Monday, December 31, 2012

Best (and Worst) of 2012

Yes, I am still alive. And hopefully now I'm also back with regularity here on this blog. I won't go into too much detail now just for the sake of time but I've been lacking a little bit of the fire I used to have and that's kept me from feeling too enthused about things like blogging. But I'm coming out of it - the flames have been flickering - and I've decided to put together a year in review type thing for my blog.

So, this year was pretty spectacular. Overall, that's a fair statement to make. A lot of things happened in my running life to make it so as I reached a lot of firsts. But it wasn't all roses either. Some bad things went down too.

With that...

Most Proud Of: Running four marathons. At the end of it all, that's what will remain. Well, the only tangible thing anyway. I ran LA, OC, San Francisco and Long Beach Marathons, got to see a lot of the state of California in doing so. I also ran four half marathons - Surf City, Redlands, Fontana, Mission Inn. Proud of that too of course but the full marathons are what keep me going.

Least Proud Of: I had too many skipped runs late in the year. I had the time but not the fire. Sigh. Hopefully I found the remedy for that (more on that in my New Year's post).

Best Moment: OC Marathon finish. I jumped at the finish line. I mean, I jumped! I ran my best-ever marathon at OC. No, I didn't PR but I felt absolutely great all the way through. I celebrated each passing mile marker and looked forward to the next one. I finished under my 4:30 goal and felt fantastic afterward.

Worst Moment: Long Beach Marathon. I went out way too fast. I was gunning for a PR and I had not trained anywhere near that level. Of course it caught up to me, around Mile 15 and I struggled terrible. Had my brother not have met at Mile 20, I would have seriously contemplated quitting. I set my PW that day, got around a 5:12, but that's not what I'm ashamed of. I'm ashamed of how easily I ignored my own advice. Still, it's good to have a wake-up moment like that... I suppose...

Best Personal Experience: Being a Loper pace leader was and is great. I enjoy watching runners who maybe previously had not been able to run more than a few miles and watch them becoming long-distance runners. I like watching runners conquer new obstacles. Pacing someone to their longest run ever is a thrill each and every time. The payoff is of course in races, and I was there to see several new runners cross finish lines of full and half marathoners, and to know that I played a small role in that is humbling.

Best Race Experience: I really enjoyed the LA Marathon, way more than I thought I would, but my best race experience had to have been the San Francisco Marathon. From meeting up with a lot of the other Ambassadors during the Expo on Saturday and hanging out with a few the morning of, to the scenic, challenging and magnificent course itself to seeing my family just before the finish line, there's no topping that.

Most Memorable Run (non-race): Oof. This one's tough. I had so many good runs this year but I think running solo for 20 miles in mid-April was probably the best. Now, it wasn't a "I wish I could re-live it" best but rather a "this one's so damn hard I'm going to remember forever" best. It was hard. I started at 8:30 a.m. with the sun shining overhead already. I ran nine out, nine back and was at my truck at Mile 18 but still somehow managed to talk myself out of calling it good then and ran two more miles. I think I slogged more than I ran but still I got em done. I wouldn't necessarily recommend a run like that but that's the kind of stuff you can draw some inspiration from. If I can do that and I can put myself into position to do that, then I can get through little 4-6 milers, right?

Well, there you go. A few of the highlights and some lowlights from 2012. Thanks for reading, and if you're reading this part of this post, I know you're loyal and I appreciate your readership. I promise I'll be around more in the days/weeks/months to come.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pacing Adventures: Mission Inn Half

On Sunday, I ran the Mission Inn Half Marathon. I hadn’t wanted to run the race after the bad experience I’d had in 2011, but when some of the runners in my pace group asked me to pace them in the race, who was I to say no to that?

Once I opted to run it, I had some ideas about how the race could be memorable for me. It was my 10th half marathon, which is a bit of a milestone. Also, the race was an opportunity for me to begin my Long Beach Marathon redemption.

But the race was not about me. Not at all. I decided that on Sunday morning when I met up with my newbie runner, Ashlynn. Not only was Sunday Ashlynn’s first half marathon, it was her first race ever, at any distance. It would also be her longest run ever. She’d never run more than 11 miles, and that was just one week ago at our Sunday run with the Lopers.

The morning was extraordinarily chilly. The temperatures dipped into the 30s, startling considering it had been in the 90s just on Monday. I worried a bit since I haven’t really talked to my pace group about cold-weather clothing but I saw Ashlynn made the same decision I’d made – a long-sleeve white shirt underneath our pink Loper shirt.

Despite the enormity of the day for her, Ashlynn seemed rather calm about the pre-race experience. We’d gathered near the start line and the energy of a throng of half-marathoners was present but it did not distract her much at all. We went over a bit of how we wanted the race to go, planned our course of action and off we went.

The first mile was all downhill and we tackled that fairly effortlessly. The second mile was a bit more of our Sunday pace but that was partly because it was a steady incline. By the time we got done with the third mile, I was feeling strong and hopeful that I could get Ashlynn to the finish line feeling and looking the same.

Now, there had been another first-timer with us but he dropped back around the fourth mile. I’d tried to locate him behind us but he got lost in a group of runners. I hoped that he was well but did not want to break up the momentum we had going forward so opted to push ahead.

Just past Mile 5 we hit some really familiar ground. I was after all on my stomping grounds. The Santa Ana River Trail is after all my favorite place to run (well, the entire Mt. Rubidoux area because of the trails and the mountain itself). I had been out there three times just last week, including a seven-mile run that took me to the turnaround and back.

Now I was back but with hundreds of others, including of course the first-timer alongside me.

We talked and talked and talked. I’ve chatted with her before during our races but this time the conversation flowed smoothly and effortlessly. We talked about food, about our favorite restaurants, about San Francisco and marathons and our respective children. I discovered that she has a love of bread and I can certainly relate. Hearing her talk about the food she likes to indulge in made me rather hungry.

All the while this was going on, I had been trying to gradually increase our speed. Not a great deal, not enough to where we were going to hit the wall and crash and burn down the stretch but enough to where she could push herself a bit more. While she has not run long distances with regularity yet, I have no doubt that Ashlynn can and will do great things in running. But she has not pushed herself in a race before, and that’s only because she’d never run a race before. I wanted to give her a bit of that experience.

We reached the turnaround and I was thrilled. Unlike a year ago, this time the race was a legitimate 13.1 miles, and that was confirmed by the location of the turnaround. Once we started heading back in, I saw our other friend who had fallen behind, all smiles, saying he felt great. Buoyed by the sight of him and some other familiar faces, we plowed ahead. I was feeling better and better with each passing mile and, given by how our steady conversation had not dropped, it looked like Ashlynn was as well.

After Mile 11, we had reached unchartered territory for Ashlynn. I did not want to bring this up, though. I did not want to feel as if I was putting any sort of extra pressure on her. Once we ran past the Mile 12 marker, though, she celebrated. I did as well, congratulating her on adding to her longest run ever.

The final mile was a bit difficult, as it always is. The course starts to go uphill a bit and the street that takes you back out the Market (where the race began) is deceptively long. It does not seem like it will be long but it seemingly stretches out endlessly. Perhaps it’s the anxiety you feel about the race and just wanting to be done with it, but either way it seemed long again on Sunday.

We rounded our second-to-last corner, finally back on Market. I pushed forward and we picked up our speed. I told her that if she wanted to go on ahead to do so but she said no, that she was feeling the race in her legs. Still, we kept going on steadily ahead and got to a stone’s throw of the finish line.

I let her go ahead a bit, excited for her to see the finish line and wanted her to experience that moment all to herself. I was smiling, happy that she had done it, happy that I was able to help her ever so slightly reach her goal, when something unexpected happened.

I crossed the finish line, slowed down and saw Ashlynn crying. Tears had hit her hard and she was overcome by the moment. Without warning, tears swelled up in my eyes as well. I congratulated her, patted her gently on her back and told her that she had just done something grand. She seemed caught off guard by her tears as well, but I told her that I’ve cried in each of my eight marathons (true story) and that she should be proud of herself, that nobody was ever going to take that away from her.

I met her smiling family and told them all how fantastic she had done during the race. She was a bit less emotional, smiling and such but without the tears. After a few minutes we parted ways.

I went over to look at our finish times. She had come in at 2:00:10 and I’d come in at 2:00:12. Time was not at all a factor for me. I knew that we were going to come in right around two hours and had actually debated whether I should bring her in for a sub-two or not.

Ultimately, I decided to let fate answer that question. Fate wanted her to come in where she did, and it will work out nicely. I was able to help her get to her first finish line but she will ultimately break the sub-two mark on her own, and will continue on to bigger and better things.

Knowing that I played a small role in her own running story… well, that’s the kind of stuff that brings tears to my eyes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's Next

Alright, I'm pretty far enough removed from the Long Beach Marathon that I can look at the future with anticipation once more. The scars are still there, but only if you push down deep enough. It's like a deep bone bruise at this point, nothing visible from the surface.

Anyway, I don't exactly have a lot on my race calendar which is a good thing really. Three runners from the 10s asked me to pace them at the Mission Inn Half Marathon in November. This is the same half marathon I swore I'd never run after the horrible experience last year (the course was 12.4 miles, one of many goofs). But I am willing to swallow my pride and run this race again if it means that I can pace these runners at Mission Inn. That's on Nov. 11, and will probably be my last race of 2012. There is one other possibility - the inaugural Loper Holiday Half on Dec. 2, but I may volunteer at the race again with Mrs. LB and the girls. We had a lot of fun volunteering last year and will have a lot of fun volunteering once more for the race.

Mostly, though, what I have in front of me is time. I have time to get back into it, time to shed some pounds and get into good running shape, to build up my midweek miles, to get some speedwork in, to become a stronger runner for the winter months, which will demand strength from me. I've been tracking my calories now for more than a week and so far so good. Plus I hit the gym for some lifting sessions. I'm not a fan of lifting but I need to have a strong core and be strong overall, and that means more gym time. It may eat into the time and energy I have to run but I think it is worth the sacrifice. Running four miles and getting in some core work and resistance training will do me more good than running seven miles and doing nothing else. At least, that's the way I look at it. The trick though is to get in my seven miles AND the cross training. That's what I'm going to try and build up to. I think I can do it.

So now that the race is in the past, I do think that I've been able to snap out of it and get back on the right track, which is a good thing because I need to learn from my mistakes and atone for them, and that's what I'm trying to do here and now.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wrapping Up Long Beach

I haven't yet completely closed the book on the Long Beach Marathon. Well, there's one more post that I need to get out of the way - this one. Just wanted to shake out my final thoughts on the race, the event, the course, etc.

- I enjoyed the course. I liked starting on Shoreline Dr and running on a portion of a freeway with traffic shut down. The beach path was enjoyable enough, although it did seem like it went on quite a bit longer than I remembered that stretch in 2010. Once we came on the marathon/half marathon split, the course was still enjoyable enough, and running through Long Beach State was definitely a highlight. The course was mostly flat - there were a few inclines but it was 95 percent flat.

- What I didn't enjoy was the start time. Both the races started at 7 a.m., and that only harms the full marathoners. The sun come out and blaze overhead, and with a lot of marathoners were still on the course at noon it made for tough conditions. What I disliked as well was the finish line atmosphere. It was practically non-existent. I came in at about 12:15 or 12:30, and most of the crowds had cleared and a lot of the stands had already been taken down. It's not that I enjoy crowds but there was little vibe after the race. But that's understandable, since most of the half marathoners had finished their race by 10 a.m. By contrast, only the fast marathoners would have finished by then. A better solution might be to start the full marathon anywhere from 60-90 minutes earlier. Marathoners would probably be better with an earlier start time, accustomed to it anyway, and that way the finish would be much more festive for more runners.

- I was not thrilled with some of the aid stations. The volunteers were helpful enough but the water itself was... sigh. It tasted like tap water. As the sun was hot overhead, tap water was not exactly all that soothing.

- There were quite a few helpful residents/spectators handing out some really great stuff. My favorite - someone had a bowl of cooked potatoes with salt on them. This was at around Mile 25 and, man, did it hit the spot. I actually had passed it by, having tried to grab some but missed, and didn't want to stop, but the guy holding them ran in front of me and I was able to get some anyway. That was pretty awesome.

- Aside from their drinks and food and stuff, the spectators were superb down the stretch and really encouraging. One guy in particular stood out. I'd remembered seeing him early on in the race as he was running shirtless and was covered in tattoos. Combined with a thick beard he stood out. He'd had his shirt on, as well as a medal, and was walking down the middle of the street, probably about a half-mile from the finish. I don't know, just hearing him encourage me and tell me that the worst was over, it just really comforted me and helped give me the boost I needed.

- One funny thing, as Danny had joined me at Mile 20, we did look like an odd couple. Danny was fresh of course and I was a broken-down runner. So when people congratulated us or tried to give us high gives, I welcomed them while he was a bit sheepish. One lady in particular was funny. It was around Mile 22 and she was encouraging runners. She pointed to him and said 'You're looking good!' Um... yeah, it's because he'd only run two miles to my 22.

- Pictures! I have some pictures to share. Dang, so I guess that means I'm not quite done with Long Beach. Ugh. Oh well. I'll put them up later this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Focused Response

It's not about what happened Sunday.

As poorly as I ran the Long Beach Marathon and as tough it was on me mentally and physically, it's not about that anymore. What matters, what is most important now, is how I respond.

I had the worst experience I've had in any race I've run on Sunday. I was done, gassed, toast, out of energy, wiped out before I got to Mile 15. I somehow trudged forward and made it to Mile 20 and then, with the help of my brother Danny, plugged along until the finish.

While there are some positives to take away from that, what matters more is my approach now and in the days and weeks to come.

I cannot linger on Sunday. I cannot continue to think about all the mistakes I made, both in training and on race day itself. I can't. I'm better than that. I have to move my gaze forward, have to look ahead and not back, and if I look back it's only to prod myself to look forward and focus on what's to come.

I'm not done running marathons, not by a long shot. I'm going to keep running 26.2-milers; how frequently, I don't know, but I'm going to be back out there conquering the distance again. And if I want to do it the right way, I have to respond the right way, and train the right way.

The details are, for the purposes of this post, insignificant. I've thought about how to approach my runs, my exercises and workouts and my overall training regimen, but those details are for another blog post on another day.

Honestly, what I need more than a training plan is focus and a strong determined mindset. The best training plan will fail if the approach is not proper. That goes for professional teams, and it goes for marathoners such as myself.

I've done it before, many times before. I know what it takes to get things done. And I also know what happens when I take half-hearted approaches. I now know what happens too when poor training is mixed with a poor race plan, and I don't want to experience that again.

I need a little bit of the 2008 LB. I was determined, focused, motivated. It's not that I'm not those things anymore, but my outlook on things is different. In some ways, it's natural that it's that way. After all, in 2008 I'd never run anything, at least going into that year. But in 2008 I ran my first 5K, my first Mud Run and my first 10K. Everything was new to me and I had to forge a new outlook on things. That sense of accomplishing things for the first time was what drove me then, and now that I've run marathons and half marathons, have run countless runs of 10-plus miles, that outlook no longer exists.

It's cliche and everything, but it really is harder to stay on top than it is to get there. I'm not on top necessarily, but it is harder to stay at this level I'm at, of running marathons and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is much more difficult to keep than it was to attain. That has to change. I cannot be satisfied with anything anymore. I have to keep pushing, keep fighting, keep proving myself.

The first obstacle was this post-marathon recovery period. Physically, it was no different than other marathons but mentally it was unique. I felt utterly disappointed with myself, and that's not something I've felt before. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, felt like I let a lot of people down. But what I realize now is that the only way to atone for myself, to make things right, is by my response.

I'm ready for the challenge. Today is the first day in a long time where I feel energetic about my approach to my training. I'm regaining some of those empowering feelings I felt throughout my weight-loss journey and along the path towards my first marathon. It took a horrendous marathon experience to snap me out of it but I do feel much more stronger now than I did just one week ago.

I'm refreshed. I'm refocused and recharged. I'm ready for the challenge.

Nothing is going to stop me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Long Beach Marathon: A Most Trying 26.2

With achy feet and pained steps, I trudged along. The course demanded as such. I was more than 19 miles into the Long Beach Marathon, and for the last four-plus miles I'd suffered. Fatigue had long set in, and my body was delving deeper into the depths of exhaustion. I yearned for one thing, and when I saw a familiar face approaching me as I slogged forward, I demanded it.

"I need to lie down," I told my brother Danny, who'd agreed to run the last six miles with me. One way or another, I was going to onto the ground. Instead of fate choosing when I'd hit the ground, I opted for this method.

Danny grabbed my hand, helped ease my stiff body onto a slope of grass. As if it were a hammock on a beach, I lay down, closed my eyes, breathed audibly and wondered how I'd gotten to this point.

Much earlier that morning, I had my first ominous sign, although I didn't quite see it that way. I woke up in an unfamiliar room - Danny's living room - saw that it was still dark outside and checked the time. It was 5:40 a.m., a full 40 minutes after I'd intended to wake up. My alarm had failed me, but I was not worried. Close to the start line, I simply got up, got dressed and headed out towards Long Beach.

After parking and finding my way to the start area, I found my friend Kuuipo. We'd trained for this day together, had run 22 and 21 miles together and figured it would be fitting to at least start the race together.

Soon after 7 a.m., we took off. We started fast. I knew better, had warned myself not to, but we got caught up in the excitement of the day. And we were feeling quite strong. Our bodies had responded well in the early going. Our first four miles were each under nine minutes and I was surprised. My legs churned and responded while my body felt no worse for the wear.

We completed our first six miles in under an hour and shaved off some time from the LA Marathon, when Kuuipo and two other running friends had set out on our journey together in March. Kuuipo had wanted to PR and I was game.

The course had taken us out on a wide road, back up on a freeway, around some smaller side streets and out onto a paved beach path. Waves splashed quietly yet forcefully onto an empty beach and a pungent fish odor permeated our path.

Back on city streets at Mile 10, the course quickly split off. The half marathoners had gone in towards the finish line while the full marathoners were only started their path to glory. Around Mile 12, I started feeling something. I was not wearing a Garmin so I was not aware of our pace, but I didn't need a watch to tell me that I was getting tired. I tried to shake it off but my pace was slowing. I was starting to fade.

Worried, I hoped that more water or Gatorade would help, but any nutrients I put in my body were not able to combat that feeling.

Some of the pacers began to fly by. First, the 4:00 pacer, then the 4:15 pacer a little after. I was indeed fading but we were not quite yet at Mile 14 and I was confident that once I got to 20 and once I got to run with Danny that my mind would forget about the pain, mostly, and I'd be able to finish strong. Tiredness led to more tiredness, sore and fatigued muscles taking their toll on me. Soon, Kuuipo was far up ahead and was stopping in order to wait for me. After one corner, she continued and I stopped. I needed a break while she trudged along on her own.

I was at Mile 15 of a marathon, typically a point where I'm still feeling strong, still feeling energy, and yet I was out of gas. Sunny skies overhead and little breeze only added to my quandary but I was done.

I texted my brother, and told him I was fading. I sent the same message to Mrs. LB. Right away, the phone rang. I'd just started listening to music but a conversation was much more preferable. Mrs. LB talked me off the ledge. But my body was only getting worse, the sun overhead only growing more ominous. I walked more than I ran, had to, my body demanded it.

My head was light. I felt woozy. The thought of laying down was at first comforting, then a bit more than that. My body demanded that too, so when I finally met up with Danny, I succumbed.

After a couple of minutes of glorious rest, Danny helped me to my feet. I took a few deep breaths, and then we were off. I half-expected to fall face first onto the asphalt, but surprisingly I felt strong. Maybe not 100 percent but enough to move along the course at a decent rate of speed. More importantly, though, my body was okay with running long stretches of time. In the blink of an eye, we'd reached the Mile 21 marker. We walked a minute and then got right back at it. Between Mile 20 and 21 was the longest stretch I'd run since Mile 13. I took that as a good sign.

After Mile 22, we walked again, but I skipped the walk break at Mile 23. Once we got to Mile 24, my body started to protest once more. I took another break at Mile 25 and then tried to dig deep and find some juice for the last mile. Instead, I pulled out a potentially damaging feeling. My left calf sent a few shots of pain through my leg, and did so loud enough that I had to stop. I let the pain subside and ran again, but again had to stop. This time I stretched it out, at Danny's behest, and then got back on the course. The calf felt much better, but my mind was starting to ache. Mile 26 had to be somewhere up ahead. We'd been on this street far too long and had not been rewarded quite yet with the final mile marker.

With my body breaking down, my mind throbbing, my confidence and self-esteem strewn across Miles 15-20, I was finally rewarded with the final mile marker. Danny ran up ahead to snap some pictures of me as I trudged along the final steps of this marathon-turned-death-march.

I was not in the mood to celebrate, not in the mood to share this experience with anyone but I extended my arms to the side as I approached the finish line nevertheless. Whether it was an enjoyable experience or not, I'd done it. I'd run my eighth marathon. It had taken me 5 hours 10 minutes 34 seconds to do so, but it was done and I had a medal around my neck to prove it.

And one day, I thought, that medal might mean something to me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Long Beach Survival

Well, I survived. That's the best thing to come out of Sunday's Long Beach Marathon. That, and the medal.

I was hoping to run a strong race, to feel good at the end and to enjoy the day. Instead, I made quite a few mistakes and paid the price.

My finish time: 5:10:34. It's easily the slowest of my marathons. Everything seemed to fall apart after the halfway mark. I ran much too fast in the early going, as I was at the halfway point in 2:02:19. Simple math tells you that it took me more than three hours to finish the second half.

I'm not quite ready to re-visit the whole race so I'm not quite ready to write the race recap, but I will give some of the lowlights highlights of the race:

- I suffered. The biggest problem wasn't necessarily physically... well, muscular I guess you could say. It wasn't that I wasn't pushing myself or that I wasn't running hard because it was too hard. My head felt off. I felt woozy, lightheaded. And I felt that way around Mile 15. I just felt off.

- Like I said, I started too fast. I was on pace for a 4:04 finish, and even by allowing for some slowdown in the second half, I was on pace to threaten my PR. Given that I was under-trained for the race, that was a mistake. I should have gone out conservatively but I met up with a friend before the race and we went with it, ran hard and fast and were pretty happy with ourselves early on. It wasn't meant to be.

- Between Miles 15-20, I walked a lot. Felt like I had to or else my head would get worse. I also talked to Mrs. LB and my brother Danny, who was at Mile 20 set to pace me the last six miles.

- Once I saw Danny, right before the Mile 20 marker, I laid down. Had to. He was ready to run but the first thing I said to him was "I need to lay down." He helped me down onto a patch of grass and I laid there for about two minutes. It was such a relief to do that and when I got up I felt... better isn't the right word... not as bad. I don't know how I was able to do it but I ran most of the rest of the way. I suppose "running" doesn't properly describe it but I was moving forward at a slow rate of speed. I guess I was making up some ground since Danny said that, around Mile 24 or 25, that I was catching up some of the people who he'd seen go by when he was waiting for me. I walked between 20 and the finish of course, but I did so at Mile 21, 22, 24, 25 and 25.5 (when my calf started to protest). Not bad considering I couldn't get through one mile between 15-20 without walking multiple times.

- I felt bad afterward, not the normal I-just-ran-a-marathon-so-my-body-feels-bad bad but a wow-I'm-kinda-embarrassed-with-myself bad. It's taken some time to shake it off, well, haven't shaken it off yet, but I'm going to use this as a learning experience. I have to take pride in the medal, have to take pride in how I did the last six miles, and have to take pride in the fact that I know I will be out there again, conquering the 26.2. That's the great thing about running, there is always a chance for redemption. Always. Maybe I won't redeem myself at Long Beach (part of the problem with this whole race was training for it in the summer heat) but I will redeem myself at the distance. I know that. I guarantee that. This experience ruined the day for me but it won't ruin more days (well, maybe Monday and Tuesday of this week but hopefully not much more beyond that). I can and will learn from this and will come back a stronger person because of it.

- Props to my brother Danny. I can tell you with near certainty that I would not have made it without him. I convinced him to pace me down the stretch, partly because I thought I'd need it (didn't think I'd need it as bad as I did) and partly because I wanted him to experience the final of a marathon. He's the athlete of the family but not a runner. I think it would be fun for him to run a marathon one day. He's busy swimming these days, he took classes and now swims like a fish apparently, so perhaps he'll tackle a triathlon. I'd definitely go out and support him during a triathlon, whether it's to act as his support crew or just to cheer him on. I think that would be exciting.

- I guess the one thing that will stand out for me is that I persevered. I made a lot of mistakes before the race and during the race itself but I made it to the finish. I was cautious when I needed to be, focused on my well-being instead of my time and finished not strong but in better shape than when I was halfway in.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Long Beach Marathon Edition

I have a marathon on Sunday so why not dedicate an entire Three Things Thursday post to it?

1. Race Build-up: Well, it's almost here. And yes, it does feel like I'm running a marathon the weekend. I know eight isn't a ton of marathons but still this isn't my first pony ride, so you'd think by now I'd have developed some things that worked to keep me from feeling anxious or nervous about a marathon. Alas, I'm quite anxious now just a few days away. It's funny though because I know that I'm going to finish the marathon. I know that like I know the sun is coming up tomorrow morning. And yet, I've still got these feelings. Oh well. Physically I feel fine. My foot is still bothering me here and there but not enough to prevent me from running the race or even changing much up. It's mostly a post-run issue. I've unfortunately not been able to run long since my 20-miler so I am kind of worried that will have a negative effect on the race but again not enough to keep me from finishing the race. I know I'm going to finish. There's no way I'm not.

2. Race Strategy: So how will I finish this race? In one piece, hopefully. I want to finish strong. I'll have my brother Danny pacing me down the stretch so that will help, but I will still have to run the miles. Can't get around that. My plan though is for him to keep a 10-minute mile, hopefully a little faster, and for me to just follow along. I want to get into position to run at that pace over the last six miles so taking care of myself the first 20 miles will be important. I don't want to burn out physically or emotionally by, say, Mile 15. I just have to be smart the first few miles, get into a groove and stay there, fend off any mental demons and get to 20 in one piece. If I do that, I'll be fine.

3. Race Goals: My first and foremost goal is to finish. If I'm not going to enjoy my accomplishment then why bother going? I don't want to spend all this time and effort into something and then not enjoy it by setting up and then failing to meet a goal time that may have been too ambitious or unrealistic? I won't, refuse to. Still, there needs to be some sort of time goal I think, to keep me honest. I want to finish in under 4:30. If I do that I'll be happy. I don't think I can PR (4:23:12 is my current PR) but I do think I can run it in under 4:30 - the course is super flat and no issues with the weather either (at least I hope not). If I can get under 4:30 I'll be happy. If I don't, well guess what - I'll add another medal to my medal rack, and that is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brotherly Help

I've had quite a bit of memorable experiences throughout my marathons. I would list some of the highlights but this post would be eaten by them, so I will leave it at that.

However, there will be a new experience this Sunday, when I run my eighth marathon. My brother Danny will run the last 6.2 miles with me when I conquer the Long Beach Marathon. I asked him a while ago to pace me down the stretch, not really expecting him to agree but knowing how competitive he is, figured it was worth asking.

And he agreed.

If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you might remember Danny from our little race a few years back. Danny, you see, is the more athletic of the two of us. I will readily admit that. But he is not into running the way I am. He's run some 10Ks and was the one who helped spark my interest in running and helped get me into running in the first place. After I'd dropped my weight, he suggested we run the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in Oct 2008 and the rest is history.

Anyway, he doesn't live too far from Long Beach (I'm staying at his house on Saturday night) and will get down to the 20-mile mark on Sunday morning and we'll run the rest of the race together.

I think this will be fun. Typically, I've struggled to keep it together mentally from about Mile 22ish to Mile 25, maybe not all those miles and maybe not in all races but certainly there have been moments in most of my marathons where I've either questioned my sanity, questioned my ability to finish, cursed myself for wanting to run marathons, regretted my decision to run the race or had some other disparaging thought cross my mind, and that has all come in the 22ish-25 mile range. Once I hit the Mile 25 marker, usually I'm good to go because the finish line is right before me.

So this is where Danny can come in and play the hero. I'm hoping that by having him along for the ride, my mind will be taken off my rapidly-deteriorating body and onto other things. Danny, if you don't know, has traveled all across the world, has visited every continent save for Antarctica... hell, he's been to the Galapagos Islands for cryin' out loud, so I'm hoping to hear some of the travel stories I've not heard, or possibly finally hear from him how much he admires me and how jealous he is that I am the stud of the family and he's second fiddle - I drink his milkshake (bonus points if you get this reference, dear reader).

So in some ways on Sunday I'm looking at it as a 20-mile warm-up run before a 10K with my brother. And things could be much worse, right?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ambassador Once More

I never thought it was in the bag. Having been part of the San Francisco Marathon's Ambassador team for the 2012 event, I did not feel as if I was going to be picked once more based solely on the basis of that.

So when Monday came and with it the pending announcement that the 2012-13 Ambassador team, I was nervous.

Maybe I hadn't done enough as an Ambassador to merit selection. Maybe there were many more worthy candidates. Perhaps I wasn't Ambassador material this time around. Or maybe they just wanted fresh blood.

Nerves turned into doubt, and eventually I got the email I'd been waiting for.

All those doubts were for nothing. I was indeed chosen to represent the San Francisco Marathon once more.


Here's the official announcement. You'll see my name among the masses. There were 40 Ambassadors selected - 40! - as there were apparently quite a few applicants who were fighting to be involved in the program. I honestly feel humbled and quite proud that my application and my accomplishments stood out from the crowd.

I'm quite looking forward for the event. Yes, it's a ways away but it's not as far away as it could have been. Next year's race will be on June 16, which means my last long run will be on Memorial Day weekend. As of now, I plan on the San Francisco Marathon being my fourth marathon of 2013 which would make it my 12th marathon overall. Wow, how exciting is that??

Anyway, before I get ahead of myself, wanted to let this moment soak in. Gonna revel in this excitement for a little bit before the reality of Sunday hits me. This weekend I will run marathon no. 8, the Long Beach Marathon.

And the best part of that is that I will do so as an official San Francisco Marathon Ambassador.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

TTT: Foot Foul, 10s, Not Quite Fall

1. Foot Problem: So a week ago, I refereed a soccer game. I wore a new pair of shoes... well, new to me, they were a pair of hand-me-downs. Anyway, I'd worn them before with no problems. But after refereeing that match, I woke up the next day with quite a bit of discomfort, right on my arch. Bummer. I ran Sunday for six miles and my foot bothered me the rest of the day. Took some advice and rested, and finally today - Thursday - made it out for four miles. It was a tremendous four miles. I haven't felt this good after a run in a long time. This is the feeling that gets me back out for more runs - a feeling of pride and accomplishment coupled with the relaxation my muscles and whole body feels from having exerted some energy. I'm looking forward to a 5-6 miler on Friday, a shorter run Saturday and then my last long run before Long Beach. And hopefully my foot won't complain any more.

2. Pacing Group: The 10s have been kind to me this season. Sunday I had my largest group of the season and we crushed our six-mile run. However, more than half the group vanished on me. Crazy how that happens. Some were running longer and left us halfway through, others were feeling it and cruised in ahead of us and still others just disappeared. But the group is progressing along. I think the ones who are around now - and that's nearly everyone who was there on Day One - will at least make it to 10 miles, and once we hit 10 miles I'm confident that we will stick together for the duration. Well, at least until the half marathon in December. I have from now 'til then to sell everyone on running the LA Marathon.

3. Is It Really Fall? Ah, late September. Leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter, time to get out the jackets and jeans... wait... maybe that's what it's like where you are but certainly not here in my neck of SoCal. Thursday's forecast calls for a high of 90 degrees. Friday it's supposed to be 94, with the weekend coming in at 97 and 101, and another 101 on Monday for good measure. At least it's not burning by 8 a.m. anymore. It's still rather comfortable at that time, but by the middle of the day it's unbearable. Fall weather? Maybe by November...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five For Friday

Some random thoughts for a Friday morning...

Last Long Run: I'm running 20 miles on Sunday. It will be the second time in three weeks that I've run the distance (well actually a couple of weeks ago I ran 22 but I'm hoping it's just 20 this time). This will be the last long run before the Long Beach Marathon. I'm excited for Long Beach but mostly I'm just excited that I will be done with the bulk of my training for this. I look forward to getting back into the normal swing of things and just focusing on my Lopers pace leader duties.

Long Beach Goals: I honestly have not thought a whole lot about what I want to accomplish at Long Beach. Part of me thinks that there's no way I can PR so perhaps that's why I've kind of not thought about it. I do feel though that I can and will have some sort of reasonable goal and that I can and will be able to shoot for it. For San Francisco I did not have a specific goal, but rather a goal of simply finishing. But for that race I just did not have the best training for it. Improved training has given me some confidence so I hope to make a reasonable goal.

Pace Group Duties: So far so good with my pace group. I'm sad that I won't be there this weekend for our first five-miler - I've got my 20 to keep me occupied - but it's been a good experience so far. I am a bit troubled though that our group is small. It just seems smaller than before, but the good thing is that there are a lot of first-timers. I do hope they stick around because that's what gives me the most satisfaction, seeing a first-timer tackle this challenge head on and become a marathoner.

Heat: It's so hot here in Southern California! It's supposed to be 106 on Saturday. Unreal. Next week is supposed to be in the high 90s. There's literally no relief in sight. It's fine if it's the summer but now makes it a bit tougher because I can't take the girls to a pool or the beach or something; they're in school, suffering. And then after school we have a lot going on but I may have to figure out a pool trip one day. Cool weather is a distant memory... not that I'm exactly begging for 40-degree temperatures but I'd like for the weather to go down to the 80s and stay there for a bit.

Picture Day: It's picture day at school today. Oh no! That means that I have to make the girls' hair all pretty. Ah the pressure. I haven't made it yet so I'm not sure what will happen but I just hope I don't sentence them to a life of doom. I hope their 2nd and 4th grade pictures come out great. I can do hair but it's just doing it a bit fancy or whatever that kind of challenges me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Only Way To Get Me Through

I have a 20-mile run on Sunday. Pretty soon, I will have a 26.2-mile run. Not exactly easy stuff to get through, but I can get through it. Physically, I feel great and I know that I will be up for those runs when the time comes to run them. But that's not the biggest challenge. Preparing for and running long distances is as much, if not more of, a mental battle than anything else. Many runs and races have been spoiled by a bad mindset.

I'm not exactly sure if I have this mental battle figured out or not but whatever I've got going on upstairs has worked for me. And I'm hoping it continues to work for me.

How do I get mentally prepared for these runs? Simple. I look at it this way: I have two really, really hard runs left this year. One of them is Sunday and the other is Oct. 7. Surely I can give myself all I have to get through these runs. I figure I have anywhere from 70-100 runs left in 2012 - certainly I can handle two of them falling in the "really, really hard" category.

In the grand scheme of things, these runs won't kill me. These runs may push me to the brink but since I don't do them that often, it's okay.

Another way to... well I won't say easily but definitely another way for me to effectively get into the right frame of mind is to keep my goals in front of me. I'm running 20 and then a full marathon within three weeks of each other. I feel like I have to earn the right to call myself a marathoner, a long-distance runner.

Two tough runs left this year? I can handle that. Two runs that will help continue to help me define myself? Sure thing.

Now that I've got my right frame-of-mind in place, I just have to get to Sunday morning. That's a chore in and of itself. Not saying this mindset is fool-proof - I probably won't sleep too much on Saturday night - it will ensure that once I set off on my 20-miler I will be in the right frame of mind, ready to give it all I've got, ready to push myself.

It's not often I'm called to do that after all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TTT: 20, 20 and 37

Hey now, I've gotten two posts in this week, how about a third?

Well, here goes...

Twenty, Part One

So I'm running 20 miles on Saturday. Fun times. I'm not entirely excited about running 20 miles. I think what I'm most excited about is the chance of having a whole day's worth of doing nothing afterward. I will probably need/want to get a nap in afterward and I will have the chance to do so. Why am I running 20 miles? Well, I'm running the Long Beach Marathon on Oct. 7, so there's that. Plus I need to get more miles in period so this will help kickstart my legs into what will be a busy fall and winter for me. I think I'll do fine. Last time I ran 20 was to prepare for the San Francisco Marathon, and I was more undertrained then and I think I did okay. So wait... this is labeled as Part One.... that means there's a Part Two?

Twenty, Part Two

Indeed. This won't be my last 20-mile run of the month. I will have my last long run on Sept. 16, another 20-miler. Super fun! I know you are jealous.

Far Away But Not Really

It seems like 37 days is a ways away. Yet it also seems like it's right around the corner. Long Beach is 37 days away. I honestly can't believe I'm going to run yet another marathon in such a short amount of time. I know, some people run marathons with a lot less time in between, but this is a bit of unchrated territory for me. I've run marathons in faster succession before but this will be my fourth marathon of the year. I had four all-time through 2011, so that's something new. Plus this will be my first fall marathon. I've run winter (Surf City 2x), spring (LA, Diamond Valley Lake, OC) and summer (San Francisco 2x) but never fall. I don't know what it will all be like but so far it's been a bit tough because of the heat. I'm not gunning for a time so I will just want to survive. I'm fairly certain I can do that. Amyway, number eight will be just for the medal. I've got big plans for 2013, at least from Feb-June, so I just want to get my medal and hang it up on the wall this time around. Then I can relax a bit before diving right back into it, hopefully with a bit more mental energy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amassador Again?

Did I enjoy my time as San Francisco Marathon Ambassador?


Is it something I hope to do again?

I actually debated this for a bit. The applications for the 2013 San Francisco Ambassadors are up, and I initially wasn't sure if I'd apply. Part of the problem... if you can call it that... is that I wasn't sure if I'd want to run the race in 2013.

See, the race is usually in late July and my running has suffered terribly the last two Julys. In July 2011, I ran something like 40 miles the entire month. This year was not quite as bad but I was having a hard time finding time for runs. Also, the heat just wore me down. July was brutally hot.

I'd initially decided that I was going to run 4-5 marathons in 2013 - run one in February, March and two in May, and if I felt good gun for another one in June. Then I could take the summer off and not stress about missed runs. Sounds like a good plan, right?

Then, the San Francisco Marathon announced that next year's race would be moved up to June 16. This pretty much changed everything. This race could be my kickoff to summer. I'd have to run my last long run on Memorial Day Weekend and then the following weekend is the Fontana Days Half Marathon, which I could easily run. One 10-12 mile run the following Sunday and then - BAM! - the San Francisco Marathon is right there! In mid-June instead of early July!!

So how did this play into my decision? Well, I submitted my San Francisco Marathon Application. Fingers crossed.

I know that I am not guaranteed of being re-accepted. I know sometimes in situations like these that the company wants some new blood, some fresh participants and of course that's perhaps smart - keeps new ideas rolling along.

But I tossed my hat into the ring anyway. Not sure what my chances are of being selected once more, but I'm hopeful. I felt honored to be an Ambassador and really connected well with my fellow Ambassadors. I really did feel like I contributed to the cause. I helped two close running buddies choose to run the San Francisco Marathon and another I helped persuade to run the half marathon. And I tweeted about it as much as I could have done.

I'm hopeful of this leading to something but even if it doesn't, that's fine. I had my time in the sun, and if it means someone else deserving gets to participate and spread the love of the San Francisco Marathon, so be it.

Either way, I will always consider myself a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It Begins Anew

The Loper season is finally upon us.

On Sunday, I had my first run with my new pace group. I ran a whopping two miles with the group. Next Sunday, we run three.

I know these distances don't seem much to me but they are important nevertheless. And for some of these runners, all they are used to is runs like that, runs that seem short to me but that are standard for them. I used to think 2-3 milers were solid runs, not long runs but distances that were challenging. Those distances now are not as much of a challenge as they once were for me, but for some of these runners they are.

That's just a snippet of what I am faced with as a pace leader. I am there for the newbie and I want to share whatever information I've collected, be it through personal experience or advice from a fellow runner, and share it with the newcomers. I know how difficult it all seemed to me when I first started with Lopers and I want to help others see that it's not all that daunting. It's challenging, yes, but long distance running and marathon training shouldn't be intimidating.

There were about 15 runners in the group. A year ago, we had a bigger group but I actually like this number. I hope the runners continue to come out and continue to stick with it. I will try to keep every runner who came out on Sunday with the group, and if they don't stay with the 10s, fine but as long as they are coming out to Lopers on Sundays I will be happy.

I would love nothing more than to pace these newcomers across the finish line at the LA Marathon in 2013. That's my goal, and even though the newbies don't know it yet that's what I hope to accomplish with each and every one of them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Still Alive

Loyal reader,

I've not been here very much lately. My life's been busy and my running is only now starting to get back on track. I apologize for the absence and hope to be back with regular posts here soon enough.

I will say that this last week has been a good week of runs. I had a solid six-miler on Monday, had three miles of speedwork on Tuesday, ran nearly six miles up and down Mt. Rubidoux on Wednesday and rested (gasp!) on Thursday before a light three-mile run Friday. Saturday I will run 15 miles and then Sunday is the first day with my new Lopers group.

So yeah, I'm getting back into the groove and with that I hope it means more blog posts. Expect a steady stream of them in the near future.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a cool new song that I found from a group that I only recently came across. It's a catchy tune. I haven't run to them yet but I can only imagine it being a good run with this streaming in my headphones.

What You Know by Two Door Cinema Club

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What's Next?

San Francisco is over.

Wow. I can't believe that I just wrote that, and that it actually is.

The San Francisco Marathon is now behind me. I trained for it, I traveled for it, I ran it, I enjoyed it, and now... well, now what?

It actually brings up a song that I adore. The first line of it anyway is appropriate

Arcade Fire - Half Light II

I'm not quite there with the rest of the first part of it but I will sing the first half-sentence over and over, because it's true.

Now that San Francisco's gone,
I guess I'll just pack it in.
Wanna wash away my sins,
In the presence of my friends

So yeah, I can't just "pack it in" right now. In fact, quite the contrary.

Here's why:

Marathon No. 8: If I thought seven marathons was great, I wonder what I'll think on Oct. 7. I'm registered for the Long Beach Marathon and on that day will indeed run 26.2 miles once more. It will be my fourth (and final) marathon of 2012 and of course my eighth overall. I've run the Long Beach Half Marathon before and had a fantastic time, so I'm quite looking forward to running the full there. I'm also looking for a better training cycle, with speedwork and cross-training tossed in.

It's still a ways away but I have been already sort of anxious about it. I wonder how mentally prepared I'll be, mostly for the training, and in what condition I'll be at when the race finally arrives. But time is on my side and how I handle the time between then and now will make all the difference.

School's Back: Wednesday is the first day of school. This is great. I will miss having my daughters around and will miss the lazy care-free mornings but I'm a bit of a slave to my routines. I got into the rhythm of taking my girls to school and then going on a run. That seemed to be the norm for most of the first part of 2012. I'm looking forward to having the time to run 6-8 miles or more. All of me needs those kinds of runs - my mind, my body, my legs, my psyche, everything. I swear there is no better feeling than cranking out an eight-mile run on a Thursday after having run that much or more on Wednesday and Tuesday. That's when I feel like I'm putting in some serious work and that's what I need to get back to. I can't recall the last midweek long-ish run I went on... well, I ran 18 miles on Wednesday June 12 but that was a unique situation. Aside from that, not a whole lot of opportunity to run eight miles in the middle of the week.

Lopers Starts Soon: My second year as a pace leader will begin soon enough, on Aug. 19 to be precise. Thats' when the Loma Linda Lopers begin the next clinic. I will get my group on Aug. 26 and will pace the group to a whopping two miles on that day. But I will need to be in top-top shape by then. Having just run a marathon I'm not that far off but I need those miles in the middle of the week to feel better physically and emotionally for the Sunday runs. I need to prove myself once more in order to better lead the group. I can't be sporadically slogging through runs and expect to be an effective pace leader. Not going to work.

So yeah, San Francisco's gone but that hardly means any down time for me. In fact, it just means it's time to start cranking up the work. But I'm rather looking forward to that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

San Francisco Marathon: Seven Is The Number Of The Day

Amidst all the glitz and glamour that acme with being a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, there was still a race to be run.

Okay, there was scant few glitz and little glamour, but still, I'd been a part of the Ambassador program since late last year and with months of buildup and anticipation to this event, being there and meeting all of my fellow Ambassadors was quite surreal. But I couldn't let that get to me. I still had 26.2 miles to run.

Not having had the kind of training I had wanted, the task of running the distance for the third time in 2012 and seventh time ever made it quite daunting. Still, I found myself feeling somewhat composed at the start line. I had little doubts that I would finish after all, it was mostly the worry of in what condition I'd be at the finish that was bothersome to me.

I walked to the 5th wave along with fellow Ambassador Daniela, who was running the 1st Half Marathon.

We enjoyed a few pre-race moments together before we parted ways shortly after the start of the race. Once on the course, I smiled. I was excited. The race was finally here.

Running on The Embarcadero, I quickly settled into a rhythm. What helped was my decision early in the morning to ditch my Garmin. I decided at the last minute to leave the Garmin at the hotel room and opted to run the marathon without any sort of idea of my time or pace or anything. Without the pressure of having to meet a time, I was able to concentrate on feeling strong and running at a comfortable and steady pace.

My attention was on the course as well. I ran past Boudin and again smelled the intoxicating smell of sourdough bread. I was anxious once more for the Golden Gate Bridge and once more it did not disappoint. The fog was thick though so I did not have a great view of the City but that did not matter. I was in complete awe of the Bridge and even took my hat off while I was under each tower, gazing up at the enormity of the structure.

I went around the Bridge parking lot and quickly went back on my way. As I set off on the journey across the Bridge, a runner came from behind, passed me and then shot a look back at me. "I love your blog!" he said and I smiled back at him. That was just one of many energy boosts I received throughout the race. I soaked in the tower every time I went underneath one. The Bridge was great but it was also a bit congested but before too long I was back on firm ground.

And quickly into an uphill. This quickly became a theme. More uphills, more climbs, more inclines. That did not change when I was in Golden Gate Park, meandering through the part that threatened to defeat me mentally in 2010.

The path snaked its way through the park and I followed along. One new thing from 2010 was running alongside runners from the 2nd Half Marathon. Unlike two years ago, this time was more pronounced. I passed by the start of the 2nd Half, with a stable full of runners waiting for the start.

Before too long, I was out of the park onto Haight, which was a really long uphill. By this time I was nearing Mile 20 and I was feeling strong. But my strength was fading. What sapped my energy - the downhills. With my leg muscles already shot, they had to work extremely difficult to keep me from falling down those hills. I had no choice though but to try and slow myself down. I did, but it was at the expense of my leg strength.

Still, I plodded forward. I grew with excitement every time I approached a mile marker. Mile 23 was exciting, Mile 24 even more so, Mile 25 was superb. I was running around AT&T Park at this point, making audible grunts when I had to go up or down curbs and sidewalks or when I hit a rough patch of pavement.

Throughout this stretch, I was overcome with emotion. The severity of it all hit me like a baseball bat across the head. I was running my seventh marathon. Seven! This was for real. Five was great and six was great but seven... that's some serious stuff. And it was me doing it - me! I'd never intended to run anything, let alone a marathon, and yet here I was on the verge of running my seventh marathon. Unbelievable.

I scanned ahead for my family and finally saw them. My girls bundled up in their jackets, jumping up and down, Mrs. LB snapping some pictures and then shouting encouragement at me. I felt grand.

As I got closer though I was once again overcome with emotion and as I passed them I struggled to keep it together.

But I tried.

I approached the finish line and figured, why not, and held my arms out like I'd done at this very same spot two years ago.

I had done it. I'd finished the San Francisco Marathon again. And I was now a seven-time marathoner. Seven!

It really happened! And I made it happen!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

San Francisco is done!

What a day! I will have more to share later but for now just wanted to say that I did it and finished the San Francisco Marathon! My time was not the greatest - a 4:46, my slowest time to date - but I thoroughly enjoyed the race.

I love this event and hopefully will get to run it again next year!

Thanks as always for your support!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

San Francisco Calling

Well, it's here. Almost here I should say.

The San Francisco Marathon is here and on Sunday I will run it. This will be my seventh marathon and the second time I've revisited a marathon course. I've run Surf City twice as well as LA, OC and the Diamond Valley Lake marathons.

Yeah, I still can't believe it either.

It seems my journey has been a bit of a whirlwind and has been rather unpredictable even for myself. I mean, I can't say that I thought I would have run one marathon let alone seven. And I'm not exactly going to stop at seven. Long Beach will be eight and I'm hoping LA next March will be number 10.

Two years ago, I never could have imagined I'd be going back to San Francisco. While I enjoyed the 2010 event tremendously and was very proud of myself for having handled that and trained for it all on my own, the race was quite difficult. In fact, I may or may not have said to Mrs. LB after the race: "I liked it but I'm never going to run this race again."


Of course, that was probably a oxygen-lacking post-race haze-induced comment I muttered. I've been known for several similar quips.

Regardless of how I felt immediately afterward, the pain has long subsided and all the remains are the memories. And my what memories San Francisco produced - the hills, the beauty of the course, running on the Golden Gate Bridge, spending some tourist time at Fisherman's Wharf the day after the race... it was all pretty crazy and all very memorable.

This year, I'm heading back as an Ambassador. That's a bit crazy, honestly. Me, an ambassador. I don't even know still if I belonged in the program yet I will be heading up, looking forward to perform my ambassodorial duties whatever they may be and looking forward to meeting a bunch of amazing people I've been blessed to have crossed paths with.

At the heart of this all though is the race itself. No matter how unique and fantastic the Ambassador experience has been and no matter how many awesome people I've met through this program, nothing and nobody will help me run the course. I must run every step, conquer every hill, get past every mental challenge that will undoubtedly try and thwart me on the streets of San Francisco.

It's a challenge I'm willing to meet head on, but one that will take every last ounce of energy, every last drop of perspiration, every last bit of grit, determination, guts and drive that I have in my soul. I know it. I know this will be my hardest marathon, that's not even in question. I haven't had the training I wish I would have had and this course will not care. This course is relentless and unyielding, and I've got to traverse it somehow.

I fully intend on finishing. That's not a question in my mind whatsoever. I intend on crossing the finish line sometime late Sunday morning. I just am not sure in what sort of shape I will be when I do so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Not So Triumphant Return

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't posted anything. In a while. Ugh.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that when I'm passionate about something, when I'm confident and feeling good about something, I tend to be at my best. And that's true about writing. My best blog posts are when I've been passionate and confident and want to share.

The opposite is also true. When my heart's not into something, it's tough for me to hide that - particularly in my writing. Now, I'm not saying that my heart hasn't been into running in the last seven weeks or so but I certainly do not feel confident about my summer. I've hardly run. I've not kept up anywhere near the frenetic pace I was at through May. Hence, the slowdown in posts.

I wanted to say sorry for that and for just abandoning you all and hope that you'll continue reading. I do want to pick up where I'd left off, particularly since the San Francisco Marathon is this week.

So, in terms of running, my summer has consisted basically of this:

2-3 days of running in the middle of the week
a long run on the weekend.

I've actually done well to get in my long runs. I ran 18 miles sometime in June and on July 8 ran 20 miles. It was actually a pretty good run - the latter - and gave me hope that San Francisco won't be a total failure. Yeah, I've been dreading my performance come Sunday. Part of me thinks that I will flame out and finish with my worst time but another part of me is confident that I'll at least beat my 2010 time. I think I've made that my goal, to finish the race with a 4:38:50 or better.

Anyway, I didn't really have much to add right now other than saying sorry for vanishing and also trying to explain my absence. I'll be back this week though, will try and post every day before the marathon so please keep an eye out for that.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fontana Half PR!

Fontana Days came and went and I got me a new PR.

I finished the half marathon on Saturday in 1:47:08, beating my time from last year by nearly 90 seconds. I'll have a full race recap on Monday.

It's early Sunday morning right now and I'm actually getting set to go on a run. No rest for the weary, I know.

I may have been able to enjoy the race more had I not had a full day of soccer afterward. I went straight home after the race -  as in I got my medal, got some fruit and water, chatted briefly with a fellow Loper and then hustled off to my car - showered, changed and went to the soccer fields. Then I coached a game and refereed two. I'm still worn out but such is life.

I actually feel okay. My quads are a little sore as you would expect. Fontana is an all-downhill course, hence my ridiculous time. I averaged an 8:11 pace, something I'd have a difficult time doing on a flat course. But I did run hard and felt strong and felt like I earned that race. It's not like they give you roller skates at the top of the hill, you still gotta run the damn race.

Just how I ran it and what was going through my mind, I'll let you know about shortly.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Giveaway Winners!!

Thank you for bearing with me. End of school, beginning of summer, long weekend...

Anyway, I randomly selected two winners of my first-ever blog giveaway and they are...

Winner number one: The Jesse.

Winner number two: MegKays.

The Jesse gets her choice of the two shirts and then the rest of the items from the giveaway - sweaty band, wristbands, etc. If you want the Peanut Butter GU too, it's yours. MegKays gets the other shirt and the other cool stuff.

Anyway, please email me ---- buenodad (at) gmail (dot) com --- and let me know where I can send those items out to you.

I had a good turnout for this and really wish I had more cool stuff to give away. Thank you all for participating, and thanks to the San Francisco Marathon for providing me these awesome things to give away.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giveaway Over

Greetings all. Wanted to put this up earlier but life got in the way. Anyway, my giveaway is over. Thank you to all who participated. I will select and announce the two winners here soon, hopefully by Thursday I will draw the winner. Thank you for your patience. There was some good participation and hopefully I was able to spread the word out about the San Francisco Marathon a bit more.

In the meantime, here's a song I've been jamming to of late. It's old but it's one of those rare finds, released on an EP, not on iTunes and thus hard to find. Heck, I didn't realize this song existed until not too long ago. Anyway, found it and love it. It's from my favorites, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three (okay maybe more) Things Thursday

Just a few quick hits for today...

- I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon! Okay, this was a little anticlimactic because I'm a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador after all so I was always going to be there, but still I had to register at some point and I finally got the green light to go ahead and do so. It's now officially official though - I will be running the full marathon once more, on July 29, and it will be my seventh marathon! I am absolutely excited about that.

- Here's my latest bit of writing for the San Francisco Marathon's Web site. I'm trying to write about motivation when I write for them so I chewed on this one for a bit. One question I get asked often is this: if a marathon is so difficult, so taxing and wipes me out, why do I keep running them? I got to thinking and came up with my latest post - The Ultimate Motivation.

- Also, please enter my giveaway if you have not done so already!

- I'm not sure what I put for the deadline but it's midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 :)

- I leave you with a song, one of the songs I'm really digging right now. I think it would go great in any playlist but that's just me. It's not that old although the group is no longer together.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

OC Marathon: More Fallout

More of my leftover thoughts on the OC Marathon. For the first part of this post, click here:

* Strong Organization: Of all the things that go into a race, the most important for me is the organization. Was the race well-organized? Did things run as efficiently and smoothly as they needed to have run? No matter how great the course is, if a race is poorly organized I will not want to run the race again. This race was supremely organized. Things ran as smooth as possible. There was one minor hiccup - the start was delayed by about 12 minutes - but that wasn't necessarily the race organizers' fault. The shuttles from the finish line to the start line ran just fine and all on time; the gear check was easy to find at the start (even though I didn't use it) and transported back to the finish in UPS trucks; mile markers were large and easy to spot; the course was well marked; water stations were plentiful on the course. I can't think of one area where the race was not well organized.

* OC Redux: I usually ask myself in these types of posts if I would run this race again. The simple answer here: yes. I want to run this race next year. I'm not sure if I'd run the full again or try for the half but one way or another I'm going to line up at Fashion Island on May 5, 2013.

* Musical Plan: When I ran LA, I did not listen to music for one second. That did not repeat itself in OC. I made two playlists - one was about three hours long and filled with some of my favorite running songs. The other one was about an hour and change and made up solely of Metallica songs (my top go-to group to run to). My plan was to hold off on music until I was at about Mile 12, the turnoff from where the half marathoners leave us and head for home. I got antsy though and threw on my headphones at Mile 11. At about Mile 20 or so, I switched from the first playlist to the second one. It worked great. The first playlist I just hit shuffle so it was a bit of a guessing game to see which song came on next. And when I needed to push through the last few miles, I had my A songs playing through my ears. The music could not have worked out better.

* What's Next: So what races are upcoming on my calendar? In June, I've got the Fontana Days half marathon, on June 2. I'm looking forward to this one. I'm calling my shot now, I will set a massive PR. I'm going to gun for a 1:45. So why the bravado? Am I suddenly fast? Well, no. This race is all downhill. Last year I was undertrained and I ran a 1:48. This year when I actually run it and am strong enough to run it, I know I can do better. So I'm going to set a massive PR that I won't actually count because this is a bit of a different course. But it will be fun to smash my old PR. After Fontana Days, I've got the big one - the San Francisco Marathon. I am already excited about this race of course, have been since I was accepted as an ambassador. This race I hope will be the highlight of my year. Those two races I will have on my mind as I run through the upcoming months.

Monday, May 14, 2012

OC Marathon: Breaking Down My Best Race, Part I

Aside from the race recap itself and the pictures post, I wasn't able to blog about the rest of my OC Marathon experience. And while we're more than a week removed from it, I still wanted to get my thoughts out on what I think has been the best performance I've ever had in a race.

(oh and by the way have you entered my giveaway?)

* My Race: I've often read other bloggers write about feeling strong at the end of marathons and sometimes I'll read them say "I could have kept on running." Well, I finally had my such marathon. At the end of the race, I had enough gas to have kept on going. I could have run another mile or two for sure. Now, this wasn't my PR. I've had two marathons with faster times, each around 4:23. So this was four minutes slower than those, but the way I felt after this was almost night and day with the way I felt after those. I was walking around okay after OC as opposed to needing help to walk back to my car after the other two. My muscles responded during and after the race this time around.

* Credit Where It's Due: I think this race went so well because I was conservative at the start. I wasn't as fast in the early miles as I was in LA, but what I really think helped me was the bathroom break. I think that two-minute break gave my muscles the chance to regroup. It was after four miles and I didn't want to stop but I knew I had to or face problems down the line. I think that helped me get an extended breather and helped give me more energy as the race went on. Of course, having run a lot of miles this year also helped but had I just plowed on through like at LA, where we pretty much were at our marathon pace at Mile 2, I think I would have suffered in the last stretch.

* Negative Splits: I achieved one of my goals, which was to have a bone fide negative split. I think it's nice to have done that in a marathon. I had a horrid split the other way at Surf City 2011. I was at the half in about 2:03 and finished at 4:23, so I ran the second half in 2:20. Not this time. Had I simply doubled my half time, my finish time would have been 4:29:24.

10K - 1:05:07 (10:29 pace)
7.5 - 1:18:35 (10:29)
13.1 - 2:14:43 (10:17)
20 - 3:24:39 (10:14)
26.2 - 4:27:54 (10:14)

Between 7.5 and the half, the pace had dropped significantly. I ran those 5.6 miles in 56:08.
Between the half and 20, my pace dropped. I ran those 6.9 miles in 1:09:56, a 10:08 pace.
My pace stayed the same after Mile 20. Of course I would have liked to have finished with a faster pace than the 20-mile pace but so many times I've just been hanging on at the end. This time I really did feel like I ran right through instead of slogging or shuffling like I've done in the past.

* Spontaneous Finish: For the last several miles, I was practicing my pose (at least mentally). If you don't know what I'm talking about or why I do this, read some of my previous posts on the matter. They're awesome posts, I promise! Anyway, I was thinking of smiling of course but the poses I had with my hands and arms didn't work with a smile. Like, I had thought about two fists in front of me, like right in front of my chest, but that begs for a "GRRR!!!" expression, not a shit-eating grin. Believe me, I had that grin the last several miles. So when I finally saw the finish line, I started to pump my fist but I just became overly excited with everything (the race being over, how I felt, that I had done number six and I used to weigh... well you get the idea) that I was elated. In the end there was no wiping that smile off my face. So I just jumped.

It was not a high jump. I picture me leaping like a gazelle across a wide stream somewhere but I barely lifted me knee off the ground. Still, it was a jump and that I had enough energy to jump at the end of a marathon is fantastic. I don't know which one I like better, that one or my finish at the 2010 San Francisco Marathon.

If my hands weren't all the way cut off, that one would be better, but I love that finish line shot. But I love this newest one too. Guess I have to try and top them on July 29.

* Part II: I have a lot more to say so I'm going to save that for another post. I like to do these posts a bit longer than normal and get everything out so I remember the races and the experiences and everything that I might otherwise forget. I've trained so damn hard for all of my marathons and put so much into each of them that I might as well try and have vivid and crisp memories of them all, right?

Friday, May 11, 2012

My First-Ever Giveaway: San Francisco Style

Well, it took some time to finally carve out time but I present to you the first-ever Muddy Runner giveaway!


Okay, well, I don't expect a marching band and cheers from the raucous supporters but I do hope you enjoy this and do hope the word gets out. You probably don't because it could lower your chances of winning but we'll deal with that I suppose.

So what the heck am I giving away? Considering I've never done one in the four years I've been blogging here, it's pretty awesome, right? Well, I think so.

I've got a good amount of stuff so I'm actually giving away two things. Bear with me until the end and you'll see how it works.

One item I'm giving away is this nice t-shirt:

That's a cool shirt, size medium.

Anyway, here's the second shirt. This one's a running shirt:

It's also a medium. I wish I had all sizes to give away but I work with what I got.

And on the back it says:

Just as a brief aside, I love that saying. The San Francisco Marathon is absolutely worth the hurt.

Alright, so what else is involved? How about some of this stuff?

So there are two Sweaty Bands with the San Francisco Marathon logo on them, a pair of San Francisco Marathon socks, sweatbands from - you guessed it - the San Francisco Marathon and a peanut butter GU.

Here's how it shakes down.

Winner #1: one shirt of their choice, one Sweaty Band, one pair of socks, two sweatbands, one packet of peanut butter GU.

Winner #2: one shirt (the one not chosen by Winner #1), one Sweaty Band, two sweatbands.

I would host another giveaway but why bother, may as well toss it all into the fray at once. Plus that raises your chances of winning, right?

Okay, so how do you enter this historic giveaway?

*pause for me to laugh at the word "historic"*

One entry for each of the following (and please leave a separate comment for each entry)

- Become a follower of this blog (or let me know that you follow already)
- Follow me on Twitter - @RunnerLuis (or let me know that you follow already)
- Tell me which of the San Francisco Marathon's races you'd love to (or will run) this year*
- Tweet about this giveaway (include link to this post, @RunnerLuis and @THESFMARATHON) and let me know you did so (max one entry)
- Post a link on Facebook to this giveaway and let me know you did so
- Post a link on your blog to this giveaway and let me know....
- Friend me on Daily Mile (or let me know that we're already DM buds)

Okay, I think that should do it. You have plenty of opportunities to win and you don't have to have a blog or Twitter account to enter.

Again, leave a separate comment for each of these entries.

If you have any questions please let me know. I've never done a giveaway so maybe I didn't explain something the right way.

Contest will end on Tuesday, May 21.... for no reason, just picked a random date. Want to give enough time to give some of this stuff away.

Alright, well thanks again for your patience and have at it.

* There are six total SF Marathon events: 1st Half Marathon, 2nd Half Marathon, Marathon, 52.4 Ultramarathon, 5K & Progressive Marathon, Munchkin Kids Run... the last of which is for kids so... unless you're a kid...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

OC Marathon Pictures!

My OC Marathon pictures are up! Can you believe it??

Before I get on with this, I do want to say that my giveaway will be up either Wednesday or Thursday so thanks for being patient.

Anyway, the OC Marathon pictures were posted on Monday which is an incredibly quick turnaround. That's by far the fastest I've seen them after a race. Usually it's around Thursday when they are posted.

Without further delay, here's what I looked like as I ran my sixth marathon.

Very early on; no headphones, not a lot of sweat... trying to stick to my plan

Halfway mark - 2:14:43 into the race

I'm a bit of a ham during races but this camera snuck up on me...

... so I posed and tried for a decent shot

Into the finish, I'd regained my composure here 

All smiles, I was definitely excited

Final pre-finish steps

Wasn't really thinking about celebration anymore, just wanted to punctuate my race

Leaping for joy!

Of course I had to show off my bling at the end of my absolutely memorable day