Monday, June 19, 2017

The REAL 2018 LA Marathon Ambassador Application

Thanks to those who gave me some feedback over the weekend on my original essay.  Turns out there were actual writing prompts on the application (I really should have checked that first) so I needed to do some additional writing and creative editing.  Anyway, this is faaar too long for a blog post, so,
mostly for posterity, here's my submission (photos were not included)...


There was a "check all that apply" section about my strengths, my selections were
  • My in-person promotional/speaking skills 
  • My creativity 
  • My network 
  • My experience as a runner

Please expand on your greatest strength
When I was a teenager, I told my mom I wanted to be an engineer and her reply was “You like to talk too much.”  Now as a parent myself, my teenage son tells me he is always amazed that I can find a common ground for conversation with anyone.  Being a runner is like having a cheat code to engaging a new acquaintance.  Running is a connective tissue that spans age, gender, race, upbringing, geography, any hosts of descriptors that divides people.  There’s only stories about the races you've run or want to run, the training you’re currently undertaking, the injuries you’re overcoming.  

I captained my first Ragnar team at Ragnar Napa Valley in 2016.  I recruited people from my variety of social circles that included an investment group CEO, a small business owner, a stay-at-home mom, and a VP of engineering.  The initial running bond allowed deeper connections to be discovered like two guys with sons at the same Catholic high school or another pair with a shared devotion to Napa wine clubs.  It turns out we all had a shared love of cabernet.
Team 18: Good Libations!
 In 2014, I returned to London for the first time in 10 years and googled “London running clubs” seeking good routes to follow.  I was granted membership in the Chelsea Running Club (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChelseaRC/) and enjoyed a fantastic group run along the Thames.  After my trip, I became an active participant on the message board when another member was seeking advice for their first marathon.  Training tips segued into conversations about cultural differences between our two countries, and shortly thereafter, I discovered my English FB friend was actually an American ex-pat who had grown up in Oregon, just like myself.

Discovering someone is a runner is like discovering a whole new world.  The possibilities of conversations are endless.  My best friend of 28 years and I talk briefly about running every day at work and still manage to uncover new frontiers each time.

Why are you interested in being a Conqur Endurance Group Ambassador? *
Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, Tokyo...homes to the six Abbot World Marathon Majors.  Los Angeles should be on this list.  It is the second largest city in the US, 14th in the world, one of the iconic global cities, and it deserves a marathon that befits this status.  CEG has brought a level of stability and professionalism that will allow the race to vault into the conversation of “must run marathons.”  I want to be a part of that journey and I believe I have the skills to help others see what I love about LAM so much.  Becoming an Ambassador would combine two of my favorite things: running and socializing.

How do you think the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon compares to other marathons you have run? *
I’m an Orange County runner who loves the LA Marathon.  My first 26.2 adventure was the Orange County Marathon on May 3, 2009.  I did not achieve the 4 hour marathon for which I thought I was capable, so I signed up for the 24th LA Marathon three weeks later, naively thinking I could perform better.  Predictably, I was slower, but the energy of 15,000 runners devoted to a single race - compared to the small, split crowd at the OC race (5918 finishers but only 1339 ran the full) - was exhilarating and I was hooked.  2009 was the only time I ran the OC.  March 18, 2018 will mark my 10th consecutive LA Marathon.   

The Legacy Runners are one of my favorites aspects of the race.  The special dedicated start they received in 2015 was such a fantastic way to commemorate their dedication and perseverance.  I’ve run the New York Marathon twice and Chicago once, both bigger races with longer histories and they offer no such recognition to their longest tenured participants.  Two years prior, I came across a Legacy runner for the first time in four LAM runnings.  His bib denoted all 28 years he had run the race, and it was inspirational.  I could never be a true Legacy runner, but I could certainly aspire to their spirit.  In that moment, in the middle of my 4th LAM, I committed to running 20 consecutive LAs.  “I won’t even be 60!” was the thought that clinched it for me.  Now I’m almost halfway there, and I won’t be stopping at 20.

I could start a new legacy club for those who have run the Stadium-to-Sea course every year since its 2010 introduction.  That route change elevated the race into a unique experience that brings me back every year.  Running has allowed me to connect to the other cities around the world I've visited because I can see all the small details.  LAM offers that same opportunity to the 26,000 that sign up each year because Los Angeles is a fabric of communities, each with a distinctive personality.  The joy of LAM is having so many of them threaded into a single 26.2 mile journey.

The dragon dancers in Chinatown...the taiko drummers pulling you up the big 1st Street hill to the Disney Concert Hall and Ahmanson Theater..the iconic Echo Park Lake fountain that’s in every B-roll shot of LA.  Winding along Sunset Boulevard until you can look up at Mile 8 and see the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign.  Passing by the landmark theaters of Hollywood Blvd: Pantages, El Capitan, Dolby, TCL Chinese  (it will always be Graumann’s in my heart.)  The opulence of Rodeo Drive.  The roar of dozens of local high school cheerleading squads as you pass into Century City.  The sereneness of the VA Hospital.  The Brentwood families enjoying Sunday morning brunch coffee and cocktails, cheering us on as we challenge the last hill up San Vincente Boulevard.

Every year since 2014, I’ve convinced a friend to run LAM for the very first time with these scenes.  The conversation starts the same way every time: “I'm thinking about running a marathon,” they’ll say.  “You should come run LA with me!” is my instantaneous response.

What is the most important thing you want us to know about you? *
My ability to develop connections with people on a personal level plus my deep affinity for the race will allow me to be an impactful champion for the LA Marathon.  My social media footprint to date is fairly small and will likely fall short of a “social media accounts every runner should follow” list, but my ability to speak passionately about the event, to close my eyes and see every mile of the course, to tell stories about all nine Stadium-to-Sea races and their four incarnations, is just as likely to convince someone to sign up.  It’s happened four times already.  And now there are four more people with a personal story about the LA Marathon.  That’s how a topic goes viral.

I was just across the start line at the 2015 race, making the slight turn past the KTLA cameras, heading towards the Dodger Stadium exit to Cesar Chavez when I spotted a familiar black and white striped singlet, the distinctive moniker of the Fulham Running Club from London, England.  I managed to catch up to him and started a conversation.  
“I ran the Fulham Palace Park Run last year.”  
“What a coincidence, I manage the Fulham Palace Park Run!”
“My name is Darren!” “I’m Bob” “You came a long way for this race, have a great race!”
I’ve met a lot of people at races, riding a shuttle to the start line, waiting in the starting corral, but usually those interactions are transient, a forgotten memory once the gun goes off.  This time, randomly discovering a connection to a different country moved me to post a blind greeting and congratulations to Bob on the Fulham Palace Park Run Facebook page.  A few comments from fellow parkrunners later, and Bob and I were FB friends.  
Got my picture in the 17 April parkrun newsletter!
I made it back to the Fulham Palace in London this spring, shortly after completing the Paris Marathon, hoping to have a pint with Bob, but ironically, he was in the U.S. for the Boston Marathon.  He made sure the Park Run volunteers knew I was coming, and I was heralded as “Bob’s friend” the entire morning.  I became reacquainted with two runners I’d met at my first Park Run in 2014.  And I made a host of new friends, includin one who just set a Guiness World Record for the “Fastest Marathon dressed as a Cheerleader” and another who has a sister, who lives in LA, who’s encouraging her to come run the 2018 LA Marathon.  I know the perfect person to give her all the knowledge she needs to run this city’s magnificent course.  

Would you rather run a marathon barefoot or run a half marathon in high heels? Why? *

Running barefoot over a longer distance is an easy choice for me versus a high-heeled 13.1 miles.  It’s simply a physiological choice: I’m 46 years old, technically a Master’s runner.  I’m finely attuned to my running shoes because I need to minimize the stress on my legs.  I’m confident I could learn how to run without shoes.  The soles of my feet would have to become so much tougher, probably irreparably altered beyond the limits of a pedicure, but I would have a wide base to support my body weight.  High heels would focus so much impact right up my leg I might be irreparably altered from running ever again!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

2018 LA Marathon Ambassador Application

I’m an Orange County runner who loves the LA Marathon.  My first 26.2 adventure was the Orange County Marathon on May 3, 2009.  I did not achieve the 4 hour marathon for which I thought I was capable, so I signed up for the 24th LA Marathon three weeks later, naively thinking I could perform better.  Predictably, I was slower, but the energy of 15,000 runners devoted to a single race - compared to the small, split crowd at the OC race (5918 finishers but only 1339 ran the full) - was exhilarating and I was hooked.  2009 was the only time I ran the OC.  March 18, 2018 will mark my 10th consecutive LA Marathon.   

The Legacy Runners are one of my favorites aspects of the race.  The special dedicated start they received in 2015 was such a fantastic way to commemorate their dedication and perseverance.  Two years prior, I came across a Legacy runner for the first time in four LAM runnings.  His bib denoted all 28 years he had run the race, and it was inspirational.  I could never be a true Legacy runner, but I could certainly aspire to their spirit.  In that moment, in the middle of my 4th LAM, I committed to running 20 consecutive LAs.  “I won’t even be 60!” was the thought that clinched it for me.  Now I’m almost halfway there, and I won’t be stopping at 20.

I could start a new legacy club for those who have run the Stadium-to-Sea course every year since its 2010 introduction.  That route change elevated the race into a unique experience that brings me back every year.  Running has allowed me to connect to the other cities around the world I've visited because I can see all the small details.  LAM offers that same opportunity to the 26,000 that sign up every year because Los Angeles is a fabric of communities, each with a distinctive personality.  The joy of LAM is having so many of them threaded into a single 26.2 mile journey.

The dragon dancers in Chinatown...the taiko drummers pulling you up the big 1st Street hill to the Disney Concert Hall and Ahmanson Theater..the iconic Echo Park Lake fountain that’s in every B-roll shot of LA.  Winding along Sunset Boulevard until you can look up at Mile 8 and see the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign.  Passing by the landmark theaters of Hollywood Blvd: Pantages, El Capitan, Dolby, TCL Chinese  (it will always be Graumann’s in my heart.)  The opulence of Rodeo Drive.  The roar of dozens of local high school cheerleading squads as you pass into Century City.  The sereneness of the VA Hospital.  The Brentwood families enjoying Sunday morning brunch coffee and cocktails, cheering us on as we challenge the last hill up San Vincente Boulevard.

Every year since 2014, I’ve convinced a friend to run LAM for the very first time with these scenes.  The conversation starts the same way every time: “I'm thinking about running a marathon,” they’ll say.  “You should come run LA with me!” is my instantaneous response.

It’s the personal connections formed through running that are the most meaningful to me.  I was just across the start line at the 2016 edition, making the slight turn past the KTLA cameras, heading towards the Dodger Stadium exit to Cesar Chavez when I spotted a familiar black and white striped singlet, the distinctive moniker of the Fulham Running Club from London, England.  I managed to catch up to him and started a conversation.  
“I ran the Fulham Palace parkrun last year.” “What a coincidence, I volunteer at the Fulham Palace parkrun!”
“My name is Darren!” “I’m Bob” “You came a long way for this race, have a great one!”
I’ve met a lot of people at races, riding a shuttle to the start line, waiting in the starting corral, but usually those interactions are transient, a forgotten memory once the gun goes off.  This time, finding a single point of common ground amongst 20,000 runners, from a different country no less, moved me to post a blind greeting and congratulations to Bob on the Fulham Palace parkrun Facebook page (@fulhampalaceparkrun) later that night.  A few comments from fellow parkrunners later, and Bob and I were FB friends.  

I made it back to the Fulham Palace in London this spring, shortly after completing the Paris Marathon, hoping to have a pint with Bob, but ironically, he was in the U.S. for the Boston Marathon.  He made sure the parkun volunteers knew I was coming, and I was heralded as “Bob’s friend” the entire morning.  I became reacquainted with two runners I’d met at my first parkrun in 2014.  And I made a host of new friends, including one who just set a Guiness World Record for the “Fastest Marathon dressed as a Cheerleader” (http://carbsandkilometres.com/) and another with a sister, who lives in LA, who’s encouraging her to come run the 2018 LA Marathon.  I know the perfect person to give her all the knowledge she needs to run this city’s magnificent course.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Metric Hanson Plan

Since my visit to London in spring 2015, I've been endeavoring to become metric literate.  When someone tells me its going to be 75F degrees outside, I have a solid idea of what the weather will feel like that day.  Tell me it's 15C, and I used to be befuddled.  A solid six months of setting my weather.com app to metric, and I intuitively know that 5-9C is a great day to race, 20 and above I need to reset my expectations.  35+, like it's been a few times over the past 10 days in Southern California, is scorching and no joy can come from running that day.

Running races, we casually slide between metric and imperial units.  5K, 10K, 10 miler, 13.1, 26.2, but pace calculations have traditionally been in minutes/mile.  A 9:09 minute mile will allow me to break the 4 hour mark at a marathon.  7 minute miles seem impossible for more than 3.1 miles.  Imperial pacing makes intrinsic sense to me and most runners in America.  When I talk pace with my friends, its in minutes/mile.

My outlook began to change by happenstance at the 2015 LA Marathon.  The course had timing mats and markers every 5K in addition to the grand, orange, inflatable archways that commemorated every mile.  I checked my watch at the first 5K marker, just under 28 minutes, and resolved to cover each 5K marker in the same amount of time.  28 plus 28 is 56, easy math.  56 + 28 is, ummm, 84, which is 1 hour and 24 minutes.  84 + 28 is.....dammit I'm too tired to do math right now.

The ad hoc attempt at "running metric" ended before the halfway mark, but it paved the way for a new mentality: run the marathon in eight 5K segments, then put whatever I had left into the final 2K.  Approaching the race this way has a couple of benefits: 5000 meters is a relatively small distance in the course of a 50 - 60 mile training week, so dividing the course into 8 checkpoints, instead of 26, makes the race feel shorter.  Additionally, aiming for pace markers less frequently smoothes out the variations in the course, allowing for more pace adjustments to the terrain.

I'm coming up on a year now that my Garmin default units are "km."  When I hit the strength workout portion of the Hanson plan training for LA 2016, I ran 2 x 5K instead of 2 x 3 mile intervals.  On an easy 6 mile day, I run 10K.  Rounding up to the nearest km is a sneaky way of adding more mileage.  Two tenths here and there, an additional 0.6 because I ran 17 km on a 10 mile day, it adds up to significant mileage over the course of 18 weeks.

Today was the first time I ran the speed pyramid workout, metric style.  The traditional Hanson plan calls for 400m-800m-1200m-1200m-800m-400m intervals with 400m recovery between each.  I made it a metric plan by making the base unit 500m.  So 500m-1000m-1500m-1500m-1000m-500m with 500m recovery.  And I did the workout on the trails near Peters Canyon instead of on a track, so a bit of hill work was added on top.  After all, when was the last marathon course that had more than a mile of zero elevation change.  My hope is these little tweaks will produce improved race day performance.  I'm going to go through the Hanson Plan and convert each workout to kilometers, and then post the result on my Training Plan tab.

#runhappy


Friday, June 17, 2016

A new beginning...

I started this blog 3.5 years ago to document my first attempt at marathon training using the Hanson Brothers plan.  I had a difficult time finding any information beyond the brief article in Runner's World.  In the subsequent years, a book has been published that lays out every bit of science and rationale behind the plan, and my friends and I have logged thousands of miles with the HB framework.

So what to do with this blog space now?  I hope to make it an outlet to capture the thoughts I have while I run.  An old thought occured to me this morning, "Runners are made, not born."  I would never have believed I was capable of running a 5K in 2007, and now, in the past 2 weeks, I've logged 9 training runs 10K or longer.  It's a testament to the focus and determination required to become an endurance runner.  These should be traits I can use in other aspects of my life.  I seek a new path in my professional life, which will require the creation of a resume, a document I've not attended to in nearly 18 years.  My hope is writing about running in this space will develop my skills as a storyteller so I can can create a compelling case history of my life as an employee that will lead to a new frontier.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Twas the night before LAM...

and I should be asleep, but of course, I'm not.  Everything is ready for tomorrow morning, running clothes set out, bib pinned on, Garmin and iPod and backup iPod charging.  Months ago, I thought this was going to be a training run as I prepared for the Eugene Marathon in late April.  But irrational confidence set in as I did my training runs in February.  I loosely followed the Hanson plan, but missed a number of runs because of illness, business travel, and just family stuff. 

Yet I've somehow managed to log over 400 miles since CIM, and in the two weeks leading up to tomorrow, I've logged the same 70 miles I did before CIM.  My best training runs were the past 3-4 Thursdays, pace run day.  I managed between 10-12 miles at a sub-9 pace, much faster than I plan to run tomorrow.  My one 16 miler came in at 9:11s.

Tested out a few new things on my 16 miler that will make their race debut tomorrow...CW-X Pro compression tights, Nuun sports drink, and eating a GU every 45 minutes.

So can I really PR tomorrow?  I'm am so anxious to find out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

CIM 2012: Thoughts on the H-B Plan


I started this blog to document the quest to answer a simple question: is it possible to run a marathon using a training plan that calls for no runs longer than 16 miles?  At the finish line of Sunday’s 30th running of the California International Marathon in Sacramento, the answer is an unequivocal YES!  I crossed the line in 4:08:10, a PR of more than 13 minutes.  AMD finished in 4:09:58, a nearly 9 minute PR.  And another friend of ours who followed the HB plan BQ’d with a 3:38:42.  And this was on a day when Sacramento broke a 71-year-old rainfall record with 1.32 INCHES of rain by noon Sunday.

There’s lots of details about the race I’d like to share/document, but I’ll start by summarizing my thoughts about why I believe we succeeded with the H-B plan.  First off, I ran nearly 650 miles since July 17, 428 of them since Sep 24.  Never before have I logged a 50 mile week, yet in weeks 14-16, I ran 50, 51 and 53 miles.  Removing the stress/burden of the 20 mile runs enabled me to run more miles because I didn’t need the usual recovery time and I didn’t sustain any serious injuries.  I feel like the constant running also taught my body to be more resilient.  I did get a couple of minor tweaks along the way, but a bit of compression and some ice usually solved things within 24 hours.  During the last 6 miles of CIM, this resiliency manifested itself in my ability to work through and overcome the quad cramps that have debilitated me in almost every other marathon I’ve done. 

Finally, I think I came out of the H-B plan much stronger mentally than ever before.  Running 6 days in a row is hard and requires a lot of discipline and planning.  You have to run the proper mileage at the prescribed PACE, and you cannot succeed if you skip too many days.  The “no 20 milers” thing doesn’t come for free.  In the critical weeks 10-17 of the plan, I ran 47 of the 48 scheduled days (I missed a day so the family could go to Sea World, I told myself walking all over the park was just a REALLY easy recovery run.)  I ran early in the morning, during a long lunch, after work, after dinner, whenever I had to in order to get my run completed and still keep my job and my family.  When the quads started to tighten up in the last 10k, I went through many tactical options before settling on walking, where in past races I would have walked at the first sign of pain.  Ironically, I think it was the easy runs that helped me the most in the end.  I remembered how slow those days felt and yet the pace was always around 10-11 min miles.  I convinced myself in those last few miles that a running motion, no matter how slow, would be so much faster than walking.  The last 3 full miles, 11:05, 11:23, 11:08…hello sub-4:10 finish.

I was not as disciplined about my writing, but I did add a “Running Log” page to show the daily mileage and paces.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 19 to Day 24

Ok, so I'm clearly doing better at training than blogging.  I'm going to take the advice of my friend Madison and scale back to once or twice a week.  Tuesday nights are a good time since Wednesday is the one sacred rest day of the week.

The past week has been highlighted by a hard speed workout, an absolutely awful marathon pace run, the first back-to-back 8 mile runs of my life, and the first mile repeats of the plan.

Day 19: August 21, Speed Ladder
I realized I could make this workout harder by running the recovery lap faster.  Seems obvious but it feels counterintuitive to do anything but shuffle around the track after an interval.  The previous week, the recovery pace was in the 10:30-11 min range.  This week it started in the 9:45 range after the 400 and 800, and got slower after the two 1200s.  Even so, the pace for the entire workout was 8:25, well below goal pace.  I felt like this was a significant achievement, until...
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/213529359

Day 20: August 23, MP Run
I tried to run 8:45s for 7 miles after last week's rest day, and I knew I was in serious trouble when I could barely keep the pace running downhill for the first 3 miles.  When I turned around to come home, it was over by mile 4.5.  I had nothing left to run even 9:09s uphill.  I had to get back home, so I did the last 2 miles at a comfortable pace and lived to run another day.
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/214491005

Day 22: LSR
The first 8 mile run of last weekend was actually faster than the aborted MP run on Thursday.
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/214887773 

Day 23: LSR
The second 8 mile run was even a bit faster than the first 8 miler.
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/215286666

I think the best part of this first ever back to back 8 mile weekend was using my new Garmin Forerunner 610!
I've been using my wife's 110 for the past few months after my trusty 305 USB charger stopped working.  However, she's about to begin her own training program for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, so I was feeling the pressure to find something new.  Fortunately, I came across, of all things, a Garmin rebate!  $50 off a new Garmin when you trade in your old one.  Combined with my $100 in REI gift cards (thanks mom) I got the 610 (w/o HR monitor) for $200!  If you want to grab this deal, you need to buy your new watch by Aug 31.

The 610 is noticeably heavier than the 110.  It took me a couple of miles on Saturday's LSR to get used to the weight.  It has the new Garmin touch screen versus the touch bezel that was featured on the 410.  After years of using Apple products, it takes a bit of adjustment to use the Garmin swipe feature. 

The main reason I bought the 610 is the ability to configure multiple data screens.  I had my 305 configured to show me pace/distance/time on the main screen, and lap pace/current lap/time on a second screen.  I used the screen almost exclusively for track workouts.  The 110 did not have the feature, forcing me to spend a lot of time doing math during a track workout. "Ok, I just finished my recovery lap and the watch says 4:19, so I need to do hit 8:19 on this 800 to make my 8 minute pace.  Or did the watch say 4:22?"  Today's workout was a return to normal, hit the lap button, the current lap count resets, no more math, just remember to hit the lap button after every interval.

The other feature I missed is the ability to scroll through the history of a run on your watch.  The 110 has basic functionality, meaning you can't see your splits or any other data until you download it to your computer, or upload it to Garmin Connect.  The 610 has this feature, and pretty much every other feature of the 305, in a nicer form factor, and as a bonus, it syncs a lot faster to the GPS satellites.  I'm a little concerned about the charging interface, and I'm not convinced that transferring data via the ANT WiFi dongle is the best thing, but it's comforting to know if I encounter any issue, I can always exchange/return it to REI.
 
Day 24: Mile Repeats
Can't say the 610 made the first mile repeat workout of the training plan easier, but it was comforting to see the 0:00 at the beginning of each interval.  We made the workout a little less daunting by walking the recovery lap between each mile.  The best thing about this workout is you know it will be over soon. 
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/216124318

On a final note, I want to mention that I skipped Monday's recovery run.  Maybe this is why the mile repeats weren't awful.  I woke up Monday morning and had a weird pain on the top of my foot.  It had not hurt at all after Sunday's LSR, so I figured I slept on it wrong, and figured it would go away after my day got going.  But as I was walking to the gym at lunch to get ready for an easy 4, it was still bugging me, so I reluctantly bailed on the run.  This was hard because I just hit 30+ miles last week and was excited to repeat the mileage this week.  Losing 4 miles on Monday was a bummer.  But I woke up this morning pain free, and had a very successful track workout.  One of the underlying tenets of the HB plan is to not worry about a missed workout.  I didn't and it was a great decision.  Of all the workouts, the recovery run is the most expendable.