Tuesday, March 11, 2008

running as a constant

On a recent episode of the TV series, "Lost," one of characters, Desmond was suffering from some seemingly hallucinatory bout where he was going back and forth between the past and the present. The only thing that could save him, he found out, was that he needed to find a "constant," something that would be there for him – an object, a place, a person, whatever – both in the past and in the present. In his case, he chose his girlfriend, Penelope, who because she was there for him, literally saved his life.

I thought that was a very good episode, and it got me to thinking that a "constant" is what keeps us rooted and helps us during times of turmoil. We may stray away from it from time to time, but returning to it helps keep us grounded. For some their constant is their family, faith, home, friends, relationships, etc.

I count on running as one of my "constants." I've been running on and off for the last decade or so. I run when times are good, and I run when they're not so peachy either. Running reinforces my love for life, and it gives me comfort when things are tough. Even when I'm ill or injured and couldn't run, I still benefit from running knowing that I can come back to it soon enough.

It is easy to take the ability to run for granted, so I always try to count that as a blessing and a "constant" that for me, at least, will be there for a long time to come.

inaugural pasadena marathon

While working out with the OC Track Club, I overheard from one of the runners that Pasadena was going to be the site of a marathon. Seriously? Could it be? So I googled it, and indeed, the inaugural Pasadena Marathon is going to be held in the fall. Pasadena, home to the Rose Bowl, CalTech, the Norton Simon Museum, and JPL, is such a beautiful city, with its California Craftsman architecture, quaint shops and neighborhoods, ranch style homes, artist colonies, all these situated right at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

As of this writing, the race course is not on the official web site, yet. Hopefully, the race organizers will mark the course to maximize the runners' exposure to this city's wealth and beauty.

Mark November 16 on your race calendars. I did. See you there.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

up $%#@*&! horsethief and beyond...

My road to recovery continues with my second race in as many weeks. Saturday was the last installment of the Winter Trail Run Series–a distance of 21K. This has got to be one of the toughest half-marathons around with a total elevation gain of about 3470 feet. Wow! The worst part of the course is the climb up West Horsethief Trail–a brutal and exposed 1400 feet in less than 1.5 miles.

I carpooled with Skip and arrived at the race a few minutes before the start. I was happy to see several OCTR mates out there including Chaz, iMichelle, Keira, Corrinne, Jon, Bee, Nattie, Jess, and Leon. At around 8:30am, a hundred or so runners took off for the initial climb up Main Divide, to the first aid station at 3.4 miles. Another OCTR member, Kirk, and his son were busy dispensing water and Gatorade. From there the trail rapidly descends down to Trabuco Creek before the infamous ascent up Horsethief. The runners get back on the Main Divide to Kirk's aid station and coast down to the finish.

At the initial climb my calves felt tight, and I soon fell back. Corrinne and Jon, who I was running with were soon out in the distance. I caught up with them on the way down to the creek where I was able to loosen up my legs and make up some time. More climbing up Horsethief, and I was reduced to a walk again, and C and J left me in their wake once more. When I got back to the Main Divide, I was able to jog and catch up with Corrinne who I ran with the rest of the way. Jon was nowhere in sight by then.

If you're thinking about running the Old Goats 50K which I'm still contemplating, this is a great training run since this is the last 21K of that race. It familiarizes you with the course, not to mention train your legs and lungs on those hills. This course also allows you some nice views of the snow capped mountains and Lake Elsinore on clear days as today's.

Corrinne and I crossed the line in around 2:54. To put it into perspective, my PR for a road half-marathon is just under 2 hours. I ran this one almost 50% slower than that. That's how tough this race was. Still, I'm quite satisfied since I did it about 10 minutes faster than the previous year's, and I got to put in some good training on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Course photos courtesy of Corrinne Wallace.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

what? me fast?

While I'm happy in the fact that I've been able to train my body to go extremely long distances, I still have to face the reality that I do this rather slowly. So at Pete's suggestion, I gave the Orange County Track Club a try for some speed workouts.

The OCTC meets once a week at the Orange Coast College's track. I knew that there were going to be some fast runners out here so I was looking forward to coming out and running with them. These weekly workouts are conducted by Coach Charlie Appell. He put me in a group of five other runners for a ladder workout. I've never heard of the term before so I had to ask. Basically, the 6 of us start running single file. The runner in the back sprints up to get to the front of the pack. Once he or she gets there, the next runner in the back speeds up to get to the front, and so on, and all this while the group maintains a fairly fast steady pace. We do 5 sets of 1000m repeats with a 400m recovery jog in between.

At the end of the last set, we did a 2400m recovery jog. It was a hard workout, but I felt good about it. I was able to keep pace with the group without feeling winded.

Speed is not my thing, at least that's what I think. The problem with these self-imposed limitations is that if we believe them enough, they become true. On the upside, change your thinking and you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish. Once I thought, there's no way I could ever complete a marathon, but given the will and the proper mindset, I've surpassed that goal. So I figure, hey, if I set my mind to it, I should be able to set some PRs this year.

My marathon best is 4 hours and 28 minutes. I've always wanted to go under 4 hours but always thought it's an impossibility. I recently signed up for the Chicago Marathon in the fall and set a goal of 3:59:59.

I guess these OCTC track rats are going to be seeing more of my bum out there with them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

slowly increasing the miles

When I saw that Pete had posted a run for Saturday morning, I thought I'd join him in on it. I'm slowly increasing my mileage for my long runs, but it seems that lately there hasn't been anything on the OCTR calendar that's shorter than 20 miles on these weekend runs. Not quite ready for that distance yet.

Pete refueling himself with some sort of energy drink in his fave Barbie mug.

Pete's run is unique in that he'd designed it so that people can come and go for all or just for part of it. There are 4 segments to the run, all starting and ending in the same spot. The first part started at 5am for about 10 miles. Too early. I passed up on that one. The next one was for 8 miles and started at 7:15 or so. Hmmm. Pass again. I'm still working on my beauty sleep. Yes, I need it badly. The next one was around 9am for another 10 miles. That sounds about right. I also had the option of running the last section which was still TBD.

Pete and Kalea running the hills of El Moro Canyon.

So I'm back at El Moro Canyon again where I joined up with Pete and Kalea for the sleepy head 9am start. We did a 10-mile loop around the park. I was monitoring myself, seeing how my body feels. I'm still working on getting my cardio fitness and my hill legs back. After the loop, we decided to go for another 5 miles. We'd been running on wide fire roads so I showed them Lizards Trail which is a sweet and fast singletrack to throw into the mix. Fun, fun, fun!!

Taking a quick photo break to take in the view.

It was a great run. The sun wasn't out, rather it was misty all day which kept us cool. I was elated to come out of the run feeling pretty good. Total miles for the day was about 15. I was tired though, and spent most of the day just resting and relaxing in a recumbent position :) Popped a few of the the Recover-Ease capsules and had some well-deserved protein-rich adobo for lunch.

What a fine way to start the weekend.