Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marathon Day

It has all come down to this weekend. The five months of training, the early Saturday morning runs, the daily stretching & icing and the countless miles of earth pounding have all amounted to this one day.

The days approaching the weekend were charged with some pretty nervous and excited energy for me. We flew up to San Francisco on Thursday night so we could be in the city and well acclimated by Sunday. On Friday we picked up our race bibs and timing chips - my bib number was 5338 and Jamie’s was 6127. The timing chip was a small piece of plastic that we attached to our shoe that kept track of our time throughout the marathon. The rest of Friday and Saturday were spent relaxing.

On Saturday night Team In Training hosted a pasta dinner for the runners, and holy CRAP was this thing AWESOME!! Upon entering the convention center we were greeted with hundreds of cheering people armed with noise makers, crazy costumes, signs, and an extraordinary set of lungs. The amount of energy given out by this crowd was amazing!! I have to say I was completely overwhelmed. The pasta was awesome and the speakers were inspirational. Sleep was the order of the night though and the dinner was wrapped up pretty quickly to get us crackin at some much needed Z’s.

Sunday morning brought our earliest wakeup time yet… 4AM. I have to say, when I was living in the Bay area I saw the city many times at this hour, but never had I seen it in such tranquility. It was the calm before the storm I guess you could say, and the storm was beginning to gather inside of me. I was getting pretty pumped for the marathon and could not wait to burst across that starting line. Jamie and I went through our usual routine, of stretching, hydrating and slamming a smoothie (thanks mom and dad for bringing a blender over for us!)

We met up with our team in the hotel lobby and headed out to the starting line in Union Square. At the starting line my parents along with Jamie’s cousin SonHui and her friend Stephon met up with us to give us huge cheers and a lot of love before we were off.

After a little Star Spangled Banner and a firing of the starting gun we were off… well sort of. It took about seven minutes for the mass of people in front of us to get going and then for us to cross the starting line… then WE WERE OFF!!

Down Post Street we ran towards the Embarcadero and the famous San Francisco Piers. We had bundled up in sweat suits to keep our muscles warm for the first few miles, but as we gradually heated up the layers came off and were thrown to the side for Goodwill donations. The first mile seemed to take for ever, and we crossed over it just before hitting Embarcadero.

The streets were lined with all kinds of people – some just there to observe, some there to cheer on a friend or relative, and others just there to cheer, act silly and belt out motivational rants. The color purple was everywhere – from runners to spectators, many were there to support fight against cancer.

Time seemed to fly by between mile 1 and mile 5. There were a lot of runners around us and a tremendous amount of excitement in the air. I took in this energy and knew that as time went on and mileage dropped off, so would the energy level of us runners. The strategy that Jamie and I were using was to start out at an easy pace and try and conserve energy. Our mentor Paul was running with us and he was extremely enthusiastic, breaking in to bouts of song and chant. It served as a catalyst for energizing the runners around us (including myself), but required too much of my energy to commit to.

Aid stations were scattered throughout the course providing us with water, gatorade, fruit, light snacks and tons of entertainment. The volunteers at these stops were awesome - giving us motivation to press on to the next station.

We hit our first hill at mile 6 and with it brought a sense of sobriety to the brutal nature of the beautiful course. We were running through the Presidio area of the city and capturing beautiful views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge, but the hill beneath us was relentless and continuously pushed back at our legs, testing their physical limits. This was not a day for defeat though and we passed through (well more like under) the Golden Gate and conquered our first gnarly hill.

There was little time for recuperation before next beast of a hill was upon us. We were ready though. Our training prepared us for this constant bombardment of hills, and this was no match for us. We attacked it full force and before we knew it we were on the back side of the hill enjoying panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. On our descent down the hill Paul had to make a stop for the bathroom – unfortunately due to some miscommunication we got separated from him. From this point on it was just Jamie and I.

The backside of the hill spit us out into the beautiful green landscapes of Golden Gate Park (much like New York’s Central Park for those not in the know). As we began our five mile trek through the park I noticed the inevitable onset of pain begin to hammer away at my knees and ankles. I took this a positive sign, because we were only two miles from the half way point.

As we approached the 12 mile mark there was a split off point for half marathoners to take to get to the finish line. It was amazing to see how the road cleared in front of us as runners branched off to their easy 13.1-mile victory. The course felt like a ghost town - though there were still clumps of cheering people on the sidelines, I still found quiet spots where I could feel the calm of the park and tune in to my internal thought engine. I found myself thinking about how with every mile I ran $207 was going to fight cancer, and together Jamie and I were raising $414 per mile… WOW!!

The loop through Golden Gate Park lead us out to the Great Highway, and a breezy 3-mile run along side the Pacific Ocean. My parents, Sonhui and Stephon were waiting for us at mile 16, and seeing them gave us an enormous boost. At about mile 17 every ounce of bone and muscle in my legs was screaming at me. I was surprised at how severe the pain was. My only rationalization was that our time spent training was mostly on soft dirt trails, and on this day we had been running on concrete and asphalt since we first crossed the starting line. Our training paid off though, because I was able to press through the pain and focus my attention elsewhere.

At the end of our trek down the Great Highway was Lake Merced. In my mind I pictured a small picturesque lake that we would quickly jaunt around and then make our triumphant return back down the Great Highway to the finish line. As we approached the lake though, reality quickly set in – this thing was GIGANTIC. No way, I thought, no way was this massive puddle the lake that we have to run around. I even reassured Jamie of this. But there was no denying it as the course started hugging its banks and following its curves.

The time we spent running around Lake Merced was definitely the most agonizing part of the run. The mileage seemed to drag by as the pain in my legs mounted a war against my will to press on. The pavement started to feel hard and unforgiving against my feet. Every detail of the asphalt underneath my shoes was ridiculed by my feet. The demons were starting to snarl and make themselves known. It was a rough patch along the course, but with Jamie by my side we were unwavered. Our pain was intense, but by no way was it comparable to what cancer patients endure, and we need only to cross the finish line to put it to rest. This change of perspective brought about a fighting spirit in us.

We finally pulled out of the never-ending loop around Lake Merced and were on our final 3-mile home-stretch to the finish line. There was however just one last trick up the sleeve of this beast, a final farewell hill. It was a small hill to say the least, but a big one considering how close we were to the finish line. Jamie and I made a pact to take it on without resolve. Halfway up I could tell she was struggling, so I pressed my hand to her back, looked her in the eyes and said ‘lets kill this baby... you and me… grrrrrrrrr!’ She met my challenge with a decisive growl back and we climbed on. My eyes met the top of the hill with a predacious scowl as my feet frantically consumed asphalt. Jamie was running tough and the frenzied look of determination on her face told me the hill was no match for her drive. As the crest of the hill passed under our feet a sense of victory swept over us that served to open up untapped energy reserves – it was go time and the finish line was just two and half miles away!

Our final approach to the finish line was met with strong resistance. My energy level was great, but the constant bombardment of pain was challenging my will. At one point a Team In Training coach yelled out to us “You see the white tents off in the distance?.. they are AFTER the finish line!” My attention suddenly fell onto the two great white pieces of plastic with terrible engrossment. Knowing that I could see something just beyond the finish line drew me in and allowed me to forget about the pain raging through legs. I became so fixated that I nearly ran past my brothers who were on the sidelines with their families yelling and going crazy. Seeing them was f’n AWSOME. They all seemed to take off after us… my brother Trevor ran next to us with a cup of coffee in his hand, David jogged with his son in his arms and Kevin brought up the rear. Seeing my family out there supporting really brought it home for me. Thanks guys; you are badass and I love you.

And then it happened!! The finish line reared its beautiful self on the horizon. What a glorious site! As we tore into the last mile smiles broke across both of our faces – reality was setting in that we were about to complete one of the most amazing challenges of our lives. The crowds began to thicken and the cheering started to rage as we slugged away at the last bit of mileage. The energy was so intense that my skin began to tingle. As we neared the finish line I miraculously picked my parents out of the see of faces and flung out high fives to them. We were within a couple hundred feet of the finish line when laughter overtook me; every bit of pride, fear, joy, anxiety, grief, love and hope surfaced as an uncontrolled laughter. I turned to Jamie and saw that she was feeling the same way, so I grabbed her hand and we raced toward our final milestone together.

I wish I could detail the rest for you, but everything beyond about an inch before the finish line is a blur to me. The next thing I knew I was holding Jamie in my arms and blasting her with kisses. We had DONE IT!! We had run 26.2 miles and raised $10,880 together for the fight against cancer. What an amazing feeling! What an incredible day! All of my family, including my best friend Adam and his dog Auggie (who drove nonstop to make it there from AZ, only to turn around and head back the same day… thanks bro you are a damn good friend) were at the finish line to congratulate us. My proud moment was hugging my dad and giving the Tiffany pendant that was bestowed to me upon crossing the finish line to my mom as a symbol of our family’s perseverance. We are all strong and we all have it in us to achieve the unimaginable... my dad is well on his way to winning his battle, and I cannot wait to be there to high five him as he goes flying by to his victory!!

Thank you to all of my gracious supporters! Thank you for your love, thank you for your words of support and THANK YOU for your generous donations… YOU are what made all of this possible!! You have helped change the lives of many cancer patients and their families, and you have helped change the face of cancer. No longer will we sit and watch cancer decimate lives, we will run, we will Train, we will Endure, we will Achieve, and WE... WILL... MATTER!!

Much Love.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a walk... ur... run in the park

Our training is winding down and marathon day is quickly approaching. What seemed like a vast distance to me three months ago is now just a walk in the park. This may not seem like a significant change in perspective, but if I were to contemplate the idea of running 6 miles six months ago I would've considered it a vast and arduous task; now I can't see myself running anything less then 5 miles if I'm going to lace up my running shoes.

The run on Saturday was pretty uneventful. I ran with Elaine and Debbie for the full six miles, and we made no stops... well I take that back we made two quick stops to grab some gatorade from the water stations... but then it was right back at it. The run seemed to blow by, and before I knew it we were done. Jamie went and tackled the bike today at the gym to give her groin a little rest (check her blog for the details on this).

Our post run recovery has also been winding down; ice baths are no longer a necessity, instead we are back to putting packs of peas on the sore spots (remember this pic); and our mid-day nap now is more of a slight snooze. Normality seems to setting in - soon Saturdays will be ours again.

I want to give a HUGE shout out to the Long Beach Marathoners!! This is their weekend to shine... come Sunday they will take off down that marathon trail and achieve greatness. It has been GREAT training with you guys, and I wish you guys unlimited strength and determination! GO TEAM!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

simmer down now

This week marked the beginning of a gradual decrease in running mileage called the "taper phase" of our marathon training. This decrease in mileage over the next three weeks will give our bodies the opportunity to rest and recover from our previous training, and will culminate with a one mile run the Saturday before our marathon.

Not only will our mileage decrease, but our caloric intake will also wind down; as we do less mileage less calories will be required for recovery, so that means I gotta cut back on those extra helpings. Three days before the marathon however we will begin to carbo-load in preparation for the event; this means tons of pasta, bread, potatoes, rice... well you get the picture.

The run this past Saturday was at our usual Balboa Lake location. We all arrived early and were off running before 7:00. A measly 8 miles was on my plate today, and I was ready to devour it. I took on the first five miles with a moderate pace and then kicked it up significantly for the last three miles. I pushed myself harder then I have before, and tried to invoke a feeling inside of me that might resemble the last three miles of the marathon. I never let my pace slip and kept it strong. It was extremely tough, and I wanted to quit at times, but I pushed my fatigued body past its mental and physical barriers.

The last quarter mile hit me hard and I knew that finishing out at this pace would be a true testament to my will power. I pressed on though and ignored the tormenting thoughts raging in my head. As I neared the finish line my legs began to explode with energy and quiver tirelessly all at once. My feet feverishly consumed the path as I finished out the run forcefully, clocking in a time of 1 hour 6 minutes - that put me at about an 8 min 22 second average mile time!

Jamie put back a good run today too. Although she ran hard today, she ended up bringing in the last half mile at a walking pace so she could hang out with a fellow teammate who sustained an injury. What a team player!

Try and keep up with me!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the pinacle of our training

Saturday we embarked on what was to be the longest run of our training program... 20 MILES!! That's like running from Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles to the end of the Redondo Pier in Redondo Beach... or running from Pac Bell Park to Walnut Creek.

This was our last 5 am wake up call and I was glad. We woke a bit later then normal and were slow to get going. My motivation to get out the door was unusually low; we weren't meeting with our team today and would be doing this run on our own.

Our plan for this run was to do it together... side by side for every mile. This would be good training for marathon day when we plan to run together. We had prepared enough gatorade for our water belts and for two water stops. The plan was to stock each of our cars with a cooler full of gatorade and post one at the starting line and one at the half way point.

We got out to Balboa Lake at about sunrise. We went through our usual stretch routine and then took off from the usual starting spot. Everything was as usual until we began running. Running with Jamie meant ratcheting back my speed a bit. My legs were confused by this; they wanted to go faster, but I wouldn't let them. It was a back a forth battle for the first couple miles, but my will to make this adjustment was strong and I REALLY wanted to run with Jamie.

Running along side Jamie was great. We attacked the twenty miles in three phases. The first lap was our warm up lap, and then we had two laps of running and then a cool down lap. Having this plan really helped break down the run into manageable portions.

The first couple laps Jamie feverishly struggled with her water belt. The wait of the bottles caused her belt to bounce around her waist and then inevitably up the curves of her hips to rest around her abdomen (which impaired her breathing). After messing with this thing for two laps Jamie finally gave into the notion that she did not need the belt and she could share my gatorade with me. We had plenty of gatorade at our stops and could refill every two and half miles.

We knocked back the laps one by one, and when we hit lap three Jamie erupted into song. Yeah she busted out SINGING!.. she was energetic enough to sing the Bon Jovi classic 'Living on a prayer'... "whoooooa we're half way there!" That's my girl!!

Lap three went by pretty smoothly, but when we hit lap four I began to feel a cramp in my lower calf. I was not happy about this, but I pressed on. The pain hung with me the entire last lap. I tried taking my focus off it by concentrating on other pains in my legs that I normally overcome. This worked for a few miles, but the pain kept festering on me. I was not about to give up though... 20 miles was the goal and I would not be one foot shy of it!

As the fourth lap wound down I was talking both Jamie and I through it... "this was just a cool down lap - just a nice EASY jog in". This took my mind off my pain and allowed my legs to take it easy. I heard Jamie repeat it a couple times to herself to try and convince her weary legs of a not so gloomy future.

As we approached the finish line the concrete felt smooth and sublime under my feet. Just the thought of completing 20 miles made everything wash away for me. I grabbed Jamie's hand and we rushed over the finish line together... WE DID IT!! We knocked back the longest run of our training, and we did it together. RIGHT ON BABY!.. YOU ROCK!!!

Try and keep up with me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

beach bummin it

This past week was truly a blessing to me. Jamie and I got to go up north to Santa Cruz and spend a week at beach house with my dad & mom, all my bros and my grandma. The week was a blast. Most of our time was spent down at the beach boogie boarding, building massive sand castles, relaxing and of course running. At night beach bonfires were'a blazin - I brought my didgeridoo, a hand drum and some clapping sticks, and combined with some pretty entrepreneurial instruments we played bouts of wild music and ate smores to the late hours of the night.

We kept our runs up throughout the week, and on Wednesday, Jamie and I ran what I have to say was the best runs we have done so far. Our run took us along the water front and out a jetty to a lighthouse, and then through the Santa Cruz Harbor. The weather was a little cool, but the scenery more then made up for it.

We kept ourselves well hydrated and stretched throughout the week in preparation for our 20 mile run on Saturday. Sleep was the one thing working against us. The combination of late nights, my nephews early morning playful clamor, and sleeping on and air mattress made quality sleep next to impossible. We actually stayed an additional night foregoing the Saturday run with the team to do it on Sunday. When we got back however we realized that no amount of sleep would prepare us for the demands of a 20-mile run.

We ended up sleeping in on Sunday and set a goal to do the 20 miles the following Saturday on our own. It is going to be rough on our own, but together we will conquer it.

Try and keep up with me!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

out with the old, in with the new

It has been three and half months since I strapped on my first real pair of running shoes. Since then I have taken on over 200 miles of various terrain. My shoes, much like my body, have taken a serious beating, but they wear the scars more then I do. Check it out. Here is what my shoes looked like when I first got them…

…And this is what they look like now…

Pretty crazy, huh? I guess that’s what 200 miles of pounding the earth will do. Jamie and I went and picked up some replacement shoes to begin working into our training. I won’t fully commit to them until after I complete my 20-miler. By then I think I will retire them to some dark place in my closet.

This past week we made another return to the hilly streets of Porter Ranch. The coarse took us through the biggest hill we will see in San Francisco accompanied with six and half miles of moderately hilly terrain. I set out on this run with a new attitude - the last time we did this hill I just wanted to get through it.. this time I wanted to destroy it. My pace was very aggressive and I kept it strong. After about four miles of hilly terrain, the two and half mile hill was upon me. I rounded the corner and began my hunt for the top. My legs were persistent, only needing a single rest break to catch their prey. The hill was brutal and snapped back at my will every chance it got. But my aggressive assault paid off and I dispatched my prey, leaving it bloodied with my tenacity.

With the top of the hill behind me I hit the last water stop where Coach Brett's mom was serving up cold Gatorade and cookies. I gulped down a few cups and hit the backside of the hill with a lighter foot. I have been working on refining my downhill running strategy and today I think I mastered it. I was able to maintain a good cruising speed down the hill without using too much energy and minimizing the impacts to my joints. The bottom of the hill came much quicker then the top, and then it was just a smooth half mile run into the finish.

I made good time today, and Jamie was not too far behind me. We hung around and brought in the rest of the team before heading off to an ice bath. That's all for now.

Try and keep up with me!