Monday, September 27, 2010

Head for the Cure, hurt for the cause

On Sunday morning, me and my sister and her friend Stacy ran in a 5K race in Lawrence. This was Jessica's idea... I ran a lot of 5Ks when I was a high school kid, but I haven't run one since I was 19.

The good news? I finished 5th in my age division.

The bad news? There were only five people in my age division.

Good news... both Jess and Stacy finished in FIRST PLACE in their age division!

As you can see, the race was called "Head for the Cure," and yes, this was a benefit for brain cancer research. Brain cancer is what took our Dad, so Sis thought this would be a good event for us to support.

Maybe next year I'll support them by just mailing them a check!

Seriously, the 5K hurt. It didn't help that I have/had a bad knee, a sprained ankle, a level 1 hangover and only four hours of sleep when I ran (I was at the Smashing Pumpkins/Cake show the night before). I ran the first mile straight through, but then ran/jogged/walked/farted through miles two and three. I was hoping to finish in 30 minutes... I ran it in a whopping 32:30. OUCH. Jessica and Stacy ran it in 26 and 25 minutes, respectively.

While I was on the first mile, I saw some poor runner stepped in a giant load of dog shit. There was a right shoe-print of dog poo that went on for about 50 yards. Within that same 50 yards, someone apparently got a nose bleed, because there were little splotches of blood on the sidewalk every six feet.

And I thought to myself: wow, there are two people actually having a worse time than me!

All kidding aside -- it was a great cause, I'm proud of both Jess and Stacy for winning their divisions, and I'm happy I actually made it across the finish line and that the camera man documented this occasion for me. (He must have realized the feat of me crossing the finish line was special, as I was the only person who seemed to get a finish-line photo taken.)
I'm also glad I didn't step in dog crap or get a nose bleed. Those two dudes may have had better times than me, but hey -- at least I didn't have to leave my shoes outside when I got home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Kind of Announcement

This is a cross-post that originally appeared on my website and my LiveJournal.

So I mentioned in several tweets that I was writing a 'very cool story'. I can tell you now that it's a new series for Actionopolis but there's an official announcement coming later on as to the title and content of my work so we'll keep that under wraps for now. Here is a press release that was picked up by a lot of folks, including Publisher's Weekly.

I'm REALLY excited to be doing this. I'll continue keeping you updated on my progress at Twitter. I can tell you that I've made several rookie mistakes that the editor is guiding me through. The first batch of notes stung a little, but once I got over it (about ten minutes later) I started learning and made my writing BETTER. With each batch of notes I learn more about structure, about plotting and about tension.

So, even though for a year I put a story each month up at my website for you to enjoy and haven't put anything up for a while now, I've been busy and you'll get to see the fruits of it in (I hope!) not too long a while. Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mar's Half-Marathon

I've always wanted to run a marathon. I've run since high school, never part of a team but for myself, usually fairly half-assed but I knew I needed the exercise and I figured I might as well go as hard as I could. My dad was a star runner in high school so maybe I was genetically predisposed to be able to do it well. I rarely pushed myself particularly hard, except for the days when I'd get up an hour early to run or when I'd run on rainy December days (and that was challenging more for the circumstances than the activity), but I would always make an effort and it was always my aim to build up to a longer run and a faster pace, maybe even much longer one day. The places where I've lived I've made a running route, usually about two to three miles, usually for about 20 to 30 minutes a run. When I did it consistently I might lose some weight but generally I wasn't eating as well as I should have (even if I wasn't exercising regularly) so it never did a whole lot of good and not much I even noticed myself. But it always felt good to get out and run, to have that accomplishment that I did it, to spend sometime outside and take a break from the chaos of my life, and I would be more alert and focused for the rest of the day. I had some friends who ran marathons, some that were in worse shape than I was, and I thought that maybe one day I would do it but I knew that I would never make the time for the training. Just a pie-in-the-sky dream, maybe when I would retire. But it was earlier in the year when I was talking to Ryan & Carolyne, two good friends, and they brought up that they were thinking of doing the Disneyland Half-Marathon on September 5. They always dared each other to do it but never moved on it and when they mentioned it to me I said I'd do it and that was enough to get them going. Once they had signed up and I knew they were in for it, I signed up. It was still months away and I figured I could just train later. Worse comes to worse, it was only 13.5 miles (as I thought it was at the time) and while it had to be done in less than three hours, I figured I could walk that if need be and be fine. I was running, more for my usual exercise than training for anything, my usual 3 or so miles, usually at least once on the weekends, on alternating days through the week if I wasn't working, at one point a string of running every day, until I started to get pain in my ankles. I have a route at my parents' place in rural Riverside, with a lot of disused roads and some great elevation, including one steep hill near my parents' house early in the route, all of it being about three miles, part of which I would walk for about half a mile. Last Thanksgiving I was out running it and it was such a beautiful day and I was glad to be out of the house and I was so comfortable running that I didn't stop to walk and I just took off and added more streets to the route, all of it eventually adding up to four miles, with no stopping, and that was the furthest I've ever run consistently. It had been the best run of my life to that point. After that I would go that same route, pushing myself for it each time, though I wasn't there every weekend and even when I was I couldn't always get out, but it was always my goal to do that. That route and that amount of running was a turning point for me, that I could really push myself to do it, that it was possible to build my ability, that maybe I could really do it, that I wasn't at the height of where I could be. I had also been eating a lot better of late. I found out a few months ago that I have high blood-pressure, and it was coming at a time when I was sick with strep-throat so I couldn't exercise, and I was stressed-out from not working, but once I figured out that I needed to change some things to get better, I had improved my diet (more fruits and vegetables, no more canned soup and veggie-burgers, timing when best to have carbs, etc.) and felt a lot better in general. Diet is certainly important in relation to exercise and overall health, if not as important as working out and training. The time of the half-marathon started to get closer and I decided to step up my training regiment. There was one Sunday at home when I decided to run to the comics shop, which is three and a half miles away, so I ran there, rested (while looking at the new comics), then ran back. That was rough, especially since it was the afternoon and it was fairly warm, but I made it. Then I got switched to a different project at work and it required 9-hour days, not the 10 that I was used to, so that would give me an extra hour in my day which I could use in the morning to run. It worked out perfectly. I was still doing my 3 mile route at home but I could get in a better run when I was at my parents', which just happened to be the two weekends before the race. I had to step up my training but I knew I could do it. The first of those two weekends I decided to run on both days. The first day I was going to run the route once but once I got going I felt so comfortable with it that I just ran it again (though it was the old, shorter route and I walked for part of it). The next day I ran the longer route twice, though there was some walking. But I still felt great and I thought that maybe I could push it more. I changed up my route at home: I ran toward where I used to live, which I found out was only 5 miles there and back, so I changed that to running 2 miles to the track near there that I used to run, and each lap there was a third of a mile, so running there then running the track 12 times (maybe more if I forgot what lap I was on) would make about 8 miles. The track was also probably better on my knees. Two weeks before the race I also decided to start getting up early. 8 in the morning always seems early to me (but then, anything before noon usually does). I had been getting up consistently at 8, usually out of necessity, but even on the infrequent days I'd have off with no commitments I'd still get up at that time, not sleeping in, and I would do much better with it. But the race was going to be at 6 in the morning and I'd have to get up even earlier than that to get down there and get ready for it. So I started getting up at 6 for two weeks. Still a challenge but not as hard as I thought it would be. This gave me plenty of time to run as long as I wanted in the morning and still get to work. Of course, going to bed earlier (which sometimes happened) shoved out a lot of other things from my life but I was prepared for it and that was the price I was paying to do this thing. My original plan was to get up at 4 the week before the race, to get even more accustomed to it, but I found out we were going to get up and out even earlier than that the day of the race and I didn't see the point in it anyway so I ditched doing that. The weekend before the race was the make-or-break. I decided to do a full 13-mile run: 9 miles from my parents' house to Nuevo to Lakeview then back again and my old 4 mile route. It came out to 13.5 miles. I was determined to run the entire thing but maybe only to an extent. I gave myself an out to walk it if I needed to. The night before I had a bowl of shredded wheat for the carbs and went to bed just after midnight. Shortly after 6 a.m. and I was out running. And I did the whole thing. Every mile, every street in the route, every step. I ran the entire thing. Not that I was full-out running for even most of it but I was at a good jog at least and I was keeping a pace. At that point I knew I was ready for the full, actual race and I knew I could do it. That confidence maybe more than anything pulled me through when I ran the actual race. I was going to do it. I knew I could. What I had done, how I had been training, worked. The next day I was going to do just an easy 9 mile run but, same time of morning but with less sleep this time, I got within the first mile, up on that big hill, and I just wasn't into it. I had pushed my body further than I ever had the day before and I needed to rest, whether I wanted to or not. Maybe I could have done it if I was dying for it but there was no reason to push myself so far so soon. I walked back to my parents' house and took it fairly easy the rest of the day. Back at my own home, I ran the next day and it was fine. Two more 9-mile runs through the week then Wednesday was my last run before the race. For the next three days I was taking it easy and eating right, letting my body get itself ready. Saturday was busy for the race, not because I was getting things ready or training but because I had to drive to Anaheim to an expo at the Disneyland Hotel to register and pick up the provided materials for the race and that was a pain. I understand they wouldn't be able to register everyone the day of the race but it was still a hassle to go all the way down there when it could have been taken care of online or mailed. A busy Saturday but I got to Ryan & Carolyne's place in Diamond Bar and we carb-loaded that night at the Macaroni Grill (bacon is certainly part of my training diet) and got to bed at 11 that night, later than it should have been but a lot earlier than it could have been, especially since they have Rock Band.

3 a.m. comes early. But for some reason, even after less than four hours of sleep, I was ready. It's still dark out at 3 a.m. We were out the door by 4 and parked at Disneyland by 4:30 and since we'd registered the day before, there wasn't much to do except find safety pins to attach our number-bibs to our shirts and find our corrals. Ryan & Carolyne were in E and I was in F but it gave me a chance to stretch and focus myself for the race. There's not much chance that you'll be able to run the race alongside other people, unless you're doing it casually and not trying to place at a certain time, so we were cool to run it separately. I was standing at the back of the corral, which was also the furthest-back corral, and about a half mile behind us was one bend of the race, the four-mile mark as the route came out of Disneyland, and as we were waiting we saw the lead runner (who I think I saw before the race: a tiny, dark-skinned guy who looked more anorexic than toned) pass by, doing almost a quarter of the race in about a quarter of an hour. We had a pace, then. Probably the smartest thing I did before the race was eat and use the potty. Drinking water is a tricky thing to do before a race, since you don't want to drink so much that you have to stop to pee. But you also don't want to get dehydrated. And you want to eat so you have some fuel but you also don't want it to drag you down. I had three Tiger's Milk protein bars about a half-hour apart and I think they only affected me positively. Before the race started I left to pee and ended up, um, going #2, which was brilliant since that was something I would have hated to do during the race. (I normally wouldn't have had to go that early but it was probably the crabs I had the night before, nerves, and just being up that early.) The corrals of runners are let go in waves, about 10 minutes apart, but it doesn't matter which one you're in since your time doesn't start until you cross the starting line. There's a tag that you attach to your shoe and there's a microchip in it that records when you start and when you cross the finish line. So you can start whenever you want and you don't have to concern yourself with how your time is recorded time. They let the corrals in front of us go and I stayed at the back, so I wasn't deep within the crush of people. Since I was running it for time, it helped to stay away from the slow-pokes. And probably about 40 minutes after 6, we were off.

I can't say I have a lot of stand-out memories of the race itself. When I'm doing an activity like that I'm focused, and that day might have been the most focused I've ever been in my entire life. There was a choice between going along, enjoying the race, walking part of it and taking it in, and really trying my best to get a good time, pushing myself to do the best I could. I went with going for the time. I had considered not listening to music (they discourage you from wearing headphones so you can hear their P.A.) but I knew I had to have music to put myself in the zone I needed to be in, as I usually do. (Play-list for the day: Appetite for Destruction, Broken, Carnavas, License to Ill.) Within the first 20 feet of the race (during the opening strains of “Welcome to the Jungle”) I knew I had it. The training I had done was going to pay off and I had no doubt that I was going to get through it. I had worked hard to be ready for it and I was. The weather was in our favor too: overcast and just a little bit chilly. The fact that the sun was coming up just as we started the race probably helped. It had been pretty warm in southern California the previous week so there was some concern that it might be hot for the race but it was perfectly fine, for the entire time. The sun didn't come out until just after the race. I didn't notice much of anything around me, since I look at the end of the block and the person in front of me and up toward the sky, not at my feet or the surroundings, which was kind of a shame since it was a nice route. The first four miles was through California Adventure and Disneyland and the route went up and down Anaheim streets, around the Honda Center, and through Angel Stadium. As soon as I started I knew I was going to have to pee and I wasn't sure I'd be able to put it off for the three or so hours of the race. The first block of porta-potties had a line of a few people deep. Luckily, in Disneyland the restrooms were mostly empty, since maybe people didn't know they could use them or they'd already gone by the time they got that far, so I was able to duck into the restroom near the Dumbo ride and didn't have to wait at all and got to get back to running (and during “Sweet Child O' Mine” so that was some good timing). I didn't drink any water until the last few miles of the race. Water is a luxury I don't usually afford myself when I'm running and I got more on my shirt than in my mouth when I was trying to drink while running anyway. And I didn't have to go for the rest of the race (and a while after that if I recall). There were a lot of people who came out to encourage the runners, family members and friends, and I knew I didn't have that support so I could focus without looking for someone (who was looking for me) but it was inspiring to see so many to give support. Almost every block had a group of cheerleaders and pep squads and marching bands from the local high schools, even a mariachi band and Mexican dancers around mile 5, and they were so enthusiastic that it really got me going. A few miles into the race I got hooked on high-fiving the kids on the side-lines and they were encouraging, yelling out “Go, Marlan!” (how did they know my name? Oh, our names were on the bibs on the front of our shirts) and often I'd find after high-fiving a line of them I had really picked up my pace. I've never had a trainer or a coach, just doing it all myself, so I've never really had a strategy for running. I planned to start off fast, finish strong, and just keep a steady pace in the middle but a few times a song would kick in on the iPod (in particular “Well-Thought-Out Twinkles” at mile 7) and I'd have a burst of speed for a while, and I thought it would wear me out but somehow I kept up with it. People getting in the way were my biggest fear but it was unfounded, for the most part. I'd say that the greatest number of people were walking it, for most of it at least, but there were only a few bottlenecks where you couldn't get around them quickly, especially when there were stops for water, but it was just an obstacle and I was fast enough (or they were slow enough) that I got by them easily enough. There were a few stops in Disneyland when people stopped to pose and take pictures with the characters they had out for the day but I wasn't there for that. I was there to run. Probably my favorite part of the race, besides the very beginning and the very end, was a dirt trail on the other side of the parking lot of the Honda Center, around mile 8, probably because it was easier to run than the asphalt, it was a different environment than the streets, and it was when everyone had settled into the race and were just doing their thing. The map showed that we would be running the bases at Angel Stadium but alas, we were only running on the field, just near the dug-outs. There's a tunnel between the stadium and Disneyland and I remember being excited that I was going to run through it but I didn't even realize that I was inside it until I was almost out the other end, most notable because it was really loud in there, with all the people (especially the cheerleaders) hollering encouragement. Right after that I was coming up to Disneyland. I was saving something for the last mile but somehow I missed the last mile marker going back into the park or I mis-timed it, and I turned a corner and saw the finish line, probably that last .1 mile of distance. But that was probably the fastest I've ever run (“The New Style” helped, though people probably thought I was crazy when I was motioning to the music and mouthing along with it), to go over the finish line with a time of 2:28:36. I have no idea if that time was any good or notable at all. But I gave it my all. (Well, with a notable exception. I think I could have had a harder, faster last mile or two if I had known it was my last but I reckon it gives me room for improvement for the next race.) I knew one thing: I still had something left. This meant that I could have run that half-marathon harder and it also meant that maybe I could have made it through a full marathon. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to do that race twice that day but with some longer, more serious, more dedicated training, I could see that marathon I wanted to run somewhere in my future. I was proud of what I'd done – I ran 13.1 miles! -- but I knew it just wasn't enough. Call me ungrateful or overly ambitious or needlessly restless but I just had to do more. And if I could do everything that got me up to that point I could do more (even though I knew it was going to be much more).

Mar, Carolyne, Ryan -- post-race

A few people asked me what charity the race was for. As far as I could tell, it was just for Disneyland to turn a profit. $120 for each person to run the race, and I heard that there were 12,000 to 14,000 people there. You do the math. Then they wanted me to pay $80 to download the six or seven pictures they took of me (I didn't even know they were taking pictures. Then they knew to send the ones of me to me. Ah, technology). No on that one. It probably cost them a good amount of money to get Anaheim to block off the streets for the morning, then all the people to work it (if they weren't volunteers), but make no mistake about it, like everything with Disney, it's about profit.

After the race on Sunday we want back to Ryan & Carolyne's place and had lunch and I left. They were both going to sleep but I knew if I stopped and slept then I'd be out for most of the rest of the day. So I went and saw a movie, drove all over Orange Country, went on a date that evening – I didn't start crashing until after midnight, when I'd been up for over 21 hours. There were things I was going to do on Monday (off for Labor Day) but I ended up sleeping for most of the day. Then Tuesday it was back to running (though only my 2.5 route, as I wasn't getting up at 6 anymore and I didn't really have the time before work). I was looking at some of the other half-marathons coming up. There's one in October in Huntington Beach but I'm busy that weekend. One in Vegas a little later. One in Long Beach a few months later, I think. But there's one I could find somewhere, surely. Now 13.1 miles is just another run. But I certainly have in mind to do that full marathon at some point. Anything shorter than that just doesn't seem like a full effort.

I'd recommend the half-marathon to anyone. Even if you're not going to train strenuously or run the whole race, you could at least walk 13.1 miles and it would be a good work-out and you'd have a good time. Heck, you'd be at Disneyland. If you've ever entertained the thought of doing a marathon or a long race or even getting in some kind of shape, you owe it to yourself. Heck, I did it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm on a private jet!

Well, I've already been, as the SNL crew sings, "on a boat!" Now I've been on a private jet, too.

Trust me, this is the best way to fly. The plane takes off when you get there. The pilots get up out of their seat and say, "Is the temperature in here OK?" And there's NO LINE at customs.

OK, so I flew to Cancun with World Golf Hall of Famer Nick Price. I'm doing the cover story on him in the December issue of GCM. And he helped me play big-time magazine writer by inviting me to join him on his trip to Cancun and back this Tuesday/Wednesday.

Pretty cool. That's me and Nick (and his jet). Nick is WAY COOL. Over a few beers I told him the story of Adro telling me we should buy a keg-o-rator (I've told you the story here) and he cracked up, saying it was the "greatest story (he) ever heard!"

So, yeah, yay me! A really cool assignment! And I'll be home tomorrow by 1 p.m. SWEET.

I really hope you'll ask me about this story over a beer next time we're hanging out and there's a lull in the conversation, because the whole trip was pretty bad-ass!

And yet, I can't wait to get home and see my girls!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spent labor day in an airport

But that's ok, as i might be on the biggest/best assignment of my professional career. Wish me luck, details to come later...

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.