The alarm went off a little bit earlier than usual, as being in a bigger city it takes more time to get places. 3:35am was the wake-up time today, but at least coming from mountain time it was 4:35 to me. I went through my routine with no hitches and was ready to go when Robin and Kevin pulled up.
We made our way to the Santa Monica Civic Center to park. A bit of race traffic, but we had plenty of time. They even had plenty of port-o-potties at the loading area.
We got on a bus and a few minutes later we were on our way to Dodger Stadium. We took a slight detour (apparently they didn’t tell the bus drivers the specific route with road closures) but we got to the right spot just before 6am. On the bus I chatted with a school psychologist who was doing the first half in a charity relay. She told me to keep my eye out for the guys in bikinis on go-go boxes when we got to sunset blvd. I couldn’t wait for that! She told me the course was awesome and I would really enjoy it.
Then we wandered over to the not so crowded bathrooms. Yes, finding bathrooms is a key event before a race. Fortunately, this race had plenty! There isn’t much to do other than stay warm, make sure you have your nutrition ready, drop off any extra clothes in the gear check, and then do a warm-up (maybe) and line up. With almost 23,000 people doing a race, corrals really are corrals.
Robin and Kevin and I gave our good wishes and went our ways to do our own race routine. I dropped of my gear and a guy hoping to do a 2:40 made light conversation with me. I then made another stop at the port-o-pottie and then hung out a bit by the portable light, as the generator generated some heat as well. It wasn’t raining, but it was a bit cool for California! The other athletes hanging around were friendly and we all shared the “we got up way too early” look. I finished up my UCAN mix (chocolate and cran-raz) at about 6:45am - right on schedule. I chatted with a guy named Rupert from California who ran the Pikes Peak marathon last year.
One more quick stop and then on my way to the starting corral I stopped in the stadium, which they had open. Lots of runners were hanging out in there, and it was quite a bit of a wind block and a bit warmer as well.
I found my way to the outside of the corral and it took a while to actually get in. 23,000 is a lot of people. Yancy and Heather kept me in good conversation and also told me how awesome the course was. They had both run the race last year in the monsoon. One of the Pussycat Dolls sang the national anthem (quite well, actually) and we wiggled our way closer to actually being in the corral. A few minutes before the start, clothes were being strewn everywhere and we made it into the corral. I shed my cheap poncho that was keeping me warm and was ready. At 7:30 the race started and at 7:38 I crossed the timing mat and had officially started my race.
The 26.2 miles...
A lot happens in 4+ hours on a marathon course, so I will do my best to recall the cool stuff. First, the hills weren’t bad at all thanks to extra oxygen being at sea level and doing some solid hill repeats in my short time training for this! The course was actually more downhill than I anticipated. My plan - run 4:30 and walk :30. My new Garmin 910XT was set to buzz each intervals for 26.5 miles (gave myself a cushion for zig-zagging and that turned out to be perfect.) So there I was, taking walk breaks about every half-mile. This worked really well for me. The running intervals never seemed “too long.” I modified a little a few times due to aid station timing, because if I needed water, I took water.
I remember running through Chinatown, seeing signs for Olvera street, which I used to go to in the summer when on vacation in LA. We wound around a bit in downtown and we went by the Walt Disney theater, in which I can say I’ve actually been and seen a concert there.
We got to Hollywood Blvd and I caught up to Yancy and Heather and passed them. Around mile 10 I had to pee, but I didn’t want to stop. But I didn’t want to “just go” today (might have been different if it were raining!) Just past the halfway point I decided to stop at a port-o-potty stop and there were about 6 or 7 ahead of me in line. This stop took about 5 minutes. I stopped my watch so I would get actual running time. And yes, I did remember to start it up again! Legs were a bit stiff once I got going again, but they loosen back up in about a mile.
My quads were hurting (they had been since early on) but otherwise I felt really good. My nutrition plan seemed solid as I was able to keep pace. The crowds, the street bands and DJs really helped keep me moving. So much fun to see everyone out there. Some spots weren’t crowded, others had tons of people. Each time my watch beeped for my walk-break to end, I was ready to run again. This was a good sign at mile 18,19, etc. In my first marathon I had really slowed down at this point and my run had been a shuffle and it was a struggle to get running again. Around mile 18 I passed my distant cousin, Kevin, who didn’t seem to be doing as well as he would have liked. But I gave him a cheer and went on my way.
Once I hit mile 20 and still was feeling good (relative term!...legs hurt, but no issues.) I knew I would finish strong and that pumped me up even more. So down to the beach we went and those last few miles I tried to push the pace. I still took my walk breaks and got a lot of encouragement from spectators. A lot of runners were stopping to stretch these last few miles, but I had gas in the tank. The last mile I skipped the walk break. I ran strong and was so glad to get to the finish line in under 4:10. 4:15 was my “I’ll have a good day and be happy” time, so 4:09:12 was awesome. And my watch had 4:05 because of the stop I made half-way.
A very successful day! A new marathon PR for me, perfect running temps in LA, a great visit with my grandparents with my mom.