Race Recap: Honda LA Marathon 03/18/12

So that didn’t go exactly as planned. My two goals going into it were: (1) Have fun, (2) Finish. (3) was a bonus goal (have a time beginning with 5) that was not really something I was going to think about during the race. It turns out that I only really nailed goal #2, but there was some of goal #1. Mostly though, it was just an intense and amazing experience.

We packed up all our gear the night before. We brought way too much stuff, but wanted to be prepared for anything. I was worried about my fueling, since on previous long runs I’ve had an issue with getting enough fuel without upsetting my stomach. This would turn out to be a valid fear.

That Camelbak also has a Gatorade/water solution in it, as well as two pairs of dry socks, rolled up in plastic bags. The day before the marathon poured rain, and last year, 2.42 inches of rain fell during the entire race. By the night before, forecasters still weren’t positive whether it was going to rain or hold off.

We got up at 5, had bagels and coffee before driving to Dodgers Stadium. Despite it being a point-to-point course, we opted out of the race shuttles, since my parents were going to pick us up in Santa Monica and give us a ride back to the stadium. Since I’d made us leave ridiculously early, we got to the race start around 6:15 after taking back roads and avoiding any possible delays on the freeways. So we sat in the car for awhile before having to hang out in the cold. After a little debate and discussion of the forecast, we had opted not to do gear check. Around 7:00, we got out of the car and headed towards the race start.

We found the bathrooms after a little confusion, but never found the mythical free food tent. We also had trouble figuring out exactly where the entrances to the corrals were, but ended up standing in a large group outside the corrals, which would get funneled in once other racers started.

We listened to the wheelchair and handbike racers take off, then the lady racers take off (followed by several minutes of the announcer making really awful statements about the ladies being chased by the men…awkward), and then heard one of the Pussycat Dolls sing the national anthem before everyone else got to leave. It took us about 15 minutes to cross the start line once the horn blew.

I LOVED the first part of the course. There were people on their roofs and sitting in their windows cheering, there were taiko drums and live bands at several points, and I didn’t really notice the slight hills, although I tried to keep my pace even and not get too caught up in the excitement. Unfortunately, I got really hungry (adrenaline and cold probably) and started eating way too much, way too quickly. By the time we hit Hollywood (around 13 miles), my stomach was not in a great place. That was when we started walking a lot, because I was just too nauseous to run any more.

That was when I really started to notice how amazing the spectators were. There were so many groups of people who weren’t affiliated with the race out there handing out oranges, bananas, pretzels, and tortilla chips. Whenever you walked up to take some, they would check your name on your bib and cheer you on. I saw a sign on a storefront that said, “If you’re feeling down about the state of the human race, go watch a marathon,” and I really did feel so encouraged that people were generally awesome. I was feeling horrible, but at the same time, it was really inspiring. I think the cross-dressing cheerleaders in West Hollywood were probably my favorite part, but the hundreds of people who yelled my name along the way were also helpful.

I kept trying to get slightly more carb-y things down, but I was having nausea and heartburn that kept me to a walk most of the time. We would get in a few short runs before I had to stop and walk again. Leo was being great, trying to keep my mind off of it, and encouraging me to walk whenever I had to. Despite having not run much for almost 1.5 months due to an injury, he was feeling great, and could easily have run this marathon a lot faster than we did. I was feeling really discouraged, because I didn’t know if it would be possible for me to finish feeling as awful as I did. Leo stole my phone and surreptitiously texted a few people, asking them to text me back some encouragement since I was feeling so bad.

At mile 18.5, everything got really bad and I threw up. But after that, I felt great again. Like, beginning of the race great. I ran the next 1.5 miles until we came met up with my parents at mile 20.

That’s me running towards my dad for a hug.

At this point, having only 10K left in the race seemed like a piece of cake. My body was really pushing happy chemicals into my brain, since I didn’t feel awful anymore, and I was very low on fuel and water. So it’s possible (read, totally likely) that I ran way too much during this point of the race. No Garmin, so no accurate splits, but I felt incredible up until about mile 23. That’s when I started feeling bad again, and our pace slowed to walking.

This section was a long stretch through a residential/small business area, and there were tons of people out on the course offering water, food of all types, and IcyHot massages by the side of the road. It felt like the longest 3 miles of my life, and I couldn’t believe that so many of us were running, walking, and limping down the road for what seemed like forever. Again, I felt like I might not finish, but I was so close I couldn’t sit down or stop moving. I just kept walking, trying to ignore the pain in my feet. Finishing a little faster would have probably helped my heels a little more, since walking did not do them any good.

Finally, we turned a corner and saw the ocean, and the wind picked up to the predicted 40mph gusts. We were still walking, and Leo kept telling me, “Don’t worry, we can walk all the way into the finish if we have to.” We saw the finish line in the distance, but I didn’t feel like trying to run until about .1 from the line, and we ran it in. I instantly became a marathon cliche by bursting into hysterical tears as we crossed the line. The pain, the distance, and the awesomeness of everyone out there on the course all contributed, and I was extremely happy that I could now sit down. I got my medal, my parents threw one of my old swim parkas over the fence to me, and I started choking down pieces of a plain bagel to try and get my system back in working order.

After finding a place to sit down and wait for my parents, we headed back to Dodgers Stadium, and then back home, where we proceeded to eat bread, bacon and eggs, and watch 5 episodes of Big Bang Theory before falling asleep. It was  a really, really amazing day. Although my time is incredibly slow, I’m still really proud of myself for feeling that awful and still moving forward. So it’s a win in my book.

I actually don’t feel all that bad today. My feet feel the effects of all the walking. but everything else feels pretty good. I’ll definitely be wanting to hit another marathon when I have my fueling better under control (experimentation!) and see how well I can do with more training and more carbs/protein/fat rather than sugar.


10K: 1:10:51

20K: 2:31:47

30K: 4:17:03

40K: 5:46:04

Finish: 6:06:52



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3 responses to “Race Recap: Honda LA Marathon 03/18/12

  1. Congratulations!!! You did the work to get there and you crossed the finish line. That’s a HUGE achievement! (From what I hear anyway, since I haven’t gone that distance yet!) Very inspiring! Also? I’m totally stealing your barf strategy next time I have tummy troubles in a race.

  2. Found my way here via the 12athon (Hi Iris!).

    Congrats on finishing one of the toughest athletic feats a human can attempt – the first marathon. My first experience was similar to yours, so I totally enjoyed your report. Now that you’ve suffered through the first one, let me just say that the next one is easier. You *are* running another marathon, right? 😉

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