Confessions From a Veteran Marathon Runner

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So, it has been a few weeks since I last wrote about my training for the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon. The last time I did, it was in regards to my 20-mile run which had me suffering an emotional breakdown. In addition, my knees have been hurting more than ever before. I am not in excruciating pain mind you, it’s just that after running the LA Marathon eight years in a row, my body is really feeling the mileage.

After giving much thought to it, I have decided to run the half marathon on March 24, 2019 instead of the full. After suffering several setbacks, it seemed like the smart thing to do. Still, I feel a bit depressed about making this change as it marks the first time in years I will not be running the full LA Marathon. As a result, my enthusiasm for this yearly event, the kind which brings Los Angeles together in a beautiful way, has been dimmed significantly.

But maybe the diming of my enthusiasm is the result of realizing where I am in life. In short, I’m not a young guy anymore. As much as I try to convince myself I am still demographically desirable, I have to face some inescapable facts: I am not as fast as I used to be, my body is failing me more than I care to admit, I am trailing behind everyone to where I cannot catch up with even their vapor trails, and those pounds I aim to shed off my body refuse to be shed. As much as I refuse to act my age (and who does anyway?), my body is changing, or devolving to put it midly.

I remember watching “City Slickers” on the silver screen back in 1991, and this piece of dialogue from Billy Crystal has always stayed with me:

“Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I’m ever gonna do, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel… and it ain’t that great?”

I was still a teenager when “City Slickers” was released, and I kept thinking to myself, thank god I won’t have to worry about that for a long time. Well, a couple of decades have passed by, and there are things I need to accept as reality: lines are slowly showing up on my face, I’m getting hair where there shouldn’t be hair, and my knees are started to feel like they will collapse without much notice. I was told when I turned 18 how it was all downhill from there, but now I feel like I am going downhill faster than before, and the brakes to slow me down are a lot wobblier than they should be.

For the record, I am still keeping up with marathon training and have been attending each Saturday run the Pablove runners are expected to be at. It has been the rainiest and coldest winter Southern California in years, but neither rain nor the treacherous road that is Forest Lawn Drive can keep us from getting ready for the big day. We even broke our routine up one week and trained at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and running a couple of loops outside of it was refreshing.

Pablove March 9 run

The major upside of the last few runs was, for once, I got to run with others instead of just by myself. It’s nice to have the company as it sure helps motivate me in a way I cannot do on my own. I particularly want to thank Esther and Glendale, both whom are also running the half-marathon, for allowing me to keep up with them. And yes, it allowed me and Glendale to have a discussion about “I Spit on Your Grave” and its upcoming sequel, “I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu.” The two of us are tickled to death over a direct sequel being made to this controversial cult classic all these years later, especially when you consider just how awful the first film was. Esther hasn’t seen or even heard of it, and she should consider herself lucky.

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Running with these two reminded me of what kept bringing me back to LA Marathon training for several years now: the people. It’s fun running with people and talking about what the past week was like. Usually I end up running by myself to where my motivation to run more than walk is not as strong as it should be. It’s like I am Charlie Brown and lost in my own thoughts to where I inadvertently trick myself into believing I am going to win the decathlon, and we all remember how “You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown” ended.

And again, there’s the issue with my knees. How much cartilage do they have left to work with? They ache more than usual, and I am not sure what to do about that. I keep thinking they will buckle on me when I least expect it, and I am trying to remain conscious of my running form from start to finish. George Harrison once sang about his guitar gently weeping, but my knees are not exactly weeping gently.

Also, I have been getting fatigued a lot. I spend a lot of mornings sleeping in even when I know I need to work. Maybe I was a bear in a previous life. A least they have an excuse to sleep for a long time; they hibernate. It makes me long for all the testosterone which starting leaving my body at 40. Testosterone, testosterone, my kingdom for some testosterone! Maybe I should get a bottle of Nugenix and see if it makes a difference. Frank Thomas did say “she’ll like the difference too,” so shouldn’t that be considered a solid endorsement?

Despite the setbacks, I still soldier on. Why? Well, these Saturday morning runs help give me a schedule which self-employment does not always invite (but probably should). It’s a great way for me to keep in shape even as the boundless energy I once had as a youth continues to disappear. And yes, I am doing this for a noble non-profit, The Pablove Foundation, which continues its fight against the insidious disease called pediatric cancer. No one should ever die young. No one.

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We need to put more of a face on this disease. The Pablove Foundation has certainly done this, but we as runners don’t always know who we are doing this for on a personal level. Well, at least I don’t. It would serve as a strong reminder of the importance of what we do.

I hope my former marathon coach, JC Fernandez, doesn’t mind, but I wanted to share something he sent me recently:

“I neglected another important thing that I hope you have already taken to heart: YOU ARE A HERO. It can be difficult to consider when you’re focused solely on surviving the next mile of a course, but you have inspired people. People saw you run and thought, ‘Maybe I can do that.’ Furthermore, the people you’ve supported all these years are not grateful to you because of your pace. I’ve said often enough through the years that what we do is not abstract. And somewhere there is a person who at the very least struggles a bit less because of you but at the most remains alive because of you. Do not ever forget that, even if you decide to hang your cape up forever.”

JC certainly has a great point, and he and I learned from the best: Scott Boliver.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: To date, I have raised $1,062 for The Pablove Foundation. I want to thank all of you who have supported me so far on this voyage to another LA Marathon. My fundraising goal is still $1,500, and there is still plenty of time to make a donation.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION (PLEASE?)

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Six Miles for Scott Boliver

Scott Boliver in New York

The wretched year that was 2018 has now vanished into the annals of history, and 2019 is here with the promise of hope and better things. This is a wave I am eager to ride for as long as humanly possible. It also brought the Pablove runners back to Griffith Park in Burbank for our first run of the new year. We were all out of town for the holidays, and now we are back to burn off all those calories we willingly put on. I could say I was forced to do so, but this would be a flagrant lie.

The first run of the year also serves as a memorial to one of the greatest marathon coaches you could ever hope to have, Scott Boliver. Scott coached us during our Team to End AIDS (T2EA) days while he fought a brave battle against cancer, and he called this battle “slay the dragon.” For the record, he did beat cancer to a bloody pulp, but his body still gave out and we lost him six years ago. I was devastated to learn of his loss as was everybody else, and it felt so unfair. Heaven may be lacking in angels, but it can’t be lacking that many.

This memorial run always brings out past runners who may not be training this season, but they are still infinitely eager to pay their respects to Scott. Among them was JC Fernandez, another marathon coach from my T2EA days who proved to me he still reads my articles on The Ultimate Rabbit when he told me, “Hey, you’re here on time!” Yes, I arrived at Griffith Park 15 minutes before 7:00 a.m. in the past instead of showing up after announcements by Coach Joaquin have been made or when all the runners have taken off before my, I’m assuming, eager arrival.

Also showing up for this important occasion were Stephen, Virginia, Cristie and Jody, and it is always nice to see friends from the past. Another person I was thrilled to see arrive was Gene who has the kind of infinite enthusiasm we all want to bottle up for a profit. I also would like to add he arrived in a Tesla. This is the kind of car powered by electricity, but knowing Gene, he could power it up with his infinite enthusiasm. Heck, he could power it for years!

But the most important guests in attendance were Scott’s parents and his wife Dolly. We went over to the tree planted in Scott’s honor where Dolly thanked us for showing up, and she did say this while bursting into tears to where Scott’s parents lent their support to her as she fought her way through sadness to talk to us. Those who knew Scott loved and found him to be one of the most inspirational human beings who ever walked the face of the earth, and the fact he was taken from us at far too young an age still feels deeply unfair.

Speaking of the tree, it has grown so much since the last training season. It doesn’t need much to keep it standing straight anymore. Just look at it.

As a result of the memorial, our run started a half hour late, and no one could blame me for that (LOL). This was a six-mile run for both the half and full marathoners, and it took us outside of Griffith Park and onto the asphalt streets and sidewalks in Burbank. For the most part it was a flat run, but then there was Fairview Avenue, the most deceptive of all hills.

Here’s the thing about Fairview Avenue; from a distance it does not look like a hill as the street appears quite level. But once you run up it, your legs quickly realize you are going uphill and get really mad as a result. My legs were telling me, “You lied! This is a hill! You insane bastard!” As for my knees, they gave up arguing with me a long time ago.

Once I managed to haul my ass up to the top, and it always takes much longer than it ever should, I caught up with Coach Joaquin who was all smiles, and he pointed out where the turn around point was which only a few yards away. Joaquin then assured me it was all downhill from there, and that phrase always sounds so sweet.

As usual, I was the last one to cross the finish line. But for the record, I did three maintenance runs this past week instead of the two we are asked to do, and this was while I was on vacation in the Bay Area. Even before I made it back to Los Angeles, I was working hard to burn off all those calories from the delicious food I feasted on. My dad loves to cook!

Next week will has us Pablove runners running 16 miles. Now we are getting serious! If I don’t get any form of exercise from now until next Saturday, I am a full-blown masochist.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: As you all know, I am running this particular Los Angeles Marathon in support of The Pablove Foundation, a non-profit determined to find a cure for pediatric cancer. To date, I have raised $531 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. It’s a new year, so don’t hesitate to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of it. Click here to find out how you can donate.

See also:

Scott Boliver, Gone But Never Forgotten

A Pablove Run in the Midst of Devastating California Wildfires

California wildfire

It has been a terrible week for Southern California. Last Wednesday, a lone gunman carried out a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, a city I lived in for five years, which left 12 people dead. But as the city mourns a terrible tragedy, it is now being endangered along with a number of surrounding areas by a horrific wildfire which has now left acres upon acres in ashes. The fire has hit close to us as well as Griffith Park is being threatened by the same wildfires to where parts of it have been down, and animals from the LA Zoo had to be evacuated. As a result, us Pablove runners saw our Saturday run cancelled, but we were encouraged to do the run on our own.

This week’s run was five miles for full-marathoners, and two miles for those doing a half marathon. I am still committed to running the full marathon, so five miles it was. After sleeping in for a change, I did my run in my neighborhood which is in the mid-Wilshire area right near Museum Row. I usually do my maintenance runs on 6th Street all the way to San Vicente Boulevard and then turn back, but with this run I decided to take things in a different direction.

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As I stepped outside my apartment, I found it was a warm sunny day in November. Just when I thought the warm weather would finally depart Southern California, I was reminded of how climate change is not a hoax. The sun was bearing down on me as if I were an extra in “Lawrence of Arabia,” and this combined with the inevitability of me running on concrete instead of asphalt made it clear this run would be tougher on my joints than usual. I had my interval timer watch on my wrist, and I was all set to go and determined to be a self-starter. Nothing would stop me… except for the fact I forgot to put on my water belt. I should have known better. There is no excuse for me to go out for a run without bottles filled with grape-flavored generic Pedialyte and water containing electrolytes. Why I initially left my apartment without these necessary tools is something scientists are currently looking into.

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I decided to head down Cochran Avenue towards Washington Boulevard as it would provide me with an uneven course which had hills to run up and down. That’s right, I gave myself hills to run over! In past training seasons, none of my fellow runners ever looked forward to running up any hill put in their path, but hills are part of the Los Angeles Marathon, so we have no business avoiding them.

One thing I was reminded of as I ran the streets of Los Angeles was how we are often greeted with inescapable distractions while running through Griffith Park, Burbank, Glendale and other parts of North Hollywood. There are all those fast food restaurants like Carl’s Jr. which had posters on its windows of the most luscious double cheeseburgers, and they made their fast food meals something you couldn’t wait to sink your teeth into. Of course, once we enter any fast food establishment, we are greeted with a reality we did no ask for as the meals are never as appealing as we imagined. We end up feeling like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” when he gets his burger and says, “Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with this picture?”

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Instead, I was greeted with such distractions like yard sales where I could buy things for an unbelievably low price, or by signs for “A Bronx Tale” musical which was based on the play by Chaz Palminteri which was in turn adapted into the fabulous motion picture directed by Robert De Niro. None of these things made me hungry, but they informed me of opportunities I just might be missing out on.

Last week, I ran at a pace of 3:1, but this time I ran at a pace of 2:2 after having done so in a maintenance run during the week. Since I came out of that run in one piece, I was confident I would do the same here despite the hot and dry weather. Surprisingly, I did quite well. I owe some thanks to the female voice on the Runkeeper app. When I did my maintenance run, the word she said which stood out most was “steady.” She never said “run,” “light speed” or even “ludicrous speed,” just “steady.” By staying “steady,” I got through this run without ever feeling winded. This training season is clearly getting off to a good start.

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One thing I was reminded of from previous training seasons is how excited dogs would get whenever we ran pass them in residential neighborhoods. It’s as if they were saying, “Hey! Wait up! We wanna run too!” In the neighborhood I live in, there are also plenty of dogs being walked around town or staring at passing humans behind gates or fences, but these ones are a little more territorial. Some were interested in running, but others were far more intent on protecting their owners’ homes. One big dog growled at me to where the “Beware of Dog” sign really wasn’t necessary. Another one came out of nowhere, and I jumped as it barked loudly at me as if to say, “GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS MY OWNER’S HOUSE! YOU DON’T PAY RENT HERE!” I started to feel like Chevy Chase in “Fletch” when he was chased by that Doberman Pincher, but I did stay steady and didn’t go into warp speed.

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When I got to Washington Boulevard, the sun was bearing down hard but I was determined not to be turned into a human shish kabob. I even dared myself to run on the side of the street which had no shade. When I turned around and ran on the other side, I asked myself why I didn’t appreciate shade enough to run in it. What was I thinking?

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There wasn’t an alert on my phone to tell me I had reached the halfway point, so it occurred to me to take a look at it as I got closer and closer to Fairfax Avenue. When I did, it showed I had already run 2.55 miles. It would have been nice to be informed of this sooner, but anyway. I ran back the same way I came, and this time I kept my distance from the dogs. Regardless, they remembered exactly who I was and didn’t hesitate to bark at me from a distance. Excuse me for existing!

And then there were those yard sales which I did slow down by, thinking there might be a CD or a DVD worth purchasing. But knowing the weather was going to get hotter and the air quality wasn’t getting any better, I just went on by. When I arrived back at my apartment, Runkeeper made it official that I had ran 5.07 miles, and I did it all by my lonesome… Well, last season I did most of the runs by my lonesome, so this isn’t anything new.

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After all these years of marathon training, the one rule I have never forgotten is, when running, to land on the balls of my feet. You never land on the heel as the odds of getting injured will be far greater. This is one of the many reasons why I still get to train for the Los Angeles Marathon, and for the ninth year in a row.

Ben after a run

FUNDRAISING ALERT: Now this may not be the best time to ask for donations as we are all eager to help those suffering from the wildfires wreaking havoc all over California, but if you have any extra change, please consider making a donation to The Pablove Foundation. While millions of dollars are given to cancer research every year, only a very tiny portion goes towards a cure for pediatric cancer. Please click here to learn how you can help.

 

23 Miles in the Frigid Los Angeles Wilderness

Ben Kenber after 23 miles 2012

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Now I usually put this update at the end of my marathon training articles, but this one goes up at the front as my fundraising deadline is coming up very soon. The coaches have put the deadline at the end of February and, after some confusion, I have officially raised $761 for The Pablove Foundation. My goal is to raise $1,500, and I could really use your help. Please donate only what you can, and hopefully a miracle will take place and we can reach this goal before the clock strikes midnight on February 28th.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DECUCTIBLE DONATION TO THE PABLOVE FOUNDATION.

Pablove Foundation logo

Last week had us Pablove Foundation runners doing a recovery run of 13 miles (you read that correctly), and four of those miles were run on the track at Burbank High School as Coach James wanted us do tempo runs in an effort to improve our individual paces per mile. I ran the first four laps around that track without taking a single walk break. I was on fire that day, and it showed as I crossed the finish line back at Griffith Park. Coach James and Coach Kerry were more impressed with me than usual as I wasn’t too far behind the other runners. Yes, I am improving!

This week had us doing the longest run of the marathon training season, 23 miles. We were also going to be running this insane number of miles during one of the coldest weeks in recent Los Angeles history. Although spring is just around the corner, temperatures have threatened to reach polar depths down here in Southern California, and I kid you not. For the first time in ages, I considered wearing a sweater on a daily basis, something which previously felt completely unnecessary. We have become so used to experiencing unseasonably warm weather all year round in this part of the Golden State, so this huge drop in temperature took us all by surprise. Heck, even recent transplants from states like Maine found themselves complaining about how cold it was, and the winters in Maine are brutal!

I arrived at Griffith Park about 10 minutes before our run was scheduled to begin. With a run like this, we usually start it at 6 a.m. in order to finish it before the temperature rises to a torturous level. However, since the forecast gave Saturday a high of only 64 degrees, the coaches had us starting at our usual time of 7 a.m. Either way, we all knew we wouldn’t be finishing this run until at least noon.

As you can guess, we were all shivering like never before as Coach James told us what to expect on this run. One fellow Pablove runner remarked, “As they say in Canada, it is currently one degree Celsius.” We only have so many layers of clothing on as we expect to shed some of them before we reach our midway point, so we paid the price for a few minutes before we begin our run to where we all wonder if frost would start forming on our clothes. Believe me, this has happened before.

Pablove Runners 2018 on Feb 24

Being the slowest runner on the Pablove team, I was the first to start, and I made sure to tell everyone “see you next week” as I had no doubt none of them would be around to see me cross the finish line. This run had us doing three loops: one inside Griffith Park which had us going up that godforsaken hill, another which had us returning on the treacherous, let alone ominous, road of Forest Lawn Drive, and another which took us through Glendale and Burbank. Eager to get off to a quick start, I may have started to run a little faster than I should have, but considering how frigid the weather was, can you blame me?

I mentioned in a previous article how I am the proud owner of two 160GB iPods, one of which is dedicated solely to film scores and soundtracks. This week, I brought the other to see how the music on it would assist on this run. As I made my way up the first of several inclines, I listened to Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” the song which made me consciously aware of who the former lead singer of Genesis is. The start of the song always sends a shiver down my spine as it reminds me of how freaked out I was by its accompanying music video when I first watched it at the tender age of 7. For years afterwards, I had to keep changing the channel whenever it appeared on MTV. I have no problem watching it today, and I have long since become a die-hard Peter Gabriel fan, but I never forgot how the video became the stuff of nightmares for me.

If I ever felt my energy waning at any point, I was sure to put on a faster paced song on like “Kiss of Life” or “The Rhythm of the Heat,” songs you experience more than listen to. Of course, I soon had to become aware of how fast I was running as the music got me super excited to my own detriment. We were supposed to be running at a conversational pace, and I got so caught up in the music to where this slipped my mind. Then again, what do you expect when I am taking in the extended version of Gabriel’s “Big Time” as I struggle to ascend a hill even Kate Bush never sang about?

Other songs which became instrumental in helping me included the Microbots trance dance mix of Erasure’s “Always,” Everclear’s “Everything to Everyone” (something I tried too hard to be when I was a kid), The Power Station’s cover of “Get it On (Bang a Gong),” and Franz Ferdinand’s “Do You Want To” among others. Actually, this run also helped to remind me of just how much I loved listening to Phil Collins’ “12” Ers” album as it featured very kinetic remixes of his songs “Sussudio” and “Who Said I Would.” Those songs furthered my determination to finish these 23 miles sooner than later. Of course, I once again found myself running a little faster than I should have, and my walk breaks eventually began to last longer than one minute.

Even as the sun rose in the sky, we still had a strong breeze to work with as we pounded the pavement. It made me realize something, this is the kind of weather we live to run in during the LA Marathon. It’s certainly a lot more fun running in these temperatures than it is in 80 plus degree heat. Sadly, this weather will probably not be around on marathon day, so we should enjoy it while it lasts. Still, hopefully it will very overcast as wevget closer to Santa Monica.

Lays Potato Chips

Coaches James and Kerry met up with us along the route to make sure we had all the nutrition we needed. I had plenty of energy gels on me, but their helpings of cookies and bananas were especially handy as the potassium made a huge difference. The other thing which really helped were the bags of Lays potato chips. They were the normal, plain kind, but that didn’t matter because those chips still had all the salt our bodies needed to absorb the water and electrolyte drinks we couldn’t stop drinking throughout.

Salt was the one thing I needed to remember to take a lot of. Our bodies can expel it fairly quickly to where you can feel it coming out of your face. I remember running 23 miles on my own a few years back and later getting seriously dehydrated to where I couldn’t keep anything down. My dad came by a day or two later, and even he saw how I was moving around town as if I were an extra in George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” As a result, I had to go to urgent care at Kaiser Permanente where I got an IV of fluids. The truth is, I didn’t consume enough salt during the run, and my body was aching for sodium among other things…

Well, there was also the case of me celebrating too soon with an endless number of Jack and Cokes a few hours after I finished. As a result, I will never consume alcohol on the day of a run with this magnitude. Simply put, it isn’t worth the trouble.

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Towards the last half of the run, I could not escape the soreness which was enveloping my body. Those joints of mine can only take so much, but even then, I was surprised I was suffering as it felt like I handled the first part of the run much better than I anticipated. But as I went on, I decided to take one extra strength Tylenol caplet to ease the pain. I figured I would take another later on, but one seemed to be sufficient. Believe it or not, I don’t use much Tylenol or any equivalent kind of medication these days. This is probably because I almost got completely scared off of taking any kind of pain medication after witnessing the cinematic shock therapy which was Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream.” If you know someone who is considering experimenting with drugs, make sure they check it out.

My iPod threatened to shut down on my early on as I was listening to “Get it On (Bang a Gong).” The music suddenly stopped, and the screen said to hook it up to a power source. I was pissed because music had suddenly become a valuable tool during these training runs, and to be without it was infuriating. Fortunately, my iPod came to its senses and realized it had more power than it was letting on. Still, it decided it didn’t have enough juice to last me on the last three miles, and this was just as I began listening to the Revolting Cocks’ cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy.” Damn, and I hadn’t listened to that version in a long time!

In the past years when I trained with Team to End AIDS, the 23-mile run, which is still called the “celebration run,” we were greeted at the finish line with tremendous fanfare as the T2EA staff was there to cheer us on, and we were greeted with a feast of sandwiches to gorge on. This year, we did not have such a finish as Coach Kerry doesn’t have the same staff he used to, but this was okay because the victory of completion was something we need to acknowledge within us instead of just from others. We need to appreciate our accomplishments more than others do because, otherwise, what’s the point of running all these miles?

Following this, I drove home and crashed in bed for several hours. Despite having done this same run the last seven years, my body still takes a toll to where I can’t get myself to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. I did celebrate by having a cheeseburger at Five Guys in the evening, but my body felt better lying down on a mattress more than anything else.

Here’s to all the Pablove runners for running all 23 miles whether it was at Griffith Park on Saturday morning or elsewhere. Congratulations. Now if you will excuse me, I will be taking a much-needed break until Tuesday when I will resume my maintenance runs. I know my knees will appreciate this.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE OTHER SONGS I LISTENED TO ON THIS 23 MILE RUN.

Running in the Aftermath of Thanksgiving for Pablove

Pablove 2018 week four

Well, it has been an eventful couple of weeks since I last wrote about my marathon training. The week before Thanksgiving, we ran 8 miles through Burbank, and I actually didn’t come in dead last for a change. My longtime T2EA pal Stephen was running low on energy, and he invited me to go on ahead. However, I decided to run alongside him as leaving behind didn’t feel right. Once we finished, he informed me I had managed to stay at a 13-minute pace per mile. I can’t begin to tell you how elated this made me feel as it meant I was making progress for a change.

Then came the week of Thanksgiving when I was out of town, and I did my best to keep up with my maintenance runs. However, I did neglect to turn my weight scale back 10 pounds as it is always mandatory to do so during this particular holiday. My dad did all the cooking, and it was unmistakably delicious to say the least. And, as always, Alka Seltzer came to my rescue.

Now I am back in Los Angeles, and while getting up in the morning can be a herculean effort, I managed to arrive at Griffith Park before anyone else. Coaches James and Kerry can testify to this. Seriously, ask them.

At this point, it is safe to say I am the designated driver of the Pablove running group as there always needs to be someone in the back to keep an eye out for runners suffering problems or falling behind. It might as well be me as I always finish dead last to where I feel obligated to apologize to Coaches James and Kerry for keeping them waiting. Perhaps I keep apologizing in the hopes they will reassure me my training is becoming a waste of time. Once again, James and Kerry did tell me I had nothing to apologize for, so the apologizing ceases from here on out.

This week’s run was 10 miles, and I was determined to keep up with my fellow runners as much as possible. It was an especially frigid morning to where I was not about to take off by black Nike jacket. While warm weather still permeates us residents of Southern California to where I feel justified in saying there is nothing like a hot summer day in December, we could all tell things would not warm up right away at 7 a.m. in the morning.

I’m not sure what everyone’s running pace is at this point, but I am certain it is not 2:1. Instead, I just kept running with everyone as they kept moving further and further away from my sight which, last I checked, is still 20/20. When they started walking, so did I. When they began running again, so did I. I am happy to report I actually managed to keep up with my fellow Pablove runners for five to six miles before they became I was left in their vapor trails.

I did my best to run at a conversational pace, but after a while I didn’t care because it wasn’t like I had anyone to talk to. It got to where I couldn’t even smell the yeast rising in the bread factory we always past by. God, I love that smell!

Coach Kerry kept popping up out of nowhere as our source of water and energy if we were running low on either, and he also made sure we made an immediate left on Clark Avenue after turning right on Victory Boulevard. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to miss Clark Avenue.

As the run went on, I tried to stay conscious of my form. At times, it felt like I was leaning forward too much, and I immediately straightened up. It was like my back was telling me, “HEY ASSHOLE, YOU CANNOT AFFORD A CHIROPRACTOR RIGHT NOW, SO STOP FUCKING AROUND. I’M NOT THAT FLEXIBLE!” It got to where it looked like I had a rod shoved up my ass, but at least my back was straight. Still, I probably don’t need to be quite so rigid. I also made sure not to land on the heels of my feet. It can be ever so easy to do so and cause long-lasting physical damage. After so many years existing on this planet (I plead the 5th as to how many years it has been), I have still never broken a single bone in my body.

When I finally made it back to our meetup point in Griffith Park, everyone else had gone home except for one dude who waved me on as he was driving away. I came out of this run feeling like Rudy Huxtable when her dad forgets to bring her to the kitchen for dinner. She claims he forgot her on purpose, but he tells her that Theo, her older brother, refused to eat until she got to the table. As soon as the two arrive in the kitchen, Theo and the others are already on their way out. Bummer.

Oh well, it was another successful run, and Coach James told me if I didn’t want to go at a 2:1 pace, then it was alright to keep running until I felt like taking a walking break. I celebrated by having a Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich at McDonald’s because their breakfasts are so damn good, and then I went back to my apartment. I was going to take a nap, but I had a phone interview with writer/director Ron Shelton about his latest film, “Just Getting Started.” I desperately wanted to just pass out, but I do have a job outside of marathon training. But you can bet once I was done interviewing Shelton, I spent the rest of the day napping like never before.

It’s now a day later, and my legs feel like dead weights. The soreness never disappears, but I will manage. I always have.

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FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I have now raised $255 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500 for the Pablove Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. These funds come from two different places: my Pablove fundraising page, and the fundraising page I created on Facebook. You can donate on either page, but if you donate on Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match the donations to a certain amount. As always, I appreciate your continued support.

Click here to donate on my Pablove fundraising page.

Click here to donate on my Facebook fundraising page.

 

Running 23 Miles in the Aftermath of a Torrential Rainstorm (in Los Angeles)

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So, this past Friday in February 2017 saw Los Angeles get pummeled by the biggest rainstorm it has seen in years. Streets and sidewalks were flooded over, old trees were battered, branches were torn off and left on the road for cars to run over or hopefully swerve around, and hydroplaning was not what it used to be. Turning on the radio, it was no surprise to hear the local station playing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, but I kept praying for someone to play the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” for the sake of some much-needed irony.

Yes, this was the exact same weather I and so many others endured while running the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. It rained hard and the wind blew at us from the side to where hypothermia became a larger threat than heatstroke. The joke was we never ran the 2011 LA Marathon, we swam it. Heck, I joked I was somehow tricked into doing a triathlon instead of a marathon. Sometimes it is fun to run in the rain, but this was a huge exception.

The rainstorm which came down on us Angelinos happened the day before we Team to End AIDS runners were scheduled to run our longest run of the training season: 23 miles. As a result, I got more prepared for this run than usual. I got a new pair of Brooks running shoes, my red poncho which keeps me warm as well as dry, a new water belt which has two water bottles instead of four, and I had my Monsters University hat on as usual. The only thing I was missing was a new pair of compression tights which I really need to get before March.

Some people also took the time to put duct tape on their shoes to ensure their feet wouldn’t get wet. I should have thought of that, but anyway…

Well, the good news was the worst of the storm had pretty much passed us by when we arrived at Griffith Park at 6 a.m., one hour earlier than we usually show up because of this run’s epic length. There was a bit of drizzle, but nothing which we could possibly drown in. Regardless, the most dedicated T2EA runners could be counted on to show up as they are determined to participate come rain or come shine.

I’ve been through this training program several years now, but the 23-mile run always gets me especially anxious. I know I can do it, but I also know the agony I will be forced to endure once I am finished. Coach James reminded us this is our “celebration run,” and we should not treat this as a race in any way, shape, or form. Still, I knew it was going to be hard to celebrate once this run was concluded. Not impossible, but hard.

One thing I definitely kept in mind was to start off slow and not overdo it. It was in our best interest to save energy throughout this run as it is too frackin’ easy to burn out before we got to the halfway point. Also, it was highly likely we would hit “the wall” on this run more than ever before. “The wall” refers to the mental wall we eventually hit during the run where it feels like we can’t possibly run anymore. It doesn’t matter how big of a carbo load dinner or how many pounds of pasta we ate beforehand because we will hit the wall when we least expect it. The trick is to keep going because these 23 miles won’t run themselves, dammit.

For this run, we actually started out on Forest Lawn Drive. This surprised me as I felt the coaches had long since deemed this part off limits. It’s a dangerous stretch of road to run on, especially when it’s early in the morning, because of the blind corners we are forced to go around. There were points where we had to run single file because we have little warning of what could be coming around the curb. We were also running past a cemetery, and this threatens to serve as an omen of the most unwelcome kind.

But we did survive Forest Lawn Drive, otherwise I would not be here writing about this. The run took us through Burbank and Glendale where passed by such sights as Warner Brothers Studio, Disney Studios, and fast food joints with their burgers which are never as appealing as they look on those posters. When we passed mile signs indicating where we were at distance wise, I found myself saying the same thing, “That’s it?” For some bizarre reason, I thought I was going to complete this 23-mile run sooner than later. What the hell is wrong with me anyway?

We had a wealth of volunteers this time out, and they had plenty of water, Gatorade and other assorted goodies for us to fuel up on. I was keen on staying on top of my salt intake because last year, when I did this same run, I came out of it seriously dehydrated to where I was walking like a zombie out of a George Romero movie. Actually, it also didn’t help that I partied hard with a few Jack and Cokes afterwards. I eventually had to go to urgent care and get hooked up to an IV with fluids. Lesson learned.

I did end up eating a handful of Tostitos lime tortilla chips which had more salt in them than any chip I ever had in my life. My mouth was in shock for a few seconds to where I had to drink almost a whole bottle of water. Talk about an assault of the senses! I have never crammed that much salt into my mouth before. I’m not in a hurry to do it again.

During the last half of the run, I ended up falling behind everyone else which was a bummer. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but before I was able to catch up with my fellow runners. This time I was on my own, clinging onto an almost empty bag of Ruffles potato chips I got from the volunteers. It got to where I started to feel like Chevy Chase when he was running around in the desert and getting all delirious in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Granted, I wasn’t actually in the desert, and I wasn’t wearing my jacket as a hat and singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” but I had definitely hit that wall I was talking about earlier.

I wasn’t in immense pain, by my muscles were already very sore to where I wasn’t screaming out in agony, but instead just getting irritated over the fact I couldn’t run any faster. It started to feel like a dream where I was stuck in one place and couldn’t move any further. Whether it was Heather Langenkamp getting stuck on those stairs in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or Patricia Arquette caught in some jelly-like substance in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” I was desperate to increase my velocity before some crazed psycho with knives for fingers started coming after me for not running at my assigned pace.

I did have a map of the course with me and kept looking at it every five seconds. Of course, I lost it as it slipped out of my pocket without me even realizing it until much later. But by then, I knew where I was going, and this is even though I felt like Bugs Bunny and kept wondering if I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

This training season has seen me become the slowest runner on the team. It’s almost embarrassing as I used to be faster than this, but in the end I did cross the finish line. I increased my pace as fast as I could as I came up to the finish line, and there were still many people there to cheer me on as I completed my 23 miles. After I was done, all I wanted to do was sit down forever. The first thing I should have done was stretch out my legs, but I didn’t have the patience to bother.

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The coaches treated us with a feast of sandwiches which included roast beef, turkey with pesto dressing, veggie, and ham and cheese. I had one of each as those calories I had burned off needed to be welcomed back in one way or another. And yes, there was plenty of chocolate milk to go around. Us runners need chocolate milk to recover, almost a gallon it seems.

After all this running madness, I went home and crashed in bed for several hours. As I’ve gotten older, so to speak, naps have become more commonplace for me than ever before. It used to be impossible for me to nap during the day, now it’s far too easy for me to taking advantage of one. I’m starting to miss the days where I had boundless energy. Maybe I should start drinking coffee.

Do I feel good about this 23-mile run? You know what, I shouldn’t even be asking myself this question. I should feel good about it. I crossed the finish line to the delight of all the T2EA team who stayed to watch me do so. But I wonder if I can still cross the finish line with the same amount of gusto which I had in the past when it comes to marathon day. Here’s hoping I will when March comes around.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Thanks to the threat of me running with an oversized Eeyore on this 23-mile run, I went from having raised $729 to $1,044 in a week. After finishing this run, I finally reached my fundraising goal thanks to my brother Ed Mahoney and have now raised $1,129.70 towards AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). But even though I did reach my goal, I still encourage you all to make a donation towards my efforts as every little bit helps those who can no longer help themselves. Even if all you can spare is $5, that will still go a long way. Just click on this ridiculously long paragraph to see how you can help.

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Seven Marathons For One Benjamin

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It’s that time of year again! The time where I get up at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning, put on my running shoes, venture out to Griffith Park in Burbank and not get into any car accidents (none of which would ever be my fault) along the way, and arrive to join up with veteran and newbie runners for another season of training for the Los Angeles Marathon. And as always, I will be training with the great people of Team to End AIDS, a training program and fundraising group which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles.

And in addition to putting on my running shoes, I will be wearing clothes as well.

For those new to my Los Angeles Marathon exploits, this marks the seventh year in a row of me training for it with T2EA. Yes, you read it right, SEVEN YEARS. After running the last one, I began to wonder if it was time to take a break as the last one was more of a struggle than ever before. Despite it being a tiny bit cooler than 2015 and with a nice breeze to aid us, the 2016 LA Marathon had me wondering why I allowed myself to listen to the coaches and not take any Tylenol during it. As I made my way up and down San Vicente Boulevard, I had to stop and get into a crouching position because my legs could not take much more abuse. As for my knees, they gave up arguing with me during year three.

Each year I have trained for the LA Marathon, I found myself doing it for different reasons be it emotional, physical or weight related. Among my goals for LA 2017 is to continue with my weight loss as I joined Weight Watchers a few months back, and I would like to be rid of my spare tire which is my belly once and for all. Also, I want to improve on my time from my last marathon which, in retrospect, was pitiful. I don’t want to say the 2016 LA Marathon was a disappointment, but it was in a sense because it felt like I dragged my ass to the finish line instead of crossing it triumphantly. I did finish the marathon, but I came out of it feeling like things could have gone much better.

But the main reason which finally got me to sign up for another season of marathon training is this is T2EA’s last marathon training season ever. With their fundraising focus now shifting to other areas, they have decided to discontinue this program following the 2017 LA Marathon. As a result, missing out on this particular season would be, as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, a “BIG MISTAKE.” Unsurprisingly, this first day of training proved to be bittersweet, but it will be quite the adventure all the same.

And once again, I will be raising $1,100 for APLA, and I encourage you, my fellow readers, to donate a few bucks to help me reach my fundraising goal. Please click here to find out how you can make a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation.

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While JC is back and still hating pickles, he has stepped down as the marathon coach and has passed the baton to a new coach, James Hawthorn. He is a 17-time marathon runner, and he has finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours. Learning of this makes him seem rather intimidating, but he assured us he wasn’t expecting anyone to run LA as fast as he ran Boston.

Kerry, T2EA’s Director of Endurance Events, told us they were changing things up this season as he found everyone was getting a little lazy with training these past few years to where we developed bad habits like arriving at Griffith Park late. I myself got to Griffith Park this morning at a quarter to 7 a.m. which is when we start. Have I ever arrived late in the past? I don’t have to answer that.

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Coach James started us off with a crouching stretch which served to loosen everyone up, and he told us to make sure we lead with our butts and not our knees as we pretended to sit down in an imaginary chair. I did lead with my butt, by my knees wanted in as they wanted some kind of feeling for themselves. The way my knees see it, why should my butt have all the fun?

Today’s run gave us two options: we could run 5 miles or 3. When it comes to these choices, my gut usually tells me to run the longer distance. C’mon, I have run the Los Angeles Marathon six years in a row. I’ve got this training thing down. 5 miles is a piece of cake to me! So yes, I only ran 3.

The truth is I haven’t kept up with the running since the 2016 LA Marathon, so once again I feel like I’m starting over because, well, I am. As I ran from Griffith Park to the Gene Autry Museum, which is 1.5 miles, my legs felt like concrete bricks which I dragged over the asphalt. I used to run like I was light on my feet, but I haven’t been svelte in such a long time. But the good news is I did use Runkeeper to keep track of my time, and I finished the 3 miles in forty minutes.

In past years I have run in the 13-minute pace group, but today I ended up in the 15-minute group. It feels like I’ve been downgraded, but then again I haven’t run on a regular basis in some time. Still, as my fellow veteran marathoners pointed out, it gives me something to work for. As the training season progresses, I can always move up to a faster pace group if I put in the effort. This is only the beginning, and I have nowhere to go but up.

Coach James concluded our first day by conducting a stretching clinic. It involved stretches I am not altogether familiar with, so I hope I did them correctly. If I didn’t do them correctly, I still hope some part of my body got stretched out (and not just my knees).

Despite whatever problems arose, this training season has gotten off to a strong start. The weather was perfect in that it was not too hot and not too cold, and we have yet to feel the full force of the fall and winter seasons (assuming they will ever arrive in Southern California). And when all is said and done, Scott Boliver’s tree continues to grow beautifully in Griffith Park.

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HELP A BROTHER OUT: Like I said, I am doing this marathon to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles, a renowned non-profit group which has spent many years helping those who have been afflicted by this terrible disease we will one day conquer. I invite you all to make a tax-deductible donation to this group so that they can continue to help those who can no longer help themselves. Just click here to find out how you can help. By the way, check out the video below.