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LA Marathon Race Report 2011

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by , 03-27-2011 at 04:03 PM (54204 Views)
Sitting in Dodger Stadium, with two hours 'till the start of the race, huddled into a ball to keep warm, I asked myself "How will you respond when the pain comes?" It's a question that I pose to myself often. It would have to be answered at mile 21.

I've got this marathon thing figured out, having negative split my last 4/5 marathons the marathon does not scare me. The first 20 miles will not hurt, it's those last six that make or break you. That's where minutes are gained or lost; you're either passing people or being passed. It's gut check time, it's being popped in the mouth in the tenth round, how will you respond?

The weather heading up to race day changed drastically, the temperature had dropped and the winds had picked up. The night before the race, sleeping at my friend's apartment in Newport, I was awoken more than once to the strong winds outside. They were calling for rain, but stating that it was forecasted to hold off until noon, that forecast was incorrect.

I arrived at Dodger Stadium about two hours before the race, had a lot of time to kill. Being able to hang out in the stadium was nice, but I was anxious to race. I tried to stay warm, drank a 16oz Red Bull and read the news on my phone. A half an hour before the race went outside to drop off my gear and enter my corral. The race had three corrals, A, B, C. The cut offs were <3:00, <4:00, <5:00. Everyone else, who had not run a marathon in the past 12 months was placed behind the corrals. Getting into the corrals was insane, people pushing and then people being turned away because they were following the herd not realizing what was going on. Once in the corrals, the big mistake was that no one checked to see what corral people were assigned. Thus, if you had a C on your bib you could easily get in with the B's and the A's. I walked to the front where I realized the race was going to start about 15 minutes late, which is something you never want to hear.

The runners in the A corral were off to the side, we had to wait for the wheelchairs to start and the elite women. At the front of the B corral, the crowd was amassed and the front was comprised of "legacy runners" runners who have run every LA Marathon. Well once the elite women went off they moved the fence containing the B corral up, but they moved it too far up, well once you make that mistake there is no going back. They tried to push the fence back, but the people had already moved forward.

At this point all the runners in the A corral are thinking WTF. How do we get ahead of the B corral now? Well they opened up a small whole and Iím talking the width of a single person. Once they opened the hole, a single volunteer was supposed to check the bibs but he had as much success as the college security department trying to stop the students from rushing the field after a big upset. Plus, he would see one runner with a B on his tag and tell him he couldnít come in there, but it was almost impossible for those runners to even turn around, thus they just let everyone in.

Once in the corral the elite men funneled in. I started looking around, this weird guy next to me had a B on his bib and was talking about running a 4:30 marathon and here he was lined up 4-5 rows behind the pro-runners. I shook my head, realizing how many slow runners were lined up next to me and in front of me.

At the start I met Joanna Zeiger (Boulder) and Devon Crosby Helms, all going for their OT qualifier. Devon told me she had a bad race at Houston but was raring to go today. Another girl in front of me was also hoping for an OT qualifier.

When the race started, thatís when things got hectic. This girl went down immediately in front of me; Devon later told me she got tripped by the weird old guy, the B bib man. I literally jumped over her foot, but there was nothing you can do in that situation. It would be like going back for your baseball cap at the Running of the Bulls.

The start was insane, I felt like I was at a 5K in Wash. Park with tons of jokers running around me and was being cautious to not get taken out. I passed a few guys a mile into the race who were running 8 minute miles. People are weird, is it that much of a rush to start at the front?

The first two miles out of Dodger Stadium were steep downhills. I go all out on the downhillís, I see no point in expending energy to slow yourself down, thus I just take long strides and let myself go. After a few miles the rain really started coming down and I was already regretting not wearing either compression socks or my half tights with the temps in the high 40ís.

The goal was 2:44, Justin challenged me with a 2:42, and I thought it was stretch but possible if everything went according to plan. To run a 2:44, I had to run 6:16 pace. By mile 5, I was in a groove and running with a large pack of runners. There were probably 8-10 runners, running in a nice pack. Instead of concentrating on running in the pack, I ran my own race, thus I would drop the pack to only find them catch me shortly thereafter.

Knowing that few people negative split a marathon, when Iím running in a pack in a marathon, Iím just waiting for people to drop off. This race would prove slightly different, because at least two runners in the pack would also negative split the race.

At times the rain would just pour, I was soaked, my feet were soaked, luckily I wasnít cold, and it was just annoying. The course was fast, net downhill but more challenging than I thought. Also a lot of the downhills were really steep and my quads were becoming sore earlier than I was used to.

I wore some lightweight running shorts and realized that although I could carry two gel packets in the back that they pulled my shorts down too much. Thus, I carried two gels in my hand, consuming them at miles 7 and 14. They only had one GU station, around mile 20.

The half marathon point was not marked, but by that time I was ready to get after it. I picked up my pace and dropped the pack, feeling fantastic. One of the subsequent miles had a solid downhill and I knocked off a 5:50 mile.
I then noticed that my shoe felt loose, was my shoe coming untied? I was positive that I double knotted them, I always do but somehow my shoelaces came untied. I couldnít believe it, I debated running 10 miles with wet shoe laces flopping around or stopping, costing me x amount of time, rookie mistake.

I stopped, tied my shoe as fast as possible and got back to work. I was flying through the field, picking up my pace and blowing by guys who had gone out too fast, not a better feeling in the world.

With six miles to go, every leg muscle hurt. My quads were torn up and my calfís were aching. The race featured a steep uphill and water was everywhere, literally stepping in huge puddles of water. At one point we had to exit the road and run on the grass for about 20 meters as the road was completely flooded.

My watch beeped and I realized that I had just run a 6:29 split. At that exact same moment, one of the runners from the pack rolls up alongside me and passes me. I look over my shoulder and see Devon about 10 seconds back. Iím hurting and nothing hurts more than to get passed.

I realized this was a definitive moment, how would I respond? I thought of a conversation that I had with my five year old daughter a month ago, regarding a basketball game and playing hard all the time. I told myself to stick with this guy for as long as possible, just concentrate on staying with him. The next few miles were all slightly uphill but I got a boost of confidence when I saw the next mile in 6:16. I was hanging on his shoulder, but thinking I would get dropped at any minute and I tried to dismiss the negative talk.

With about two miles to go, Devon blew by me like I was running an eight minute mile. I didnít have time to react, couldnít have countered if I wanted to, I was impressed. She was running with a friend who jumped in to pace her the last ten miles. Iím not used to getting passed the last few miles of a race, certainly not when I'm accelerating to the finish.

With 2.2 miles to go, the guy I was running with was starting to gap me. I saw the time; I knew that a 2:44 was in the bag, but that a 2:43 was possible if I got tough. With the slight downhill, I got the legs turning over and caught back up to the guy, told him ďletís go!Ē and then started pulling away.

My last two miles were in 5:57 and 5:56. I could see the clock on 2:43 counting up, I threw in a kick, the finish was a long straight away and I was giving it all I had to break the 2:44 barrier. Finished in 2:43:55, chip time was 2:43:50. Over the last 4.5 miles, I passed 6 runners and got passed by one (Devon). 46th place overall, 6:15 pace, which seems unfathomable to me, especially considering I raced a 10 mile race about a month prior and was pleased to have knocked out 6:08 pace for ten miles.

When you run a PR, when you best your expectations all you can do is smile. Even if youíre shivering and the rain was pouring. I'm not getting any younger, but the goal is to break 2:40, baby steps.

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  1. ESCO's Avatar
    Side note, I loved the course. Aside from NYC Marathon, best marathon course that I have run. Saw lots of cool stuff, great mix of hills.
  2. ESCO's Avatar
    Thanks Matt, yeah it wasn't an ideal training cycle but I was able to get in some big mileage weeks before the race.
  3. ESCO's Avatar
    Brandon, yeah the shades on the top of my head were annoying.

    I have no idea why I didn't put them in my gear check, I think in the back of my head I kept thinking the sun would come out and I would be annoyed with the sunlight. My eyes are rather light sensitive and I hate not having sunglasses on when it's light.

    Now I'm hoping with a longer buildup, pus big mileage weeks, I can keep knocking off a minute here and there.

    I am getting old though.
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