Mariposa martyrs (book giveaway!)

Thanks to Algonquin Books I’ll be giving away two copies of In the Time of the Butterflies, a historical fiction novel by Julia Alvarez.

Giveaway details:
1. To enter, leave a comment. Make sure to include a valid email address (don’t worry, it won’t be posted online)
2. In the comment, tell me about your favorite novel
3. Only one entry per person (honor code, don’t use more than one email address, folks)
4. Contest closes at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, March 23rd
5. Two winners will be picked at random

Also, tune in to Monday’s webcast. Alvarez will be interviewed by acclaimed writer Edwidge Danticat about In the Time of the Butterflies. The interview will take place in Miami at Books in Books and will be webcast online. I’ll be checking it out as I recover from the marathon!

Webcast details:
Monday, March 21
7:00 pm EST
Streaming live at Algonquin Book Club

Click through to read why In the Time of the Butterflies is my favorite novel. It’s not because of my affinity for butterflies…

Continue reading

Seeing signs

Sign Making

If I wasn’t running the LA Marathon, I’d drag myself out of bed early Sunday morning and head to the part of the course nearest to me. That would be somewhere in Beverly Hills (mile 16-17). I’d likely lose my voice yelling out for the runners, “Go, [random name spotted on a bib]!”

And I’d hold up a sign. I’m not sure what would be on it. I’d probably stay away from toenail jokes as they’re pretty common (but that sign above was popular in NY).

I’d probably pick something from below:

¡Sí se puede!
Short, simple and reflecting the bilingual nature of this city. I held this sign while cheering for Lori at the Surf City Half Marathon and lots of people, Latino and non, liked it.

RAWR! (Dinosaur for “run fast!”)
Something silly. It would work best with a drawing of a dinosaur.

¡Echále ganas!
Another Spanish one meaning, loosely, “give it your all!”

Dale, dale, dale / No pierdas el ritmo
This little diddy is used when kids are hitting piñatas. I think it could be applied to running. Translation: hit it, hit it, hit it/don’t lose the rhythm.

Kick some asphalt!
A little pun never hurt anyone.

The beach is that way —>
Of course, I’d have to make sure I put the arrow facing west.

Nice legs!
With all that running, they do tone up nicely.

Just keep running
This one would work best with a picture of Dori from Finding Nemo. I like her mantra, “Just keep swimming”

4+ hours to get from the Stadium to the sea? Wow, LA traffic is BAD!
Might be a little long, for a sign, but I had to find a way to make a dig at LA’s traffic and congestion issues.

Finish line = tacos!
You could substitute tacos for other goodies like cupcakes, ice cream, cookies, beer, cheeseburger, In-N-Out, champagne, wine, etc.

Run like the Tarahumara
Well, not in the deserts of Chihuahua and not in huaraches. But, still fast, strong and for long distances.

I hope LA spectators amuse me and my fellow runners with some clever signs.

The Tijuana house

Last year when I interviewed Papá Chepe at the East LA StoryCorps booth I asked him about his proudest life achievement.

I was a little surprised by his answer.

He admitted that he was proudest to have donated his home in Tijuana (what I call the Tijuana house) to an orphanage, Hogar San José de Calasanz (HOCATI). My grandparents came to this decision after their home had been on the market for years. They’d had some problems with the house too. There were break-ins, and a car crashed in to the garage (no one was hurt). As they aged, they spent less time in Tijuana and their other home in El Cargadero, Zacatecas and more time at their LA home, also known as my family’s home.

I grew up going to Tijuana frequently. Each time my family went, we’d have birria downtown in a restaurant with stuffed cow heads mounted on the walls. Aftweward, we’d go shopping. I usually came home with a shiny pair of patent leather shoes. I’d scuff them up the next weekend chasing kids and imitating my mom’s dance moves at the next party.

For us kids, the Tijuana house was a bit boring. We couldn’t watch our typical cartoons. Instead we explored the house. We’d rattle Papá Chepe’s collection of Miller High Life glassware and neon signs as we ran around the second floor. We’d run up the cool metal spiral staircase in to Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s room. We’d crawl in and out of the tiny door in to the garage… until we got scolded by Mamá Toni or my mom. We’d have Azucaritas for breakfast and churritos with limón y chile from the store down the street for a snack.

Sometimes, we’d sit out on the second floor balcony and stare at the thousands of homes crowded on the Tijuana hillside. We’d walk down to the third floor, which had been made to apartments, and explored the outdoor laundry area and small garden.

I was too young to understand why my grandparents had three homes in Tijuana, East LA and Zacatecas. I didn’t know that Papá Chepe built the house nor that when Papá Chepe came to the States to work, he moved his family to Tijuana so that they’d be closer to him. It was in this period that my tío Chuy got lost in downtown Tijuana. He was just a little boy, no more than six years old. The family was rightfully worried and looked for him everywhere to no avail. That evening, he was brought home by a mysterious, short and chubby man. My family thinks it was the Santo Niño de Atocha. When extended family migrated north from Zacatecas, they often stayed at the Tijuana house on the way to the states.

While the Tijuana house was a significant part of my childhood, it was less so in my teens and almost absent in my 20s. I’ve only been to the Tijuana house once in the last 10 years. In 2005 I stayed with Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni for a couple of days before flying out with them to Zacatecas for Christmas. Rather than run around the house, I spent it going through old albums identifying tías and tíos as children and teens. The house was like a museum of my family’s history.

All of that history has been removed from the house. The furniture stayed. The home is large enough to house about 15 children. Currently, it’s being readied for teens to move in. My family is very committed to HOCATI. My grandparents and parents have visited the children and taken them toys. When they donated the house, my family knew we’d be supporting HOCATI for a long time. Last fall, my mom sold all of the avocados on our tree and donated what she raised. (There were a lot of avocados, at least 300.)

This Saturday, March 19th, my family will host a fundraiser for HOCATI at our home in Hacienda Heights. It’ll coincide with el Día de San José, which we always celebrate as it’s Papá Chepe’s saint’s day.

At the fundraiser this Saturday, we’ll have lots of great food for sale as well as entertainment. If you’d like to stop by for some tacos, sopes, tamales, or enchiladas or would like to know how to donate to HOCATI, let me know and I’ll send you the invite.

The homestretch

Everything I’ve read on pre-marathon week preparation stresses two things: hydration and rest.

I’m a pro at drinking plenty of water. Rest? Not so much.

I love DST and longer days, but the effects of losing an hour are tough on my circadian rhythm. Add to that nerves about the marathon and worries about school. It’s enough to keep me up tossing and turning until 4 a.m. Fortunately, I have a flexible work schedule and work from home some Wednesdays. I made up some of the hours of sleep I lost and slept in.

Since I’m tapering, I’ve only run a little bit in the last two weeks. I feel like I’m slacking off, but I know the taper is important. On Saturday I ran 6 miles then took two days off. Tuesday I ran 3.1 miles at goal marathon pace and I’ll do the same later today.

The rest of the week will be race day prep. Friday morning, I’ll go to the expo at Dodger Stadium to beat the Saturday crowds. I’ll pick up my bib — #5339, almost the same as my La Puente Main Street 10K bib number, 339 — and wash my running clothes. I’ll finalize my playlist, a mix of my favorite running and LA-centric songs, and charge my Garmin.

Saturday will be spent helping out at a fundraiser at my parents’ house (more on that later) and topping off my glycogen stores, or carbo loading. That might include a donut. I ate one the day before the LB Half Marathon and accomplished my goals. What kind of athlete would I be if I didn’t have a silly pre-race ritual?

Despite my nerves, I feel good about Sunday. I’m a little worried about the rain; I’ve only done short runs on rainy days. Still, I’ll take rain over blazing heat and clear skies. That’s nice for a day at the beach, not a day running 26.2 miles to the beach. Ideally, the heavens will wait until late afternoon to begin pouring and we’ll have a cool 60 degree morning and cloudy skies. I’ll petition las ánimas de mi tía Macaria and hope she comes through.


If you’d like to track my progress Sunday, follow me on Twitter or check Facebook. No, I won’t be tweeting during the race. I’ve set up the race day tracking to update my social networks. I’ll tweet as I cross certain points. You can also sign up to have updates sent via text.

Mil palabras: Disney Hall (or, mile 4)

Disney Hall

One of the things I read in the reviews of the 2010 LA Marathon was praise of the “stadium to the sea” course highlighting a landmark every mile. This year’s course differs slightly, but still begins at Dodger Stadium and ends a few blocks from the Santa Monica pier.

I like the “stadium to the sea” theme, mainly because it makes me think of LA having a subway or light rail that would traverse a similar route. I’m less excited about the landmarks, probably because I live here. I don’t think of places like the Troubador or the House of Blues as landmarks. They’re just places I go to see shows, like The Dears last week.

Now, Disney Hall? I consider it a landmark, probably because it’s designed by Frank Gehry, it’s cool to look at and it’s at the top of Bunker Hill with a few other cultural institutions. I don’t look forward to running up Bunker Hill, at all (but I’ve done hills, I’m prepared!).

Some of my favorite landmarks (Hollywood Bowl, UCLA, Griffith Observatory, LACMA and Museum Row) aren’t on the course, but I don’t mind since most of those are in the hills. It also bums me out that the course no longer crosses over the LA River in to the Eastside.

If you want to see where I’ll be spending Sunday morning, check out this neat video by the LA Times stitching together Google Maps street view images for most of the course. I’ve been through the VA Center near UCLA and the Dodger Stadium parking lot plenty of times. No surprises there.

What’s your favorite landmark on the course? What would you add?