So this week was the big one: 23 miles. This is the longest run that Team to End AIDS will have before the LA Marathon which is now only a few weeks away. As a result, we found ourselves preparing for it several days beforehand. We stayed hydrated with water and Gatorade throughout the week, we did our two 30 to 45 minute maintenance runs, and we made sure to have a big carbo load dinner on the Thursday evening before the run. I used to think that we needed to have that dinner on Friday evening, but I have been instructed that having it on Thursday will allow our bodies to absorb all those carbohydrates so that they will be available for us on Saturday morning. Whatever the case, it gives me an excellent excuse to have an extra helping of pasta.
This was also an important week for me as time was running out for me to reach my fundraising minimum of $1,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles, and donations had slowed down to a halt. If I didn’t make it to my fundraising minimum, then I would be financially obligated to pay the difference. If I had a job I could probably live with that, but since I don’t it’s not really an option even if I had already raised just over $800.
As a result, I started a campaign on Facebook and other social media sites saying that if my friends could help me reach my fundraising goal by midnight on Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Single’s Awareness Day), I would bring Bubba Eeyore with me on my 23 mile run. Thanks to three people (Kristin Riddick, Matthew Johnson and Stephen Germain), I managed to hit my $1,000 fundraising goal by midday, so Bubba Eeyore was now obligated to accompany me on this, the longest, training run.
Before I go on, I should explain something: everybody who knows me best knows that I have always been a die-hard fan of Eeyore, the donkey from the “Winnie the Pooh” books and movies. Back in the 80’s, just before I entered the fifth grade, my family took me to Disneyland in an effort to cheer me up as I was feeling depressed. When it came to going on the Jungle Cruise ride, I hesitated because all those snakes we sailed by freaked me out the last time I went on it. So I made a promise to my family that I would hang out at the Jungle Cruise souvenir stand until they came back. While I was standing there, I took notice of an Eeyore doll staring back at me. Now most Disney characters have smiles a mile wide as if to convince you that everything in the world is just perfect, but Eeyore doesn’t really smile and he looks at you as if to say, “Yeah, the world sucks. I couldn’t agree more.”
From there, I became the biggest Eeyore fan you could ever imagine, and I have since purchased one Eeyore plush doll after another to where I have completely lost track of how many I own. Bubba Eeyore is one of my latest Eeyore acquisitions, and he is one of those jumbo sized stuffed animals that looks like it could also work as pillow. I named him Bubba because that was one of the names that popped into my head when I first saw him, and it made sense that he would be the one I would bring with me. I put my 2013 LA Marathon singlet on him, and we both jumped into my Honda Accord and made our way over to Griffith Park in Burbank.
Since this was one of our longest runs, our start time got moved from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the morning. When I arrived at Griffith Park, the sun was not even out yet and you could still see the moon in the sky. It was cold, but not as cold as it had been before. We weren’t shivering our asses off, and it soon became a sign that this day was going to be a hot one. Once again, the weather in Los Angeles is proving to be unseasonably warm, so we already knew we were going to be in for a rough day on the streets of Glendale and Burbank.
I also took the time to acknowledge Stephen Germain who is also training for the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon and is the one who gave me the donation that put me over the top. I gave him a hug and he looked at Bubba Eeyore and said, “I expect a lot of pictures from you on this run!”
As soon as Bubba Eeyore made his appearance, all the Team to End AIDS runners took notice of him. Some were aware that he was a symbol of the fact that I reached my fundraising goal while others were curious as to why someone of my age was carrying around this huge stuffed animal. Coach Naomi took the time to pet him on the head, and seeing him brought a big smile to her face. Another guy, whose name I should damn well know by now, looked at Eeyore and told me, “You’re brave for bringing that guy out here. I couldn’t do that myself.” I guess that’s a compliment.
From there, I introduced Bubba to my fellow “13: The Sequel” pace group runners, and they got a kick out of the fact that I had the audacity to bring him. Bubba went out of his way to introduce himself to everyone, and he elicited a lot of laughs as well as some handshakes and fist bumps. Suffice to say, everyone was looking forward to seeing me run with him on this day.
Once the “13: The Sequel” pace group got to the starting line, Coach JC saw Bubba Eeyore and mentioned that he saw on Facebook how I reached my fundraising goal and petted him. As before, we started this run off by walking for the first four minutes. But at the same time, the “13: The Sequel” pace group ended up splitting into two groups: one which would run at a 3:1 pace, and the other running at a 1:1 pace. As a result, our group seemed a lot smaller than usual.
The first part of our run took us up and down the streets of Glendale. This proved to be the trickiest part as the coaches had put out orange cones with signs and mile markers for us throughout our run, but the people at Disney studios tend to remove them as they don’t like to see them on the road. If there was ever a point where we could get lost on this run, this was it.
As I was running, Bubba’s head was bobbing all over the place as if he was saying, “I feel like I’m in a Paul Greengrass movie!”
We also had a hill to run up as well, and we all groaned in agony when Coach JC informed us of this. It was that deceptive hill on Grandview Avenue, but we were shown some mercy by JC who had us make a right turn onto Cumberland which kept us from running all the way up it. To be honest, after running up that hill in Griffith Park during week 15, any hill I run up now feels like a piece of cake.
Once we got out of Glendale and back into Burbank, we knew we were going to be okay as nobody from Disney would be out there taking the signs or mile markers down. Whether or not we had a map of our route, we were all confident that the coaches would keep us from getting lost.
The sight of me running with Bubba Eeyore led to a number of different reactions from volunteers and complete strangers. Cars would go by me with some people smiling as they passed me by while others looked at me as if I was crazy (that’s their problem). I did pass by a number of children who looked ever so excited to see Bubba Eeyore, let alone any Eeyore, running by them and saying hello.
The reactions of the adults were especially intriguing to me as those who were pushing strollers or walking their dogs couldn’t help but smile at the appearance of another adult carrying a rather large stuffed animal. One man I passed by ended up saying, “I like your partner.” To this, Bubba Eeyore replied, “Thanks! I like him too!” Of course, I had to explain to Bubba that the guy was referring to him and not to me. Bubba’s response to this was the same as mine in other situations: “I knew that.”
Those who volunteered to be out on the streets giving us water, Gatorade and pretzels kept looking at me in astonishment (either that or they were taking pictures). They couldn’t believe that I was seriously considering carrying Bubba for all 23 miles. One volunteer even offered to look after Bubba and then give him back to me at mile 14, but I had already made the promise that I was going to carry him through this entire run and I was determined to make that happen.
I do have to say that carrying Bubba Eeyore all that time was quite a challenge. I had to keep switching arms as I couldn’t afford to let one arm become stiffer and sorer than the other. There are certain parts of my body that are allowed to get stiff for reasons I shall not go into here, but letting all the blood and feeling drain out of one of my arms during this run was not an option.
The Bolivers were on hand as always with a large amount of treats for us, and in addition to all the peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers we could possibly eat, they also brought their prized banana bread as well. I actually didn’t have any of the banana bread this time, and I only had a few of those crackers. That had to do with the fact that I spent most of my time there filling up my water bottles with ice cubes because the temperature kept rising like the sun. The colder the water and Gatorade were to drink, the more refreshed I felt.
Once I got back on the road, I ran into Steve Robinson who a few weeks before conducted a seminar for us Team to End AIDS runners on the benefits of speed walking. He said hello to my fellow “13: The Sequel” pace group members, and he extended the same greeting to me as well. But then he saw that I was carrying Bubba Eeyore and couldn’t help but remark with a laugh, “I thought you smarter than that.” What can I say? I’m certifiably insane!
During our run we did pass by a lot of people walking their dogs, and we passed a lot of dogs who were imprisoned behind the fences of their owners. They kept barking at us as if to say, “Let us run with you! Our owners never want to run! They just want to walk! We can’t stand it!” Bubba Eeyore ended up confronting those dogs behind fences as if to say, “Quiet down! It’s still early in the morning and people are trying to sleep!” In response, the dogs growled at Bubba even louder to the point where it sounded like they were more than eager to tear him apart. That ended up making me run a little faster.
We ended up passing by the Boliver family a couple more times throughout our run, and by the third time we passed them, I had fallen behind all the other “13: The Sequel” runners. As a result, Bubba and I spent the last few miles running by ourselves while dealing with temperatures that refused to drop. As I write this, the east coast is getting hammered by snowstorms that won’t let up while states like California seem to be flipping the bird to the winter solstice. Just when you thought summer weather had vanished from Southern California, it comes back with a vengeance.
During the last half, I found myself struggling to run when all my instincts told me that it was better to walk the rest of the way. The warmer it got, the less inclined I was to run. It wasn’t as hot as it was on previous runs, but the heat still got to me. Thankfully, I always had enough water and Gatorade in my water bottles to keep me hydrated, and I drank a lot of fluids during this run.
One thing that the coaches keep reminding us about is the importance of having something to eat every 45 minutes. This is to replace all those calories we keep burning off, and those calories can burn off quicker than you realize. All those snacks that the Bolivers provide for us won’t be enough to keep us going, and they aren’t going to be there for us on marathon day either. Looking back, this is something I need to do more often. I do have energy gels on me, but I don’t always take them when I should. Maybe that’s why I ended up hitting that wall all runners hit, when your mind tells you that you just can’t run anymore.
Truth be told, I did have a couple of those Cliff gel blocks during the last hour, and when I slowed down I could feel my heart pumping super-fast. It was like John Bonham, the legendary drummer from Led Zeppelin, was playing “Moby Dick” inside my body. I need to watch out for that.
When I finally passed the mile marker that said 22, my energy and spirits started to rise as I knew the end was near. Making that turn onto Zoo Drive was just what I needed as that burst of wind hit me at just the right time. Back in Griffith Park, the coaches had set up the ultimate finish line where everybody was cheering you on as you crossed it. At that point, Bubba Eeyore decided he wanted to race me, and it became a battle over who was going to cross the finish line first. John, a Team to End AIDS veteran and key volunteer on this day, yelled out to me, “Careful! That hippo is going to beat you!”
For the record, Eeyore is a donkey and not a hippopotamus, but anyway…
Once we crossed that finish line, the coaches gave out special Team to End AIDS medals to congratulate us for completing the longest training run and for coming this far, but Coach JC ended up taking a look at me and then decided to give my medal to Bubba Eeyore instead. Then again, seeing Bubba with that medal hanging around his neck did make him look like a happy donkey.
Also, I did get something that I haven’t gotten on other runs before, a massage. There were massage therapists on hand to give us some much needed relief, and I was not about to deny myself a session with them. They also offered to give Bubba Eeyore a massage, but I told him he didn’t need one. I probably should have let them massage his poor paws though.
Those massage therapists really don’t hold back on pinching your leg muscles! I was like, “Wow! You don’t leave anything to the imagination, do you?” But hey, I was a lot better for having that massage than not. Once the guy was done, he said to me, “I have healed you!”
So I was out there on the streets of Glendale and Burbank for almost six hours. According to my New Balance watch, I burned over 6,000 calories, but I doubt that’s an accurate number. John said that this training run is always the hardest one of all. Once we get past this one, then the LA Marathon will feel like a piece of cake. Having been through this before, I completely agree with him on that. I just hope that the weather’s not too hot on the big day.
As always, there was a feast for us that included sandwich wraps (the one with teriyaki chicken was delicious), veggie straws, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cupcakes that had the T2EA logo on them. But in the end, nothing can beat chocolate milk after a long, long run. It always hits the spot, always.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Well, as you can tell from this article, I have reached my fundraising goal of $1,000. I ended up with a total of $1,046, and I want to thank you all for your support. If you would still like to make a tax deductible donation to AIDS Project Los Angeles, that’s perfectly fine. While I have reached my goal, we still have a lot of work to do in the fight against this terrible disease.
CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION.
The Deceptive Nature of a Recovery Run
Week 18 of 2013 Los Angeles Marathon Training
Day 18 of 2012 LA Marathon Training