Sunday, January 30, 2011

Run In The Sun Marathon

Hey!  I thought this was supposed to be the Run In The *SUN* Marathon!  I don't see no sun!!

After last weekend's failed attempt at a trail 50k, I am happy to announce that this marathon caped crusader got back on the Titanium track by completing this Charlie Alewine Racing marathon in Long Beach.  I'm not going to lie, not being able to complete the PCTR Pacifica Trail 50k did some damage to my confidence.  I'm glad that I was able to put that behind me and finish marathon #11.

I have to say, though, all the excitement of this marathon happened not on the course, but before the actual event.  CAR marathons are very low key, so there are no bands, cheering squads, or any of the fanfare that you would expect at a major race.  I prefer it this way because I can just get out there, listen to my iPod, and run.  With that said, let me jump back in time a bit and tell you about the events leading up to the race.

Two nights earlier, I took home my running club's much coveted DSE Mongo Award, which I earned by completing 750 miles and participation in 20 Dolphin South End events.  I worked hard all year long to squeeze in 32 half marathons, 8 fulls, and over 75 miles of shorter distance races with DSE.  I appreciate the fact that this trophy is for a cumulative effort and not for one event.  When I look at this award, I think of the dedication, endurance, and mental toughness that I put forth all year round.  It is a reminder to me of how I transformed myself from that insulin dependent couch potato to a healthy individual who absolutely digs life. 

The morning after the DSE Awards Ceremony & Gala, I packed up the chiweenie and headed down south to Long Beach for the marathon.  The ride went smoothly up to the point when I hit LA traffic.  I've said before, I'll say it again, I am not a fan of LA traffic!  Geez, Louise!  Stuck on the 5 for about two hours, all I could do to keep myself sane was sing Rick Astley tunes to my dog.  Yes, Chewbacca is a big Rick Astley fan.  In any case, I finally made it to my final destination by about 9pm.  Where exactly was that destination?  Motel 6.

I love Motel 6.  Why?  I love this motel chain because they are pet friendly.  When I ran my CAR Thanksgiving Triple, Chewbacca and I had a great time at the Fullerton Motel 6.  For this race, I decided to split lodging cost with fellow Half Fanatic and Miss January Endorphin Dudette, Elizabeth McKay.  I quickly learned how pet friendly Motel 6 really is!

Picture it: Marathon Caped Crusader, Endorphin Dudette, two big black labrador retrievers, a chiweenie, and a cat, all at Motel 6.  Yup, you read that correctly!  I felt like Dr. Doolittle!  Never before have I stayed in a motel with three dogs and a cat!  I guess what blows my mind is the kitty.  I've never known anyone who brought their cat on road trips before I met Elizabeth.  It's definitely different, but certainly very cool.  Unfortunately, this photo is missing one of the dogs, but as you can see, Mr. Skits, the cat, is peaking out from the window sill.  In any case, all the animals and humans got along well and everyone got a good night sleep--all six of us at the Motel 6.

We all got up at 5am to prepare for the race.  I tried to do my crunches and stretches, but I found myself interrupted by Duke and Nash.  I ended up stretching in bathroom.  After walking all the dogs and feeding the cat, Elizabeth and I ventured off to Long Beach for the race.  With the exception of the rain, nothing earth shatteringly exciting happened at the marathon.  I showed up, cranked up my iPod, and ran.  I did get see my Marathon Maniac friends there, which is always earth shatteringly exciting.  Here's a shot of Elizabeth, Ingrid, and Sarah Croft (no, not Lara Croft, Sarah Croft).

And of course, there was Mad Hatter Fancy Pants and Barefoot Todd.  Do you know why Ed wears these crazy hats?  Apparently, when other runners started to complain about the sun bouncing off of his bald head and blinding them, the race directors got pretty upset, so they made him start wearing "mad" hats. Now the other runners don't get mad at him anymore.  True Story!  And this came directly from the horse's mouth!  As for Barefoot Todd, I was shocked to see that he had shoes on!  Shoes, a button down shirt and khakis!  If you haven't figured it out already, Barefoot Todd did not run this race.

I finished this race under 6 and half hours.  I was happy to get it done.  After not being able to finish last weekend's 50k, I am very happy to have completed this marathon.  My confidence has been restored and I am once again back in good spirits.  Marathon #11 is now in the books.  Titanium scoreboard: 4 down, 48 to go!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dolphin South End Awards Ceremony & Gala

Ever wonder what Endorphin Dude looks like before he jumps into the that port-o-potty and transforms himself into the Marathon Caped Crusader?

Yup, by day, E-Dude is just another Clark Kent suit wearing citizen blogging away on, his version of the Daily Planet.  Ok, maybe that's a slight stretch.  This marathon caped crusader wears boxers and a t-shirt when he's typing away these race reports!

I threw on this suit for the Dolphin South End Awards Ceremony & Gala. I love DSE.  I woke up at 7am every Sunday I wasn't running a marathon or half last year so that I could hang out with these folks.  These people have made my life better in so many ways. When I received my first DSE ribbon, I gushed like a little kid who just won an award.  I absolutely loved that ribbon, and I proudly displayed it on my wall! Until the 2009 San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon, my first 13.1 miler, I had never won any award for any sporting event. I was that fat kid who always got picked last in PE, so any award I received for running, big or small, is cherished.  Since that first race with this cool running club, I have collected many more ribbons as well as 35 half marathon and 7 full marathon medals.  I have come a long way with my running, and I owe a lot of it to the folks at DSE.  There is definitely a sense of community here.  The support I receive from them helps me to improve.  I know that I am always in the back of the pack, but I work hard to finish, and it's so nice to have cheerleaders on the sidelines encouraging me when I cross that finish line at every race.  I am very lucky to be a part of this awesome club.

I picked up two trophies at the gala, one for logging in the fourth most race miles and the much coveted Mongo Award.  Engraved on that trophy is "Tony Nguyen: 2011 Ultra Marathoner."  If you had told me two years ago that I would be holding these two awards, I would have laughed in your face.  I am honored.  I am proud. 

For all you new runners out there, I highly recommend that you join a running club.  You'd be amazed at how your life will change.  DSE, thanks for welcoming and accepting me.  I am very fortunate to have you.  It's been a wonderful year, and I look forward to many many more!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PCTR Pacifica Trail 30k

If you've been following Endorphin Dude's marathon journey, you will know these three facts:
  1. This marathon caped crusader wears a uniform, not a costume. 
  2. E-Dude has a 6 pound chiweenie sidekick named Chewbacca, a.k.a. "The Epinephrine Pup."
  3. Altitude and trail races are Endorphin Dude's kryptonite.

Number three on that list is the one that eats away at me.  I've said it before and I'll say it again and again: E-Dude on trails is tantamount to an American on the red clay of Roland Garros.  I'm just not comfortable on this surface.  Nonetheless, in order to reach Titanium, I must plug through them.

I registered for the PCTR Pacifica Trail 50k because it fit nicely into my schedule.  Yes, I know, it's a 50k TRAIL race.  I figured if I stayed focus and speed walked up the hills and ran down them, I'd be fine.  Plus there is a nine hour time limit, so I felt pretty confident that I would be able to get the job done.  However, the night before the race, the race director sent this message to all the registered runners:

After marking the course today, we have discovered that the park closes one hour earlier than in past years. For those that tend to enjoy the course to it's full extent, we need to move the cutoff hours up one hour - 30.2km cutoff is now at 12:30pm and the final cutoff is now 4:30pm.

ARgh!  This news sent me into a state of panic!  I had mentally psyched myself out to complete this race in 9 hours!  To make matters even worse, there was a strict 30.2km cut off time!  And we had to climb mountains, not hills!

The Epinephine Pup picked up on my anxiety and started barking like a mad dog, so I had to chill out fast.  I emailed the race director and asked if I could have an early start, but unfortunately, the answer was no.  I knew then that I had no choice but to just suck it up and run this trail race the best I could.  Endorphin Dude does not give up, especially even before starting!  With nothing left to think about, I packed up my gear and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up with no anxiety.  I just said to myself, it is what it is, and I just have to get out there and do my best.  My strategy was to leave my camera behind and show up on race day sans cape.  My task at hand was to finish, and I did not wanted any distractions!  The funny thing is that even without the cape, people still recognized me as Endorphin Dude!  The running community is not that big, and I see most of these runners at every race!  I still kept to my rule of no pictures during the race and only took a few shots before with my iPhone.  Below is a shot of Kermit and Carlos, regulars of PCTR, and Titanium level Marathon Maniac, Jeannette.

I stuck to my game plan and worked my endorphin butt off.  I climbed every hill the best I could and then sprinted down!  Any fear of falling on face when out the window.  Even without the cape, I flew through the hills of Pacifica!  I made minimal stops at the aid stations and I kept my socializing to a simple and quick "hello, how you doin'."  Unfortunately, this was not enough to get me to that 18 mile cut off time.

What started out as a 50k turned out to be a 30k! Sadly, Endorphin Dude had to retire at mile 18. I did receive a consolation prize: the race director kindly moved the Marathon Caped Crusader from the 50k event to the 30k, so there won't be a DNF on my record! I worked hard today, but I just couldn't deliver the goods.  At least I got there, did my best, and had fun with a bunch of my runner friends.  It's very odd for me to run a race without taking a bunch of photos, but for this one, I had to make this sacrifice.  I'm glad I was able to get some shots Kermit, Carlos, and Jeannette before the race and then with Walter and Ernie afterward.  I always love seeing these guys on the course!

I hustled from beginning to end, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't pull it off.  I do take pride in knowing that I tried my best.  Hey, I finished 18 miles through the mountains of Northern California, and that ain't nothing to sneeze at!  I may have come home from this race empty handed, but waiting for me at home is the best side kick in the world, one who always thinks I am a winner!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Arizona Rock 'N' Roll Marathon

I bumped into a fellow Marathon Maniac at the Arizona Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon expo and he said to me, “So, two weeks ago you ran 40 miles around a lagoon for 12 hours, last weekend you ran Goofy, and tomorrow you will be running only a marathon?  Slacker.”  I couldn’t help but laugh. “Only” a marathon.

I am still on the Titanium track!  We are officially into the third week of 2011 and I have completed two marathons, one half marathon, and an ultra marathon. I just have to keep up this pace and I will be able to reach 52 marathons by the end of this year.  Titantification!

I was definitely excited about running this marathon.  Arizona officially marks my first Rock ‘N’ Roll 26.2 miler.  It’s no secret that I am a big fan of this series.  Some people may even call me a groupie.  What I love about the Competitor Group is that they put on fun events.  I love all the bands.  I love all the cheerleaders.  I love the bling.  I’ve also had the good fortune of getting to know a lot of the folks behind the scenes.  I only have good things to say about Rock ‘N’ Roll, and I will continue to run these races as long as I can afford to.  With that said, imagine how excited I was going to the expo.  Seriously, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I schmooze with all the vendors, I take lots of pictures of the merchandise, and I sample all the freebies.  The expo is also the spot for all the cool kids, i.e. the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics.  These days, I don’t just go there to pick up my bib and D-tag.  I hang out and have a lot of fun.

I still can't get over the fact that it's been one year since I've run the Arizona Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon.  That was only my fourth half marathon.  That race felt more like a business trip than a vacation.  I didn't know anybody, so I just flew in, ran the race, and flew back home.  There was no pre-race carbo load dinners with other runners or meet up at the start line photo shoots.  I showed up alone, I ran alone, I went home alone.  Not this year!  I traveled to Arizona with a fellow runner, and the second we stepped off the plane, a few Half Fanatics greeted us.  When we got to the expo, Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics surrounded the place.  I got to meet up with a bunch more later in the evening for a pre-race dinner.  Seriously, what a difference a year makes.

The race itself was painful.  I'm not sure if exhaustion had finally sunk in after running The Goofy Challenge the weekend before and the New Year's One Day the weekend before that, but I did struggle.  I suffered a pretty significant mental break down at mile 6.  I'm not sure what happened because there wasn't any physical pain or injuries.  The last time I broke down this early in a race was at the Eye-Q Two Cities Marathon when I suffered shin splints at mile two.  I got through that race thanks to Dean Karnazes, who high fived me on the course.  This time around it was all mental during the first half.  Fortunately, I was able to recover by mile nine.  I did so by pulling myself off the course and sternly told myself to shut up, quit whining, and run!  It worked.  Self tough love!  It also helped that so many Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics were out there to keep my spirits up.

At mile 18, I caught up with fellow Half Fanatics Dianasaur and her evil prehistoric predator nemesis Mattsaur.  I noticed right away that the evil dinosaur had an ice pack taped up to his right leg.  DOH!  Unfortunately, my fellow Half Fanatic suffered severe cramps and had slow down.  Because of this, the three of us decided that were were going to stick together the rest of the race and walk together as a team.  I had no problems with this!  For the next eight miles, we trotted through Arizona, cracking jokes and planning our next races.  When I hit mile 26, I sprinted to the finish line.  It took me nearly 6 hours and 45 minutes to get there, but I'm totally ok with that.  I was ecstatic to get it done!

Another marathon done.  I am another step closer to Titanium.  This is going to be a long year, but I have to say, I'm having a lot of fun with each step of this journey.  I love being a Marathon Maniac.  I love being out there and pulling out 26.2 miles.  I love life.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Goofy Challenge

I did it!  I did it!  I did it!  Endorphin Dude completed The Goofy Challenge! 39.3 miles in one weekend! This marathon caped crusader now has three blingtastic medals hanging around his neck.  Woo Hoo!  GOOFIFICATION! 

And to think, I almost got disqualified.  Yup, you read that correctly.  It was brought to my attention after finishing the half marathon that there may have been a possibility that I could have been disqualified because I didn’t finish the half marathon in the 3:30 time limit.  A fellow half fanatic delivered that news to me shortly after I crossed the half marathon finish line.  I just figured that if I didn’t get picked up by sag wagon, then I was safe.  Needless to say, this news put me in a minor state of panic.  All that hard work down the drain just because I took my dear sweet time in The Magic Kindgom.  Because of this, I decided to push hard for a PR at the marathon, or at least finish well before the seven hour time limit.  My thinking was that if the race director had any issues with my half marathon finish time, then maybe he or she would be able to grant me my Goofy medal based on my marathon performance.  So many different scenarios ran through my head, and I admit, I was a bit paranoid. 

When the 3am alarm went off, I got up and ventured out to the start line on my own, while my half marathon partners in crime, Louie and Christine, snoozed away.  I arrived at the start line and greeted all my fellow marathon maniacs and half fanatics.  Lynette also came out and so did her partner in crime, Josie.  You may recall from my previous race report that these two were training for their first half marathon, and the Walt Disney World Half was going to be their inaugural race.  Unfortunately, Josie's injury prevented her from running, as you can clearly see from the cast in this photo.  I told her not to worry, because there will be many races ahead of her once she healed.  I’m glad that she, Lynette, and all the Maniacs, Half Fanatics, and supporters were out there.  They certainly helped me get my mind off of that possible DQ.  

Once I started running, I felt strong, both physically and mentally.  Amazingly enough, my body held up fine with this second round of running.  I happily ran along on the happiest land on earth.  I was breezing through the first 10k when I realized the whole purpose of me being here was to have fun.  So what if Disney should decide not to give me my Goofy medal based on my half marathon performance?  I was going to have fun with The Goofy Challenge regardless!  So rather than pushing for that PR (personal record), I opted for the PR (party race!).  I came to Disney World to have fun, and gosh darnit, I'm gonna do exactly that!  So what do I do?  I once again stopped to take pics with all the Disney characters!

At about mile 23, I looked at the clock and realized that, even with all the stops I made to pose with Mickey and friends, I still had more than enough time to finish this race under seven hours.  I took my time the rest of the way. 

I'll be honest and confess that I am not a "Disney" person, but there really is something magical about running through five different theme parks in Walt Disney World.  I really did feel like a five year old all over again, which is appropriate, because I acted just like a kid when I approached the finish line.  Remember when you were a child and you've been wanting a certain toy for Christmas and that's all you thought about day and night?  Remember how excited you were when you opened that box and saw that toy in there?  When I hit mile 26, all I could think of were three shiny medals.  Imagine what went through my mind when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  Cruising through the final 0.2 miles, I thought my heart was going to explode from excitement.  When I saw that finish line, I leapt over mat the like Thumper hopping through the forest!

I then let out a Lion King roar.  The volunteers all looked my way and smiled.  Other runners congratulated me.  Spectators cheered.  I couldn't believe I did it.  GOOFIFICATION!  I had worked so hard for this moment, and there it was in front of me.  I regained my composure and approached the volunteers with the medals.  One volunteer gave me my Mickey marathon medal, and another handed me the Goofy medal after seeing my color coded Goofy bib.  That was it.  All that worry about getting disqualified was for nothing.  I pulled out my Donald Duck medal from my Camelback and proudly put it around my neck along with Mickey and Goofy.  I just couldn't believe it.  I did it.  Endorphin Dude has been GOOFIFIED.

Jiminy Cricket was right. When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.  Even for marathon caped crusaders.