Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Bye ... Or Not?

I accepted a job offer in Seattle a few months ago and when I moved in the middle of July, I thought that it might be time for me to retire this blog.

I had said my good-byes to friends and family in Los Angeles, and was reacquainting myself to old friends in Seattle. Quickly settling into my new former city, I was looking for houses to buy, and had even put an offer on a house.

Then two weeks ago we were informed that the company that I had been working for less than 2 months was merging with a very large Fortune 500 company. The mood at work went from relaxed and collegial to one of impending doom.

After (not) sleeping on it, I withdrew my offer on the house within 24 hours of learning of the merger. This started me on a mini-adventure in the search for housing in Seattle. I looked high and low, near and far. I looked at apartments, houseboats, and floating home.

And I've decided that it isn't quite time for me to retire this blog just yet. I've decided to start up another blog about my life in Seattle, but keep this blog because, well, I might be back in Los Angeles in a few months...

Just to remind me that my L.A. life isn't too far behind me, I saw Sir Mix-a-Lot and his entourage down by the pier in Seattle a few weeks ago. The sightings don't end just 'cuz I'm not in L.A. anymore!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sighting at the Mall

I went to the local mall to get my watch battery replaced and saw Ted McGinley walking out of the Williams and Sonoma. Just last weekend I happened to turn on the t.v. and 'Married With Children' was on. In the episode Jefferson (Ted's character) was mistaken for 'that guy on The Love Boat'. That show aired over 15 years ago.

Ted looked good, and he's aging naturally which is always great to see because plastic surgery is almost an epidemic in Los Angeles.

Star Sighting at the Airport

I neglected to add in my last blog entry (Great Wall Marathon) that Tony Hawk and his entourage were on our plane back from Beijing. We first saw him at the Beijing Airport. Tony and his people were intermingled with the people from our marathon tour group. As we got in line for departure inspection, I turned around and saw him with one of his children on his shoulders. Tony is really tall and it's hard to miss him in China. One of the older gentlemen from our group, Craig, was talking up a storm with his wife. He had no idea who he was talking to.

Apparently some of the people in his entourage are famous skaters and snowboarders too. Somebody recognized them from the X-Games. One of them sat next to my sister and me on the airplane-- he was really chill and a good airplane seat neighbor. Tony and his family flew first class and everybody else flew coach, so we didn't see him again until passport inspection at SFO.

I was told that they were in Beijing for a few days for the opening of some huge skate park. China is now trying to promote skating. I'm trying to imagine skateboards intermingled with the bikes, motor scooters, cars, and rickshaws.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Great Wall Marathon

A couple of years ago, I was looking at adventure marathons online. I was actually looking for info on the Big Five Marathon when I came across a link to the Great Wall Marathon. The chance to run on the Great Wall of China? That sounded just plain cool and not as menacing as running on the African Savannah with a bunch of wild lions and hippos.

After the L.A. Marathon this year, I wasn't up to doing another marathon soon. But I almost never have a problem 'kicking out a fun half'. Plus, I have a friend who ran the Great Wall Half a few years ago and her description of the full combined with the fact that I don't really enjoy full marathons made the decision to run a half an easy one.

I had the time, the money, and the ankles/knees (most importantly the time) this year to run the Great Wall as a half so I did-- and it was a great decision! It was a fun and challenging race, and I enjoyed the experience.

This is one of those races where runners are required to buy into a tour package to run the race. I had picked up a flyer at a pre-race expo last year for Kathy Loper Events, one of the race tour operators that operates out of the U.S. I have only great things to say about the tour. I LOVED IT! Kathy, Kurt, and Sharon (the operators on the trip) did a great job organizing everything. My sister came with me and we did the 9 day tour which took us through several sights in Beijing and some of the sights in Xi'an, as well as the race on the Great Wall. Comparing my tour photos with a friend who had toured China several years ago, we went to several of the same places in Beijing and Xi'an as he did. I guess that part of the tour was pretty typical, so I won't describe it too much because this blog entry is about the race on the wall and not tourist sights in China.

They offered several distances for the race: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. I did the half and my sister did the 10K. To briefly describe the courses for those interested in running one of these some day: the 5K runs only on the wall; the 10K runs through one village and up the wall in the primarily uphill direction, then runs downhill on the road to the finish; the half marathon first runs through a village and uphill to the wall, it then runs on the wall in the primarily downhill direction, then through a few villages before finishing where it started; the marathon runs the same path as the half marathon except there are a few extra villages in the middle, and then they run the wall a second time in the direction opposite of what they ran the first time (i.e. primarily uphill).

I had read descriptions of the race online before running it, but the videos/photos/descriptions that I read did not describe it accurately (especially for training purposes). In general, the stairs of the Wall are not even or level and some of them are just a bunch of loose rocks. This should be no surprise since they were made by hand over a thousand years ago to purposely make it difficult for people to infiltrate the Wall. However, the first surprise was that the steps are much steeper and taller than seen in the pictures and video. The best way to train for them would be to run up and down two 'normal' stairs at a time. The second was that they are very shallow so the best way to go up and down them if you have adult sized feet is sideways. The third surprise was that the section through the village in the middle (i.e. after mile 9) is actually a pretty steep uphill through manure fertilized farmland and rocks. This was one of those 'jokes' where runners look at the elevation chart and see a small blip and think nothing of it until they actually run it and realize that the blip was small on the chart because the elevation change at the wall is super huge in comparison. That blip is actually a pretty big 4-5 mile uphill on unstable ground.

The descriptions before the race said that the best way to train for the marathon would be to run an hour, then do an hour of steps, then run another hour afterwards. This is exactly what I did for the half marathon. These training runs were grueling but worth it. They made the uphill and upstairs of the race relatively fun. These training runs did not adequately prepare me for the fact that most of my steps would be down. If I had known this, I would have done some trail running where I would take the road to the top and the trail back down to the bottom.

Even with all of this, I was very happy after running this half. It was my personal worst half-marathon time by over an hour (compared to when I ran a half on a sprained ankle) because there were several traffic jams along the wall and I wasn't able to really run the wall section. But I loved every minute of it!

One last tip: two days before the race they had a pre-race inspection day where we walked the section of the wall where we were to run. Even though it freaked me out a bit after walking it, I'm glad that I did because my brain was ready to process the challenge and danger before the race. Some people did not do the pre-race inspection, but I think it is a wise thing to do considering the possible problems with footing along the wall.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LA Marathon 2010

It has taken me a while to post on the LA Marathon so let's cut to the chase. The Marathon Medal:

The ribbon on the medal is very nice. It is printed on both sides with photos of the 'Icons of LA' that we ran past during the race. Unfortunately, the medal design looked really familiar to me. This is a comparison with the Long Beach Half Marathon 2009 medal:

As for the race itself, the course is destined to be a classic. It starts at Dodger Stadium (literally waited on the outfield grass) and ends at Santa Monica Pier. And it is a tourists' L.A. primer in between. People stopped to take pictures in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and I stopped to get a photo (camera on phone) with one of the cross-dressing cheerleaders in West Hollywood:

One of the funniest sights were the store managers standing outside of their shops on Rodeo Drive-- apparently to keep out the marathon running rif-raf. They were ridiculously serious. I guess they were trying to prevent the marathon runners from (literally) running off with a Versace Suit! At mile 20 when I was just ready for it to all be over with, we entered the Veterans Administration. They had American Flags posted along the side of the road and some veterans came out from the hospital to cheer us on. It was really really nice.

Though it was a great course, I was happy to see the end of this race. Personally, it was my worst marathon time by far and I'm not happy about that. But I'll leave the drama and complaints about the events that transpired that day out of the blog.

Advice for those running the race in the future and are reading this blog entry for suggestions: 1. The McDonald's on Hollywood Blvd is a great place to use the bathroom (around mile 14-15). Otherwise you risk having to compete with a homeless person for the portable toilets. 2. Hill training. The first half of the race is hilly, and the first 5 miles have some steep hills. A lot of people didn't know this and it killed them in the end. 3. There is another not-so-fun up-hill section around mile 20. It doesn't look bad on paper, but it isn't fun on legs after 20 miles. 4. The traffic leaving Santa Monica after the race was really bad compared to normal horrible L.A. gridlock. Be prepared to spend a few hours in your car.

Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this race. The organizers tried to put on a great race and it showed!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Most recent star sighting

I haven't left the Valley much lately so it has been a while since I've seen anybody notable. This week I happened to drive over to the West side of L.A. and *poof* two celebrity sightings. A few days ago I saw Samuel L. Jackson in his car (more like a big black truck/SUV) trying to maneuver through traffic. Then this morning I ran past Josh Duhamel having breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. They both look pretty much like they do in t.v. and the movies. I've got to get out of the Valley more!

Friday, January 08, 2010


Last weekend, right after New Years Day, I got to hike in snow which is a rare treat here in Southern California!

I know that most of the middle of the country is literally frozen in sub-zero temperatures, and the desire to be in snow when I can easily hang out at the beach and bake in the sun sounds stupid to a lot of frozen people right now. But something in my primal being just craved snow-- not just seeing it on the top of the mountains from afar, but I craved actually surrounding myself in it like when I grew up in Wisconsin.

The two local options for snow are Big Bear at the ski resort, or to the Palm Springs aerial tram to the top of Mt. San Jacinto (tram drop off at 8500 ft elevation, mountain top at 10,300 ft elevation). We chose the tram and had a lot of fun!

The tram itself moves through multiple climate zones which they liken to traveling from the desert in Mexico (base) to the mountains of the arctic (top). It rotates while traveling up the mountain so you get 360 views without any effort. And it is the world's largest rotating tramcar. It was, in a nutshell, worth the entrance fee and ride to get to the top of the mountain.

Walking through the snow was a blast too! It was icy so we opted for 'Yak Trax' shoe grippers instead of snowshoes. The Yak Trax made a huge difference and gave us enough traction that we didn't feel like we were slipping and sliding. We were surrounded by a few other nature trail walkers and hikers. But the majority of people were there to go sledding with their children. They sell sleds at the tram gift shop, and there were a lot of people having tons of fun. It was fun just watching them slide through the snow and ice.

Temperature-wise, it was in the 50's at the top of the mountain so it wasn't that cold. The ice/snow hangs around because it gets below freezing at night and there is a lot of it for the sun to melt.

This is definitely one place that I plan on re-visiting someday, and I would highly recommend it to anybody who wants a little refreshing break from the heat and desert below!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The intimacy of walking

I am sans-automobile for a few days and decided to do my errands on foot. While walking towards my bank on Ventura Boulevard I noticed a lot of graffiti on walls, trash cans, mailboxes, and gates. I normally don't see this "urban art" when I drive past it at 30 mph in my car. I also don't see how much litter and dirt there is on the streets. I can't help thinking that if more people walked this area daily, they would make more of an effort to keep the area graffiti and litter free. Los Angeles would be a much cleaner city if more people walked instead of drove.

Once I got to Ventura Boulevard, I also noticed that the character of the street has changed in the past year. A few years ago the street was chock-full of upper-end boutiques, shops, and restaurants. Last year there were quite a few store closings and 'for lease' signs. Now these empty storefronts have been filled with discount and lower-end businesses. I would never have though it would be the case, but I guess Ventura Blvd is a reflection of the state of the economy.

On this walk I also noticed a lot of condos and houses for lease, but none for sale. Newly built condos are being leased instead of sold. I'm assuming this is because the builders can get much more money (and a higher occupancy) if they rent out the units instead of sell them.

I never notice this stuff when I drive. And I focus on other stuff when I run the streets. But walking the streets has made me wish more people walked so they could actually see the city they live in. The city feels more intimate and personal on foot, and neighbors more neighborly when we aren't separated by metal cages.

I wish more people walked around town but then again this is Los Angeles-- a city married to the automobile.