Monday, January 28, 2008


"Start spreading the news, I'm leaving [in November]
I want to be a part of it - New York, New York"

Hotels and Rental Car = $400

Air Fare to Austin (from LAX) = $220

Entry to Austin 3M Half-Mary = $50

Qualifying for the NYCM = Priceless*

One of the reasons I picked this half was that I have been contemplating buying a home outside of the LA area and Austin was a contender. The fact that the course drops ~300 feet (net) did not hurt.

Unfortunately, I did not 'memorize' the elevation profile and 'that' ended up playing havoc with my mind.

The route is practically a point-to-point. I drove to the start with plenty of time before the race. I warmed up for two very easy miles with four strides at perceived half-mary effort.

After the brief warm up, I made my way to the start and went through the barricades to secure a place a few rows behind the really fast folks. There was this woman who looked to be in her 60s in front of me and I decided to move up a bit as I did not think she could run 7mpm or faster. A local high school choir sang the star spangled banner and they did a brilliant job.

Then it was time for the countdown... and the horn was blown. I immediately reached perceived effort. There was a brief time where my breathing became labored, like in a 5K, but I backed off back to pace. The first mile was a 6:53 (-1), and I was ok with it. There is a man in his 50s wearing orange shorts whom I target, but he slowly leaves me behind. The pace feels slow; it also feels hard. The lack of race specific training is making its mark. I am struggling. Yes, this early in the race. Mile 2 goes by in 6:58 (+7). Damn. I was hoping to bank time early on in the race. I did remember that the first mile or so was uphill. The slower second mile puts a dent on my fragile hopes.

I just keep reminding myself to go "one more mile." If all else fails, I will have a nice tempo run. The weather has been perfect. There seems to be a slight headwind but it is not so. It is just air resistance as two flags I happen to notice are as still as wood. Even the few turns are not that bad. My hip flexors are behaving, product of the core workouts I have been doing. Mile 3 is clocked in 6:41 (-4)... thank goodness. It gives me a brief, but needed boost. I have also managed to bank a few seconds. The course appears to be descending. I ran mile 4 in almost the same time as mile 3, 6:42 (-14). My confidence is growing, yet I am starting to feel tired. The reality of racing. I much rather 'run' 13 miles than 'race' them. Racing is hard. Racing is painful. Mile 5 includes a couple of 90-degree turns. I hit the split button in my watch and I peak to see what it reads... 6:18 (-48) WTF!!! It did not feel THAT fast. I suspect that mile to be short.

The next mile would support my suspicion as I did not think the course got much more difficult, 7:04 (-36). My struggling mind comes up with a plan: to run the next five miles in 7mpm and hammer the last two. I do not execute it though. My quads feel a bit sore; my right calf threatens to cramp. No way can this happen in a half. I am in denial. Mile 7 would bury any last hope I harbored, 7:09 (-21). I am even having trouble doing the math. All I can figure is that I have about 20 seconds in the bank. Not nearly enough if the 'race' continues like this. To make things worse, more than a few runners pass me. This was really tough as I am fairly good at sustaining my place; heck, I am supposed to pass runners, not the other way around. I try my last gear in an effort to get back into the race.

Mile 8, 6:44 (-29)... the added effort pays off. Right after 8, we turn east and the rising sun is right in front of us; it would remain this way for about 1.5 miles; not pleasant. I have been carrying my shades, but every time I put them on, they would fog up. This would be my last attempt as they fogged up again. The brief high I experienced at the end of 8, does not last long. I am sure I lowered the effort in the next mile as I was really tiring. Mile 9, 6:52 (-29). Damn. I beat myself up as I am running. I should have done this; I should have done that. An inner voice, however, tells me that it's okay, that this is just not my day, that there will be another race where I can race my goal, a day where I will show up better trained. Mile 10, 6:57 (-24).

At this point my mind is fried. I am done. I am toast. I press the display button in my watch to see the total elapsed time, and I press the split button instead. My feeble mind does not register the mistake and I keep on pressing the split button. It dawns on me that I am pressing the wrong button and I finally press the right one and see the cumulative time. I don't even try to do the math; all I know is that I still can manage a miracle.

Again, I did not remember that the last 5K was a nice downhill, otherwise i would have felt better, much better. Mile 11, 6:42 (-34). I also pass guy-with-orage-shorts. My watch reads 1:15:00 flat, and I know I am well within my goal. I could run the next stretch in just a tad over 7 mpm and still make it. My whole body is tense. I can not get it to relax. I am cutting the tangents. Mile 12, 6:43 (-43). I decide to cruise the last mile and not risk a cramp. Mile 13, 6:45 (-51). The last 0.1 is a continuation of mile 13, effort wise, 0:39 (-53). I raise my arms in triumph.

As I am approaching the finish line, I hear my number being called. The announcer does not follow up with my name. Hmm, that does not sound right.

I hang out to check the results. They are posted and my name is nowhere to be found. WTF! I come all the way over here and to not have an official time? I don't think so. If the NYCM was not on the line I would not have cared. I go over to the awards tent where I explain my situation. She takes my info and I am told that it will be fixed. An acquaintance tells me that these things do happen as he has worked the timing himself. He and I head over to the truck where the guy who works the computer is and tell him what happened. He tells us that he has already been told and that my time is in the system. Gun time: 1:29:15, Chip time: 1:29:07.

I'll see you in NYC :-)

Alas, I have a bunion on my left foot, on the fifth metatarsal. It hurts :-(

*I am assuming that the NYRRC will continue to use the same guidelines they have used in the last couple of years; but you know what happens when you assume... Oy!

Lastly, a few interesting bits about my last two races:

1.- They, both, were held at Capital cities.
2.- They, both, qualified me for other races.
3.- They, both, dropped ~300 feet in elevation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sundry and MMM Half

The other day I went on a 10-mile run and as I was coming down the ramp from the top of the dam, I see what I think are two kids sitting by the top of the man-made channel; the odd thing was that it has a chain-link fence and I just did not see how they could be sitting on that 'wall.' As I got closer the silhouette resembled a 50-lb dog. But as I got to about 30 yards I was finally able to see what it was. It was a HUGE eagle... the biggest one I have seen, even bigger than the ones in zoos... and this happened in an urban setting. The sad reality is that my eyes are going... :-(

One run of late that deserves to be noted happened on Sunday. What made it noteworthy was the fact that I did not look at my watch once during the run. I have attempted to do this several times but have failed. Not this time. It felt liberating; not bound by what pace I might have been running. I am, admittedly, a slave of time. When I run, I am in constant need for feedback, and my watch does that. I think it is insecurity. Surprisingly, the seven miles went better than I expected as I stopped enjoying running on the dirt track half a block from my house; too many loops. The splits got progressively faster and averaged on the faster side of easy pace, or about 30 sec slower than MP.

Music has always helped me through rough patches during a training run. I have been training with an ipod regularly. I don't carry one if I am to race though. I will wear one if I will use the race as a training run. On Monday, I actually left without the ipod and was a thoroughly refreshing run; it reminded me why I run. I enjoyed the sights and sounds of this mega-polis unimpeded.

I am currently in Austin as I hope (pray really) to break 1:30 on Sunday during the 3M Half. I am one of those guys who second-guesses himself quite often. In fact, I almost did not come. I had bought my plane ticket in early December, before I would be scheduled for an interview for a Structural Engineering position hours after my plane was to depart. Instead of paying for the change, I decided to standby for a later flight.

I guess the fact that I was to be interviewed and my knowledge of SE is minimal, as it has been a long time since I took SE courses, had me worried and I failed to check my registration before leaving LA. When I went to pick up my race packet today, the volunteer tells me that I am good to go. I ask: where is my chip? She said: "you're using your own chip" and looks at me like if I am retarded. I look at the envelope and realize it has the number of my personal timing chip. I had to go see the trouble desk and get a black chip; I was issued a new number; all because of my negligence... argh! The volunteer had to, essentially, re-register me. I hope that this is not a prelude of what will happen on Sunday. Better yet, I hope I am wearing shorts :-) I will be wearing my favorite shoes, Adidas Rats...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Of Mini and Me

It's funny how I draw inspiration from that book, Of Mice and Men... after all it is such a sad book...

My running, as mentioned in my last post, has hit a snag and I barely ran a pitiful 31 miles last week... and this week is not looking much better :-(. I am ashamed of such low mileage, particularly when I 'screamed' to the world that I would run in the 60s... ha, wasn't that laughable.

This blog started more as a photo-album back in 2005... before flicker (at least I was not aware of it)... for a while, and for good reasons (take it from me)... I stopped posting photos... then in 2007, and after reading a couple of really good running blogs I attempted to do the same, albeit unsuccessfully :-]

And so I post a couple of pictures of Iris and Me :-)

Iris and I in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Iris and Moui

Now to the astute observer it will be noted that I am wearing a Georgetown-Law sweatshirt, and on the second photo I am wearing a plain dark-blue G-Shirt. I swear, that was a coincidence. I have been to G-Town U twice and having been one of those hobbies of mine (that is to collect College memorabilia) I bought them in two different occasions. I have sweaters/T's from Harvard, MIT, Cal, G-Town, Columbia, NYU, Yale, Princeton, UCLA, USC, Northwestern, and others.

But in order to make sense of the title of this post, you have to look at the picture below... my newest toy :-)

Mini Me :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Echo Mountain

My running has hit a rut of late. So much that I have trouble getting my arse out the door, even though I have concrete goals. Methinks the reason is that I do most of my runs along the same route... and obviously it gets boring.

On Sunday, attempting to break the spell, I drove to Altadena at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The streets were full of cars and I had to park a few hundred yards away from the start of a single-track trail that leads to the 'top' of echo mountain. The trail is full of switch backs and gains 1600-feet in elevation and it is purported to be 2.7 miles long. It ended up being a 'blessing' that I parked about .15 miles down the road for the trail ends in a straight-away that is at least .15 miles. The round trip would be a nice six-miler as I am annal about running distances that result in integers.

As I was making my way to the head of the trail I hoped/prayed I would not regret wanting to change sceneries. I used to 'run' this trail regularly with an ultra-friend and got to do the ascent in just over 30 minutes. It was pure hell then. It is still pure hell now. I made it to the one mile marker in blistering time, 11:25 (insert ironic emoticom here)... my lungs had began burning half-a-mile before, and my quads were tightening. The irony is that if you were to hike it, the trail does not seem all that steep; in fact, it averages to an 11% grade. And I was 'forced' to take a walking break. I would 'run' the mild climbs/flat sections and I would 'hike' the steeper, shorter sections. From the moment my lungs started complaining to end of the trail, the unpleasant feeling that one gets during the third-mile of a 5K was ever present. I made it to the top and was elated to see the mild straight descent. I stopped my watch in 36:03. At 3200-feet, the top of Echo Mountain rewarded me with a hazy but still beautiful view of the Los Angeles Basin.

One would think that the return would be a breeze. And while it was a breeze to my humbled lungs, it was not easy. The narrowness of the single-track trail, the switchbacks and the uneven terrain all combine to make it quite hazardous if you venture to speed up. I managed just under 9 min pace as I found myself constantly breaking.

All in all I am glad I did it; however, it was a vivid reminder why I hate hills so much.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Core of the Problem

Actually, this post should have been tittled: The Problem is the Core. Lemme 'splain. I have been 'suffering' from sore hip flexors and from the thorough research I have done (thank you), it appears - no, it is due to a weak core. You see I do not do sit-ups, crunches or any strength exercises. I just run. For crying out loud, I don't even stretch (I know, this is part of the problem)!

The obvious answer to my 'problem' is to strengthen the abs, and so I have vowed to do a daily routine that will see me do alternating sets of crunch/sit-ups and push-ups. Nothing harsh, 10 reps each but non-stop for 10-minutes.

My wishful mind hopes that a strong, I mean less-weak, core will help me drop my 'thon time into 3:05 territory, and why not? my 5k time into submission- I mean sub-19 :-)

On another related note, I am hoping to do a double today, as that is the only way I can see 60 miles per week.

Ciao Mon Ami