We had some high drama here that I thought you might enjoy.

Brody fresh from surgery.

Brody fresh from surgery.

Last week I shot a Purina Cat Chow commercial.  It was the usual agency/client demanding more than they could afford and a director wanting to shoot more than he had time for and me keeping all the water on the table with a fork.  We got everything we were assigned and somehow still came in under budget.  The director credits the cats!

I was home yesterday afternoon cleaning up some bills and wrapping my photography equipment that I’d been ignoring for the last couple of weeks while on the Purina project.  On these occasions I like to invite Brody and Elaine to the backyard for some recreation.  They like to remind the squirrels who they think is really in charge out there, bask in the warm sunshine, pee on my grasses and generally act like dogs.  Meanwhile, I keep my office door open to monitor their activity – just in case Brody decides to take a dip or (god forbid) they actually catch a rodent.

The door is also open because after an hour or so of barking at the wind they will come in for a nap or to remind me that it’s dinnertime.  Most days, Brody begins campaigning to eat around 3:30.  Dinner is supposed to be at 5.  I was in the middle of paying a few invoices when Brody came in and bumped my arm.  It was just after 3:30.  His nose was wet and I thought he’d taken time to get a drink from the water bowl outside – we humans are just walking napkins to him ya know – without looking at him I patted his neck and told him he was early – again!  He turned and left me alone and laid down behind my chair with a grunt.

A minute or so later I finished off the bills and went to print the checks, turning around to look at Brody in the middle of the carpet.  I realized my hand was wet from petting him and upon closer inspection I noticed I had blood on my hand!  Brody was laying there with his head up looking calmly out of the doorway with blood literally dripping off the side of his face.  I went to him and the left side of his neck was a soggy matted fur mess.  I thought the worst, he’s gashed his throat somehow.  He seemed non-plussed.  Couldn’t understand why I was upset and asking him what happened.

We made our way to the sunroom door and I asked him to sit outside – ran into the laundry room and grabbed a rag to sop up the blood so I could assess the wound.  He waited patiently and sat like a good dog while I cleaned the area and discovered he was bleeding from his ear.  I thought, this is crazy amounts of blood for a simple ear wound so kept looking.  There didn’t seem to be anything else damaged.

I applied pressure to the wound as much as one can to a lively animal like Brody and the bleeding wouldn’t stop!  Fifteen minutes into this, spatters of blood covered my shoes, the legs of my jeans were ruined, the patio was stained and our office carpet was in need of a serious shampoo.  I had gone through two rags, a horrible attempt to wrap his ear in gauze and had finally gotten paper towels with an ace bandage wrapped around his head in order to get him to the vet.  All the while Elaine laid poolside working on her tan.

Brody has always loved car rides.  One of his greatest joys is sticking his head out the window and barking at parked cars as we drive by (you never know when one might attack!).  Every time he gets to ride there is much excitement.  Fortunately the ER Vet is only 5 minutes down the road so keeping the windows up didn’t torture him too much but his excitement never wained and he managed to get my triage bandage loose and drip blood all over the backseat!  Dogs are great…

Parking at the vets office I put a leash around his neck and found the blood soaked paper towels on the floor of the backseat area.  We went into reception where there were at least 6 other dogs and a woman with pet ferrets waiting for their appointments.  Brody doesn’t like other dogs, or ferrets I assume, but he didn’t seem to care about them yesterday – maybe he’d lost too much blood.  He sat down as I pressed the soaked towels to his head and waited for a nurse to take him to the back.  It didn’t take long and as Brody disappeared into the back I was left standing among the other owners with bloody clothes, a shirt that was probably now a rag-bag yard garment and a wad of blood soaked paper towels.  Another nurse noticed me and said I could go to the back and wash-up.

After I’d gotten my breath back and began to look at my shoes and clothes and wonder if blood comes out of leather seats I realized I’d forgotten my wallet.  So I went to the receptionist and explained what I’d left at home in my rush and that I’d be right back but she wouldn’t let me leave because she said the doctor had to see me first.  Again, I thought, this is just a nicked ear…  what could he need to see me about?  So I waited.

About 30 minutes later the Vet appeared at the entrance to the O.R. and announced Brody’s name. I raised my hand he invited me to an empty hallway where we could talk in private.  He smiled and said, “Brody’s laceration has ruptured an artery and he’s lost a lot of blood.”  Artery? I thought.  Dog ears are so thin how is there an artery in there?  It did explain why I couldn’t get the bleeding stopped. The doc went on to say that he too thought it was a simple nick and wrapped Brody’s head in a towel but that his bleeding soon soaked right through.  The doc explained that Brody would need surgery and possibly and I.V. to help replace his lost blood.  They’d have to knock him out and then keep him overnight.  He also told me the price tag for all this and I wished we’d been standing in a human ER as I began to feel little faint.  At least I didn’t need my wallet at that time.

The doc is convinced Brody got bit but I did not hear an argument between him and his sister, and he’s usually the one nipping at her not the other way round.  I think he snagged himself on a rosebush or leaped at a squirrel and came down on a tree branch the wrong way.  At least that’s what Elaine wants me to keep thinking…

The office rug will get a shampoo this weekend and Barb is trying to save my jeans and shirt with a good dose of stain remover and cold water.  It is raining lightly today and I’m hoping the weather will wash away the blood stains on the cement and flagstone.  As for my car, I’ve taken a disinfectant spray to the seats and I think it’ll be okay.  Armor All does wonders too.

I went to the ER this morning.  Brody was a good guy for them.  More than one of them knew him and said, “he’s sure got a lot of energy…”  He refused to eat what they served him.  Kept putting his nose under the bowl and tipping it over.  “I’m not eating THIS!!”  When I got him home I put a bowl of food down and he refused to eat unless Elaine and I watched him.  Maybe he thought it was trick.  Odd, he’s usually ravenous and eats everything without blinking.

He’s wearing a festive holiday bandage.  It green with gauze hanging out of the sides.  Kind of the dog version of Dickens’ Jacob Marley who famously has a handkerchief around his jaw.

He goes back tomorrow to get the bandages removed.  The vet had written on the outside of it, “Ear Here Don’t Cut!” in case he’s not the one who goes to remove it.  Then Brody has to wear of a cone around his neck so we doesn’t try to scratch his stitches.  Cait calls this the Cone of Shame.  It should be an interesting week with the cone and the xmas decorations.  We’re thinking we have to baby proof the place – as if there’s a two year old – anything breakable goes up high!

Showing off his Jacob Marley.

Showing off his Jacob Marley.

He’s sleeping soundly and snoring loudly at my feet as I finish this.  I think he’s happy to be home.



Cherry Blossoms at Huntington Gardens

Feeling much better


I think I’ve recovered.  Running again, sleeping again and signed up for a 1/2 marathon right after the New Year.  Taking it slow but wanting to run faster so exploring a private trainer and some new shoes.  More to come…


The New Year’s Race Los Angeles course offers its runners an awe-inspiring and totally unique tour of downtown Los Angeles.



Post Marathon Blues


I’ve read a bit about this condition and tried to avoid it by scheduling a few races for the fall and a 1/2 marathon right after the New Year.  They say setting new goals is the key so I’m still training etc. but for whatever reason I can’t shake this “blah” feeling.  Dr. Jack Lesyk, director of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology is quoted:

Some of the disappointment of the post-event letdown can be alleviated by knowing that it’s normal and to expect it. For months, your life has been organized around this singular goal. Now, suddenly it’s over and the disciplined, intensive efforts are no longer required.

This is the time to pause, reflect and enjoy other aspects of life that may have been neglected during intensive training. Sleep late; spend more time with family and friends. Do things you wanted to do but sacrificed for your training.

Runner’s World Magazine says that the key is to not allow for too much empty downtime.  In that effort, I’m taking a writing class and love being out in the mornings at sunrise for some mellow workouts – but after the runs I’m still “down.”  Anyway, I’m sure it’s a temporary thing but definitely more intense than the ‘blah’ after the LA Marathon – will take this weekend to sleep-late and enjoy the pool.

My right hamstring muscle is still pretty tight – and that too bums me out.  Maybe its time for a new pair of shoes!

Official SF Results


Finished in the Top 1/3 of the field!!


Great run!

San Francisco Marathon 2012


Barb and Tom at the starting line.

In the cool morning fog of Sunday morning Barbara, Cait and I stumbled out of the Kabuki Hotel in Japan Town and into our car.  The moist air had settled on the windshield and I turned on the wipers only to smear the remains of the bugs we’d collected on the glass during our drive from Los Angeles the day before.  The time was 4:15am and we rolled out of the parking lot toward the starting line three miles away.

The garage at the Embarcadero Center parking lot opened at 4:30 and we followed other marathon participants into the underground structure and found a spot.  I’d been awake since 2:30am so I could eat a homemade sweet potato muffin, a banana and drink a cup lukewarm coffee I’d made before turning in around 9:30 the night before.  According to several online sites the pre-race combo of caffeine, carbs and potassium would keep me going well past the ½ marathon juncture of the race.  While I love to sleep, I felt it important to try this “three hours before the race start” meal.

As we walked up the ramp to the outside world I could feel the race jitters coming on.  ‘Would I be able to break four hours?’ ‘What if I bonk?’ ‘Will my hamstring seize up like it did in Los Angeles?’ Cait kept the conversation light – and going – so I couldn’t dwell on these thoughts.  She was taking pictures all the time – dad stretching, mom walking, dad stretching again, group shot at the starting line!  She is great at keeping things moving!

At the starting line. Barb, Tom & Cait

As dawn began to break the misty fog acted like a thick white blanket keeping things from becoming too bright.  I continued to stretch, drink my sports drink, check that the high calorie chocolate waffle wafers I purchased at the running store for the 2nd half of the race were still safely lodged into my water bottle holder and waited with a calm exterior while still working to suppress the nervous interior voice bouncing around the corners of my mind.

Cait continued snapping random photos when the announcer said, “Runners to your corals.”  I gave Barb a kiss and Cait a hug. She said, “Good luck dad!” We then went our separate ways.

I’d put together an Apple Genius play list on my iPod for this run.  Having just read Gregg Allman’s ‘My Cross to Bear’ I decided to start this marathon with his mega-hit, ‘Melissa.’ The list goes on to a variety of like tempo music from my teen era.  In the registration process I had to tell the organizers that I thought I’d finish between 3:50 and 4 hours so they put me in the 3rd coral.  That meant, me and my other sub-four hour runners would be starting ten minutes after the elites heard the word, “GO!”

I’d planned for this additional wait time by putting Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” (6min) and Foo Fighter’s “Doll” (1:25) ahead of Melissa giving me plenty of time to shake out any last minute muscle issues or random negative thoughts.  The additional songs also allowed me time to deal with the iPod holder strapped to my arm.  It was a goodie I found in the bottom of my NY Marathon bag but after three years on the roads and in other races it is on its last Velcro loving legs.

Fiddling with the iPod.

As for my play list, I’d gone as far as to roughly guess what would be playing at certain moments of the race.  Greggs voice would be crooning in my ears as I crossed the start line.  Jimmy Hendrix as I crossed the Golden Gate.  Jack White at the half way,  I was so wrapped up in what was ahead of me that I spazzed-out and started the iPod as soon as the racers in coral 1 and 2 took off.  Meaning the Allman Brothers started to play well before we got to cross the starting line! I fumbled with the iPod holder, wrapped the ear-bud cable and restarted Dire Straits!  Flustered and not wanting to worry about it anymore I let the song continue.  “GO!” someone yelled and Melissa didn’t start until about 2 minutes into the race.

Wave 3 Start!

In addition, I couldn’t find my family.  I’d moved to the left of the starting line thinking they’d be in with the rest of the crowd.  I crossed the start line without seeing them (turned out they’d moved to the right side).  I was still spazzing out so I forgot to start my Garmin GPS running watch.  1.4 tenths out of the gate I realized this and pushed START.  I’d have to calculate my time and mileage to accommodate the difference throughout the race.

“Get out of your head – just run – relax – enjoy this!” I told myself.  As Fisherman’s Wharf appeared and the smells of early morning bread baking at Boudin’s wafted through the field of runners I took a deep breath and began to run easy.  So what if the music is a little ‘off’ it’ll be fine – and it was.

At the five-mile mark was the 2nd water station on the north side of The Presidio of San Francisco.  As I approached I could see several American Flags waving in the light breeze, their poles dotted the lawns opposite the ex-military barracks.  At the flagpole bases were photos of servicemen.  Written across the photos it read, “wear blue: run to remember” with the soldier’s name, his KIA date and photos of them with family or during much happier times.  The flagpoles gave way to people holding the flags – cheering us on.  There were dozens of these photos and flags. I looked to my left and a guy going much faster than I, looking very much like he was x-military, ran with a crisp salute as he passed.  I couldn’t help but tear up.

photo care of: Wipro SF Marathon

I felt good as mile five ticked off and I powered up the hill to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’d planned to stop every 5 miles and stretch my hamstrings but decided I could make it over the bridge and stop for a one-minute stretch at the 7k water station.  The misty fog covered the top of the bridge like a dream and the cool water in the air kept me from overheating.  The short pause was great!  I ate my first chocolate waffle as I forced my hamstrings to stretch!

Coming back across the bridge Jimi Hendrix was singing “All Along The Watchtower” in my ears.  I could also see my breath and that of several other runners.  I don’t think it was that cold probably more of an effect of the fog and hot air from deep within our lungs.

Once off the bridge there is a steep incline then a 1 mile downhill that lives up to San Francisco’s famed stretches of road.  Using some of the training I’d learned I let the hill do the work and clocked a 7:21 mile!  That’s really fast for me.  I’d been averaging an 8:40 so far.

I entered Golden Gate Park and found it as advertised – beautiful!  Redwoods, eucalyptus and lots of green.  The organizers suggested that we look to our right as we passed the golf coarse and sure enough there were the Bison having breakfast as we humans ran by.  If they ever bothered to think about us runners I wonder what they’d say?

I’d read before starting the race that the park was series of rolling hills but what I remember about it was a combination of mild inclines.  We just seemed to keep going up.  I reached the half marathon mark in just about two-hours and was feeling good but was counting the miles to the park exit because I knew around mile 20 there was a long downhill.

Mercifully I ran out of the park, leaving the duck ponds and smells of eucalyptus behind and into the city.  The course goes through Haight Ashbury where as I had been praying for, another long downhill street forgave all the inclines in the park.  Again the hill did the work!  Clocked in at 8-minutes and that pace helped me overcome the 8:53 pace I’d been maintaining past the Bison.  “Only five miles to go!” I thought.

Mile 22 included a water station.  I stopped once again to stretch – just for a minute.  During the LA marathon my legs cramped at mile 24 and I missed breaking a four-hour finish by two minutes because I’d spent so much time trying to get moving again.  I was determined to not let that happen in SF.  One of the guys filled my water bottle for me – two sips and I was on my way.

I’ve read that the last 4 miles of a marathon are all mental.  This being my third, I can agree.  Growing up there was a movie my brother and I watched every time it came on TV – “The Outlaw Josie Wales.”  In it, Clint Eastwood plays a drifter who ultimately teaches a band of mid-western farmers to defend their land.  In the final chapter there is a shootout with the bad guys and Josie (Eastwood) inspires the clan with a rally speech – “When things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean.  I mean plum mad dog mean! ‘Cuz if you lose your head and give up, then you neither live nor win.”  At mile 24.5 my left hamstring twinged!  Pulled me up and I had to stop.  “Damnit!” I yelled and noticed a little boy with his parents watching me.  I grimaced and slammed my foot to the ground and stretched that hamstring for about 20 seconds.  It was time to get mean, plum mad dog mean… I regained my composure and pushed off for the finish line.

“Sub-Four! Sub-Four!”

As Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon’s guitars thumped out an old Aerosmith tune, “Sweet Emotion,” every bit of me was asking to stop. I was going to have to will myself to the finish line – with a smile!  As I rounded AT&T Park and into the final mile I started to look for Barb and Cait.  Less than 2 tenths to go, there they were – cheering me on – giving me the last bit of inspiration I needed.

I yelled, “Sub-Four! Sub-Four!” as I ran by.  Crossing the finish line the clock read 3:51:55.  I pumped my fist in the air.  The hours, weeks and months of training had paid off!

This race will fade into memory but as a good friend of mine once said, “I leave a little bit of me behind in every marathon.” San Francisco will always have a part of my heart and a few shavings off the soles of my shoes.

The finish line.


You can see official photos here.


Ten Days to the SF Marathon


I’m in the middle of the taper (less mileage before the race) and find myself having trouble sleeping. Until this week I’ve run extensive miles every day and it seems my body can’t get used to the short five mile romps around the neighborhood. At the end of these runs it’s like I’m just getting warmed up. Interesting to say the least. Sleep deprivation isn’t fun but at least there’s solidarity among us marathoners. Saw a t-shirt the other day that read: “Leave Me Alone, I’m Tapering.”

Ten days to race day. Eating well, resting when I can and trying to remain calm.

Official LA Marathon Results


The race organizers just sent out the Official Results.  I did better than I thought!





LA Marathon


LA Marathon somewhere around mile 20

Last Sunday I ran the LA Marathon for the first time.  The morning was cold but the heavy rain from the day before had moved on and as the wheelchair racers crossed the starting line the sun broke out kissing the hills surrounding Dodger Stadium with golden light.  Soon after the horn sounded and eighteen thousand runners started toward the Santa Monica pier.

The warm sunshine brought out large crowds, live bands, drum lines, cheerleaders and a host of well wishers.  I ran at an 8:30 pace for the first half, finishing 20K in 1:46:49.

Entering the last miles of a semi-quiet stretch of the San Vicente – mile 24 – my left calf cramped.  It was sudden and tightened so much that my left foot felt like it turned to the right.  I stopped and stepped to the side of the road and began to stretch.  A nice woman walking her dog the opposite direction pointed out that I was only two miles from the finish line.  :-)

I spent what felt an eternity stretching and walking a few feet then stretching again.  After about 5 minutes or so I began running.  I guess this is the part of the wall everyone talks about.  My legs felt like lead and my pace slowed to 10 minutes – sometimes slower.  As San Vicente ended and the finish line loomed about a mile away I pushed as much as my legs would take and crossed the line in 4:02:10.  A new PR!

After a week of stretching, a massage and taking it easy I am out running again.  I’ve decided to train for the Montana Marathon in Missoula this July.  I hope to break the 4 hour barrier.

ASICS put together this video of the LA Marathon.  It’s worth a peek.  I look forward to running LA again next year.

weSpark 10k


Two weeks ago I ran in the Homeboy Industries 5k and while I was trundling around the course someone put a flyer on my windshield announcing the 3rd annual weSpark 10k.

Windshield Postcard

I had never heard of this organization so when I got home I went to the web site and found this on the home page:

A special place dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients, their families and friends. We hope to provide you with the encouragement, support and information you seek to help heal your mind, body and spirit. 

I clicked around the site for a while and investigated the race – a 10k romp through Universal Studios back lot.  Sounded like fun!

Los Angeles can get kind of smoggy in the late fall.  I have a mild case of runners asthma so I am affected by the air quality at times so whenever I’m stepping out the door I try to gage where the air by how much I can chew on it.  The day before this 10k LA had a decent sized rainstorm leaving behind a crisp clear morning.  As I drove the 1.5 miles from my house to Universal in the pre-dawn light, the streets still glistened as though gently washed by a damp cloth.

Universal Studios sits on the north side of the Hollywood Hills and overlooks the San Fernando Valley.  Lankershim Blvd. skirts the bottom of the studio lot and from there it is an approximate 1/4 mile up a steep hill to the entrance of the park.  If you ever get to take a tour of the studio, trams wind their way through Mexican Villages, the old West, a mockup of the Jaws set and continue up the roads past the Bates Motel to a large Plane Crash set from War of Worlds finally ending at a very large cement lake with a huge blue screen.  The “shores” of this lake, sitting at the top of the theme park, is where the starting gate for this race was located.

As I approached the check-in area the sun was just creeping over the mountains.  I’m always amazed at the view on crystal clear days like this.  You can see for miles and miles and understand why people moved here.  Sometimes I’ll ponder the audacity of man.  To think we moved into a desert and turned it into an oasis.  From the top of the Studio Lot the view of the urban sprawl looks like a tidal wave washing up the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Our bulldozers have little footing on the steep rise out of the basin and the jagged edge where forest meets cement appears to be nature’s way of pushing back.  Our lives forced to tumble back around the coarse washes and settle into the flat valley floor – but enough of that – on to the race!

Since my less than stellar performance at the Bix 7 I’ve been working on speed and endurance.  Hills are something I haven’t quite incorporated to this point but after this race – it is something that will become part of my weekly mileage.

When the gun sounded I took off at a relaxed pace, about 8:15 per mile but soon realized that as we wound back through the park we were running downhill…  I’ve read in a lot of places that when running downhill a runner is supposed to let the hill do the work – sort of “fall” down it.  I let go and increased speed to a blistering (at least for me) 6:50 pace.  I knew I’d be working my way back up the hill to the finish line so tried to remain calm and just run.

Trading Leads Lap #1

All of us in the pack ran through the back streets of the movie studio, past lots of fun spots, Robert Zemechis’s offices, down Jimmy Steward Blvd. and round downtown anywhere USA.  As the course leveled in the flats of the lot I slowed down to my usual 8-8:15 pace and kept it up until I hit the hills back to the start/finish line.  As I rose out of the valley I realized that the 10k was two laps around!  So I really had to conserve my energy.

I crossed the half-way mark at 23:33 (that was only fifteen seconds slower than the Homeboy 3k and I was running hills!)  Seeing that time on my watch and with 5k left to go I began to worry that I’d not left anything for the back half of the race.  I’ve also read that it is a good idea to pace yourself with someone ahead of you.  It’ll help keep you focused – the experts say.  Since this is a 5k/10k walk/run those of us running the 10k “lost” a lot of runners at the halfway point because their race was over.  I found myself behind a woman in black.  We’d traded positions on the way around the first time, me in front, then her etc. There were two other guys trading positions with us but they peeled off at the 5k mark.  So there I was running downhill again looking for inspiration.

In the lead through War of the Worlds

She was in front of me and kept a good pace.  I was able to keep up though the flats telling myself I’d pass her near the end as we ran through the War of Worlds set.  However, when we ran through the sights of the studio this time around, all of the walkers were spread out across the streets.  We had to dodge people with cameras, strollers and canes.  It was an interesting aspect of the race – one that made me think I should invite my family to join me next year for a walk!

As the hill back to the top got steeper and began its assault on my legs I became nauseous.  A good sign I was pushing too hard.  I had to walk and to my surprise – 25 yards ahead – so did my pacesetter.  I only walked for about 100 feet but I didn’t want to wretch in front of the Bates Motel.

Running Downhill Lap#2

I started running again but at a much slower pace.  I found myself jockeying for position with two other guys.  We traded leads several times when I said out loud, “I don’t remember these hills being in the brochure…”  I don’t think either of them laughed as we were all struggling at this point.  I rounded the corner at Psycho Way, checked my Garmin watch and saw there was only .5 miles left and picked up the pace through the smoke filled plane wreckage from Steven Spielberg’s movie.  The woman in black had also picked up the pace.  She crossed the finish line 8 seconds ahead.

I didn’t bother to say good race or anything to her but did talk to the other two guys that were huffing and puffing behind me through the last mile.  I grabbed a banana and a bottle of water from one of the race sponsors and went to my car thinking I’d given it my all but would have to train more so I’d never have to walk to Psycho Blvd again.

About two hours after I got home I received a text message from a friend of mine who’d gone to watch his wife run the 5k.  He asked, “Did you run the weSpark 10k this morning?”  His son was also running in the children’s fun run.  That race took place about an hour after the 10k so my friend was around for the various award ceremonies.  We didn’t see each other at the race but when they announced the top three finishers of the 45-49-age range my name was read as 3rd place!  I went to the results page and couldn’t believe it but there it was:

Prime Time Results by Age Group

I also checked the overall results.  I finished 28th overall!  No wonder I got nauseous!

Overall Results

I still need to train on hills and even though she’ll never know it, I should have congratulated the pacesetter on a good race.

Crossed the Finish!