Saturday, September 3, 2016

L.A. Marathon

Whelp, I did it. I finally singed up for the L.A. Marathon.

I've lived in Los Angels for 14 years and seven of those years I would classify myself as an endurance runner, but I've never run the L.A. Marathon. I've watched the race from home, cheered friends on from the sidelines and even organized a group of bandit runners to pass one friend off like a baton every couple miles while he ran his first marathon.

After my surgery I wrote a bucket list, and on it is "do another endurance race" AND "run the L.A. Marathon." I've done several endurance races since brain surgery, but L.A. Marathon was just too convenient somehow. And, even though I said I wanted to do another marathon because I didn't want to be a one and done marathon runner, the truth of it is, training for a marathon is a giant pain. I do not blame the one and done folks. Your life becomes consumed with training and you have to decline things like cake and build your social life around your training schedule. But the L.A. Marathon is out there; it's on the list. I've crossed some things off because I know they aren't me anymore or even possible, like grow taller, but running the L.A. Marathon is attainable.

More than being attainable, it is more than likely that it will be my last opportunity to do it as an L.A. resident. I feel bad blogging about an imenent move without telling all my friends. Casually commenting, "it will likely be my last opportunity to do a race as an L.A. resident." Moving has been a decision that wasn't easy. But I've started to put the wheels in motion much like training. And, since running a race in the city you live in is more economically sound than buying a plane ticket to fly across the country to run with jet-lag, running the 2017 L.A. Marathon is not only economically sound, it's clinically sound too.

I've gained weight with the new job, lost some muscle and cardio, but I can get it all back and naturally improve. I have 28 weeks to train, starting Monday. My PR is so old, it wasn't even accepted for corral seeding. I'm not training for time (although I'm a competitive person, so even though I say I'm not, training for time my heart is). I'm training for fun. I'll take my camera on the course and take pictures. This will be a fun way to see and say goodbye to the city I've called home for so long.

*If you're reading this and are surprised, let's talk this weekend. I'm sorry our schedules haven't aligned to have a conversation.*

Saturday, August 13, 2016


YAY! It's not even 7am and I already got my run (and abs) in.

The excitement I have is better than expecting Christmas. I'm flying home soon to see my family. If these early mornings keep up, there'll be even fewer excuses to not run. I have several friends that would advise with all this energy I should do a double workout. I might not want to do another run, but a long walk would be nice!

Sunday, July 17, 2016


It's easy to do.... The first couple days you feel “Meh” and then that cookie you could've said no to calls your name.

I got a new job. My daily rhythm is out of sync. In an effort to be optimum at the new job and understanding all the moving parts that go with it, I opted for sleep over the gym. I was feeling slightly lethargic and I could see and feel my body changing. More alarming, I could feel my brain chemistry changing— I didn't and don’t like it. 

Through the first three weeks of the new job I battled.
“Today will be the day I start exercising before work.”

“I am behind on my weekly sleep. If I'm going to understand this thing, I need to get adequate sleep. I can go back to the gym later.”

“I feel crummy. These non-gym in the mornings can’t continue”

“What has happened to my cardiovascular system?  Five miles was getting easy.”

And this is what the last three weeks have looked like. The job consumes all my mental bandwidth. I’ve been too tired or too scared to exercise in the morning. The fear comes from the possibility of not having super-human intellect to grasp all the initiatives, causes and responsibilities that the director I’m working with has.

The evening is out the window because I have other commitments or need to get home, eat and go to bed so I can repeat the slippery slope tomorrow. This slope looks like guilt because exercising before work could either A. physically drained me or B. I wouldn’t be “early” to work.

Silly I know. I cannot stay here any more.

The last three weeks have been filled with me telling myself exercise is necessary. Then guilt and or fear creep in for doing it. Worse, when you repeatedly don’t do it, not doing it starts being easy. Not doing it and making less than good food choices becomes easier. The first week I was counting macronutrients. I haven’t counted a macro in 14 days. It would be easier to not count them; they are a pain.

I like macros. I feel really good when I focus on them. I feel even better when I eat them with a solid exercise program. To be my best self I need both.

Knowing this, I still have frustration with myself. By now, my running schedule had me up to 9 miles for a long run on the weekends with a mid-week run of 7. If all I was doing was training, I could be here. BUT, I live in the real world and am supremely lucky to have a job that I enjoy and challenges me. I have to find a balance. It can’t be helped. With this setback, the inner critic starts wagging it’s finger: “You could be doing better. See, who were you kidding? You are not an athlete. An athlete would not let themselves we waylaid by a new job.”

I have friends that are by the true definition, an “athlete.” They are the ones that qualify for the Boston Marathon. They train to run sub-3 hour marathons. They take a divisional fist when they race. 

They also get injured. They get sick. Something happens and they have to work back from being on the Disabled List. It’s not necessarily the nature of training; it’s the nature of being human.

When the flu or injury subside, they have to start training again. It’s not from the beginning; they have to pick up somewhere in the middle, knowing that the first couple sessions back, maybe even the first couple weeks back won’t be fun.
Now, it’s my turn.

I was nearly doing an inclined bench of 30 without effort. Now, 25 is rough.  Who knows what my average running speed looks like.  More alarming than these physical challenges, I do not like that I was able to feel my brain chemistry changing. I don't like it. I need to shift myself back to where I was (again). 

The first week will be rough, like I'm learning to do it all over again. I feel lucky. I work for an MD. Yes, he pushes his staff with work and expectations until they cry uncle or make it clear to him that his expectations are unreasonable. But, while he pushes us to intellectual and organizational capacity, he has told me numerous times "we need you healthy." He gets health. He understands the importance of exercise. Now, that I mostly understand the job and he has made this declaration, exercising before work has become priority (again). It needs to stay there. If not for my birthday goal or for my half marathon goal, at the very least I need to keep up the momentum of exercising for myself. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Who Needs A Car?

Did I just run 1.2 miles to do a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) and then run home? You bet I did!

Despite having a rough week managing diet and exercise, these last 3 days have been AMAZING. I love this new route and want to explore more areas along the local greenway known as the Tujunga Wash. I think I can make it all the way to Studio City.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sharing A Tradition

You feel a lot of things on a run. You literally might waiting for your body to get warm before you can pour on more effort. You could be anxious because you’re getting to that portion of your training course you don’t like. Thoughts may wander or there could be extreme focus on breath, posture and arms. For me, the longer a run gets, the more varied (and sometimes wild) my thoughts become.

Author, Haruki Marakami observed, “The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

And that is what happened when I was on mile 4.25 of a four-mile run that became five miles.

Today was my ideal running weather. Sixty-six, overcast and a light drizzle. My intent was to get out extra early and conquer the hills that ate me alive two weeks ago. But, before I knew it, I was driving to The Encino Golf Course and Recreation Center. I love this place. This is where I overcame my fear of double-digit runs and where I made life-long friends.

In January, I started Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. It’s helped me set tangible monthly goals, with the idea to keep the previous month's goal and add a new goal(s) the next month. Naturally, increasing weekly mileage each month was a goal I set in January. Another theme she tackles is “Try Something New.” With a new commute, I was going to read more, and I was going to achieve this using audio books. When I was at the library, perusing shelves of potential books Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space,” leapt out at me. I have no interest in space. 

“Try Something New.”

Being of a child of the 1980’s, of course I knew who she was. She was a hero to my teachers and being contemporary, we were strongly encouraged to do a book report on her. I knew she was the first American woman in space. That’s all I knew. When I picked up the CDI didn’t know what I’d find. I loved the book. And now, I love Sally Ride. I learned a lot of things, among them, she grew up in Encino, California, the very city where I did my first double-digit run. She is far beyond and more important than being the first woman in space.

Fitness and her endurance was quietly woven through the book. Running, was something she did well and it allowed her to do many of the physical things she did, among them, be a nationally ranked tennis player.

When I drove to The Encino Golf Course and Recreation Center I did not have Sally Ride on my mind. I was thinking about my mileage and the connection to friends.

I had four miles on my training schedule. I ran around the man-made lake looking at waterfowl and smiling at runners that passed. Then I turned to the familiar interior loop. I passed the golf clubhouse, the spot where Team and Training meets, through the area where there is exercise equipment and then a left to get the last mile plus done. It is on the backside of that course, along the over-grown area of the L.A. River, I thought of Sally Ride.

My soul started vibrating. I don’t like comparing myself to other people and don’t make a practice of it. I always try to do better than my best or do better than that goal I think I should be doing (even if that goal is realistically several years off). And, while I don’t like comparing myself to other people, in that moment, Sally Ride was on my mind.

She ran this course. I’m working to get back into Marathon Shape and running the same routes that Sally Ride ran! A unique run for sure. I focused on friends, posture, breath and then Sally Ride.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rough Runs .... Make Us Stronger

Man, this run was rough. REALLY rough. Last week's 3 miles wasn't easy, but it wasn't rough. This one jut plain hurt. It was more than the hills, my legs didn't want to cooperate. Portions that were suppose to be easy were so difficult, I couldn't even slow my running pace. I had to walk. I don't want to walk on a training RUN.

I was demoralized.

What do I have up my sleeve for next week? Add on to weekly mileage and hill repeats in Mount Lee on Saturday. I'm also doing something this race- I'm weight training and cross-training. I had started weight training in the winter to build strength and definition. Finally, after months of prodding from friends "what's your next race," I found this one. There are easier halves for sure, but I kind of like
doing something that scares me a little bit. 

It was so rough, I was running 100-200 yards before I had to walk 50 yards. Bleh.

I'm better this. 

Well, I wanted to be better than this. Not every run can be great and I've had my share of rough runs, but man. This was not fun. I want to get back to where 10 miles feels great.  These training runs can't keep feeling like this. 

In training, you don't want to increase your weekly mileage more than 10%. But, at some point, often early in your training, you're going to have to make more than a 10% leap. That was going to be this week. It was my goal to run 4 miles... jumping a mile from last week's 3. A 10% jump would put me at 3.3 miles. I ran 3.5 with a 3/4 mile cool down. (The cool down was up a quarter mile from last week to compensate for my shortcoming.) I also rationalized that .5 is .2 more than a 10% jump, so really I was doing okay.

Part of me is wondering how I'm going to accomplish the 5,000 feet elevation gain in my trail half this November. The course looks a little something like this:

The other part of me, the wArrior part tells the worrier to simmer down. I'm 25 pounds lighter than I was at my college heaviest. I might not have the cardio stamina after my first marathon, by I'm the fittest I've ever been. Hell, I SURVIVED BRAIN SURGERY (and recovered so well because of running)! Logically, I know I can do this. There are 5.5 months to train and prepare. And, on days like this Saturday, on the slow days, I'm becoming better at reading a trail... looking out for potential hazards and learning how to move my feet. (Yes, you can't do a fancy road race shuffle/grape vine thing to dodge objects). FOCUS ON CORE. Core strength and solid low arms  (where I don't scrunch my shoulders) will help get me through the 13.1 miles. "Running on tired legs is good," I remind myself. "You'll certainly be tired by the end of any race.... and this race in particular."

At this point, I'm not training for time; I'm training to finish. (Looking at the history of this particular trail half, most finish times are north of 3 hours.)

I did get an ego boost when I was half way done with my run and turned around to go back to my car. Running was easier because I was running DOWN HILL! That flat I was running on was not flat at all. It had a grade that was slight and un-forgiving. Then I remembered; I was running in Reseda. I was on the portion of the road that would take me to the Nike Missile site. One of the many Nike Ajax projects that was defense during the Cold War. This particular location contained ground-based radar that was designed to detect and track hostile aircraft, and to guide the anti-aircraft missiles that would be launched from nearby Sepulveda Basin.. So yeah- If it's high enough to launch missiles, you better believe there are hills.

Granted, the hills I was on had a low grade and weren't as steep as the ones closer to the site. These low hills are nothing like I will face in November, but as mileage and endurance increase, you better believe I'll be taking advantage of the merciless hills on the way to the site and all that The Santa Monica Mountains Conversancy, Topanga Park and National Parks offer. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Beast Mode

I feel like I’ve switched to beast mode.  It’s a term you don’t often hear in polite conversation, unless people are discussing Fantasy Fiction and Werewolves. If your around people that want to show off, (like I did when I was in college) they may even reference Humbaba the Beast.

But, I’m not trying to impress anyone with this near-obscure reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh and I’m often in this state alone. Beast mode is most often used by people training (for something) and is used to describe a mental or physical state in a state of serious training or at a level of high effort.

I gave high levels of effort when I was on the Track & Field team in high school… it was never beast mode. I was running 40+ miles a week when I was deep in my training for my first marathon; that was never beast mode. I didn’t even switch to beast mode training for my first post-brain surgery half marathon.

I was not here last week. Last week I was pre-gamming like I do for an endurance race. Rest, stretch, nourish. Then, show time. Last week’s ballroom dance competition I was in the endurance race head.

This week, a big mental shift happened. It could have been the two hours of boxing and kickboxing I did with a friend last Saturday. It might be that whole you need to do something a month before it becomes a habit. (I’ve been on a new exercise/eating plan for a little over a month.) It might be that this month of solid exercise, sleep and nutrition I’m seeing results… not only physically, but with my cardiovascular system. I’m enjoying this perfect storm that got me here. There were a lot of ups and downs. Now, I just need to stay in this space.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Competitive Cross Training in the Ballroom

Last week was awesome! I was present in every difficult and easy moment, enjoying it all. It was a state of training, friends, performance and competition.

I love performing. Aside from the several showcases I’ve done since taking up ballroom in January 2013, I haven’t had a scrutinized performance since I did standup comedy in 2008. 

The Emerald Ball Competition is one of the biggest ballroom competitions in the country. Preparing for it was a physical challenge and I knew it would be a big mental challenge. Big challenges call for big guns. I broke out the CD my hypnotherapist, Brennan Smith, made for me in 2008 to have a first successful comedy set. I mentally adjusted the comedy-specific suggestions to a ballroom competition. I had one last listen before driving to the South Bay to spend the night with running friends so I could sleep in until 4:30am for my 6:15am hair and makeup appointment.

All the comp prep was similar to race prep. Friends. Food/Fuel. Bed (at a reasonable time). Like usual, I set several alarms and triple checked them, convinced something would go wrong. I changed only one thing: I put my own sheets on the bed, so the ballroom-dark spray tan I was rocking wouldn’t come off on their sheets. I woke up several times in the night (like normal), convinced it was 4:30am and I had to go get my hair and makeup done.  All of a sudden, I heard an alarm that wasn’t mine.

Holy smokes!

Thank goodness, the husband is the kind of guy that wants to walk a lady to her car. He set an alarm so he could wake up and escort me out.

I prep as quickly as I can.

I forgot I brought breakfast and went out to find food.

Foraging for food at 5am is not an easy task, and if you’ve stayed away from fast food for years, you’ll be very disappointed. I eventually found something and modified it enough, (asking for no bacon and throwing out the bread) and made something reasonably palatable. More importantly, there was coffee.

Hair and makeup was going to be at LeNique, the dancewear shop where I (and so many dancers) get their dresses. It was so early, there was even parking by the Culver City Steps, which never happens. I was breathing easy. Jim (my coach)and I were going to meet at 8:30 and my first heat wasn’t until 11. Endurance racing mentality wins out again. Biggest difference. You need hair and makeup for a ballroom dance performance.

The hair and makeup Snow Urbin gave me was spectacular. I rarely feel super girly, but Snow made me feel the most girly I’ve ever felt. The amazing thing is she did it all in an hour.

I changed into my dress so that way I could jump out of my car and run into the ballroom. I met Jim, my instructor and the other dancer who was competing. 

The ballroom was not intimidating. I had been there before, last year supporting friends.

Besides, I like preforming. It’s easier than standup. And, it’s certainly easier than walking from your hospital room to a gurney to get wheeled to brain surgery.

My heats came up. Pre-Bronze Rhumba, Swing, Salsa... quickly followed by Newcomer Rhumba, Swing, Salsa. There were other styles peppered in, so it gave me time to relax and work on dance combinations. The bonus is my ankles didn’t get tired because I’m dancing in heals that are .5” taller than what I normally do.

I ultimately finished with two 2nds in Pre-Bronze Rhumba and Swing. A 1st in Pre-Bronze Salsa.  And, firsts across the board for Newcomer Rhumba, Swing and Salsa. 

I was happy with how I did, but naturally, I want to do better. There’s always room for improvement, with everything. I like chasing that next P.R. (in whatever it may be).  So while working to get in marathon shape, I’m now working towards being able to do more styles without my ankles giving out while really getting my arms and hips to move.

I took Wednesday off, and resumed workouts on Thursday. Friday became my long run day since I had plans with a friend Saturday morning.

 How else does one cap off a week of being one of their most girly? A little boxing and kickboxing at LAKO. Between the weight training and running I’ve been doing for the past month, I didn’t die. And, the bonus is that the ballroom dance adds a great element of stability and hip action.  I was so excited, I tweeted out that I felt like Paige VanZant. As of this post, Paige is a UFC fighter and on this seasons Dancing With the Stars. I was excited to have this commonality with a supreme athlete. I didn’t expect her to respond.
Yes, it was a good week. Now, to jump back into a training schedule and add hills so I can have a successful trail half marathon this fall. I feel like more and more I’m stepping into my athletic prime.