Monday, October 31, 2011

From Shoes to Tunes

Hi all -

My friend, Ron Longo, and I return to the Podcast microphones to chat about the magical film music from John Williams.  Lito Velsaco joins us to talk Williams, Indiana Jones and scary movies in our Halloween special.

Please take a listen.

Also available via iTunes.  Search on IndyCast or The ForceCast.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

CrossFIT and why you should try it

Just a quick post to end the weekend inspired by being the subject of a blog entry by my CrossFIT Malibu gym this past week.  Here's the link:

A bunch of CF regulars this past September

If you do not know what CrossFIT entails, then I urge you to research your area and try the entry level course.  In short, CF focuses on total fitness.  Core, strength, flexibility, stamina, burst power and sustainable energy.  Think of the most well rounded athlete you know, and you have the idea.

I'm fairly fit, but frankly mostly in one dimension - I do massive amounts of cardio work.  Ultimately, marathon running is intense aerobic activity.  You try to find a comfort zone.  When I'm comfortable doing a CF workout, something is wrong.

For over two years, I've been endeavoring to attend CF at least once per week.  This falls off during marathon races, but I try to get there twice per week during standard training.  We do everything from the obvious like pull ups and push ups to lifting, sprints, rowing, rope climbing, burpees, wall balls and more.  The workout typically covers about 30 minutes of technique or warm up or setting a PR for some activity.  Then a timed workout follows covering 3 to 4 different exercises.  The routines change daily.

Mike Anderson, who I have known for 3 years, opened CrossFit Malibu in September 2009.  It's a family/friendly affair with the focus on community and mutual support. for more info.  And if you don't live in this area, I am sure you will find a gym near where you reside.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Continent 7: The LA Marathon (South American Version)

Los Ángeles, Chile, October 16, 2011
The organizers,, do not actually call their mid-October running festival the LA Marathon.  But oh I wish they did.  Because how better to end my quest for 7 continents by running a LA Marathon having run the California version for my first marathon (and thus initial continent).

No, instead they label it based on the river that bisects the central growing region from the lake district.  The Rio Bío Bío lends its name to the Marathón del Bío Bío running festival.  Or as the director Rodrigo Salas stressed at the briefing and pasta dinner:  The INTERNATIONAL Marathón del Bío Bío for a handful of us were competitors from outside of Chile.  They even interviewed me twice for their video of the event and wanted to know why I had come all the way to LA Chile.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Continent 6: Antarctica: Return Doubtful?

(Click here to begin at the start of this 7 days to 7 continent series.)

King George Island, Antarctica, February 2011
What motivated me to start this blog?  Last month, 500 pages were viewed.  Certainly, the Google engineers do not sweat when I post a new entry.  Yet, capturing my thoughts and feelings, and hopefully entertaining and inspiring others, draws me onward.

I actually tried to start a training blog a few years ago, but I found neither the interest nor the time.  As I approached continent 6 - Antarctica - this past February, I knew I must start again.  My friends over at the invited me to write about the journey as well as be their inaugural adventure log contributor.  So, I already had a commitment to capture some amount of what I saw and experienced in words.  Armed additionally with my trusty Nikon, I ensured that I would go to Antarctica and try to bring back some part of that adventure.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Continent 5: Africa: But the others wait in Casablanca... and wait... and wait... and wait

(Click here to start at the beginning of this blog series on running 7 continents.)

Rick: I never make plans that far ahead. 
  - Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca

Casablanca, Morocco, October 2010
After an amazing 2010 summer of running, I felt I could tackle another marathon which would be my fourth in the year.  Besides the excellent August Adelaide race, I also set a PR in the 5k (19:21) and the half-marathon (1:29:43).  And to stay on schedule to finish the 7 continent goal in 2011, I really needed to complete continent 5 in 2010.  Leaving 3 to the next would be too risky.

So, I started to scan the calendar.  Since I was already working with two developers in England, Africa seemed the logical destination as I could work that into a trip to Europe.  Originally, I wanted to run in South Africa, but given a few recent events of people I knew getting mugged, that was off the table.  Then I stumbled on the Casablanca Marathon.  Only in its third year, the location and short flight from the UK (3 hours) made it the perfect weekend excursion from London.  I always had wanted to say I've been to Morocco, and while Casablanca wasn't reputed to be the best of the cities there, everything else seemed right.  Plus, Casablanca is Casablanca.

Don't believe what you hear in the movies.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Continent 4: The Australian Bight: Running Upwind Down Under

Click here to go to the start of this sereis:  7 days to 7

Adelaide Australia, August 2010
When I commenced the 7 continent quest, I set a goal of 2011 for finishing.  Maybe because I knew this would be a year of big events (Justin's graduation, Rebecca's 50th, a contract year at work).  But more, I just tried to guess a timeframe.  In fact, being at 3 continents in June 2009, I thought that 2010 might even see the completion of this nutty goal.  One thing that changed that plan was that the Antarctica trip had to move to 2011 due to logistics and revisions to the rules about tourism there.

But more importantly, I had to deal with my one major injury to date.  One aspect I love about running is that part of the skill is dealing with adverse conditions.  Often these are external:  Too hot; too cold; too windy; too flat; too hilly; too rainy; too sunny.  But how your body feels determines how you will run. Off days happen, and you just cannot push harder than your body will tolerate.  Perhaps shorter races can allow for that, but a long run cannot survive a balky body at top performance.

My main injury hit me in September 2008 but I didn't slow down enough, and it really got bad during the 2008 NYC Marathon.  And while I finished in sub 3:45, I was on pace for a 3:30 before I strained a muscle in my lower right leg.  I then took a month off and came back for Boston and Tromsø in April and June 2009.  But I knew I needed more time to heal, so I only ran shorter races until March 2010's LA Marathon.  Running that in less than 3:40 - my best time since Nagano - gave me the confidence to rev up the 7 continent plan.  I figured on doing 2 more in 2010 and 2 (including Antarctica) in 2011.

So, off I went to find a small Australia or New Zealand marathon (to count for "Oceana").  I picked Adelaide both for its time and that I could combine it with a planned business trip to Australia by extending for a few more days.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Continent 3: Europe all day long after a long flight or two

Click here to start at the beginning of the 7 days to 7 series

Tromsø, Norway, June 2009
I cannot really recall how I found the Midnight Sun Marathon.  I think I was searching on which contains listings of marathons all around the world.  The site does not have them all, but they show a lot with reviews by runners.  I already knew I would be running Boston in April 2009, and I wanted to plan a summer vacation in Europe.  I found an email from October 21, 2008 confirming my entry into the race as of that date.

Regardless of how Tromsø, Norway entered into my consciousness, I knew this race would be amazing.  If you go to Google maps, you will see that Tromsø sits right on the arctic circle.  Oh wait, I'll just show you with a picture:

Yep, that picture was taken at 12:35 AM basically facing north.  That ship is going out for a pleasure cruise.  And I would say the photo makes the land feel darker than it really was.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Continent 2: Asian Surprises

(Read the start of this week's 7 Continent Quest Blog Series)

The second continent on the list, Asia, amazingly combines the Olympics (but not the season you think), your typical Japanese-Czech family and rice covered seaweed.  Throw in a towel for good measure and welcome to...

Nagano is pretty much in the middle of the main Japanese Island

Nagano, Japan, April 2008
After completing Los Angeles (read part 1 of this 7 blog series here), I planned and ran a second marathon in October 2007 (Marine Corps Marathon).  Shedding 25 minutes off my LA debut time of 4:01, I felt a lot more comfortable about qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  Prior to this year, I needed to run a 3:20 marathon based on my 40 year age.  (Now, I would need 3:15 and even that would not guarantee entry.  See this link for more about Boston's qualifying time changes.)  I do not think I really knew how audacious it would be to qualify for Boston so early in my marathon career.

And then I stumbled on a book.  The title was deceptively simple and at the same time expansively descriptive:  Running the Seven Continents by Clint Morrison.  Here's a link.  I think I saw the book advertised in the back of Runners World magazine.  My Amazon account reveals that I ordered my copy on December 30, 2007.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Continent 1: North America: The Dark Knight

(Read the start of this week's 7 Continent Quest Blog Series)

Los Angeles, March 2007
I don't know his name.  I barely even remember what he looked like, but certainly he was friendly.  Without him, this whole marathon thing I do might have evaporated on that hot March day.  I think he was black not that it matters.  Certainly, from what he did, he must have measured 5 or 6 inches more than my 5'8" height.  Whatever his name, whatever his profession or nationality (I think he was American), he came along at just the right time.  Let's call him The Dark Knight.

The day had started full of promise.  My first marathon, in my home town of Los Angeles, amongst 15,000 other runners.  My stepson Justin drove me to the start in Universal City.  I took pictures with Spider-man and Shrek (coincidental since I was working on games based on both characters), and my training felt solid.  My bib number was pinned to my running shirt, and my electronic timing chip affixed to my right shoe.  This was my big day.

After starting to run in February 2006 and loving my first 5k on July 4, 2006, I worked my way up to a half-marathon in November of the same year.  Encouraged by running friends (particularly friend, co-worker and fellow runner Kim), I decided I could attempt a marathon.  This had been on my bucket list although at the time I don't think I actually knew the term.  Initially, I had given some thought to running my first marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado in May 2007.  But not knowing how the altitude would effect me and having 4 months from the half-marathon to the LA Marathon, I decided to tackle the earlier but less logistically challenging race.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

7 Days to 7

The map according to my marathons.  Click to enlarge.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
On my right, off some distance but still clearly visible, the statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) stands atop a granite promontory.  To my left stretches Ipanema Beach and a variety of small islands in this south facing bay.  The sky is overcast and the temperature moderate.  Later today I hope to go cycling around nearby Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, an inland salt lake.

Amazingly, for the second time this year, I find myself in South America.  Before I left California, someone asked me if this was a vacation or a running adventure.  I responded that I didn't know there was a difference.  And indeed, in one week's time, I plan to run the Maraton del Bio Bio in Chile.  Los Ángeles, Chile to be exact.

Should I complete the race as planned, I will have achieved my 2007 goal of running a marathon on all 7 continents by the end of 2011.

I call this year a "Nexus" year - meaning lots of changes, events and intersecting happenings.  The biggest and most important happened in May when Justin graduated Johns Hopkins University with Honors and election into the Phi Beta Kappa society.  Not two weeks later, Rebecca turned 50.  And she's had two back surgeries to address chronic pain problems.  I started teaching at USC, and I'm in the last 6 weeks of my contract at Activision with lots of educational projects coming together for my future work. Justin just started his medical school interviews and is working at Hopkins before entering a MD-PhD program in 2012.

After a few days here in what locals call Cidade Maravilhosa (Magnificent City), I fly to Santiago Chile and then head south to Los Ángeles to run on October 16 along the Rio Bio Bio.  26.2 miles (42.1 km) of marathon bliss.

Over the next 7 days, I plan to reminisce about the quest for 7.  In the end, the significance is more personal than anything.  While I will join under 2,000 people who have accomplished this goofy goal (the Antarctica part limits the number from growing by more than about 150 a year), I am most excited about setting out to do something fun, challenging and spectacularly rewarding.  Over this upcoming week, I hope to convey in writing the gratitude I feel from being able to get this far.

Continue onto Marathon 1: North America