Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 5 Days...

Last night our little Team and quite a few supporters met up at Dave and Buster's in Arcadia to celebrate the season and the races we're about to complete. There's nothing like a couple of hours with the good people of TNT to make you feel like a million bucks. As Dr. Smith pointed out last night, TNT must have a built in "scum filter" that only allows the good-hearted to join. If you're looking for "What's Right With Southern California," you only need to come out on a Saturday morning at the Rose Bowl to witness that there are good people here in LA. We can be obnoxious as we pretty much hog the running path on Saturdays, pushing other runners who seem to fear our numbers off to the middle road, but we do mean well. Although, admittedly, I do think some bad apples got in, but I won't identify them by name. They know who they are!

When I first joined TNT I thought I wouldn't be able to stand all the gooey goodness and positive vibes emanating from the other participants. I can be a Grinch, but boy, did TNT melt my cold, cold heart. I still find it hard to be upbeat and rah-rah at 7AM on a Saturday, but I find the goodness around me to be refreshing. Who needs Prozac when you have TNT? I never give up anything for Lent, but driving today I thought about doing more of something. So I decided I will dole out more hugs.

Hugs for everyone!

No running today. Rest.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 6 Days...

The Dow fell 416 points today! I guess I'll be postponing that retirement after all.

Money is always on the back of my mind these days--how to keep it, how to make it, how to spend it. For a while there I was worried I was going to have to put in more than I expected towards my fundraising. With a week left until final funds I was still $800 short of my minimum. My goal was to get within $200 of the minimum and pay the rest as if I was covering my registration and hotel. Thanks to the generosity of friends, though, I was able to make my minimum and even exceed it.

As part of Team in Training, I find fundraising to be the toughest aspect, moreso than twenty mile runs. It's also why I'm a part of the program. I have to remind myself that TNT is not simply a social group (but it can be), it's a group of people working together to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fulfill its mission. With that said, though, it's still tough to ask your friends and family to donate, especially if you're like me, someone who doesn't like to ask others for things. If I want something, I get it myself. Heck, if they'd let me, I would fry my own burgers at Burger King.

So, I have to chastise myself often for neglecting the important part of TNT and getting caught up in the camaraderie and good times. We are there to fight cancer--and have fun doing so. If I do the math, though, after attending various fundraisers, donating directly to someone's efforts, buying fundraising shirts, etc, I've probably put in hundreds of dollars towards the cause. Too bad I can't claim all of those as tax deductions. I'm not complaining. Quite the opposite. I wish I had more money to contribute not just to LLS but to other organizations I care about. Maybe some day I'll be rich enough to have a building at UCLA named after me. But if the Dow keeps falling like it did today, I doubt it will be any time soon.

With regards to running, I'm taking the day off. I skipped the gym today and instead got my haircut and met a friend for lunch. I've got a massage scheduled later and then it's off to Dave and Buster's for the SGV Send-off Dinner.

It's quite fitting that the song playing while I write this is LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" from his/their upcoming album, Sound of Silver, with its bouncy chorus declaring "if I could see all my friends tonight." Well, tonight, I am!

Monday, February 26, 2007

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 7 Days...

I went to mass yesterday with my parents (yes, I do go, but only for the fabulous costumes and the fantastic wine), but I remember little of it. I spent most of the mass thinking about how in a week, at that particular time, I will be running through the streets of Los Angeles, and--God-willing--I will be done by the time mass is over. I thought about actually praying for a good race, but I thought that would be self-serving. God has more important things to worry about. Instead I prayed that Emmanuel Lubezki would win the Oscar for cinematography for his astounding work in Children of Men. He didn't, so now I'm reconsidering my whole belief system.

Next Sunday will mark my third Los Angeles Marathon, fourth overall. My goal is to finish under four hours. I completed last year's race in 4 hours, 15 minutes. I've been running well this season, posting strong half marathon times at the City of Angels Half and the Pacific Shoreline Half. Really the four hours should be a given, but I'm completely scared I won't be able to. I'm a wimp when it comes to hitting the wall. The problem isn't so much physical but the psychological battle a runner goes through when they think they can't go on. I tend to buckle under. I'm hoping this won't be the case this year or else I'll feel like Peter O'Toole. Poor guy.

I also, in my opinion, ran a conservative race last year hoping to save up enough energy to run a negative split in the second half. That did not happen. This year I'm going to try and run a faster first half and hopefully I can hang on for the second half. I figure I'll be tired regardless, so I might as well rack up a time deficit in the first half while I'm fresher. Nothing crazy, I'll just try to run between 8:30 and 9 minutes per mile and maintain a 9 minute pace in the second half. I'll be taking walk breaks, too. In my halfs I've run straight through the first four miles before taking a walk break. I won't do that in the marathon. I'll take a walk break every mile, basically at the water stations.

I'm also debating whether or not to carry a bottle with me. I've been running a lot more without one and the ease and comfort of having your hands free while you run is a big relief. I can't use a case around my waist since I haven't used one, and it will most likely annoy me. The marathon will have water stations every mile and Gatorade every other mile, so I can probably go without my own bottle and be OK. A compromise would be to have a bottle in the first half and then dump it after that. I'll think about it more.

I ran my last long run on Friday, eight miles, at a nine minute pace. I kept reminding myself to take it easy, but once you get going it's tough to restrain yourself. I ran on Friday because I was going to drink on Friday night, and I knew I would not have any desire to run after a margarita-fueled night. Good decision.

Today I ran five miles on the treadmill. I set the pace at 7 miles per hour (8:34/mile), and it felt great. I could have kept going. I even threw in an incline in the last mile for the heck of it. Hopefully the feeling continues on through Sunday.

Winners and Losers

Tonight's Oscar telecast was probably one of the better ones in quite some time. Ellen DeGeneres made for a pleasant host, a lot of the montages and other bits worked, and Laura Ziskin, the producer, found creative ways to address the show's traditional dead spots. Speeding up the Academy president's speech was a great solution. It actually made me listen to what he was saying. I also liked the Pilobolus dance group's brief tributes to the year's films, especially recreating the trident stiletto from the poster to The Devil Wears Prada.

Other moments I enjoyed: Meryl Streep's death stare during the costume design award; Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C. Reilly singing; Ellen passing her script to Scorsese and getting a picture taken with Eastwood for her MySpace; and the opening nominees film by Errol Morris.

The winners, too, were quite good. There were some minor upsets, but even in those cases the winner was a strong contender. There were no upsets in the same league as Adrien Brody or Marisa Tomei. My choices didn't fare too well, but I did get Arkin winning. I still wish Adriana Barraza won. This was probably Peter O'Toole's last chance to win. Oscar caliber roles for older actors are few and far between, and he doesn't look well at all. The upset I was disappointed by was Pan's Labyrinth taking the cinematography award from Children of Men. Emanuel Lubezki was robbed.

So, another Oscar season has ended, but another one starts in about nine months. I can't hardly wait.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...Oscars!

This year's Oscars are going to be tough to predict. For best picture I can make an argument for four of the films. The acting categories seem like they have been set in stone for a while with the same folks winning all over the place, but I do think that three of the four acting frontrunners are not sure things. Rather than waste more time, here are my predictions. Be warned, though, I've decided to go out on a limb for some of these categories, predicting some upsets.


The only nominee I can confidently eliminate is The Queen. It's a fine film and has done well commercially, but I have a feeling most Academy members view the film as a glorified made-for-TV film, something HBO normally airs. Don't worry, it will probably be rewarded in another category. As for the other four, they all have their reasons why they could win. Babel has the most nominations and can claim the mantle of "important film," Little Miss Sunshine is a film adored by just about everyone and is the little indie film that could, Letters from Iwo Jima is a critically-adored war film directed by a beloved director at the top of his form, and The Departed is the most commercially-successful film of the bunch and is also well-admired. However, each film also has its drawback: Babel probably irritated many (including myself), Little Miss Sunshine may be seen as too lightweight, Clint Eastwood's previous Oscar successes may lead to a passing over of Letters regardless of how good it is, and The Departed is a bloody, genre film. Still, I'm going with The Departed. It has a strong pedigree and may be the least divisive film of the lot.

Will Win: The Departed
Should Win: Letters from Iwo Jima
Robbed: Children of Men


Forest Whitaker has won practically every best actor award this year, yet I'm going out on a limb and picking the sentimental choice. I have a feeling I'll be wrong with this one, but wouldn't it be nice if I was proven right? While Whitaker's performance is quite something to behold, it's also not a lead performance. It really is a supporting role, regardless of how much the character dominates the proceedings. I haven't seen O'Toole's film, so I'm picking him simply for the sentimental factor.

Will Win: Peter O'Toole
Should Win: Ryan Gosling
Robbed: James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland


There's no use even explaining the choice. Mirren steamrolled over everyone this year, and she did so in a particularly good year for actresses. With Mirren's eventual win, the string of skinny, young actresses winning best actress will end. The last woman of a certain age to win was Frances McDormand ten years ago.

Will Win: Helen Mirren
Should Win: Judi Dench
Robbed: No one really. All five were the best of the year.


It's Scorsese's year. None of the other nominees have much momentum. Only Eastwood and Greengrass have a chance of winning but their chances are slim to none. Eastwood has won twice, most recently two years ago, so I doubt the Academy will be eager to give him a third while Scorsese has zilch. Greengrass's film made too many people uncomfortable and the film did not receive a best picture nomination.

Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Robbed: Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men


Tough, tough category. Eddie Murphy is the presumed frontrunner, but I can make arguments for everyone else, too. I'm going with Arkin because of the sentimental factor and the fact that Murphy might have turned off voters with his aloofness, not to mention the recent release of Norbit.

Will Win: Alan Arkin
Should Win: Alan Arkin
Robbed: Michael Sheen, The Queen


I'm going out on a limb here. Jennifer Hudson is the frontrunner, and she certainly delivers with "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." That number alone should have sealed the Oscar for her. However, when she's not singing, her acting is merely serviceable. Only when she sings does the character come alive. Plus, I have doubts that the Academy wants to honor an American Idol reject. The only reason Hudson is the frontrunner is the lack of competition. No one came out to battle Hudson. Abigail Breslin might win if support for Little Miss Sunshine is strong, and Cate Blanchett, too, if the Academy has forgotten that she won two years ago. I'm going to go with the true best supporting actress of the five nominees, Adriana Barraza. While I didn't like Babel, I loved Barraza. She was the heart of the film and its most empathetic character, despite the manipulations Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu put character through.

Will Win: Adriana Barraza
Should Win: Adriana Barraza
Robbed: Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration


Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Cinematography: Children of Men
Editing: United 93
Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth
Costume: Marie Antoinette
Original Score: The Queen
Original Song: "Listen" from Dreamgirls
Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Sound Editing: Letters from Iwo Jima
Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Make Up: Pan's Labyrinth
Foreign Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth
Animated Film: Cars
Animated Short: Little Matchgirl
Documentary Short: The Blood of Yingzhou District
Live Action Short: West Bank Story

The last three are guesses. I know nothing of those categories. We'll see how my predictions fare.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Live: Cold War Kids w/ Two Gallants and the Delta Spirit @ (the) El Rey Theater

Liz and I ventured to Los Angeles last night to see the Cold War Kids headline the El Rey Theater. I had tried to get tickets to their show at Spaceland last month, but the employee at Sea Level Records laughed at me for even thinking I could get tickets so late. Apparently Cold War Kids have taken off in popularity, and the sold out crowd at the El Rey was proof. The place was packed, and they were not the typical indie rock fans one sees at smaller venues. I think hipsters outnumbered geeks last night.

As for the show, Liz and I got to the venue just as the Delta Spirit were wrapping up their set. I was impressed by them when they held a residency at Spaceland a couple of months ago, and based on the one, raucous song I heard as I came in, they were in fine form. They were joined by a couple of the Cold War Kids in the last song and they returned the favor later on when they joined the Kids on stage for a song.

Two Gallants, a band I'm only familiar with based on the song ("Anna's Sweater") they contributed to the 2005 Believer compilation, followed shortly. They were awesome. As their name suggests they are a duo, guitar and drum, but they rocked the El Rey with no problems. They have an old, bluesy sound, kind of like the White Stripes except with a rough, folky feel. The songs stretch out for over ten minutes at times, which is fine by me, powered by guitars and drumming that chug along like a locomotive. Their set certainly piqued my interest, so I'll have to scour for their album from last year.

As for the Cold War Kids, they strode onstage confidently and they delivered. When I saw them last year, the Echo's tiny stage barely contained the band and their flailing bodies. The El Rey's stage is much bigger and allowed the band to fully flop and flail. I still sense a little bit of "performance" from them, as if the tent revival energy they give off is just an act. When they performed Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" for their encore, it was easy to recognize the gap between genuine soul and what, I guess, I'll describe as "soulful vibe." Still, they delivered a thoroughly entertaining set. The band's songwriting is strong and will likely improve over time. For every song that doesn't quite work, like "God, Make Up Your Mind," they have a song like "Hospital Beds" or "Hang Me Up to Dry" that hit their target with ease. The set, like I said, was enjoyable, the musicianship tight and strong, but it really only seemed revelatory.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Armchairs and running

I'm still obsessed with Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha, as fine an album as I expect to hear all year. I avoid raving about things that I like to others because it always disappoints me when they don't share my enthusiasm and gradually leads to loss of respect for that person. I shall not have friends with lousy tastes.

I kid.

Not about Armchair Apocrypha, though. I tout it to anyone who cares to listen, but I always qualify my praises with "I think..." The album should be heard from beginning to end to be properly appreciated, but each song can stand on their own. However, listened together end to end, the songs play off each other, like a symphony with various movements. At one point it is clever and catchy talking about preparing for death in a "fiery crash" then it becomes a heartbreaking lament for lost love, as in "Armchairs." For me, the hallmark of anything great is that once it ends, you feel a loss that you'll never again experience it for the first time. I had that feeling with Armchair Apocrypha, but even though it is now a familiar sound to me, I still crave hearing it over and over again. With each listen something presents itself that I never noticed before, a sweet lip smack, a swell of strings, a whimsical whistling overture, or a lovely sigh that cuts straight to the heart.

The song "Armchairs" is probably the best example of rediscovery after a few listens. I liked the song well enough the first time I heard it, but I don't usually listen to lyrics very closely the first few times I hear a song. So it wasn't until a week into my obsession with Armchair Apocrypha, after at least a dozen listens, that I listened closely to the song. It was the opening lyrics that got me:

I dreamed you were a cosmonaut
Of the space between our chairs
And I was a cartographer
Of the tangles in your hair

It's lines like these that make me wish that someone broke my heart so I can thoroughly understand the meaning. I would sing this song over and over again and feel the heartbreak, so that I would feel like I was the one bellowing when Bird gets to the song's climax:

You didn't write you didn't call
It didn't cross your mind at all

It's possible I am misunderstanding the song, but I suppose it doesn't matter. This is how it makes me feel, that time is, indeed, a "crooked bow."

"Armchairs" isn't a song one would typically listen to while running, but I find myself playing it on my iPod as I run on the treadmill. The melody has a calming effect on me, helping me relax as I run, and at seven minutes long, I'm pretty much in a groove by the time it ends. The song was in my head when I ran the Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon, and I wouldn't mind having it there again when I run LA.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A dozen miles

The training schedule (which I haven't been consulting) apparently said 12 miles for Saturday, but Jimmy changed it up in the morning and the team ran 10 miles. I still wound up running roughly 12 miles with FJ and Andy since we started at the pipe. It was all a miscommunication but it all worked out. Roughly 12 miles in 1:48. There's nothing much to say about the run other than that it was a warm day. Otherwise it went well.

Right now I'm supposed to be tapering, which is always a strange time. I tell myself that I ought to take it easy, yet there's the guilt about not running, which could lead to overtraining. I have a hard time running at an "easy pace." It just does not feel like a workout, which might be the point. I have to remind myself that I've done everything I can to run the marathon, and that pushing hard the next couple of weeks will do little to improve my performance. It's all about maintaining my fitness and being well-rested for the marathon. If I'm going to get a massage I ought to schedule it within the next week. I'm often sore after a massage, so doing it on Thursday next week won't be a good idea.

While I shouldn't overtrain, I also shouldn't let myself get lazy. I still need to work out. It's the balance between resting and working out that I find difficult.

Marathon in 12 days!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

you broke my heart

I can't explain why certain songs burrow themselves immediately into my heart, but such is the case with Lavender Diamond's "You Broke My Heart." I heard it the other day--Valentine's Day--on "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and the vocals registered. Mainly, though, I remembered it for a planned "Know Your Local Bands" mix tape I was going to make. Now that I've given it a good listen, I'm enamored with it. It's kitschy and simplistic, as the best love songs often are, but I can hear it playing over the credits of the movie based on my love life.

Break my heart!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Our 20 mile route this weekend turned out to be less than 20. According to Sean's Garmin, which is quite accurate, we ran 19.17 miles. I would have kept on going if it wasn't for the cramps in my calves that were setting in. 19.17 is good enough for me.

The run itself was quite good. I felt great for 17 miles of it. My breathing wasn't labored, my heart rate was low, and my legs felt strong--until my calves started cramping. It never completely cramped up, but every few minutes a pang would announce itself. I was able to maintain a strong pace, but I altered my running stride, picking my feet up more and trying to use my calves less. I use my calves the most when I run, which I should not according to the Chi Running. I read a little of Chi Running at a book store last night and it said that the calves aren't an important part of endurance running. I guess I need to use my glutes more to propel me. I'll try working on that.

Anyway, when I varied my stride to put less stress on my calves, my hamstrings quickly fatigued. I don't think I slowed down at all, though, but I certainly was not moving faster. I crossed the finish line in 3:07, which is great even at 19.17 miles. Factor in the time I spent stopping to find out how other runners were doing, and I probably ran it in three hours or less. The stopping and starting I was doing probably didn't help with my calves, but I should have taken my second salt packet earlier. We'll file this under lessons learned for the marathon.

I guess I've battered my legs enough that the 20 miler didn't leave me feeling sore at all. There was some soreness the day after in my calves, but I felt great. My first time doing a 20 miler I was just about incapacitated. In any case, I'm glad that I wasn't sore at all because a few hours later I did a lot of standing at Rory's benefit concert. It was terrific. He did a great job organizing it and he had a slew of great prizes from record labels, clothing companies and publishers. I won the Sub Pop Records prize, a bunch of CD's and a Sub Pop shirt. Not bad for $20 in raffle tickets.

Space Mtn played, well, one of them, followed by Sean and Tim Kane, and Let's Go Sailing closed it off with a nifty set. The Wire is the cleanest club I've been to. Sparklingly so.

The Shins' new CD was included in my prize package so I've been listening to it in my car. I liked it before, but it sounds so much better in my car. In fact, I think most CD's sound better when played in my car. My car has become the ideal listening venue for me. iPods, as much as I love them, just don't do service to an album at times.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Barneys Playhouse

I was sent yesterday to find skinny ties at the Barneys Warehouse Sale in an airport hangar in Santa Monica. I've heard about these things and was told that it would be a mad house. It wasn't as mad as I thought it would be. There were no lines, people were mostly orderly, and no one was wrestling over Acne Jeans. It was the first day so there was still plenty of merchandise to go around. The insanity was isolated to people trying on clothes in sight of other shoppers. Those who were prepared wore skin tight clothing to make it easier to try things on. Some guys wore bike shorts underneath their pants, while some women wore long, flowy skirts as a makeshift changing room. Others were not so prepared but had no qualms stripping down to their underwear to try on jeans. The funniest sight were a couple of middle-aged Asian men walking around the suit area in boxers and a tank top. I had no real tactic as to how to approach the merchandise, and since it wasn't so crowded I didn't need one. The experts, though, hoarded all the clothes they were interested in and once they had a good haul they went off to a corner--preferably near a mirror--and tried them on.

For me, the prices were still much too high, but they were marked down about 50-60% off. If I had the money, I may have splurged on a Hugo Boss or Burberry suit. There was also a leather jacket that I loved, but I don't think I could pull it off. The price was quite reasonable, but still above my means at this time. Prices are supposed to come down as the sale progresses, but I doubt I'll venture down there again. Maybe next year. It was a fun experience. I like shopping when I have a goal, and finding bargains is definitely a good goal. Still, despite the discounts, I'm sure many of the shoppers there plunked down thousands of dollars. It must be nice to have so much disposable income.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Hero or Cocky Bastard?

Notice anything peculiar about the picture above? This is a 1500M preliminary heat at the U.S. Junior & Senior Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Palo Alto last year. If you notice, the guy on the far left is wearing board shorts and a Fruit of the Loom tank top whereas his more professional competitors are wearing their technical gear--dolphin shorts and moisture-wicking tank tops. The runner's name is Christian Hesch and he finished second in this weekend's Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon with a time of 1:06 flat. He was 16 seconds behind the winner and outsprinted the third and fourth place runners by seconds. Apparently, not only was he wearing board shorts at the championships but he also arrived in his skateboard.

As far as I know Hesch is not a professional (i.e. sponsored) runner. Last month he won the OC Marathon outright with a time of 2:21. It was his first ever marathon. According to an article in the Orange County Register, Hesch only ran the OC Marathon to win some bonus prize money based on hitting certain split times in the race's second half. He had no intention of finishing. But when Hesch found himself alone in first and his lead growing, he went all the way.

Hesch's statements make him sound either he's a ne'er-do-well with a remarkable talent or a cocky bastard who openly mocks his competitors. The board shorts at the track meet can be a) a whimsical gesture by someone who knows he has no chance of winning; b) a psychological nudge to his competitors; or c) an open show of disrespect to the USATF. I don't know the guy, so I can't really judge.

In any event, he's a very talented runner. Hesch claims he's a big guy, weighing in at 180 pounds, and based on his pictures I wouldn't doubt it. He certainly doesn't look like other elite runners. So, regardless of whether he's a cocky bastard or merely an easy-going guy who just happens to be fast, I'm quite fascinated by him. He might just be my new hero.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pacific Shoreline Splits

Here are the mile splits from this weekend's half marathon based on my trusty Timex Ironman watch:

Mile 1: 7:48
Mile 2: 7:45
Mile 3: 7:44
Mile 4: 7:38 fastest mile
Mile 5: 8:04 I started taking walk breaks
Mile 6: 8:08
Mile 7: 8:05
Mile 8: 8:13
Mile 9: 8:26 slowest mile
Mile 10: 7:59 second wind
Mile 11: 10:23 the mile marker was misplaced. See mile 12
Mile 12: 5:20 See mile 11. Average between the two is roughly 7:51
Mile 13.1: 8:20

Official time: 1:43:48

Looking at it now, I'm very proud of my performance. It's the first long race I've done with no times above 9 minutes/mile, and to have my worst mile be an 8:26 is none too shabby. I'm shocked at the four straight miles in the beginning at sub 8 min/mile. It helped that it was a slight downhill and the wave start made for an effortless beginning. And, actually, it may turn out that my fastest mile is the last mile. Since I don't have a more precise time, I'll go with mile 4 as the fastest, but based on my calculations, I averaged a 7:35 during mile 13.1. How about that!

As for my IT band/knee, I haven't run on it, but it actually feels fine. I do feel something depending on the movement but it's not pain, and what I'm feeling might just be a result of the massaging I've been doing on the leg. My left leg has been beat up with my kneading and use of a foam roller. I'll skip the speed workout tomorrow and maybe just walk or jog. Better safe than sorry, I say. I'll try to run on it on Thursday. The 20 miler on Saturday is still debatable. I might still run it but at a slower pace and I'll stop if I feel anything.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Race Report: 02.04.2007 - Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:43:48 Pace: 7:56/mile ***PERSONAL BEST***
Rank: 705 of 7386 runners Age Division: 88 of 462 runners
Location: Huntington Beach, CA

Yesterday marked a return trip to the site of my first half marathon two years ago, the Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon/Marathon/5K, held annually on Super Bowl Sunday. This might just become a tradition for me. Based on the results above, things went well. I PR-ed by two minutes from my previous best time set at City of Angels in December, and I also got under 8 minutes per mile for the first time in a half marathon. It's all great news, and I'm damn happy about it, but I'm also a bit troubled by developments that occurred during the race that may affect my marathon next month.

I woke up with little difficulty right at 4AM. I actually woke up an hour earlier due to anxiety about oversleeping and was glad to discover that I could go back and sleep a little longer. I had prepared everything the night before, pinned my bib to my shirt, set aside the socks and shorts I was going to wear and packed a change of clothes for the after race dip in the ocean. The only thing I didn't do was strap my timing chip to my shoe because I left my shoes in my car. I went downstairs and prepared myself a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and then showered right after. I had some difficulty putting on my contacts, but that's often the case. On average it takes me about six minutes to put on my contact lenses.

I left my house at 5AM and got to Edison High School, where I was going to park my car and take the shuttle, at 5:45. Everything was going well until it was time to put the timing chip on my shoe. While trying to fasten the chip, I kept on dropping the plastic straps. This was all before sunrise so I had to feel around the floor to find them. I even had to go outside the car and get on my hands and knees to find them. After finding them, I realized I couldn't remember where I had placed the chip. I had it with me in the front seat so it couldn't have gone far. I just had to laugh at myself as I spent a good five minutes looking for it. I even enlisted the nice man parked next to me to peek in through my window just in case I'm being an idiot and can't see it. I blamed it all on the lack of coffee, and for a while it was funny. When I was about to give up hope I finally found it tucked next to an empty coffee cup in my cup holder. I had to fasten it before I lost it again.

Thinking that everything was set, I gathered up all my stuff, and headed for the bus. There was no line and I got in right away. Early on the bus ride, I had the urge to feel my timing chip for some reason. It wasn't there. I could feel the straps but no chip. That was when I envisioned in my mind what I had done. I had fastened the straps but didn't loop them around the chip. I used two straps and neither of them looped through the chip. I was an idiot. I debated whether to go back and find the chip or just suck it up, pay for the chip and run without it, which meant I wouldn't have an official time. I still had plenty of time until the race, so I decided to head back with the bus and find my chip. I surmised that it dropped along my route to the bus from my car. Thankfully I found it next to a tree. However, by the time I found it, the bus line was much longer. I had to wait 25 minutes to get on the bus. The good news was that I had plenty of time left. I was dropped off just before 7AM, headed straight for the Port-a-Potties, checked in my gear, and met up with the team just before the race.

I prayed that my misadventures in the beginning would bode well for the race, but I also worried that it could be a sign of things to come.

The Race

Sean, Rachel and I squeezed ourselves in near the front. The race had a wave start, and we took off with the second wave. It was the best start yet. I didn't have to do any weaving and wound up running the first mile in 7:47. I maintained a 7:45 pace with no walk breaks for four miles. At mile five I took a short walkbreak to properly drink. This race marked the first half marathon I've done where I didn't carry my own drink. I only packed one Clif Shot and ingested a salt packet I bummed off Robin at the beginning. It felt great to run without having to carry something, but I couldn't quite work out the drinking part at the aid stations. Furthermore, I hated the energy drink they provided. I think it was called Amino Water. It tasted fine, but it felt like I was drinking Perrier and it was too sweet. I avoided it the rest of the race. I also think it didn't sit well in my stomach because after the race I had to make a tour of various restrooms between finishing and my ride home.

After mile five I slowed down a wee bit. I was trying to run at around 8 minutes per mile, which would ensure a PR, but I was just above it. I did mile 5 in 8:03 and had my worst mile at 9 with an 8:26. I was doing walk breaks at this time and went into a mental mode of trying to hang on to the cushion built by my fast start. However, physically, things were starting to affect me. Early on, at around mile 2, I developed a minor side stitch. It didn't give me any trouble, but it was just irksome. It never went away, but eventually there reached a point where I got used to it and other concerns took greater priority. My left shin stiffened at around mile 3. I blamed it on the uneven road, so I tried running along the middle. It could also be due to not warming up before the race. It went away, sure enough. However, after mile 5, I could feel a discomfort on the side of my left knee. It was the same discomfort I felt when I was finishing my 18 miler two weeks before. I've never had IT band issues, but based on what I've heard from people about it, I diagnosed it as such. It wasn't painful, just uncomfortable enough for me to worry about it. As far as I could tell it wasn't affecting my stride. To relieve further irritation I varied my stride a little, taking shorter steps, and I focused on people ahead of me and tried to keep pace with them.

At mile 8 Rachel from the team caught up with me. Sean wasn't feeling well and had to hold back, so she ran ahead. I was becoming fatigued by then, as I expected, and so my planned Clif Shot at that point was perfectly timed. Rachel and I ran together for a bit. The course had moved towards a residential area with some small rolling hills and it was most certainly my least favorite portion of the run. Thinking that Rachel was fresher and was having a good run, I told her to feel free to run ahead of me because I didn't want to slow her down. After all, she made up at least two minutes to catch up to me after my fast start and might be able to run a faster race. She said she was fine and we took a walk break together at mile 9. When we started running again the Clif Shot must have taken effect because Rachel said that I was going too fast for her and that she was going to hold back. She may have expended too much energy in catching up, but she did great. She was only a minute behind me at the finish.

The second wind carried me through for the next three miles. After clocking in my slowest mile at mile 9 (8:26), I ran the tenth mile at 7:59. I saw Kiley, Setal and others at mile 10 and gave them a high five. Kiley asked if I needed anything, but I was feeling fine apart from the expected fatigue. It was basically the home stretch and after one last aid station stop, I decided to run with no stops until the end. The mile 11 marker was misplaced. There was a slight uphill, so that may have slowed me down, but I doubt it slowed me enough to run a 10:23. I said aloud as I passed the mile marker, "That has got to be wrong." The guy running next to me agreed. Sure enough, I crossed the mile 12 marker at 5:19, so the average for those two miles was about a 7:50.

My knee held up, but I still felt the discomfort, again, thankfully, not painful. I was getting a little winded near the end, but I still felt like I had enough for a strong finish. Unfortunately, the finish was a little messy. In contrast to the clean, no-weaving start I experienced, I had to weave or squeeze myself between runners in the last mile. In the last mile I caught up with the majority of the 5K runners who were heading for the same finish line. The street was crowded. I had to slow down a couple of times as I came up behind some slower 5K runners. At one point I had to come to a halt as a group of spectators crossed the street. I was annoyed. I'm not usually a violent person, but I felt like pushing people down at that point. After running 12 miles at a pace faster than I'm used to, the last thing I wanted to do was expend more energy running around people or stopping and starting up again. I just wanted to run a straight line to the finish. I didn't have to resort to violence, but I did make contact with a few runners as I squeezed myself through. At least I kept my composure. I could hear other half marathoners behind me yelling at people to get out of the way. I probably would have done it had I the energy to yell. It's kind of dangerous. I could have pulled a muscle having to come to a complete stop all of a sudden. I ought to report this to the organizers. Jimmy helped out in the last mile as he directed the 5K runners to finish to the left while the half marathoners finished to the right.

The important thing, though, is that I finished. Mile 13.1 was done in 8:20. Afterwards I picked up my gear so I could take pictures of the rest of the team. I got back in time to see FJ speeding to the finish line, followed by Andy. We hung out at a median about 200 yard from the finish and caught the rest of the team as they ran by. We then headed to the beach where I dipped my feet into the ocean but was too much of a coward to submerge my whole body in the cold water. Some of us grabbed lunch at the Corner Bakery. I had pasta, and I rewarded myself with a venti caramel machiatto at Starbucks.

Today my legs feel fine, except for my left quad, which is slightly sore. The IT band still feels uncomfortable especially with certain movements. I think I'll take it easy this week and not run--or at least avoid any hard runs. I'll use the foam roller to massage and stretch the IT band and hopefully I'll be fit to run the marathon next month. A triathlete at the gym told me that he had to miss a whole season because of IT band issues. I'm hoping this won't be the case with me.