LA Marathon: Behind the Music

When I needed to quickly record a version of the song California Sun for the course video, I turned to my friend Sam Jones. He’s a talented photographer, film director and musician. Sam and I had made the Wilco film I am Trying to Break Your Heart together, and he’s more into music than anyone I know. The kind of guy who’s got a deep vinyl collection, a bunch of vintage guitars, a band. I just knew he was the guy to help me get this done quickly. Sam pulled together an all-star session crew in about 5 minutes, including Pete Thomas (of The Attractions) on drums and Dan Lavery (of The Fray and Tonic) on bass. Sam handled guitar and vocals. We were graciously hosted by Kevin Augunas at Fairfax Recordings, which is an absolutely spectacular facility. Check out these shots from the session, as well as a short video clip of the band in action.

Sam, Dan and Kevin. The mixing board on the left is from Abbey Road Studios in London, circa 1971.

In case you forgot your drum kit, they’ve got plenty to choose from.

We recorded onto 2″ tape. Vintage!

I’ll go with the maple glow Gibson ES 335…

The tube amp collection.

Kevin on the dials.

Faces of Chicago

I spent the entire day in our booth at the Chicago Expo meeting marathoners from all over the world. It was so interesting that I felt compelled to shoot photos of some of the runners I met. It was a virtual UN of running, with so many countries represented. This is but a small sampling of my new international friends.


Lisa Hernandez
San Antonio, TX
Lisa used to live in LA, and she’s running to raise money for Livestrong.

Kionari Yoshida
Yokohama, Japan
Ken is studying to be a teacher and ran LA 4 years ago.

Glenda Anderson
Luke Marshall
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
They both work in the finance industry and run together.

Booth 689!

Colin & Kristin Cooley
Hermosa Beach, CA
Both aiming to run sub-3:20 in Chicago.

Bakhtar Lahcen, 42
Chahid Basidi, 63
From Morocco
Bakhtar has run the legendary Marathon des Sables, and they travel the world running marathons.

Benedicte Toto, 29
Cecile Canuel, 35
Paris, France
They are next door to us in the Expo working at the Paris Marathon booth.

Jay Madhure, 61
Northridge, CA
He’s run 20 consecutive LA Marathons.

Athit Thongphithak, 52
Prayut Thongphithak, 48
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Running Chicago for the first time.

Neal Glynn, 75
Chicago, IL
About to run his 37th marathon.

Jesus Nieto
Pablo Ceron
Mexico City, Mexico
Pablo is a former elite runner with PRs of 28:20 in the 10K and 13:44 in the 5K.

Rohit Vasa, 62
Chicago, IL
This will be his 55th marathon.

Charles Sayles, 72
Glendale, CA
After Sunday’s race, Charles will have run at least 2 marathons in each of 50 states.

Bill Orr
Bartow, FL
Bill is the elite coordinator for the LA Marathon, among other events.

Melissa Kaul
Anmaree Rodibaugh
Chicago, IL
They both want to move to LA!

Pete Carroll invites us to practice

From one legend to another: Pete and our own Rod Dixon

Pete took time to pose with the LA Roadrunners pace leaders

Today our SRLA leaders and LA Roadrunners pace leaders got a special treat. USC Coach Pete Carroll invited us down to watch him run practice at Howard Jones Field on campus. After that, Coach spent almost an hour mentoring our leaders. It was a fascinating afternoon, and Coach shared with us many of his secrets of success. He’s distilled his vast experience down to some very practical bits of wisdom. My particular favorite was this question that he asked of the leaders in attendance: “How many of you have a philosophy that you can explain in 25 words or less to your runners?” That’s just great advice. His philosophy at ‘SC? “Always compete.” Coach also talked extensively about the importance of a winning attitude, and he took time to answer questions and sign autographs afterwards. We’ll soon post a video of his talk so you’ll be able to learn more about his Win Forever philosophy. And look for more great things coming from our friendship with Coach Pete in the coming months.


How to shoot a course video

Gallo following Bert in Santa Monica. He’s riding a skateboard, which went under the fence and nearly over the cliff at one point.

In front of the Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd.

Pat getting a shot of Bert on Hollywood Blvd.

This shot is a no-brainer.

“OK, Bert, just follow the yellow line in the middle of the road, and I’ll scream at you if you’re about to get hit by a speeding car.”

I hope you’ve had a chance to see our video highlighting the new stadium to sea route. I’m proud of how it turned out, and it successfully captures the energy and spirit of the 2010 LA Marathon.

Here’s how the project came together, in 10 not-so-easy steps:

1. Meet with race director Nick Curl and director of operations Stacy Embretson. They suggest some sort of video highlighting the new course. Great idea, I tell them. Inside I’m thinking, “I have NO IDEA what the concept of the piece should be.” But my wheels are turning.

2. One week to go, and still no concept. But I meet with my friend Pat Solomon of Newhouse Films. He has some great ideas that we cover over breakfast, like the visual of the single runner heading down the middle of the route at 6:00 in the morning. I’m getting close, but I still need that conceptual framework to plug into.

3. Pat calls. Bad news. He’s been booked to shoot a commercial, but he recommends his friend Chris Gallo to help. I call Gallo (most people don’t even know he has a first name) and he’s available. And he has an editor who can cut the piece. We’re getting closer.

4. Now it’s Thursday, and we’re shooting on Sunday at 6:00 am, when the streets are completely empty and the light is beautiful. Still no overall concept. Just a runner in the streets won’t cut it–not interesting enough. Stressing about it. Only four days to pull it together!

5. Another problem–I need just the right runner. Someone with a great stride. How to find that person? Of course, I call Eric Barron, coach of Track Club LA. He’s out of town but recommends Bert Whitson. I find Bert’s website and send him an email. Even though Bert is a successful investment professional, he agrees to devote his Sunday morning to running with us. I see his photos and recognize him immediately as the guy who consistently blows past me and many others in the track workouts at Santa Monica High. In fact, I’ve only ever seen him from the back.

6. I decide it’s time to call my lifeline and get help on the concept issue. I get in touch with two longtime friends who are creative directors and brief them on the video. By the way, I ask, can you get me some ideas tomorrow? After some nervous laughter, they insist that it’s not a problem and they’ll come up with the goods. These guys always deliver, but I feel bad about waiting until the last minute and then pressing them to come up with something overnight.

7. It’s now Saturday morning. The crew is locked, we’ve identified the locations we want to cover, but still no concept. Just a runner and the route. Is this all going to fall apart? Should I live with something simple and not overthink it? I can’t push the shoot back any further because the website and registration are going up in a week. Our backs are already against the wall.

8. Saturday night. Making dinner for the family. My creative director friends call, “We’ve got an idea!” They propose the tagline, “A Landmark Every Mile.” I immediately like it. Then they talk about structuring the video with some archival footage to emphasize the “Landmark” status of different parts of the course. They also talk about the “Mile 1″ graphic, etc. So perfect. Exactly what I needed. We still will shoot Bert in the streets, but now we have a framework.

9. Sunday morning 6:00 am. Meet at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Still a little dark, but we start shooting. Pat rallies and joins us with his camera. We rip through the shots: Stars on sidewalk, Pat and Gallo shooting from skateboards beside Bert, Mann’s Chinese Theater, Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, back to Dodger Stadium and finally out to Santa Monica. A whirlwind, but we get a lot of good stuff. We somehow manage not to get arrested for skateboarding down the middle of all these streets.

10. The edit comes together nicely with great graphics supplied by the creative directors. Working even better than I had expected. We get it posted to Youtube barely 24 hours before registration opens. Whew!

Grassroots endurance

I had the privilege this weekend to take part in the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race. Not as a participant, but as a crew member for my brother, John. This race has all the qualities of a great endurance event: committed and enthusiastic participants, an infectious spirit of fun, and a hard, hard test of personal fortitude. How about 32 miles on a paddleboard from Catalina to Manhattan Beach? The winner, Tyler Anderson, finished in just over 5 hours. Amazing. But even cooler, for me, was the pre-race competitor’s “meeting,” which was in fact a low key beach barbecue with a cooler full of beer. Most of us slept on our chase boats the night before the race. When all of the competitors paddled into the beach at 5 am before the start, there was a huge bonfire burning to keep everyone warm. At the finish line, a large crowd was cheering on all the paddlers as the exited the water next to the Manhattan Beach Pier. My brother had an impressive race, and all five of us on the chase boat had one of the most enjoyable weekends we could remember.


The Dipsea Trail

Thousands of steps to climb, and we’ve barely started.

Shouldn’t every running trail have signage this good?

We didn’t see another runner during the entire journey.

Mostly I was hanging on for dear life trying to keep up with Steve.

Note that Steve hasn’t even broken a sweat after 1,500 feet of climbing!

Warning: I brake for banana slugs

Descending down to Stinson Beach, just before ducking off the road for one of the secret short cuts, which are entirely legal in the race.

It might look like Runner’s High, but actually I’m just thrilled that I get to ride home in the front seat of a car!

While on vacation in Marin County this summer, I had the good fortune to get a guided tour of the Dipsea Trail from my friend Steve Romjue. If you’re not familiar with this famous route, it’s the home of the Boston Marathon of trail runs, the Dipsea Race. Next year will mark the 100th running of that event, and I can tell you after running the trail, I’m going to do whatever I can to get one of the coveted 1,500 slots in the race.

The trail leaves right from the middle of Mill Valley and travels about 7.5 miles over the shoulder of Mt Tamalpais, ending at Stinson Beach. It features many, many flights of steps, crazy “insider” short cuts, treacherous descents and mind-blowing scenery. I was sweating profusely trying to keep up with my uber-fit friend Steve, but still managed to snap a few photos during our journey. Next time you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend making time for this run.


How to make a great smoothie

As I train for the Chicago Marathon, I’m working with nutritionist Matt Mahowald of New Performance Nutrition. Following his program has been enlightening. I’m learning, and losing, a lot. Something like a pound per week. And my runs are that much easier. One of the most useful things Matt has turned me onto is his excellent Whey Protein Powder. Almost daily I’m rocking a low-calorie, high-protein smoothie. It goes like this:

Empty a glass full of ice into the blender
Follow that with two scoops New Performance Nutrition chocolate protein powder
Add a banana, and then a glass of water
Finish with a tablespoon of either almond butter or peanut butter
Blend away

Just the ticket as part of breakfast, a late afternoon snack or even as a late night protein boost.

Try it!


SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2015