Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inaugural Los Angeles Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon Race Report

I had the privilege of running the very first LA Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on Sunday.  It was my friend Shannon’s first half marathon.  One of her friends couldn’t run the race and offered to let me run with his bib.  So for 13.1 miles, I was a 34 year old male named Ken.  ;-)   This was my chance to be there for my friend as well as practice my pacing skills.

Shannon picked me up at the ugly hour of 4:45 a.m.  We had to drive to LA and weren’t sure how the parking was going to be.  We made it up there in great time and found parking easily.  In fact, we parked steps from the shuttle pick up.  We donned our fashionable garbage sacks,* walked right onto a bus** and settled in for the ride up to Griffith Park.  It turns out that getting there that early was a very good idea.  I heard stories later that closer to race time shuttle lines were outrageously long and parking was nearly impossible to find.  I heard that one runner paid $40 for parking.  Yikes!  I thought our $12 fee was steep.
 Shannon is ready to go!

The shuttle ride seemed awfully long for a 13.1 mile race.  Shannon was starting to get a little nervous.  I reassured her that she had done the training and was well prepared for the race.

We got off the bus and walked toward the crowds.  I knew we wanted to use the porta potties a couple of times.  We still had over an hour until start time.  The lines for the porta potties were not long at all.  There were a ton of them.  

DSCN2342Shannon needed to check a bag.  After last week’s bag debacle, I decided to forego mine.  I usually don’t need one for a half anyway.  She walked up to UPS truck #3 which corresponded to her last name.  Simple.  Done.***

We were meeting her friend, Lauren, who had my bib.  While Shannon waited for her, I got back in line for the potty.  Lines were a bit longer now, but the sun was starting to come up and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.  DSCN2343 The guy behind me was super intense and yelling at people to hurry up and annoyed when they didn’t run to the open door immediately.  I wanted to tell him to lighten up.  Seriously.  It is a Rock ‘n Roll half marathon--everyone but him was in a fun mood.  Right as I got to the front, a race official came by with a bullhorn and announced that there were 100 more porta potties closer to the start line.  The guy behind me was annoyed with that too.  You just can’t please some people.

Shannon was nervous.  I was excited.  There were a TON of people and the mood was pretty festive.  We saw some running Elvi (Elvises?) and knew it was going to be a fun race.
Shannon and Lauren 
Still in our garbage sacks because it was still pretty chilly

After another stop at a porta potty, we got into corral 12.  We shed our garbage sacks and were ready to go.  Our corral was right around the middle of the pack, which turned out to be perfect.  It took approximately 16 minutes before our wave went.DSCN2346 DSCN2347 DSCN2349
DSCN2351And then we were off.  I have run with Shannon enough to be familiar with her pace.  I thought we were going a bit fast for her, but as races tend to, it felt like we were barely moving.  I struggled with whether or not I should slow her down or let her run.  She ran a 10K in July in 1:19:22 (a 12:58 pace).  She has trained a lot since then, and she felt great so I let her set the pace a bit.  Looking back, I should have slowed her down just a little in the first few miles.  I think her time would have been about the same, overall, but she may have felt better in the last couple of miles.DSCN2353

Mile 1—11:19
Mile 2—10:58
Mile 3—11:00

The first few miles of the race went through Griffith Park, somewhere I have never been.  It was great.  We ran past the LA Zoo and through the wooded park area.  The course was a gradual downhill at this point.  I was feeling awesome.  My soreness from the marathon was gone.  Running at this pace felt effortless.  I danced and took pictures and was the cheerleader for Lauren and Shannon.

Miles 4,5, and 6 were not very scenic.  They were flat and had very little shade.  The sun was starting to feel hot.  I was regretting my choice of capris over shorts.  There was an out-an-back along I-5 for quite a while.  Ick.  During the 5th mile, both Shannon and Lauren needed to use a potty.  There were several at the aid station, but there was a bit of a line.  That really slowed things down. 
Mile 4—11:44
Mile 5—14:17 (potty break)
Mile 6—12:03

Things were slowing down to a pace that is a bit closer to Shannon’s normal pace.  She was still in good spirits.  She was actually pretty chatty.  I told her that she didn’t have to talk to entertain me, but we had a pleasant conversation.  It was nice.

Lauren stopped for a walk break and told us to go.  She is an experienced runner, but hadn’t trained much for the race and knew she would have to go to a walk/run strategy for the later part of the race.  We wished her well and ran on.  Shannon had worked really hard and I am glad she was comfortable leaving her friend.  She was still feeling good.

DSCN2356As we passed the 10K mat, we noticed the race clock.  Her 10K split was 1:15, which is several minutes faster than her 10K time from July.  I cheered and told everyone around us that Shannon had just run a 10K PR. As you would expect, the runners around us were super supportive.

The race was pretty hilly.  Despite an overall elevation loss, the second half of the race had a lot of hills.  We made sure to take any walk breaks (they were getting a bit more frequent) on uphill sections.  Shannon did a fantastic job of taking advantage of the downhills and let herself fly.  
LA rock 'n roll half marathon


Mile 7—12:10
Mile 8—12:06
Mile 9—12:10

The course went along the Silver Lake Reservoir.  It was a really nice stretch.  There was plenty of shade and we were still having fun.  We ran by an Elvis.  I know he was hot, but when I asked him about it, he replied that his outfit was like a “second skin.”  He was fully in character and bantered with us for a while talking like Elvis.  It was great!
Rock 'n Roll Running Elvis
As we hit the later miles, Shannon started hurting.  Her hamstrings were bothering her and we stopped to stretch at least once.  I keep Tylenol in my hydration belt and offered a couple to her.  At first she declined but then asked for them a mile or so later.  I could tell that she was starting to hurt quite a bit.  I was starting to hurt too.  I even wondered if I should have kept the Tylenol for myself.  My IT Band was starting to ache.  It wasn’t hurting terribly, but I could definitely feel it.  At one point, up a steep hill, I jogged/walked up it backwards which felt really good on my legs.  I learned a very important fact: even if you are running slower than your normal pace, running a half marathon isn’t easy!  No matter what, 13.1 miles is a long way.

The mood throughout the race was very festive.  In addition to running Elvi, there were bands and cheerleaders.  There was even a giant rocker.  It was fun.

The race took us right into downtown LA.  For someone who has never really been to downtown LA, this was pretty cool for me.  It was flat and shady and a nice area.  I am glad there was only a mile or so… just enough.
As my Garmin clicked over to thirteen miles**** we could see where the course turned right toward the finish and could hear the festivities.  She needed one last walk break before the final stretch.  She had really pushed herself that mile or so.

Mile 10—12:12
Mile 11—12:10
Mile 12—11:56
Mile 13—10:26

Shannon had asked me to run ahead at the end to get a picture.  I double checked before I left her, to make sure she didn’t want me with her.  I am so glad I ran ahead.  The picture I snapped is way better than the official one from the race photographer.  Look at that smile!
Shannon's finish Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon
Sprinting into the finish!  Her official time was 2:40:21 (16 minutes after the gun time)

I was/am extremely proud of her!  She is raising two very active boys,  volunteers a ton at the school and works.  The fact that she found time to train for a half marathon is amazing to me.  I love, love, love the fact that my running has connected me with women like her.
Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon Finish
This was my slowest half marathon, but one of my most enjoyable.  I really like to pace my friends—and I think I may have found a calling.  I have a lot to learn, however.  Next time, I need to figure out, in advance, how much I should slow someone down as opposed to letting her set the pace.  I also need to study the course and elevation profile and maybe even bring a copy of the map with me.  I could have been way more helpful if I had any idea what the course was like.  I had no clue on this one; I was completely along for the ride and didn’t even look at it.

Overall, I give it a thumb’s up.  It was a great day to be running and I was able to share a special running moment with one of my running friends.  It was exactly what I needed to remind me of my love of running.

*we thought that the weather would be cold and drizzly as it had been for the past several days.  It was a little chilly and the bags did a nice job of keeping the chill off.
**I was a little nervous because her friend, Lauren, was meeting us at the starting line with her husband’s bib.  All race literature claimed that you could not board the shuttle without a race bib.  I think my garbage sack helped, as well as the fact that runners were filing on the bus and it would have taken a long time for the driver to check under everyone’s jacket, sweatshirt or bag.
***Bag pickup after the race was just as simple.  In fact, she walked up to truck #3 and a volunteer told the guy in the truck her bib number before she got to the table.  Shannon was handed her bag before saying a word.  Flawless. 
****My Garmin ended up showing 13.5 miles.  We did not run the tangents at all, weaved a bit and I ran ahead a few times to snap pictures and then back to run with Shannon.  So all the splits are really just approximations, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pros and Cons of the Long Beach Marathon

I know that my last post focused mostly on my personal experience and not a lot on the race itself.  I have compiled a few of the good and not-so-good things about the Long Beach Marathon.

*Runner communication—The staff at RunRacing did a good job of keeping runners informed about everything.  By following/liking the race on Facebook and Twitter, I felt completely connected to everything going on with the race.  They really did an excellent job of getting everyone excited from posting pictures of the medal to various spots on the course.
*Pre-paid parking—Since I had VIP parking, I didn’t take advantage of this, but I think it is a brilliant idea.  It takes one less thing to stress about on race morning. 
*Expo- I discussed the expo here.
*Shirt—I like the shirt a lot. It is a more unique color (not white or navy blue) and the stripes make it very flattering.  They had women’s sizes, so the fit is better.  It is one of my favorite race shirts.
*Location-  I had never realized that Long Beach was so nice.  Before training for this race, I had a certain opinion about Long Beach.  Years ago, before moving to Southern California, a friend and I drove from San Diego to Santa Barbara along PCH.  My memory of that trip was that Long Beach was one of the least scenic parts.  I now know that the scenic parts of Long Beach are not along the Coast Highway.  The harbors and waterways in Long Beach are beautiful.  The race course really takes advantage of that.
*Post race food in a bag- This is SO convenient.  At the LA Rock ‘n Roll Half* they just had all the food set out to grab, but it was in the finishers’ area so you couldn’t go back for more.  We looked silly trying to carry water, Cytomax, banana, bagel, cereal etc. out of the finishers’ area.  At Long Beach, they handed you a bag which made it so much easier.
*Chocolate milk!  When I saw all the chocolate milk, I was so happy.  It is a great recovery drink.  Often in races there is some sort of recovery drink, but it is hit and miss.  They are usually out of the flavor I like.  You know what you are getting with chocolate milk.  No surprises there.
Great volunteers—Everyone I came in contact with was really nice.  The only issue I would have was that a few of them didn’t seem super informed.  I asked where the VIP tent was and two volunteers didn’t know (it turned out to be about fifty feet from where they were standing).
*Plenty of aid stations and medical tents—This doesn’t need much explaining.
*Plenty of porta potties along the route—I am so thankful for this.  There was a porta potty right when I needed it!

*Flat concrete path—I knew about it, but didn’t think it would be an issue at all, but the more I think about it, the more I think it may have been more difficult than I anticipated.
*Powerade—it could have been my faulty taste buds, but this stuff tasted sickly sweet.  Luckily, I had brought my own Gatorade, but late in the race I was out.  It was pretty humid, so I was trying to keep my electrolytes up.
*No race clocks at mile markers—This wasn’t a big issue for me, but I know a lot of people that like seeing where they are in the race.  With such a big race, very few people run anywhere near the gun time, so most of us have to do math to know where we are.  It is just something I am used to seeing in big races.
*The wave lineup—There was no way to get from the back of the pack to an earlier wave without pushing through masses of people.  There were no breaks in the fence (I think this is a permanent fence for the Grand Prix) so I am not sure how you could fix that.  That said, once we made it up the the front of Wave 2, the start was the perfect pace.  I didn’t have to do a lot of weaving.  I suppose the people that want to be in Waves 1 and 2 are motivated to get there while the walkers will stay at the back.
*BAG CHECK—This was, by far, the race organizer’s biggest failure.  They brought in Jet Blue to handle the bags.  It makes sense to assume that people that deal with luggage every day shouldn’t have a problem dealing with runners’ bags.  It was a complete mess.  First, there was a line to check bags in.  It wasn’t long, but in other races I have just walked up and been done.
The line after the race was unacceptable.  I hear it was longest for the half marathoners.  My friend, Stacey, ran the half in 2:14 (yeah, Stacey!!)  They waited in the line long enough to watch me cross the finish line nearly two hours later.** 

When I finished my race, all I wanted to do was get my bag with my flip flops and sweatshirt.  I waited for probably about 40 minutes or so.  When I got up to the tent a volunteer told someone ahead of me that her bib number was on the other end of the tent.  I looked at the back wall of the (very small) tent and saw bib numbers.  I went over to where I saw the 2000’s,  The line suddenly disintegrated.  Runners stormed the tent.  There were tables laying on their sides and I stood behind one.  Those of us behind the tables were holding up their bibs, hoping someone would spot their number on a bag.  Meanwhile, runners were in the tent stepping through the piles of bags.  A guy behind me was yelling at them to get the hell out of there and let the volunteers do their jobs.  The volunteers were clearly in a situation that was out of control.  One of the runners near me said, “I’m going in.”  I told him my bag was a blue “Dana Point Turkey Trot” bag, instead of the Long Beach red bag given at the expo.  Thank Goodness!!  He found my bag and gave it to me.

I understand that it is tricky to deal with thousands of bags.  I would have more patience with the situation if I hadn’t had such great experiences in the past.  Actually, they weren’t great experiences, just non-noteworthy experiences.  I have run other large races including three Rock ‘n Roll events, Surf City and the Camp Pendleton Mud Run.  In all of these races, there was no wait at all.  Rock ‘n Roll events use UPS and organize bags by runners’ last name.  You go to the truck with the first letter of your last name and they have the bags organized by bib number.  Simple. 

I didn’t really mean to go on and on about the situation.  I know that the race management staff is fully aware of that situation and will make it better next year. 

Overall, the Long Beach Marathon was a well-run event.  There were a lot of people, which always makes for issues. The race director, for the most part, had everything under control.  Despite my negative personal experience, I would definitely run this race again. 

Happy Running...

*Race report for the Inaugural Rock ‘n Roll Half is coming soon!
**You may wonder why my friend Stacey wasn’t there when I was done or why my car wasn’t there.  Our plans were for Stacey to take my car to Huntington Beach where her sister’s boat is.  Then they all (both families) came in the boat to Long Beach and picked me up at the public dock where we hung out for a while.  The only reason I had to wait for them was the line for the bags.  Otherwise, Stacey would have been in Huntington Beach long before I crossed the finish line.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Long Beach Marathon Race Report

Last week, I actually thought that I might skip my race report this time.  I was pretty bummed.  But I also told myself that I would probably not run a marathon again… and we all know how those statements turn out.  So here is my race report.  I write this as much for me as for anyone reading it.  I still don’t know what went wrong.  With my other races that didn’t go my way, I could point to a reason why it fell apart.  I’m still trying to sort all that out.

I carbo loaded the same way I did for Surf City.  I ate a lower carb diet in the early part of the week and then ramped up later in the week.  In retrospect, maybe I could have gone heavier at lunch and then lighter at dinner.  That worked really well in Carlsbad.  However, my food the day before the race was no different than before any of my long runs.
I took it easy all day Saturday, having gone to the expo on Friday.  I had everything set out early and was in bed at a reasonable hour.  I slept surprisingly well.  I only woke up once, where I usually wake up every hour before a race.  I woke up a couple minutes before my alarm (the first of three that I had set).  I was ready to go and excited.

I picked up my friend Marci at 5:15 and we were both feeling good.  I made a comment that maybe it was a bad sign that I wasn’t more nervous.  Foreshadowing??

We got there in great time.  The route I chose was perfect and we didn’t hit any traffic.  Parking was a breeze.  A friend of mine had been able to get us VIP parking and access to the VIP tent.  We parked, walked over the bridge and used the porta potty in the VIP tent…avoiding all potty lines!  I wished my friend Stacey and her brothers good luck and Marci and I headed out to check my bag and line up at the start.  We made our way up into Wave 1 (I thought it was Wave 2 until I saw the 3:40 pacer).  Things were going great!
Marci and I are ready to go!
Stacey and I before her first half marathon
After the typical announcements, National Anthem, etc. we were off!  I kept remembering Alissa telling me that the first ten miles of a marathon should be the easiest ten miles I have run.  I easily ran under my target pace.  In fact, I had to slow myself (and Marci) down. It was a bit humid, but it was overcast and the temperature was nice.

That first mile was 8:34…a bit faster than my plan, but nothing too bad.  The next ten miles were all between 8:34 and 8:48—exactly where I wanted to be.  Unfortunately, I was not running the tangents very well and my Garmin was off from the mile markers.  According to my pace band, I was right on target for a 3:50 finish.  There wasn’t much room for error.

Marci was looking good.  Around the third or fourth mile, she started pulling away.  I was ok with that, because my pace was right where I wanted it to be.  I wanted to run my race and I let her run hers.

I noticed pretty early on that my running did not feel “effortless.” My legs felt a little heavy and I couldn’t quite get into a really easy rhythm with my breathing.  In the beginning, I was thinking that I just needed to warm up.  Often on long runs, I don’t get into a good groove until at least mile five or six.  However, once I got onto the beach path, my legs felt really heavy.  I had to focus on each step.  A few people have commented that the concrete path was really difficult.  At the time, I didn’t think much of it.  But, looking back, the concrete may have contributed to my overall decline at the end of the race.

Right as I started on the bike path, Marci appeared out of a bathroom.  We were thrilled to have found each other again.  Things were looking up.  however, my leg was starting to get pretty tight.  I stopped at the  Kool ‘n Fit spray tent at mile 10 and had them spray my thigh and knee.  I was hoping to prevent future issues.  
Marci and I ran together until sometime around mile 11 when I felt a horrible feeling-- I had to go to the bathroom!  I thought I had gone plenty of times before as part of my typical pre-race ritual.  Hmmm…. now I am wondering if I should try the Immodium route like so many others do, but it still makes me nervous.  But that feeling where you desperately need a porta potty is one of the worst feelings in the world.  I know now that it was the beginning of the end. 

I found a bathroom—thank God.  I was in there a little over a minute.  I knew I had some time to make up to make my goal.  Once out of the potty, I hit the lap button on my Garmin to make sure I ran at the right pace and took off.  But, for some reason, I never quite got back to my pace.  It took more and more work just to keep my pace under 9:00.  My stomach was still feeling “icky” and I thought at one point that I was gong to throw up.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that 3:50 was now not possible.  I shook off that goal and decided that I would be going for a less aggressive goal.  I wanted to finish under my PR of 3:57.  I knew that the pace for that time was 9:03.  If I kept my pace under 9:00 for the rest of the race, I could manage a PR.  No problem, right?

I saw Marci’s husband around mile 16.  I wasn’t feeling speedy, but I was feeling ok.  The feeling that I was going to throw up wasn’t as strong and I was encouraged when he told me that he had only seen Marci a couple minutes before.  Seeing her family really gave me a boost and I was still feeling optimistic.

I was walking at the water stops at this point, even though I had carried plenty of water.  I was using the stops as an excuse to rest.  I was feeling a bit winded, something I never feel.  In looking back, I wonder if my initial desire to make up the time in the porta potty made me run with an elevated heart rate.  I don’t run with a monitor, but I would be really curious to see where my heart rate was before the bathroom stop and after. 
The course turned into the CSULB campus and I knew the last major hill of the course was around the campus. As I struggled up the hill, I started to notice that my IT band was getting really uncomfortable.  Ironically, this is also the area where my favorite spot in the course was.  The Fraternities and Sororities of the university all converged in one area to cheer on the runners.  They were so loud and having fun.  They were cheering for each one of the runners individually.  They were, by far, the best spectators of the entire course.  In fact, they may have been the best spectators of any race I have run.  It could have been that I needed that kind of lift right then.  It was the first time I had smiled in a while.

It was around this time that I knew that my PR was gone.  However, I was encouraged to see the four-hour pacer up ahead of me.  I wanted…no, I needed to catch up with her.  I didn’t catch her on the uphill, but I thought I might be able to close the gap on the downhill.  Unfortunately, her group picked it up a bit on that downhill too.  Right past mile 19, I was still in reach and as I accelerated, my knee started hurting a lot. In fact, every time I ran faster than 9:00, I felt a shooting pain in the side of my knee.   I had to walk at the water station.  I watched her red and white balloons of the four hour pacer getting further and further away from me.
The next miles were the hardest miles of any race I have ever run.  My body hurt everywhere and mentally, I was DONE.  Whenever I stopped to walk, I started to cry.  It was odd to cry with no tears…I’m pretty sure I sweated all my tears out long before that point.  I was mad at myself.  I felt weak.  It was during the next couple miles that I doubted my mental strength to push through pain.  I stopped trying.  I stopped and walked whenever I felt like it, not waiting for an aid station.  This week, looking back at my race, it was these last few miles that I am most disappointed with.  I keep wondering if I gave up because I was off my goal or because I was physically incapable of pushing myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever know.

Around mile 22 or so, I tried to rally some fun.  Some guy was offering beer in dixie cups and I took one.  I knew it couldn’t hurt.  Unfortunately, it tasted horrible.  I’m not sure if it was just bad beer or if my taste buds were not tasting correctly.  Earlier, I had eaten a couple of my Sour Patch Kids and they tasted nasty too.  Next, there were some people handing out Mardi Gras beads.  “Bead me!” I said to them.  I thought I might as well look like a party if I didn’t feel like one.  Unfortunately, they were really annoying and did nothing to improve my mood.  But at that point, I am not sure if anything would.

It was around this time that I saw Lety.  I had met Lety in Long Beach when I went down to run with my friend Nadine’s running group.  She and Nadine had given me a tour of Long Beach and told me about the race.  I was relieved to see a friendly face.  I knew that if I forced myself to stay with her, I could finish strong, or at least finish.  She told me that pain was “weakness leaving the body.”  As we hit mile 23, I said, “I can do a 5K!”  She reminded me that “5Ks hurt.”  Oh, how right she was.

While I was running with Lety, I saw Aron on the sidelines.  I knew that Aron knew exactly how I was feeling.  I really felt connected to her when I read her race report from the Eugene Marathon in 2009.  I truly felt her emotion in that post.  How little did I know at the time that I would have a similar experience 18 months later.  Some of the things she wrote, I can write myself today*.  So when I saw her, I knew she was someone who would understand.  I ran right up to her and said, “I need a hug.”  Of course, she was so sweet and gave me a genuine hug.  As I ran away from her, I realized that a) she had finished running the half and was long past sweaty and the last thing she needed was a sweaty runner giving her a hug and b) she and I have never actually met in person, so hugging a stranger might feel odd.  But of course, she is a great person who has hugs to give.

I continued to run with Lety.  My knee was really hurting me.  I saw a woman spraying more of the Kool ‘N Fit spray.  This time it really didn’t make a dent in the pain.  Nothing was going to help at this point.  I walked a bit and soon I saw Lety disappearing into the crowd.  I was on my own for the last bit of the race.  I have never wanted to quit any race more than I did at that moment.

Right before the course turned off of Ocean toward the finish, I realized that I was in no mood to finish with my Mardi Gras beads.  I didn’t want anything to suggest I was in a party mood.  I saw a little girl on the side of the road.  I asked her mother if I could give her the beads.  The little girl was thrilled.  At least they did some good and made someone’s day.

I ran into the finish.  Apparently, my friend, Stacey, watched me come in and cheered like crazy for me.  I didn’t hear her.  I think I was focusing on getting to that finish line.  After finishing, all I could do was cry.  I got my medal, my bag of food and a chocolate milk.  I wanted to get out of there and go meet my friends and family**  I went to go get my bag and waited in line an eternity***.  Marci found me in line and as soon as I saw her, I started to cry.  I was happy that she ran her sub-four marathon, but I was so disappointed in myself.  I feel horrible that my sadness over my failure may have taken some of Marci’s wind out of her sails.  She should have been able to celebrate her great accomplishment with me.

I was able to meet up with Aron and her friends and sat on the grass for them for a while.  I had a bit of a wait for my people to get me and sitting with other marathoners was a nice way to keep from feeling too sorry for myself.
DSCN2298 After the Northern California girls let for their hotel, I wandered around the area waiting for my family and friends.  This was the toughest part of my post race experience.  I was having a pretty good pity party.  Luckily, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly once joining my post race party.**DSCN2303 DSCN2304
I know I physically pushed my body by how sore I was the next few days.  I was surprisingly sore.  I feel better now.  I feel better both physically and emotionally.  It has been a good week and I have learned a lot****  There are no more tears and I have come to terms with the disaster of a race.  I think the initial disappointment hurt so much because I had such high expectations.

Sometimes I wonder if I enjoy training for a marathon more than actually running it.  I have only run four marathons, which makes me practically a novice.  I definitely have a renewed respect for the marathon.  I know that I have a lot to learn.

I do know that 4:15 is a decent marathon time.  I know that crossing the finish line of any marathon is an accomplishment.  It is easy to say those things a week later. But I am not in any rush to feel that disappointment again.  I know that when I do finally run that dream race, it will feel that much more satisfying.
Thank you all for the support and encouragement.  Thanks to all of you who read this novel of a race report.  I know it was a long rambling mess. 

Happy Running….
*Aron wrote this in her post about her unsuccessful BQ attempt:

i do know this… no matter how much i hated the marathon today and wanted to quit, i know i will be back and i know i have that BQ in me. …, “i am just waiting for the perfect race to let my secret out” and i know when it does happen it will be that much better.
**My family and Stacey’s family went out on a boat after the race and had a fabulous time.  It was exactly what I needed to prevent me from wallowing in self pity.  How can you pout about a race when you are on the ocean watching dolphins frolic.  Seriously.  The beer and company didn’t hurt either.  ;-)
***I will write about some specific race issues in a separate post.
****I have a new perspective brought on by an outpouring of support from my friends and family.  I will write about that in another post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not my day…

The Long Beach Marathon was not a good race for me.  I had such high expectations for this race so the fall was much farther; I hit harder.  I have shed my tears and am now ready to move forward.  I am starting on my race report and post mortem.  I wanted to update here for any readers who don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook.  I’m still not sure exactly what happened…. more in the race report.

results: 4:15:32
place: 1248/3527
women: 364/1369
F 40-44: 63/210

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Long Beach Expo--check!

I went to the expo yesterday to get my bib, shirt and goodies.  I didn’t feel particularly nervous until I was driving through Long Beach near the course (and at one point across the course).  As I recognized the area from two of my long training runs*, I felt my heart rate increase and that familiar feel of adrenaline rushing through me.  I feel it right now as I think about how at this time tomorrow, I will be halfway done with my fourth marathon.

The expo was great.  It was large enough to have plenty to look at and be worth driving all the way down there but not so big to be overwhelming.  The Rock and Roll San Diego expos that I have been to seemed almost too big.  The La Jolla Half Marathon, however, was an expo that was way too small (one or two vendors).  If you are required to pick up your bib before race day. the expo should be worth your while.  This one was perfect.

DSCN2282The lines were organized by bib number and moved pretty quickly.  The    volunteers were friendly**  I was able to pick up my bib as well as my friend, Stacey’s with no hassle.

I stopped by the registration area to say hi to Danica.  I know how hard she has been working, but she had a huge smile on her face.  I knew that she was the face behind the marathon’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and I had asked her several questions about the race so far.  I thanked her for putting up with my pre-race neuroses.  She was super gracious and wished me luck on my BQ attempt.

The shirt is really nice.  I have seen previous Long Beach DSCN2292Marathon shirts and they are nice, but a simple white shirt.  This one is darker (making sports bra choice so much easier***) There is a darker  stripe down the side which is flattering.  It is nice to have something different. 

I wandered around for a while, wishing I had unlimited funds for gear, shirts, shoes and trips.  The vendors were friendly and helpful.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the big booth for the time share.  Talk about hard sell!  They handed me a card to “swipe and win.”  As soon as I found out that it was a timeshare, I walked away.  That wasn’t so easy.  A guy saw me and started talking about how I could get these GREAT prizes for NO obligation, yada yada yada.  How could I turn down something for FREE?  My husband and I have a lot on our minds these days and taking time to get a sitter to go listen to a 90-minute presentation is not something we want to do.  He had a hard time taking no for an answer.

I was really impressed by the mile markers.  They had patients from the Miller Children’s Hospital do the artwork on the mile markers and were offering them in a silent auction to raise money.  Brilliant.  These mile markers were really neat.  If I had the room to display something like that, it would be so cool to have one!
You all know that my race tomorrow is a big deal for me and I am taking it pretty seriously.  However, I want to have fun.  If I am so focused on my pace, race plan etc., how am I going to have fun?  So walking through the expo, I saw a way.  Add a little whimsy!  At first, I was going to walk by the Team Sparkle booth, but the gals in the booth were so nice and Danica was there as well.  She encouraged me to be a little spontaneous****  I decided to wear a bright pink sequined sparkle skirt during the race.  I love a little attention while running and when people cheer for my skirt, it will make me smile.  I know you aren’t supposed to try anything new on race day, but this skirt is super lightweight and is barely noticeable.  However, it is noticeable to everyone else!
So now I have to figure out what top to wear.  The weather is supposed to be drizzly and in the 60’s.  I had planned on wearing a tank top, but will I be too cold?  I might go with a tank and my arm warmers. I am going to be pretty darn PINK.
I had planned on wearing my Lucy shorts, but now that the weather is cooler, I wonder if I should go with my capris.  Decisions, decisions!
So the obsession has begun.  I am trying to get things laid out early since my last marathon was a crazy scramble the night before.  Thanks for all the supportive comments.  I will try to post something here as soon as possible. 

Good luck to everyone running and racing this weekend!

Happy Running…

*I was able to join my Team Jamba buddy, Nadine for two training runs with her running group AREC.  We ran eighteen and twenty-two miles through Long Beach where Nadine pointed out various sights, including which roads were on the marathon course.
**I was at the expo during the first hour, so everyone was still fresh.  They probably hadn’t had any psycho runners yell at them yet.  ;-)*
***There is nothing worse than digging through laundry finding a white sports bra so I can wear a particular white running top.
****This, coming from a girl who wore a pink tutu in one of her marathons.  ;-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Goals for the Long Beach Marathon

I know I have alluded to my goals for this weekend’s Long Beach Marathon, but I am not sure if I have spelled them out.  Honestly, I thought that if I admitted my goal I would be that much more disappointed if it doesn’t happen.  But as I get closer, I realize that knowing that I have people pulling for me will be a big boost out there on the course.

I am going to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
boston marathon

There, I said it.  I can’t take it back.  It is out here in cyberspace. 

Long Beach is the perfect timed race for me.  It sits right in the “Perfect Storm” for me for qualifying for Boston.  October of this year is the only time where I can qualify for two different Boston Marathons in two different age divisions*.  I will be 44 years old for 2011 and will turn 45 two days before the 2012 race.  Boston uses qualifying times from races eighteen months back.  2012 Boston Marathon will take times from races as early as late-September 2010** which includes Sunday’s race.  The Boston Marathon sold out in November last year, so this is it for 2011.

My number one goal is to run this marathon under 3:50.***  That will qualify me to run the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011.  My plan is to run right under 8:45 per mile.  My pace for my last marathon was 9:03.  Eighteen seconds per mile is achievable, but not easy.

My second goal is to PR.  My current PR is 3:57:17.  That will qualify me to run the Boston Marathon in April, 2012.  In fact, anything under 4:00 would qualify for Boston 2012. 

I am looking forward to really enjoying myself on Sunday.  A marathon is a tough thing to do when you aren’t having fun.  I want to keep a smile on my face, and take in the great course.  The weather is predicted to be perfect running weather and I can’t wait.

I am running the marathon with my friend, Marci.  She and I are really well matched in terms of our pace.  Most of the time I feel like she is faster than I am.  However, we ran a 10K in July together and I had a bit more kick at the end. We push each other well.  I am really looking forward to having the company and sharing this with her.  I do need to focus on running my own race.  In the past, I have let someone else dictate my pace and I regretted it as I struggled through the last half of the race.  Luckily, Marci and I have a great understanding that we are both there to run our own race.  I hope that we can run the entire thing together.

I know a ton of people who are running the half.  I have written two training plans for friends running their first half marathons and I am super excited for them.  I am looking forward to celebrating after the race with my friend Stacey who has run many of my midweek runs with me the past few months.  I also know quite a few bloggers who will be running the half.  AKA Alice, Aron, Luis, Glenn are all bloggers who will be there (I hope I am not missing someone).  There are several out-and-back sections of the course and I am hoping to see some friends along the way.

I am trying to stay positive and ignore all the taper demons screaming at me.  I am going to trust my training and stick to my plan. 

Happy Running…

*Obviously, this will also happen in five years, but this year is my first opportunity.
**This year, they will accept times run on or after September 20, 2009
***Qualifying time for Women 40-44 is 3:50:59; Women 45-49 is 4:00:59

Monday, October 4, 2010

Celebrating Accomplishments

I feel very proud of what I have accomplished with my running.  However, I hate it when people downplay their own accomplishments by comparing themselves to me.  When talking about fitness, I often get, “I ran three miles yesterday, which is nothing for someone like you…” or “my little run must seem silly to you..”  Not at all!  It is all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  I am especially excited if I can be part of someone taking those steps toward fitness.

I know a woman who has struggled with her weight.  She is determined to get in shape and has started walking.  Walking for an hour is difficult for her, but she does it.  She puts one foot in front of the other and gets out there.  Good for her!  I am sure that often her walk is harder for her than a six mile run is for me.  So is that any less of an accomplishment?

I recently had a friend complete her first 5K.  To me, in some ways, that is as big of an accomplishment as running a marathon.  She isn’t an athlete and has been working hard to get out there and run.  She doesn’t run fast, but she runs.  That 5K was a big step and a scary one.  When you have never run a race, it is an intimidating thing.  She got out there and did it and I am super proud of her. 

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pace my sister-in-law in her third 5K.  It was a beautiful morning at the beach and a small, fun race. IMAG0263  Kristi likes to run with music.  As we were lined up at the start, she said to me, “I know it’s silly, but I am really nervous.”  That’s not silly at all!  It is totally normal to be nervous.  I still get nervous starting a race.  Any race. I told her that the nerves would help her.  She hadn’t run much since her 5K on July 4.  Her work schedule had been crazy and between that, her three-hour round trip commute and raising her five-year-old daughter, she didn’t have a lot of extra time to run. She warned me that I would be running my slowest 5K ever.  She convinced herself that it would be her personal worst.  I told her that she might surprise herself.
We started off and her nerves had her running a bit faster than we ran in July.  I told her that she had plenty of room to slow down.  It was a beautiful sunny day in Malibu and it was starting to get hot.  The race didn’t have any water after the first mile.  I was proud of Kristi who kept going with a smile.
There were three runners right by us at the starting line who told us they were running their first 5K’s.  I congratulated them.  When I saw them out on the course, I cheered them on and when I saw them afterward, I asked how it went.  I think it is important to encourage runners of all shapes and sizes to push themselves and to celebrate it.  They were all very excited and proud.
As we were deep into the second mile, I realized that we were on pace to come pretty close to Kristi’s last 5K.  I pointed out the finish line and told her that she definitely wasn’t running her slowest 5K.  I encouraged her to pick up the pace a bit.  She dug deep and sprinted toward the end.  As I stopped my Garmin, I was so excited.  Her time was 34:29—eight seconds faster than her previous PR!!  As I showed it to her, I was as excited as I would be if it were my own PR.  I had tears in my eyes as she realized that she had pushed herself hard enough to achieve a personal best.
Once again, I had a great pacing experience.  It reminded me that each accomplishment needs to be celebrated.  Each person has his/her own obstacles to overcome.  Whether an accomplishment is someone taking that first walk around the block, running a 5K PR or qualifying for Boston, we need to recognize it as a personal achievement,  I am fortunate that I am able to be part of several women achieving their goals.  In the next several weeks, I will be celebrating even more accomplishments as two of my friends complete their first half marathons and another her first full marathon.  I’m looking forward to it!

Congratulations to Tess on getting out there and walking/jogging, Mellisa for running your first 5K and Kristi for setting a new personal best.  You are all stars!!


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