Sunday, January 24, 2016

Great Los Angeles Trip; January 24, 2016

All in all, a really good trip to Los Angeles this weekend.

After the long 10K Saturday morning, I got the opportunity to take in two more college basketball games -- and another 10K on Sunday.

Everything about my trip was really predicated based on the hotel I selected, where I got a pretty good rate given the Los Angeles market.

The Friday night basketball game at the Galen Center was close enough -- 8-10 miles -- that I didn't have to get up on one of L.A.'s busy freeways while people were trying to get home from work.

The race Saturday morning was no more than 15-20 minutes away as well Saturday afternoon's basketball game at Loyola Marymount University.

Before the LMU game, I went to downtown Los Angeles -- not too far northeast from the Galen Center -- to register for Sunday morning's Run For Rememberance 10K.

I went east all the way on Slauson Avenue and then went north on Broadway, which put me right in the middle of L.A.'s barrio.

Some of it reminded me much of being in El Paso last October when I was very close to the border with Mexico.

Thing is:  I never felt unsafe.  However, when you travel in a major city, anywhere, you learn to be very, very aware of your surroundings at all times.

Packet pickup was at the Millenium Wilshire Hotel, just off of 5th Street.  Surprisingly, I was able to park in an underground garage, go in and register (paying cash) and be back out on the roads en route to Loyola Marymount in about a half hour.

I arrived at LMU about an hour before game time and had the chance to walk around campus a bit.  Smaller campus, but beautiful no less.

The basketball, however, was bad.

Both Loyola Marymount and their opponent, the University of San Diego Torreros, aren't having a great basketball season.  It is very easy to see how Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference year-in and year-out.

Friday night, I paid $15 for a courtside seat and saw a pretty solid women's Pac-12 basketball game.

$21 got me a chair-backed seat two rows behind the LMU bench with nobody around me, but I had the ghosts of Red Auerbach and John Wooden sitting beside me and three kids kicking the seats in front of them, which rattled my entire row.

All I could take was a half and I moved into the upper section, which was sparsely populated, for another quarter before I left.

Flying home (where I'm writing the majority of this), I can't even tell you who won.  Haven't even looked.  LMU pulled ahead of the University of San Diego, but I had beetn tweeting that it was just simply "bad basketball".

When you're in L.A., you worry about navigating all of the freeways and not getting stuck in a ton of traffic.

For me to get to Hope International University, where a pair of NAIA powerhouses would square off, I would have to take the 405 South to the 105, go east until I reached the 605, go south and pickup the 91 -- I think the Riverside Freeway -- until I got to 57, where I would go north.

I had plenty of time.  I got a bite to eat at a place called Pieology Pizzeria, which is a bit like Subway, Freebirds and Chipotle but with pizza pies.

Design your own pizza and have your own thin-crust in about 7-8 minutes.  Pretty impressive and pretty tasty too.

I found Hope International - after driving past the gym once -- early enough where I was able to see the second half of the women's game between Hope International and Biola University.

However, I was there to see the men's game.  Oh, and the admission fee was just $5.

Biola University, under Dr. Dave Holmquist, has been an NAIA power for 30 years.  He entered the year just shy of 900 wins and was sitting at 910 entering Saturday's game as the 10th-ranked team in the nation.

Meanwhile, Hope International, who honestly I had never heard of before, was coached by Bill Cezch and was 7th.

Both schools are faith-based, Christian institutions -- and they play some pretty good NAIA-level basketball.

A lot of the guys at the NAIA level can play at the NCAA Division I level, but some just aren't a fit where the stakes -- as a revenue sport -- are a little higher.

Both teams averaged in the 70- to 80-point range, but neither team had passed the 40-point mark at halftime.

It was a defensive battle all night long.  There were a lot of missed shots, but it wasn't necessarily because of bad shot selection.  Both teams hammered it inside, which you see less and less these days at the NCAA Division I level.  And for the most part, the referees let them play.

It was refreshing and enjoyable to watch versus an upper level AAU or summer league basketball game.

Hope International beat Biola by just over 10 points, which they've done quite a bit since Czech took over a program that had gone something like 20-288 in the previous 10-11 years before he took the job after spending 15-plus years at Fullerton Union High School.

Sunday morning had an early wakeup call for a 7 a.m. start, something I'm very familiar with as much race announcing that I've done.

I left the hotel at 5:15 a.m. and planned out the right route that put me in Beverly Hills by about 5:40 a.m., which I needed because there had been a long line to get into the parking structure for a set of shops called The Grove.

I actually broke to the start line at about 6:40 a.m., because it was a little chily at 52 degrees (which turned out to be perfect to run in).

The race was to pay honor to fallen first responders -- and to thank them for their service in the greater Los Angeles area.

For a first-time race with both a half marathon and a 10K in a major city with a pretty good crowd, the event production team, I think, hit a home run.

They had some waves - by about 90 seconds each.  I was in the fourth wave and I crossed 5 minues after the first gun sounded.

Mario Lopez was the celebrity host.  (Check out his instagram feed for the crowd selfie that he took and you'll see Mr. Non-Expressive himself there in the sea of runners.)

For the 10K, it was right out onto Beverly Blvd., left on to La Brea, right onto Melrose and then east to turn left on to the Paramount Studios lot, which was actually pretty cool.

We passed the mile 3 mark - after going through a section set up with displays of officers whose watches had ended while on duty -- and before we exited the property, they had the red carpet laid down.

It is one thing to have it at a local race in Houston, which I don't do, and totally another thing to do it in L.A. on the Paramount lot.

It was right out of their grounds and run the course in reverse to the finish.

I think I was in the upper 1:04 range after racing 7-plus miles the day before without having any regular miles on my legs.

Thought about both my sister and my grandfather while I was running on the course, which I pretty much always do while I have time to think.

I ended the day back at LAX to get ready to fly home and had one of my great Sunday phone calls with my daughter -- one of the great privileges I get as a parent while she's off to school at Liberty University.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Long Course and Long in the Tooth; January 23, 2016

I ran the Coastal Run/Walk For Foster Youth 10K that was produced by the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

It was no more than about 5 miles from the hotel here in Culver City and you're treated with planes taking off overhead out of LAX as they head out east over the Pacific before making their turns back to the west.

Lots of funny stories to share from today's adventures.

I wouldn't call my recent reduction in running and racing (a relative term for me) burnout, but my "want to" has definitely shifted.

I didn't decide which race I was going to run until the lady at the registration table said, "That's OK.  Take your time to decide.  Both races are $40."

I couldn't mark 10K fast enough!

$40 for a 10K is a good value.  For a $5K, let me just make a donation to the charity.  :-)

The 5K with this race started at 8:30 a.m. and the 10K started at 9:00 a.m.

That's a little odd for us involved in event production in Texas with one exception:  you didn't have the two races really overlapping at all.

Apparently, it also messes up your overall course distance too.

We ran on a road called - for those familiar with the area - Vista Del Mar.

After a second loop between maybe Napoleon and Imperial Highway, we made the right-hand turn off of Vista Del Mar and down into Dockweiler State Beach, where the finish line was.

Somewhere on the way to the finish line, my hamstring started to cramp.  Not enough miles.  I get it, but I overheard a female runner talking to her friend that the course was long.

Like probably more than 7 miles!

If it was seven miles, then I'm OK with my time.  Not that I was counting on a lot after the 31:24 last Saturday at the ABB 5K.

But I definitely confirmed this morning that there was no way that the marathon would have been enjoyable last Sunday.  At one point this morning, I started to think at the end of the second loop on Vista Del Mar that I had been out there too long!

The funniest story though took place no more than 15 minutes into the race.

After making the first turn, I passed a gentleman who had a full head of white hair.  I saw him in the parking lot.  He had a space blanket around him that he got out of his trunk.

It was from the 2002 L.A. Marathon.

As I passed him, I heard him say, "Looking good there old man!"

I was wearing my Liberty University running shirt that Waverly had gotten me her first year on campus.  So I couldn't say what I was thinking.

What I did respond with was, "I'm not as old as you think I am."

And I took off.

I just wanted to make sure that I beat him.

And I did.

I didn't even look at him the two times that we cross paths on the out and back on the four-lane road that served as the majority of our course.

Sheesh.  For the record, I just turned 49 almost three weeks - and I don't feel that old either.

I guess I need to cut my hair down all the time to where the grey and or white - whatever you want to call it - doesn't show ever.

Unbelievable.  California for you, I guess.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Few Miles Shy of Hollywood; January 22, 2016

A good friend of mine in Dallas, Jacob Phillips, the cross country and track coach at Dallas Baptist University, is trying to blog every day.

I'm going to pull for him a lot to be successful because I'd like to, but am not getting it done.

I enjoy expressing myself.  Just trying to get things out of my mind and make sense of life.

Although I certainly have little to complain about.

It is Friday night.  I'm in Los Angeles.  It has been a long day.

I was up at 3 a.m. Central time to make it to my desk by 5 a.m. (made it at 4:50 a.m.) so I could get my work done and leave by 9 a.m.

My flight to LAX left just before noon, landed here at about 1:30 p.m. Pacific, got my bag, picked up a rental car from Enterprise and made it to the Marriott Courtyard here in Culver City.

The goal this weekend is to see three college basketball games and run two races.

The first basketball game is out of the way:  saw #12 Stanford send USC to their fifth loss in seven games and move to 15-4 on the season and 5-2 in Pac-12 play.

The Trojans play in the Galen Center - a beautiful facility just across the street from the USC campus.  Had some time before the game to see the outside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which has such an incredible history over the last 80-plus years.

Back to the basketball game:  I couldn't have been more impressed with the play of 5-8 freshman point guard Marta Sniezek for the Cardinal.

She was a Parade All-American who hails from the Washington, D.C. area with four siblings either played or play college athletics and is the second youngest of a family of 10 children.

Her coach, the legendary Tara VanDerveer, told this to the Palo Alto Online newspaper about Sniezek -- and it is spot on.

"Marta is a heady point guard, sees the floor well, works hard.  Her assists were great, scored when she needed, but she's really a great distributor. She's smart and she's a student of the game."

Yep.  Without a doubt.

The Trojan that I was most impressed with was #41 Temi Fagbenle.  Learned just now that she transferred from Harvard after graduating from there with a degree in anthropology.  Wow.

She's 6-4, from Nigeria, a Parade All-American like Sniezek and competed in the 2012 London Olympics for Great Britain.

Not a big girl, but physical and sometimes gets away with some calls despite her aggressiveness and quickness.

USC has such a rich women's basketball legacy with the McGee sisters, Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller and their current coach, Cynthia Cooper.

All of their numbers have been retired by the school.

Some may wonder how I can just make a trip like this by myself.

I've just decided that I'm not going to let the lack of certain things in my life keep me from enjoying it.

As I've stated before, I'm an introvert.

I'm perfectly comfortable doing things by myself.  Sure, it would be good to have company, but I can let the lack of good company place me in a dormant state of life.

So I keep busy and cram as much into it that I can.

I hope to run a 10K in the morning with basketball games at Loyola Marymount and Hope International in the afternoon and evening.

Hope you'll make it a great day too!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The View From Pearl, Mississippi; January 9, 2016

In 361 days, hard to believe, I will turn 50.  Incredible.

I don't feel 49.  I don't know what that's supposed to feel like.  Maybe my mental age is a lot less.  Wait, I'm probably sure of that.  :-)

I don't know that I've ever considered myself to be a follower, but I do know that I many times do my best in a behind-the-scenes support role.  I thrive on it.  Does it mean that I avoid the risk of always leading?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Even though I've told Waverly never to have regrets, I think this year is going to be about not looking back.  And that's not to say that I have been.

Or maybe it is that I shouldn't second guess myself or do things that maybe I really just don't want to do anymore.

Case in point today here in Pearl, Mississippi.  I was signed up to run the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon in Jackson - a race that I've done both the half in 2009 and the marathon in 2012.

I've been sick the last week battling off a stomach virus.  It is in the 50's here and when the alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. (for a 7 a.m. start), it was raining pretty well.

At about 5:15 a.m., I told Waverly to go back to sleep in her bed and I tried to do the same in mine.  I would miss seeing my friends in Steve Boone and Angela Tortorice, but I know where to find them!

When I finally got moving at 7:45 a.m. and peeled back the blinds in the hotel room, guess what:  no rain and it looks like a pretty nice morning to run.

I don't know that I would call it burnout, but a good bit of my "want to" has went.  And that's OK.

So, I've also made a decision to not run next Sunday's Chevron Houston Marathon, which would have been my 10th.  Crazy, you say?  There's one line of thought (getting to "Veteran Status") where you could say that.

However, I will be writing the article for Texas Runner and Triathlete on the race and I'm excited about that.  It will be the first time since 2003 that I've made a decision not to "run Houston" (the original notion of "Run Houston", not the current market rendering) and I'm great with it.

I'm going to concentrate in 2016 about working hard on my announcing, slowing down a little (to me although you may think otherwise) and trying to enjoy life even more than I already have been.

This will be heresy to some, but I learned this two years ago when I had to speak at my sister's Memorial Service:  Nobody will come and remember you based on how many things you did, they will be there because of who you were and the things that you stood for.

Waverly and I will be driving tonight to Gastonia, North Carolina and then she'll be taking me to the Charlotte airport on Sunday where I'll fly home and she'll drive on north to start the spring semester of her junior year of college at Liberty University.

So proud of her, the beautiful young woman inside and out that she has become, what she stands for and the opportunity that she has to serve God with the talents and the abilities that He has given her to have an effect on the lives of young women that resides on her hall and the boys and girls that she'll teach in the classroom in years to come.

If you're reading, please pray for safe travels for us both today and tomorrow.