Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Houston 2014, Sub-4!

After completing 2 Ironman training cycles over the year I wouldn't call my experience training for Houston "hard." I would like to think of it as "smart!"  I ran roughly every other day, which included a tempo run, interval workout and a long run.  All the markers were there, and I was pretty sure I could break 4....

I started off a little fast, 8:50ish for the first several miles.  There was a lot of weaving in and out as many runners in the half were running too fast, then too slow, etc.  I finally settled in and the knees began to ache at about mile 8.  I stopped for 5-10 seconds to put my velcro brace on, but immediately took it off as it seemingly made it worse.

By mile 10 my overall average pace had dropped to right around 8:55 or so - right on target.  I did, however notice that my garmin would register the mile markers well before the mile markers actually came.  This was a result of my early race zig zagging mostly.  It was about a 20 second margin at that point.

I cruised through the halfway point well, focused on keeping my pace and nutrition/salt and made it to the upper teens without issue.  While I had slowed to around a 9:05 pace or so I was still plugging away.  Even as I started to feel serious pain (in the knees, and over all) into 19 and 20 I was still able to sustain this pace.

At mile 21, however my body started to crack.  I could not push myself beneath a 9:20 pace.  And the mile markers were now well off from my garmin - perhaps a minute!  I went into crisis management mode and focused on keeping my feet moving and trying to push as much as I could without cracking (or cramping!) further.  The goal was still possible, but 1 walk break or severe cramp and it'd be over.

I kept this attitude through 22, 23 and even 24.  Those were the hardest 4 miles I've experienced...ever.  The pain was immense, but I brought my thoughts back to my father - where I was running was so significant.  And the sights were familiar - I remembered running through these same spots six years ago in my first marathon journey.

At mile 24 some jackass shouted to us all "great job everybody - you're just over 4 hour pace!"  OK, not a jackass, but this is not what I wanted to hear!  I knew he was going off gun time, not chip time, and I was pretty sure I had about 6 minutes off the gun, but I wasn't sure. (!)  But I couldn't go any harder - my body had set a ceiling on my pace and I just couldn't get it to move faster!

I vowed at mile 25 I would dig as deep as I possibly could and race it hard in.  For all I knew I was right on the line of being a few seconds over or under as I couldn't trust my garmin.  I wasn't even sure if the clock was right on the garmin, since I had a time discrepancy with it in a previous race!  So all I could do is dig deep inside myself and try to pull out something special.  This was Houston afterall.  I've wanted this for a VERY long time.

I did mile 25 in 8:31 - by far my fastest mile of the day, picking up a minute on my slowest, mile 24.  As I rounded the final corner I waved to my cheering mom and saw the finish line 300 meters away.  I covered the last bit at 8:17 pace - sprinting for every last second.

As I crossed the line I had the most underwhelming finish of my career, I had no energy to even raise my arms - I held up my little sign that I had in my pocket the whole day.  It's been on my dresser since June - and I've seen it every day.  I wasn't 100% sure I did it until my mom texted me my official finish time a few minutes later.  3:58:35.  I did do it.  By the skin of my teeth.  This was not an easy one.  I've always known the 4 hour mark is on the fringe of what my body is physically capable of.  And I've always felt I've underachieved at the marathon distance.  Now I've proven it to myself.  I am a sub-4 hour marathoner!

Despite an "average" race day I was able to muscle something special.  This one was all heart and now I can "retire" from the marathon distance a happy man.  Yes, I said it.  Marathon - there's just one race left to conquer in June - in Africa of all places, and #10. (12 if you count Ironman.) But then we're done.  Finished.  I like halfs and even 10ks, but you my friend are too long and hard on my body.  You see I want to be running as late in life as possible and I fear that if I stay with you and your brutal training I won't be able to.

Thank you, Houston.  You've given me a lot in the last 6 years.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2 Weeks till Houston v3.0

As I near my 11th marathon (9th if you don't count the Ironmans) I'm naturally becoming pretty reflective of my past and my journey in endurance sports over 6 years ago.

2013 was a great year, aside from losing my beloved pooch Henry and a few other things.  But when I decided to do Houston one last time in June, I knew the sub-4 hour mark was the goal.  It's the rock that has not been unturned for me - the elusive goal that I have not yet accomplished, yet I know I'm capable of.

I ran NYC with my dear friend and made a little video:

And I ran a 1:46:55 half marathon at Santa to Sea in Camarillo.

If my achy knee cooperates, I'll be in the 3:50s on January 19th.  I really can't wait!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Henry Chowmix (1998-2013)

While it may seem strange to some, this might resemble a (long form) obituary.

Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Henry. I was 19, and a sophomore at USC when I was walking to choir rehearsal. Noticing a small dog following me (and always looking for an excuse to ditch choir) I took him in, against dorm rules of course. My roommates panicked, and early the next morning I took the small dog I somewhat randomly called "Henry" to the LA City Dog Shelter off Crenshaw.

I couldn't stop thinking about my new friend, so against my better judgment I ventured into the somewhat sketchy neighborhood to visit on multiple occasions. On my 3rd or 4th visit a very disgruntled worker mentioned they'd be putting him down in a few days if he didn't find a home. Shocked (as they don't do that in Santa Barbara where I'm from) and panicked I called my parents and explained to them how cute this little guy was. I would adopt him, take him up North, where if they didn't want him we would put him at the Santa Barbara Humane Society. My dad and I had found a dog named Emma that previous summer - so they were quite reluctant as they already had her and a wonderful dog named Maude - they didn't want to have 3 dogs. But that door had been slightly opened and I knew I could further manipulate!

After getting him fixed I drove him up one weekend and my mom's eyes adopted him from me on site. While Henry, quite mischievous (and sometimes destructive) he won over my dad in time, and he eventually looked at my dad as his master. I was more of a brother - the one who would play rough with him on weekends when I'd come up to visit.

A year later I would meet my eventual wife, Julia. A few months into our relationship we drove up to Camarillo to meet my parents for lunch. I didn't even need to ask for them to bring my boy since he would surely wreak havoc on the house if left alone too long. As we pulled up I don't even think I made formal introductions to Julia and my mom and dad before running up to Henry and suffocating him with love.

As my relationship with Julia progressed, so did my friendship with Henry. Julia, my parents and I took him on 4 occasions to a place in the Sierras called Shaver Lake, where he had the time of his life tooling around on a patio boat, chasing ducks and playing in the water (albeit seldom going in above the knees.)

In 2005 we moved into our house. The year was filled with DIY improvements and my parents were down nearly every weekend. After much begging, my parents finally let me keep Henry for a week.

Sadly, my dad would have his stroke in early 2006. We took Henry off my mom's hands as he was a lot to handle. He's been with us ever since.

In 2007 my dad would pass and I would lean on Henry immensely. Just look at Henry and feel a little bit better. Hug on him and feel better yet. But my dad's death hit Henry hard as well. He developed a "stress spot," a small bald around near his butt that would eventually fill back in. This wasn't his only health issue - he had a cancerous tumor removed off his leg that year. He also had a major escape that summer that involved jumping THROUGH the front window. (This, after jumping the backyard fence in 2006.) Thankfully our neighbor Bob took him in as we rushed home to retrieve him. We decided to seek professional attention and started to work with a behaviorist at VCA and his anxiety issues began to improve.

We would take our first solo trip with Henry that fall on a healing trip in Yosemite. After that trip's success we took Henry on an epic adventure in 2008 - circumnavigating most of the Western USA visiting National Parks along the way. He was the ultimate traveling dog. Driving up to 10 hours a day for 4 weeks he would patiently sit in the back seat in his bed next to the cooler. He would see all of the natural wonders along our side.

In 2009 I did my first triathlon - he was there to greet me at the finish line. And in 2010, he would return to his original mama at "summer camp" with now grandma Karen and grand-dad Michael (my mom's partner) while we traveled overseas.

In 2011 we embraced our ever-present inner-cheese and threw him a "Barkmitzvah" for his 13th birthday. That same year he made another epic escape, this time opening that same front window with his paw! This time, however we had it caught on camera, depicted in our Henry video!

We often referred to him as our little "Peter Pan." We took countless trips up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, where he would make friends with my mom and Michael's dogs. Over Thanksgiving in 2012 we would take a decent hike (4 miles) in Berkeley with family. Impressive for a 14 year old dog.

We would take him to a dog friendly lodge in Yosemite that Christmas, and throw him a 15th birthday party on February 9th. (My dad gave Henry his birthday since he didn't know the exact date.)

As if a switch was flipped, he would start to develop mild arthritis that spring. And in April, his kidney values became slightly elevated - we treated only with food. We began to get him acupuncture with the wonderful Dr. Gina for the arthritis and kidneys.

Henry's walks would become shorter and slower, but he would still often be seen running around the house and barking obsessively when we returned home after an outing. He became slightly less playful overall but still major spatts of puppydom.

In August, a routine check of his abdomen by our wonderful vet Lisa Silberstein produced evidence of a tumor near his adrenal gland - cancer. After much thought we decided invasive surgery was not an option for a dog of his age and we wouldn't want to put him through that. We decided to put him on a cancer med called Paladia and hope we'd have him at least through his sweet sixteen.

As a fairly major heatwave hit, Henry's energy level declined. Also, wondering if he was experiencing side effects from the cancer meds we took him in. The findings were unexpected - his kidneys were failing. He was kept two nights and blasted with fluids in an attempt to flush the built up toxins from his system. While the creatanine number dropped slightly his lethargy was too telling.

By the time we brought Henry home this morning it was overwhelmingly obvious that it was the old boy's time. We were able to have him do his favorite thing - drink from the fountain, we fed him a steak and we cuddled for hours in his dog beg under the redwood tree in dappled shade. Both Julia, my mom and I had a tremendously difficult time saying goodbye to our little buddy today. We've all cried gallons. A testament to how much love that guy brought out of us.

Henry Chowmix. I thank you for being you, and always bringing out the best in all of us. May you be frolicking in the heavens above with papa Eric, Maude, Emma, George, Peanut and Bella. I miss you uncontrollably and know that the grieving process will not be linear. There are too many things to mention that I'll miss about my little guy, but most of all his incredibly sweet face and unique personality.

The following is an excerpt from Henry Scott Holland's "Death is Nothing" which was read yesterday at my grandmother's service yesterday by my dad's brother.

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged….One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

We will miss you, my boy. See you on the other side.

P.S. Thanks again to the staff at VCA West LA and especially Dr Lisa Silberstein, Dr Gina Kwong and also Dr Chretin and Dr Yoshimoto for their support of our dear Henry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Thoughts on Lance and Hope.

I haven't blogged much the past several years.  I've typically reserved posts lately for milestones, like races and other life events - not so much training.  But tonight, as I went on my last longer run before the NYC Marathon I decided it was time to get this off my chest.

When my mom had breast cancer in 2003 my dad was in pieces.  I remember being there for him and like to think I contributed to him holding it together as my mom went through her chemo.  The other person who helped him get through this time was none other than Lance Armstrong.  My dad wasn't the fittest guy alive.  He had slightly high cholesterol and starting riding the stationary bike before work that summer.  In July 2003 Lance was pursuing his 5th Tour title --- my dad would wake up before the sun, turn on the tour, and before he left for his day would proudly tell my mom that he "rode with Lance."  Lance was more than just an incredible athlete --- he truly represented hope for my dad.  Hope - that my mom would live out a healthy life and that the cancer and chemo wouldn't suck the life out of her permanently.

While I of course knew who Lance was - I hadn't yet discovered my passion for cycling.  I was at the beginning stage of my music career and at the time was incredibly obsessed with hockey.  But I loved that my dad had found an outlet and somebody to inspire him.  Thankfully, my mom - after long months of chemo and a double mastectomy would make a full recovery.  And now that it's been several years we can call her "cured."

In an ironic twist my dad would suffer a massive stroke on January 24, 2006.  Later that year we discovered the stroke had been caused by a Gliobastoma - an extremely aggressive brain tumor.  He died on January 14, 2007.

Later that year I found a way to deal with my grief more productively than just moping my way through life.  I found running by way of the Dean Karnazes film I was hired to score.  Even though my dad was already gone, my new running obsession was "hope" for me the same way Lance was for my dad.  After my 4th marathon in early 2009 I decided it was time to buy a bike.  It wasn't long before I started being "Lance obsessed."  I was lucky enough to do a massive charity ride with him in Los Angeles and saw him speak.  And that year I was able to see his "Comeback 2.0."  I saw him race the Tour of CA (and took the picture above!)  You could have easily called me a junkie.  He really hooked me on cycling, despite having missed the boat the first time around.

As I evolved as an endurance athlete I of course noticed the negative stigma in some circles that has surrounded Lance for years.  Whether it's doping allegations or personal ones, it's been a hot topic for some time.  But I find that this sort of attitude follows any public figure - haters are gonna hate.  I had largely written it off - Lance was a hero to me.

The allegations of doping first really heated up two years ago - right as I was training for my first Ironman.  I was troubled - but it was silly Floyd Landis making the accusations - a cyclist who was pretty easy to write off.  A year later, when Tyler Hamilton came forward, that was harder.  When it was rumored that Hincapie also came forward and testified I was pretty devastated and desperate for answers.

I bought and read the book "From Lance to Landis."  It was so one sided that it almost felt biased, but although it was incredibly troubling, I still held out hope.  I thought if there's even the slightest of possibilities that Lance is clean, I could hold out "hope."  That is after all what he's represented to me and my dad all these years.  His letter in August to USADA and his fans was convincing and heartfelt - and I somehow could see where he was coming from - I wore my Livestrong hat in defiance.  

And here we are today.  Even after 1,000 pages of USADA accusations (no, I haven't read it all) - after his sponsors running for the hills - after him leaving the charity he found - I'm still conflicted.

My brain knows Lance doped.  The evidence seems insurmountable.

He hasn't came out in anger that his tour titles will likely be formally stripped in the coming weeks, that his sponsors have left him or that he was basically forced to resign from his own charity!  All that is really left to do is confess.  He's already been labeled the "disgraced cyclist," but he can't bring himself to do it.

So he doped.  Lance Armstrong doped.  I've got to convince my heart that it's true - and that all is ok in the world.  He's human.  Even if he "bullied" other athletes as the reports suggest - we all make bad choices - at least he's used his fame to do good for the thousands of families his foundation has supported.  Hell, he supported my family just being him (well him and likely EPO) but especially because we didn't know it at the time, he provided the support we needed when we needed it.  

It does no good for me to feel "cheated" as a fan.  It was a tainted era.  And there's no justice as it seems any of the runner ups were also doped up.  It's sad that cycling went through its dark days and that we've got to have a fall guy.  But when Lance dominated the sports biggest race for 7 years, how could he not be the fall guy?  Sure, maybe he was the best doper too, but he was definitely the best cyclist.

Bryan Farhy, the leader of the Fireflies ride, summed it up for me on Facebook today "I don't care that Lance took drugs. He's done a hell of lot more good in this world than I have."  

Couldn't have said it better myself.  

So….Thanks for helping us when we needed you, Lance.  You really did make a big difference for my dad and me.

EDIT/UPDATE: Well, oh well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Making of Gorilla-Bam, my bamboo ride!

Sawing off one piece at a time:

Geometry traced, tacked together. 

Mitered joints, first wrap of hemp. 

Mock build, rear triangle way skewed....

Starting over, kinda.

DIY jig.

Tacking together again.

Epoxying the joints.

Epoxy mixed with bamboo dust.

How I made the dust. 

Tight fit.  Yay.

2nd time's a charm. 

One of 10 rolls of electrical tape. 

Some of the hemp.

The frame in it's glory.

Second build, and it rides!

Added more hemp, and gorilla face. 

Completed bike, chain.

Completed bike, BELT!  And 2 speed hub. 

Some closeups:

The gorilla carving I bought in Rwanda.

Vinyl lettering...the water cage is made by Organic Bikes.

Gates Center Track.  Made with grunts!  (Gorilla reference)

My dropout mod to accommodate the belt.  Basically an aluminum plate.  There's a small part I machined with a file (I don't have a mill!) that supports the dropout where I cut it out.

The frame I'd guess cost only about $350 to make - bamboo, hemp and epoxy.  The entire build would add another $300 or so.  I love the way it rides, except for a little too much flex on the front end.  But this isn't a long distance bike, nor a descending one.  The belt is ultra smooth and the choice of 2 gears is really nice too.  

This project was a huge undertaking.  I'd guess 60 hours or more, and a whole lot of frustration.  But perseverance is a good thing!  The other thing: not as green as you'd think....I went through a whole box of latex gloves (100 pair!) and at least 10 rolls of electrical tape!  That's a lot of waste.

And if I ever do this again, I'll likely look at getting (or making) a proper bike building jig!

Main supplies:

Bamboo: (I used Madake)
Hemp: I can't remember.  How ironic.
Epoxy: (Super CLR - Slow!)
Drivetrain, etc:

Long Hiatus

So quick recap of the last several months, I did the hardest event of my life in the Solvang Double Century in March - Harder than an Ironman IMHO.  Especially with the 30 miles of extreme headwind between miles 130 and 160.  Yikes.  Definitely a day I'd like to forget.

Since I've done very little formally, doing a lot of riding and running intermittently, interrupted by a 3 week long safari in Africa with my wife!  Made a little video here:

Next up for me is a lot of riding, as I'll be doing the Fireflies West ride in a few weeks!  It goes from SF to LA in 6 days.  Should be amazing.

After that I'll be running the world in NYC on November 4th with my good friend Rodney.

Finally, my bamboo ride is complete....look for a post on that soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Post IM 13.1s

About 6 weeks ago I had the privilege to run with my dear friend Rodney and his wife Joelle as she took on her first 13.1 at the LA Rock n' Roll.  Rodney is the guy who saved me from the top of Mount San Gorgonio 3 years back - great guy to say the least!

Anyway, I've got a free entry to this year's LA 13.1 - get in touch if you want it!  I'll be there too, going nice and slow...


About Me

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Film composer moonlighting as a runner, cyclist and triathlete