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LA Roadrunners: Dodger Stadium! January 31, 2010

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Yesterday was a field trip for us Roadrunners: we got to run at Dodger Stadium! I had to start the morning off extra early to give myself time to drive the extra distance, but it was a gorgeous morning, as far as mornings go.


Interstate 10, 5:50am.


Downtown LA.


Dodger Stadium off ramp.


The full moon was absolutely gorgeous.

Since this year’s marathon starts at Dodger Stadium, we got a sneak peek at the first mile or so of the race. The marathon begins as a lap around the stadium then heads out Elysian Park Dr. toward Sunset Blvd.

However, that route is only a mile, so with the Roadrunners, we added a few more loops and the LA Marathon 5K route to the training for a total of 6.4 miles.

Distance: 6.4 miles
Time: 53:07
Pace: 8:18 mile


Around Dodger Stadium.


More loops.


Hitting up Elysian Park.


A beautiful route.


Rod Dixon cheers us on.


The final hill.

Of course, 6.4 miles wasn’t enough! I could tell that everyone in our group wanted to do more. After all, our scheduled runs during the week are between 7-8 miles! A Saturday run of 6.4 miles wasn’t enough. So my friend and I decided to log six more miles around the stadium.

Distance: 6 miles
Time: 52:30
Pace: 8:45 mile

The route around the stadium has long, steep inclines, which are good for hill training. And it was a lot of fun to mix up the running paths. As pretty as the beach is, it’s nice to run a different part of LA.

Also, it was really beneficial to experience the beginning of the marathon. I think race day will be intimidating enough as it is—not having another thing to be nervous about is good.

The best part of yesterday’s run, though, was that they opened Dodger Stadium after the run! We got to go on the field and stretch. Definitely one of the most memorable stretching sessions I’ve been a part of.


All in all, it was a great training day. Dodger Stadium, hill training, 12+ miles, great running routes, felt fantastic… What more could I say?

Well, I guess there’s one thing I should say. Despite all this love for Dodger Stadium…

Go Giants!


Born and raised in Northern California!

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20 Miles: Better Than Legos January 23, 2010

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Do you remember when you were a kid and you built your first Lego set? The exhilaration and excitement of accomplishment you felt? Well, today was so much better than that.

The dreaded and ominous 20 mile run was on today’s LA Roadrunner schedule. For months it has sat there on my calendar, staring me down, hanging like a guillotine ready to drop.

Since I’ve returned from Japan, my whole goal has been to not skip the first 20-miler. That gave me two weeks to get back into game shape and I made sure not to miss a single day of running. Additionally, I was mentally trying to prepare myself. “I can do this, I can do this.” But, in the back of my mind, I wasn’t so sure. This whole week I had been wondering whether or not I was ready. My longest run in over six weeks was only 14.5 miles and I had missed the Roadrunner runs of 16, 17, 18 and 19. Could I manage 20?

The answer is yes. And then my realization was this: nothing can prepare you for a 20+ mile run mentally. You just have to go out and do it.

Distance: 20.2 miles
Time: 173:23
Pace: 8:35 mile

It’s hard to see any detail in the route on this map, but even at this distance, you can see it was a daunting course. We started at Venice Boardwalk, went up through Santa Monica, through Rustic Canyon, back down the beach, then into Marina Del Rey. And it was absolutely gorgeous: post-rain blue skies with white clouds, damp and cool roads, misty air, and a dewy forest through Rustic Canyon.

I’m really bummed that I didn’t take my camera with me. I was figured it’d be too much to worry about on my first 20-miler and it was true: I wouldn’t have been able to focus on my running. But, I do want to share images of the run so I got creative and took some screen grabs from Google Maps and hit up Flickr. It’s hodgepodge, but it works.


Rustic Canyon from the Google Cam.

Despite it’s hilly terrain, I could definitely find myself running through Rustic Canyon again.

After that portion of the course, we shot out onto the Pacific Coast Highway and crossed over to the beach to complete the middle miles 7-16. We went back through Venice and into Marina Del Rey and I found that part to be more challenging than the hills of Rustic Canyon. It was mainly due to the compact nature of the marina that made it so difficult. With 30+ runners trying to cram onto the narrow walkways and alleys of the boat docks, it’s hard to zone out because you’re constantly worried about hitting a fellow runner.


See the narrow docks? Marina Del Rey from Das Bobby via Flickr.

I was feeling fine pretty much all the way until mile 18. Before this run, the my longest run ever was 15.xx miles so I was pretty happy with my legs at 18. But as we headed back for the final two miles, It Got Tough. My legs were so tired and tight. I was losing speed, even though my endurance was fine. I was keeping with the group, but it was a struggle. As I looked around, I could tell that the entire group was feeling the same thing. A few runners were tripping and one even fell—common occurrences with tired legs and uneven roads. Needless to say, we were exhausted but not nearly done.

Our pace leader kept encouraging us, yelling out the remaining distances and some morale boosters. “1.7 miles to go! You can do it!” “1.2 miles to go! You’ve got this!” That really helped mentally. I kept reminding myself that, “Hey, I’ve run 1.2 miles before! This is easy!” and surprisingly, that little mental trick did help. I was able to find some guts that I didn’t know I had remaining and eek out the final two miles, despite my legs. When our pace leader announced we had hit 20 miles, we all cheered, and when we finally crossed the finish line, we were all relieved.

There’s nothing quite like achieving something you never thought you could do, while also setting a personal standard. If you had asked me five months ago if I thought I could hang with a 20 mile run, I’d have said no. And even with five months of training, I still woke up this morning thinking to myself, “Well, if you can only do 17 or 18, that’s fine. Don’t push yourself.” But now, I can say I did it. I ran 20.2 miles and survived.

Now if only I can find a way to add 6 more miles, I’ll be set.

Full Steam Ahead!

LA Roadrunners — Lucky 13 November 22, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 13.18 miles
Time: 110:00
Pace: 8:21 mile

We’re in our eleventh week of LA Roadrunners. How time flies. Seems like just yesterday we took on our first run as a group. That run was 3.51 miles. I love progress.

As for yesterday’s run, it blows my mind to think I ran for 110 minutes straight. I never thought I could do any one thing for 110 minutes straight, really. I can’t even surf the web continuously for that long.

No photos today, unfortunately. My fellow Roadrunner Kekona has been feeling ill lately and skipped the meet, which meant I took my sweet time getting ready in the morning. As such, I got caught in line for parking and had to sprint from the school yard to the boardwalk.

All in all, the run was fantastic. I felt great and had no trouble at all in terms of endurance and there was not the occasional tightness in my legs. In fact, thinking back to last week, both these runs have been really good. I had more than enough energy and I think it may have something to do with previous night’s dinner. Last weekend I stuffed myself with garlic noodles and fried crab from PPQ Dungeness Island; this week was Umami Burger. Both meals were high carb, high protein meals. Looks like I can put down the broccoli and brown rice and eat greasy crab and delicious burgers from now on!


PPQ Dungeness Crab via Flickr from Liyu01.


Umami Burger via Flickr from Yogma.

It wasn’t until after the run that I really started to feel the effects. Once my muscles had a chance to cool off, my legs started to really hurt. I was SORE. I got home, ate three breakfast burritos, took a hot shower, then proceeded to stretch and stretch and stretch. Doing those things really helped—especially the three breakfast burritos—and today, I’m already feeling much better.

I’m going to try and do a short recovery run today, just to keep my legs moving. I’ll definitely take it slow, but I don’t want to have any sort of drop off from yesterday’s long run success. A fellow Roadrunner told me that the idea behind marathon training is to get your body used to running long distances while you’re tired and a bit sore. Makes sense to me.

LA Roadrunners — Eh, Only 9 Miles November 7, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 9.08 miles
Time: 76:34
Pace: 8:26

Today’s LA Roadrunner run was our cutback week, so we trimmed to 9 miles before gearing up for 12 miles next week. I decided to finally bring my camera to take photos of our gorgeous route but of course, it was nothing but gray skies and fog. Of all the weeks to bring my camera…

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Trust me, it has potential.

We met at Westminster Elementary, as usual, and headed out to the Venice Boardwalk. There was a noticeable drop in attendance, not for our group, but for the LA Roadrunner program in general. I think it had something to do with being a shorter week—the other groups did 5 miles and most people probably slept in and did that on their own.

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Heading to the Boardwalk.

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The other groups waiting to run.

As we gathered in the staging area of the Boardwalk, everyone commented on how cold it was. Where was the sun? Seems like winter is just around the corner, even for Los Angeles.

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Lined up and ready to go.

I had some trouble with today’s shorter run, to be honest. My thighs were extremely tight and not feeling as loose as they normally do. My hamstrings especially felt as hard as rock. Not good. In fact, last week’s 11 mile run felt easier than this week’s. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but I have some ideas:

1. Because it was a shorter run, I was over-confident. I didn’t take the time to stretch as much this week, which makes sense considering my legs were tight.

2. It was a busy work week and I didn’t eat as consistently as I normally do. I try to stay to a frequent eating plan but this week I was all over the place. And, being a shorter run, I felt confident I’d be okay.

3. I didn’t eat enough vegetables. True story.

Turns out, probably all three are probably contributing factors. This coming week, my mantra is: “Stretch, eat more, vegetables.”

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Along the beach.

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Running up the pier.

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Through the park.

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Palm Tree Row.

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Above the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Our iconic totem pole. (And the coolest 7 mile marker ever.)

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Crossing the finish line.

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Some much needed stretching.

So even though it was a tough run with bad weather, I learned something about myself as a runner, which is always a good thing. As long as I’m improving and learning…FULL STEAM AHEAD!

LA Roadrunners — 11 Miles: Get Outta My Kitchen! November 1, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 11.08 miles
Time: 93:36
Pace: 8:26 mile

Yeah, that’s right: 90+ minutes of straight running. That’s hardcore and I’m awesome.

Yesterday’s LA Roadrunner run was great—not only did I hit double-digits for the first time ever, but the weather was fantastic. In addition, our pace group altered our route a bit and we ran above the gorgeous Santa Monica mountains. I really need to start bringing my camera on my Roadrunner runs.

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This doesn’t do the run route justice.

The whole week I was mentally preparing for 11 miles. This would be my longest run ever and the idea of double-digits is definitely a big psychological barrier.

During the run, I felt great the whole way. I seem always start with some slight tightness in my legs, but once I get deep into the run, I’m able to continue running without any complaints. I do feel like I need to build strength in my legs; around mile 9, my thighs were getting tired, but my energy was fine.

Some LA Roadrunners came in costume to get into the Halloween spirit. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos, but I can’t imagine running any sort of distance in a scratchy witch outfit—like some lady did!

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LA Roadrunners — The Extra Mile Karma October 18, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 9.21 miles
Time: 78:17
Pace: 8:30 mile

The day started, as always, at 6 am. I gathered all my “Runner Essentials” and threw them into my gym bag.

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I headed outside to wait for fellow runner Kekona, who was walking to my place from his new house. Not the best photo, but that’s him under the street lamp.

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We headed off to Venice and split up to meet with our pace groups. When I got into my group, the first thing our pace leader asked everyone was, “We’ve been approved by the head trainers to do 9 miles instead of 8 miles. Who wants to?” Of course, everyone groaned a little bit and looked around, waiting to see if anyone was going to object. Of course, no one wanted to be the one dissenter, so there was a silent agreement to do the 9 miles. Our pace group was called, timers were started, and there was no turning back. I think this was karma for yesterday’s extra mile.

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Luckily, of all the days to do an extra mile, it was gorgeous.

I felt pretty good during the run and didn’t have any problems. Even my endurance was okay. Like my fellow runner mentioned, physically we can do 9 miles, it’s the mental part that’s difficult. I noticed there was far less chatting during the run and I think that most of us were going to conserve our energy and focus on just finishing.

I’ll actually be missing next week’s Roadrunner meeting because I’ll be running the Nike Human Race with some friends. As much as I enjoy Roadrunners, I think this break comes at the right time: 26 consecutive Saturday runs at 7am in the morning is difficult!


Find my run log here.

LA Roadrunners: October 10, 2009 October 10, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 8.2 miles
Time: 69:42
Pace: 8:30 mile

Yawn. These 6am Saturdays are getting easier and easier. “Just get up!” is my new motto. I don’t know if it was my chiropractor appointment on Thursday, but since then I’ve been sleeping way better and I woke up this morning more energized. Love it!

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6:30 am. Where is everyone? Oh yeah: in bed.

Fellow runner Kekona couldn’t make it this week as he was out of town for a wedding, but today’s LA Roadrunner meeting seemed to be the one to miss. The parking lot was half-full and the groups were significantly smaller. My thought is that it’s a scheduled cut-back week, which means that most groups ran between 3-4 miles, and that most people decided to sleep in and run that on their own. That’s what I would’ve done. However, for my Group 3 Gone Rogue, we had 8 miles at our race pace on the schedule. Nice.

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Our route, one way. We loop around and add some distance on the tail.

Today’s run felt great, though. Much better than last week’s LA Roadrunner run of 8 miles. No left hip problems, no right thigh cramping. Just went out and ran. I did get a small pinch in my left ankle, but I was able to change my gait to stop the pain and then it went away completely. So all in all, it was a great run.

I think the improvement from last week is the result of a few things:

1. I knew the route from last week and was more mentally prepared.
2. I made sure to do all my strength and stretching exercises for the week, especially concentrating on my hip and thigh. Knowing where the problem may come from definitely helps me focus on healing and prevention.
3. I did all my mid-week runs, including hills, which helped with building strength in my legs, especially my thighs.
4. Had a better ratio of protein to carbs in my diet, which helped repair and build my muscles.
5. Added some almonds to my cooked apple and honey before the run. I think they help me be more efficient in my energy usage.

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After the run, there wasn’t much in terms of a lecture or presentation. Various charities were there, though, meeting with runners who are interested in being sponsored. I’m considering it, but haven’t made a final decision, and didn’t have the time today to stick around and talk to everyone. There will be more charities at next week’s gathering so I’ll be more active in researching a potential charity at that time.

Whew. Another week down, another…23 to go!


Find my run log here.

LA Roadrunners: October 3, 2009 October 3, 2009

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Distance: 8.2 miles
Time: 72:17
Pace: 8:49 mile

COMMENTS:
Early morning Saturdays are my friend. Yeah, right! This morning was the first time in four weeks that I thought: Okay, this is getting a little old. But, as is the name of this blog, I’m going full steam ahead and I must say waking up at 6am to run certainly beats running at 9am in 90 degree weather.


Santa Monica Blvd. at 6:30am.

Started the morning with an apple, honey, and some water, then headed out to pick up my friend Kekona. I had 8 miles on tap for today and wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it. I knew I could do it, I just didn’t want to. But, it certainly was going to be as beautiful a day as any to do 8 miles along the coast.


Gorgeous day.

The run went well and it was nice to set another personal best for distance. The trainers slowed down the pace to an aerobic pace becase they’re really emphasizing the importance of building a strong base. They also incorporated some hill work which made it more interesting than our normal runs. When running up a hill, form is important, and they taught us to pump our arms a little harder for momentum while also reducing our stride to save energy. By doing both of these, a runner will become more efficient on an incline. Runner’s World has a good article on how to tackle hills by foot.

After the hill workout, I was feeling great for most of the run, until around mile 6 when my recurring left hip problem came back. It started to tighten a little and I felt the pinching start to creep up. I did my best to do some impromptu massage during the run and that helped. I wasn’t going to let it stop me from finishing with my group, so even though it wasn’t disappearing completely, I mentally blocked it out. Then, around mile 7, my right thigh started to cramp a bit! I was like, “Oh great.” I was able to loosen it a bit by lengthening my stride and kicking my knee higher with each step. But again, I wasn’t going to let it stop me from finishing, and with a mile left, I just powered through. Luckily, when we finished, both ailments calmed down and with a little stretching and massage. I chalk it up to my body going, “What the heck are you doing to me?! Are you crazy?!”

We gathered around the lunch tables as we waited for another lecture, this time on nutrition. Banana madness was in full effect and a few Roadrunners started up some group stretching.


Weekly banana madness.


Group stretching!

Today’s lecture was on marathon nutrition. This, to me, is the most intriguing part of not just marathon training, but fitness in general. Proper nutrition is a science and I believe that many of us are unfortunately ill-informed on how to do it properly. Luckily, as a Roadrunner, we get this stuff for free!

We learned about the right balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats and how each benefits the body. We learned about recovery eating and when’s the optimal time to eat after a run. (It’s 15 minutes, ideally.) We learned what not to eat and what’s the proper way to carbo-load. There was a lot of info thrown at us and I know there’s a lot more.

So, in the end, I was glad to have gotten up early and done another Saturday with the Roadrunners. We’ll see how I feel next week…


Find my run log here.

LA Roadrunners Updated Schedule September 28, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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I got an email this morning from my pace leader, Carolyn S., who attached an updated training regimen for our pace group. Apparently, we have gone rogue and created our own schedule that was developed by our pace leaders and approved by the head trainers of LA Roadrunners. Noticeable differences include the in-week runs determined by distance, not time, and the omission of cut back weeks. A cut back week typically occurs every three weeks and is a 50% reduction in distance from the previous week. So after three weeks of running 6, 7, and 8 miles, the cut back week is 4 miles. However, I will not get the luxury of a cut back week. While the other Roadrunners will have a 3 mile run on October 10, we will be doing 8 miles. Yay…?

Follow my training either on my Run Log page or through this Google doc, which conveniently tracks my total distance run for the whole training, as well as total time run. Pretty cool. it should be noted that by the end of this training, I’ll have accumulated over 1,000 miles with my feet.

LA Roadrunners: September 26, 2009 September 26, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 7.08 miles
Time: 60:03
Pace: 8:29 mile

COMMENTS:

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Another Saturday with LA Roadrunners, another long run in the books. I keep hitting new distances and I’m still holding up. I felt really great running today and my body felt even better than it did last week. I did start getting a small side stitch just after mile 6 but was able to hold it off and finish strong with the group.

I started the morning at 5:45am and prepared my new favorite pre-run food: cooked apples and honey with a glass of water.

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I actually think this pre-run meal had a lot to do with my success today. Last week, when we did 6 miles, all I ate was half of an Apple Pie Larabar (I kept the other half for a post-run bite). I think the apple/honey combination is a much better choice. The apples provide a good source of fuel for a longer run while the honey gives me a fast-burning energy to get started. As such, I will give it my first ever Seal of Approval.

BAM!

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(apples and honey, you can thank me later for the honor.)

The run went well, despite the fact that we saw the aftermath of a woman who got hit by a car on Ocean Ave. It was not a pretty sight and I hope she’s okay.

When we returned to Westminster Elementary, all the Roadrunners gathered at the tables and waited for our weekly lecture. What’s cool about being part of the program is that beyond just being a running group, the LA Roadrunners really look to inform runners on how to train properly. These weekly lectures are part of that process and are extremely valuable to a new marathoner like myself.

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As we were waiting, the trainers and coaches handed out bananas and water so we could refuel after our runs.

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Banana madness

When we finally shuffled into the auditorium where our guest speaker, Charlie from the running store Phidippides* in Encino, spoke to us about the importance of choosing the right shoe. He mentioned that a beginning runner should definitely has his or her gait looked at by a professional, and that choosing the right shoe is part of the marathon battle. He showed us several different shoes from past runners who either supinate or over-pronate and how different areas of the shoe wore down as a result. Had they been wearing the right shoe, the results wouldn’t have been as dramatic. And, for anyone out there with running injuries, the wrong shoes could be part of the problem. I found the lecture to be very informative.

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Charlie talking about shoes

All in all, it was another successful Roadrunner Saturday. In addition to a boost in morale by running 7 miles, I met some new people—one girl who had the Vibram FiveFingers!—, learned about picking the right shoes, and discovered my new preferred pre-run meal. As the weeks past, I’m finding it’s easier and easier to get up at 5:45am and get out there and run. In fact, I dare call it…fun.


*Phidippides was the Greek figure who inspired the marathon. Read more here.

And find my run log here.

LA Roadrunners: September 19, 2009 September 20, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in LA Roadrunners.
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Distance: 6.03 miles
Time: 51:03
Pace: 8:28 mile

COMMENTS:
The second week of training with the LA Roadrunners was another success. With an experienced pace leader, I was able to complete my longest distance ever with some still left in the gas tank. Hips felt strong and loose, breathing was easy and consistent, and it didn’t feel like I was pushing myself too hard. I’m right where I want to be and the 8:30 pace is perfect.

This 6 mile run was easier than the 5.5 mile run I did on September 16. I believe there are two major factors for this:

1. Having a pace leader.
Starting a distance run too fast is detrimental; when I did my 5.5 run, my first mile was a 7:45 mile and I knew immediately I needed to slow down, but it was too late. As a result, between miles 3-5, I was too winded. Until I learn how to pace myself correctly, running behind a pace leader is very important.

2. Camraderie.
Being part of a running group is a huge mental boost. The 5.5 run was, at the time, my longest distance run and midway through, I thought to myself, “This is terrible! I am so bored. I think I’ll walk a little bit.” With the LA Roadrunners, I am mentally engaged either in conversation or competition, not wanting to walk while the others are running. Additionally, passing other LA Roadrunners groups and hearing everyone cheer everyone else on is more effective than one would think. Being part of a group that’s working toward a goal makes a difficult goal that much more achievable.

Being with the LA Roadrunners is going to make all the difference in my training.

LA Roadrunners: The First Day September 12, 2009

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Today marked the first day of 27 weeks of training with LA Roadrunners. It began at 5:30am. And yes, the sun had yet to rise.

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While my wife was fast asleep in our bed, I strapped on my running shoes, grabbed my gym bag, ate a few grapes, drank two glasses of water, and headed out the door to pickup fellow runner Kekona S. I found the drive to his house very zen: the stillness of a Saturday morning energized by the prospect of a new experience.

After picking him up, we made our way to Westminster Elementary School, the home base of LA Roadrunners. I asked Kekona if we were crazy. “Yes,” he replied. “And just wait for the 20 mile run days.”

When we arrived at the Westminster, all the fellow marathoners were lined up and registering. It felt like the first day of school, probably because we were actually at a new school, but also because we were in the company of a bunch of new faces and our emotions were a mixture of nerves and excitement.

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One notable thing is that with our registration we received an official LA Roadrunners shirt. I was happy to discover that it’s not one of those typical “free” t-shirts made by Gildan or Hanes with an ugly design. It’s a true race shirt: dry-wicking, lightweight, and visually appealing. Let’s just say I plan to wear it.

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From there, we headed into the auditorium. Head Coach and bronze medalist Rod Dixon gave an inspiring speech about setting goals and accomplishing them. He said there’s nothing quite like training for and completing a marathon, something only 1% of people do. We all cheered—I found it very spiriting to be in the same room with people who share a common goal.

After Coach Dixon rallied our energy, we broke into our pace groups. The LA Roadrunners structure the training runs by runner pace: it starts with Group 1 at 7:30 mile and goes up to Group 10, which runs a 12:15 minute mile. After that, they break the marathoners into Run/Walk groups. I must say that I love the fact that they have pace groups for every speed. It encourages people who are intimidated by running a marathon to get out there and do it in a way that is manageable.

I joined Group 3, which is the 8:30 minute mile pace and we headed to the Venice boardwalk. After brief introductions—and discovering that I was one of only three others in my group who had never completed a marathon—we were off. Our pace leader led us on a brisk 3.5 miles along the beach, which we finished in 30:13, or a pace of 8:38 per mile, calculated thanks to my handy running calculator. We did run slightly slower than our official group pace time, but our pace leader wanted us to start slow and begin building our running foundation.

So far, I’m very happy with my choice to join LA Roadrunners. It’s extremely organized, which is a huge plus for a first-time marathoner. It takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the mental and physical planning of running 26.2 miles. I know I’m going to have a lot of questions, both about race day and my own running development, and all the pace leaders and training coaches seem approachable and supportive.

With that, I’m out. Need to take a short nap before we head to the Edison tonight for birthday drinks.

Find more photos of today’s training run on the LA Marathon blog.