weSPARK Universal Studios Backlot 10K RECAP!

November 7, 2012

My legs are still sore, ladies and gentleman, from the 10K race I ran on Sunday. That means I really pushed myself. And I’m really proud of how things turned out. But I’m jumping ahead of myself… I should start at the beginning.

Sunday was a beautiful day for a race: sunny and clear, although it was hot. It ended up being 90 degrees that day, and even though the race was held early in the morning, it was obvious that the day was going to be a scorcher. I got to Universal Studios a little before 8am, and met up with a bunch of friends that were also participating in either the 10K or the 5K run/walk. My buddy Mikael took this picture of me near the starting line…

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October 30, 2012

My family was in town recently, for what turned out to be a really wonderful weekend. We headed down to Anaheim and did the whole Disney thing. It was my second time in each of the Disney parks, and it was a really fun and busy time. And even though the family has long since returned home, I can’t stop thinking about my four-year-old niece, Allison.

First, a picture of Allison, along with me, my sister Sarah, and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” I’m still wet from Grizzly River Run, the Disney California Adventure water ride we were on immediately preceding our meet and greet with Ariel:

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Big Time Race Announcement!

October 22, 2012

At first, I considered titling this post “Shafted by Schmidt” – which will make more sense after you read what follows. Ultimately, though, I decided to focus on the positive. And I have a lot to be positive about!

I’ve been teasing a big announcement for the past two weeks, and I can finally spill the beans! I’ll start at the beginning. A year ago, I ran in my first 10k race, weSPARK’s 3rd Annual 10k Run. I chose it because of its location – the course winds its way through all the backlots at Universal Studios: up and down Wisteria Lane, past the Bates Motel, by Jaws Lake, and so on. Here I am running through the “Wars of the Worlds” wreckage:

Wanna see more pictures? You can see ’em in my post recapping the race, which you can find here. Running that 10k proved to be an emotional event. It was the first official fitness-related challenge that I attempted after losing over 160 pounds, and to this day I’m still proud that I accomplished my goal of completing it without stopping. It turns out that recap post inspired a lot of people, including the folks at weSPARK, the charity that organizes the event, because a few weeks ago, I got an email from Nancy, the Executive Director, that stopped me cold. Literally.

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10K Pictures… Finally!

December 3, 2011

On November 13th, I ran my first race – the weSPARK 3rd Annual 10K Run. The course was through movie sets at Universal Studios, and I had a ball. You can read all about here, and see a bunch of photos, too!

In my follow-up post, where I shared my official time (59:06!), I mentioned how I was hoping to post a couple more pictures – the organizers had photographers scattered throughout the course like paparazzi, and I just had to wait until the photos were uploaded online.

Shortly after that, after a heads-up from my friend Jen, I headed to the Super Sports Photo website and looked around. In total, they had snapped 14 pictures of me, and a couple of them I liked! Because it was my first race, I decided to splurge and purchase a couple. The cheapest option, a low-resolution digital photo, cost $12.75. I decided to buy two. After paying $25.50, I got a receipt and an email saying that a second email, with instructions on how to download my purchase, would be coming within an hour. I checked my email all day long – I was excited, because I was still on a high from the race itself, and I was geeked to share the pictures on the blog. That was on November 16th.

Guess when that second email arrived? December 1st! During those two weeks, I called twice to check on the status of my order. The first time, I left a message that was never returned. The second time, I was told that I could expect my photos that morning, but it took another week for them to come. Super Sports Photo gets no bonus points for customer service.

But the photos are now in my hot little hands, which means you all can see them too! They aren’t low-resolution, either – the files I got were high-resolution, so maybe that’s their way of making up for the delay.

Here’s the first photo – taken on Mexican Street at Universal Studios:

I think I’m trying to smile and breathe at the same time! And look, my pants are a little short!

Here’s the second photo – taken at the War of the Worlds set, which basically replicates what it would look like if a jumbo jet crash-landed on a suburban street (so, lots and lots of rubble and debris):

Again, trying to smile while focusing on the run – when this photo was taken, I had about 1 kilometer left, and I was really starting to ache.

So there you have it! I wish I could’ve posted these sooner, but it was out of my control. I think they nicely round out my photo collection from that day, which was pretty comprehensive but lacked action shots of me actually running. Now that I have these, I’m feeling a desire to quote from The Little Mermaid:

“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has everything?”

Keep it up, David!

Burpee Update, Chart Update

November 16, 2011

Two different updates today.

1) Burpees Update. Remember when I committed to the No Excuses 30-Day Burpees Challenge? It’s a workout challenge hatched by Scott over at Your Inner Skinny where you do burpees every single day for a month, adding one burpee each day. I was feeling a bit in a rut when the challenge began, and even though I hate burpees, I made the commitment as a way to push myself into doing something new.

Tomorrow would have been my 30th day, but I’ll cut to the chase: I abandoned the challenge a long time ago. I dropped it like a prom dress. In the end, my dislike of burpees won out, and after missing a couple days of burpees, I couldn’t rally to get back on the burpee train. The 10K didn’t help, either, as it was a workout goal that really excited me, so I had no problem focusing on that and letting the burpees slide.

I did complete 14 days of burpees before pulling the plug, and I had worked my way up to 28 burpees on that 14th day. Add in the 4 days of practice burpees before the challenge actually began, and I completed 361 burpees. I can be proud of that, and proud that I’m man enough to share my shortcomings, even if I’m not proud of my quitting.

I’m also a little worried that Scott, once he reads this, is gonna emerge from his northern Canadian igloo, strap on his snowshoes, and find his way down to Los Angeles to kick my ass. And he totally could – that guy is jacked. Better sleep with one eye open.

2) Chart Update. Stepped on the scale yesterday, and I liked what I saw. Here’s the update on my weight loss chart:

Down 1 pound! Not to sound like a snot, but I should hope so. I worked my ass off last week, pushing myself while training for my 10K, and then actually running that 10K. What I’m most happy about is that I’ve turned around my recent slow gain:

I’ve lost 1 of the 5 pounds I gained over the 6 weeks. Four more to go! A weight of 236 puts my total weight loss at 166 pounds. A couple more weight loss chart shots, because I know you love ’em (and so do I):

Keep it up, David!

TOMORROW: My recipe for a healthy, delicious fall salad!

10K Follow-Up AND My Next Race!

November 15, 2011

It’s Monday evening as I write this and my legs are still sore from Sunday’s 10K race. I love feeling sore – it means I did something right – and I’m still on a high from the race, so I don’t mind being reminded of it with literally every step.

The soreness didn’t stop me from hitting the gym – I’m not exactly sure what laurels are (some sort of tree/leaf?) but I’ll be damned if I’m going to rest on them. There was 5 minutes of warming-up on the treadmill, then a half-hour of weightlifting (emphasis on upper body, because I didn’t want my legs to collapse under me). I would have gone another 10 minutes on a few other machines, but I bonked my head nice and hard on a pull-down bar, cursed a little, got annoyed, and decided to move on. So I finished with 17  strong, but not excruciating minutes on a stationary bike while I flipped through an issue of Time magazine that had a great article on the new Muppets Movie, which I can’t wait to see.

There’s some follow-up information on the 10K that I’m excited to share. We all ran with microchips attached to our shoes, and today, the data from those chips were uploaded to the internet, so I have my official race results. And it’s one of the reasons I’m still on this high.  So, without further ado:

David’s Official Results From the weSPARK 3rd Annual 10K Run & 5K Run/Walk, 11/13/11:

  • Total Time: 59:06.5
  • First 5K: 28.29
  • Second 5K: 30:36
  • Pace (my average time for each mile): 9:32
  • Place: 129th out of 432 runners.
  • Place in my Age Group (Men 30-34): 18th out of 28 runners.
  • Number of other runners with the last name Garcia in the 5K and 10K races, all of whom are unrelated to me: 8.

Two thoughts:

  1. My pace only slowed by about two minutes between the first lap and the second, which I’m very proud of. The second lap seemed, at the time, to go much slower for me, because I was tired and the runners were more spread out, but I kept up my pace pretty well!
  2. 129th out of 432 runners? HOLY CRAP, I finished in the top third!


I was also hoping to share more pictures on today’s post. The race organizers peppered the course with photographers who were snapping away with their high-powered zoom lenses like paparazzi, and the pictures were supposed to be uploaded today, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know if they got any good ones of me (thankfully there were no photographers around during my ugly cry at kilometer 6), but my fingers are crossed for a decent action shot or two. Stay tuned.

One of the questions that’s been tossed my way a ton of times in person, in blog comments, in tweets and in Facebook posts has been: “What are you going to do next? You should do a half-marathon!” or “You should do a marathon!” My answer has been some variation on “I don’t know yet. I’ve been busy focusing on this 10K.” Time to come clean – that’s a lie. 

I do know what race I’m doing next, and it’s coming up quickly. I’m going to my sister Sarah’s place in Colorado next week for Thanksgiving, as I’ve done for the past 7 or 8 years, and last week, Sarah signed me, herself, and our other sister Laura up for a race: the Louisville, Colorado Turkey Trot 5K.

It’s the morning of Thanksgiving Day, and it’s pretty close to Sarah’s house. I don’t know the route (yet), but it shouldn’t be nearly as hilly as the Universal Studios route, as, generally speaking, that part of the world is pretty flat. I’m looking forward to running it with family, and having a good workout on Thanksgiving is a great idea. I hope all of you find a way to move before tucking into the turkey!

As for longer races, whether they’re half-marathons or full marathons… well, I don’t know what my next running goal will be. Even with a successful 10K under my belt, the thought of running more than twice that distance seems terribly daunting, and that’s just a half-marathon! A race like that would require some very dedicated training, and right now, I can’t commit to running more than once or twice a week (even that can seem excessive sometimes), because variety in exercise plays a huge role is helping me not get bored or lazy.

I’m not going to flat-out say I’ll never run a longer race, but at the moment, I’m not actively searching for my next challenge. I’ll keep my eye on upcoming races, and I’ll keep an open mind, and we’ll see what happens.

Keep it up, David!

RECAP: My First 10K!

November 14, 2011

On November 13, 2011, I ran weSPARK’s 3rd Annual 10K Run & 5K Run/Walk. Here’s what went down.

My Sunday got off to a bad start. When my alarm rang at 5:30am, I swung my arm to my nightstand, in a blind attempt to shut it off, and knocked over my lamp, which fell and shattered. I couldn’t care less about the lamp, which was a $10 Ikea number that I’d had for 10 years and didn’t match the rest of my room; I was happy to have a reason to get rid of it. But I wondered if a carpet full of glass was a sign of things to come. I had set my alarm for that ungodly hour so I could run in my first 10K race, and if things were going to continue to break today, then what would be next? My spirit? A bone?

I successfully got the lamp out of my mind by the time I pulled into Universal Studios. There was an energy in the air from the second I got out of the car that got my heart beating a little faster. I followed the crowd away from the theme park and Citywalk shopping center entrances, and around to the backlots. I met up with my friends Amy and Tiffany, who were also running the 10K. We headed up to the start, did some stretching and took some photos:

That’s Amy on the left and Tiffany on the right. Check out all the racers, getting ready to run:

One of the telltale signs that I’m nervous is a tightening in my core, which makes me feel like I have to go to the bathroom despite having an empty bladder, and about 10 minutes before the race began, I started feeling that tightening. I couldn’t pinpoint what I was nervous about. I was excited to be there, confident in my abilities, and been given considerable thought and effort into preparing and training for this. I suppose I just nervous for the unexpected: I had never run with more than a couple people before, and here I was, in a crowd of hundreds. I focused on my goal, which was to finish, without stopping.

The actual start of the race was wonderfully unceremonial. We were all milling around, and, rather abruptly, Wayne Brady (host of Let’s Make a Deal) appeared with a foghorn and, 3 seconds later, we were off. Amy snapped a picture of Wayne:

As I started running, the first thing I noticed, and immediately loved, was being in the middle of a thunderous symphony of shoes hitting pavement, the soft thuds echoing all around me. Minutes later, I was reminded of why I picked this race to begin with: the course was So. Freakin’. Cool. We ran through all sorts of movie sets and fake towns and villages – new surprises literally around every corner. I have some pictures of what we ran past, and if you’re curious about why they’re all mysteriously devoid of runners, it’s because I took them earlier in the week, when I was scoping the course out with my friend Chris.

The first kilometer was down a big hill, and then we ran around Jaws Lake, home to the mechanical shark that leaps out at unsuspecting tourists on the tram. The soundtrack to the attraction was on, so there were was ominous music, clanging buoys, and the crackle of a Deputy saying, over walkie-talkie, that there’s no sign of the shark:

We ran through Courthouse Square, the small town set that was Hill Valley in the Back to the Future movies…

…and through the Amblin Entertainment complex, where the Crosswalk sign features E.T. (photo taken by Amy)…

Then after a straightaway along the Los Angeles River, we circled around through Spartacus Square (which looks like an ancient Roman plaza, and had an actor dressed as Spartacus cheering us on), up along a vaguely eastern European cobblestone street (where a guy dressed as Frankenstein urged us on; I gave him a high-five), and up to Wisteria Lane, home to Desperate Housewives (sorry, primetime soap fans, that I didn’t get a picture).

From there, we started up the big hill, detouring to pass by the sets from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which were about to get their Christmas decorations)…

…the Bates motel from Psycho, with the house looking over it (and an actor playing Norman Bates, loading corpses into the trunk of a car)…

…and, finally, the plane crash wreckage from War of the Worlds:

From there, it wasn’t long until we were back where we started, which marked 5K – halfway done! Time to do it all over again!

Time for a confession: It was around the 6K mark that I started crying. The crowd had thinned out significantly: I’m not sure when I got separated from Amy and Tiffany, but they were somewhere behind me, all the 5K runners were finished, and the 10K runners were more spaced out. I found myself heading down Mexican street, and for a little while, I was alone. Couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, couldn’t hear anyone behind me. The thunderous symphony of feet was gone – just the sound of my own two sneakers hitting the ground, over and over again.

It was there that it hit me: I’M RUNNING TEN KILOMETERS, AND I’M MORE THAN HALFWAY DONE, AND I WILL NOT STOP! I thought about how this was not a lifelong dream. In fact, it was the opposite – up until very recently, running a 10k was, simply put, an impossibility. Never would I have had the courage, confidence, or the physical ability to even consider attempting such an event. What my weight loss has done for me is bust down the walls of what’s possible in my life, shattered the ceiling of what I can achieve, and allowed me to dream in ways never before fathomable. As I realized that, on Mexican street, the waterworks began. My eyes swelled up, and tears streamed down my cheeks. My already-heavy breathing transformed into wheezing sobs. My shoulders convulsed.

I embraced the epiphany for about 50 feet, then pulled myself together. I knew that around the next corner was a water station, and I didn’t want the volunteers to think I was injured. Also, as it turns out, it’s hard to run and cry. I don’t recommend it.

The last kilometer or so was all uphill, and I was ready for it. I settled into my pace, kept up my breathing, and I ran. My thighs ached. I was exhausted. And there was no way in hell that I was gonna stop. I started noticing that I was passing runners that I would have guessed, based on sight alone, were much more experienced and in shape that I was. There were runners that passed me long ago that were now walking, and secretly relished every time I passed one of them. When I got to the top of the hill, there was a flat final 100 yards before the finish line. I didn’t think I had anything left in me, but I found something, somewhere, and with 50 yards left, I broke out into a sprint. I passed a woman who cheered me on: “Finish strong!” I turned the final corner, saw the finish line approach, and noticed a clock ticking off the seconds. It hit 59:15 as I crossed the line.


I hadn’t thought at all about any time-related goals, but HOLY SHIT! I finished this 10K in UNDER AN HOUR! Here I am with my finisher’s medal…

…and the after photo with Tiffany and Amy, who finished a little while after me:

About a minute after I finished, I saw my friend Austin cross the finish line, which was a pleasant surprise, since I didn’t know he would be there. Another friend, Carrie, soon emerged from the crowd, and it was fun to catch up with them. My friend Jen was also there, walking the 5K, and seeing supportive, familiar faces made the day even better.

It was around 9:30 when I headed for home. My legs were still burning, and my clothes were still damp from my sweat, but those minor inconveniences didn’t register, because I wouldn’t let them. There was nothing that would detract from the indescribable, incalculable, unmistakable pride that this morning brought.

I did it. I completed my first race. I didn’t complain. I didn’t whine. I didn’t stop. And my bedroom lamp was the only thing that broke all day long.

Does anyone have a megaphone? Because all I’ve wanted to do, for the past 12 hours, is climb up on roofs and mountaintops and scream, with everything I’ve got…