LA Marathon Race Recap
This race is one I will remember forever for both the good and bad experiences. I'm very happy to say that I accomplished B Goal - another Boston Qualifier - finishing at 3:26:02.
The last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind. Not only did I pick up and move, which was a physical challenge, but my 26 year old sister, Kate, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma just shortly after I posted about my goals for the race. I was heartbroken when I found out, and in that moment, I realized that a PR or BQ wasn't the most important thing in my life anymore. She has stage 2, and while Hodgkins has a very high survival rate, she's going to have to do chemo. She's going to experience things a 26 year old bright, beautiful girl shouldn't have to. Needless to say, I went into the race with mixed emotions. I wanted to dedicate every single mile to her - to draw strength from her. What she was going to experience in the coming months would be far more difficult than running 26.2 miles was for me. This dedication meant killing it on the course. I ran with too much emotion and not enough control.
I spent the day before the race doing too much. I was still exhausted from everything with my sister and moving. I met my friend for breakfast early that morning and then Peter and I went up to the expo again to meet up with our friend Kim. We watched the trials for a bit which was so exciting and inspiring. I got to see Meb Keflezighi and Kara Goucher up close and cheer them on! Standing in the sun gave me a taste of how hot it would be on Sunday. After spending some time at the expo after the male trials finished, I made it home around 3 and realized I still had to do laundry because all of my race clothes were dirty (doing laundry as you move is so hard). I started prepping as much as I could for the next morning and realized I'd lost my Nathan water bottle in our move, so we had to make a last minute trip to Marshall's to get one. At this point, I just couldn't really deal with much else and just hoped for the best on race day. I made it to bed around 8:30 and fell asleep right away.
Race day started so early, and I knew it was going to be one of the longest race days yet. I woke up at 3 am to give myself time to eat something and use the facilities before Ricky and I drove up to Santa Monica. It was really foggy and cool, and while we were near the beach, I was hopeful this meant the weather would be nice to us. Ricky helped me write Kate's name on my shoulder and forearm. I wanted others to see who I was running for and I wanted to be able to look down and remember to be strong.
It was a 45 minute drive and my shuttle was leaving at 5 am. I texted Kim when I was on the shuttle since she was coming from one of the downtown hotel shuttle stops. We met up at the porto potties right outside the corrals. We were in a bit of a panic when we realized we were standing in the open corral and it took us a while to figure out how to get into Corral B. After making it through several fences, we were in. I told Mark, Peter and Ricky that I would send them live track from my Garmin so they could get better updates on my status, but I got a new phone last month and it had never connected to my Garmin. I realized this with 2 minutes to start time. I texted Ricky and told him I'd see him at the finish, said good luck to Kim and we were off.
Before I recap the details of the race, my intent was to stay with the 3:25 pacer until mile 6 where it flattened out. Then I would increase my speed and run 7:40 pace until about mile 18 - 20. The last 10K was where I hoped to push the pace and do a 7:30 or lower pace. This would allow me to get that 3:20 or better I was looking for.
So here's how it actually went down... I stayed just in front of the 3:25 pacer for a while, just like I did at CIM. I couldn't figure out if my watch was totally freaking out or if the pacer was going to fast because my Garmin was telling me I was doing a 7:36 pace at mile 3 with the pacer just behind me. We got to mile 4 and there was a steep incline right by the Disney Concert Hall. I charged up the hill logging mile 4 at 7:24. I decided to ditch the pacer at this point and just run what felt right. I was not ready for all of the hills in the first few miles, and could feel my quads working hard. The heat wasn't that terrible, but I knew it wasn't helping me the way cold weather and cloud cover would have. I took my electrolyte pills that morning and knew that if I didn't control my breathing, I would eventually cramp.
Around mile 6, it flattened out. We made our way to Hollywood Blvd and there was a long stretch that was completely flat. At mile 10, a woman tapped my shoulder and said she followed me on Instagram and saw my post about Kate. She wished me a good race. It was a really touching moment and it was hard for me to hold back my tears. I broke loose after that and started doing sub 7:30 miles. By the time I got to mile 15, I knew I wasn't going to have the race I wanted too. My quads were hurting the way they did in Portland. I was still focused on my goals determining which ones were still achievable. The one I was most doubtful about was my C (finish feeling strong) and D (run happy) goals. I wasn't happy during this race because of the emotional struggles with Kate and the pain I was in. The pain in my legs was also preventing me from accomplishing my C goal. I wanted to look strong when I got to mile 17 where United LA and GRVL were camped out to cheer us on. I saw them about a quarter mile after the 17 mile mark. I high five'd Mark on my way around the corner and seeing everyone's faces and their signs brought my spirits up and distracted me from the pain for a few moments.
Kim mentioned there was a hill at mile 20 to keep an eye out for. The majority of the hills after mile 6 were slight inclines that were very manageable if your legs were feeling good. Mine were not. So when I came up on a slight incline around mile 21, I thought it was over for me. My pace slowed to an 8:09 which felt like a crawl compared to how fast my mind wanted me to go. I worked my way up the hill and was relieved to see a straight decline for the last few miles. The only way I was able to keep a sub 9 minute pace for the last 5K was because of the downhill.
Every time things got hard for me, I looked at my forearm. Kate's name sitting there, knowing that what she was going to experience was going to be more painful than what I was going through with my quads cramping and complete exhaustion, made me push on. Around mile 24, I really wanted to quit. I was lucky to see Diana just after this. She reached out to me the day before the race and said she was sending good thoughts to my sister and family. I knew I wasn't going to get my goal time at this point and stepped off the course to hug her for a quick second. Seeing her reminded me how much love there was for my sister and hope for her recovery. We made our final decent into the fog that never left the beach that morning. The spectators and cheering at the finish line is always the most beautiful part of a marathon. It always brings tears to my eyes.
I crossed the finish line unsatisfied and upset with my performance. I looked for Ricky, but the sidewalks were blocked near the finisher shoot so spectators had to go around. I had to walk for what felt like forever to the end. Half way through, Mark and Peter came up the shoot towards me. Mark hugged me and I started crying. He said "What's wrong?" and I said, "I did a terrible job. It was a bad race and I didn't do it right." He said "When would you ever think that a 3:26 is a terrible race?" Perspective. I'm thankful. Peter hugged me and they went on to find all of the others they'd come out to support from our running groups. I found my way to Ricky and did my usual post race bawling. I wanted more. For me and for Kate.
I left immediately afterwards. I didn't stay to celebrate or meet up with all of the familiar faces I was lucky enough to see on the course. Now, 4 days later, I wish I had so I could say thank you to everyone for allowing me to be a part of such an awesome community. I'll never run LA again, but this race made me so grateful. The spectator support in this race was amazing.
Lessons have been learned. I didn't stick to my plan for LA. The plan Mark helped me layout. Could this race have gone differently? Absolutely. I'm not sure how long it will take me to understand this, but I was taught once again that lacking control is what kills you in a marathon. Letting your emotions override your mind means you will likely lose. Did I lose? No. Finishing a marathon is never losing, but I lost sight of my goals because life happens. Every race that I run will be for Kate until she is in remission. While she gave me strength to battle the hills I wasn't prepared for in LA, I'm hoping to draw control and patience from her in my next marathon.