Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Los Angeles Marathon Race Report

So I ran the L.A. Marathon this weekend. La-dee-freakin'-da.

I left my home about 15 minutes late Sunday because I had a little rumbly in my tummy, but no big deal. I was downtown and out of my car within 30 minutes; parking was excellent. You don't think of Los Angeles as a pedestrian-friendly city, but as it turns out there are quite a few elevated walkways and plazas to keep foot traffic off the streets. That's fine, except when you WANT to be on the street. There were a group of us wandering around trying to figure out how to get out of the nice plazas and down to street level but we couldn't do it. Hotels wouldn't let us cut through their lobbies, and some of the side streets were fenced off.

By 7:00 there was already a large crowd of people lined up for an 8:15 start time. That's way too long to be just standing in place, so I wandered around a bit. Made 4 trips to the port-a-potties (I'm sure I could have gotten away with just 2, but when lines are short, I use them.)

By far the highlight of the entire day was the start. It took me nearly 9 minutes to just get to the starting line after the gun went off. then it was just a sea of humanity running down Figueroa while Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." was being blasted down the street. It was pretty cool, and the day was filled with energy and excitement and hopes and dreams. (all to be smashed to tiny bits, but more on that later.)

A few things about the course itself: for starters, it's kind of ugly. We ran by quite a few gas stations, strip malls, and Taco Bells. They had a lot of "Entertainment Stations" along the way which were pretty bad. Some had DJ's playing music, but they were screaming into a microphone through distorted speakers "only 10 more miles, winners! You're all winners! Way to go winners!" Ya know what? Shut up and just let the music play. One stop had a band but when I was running by they were too busy telling everyone "...and you can buy our new cd on our website" I don't want to have to listen to commercials while running. Target Stores did have one cool setup however: they had a 30 foot tunnel in the middle of the street with flashing lights inside and speakers playing the theme from Rocky. OK, now that was cool.

Dutch & Danielle were on the sidelines cheering me on around mile 17. Yay! I still had a pretty good pace going at this point. I was just glad that they didn't see me another mile or two down the road. I had heard all about "The Wall", this point around mile 20 when marathoners just suddenly lose the will to live. I assumed that it was just a psychological barrier because of the number 20, but let me tell you: The Wall is very real. OMG around mile 19, WHAM! I could barely run anymore. I had no strength, no energy, and about 7 miles to go. I had to do a bit of walking, then would desperately try to force myself to run again. It didn't help that the last 10 miles of the marathon are essentially uphill.

In the earlier parts of race, I was amazed at the amount of public urination. Everytime we passed a fence to a parking lot there would be a line of guys just taking care of business. I refrained. Around mile 22, the crowds were dispersed enough that there were no lines at the Port-a-Potties, so I decided I would make use of the facilities. I apologize for being vulgar, but I did my business like a girl. Not because I needed to, but because - well - it just fel so good to sit down. Yes, I was in a dank smelly portable toilet and it felt like a Barcalounger to me. I could have stayed in there all day for all I cared.

Remember how I said "your time DOES matter?" I was wrong. During those last 5-7 miles, I couldn't care less what my finishing time would be. The only thing that mattered was "I want this to be over." It sucked. Really. I hated it. I did manage however to finish fairly strong, doing the last 1.2 miles in under 10 minutes.

Poor, poor Flash. Mark drove out there, fought the crowds and traffic, and never saw me. I sent him a map showing my expected times along the course so I could see me run. He wound up going close to the finish line, but got there late and thought he missed me. But I was a half-hour slower than I expected, so i was still out there. And then he went to the expo area to look for me and I was just too dead-tired to bother looking for him so I just went home.

Well, I didn't exactly "just go home". I had to get to my car first, and that was an achievement unto itself. My car was about 3 blocks away, but it turns out I could only walk about 1/2 block at a time. I had two bags with me and a silver heat blanket (items which were left in the coat-check area during the race) and so I would walk 100 yards or so, then literally just plop myself down on the sidewalk with my bags and blanket like a homeless person and regain my strength. Then it was off to do another 100 yards.

I will say this: I do think I ran a "smart" race. During various training runs, I injured my feet and shins. I felt nauseous. I had cramps. Blisters. During the marathon, I had none of those problems. So I had good weather, good shoes, good nutrition... I think there was just a limit to how far these little chicken legs can go and they hit it on Sunday.

A month ago I knew that I would be in pain crossing the finish line. But I still also expected there to be some sort of feeling of joy or accomplishment going along with it. Nothing. My thoughts were "OK, I need to get my stuff and get to my car." I'm not saying the marathon isn't a big deal, but even now my feeling is "I did a marathon... so what?" Maybe I placed too much importance on the whole thing going in to it. What if Christmas doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Will I do another marathon? I don't know. I would like to have a better time, but I don't think I'd want to do L.A. again. All I know is for the next couple of weeks I'm eating all the Oreos and Peanut Butter Cups I want.


Blogger Habeela said...

In his book "Into Thin Air", Krakauer points out that he expected to be elated when he summitted Everest but when the time came he couldn't muster the energy to turned out to be more about how far he could push him limits.

When I WALKED 30 miles in one day I had the biggest blister of all time (2 in. diameter) and couldn't even walk an additional 50 yds.

Point: awesome job!

3:26 PM  
Blogger theseamonster said...

I've only gone 10 miles running in the off season and lately, only 4-6 miles so I just think it's a great accomplishment. I'm shooting for 1/2 iron this year so at most, I'll still only run 1/2 of what you did. Maybe your next marathon will be after you get off the bike in a full iron distance! Very inspiring stuff.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Judi said...


That's more than most of us have ever done.

Be proud!

4:12 PM  
Blogger Geek Girl said...

Ah! Now you're learned women's secrets...we get to sit down when we pee, so we pee whenever we see a porta potty.
Hey, way to go! I love the idea of the Rockey' theme - they should play it at every marathon.

3:28 PM  

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