Monday, November 15, 2010

Sum Up/Longest Post Ever

Greetings, reader!  Ha.  That's corny, but seriously.  Greetings, reader!  In order to completely understand my various forms of weirdness, you need to have an idea of how I got to where I am.  This post is what Inigo Montoya (the guy looking for the six fingered guy in The Princess Bride) would call a Sum-up.

First of all, I'd like to start by saying that this is the most anticipated blog in the history of blogs, and because you're reading it, you are helping make history.  There are few people who actually care what I have to say about stuff, so CONGRATULATIONS!  You are one of the ELITE!. 

I haven't always been a runner BUT I have always liked adventures.  I used to ride my bike as far away from my house as I could when I was a kid.  I would rollerblade or skateboard far away when I got older.  Stand By Me was my favorite movie.  Well, maybe Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  Not important.  The point is, I love adventures.  As I've gotten older, though, I've struggled to find ones that are healthy/inexpensive/legal.  Until I learned that I could run far.

I used to like running around when I was a kid.  When I was a teenager, I hated it.  I was on the Tennis team in high school, and the golf team, and the football team.  The worst part about playing sports was having to F'n run.  I was a smoker.  I was out of shape, too.  That was the case throughout high school and for the first year and a half of college.  I got in better shape in college, but was too busy partying to care about my overall health.  I just wanted to look good naked.  I know.  Vanity is unattractive.  So is having a big gut and love handles.  I did it for the ladies.  Any-who! Not important.

When I moved to LA, I continued the unhealthy lifestyle for a while, but eventually my irresponsibility made my life pretty freakin' difficult.  I was having some real problems with pretty basic stuff, like paying rent and affording food.  My girlfriend at the time (how anyone actually put up with me, I don't know) moved to LA to be with me, and I decided that I was going to change my life.  It was for pretty selfish reasons, but nonetheless, it was a choice.  I didn't want to be the reason for problems in my relationship.

I joined a gym and lost a bunch of weight.  I started eating healthy food.  Making my own lunch.  You know, responsible, adult-ish stuff.  Around this time I started to enjoy running again.  I would always push myself to run farther and faster (on the treadmill).  Eventually I started running up Runyon Canyon on the weekends, sometimes TWICE.  Haha.  Then my knee started to hurt, and I had to stop.  I figured, I'm a bigger guy, maybe running and Jorge just don't mix.  So I swam a bunch.  Then I'd hike.  When my knee was better I'd run a little more.  I couldn't commit to it though, because my knee hurt.  I did crossfit for a while, and got in incredible shape.  I was faster and stronger than ever.  But eventually, I got sick of being in a freakin' gym ALL THE TIME.  I started working out less, sleeping in more.  More unhealthy-sh habits.  I didn't completely unwind, but I was in the process.  Wooohoo.

THEN.  Magic happened.  The girl who I became a more responsible person for (now, and at this point in the story, a friend) challenged me to run the LA Marathon.  I can't turn down a challenge.  Especially not from  A GIRL.  So, we decided to train together.

I trained for 6 weeks and did a 17 mile run and a 20 mile run.  I also changed my foot strike to land on my forefoot, as I'd either read somewhere or been told that this was the right way to run.  I got tendonitis in my achilles tendons, but I swam instead of running to get over it and train at the same time.  AND no knee pain!  Race day, I felt solid, and ran a 4:26 Marathon.  Other than the bottoms of my feet hurting, I felt fine after.  Immediately, I thought to myself:  Wasn't this supposed to be a RACE?  Why don't I feel completely SHATTERED?  I must have just not run fast enough.

So a week later I started a solo 16 week training program for the San Francisco Marathon.  I researched a proper mileage buildup and bought a Garmin Forerunner 405, which kept track of my pace/heart rate/everything possible.  I got some new running clothes at Top to Top (Running store), and started running 5 days a week.  One of my customers saw a picture of me running, and saw how pale my legs were, and that's how I got my nickname ("White Lightning" -- LESLIE COHN is an amazing girl, and she had custom headbands and wristbands made for me, which I wear for every race and most training runs).  Anyway, I was running a lot, and enjoying it.  I set a very ambitious goal of knocking an hour off my Marathon time.  Running the streets was better than the treadmill, but the loops started getting old.  And the city streets sorta made me feel dirty.  Dirty like a bum's undies.  Around this time, Garrett from Top to Top recommended that I try running with a group called the "Coyotes".  This group of trail running enthusiasts meets every Thursday in the SM Mountains to run trails with their fearless leader, Jimmy Dean Freeman.

"White Lightning"

I liked the trail runs, but they started at 6 AM (BALLS EARLY), and I didn't like driving back and forth from Hollywood to S.M. twice in one day.  I stuck with the streets most of the time.  I had a hip injury during this training period and had to take some time off, and ended up buying a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes.  I also read the book "Born to Run" (very inspirational, and yes, I know EVERYBODY has read this book).  Combining some theory from the book with my new weirdo shoes, I changed my stride and was able to run without hip pain again.  I think this may have been when I started going nuts.  I'd read about Ultra-Marathoners in the book and I'd heard some Coyotes talking about ultra-marathons they were doing.  I even started reading complete strangers' race reports (I know that seems weird/stalker-esque.  that's because IT IS).  Running really freakin' far started sounding not only not crazy, but fun.  I ran the SF Marathon and finished in 3:55:58.  Although it was half an hour slower than my total awesomeness goal, it was still half an hour better than LA.  AND it beat my slight awesomeness goal of a sub 4 hour finish.  I went for a hike in Muir Woods the next day and couldn't stop thinking about running the trails I was walking on.

I came back to LA and heard that some of the Coyotes were training for a race called the "Bulldog 50k".  I asked Jimmy about it, and he said I could definitely do it, but maybe the 25k would be better since I just ran the marathon the week before.  I decided to do the 50k, though.  Go big or go home, right?  He suggested that I do back to back loops on the race course (15.5 Saturday, 15.5 Sunday) so I did.  As I had to work at 9 AM that Saturday, I had to be finished with this challenging loop by 8 AM, so I started running at 5AM.  RIDICULOUS. 

After my first Bulldog training loop.  That's blood.

HOWEVER - Being on a trail by myself and reaching the top of the cloudline while the sun came up was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I fell in love with trail running.  I finished 25th overall at Bulldog, and 5th in my division.  Although I could barely walk because of the plantar fasciitis that I had the next day, I knew that I'd had a special experience.

Over the last few months I've been getting over injuries.  After I beat the P.F. (BOO-YA   Plantar, you're now officially my bitch!  j.k.  please don't come back), another foot problem came up which was explained by my doctor as "some type of itis" (yes, I paid a medical doctor, and that was his diagnosis) in the soft tissue on the top of my foot.  The pain was so bad that I took an entire month off from running.  I swam 5 days a week to stay in shape, and waited for the opportunity to run again.  That opportunity came when I went to Fountain Hills, AZ.  I had gone out to crew some fellow Coyotes for a 100 mile race they were running (Javelina Jundred), and hadn't planned on doing any running at all.  I didn't even bring running clothes (which I learned is never smart when you go somewhere w/Coyotes).

Sunset over Javelina Jundred

On a Saturday night in the middle of a desert, a woman came by our tent looking for a pacer for her husband, Mark Kirkby.  Mark had a few of his pacers bail out the day before the race, and the lone pacer that showed up for him needed a rest after pacing his 5th loop.  As I hadn't run in a month, I didn't say anything, but about 15 minutes later Jimmy convinced me to pace.  I borrowed some running SHORTS from Jimmy, and a jacket and socks, and paced Mark for his 6th loop (15.5 miles).  It was an incredible experience.  Mark ended up beating his time from 2009, and placed 16th overall in his 2nd hundred.

Mt. Wilson in the Clouds

Since that weekend, I've been training for my next race.  I'm running the Santa Monica 50K this weekend, and am hoping to beat my time from Bulldog and finish top 10.  My training has been solid the last couple of weeks, with my foot pain almost completely gone.  I'm descending better than ever, and my stride feels smooth and natural.  My training partner (Adam Bowman) and I are shooting for a sub-5 hour finish.  First ever race report will be here in a couple of weeks, as well as some photos from my training.

La Jolla Canyon Trail looking South over PCH