LA Marathon race recap

I really tried to keep this short, but it was a long day, a long race and verbosity got the best of me. It’s organized, so if you just want to read about the race, skip the pre- and post-marathon sections. As a researcher, I know numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they’re still fun to look at. So if you want data, go here. Oh yeah, and keep in mind that when I say rain, I mean freak torrential downpour, not light sprinkles or scattered showers.

¡Sigánme los buenos! (I really wish I had the foresight to put this on my race day shirt.)

PRE-MARATHON
Marathon days begin before dawn for most runners. Mine began extra early after 3 hours of light sleep. I woke up at 1:30. I tried to go back to sleep, but my efforts were futile. An hour later, I got out of bed to eat my peanut butter sandwich (we’re out of jelly), banana and coffee. I wasted some time on the internet and started getting ready. I stuck with my planned race-day outfit. I had Sean take some pre pictures to help my parents and sister identify me on the course. Around 4:10, Sean drove me to the shuttle pick-up spot in Santa Monica.

I got on the first bus I saw. It left at 4:30 as as scheduled. On the 15-minute trip to Dodger Stadium, I made small talk with the man next to me. He was running his 2nd LA Marathon and 6th overall. He advised me to start conservatively and reassured me that running in the rain wouldn’t be too bad. “After you’re soaked, you won’t even notice it,” he told me. I took his word for it given that he was from Portland.

Once at Dodger Stadium, I had a couple of hours to kill with fellow early birds. I got a banana, bagel and water and followed others in to field level of Dodger Stadium. I’ve been to Dodger Stadium dozens of times, but never at dawn. I found a dry spot and did some texting, tweeting and people watching. The jumbo screen played some “my favorite mile” shorts from celebrities and athletes. They also played a short SRLA piece highlighting the Mt Gleason Runners, but I couldn’t hear well. I’m glad the stadium was open to all runners since it was dry, relatively warm, and gave us a place to sit or even nap. More importantly, we got to use the stadium bathrooms rather than dark and stinky port-a-potties.

LINING UP
Around 6 I went back to the parking lot, started warming up and stretching. Soon after, I took my place in the open corral. I tried to keep warm in my throw-away gloves and long-sleeved shirt by dancing. A little bit of rain fell, I put on my poncho and soon after it stopped. I kept the poncho on for warmth.

The first event, the handbike race, was scheduled to begin at 6:53, but was delayed while we waited for safety clearances. I struck up a conversation with some teens in neon yellow SRLA singlets, Miguel and Daniel. When I found out they were from Mt Gleason, I perked up and told them I’d run a 21-mile long run with their team a month ago. We also talked about their previous marathon experience, goal times and one of the guys’ plans to run with a mini Mexican flag in hand. The excitement built and the crowd cheered as soon as we got clearance to begin. The handbike racers went out first. Shortly after, the horn went off for the elite women. In between, the Silverlake Conservatory choir sang “God Bless America” and the national anthem. The crowd inched forward. I hung my throw-away shirt on the fence, folded up my poncho and stuck it in my iFitness belt.

I asked the guys to snap a photo on my cell phone and sent off a text to Sean, “4 minutes!!!” And then we were on our way around the stadium and out to Sunset. I wished Miguel and Daniel a good race and lost them in the throng, despite their neon yellow singlets.

DOWNTOWN & ECHO PARK (1-5)
I began the race conservatively as advised by Lori (little sister), Marlene (SRLA coach and counselor extraordinaire) and Portland guy. This was easier than I thought due to the crowding and a first mile littered with bottles, throw-away clothes and ponchos. I started off without music, but put my earbuds in before we reached Sunset. Outkast’s “B.O.B.” guided me through my first mile. The rain had started before we even left the Dodger Stadium parking lot and never let up. I thought about putting my poncho on heading in to Chinatown, but didn’t want to stop. In Chinatown, I decided I didn’t need my throw-away gloves anymore and chucked them to the sidewalk. I’d regret that later. The next two miles through Little Tokyo, the Civic Center and up to Disney Hall were uneventful except for Bunker Hill. I slowed down as expected and kept my hill training in mind. I took my earbuds out to listen to the taiko drummers at the top, a great motivator. Going in to Echo Park was nice as I started to see more brave spectators along the lake. Even on a rainy day, it looked pretty. I took my first GU Roctane 45 minutes in as planned. I finished the first 10K at 1:02:09 (10 min pace), right where I wanted to be. Perfect.

Mile 1: 10:09
Mile 2: 9:22
Mile 3: 9:54
Mile 4: 9:43
Mile 5: 10:24

SILVER LAKE, HOLLYWOOD & WEST HOLLYWOOD (6-14)
I blame Morrissey and “Everyday is Like Sunday” for speeding up through Silver Lake and Hollywood. The rain got heavier, but it didn’t phase me. I was feeling great and pumped up. When the rain really started to pour, I yelled out to my fellow runners, “time for a shower!” or “stay hydrated!” I heard some laughs. My left heel started to bug me around mile 7. I stopped to apply some Vaseline, and noticed blood. “Shit!” I yelled out. A volunteer handing out water gave me a concerned look. “Where’s the next aid station?” He paused, “Um, about a quarter mile ahead.” I thanked him and ran off. I found the medical tent right around Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood. I asked for a band-aid and about three volunteers helped me out. An EMT put a large band-aid on my ankles and gave me another to take with me. Another volunteer took down my bib number (I think). I thanked them and ran off. Unfortunately, the band-aid wouldn’t stick and fell off after running a block. I just toughed it out and tried not to let it mess with my good mood. Oh yeah, as the rain got harder and harder, I found myself saying aloud, “wow!” I’ve live in LA my whole life and I’d seen rain like Sunday’s downpour only once or twice before. Coincidentally, Café Tacuba’s “Ojalá Que Llueva Café” started playing. That made me happy.

The rolling hills of the Sunset Strip and West Hollywood slowed me down. I also started messing with my Garmin because the face was no longer showing my overall time, mileage and pace. I think the rain affected the sensitivity of the touch bezel. Fortunately, I fixed it before going down to Santa Monica Blvd. I perked up here, mainly because the spectators in WeHo were great cheerleaders.

Mile 6: 10:06
Mile 7: 9:30
Mile 8: 9:40
Mile 9: 10:57 (aid station stop)
Mile 10: 9:28
Mile 11: 9:18
Mile 12: 9:29
Mile 13: 9:59
Mile 14: 9:54

Our Signs For Cindy

BEVERLY HILLS (15-17)
I didn’t feel so great in Beverly Hills. I wasn’t tired, but my tummy was acting up. I slowed down a little and kept an eye out for port-a-potties in case I needed to stop. I knew I was on pace to finish under 4:30, but didn’t want to stop. I also knew Sean, my parents and Lori would be cheering for me on Wilshire just past Rodeo Drive. That boosted my spirits.

Our Signs For Cindy

I saw them as soon as we turned on to Wilshire. My parents were helping and handing out coconut water, of course. I missed dad, but saw mom and hugged her. She told me to take coconut water and I did. I saw Sean nearby, hugged him, laughed at his sign and posed for a picture. I almost ran off before he reminded me he was holding my Gu and Chomps. Phew. I really needed that last gel and chomps.

Our Signs For Cindy

Lori was nearby too, and easy to find in my teal coat. I waved and kept moving on to Century City.

Mile 15: 9:49
Mile 16: 10:14
Mile 17: 10:54 (family, Sean stop)

okiloveyoubyebye

CENTURY CITY, WESTWOOD & WEST LA (18-22)
My hands were numb and I struggled to open up the Chomps. I didn’t even bother to put them back in the iFitness belt pouch. These miles weren’t easy, but they were familiar. I’ve lived here for the last 12 years, these streets are part of my daily commute to UCLA. Crossing Santa Monica and Beverly Glen, I thought to myself that I could turn left and be home, warm and dry in 20 minutes, but that would be dumb. I didn’t even have a key. I’d also run this route in training and knew what the hills were like so I kept it conservative. I stopped for some Salonpas spray on my calves right in front of the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica. I also kept an eye out for my friend, Diana, but never saw her (she was up ahead at mile 23).

I saw one of my favorite random signs in Century City: “Run Like a Mexican!” made to look like the family running that you see on traffic signs near the border.

I wanted to walk a little between miles 19 and 20, but told myself to save it for the last hill in the Veteran’s Center. Once inside the grounds of the Veteran’s Center, I stopped to walk, but realized it was a bad idea after a few steps.

Representing SRLA and Mexico

I started running again and found Miguel (SRLA student) walking on the sidewalk at the top of a hill. He was still holding his Mexican flag, but appeared to be cramping up. He saw me and I yelled out, “finish strong!” He nodded, but he was suffering. There was a lot of flooding on the roads at the Veteran’s Center, but it didn’t seem to matter since my shoes were already soaked. The street was blocked off at one part and runners were forced on to the sidewalk. This bugged me because I got stuck behind some people walking for a moment and refused to go around them in to mud.

Mile 18: 11:00 (Salonpas stop)
Mile 19: 10:24
Mile 20: 10:28
Mile 21: 11:03 (Veteran’s Center walk break)
Mile 22: 10:33

Happy running in the home stretch

SAN VICENTE, THE HOME STRETCH (23-26.2)
I felt really great coming out of the Veteran’s Center and was back to cheering on fellow runners and interacting with the crowd like I had been in Hollywood. I knew I’d be finishing; even better my time would be 4:2X:XX. The spectators cheering for me by name pushed me through and I felt myself speeding up on the familiar last stretch of the course.

I got introspective here as I thought of my tío Johnny. He ran the LA Marathon in 1998, 15 months after Grandpa Bartolo died after a short battle with renal cancer. I remember seeing the triumphant finish line photo tío Johnny gave dad. He wrote something on the back about dedicating the run to Grandpa.

I instantly began to miss Grandpa and Grandma and hoped I was making them proud. In that moment, I sensed something. I know it was their spirits, one on each shoulder, lending me some strength. I started passing runners and clocked my fastest miles. Mile 25 was 8:59; 26 was 9:04. I don’t run 8:XX miles unless I’m doing speedwork at the track or trying to keep up with Lori in a race. I tried to slow down, but couldn’t. Grandma and Grandpa, mis angelitos, were pushing me along to a strong finish. I blinked back tears and then remembered Lori’s words, “don’t cry!” So I didn’t.

Fun fact: in those last 4.5 miles, I passed 684 runners. 30 passed me.

Mile 23: 9:46
Mile 24: 9:44
Mile 25: 8:59
Mile 26: 9:04
Mile 26.2 (or 0.43): 9:15 (shrug, my Garmin went off about 0.2 miles before the mile markers)

Approaching the finish line

THE FINISH LINE
Right before turning on to Ocean Blvd, I heard a woman call out, “only six more blocks!” Even though I knew that, hearing it helped especially as we were met the strongest wind on the course and more rain. I struggled to keep the momentum I’d gained coming down San Vicente, but got a boost of energy with the finish line in sight. I looked for my parents and Sean, but never saw them. And then, I was crossing the finish line. I’d just finished my first marathon.

CRAMPS AND SHIVERING
As soon as I stopped running and stopped my watch, my calves started cramping up. The pain almost made me cry. I walked in a daze and got my space blanket and medal. Miguel saw me in the finisher’s chute and asked me how I did. I shrugged, “I think 4:24, under 4:30, I told him.” He nodded. Another finisher asked me in Spanish about my bloody shoes (warning: it’s graphic). I hadn’t even noticed that my left ankle was cut up too.

Totally faking that smile

I posed for some photos and faked a smile. My phone kept going off. My finish time had already been posted to Twitter and friends were congratulating me, but my hands were too numb to get my phone out. I got some food, but didn’t eat. I just wanted to get out to my family and Sean. I checked my messages and saw that Sean had updated me with their location. They were easy to find after squeezing through the throng of family blocking the finisher’s chute exit. I went to dad first, hugged him and sobbed in to his Dodgers jacket.

“I felt Grandma and Grandpa pushing me through in the last few miles. They were with me.”

Cindy Embraces Her Father After Completing the 2011 LA Marathon

I hugged Lori, mom and Sean. My elation of having just finished a marathon fell like my body temperature. My calves were still killing me and I couldn’t stop shivering. Mom insisted I wear her coat and Sean gave me his dry beanie. I refused to walk to the car 10 minutes away (another bad idea in retrospect). Dad went for the car while we waited a long time. We found a British pub where I could change in to dry clothes. As I entered, everyone cheered. That was neat. In the tiny bathroom filled with other women changing, I got out my clothes from Sean’s backpack. They’d gotten wet even though his backpack was supposed to be waterproof. I changed my shirt and sports bra, but left on my running capris. Despite changing, I still couldn’t get warm. Lori worried I was going to get hypothermia. She massaged my calves and tense shoulders. I had some tea while dad made his way through downtown Santa Monica gridlock. It took a while, but eventually, I was out of wet clothes and on my way home.

RECOVERY
Two days later, I’m still elated despite feeling a cold coming on, cut up ankles and some nasty chafing. I took an ice bath when I got home, iced, and rolled the Stick over my legs yesterday. I would’ve gone for a short walk Sunday evening, but had no desire to go back out in to the pouring rain. I’m a bit more sore than I was after the 21-milers, but I think I’ll survive with some rest. I’m already thinking about running another marathon. Based on my half marathon in Long Beach, I should’ve been able to run a 4:20 marathon according to the McMillan running calculator. I knew that was optimistic given that LB had almost no hills.

THE STATS
Finish time: 4:23:56 (chip); 4:27:32 (gun)
Pace: 10:04
Fuel: Gu Roctanes every 45 minutes, except when I took Gu Chomps around mile 18; orange slices; water and Gatorade at alternating aid stations

8 thoughts on “LA Marathon race recap

  1. alan

    man, i went through a range of emotions for you while reading that. way to go cindy, i had faith that you would do well, i just knew it.

    Reply
  2. mooch

    I cried too! What an awesome experience. It also brought back memories of when I did the Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride (50 miles) in the rain. No where near the feat you did, but rain sucks either way.

    Reply
  3. hippierunner

    I really love your race recap, so fun to read since we went through the same experience! And hey- I was one of the people you passed! My boyfriend’s legs were gone by mile 20 so we ended up walking the last 5 miles! Glad to see you survived the rain and had fun! :)

    Reply
  4. xutigre

    Hey loteria chicana I was lead to your post from a mutual friend, Lakiesha. We went to Xavier together. I too ran the monsoon also known as the 2011 LA Marathon. It was a phenomenal experience. I really liked your blog. Congrats on your strong finish as well, that is impressive. One day I will be able to crack that 4:30 mark like yourself. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

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