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I almost bailed on the SRLA 18-Mile Friendship Run at Hansen Dam earlier this week. I’d forgotten to register and saw that the late fee was $75 ($15 over early registration). That’s pretty steep for what would essentially be a long run with course support. I sucked it up as I like supporting the race host, Students Run LA.
I went in to the race this morning a little hurried. I didn’t get much sleep after a friend’s party and then fixing up the blog to prevent more hacks (hence the new look). I woke up this morning at 5:30 annoyed that I had to leave the dinner party I was dreaming about. Instead of digging in to a giant bowl of arroz con pollo, I drank coffee and ate my usual pre-long breakfast, peanut butter and banana toast.
A couple hours later, Sean and I were at the Hansen Dam Recreation Center. I jokingly asked Sean, “why is running so white?” while walking past a crowd that truly represented LA’s diversity. One of the reasons I love SRLA is because they bring a lot of diversity to the running community. I picked up my bib, took care of pre-race necessities, told Sean about the best spectating spots near the start/finish line, squeezed into the crowd of SRLA students and got my podcasts ready.
I didn’t have much of a plan or a goal for this race. I wanted to finish <2:50 (9:27 pace), but would be fine a few minutes over. A 9:27 is a little fast for a typical long run, but I figured it’d help me gauge my fitness and figure out a marathon race pace. I know I can run sub-9 without a problem for 13.1, but what can I do for 26.2?
We started promptly at 8. I kept the first mile easy and slow. It’s nearly impossible to run a fast first mile with congestion at the start. I mostly succeeded in my goal of not getting stressed by runners blocking me and slowing me down. I settled in to a comfortable pace and ran about 9 minute miles for the first loop. I finished the first half in ~1:21. I pulled over for a bathroom stop and lost a couple of minutes, but didn’t stress. I also stopped to remove a pebble from my shoe, and at most of the water stations. It was easier that way, otherwise I’d miss the water or crash into another runner walking as I tried to pick up/grab a cup. The second loop was more challenging. I got tired, the sun bugged me more, and I hated running on the dam. I really needed water up there, but was saved by volunteers with oranges. I managed not to slow down as I knew I was within reach of my goal.
As we exited the dam and ran the final half mile stretch, I sped up slightly. I got another boost when I heard the beat of Aztec drums and saw danzantes between me and the finish line. Unfortunately, they ended the song just as I passed, but it still energized me and made me feel even better about the race. I felt great when I finished. I didn’t feel fatigued or more achy than expected. If I had to, I could have gone a few more miles despite mild IT band pain.
Despite the stops and slowing down a bit, I met my informal goal. I finished in 2:47:56 (9:20 pace); 5th in female 30-34 age group.
Last year, this race was tough mentally and physically. It was the first time I’d run 18 miles. I also made the mistake two weeks before the race of donating blood. I’m all for donating blood, but was too dumb/inexperienced at this wannabe athlete thing to know it’d affect my performance for a couple of months.
This year was much different since I knew what to expect and overall have become a stronger runner. Eighteen miles isn’t easy, but I know it’s doable. It was a sunny morning, but much cooler than last year. The climbs in Shadow Hills (miles 4-6 and 12-14) didn’t feel as challenging as when I ran them last year.
Overall, I’m really glad I didn’t skip the race. I’m getting excited about the LA Marathon. I’m beginning to think that what McMillan calculators say I can run for the marathon is in reach, especially on the familiar Stadium to the Sea course. I needed this race. I’ve felt a little unsure thus far since I didn’t feel like I was training in earnest until two weeks ago. I’m 6 weeks out and have only done one 18 miler. I trust that Marc, my online coach, will get me to the start line healthy — my number one priority.
- My Garmin had me at about 17.3 miles. It clocked a similar distance last year. I don’t think the race is short, but I think the reading on the dam is inaccurate. I was matching up with the mile markers the first half until the stretch across the dam.
- If you take water every mile, you might want to carry a bottle or fuel belt. There’s no aid stations on the dam. The race organizers let people know about this, but I underestimate the length and the need for a quick sip. There are aid stations right before and right after the dam.
- My bathroom stop was my first during a race. Glad I checked that off during a low key event.