Saturday, May 31, 2008

1 Day Until San Diego

I'm still at home. I haven't packed, I haven't showered, but I have eaten a nice bowl of oatmeal to ensure regularity tomorrow. I'll hopefully jump in the shower in a few minutes, throw some clothes in a bag and drive off to San Diego.

The BioBlitz last night was fun if only for the fact that I got to be out in nature in the dark of night. It was almost too quiet at Topanga State Park. I guess I'm too accustomed to city life. As for the bugs, we didn't really catch anything too interesting. Mostly moths, but we did catch some interesting crickets, a katydid, and a wind scorpion. We also saw a huge frog as we we were walking. Two hours in I began to worry that I've been on my feet for too long, but I think I should be rested enough for tomorrow's race. I slept about eight hours last night, which is a lot for me.

I haven't given the race a lot of thought. No special race plan apart from what I've done before. I'm just going to keep an eye on my pace and see how I feel. I'll attempt to keep to an 8:30 pace, which will get me to around 3:43 if successful. This race can really go any way tomorrow and I'm not really confident about which way it will go. It could be good, it could be bad. If it goes bad, I'll just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

Wish me luck!

Friday, May 30, 2008

2 Days Until San Diego!

I had hoped to get in two more runs this week before the marathon, but that didn't turn out so well. Going into Sunday's race, my last run was Monday. In the two weeks leading into the race, I've run twice for a total of 14 miles. Not the best way to head into a marathon. I suppose I needed to lay off my feet anyway with my IT band issues. We shall see how it holds up.

If that wasn't enough, I'm also not preparing for this race very well. Tonight, when I should be trying to get plenty of sleep, I'll be traipsing around Topanga State Park counting grasshoppers as part of National Geographic's BioBlitz. It sounded like fun, so I couldn't very well turn it down. Thankfully we'll be done by midnight. My bedtime tends to be 1 or 2am anyway. I plan on sleeping in until 10, and head off for the drive to San Diego.

I had planned to stay two nights in San Diego, but I changed that to one. I'll drive back after the race. I hope I don't regret that decision!

When I get back I'll probably be craving steak, lots of sleep and a good massage.

Goal time: 3:45

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5 Days Until San Diego

I finally signed up for the marathon on Sunday. The prices went up yesterday, so I saved a grand total of $9.05. Woo hoo!

Over the weekend I ran twice but erased any benefits by eating and drinking a lot. On Saturday FJ, Rachel, Andy and I ran eight miles, and then yesterday I ran with FJ for another six. While the runs went well, I unfortunately continue to feel a little something that I think might be my IT band. It's not painful but it's irritating, and I wonder how it will hold up over 26.2 miles. Eight and six were fine and doable with it, but I think it will be an issue over a longer distance. I'll take it a little easy this week.

FJ asked me if I was excited, but I think I stopped being "excited" over marathons a couple of races ago. The adrenaline rush still comes when I start, but the days leading up to it aren't as nerve-wracking or anxiety-ridden as they used to be. I've become a little jaded now.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Save the Taco Truck, Save L.A.?

Taco Truck 1 am, originally uploaded by janelbot.

I checked out Zocalo's panel discussion on taco trucks called "Remember the Taco Truck!" at the L.A. Theatre Center last night. It was all last minute since I didn't find out until half an hour before. Thankfully I wasn't too far from the theater. L.A. Weekly food critic, Jonathan Gold, was part of the panel, as well as Chris Rutherford, one of the guys spearheading the online petition to save the taco trucks. Chris and I went to graduate school together and it was great to catch up with him afterwards and reminisce about the film class we took together--a class with only four students that we took turns teaching.

The panel was admittedly one-sided. Everyone there was in favor of taco trucks, although Barry Glassner was a voice of reason. He viewed the current ordinance as preposterous but believes the ordinance is seeking to address legitimate concerns. But everyone agreed that the one hour restriction is preposterous, not to mention the fine and six-month jail time truck operators might face. Hopefully a compromise can be reached, perhaps one that requires a truck not to park within 500 feet of another restaurant.

I think the discussion could have been better moderated as the moderator tended to draw attention to himself rather than keep the dialogue going. It was basically a taco truck love-in. Maybe everyone just loves taco trucks.

After the panel discussion a reception took place in front of the theater where a taco truck, Gorditas Lupita's, was parked and served complimentary food. I had the torta al pastor with a bottle of Jarritos. Ironically, a cop came by near the end of the reception and ordered them to move the truck. It was a beautiful scene as we all stood on the sidewalk with our food and clapped and waved as the truck packed up and drove off.

I don't eat at taco trucks very often, but I have never had a bad experience. The food is always great. I agree with the panelists that the taco truck helps create a street scene that is sorely lacking in LA. There are few places I can think of where people congregate with the various types of people who inhabit LA and the taco truck do just that. Concerns about safety is silly too. I've eaten at taco trucks in neighborhoods I would be scared of walking around in, but under the lights of a parking lot with dozens of people surrounding a taco turck, there is no safer place to be.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Losing Night

Are You A Loser?, originally uploaded by splorp.

It was an evening of losses last night.

Our trivia team lost another hard fought battle at Casey's. Last week we were firmly in the lead but wagered badly on the final question we got right and landed in second. Last night was closer. We were tied for third but only five points behind the first place team. We were sure we had learned our lesson last week, but once again we wagered conservatively on the final question, which we again correctly answered. We still wouldn't have won had we bet the maximum 20 points, but we would have been in second. Instead we finished in a tie for third and lost the tiebreaker, so we didn't get a prize.

I'm more beat up about the loss last week because we should have won that. We were kicking ass last week. Last night was a satisfying defeat because most of the answers didn't come easy but we thought the questions out, and more often than not, we got it right. We earned those points. I screwed up on a question about tennis: "Who defeated Boris Becker in the 1988 and 1990 Wimbledon championship but lost to Becker in 1989?" My first instinct was "Stefan Edberg" but then I started doubting myself and wrote down "Mats Wilander." Aaarghh. Whatever. It was another strong showing, though, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time until we win the evening outright.

After trivia I was on a mission to get fried chicken from Bon Chon in Koreatown. Franklin Avenue wrote about it and as a fan of fried food I had to try it. I think I circled for half an hour and could not find parking. My bladder was just about full, so I decided to save the chicken for another night.

At home I settled in to watch "American Idol" on DVR. My pick, David Archuleta, lost in a landslide to David Cook. My DVR actually cut out just as Ryan was saying, "The winner is David..." Had I not already looked up who won, I would have been pissed. The finale itself was actually very satisfying. Cook may have won, but Michael Johns stole the show. He was great, especially his duet with Carly Smithson on "The Letter." He should have been the American Idol. Of all the contestants I think I'm more likely to buy a Michael Johns album.

To cap it off, I watched "Top Chef." I wasn't so much bummed that Dale was eliminated as I was that Lisa survived yet another round. What a sucky way to end an evening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

05.20.2008 - AI Review

David Cook

1) "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - Why take such a rousing song and take away the rouse? He was being given an opportunity to blow the roof and instead takes away the best thing about the song and turns it into a mopey and, at times, screechy version.

2) "Dream Big" - He sang this well, but the song itself is awful. It sounded like something from the '80's. It's the kind of song you expect to hear in some 1980s movie about a group of misfit high schoolers who enter an academic decathlon even though most of them are illiterate. They perservere, however, and in the days leading up to the competition they study their nuts off. "Dream Big" would play over the montage as the kids study all over the place--at the library, a basketball court, at a grocery store, at a carwash, at the toilet. I can see it. Will they pass? What makes the song worse is that it tries to hide its treacle in a bouncy pop melody, but there's no hiding the cheesy lyrics. It's schlock.

3) "The World I Know" - Every rock star knows you don't end on a whimper, but whimper David Cook does here. He takes an already downbeat song and slows it down to a crawl. He sounds good, as usual, but it makes me fear based on his song choices that he'll be a vaguely Christian empowerment rocker. I tremble at the idea.

David Archuleta

1) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" - His best performance of the night, and perhaps the whole competition. He threw himself into the performance and I actually got goosebumps. The best moment, surprisingly, is when he struggles for a note because he's just singing from the gut. If anything it gives me hope that he'll move beyond the robotic element of his performing style.

2) "In This Moment" - Like Cook's song its message is pure cheese, but it embraces the cheese. Lesson: embrace the cheese. The song fit the Archuleta model for the season and he sang it well, but it's easily the most dismissible of his performances.

3) "Imagine" - The second time of anything is never as good. I was hoping he would add more to the song, but I think I was more riveted the first time he sang this. Like his other performances tonight, he was on point though.

Archuleta takes the evening, and he would be my choice to win. However, I think the winner will be David Cook.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Piazza, [L.A.] Catcher Retires

Mike Piazza is retiring from baseball, which is enough to make me feel old, but couple that with the fact that he played 16 seasons and it makes me realize exactly how old I am. I remember when he started playing! Can it really be that long ago?

So long, Piazza, Dodger catcher. I guess we'll never know if you are straight or if you are gay.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Trivial Pursuit

Guinness @ Fado in Seattle, originally uploaded by Kell Bailey.

Oh, the heartbreak!

I recently started attending trivia night at Casey's Irish Bar & Grill in downtown with Davey and his friend, Brian. They have been going regularly but last night was my second time. Last week, my first, we finished dead last, and being the competitive guy I am I was looking forward to redeeming ourselves this week.

We got off to a great start last week, getting 24 out of 24 points in the first round, but then we fell apart the next round. We bounced back, though, but in the end we wagered the full 20 points and got the last question wrong, putting us dead last. No guts, no glory.

Last night we once again swept the first round. and it looked like we were once again going to tank the second round. We got the first two questions wrong but we wagered the lowest points possible. After that, we were on a roll. We missed a couple more questions wrong, but we were in the top 3 for all four rounds. In fact, at the end of round 4 heading into the final question, we were in first--ahead of the second place team by 11 points.

For the final question we could bet between 2 and 20 points. If we get the answer wrong we lose half of what we bet. The question: What port did the Mayflower depart from?

None of us knew the answer, but Davey had a great guess. Plymouth. Since we weren't sure we only bet 2 points hoping that the others also got it wrong.

Sometimes the song the quizmaster plays while we're answering is a clue. If we had paid attention we would have realized that the song for that questions was: Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From." As it turned out, a bunch of teams got it right too, but they wagered big. We managed to finish second, but another team leapfrogged over us. The agony!

We won bar bucks, though, and I have a feeling we're going to soon dominate. I can feel it! Chalk this one up to a lesson learned. Next time!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

05.13.2008 - AI Review

Everyone was bad tonight. I think David Cook was more consistent but not in a great way. He was passable but made no mistakes. "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" was shrieky, I thought, and he was off pitch on "Dare You To Move." But of the three contestants he was the one who stayed on message and didn't doubt who he was. However, I thought David Archuleta's "And So It Goes" was the best single performance of the night. Too bad "With You" was awkward, but I give him props for trying to do something different.

1. David Cook
2. David Archuleta
3. Syesha Mercado

Sunday, May 11, 2008

05.10.2008: 20 Miles

Distance: 20 miles (or according to Andy's Garmin, 19.51)
Time: 3:33
Where: South Pasadena to Elmer Smith Bridge and back!

For our 20 miler, we did something different. We ran the same course we always do, but this time we met up at FJ's house in South Pasadena and started our trek there. It's just about 10 miles from FJ's house to our turnaround point at Elmer Smith Bridge, but even though it's the same course, the slight change made for a whole different experience. With the help of perfect weather, I would say that yesterday's 20 miler was my best 20 miler ever. My 20 milers are usually tough slogs, but this one was, dare I say, easy. I could be jinxing myself. A great 20 miler might turn into a bad marathon in three weeks. I hope not.

One big difference about yesterday's run is that it eliminates the psychological hurdle of having to cross the "finish line" more than once and having to double back on yourself. Had we started at our usual spot at Lot K, we would have to run south along the arroyo to the York Blvd. exit by the 110 then run back to where we started, head north, run a switchback, then get back on the course, run up the hill to JPL and to Elmer Smith and then head back. It's essentially the same run, but with our course yesterday it was simplified. We ran out and back. None of the mental hurdle of having to run back to where you started twice.

I was actually surprised that our finish time was as slow as it was. I felt great. I had none of the soreness and side stitches I suffered last week. I think the slow time is due to the extended stops we made to talk to friends we encountered. Our time is probably closer to 3:20.

Another great thing about the new course is getting to collapse on FJ's front lawn at the finish. Andy and I sat there for a few minutes. I swear we got some suspicious stares from FJ's neighbors as they drove by.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

05.06.2008 - AI Review

1. David Archuleta - This was his best night in a long while. I'm not sure I liked that he included a little bit of Sean Kingston's abominal "Beautiful Girls" in his performance of "Stand By Me," but I guess he was trying to prove that he's hip with what the kids his age are listening to. On both songs, he sounded great and connected with the lyrics. I've always found his voice interesting and rich, and tonight it was again both those things.

2. Syesha Mercado
- Syesha sounded very good, but unfortunately her song choices pointed out a flaw. In choosing two soul classics, she highlights the fact that she lacks soul. She tends to beautify her renditions and the same was true tonight. It sounded good, but it lacked the urgency of those classics. She proved that she can sing well, but she also proved that there's very little soul in the package.

3. David Cook
- His version of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" was a miss, but I almost think the band and/or the sound was to blame. His vocals were too much in the foreground and overwhelmed the music. Even if the mix was right, though, it still sounded like karaoke. As for "Baba O'Riley," the beginning demonstrated Cook's best vocal feature, a slow-burning growl. He lost me, though, when he got to the rock n'roll part of the song. It also didn't help matters that the song was truncated. It's a damn long song with an extended instrumental section that makes the song, but we don't get any of that. He chose the songs, though.

4. Jason Castro
- Awful. Awful. Awful. Not only that but his attitude made it seem like a big joke. For a sincere, singer-songwriter type, he seems to take everything as a lighthearted joke. "I Shot the Sheriff" was toothless and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was horrible. His vocals may be more understandable than Bob Dylan's bleating, but what Dylan lacked in vocal prowess he made up for in intense feeling. Castro seemed more preoccupied with finding the best place to make his voice crack so that the teenage girls would think it was cute and sincere than actually understanding the songs. I hope he goes tomorrow.

Monday, May 05, 2008

05.04.2008 - 18 Miles

Distance: 18 miles
Time: 2:49:15
Where: Rose Bowl

It probably wasn't ideal to run 18 miles a day after running a strenuous, hilly 6.2 miles. It's ill-advised, to say the least. But I did it and I felt it early on. Rachel ran the first half with me and we were both complaining of feeling stiff, her from having not run much as of late and me from the day before. Three miles in and I was still not loosened up. We wound up running the nine miles in 1:27, though, even with a couple of extended walk breaks.

The weather was suited for my 18. Katie said she might run the second half with me, but she probably couldn't find a babysitter because she was nowhere in sight when Rachel and I made it back. I ran the second half on my own, and with the weather being fine--overcast and cool--I made good time. I was telling myself that I can abandon the 18 miler and do 16 instead when my legs can't handle it any more. My longest run so far was 13 miles, so adding five miles was a big step, but I persevered and went all the way. It didn't feel good, though. On the way back from the horse stables, with about four miles left to go, my tired, sore legs were having a tough time of it. However, the legs weren't the biggest issue. Even though they felt heavy I could move very well. The big problem was the side stitch that had developed early in the second half. It didn't bother me at first, but on the way back it became an aggravation, enough for me to slow down.

I ran the last 4 miles slower, running at a 10 minute pace most likely. If I am to do San Diego next month, I ought to run my 20 miler this weekend. We'll see if that is in the cards.

6.2 miles + 18 miles = 24.2 miles this weekend. None too shabby.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Out Run

I've been wanting to run with Frontrunners on their Saturday morning runs at Griffith Park, but since I'm usually running in Pasadena on those days, I haven't had a chance. I finally made it there today, though. I had done the Frontrunners Fun Run in Santa Monica on Wednesday evenings but I haven't made it there in months. On those runs I was one of the faster runners and I thought I'd be able to hold my own with the big group. Boy, was I wrong.

Actually I held my own, but I just happened to run with some impressively strong and fast runners. Anyone who thinks gays aren't athletic and run funny need to check these guys out. I got my ass handed to me. Since I don't know the trails around Griffith Park all that well, I stuck with a group. It would be a disaster if I got lost. They decided to run a course today they referred to as "7 Hills." I figured seven is doable. I got too competitive, though, and tried to keep up with the others. I started huffing and puffing by the fourth hill--and I swear there were more than seven hills. Almost as bad were the steep downhills. The others were racing down it but I slowed down because I have a fear of tripping and rolling down. That would be embarrassing.

I thought I was fast, but I had nothing on these guys. Maybe after a few more runs I can master this course, but this was tough. I thought I was going to poop my shorts. I was told the course we ran was 6.2 miles but with all the hills I felt like I ran 10. I'm not sure what my time is, but it was definitely a good workout. I don't know what I have left for tomorrow.