Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Updated: LA Marathon March 20, 2011 - Race Report

I finished!

The day started at a 2:30 AM rise and the hope for an early #2 to get that out of the way. I was not to be so blessed, but God's miracles come in "small" ways.

Having prepared all of my gear, food and rain apparel days in advance, it was easy to get going and after the 3-5 cups of Starbucks, the business, and Alice pinning on my race bib, we hit the door by 3:20 AM for the drive to Santa Monica (we live in Thousand Oaks which is about a 45 minute drive away). Prior to leaving, I did hit up to look at traffic and noticed a recent accident on the U.S. 101 south but going the other way. But, any car accidents this early on weekend morning play havoc on negotiating L.A. freeway - so I was stressed.

The previous day it was raining and that always interferes with Southern California Edison's ability to maintain electrical power it seems. We live in a gated apartment complex and when the power is out the gates are locked shut and I feared that we would be locked into our complex at 3 AM. I was pleasantly surprised when Edison did its job and power was maintained. We left the complex and hit the road.

Traffic was easy traveling south on the 101 past Kanan Road when we saw the lights - flashing red. No back-up on our side but across the freeway to the left was the blockage, initiated by the California Highway Patrol. Traffic was stopped due to a multi-car accident, probably injuries. But....traffic was clear on our side. Next, obstacle was the 101 in the Valley and the dreaded U.S. 405 south through the Santa Monica Mountains.

Driving was smooth through the Valley, surprisingly enough. It was not raining and I was wondering if the weather forecasts for intense rain this morning were off or maybe LA Raodrunners dodged another rain bullet - guess not.

Alice and I transitioned onto the 405 south and traffic was very light. I became apprehensive because there is always some traffic. However, after passing Skirball and Mulholland everything was good. We passed through the mountains with no problem and now I worried about the U.S. 10 to Santa Monica - you see, I worry a lot.

No traffic to the 10 and after the transition there were no red lights in front of us - all of the way to the 4th Street exit. I had purchased parking in the 4th Street/Civic Center lot and everything was all good. We parked. Loaded up our gear and headed to the 4:30 AM shuttle - on time.

One Porta Potty break (old man bladder) and we were hustling along to the shuttle buses. We met up with Jaime and Patricia from LA Roadrunners RW/5 and had a  nice chat with them and their friends. It was easy seating and a easy 40 minute ride from Santa Monica to Los Angeles Dodger's Stadium.

Normally, I would have whipped out my cell to take some photos and Twit them up to the net or this blog. But, my Palm Pre is on its last legs (to be replaced very soon) and I knew if I did anything that I would have no battery life left in the phone in case of an emergency on the course. The phone remained sealed in plastic within my Camelbak.

So, I apologize for no photos of the pre-race festivities of the LA Roadrunners confab at the special section in Dodger Stadium or any post-race photos. Others have taken some photos and I will post them up later as an update.

Disembarking the bus, it was NOT raining and the umbrella that I was going to sacrifice for the marathon was unused. Alice and I climbed our way to the 3rd base side Loge section of Dodger Stadium, displayed our orange wrist bands and walked in - we have arrived.

We promptly made our way down to our sections, RW/3 for Alice and RW/5 for me. Since Alice had run in RW/5 last year we settled in there, away from the wind blowing from the field and sat behind a dumpster on the concourse.

It was nice catching up with Nancy, Mary, Chip, Joasha, Carol, Mary and Tara during our hour or so wait until  our ine-up around 6:30. During this time, there were at least two bathroom breaks and it was great that we had our own LA Roadrunner's private bathrooms. Believe me folks, this is worth the price of the entire training.

Rod Dixon was there early and Leon led us in the Roadrunner's cheer.

One more bathroom break because God's gift was finally ready, but there was a line. All of the guys were in good spirits and since most of my fellow runners are very fit and YOUNG, I knew their business would not take long. Michael Sorich from RW/1 was in his fantastic form and loosened everyone up with his jokes and quips. I stripped off my jacket and placed my poncho over my Camelbak and bib.

Now, it was time to race.

Walt, our pace leader for LA Roadrunners, lined us up outside the Loge area and we waited as all of the Run and faster R/W (Run/Walk) groups left to proceed to the starting corrals. We walked down the stairs with it being very cold and windy but NO rain - yet!

We were jostled, pushed with people trying to cut in line but our group was resolute and with orange armbands lifted high above our heads we made it into the starting corral. Then, we had to wait for the start - an excruciating 30 minutes or so. It seemed like 3 hours. I walked and warmed up a bit. Sang along with God Bless America and took my hat off for the National Anthem.


This photo was from Alice who snapped it at the start of the race:

I was soon separated from R/W 5 but would be meeting up with some of them later - some sooner - some very late.

It started to drizzle and before we left Dodger Stadium it was raining. I fitted my poncho over my hat and remembered the weather report. I wanted to stay dry. Yeah right!

I remembered the first two miles of the course after leaving Dodger Stadium were basically downhill going into China Town but with the bustiling of the crowd ran too fast - but not too fast. I had planned on a 30 second run and 45 second walk run walk run Jeff Galloway interval. I enjoyed this interval and although a 30 second run and 1 minute walk interval may be more in keeping with my pace, I wanted to stay with it because of my feet blisters. You see, the more I walk, the more problems I have with my feet after 15 miles. They just blister.

After last year's marathon, I was debilitated with blisters and cracks in my feet. When I attended Walt's BBQ, 6 days after the marathon, I limped there - badly. My feet continued to be swollen.

I sat most of the time and Commodore Bill from last year's RW/5 mentioned that I should see a running specialist Podiatrist Dr. Pagliano - great advice.

I saw Dr. Pagliano during the summer and he cured my fungus caused cracked feet, made me orthotics, fitted them in my racing flat new Brook's shoes and dispensed a pliable plastic insert for the balls of my feet for long runs. I was cured.

Back to the race.

The first three miles were uneventful with rain off and on. It was a relief to lift the plastic poncho off my head because it it gets hot in there. The coolness of the day was much appreciated. But, it was not to last.

After the First Street mega-hill, (I walked the entire distance), I was setting into my race strategy of a 17:10 mile pace for the first 8 miles. My marathon race pace being 17:00 as calculated from MacMillan Running, Runner's World and Galloway's Magic Mile. I had based my time on my previous Disneyland Half Marathon time where I had walked primarily and run the downhills. The Disneyland course is flat and easy, however.

Around mile five, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. It was Anna from RW/5. She had been delayed in traffic and did not start with our group. She stayed with me for a few cycles and then took off at a faster pace - to see if she could fnd the group. I don't think she did but she did find Alice, who had dropped back from RW/3. Alice, you see was injured during the first LA Roadrunner 20 miler (remember folks, the one really hot day) but proceeded on, knowing that she would have to go slower for the race - if she could complete the marathon at all.

I am happy to report that Alice did finish around 6:55 or so.

Around mile 7, the old man bladder kicked in, as I was drinking water at every water station (thank you Jeff Galloway). It was raining pretty steady by now with gusts of wind. The shoes were keeping dry and my pace of around 17:10 was steady.

I decided at mile 8 or so, I would find a Porta Potty (old man's bladder), drop my poncho hood and a fix my headphones to listen to some podcasts within the closed and sheltered confines. I did so and wasted a few minutes due to waiting in line for the accommodations.

Continuing on, I was to up my race pace up to 17:00 and maintain this average through mile 21.5 (San Vicente, after the Los Angeles Veterans Hospital grounds). It was not to be.

After listening to Leo LaPorte (Tech guy Computer show) for about 20 minutes, I had another tap on the shoulder. It was Mark "Mad Dog" Diaz from RW/5. Mark had been inconsistent with his LA Roadrunner training this year, i.e. he didn't show up a lot. But after having met him at Walt's BBQ last year and seeing him run AND the fact he is a young ex-Marine, I knew he was good to go.

Mark told me he was struggling and almost dropped out at mile 5. I said BS to that and he asked if he could follow along at my pace. I said, why of course.

I turned off the i-Pod and had a great running partner almost all of the way to the finish. More on that later. By the way, Mark did finish.

It was raining pretty good and the winds were picking up. Mile after mile passed. Mark was funny because he would relate stories about an ex-girl friend, but mostly he concentrated on food and restaurants. I liked it. He would run ahead to use the Porta Potty. I wondered if he had early old man's bladder?

After we proceeded along Santa Monica Blvd, the winds picked up along with torrential rain and I decided to walk. My feet felt good but I was not making any pace against the wind and decided to not expend the energy. I was worried about a wall, felt good and just wanted to finish up for maybe a three mile sprint down San Vicente, where it was all downhill after 26th Street. Mark was also struggling a little - so everyone else was walking, so I did. By the way, even with a plastic poncho by this time I was soaked to the bone - but I wasn't too cold - thank you excess body fat.

After Ohio Street and the underpass, the skies opened and the downpour created unpassable flash flooding on the course. The VA area was a disaster as I ended up taking down a traffic barrier to step across a muddy river. I ended up on a part of the landscaping area that was pure mud with no place to go but across a 10 feet stream of water. I was losing time and since Mark had lagged back and went another way (through a river of water) tried to put down floating cardboard boxes for me to cross. Did I mention the rain was torrential?

After a time, I said f**k this and just waded into the water, trying to move fast. I knew I was screwed with foot blisters if indeed the water would cause them. It didn't. The water cleared the mud from my shoes and I received a nice leg bath.

Finally, out of the VA.

San Vicente never looked so good. I told Mark I was going to fix up one headphone and listen to Sara Evans, as I have done for every marathon finish since my first one. He said OK, even as he knew bad singing would ensue.

We walked a ways on the sidewalk, where the police were closing some of the streets but made it back to an opened street area further down the road. I knew that at the Bundy Street, San Vicente intersection there was about 4 miles to go, that if I was going to pick it up then this was the time. I was still walking.

Mark and I were walking around an 18:00 or so pace which was a minute slower that I wanted to go but the winds were pushing us back. I decided I would speed up at 26th Street with about 3 miles to go and the course being all downhill. But, this was not to happen.

I lost Mark somewhere before 26th Street and since he would run off to a Porta Potty and then catch up, I figured he would. I never saw him again. But, he did finish, which I later learned from his Facebook page after I arrived back home.

Around mile 24 or so, I saw a lady that looked familiar. She was surrounded by, as it turns out, her daughters, granddaughter and son-in-law (I hope I have the relatives right). She was bending over at the waist with what appeared to be a cramp or some distress. I came over and said come on, we have to finish this race.

The next 2.2 miles, Mary and her family and I walked to the finish. Sometimes, she would have to stop and stretch out her back but we continued, in the rain, in the cold, in the wind.

I think I yelled we are "Roadrunners" maybe once or twice. And, maybe "Marathon" - once or three times. I sang Sara Evan's songs very badly - "suds in the bucket"....... Mary laughed.

Coming down, San Vicente, when I saw the gray shaded ocean, I was overcome with the realization that I was going to finish the LA Marathon. I cried.

I thought about all of the people who helped me get here. I thanked God for giving me the health and the will to finish.

When Mary and I hit Ocean Avenue, we knew what was coming - the medal.

Georgina, Marguerita......the block countdown began.

We saw the finish line.

By this time, we were walking hand in hand dodging the wraps and bottles on the course.

We finished.

We received our medals.

Thanks to Mary and her family, I was transported back to the parking structure in the pouring rain where Alice was waiting.

Time now for Big Eats, hydration and some sleep.

Next up: Los Angeles Running Club, beginning this Saturday.

Next Race: Disneyland Half Marathon in September.

Next triumph: Walt's BBQ and the LA Roadrunner's dinner on April 9.

Thanks to everyone who helped me achieve:

Oh yeah......

LA Roadrunner's training for the 27th annual Los Angeles Marathon will begin in September.


There was a problem with my chip sensor (probably the torrential rains) and my official time was not recorded initially after 30K. With the help of the timing company and my trusty Garmin, it has been sorted out:

This was a PR for me and an improvement of over 23 minutes from last year - despite the course conditions.

See you next year, Los Angeles Marathon.

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