Archive for the personal Category

From the vantage point of four days after my half-marathon in Long Beach, certain thoughts have been recurring in my mind about the run. There are always several situations in which you wish you’d performed differently, figuring that a different action would have produced a different result. I don’t really consider myself a competitive person, but my time was slower than a previous time of mine, and I’ve been thinking about why.

One concrete mistake we made that day was in arriving a little too late. By the time you get through traffic (yes, the 710 freeway to Long Beach was completely stopped at 6:30 AM on a Sunday due to the race traffic), then get a parking spot, then wait for the bathroom line, and then enter the crush, you are nowhere near the front. In our case, our times put us in Corral A, up near the front of the pack. They space runners by expected finishing time to try to keep the traffic spreading out over the length of the run, rather than compressing, or forcing runners to pass each other. But we started too far back, so we spent a lot of time (and some energy) passing other runners, or being constrained to running slower than we would have liked. You could argue that running slower saved us energy that we could use later on, but I don’t think it’s a zero-sum situation. I’d have been better off running a bit faster in the beginning, rather than shaving almost a minute off my per-mile time for the second half.

So starting the race at essentially the four minute mark meant that I would need to pass a lot of runners in front of me who intended to run more slowly.

The image that struck me the most during the run was of a man about halfway through the race. As mentioned, I was passing a great deal of people who had stared in front of me. This one man in particular was probably about 60, and he was absolutely drenched with sweat. People definitely sweat different amounts, so this wasn’t surprising – he was probably just the type to sweat more. But as I got closer, I heard him huffing and puffing. When I got a look at his face, it was clear to me that he was operating at peak capacity – really pushing himself. By comparison, this made me realize that I was, in a sense, just phoning it in. If I were to run that hard, I’d have a much better finishing time, and I’d be totally wiped. I’d also get a much better work out. But I just don’t think I have it in me to go at peak capacity like that.

As always, I could have trained more, gotten more sleep the night before, carb-loaded more carefully, etc. But I’m pretty happy with my time. And I had felt that this would be my last run for a while, but, actually, it reinvigorated me, and so I’m ready to go again.

Missed it by *That* Much

I ran the Long Beach half marathon on Sunday, and, while I did much better than my time last year, I didn’t quite get under the two hour mark. Of course, had I known I’d miss it by two seconds, I’m guessing I could have powered out a few steps to pull it off.

I always say that next time I’ll train better, or carbo load better, or get more sleep, or something. In the end, I felt like I phoned in the prep work, but I really did fine. So maybe that’s the way to go: don’t prepare at all, and just go out and run.

I also claimed this would be my last run for a while, but I had a great time running with friends, and I wasn’t totally wiped afterward, so I think I’ll go again, when the time comes. I keep dreaming of getting under 1:50, but once I calculate it out, that seems wildly impossible. So I’m content, and next time I’ll shave 10 seconds off this.

The Blog Recap – Popular Posts

Well, my fledging blog here really gets just a trickle of traffic, but I’ve been watching carefully to see what’s popular. Clearly, two posts I wrote stand out. They’ve gotten the most views, and the most (but pitifully few) comments. They are:

Superior Subscriptions and Buying Magazine Subscriptions on eBay – Seems I was a little naive here, most likely. While the idea seemed good, and many happy people did buy subscriptions on eBay, eBay shut this down soon after I posted, and even told me to try to get my money back. I did, in fact, get my money back from PayPal. I don’t yet know for sure if I did or didn’t get the magazine renewal. But in any event, enough people got scammed to lead them to my blog post to see what I had to say. Everyone was nice – but basically said I was an idiot. Seems that was pretty accurate; I’m sorry if anyone followed this advice to their peril. Then again, if anyone took the idea and did well, great! One thing I learned here is that PayPal’s protections really work – I got my money back with very, very little effort. So always pay by PayPal or credit card if possible; that way, you get some recourse in the event the situation turns unfortunate.

Infiniti G35, FX35, and Maybe Nissan 350Z Exhaust Noise – I guess whining and complaining is really what I do best, and it seems I tapped a nerve with this one. And now, these cars bug me even more. Here’s the idea: these were tuned to make tons of noise, perhaps to make it seem that the drivers of these vehicles are too cool for school. I think it’s just plain-old noise pollution. Apparently, so do many others (including, it turns out, some owners). So Nissan and Infiniti: Why not offer an option? Disturbingly noisy, or quiet? It seems crazy that you’re putting cars on the road emitting any more noise than need be. Please stop!

OK – that’s my wrap up. As I check my stats, I see that my info about Freedom Financial Partners is gaining ground here . . . 


Celadon on West Third

We went to Celadon last night. This is the newest restaurant in the space that recently housed Tahiti, then Yi. So now it’s Celadon. It’s an expensively furnished, fairly large restaurant. The location, being near the Grove, is pretty good, but it seems to be in a bit of an awkward stretch, which may account for the problems with restaurants in that location.

The menu claims to feature “Authentic Global Tapas.” I don’t really know what that means. Wouldn’t authentic tapas necessarily not be global, but just Spanish? Do they mean something like “authentic plates from around the world?” That’s probably closer to reality, although I wouldn’t claim any of these to be authentic. They are from around the world, but they have much more of a fusion quality than an authenticity about them.

A large portion of the menu, probably half, are Asian-based dishes, like noodles, rice, and dim sum. Frankly, the Asian dishes were definitely inferior to the European style dishes. Of all the Asian dishes, I think only the shrimp toast was any good. The samosas were really not good at all. The rice and noodle dishes basically had no flavor. 

They have a section of crudo, and those dishes were pretty good. They’re a bit more like innovative sashimi than they are like Italian crudo, but they were tasty, and well presented.

There were actually two standout dishes to me: the sliders and the hummus. Sliders are so often overdone hard discs of meat. These were juicy and served medium, with good bread and sauce. I was pretty surprised – I would definitely get these again if I go back. The hummus had artichoke hearts, fava beans, and fennel seeds on it. Great combination – and the bread served with it was grilled and spiced.

I’m not too sure that I’d go back. So many dishes weren’t great – I think we did about 50/50 which, with the great restaurants around here, isn’t good at all. The place was pretty empty, the music was some hip fusion nothing, the place really had no style. And it was large – it didn’t have either the comfortable small feeling, or the glamorous large feeling. Service was fine (20% gratuity added to parties of six or larger, rather than the 18% I usually see).

EDIT: Forgot about the scallops. Avoid the scallops. At least, the night we went, our two scallop dishes were NOT good. If they can’t get good scallops that day, they should 86 them from the menu . . .

We just got a letter from Freedom Financial Partners. I thought it was a routine “Do we have a new loan for you!” letter, and I tossed it. But my wife had seen it first and was worried that it said our house was in jeopardy due to a loan default.

So I fished it out of the recycling, and sure enough, she was right – the letter did say that.

OK – first, some background info on the wonderful Freedom Financial. Their website seems to be here. Note the link to the BBB. I’m really not a big fan of the BBB. As a business owner myself, I feel like they extort a yearly fee in exchange for a good review of your business. But click the Freedom Financial BBB link. Nada. No reviews. But they link there. Pathetic.

Next, the ways to contact them. On their website, they have a email address. On the letter, it’s a gmail address. For a company with a domain name and a website, this seems a bit strange. Is it operated on public computers where they need webmail?

As for physical location, their area code (724) puts them in Pennsylvania. But their BBB info puts them in Utah. Their whois info is hidden. You guys really know how to gain the trust of your customers.

Here’s the key line from the letter: If none of this is true, I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you by sending this letter. Wow. So if you’ve scared perfectly mortgage-paying homeowners into wasting their time, and possibly calling you, you’re sorry. Even in Stockton, California (with its 10% foreclosure rate – reportedly the highest in the country) you’d only be right up to 10% of the time, so you’d be wrong 90% of the time. In the rest of the country, you’d be wrong 90%+ of the time. Truly pathetic.

Freedom Financial Partners: Please! Have some personal integrity! Do the right thing here! Does scaring people into contacting you ever work?

Marinated Squid at Soot Bull Jeep

Last night I went to Soot Bull Jeep for dinner. Hadn’t been for a while. Since it was a guys-night-out, we decided to go for the marinated squid – something that our wives would have objected to.

I’ve got to say, we eat pretty much everything, but when this plate landed on the table, we were pretty shocked:

I was expecting maybe a plateful of normal-sized squids, cut open, or rings, or something similar. But this was essentially a giant squid (not too huge, but not quite related to the calamari variety). If you ever get squid leg at a Japanese restaurant, you’ve seen part of this beast. It looked like an alien creature.

Anyway, we threw it on the grill and it started to look a bit more like food. 

Finally, the waiter came over with scissors and cut it up into pieces for us. In the end, actually, it was really good!

More Marathon Thoughts

The marathon I ran has been constantly in my mind.


Here are more thoughts I’ve had:

Healthier Food During – I’ve got to figure out how to eat more fruit during the marathon, and less of the chemical energy substances. I had a banana, and that felt pretty good. I understand that many athletes want to spare their gut from having to work to get calories from the food fast, but there must be some fruits that are so close to these chemical mixtures that I could substitute oranges and bananas for GU.

Be More Competitive – If I do this again, I’d like to beat more of these people. So Oprah is the obvious candidate (she beat me by 20 seconds) but George W. is way ahead of me. I ran a half-marathon in just under two hours, so I figure I should be able to do a full one in under four, with a lot more training. In many ways, while I was able to finish this, I really didn’t train as hard as I should have, and definitely not as hard as I could have.

Deal With the Nonsense – There were several categories of people who drove me nuts during this run.

Probably the biggest group was the iPod users. I’m all for iPods, and I use an iPod when I run, generally. But iPod users have a tendency to stop running, or to slow down dramatically, when adjusting their settings. If this is necessary, fine, just pick a good spot, see if anyone is behind you, and work your way toward the side.

Like the iPod users, the cell phone callers really didn’t pay attention to their fellow marathoners. Just like in cars, these people are oblivious to the world around them. I didn’t bring a cell phone on the run – and I never do for runs. I just don’t think it’s necessary. Call me old-fashioned.

Ah, the beepers! Not pagers, but beepers, like metronomes. At first, when I heard one, I thought a truck was backing up. These are used to set people on an even pace, and to keep them running at the right speed. I use my Garmin Forerunner for this (in a very different way, of course) so I understand the need to monitor your speed and progress. But the beeping is heard by everyone in a 25 foot radius. Have you ever tried to run at your own pace, while a beeper is rhythmically beeping at a different pace? Save these gizmos for practice runs, my friends. Don’t plague the rest of us with this!

And then the walkers. Again, I’m totally with you. Walking is better than stopping. I’m happy to say that I didn’t walk, but I was on the verge several times. But when you walk, you need to get out of the middle of the pack. Move over to the side, and let the runners through. Walking in the middle of the road just makes it harder for everyone else who is still running.

As I cut off one guy at around mile 24, I realized how hard it is to take other people’s needs into account. You are so focused on the punishment your body is going through, that’s all you can think about. But I did manage to apologize to this guy for cutting him off – and he was nice enough to say something like, “Yeah, it’s amazing how everything at this point can totally piss you off, right?” He read my mind.

I Finished! 2008 Los Angeles Marathon

That was really my goal: to finish. And so I did. And I think I’ve gotten it out of my system. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime, but my guess is that it’ll be a long time, and maybe I’ll do some half-marathons every now and then.


I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the marathon along the way, many during training, and many more during the event. So here goes:

The hard part about my experiences here is that I’ve only done one marathon, so I can only speak about what I think worked – I have no control marathon to see what might have happened if I planned or ran differently. But I’m fairly sure I know what things did and didn’t help me out.

I did the carbo-starving then the carbo-loading. Hard to know if that helped, but I’m actually guessing it did. I had more energy late in the race than I typically do on longer runs. I also didn’t exercise at all the day before.

We drove to Hollywood and Highland and parked there. Then we took the subway one stop to Universal, and followed the huge, huge crowd to the starting line. I’m actually surprised to say that we crossed the starting line about three minutes after the gun. With so many people in the crowd, I would have guessed it would take ten to fifteen minutes to get across the line. But the field was pretty wide, and people really started moving as soon as they crossed.

I ran with my friend Sam, and our best move, as recommended by many, was to keep the place slow in the beginning – ideally no faster than we’d want our average to be. We were both wearing Garmin Forerunners, so we could each tell at a glance how fast we were moving. And we definitely had the temptation out of the starting line to get going fast. We kept it pretty reasonable up the first hill on Cahuenga. But coming down the hill, we had to slow down a bit. That’s hard; on a downhill early in the race, to go slow feels pretty counter-intuitive. But we did, and we think it helped. We did go faster during that part than probably any other part of the run, but slower than we could have.

The course wound through familiar territory including Hollywood and then Hancock Park. We saw some friends we knew and scored a banana. Then we turned basically south, and went under the 10 freeway. That was where I started to have my first doubts. I was sorry that I did the easy part of the run (the first part) where I knew the lay of the land; now I would be running in new terrain from here on, essentially.

That’s really what it was down there for me – new terrain. Frankly, there’s not much of a reason for me to be in that part of town ever. I’m a little surprised that they want to drag the runners through there. We have so many great parts of town to cover – the beach, Venice, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Griffith Park, etc. But maybe they need to stay in the LA city limits the whole time, or maybe they just can’t close streets in those parts of LA.

So hitting the halfway mark was pretty uneventful. I was slowly eating my GUs. And throwing the used containers on the street, along with my used water cups, and anything else I was done with. I feel pretty guilty doing that, but I do know that someone is going to come by to clean it all up behind me. Still, it’s no different than littering.

At one point, I realized that it was getting hotter, and I took off my hat. Immediately I knew I had to keep it off, so I waited until no one was beside me, and chucked it to the curb. As luck would have it, a homeless man was on the sidewalk nearby and started screaming at me for throwing it and leaving it there. This, amid the cups other runners were dropping everywhere.

On some of the streets in this part of town, the crowd thinned a bit. Really, overall, the crowd cheering us on was pretty amazing. But here in parts you’d go 50 feet with no person, and no music. In a way, it was peaceful. And then there were some boosters making the most of the quiet. I remember vividly a woman walking toward the runners down the sidewalk shouting about how hard we were working and what a great thing we were doing and how envious she was. It was really quite nice – she boosted my spirits.

Amazingly, the crowd on the sidelines and the volunteers were unbelievably supportive. They’d read your name off your bib to cheer you on, tell you that you look great, and tell you they were impressed. They really were there just to support you, and that alone is a great booster.

But the volunteers made the run work. I probably took water or gel or Gatorade or something from 30 people, all told. These people are standing there for hours with outstretched arms offering you everything from pretzels to bananas to oranges to water to candy – I even think I heard one group offering beer. Some of these people were organized by the marathon group, but many others were just out in front of their houses with bottles or water they bought. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have run this far without them.

At mile 19, nearing downtown, Sprint had runners with cell phones. So I teamed up with one, and she ran alongside me as I tried to call my wife. My brain wasn’t working too well, so I first dialed my own cell phone – and didn’t realize until I got my voicemail announcement. I did talk to my wife just as she was getting on the subway to meet me at the end.

Starting in the early 20s, with the bridge uphill over the LA river to Boyle Heights, I began to feel significantly weaker. Sam insisted that I keep replenishing my sugar, which I did, and I’m sure that helped. From about mile 21, I had a GU or something similar at least every two miles, maybe more. I went to the bathroom and I realized that I needed to drink more water, so I took a cup from every group from there on. But even so, I just began to feel totally wiped.

I don’t think I “bonked;” I think I was just getting worn down. But I pushed on, and as the miles started to hit 23 and 24, I saw the end in sight. Crossing back over the LA river had a good psychological impact; I felt like I was in the home stretch. The last few miles did drag on – partly out of anticipation, and partly out of exhaustion.

After mile 25, we saw our families and friends – a wonderful feeling! We barely even slowed (we were moving pretty slowly by this point) because we just wanted to finish. Just beyond them was the mile 26 banner. We ran past that, turned the corner, and saw the finish line. We sped up just a tiny bit and crossed.

And then I could barely walk. Stopping and starting is hard, but until you finish, you know you want to get to the end. Once you hit the end and stop, you feel like nothing can make you move again. We moved very, very slowly.

In the end, my time was 4:29:35. I’m really ecstatic that I did it in under 4:30. I didn’t really expect to, although I was hoping for it.

Next time: more preparation, with more long, long runs. If there is a next time . . .