Monday, March 20, 2017

26 Miles then You go Crazy

I never understand how difficult running 26 miles really is until I am struggling and wondering “why in the hell am I out here”? I know many would say if you have run the race 13 previous times you would know how difficult the race is but not necessarily. The LA marathon is the one marathon I run per year and outside of running the LA marathon and the NY marathon in 2006, I really have stuck to half marathons and shorter distances throughout the year so I have a short memory as soon as I complete the race and then I am quickly reminded as soon as the race starts as to just what I am up against.

For more than three weeks, I had what felt like a golf ball on the bottom of my foot. I couldn’t step down with pain and oddly it went away when I would do any training runs and as if that wasn’t enough, I pulled my hamstring 2 weeks ago on a simple run so going into yesterday, I had a lot of anxiety and tons of nerves. I do it to myself each year where I nearly go nuts worrying about the various little bumps and bruises and how they will play out in the race. I am never really worried about finishing the race but I always have anxiety about whether enough I will have enough dog in me to grind out an ugly race which was exactly what the race was yesterday.

I felt fine when the race started but there was a quick concern when I hit mile 2 and I just felt a bit lethargic and not yet into the flow of the race. I walked up the hill by the Disney concert hall which is what I always do and I had a plan to really pick things up around mile 6 and 7 but it was like I was running in mud. My foot pain wasn’t a problem and my hamstring felt great but as I read another runner post after the race yesterday that her legs felt like lead from the start, I realized it wasn’t just me but when it happens in a race, you have to just put your head down and grind. I tried to distract my mind by throwing on my music and zoning out and by mile 9 I was in a nice groove and I started to zoom past runners left and right but I felt around mile 16, things slowed for me. I cruised to mile 17 and 18 but I knew my legs were heavy and I would really need to do whatever it took to pull this one out.

There isn’t much of a blueprint to turn things around in a race when things start to go south. I always say it is time for a gut check. This is where you need turn into a psych patient and therapist all at the same time. I talk to myself non-stop and I look for any and everything to give me a spark. Any momentum you get, you need to turn it into miles for as long as you can. I was in a zone until around mile 22 and 23 when my legs cramped badly. I was forced to walk until the cramps subsided and then I would shuffle until I could run again but it would only last so long before I had to stop again. I had been in this ongoing battle with this muscled up black guy who I couldn’t shake the whole damn race and here he came creeping up at mile 25. As he edged in front of me, I could see he would stop eventually and then I would pass him but it wasn’t meant to be as my legs seized beyond my control and I could barely walk without limping so I had to concede.

It is funny how running goes. When I was struggling mid-race, I had all these thoughts. I wondered if I could do this another year or whether or not I had trained enough or did I have the mental toughness I use to but that is exactly why I run the marathon each year. That mental battle is what catapults me to keep moving my feet regardless of the pain and hurdle in front of me. I know that I will have to suffer in order to succeed and not many are willing to go through that type of pain and misery just to receive a medal. You can run 26 miles anywhere or at any time but there are very few chances to run amongst 24 thousand others looking to achieve a goal of their own and I couldn’t be more supportive of each and every person out there regardless their reasons for running. It takes balls and courage to step on the start line and it is commendable to do an event of this type of magnitude where you risk toenails and severe dehydration and pain for days afterwards but you will also gain resolve, mental toughness and a chance to build on that for the future. Some run the race once and that is enough for them and that is ok because honestly, it isn’t for everyone. I don’t encourage people to run it because it is not for everyone but if you are ready to push yourself to the limit and know what you are made of, the race will be waiting for you next year!!

Let your legs do the talking!!

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Era and New Day

It is no secret but I just turned 42 about 4 days ago and I got to celebrate my birthday in sunny Miami but before getting to Miami things weren’t so sunny. Mere days before departing for Miami, I got sick. I knew it was coming when I awoke one night in a cold sweat and my throat was killing me. Thanks to a few co-workers who were selfish enough to come to work the week before coughing and sneezing in my area for days on end, I was now in jeopardy of either missing my trip or having an awful experience. I contemplated even going to Miami the night before departing which gives you an idea of just how I felt but nonetheless I still boarded the plane on Saturday and arrived at the awesome private pad I rented in Miami Shores. I still felt like crap and on a Saturday night in Miami, I only managed to go out for 2 hours before realizing the bed was my best option. I awoke the next morning not too happy and feeling like I should have stayed home but one of my friends told me to just sit back and relax and enjoy the awesome pad and allow my body a chance to rest. They were right. Here I was in this place surrounded by bamboo and palm trees and my own pool and why did I feel the need to force myself to do anything? I took that day and did nothing except lounge, read and relax as well as the days that followed including my birthday. I know what you are thinking, what does this have to do with running? Just relax, I am getting to that.

On my birthday, I got up and felt a lot better than the previous two days. My mom called me to wish me a happy birthday as well as a myriad of friends and I was just feeling inspired and blessed to see another birthday so I used that inspiration and energy and I laced up the shoes and out the door I went. I had no idea what direction I was heading but the skies were stunningly beautiful so I just ran. My chest was on fire and my head was still congested so I had to stop multiple times to catch my breath but I was taking what my body gave me and I was enjoying the moment and the time and opportunity to do something I enjoy even though I could not do it at 100%.
About 6 minutes into my run, I saw an older woman just trying to make her way across the road. No driver would stop and she cautiously walked into the road with her walker. I quickly dashed over to help her by halting traffic and escorting her across safely. I am no hero but people should have some type of compassion and they should want to help other. That is just what a decent human being does. I felt like God put me there at that time to be a service to someone else and in turn, I felt even better on my run. I kept cutting up and down streets ultimately losing myself in the moment and getting lost. I could not remember which blocks I cut down and which way I had gone but I eventually figured it out and made my way back to the house. Waiting for me was the pool and a beer from the fridge. What a day and what a great birthday and the rest of my trip.

What is my new post really about? In running I have learned that no matter how hard you prepare, no matter how hard you train and how much you want to do well, you have to learn to take what your body gives you and to take each race and opportunity and make the best out of each and every situation. Like many runners, I can be incredibly competitive and I beat myself up over bad performances or I refuse to compromise and in turn I ultimately lose out on the experience of it all because getting the chance to race and compete is a honor and opportunity that many do not get. Take advantage of each and every opportunity you get in life because opportunities come and go and running like so many things in life if not forever. Sometimes it takes little things like getting sick to remind you what is important and to just relax and enjoy the moment as best as you can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sunday the 13th

Boy does 13 years go by in a blink but this past Sunday, my 13th consecutive running of the LA Marathon did not go by in a blink. I always get the question as to why would I put myself through a grueling 26.2 mile race and my answer is pretty much the same but the truth is I made a decision a while back that I would run every LA marathon since my first running of the race in 2004. That miserable experience ignited me to start from scratch and learn everything I needed to know about being a runner. It also didn’t hurt to be motivated by my dad passing away the morning after completing the first race. My dad was the reason I ran the race in the first place. Through the ups and downs of running, I continue to find the motivation and the desire to lace them up week in and week out and get outside and train not just for the marathon but for better health and overall fitness.

What happens in the LA Marathon is something amazing each and every year. I never quite know what to expect or how to best prepare but on Sunday, I found myself at mile 20 feeling miserable, tired and on the brink of complete and utter meltdown but still 6.2 miles remain in front of me. I have been here 13 times so I have felt this before and I have experiences all the highs and all the lows but it is amazing that in a matter of minutes, things can go from good to worse.

On Sunday, my ankle and knee were so painful that each time I planted my left leg on the pavement, I cringed in pain. I figured I could just master the pain for 6 miles but it just was not possible. My body just would not do what I wanted it to do and so for the remaining 6.2 miles, I had to embrace the situation and I had to understand that this would be a miserable 6 miles of the race and deep down I could hear my dad challenging me to see if I had the heart to fight through the pain and agony knowing I would finish the race but I would have to go through potential hell to do so. That is why I run this race. I want that challenge and I feed off of that challenge. If you can conquer the doubt, the fear and the pain, then what can’t you do? Life comes at you one mile at a time but you just have to stay on course to cross the finish line! 13 done and many more to come!!!

Keep those miles coming…..

Monday, October 19, 2015

The UPS and Downs

One of things I have about running is one of the things that keeps driving me and that is from week to week, race to race, no experience is the same nor is running well in an event a given. I think I have written about the PT. Mugu 11k trail race 5-6 times now. This race has become my white whale. I first ran in 2010 and came in 4th in my age division. Running is not always about the top 3 in your age division but it certainly adds a feather in your cap and trail races are as competitive and as difficult as they come so you can imagine after the 2010 race, I assumed I would come back in 2011 and capture that top 3 placing in my age division but I got hurt a week before the race and couldn’t run well in the race. Subsequent years, I just fell apart. I put so much pressure on myself to do well and I couldn’t live up to the pressure I put on myself and in result, I did not run well. Nothing changed this year but I was ready to put that curse behind and yesterday, the curse proved better than I again.

I got a small cold about two weeks ago and I was determined to not allow it to keep me from that top 3 podium spot. I rested and got myself feeling well enough to go up to PT. Mugu last weekend after hearing the course would change for the first time in over 4 years. We were being told the course in which I studied and trained would now start where it ended, which is a 2.7 mile run of a nasty incline, then out for about 1.4 miles and back down the 2.7 miles. In 92 degree heat last week, I braved the heat and the incline feeling winded and tired but strong and confident and ran quite well. That gave me so much confidence going into the race yesterday but one week is a lot of time between training and race day and it proved to be that way yesterday.
With little sleep, I felt like I was too lethargic and decided I would take an energy gel on an empty stomach and this is 2 minutes before the start of the race. I started with the first wave of runners and we blasted out and it was on the first climb that I knew I was in trouble. I felt like my stomach was revolting against me and quickly felt nauseous and if you’ve run uphill before then you would know that feeling sick to your stomach is not going to work. Five minutes in, I was walking and no matter what I did, I could not summon the energy and I got passed up by waves of people who were minutes behind me. I watched my goal just fly out the window. When I got to the top of the climb, I tried to rally a bit and push to the downhill and turn around and back up hill. I did what I could and when we got to the 2.7 mile downhill to the end, my watch had 56 minutes and I pushed until I couldn’t push anymore but finished in 1 hour and 13 minutes. I basically smashed 6:30 minute miles to the end and I knew I wouldn’t place in the top 3 but I wasn’t expecting to finish 4th. 4th!!!!! It was like learning that you were one lotto number away from 20 million dollars. It is an accomplishment but my goal fell short and I couldn’t help but think about how different each race and experience is different but you have to know that when you are in the race, you have a choice to fight and push through the most discouraging of times when your body cannot perform and you are miles from finishing.

I walk away from days like yesterday discouraged but then I realize I have plenty to be happy about and I put things in perspective and know that I have plenty of races ahead of me. Beat up, bruised and battered is just temporary. When I get back to my feet and back out there, I have more incentive and a new goal for my next race. This is why I keep lacing up the shoes. The challenges just keep coming!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Runner's Mind

I get little time these days to add to my running blog but I try to hold on to all the things I wanted to put down on paper. I ran my 3rd 5k this month yesterday and it came at the worst time possible. After a crash on my bike last week, I got up the day after in more pain than I expected. My back was so stiff that I couldn’t even bend over to put on my shoes and socks for work. I kept trying to fight through the pain only to make the pain worse but in true fashion, I refused to miss the race yesterday. Call it pride, call it stupidity but I like to say I am just competitive to a fault. I knew it would be a tough morning after I hopped on my bike to ride to Westchester for the race. My back hurt too much to really ride the way I wanted but when I got to the race and I saw all the other runners warming up and sliding into position to show off their running abilities, I got a boost but that only lasted so long. When you haven’t run in over a week, the reality is you just cannot expect to blaze down the course but I held my own for about 2 miles and my body called it quits. I finished 6th in my division and though it is respectable, it doesn’t satisfy my appetite and ego and after the race, it reminds me why I keep running. I seem to still think I can do this thing and I can get better. Sounds crazy but it is what keeps me going.

Running is serious work, especially for someone my size and I hear it all the time. Years ago, I really did not appreciate the older runners who tried to give me advice on training and preparing for races. When you are younger, you just think you can wake up and run and do little to no preparation for races but I have learned that the only way to perform well and to be successful is to be consistent in your approach and the real work happens leading up to the race. Training until you are exhausted, running on the hottest days of the year and just pushing as hard as you can. I was that kid just some years ago telling someone I could run a certain time in a race and they would just laugh at me. Now I realize I was an idiot. I am insulted now when people think I just wake up and run or that running is easy. It’s a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. That is why it is such a reward. There is nothing better than running a race where it all comes together. You could care less about your time or placing because to have that race where you feel like a million bucks, no problems and you finish strong is priceless.

I believe I have a lot of running life left and I am just scratching the surface and I am looking forward to spending the next three weeks on the trails preparing for a trail race that I have been looking to win my division for the last four years. I know it will not be easy but I am ready to work.

For now I will rest and recover and lace up the shoes for my next adventure.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lucky Number 12

My last post was on February 27th. I was really in a different space and time because I was feeling the pressure and anxiety as the LA Marathon was approaching. How fast time flies! Seven days after the race, I get a chance to sit and reflect on the race. I guess being sick helps because I have a lot of time to sit here and just do nothing. Can I say my 12th LA Marathon was filled with tons of just anxiety? I think because I knew that my longest run was a miserable 12.5 mile run that left me stuck in my tracks. I was so discouraged after that run that I pondered whether or not I would need to withdraw from the race but I took a few days off and just reloaded and went out for some shorter runs and felt pretty good. I focused so much on what I had not done in terms of miles that it began to dominate my mind along with all these people who were telling me what I could and could not do in the race. I decided to say “wait a minute”. I am the one who has run this race eleven years in a row and I decided to just go into this race with the mindset of one step and one mile at a time.

Any week leading up to a marathon is difficult. You try your best to relax and rest but that is easier said than done. For me, it just happened to be the busiest weeks at work and the fact that you are running a marathon is lost on pretty much everyone at work. It is generally, “Oh, you are running a marathon, that is cool, now keep breaking your back with work”. All I could do is focus on my hydration which is something that gets me each marathon and knowing we were expecting 90 degree weather, I really upped my fluid intake. Walking to the expo from the metro train on Friday I knew the heat would be a problem. I was sweating and I had barely walked about ten minutes. I didn’t linger much at the expo. I grabbed my race packet and got my ass back home. I tried to chill as much as possible on Saturday. You pretty much cut yourself off from the world to try and focus and before you know it, your alarm is going off at 3:00am.

I made so many rookie mistakes for this race that I needed to be slapped. I wore a brand new pair of shoes then tried to park in my usual parking spot in SM without checking the day before so did not know the meters changed and I was forced to park about a half a mile away and walk to the shuttle where I had to stand in line for forty-five minutes. It just seemed like the morning was a disaster. When I finally got to Dodger Stadium, it was 6:15 and they were calling for people to get prepared to line up. I hadn’t got my mind right nor anything else but before I knew it we were off and running and I am not sure I had more than a five minute stretch period. It was insane. When the race started and we began to run, I felt calm and relaxed. I hit the miles and didn’t think about much except taking it easy and hydrating as best as I could. I always have indicators of what kind of day it is going to be and when I hit mile 6, I felt like I was gliding and started to say to myself “stay in the flow and find your zone”. We all worried about the heat but it was nowhere to be found and I knew we were being blessed because had the heat shined down the way it did on Saturday this race would’ve have had a different feel and outcome.

My best time in the marathon was 4:28 back in 2010. I surpassed that performance this year. I did not surpass the performance in time but just the way I felt and the way I executed the race plan I had set out to execute. I had told myself that 12-14 miles would be all that I had in the tank but I blew through those miles feeling like a million bucks. When I ran into my buddy Tendo around mile 16, I was feeling great and in a zone that I did not expect but when that happens, you just ride the wave. There were moments when I felt doubt and fatigue but that really didn’t come until mile 21. Just before mile 21, I saw a little Latino man give someone a can of coke. I needed a can of coke bad. I ran up to him and said to him “senor, tienes uno mas para mi?” and the little man responded si! He ran and got a can of coke for me, then gave me a hug. I thanked him and that moment not only carried me the rest of the race but it just added to why this race and day was special. It was as if everything aligned just right on this one day and my faith in who I am and what I can do rang true. When I crossed the finish line, I gleamed with joy and content that I had just run a perfect race. People will look at my 4:57 time and wonder what I am talking about but you have to be a runner to appreciate what I did.

My longest training run as I mentioned before was 12.5 miles but I realize that how I train where I train is what gave me the strength to go further than the miles that most kill themselves trying to do all year. When I go out for my training runs, I go around noon when it is already warm. I always run with a hydration pack that contains about 2-pounds of water on my back so I voluntarily made my training runs harder and harder. Why? I know that running just to run doesn’t prepare you for the rigors of 26 miles. You have to train in miserable conditions so when the race comes you are not surprised about weather, terrain or anything else. I also knew that the past year I just beat up my legs so I went back to weight training and smashing killer lunges and squat workouts. So when it all comes together on race day, you are blown away and ecstatic! You get one chance to do to this and do this right.

Most important thing in life is to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who support and love you because that is all that matters!!!

Life is one day and one mile at a time!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Training Wall

A week ago, a Med Student and I were talking about running and how people think that if you are a runner things just seem to flow on each run but if they were runners, they would know just how far from the truth that statement really is. Today, I may have had my worst run ever and with just 15 days from the LA marathon, it couldn’t be more discouraging and what was even more discouraging was I generally have a way of working my way out of bad runs. I am generally terrible at the beginning of all my runs but by the second half, I can pull it together but today felt like I was running the second half of a marathon when things go to shit and you can’t run another step but you keep trying to convince yourself that all you need to do is put one foot in front of the other but today my mind, my body and spirit were not up to it and before I knew it, I was dragging and going slower and slower and my legs were like lead. At one point, I thought I was running with a refrigerator on my back. I stopped probably 7 times to try and get it together but mostly because I needed to and couldn’t run anymore. All my years of running, I never thought I would need to pull out of the Marathon but during my run today, I thought there is no way in hell I can make it through the race feeling the way I did.

Few days ago, I watched the 2014 recap video the Ultra Du Mont Blanc race in Chamonix, France. 103 miles up the alps with elevation gains that could be deadly for the average runner but people do each year. One of those people is Anton Kuprika who is one of the top ultra-runners in the world and after having to pull out of the race in 2013 around mile 70 because of injury, he was attempting to run the race for the second year in a row in 2014. He went out hard the first half and hit a major wall. Anton wasn’t feeling good at all. He couldn’t eat and he was on the verge of calling it quits but he decided to take a nap and when he got up, he felt better and his stomach was settled and he was able to eat some food and before long, he was back up and running and he able to finish the race for the first time. This is a guy that has won hundred mile races before and 20-30 miles are walks in the park for him but on this day, it just was not working but as he put it in the video, he does these races to challenge himself and to see how far he could push it and not necessarily to win.

The reason why I continue to run the LA marathon is because I know I will need to go through hell and at some point I know I will need to challenge myself to go beyond the pain, beyond the exhaustion and beyond my limits. People often question why I would put myself through that but it is such a great feeling when you are in the moment and you are trying to find that unknown factor to get you through that part of the race when you just feel like you can’t take another step but you have 10 miles to go and you have one only one decision in my mind and that is the finish line. How do you do it? It doesn’t matter but you have to finish. You may lose some toenails, you may be severely dehydrated, you may have to run through the worst pain ever but if you cross the finish line, you then know you can accomplish any and everything.

Miles hurt but quitting hurts even more!