Category Archives: run

LA Marathon for the third time

No one wants to hear about how my feet hurt or that the marathon was hard or how I did not train enough. 25,000 people ran this one alone; hundreds of thousands run them every year. The choir of suffering is loud enough.

This was my fifth marathon in two years and they keep getting slower! Sure, there are a lot of reasons why this is true, but come on. This one was fun in that I had a crew (at the start at least) and many friends along the way (thanks Chris and Luz for the photos). I hung out in East LA for awhile between miles 21 and 24 because by this point I was done and welcomed any opportunity to walk or even sit. Budge has some photos of the position he took on the 6th St bridge.
Did you hear about that guy who had to suffer through a marathon to realize that training actually is important? What a dumb ass. Did you hear about the vegan cheese factory that burned down? Apparently the cheese still didn’t melt.
Here is the marathon from the perspective of someone who prepares: veganheartdoc.blogspot.com
I was worried about having some serious injury to my feet again, but one week later and I am doing fine. Only hobbled for a few days. Ha.

I cannot leave out that Brian did the Death Valley double on Saturday, marathon on Sunday ridiculousness that I did last year. But he ran a 4.14 marathon! Brian you are amazing. Imagine if you had been training! Morgan clocked his first marathon at 3.42 and Trista, despite a knee injury, completed her first.

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Holy Jim Trail from Trabuco Creek Rd

(stolen photo from wikipedia)

This is me not riding to San Diego. The original plan was to leave at 230am on Saturday morning, and ride 80 miles down the coast to meet up with the Organic Athlete San Diego chapter for a run. Good training for night riding and Norseman. But at 1130 the night before- far from having my shit ready- I decided against it. Slept in instead. Then finally got around to looking up info about that peak that sticks out of the Saddleback mountains that is visible from all over south county.
Around 330pm I was out of the house for the 6.5-mile run down a dirt road to the Holy Jim Trailhead. I had some aspirations of summiting, but that would of put my total mileage over 30. I fast hiked up to the fire road, probably only 500 feet or so below the top (and 2.5 hiking miles) and turned around. I read that on a clear day you can see into five counties from the top (hope to run the whole thing and summit soon).

I took my time descending and then ran the 6.5 miles back, most of it in the dark, which gave me the opportunity to use my new headlamp.

Tree tunnel!

Looking west out of the canyon on Holy Jim Canyon Road before it hits Trabuco Creek Rd.

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Death Valley Double Century and LA Marathon

the short:
1. Saturday Death Valley double century in 13.13, Jack and I were in the top 10 fastest times (wtf?).
2. Saturday night drove back to Los Angeles, arriving at 4am.
3. Slept 1.5 hours.
4. Ran a 4.57 marathon (2.20/2.37 split).
5. Ate two burritos.
6. Slept 16 hours.
Why: To try train for upcoming long races. And they just happened to fall on the same weekend.

the long:
double

We rolled into Death Valley Friday afternoon, which is a first. Usually we don’t get there till 1 or 2am, which Morgan, Jack, Stacy and Megan did, keeping Swarm! tradition alive. Chris Kostman joked about all 20 of us staying in the one free room that the volunteers got. It probably seemed that way, with about 15 of us cooking dinner outside the room. Lee Mitchell, ultra-cycling legend, was perplexed by our presence. You all here for the ride? Yep, almost all of us. The double or the single? Most are doing the double. Wow, great!
Some of us camped, some actually had paid for hotel rooms and only six of us slept in the free room.

 

Saturday morning we tried to get a group photo, but some of Swarm! had to be at the Badwater checkpoint, some wanted to get in the early start for the double and the century riders were getting ready for their later start. As feared, Jack set a vicious pace to the first checkpoint, 17 miles away. I was blowing up. Him and I managed to stay together till Jubilee Pass, where he easily dropped me. I still passed a couple people going up, but was also passed on the long down hill to Shoshone that was plagued with head winds. Saw Jack as he was leaving the turn-around point and Jesse had caught me as I was leaving. The out-and-back gave us an opportunity to see how our other rides were doing.

After climbing back over Salsberry and Jubilee, the head and cross winds really kicked in. That’s the desert. Jesse, a Bullshifter rider and myself managed to bridge up to a couple of other groups just after Ashford Mills and got a paceline going. At one point there were 8 of us, all taking turns in the front battling the wind. Then the group split in half, then suddenly it was just me and one other guy. My stomach and legs were feeling better and we rode past a couple more groups before finally arriving at distant Badwater. Budge, Luz, Jen Diamond, Morgan, Max & Sasha (who DNF’ed the century on the tandem cause of Sasha’s f’ed up knee) were all there. And Jack! He had just flatted. It was the lunch stop, but we barely hung out before him and I left together.

 

This route is tricky in that the 150-mile checkpoint is at the start/finish (picture on left is Kiecker and Paul before the last 50 with Signey who had finished the century). It’s real easy to stop and not do the last out-and-back to Stovepipe Wells. Five of our riders did not make the cut-off time here and were not allowed to continue on (but two tried! Props to the ‘old guys’ for the punkest move of the weekend). I think they all would of made the overall cut-off and were only delayed to here because of the crazy head winds. When the sun went down and the full moon came up it was so bright we could see our shadows! The last twenty-five were tough, due to the aches and pains that arise from the first long ride of the year. I’ll spare the details of Jack’s ass pains. Some clif shots with caffeine (after two months of almost zero caffeine consumption) made my stomach unhappy. When I finished I just laid in the grass. It was the most out of it I possibly have ever been after a ride.

Our team chefs (the century riders) had made some gnochi that I pushed down before showering and coming back to wait for our other double riders to finish. We hung out with the guy who rode the fastest time of the day on a fixed gear. Not the fastest time on a fixed gear, THE FASTEST TIME. On a 48-16 yet. Yeah. He ruled. Was real nice too. Congrats to everyone who rode their longest ride, whether it was 100, 150 or 200. Thanks to everyone who helped cook, drove, etc. It was a team effort and I am stoked to of been a part of it. Also see Luz’s pictures and Kiecker’s write-up.

The drive back luckily, was uneventful. Tried to sleep, but with 3 of us crammed in the back it didn’t work out so well. I’m also one of those people who is so concerned about the driver falling asleep that I feel the need to stay awake.
When we got into the house, on the kitchen table was the map of the marathon. I looked at it and sighed. It was 4am. Morgan said, ‘Look Matt, if you didn’t do it, no one would think less of you.’ Not doing it never seemed like an option, which I think made it easier. After putting on all my running gear, I took a nap sitting up on my couch. Disorientation barely describes what I felt when that alarm when off. Holy shit. I’m going to do what?

Marathon:

The new route for the LA marathon is a point-to-point from Universal City to Downtown, which makes bike transportation difficult. I opted for the train and hopped on at Beverly/Vermont only a 20-min walk from our place. Cyclists may look funny in spandex, but there is something about runners or being at running events that makes me feel real out of place. Maybe no matter the bicycle event, it is still a part of the broader bicycle culture, a culture I am comfortable functioning in, as opposed to a ‘running culture’ which is still undefinable to me.

I’m off the train and on time. Glad to see some anti-war group handing out stickers which many people have put on their shirts or bibs.  In the ‘corral’ I ended up next to two bearded, bare-foot guys. One, I learn, is Barefoot Bob from runningbarefoot.org. I asked if it was a requirement to have a beard to run barefoot. Others asked him the typical, annoying questions that he answered with a quick wit that kept me amused till the race started.

The start is anti-climactic after standing around for 45 minutes. I’m tired as we start to climb the back of Cahuenga Pass. Unlike cycling, there is no free ride and the downhill into Hollywood is brutal, but my legs feel better then they did on my last training run. My brain not so good. Around mile 8 I pass 6th/Hobart and I toss my long sleeve shirt in a bush to pick up later. Looking for Morgan or someone from the house, but can’t blame them for not getting up after 4 hours sleep to see me run by. The halfway point eventually shows itself and I have retained enough analytical ability to do some math on my time/pace.

Not that my entire mental state is healthy. For no reason I would take serious emotional dives, almost into tears. Unexplainable. Not in a ‘running is horrible I need to stop’ way, but in more of a nihilistic, depressing, ‘the love of my life just dumped me’ way. As if physical or mental exhaustion was exposing the emotional ends of my cognitive functions. I knew what I was getting into and, the best I could, welcomed the ups and downs.

Last year I walked the water stations and still ran a 4.04 in my first marathon. Now I was finding myself walking well past them with little motivation to run. My calves, quads and ankles are all aching so I stopped to stretch occasionally. I saw a guy throwing up on the bridge back over the LA river from Boyle Heights and I gave him some props for letting it all go (I don’t what that guy ate, but it looked like an entire Indian buffet), but he was less stoked than I. The math I am doing in my head at every mile is making less and less sense as I get closer to the end. But I care even less. When we reach downtown I find it incredibly odd that all the spectators are blocked off from the route by these giant 10-foot tall fences. It seemed so out of place, like we were in a ring or some sort of cage. I unceremoniously cross the finish line: 4.57.

Again I don’t take the medal (something else to throw out next time I move) and again the post-race refreshments are crap. Some round bread, bananas and shots of OJ. I don’t know how anyone who paid $100 for this race thinks that is okay. Hobble to the train back to our neighborhood where Morgan meets me with a bike. We coast down to get some burritos with Budge, Luz and Megan. Everything is surreal and I feel super hot. Did I drink enough water? I know I didn’t eat enough burritos so I eat two. At 4pm I go to sleep, only waking up once to have some toast before sleeping till 8am. Good weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Doing these events back-to-back will hopefully prepare me for Norseman, which will be my first attempt at an iron-distance triathlon. And this is my first public commitment to it.

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Philadelphia Marathon

Team PSU Alliance for Animal Rights 2000

After
running the half marathon with Brad last year

he made it clear that he wanted to do the full. I knew he was down for the training, but I couldn’t make any promises cause of school, the great divide and the 508. When I was in Philly in the Spring I mentioned this idea to Mary and Christian, both of whom go running occasionally, and they were done. That’s it. In late Sept I figured out that I could get away to fly to the east coast for the race, which was the wknd before Thanksgiving, and then stay and see family.
I booked my ticket and started training five weeks before the race. Everyone says, ‘ You’ve done it before, it’ll be fine.’ But long distance does not work that way, if you have done the time you’ll suffer for it. I ran two or three times a week, got my long run in and just didn’t have time to taper (it’s recommended to do your longest training run 3 weeks before the race, I did mine 6 days before).

After some bib difficulties, we were chowing down on a great dinner Saturday night. Mary insisted on arguing with me about nutrition, but I let it go because I know that she’s an engineer and they think they know
everything (ha ha). I spent the night on Brad’s couch, which was the best night sleep I had gotten in days. My flight out was super early on Fri morning and then on Sat I went to NYC real early to see my good friend Tom Hooper before he went back to London.
When running a marathon, I think it helps a lot of people to have a routine. Brad, Mary and Christian all had there little things they did every morning before running or certain things they had to wear. I imagine it helps somewhere in your brain to recognize some commonalities to ease the stress of race day. Brad and I rode bikes down to the famous art museum for the start, but we were early and were trying to stay warm and not stress about not seeing Mary and Christian. Finally they show up, we strip down and lock our extra clothes with our bikes and head towards the corral.
We agreed to stay together the best we could as we were all shooting for around 4.5 hours. Mary was stoked on the Clif bar pace team and we followed them for quite awhile. The picture above was snapped pretty early on, just beyond the museum heading towards City Hall. The pace was a little quicker than I was used to, but it was so fun to be running with some great friends. The route wound through old town, south philly, south st and then into some back parts of Fairmount park before looping back past the art museum before the final out-and-back to Manayunk.

Notice that Brad is not in the picture here, around the half-way point. He took off and sprint finished for a time of 4 hours and 22 minutes. Congrats Brad! Christian took off not long after this photo and then I ran just a bit behind Mary for a couple of miles.
Somewhere in Manayunk, when the out-and-back section was only separated by orange cones, I heard someone yell my name. Who would know me here or know that I was running this? It was my old friend Steph Surch. She was running it and recognized me! I have not seen her in at least 3 years. She used to race pro bmx and her and her family use to take me to races all over the country. Now she is an ultra-runner and has done a 24-hour mountain bike race. How rad!
The last six miles were kind of brutal. Mary’s knees were really bothering her and the back end of a marathon is a gritty sight as people struggle along well past their last bit of motivation. Mary kept running though! We were even passing people. She had run this section a bunch in training, but was frustrated with how much longer it took to get any where at our slow pace. So far at this point we had all been diligently eating our gels, but that was the only food we had. I had talked about how much I wanted a soft pretzel; Mary thought that eating a soft pretzel while running was the most revolting thing ever (and told me so whenever I brought it up). But then this guy had some! They were a little old, but hey, I got almost half of one and was elated to munch on it while I ran. Mary didn’t look at me once.
Then were at the end. Just like that. Crowds lined the streets, cheered us on, etc and we ran across the finish with a time of 4 hours and 49 minutes. Christian had finished strong about 10 minutes earlier. Nice.
Thank you Mary, Christian and Brad for everything. It was so good to take this on with all of you. Much congratulations are in order. Yeah vegan team!
Brad has a report and some more tiny, blurry pics (cause that’s all they’ll let you see) on his myspace page.

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Max and I volunteer at Badwater Ultra

The Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile running race from Badwater, Death Valley, negative 282 feet below sea level, to Whitney Portal, over 8,000 feet above. We took a trip out to help Chris and the webcast team. We did some interviews that you can listen to here. On the right is Scott Jurek (vegan!), current course record holder and second year winner. Max and I had a blast being out there and just being a part of it all. The most surprising thing the whole weekend was the normalcy of the runners. Listen to the pre-race interviews; they could be anyone. It makes this stuff seem so inclusive. So different from that iron-man bullshit, etc. Chris does a great job putting on these events. It was our pleasure to be there. I also hung out with Catra Corbett, a semi-famous trail runner who was there crewing for a runner. Check out her blog.

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LA Marathon

Wake Up and Bike Tour
Sleeping in my own bed (or a bed at all) makes getting up at 5am a little easier. Squeeze down some leftover pasta for breakfast and hang out with the people meeting here to ride to the bike tour. Throw all my running shit in my bag. Decide to wear my running shorts under my cargo pants and forgo spandex to avoid having to change later. Roll out of the house about 8 deep heading to USC.

Bike Tour
Straight to the start! We hop in and try to stay together. Imagine the streets closed to all traffic, both directions for 23 miles. Amazing, despite the thousands of bikes that literally caused a traffic jam. It opened up and we cruised through the city running into people we knew all the way back to USC. Here we pull over just before the funnel into where they try to get you to buy shit. Jack and I head up the 25 blocks to the marathon start where I’ll lock my bike.

Marathon Start
25,000 people run the marathon. The start time was 830am. I thought it would take a decent amount of time to get them through, but when I was there at 845am or so it was only a trickle a people heading down Figueroa! Jack takes my bag, I lock my bike and strip off my clothes (well, except my running stuff) and take off. The hectic morning was probably helpful; was distracted enough to not get super nervous about the endeavor ahead. But, two things came up: probably did not eat enough beforehand and I had to pee when I started running. That sucks. Really sucks.

First Ten Miles
‘There’ll be restrooms soon. Soon. There’s got to be.’ First group of them had at least 75 people in line. Same with the second group around the second mile. Am considering peeing myself. Is my time that important? No, but the mental consequences of standing around for ten minutes are detrimental. Pushing on I hold back. Around USC I see some dudes that took to the trees to solve the urination problem. I look around for cops (cause if anyone got a ticket during a marathon it’d be me) and see none. I hit the trees nervously and pee for an ungodly amount of time. Running again I feel ten pounds lighter like the Ice Cube song. Around mile seven or eight the hunger comes on. Damn! I have two gel packs and consume one. It helps slightly, but not much. On a positive note my legs are loosening up and I try to ignore the hunger. At mile ten I see volunteers handing out Clif shots and I eat three straight away.

Miles Ten to Twenty
Calories = Energy. This was immediately apparent. Turn left on Venice Blvd and I’m feeling great, but still pacing conservatively. Mentally I am pleasantly surprised that I am doing well. Hit the halfway point (2 hrs 5 min) and see Alex! He is on his bike and rides along asking me how I am doing. Sometime after I answered my cell phone because Heather, who is running the marathon as well and helped me with my bib ‘situation’, called to see where I was. We never met up, but did see each other later at Food Not Bombs. The Angelinos along the route were fantastic, giving out fruit and cheering on runners. The best bit was through Leimart Park and up Crenshaw Blvd.

Twenty to Twenty-Six (point 2)
Jack agreed to meet me around mile 20 because I thought some Sustained Energy would be good to drink. It was! He had met up with Alex as well and the two of them rode along. Since I started so late I am passing tons of people and it gives the impression that I am running faster than I am. Having two friends bike along was super fun, like I had my own escort. Since they both qualify as real athletes, they were pushing me along and my pace quickened. Then, anticlimactically, downtown was in view, I was feeling well, and they had to peel off. My right foot was aching, as it did on my 3-hour training run, but I ignored it. Pushed on through and went as fast as I could for the last 1.2 miles. Crossed the line, looked at my cell phone to confirm my time, and hobbled to a stop.


Finish
The finish area sucked. No food. Was funneled all the way around to 2nd street through the market to buy things before I could head south to where my bike was. Foot pain started to kick in (I’d end up limping for two weeks and seeing a doctor, but no injury). Met up with Jack, Alex and Molly, who had made, in perfect teacher fashion, a fantastic sign. We sat around downtown eating and drinking before riding back to the A-house for some proper food. Great day. Time: 4.04


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Philadelphia half marathon


After all the years of talking smack on running I go ahead and run a half marathon. At least it was as unconventional as expected. I had put a little time into running in prep for my first triathlon, but not much as far as distance. My twice a year running partner on the east coast told me about the Philly half and that I should run it with him. ‘No, no, I couldn’t do that distance. Too far. I am not ready.” He laughed and told me to shut up and run it. It seems most people are more overconfident about my abilities than myself.
A week and a half before the race I decide I want to give it a go. Ride over to Fairmount Park (staying in Philly at this time) on the new extended bike/jog path. I do eight miles on Tuesday and nine miles on Thursday. For the second run I managed to talk Brad, a good friend of mine who had done the Broad St. Ten Miler, to run with me. He decides to run the half as well! So at this point the race is in less than ten days and between us we have run three times for a total of twenty-six miles in the three weeks leading up to it. At least I was in good company.
Friday night. We buy some running gear at the expo where you pick up your number (ed note: Suckers!). Then I am off to West Philly for a giant feast of vegan pizza, meatballs and whole-wheat pasta with Brad and some of his friends from his office. Great time chillin and eating with people almost as unprepared as I am. Afterwards I roll over to a party but only stay for an hour or so in order to be in bed by 1am.
Wake up and fumble around for my ‘gear’. New running shorts are SHORT. Yikes. Put on a cycling cap in order to represent and not be mistaken for a runner. The night before everyone was talking about putting ‘Bodyglide’ on sensitive areas to avoid chaffing. I use KY cause that’s all I can find. Eat some soy yogurt and I am out the house riding over to the start on part of the course. Meet up with the crew and we find our appropriate corral (When you sign up you give an estimated finish time and they corral you based on this). I never find Farnz, the kid who got me to do this, cause he is in a corral closer to the front and we never catch him. Actually, for most of the race we remain on the other side of the passing. It is three of us running together and we take it slow for the first 5 miles through the city.
Public urination is a funny thing. In most places (outside the US) it is acceptable when alternatives do not exist. It was funny to see guys who probably drive BMW SUV’s sneak off to the bushes to take a piss (when otherwise they probably scoff at it). Having to pee did not come up for us cause the sports drink they were giving out was not vegan! What the hell is that about? Putting whey in a Gatorade-like drink. Bullshit! I drink water at every stop though, utilizing the speed walk method in order to actually get the water into my mouth.
By mile seven or eight we had picked up the pace and are now running each mile slightly faster than the previous. We get some Clif shots around mile nine and talk about picking up the pace further at mile ten. Is this a good idea? We hit ten and Brad’s friend steps on it. I keep up. She slows slightly but I am stoked on the new pace and keep it up. Mile eleven hits and I am still going strong. I slow for water and when I speed up the effects of the faster pace are evident in my breathing. The weather (low 90’s) becomes more of a factor when I exit the shade around mile twelve. I am passing people like crazy and imagine them all thinking, ‘That kid is going to blow up. What a dumb-ass!’ The gradient increases and mile thirteen is around the corner or it should be……this is the longest mile of the whole race…..I hit thirteen and people are lined along the course for the last tenth of a mile cheering us on. I really wasn’t sure if I could hold the pace I was at till I saw the end. What was I thinking? I cross the line and have to keep moving. My legs are slightly unhappy. I drink a quart of water immediately and collect my medal.
Meeting up with the others we make our way to the food. Philly soft pretzels! Easily I consumed 10,000 calories of these in a month in Philly and gladly consume a couple hundred more (calories, not pretzels). We sit in the grass and talk about our runs. Good times.

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Running? DTLA 10k

My first running race! After the 109-mile ride the day before it was easy for me to crash out early and get about 8 hours sleep before the early starting time. In the morning it is basic logistics that almost keep me from going to downtown for the start. Where am I going to put my wallet? What about food? I decided to wear a cycling jersey and use the pockets in the back. Later, when I described to actual runners that I had brought 2 Clif bars and a Clif shot, it dawned on me how I was over-prepared. Topped off my gear with my yellow Campy hat.


Riding through downtown on an early Sunday morning, with roads closed for the race, was an experience in itself! Roll up, lock my bike, and I feel like I am in gym class in high school. Till someone proves different I say that running does not have the subculture feel that cycling has. Pay my money, safety pin on my number and mill about eating the free food. We are called to the start and someone sings that patriotic song that they do before baseball games. WTF? I turn my back. Then we are off!


All the shit in my pockets is bouncing up and down and I am worried something will pop out. For sure it is exhilarating to run through DTLA with a bunch of people on closed roads. Mile one passes and my time is 8 minutes and 6 seconds. Since I started running this year I have not timed myself so this number seems okay. The homeless people are cheering us on. At the first water ‘hand-off’ or whatever I try to drink and choke on the water. No more drinking for me. Mile 2 and I am at 16 min and 15 seconds. The course is a 5K loop that I’ll do twice. Mostly flat, but heading south is a slight decline and then the obvious incline as we turn back to the start point. My 5K time is 25 minutes and something. Feeling confident. Legs are fine and I am keeping my pace at the point where I am still able to breath normally. Oddly I am passing people despite having to stop and tie my shoes. The heat is kicking in under the sun. At mile 4 or so I end up next to some guy and we pace together for awhile.


I had decided that at mile 5 I’d pick up my pace to where I could comfortably push hard. This is about where the slight incline starts and I drop the other guy. Passing people pretty regularly it reminds me of how we always sandbag on double centuries and it gives us the false impression of being fast. About a mile from the end I look down and both my shoes are untied. Fuck it. My chest is feeling the extra speed but legs are holding on. Sweat runs down my face as the sun sneaks between the DTLA skyscrapers. I round a turn, people are cheering us on, and this one woman refuses to let me pass and we cruise across the finish together with a time of 49 minutes and 5 seconds. Sweet. My goal time was 50 minutes. Stretched out my legs, ate as much free food as possible, stuffed Clif bars into my jersey pockets, picked up my free shirt and got on my bike to ride home.


I felt well the rest of the day and am stoked on my first race. Has opened my eyes to the possibilities with running. Hope to sign up for some more runs and take this more seriously. 10K and longer are feasible due to my experience with long distance cycling, it is getting fast, just like with cycling, that will be the difficult part.

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