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Sunday, March 20, 2011

LA Marathon 2011 -- Cold and Rainy

Today was far from an ideal day.  In a race where hundreds dropped out due to hypothermia, I'm grateful to have finished as well as I did.

My Marathon Bib -- Keeping it Unique!!!

My morning started at 3:20 am.  By 4:20, I parked my car at my friend's condo in Santa Monica and walked to the shuttle buses.  I arrived at Dodger Stadium by 5:15 am, with over two hours to kill until the race.  In avoiding the morning chill, I intermittently sat, laid down and napped, ate bananas and soy yogurt, and used the port-o-potties about five times (yes, really).

Around 7 am, I checked my gear bag and fought through the crowd to get to my seeded corral, for runners who had previously completed sub-5-hour marathons.  The crowd of us was told that the corral closed at 7 am, which of course we had never been told, and created chaos and anxiety, and finally we were permitted to enter the seeded corral area.

Unlike last year, in which we waited forty-five minutes for shuttle buses to get off the jammed up freeway and drop off the rest of the runners, we started on time.  It was kind of funny because I think the gun went off earlier than it was supposed to -- the announcer gave a "Runners......" like he was going to say "get set" or something like that, but then *BOOM*!  And, the "We Love LA" song that plays at the beginning of every marathon started late and was skipping all over the place.  It was definitely an awkward start.

With the help of my coach Gerardo of Fortius Racing, I had decided that my strategy for a goal race time of 4:05 would be to run 9:20 per mile splits.  The first three miles were downhill, and I probably did each one in 9:10.  People were passing me all over the place.  But, as a seasoned marathoner, I know to let them go.  To paraphrase my first triathlon and running coach Mary Eggers, "There are two kinds of people who will pass you at the beginning of a marathon -- people who are faster than you, and people who will be walking at mile 22."

Less than a mile into the race, it began to rain.  This would be the theme of the day -- rain and cold.  At mile one, I ditched my waterproof jacket and was running in a tank top singlet and shorts.  I kept my gloves on, but by mile five, I tucked those into my shorts and ultimately disposed of them mid-race.  While it may have been fifty degrees and pouring rain, I didn't feel cold.

Mile four presents the biggest hill of the course -- a short, steep hill up to Disney Concert Hall.  I practice hills regularly, so this was no big deal to me.  With another uphill at mile five, and a port-o-potty stop, the next few splits were a bit slower.  Around the seventh mile, I ran into an LA Tri Club member who I know who was out on the course doing a training run.  He paced me for the next four miles into Hollywood and gave me someone to talk to, which made the run a bit easier. 

The rain poured harder, and at times felt absolutely torrential.  While I felt okay, I found out after the race that hundreds of runners dropped out, and several runners were taken to local hospitals with hypothermia.

I love running through Hollywood.  We ran along the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, and then down the Sunset Strip.  This was about midway through the race.  Though my socks and shoes were soaked and the rain was pouring, I felt good and strong.  My time was a bit off at 2:04:00 at the half marathon point, so I thought that since I felt well I might still be able to hit my goal if I got back on my 9:20 pace.

And, I continued to feel pretty good.  The bottoms of my feet were sore, I had a mild ache in my right hip, but compared to other marathons I've done, I felt great.  But my splits were off -- they were more like 9:45 than the 9:20 that I was aiming for.

I continued to feel good running down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, and then down Burton and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Once I reached mile 18 in Century City, I had a brief pep talk to myself:  Look, you feel good, now is the time to pick up the pace and try to hit your goal.  If nothing else, let's at least try to get a PR (personal record -- my best prior marathon was Long Beach 2009 which I ran in 4:12:55). 

About now, I started passing people.  A seasoned marathoner, and as this was my tenth marathon I think I can call myself "seasoned", knows how to pace herself.  Though I was passing more than I was being passed, and I still felt good, I just couldn't get much faster.

The toughest part of the race is about mile 20, through the VA Hospital grounds.  There's a significant uphill, and the scenery is blah at best.  The rain was absolutely pouring, I had given up on trying to run around puddles and landed right in them without caring as my feet were already drenched, and my legs were starting to ache.

Next is the turn onto San Vicente Boulevard.  The Hirshberg Foundation had an enthusiastic group with loud upbeat music and I would consider them the highlight of the entertainment on the course -- it's impossible to pass them and not feel energized.  They're also an organization that I support since the father of one of my closest friends died of pancreatic cancer.  So, from here, most of the course was downhill on San Vicente Boulevard.  In spite of my legs feeling heavy and tired, I was moving along at a good pace.  I passed far more runners than passed me.  There were lots of spectators and a number of people that I knew, and their encouragement pushed me toward the finish line.

Turning the corner from San Vicente onto Ocean Blvd, the end was in sight with about a mile left to go.  Fortius Coaching had an enthusiastic group cheering us on, and from there on out, I just pushed to the finish line.

My finish time:  4:12:59.  Just four seconds slower than my best marathon, Long Beach 2009, which was run in much sunnier conditions.

It felt so good to be done!!!  I must not have looked so good because one of the medical staff approached me, and I smiled, said I'm a doctor, and I'm okay, and he let me be.  However, hundreds who crossed the finish line, mostly those who finished after me and likely weren't running the whole thing and thus didn't keep their core temperature up, were treated for hypothermia shortly after finishing.

I walked the long three-quarters of a mile or so to the marathon finisher's festival area.  It was pretty empty since not many people wanted to make the trek in the cold and rain.  I was shivering.  The music was horrible, the gear check was horribly disorganized so I decided not to wait for my bag for fear of becoming hypothermic.  However, since there were so few people at the finisher's festival, I received about ten bags of potato chips and a dozen Clif bars because so few people came to take them.

All in all, it was a tough day with pouring rain and cold temperatures.  I didn't hit my goal, but I think I did well given the extremes in the weather.  I feel like if this was a warmer day without rain that I could have done better.  But, as I know others fared worse than I did with respect to their goals and the weather, I am grateful.

5 comments:

Debra said...

Great job.. It is on my bucket list to at least do a 5k!
Blessings, Debra
Raw Vegan Diet

Mona said...

Mega high fives. That is a great performance in such terrible conditions. As a non-runner (and a bit of a couch potato) the thing I admire about marathoners is the psychological toughness, which you definitely showed.


How much medical staff is there for these things? How do they get to the runners quickly? Do they travel through the crowd or the course?

Also, thanks for the link to the Hirshberg Foundation.

Nobel4Lit said...

Great time! I thought I would need to stop at the end medical tent for some treatment. I was in bad shape for a while. The worst part was finding the family reunion area in front of that windy beach.

TooeleTwins said...

Nice finish in not-so-nice conditions. I spent the weekend whining about the high winds, so I missed my long run. I'm afraid that I'll regret that in June! http://www.utahvalleymarathon.com/ and http://hcf.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=446243&lis=1&kntae446243=38E203E9E3924CF688D60403B897800B&supId=319945774

JBOPT said...

I admire you greatly for flying the vegan flag so sucessfully with such tough challanges, a excellent account of the marathon