Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LB In Costa Rica

Have you read my previous blog post about Costa Rica? It's pretty cool if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I'm still not done blogging about Costa Rica but I don't quite have time right now to write the blog post I want to, that the topic deserves. In the meantime I thought I'd post some pictures of myself, because I don't do that very often and I know that, as a blog reader, I also enjoy looking at pictures of the blogger I'm reading about.

Trying to look all tough at the stadium in Alajuela where I went for training and for a match. I was the first person on the field at the team's practice. I had free reign of the field for a few minutes so I think that's why I acted all tough.

This is a cool-looking sign in the stadium, nearby where the previous picture was taken. It's a plaque with the stadium's namesake on it - Alejandro Morera Soto, who was a famous local footballer.

Remember the crocodile bridge from last post? This was taken on the bridge. Had I somehow managed to fall over during this picture I would have fallen perilously close to the crocodiles and I probably wouldn't be blogging right now. Yay for me keeping my balance.

And this last picture is... well... not sure if I have to describe it...

Oh yeah. Paradise.

¡Pura Vida!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Costa Rica Trip

I’ve had some pretty memorable trips in my time but I’m finding it difficult to recall a time when I had two unbelievably incredible international trips in consecutive weeks.

A week ago, I was in Morelia, Mexico, wondering if anything could match that. Now, I’m back from Costa Rica, knowing that something did.

I spent a whirlwind two-plus days in Costa Rica, getting into Central America late Monday night and flying back home all day Thursday. On both personal and professional levels, Costa Rica was a rewarding, unique, fulfilling, tremendous trip.

So much happened in the last couple of days that I really don’t know where to begin. From going on a run in Costa Rica and getting lost to being at an old, venerable and true Central American soccer stadium to visiting beaches and seeing some amazing wildlife to returning to the stadium and experiencing perhaps the most insane and frenzied passion I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event, the trip was non-stop action for me.

Now, I will save my run for a separate post but it was an adventure unto itself.

I suppose I should start with the best things first. Sit back and make yourself comfy…

There were four of us writers on the trip but only three of us were able to head out to the beaches on Wednesday. We’d done a lot of work on Tuesday, both in the morning when …. um, let me backtrack a bit. I went to Costa Rica to cover a soccer match as the LA Galaxy were playing Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in a CONCACAF Champions League match. If you follow soccer, that might make sense. If you don’t… well, that’s another post for another day. Anyway, at the hotel we were able to interview Landon Donovan and the team’s coach, Bruce Arena. That gave us some proper ammo with which to get started writing, so I got started, Costa Rican style of course.

Since we’d done a lot of work, actually, all of our pre-game stories were done by Tuesday night, we had Wednesday free to ourselves until about 4 or 5 p.m. So we rented a car, one of the other guys volunteered to drive and off we went to explore the Costa Rican countryside, determined to make it to a beach. We stopped after about 45 minutes for some breakfast and to stretch our legs.

Now, we had an idea of where we were going. Our destination was Jaco, although that could have changed since we only wanted to find a beach, not necessarily visit Jaco. One of the people at the hotel had told us about Crocodile Bridge, where supposedly there were some crocodiles relaxing underneath.

We came up on a bridge but didn’t see any signs or anything. But there were people on the bridge so once we crossed it, we parked and made our way back to the middle of the bridge and sure enough, down below…

… were our buddies the crocodiles. I’ve always referred to them as “cocodrilos” in Spanish but here they’re known as “lagartos.” Whatever they’re called, they’re kinda imposing.

Are you ready? Here’s probably my favorite picture from the whole trip:

Dude has his mouth open. For real.

So then we made our way back to the car. We had to stay on the straight and narrow.

We piled back in the car and kept driving. Our destination seemed close.

But it didn’t seem close. Although we were right by the ocean, we couldn’t see it. There were a lot of trees and vegetation blocking our view. Since I’d been here before, I knew the water was just on the other side of the greenery, so when the first hint of a break in the trees appeared, I did in fact see water.

We pulled off the road once more as we were right by a beach. The sight was stunning.

Absolutely beautiful.

And notice the best thing about these pictures: there is nobody there. We walked past a couple with a young boy and there was also an older lady with her grown daughter and (presumably) their tour guide there at this beach, but there wasn't anybody else there.

To be fair, I'm not sure if this was a great spot for swimming. There seemed to have been lots of rocks in the water, and not the small rocks you pick up and toss but the large ones that can tear a hole in the side of a boat. The water, though, was quite warm, so warm. I only went in to my ankles but it was so soothing and refreshing.

After a little bit there, we got back in the car and made it down to Jaco. Now, Jaco is close to where we went in 2009, to Quepos which is next to Manuel Antonio National Park, and I would recommend visiting Quepos. However, you can't exactly go wrong with Jaco either.

Now, Jaco looks easy to pronounce - hawk-o, it looks like, but it's pronounced haw-KOH, so it doesn't necessarily rhyme with taco.

I joked with the guys that I was going to move to Jaco and open up Jaco's Tacos, even though it wouldn't necessarily rhyme. And then, wouldn't you know, we passed by Jacos Tacos. I was so disappointed someone had stole my brilliant idea.

Well, anyway, more pictures from Jaco.

Now, these birds were strange.

Okay, well, strange maybe isn't the right word. Unique is more like it. I think the one on the left is a turkey vulture. It looks like it anyway. Not sure what the heck the one on the right is. I obviously photoshopped the one on there so they weren't together or anything but they were sorta close to each other.

I snapped some more pictures before it was time to head back to our hotel.

Parting really was sweet sorrow.

On the one hand, I was sad that my time at the beach had been so short, but on the other hand, I was grateful for every second I was able to spend there. After all, it was a gift, it truly was. I'd never imagined being anywhere near Costa Rica and then to have this thrust upon me was a blessing, a gift, a prize of some sort that I'm not about to slight.

Amazingly enough, the trip would just get better, for me of course. There was a little matter of a soccer game to attend and cover, after all. If you made it this far in my tale, I'm hoping you come back for another layer or two of it.

Stay tuned for the next part.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back From Costa Rica

Greetings! I made it back from Costa Rica. I'm already working on a long post with pictures and stuff but I guess I can't wait to put up something so...

This will hold us over for now. And as you can see I made it to a beach. Yay!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another International Trip

I'm heading out to Costa Rica later today. Ha, that's not something you say every day.

This will be my second international trip in a span of eight days. That's not something that happens often either. But that's how things work out for me. I go long stretches of time without traveling and then all of the sudden I'm thrust onto international flights in rapid succession.

My whirlwind travel isn't done either. I may have a chance to go to Honduras for a match in late October. That will be interesting as I've never been to Honduras.

Anyway, we'll cross that bridge in Tegucigalpa when I come to it. For now, it's on to San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport. Well, later this afternoon anyway.

I haven't had the chance to read up on you all so I apologize for not getting out and reading blogs as much lately. Next week things will be back to normal and I will have time to run and blog and read blogs and get to some things around the house.

Anyway, hopefully I'll check in from Costa Rica.

And if you weren't reading my blog in 2009 when I last went to Costa Rica and the land of Pura Vida, check out some of my posts from back then. That pretty much includes things that I won't get to do now. But I'm sure I will have different but still memorable experiences this time around as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Return To Costa Rica

Have you read my previous post about my visit to Morelia? If not, make sure you do after you read this one. Got some cool pictures up from my quick trip to Mexico.

Anyway, as the blog post title says, I will indeed be making another international trip here. I am headed to San Jose, Costa Rica on Monday. I will be there until Thursday, covering another soccer match.

Now, this trip to Costa Rica won't be like my 2009 excursion there. I also traveled there for a soccer game. That time it was the United States national team playing against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifying match while this time it's the LA Galaxy playing Costa Rican side Alajuelense in a CONCACAF Champions League game. But that time Mrs. LB traveled down on the day of the game and we stayed an extra three days on vacation there. We visited the beach in Quepos, visited Manuel Antonio National Park and had an amazing and awesome time. It was unbelievable, to be honest.

This time, I won't be so lucky. San Jose is in the middle of the country and while it is a small country, it still would take a couple of hours to go to the beaches. And I just won't have that kind of time.

Still, a trip to Costa Rica is something I'm not going to pass up, and having the chance to take this sort of excursion, for work no less, is a blessing. I've worked as a freelancer for about eight solid years now, have covered soccer since 1998 and while I've traveled before for games and tournaments (Japan in 02, Trinidad & Tobago in 01, Dallas in 05, Seattle in 09 and 10, also been to Chicago, Salt Lake, Denver...) my big trips are few and far between. To have two trips like this so close together is a bit of a whirlwind but definitely something I'm enjoying and feeling so fortunate to have the chance to partake in.

One thing that will be different from my last trip to Costa Rica - I will definitely go on a run there. Last time I didn't run but this time you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to run. Costa Rica is safer than Morelia so I will head down there with the intention of running, and also I want to add Costa Rica to the list of foreign countries I've run in. Right now that list consists of Canada and Mexico. Woo hoo!

Anyway, I rambled on for longer than I intended to. If you haven't checked out my Morelia post, please do so now. Got some cool pics. And I'll be back for one more post before I leave for Central America on Monday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tres Cosas Jueves: Morelia Edition

1. Back In The Saddle: I am back. I made it back to Morelia unscathed. Morelia is an absolutely beautiful city. It's a very historic city, founded by the Spanish in the early 1500s, and is considered one of the birthplaces of the Mexican Revolution. In fact, one of the main figures of the revolution - Jose Maria Morelos - was born in Morelia and was honored by having the city renamed from Valladolid to Morelia in his honor. Anyway, I got back to LA in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and had to drive home for about an hour afterward. I got two hours of sleep, squeezed in a two-hour nap but was a zombie for most of Wednesday. I did not run in Morelia (no gym at the hotel, streets leading up to hotel were very narrow, no sidewalks and lots of traffic, so no ideal conditions) and didn't run Wednesday but I ran seven miles Thursday morning so I feel like a new and refreshed man.

2. What's Next? I'm still waiting word but there's a good chance I will get to go to Costa Rica next week. I'd leave Monday and return Thursday. Of course, I would not have time to experience the best of Costa Rica - the beaches and rain forests - but that's just a minor inconvenience. I'm not going to turn down a trip to Costa Rica and the chance to cover a soccer game there. No sir, no ma'am. I've been to Costa Rica before, for soccer, but worked a vacay into it as Mrs. LB flew down there the day of the US-Costa Rica match in June 2009 and we stayed for three days afterward. It was an awesome three days and the beaches really are stunning there. I would highly recommend Costa Rica to anyone who wants to experience nature at its finest.

3. Before We Move On Completely: I'm not quite ready to yet to put Morelia in the past. Some pictures from my time there:

Morelia from my hotel; kinda hard to see but if you click on the picture you should be able to see it a bit more closely.

In front of the Cathedral of Morelia, the city's prized building. I tried to upload a picture of the Cathedral from the outside but blogger was being dumb so this is the only picture I managed to get up. Grr..

This is another building that's important in Morelia's history. This used to be the entrance to town, hence the guard tower. If you came into Morelia, you had to pass through here. The church is ornate and has lots of gold inside, but because it didn't look like much it survived because looters never bothered to go inside.

Morelia is the capital of Michoacan, and the state has fame because of its carnitas. That's why a lot of restaurants you see will say something like "Carnitas Michoacan" or "Carnitas Sahuayo" (the name of a city nearby that is really famous for carnitas). Anyway, carnitas is a pork dish kinda like pulled pork sans the barbecue sauce, but much more tastier. You eat them with corn tortillas, salsa and pico.

Cheers! or should I say... Salud!

And now for some pictures about the reason for my visit...

This is the stadium, Estadio Morelos. The team's name is Monarcas (you couldn't tell, could you?). Morelia is famous too because nearby is a Monarch butterfly sanctuary. The Monarch butterflies migrate every year from Canada to the outskirts of Morelia and have done so for centuries. The club is named after them.

Standing on the side of the field as the Galaxy train (day before the match)

My pre-game meal: Carnitas Torta and a Coca-Cola. Don't usually have straight Coca-Cola but in Mexico it's something I had to have because it tastes different - better. So good.

Galaxy captain and US national team star Landon Donovan.

Well, that's that. Hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Traveling Man

I mentioned it in my previous post but decided to post this here on its own. I'm heading out of the country for a few days, going down to Morelia, Mexico for work. I'm a freelance writer by trade and I'm heading down to cover a soccer game.

If you follow soccer, you might be aware of the game. Galaxy-Morelia. It's a pretty big deal (obviously since I'm headed down for it).

So yeah, it's gonna be great. Some friends/fellow writers are going and it's going to be an epic time, hopefully.

I've been to Morelia once before, in 2002 when my wife and I lived in Mexico briefly. We really enjoyed the city and I'm anxious to go back. Unfortunately, the crime has worsened substantially in Mexico since 2002 and even since 2006, when we took a family trip down there. I've been back, in 2009 to cover US-Mexico in Mexico City, and that was relatively safe. I should be okay.

Not sure what the area is like around our hotel but I might just stick to running in the hotel gym for the two days I'm down there. We'll see.

Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up in case you don't hear from me for a couple of days. Who knows, I may chime in from Mexico with a post about how awesome my run was in Morelia, or how a treadmill in Mexico gives you as many headaches joys as it does in the US.

Hasta luego.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mobile Blogging Test

This is a test of the emergency broad... actually, no. But is a test without any annoying screeching sounds.

There is finally a Blogger iPhone app. When I got my iPhone one of the first things I did was to get the Blogger app only to find that there wasn't one.


So finally on Thursday I read somewhere that Blogger had come out with an app for iOS. Sweet. Got it and, well, here I am.

Now I have mobile blogged before (or is it mobile-blogged?). With my blackberry I would just send an email to Blogger and it would publish it as a post. You just have to set it up on your dashboard but it's not tough to do.

This is different. You get more bells and whistles this way I would assume. You are supposed to be able to mess with pictures so let me see about that.

I included a picture I took of me and the girls Thursday morning from my phone.

Hmm, if I can take pictures and blog all from my phone I could do some cool posts, like a true post-race post. Not a recap but something with a picture or three and a bit more info than "I just finished my race!" type of thing. Or if you are traveling you could put up a post about stuff...

Speaking of traveling, I am going to Morelia, Mexico next week for work. Awesome! I leave Sunday afternoon and get back very early on Wednesday. We'll see if I can run there or not. Depends on where the hotel is.

Anyway, just wanted to test this out. So far, so good...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Race-less LB

If you followed this blog last year, you came across them. They weren't frequent in that they didn't appear once a week or anything, but they were fairly common. Much more common than this year.

Race recaps have indeed been in short supply in 2011 for the simple fact that I have not run many races this year.

Let me see, my races this year...

Surf City Marathon and Fountain Valley 5K in February, Diamond Valley Lake Marathon in April, Fontana Days Half Marathon and Camp Pendleton Mud Run in June and.... oh yeah, that's it.


Last year at this time I'd done Surf City Marathon, ARMC 5K, Lefty's 5K, Run Through Redlands Half Marathon, Run For Rescue 10K, SBSD Mud Run, Camp Pendleton Mud Run and the San Francisco Marathon.

That's eight races at this point last year - twice as many as last year - and still I had two left at the end of the year.

The way my year has worked out, it's probably for the best that I haven't had more races as I was woefully undertrained throughout the summer. But now that I'm getting back into the swing of things, I feel those juices flowing, the desire to run races is once again present. I'm kicking butt and I want to test myself.

But alas, I won't get the chance to test myself much this year.

When I became pace leader, my initial thought was to make sure I did well in that job. Being pace leader became my focus and because it has been my focus, I have not looked at doing too many races. Logistically it would be difficult. Most races are run on Sundays so running a race would mean missing a day with the Lopers. Saturday races are out of the question until after Thanksgiving because of my girls' respective soccer teams and my own soccer duties. And there's not many Saturday races out there to begin with.

Now, there is hope. There are four races on the Loper calendar. There is of course the biggie, the LA Marathon in March, and there's the Surf City Half Marathon in February. I've done the full each of the last two years and I'll probably wind up running the half this year. There is also the Loper Classic but I won't be able to run that as I'll be volunteering that day for that race.

The next race I could run would be Mission Inn. I ran the half marathon last year and the 10K each of the last two years before that. I'm undecided on that one, whether to run the half or the 10K. I wasn't too crazy about the half marathon course but I feel like I need the challenge once more of running a half marathon.

That race is on Nov. 13 so it is still quite a ways away.

I don't know if I can last that long. I might have to look for some sort of race that fits my schedule in order to get the urge to destroy a race out of my system.

Then again, all this pent-up frustration could make for a strong performance at Mission Inn.

Either way, I want to just put on a bib and put my game face on once more.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Beginnings Of A Pace Group

Sunday's Loper schedule called for four miles. It's not much in the grand scheme of things. Before too long that will be just about the midway point in our runs and then it won't even be that.

But Sunday's run really felt like it helped from the semblance of our pace group. I led the group for the whole run and kept a steady pace. Fewer runners ran ahead of me this time than last and the whole group was close, there wasn't too much spacing between the front and any stragglers in the back.

It felt like a pace group, not like a collection of runners.

It was nice being in front and having the runners stay behind me. There were some runners who I know can run faster than the pace I was holding but they stayed back, or level, with me. And when I was going a little too fast, I slowed down and the runners around me also slowed down.

Some runners went ahead, four to be precise, but three of them I know are experienced marathoners so that's fine. They can run on their own and be okay. The rest of the group stayed back.

It was a solid, strong run. Of course, it's only four miles but in a way that's good that we had this kind of run now. The miles will only keep increasing. Next week is five, then six, then seven, eight, nine and 10. Once we hit 10, we won't single digits again.

But that's the good thing about these short miles. While the first-year Lopers are just getting used to running longer miles, us pace leaders are getting the hang of this pace-leading thing. By the time we hit double digits we will all be ready for it.


So much happening on one day...

On Saturday, for the first time in 19 days, I did not run. I couldn't. I was much too sore to run. It was a bummer because it was the end of my streak.

All told, I ran about 95 miles over those 18 days and I really did get my legs to be stronger, which is what I wanted when I began the streak (although I didn't set out with a streak in mind).

It's not a long stretch of time in the grand scheme of things but it felt great to force myself to get out and find new ways to fit runs in. This boot camp that I just started - which is the culprit for my run streak's demise - forced me to find ways to get my miles in around that. And running two-a-days, which I did twice this week, also helped me get my miles in which forces me to be more disciplined.

Funny thing is, I ran eight times this week, which averages to more than one a day obviously, but still my streak ended. Irony.

Anyway, none of the progress I've made in the last three weeks will regress. In fact, I plan on leaping to the next level. The boot camp classes will help catapult me into becoming a more fit person, not just a better runner, but it will help carry over into my running as well. A strong core is such a benefit for a runner to have and that will be nice to have once more. My core is not strong as I don't usually work it out. Stronger leg muscles and more toned muscles will also help out when I run.

This end of my streak is merely a one-day break. Sunday's four-miler is the start of a new streak. We'll see where I am 18 days from now. That's the most exciting part about all this, just seeing my progress as I gain more and more strength.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Taxing Week

I am so tired.

This week has been a bit of a difficult one. I've got my run streak going but I also started a boot camp style workout routine. The two worlds collide indeed.

Friday was particularly tough. I ran 2 miles at home to warm up after dropping the girls off at school, then as soon as I was done, jumped into my truck and went to the boot camp gym about 10 minutes before class started.

We warmed up a bit but I was already warm, and then we jumped right into it once more. I did single-leg step-ups (30 sec on each leg) then jump squats, repeated about five times; then reverse lunges using a rope (30 sec on each leg) then knee highs (basically, running in place with the knee coming up really high, hence the name), repeated about five times; then we put our backs against a wall and squated down so where our thighs were parallel to the ground and held a 16-lb kettle ball for 30 seconds and then side-stepped with a band around our feet rotating five times; then single-leg thrusts (30 sec on each leg) and squats, rotating five times. And then some other squats to properly destroy my thighs and butt.

When we finished of course I hadn't had enough torture so I went on a run and wound up running four miles. The first 2.5 miles were mostly uphill. In fact, one particularly rough stretch saw me go from an elevation of 938 to 1227, from mile 1.3 to mile 1.68. Yeah, that's pretty much straight up.

So here's the body count then thus far for the week. I've run 28 miles this week. My goal was to stay at 40 for the week like last week. I think that would make it my first-ever consecutive weeks of 40 or more. Not sure if that's going to happen though. Sunday I'm running four with my awesome pace group which means I'd have to run eight on Saturday and I don't know if my legs have eight miles in them. I may set out for 5-6 on Saturday morning and then see how I feel. One option would be to run whatever I can tomorrow and make up the difference before or after our group run on Sunday. But as long as I get out and run I'm not going to fret too much about the mileage.

I feel good. My legs feel good. Well, right now they don't actually because I had to hobble around just to sit in my office chair to write this blog post. I'm probably going to be sore as crap on Saturday and Sunday so getting out and running might be a chore.

Well, I'll let you know how things go on Saturday and Sunday. I know it's Labor Day Weekend and most of you probably won't be on your computers reading blogs but if you did happen to stop by, thanks for including me in your weekend and have a great, fun, safe and hopefully run-filled three-day weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tres Cosas Jueves

1. Run Streak Alive And Well: On Thursday morning I ran for the 17th consecutive day. It was just a 2-mile run (I'll explain why so little in a second) but it was a run nonetheless. A good run. Any run is a good run. My legs feel so good right now, every run I go on lately just lets me know that my legs are getting stronger and stronger. I've done two 10-mile runs during my streak and the difference between the first and the second was quite noticeable. I plan to keep this streak going as long as I can so I will be able to continue getting stronger while burning more calories and hopefully losing some weight.

2. Boot Camp: I started my first day of a 30-day boot camp workout. I got a Groupon earlier this year and finally redeemed it. It's for 30 days' worth of these boot camp classes. I didn't know what to expect but I wanted to run a little so I ran two miles - one mile out from the parking lot and then back - and had about 10 minutes to rest up before we started. That class kicked me in the butt. We warmed up, did some core work, then went right into it. There were four stations and you alternated two workouts at each station. There were either weights or ropes for one and then something involving the core (planks, tricep planks, burpees, mountain man pushups... yeah, wasn't too familiar with anything but the planks before today). So you alternate workouts - there's a group leader there, very energetic, telling you how much time you have left and stuff. So when she'd say switch, you switch. I was dripping with sweat pretty early on. It was all challenging. Somethings I couldn't do very well - mostly the core stuff - while the other people in the class - mostly women - were doing the core stuff just fine. We tore through all the different stations in maybe 35 minutes or so, so that was essentially 35 straight minutes of just alternating things. It was tough but worth it. I'll be back on Friday for more torture.

3. Disneyland Resort Trip: On Wednesday I took the girls out of school early and we picked up their cousin and went to Disney's California Adventure. Their cousin is going back home to Washington state on Sunday so we wanted for the girls to spend time with her before she went back. We all had a great time. We were there from like 11 until about 8. Tiring, mostly at the end, but worth it.

A few pictures:

Excited for the day

Nabbing an autograph

Daddy and a daddy's girl