Wednesday, March 31, 2010

when i pedal it rains green

a couple of years ago j. and i were on a sunday bike ride. he was ahead of me as we went around a bend and little flash of green caught my eye.

i turned around and went back. what was laying in the middle of the street? a c-note. a bill. a benjamin. cold. hard. cash. i looked around for ashton kutcher, but when i didn't see him or any fishing line attached to the bill, i took the money and rode.

like a good girl i made sure it wasn't counterfeit before i tried to use it.

this morning i was on my way home from a little spin. waiting at the "do not turn right on red" sign ... like the good cyclist i am (or rather, the cyclist that learned a VERY expensive lesson about not obeying traffic laws ... cough, cough, $200+ ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign) and what do i see at my feet?

this time a double sawbuck. $20. MORE GREEN!

at this rate i'm earning about $60 a year to ride my bike.

does this mean i'm now a sponsored athlete?


Friday, March 26, 2010


i wanted to write a separate post to talk about mel, my brother nick, emily and my sister rachel.

all the time i was training, each one of them was putting in the miles and having their own experience prepping for the l.a. marathon.

mel is the wife of a friend of mine, though now that seems a really silly way to describe her. she's my friend. a while back her husband had mentioned that some day she wanted to run a marathon. she'd done one 1/2 marathon before and an olympic distance triathlon, so she was clearly athletic, but hadn't done a whole lot of focused training and racing and she had a baby 16 months ago.

one day i randomly wrote on her facebook wall that i thought she should run the l.a. marathon. she laughed at me and said she was thinking of doing a half in january, but that was it for now thankyouverymuch. i told her she should come out and run with the group i was leading on sundays. she told me we were too fast. a few more back and forths and she decided to come out.

what i suspected was totally spot on! not only were we not too fast, this girl is a natural born runner and determined as all get out. she ran with us each week and each week she rocked it. january's half marathon came up really quickly. she ran it and she smoked it. her confidence started to build. i continued to tell her i thought she could still do l.a. we'd need to alter the typical mileage build and reconnoiter some things, but i thought her body could handle it.

at some point that suggestion became a reality and she was "in". i could tell on our long training runs that she still had gas in the tank when we finished. she seemed to recover really well each time and she was dedicated about getting up to run at 5am during the week before baby, husband and work beckoned.

nick, mel and i were together from the start until about mile 16 when mel pulled ahead. i've never been so happy to see someone drop me. i knew she had a fast time in her and she needed to go do it! she finished with a very impressive time.

i loved watching her journey.

mel and her daughter rio at the finish line
(photo by brooklin)

my sister rachel and i ran the 2000 l.a. marathon together. we trained for 6 months with the l.a. leggers, doing a walk/run program that got us both to the start and finish line -- together. as i've mentioned before, when i heard about the course change for this year i told my sister about it and she was intrigued. she hadn't been running much over the past 10 years, so i wasn't really sure that she would want to do it, but lo and behold sometime back in the summer she signed up for the l.a. leggers and took herself down there week after week to train with them.

there were a few times she wasn't able to join their long saturday run and had to do them on her own and i was amazed at her tenacity. 18 miles is a helluva long way to run ... it's even longer alone. she did it and honestly, she seemed like she was really enjoying herself.

initially she had some knee problems and i was afraid they might take her out, but she went to physical therapy, started using the foam roller, stretching icing and even ... took the dreaded ice baths!

on race day, rachel started with her l.a. leggers group and ran the first part of the race with them, but ultimately wound up going ahead a bit. she ran with some of the folks she had trained with, but for the most part was on her own and having a blast.

rachel celebrating post-race with mark and nick

my brother nick is relatively new to marathon running, well to running in general, but man has he taken to it! he started running a couple of years ago and at this point he's probably done more road races than i have! i ran the new york marathon in 2007 and he was there to cheer me on ... little did he know i would be walking from mile 19 and that he'd be joining me somewhere around mile 23 trying to encourage me to start running again (didn't happen). the next year he ran new york, his first marathon, with his girlfriend emily and i was there to cheer him on!

nick and emily live in new york and when i suggested they come run l.a. with me and rachel they were game and thought it might be a good way to keep fitness through the hard east coast winter. man oh man, what they were in for. both nick and emily have become avid fans of the vibram five fingers. it's one thing to run barefoot through the hamptons in the summer sunlight, it's another thing all together to churn out 18 miles in 20 degree weather along the westside highway. they did it and i think they're badass!

nick and i ran together until about mile 21 when i had just a little more push in me and we parted. it was hard for me to not stay together and i felt a pang, but i also knew he would want me to push if i was able.

nick cruisin' along at mile 13

emily is one of those people who seems up for pretty much anything. a funny combination of intimidated and inspired by the vastness of the unknown, i relate to that so much. she had run the l.a. marathon years ago. at the time her friend josh and his wife elizabeth had planned to run it too. then elizabeth got injured, but they still came out and josh ran part of the course with emily. josh and his wife have since moved to los angeles and i have become friends with them. same fella that joined us out there on sunday.

emily has some awesome friends out here in l.a. and she was able to run different sections of the course with some of them. and though they didn't see each other throughout the day, she and rachel somehow found each other at mile 25 and got to share the final mile!

nick and emily, all smiles!

going in to sunday's race, we had all had our own training experiences and we all had our own goals, but we were getting to share the whole experience. we all had our own flavor of pre-race nerves and how to manage them. it's great for me to see everyones process. i learn from it.

in the end, each and every one of us achieved a PR marathon time. i think that's pretty exceptional and a testament to some pretty great training and a lot of heart.

my only regret about this race is that j. was injured and unable to do it with us. the hills on this course were made for him and he would have fed off of the energy more than anyone. he'll be there in 2011!

congratulations to all my friends and family who ran on sunday. i'm so proud of all of us!

and to my siblings, for you i will suffer public humiliation for a laugh. here i am on our way to the expo. everyone was packed into the car and i didn't want to share the nasty bug i had caught. now that's love!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

los angeles marathon 2010

last thursday i didn't know if my marathon day was going to even happen on sunday! i was planning on it, but i wasn't sure. i'm not the type of person to train, let alone race, through sickness so i didn't really know how i'd "do" with it. it was all new territory.

i've been so invested in this race. i trained hard and smart, lead weekly runs for the tri club, talked the race up to anyone that would listen. i got my brother, his girlfriend (who live in NY) and my sister to agree do it, i wrote training plans for a couple of people, i had good strong goals that were making me stretch, but felt within my reach.

i really didn't want to miss this race.

for three solid days i did whatever i could to get better. i begged, borrowed and stole from the east and the west; drinking a concoction of hot water, lemon juice, grapefruit seed extract, red cayenne pepper and freshly grated ginger (thank you, jimmy dean). taking antibiotics. spraying my throat with colloidal silver and flushing my sinuses with a neti pot. then, mid-day saturday, i stopped it all (except the antibiotics). i wanted a little bit of time for my body to settle in. just like with the training, i had done what i could.

both of these products are really great!

saturday night was business as usual ... bland dinner at 6pm and shut it down by 8:30pm. of course, i didn't sleep a wink. i learned during ironman that you really can get away with not sleeping at all the night before. i trusted that the immense amount of race adrenaline i already had coursing through my veins was going to increase even more come 7:24am sunday morning.

4:30am, up and making my hot buckwheat cereal. a hot shower, dr. wu's magic balm on my achy spots. josh came over at 5:30am and we were off to pick up mel. she's one of the athletes i created a training plan for. this was going to be her first marathon and i knew from her results during training that she was ready and was gonna blow the doors off of it!

j. drove us all to dodger stadium. we planned to be there an hour and half before the start. that's early, but this is l.a. and you never know what's going to happen on the freeway. and yup, it happened. the freeway became a parking lot, literally. people actually abandoned their cars on the freeway because they were afraid of not making it to the race in time. we sat and sat and sat and finally decided we could hoof it there faster. so yes, we got out and walked along the freeway.

"warming up" along the 110 frwy.
(photo by josh)

we got to the start and it was the usual surreal pre-race scene of humanity. it was exciting! lots of reflective clothing dashing off into bushes and the like. i was supposed to meet my brother at the G baseball,

race day meeting spot, the day before

but with all the chaos of freeway walking and the fact that he and my sister and emily were still in their car back on the freeway, mel and josh and i pushed our way through the masses to find a spot. josh was planning to run with his phone (more on that later) so he texted updates back to my brother in the hopes that he'd find us. eventually we just plopped down in the middle of the crowd and started making friends. after all my worrying about being able to access the 3:50 pace group (that would be in the sub-4 hour corral which i was not allowed in to since i did not have a qualifying time) ... who do we wind up right next to?

the irony of landing right next to the 3:50 pace group!

after waiting for a while it came over the loudspeaker that they would be delaying the start of the race by 7 minutes. we wound up getting that announcement a few times and honestly, other than the potential for the temperatures to be higher with a later finish, i was a little relieved as i knew a lot of people weren't going to make it to the start in time.

me and mel waitin' on the gun!
(photo by josh)

so the plan was for mel and my brother and i to start together. i was going to go out a little slower at the beginning because the first few miles have a lot of hills and then pick it up as i go. that was the plan, but i knew that the plan might get tossed based on how i felt. mel and nick and i agreed it would be great to be around each other, but none of us would wait per se, for the other.

josh was running l.a. for fun. he's an ultra runner training for his first 100 mile race and is also racing oceanside 70.3 this coming saturday. he was going to run leisurely to mile 18 (his leisurely is faster than my race pace) and meet me there to give me a little support through what i anticipated was going to be the hardest section of the race. then he was going to double back and meet my brother's girlfriend emily at mile 20 and run to the finish with her. what a guy, right? an athlete that's strong as iron and a friend who's as sweet as pie!

josh chillin' at mile 18.5
(photo by josh)

the gun went off and we began to shuffle. there were way too many bodies around to actually run. i could feel mel's excitement and her itching to run! josh was next to me and we were all just sort of pushed along ... until suddenly we were running! the first mile is an absolute blur of dodging bodies and avoiding crashing into pylons as we snaked our way around the parking lot of dodger stadium.
me and mel in the crush of the start
(photo by josh)

it felt humid, my breathing was tight and i had absolutely zero saliva. bone dry. nerves. antibiotics. ugh. i just went. it was too early to assess how i felt. just before we headed out of dodger stadium i heard a familiar voice come screaming up behind me ... my brother! he had made it and we were off!

the pace was faster than i wanted and my heart rate was through the roof from the get go. i tried to find the balance between some free speed on from mile 1.5 - 3 and reigning myself in, for fear of going too hard. cresting the grand ave. hill between mile 3 - 4 i had my first "i don't think i can do this" thought.

at the top of grand ave hill
(photo by tokyphotography)

i had so few of those thoughts during my training this time. i didn't want to start now and it was way too early for it. i made sure mel and my brother knew i wasn't feeling my best so that they would go ahead if they felt good and then i had to let it go. i spent from mile 4 to mile 17 cycling in and out of feeling good and bad, but ya know ... it was okay because after the way i felt at mile 4 and then seeing it lift in the next mile or so i remembered that that's just the game. you cycle through and don't grab on to any one feeling as being evidence of how you are ... cuz it'll change.

this year the course of the l.a. marathon changed to a point-to-point from dodger stadium to the beach, hitting all the iconic l.a. spots along the way. i had the feeling that this course was going to be spectacular. i ran chunks of it during my training and putting it all together on race day did not disappoint.

i grew up in new york and even though there are five big boroughs and tons of people, you feel united in "new yorkness". since living in l.a. i've loved the lifestyle and have a great westside community, but i can't say as i've felt the same connection to the city. i know the city well, but trying to get from one part of it to another on any given day can be a daunting task. we all sort of find our place and, for the most part, exist in it. little pods if you will.

but, run through it all and ... WOW! i felt such a connection to it. each little pocket seamlessly connected to the next. there is something about physically moving through it without the protection or barrier of a car that made me see it more, connected me to it. all of us ... runners, residents, volunteers, spectators ... we were wrapped together in the unity that sport provides. a common goal whether you were racing or cheering. a finish line to cross and everyone supporting each other to get there.

speaking of support, j. showed up just before mile 12 and then i saw him again at something like 14, 16, 21, and 24. between knowing the course really well, seeing j. at all those spots, meeting up with josh at 18.5, i never had that sense that i have in almost all races of "wow, a mile hasn't even passed yet? wow, i still have another 11 miles to go?" it's funny because i was working harder than i think i have in any race, but the sense of the miles dragging out just never came.

me and my brother. he raced in the vibram five fingers!
(photo by josh)

the energy on the course was fantastic and it also really helped for me to keep in my head something i had written down a few days before: "i will not think about the miles ahead of me. i will focus on relaxing and enjoying each mile, one mile at a time. i will keep fresh thoughts in my mind and a quick step to my feet."

one of the side effects of antibiotics is an increased heart rate. i basically ran the entire marathon in zone 4. that's nuts. you don't run a marathon in zone 4! it definitely caught up to me and by mile 20 i was pushing through fatigued and seizing legs like i never have before. local running coach jimmy dean came up along side of me just before i was entering the VA grounds and his voice got real serious ... "this is gonna hurt. you look strong and you need to dig down in there and just make it happen. you can do this. it's gonna hurt." i didn't respond much, but i took his words and let them slide into my consciousness and down into my legs. i shut off my head. i pushed. i pushed. i pushed a little more. i believe i whimpered a bit as well, but i wasn't giving up!

hitting mile 21 there was a huge cheering section that was just off the hook. it was brentwood's version of the new york marathon's 1st avenue. electric. seeing the long expanse of san vicente blvd. ahead of me pushed me forward. i sensed that my brother was no longer running with me. i felt badly, but i also knew i had to keep going.

san vicente is where i learned to run. 11 years ago i tried to run along san vicente and got .7 of a mile before flopping over, exhausted. san vicente is where i do almost all of my running. i trained for duathlon worlds on s.v., ironman on s.v. i've done mile repeat after mile repeat. i've cried, celebrated, quit, gotten back up ... all on san vicente. i had dreamed for the past year of finishing my marathon along it.

once i got to 26th st. i'd have two miles of downhill along this street i loved so much and then it would be 1.2 miles along the ocean to the finish. i know every bend, rise, fall and pot hole along the way. i don't know if i could have overridden my body the way i did if it weren't for how well i know the road and how inspired i felt being on it. i was able to just shut off my head and go.

i saw rich at moreno dr., jaime and oliver were going to be at 17th st., rebekah was at 11th, jen was at georgina, elon at palisades. the route was lined with friends and memories and i let them all push me forward. i don't think there was a smile on my face, but i was full of pride for what i have become. 11 years ago, overweight, two pack a day smoker, no exercise whatsoever and not an abundance of self-esteem and generally someone who was afraid to try for fear she would fail.

this race, for me, had become the pinnacle of that evolution. having my family running the race, bringing it to other people for the first time, setting a big goal for myself, and ultimately, staring it down on my own, but supported by friends, family and a community that i love.

i knew as i was coming down san vicente that i had missed my time goal, but i was okay with it. i wasn't giving up. it was still all worth it. the sound of the helicopters wubb-wubbing above pushed me on even more. it kind of made me feel like the leader! fog was blowing by me as i hit ocean ave. it was a straight shot down to the finish line, but it looked really far, so i took my gaze down a bit and just stayed in myself ... working, pushing and appreciating that i've become a woman who is always willing to at least try!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

wow. really?

i was going to post an entry today about the "taper crazies" and about how all those little niggles and sickies lurking are in our minds ... and then i got sick.

i still believe all the things i wrote and i'll post it later when i'm in a better humor. for now i need to sleep, drink massive amounts of water, take my antibiotics and hope that a) they kick this sinus and ear infection out quick and b) that the antibiotics don't leave me as fatigued as usual.

my coach asked if there was another marathon in a week or two that i could do. she didn't want to see all this fitness go to waste if i am not able to run on sunday. thing is ... it's not about a marathon, it's about this marathon. it's special. i'm invested. i'm attached. i. want. to. do. it.

think strong, healthy thoughts for me ... i have two and half days to get healthy!!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

i love l.a. (marathon)

ten years ago i ran the l.a. marathon with my sister. it was my second and her first. we trained for it together and ran every step side-by-side. it piss poured rain until mile 18, but sharing that experience with her was great!

like i said, it poured rain the whole time!

but doing it together was the best!

i didn't think much of the l.a. course. i couldn't understand why it didn't go from downtown to the beach. after running it i said that unless they made it a point-to-point course, i wouldn't bother running it again. lo and behold last year they announced that they would be moving the race to a point-to-point course in 2010. there were a lot of multi-city hoops to jump through, but i knew if it all got approved, i was in!

one day, over pedicures, i mentioned the potential new course to my sister. mind you before our marathon experience i had, for the most part, been a couch potato and my sister had been a runner. post-marathon i continued running and ultimately found triathlon. my sister all but hung up her running shoes. so, when i told her they were talking about making the l.a. marathon course from dodger stadium, though hollywood, beverly hills, brentwood and santa monica to the beach she said "wow, if they do that, even i'd run it!"

new multi-city, "stadium to the sea" course route!

well, guess what? ... we're running it! not only my sister and i, but my brother and his girlfriend have been training for it in new york ... all miserable winter long! the running community in l.a. is beyond excited for this race. it has so much momentum it's palpable.

i found myself talking about the marathon to anyone who would listen. i wanted everyone to run it! the last four miles of the course are in my neighborhood, along streets i run almost everyday. so, for the past four months i've been sharing my enthusiasm by leading a weekly long run for the l.a. tri club in preparation for the marathon.

when i say "lead" we're basically talking a sports-oriented julie mccoy, cruise director sportif, if you will. i choose the route, i send out the emails, i set the meeting spot, i get the club sponsor to come out with O.N.E. coconut water to replenish us. that kind of stuff. and let me tell you, it's been a blast!

when i trained for the NY marathon a few years ago i did almost all of my long runs solo. and while there is a peace of mind to solo running, those long miles do get loooong. running with this group has been spectacular. most weeks we get about 15-20 people and the couple of times we've done "course preview" runs we've swelled to 40. we're not all the same pace, but there has been a core group of about 8 that are similar to my pace.

this group has made the miles fly by! one guy and girl are now even dating (love that!) a little over a month ago we ran miles 1-19 (the first mile is within the dodger stadium grounds so was inaccessible) and last week we ran from mile 5 to the finish. this course is cool. it hits all the major landmarks in l.a. including the disney concert hall, grumman's chinese theatre, the hollywood sign, rodeo drive, etc.

disney concert hall, mile 4 (photo by carol m. highsmith)

carney's on sunset blvd. at roughly mile 12

the first 10k is hilly. i think everyone will talk about the dodger stadium hills and the temple st. hill, but honestly i think it's the false flats and the rollers out on 18, 19, 20, 21 that are are going to chew people up, BUT if you take that first 10k conservatively, it shouldn't be too bad and there are definitely some good spots to make up a little time.

below are some pictures of the running group and the marathon course that j. took as we ran. enjoy the tour:

sunday morning running group ready to tackle 21 miles!

nice hill at about mile 4

part of "the group" heading up the temple st. hill

between miles 5 - 6, echo park looking it's finest!

an easy downhill respite at mile 10-11 along hollywood blvd.
and the walk of fame.

the beverly hills police dept. at around mile 16

happy runners replenishing with o.n.e. coconut water.

there's just slightly over two weeks to go and i am christmas morning giddy! i feel ready. i wish it were this weekend! when i think of me, my brother and my sister each training in our own way, sharing our experiences, goals, challenges, i get emotional. when i think of sharing the actual day with them and all my new running friends, i float!

i love l.a.!