Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Team For Better or For Worse

Another early Saturday morning brought another run to our feet. Porter Ranch welcomed us back with an ornery grin, and warmer temperatures. This run would take a shift for the better though – keeping consistent with our alternating weeks of long runs and short runs, we would be running a swift 6 miles today.

I started out my run with a moderate pace keeping with the lead pace group. The hills resonated deja vu with me and I could taste the essence of my previous tribulations through these hills. My reminiscent wander did not last long as I yanked myself back into my run - I was nearing the bottom of the hill and needed to prepare for some climbing.

The hill was as I remembered it, steep and long. I got about half way up when I got the word that Jamie was in some pretty severe pain. I knew this was big. I searched the horizon for her, and as soon as my eyes recognized her tiny blip I diverted my run towards her. When I reached her I could tell she was hurting. She has been going at these hills with a vengeance since her return back, and it has been taking its toll on her. She is a strong runner, but throw anyone straight into nonstop hill runs and they’re going to feel pain after a while.

I walked with Jamie from about mile one to mile three, and enjoyed the quiet time we had together. We bursted in to running spells when the geography permitted, but for the most part we hit a pretty aggressive walk.

When we hit mile three, we said our goodbyes and my feet sprung into action. From this point forward I was set to climb a mile-long hill. My mind and body were primed, and I was ready to wreak some havoc on this hill. My pace was fierce as my feet relentlessly consumed elevation. When I hit the top I simultaneously caught up with some fellow teammates. I shared a walk break with them and then took off down the backside of the hill.

It was not long before I was in the final stretch to the finish line. As I cruised in I saw Jamie heading out to finish up her nine miles… now that’s dedication!! At the finish line I took a breather and devoured some Gatorade and carbs. It was then right back out to catch up to Jamie.

The heat was moving in pretty bullishly and I could not run fast enough to escape it. As I ran my eyes continuously scanned the roadside for Jamie’s profile. At each turn I was expecting to see her, but NOTHING. My eagerness turned to worry as I rounded the last bend and didn’t see her. I slowed to a walk and really focused ahead, nothing but road signs, poles and… WAIT!.. what’s that??.. it’s?.. it’s?.. it’s Jamie!!! On her return back to the finish line! WEW!!

We walked back to the finish line with me constantly lagging behind her - her pace was much to fast for my weary legs. Our coach Brett came and met up with us to bring in the last leg. He offered to have Susan bring the car around to pick us up, and was met with savage ‘NO!!!’ from the both of us.

At the finish line we were greeted with clapping and cheering from our dedicated teammates. I could tell Jamie felt good about her accomplishment, and so did I.

Later that day we met up with some of our teammates at the Children’s Hospital to spread a little cheer. We visited the cancer ward and brought with us gifts, love and a little conversation. Our visit there was not one of ease. Seeing these young soles stricken with such a horrible disease was heart wrenching. As we entered each room the parent’s faces told the stories we dare not ask about. The children were SO grateful, and expressed it with what limited energy they had. My eyes could not help but show what I was feeling inside... yeah I admit it, I got a little misty... SO!! This experience has rocked me to my core and I will carry it with me as I finish out my training and complete this marathon. We ARE doing some good!!

Try and keep up with me!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Day of Focus, Falls and Freezing

As I train for this marathon I feel my body metamorphosing into a running machine. I have adapted quite well to the long distance running on the flats, and the hills have become my challenge. Fortunately our mid-week practice has made a shift to a different training style… hill repeats. What are hill repeats you might ask? Well they are exactly as they sound. We run up a hill for time frame set by our coach, and then walk back down the hill to the start. We repeat this five times. This was excellent conditioning, and I felt this throughout my entire lower body for the rest of the week.

Saturday came way too fast, and my body was still a bit sore from our new midweek regimen. I was excited though, and ready to conquer 12 miles. This was the last weekend we would see in a sequence of consecutive mileage increases. From this point forward we will have long mileage weeks alternated with short mileage weeks. I think I am ready for this.

Lake Balboa Park welcomed us with a vibrant pulse on this early Saturday morning. It was evident some serious mileage was about to be trampled out here today, and our team was ready. The gloomy haze over the morning sky told of cooler temperatures to come; a much welcomed relief to the ardent temperatures that typically accompany us.

As we charged off the starting line in our usual pace groups, I left my group behind to share this run with my Jamie. I was excited for her and wanted to be there when she completed her longest run yet. The pace was slower then what I was accustomed to, but it was good for me; it gave my mind the opportunity to really focus on my running form rather then “what the hell do I have to do to push myself through this?” This was important for me because I am battling the onset of shin splints. I got so consumed in my running form that I failed to notice a robust cobble crouched deviously in the middle of my path. I hit the ground hard, spraying dust all over my jersey. I tumbled it out, bounced back up and sprang back into my run. Jamie was horrified and determined that I was injured, but I pressed on and assured her that I was ok. We hit the six mile mark and the fork in our running path together. I pushed on to chisel away at my 12 miles and Jamie turned around to slam out her last mile. GO GET'M BABY!!

As we separated I felt my legs burst into an excited pace. I was pretty far behind from my pace group, and determined to shrink that distance as much as possible. I maintained a divided focus between my form and the goal at hand. The miles seemed longer with out Jamie, but were unmistakably shorter. I was passing fellow team mates and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It felt good to run hard and run long. My body now craves this, and without any remorse I dish it out. I passed through water stations taking in gatorade, water and an occasional snack. As I hit mile 9 I could feel the pains starting to settle in. I am growing accustomed to the pain, and am beginning to realize that this is just part of the training - we train to not only endure fatigue, but to endure the physical torture on our bodies.

I finished out my run a little under a mile behind my pace group and relished my victory. We hung around for a pot luck of carbs and fruit and then took off for home for icing and a nap. Our icing routine took a bit of a turn towards insanity today - as demented as this may sound, we took an ice bath. That’s right a tub filled with 20 pounds of ice and water. Our neighbors must have thought two girls were living next door. The initial shock was horrifying, but my body gradually thanked me for it. The following day I have never felt better, and I now plan to include this grotesque technique in my arsenal of recovery strategies.

Try and keep up with me...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rolling Hills and 10 Miles To Boot

Recovering from my run from the previous Saturday took a little more time then anticipated; by Wednesday though I was back in action and ready for our midweek practice. This mid-weeker was different from the rest... we were running our timed mile again, and were destined to see improvement. After a light 2-mile warm up, we lined up and flew out of the gates. I rolled out a moderate pace in the beginning and then kicked it up at about half way. I caught up to our assistant coach Cole and finished the mile just behind him. As I crossed the 1-mile mark I anxiously looked at my watch and caught the glimpse of 6:47.35. “HOLY CRAP!” I thought “I just dropped into the 6 minute realm." I savored the flavor of this tasty victory, and let it roll off my tongue every chance I got throughout the week.

My mid-week victory had me primed and ready to take on our 10 mile run on Saturday. This Saturday was a fairly monumental run, because it marked the return of the Great Jamie Moniz back to the running circuit. Back from her month long hiatus, Jamie was geared up and ready to tear into some asphalt. This was a big day for her as she was running an astounding 5 miles on her inaugural run back from the injury list. YEAH BABY!!

The cool morning air of Porter Ranch welcomed the eager faces of our running team. There was a slightly higher intensity amongst the group then normal. We were all aware that 10 miles was in our future today, and that the course would take use through a constant barrage of rolling hills. Our stretching seemed to have more intent on this day; each stretch was held to its regimented time and no single stretch was left to chance – our bodies were about to get hammered and we had to be ready.

The run started off with pace groups leaving at different times. The slower groups left first followed by the faster groups. The course opened up with a mild downhill slope that lured its guests into a sense of ease. I took the pace slow, knowing that I had to conserve my energy for the deepest end of this trek. From the start I was experiencing a sense of nausea that was hindering my spirit. Most of my mental energy was consequently devoted to overcoming this sensation in the first five miles.

At about a mile and a half into the run, and just when I had tackled my first hill, Cole (our assistant coach) intercepted me and took me back down to the bottom of the hill to give me some tutelage on downhill and uphill running techniques. This I was not enthused about; not only did I get separated from my pace group, but I had to run up the hill I just ran up. The techniques he showed me worked for me, so I kneaded them into my running strategy throughout the rest of my run.

Water stations were every two miles, and reaching them was always a lift in my spirits. A splash of something cold to drink and some words of encouragement was enough to keep my drive going. The course was relentless though; at every turn it seemed like we were either climbing a hill or descending one. The miles seemed long and arduous, and my one minute breaks too short to remember. I was pushing my body harder then ever and I could feel it beginning to take its toll. As I ascended the hill to the final water station, pain was settling into to my ankles, shins and calves. This was not good, I now had to dig deep and claw my way past the pain demons; I had two and half miles to go and I was not about to break down.

I hit the final water stop and my gorgeous wife Jamie was there resting after completing here five miles. Seeing her really lifted my spirits. I slammed a carbohydrate gel, threw a slug of water down my throat and took off. This was the home stretch - just two miles to go. My enthusiasm did not last long and at about a mile out I had my first break down. This was a rough blow, as it was the first time I could not complete my 8 minute to 1 minute regimen. I didn’t let it last long though. I literally slapped myself in the face, and told myself “this was it, this was the final stretch, YOU CAN DO IT!” My legs were somehow inspired by this grand speech and jumped into action.

I rounded the bend to my final mile (and hill) and saw my pace group just ahead of me. Seeing them gave me a huge boost of energy, and I took off up the hill. I saw myself closing in on them and it felt good. I crossed the finish line just behind them and with great satisfaction. I had endured 10 miles of hills, and was still in relatively good shape. I took in some water, carbs and a round of high fives… all the nutrition a training runner needs.

Try and keep up with me...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nonstop Action

Dragging myself out of bed on this holiday weekend was pretty rough. Fortunately I didn’t listen to the devil on my shoulder and drink booze with my barbeque the day before. I was pretty energized though and eager to take on our new distance of 8 miles.

Our run started off like previous runs with runners sifting into their respective running groups. Today I found myself running with our assistant coach Cole. My running regimen to date has been run 8 minutes walk 1 minute, but today Cole had it in his mind to change this plan. Upon stopping for my usual one minute walk he lit the fire under my ass and said that this was no longer my strategy… I was one of the strongest runners on the team and I was to run NONSTOP for now on. While his savory compliments fed my ego for the time being, I did feel deep down that the occasional one minute walk would ultimately prevent injury. I pressed on though.

As I made my way through the deeper mileage, I could feel my body starting to fatigue prematurely. Pain had set in - a maddening pain that resonated throughout my entire running system. I was up against the wall, and the demons in my head were rearing there nasty voices. I now had to find it deep within in myself to forge ahead and finish out the last few miles.

I hit the water stand and splashed some cold something down my throat. The final two miles were ahead of me and I was ready to kick my own ass. I found my zone, narrowly squeezing out my demons, and hit the path hard. My pain started to subside and I was able to yank myself back into the game. As I neared what I deemed the ‘final stretch’ our coach Brett met up with me to bring in the last mile.

I crossed the finish line with an uncertain sense of accomplishment. I had run 8 miles nonstop, but I didn’t feel good about it. I felt deep down that my overall run suffered. I fatigued way too early in my run, which led to a significant decrease in my pace. I did like running longer in between breaks though. Hmmmm?.. something to work on I guess.

Hanging out at the finish line and bringing our team in with clapping and cheering was a good end to my run. Our team is starting to get pretty tight with each other, and more people are jumping in to offer encouragement to others. I think the longer distances are sparking a bit of comradery in our team.

All for now. Try and keep up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back to the Hills and Parents Afoot

Another early Saturday morning brought a new course to my feet and a new sense of motivation. This time our run was to be on the slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains, and my mom and DAD were in town to witness it all. The 6:30 meeting time was a bit rough for me because my body did not want to fall asleep til about 12:30 the night before. Fortunately the excitement of my parents being in town and getting back to running on some hills was enough to drag me out of bed in the morning. Once up my body struggled to keep up with my enthusiasm; so slapped myself around a bit and chugged some water. After fueling my body with peanut butter toast and a peach, it was just a matter of jumping into my shoes and blowing out the door.

At our meeting spot we shuffled through our usual stretch routine, and then took a small hike up to our starting point. Today, because we were running 6 miles, we were required to wear a waterbelt (basically a belt that holds a water bottle). As soon as we took off my waterbelt made itself known by sliding off my waste and to my knees, a frustrating start to a much anticipated run. As the group scurried ahead, I was stuck feverishly fussing with my belt. Fortunately Coach Brett found me and gave me the tip to wear it across my chest commando style. I slung it on and took off.

My position at the back of the pack was not discouraging to me. I knew that if I remained steadfast I would be able to catch my pace group. I am used to running on hills, so I knew to ratchet back my pace to about 75%; this gave me the energy to run consistently through the whole course. Little by little I inched my way through the pack. As much as I could I gave each of my teammates a “Go Team!”. The closer I got to the front, the more spaced out runners became. "Where was Eloy", I thought. No sooner had that thought crossed my mind, than I saw Eloy on the horizon. With the top of the hill far into the distance I eagerly confirmed to myself that I did it - I caught my pace group.

It was not long before I caught up and eventually passed my pace group. I made it to the top of the path and climbed the stairs to the top of the missile platform. Yeah missile platform. At the top of the hill were the relics of a Nike Missile platform (cold war stuff). Quite a view. I hung out up there for about five minutes throwin out high fives and drinking down water.

The moment hit me and I bolted. Down the hill I went with an ever so slow and dainty pace. I think my pace downhill rivaled in slowness to that of my uphill pace. Downhill is not my favorite because it is way harder on the joints. I took it slow and easy, bursting into faster paces when I could. I hit the final stretch of the course with an ear to ear grin… UPHILL!! I took this hill with a fierce assault, giving it my all and with great pleasure.

My finish line could not have been better. Both Jamie and my parents were there cheering me on as I came running in. Seeing their faces and hearing their enthusiasm was an incredible moment for me. I am so lucky to have such a supportive family. I felt very proud of what I was doing, and to have my dad there to witness it and cheer me on meant the world to me.

Try and keep up with me.