Deeper Calling

Tonight I progressed towards a promise I made at the beginning of the year that I would volunteer more often.  It took discipline to break away from the office around 5 to do it, but I'm really glad I did.  The shelter was busier than the last time Steph and I served meals, which was in December.  I must have personally served at least 500 meals in about two hours. Think about that for a second.

That's 500 people who were lucky enough to get a hot meal from the Union Rescue Mission (ham, corn, salad, potatoes, bread, pie) and presumably a cot to sleep in.  Men, women, children.  What about the rest of LA's homeless?  Where are they tonight?  While we're home, while I'm typing this very blog, where are they?  How are they keeping dry?  Warm?  Safe?

I wish there was a way I could make my training pay off for the homeless somehow.  I wish I could raise a couple bucks for every hour I put in the pool, on the bike or the trails.  Tie dollar amounts to what I'm doing for fun, and help put more food on people's plates, or more clothes on their back.

I'm going to think about this more in the coming days and see what I come up with for next year. My good buddy Rusty is doing some special work through Season 1 Racing now.  Maybe I'm next.  Perhaps a deeper calling to all this training is exactly what I need to stay motivated.


My new-and-improved running technique -- focusing on higher cadence and more elbow torque -- seems to be paying off.  I ran for 5.25 miles this morning (in my Newtons, no less!) as part of my brick workout in just over 40 minutes.  As you might recall, I was running 4.5 miles in 45 minutes not too long ago.  The best part of today's chilly jaunt: My heart-rate was consistently in the low 150s and my pace was a consistent 8:15-8:20. This is especially uplifting given the Cheseboro Half Marathon this Saturday.  A week ago I thought the sky was falling and I lacked motivation to train at all.  This caused Coach Gerardo to mention I was a little behind overall in my Wildflower Long Course training.  But now I feel re-energized.  And eager for competition.  My goal is to break two hours since I've never run a trail race before.  But the way I'm running since Sunday causes me to wonder if I can do even better.  Cheseboro is supposed to be a training run, but I know myself -- and you probably know me by now too.

1:50 or bust!

OK, that's all the energy I've got tonight.  Steph is watching Glee in the other room.  I can feel the gravitational pull through the wall.  Help me.  Please.

90 days and counting.

Ryan's "Bad Boys" Episode

I'm almost afraid to set foot outside my condo this morning, for I have no idea what may lie in store. On Saturday, Stephanie and I experienced what we're referring to as "Weirdest Day Ever."  (This played off what we had called "Best Day Ever" about a year ago on a fantastic date.)

Last night, I nearly experienced "Longest Day Ever" courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Saturday's drama featured a horror movie plotline as the backdrop.  Yesterday's drama would have been the perfect "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode.  And it all happened because I was trying to be a nice guy.

The fun started around 6:30 p.m. in the Carl's Jr. parking lot at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and La Brea. I had left work early for two reasons.  First, my cell phone officially died during my brick workout on Monday.  Rest in Peace, oh hard-working Blackberry Pearl.  I'll never forget all the good times we shared.  Second, I was invited to attend a first cut movie screening with a production company at The Lot just off Santa Monica Blvd.

As is so often the case, I was foraging for food before the movie screening when I decided to settle upon Carl's Jr.  The food court across the street would be too complicated to navigate quickly to leave in time for the movie screening.  I ordered a chicken teriyaki sandwich and parked in the lot to scarf it down while reading a Sports Illustrated issue I just bought while purchasing my temporary replacement phone (a no-contract Nokia while my iPhone 4 is on reservation).

Just as I was finishing dinner (if you can call it that), a scruffy-looking man came over and asked me if I could spare any money for food.  Considering I was finishing my meal, the sky was shining, I was in a good mood with some time to kill -- and because I generally do give to those less fortunate when asked -- I provided some cash.

Now is a good moment to acknowledge that  many friends and I are split on this topic.  I know several generous folks who refuse to give money to those on the street.  I completely understand both sides.  My perspective is that it's "just" money and if I am so calloused as not to offer at least a dollar to someone -- regardless of how they use it -- then I've lost a part of my own soul.  My own sense of kindness and compassion.  I imagine what it would be like for me to have to ask someone else for enough change to buy a meal, and that thought alone is usually enough to open my wallet.  It is not my place to play G-d and tell people how to spend their money.  But if I can offer a moment of kindness that doesn't hurt me in the long run, I'm more than OK with that.

Of course,  I nearly had to tell that to the jail warden.

No sooner had I given the man money and started to back out of the parking lot then an LAPD squad car burst into the lot seemingly from nowhere and slammed its brakes directly behind my car.

And when I say "my" car...I mean my dad's car.

Try telling a cop who's pulling you over for what looks like a drug buy that, by the way, this isn't my car.  It's my dad's!

LAPD: "Put up your hands!"

RS: "Why?!  I didn't do anything wrong!"

LAPD: "Get out of the car immediately!  Keep your hand where I can see them!"

RS: "But I didn't do anything!"

LAPD: "Get out of the car NOW!"

I got out of the car.

I still have no idea why I'm being pulled over.

RS: "I gave the guy $5 cash!  That's it!"

LAPD: "Yeah, right.  Gimmee your license."

Meanwhile, I've got one cop with his hand on his gun staring at me while the other checks my record.

It's at this point that I realize A) I have an outstanding ticket that I need to pay. B) I'm being fingered for a drug buy, but am not totally sure. C) I'm not driving my own car.  D) My cell phone is dead -- so if I do get arrested I can't even make a call from my own phone.

Cue "Curb Your Enthusiasm" music.  All over feeling generous and giving a shady-looking dude $5 to get a cheeseburger.

As my record was being checked, I truly thought I had a very good chance to be arrested on suspicion of making a drug buy. I admittedly started to panic because the silent cop next to me wouldn't respond to any of my comments or questions.

RS: "Sir, you can search any part of me and my car.  I have no drugs, if that's what this is about."

RS: "Sir, will you at least tell your partner that the car is registered in my father Mitchell J Schneider's name?"

RS (exasperated): "Look!  I'm a triathlete for G-d's sake...I don't do any drugs!!!"

(Yes, I really said that.)

Finally, the record-checking cop -- the meaner of the two who stood almost two inches shorter than me if that's even possible -- told me I was free to go.  But before doing so, did I understand why I was pulled over?

Of course I did.  But Officer Mean further explained that the Santa Monica/La Brea intersection in particular was notorious for drug activity, and it looked incredibly suspicious for someone to hand something to a homeless guy and quickly pull away from the lot.  I agreed.  Then, Officer Mean told me I "was a better man than he was" for giving anybody anything, as he tells those guys to "pound sand" whenever they get close.

I understand his perspective and think it's equally valid.  In fact, I'm far more tempted to avoid giving money now -- which is sad.  It annoyed me that the person to whom I gave the money didn't even bother to leave the restaurant for just a moment to explain I had simply paid for a meal on his behalf.  I scratch your back, you scratch mine, right?  Wrong!  Of course, I'm not so naive to think the solicitor was completely clean.  Still, he left me hanging, and that situation could have ended a lot worse than it did.

Despite all that, I'm not sure this experience will deter me entirely from sparing some change.  I'd prefer to continue assuming that people are good until proven otherwise.  Shutting myself off to helping others because of one bad episode that lasted no more than 15 minutes doesn't feel right.

Just  please be ready to accept any and all phone calls I may be making to you.  They may be coming from a jail cell! (If my phone is even working.)

136 days and counting.

PS: Yesterday's events completely obscured the real big news of the day: I signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June 2011!  I'll write more about that later tonight or tomorrow.

Night Shift

I remember reading these LA Tri Club dispatch emails last year where people would discuss meeting up in the afternoon to do their brick workouts.  I'd think to myself, "Um, yeah.  Helllooo?!  Some of us work.  That's crazy to just leave work early just for training.  I'd never do that -- it's just excessive."

Today, for the second time in three weeks, I left work early to train in the middle of the afternoon.  Because my workout schedule said I needed to do a brick lasting 2.5 hours.

Never say never.

Of course, I'm arriving into work early to make up the hours, which is nice on a Wednesday following a Tuesday morning workout. It likely will suck tomorrow around 5:30 a.m., when I wake up to visit the pool with the rest of my Fortius teammates.  But at least tonight's workout was fun and rewarding.  I felt fresh on the bike, scampering up Mt. Hollywood at Griffith Park towards Griffith Observatory without my heart-rate taking much of a beating. I felt vastly improved from just a couple weeks ago when I did the same ride more slowly.  I was rewarded at the top with this magnificent view of the Los Angeles basin.

Following the hourlong bike journey, about 15 LA Tri Clubbers and Fortius teammates embarked on an hourlong sunset run through Griffith Park.  We did a lot of climbing, but I handled it well since I was allowed to cross into heart-rate zone 4.  This gave me plenty of room to explore my pacing and threshold.  While I couldn't quite keep up with speedsters Mike and Richard, I felt faster than just a few months ago when I needed to walk a lot more of the course than I did tonight.  Granted, I was limited to heart-rate zone 3 at that stage, but progress is progress.

I gotta be honest.  Throughout the run, it felt like I was playing hooky from school (not that I ever did that, mom).  I'm enjoying this beautiful LA weather with some good friends and pursuing my passion.  I put in a full workday, but what better way to cap it off than to train in the afternoon when it's still light out (for the most part) and the rest of the world slaves away at their desks?  A little guilty?  Yeah, maybe.  Do I care? Nah, not really!

Now, sometimes when I visit the kitchen in our Burbank offices, I gaze towards the Griffith Park hills off in the distance.  I wonder if anyone is running on the trails at that moment.  And instead of thinking they're crazy, I will smile.  I know what it feels like to have that freedom and flexibility.

One day, I'm sure I'll miss not having it.  For now, I'll soak in the moment and enjoy the opportunity.

224 days and counting.

I Heard

Tonight, I heard a rumor from more than one source that Cal-Tech employees were sent home to prepare for a massive earthquake in Southern California.  The proverbial Big One. If you want to get anyone's attention who has ever spent a reasonable amount of time in the greater Los Angeles area, tell them you know something about The Big One and where and when it might occur.  If LA were a person, the Big One is our Achilles heel.  We are brought to our collective knees worrying about it and obsessing over it.

Of course, being the gullible person that I am, I tended to believe said rumor. Partially because two of the most credible people I know -- my father and my buddy John -- had been told the same thing by people they trusted.

Hours later, the Los Angeles Times and rumor debunking website rebuffed the rampant rumor, which spread on Twitter faster than a brush fire ignites on a windy, hot LA day.

As I sit down on my couch before bedtime to type, I realized this earthquake rumor and my Ironman training -- my other Big One -- are similar in one regard.  During the past several months, I've heard all sorts of stories about people bonking at Ironman, crashing days before the big event, or experiencing some grave misfortune after nearly a year of hard work and sacrifice.  Like an earthquake, these episodes are unpredictable, happen quickly, and the results can be shockingly painful. Numbing.

And like rumors, I've yet to meet someone who experienced an Ironman "Big One" on race day.  While the going certainly gets tough, the folks I've spoken with all finished.  Some have finished multiple Ironman events without experiencing a personal tremor.

I hope I can be so lucky.  Then again, maybe it's not luck at all, but preparation.  Like what I did this evening before learning that this rumor was a false one.  I used my triathlon transition bag to pack extra water, Clif Bars and Hammer gels.  Not to mention clothes, because navigating the streets of a chaotic and disoriented Los Angeles naked would really be a bad call.  I also checked over my emergency prep kit to actually see what's inside.

If I continue to prepare for Ironman in the same manner I prepared tonight for a massive earthquake that may never come, then hopefully the only Big One I experience will be the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and pride when I achieve my goal time in Arizona of between 11:30 and 13 hours.

Then, the only quake you'd see is the "Ryan Shake."  And for the few people who actually get that inside joke, you know exactly what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Now, I'm going to get some rest.  Hopefully without any interruption.

226 days and counting.

A Race About Friendship

The LA Marathon won't be remembered for my performance.

I finished in 5:11, nearly a full 1.5 hours slower than I had hoped.  Sickness and fatigue shut me down at mile 9, somewhere between the end of Los Angeles and beginning of West Hollywood.    I don't quite remember where, but I remember when.  I was running with my buddy Chris and we both were steadily maintaining a 9:00-mile pace after a quick opening sequence of 8:35-minute miles.  However, as I monitored my heart-rate during the first hour of the run, I realized I was high in zone 5, around 166 bpm.  Something was very wrong, considering I was running slower than anticipated and in a full two heart-rate zones higher.  At that point, we came to the 10-mile water stop and I told Chris to continue ahead without me.  I needed a break.  He said he'd wait, but I knew better.  The race was over for me.

Chris disappeared quickly into the sea of runners.

Even though I was surrounded by people, I felt totally alone.  Dejected.  Defeated.


I had trained so damn hard for this moment, nearly five months.  And it was gone in an hour.  Gone.

I tried to jog the next couple miles and watched as my pace slowly deterioriated.  Even with more effort, my times were slowing.  Ten-minute miles became 11.  Eleven minutes became 12.  With each step, I became angrier and more frustrated.

This wasn't fair!  I didn't deserve this!

Then, I remembered those poor kids from the Starlight Foundation.

THAT wasn't fair.

I started to pull it together around mile 13.  But then, I was rounding the corner onto La Cienega from Sunset when I ran into my Fortius teammate, Christina.  She was off to the side, walking.  I knew something terrible was wrong for her too.  Sadly I was right.  She pulled a quad muscle and was done for the day.  She couldn't bend her leg. Tears in her eyes, we hugged.  The day hadn't turned out the way either of has had imagined, and she's got an Ironman in six weeks!  I did my best to console her, and then she was gone.  Crossing the barricades to meet her husband for what must have been a sad ride home.

Again, I was alone.  Strangely, I had come to peace with the race by then.  I calmly resigned myself to two choices: Quit, or finish.

If I quit, nobody would blame me.  I was sick.  I was tired.  I hurt.  But, if I quit during the marathon, maybe I'd quit during the Ironman?

It's like cheating in a relationship.  If you do it once, you are capable of doing it multiple times.  That's not my style.

And there was more to it than that. Now that Stephanie and I are finally together, once and for all, I wanted to show her what I was made of.  What I really was made of.  That no matter how much the pain hurt.  Now matter how tired I was. No matter how I felt, I wouldn't EVER quit on her.   I would never quit on us.

From that moment on, at Santa Monica Boulevard and La Cienega, there was only one thing on my mind: Finish the damn marathon.

The next four miles were rough, but entertaining in a bizarre way.  West Hollywood was festive to say the least.  The crowds were boisterous and the street performances were lively.  The cross-dressing cheerleaders were definitely the highlight.

Then it was onto Beverly Hills.  Here I received a big boost from my friend and co-worker, Jason, and his wife, Jen.  They waited extra long for me to hit Wilshire and Rodeo Drive even though their friends had long past that checkpoint.  They walked a few blocks with me until I turned onto Santa Monica Boulevard again towards Westwood.  Their support and positive encouragement really made me feel good.  Despite my best efforts, I was still pretty dejected about my day.  But they helped put it in perspective that I was still going to finish something special.

Unfortunately, as much of a mental boost as that was, it quickly dissipated.  My body started to lock up and break down around mile 16.  I was walking almost full miles at this point.  I had no ability to run more than a few hundred yards before my heart rate would blow up again.

It was at this point that I saw the best familiar face possible: My longest-tenured friend, Kevin.  I've known Kevin since damn near pre-school. We've played soccer together.  We went to elementary school together.  We went to high school together.  We backpacked Europe together.  We've run half-marathons together.

And now, we've run the LA Marathon together.

Out of 25,000 runners, I literally had run into my best friend!

Kevin was having problems too with his marathon.  His knee was locking up.  And it was at this point I realized what the true point of my first marathon would be: It was a race about friendship.  Whether it was supporting my buddy Chris at the beginning, Christina in the middle, or Kevin in the end, this wasn't about performance.  It was about perspective.  About support.  About friendship.

The rest of the marathon was painful.  My feet felt broken.  My calves were incredibly tight despite wearing compression socks.  My IT band swelled.  But it was OK.  Friends such as Jennifer and Ryan showed their support near the Mormon Temple in Westwood.  Jason and Jen drove down to Brentwood to cheer me on and offer some refreshing coconut water at mile 22.  Stephanie kept me sane and motivated throughout the morning with text messages.  Corey and Maggie texted me telling me they were waiting at the finish line.

How lucky am I?

The final few miles couldn't have progressed more slowly.  My body was totally breaking down.  I'd shuffle a few yards, stop, wait for Kevin, or vice versa, and we'd continue walking. Cursing, but walking.  Questioning, but not quitting.  Never quitting.

FINALLY, the finish line was in sight.  Kevin and I tried to pick up the pace heroically, but all I was doing was searching for Stephanie, or listening for her.  That's all I wanted.  I just wanted to tell her that this race was for her.  That there was no quit in this body.  Not for the race, not for anything.

Kevin saw her first.  He pointed her out and I stopped everything to run across the packed street to give her a huge hug behind the barricade, just 10 yards from the finish.  Apparently my family and friends were right behind her, but honestly I only saw her.  It was a special moment.  All the pain and frustration was worth it.

I finished the LA Marathon, arm around Kevin.  We did it.

I will run better marathons.  I will set more personal bests.  But I don't know if I'll ever have an experience as special as my first marathon.  And I owe it to my friends.  To my family, including my parents who woke up so early after flying across the country the evening before.  To my sister and her boyfriend, who showed up just in time for the finish after having friends in town to entertain.

And, surprisingly, to the residents of Los Angeles, who lined the streets for nearly the entire route supporting us crazy marathoners.  I may not have acknowledged all of them, but I sure did hear them and appreciate their presence.  This city sure is beautiful when it wants to be.

Like the Randy Newman song, I love LA.

And today, I paid the price during recovery.  I left work early due to exhaustion even though I slept nearly 10 hours last night.  I'm still coughing up all sorts of stuff, and my legs are stiff and achey.

But it's a good kind of pain.

The kind associated with finishing something I started.

246 days and counting.

Weekend Holiday

Why, hello Saturday!  I had almost forgotten what you looked like! Instead of the usual Ironman training regimen, I had an off day in preparation for tomorrow morning's 20-mile run from Universal City to Chinatown for the Firecracker 10k.  Here's a peek at the route.

To celebrate my morning of relaxation, I did what any reasonable person would do: I slept.  And slept.  Then, I slept some more.  Until about 10:45 a.m.  I needed that!

The rest of the day was fairly decadent, especially with the constant schedule I've maintained since this past November.  I enjoyed perhaps one of my all-time favorite breakfasts at Larchmont Bungalow.  People, you must try their Best of Both Worlds pancakes and brioche French toast.  Of course, I added scrambled eggs and chicken-apple sausage to it for balance.

Feeling fat and sassy, I headed to downtown LA to register for the Firecracker 10k, since I hadn't done that yet.  Then, I jetted back to Encino to Phidippides, a popular running store.  I'm replacing my Amphipod runner's belt with a Nathan, since I couldn't ever quite get comfortable with the Amphipod fit.  I also purchased compression socks and shorts to experiment for tomorrow's run.  Full report coming post-race, of course.

The highlight of the day though came tonight, at the Safe at Home charity event featuring Dodgers manager Joe Torre and my boyhood hero (make that every Jewish kid's hero), Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.  Despite knowing I'd get home late and have less sleep heading into tomorrow's run, I needed to hear Koufax tell stories about his career since he so rarely grants public interviews.  Several heavy hitters in Los Angeles apparently agreed, as former and current Dodger players, Hollywood directors and actors, helped pack a nearly full house.  One of my favorite sports writers, LA Times columnist TJ Simers, moderated.  Simers was as feisty and crotchety as ever, but Koufax never bit, displaying his signature wit and class throughout the discussion.

Hearing Koufax' tales of tenacity during a career filled with injury, scrutiny and mystery certainly inspired me.  I will remember the pain he must have endured pitching nearly 600 innings over the last two seasons of his career as I labor before sunrise tomorrow during my run.  I will recall that in order to become a champion, you can never lose sight of your goals, but the core of your personality is even more important.  I will internalize that you can win while keeping your head down and building others up, that nobody has to suffer at the hands of your own triumph.

Yeah, I'd say it was a pretty darned good Saturday.

And now, I fade off to sleep and dream of breaking another milestone tomorrow: my first 20-mile run.

I can't wait!

269 days and counting.

Too Early for 2-a-Days?

I was too tired to blog yesterday.

I can't tell if that's because I was suffering the effects from my 14-hour travel day on Wednesday, which include that tell-tale throat tickle that must have come from Mullet Man. Or, maybe it was the combination early morning run followed by the evening lower body lifting session.

Maybe a little of Column A and a little of Column B?

My goal when I started this blog was to write an entry for every day leading up to Ironman AZ. That lasted less than a week. I will try to do better next time.

Here's the quick summary of yesterday's workouts.

Highlights: Running close to six miles at the prescribed heart rate (below 145) without trouble. (By the way, if you're interested I've attached my initial hear-rate goals until I have a proper field test.) And, being able to maintain Coach Gerrardo's desired cadence of 22 steps with the left foot at 15-second intervals. Weather was crisp and brisk and despite being jet-lagged, the run was pleasant. Dare I say invigorating? Listened to U2's No Line on the Horizon album, which is growing on me several months after the release and one live concert later (Rose Bowl).

Lowlights: Forgetting my running shoes at the gym and having to wear my silver-and-black argyle loafers with my workout gear. I looked like Jeff Spicoli joining the track team. Still managed to get a good session in despite my goofy appearance.

Today, after a relatively (rare) peaceful night's sleep I attended a 7 a.m. spin class at The Ride in Sherman Oaks ( The instructor was Lorie Kramme, whom I highly recommend if you're looking to learn and grow from a fellow passionate cyclist. Someone who knows how to really talk you through a visual experience while pushing your aerobic threshold just enough. What I especially enjoyed was her willingness to embrace my need for a specific workout (isolated leg training) and she even incorporated it into the group workout.

In the next hour I'll be conducting the second of my workouts today, upper-body lifting (read: swimming muscles emphasis) at our company gym. I'll be sure to bring my running shoes this time.


One quick note: I had the great fortune yesterday of being able to thank the two people responsible for piquing my interest in triathlon. Both live Down Under, as you might expect considering how popular triathlon is in Australia/New Zealand. I was in Auckland for a press trip when I met Dave Hine and Paul Gunn in November 2007, and my life changed ever since. Gents, thanks again for encouraging me to expand beyond my comfort zone. For dreaming big. For getting me off my lazy ass. For making me believe that I could complete a triathlon. And for being supportive of my (exceedingly modest by comparison) accomplishments in the sport.

Paul is one of New Zealand's best triathletes in his age group (35-39). I'm trying to get him to start his own Twitter feed so he can share his experiences with us. Paul was kind enough to invite me to stay with him in January 2011 for the Mount Half Ironman National Long Distance Championships. Even though it will only be a few months after Ironman AZ, I'm considering it.

But that's more than a year from now. Time to hit the gym.

354 days and counting.