“I Took the Long Way” (LA Marathon 2016 race recap)

Runnin’ – The Heartless Bastards

Well I’m finally getting to the recount of my experience at the Los Angeles marathon. And imma gonna keep it semi brief-like. These days I’m just covering all kinds of ground with respect to working, resting, experiencing life and having fun, running a very small amount, and keeping my eyes forward towards Spring!

On to the business at hand.

LAM_Before

To me, this is a perfect marathon “Before” picture. What a hot fucking mess I was 4 hours later.

 

The majority of the race went really well for me and I spent most of the time cautiously optimistic that sub-4 was in the bag. Side note – one of the amazing things I’m observing is how much my tolerance for pain has, with practice, improved in this sort of weird, out of body kind of way. My legs were crazy hurty ouchie ouch for well over 2+ hours, but my body and mind have learned to accept this as a rule. “Look, if you want to go fast, this is the way it works,” says brain. “Don’t worry, something else will distract you soon enough.” And body says, “You a little mean, but okay. We know you’ll give us pizza later.”

Dumb internal monologues aside, things got a bit more interesting at Mile 19 so that’s where I’ll start. Here’s the LA Marathon elevation profile:

LosAngelesMarathon_2011_e

So at Mile 19, I slowly started to fade. This was the warmest part of the course, although temps didn’t climb as high as was predicted. And was prepared for the gradual incline here so I told myself to just keep steady until things flattened out.

At about mile 21 the 4 hour pacer, who I’d passed back at 15 or 16, caught up. I stuck with the group for a while, and they got me through one of my toughest miles. But by the next mile marker, I found that I couldn’t hang on. Watched them slip away, feeling a little disappointed but actually pretty zen about what was happening. I resigned myself to the likelihood of a 4:01…4:02 finish. I’d already mentally prepared for this possibility during the previous week while looking over the weather forecasts. I trudged along and made it through miles 23 and 24 at 9’31 and 9’43.

Then two things happened. First, we began a descent to the oceanfront finish line that would result in 200 feet of elevation loss. And second but just as crucial… MARINE LAYER. Hallelujah.

I started to feel a little bit stronger and some confused marathon math told me that I still might be able to squeak in under 4. However, as my brain was trying to convince my body that my dragging pace had reached the dreaded point of no return, I heard a spectator cheer me on. It was one of those “looking good” type comments. But after she said this to me I swear I heard her comment, in a lower voice to her companion,  “Wow, she looks really fresh..” Whether or not I imagined this, whether or not she was actually talking about me at all – this moment brought back my race. I felt a burst of momentum and knew that I would reach my sub-4 goal. I had a great, balls to the walls 25th and 26th mile, 8’42 and 8’21. I ran terrible tangents and got to do 26.5 miles that day, running 8’17 for that last half mile. With the finish line in sight, I found the 4 hour pacer and tapped him on the shoulder. “I caught you!” I said excitedly. He congratulated me and told me to kick it hard and sprint to the finish and I ran and ran and ran.

It was fucking great.

LAM_Finish

Hurts. So. Good?

Official Finish: 3:57:59

Finally, a few takeaways on the overall experience:

LA Marathon Pluses:

  • Pre-race at Dodger Stadium. A completely genius organizational move – an empty baseball stadium means shelter and real bathrooms! A 4:30am shuttle from Santa Monica was super easy.
  • Scenic course
  • Fun spectators and crowd support (yes! the 5 mile chili dog station is real)
  • Downhill finish
  • Lovely, large medal

LA Marathon Minuses:

  • Not necessarily a minus but should be noted that is NOT a flat course. For whatever reason, be it the event marketing, or because I assume anything outside the Bay Area is flat, I wasn’t expecting to encounter these kinds of rollers. The hills are fairly gentle, but I didn’t find this to be a particularly easy course, which brings me to…
  • Miles 20-23 are boring, uphill, and hot. If you’re really hitting a wall this section can be fairly demoralizing.
  • Finish area was not great. I had to walk for ages to get to the family reunion area. Ouch ouch ouch. And bag check retrieval after the race was absolutely awful! It took me a half hour to get my gear and I was painfully cold the entire time. They should have provided heat sheets before the UPS trucks but I guess they weren’t expecting the chilliness.

Up next… Rocking a summer halves and preparing for the fall marathon. Yes. That One.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

Pema Chödrön.

OMG and WTF: It’s marathon week already. Oh how terrible I was at blogging my training, but for the last few months I’ve been trying to just lay low, keep my head down, and grind it out (with a smile, of course). I missed a few runs especially during a couple of stepback weeks in December, but overall I put in a lot of quality work. Several fast-finish long runs and race pace workouts. Logged my highest mileage weeks ever with no injuries. Perfectly executed a 10 mile race in week 15, finishing comfortably with a gun time of 1:24:10 (8:25 m/m). Up until a few days ago everything seemed pretty much on track for a sub-3:55 attempt, about an 8:55 average pace.

KB_LongRUN_BayBridge

Flashback to almost 3 weeks ago… the final 20 miler. I was a bit tired but held pretty strong until the end!

The city of Los Angeles, however, begs to differ.

la-g-la-marathon-temperatures-20160210

source: LA Times

As a lady from the land of year-round 55-65 degree weather, running in the heat is not something that I’m used to and the idea of a marathon in these conditions makes me pretty nervous. On top of this, recently I’ve discovered that this course is actually kind of hilly. Uh, how did I miss this?

LosAngelesMarathon_2011_e

Looks a wee lumpy, non? In my mind this race was all downhill. They certainly market it this way. “Net downhill” can be deceiving.  

Oy. Anyway, with my last training run completed this morning, my goals now are twofold:

1 – Focus on what I can control. This week, I’ve been drinking water, electrolytes, and $10 beet juice like a woman possessed. I’ve been researching and planning the best ways to survive the heat, and optimize performance as much as possible: First, I’m considering my clothing and, heavens to betsy, I may choose to go sans-singlet if I can muster the courage to feel oh so naked in only a sports bra. Usually I rely on course aid stations for hydration, but for this race I’ll be carrying a handheld and stocking Nuun tablets in the zippered pocket. For fuel I’ll bring along the extra salty Margarita Shot Bloks. Finally, I’m discovering strategies to keep my body as cool as possible: Run through as many open fire hydrants and misting stations as possible. Dump water on my head at aid stations. Bring frozen hand towels to the start, and grab ice and cold towels along the way. Apparently, the organizers have promised such things, hopefully they’ll deliver. This being the third straight year of high temps, this isn’t their first rodeo.

2 – Be Realistic, Stay Positive. Sub -4 was my original goal, and in this heat it would be an amazing achievement for me. That said, sub-4:10 would be an achievement. A PR (under 4:19) would be an achievement. But the reality is that with these intense conditions I might not realize any of these goals, on which my heart was so initially set. At this moment I’m trying to see the bigger picture. Training for this marathon has resulted in real step forward in my running fitness and I believe a fruitful year of racing lies ahead. I’ve learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, and have new ideas about how to maximize my potential in the future. On Sunday I will run my first marathon in almost two years, and I’m excited to experience this fun and scenic urban course in a city that I really like and have history with. These last 5 months represent a huge step towards getting faster, setting new goals, and having more fun on my running journey. End pollyanna rose colored glasses rant.

In 2015, Ryan Hall suggested the following mantra to those running in the record-high temps at LAM:

“It’s a beautiful day and I’m doing what I love.”

Ok then, here we go.

 

 

“These are a few of my favorite things.”

Maria von Trapp aka Julie Andrews.

Happy Holidays! Are you running? Resting? Gearing up for big things in the new year?

My days and weeks have been consumed by preparation for the LA Marathon. With race day on February 14, my schedule is starting to reach the apex. These are the big important runs, folks. I’ve completed my 18 and 19 milers, and continue to grind out the mid-week pace runs best I can. This week is a step back in mileage (which will hopefully include a 10k race on New Years Day) before digging into the two 20 milers scheduled, the first one with a MGP finish. I can’t believe it’s only one more month until taper time.

 

IMG_4117

nailed goal pace in golden gate park last week!

In other news I am pleased to announce some new ambassadorships!

Earlier this year I was selected as a “Branch” for the Oakland Running Festival! I am thrilled to help spread the word about this fabulous race that I’m sure will only continue to grow due to its fabulousness.

OaklandRunningFestival-Logo

Here are a couple of things that I think make the event special:

Courses

I’ve run the half course twice now. In 2014, I smashed my sub-2 hour goal with a 1:55, and this year landed a one-minute PR, besting my Santa Rosa time after a three month running sabbatical due to a bout of ITBS. So in my experience, this is a PR-friendly half girls and boys. With a hilly start, the full course boasts an elevation profile worth major badass points. Feeling social? Run the relay. Feeling greedy? Run two races in the “We Run the Town” challenge, taking on a 5k before lining up for the half marathon.

Oakland Pride!

Oakland spirit is fierce! Highlights include Raider Nation, the impressive art installations by Crucible and American Steel, Brown Sugar Kitchen cheer station and the massive crowd support around the final stretch of Lake Merritt. I love finishing at Snow Park and chilling out with a beer post-race.

And what’s better is that you no longer have to pay full price because I have a discount code for you! Enter “bodle” at checkout for 15% off any distance.

This year, I’m also an ambassador for NuunLook, we all know that hydration is complicated and personal. I don’t like sports drinks, and for whatever reason sometimes water – whether filtered, bottled or tap –tastes sort of plastic-like or metallic to me. Enter Nuun: a variety of flavors for every palette, no added sugar and under 10 calories per tab, and electrolyte enhanced. This combo works well for me, and I’m happy to support the brand as an ambassador because I believe it offers a unique option where sports hydration, nutrition, and recovery is concerned.

2016nuunbassador

Happy New Year!