Los Angeles Marathon Number 9, Number 9, Number 9, Number 9…

Pablove 2019 Week One 1

“Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9…”

-from “Revolution 9” by The Beatles

This is what should have been playing on my alarm clock this morning.

It’s that time of year again. Another Halloween has come and gone, and you know what that means. The weather in Southern California finally begins to get colder and summer has finally overstayed its welcome. Granted, as I write this, it’s now mid-afternoon and a balmy 80 degrees outside, but I still prefer to wear jeans instead of shorts regardles. And yes, daylight savings time is about to end, but while I look forward to the extra hour of sleep, seeing the evenings look like midnight when it is only 5 or 6 pm has never sat well with me. I’m sick of the day feeling over before it actually is over.

But most importantly, it is now time to start training again for the Los Angeles Marathon. Just when I thought the time had come to take a break, the pull of running 26.2 miles through the streets of an ethnically diverse city where complete strangers cheer you on remains very strong even as my knees doth protest. Once again, I will wake up at an ungodly hour on Saturday mornings to run through Griffith Park, Burbank and other parts of North Hollywood for the next several weeks to increase my endurance for a run many of my friends have convinced themselves they could never do. If I had a nickel for every time someone I knew told me, “I can’t even run a mile,” I’d own a Volkswagen Passat… Wait a minute, I do own a Volkswagen Passat…

And once again, I will be raising money for The Pablove Foundation which continues its mission to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

As usual, I waited until the last second to sign up. To be honest, today is the first day I have been running since the 2018 LA Marathon, and seven or eight months ago. I meant to start training several weeks beforehand, but I got waylaid by the common cold which made it harder than usual for me to get out of bed, and it is usually very hard to haul my ass out of bed on a regular basis. It proved to be especially frustrating because I never get sick, ever. Seriously, ask anybody. Damn post nasal drip!

Anyway, I jumped out of bed, got all my running gear together, spread an obscene amount of anti-chafe cream all over my body, put on lots of sunscreen (Neutrogena sunscreen is the best), consumed a Promax chocolate cookie dough protein bar, drank the last of the grape flavored generic Pedialyte beverage I left in the fridge, and I opened up a can of Celsius to give me a boost of energy. From there, I exited my apartment building with an enthusiasm I usually lack on a daily basis and jumped into my car and drove out to Griffith Park to start another year of marathon training, and the second in support of The Pablove Foundation which continues its brave fight against pediatric cancer.

While I made my way into Burbank, I listened to the soundtrack for the new “Halloween” movie composed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. Now listening to the film score to a movie about a psychotic killer coming back to a small town to kill unsuspecting residents while going off to start training for a marathon may seem a little strange, but hey, whatever works…

It was a relatively cold morning in Griffith Park when I arrived, and Coach Kerry was already on the scene addressing the troops. Like last year, the turnout of runners proved to be small yet intimate, and it was great to see familiar faces like Esther and Glendale who were all smiles. I also got to say hi to Jasmine who I ran the 2018 LA Marathon with and who managed to complete it despite suffering from the flu. In a Facebook post, I told everyone I was coming back, but that my first run would probably be terrible as I haven’t been running much recently. Jasmine replied, “I’m with you Ben, I’m going to be slower than tectonic plate shifts.” Of course, out here in California, tectonic plate shifts could be even slower than they already are.

Pablove 2019 Week One 2

Coaching us this season is Joaquin, a Team to End AIDS veteran who may speak softly, but he is dedicated to get us across the finish line next March and feeling happy about it. After doing a few warm up exercises, us Pablove runners started off and headed towards the Gene Autry Museum. Those running a half marathon only had to run two miles, but us full marathoners ran four instead. Maybe I should be doing just the half at this point in my life, but I am always overly ambitious when it comes to running.

Pablove 2019 Week One 3

Truth be told, I did much better than I thought I would. I started off at an easy pace and kept myself at 3:1 (running three minutes, and then walking for one minute). I managed to keep my fellow Pablove runners in my sights for the most part, and it gave me the illusion I was better prepared than I expected.

I got to the turn around point, and yes, that darn Bonnie Tyler song started playing in my head. I managed to shut its depressing melody down in my mind as I made my way back to the starting point. As I made my way back, I started to get a bit winded to where my walking breaks could not come soon enough. Still, despite my weight making me slower than usual, I still hauled my ass all the way over to the finish line. Even better, many of my fellow Pablove runners were still around to cheer my return. Last season, they were all gone by the time I made it back, and the only ones left were the coaches who must have been wondering if I would ever show up.

I came into this run thinking it is just four miles, and this time it really was just four miles. Short runs can be deceiving for a marathon veteran as what seems like a piece of cake can be anything but. Now the first run is done, and I have to make a commitment to train even harder than ever before. It’s not just going to come down to two 30 to 45-minute maintenance runs a week. It also has to include cardio exercises each day whether its at the local gym or working out with my Nintendo Wii Fit or Wii Sports boxing. Hey, don’t laugh at the latter. I know a guy who lost 60 pounds working out to Wii Sports boxing on a regular basis.

So, here’s to another season of marathon training come rain or come shine, and here’s to me taking on the LA Marathon for the ninth year in a row. Lou Bega has “Mambo No. 5,” and I have marathon number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9…

Once again, I will be running this marathon in support of The Pablove Foundation and am aiming to raise $1,500 for the organization. Please click here to learn how you can make a tax-deductible donation.

The following song I dedicate to my fellow Pablove runners as it contains a message they will hopefully understand.

Photos courtesy of Kerry Quakenbush.

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Back in the Marathon Saddle Again!

2015 LA Marathon training day one

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written in 2014.

It’s back in the saddle again! Four times wasn’t enough for me, so now I’m back training for the Los Angeles Marathon for the fifth year in a row. Training with Team to End AIDS began again on October 18, 2014, and I actually found myself eager to get up early in the morning for a change. All my running clothes still seem to fit and haven’t developed any holes, so I don’t need to get new threads just yet. However, I think I should consider getting some new running socks.

For once I got to the running site with plenty of time to spare. I was eager to catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while and to greet the coaches who always approach the start of a training season with a wealth of enthusiasm. It was great to see Coach JC Fernandez, Kerry Quakenbush and Dene Preston back in action as they welcomed us with the usual speeches about fundraising goals and what to expect this time around when it comes to training. We were also reminded again of how territorial the bike riders are when they’re out on the road, and this was before we began running.

Scott Boliver tree 2014

One of the best sights to take in when I arrived at the park was the tree planted in the memory of Scott Boliver, our former marathon coach who left this world far too soon. It was planted on the grounds a few months ago, and it continues to grow tall. It’s a wonderful tribute to a man who inspired us all.

When it came to reuniting with friends I have trained with in the past, I got to meet up with Chris who I ran the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon with, and this is the first marathon he has trained for in a couple of years. I also got to catch up with Kerry who, along with me, survived the vicious monsoon which was the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. A lot of our run together had us reminiscing about the memories of that exceedingly wet day, the kind which, ironically, we could use a lot of right now in California so we can get over this drought. Yes, leaping over the puddles back then was impossible as they quickly became rivers we could only hope to levitate over (if only such a thing were possible).

It also proved to be a throwback to that training season which had us running through a snowy Burbank when frost began forming on our clothes to where steam was coming off of them on our last few miles. It says a lot about us 2011 Los Angeles Marathon veterans that we came back for another marathon after it because it proved to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions (or a “shittacular” as others described it). For me, it was my first full marathon and a time to realize how wearing cotton sweats was completely counterproductive.

Today’s run was a simple one to determine which pace group we would be running in for the next few months. We ran two miles through the streets of Griffith Park, and we were encouraged to run at a comfortable pace to where we didn’t fund ourselves huffing and puffing. I did well for a guy who has kind of let myself go since the last marathon I ran, and I never ran faster than I needed to. After the last marathon, my hope was to run in other events around Los Angeles or in other parts of California, but this didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. Now certain parts of my body are much bigger than they should be, and they are not the parts I am eager to see increase in size. Hopefully I can trim a few pounds off my aging body before marathon day in 2015.

When I got to the finish line, I asked Coach JC how badly I did (jokingly of course). He said I did fine and that I would be back in the 13-mile pace group. This sounds perfectly fine to me, and it means I will be again running at a pace of 3:1; running for three minutes and then walking for one. It soon turned out to be the most popular pace group as those who were in the 14 or 15 groups found themselves merging their way into ours. I guess we 13-minute runners are still the hip crowd to hang out with!

So, the easy work is done. Next week we will be running three miles and then increasing our mileage from there. I’m looking forward to another great marathon training season.

2015 LA Marathon CEO addressing the troops

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE: This marked the fifth time I trained for the Los Angeles Marathon. I am now training for it again, and this time marks the eighth year in a row I have taken on this admittedly insane challenge. This year, I am running it in support of The Pablove Foundation, an organization formed with the determination to find a cure for pediatric cancer. My fundraising goal is $1,500, and to date I have raised $306. I could really use your help, and invite you to make a tax-deductible donation to this wonderful organization. I thank you for your support.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND TO MAKE A DONATION.

A Tough Pablove Run for Me

Pablove 2018 December 9 run

I have trained for the Los Angeles Marathon seven years in a row, and this marks the eighth year I have trained for it. Still, I am constantly reminded of how it doesn’t matter that I am a hardened marathon veteran because I can still screw myself up when it comes to training. This week’s run had us going 12 miles through Burbank and Glendale, and we even ran up and down Forest Lawn Drive which goes right past the cemetery of the same name. I point this out because the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, and it can be ever so easy to become roadkill like all those skunks which were left to rot on Highway 1.

I managed to get one maintenance run in this past week as Southern California was ravaged by brush fires which laid waste to the hills overlooking the 405 freeway, and they came very close to decimating the Getty Center. As a result, the air quality in the Los Angeles area was a lot worse than usual, and it’s never been great to begin with. John Carpenter made a movie years ago called “The Fog,” and I am still waiting for him to make the inevitable sequel, “The Smog.”

I keep telling people how there’s nothing like a hot summer day in December as the weather in Los Angeles has become unseasonably warm on a regular basis to where I am thrilled we start our runs at 7 a.m. in the morning. It also gives us a huge incentive to finish our runs before the sun rises all the way up in the sky as the heat only serves to slow us down and steal our energy.

After freezing our butts off in the frigid morning, we started our run and, as usual, I did my best to keep up with everyone else. It was around mile four or five when my fellow Pablove runners had vanished from my sight and left me in their vapor trails. From there, I just kept running and became more dependent on those walking breaks.

At one point as I was running along Riverside Drive, I passed by a tree where birds were squawking like crazy. It was like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” especially the one when Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor and everyone else are hiding in the house, and all you can hear is the furious sound of the flying beasts as they battle their way inside. I wonder how the residents of Toluca Lake put up with these birds as they serve as a desperately unwanted alarm clock on a Saturday morning.

This marks the first run in years I have done with this group which had us running up Forest Lawn Drive. We are always encouraged to run against traffic as we are far more visible to those driving their Honda Accords or Volkswagen Jettas at 45 miles an hour, at least, but I found myself eager to get to the other side of the road as I felt more in danger than usual. Like I said before, this street goes right past the cemetery of the same name, and this adds to my always heightened awareness of my own mortality and of the mortality of skunks who failed to look both ways when crossing Highway One.

But an even bigger challenge faced me once I arrived back at Griffith Park, going up the hill to the park’s back side. This hill can feel never ending. Once you get to the top, you realized you haven’t. All you can do is keep huffing and puffing as the grade increases more and more to where you wonder why God created hills in the first place.

After making it over the hill, I found myself taking more walk breaks to usual. It got to where I started yelling out “fuck” whenever I started walking again as I felt like I was failing myself and my fellow runners. I wanted to finish strong, but now I found myself almost begging for Coach James to give me a ride back to our starting point.

Nevertheless, I made it to the finish line even though it felt I liked I limped toward it. All I could wonder at this point was, am I even taking my training seriously? Am I risking failure in an effort to remind myself of the things I need to do? Will I ever be able to keep up with the other runners to where some will still be around waiting for me when I finally cross the finish line?

Well, let’s talk about what I will do before next Saturday’s run. I will do at least two maintenance runs of 30 to 45 minutes each, I will stay hydrated and increase my intake of electrolytes as they are more than just an R.E.M. song off of “New Adventures in Hi-Fi,” and I will stay away from the booze more often than I don’t. Granted, it helps to have a Jack and Coke, if not two, these days when Donald Trump wreaks havoc in the White House or on Twitter, but it does kinda get in the way of running multiple miles through Burbank and Glendale.

Nevertheless, I did cross the finish line, and this is all that really matters. I am not out to set a new land speed record, and any chance of doing so has long since passed me by. This is about running through the streets of Los Angeles and seeing how an event like a marathon can bring so many strangers together. It is an amazing sight, one which I hope you will all get to witness sooner than later. Having witnessed so many marathon runners going past my apartment ten years ago, it proved to be an inspiration and got me to put my running shoes on for the first time in years.

The Pablove Foundatrion logo

But more importantly, I am doing this in support of a wonderful non-profit organization, The Pablove Foundation. This organization, which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer, recently held a gallery show in Los Angeles to show off the incredible photographs taken by the children, ages ranging from 7 to 15, whom are referred to as “Pablove Shutterbugs.” The photos they took are incredible, and I would love to take some classes Pablove offers to learn of their secrets. Shooting a photograph might be a simple thing, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Click here to see some of the photographs from the Pablove Los Angeles Gallery Show.

Tyler Peek a Boo Pablove photo

This photo is entitled “Peek-a-Boo,” and it was taken by Tyler who is 10-years-old.

In short, I ain’t giving up and I’m not throwing in the towel. There’s always room for improvement, and everyone will see this improvement next week, and that’s even if I still finish last.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: With my fundraising and Facebook pages combined, I have now raised $280 towards my goal of $1,500 for The Pablove Foundation. The end of 2017 is rapidly approaching, so be sure to get those tax-deductible donations in before the ball drops in Times Square. With this disastrous tax bill going through the Senate right now, there will never be a better time to stick it to the man. Click here to see how you can make a donation.

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.

The Pablove Foundatrion logo

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.

 

What’s Pablove Got To Do With It?

Pablove 2018 first day

It’s that time of year again. Or, more correctly, it is a little past that time of year when I start training for the Los Angeles Marathon. The group I train with usually starts up in October, leaving us time to decide what to wear for our Halloween costume run, but instead, we began on November 5, 2017, and this is not the only thing which has changed. For the past seven years, I have trained with Team to End AIDS for the LA Marathon which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles. APLA, however, decided to end their endurance training program as they are redirecting their fundraising focus, and Coach Kerry has since left the organization and is now working with another non-profit called The Pablove Foundation. Essentially, it is still the same group of people I am training with, but now we are fundraising for a different non-profit whose aims are as important as APLA’s.

The Pablove Foundatrion logo

So, what is The Pablove Foundation? Coach Kerry was very excited to tell us all about it, and his enthusiasm for this organization proved to be contagious. The Pablove Foundation was founded in 2009 by Jo Ann Thrailkill, Jeff Castelaz, and Grady Gallagher in honor of their son and brother Pablo Castelaz Thrailkill. In 2008, Pablo was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms Tumor, a very rare form of childhood cancer. His family was determined to help Pablo beat cancer or, as out late Coach Scott Boliver would say, “slay the dragon.” Pablo’s cancer went into remission, but he was denied the childhood anyone and everyone deserves as it came back with a bitter vengeance, and he died a mere six days after his sixth birthday. As I have heard time and time again, there is nothing worse than outliving your child, so I can only imagine the pain and infinite heartache Pablo’s family were forced to deal with in the wake of his passing.

But the memory of Pablo lives on through this organization which aims to invest in underfunded, cutting-edge pediatric cancer research, and to improving the lives of children with cancer through the arts. Coach Kerry even told us about the photography classes they teach to the kids, and this makes me look forward to the exhibit of their work which will take place soon. In short, Kerry made it sound like a fantastic non-profit everyone should donate to, and I am proud to be fundraising for it.

Cancer has robbed me of many people I am glad to have known in my life like Scott Boliver, Grant Martin, and Gino England and, like AIDS, it is an indiscriminate disease which lays waste to the human body in a most devastating way. Sooner or later, I knew I was going to support an organization created to fight cancer, and The Pablove Foundation is an excellent one to start with.

This year’s group is much smaller compared to the T2EA endurance programs of the past, but perhaps it will make things more intimate to where we can get increased instruction on our training. It was good to run into longtime friends like Glendale and Stephen, and we reveled in the fact that we survived another furiously hot summer which overstayed its welcome in Southern California all the way through October.

Our first run was 5.5 miles, and it was relegated to inside Griffith Park. The coaches instructed us to run to the sheriff’s station and then turn around, and it was very straightforward to where no maps needed to be handed out. Coach James, returning for another year to trains us crazy runners, advised us to run at a conversational pace. If we found ourselves huffing and puffing at any point, we were doing it wrong.

Pablove 2018 team picture

I’m proud to say I got a couple of 30 to 45 minute runs in before our first training run, and I like to think I was more prepared than usual. Even though it was still cold, I tossed my Nike jacket to the side as I figured things would warm up quickly. Things certainly did heat up as we made our way down Zoo Drive towards the Gene Autry Museum. I watched as my fellow runners ran at a confident and conversational pace, and I kept watching them as they faded from my sight.

Once again, I found myself running solo as everyone clearly took the time to do more cardio exercises than me. While training for the 2017 LA Marathon, I typically found myself finishing dead last on a regular basis to where I felt the need to apologize to the coaches even though it was never necessary.

I decided to run at a 3:1 pace, meaning I ran for three minutes, and then I walked for one. In retrospect, it would have been better if I ran at a 2:2 pace as it would have kept me from feeling winded during the last mile or so. By writing this down, I guess you could say I wasn’t running at a conversational pace. Of course, when everyone is getting further and further away, the only conversations I end up having are with myself, and they can be nuts!

I did catch myself crossing my arms in front of me instead of keeping them to the side, so I did my best to remain conscious of how easy it is to slip into bad habits. It doesn’t matter how many of these marathons I do because they are always filled with additional challenges I foolishly thought I had conquered in the past.

Each marathon training season starts off the same for me. No matter how many times I do this, it always feels like I am starting over from scratch. I now feel this is an inevitable feeling as it can be too easy to give up on running, let alone exercising, after I cross the finish line. Plus, running in triple digit temperatures is not altogether appealing.

Please believe me when I say I am super serious about training harder than I have in the last few years. Having been a LA Marathon veteran for some time now, my confidence in knowing I can cross the finish line has gotten to be too much. I come into training season wanting to improve my time or to lose weight, and I haven’t succeeded in either. Hopefully, this year will provide me with different and beneficial results.

I have changed up my eating habits a lot over the past few months to where I thrive on eating egg white cheese omelets with added vegies and imitation crab meat. The protein keeps me feeling full, and feels good to know I am really cutting down on calories. Of course, I had to give up breakfast cereal as Golden Grahams became far too addictive for my own good, but maybe someday I’ll allow myself to go haywire and munch on those again.

So, the first week of marathon training is complete. Next up, I will be running 2 to 3 runs during the week and getting in extra cardio training whenever I can. Trust me, the boxing game on Wii Sports is a serious calorie burner.

Ben Kenber finishing 23 miles in Feb 2017

WRITER/RUNNER NOTE: This marathon training season, I will be raising $1,500 for The Pablove Foundation. Please click here to learn how you can donate and, yes, it is tax deductible. Thanks again for your support.

Click here to visit The Pablove Foundation website.

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

ben-kenber-finishing-23-miles-in-feb-2017

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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Hardwired… To Run 12 Miles

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For some bizarre reason, it slipped my mind that Metallica’s latest album, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” came out this week. As soon as I saw it on display at the Barnes & Noble store located at The Grove in Los Angeles, I immediately purchased it along with the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of “Boyhood.” Could I have bought Metallica’s newest album at a cheaper price elsewhere? Perhaps, but I’ve been a big fan of this heavy metal band ever since the “Black Album.” I have been playing “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” on my car’s CD player endlessly since I bought it, and the first track was playing loudly as I drove out to Griffith Park for another run with Team to End AIDS.

In the name of desperation

In the name of wretched pain

In the name of all creation

Gone insane

We’re so fucked

Shit outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct”

It’s interesting to listen to those lyrics in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising, and infuriating, victory of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election. Also, I have endured my share of wretched pain I have ran the LA Marathon, and yet I still find a reason to run it yet again.

Today had us running 12 miles as well as traversing over the punishing hill on Crystal Springs Drive. And let’s not forget the other hill we had to ascend on Grandview Avenue. We can complain about running up these hills all we want, but when it comes to the LA Marathon, and we were reminded of this during the recent AIDS Walk, there will be hills. As much as we want to avoid them, they are inevitable and not worth avoiding.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, and I will plead the fifth as to what those circumstances were, I arrived at Griffith Park later than I should have. When I got there, everyone had already started and I was cursing at myself for being left behind. I passed by JC who was quick to remark how I arrived just in the nick of time, and I couldn’t disagree with him on that even if I wanted to. I was peeved I had somehow ended up in this position which I promised I wouldn’t this training season, but Coach Jennifer assured me it was okay as everyone has those moments. She even attempted to drive me out to where my pace group was at so I could join them, but I’m still in the process of learning everyone’s names and faces. She ended up dropping me off at the foot of the hill on Crystal Springs Drive, and in the end, that’s exactly where I needed to start.

You would think after all these years I would have mastered running up the Crystal Springs hill, but I had to keep reminding myself to run a slower pace as I seemed determined to run up this hill so I could get it over with. But with all the running and puffing I was doing, I kept remembering the whole point of this training was to run at a conversational pace, so I had to keep slowing down to make sure I was doing just that. When I finally got to the top, it kind of felt like I was on a wooden roller coaster which was clicking along endlessly until gravity started taking over. Having said that, I did watch myself as I ran downhill. While as kids we loved to let ourselves run wild at any given opportunity, running downhill at warp speed was never going to be to my benefit. This is how nasty injuries occur.

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As I headed on through the depths of Griffith Park, I kept hoping to come across Robin Russell who loves to play his drums in this region of it. The rhythm he loves to play at always help on an especially challenging run like this, but he was probably busy on this particular Saturday morning because he was nowhere to be found. Not to worry though, we are all bound to run into Robin at some point during this training season.

Because I didn’t arrive at the same time as my fellow runners, I ended up running these 12 miles mostly by myself. It’s a good thing I had a map on me, otherwise I could have run in the wrong direction despite my best efforts to avoid such a spectacularly stupid fate. Throughout the run, I kept wondering if a 3:1 pace was really working for me. Some of my fellow pace group runners felt more comfortable going at a 3:2 pace, and I started to wonder if I should do the same. It’s always my intention, when it comes to training with T2EA for the LA Marathon, to run faster than I have in the past. But with my advancing age, something I am safe to say I don’t resemble on a physical level, I owe it to myself to take it easy to where I don’t criticize myself as much. If this means slowing down, then that’s not something worth complaining about.

This particular morning was a cold one, and I found myself wearing a jacket in months, maybe even a year. When I got out of the car, it was still quite frigid, but with the sun already rising in the distance, I figured things would heat up very quickly as Southern California loves to stay unseasonably warm. Indeed, it soon turned into a ridiculously warm November day to where I wondered if California had suddenly moved closer to the Equator alongside Hawaii. Still, it felt like a risk not to leave my jacket on. Out here, we are so used to it never being this cold, ever.

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Coach James was on hand at the Boliver water stop to dispense good advice, and he encouraged me to look into getting Gatorade Endurance Formula. This formula is different from the regular Gatorade which is so easy to find at your local Ralphs Supermarket, and you have to order it online to get it. Considering this is the same formula given to runners on the marathon route, it is something I really should look into getting. Still, why is it only available online? Geez, this is like Indiana Jones trying to track down the Ark of the Covenant.

So, Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and I will be out of town. My plan is to keep up with my cardio exercises as well as my maintenance runs. Where I am going, you can bet I will be doing A LOT of walking at the very least. Plus, with all the delicious food I will end up eating (my dad and my brother are fantastic cooks), I will have more than enough calories to burn off and Alka Seltzer to keep the massive heartburn at bay.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Please click here to find out more about AIDS Project Los Angeles which I am running the LA Marathon in support of.

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.