42km The Recaps[Posted on ]

Recap: Los Angeles Marathon 2011

Race: 25th Los Angeles Marathon
Date: March 20th, 2011
Start Time: 7:30AM
Location: Los Angeles, CA

It’s been a week and a day two days since my 10th marathon and I’m finally able to write my race report for this one! I have to say that this had been one of my more memorable marathons… Yes, more memorable than my first ever marathon which I ran in Chicago five years ago!

The Cause
What made this marathon special was that there was a cause behind it: it’s the first time for me, for a 26.2 mile footrace, to raise funds for the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and run the marathon, first in honor and then in memory of my friend and dearly departed brother, Herman. As I posted on my fundraising page, this race wasn’t just about me anymore.

I only decided on raising funds earlier this year (January!) and that, coupled with the winter rains in LA (which meant some skipped training runs!) meant that I had added stress of meeting my fundraising goal ($2,011 in 2011!) and making my training runs! I was literally stressing out more over the fundraising (well, somewhat equally over the lack of training) because I didn’t want to fail meeting that goal (it also didn’t make any sense for me to still be asking people for their help after the LA Marathon.) Compounded by the fact that Herman succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer at the beginning of March :(, I was becoming an emotional wreck! Enter two angels who gave a whopping $1,000 and boom! Fundraising goal met. All I needed now was to focus on the marathon!

The Expo
It was waaaaay better this year than last year! The Expo area covered larger ground and had better signage (or at least I noticed it better this year). 😉 There was even this cool mural made out of K-Swiss shoes! My sisters and I just had to get our photos taken in front of it, of course. ^_^

 

Weird but cool KSwiss Mural

Weird but cool KSwiss Mural (and me)

There were also these two Honda vehicles that sported our names! I had forgotten that if one registered before a certain time, your name would be printed and posted on the two lead vehicles. Thought that was a nice gesture for those who registered early (albeit still paid the whopping $145 race fee!)

 

Three Sisters and 26.2 miles

Three Sisters and 26.2 miles

I have to note that we went on a Saturday afternoon, late afternoon. We wanted to be in the area before we checked into our hotel, rather than drive back to the South Bay. I thought that it would make things more hectic but it was actually fine — there was a small crowd but it didn’t feel as busy, so browsing the vendor booths was done at a leisurely manner. The Expo was still not as large as the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego one (and didn’t have that many freebies!) but overall, it was a nice expo. I got some good deals with a Power Balance bracelet and a pair of 2XU compression calf sleeves (in white!) so I left the expo a happy camper. ^_^

Pre-Race
My sisters and friend, Irene, decided that this year, we’ll get a hotel room in downtown Los Angeles, instead of one in Santa Monica. We figured that the shuttles from Santa Monica to the Stadium last year were a mess that we would have a better chance of catching the shuttle from the official Downtown LA hotels to the Dodger Stadium. It turned out to be a great pre-race strategy! We didn’t have to wake up too early (I woke up at 5:15AM!) and still had enough time to have my brekkers (oatmeal and coffee) + morning routine (#2 hahaha TMI!) and to make it to the shuttle stop a few blocks down from the hotel.

Oh, there was NO queue to get on the bus and we waited but a few minutes before we were heading towards the Dodger Stadium. En route, there was NO traffic, and unlike last year, our shuttle bus drove into Dodger Stadium without having to cut in front of other buses or cars 😉 It was like an omen for a great race… Or so I thought! Hehehe…

Because we got to the start in record time, we were able to go inside the Dodger Stadium to use the women’s room. It was quite a relaxed morning and helped calm some of our nerves (even if only slightly) that the LA Marathon was really happening in just a few minutes! A tinkle (more TMI hehehe), some photos (see below), and wishing of luck later, my sis, Dexie and I were standing in the back — no designated corrals for us! — and waited for the gun to go off.

Dexi and her Team Herman nail polish

Dexie and her Team Herman nail polish

Running Sistahs!

Running Sistahs!

I have to add that whilst waiting at the start, the announcer over the PA introduced Los Angeles’ mayor (Antonio V.) and a majority of the crowed “Boo’ed” rather than cheered his presence! LOL I thought that was funny. The awesome gesture, though, was when everyone had a moment of silence for those who perished in Japan (Earthquake + Tsunami earlier in the week).

Start line

Start line

The Course
I knew the course changed slightly this year (compared to last year’s) so I was relieved not to spend so much time circling Dodger Stadium before finally making it out on the streets. The funny thing is, I fussed a bit over my iPod because I had initially thought it started playing in the middle of the playlist! ACK. I set it up so that it would start in the beginning and I wouldn’t miss the Rosary I had added onto it. It literally took me 6 minutes at an awkward, left-hand-over-my-shoulder-fidgeting-something-on-my-neck position to finally get it playing correctly! All the while, this man thought that it was my arm’s aerodynamic position! HAHAHAHA. I said I was fooling around with my iPod and he’s like, “Oh… I didn’t see the iPod there!” (It was the tiny shuffle I got during our Christmas White Elephant gift exchange). ^_^

When I finally got my iPod all set up, I was finally able to focus on the run when it was time for our first walk-break! D’oh! (We were doing 7-1 interval). A minute later, we were back to our pace.

I honestly can’t hardly remember the first few miles. I do know that the rain, at this point, varied between light sprinkling to some constant drizzling. I remembered that part because I wanted to aerate my body when the rain died down a bit in some parts of the course (I had been wearing a large black garbage bag, with a hole for the head and arms; i.e., it did not breathe). My sister (Annelle), Dexie and I had been good about keeping our pace constant (between 11:50 and 12:30 min/mile) and stuck to our 7/1 intervals, too, until about mile 4 when both trailed off as we climbed the hill approaching Disney Concert Hall. Something about the sound of the Taiko drums just kept me going as I bid adieu to my sis & Dexie and attacked that hill! I didn’t see my sis or Dexie until hours later back at the hotel!

The next few miles were literally a blur. I remember making a mental note of the fountain in Echo Park [Mile 6] because it was only the second time I had seen it (the first was at last year’s race!) and I had wanted to take a photo (as I did last year) but it was raining and I didn’t want to get my phone wet! LOL I finally took my camera out to take a photo of the Hollywood sign [Mile 8] in the horizon but by the time I had made a decision (literally took me a few minutes to decide whether it was worth it or not!), I ended up missing my “window” of opportunity! See below, or rather, squint below for the sign.

Hollywood Sign (somewhere there)

Hollywood Sign (somewhere there)

Compared to last year’s Tweetfest, the photo above is the ONLY one I took during the race! I was totally in the zone most of the time, only remembering a few things during the first half: wanting to take a pic by the Mann’s Chinese Theatre (but it was pouring) [Mile 11], searching for my friend, Graham, around Mile 12 by Toi; the Thai restaurant (it was pouring!) and then checking my clock and noticing that I wasn’t at a bad pace for half marathon (still pouring!)

I have to add that it was also around mile 12 where I felt a sharp pain shooting up from the bottom of my sole (forefoot) up to my calf as I landed on my right leg (cramping?) I remedied that by not flexing my right foot too much and landing lighter on my midfoot. Later in the race, I remember stopping to stretch both calf muscles but the pain in my right calf didn’t bother me much after modifying my gait. I think that my new 2XU compression calf sleeves (which I had bought at the expo) also helped — I got the XS size and boy did they offer graduated compression!

On-Course Prayers (and ClifShot Gel)
This year, it felt like my mind hardly drifted into thoughts of a negative nature (as they tend to do when I run marathons, just before hitting The Wall) — which was brilliant because the rain prevented some friends from meeting me on the course and with a garbage bag over my bib most of the time, you didn’t get to hear that “personalised” cheer from random spectators. The rosary which played a decade every 13 minutes also HELPED. I’m glad I decided to run and pray! ^_^

I also believe that the nutrition I took during the race this year also contributed to me not hitting the wall! I religiously consumed an entire packet of ClifShot Gel (alternated between Raspberry and Strawberry flavour) every 30 minutes (or thereabouts) and washed it down with plain water (no Nuun this year!) I do remember taking at least two cups of Gatorade at two water stations, though, just in case my electrolyte levels were low. I didn’t feel thirsty at all (probably psychosomatic because I was soaking wet most of the time) but made sure that my fluid intake was just right.

The Road to my PR
I tend to muck up my arithmetic and my mind almost always dictates what my body should do (i.e., stop) so it really hadn’t dawned on me that I would PR this race until around mile 22! So from the half-marathon point up to mile 20 (Oh, this is where I reminisced about last year’s race when Sheryl came down to meet my sis and I… with pretzels!!), I still hadn’t been able to compute my finish time! LOL! It was also as I entered the VA Park where I was feeling a bit emotional, because my body felt fine (I kept up the pace, if not sped up at some portions!) and it was slightly becoming a reality that I may PR. I didn’t even consider besting my time in this race because I had given up on that goal months ago and instead focused on running it for Herman.

Around mile 21, just after making a sharp right onto San Vicente Blvd., I finally made my first human contact! LOL. I was worried that because of the rain, the people from the Hirshberg Foundation would have left their cheering station (I really wanted to meet them!) To my surprise, they were still there; three women clad in purple standing in the freezing cold! Though the thought of getting a PR was becoming more concrete, I crossed onto the grassy median and proudly lifted my garbage bag poncho to reveal my purple “Team Herman” shirt! One of the ladies recognised me as I had been tweeting with her (she was like, you’re “Rah-see-el!”) and I remember mentioning that I left her Team Herman shirt with the dude manning their booth at the expo. I wanted to chat a bit more and tell them about Herman but something kept me going and after exchanging more pleasantries (and a hug!), off I went!

I did briefly stop a few feet later to tweet about the experience:

Met the ladies of @Hirshbergfound. Also, am still running and may PR if i stop typing 😉
12:35 PM Mar 20th via txt

And after sending that, the thought of PR-ing was now becoming more clear, but I still didn’t want to get my hopes up too much!

I continued my pace, and yes, speeding up at certain parts because I felt strong, yet still stuck to my intervals. Taking my ClifShot Gel became a bit less scientific, though, as I remember consuming at least one within 20 minutes from just the previous shot! LOL I was messing up the times when I needed to take the gel — my brain did not want to compute! Hahahaha — but at least that kept me preoccupied! The Rosary, at this point, had already ended (just after mile 21) so all I had left was some contemporary Christian music playing softly in my ear (for some reason, the volume went really low to almost inaudible! I think my headphones had taken in too much water!). I really am proud of how I put my music/prayer playlist this year!

Just past mile 22 was where I sought out more human interaction and found Bill L. from the LA Leggers. He gave me a hug, mentioned that he saw my sis (Minel — who had just passed by!) and then gave me the best words of inspiration: you’ll be fine because it’s downhill from here to the finish!

I wanted to cry after leaving the Leggers booth because it FINALLY hit me that I WILL PR this race. I held back the tears and was just thinking of Herman and thanking whoever else was praying for me (Mia and Jun!) to finish strong. I zoomed past the Yakult booth but not before yelling out my friend, Joseph’s name and giving him a thumbs up. It felt like I was flying at this point.

I did notice that I was going a bit too fast so I slowed down the pace a bit only to speed up again because I saw one of the “Students Run LA” kids with his right shoe lace untied! I wanted to catch up to him and warn him about his shoe lace but this kid just ran! Hahahaha. I slowed down again to my regular pace and focused on my gait.

The clock was ticking down (or up?) to my “dream” goal of finishing at 5 hours and 30 minutes and as I neared the corner to make a left onto the home stretch, it really began to POUR. As in, it was a STORM. I remember other runners cheering (or jeering?) and I couldn’t help but cheer aloud, as well!

When I rounded the corner, I saw the LA Marathon “Home stretch” sign and just sped up. That final stretch felt like forever and I couldn’t spot the finish line banner because it was too far down to be seen. That and my spectacles were fogging up! >_< This was probably the only part of the course where I kept looking at my watch! I saw it ticking closer and closer to 5:30 and although any finish under 5:43 would have been sufficient, I really wanted to get to that 5 hour and 30 minute mark!

I halfheartedly told myself that it’s OK if I finish just over 5:30 but I was surprised that my legs kept moving (my heartrate, though, shot up and my lungs were in overdrive)! I wanted to finish at 5:30! Hahaha. I remember landing incorrectly at one point and felt that sharp pain from my right calf but brushed that off immediately as I trotted along. Oh, I also had the presence of mind (as I turned the corner earlier) to put my garbage bag poncho over my head to reveal my bib # on the home stretch: I wanted the finish line cameras to take my pic! Hahaha. In hindsight, that probably created some drag, but I really felt free at the home stretch, running down Ocean Avenue.

As I saw my Garmin tick down closer to 5:30, I finally crossed the finish line and stopped my clock after stepping on the second mat — 5:29:29! I GOT MY PR! Official chip time: 05:29:26. Again, I wanted to cry because I got my personal best when I least expected it… but the tears of joy wouldn’t flow — I must have been slightly dehydrated! Haha!

Approaching the Finish

Approaching the Finish

Getting Closer!

Getting Closer!

I do believe I was yelling!

I do believe I was yelling!

Freezing at Finish Line
I went through the motions at the finish: got a space blanket, bottle of water, some munchies, my medal, posed for my photo (dunno what was going on below!) and then walked at least a block within the finish line area before finally having the presence of mind to contact my sis Minel!

Iono what I was doing!

Iono what I was doing!

Take 2!

Take 2!

I was literally standing in the rain, with my mobile inside its ghetto water-resistant casing (aka Ziplock bag), and straining to hear what my sis was trying to say! I finally received a text from her that she was at the “Warming Station” inside the Fairmont hotel but I didn’t know which way to go! Still standing in the rain, now shivering, and waiting for my sis’ response, I finally walked a few more feet to ask this Valet dude where the Fairmont was — he pointed to a block BACK towards the finish! D’oh!

As I made my way back on the crowded Ocean Avenue towards to Wilshire, I thought that one of the buildings was the hotel (it wasn’t) so I kept going until finally hitting Wilshire and COULD NOT see the hotel! I took quick refuge under the outer foyer of this bank but the cops there were turning us away because we were blocking the entrance >_< Before leaving though, I asked him where the Fairmont hotel was and he pointed RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. LMFAO I didn’t see it because of the parked emergency vehicles and their “command station” truck.

Warming Station” at the Fairmont Hotel
As I neared the hotel gate, I was still unsure whether I was headed in the right direction when I finally spotted a Race Employee/Volunteer bidding me towards the hotel’s side entrance. When I entered the hotel, I was half-expecting runners to be sitting in the lobby but I kept walking (following a small trail of runners) to one of the ballrooms. There I was greeted with a neatly folded DRY blanket and the warmth of the room!

I made my way anti-clockwise and began scanning the seats and walls of the room for my sis and finally found her! She pointed to the hot tea table at the center of the room and mentioned something about pain in her knee! LOL When she briefly left me for the loo, an EMT approached me and offered another dry blanket. I was refusing the dry blanket until she pointed out that I was shivering! LOL I was not aware that I was shivering that much. I’m glad, though, that that EMT was there and suggested that I take my wet layers off (took my Team Herman and long-sleeved compression shirt off, left my bra on), whilst she lifted a blanket for a makeshift changing area, and gave me the dry blanket. She also refilled my hot tea and then asked me again if I was feeling better before she moved onto the other runners.

I guess I was still shivering because a few minutes later, an older fireman asked if I wanted one of the wool grey blankets. The thing was, they were already used and then left behind on the ground by other runners and I guess I felt better because in my head I was thinking, “Eeeewww,” but uttered a diplomatic, “I’m feeling better” response. Hahaha… still OCB.

Shuttle back to the Shuttle back to the Hotel
I think my sis and I spent a combined 35 minutes inside the hotel before finally getting on the shuttle (Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus!) towards the Civic Center where another shuttle would take us back to downtown LA. We didn’t even mind that much that it took us about another 25 minutes just to get 4 blocks down. We passed the time by each taking a photo (We Asians! Hehehe) and sis ate one of the free packet of chips I picked up at the finish.

On the Big Blue Bus

On the Big Blue Bus

Sisypoo

Sisypoo

Why thank you; Thank you very much.

Why thank you; Thank you very much.

The bus ride back to Downtown was another story! AHHH. It took at least another 45 minutes to get back and I needed to pee! (More TMI hahaha!) It also seemed like our bus driver did not know where he needed to go… I’m glad he dropped us off at the same spot where we boarded earlier that day because I didn’t have to think about how to get back to the hotel. At this point, however, my sis’ knee was really hurting and she was walking gingerly whilst the harsh wind battered our frail bodies! We eventually made it back to our room (FINALLY) and set the thermostat to 73deg F!

Epilogue
Despite the pain of losing a good friend and running in torrential rains, I would actually raise funds again to further Pancreatic Cancer research and wouldn’t mind doing the LA Marathon either (even in the rain again!) I can honestly say that I had a pleasant experience despite the gloomy weather! I guess if you get a personal best, your outlook is much different, but I think achieving the PR was just the cherry on the icing or icing on the cake? or however that saying goes! I still can’t believe I PR’d and now I’m more inclined to really train and do better in my remaining (non-Marathon) races this year.

A HUGE THANK YOU again to all my donors — the angels — that supported Team Herman. This race was truly for you, bro (and thanks for letting me PR, God! Hehehe!)

 

LA Marathon 2011; done!

LA Marathon 2011; done!

p.s.,
I’m sure you’re as exhausted (as I was from running the marathon) just by reading this, but I leave you now with some of the food I enjoyed that weekend ^_^

French Onion soup!

French Onion soup!

Sirloin and au gratin potatoes

Sirloin and au gratin potatoes

The next day: Brekkers and the 110 FWY

The next day: Brekkers and the 110 FWY

BLTA and Chili!

The next day: BLTA and Chili for lunch!

Thanks for reading! ^_^

p.p.s.,
In the RunPix race result illustration, it said over the last 4.5 miles I passed 844 runners! Talk about second wind! ^_^

2 Comments

Comments are closed.