Corndog vs LA, round 2

2014-03-09 06.14.30

You can watch a video of my limping across the finish line here.

I showed up to Dodger stadium nervous but determined. I didn’t know how my ankle was going to feel once I started going, but I was willing to try it out. For about 14 miles, it was good and so was I. I was on pace for a personal record and beating up the LA course the way I wanted to last year.

But then the adrenaline wore off, and I began feeling the discomfort in my calf. Continue reading

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Recap of 2013

Rocky

I did it! I made my 1000 miles in 2013 goal, in spite of the late-year bout of plantar fasciitis, which nearly knocked me out of the running. (groan) A few of the miles were on a treadmill, and a few were on an elliptical machine, but every mile counts in my book.

Here are some other accomplishments from the year:

  • Ran my first marathon. Then a second in my goal time of under 5 hours.
  • Raised over $2000 for Camp Kesem by harassing my facebook friends endlessly.
  • Ran my first half marathon. Then a second in my goal time of under 2 hours.
  • Bought a condo.
  • Was elected to the board of my running club.
  • Ran every single day in August, including some Rocky-inspired running on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • Went to Europe, crossed the Mediterranean on a ferry (with my passport), and went to Africa.
  • Started teaching English at my local community college.

I suppose that’s enough for one year, don’t you?

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An Absent-Minded Professor

2013-09-05 14.54.06

August was a long month.

And it wasn’t just because I decided, at the suggestion of a running buddy, to run every single day in August.

Or, having announced to the Facebook world that I made a commitment to run every day in August, I was coerced into setting a goal for myself of running 1000 total miles in 2013. (And by coerced, what I mean is that someone made a casual suggestion and I jumped right in…)

No, in August my workdays were growing longer as each day brought us closer to a convention of roughly 20,000 members in Philadelphia, PA. And, back in April or May (before I’d made my first mortgage payment), I’d purchased a ticket from Philly to Spain, where another smaller convention would take place afterward. One of the selling points for that trip was my friend from Spain telling me, “Chris, you can take a nearby ferry from where I live in Spain over to Morocco. You will have a chance to visit Europe and Africa in a single trip!” How could I argue with that?

So in early August, I was preparing for our convention, and preparing for my vacation, and running every single day.

Continue reading

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Marathon Man

illegal

illegal

I was certain I had made a mistake by signing up for the OC Marathon.

And I felt that doing so was just the first of a series of bad decisions related to running. And other fitness.

I purchased my OC Marathon registration shortly after my previous blog post (about running the Hollywood Half, joining the Leggers board, and buying a condo), mostly because a few other runners from my pace group said they were going and that I should come along, too. Some small voice in the back of my mind said, “You know, you didn’t really run the LA Marathon, since you walked the last 9 miles of it. Running this one could be a great way to redeem yourself.”

Of course, every single person with whom I’ve discussed my LA Marathon experience has simply looked at me funny when I described my experience in such a way that might suggest any need for redemption. But, you know, they just don’t understand.

Signing up for OC was only the first mistake. Continue reading

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On the Run

Crossing the finish line at Hollywood Half Marathon

I’m officially a race junkie. I actually had to talk myself out of signing up for a half marathon that’s taking place on May 5th because I’m already running a 10k on May 19th. The only other races I’m signed up for after that 10k are both half marathons in 2014, so I can wait until later this year to sign up for something sooner. I may have to work up a running allowance of some type—something like six 10Ks, three half marathons, and one or two marathons per year. We’ll see. (Those numbers are just off the top of my head; you can’t hold me to them.)

The pic here is of me crossing the finish line at the Hollywood Half Marathon, which took place on April 6th. It was a really good race experience for me; I finished in 2:13:08.9, which works out to a pace of about 10 minutes and 10 seconds per mile. I felt strong and energetic nearly all of the way through, with just a minor decline of energy around mile 7 or 8. All in all, it was a far better experience than I had at the LA Marathon.

Just after that race ended, I went on to mark an enormous life milestone: Continue reading

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Fail Better

Group photo of LA Leggers 12 min/mile pace group

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Enough.

As of last week on Sunday, I had raised a whopping total of $330 for Camp Kesem, the charity I set out to raise $2000 for. I wrote the previous blog post, emailed its text to a targeted list of friends, and posted a link to the post on facebook.

Throughout the week, I received emails from the donation site each time a friend or family member sent money. The steady stream of generosity wore me down to the point that each new email was like seeing a new set of ducks swim for the first time ever. My cold heart was melting a little bit! By Friday afternoon I was just $305 short of my goal, so I promised on Facebook that I would jump in the ocean if I made it to $2k by Sunday morning.

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, I surpassed the goal by $30!

And then the time came to be ready for the next big challenge: 26.2 miles.

One of the things I’ve heard quite frequently in my training with the LA Leggers is that you shouldn’t do anything new or different on the day of the race. While that advice sounds great, the simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t get up at 3am for a single training run throughout the entire training season. Not once during all of my training did I park my car at 3:30am, walk a half mile to the Doubletree hotel, drink a cup of coffee, eat a banana and an orange, and then catch a shuttle bus across town to Dodger Stadium. There was no training run – long or short – before which I ate a bagel and sat in the third base seats buzzing with nervous anticipation for over 2.5 hours before lining up to run.

In all of my training to be a distance runner, I typically climbed out of bed precisely 45 minutes before the run was set to begin, ate no food (except a gulp of caffeine-infused protein shake on occasion, earlier in the season), and showed up to the starting point just minutes before the run began. I drank nothing during my training runs over than one squirt from my water bottle every five minutes. The one time I added a splash of gatorade to my water at mile 13 of an 18-mile run, I found that I felt much more thirsty at the finish than usual.

On the morning of the LA Marathon, I did so many things different. But I felt confident, and I showed up at the starting line with a plan in mind to perform better on race day than my training had prepared me for. I knew that my projected finishing time if I stayed with my Leggers pace group through the end of the race would be 5 hours 15 minutes. This would mean remaining disciplined with a 1-minute walking break at the end of every 5-minute running segment. I was confident I could do this, as I had done it twice for 20-mile runs with the the group. It was old hat for me by now.

Mile 7

If we could do 5:15, why not try to shave a measly 15 minutes off and break the 5 hour mark? I knew it would be incredibly foolish to try to shave those 15 minutes off the front end of the race by going faster than I’m trained to do. Doing so would carry a huge risk of burning myself out and being unable to finish the race at all. But the last half of the race is a different story. With the enthusiasm of the crowds, the buzz of endorphins, maybe a little adrenaline, it seemed like a realistic possibility to stop talking walking breaks around mile 17 or 18 (based on my math) and shave off that pesky 15 minutes. The beautiful thing about this ambitious plan is that if I discovered along the way that it was just not possible, I could resume taking walking breaks at any given point and still finish in 5:15 or less.

At race time, things turned out differently than expected.

Continue reading

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Why I Run

A meal with Mom before moving to LA

A meal with Mom before moving to LA

As you know, I’ve been training for the LA Marathon since October 2012. One of my motivating factors has been a charity project a friend told me about, Camp Kesem, which provides children whose parents have cancer or who have lost a parent to cancer with an opportunity to participate in summer camp with others who have suffered the same loss.

I am an adult who lost a parent to cancer. Mom’s passing was a shocking reminder of how fragile life is and how truly valuable and precious our moments with loved ones are. The lingering sadness and sense of loss—which comes with each day I can’t call her, each holiday or birthday, each trip back home that no longer feels like home—has only been made bearable by a renewed resolve to savor life, and to live in a way that I would be proud to tell her about if I could call her just one last time.

This is why I run.

Few children of cancer victims probably have the luxuries I’ve been afforded by simple virtue of growing up and enduring my 20s. I had the privilege of developing loving supportive relationships with countless true friends with whom I’m able to freely share the pain of my loss, knowing from experience that I can expect empathy and support.

Children of cancer victims have their greatest sources of empathy and support taken from them. As much as adult family members want to help and offer kindness to these children, no adult can replace a parent. The compassion shared by peers who know and share the pain of this loss, on the other hand, can be the only thing that helps a child to truly understand that he or she is not alone in the world.

Camp Kesem offers children of cancer victims this opportunity. You can help support Camp Kesem by following this link and contributing what you are able. Even $5 will make a difference.

I’m running 26.2 miles this Sunday to remember that, even though I’ve suffered a loss, there’s still a long road ahead of me. Show your support for Camp Kesem by making a donation, and these children might be able to see that there’s hope ahead for them, too.

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The Finish Line

Live Ultimate

On the 10th of February, I ran my second 10K. As I mentioned back in early January, my goal for this 10K was to beat a one-hour finishing time. In January, I had completed both an 18-mile and a 20-mile run with my training group, the LA Leggers, and so I was feeling pretty good. But going into February, I knew I had an event to attend on Groundhog Day that was going to prevent me from meeting up with the Leggers, which somehow made it seem more acceptable in my mind to miss out on mid-week runs that week, meaning an entire missed week of training a week out from the 10K!

I was worried that the missed week might mean I wouldn’t be in good shape for the 10K. But when I did my mid-week runs during the week of the 10K, I was feeling pretty good. I did a 3.14 mile run (Pi! And about a 5K) on that Thursday in 28 minutes, which is a quick enough pace to finish the 10K in under an hour, provided I could sustain it for twice the distance. That made me feel much more confident.

On the morning of the race, I made my way into the horde of runners at the starting line, all set to get started on the run. The starting gun sounded (not an actual gun) and the horde lurched forward gradually to cross the starting line. Each individual runner is given a timing chip prior to the race, which is attached to the shoe using twist-ties. Electronic sensors under the starting line and the finish line make it possible for each runner to get his or her exact time for the race based on the timing chip. This was how I determined my running time for the 10K in December, and how I could be sure I would know my actual time for the 10K in February in spite of the fact that it took a while in that big crowd to make it over the starting line once the clock was started.

I felt pretty good through the first half of the race or so, which took us through some Santa Monica streets up through the corner of Ocean and San Vicente. The route then turned East, heading up San Vicente a couple miles before turning around and looping back to finish on Ocean Avenue. Going East on San Vicente was an uphill climb, and the further up I got the more convinced I became that I wasn’t going to meet my sub-hour aspirations. I was moving to slow, I thought, and I didn’t feel very strong. At each mile, volunteers with synchronized timers called out the current time, and when I passed the five mile mark (1.2 miles left to run), the time was 52 minutes and change. Knowing that it takes better than a 10-minute mile pace to break an hour on a 10K, having less than 8 minutes to clear the last 1.2 miles seemed impossible.

The impulse to slow down—to give in to the sense of defeat I was already feeling—weighed heavy on my torso, my knees, and my feet, even though coming back down San Vicente was a nice, gradual downhill stride.

But I didn’t slow down. I did, however, fail to find the energy to push harder. I kept running, thinking maybe I’ll still beat my time from December, even if I don’t break the hour mark.

And I crossed the finish line. The clock at the finish said something like 1 hour, 1 minute, and 40-some seconds. This was better than my time in December. And it still wasn’t my personal chip time, from when my shoe crossed the sensor at the finish. Had it taken me a full minute and forty-some seconds to get across the starting line? I had no idea. It could have been 30 seconds or 3 minutes, for all I knew.

So I went home and found the page online where I’d be able to view my official time. And I spent my entire afternoon clicking “refresh,” waiting on the numbers to be posted.

Finally, they came in.

My time: 59:57.0. Hooray! Goal achieved!

In less than 2 weeks, I will be running the LA Marathon. It’s like running a 10K and then keeping going for another 20 miles. The race will finish by taking San Vicente down to Ocean Avenue, turning left, and crossing the finish line.

I’ve done this.

I can do this.

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Motorcycle

No, I’m not buying one. (Yet)

I’m just marking the 5-year anniversary since I let one put me in the hospital for 5 days, and then out of my head for another 2 months.

What a trip that was!

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Anniversary

Mom - 2007

It’s been a year, but it feels like just yesterday.

We miss you, Mom.

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