Wednesday, March 24, 2010

los angeles marathon 2010

last thursday i didn't know if my marathon day was going to even happen on sunday! i was planning on it, but i wasn't sure. i'm not the type of person to train, let alone race, through sickness so i didn't really know how i'd "do" with it. it was all new territory.

i've been so invested in this race. i trained hard and smart, lead weekly runs for the tri club, talked the race up to anyone that would listen. i got my brother, his girlfriend (who live in NY) and my sister to agree do it, i wrote training plans for a couple of people, i had good strong goals that were making me stretch, but felt within my reach.

i really didn't want to miss this race.

for three solid days i did whatever i could to get better. i begged, borrowed and stole from the east and the west; drinking a concoction of hot water, lemon juice, grapefruit seed extract, red cayenne pepper and freshly grated ginger (thank you, jimmy dean). taking antibiotics. spraying my throat with colloidal silver and flushing my sinuses with a neti pot. then, mid-day saturday, i stopped it all (except the antibiotics). i wanted a little bit of time for my body to settle in. just like with the training, i had done what i could.

both of these products are really great!

saturday night was business as usual ... bland dinner at 6pm and shut it down by 8:30pm. of course, i didn't sleep a wink. i learned during ironman that you really can get away with not sleeping at all the night before. i trusted that the immense amount of race adrenaline i already had coursing through my veins was going to increase even more come 7:24am sunday morning.

4:30am, up and making my hot buckwheat cereal. a hot shower, dr. wu's magic balm on my achy spots. josh came over at 5:30am and we were off to pick up mel. she's one of the athletes i created a training plan for. this was going to be her first marathon and i knew from her results during training that she was ready and was gonna blow the doors off of it!

j. drove us all to dodger stadium. we planned to be there an hour and half before the start. that's early, but this is l.a. and you never know what's going to happen on the freeway. and yup, it happened. the freeway became a parking lot, literally. people actually abandoned their cars on the freeway because they were afraid of not making it to the race in time. we sat and sat and sat and finally decided we could hoof it there faster. so yes, we got out and walked along the freeway.

"warming up" along the 110 frwy.
(photo by josh)

we got to the start and it was the usual surreal pre-race scene of humanity. it was exciting! lots of reflective clothing dashing off into bushes and the like. i was supposed to meet my brother at the G baseball,

race day meeting spot, the day before

but with all the chaos of freeway walking and the fact that he and my sister and emily were still in their car back on the freeway, mel and josh and i pushed our way through the masses to find a spot. josh was planning to run with his phone (more on that later) so he texted updates back to my brother in the hopes that he'd find us. eventually we just plopped down in the middle of the crowd and started making friends. after all my worrying about being able to access the 3:50 pace group (that would be in the sub-4 hour corral which i was not allowed in to since i did not have a qualifying time) ... who do we wind up right next to?

the irony of landing right next to the 3:50 pace group!

after waiting for a while it came over the loudspeaker that they would be delaying the start of the race by 7 minutes. we wound up getting that announcement a few times and honestly, other than the potential for the temperatures to be higher with a later finish, i was a little relieved as i knew a lot of people weren't going to make it to the start in time.

me and mel waitin' on the gun!
(photo by josh)

so the plan was for mel and my brother and i to start together. i was going to go out a little slower at the beginning because the first few miles have a lot of hills and then pick it up as i go. that was the plan, but i knew that the plan might get tossed based on how i felt. mel and nick and i agreed it would be great to be around each other, but none of us would wait per se, for the other.

josh was running l.a. for fun. he's an ultra runner training for his first 100 mile race and is also racing oceanside 70.3 this coming saturday. he was going to run leisurely to mile 18 (his leisurely is faster than my race pace) and meet me there to give me a little support through what i anticipated was going to be the hardest section of the race. then he was going to double back and meet my brother's girlfriend emily at mile 20 and run to the finish with her. what a guy, right? an athlete that's strong as iron and a friend who's as sweet as pie!

josh chillin' at mile 18.5
(photo by josh)

the gun went off and we began to shuffle. there were way too many bodies around to actually run. i could feel mel's excitement and her itching to run! josh was next to me and we were all just sort of pushed along ... until suddenly we were running! the first mile is an absolute blur of dodging bodies and avoiding crashing into pylons as we snaked our way around the parking lot of dodger stadium.
me and mel in the crush of the start
(photo by josh)

it felt humid, my breathing was tight and i had absolutely zero saliva. bone dry. nerves. antibiotics. ugh. i just went. it was too early to assess how i felt. just before we headed out of dodger stadium i heard a familiar voice come screaming up behind me ... my brother! he had made it and we were off!

the pace was faster than i wanted and my heart rate was through the roof from the get go. i tried to find the balance between some free speed on from mile 1.5 - 3 and reigning myself in, for fear of going too hard. cresting the grand ave. hill between mile 3 - 4 i had my first "i don't think i can do this" thought.

at the top of grand ave hill
(photo by tokyphotography)

i had so few of those thoughts during my training this time. i didn't want to start now and it was way too early for it. i made sure mel and my brother knew i wasn't feeling my best so that they would go ahead if they felt good and then i had to let it go. i spent from mile 4 to mile 17 cycling in and out of feeling good and bad, but ya know ... it was okay because after the way i felt at mile 4 and then seeing it lift in the next mile or so i remembered that that's just the game. you cycle through and don't grab on to any one feeling as being evidence of how you are ... cuz it'll change.

this year the course of the l.a. marathon changed to a point-to-point from dodger stadium to the beach, hitting all the iconic l.a. spots along the way. i had the feeling that this course was going to be spectacular. i ran chunks of it during my training and putting it all together on race day did not disappoint.

i grew up in new york and even though there are five big boroughs and tons of people, you feel united in "new yorkness". since living in l.a. i've loved the lifestyle and have a great westside community, but i can't say as i've felt the same connection to the city. i know the city well, but trying to get from one part of it to another on any given day can be a daunting task. we all sort of find our place and, for the most part, exist in it. little pods if you will.

but, run through it all and ... WOW! i felt such a connection to it. each little pocket seamlessly connected to the next. there is something about physically moving through it without the protection or barrier of a car that made me see it more, connected me to it. all of us ... runners, residents, volunteers, spectators ... we were wrapped together in the unity that sport provides. a common goal whether you were racing or cheering. a finish line to cross and everyone supporting each other to get there.

speaking of support, j. showed up just before mile 12 and then i saw him again at something like 14, 16, 21, and 24. between knowing the course really well, seeing j. at all those spots, meeting up with josh at 18.5, i never had that sense that i have in almost all races of "wow, a mile hasn't even passed yet? wow, i still have another 11 miles to go?" it's funny because i was working harder than i think i have in any race, but the sense of the miles dragging out just never came.

me and my brother. he raced in the vibram five fingers!
(photo by josh)

the energy on the course was fantastic and it also really helped for me to keep in my head something i had written down a few days before: "i will not think about the miles ahead of me. i will focus on relaxing and enjoying each mile, one mile at a time. i will keep fresh thoughts in my mind and a quick step to my feet."

one of the side effects of antibiotics is an increased heart rate. i basically ran the entire marathon in zone 4. that's nuts. you don't run a marathon in zone 4! it definitely caught up to me and by mile 20 i was pushing through fatigued and seizing legs like i never have before. local running coach jimmy dean came up along side of me just before i was entering the VA grounds and his voice got real serious ... "this is gonna hurt. you look strong and you need to dig down in there and just make it happen. you can do this. it's gonna hurt." i didn't respond much, but i took his words and let them slide into my consciousness and down into my legs. i shut off my head. i pushed. i pushed. i pushed a little more. i believe i whimpered a bit as well, but i wasn't giving up!

hitting mile 21 there was a huge cheering section that was just off the hook. it was brentwood's version of the new york marathon's 1st avenue. electric. seeing the long expanse of san vicente blvd. ahead of me pushed me forward. i sensed that my brother was no longer running with me. i felt badly, but i also knew i had to keep going.

san vicente is where i learned to run. 11 years ago i tried to run along san vicente and got .7 of a mile before flopping over, exhausted. san vicente is where i do almost all of my running. i trained for duathlon worlds on s.v., ironman on s.v. i've done mile repeat after mile repeat. i've cried, celebrated, quit, gotten back up ... all on san vicente. i had dreamed for the past year of finishing my marathon along it.

once i got to 26th st. i'd have two miles of downhill along this street i loved so much and then it would be 1.2 miles along the ocean to the finish. i know every bend, rise, fall and pot hole along the way. i don't know if i could have overridden my body the way i did if it weren't for how well i know the road and how inspired i felt being on it. i was able to just shut off my head and go.

i saw rich at moreno dr., jaime and oliver were going to be at 17th st., rebekah was at 11th, jen was at georgina, elon at palisades. the route was lined with friends and memories and i let them all push me forward. i don't think there was a smile on my face, but i was full of pride for what i have become. 11 years ago, overweight, two pack a day smoker, no exercise whatsoever and not an abundance of self-esteem and generally someone who was afraid to try for fear she would fail.

this race, for me, had become the pinnacle of that evolution. having my family running the race, bringing it to other people for the first time, setting a big goal for myself, and ultimately, staring it down on my own, but supported by friends, family and a community that i love.

i knew as i was coming down san vicente that i had missed my time goal, but i was okay with it. i wasn't giving up. it was still all worth it. the sound of the helicopters wubb-wubbing above pushed me on even more. it kind of made me feel like the leader! fog was blowing by me as i hit ocean ave. it was a straight shot down to the finish line, but it looked really far, so i took my gaze down a bit and just stayed in myself ... working, pushing and appreciating that i've become a woman who is always willing to at least try!



Charisa said...

Whoooo hoooo congrats! What a great race! Enjoy your recovery :)

M said...

YEAHHH! Great race, and fantastic race report!!

fed said...

Eric Feder : beautiful story, wonderful perseverance.
-you should be proud !!
thank u for sharing your inspiring perspective-peace -e

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

That was a great race report! Woohoo on pushing through the pain and finishing!! You did awesome! And, how cool that your brother did it too. My sister and I are running the Denver Rock-n-Roll marathon in the fall and I can't wait!

Food Allergy Queen said...

Cat, this was great! Since I'm never ever gonna run a marathon (asthma, bad back and knees), I got to experience it through you. Thanks. And so glad that you are so comfortable with who you've become in the past 11 years. yay you!

Pedergraham said...

Yay, Cat. I loved reading your take on the two cities since I've lived (shorter-term) in both of them. Kudos to you for all of your hard work---and, oh my, my Type A gotta be one time personality would not have liked being stuck on the freeway before the race start!

Josh said...

great report Cat. and you had a fantastic race - you never know what's going to challenge you on race day, but you pushed through it all. I'm glad I was able to be there with you for part of it! Congrats again!

LATriBri said...

Great report!! Glad that you pulled through and what a great perspective on the experience! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in time goals that you miss out on the bigger picture. Well done!

Beth said...

Yeah!! I got to read the whole thing! ;)

What a great, great report Cat...and an awesome race...but even better the journey you've taken! It's an amazing transformation that you've made!! Amazing what sport can do. Congrats on it all!!!

Nina said...

Awesome report, Cat! I love your view on the course and your perseverance through the race. Congratulations!

ojs said...

Really exciting, Cat! Way to tough through it. Sorry I won't be spectathleting with you at Oceanside this year!

Andrea said...

Oh Cat! This is fantastic!! I'm very happy for you. You always have the best mental outlook during challenging times. I look to you for race mantras!!!

Congrats on your accomplishment. :)