Monday, April 29, 2013

Up, Up and Run Away!

This weekend I am doing a 10K. Normally, I wouldn't be too worried about a 10K race but this one is a bit of a doozy. I've been calling it the "Verdugo Hills 10K" but in actuality I just found out it's called the Verdugo MOUNTAINS 10K. The website says it's a "challenging" course with 1,745 feet of climbing.

I didn't have a good sense of what 1,745 feet really is, but I realized I had to do some hill training so I started running the bike loop we often do in Griffith Park after work. I knew that the bike course wasn't a huge hill but I thought it would be good base training. I've been running it for the past couple of weeks.

With the official race one week away, I thought it would be a good idea to do sort of a dress rehearsal and try some serious climbing. I decided I would start at the bottom of a hill (Travel Town) and then run uphill for 30 minutes (taking the detour road at the top of the bike loop). I didn't expect to make it a full 3 miles in 30 miles, but this was just going to be a practice run.

So I ran. Up and up and up. I was terrified to look at my watch, because I was worried I would think I was 20 minutes in and it would turn out to be only 12 (you know how time plays tricks on you when you're tired.) I kept ignoring the urge to check my time until I finally thought "OK, this HAS to be more than 20 minutes and I'll have less than 10 minutes to go." I looked down: 31 minutes. Woohoo! I had run pretty much constantly uphill for over 30 minutes and was still feeling pretty good. I rounded up to 35, turned around and rolled breezily down to my car.

I was feeling great! I had no problems with the hill and even though I knew it wasn't the full elevation I figured the excitement of race day would help me with the extra 200 feet or whatever I needed to do. When I got home, I charted my run to see how close I came to simulating this weekend's 10K:

That little orange bump is the regular "hill" run I've been doing for the past couple weeks. The green chart is the training run I was feeling so good about. That brown monstrosity in the background is what I actually have to do on Sunday. I'm screwed.

In hindsight, I probably should have looked at the elevation a little more closely a few weeks ago. At this point, there is nothing I can do about it. I'm hoping to make it at least 2 miles up the mountain before doing some walking but it's going to be a LOOOONNNNG 10K.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I never liked Boston.

I went to college equidistant from New York and Boston, and there was a definite clash of cultures: either you were a fan of a real city or you supported Boston. I've been to Boston several times, and it just never spoke to me. So I was never interested in doing the Boston Marathon. Sure, I would probably have to wait a few age group levels before I could even think about qualifying, but it was never even on my radar. Not interested.

But I get it. Boston is the marathon of marathons. It's a race that people dream about doing for years, decades, lifetimes. There are millions of runners out there who say "someday, I'll make it to Boston."

23,336 people started the 2013 Boston Marathon.
17,580 finished.
468 crossed the finish line after the bombs went off.

That number 468 amazes me. Many of those people had to run towards/past the explosions to get to the finish line, and they did. Many people did not see the explosions, just the total chaos of the aftermath, and they continued the race. Every individual racer had their own reason for making it to the finish line, whether it was determination or simply denial about what was happening around them, but I think it just says something about how important finishing this race was.

We see too many tragic news stories, but there is something different about Boston. If a train blows up, or an office building, the victims are mostly people going about their daily routines. But yesterday's victims were at the finish line of a race - every one of them gave up their day to come out and support a friend or a family member. Many of them traveled far to get there. I'm sure they spent hours tracking their individual racers, worrying about how they were doing with very little information. I know the stress and excitement of race spectating very well, and that's what the victims were doing that afternoon. They were there doing something GOOD.

On the other side of things, I don't know how many times I've been the racer and saw friends waiting for me at a finish line. It brings tears to my eyes to think that someone could come to watch me at a race to cheer me on and in an instant could wind up losing a leg. Or their life.

And I think about the Boston finishers, and those who couldn't finish. Their special day, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for many, was taken away from them. Their accomplishment is forever overshadowed by tragedy.

My favorite viral image of the day is this photo of the Brooklyn Academy of Music:

For this week at least, I ♥ Boston.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Staying Focused *** this is a good one, promise ***

I have a new car.

It's a 2013 Ford Focus Titanium. It has all sorts of fancy bells and whistles; the car can actually parallel park itself. (yes, it really works, and it's amazing.) It also has a bunch of other features that I'm just starting to learn about, and they're getting me in trouble.

I did a run in Griffith Park after work. Did the 3-mile loop around the golf course then got back to my car parked at the zoo. The car doesn't use an ignition key; instead, you have to have a special wireless key fob with you and you step on the brake while pressing the Start button. I was very sweaty and didn't want to climb into the car to start it up to get the A/C going. Fortunately, there was another option- you can start the car using a remote button on the key fob. So I did that instead. I was standing with the driver's door open and dumped my phone and the key fob on the driver's seat. I had a clean shirt, a towel, and some water in the footwell on the passenger side, so I walked to the other side of the car, instinctively closing the driver door.

As it turns out, when you remote-start the car, the car goes into a "security" mode and all the doors lock automatically. I was locked out of my car, with the engine running, staring at the keys and my phone on the front seat. Alone, in an empty parking lot at the zoo.

I spent about 5 seconds trying to shimmy a window open but I knew that wouldn't work. And I wasn't about to smash a window on my new car. I had no phone to call anyone, and even if I flagged someone down and asked to borrow their phone, who memorizes phone numbers anymore? We just speed-dial. I needed another option. I don't live very far from the zoo, so I figured I already did some running, might as well add a little distance.

It's very easy for me to get home from the zoo by car - it's only 1.5 miles by freeway.  But if you take the side streets, you have to cross two freeways and the L.A. River and it's a convoluted maze that's probably 4 or 5 miles. Well I wasn't about to run another 5 miles, so I just took the freeway. Now then, loyal readers may recall that I accidentally rode my bike on the freeway a few years ago. I took the same route, only this time it was intentional and on foot. If you don't count the on/off ramps, I was technically only on the 134 for about 1/4 mile so that isn't TOO bad. But it was rather loud and busy in the middle of rush hour. And I was surprised just how DIRTY the road was. There was garbage and car parts everywhere that you don't really notice when you're driving by.

Everyone asks me "weren't you worried a cop would see you?" Well, yes, but I wasn't worried about getting a ticket. I was more concerned about the embarrassment of having to explain how I locked my keys in a running car.

I made it home, used a hidden key to get inside, picked up the spare car key and my bike and rode back to the zoo. This time I stuck to the side streets. When I got back to the car, the engine was stopped. At first I was worried that I had run out of gas, but I guess the remote start just automatically turns off if you don't do anything after 10 or 20 minutes. I threw my bike in the back and drove home.

I've ridden my bike on the freeway. I've run on the freeway. Somehow, I suspect someday I will swim on the freeway.