Sunday, September 25, 2011

The ING NYC Marathon 18-Mile Tune Up Run Race Report

The priviledge of having been promoted to the elite statuswas overwhelming. So to even things out, I guess I would have to have an“underwhelming” performance. Blech.

Yes. You heardright. Alex David Gonz├ílez was finallyawarded an elite corral start. Myrunning number was 381, and it was BLUE. And BLUE means you are one of the best. Too bad, I didn’t return the favor. More than likely, I may get bounced out of blue, just as fast as I gotin there.

The preparation for this race first off, could not have beenworse. I basically took 8 years ofknowledge, and flushed it down the toilet. Despite my need for sleep, I couldn’t let Karen do another night offeedings, so I slept in the same bed, getting up with her to feed David &Kayla. The dastardly, but extremely cuteduo, kep me up all night too. I neverhad more than 2 hours of continuous sleep, zero rem sleep, and in all only 5hours of horrible sleep. This is bad,bad, bad. When I got to the startingline, I felt more like laying on the asphalt and snoring, then to start running18 miles. What up wit’ dat?

The next issue was that I had done a 30 mile run (yay! Mylongest ever!) only a week earlier. Now,you tell me, is 7 days proper recovery? And considering the fact that I ran 3 more times in between, umm,yeah. You get the point!

If my improper recovery couldn’t have been helped, I atleast had the control to properly hydrate the day before. But I didn’t. I totally broke the rule here. Onlong runs, it is important, no wait, VITAL, to consume mass quantities of waterthe day before. It flushes you out ofimpurities and hydrates your system, like a car just having gotten a new oilchange. In my case, my oil was old andrusty. Meh.

Mother Nature didn’t give two shits about me (or anyone elsefor that matter) either. Anotherdisgusting dew point, 69. Remember, whenI scaled 1,039 feet during my 30 mile run last week? Well, with a dew point like that, it feltlike I was running right into mountains and thru them.

Another great factor for failure, is to stress out about notmaking it to the starting line on time. I was hustling all over the place just to get to the starting line. So in addition to wanting to go back tosleep, I was already huffing and puffing before the horn even went off.

The course itself was tedious. 3 counter clockwise loops around Central Park. That’s 3 times
around Harlem Hill, 3 times around the rolling hills of the west side, and 3 times aroundCat Hill.
Ardous and Boring.

During my moments of “darkness”, I even walked. Not just at water stations, but right in the
middle of miles too. I was out of gas. My head wasn’t into it. Totally a bad bio day all around.

However, all was not lost. For one, I completed another long run. 18 miles is nothing to sneeze at.
Plus, I did another 2 miles afterwards. So 20 miles a week after 30 miles, is prettyterrific, I think.

Also, I never cramped up once whilerunning. That ended quickly after I gothome, and my right
foot felt like it wanted to curl up the back of my spine andscratch the back of my neck…But other
than that, I felt perfect!

And….I finished!

Of course the Elite status was nice. But who knows if that will last. We shallsee.

When I got home Steffie and Matt had askedhow I did, and I gave them the story.
(the finish line...finally!)

(should 've read 'Dying Lane')

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Farmingdale, Bethpage & Plainview – A Fall Evening Run

Karen was out with me in Long Islandtoday. While she was at a job fair, Iwas working, and when she came by to pick me up at work, she needed to go toTarget for the twinkies. Me? I needed to run!

Having the sense to bring my duffle with me, I had hoped togo to SUNY to run at the track. But thetrack was closed. Oh, well.

But Karen, who is a relentless optimistic, reminded me tograb hold of my adverturous nature and to just run. Anywhere.

I will admit that I was a bit nervous at first. People in Long Islanddrive pretty fast and nighfall was coming. However, I also had packed my Black Diamond Headlamp with me, thus I wasprepared for anything.

We were on Melville Road in Farmingdale, when we turned in on Reeves Avenue,where we then stopped. I got out, gavemy wife some well earned kisses, and we both parted ways for awhile. She by car, and me? By foot!

I headed south on Melville Road, nearly missing the right turn onto Powell Place. Powell was residential which was ratherrelieving, considering how fast people were zooming past me. I always run opposite of traffic. I like to see who is potentially going to hitme so that I can jump into the woods and out of the way.

Powell’s quickly became Bethpage Road, and Quaker Meeting House Road not longafter. Quaker was a shaker. Cars were whizzing by me around blind curbs,and the shoulder was gone, forcing me to run on the uneven grass and dirt fromtime to time. At least the sun was notdown….but it was getting there.

I was running with my iPhone tonight, utilizing my Nike+GPS. It was doing well, but somewherejust after I crossed Round Swamp, the GPS just diedon me, without warning. It would be niceif a voice came on and said “Nike Sucks” when that happens, so at least I wouldknow then and not a mile or so later, that my time & mileage is all screwedup.

I decided to bear left down onto Merrits Road which took me to the startof Hempstead Turnpike. Here I ran on thesame side of traffic because there was no sidewalk on the otherside, and to runon Hempstead Turnpike, you might as well put on a sign that says “Go Ahead. HitMe. I Dare You.”.

Nonetheless, the sidewalk on my side came to an end, and forat least 1/3 of a mile I was running on the grass as I ran towards the SeafordOyster Bay Expressway.

The dew point was a disgusting 72, and running through thegrass with short socks all I could think of was Lyme Tick. God Forbid.

I passed New Island Hospitalshortly after crossing Route 135, which reminded me of Dr. Shapiro, myex-orthopedist, who refused to give me a cortisone shot on my partially tornright calf muscle. It was a month beforethe 2006 NYC Marathon.

Before I knew it, the sun was gone. Nightfall had set in. I quickly turned on my headlamp, with thesetting on spot light, as I made a right turn on Stewart Avenue, heading back northnow. Nike+ mentioned that I had alreadyrun over 3 miles, but it was closer to 4 miles for sure. Wish I had my Garmin now. Meh.

As I was heading up Stewart, I did not notice how horriblethe sidewalks were. The cement squareswere all misaligned, thanks to the tree roots pushing it up from beneath.

Even with the headlamp on, you can’t see what you don’t see,if you are looking at the Nike+. And atone point, somewhere between Russell and Emma crosses, my foot caught theraised edge of one of these squares. Itsent me flying.

My iPhone came right out of my hand, landing on the groundpretty violently. Fortunately for me, Idid not do the same, catching my balance back somehow before falling. Still, I must have looked like Earl Hollimanin the famous TV pilot episode of the Twilight Zone, called “Where IsEverybody?” where he runs into abicycle. Poor, poor man! Victim of themodern age! (to be said like it was read off of “A Clockwork Orange”).

Licking my wounds, I made a right onto Central Ave, just to make another quickleft onto Broadway. This time I was onthe opposite side of traffic, and there were plenty of stores and ambientlighting from them, to complement my headlamp. At one point, I think around Bishop Av., I saw a woman turning ontoBroadway and was running. Not that Iminded, but the sidewalk was narrow, and she was running at a slower pace andwould not get out of my way. Thus, I didwhat any normal alpha male would do….I took to the street and ran opposite oftraffic with the headlamp on, for a block or two.

Once again the Nike+ GPS fails me, this time right after theintersection of Broadway and Linden. If I could make the same product, fit it onsomething small, like the new nanos, make the headphones wireless, and moreimportantly, improve the GPS satellite reception, I would retire a millionaire. Investors? Please give me a call and I’ll explain all the rest!
(This picture is no shit. It was really this dark outside.)
It was pitch black now. I had done close to 6 miles, and here I was crossing under the SeafordOyster Bay Expressway once again. I wasin Plainviewnow, and aptly so, I had just made a left onto Plainview Road.

I continued onward and crossed the street because thesidewalk had ended. Yet the sidewalk wasatrocious on the east side of the road. I passed a school, and then it was residential. And that’s when the road got really bad. Not only were the cement squares to thesidewalk all raised, but it appears that the tree removal service in the areadid not do their job, when the hurricane had struck a month ago. I nearly beheaded myself a few times on lowhanging branches from fallen trees that were still on the ground.

Then I nearly tripped again. Ugh! What an obstaclecourse! All of this, and but verythankful that my plantar fascitis has not yet acted up. Well, it shouldn’t with my new sneaks.

Karen gave me a call. We started to plan where to meet. I mentioned to meet me at the intersection of Sunnyside Blvd. &Sagamore Road. But after I hung up, andas I ran, I noticed that there was no way I could get there in 10 minutes asthis point was at least 2 miles away. Then came the debacle. Karencalls me and mentions that she was going to come down to pick me up as Iran. I told her to meet me at theintersection of Manetto Hill and Old Country Roads. I shouldn’t have picked this, because it wasa busy intersection, and in hindsight I realized it would be hard for her tostop here. But this became a moot point,when our TomTom in Jenna decided to go haywire, sending my wife all the waynorth (instead of south) up to Woodbury. At one point she called me telling me she is near Jericho Turnpike. I’m sure by now, anyone who has lived inLong Island, and has moved, let’s say far away, is getting a kick out of all ofthese street names, for living in Long Island,means driving everywhere!

Anyway, this whole meeting of each other became a debacle,and we both got pretty stressed out. Iwas actually contemplating telling Karen to go home and meet me there, but ofcourse, even for me that would be impossible since it would have been at leastanother 35 miles!

We tried again on the call. Washington Ave. & Manetto Hill Road. Fail. Then Howard Court& Joyce Road. Finally she got there. I was so glad to be in a car for once!

The one consolation prize to this was that it afforded methe ability to head even more northward, thus my mileage was around 8 milestotal. Not bad for a weeknight right?!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Glad to be home!

Yes I got SLEEP. And yes I got an amazing 30 Mile training run in, but I am glad to be back from LA, and back in NY, to see my beautiful wife and my irresistable children.

That's all. Nothing about running tonight. Just about good times. :-)

Monday, September 19, 2011

30 Miles

What a year this has been thus far. And with the amazing, wonderful & fantastic birth of my twin children (twinkies), it has been anything but glorious. Since, last year’s PR at the NYC Marathon, I have had one physical condition after another. In December it was the after-effects of a procedure known as an aspiration, because I had decided that I wanted children again, and I had already had the big “V”. They told me the pain after the operation would be gone a lot quicker than when I had my vasectomy, but they were oh, so terribly wrong. I even remember one day as I was driving to get my kids, where I had to pull over the side of the road, because I thought I was going to pass out in pain. And that was 3 weeks after the procedure!

No sooner did I heal from that, that I had my next doozie. How about going airborne on a thin snowbank on Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, landing on my back with a metal camera that came within a half inch of my spine, which potentially could have paralyzed me? $2,000 dollars, and several MRIs, pain killers, trips to the Hospital For Special Surgery, and acupuncturists later, I finally healed. But that little stint caused me half of January and screwed up my February too.

Now enter March. Here I am getting back into form. And all of a sudden I learn, and on my own, that my estranged mother had died….back on October 10th of the previous year. The same day that I had done the Chicago Marathon. My heart sank, but it was the scumbag who stole my mother’s inheritance, and perhaps the most incompetent lawyers I ever had the unfortunate disgust to hire which not only cost me any chance at seeing my grandmother alive, but has delayed (so-far) that pig from going behind bars over it ( NOTE: I’ve since gotten another lawyer. Get ready, you piece of shit. )

Anyway, the stress from all of this, sent me to a hospital by mid July. My blood pressure clocked in at 167 over 110. Even for a normal person, this is really bad. But for me? My pressure is usually 120 over 70. My pal Doug stayed with me overnight at the hospital, and days later, I realized that I still wasn’t well. My docs gave me an inhaler, but tests later showed my lung capacity was fine. They also did an echo stress test, but my heart was good too. Then I started to realize that this pain was coming from my upper stomach. I needed to rule out anything with my spleen, pancreas, liver and kidneys (which came back with a clean bill of health, Thank God) and decided to give me Dexilant, a powerful acid reducer, to finally get the rest of the poison out of my system. Thankfully, it worked, because I was very close to getting an endoscopy done otherwise.

The following week, my handsome son, David and my beautiful daughter Kayla, were born a minute apart. Naturally, life since then has not been the same. I didn’t think I could be happier then by being with Karen, the love of my life. But having these two little babies have made me feel complete in a way that I haven’t felt since Matthew was born some 10 years earlier.

A few weeks later, and in August, I got a severe case of food poisoning. It was so bad, that not only did I have to take off from work for two days, but I also had to stop running for almost a week again, until I got better.

And when I did feel better, I started running again (Naturally) only to strain my right hamstring. I was feeling so great, but was on such unfamiliar territory that I forgot not to overdo it, and running a 3:40 pace for an 1/8 of a mile was overdoing it. Result? It laid me out for another 10 days.

The issue with injuries is that once you get one, you are prone to getting more. It’s like a vicious cycle, really. Last year I was a well-oiled machine. I didn’t get hurt once ( a first) and as a result, I was able to do remarkable work on the road. This year however, I just can’t seem to get started.

But I don’t give up. I was never a quitter, and I never will be. Not now. Not ever. Those who know me, can set their clocks by my response to adversity. I just don’t go away.

Last weekend the curse continued. After doing my “obstacle course” run along the streets of the UES and Midtown during the rush hour, I started feeling some pain in my foot. I knew I needed new shoes, but I figured I would stretch the soup and save some cash until the treads started getting bald. A couple of days later, I was running with KJ and his two friends. I had completed 11 miles, but as I was jogging home, the tenderness in my right foot came back in the form of an acute pain. I self-diagnosed it. A pain just above my heel running along my arch on the inner side of my right foot. A classic case of Plantar Fascitis.

Here we go again, I thought.

It’s been a busy year at work, so it doesn’t take much to convince me to work overtime instead of running, and that’s to say nothing about my sweet wife and how hard she’s been working herself taking care of the babies. So of course, I oblige to help without regret since it seems I’m always hurt lately.

Throughout the week I was hoping to get better because I was going to California on work assignment. My job, if I do it right and everything goes well, typically avails me to be free on Sunday. I was hoping, no wait, yearning, to head back to Redondo Beach, where back on April 17th, and despite all the newfound bullshit I was dealing with at the time over the loss of my mother and the estate, I laid out a blistering 23.6 mile run. I had hoped to get back to it this weekend, but all signs pointed elsewhere.

I spent for example, icing my foot at the hotel room for like 5 hours on Thursday night. Only to wake up the next day and still feel the same crap going on down there.

Friday, I worked from sun up to sun down. I was on my feet all day, and while our facility rep exclaimed, “Alex, I’ve never seen you work so fast and hard before.”, my feet were killing me!

Saturday, I worked yet another 6 hours, but had opportunities to run. Still, I was so afraid of blowing any chance I had at a long run, that I dared not push that envelope. God, just give me one more day of rest, and make my feet feel better?

I went to bed at 11pm, and woke up today (Sunday) at 7am. The California skies from my 6th floor hotel room in Woodland Hills were already brightening. I knew I had better get a move on, so as not to run in the heat of the day.

By 8:15, I was already locked and loaded, heading for a gas station where I was get mass quantities of Gatorade, Red Bull, water, and power crunch bars. I already had nine power gels in my spi-belt too. I was obviously being optimistic, because despite being full up on supplies, my foot was still not right. Still, I’m not backing down from a challenge, And when it’s all said and done, accomplishments are easy to see, but effort, which may not be as easy to spot on a data sheet, is what really matters in life. At least to me, anyway.

The weather was nearly perfect. It was on the short side of the 60’s, humidity seemed low (then again compared to the East coast, every other place is), and their was a nice breeze. Added for good measure was a cloudy sky, which is great, because sunshine can be a terrible enemy to the long distance runner.

It is 9:30am. Time to perform.

I started right from my car at the Redondo Beach Parking lot, and running across the parking lot, and down the steps to the dockside marina. I weaved around from one walk way to another and before long I had passed Veteran’s Park on my left, and suddenly found myself at the north end of Redondo Beach. Had there been sun here, I would have been cooked by the time I would’ve gotten to the mountain.

I ran south along the walkway with the sands and water on my right. I finally had gotten new sneaks (Brooks Adrenaline, what else) and although I wore them during move-day Friday, today I would break them in, the way they were MEANT to be broken in.

It felt so good to be running again. And to be running in California too. What a great state to run in. Thanks to the weather there weren’t as many walkers, or even cyclists for me to have to struggle against while I ran. I did need water though. At the end of the Paseo De La Playa there is a little shack that sells food and drinks, but when I got there it was CLOSED. However there was a water fountain, and a bathroom, and I figured I would hit them both. The mountain was dead ahead, and I needed to make sure my “bios” were in order.

The end of ‘Paseo’ is an incline of 67 feet (according to my research). Not an issue, except the grade is insane, something like 17 degrees, and it reminded me of my running in Vancouver back in ’07.

As I headed down Palos Verdes Dr W, I began thinking that this area was unfamiliar to me. Did I get lost already? I hadn’t even hit 4 miles yet, and here I was questioning my visual memory, which typically is very good. Something told me to back track and make a right by the Fire House (yep, it says Police Dept on the map, but it’s a ladder & hook company). I continued through a parking lot when for a split second I started getting annoyed because it wasn’t a through street. Alas however, I stumbled across a set of steps almost completely ensconsed by bushes on either side. Let me tell you, the steps in the movie, “The Exorcist” had nothing, and I mean NOTHING on these. I must have gone up two hundred steps over two sets too. Trooper that I was, I did not stop, and for a second I kept wondering, why why why would ANYONE want to do that Empire State Climb Up Race?

At around the 4.5 mile mark, I had got notified that my GPS signal was very weak. Mind you, I was already 218 feet high, but nothing compared to what was to come. I really needed Nike+ to not fail me because I stupidly failed to charge my Garmin and it was dead. Then again, neither has anything to do with GPS. If you don’t get a signal, it doesn’t matter what device you have, you’re just gonna get squat. Or perhaps as my buddy Doug would say, “QUENK!”

Mile 5 took me 12:35 to do and rightfully so. Nonstop elevation which started around 200 feet and finishing at 600 feet. And I wasn’t even done yet with the climb, either.

I kept wondering how the hell my foot was holding up, but I was so charged with life that I think a truck could have hit me, and I would have gotten up, dusted off, flipped the truck the bird, and continue on my merry way. I was that determined.

I made a right onto Via Mirabel, and I gotta say, the higher I rose the nicer the mansions became. Talk about a top-down organization!

I continued onward and upward rounding Via Visalia and continued back onto Via Mirabel, not realizing that the road ended. However, I could see Paseo La Cresta, for which I trailed ran the sucker to there. I had to be careful not to fall and slide end over end onto the dirt!

By the time I got to Via Fernandez, I was now at about 700 feet. I want to say that at the time I had no idea how high I was, but thanks to the Nike+ elevation chart that I’m admiring right now as I write this, I can tell you that’s how I know. I will tell you though, it was an uphill battle the whole way. I kept thinking that downhill will have to eventually come before me. But it was at this point, where the clouds had cleared completely a/o were below me. Wow! I can’t tell you how cool it was to be able to run above the clouds. Something, that everyone should try at least once in their life.

The europhoria of the cloud running got me off guard however. When I got to Via Coronel, I made what will go down as one of the happiest blunders in my running career. I made a right instead of a left. The mistake will cost me having to run an additional 2.6 miles. Now keep in mind, I had access to my iPhone, I was already down to 70% at 6 miles, and I could not afford for me to have my phone die before I could get the final mileage tally uploaded by Nike+. I kept envisioning me cursing the shit out of my phone along the beach, with people telling me things like, “Buddy, I think the beach you want to go to yell at yourself is a little north…Venice Beach” (since they are all nuts up there,  ) Also, I will admit that I should have done a better job of pre-mapping my way,but I didn’t want to be presumptious to think that I could run this far given the nature of my still nagging foot, and thought AGAIN, that my good, albeit again, visual memory capacity would pull me through such challenges. Well, I failed at that , but in the end, it turned out to be a wonderful thing …Keep reading….

I headed back up Via Castilla, openly cursing at every “Not A Through Street sign” I saw. I wanted to get over to Golden Meadow Drive, which ran parallel to Via Castilla, but every cross street to my right was a “Place” and a dead end. Then I thought I had it, when I actually drained the cell phone further and saw something that looked like a foot path just before Via Andres. But it wasn’t there! UGHHH!!!!

I then went up Via Andres in disgust (and confusion) and saw an elderly woman who saw my Chicago Marathon shirt. “Oh my, you ran the Chicago Marathon?”

“Yes, and I will probably run another one today if I don’t find a way to get to Abbotswood Drive. Well, I never did get to Abbottswood drive, but…. 

The other annoying thing about my unwanted detour was that I actually noticed I was losing elevation (about a hundred feet, now that I look). When I got to finishing 9 miles, I was at about 600 feet again. But now it would get a LOT, LOT, LOT worse.

The Lower Paseo De La Cresta is a road that was meant for me. By the way…did I mention I am a masochist? In one mile, I scaled another 300 feet. I was now at 900 feet, but still not done.

There is a reason why the town of Rancho Palos Verdes has a road called Granvia Altamira. Altamira is Spanish for “High View”. Indeed. Prior to getting to Hawthorne Blvd (Co Hwy # 7), I had scaled to 1,039 feet. Remember….I was running along the water some 8 miles earlier.

The pain to get to the summit was taxing beyond words. I could not believe what I was undertaking, and yet here I was, far from home, far from my car. I might have well had a spacesuit on, and walking on the surface of Planet Mars. This was a personal quest gone crucibel now.

It was also at this moment, where a Moby song that I had never heard before called, "Be The One" started to play. What was brilliant about this song, is that it only had 4 lines of lyrics, yet it was incredibly impactful and insightful.

"I'll never see what you wanted... love
I was the hell that you needed... oh
I was the one when you needed love
I was the one when you needed love"

So many inferences from so few lines. I kept thinking that the mountain had been singing these words to me, telling me that I needed this hell to validate my need to triumph over it and feel successful, and that the end result of running is a way to not love myself but that its an entity itself outside of me, that loves me for doing what I do. The other inference that came to mind was that I was wondering if my mom had been singing this to me from her grave. Telling me that by not being there for me for most of my life, she never knew what I wanted, and yet her lack of love and involvement, has shaped me to be the person that I am, to overcome whatever obstacles that come my way, because she wasn't there to do it for me. Finally, it almost sounded as if she says that she was there to love me, and that perhaps that I turned a blind eye to it because she "was the one when you needed love", and had I done that, perhaps I wouldn't have married so young and so often. Poignant, alluring, and the subject for intelligent discussion, no matter what you select as the driver behind the words.

When I finally did get to Hawthorne, I saw salvation in the form of a 7-11. “Water! Water! Gatorade!!” Despite still having 5 Power Gels left, I was completely depleted of liquids.

Running down Hawthorne was a blast. I went from 1000 feet down to 200 feet in the matter of 3 miles. The sun was scorching me however, which I’m a little burned now, and really did not need to be since I had SPF with me and should have reapplied. My SPF is sweatproof, but I REALLY sweat!!

Another amazing thing was that I noticed that I was actually well EAST of the Point Vicente Lighthouse, thanks to the different route that I took. Another thing that was ominous…I was down to 40% on my iPhone. This meant that either a) I needed to run much faster, or b) I needed to do something to cut down my energy consumption, else, and like I said earlier, I would be yelling at my inanimate cell phone in public, and that’s only works if you want to wind up like Jim Carrey did in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, “GIVE ME THE BALL, COACH!”

I paused the workout, and changed the display setting to nearly illegibly dark. I also lowered the music all the way to zero, figuring that the output port of the music playing was probably a main, if not the main culprit in my phone’s degeneration.

Perhaps the most ominous thing of all was this:

I hadn’t even gotten to the light house, the halfway point, and I was already past 13 miles.

Uh oh.

I tried not to think about it. Just keep moseying along was all I needed to do. Before, making the the left onto Crestmont Lane, entry point to the home of the Salvation Army Training facility, I decided to pause my workout and give myself a few minutes rest. When I started it again, I didn’t hear “Begin Workout’ but thought nothing of it, because remember I had the volume all the way down (remember this for later)…

LOL, as I started into Crestmont, the first thing I saw on my right were some real nice tennis courts. Is this for real? I thought. Shouldn’t these “cadets” be wearing Santa Claus outfits and shaking their bells? Who knows…perhaps Rafael Nadal is under one of those Santa costumes after all. As I turned around the bend, I finally passed the facilities, and the parking lot. Pretty impressive, almost as much as the downhill too. As I read the photo below, I must have dropped another 200 feet in like what, a half-mile?

Perhaps the best surprise of all was waiting ahead of me. I was supposed to empty out onto Palos Verdes Drive South, when up ahead what do I see but an unguarded electronic rolling fence closing the entire way. No way was I going to run back up. NOT AGAIN. Fortunately, the drama ended quickly; as I drew closer, I noticed that I was able to go around it. Still, ‘what up’ with not placing the same fence off of Hawthorne? What? The residents of Palos Verdes Drive are of a lower, more menacing class requiring fencing? I wasn’t sure if the fence was electrified either, but I wasn’t about to whiz on it, let alone touch it to find out!

I headed my way west on PVD with the sight of the marvelous light house up ahead in the distance. Of course, as I had expected, entry to it was again closed (meh). Thank you, 9-11 terrorists. Can’t we ever go back to a time where Americans can ever feel free to roam wherever they please? I guess not.

Anyway, I got close enough to see it, and then continued onward to the welcome center because I was again thirsty as hell. This was not a good sign. My frequency for thirst was increasing, a sure sign of dehydration and degeneration. Albeit, I was already past Mile 15 or so ( as I look now ) and I really did not think I was in shape given all my maladies this year. Unfortunately, my ‘sitch’ would get a whole lot worse…

Before getting change from the female clerk in side the Welcome Center, I went to go and pause my workout when horrors of horrors, it was already paused. WHAT???? The last time I paused my iPhone I was on Hawthorne. SHIIIIIIT! Despite how lousy I am with my Garmin about this, I really had done a stellar job at timekeeping…Until now that is. I bought a Dasani water, and downed yet another gel pack. 4 left. Rather concerned about the GPS not acquiring a signal, I decided to go back the way I came back to Hawthorne. Plus, I figured that I could start my workout again at the last spot where I had paused it (and never unpaused it, ugh). This would be another blunder which too would be a historical blessing in disguise. Had I decided to take the chance and run along the cliff, I would have done at least three miles less. Another blunder resulting in….MORE MILEAGE done…..Alas, a silver lining in these confusing clouds? Keep on reading please!

By the time I got to Mile 14, I started getting some muscle twitching in my right posterior calf. I was also getting tired, but not because I thought I wasn’t in shape either, I had never factored in that I actually had done an extra 3.20 miles, which made it 17.2 miles. And if you are a runner, you will understand when I say that Math is one of the first thing that goes in your brain. It’s too wrapped up in getting electrolytes replenished, and it is scrambling to heal every muscle that just wants to die, especially in your legs.

I was back on Palos Verdes Drive W, and heading north when my photographic memory finally kicked in advising me to make a left onto Via Anacapa. Up ahead in the distance, I saw the Lunada Bay Elementary School, or my “OASIS” as I had better thought. Back on that April 17th day, it was hot and sunny the whole way, and I was out of water, and out of gas. I needed water in a real bad way. I had seen this school, and decided to detour into it. When I found a working water fountain, I nearly cried and drank for like 5 minutes from it. Well I wasn’t as emotional this time around, but I did drink again for a few minutes. I remembered to cross north on Anacapa till I got to Paseo Lunado (because Paseo Del Mar would have taken me the wrong way) and continued on. While I was still in good spirits at Mile 16 (which I knew was more than that), I had reminded myself that I always got a second wind around Mile 16, but warned that it might be my last wind. My brain was playing tricks on me, because I wasn’t at Mile 16…I was at 19+ Miles already.

It all started going to hell on me as I went north on Paseo Del Mar. The sun was hot as fuck and I was breaking down and breaking bad in every which way. I even stopped briefly to login & post in Facebook;

“Just enterd my 18th mile, glycogrn at Zero. Re-entering rancho palos verdes. 2 poeer gels left. Massive cramping in quads, hamms and right posterior calf. LosIng Gps. Time to separate the marathoners fron the men Time for a miracle...”

Not only were my legs shot…so was my brain! I had actually left Rancho Palos Verdes and was approaching Palos Verdes Estates. Also I was over-reacting to the “Weak Signal” message, but then again I had this come on at least a dozen times throughout the course of my run. The rest I was dead on with though. My legs were a mess, with my Plantar Fascitis being the least of my worries. Also, I did only have 2 power gels left. And yes, at this point, I felt as I was going to need a miracle to get me back to my car. I kept thinking some rich Palos Verdians were going to stop their Bentley to pick up some poor collapsed runner and nurse me back to health with Pellegrino, and tips on how to finally make some money. Yah, right. Hey….I was over the 21 mile mark!

On top of all of that, I was noticing buzzards flying everywhere. What? Were they waiting for a meal from an expired Alex? I better put on my sunglasses. I hear they beak away at the eyeballs first. No need to be resuscitated, just to be blinded! This is what I was thinking too. Another proof that I really had lost my marbles.

Somewhere, just shy of the 22 (REAL) mile mark, I saw steps taking me off Palos Verdes Dr and down to Via Almar, which was fine by me, since there was little or no shoulder up ahead and I wanted to get back in one piece, or at least whatever was still good, which by now was from the waist up only…

I went down the steps walking gingerly because my feet especially the metarsal bone in my right foot was going nuts in spasms. I made the right onto Via Almar, which then became Via Corta and which then took me back to Palos Verdes. Up ahead, in addition to the outdoor art fair (which, LOL, was there in April…AND WITH THE SAME ART!), was a deli. I ran in and got a Diet Red Bull and a Gatorade. I then crossed the street at Via Chico ( a dangerous place to cross – they sorely need a street light, or at least a stop sign for peds) and made my way along the wooded off-street path, the same one I came up on some 19 miles earlier.

As I came out of there, a sharp pain came up the right side of my leg. It wasn’t just the calf, but the thigh as well. With my headphones on, I can only imagine how loud my “FUCK YOU!” rang through the nice neighborhood. Better yet, was the sign I would pass just seconds later...“St. Francis Episcopal Church”. Great, just great….

Now, who ever said that running on grass is great because it’s soft and good for the knees, is like someone telling me that they like solitary confinement, because the one-off cockroaches that crawl into your cell are tasty protein laden delights. Give me a damn break about the grass already! Along Bluff Cove I had no choice but to run on the grass since there were no sidewalks or shoulder. Yes, the grass was soft. It was also laden with holes, rocks, and was uneven as shit. Between that and my all out leg and feet spasms, I was almost hating life, but I knew something special was happening today, so the resentment was short-lived. Hence, the 13+ minute mile.

My photographic memory kicked in again. Amazing, since I was a 46-year old mindless, running fool by now. I made a right on Calle Mayor, a right onto Cam De Encanto, followed a by a quick left onto Vista Del Sol.

Eureka! The beach was in sight now! I was passed the 20 mile mark on the workout, but in reality I was past the 20.36 miles which I had completed the last time I came here. Woohoo!!!!! :-)

Now came that 67 foot drop (which before was a climb). Injuries tend to happen more when you go downhill, and I wasn’t to add to my already handsome roster of broken shit. So, I walked down the ramp, thank you very much!

Okay,that’s it. I now am back on the beach. People are watching me now, and I don’t think it’s because I’m a looker, or because I was wearing a Chicago Marathon 2010 tek shirt either. And it defintely wasn’t because I was wearing spandax tight fitting shorts either, something I learned about on how to virtually eliminate chaffing. Perhaps it was my gait. I looked like a wounded animal. Interestingly, I was actually feeling better physically. I really didn’t have an answer for it. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I would be finished soon?

Speaking of that, I looked at my iPhone again. I was down to 22%. SHIT. What was worse was that now, I had this crazy idea that I wanted to do a FULL MARATHON, but despite the fact that I was actually going to do it, that my Nike+ missed three of the miles. I didn’t want my workout to show anything less than 26.2….How vain, right?

So by the time I got back to my car, which was an accomplishment in it of itself, I was at 23.6 miles. In order to get to 26.2 I was going to need to run more. I figured if I could run north to at least 24.6, that I should get to 26.2 by the time I got back. I was taking a huge risk though as I was running under 20% as the iPhone had warned me of it.

Sometimes risk is worth the reward it brings.

I headed north on North Harbor Drive. Totally new territory for me. There were lots of people walking around. It was after 2:30pm. Bars were buzzing with football games, and women were out and about shopping, etal. I remembered passing the Chart House and suddenly I was on Hermosa Avenue, hence I was in the community of Hermosa Beach. I was slightly confused that I was near Venice Beach, because it appeared somewhat similar when I looked to my left and down the streets.

I continued until I got to 15th street, before crossing the street and turning around. I was down to 15%.

I really needed to push myself to make it, now. Grunting with every stride, I just started throwing down the hammer, which is funny, cause as I look at my mile splits now, it was no faster than any other mile!

I got back to my car, and Nike+ said 25.75 miles. For the first time in my life, I was actually upset about this? I have some nerve, right? This was already my longest training run EVER, but I really wanted to end this above 26.2 miles. And this with the good guestimate that I had probably run 3 more miles than what it said!

I was down to 9% on energy on the iPhone. Dangerously close to losing my workout entirely due to shutoff. I felt like Kramer from Seinfeld. “LET’S SEE HOW LONG THIS CAR WILL GO BEFORE IT STOPS!”, I think those were his words in the episode where he had an OCD about gambling with his fuel reserves.

So, here I was running towards my car again, and thinking, “What to do?”

Fuck it. You only live one time.

And not only was I going to do 26.2 on the Nike+ but I was going to do 27.

At 25.75, I figured I would need to get to 26.4 before turning around.

No Fear.

I ran back onto the marina, and again made my way around the crowd of people. I figured that if I passed out, someone, anyone, would help me. 26.4 miles actually took me to the very start of the beach walk way, and then I turned it around, I was now down to 5%. “Holy Shit, Alex. You are going to McGyver this, aren’t you?”

Again, I ran as hard as I could (which again, LOL, was no faster than any other mile!) and made my way back to the car as fast as I could.

I did it!

I looked at my watch, it said 1%

OH SHIT!!!!!!

End Workout! End Workout! This is what I was yelling as I was trying to end the workout. Then I realized I had to pause it first.



27.04 Miles according to Nike +. But I knew I did at least 3 miles based on the lighthouse, so I wasn’t done yet. I had to get back to my hotel to find out the truth.

But first…..CHURROS!

I called Karen, and nearly bawled I was so happy, and in disbelief over what I had accomplished. And then...I went to buy 3 greasy overpriced Churros for $5 dollars.

It would take hours before I would notice that she too finally banged out 5 miles on what was only Karen’s 2nd run since getting her C-section 7 weeks ago. I’m very proud of my wife. Like me, she is a determined soul and will not quit!

I got all kinds of kudos on Facebook from my friends, and when I got back and did the math I was indeed in shock. 3.19 extra miles not recorded. Bring my total folks from 27.04 to 30.23 miles.

The longest run, training, racing or otherwise….EVER.

Finally. Something to put on my running resume for 2011!!! :-)

Friday, September 9, 2011

East Side Obstacle Course

In celebration of the upcoming NFL season, I decided to throw myself into harm's way. I left my apartment at 7pm, not for the park but for the streets of Manhattan. My goal tonight was to run 7 miles, 3.5 out, 3.5 back. The evening temperature was pleasant and there were hordes of people everywhere. For most runners, this would not be a desirable situation to run in, but I totally disagree.

When you run in a race, are there not hordes of people around you getting in your way?

I deliberately did this run to focus on my running more than ever. People walking or standing, vehicles making sharp turns onto cross streets, barricades, obstacles, doors swinging open, etc. All of this forces you to really focus on your outside surroundings. Anything less could mean injury or death!

I made my way across to 3rd Avenue, then headed south from 102nd street. I tried not to stop if at all possible. Sometimes I found that I could, but other times there were actual vehicles crossing the street and I just wasn't going to be stupid and cross. With 3.5 miles each way in mind, my goal was to run down to my doc's office on 40th and Madison, since that was close enough to the distance goal.

I crossed 3rd at 65th and headed down to Lexington Avenue where I made a left to continue going south. Lexington Avenue's sidewalks are a bit narrower than 3rd, so I had to step up to the added challenges of zigging and zagging around people. It was a lot of fun though, as my run had "obstacle course" written all over it. The goal was to do whatever I not stop. Sometimes, I'd have to do some highstepping to time a small opening between people and things just right. I totally felt like a running back in the NFL.

Also, I was running with my newly acquired Black Diamond Headlamp, but hey, in New York City? I had enough illumination, at least on the way down anyway.

My run down Lex didn't last too long though, as I made another right heading down 63rd, where I would make yet another left down Park Avenue. Park Avenue is never as crowded since commercial activity in the Upper East Side is held to a minimum. Also, and unlike the other avenues, you can actually see other runners. The street lights however, are another thing, as they are "batched" cycle, insuring me that I will have to stop every few blocks. I wasn't going to have any of this shit, and so after crossing Park and back again, I finally made a right turn down 58th and another left on Madison, for my last 'drive'.

One thing I forgot to bring was my Garmin. But I had just recently downloaded the Nike+ app, everyone's been talking about. It's been out for awhile, but I've resisted, simply because Nike has real buggy apps. My shoe pod never worked well years back, and I remembered that going forward.

The good thing is that the Nike + app actually sync'd with the sats right away. The other cool stuff was the women's voice giving me updates on my distance and time in between my music. I must say it's pretty liberating alternative to having to look at your watch so often.

I had my women's voice giving me updates every quarter mile, and was impressed to see that I kept going faster with each ensuing segment. By the time, I had gotten to my destination, my pace had gone from 10 something, to 8:13 per mile. Very nice.

I took a break, and paused my workout. Actually, I did several pauses along the way, whenever I had to fully come to a stop, like at a red light. I didn't think it would have an impact on the app, and while I ran I was never given a reason to think it would. I kept getting my quarterly mile updates from the women (for whom which I have to give her a name someday)

Heading back north after my break, I decided to go north on Madison till I got to 57th (near Central Park). I believe Manhattanites are experiencing "Fashion Week", because there must have been hundreds of "supermodels" just walking about between 52nd and 57th. Plenty of lines of people trying to get into these "chi-chi" places, including some new Italian restaurant, I'd never seen before. Must have been a grand opening.

Made my way back to Park Av., where from there I would head north till I got to 96th.
I already started feeling some raindrops, and with the wind kicking up, it actually felt good.

I made my way back to Lex and from there up to 102nd and finally home. I was sweating real good, considering I had just finished my run in 1:01:14 good enough for an 8:14 pace. Yet, when I logged onto Nike it did not show my pace being graphed after the half-way point. See? Nike always has problems!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why does R.E.M. want for me not to go to Rockville?

For one, my Uncle Antonio lives there. And secondly, it's a nice place to run through too. I hadn't run there since August 12th of 2007, a day (Aug 11, 2007) later after doing a 16 mile run through the abandoned but beautiful North Central Railroad Trail that connects Glencoe and Monkton just north of Cockeysville, MD too.

The dew point was really bad at 72, and without having slept much with the night feedings and all, just doing 7 miles was good enough.

I left my Unc's house off of South Van Buren heading south on Glen Falls road. Eventually, the side walk was no longer but there was access to a path that was a nice little private way up a hill.

Along the way were a plethora of private little communities tucked in between the Rockville and Potomac communities.

Kept running and found my way through another private path. Looking at the picture below, I was kinda wondering when Opie Taylor would pass by me with his pa and fishing pole...

More communities....

At one point, I had to go to church, but not to pray, but rather visit the restroom. Nonetheless it was a very holy event for sure.

As I kept running, I saw a nice pool and kept thinking "If I jump the fence, and jump in to cool off, will they be able to catch me afterwards??"

Then, I came up on an interesting cross street, called Victory Lane. Hey, I'm a runner. How could I pass up on this opportunity, right?
And now I can clearly see why it's called Victory Lane. Some of the houses here were as beautiful as the ones my mother had built in the Hamptons. Karen's friend Lisa, grew up in this area, no doubt the product of successful parents. They live only about 5 miles from where my Uncle lives too.

Overall, the course was very hilly, and challenging. The humidity alone was oppressive, but it was nice to get a run in a new place.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Alex Discovers The 'Dark' Continent.

Today was another extremely busy day at work. Again, I had packed a change of clothes, and again I had hoped to be able to run outside during lunch. But yet again, I would not succeed the way I wanted to. In fact, I didn't even run at lunch at all, barely even had time to eat at my desk, and by the time I survived work, a two plus hour commute, a stop to Ann's for baby stuff, and my visit with my doc, I was already looking at a 9:20pm start time. Did I give up?

Think again.

On my way home, the futility of my commute threw my head into thinking about a plan B. There was no way that I would be able to run during daylight, which is okay because I've run at night before. It's just that I hadn't done it in a while.

Awile ago, I figured that a headlamp would be a great tool for this superhero's running arsenal. I had mentioned to Karen about getting me one for my birthday. I found one on REI's website that looked good. Though the price tag was a bit rich, $70 bucks. I never bought it, being that we had two little sacks of joy and I figured those little sacks would be doing a good job emptying my wallet (and trust me, they are)!

I was on the LIE with my windows rolled down when I felt the breeze. It Even more unusual was the absence of humidity. At a crawl on the Northern State, we came to a stop. I checked quickly, noticing that the dew point outside was beneath 60%. Optimal conditions for running indeed.

I decided to go and get myself a headlamp. Fortunately, REI had a store just one exit back, so I turned it around and made my way into the store. Great store too, especially if you are into hiking, biking or camping. Damn amazing, actually.

After asking the clerk, I found my way to the "headlamp" section. A dazzling display of many offers for sure. The prices ranged from $29 to $49, but the one that had the most lumens (strongest light), was actually on sale for $39 (originally it was $59, which would had made it the cadillac of headlamps!)

Blogrunner went ahead and closed the deal.

Hours later I was all set to run in the park. I had my iPhone in my neoprene waist band. I had my 7th Gen Nano perfectly inserted into my home made docking station of my wireless headset. I had my Garmin GPS on. And now I had my Black Diamond 100 Lumen Storm Headlamp on too. Shit, foo'!!! I was ready to go!

Karen begged me not to go north or across the 102nd street transverse, so I promised to make wifey happy, by running to the 96th Street entrance on 5th and then headed south on Central Park's East Drive, in a clockwise motion looping around Central Park South, Columbus Circle, and up to Tavern on the Green. I then turned onto the 72nd Street Transverse and headed back east to Central Park East Drive, and headed back north from there and eventually back home. Drawing the design out on paper, it would look like a musical note, but more importantly, it meant at least 6 miles.

Well, I felt a little embarrased to turn the light on when I was running to the park along the streets. And that's to say nothing that in Manhattan there are lights on at all hours of the night anyway. Except though, for Central Park. Lights are on there too, but they seem dimmer, making me wonder if Mayor Doomsberg had anything to do with that.

Once in the park, I couldn't hold back the excitement much longer. I had to turn this thing on and see for myself if it was worth the coin that I forked over.

And it was.

Wow! What amazing little piece this thing was! The light was brighter than that of my car's headlight! It was great. Betweeen that and everything else electronic that I was now sporting through the dark, and surprisingly, not so runner-barren path, I was beginning to feel like a Running Cyberborg!

Resistance to Running is futile.

I really liked how this product performed. The light was incredibly powerful, and I was able to adjust the angle. The headband, though soaked by the end of my run , was very comfortable. It never jostled while on my head, and it had just the right amount of tension, so as not to leave any marks when I got home either.

The reaction from the runner friendly environment was mostly smiles, or people saying "Cool". Some laughed, and that's okay too. For I am the class clown, and I always aim to please! :-)

Here's proof of just how bright the light was. Also note, that there are several lighting options; strobe, solid flood, spot, emergency, etal. I decided to go with the spot as it was bright as hell!
See here...

Here are the tech specs for those of you gadget nerds like me out there that want to know more...

The ad:
"When you need bright, reliable light in the worst conditions, the fully waterproof Black Diamond Storm offers up 100 lumens of illumination for spotting rap anchors or lighting up the trail. In addition to versatile proximity, distance and strobe modes, the Storm's 2 red LEDs preserve night vision and activate without cycling through white mode. We also included a lock mode to stop accidental battery drain when the lamp is stored in your pack."

The shit:
  • 1 TriplePower LED, 2 SinglePower White LEDs and 2 SinglePower red LEDs emit 100 lumens (max power)
  • Red night vision mode activates without cycling through white mode
  • Sleek low-profile design uses 4 AAA batteries
  • Settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night vision and lock mode
  • Three-level power meter shows remaining battery life for 3 seconds after switching on headlamp
  • Protected against water immersion down to 1 m (3.3 ft) for 30 minutes (IPX 7)
Honestly, this was a great buy. And as for me the world of night running has opened up even more than ever. Tonight was my exploration into the Dark Continent (hmm...sounds like a risque 70's caballero movie, doesn't it) with many more to follow...

6.63 miles done tonight!