Wednesday, March 5, 2008

XXIII Los Angeles Marathon

295:1, odds of me winning the LA Marathon? No. My bib number? No. My finishing position within my age group? Well strangely yes! But more pertinent the ratio of porta potties to runners in the starting area. Can you say “wait in line”!

It really did not bode well, I had parked my car downtown about a mile from the finish line and caught the Metro to start line at Universal Studios, I had allowed an hour at the start, this was whittled down to 45 minutes by the time I arrived, it was there that I found myself in porta pottie hell. I will spare you the details but by the time I was ready to join the starting crowd, I was grateful for the 15 minutes delay in the start and I found myself mixed in with the 13-14 minute pace group…whoops!

Apparently somewhere a gun went off, this being LA several people ducked behind cars, for myself a combination of being so far back from the start line and the traffic flying above our heads on the 101 Freeway blotted it out but with the wave momentum of 20,000 or so other runners I surged, well, stepped forward. I will say up front that this was a work up race for Leona Divide next month and was a good opportunity for a long run; going into it I had a target time of 3:58, around a 9:05 pace, and had the back up that if I was feeling strong I would have pushed the gas a little for a 3:45 finish, this was not expected as I had been nursing a tender knee for the last two weeks and had had a sore throat for the two days preceding.

I’ll spare you a mile by mile account and break it up into nice manageable chunks. The first five miles were spent rubbing shoulders with lots of other runners and walkers, there was a distinct carnival atmosphere and many friends were running/walking line abreast, a little frustrating and you had to weave you way around them, strangely around the two mile mark we were going downhill and there seemed to be more walkers than runners at this point, we passed the Hollywood Bowl, well at least we passed the parking lot of the Hollywood Bowl. The route meandered through North Hollywood, running through the junction of Hollywood and Highland along Sunset Boulevard and turning south down Vine Street. My first five miles splits were 9:59, 9:20. 8:36, 8:38 and 8:19 so after a slow start I was finding my groove. Shortly after mile 5 we took a different route, the original route had us running down Rossmore Avenue, but for some reason we were directed into a small residential street of N. Lucerne Boulevard, while the tree line road provided us with some welcome shade and the residents were out in force with mini aid stations, the problem was the classic funnel or bottle neck 4 lanes into two resulting in a squeeze. A left and a right and we were back on the main street only to be redirected again into a residential road; another bottleneck! The following five miles we weaved our way through pretty non-descript residential areas finally arriving at the half way point. My splits through to the halfway point were 8:29, 8:36, 8:30, 8:33, 8:31, 8:19, 8:16 and 8:26.

The second half could have been a different race altogether, by my calculations I was about 6 minutes ahead of schedule and everything was going pretty well; a nagging hot spot on the bottom of my big toe took my mind of things for a few miles, this would turn into a blister but I tuned it out around mile 20. We headed through Exposition Park and ran past the Coliseum, of ’84 Olympic fame and home to USC’s Trojans, this kept my interest through to about mile 16. My pace was pretty consistent and I was playing the math out in my head, my splits for mile 14 through 20 were: 9:02, 8:59. 9:03, 9:16, 9:19. 9:53 and 10:10 and I was slipping behind schedule for the sub 4:00 finish. It was around here where I got hit by boredom; the constant plodding through incredibly boring concrete landscape combined with low crowd support just switched my brain off. I kept thinking mile 16; 10 to go that’s 90 minutes and when I get to mile 20 that’s a 10k left. I seemed to work and before I really knew it I was at Mile 20, I took a short walk break through the aid station and likewise at 21, 22 and 23, my splits reflect the drop in pace; 11:22, 11:25 and 11:17. By this time the temperature had picked up and we were running threw mostly unshaded areas. At mile 24 I managed to shrug off the funk knowing that there was about 20 minutes to go, the scenery had improved and we had run past the Staples Centre and several entertainments stands with Japanese Taiko drummers banging out the beat to give you that extra push to the finish.

The mile 26 marker straddled the street and was followed by a right hand turn and saw the last point two uphill to the finish line. I switched off my Garmin and while wandering through the chutes collected my medal. I stopped by the usual finisher’s stands and contemplated waiting in line for a massage; I changed my mind when I saw the number of people in front of me, continuing the theme from the start of the day. My last splits were 10:01, 9:54 and 10:03. My Garmin clocked in at 4:08:04, my chip time; 4:08:21 and the gun time: 4:20:21, reflective of the number of people in front of me at the start line. I found a patch of floor and went through my stretching routine finally able to enjoy the warmth of the sun and then exited the recovery area.

I stopped by a Robeks stand and grabbed a frozen smoothie, some relief for my throat, (and the compulsory brain freeze!) and walked the mile or so back to me car, threaded my way out the multiple road closures and diversions and was back home in half an hour.

Looking back on the day, several things went well and several went bad, some were in my control some not. So good things first, a finish, never assumed or underappreciated, keeping to pretty even pace for the first half, my knee held up well, in fact it feels better for having run and my sore throat was kept at bay with Chloraseptic strips. Nutrition/Hydration wasn’t an issue, I had a fuel belt filled with Perpetuem and a flask of Hammer gel which contained 5 gels consuming 1 every 45 minutes or so added to which I took water externally at most stations to cool me down. I was also popping Hammer Electrolytes at the rate of one an hour. Bad things; the biggest one was going too fast albeit even for the first half, I was running about 20-30 second too fast per mile, a blister; never good but as I mentioned I switched it off at mile 20. Things that were out of my control, well the porta pottie issue I have touched on as well as the bottle necking, I had assumed that arriving 45 minutes early would be sufficient, it wasn’t!

My recovery has been pretty solid, my legs had the usual aches, but I biked 10 miles Monday night, did the same Tuesday morning and ran an easy 7 miles Tuesday night. So several days later the question is I am I glad I ran the race, well yes, getting the distance under my belt was good. Would I run the race again, to be honest probably not, a combination of too many people and too dull a route is enough to send me back to the trails, so that’s where you’ll find me.

I was tasked by DCRainmaker to take photos and to that end I invested the grand sum of $9.99 in one of those tiny cameras you see at the local pharmacy, well suffice to say you get what you pay for, but for those of you who are good at figuring out what pictures are from blurs here they are, of course they are in reverse order??? Thank you to everyone for you words of encouragement last week.

Here you can find the official MarathonPhoto photos, I won't be buying any they are just too expensive, although there some pretty good ones, if I say so myself.

And finally here is the Garmin data.


  1. CONGRATS!! That's a pretty darn sweet job considering the circumstances! For some reason the PB thingy isn't working for me . . .it just keeps saying "Loading". Probably my comp. I will have to come back in a bit ;-) AWESOME JOB!!

  2. Ahhhh yeah I saw them! That's so weird because I can see the slideshow fine when it's on the PB site but for whatever reason it just wasn't working on Blogger.

    Ok about that one pic . . .how tall ARE YOU?!? LOL Looked like a nice marathon, lots of peeps.

  3. Now that was a full report and one worth waiting for!

    After running the Disney marathon I decided right then and there I would never run another event of that size. you can never get in a real good groove because of the crowds. maybe that is what I love most about trail running events.

    you are right... some of the pictures have a blur but still great to see. Thanks!

    that bathroom ratio sucks but that is what bushes are for... right ...LOL!!!

    Great job and great run. Glad your body is not screaming with any problems. You rides will continue to help that.

    Glad your back :)

  4. Oh my goodness, I love love LOVE that you stopped at Robeks on the way! It's my new favorite place here in Boston :)

    Congrats on the great finish!

  5. Congratulations on the race!

    A fantastic race report! I'm sorry to hear that in a city the size of LA there wasn't more support.

  6. These pictures ARE great!! But better to spend your money on gear!! (and i hear kids like to eat).

    What an adventure. Hard to believe a marathon is a training run :)

  7. Good training run!! But yuck concrete and crowds!

  8. Congrats - nice work! Loved the report and the slide show was great! I love your captions. It looked hot.

  9. Solid run, dude - and great report. LA is a strange event - it always seems like there's some weird problem that happens each year. But I also remember a lot of positive energy from the runners and crowds that was very memorable.

    Are you headed back to the trails now?

  10. Awesome, you actually did it! (Took a camera!). I'll have to incorporate one at some point. Bringing it on a marathon is hard core. I wanted to bring my little ELF camera on my marathon this fall, but it bounced around too much in the Race Ready shorts. I like your idea of the disposable though - brilliant!

    Congrats on the finish! Well done!

  11. SLB+ congrats on great finish considering the crowds. Your report really scared me as I plan to do my first marathon in November in Philly. I never ran a race with more than 4000 people so I may re-consider the venue for my first marathon. Need to check last years reports to see how crowded it was. I'm hoping for well below 4hrs finish if my training goes well during the year. Until then I have few tris before then so we will see how the season goes.

  12. Great job.
    The porta-potty thing reminds me of when I ran Chicago. There was such a back up that there were people dropping their shorts in the middle of the streets and going on sides of building or whatever happened to be there.

    Keep pushing for Leona Divide.

  13. Congrats on a great run despite the boredom, sore toe and crowds. Doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I hope the London Marathon is better! Do you add flavour to the Hammer stuff? Its pretty bland?


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