Monday, February 22, 2016

The Return: A Smidgen of Runner Prose

My Jeep rocks from side to side as I navigate over the potholes in the gravel parking lot. I haven't been away for more than 10 days, yet the forest beyond the cars is no longer there. Bulldozers are haphazardly parked in the orange clay amid fallen trees. I stop to read the announcement about how this improvement will link the ugly, polluted sidewalk along the highway to my oasis.

Soon the crowds that swell on first spring day will become even denser. And my quiet, winter runs will be a distant memory. The children learning to ride their bicycles will meander across the path. Teenagers and seniors will hold hands, creating memories and conversing about memories created. Pretty girls with designer sunglasses will sweat harder than they prefer and young men will run shirtless at the first opportunity.

But today, the tree-lined boardwalks are mine alone.

The heavy rain has dissipated into a steady drizzle. It is too muggy for February. I am wearing a tank top and shorts and am comfortable even in the rain. 5 days have passed since I last ran--it feels like an eternity. My legs are itching to move before I reach the trailhead and I start my Garmin as I fall into stride.

As I turn to go under the bridge, I dodge rain pouring from above and hop over the puddles down below. I look up to see the familiar path ahead. The same creek to my right, the same curve up ahead at mile 0.3, and the same bare trees I see every February on the Greenway. It is as comfortable as the steady, unencumbered motion of my running.

Everything shakes out easily into place.

My legs move effortlessly down the path without a care to my lungs, still on the mend. Even with my earbuds tucked deeply in my ears, I can hear the light rasping of my breath. It seems like the perfect day to ease back into a few easy miles. But my restraint is weak. As I dodge the slippery planks of wood filling slowly with water, my pace intensifies.

At first, my stride lengthens as I realize the easy flexibility of my body from a few days off. Then, my cadence increases as I feel the joy of speed. When I reach the marsh just before the first mile marker, I know there is no hope of holding back.

It is time to soar.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

L.A. marathontrialsrunbeerparty

 Last year, Bangle started recruiting Loopsters to come watch the Olympic Trials and run the L.A. Marathon. I didn't really know what kind of race I would be aiming for come February 2016, but I knew this was something I didn't want to miss out on. Running a big city marathon is always a special way to travel, but seeing the Olympic Trials just added an extra layer of awesome.

I convinced Adam to come along with this cross-country trip to hang out in L.A. for a few days with a bunch of my internet friends over Valentine's Day weekend. It was ultimately a great decision--I think he had almost as much fun as me!

We touched down in L.A. after an uneventful plane ride and had to sit on the tarmac for about 20 minutes as Air Force One was about to take off. I was able to snap a few photos through the plane window with my phone!
Adam and I collected JJ in baggage claim and the 3 of us rode the shuttle to the car rental agency. We watched someone get almost physically violent with an employee while exiting the parking lot and then our rental got mixed up with someone named "Fancy Adam". Seriously. We ended up keeping the stupid minivan that they gave us which later actually came in handy to tote people around.

The 3 of us were starving so we had a mandatory pit stop at In N' Out. I told the cashier that I had never been and I asked him what to get. Double Double with grilled onions and animal style fries apparently...

Then it was finally time to head to Bangle's and crash the rooftop beer party.

The beer selection dwindled quickly and a few of us went on a trip to Von's for more beer and a whole bunch of snacks. We drank, snacked, and later, nibbled on boxes of Thai food.

Steve, Adam, and I went out to Von's again to grab cupcakes for Rebecca's birthday and made it back in time before she arrived. The rest of the evening was spent beering, playing Boggle, Body Boggle (Mild and I totally whooped Clark and Bacon), and falling prey to East Coast jet lag.

I had no trouble waking up and like Toucan Sam, I followed the smell of coffee upstairs. A group of us decided to do a 2 mile shakeout run and we headed down to the beach to stretch our legs.

Once we got back and showered, we all headed to the train station to go downtown. The fast kids took off on the first train and the rest of us trailed along. However, our delayed travel allowed us to see both the men and women up really close on their first loop.
I was geeking out so much. All my running heroes were right in front of me!!!

We tried to meet up with the other group, but eventually settled on a spot along the out-and-back section in the shade. I brought thunder sticks/bam bams and had a blast making tons of noise as the pack would fly by. The course was perfect for getting lots of pictures and once the runners spread out, we pretty much had people going by the whole time.

Gah!!!!! It was so amazing. I started to find myself hoarse from shouting so loud. Once we saw the lead women go by the last time, we headed towards the expo to collect our bibs. More confusion led to me grabbing a piece of cafeteria pizza for lunch, but once I calmed the hangry, I felt much better.

The group eventually made it back to Bangle's and then we relaxed for a short while before going to California Pizza Kitchen. As we rode down the street, our minivan group noticed Brad standing in a parking lot with a smooshed car. Uhhhh? Fortunately, no one was hurt, but everyone was a bit shaken. Once we all got together, things we much, much happier. I was thrilled to finally meet Alice in person and ending up sitting with her and her boyfriend.
After we got back, the early alarm was looming. I laid out my flat girl and then tried to get some sleep.


I slept well and woke up when I heard others stirring around. That is the benefit of a Loopfest. You absolutely cannot oversleep. For me, that means I'm not panicking about what time it is because I figure that someone will come find me. Hah!

Bangle told me that they would have food at the start so I decided to just have a mandarin and coffee at the house. Everyone convened in the kitchen and then Roger took the fast kids to the start while Adam and Nancy took everyone else to the shuttles in Santa Monica.

Once at Dodger Stadium, I grabbed a bagel and a banana and then walked around with everyone to hang out in the seats while we waited. I found an open bathroom before it got too crowded and then relaxed before Caitlin and I made our way to the D corral.

Our game plan was to try to go sub-4 if it wasn't too miserably hot and hope that JJ catch up to us so the 3 of us could run together. The corrals ended up being much smaller than expected so JJ wasn't too far back.

I had to pee while standing in the corral, but I was worried I wouldn't make it back in time. So I just held it and decided to wait until there was a free port-a-potty (spoiler: it wasn't until near double digits that I managed to find one). We heard the wheelchair division leave, followed by the elite women, and then our own race began!

As we headed up the hill in the first mile, we were doubled over with laughter as there were probably 50 guys leaning against the wall peeing. I have seen a few here and there (and obviously more on the trails), but this was excessive.

We took it easy just enjoying the morning in the first miles and JJ caught up with us quickly. Not too long after JJ joined the party, we saw Bob out on the course too and ran with him for a bit. Caitlin told us that she would just listen to our gabbing and that is pretty much what happened the whole race.

A marathon is never, ever easy, but I was running at a comfortable pace, injury-free, and with 2 awesome ladies who happen to love running too. I don't even remember half the stuff we chatted about, but I don't know that I've ever laughed so hard while running. JJ was doing shots of Fireball, I was eating pretty much everything I could find (pretzels, gels, oranges, bananas, Twizzlers....)

I was slightly concerned about the heat as we headed into the morning and so I made sure to drink early and often. Once we got beyond mile 5, I started dumping water over my head at the aid stations.

I knew to look for Adam and Nancy at mile 10 so I started to get excited as we got near double digits. Luckily, Nancy had a big, pink inflatable hand and I was able to easily spot them in the crowd. I ran over to get my Valentine's Day race kiss and then we carried on.

JJ was snapping pictures of all the sights and would catch back up to us after the photo op. Caitlin was staying steady and I made sure that as the temperature rose, she was staying cool. I splashed water from cups and water bottles on the back of her neck. As we got into the second half of the race, the splits started to slow, but we never stopped to walk. I wasn't really paying attention to my watch in the middle miles.
At some point in the upper double digits, JJ peeled off to use the port-a-potty and never caught back up to us. I was definitely sad that she wasn't going to be finishing with us and I lost my chatty partner. But Caitlin was kind enough to let me talk at her for the rest of the race and remained in great spirits despite the tough final miles of marathoning.
At some point, I grabbed a small popsicle and it was far too frozen to try to eat so I handed it to her and told her to shove it in her bra. A few miles later, we both grabbed handfuls of ice and shoved them in our bra. Both of which had a wonderful cooling effect, but a very strange clink, clink, clink noise.

The crowds were really helpful in the final miles. They were handing out water, spraying water guns, offering ice and snacks, and cheering loudly as we came past. I had a perma-grin the final few miles. There is nothing better to me than getting through that last 10K and feeling really, really good. I knew we were off of Caitlin's PR, but considering the hot and hilly course, I was ecstatic that we were going to get her second-fastest time.

The last 2 miles were cloudy and the temperatures started to (thankfully) drop. Plus, it was downhill!

As we came down the finishing chute, we spotted JB and gave him a big wave as we flew past. And then, a short while later, we saw Adam an Nancy as we closed in on the finish. With big smiles, we crossed the line with Caitlin's second best marathon time and 26.2 miles of memories.
We hugged immediately afterwards and then floated around towards our medals, blankets, and more snacks.

After finally getting Caitlin's bag (who does bag check by last name instead of bib #?), we met up with the group in the family meeting area.

Marathon #19, check!
After a reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally long walk to the minivan, we made our way back to Bangle's house for showers and food. Everyone started coming out of the their post-marathon zombie state and into party mode. Laura and Kynan showed up and added to the already awesome party. (photo cred to JB)

As the evening wore on and we grew fuzzier, a smaller group walked down to the Hermosa Saloon for more drinks and hijinks. Shooters and Domino's pizza were consumed until we reached the ends of our tiredness.


Most of the Loopsters left on Monday, but JJ, Caitlin, Adam, and I decided to make the most of our day and went to downtown L.A. for burritos and a T.M.Z. tour. The burritos because we all wanted some authentic Mexican while in the SoCal and the T.M.Z. tour because we needed something to touristy to do that was also lazy.

It was really, really hot, but the tour was fun and it was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. After battling L.A. traffic back to Bangle's neighborhood, we took a slight detour to the beach to dip our toes in the Pacific and to enjoy a gorgeous sunset together.

We had Nancy's lasagna and settled in for a bit to watch some of the Grammy's before we had to take JJ to the airport (with a quick stop at Pinkberry on the way).


If you have to leave the most rad Cali vacation ever, you should definitely do it with a blindingly beautiful sunrise in your plane window.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve all this funning, but life is definitely good!