Monday, May 23, 2011

Pasadena Marathon Race Report

Not a great picture, huh? Not a great race.

It was raining pretty hard as drove all of 7 miles to the start of the Pasadena Marathon. I had a long-sleeved tech shirt in the car with me, but it looked like the rain was starting to ease up so I decided not to wear it for the race. Sure enough, the rain had stopped completely by the 6:30 am starting time.

By 6:31 however, it started raining again. And it was cold. With a little bit of wind. I was feeling pretty unhappy up until mile 4, at which point I became just plain miserable. The streets of Pasadena were completely soaked and between my poor eyesight and the rain I couldn't really judge the depth of the water on the road. I managed to step into a huge puddle with my left foot, pretty much completely submerging it. Great. I had a soaked foot and 22 miles to go. That will become important later.

As unpleasant as the race conditions were, things were made a bit brighter by the fact that I knew a lot of other people who were out there running, and misery loves company. Around mile 7 I thought I heard a voice behind me scream out "Wedgie!". I turned around, didn't see anything, and kept on running. Ten seconds later I heard it again, only closer this time: "WEDGIE!" It was Gabe and Joe, who decided to bandit the race. Now then, I understand why people enjoy running races without registering for them- it's a great training run with closed roads and support every mile. But if you're going to bandit a race, DON'T DO IT WHEN IT'S RAINING! If you're not registered, stay home, stay dry, stay in bed. These are crazy people.

I knew that Mr. Pusateri was volunteering for the event and was stationed at the Mile 8 water station. Before the race, he offered to have Mtn. Dew or Peanut Butter Cups or anything else waiting for me, and it was REALLY tempting. But I knew I would only wind up chugging the entire bottle and getting myself sick (I have no will power) so I told not to worry about it. I did however enjoy screaming out "PUSATERI!!!!" 50 yards before I even saw him to make sure I received personalized service with my water. And because he was on an out-and-back section of the course, he was able to serve me again at mile 12.

A little side note about the support stations: they were awful. I don't mean to take anything away from the wonderful volunteers (especially at Mile 8/12) but they just weren't well-supplied. My guess is that less than half of them had any of the Genericaid power drink they were serving, or if they DID have it the cups were hidden or you had to request it. I think the only official course food I saw was some oranges at mile 13. There were some WONDERFUL people who lived around mile 16 who stood in front of their house handing out pretzels. They did this of their own accord and Thank God for them. But race organizers should not rely on random strangers to pick up their slack.

So remember that puddle I stepped in at mile 4? Well I started feeling a blister coming on around mile 12. And I did a brilliant/idiotic thing: I changed my gait to take some pressure off of my left toes. Less pressure = less friction = less spreading of the blister. And my left foot was THRILLED about that. However, as it turns out my right foot wasn't too happy about it. Neither were all of the muscles in the side of my legs. I don't know what muscles you have on the sides of your legs, but apparently they all kicked in with my new running style.

I tried to work around the wet foot as long as I could but I basically crashed around mile 19 and stopped running. There is nothing unusual about me walking during a marathon, but this was different. I was hobbling- it was painful for me to walk. I knew things were bad when one of the traffic cops asked me if I was OK as I limped past him. And since this was an out and back section, I had several other people check on me as they ran past. I must have looked awful. One person who DIDN'T think I looked awful was my Iron-Brother Rich. He was a few miles ahead of me and gave me his usual pep-talk and support as he came back on the return loop. It gave me a brief reason to smile.

I limped for about a mile and a half, and it really did hurt. But during those 30 minutes or so, my legs were loosening up again. I stopped worrying about the potential blister on my foot (the least of a my worries) and tried to walk as normal as possible. At mile 21, I tried running again. And it worked. I was actually able to move at a relative decent pace again.

Just before mile 24, I saw spectator Gerald coming up the course in the opposite direction. (Gerald wasn't in the race, but he had already run the last half of the marathon with Brian to help pace him. I have crazy friends.) I had two simultaneous yet opposite thoughts when I saw Gerald: the first was "hooray! It's Gerald! It's always good to see a friend supporting you during a race." The second reaction was "oh fudge, it's Gerald, he's going to make me run faster." Sure enough, when he saw me he said "hi...I'm going to be your Guardian Angel for the next 2.4 miles."

Guardian Devil was more like it. Everything was a negotiation: he'd say "you can walk for one minute, then we're going to run again." I'd say "I think I need two minutes of rest." "We'll split the difference - 90 seconds." "Fine." It was like that the entire rest of the course.

I debated letting Gerald in on a little secret - this was a far from being my best marathon, and I was at risk at it being my worst non-Ironman marathon. I had to beat 4:58, and with 30 minutes to go it was going to be close. To be honest, I pretty much didn't care. I was sore and tired and I just wanted it to be over. Eventually I just pulled the trigger and told Gerald about my goal time.

It was the best mistake I made of the day. I say "mistake" because it meant more pain for me as Gerald started running faster and kept revising our target paces. As he put it, "no PW (personal worst) on my watch!" The funny thing is that he was throwing out all these numbers at me, then telling me "I'm no good at math." Well, I AM good at math, and his numbers seemed really fast to me. But I was not one to argue (well, maybe a little bit) and I at least tried to keep up.

We saw Heather with about a half-mile to go who was a big fat liar for telling me I looked strong and had great form. Gerald also kept lying by telling me "you're almost done!" I don't thing he knows what that means, because I was "almost done" for a really long time.

Eventually I did make it to the end and I had a great reception from my tri-buddies who stuck around to see me finish. And I had two minutes to spare- it wasn't a PW! (a very minor victory, but I'll take it.) I didn't care about my finish time at mile 25, but I did care about it at mile 26.3. Thanks Gerald.

It was - absolutely - a bad race. But I saw a bunch of friends competing in the various races, volunteering at the event, and cheering people from the sidelines. So that sounds like an overall pretty good day to me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pasadena Marathon Weather Report

True story: Over a century ago, the Lord God made a deal with the good people of Pasadena. He said unto them: "OK, look... I know thou'st enjoy having the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. But Sunday belongs to ME. So tell you what: you don't hold the Rose Parade on Sunday, and I'll make sure you have good weather for it." And the good people of Pasadena said unto the Lord God: "Deal!" And so, if January 1st falls on a Sunday, they push the parade back to Monday. And the parade has had good weather pretty much every year.

So what happens when the good people of Pasadena try to hold a marathon on Sunday? The inaugural event 3 years ago was scheduled for a lovely autumn Sunday. But Los Angeles basically caught on fire and they cancelled the race just HOURS before start time because there was so much ash in the air. They rescheduled the event for a Sunday in February, and they had torrential downpours and wind. The second year was OK. This year, again, lots of rain and wind for the first 2 hours or so. In 4 attempts to hold a race on Sunday, Pasadena has experienced 3 Wraths Of God. When will these people learn? God wants Pasadena to be a Holy city.

Don't be surprised if next year's event is cancelled on account of locusts.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Agoura Hills Half Marathon

I did the Pacific Half Marathon, part of the Great Race of Agoura Hills festival.

I'm in training (supposedly) for the Pasadena Marathon in May, and for a while I was doing pretty well with getting out there for my runs. But then I went on a ski trip for a week, then I went to Vegas, then we had huge rainfall in L.A. The Pacific Half was basically going to be a training run, but I was a little worried about how well I would handle a long run after a couple weeks of slacking.

When I got to the race site, it was thirty-five degrees. Thir. Ty. Five. The last time I did a race, it was 85 degrees with Hula girls. I was not pleased.

My friends Jana and Susan were doing the race, and I also saw Speedy Brian there. But I was actually doing the race with my co-worker Jason. Jason had never done any kind of race before - not even a 5k - and is registered to do the Pasadena Marathon in May.

The race start was pretty cool (and not just in terms of temperature); it took place at Paramount Ranch, which is a fake western town built for filming movies for Paramount. It was a little surreal kicking things off in the late 1800s, and I recommend it as a place to visit on warmer days (it's part of a park open to the public.)

Jason and I planned on doing the race together, and he told me he wanted to do a 9:45 pace. Fine. The gun went off, we started running, and finished the first mile in about 8 minutes. That's to be expected; you always go out fast at the beginning. After 2 miles, we were still doing an 8-minute pace. OK, there was a slight downhill in the second mile so it's not surprising if we were a little fast. Mile 3 had a big climb, followed by a big downhill, and by the end of it we were still averaging about 8:10s.

At this point I was a little worried. I know that you can't bank extra time in a long race. Any fast miles you do early on, you will pay for - with interest - at the end. I warned Jason about this but he said he was feeling fine. Who was I to question him? Maybe he could keep up this pace for the entire distance (but I knew there was no way I'd be able to do it.)

A note about the hills: a lot of people complained about how hilly the course was. The big joke was "it's the great race of Agoura HILLS, not Agoura Flats." And yes, it was pretty much rolling hills the entire way. But truthfully? I didn't think the climbs were all that bad. I've done a lot of hill stuff in Griffith over the past year so I felt fairly well-prepared for Agoura.

We kept a pretty good pace up until around mile 10. At that point, I told Jason I would "allow" him to walk to the top of the next hill. Wasn't that nice of me? (I intentionally didn't tell him that I really needed a break too.) We also took another brief walk-break at mile 12 as well.

But we finished strong crossing the finish line. We started the race side-by-side, we finished side-by-side, but the way the electronic race timing worked out Jason was clocked in at one second faster than me. He beat me. Curses!

We went to get our pictures taken together in front of the finisher's panel. Now something you need to know: although this was Jason's first race ever, he is no stranger to athletics or the gym. In fact, a recurring theme throughout the day was him complaining about how much muscle mass he's lost since he started running.

So when we went to take the photo, the picture-lady said "you guys should flex." Now I've probably had 100s of race photos taken of me and I've never been asked to flex. I simply said "we're not doing that." She persisted "come on, make a muscle." Jason was all gun-ho (sic.) about it but I was like "yeah, that ain't gonna happen." So she took the stupid picture.

I was a little underprepared for the race, but it was a good kick in the butt to get back into full marathon training at the time. Unfortunately, I didn't quite stick with it and now this weekend is the big race. We'll see what happens.