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Los Angeles Marathon XXV

March 23, 2010

26,000 runners took over Los Angeles this past Sunday from Dodger Stadium all the way to Santa Monica. This was the brand new course that many have petitioned for which highlighted many of the L.A. landmarks. I ran the marathon last year which was a big loop around L.A., starting and ending in Downtown, which I have to admit, wasn’t the most exciting. I was really excited for this race because I knew so many people running it and it was the “big” race for the L.A. Leggers. Most of the Leggers have spent their entire training season training for this one race, and for many, it was their first marathon!

The Leggers had the Doubletree hotel banquet room reserved the morning of race day which was only a block from the shuttles. It was a point to point race so runners had to sign up for shuttle times to get bussed to the start. Since the race didn’t start until 7:24AM, I got on the 5:30AM bus with a bunch of other Leggers. Traffic was jam packed on the 110 North getting into Dodger Stadium. Packed as in, we weren’t moving at all and it was already 6:45AM. Runners were actually getting off the shuttle, walking in the dark, on the freeway to Dodger Stadium. It was amusing at first, but after realizing that we might actually miss the start time and we had to use the restroom, we started to get nervous. Fortunately, traffic slowly picked up and we were able to make it to Dodger Stadium, passing by all the runners who decided to walk. The restrooms were a whole different story. We thought most people would use the Port-o-Potties instead of the stadium bathrooms, but we were very wrong. The lines were massive for every single bathroom that we knew if we waited in line, there was no way we were going to make it to the start. My friends and I started to wait in one of the lines at the stadium bathrooms when I saw a worker pull in some people through a locked door and told them there were bathrooms upstairs. We ran in with them before the door shut and were fortunate enough to score a whole row of bathrooms with no one in them.

We arrived at the starting line and bumped into a couple track friends who were in the Sub 3 corral. I had a wristband for Sub 4 corral which was nice because they had only allotted 500 wristbands for Sub 3 and 500 fo Sub 4, meaning 25,000 runners/walkers were all lumped together behind the corrals. I think the L.A. marathon is going to get a lot of complaints for this because a lot of my friends who can clearly run a Sub 4 marathon time did not get the wristband and had trouble getting up close to the starting line. Also, it didn’t help that the Cliff bar pace groups were in the corral itself, so if you wanted to run a 3:40 time, you had to somehow catch up to the pace group after the start of the race. The marathon started way late, around 7:54, because people were still stuck in traffic. I joined up with the 3:40 group because it worked wonders for me last time at Walt Disney, especially when they start of a little slower than goal pace. I usually have a hard time holding back and taking it easy because of the adrenaline and excitement, but knew that going out too fast has always been my downfall towards the latter half of the race.

The first mile was pretty much a loop around the Dodger stadium parking lot. Can you believe, even the parking lot had a hill?? This was not a good way to start the race since I knew the course was hilly. We started off fairly slow to allow ourselves to warm up for the first 3 miles. I knew if I just kept the pace balloons in sight, I would be fine. Once I hit the 3 mile mark, my feet started to feel really heavy and tired. I knew this was the first sign that I haven’t fully recovered from the Napa marathon 2 weeks ago. I’ve been running back to back races ever since Surf City back in February and this race made me realize that even though I might feel okay and recovered, I need to give my legs a break from racing. I had run the first 10 miles of this course a month before just to scope out the new course, but it felt a lot tougher and hillier on Sunday. We winded through Silverlake and Echo Park into Hollywood for the first 10 miles. By this time, I had let the pace balloons drift further and further away. I told myself that it might be good starting off this slow, and that I’ll just run negative splits the 2nd half of the race (haha!). The hills and gradual inclines really took a toll my legs as they never felt “fresh”. I felt like I was dragging my legs throughout the entire race and never had a moment where I felt great. Lack of sleep? Lactic acid? No alcohol the day before? Even today, as I think back to what went wrong on Sunday, I can’t pinpoint a specific cause for why I was feeling that way besides the fact that I’ve been doing too much recently. The upside was that the course was entertaining with live bands, drag queens and cheerleaders and seeing my closest friends run along the course.

I bumped into my friend Dennis around the 13 mile mark and was so relieved because I thought I could run with him the rest of the way. Let me mention that he is coming back from tendinitis and still came down to run this marathon.  I only kept up with him for a mile or so until I dropped behind. Kudos to him for running a 3:42 time injured! Amazing. This marathon was really tough for me physically and mentally because I completely let the competitive side of me take over. I saw a lot of my friends go by, and even though, I was really happy for them because they were going to make their time, I felt defeated and mad that I wasn’t running my best. The only thing that kept me going was looking forward to the Leggers support station along the course at Miles 7, 15 and 22. It was nice to stop and take a break and re-energize myself with familiar faces. We ran through West Hollywood into Beverly Hills where I saw some friends at Niketown cheering us on. I caught a little break in Beverly Hills and picked up my pace when I saw Phil, a Leggers mentor, pacing some runners  who wanted to do a sub 4 marathon. I kept up with them for a while, but the 9 min/mile pace didn’t last long when we headed into Century City where there was a climb. Right before I hit the Mile 18 mark, I saw a runner on the floor in the middle of the road going into cardiac arrest. It was horrifying to see and I had no idea what to do. He already had runners surrounding him, so I thought it wouldn’t help if I stopped and crowded around him. I kept running and starting yelling to all the spectators who were around that area to go get medical help. We weren’t far from the Mile 18 mark where there was a medical van waiting and I told them a runner was down and needed help badly. I’m not sure what happened afterwards, but from reading the news, he was only 21 years old and thankfully, survived. It was so shocking for me to  see that and completely took me back that marathons are not your average sport. A lot of times, I don’t fully grasp how taxing 26 miles can be on your body and realize what a huge accomplishment it is to even finish a marathon. Hey, that’s what happens when you hang around marathon maniacs all the time!

Compare our strides-one got the PR, can you guess who?

After that incident, I knew I had to listen to my body for the rest of the race and if I needed to walk, I would allow myself to do so. I haven’t taken a walking break in a race before since Long Beach where I hit the wall really hard at Mile 21. Even though, I never really hit the wall in this race, I truly felt that if I kept pushing myself, my left knee was going to pop out and I was heading towards a serious injury. I wasn’t going to give up though and as the miles passed and my pace slowed down even more, I was wondering if I was even going to make it under 4 hours. Around Mile 20, we headed into the VA where there was a nasty climb. By that time, I was on the verge of total defeat and couldn’t take it anymore. I kept playing mental games with myself that if I just ran 0.20 miles then I could a walking break. Or try running for 5 minutes and walking for 1 minute. I realize I’m really hard on myself, but coming from so many great races in the past 2 months, it is very very hard for me to see myself do poorly and not PR at every race, which I know is impossible to run a great race every time. I forged forward and didn’t want to walk when there was a lot of people around. It felt really disappointing to walk in front of a lot of people on the sides cheering you on and seeing all the runners pass by. I had a flashback to the guy I saw at Mile 18 and told myself I had to take a break and walk. I walked/hobbled a half mile before I started to get nervous that if I kept walking, I wouldn’t want to run again. I knew the Leggers were at Mile 22, so I told myself that I would try to run until I saw the next Leggers tent. It was painful and every muscle in my body was rebelling against the motion, but I’m pretty good at ignoring pain and pushing through mentally. Although the spectator support was great and there wasn’t a single place where there weren’t people cheering, even their support didn’t help me Sunday. I was just not feeling it and couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

We hit San Vicente and this was the final stretch before the finish. I’ve run this route numerous times with the Leggers almost every Saturday so this was familiar territory. I knew we were almost home, but there was still a couple more miles to go. We had one more climb in Brentwood before it was a gradual downhill to Ocean Ave. The Leggers station wasn’t actually until right before the 23 mile mark. I almost cried because I thought I had missed the tent that when I did finally see it, I thought it was a mirage. I stopped for a little bit, hydrated myself and got my legs sprayed with Cool n Fit. 3 more miles to go. Keep going. 3 miles might seem like nothing on a normal day, but on Sunday, it was the longest 3 miles ever. I kept my head down and just prayed that my legs would hold up and that I would make it to the finish line before the 4 hour mark. I have never cut it so close before and it was nerve-wrecking to see that a 10 min/mile was hard to do, when I’m used to running 8-8:30. I knew if I stopped and walked anymore, I wouldn’t make it. The downhill helped, but it wasn’t like I was able to race down San Vicente like I normally would have. The spectator crowd grew more and more the closer we got to the finish. We turned the corner to Ocean where it was the last mile to go. I kept watching the clock on my Garmin as it crept closer to the 4 hour mark. I didn’t want to full out sprint until the very end, which was when I saw the 26 mile marker. Crossing the finish line, I was so relieved to be done with the race.

I came in at 3:56:30 which I know is not the worst time ever, but it is the worst marathon time for me. I fully realized from this marathon that there is such a thing as recovery and that I need to take a long break from marathons for a while. I have a half marathon this Saturday in Agoura hills (I know, I’m kicking myself now for signing up for it) and a couple halfs/10K in the summer. My next long race will be Mt. Disappointment’s 50K in August. Hopefully by then, I will have fully recovered and be ready to spring back into some great fall marathons. I’m going to get back into track workouts once school is over and do more trail runs in the spring/summer. I would rather take a break, work on my time and come back with a faster marathon time, than sign up for all these races and see myself get slower at every race. My left knee is not feeling it’s best, so I’m going to take this time to really work on healing it completely and strengthening the muscles around it. I felt that was the biggest barrier for me during this race and if it wasn’t for the sharp pains in my knee every time I took a step, I could have done better. Oh well, lesson learned the hard way.

On the bright side, a few of my amazing friends qualified for Boston and some set new PR’s! Truly amazing, especially on this tough course. At least the post-race dinner made me (almost) forget about this brutal experience!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 1:55 pm

    Great Read!

    LAM was my 1st Marathon, it’s interesting reading the blogs of more experienced runners to get their take on the race.

    Quick Question: How do you lift your race photos from marathonfoto (that you sometimes use in your race reports)?

    I see they disabled the right click save option 🙂

    Thanks in advance for any info

    • andee permalink
      March 23, 2010 2:07 pm

      I have to go on a Mac computer and use the Grab application to capture the screen. I haven’t found a way to do it yet with a PC. Hope this helps!

  2. steph permalink
    March 23, 2010 3:12 pm

    PLEASE dont kill yourself. take it easy. 26 miles is reaaaallly hard on your body.

    also try to “print screen” on pc’s and then paste into paint or something and cut out your pic. usually its alt+prt scn or something

  3. March 23, 2010 3:28 pm

    Congrats!!!! That is definitely quite an accomplishment. I had a couple friends do the marathon, too. It’s one of my goal to actually do a marathon. I’d love to one day to the LA one. Hopefully next year.

    Congrats again for finishing!!

  4. March 24, 2010 8:01 am

    I love running blogs that double as a food blog! 🙂
    Congrats on running a sub 4 on that course! Unlike you, I bagged that race by mile 16 and walked it in.

  5. March 24, 2010 8:40 am

    What an inspiring read! I’ve never been a runner cuz of my bad knees so when I tell you that you should be proud, believe me you should! I enjoy reading about your running adventures 🙂

  6. March 25, 2010 7:45 am

    Way to go. This is not easy to do. Many of us can’t even do a 5K, so you are a champ. 🙂


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