Monday, March 27, 2006

Move over Atkins

Hello friends! Are you tired of weight-loss programs which don't give results? Have we got a system for you! Just run 26.2 miles! No expensive, complicated exercise equipment to buy. No bland meals to suffer through. You won't have to wait months, weeks, or even days for results; you'll lose weight within hours!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Los Angeles Marathon Race Report

So I ran the L.A. Marathon this weekend. La-dee-freakin'-da.

I left my home about 15 minutes late Sunday because I had a little rumbly in my tummy, but no big deal. I was downtown and out of my car within 30 minutes; parking was excellent. You don't think of Los Angeles as a pedestrian-friendly city, but as it turns out there are quite a few elevated walkways and plazas to keep foot traffic off the streets. That's fine, except when you WANT to be on the street. There were a group of us wandering around trying to figure out how to get out of the nice plazas and down to street level but we couldn't do it. Hotels wouldn't let us cut through their lobbies, and some of the side streets were fenced off.

By 7:00 there was already a large crowd of people lined up for an 8:15 start time. That's way too long to be just standing in place, so I wandered around a bit. Made 4 trips to the port-a-potties (I'm sure I could have gotten away with just 2, but when lines are short, I use them.)

By far the highlight of the entire day was the start. It took me nearly 9 minutes to just get to the starting line after the gun went off. then it was just a sea of humanity running down Figueroa while Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." was being blasted down the street. It was pretty cool, and the day was filled with energy and excitement and hopes and dreams. (all to be smashed to tiny bits, but more on that later.)

A few things about the course itself: for starters, it's kind of ugly. We ran by quite a few gas stations, strip malls, and Taco Bells. They had a lot of "Entertainment Stations" along the way which were pretty bad. Some had DJ's playing music, but they were screaming into a microphone through distorted speakers "only 10 more miles, winners! You're all winners! Way to go winners!" Ya know what? Shut up and just let the music play. One stop had a band but when I was running by they were too busy telling everyone "...and you can buy our new cd on our website" I don't want to have to listen to commercials while running. Target Stores did have one cool setup however: they had a 30 foot tunnel in the middle of the street with flashing lights inside and speakers playing the theme from Rocky. OK, now that was cool.

Dutch & Danielle were on the sidelines cheering me on around mile 17. Yay! I still had a pretty good pace going at this point. I was just glad that they didn't see me another mile or two down the road. I had heard all about "The Wall", this point around mile 20 when marathoners just suddenly lose the will to live. I assumed that it was just a psychological barrier because of the number 20, but let me tell you: The Wall is very real. OMG around mile 19, WHAM! I could barely run anymore. I had no strength, no energy, and about 7 miles to go. I had to do a bit of walking, then would desperately try to force myself to run again. It didn't help that the last 10 miles of the marathon are essentially uphill.

In the earlier parts of race, I was amazed at the amount of public urination. Everytime we passed a fence to a parking lot there would be a line of guys just taking care of business. I refrained. Around mile 22, the crowds were dispersed enough that there were no lines at the Port-a-Potties, so I decided I would make use of the facilities. I apologize for being vulgar, but I did my business like a girl. Not because I needed to, but because - well - it just fel so good to sit down. Yes, I was in a dank smelly portable toilet and it felt like a Barcalounger to me. I could have stayed in there all day for all I cared.

Remember how I said "your time DOES matter?" I was wrong. During those last 5-7 miles, I couldn't care less what my finishing time would be. The only thing that mattered was "I want this to be over." It sucked. Really. I hated it. I did manage however to finish fairly strong, doing the last 1.2 miles in under 10 minutes.

Poor, poor Flash. Mark drove out there, fought the crowds and traffic, and never saw me. I sent him a map showing my expected times along the course so I could see me run. He wound up going close to the finish line, but got there late and thought he missed me. But I was a half-hour slower than I expected, so i was still out there. And then he went to the expo area to look for me and I was just too dead-tired to bother looking for him so I just went home.

Well, I didn't exactly "just go home". I had to get to my car first, and that was an achievement unto itself. My car was about 3 blocks away, but it turns out I could only walk about 1/2 block at a time. I had two bags with me and a silver heat blanket (items which were left in the coat-check area during the race) and so I would walk 100 yards or so, then literally just plop myself down on the sidewalk with my bags and blanket like a homeless person and regain my strength. Then it was off to do another 100 yards.

I will say this: I do think I ran a "smart" race. During various training runs, I injured my feet and shins. I felt nauseous. I had cramps. Blisters. During the marathon, I had none of those problems. So I had good weather, good shoes, good nutrition... I think there was just a limit to how far these little chicken legs can go and they hit it on Sunday.

A month ago I knew that I would be in pain crossing the finish line. But I still also expected there to be some sort of feeling of joy or accomplishment going along with it. Nothing. My thoughts were "OK, I need to get my stuff and get to my car." I'm not saying the marathon isn't a big deal, but even now my feeling is "I did a marathon... so what?" Maybe I placed too much importance on the whole thing going in to it. What if Christmas doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Will I do another marathon? I don't know. I would like to have a better time, but I don't think I'd want to do L.A. again. All I know is for the next couple of weeks I'm eating all the Oreos and Peanut Butter Cups I want.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

L.A. Marathon

I did the L.A. Marathon in 4:58. I beat 5 hours, which is not a bad time by any means, but I am a little disappointed. 26.2 miles is very humbling.

I am in a state of pain the likes of which I have never felt before. I will do a full write-up later, but for now here's an audio entry I made shortly after finishing:

Audio blog (.wav file, 450k)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Marathon MOT

Whenever I have a something stressful to do, every day brings a little more anxiety. But at some time there will be an inflection point when the stress jumps into high gear. The "holy-fucking-shit, what am I doing?" moment. This is the MOT. (Moment Of Terror). My Marathon MOT hit me this morning on my way to pick up my race packet in downtown L.A. Workers were already starting to set up barriers and stages along the course. Driving down Flower Street I could see a big white banner stretched across the road; I naturally assumed it was some sort of marathon sign. After I drove under it I turned around and saw what it said:

Mile 26.

I don't know why, but that's when it hit me. I could feel my face go flush and my stomach tie up in a knot. Absolute Terror. I will be travelling under that sign again tomorrow, but in far less comfort than I did this morning.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pittsburgh or Bust

People like to say "your time doesn't matter...just finishing is enough." I hate that hippie crap. I think your time DOES matter. It isn't important how it compares with anyone else's results, but whether you think you can do a marathon in 3 hours, or 6 hours, or 8, I think you should start the run with some sort of personal goal in mind.

The time I spend running the marathon should be comparable to taking an airplane trip:

On Sunday, I think I'll be going to Pittsburgh. That should be a reasonable but very good time for me. I will be a little upset if I wind up in New York. However, in the back of my mind I have a secret goal. And I'm afraid to even say it for fear that if I don't make it I'll be disappointed. But here it is: I want to go to Indianapolis. Based on my best half-marathon time, the online pace-calculators predict that I can go to Indianapolis. My training runs say that I won't.

But for now, I hear Pittsburgh is beautiful this time of year.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Final Run

I did my last training run tonight. I was actually looking forward to it, because it was supposed to be simple. It was the shortest run of the entire training program: 2.7 miles. Which meant it should have been quick and easy. I even planned on finishing it before sunset and not have to worry about strapping that painful lamp to my head.

Well, nothing is simple. One thing you may not want to know is that when I run after work, I change clothes in the car. Everything. En route. The only piece of clothing that stays on me is my watch. I do most of it at stop lights (with a towel for discretion.) So I did the little dance on the way to my run and didn't think anything about it. When I got out of the car, something didn't feel right. Turns out, I had packed my bike shorts, not my running shorts. There is a lot of extra padding in the shorts and they really would be just awful to run in. I thought about just using them anyway, but since this was to be my final, triumpahnt run I wanted everything be right. So I had to quickly drive home, get my real shorts, then race back and hope to finish up before the sun went down. I didn't quite make it in time, but it was OK.

I am finished with training. The next time I run, it will be for the actual marathon. Although I did not finish the complete program, I did at least hit all the big runs. I would have liked a few more miles in me as better preparation, (mostly for injury prevention) but I'll have to go in with what I got.

Total miles in training program: 420
Actual miles run: 353
Total number of scheduled workouts: 67
Number of workouts missed due to injury/recovery: 14
Number of workouts missed because "I just didn't feel like it": 0
Milligrams of Ibuprofen: over 10,000

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Watch Out

Taper taper taper. I ran 4.3 miles tonight. This was a very common distance for me pre-marathon; I've run this course a lot. I wanted to build up my confidence week, so I decided I would try to run it quickly. And I did. As I was approaching the finish line (a stop sign in Griffith Park) I was thinking "this might be a Personal Best for me at this distance." When I crossed the line I quickly tried to stop my watch timer, but somehow I hit the wrong button. I put the watch into some sort of "Set Timer Mode". I could see the little stopwatch icon blinking so I knew the time was still ticking away, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to get the watch back into normal mode.

I started hitting all the buttons in every possible order and eventually managed to reset the watch and stop the timer. But I have no idea how much time I spent futzing with the watch. Twenty seconds? Probably more. A minute? Probably less. The Rules state that when I log my time, I have to round up, so ultimately I had to subtract just 20 seconds from the clock time. (The more time I actually spent on the watch, the faster my run time would be.)

Had I subtracted 60 seconds, I would have been very close to beating my Personal Best. But rules are rules, so it doesn't count.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Travellin' Man

I drove past this road yesterday:

Unfortunately, the cross street was "Torn Ligament Ave." (kidding)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Where Some Have Gone Before

To do a marathon, I think it's important to have someone who inspires you. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker... maybe an athlete you've seen on TV or in magazines. I know a few people who have done marathons, and I've found my inspiration:

Mister P.'s Inspiration (2 MB Quicktime movie)

You may not know this, but in April 2323 on the planet Danula II, Jean-Luc Picard became the first freshman cadet to win the Starfleet Academy Marathon. Of course, that won't happen for another 300 years. So maybe in the distant future, Jean-Luc will be doing research on early 21st century life, find an archive of, and I'll be the one inspiring him to run the marathon which inspires me! Temporal Mechanics is so confusing.

Seriously, Trek fans need to put together a Starfleet Marathon in San Francisco (the future home of the Academy). I would so TOTALLY be there.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Be gone from me, wicked temptress!

I read many of your triathlon blogs, and I have to tell you: I laugh at you. Or at least with you. Some of the diet talk is pretty funny to me. I'll read stories of people who will "treat themselves" to a frozen yogurt if they complete their morning workout, or will run extra miles because they were at the inlaws last night and felt obligated to have a slice of apple pie after dinner. I say HA! Don't get me wrong, I have tremendous respect for your willpower, but we are in completely different worlds.

Many people at work have little candy dishes on their desks. As a general courtesy, I usually won't go into their offices to take some candy because I don't want to disturb them. Instead, I'll wait until they leave and then sneak in. Stolen candy tastes better anyway. But recently, my boss, the moron who got me running in the first place, began dish-sitting for another co-worker. It's complicated, but basically her candy jar is on his desk. Here's the problem: I have no qualms about walking into HIS office while he's working, chatting on the phone, or taking a nap to swipe some candy. And I don't take just one piece. I typically will take a Hershey's Kiss, a Peanut Butter Cup, and a Hershey's Miniature. And I will do this throughout the day. This is in addition to the chocolate-covered pretzels in office 1834. And the Kit Kats in 1823b. And the chocolate eggs in 1837f. I can easily eat 20-30 pieces of candy in a day just walking around.

Because my mind is weak, I've asked my boss to put away the jar until after the marathon. Not that I need to be losing more weight, but it's easier to run when you're not bloated on chocolate.

Next week however, all bets are off!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dog Tired

This is the course of the L.A. Marathon... is it just me, or does it look like a giant schnauzer?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who am I?

OK, this may sound like I'm boasting a bit, but tough.

I'm in my "tapering" phase, meaning that all of the tough training runs are over, and the distances are getting shorter and shorter. It's still important to do the runs, just to keep the blood flowing and the legs loose. I couldn't run last weekend because I was away, then I couldn't run Monday, and I couldn't run Tuesday, so I finally made it out tonight. I was halfway home from work when it sort of hit me: "I'm about to run a half marathon." Just two months ago I nervously completed my first 13 mile run and that was a tremendous accomplishment for me. Now that same distance is just a task that I have to try to squeeze in before dinner. I'm not saying it's easy, just that... well... it's not really the challenge it once was.

And that blows my mind.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I am officially supposed to be in the "tapering" phase of marathon training. That means the runs start getting shorter and shorter before the big day. But in actuality, it hasn't been much of a taper but rather a complete drop-off. I did my last run about 9 days ago. My foot was killing me the following week and it hurt just to walk on it so I didn't run during the week. this past weekend I was on a ski trip so I didn't run (my foot was still hurting, and actually I think the skiing help stretch it out a bit.) I was going to run Monday after work, but it was raining pretty hard in L.A. I was going to run today after work, but I had to stay late.

I'll try again tomorrow. The marathon is in less than 2 weeks and I still haven't properly broken in my shoes.

Monday, March 06, 2006


I'm kind of mad at the marathon website.

For a while now I've wanted to get Stuff. Maybe a special t-shirt, or a hat, or something to help generate excitement for the upcoming event. But the official merchandise page is full of products from LAST year's event. They have one generic "L.A. Marathon Training" shirt, but if you want to buy anything the link goes to an expired registration page.

For such a large, high-profile event, the website sucks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You say Fasciitis, I say Fascatis

According to the internet (which is never wrong) I now have mild "Plantar Fasciitis". It's basically a pain in the arch of your foot caused by swelling of the tissue due to overuse. It can be caused by running long distances on soft surfaces such as sand (or perhaps, horse trails?)

It's been 4 days since my long run, and if I stand up for more than about a minute my arch starts to hurt. I am icing it and stretching it. I'm sure it's nothing serious, but although I am officially "tapering" I would like to get my runs in so I can break in my new shoes. (I only did one short run in them so far.) My old shoes are too soft, my new shoes are too stiff, I have nothing which is just right.

Rich Man, Stair Man

Maybe you know someone who is financially well-off. Maybe some day you caught them clipping coupons and you thought to yourself "what are they doing? they're rich, they can afford not to use coupons." Only to realize that they're rich BECAUSE they clip coupons.

That's how I feel about taking the stairs. It's such an old joke, yet time after time when I call for an elevator someone will say "oh sure, you want to run a marathon but you're too lazy to climb one flight of stairs." Ya know what? My legs hurt and they will hurt less if I take the elevator. So go ahead and take pride in the 10 seconds of exercize you're getting today by wheezing up the stairs.