Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

A fine holiday, despite the fact that we haven't had a child ring our doorbell in 11 years. (Our local hills are steep.) But that doesn't stop my wife and I from buying treats and eating them all up. In fact, at this point, we would resent trick-or-treaters. Greedy little goblins!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nova Marathon News

That Nova marathon special airs in Los Angeles at 8:00 PM. (Channel 3 on Charter Cable.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Afoot at the Finish Line

Here's me hoofing it home at the frozen Phoenix Marathon back in January.

Over the last several miles, the course passes through a neighborhood that deftly blends desert scrub with industrial wasteland. You can rest your weary eyes on a huge power plant, highway bridges, and sharp plants. Very few people cheer in these parts. However, fewer distractions allow more time to focus on physical and metal discomfort.

Fortunately, Ironman Kate Martini ran me in the last 6.2 miles. She didn't tolerate loafing and knocked five minutes off my finish time by pulling me along in her wake.

Note the cap turned youthfully backwards. I did that around mile 25 and can't remember why. (It's not as if I were racing so fast my hat was about to flutter off.) In any case, no one should be held responsible for their actions in the last stages of a marathon.

Within reason, of course.

Pinky and The Brain and F5s

Ten years ago, I wrote a Pinky and the Brain episode called Brain Storm. Our intrepid mice decide to conquer the world via tornado power. To this end, Brain builds a clunky robotic device called a Verkimer Suit. Inside the suit, Pinky and the Brain allow a cyclone funnel to pass over them, hijacking the storm from within.

Last night, I caught Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel. In addition to pursuing puffy clouds all over Tornado Alley, these chasers added an IMAX cameraman in his own vehicle known as a T.I.V., or Tornado Intercept Vehicle. Weighing 14,000 pounds, this mini-tank is designed to be overrun by a twister so the cameraman may obtain 70mm footage of tornado innards.

Watch a video here.

I should've copyrighted the Verkimer Suit.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Marathon on PBS

Next week Nova airs a show about ten novice runners, trained for nine months to complete the 2007 Boston Marathon. For most marathoners, Boston is a destination, something earned, reached only through a qualifying race. (For my age group, that's a 3 hour 45 minute marathon. Am I anywhere near that? BWAHAHAHAHAH.) In any case, a most odd — and hilly — selection for untried runners.

I'll be watching with a sympathetic heart next Tuesday, Oct. 30. Training for a marathon, let alone running one, is a test on many levels. Go rookies!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Clear and Smoky"

The above paradox appears courtesy of Weather Underground. Yesterday was particularly unclear and smoky. The Santa Clarita fires made our local mountains appear to be harboring a volcano. Ash fell on cars and the sun gleemed a brilliant red.

Today, fire conditions were such that the local high school cross country team moved into my health club en masse, grabbing all the ellipticals and tredmills. I guess outdoor practice was cancelled. I wonder what happened to their gym?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lessons Learned

As my IT heals and I'm running again, what nuggets did I glean from this last marathon training cycle?

1. Don't Skip Stretching.
As miles piled up in spring, I fell out of the habit of fully stretching after runs. A torn calf muscle resulted.

2. Accept What You Have
When I resumed running after eight weeks, my mind recalled a faster pace than my post-injury body could provide. This led to unrealistic long runs, that eventually burned me out.

3. Pick A Plan, Any Training Plan
There's all kinds of ways to tackle marathons and I tried every one. With 12 weeks to prepare for Chicago, I juggled the FIRST plan with old Team in Training routines. Choose one and commit.

4. Lift Weights
After tearing my calf muscle, I stopped lifting weights and never resumed. I felt the lack of strength on my long runs. Coupled with bad pacing and summer heat, this led to several miserable outings. Weight training really pays off beyond mile 20. (And strengthens the IT band.)

5. Don't Practice Quitting
Often I adopt an all-or-nothing attitude. Thus, if I miss a goal, I quit rather than modify my run. A few times I knew I couldn't maintain a certain pace. So I cut the run short, thus acquiring the habit of quitting. This ties in with No. 2 and No. 6 below.

6. Build Your Mental Muscles
Visualizations, mantras, counting steps and other mental tricks help you triumph over negativity and the "can'ts." But they should be integrated throughout the training cycle.

Now on to the next marathon and brand new errors.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jimmy Dean Freeman Qualifies for Western States

Jimmy Dean Freeman, coach, distance runner, racounteur, holds up an inspirational sign addressed to himself. I'd do stranger things if I just ran 50.9 miles in 8 hours 9 minutes and 39 seconds. (That's a marathon, followed by another marathon.) Those results qualify Jimmy to run twice that far over tough, inaccesible terrain in the 2008 Western States 100.

Last month, his attempted qualification for Western States resulted in failure. Running the Angeles Crest 100, he was forced to drop out because of injury. Disappointed, Jimmy Dean persevered and yesterday, up in San Francisco, achieved his goal. As Confucius once said:

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

He also said that anyone who bought him a shot and a beer was wise, but that's another saying.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Giving Back

During autumn, when pigskins fill the air, it's important to remember that not every professional football player is in the game for himself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So long, Paulette Oates

Had lunch today with Tom Ruegger. As we bemoaned the current state of TV animation, he mentioned Paulette Oates had died. Paulette was the "supply sarge" at Warner TV Animation back in its prime. If you needed post-its or your office moved to another floor, call Paulette. She was one of the first employees brought in as the division staffed up for Tiny Toons. Paulette managed office operations in Sherman Oaks from the late 80s through the booming 90s into the spiral-down OOs. I'd often run into her outside the front door where we'd have a smoke and discuss our mutual love for Las Vegas and games of chance.

In recent years, Paulette successfully battled lung cancer. But as the TV animation division atrophied, she was laid off this summer, dying shortly thereafter from a heart attack. And while the division won a pile of Emmys then zero, Paulette continued on through the years, doing a host of vital unsung chores very well.

Rest peacefully, Paulette. What with bingo in churches, there's a good chance you'll find blackjack in Heaven. All the best. Don't split 10s.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

IT Band

You can't download music from the iliotibial band. This hardy group of fibers runs along the outside of your thigh. My right IT band has been sore since September and felt tender during the marathon. This Monday I ran an EZ 3 miles and my IT has ached ever since. Ice, elevation and aspirin are my lot as this newest of injuries joins such illustrious company as broken foot and torn calf muscle. But now is my marathon recovery period, so injuries, if not welcome, are at least tolerated for their thoughtful timing. I've uploaded a picture my cousin Mary Ann took at the Health and Fitness Expo. This shows me running more than I actually do during the marathon.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chi Marathon Post Script

Some final Chicago thoughts. Amber mentions encountering marathoners who weren't allowed to finish. Re-routed back to Grant Park, many ran through the finish line out onto the course, then back again in order to get a finish line photo. As runners were still crossing the mat from the other direction, this might compare to driving your car up an exit ramp onto the freeway. Getting gyped out of a race is tough. But hazarding other runners for a picture is boorish.

My former TNT coach, Jimmy Freeman, suggested lawyers advised the race director to blame runners for water shortages as any hint of culpability would result in a lawsuit tsumani. Sad but probably true.

Still, it leaves him sounding cheap and mean.

Walked 3 miles on Saturday, while Ernesto ran 14 in preparation for December's Las Vegas Marathon. I met him at various points along our course with water and power bars. Meantime, I encountered many current Team in Training chums. As it happened, I'd brought my Chicago medal and a fine array of catastrophe stories.

Congrats to running partner Melissa for finishing today's Long Beach Marathon. Melissa brought it home in 4:48. There was a time in early spring when we hoped to break 4 hours this fall at our respective races. But, as a wise marathon runner once said, it's a victory just making it to the start line.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon Snippets

Around Mile 7, a race volunteer waved a red flag. Having just seen one at Disneyland, I recognized the flag as a heat warning. However, since I'd already run seven miles through Sauna City, I felt the warning was moot.

Incidentally, that Disneyland post needs updating. Chicago is now the hottest race I've ever run.

When water cups were available, they were often half-empty. (In this matter, I'm a pessimist.) As the race wore on, Gatorade was served piping hot.

There was a single sponge station somewhere in the 20-mile range.

A bank around Jackson Street showed the temperature at 90 degrees.

As mentioned below, confusion spread after the "race closed" announcement. Cops, firemen and race officials yelled, "walk." Months of training hollered, "run if you can." I believe the term for that is cognitive dissonance.

Rumors spread that the timing mats were turned off.

One race offical yelled that running to the finish line still wouldn't get you a medal.

Chicago hopes to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

When I left for LA on Tuesday morning, the temperature was 58 degrees.

(Photo credit: MSNBC.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sweat Home Chicago

Marathon number three continued my tradition of only running marathons with temperature extremes. At dawn it was an overcast, humid 75 degrees and climbing. My niece dropped me off near the lake-front start line around 7:00 AM. I checked my gear, loosened up with T'ai Chi, then stood in a tightly-packed brick of humanity waiting for the 8:00 gun. As the overcast dissolved into popcorn-shaped clouds, the sun rose above Lake Michigan. It felt like a furnace door opening.

Because of crowd size, it took me 20 minutes to cross the mat.

Interesting Stat:

The Chicago Marathon sold out all 45,000 spots back in April.

But only 35,867 passed the start line Sunday morning. That means 9,133 people figured out it was too stinking hot to run.

Lots of TNT runners from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New York City and even Louisiana.

The field was so packed it was tough to interval. Those who intervaled clashed with those who viewed the far right of the course as a passing lane. My goal was a 4 hour and 40 minute marathon. I aimed to interval four minutes running/ and one walking up to the half-marathon mark, then see how I felt.

Leaving Grant Park, the course turned onto LaSalle Street just past Mile 2 and headed north. No water at the first stop — they'd run out. There was a mob around the folding tables, shaking gallon water jugs to get the last drops. The surrounding street was littered with flattened Gatorade and Hinkley water cups from the preceding runners. (Wet, flat plastic cups are like ice. You had to watch your footing.) People were highly pissed — especially those without water belts. (I'd brought mine.) One runner had a bottle of Gatorade. He took a sip, passed it back to me. I took a sip and passed it on to another runner. This no-water business boded ill.

Running for several miles on LaSalle, you'd get an occasional breeze through the tall buildings. I'd take off my visor and savor the cool air. Then out into Lincoln Park where the water stations remained a problem. Runners were surging across the street to the first one they saw. Sometimes there was only Gatorade. Other times, volunteers couldn't keep up with demand and runners served themsevles. Whenever possible, I grabbed two cups, drinking one and dumping the other over my head. (In today's Chicago Tribune, the race director blamed runners for the water shortages, citing those who took two cups.)

Around mile eight, I saw an old white-haired runner drift off course and ask a spectator if he could sit in his lawn chair. (The guy helped him down.) By now, sirens whooped all over the city as ambulances rushed the first heat casualties to the hospital.

The heat was getting to me. For the moment, I slowed but kept the same interval. But as we turned west onto Adams, the shade disappeared. No tall buildings, no leafy tree-lined streets with brick apartments. I passed a medical tent and it was full: runners on cots and others holding ice bags to their heads. Past the half-way point, I started tossing out goals like a passenger on a sinking boat dumping freight. Dropping to a 3:1 run/walk, I slowed pace even more. After frying my brain in Honolulu two years ago, I listened to my body and if it said walk more, I did.

We doubled-back east on Jackson and finally found a little shade. Turning south on Halsted to mile 17, I was mostly walking. I'd pick a point and run to it, or run half a mile, or choose a runner going about my speed and tag along. I took another salt tablet, but skipped goo as it made me retch.

Somewhere around mile 18, the cops bull-horned that the race had been cancelled. No finishing times would be official. Please walk. There was a great deal of confusion. By now, the city had opened up fire hydrants and fire trucks stood at certain intersections hosing down the crowd. (Not to mention ordinary Chicago citizens with garden hoses doing the same.) Finally, in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen, around mile 19 it sunk into the vast majority of runners that the 2007 Chicago Marathon was toast — just like them. Some runners dropped out at the nearest medical tent where they'd be bussed back to the start line. Some ran on. A nasty rumor surfaced that we wouldn't get medals. This put me into a black mood.

Come what may, I was determined to finish. Because my legs hurt, I ran 1:1 off and on to around mile 22, then walked to mile 26. Along with many others, I ran the final .02 because there were cameras present. 24,933 runners crossed the finish line.

And they did give out medals.

I finished in 5 hours, 48 minutes and 23 seconds. Check the Comments of my previous post where Jeff Carroll has listed my unofficial splits.

One man died and over 300 were hospitalized for heat injuries.

The people lining the route were great. Many offered water or ice cubes, staying on to cheer in the heat long after the race was called.

As for the "other" race — the front end of the marathon where people actually had a chance to win — Kenyan Patrick Ivuti beat Moroccan Jaouad Gharib by .05 of a second. (2:11:11) The top woman's finisher, Ethiopian Berhane Adere edged Roumanian Adriana Pertea in the homstretch. Pertea thought she had the race knocked, and eased off, waving to the crowd as she neared the finish. Adere poured on the coal to catch and pass Pertea for the win. (2:33:49.)

Given my injuries since April, I couldn't think of a better race to cancel. But if I'd been a TNTer who'd fund-raised and trained for this moment, or a runner eager to pr, I'd be supremely miffed at Sunday's outcome. For over a week, I'd been tracking the temperature. I knew it would be hot and humid. Hence, the race organizers did also. I find it hard to believe they couldn't increase the amount of water stations, change the start time to earlier, or better prepare for the heat onslaught they knew was coming. The Honolulu Marathon faces these conditions every year. No one could pick up a phone?

In any case: mission accomplished. After 30 years, I finally finished the Chicago Marathon.

Thanks to Ryan, Raul, Jeff and K for the emails. I'm walking around fine after sleeping eleven hours last night.

As for now, I'm not looking at any marathons before next fall in Pasadena. But don't tell anyone I'm entering.

They'll kick me out to avoid extreme weather.

(All photos courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chicago Marathon Bound

I am excited after all. I leave early this morning for Chicago. Thirty years have passed and I'm finally going to complete the Chicago Marathon. Yes, I won't PR. Yes, it will be hot and humid. Yes, I have a minor injury in my right glute. But I'm gonna have a great old time on a nice, flat course with lots of cheering people.

My cousin Mary Ann is putting me up for two nights. Then it's off to a motel for race prep and recovery, then one more day visiting sundry friends and relatives.

I'll try and post after the race.

See ya!