Friday, November 22, 2013

My Runner-versary

I was born on Aug. 9, 1975.

I was married on June 26, 1999.

My kids were born on Oct. 1, 2003 and Oct. 19, 2005.

I became a runner on Nov. 22, 2009.

There are specific dates and moments that created an imprint on (or in one instance began) my life. The big ones are, well, important and life-altering, but the final date there has had a big impact on the person I've become and helped set my own bar high.

I'd actually been running quite a bit before Nov. 22, 2009. I'd run a half marathon, two mud runs, a 5K and a couple of 10Ks... a 15-miler too. But I was in Seattle and was supposed to run 18 miles that day with my running group. Since none of my group made the trip with me, I was left with two options - either run the whole thing alone or skip it. I wasn't about to skip it.

The run (read about it here) was absolutely the most difficult thing I'd ever done. With the help of some local runners/bloggers, I figured out what the weather was like, how to prepare for it and where a good running path was. It rained from start to finish, and the temperatures hovered in the low 40s.

I powered through. The run became increasingly difficult as it grew longer. The last two miles were torturous, and the final stretch the most painful I'd experienced before.

To this day it stands alone as the most difficult training run I've ever done. I don't think I can experience a tougher one, to be honest. 18 solo miles in unfamiliar territory under harsh conditions? Good luck topping that.

But I felt like I joined an elite group that day. I felt like I did something that only a true runner would do. I felt like I earned my runner label that day.

I've since gone on to run 10 marathons and 14 more half marathons and there have been many times, either during training runs or the aforementioned races, where I question myself, where I doubt that I can get something done, when I let in those negative thoughts, but all I have to do is to remember how, when I was an inexperienced and determined runner, I was able to accomplish something great. I can do it. I proved that and so many other things long ago.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When A 10-Mile Run Isn't A 10-Mile Run

It's been way too long. I don't mean since I last blogged but since I last blogged regularly. It's been so long in fact that I don't want to say that I am going to be doing this regularly or even semi-regularly. All I know is that I want to get back into running long distances regularly and I feel like I am close to that point, and that when I was at my best running, I was blogging regularly. So perhaps the two go hand-in-hand.

Anyway, this isn't a what-have-I-been-up-to post. This isn't a what-plans-do-I-have post either. This is just a... well... I guess I should jump right into it.

Sunday was a challenge. Better put, the approach to Sunday was a challenge. I wanted to run 10 miles. Not only were my in-laws celebrating Thanksgiving later in the day (a lot of hectic schedules forced it a bit early) but I was primed for such a distance. The last time I hit double digits I was somewhere in Fontana running the city's half marathon on June 1. The last training run where I hit double digits was... I can't remember. I had barely run the few weeks before Fontana.

So my training had been going well recently, very well, but the most I had done was one eight-miler and several six-milers. Most everything else was in the five-ish range.

I went ahead and signed up for the Lopers Holiday Classic half marathon on Dec. 1 so not only did I need to get back into running long distances for myself, I need to do it in preparation for my next race.

I got up early Sunday, threw my stuff on and went out the door about 5:40. I made my way over to my new favorite running place, Bonaminio Park by Mt Rubidoux, and I was off. I had been a little worried that I wouldn't be able to find the mental strength to get up and do that but I did and that was a bit of a hurdle cleared.

Once I was running, I was fine. I got back into the long-run groove somewhat quickly. I mentally planned out a route, scrapped it and decided to run on some city streets. Eventually I made my way around Fairmount Park and then took a trail back to where I started. Six miles down, four to go, which had been my plan - I'd wanted to run the final four up and down Mt. Rubidoux. Even though I'd already run six miles, my legs attacked the hill with ferocity. I wasn't necessarily flying up the hill but my legs where churning at a steady, solid place.

At the top I rested briefly and off I went downhill. As I was in my long-run mode, I didn't try and hit some top speeds like I normally do down Mt. Rubidoux. I felt good though, and felt like if I needed a kick I had one to give. Finally I was back in the parking lot and coming up on my truck. 10.2 miles done and I felt great, but more importantly I felt like I could have given more. Of course, later in the day I was wiped out.

It's funny how this whole run and day went. While the run itself was not overly taxing, the aftermath was. The way I felt afterward - tired, sore, desperately needing sleep - was how I usually felt when I ran more than 15 miles. Usually with 10 miles, not only do I not sweat it mentally, I go about my day afterward like normal, with no physical setbacks.

Just shows that I have a long way to go until I get back to where I was. But I have the desire, the time and possibly this blog to help me get back there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

OC Marathon: Cruising To My 10th Marathon Medal

Preparing for the OC Marathon was quite a bit difficult. I hadn't exactly been feeling fleet-of-feet in recent weeks, but on April 15 I ran 20 miles and the following Sunday I ran a half marathon. I knew I could do it, just was fearful of what condition I'd do it in.

I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I decided that I just wanted to finish. I think in some ways my experience in Long Beach has scarred me and running fast now seems to me a recipe for crashing out.

Regardless, I wanted to enjoy the marathon. Why not? This was supposed to be my 10th marathon after all, and I wanted the medal, the glory, the feeling of complete elation. I did. I'm greedy that way.

Because of all that, I got up at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, got my stuff together and met up with a friend in nearby Corona at 4 a.m. After a trafic-less drive to Costa Mesa and the OC Fairgrounds, we hopped on a shuttle bus and before too long were standing near the start line.

My friend Kuuipo and I ran into another friend of ours, Vance, and the three of us set off on our 26.2-mile journeys at roughly 5:30 a.m. I felt great. We started slow, which was planned, but after a couple of miles we picked up the pace ever so slightly. I felt comfortable and wanted to stay that way as long as possible.

Shortly into the race, Vance and I had to jump into the bathroom and Kuuipo kept on going. She was just up ahead and stayed that way. Eventually we lost her. Vance had springy legs and I told him a few times to run up ahead. After the midway point, he said he wanted to negative split, I wished him luck and off he went.

I was alone, and fine with it. I knew my race was going to be slow, and I didn't want to hold anyone back.

I was cruising. I wasn't going particularly fast (the 4:30 pacer went past me around Mile 16 while the 4:40 pacer passed me around Mile 22) but I didn't care. I was comfortable. I wanted to stay comfortable. I felt like if I were to have dug deep to find that extra gear, that I'd crash out eventually and then I'd be toast.

Mile 17 came and there were no feelings of despair. I made it a goal to focus on the next mile and tried to stay mentally sharp.  Pretty soon I passed up the Mile 18, 19 and 20 markers and celebrated after each one. After I hit 20 miles, I marveled at how much different and better I felt then than I had when I'd finished my 20-mile run last month. I knew I could get through another six-point-two miles.

Sure, there were tough moments. I had an issue with my phone and phone holder at about Mile 21. I had to fumble around when Mrs. LB called me a mile later. There were moments when my legs felt heavy. But I pushed through it all. Around Mile 25 I started to run with a smile afixed on my face. I knew I wasn't going to crash out. I knew that I was going to cruise into the finish. I also knew that I wasn't going to beat my LA time but it was night and day from how I felt at the end of LA to how I felt this last mile, and for that I was happy.

People were out on the course cheering me on and I thanked as many of them as I could. The horrendous situation that happened in Boston last month did not keep these people from lining the course and supporting the runners, and for that I felt humbled. I appreciated their cheers, claps and high-fives. It really did help lift my spirits.

Eventually, I came upon sight of the Mile 26 marker. I'd had some tears welled up in my eyes, as I have had in each of my marathons. I thought back to how I was before, 300-plus pounds, and here I was now about to finish my 10th marathon.

I rounded the final corner. The finish line was up ahead. I'd been practicing my pose for a little bit and here now was showtime. I lifted my arms up, spread my fingers out and commemorated my 10th marathon that way, with a smile and tears and finally, that medal.

And afterward, the best-tasting beer I've had in quite a while.

* I finished in 4:48:30, definitely not one of my faster efforts.
* Kuuipo finished in 4:30:16, not bad considering she was worried
* Vance, who ran with me every step of LA, finished in 4:24:14 - his pace at the half was 10:12, and overall was 10:04, so he got his negative split. Proud of him.
* I love the OC Marathon. I really do. Enjoyed it last year, enjoyed it this year. Becoming very fond of this event.

Friday, May 3, 2013

OC Marathon Plan: Finish

Well, this marathon sneaked up on me.

I will be running the OC Marathon on Sunday. It will be my 10th marathon and it will be my biggest challenge.

Why is it my biggest challenge? Because it's what's up next on my plate. I am sure that no matter how well my training is going, a marathon will always be a monstrous challenge. So this fits the bill for the latter even though the former is most defnitely not the case.

I have gotten my runs in, have gotten in the miles but for some reason the training has not felt great. My recent Run Through Redlands half marathon time is reflective of that. I finished in just under 2:03. It's a sluggish time for me, and that about sums up my training - sluggish.

I considered dropping down to the OC Half but opted against it, mostly because I want that marathon medal and that sense of pride I feel after running 26.2 miles. But when I decided to go all in, I did so with the caveat that I would take it easy. So I'm planning on taking it easy.

What does easy mean? Um... well... that part is to be determined with regards to time. But I want to run at a comfortable pace early on and hope that I can maintain it. For LA, I ran at a pace that was just a tad faster than comfortable and pooped out over the last 6-7 miles. I don't want to get to Mile 19 and begin to hate life. I want to wait until at least Mile 23 for that to happen.

I mean, I'm going to get there. I'm going to reach my breaking point. I know it. I've had one marathon where I felt like I nailed it mentally, and that was OC 2012. I don't know, maybe history will repeat itself. Maybe the course will be kind to me once more. Or maybe I will start to relax knowing that I will try to enjoy myself on the course. I'm hoping that sort of takes the pressure off of me.

Whatever the case, I have less than 48 hours now until Marathon No. 10. Double digits! I can't believe I'm in this position. I know I will cross the finish line. I know I will feel proud of myself after doing so. And I know I will wear my medal with pride. I've worked hard to put myself in a position to do all of that, so why fret about anything?

I just have to start believing that last part.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What I've Been Up To

So what have I been up to lately? I haven't been blogging but I have been running. Quite a bit.

Here are some of the highlights from the last six weeks (this is just a quick-hit post, I'll come back and post about each in detail separately at some point):

* I ran the LA Marathon. On March 17 I completed my ninth marathon. I finished in 4:44:15. It's not a great time and I faded badly down the stretch but I finished. I think what I will be most proud of will be pacing a first-timer to his first marathon finish and a second-timer to his second-marathon finish. I loved the experience though. I enjoyed LA immensely in 2012 and the experience was the same this year, despite me fading down the stretch.

* On March 30 I ran my first trail half marathon. Oh yeah, this was hard. Super hard. In terms of level of difficulty, none of the other half marathons comes anywhere near how tough this was. The race was small, like 25 runners small, and the course was a four-mile loop which we did three times, then a mile out-and-back to complete the distance. The first loop was tough but it just got progressively more difficult. My legs were dead the rest of the day.

* On Sunday I ran the Run Through Redlands half marathon. I was a little disappointed in my finish time of 2:03. I was gunning for a sub-2 and really wasn't that close to the time. Sigh. Just a few years ago I blazed through the course in a time of 1:56:58. Oh well. There's always next year.

* As I mentioned on Monday, I ran a solo 20-miler. Oh my goodness this was tough. I ran this on April 15 when the horrible events at the Boston Marathon took place. I didn't find out about that until I was done with my run. I was pretty shaken up the rest of the day, because of what happened over there and because of how I felt physically.

* I have the OC Marathon coming up in two weeks. Actually less than that. And actually actually, I'm not sure if I'm running the full. I mean, I registered for the full but I don't know. I will have to seriously think about what my options are for that race. Not to get too much into my next blog post but I have two options - run the full, go through with it, get my 10th marathon medal but prepare myself to run a slower marathon or - drop down to the half, see it not as a setback or an opportunity lost but a chance to test myself at the half marathon distance once more and help me stay mentallly fresh for the San Francisco Marathon. Ugh. Tough choice!

Anyway, that's a small sampling of what has transpired during my quiet period.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Is this thing on?

Is there anyone out there still.

I dropped the ball. I've just been not as motivated to write here, not as motivated to run like I was before if I'm being honest. I don't know what's going on. I mean, I'm not done done done with anything or close to it, but on a scale of 1 to going-through-the-motions, I'm probably at a 7.

So I'm hoping to come out of my funk. I always felt energized to write here, to share my thoughts and goals, my successes and accomplishments. It's noticeable now that I haven't done that. I don't get that rush of excitement when piecing together what I know will be a good blog post. I don't snatch details and store them for recounting them later. Those creative juices aren't flowing.

And that's the case all around. The juices aren't flowing and that spills over into running.

Now, I want to be clear. I still enjoy running. I have an active run streak of 111 days. I've run one marathon and three half marathons this year and my next race is May 5 (half or full I haven't quite decided). I ran 20 miles alone a week ago today and made plans to run with friends next Sunday. I very much am still running and running strong.

But that extra oomph, that part of running that made me salivate, that part has lost a bit of its luster. And I know it's me. 100 percent it's me.

And I think I've done the damage by not having updated my blog. That's the only logical conclusion. It makes sense. I started this blog to chronicle my training for the 2008 Camp Pendleton Mud Run and it evolved into something much more than that. Here, I shared my greatest fears and my triumphant successes. I shared my goals which I accomplished and wrote about my failures which didn't seem too bad once they were out in print... or type... or whatever... I changed a lot from early 2008 to now and all along the way this blog was there to help me note the change.

So I'm going to reinvest in this blog. I have to. I owe it to myself. But more importantly, I owe it to you. I owe it to my readers.

See, I've always believed that I went through my transformation from 300-pounder to marathoner for a reason greater than myself. I'm the ultimate if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can story. I had ZERO motivation to do anything physical and since 2006 all I've done is lose 120 pounds, run 12 half marathons and nine full marathons. It's been hard as hell, depressing at times, massively challenging and difficult but immensely rewarding. What I feel when I finish a race is like a drug and I want to keep feeling that. I never though I'd get to this point, never desired anything near this but here I am.

Let's be real here. If someone with a decent amount of athletic ability (which is more than I possess) and a modicum of desire (more than I had before 2006) sets out to accomplish something whether it's running related or not, imagine the places they can go. I started with nothing and look where I got. If you start with something more, you will go further. And if you doubt yourself, all you have to do is look at me because surely you are more motivated than me, than LB circa 2005 if nothing else.

But because this blog petered out, I stopped providing you a place to look. I took that away from you. And that's not fair.

So I'm back, for you dear reader. Together we'll get to some interesting places here in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Frisco Fridays: SFM Representative In Charge

One of the perks of being a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador is representing the San Francisco Marathon.

Most of the time, this representation is virtual - I tweet about the race (follow me @RunnerLuis), I'll post and share things on Facebook and right here on this trusty blog. The personal representation is mostly informal - I have nothing but good things to say when fellow runners talk to or aske me about the San Francisco Marathon (and I say those good things because I mean them).

But there have been a few times where I'm on official SFM business, serving in an official SFM capacity. Friday will be one of those days.

I'm going to be the person in charge of the San Francisco Marathon's booth at the San Diego Half Marathon Expo. For nearly five hours I'll be manning the booth, will help people sign up for the race, will answer questions about it, will show off my medals and the LA/SF Challenge medal as well and will spread the love of my favorite marathon.

I've done it twice before, but there were differences.

I was at the LA Marathon Expo last year and hung out for about 5-6 hours, got to talk to a few people... well, more than a few people I suppose... and spread the love for SFM. Also, at the San Francisco Marathon Expo itself I was there for most of Saturday doing the same.

The difference of course was that I was not alone. I was not in charge save for about an hour when the staffer at last year's LA expo booth went on her lunch.


Alone. In charge. The man.


I'll do well. I think. I hope.

Either way, I'll come back here and report on how it went.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Taper Madness Driving Me Mad

Taper time, you would think, is great.

After months of hitting it hard every week and capping off those weeks with long runs of 13-15, 18-20 and even a 22-mile run, it seems like lesser-mileage weeks and long runs of 12 and 10 miles would be quite appealing.

It is, but it isn't.

While I've run eight marathons, there are constant reminders that that figure doesn't put me in the veteran marathoner category. Taper time is one of those times. I'm now tapering once more, preparing myself for the LA Marathon, set for March 17, and I can't say that I'm entirely happy about it.

I understand the science behind tapering. You need to rebuild and strengthen up your muscles; you need to get mentally ready as well and you've gotta enter the marathon well-rested.

But when you've been hitting it hard for so long, anything short of that seems like you're at a standstill. Midweek 6- to 8-milers become 3- to 5-milers, 3-5 becomes two... what are those distances? It's more challenging to get up for a three-mile run when you're used to knocking out 6-8 milers. Sometimes, those short runs feel like you're just spinning your wheels. It feels like you are just going through the motions because you can't get into that same mindset and rhythm you do on longer runs.

Typically when I get to three miles I've just gotten into my stride and am looking forward to tackling the meat of the run, so when the run is over at that point instead of just getting started, it's an entirely different monster.

Multiply that feeling by a thousand and that's what taper feels like to me.

In some ways, it feels like you're losing your edge, and that the fire burning inside of you is slowly flickering away.

I'm going into this taper with a bit of an open mind though. I didn't exactly have the best experience in my last marathon (a 5:10 finish at Long Beach) and I felt like I was stagnant in my taper, but I think that marathon was soured by lack of training, not the taper portion of it. I fizzled in Long Beach but that wasn't because I felt like I fizzled during my taper.

I'll probably feel like I'm fizzling this time around too, but I have a much better training base and will feel confident once I'm out there on March 17.

I just have to get there in one piece.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Frisco Fridays: A Glorious San Francisco Shot

It was a great moment.

When I approached the finish line of the 2010 San Francisco Marathon, I felt proud. I felt kind of grown up.

I'd run one marathon before, but this one, the San Francisco Marathon was different. My first marathon - Surf City earlier in the year - was special, so special, and nothing could have taken away from that. But this one was me proving that Surf City was no fluke.

I'd trained for San Francisco by myself, had chosen to run the race, had devised a training plan and executed it by myself. This was my coming-out party. This was me proving that I was indeed a marathoner.

And so when I got close to the finish line, I had to express myself.

I struck what is perhaps my favorite pose of any race picture I've had taken of me.

It was epic.


Me saying "I did it!"

Or me saying "Look at me now!"

If you don't know, I plan my poses. I think one of the best things to do in a marathon is to pose at the finish, so you can have a great picture of a great moment. What better moment to show yourself off a little than when you are crossing the finish line (!) of a marathon? So, I plan my poses, before and during the race. At some point, it helps me kind of hang on, keeps me mentally engaged. And then before I know it, the finish line is fastly.... well, maybe not that fast... but it is coming up. Then, time for a pose.

I'd played around with this arms-extended pose, so when I came upon the finish I made sure there wasn't anyone around me (can't have people photobombing my glory), thrust my arms out to the side and... well, there you go.

I just happened to look up at the camera. I remember that vividly. I scanned the ground, off to the side and then just as I was about to step over the finish line I looked up and there was the camera, and it had caught me.

So, ultimately this picture was a series of events that led to a great moment for me. This is it. This pose is it. I haven't repeated it in a finish line shot yet. I mean, I'd be kind of ripping myself off a little bit. So I've left the extended-arms pose alone.

In some ways, that's appropriate. Surf City 2010 was my first marathon, but San Francisco 2010 was my moment to show that I was indeed a bona fide marathoner.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Training (Almost) Complete

Sunday I ran 22 miles.

Wow. I am glad I was able to write that out, since that means the 22-mile run is now behind me.

Running 22 miles is no joke. It's rarified air. I can't say for sure but I think I've run a 22-mile training run only five or six other times. Usually when I hit 22 miles, it's during a marathon. But Sunday's run was just a training run - a difficult, challenging, intimidating, grueling training run, but just a training nevertheless.

It worked out well for the most part. We stuck together, my group of 12. We encountered some challenging weather conditions - sunny (which made us feel warm when we really weren't) and windy (Hate. The. Wind). I chose a route that wasn't loaded with hills, like our 20-mile run in January was. Some of my runners were struggling a bit at the end but no worry, I have complete faith that every runner in my group that is running the LA Marathon will cross the finish line at the LA Marathon. Bar none.

That's the challenge that lies ahead of us now - the LA Marathon. On March 17, we will take on the challenge of the distance, will take on the 26.2 miles once more and we'll be ready.

What awaits for me now is simple - a 12-mile run on Sunday and a 10-mile run on March 10. Also, my midweek runs will continue as they've been. My streak will hopefully reach 76 on the day of the marathon itself.

All that, though, will take care of itself in the coming weeks. For now, I'm happy that the hardest part of my training is now behind me. What's left will be fun and will only help grow the anticipation I have in the marathon.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Frisco Fridays: Golden Gate Enticement

It's the bridge.

When trying to figure out what it was that drew me to the San Francisco Marathon, ultimately it came down to one thing - the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now, perhaps that's not entirely accurate. I like the challenge of the course. I like the location. I like many things about the race. But the bridge is the closer. The bridge is what made me say "Sold!" and made me long to be on the course running the race itself.

There is no other race in the country where you can actually run on an iconic piece of history as the Golden Gate Bridge. As bridges go, it's probably one of the most famous. Definitely one of the most awe-inspiring. And you get to run on it!

If you run the full marathon the bridge is pretty early. You're done with it by Mile 9. For the First Half, it's the same distance into the race so once you are done with the bridge, then you can focus on finishing strong. The Second Half does not run on the bridge (but there are many other things that make that race appealing).

For me, both times I've run the San Francisco Marathon, the bridge has caused a great deal of anticipation. Once you are off The Embarcadero, you can really start to dream about the bridge. You see it, and it seems close once you are at Mile 2 or so, but it's not that close. You see Alcatraz off in the distance too as you run in the Marina and in Presidio areas.

Despite its enormity, the bridge comes up rather quickly. You wind through some hills and trees and greenery just before you make the final climb up towards the bridge itself. And then, the amazement begins.

So do the crowds.

This is perhaps the one minor blemish in an otherwise awe-inpsiring spectacle. The bridge is open to traffic but two lanes are open to runners. One lane going out and the other lane coming back. It can make for some tight quarters at times.

But not to worry. This is the only part of the race where you see other runners too, and for me this has been special. Both times I've run the race, I've seen close friends along the bridge and that has been a definite highlight both times. I remember those encounters vivdly.

For me, two things about the bridge stand out. First, the views. Amazing. The view of San Francisco from the bridge is wonderful. The city just sits quietly in the early morning, still not fully awake, sun still not beaming overhead. The downside to this though is fog. A friend ran it one year and said the fog was so thick she couldn't even see the water down below. But the views are amazing, that is if the fog allows it.

The second thing was running under the towers. The towers are immense, mammoth, behemoths. Last year, every time I ran underneath I kept my gaze on the towers until I was underneath, so I was practically running with my head straight up in the air at that point. I felt so small and insignifcant being dwarfed by those towers. I soaked up those moments. I was running on a piece of history here, a big piece of the history of me beloved state of California. How could I not feel inspired?

Once over the bridge, you run around a parking lot and then come back around the bridge to get back in the city. This time the city is easier to see as it is off to your left and in front of you. The towers are standing watch now, guiding you back across to safety, bidding you good luck in the rest of your race.

I've often thought how nice it would be to have the bridge towards the end of the marathon, to give you something to look forward to, but ultimately I decided that it's best early. That way you can enjoy it. If I was slogging through, trying to keep my composure when I got on the bridge, I don't know that I would have the same experience on it.

Regardless, the bridge gives me something to look forward to both leading up to and in the race itself. The memories I have of running on the Golden Gate Bridge are some of my fondest I carry with me from any of my marathons, and the allure and appeal of doing so again this year and in years to come has not diminished.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

TTT: Getting Ready, Vine, I Fought The Law?

1. Final Touches: I've kind of been approaching my 22-mile run as I have my marathon - without the taper of course. I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for it as much as possible this week, and starting today I'll increase my carb intake and will hydrate hydrate hydrate. I have one more hard run to get through and then Friday and Saturday will be about resting, recovery, easy runs and the final preparation. As I said in Monday's post, this is the dry run for the marathon, so the approach should mirror it somewhat as well. There's not much I can do at this point to improve my chances for Sunday. Either I've trained well enough to put myself in a position to succeed, or I've not. There's no such thing as cramming when it comes to long-distance running. Wednesday's run gave me 51 consecutive days worth of running, so I think I've done well to get here. Now I just have to see the job through.

2. On The Vine: Have you heard of Vine? It's a social media site that features six-second videos. I think it's only an app, not a site. Anyway, it's like Instagram where you can share and view pictures but with six-second videos. There's not a lot of activity on there, probably because it's so new. Well, because I really need to spend more time on social media, I downloaded it. So, find me on there at... hmmm... it says my full name but wanted my Twitter handle... uh... Luis Bueno or RunnerLuis I suppose would work. I have no idea. It does sound like fun though. Some of the videos I've seen on there are pretty clever, even if they're so short.

3. Evading the Law?: About a week or so ago, I may have avoided a ticket. Or I may have just gotten paranoid over nothing. I was driving on the freeway, not really speeding because as a general rule I try not to speed. There were a lot of slow cars that day so I went around them and got into the fast lane. I came around a slight curve when I saw a California Highway Patrol officer on the right shoulder. I passed him and glanced at the speedometer. I'd taken my foot off the gas pedal slightly and saw that the needle was dipping gently towards 70 mph. That's not ridiculously fast speed here in SoCal, but was it enough to get the CHP's attention? I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the car put its blinker on and start to pull out onto the freeway. GASP! My stomach was in knots. I haven't gotten a speeding ticket since 2005, when I started to really change the way I drive. And I didn't get want to get one now, especially since I've been so careful to drive safely for such a long time. Up ahead, there were two big rigs on the right two lanes, and ahead of them an exit. I figured it was worth a shot, got ahead of the trucks one at a time and then went down the really long off ramp. I expected to see the CHP behind me throughout all of this, but saw nothing. I stopped at the light to make a right turn onto a street, again expecting the CHP behind me, and again saw nothing. I pulled onto the street and immediately stopped at another light, expected the cop, saw nothing. At this point I thought I might be safe but wasn't sure, but a few minutes later when there was nobody behind me I figured I really was safe. Nobody ever pulled up behind me or anything, so I was relieved. Shaky but relieved. Did I elude a CHP? Honestly, I doubt it. I'm guessing that's kind of difficult to do, but I am glad I didn't stick around on the freeway to find out for sure if I was a target or not. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Last Long Run: A Final Dress Rehearsal

The LA Marathon is right around the corner; less than one month away in fact.

But before I let all my thoughts race towards March 17, there is the matter of my last long run left to deal with. On Sunday, I will lead my pace group through a 22-mile run as we all but close out the toughest portion of this whole marathon thing, the training.

This week will then be dedicated to preparing myself mentally and physically for Sunday's 22-mile run. I wanted to share some of what I've learned about these grueling last long runs here and give some pointers that I try and give my own pace group.

* Dress Rehearsal: This really is as close as you can get to the real deal, so why not dress like you will on race day? Nothing new on race day - that's what several preached to me when I first began running. I figured then why not try out a potential outfit on the last long run? It's close enough to race day that you can have an idea of what the weather may be like. Gonna try tackling the marathon with sleeves? Want to tinker with a new undershirt? Gloves? Sunglasses? Even if you regularly wear some gear on long runs, there's a big difference between how something feels at Mile 13 and how it feels at Mile 21. So why take it to chance that your sleeves will still be a blessing at the 20-mile mark on race day? Why not discover that yes, they work fine all the way through or no, they are not worth the trouble based on how they feel in the deeper miles? When race day finally does come, and if the outfit you wore was successful, that's one less thing you'll have to worry about.

* Mentally Focused: A marathon brings with it all sorts of feelings - nervousness, anxiety... I guess there's room for excitement too. Regardless of all the emotions surging through your body, there will likely be a similar surge leading up to the final long run. I mean, 22 miles is a really long run. It's enough to scare the wits out of you. That distance thins the herd. How you deal with the emotions and feelings leading up to the last long run can give you an idea of what you're in store for when the big day comes.

* Eat Right: The last long run also provides you a chance of testing out your nutrition both before and during the run. Eat lots of carbs the days before the run, drink plenty of water the three days leading up to the run and eat well the morning of. During the run, test out your race strategy. For instance, I like to use the Roctane GU and during marathons I like to use four total GU gels; I like to alternate between the regular and the Roctane, so I'll take one regular (at about 4-5), one Roctane (10ish), regular (14-15), Roctane (20+). That's kind of my rule of thumb. I like to test it out on the last long run to see how it affects my body, even though I've used that formula several times before. You never know what those things may do to you, and best to find out that something ain't quite right during the last long run than during the marathon itself. Plus, if your in-race supplement/hydration strategy works, then you will be less tempted to just jam things down your throat on race day, because while oranges and random fruits/etc. that you may have access to on the marathon course are tempting, they may also do some serious damage, as the oranges I had at Mile 22 last year in LA would attest to.

* Confidence: All you can do during marathon training is to put yourself in a position to succeed on race day. That's it. You can't BQ during training, you can't set a new PR, you can't get your medal during training. But what you can give yourself, aside from all the physical benefits, is the knowledge that you can succeed on race day. There's no guarantees with marathons, but if you complete this last long run successfully, you will feel confident about yourself, no question. And if things did not go quite right, you have time to tweak the things that did not work, whether they were mentally or otherwise, and get back on track for the marathon. Regardless, a big jolt of confidence is a huge strike in your favor.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Frisco Fridays: No Thrills Without Hills

Among other things, San Francisco is famous for its hills. The city is as hilly as they come; the locals have places like Russian Hill and Nob Hill named as such in order to differentiate between the sizable behemoths.

Thus, it would be difficult for the San Francisco Marathon to avoid said hills. And it doesn't. Whether you are running the First Half, Second Half or the full marathon, the San Francisco Marathon offers a difficult and challenging course made so by the city's notorious natural feature.

Are the hills enough to scare you away? Are the hills monstrous enough to make the race one to avoid?

Certainly not.

The hills add to the race's allure and mystique. Finishing whichever course you decide to run will really make you feel like you've earned your medal. It's not just any runner, after all, that can take on a challenging course and live to tell about it.

But what exactly are the hills like?

The folks who put on the marathon did us all a favor and took the route away from the city's truly frightening hills. But hills are a prevalent component of the course.

That's the elevation chart for the full marathon. While the First and Second half each stray a bit off the full's course, the elevation for each race is essentially the same as splitting the races in half. With that being said, then, you can see that the course is hilly but not one gigantic hill. The first five miles and the last five miles are, for the most part, flat. So, that's 10 of the 26.2 miles right there. And no, the other 16 is not just one giant hill.

There is in fact no one gigantic straightaway. It's more of a wave of hills, a manageable wave.

The toughest hill is early in the full and more than halfway through the First Half. Once you get off the Golden Gate Bridge, you run a bit further and then start climbing. According to the elevation chart, it's more than 100 feet of elevation gain in less than one mile. That stands out though as the longest single hill on the course.

If you're running the half marathon, the hills might make a difference in which one you choose. If you want to run a faster time, I'd suggest the second half. There are a lot of downhills on the latter part of the course and the finish is flat. If you're unconcerned about time and want to experience the sights, the First Half is a better option. Aside from that monster hill, you have hills at the finish which could impede your time.

There is perhaps one caveat for the full marathon. It would be wise to train downhill. Once you get out of Golden Gate Park - around Mile 19-20 - then you will immediately hit Haight Street, which is a long straightaway of hills. Uphill for a stretch, downhill for another, and so fort and so on. Towards the bottom of some of the downhills in 2012, I was grunting audibly. After a steady diet of hills, the downhills can really do a number on your weakened muscles. At least, they did to mine. So training for downhills would be wise. (As a quick aside, I plan on writing another blog post on how best to tackle your training for this challenging course)

Anyway, the hills are certainly part of the San Francisco Marathon's races but certainly not enough to scare any potential runner away. The hills are tough, yest, but they are also manageable and getting past them is a major part of what makes the race so fulfilling.

Trust me, you won't regret having conquered those hills.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Blah, Shoes, Trails

1. Motivation Lacking: Some days, I just don't have it. I don't know why. I've been doing much better this year getting back to how I have been for most of my running tenure. I've run every day in 2013, and that streak is something I am proud of. But there are days like Wednesday when I'm just so blah about going on a run. I'd wanted to run at least six, hoped for eight but by the time I dragged myself out the door, I only ran four. It's strange, still trying to figure out what the hell is wrong. It is easier to get up for runs though than it was at the end of 2012. It's easier to get up for long runs and I can get through them without many issues, but I still get a case of the blahs now and again. Oh well, just have to try and minimize that I suppose.

2. New Shoes Needed? I swear I just bought shoes. Well, it was in November I believe that I finally bought some shoes. I'd worn the other pair for quite a long time so when I finally got into my new pair of shoes, they felt outstanding; like air cushions. Somewhere along the way, though, the air was let out of the cushions. In the last 2-3 weeks, it seems my shoes went from feeling spongy and light to rigid and unyielding. Well, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I do need new shoes and I do need to make the trip out to the running store I go to for some. I probably will still run LA in these shoes but I'm not sure how much longer I want to wear these shoes. I started to get some issues on my foot from wearing the other pair for too long and I've been feeling great since, so I don't want to push my luck too much. I'd like to one day buy two pairs of shoes at the same time and rotate those around, or splurge and buy like 3-4 and have those last me a whole year but until that day comes I'm just going to make do with one shoe after another.

3. Happy Trails: I don't want to make this whole post a bit of a downer so gonna leave with a more positive tone. On Wednesday, when I finally made it out the door, I made a last-minute decision to tackle some trails. Now, I've got a first coming up this year, my first trail half marathon. I don't know what to expect, and to be honest I haven't given it much thought. The race is less than two weeks after the LA Marathon and all of my focus is on that, and for good reason. But at some point I'm going to have to hit the trails more to see what it's all about. So this was the first trail run I've had in quite some time. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed not having to worry about cars and not having to worry about crossing roads and things like that. I enjoyed the solitude. The trail itself was comfortable to run on, for the most part. Okay, well now that I think about it I nearly sprained my ankle a few times by stepping in a hole or some other uneven part of the surface, but that's just something I'll have to get used to I suppose. Anyway, I only ran about two miles on trails, but I was able to enjoy it, more than the other two miles I ran on the street. I need to squeeze in more trail runs and go on more trail adventures, before and after LA. Between LA (March 17) and my trail half (March 30), I'm going to have a memorable last half of March.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strength in Numbers

A year ago, I paced my group at the LA Marathon. Five of us started together and after the one speedy member took off at Mile 2, the other four of us stayed together until about Mile 20. Two of us wound up finishing together.

There might be more joining me this year. For one, I have a reliable co-pace leader this time around. She's already registered for the LA Marathon, as am I. If our group run on Sunday is any indication, our group could number quite a bit come March 17. I've had several members ask me about pacing for LA and if they all join us, then it will be a fairly large turnout.

And if Sunday's run is also an indicator, the marathon will be a grand day indeed. We ran 15 miles on Sunday and for the most part we all stayed together. We chatted it up throughout as we went on our adventure together. We ran into Redlands as we always do, and then headed out on a desolate trail which we all seemed to enjoy. The conversations were great and made the time fly by. Afterward, we all remarked how strong we felt, how good our legs felt and how comfortable the run felt.

Marathon training is paying off for all of us, and as we've spent so much time and have run so many miles together as a unit, we are really starting to come together as a group as well.

There are a lot of things I like about being a pace leader. I like sharing my knowledge with others. I like watching novice runners transform into true long-distance runners and eventually marathoners. I like how it keeps my honest and makes me stay committed to my own training schedule so I don't fall behind in my pace-leading duties.

But this bonding experience, this bringing together of runners and making it into a group, is grand. I am excited for our upcoming runs, our 22-mile run on Feb. 24, the marathon itself, but I will also be sad when this is all over.

That's part of the job too, though. Forming a unit and then sending all the newly-minted marathoners out into the world of marathon running. Hopefully some of them will come back for the 2013-14 season, and can help out with the creation of next year's group.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Frisco Fridays: An Alluring Challenge

Here goes... been thinking about this for a bit and now I've committed myself, so let's see how this goes.

I figured, how to tie in my most favorite marathon (San Francisco Marathon) and this blog and a bit of regularity, so I decided to declare Fridays on my blog as Frisco Fridays.

Okay, I know that SF locals kinda frown on Frisco but let's just ignore that for now, okay? All right then, let's get started...

What will happen on Frisco Fridays? Well, anything and everything San Francisco Marathon related. Might blog about some of my own experiences, might blog about why you should run it, might blog about the course or the elevation or the city or share pictures or video of the event... I really don't have a specific plan for it, other than Fridays will be regular and will be dedicated to the best marathon you can race, the San Francisco Marathon.

So is my initial venture just to talk about the venture? Well, no. Obviously I have to introduce it but once I get done rambling introducing the topic then I can move on.

Moving on...

What's my obsession with the San Francisco Marathon?

I guess that's about as good a place as any to start.

In February 2010, I ran my first marathon, the Surf City Marathon. I enjoyed it tremendously and wanted to experience another marathon quickly, but heeded the warning many in my running club had given me - take some time before running another one.

Once my muscles stopped hurting me, I began to feel the itch for another marathon. I'd targeted the OC Marathon, but was discouraged from running it. It was in early May, two months after Surf City, and I felt it was too soon in the end.

My itch was growing and I started to look around. I thought about going big. I thought about San Francisco.

The San Francisco Marathon instantly appealed to me. I could probably convince Mrs. LB of a weekend getaway to a new city, I thought. Running in a new place would be a fun way to explore and sightsee. And of course I'd get in my second-ever 26.2-miler.

There was just an issue with the hills. Ah yes, the infamous San Francisco hills. Now, I'm going to leave the details of my hill training for another Frisco Friday, but I will say this: the hills became a source of pride. That I was going to challenge the hills *and* another marathon? Well, that was me taking off the training wheels indeed.

I wasn't going to train with a group like I did for the first one. I wasn't going to run with a group. I wasn't going to take comfort in knowing that a lot of my friends and fellow runners will pile up big mileage and then take on this challenge alongside me. Nope, this was me choosing to face the fire all by myself, to stare down the flames alone.

Go big or go home. Wasn't much of a homebody anymore so I chose big.

What appealed to me then is what appeals to me now. This is no ordinary marathon. Yes, running 26.2 miles is difficult, whatever the course looks like. There are no shortcuts, no rides you can take on any particular marathon course. The distance is the distance, period. But this distance could very well have an asterisk next to it.

Surf City Marathon 2010 - 4:42:26
*San Francisco Marathon 2010 - 4:38:51
Surf City Marathon 2011 - 4:23:38
Diamond Valley Lake Marathon 2011 - 4:45:41

* hard course

It stands out. Certainly from my first four marathons, the course separates the race from the rest.

The allure of a marathon is still very strong inside me. I have run eight marathons overall, six since running my first San Francisco Marathon. But the allure of running a marathon on a challenging course.. well, that just draws out the best in me. Am I man enough to take on the challenge? Do I have what it takes? Am I going to let some obstacles stand in my way?

In mid-2010, I decided that yes, I did want to take on San Francisco's challenges, yes I do have what it takes and no, I wasn't going to let hills stand in my way.

And, as I look ahead to my third San Francisco Marathon, I feel the same way about it now.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Journey Complete: Pace Leader's Pride and Joy

On Sunday, I went out to Huntington Beach for the Surf City races. For the first time since 2009 though I was not participating in any of the races. I went there for one reason – to watch my friend run his first marathon.

Now, there were more reasons that were great – saw some other friends before, during and after the races – but I went mostly to see my friend Ren run his first marathon.

Ren joined my pace group in 2011. His first run with us was when we’d run five miles. He had joined the 13-minute pace group at first but that was pretty easy for him so he came up with the 10s and found a more comfortable pace. I was surprised that he’d never really run before. He was in his early 50s and seemed to be in pretty good shape. He said he has friends at the school he teaches who are distance runners and figured he’d try it out.

Ren had also never run a race before but he ran his first race as a Loper, the Mission Inn 10K in 2011. Everything was new to him – every Sunday was his longest run ever, every accomplishment was a first. One run that stands out in particular was a 15-mile run he and I and two other runners from our group ran in late December 2011, a midweek long run that we squeezed in because New Year’s was fastly approaching.

By January, he was a bona fide runner. He ran the Highland Half Marathon in January 2012, his first-ever half marathon. The next week he ran Surf City half and the following weekend he ran Palm Springs half. Three half marathons on three consecutive weekends was impressive, but it was also a bit much. He injured his foot pretty bad, bad enough that he had to stop running completely. As a result, he was unable to run the LA Marathon. He also was unable to run the Run Through Redlands half in April, but he was out there supporting his friends and I was very excited to see him, even if it was brief.

I was sad for Ren but I knew he was not a quitter. He was determined to get past the injury and return to running. I saw him a few times during the summer, just by coincidence, out in Loma Linda during long runs. He had lost a lot of his stamina so getting through short runs was challenging. Plus his foot was still a bit tender, and the last thing he wanted was to reinjure himself.

By the time Lopers started, though, he was almost back to the old Ren, the runner he’d become. He was chewing up his long runs on the weekends and had been running regularly during the week. He signed up for Surf City, choosing to run that as his first marathon instead of LA (although he registered for both).

Sunday finally came, race day. I was not about to miss his big day. Having been there at the start of his running journey, having felt sad for his injury and seeing him make his return week after week and put the injury in the past, I wanted to see the payoff for myself. So I got up at about 4 a.m. Sunday morning, cruised down to Huntington Beach and made my way to the marathon start line.

I didn’t see him. It was about 15 minutes until race time and I was unable to spot him. I scanned the throng of runners but didn’t see him. I was worried that I would miss him, or even worse that he had gotten injured and was not even there.

But my nerves subsided when I saw him and Dean, another Loper who had joined up in 2011. Dean ran his first marathon one year prior and was now ready for his eighth marathon. I smiled broadly and greeted them. They were both surprised to see me but I told Ren that I was not about to miss his special day. I wished him luck, gave him a few words of wisdom (run strong, this is your day, you can get through it) and got out in front of the start line. A few minutes later I saw him run past the start line and onto the marathon course.

After running into other Lopers before the half and running six-plus miles of my own, I changed out of my running clothes and went to the tail end of the course, hoping to see Ren come in. The 3:30 pacer went by and I figured I was in good position to see him. I figured he’d come in between 4-4:10 so I kept my eyes peeled.

I didn’t see Ren but saw others come in. I congratulated Dean, hooped and hollered when I saw Doug – another member of my group – and walked a bit with Chris, another Loper who had run the full. But no signs of Ren. I checked the Surf City site and saw that he was still on the course, and sure enough I saw him up ahead several minutes later.

I ran onto PCH and started running alongside him. Ren breathed out a few words in between his grunts of pain and discomfort.

“Thank you… for running… with me….”

Not a problem, I replied. This was after all the main purpose of my visit to Surf City. He breathed out a few more strings of words, telling me how he went out too fast and had been walking a lot in Miles 21, 22 and 23. He said this was a whole lot different than running half marathons. And then, just before Mile 26, he said he need to walk. I told him to finish strong, to smile and pose at the finish line and enjoy the moment. This is your moment of glory, the moment you will remember for the rest of your life. He’d earned this moment, I told him, so he should enjoy it and soak it up.

I had tears in my eyes. I’d had tears in my eyes throughout the time I’d been waiting for him, and they came and went, but now that he was about to become a marathoner, they were back. Off in the distance, I saw Ren raise his arms and cross the finish line and I felt a surge of emotions – happiness, joy, pride, amazement – and the tears were flowing at this point.

I walked up to the where the runners spilled back onto PCH and met up with him. I shook his hand and congratulated the newly-medaled marathoner. I walked him out to his car, where Dean had been waiting for him, sprawled out on a patch of sand. I helped him up and together we talked about the race and the day. We all shook hands, gave them each a congratulatory hug and parted ways.

To see someone like Ren complete his journey was touching for me. Seeing him when he’d never run more than a few miles, seeing him prepare for his first-ever race, pacing him along uncharted territory for him and seeing him overcome injury to complete a marathon is inspirational. It encourages me and further hammers home the point that nothing is impossible. And to know that I played a small role in his journey just humbles me.

It lets me know I’m doing something right.

(from L to R) Dean, myself and Ren, a triumphant trio!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Surf City No and Yes, 31-plus

1. No Surf City. For the first time since conquering the marathon monster, I'm not running Surf City. Maybe that seems too melodramatic - my first Surf City was in 2010. I ran the full both that year and the year after, and ran the half in 2012. Still, it will be a bit odd to not run it. Surf City has been a bit of a cornerstone in my running calendar, even last year when I ran the half. The first year, our entire club ran it and the buildup to my first marathon was unparalleled. In 2011 I had a personal mission to conquer it once more and a year ago I paced a runner to her first sub-2 half marathon finish. It's been a great race but it was just too costly this year. I ran last Sunday's half instead of Surf City and saved about 60 dollars in the process. Oh well.

2. Still Surfin': So while I won't be running Surf City, I will still be out there. One of my runners will be running his first marathon. He's in his early 50s and was a very strong runner when I first met him. He'd only run three miles before joining Lopers in 2011. He became quite strong and I remember running with him through all those milestones - first six-miler, first 10-miler, first 15-miler, first 18-miler. But he got hurt and was not able to run Los Angeles last year. He's shown some great determination and willpower to come back and has trained hard for this moment. And I'm not about to miss it. Of course, there are other friends running it and I hope to meet up with them all and congratulate them on their job well done. Hmm... going to a race, not running and still having a good time? Oh boy, sounds like I could get used to that.

3. Run Streak: So my run streak is at 30 days as of Thursday morning. I'm at 183 miles for the month. I was hoping to reach 200 but that won't happen. It doesn't matter, though. Running every day was my goal, not the 200-mile mark. I'm running long on Friday since I'm not running Surf City so that played a role in me slowing down Wednesday (I ran 1.58 miles - yay!). Still, I'm enthused that I made it an entire month. Some days were tough to get runs in, and there were a few one-milers in there. But that's fine because I also had an 18 and a 20 in there too. Running every day is what drives me, what motivates me. I feel like I am back to my top mental condition. Fitness is one thing but if you don't have the desire and drive from within to want to run, the fitness doesn't matter. More than strong legs and physical fitness, I need my mindset to be right, I need that fire burning from within. And right now, that fire's roaring, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Highland Half: The Sub-2 That Wasn't

I felt confident going into Sunday's Highland Half Marathon. I've been having a strong month of runs, capped by a 20-miler a week prior. Also, I had two strong workouts the week before the race, giving me confidence that I could run a sub-2 half marathon.

The problem was the course itself. I'd heard that it was a difficult course, made that way by the hills. But I was ready for the challenge nevertheless.

There were two obstacles in my way, though, before the race even started. One, my stomach. I'd been having issues with it for the last few days prior and the issues hadn't subsided Sunday morning. Two, I'd visited my brother on Saturday night and stayed way longer than I'd anticipated and wound up getting about three-plus hours of sleep.

Still, I felt charged for the race, felt ready to run, ready to challenge myself. Once the race started, I felt grand.

The first part of the race was uphill, for a good half mile. But once we turned a corner it was flat and then downhill but quickly we worked our way over to the first of two tough stretches.

At 2.1 miles in, the elevation was 1400 feet. By 5.2 miles, it had changed to 1879 feet, which meant for those 3.1 miles I'd climbed 479 feet. And I felt it. My paces weren't slow necessarily given the conditions but they were slow enough to have me a bit concerned about my time. I hadn't wanted to run hard uphill for fear of having nothing left on way down so I paced myself.

After that initial stretch, we actually went downhill for about a mile and my paces reflected it. Instead of seeing paces in the 10-minute range, I saw some low-9s, even went into the 8-min range.

But then disaster struck. At 6.2 miles we'd worked our way down to 1755 feet of elevation. The turnaround was at 7.1 miles and we'd gone up to 1937 feet. In less than a mile then, I'd climbed 182 feet. I felt it. I was dragging uphill and didn't bother to look at my pace for fear of dejection. (I looked at the stats way later and I'd indeed been all over the place, from the low 10s and well into the 11s)

At the turnaround I glanced at the time. I was nearing 1:09, which threw me off. I'd have to run six miles in about 50 minutes if I wanted to have a chance of a sub-2. I'd figured that I could run the last portion, which was mostly downill, in the 8:40-min range, but that would not get me my sub-2.

Sigh. What made it worse was that there was some uphills yet to conquer. That stretch between the two toughest climbs? Well, it was a climb now. But once we got back to the long downhill I felt comfortable once more. Mentally I felt strong. Ready for this challenge. I was running hard, it was all downhill from here.

But I wasn't moving fast enough.

It was difficult to know that my sub-2 had slipped away. Like watching a ship sail away over the horizon, I knew my goal time was gone. Within reach, technically yes, but realistically it was way out to sea with no way for me to catch up.

It took me a bit to get past that feeling. I tried to rile myself up and I did. I started to feel it in my legs, to feel that kick that had eluded me. And then my water belt fell.


My water belt decided to throw in one final obstacle. I felt it get suddenly loose on my waist and then it came crashing down. I had debated wearing it but chose to wear it because I was unsure of what sorts of fuel they'd have at the water stops. I only wore one bottle so it hadn't bothered me until then.

Oh well. This was perhaps a final reminder that the sub-2 goal was gone but I still tried to run hard. I ran the last four miles in 8:44, 8:18, 8:43, 8:40, not bad considering the mishap.

Of course, the final portion was indeed uphill and I wondered how devestating it would have been to have lost my sub-2 on this part. Better to have lost it midway than to have lost it so close to the finish.

I charged up that hill though, giving what little of a final kick I'd had in me. When I turned the final corner and raced in to the finish I did so while hitting a sub-7 min pace. Even if it was for a little bit and even though it did not feel that fast, I was happy to have closed it out with a bang.

My final time was 2:02:52 which in and of itself is not a bad time. It was at least 2:53 slower than I'd wanted but I finished my half marathon, finished the race strong and got my medal; perhaps not the race I wanted to run but an accomplishment in and of itself.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Breaking Down a 20-Miler

On Sunday, I ran the longest I've run since October. 20 miles. The cool thing now with these long runs, well, with any run I suppose, is that I can go back and analyze it. With my Garmin, a lot of data is kept and stored and I can upload it to a web site and see what the numbers have to say.

What did the numbers say about Sunday's run? Well, for starters, it was hilly.

I opted to take my group into Redlands. Now, we start off in neighboring Loma Linda and run five miles there. Our course is supposed to take us down a drab bike path but it's mind-numbingly boring running down there. I did that all last year, in part because my then-co-pace leader was staunch about running down there, but she's gone and I've been taking the runners more and more into Redlands.

Anyway, Redlands is hilly. I knew that but I guess I didn't realize just how hilly it was. We seemed to gain about 600 feet of elevation in about four miles.

This is part of the Run Through Redlands course. We jumped on at about Mile 3 of the race (we saw a painted mile marker on ground) and stayed on until about Mile 10 or so. It's a really fun race, and it makes me proud that I broke the sub-2 hour mark on that course, with a great friend running alongside me to boot. Marvelous day that was.

For Sunday's run, I also broke out the heart rate monitor. Check out the peaks and valleys.

The peaks were me huffing and puffing and putting in extra work. The valleys were our various breaks we took along the way.

I averaged a heart rate of 161. That's interesting. My max is 183 so I wasn't close to my max but I wasn't far off either, and if that was the max there must have been times when it was quite higher. Towards the end it's climbing, and that's because there were four of us together at that point and two of us were bringing it in quickly and I was trying to keep up. I did, but man it was tough. We were all at under 8:30 pace, probably closer to 8:10. Finish strong!

And lastly, this is the map of the course.

It's pretty cool that it shows us detail. I'll have to post one of the maps of a soccer game I refereed. It's pretty interesting.

Well, there's plenty more information, including the splits, but I've probably bored you off this page already. Anyway, I'm happy I was able to get my 20-miler in and happy that I can look back at it and break it down in this manner.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Streak, Stats, Wind

1. Run Streak: My run streak is back. Through Wednesday I'd run every day of the year, which means my streak is at 15 and going strong. I plan on running Thursday (just how long remains to be seen) as well as short runs on Friday and Saturday before running 20 on Sunday. Even though it's only been two weeks I can already feel the benefits of having run every day. My legs feel sharp, ready to run, and I can hit my faster paces quicker and seemingly without as much effort. Now, I can't quite stay at those faster paces for long stretches yet but that's the next step. I'm confident though that as the streak grows longer I'll be able to do that.

2. Playtime With the 405: I finally got two things working on my new toy, the Garmin Forerunner 405. I uploaded the software and can now see my runs online. There's some cool data available, such as elevation, paces, etc. This is the elevation for my 18-mile run on Jan 6.

Pretty nifty stuff. I was able to see things like that before when I was using the MiCoach app on my iPhone but lately it had been giving me problems, and the iPhone never had enough juice to get through runs of 12 or more (well, at least this phone I have now which is a bit older). I like having to just look at my wrist to see things and I like that it has three screens set to things that I want to see. For instance, one screen shows me my distance, time and current pace, the other shows me the time, overall pace and distance and the third shows me my current pace, heart rate and overall time. Each screen has the first item I listed in a big display and the other two smaller. But there are so many other options I can have and I might test more out now that I have it all up and running. So excited now to go on these longer runs to see and analyze my data.

3. Wind: It's been so windy out here lately. I ran in it, well, the last few days. Monday was the worst. I ran six miles and the first three were with the wind at my back. The last three were into the wind. So guess what? The first three miles were all under 10 minutes and the last three were all over 10 minutes. Hmmm... I even tried to avoid that by trying to run harder on the last three miles and I still wasn't able to get under 10 minutes. I wasn't necessarily trying for a speed workout, my legs weren't ready for it, but still. I will take rain over the wind, I will take heat (within reason) over the wind, I will take cold over the wind. I've never run in really cold weather before (like in 20 degree weather) but the wind just ruins everything. You can't get into a rhythm, you can't accurately gauge your paces, you can't get comfortable, you can't protect yourself against it. The wind will just do with you as it pleases. It's still windy today but hopefully I can do my best to minimize the damage. Probably not but I can hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Half, 405 and Flicks

1. First Race of 2013: As you may have read on this blog already, I signed up for the LA Marathon, to be run March 17. However, that won't be the first race on my race calendar this year. On Wednesday, I registered for the Highland Half Marathon. Highland is a small community east of San Bernardino. It's a hilly course and should be a good training race for LA. It's a small local race and that appealed to me, mostly because of the price; $45 for a half marathon is very reasonable, especially here in SoCal. It also will take the place of Surf City. I could not justify paying $110 for a half marathon, one that I've run before. Now, the downside to not running Surf City is that I won't get a special medal I would have gotten for having run OC and Long Beach, but that's okay. I'd rather save some time and money and run the local race instead of getting a medal I didn't set out to get in the first place.

2. My New Love: I haven't blogged about it too much yet but I got a new toy for Christmas - a Garmin Forerunner 405. It's pretty stinkin' sweet. I've used it quite a bit as you could imagine but I haven't yet used all of the features. Right now, it's like a new car that I've only driven on side streets and not the freeway yet - I haven't opened it up to see what it can really do. In some ways, though, that's fine because I want to get uh, intimate with it and then have it start revealing new sides to me. Hey now. We'll see when that next step happens but with the usage I've already put it through it's going to happen soon no doubt. Definitely before the Highland Half I'll want to see what all it can do.

3. Oscar Buzz: So, I love movies. I've always loved watching movies, losing myself for a couple of hours and diving head first into a story. It's a great way to pass the time. Before I had children, I used to go to the movies quite often, from back in my late teens/early 20s (when I started to afford going to the flicks) to before Mrs. LB and I delved into the world of parenthood. Then, it abruptly ended. Yvie came along in 2003 and my days of going to movie after movie were over. As Yvie and Kennedy get older (they're 9 and 7 now), things have gotten better in terms of movies but it's still not quite to how it used to be (not that I expect it to ever quite be that way, at least not anytime soon). I've gotten to see some movies recently (The Hobbit, Argo) but my girls still dominate the movie dynamic in the house. Case in point: between myself and Mrs. LB, we've seen two of the nine Best Picture nominations - Argo and Les Miserables. Between the girls, they've seen five of the five Best Animated Feature nominations - Pirates: Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie, Paranorman, Brave. We all went to watch Wreck-It Ralph while Mrs. LB took the girls to see Pirates and Brave while I took them to see Frankenweenie and Yvie got Paranorman for Christmas (she'd read the book first). Now, I'm not necessarily complaining. There was a time when the girls were too young for movies and now they're not, and the animated movies are getting better in quality (I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph and liked Frankenweenie way more than I thought I would), but still. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining (too much). I know there will be a time when I long for the days that we could go watch an animated movie with the girls, so I'm enjoying it. Just pointing an observation of how things can change on you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All In For LA

In some ways, registering for a race that you're already planning on running may seem a bit anticlimactic. You're already thinking about the race, already set on it, training for it and all that other good stuff. So signing up is the next logical step, and logical steps don't usually lead to excitement.

But this was not the case Tuesday.

I registered for the LA Marathon, and even though all my signs have already been pointing in that direction, I felt a surge of excitement when I did it. I didn't exactly feel a thrill when my bank account took the hit that it did (175 all told) but that's another story for another day.

I'm excited because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is the finish line on Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I'm thrilled because I have something tangible to point to, because on March 17 this training will pay off and I will run my ninth marathon.

I'm pumped because I get to experience the thrill of the finish line again. There's nothing like the finish line for me. Nothing. That's what keeps me coming back, feeling all the emotions and energy at the finish, the ultimate job-well-done feeling, something nobody can take away from you. Ever.

So mix all of those things together and you get pure bona fide excitement.

I'm also a bit charged because I get to run this race again. I ran it last year and had such a great time. I loved the course, the crowd support and the energy of the LA Marathon. I'm sure I'll blog a bit more about the race again, especially as the date draws near, so I won't get into all those details now but the race exceeded my expectations. And the medal was great.

With this race now firmly implanted on my 2013 race calendar, I am hopeful that I've put all the things that I struggled with in the last part of 2012 behind me. And since I'm nearly salivating at the prospect of running 26.2 miles again, I'd say that would be the case.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sunday's 18

My first long run of 2013 was a pretty good one, and pretty long too. I ran 18 miles on the first Sunday of the year. I think this will be the case as long as I'm A) with the Lopers and/or B) train for the LA Marathon each year.

Anyway, I won't get into all the pre/during/post run details of it, but do want to get in some of the highlights here.

Of course, the day before the run I alternated between feeling very confident of the run to feeling anxious about it. I slept alright, woke up only a couple of times and didn't feel (too much) dread when I was getting ready Sunday morning.

The skies were supposed to open up on us, but we only got a smattering of rain. By Mile 4, there was no signs of rain clouds and by Mile 5 the sun had peered through the clouds, enough to give us hope that the rain would not come back (and it didn't).

Part of the fun of being a pace leader is that I get to choose which way I want to take my group. Sunday I decided to take them into Redlands. This meant hills but no matter. I knew the last little stretch would be flat. Some of the other runners were commenting on how nice it was to go on a bit of an adventure, on an uncharted run so to speak. Of course I'd mapped it out but still it felt like we were just cutting through the streets of Redlands as we saw fit.

The hills were a bit relentless and I thought this might separate our group but it didn't. By the time we got through the worst of them, we were still together for the most part. There were two distinct groups - a group of four running in front of us, us (six runners led by yours truly) and a straggler or two to boot. I wasn't sure if I should count the stragglers as a group...

Anyway, by the time were at Miles 12 and 13, we were out of Redlands, back in Loma Linda and my legs were starting to feel good. Something internally happened to get my legs up to full strength and by the time we were on the home stretch, the final three miles, I was grand. We were running at a solid 9:30-9:50 pace. The last mile, we were hovering around the 9:10-9:30 pace.

But our pace didn't matter much as it wasn't what we'll remember most about the run. The run was great because we'd enjoyed each other's company, had enjoyed some tremendous weather after the early drizzles and were all sort of excited just to have been out there, running. We were an indestructible group plowing through city streets, residential roads and dirt trails at times. We'd run 18 miles and we all felt great, high-fiving and congratulating each other at the finish.

It's runs like that that keep me going. If I could bottle up that feeling I felt during the run, I'd pump some of it into my system whenever I needed a boost.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Races

Alright, well, maybe they're not exactly new. In fact, I've run all of these races on my calendar before, but let's not worry about the semantics of it all for now.

March 17: Los Angeles Marathon. I had such a great time running it last year, I can only hope I have such an enjoyable time once more.

April 21: Run Through Redlands Half Marathon: Probably my favorite half marathon. It was my first half marathon, my first sub-two half marathon and it's the half marathon I've run the most. This year will be my fourth time out there.

May 5: OC Marathon. Gulp. I have a special goal for this race which I'll share as the time nears.

June 1: Fontana Days Half Marathon. Another fun race. I've run this one twice and it's my two fastest half marathon times. Of course, it's all downhill so that helps.

June 16: San Francisco Marathon: Yes!! I love this race and will thoroughly enjoy it once more.


To be continued. I've only gotten through June 2013. I'm not sure about a fall race because I don't want to train through the summer. It's fine though that I've only got this on my mind right now. I want to focus on the task of running three marathons in a 13-week span, beginning with LA in March.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Goals And Stuff

It's here, finally. 2013 is upon us. With this new year comes new resolutions, goals, dreams, desires, whatever you wish to call them. Here's what I hope to accomplish in the coming 12 months.

* Run 30 miles a week: It seems like an attainable goal. A year ago, I was running 40 miles per week with regularity, but the last several months of 2012 were a bit rough mentally and I've not been hitting the pavement as much as I had been. I think 30 miles a week is a reasonable goal, and one to be proud of. I'd like to get to my 40-mile-a-week mode but that will come later.

* Tally my miles: I did not keep up with my miles in 2012. After about mid-June I didn't log onto Dailymile much. Sad. That will change. If I had to guess, I'd say I ran between 1400-1500 miles in 2012 but I'm not sure if I'll ever really know.

Really, those are my only two "resolutions" for 2013. I do have one more that's not running related.

* Read more books. I got Mrs. LB a Kindle Fire for Christmas, which means I inherited her old Kindle. And by old, I mean the one I got her for her birthday last year. So I'm the proud new owner of a Kindle. Now, I don't really read books. I mean, it's embarrassing how little I read, but that will hopefully change. I started reading The Stand by Stephen King a few days after Christmas, and am now 20 percent through. I like it. I need to pick up more books and read them.

Alright, well, that about does it for my New Year's Resolutions. I will write another post later this week where I'll map out my 2013 race calendar. I've got it figured out through mid-June, and it's looking rather exciting.