Sunday, November 28, 2010

Running Off The Turkey Half Marathon

In bowling, if you nail three strikes in a row, you've bowled yourself a turkey. This Thanksgiving weekend, I struck out! Endorphin Dude trotted his way through the Turkey Triple, completing 3 half marathons in 3 days, and 32nd half marathon overall. The best part? DUDE! I got a trophy!!!

When Charlie Alewine handed me a trophy the size of a super sized Hickory Farms beef stick, I pretty much collapsed in shock! Ok, it wasn't really the shock that made me fall to the ground, it was the spaghetti legs from three days of running! Seriously, though, this came as a big surprise. I was ecstatic to have three medals hanging around my neck, but to have a trophy on top of it was icing on this GU-filled cake! I had no clue this was coming to me.

The trophy had engraved on it: "CHAMPION: Thanksgiving Weekend Triple Finisher. 3 Races - 3 Days." I, of course, ran out and got my own special "Endorphin Dude" engraving added to the trophy. Truth be told, I have never won a trophy ever in my life. Seriously. Until today, I have been the Bobby Brady of everything. Everyone had a trophy but me. Not anymore! Endorphin Dude now has a big gold shiny man on a pillar statue that I can call my own! WIN!

The final half marathon in my triple weekend went very well. I am very familar with Huntington Beach, having run the Surf City Half Marathon back in February. The course ran along the Pacific Coast Highway, and for the most part, it was a beautiful day. There were some gusty winds after the turn around, but it really wasn't anything I couldn't handle. I did take this one slow and easy and walked a lot towards the end. I had wanted to finish as quickly as I could so that I could beat the post Thanksgiving LA traffic, but my body simply said no. Instead, I casually made it through this race, finishing in 3:44:13. Along the way, I met some pretty cool people.

Here's the lovely Debbie Alewine. I sat with Debbie for about 10 minutes at my 8 mile mark and chatted with her. I needed the break and she provided me with exactly that. Both Debbie and Charlie are such down to earth people. Because of them, I will definitely be driving 400 miles to run their races in the future!

I met Inrid at about the 8 mile mark. I'm sure I'll be seeing this lady at more races in the future!

There's Ward Sullivan! This guy ran the full marathon yesterday!

I barely recognized Jessica without her bunny ears! Here she is with Steve Hernandez. These two actually saved my butt by telling me I had gone too far! Had I not seen them on the course, I probably would have kept running all the way to San Diego!

My new running friend Khirstine.

Here's the ever popular Deo. This guy ran his 203rd or 4th marathon today. This was his third in three days. DAMN!

Here's fellow Marathon Maniac, Dan Margolis. This guy finished before I did, and he ran the full marathon!

And of course, the group shot.

I'll be honest and say that I am bouncing off walls. By completing my first triple, I not only earned three medals and a huge trophy, but I also skyrocketed to Mars! Endorphin Dude is now a 5 moon Half Fanatic! Woo Hoo! Half marathons #30, #31, and #32 are now in the books. Yay!

Here I am with my big trophy and my mom. Notice that Chewbacca is staring at the trophy probably thinking, "Uh, you better not sleep with that thing! I ain't giving up my spot in bed!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Trail Half Marathon

This is what I am thankful for:

I love the fact that my nieces and nephew like to have fun. I also love the fact that their conservative parents allow them to have fun when Endorphin Uncle is around. I brought these voodoo dolls back for these kids when I ran the Mardi Gras Rock & Roll Half Marathon back in February. Because of my busy race schedule and the fact that these kids live about 200 miles away, I have not been able to see all three of them until Thanksgiving. I told them that when they stab the voodoo dolls with the pin they had to really feel the anguish towards the person they want to inflict! hee hee. Sure enough, these three really got into it. Hmm, I wonder who it was they were thinking of?

Part two of my Turkey Triple took place in Coto de Caza Sports Park. Getting to the start line from my Motel 6 in Fullerton was quite interesting. I learned something about southern California on my drive there. Actually, let me be a little more specific. I learned something about Orange County. Apparently, there are toll booths! I had to pay at least four times! Had I known this, I would have filled my wallet with coins! The sad thing is that I was 30 cents shy of my fourth payment, but the toll booth operator said that I could go online to pay the toll. Wow, I've never went online to make a payment of 75 cents before. As absurd as this sounded, I made sure that I paid right away because the fine is $55! Can you imagine being slapped with a $55 fine for not having paid 75 cents? Even the Epinephrine Pup was baffled by this!

I barely made it to the start line thanks to these toll booths. I arrived at Coto de Caza Sports Park with 2 minutes to spare. This entire race is run on "very wide well-groomed horse trails in beautiful Coto de Caza. Runners will go north from the Sports Park 0.75 miles on horse trail and a short section on Coto de Caza drive, turn around and run 3.25 miles south on the horse trails to Hilldale Way, the turnaround point, then return to the Sports park for a total of 6.55 miles each loop. For the half-marathon, run twice, for the marathon run four times." When I first read this description off of the Charlie Alewine Racing website, I didn't make the connection that this was going to be a trail race, even though it clearly stated "well-groomed horse trails." I guess I was more fearful of coming face to face with a horse on the course. True confessions, I fear horses more than I do trails.

It no secret that Endorphin Dude's krytonite is trail races. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Me on trails is tantamount to an American on the clay of Roland Garros. I ran the first few miles of this this course, and then I made the decision to walk the rest of the way. I figured, I had seven hours to finish this race and I wasn't really going anywhere afterwards, so why kill myself. Plus, the little rocks sneaking into my Mizunos made for an uncomfortable run. I finished this race in 4:14:15, which I'm totally cool with. At the finish line were fellow Marathon Maniacs, David Reid and Ward Sullivan. Super nice guys. Mind you, they completed the full marathon!

Two down, one to go! Woo Hoo!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Feeling Stuffed Half Marathon

Who needs cranberry sauce when you have GU?
Happy Thanksgiving Peeps!!

I’d like to thank my family for adjusting our Thanksgiving tradition and moving the feast to lunch instead of dinner so that I can run my Turkey Triple this weekend! There are a lot of things I am very thankful for, and my family is definitely way up there on my list. Sure we fight, we bicker, we throw fish sauce at each other when we’re annoyed, but at the end of the day, we stick together. Just to clarify, when I say "sticking together" I don’t mean that in the physical sense because of the fish sauce! Seriously though, we have been through quite a bit of drama these past few years, and it’s good to know that when the going gets tough, the Endorphin clan works together to get back on track and finish the race.

Speaking of races, I decided to attempt the half marathon triple this weekend. I’ve completed different variations of the double, so now it’s time for the triple. The Goofy Challenge is right around the corner, so I want to be prepared for anything that mouse throws at me! After my family's Thanksgiving feast, I drove down to southern California for three half marathons in three days with Charlie Alewine Races.

I have heard so many great things about the Charlie Alewine races in SoCal that I had to give it a shot. These races are designed to be low-key, and I love the personal message that Charlie sent to all participating runners:

"For those of you that haven't run one of my races before, or lately, I ask that you please review the FAQ page on my website to answer some of the questions you might have. Also, I want you to know that my races are designed to be very low-key. Therefore, I don't allow sponsors, advertising or banners at these races. These are not big city events. For the same reason, I ask that you leave your cheer leading squad at home. We're just a small group of runners out to have fun."

Hmm. I guess the cape is out this weekend.

First up is the Feeling Stuffed Half Marathon in Long Beach. I was excited about running this one because it got me nostalgic for The Long Beach Marathon, which I did so well at. I do have to admit that I was a little nervous at first, as this was a new race and all. It was that first day of school jitters again. I don't even know why I worry about these things, because every race I've ever run in the people have all been so cool. Fortunately, this Charlie Alewine race was no different.

I showed up at Marina Vista Park in Long Beach at little before 7am. I met Charlie and his wife Debbie and got signed in. Charlie wasn't kidding when he said his races were low key! But that's a good thing because it calmed my first day jitters. The course is a 4.37 mile loop/out and back along the city streets and ocean front that passes the aid station at mile 1 and mile 4.37. The course is run 3 times for the half marathon and 6 times for the full marathon. No bands, no high school cheerleaders, no crazy costumes. That suits me just fine because I just wanted to be incognito after the long drive and the previous night's gluttony fest. The other great thing about this race being small and low key is that I got to meet and get to know each runner personally. Good stuff.

There's fellow Marathon Maniac Nadia Ruiz Gonzales. This girl is FAST! Geez Ruiz! (like my play on words there? I could have said Geez Louise, but since Ruiz rhymed with Louise, I chose to use it. Geez Ruiz, I'm so witty!). Nadia was already done when I hit the 10k mark! Needless to say, she finished first!

I noticed that this woman was sporting the Eye-Q Two Cities gear, so I had to ask if she ran the half or the full. She responded that she ran the half but wish she had done 26.2 because the course runs right by her church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. What a small world. I told this woman that my niece Jacqui is a student that catholic school. Turns out, "Ms. Veli" had both Jacqui and Maddie in her music class! Truly a small world.

Ooh! It's Ed "Fancy Pants" Ettinghausen! This guy is a character. I first met Fancy Pants on the Extraterrestrial Highway when he was dressed as an asstronaut. And yes, I intentionally spell "astronaut" with two s's because Mr. Fancy Pants bore his ass in that suit!

At the finish line, I got to meet Marathon Maniac Kurt Neilan. We would see each other on the course at the cross overs, but it wasn't until the end of the race that we formally introduced each other. Kurt finished the marathon in under 4 hours. The other picture is of me and Charlie Alewine himself!

I took this race slow and steady, as I wanted to save my energy for the other two half marathons. I finished this race in 3:11:41 and felt really good. There were no aches, no pains, and no soreness. Woo Hoo! Part one of Turkey Triple is done! I'm looking forward to the next two. I'm really liking this low-key concept!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big Sur Half Marathon

I had no intention of running the Big Sur Half Marathon this weekend. My originally plan was to run the Inaugural Stockton Half Marathon, which would have given me my Central Valley/East Bay double half marathon package weekend. Logistically, it made more sense to travel from Bakersfield to Stockton. Driving from San Francisco to Bakersfield to Monterrey and then way out to Antioch to pick up the Epinephrine Pup would add way too many miles on the Mini and stress to my Endorphin head. Why then did I end up running Big Sur? Because of this:

Seriously, how awesome is that medal? What I love about it is that it looks so organic. No other medal in my collection looks like this. I do have to add that my running buddy, Alva Woof, kept nagging me to sign up for Big Sur because they would sell out fast. I had my mind set on Stockton, but she kept going on and on and on about this race and ultimately I gave in.

I owe a lot to Ms. Woof because I absolutely loved running this half marathon! I'll tell you this, Monterrey is so much more scenic and fun than Bakersfield! Being out in the sun, seeing the waves crash against the rocks and feeling the positive energy from all the runners and walkers really got me into the groove. It was the perfect atmosphere for Endorphin Dude to fly! It was funny, at about the mile three mark, I heard someone shout, "Hey Endorphin Dude!" It was no one I recognized! He then turned to his running partner and explained, "That's Endorphin Dude. He runs every race." HA! I love it!

Having just run a half marathon the day before, I took this one nice and slow and soaked up the atmosphere. I have been to Monterrey a few times before, but never like this. Half the fun of running these races is that I can be a tourist and see a new city. There was so much of Monterrey that I never knew existed. Here is Monterrey from the eyes of the runner.

Along with the scenic course, the added bonus of this race is seeing people I know and meeting new people. I swear, every time I run a major race, I end up making about 20 new Facebook friends.

Here's the person who convinced me to run this race in the first place, Alva Woof. She's the one on the left. On the right is Rebecca Paunovich, the wife of the camera guy on my film team, It Donned On Me. This was Rebecca's first half marathon, and you know how excited I get when I see newbies! Imagine how excited I will be when she runs her first full marathon in Oakland next March!

TNT superstars, Ron and Mohan.

This couple ran the Eye-Q Two Cities Marathon the weekend before. I knew this because of his tech shirt. When they caught up to me, the guy said, "couldn't get enough last weekend, huh? Had to run another race?" I looked mildly perplexed at him. He then said, "I remember that cape!" HA! I love it!

At about mile 4, this runner tapped my on the shoulder. I turned around and couldn't figure out who it was. Come on, the girl was wearing sun glasses and a hat, how could I have figured it out. It's a good thing she introduced herself because I would not have been able to pick her out in the crowd. It was Corrie Frances, one of my Facebook friends. This was our first meeting! Corrie will be running her first full marathon at CIM in a few weeks. I'm very excited for her.

There's Tornado Girl! Endorphin Dude got to meet Tornado Girl on the course! Woo Hoo! Tornado Girl's true identity is Audra Cardwell Ramerman, and when I saw her Half Fanatic shirt, I had to introduce myself!

There's Carol Renney, the woman who shouted out "Dana says hi!" I'm glad I bumped into Carol after the race because I was able to get her contact information! Carol is connected to fellow Half Fanatic, Dana Says, and pretty much every other Half Fanatic and Marathon Maniac out there. Another Facebook friend to add to my growing list!

I'm glad I ended up skipping Stockton and chose Big Sur instead. Wow, I completed my 29th half marathon this weekend. Actually, let me rephrase that. I completed my 28th and 29th half marathon this weekend. Yup, another double weekend in preparation for The Goofy Challenge! I am happy to say that I finished my second race of the weekend in 2:39:15. This weekend is one big win for Endorphin Dude!

Now it's time for Endorphin Dude to change back into Tony Nguyen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bakersfield Track Club Half Marathon

Should I be concerned that at the mile three mark of the Bakersfield Track Club Half Marathon I see a sign that reads, "STAY OUT STAY ALIVE"? That cryptic four word message popped up a few more times along the course. I'm sure the city of Bakersfield put up those warning signs to prevent people from hurting themselves by jumping into the river that flows along the bike path. For me there was a deeper underlying meaning. Mind you, I didn't think my life was in danger, but I did take these signs as a foreshadowing of what lay ahead: a long, drawn out, run with absolutely nothing exciting to look at. Sadly, I was right.

I chose to run the BTC Half Marathon because I wanted to squeeze in another double before The Goofy Challenge in January. I had already completed the half/full combination a few weeks ago with the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon on October 30th followed by the Silicon Valley Marathon the next day on Halloween. I finished that weekend victorious, earning a gargantuan 8 minute PR for the full marathon, one day after running a half. That was a huge win for Endorphin Dude. For this weekend, I scaled back and scheduled a half/half combination. First up is Bakersfield. Yes, Bakersfield.

I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by running BTC. My mom lives in Visalia, which is an hour and a half away, so I could pay mom a quick visit and run a 13.1 miler. It's always good to see mom. She spoils me rotten, and I don't mind that at all! I spent the night at Casa de Mama and woke up at 4am on Saturday morning and headed south for Bakersfield. I arrived with plenty of time to stretch before the race.

Because this was a small race, I decided to go sans cape. I just wasn't sure if the Bakersfieldians were ready for Endorphin Dude! Also, I really wasn't expecting to meet any Half Fanatics or Marathon Maniacs at this small local race, so there was no real need to channel my inner super hero. For that very reason, it shocked me when I met fellow Marathon Maniac, Rose-Marie Jeanpierre, at the start line! It was funny, neither of us wore our credentials on our tech shirts, but we both somehow knew we belonged in the same tribe. All it took was me saying, "I run one of these every weekend," and the next thing I know, the two of us are dropping names left and right.

The real shocker was when Rose-Marie admitted that she initially thought I was Dave Mari and that she wondered why I wasn't in Texas for the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon! I swear, I live in a Dave Mari world. I am in Bakersfield and someone thought I was him! AGAIN!! Why does everything have to be Mari Mari Mari?! For those who have no clue what I am talking about, I am, supposedly, Dave Mari's marathon twin. You can read all about in my Los Angeles Rock & Roll Half Marathon blog post here. I figured since I can't escape Dave Mari, I might as well join him. Here's Rose-Marie and I striking Dave's signature pose:

I finished this half marathon in 2:56, which is far quicker than I had anticipated. Because I was doing back to back halves, I wanted to stretch this run out to the full allotted time, which is 3:30. However, I was so bored that I just started running! There's really not much more for me to say about Bakersfield. I came, I ran, I crossed the finish line, and I went home. Will I run Bakersfield again? Probably not. Am I glad I did it? Sure. I got to see my mom, I got to meet Rose-Marie, and now I have another medal to add to my collection. Win. Win. Win.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Eye-Q Two Cities Marathon

"Hail Mary, Full Of Grace, please get me through this race. Hail Mary, Full Of Grace, PLEASE GET ME THROUGH THIS RACE."

It's not uncommon for athletes to pray to a higher being before or during a game or competition. I've seen football players make the sign of the cross before taking the field and figure skaters look up to the heavens with clenched fists right before stepping onto the ice. Sometimes hard work and ability is just not enough, and athletes need affirmation from a higher power. I grew up catholic, so I am no stranger to prayer. I know that God is really busy on Sundays, so I usually don't burden him on race day. However, today was different.

I came into The Eye-Q Two Cities Marathon very confident. I had just come off of an eight minute PR at The Silicon Valley Marathon the weekend before, so I was feeling really good. On top of that, everything seemed to point to a third consecutive marathon personal record in Fresno and Clovis: fast flat course, sea level, and an extra hour of sleep courtesy of daylight savings time. How could I not achieve a personal best? Well, I think I may have gotten too cocky. Damn shin splints hit me hard at mile two, and I found myself begging to the Virgin Mary for help. MILE TWO!! Who gets shin splints at mile two?? I ended up walking miles two through six, which is a marathon first for Endorphin Dude!

These shin splints were a huge problem for me, but I believe it was more detrimental to my psyche than my feet and legs. I suffered a colossal meltdown and by mile four, I seriously considered stopping at the halfway point. I figured, it's not really a DNF if you finish at least half of it, right? The pain was unbearable, but I kept plugging along. It was very discouraging to fall so far behind the pack, but what made it worse was the fact that the ultra marathoners were looping back and were running towards me. I had to keep telling myself to keep at it and not give up. Thankfully, the third ultra runner to ran by was my trainer and mentor, Charlie. Can you believe this guy finished second overall in the ultra marathon? Amazing. Seeing Charlie gave me a little boost. I was still in shin splint hell, but hearing him yell out to me, "Good job Tony, keep it up," really helped my mental state.

When I reached mile four or so, all the ultra runners were at their mile 12 and were looping back. I was inching along when I heard someone shout out "Endorphin Dude!" I looked up and guess who it was? Dean Karanazes! No joke. To truly appreciate this encounter, I have to take you back in time. You may recall from my previous race, I met Mr. Ultra Marathon Man at mile three of The Silicon Valley Marathon. As I jogged along the residential streets of San Jose, I felt a presence to my left. I looked over and it was Dean Karnazes. I proceeded to say, "Hi There! I am Endorphin Dude! When you hit the wall at mile 18, call on me and I'll send you some endorphins!"

Well, fast forward a week to the Eye-Q Two Cities expo, I see Dean once again. I approached him and said "I ran with you at mile 3 last weekend! I am Endorphin Dude!" Dean laughed and responded "I remember you! Cape Guy! Was it hot in that thing?!" After a few friendly exchanges, Dean signed my book and posed for a picture with me. In that photo, he is catching the endorphins from Endorphin Dude!

After our exchange at the expo, it didn't surprise me that Dean Karnazes recognized me on the course. I mean, how many runners out there was running in a cape? I counted, and there was only one that day: moi. It probably helped that my moniker was printed on my bib and my head band, but I still got a kick out of Mr. 50 Marathons In 50 Days calling out my name! In any case, after hearing his voice, I looked up, smiled, yelled back "DEAN!" and we high fived. All the ultra runners behind him looked perplexed.

As corny as this may sound, getting that high five from Dean Karnazes did wonders for my ego, which helped to get my mind off of my pain. Fortunately, by mile six, the shin splints dissipated and I was able to keep a solid pace for the rest of the marathon. Yes, I did take walk breaks here in there, but for the most part, I made up for the lost time early on. Miles 6 through 20 were pretty solid. By miles 21 and 22, I felt fatigue kick in, but by the final 5k, I was determined to run to the finish line. I cranked up my music, took a shot of GU, and ran. Yes, there was a lot of grunting going on in the final stages of this race. I have been told that I am the Monica Seles of marathons, and sure enough, I channeled that hard hitting tennis ace all the way to the end. HHHHUUU!!! (Sorry, I don't know how to spell the grunting onomatopoeia). I kept pushing and running like someone had just kidnapped my dog and I had to chase them down. As I got closer to the finish line, spectators and marathon finishers cheered me on.

When I hit mile 25.9, waiting for me there was my fellow Dolphin South End Running buddy, Elizabeth McKay, with her dogs and friend Jennifer Walker. Elizabeth snapped a shot of me heading towards the finish line, and I couldn't help but stop to give Jennifer a big hug. I had emailed and commented on Jennifer's Facebook wall for some time now, and to finally meet her in person with only 0.3 miles left was a huge deal. These two did not have to wait for me, but they did, and that made all the difference when I reached mile 26. With only 0.2 miles left of my journey, I sprinted to the finish line!

Shin splints and a melt down early on did not break my spirit. After a very slow start, I was able to find the strength to complete this race. I was hoping for a PR at Eye-Q, but I'm not going to fret over this. What I take away from this race is that I managed to snap out of my funk and finish this marathon in 6:27:41. Along the way, I got to see some old running friends and make some new ones. What I love about running is that everyone is so supportive. Seeing people I know and meeting new peeps on the course keeps me motivated to work hard and finish what I start. Thank you Bill, Peter, Naomi, Greg, Eddie, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Charlie, Dean, Terri & Gang, and Jeslen, for helping me complete marathon #7!

Hail Mary, Full Of Grace, thank you for getting me through this race.