March 23, 2010

LA Marathon (Race Report)

I've given a lot of thought to writing this race report, because I want to make sure it does justice to the awesomeness of the LA Marathon. Personally, I had a fantastic race. I felt great for the majority of it, enjoyed myself, and my sub-5 hour finish goal was a success with an official time of 4:55:17. The race itself, however, was just as great - the aid stations, entertainment, crowd support, and the fabulous inaugural "Stadium to Sea" course made this a marathon I am proud to have run and will remember always. With that said, on to the details!
The Expo
My parents and I drove down Saturday afternoon and went straight to the outdoor expo at Dodger Stadium. Man oh man was it hot by then! There were some cool booths and fun things to check out, and of course lots of free samples : ) I even got a glimpse of Dean Karnazes! I picked up my bib and race packet, but was pretty bummed to find out they only had two t-shirt sizes left - a men's large and a woman's small! I ended up going with the latter, but let me just say it is meant for a child and I will unfortunately never wear it : ( Great design though! I picked up another box of my fave Gu vanilla bean and then escaped the madness to go check into our cheap little motel. My mom's aunt whom she hasn't seen in several years happens to live about 20 minutes from LA so we sat through typical bumper to bumper LA traffic to go visit her. By that time it was like 5pm and we hadn't eaten since breakfast so I was cranky. We finally got some yummy dinner at Elephant Bar, including a decadent mudpie dessert to split between us. Back at the hotel my mom and I checked out the map and came up with our plan for Sunday, I laid out all my gear, then I was off to bed around 9:30pm.

The Race
I actually woke up before my 5am alarm and began my race morning routine. The nerves really started to hit me at that point as the realization that I was about to run another marathon hit me. The last minute instructions advised everyone to get to the start extra early to account for traffic, and boy were they not kidding. Our motel was only 4 miles to the start at Dodger Stadium, but the traffic was so bad that after 45 minutes we hadn't even fully merged onto the freeway. Then a funny thing happened: more and more runners started getting out of cars and walking, determined to get to the start regardless of the unrelenting gridlock! It wasn't long before I joined them on the one mile walk to the stadium : )

In hindsight, this actually served as a great warm-up! The start area was crazy crowded by the time I got there, as were the port-a-potty lines. I quickly jumped in line, meanwhile less patient runners scrambled up the dirt hills behind the port-a-potties to do their business in the bushes! Quite entertaining. I made it to the front just in time, then headed to the corrals. They were so packed, though, that I ended up with the 14 min/mi walkers! This made for lots of dodging and maneuvering the first few miles : /

We started a little later than scheduled, and I didn't end up crossing the start line til 8am. But man, the energy at the start was fantastic! The first mile wound around Dodger Stadium and was basically all uphill. Then we emerged in downtown LA for the next 4 miles. There were lots of spectators out and great entertainment early on. We hit the first and probably most significant hill between miles 3 and 4, where there were Taiko drummers whose beats helped push us to the top where the awesome Disney Concert Hall awaited us. Talk about a gorgeous piece of architecture!

Around mile 5 we arrived in Echo Park and ran along a beautiful lake There was more fun entertainment, including a circus group with people on stilts! I also want to mention the abundance of water/aid stops. There was almost one official station every mile, and a bunch of unofficial ones in between with spectators handing out oranges, water, candy, you name it! This really saved me since it was quite warm during the race. I made sure to grab water almost every mile, drinking some and pouring the rest down my back to keep cool.

The next couple miles (7-8) we ran through a neighborhood called Silverlake. It was here that I looked down and realized that two of my Gu had fell out of my fuel belt! I had already taken one, but this only left me with two more for the rest of the race. My mom had texted me that she and my dad were at mile 11, so I quickly called her and told her to have some replacement Gu ready for me. Not too much to see during this stretch. I was feeling strong though and thoroughly enjoying the experience, trying to take it all in.

Around mile 9 we entered Hollywood! This was by far one of the best parts of the course for me. Although it was a bit hazy out, the Hollywood sign could easily be spotted up in the hillside. Now this may surprise you considering that I've lived in California my whole life and have been to LA several times, but this was the first time I'd ever seen the sign, so I was pretty jazzed : ) There were lots of other great landmarks during this stretch, too, like the Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower, Walk of Fame, and Graumman's Chinese Theater. It was pretty cool running through Hollywood, with huge buildings on either side, and it was fun to look up at all the billboards. Great distractions! The crowd support through Hollywood was also fantastic! At mile 11 I spotted my folks, both ready with cameras in hand. I quickly grabbed my Gu and kept going while my dad trotted alongside for a minute, asking how I felt, then I took off with plans to meet up again around mile 20.

Next up was Sunset Boulevard and West Hollywood for miles 12-15ish. I don't remember too many details from this stretch, except for the male cheerleaders and half-naked Go-Go dancers : ) At mile 14 we hit another landmark, the pink Whiskey a Go Go, a famous dance club/music venue that's been around since the 60's.

Then at mile 16 we finally hit...Beverly Hills! I really wanted a pic of the famous sign, but it was too far off the course to get a good one, so I took one from the net instead! It was really fun running past all the fancy houses, then hit mecca of ritzy shopping: Rodeo Drive! So so so cool running along all those stores, window shopping while running a marathon : ) Again, lots of great crowd support. The folks at the Nike store had a big group out dressed in lime green spandex bodysuits which was an interesting sight to see! At this point I started feeling a little tired, but was still maintaining my pace. As rumor had it, the rest of the course was mostly flat or downhill so I was looking forward to that.

For the next few miles we ran mostly along Santa Monica Boulevard through an area called Century City. I was fading a bit by this point, and seeing a hill coming up around this time didn't help either. I pushed through it though, and was then greeted by throngs of cheerleaders in "Cheer Alley" and got a nice little boost. Hoses had also been set up along this stretch to cool off runners which was much appreciated by that time of the day. I saw my parents again around mile 19 where I complained about how tired I was. Interesting thing is, despite all the aches and pains (including shin splints) I'd been having during my training leading up to LA, my legs felt great for the entire race! My only real problem was fatigue. When I reached mile 20, the mental game began.

Around mile 22 ran through the Veterans' Administration (VA) grounds, which also happened to be on a slight incline with very little to look at around us. I took a few walking breaks during this stretch, and really started to wonder how I could keep up my pace for the last four miles. I also started doing a lot of math in my head to figure my estimated finish time if I kept up various paces, which after 18 miles of running isn't easy to do. I made it through the VA though and finally hit a nice, long, somewhat shaded stretch down San Vicente Boulevard. I had a big mental battle with myself here, and really started questioning if I could finish under 5 hours. I knew I just had to maintain an 11:30 pace, but I so badly wanted to walk. I just kept reminding myself how mad I would be at myself for giving up so close to the end when my finish goal was in sight. So I pushed. A song by Paramore came on my iPod and put me in a zone. In fact, I played this song on repeat about ten times til the end! So many runners around me were struggling at this point. I almost saw more people walking than running! I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and my pace slowly got faster.

At the end of San Vicente I turned the corner onto Ocean Boulevard and saw the banner for mile 25, and knew I'd reached the home stretch. I couldn't really do math at that point but I knew if I just kept running I would make it under 5. Man oh man, did this seem to go by in slow motion! I was so focused on the finish in the distance and giving every last effort I had left that I barely acknowledged that the ocean was finally on my right and huge crowds on either side cheering like mad. I passed under the banner for 26 miles and sprinted my way to the end at the Santa Monica Pier, so ready to be done. I crossed that line with a smile, then swayed on the spot a little and tried to keep moving. I made my way through the finish shoot, collected my medal, and tried to find the nearest spot to collapse.

When I finally sat down, my body realized we were done and the pain came in full force. Literally just sitting was miserable with throbbing joints and tired muscles. I checked my Garmin and saw that I had indeed made my goal with 5 minutes to spare, but also saw that the course was long - by a whole 0.2 miles! Now that may not seem very much to some of you, but in a marathon it might as well be another mile. I don't know if it was the course or probably just the tangents I ran, but I first noticed around mile 2 that it was off. Anyone else run LA get something similar or was it just me? It was kind of a bummer during the race though when my Garmin beeped at me with a mile when it was still a ways off in the distance.

The medal was pretty cool, with a big "25" commemorating the 25th anniversary of the marathon. The ribbon was the best part, though, with the course and landmarks printed on it! Very cool. A couple of finishers collapsed next to me and we chatted for a bit while I tried to get a hold of my folks. There were so many people that the cell phone networks were jammed, and it took a good half hour to finally all find one another. When my shoes came off I discovered two lovely purple toes, most likely thanks to the many downhills of the course. I hobbled away from the masses to do a post-race photo shoot and then we headed to get some grub! We had lunch at a yummy Thai restaurant where I devoured some pad thai and a much needed beer : ) Then we hit the road back to Santa Barbara, thankfully with very little traffic along the way, while I basked in the glow of finishing another marathon.

It's now Tuesday and I'm still so sore I can barely walk! Seriously, ouch. I almost forgot how much a marathon hurts : ) In other awesome news, I came home to find out that I won a beautiful running-themed necklace in a giveaway from Chic Runner (who also happened to run LA!)!!! I was so excited I nearly jumped out of my skin! Thanks Danica!


  1. I am so happy for you and your sub 5! Great job. Thanks for such a great report. I love reading marathon recaps. You did amazing. Love the pictures too. So inspiring. My first marathon is in 93 days...R'n'R Seattle. I am scared but excited. I just did a half marathon and the final distance was 13.31...not fair. Those last miles are so mental. GREAT JOB!

  2. OMG it was so fun reading your experience at LA Marathon. I seriously hope to get to your level soon and run a marathon. One step at a time though with my 5k, 10ks and of course the big half in July.

    Hearing you tick off all those LA spots made me miss LA so much! AND you had Thai food! You know I'm Thai right? haha.

    Hey we should def do a race together. You might be eons ahead of me but we can take pictures at the beginning and the end. haha.

    Hey you got such great pics. Are these ones your parents took or do you have a camera with you while running to take pics. I'm just curious. I wanted to do that but I didn't know if that was too obnoxious to carry my camera like that.. or if its normal.

  3. What a great race report!! Way to go!!

  4. Congrats on meeting your goal of a sub-5! That's awesome :) Especially overcoming that mental struggle.

  5. congrats! we're proud of you and glad we were there. mom & dad

  6. Wow, I was there and got a better description from your report! I wish I knew the area better, I just drove to the finish and ran back to mile 20 to meet my son. Congrats on the sub-5.....

  7. You rock!!! I'm so far behind, but so thrilled to read your race report! I think blogger is having serious picture issues, but I can't wait to see them once it is fixed! :)

    Way to go on your sub-5 hours! I just love reading your race recaps. Gives me goosebumps every time!