Tuesday, February 28, 2006


OK, even I'm starting to think that maybe this marathon training isn't exactly the healthiest thing to be doing.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Big Two-Ow

This weekend was my final training run: the 20-miler. After a teeny-tiny freakout following the 18-miler a couple weeks ago, I listened to advice from people (thanks!) and re-thought my runs. I parked my car in Griffith Park such that I had a 4-mile north loop and 4-mile south loop; I could then hit my car every 4 miles for some gel and some water (as opposed to going 6-7 miles between breaks last time.) HUGE difference. I actually ran the entire distance. I was ready to die at the end, but I made it.

I was hoping to do the run in 3.5 hours. It wound up taking me 3:30:12. Now I’m sure you’re thinking "close enough! You did it!" But no, that’s not how The Rules work. You either make the cut-off, or you don’t. I wasn’t upset; just a little frustrated that I almost made it but didn’t. I did notice that my southern loops were taking a little longer than the northern loops. There are some small hills along that path, but I didn’t think it should have made that much of a difference. So I rechecked the mileage. Turns out, the southern loop was a little longer and I actually ran 20.8 miles. So THAT counts.

Every training plan I’ve seen tells you that if you can run 20 miles, you can run 26 miles. This goes against everything I believe in, but I’m just going to have to take a leap of faith that I’ll suck up extra energy on race day. The question I now have is not so much "can I run 26 miles?" but rather "why would I want to?!"

More marathon training advice:
Pack extra bandaids to replace the one that slips off your toe to protect the growing blister. Ow.
Drink little bits of water more frequently, rather than guzzling a lot at once. (I gulped it down at my last refueling stop and it made me a little queazy.)
Do NOT spend the day at Disneyland the day after a long run. (my foot was (is) killing me).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Paradox of the New Shoes

You've seen my shoes. They are old and gross, and I knew long ago that I would need a new pair before doing the marathon. I also knew that it wasn't a good idea to run a marathon on a brand new pair of shoes. I did some research, and it seems that people generally buy their new shoes about a month before the big day. That gives them plenty of time to break them in. So last week - 1 month out - I bought my new running shoes. And yes, they are a bit stiff.

Now here's where I messed up. You want to break in your new shoes before the marathon. This weekend I'm supposed to do 20 miles, which might as well be the full distance as far as my feet are concerned. So I feel like I should have broken in these shoes LAST month, to prepare them for this run. Of course, last month I had to do 16 miles, and you shouldn't run 16 miles on new shoes. So I should have bought new shoes in January. But January was the half-marathon, and the last thing you want to do is run a half-marathon in new shoes. I should have bought new shoes in December. But then they'd be almost 4 months old by the time the marathon came around and I'd need new shoes.

Ergo, you can never buy new shoes.

(I think the way out is to use old shoes for the long run, then break in the new shoes during the shorter midweek runs. Which I usually skip because I'm still recovering.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bad Kitty

Smart: putting your clothes out the night before a run.
Not so smart: leaving them in a place where your cat will puke on them during the night.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Close call

I did my run at the Rose Bowl today. It was pretty cold - in the low 50s - when I started. Normally when it's that cold I break out the jogging pants. The tight, form-fitting, clingy pants. It ain't pretty, but they are warm and very comforatble to run in, and if strangers have to see me, so be it. But since it was President's Day for some reason I wanted to wear my red-white-and-blue shorts so I froze a bit and wore them instead. Thank goodness. During the run I ran into a bunch of friends (like 8 of them) who were out for a stroll around the Rose Bowl. I already felt self-conscious enough in my red-white-and-blue, stars-and-stripes "Captain America" style bike shirt I was wearing; they didn't need to see me in stretchy pants too.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ripped... or rip off?

Here's a photo from Triathlete Magazine. Look at the guy front row, second from left. I need somebody to explain something to me: how is it possible we can see his abs through his wetsuit? This isn't a question about diet or sit-ups; this is an issue of physics and three-dimensional geometry.

Wetsuits are not spandex. Even the most high-tech materials have a significant thickness to them to provide a layer of insulation against the frigid, jellyfish-infested waters. I could shove a half-dozen bricks into my suit and the material would simply smooth out all the lumps to make it look like I was carrying an alien love-child. So what's going on with this guy that we can see such level of detail?

My current theory is that the grooves are actually just painted on to the suit, creating the illusion of being in shape. All I know is that I also have a sleeveless Xterra suit and I don't look nuttin' like that. I need to get me one of those.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Insult to Injury

Funny how some things seem trivial in hindsight, but were monumental at the time.

Here's another story about Tuesday's long, painful run. I do out-and-back loops from my car and use my car as a central refueling station. A big motivator is knowing that "mmmmm.... in 2 miles I get to have some Gu and some Gatorade!" Sports drinks are lousy with dinner, but man are they scrumpdillyicious during a run.

I had about 2 miles to go for the entire night when I was pretty much dead. Most of my thoughts were "just get back to the car and have your gatorade... everything will be much better. It will be yummy." I got back to the car, depleted of all salts/carbs/fluids or whatever else I'm supopsed to have in my body, and grabbed my last bottle of Gatorade.

I couldn't get the cap off.

I didn't know if it was possible that my legs were so tired that they actually stole strength from my arms, but the cap would not budge. I tried biting it, wrapping it in a towel, banging it on the floorboard- nothing. I'm not sure how long I struggled with it but it was the most frustrating/futile feeling imaginable. I had to drive home before I could replenish.

Turns out it was a bad bottle. The next day, fully rested, I still couldn't get the cap off. Stupid Dutch (err.... COACH Stupid Dutch) was able to open it (natch) but even he struggled with it.

Here's some marathon training advice from Mister P.: Pre-open all your sports drinks before each run.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dirty Boy

I've been doing most of my runs along the dirt horse trails in Griffith Park. The mostly-packed dirt is much softer and flatter than the pavement, so it's easier on the knees/shins/feet. The problem with dirt trails is that they're... well... dirty. It's especially bad when you pass a horse which has kicked up a huge cloud of dirt which then sticks to every sweaty body part you have.

Here's a special treat for you foot fetishers. That isn't a tan line, it's a dirt line. Yuck.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


For several months I've pictured myself finishing the L.A. Marathon. I envisioned running past thousands of spectators along the Los Angeles streets, then crossing the finish with a big smile on my face as I looked back on my accomplishment. But tonight, I had an Epiphnay. I will not be crossing the finish line with a triumphant smile; I will be crossing it writhing in pain.

I travelled by foot for 18.4 miles today. I can't really use the word "run" because the last 2 miles were anything but. They were more of a walk-a-little, stagger-jog-a-little, walk-a-little. I'm not quite sure how to describe the pain. This was not an injury-type pain, this was more of a tight-muscle sort of thing. I have no idea what the muscle is called in the upper back of the leg (frankly I didn't even know I had a muscle back there) but around mile 15 it started screaming "What the HELL do you think you're doing?!!"

Now here's the scary part. To finish the marathon, I have to go through what I did tonight, and THEN run another hour and a half. I know that everyone says "race day will be different" but things are looking pretty daunting right now.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Uh oh

I woke up this morning planning on doing the Next Big Run: this one is supposed to be 18 miles. But for some reason my left shin feels really bad. It's not quite painful, but it's definitely "discomfort with extreme prejudice". It;s odd because it felt fine after Thursday's run and it wasn't bothering me yesterday.

I'm hoping it's just some temporary swelling and I'll be able to go out tomorrow. Or I may have to skip the long run entirely this weekend, which would definitely put me behind schedule. I'm not yet worried about not doing the L.A. Marathon, but I am now... concerned.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Brand new pain

OMG, you're not going to believe where I got a blister. Somehow, and maybe this could only happen to me, I managed to get a blister on my forehead.

See, I bought a jogging lamp. It has a nice strap that you wrap around your head to hold it in place. I think maybe you're supposed to wear it on top of a visor, but I tried that for a little bit and the visor just cast a big shadow on the ground right where I was supposed to running. I kept pointing my head down so I could see better in front of me. That wasn't good running form so I got rid of the visor and did about 9 miles with this thing strapped to my forehead. Ow.

There is a small piece of padding behind the lamp, but it's not enough. There was this constant force squishing my forehead. I tried loosening it, but then it just kept sagging down. I can still feel the phantom pressure against my head.

Next time, shadows be damned; I'm using the visor.

Baggage Check

You would think it's pretty simple to go for a run. Put on some sneakers and go, right? Wrong. I feel like I'm packing for vacation every time I go out. If I do a long run after work, this is what I have to remember to bring with me:

Outer thermal shirt (depending on weather)
Knee braces
Nip guards
Band-aids (put on pinky toes to prevent blisters)
Gel Packs
Head light
Back light

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon

Well, it wasn't exactly a good morning.

The Parking Nazis at the expo instilled the Fear of God in me regardng road closings, telling me I needed to get there extra early, so I arrived down in Huntington Beach at 5:30 am for a 7:00 race start. Way too early in the morning for me. It was cold and extremely foggy- it was hard to see where the parking spots were, although it was early enough that there were plenty.

This part has Too Much Information: skip to the next paragraph. At the expo on Saturday, vendors were selling all sorts of cute running crap. One booth was selling t-shirts with clever sayings like "Don't pass me- I'm not in your age group." (I'm not even sure how that's funny, but it is.) Another shirt said "I got the runs" which is funny of course because all bodily functions are funny. Well, let's just say I didn't think the shirt was so funny around 6:00 am. I don't know what I did wrong, maybe I was still sick from last week, but I watched an ocean sunrise through the translucent skylight of a port-a-potty in a beach parking lot. Not a real dignified way to kick off a race.

We lined up in the starting corral, and it was literally 6:59 when I realized - oh crap - I didn't have my timing chip. If you don't have the chip, they have no record of you even running the race. With 10,000 runners, it can take 5-10 minutes for people just to get to starting line once the race officially begins, so I figured I had a few minutes to find my chip. I ran to the bag-check tent to get my duffle bag back but it wasn't in there. It must be back in the car, about 1/2 mile away. I started running back to my car, but after 2 minutes I just figured that since the only thing I was carrying when I left home this morning was the bag, so if the chip wasn't there it must be back home. So then I had to run back to the starting line. By this time of course the race had already started and I got caught behind all the people who were there just to walk the distance. It's stressful having to navigate through the dense crowd to find your own pace group.

The run itself was not too bad. I was worried that I might try to beat my Orange County Half Marathon time; yeah, fat chance of that happening. I came in about 10 minutes slower (not that there's any official record of it) which was actually pretty close to the training pace I wanted to do. So that part turned out OK.

As far as the event itself is concerned: All the brochures rave about how this is one of the most beautiful courses in all of California, right along the Pacific Shoreline (hence the name.) They lie. I only saw the ocean for about 1 mile at the end. Most of the time, things were too foggy to see much of anything. And when the fog cleared up, we were treated to beautiful views of beach parking lots on our left, and oil drilling on our right. Or whatever those big ugly pump things are. I would hardly call it a "scenic course". At the finish line, there was no clear path back to the exhibit area. People were climbing (and sliding down) dirt embankments to get up to a parking lot, which we had to cross before we came close to anything that resembled water. Then it was a bit farther to the food. It just seemed poorly laid out. Even the finisher medals were disappointing: In previous years most of them have been shaped like surfboards. For the 10th anniversary, they switched to a circle.

My own personal problems aside, the Orange County Half just seemed like an overall better event.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Eating my eating-my-words

Remember a month ago when I realized that having to go to an expo the day before a race to pick up your registration packet helped build excitement for the race? Well that novelty wears out quick. I had to drive 120 miles today round-trip to pick up my packet for the Pacific Shore Half Marathon. No, it didn't get me psyched.

I am thrilled with my half-marathon time from the Orange County run, so I don't feel a strong need to beat it. If I'm smart, I will take it somewhat easy and just worry about not hurting myself. At this point, tomorrow should be just a training run for the full marathon 6 weeks away. Of course, when I get caught up in the actual event and see lots of little old ladies passing me, I'm going to want to speed up a bit. We'll see how that goes. Will have to try to get some good photos as well.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Take me out, coach

I finally decided to start skipping some mid-week runs. Stupid Dutch has been giving me a lot of advice about recovering from runs (ice baths, rest, drugs), and I usually just blow him off but he finally convinced me that running while my shins are still hurting is not a good idea. Because he's been so supportive, I should probably refer to him with a more respectful title so you may see me referring to him as Coach Stupid Dutch from time to time.