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A Smudge On The Collective Unconscious

There is no off position on the genius switch

Updated: 2018-03-09T09:49:09.129-08:00


Race Report: 04.27.2013 Leona Divide 50 Mile Trail Race


Perhaps the biggest news to emerge from my first ultramarathon apart from finishing it (yay! 11:46:30) was that there was no big news. None. And for someone who firmly believes that no news is good news this is a good thing. I suppose it pays to expect the worst. It sets a low standard that is easy to surpass and makes you feel as if the race went tremendously well. I expected the race to provide a lot of pain, agony, and misery that my race plan boiled down to this: delay the pain. I expected it to hurt very bad, and the best I could hope for would be for the misery to start as late as possible, preferably after mile 30. But then the most wonderful thing happened when nothing happened. No cramping, no broken spirit, no massive meltdown. None. I managed to run 50 miles and felt pretty good doing so. And did I mention that the weather could be best described as furnace-like? I went into the race feeling very anxious, an anxiety I hadn't experienced since I ran my first marathon eight years ago. But now that it's done I still can't believe that I ran fifty miles and it turned out as well as I could have hoped.Looking back at the race, granted this is with three weeks of hindsight, I think I just got lucky and made the right choices for that day. I'd go as far to say that the hot weather was instrumental in getting me through the race no worse for wear. The heat made me more conservative, cautious and attentive to my body and its needs. I hydrated like crazy that day so much so that I was worried about hyponatremia. I must have refilled my hydration pack, which holds two liters, at least six times. In fact, in the four miles between aid station #9 and #10 I managed to empty the entire bladder. Surprisingly I didn't have to pee the entire race, which worried me and made me drink more. But in the end I came out alright so I must have been hydrating correctly for the day.Achieving my goal of delaying the pain meant that I had to listen to my body and stay within myself as I ran, especially in the early miles. "Relax" was the operative word of the day. To ensure that I focused on how I felt, I decided to run without my Garmin. Instead I wore a pretty basic Timex watch I bought  from Target the night before. My Garmin's battery would not have lasted the whole race anyway, but I also thought that by not wearing the Garmin I could focus on how I felt rather than what pace I was running at any particular moment. I focused on my breathing and made sure I wasn't getting out of breath as I ran. I also focused on my stride and cadence. I tend to tense up when I run too fast, so I made sure I didn't do that in those early miles. I didn't even try to pass runners too much. On the Pacific Crest Trail I fell into line with a group of three runners who were moving at a nice, steady clip. I thought about passing them but I worried that it would require me to run too fast and have to navigate the narrow single track trail. Instead I got in line and ran with them down the trail. The gentleman in front of me kept asking if I wanted to pass, but I kept telling him, "No, thanks, I'm fine at this pace." I think he just didn't like having a runner on his heels, which I can relate to.I still wound up at Aid Station #3 a half hour earlier than planned even with the relaxing I thought I was doing. I panicked for a moment thinking that I had gone out too fast, but I assessed my physical state and I really felt good. The early arrival, though, turned out to be a happy accident. It meant that I had 30 minutes to spare, so instead of running some of the uphill to the next aid station, which I had factored into my race plan, I could just walk. Looking back now, had I tried to run that uphill I probably would have burned out quickly since it was getting hotter. Instead I spared myself the misery. It was still pretty miserable going up that climb, but at least I could take my time.One smart thing I did at Aid Station #3 was to get an empty water bottle from my drop bag and filled it with water. I actually deb[...]

2012: The Year in Running


I say this over and over again, but I have been terrible about updating this blog. I don't do resolutions, but if I did one of them would be to write more. There have been some developments in my running that will hopefully prompt me to do so. But right now let's take a look back at 2012, the year that was.The big thing in 2012 was my 12 for '12 project: 12 races, one a month, half marathon or more. It was a success in that I was able to accomnplish the goal, but it was a failure in the sense that I thought that doing so many races would force me to train better and improve my times. Neither happened. I trained haphazardly and in some cases the races themselves were the training runs. As a result no personal bests were recorded. I was nowhere near my best. My fastest time was a 1:46 in Ventura in June, which was about 40 seconds faster than the Pasadena Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in February. The slowest half marathon was August's America's Finest City in San Diego. The culprit there was a hot day. I was burning up by mile 4. I managed to get in at 2:00 flat. My official chip time was 2:00:00, which is kind of cool. The rest of the races ranged from a 1:48 in the last race, December's Santa to the Sea Half Marathon to a 1:55 in May's Pasadena Half Marathon.Here are the 12 for '12 races:January: Rose Bowl Half Marathon - 1:52:16February: Pasadena Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - 1:46:52March: Los Angeles Marathon - 4:05:41April: Hollywood Half Marathon - 1:51:57May: Pasadena Half Marathon - 1:55:21June: Ventura Beachfront Half Marathon - 1:46:11July: San Francisco Half Marathon - 1:54:29August: America's Finest City Half Marathon - 2:00:00September: Montreal Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - 1:50:18October: Long Beach Half Marathon - 1:53:55November: Santa Clarita Half Marathon - 1:53:36Decemebr: Santa to the Sea Half Marathon - 1:48:38It turned out to be a very fun endeavor. I got to run my first international race in Montreal, ran in San Francisco again, and ran in several smaller races that turned out to be well-organized and extremely convenient. Ventura's post-race snacks inlcuded tuna wraps. Enough said.While the races above are the official 12 for '12 races, I actually ran a couple of other races for one reason or another. In October I ran--well, mostly walked--the Los Angeles Rock n' Roll Half Marathon with a friend. I actually used another friend's bib so it wasn't officially my race. Since Audrey had not trained for this race, it actually took us 3 hours to complete the race. I can tell you that I was probably more sore from this race than any other just because of the amount of time I was on my feet. I also ran the Paramount Ranch Half Marathon in December, which made it my final race for the year. This was a trail race, part of my training for the Leona Divide 50 Mile Trail Race in April 2013. The time for this race was 2:15 which is my slowest half ever. Since it was on single track trails, it was difficult to pass people along the way. In addition to these half marathons, I once again took part in the LA Frontrunners Pride Run in June as part of the West Hollywood Pride festivities. I did the ultra again--both the 5K and 10K--but my times were nothing to brag about. No PR's but the times were respectable.Now, looking to 2013, as I mentioned I am training for Leona Divide. This will be my first ultra marathon and I am once again training with Team in Training. I'm still a little apprehensive about the whole thing. Running 10 miles is hard enough but 50 just sounds crazy. I figure with training I should be able to accomplish this, but I've been a bit lazy so far. Much like my writing.So, in 2013, expect to see a littl more writing from me but a lot of the subjects will probably be dominated by my ultra marathon training. It's a new thing and I'm excited.That's it for now. I have other things to wrap in 2012, but for now this is about running. I'll see you all in 2013 with more pieces about my ultra marathon training.Happy New Year![...]

I'm Back!


Didn't realize I was gone? Well, I was. I took a two-week jaunt to the Philippines to visit family and relax at the beautiful El Nido Resort. Fact of the matter is I relaxed way too much. I ran not one step during my stay. By the third day my legs were feeling like jelly. By the fourth I was going into heavy withdrawals. I wanted to run! Unfortunately there was no good place to run where my parents live. Not only is it hot and humid, but I'd be placing myself at risk trying to run by the side of a busy road. If not running wasn't bad enough, I barely did any walking either. I took my pedometer with me, but I stopped carrying it after a couple of days because it was depressing me how inactive I was. At my parents' house all I really did was wake up, eat, watch TV, eat, watch TV/nap, eat again, watch TV. Not the ideal set-up for me.

I got back on Tuesday, and I'm still adjusting to the time difference. The first night I fell asleep at 4am and slept straight through until 2pm. The next night was 3am. Last night was 2:30am, so I'm getting close to my usual bed time of 12:30ish.

I also went on my first run in two weeks yesterday, a nice, easy 4.5 mile run at an 8:30 pace. It wasn't as bad as I expected but I still got pretty winded, and this morning I'm feeling the ache in my legs. They've had too much rest. Thankfully the San Francisco Half Marathon isn't until the end of the month. I have some time to regain some fitness and hopefully shed some of the weight I put on.

I'm way behind on posting. I have yet to write up my June race, which turned out pretty well: a 1:46 at the Ventura Beachfront Half Marathon. It's a small race, 700 runners, but very well managed. I'll write more soon.

Race Report: 05.20.2012-Pasadena Half Marathon


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Officially the time is 1:55. I stopped my watch when I had to take a potty break at mile 6. The stop was worth it because I felt a little better afterwards. It's not a great time, but it's respectable. One thing you 'll notice when you break down my splits is that I started running fast the last two miles. The downhill definitely helped in this section, but the presence of Sonia running with me for a couple of miles forced me to go faster than I probably would have had I been running by myself. I ran miles 11 and 12 at roughly a 7:30 pace. Other than that, nothing much to say about this race. The course is challenging, but I prefer the Rock N Roll course even if the two unavoidably share similar footprints. Pasadena is only so big. Had the RNR race had this race's finish, then that race would be perfect. Since this race I also ran the Pride Run last weekend. I once again opted for the ultra option and posted some respectable times. More to come later on this race. This weekend I'll be running my sixth 12 for '12 race. I'll be participating in the Ventura Beachfront Half Marathon. It looks like a smallish race. It runs by the beach. Hopefully there will be some June gloom to keep the temps down.

Race Report: 04.07.2012 Hollywood Half Marathon


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Chip Time: 1:51:57 Avg. Pace: 8:33
I'd hate for anyone to think that I have already failed at my 12 for '12 challenge. I did run a race this month a couple of weeks ago, but due to things being busy--work, as usual, and moving to a new apartment--I haven't had the chance to write about my April race: the inaugural Hollywood Half Marathon. I really thought doing the 12 for '12 challenge would force me to train better and get faster. So far it hasn't happened. Leading up to this race I fell off the running wagon again, so this was another "just finish" race. With a giant hill at the end, I knew I wouldn't be setting any new personal bests, but I was hoping to finish at under 1:50. That didn't happen and that was due to a lack of trying. I was in solid shape for a sub 1:50 finish up until mile 9 or 10 when I just got tired and opted to walk more than I should have. Couple that with the uphill finish, what was a likely 1:47 finish became a 1:52. I'm not disappointed, though. I ran it, enjoyed running it and turned in a solid time.

There was really nothing noteworthy to write about. The start was fast as we ran down Cahuenga past the Hollywood Bowl, then the rest of the way until the turnaround in Silver Lake was mostly flat with some rolling hills. I kept up a good pace but my legs were just not feeling it to go any faster. I fatigued around mile 9 but I still hoped I could have a solid finish. Instead I walked a couple of times going up Cahuenga back to Universal City and took some pics along the way. With such a tough hill, I wasn't too surprised when my calves started cramping, but thankfully I was practically done when it started acting up. As for the race logistics, the course is fine. Its chief feature is that challenging hill on Cahuenga. I didn't enjoy running through City Walk as it was too narrow and had too many things I could trip over. Hopefully the race won't start in Universal City again. The expo was a pain to get to as it was at the Hilton up in Universal City. The line for parking was quite lengthy, so I decided to park down the hill and just walk up. It's tiring to do that, but I preferred that to waiting in a line of cars and pay $10 to park. The race start had the same problem, which I avoided by going Metro. The aid stations ran out of cups and there weren't enough volunteers. Other than that, it was an OK race. I doubt I'll do it again next year, but who knows? Next up is the Pasadena Half Marathon in May!



I just discovered how to set my Garmin to do intervals. I've had it for nine months and swore that it didn't do it. It just shows how impatient I am to read instruction manuals. Not only does it do time intervals, but you can set it for distance. Awesome!

Now back to our regularly scheduled silence.

Race Report: 03.18.2012 Los Angeles Marathon


width='465' height='548' frameborder='0' src=''>Chip Time: 4:05:41Avg. Pace: 9:22/mile12 for '12 continues on with the L.A. Marathon this weekend. It wasn't the success I would have liked, but it also could have been worse. Around mile 17 I briefly entertained the thought that dropping out wouldn't be such a bad thing. Thankfully, I dismissed it. It would have been the first time I did not finish a race had I done so. There was really nothing wrong--no injuries, no bad weather. I can't blame it on lack of training either since I was probably just a little less prepared this year than last year, and having been a regular runner all these years, I should be able to do this. What it all boiled down to, I think, was that my legs just didn't feel like running yesterday. I think they would have preferred had I just stayed in bed. But 4:05:41 is nothing to sneeze at even if it is slower than the San Francisco Marathon from two years ago and that it marks the first time I've ran the L.A. Marathon slower than four hours since my second time in 2006. If 4:05 is a bad day in the office for me, then I'd take it.It has been taking me much longer to warm up during a race lately, so my game plan this year was to start with the pace I want to finish with. I figured with an 8:30 pace I would finish under 3:45 and gain a new PR. I ran the first mile in 8:42 then lowered to an 8:07 and 8:13 the next two miles. I slowed down the next few miles, around 8:40, which would have been perfect. A little slower than the target pace but within striking distance. However, even this slower pace was feeling like a struggle. Unlike last year when I got into a groove around mile 8, all I experienced in mile 8 were legs that were beginning to feel like lead. I wasn't loosening up but rather the opposite was happening: I was stiffening up.Running through Hollywood, even the flat areas, was taking a lot out of me, so imagine how I felt going up the Sunset Strip. I got a stitch in my abs (a front-stitch?) during this time, so I had to control my breathing, taking dee breaths to loosen up my abs. It finally worked, but my legs were still dead. Apart from the abs, I really had no problems breathing. It was just my legs. They just didn't feel like running. From mile 13-16 I was running a pace above 9 minutes. In mile 17 I broke 10 minutes and did so again the next mile (10:30). I got myself moving again in mile 19 with a 9:27 but that was shortlived. I walked a lot of mile 20 and resulted in my slowest mile. 12:08.I had thought about just walking the last six miles and enjoying the view. Then I thought again that I would prefer that this race be over sooner rather than later. I told myself that if I jog the last six miles I would be done in about an hour, so suck it up. I did. I only walked a couple of times after that to take a Gu and some water. It wasn't a fast pace but at least I was moving. It wasn't the relatively easy last six miles of last year, though.The result is definitely disappointing. It's slower than the San Francisco Marathon in 2010, and it's the first time I've run above four hours at the L.A. Marathon since my second one in 2006. But again, it could have been worse. Here's where experience pays off. Were this my first marathon I probably would have just wimped out and walked, but partly out of guilt and pride I sucked it up and finished in a respectable time.Lessons? I'm a broken record: I need to train more. I need to be more disciplined about getting my miles in. Going from 13 miles to 20 miles probably isn't ideal. Missing close to three weeks of running is also not good. Let's see if I've learned my lesson now.As for my next race, most likely it will be the Hollywood Half Marathon. I can't find another one that works in terms of proximity and appeal. Too bad I didn't decide to sig[...]

Favorite Movies of 2011


The Academy gets their say on Sunday, but these are the real best films of 2011.01 Weekend02 A Separation03 Drive05 Hugo07 Bill Cunningham New York09 The Descendants[...]

Race Report: 02.19.2012 Inaugural Pasadena Rock N Roll Half Marathon


width='465' height='548' frameborder='0' src=''>Chip Time: 1:46:52Avg Pace: 8:10/mileWhat a great inaugural race for the Pasadena Rock N Roll Half Marathon! As can be expected from Competitor Group, the race was well-organized, efficient, and a ton of fun. There were no traffic jams parking or leaving the Rose Bowl, there were plenty of port-a-potties, no long lines, plenty of water and Gatorade, and the race started right on time. To top it all off, the course was beautiful. I love Pasadena and the organizers did a great job laying out the course so that it displays the city at its best. From the Rose Bowl to Old Town to Cal Tech to Colorado Street Bridge, the city's sights were well-represented. I'm looking forward to running this again next year. Rob and I already signed up.As for the running part of it, it turned out to be better than I feared. Having run only a couple of times in the last three weeks I knew a PR was not possible. A 1:50 race even seemed unlikely. However, I wound up running a respectable 1:46:52, and I could have been even faster had it not for the cramping that started in mile 10. By mile 12 cramps in both calves had me hobbling to the finish. I think the lack of running definitely contributed to the cramping. My legs were out of shape, but aerobically I was fine. I felt good, even. So while I'm glad I had a decent race even with the lack of training, I'm disappointed that it couldn't be better. I guess I'm just greedy. I ran a consistent race. I started out too fast, though, because I was running in the first corral and tried to see if I could keep up with the others. I could not. The first mile clocked in at 7:28 and the second mile was 7:51. After that I slowed down a little and ran a steady 8 minute pace. At mile 8 I started slowing down a little, but I figured I'd make up some time towards the end. One good thing about being so famiilar with the race course is that I knew where I needed to save my energy and where I could make up some ground. Unfortunately my cramping kept me from making up that time in the end. Under 1:45 would have been great, marking my fastest half in over two years. But thinking about it all now, I'm just glad it wasn't the disaster I feared.With a good race under my belt, I'm feeling a little more motivated moving on to the L.A. Marathon next month. I have a month left to train and i'm going to have to ratchet up my mileage quickly. I'll try to do 18 miles this weekend, possibly 20. If not this weekend, then a 20 miler the following weekend. Apart from the long runs, I also need to run more often during the week to get my legs back into shape. It won't do to cramp up 13 miles into a marathon. That would be a disaster!Pics from the race are already up. There are probably more, but so far nothing that makes me look like an impressive runner. I never look great in my running pics. I always look like I'm trudging rather than sprinting.[...]

Favorite Albums of 2011


Tomorrow night the Grammys will announce their picks for the best in music, but I'm going to beat them to the punch. These are the real best albums of the last year.1. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming2. The Antlers - Burst Apart3. Active Child - You Are All I See4. The Black Keys - El Camino5. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade6. Bahamas - Pink Strat7. Real Estate - Days8. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues9. Feist - Metals10. Washed Out - Within and WithoutHonorable Mentions:Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa; Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain, In the Cloud; Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island; Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes; Bon Iver - Bon Iver[...]

Runner's Block


Is there such a thing as runner's block? If there is, mine also goes by the name "work." For the last three weeks I've been working long hours, including weekends. It will probably be another week or so of the same. As a result, my running has suffered. I've been managing to get in about two runs during the week, but this week it's unlikely I'll get in any. I didn't leave work until 10 tonight and yesterday. I'm guessing it will be the same tomorrow and Thursday. It is frustrating since the Pasadena Rock n' Roll Half is in a couple of weeks and the LA Marathon is in about a month.

I have managed to get in some long runs, though. Last weekend I ran a 16 miler and then on Sunday I ran over 11 miles while cheering/pacing Rob at the Surf City Marathon. Rob finished in 3:40, which is much faster than how I've been running my recent marathons. I've been hovering around 3:52 the last few times.

In any event, I'm hoping this week will be the nadir of this work craziness and things will improve. Sitting behind a desk for 13+ hours can wear a guy out.

Race Report: 01.22.2012 Rose Bowl Half Marathon


Time: 1:52:16
Pace: 8:35/mile

No PR was set this weekend, but I didn't really expect to. The Rose Bowl Half Marathon, while familiar territory for me since I run the course every weekend, isn't a race to PR in. The trails are too rocky and if you're as clumsy as me, you can risk spraining your ankle pretty badly. I had a small slip once, but I also almost got taken out a couple of times by other runners who lost their footing. There are also spots where you have to walk because it gets too crowded and there's very little space to maneuver. My goal was to run 1:50, but after not running for a week, I lowered my expectation to under two hours, so I'm happy with my 1:52.

I was a little surprised that I felt good most of the way. As usual the first five miles were the toughest. I was OK the first couple of miles but my legs started feeling fatigued early on. Then, just as quickly, I felt fine. I couldn't speed up too much around miles 7 through 9, but I started picking up the speed around mile 10 until the end. Overall, though, my pace was pretty consistent. The first mile was 9:05 then followed that with an 8:14 second mile. My slowest mile was a 9:55 for mile 8. That was due to the goat trail, which I mostly ran but had to walk because of traffic going up. This was the point where I also encountered the overall winner as he ran down the hill ever so quickly. I'm amazed by people who can run down that hill. I slip every time I try to move fast on it. My best miles were the last two, aided by a slight downhill to the finish. Mile 12 was a 7:34 and mile 13 was 7:31. That's a good way to finish, but unfortunately I did get passed right at the finish line by a woman who sprinted by me just as I was about to cross. Show off.

As for my next race, I had hopes that I may PR there, but the way my running has been going lately it's beginning to look unlikely. Work has been incredibly busy and I haven't been able to go out to run. This week isn't looking any better. Who knows though? I did OK on this race, so maybe I'll surprise myself with the next one.

The Week in Running


What a terrible of week of running! The thing I feared would happen did happen as I didn't run once from Monday through Friday, unless you count the brief, two-minute attempt on a rickety treadmill at the gym. Monday I actually got dressed to run but just wasn't feeling it and came up with a terrible excuse not to do so. I told myself I'd get up early Tuesday but did not. Tuesday night wasn't an option since I was going to see "Fela!" at the Ahmanson. Wednesday night I attempted to run at the gym in Koreatown which has equipment that is at least 20 years old yet the gym is always packed. I managed to get on a treadmill fairly quickly but it was a treadmill that probably should be taken out back and put out of its misery. The tread was rubbing agains the machine and squeaked like crazy. I probably would have put up with it a little longer if not for the fact that the treadmill was stuck on an incline and would not go down. The treadmill was fit for a slow walk not a run. I just gave up. Rather than waiting for another, likely equally crappy, treadmill, I just went home. Thursday was another night on the town. FJ and I went to see a terrific concert by M83 at Club Nokia.

Thankfully I salvaged the week with two great long runs this weekend. Sonia, Rob, and I ran 13.1 miles on Saturday followed by a 10 miler the very next day. 23.1 miles in two days. It's a decrease from the 31 miles the previous week, but considering where I was I'd take it.

This week also isn't looking promising. Work is incredibly busy and I'm getting stressed. I'm hoping to get runs in to help alleviate the stress, but we'll see how productive I am. I'd like to at least get two or three runs before the half marathon on Sunday. I have no big expectations for that race since it's a difficult course, but I'd still like to finish under 2 hours, hopefully closer to 1:50.

So to recap, the goals for this week are two or three runs. I'm thinking I'll head to the gym in downtown to do some speedwork on the treadmill especially if work keeps me in the office until late (like tonight).

Happy running!



Last night I got home at 8pm and promised myself that I would go for a six mile run. I got dressed and put my watch on, when I noticed that it kept saying the memory was full. I thought the Garmins automatically deleted old records when space is needed. It even said so on the instruction manual. I had to have my watch or else it wouldn't count, right? I fiddled around with the watch until I finally figured out how to delete a few runs manually. This took but a few minutes but by the end of it, even though I was already dressed, I just didn't feel like running. In return I promised that I would run before work at 6:30am. I even upped the stakes by promising to donate $20 to a charity should I fail to do so.

Of course, I did not run this morning. My alarm went off, and I knew I would not get up.

This happens all too often. Even as I was negotiating with myself last night I knew I was just being lazy--it's too late to run, it's too cold, it's too dark, I'll do it tomorrow, my leg hurts. All excuses. The watch thing was an obvious excuse. I could have run without it as I did the other night and all the time before I bought the Garmin. Instead I used its malfunction as a reason to postpone and ultimately cancel my run

In any event, my only other likely window for running is tomorrow night. I could try and force myself to run in the morning, but weekday mornings are typically no-go's for me. So after a good start to the year last week, I'm taking a step back this week.

Anyone have any charities to suggest that would like my $20?

The Week in Running


It wasn't a bad start to the new year. I ran a total of 31.84 miles this first week including a couple of ten milers. Saturday's 10 miler was particularly good. It started off badly when I had to stop a mile and a half into the run due to a coughing fit. I couldn't seem to take a deep breath. This is a recurring problem for me. I feel like an old guy with a lot of phlegm for the first few miles during my morning runs. My pace was about 10:00 for the first four miles, but I brought that down with a fast second half, finishing at about a 9:15 pace. In fact, I clocked in my tenth mile in 7:45.

Last night's run, though, was shorter but I just felt sluggish through all of it. Still, I was glad I overcame my tendency for laziness and got the run in. I'm planning to run again tonight and I hope it's a lot better. I need to get this run in tonight because it's going to be a busy week. I'm sure work will be crazy but I also have a couple of fun events. I'm seeing "Fela" at the Ahmanson on Tuesday night and then on Thursday I'm seeing M83 with FJ. It's possible that I may not get another run in this week! Hopefully that won't be the case. The Rose Bowl Half Marathon is in a couple of weeks and I need to stay in shape since that won't be an easy one.

Announcing 12 for '12 and 2011 in Review


To motivate myself in 2012 to keep running I've decided to commit myself to running twelve races in 2012--12 for '12--catchy, huh? The rules are simple: one race (half marathon or greater) a month. Davey broached the idea one night and I think he's committed too. Right now I'm booked for the first three months. I have the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in a couple of weeks, the Inaugural Pasadena Rock N' Roll Half Marathon next month, and the L.A. Marathon in March. The rest of the year is still open, but I did apply for a spot in the New York City Marathon in November. I'll probably stick a lot of cheaper, local races since this could cost me a pretty penny if I tackle too many big, out-of-town races.

It's sort of an experiment, too, really. I know the idea is to run fewer races and train more, but lately I find myself lazy about running unless there's something I'm training for. Not to brag, but I think I've taken running half marathons and marathons for granted since I know I can do them. For the LA Marathon in 2011 I started training in January. It's turning out the same this year. At least if I commit myself to a race a month I will (hopefully) consistently run. Maybe it will mean I'll finally lose the weight I've been trying to lose for so long. Nutrition should really be a part of my training, but I love to eat too much. I'll tackle that some other time.

As for 2011, it was a slow year. As mentioned I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. It was a memorable one to be sure with the crazy weather. I still managed to run a respectable time of 3:53 but a new PR has eluded me once again. That's a continuing goal this year. 3:45! I also ran the Los Angeles Rock N' Roll Half Marathon this year with little to no training and it showed in my finish time of 1:50. I also ran another Ragnar Relay this year, and that was a blast. As much work as it is and as uncomfortable riding around a van for a day may be, these Ragnar races are just fun. I'm thinking I may take a break from relay races this year, but I'm not making any promises. If someone plans it all out and all I have to do is show up, then count me in.

To start off the year, here's a picture of me and some of my regular running gang who help inspire me to wake up early on Saturday/Sunday mornings. We ran the Rose Parade route early on Monday morning and--as usual--had a great time.


Raul's Finite Playlist: November 2011



I actually got my playlist together very early this month, yet I dawdled in posting it. It's a great playlist, if I say so myself. It opens with the latest rousing song from Florence and the Machine. Florence is proof that it isn't what you say that matters but how you say it. The lyrics in "Shake It Out" are a bit clunky but Florence's full-throated singing glosses that over and delivers the inspiration.

The next two songs are a look at being young. The first, "We Are Young" by Fun. featuring Janelle Monae, is in the present tense, while "When I Was Young" by Nada Surf is in the past. I like the contrast between the two. One is exuberant while the other is bittersweet.

Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark, Jr., and the Black Keys deliver the bluesy heart of this playlist. I love these three songs and they are the ones that make me daydream that I'm a blues singer playing these mean guitar riffs.

Lana Del Rey is freaky to look at. Her lips must have their own zip code. Then there is the question of whether she's a manufactured indie act, but that really doesn't matter so much to me. A song like "Video Games" is immediately alluring, and I liked the song upon hearing without realizing that it was the Lana Del Rey I had read so much about. So, yeah, I impartially fell in love with the song.

Real Estate and Phantogram are probably going to get bigger in the next year. "Green Aisles" is my favorite song from Real Estate's album, "Days." Their sound is chill and relaxed but it's never boring. "Green Aisles" is simple but it's loaded with longing and wistfulness. It's gorgeous. Phantogram's "Don't Move" is just fun. I dare you to not move along with it.

Mayer Hawthorne is a purveyor of white soul, and the first time I heard "The Walk" I thought it was an old classic soul tune I had heard before. It's a great kiss-off song. Funny, fun, and feisty. I decided to follow up "The Walk" with a soul cult classic, Darondo's "Didn't I."

To close out the list, I threw in the FIeld's hypnotic "Then It's White." It may sound like a dull, repetitive song but there is a progression in it that makes it a mesmerizing listen.

Incase Update


The ordeal is over! I received a new case yesterday and there's nothing wrong with it. It's new, it has all the requisite parts. I think what they sent me before was a used/returned item. It had a lot of scratches as if it was dropped, probably causing the bottom part to break off. I imagine that someone decided to take advantage of the system. Their case broke, they bought a new one, took the new one, and then returned their purchase except they placed their old, broken one in the box. At the warehouse they picked up this returned one and sent it to me. I'm probably not too far off on my story.

The upside of this whole thing is that each time they sent me a shipment, they also shipped a package of screen protectors. I bought one originally because it was only $10 when it's normally $20. Well, they wound up sending me three packets. Maybe I should sell one online and keep one as backup.

In any event, my iPhone is now encased, or is that Incased?

Grrrr...But Not Really


I bought my iPhone 4S the day it came out, so I've had it for a month. I'm fairly happy with it and it has come in handy. I haven't downloaded Angry Birds yet, which makes me think I'm not using it to its full capability.This post, though, isn't about the iPhone. It's about the case I ordered for it the same night I bought it. In short, the phone still does not have a case.Let's go back. I paid $20 for a $40 coupon from Groupon or Living Social, I forget, towards an Incase product in anticipation of the iPhone I knew I would get. I like their design and wanted the best for my very expensive phone. As I mentioned, I ordered it the same night I got my phone. I expected it to arrive within a week.A week later, a package arrived, it weighed practically nothing. I opened it expecting to find my case and the screen protector, but alas, it was only the screen protector and some crumpled up paper. But I'm a patient man, so I figured it would arrive soon.The week ended and no package. I wait a couple more days the following week and still no case. I finally call Incase and spoke to a representative who was very nice. He couldn't really tell me with certainty that the case was even shipped but he told me he would ship one out again immediately. If the first one that may or may not have been sent comes to me, he said I could keep that too. Great, I thought. Two cases for practically nothing.I wait another week. No case. I call again and speak to the same guy, Frank. Again he was nice, if a little evasive about whether he shipped the promised case or not. I asked him if he had a tracking number so I can see where it is in UPS's system but he couldn't give me one, which makes me think that he didn't. I really should have been madder, but I'm not a very angry person and Frank was very nice and apologetic so I just couldn't find it in me to be angry.So I wait again. Sure enough a package arrived on Tuesday. Hooray! I open it and let out a laugh. Inside was another screen protector. No case. How could they mess this up again? As it turned out they didn't. I get an e-mail from UPS indicating that another package was arriving the next day.I get home yesterday and find the package at my doorstep. This long ordeal was finally coming to an end! I open the package and find the promised case. As I'm opening it I debated whether I should call Frank again the next day and tell him that I finally got my case. We would laugh and all would be good.That was when I noticed something was wrong. The case was supposed to come with a stand so you can sit the iPhone sideways and watch whatever video you want to watch. Should I complain about that? It's unlikely I would use that stand anyway. I was leaning towards letting it go, but then I noticed a bigger problem. The case was broken. Half of the front bottom portion was missing. I slumped in my chair and laughed again. It's comical how much trouble I had to go through just to get this case.Well, I called Incase today hoping to speak to Frank so I can give him a piece of my mind. He must have sensed I would call because he didn't pick up. Instead it was a lady named Linda. I explained to her what happened and she couldn't have been nicer about it. She said she would ship another one right away, so hopefully everything will be fine with this one.I still wondered whether I should have expressed greater anger at the situation. A month I've waited and I'm still caseless. Maybe if it goes into a second month I would definitely be more upset. Or will I?[...]

Race Report: 10.30.2011 Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon


Chip Time: 1:50:12Pace: 8:25/mileThe Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half Marathon didn't turn out as badly as I was worried it would. It's far from my fastest marathon at 1:50:12. I should have pushed a little harder to get in under 1:50. Last year's time was five minutes faster at 1:45:23 but that was a different course. The lack of training really did me in, and it didn't help that I had gotten sick a week before. I had a couple of coughing fits during the race, but really the biggest issue was not getting the mileage before the race that I should have. By the 10K point my legs were feeling fatigued. I thought I might have gone out too fast, but considering I maintained the pace throughout probably means that it was just right. SInce I was in corral 2 I didn't have too many issues with having to swerve around people and I managed to run the first mile in 8:30 flat. In fact, I was consistently at 8:30 or under during the race. My slowest mile was mile 7 at an 8:36 pace. I can't remember anything unusual about that portion, but the reason for that being the slowest mile was probably due to a brief water/walk break. I thought the slowest one would have been mile 9 and its uphill climb up 6th Street bridge, but it doesn't appear that the bridge slowed me down too much. Mile 9 was accomplished in 8:19 and mile 10 was 8:32.The race was mostly uneventful. The weather was fine until the end when it quickly warmed up. Thankfully the high rises of downtown provided much shade and the heat didn't trouble me. In the portion through Little Tokyo and towards Boyle Heights, though, there wasn't shade to be had, so the heat was a little more troublesome there. All in all it was a decent race. I didn't hurt too badly and I was able to finish. I doubt I'll run this race again next year, though. I don't like the new course. It's boring and not as fun as the old one that ran through Griffith Park, Silver Lake, Echo Park until finishing in downtown. Besides, it's been there, done that. Hopefully when I run the Pasadena Rock N Roll Half Marathon in February I will have trained better and be able to challenge my PR of 1:41 from four years ago.As for the rest of the month, October was a slacker month for running. Including the half marathon, I only managed 84.1 miles for the month. Not good. The longest distance was the half marathon. I'm becoming a broken record, but I need to train more![...]

Raul's Finite Playlist: October 2011


LINK: Raul's Finite Playlist - October 2011Two of the best movies I'll probably see this year are "Weekend" and "Drive," and both have excellent, evocative soundtracks, songs from which appear on this month's playlist. John Grant's "Marz" runs over the end credits of "Weekend," punctuating a heartbreaking romance with its melancholy piano melody. Similarly, "A Real Hero" by College featuring Electric Youth caps off the moody, stylish, and surprisingly tender action of "Drive." Its chorus pretty much sums up the development of the film's lead, the unnamed Driver, played brilliantlyl by Ryan Gosling, as he finds himself to be "a real human being and a real hero." I'm hoping "A Real Hero" is eligible for Oscar consideration because it deserves to win.The rest of the October list leans towards the moody. Maybe I was just in that sort of mood this month. I decided to open the list with two of the more upbeat tracks, Mates of State's "Palomino" and Fool's Gold's "Wild Window." Mates of State are back with a strong album and "Palomino" is a slight departure from their sound. It sounds a little more ragged than we expect to hear from the Mates but it is still catchy, proving once again my theory that any song with a "woohoo" chorus can't go wrong. "Wild Windows" is also a burst of cheerful pop from a band I've just started listening to. Their album, "Leave No Trace," sounds a bit to me like a west coast version of Vampire Weekend, with hints of world music but less cheeky.Speaking of Vampire Weekend, Rostam Batmanglij, the gay, Persian member of the group, has several side projects. As ROSTAM, he has unfurled a languourous, beguiling song called "Wood," which features Eastern musical influences. It's quite a soothing song, perfect for relaxing in the grass.Soothing can also be used to describe Feist's music. Her new album just came out and it is excellent. It's more of the same from her, but it doesn't get old. I think the fact that she remains true to her aesthetic is admirable. There is no song as delightful as "1234" on "Metals" but each song is as lovely as anything Feist has done. I really had a hard time singling out a song to pick from the album, but I eventually settled on "Graveyard" if only for the chorus of kids (another you-can't-go-wrong-with pop trick).I've been listening to a lot of "Morning Becomes Eclectic" ever since I started this new job, so it's no surprise that it has had quite an influence on my musical tastes as of late. Blind Pilot, Jessica Lea Mayfield, James Vincent McMorrow, and Grouplove are all heard frequently on the show. Blind Pilot has a sound that at first seems indistinguishable from other indie pop acts, but songs like "We are the Tide" have an understated charm that makes them stick. Jessica Lea Mayfield, too, fits an MBE mold, quirky, pretty vocals, carried throughout pretty songs. "Blue Skies Again" is a highlight from her album. Grouplove is a local band and as their name suggests there is a free love vibe to them. They are apparently a good live band and their debut album is quite good. I eventually settled on "Tongue-Tied" to include in the list, but for a while I was going to go with "Naked Kids," but then even after that I thought of changing it to "Colours." In other words, they have a solid collection of songs. I've only heard "If I Had a Boat" from James Vincent McMorrow, so I can't comment on his full album, but I like this song. He's a soulful, singer-songwriter.Fiona Apple hasn't really been heard from in a while, b[...]

The Month in Running


I mentioned in my last "The Month in Running" post that September was off to a bad start. As it turned out, it was a good running month. Fueled by Ragnar, I wound up running 103 miles. If it were not for the running gods conspiring against me in the last week, September would have even surpassed March in total miles ran.

My longest run was an 11.11 mile run appropriately enough on 9/11. I also had a 10 miler last week. But if you count my Ragnar runs as one, that would have been 20+ miles over the course of a day. My shortest run was 3.86 in Ktown. I ran from home up to Rossmore and back. All together, I ran 16 times in September.

September also marked the beginning of the Garmin era as my new watch arrived. I was motivated to run in order to use the watch, which in turn motivates me to run faster. It's a neat piece of equipment, and I'm enjoying seeing the details of my run--my pace, where I slowed down, where I was fast, elevation change, We'll see how long the novelty lasts. I'll play around some more with the Garmin and see about putting the charts on the blog.

Overall, I felt good progress in my runs during the September. I think I may have even lost a couple of pounds. I hope to carry it through October, which is off to a good start so far as I have run on its first two days. Hopefully I'm not jinxing it.

Raul's Finite Playlist: September 2011


LINK: Raul's Finite Playlist: September 2011

September has sure flown. I feel like I say that every month, but it's true. Time flies!

For this month's playlist, I seem to have resorted to old favorites. The Antlers, Magnetic Fields, Active Child, and Sufjan Stevens are making return appearances on the playlist. If not for a little self-restraint a couple of these artists would be on the list every month. The Antlers show up again with "I Don't Want Love," another gorgeous track from their newest album, Burst Apart. The Magnetic Fields return with "Grand Canyon" from 69 Love Songs. It's one of several songs from that collection that just makes me sigh with its powerful simplicity as they convey the unbridgeable chasm that develops when love goes away. "But I'm just me, I'm only me," Stephin Merritt begs to heartbreaking effect.

Gorgeous in a different way, Active Child appears again on the list with "Hanging On," one of the highlights from You Are All I See. To top it off, I threw in an intimate epic from Sufjan Stevens, "All Delighted People" from the EP of the same name.

Now on to the virgins! Anna Calvi has a full-throated voice and "Desire" reminds me a little of Kate Bush, but that's true of other female artists of late. Influences are influences and musicians are full of them. Royal Bangs, for example, sound a little like Wolf Parade in "Dim Chamber," but I love Wolf Parade so I'm a happy camper.

Another new band is Motopony with their brief, jazzy "King of Diamonds." Wilco is back in fine form with The Whole Love and "Dawned on Me" is one of the standout tracks. Its gently cascading chorus is quite appealing. Also coming back strong is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The one-time band-of-the-moment has receded to a lower profile, but it's good to hear them still making terrific songs like "Same Mistake. The Drums also show up on the list with their latest catchy song, the cheery "Book of Revelation," which isn't all that cheery of a topic.

To top it all off, I threw in a couple of cover tunes. I love covers. It's hard to believe that prior to this month I had not included a Bon Iver song, but now they show up with a pretty version of Peter Gabriel's "Come Talk to Me." The Shins contribute a peppy version of Squeeze's "Goodbye Girl."

Overall this month's list leans towards the melancholy. None of the songs are what I would consider depressing, but then again my scale is a little off. I'd say this month's list favors a wistful beauty rather than party anthems. Frankly, I'd rather be at a party playing Sufjan instead of one blasting out hip hop.

Until October… oh, crap, that's in a couple of days!

Ragnar Napa Valley: In Vino Very Fast


Another year, another Ragnar relay. This time we ran amidst the lovely surroundings of Northern California, working our way from San Francisco to Calistoga. One would think that doing this three years in a row would be enough, but I'm eagerly looking forward to running another relay. It's an absolutely fun, miserable adventure that you have to experience firsthand to really appreciate. On the way back from Napa there was discussion in our van about maybe doing an out-of-state race. We'll try for Hood to Coast, but there was also talk about something in the Northwest or even New England. We'll see what happens.As for the race itself, I wound up taking one of the 20 mile leg(s) for no other reason than the fact that I've been running fairly consistently and had no injury. Any other time that wouldn't be a qualification, but it was enough. I acquitted myself well. My first leg was my longest at 7.8 miles and made tough by a big hill halfway through. It was scenic, though. It started in what was possibly the mosty idllyic-looking location, complete with a white church and a gorgeous background of brown hills and oak trees. Davey told me the other night that Skywalker Ranch was only a few miles away. The first half included a scenic view of a reservoir. I also encountered three deer bounding across the road. I didn't ask them why they crossed. I started off well but immediately got passed by a very fast runner. That always sucks. Then another runner, faster than the first, zoomed by me. Damn you! I maintained a strong 8 minute pace up until the hill. I slowed down a bit as I made the ascent. I could hear footsteps behind me but the runner didn't seem ready to pass me. I kept thinking to myself that he should just pass me and get it over with. Finally he did when my cummerbund fell off.Oh, I forgot to mention that our teamn name, My Big Fat Ragnar Wedding, a remnant of a plan by Scotty, who organized the last two Ragnars, to run as three teams under a wedding theme. Scotty had to drop out and the other two teams never materialized, but our team held strong, left with a team name we weren't too enthusiastic about. We made the best of it, though, propelled by a couple of energetic teammates who gathered together costumes for the runners complete with veils, bow ties, garters, and the aforementioned cummerbund. We even decorated our van for the first time! My concern with the name was that people were going to ask us who was getting married, but the questions never materialized. People just seemed to buy the fact that we're a wedding-themed team. Next time, though, we're going with a better name.Back to my first leg, as soon as I got over the hill I fell back to a good pace. I kept my eye on the faster runners that had just passed me and made a plan to not let them get too far ahead. Thanks to a slight downhill finish, I averaged about an 8:15 pace for the 7.8 miles.My second leg took place in the dead of night. I think I started it at 2am on a dark country road. The leg was 6.2 miles and probably my easiest thanks to a flat route and nice cool temperatures. Even though I started in what felt like a dark, country road, I was soon in the middle of suburbia. The rest of the run was along a commercial thoroughfare and through some residential streets. Since it was dark anyway I didn't care that it wasn't scenic. The leg was mostly uneventful. The same fast runner who had passed me in the previous leg passed me again[...]

The Month in Running


August turned out to be a not-so-bad running month. I didn't hit the targeted 100 miles for the month (87 miles), but it was still more than I thought I would run. My longest run of the month was only 10 miles. Work and health issues kept me sidelined more than I would like, but I also felt that this month found me finding a good balance between time and running. Towards the end of the month my runs have been better, so I'm hoping that means I'm making progress. I need to start doing longer miles too, especially with the half marathon coming up next month and a long 9 mile leg at Ragnar. Yikes, Ragnar is in two weeks!

Unfortunately, September isn't off to a good start. I intended to run today but got home too late and felt too hungry to run. I'll try to make up for it this weekend.