Okay, I made a mistake; this week we were scheduled to run just ten miles, not twenty-three. Bart was kind enough to point this out to me on a Facebook post to which I replied:
“I knew that.”
Still, it felt like I was about to run twenty-three miles because it took forever to get to sleep the night before. Coach Tom Martin would later remark how he saw my Facebook update which I posted at around 2 a.m. which said:
“Dammit! I can’t sleep!”
Looking back, I think I got at most 1 to 2 hours of rest before pulling myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. I got up earlier than usual because I told Sandy that I would take her place as pace group mentor for the run as she and Jessica were saving their strength for the half-marathon they are running tomorrow in Pasadena.
As a mentor, you have to be at Griffith Park at 6:45 a.m. so to get a map of the course. Coach Kevin also goes over what to expect on the course and to make sure we all tell our group members to keep a steady pace and not overdo it. This was especially important this week because we would be going up those things we runners in general dread, HILLS. Knowing that we will be huffing and puffing like crazy at certain points, I was determined to take it really easy for a change instead of unconsciously running at light speed (or warp speed if you’re more of a “Star Trek” fan).
The lovely Coach Kevin and the even lovelier Coach Ashley greeted all the runners and said that so far we have raised close to $300,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles which is pretty awesome to say the least. In addition, they reminded us that we’ll be running twenty-three miles next week which means no drinking alcohol between now and then (the horror!). This led Coach Kevin to give us an unforgettable piece of advice:
“Wine is not a carbo load!”
Well, my job as a mentor turned out to be short lived as the only other Twisted Blisters runner to show up was Jerod. Granted, we did have fair warning that Twister Blisters would be a small group today with Jessica and Sandy out. I don’t know where most of the others were, but Tom did have what sounded like a nasty car accident which resulted in a back injury for him. Here’s hoping that he recovers from that injury quickly as we want to see him healthy and ready on marathon day.
Since it was just me and Jerod representing the Twisted Blisters, we ended up running with another pace group that called themselves Scott’s Misfits. Their pace per mile was thirteen minutes as opposed to our thirteen and a half, but it didn’t seem like the change would affect us too much.
We were told before heading to the starting line that another of our coaches, Scott, really wanted to be with us today. This past year has had him fighting cancer (and kicking its ass with great success), and he is still undergoing treatments for it. The doctors have encouraged him to put his health first, and we encourage him to do the same. Still, we were encouraged to keep him in our thoughts during our run today, and that we certainly did.
Today’s run had us going towards the Los Angeles Zoo and then crossing a bridge over the 5 Freeway leading us to a spot we haven’t been near in a while, the soccer fields. Of course, we just had to run by the local sewer which continues to fill the air with a disgusting aroma which had some of us saying “that wasn’t me.” As much as I wanted to say Robert Duvall’s classic line from “Apocalypse Now” of how he “loves the smell of napalm in the morning” (with sewers in place of napalm), the smell was too disgusting for me to get the words out.
We reached our first turn around at the 2 mile marker and headed back to where we started. But that’s when the real fun began because we went past our site and began running up those hills leading to Crystal Springs Drive. It’s been several weeks since we’ve been up that way, so the symphony of runners huffing and puffing as they desperately tried to catch their breath was expected with zero surprise. We came to envy those bicyclists who, after making to the top, got to speed downhill at tremendous speed. Of course, going downhill as fast as they do would cause major damage to our bodies as our coaches continue to smartly remind us.
Actually, the one training term that really stuck with me most on this run was “muscle memory.” This refers to how our bodies get used to running certain distances to where the muscles are able to take on runs more easily than before. It’s as if your muscles end up saying to you:
“Oh wait, I remember this!”
Getting to the top of that hill felt so good, but then came going downhill where I had to keep telling myself how I need to land on the balls of my feet. However, I kept thinking someone was about to tell me that I was actually landing on my heels and doing it all wrong. I can’t believe I’m still worrying about this even when it’s now only a month until marathon day. They say the Los Angeles Marathon starts off downhill and that if we do land on our heels as we go down, then we will feel the damage done around mile eighteen. Please tell me I’m not landing on the heels of my feet!
As we continued on towards the dead end at Crystal Springs Drive, we encountered familiar sights like the guy playing on his drums in the park. We saw this same dude before, and it sounded like he was playing the same exact jam session as he had previously. I started to wonder if the guy actually lived down here with his drums. If so, what does he do when it rains? Surely you can only play on a rusty drum set for so long. Whatever the case, his drumming kept us motivated even as we found ourselves wanting to walk instead of run.
We felt more thankful than ever this week for the water stops and the volunteers manning them while patiently waited for us to arrive. Those peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers remain deliciously addictive as ever, and we can never get enough water or Gatorade on our journeys. It’s also a good opportunity for us to shed those sweaters we wear as the things were finally heating up.
There was another water stop further down, but this proved to be a little deceptive as it did not mark our turn around point as we thought it would. We still had about a quarter of a mile to go from there. One runner ended up calling it an “emotionally debilitating” water stop for that reason. The upside was that we had the always positive and infinitely energetic Gene there whose enthusiasm powered up our already tired bodies.
At one point we passed a couple of women who were walking along the road with purple yoga mats, and they asked us if we knew where the “old zoo” is. All we could tell them was that we only knew of the one zoo we passed 6 or 7 miles ago. Was that the zoo they were referring to? Don’t know, but hopefully they found whatever zoo they were looking for.
When we made it to the end of Crystal Springs Drive and our last turn around, we ran up some more hills that felt more torturous than what we already traveled over. My legs handled them better than last time, but even I had to just walk for more than 1 minute at a time. We have been told that we will not have hills in the Los Angeles Marathon like the ones we have been running up and down during our training, but we will be dealing with sudden inclines throughout it. Many of us are just realizing it now, but the Los Angeles Marathon is said to have one of the toughest marathon courses of any in America. That certainly gives those of us who’ve ran it in the past a nice ego boost, and that’s especially the case for those who “swam” the 2011 LA Marathon.
We all finally made it back in one piece to the finish line where the coaches and other fellow runners awaited our triumphant return. Twister Blisters pace group members Sandy and Jessica also showed up with treats for everyone, letting us all know that even though they are resting up for a half-marathon tomorrow, their support for all the Team to End AIDS runners is undying.
Sandy and Jessica brought those cheese balls which proved to be a big hit the other week, and there was no shortage of them. There were also some yummy cheesecake bites which quickly became unavoidably addictive (where did they come from anyway?). And of course you could rely on the old favorites like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (the bread was a little stale though), hard boiled eggs, various fruits like watermelons and bananas, and bagels and cream cheese. Actually the cream cheese went really well with the cheese balls, and it gave us more of a reason to eat them. Of course, in my head I started to hear that one person from my previous job telling me whenever I got a bagel and cream cheese from the “roach coach:”
“It clogs the arteries!”
Screw it! I just ran ten miles and I deserve something yummy!
So next week, I can say with certainty that we will be running twenty-three miles. So no alcohol, no seriously strenuous exercise other than maintenance runs, no alcohol, need to load up on gel blocks for energy, no alcohol, get some energy bars, no alcohol, load up on packets of salt to better absorb the water I’ll be drinking endlessly, no alcohol, get another bottle of anti-chafe cream to lubricate my body, no alcohol, maybe get some newer and thicker running socks, no alcohol, and most importantly stay hydrated and get a lot of rest. Furthermore, maybe I should lay off the caffeine as well…
Oh yeah, and no alcohol. I almost forgot…
Thanks to all of those who have taken the time to read the blogs I’ve written for my 2012 LA Marathon training. I originally wrote them for myself so that I would stay in check with my training and to give me another reason NOT to miss any days of training. Let’s just hope I don’t miss the day of the marathon!
Other days of 2012 LA Marathon Training:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9.5, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16