past me and gave me some encouraging words. I thought "Man, I must look like hell." I picked up the pace. I didn't catch Dean but I was running strong when I rounded the second-to-last street.

I hit top gear as I got close to the finish line.

Mile 12.33 - 7:44 pace

I saw Dean once I got through the finish and after I collected my medal. I told him congratulations on the race and told him he did a great job. We mentioned the shorter distance but in the end I said that he handled the race greatly which he did and it wasn't our fault the distance was short. He said thanks, gave me a hearty handshake and we parted ways.

I was quite happy to have seen him so proud of himself. He would have finished his first half marathon in about 1:53, a tremendous effort for someone who had never run more than six miles just a couple of months ago.

Mission Inn shortchanged us, and for that reason alone I won't run their race next year (although I might run it as a bandit just because...), but the real travesty was what they did to people like Dean and the countless others who were going for goal times or trying to finish their first half and tackling the 13.1-mile challenge head on. That's what's been gnawing at me since, but it certainly doesn't diminish Dean's efforts nor will it taint my own memories of the day. I refuse to let the race organizers shortchange me on that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mission Inn "Half"

I had an interesting experience Sunday. I paced a new runner to his first half marathon. We had a great time and I was proud of him and I will blog more about that at length in an upcoming post.

However the race lacked something. It wasn't an actual half marathon. It only measured 12.3 miles. So we were .9 miles short through no fault of our own.

It was a frustrating thing to have happened.

Still I had a great time pacing a new runner and it was great seeing a lot of friends. And I will blog about this in more detail later but just had to get my "half" experience up.

For the record my time was 1:47 but it would have been closer to a 1:54 had it been an actual 13.1. Ah well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Five For Friday

1. Reflection: Thanks for all the comments to Wednesday's soul-searching post. I am indeed grateful for all the kind thoughts and words and I've taken all of them to heart. I think my original mistake was writing an introductory post in our Ambassador FB page that didn't make mention of my weight loss. If I ran a sub-3 marathon, that would be something worth bringing up, but my huge accomplishment isn't with how many marathons I've run or how fast I run but rather the weight I lost.

2. Half Marathon Sunday: I'm finally running another race! It's been awhile since I ran my last race, June 18 to be precise. Since then, I've had some lean times (41 miles in July) and some fantastic accomplishments (first 50-mile week). I feel as strong now as ever and am totally ready for a race. However...

3. No Attempted PR Sunday: I am pacing a new runner. One of the runners from my pace group asked me a while back to pace him to his first-ever half marathon. I was flattered and told him I would, so I will. He's a bit speedy but I don't want to run for time. I want him to kind of set the pace, to have him let me know what's comfortable for him and maybe push it just a bit. I want him to enjoy the race, not suffer because I want him to get a good time. I want him to want to be proud of his accomplishment, then go off and chase PRs on his own. He's gonna set a new PR anyway, right?

4. Next Race? After Mission Inn, my next race probably won't be until Surf City (Super Bowl Sunday) and I'll be doing the half marathon there. I'll probably be pacing others as well. I'm actually looking forward to pacing others in races. After the LA Marathon though I'll get some LB time. We'll see what I enjoy more, pacing others or chasing PRs.

5. New App: For a while I've sworn by miCoach, the cool running app by adidas. However, it's been down for more than a week now and despite assurances by adidas that the problem is getting fixed, well, it just isn't. I can't sync new runs to my miCoach account and it only holds three un-synced runs. So annoying. I ran using iMapmyRun on Thursday but that one doesn't have splits. Friday I have to (sadly) run on the treadmill so Saturday's run I will use Run Keeper, which apparently has some good info. I ran a cool run on Tuesday, a 5-mile tempo run (8 miles overall) but I've yet to see my splits because of the issue with miCoach. Grrr! Ah well, I was able to enjoy Thursday's run, just ran it without paying attention to time and got me 7.1 miles in 1:06:41, a pace of 9:23 per mile, not a bad pace for not really trying for speed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Out Of My League?

As I look at the list of fellow 2012 San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors, I'm left with a bit of an impression. Well, two actually.

The initial impression: wow, these people are fast.

Which leads to the next one: do I belong?

I know it shouldn't really matter, deep down inside I get that. Everyone runs at their own pace and as long as you're running and taking control of your health and fitness, that's what matters.

But this is a little different, this group of Ambassadors I'm in. We're not trying to win a race or trying to recruit fast runners to participate in an event or anything but it seems like, at first glance, many of the ambassadors are fast. Super fast. Boston fast.

One ambassador posted to our Ambassador FB page that he'd just run a 2:48 Sunday in New York. Another said she'd run Boston a few times and knocked out a 3:30 recently, and other fellow Boston runners said they'd see her in Beantown next year. And I know a few others have run Boston and have set these amazing marathon PRs. Most seem to have run multiple marathons, as in double digits.


Hi. My name is L.B. I've run four marathons and my PR is, uh, 4:23.

Compared to many of the others, my stats don't match up.

Hell, I don't even look like a marathoner. You know, the typical marathoner is thin and lean and... well I'm not. (a lot of that though is skin... when you lose 100-plus pounds, you lose the weight but keep the skin, good stuff).

After my initial elation of being chosen as a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador subsided, I was left with these feelings. Do I really belong? Am I out of my league with all these other runners? Have I gotten myself into something that's better suited for a veteran marathoner, a real runner?

See, I have a bit of a character flaw. In the past I always minimized my own accomplishments. If I did something it must not have been A) that tough and B) that meaningful. Since I didn't think too highly of myself before, it just seemed like a natural conclusion.

You ain't crap so whatever you do ain't crap.

I've worked on that. A lot. I obviously have a different frame of reference now. I lost 120 pounds. I have run four marathons. I have done things that are deemed difficult, that I used to think were impossible. I did those things by myself. Nobody ran the miles for me. Nobody held a gun to my head and told me to change my lifestyle. I did that. LB did that. I had help and support, of course, but I did that.

I gained some confidence along the way, gained some self-esteem. Long ago I changed my lifestyle for the better and somewhere along the way I also changed my mentality.

But.... there's always a but, isn't there?... but these were the feelings that came up the more I learned about my fellow Ambassadors.

Now, I do think I'm working harder at being a runner. I've run for 31 consecutive days through Tuesday's run. I've logged more than 1,100 miles this year. I had my first 50-mile week recently and my last four weeks I've logged 44, 48, 50 and 47 miles, respectively. I'm registered for the LA Marathon, I am a pace leader with my running club - which happens to be the biggest running club in two counties...

I've built myself up quite a bit, so these feelings that arose sort of caught me off guard.

I'm convinced though that I do have a unique story. Not all runners have lost 100-plus pounds after all. And I really do feel that if I can do this - lose weight, run a marathon - anyone can do it. Nothing is impossible. I enjoy running because I am able to enjoy it, because I am fit and healthy and happy, and that wasn't always the case. I really do take as much pleasure as I do from a four-mile run as I do from a 14-mile run. It's all about the run, not the time. I firmly believe that.

I think I have an inspirational story and I want to share that with as many people as possible.  As a SF Marathon Ambassador, I hope to be able to share that and, if nothing else, get the message across that the San Francisco course is not impossible. If anyone knows anything about what's possible and what's impossible, it's me.

So I think I came to a happy medium then with my fellow SF Marathon brethren. I'm not going to run Boston with anyone anytime soon, I may not run a sub-four marathon anytime soon and it will take me a few more years to get to 10-plus marathons.

But that doesn't mean I'm not in the same class as them (technically I am not - we won't start the San Francisco Marathon in the same wave - but let's just leave that aside for now). I'm a runner, a marathoner, and I'm just as serious about my running as anyone.

I'm honored that the San Francisco Marathon people felt enough of my application to bestow this honor on me, and as I work on these initial feelings, it's all good and hopefully smooth sailing ahead.

Monday, November 7, 2011

San Francisco Still Sinking In

It still hasn't hit me.

It's been three days now since I found out I was selected to be a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador (!) and it still is a bit of a shocking realization.

Somehow my application stood out. Somehow I was deemed worthy enough of representing a fantastic race put on by equally fantastic people.

Me, LB. The same guy who in 2006 tipped the scales at three bills. The same guy who had never run a race until June 2008. The same guy who has run four marathons... while a great number and a number I'm proud of, nowhere near double digits, let alone to a point where I can be called an "experienced marathoner."

Yet here I am, a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador.


I will find out more this week about my specific duties, or at least will get started on that process. I'm definitely anxious to get started, whatever the duties may call for.

I do know this. While I am not turning over this blog to San Francisco Marathon-related stuff, there will absolutely be many posts on San Francisco from here until who knows when. And I also know that I will be running San Francisco next summer. I can't imagine doing anything but the full... just the thought of that makes me giddy. And the thought of being involved with the race more so than just a regular runner is something that makes me nervous and excited.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Beginnings Of My SF Love

In case you didn't see Friday's midday post... I was named a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador!! I received the news on Friday and have spent every minute since in a weird sort of euphoric state. I'm excited of course but it's tempered some with these feelings of 'Wow, did I really get this?' and 'Wow, do I really belong?'

I'm going to explore those feelings another time but for now I wanted to re-post my original San Francisco Marathon recap from July 26, 2010. Perhaps you can see why I was and have been and am obsessed with the San Francisco Marathon.

Anyway, it's pretty long but I think it's a good read... but then again, I'm a little biased.


For months I pondered, chewed on, wondered about the San Francisco Marathon. I set a big target for this race and it finally arrived. On Sunday, I ran the San Francisco Marathon, my second marathon, and both have come in the last six months.

Here's how I conquered Marathon No. 2.


Originally published July 26, 2010

I'd set the alarm for 4:45 (our usual wake-up time) but beat it by about 20 minutes. I was nervous of course but I managed to sleep through it this time. I got up, got dressed, ate and took my time in doing so. After a bit, I headed out and followed a crowd of marathoners to the start line area.

I was in Wave 7, and since I got to the start right when Wave 1 was starting, I had to wait a little bit. Waves 2 and 3 went off, then 4 and 5 all roughly 10 minutes apart, but I wasn't feeling nervous or anything, just calm. I was right next to the water, close to the Bay Bridge and within throngs of runners. Eventually Wave 6 went off and Wave 7 was up next. After a brief mix-up (the last half of Wave 7 was mistakenly delayed), we were off. It was a little after 6:30, nearly 10 minutes after we were supposed to have left, but it didn't really matter. The prospects of heat were non-existent and even the sun itself seemed more like a rumor than anything.

The first few steps were a blur. There were some docks and piers off to the right and some businesses off to the left. I ran past signs for Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and a vast array of restaurants and businesses, but nothing topped Boudin. At Disney's California Adventure, there is a bakery and you can see how bread is made, sourdough bowls, and it's all Boudin products. At a little past 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, the sourdough smells wafting past runners on The Embarcadero were mouth-watering and enticing.

I got off The Embarcadero and started to make our way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Beforehand, this was easily the highlight of the course, the most anticipated part of the race. But I wasn't quite there yet. I was winding through the Marina and through the edge of the Presidio, growing with anticipation for the bridge.

All along, I'd been running at a decent clip. Every mile I ran was under 10 minutes - after five miles I was under 50 minutes. After the second mile, I wondered if I should have slowed down but I figured I'd run at this comfortable pace while I still could.

Finally, we came up to the bridge area and the running path for us runners narrowed quite a bit. It was congested and it made for some slower-than-desired running. That was about the only drawback from the bridge. I was on the Golden Gate Bridge, for crying out loud! It was foggy but not enough to obstruct our views. I was able to see the water and the part of the course we'd just ran through. I had a smile on my face through this portion, and decided then it was a good time to toss my throwaway jacket I'd bought at the expo, a jacket that looked like a lab coat that had kept me very warm throughout the chilly morning.

It was also around this time my phone rang. Mrs. LB had just gotten up and called me. I didn't really feel any envy, with her having just woken up while I was around Mile 7... but she wished me good luck, asked me how I felt and told me she was headed down to the finish line area.

We got off the bridge on the far side, ran around a parking lot and went straight back onto it. I was just amazed that I was running on a national landmark. I mean, you can run past landmarks, like Mt. Rushmore or the Washington Monument but what other landmarks can you actually run on during a race?

Soon enough, the bridge was over and it was back to meandering through unfamiliar territory. Right after the bridge was perhaps the prettiest sight I saw during the race. We were running up a hill in the Presidio area. Off to the right was the ocean and on the hilly land above were houses surrounded by trees. It was a stunning view.

Now, earlier this week, blog buddy Tricia had given me a great tip. She said to break the race up into segments - a 10-mile run, a 10-mile run and a 10K. This worked wonders. I tried not to think about the entire course but rather just wanted to get to 10 miles. Once I hit 10 miles, I focused on getting through the next 10 miles. And then after that, it was just a 10K. I got through the first 10 miles and felt a bit rejuvenated with the start of the second third of my race, Miles 11-20.

I plowed through the course, still feeling good, still getting in miles around or under 10 minutes as the course took us up a long street through a residential area before entering Golden Gate Park. I'd actually run a little inside the park before I realized I was in Golden Gate Park. I was excited because after this park, we'd be around Mile 20, and as it was Mile 12, however, that meant a lot of running.

Golden Gate Park was tough. Quite tough. The half-marathoners that had started with us were split apart so the number of runners thinned out. It was just the marathoners, and it seemed several were already starting to feel the effects of the race. I was trying not to think about my throbbing feet, which had been protesting for about a mile or so.

The scenery was nice enough - the park was quite green and seemed inviting, parts of it anyway. It seemed like a decent place for a run or a bike ride. The most awe-inspiring sight was the Conservatory of Flowers. The colors of the flowers shined in the early-morning haze.

But the course here just kept on going and going and didn't give us marathoners many prospects of exiting it anytime soon. To add insult to injury, we had to run past the 1st Half Marathon finish line. We were at about 17 miles at this point, and all the marathoners trudged past the finish line, with jubilant half-marathoners reveling in their own 13.1 conquest, celebrating their feat and certainly not running. The only ones running now were the full marathoners.

I saw a runner up ahead who was probably in her late 30s. She had written "1st Full" on her left calf, so as I got past her I said "Great job" and gave her a thumbs up. She said "thank you" and the brief exchange gave me a boost. I remember how great it felt at Surf City to have people congratulate me when I wore my bib, and some of those feelings came back.

I had originally thought the 2nd Half Marathon runners would jump in along with the full marathoners but that did not happen until nearly the end of Golden Gate Park. The park had been nice enough but near the end, it seemed to fall apart. The path wasn't as well-kept as the rest of it, there seemed to be less of a welcoming feel to it and there wasn't really much scenery here. All that made me glad to get out of the park when the course finally did.

Worst part about the park, though, was the hills. There were many more hills here than I'd anticipated. It may not have been one giant hill but the inclines, for some reason, seemed to outnumber the declines. It took its toll on me as well - I'd later learn that my pace at the halfway mark was 10:11 per mile but had fallen to 10:30 by Mile 20.

I still had energy. I was on my 10K portion of the race. As I approached Mile 22, though, I wondered where the wall would rear its ugly head. Mrs. LB had been calling me often, checking up on me and giving me a boost each time she did, and I wondered if she would call me when I was at the wall.

I got to about Mile 23.5 and had to stop. I'd been taking walk breaks but this one was different. With almost no warning or no planning, I just stopped and walked. It seemed like a long time. I didn't feel comfortable but I didn't want to start running again, at least my legs didn't want to. But I just had to will my legs to get out there once more, and begrudgingly they complied.

That was my wall. It doesn't sound bad, and it wasn't. I never once asked why I was doing this, or whatever made me think I could run a marathon. In fact, around Mile 18 I pictured myself near the finish line and I started to get a little emotional. I knew that I would finish the race then, well, I knew I would finish the race all along I suppose but at that moment I felt it. Nothing was going to stop me from finishing, so I knew that I would get past whatever obstacles I needed to get past. And all that kept the wall tiny. However, there was one thought that kept going through my mind that helped: "Just get through this and you won't have to do this shit again until March." I might not run another marathon until LA, which is on March 20, 2011.

My legs were starting to scream at about Mile 24. I tried to pick up the pace but it didn't feel like I was going fast at all. We got to AT&T Park, home of the hated Giants, and ran past McCovey Cove. Even though I despise the Giants (go Dodgers) I still was happy with having run there, and pictured what it's like during games when someone hits a home run with the ball sailing into the water.

After the stadium, it was back up to the Bay Bridge and then the finish line. I had been scanning for Mrs. LB, who said she was somewhere between the stadium and the finish. I ran and ran and ran but didn't see her.

Finally, I saw a lonely figure sitting on the sidewalk. I put my arms up and she saw me, grabbed the camera and took some shots. As I ran past, she was yelling "Go Luis!" at the top of her lungs, and that was the last bit of energy I needed to get to the finish. I had been thinking about my girls, who'd stayed behind with their grandparents, about everything I had overcome to get to this point of the race, not just that day but over the last four years, and it all helped me pick up the pace near the end.

I crossed the finish line, and even though I was happy with what I'd done, I had to remember to smile. I had my arms outstretched on my side as I crossed the finish and smiled. I got my medal afterward, a big, hulking medal that will forever be a source of pride. About the only slight drawback was my time. I'd estimated my time to be around 4:45 and was a little disappointed since I was on pace for a better time for the first 10-13 miles of the race. But then I figured my time was still good given the difficulty of the course, and on another course that day I might have finished in under 4:30.

As soon as I stopped running, I felt queasy. Lightheaded almost. I grabbed a water bottle and sucked it down in a few gulps. Then I jammed a banana down my throat along with a smoothie. I posed for a picture and went along my path. I got out of the chutes and made it out to the street and sat down on a chair in front of a booth, but the lady in the booth didn't care and welcomed me. After a while, Mrs. LB found me, in pain, beaten down but proud and happy nevertheless.

I had been in contact with some blog buddies who were also there running either a half marathon or the full marathon, but the only one who I managed to meet was Amanda from Fat Wuz Here. Amanda's an inspiration, having lost more than 70 pounds on her own weight loss journey. This was her second half-marathon of the year and she's only scratching the surface of her own running story.

The only bad thing was that I was pretty ripe and I would at least like to smell good when meeting people, particularly blog buddies. But she didn't seem to mind. We chatted with her and her husband and then continued on to the hotel. I sat for a break and had gotten some texts congratulating me on my time. It seems my time wasn't 4:45 as I'd expected by rather 4:37:51.

And that meant a PR!!!!

That topped an amazing and unforgettable day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

San Francisco!!!

It happened! I can't believe it but it happened!

I was chosen to be a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador!!

It's a bit of a whirlwind right now, to be honest. I was notified earlier today and I am through the roof with excitement.

I'm definitely going to blog more about this, you can rest assured about that, but for now I just wanted to share the news with you all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tres Cosas Jueves

1. San Francisco Ambassador: In July 2010 I ran one of the most challenging, amazing, memorable races ever, the San Francisco Marathon. I had wanted to run the race this summer but it just didn't work out. I'm hoping to run it again in 2012 and this time perhaps a bit more involved than just a regular runner. I applied to be a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador. What does this mean? Essentially I would promote the San Francisco Marathon and its races online and in person and I would get a complimentary entry to any of said races - I'd gun for the full of course. Here's a full list of the ambassador duties/perks (in PDF format) if you wish to read up more on it. Winners are supposed to be notified on Friday so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully I'll be blogging a lot more about the San Francisco Marathon in the near future.

2. October Miles: October came and went and I set a new record. I wound up running 194 miles (give or take). I was quite close to 200. In fact, I could have gone out for six miles on Monday night to try and crack the 200-mark. But I chose not to obsess over that. I realized about a week before that I would probably finish in the 190s but I didn't let that affect my training or my planned runs. I didn't want to feel like I let myself down if I went for but wasn't able to get to 200. The way I look at it, 194 miles is a load of miles for me and I will continue to pile up miles. I'm going to get 200 here in the next few months, I feel it. So I'll just enjoy my record high for October and then I will enjoy cracking the 200-mile mark soon enough.

3. Race Day, Finally: I'm dying to run a race. I can't believe that I'm piling up all these miles and don't have a race to train for. I will get to run a race soon enough. I'm running the Mission Inn Half Marathon on Nov. 13 but I'm pacing one of the new runners from my group. It's kind of good and bad - but mostly good. The bad - let's get that out of the way - I won't be able to shoot for a PR. But I'll gladly trade that in for the good - I will get to pace a new runner who has never run 13 miles to his first half-marathon. I think that's insanely awesome. I'm looking forward to helping him to such a milestone and I'm honored that he asked me to help him. My next race after that will probably be the Surf City Half Marathon on Feb. 5 but chances are I will be pacing others there too. I will definitely pace my group at the LA Marathon in mid-March. So between then and now I will run just those races. I am already looking to Spring '12 and Summer '12 for marathons and half marathons! But you know the San Francisco Marathon is at the top of my list, ambassador or not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All In A Day's Work

How did you spend your Monday?

Mine started a visit to the girls' elementary school, which included a parade and a class party; continued with a mid-day run, complete with 88-degree temperatures; and concluded with a night out on the town... okay, a night walking up and down nearby streets, visiting neighbors.

We have an 80's Valley Girl, a Skeleton Bride and Capt. Jack Sparrow.

All in all, a wonderful day.