“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.

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“I love Los Angeles, and I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

Andy Warhol.

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That’s right, boys and girls. Some dark, wintery Northern California training ahead as preparation continues for the big bad LA Marathon in February!

I’ve been semi- secretly following a makeshift Hal Higdon plan that’s been pretty well Frankensteined into something that ol’ Hal might not condone at all. Basically, my strategy is to steadily increase mileage, diligently complete my long runs with some fast finishes thrown in every few weeks, and do goal pace workout most weeks. Easy runs easy and harder runs hard.

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Yellow highlights are pace runs. Purple are fast finish.

We will see how this evolves. But on the whole things have been going smoothly. I even got in a run during my trip to Mexico City last month, which was awesome and not at all the asthma-inducing shit show that I expected. Did you know that Mexico City’s minimum elevation is 7,382 ft? Neither had I (by comparison, our mile high city of Denver maxes out at 5,690 ft.). To my surprise, the run was absolutely magical. On Sunday mornings, the city closes several main streets to traffic and opens up these uncongested city miles to pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. On the day of my excursion many of the local running groups were out and celebrating Dia de los Muertos.  I was having so much fun that I tacked on two additional miles to explore a bit of the splendid Bosque de Chapultepec (aka a huge ass park).

The rest of this year will be focused on remaining uninjured and maintaining mileage amidst the tempting pull of lazy holidays and early dusks. And maybe one more half marathon before 2016….