Sunday, March 15, 2015

Los Angeles Marathon (California)

March 15, 2015
Marathon 51 (Age 46)
Los Angeles, California

So just finished Myrtle Beach Marathon in February and learned two of my good friends Pat & Monica are coming to LA to run my hometown marathon.   I've run in every city I've lived, Columbus, Seattle, so at the back of my mind I've always wanted to run Los Angeles, however, it wasn't part of my 50 state plan since I had run a marathon in California in 2002.   I really felt like I had under trained for Myrtle Beach, so I suppose Myrtle Beach could be looked at an excellent training run for LA Marathon!   I toyed for a couple weeks whether or not I should register and asked myself "Is the timing right?" and "Would I ever run LA if I don't run it this year?”

Poster At Marathon Expo....Stadium to Sea Course overview

I don’t claim to be the best writer by any stretch of the imagination, but this week decided on a book title if I were ever to author a marathon book.   How does “Getting to the Starting Line is Only Half the Battle” sound for a title?   To travel to 50 different states, just the logistics of traveling to the city and state of a marathon requires a lot of effort.   Of course there is that “training thing” too, which requires long hours either up early or out late to log in all the miles to prepare for the race itself.   Nothing but hard work, proper rest, and healthy eating can get you to the start line on time and healthy.

While this state has many beautiful places to see and many great races to run, still I didn’t have a strong desire to run an additional marathon in any state that I’ve already completed, even California.   So why do it, right?

I supposed there are several reasons to justify running in Los Angeles.   First, it’s been my home town for 8 years and I’ve run in my previous two home towns of Columbus, Ohio and Seattle, Washington, so it was probably inevitable that I would eventually run this marathon.  Second, timing couldn’t have been more perfect, only a month ago I ran a marathon in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina so I had already put in the training miles.   Additionally, in June I’ll be attempting my 2nd only 50k which will be my “Wyoming” check on my list, so more base miles couldn’t hurt to prepare!   Thirdly and lastly, I had two friends from Columbus visiting for the marathon and what better way to catch up with them than to run together?

First step I tell my friends is “register” then “train”.   I first learned my friends would be coming January 1st, but honestly, with my Myrtle Beach marathon already scheduled in February, commitment wasn’t on my mind just yet for Los Angeles.   When I returned from Myrtle Beach slightly under trained and very sore I still wasn’t ready to commit to Los Angeles, especially learning on February 19th registration was $190.  Ouch.   At this point I was seriously considering if I ran, to run as a bandit, however, finally on February 28th I pulled the trigger and registered, only 15 days before race day.   I don’t think I’ve ever registered for a marathon two weeks out before!

Now with an official entry and a good base level of fitness carrying over from my February marathon the goal was just to stay health, injury free, and get several low mile training runs for two weeks 4-5 miles each.   Myrtle Beach logistics was a killer for me.  First getting all the way to the opposite coast is not easy then of course is the time change so race morning comes way to early when your body is on used to the PST zone.   I thought for a change, how great would it be to sleep in my own bed, roll out and drive down the road from my home to the start line!  

A few days before the race I was paying attention to the weather forecast and already it had been unseasonably warm but race weekend temperatures were estimated in the high 80’s to low 90’s.  Quite a shock to my system after the unseasonably low 20’s in South Carolina.   Then all of a sudden I started receiving daily emails from the marathon organizers warning of the high temperatures and how to prepare.  Drink more fluids, run slower, don’t worry about PR’s, stay hydrated, and repeat.    

The week of the race the text messages start to fly between my friends from Columbus making final plans.   They will be in Friday – Tuesday, we make plans to meet for breakfast Saturday morning then head to the expo to pick up our race day packets.   

Tuesday night I see a group email that went out to a different group of friends that one of my acquaintances was going to run his first marathon.  How exciting for him plus he was raising money for a charity so I reached out and wished him well.   I shared with him that I signed up only a few short days ago and his reaction word for word was “No Flippin’ Way!”  I would check in later after the race to see how he finished.

LA Convention Center with Marathon Banners
I received notification that my bib number was going to be 24,924.   That’s a lot of runners, been a while since I’ve run race quite so large.   I think it was the day I registered, 15 days out, it was advertised only 700 spots left.  Surprised a few days later the race was sold out.   Hard to believe there are other people as crazy as me if not more crazy to sign up for a marathon only a week before the race!   

Entrance to Expo Center
Inside the Expo..left side bib pickup

Poster Inside Expo
With large races comes large crowds, so seeing that the LA Expo Center is walking distance from my office I decide Friday afternoon to walk down.   Both to save trip Saturday downtown and hopefully avoid Saturday crowds when more people would arrive to town.   Already hot, the walk was a little more than a mile, yet the heat was obviously significant.   Made my way through the expo, very well organized, easy to retrieve bib, shirt, and grab bag.   Next amazed at the size of the title sponsor’s booth, Asics, who dominated the expo with all kinds of merchandise.  Nothing else out of the ordinary, in and out in no time at all.

Every mile marker the night before the marathon had a spot light lit up the night sky
I let my friends know we were still on for breakfast, but I’d already visited the expo.   They were staying in West Hollywood area, so it was a long jaunt from our home in West Covina to a little healthy spot on Sunset Strip called Hugos, plan was early meeting at 8 a.m.  Easy for my friends still on east coast time to wake, but once again required an rising early much for a little extra rest for this hometown marathon of mine!   I dragged the girls out of bed and made it right on time, traffic so much better early Saturday morning compared to my weekday commute!   It was great to catch up, it had been since Parisa was first born over 9 years ago the last time we saw each other!   I was surprised to learn my friend Pat was also on a 50 state quest, tho his a little different than mine.   He wanted to run 50 marathons before age 50 and was already up to 42 marathons.   He claimed that 50 different states was too expensive!   Probably true, but at least for me traveling to all the new places is all part of the adventure!  We made race day plans, snapped a picture, and each of us off in our own direction for the rest of the day.   

Brian, Pat, Homeyra & Monica - Our Runner friends from Columbus, OH
Plan was to meet race morning.   My friends were staying with other friends of theirs who were also both running Sunday.  Both Pat and Monica’s plans were to run with their friends.  Pat would run a 4 hours pace one of their friends and Monica would pace about a 5-6 hour pace for their other friend.  I usually run about 4 hours so hopefully I would be able to run with Pat along with his new, as he would describe, “his wing goddess.”  

Morning Sunrise at the Stadium
Saturday was actually a pretty packed day.  After breakfast we had a lot of things to do around the house and that evening was a magic show we were invited to at our friend’s church that didn’t start until 7:30pm.   So much for an early night to go to bed!   I did make a last minute run to the local sports store and wanted to give a visor a try instead of a hat, my idea was that it would be a little cooler on the course with better ventilation.   It wasn’t until about 10 pm we finally returned home and I organized my gear for Sunday morning.    Already up way later than I would have liked for my 4 a.m. wake up call. 
Morning of Marathon start from above...not sure if this was 2015 or not?
Yes, that is correct, my home town, yet still a 4a.m. wake up call.   Logistics in a big city race can make or break you.  In the case of LA with horrible mass transit options combined with a point to point race lead to a little extra effort just to get to the start line.   First, there was limited access to parking at Dodger’s stadium and to leave a car there would be very hectic post-race, so I decided to park in my work’s parking structure downtown LA and walk a few block to one of the hotel shuttle pick-up locations.  

Pat & I Ready to to go Marathon Morning at start line
Buzzzz.  4 am alarm.  Way to early, I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff!   Throw down a quick breakfast and hop on the VFR for a quick trip downtown.   Five days a week I zig and zag on this same route through horrible traffic, but at 4:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning the highway was wide open.   Actually I was surprised how many cars were actually on the road at this hour, like me probably other runners trying to get to the start line.   I make it safely to my parking garage and already by about 5a.m. the temperature is in low 60’s, not really a need for a lot of extra clothing for the morning before the race.   The only thing I grabbed was a white running shirt that I wouldn’t care if I left behind.    Even my cell phone which I would usually leave in gear check I decided to carry to make finding Homeyra and Parisa a little easier at the finish line.   

Monica & I at start line ready to go!
I walked a few blocks to the shuttle stop getting there plenty early, was lucky to find no lines and the last seat on the bus available so I didn’t even have to wait.   I jumped on the bus and moments later it was in route to the start line at Dodger’s stadium.   We unload and first stop is port-o-john then on to the designated meeting place to find my friends.    A few texts and I learned they are on the way and we were to meet shortly.   Now for the first time I meet Pat & Monica’s friends.   One, which was her first marathon which Pat will pace and Monica will pace the other.   

Sunrise, just before marathon start looking back from our place in the corral
Pat is filled will a few words of wisdom.   “Everyman for themselves”, so no hard feelings if they drop me or I drop them.  Ok.  No problem.   Next he list their three goals.  First goal is to finish.  Second goal to finish without going to medial.  Third goal to finish with planned goal time of under 4 hours.   My goal is always 4 hours so we’ll see what are in the legs today and hopefully I’ll be able to run with my friends.    
Marathon Start Coral, all these runners in front of us before starte
Giving the number of runners, the starting area and corrals were very well organized.   I was in the “general” chute, so would start a few minutes later than the first several waves.  There were loudspeakers casting instructions so everyone knew where to go, reminding us to stay hydrated, and take it easy out there.   One last chance to pee before lining up which I refused and we made our way into the chutes.   I’ve never seen this before, but everyone lined up so early, instead of standing everyone was sitting.  This made it a little harder to enter and find an open spot, but we refused to sit and had a few more minutes to catch up and talk about the day ahead.    

After a fantastic national anthem, soon the wheelchairs, the pro men, the pro women, and the first corrals were started.   We started walking forward to take their places and then turned around and noticed that somehow we had corralled in front of the general area, so while general was held back, now we were going.   Still barely even a jog and I realized that I should have taken advantage of that last pee stop and wondered when I would get another chance.   As luck would have it directly in front of the start line there were a bunch of palm trees that offered cover so I decided to go for it.   I didn’t have a chance to tell Pat and his “wing goddess” and that was the last I would see of them the rest of the day.   Already 1 minute into the marathon and we were split up.   I kept thinking they were ahead so push ahead but there were so many people I must have missed them, else they were keeping good pace and I never caught them.   I wouldn’t know until after I finished.

Marathon Start
What was immediately noticeable is the excitement of the race and crowd participation.   My last larger marathon in Hartford it rained all day, so while crowd participation may have normally been better, it did not compare to all the people that lined the course in Los Angeles.   The first section of the course when through downtown.  Chinatown had 2 of the traditional Chinese Dragons and then onto past the large silver Disney Hall structure near Little Tokyo where there was a mob of Japanese drummers.   Also one the start of one of the steepest hills going up on the course which pretty much slowed everyone down to barely a walk.   Here is where I passed a guy with a “50 States Marathon Siglet”.   He looked young, maybe 20’s, I asked him, “how many states?”, he replied, “7”.   Wow 7 sounds like so long ago, but I remember those days.  I told him 51 today for me, but he didn’t seem to care and was probably more concerned with the brutal hill we were tackling.   
Ok so hot temperatures and hills are not a good combination.  Already less than an hour into the race and while I usually am not an extreme sweater I was already hot and starting to use the water stops as chance to cool down.   A month ago a water stop every two miles was ok, but now, each mile’s water stop was a welcomed site where I would take in both Gatorade and Water nearly every time.   Another surprise with this race is for the first time there were no clocks along the course.   I suppose everyone’s start time was so far off, the clock wouldn’t do much good anyway, however, each mile marker had a huge archway covering two lanes of the road with the mile marker on it.   On each straight away you could always see how far away to the next mile marker.   This was pretty cool to visualize a mile because normally a mile would equate to about 9 minutes and watching my watch closely.  

Parisa waiting at Finish Line!
Each road of the course was familiar.   I’d never run a single one of them before, but have driven down each of them many times on the way to appointments all around downtown and the west side of LA.    If I was an out of towner  I might have been more excited about the various burghs we passed through, but for me each one was a familiar site.   There was next Hollywood, the Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive, the Miracle Mile & Wilshire Blvd, Century City, and Westwood, and finally the city of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.    In the Beverly Hills section I ran with a young Ironman that escaped Chicago’s cold to come to LA for a “outdoor” training run.   Just can’t imagine having to run indoors because it’s too cold outside!   The course while a lower elevation at the finish line from the start was hardly downhill.   The course was non-stop rolling hills with a gradual climb from mile 15-23.   With the head this section was especially brutal.   At mile 20 I ran past the famous 50 Stater Eddie Hahn who has already run nearly 200 marathons.   I recognized his Marathon Maniacs singlet and USA long socks and said hi, but I don’t think he recognized me. 


My girls gound me at marathon finish just chillin' for a couple minutes in the grass
A month ago when I ran a 3:54 marathon in Myrtle Beach I checked my half marathon splits and compared it to LA and was within 30 seconds.  Given my pee break in the first mile in LA, other than the heat which I couldn’t control, I was right on track to get to the finish line under 4 hours averaging a 8:58 pace.   It’s always tough to run a negative split and today was one of those days it wasn’t going to happen.   After half way through that’s when things started getting a little tougher.    Looking at the hill profile there was a steady climb that started about mile 14 and was relentless till mile 23.  It continued to get hotter and each mile over 13 my splits became slower and slower to nearly a 10 minute mile at mile 20, then 3 of the miles between 20-24 I even slowed down to nearly an 11 minute mile.   At last at mile 23 I could feel the breeze and the cooler temperatures from the ocean and the course started a gradual decent to the finish line.  I picked up the pace and ran a 9:31 mile at mile 25 and with the help of a cheering crowd a 9:12 in the final mile.  I fell a few minutes short of 4 hours with a 4:06:07, but given the now mid 80’s temperatures I was pleased to have finished my home town marathon…now just to find my girls which I hope had made it all the way to Santa Monica in what I imagined was a crazy LA traffic day with all the street closures for the marathon.

Parisa and I after race looking for some grub!
Finish photos taken, some snacks grabbed, and I made my way to a little grassy patch that overlooked the cliff down to the Pacific Ocean.  I turned on my phone and reached out to my Homeyra and Parisa who were less than a block away.   Parisa was so kind to rub my shoulders and ask me about my race.   We soon gathered ourselves and walked a few block away to the 3rd Street Promenade for some Chipotle which hit the spot.   

Homeyra and I waiting for some grub!
At the finish line I did notice that probably for safety there were no crowds right at the finish line itself.   There was even a large lookout tower which appeared to be there for runner’s safety.  I think this may be one of my last “big races” in my quest for all 50 states.

3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica after the Marathon Finish
The girls dropped me off at my office downtown on the way home and I had enough strength left to ride home and then be quickly whisked away for an afternoon birthday party.  On the way home I had the wonderful idea to check into a massage, made an appointment, came home tucked Parisa in bed and headed back out.   I used to always try to get a quick 10 minute massage at the finish line, but to avoid crowds and long lines haven’t done that for a while.  Now only a few minutes from home I spent an hour getting a 1 hour head to toe Chinese massage that hit the spot.  When done felt like a new man.   I’m not sure if it was the massage, but other than being tired and a little sore, my recovery from the marathon was pretty quick and painless.  I suppose not having to sit on a plane for 5-6 hours the day after the race is a huge blessing because I like to move about after the race.  All in all the LA marathon was a great experience and I’m very glad I decided to run.

I did check everyone’s times.   Pat and his “wing goddess” missed their mark as well, coming in an hour later at 5:08.  It’s hard to predict your first marathon!  Monica another hour later at 6:05.  A few other friends ran so I checked out their results and sent them texts or emails to congratulate them.  My acquaintance that was also running his first marathon for charity and finished at a whopping 9:09.   I thought 4 hours was a long time to be in the hot sun and felt for him out there more than twice as long.  Apparently determined to finish, had to struggle through the last 6 miles with blisters which took him as long as the first 18 miles.   Great to see he finished and he even hinted that some day he may try it again. 

Splits Time Cumulative Time Moving Time Distance Elev Gain Elev Loss Avg Pace Avg Moving Pace Best Pace Avg HR Max HR Avg Run Cadence
1 9:25.3 9:25.3 8:58 1.00 72 144 9:25 8:58 7:47 130 147 148
2 8:10.8 17:36 8:02 1.00 0 115 8:11 8:02 7:30 145 153 153
3 8:46.9 26:23 8:47 1.00 13 23 8:47 8:47 7:35 147 159 151
4 8:28.7 34:52 8:30 1.00 16 20 8:29 8:30 6:33 156 163 154
5 8:57.0 43:49 8:57 1.00 108 62 8:57 8:57 7:53 157 169 154
6 9:15.7 53:04 9:15 1.00 92 52 9:16 9:15 7:53 157 167 151
7 8:45.8 1:01:50 8:46 1.00 33 52 8:46 8:46 7:55 156 164 151
8 8:34.7 1:10:25 8:34 1.00 26 36 8:35 8:34 8:02 159 164 155
9 9:07.9 1:19:33 9:08 1.00 62 10 9:08 9:08 8:07 161 164 153
10 8:44.0 1:28:17 8:44 1.00 10 26 8:44 8:44 8:06 162 168 153
11 8:49.3 1:37:06 8:50 1.00 13 23 8:49 8:50 8:13 163 168 152
12 8:58.8 1:46:05 8:58 1.00 7 43 8:59 8:58 6:29 164 169 153
13 9:08.8 1:55:14 9:09 1.00 30 3 9:09 9:09 8:32 166 170 153
14 9:12.7 2:04:27 9:13 1.00 46 26 9:13 9:13 8:38 168 170 155
15 9:21.1 2:13:48 9:21 1.00 10 190 9:21 9:21 8:27 159 168 151
16 9:14.8 2:23:03 9:15 1.00 3 20 9:15 9:15 8:44 163 167 154
17 10:00 2:33:03 9:53 1.00 56 10 10:01 9:53 8:20 163 169 149
18 9:31.5 2:42:35 9:32 1.00 23 13 9:32 9:32 8:13 161 166 153
19 9:53.9 2:52:28 9:54 1.00 36 52 9:54 9:54 8:33 162 170 151
20 9:49.3 3:02:18 9:49 1.00 23 20 9:49 9:49 7:58 163 168 151
21 10:48 3:13:05 10:48 1.00 43 0 10:48 10:48 7:33 160 169 146
22 10:41 3:23:46 10:41 1.00 39 16 10:41 10:41 9:01 162 169 145
23 10:02 3:33:48 9:47 1.00 16 10 10:02 9:47 8:09 162 167 153
24 10:04 3:43:52 10:04 1.00 10 26 10:04 10:04 9:08 163 169 152
25 9:30.2 3:53:22 9:31 1.00 0 102 9:30 9:31 8:59 163 166 154
26 9:12.3 4:02:35 9:12 1.00 0 79 9:12 9:12 8:52 165 168 155