Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reading with the kiddos....

One of the most fabulous things I volunteer to do is read to the kids who come to the Los Angeles Public Library in Sherman Oaks on Saturday's between 1 PM and 3 PM. The program is called GAB (Grandparents and Books). Clearly, I'm not anyone's Grandmother (and frankly, I'm not in love with the title of the program) but I'm there for the kids that come in.

Sometimes, my friends bring in their kids and I love when that happens. Last year, I was able to have some of my many nieces and nephews come and read with me and that is pretty special too. But, to be honest, the kids that come with their folks that I don't know are fantastic. These kids don't know me but once they get the courage to come over it's only a few moments before they are totally into it and giggling and laughing with me. I let the kids pick the books that I read, with only a few exceptions taken out by me (I tend to not read the "poop" books). They love reading books over and for the most part, these kids, who are anywhere from 3 to 7 years of age, pretty much walk up to a shelf and take the first book they put their hands on. They really don't care what I read, just that I read.

I wrote a blog post about a time I read at the library earlier in my postings. But today I'm going back after being gone for a week (I really try not to miss Saturdays's when I'm in town) and I'm bringing my LA Marathon medal with me.

The kids make me laugh, they fill my soul and they make me think. The thing they do best is remind me that there is good in the world. Their worlds revolve around school and friends. They come from all walks of life, all income classes and reading levels.

Reading is the great equalizer though. They all come and sit together and listen. They laugh together and they pass around the muppets that I bring (I bring four muppets for them to hold if they are insecure about being in the reading circle). One of the best parts is when they share them with each other. They police themselves and pass them around so everyone gets a chance with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Fozzy Bear.

I'm not sure, to be honest, why I'm writing this. But if it moves any of you to volunteer at your local library, that is great.

Love those to them.

Today's reading day - see you at 1 PM at the Sherman Oaks Library.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Best. Run. Ever.

I don't know if you noticed, but, it rained a little bit on Sunday, March 20th. You know, that kind of sprinkle that makes you look outside and think, "wow, that's pretty, I bet it would be nice to be running in that sprinkle."

Please disregard the above paragraph as it was written by someone who clearly hasn't recovered from running in a Noah's Arc version of a torrential downpour. I ran a training run (14 miles) in the rain. I don't know that even people who live in Washington or Oregon train in that kind of rain - intentionally.

Roughly 26,000 of us (including 4 other people I know personally) voluntarily came out to Dodger Stadium at Holy-Crap-It's-Early (otherwise known as Why-am-I-up-this-early-and-not-going-on-a-vacation-early) to run the 26th running of the LA Marathon. 26,000 people, running 26.2 miles in the 26th annual event. You'd think that all of those 26th events would bode well for our run; and maybe they did.

Um, excuse me, the rain was like nothing I'd ever seen in my life. Ever. I know I'm not that old, but that was rain of epic proportions. Biblical stuff; I kept looking for a huge ark to get into (in Hollywood or West Hollywood, you might not have blinked an eye). That rain was bring-the-mountain-behind-your-house-down rain.

I'm telling you, it was damp.

Things you take for granted, you know, like pulling your running pants on and off, became an epic challenge.

But enough about the rain. Why? Because I had no hand in that. It was going to rain, or it wasn't and that was that. Let's get to the more important parts.

Best. Run. Ever.


You know, there are lots of tangible reasons it went well (and I'll get to those in a minute), but mentally, emotionally, I don't know why it went so well. Some of it is luck of the running draw. All you runners know that you have good running days and awful running days. I had an AWESOME running day yesterday. Maybe the big, whatever, decided to challenge me with a torrential downpour but gave me the best running day. Can't explain it.

But enough about the non-tangible part; let's talk about what went right:

1. The right clothing - God bless wiki clothing. Between Reebok, Adidas, whoever made my hat and shirt and my socks I was soaked to the bone but not carrying any of that water with me. I don't know where it went, but my clothing wikked it away from me. By 5 or 6 miles in, there wasn't one dry, or semi dry, part of me but the water didn't weigh me down. Glad that I had short hair (cut that over 2 years ago), I can't imagine that mess after this run.

2. The right music: I am notorious for getting bored with what I'm listening to. I haven't evolved into the type of runner who can run without music, a book or a movie (to listen to) or something. I took care to check my Marathon Music playlist, downloaded a book and a movie and was off. I figured that at minimum, I could listen to Breakfast with the Beatles for 3 of the hours if I needed to and then KPCC for the rest of the time. But the shuffle was my friend. Yesterday's run was brought to you by: Sparks, Motley Crue, The Beatles, The Jacksons, Little Caesar, The Who, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Dick Van Dyke & Julie Andrews, Prince, The Beastie Boys, Queen, The Spencer Davis Group, Van Halen, Will Smith, Oingo Boingo, Amy Winehouse, Lou Bega, Louis Armstrong, Kanye West, John Mayer, Joan Armatrading, Guns N' Roses, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Eurythmics, Elvis Costello, Dave Matthews Band, The Blues Brothers, Adam Ant, AC/DC, David & David, Donnie Iris, Dr. John, The Emotions, John Parr, Sonia Dada and Sly & The Family Stone. Evidently, the perfect music list for 26.2 miles.

3. Eating and Drinking - everyone has been yelling at me because I don't eat before or during my runs. I just never had and what was was. For this run, I heeded the advice and ate before (banana, bagel and some peanut butter and coffee) and every three miles I ate a Cliff Block. I don't know if it was the Cliff Blocks or the pre eating, but I didn't hit the wall. I drank at all the water stations but two and paid for those omissions. I began to hit the wall as soon as I skipped them (not in a row) and once I got back on the plan, I was great.

4. Didn't bring my water bottle. See above for drinking plan and besides, I would have thrown it on the side of the road AND I would have drunk too much and too often.

5. Drove the route with Queen first - That was a brilliant plan! This run was in my back yard. There wasn't a point on the route in which I didn't know exactly where I was. I grew up in many of these areas...Chinatown for Dim Sum, Downtown for theater and music and food, Hollywood for theaters and food (hmmm seeing a trend), Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Brentwood and Santa Monica are my current stomping grounds and have been for the last 42 years. Knowing the route and knowing when all those downhills were coming was terrific. I spent the 10 days before the run visualizing the run in chunks and knowing where I was running and that gave me the ability to not get ahead of myself when I was running. When I was in downtown I concentrated on my pace, my legs and getting to the 5 mile mark - out of downtown. When I was in Silverlake and the east part of Hollywood, I settled into a flat run and was very excited when I saw the beginning of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When I got into Beverly Hills (turning down Rodeo) I was amazed that I was already there! Getting out of the VA and onto San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood I knew I was on one of the last 2 streets. Queen is right; knowledge is power.

6. Trained right. I must admit, I trained correctly. I was very anal retentive about sticking to my Runner's World training plan and with the exception of one last long run (turned into 10.5 miles due to the cold I was still getting over) I did what it said. I also tapered down correctly. This includes sitting around and relaxing the day before.

7. Had the support of friends and family. When I woke up at 3 am on race day, I looked at my Facebook page and saw that so many of my friends and family had posted on my wall their wishes of good luck and a blog had been written in my honor (five songs about running) I was very touched. I felt so lucky to have the family and friends that I do.

8. Stayed realistic. I wanted to get in under 5 hours. I followed my pace band (given out at the Expo) and was ahead for 22 or 23 of the miles. I slipped at 23 because, well, my body was done and it was FREEZING (we were ocean adjacent by this point) and my feet hurt; and so my walks through the water stations got longer. I finished in 4:59:06 (that counts for under 5 hours folks). Don't get me started about the fact that I somehow, fell off the LA Marathon's monitoring grid according to the run at 20K and they show that I didn't finish - I DID!!! I'm reaching out to them to fix it.

9. Great volunteers - I would be totally remiss if I didn't thank the volunteers (thousands of them) who braved the weather to give us water, gatorade, etc. They were amazing and a HUGE thank you goes out to them.

10. Having runner parents. The fact that Queen and Big Mur are ex runners meant that they could empathize with all my training runs and with 3 completed marathons between them, they understood everything I was going through yesterday. It was a great run and even better to see them at mile 19 cheering me on and at the end with a warm car and lunch.

11. Have the best spouse ever!!! My husband Aha was tremendous. He tolerated and supported all my training runs, was there to pump me up when I was faulting and cheer me on when I had good runs. He worried when I was out on long runs until I started running with my iPhone and worried less after that. He drove me to my friend's house at 4 am so that I could get a ride to Dodger Stadium so we wouldn't have to go back to get my car at her house after. He took one for the team by sitting outside in the cold and rain (which only made his MS hellacious) and hugged and smooched me at mile 19 and at the end. He made me a sign and there were flowers and a card he made me when I got home. He got me a box of yellow Peeps and signed the card "from your #1 Peep". He sure is and I'm a lucky woman to have him in my corner. He's the best and I love him more than anything.

What an amazing run (ahem, LA Marathon peeps, get off the stick and get me recorded as having really harshes my mellow when my name isn't listed as a finisher...).

Running by all the LA landmarks, but more importantly MY landmarks: ABC Seafood - where my family has had about 1,000 dim sum lunches, the Music Center where I continue to see theater; Barnsdall Art Park - where I went on field trips with elementary school, The Capitol Records Building - a figure of my childhood, the Pantages Theater where I saw my first play with my Dad; the Beverly Wilshre (at Rodeo and Wilshire) where I, Aha and my parents went for a drink to celebrate our engagement; Brentwood and the ocean - the ocean is a significant factor in my life and Brentwood, well, that was the last 4 miles so it was fabulous.

Oh, what did I do wrong?

1. Use up all my dry days by driving around in my convertible. Sorry runners, I think I screwed that up.

Best. Run. Ever.,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Day Before the Day of...

Today is a very strange day. It's the day before I run my first ever marathon. I'm running in the 26th annual LA Marathon tomorrow.

I drove the route with Queen, who used to be a runner herself for 30+ years and felt pretty good about it. It's a lot of downhill once we leave Dodger Stadium. We head through Chinatown and around downtown, around Echo Park Lake and into Hollywood from the east side. We run down the Hollywood Walk of Fame (from Gower to Orange), down Orange to Sunset Blvd. On Sunset we run west through West Hollywood and clubs such as The Whisky and the House of Blues. From there we run past what used to be called The Bel Age and is where Aha and I got married almost 11.5 years ago. From there we run down San Vicenti Blvd and run by The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Next we run over to and down Rodeo Drive - the shopping hot spot in Los Angeles. THEN - through Century City and around the Veterans Administration and back onto San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood. Down San Vicente and onto Ocean Avenue and one half mile from there and I'm done.

Sounds easy right?

I'm not so sure.

I've spent the last 10 days or so, breaking down the route into little runs - downtown is its own run, east hollywood is its own run, hollywood is its own run, etc. I'm pretty o.k. with the little runs all adding up to a large, what-the-hell-have-I-done-run; and until now, I've not been particularly nervous.

Don't be fooled, I'm not cocky; I don't think, "Heck, I've got this in the bag" AT ALL.

It's a really tough thing to wrap my brain around. I have been resting all day. I know what I'm wearing, I'm moderately afraid that it will rain on the run. I'm hoping that all the predictions of rain late in the day leave me with a fairly dry run. But at this point, at 4:23 PM, a mere 15 hours before my run, I am starting to get anxious. I'm starting to wonder, "um, what the heck?" I'm starting to wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew. Is this a case of my eyes were bigger than my feet?

What I really don't want to do is have to tell people that I didn't finish. So you can bet your bottom whatever that I'm crossing that finish line no matter what. I hope not to be last, but let's face it, someone has to be.

I will write again on Monday when I'm back on this couch resting up from what I hope will be one of the most amazing days of my life.

I'll take all those good thoughts please,