The ONLY Oscar Blogger, who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater!

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Retrospect

Where have you gone, 2012?  Welcome to the sixth installment of my yearly retrospective.  As cliche as it sounds, I can't believe how fast the years go by.  It's kinda scary.  I don't really have too many bad things to say about 2012.  Looking back on last year's piece, I may have been a bit too ambitious of where I would be.  I don't like to say I failed because I didn't, but I obviously didn't do as much I would have liked.  I went in the right direction in 2012 and that is probably the most important thing.

I got a job at LMU in February and it's nice to be working full time for the first time since 2008.  It's so nice to have financial comfort in my life.  I wouldn't say I'm very comfortable, but at least I can spoil myself every so often.  My job is whatever.  I like the people I work for, but I am very overqualified for my job.  Honestly, I don't work any where close to the 40 hours I get paid for.  I'm not complaining though.  I can't help it if I'm so efficient that I run out of things to do.  Yes, I know I'm bragging.

While I did look for more challenging endeavors, I didn't look too hard.  My independent college counseling venture took its first steps this year.  That's my main priority right now and all the free time in my full time job allows me to work on this opportunity.  I partnered up with Venice Arts to do the first "Time to Dream" presentation in October with a few of my friends from LMU.  It took about a year to set the whole thing up, so I was very happy how it turned out.  It went so well that we'll be back to do more work with them in 2013.  My friends from LMU that have helped me with this have been amazing and it's been a total team effort.  Plus, we have a few other things on our plate.  We've been talking to a high school and hopefully we can start charging people to use our services as well.  Yes, we're coming after you, residents of affluent Los Angeles communities.  My friend, Mary, and I have been working hard the last few months to try to make something happen.  As we've both been saying, "We at least have to try."

One of the biggest reasons why I am staying optimistic about this college counseling/consulting is due to my new perspective on life about thinking anything is possible.  Why?  Well, I think running two marathons has really changed me in a lot of ways.  I'll never be a fast runner or even a great one, but no one can ever take away from me that I am a marathoner.  It's cool to think that I can say I ran a marathon and I have the medals to prove it.  I never thought that would be possible.  I have a lot of great memories from running marathons and I'll never forget them.  As much as it sucks at times, crossing that finish line is indescribable.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I am running the LA Marathon again in March.

While I'm on the subject of sports, it was a frustrating year in Boston sports.  The Patriots made the Super Bowl again.  And, they lost to the Giants again.  That one definitely hurt as they probably should have won.  As I said right after the Super Bowl and I'll say it again, "Fuck the Giants!"  The Patriots once again prepare for another playoff run and good news the Giants are out of the playoffs.  On a side note, I went to my first Patriots game on January 1st, which was fun.  It was nice to be able to say I saw Tom Brady play at least once.  The Bruins failed to repeat as Stanley Cup champs as they bowed out in the first round and the Celtics lost in the eastern conference finals.  While the C's overachieved, I thought the B's really choked.  They should have at least made it out of the first round.  Sadly, that's the last game of hockey they played in 2012 as the NHL is once again in a lock out.  Hopefully, they can figure something out soon or the entire season will be canceled again.  As for the Red Sox, I'm not even going to waste my time.  It was their worst record since 1965.  They were a bunch of bums!

While I am on the topic of frustration, I can't forget about Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, The Master.  As much as I love PTA, I was underwhelmed and disappointed with his film.  I still need to see it again, but I doubt it will change my opinion much.  I am curious to see how his next film (probably Inherent Vice) will turn out.  Although, I may have to wait until 2014 or even 2015.

Obama winning re-election was one of the more positive events to happen.  Yeah the guy hasn't been perfect, but I would still rather go down with him, then ever align myself with the Republicans.  I do truly think he wants to move this country forward and I hope his second term exceeds his first in every area.  He still has the ability to be a great president.

In my free time, I continue to volunteer at Venice Arts.  I feel very fortunate that I have found an organization I can volunteer for and enjoy the work I do.  Volunteering is a great way to spend time and give back.  It's also the only time I ever get to use my filmmaking skills these days.  Yes, I left the film industry four years ago, but I never wanted to leave entirely.   I have done nothing recently and it's my fault.  I'll admit it.  Although, I would still like to do some producing or work on some projects.  My creative juices are still flowing throughout my body.  I hope I can get my hands dirty with making a movie, web series, or even a sketch next year.  I'm available and I'm willing to work for food.

The wedding bells are also starting to ring as I feel like more people I know are either getting married or engaged.  Maybe, it's my age, but I can't help thinking of myself and if I will ever get there as well.  My cousin, Andrew, got married in June.  My other cousin, Matt, got engaged in February and will get married next October.  My sister, Lori, got engaged in August and will get married August 2014.  And I can't forget about my friend, Julian, who got engaged in September.  His marriage date is to be determined.  The point is love is in the air and I need to start budgeting for weddings.  Hopefully, some of this love will enter my life, but who knows.  As Kevin Garnett famously said, "Anything is possible!"

I wanted to end with this college workshop and its prospects.  On a professional level, it's the most important thing I've done in the last year.  Arguably, the most important thing I've done in the last few years.  The goal this year was to pilot it out and see how everything went.  Now, it's time to go one step further and get serious.  That's where I am right now on this New Year's Eve.  2013 will be a make or break year for me.  It's possible this college consulting business could fail, but it's also possible it could take off.  I've got a couple ideas that will hopefully make us stand out more.  Plus, we're young and hungry.  There's no more excuses.

You only live once and I didn't get a Master's degree to be an administrative assistant.  For that reason, I'm posting this video from the late Alan Watts.  I just discovered it this year and it quickly became my favorite video of the year.  It inspires me, reminds me to dream big, and follow your passions.  It's my philosophy for 2013.

Happy New Year,

Mikey Filmmaker


Saturday, March 17, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: One Day Away

I realize that I haven't posted in a month regarding my training. In the last month, we have essentially been in taper mode. In the last three weeks of training, I've run 14 miles, 6 miles, and 6 miles. The goal has been to keep the legs fresh for the marathon, but also not completely stop training. Of course, no one wants to get injured, so we haven't been working too hard.

I never realized how much mental toughness is needed for the weeks leading up to the race. Maybe it's because it's my first time, but I've become a bit paranoid. I don't want to mess up six months of training. This last week has been especially difficult since I really don't want to do anything stupid. I've been trying to eat right (carbo load) and I haven't gone out unless I have to go to the store to buy food.

The other issue I've had is the weather tomorrow is not going to be ideal. Earlier in the week it looked like it was going to rain during the entire race. Now, it looks like it may have a couple showers, but otherwise should be fine. It's been a very unproductive work week for me as I could not stop checking the weather or not worry about the rain.

The one positive about the rain is that I ran really well in the rain a couple months ago when we did 15 miles. While every run is different, I look back to that for confidence to say I can run well if it does rain.

At the end of the day, I'm ready to run well in any condition. I feel really good going into the race and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I met with my co-worker, who happens to be a very accomplished marathoner (former world record holder, '73 Boston winner, and winner of multiple other marathons) and she told me I was going to do great. That means a lot.

The energy and the positive nature of group 8 all week has also been great. At least no one publicly is freaking out about the rain. We've all trained so hard the last six months and tomorrow is the payoff. I have no idea how it's going to feel, but I can't wait. I'm running a marathon tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

5th Annual Oscar Contest Results

The Oscars are over and it's time to finally announce the winner of the Oscar pool. We had 110 people enter, but one person managed to win the contest outright with 22 correct picks. That ties my personal record and was really incredible showing. Honestly, I did a double take when I looked at his ballot. He only missed Best Editing and Best Documentary - Feature. Congratulations to Thomas Sentina!

I have included everyone that scored at least 17 picks, which was the same amount of picks I had this year.

22 Picks
Thomas Sentina (Winner)

20 Picks
Gary Gibson
Kent Bailey

19 Picks
Beth Hartnett
Preston Nicholson
James K Chambliss
Diane Guthmann
Philip Duong

18 Picks
Dave Guthmann
Kari Granlund
Shane Slater
John C. King
Chris Miller
Denexxel Domingo
Michael Johnson
Paul Kim
Patricia Mistric

17 Picks
Tim Wisneski
Kris Smith
Jimmy Orsag
Erica Adams
Matthew Partee
Megan Miller
Ryan Fernand
Katie Gillispie
Chris Frano
Neil Lapinsky

Congratulations to Thomas. I will be in contact with him shortly. I'm unsure if he is a LAMB. He didn't break my record to win the Fandango bucks, but he did win an iTunes gift card, two AMC movie passes, and his name will be photoshopped on the golden horse's ass. He is the closest person that has come to breaking my record and that is the most correct picks anyone has had in the five years I've been running this contest. I am really impressed.

If anyone thinks there may have been a mistake with their ballot, then leave a comment on this post. I double checked the top finishers and everything looks good. If there are no problems after three days, then I will close the contest.

Here are also some statistics from the categories that were a bit of a surprise.

15/110 predicted Meryl Streep for Best Actress
22/110 predicted Girl with a Dragon Tattoo for Best Editing
13/110 predicted Hugo for Best Cinematography
18/110 predicted Hugo for Best Visual Effects
9/110 predicted Undefeated for Best Documentary - Feature

Thanks again everyone for participating. See you next year for the 6th Annual contest.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Final Oscar Predictions

I want to be honest upfront. This is the worst year I've done researching my Oscar picks since I've been writing about the Oscars on this blog. Long gone are the days of "The ONLY Oscar blogger who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater". Of course that is not to say that I know nothing. I don't care if I sound cocky or arrogant, but I probably know more than most people about the Oscars and where these races are heading. The biggest difference is I haven't been analyzing them for months.

My first thought regarding this year's Oscars is that there are a lot of categories that are close. There seems to be an obvious frontrunner, but this year really lacks locks. This year I don't feel as confident in a number of categories. I am content with my selections, but I could easily see another nominee win. Part of my problem could be my endless overthinking, but I have no idea how well I will do this year. I would also be surprised if someone breaks my record in the Oscar pool. I don't think this is the year to get more than 22 picks. Maybe, I'll be wrong.

While I continue to ramble I might as well also say that I haven't even seen most of the films this year. I usually get screeners from my friends in the film industry, but that didn't happen. I still need to see The Artist, which I'm going to try to do later tonight. We'll see if that happens. The best thing about predicting the Oscars is you don't have to see the films to know what is going to win. So without further ado, here are my preliminary picks for the 84th Academy Awards.

Best Picture: The Artist

Believe it or not, I haven't even seen this film. It's not that I don't want to, but I haven't had a chance to see it in the theater and screeners for this are difficult to find. Trust me, I've been asking my friends since this film is on the top of my list. It's going win. There really hasn't been an exciting Best Picture race since The Departed and Babel were going head to head in 2006. At least that is the last Best Picture race that I incorrectly predicted. Hugo could maybe pull an upset, but that seems unlikely and nothing else is going to give The Artist a problem. Who would have ever thought the Academy would award a black and white silent film its top prize in 2012?

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

I love this guy's last name. It just sounds bad ass. The French auteur is in the frontrunner. He has the DGA, which all but guarantees his win. This would be closer if Scorsese was still looking for his first Oscar. It would be fun to see Malick win, but I don't think there is enough love for Tree of Life.

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

I was sticking with Clooney, but after the SAG awards I have to switch to Dujardin. I know I just wrote this about Scorsese, but I feel the same for Clooney. If he was still looking for his first I think he would be a much more serious contender. I wouldn't be shocked if he won, but there seems to be a genuine love for The Artist. Actors make up the largest voting branch of the Academy, picked Dujardin over Clooney. You have to think repeat on Sunday.

Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help

Viola Davis put her name on the Oscar map a couple years ago for her brief, yet powerful performance in Doubt. Now, she has her chance to win an Oscar. She has done well in the precursors that it just makes sense. My only concern is Meryl Streep. Believe it or not, the woman has not won at the Oscars since Sophie's Choice in 1982. You got to think they are going to give her another one at some point. I just don't think it will be this year.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

This is just a classic Oscar role and Plummer has been winning everything. I think this is the easiest acting category all night. If he wins, then Plummer will be the oldest acting winner ever.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Like Plummer, Spencer has been on cruise control and looks like a lock. She could split The Help vote with Jessica Chastain, but I don't see it this year. Sometimes I think the split theory is misleading.

Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

Everyone loves Woody even though he never shows up. That could hurt him, but I think he's going to win it this year. The field is weak. The Artist could win, but I don't think members are going to vote for a silent film.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Here's a chance for the Academy to give some love to this film. I love Alexander Payne and he could become a two time Oscar screenwriting winner (won for Sideways in 2004). Also, if this wins, then Dean Pelton from Community would also win an Oscar. That would be really funny.

Best Animated Feature: Rango

No Pixar movie is nominated, so a non Pixar film will win this for the first time since Happy Feet in 2006. That year it defeated Cars. The Academy just doesn't like the Cars franchise even though its merchandising is incredibly profitable. Anyway, Rango like the obvious choice. I never even heard half of the films in this category. I figured maybe Tintin would have been awarded here, but that didn't even get nominated either. It's been a weird year for this category.

Best Art Direction: Hugo

I do think the Academy will give Hugo some awards, so this is one place where they can do that. The Academy never really embraced Harry Potter. War Horse just never picked up any steam and I can't see The Artist winning this category. I do think this is where the black and white will hurt it.

Best Cinematography: Tree of Life

I feel like this is a trap pick. Lubezki should have already won an Oscar for Children of Men in 2006. He was upset when the Academy went for Pan's Labyrinth. I'm sticking with this pick since Tree of Life may get a little love and this is the only place to do it. Plus, Lubezki has done well in the precursors. I just won't be surprised if I don't hear his name. The alternative could be Hugo or maybe The Artist. I can't convince myself to pick either one, so I'm sticking with Tree of Life.

Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre

Last year I got this category wrong with The King's Speech. I tried to convinced myself that the Academy would award a good film in this category. Look at the recent history of this category and some mediocre films have won here recently. They are all period pieces, so that is what they look at when voting. That leads me to this film. I wouldn't be surprised if The Artist or Hugo wins, but I can't bring myself to make the pick especially after the recent history. The last Best Picture nominee to win this award was The Aviator in 2004.

Best Documentary - Feature: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

The best documentary I saw all year, How to Die in Oregon, wasn't nominated this year since I don't believe it qualified. I saw it at Sundance for its world premiere and I highly recommend it. Anyway, I have no idea what is going to win here. This is one of the five categories where members need to attend special screenings to even vote in this category (Doc - Short Subject, Foreign Language, Animated Short, and Live Action Short are the others). That is part of the reason why people never really know how this will go. I heard from a friend that Undefeated was really good, but I have heard more buzz on Paradise Lost 3. That is why I'm going with it.

Best Documentary - Short Subject: Saving Face

The synopsis of this film seems the most powerful and engaging. It is about a Pakistani plastic surgeon who performs face reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. Really any of these films could win. I'm sure they are all great, so consider it a crapshoot.

Best Film Editing: The Artist

When in doubt, pick the Best Picture winner to win this category. Nothing really stands out to me, so that is my logic behind this pick.

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

I haven't seen this film, but everyone loves it. There have been upsets in this category in the past. Pan's Labyrinth and Amelie lost here. I have been a little lucky with this category in the past. Yes, I picked Departures a couple years ago, which helped me win a lot of Oscar pools that year. The reason why I'm sticking with this film is there seems to be enough support. A Separation was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The alternate seems to be In Darkness, but I haven't heard enough buzz to change my mind.

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

All three of the nominees here don't really impress me that much. I'm going with making Meryl Streep like Margaret Thatcher. Maybe Harry Potter steals one here.

Best Original Score: The Artist

This has to win here, right? It just makes sense since the music is so important in a film without dialogue.

Best Original Song: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets

Flip a coin. I'm going with The Muppets since I think it would be fun to give it an Oscar. This category is somewhat of a joke this year. I think the Academy may have to look at their nominating process for Best Original Song. At least nominate three songs. Two nominees looks stupid.

Best Short - Animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris

I'm just picking the film with the longest title. I'm kidding. I have heard this is a really well done short and it seems to be the popular choice. The alternate may be La Luna, but history has not been kind to Pixar in this category. I have no idea why, but it seems to never win.

Best Short - Live Action: Tuba Atlantic

I have no idea about this category. I haven't heard of one film being the popular choice. It is all over the map. I am going with this film since I like the title and the film is from Norway. I'm hoping it will stand out and sneak in for the win.

Best Sound Editing: Hugo

I could see the sound categories going Hugo for both, War Horse for both, or it could split. I would rather just pick the same film for both and attempt to get at least one category right. You never know what is going to happen. I feel like this is another chance for the Academy to give Hugo some love. The upset would be if Transformers won, but as we learned 2007 the Academy doesn't like Transformers.

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

To keep with my strategy of going for the same film for both sound categories, I'm sticking with Hugo here. It makes sense and I would rather go all in with Hugo than War Horse.

Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This deserves to win, but will it? Hugo could win here, but I think they will go for those dirty apes. Plus, everyone loves Andy Serkis and all the great work he does.

There you have it. My final predictions for the 84th Academy Awards. I'll try to post some reaction to the results and thoughts on the show a day or two after the Oscars. I'm having my annual Oscar party, so I may have to rewatch the show again. We drink a lot of wine and it's loud, so I miss a lot. I do think the show will be better than last year's and I'm curious how well Billy Crystal will be. I don't think he'll be the savior some people expect, but he's reliable. Overall, it should be a fun night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Half Way There

February 18, 2012 - 13.1 miles (Marathon Race Pace)
This was technically a cut back week, but it didn't feel like it. Part of that reason was that this was a marathon race pace run, so we were running miles a minute faster than usual. For my pace group that means we were running 11 minutes a mile. After last week, I definitely was excited to see how my body would respond and how well I would run.

Overall, I felt pretty good on the run. Blisters are still driving me crazy, but I've somewhat accepted that is part of running long distances. I've got a hot spot right now on the bottom of my right foot. I'm also starting to really not like running in the median on San Vicente. The roots are killing my ankles. I have weak ankles to begin with, but I'm always nervous I may slip and hurt myself. That would be horrible, so I'm very careful during that part of the run. That is what made last week interesting since we were running faster than usual. It made that part of the run a little more challenging.

While one minute faster is a big difference, I didn't notice as much as I thought. The key is not looking at my Garmin every two minutes. It's a bad habit. My legs held up pretty well and I definitely thought like I had something left in the tank at the end of 13.1 miles. In the back of my mind I'm a little nervous since I know that on Marathon Sunday I need to keep this pace for another 13.1 miles. I need to do everything I can to stick with the group for as long as possible.

Next week is the last big run of training before we taper in the weeks leading up to the marathon. It's unbelievable to think, but it is less than a month away. The time has really flown. It's exciting and scary at the same time, but I feel like I'm ready. At this point, there is really no backing down.

Until next week... 16 miles...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Without Limits

My apologies for not updating the last few weeks. It's been a crazy couple weeks. Let me try to get caught up in one post.

January 28, 2012 - Water Station (13 miles marathon race pace)
I actually didn't run this day. I ran 8 miles on Friday with a friend and didn't want to overwork my body. I figured I would come out and support my pace group and the other runners, so I worked a water station. Besides waking up a little earlier than I normally do on Saturdays, it was a lot of fun. The water station was run by Alan, who happens to have a wealth of knowledge and experience. In the future, I will definitely consider volunteering again if I need another Saturday off.

February 4, 2012 - 10 miles
It was back to work this day as I headed to Dodger Stadium for hill training. We ran in the neighborhood near the stadium and did three loops. It was a nice change of scenery and it was nice to focus on running hills. Venice is pretty flat, so it's important to get in those miles on hills.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but by the third loop I was started to get a little more exhausted. We were actually running the flat areas at aerobic pace, but running the hills at MRP (marathon race pace). We won't be doing that on the day of the marathon, but the goal was to attack the hills.

February 11, 2012 - 20 miles
This was the run on the calendar that no one was really looking forward to. 20 miles is a big distance and I knew I was going to be running for over four hours. That's a long time. I also didn't really have the greatest week of training, so I had no idea how well I would really do. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I mentally came into this run really confident. Why not? I have to run 26.2 miles in a month. I can't be afraid of running 20 miles.

One of my favorite moments of LA Roadrunners happened before the run. Coach Rod Dixon brought everyone together (a couple hundred people) and was carrying this big American flag. Then, one of the pace leaders sang the national anthem while Coach Dixon held out the flag. I know it was just a training run, but it was really cool and really special. I'm not even that patriotic, but I was pumped after that. Hearing the anthem before going out to participate in an athletic event is a great motivator.

I wasn't really planning on it, but I ran at the front for the first time in a month or so. It felt like no one wanted to be in the front, so I jumped at the opportunity. Plus, I was wearing a shirt with Steve Prefontaine's face on it. That guy always ran in the front, so part of me felt like I had no other choice.

I'm not sure if it was due to the fact that I've been training since September or if I'm just more confident, but I had a really good run. I experienced very little difficulty. We ran at aerobic pace (12 minute miles). I did experience a few times when I felt a little tired, so I took a couple energy gels. I have been mostly using the GU brand and the chocolate and vanilla flavors. They work well when I need that extra boost. I don't know if it's possible to run 20 miles without some energy supplement.

Running for four hours was also not as bad as I thought. Running in a group is definitely helpful. We can each other company and we occasionally entertain one another. I may have written this in a previous post, but I hate running by myself. I don't think I could run a marathon unless I was training with a group of people.

The best part of the 20 mile run was I felt like I still had stuff left in my tank. I could have kept going and that felt great. I wasn't the only one that said that either, so I guess that is a testament to this training program working. They say the marathon is two parts. The first 20 miles and the last 10k (6.2). The second part is supposedly all mental, so I think I have the physical toughness to get to 20, then have my mental toughness carry me the rest of the way.

After the run, Roadrunners provided ice baths for runners. They filled large trash barrels with ice water and people stepped in them. It was really cold, but actually felt really good on my legs. I was starting to feel a little sore after finishing the 20 miles, but this definitely helped. My legs actually felt great the rest of Saturday and I experienced very little soreness or pain in the following days. I almost want to take ice baths after every run. They really work.

Now, with the 20 mile run done, I am really in the home stretch. There's about a month of training left. I can't believe how quickly the time has come and gone. We are going to start to taper soon, but there's still a couple big runs coming up in the next few weeks. It's crazy. It will be March 18th before I know it.

Until next week... 13 miles...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Singin' In The Rain

January 21, 2012 - 15 miles
I'm not going to lie. I almost didn't go on this run. Why? It was raining. I have never run in the rain before and I was a little nervous. I didn't think I was prepared and I didn't want to get sick. There were a few times after I woke up when I tried to convince myself that I shouldn't run. Another added reason is that I am starting a new job in two weeks and I don't want to get sick before I start. This time last year I got the flu, then I managed to get bronchitis. It was a rough month for me. I didn't want it to happen two years in a row. After thinking it over, I decided to go anyway and I was swearing at myself the whole drive down.

The oddest part of this whole situation was that I had a great week of training. I felt pretty strong the entire week, so I was excited for this run. Then, I realized on Thursday that it may rain on Saturday and my confidence began to dwindle. Mental toughness is a really interesting aspect of training for a marathon. I still question whether I am mentally tough enough. I can't speak for other people in my pace group, but a lot of people weren't there. They probably were scared of the rain. Running in the rain is not fun, but I figured it would be good for myself to see if I could do it.

I soon realized that I probably was not properly equiped for the run. I wore a trash bag, but my other parts of my body were already soaked after just walking to the starting point on the Venice boardwalk. It was miserable and I was hoping Roadrunners would shorten the run. That was not the case. We were doing 15 miles. The route was a little different this week since the usual route is a lot of dirt roads and they were muddy. We ran mostly on cement and stuck to roads through the Marina. It didn't even take a mile for my shoes to be soaked. We tried to avoid puddles, but it was no use. After a while, most of us didn't even care. We just ran through puddles while the rain crashed into our faces.

It wasn't a torrential downpour, but it was a steady rain for at least the first 10K (6.2 miles). Last year it ran the entire LA marathon, so I have to be prepared it could happen on marathon day. It's probably unlikely to happen two years in a row, but never say never. After a while, running in the rain didn't even matter anymore. We were all wet and I actually got used to the rain. I think it helped that I was constantly moving, so I never really got too cold either. I don't really remember when it happened, but it actually stopped raining. My pace group continued on in our wet clothes for the rest of the way. By the end of the run, it actually started to warm up a little. It was a really weird day for weather. I guess that's California for you.

As the run went on and the miles increased, I actually felt really good. It was at that point that I realized that while weather elements can mess with your head, if you train hard nothing will stop you. It was probably the first time after we ran at least 13 miles that I felt like I had a lot left in the tank. I had this attitude like, "Fuck this rain. I'm running my ass off." When I finished the run, it was a great feeling. I can now cross off running in the rain off my bucket list.

My shoes are in bad shape, but I need to get a new pair. I was planning on going to the running store next week and I think that is part of the reason why I'm having some problems with blisters. It's just my left foot, too. Blisters are gross and I hate popping them when I get home. It doesn't hurt, but I hate doing it. Sorry for being gross, but I want to share everything. I also had a minor problem with chafing this week as I think the rain took off the Body Glide because I could feel the friction for the first time on my chest. I didn't have any problems, but I was starting to get a little worried that I was going to have some bleeding. Again, sorry for being gross.

When I was driving home after the run, I realized something. Championship teams in professional sports often have games or moments that define their season. They look back and say this was when we knew we could win it all. This is when everything came together. I think I had that moment when I ran the 15 miles in the rain. I figured I would have that moment with my 20 mile run, but I don't think you can script stuff like this. I'm going to remember this run for a long time even after the LA Marathon has come and gone. It gave me mental and physical toughness I didn't have before and it's something I'm going to need when I run the 26.2 miles on March 18th.

Until next week… 13 miles...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Getting Back on Track

Last September I began training to run the Los Angeles Marathon. It will be my first marathon. The race is not until March 18, 2012, but training for any marathon takes a lot of time and dedication. I probably should have started to write about this experience when I started to train. The marathon is now a little over two months away. I figured now would be a good time to write about what it is like to train for this race and the physical and mental challenges associated with trying to run a marathon. Not only that, but also why I'm even running it in the first place. I'm hoping that if anyone reads this it can possibly give them the confidence to take on this challenge.

Why am I running a marathon?
The first thing almost anyone says to me when I tell them I'm running a marathon is, "Why would you want to do that?" or a more blunt response, "Are you crazy?" It has such a negative vibe to it. It's like physical activity is shamed upon. I have become somewhat sick of answering these questions. Here's a longer version of the answer to why I'm running a marathon.

My dream to run a marathon really can be traced all the way back to when I was a young kid growing up in a suburb outside of Boston (Peabody, MA). The Boston Marathon is kind of a big deal. It takes place on Patriots Day, which is a Monday in April. It is a state holiday that commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which is the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Anyway, I didn't have to go to school that day, so from a very early age I spent the entire day watching the Boston Marathon.

My first marathon memory was 1994 (I was 9 years old) when Cosmas Ndeti won a very close race against Andres Espinoza. I just remember Ndeti kept looking back at Espinoza trying to hold him off at the last mile. It was one of the most exciting marathon finishes that I ever saw. Ndeti won his second straight marathon that year. He would win the next year as well making him a three time champion. Ndeti was my favorite. He came out of nowhere to become somewhat of a Boston legend during the early 90s. He was only in his early 20s when he won his three Boston races. I remember being devastated when Ndeti fell short of his fourth straight win. He went for a world record in the 100th running of the Boston Marathon in 1996 and finished 3rd. He was actually known for running in the back of the pack and making his move at Heartbreak Hill. He was a great hill runner. That year he decided to lead from the start and simply ran out of gas. He fell off the map after that and I don't know whatever happened to him.

You may be asking why am I telling this story about Cosmas Ndeti? I became fascinated with the Boston Marathon due to him. Every year after Ndeti's demise, I continued to watch with great interest. Part of me hoping Ndeti would make his triumphant return. Another part of me waiting to see who would capture my imagination by running an incredible race. I would spend my entire Patriots Day glued to the television set watching thousands of people run Boston. I would listen to the analysis and I became mesmerized at what all these people were doing. Regular people were running this race, too. Many of them crossed the finish line long after the elites. It didn't matter. They did something many people consider impossible or crazy. Running 26.2 miles. If someone could run a marathon they could do anything.

Flash forward to 2011 and I am now living in California. I haven't watched the Boston Marathon in years (Even though if I did, it would be the edited ESPN coverage, which sucks). I more or less have become a lazy person and I started to realize that I was in horrible shape. I wouldn't have called myself fat, but I definitely wasn't impressing anyone with my physical shape. It's one of those things you don't realize until you see a few pictures of yourself. Inside my head, I realized that I needed to do something. At 25 years old (days before my 26th birthday), I made a radical decision to join a gym.

After a month of working out at the gym I started to feel much better about myself. I was running at the gym and I figured if I'm going to get in shape I should do something. I've always been the type of person that likes to take on crazy challenges and I couldn't help but think about a marathon. Let me clear that I wanted to run in Boston and that is still a long term goal. Unfortunately, I need to qualify or fundraise for Boston, so that was not a realistic goal right now. I set my sights on LA instead. I decided that if I could continue to work out consistently until the end of August, then I would sign up and run LA.

Flash forward to the end of August. I'm still working out consistently. I signed up to run the Los Angeles Marathon and joined the training program, Los Angeles Roadrunners. The LA Roadrunners is a couch to the finish line program that starts after Labor Day and runs all the way through the marathon. They meet every Saturday morning, so I also effectively kissed my Friday nights goodbye. It was time to get serious. I officially started to train for the LA Marathon.

September - December
The LA Roadrunner program started on September 10th, which was just an expo. The first run was the following week. Determining my pace group was something I was having difficulty with as I never ran a marathon before or any distance longer than 5 miles. I wanted to finish around five hours, so that would equal around a 11 1/2 minute or less mile. I was also debating whether I would run the entire distance or run/walk. It was during the expo that I met a pace leader (Mitch) who convinced me to try to run the entire marathon.

That was the first example of why I love the Roadrunner program. It is very supportive and positive. Right away I felt like I belonged there and everyone wanted me to succeed. In return, I wanted to see everyone else do the same. It creates a really positive environment.

After thinking about what I was going to do, I joined running pace group 8 (11 minute mile race pace/12 minute mile aerobic pace). The first run was a three miles and the rest is history. I have run in group 8 the entire time. The first four months of training went relatively smooth. I experienced no injuries. I felt good after every run. Sometimes I was a little sore or a little tired, but nothing to be overly concerned about. I have also met some great people, which is always an added bonus. My running partner for most of the training so far has been Jenny, but I've also had fun meeting a number of cool people. The pace leaders of Cathy, John, Mitch, and Wendy are both awesome and knowledgable. I have actually had a lot of fun running. I was definitely tired since I had to wake up early, but once I got to the site in Venice I was alive. I think my adrenaline kicked in.

My last run with the group before the holiday break was 15 miles on December 10th (I missed the 16 mile run on December 17th). That was definitely the toughest run of the training so far, but I still felt pretty good after the run. The big challenge for me was going to be training for a couple weeks in Massachusetts as I went home to visit my family. It did not go as planned for a couple reasons. I hate running alone. The weather was cold. Running was also just not on my mind as I like to relax when I'm home. I did run a few times, but I was unsure how I would do when I got back to training with the Roadrunners in January.

Here's a few more things I learned/observed through the first four months of training.

- Running a half marathon or less is definitely not that scary anymore. I feel like anything over the half marathon is when things get much tougher. Maybe it's mental, but I treat any run over 13 miles much more serious.

- Knowing your body is so important. It's funny how different gels react differently to different people. Even drinking water is interesting. Knowing how much to drink is essential. Before I started to train, I always thought the more water, the better. That is not the case. Eating and drinking something before a run is also important. It's just about eating the right thing as the worst thing is having an upset stomach.

- Speaking of upset stomach, I can't believe how many guys have to take a shit in the morning before a run. There's always a line for the boys' room. It's actually kind of comical. I'll admit, I'll been in that line twice and it wasn't fun.

- Chafing sucks. I haven't experienced it too much, but there have been a few times on the longer runs when my thighs chafed. It hurt. I bought Body Glide, which is helpful and highly recommended.

- Same can be said for blisters. I have experienced them on my feet and it's kind of gross.

- Stretch. So many people forget and as we say in Roadrunners, if you don't have time for stretching, you don't have time for running.

January 7, 2012 - 16 miles
This was the run that made me want to start writing about my experiences training for the marathon. I didn't run that much for three weeks while I was in Massachusetts. I only ran a handful of times. I thought it would be beneficial to rest my body, but I could feel it on this day. It was the hardest run of my life. It was actually the first time in training when I really struggled. Mentally it was tough on me as I started to have doubts whether I could really run a marathon. I know it is only one run, but it is still tough to have a bad run. The marathon is a little over two months away. It's time to not really mess around. It was a good reality check.

After about mile 4 I knew I was going to be in trouble. I was checking my watch already, which is always a bad sign that early. As we started up San Vicente, which is uphill I started to think I wouldn't make it. I took a GU, but it was not enough. My body reacted as if it hadn't run very much in the last three weeks and was pissed off. Every water station and chance I got to take a bit of a breather was essential. Even downhill on San Vicente was tough, which is unusual. I always run in the front and I fell to the back to the pack on the downhill.

I tried to fight through the pain as much as possible, but I still was unsure if I would finish. Our pace group actually lost a few people along the way, so I wasn't alone. My legs were so tired that I made a decision to pull up around mile 15. I finished the run, but I did a walk/run for the last mile. I literally had nothing left and I didn't want to pass out. When I got back to the Roadrunner headquarters at the school I drank a lot of liquids and ate a banana.

I didn't feel good the rest of the weekend. I iced my legs on Saturday, but my quads were killing me on Saturday and Sunday. They felt the worst since I've been training. I learned a good lesson that training for the marathon is no joke. It's hard and you need to take it serious. I heard a lot of people in different pace groups had tough runs since it was the first one after the two week holiday. I know I wasn't the only one, but I still was mad at myself. I know I had something to prove to myself the following week.

January 14, 2012 - 12 miles
I started to get back into my workout regimen that had for the first four months of training for the marathon. I was somewhat of a man on a mission before this run. Although, I ran into an unexpected complication. As stated earlier, my quads were sore for two days. They felt better on Monday, so I worked out. I did my usual strength training, which includes a couple different leg machines. I did some squats and I think I must have aggravated my left knee. The next day, my left knee started to bother me for the next couple days. I finally started to feel better on Thursday, so I tested it out with a three mile run. I felt good and my knee experienced no issues.

I ran really well on Saturday. It was a good bounce back run. I was a little nervous before the run since I struggled the previous week. I didn't want to have two bad runs in a row. We ran around a 12 minute pace. When we went downhill we picked it up, but took our time on more uphill sections. I felt good after the run as well. My left ankle was a little sore, but that is normal for me. I have weak ankles and my left one gives me more problems. I also had a little blister on my left foot, which sucked. That is one issue I've had a few times and I'm not sure if it's my shoes or running form. I got my shoes fitted, so I'm not sure. I'm planning of buying another pair before the marathon, so I may go with another brand. Right now I'm running with Asics GT 2160.

The best part about running 12 miles is group has run this distance a number of times, so it is not that intimidating anymore. Next week we are back to 15 miles, so I'm hoping I can keep it going. I need to get in another good week of training. I am almost two months away from the LA Marathon.

Until next week… 15 miles...