Mar 13, 2014

ASICS LA Marathon: 3/9/14

The LA Marathon was my fifth marathon and my first big race with over 25,000 runners! I would also have to say that it was my most difficult marathon both physically and mentally. For the past few weeks I have been struggling with pain in my calf and shin which returns after every run. It all leads back to my shoe issues but that is whole different story. I had doubts that I would even be able to run this race. I didn't want to do anything dumb and end up feeling worse yet at the same time I did not want to settle for a DNS if I could still run. I thought about it for the week leading up the to race and decided that if I could run at a decent pace on the Thursday before the race and be pain free on race day then I would go for it. This was able to run 5 Miles@8:30 pace on the Thursday before the race which was encouraging.

I talked about it with my other half and he told me that I should run it and not be arrogant and worry about my time. I told him that I can accept a time that is not within my goal range but I did not want to be out on the course for 5-6 hours struggling in the heat that was expected on race day. The course is a point to point so getting back to the Start would not be easy so I had to really think about it. I knew that I could not get my money back for the race or my hotel room so I really wanted to run the race even if I did not finish it.

We checked into the hotel and immediately headed to the expo to pick up my bib and and to see the famous wall with all of the names of the runners. The expo was not all that great for such a big race. I did not buy anything and did not stay for very long at all.

There was still a 5o/50 chance that I would run. My niece and her friend were also running the marathon so we headed out there together. I was still going to go and cheer them on even if I decided not to run. We went to dinner together and boy did we carb load! I haven't had a cupcake from Sprinkles in a long time so it tasted pretty good!
We talked about our race plans for the next day and the plan was that I would call my niece and her friend in the morning and let them know what I was going to do. Our hotel offered shuttle service to and from the race so we were planning to catch the shuttle at 5:45 am. The seeded corrals closed at 7:00 am so I needed to be there on time.
I did not sleep well that night because my mind and thoughts were all over the place. I was also nervous about the time change. I set my alarm but wasn't sure that my phone was going to cooperate. The clock in the hotel was not going to change and upon check in the front desk gave us a memo telling us not to rely on the clocks inside the rooms. I must have woken up every hour to compare the time on my phone to the time on the hotel clock. I woke up at 3:30 am and never went back to sleep. I stayed in bed for an hour thinking and decided that I was going to run the marathon and just accept the outcome no matter what. 

I called my niece and told them the plan and when it was time to head down they were not ready. I ended up catching the shuttle alone because I didn't want to be late and get shut out of my corral. It was a short walk to the get to the shuttle bus and the line was pretty long. It took about 20 minutes to get on a bus and there was standing room only. 
The race was just a few miles away so the ride was quick but crazy. The bus what about half way to Dodger Stadium when a car cut the bus off and the driver slammed on the brakes! Those who were standing lost their balance and pretty much fell into the person next to them. The man next to me slammed into my back and stepped on my foot so hard I wanted to scream.

The bus arrived at Dodger Stadium around 6:30 am. The lines for the porta potties were so long so I decided to skip the bathroom and head straight to the security check since it closed at 6:45 am. There were so many people and it took me a while to figure out where the seeded corrals were located. 
I was in Corral B and it was not crowded at all. One could easily find a spot to sit, stretch and eat until it was race time. Once I found my corral, I sat and ate my bagel. I said a prayer before the race and left it in His hands. Before I knew it the wheels chairs were off, the Elites were off and then it was everyone else.

The race starts in Dodger's Stadium so the first .40 miles are at an incline. Once you exit the stadium there is a short downhill and then a series of never ending climbs with small areas of flat roads in between. Some of the climbs were steep and some of the climbs were gradual but lasted for a while. If hills were not a big part of your training, it was going to be tough race for you! So yes, it was tough for me. I won't lie to you!

Mile 1: 8:30 (very crowded)
Mile 2:8:02
Mile 3: 8:34
Mile 4: 8:37

It did not help that the weather was 57 at the Start and about 85 at the Finish. I have never ran in this type of weather so I was really nervous about it. I ran into Monica at Mile 2 and we ran together and chatted about the race and the weather for about a bit. I looked at my Garmin and our pace was 7:45 so I told Monica to have a great race because I knew I could not keep up with her. The weather wasn't bad at all for the first half of the race so I had this crazy idea that I would try to maintain an average pace of 8:35-8:40 until the weather dictated otherwise. I was feeling good and only had minimal pain on the inclines. The hills at Mile 4-5 were a little tough but didn't last too long.

Mile 5: 8:49 ( hill)
Mile 6:8:55 (another hill-crap!)
Mile 7: 8:23
Mile 8: 8:31

I basically ran the course according to the elevation. When it was flat or downhill, I used that to make up for the times on the uphill. I did not push myself too much the first half since I knew that I would pay for it in the end. This was the first race that I did not wear my hydration belt which was a big change for me. The course had water every mile so I carried my hand held and refilled it as needed. The course was scenic and there was tons of course support which included the media, cheerleaders, Mickey Mouse, the Pope, hot dogs, oranges, pretzels, Vaseline and drag queens. The course support is the most amazing part of the LA Marathon!

Mile 9: 8:31
Mile 10: 8:28
Mile 11: 8:40 (refilled my water bottle)
Mile 12: 8:28
Mile 13: 8:45
Mile 14: 8:43

I knew that Mile 15 was going to give us a break since it was downhill so I could hardly wait. I needed a small break at this point and it felt great to not see a climb ahead. I swear that all of the mile markers were sitting on top of hills when you spotted them.

Mile 15: 8:16 (downhill!)
Mile 16: 8:33
Mile 17: 8:59 (gradual uphill climb)
Mile 18: 8:51 (gradual uphill climb)

Right after Mile 18, the heat was really starting to set in and I was stopping at every water station to drink and wet my head to stay cool. Shade was scarce so things started to get tough right about this point in the race. I knew that it was time to bring the pace down because I knew that I could no longer maintain sub 9 miles in the heat without crashing.

Mile 19: 9:00
Mile 20: 8:59
Mile 21: 9:29 (uphill and hot)

At Mile 20, I realized that I could run 10:00 miles and still come in under 4 hours and I was good with that. It was hot, I was tired so I told myself that I could ease off a little bit but no walking! 

Mile 22: 9:54 (uphill, hot and serious calf pain..oh crap)
Mile 23: 9:57 (worst, tired, salty mess, painful, losing hope and all of that good stuff
Mile 24: 9:48

Change of plans! At this point I had to stop and walk even though I didn't want to. The hills were becoming more painful and it was just getting tough out there. I massaged my calf and kept on walking for about a minute or so until the pain lessened. I really wanted to quit but I was so close to the Finish. I saw a friend of mine who was supporting his running group and he gave me that extra push to keep on going. Thank God I saw him. His wife later told me that he said I looked very focused. I guess he was being nice.

From Mile 24 on, the course starts to head downhill but I couldn't really feel it until about Mile 25. I had a good talk with myself, pulled myself together and sucked it up. I knew that I was not going to be done until I hit 26.45 miles because I did not run the tangents properly. I tacked on an extra .25 miles by dodging back and forth to find the shade. This probably cost me a couple of minutes but I had to do what I had to do to survive out there.

Mile 25: 9:15
Mile 26: 8:53
.45 (8:19)

I finished in 3:53:40. That finish line never looked so good! It was not a PR but I was not disappointed with my time since I was secretly praying hoping for a 4:00-4:15 finish. I did my best on what I would not consider an easy course for me. Lots of runners had a hard time out there due to the heat so I have a lot of respect for every single one of  them who went any distance of the the LA Marathon! It was really about hanging on and finishing the race and not about the time for most of us.
The medal is really nice and I feel like I really earned it more than any other medal that I own. Running a big race is a tremendous experience! The crowd support is awesome and the event is very well organized. This is a perfect race for a first time marathoner. This marathon taught me what mental toughness is all about. It taught me how to push myself when the conditions are not ideal.  I will take these lessons with me to my goal race in May to push myself to fight for that BQ!

Did you run the LA Marathon this year? Any other year?


  1. Terzah3/18/2014

    I think you did a great job in that heat and on those hills--I'm glad you feel proud. I can't wait to see what you can do in May!! Just be nice to that calf. And maybe don't totally swear off the LA Marathon--the Olympic Trials will be there in 2016 and you should run it again that year, just to be part of it. I did this in Houston in 2012 (watch Trials on Saturday, run open marathon on Sunday), and it was an amazing experience. You will love it if you do it!