Thursday, December 30, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: December 2010

It's the end of the year! I thought about compiling a ten-best albums list, but whenever I do it just feels arbitrary. Rather than do that, I decided to put together a long list representing individual songs and albums that I loved.

"Everlasting Light" - The Black Keys
A great way to start a terrific album.

"She Was a Vision" - Active Child
Lovely and haunting. It must be the harp.

"Crazy for You" - Best Coast
Fun, poppy, and totally sounds like the best coast.

"Terrible Love" - The National
My favorite song from what could be my favorite album of the year. They were also terrific the two times I saw them live this year. They keep getting better.

"Yulia" - Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade bounced back from a disappointing second album with a pretty good one in Expo 86. "Yulia" was the highlight.

"Hurricane J" - The Hold Steady
Another solid song from a solid band.

"Diplomat's Son" - Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend came back strong with their second album. Lots of great, catchy songs, but "Diplomat's Son" is tops.

"Barbra Streisand" - Duck Sauce
I don't like to dance, but this song makes me want to.

"Infinity Guitars" - Sleigh Bells
My kind of cheer squad.

"Power" - Kanye West
Everyone else has him on their list, why can't I?

"Round and Round" - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Ariel Pink's lo-fi songs have a certain charm, but the studio sheen of this song really does bring out the best in Ariel Pink's sound.

"Trust" - Generationals
Generationals' LP Con Law came out in 2009, so I couldn't count them for 2010, but this song from their 2010 EP is equally as infectious as anything from the album. Their sound makes me happy.

"Better Times" - Beach House
A great song for meditative moments.

"You Are Not Alone" - Mavis Staples
It's hard to ever feel alone after hearing this beautiful song from Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy.

"I Can Change" - LCD Soundsystem
Another superb album from LCD Soundsystem that includes this heartfelt highlight.

"King of Spain" - The Tallest Man on Earth
This Dylan soundalike also captures Dylan's sly wit, and he's cheeky enough to even make a Dylan reference in the song.

"Christchurch Woman" - Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle delivers on the promise of his earlier albums. Harlem River Blues is terrific.

"Laredo" - Band of Horses
Band of Horses offer nothing particularly new or different from the roots rock sound they have mastered in their previous two albums, but when they consistently deliver catchy and indelible songs like "Laredo," it's difficult to fault them for doing something consistently well.

"Flare Gun" - Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett's songs sometimes feel partly developed. You sense a great idea in there that hasn't been completely developed. Heartland finds Pallett (giving up the Final Fantasy moniker) growing as a songwriter. He's still not transcendently good, but in his best moments--as in this song--you look forward to what's to come.

"The Suburbs" - Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire delivers another sweeping set of songs. Thanks, Canada!

"Animal Arithmetic" - Jonsi
This song makes me want to run as fast as I can. In fact, many of the songs on Jonsi's solo album will do that to you.

Age of Adz - Sufjan Stevens
Anyone who feels lost by Sufjan Stevens's new album need only start with this song to find their way. It's quintessential Sufjan--epic yet intimate--but with spacy, electronic flourishes. It's my favorite song of the year and the whole album dukes it out with The National for album of the year honors. Coincidentally, Sufjan and The National are artistic collaborators.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: November 2010

01 "Dance Dance Dance" - Lykke Li

02 "Chains Chains Chains" - Elvis Perkins in Dearland

03 "Lights Out" - Santigold

04 "Living Life" - Eels

05 "Too Much" - Sufjan Stevens

06 "A House is Not a Home" - Field Music

07 "Eat That Up, It's Good For You" - Two Door Cinema Club

08 "More Than This" - Charlie Hunter featuring Norah Jones

09 "Heartbreaker" - Girls

10 "Somebody to Love Me" - Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. feat. Boy George

11 "All the Umbrellas in London" - The Magnetic Fields

12 "Perpetuum Mobile" - Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great L.A. Walk 2010: Wilshire Blvd.

Group Photo

For the fourth straight year I did Franklin Avenue's Great Los Angeles Walk. This time Mike decided to do Wilshire again, the very first street he did five years ago. I was glad since I wasn't a part of that original walk.

As usual I had a great time. Even at 16 miles I was less exhausted than I was compared even with last year's slightly shorter route. I think weather had a lot to do with it. The threat of rain barely materialized. It was limited to a few short bursts of shower in the morning, and it then cleared up the rest of the day. What could have been a soggy day turned into a cool and refreshing walk, breathing in rain-cleaned air.

The only downside to doing Wilshire, though, was my familiarity with the street. Even though this was the first time I've walked the street end to end, I have probably walked the entire lengthy cumulatively throughout the last few years. There were really no big surprises. I knew the street much too well.

Still, there were a few nice touches such as the message put up by the Wiltern Theatre welcoming the Great(er) L.A. Walk 2010. I also enjoyed the company. Kevin and Tyrell are excellent walking companions, and for the first time since Pico we actually finished with the main group and got to pose in the group photo at the end. A celebratory mojito at Border Grill was the perfect way to end the evening. I did get a blister from the walk, but it hasn't been too painful. I even did the GLU hike the next day.

So, until next year! I suggested to Mike that we do a Gold Line hike from Pasadena to East LA. Let's see what he decides for next year.

Here are some more pics from the hike. More pics can be seen on my Flickr page.

Opening Remarks
Kevin Speaks
Wilshire Center
My Street!
Greater L.A. Walk
E. Clem Wilson Building
Paul, Kevin, and Tyrell

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: October 2010

01 "Barbra Streisand" - Duck Sauce

02 "Temptation" - New Order

03 "I Feel Like Going Home" - Yo La Tengo

04 "Harlem River Blues" - Justin Townes Earle

05 "Sleep Alone" - Bat for Lashes

06 "The Cold Swedish Winter" - Jens Lekman

07 "I'm Not Living in the Real World" - Belle and Sebastian

08 "Age of Adz" - Sufjan Stevens

09 "Evaporar" - Little Joy

10 "Don't Give Up On Me" - Solomon Burke

11 "Tighten Up" - Black Keys

12 "Land of Living Skies Part 2: The Living Skies" - Besnard Snakes

Race Report: 10.24.2010 Inaugural Los Angeles Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I didn't turn in a personal best at the Los Angeles Rock n Roll Half Marathon, but I'm happy with my performance nonetheless. I hadn't trained enough, and the course was tougher than I remembered. There were a couple of demanding hills including a cruel one at mile 10 that had me feeling lightheaded as I ran up it. So for all that, it was a good race. It's the fastest half marathon in a couple of years and my third or fourth fastest ever.

With the downhill start I took off at a fast clip, running the first two miles around 7:50/mile. The fast start also prevented my legs from fully warming up and soon my calves were feeling stiff and seemed to not want to loosen up. I feared that it would remain stiff and even cramp up before I even reach mile 10. Thankfully, after 7 miles the calves loosened up. By then, though, I had settled on my 8:00/mile pace and stuck to it.

Apart from the tight calves I had no other issues the rest of the race. I did feel the lack of training as my attack of the hills had less vigor and I was huffing and puffing most of the run. It would have been great to finish under 1:45, but I'm just happy that I finished.

The race itself was very well organized. The Rock n Roll organizers really know what they're doing. I hope the LA Marathon folks took some notes. The shuttles were fast and efficient, and the gear check station, with the aid of UPS, were quick and easy. I will definitely do this again. I can' believe I haven't done CIty of Angels the last few years. Hopefully this will be the start of a streak.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To My Health

My quest to become the paragon of fitness is failing. Then again, I never had a chance at succeeding, but even by my own lowly standards I'm a failure.

Back in July, after running and feeling bonked out after the San Francisco Marathon, I resolved to rededicate myself to running and improve my speed. I had three months until my next race, the Los Angeles Rock n' Roll Half Marathon, so I had plenty of time to train and improve. How did I do?


I still ran, but there was no significant improvement in the quality of my runs. I just ran and didn't work on strength or speed. I essentially maintained my fitness. Sadly, I can't even say that--a week away from the half marathon--that I'm in as good a shape as I was a month ago. I'm going to go into this race really in bad shape. I was running about three times a week until I came down with a cold a couple of weeks ago and a busy schedule coupled with laziness on my part kept me from running. Feeling guilty, I forced myself to run over 10 miles on Saturday morning, the first time I've reached double figures since the marathon in July. I did it, but it didn't feel good and I wonder how it will be this weekend. I have no doubt I can finish the run. It just won't feel good.

As for my run yesterday, it actually went OK. I was tired by about mile 8, but I finished at just over a 9-minute/mile pace. Ideally for the half I would like to be closer to 8 min/mile. I doubt I will be able to maintain that pace in the shape I'm in, but the course is a fast one, so that will help.

This morning I got in a hike with Kevin and Dan up Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains--over 7 miles--in the rain to boot. For the rest of the week leading up to Sunday's race, I'm hoping to run at least three more times. That shouldn't be a problem. I can run Monday, Wednesday and Thursday then rest until Sunday morning.

After this race I promise to work harder!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect 10

Arcade Fire Take the Stage

How awesome was Arcade Fire at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday? They were amazing--in every sense of the word. To think I almost didn't go see them! I was going to get tickets when they went on sale, but then I balked. First it was the price, $45+. I hate paying more than $20 for a show, but I had to admit that Arcade Fire now belong to the masses. Demand is high, and I must pay the price. What really kept me from getting tickets, though, was that I didn't have anyone to go with. I figured I could find someone to go later on, and that I should just get tickets anyway. But what if I can't find anyone, then I'd be stuck with a pretty expensive ticket. In the end, I told myself that seeing them enthrall a sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl was enough. I've experienced the Arcade Fire and I can go without seeing them this time around.

Thankfully, a couple of weeks ago, I found out that a friend had an extra ticket, so I snatched the opportunity. I don't know why I even doubted that I wouldn't be able to find someone to go. It's freakin' Arcade Fire! Their shows are a religious experience, rousing and sublime. I won't go into details about the setlist, but they played a fairly even spread of songs from Funeral, Neon Bible, and The Suburbs. The best numbers continue to be from Funeral, though, but songs like "We Used to Wait" and "No Cars Go" are going to be staples in future shows.

The show was on Thursday, but it heralded a pretty enjoyable weekend. I saw "Waiting for 'Superman'" on Friday and then "Let Me In" on Saturday. Both are very good films, "Superman" more for fostering debate about education and "Let Me In" for beautifully adapting "Let the Right One In" and maintaining its spirit and even adding more to the story. Had I not seen "Let the Right One In" I probably would have been more enamored with "Let Me In." It's just difficult not to compare the two when they're so similar in tone and spirit.

The weekend culminated with the beautiful and fun wedding of Dan and Alice. I put on a suit for the first time in a couple of years and had a great time hanging out with the TNT crew. I danced a little and dusted off my Roger Rabbit, the only dance move I really know, apart from the Running Man, but everyone knows how to do that. Weddings are a lot of work, and Alice did a great job of putting hers together. It was lovely, tasteful and fun. I wish I had eaten more cake, though.

Nate Pose
Congrats, Alice and Dan!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

52 Films in 52 Weeks: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

I'm doing terribly at this endeavor. With less than three months left in the year, I have only watched five of the 52 films on my list. Tonight I managed to cross Mr. Smith Goes to Washington off the list. This was a film I have always wanted to see--a deeply beloved classic. TCM aired it this weekend and I sat myself down to watch.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is exactly what I expected it to be, an entertaining and empowering piece of political schmaltz. Mr. Smith is too good to be true, and obviously someone as decent and innocent as he will never get elected in today's world. This is a film that would never work in today's very cynical days, but I think even the darkest cynic can not help but be moved to action by Mr. Smith's display of heroic filibustering in the film. If only there was at least one Mr. Smith in today's Congress. I think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ought to be required annual viewing for members of Congress so that they can realign their priorities.

In technical terms, though, there's not much to discuss about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. There's nothing groundbreaking about it. What its classic status rests on is its simple but heartwarming story and the power and appeal of the performances by Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. Few people can pull of what Stewart does here, turning a rather dull, innocent of a character into someone appealing. Mr. Smith is almost too good, but Stewart makes us believe that such a person can exist and even be interesting. Stewart's performance takes off when he begins to discover that his fellow senators are not the well-meaning politicians he thought they were. The sense of betrayal and disappointment Stewart communicates through his eyes is heartbreaking.

My favorite performance, though, is Harry Carey's wry portrayal of the President of the Senate. With his bemused smile Carey creates a character who is pragmatic but not so broken that he fails to see the decency and strength of purpose displayed by Mr. Smith. The enjoyment he gets out of seeing the young senator filibuster and prove everyone wrong is one of the film's biggest delights.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: September 2010

01 "We Used to Wait" - Arcade Fire

02 "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need to Be Nicer" - The Cardigans

03 "Fuck You" - Cee-Lo Green

04 "Ready for the Floor" - Hot Chip

05 "Dog Days Are Over" - Florence + the Machine

06 "Lovers in Japan" - Coldplay

07 "Hang With Me" - Robyn

08 "These Words" - Natasha Bedingfield

09 "I'm in Your Church at Night" - Active Child

10 "You Don't Know Me" - Ben Folds feat. Regina Spektor

11 "When I'm With You" - Best Coast

12 "Runaway" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This is what I ate #8: Cobb Salad

I've been on a Cobb salad kick lately. I don't eat it every day, but when I inevitably crave one it's the Cobb salad that I fall back on. I'm generally not a big salad eater for the reason that I'm hungry soon after eating one. It just doesn't satisfy me. Cobb salads, though, are heartier, and I think that's why I favor them.

As way of history, the Cobb salad was invented by the Brown Derby, a location of which used to stand a few blocks from my apartment. The legend follows:

from Aurthur Schwartz of the food maven

"One night in 1937, Bob Cobb, then owner of The Brown Derby, prowled hungrily in his restaurant's kitchen for a snack. Opening the huge refrigerator, he pulled out this and that: a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, some cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing. He started chopping. Added some crisp bacon -- swiped from a busy chef.

"The Cobb salad was born. It was so good, Sid Grauman (Grauman's Chinese Theatre), who was with Cobb that midnight, asked the next day for a 'Cobb Salad.' It was so good that it was put on the menu.

"Cobb's midnight invention became an overnight sensation with Derby customers, people like movie mogul Jack Warner, who regularly dispatched his chauffeur to pick up a carton of the mouth-watering salad."

I'm not enough of an expert to say which place has the best Cobb salad, but the one I had at the Nickel Diner recently was very good. Today I'm having Mendocino Farms' take on the Cobb. It's not a traditional Cobb salad in its ingredients (turkey instead of chicken, no hard-boiled eggs) and its presentation (too messy), but it makes up for it with great, fresh ingredients. I miss the eggs, but otherwise this is quite a delicious salad--and surprisingly, I'm feeling full.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

"Blow out your candles, Laura…"

Thanks to a ticket giveaway on KCRW's Facebook page, I got to see the production of "The Glass Menagerie" currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown. After a quick delicious Friday Happy Hour dinner at Spitz in Little Tokyo, Jane and I headed over to the Music Center for an evening of classic theater. What a great production. "The Glass Menagerie" is my favorite Tennessee Williams play, but I haven't read it since high school. After seeing tonight's performance I'm eager to find my old textbook and give it another spin. It's the first time I've seen the play performed, and the experience is revelatory. Reading a play the only voice that you hear is your own, but seeing it performed, you are treated to a multitude of perspectives--the actors, the director, even the guy around you who feels free to make comments during the performance.

In my mind I've always imagined Amanda as being a haughtily out-of-touch, but Judith Ivey portrays her as almost a ridiculous, silly woman who is trapped in the past. Wearing an old dress that I'm sure at one time enhanced her youth and beauty, she instead looks rather comical, like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" It's both funny and sad. Ivey gives an amazing performance. What could easily be a detestable, annoying character is instead rendered heartbreaking and sad. We see all our mothers in Amanda, one who would drive us insance if only we didn't love her so.

Keira Keeley as Laura is almost too fragile, but if she were less so the ending wouldn't be so powerful. Fragile she may be, but there is also a hint of resilience in her performance. Keeley's Laura may linger in corners but she has tremendous strength enduring the tribulations of her life.

As Tom, Patch Darragh is far from how I imagine Tom being, but Darragh sold me with his performance. I always saw Tom as an ordinary guy full of bravado, but Darragh portrays him as a little bit fey and downright mean. He's not a guy who merely wants adventure, but one who truly despises his life. In his performance, Darragh emphasizes that the bigger tragedy isn't that Tom abandoned his family, but rather that after having escaped his obligations, the responsibilities that weighed upon him, Tom is still nowhere. He's no better off.

I almost forgot to mention Ben McKenzie, star of "The OC" and "Southland," as Jim the Gentleman Caller. He is surprisingly good. Having really seen him only in "The OC," "Southland" and "Junebug" where he played variations on the stoic, dour type, it was refreshing to see him so physically and verbally loose. He did a great job as Jim, playing the all-American type who hasn't quite lived up to his potential but isn't giving up. He has some clumsy stage moments, especially early on in his interchange with Laura, but once he settles in the interaction between the two of them is lovely and affecting. He accomplishes the role's requirement of representing the ever-hoped for future, and even when he has to let Laura down you appreciate his straightforwardness and the ability to--at least for a moment--awaken Laura. McKenzie just seems a tad too young to be playing a guy on the verge of cresting that hill and will soon be considered over-the-hill, but he does a very good job of embodying Jim's enthusiasm and downright decency. McKenzie holds his own with the other three actors who have just about perfected their characters.

Again, this is a terrific production. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Something Cool

The music video for Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait" is unlike any other video before. For one thing, it's interactive, and for another it utilizes Google Earth in spectacular and emotional ways. Check it out for yourself and make your own video.

Here's the video I made.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: August 2010

01 "Mr. Pitiful" - Matt Costa

02 "Closer to Love" - Mat Kearney

03 "Unless It's Kicks" - Okkervil River

04 "Love Reign O'er Me" - Bettye LaVette

05 "Eyes" - Rogue Wave

06 "Heartbeats" - The Knife

07 "Young Bride" - Midlake

08 "Terrible Vision" - Rhett Miller

09 "I Lost It" - Lucinda Williams

10 "What She Likes" - Evan and Jaron

11 "So Many Ways" - Mates of State

12 "Whose Authority" - Nada Surf

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hike a Little More

This past weekend's hike up to the summit of Mt. Baldy must have lit a fire in me. I just have an urge to do more hikes--right this moment. I started looking up other tough but fun hikes around the area and checking out Modern HIker's thoughts on the best hikes in southern California. If you haven't, check out how cool Google Earth is. This is Mt. Baldy on Google Earth.

To the top of my list zoomed Mt. Baden-Powell. The only drawback to that hike is that it requires a 50 mile drive on a mountain road. That's not so bad, though.

This weekend Kevin and I will tackle a hike I've wanted to do in a long while: the Bridge to Nowhere in Azusa. This one isn't too hard; it's just long. It should be a lot of fun, though. Eventually I'll work myself up to tackling Mt. Whitney or Mt. Shasta. I'll need some gear, though. Shopping spree!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Hiking and Running

I've been mostly inactive the last couple of weeks. Since the marathon I have run once. This weekend must have been a shock to my body then as I took it on a rigorous 10 mile round trip hike up to the summit of Mt. Baldy and back down again. Six hours of climbing and resisting the pull of gravity as we navigated the steep mountainside on the way down. It was a fun but strenuous hike but well worth the effort. It wore me out so much that I crashed at 10 pm. Granted, though, that I woke up before 5 am to set off on the hike.

The next day my legs were somewhat sore, but I woke up early any way and met up with the gang for a run at the Rose Bowl. 7 miles. We took it easy in the first half, but in the second half we stopped taking walk breaks and in the last half mile we were sprinting. I started my sprint too early and couldn't maintain the pace towards the finish. I had passed Rob and Rachel but they eventually passed me again before we crossed the finish line. I should do that more often, though, if I really want to build up my speed.

After all that activity, the soreness caught up with me last night and I started to feel it more in my calves, hamstrings and butt. It's a nice soreness. Tonight I'm hoping to get in a short run, but we'll see how I feel after trivia.

Pics from the hike:



One Last View

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Vacation's Over

For the last week since the marathon I have been on a weeklong running vacation. I actually hadn't planned on taking a hiatus, but as an excuse for my unwillingness to run on Thursday, I decided that I was taking the week off. It's not a bad idea. I earned the right to not run for a week. The only pang of guilt occurred when I thought about the fact that I barely ran the last couple of weeks anyway, but that is neither here nor there.

Today I ran for the first time--just four miles to the Hollywood Farmers' Market. I started a little later than I would have liked and by then what haze there was had burned off. It wasn't too hot, though. I tried running a fast pace but I was out of breath quickly and had to walk a bit after a couple of miles. The route was also uphill on Rossmore from 4th all the way to Sunset. It wasn't the best run, but it's good I forced myself to run even though I was desperately trying to think of an excuse out of doing so.

After my disappointing run in San Francisco, I decided I need to get a little more serious about training. Lately I've been in the habit of "maintaining" rather than "improving." I've contented myself with running the same pace for the last year and haven't forced myself to improve. It's really laziness on my part and also an aversion to discomfort. Well, it's time for me to get uncomfortable.

As part of this change in attitude, I've decided to set an immediate goal for myself for my next race, which will be the Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon in October. For that race, my goal will be to run a personal best under 1:40. This should be doable since my best half marathon was 1:41. I'll only have to shave a couple of minutes. I'll just need to get myself in the same shape I was when I ran that time in San Jose almost three years ago.

Other minor goals: 1) get a watch 2) renew my gym membership 3) run at least three times on weekdays.

One last thing, here are the only good pictures of me from the marathon this past weekend:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: July 2010

For my road trip to San Francisco last weekend, I put together a mostly mellow--some up-tempo songs found their way in--mix of music for the drive and also to get me relaxed for my run. Unlike most people who like fast-paced music to get them revved up to run, I like listening to soothing sounds before a run. I feel it helps me relax and keeps my heart rate from racing too fast. This mix has gotten a lot of play the last week. Some of the songs have worn out their welcome somewhat, but mostly I've been enjoying listening to this mix.

01 "Trouble" - Cat Stevens
02 "The Way I Am" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
03 "Lover's Spit" - Broken Social Scene
04 "One of These Days" - Owen
05 "I Never Want to Go Home" - The Whigs
06 "Curs in the Weeds" - Horse Feathers
07 "October" - Broken Bells
08 "You! Me! Dancing!" - Los Campesinos
09 "You'll Go Far" - Jenn Grant
10 "The Man Who Would Speak True" - Blitzen Trapper
11 "I Know There's An Answer" - The Beach Boys
12 "That It Moves" - Greg Laswell
13 "Careless Love" - Camera Obscura
14 "Heartbeat Radio" - Sondre Lerche
15 "Wicked Blood" - Sea Wolf
16 "Sentimental Life" - Nik Freitas

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Race Report: 07.25.2010 San Francisco Marathon

Time: 4:03:52
Pace: 9:19/mile

Katie, Rob, and Me

Boy, that was a tough one. At least I had a great time hanging with the running crew and eating my heart out in San Francisco.

Going into the San Francisco Marathon this weekend, I had visions of kicking ass and setting a personal best. That went out the window by the halfway point when my legs started giving up on me, but I still hoped I would finish under four hours. By mile 18 I was just praying I wouldn't embarrass myself. Thankfully, I didn't. Even though by the end I felt like I was running slow enough to finish well over four hours, I managed to make it to the finish in 4:03:52. I guess it's some measure of success that I'm disappointed by a 4:03 marathon. It's a time I'm sure many other runners would be happy to have.

This marks my slowest marathon since the 2008 San Antonio Rock n' Roll Marathon where I ran slightly faster by a minute. Looking back at the results there, I think the same problem befell me in San Francisco--too many hills. It's not so much the big hills but the quantity of hills that was the factor. After entering Golden Gate Park at the halfway point, my legs started feeling weak. I fell behind Katie and Rob rather quickly, which bums me out. I wish I could have finished with them. At that point, though, I really had to run my own race. I was just going to slow them down, and I had to focus on getting through the next 13 miles somehow. I can't remember ever cramping in so many different places in my legs. The cramping never got severe where my legs locked up, but it did make moving my legs a struggle.

The frustrating thing about my legs letting me down was that I felt great otherwise. I wasn't out of breath and I felt like I had trained well enough to finish strong, but my legs though felt like calling it an early day. That it happened so early in the race also was frustrating because it affected me psychologically. I got annoyed with Golden Gate Park and what felt to me like endless loops. At one point I was sure I was running a loop I had already done. I also hated that I could hear where the half marathon was finishing, which I knew I would pass on the way out, but first I had to run a few loops within loops. I'm sure most of the other runners loved running through such a beautiful park, but I just couldn't wait to get out of there.

I recovered a little when I got onto Haight. I think I prefer running on city streets during a marathon over trees and nature. It's great during a training run, but I'm more entertained by city streets. In any event, I intended to forego as many walk breaks as I could and just plow ahead. I was doing well until about mile 22 when my stride turned into more of a shuffle. As evidenced by my pace, I slowed down from a 9:04/mile pace at the 20 mile mark to my final pace of 9:19/mile at the finish. That means I was probably running over 10 minutes per mile from mile 20 on. Not good.

All in all, I would rank San Francisco as the toughest course I have run. It definitely got the better of me, and for that reason I feel compelled to come back, if not next year then the following year. I intend to beat this course and post a time worth bragging about. To do so I'll have to take my training more seriously than I have in the last year.

One last thing about the race, the organizers really did a great job. Everything ran smoothly and I saw no major issues that I would correct. I'm not a fan of running those loops through Golden Gate Park, but I think others disagree with me. I also want to commend the organizers on neat little touches that help make this post-race period just as much fun. For one, the medal they give for the marathon can double as a coaster. Smart! I also love the video they provide on the website of everyone's finish. Although I'm mostly obscured by a tall runner in my video, I still got a laugh at seeing how quickly I transitioned from running to walking as soon as I crossed the finish line. I guess I'm serious about not running one more step at the finish.

As for San Francisco itself, it's the first time that I actually saw what others love about the city. The previous times I've been there, I've found it a nice city but not worth falling in love with. That's probably due to the fact that I have mostly visited the touristy areas in downtown. Staying with Liza in the Mission District, though, I really enjoyed the relaxed feel of the neighborhood, which also had a bounty of great shops and such. I wished I could have walked through the area more, but with the marathon I really had to avoid being on my feet so much. I think I did too much walking as it was and might have played a part in how quickly my legs fatigued. I'm still not convinced that San Francisco is as great as others make it out to be, but I finally started seeing the reason why people think highly of it--and the reason can be found away from downtown. Next time I visit the city I will definitely spend more time exploring other neighborhoods of the city.

La Taqueria


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When It Don't Come Easy

I guess my body didn't really want to run tonight.

There are times when running is more of an effort, but most of the time I can just plow ahead and get over it. Soon enough I'm feeling fine or at least well enough to finish the run. Tonight wasn't one of those nights. I felt it in the very first step.

It wasn't that anything hurt. My legs felt fine. Instead it was as if my whole body was throwing a tantrum and was refusing to cooperate. It was sitting this run out and I was going to have to force myself to finish. I ran a more casual pace but even then I had to take some walk breaks just to gather myself and summon some saved up energy to finish. If it wasn't for the fact that the marathon is this weekend I probably would have sat tonight out, but instead I went for a late evening 6 mile run (10pm). I probably won't have an opportunity to run again until Thursday, so I felt like I needed to get a good long run in tonight. I hope that the issue is just that I'm tired from my run yesterday. More likely, though, is that it was just one of those nights. The body says no. I got through it, though, so that counts for something.

As I mentioned the race is this weekend and I'm excited. Not about the race so much but about being in San Francisco and sorta getting away for the weekend. It looks like all my meals are pretty much planned with some good eats. I guess it's a good thing I'll be burning 3,000 calories on Sunday.

Lastly, tonight I played trivia at Casey's all by my lonesome and I almost won! I came in second, beating out teams who had as many as six people. Had I been more confident and used the "Double or Nothing" option at least one more time, I probably would have won. Instead I played it a little conservatively in the first two rounds even though as it turned out I was right on all those answers. The host likes to draw attention to these things, so I had to suffer through looks--albeit impressed stares--as I claimed my second place prize. For the free drink round, each team had to send a member up (which meant I had to go up) and we played an elimination round where we each took turns naming universities and which division they were in (ex. UCLA/Pac-10). I surely thought I would lose this round--and I did--but I was surprised to find myself one of the last two. I was only confident about Pac 10 and Big 10 teams, so I decided that I would only name Pac 10 teams. Surprisingly it worked. Others were probably showing off and named teams from different divisions. I got eliminated because I repeated a school someone had already said. I didn't realize it had been said before. I doubt I would have won anyway since the other guy seemed to know the make-up of all the divisions. Still, I did better than I expected in that round, but it also marked the first time I have lost the Free Drink round.

More trivia on Wednesday as we play the third week of the tournament qualifying at Sardo's. It's not looking good for us, though. Competition at Sardo's is stiff and the winning teams have been scoring at least 120 points. For us to have any chance we would have to win the next two weeks. It's possible but unlikely.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

12 Miles

Tits. I have tits--and my knee aches.

Let's get the facts out of the way. I ran 12.2 miles in less than 2 hours. Since Rob and Katie couldn't run any way, I just stuck close to home and ran a slightly different course. From my house I ran to Olympic and headed west. I turned north on Fairfax and then headed back east on Sunset. Fairfax is all uphill. Rather than turn on La Brea, I continued on Sunset to Vine and took that back to Beverly, made a quick turn towards Larchmont and ran south to 3rd where I picked up my usual route on 4th Street back to my house.

It was a good run. Getting motivated to actually get up and put on my shoes was the toughest part, but the promise of food was enough to kick my ass into gear. When I woke up, though, I had a slight twinge above my right knee cap. It wasn't painful, but it was bothersome. I ran and it didn't bother me. When I got back, though, I noticed that the ache was back. Still, it didn't hurt badly. I went about my day and on Monday I didn't feel any thing.

Tuesday morning, though, I woke up and it was back. Aaargh! I ran on it tonight and again it didn't bother me, but afterwards I felt it more. It seemed to get worse after sitting around eating dinner in Thai Town. I walked trying not to put too much stress on the right leg. The ache lessened once I was moving, but it's still there. I just hope it's not the recurrence of my phantom knee pain--and I hope it doesn't affect my marathon, which is already next weekend!

As for my tits, I do have them. I've known for a while that I have them. When I run I check my reflection often to see how badly my chest and belly are heaving. I've noticed in some pictures the jelly-like consistency of my chest when the photographer catches me at just the right moment. I'd like to think that I just have overly developed pectoral muscles, but that isn't the case. Yes, there is muscle there but there is also fat, and the combination of the two makes for a chest that heaves like the sea during a hurricane.

I thought that I was the only one that really noticed how bouncy my tits are, but during my run I finally got confirmation. I can't quote exactly what he said, but as I passed a stoned-looking guy on the sidewalk, I distinctly heard him say "titties" and I vaguely heard him say, "It looks like he's got titties." Again, the only word I heard clearly was "titties," but I am sure that he was referring to me. I have tits and other people notice! I wondered why runners often stare at me when I run by. Now I know that it must be my man tits that are catching their attention.

After hearing the guy's comment I kept cupping my tits to see how badly they were undulating as I run. They don't feel as if they're bouncing too much, but seeing my reflection clearly shows strong heaving. I really ought to strap these things down.

In any event, there's not much I can do. I've had tits for most of my life, and I doubt they'll go away soon or easily. I would have to lose that last 10-15 pounds I've been trying to shed for 10 years now. Of course it doesn't help that after running as much as I do, I stuff my mouth silly with food. On Sunday, post 12 miler i joined the family for lunch at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles where I gorged myself on Scoe's #1 - 2 big waffles and a quarter chicken. I could have finished the whole thing, but shame caused me to leave a quarter of my waffles on my plate.

Oh, tits. I guess we'll be together until the end of time.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Fourth of July Weekend

Katie, Rob and I completed our 20 miler tonight, and it went well--much better than the 18 miler, and it even went better than the 12 miler last week. We were shooting for a marathon pace during last week's run but missed it and finished with a pace over 9 minutes. Our pace for the 20 miler? 9:04. We ran faster for 20 miles than we did last week for 12.

While I usually run during the evening hours, it's rare for me to do a long run in the afternoon, let alone 20 miles. Due to Rob's holiday travels, though, Monday afternoon was the only time all three of us could run. We figured starting out later in the afternoon might be slightly cooler. Yeah, right. The run's beginning was slightly disheartening. While it wasn't excessively hot, it was still warm and kind of humid. I was sweating profusely in just the first three miles--wearing black was a bad idea. I finished my sports bottle full of Gatorade in the first three miles--a bottle I was planning to last me 10 miles. Quite an inauspicious start to a very long run. What shade there was, though, made a huge difference.

We ran 2 laps around the Rose Bowl to start and then headed north in our usual route. The heat was still troublesome, and while I thought I was maintaining a fast pace, I kept falling behind Rob and Katie. Realizing now that we were actually running fast, I understand why my "fast" pace just wasn't fast enough. We were planning to run as far up the forest trail as we could, but on the way up we encountered a sign saying the trail ahead was closed. That didn't stop us, though, and we kept running. We reached the wood bridge I excitedly proclaimed that we were halfway done. Then it happened. I once again rolled my ankle. I rolled my ankle twice during the 18 miler. This time I not only rolled my ankle but tripped and fell. I didn't roll my ankle badly nor was I hurt by my fall apart from a small scrape on a knee. While on the ground, though, I felt like I couldn't get up. Katie and Rob helped me up and brushed off the dirt on my back. As they were doing so, a forest ranger pulled up and told us the trail was closed in as nice a way as possible. Rather than risk a ticket, we turned around and headed south.

Thankfully, it started to cool down by this time, or at least the shaded regions got larger. While I felt better, I still kept lagging behind Katie and Rob. I think it was partly me holding back so I had something for the tough, late miles, but I also slowed down to avoid rolling my ankle again in the rocky terrain along the arroyo. I was as much as a minute behind the two of them. Eventually I caught up as we turned around near South Pasadena. I ran ahead thinking that they will catch up, and they did. In the end, though, I guess I saved up more energy or I just got a second wind, but I finished ahead of Rob and Katie ad the end. All in all it was a great run and it helped that it got cooler towards the end. Now we taper. Only 12 miles next week.

The 20 miler was a great way to cap a terrific and busy holiday weekend. A recap:

-Ran 8 miles to break in my new shoes prior to running with them for the 20 miler.
-Helped Chaps move into his new apartment.
-Went on a bike ride on the Whittier Greenway Trail, a 4.6 mile bike/pedestrian trail converted from an abandoned railroad right-of-way.
-Met up with Liza and Alice for dinner at Wurstkuche, which was then followed by drinks at Royal Clayton's, which was then followed by bread pudding AND chipotle fries at Pete's.

-Hamburgers with family in West Covina. While there I watched a "Deadliest Catch" marathon. Geez, gripping stuff that show.

-Slept until 11 am. It was great!
-Watched Toy Story 3. Yup, I choked up at the end. Terrific movie.
-Ran 20 miles (see above).
-Grocery shopping.
-Cooked steak and mashed sweet potatoes for dinner.

Thanks to the long weekend, though, I feel well-rested and mostly ready to face the next four days.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: June 2010

01 "Rill Rill" - Sleigh Bells
02 "Babyfather - Sade
03 "Xavia" - The Submarines
04 "Don't Let the Sun Go Down" - The Living Sisters
05 "In California" - Joanna Newsom
06 "Boracay" - The Little Ones
07 "Pieces" - Villagers
08 "Hurricane J" - The Hold Steady
09 "Yulia" - Wolf Parade
10 "Lewis Takes Action" - Owen Pallett
11 "VCR" - The xx
12 "Go Do" - Jonsi
13 "Shine a Light" - The Rolling Stones

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Musical Life

I saw South Pacific at the Ahmanson tonight, and once again I find myself thinking how great it would be if real life was a musical where everyone just breaks out into song-and-dance. If that were the case I would greet every new morning by bursting out into this number from Singin' in the Rain, arguably the greatest movie musical of all time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

06.20.2010 - 18 Miles

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised how rough this morning's 18 miler was. My 18 mile runs have historically been tough runs, and this was no different. I expected that the warm temperatures would make for a tough run. The heat became a factor late in the run, but to be honest, it really wasn't that hot. I've run in hotter temperatures, but the fact that I was running on fumes and expended most of my energy early in the run made the heat seem more stifling than it actually was.

The crew today consisted of Rob, Katie and Linda. Linda ran 12.5 miles with us, which was probably 4 miles more than she had planned on doing. We ran up north first, intending to turn around after 4.5 miles. When we found that we could go farther now that the trails have opened up, we did so. It was rocky footing, though, and where it wasn't rocky it was sandy. The terrain has definitely changed since the fires and the subsequent floods during the winter. Some of the trail got washed out and now they are in the process of restoring them.

One catalyst for why we wanted to go farther up Angeles National Forest was the shade and pleasant weather there. We all knew that we weren't going to be so fortunate later on when we're out in the sun. For the shade alone we were willing to go through the trouble of running on rocky terrain. We ran to Elmer--my first time since before the fires--and kept going, another 1.5 miles or so. It was tough, though. The trails were washed away and we had to cross the stream several times. What trail there was was sandy and rocky. We used up a lot of energy running here, or at least I did. I'm not the most agile person, so I had to be extra careful running on uneven terrain--not to mention keeping an eye for possible snakes! I probably was too careful, though, which led to rolling my right ankle twice. Once would have been fine, but the second was too much. I finished the run fine, but afterwards my lower leg has been a wee bit sore. I'm not limping and it's not sprained, just a little overworked.

It was such an effort to keep running past Elmer and into the campgrounds that our pace slowed to over 11 minutes per mile. Figuring out where to cross the streams took a lot of time. When we finally turned around, when it was obvious that the trail wasn't going to get any easier or simpler, we were able to run back at a faster pace. We took a circuitous route to get up, but running back was a more direct route. In fact, we shaved a quarter mile running back than we did running up.

As I expected, though, the latter half of the run--the remaining 5.5 miles south--was a tough one. As rugged as the terrain was up in the mountains, it was at least cool and shady. The sun quickly sapped my energy in that last part. I was whining--a lot. I tried keeping up with Katie and Rob, but it was no use. I ran my own pace behind them and tried to keep my spirits up. My single goal was to not fall too far behind. I was about a minute behind, but at least I could still see them. I'm not sure what our finish time was, and I really don't care. I was just glad to get 18 miles under my belt. When we got back to Lot K we just sat in the shade for a good half hour. Katie had the foresight to pack a cooler and we enjoyed some cold water and Gatorade.

The good thing about tough runs is that it makes you appreciate the effort more. I had a rough time, but I'm proud that I plowed ahead even though it felt like crap. I kept running. Also, as bad as the run was, it was also enjoyable. Certainly the scenery of running in the forest was something I've missed. We also encountered a couple of attractive guys. One was a fireman camping with a buddy by the stream. Definitely a nice thing to see deep into a run. The second was a guy who seemed like he was riding in from a movie set. He was on a horse and rode towards us and gave us a movie star smile as he passed. Katie and I were tempted to run back and get another look.

After the run, Katie and I grabbed breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. It was a fortunate melding of the minds as I had been craving their praline butter during the run. We then met up with Nate and checked out the Chalk Festival at Paseo Colorado. Had I not been so tired I would have stayed a little longer and taken in the car show and other entertainment. Still, I saw the impressive art work being done. My favorite was this depiction of the movie "Up" which prompted me to watch the movie again tonight.

Finishing "Up"

I had planned to hang out in West Covina in the afternoon, but I was so tired that I changed my mind and headed home instead to shower and take a nap. I was so exhausted. Next week we're planning to run 8 or 10 miles but at our desired marathon pace of 8:30-ish. It's a shorter run, but the pace will make up for it. This week I'm hoping to get in three runs, but I'd be lucky if I get two.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Race Report: 06.13.2010 Pride Run

My first 5K and 10K in two years didn't turn out too badly at all. I met my goal of completing both in a total time under 1 hour, 10 minutes. Final results haven't been posted yet, but preliminarily I finished the 5K in 21:53 and the 10K in 47:53. That compares favorably to my best times. I was a minute or so off from my PR in both the 5K and 10K. Truthfully I probably could have pushed myself a little more, but I'm a wimp when it comes to suffering and discomfort. If only there was a way to run fast and not feel like dying.

The course was altered slightly. Rather than starting in Robertson by the Abbey, the race started on Sweetzer and headed west on Santa Monica Blvd. to Doheny. There we turned around and ran east up to Crescent Heights and then turned back one more time to the finish line by Sweetzer. One lap was a 5K. Even though it's essentially the same course, I liked this one better because it started with a nice downhill and scattered the hills throughout. The climb towards the end up to Crescent Heights was tough, but at least there was the reward of running down that same hill soon after making it to the top.

Running the 5K and 10K made me wish I was doing more speed training. I think speed work would have helped shave a minute or so off my times. It's still not too late to incorporate speed work to prepare for the San Francisco Marathon next month, but the hard part will be summoning the will to dedicate myself to the effort.

Losing weight would also help tremendously. Nothing like running with dozens of very fit guys to make me feel like a fat ass. Next year I'll be in better shape, and I will run the 5K and 10K with blazing time...or else!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

16.5 Miles

Marathon training is progressing. Now that I'm officially registered I can't slack off any more. Today I was up at 6:15 am to meet up with Scotty in Brentwood for a 16+ mile run.

Since Katie and Rob couldn't run with us any way, we decided not to run at the Rose Bowl. Instead, we opted for a nice, cool beach run. It was a nice change of pace. I love running at the Rose Bowl but a change of scenery is very welcome now and then, and since it was forecast to be a hot day, we would avoid the heat by the beach. And we did. It was cool and overcast during the entire run. The different setting and the nice weather definitely helped make for a great run. It also helped running with someone like Scotty for whom my pace is a piece of cake. A good pace for me is an easy jog for him.

Scotty and I met up by Barrington and ran down San Vicente to Ocean (3+ miles). We then ran down Ocean to the pier (2 miles) and took to the bike path along the beach and ran north to Will Rogers State Beach (3 miles). We turned around where the bike path ends at around Temescal Canyon Road. Our time for the 16.5 miles was 2:24 (about an 8:45 minute/mile pace), which does not include a couple of bathroom breaks. I felt good for the most part until we were on our way back and ran up the pier. After that my side stitch just had the best of me and I had to take a few walk breaks. I really need to work on my core.

Some of the highlights (or lowlights):

- Taking a potty break at a beach restroom where there were no doors on the stalls and my lone companion was a creepy looking man in the next stall.

- Running by the UCLA cheer squad, yelling "Go Bruins!" and getting no response. They also looked too cheerful considering John Wooden had just passed away.

- My failed attempt at jumping over a foot-high wood plank on the sidewalk. I'll never make it as a hurdler. In my defense, it was 14 miles into the run.

-French toast and coffee at Amandine post-run.

Friday, June 04, 2010

I've Got the Runs

I'm signed up, the money is spent. Now I'm committed to running the West Hollywood Pride Run next weekend and the San Francisco Marathon on July 25. Is it strange that i'm more concerned about the Pride Run than the marathon? I once again signed up for the "Ultra" - the 5K AND the 10K. I figure it was only $5 more to do another race--more running for my money. Last time I took it easy but it was still a tough run. I ran a combined time of 1:15, which is good, but it placed me near the bottom of the group of runners who did the Ultra. I'm hoping this year I'll finish around 1:10. However, considering I haven't run a 5K or a 10K race since the Pride Run in 2008, I'm not sure how strong my sprinting abilities are now. With a week left I doubt adding speed training will help me. If nothing, it will be a fun race.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: May 2010

01 "Art House Director" - Broken Social Scene
02 "Drunk Girls" - LCD Soundsystem
03 "Never So Big" - David Byrne and Fatboy Slim featuring Sia
04 "Blue Beard" - Band of Horses
05 "I and Love and You" - The Avett Brothers
06 "Lantern" - Josh Ritter
07 "Bloodbuzz Ohio" - The National
08 "Silver Soul" - Beach House
09 "A Bite Out of My Bed" - The New Pornographers
10 "Spit on a Stranger" - Pavement
11 "Natural Disaster" - Andrew Bird
12 "You're Going Back" - The Tallest Man on Earth

Monday, May 24, 2010

Next Race?

It has been two months since the L.A. Marathon and I still don't have plans for my next big race. I'm signed up for the Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon in October but it would be good to also do another full marathon before the end of the year. More and more likely I'll sign up for the San Francisco Marathon in July since Katie, Rob, Gionne and now Scotty are doing it. Nothing like a bunch of friends to make a marathon fun. San Francisco will make for a good weekend getaway, too. I haven't signed up yet, but I probably will.

Today Katie, Rob, Scotty and I ran over 14 miles. It's a big jump for me. If you don't count the three legs of Ragnar, I haven't done more than eight miles since the marathon in March. I was a little worried that it was too big a jump, but it turned out to be a very good run. My legs are a little more sore than usual, but I'll live. I think my legs were already sore from the long, rocky beach hike at Palos Verdes yesterday. I also had a busy evening the night before, so I should just be happy that I even got my ass off of bed to go run. If I didn't have Katie and the guys waiting for me I would have probably gone back to bed.

All in all it was a good weekend. Busy but very fun.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On a blood buzz. Yes, I am.

It's wonderful to be able to walk five minutes to a concert venue as I did last night to see the National at the Wiltern. I ate a great meal, hung out at home, read, and just before 10, I walked out of my door and caught a great show.

I hadn't been to a concert in a while. I think my last concert was Chad VanGaalen a year ago. That's quite a comedown from 2007 when I was going to a show, at times, twice a week. Lately I've found that I don't have the energy to stand in a crowded room for hours, and I've also fallen behind on my music listening. However, 2010 is turning out to be a year when old favorites of mine are releasing records. In addition to the National, the last few weeks saw releases from New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Josh Ritter, Band of Horses, Beach House, Vampire Weekend--and coming up is a new LCD Soundsystem record and maybe Arcade Fire. It feels like 2007 all over again!

As for last night's show--the National's first of their current tour--it was terrific. The National has gotten huge and are no longer the band that had to play second fiddle to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on a show the National was headlining. High Violet, the terrific new album, debuted at number three on Billboard charts. When I saw them back then at the Troubadour, they weren't the hyped band that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was, but they displayed an energy and intensity that was galvanizing. At times Matt Berninger's antics seemed more like an affectation, but on the whole it was a rousing experience. Berninger has toned down his mannerisms--some--to allow the drama inherent in the National's best songs to come through. With a voice like one too many drunken, sleepless nights, Berninger is an enthralling interpreter. His voice is tough yet vulnerable, alluring yet cautious, strong yet messy, and with every new album the National has found a way to put his expressive voice to better use.

Boxer and High Violet have fewer all-out rock songs than Alligator. The National have gotten moodier but that's not a bad thing. Last night's show did a great job of pacing the show, slowly building the drama. They opened with "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Afraid of Everyone" and then rocked out a little more with "Bloodbuzz Ohio" then brought it back down to earth again. The engineering was off in the beginning. Berninger's voice was too loud and drowned the music, but the right balance was found soon.

The National reached great heights several times in the show. "Apartment Story," "Terrible Love," "Secret Meeting," "Fake Empire," "Abel," "England" and a few others were standouts. The show never dragged, and even when Berninger affected a rock star moment by crowd surfing while singing "Mr. November" during the encore, the effect was kind of charming. They will be performing a second show at the Wiltern tonight, and if it's not sold out I highly recommend that you check them out.

If not, check out this clip of "Terrible Love" from a concert that aired live on YouTube last week. Yes, that's my husband, Sufjan Stevens, singing background vocals. *sigh*

Saturday, May 08, 2010

This is what I ate #7

Ox Tail Risotto, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

Honestly, look at that picture and tell me that isn't the sexiest thing that has appeared in this blog--other than a picture of me, of course. That there is an ox tail risotto from Mo-Chica, the Peruvian restaurant in Mercado la Paloma. I may have found my choice for my last meal in the off chance I'm about to be executed.

This was my second trip to Mo-Chica. The last time was with Marisela, but we were disappointed that they were out of ceviche, the dish Jonathan Gold and others rave about. That was two months ago. My experience then was very good, but perhaps I expected too much. I wasn't disappointed but I thought the food would be even better than it was. I know, high expectations.

I got it in my head to go to the First Fridays concert at the Natural History Museum. The Tallest Man on Earth, a new favorite of mine, and Gamble House--among the members is a neighbor of FJ's I met at one of his parties--were playing. I had to eat dinner anyway, so I hatched a plan to check out Mo-Chica again before the show.
Sea Bass Ceviche
Thankfully they had the ceviche tonight. And it was terrific. I liked that it wasn't overwhelmed by acid and the chunks of fish were meaty. It's definitely a good dish.

I had arrived at Mo-Chica not hungry, but knowing me, I knew I would still everything that was presented to me. For the entree I debated a long while between getting the special of the day, a cods served with peas, or something meatier. I noticed that the big menu above the counter had an entree that wasn't in the paper menu given to me--an ox tail risotto. Kare Kare is one of my favorite Filipino dishes and the thought of ox tail made me long for a taste. I'd give this dish a try and see how it compares to one of my Mom's best dishes.

I hate to say it, but this ox tail was phenomenal. Hopefully I will never have to be in the position to choose between this dish and my Mom's kare kare. Feelings will get hurt. The ox tail risotto is the most satisfying dish I've had in long while.

The ox tail was braised so well. I'm sure they cooked it for hours and miraculously did not lose the flavor. The meat literally rolled off the bone, clean and easy. With kare kare sometimes I have had to use my teeth to get every last bit of meat off the bone. No such problem here. And the meat was soft and buttery. It really did melt in my mouth. The barley risotto was a nice complement. I expected this dish to be heavy but instead the effect was light yet satisfying. I can't wait to order this again.

To wash it all down, I ordered a cebada, a barley tea with ginger and herbs.

So satisfied and pleased was I with my meal that I wasn't even disappointed when I got to the Natural History Museum and found out that the concert was sold out. Instead I shrugged and went off still craving more ox tail.

Mo-Chica is advertising a tasting menu on May 27. I may have to see what that is about.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Raul's Finite Playlist: April 2010

Here are the prominent songs of April. For some reason, "Kim & Jessie" is getting a lot of play this month. I love the creepiness of the line, "Somebody lurks in the shadows."

01 "Kim & Jessie" - M83
02 "Ruin My Day" - Jon Brion
03 "Psycho Killer" - Bruce Nash
04 "Your Head is on Fire" - Broken Bells
05 "All the World (I Tell Myself) - Correatown
06 "Echo Train" - Chad VanGaalen
07 "Camera Talk" - Local Natives
08 "Does He Love You?" - Rilo Kiley
09 "Fistful of Love" - Antony and the Johnsons
10 "I Can't Go For That" - The Bird and the Bee
11 "I Learned the Hard Way" - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
12 "Sweet Disposition" - The Temper Trap

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ragnar 2010

Team Photo

Last year's Ragnar Relay was the running highlight of 2009--just a whole lot of fun--and this year's version is no exception. Longer than last year's race--200.6 miles--and no cancelled legs, our team, Prefontaineous Combustion, ran a great race. Official times haven't been posted yet but we finished at around 28 hours, roughly an 8:37/mile pace. It's just amazing to think that between the twelve of us on the team, we ran for 28 hours straight for 200 miles and made it from Ventura to Dana Point.

Ragnar isn't for everyone. Having to stay up all night, running, smelly, stuck in a van with your increasingly smelly friends for over a day is an ordeal. But for the right person it's also a great deal of fun. I guess I'm that kind of person. It's a huge effort to run this race, but I'd more than happy to do it again next year.

I had the honor of running the very first leg. I was worried because the night before I was feeling so lousy with a cold and fever. I'd hate to run feeling so lousy. Thankfully, the big bowl of tom yum goong I downed on Thursday may have helped. I woke up Friday morning and felt better--still congested but less sickly. Still, I wasn't 100%. However, I knew that when I run with a congested nose, it inevitably clears up. Sure enough, dressed in a skimpy tank top and short shorts from American Apparel, I was able to run my first 8 miles without feeling like I was sick. I hadn't run for a week and even that wasn't an issue.

My first leg was the same exact leg I had run the prior year. I didn't realize it until I got to Ventura and remembered the course. As such, I had a bit of an advantage in knowing what to expect. It's an easy enough course--flat and fairly scenic--so I don't know if experience is a huge advantage, though. I ran the first leg in a pace just under 8 minutes per mile, which made me happy.

After a bit of rest, I ran my second leg just before 9pm in Woodland Hills. This was another 8 miler but also flat. Most of the run was along the Orange Line bike trail which made it an easy, relaxed run. I was a little surprised how loose my legs felt, as if I hadn't even run earlier in the day. My only problem was a case of post-nasal drip that annoyed me. It tickled the back of my throat and so I had to find ways to relieve the irritation. It wasn't a huge issue, though. I was also able to find a couple of runners who were running a strong pace and used them as pacers. I finished the second leg at just under 8 minutes/mile again. I guess that's just my cruising pace.

The third leg was in beautiful Wilmington at dawn: an easy 2.6 miles. I liked that as a reward for running two long legs, I was getting an easy short run as my last leg. However, if I had to ran the three runs, I would place this as my least favorite. I was stiff the whole way and was just worn out. Having just woken up 20 minutes before running, my legs were stiff and sore. I really should have stretched them out a little. I had nothing in the tank except the knowledge that if I kept running I will finish and I won't have to run again the rest of the day. That got me through it. I'm not sure what my pace was for this run since I didn't see what time I started. I'm guessing I ran a 7:40ish pace, so I probably finished at just under 20 minutes.

After that I donned my pajamas and cheered on my teammates as they finished their runs. I even joined Van 2 for their last leg and took some pictures. All my pictures are up on my Flickr page.

Until next year!