In the last ten days, I’ve had a couple of bad runs. I know they come with the territory, but two in a short period messes with my confidence. The first came a mere 36 hours after giving blood. In my running log, I wrote, “worst. run. ever.” I try to avoid unnecessary periods and hyperbolic claims, but after that 6-miler, I couldn’t help it. I know my problem that day could be attributed to giving blood. Six days later, I struggled through another 6-miler, which I attributed to menstrual cramps. When I tweeted my frustration, Marlene, the Students Run LA coach at my local high school, suggested nerves might be a problem. I didn’t think so. My nerves were fine and I was actually excited about my next long run, the SRLA 18-mile Friendship Run at Hansen Dam.
Yes, I was excited for 18 miles. And, I won’t lie, a little nervous.
Early Sunday morning, I got ready, grabbed my pre-packed bag and headed off with Sean to the Valley. I checked in, picked up my bib and timing chip, warmed up and stretched. I gave Sean my light jacket — totally unnecessary as it was already sunny and warming up, highs were in the upper 70s — before lining up with the crowd.
Shortly after 8, the race started without much fanfare. I waved goodbye to Sean and left the park surrounded by SRLA kids in white, their coaches in yellow and others training for the LA Marathon.
The course is a 9-mile loop starting at the Hansen Dam Park out to the roads in a boring business/industrial and suburban area. We do an out-and-back to the aptly named Shadow Hills, which were tough on the second loop but provided some much-needed shade. Around mile 7, the course veers up a short steep hill onto the bike path across the Hansen Dam. To the left, we look down at Sunday morning golfers and to the right is the park. For 2 miles up ahead, all you see is a steady stream of runners.
I ran the first 9-mile loop faster than expected (about 1:25) and without my GU Chomps. Sean couldn’t get to our meeting point in time due to road blocks and parking restrictions. The hills were tough, but I felt fine. After I realized I’d likely have to go the first loop without Chomps, I hoped the banana and half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be good enough. I drank water at every station. At the end of the dam/halfway point, I was grateful for the parents and other supporters offering pretzels, orange slices and Red Vine. I’ve never had a more delicious orange.
I needed those calories for the second loop. It was tough and showed in my slower splits and grimaces on my face. Everything was more difficult. It was hotter and sunnier. The hills seemed longer and higher. I compensated with short breaks to drink water or Gatorade at each mile marker. The final stretch on the dam without shade nor water was more difficult than the hills. I had to take short walking breaks at that point. On the bright side, I didn’t miss Sean and got my Chomps around 12 and 16 miles.
At the end of the dam, I downed some water and tried to finish the last quarter mile strong. With the finish line in sight, I ran a little harder in an effort to finish under 3 hours as planned. I was 6 seconds over. I’m fine with that considering how many short breaks I took in the last 5 miles.
Post-race, I got my medal, t-shirt, food, juice, water and paper towel. I took a seat on a curb and devoured some snacks and water. A few minutes later, I met up with Sean at out our meeting point under a shady tree. I stretched, ate and drank some more, and tried to wipe off the salt from my arms and face. We checked my official time and placing before leaving the festivities in park where lots of schools/families were grilling for their runners. We returned to West LA and picked up some burritos (protein and carbs!). Afterward, I sat in an ice bath for 15 minutes before getting ready to go to my mom’s to watch the Super Bowl. I made it through half time before taking a nap. In the evening, Lori gave me a massage to help in my recovery.
I’m sore today, but not as bad as I expected. The ice bath and massage definitely helped.
Last week, Marlene told her team, “I always tell my students that if you can do the 18-miler, you can do the marathon. It’s a tough course mentally,” she added. She wasn’t kidding. I doubted myself at the end and wondered what the hell I was doing training for a marathon. Still, I made it and was 6 seconds shy of my goal.
The marathon is six weeks away. I’m ready for more — hopefully cool and shady — long runs.