Sunday, March 18, 2012

LA Marathon XXVII

EVENT: Los Angeles Marathon
DATE: Sunday, March 18, 2012
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
FINISH TIME: 04:27:12

I'm probably going to be long-winded in this entry... =)

So this was my fifth LA Marathon, and for a couple of reasons, I figured it'd be my last.  For one thing, I had a marathon ultimatum when my last marathon went terribly.  Secondly, I was tired of the long pre-race, freezing wait that comes along with it.

The day before, it poured.  And had it not been for Leap Year/February 29, we would have been running in that.  So thanks, astrologists.  In spite of all the prep, we did not get a drop of rain, and even some sun, with temps in the low 50s and generally not too windy until the last few miles.  I wasn't sure if I had overdressed, but I think I picked the ideal things (tech hoodie, Nike tights, and compression socks) for the conditions -- even if I probably looked funny.

This was my dinner.  I must have been so hungry that the picture isn't the sharpest, but I didn't have a "real" lunch, so I was starving by this time.  "The Ukrainian" made this out of Trader Joe's pizza crust and vegan cheese.  This (times two) was chased down with some pita chips.

Per usual, we had a 3:00 AM wake-up call, so I froze my butt off waiting and ate a banana and then eventually a pack of Honey Stinger chews.  I got into my corral, and things kind of went quickly from there.  Before I knew it, I was running, albeit slowly due to the crowding.

Now, as I mentioned in THIS entry, the only training I got were the various races I've done within the past couple of months, and maybe 10-15 miles per week.  I have been doing workout videos and not much other cross-training.  So yeah, I was pretty terrified at how this race would go, as I darn well know that even when trained, these marathons are painful.

My Garmin was set to "Interval Mode," so up until the very end, I didn't exactly know how much time had elapsed as well as how far I've really gone.  I relied on the mile markers and course clocks and lived my life in increments of 8 minutes "on"/walking and 1 minute "off"/walking.  Because of this, I can't really give great splits, since the "Lap" function went by time instead of by mile (Garmin owners might understand).  

So instead, I made this graph showing the paces of my "on"/running periods, at least the periods I was SUPPOSED to run.  I didn't adhere perfectly due to some water stops, hills, etc.  Also, as I expected, my right calf threatened to cramp through about half of this race.  =(  I did some crazy things to try to stop it, like Warrior II poses, pulling my tights slightly downward to change the compression on my calves, and adjusting my gait.  Oranges and coconut water saved me from the utter pain of cramping.

After about Mile 15, I wasn't able to hold onto my 8/1 strategy at all, and went "off" every four, three, or even one minute.  Whatever I could do.

As you can see, the higher the line, the slower my pace.  And you could see it climbing in the mid-end of the race.  Miles 16-21 were the dark moments -- lots of walking involved, just hoping to finish sub-5 by then so I could get into a seeded corral next time.  However, I was always surprised each time I saw a course clock at certain mile markers because I seemed to still be hanging on pretty well.

And then there's that end portion.  So what happened was the gradual downhill after about Mile 22 or so.  I was able to be "on"/running for longer than I had (maybe 3 minutes, ha ha... my muscles were twitching badly).  Then, around Mile 23, the 4:30 CLIF pacer came up from behind me.  By then, I had known that I had a shot at sub-4:30, but having her RIGHT there confirmed it.  So, I ran with her.  I breathed very deeply in order to keep my muscles in the game.  I had to stop to walk briefly once, as my calves were starting to seize, but I tried to regain composure and catch up with her.  And that I did.

Around Mile 25, she stopped the told those running behind her that it's up to us to "fight for it now."  I'm pretty sure she finished in 4:30 but was trying to get us to go ahead of her, if possible.  So I did.  And even though I thought several times that I was going to pull a muscle in that last 1.4 miles, I kept running and pushing.  No walking, maybe a slight slowdown when the wind blew and disagreed with my calves, but this is the first time I've been able to RUN the last few miles of a marathon.  

All that "not-training" reserved the mental strength I needed to keep running, and I felt totally awesome for keeping focus.  I thought about some of the stuff that my workout videos say for motivation, my favorite being, "I will break you, and then you'll be unbreakable" (probably not verbatim, but it's Jillian Michaels). 

I was SO happy to finish.  A stark contrast from last year, when I was practically in tears that last mile.

These are the only splits I have:
10k: 56:58
20k: 1:55:51
30k: 2:58:33
40k: 4:14:37
My overall pace was 10:11.

This was my course PR.  My previous LA Marathon PR hovers around 4:50.  And I kept saying that one day, I'd break 4:30 in the LA Marathon, though that seemed so far-fetched, as it's NOT an easy/flat course, and something always happens to keep me from doing what I can.  Even this time, those "things" did happen, but somehow, I just missed my PR by about 8 minutes.

I was happy until I found "The Ukrainian," who had a bad calf episode and finished just over 4 hours, which is practically unheard of for him.  He also fell victim to sparse training due to his busy schedule rather than just a lack of motivation like me.  I am still very proud of him, because he sustained his issues within the first mile of the race.  To fight through them that long is super commendable, plus at this point, I can only dream of running a 4-ish hour marathon (because apparently using a program specifically tailored for that goal didn't work for me!).

I can say that I feel like I've gotten away with murder for running my best marathon time since 2009, third best of my now-11, but I think that maybe I just found my golden ticket.  Would I have done better if I trained more?  The race played out very similarly, running 10-ish miles per week versus 30-40.  That spurt at the end, which I never get to have due to cramps, was amazing.  I even had energy AFTER the race.  

I'm not sure what this means for future training cycles.  And yes, there WILL be future marathons.  I thought this might be last one.  And after seeing the wonderful course support that is unique to LA Marathon, I'm not sure if I can leave this particular marathon so easily.  I'm not sure if I have it in me to shoot for PRs in the future, as how would I get there if I didn't train.... if training will even help at all?  Maybe an easier course?

I MUST thank all of you who assured me that a run/walk strategy (even if implemented imperfectly) would help me... and of course, the young woman who told me to try it in the first place during my physical therapy consultation last year.  I was "too proud" to try it, but I am SO glad I did.

Thank you, LA Marathon, for the women's-sizing long-sleeved shirt!!!!!

Some race photos:


  1. I'm so pleased you met your expectations! Glad to hear you will continue marathons. I am not ready to train for another yet...maybe next year. I have so many physical goals in the time being. I like the idea of 10ish miles a week though!

  2. Congrats! That's awesome that the run/walk worked and that you had a good overall event! The 8/1 is a very good strategy. I use 8/2 (bad knee) and I've not experienced total exhaustion after a race in years, and my times are only 30 minutes slower than my fastest marathons (in my 20s). I run twice per week -- 1 4-6 miler and 1 long 9-15 mile run, if I'm lucky (just waaaay too many other things to do)! Way too go!

  3. I tried commenting earlier but don't think it went through.

    First, congrats! Glad you had a good race and were able to run in those final miles. Seem like that additional strength/cross training helped keep your fitness up and get you through.

    Second, I love this course. It works to my strengths. I'm glad it ended up being a beautiful day.

  4. Wow! Seems like there's something to the strategy of light training and regular racing. If this race is any indication, it works for you. Congrats!

  5. Congrats Julie! That's awesome. I've heard wonderful things about the walk/run method and it's great to see that it actually works.

  6. Only time I ran LA was last year and I wasn't able to convince my cousin to run it again this year (although we're doing a half together soon). I ran the day before and wondered what the weather would be like on race day, thank goodness for Leap Day!

    Great job on the race, I thought I was done with the marathon, but still have SD RnR in June and haven't been training either!

  7. Wonderful job! :) Congratulations on your marathon. I am so glad you had a great race. Sounds like things went really well. Nicely done, and I hope you are savoring the experience!

  8. Congratulations on a great race Julie!