Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Lesson in Hydration

We were out of bed and to practice before the sun broke the horizon this Saturday morning. Today we were out at Balboa Park and were set to do 16 miles; fortunately this will be completed in three laps as opposed to the 168 laps that it took me to complete 14 miles on the gym track two weeks ago.

The minute I took off from the starting line I noticed some apprehension from my legs. They were not happy about the task they were just given, and it took me about three miles to warm them up to the idea of doing thirteen more. The first lap I deemed my warm up lap and by the end of it my body had settled in to a pretty good groove. The remaining laps I labeled my big push, and my cool down. Then there was the final mile which I appropriately called my final stretch. Breaking the course down like this really helped with my motivation.

Staying hydrated and energized throughout my runs has long been a challenge for me. I decided for this run it was going to be different and implemented a new strategy to better accomplish this. I prepared two bottles of Gatorade Endurance (one for my hydration belt and the other I would pick up later in my run), and filled a small squeeze bottle with energy gel. For the Gatorade I needed to finish a bottle an hour, and for the energy gel I needed to squeeze a gulp in every half an hour. The energy gel, for those wondering, is a blend of carbohydrates, sugar, electrolytes and sometimes caffeine all mashed into a thick goo. Sounds appetizing, huh? Well as you might imagine, the gel was the hardest part - my mouth never wanted this sticky goo, and always opted for the wet beverage. Getting all that fluid in was also a challenge – the feeling of liquid sloshing around in my stomach as I tromped down the course did not sit well with me.

When I hit the second lap (my big push) I really laid into it. I felt my energy level was good, so I bumped up my pace and shredded miles 6 through 10. I pushed through the water stations, and was totally reliant upon my own hydration system. At mile 10 I made a quick stop to grab my second bottle of Gatorade and was off.

The third lap was definitely the most challenging of the three laps. As I pressed through miles 11 through 15 I could feel a variety of pains pulsing through my legs. These were no match for me though - I had good energy and was able to suppress them and forge ahead. When I reached mile 15 I hit a quick roundabout and headed back out for a mile loop to finish out the 16th mile.

With the idea of the finish line less then a mile away, the final stretch turned out to be much easier then I thought it would be. As soon as I finished though, all those nasty little pains I suppressed hit me at once, and I was inundated with a bunch of screaming joints. HOLY CRAP was this PAINFUL!! Never at the end of a run had I felt this kind of pain before. With a little bit of stretching and hydration the pains soon subsided, and I was able get out on the finish line to high five teammates as they came running in.

Overall I can say my new hydration strategy worked. Although in the beginning I was questioning the effects of all this goo and extra hydration; in the later mileage my energy level definitely reaped the rewards.

Try and keep up with me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Keep Going!

We made another return back to the rolling hills of Porter Ranch this week. Seven miles was on our agenda, and none of us were leaving without breaking a serious sweat. Coach Brett mapped out an aggressive course with a pretty serious hill for us to climb… 2.5 miles of straight upward. I was looking forward to this run and had high expectations of myself. I wanted bite into it, chew it up and spit it out. My run however did not come with its challenges.

The night before my run, when I typically explore dreamland, I was wide awake - not just for couple hours, but for the ENTIRE NIGHT! I could not for the life of me catch a wink of sleep. ‘Insomnia’ most people call it, more like INSANITY. I tossed and turned and tried to wrestle my eyes to sleep, but nothing that I tried put me out. I entered my morning with blood stricken eyes and a cloud that only I could see.

I took off from the starting line with a bit of a lag. I could feel the affects of the night on my energy level and knew that I somehow had to muscle past it. This did not take long. When I hit the hill my mind turned to fighting mode. This was MY hill, I thought, and I’ll be damned if I’m not the first person up it. My feet were with me and my legs seconded the notion, so… IT WAS ON! The street poured behind me as I forged my way to the summit. I knew that Quincy Avenue marked the highest point on the hill and I chased it down with a fury. As I climbed the hill's gritty face I carried with me the notion that once I hit that crest I will have conquered the largest hill I will face on race day. Check it out...

Though my energy level was lower then normal, I still managed to reach the top just behind Robert (the fastest guy on our team). I felt accomplished and took a quick breather to regroup. I passed through our water station without a stop and continued down the backside of the hill. Downhill running is not my favorite. Though I don’t feel it while I’m running, the aftermath usually tells of a medley of knee pains. I tend to take it pretty easy on the downhills, regulating my speed and periodically walking.

I brought the last mile in with one of my teammates Elaine, and we finished about three minutes behind Robert. I felt my run was good, but I was insanely tired. Jamie came burning in about 10 minutes after us and looked great. WOW!.. she has really pushed passed her injuries and is doing AWSOME!! We hung around to cheer on the rest of the team as they finished up, and then took off.

Breakfast, ice and a shower were all an order, but the afternoon nap was pure unadulterated bliss.

As I run I think of the many challenges that face people each day with cancer. I run for hope, for the challenge, and most of all for the battle against cancer. But sometimes that battle is not always won. Recently the running community suffered a huge loss with the passing of Craig (The Moose) Chambers. Craig was a local running figure who spent most of his spare time running the hills and streets of Los Angeles. His battle with melanoma did not slow his spirit though and he completed the L.A. marathon last year in true form. I would like to take this moment to thank Craig for being an inspiration to us all. I will tag my jersey with your name on race day!!

Just keep going!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Kinship With the Mythical Phoenix

Phoenix - a mythical bird which at the end
of its lifespan burns fiercely and is reduced to
ashes, from which a new, young Phoenix arises.

We were away from the TEAM this past weekend and away from the cooler temperatures that typically accompany our runs. Instead we headed east to the sweltering furnace that is Phoenix, Arizona. I know, I know… what the hell were we thinking?? That’s exactly what was crossing our minds. The reason for this gross scenery change was our nephew’s 1st birthday, and that was all the reason we needed.

Fortunately we did not have to drive the usual 6 hour journey from Los Angeles. My beautiful sister-in-law Diana and her husband Matt flew us out for the weekend… THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! This gave us the leg up that we needed to tackle the 14 miles on Saturday morning.

We hit the Z’s early and woke up late, clocking in about 9 hours of sleep. Physically I was ready to take on this challenge, but my motivation to do so was teetering on “E”. We made the decision to head to a local gym to run the mileage on a treadmill to avoid the triple digit heat, but the idea of running in place for over two hours did not resonate well with me. Jamie had the motivation going for her, so I climbed aboard and rode her wave to the gym.

The gym, not surprisingly, was mostly empty. Fortunately the facilities came equipped with an indoor track relieving us of our treadmill duty. This wasn’t your typical track though – 12 laps was the equivalent of ONE MILE!.. someone somewhere was laughing at us.

My run started out slow with my motivation dragging significantly behind me. The first two miles felt like an eternity. The laps seemed to drag by as I saw the same scenery over and over and over. As I pushed myself mentally through mile three I felt defeat fiercely closing in on me. I couldn’t let this happen – I couldn’t let these minuscule obstacles defeat me! So I decided to collect the smoldering pieces of my broken spirit and reemerge with a vengeance. Keeping track of my lap count was my most arduous task, so I resolved to monitor my mileage by using my one mile time. Each time my watch went off I completed a mile – this was easy enough and it allowed me to forget about the repetitious circles. All of a sudden I was in it – my motivation caught up to me, passed me and was blazing my path… I was REBORN!!

The mileage began to fall away and before I knew it I was on mile 10. With four more miles to go I could almost taste my victory. Unfortunately all was not smooth to the end. At about mile 12 the pain started to settle in and my pace tapered. With my spirits high I tried to look at this in a positive light - with each new mileage milestone my pain has shown up later and later, and this time was no different.

As I steamed past mile 13 a celebration exploded inside of me… I had just completed a HALF MARATHON!! YEEEEAAAAAH! HELL YEAH!!! WHERE"S MY HIGH FIVE??

With that feat under my belt I pressed on to finish out the last mile of my run. Once finished I took a quick breather and then caught up with Jamie to bring in the last quarter mile of her twelve mile run. She was only going to do 10 miles, but she pressed on and conquered 12. HELL YEAH BABY!!

Our post run recovery regimen was put on hold to celebrate our nephew’s 1st birthday. Little Jeffery rocked his birthday party like most 1-year olds, with wide eyed curiosity, smiles and a face full of birthday cake. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LITTLE GUY!

That’s all for now. Try and keep up with me.