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.

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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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Tears Shed During The 20-Mile Pablove Training Run

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So, the last few weeks of Los Angeles Marathon training have proven to be frustrating for me. During our 18-mile run, I lost my cell phone which I mistakenly believed was safe and secure in my arm band, and I was forced to retrace my steps to where I had to abandon the run to find it. Thankfully, the police found my phone and took it to their station in Downtown Los Angeles where I recovered it. As for our 8-mile recovery run which took place the following week, those of us who bothered to show up (three or four people aside from the coaches) decided to cancel it as the rain and cold wind proved to be an unwelcome combination. Those of us who ran, or rather swam, the 2011 LA Marathon can attest to how rain and wind serves to make running a miserable experience as hypothermia becomes more of a problem than heat stroke.

The weather proved to be just as unforgiving this past weekend as rain blanketed much of Los Angeles on the morning of our longest run yet, 20 miles. As much as we would have liked to postpone it due to bad weather, we all knew we had to grin and bear it and go with the US Postal Service motto of how “neither rain nor snow” could keep us from doing our duty.

When my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., it sounded so peaceful outside my window as I dragged myself out of bed and got my running gear on. But as I began applying anti-chafe cream over my body, I started to hear what sounded like water going through a pipe in my building which I assumed was the result of someone taking a shower next door. But no, the rain was coming down again, and it was coming down hard. I sighed as I put on an extra layer of clothing to combat the cold weather I knew I would be dealing with, and I showed no hesitation in putting on a poncho as well. Lord knows I was going to need it.

Once again, I was the first person to show up at the Pablove meeting site in Griffith Park, but I stayed in my car as the rain was still pouring down hard. The coaches and other runners showed up soon after, but even they were not in a hurry to exit their vehicles. Once Coach Joaquin got out of his, the rest of us followed suit, but I brought my umbrella with me to keep from getting doused before I started pounding the pavement. One of the runners asked if I was planning on taking my umbrella with me on this run, and I replied no. Granted, I think he meant what he said as a joke.

Just as we were about to start, I went back to my car and put my umbrella away. Once I did so, I noticed all the other Pablove runners had taken off without me. I was hoping they would wait, but considering we were starting this run an hour early due to its double-digit length, time was not about to wait for any Pablove runner. As I got underway, another runner arrived at Griffith Park a bit late and ran alongside me. However, it didn’t take long for him to leave me in the dust to where I started singing Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” to myself.

Our route took us to the treacherous street known as Forest Lawn Drive which has a number of blind spots where cars race by at 45 miles an hour, and it also goes right by a cemetery which always feels like a bad omen.  While we always run against traffic, it was decided we should run with it as the other side of the street was flooded to where we would be doused by cars looking to splash unsuspecting pedestrians even as they ran the risk of hydroplaning.

But the beauty of it all was that, as we made our way to Forest Lawn Drive, the rain suddenly stopped. Not only that, the sun began to break through the clouds. I would like to think the weather gods saw us running, recognized me and said, “Hey, you ran the 2011 LA Marathon. Okay, I’ll go easy on you. This weather must bring back bad memories.” As much as we need the rain in California, it was nice to have a break.

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Once I made it to Barham Boulevard, I ran up a hill which, like any other, wiped me out very quickly to where my walk breaks lasted longer than they should have. From there, I made a left on Lake Hollywood and ran up to the reservoir, a place I have not run through or around before during marathon training. I was excited at the opportunity to run an unfamiliar place. My enthusiasm, however, was tempered a bit by a sign at the fence in front of me.

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The “Keep Me Wild” sign piqued my interest, especially with the mountain lion pictured on it. I know I am not as fast as I used to be, so the chances of escaping an animal who sees me as little more than lunch are not very good to say the least. I kept thinking of the scene from “The Edge,” a terrific character drama starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, in which a character talks about how to avoid being attacked by a bear: put your hands up in the air, look it right in the eye and back away slowly. Of course, it was a bear he was talking about. I’m not sure the same applies to a mountain lion.

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I decided to run at a pace of 3:1 as my plan was to finish this run without feeling completely fatigued. Aside from the coaches, there weren’t many familiar faces to pass by on this route. I thought about bringing one of my iPods with me so I could listen to music, but since this day started off with a lot of rain, I figured it was best to leave it behind.

Upon arriving back at Griffith Park, I ran into Coach Kerry who informed me I was running at a pace slower than 15 minutes a mile to where everyone else was now two miles ahead of me. As a result, he advised me to turn around as soon as I reached the other runners or at least when I passed the LA Zoo. I wanted to complete all 20 miles, but Coach Kerry said he didn’t have the resources to ensure my safety at this point, so I obliged him and promised to turn around sooner rather than later.

It was at this point my mood descended to a place of utter frustration. This was also complicated by me dwelling on traumatic events from the past which were suddenly reawakened in my conscious mind. I’m not going into the exact details, but they were driving me insane even as I went about the days acting like nothing was wrong. Furthermore, my knees were hurting more than usual. Granted, I should have expected many parts of my body to get sore on a long run like this, but it worsened my already pathetic mood. Once I passed the LA Zoo, I just gave up and started dragging myself back to the starting spot.

I couldn’t even get myself to run anymore as I wondered if I was really taking marathon training seriously anymore. Just because I am a veteran, does this mean I can wing it as if my body will always remember what is involved in this endurance event? How could I have fallen so far behind everyone else? This is not supposed to be a lonely time for me, is it? Soon after, I found myself crying. I was miserable and felt like I was letting everyone down.

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Eventually, Coach Joaquin caught up to me, and as much as I tried to put on a happy face, I just couldn’t do it. I broke down in tears in front of him, and he encouraged me to let it all out. He also told me to “be a man,” but he didn’t mean that in the way most men do. It wasn’t about putting on a strong face and not crying. It was about acknowledging how I felt to where I could deal with my depressed feelings. Clearly I was having a bad day, let alone a bad week, and pretending like nothing was wrong would have been harmful more than anything else. Joaquin told me tomorrow was another day which I come into with a better mood, and that things will be better before I knew it.

Still, as I stood by my lonesome at Griffith Park, I couldn’t hide my sadness as it felt like my body was failing me in a way which was irreversible. Coach Kerry also took notice of my mood and reminded me of all the hard work I have done over these past nine years, and he even said he just started running again for the first time in two years and ended up injuring himself in the process. Also, he said I could always do the half-marathon instead of the full LA Marathon this March as he has yet to register everyone and encouraged me to take the day to think about it. He reminded me of how people have good and bad marathon seasons, and that there was no shame if I decided to do the half instead. I could still run on marathon day.

While I rewarded myself with Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal at my local McDonald’s, my mood had only brightened so much as I still felt kind of separate from the rest of the Pablove runners. It even made me wonder if all the marathons I had done previously meant much in the eyes of my fellow teammates and coaches. I know it helps to be humble, but I want my accomplishments to have more meaning than they already do.

Coach Kerry told me to take a day and think about if I wanted to run the half marathon instead of the full LA Marathon this March. As I tried to have a debate with myself on this, I realized I had already made up my mind. I got in touch with Kerry and told him I will be running the half marathon instead since I was falling behind constantly, and also because me knees were feeling the strain more than ever before (I spent most of Saturday with ice packs on them).

So, this will be the first time in years I won’t be running the full Los Angeles Marathon. While this feels a bit frustrating and disappointing, it is all for the best. I will still be there on March 24th pounding the pavement, and I will still be raising money for The Pablove Foundation as their fight against pediatric cancer rages on. To date, I have raised $652 dollars towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. Please only donate what you can.

And yes, there is no shame in a man crying. Trust me, I have been proving this to be the case for decades.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION TO THE PABLOVE FOUNDATION.

Running 16 Miles While Los Angeles Gets Pounded With Rainstorms

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It was raining surprisingly hard in Los Angeles the night before our latest Pablove run. Getting a decent night’s sleep was rather difficult as the rain was LOUD and quickly brought back memories of when I ran the 2011 LA Marathon. That was the first full marathon I ever ran, and those who survived it will always refer to it always as “the monsoon marathon.” The joke was we didn’t run it, we swam it as the rain poured down on us with no sympathy whatsoever, and a harsh wind blew at us from the side which made things even worse. Instead of heat stroke, we had to worry about hypothermia.

These memories rushed through my head as I got ready to drive out to Griffith Park in Burbank. We were going to run 16 miles, so the effort to keep dry was of the upmost necessity. Granted, we need whatever rainstorms we can get in California, and this is regardless of whether or not we are dealing with a drought. Sometimes I look at those heavy clouds in the sky to where I want to yell at them, “Hey, pretend this is Seattle!”

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For the record, I arrived at Griffith Park 20 minutes before the clock struck 7:00 am, and Coach Joaquin said I could go ahead if I wanted to. Instead, I wanted to wait up for my fellow runners so I could start with them. Things however were complicated by my sudden need to go to the bathroom. That Promax chocolate chip cookie dough energy bar went right through me, and I didn’t want to start running while carrying an extra load if you know what I mean. I drove to the nearest portable toilet which was several yards away to, you know, drop the kids in the pool. When I returned, more of my fellow Pablove runners had shown up and were ready to go.

I did have my red poncho on, but there was big rip in it in the chest area, and I was concerned it would not keep me dry as a result. Fortunately, Coach Joaquin had brought several supplies including some emergency ponchos. As I took off my red poncho to put on a new one, my fellow Pablove runner Jasmine said, “Don’t take that off! It’s freezing!” It may not be negative 40 degrees in Burbank, but yeah, it was especially frigid this Saturday morning. But by the time I put the poncho on, and finding the right opening for the head was a little challenging, my fellow Pablove runners had already taken off. I was bummed I didn’t get to start with them as it meant I would be running all by myself once again.

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Now this 16-mile run was originally supposed to take us outside of Griffith Park and onto the streets of Burbank, and this included Forest Lawn Drive which is always one of the most dangerous streets to run on. The fact it goes by a cemetery makes it all the more dangerous, let alone ominous. But with the streets being especially wet, Coach Joaquin changed the route to something he described as being far more “boring.” Fearing we would get splashed by oncoming cars which would revel in driving through water puddles against their better judgment, he kept our route inside the confines of Griffith Park. The upside? No hills.

Going into this run, I did have a pain of sorts in my right foot. For some bizarre reason, I fell into the unneeded habit of walking on the side of my foot to where I struggled in my maintenance runs during the week. I wasn’t in agony or anything, but I was feeling hobbled by this inescapable irritation I felt as I ran in my neighborhood while listening to the latest episode of “The Ralph Report.”

As I ran through Griffith Park and avoided the wet leaves on the ground which are ever so easy to slip on, the irritation in my right foot was there in a way I could not consciously ignore. I began to wonder if I should cut this run short as the risk of injuring myself was higher than usual. At the same time, this is the longest run we have gone on to date, and I am not a fan of cutting any run short, and that’s even if doing so is for my own benefit.

While running, I came across the much younger runners of the group Students Run LA. Seeing their thin and healthy bodies proved to be a cruel reminder of how my body is nowhere as svelte as it used to be. I just hate, once we get past the age of (expletive deleted) years old, that our metabolism is not at all what it used to be. The world can be far too cruel to us as we get older.

Coach Lourdes was also on hand at the turn around to give us treats like oranges, bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Any and all treats she had on hand were a welcome delight as I consumed them and headed on back in the direction I came.

Because of the sudden change in our route, we were made to run the same way twice. But when I went around again, the irritation in my right foot became especially irritating, and I began to wonder if I should call it a day. This led to me getting stuck in my own head as I debated whether or not to continue. A part of me felt it necessary to soldier on as the LA Marathon will be here before we know it. But the other part was intent on convincing me it was best to call it a day before things got worse. This debate raged in my head as I ran by lonesome across the soaked streets of Griffith Park, and there was no one nearby to help me decide.

In the end, I decided to turn around and head back to the starting line. As much as I would have loved to run all 16 miles, it made more sense to cut this run short as my right foot was giving me more grief than my knees do on a regular occasion. All the same, I was still kicking myself for not running all 16 miles. I cannot help but feel like I am failing myself and the Pablove team by not running the distance we all were expected to traverse. I guess I just love beating the shit out of myself for no good reason.

I explained to Coach Joaquin why I ended my run sooner than expected, and he was very understanding. When all is said and done, I did run 11 miles which is especially impressive considering my situation, and I got to finish alongside many of my fellow Pablove runners in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.

In retrospect, it’s a good thing I stopped when I did as the rain began pouring down again with a vengeance even before I started driving back to my apartment. Imagine if I was still pounding the pavement when this happened; that new poncho I wore would have come in very handy!

I didn’t even bother using an umbrella as I walked into a nearby McDonald’s restaurant to purchase two Sausage McMuffin with Egg Sandwiches (one was not going to be enough) as I was too lazy and exhausted to worry about getting pneumonia.

The rest of my day was spent resting and putting ice on my right foot in an effort to ease the pain or irritation or whatever you want to call it. We have a recovery run next week of eight miles, and I hope and pray I will be in one piece when it comes. I have trained for this same marathon for several years now, and I fear my body may be taking more of a beating than usual.

Photos courtesy of Joaquin Ortiz.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: So far, I have raised $531 towards my goal of $1,500 for The Pablove Foundation. Even if all you can donate is $1 or $5 dollars, please do not hesitate to do so in our effort to lay waste to the evil disease which is pediatric cancer. Click here to reach an enlightened state of existence.

Let’s Call This Run ‘King of the Hill’

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This week, I remembered exactly where I parked my car and arrived at Griffith Park in Burbank 15 minutes before the clock hit 7 a.m. Coaches Kerry and Joaquin were there waiting patiently for the Pablove runners in temperatures which were frigid even by Los Angeles standards (yes, we do get cold temperatures from time to time in Southern California). Coach Kerry brought along his dog and had him (or her, I don’t remember) firmly on a leash as this pup was ready to chase after any bicyclists or squirrels in its radar range. Once the first set of bicyclists went by, the dog was ready to hit warp speed, and I think his barks translated into, “Hey, I want to run with you! Yes! Yes! I want to run! Wait up!”

Once Coach Kerry got his dog under control, he suddenly said, “Maybe we should call this run ‘King of the Hill.’” Little did I know what I meant. We have run up and down hills before, and I have come to welcome them as they are part of the LA Marathon. But this week had us going up a hill like none other before it, and it was definitely not the one Kate Bush sang about back in the 1980’s.

This run would be our first double-digit run of the training season as we were running 10 miles, and the coaches had us going up the hill first on the backside of Griffith Park. Good, I thought, we will get the hard stuff out of the way first. Of course, this particular hill always wipes me out long before I reach the top. Even if I wanted to be like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky IV” when he reached the top of that mountain and yell out “DRAGO!!!” for all to hear, I never have the energy or enthusiasm to do so.

But here’s where the run took a sharp turn both literally and figuratively speaking. Instead of going down the backside of Griffith Park, we took a right onto a paved road which was shut off to cars but not to runners or bicyclists. The only thing is, this road kept going up instead of down. And once I thought I went as far upward as I possibly could, I found I hadn’t. And then later on, I found this out again, and again, and again. As determined as I was to finish these 10 miles, I realized it would probably be longer than the running time of Lars Von Trier’s latest cinematic opus, “The House That Jack Built.”

Look, I am fine with running up hills, but none of those hills we Pablove runners have ascended previously compared to this one. As my walk breaks increased over my running, I wondered if two maintenance runs during the week was even close to being enough to prepare for this or any other marathon. Just imagine if I had hills like this to run up during my cross-country days in high school. Oak Hill Park has nothing on what Griffith Park has to offer!

Nevertheless, I persisted like all those female politicians running for office during the past midterm elections (many of whom won mind you) and did my best. I tried to keep up with everyone else, but as usual I fell behind the rest of humanity and was more than confident nobody would be waiting for me by the time I got back. On the plus side, there was a nice breeze in the air and, even as the sun rose high into the sky, it was neither too hot nor too cold. On the downside, there were no bathrooms or portable toilets nearby, and at one point I had to drop the kids off in the bushes. That’s probably more information than you need, but I don’t want to leave anything out here.

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Coach Joaquin was on hand throughout to make certain we were all doing as well as could be expected. Of course, before we started this run, he did tell us all that if we became sick or died on this run, it was not his fault.

Upon approaching Coach Joaquin at one point, I saw a sign which, from a distance, appeared to say “HELL SPOT.” This sign seemed more than appropriate as this was road which people will have better luck hiking up than running up. But once I got closer, I realized it actually said “HELI SPOT.” I don’t know, maybe I’m becoming dyslexic.

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One thing this particular course did have going for it was the view it gave us of Burbank and Glendale. Looking at Burbank from a higher elevation, I was reminded of how it is a much bigger city than I ever bother to realize. It’s not at all dwarfed by the IKEA store which, by itself, probably has its own zip code, and the buildings, homes and apartments stretch out for what seem like miles.

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I also thought I could see Pasadena from where we were, but Coach Joaquin informed me were looking at Glendale and that Pasadena was further off into the distance. I knew that. Anyway, at least I could tell it wasn’t Russia.

After making a sharp left turn at one point, I assumed we would not be running uphill anymore, but I was incorrect. Still, Coach Joaquin assured me what goes up must come down. You know, like the Trump Administration.

I did catch up with my fellow Pablove runners who encouraged me to keep on going as they made their way back. One of them told me, “I’d tell you the turnaround is right around the corner, but…” Believe me, I appreciated the honesty.

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The turnaround point was at this enormous puddle of water which was truly impossible to miss. Looking at it reminded me of a scene from “Stand by Me” in which the four boys come to what looks like a shallow pond they think they can walk across with no problem. River Pheonix even checks to see how deep it is with a stick. Once he convinces everyone it is safe to cross, they walk straight ahead and realize just how deep the water really is. But that’s not all, remember? LEECHES!!!

It was a huge relief to finally reach the turnaround and head back, but there were still some hills to shuffle up and down, and I spent what felt like an obscene amount of time desperately trying to catch my breath. Once I got back to the main road, I knew it was all downhill from there, and in a good way. It’s nice to see “downhill from here” has a couple different meanings and is more than just something adults tell kids when they turn 18.

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The coaches were still around when I returned, and this of course meant they could finally pack their things up and go home. I told Coach Joaquin how the maintenance runs I was doing didn’t seem to be enough, and he encouraged me to get in 30 minutes of exercise each day whether it be running or something else. He also made me see that I did good today and pointed out I did complete all 10 miles. I came, I ran and I finished, and this is something I should be proud of. So what if I came in last? I went through all 10 miles with a sheer determination to make it across the finish line.

Coach Joaquin assured me next week’s course will be completely flat and be only six miles. Still, I need to kick up the workouts during the week. I am now past the point of no return.

Click here to see the Pablove runners in action on this 10-mile run.

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and I encourage you to make one of your last tax-deductible donations to The Pablove Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. It’s an amazing organization I encourage you all to support, and I still have a way to go with my fundraising. Click here to learn more.

Dude, Where’s My Car So I Can Get to Griffith Park On Time?

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Believe me when I say I was more than ready to take on this latest Pablove run for the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon. I got up especially early, got all my running gear together, and I walked straight to my car which I was convinced was waiting for me on 6th Street. I didn’t drive anywhere the day before, so I had it locked in my mind that my Volkswagen Passat was exactly where I left it.

I am cursed with street parking since the building I live at was built back in the 1920’s, long before anyone thought of the usefulness of parking garages. My car was several blocks away, and as I made my way up towards Fairfax Avenue, I started to wonder if I had passed it. I should have gotten to it already, right? Granted, there have been times in the past when I have forgotten where I parked, but this usually was after a night of heavy drinking. During the marathon training season, my intake of alcohol is restricted to a great extent.

And then I remembered, I actually parked on 3rd Street right near the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf store where I have purchased many Ice-Blended drinks which are mandatory for me during the summertime (the Cookies & Cream drink is my favorite). So yeah, now I had to haul my ass from 6th Street to 3rd Street, and I knew I was going to arrive at Griffith Park late. But on the upside, I did get a hell of a good warm up walk as a result.

By the time I reached Griffith Park, the runners had already taken off, and I could see Coach Kerry driving away. Thankfully, Coach Joaquin did provide us with the route of our nine-mile run via Google Map Pedometer. Once I convinced myself that I could read the map and was confident of the direction I would be heading in, I ran my ass off. I did have my interval timer watch on, but I decided not to run at any specific pace. Since I started late, I didn’t want to fall behind by too much.

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For the first time this training season, we had a run which took us outside Griffith Park and into the streets of Burbank and Glendale. I have run these streets before, but thanks to a new sign which was put up just recently, I came to realize Glendale wasn’t as far away as I thought it was. It makes me wonder, where’s the line which divides Burbank and Glendale? Right now, it’s a bit of a blur.

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I did catch up with Coach Joaquin who was happy to see me. I told him why I arrived late, and he got a big laugh out of it. It’s always nice to know you are not the only one who forgets where you parked your car. If there ever is an opportunity to remake “Dude, Where’s My Car,” I truly believe I can write the best screenplay for it.

Pablove 2019 Week Seven 5

When I caught up with Coach Kerry, however, he was a bit peeved at me for arriving late to this run. I did apologize and explain to him how I forgot where I parked my car, but he was miffed at how I missed out on the announcements he gave the Pablove runners. I hope he can forgive me as it was never my intention to arrive late, but I am not entirely certain such forgiveness will come easily. As I defended myself to him, my fellow 2018 LA Marathon runner Jasmine appeared, and Coach Kerry told me to run back to Griffith Park with her. For once, I was going to arrive back there where people were still hanging out. I tell ya, Hall & Oates’ “Wait for Me” really did the trick!

One thing I really need to remember on these runs is to stay hydrated more regularly. I kept acting as if I didn’t need water or Pedialyte, or that only a few sips of each were needed. It is in my best interest to increase my intake of liquids throughout even if those endorphins are making me feel wonderfully euphoric. There’s nothing wrong about being confident in your abilities, but feeling overconfident could send me back to urgent care before I know it.

It was nice to be running alongside my fellow Pablove runners, but at one point it felt like they just disappeared. Did they suddenly hit warp speed as we passed by that park? Did they take a bathroom break? Well, the latter proved to be the case I eventually saw them in my wake, and I slowed down long enough for them to catch up with me. Of course, this ended up putting me in the position of falling behind everyone again, and as usual I was the last Pablove runner to finish.

Pablove 2019 Week Seven 2

After arriving at the finish line, Coach Joaquin had us do some exercises which included lifting our knees really high and running backwards among others. I felt a little silly doing them, but this meant I was doing them right.

So, my run did get cut short, but I still ran a good long distance. As much as I wanted to indulge in another Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal at McDonald’s, I instead drove home and landed in bed for a couple of hours. Being over 40 really makes me miss the joys of testosterone. I hate that it is much harder to stay in shape as you get older. Still, I have given myself a good reason to stay in shape by running this marathon for the ninth year in a row, so I just need to remain focused from now all the way to March 2019. Here’s hoping I burn off much more flab in the process.

Once again, I implore and humbly beg you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to The Pablove Foundation which I am running this LA Marathon in support of. Their efforts in finding a cure for pediatric cancer are far too important to ignore, and this particular disease doesn’t get nearly as much funding as you may think.

Click here to find out how you can make a donation.

 

 

An Easy Three Miles in Burbank

Ben Kenber The Triumphant Runner

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written on October 25, 2014.

It was another cool October morning when I stepped out of my apartment and got into my car for the drive to Griffith Park. Still, it’s not too cold to where we were forced to start wearing layers of non-cotton clothing on our runs just yet. Here in Southern California we are still dealing with 80-degree days even though fall has arrived, and yet summer remains stubborn about overstaying its welcome. I brought my black Nike jacket with me in case it was colder in Burbank than I expected, but I was fairly certain I wouldn’t need it, and I didn’t.

I managed to make it to the Team to End AIDS meeting spot just in the nick of time, having resisted the almost irresistible pull of those “Batman” reruns from the 60’s which were being shown on IFC (do they even show indie movies anymore?). The runners were still milling around when I got there, so I didn’t miss a thing. Then Coach JC came out and shouted, “GOOD MORNING T2!!!” For a guy who claims not to be comfortable speaking in public, he can now yell so loudly to where the employees at A Runner’s Circle in Los Feliz can hear him from miles away. Heck, I bet even the workers at Sports Chalet could hear him to where those in the shoe department looked at one another as if to say, “What is pronation?”

Today’s run was three miles, but some of the alumni were still open to running five. I decided to just stick with running three as I don’t want to overdo it at this point. I was under the assumption I had everything I would need for a short run: my Saucony running shoes, my Nine Inch Nails hat, my red Team to End AIDS shirt, my sunglasses, my water belt with two bottles of water and two bottles of orange low calorie Gatorade and a GU packet leftover from the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon. There was one slight problem; I forget my watch which has interval timing. I usually bring my iPhone with me in case I need to call one of the coaches or take pictures, but this time I had to use it for a different purpose as it had a timer on it.

When I walked over to the starting line, I didn’t realize I was with the wrong pace group. Chris eventually pointed out how I was about to run with the 12-minute pace group, and Coach JC looked at me with a shock as if I was trying to turn this into a race for myself. Realizing my mistake, I was a little embarrassed but recovered in time to join the not yet named 13-minute pace group. JC also informed me we would not be doing a “Bette Davis” on this run. I’ve been training for the LA Marathon for several years now so the running lingo is something I should know by now, but somehow this term continues to elude me. Hopefully I will relearn it again soon.

This run took us outside of Griffith Park and into familiar parts of Burbank as we went down Victory Boulevard before turning left on Riverside. We were again running against traffic like before, and the bike riders we passed by were nice and not the least bit territorial. Let’s hope there’s more of them on the road in the coming weeks.

After running with the same people for the past few years, I found myself with a new group of people who I have no business being shy around. I got to meet Winston and John who were nice and, like the other people I should have said hello to, were careful to obey the traffic signs. No one was above the law on this October morning.

This week I found myself focusing on my form as Coach JC gave a speech before hand about running to where our body is open to where it gets the most oxygen. No running in a hunched position and no ridiculously long strides that have us landing on our heels as that will cause irreversible damage our bodies will despise us for as we get older. I know my knees will never ever let me forget all the marathons I have ran, and when I get to the age of 60 (at which point I hope to still look like I’m 50) I know they will be telling me, “That’s what you get fool!”

When we got to Keystone, we turned around and went back the way we came. Dammit, the term “turn around” still reminds me of that depressing song by Bonnie Tyler called “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” My dad loved this song when it first came on the radio in the 80’s, but listening to it always leaves me sad. How am I supposed to feel after listening to lyrics like these?

 

“(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit lonely

And you’re never coming round

(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit tired

Of listening to the sound of my tears

(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit nervous

That the best of all the years have gone by…”

 

That last line keeps messing with my head…

Anyway, we made it back to Griffith Park in one piece, and Coach JC had to double check his board to make sure I didn’t run five miles at warp speed. If only such a thing were possible. “The Flash” may have returned as a television series, but I have yet to match his velocity. Hey, anything’s possible!

So, week two is over and done with, and it feels like everyone, including myself, is getting off to a good start. It also makes me glad I got those two maintenance runs in during the week as my body would have been pissed at me if I didn’t. I say bring on the more challenging runs sooner rather than later. Bring on the hills!

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE: It is now 2018, and I am training for the Los Angeles Marathon for the eighth year in a row. This time I am running in support of The Pablove Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. With my personal fundraising page and my Facebook fundraising page, I have raised $419 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. I am asking for your support to get me to my goal and to donate only what you can. Even if it is just $5, it will still go a long way towards helping me reach my goal.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY PABLOVE PAGE.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISING PAGE.

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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 Pablove Run in Memory of Scott Boliver

Scott Boliver photo

It’s hard to believe it has now been five years since we lost Scott Boliver, our LA Marathon coach for several years. He fought a brave battle against cancer and beat the disease to a bloody pulp, but his body took a lot of damage and he passed away at far too early an age. On January 6, 2018, we arrived at Griffith Park to run 16 miles, and it also served as a reunion with many Team to End AIDS runners coming out to celebrate Scott’s memory. For those who knew him, he still inspires us to this very day.

Scott Boliver tree and family

It was great to see so many familiar faces who have been absent this training season. Among those in attendance were Scott’s parents, Ray and Pat, who were always on hand to give us peanut butter and pickle-covered Ritz crackers and banana bread. Also, there was Scott’s wife, Dolly, who told us how his coaching us kept his spirits up through his fight against one of many indiscriminate diseases. Like them, we still very much miss Scott, but a part of him lives on in each of us to where we feel his spirit urging us to continue on to the finish line. This may sound cheesy, but there you go.

JC Fernandez at the Boliver tree

One of the best speakers of the morning was JC Fernandez, the man who took over coaching duties from Scott upon his passing, and would continue to coach T2EA runners for the next few years. He also works on the ABC series “Scandal,” but you did not hear this from me. Anyway, JC spoke at length about the effect Scott had, and continues to have, on him and others:

“Scott had an ability to see the light inside you and draw it out to the surface so it can shine brightly for others. I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I do not think of him. Not with sadness and longing, so much as recognition of the role he’s played in shaping who I am today. Because of him I became a coach. Because of him I found my voice.”

JC even said he saw a lot of Scott and himself in the blogs I write about my marathon training, and the struggles I have been enduring seem stronger than ever before. The fact JC even mentioned my blogs, or articles as I like to call them, meant so much to me as it is always nice to know someone is following what I write.

Scott Boliver and JC

With this run, I was determined to run at a 3:1 pace instead of 2:1 as I felt it would be best if I finished these 16 miles sooner than later. Granted, I knew I was going to be the last one to cross the finish line, but I didn’t want to keep Coaches James and Kerry waiting too long.

For once, I got to start a run off with an opportunity to talk with a fellow Pablove Foundation runner who kindly described me as being the little turtle that could. Yep, this is who I am these days. As much as I would love to finish a marathon in under 6 hours, I feel those days have long since passed me by. She was running at a 6:1 pace, so once I got to my first walking break, I knew it would be a while before we would see each other again.

For the record, I did my two maintenance runs this past week, but I still feel like I need to do more cardio work during the week whether it is on an elliptical machine, swimming, or playing around with Wii Fit back at my apartment. The more exercise I can get in, the more pain and challenges I can endure.

During the run, I saw JC running in the other direction, and we waved to each other. Next thing I know, he’s coming up alongside of me and said how much he admired my endurance and everyone who takes six, seven or eight hours to finish a marathon. With him, he just wants to finish it in under five hours, be done with it and get his drink on, and I can certainly understand that. I used to be able to finish marathons in under six hours, but those days may be over. Still, after all these years, the only thing which matters is crossing the finish line. As great as it would be to set a new personal record this year, right now it doesn’t look very likely.

I very much appreciated JC coming up to talk with me about my blogs and continued determination to run even as I run behind everybody else. I hope he knows that.

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I kept up with the 3:1 pace for a bit, but I found myself slowing to a walk before my walk break came up, so I adjusted my pace to 2:1. The one thing which threatened to do me and other runners in on this day was the humidity. For the past weeks, the Saturday mornings in the Los Angeles area have been frigid, but this particular one was a lot warmer. Coach James even told us to drink more water than usual as a result because the odds of us getting dehydrated sooner were much higher. I certainly did take the time to drink more water as I didn’t take in as much of it as I should have on past runs. After a bit, it felt like too much water wasn’t nearly enough.

Porto's Bakery

I ran by Porto’s Bakery at one point which had yet to open, and there was a long line of people outside of it waiting to get in. I remember going there once after a long run, and am a witness to the infinite number of incredible treats this bakery has to offer. As I ran past it, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, and it looks as though I have visited Porto’s one too many times even though I have not. After all these marathons, I thought all this belly fat would be a thing of the past, but it is still around like the unwanted house guest you can never get rid of.

As I continued running up and down the streets of Burbank, I kept waiting for the fat shamers to come out to ridicule me. They did not, but if they had, I would remind them how I have run the LA Marathon seven years in a row, and this marks the eighth year I have trained for it. Size may matter in certain cases, but not in this one.

Once I had made it to the mile eight marker and turned around, I ran into Coach James, figuratively speaking, who encouraged me to run at a 3:1 pace to see how I would do, and I decided to give it a shot. I did well for a time, but the sun continued to rise up to where it felt like a decently warm summer day. It may be the first month of 2018, but Southern California constantly defies the winter season with weather we should never expect on the east coast.

Coaches Kerry and James were constantly driving along the route to make sure we had all the water, electrolytes and other fuel we needed to get back to Griffith Park. They also had the Bolivers’ peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers and their banana bread for us to consume, and I didn’t even hesitate to take advantage of either.

By the time I arrived back in Griffith Park, I expected there to be a sign waiting for me at the finish line which had written on it “Five Years Later…” I remember seeing this same sign at the start of “Ghostbusters II,” and we all know how that sequel turned out. Nevertheless, I did cross the finish line withthe coaches applauding me with endless enthusiasm. Coach James advised me to do my first maintenance run on Tuesday so I could give my legs an extra long rest. While I love to brag how I ran 16 miles, the soreness will remind me of how distance will leave me incapacitated for much longer than I intend.

I did have work to do following this 16-mile run, by I ended up spending most of the day in bed sleeping . Getting out of bed is never as appealing as it should be, and perhaps this should change in the future. Complain all you want, but I want to sneak in a few more minutes of shut eye.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I have now raised $306 towards my goal of $1,500, and I strongly encourage you all to keep the ball rolling. I have many friends who are afraid I will look down on them for donating only $5, but I will not. If $5 is all you can give to the Pablove Foundation, it will still go a long way towards defeating the causes of pediatric cancer. Click here to make a donation.  

Boliver treats

Boliver family at tree

Bubba Eeyore at the Boliver Tree

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.

Miles Teller talks about Boxer Training and Wearing the Halo in ‘Bleed for This’

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Jake Gyllenhaal played one in “Southpaw,” Michael B. Jordan portrayed another in “Creed,” and now Miles Teller gets to put on his own set of gloves to play a boxer in “Bleed for This.” The biographical drama, directed by Ben Younger, focuses on Vinny Paz, a champion boxer from Rhode Island who became Super Middleweight champion of the world after defeating Gilbert Dele in the ring. Paz’s victory, however, is short-lived when he gets seriously injured in a nasty car accident. With his neck broken, his boxing career is assumed to be over by everyone, but he became determined to regain his title through a brutal rehabilitation regimen, and this led to one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

Teller recently sat down for an interview and talked at length about how he trained and prepared to play Paz in “Bleed for This.” He also discussed what it was like to wear the halo Paz opted to wear in an effort to repair his neck. The boxer’s doctors initially encouraged him to undergo spinal fusion which would have ensured his ability to walk again but also would have erased any chance of him getting back into the ring. Paz chose the halo instead, and it involved having a number of screws drilled into his head in order to ensure this apparatus would keep it in one place for months.

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Question: Did growing up in South Jersey help you with your accent?

Miles Teller: The Jersey accent is different. It’s just impossible to sound intelligent honestly, especially in South Jersey. The Northwest is just a specific kind of energy and people, and even though Rhode Island is totally different from New Jersey… I’ve just been around those guys, so I think it probably added something to the kind of relation that I found to Vinny.

Q: What was the most difficult thing that Vinny had as a person for you to get for the movie?

MT: The physicality was very tough. To get that look for me to just be able to have the conditioning to be able to shoot a boxing fight for a 16-hour day. The last two fights were back-to-back days. Each fight took one day which is unheard of. We shot the movie in 24 days. To even just look like a boxer… I had to shoot two movies in between, but that was eight months of just a very strict diet and working out. I lost 20 pounds and got down to 6% body fat for the first fight, but Vinny also moved up in weight and won the title of Lightweight and Super Middleweight, and we showed that. That’s also something very unique and special to Vinny’s legacy. He and Roberto Durán were the only two guys to win titles in those two weight classes specifically. So, I started at 160 and then I had to gain 15 pounds to get to 183 in like 2 ½ weeks. But once I had to gain weight, that was fun. It was just like Dunkin Donuts in Federal Hill. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Providence, but Federal Hill has amazing Italian food.

Q: But while you were eating a lot, you still had to be boxing.

MT: I got cast two and a half years ago. We filmed it two years ago. This was pre- “Whiplash.” I had never done anything like this where I just got to play like a man or a world champion boxer. Even when I was on set, if I had any time in between I was always doing something like push-ups or sit-ups because I knew I didn’t walk into this movie with this God-given talent of being in shape. They tell you just get a workout and diet, but I think I went anti that early in my career because I was just like, I don’t want to be that guy with the six pack and a tan who’s worried about his makeup and stuff.

Q: Did doing this movie help you to appreciate the nuances of boxing, or is that something you already had as a sports fan?

MT: I was a big MMA fan and I still am, but I started watching it when it was the WCE when I was in high school; I was 16 years old. And then with boxing, I always played the video games and I always watch certain guys like Tyson and Holyfield and Lennox Lewis; the heavyweights back then were the big draws. But once you start training in it, you realize it is very highly nuanced. I don’t see it as two guys in a blood sport. I see it as technique.

Q: The mind is very important to being a champion boxer? Strategy?

MT: Yeah, for sure, but that’s what they say: you have a game plan until you get hit in the face, and then it all goes away. We didn’t have a ton of time. I only had about five weeks in Los Angeles with my boxing trainer, and he was Sugar Ray Leonard’s trainer for 18 years. He was just a very high-level guy. The first fight in the movie against Roger Mayweather, I had five days to work with that boxer. The second boxer, we had a day and a half. And the third boxer, this dude Edmund Rodriguez, got in a fight, professionally, that he wasn’t supposed to. He told Ben (Younger, the director) he wasn’t going to fight, got in a fight, luckily knocked the dude out, didn’t get messed up, flew down, and I honestly only had maybe like a day with him.

Q: You also had to wear the halo in this movie. What was it like reading about that in the script and then wearing it for however long?

MT: For the beginning physical transformation, it was eight months of all that stuff that you hear. You can’t eat any bread or drink for that time. You’re just eating like a rabbit and hoping it all pays off. This guy dedicated like everything in his life to this, so it would’ve been very immature of me to slack off and mess with that. As far as the halo goes, that was highly uncomfortable. Again, you don’t like to complain because, for Vinny, it was screwed in his head. But for me, it wasn’t actually screwed in my head so we really had to make it as tight as possible because if the thing moves at all, then it doesn’t matter what you just did in that take. You only get so many takes, but it’s not usable because when it moves, people understand it’s not real. If this was like a big-budget studio film, I would have had a ton of fittings with it. I just did a firefighter movie and I had more fittings with my boots than I did for this thing. The girl just went to a hospital in Providence and got one from them, and then we put little rubber pieces on the end and just put it so far up my head that I could tell when it was in the right spot because I just had indentations on my head.

“Bleed for This” opens in theaters on Friday, November 18th.