Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oakland Running Festival Marathon

Remember a few race reports back when I went out of sequence with the Canyon Meadow Marathon and posted the victory shot at the beginning?  Looks like I'm doing it again, only this time I'm posting a mile 16 shot!  As comical as the photo below is, there really is pain and anguish underneath all the theatrics.  More on this in a bit.

Do I have a pulse?  Please say yes.

I was really excited about running the Oakland Running Festival Marathon this year.  I ran the half marathon in 2010 and absolutely loved it.  Oakland always gets a bad rap as a city, which is quite unfortunate.  Sure, there are areas where I wouldn't take The Epinephrine Pup for a walk late at night, but for the most part I'm totally ok wandering the streets of this great city.  Oakland is colorful, vibrant, and has so much character, and I remember all this was brought out at last year's race.  For this reason, I had to return, but this time for 26.2 miles.

Another big reason why I was so excited for running this race is because Oakland marked milestones for a few of my friends.  It's no secret that Endorphin Dude is all about spreading the word of good health and fun, and I am proud to say that I have inspired some of the folks in the following photo to get out there and run a long distance race. 

From left to right: My sister Diane, aka "Mademoiselle Escargot," Connie, Evelina, Erelyn, Chris Bliss, Ultra Woof, and Endorphin Dude.

I absolutely love seeing the marathon ripple effect in action.  I got Chris Bliss into half marathons, which inspired my sister Diane, who got her co-worker Erelyn into it, who in turn inspired her sister Evelina to do it, which got Erelyn and Diane's coworker Connie interested.  I give these ladies standing ovations for getting out there and sweating it out, and I sincerely hope that they continue that ripple effect and inspire others.

The final reason why I was pumped up about Oakland, and this is the most obvious one, is that I got to hang out with all my Marathon Maniac and running buddies!

From left to right: Love To Run Donna, her Love To Run Son, The Epinephrine Pup, Endorphin Dude, and Marathon Maniac Barabara Wnek.
See Dan Run!  See Dane Hold A Chiweenie!
Here's another running super hero, Mr. Greg Brown.  This is one of the nicest guys on the course.  He will always stop to give you a high five or a hug.
There's my running buddy Alison Cooksey.  We've run so many races together that I've lost count.
Fellow Marathon Maniac and DSE Buddy, Bill McCarty.
I saw the singlet. I had to go introduce myself. I asked her name. She said, "Eileen." I then said, "Oh you're Louie's friend! We had a whole Facebook conversation stemmed from 'Come On Eileen' and of course, your name came up!" Now we're FB friends.
Glad to be able to meet up with Marina in Northern CA. I usually see her in SoCal!
Bling Whores!

So let's get back to that first photo.  Yes, I had to stop at the medic station to get pain killers and a quick rub of the feet to soothe my aching blisters.  There has been only one other time where I had to stop for medical assistance, and that was at my first marathon in San Francisco when both my calves cramped up.  I was able to recover from race so I figured I could snap back in Oakland.  Unfortunately, that was not the case. 

My problems hit at about mile 13 when we made it to International Avenue.  I had set my Garmin to milk the clock and finish in seven hours.  However, once we got to this section of the race, the police escort and sag wagon tailed us to the point where I completely stressed out and started running in ways that lead to cramps.  I understand that the city needed to re-open the streets, but I am more accustomed to having a sweeper on a bicycle follow me or a sag wagon in the form of a minivan.  Never have I been followed by a squad car like this, and that stressed me out!  As a result, my left calf cramped up and I had to pull over to the side walk.  I managed to stretch it out and walk it off, but unfortunately, shortly after that painful episode, a different part of my body experienced the same cramping, which ultimately led to my down fall.  The worst cramp a marathoner will ever experience is the one between his or her ears.  Ouch.

Unfortunately, I experienced a colossal melt down the size of the Little Rock Marathon finisher's medal.  Luckily, my running mate, Ultra Woof, was able to distract me with funny stories about her growing up Chinatown cheap.  Her money saving anecdotes got me through a few miles.  By the time we reached the medic tent at mile 16, my brain dropped dead and it was at that point that I realized I couldn't run anymore.  For the final 10 miles, Ultra Woof and I walked the streets of Oakland, dodged oncoming traffic, and once or twice got lost.  At times it felt more like The Amazing Race than a marathon.  The clock kept ticking away and I knew that we would have to pick up the pace, but at that point, exhaustion had kicked in full gear, and it didn't help that the blisters on my feet cried for me to stop.  Nonetheless, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept going.  What kept sane was the the exchange of comical stories and the occasional photo shoot.  We kept the latter to the very bare minimum, as we knew that time was not on our side.  I do have to say, though, that those random pictures gave me the chance to stretch and mentally refresh myself. The following photo pretty much sums up how I felt.

Endorphin Dude reached levels of desperation, and at this point would have traded all his super powers for a ride to the finish line. Fortunately, a running super hero in compression pants and cape proved to be too risky for the commuters of Oakland. With no offers for rides, the marathon caped crusader had no choice but to finish the race!

When we hit mile 23, Ultra Woof received a phone call from our Ragnar Van Mom Elizabeth letting us know that the race director was tearing down the finish line area!  My running mate still had a lot of gas in her tank, but I was quickly deteriorating.  If it weren't for her positive energy, I probably would have just collapsed, fallen into Lake Merritt, and drowned.  Nonetheless, she kept me going.  One foot in front of the other, we plugged along.  Like the little engine that could I kept telling myself, "I think I can!  I know I can!" Wishful thinking, yes, but a great distraction to get me to that finish line.  When Ultra Woof and I reached the mile 26 marker and turned the corner to run into the finish line, the timing mat disappeared and all spectators and runners had gone home. All, that is, but Elizabeth, fellow Ragnar mate Jennifer, the Epinephrine Pup's doggie nanny Chris Bliss, Jennifer's fiance Mitchell, and my sister Diane, aka "Mademoiselle Escargot."  As the two of us staggered in, these guys hooted and hollered so loud for us that it felt like thousands of spectators were still there cheering on their friends and families. 

After we crossed, Jennifer quickly pulled out her cell phone and called the people in charge of timing to give our final times.  Elizabeth handed us our finishers medals.  Mademoiselle Escargot, Chris Bliss, and Mitchell continued to cheer us on.  These five had it all worked out.  Endorphin Dude and Ultra Woof made it, and it didn't matter that everyone had left for the day, because the most important ones stuck around for us.  People ask me all the time why I run, and now I can give them six concrete reasons: Ultra Woof, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Mitchell, Chris Bliss, and my sister.

The Oakland Running Festival did me in.  I mentally lost it at the half way point and was never really able to recover.  On the bright side, I did enjoy walking the second half, and it gave me an great opportunity to see the city by foot.  This race was intense, and at the end of the day, I got the job done.  I am very happy to be done with marathon #16.

Titanium scoreboard: 9 down, 43 to go!
Oh yeah, one other thing, Diane PR'ed by 12 whopping minutes,
Chris Bliss qualified for Half Fanatics, and
Ultra Woof qualified for Marathon Maniacs!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon

While the marquee marathon this weekend took place in Los Angeles, I opted to run a race in Modesto. It was here in this Northern California town in the central valley that I discovered this little thing called running. I ran my first 5k here in September 2009, and since then, I have run 37 half marathons and 14 full ones. It was only appropriate that I returned to the place that started it all to run my 15th marathon.  There are many sentimental reasons why I chose this race over the more heavily hyped LA Marathon.  Here are some of those reasons:

Mother Nature did not make it easy for me today.  Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as the weather man had predicted. Coming into this race, I had thought that I needed Noah's Ark just to get through the first 16 miles.  However, the rain was minimal.  I can't say the same for the head wind.  The second half of the race was brutal.  The heavy wind dropped my pace and at times it felt like I was walking through ice cold molasses.  Mother Nature's unpredictable mood swings made this race difficult, but at the end of the day, I got the job done.  Marathon #15 is now in the books.

Titanium scoreboard: 8 down, 44 to go!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day 5k

One day after running a trail marathon, I got out there and chased rainbows!  Gotta find me pot of gold!  I always love running with DSE, my running club, so I had to get out here for the St. Patrick's Day 5k.  It wasn't easy getting out of bed, but I'm glad I did.  I got a recovery run in, I got to see all my running buddies, and most importantly, I got to wear my Endorphin leprechaun suit!  Win. Win. Win.

Gotta me some Lucky Charms!  They're magically delicious!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Canyon Meadow Marathon

Yes, I know, I am a little out of sequence here.  I usually don't post the victory shot until the end of the race report, but there is some rhyme and reason to the deviation from my norm.  Look how feverishly happy Ultra Woof and I look in this photo.  One could infer that the sheer elation is due to the runner's high from being inches away from the finish line.  Well, that is definitely true, but there is so much more.  My running mate and I experienced runner's high throughout Canyon Meadow.  For a challenging trail race up in the Oakland hills, we managed to smile all the way through.

This marathon travels through Redwood Regional Park where we got to "enjoy spectacular views along the East Ridge and West Ridge trails and wind through tall redwoods on the popular Stream and Bridle trails."  Oh yeah, there was also quite the elevation.  Check out this chart:

This isn't too bad, right?  Right???

By now, I show up to every Coastal Trail race expecting hills, so this chart didn't really phase me at all.  What did concern me was the fact that it rained the previous night.  I was relieved that on race day there was no sign of precipitation, but knowing that Mother Nature decided to water all the plants on this good earth the night before, I dreaded the fact that some of these trails would be muddy.  Mind you, I didn't worry so much about slipping and sliding and skidding into the mud, it was more the fact that I was going to get my new trail shoes dirty!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that last statement sounded very diva like, but hey, I paid big bucks for those Salomons, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get all messed up!  What can I expect though, I am running a trail race.  These shoes are made for trail running, and that's just what they'll do.  One of these days these shoes are gonna get mud all over you.  Today was that day.

Once Ultra Woof and I got over that first hilly hurdle, we chilled out and started having fun.  We sauntered through the forest like happy smurfs.  The two of us skipped down the slopes of Canyon Meadow and frolicked across the muddy plains.  The only thing missing from this picture of serenity was the jovial choir of "la la la la la la la la" from the mushroom dwelling Schtroumpfs.  Wow, those last few lines sure made it sound like Ultra Woof and I got high off of Smurfette's magic mushroom house.  Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun.  I know that I've ranted in the past that trails are not my surface of choice, but they really are growing on me.  I do believe that nature does bring out the best in me.  Of course, we documented our glee via photos.

I'm going for ethereal here.  See it?  Feel it?
GU.  That's what gets me to the finish line.  Try it!

As Ultra Woof and I trekked through the meadow, we kept ourselves entertained by cracking jokes and reminiscing about past races.  Of course, the one we always revisit is the New Year's One Day.  How could we not?  This was the epic 40 mile finish with only 22 seconds to spare before the clock struck midnight!  The more I think about it, the more I felt like Cinder-Fella that day, and that I had to cross that finish line with 40 miles under my water belt before 2010 sipped away or else my Mizunos would turn back into Homer Simpson slippers and Ultra Woof, Race Director Wendell, and all my DSE running mates would morph into little white mice with long pink tails.  

I was a man on a mission that night, and I wanted nothing more than to have that 40 miles on my finisher's tile.  At the time, so much adrenaline pumped through my system that I really didn't think there was anything that could have possibly stopped us.  That is, until "Waldo" turned the corner.  "Waldo" was a runner who ran the 24 hour event.  He went through quite a few wardrobe changes throughout the day, and at one point, he sported a very Where's Waldo-esque red and white horizontal striped shirt.  Ultra Woof and I didn't know his name, so this moniker worked.  In any case, with only .4 miles left to go, I sense Ultra Woof drifting off.  I tried to get her to stay focused, but once Waldo turned the corner, she gravitated to him in hope of escaping the militant Asian Dad in me.  For those not familiar with the "Asian Dad,"archetype, this is the very strict paternal unit who never allows his daughter to look at a member of the opposite sex, let alone date one.  His motto is "books before boys." 

Apparently, I broke into Asian Dad mode when Waldo appeared.  I just needed Ultra Woof to keep her eyes on the prize, and when I felt her pace drop by two seconds, I had no choice but to be stern.  I abruptly turned to Ultra Woof, unleashed the Ginsu knives from my Asian Dad eyes, and scorned, "Alva, I need you to stay focused.  We're almost there.  This is not the time to socialize."  I spoke very calmy, but the conviction in my voice pulled Ultra Woof away from Waldo and back on track.  During our hike through Canyon Meadow, Ultra Woof revealed to me that she feared for her safety and she worried that I would have grabbed her by the tech shirt and dragged her to the finish line!  The two of us had a very good laugh recounting that moment. 

When Ultra Woof and I hit the mile 10 marker, I glanced at my Garmin and did the mental dance of joy when I realized we were on track to a sub-8 trail marathon finish!  I guess the serenity of being at one with nature, compounded with the fact that we were having so much fun schmoozing, made us quite the efficient pair.  In fact, we were so fast that no one had passed us yet!  Since this course was a double loop 13.1 miler and we were in the back of the pack, I calculated that the runners in the front of the pack would have passed us by this point.  No one did!  That only meant that we were able to keep up the pace with all the runners!  Feeling like elite ultra trail blazers, the two of us continued to skip along.  

Unfortunately, that feeling of trail invincibility was short lived.  When we reached the half way point, my Garmin mysteriously fell two miles behind.  The two of us tried to rationalize that the Garmin could have lost satellite, but it just didn't seem likely.  Somewhere along the way, we missed a turn.  Ultra Woof and I just couldn't figure it out. We checked every pink ribbon on the course and we were certain we followed directions accurately.  It turns out we missed one whole section of the course because of a sign that read, "Trail Closed."  The problem was that we didn't read the sign carefully, as it actually read, "Trail Closed To Equestrian."  As a result, we completely missed that turn, even though there were what seemed like a thousand pink ribbons taped on that sign!  When Ultra Woof and I realized our error, we corrected it by nailing that trail and going an additional two miles to make up for the miles that we lost.

Yup, that's the pink ribbon.  We're back on track.
Yup, we are invincible, what can we say.

So much for our sub-8 trail finish!  Ultra Woof and I finished this marathon in a little under 9 hours.  I'll take it!  We finished in the time allotted and had a whole lot of fun along the way.  I am especially proud because this was my first marathon back since being on the injured reserved list.  Getting across that finish line always puts a smile on my face, but this one made me cheer out loud.  Not being able to get out there and run due to pain is no fun.  I am very grateful that I was able to do this.  The weather was great, the company was awesome, and the self-confidence is back on the radar.  Life is good.

Titanium Scoreboard: 7 down, 45 to go!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Golden Gate Park 10k

Endorphin Dude's tough guy Asian mafia gangsta fraternal twin bro:

Another 10k in the books.  I managed to improve my time by 10 minutes from last weekend's 6.2 miler.  This is a huge win for me, especially after being sidelined for two weeks with the injury.  I have a local trail marathon next weekend, and having these two back to back 10k's under my belt gives me a boost of confidence.  I don't think that I would be able to jump into a marathon cold turkey!  The only bummer about this race is that my glasses flew off my face at mile 4 and broke. That's fine, at least it's the glasses and not the foot that's broken!

On a completely different note, has anyone ever wondered what Endorphin Dude does when he's not running?  Well, let me tell you!  I formed a competitive film making team called It Donned On Me five years ago.  What we do is compete in timed film making competitions, such as the 48 Hour Film Project, where we have to write, shoot, edit, and produce a short film under a tight deadline.  Last weekend, It Donned On Me produced our 19th film together for the Go Green 48 Hour Film Project.  Our lead actor bailed at the last minute and yours truly had to step in to play the lead.  Check out "Double Down" here.

So, if you ever wondered what Endorphin Dude is doing when he's not running, now you know!  By the way, Double Down took the award for Best Acting as well as runner up for Best Picture.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.