From Hoppers to Fullerton

While you read this, you should listen to Lucero’s The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo

Last Thursday night, Sean and I attended the second lecture in Gustavo’s Awesome Lecture Series at the Fullerton Public Library. Gustavo Arellano is currently teaching a course in the Cal State Fullerton Chicano Studies department. The lecture series is an effort to take Chicano Studies in to the surrounding community and make it more accessible (read: free parking at an easy to find location).

Thursday’s talk featured Jaime Hernandez co-creator of the seminal Love & Rockets series. Even though I had to bail on a work event and go all the way to Fullerton in rush hour traffic, I didn’t want to miss this talk.

I’m a newbie to the world of L&R. I tried to get in to the series summer ‘09, but I was a little lost. It wasn’t until I read the collections as suggested by L&R publisher Fantagraphics Books that I really started to enjoy the series. Sean gave the first three collections of Jaime’s work for Christmas that year. I read them while home sick and on vacation. Even though I never lived a life like Chimatli who saw her life, friends and experiences in the characters, I was hooked. By February, I’d gone through the larger collection Locas II, featuring the later adventures of Maggie, Hopey and a wide array of characters.

On Thursday afternoon, Sean and I left work early to battle rush hour traffic on four freeways. Thanks to Gustavo’s tips, we made it to Fullerton with a few minutes to spare and took seats in the front row of an almost full room.

Gustavo introduced Jaime and started an informal discussion. Rather than delve into the “fictional world of SoCal Chican@ punks, cholos and weird, spooky unexplained happenings” (Coincidence pt 1 by Chimatli) contained in a few decades worth of L&R, Gustavo mainly focused on Jaime’s upbringing in Oxnard and the inspiration for the fictional Hoppers. Jaime talked about which comics he enjoyed as a kid and how his mother actively encouraged him and his brothers to read and collect comics.

He also gave a lot of credit to his older brother and partner in L&R, Gilbert. I was a little surprised and amused by this. As a kid and teen, Jaime looked up to Gilbert and admired his drawing and writing skills. “Gilbert always knew what he was doing,” he said. The way Jaime spoke of his brother made me think of how Danny had influenced me or how I may have influenced Lori or Adrian. When Gustavo opened up the questions to the audience, I asked Jaime how he and Gilbert continue to influence or collaborate now that they’re both well established artists. Jaime admitted that they don’t really talk about work when they get together as he is in Pasadena and Gilbert lives in Las Vegas but they do still check in and ask “What stories are you including in the next issue?”

After questions, we lined up to by books and get our books signed. Sean bought The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite (2010). I tried not to be as much of geeked out fangirl as when I met Sherman Alexie. Jaime signed my copy of Locas II and L&R #31 (of course!). I told him I was a new fan and really enjoyed New Stories Vol. 3, especially “Love Bunglers” an intense and heartbreaking story. I told Jaime I was impressed with the storytelling and found myself reading it a few times to really appreciate the story. I’m sure I still sounded like a dork, but he graciously accepted the compliments and admitted that “Love Bunglers” was intense (to say the least).

Sean and I left feeling geeked to meet one of our favorite writers in a low-key setting.

Thanks to Gustavo, CSUF Chicano Studies and Fullerton Public Library for planning and hosting the talk. Oh yeah, and thanks to Gustavo for suggesting El Camino Real for a delicious and cheap dinner nearby.

Heads up:
If you’re near San Jose, you should check out Novelas, Love and Other Adventures at MACLA. The original panels for the “Death of Speedy” by Jaime Hernandez are up alongside some work from my friend and talented artist Rio Yañez.


To the beach and back

Views like this -- sans clouds and haze -- can induce a runner's high 13ish miles in to a 20.75 mile long run

I just ran my final long run of my training schedule. I still have three weeks before the LA Marathon, but I’ll be tapering down my mileage and my long runs will be much shorter (<10 miles).

I ran today’s 20.75 miles with the Hamilton HS Students Run LA group plus some adult ringers. [Sidenote: I can’t stress how great it’s been to tag along with SRLA groups. I doubt I’d feel so positive after a long run if I wasn’t running the SRLAers and had snacks/water/Gatorade from the parents at the aid stations.]

The exact number of miles for today’s run is less important than the way I felt while running them. I ran 21 miles on a tougher course last week. I knew I could complete today’s run, but I didn’t think I’d feel so great. I expected a rather crappy run given where I am in my cycle. Menstrual cramps suck more while running.

Nevertheless, I felt awesome today. I had flashbacks to the Long Beach half marathon last fall, probably because I was doing oceanside running for a portion of the run. I remember feeling strong, fast and thankful that I could run. I reflected on how far I’d come in my fitness. It was more than enough to make a chillona like myself a little emotional as I neared the finish line and achieved my goals.

This morning, I felt happy, fast, strong and thankful once again. I felt comfortable at a sub-10 pace for most of the 20ish miles. I loved the course which began with the last 10.2 miles of the marathon (Wilshire -> Santa Monica -> Sawtelle -> Ohio -> Federal (for the marathon, we’d go through the Veteran’s Center, but we went around) -> San Vicente -> Ocean). I loved running down San Vicente, which I just learned is a perfect street for running (slight decline, shady, nice sidewalks, bike lane, wide grassy medium for those who want a softer surface, plenty of runners and bikers, especially today as folks training for the marathon got in their last long run before the taper). I enjoyed the beautiful view as I ran down Ocean Blvd, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier. I wanted to stop and send a photo to my sister saying “wish you were here” but kept going. And I was thankful for my abilities and a sunny yet cool morning. [The photo above is from August ’09. If I took it today, the skies and beach would be clear.]

The run back from the beach wasn’t as scenic. I kept getting caught at stop lights, which was annoying because I’d have to stop mid-stride. On a bad run, I hope for red lights, but not today. I wore a light jacket, and got a little too warm in it as I expected, but I’d rather be a little warm than too cold at 7 am when we started.

Now I get to recover from my run for a few days. I’ll enjoy the taper and try to patiently wait for the marathon. But it’ll be tough. I can’t wait wait to run through my city.


Today’s total: 21.4 miles (20.75 long run, .65 warm-up)
Time: 3:27:10 (9:59 pace), no walking!
Fuel: banana & peanut butter toast for breakfast; GU packs (gross!) at miles 4.5, mile 9, mile 17; orange slices (mile 4.5), homemade shortbread with chocolate (mile 14), some Cheez-Its (mile 16) all from the parent volunteers on the course; and plenty of water

Corriendo, Familia

Another Sunday, another long run

This morning, I ran 21 miles. Once again, I tagged along with students. This time it was the Mt Gleason Runners out in Sunland. The team’s coach, Craig Moss, put out an open invite on Twitter and I jumped at the chance. I’d had a great experience with the Hamilton HS runners, but they were doing 10 miles this weekend and my training plan called for more. I knew running with the MG Runners along a new route with support would be great motivation. And it was.

The MG Runners are a big group with several adult runners. For the majority of the run, I was near students (good since I’d lost my map and was unfamiliar with the area and course). The views of the snowy mountains of the Angeles National Forest were quite awesome; I wished I had my camera. Parents and volunteers manned 5 water stations with gummy worms, oranges, bananas, water and Gatorade (much better than my GU Chomps). One of the parents even brought an RV for her station at mile 13. Impressive.

In a short break between mile 17 and 18, a parent asked if I was one of the students’ parents. In between water and orange slices, I told her no and explained the Twitter open invite. I found the concept of being a middle school kid’s mother amusing until I realized I was old enough to have a 12-14 year old. I thanked her once again and continued on my run. Some students offered “good job!” as I passed them. Shortly after, I caught up to a man who said his son was running in his second marathon. He was training for his first. We chatted a little and then concentrated on the hills.

If I was a runner in middle or high school, I know my mom or dad would definitely be at a water station. My siblings and I were lucky enough to be involved in lots of activities as kids. My parents paid for us to participate in Little League and take other classes, they bought the necessary equipment (cleats for baseball and soccer, botas for ballet folkórico), drove us to all the practices/games/performances, and watched us play and perform. When we were in the high school band, they were active in the parent booster club. Dad helped set up for half-time and pre-game shows. Mom helped hem uniform pants and jackets. When our high school hosted a day-long band competition, they were out there all day. I took their presence and support for granted back then. I just assumed all parents gave up their Friday nights and Saturdays.

The parents out there this morning reminded me of my own awesome parents who are still the best support I could ask for*.

As for the run, I felt much better physically and mentally than I did two weeks ago for the 18-miler. I fueled much better today with Chomps (1 pack), gummy worms, orange slices, water and Gatorade. The ~20 degree difference in weather definitely helped too. I was also free of the self-doubt that hit me hard in the last few miles two weeks ago. During the tough part of the run today, I repeated my mantra (¡Sí se puede!) and concentrated on getting up the hill rather than wonder what I was doing training for a marathon. I finished in 3:40:56 (10:31 pace).

Many thanks to Craig Moss and the MG Runners. I look forward to seeing them in 28 days (!) running from the stadium to the sea.

[*Sean and Lori are great too. Sean had ice waiting for me when I got home. Ice baths used to sound so torturous, but now I look forward to them. Lori comes through with great advice, massages and discounts on athletic gear.]


SRLA Friendship Run Race Report

In the last ten days, I’ve had a couple of bad runs. I know they come with the territory, but two in a short period messes with my confidence. The first came a mere 36 hours after giving blood. In my running log, I wrote, “worst. run. ever.” I try to avoid unnecessary periods and hyperbolic claims, but after that 6-miler, I couldn’t help it. I know my problem that day could be attributed to giving blood. Six days later, I struggled through another 6-miler, which I attributed to menstrual cramps. When I tweeted my frustration, Marlene, the Students Run LA coach at my local high school, suggested nerves might be a problem. I didn’t think so. My nerves were fine and I was actually excited about my next long run, the SRLA 18-mile Friendship Run at Hansen Dam.

Yes, I was excited for 18 miles. And, I won’t lie, a little nervous.

Early Sunday morning, I got ready, grabbed my pre-packed bag and headed off with Sean to the Valley. I checked in, picked up my bib and timing chip, warmed up and stretched. I gave Sean my light jacket — totally unnecessary as it was already sunny and warming up, highs were in the upper 70s — before lining up with the crowd.

All those kids in white are HS and middle school kids training for the LA Marathon

Shortly after 8, the race started without much fanfare. I waved goodbye to Sean and left the park surrounded by SRLA kids in white, their coaches in yellow and others training for the LA Marathon.

The course is a 9-mile loop starting at the Hansen Dam Park out to the roads in a boring business/industrial and suburban area. We do an out-and-back to the aptly named Shadow Hills, which were tough on the second loop but provided some much-needed shade. Around mile 7, the course veers up a short steep hill onto the bike path across the Hansen Dam. To the left, we look down at Sunday morning golfers and to the right is the park. For 2 miles up ahead, all you see is a steady stream of runners.

I ran the first 9-mile loop faster than expected (about 1:25) and without my GU Chomps. Sean couldn’t get to our meeting point in time due to road blocks and parking restrictions. The hills were tough, but I felt fine. After I realized I’d likely have to go the first loop without Chomps, I hoped the banana and half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be good enough. I drank water at every station. At the end of the dam/halfway point, I was grateful for the parents and other supporters offering pretzels, orange slices and Red Vine. I’ve never had a more delicious orange.

I needed those calories for the second loop. It was tough and showed in my slower splits and grimaces on my face. Everything was more difficult. It was hotter and sunnier. The hills seemed longer and higher. I compensated with short breaks to drink water or Gatorade at each mile marker. The final stretch on the dam without shade nor water was more difficult than the hills. I had to take short walking breaks at that point. On the bright side, I didn’t miss Sean and got my Chomps around 12 and 16 miles.

At the end of the dam, I downed some water and tried to finish the last quarter mile strong. With the finish line in sight, I ran a little harder in an effort to finish under 3 hours as planned. I was 6 seconds over. I’m fine with that considering how many short breaks I took in the last 5 miles.

Post-race, I got my medal, t-shirt, food, juice, water and paper towel. I took a seat on a curb and devoured some snacks and water. A few minutes later, I met up with Sean at out our meeting point under a shady tree. I stretched, ate and drank some more, and tried to wipe off the salt from my arms and face. We checked my official time and placing before leaving the festivities in park where lots of schools/families were grilling for their runners. We returned to West LA and picked up some burritos (protein and carbs!). Afterward, I sat in an ice bath for 15 minutes before getting ready to go to my mom’s to watch the Super Bowl. I made it through half time before taking a nap. In the evening, Lori gave me a massage to help in my recovery.

I’m sore today, but not as bad as I expected. The ice bath and massage definitely helped.


Last week, Marlene told her team, “I always tell my students that if you can do the 18-miler, you can do the marathon. It’s a tough course mentally,” she added. She wasn’t kidding. I doubted myself at the end and wondered what the hell I was doing training for a marathon. Still, I made it and was 6 seconds shy of my goal.

The marathon is six weeks away. I’m ready for more — hopefully cool and shady — long runs.


Finding balance

This doesn’t sit well with me.

I’ve felt what it’s like to care, and felt what it’s like to not. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and about how we’re supposed to have “balance” in our lives, how we’re supposed to play on both sides of the fence, in order to lead “a well rounded life.” How this is what all these girls out there are being told, “it’s all about balance,” well…

I’m calling bullshit. Right now. This moment. Bullshit.

To lose weight, to see results, you have to be perfect, 110% of the time. Playing on both sides of the fence may maintain you, but if you really want to lose weight, once and for all, you can’t cheat, not even a little bit, not even at all.

[Via One Twenty Five]

I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be. I’m also not a fan of fences. That probably has something to do with being a Chicana in the Borderlands.

Nevertheless, I strive for balance. It reminds of my Grandpa Bartolo’s advice to my aunts; roughly, eat whatever you like, but don’t fear the broom (read: work).

I didn’t start off this way when I decided I wanted to lose weight and joined Weight Watchers two years ago. Initially, I followed the plan closely. I tracked everything I ate in a food diary. I planned my meals and snacks ahead of time and carried contingency snacks for unplanned events. I counted everything, looked at every single nutrition label, measured my food, watched my serving sizes and made sure I stayed within my allotted points. I attended a meeting once a week. My efforts paid off. Jeans fit looser. The pounds came off and the receptionist gave me star stickers after each successful weigh-in.

However, even as I saw the results, I disliked the process and what it was doing to my attitude. I thought about food all the time. How many points is a tortilla? How much will it set me back? How long will I have to work out to make up for that slice of cheese?

I became a bit anxious when I ate a great home cooked meal at my mom’s or another relative’s and worried about going out of town for a meeting because I wouldn’t be in complete control.

On the flip side, some of the habits I picked up are good for my health, wallet and general well-being. I learned to cook and ate out much less. I stopped skipping breakfast. I began eating more of the fruits and vegetables I grew up loving. I gave up alcohol for Lent, which took away the feeling that I was restricting myself for a diet. I’ve enjoy giving up something for Lent and have given up alcohol before. I started working out and returned to running (well, jogging).

By the summer, I stopped trying to be perfect. I let up on tracking everything I ate or even tasted. My anxiety subsided, but I still worried about straying too far from the plan. For example, when Lori said she wanted to bake my a birthday cake, I told her not to since it was too hot to bake that day. Secretly, I didn’t want the calories from the cake. I occasionally gained weight at my weekly weigh-in. Although I wasn’t happy, I never beat myself up. As the days shortened and students returned to campus, I was barely tracking. At the end of the year my weight loss slowed down and plateaued temporarily. I was a few pounds from goal weight.

I got to my goal after a year and some weeks of working hard to find that balance. I maintained my weight loss, at least for a few months.

Recently, I’ve gained some of it back. Not much, but enough that a couple of dresses are rather snug at the bust and one pair of pants barely closes. When I weighed myself after two months of avoiding the scale (I told myself I’d go by how my jeans felt), I was surprised at the number. I was disappointed; those extra pounds are holding me back from running faster and I’d like those dresses and pants to fit like they used to.

I know I could go back to writing everything down, measuring and restricting, but that will be tough as I train for the marathon. Running, especially the long runs, gives me a voracious appetite (you try burning 1500+ calories in a workout session). Instead, I’ll concentrate on eating foods that I enjoy and that will provide good fuel as I train.

In my first draft of this piece, I arrogantly claimed that I’d found my balance. I’m still working on it.