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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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Salad Du Jour

Today's salad: tofu, lentils, korean veggies - lotus and burdock, mango, bell peppers, flax seeds, and avocado

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Week Until the LA Marathon

I don't typically get nervous about races.  But I am getting antsy about the LA marathon on March 20, just one week away.

I've been training hard.  I've put in at least eight runs of 15 miles or longer.  I've done them on about a ten minute per mile pace, and I've managed to run the last few miles of those runs on about a 9:00-9:15/mile pace.

I had a personal best half marathon time in January at the Los Angeles 13.1 -- 1:57:00.

Yesterday, my "taper" workout was a three mile warm-up, six miles at "marathon pace", and a one mile cooldown.  I decided that for the sake of this run that 9:15 per mile is my marathon pace, and I managed to do that while keeping my heart rate in a respectable range of 155-165 per minute.

So what kind of time will that get me in a marathon?  My personal best is 4:12 at Long Beach in 2009.  I can beat that.  One online pace calculator says that based on my half marathon that I can hit 4:08.  My coach thinks I can hit 4 hours.  I think 4:05 is a reasonable goal.  I'm not sure.

I care so much about this because I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  It's a far away dream, but I think that with the right training that I can do it.  The qualification standards just got tougher, but that just means that I have to get tougher.

This week is a taper week.  A few short runs, and some yoga and stretching.  And hopefully plenty of sleep so that I am well rested and ready on Sunday.