Saturday, March 31, 2007

Song of the Week: "Girls"

Eleni Mandell - "Girls"

No, not the Beastie Boys song but rather the seemingly winsome track from Eleni Mandell's wonderful new album, Miracle of Five. I say seemingly because the song's waltzy melody belies the creepiness of the lyrics. Over and over Mandell wonders about her would-be lover, running questions through her head:

I wonder how you look when you sleep
Do you still dream about girls from your street?
Do you still dream about girls from high school?
Do you still dream about girls, girls, girls?

Even if he were to fall in love with her it would surely not work with her hang-ups about the girls he has banged. She promises that she will be "the dice you roll down the alley" and "the pennies that come in handy," arguing that she will somehow be different from all the girls he has been with, but we all know, that most likely, she will simply be one line out of 88 he will write about his 44 women. And I fear how her brittle little heart will handle the heartbreak.

The thin line between romantic yearning and scary obsession has been covered before in song, most notably with the Police's "Every Breath You Take." Mandell's "Girls" is a welcome addition with its beguiling feminine perspective. Mandell's songs have a sweet yet tough quality to them, and "Girls" is a wonderful example of how her songs are punched up with keen wit, making for a pleasant immediate experience that lingers longer than one would expect for such lilting melodies.

The video above features Eleni Mandell's boyfriend, the musician Charlie Wadhams. He's also in the video for "Makeout King."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Nice To Meet Ya, West Covina!

Here is the inaugural post in what I hope to be a semi-regular series on the city I grew up in. Considering all the years I've lived in West Covina, I really don't know the place very well. I don't hang out here a lot. I just live here and then go elsewhere for fun.

Hopefully, through research and mere curiosity, I can get to know this city a lot more and see how it has become what it is. Or, at the very least, figure out what it is.

I'll start it easy and just list some of the famous former residents of West Covina. A simple IMDB search reveals quite an impressive list of figures who were born or lived in West Covina.

The Hall of Fame
-Jason Giambi (baseball player)
-Tim Robbins (Oscar-winning actor/director/rabble-rouser)
-Troy Aikman (football player)
-Cory Lidle (baseball player; killed last year when the plane he piloted crashed into a highrise in Manhattan)
-Jeremy Miller (Ben from "Growing Pains")
-Willie Shoemaker (horse jockey; graduated from my high school!)*
-Vince Neil and Tommy Lee (Motley Crue bandmembers; both met at Charter Oak High School)*
-Hussein Mohamed Farrah (son of Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid; graduated from my high school)*

The last person I mentioned was interviewed on NPR a few months ago. Quite an interesting interview. He basically helped intervene during the Black Hawk Down disaster and now is back in Somalia working in government.

*Technically Covina, but we won't hold that against them.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Goodbye Goil

It was bound to happen. As much as I wanted Goil to stay around and impress me with his choice in eyewear and his variations on the v-neck t-shirt, he had no chance of winning. He's not so much a designer as an idea guy. The judges pointed out that he has a hard time designing a complete room and instead focuses too much on one design idea. He did so again in last night's episode. The room was a little more complete, but he got hung up on the giant border that encircled the room and took the "fire" inspiration too literally. Goil got points, though, for pulling the hardest element of the four.

I think Andrea had the worst room last night. It was a mish-mash of design with some earthy elements thrown in to address the challenge. Andrea, though, was a better designer than Goil and I certainly believe she deserved to move on based on her past performances, but I wished Goil had delivered at least one knockout room all season long.

As for the other two remaining contestants: Matt has proven to be the best of the bunch. He's a very likable guy and a tasteful designer. However, I still find myself doing a double take whenever he mentions that he's married with a daughter. Homo say what?

Carisa, Carisa, Carisa. How did she make it this far? Her room last night was fine, but there was nothing airy about it. She should have been eliminated long ago for the room she won for. She's an OK designer but what really makes me dislike her is her attitude. The woman rolls her eyes way too much and treats others awfully. I'm not for violence but I'm tempted to smack my TV whenever she rolls her eyes. I'm sure Jonathan Adler's question, "Who have you had a good relationship with?" during next week's preview was aimed at her.

My favorite to win: Matt.

A quick note: The New York Times had an amusing article yesterday about homes becoming romantic dealbreakers. My favorite was the one who couldn't get over his date's trite choice of posters: Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" and a Robert Doisneau photograph.

Boy, what's the point of blogging when all I do is reference NY Times articles?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Case of the Wednesdays

The New York Times is conspiring to prevent me from moving to my neighborhood of choice. By the time I get everything in order to move I'm sure I won't be able to afford a place in Eagle Rock. Damn Yankees!

Maybe if I wait it out in West Covina a little longer it will become the hip place to live and I can claim to have lived there before it was cool.


Minor Tidbits

-My knee is feeling a little better. I have to constantly remind myself to not run. But I miss it so. Everytime I see someone jogging I get sad. At least I'm not wishing they break their knee.

-The wrong couple was eliminated on "Dancing with the Stars." It should have been Billy Ray Cyrus and his partner.

-The world is made up of two types of people: Chris R. fans and Blake fans. I'm firmly in the former camp. I have a feeling that Blake fans are people who would kill puppies just to watch them die. They're also most likely to have never heard anything by 311 and are mistaking the cute Muppet's renditions of these songs as inventive. They are wrong on so many counts.

-Oprah chose Cormac McCarthy's The Road as the next Book Club selection. I'm guessing after the Jonathan Franzen fiasco that the Harpo folks cleared McCarthy's appearance first. The great thing about McCarthy is that he has more than proven his credentials so that accepting the selection won't be seen as whoring himself. The Road also received stellar reviews and sold well, so it's unlikely to be seen as an act of desperation.

-Pitchfork was a little harsh on Fountains of Wayne. It's not their best album and it's very disappointing, but I would argue with Pitchfork's assertion that Fountains of Wayne are horrible lyricists. Their lyrics miss their mark in Traffic and Weather, which is why I'm disappointed, but their lyrical ingenuity has been proven in their previous albums. Even if they aren't great lyricists as Pitchfork claims, the band more than makes up for it with undeniable melodies and hooks. Unfortunately those hooks are less sharp in their new album.

I think that just about covered all my various interests.

Who Sang It Best?

Here are my rankings of tonight's "American Idol" performances.

1. Melinda - She's so far ahead of everyone else. She's a great singer--certainly the best of the season--but I still have doubts about her marketability. I was hoping she would choose a more contemporary song to show that she can be hip, but instead she went with Donna Summer. Maybe she can bring back disco?

2. Lakisha - In the battle of the divas Lakisha is an also-ran. She doesn't have the maturity or the instincts of Melinda. She's a belter but she needs to harness her voice. She also seems to be singing the songs as carbon copies of the originals rather than interpreting them.

3. Chris R. - There's a gap between him and Lakisha, but I really thought he was the third best performer tonight. I swear it's not because he's hot. It helps. Chris is a Justin wannabe and his voice tends to be flat. It's like he's stuck in one gear and can't make it go faster. "Don't Speak" probably wasn't the best song choice, but he sang it well and impressed me in parts.

4. Jordin - The No Doubt songs were problematic tonight. I doubt they are the best songs to sing to show off singing ability. Jordin did a credible job with "Hey Baby," but I wasn't sold that she could sing it. She's not a rock princess.

5. Gina - Shaky at parts, but she showed off her voice tonight. When the judges tell a contestant to "know who you are," what they really mean is to be what they want you to be. Gina picked that up and went with a song that would show off her voice. Decent vocal.

6. Haley - Kind of pretty but also bland. She's very marketable, as her legs can attest, and she has a decent enough voice to make her a potential pop star. At the very least, she could be a Pussycat Doll.

7. Blake - I really don't get the love for Blake. He seems smug. His singing is also rather off-putting. He got away tonight covering 311 covering the Cure (a copy of a copy?) and got praised for originality because the judges don't seem to listen to the radio at all. At least the song had no scary high notes. However, his vocal affectations were worse tonight. He's a one-trick pony.

8. Phil - He creeps me out. I hoped he would sing "Bad Day" tonight, but instead he performed a toothless "Every Breath You Take." Much better than last week but still unimpressive.

9. Sanjaya - Not the worst tonight. He actually does have potential. When he reached the chorus he was on point. There's a sweetness to his voice that shows up at times. If he took lessons he might actually be decent. Tonight he was mostly awful. But I did like the hair. Too bad he didn't have the cred to pull off the look.

10. Chris S. - I've noted before that he always seems to be singing to a different track than the one played by the band, and the judges finally called him on it. It was so obvious when he sang "Endless Love." He deserves to go home. He's dead weight.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Body Says No

Believing that I was recovering from my knee injury, I thought it might be safe to ease back into running on Friday with FJ. While I ran a little funny, with a strange cadence, I gradually felt more comfortable and felt good at the end. I had no problems with my knee in the hours right after the run. I even spent a couple of hours standing around the Echo during the Elvis Perkins show.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, though, my body was singing a new tune. My knee was hurting again, not as bad as the worst pain from the week before but still bad. I hobbled around today, and I'm sure I'll still be hobbling tomorrow. Perhaps it's just my body telling me to stop, begging for a break from all the pounding. So, to follow its wish and make sure my knee gets better, I'm going to lay off running and even the elliptical for the next two weeks. It's frustrating, but I'd rather my knee gets better rather than reaggravate it, which was likely what happened on Friday.

I'm fairly certain that I won't be running San Diego as a result. I'll be out of shape by the time I start running again, and I'm only going to have seven weeks to train. Not worth it. San Diego will have to wait another year. I'm considering San Francisco, but a better bet might just be to hold off until a fall race. More time to train.

I miss mobility. Please come back.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

This week's announcement was chosen because I'm a sucker for opposites attracting.

Robin Gonzalez and Alec Decker

I don't know about most folks, but if someone brought a family album on the first date I might freak out a little. I suppose it depends on how attracted I am, though.


Song of the Week: "Read My Mind"

Another new feature starting this week. Each Saturday (or so) I'll be picking a song that I'm fascinated with or simply listening to a lot and try to get to the heart of why I like it. The songs will likely be new ones but don't be surprised if an older song pops up. This week it's the Killers' "Read My Mind".

I've resisted listening to the Killers' most recent album, Sam's Town, regardless of the fact that I enjoyed their debut, Hot Fuss, and found myself singing along whenever "When You Were Young" came on the radio. I also liked "Bones" but it wasn't until "Read My Mind" that I just broke down and listened to the whole album. It's not a great album but it has its virtues.

The lyrics to the song are a bit on the vague side but the song exemplifies the chief skills of the Killers. Brandon Flowers and his crew have a way with a hook and "Read My Mind's" strongest hook is the keyboard part pops up throughout the song. It's a simple conceit but it adds dimension to the song, just as the mandolin did for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." To me it sounds like a mind thinking or remembering.

However, there's also something effective and powerful with the song's central question: "can you read my mind?" Flowers sings the line in varying ways. At one point it sounds wistful, as if wishing that his lover could read his mind, then it shifts to defiance and anger, but then he relents and it almost sounds like he's pleading for it to be so.

Then there's also the charming video set in Tokyo where Flowers actually drops the attitude for a bit and lets slip a smile.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Good Friday

It has been a long while since I've run with FJ, so finally we met up for a run yesterday at the Rose Bowl. I think that running was just pretense for exchanging music. FJ provided me with my requested 60's Brit-pop, Explosions in the Sky and the artist I'm listening to now, Elvis Perkins. More on Perkins a little later.

The run went OK. I'm still running a little funny but it got better as the run progressed. What didn't approve was my cardiovascular fitness. Three weeks of limited cardio has taken its toll and I was huffing and puffing through most of the run. We managed to get in about five miles and my knee held up during it. Today, though, is a different matter. The knee is noticeably tender. Not unbearably so but definitely hurting more than it has since last week. Because of that I skipped the Rose Bowl run today and slept in. I really don't need an excuse to sleep in, but having an injury makes me less guilt-ridden.

Also, during our run, FJ mentioned that his wife thinks I look like this guy:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

If so, I'm pretty darn cute. I don't think I'm as dramatic and prone to hysterics, though.

As I mentioned, FJ gave me the Elvis Perkins CD and I think it's a stellar work. Perkins's father was Anthony Perkins from Psycho, who passed away from AIDS-related complications, and his mother was Berry Berenson, who died on one of the 9/11 planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. With that background, it's no surprise that Ash Wednesday is informed by death and the heaviness of living. Melancholy is the prevailing tone, with song titles like "It's a Sad World After All" pretty much explaining themselves. However, despite this melancholy tone, a sense of hopefulness underlines everything. The songs speak of sadness and hardship but they also argue for the virtues of muddling through. This comes through the most on the kaleidoscopic "May Day," but even in a song like "While You Were Sleeping," which seems to reference 9/11 when Perkins sings, "while you were sleeping/you tossed, you turned/you rolled your eyes as the world burned/the heavens fell, the earth quaked." The religious references to Easter in the title track and "Good Friday" further serves to argue for redemption through sacrifice and loss.

I doubt I've made the album sound appealing. My point is that it's a terrific album, one that is heartbreaking but also uplifting. I liked the album so much that at the last minute I decided to head out to Echo Park and see his show at the Echo even though I had pretty much decided not to go. I'm so glad I went.

Outside the Echo I ran into Sam, an old friend from high school, and his fiance. They were both there to see the show and were in the front of the line. Inside, for some reason, the Echo set up tables and chairs taking up much of the viewing area. Sam and his fiance managed to snag a table and I stood next to them with a perfect view of the stage. Let's Go Sailing opened and played one of the better sets I've seen them do. Each time I see them their songs sound even more appealing than I last remembered. Stage presence is still lacking, but the songs are sweet enough to make up for the lackluster presentation.

Elvis Perkins, though, was mesmerizing. Backed by a talented group of musicians that included his brother on drums for "May Day." Perkins has a lazy but flexible voice that added a texture of weary conviction to the music. Perkins opened the set by himself on guitar with "It's Only Me." He had me right from the beginning. The rest of the band came on the second song toting a trombone, an upright bass and drums. The song was "Shampoo," I think. I can't remember since I wasn't taking notes, unlike Colin from "I'm From Rolling Stone" who was there with a lady friend.

The rest of the show was impactful. Perkins went through pretty much the whole album, but the highlights for me were "May Day!" and "Ash Wednesday." For the encore, Perkins played "While You Were Sleeping" and a song I'll call "1-2-3 Goodbye." It was one of the more gratifying shows I've been to lately and Perkins certainly proved he was an artist to watch.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Jenga Building

The Los Angeles Times has an article on the Sunset-Vine Tower, which is being converted into luxury apartments. When I lived in L.A. and worked out across the street I always imagined the building as a giant Jenga puzzle. Next time you play Jenga take a look at it in its stacking case and tell me I'm wrong.

As for the building's conversion, it seems like everything nowadays is being converted into luxury (i.e. too expensive for normal people) housing, which is much better than demolishing them altogether, a regular tendency of developers in Los Angeles. It would have been great had the Ambassador Hotel been converted into luxury apartments as opposed to what it looks like now: rubble. From what I've read so far, though, it doesn't seem like the Sunset-Vine Tower will look the way it used to. It will retain its slim figure but it will be glossier and shinier when it's all done. That's Hollywood for you.

Beck @ the Echo

I snagged a ticket to Beck's hastily scheduled show at the Echo last night. He came on stage early at 8:15, which was nice because it meant I could get home at a reasonable time.

I've never seen Beck live before, so to see him in a small venue for $15 was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The show was basically a rehearsal for an overseas tour. He had trouble remembering how "Lonesome Tears" went and fumbled some lyrics. He played mostly songs from Guero and The Information, but threw in a couple of songs from Sea Change, including a bluesy "Paper Tiger," and "Lord Only Knows" from Odelay. Requests for "Loser" went unheeded.

Apart from the very tall guy who stood in front of me for a song, but who was nice enough to let me stand in front of him later, and the skeezy woman who wedged herself next to me and elbowed me out of my position, it was a terrific show. Beck's band put on a great show even if Beck himself was surprisingly restrained.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bring Back the Herald-Examiner!

The Los Angeles Times is falling apart. Andres Martinez, the Opinion editor, just quit after a brouhaha over potential conflict of interest over the (shameful) gimmick of bringing in producer Brian Grazer to guest edit the opinion pages for this Sunday's edition. It seems like no one stays at the Times for too long. Michael Newman, who I derided for calling much of L.A. ugly, is also leaving next month. Circulation is down (check the latest issue of Los Angeles Magazine) and I'm sure morale is at an all-time low. It's sad to see a newspaper I used to devour, especially on Sundays, become a sad version of itself. I was so proud of myself when I subscribed my first year of college. Nowadays, at $0.50, I think it's too expensive for what it provides. Sad, sad, sad. Blame the Tribune for the Times' problems. Even with the avalanche of Pulitzers a few years ago, it was obvious ever since the Tribune took over the Times has been in decline.

I know one way they can save the paper. Hire me! I'm cheap.

My Knees, My Weakness

I tested out my knee at the gym today. The plan was to run for a mile, but I wound up running four. It wasn't that my knee felt great. Quite the opposite. It wasn't painful, just a nagging, dull sensation, but I was still running with a limp. It felt like my left leg was longer than my right, so that I was pounding down on the right leg. After a while I was able to run a little more normally. The tenderness never went away, but it didn't bother me enough that I felt like I needed to stop, but I do have a problem saying "when," so I may have pushed through it. Apart from the knee issues, the run went well. I was a little winded even with the 10 min/mile pace but that's to be expected after two and a half weeks of no running. So, as it stands, I can still sense some lingering weakness in my knee, especially when I bend it, but I'm not walking with a limp. I won't run tomorrow, but I do have a run date with FJ on Friday.

With my knee problems and other things weighing on my mind, I've began to feel old. It took a few months but gradually the fact that I'm 30 has sunk in. I've become more self-conscious about situations and places I find myself in and wonder whether I look ridiculous. It often happens when I walk into a teen-centric place like Hollister, which also has the added stigma of being the clothing store for a majority of gays. Not only do I have to fret over being a thirty year old picking out cargo shorts in a dimly lit, peculiar-smelling store manned by shaggy haired high schoolers born when I was in high school, but I also have to wrestle with the question of whether I want to be that kind of gay man. Inevitably I walk out empty-handed.

The question of career and settling down has been gnawing at me lately, too, adding to the queasiness as to age. 30 may be the new 20 but it is still 30. The numbers don't lie. Call me crazy but I look forward to the day when I take stock and say with pride, "I'm 35 and I feel 35."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Goodbye, Larry "Bud" Melman

"Late Night with David Letterman" was one of the great influences that shaped my adolescence. If I have any sense of humor whatsoever it has been molded by Letterman and his cast of loony characters. My favorite was Larry "Bud" Melman.

I'm saddened to hear that Larry "Bud" Melman, who used his real name, Calver DeForest, when Letterman moved to CBS, has passed away. I noticed he hasn't appeared on Letterman for a few years now, but it always made me happy when he showed up on the show. Memories came rushing back when I read the news of his death, including the fact that he looked exactly like my high school history teacher.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. DeForest. You are missed.

The Children are Our Future

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The (Greater) City I Live In

It's late and I should be asleep. Chalk it up to being one of the B-Society.

There's not much to write about. Well, actually, there are. Lots of things always on my mind, but not worth blabbing about here.

What is worth writing about is civic pride. The LA Times' Matt Welch wrote a column on Sunday decrying what he feels is the surge of "insecure boosterism" on the part of Angelenos who rush to attack those who criticize Los Angeles. I'm certainly guilty of that. After my entry about Michael Newman's op-ed about the ugly L.A. Marathon route, I sent a strongly worded letter to the Times about it that stopped short of asking Newman be deported back to where he came from. I am also guilty of mocking West L.A. inhabitants in the letter. I feel more guilty about my feelings towards Westsiders since I generalize about how they are than I do about Newman's narrow-minded view of L.A. Not all Westsiders are whiny LA-haters, but it just seems like there's more of them there. And a few of them can't seem to bring themselves to realize that there's life in L.A. beyond La Cienega. In any event, I'll try to stop disowning Westsiders as true SoCal denizens. I'll look at them as the embarrassing cousins you'd rather not acknowledge as part of your family.

I used to dislike a lot of things about L.A., and in some cases I still do, but I've learned to live with it. I love L.A. I love it even more after seeing tonight's episode of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. Bourdain humanely captured the multitudes that is Los Angeles and avoided the stereotypes about the city. I suppose that's the whole point of his show, though. Still, as someone who has lived in southern California practically all my life, the episode made me fall in love with the city all over again. I felt like a tourist learning about some far-flung, exotic locale, and Bourdain did all this while focusing mostly on areas of the city that Newman would have deemed ugly. Bourdain is even wise enough to know that the "C" rating on the window of the Thai noodle restaurant he visited in a non-descript strip mall in Thai Town only means that there's some good grub to be had inside.

Los Angeles, I'm yours.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Googling Googie

Maybe it had something to do with the hour I spent at Vromans on Friday, while a gaggle of rowdy women impatiently waited for Suze Orman to arrive, flipping through Alan Hess's Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture, which features Covina's own Covina Bowl, but I've been on a retro kick all weekend.

I spent most of Saturday afternoon downloading songs from the 80s using the iTunes card Liza gave me for my birthday. As it turned out, there were only five songs I really wanted: "Voices Carry," "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Somebody to Love," "Shoop," and "Wishing Well." After that I went back further and downloaded a few girl group songs from the 1960s.

Growing up I went through a phase that lasted a few months when all I listened to was KRTH. I'm not a big Beatles fan but soul music--Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations--did it for me. It all started when I saw The Commitments and grew from there. After a while, though, more contemporary music started seeping in again but I still listen to oldies every now and then. Lately, though, not so much.

So listening to the stuff I downloaded this weekend just brings back memories of lying in the dark trying to fall asleep while the radio played the Ronettes. I used to wish I lived through the 1950s and 1960s. Everything just seemed so peaceful back then. I can't say I still feel that way, but the music resonates still. Is there no better song than "Then He Kissed Me"? Everytime I hear it I think I'm in love. I can't think of a recent song that makes me feel the same way. Perhaps "Walking on Sunshine" comes closest, but that song was twenty years ago and feeds off the same blissed out vibe as "Then He Kissed Me." The Shins' "Turn On Me" sounds like "Then He Kissed Me" in the first couple of chords and it's also quite an effective song, albeit about falling out of love.

Anyway, I'm rambling. It was nice to listen to "clean and articulate" music. I ought to listen to oldies more to cleanse the palate.

The Downloads (Spector-centric, to be sure)
The Crystals - "Then He Kissed Me"
The Crystals - "He's a Rebel"
The Dixie Cups - "Iko Iko"
The Dixie Cups - "Chapel of Love"
Betty Everett - "It's in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)"
Dee Dee Warwick - "You're No Good"
Mary Wells - "Bye Bye Baby"
The Shirelles - "Dedicated to the One I Love"

Sunday, March 18, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

We're starting a new weekly segment this week. Each Sunday I will choose the wedding announcement of the week from the New York Times. This week's winner:

Jason Reade and Eddie Jauregui

Both are studying to be lawyers and both have that preppy, WASPy quality to them. They're a gay couple that even Jerry Falwell may approve of, certainly Ted Haggard. They seem like a great couple and they're Oxy alums to boot. Not that I have any connection to Oxy but it seems like a fine school. Congrats to them!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Four Wheels and Good (Downward) Dog

I got my car serviced this week and walked out $378 poorer. Belts and liquids had to be replaced, but bills like these make me wish I knew more about cars than I do. I can change the oil, but that in itself isn't a huge savings. It also makes me wish I didn't rely on my car so much. I love to drive, but I wouldn't mind living closer to the places I frequent and to mass transit options like the Gold Line. I'll never give up my car, but I'm sure I wouldn't mind giving it and me a few days off during the week. When I was in Europe last fall I loved taking the subway everywhere and walking. As it is, Papa Smurf has logged over 70,000 miles and he's still a month shy of his fourth birthday.

I saw this picture in the New York Times last night:

Photo by: Ken Stewart/Getty Images, for the New York Times

I wish my downward dog was as good as this guy's. I form a lopsided table with mine instead of the pyramid this guy has. I really need to practice, but it will have to wait until my knee is better. I was able to sleep much better last night. The Advils certainly helped, but the knee does seem a little better. Or I could just be getting used to it. I'm still limping badly and I can't put too much weight on it but I'm hoping that by the end of next week I can pick up running again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stardust Memories

Growing up my family's favorite vacation haunt was Las Vegas. Or, rather, it was my Dad's favorite. I can recall one time when we went to Las Vegas three times in one month. I honed my driving skills during those long drives.

At first we stayed at the Sands Hotel, but eventually my Dad developed a fondness for the Stardust. He claimed he had great luck there, but I'm sure it didn't hurt that he was comped generously also with free rooms and meals. We got to know the Stardust very well.

Now, though, it's gone. I wasn't aware that it had been shut down--it has been a few years since I've been there--until I saw the footage of its demolition on the news last night.

All those trips to Las Vegas in my youth pretty much ruined the Vegas experience for me and I never really have the urge to go there. I'm not a gambler, thankfully, and even as a kid I never enjoyed Las Vegas. Still, the Stardust played a part in my youth and I'm saddened to see it go. It had become a familiar and somewhat comforting destination for us. Now there's nothing left and I can't make an argument for keeping any part of it. It had history--the Rat Pack, Siegfried & Roy, Casino--even if its buildings weren't architecturally interesting. They should have at least preserved its neon sign, which to me was as much a symbol of Las Vegas as the actual Vegas sign.

The last time I was in Las Vegas I was surprised to realize how little of it I recognized. New casinos had popped up with more attractions within them but they lack a certain lurid appeal that the Las Vegas I first visited in the late 1980s exuded. Soon after that first visit Vegas began changing.

With the Sands and now the Stardust gone my Dad may have to resort to paying for his rooms for now on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Left Knee...

...was killing me last night!

I barely slept last night the pain in my left knee was so bad. I felt like jabbing a knife under my kneecap and pulling it out if it would make the pain go away. Ice and two Advils helped me get moving this morning, but boy does it still bother me.

Again, I have no idea how I injured it. All I have is a theory that because of my phantom left foot pain, I favored my left leg too much and while I was sleeping I must have strained my knee trying not to move my foot too much. I would think I would feel a sharp pain when that happened but I slept through and then woke up yesterday morning with the pain in my knee. However, it got worse last night. Using the elliptical probably wasn't a good idea yesterday nor was the quad stretch that I thought would help.

I'm hoping the pain will go away very soon. You really don't miss your knees until you can't use them effectively. What's saddest about this whole ordeal is that I am incurring these injuries when I'm not even running. I was mostly injury free all season long. At least this all didn't happen the week of the marathon. I would have been beside myself.

I'm also hoping that my right knee doesn't give way too. I'm just falling apart here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Body is a Cage

My body it is a falling apart.

After the marathon last Sunday I didn't run or work out for three days. On Thursday I took a yoga class and rode the stationary bike for a half hour. Friday I ran for the first time thinking that I was mostly recovered, but within the first mile my right calf was stiffening up. I forged ahead for three miles and stretched the calf out after. It was stiff for the rest of the day.

On Friday night I started feeling a pain on the joint of my middle toe on the right foot. It would radiate to the smaller two toes when I walked, and when I woke up on Saturday morning it was a bit painful to walk. It got better as I walked on it more but not by much. This foot problem has been an intermittent issue I've had to deal with. The last time I can remember it was just before last year's L.A. Marathon. The day before that marathon I was sure I'd have to pull out of the race. Miraculously, the next morning, I woke up and the pain was gone. I'm glad this foot pain didn't come again just before this year's marathon.

I have a feeling I may have strained my foot as a result of compensating for the stiff calf on Friday. I went for a walk with the Team on Saturday morning, barely broke a sweat, but my foot was uncomfortable. All weekend long I had to deal with the pain.

This morning something else popped up. I woke up and my knee--the inner top corner of my knee cap--was hurting. I probably hurt it because I've been walking funny because of the foot and messed it up that way. Otherwise I have no idea how I hurt it. I'm hoping this will all go away soon and I can go back to running. It also may be my body's way of making sure I take it easy post-marathon.

In other news: I saw 300 on IMAX late Saturday. For all the blood spilled onscreen the film itself is drained of blood. It's hard to care about the Spartans when you can barely distinguish any of them and they all seem like inhuman killing machines. There are speeches that are meant to be rousing, but the film is no Henry V. It's just silly and surprisingly dull when there's no bloodletting going on. The bodies are nice to look at (apparently there are no fat Spartans and everyone has an AbCruncher at home), but the cutting is so frenetic that you can't linger on the buffed out abs. The IMAX added little to the experience. I can easily just sit closer to the screen of a regular theater and get the same experience for almost half the price.

But what do I know? The film grossed $70 million and those who have read the graphic novel love the film. I guess it's just not for me.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Missed Connection

Once in a while...alright, practically everyday...I check out the Missed Connections section on craigslist. I get a kick out of it, but you also never know when someone might be looking for you.

I got a big laugh reading this one. Wheelies around the apples! HA! Besides, I can understand the attraction to guys with disabilities. Disabilities can be sexy. The best part of Four Weddings and a Funeral for me was the deaf brother.

Meat Market

Last night I joined the gorgeous ladies of TNT to attend a bachelor auction in Venice benefiting the Westside triathlon team. I didn't bid on anyone because as much as I wouldn't have minded going out on a date with a couple of the guys, this was a strictly heterosexuals only auction. Regardless I had a great time hooting and hollering. We even had a celebrity sighting. Tim from this season's The Apprentice was there but not up for bid.

Gina and Audrey both landed guys. Audrey will be going on a date with a guy who ran for a position on the city council of Manhattan Beach this week but lost. Handily. He seems like a nice guy. Very tall. Gina bought herself a boy toy who will take her bungee jumping. He was born in the 1980s.

The men were mostly attractive. Some of them, including the ones Gina and Audrey bought, were relative steals. Some guys, for some reason, went for exorbitant prices. One guy, a slimy looking surfer, was snapped up for $700 while earlier a handsome actor with a killer body went for only $70. Women just have no taste in men.

Actually, while there, I wondered how much I would go for. I think I'm worth at least $100. In fact, earlier, while on the stationary bike at the gym, I caught a glimpse of a reflection on a glass door. "Ooh, who's that cute guy?" I wondered. After a couple of seconds I realized I was looking at my reflection. It's got to be a good sign when I would want to do myself.

All in all it seemed like a successful event. Some guys got their egos bruised while others got theirs boosted when women got desperate--or drunk--and bid up some guys much to their surprise.

I had a great time, though, and afterwards even watched turtle racing. It's not as much fun as you would think.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Marathon Snipers

Since running my first Los Angeles Marathon in 2005, it has become a custom to read as much of the coverage about it in the days leading up to and after it. In fact I approach it with the same vigor as I do my fascination with the Academy Awards. I don't expect to see my name in print. My enthusiasm stems from the "I was there too" urge, to read something that validated the incredible experience I just had. Most of the coverage is predictable, mostly positive, focusing on the sense of community runners and spectators share at least for that day. But amidst all the feel-good stories there usually are some shards of negativity.

Typical of these negative reactions are the letters to the editor that show up every year complaining about the disruption and traffic congestion brought on by the marathon. I've only seen one this year but it is representative of its kind. This letter appeared on Tuesday's Times:

Sunday, I witnessed one of the worst debacles perpetrated by the city of L.A.: the horrendous mess of traffic created by the marathon. Why does the city foul up the streets, affecting the majority of the people, to hold an event that should be placed away from the city, where it would not create such a major disruption?



Where does Debord suggest the marathon be held that would be less disruptive? Death Valley? Joshua Tree National Park? Silly man. I'm sure Debord is just venting. For a few years I lived inside the marathon course meaning that on Marathon Sunday I was trapped for most of the day inside Koreatown. Rather than get pissed like Debord I just simply walked out of my apartment and cheered on the runners as they passed. It was while watching these runners that I was inspired to some day run a marathon. Now having run three L.A. Marathons and having lived in L.A. most of my life, I can say confidently that the marathon is one of the few events that brings out the best in this city. For a day, at least, people from different backgrounds offer help and support to one another. I suggest to Debord that next year he should move himself outside the city on Marathon Sunday. It is called the L.A. Marathon and it will take place inside its city limits.

The other item I saw was Michael Newman's piece in the L.A. Times. It wasn't so much a negative article but simply insensitive and arrogant, clearly written by someone who isn't from Los Angeles and probably does not appreciate the city. Newman ran on Sunday and wrote this:

So I think I speak with some authority, if not much originality, when I say that much of Los Angeles isn't very pretty. There's only one way this race can be saved: Like a visiting relative from Wisconsin, it must be sent to the beach.

Yes, there would be logistical challenges, and some neighborhoods may object to losing their place along the beaten path. Far more likely, however, is that places would complain about being included. But the ocean, with its cool breezes, is pretty much the best thing this city has going for it.

While I don't disagree that running to Boyle Heights provided some unattractive scenery, I appreciated the fact that it represented the diverse communities that make up Los Angeles. Rather than sugarcoat the truth about Los Angeles, the course showed Los Angeles in all its glory. I would hate for the organizers to follow Newman's advice or else the race would be abandoning some of the most supportive spectators. South Central and Boyle Heights may not be beautiful neighborhoods, but they definitely came out to cheer on Sunday. As Newman pointed out, if the race were to go through the Westside, all the runners would be hearing as they run by would be loud choruses of whining. And if traffic was bad on Sunday, imagine what it would be like on a Westside course.

I resent Newman's assertion that the ocean is "pretty much the best thing this city has going for it." He needs to get to know this city. Clearly he doesn't think much of L.A. and the fact that he is an editor at the Times dismays me.

So, yes, Los Angeles has an ugly side, but just like you do an ugly child, you bite your tongue and love it nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Run. Recover. Repeat.


Distance: 26.2 miles
Chip Time: 3:54:37
Pace: 8:57/mile
10K Split: 54:44
Half Split: 1:53:17
Place: 1344 overall; 184 age division; 1145 men division

Crusty Shirt
The medal and the crusty salt deposits on my shirt.


Another L.A. Marathon completed. My third L.A., fourth overall.

I've been putting off submitting a race report because it will mean closing the book on this marathon experience. I was going to write this up last night, but 24 and very funny episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report followed. I was too tired to concentrate by the time I got behind the keyboards, so I just went to bed. Still, I ought to look back at the race while it's fresh in my mind and the soreness is still in my calves. In a few days it will all seem like I never even took a step forward.

I was a meticulous time keeper during the race and logged every mile on my watch. However, I must have been so exhausted on Sunday night that I deleted the record from my watch without realizing it. As a result I don't have split times for every mile. I do remember the gist of it. so we'll go from there.

My game plan was to run an aggressively smart race in the beginning. Rather than push for a negative split I was going to build up a cushion in the early miles which would offset the later miles when my pace was bound to slow. I wasn't going to run 8 minute miles, though, but somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45.

The start of the new course was uphill and certainly less exhilarating than the confetti-riddled start of the old course. They still played "I Love LA," but it didn't have the same impact. For one thing, there were no throngs cheering you on as you crossed the start line. Muhammad Ali wasn't above a scaffold applauding you. And there weren't the majestic high rises and the breathtaking view of thousands of bobbing heads in front of you as you run down Figueroa towards the Staples Center. It almost felt like the start to a small race.

Ventura Boulevard is also narrower than Figueroa, so the start felt even more crowded. I managed to squeeze myself within view of the start line, but even with that it took me almost nine minutes to get to cross the start line. The narrowness of the street also made it impossible to take off running and I had to do a little bit of weaving. I tried to avoid it as much as I could but it's hard not to weave when you come upon a four-person wide group of walkers. To minimize my weaving, I had others clear the way for me by running behind faster runners who were pushing through the crowds. It worked a little because I was able to run the first mile in around 10:25. My goal pace for the marathon was 9 minutes per mile, so already I was running at a deficit, but with 25.2 miles left I wasn't worried about making it up.

Given the fact that there were 25,000 runners/walkers out there, I managed to clear out and start running a good pace by the second mile. This was probably due to the fact that I didn't start in the back like I did the last two years. The downhill that started at mile 1.5 also encouraged everyone to run a little faster. I was able to get through mile 2 in a little over 9 minutes and was moving with greater ease.

The early miles just flew by. Before long I was running past the Hollywood Bowl heading towards Hollywood. The organizers placed hay at the turn towards Highland to catch those who were unable to make the turn. The turn was sharp, but it wasn't that sharp that someone would lose control. They could have been for the bikers, too.

I was amazed to see Jane and Liza by Hollywood and Highland. It seemed like I had just seen them a few minutes before and there they were standing as if they've been there for a long time. I was still feeling great so I threw them some kisses. We were only on Hollywood Boulevard for a short spell, but I wish it could have been longer. The crowds were thick there and it was a great boost to hear their roar. Too bad this wasn't mile 23 when I really needed the boost. Mile 3 came and went. In fact, miles 4, 5, and 6 were a blur. I remember running through Hancock Park but in no time I found myself in Koreatown. I ran my fastest mile at this point, running mile 3 in under 8 minutes and the other miles between 8 and 8:20. I wondered whether I was going out too fast and resolved to slow down and conserve a little bit of energy.

I performed a system check at around mile 7. I felt fine, breathing was good and my heartrate was consistent, but I could feel some tightness already in my calves. My calves have always been the source of marathon problems, but I usually don't feel anything on them until the mileage reached the mid-teens. Here I was only at mile 7. I thought that it might just be my hypochondriac tendencies, but it really was there. I think the standing around and waiting we did, being up since four AM, the warm weather and the downhill played havoc on my calves. I resolved to try and take some of the load off my calves by using my hamstrings more or picking up my legs rather than shuffling. Even, though, they were tight they weren't giving me problems, but I had to ensure they would last a little longer.

Because of the concerns I had that my calves would cramp up earlier than I would like, the idea of building up a cushion took on greater urgency. I wasn't going to push too hard, but if I could run the next few miles under 8:30 without being out of breath it would relieve some stress in the latter stages.

I began feeling the heat at around mile 8. It was probably in the mid to high 70's at that point, which was perfectly pleasant for those not running. I began dumping water on my head at the water stations and ran through open hydrants as much as I could. I normally hate getting wet, but it was a huge relief to do so during the marathon. My only fear was that my shoes would get soaked and I'd have to deal with the possibility of blisters. Thankfully that didn't happen.

After mile 12 I caught up with Sean. I got separated from the team when I stood in line at the port-a-potties. It looked like he had slowed down a little. I didn't want to slow down since the deadline on my calves was ticking away as little twitches began to make themselves palpable. I tried not using my big toe to push off so much since it was the inside part of my calves that was getting tight, but I couldn't keep that up for too long. I just had to get as much out of the calves while I still had time.

At the mile 13 water station, I took a walk break and poured more water on my head. My plan had been to take walk breaks at the water stations thinking that they would be situated in regular intervals. It turned out that some water stations were closer together than others and they were not always just after a mile marker. I ran without a water bottle, which worked out fine, but it meant that my walk breaks were spent taking in fluids rather than focusing on getting my heart rate down.

It was at the mile 13 aid station that I ran into Carlos. He tossed a cup of water at my back which startled me, but when I started running the cooling it provided was a welcome relief. Carlos asked me if we were on pace for sub four and I said we were. I was hoping he would run with me for a bit but he said he needed to catch his breath.

I've done four marathons now and I have yet to run with someone the whole way through. I've gotten used to running on my own, but it's good to see a familiar face on the course. I doubt I'd be a great running partner during a race anyway since I get focused and quiet. I figure I'm saving energy by not talking. Still, having a partner there would be a good way to maintain a pace. When I run with FJ and others during our training runs, it definitely helps having others there to help get you through the hard miles. What I've done during races has been to pick out someone who was moving at the pace I was and running next to or behind them. I did that with a guy in a Honda marathon shirt who was running a very steady pace and looked strong. Since I was doing walk breaks, though, I'd lose him, so what wound up happening was that I'd pass him and then he'd pass me when I took a walk break. I think I passed him for good at mile 23, but I was so delirious and in a haze by that point that he probably passed me again without me noticing.

I crossed the halfway mark at under 1:54, marking the first time I've run a marathon half under two hours. It also meant that I had built up a cushion of six minutes and all I had to do was run a 2:05 in the second half and I'd be fine. I kept trying to build a cushion, though. A 2:05 second half was still about 9:30 pace. I'd feel a lot more confident with a cushion that allowed me to run a 10:00 pace in the second half and still come in under four hours, so I pressed ahead.

I don't remember much between miles 14 and 17, but I was still running sub nine minute miles, which made me glad. When I got to Exposition Park, though, I began to feel fatigued and felt myself slowing down and needing longer walk breaks. I had taken my second Clif Shot at mile 15, a mile earlier than I had planned but I felt like I really needed it. Two miles later I felt like I needed another one. I trudged on, though, and blamed my exhaustion on the fact that I was in Trojan territory. Trojans are known to suck the life out of you.

I revived a little when I got on Figueroa because I was on familiar territory. The first few miles of the course used to be here and the crowd thickened a lot more. I saw the convention center and knew that Staples Center and the mile 19 banner weren't too far away. Jimmy and Sarah Jane found me at this point and ran with me. Coach Katie and Greg also came by at this point to urge me on. Good thing they didn't run with me for too long or I would have felt silly having a four-person entourage running with me. Still, the support couldn't have come at a better time. I had slowed down, running above 9 minute miles, and my calves were beginning to rebel. Jimmy sprayed me with something--I told him I didn't care--to help with my cramping. It didn't work since a few second later, a new wave of cramping started up. A Salonpas station was at mile 19, so I stopped for a spray. That might have helped or, as Jimmy said, it could just be a placebo effect. Still, my calves calmed down enough for me to focus on my breathing. My legs felt heavy and I wasn't exhaling as well as I would like, but with Jimmy pacing me I ran mile 20 in just under 9 minutes.

With just 10K left, I told Jimmy I'd be fine on my own. All I had to do was run ten minute miles and I'd still reach the finish line under four hours. I didn't take it for a slam dunk because 10 minute miles are tough when your calves won't cooperate, but the signs were good. The calves, though cramping, weren't locking up. I really thought they'd be spasming and locking up by mile 20. Mile 21 was completed at over 9 minutes, around 9:25, but still under 10 minutes.

Mile 22, though, was a tough one. It had the steep climb on the Olympic Boulevard bridge towards Boyle Heights. And the fact that we were running through mostly industrial areas with fewer crowds made it a tough mile. I made it up the bridge strongly, passing many people on it, but I was still exhausted. I had envisioned prior to the race to finishing the last 10K strongly, but I only had enough energy to keep moving. Rather than focusing on the fact that I still/only had 4 miles left, I shifted to focusing on every mile marker. Mile 22 was completed in just under 10:30.

For me, mile 23 was the toughest mile. We were still on a subtle incline, but regardless of how subtle it was I felt it every small degree of it. I kept hoping the mile marker was coming soon, but it was nowhere in sight. As we reached Boyle Heights, the community was cheering us on, but I had tuned much of it out. My thoughts were on the mile marker and how I was sure they had misplaced it. As I turned Whittier Blvd. I finally saw it. I crossed mile 23 with a split of over 10:30, my longest mile. I told myself I'd take no more walk breaks after this. Take a good swig of Gatorade, pour another cup of water over your head, and don't stop running until you reach the finish line.

I lied. I took another walk break at mile 24 and then psyched myself up by tellling myself that I was now underneath the 210 freeway heading back to the Rose Bowl. This will soon be over. The downhill on the 6th Street bridge was a welcome relief. I was looking forward to running on the bridge and enjoying the view of downtown. But I was too tired to appreciate anything. I saw downtown and rather than be swept away by the view I marveled at how far it looked. But having completed mile 24 in just under 9:30, I was delighted to find out that I could run the last 2.2 miles in a pace over 11 minutes and still come in under four hours. Mile 25 was a blur, but I remember passing a lot of people, which was a small victory. I was passing more than being passed. Other times it was the opposite. Exhaustion, though, was taking over and the only thing I could focus on was the desire to stop running. I tried to slow my breathing to no avail. I tried to get a song stuck in my head, but that too failed. I don't remember what time I ran mile 25, but I think I just came in under 10 minutes. The calves were on the verge of locking up, but with only a mile left, I knew I'd make it.

26 Mile

I focused on running the last 1.2 miles. I wasn't going to check my watch until I crossed the finish line. Push, push, push. This will soon be over. You can stop running in ten minutes. These were the thoughts in my head. I knew the mile 26 marker was in front of our hotel, so I fixed my gaze on the banner and watched it get closer and closer. The crowds got thicker and as I got closer I could hear the roar. I saw the crowd in my periphery and heard the applause, but I was still focused on the finish. I crossed the mile 26 banner and made the turn on Flower. More cheers. I was startled by a photographer as I made the turn. When I saw the yellow finish line I was struck at how far it still seemed. The night before it looked so close, but from the middle of Flower it still looked a half mile away.

I kept running. I passed a few more runners. It felt like I was moving at a good pace and my legs felt looser than I can remember since mile 15. There wasn't a crowd of people crossing the finish line at this point and as I approached the finish line I only saw two people ahead of me. I passed one last person, a runner who was being helped across the finish line.

Then it was over. I stopped my watch and saw the time. 3:54. I ran the last 1.2 miles in 10:24.


I tried to play down my goal of running under four hours. I told people it was my goal but I avoided making a big deal out of it. I was worried that if I made a big deal about it that I was only setting myself up for a letdown if I didn't get there. Still, it became a primary focus the last two weeks leading up to the race. Even though I was supposed to be tapering, I felt like I couldn't miss a running day. I tried to control it, but I still found myself increasing the treadmill speed to 7.5 mph. Crossing the finish line was no longer enough. I had to do it under four hours.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, though, I was surprised to find how unenthused I was. Maybe it was because I was deliriously tired, but I thought that if I made my goal of running four hours it would be like completing my first marathon. I sobbed no less than three times after crossing the finish of my first L.A. Marathon. I was sure it was going to be the same rush of emotion.

Now, though, I think the lack of a reaction is the realization that as good an accomplishment, a four hour marathon is not a life-affirming feat. It wasn't going to solve the things in my life that need to be fixed. It is, however, a reminder that I am stronger than I think. I'm kind of disappointed that the marathon no longer serves as a life-affirming symbol for me. Now it's a challenge, hobby, a pasttime, a game, like a hard sudoku puzzle that I will continue to tackle and improve on. I guess there really is nothing like your first time.

So what's next? I'm thinking this might be my last LA for a while, but never say never. I'm hoping to do San Diego in June and something in the fall. I'll put my name in for Chicago and NYC, but Portland and Las Vegas are also possible. I'll try to do more speed training and hopefully PR again.

Two years ago I ran my first marathon. I finished it in 4:54 after thinking I could easily do it under 4:30. On Sunday I beat that time by an hour. To put it in perspective, when I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I was still at mile 21 two years ago. I can't imagine shaving off another hour in two years, but I can give it a try.

For now, though, I'll savor the pleasant soreness in my calves while it lasts. In a couple of days it will go away and I will no longer have the physical sensation of having run 26.2 miles. That is, until the next one.

toenails still in place
Toenails still in place.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I got back home a couple of hours ago and now I'm experiencing the post-marathon funk. I'll post a race report tonight, but the short of it is that I made my goal of finishing under four hours. 3:54:37, to be exact. It was painful and hard, but well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 1 Day...

One day! I'm now feeling the rush of anticipation shooting through my finger tips. By this time tomorrow I should know whether or not I broke the four hour barrier.

I still haven't packed yet. I have everything that I need in terms of supplies, but it's just a matter of packing them all up. I plan on checking in at the Sheraton by 4pm, getting settled and heading down for the pasta party. I'm fairly calm but the excitement is running through me, so I doubt I'll sleep well at all tonight. I slept well last night, so I should be OK with only a few hours of sleep tonight. I'll wake up at 4am, shower, eat a little something, listen to music, and head down with the Team to the start line. I'm predicting that it will be a mad house tomorrow. It's a new course with new headaches. Transportation will probably be a bitch. Good thing I'm running it.

I had breakfast today at Heirloom with the gorgeous ladies of TNT. I had my oatmeal, part of my plan to ensure that I have no problems tomorrow morning with the toilet. I haven't started hydrating yet. I'll stop by the store on my way to the hotel and pick up a big jug of water and some breakfast items.

Folks keep asking if I'm ready. Of course I am. I've done the training. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. What I can't predict is how it will go and other factors I can't control. I'm worried about the weather. It was already in the mid 70's at 10:30AM today with no clouds, so I'm guessing it will be the same tomorrow. I guess it's more incentive for me to finish faster to avoid the warmest part of the day. It won't be ideal running weather, but we'll all have to manage. Pouring water over my head is always a good option.

I'm hoping it will just be a good running day tomorrow. I've had runs I expected to be rough ones either because I was tired or didn't get enough sleep but they turned out to be excellent efforts. I've also had runs where I felt like crap for no reason. Here's hoping that it's the former rather than the latter tomorrow.

I've avoided using the N word all through my post, but I'll admit it now. I'm nervous. It's a good kind of nervous, a natural nervousness. I'll be OK tomorrow. It's the anticipation that is so tough. It doesn't help that I keep on visualizing how I want to finish tomorrow. I want to finish strong. We'll give it a good effort and we'll see how it goes.

I really ought to start packing. I won't bring my laptop to the hotel so don't expect any entries until Monday, at the earliest. You can track my progress on the LA Marathon website. I'm bib #21680.

Wish me luck!

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 2 Days...

I decided that my countdown is wrong, so we're skipping the third day. Think of it as day savings time.

I made my way to downtown LA in the late afternoon to pick up my bib and what other goodies the organizers have thrown inside the goody bag.

2007 LA Marathon Logo

I've had great luck with bib numbers in my races. One time my bib was number 123. Usually my bib numbers have a nice ring to them rendering them easy to remember. My number for this year's race, though, is unmemorably large. I've forgotten it a few times already. 21680 doesn't have the same ring as 2280 (Pacific Shoreline) but it's my number and I will love it. As with the previous two times, I didn't request a special name that I wanted printed on my bib, so folks will have to cheer me on using my real name. I'm sure I'll get a lot of RAH-OOOOOOOOOLs as I run by and other Mondesi references. After all, he is the only Raul who ever lived.


As I was walking towards the Convention Center, a young kid approached me asking if I had seen a big group pass by. The jaded Angeleno that I was I was wary of the kid and was anticipating a pack of thugs to jump me from behind, knock me over, steal my camera and wallet and leave me on the sidewalk with blunt force trauma to the head.

The kid then explained that he got separated from his Student Run LA group. He was slightly panicked but also remarkably composed. Tears were welling up in his eyes and I could see the nervousness creeping in. I told him he should call his mother and offered my phone. I was still suspicious and expected the kid to run off with my phone. I figured, though, that I was fast enough to catch him and gave him my phone.

He was able to reach his mother and I spoke to her and told her I would take her son back inside the Convention Center and leave him with the officials at the Expo where she could pick him up. We stayed on the line as I walked back inside. As I walked inside the convention hall where the Expo was taking place a guy, who I'm guessing is a teacher, called out to the kid. Considering that according to the kid they were supposed to meet at 3PM and it was past 4 when he approached me, the teacher didn't look panicked at all. I'd be worried about getting my ass sued for losing someone's kid.

So, yes, I was a hero for fifteen minutes. I should confess, though, that the whole time I was dealing with the kid I kept on hoping that this whole ordeal won't cause me to stay for more than an hour. I parked at a meter and only had an hour to take care of the Expo stuff. The last thing I needed was to sit with a kid while we waited for his mother to pick him up. I would've done it, though, so I guess I'm still a hero, but I would have obsessed about the possibility of a parking ticket.

I didn't linger long, though. I picked up my bib, got my goody bag, took a couple of posters and walked around for a bit looking for the same hat I bought last year for $8. It was a Brooks hat and it was the best cap I'd ever worn during a race. Unfortunately I lost it at the finish area. I was holding too many things and must have dropped it. I didn't find it, so I guess I'm stuck wearing my black Nike cap, which isn't so bad, but that other one was so much better.

Walking back to my car I took the following picture:

Mile 19

This mile marker is in front of the Staples Center on Figueroa. This will annoy a lot of people. From here runners can glimpse the finish line and see the runners (way) ahead of them crossing the finish. It's a bit enervating to see the finish and then realize you still have 7.2 miles left before you can cross it. It may only be four blocks away but you still have to run away from it before you can cross it. Faraway, so close!

I ate lunch today at Canada Cafe. Here is a picture of the Poutine fries, grilled cheese sandwich, and egg salad that I ate:


Thursday, March 01, 2007

MARATHON WATCH 2007: 4 Days...

I think my countdown is a little misleading. There are four days left if I include today, but only three if I don't. Either way, the race is this Sunday.

I was planning to rest up yesterday. I didn't run, but I wound up taking on a 5.5 mile hike up above Pasadena. I hiked up the Sam Merrill trail to the remnants of the White City on Echo Mountain. It took me two hours but you get wonderful views of the LA basin, especially yesterday when it was clear with just a few clouds. It's a fairly demanding hike, but it might be an option should I ever feel like taking on a hard run uphill.

Afterwards I drove over to Run With Us and picked up some four Clif Shots and a new pair of socks for the marathon. They were fairly busy at the store, a stark contrast to two or three weeks ago when I went into the store and found the employees lounging around with no customers to help. They practically tripped over each other to help me out.

Today I ran for the last time until the marathon. No more running until Sunday. I promise. I ran a little over three miles today and felt great. I think I will run without a Gatorade bottle this time. It really is a much more pleasant experience not having to hold something in your hand while you run. The course will be well-stocked with water and Gatorade. I'll just coincide my walk breaks with the water stations.

So, with the marathon just around the corner I'm getting anxious. It's the anticipation that's hard, but once you're out there pounding the pavement all nervousness goes away, replaced by bad aches and soreness that can make a blind man see.