My Lackluster LA Marathon

Warning: It’s a long post.

As the saying goes, even the best laid plans… the LA Marathon did not result in a Boston Qualifier or a new PR. It ended up being a hard and frustrating race.

I came into town Thursday evening, spent some time with my parents, and met up with my very good friend (and super talented friend) Tara. The following morning, my mom and I drove up to LA for the marathon’s expo. We missed morning traffic and made it to LA pretty quickly. After picking up my bib and goodies, I headed to the SF Marathon booth where I met Luis and Ciara. After saying hi, I picked up a few things I needed for the race and my mom and I headed back down south. We had a nice day and my mom even got me a new pair of running shorts (I needed some green for Sunday!). And Kevin got me the Jawbone Up bracelet that I have been eyeing (Kevin wasn’t able to be with me for the race weekend as was at spring training with his dad and nephew, an annual tradition that had been planned before I signed up for the race).

At the expo

At the expo

Saturday was a nice relaxing day. I had a short shakeout run with some strides but other wise laid low. We had sushi for dinner (my fave pre-race meal) and headed up to the hotel. I headed to sleep fairly early but my parents went to the bar! Talk about a role reversal, haha!

Swanky hotel room

Swanky hotel room

Laying out the race outfit. Hello new Lulu shorts :)

Laying out the race outfit. Hello new Lulu shorts 🙂

My alarm went off at 4am. I got dressed, ate peanut butter and a banana, and had some Energy Bits. At 5am, my dad (graciously) drove me to Dodgers Stadium where the race starts. I learned that driving in 5am on a Sunday might be the only time there is no traffic in LA! (Well until you get to the runner drop off.) I quickly met up with fellow SFM ambassador Chris and got to say hi (and meet) Lauren, Wes, and Luis. Chris and I soon headed off to our corral (B), ready to race. In the B corral we ran into the SFM ambassadors Keith and Ryan. At this point, I still felt great! I had a positive attitude and tried to remind myself that I had the training and could run a 3:35 marathon. Right before the race started, I went to turn on my ipod and found that it was dead. Oops! Oh well, I put it, with my headphones, my headband (I had been debating about wearing a running cap and decided to do so meaning I didn’t need to wear my headband), and my phone in my back pocket.

Repping SCE

Repping SCE

Marathon Gridlock

Marathon Gridlock

Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium

SFM Ambassadors

SFM Ambassadors

The first 6 miles of the race was perfect. For the first couple miles, the course has a lot of downhill so I just enjoyed it. My pace was right on target (a bit fast sometimes with downhill but nothing crazy). I was just ahead of the 3:35 pace group and feeling happy about my race. There was a water station after each mile marker so I knew that when I took my Sports Beans at mile 8, there would be water to take with them. Wrong! It seemed like an eternity before I came to the water station. Somewhere in mile 9 my stomach started to feel weird (likely due to not being to able to drink water after taking my beans) and I was super hot. It wasn’t particularly warm weather but the humidity was getting to me. I slowed down a bit but was still near the 3:35 group, slightly ahead and then slightly behind – back and forth for a little while. Around mile 10 or 11 I thought I should use a port o potty to try to help my stomach. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom so back to the course.

At the halfway point, everything started to fall apart. My stomach felt strange, I was hot and had to drink more water than I normally do in a race. I was even pouring it directly on my head. I lost the 3:35 group somewhere at this point but could still see them. I figured if I could just overcome this rough spot I would catch them. My legs also started to feel heavy. I’m not sure if it was due to the stomach and humidity problems, if I had overtrained and my legs were just done for, or if all that stuff in my back pocket (that I suddenly became very aware of in mile 15) had caused me to slightly change my running form affecting my legs. But regardless, I was having trouble keeping a reasonable pace and my legs were tired. I knew my parents would be at some mid-point in the course so I started to look for them, I wanted to give them the stuff in my pocket, and my hat. When I saw them at mile 18, I was so happy to relieve myself of my stuff that I couldn’t really appreciate how nice it was to have some mid course support. In hindsight, it was awesome!

Taking off my hat to give my parents

Taking off my hat to give my parents

During this time I also lost the 3:35 group and when I saw the 3:45 group, I was so mad. Sorry to anyone I offended as I swore. I swore again when the 4 hour pace group passed me.

By mile 20, I was exhausted. The weather started to cool down but I still was thirsty. I was in a bind, all the water intake was giving me side cramps but I needed to drink something. By mile 22 I had to walk A LOT because of the cramping. My miles went from an 8 minute pace in the first 10 miles, to 8:30 pace to 9 minute pace, and then some ugly 11 minute and, gasp, two 14 minute miles. There went the 4:15 group. I was so bummed I wasn’t even mad. This sucked. A few times I considered DNFing because I was just sad and tired. But I wanted to finish and I forced myself to run the last mile and half. I got my medal and my cool LA/SF Challenge medal, ran into Keith again, and headed off to find my parents. Sad but at the same proud for pushing through and finishing.

Done.

Done.

Love the medals!

Love the medals!

This race was hard. It wasn’t what I was capable of doing and it wasn’t what I planned for. I thought if anything I’d miss my goal by a few minutes, not 45. But I was so thankful to have my parents with me. They made the weekend fun and they were proud of me. And my dad even bought me a sweatshirt so I wouldn’t be cold after the race. Our post-race In n Out was the best.

My favorite post-race meal!

My favorite post-race meal!

I loved the course, there were some hills but lots of downhill. The course winded around just the right amount. Best of all was the amazing crowd support! There were spectators everywhere we went! And they cheered for all of us, strangers yelled “Go Meg!” the whole race. It made not having my iPod totally fine. This is by far the best crowd support I have ever experienced. I also knew at the various points my friends and Kevin were getting updates through the race tracking. That was a huge motivator but I knew they were wondering what went wrong as my time slowed down so much in the second half (thanks to all of you for reaching out to me after the race, it was awesome!)

Indulging in guilty pleasures for the plane trip back.

Indulging in guilty pleasures for the plane trip back.

It wasn’t my day to BQ or PR. As my friend Leslie says, the marathon is a beast. You can train and plan, but come marathon day you never know what might unfold. For this one, just finishing was an accomplishment.

{Update 3/19/2013}: I can also see that I overtrained. I took on too much and I needed better guidance. My amazing runner friends have advised me to rest and consider a coach going forward. This week I’m taking off from all exercise and next week I’ll return to cross training and maybe a little bit of running. Then I will be re-evaluating race goals and consider working with a coach.

Have you had a bad race? How do you deal with disappointed race days?

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17 thoughts on “My Lackluster LA Marathon

  1. I’ve had a few bad races. Haven’t we all? The worse was this past Nov Pensacola Marathon. I started cramping at mile 12 and had to deal with full body cramps for 14 miles. It took every ounce of strength I had to push through the pain. I was SO disappointed. But then I looked back on it and thought hell, I just finished 14 miles under the worst possible conditions. I finished! I never looked back. You ran 26.2 miles my friend! You’re a winner!

  2. I had a very similar experience this weekend. I ran up to LA on Friday, and cruised up on Sunday morning. About mile 7, a but I had earlier in the week decided to rear its ugly head. I felt nauseous after ever water stop. I even considered not taking fluids, but I thought better of it.

    This race was much more of grind a grind than SF was. I was always running towards something major at in SF (Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Ashbury, AT&T park). For this one, I was just running to the precious LA/SF medal.

  3. Really good that you finished! Congrats on that! True that you never know what’s going to happen on race day. My first marathon was my most disappointing race, was hoping to run around 3:50 and then ended up being 35 seconds from breaking 4 hours. I coped with a McFlurry, haha! Those were pre-vegan days 😉

  4. Agree the marathon is such a beast, and when it sucks it SUCKS. This race report is extremely familiar from my first two marathons (humid, hot, side cramps, stomach issues…I feel you) and I’m so sorry you had to go through it! Way to go on still finishing for that LA+SF medal and for yourself. 🙂 This kind of marathon is harder than one that goes well.

  5. Meg — way to push through! I’m with you. The LA Marathon was a much more difficult day than I was expecting. I ended up walking off the course at mile 16 for a DNF/training run. It was very clear to me that it was not going to be my day and I didn’t want to destroy myself, which I considered to be a very valid possibility if I’d stuck it out. I’m shocked at how sore I am after only 16 and at paces that were *much* slower than I’d planned for. Super impressed that you were able to push through. Well done.

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  7. Huh. Maybe stay away from the solid carbs? Especially if there’s no water around. But who knows coulda been a million things. I do wonder if some people are just better off taking water and giving up the 5% or whatever (often overstated) carb supplementation advantage to avoid the gastro issues.

  8. I’m so sorry you had a bad race! I totally know what is like to go in expecting a PR and feeling like you deserve it and then everything falling apart. Its hard to deal with but I think these heartbreaking races make the victories so sweet. Dont forget that you PR’d in the CIM monsoon. That is amazing!

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  11. Hi Meg. My first time here, and I really enjoyed your recap (even if it was disappointing for you). I’m a relative newbie (training for my first marathon, coming up in May), and I’ve had plenty of training runs that were discouraging. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but sometimes finishing when we really want to quit is just as much of a personal victory as a PR. A “mental” win instead of a “physical” one. Anyway, I’m looking forward to running LA in ’14. And to be honest, I’ll be thrilled with a 4:15 or so.

    Take care, and I’ll be back!
    Chris

  12. I apologize if this posts twice, but WordPress is messing with me.

    Anyway, first time visitor here, and I enjoyed the recap. I’m training for the OC Marathon (it’ll be my first) and I’ve had several disappointing training runs for sure. But to quote the immortal Rocky Balboa, “Going that one more round, when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” Mental victories are sometimes more inspiring than physical ones.

    Love the blog!

    Chris

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